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Monday, August 28th, 2006 - 11:51 PM

"Silver Creek State Park"

We went to Silver Creek State Park last Saturday afternoon. It was fun! See the EsoShow here.

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Monday, August 28th, 2006 - 10:11 AM

"EsoBlog Comments Format"

Say good bye to the ole pop-up window for blog comments. I created what I consider to be a more intelligent design. Now, if you click on "Read Comments" near the top of a blog entry, only that blog entry will show, the comments will show underneath, and the window will scroll to where they start. Similarly, if "Post Comment" is clicked, that entry will show alone, and the window will scroll to the form to post a comment. Anytime only one blog entry is showing (by way of "fetch=1" in the url), the comments will show underneath. Please let me know if you encounter any bugs. I'm not quite finished optimizing the source code. I pretty much cut and paste stuff here and there just to get it started. I temporarily disabled the preview blog comment feature because I need to rewrite the script that controls it.

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Thursday, August 24th, 2006 - 8:47 PM

"Arbitrary Appellation and Assortments I: Planets"

Supposedly this is the highest resolution image we have of pluto. If this is our sharpest eye into our universe, how on earth are we making assumptions about anything in our solar system, much less outside it? The Hubble telescope must have the original GameBoy graphics engine installed. Methinks this is misinformation because take a look at some of the images retrieved from Hubble of places much farther away. Meu nome é Disco Planet.

Tragedy of all tragedies. I just learned through a friend that Pluto is no longer considered a planet by leading scientists. My whole existence and happiness is drawn from that moment 20 or so years ago when I learned that there were nine planets in our nameless solar system. It was one of those factoids that I never forgot, the nine planets in order. Kinda like the books of the Bible or the 50 states and their capitals. I remember very little, but 9 planets is one of those eternal givens - that is, until earth's destruction on September 18, 1996.

Pluto was knocked off the charts because of its small size and somewhat irregular orbit. Apparently the word planet was never formerly defined by a uselessly organized set of rules, so an enormous gathering of highly paid experts in the emerging field of defining the word planet came up with the rules we can now refer to as "Kill Pluto: I Never Liked How He Jumped Up on Mickey and Never Thought He Was Funny Anyway". Since the discovery of Pluto in 1930, many bodies of similar size and behavior have been discovered in our solar system. For consistency, the scientific term, planet obviously needed some consideration - it simply wasn't scientific before. I generally agree with this standpoint. If we are going to come up with names and scientific terminology, it should at least be based on something that is constant and absolute. Sentimentality doesn't fly in the world of science, sorry Pluto.

After I bore the news this afternoon, I started thinking, "What is a planet anyway". From childhood, I always considered a planet to be big, round, circling the sun, and generally not in a big heap with a bunch of other masses (like asteroids). This is seriously what I was thinking. Then I looked up the Wikipedia article on the whole issue, and guess what 19 great scientists determined? A planet is "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit." Um, is that anything new? Well, actually, since Pluto crosses over Neptune's solar orbit, scientists have reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. Apparently since Gimli has such a cross personality in Lord of the Rings, they created a new scientific term in his honor.

By the way, don't you think it strange that our "solar system" is nameless? It would be like calling earth, "the planet", the milky way "the galaxy" or "Delectable Chewy Chocolatey Goodness", Antarctica "The Icy Wasteland Where No Sane Person Lives But About 4000 Human-Like People Call Home" or "Unique Brazilian Refreshment", or our moon "the moon"... oh wait, um... With all this balderdash about naming conventions, you'd think they'd've (double contraction) been more particular about our own system's name. Aliens must snicker when they get the answer to their question, "What do you call your solar system?"

Interestingly enough, Hades was not particularly upset at being tossed out as one of the main seven gods because 1) He already experienced being tossed down once, and 2) If there is a real representation of Hades, it would be Satan, who was also tossed down, and prefers to operate in stealth mode anyway. The less people who acknowledge his existence, the better he can "work" on his deceptive, murderous plan for humanity. If you don't like dark, secret war mongers who want to kill you, see here for a solution and for methods of thwarting evil plans.

Oh, and throw in your suggestion for naming our solar system (or sun or moon or universe). Be sure to pick a cool, timeless name so if chosen, we don't regret it and think, "Man, that is totally like 21st century!" I vote for "Indiana Jones", "Nugget", "Earth's Hoam", or "Sista Buff Judson, Sizing Up Competitors and Losing Combinations Named 'Crud from Blue-Finned Budapest Cafe' Cry Baby 'I Never Liked Skaw Music' Deluxe Delight System 2006 Times Two". The "2006" is to make sure the name is modern, up-to-date and kinda techie-sounding. And if we ever start thinking "2006" or some of the other words in the name kinda date us or produce slightly negative vibes, well then you can just use the expression, "All's well that ends times two", which means that any combination of words when multiplied by an unexplicably large number, such as 2, turn out right in the end, like sunsets in movies. Feels much better now, like ice cream churning in the belly.

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Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 - 7:24 PM

"Visitor Poll: Subscribe to Comments?"

I'm thinking to write a script that would allow visitors (namely you) to check a box "Email me all responses" when posting a comment. If an email address is provided, all future comments on that particular blog entry only will be sent to this email address. Throughout the process, no emails will be given out. Email addresses appear nowhere on my site, and no email addresses would be sent out with these comment subscriptions. There would be two subscription options. The first would simply email a short notice that someone else has posted a comment to the blog entry in question - a comment made chronologically later than the subscribing comment was made. A link to the blog entry would be provided in the email for convenient browsing. The second subscription type (another check box) would send a more verbose email including the text of the blog entry followed by the various comments in order they were posted. By default, neither of these behaviors would take place unless a box is intentionally checked and a valid email address provided. Another possibility that might give paranoid people a little more peace of mind is for me to create a preferred visitor membership [free, of course]. Only people who log in with a username and password would have such subscription options (and any future features I add for members only). Only people "approved by me" would have access to these advanced site features, so there would be no risk of email abuse. If someone abused this privilege and put someone else's email address in the comment form, I would cancel their "membership", and they would no longer be able to subscribe to comments or enter an email address.

The only reason I haven't written this script already, besides being lazy, is that I am worried what people would think about privacy concerns. In reality, the only way spam or unwanted email could result is if someone posted a comment with a false email address and they check one of the subscription boxes. Then perhaps someone who had never visited my site would get these comment subscription emails. But, of course, at the bottom of the email would be a unsubscribe link anyway, so if this happened, the person would just have to click the link to be removed. If it happened numerous times, I could block particular email addresses from being entered, or I could even create a blacklist of email addresses and immediately add any unsubscribed email addresses. Plus, I would limit the subscription service to something like 30 days, so visitors wouldn't get email notifications a year later if someone posts a commet on an old blog entry.

Anyway, I might end up creating this feature just for fun and learning experience, but I am interested to see what my 5 occasional visitors would think about such a "service". Why have such a thing, you ask? Well, don't you think it's annoying to wonder whether or not anyone responded to your comment on someone else' blog? Isn't it annoying to have to visit a blog, find a particular past post and click on the read comments link to see if any comments later than your own exist? I don't even purposefully remember where and when I post comments, let alone visit again to see the responses. So I usually don't see the feedback if it exists. These issues would be immediately solved, and no one would have to visit my blog just to see if there are any responses or follow-up on your comments. You would immediately know via email. Let me know what you think and if you would like such a feature. It is one of dozens that I intend to add one of these years. A bit of positive feedback might expedite its development.

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Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006 - 12:27 AM

"Are You Kidding Me, Bryce 5 For Free?"

For a long time I have had Bryce 4, a very cool environmental 3D rendering program. Bryce was formerly made by MetaCreations, for a short time Corel, and has perhaps changed hands numerous times since I followed it. Now it is made by a company called DAZ. I also have an earlier version of Poser, another former MetaCreations program for making realistic characters and animations that has also changed hands numerous times (currently owned by e frontier). I have been on DAZ's mailing list for quite some time, but usually I just delete the emails. Now all-of-a-sudden I got an email informing me Bryce 5 is a free download! WHAT!? Let me tell you, That caught my attention! I immediately downloaded it.

Bryce is up to version 6 now, but I'll settle for version 5 for free! I don't see any catch either. I downloaded it, and it appears fully functional and packed with the normal features plus some extras. Compared to version 4 that I own, it has a new tree builder (completely awesome to the maximus!), MetaBall modeling (never liked it - I prefer NURBS), and some other small enhancements. Very cool. Bryce has long been my renderer and animator of choice - simply because I cannot afford to get into the high-end, multi-thousand-dollar programs (like Maya and 3D Studio Max and others). Ever since I discovered free Blender 3D, if I dabble with 3D, I usually use that over Bryce. But now that I have a new version to play with, I might just make a scene or two. Bryce is still the best program in the world for making a quick natural 3D scene. Trees, water, mountains, sky, you name it. It is not a very good modeling program, but it has most of what you need to animate. And the rendering engine produces very realistic images. By the way, Blender 3D deserves more than a passing mention. It is the ultimate 3D program, and it is free, open source. I have the feeling it will surpass even the huge name apps pretty soon because there are so many geniuses dedicating their time to develop and expand it. Download it too! It's a little less user friendly than Bryce, but not impossible to figure out, especially if you have any background in 3D! And boy is it fast and sleek. I luggit.

Judith - a quickly spewed scene arranged and rendered in Bryce 5
I just made this little image to demonstrate Bryce 5's tree builder, a very cool feature. Don't judge the program by the quality of this image. I literally threw it together in just a couple minutes for a demonstration. Completely photorealistic or surreal images are possible using Bryce. You just need a little talent and patience.

Click here to download Bryce 5 for free. Act fast because the offer ends very soon. Download it even if you think you have no use for it. Some day you might develop an interest in it, and then you'll have it at no cost to you! Make a little image and show me your work! Maybe if I get enough examples, I'll make an EsoShow with your guys' work! Make sure to sign up on DAZ's site to get the registration code in time - plus you really need the extra download after that which includes extra (standard) program content and presets. Once you've registered and received your serial number, you are okay. You can let it sit on your computer until that day you are bored and decide to play with it. Just don't less this pass up if you are at all interested in experimenting in 3D on the computer. As Tom Peterson says, "Free is a very good price!" He also says, "Wake up! Wake up to a happy day!", but that is less related to this EsoBlog entry, and I don't know why I mentioned it.

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Saturday, August 19th, 2006 - 10:20 PM

"C2F Website Holiday 2006 Theme"

New Holiday 2006 theme for C2F

This week I designed a new theme for C2F's web site. Back in April I began redesigning the site with completely new structure and presentation, and these changes were released in July. The primary focus of these changes was to give the underlying code a very lean and logical structure using XHTML and CSS. I carefully wrote the code in a way that would allow future theme and color changes to be made site-wide in a quick and easy fashion. The pages contain absolutely no inline interface images or styles, so the entire appearance can be changed simply by pointing to a different externally linked CSS file.

In addition, for the first time, I came up with the concept of a themes folder. All the images and CSS required to adorn the web site in a particular motif are stored in a separate theme folder. The CSS references the images simply by filenames with no path. No file is required that is not contained in the theme folder. When it comes time to change the theme, a past theme folder is duplicated and each file is altered until the new theme surfaces. When all the changes are complete, the only change in the XHTML is to point all the CSS links to the new folder. Not even the CSS filenames need to change because the new theme folder contains all the same files. Just the folder name changes in the CSS links.

I tested the practicality of this theme file structure this week. It worked verysmoothly, and I'm quite pleased with the new structure. Because of the completely separate structure and presentation, I was able to create a new theme in just two days, including the time it took to determine color layout and create new graphical elements. In reality, most of the graphical work was done for me already. From now on, I will probably be adapting the themes from our seasonal catalogs which are designed in-house by our art department. The newest theme is simply an adaptation of some Photoshop files I received that reflect the appearance of the future C2F Holiday promotional catalog.

One of my favorite things to do when I am designing graphics is to always keep bandwidth and download speeds in mind. I have always had a keen understanding of compression, image formats, clarity, and such issues (back from the good ole days of Commodore 64, Sega Genesis, etc. when 8-bit or 16 color depths were the latest rage, and gradations of color were formed by dithered dot patterns). I find it quite entertaining to create the smallest possible image to fill large spaces with dramatic effects. This usually involves deciding whether to use a GIF, JPG or PNG and employing strategic tiling. All gradients can be composed of an extremely lean one-pixel wide gradient image that is tiled horizontally or vertically. Taking advantage of CSS background colors and borders rather than using images to fill in areas of common color is also paramount. I am particularly pleased with the tree background image for the holiday theme because I adapted it from a Photoshop file to make a seemless tiled image. An entire snowy forest landscape is created from a relatively small tile.

Here are some example pages from the C2F web site rendered both in the current Back to School theme and the forthcoming Holiday theme. If you can figure out how to get your browser to go back and forth between the two themes (try changing partial filename in the url from "bts06" to "hol06" - or open each link in a tabbed browser, like Firefox), it is kinda cool to see the exact same source have two completely different styles.

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Friday, August 18th, 2006 - 3:57 PM

"StatCounter Featuring Google Maps"

I frequent a couple stat tools that are available to me through my web hosting service. In addition, I have a free StatCounter account and the code installed to allow them to track my traffic as well. For some reason I look at the StatCounter stats far more frequently than my hosting stats. My hosting stats go into far more detail, and StatCounter limits its free database to the last 100 visits (my hosting stats have no limit), which is a severe limitation, but for some reason I still like it better. It gives a quick visual display of recent visitors as well as suggesting where in the world they are browsing from.

Apparently StatCounter added a new feature as recently as last night or early this morning. I REALLY like it! It shows on a Google map where some of the last visitors are located. Clicking on one of the markers shows various detailed statistics all in one place (nothing personal for the paranoid who think the internet knows everything about you! but useful statistical information). Since I am a very visual-oriented person, I find this new feature fantastic. And of course I generally like Google and most of their projects and services. Here's a sample of what the map looks like provided by StatCounter and Google Maps:

StatCounter adds Google Maps to its set of useful tools

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Monday, August 14th, 2006 - 9:39 PM

"Hi, Bobby."

One word, useless entry.
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Saturday, August 12th, 2006 - 7:32 PM

"The Soaring Candle Lucigen EsoLogo"

The Soaring Candle Lucigen EsoLogo

Jungle Whimsy is now the shortest lived EsoLogo in history, may he rest in peace. His replacement is the far superior Soaring Candle Lucigen EsoLogo. I decided those sketchy style logos didn't really fit in here at Esotropiart - well, at least not for more than 17 hours or so. The Soaring Candle Lucigen is a bit more traditional in that it uses the EsoFont of yesteryears.

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Saturday, August 12th, 2006 - 5:19 PM

"The Jungle Whimsy EsoLogo"

The Jungle Whimsy EsoLogo

The Spindus Vine-Heap EsoLogo had its night in the spotlight, taking over the header of Esotropiart for a good 17 hours or so. Now is the age of the Jungle Whimsy EsoLogo (it may also be short-lived depending on my mood).

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Saturday, August 12th, 2006 - 12:44 AM

"Spindus Vine-Heap EsoLogo"

Spindus Vine-Heap EsoLogo

Tonight I'm in a weird, random mood. I introduce the Spindus Vine-Heap EsoLogo! I know, it's daring, it's different, a little zany. I lazily slopped it out in ArtRage 2.

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Friday, August 11th, 2006 - 12:43 PM

"Pentalic Site Revisions"

Pentalic logo/photo I created especially for the web site I created this rough sketch of the Pentalic logo especially for the web site. I also had to photograph my own hand awkwardly using my left hand to handle the camera. And yes, I actually used Pentalic paper (Meridian) and a Pentalic Woodless Graphite Pencil!

Pentalic was one of my first web design projects. I suppose it was perhaps my second or third professional project while working at C2F, Inc. For me, it is evidence of how quickly I was able to pick up web design. I credit God for that, though some people might get big headed egos and say of themselves, "I can do anything I set my mind to". I believe people can do amazing things when they have the drive to do it, but in this case, I give credit to the Lord of heaven and earth.

Anyway, the Pentalic site is very simple; the product line is small. This week I updated the XHTML and CSS (more logical underlying structure), made a few small visual changes, and refreshed the featured products. I decided not to completely redesign the look of the site. I made only a couple graphical enhancements. Normally I look back on previous projects or drawings of mine and cringe in fear and dismay. I am not yet horrified by my work on this project and generally like how it looks and how simple it is.

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Friday, August 11th, 2006 - 12:17 AM

"Best Gas Prices In Oregon"

Cheap gas in Hood River!

Everyone knows that gas prices have skyrocketed in past years. At the moment they have been coming down a bit, but this picture is an exceptionally significant price reduction. Talk about beating out all the competition! My friend Dave and I were driving through Hood River Oregon, on our way to Camp Jonah last Friday. I was so amazed at the price of this gas, I had to take a picture to prove it. Most people wouldn't believe me when I say I saw gas priced at 9/10 of a penny per gallon. Well, here's the proof! Unfortunately we were not in the right lane, so we were unable to stop to take advantage of the wonderful discount.

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Thursday, August 10th, 2006 - 12:00 AM

"Normally I Hate Intelligence or Personality Tests"

I am rarely influenced to click on an online advertisement. In fact, it is so rare, that I can say that ads are a wasted venture set before me. I simply ignore them. When I am captivated by some sort of advertisement, it is because of the cool visuals or funny punchline. I rarely remember the product or pursue any sort of inquiry or purchase. Perhaps I'm more influenced by combined audio/visual stimuli such as movies or TV ads, but internet ads simply don't affect me. But this evening I clicked on an ad that sent me to an IQ test page. Why did I do it? Haven't a clue. I guess I don't remember ever having taken one and thought it might be interesting to see what box "smart" people put me in.

Normally I hate such tests that form very generic results and summaries based on a very limited number of seemingly arbitrary or repetitious questions. Usually the results are severely lacking, and I'm left saying, "That simply isn't me!" But after finishing this advertisement riddled (all ignored) free test, I was extremely surprised with the results and figured I'd share them here. I hope I am not interested in the results because they seem favorable. I suppose it is possible that this test skews the results (or even randomizes them) to make everyone feel good about themselves so they come back, and show their friends the site with billions of paid advertisements. Thus the ads do their magic. But if the results are actually generated based on the content of my answers, then it's pretty cool, because I feel the results could have some truth. In fact, most of the summaries seem to describe me to a T. Kinda eerie, actually. Here's some of what was written so you can get to know me a little better:

Visual Mathematician - You have a strong ability to process visual-spatial and mathematical information. These skills combined with your strengths in logic are what make you a Visual Mathematician.

You're able to understand patterns visually and in numbers. That means your mind can create a mental picture for any problem. In addition to that skill, you possess an intelligence that allows you to apply math to that picture, too. That helps you manipulate multiple parts of the picture (or problem) to come up with a solution.

You have many skills that are critical to success and problem-solving. Your talents help you understand the "big picture," which is partly why people may turn to you for direction especially in the workplace. You flourish in environments where tasks are clearly defined, and you are a whiz at improving processes and making things more efficient. Your ability to detect patterns and your skills in math and logic, make it natural for you to come up with ideas and theories that simplify processes for everyone.

Outside of work, Visual Mathematicians tend to do well at strategic activities like chess. It must be that ability to recognize patterns both as they are and how they develop. Regardless of how you put your mind to use, you've got a great set of talents. You will be able to envision a clear path and calculate the risks, and more importantly, the rewards, of anything you take on.

You've got tons of strengths. It wouldn't surprise us if you:

  • Can give practical application to abstract thought
  • Can predict patterns
  • Are resourceful & practical
  • Envision the "big picture"

In addition to these descriptions that I feel fairly accurately describe me, there is a bunch of stuff about various scores and numbers. That was interesting as well, and supposedly I get to see how "smart" I am compared to other people, but I was more interested in the first part I copied here. I think it is interesting that the results combined Visual with Mathematician. I know very well that I am a visually-oriented creature. This is where some of my art abilities and emotions come into play. At the same time, I am fairly analytical and am always trying to figure things out, even when there isn't any point, or the subject is fictitious or nonvisual.

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