Kitten Foster Care

 Last Thursday I went to volunteer orientation at Liberty Humane Society. In addition to needing volunteers to do things like clean cages and walk dogs, they mention needing kitten fosters. A shelter isn’t a great place for any animal, it’s noisy and stressful, but kitten in particular tend to pick up illnesses, so they’re always looking for people to foster kittens for a month or so until they can be adopted.

I think we can all see where this is going.

When I said we wanted to foster a kitten, the girl at the desk asked "how many do you want? Do you want a whole litter?" We decided two would be a manageable number to start with. We filled out some paperwork, picked out our cats, and walked home with a carrier full of mewing kittens.

Liberty Humane Society currently has about 200 cats, half of which are kittens. While we were picking out the two to foster, 9 kittens and one mom cat came in. Liberty doesn’t turn away any animals, which means this time a year they’re full to the brim with cats. Although they do euthanize animals, they only do so when the animal is violent or terminally ill. There isn’t a time limit on how long an animal can be there. 

Both these guys had fleas on them, so despite their most furious kitten protests they both got baths. Luckily at this size there isn’t much they can do to fight back. After bathing we clipped their nails, dried them off, and left them to sulk. They napped while we were out at dinner, and had almost forgiven us by the time we got home.

Both cats are boys, although they had girl names on their cage cards at the shelter, so we’re trying to come up with more manly names for them. The dark grey one is a serious lap cat, he’s all about climbing into a comfortable position on you and purring until he passes out. The striped one is more of an adventurer, he boldly explored new and exciting places like "behind the toilet" and "next to the vanity." They’re quarantined in the spare bathroom until we’re sure they’re flea-free.

We have them until the end of September, at which point they’ll be ready to adopt out. So if you want a cat next month… we’ve got them.


Beginning PHP is back

 I’m teaching Beginning PHP again at NYC Resistor again this September, so if you’ve always wanted to learn PHP and missed the previous classes, now is your chance! The class is geared towards folks with some basic HTML knowledge, but no prior PHP experience is necessary.

Occasionally folks ask if I teach any advanced PHP classes. I’ve offered a few in the past (Object Oriented PHP, manipulating images with GD) but they don’t generally have enough turnout to warrent a class. But if there’s a PHP class you want let me know and I’ll see if there’s enough intrest.



55 Belts!

Today the belts I ordered arrived, so sometime next week I’ll be posting my new belt buckles on Etsy and 1000 Markets. The buckles, which are still in the prototyping phase, are the same laminated-acrylic style as the Hipster Pendants I made a bit ago. Most of the belts are black/brown, but there are also some red, yellow, blue, and pink ones. 

The acrylic for them should be in next week, so stay tuned. So far there are 5 designs, inculding some dinosaurs. If you’ve got any special requests let me know!


Bloggers vs Bloggers

 Lately I’ve been really bothered by something: bloggers who call themselves journalists. I know it’s just an effort to seem a little classier than you are when someone asks "what do you do for a living," and we all do it (well, those of us with less exciting job descriptions), but reading a single article, condensing it, throwing in an opinion (generally with no other background information than the aformentioned article), and regurgigating it isn’t journalism. And I don’t think the bloggers who use the term think it is either, but thinking about it has made me read blogs with a more critical eye.

These folks are not to be confused with bloggers who are content creators. Content creators come in a wide variety, from those who document progress on a project, to people who simply wax philosophical on whatever they thought of when they first woke up this morning. I’m not saying blogs all need to be highly academic and researched, one of my favorite (now defunct) blogs is Miss Doxie, which is the diary of a woman and her dogs, booze, and shoes.

But it seems most professional bloggers aren’t content creators. They’re more like online tastemakers. They peruse everyone else’s freshly created content, decide which of it is worth sharing, and if it is, distill it into a convenience microwavable meal for easy digestion and sharing.

We need a new word, something to separate the professional content aggregators from the people who actually write things. And while we’re at it, can we please strip the half-baked personal opinions out of the content aggregation? If I wanted uninformed opinions from someone who just read the article, I’d read the comments.


Welcome, Postling!

 It’s been a busy month, but unfortunately the stuff I’ve been working on has been either not very interesting, or isn’t far enough along I really have much to show. And some things are SECRET PROJECTS. I would like to take the time to congratulate Chris, Dave, and Haim for launching Postling over the weekend. Postling is a tool for businesses to manage their social networking.

I’ll have you know that the cinnamon rolls featured on their homepage were made by Chris and me. And they were quite delicious.

I’m hoping that armed with Postling I will finally get on top of social media for Tinysaur. I’m pretty active with my own, but dealing with Tinysaur has been a totally different story. Managing multiple accounts is a total pain. And I have a number of upcoming projects which will all need social media babble of their own.

Yay, Postling!


Playing around with 3D modeling


It started when The Sims 3 came out. Rather than get The Sims 3 I decided to start playing The Sims 2 again. And then of course I needed to download new objects for it. And then I wanted to get back into making my own objects.

So I spent the better half of the afternoon playing around with 3D modeling. While the modeling techinques are pretty much the same as they were when I left off (about 8 years ago), the rendering is vastly improved. With nice enough lighting and textures even simple objects can look good, and lose that excessively smooth CGI look.

screwdriverI started with a tutorial on how to make a screwdriver, and moved on to a slightly more adventurous model of the mechanical pencil I was using. I think lighting is one of the biggest things I’ve totally forgotten, setting up and aiming lights didn’t work at all how I expected. The tutorial had me use a dialectric material, which I had never heard of (not that I was ever really super into materials anyway), except unlike the tutorial all my materials came out greenish. You can see it in the screwdriver handle and the barrel of the pencil.

I don’t have any real reason to get serious about the rendering side of things, since most of my 3D modeling is for rapid prototyping a la Makerbot, but it’s fun to play with at least. And adding a Fur texture proves categorically that round + fuzzy = cute:


Electronics 101

The other day I needed to build a circuit to bump 3v up to something between 3.5 and 5 for my CHDK Remote Cable hack. I looked up a handful of schematics for circuits that do this… and realized I didn’t really understand what any of them were doing. At least not well enough to appropriate the circuit for my own needs.

I took Electricity and Magnetism second semester of my senior year of high school. Which is to say I don’t remember any of it. So I figured it was time I actually learn the math behind the electrical circuits I’m building instead of sticking things together haphazardly to see if they work. I remember how to use V=IR, but that doesn’t really answer the question “how do I bump 3v up to 3.5v?”

Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics

I’m reading “Teach Yourself Electricity and Electronics” , so far I’m just as far as some basic concepts of DC and AC power. Of course I almost never do anything with AC power, but I suppose it’s handy to know.

The book itself is pretty dry. But it’s an electronics book, so I suppose any of them are going to be dry. If there are any other good basic electronics theory I’d love to hear them. On the plus side, this one is great for getting me to sleep.



I’ve been getting a lot of spam comments lately, mostly for Viagra and pictures of Paris Hilton nude, but as I was cleaning out the spam filter one caught my eye. I almost wish it was a legitimate comment:

Stargate Cast Member Hoax!!! These people are not even on the real set of Stargate. It looks like it was shot on green screen. I can tell. Just like the footage of the first American on the moon

Of course it was accompanied by some phishing / Miley Cyrus nude link… but the comment itself is hillarious to me.  As if anyone would go to trouble of staging a Stargate hoax of any kind. Also there may have been a period in college where I watched Stargate. A lot.


The Fall of Dell

There was a time, in the mid-90s, when I really liked Dell computers. I was baffled by why someone would walk into Circuit City and buy some pre-fab underpowered peice of junk with a bunch of useless peripherals when you could just go to dell.com and get exactly what you wanted. And the idea of dealing with Circuit City’s tech support was laughable because Dell’s was so good. Between our household and my dad’s business we probably bought around 20 Dell computers over the years.

Fast forward to about 2002, which is the last time I bought a Dell. Gone are the tech support guys who actually know how to use a computer, all replaced by folks in other countries reading from a script. I guess if you don’t know what’s wrong with your computer the step-by-step drone troubleshooting is fine, but god help you if you actually know anything about your computer and you’re stuck talking to these people. No, I don’t want to change the display settings, it’s a hardware problem. Yes, I already did that five times. *go through 10 minute process* Nope, still broken. Really, we have to do it again before you can transfer me to someone with a clue?

But admittedly the awful customer service isn’t the full reason I stopped buying Dells. I have an HP now, and I’m sure their tech support is just as awful. Oh, and I purchased my HP from CompUSA, which may actually be a step down on the food chain from Circuit City. Although both are defunct now so I guess it’s a wash.

But the real impetus behind my conversion to off-the-shelf machines is that it just doesn’t matter that much anymore. In 1997 being able to leave off the printer/modem (uh hello we had ISDN)/CRT etc and put that money towards more memory/processor gave you a big boost in performance. Now, not so much. We’ve hit a plateau in consumer processing needs. There are very few applications that require the latest and greatest hardware.

My HP is about two years old. It has a couple gig of ram and somewhere around a 2 GHz processor. Aside from having to throw a decent graphics card in there to play Portal, it’s totally sufficient. I can run Photoshop/Illustrator/CorelDraw all at once without problems, Steam games run just fine on it, and I really don’t find myself wanting for a faster machine. I remember a time when I wanted a computer with as many hard drive bays as possible so I could stuff it full of disks (I promptly blew out the power supply). Now you can get a 1TB hard drive for under $100. Ten years later the hardware just isn’t as important as it used to be.

Dell, in a bizarre bone-headed move to stay relevant, has released a new advertising campaign: Della. This consists of a number of machines that come in colors besides white or grey because apparently the thing women care about most is whether the computer matches their furniture. And in an age where the hardware isn’t terribly relevant anymore maybe that is the only real consideration. I’ve got no qualms with marketing computers towards women, but the whole website comes off as pretty patronizing. I might want a computer that isn’t a blight on my living room decor but I still plan on using it for world domination.

Della has a page of “tech tips.” Here is a sample tip:

Eat better: Find recipes online, store and organize them, and watch cooking videos.

I’m sorry Dell, there’s no alternate universe in which that counts as a tech tip. Unless the computer is also a personal chef-robot. Oh and here’s a hint, even the most techno-phobic women can already do that, with these ingenious things called recipe books, a Rolodex, and cable TV.

Dell’s latest ad campaign illustrates pretty clearly that they’re out of touch. Seriously the “look you can use a computer for your womenly duties” thing is so 1994. What was once a purveyor of perfectly good consumer hardware is now more like a monolith of #fail.


Learning Android (or, not)

Wednesday night some friends and I sat down armed with our G1s and laptops to write some code for Android. If you haven’t looked at Android yet, it’s got this whole Java framework you get to learn on top of your rusty Java. It’s been about two years since I even looked at any Java, and most of my evening was spent trying to convince Eclipse and SDK to play nicely together on my computer.

Since Android is so deeply seated in its own framework even though it’s Java you can’t just throw any old Java application on it and expect it to run. This seems a little contrary to Java’s big cross-platform compatibility promise. But since I’ve always found that to be a horrible lie anyway, I don’t really care. So I’m learning Android, and it looks a lot like Java.

The Android SDK includes an Android emulator so you can play with it even if you don’t own an Android phone, and while it’s dog slow to boot it works pretty well. You can set which version of the OS you want to run (1.5 is supposedly coming out this month), although damned if I know how; I just followed the instructions in the Hello World tutorial.

I have to say that this is the longest process from start to Hello World I’ve ever gone through. And that’s my main beef with Java. It seems like every project has 1000 classes and I spend half my time on a wild goose chase trying to figure out what a given line of code is doing. This is exactly the sort of thing I can’t stand about highly OO PHP projects like Magento. Even doing simple stuff feels really really bloated. With Android you can hello world in your code, but really what you’re supposed to do is load your strings up in an XML file, and then load the layout into another XML file, and then some depths of the framework I haven’t read up on magically know to throw this on the screen. Ugh. Maybe this is something I’d appreciate if I did much GUI programming in other languages?

Anyway, so we got through Hello World, and then I lost patience with both Eclipse and the Android framework. I closed Eclipse, and when I restarted it had apparently forgotten all about the Android SDK. I’m sure this is due to some error on my part, but given that it took me 20 minutes to convince Eclipse to install the SDK the first time I didn’t feel like doing it again.

The XML file for your gui is kinda neat, but the documentation is not particularly well laid out. After setting up my little sample XML file with attributes like “layout_width” and “layout_height” I naturally wanted to know what other attributes I could play with. Can I make it pink? Can I make the text an inch tall? The answer to all these things is of course “yes” but first you have to find the list of available attributes, and then you have to figure out what class you’re dealing with (TextView in this case) and then you have to find out all of its parent classes, and then compare all thath against the documentation which you can really only sanely traverse with CTRL+F because apparently they didn’t feel like organizing things with nice hyperlinks.

I’m sure that the Android documentation is totally fine for someone who is used to working with Java frameworks, but frankly I avoid most frameworks at all costs. This might be because I work mostly with PHP, and in PHP a framework is just one more slow broken thing you have to debug. So I’ll keep plugging away at Android, but it’s going to take a lot more reading than I have the patience for this week.