On Monday I start my first full-time, non-freelance job in almost 14 years.
I've been freelancing (more like temp contracting) for a website, shooting and editing video and performing some consulting tasks. They don't have anything resembling a video department, but they aspire to. After three + months of working for them they finally decided to offer me the job of defining the processes and workflows for the department, and then to run the department (which would pretty much be just me and possibly a part-time freelancer for a while).Read moreCollapse )

Weird tile color
ETA: Wow, this is my first post in over a year!

Our landlady decided to have our bathroom floor redone with tile. Yay! Goodbye, worst linoleum ever!

At first glance, the tile looks slate-grey. But upon closer inspection it has a couple of colors going on in it. It appears to be a dark green (skewed toward blue) glazed over a magenta-skewed terra cotta. The colors are not obvious - the intial impression is "grey!" - but the pinkish hue comes through which sort of warms it up, but in a weird way.

It's darkish in tone, but not really dark.

The result is that it doesn't go with anything. We wanted to paint the bathroom a very light blue, with a darker blue accent wall, but that blue vibrates wrongly against the self-conflicted tile (the baseboard is now the same tile, so there's no opportunity to use a baseboard to transition or provide a little separation from the wall color).

The tone makes it difficult to use a dark- or medium- tone color. Dark tones look strange because the floor is just a little lighter. Medium tones look strange because there is NO COLOR that harmonizes with the tile. If only the tile were a little darker.... There are some colors that look OK against the tile, but they create an institutional feel and are not all that pleasing to contemplate for the entire room.

The tile manufacturer's materials only show one installation of this color, and it's an odd treatment that doesn't provide many clues as to how to select good colors.

I'm now thinking of putting up a chair rail, then using a tan color below and the blue above, and maybe using the tan for an accent wall as well. But with that combo the bathroom starts feeling like a handsome but totally mainstream style. Another option is to use an espresso brown for the lower part but the blue/brown combo, while a nice look, has been trending the last couple of years and I fear it will soon look dated.

I think I'll take a piece of surplus tile into the paint store and have them color-match it. The tile is not a single color, but I'd be curious to see what single color is generated by a color-match.

Hmmm. It's a poser.

Casting news...
I just accepted the role of The Rev. David Lee in a production of Larry Shue's The Foreigner at The Western Stage in Salinas, CA. The Rev. Lee is described as being very likeable, the kind of person one couldn't imagine having any ulterior motives or bad intentions, who SPOILER ALERT - Read more...Collapse )


Batmobile front

more Batmobile!

This is up for auction during Monterey's Auto Week. rednikki says this is a replica built on a Corvette platform with bodywork made from molds taken off the original.

If I had the money to buy such a thing I'd use it for a daily driver.

Frankenbike v2.0
rednikki scored a free bike for me off Freecycle a while back, a dilapidated mountain bike with no seat, missing parts and trashed wheels. I built it up using parts from 3 or 4 other bikes plus new drivetrain components (chainring, chain and freewheel) and cables. It looked like this in its first reincarnation continued after the cut:Collapse )

Today's scripting triumph
I wanted to figure out a convenient way to load a bunch of configuration variables for a web page "content assembly" (my name for a section of a page - I would have used "section" except that might get confusing if the site had sections with multiple pages). For example, one of the assemblies is "Find Us" which contains options for displaying any or all of: the address, a map link, an embedded map and directions.  Depending on the site's content & layout and the needs of the site owner, this could go on a "Contact Us" page, or maybe an "About Us" page. In any case, I want to be able to have these assemblies be modular so they're not permanently chained to any one page.

Each assembly will have a different set (and quanitity) of config variables, so I couldn't really create one MySQL table to hold the config vars for each assembly in separate columns, and I sure didn't want to create a separate config table for each assembly.

I decided to see if I could take the data from the config form and assemble it into a string, which could be stored in one column of a DB table, then be able to pull that string out and parse it into variable names with values.

I did it! And it's only about 12 lines (not counting the queries, just the string creation and parsing code). It takes the name and value of the appropriate form fields, pushes them into an array (each key/value pair is an element in the array) then implodes the array into a string which would then get inserted (or updated) into the database table.

When the string is pulled out of the table, the code explodes the string into an array, then loops through each element (key/value pair as a string) and explodes that into an array with two elements. The key name ( [0] ) gets assigned to a variable, which is then assigned to a variable variable (making it a variable with the name of the key) and assigns the appropriate value ( [1] ) to it.

It ends up "decompressing" the string into all the necessary config variables with appropriate names, ready to be used in the assembly.

This is starting to get fun!
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Gaining facility with php
I'm getting to the point where I can actually have an idea and make it happen even if it's not just a variation on one of the projects in the books I've been working through. Friday i decided it would be cool to have a series of checkboxes, one for each day of the week, then take the checked values and  have the day names output as a string with contiguous blocks of 3 or more days using the first and last day names in the block with the word "through" in between, and commas separating the rest of the day names.

For example, if the user checked Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, the output would be "Monday, Wednesday through Friday, Sunday."

It doesn't seem like much, but hey, I'm a noob.

After I made it work I went back an used more generic variable names and modified it so it will work with any sequence of checkboxes (no matter how many) simply by setting up a couple of variables correctly. Next I will try making it into a function.

Ultimately this part of the script will be formatting data coming from a database table. The checkboxes will be for the user to select days. When the days come out of the database I mean to present them the way this script does.

I'm still a little slow at the beginning of a process like this, as there are lots of things I don't know and there are usually several ways to use the logic to solve a problem, but I'm getting faster at writing the code and troubleshooting it. It feels pretty good!

The only downside is now when I'm doing mundane tasks like making dinner I think things like "SELECT vegetables FROM refrigerator WHERE type = 'salad_fixin\'s' AND status <> 'rotten';"
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Can it be true? Are we finally tired of leftovers?
News is that this is one of the worst summers for movie box-office returns in a long while.

I really hope this means that the public has finally had enough of bland, tepid reheats of leftovers that Hollywood found in the back of the fridge and that weren't even that good when they were fresh.

I expect Hollywood to simply turn up the volume on the "tentpole" crap they have in the pipeline for the next couple of years and hope that's enough. I'm really hoping though that the bombast bubble has burst. I'd feel bad for the ordinary folks who make their livelihood working on big-budget movies, but I sure wouldn't mind seeing a spate of gonzo "we have no idea what anyone wants so we'll try anything!" filmmaking, or some big-studio efforts toward shepherding smaller, more interesting movies. Maybe developing some real talent. That would be cool.

That stench of ozone?
Yeah, that's my brain making that smell.

I've just spent quite a while wrapping my brain around a multi-dimensional array that the authors of this PHP book I'm working through dropped into the book for one of the example applications without explaining what the various elements are or what precisely they do (why is there a zero just hanging out there at the end of it?) compounded by the fact that one of the elements in the array is another array that they failed to instruct the reader to create in an earlier iteration of the script.

I found the missing array in the downloadable example code, but I've been trying really hard to generate the scripts myself before I turn the page and see their solution and I've been keen to avoid using the finished downloaded scripts. Makes it kind of hard when they just randomly leave a bunch of critical stuff out of the text. Don't get me wrong, it's still a fantastic book, but I pity readers who may not have the troubleshooting skills (or dogged perseverance) I have. I can easily imagine people giving up out of frustration.

I researched multi-dimensional arrays online and learned a lot, but didn't encounter the same method/syntax they used to create it in the book so I had to pretend I was a PHP interpreter and process the script by hand to see what was supposed to happen with certain elements, then make some assumptions to fill in the gaps.

I haven't tried the script out yet (there are still a couple chunks I have to finish before I can try it) but I'm not convinced it is correct. They reference the first register in the array that's an element in the multi-dimensional array, but the way it's written it looks like it's referencing the first register in the multi-dimensional array instead. Argh.

I'm developing a pretty good understanding of what they're doing in this example, but now my brain is all hot and itchy.

Even Bounceback Gets the Blues
I'm getting a lot better about factoring various client-generated timesucks into my job estimating, and I'm getting pretty good about bouncing stuff back to clients when things need their attention rather than just doing them myself. I am learning though that even the bouncing back is a timesuck.

I've spent about 4 hours in the last few days carefully crafting emails to a client letting them know what thie issues are that require their attention while being very careful to word things such that they don't think I'm being impatient, frustrated or snarky. This attention to minutiae and my efforts to be careful about the feelings of the people who receive these emails requires a great deal of time.

More time, in fact, than simply doing the work myself would take.

My belief is that it's worthwhile to maintain the boundary, and that I'll a) get faster at writing such emails and b) remember to factor some time in for things like that.


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