April 18, 2003

last call


The Spontaneous Combustion Jazz Sextet

Live at Pizza Luce, Downtown Duluth

April 18, 2003

10:00 PM

The band’s ::LAST SHOW EVER:: with Mr Dane PetersEn.

Brian Perez is sure to be there, too. Trust me, you don’t know ’em.

April 17, 2003

rotten apple cowboy

I’m gonna start a record company that doesn’t exist, that produces webpages and t-shirts for bands that don’t exist. A few featured bands will be Billy and the Grazing Phalli, No Nuts to Tuck, The Trigger Hippies, Not Pot, the Ice D1ldo Company, the Rotten Apple Cowboys, Cacti Genocide, Trouser Invasion, and Arthur C. Lamarck’s Quietude. Maybe not so much that last one, but maybe so. Any suggestions are welcome.

We’ll do web design on the side, too. When all is said and done this is going to rock so hard people won’t know what hit ’em.

Today I ordered 100 hazardous materials stickers that all say SPONTANEOUSLY COMBUSTIBLE. They won’t be around in time for my last show with our band, but at least they can be circulated to ensure a lasting legacy.

Ever notice how you feel more naked when you leave your socks on?

what you wanted all along

Three days ago it was sunny and 70 degrees outside. Yesterday sharp gristles of ice fell from the sky amid nasty winds. Last night I played my last big band concert of my UMD academic career. Today it looks like the ice has turned to angry rain. Tomorrow is my last Spontaneous Combustion gig.

I’m leaving this school, this town, this state, this whole Midwest Representation in less than a month. The strange thing is I don’t really feel anything special. I don’t feel sad, scared, crazy, woozy, narcissistic, bland, benign, etc. People ask me if I’m excited and I just shrug, as though they’re asking me if I’m going grocery shopping.

It’ll hit me eventually, and it probably won’t be until I load up my car to haul my junk down to the Cities. It might not even hit me then, as that will still involve acting out the routine play I’ve done for the last four years. To realize that change is acomin’ I need some indication from the rest of the world, and so far things are conducting themselves the same way they have since I started college. Go to class, see some friends, write some papers, play some concerts, repeat until the days run out. Take a few months off, flip the hourglass and start again.

Maybe it will hit me at 5:00 in the morning in late May, as the Petersen household stirs from their slumber to see me off on the 24 hour drive to Hood River. It’ll be just like leaving on a road trip, just like all those summers of Phish, those springs of backpacking and those winters of snowboarding. This time I’ll be alone, armed with only a full tank of glass, sunglasses and 200 of my favorite CDs. And two windsurfers, a backpack, a snowboard, climbing gear, a computer, all my clothes and a 1945 Toastmaster.

Maybe it will hit me as I pull over the Bitterroot Range and drop down into the dusty Oregon Desert. Separated from the ‘sota by the barren wastes of the Dakotas and the granite armor of the Rockies.

Or maybe it will hit me when the weather stops being so damn moody. It’s really hard to concentrate with this girl pitching a fit all the time.

April 16, 2003


Sun Ra: Dude. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is fucked up.

Sun Ra: Wonka keeps dropping acid.

Sun Ra: And that creepy janitor guy at the beginning? His janitor cart has a broom, a dust pan, an IV drip bag and a MEAT CLEAVER. I understand the IV bag (he looks a bit ashen and unhealthy) but a meat cleaver? What’s he do, kill little boys out late at night?

Sun Ra: And the whole story takes place in the 20th century, right? It’s got Volkswagens and computers and stuff. But Charlie’s family lives in 18th century poverty, where his mom needs to boil their clothing in large tubs to get it clean. Like she’s cooking up soup stock or something.

And his family says there are 100 billion other people in the world grappling for the golden ticket. Now, this either implies that the story takes place with 30th century overpopulation, or that every human being that has ever lived and died on this planet wants the golden ticket. I mean, we’re talking corpses here. Corpses that want in to Wonka’s factory. Why? Why would the dead want to get in a chocolate factory so bad? What is so damned interesting in there that it has roused the dead from eternal slumber?

Dave: Dude, you answered your last question with your second statement.

Dave: It’s not just chocolate they’re making in there, ya know.

Sun Ra: I see.

Sun Ra: Hence the dead’s infatuation.

Sun Ra: Everyone wants what he’s on.

Dave: Exactly. Aside from the narcotic effects, it is no doubt capable of effecting a messiah-class resurrection on any entrepeneurial member of the living dead who imbibes it.

Sun Ra: Oh my. What verbiage.

copious amounts of code

Computers are pissing me off right now and I need to rant and rave a little bit about the trials and tribulations of web design. I know this rant will alienate 99.9 percent of my readers, but you can make it more interesting by pretending I’m ranting about ladies or something. Actually, that might make this a lot more fun. Fun, like riding the Tilt-A-Whirl fourteen times in a row without waiting in line, fun.

Ok, so I started building webpages with Dreamweaver, which I am still using for lack of a better program. Now, my ultimate goal with web design is a complete separation of content and presentation, where I will use the HTML code only for content, leaving an external cascading style sheet responsible for all layout. The site Squidfingers is a great example of this separation. Go to the bottom of the page and click DISABLE CSS. Boom. Notice how bland the page suddenly becomes? To web design geeks like me, that’s like watching her clothes tumble to the floor. Seeing that results in a coding orgasm.

The problem with visual web design programs like DW is that they can only show a reasonable approximation of what the page will look like in the user’s actual browser. Many times your best efforts in laying things out all nice and snazzy on the screen with be smoked like so much bad ganga in IE, Opera, Mozilla or Netscape. After getting some quality time with web design under your belt you start to realize what layouts you can get away with, and which ones will be problematic.

DW writes decent HTML code, and you can customize its automatic templates to write code that is one step closer to being XHTML certified. This is good for the content end of web design. Dreamweaver also has a nifty feature that lets you easily corral data in invisible tables and cells, and make it all look pretty. This is good, but the use of tables conflates content and design by using cells to decide where the content will be displayed. What Squidfingers is doing is using a stylesheet to determine how everything should look, not tables. When you disable CSS you are seeing the stark plain HTML code, the content.

DW has CSS support and integration, but it writes really sloppy CSS code. Really sloppy. It plays fast and loose with border code, isn’t consistent with whether it’s dealing with “margin-right: 10px” or “margin: 0px 10px 0px 0px” and doesn’t produce code that is at all considerate towards human intervention (read, no linebreaks). I always find myself handwriting and editing my CSS outside of DW just to keep its grubby hands from farkin’ up my code. DW doesn’t even display CSS correctly in the layout view, so I need to guess and keep refreshing the page in a browser window until it looks right. Really, because of this whole mess I can hardly use Dreamweaver anymore for the design end of web design.

Also, DW has a template function which is useful for generating multiple pages that all need to look the same, but doing so and still using tables results in minor inconsistencies across pages. The only way to ensure complete consistency is to use server side includes to paste separate static title and menu files into the HTML when the page is accessed, or to eliminate tables entirely and corral all content using one style sheet. This can be done using server side includes or PHP, but both are still outside my realm of knowledge.

Really, all I need DW for is managing links across my pages, and updating them as I shuffle stuff around… but doesn’t even do that very well. I usually structure my sites by directory, using an index.htm file in each directory that the browser should default to when it follows a link to that content. All my internal links are similar to “writings/” or “../about/”. I don’t use stuff like “writings/index.htm” so my site will be forward compatible in case I start using index.shtml or index.php. So long as the browser points only to the directory it will always find the appropriate index file.

But DW thinks it’s so smart it reformats my links by taking off the last backslash. That’s bad form, as this alteration tells the browser to look for a FILE called “writings”, and only failing that does it look for a FOLDER called “writings”. The last “/” saves time by taking the user directly to the index file in the appropriate directory. It’s a minor grivance in the grand scheme of things, but one I find so very frustrating because I know I can write better code than that by hand.

With that, I’m currently looking for a web design program that is code-centered (but still holds my hand a little bit through proper grammar and closing tags), has tight integration with cascading style sheets, and manages my hyperlinks and directory structure without being babysat. If anyone knows of such a thing (or a perpetual motion machine or a cold fusion reactor or a cross-polarized energy shield or a flying car or a jet pack or three) please drop me a line.

UPDATE: Additionally, Zeldman offers insight into the current state of XHTML 2 standards. The general conclusion? If you don’t write your own code and you’re a sadist, dive right in. If you hand code and you want to keep your fingers wrapped around a few stray wits, duck your head and wait for the damn thing to blow over.

April 14, 2003

with a rockstar swagger

Less than three hours until Christopher T. Fahey revolutionizes the world of music with his senior recital.

Haven’t you heard?

Monday April 14th. 9:00. Weber Music Hall. Sunny Wicked will be playing their original alt-rock stylings that you have all grown to love, only this time their chamber orchestra will be in on the action.

Let me repeat that. Sunny Wicked will be rocking out with over 20 other UMD music majors, tonight. The world has never seen such overt, swaggering moxy in such massive quantities. The world may never see it again, as Fahey may burst into an ecstatic ball of fire when this whole thing is said and done.

It’s free. Did we mention it’s free?

silverfish in a wheelbarrel

Not much new around here. Over the weekend I switched my default browser to Opera, as IE is way too forgiving when it comes to stylesheets and I found myself writing sloppy code and not catching it. Unfortunately, Opera skips over the automatic formatting for Movable Type, so I now need to handcode bold, italics hrefs and stuff. Oh well. C’est la vie.

I also had to do two web projects for school. If you wish you can check out my web picture book to Phish’s song “Rift”. If that’s not enough, check out my account from the 2001 Big Wu Family Reunion.


April 12, 2003

move with much grace

Man Planet is on and the geek arms are flailing. I needed beer so I picked up a Harp lager for $3.75. Most people here aren’t geeky enough to sit at the computers and play LAN games while there’s live music to be heard.

Most people here aren’t geeky enough to sit at computers and play games by themselves, either.

I stand corrected. I am no longer alone in the Gallery of Computers. “Back to the LAN party, that’s right!”

My purple sunglasses sometimes give me a headache. The bridge of my nose is really tender where I smacked it into a concrete wall while trying to escape the Norshor attic.

spastic nerdwads

Besides working at geek prom, there’s probably nothing geekier than blogging at geek prom. Remember in high school how only the lame kids were the ones on the prom planning committee? How bad is it when you’re out of high school and still running prom?

We have a drink here called the pocket protector. It is orangey and alcoholic. We have a drink here called the All-American Hero. It has cranberry juice and Red Bull. We’ve currently inputted 500 of 1200 votes into the King and Queen Magic Decoding Database. Once we’re finished we’ll know who our royalty is this year. It will take a lot more Heroes until this job is done.

Aqua Man is here. The Doogla has a light bulb shoved down his spandex.

My current alignment is set at chaotic neutral, but that will definitely change as the night unfolds.