November 8, 2003

Extensive and Complex Operations

Sun Ra: DAVE.

Dave: DANE.

Sun Ra: What’s new?

Dave: Pardon, I’m trying to coordinate an extensive and complex breakfast operation right now.

Sun Ra: Oh my.

Sun Ra: Does it involve little packets of sugar?

Sun Ra: That’s what I’m gonna give out next Halloween.

Sun Ra: Little packets of sugar.

Sun Ra: No, wait.

Sun Ra: Scratch that.

Sun Ra: To save money I’ll just get a ten pound bag of sugar and dump spoonfuls into their trick-or-treat bags.

Sun Ra: And then chase them off my property with the hose.

Sun Ra: And with the killer bees.

Dave: That’s the spirit that made America great.

Sun Ra: That it is.

Dave: Here’s a question for you: if you leave butter sitting in the fridge for long enough, does it just naturally become cheese?

Sun Ra: No.

Dave: I didn’t think so.

Sun Ra: It needs enzymes or something.

Dave: Hmm.

Dave: I wonder what I just ate.

Sun Ra: Or, like, maybe it needs a chunk of starter cheese, like yogurt.

Sun Ra: To turn milk into yogurt all you gotta do is toss in a spoonful of yogurt.

Dave: Oh, really?

Sun Ra: And then chant backwards Latin or something, but yeah, it’s pretty easy with the dark arts.

Dave: Maybe I’ll try that.

Dave: I eat a lot of yogurt.

Dave: And I drink very little milk.

Sun Ra: You can make it yourself if you have a hotplate.

Dave: Ahh, I have no hotplate.

Sun Ra: Do you have stoving capabilities?

Dave: Sort of.

Dave: Stove, yes.

Dave: Oven, no.

Sun Ra: Check out

Sun Ra: (after I register the domain and profit greatly from selling it, of course)

Dave: Check out

Dave: and tell me what it says.


Sun Ra: I think I see your problem, Dave.

Dave: What’s this then?

Sun Ra: See, the website you’ve been using,, doesn’t really exist.

Dave: Well, I knew that I couldn’t access it.

Dave: I was hoping it was just blocking Japanese IPs for some reason.

Sun Ra: I tried to run a WHOIS on it, but that’s limited to domain names of less than 64 characters.

Dave: I sense a Cunning Plan in action here.

Dave: Someone is trying to occlude this vital information.

Sun Ra: I’m trying to run a ‘tracert’ on the domain.

Dave: Good luck.


Dave: It must be cloaked.

Dave: As in, surrounded on all six sides by three feet of solid lead.

Dave: And all the wires leading to and from it soldered off.

Dave: And buried underneath Tokyo Tower.

Sun Ra: I’ll try to ping it.


Sun Ra: I think you’re right.

Dave: I think it’s time to hack the planet.

Dave: I mean, go urban spelunking under Tokyo Tower.

Dave: I mean, watch more anime.

Dave: Yeah, that’s it.

Sun Ra: Right onski.

El Bastardos

Check it out. This weekend Primus launches As their fall Tour De Fromage unfolds they’ll be offering full soundboard downloads of every concert. Right now you can download “Here Come the Bastards” from their Vancouver, BC show.

Lovely. It’s like a papercut across the eye.

November 6, 2003

About a Million

I finally finished reading Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards, which has been a work-in-progress for my entire (extended) summer not because the topic is atrociously boring (because I find it utterly fascinating), and not because the writing is nausiatingly stagnant (because it is lively and viviparous), but because I have been busy living a million glorious lives since my feet touched down in Oregon five months ago:

Mountaineer, translator, chef, windsurfer, kiteboarder, snowboarder, gear technician, sales associate, rental manager, vacuum cleaner salesman, karaoke master, James Brown, town drunk, town crier, drummer, Sambaist, fencer, teacher, hiker, camper, climber, commuter, drinking buddy, pool shark, truck driver, shipping manager, squid-eater, dancer, traveler, friend, party animal, ventriloquist, author, scribe, photographer, male model, lunatic, bum, high-roller, geek and emo-doer.

Web designer is crammed in there somewhere, and even among these other pursuits I’ve managed to learn quite a lot. I must admit, over the last few months when my graphic design friends grabbed onto web design, and then wrapped their fists around CSS, I felt considerably threatened. I mean, I have a good eye for design and a good feel for usable layouts, but I’m no graphic designer. The new holiday splash ad for my windsurfing shop is the extent of my graphic design abilities. Nothing fancy, really, but it does look nice and gets the job done. The thought that a graphic designer could waltz onto the web design scene and pick up in a month the skills it has taken me years to develop; I found that t’ain’t to be a pleasant thought. I felt that to maintain my web superiority I would either need to take these guys to a super secret pizza party and dump them out of a moving van, or ultimately hire them to do my bidding.

But nay, I say. It seems that there is enough junk that is so web-specific that the only way to learn it is to do it. And do it. And call it names. And keep doing it until you can do it well. And I feel like I’m reaching that point. Take, for instance, the following nugget of code:



<div id="whopper">

<div id="header">


<div id="navigation">


<div id="content">


<div id="footer">





It doesn’t look like much, but it’s all the HTML mark-up I need to achieve any sort of design I want. No nested tables, no one pixel gif splints, no presentational junk mark-up. It’s what Brainside Out: The Cowboy Edition uses. It’s what The Adams Summit uses. It’s remarkably similar to what Big Winds uses (which, because of design constraints, had to keep a minimal table layout). Deep down inside, all these sites look the same. All bathing apes wear no clothes, or something like that. Of course, more complicated apes will require more intricate mark-up, but for my purposes these few lines give me all the ape-control I need. It has taken me years of evolution to reach this stage of sophistication in my web design, and after years of experimentation, research and cursing I have finally produced a delicious drop wisdom. A few million more drops will fill the basin at the Oracle of Delphi.

And now I’m excited. Excited because I realize I will not be immediately out-evolved by my graphic design counterparts, but am in a lovely situation where we can share vital information about the two mediums to hone our skills, both at home in our respective bunkers and abroad in dirty razor-wire trenches. There’s just too much to know in web design, too much stuff that doesn’t make total sense, for someone with l33t Photoshop skillz to just come in and take the place over. You trust your plumber to fix your shower and your mechanic to fix your car, and not vice versa, unless your car is a mobile home that has a shower and the shower is broken and needs a good plumbin’ and all your mechanic can do is look down the drain and whistle, “Hoo, yeah, that’s gonna cost ya.”

And it’s the things that don’t make sense that are the real kicker, that take up the most time and cause the most hair loss. I fixed a huge problem with the shop’s website after I learned about MSIE’s whitespace parsing error. As it turns out, when Microsoft built a web browser to compete with Netscape Navigator (and we’re talkin’ 3.0 here, people, circa 1996), they moved to emulate all the behaviors of Navigator… the good, the bad and the ugly. Navigator incorrectly parsed whitespace in HTML code, messing up the way a page is displayed depending on how the code is spaced out.





<img src=”punkroolz.jpg” />




While lovely to look at and lovely to hold, will display differently than this:

<table><tr><td><img src=”punkroolz.jpg” /></td></tr></table>

…even though semantically they both say the same durned thing. Now, this shoudn’t be a problem in the ripe old years of 2003, except that in Internet Explorer 6 Microsoft still hasn’t fixed the whitespace parsing error. I spent days mucking around in my code, playing with table heights and vertical aligns and other cheap tricks to get two images to line up all snuggle-like in IE, only to finally learn about this completely nonsensical error. Finally today, after making further attempts at work to maximize screen real estate, I deleted all whitespace in my code and rendered it darned near illegible, and it still didn’t display correctly in IE6. I threw up my arms (like, threw them up in the air, not vomited them from within, yo) and stomped around the shop. Soon enough I came back to it, tried something still more drastic, and that cleared up the problem.

What did it take? Originally I had coded my comments thustly:

<– begin header –>

So I changed them to this:

<–begin header–>

And bam. Snuggly images, just like that. What’s more, you know the mad, mad spacing of the navigational buttons here on the left menu? How it appears that they’ve got restraining orders on them when viewed in IE? How I was rortin’ and snortin’ about that when I released this redesign? I’m almost certain this is due to the whitespace parsing error.

And if I wasn’t about to start on the next book in my line-up, I would fix it right now.

November 3, 2003

This is a job for George Corporaal

So. If there’s one thing Oregon doesn’t know, it’s roads. Specifically, trying to sand roads when winter tightens its grip. Minnesota has sanding down to a science; as soon as the sky gives the slightest inkling that some white stuff might come aflyin’, BAM the streets are flooded with salt trucks and sand trucks. Sure, they dump the salt like all fury in an attempt to make the very fillings in your teeth rust out, but at least Minnesota gets the sand right. And this is something that would never catch your notice until you visited a place that managed to get it so dead wrong.

Minnesota road sand is beach sand. Not beautiful white coastline sand, but lake sand. Sandbox sand. Coarse stuff that’s perfect for sculpting a city of sandcastles over a nest of hornets. It comes in heavy bags from Fleet Farm. It ensures that Minnesota commerce need not come to a screeching halt the second a quarter inch of snow graces the pavement. Minnesota road sand is fine and harmless.

Oregon road sand is not sand at all, but angry red volcanic rock. It is extremely light and porous and prone to not staying on the ground. Oregon road sand eats Minnesota road sand for breakfast and typically matures to marble size, at which point it becomes extremely feisty beneath the tire. Rather useless as an auxillary traction device, Oregon road sand is best suited for shooting out from beneath trucks and busting windshields. On the drive back from Bend I got my glass kicked at least five times by frighteningly large rocks. Driving back from Portland this weekend, my roommate’s windshield got nailed by a fist-sized chunk right in front of his face. He ducked out of the way and almost drove into the Columbia in the process.

Yikes. Be careful out there kids, or you’re gonna have a lot of free steaks to chew through.

November 2, 2003


RQH: You know.

RQH: I got real tired of those fscking Jumbles in the paper.

RQH: And the Cryptoquip.

RQH: So I wrote a program to solve them.

RQH: What a bunch of maroons that solve it by hand.


Otaku: I don’t believe I’m within easy stumbling distance of any liquor houses, unfortunately.

Otaku: Only shops that sell it.

Sun Ra: What if you tried to hang out and drink at the shops?

Otaku: I would probably get arrested.

Otaku: Or not.

Otaku: But I might get plastered enough to find the old men working there attractive.

Otaku: Which is not the desired result at all.


Argle: So anyway.

Argle: I’ve been thinking about things.

Argle: And in the same way that I like my job, I want to look for something a little more… exciting.

Sun Ra: “And this was the part of the story where Dan broke it to Dane that he was getting into the p0rn industry.”


It’s amazing how much you have to talk about after you fight your head above the thrashing seas of ambiguity.

In three weeks I will not be moving to Bend, Oregon to work as a lift operator at a ski resort. In three weeks I will not be moving to Bend, Oregon to work as a rental technician, either. All those positions were full by the time I woke up at 5:30 on Saturday instead of 5:00, left Hood River 45 minutes later than intended, got stranded in an infinite loop of traffic circles in Bend, got lost in the Deschutes National Forest when the road I was on turned to ice then fire then gravel, gave some yellow-toothed hitchhikers a ride back to downtown, followed some bad directions, swung by a coffee shop to figure out where in the heck the mountain was, and showed up at the job fair nearly two hours later than I intended.

Listen. In three weeks I will be moving to Bend, Oregon to work as a ski/snowboard instructor at a ski resort, a position that is beyond the wildest conjurings of my little brain. Well, actually my wildest conjurings involved building gigantic killer robots somewhere in the Metolius wilderness, and when the time was ripe turning them loose on the cowboy mouth of Sisters, the growing pains of Redmond and the ADD of Prineville (“Hey dad! Dad! Look over here! Hey! Look! Watch me! Watch! Me!”). Central Oregon is one huge dysfunctional family, in that wonderfully entertaining way that is fit for prime time, not that horribly tragic way that is resolved for late night when any sensible channel switches over to colored bars.

I mean, if any wilderness is going to act as a cradle for evil geniuses, it would have a name like Metolius. All those wildfires that evacuated Camp Sherman and everything this past summer? A cover-up for evil-genius experiments. Behind the smokescreen there are people who know what’s going on, and I’m sure that lots of people in Bend are in on it too. There’s a lot of brainpower running around Bend, as a good portion of the town’s upper crust consists of California tech-heads who felt it prudent to evacuate before everything burned down or came under the eloquent ruling of an Austrian superstar.

Of course, they’ve been here long enough to stage their giant houses on top of cliffs and hollow out a mountain and put the snow-capped peak on a hinge so it can flip open just like the M.A.S.K. hideout, so unless California dollars can somehow purchase prophecies the current state of California really had no bearing on their decision to move to Bend. It also had no bearing on the Californicators’ decision to cast their roots in the high-altitude desert sands of Bend, rather than continuing on to Portland or Seattle or Canada as some Centrorgonians with they had.

In three weeks I will be moving into a lovely abode that has been crowned “Lava House.” It is located on Lava Street, a block from a huge stone Catholic church and two blocks from Minnesota Avenue. Lava House is a mile from the shuttle line to the mountain and is within spitting distance of the historic Tower Theatre in downtown Bend (and, more importantly, within stumbling distance of the bars in downtown Bend). Lava House is outfitted with a gas stove, fireplace, two small decks, old Mel Brooks and John Wayne movies, neighbors and a stairway.