Computers Suck

George’s project site is driving me insane. I’m trying to have the right sidebar of a three-column WordPress journal display some RSS feeds, which seems to be working okay, but I can’t get it to look cosmetically the way I want. The headers are much too large for the the descriptions, and the documentation for the RSS plugin is a bit vague on how the variables and toggles work. I went into the style template and played around with the size of the text in the sidebar, but that only changed the overall size of the fonts; the relative sizes stayed the same, meaning that once I got the enormous headers to the size I wanted, the font for the descriptions was so small I couldn’t read them.

I think I’ve got a stylesheet or template problem and not a feed-reader problem, at least with the cosmetic stuff, but the feed-reader is still another issue. It’s not displaying as much of the feed as I need, and I’m almost sure I’ve got that part of the protocol figured out. Grrrrr.

This is why the world needs more English majors. People might be geniuses at writing code, building bridges, or opening brains, but if they can’t communicate to anyone else what it is they’ve done, what good are they doing anyone?

I’m typing this from Hamiton library, where I have been working on George’s problem for about ninety minutes. I came out here to deal with a transcript problem, but it turns out that there’s yet another transcript problem that basically comes from the same place as my UH-Hilo transcript problem. I’ve emailed the graduate admissions specialist at HPU to try to get some help — the director of my M.Ed. program encouraged me to solicit his assistance — but haven’t heard back from him yet.

Geez. I might have to just borrow enough money from my folks to pay off the rest of the blasted student loan. I’ve been trying to avoid that. I like solving my own dang problems. But school starts in just a few weeks for me, and just two weeks for George, so if I don’t make some headway soon, well, heck.

Food (TV) Nation

In ascending order, the best shows on the TV Food Network, ever:

  • Iron Chef America. I always liked the concept of the original Japanese show, but never cared much for the show itself. I know the new, American version loses a lot of the stuff people like about the original, but I guess that’s the stuff I didn’t like, because I just love this show. So far, the best matchup was Bobby Flay and Ming Tsai, and I fervently hope that the new season will feature more matchups between current and former TV Food Network personalities. You know what’s odd? My favorite of the current Iron Chefs is Masaharu Morimoto. They’re all cool, though.
  • Molto Mario with Mario Batali. It wasn’t nearly as good when the live audience was added. Still, the organic approach Batali takes to Italian cooking–the exact opposite of Ming Tsai’s approach–reminds us that yes, cooking is an art, but it’s also just food. It’s folk-culture, and folks are simple. I don’t think I can make anything Ming makes without going to the store first, but I think I can make everything Mario makes just by opening the cupboard.
  • Cooking Live with Sara Moulton. Most of what I want to say about Sara applies to Emeril, the next one up on the list, except that while Emeril gets tiresome after a while. Sara never does, because how can you get tired of nice? Her current show is not as good as her former show, but it’s still very, very watchable.
  • Emeril Live with Emeril Lagasse. He becomes more a parody of himself with every show, but forget that for a moment and watch the guy teach. I know good teaching when I see it, and Emeril does what he does and everyone watching thinks, “Hey, I can do that.” He might be something of a clown, but if he cooked you dinner you wouldn’t turn your nose up, would you? No. And every night, he convinces a nation of cultists that they can make the same stuff. I’ve figured out why he gets a little old, too, and it’s not (entirely) his persona. It’s that he’s a very thorough instructor, so if you’ve been watching his show for some time, you’re going, “Yeah, I know that already; just move on.” But you weren’t saying that the first year or so of watching him. That’s what he does. He makes you good enough so that you’re ready to move on, and if that’s not good teaching, I don’t know what is. And I already said I do.
  • Taste with David Rosengarten. It was a lot like Good Eats without as much science. Some friends have told me they thought he was kinda snobby, but he did some great shows on hamburgers, pancakes, and normal, everyday food, and he showed you how to make that stuff well. The spare set was kinda annoying, but Rosengarten’s obvious glee every time he sampled something well-made more than made up for it.
  • Two Fat Ladies with Jennifer Patterson and Clarisssa Dickson Wright. Man, I don’t think these two hilarious, brilliant ladies (and I mean that in every respect of the word) ever prepared anything I’d ever want to eat, but they had so much fun doing it and were so funny I had to watch. I really loved them. Jennifer Patterson once used cocoa in a recipe and said, “Say what you want about the Belgians, but they do make the finest cocoa!” I couldn’t believe it! People on television should be smarter than us, I think; why doesn’t the rest of the country?
  • East Meets West with Ming Tsai. Despite his overuse of the word “actually,” Ming Tsai is great. Yeah, I know he’s great to look at (even I’ve got to admit that), but he was so good on this show because while he demonstrated these really tricky dishes, making them all look quite easy, he knew that his personality was as important as his instruction, and he balanced the two very nicely. I have one of his books and dream of being good enough to prepare the recipes!
  • Good Eats with Alton Brown. First of all, what a geek. Secondly, the approach this show takes just rules. Here’s an ingredient. Here are some things you think you know about the ingredient. Here are some things you should know about the ingredient. And here are some things only I know about the ingredient! Alton is my idol. Truly. This is not only the best show on the TV Food Network, but it’s one of the best shows on TV ever.

Honorable mention for all the wrong various reasons: Ready Set Cook! when Jacqui Malouf was the host; just the Jacqui Malouf parts of Hot Off the Grill; $40 a Day with Rachael Ray; 30-Minute Meals with Rachael Ray; Chef du Jour when Lauren Groveman was on; Everyday Italian with Giada diLaurentiis.

Wow. It becomes quite obvious that I prefer the demo shows to the feature shows, doesn’t it? Yep. The increase in feature shows in the past two years has meant that I watch less and less of the Food Network. Date Plate is a good idea, but they need to get rid of the real chefs and let people just cook what they can cook. And that’s really more of a demo show than a feature. Other than that, though, I’m just not a big fan of the features.

Diving In

I’m strangely nervous about this, but I finally have the podcast uploaded and ready to go here. It’s basically half an hour of me talking and reading. In fact, that’s all it is. I had a lot of fun with it, and that’s really what I care about. I see this podcasting thing as a sorta worldwide version of public-access TV, which is communicator-driven, rather than audience-driven. If I pick up an audience of more than a handful, that will be nice, but if all I do is enjoy it myself, I’m perfectly happy.

The List (2005 Edition)

I need to be really, really vague here, because I don’t know who reads this and who doesn’t–I may even change a few details to protect, well, myself. Also, The List is kinda messed up because some of its former members have been married in recent years, and I haven’t totally let go of them. The List is not such a simple thing that when someone’s removed, everyone else just moves up. A person’s position is somewhat influenced by the others in the area. It’s a very intuitive thing, not something with a well-defined formula, is what I’m trying to say.

  1. Still R, I am sad to admit
  2. An elementary school teacher I have known since college. She’s sweet and kinda funny, and really cute, and maybe the lowest-maintenance person on The List.
  3. A schoolmate at UH-Hilo. I’ve no idea what she’s doing nowadays. She was an English major and has since earned an M.Div. and I’m pretty sure she’s not in Hawaii anymore. I know how to get in touch with her if I ever decide to. Smart and funny and the second-most beautiful woman I knew in Hilo (after L.E., whom I’ve written about here in the past). I’ve kinda kept away from her since my graduation from college because she’d be very, very, very easy to fall in love with. I ran into her at a wedding a few years ago and the recovery took weeks. Weeks! I still think about the long coversations we had that weekend and wonder what would have happened if . . . but enough of that. Whew. I think I need a cold drink.
  4. A person at my church. She’s years younger than me — I won’t pretend that’s not something of an issue. She’s more mature than me, though, so I think it could be worked out. She really seems to get me; that’s not something I’m used to. #2 doesn’t really get me, and #3 is more impressed with me than I think she should be. #4 seems to be mostly amused by my tortured persona, and that really appeals to me. Also, she does one of the few jobs I consider more important than mine.
  5. High school teacher I’ve known since UH-Manoa. Smart, misunderstood, and cute. We had a near miss some time ago. A very near miss. I wonder if that ruins any chance of us ever being together. We’re a lot alike, which also makes me think this could never work. My friends really like her.
  6. Younger sister of a good friend. Also probably too young..
  7. Former co-worker. Maybe the highest-maintenance person I know. This would be doomed from the start, but she’s so cute I can’t stand it. She’s currently seeing someone I like but don’t approve of. She has a knack for getting into comfortable, not-unhealthy-but-not-healthy relationships.
  8. Actress in The Bourne Supremacy and 10 Things I Hate About You. Major minus: Don’t know about what she believes, unlike everyone else on this list. The Christian thing is #1 on my other list.

I think I’m missing a few people. It’s been a few years since I actually itemized the list, ‘though numbers 2 and 3 have been pretty much the same for a long time.

Day of the Dead

Boy, am I tired.

Didn’t get to bed ’til past five in the morning. Was going to spend the morning working on George’s project, but I feel like a zombie right now, and I remembered that I have a few things to take to the post office and while I’m out, I may as well get a bite, read the paper, and maybe go to school for a little while.

I’m typing this just to get my thoughts in order.

  • mail stuff
  • read paper
  • get a bite
  • work on math league problems a little
  • fix graphics-problems with web project 2
  • think about rss problem with George’s project
  • groceries: 1 lb. black beans, canned tomatoes, pasta, broccoli
  • email principal, head of school, and other computer teachers about possible school-related podcasting idea
  • answer at least ten emails that I’m behind on

I’m off.

Under Cover of the Night

I’m about to go public with two of my secret Web projects. The first one, which I’ve already mentioned here, is a podcast called The Literate Loser. That’s me, if you couldn’t figure that out. Strangely, as soon as I seriously entertained the thought of doing a podcast, I also knew what I wanted to put out there and tLL is pretty much it. I don’t think it’s going to be very entertaining, but certain types of people will find it interesting and that’s my audience. I hope. I haven’t had any real technical problems; the only problems I’ve had have been with the talent. I can be a royal pain to work with sometimes!

The second major project, which I’m going to announce in a very low-key manner (I think) should be ready to go by the end of this week. I’m really strapped for fun-having cash, so Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are devoted to cleaning up the living room, getting the podcast out there, putting the finishing touches on secret project 2, and tweaking George’s online journal (it’s a project for his students and no, I’m not giving out links). George’s project is actually pretty much good to go, but I’m having a TON of problems getting the sidebar RSS feeds to look right. Grr.

As for the Village Idiots’ podcast, as soon as I know I can do a podcast, I’m going to assemble a couple of extra pieces of hardware and we’re going to do it. Penny and Reid have already said let’s give it a shot; Grace checks her email about once a month so I doubt I’ll hear from her for a while. If all goes as planned, this one will be very entertaining. I have such fun friends. Sometimes.

Played Puerto Rico with Alan, George, and Ross tonight. Alan beat me by one point in his first game ever; Ross beat me by two points in the second game. It was a blast. At one point someone said, “You know who would really like this game? Cameron Taketa.” Someone else said, “Yeah. He really would.” I might have to have him over one night to introduce him to the beauty that is Puerto Rico. What a great game.

R is on a trip with Mr. HBA. I don’t know if I’m lonelier when she’s here or when she’s away. It’s tough. In some ways, I’m more miserable now than when R was engaged to G and living in California. At least G is someone I love and know; I didn’t think G was right for her, but he was certainly not bad for her. I think Mr. HBA is potentially bad for her, but what am I supposed to say beyond that? I can’t come up with any solid reasons, and she says he makes her happy.

He makes her happy. I have heard her say that she didn’t think anyone was ever going to make her happy. Is that — should that be — enough for me, if all I want is what’s best for her? I can’t answer that. If OxyContin was making her happy, I wouldn’t think for a moment that it must be good for her.

Losing her as a possible lover is bad enough, but it’s something I have been prepared to deal with for years. I did have my chance, after all, and I blew that. What is so very difficult for me is that I seem to have lost her as a friend. Oh, we’re still cool. When we do speak on the phone or when she gives me rides to church on Sundays, it’s all normal and good, like it always was, but where she was my best friend just a few months ago, someone who would call me pretty much every day to see what was up, now she seldom even returns my calls, and she certainly never initiates one.

I don’t understand how I have lifted so easily out of her life. It’s as if she doesn’t care about me, not even as a friend; it’s as if she doesn’t think of me, not even in passing. This is not just some ex-girlfriend I’m talking about; it’s someone who’s been my friend for over twenty years, someone I have worked side-by-side with in jobs we both cared a great deal about, someone who acknowledges that she works really, really well with me when we’ve got a job that needs to get done. Now I’m not even an afterthought.

So what do I do about it? I just don’t know. I have told her that I disapprove of this relationship, so I guess all I do is be prepared to be there if something happens. I suppose I just find other friends.

Perhaps I’ll continue to do everything I do, but where there was once in my life a best friend and is now just this hole, I’ll cram in graduate school, the school yearbook, inconsequential web projects, and a second job to pay for it all.

I have good days and bad days in this, the Mr. HBA phase. Today is not a good day.

Why I Hate These Forms

GRADUATE SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATION FORM

6. TELL US ABOUT YOUR ACADEMIC, LEADERSHIP, EXTRACURRICULAR, AND PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
ACADEMIC ABILITY:

All children marvel at the teeming life that hides beneath the just-overturned boulder. Somehow, schools take that fascination and crush it, so that children come to see learning as a chore, a threat, or even an impossibility. Gone are the joy, love, and wonder of discovery. I have never lost those — not as a student, and never as a professional. Everything still fills me with curiosity.

LEADERSHIP QUALITIES / POTENTIAL

I’m the guy who volunteers first. I’m the guy who gets everyone excited with a great idea. I’m the guy who sets it all into motion. Then, I’m often the guy who finds something else to get excited about before the first thing is complete. And then I’m the guy who writes the apology to everyone else. But I’m getting better.

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES

As a college student: Student newspaper (editorials editor), campus literary journal (some copy editing), campus ministry, student radio, and writing tutor. As a teacher: Math team coach, play director, prom advisor and millions of other tasks that they don’t tell you about in teacher school.

WORK EXPERIENCE AND PROFESSIONAL GROWTH:

I’m about to enter my tenth year teaching in Hawaii’s independent schools; I’ve taught courses in drama, English, math, computers, communication, oral interpretation, reading, and writing. This year, I add yearbook production to that list. Currently, I teach at ASSETS School, which specializes in students with language-based learning differences.

. . . . . .

10. FINANCIAL REASONS FOR APPLYING

Are you kidding? Have you seen your tuition?

. . . . . .

10. FINANCIAL REASONS FOR APPLYING (what I really wrote)

The saddest irony in my life is that I borrowed money in order to pay for an education that enabled me to pursue a career that just barely allows me to afford living space and to repay the loan. Now, in order to become even better at this underpaying career, I’m about to plunge even more deeply into debt.

Paperwork and Podcasting

Anyone who has known me professionally or academically knows I just detest paperwork. I don’t know why. I put it off until I can’t possibly put it off anymore, and then when I finally sit down and do it, oftentimes it turns out not to be so bad, and I wonder why I insist on dragging these things out.

Other times, though, it’s excruciating. I had to fill out a bunch of forms for mailing to several different places, all for my admission to HPU’s M.Ed. program, and I’d put it off much longer than I should have. So I took the bus to school (I just can’t get anything done at home, I swear) and after about two hours of messing around, I forced myself to sit down and do the stupid forms. What I had to do, actually, was put four envelopes, four postage stamps, eight forms (two for each addressee), and a cup of water at an empty desk (my classroom partner’s desk is completely empty right now) and do the stupid forms. It was grueling.

What helped me get through it was listening to a several podcasts. I’ve stayed away from the whole podcasting thing for several reasons, not the least of which is my hardware limitations, but I’m always interested in whatever Ryan is up to–in fact I have a couple of secret projects on the burners that are blatant rip-offs of stuff Ryan’s been doing for years or months–and when I saw that Jen does part of Ryan’s podcasts, I figured I’d give it a try.

I ended up listening to four or five half-hour shows. It was really, really entertaining and quite interesting. I don’t know why I allow myself to be surprised by Ryan’s wit; I practically lived with it for a whole school year. Yet he surprises me all the time. I think it’s partially because he’s so given to cliche that he frequently crosses the line into serious corniness, but I’ve known the guy for so long that I should be ashamed of myself for being surprised whenever he’s brilliant, which is almost all the time.

So there’s the wit and the brilliance and there’s a certain amount of creativity, and there’s something that I have always known about him but for some reason never think of when I think of him: a serious understanding of what quality work is. Now, my students will tell you that there are few things I preach more than quality work. I know what it looks like, and I try to help them understand what it takes to produce it, which is first caring enough about what you’re doing to present it at its best and second paying attention to details.

The kind of attention Ryan pays to details excuses all kinds of corniness. The fact that he knows he’s corny doesn’t forgive it entirely, but it certainly goes a long way.

I didn’t mean to turn this into a gigantic french-kissing, but I write this to say that Ryan’s silly half-hour podcasts are thought-provoking, interesting, entertaining, amusing, technically pleasing, and a much better idea than it initially sounded like. Jen comes in for a few minutes to talk about whatever, and it makes me think what I always think when I think of her: she makes him better. She’s got a hot voice, too.

So I listened to a few other podcasts, and you know, I should have known that most of the stuff out there isn’t as good as Ryan’s. Most of it doesn’t even come close. There are some really good ideas out there that don’t SOUND good, or the good idea is ruined by a host who doesn’t really know what he or she wants to say and punctuates his or her thoughts with countless “ums” and “uhhhhs.” Ryan doesn’t do that and neither does Jen.

This is not to say that I’m only interested in hi-fidelity quality mp3s, or that everything should be rehearsed; it’s only to say that more than in real life, the good stuff seems to come to the top on the web, and I need to stop being surprised whenever Ryan takes something new and establishes the standard.

So. I’m jumping in. I have to give this podcasting thing a try; I’ve already approached the original Village Idiots and we’ve got something really cool lined up, but before I attack that, I’m going to get something of my own up and running, just to see if I can do it. Do it well, I mean.

More later.

For Now

This’ll do for now. It’s not what I had in mind, but I’ve had trouble getting the themes downloaded that I really was interested in. The first one was by a French designer whose entire site was written in French, and I couldn’t find a download link for the theme. The next only had the download in .gz archive, which my main machine at home isn’t set up to extract–I know that’s an easy fix, but I’m working on a million other things right now and can’t be bothered.

I want something with the off-white on black color scheme I had before I installed the WordPress. Until I learn how to set it all up myself, which isn’t going to be real soon, I’ll go with someone else’s canned theme.

For now, content is all that matters.

On Second Thought

I’m typing this from a computer away from home, and boy, the style I’ve installed kinda sucks from where I’m seeing it. My bare-bones PC at home didn’t display the cursive (and barely tolerable) font and while the c0lors are good, I think I’m displeased and will have to try a different theme. This is really too gimicky for me. I appreciate the unique look and I love that someone worked really hard to do something different, but over all, this is not going to work.

I’ll try again tonight.