Children of the Corn

Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Children of the CornIt's 1975 and Burt, a Vietnam vet (played by David Anders), and Vicki, his wife (Kandyse McClure), are driving across country. Right from the start, it's understood that their marriage is as rough as a road filled with potholes. (It's also understood that McClure, can't act worth a damn, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

They're driving through flat and boring Nebraska. Corn field upon corn field upon corn field. Burt, the husband, takes his eyes off the road. A child runs out from a corn field, and before Burt can stop the car, he hits and runs over the child. Vicki gets out of the car, and Burt follows. The tirade that Vicki launches into while they are standing in the middle of the road is not only too damned long — I would've slapped her long before Burt did — it's also an excellent showcase of McClure's lack of acting talent. As much as I like Stephen King, I hate to say it, but the dialogue in this movie had all the flavor of stale bread. It's unbelievable that King is credited as co-writer of the screenplay, along with producer Donald P. Borchers.

Singing in chorus right along with McClure's bad acting was the equally bad and totally flat acting of the children. Rather than coming across as menacing, they came across as funny. Never a good thing in a horror flick.

This movie is a remake of an earlier film, also based the same short story by Stephen King. I would hold out hope that the story is better, but given that many at IMDb stated that this movie closely follows the story, I think that would be pointless.

Public Enemies

Monday, December 28, 2009
Public EnemiesMy, oh my, how the world has changed.

John Dillinger, America's first "Public Enemy Number One," is the man whose pursuit pretty much led to the founding, or should I say "funding," of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which, at the time, was known as the Division of Investigation.

The Wikipedia article on Melvin Pervis notes that J. Edgar Hoover became jealous of the fame Pervis gained following the death of Dillinger, "downgrad[ing] him, [which lead to] Purvis leaving the FBI" in 1935.

Pervis died in 1960 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. "The FBI investigated the shooting and labeled it a suicide, though the official coroner's report did not find sufficient evidence to label the cause of death as such. It was later determined that Purvis may have shot himself accidentally while trying to extract a tracer bullet jammed in the pistol. He was 56 years old."

Excellent movie.

Once Upon a Time in México

Thursday, December 17, 2009
Once Upon a Time in MéxicoThe final movie in Robert Rodriguez's pulp Western, Once Upon a Time in México is not only chock full of stars, it's also chock full of gun-totin' action. Starring in this movie are Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Johnny Depp, Mickey Rourke, Eva Mendes, Danny Trejo, Enrique Iglesias, Marco Leonardi, Cheech Marin, Ruben Blades, and Willem Dafoe. With names like that on the roster, I think it's fair to say that this movie far surpassed the $50,000 budget for El Mariachi. Wouldn't you agree?

It was fun. It was kooky. And, for Johnny Depp's character, it was outta sight.

Béon or Ne Béon (To Be or Not To Be)

I've found a fascinating web site that offers translation of Old English (a.k.a. Anglo Saxon) into Modern English and vice versa. It's called Old English Translator. Below is the conjugation of béon, the verb "to be."

— BÉON (To Be) IRREGULAR VERB
Present & Preterite Indicative
• Ic béo (I am) — Ic wæs (I was)
• þu bist (you are) — þu wære (you were)
• he/hit/heo biþ (he/it/she is) — he/hit/heo wæs (you were)
• we/ge/hie béoþ (we/ye/they are) — we/ge/hie wæron (we/ye/they were)

Present & Preterite Subjunctive
• singular: béowære
• plural: béonwæren

Present Participle (...ing) & Past Participle (...ed)
béonde — [n/a]

Imperative (direct command)
• singular: béo
• plural: béoþ

Inflected Infinitive
• to béonne

Second Person Present Indicative, among other attributes, really highlights the Germanic roots of English. Compare þu bist (Old English — you are), which can also be written as ðu bist, with the modern German du bist. Look also at Third Person Plural Preterite Subjunctive we wæron (Old English — we were), compared with wir waren (German).

English contains a vocabulary that is in triplicate, one set of words that is Anglo Saxon (this being its Germanic roots — e.g., kingly), one set of words that is French in origin (from Norman and Anglo French — e.g., royal), and one set of words that is Latin in origin (e.g., regal). Thesaurus.com shows that kingly, royal, and regal are all synonymous; only their etymologies differ.

The following, from Wikipedia, is note-worthy:

Although the syntax of German is significantly different from that of English and other Germanic languages, with different rules for setting up sentences (for example, German Ich habe noch nie etwas auf dem Platz gesehen, vs. English "I have still never seen anything in the square"), English syntax remains extremely similar to that of the North Germanic languages, which are believed to have influenced English syntax during the Middle English Period (eg., Norwegian Jeg har likevel aldri sett noe i torget; Swedish Jag har ännu aldrig sett något på torget). It is for this reason that despite a lack of mutual intelligibility, English-speakers and Scandinavians can learn each others' languages relatively easily, although, as English is a far more important language, most such language mastery is one-way (i.e., Scandinavians learning English).

Regarding the syntax comparison mentioned above, the syntax of English is SVO (subject/verb/object — I / kicked / the ball) whereas the syntax of German is SOV (subject/object/verb — Ich / den Ball / trat).

A comparison of thou art/thou wert, an early form of Modern English,¹ with the modern Icelandic² þú ert/þú varst is interesting (Icelandic is related to the Scandinavian languages). In this light, Icelandic can be seen as reflective of early Modern English, while the Scandinavian languages bear a somewhat closer resemblance to German.

(German: du bist/du warst. Old English/Anglo Saxon: þu bist/þu wære. Early Modern English: thou art/thou wert. Icelandic: þú ert/þú varst. Swedish: du är/du var. Norwegian: du er/du var. Modern English: you are/you were. Technically, Modern English substitutes, universally, the archaic Second Person Singular [pronoun, nominative thou; possessive thy or thine; objective thee] with the Third Person Plural [nominative you or the archaic ye; possessive your or yours; objective you or the archaic ye]. It is also interesting that the Old English/Anglo Saxon Second Person Plural Accusative or Dative éow, which — to my eyes and ears — bears a phonetic resemblance to the pronunciation of you; and the Second Person Plural Genitive éower, bears the same resemblance to your; and a similar resemblance is found with the First Person Plural Genitive úre, your.)



¹ Thou art/thou wert, the equivalent to you are/you were (about the time of Elizabeth I, AD 1558–1603, and William Shakespeare, circa AD 1564–1616), is an early form of Modern English, which started barely a century after the period of Middle English, which ended circa AD 1470.
² The Icelandic thorn, þ, is equivalent to the unvoiced th in English (i.e., the th in thing and thought is unvoiced, as compared to the voiced th in the and though).

Desperado

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
DesperadoI had wanted to watch El Mariachi, the first movie in this trilogy. I'd rented it, in fact, but . . . for whatever reason, the DVD would only play the director's track. Nothing personal, but I wanted to watch the movie, not listen to Robert Rodriguez. So, I had to skip El Mariachi, and moved right on to Desperado, starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and featuring a guest appearance by none other than Quentin Tarantino.

It wasn't bad, but I preferred the duology of movies Rodriguez and Tarantino did together more recently, Grindhouse, Rodriguez's contribution being Planet Terror.

Inglourious Basterds

TakenHow can you not like a Quentin Tarantino film? (I find it difficult, and that he and I share birthdays has very little to do with it, I assure you.)

Starring Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds is what the DVD case for this film calls a "revenge fantasy." I'd drink to that, but I'd prefer to call it "alternative history" given that it knowingly deviates from history.

Science fiction/fantasy/mystery/romance author, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, mentions Inglourious Basterds in her commentary, "The Crumbling Monolith," at Baen's Universe. In her commentary, Rusch offers a critique of the current state of culture, high-brow vs low-brow, but more specifically of the entertainment industry, noting that it "can no longer manipulate the conversation." Says Rusch:

Lest you think social media has only a negative effect, let me point out that as I type this, Inglourious Basterds is beating all the predictions. The movie got a terrible release date. (In the old days, August was where the studio sent awful movies to die — because, conventional wisdom said, no one went to the movies in August.) The movie's reviews were mixed at best. (Some reviewers actively loathed the film.)

But word of mouth on this film is tremendous. Word of mouth or, I should say, word of tweet. The numbers trended upwards on this film from the first show to the last on its opening weekend. Despite the bad press and the bad release date, viewers are finding this movie and telling friends about it. The same thing happened with District 9.

I'm already hearing rumbling from studio suits that they have to find a way to "control" Twitter. They need to "dominate" the social media sites. And the studios will try to change the paradigm, but it won't work. They'd be better off releasing more movies with less fanfare, spending less per movie on production costs, and letting the bad films sink while the good films swim.

I don't know the reason for any "active loath[ing]" of this movie, unless it has to do with its deviation from history. (You should read Rusch's commentary, if you haven't already.) If that's the case, then follow along and repeat after me:

"It's only a movie."

And, lest you missed it earlier, "alternative history" is very much a valid genre. Harry Turtledove, science fiction writer, did the same with the American Civil War in his book, How Few Remain, as well as with World War II in his book, Hitler's War. Author Robert Conroy did the same with his novel, 1862, its premise being, "What if England had joined America's Civil War — on the side of the Confederacy?"

Let's repeat that refrain once more, shall we?

"It's only a movie."

Now, perhaps some will think that this is a denial of history, rather like Communist Russia was wont to do. Consider, however, that that is rather taking things a bit too far. Fiction, when it deviates from history, remains fiction. Men, when they deny history, replace fact with fiction. It's hardly a subtle difference. Further, to write (and to enjoy, I might add) good "alternative history" requires a knowledge of the actual history that has been changed in the fiction narrative. So, it can be argued that "alternative history" must always give a nod to the actual history from which it gains its inspiration. It is therefore the very antithesis of denial.

One last time with the refrain:

"It's only a movie." (And it's about damned time a plot against . . . . Well, perhaps I shouldn't go there. There may be some in the audience who haven't seen the movie, and I'd hate to be a spoiler.)

Taken

Thursday, December 03, 2009
Taken"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."

"Good luck."


Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a former spy who is trying build a relationship with Kim (Maggie Grace), his estranged daughter. She and Amanda (Katie Cassidy), a friend of hers, go on a trip to Paris where they get kidnapped. Using his skills as a spy, and former contacts, Mills sets out to find his daughter, no matter what the cost.

Taken, starring Liam Neeson, is one incredibly intense film. I think I'd even go so far as to say that it's the best film I've seen all year. From start to finish, it does not let up. Premiere said, "Liam Neeson is an unstoppable force."

I've seen many films here in my office. Often my attention will flag (see flag³ def. 1 — see also footnote below), and I'll watch the movie while doing something on my computer. Not so with Taken. Trust me. You will be held rapt, you will be on the edge of your seat, and you will be anxious to know what happens next. No exaggeration.

Horror has been defined as that which is not possible in reality that scares you. Terror, however, is that which scares you that is possible. This movie is a thriller, but it is also very much in the genre of terror, too. You have to see the movie to understand why I say this. (These are definitions given by novelists, not by dictionaries.)

FOOTNOTE: I think dictionary.com (an Ask.com service) is one of the best online dictionaries.

Alien Trespass

Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Alien Trespass"It came from another galaxy. A creeping, crawling nightmare of terror!" (Complete with music reminsicent of the original Star Trek series.) It is, in fact, as the tagline for this movie says, "Terror — the whole family can enjoy."

"It's 1957," says the blurb, "a spaceship has just landed in a quiet small town, and Earth is suddenly threatened by an unknown evil. But fear not, hope has also arrived."

Alien Trespass — directed by The X-Files's R. W. Goodwin and starring Eric McCormack (of Will & Grace fame), Jenni Baird, Dan Lauria, and Robert Patrick — is a modern movie done in the tradition of The Blob (1958) and It Came from Outer Space (1953). It's a fun-filled, "creepy" romp into the past that wholly captures the flavour of films from that era.

The San Francisco Chronicle called it, "Retro-escapist fun." Box Office said, "Loads of fun, a highly entertaining retro sci-fi blast from the past." And the New York Post wrote, "Beautifully captures the look of the genre."

As the old cliché goes, "They don't make 'em like they used to."

Acolytes

Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Acolytes is an Aussie film. It won Best Horror Film at the Austin FantasticFest in 2008 and it won the Midnight Madness award at the Toronto International Film Festival in the same year. The blurb on the DVD case reads (no spoilers in the blurb, by the way):

AcolytesFollowing the disappearance of a young female classmate, shy high-schooler Mark stumbles upon a fresh grave in the woods of his peaceful suburb, and spies a 4WD driving away from the scene.

With the help of two friends — James and his girlfriend Chasely — Mark decides to return to the scene to dig up what they imagine is simply someone's dead pet. Their bit of fun turns perilous, however, when they unearth the body of a Canadian backpacker. They embark upon a hunt for the identity of eht killer (played with frightening realism by Joel Edgerton), and James soon realizes that their grim discovery could help them exact revenge upon Gary Parker (Michael Dorman), a brutal bully who robbed them of their innocence years before and who was recently released from prison.

ACOLYTES quickly turns into a sinister tale of deception and betrayal as the three teens find themselves in over their heads, trying to outwit a serial killer as he turns the tables on them and lures them into his violent world.

Not a bad film. Not a great film, either, I'm afraid. Like many British films, this Aussie movie lacks the often over-done polish that is the trademark of Hollywood, and that's a good thing, I think. It lends more realism to the movie, in my opinion.

Scrooged

Monday, November 30, 2009
Scrooged Scrooged. An old movie (1988). A fun movie. Love the scenes with Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present. It's all slapstick. Bill Murray getting kicked in the nuts, punched, pulled about by his lower lip, and smacked in the face . . . with a toaster! Ah, man. Loved the toaster bit. Too funny! :D

The Code (a.k.a. Thick as Thieves)

Sunday, November 29, 2009
The CodeThis evening, I watched The Code, a heist movie that involves the theft of two "mystery" Fabergé Imperial Eggs made in 1917. Ripley (Morgan Freeman) is a known art thief in New York City who runs into Gabriel (Antonio Banderas) on a New York subway train while casing the same job to steal some diamonds. Ripley then ropes Gabriel into joining him on the heist. Things turn nasty when Alexandra (Radha Mitchell), Ripley's god-daughter, is kidnapped by the KGB.

In a story that involves the KGB, the NYPD, and the FBI, this is a fun movie that is, as the description on the DVD case describes, "full of deceit, thievery and twists at every turn." And that ain't no lie.

Bangkok Dangerous

Bangkok DangerousIt's been a long time since I've blogged about a movie in this fashion. Hopefully, this new version of my blog won't degenerate into nothing more than a movie-reaction-fest. That's not what it's meant to be.

In any case, I watched this last night. It's one of six movies I recently rented (so, yeah, you are going to see a short spate of movie-related posts over the next few days). Bangkok Dangerous was not as good as I'd heard it was. Not in my opinion, anyway.

For a paid assassin, Joe, played by Nicolas Cage, is too damned soft-hearted (not to mention too easily swayed from the principles he espouses at the beginning of the movie). I suppose that this is meant to be his character's fatal flaw, but it comes across as too convenient. The ending has a satisfying twist, I'll admit, but Cage has done better.

I've a soft-spot for movies that take place in Thailand since I lived there during my early teens. I like it when I can see not only parts of Bangkok that I know, but parts that I don't know, as well. Including the famous Floating Market, however, has become cliché in movies. The James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun (released in 1974) included a scene in the Floating Market, but it also included a scene in the old Chok Chai building, where my father used to work, a scene my father saw filmed live. Bangkok Dangerous does include more than just the Floating Market, but if you're going to focus on scenes that are tourist attractions, then why not include the beaches? Why not include Chiang Mai? I've not seen any movies that include scenes of Chiang Mai.

w3schools.com

Sunday, October 25, 2009
While looking for information on HTML coding, and also XML coding, — my interest has been renewed due to the CSS and XML coding in the new blog templates I'm using — I happened across w3schools.com. I've some knowledge of HTML and CSS coding, but my knowledge of CSS extremely limited. However, w3schools.com has tons of tutorials, covering (in addition to the previously mentioned items) XHTML, TCP/IP, JavaScript, PHP and ASP, SQL and Database, and more.

Their tutorials are free. I'm unemployed. I've got lots of time, and I could spare a little time each day to learn some of these things — perhaps an hour each day.

Also, w3schools.com has an online Certification Program. These are free, too. They say their "tutorials are recommended reading in over 100 Universities and High schools all over the world," and they provide a brief list of some of the schools along with links to pages showing the recommendation. For example, this page at the University of Alabama lists w3schools.com as one of their HMTL resources.

I've been having difficulty finding work in my own field of expertise — telecommunications — and over the years I've come to loathe telecom. I do have an interest in things Internet-related, so thoughts of changing careers have crept in. I don't know how easy it would be to make a change of this sort, but w3schools.com does offer a free and convenient way to get started. If their online courses are recognized by many universities, then perhaps their certification programs also carry some weight in the job market. Certainly the knowledge I would gain would carry weight in the eyes of an employer.

I think this is worth looking into.

Abatement

It would appear that my blog template frustration has been abated. I have found a template that is . . .

  • obedient to my every command,
  • appears to have no problems (miracle of miracles), and
  • is a template with which I can live (although there is one minor item I'd like to fix; I've got to figure out where the problem lies first, however).
Amazing, isn't it?

[EDIT: That one minor item? It's been fixed. Life is good. :P ]

Blog Template Frustration

I've found several templates that I like for my Townshende blog, and yet every single damned one of them has problems. Some of them have highly technical problems.

One, in fact, — a template that I like a lot . . . this one, called Black Splat — had several problems. The code was designed to work around several problems with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser (very typical of Microsoft, actually), but it didn't have the code necessary for other browsers to display that template correctly. It took me about 10 minutes of experimentation, along with some very specific searches to figure out the problem.

Most people aren't interested in this crap, but indulge me. Here's the original code:

body {
   position: relative; /* Fixes browser resizing bug in IE6 */
   margin: 10px auto;
   width: 980px;

   font-family: 'trebuchet ms', arial, sans-serif;
   text-align: center; /* IE Centering Technique */
   background: #000;
   }


/* Header and wrapper */
#wrapper {
   width: 980px;
   text-align: left; /* IE Centering Technique */
   background: url(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_V-IXTBBt1Bg/SVPr5xX58aI/AAAAAAAAAjM/zM8cWJxooC0/s1600/topcurve.png) 40px 0 no-repeat;
   }


You'll notice that there are several comments within the code indicating which items are used to fix certain Internet Explorer problems. The original code also disabled the Blogger navigation bar at the top of the browser window. That's an easy fix. However, the text that I've bolded caused two problems with Blogger's navigation bar. The margin: 10px auto; code put an unsightly 10 pixel margin above the navigation bar. It looks very weird. The width: 980px; code set the width of the navigation bar to that of the template, so that the navigation bar was not stretched to the width of the browser window. Removing those pieces of code, or commenting them out, as I did (see below), got rid of the 10 pixel margin and allowed Blogger's navigation bar to expand to the width of the browser window.

Removing those, however, created a third problem. The body of the template was now aligned left, instead of being center aligned. To fix that, I had to add code to the "Header and Wrapper" container that told browsers other than Internet Explorer to center the body of the blog. That code was this: margin:0 auto;.

In the end, the fix looked like this:

body {
   position: relative; /* Fixes browser resizing bug in IE6 */
   /* margin: 10px auto; */
   /* width: 980px; */
   font-family: 'trebuchet ms', arial, sans-serif;
   text-align: center; /* IE Centering Technique */
   background: #000;
   }


/* Header and wrapper */
#wrapper {
   width: 980px;
   text-align: left; /* IE Centering Technique */
   margin:0 auto; /* to center the body for the rest */
   background: url(http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_V-IXTBBt1Bg/SVPr5xX58aI/AAAAAAAAAjM/zM8cWJxooC0/s1600/topcurve.png) 40px 0 no-repeat;
   }


This is all fine and dandy, but when I tried to get rid of some of Blogger's quick editing tools, this template just wouldn't allow it. Entering this code, .quickedit{display:none;}, didn't do a damned thing (although it worked fabulously for the template you're looking at right now). When I tried to delete the code itself that placed the quick editing tools on the screen, Blogger spat error messages at me. So, as much as I like the template I'm referring to, it's got problems that I can't fix (or don't know how to fix).

I'm tired of dealing with templates that don't work the way they're supposed to. Then again, I've read that Google's code for their blogs isn't up to snuff with W3 standards. It's proprietary. Sounds damned Microsoft-like to me! Hmmph! And grrr, too!

Ultimately, it comes down to either finding another template that I like better, or . . . deciding to put up with those annoying quick edit icons with which Blogger likes to litter my screen.

Recent Posts

Friday, October 23, 2009
I've tried the "gadget" for Recent Posts found in Blogger's gallery of gadgets, but I didn't care for how it looked. For the list that it automatically generated, that gadget completely overrode the typography specifications embedded in this new template. I like my blogs to have a consistent appearance to them. This meant some customization if I was to have that list. It also means manual updates to keep that feature current. I'm willing to give it a shot, to see how well it works.

I added this feature because I want to limit the number of posts displayed on this front page to either one or three. My inclination at the moment, given the length of my posts, is to keep it to one; I definitely would be interested in my readers' opinions on this, however. Having a list of the recent posts available, which I'm thinking of limiting to five or ten — your opinion would be welcome on that point, too — allows you to see if you've missed anything and gives you a readily available link without having to scroll down to my blog archive. (For reference, the list of recent posts currently numbers seven.)

I believe I can use some features already contained in this template to create a custom "gadget" to do this task automatically, thus preventing my having to update the list manually each time a new post is written. A little research to learn how to do this will be necessary, obviously.

EDIT: I've edited the settings so that only the most recent blog post is displayed. I'm curious what readers of this blog think of this.

Perpetually Peregrine

Monday, October 19, 2009
Added links to more destinations in my ever-growing list of links deep down below at the bottom of this blog page. Added links to . . .

  • Belgium (not been there . . . yet)
  • Denmark (not been there . . . yet)
  • England (lived there for about 3½ years, when I was a teenager; lived in the village of Shenington, and later in Bloxham; this was during my high school years)
  • Guam (been there; was a stop-over when I moved to Okinawa and again when I moved to Thailand)
  • Japan (lived there for about 3½ years, when I was very young; lived on the island of Okinawa; went to kindergarten there, in fact)
  • Philippines (been there; was a stop-over on the return trip from Thailand)
  • Poland (not been there; have had several friends over the years from there; currently have one friend who lives there, in Bialystok; good reason to go visit, if you ask me)
  • Scotland (been there; visited when I lived in England)
  • Sweden (not been there; for some reason, though, I've liked Sweden and have wanted to go there, even to live, since I was about 16 or 17 years old)
  • Switzerland (not been there . . . yet)
  • Thailand (as with Japan, lived there for 3½ years, but this was four years after we had left Japan, so I was 11 years old when we moved there; my junior high school days were spent in Bangkok)
  • Turkey (been there; was a stop-over on my first trip to England, before I moved to England)
  • Vietnam (been there; was a stop-over on the way to Thailand; wasn't allowed to get off the plane, however, as this was at the height of the Vietnam War)
  • Wake Island (been there; a stop-over on the way to Japan)

I've been to a lot of places, and I'd like to go to even more. I'd like to change those "stop-overs" to actual visits. I am, as always, perpetually peregrine.
_____
FOOTNOTE: Did another bit of customization to the code for this blog. The default bullet for unordered lists was a disc. In fact, that's always the default, unless you change it. Wanting to be diff'ent, I changed it to a circle.

Another Silly Test Post

A test of the various headers, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, and h6. Here you go (isn't this as boring as hell? :P) —

H1

Header 1

Lorem ipsum la la-la la-la.

H2

Header 2

Lorem ipsum toodle doodle doo.

H3

Header 3

Lorem ipsum tweedle deedle dee.

H4

Header 4

Lorem ipsum twiddle iddle poo.

H5
Header 5
Lorem ipsum cock-a-poodle who?

H6
Header 6
Lorem ipsum any silly man will do. :P

Well, well, well. Isn't that nifty?

Dashboard

In the code for this template, the three columns of links at the bottom part of this blog are called the "dashboard." The left column is "dashboard1," the middle column is "dashboard2," and the right column is "dashboard3."

One problem I've had with this template from the start is that the title for each set of links butted up against the last link in the set above it. So, I've been pouring over the code trying to figure out how to fix this. I noticed that this problem did not exist in the sidebar to the right, that there was plenty of space between the small block of text with my photo and brief description and the "Writer-Speak . . ." quote. With that as my guide, I tried to find the code that spaced them apart. I found some code that read:

.sidebar .widget{margin-bottom:1.5em;}

I know a little about CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), so I know that a dot preceding a name defines a "class." "Classes" are used in conjunction with HTML code to give a blog's contents a uniform appearance. In the following code, for example, . . .

<p class="name_of_class">Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.</p>

The class name is inserted within the paragraph tag (<p class="name_of_class"> insert_text_here </p>), and the class name tells the browser to refer to the class defined in a blog or web site's cascading style sheet. Style sheets are sometimes embedded within an HTML page, but more often they are separate, thus saving on the file size for each page of HTML code: one page of CSS describing all the layout and text attributes and more for a blog or web site (instead of having all that CSS code embedded on each separate page of HTML code) and then separate pages of HTML code for each page in a web site. It makes not only for less file space, but also for easier blog/site management.

The point of all this detail is to say that ".sidebar" and ".widget" are classes. The information in the code following ".widget" — namely, {margin-bottom:1.5em;} — tells the browser how much space is be placed below each widget. That's what each block of text in the sidebar and each list of links in the dashboard are: widgets.

(In "1.5em," "em" is a typographical term. It is, in fact, used in the proper name of the long dash (—), known as the "em-dash." The "em" refers to the letter "M"; an em-dash is the width of the upper-case "M" in any typeface. There are three distinct dashes in a typeface and most folk don't call them correctly. There's the hyphen "-"; the en-dash "–"; and the em-dash "—". When put side-by-side, the difference between them is obvious: - – —. Hyphens are used to hyphenate words and to break up a word between syllables when it breaks at the end of a line. En-dashes are used in numbers, typically between dates: 19 Mar 2001 – 31 Mar 2001. Em-dashes are used, per Strunk and White, "to set off an abrupt break or interruption, and to announce a long appositive or summary." They explain, "A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon, and more relaxed than parentheses." It is used "only when a more common mark of punctuation seems inadequate.")

So, taking the code mentioned above as my cue, I searched for the code for the widgets at the bottom of this blog, and that's how I discovered those three columns are called the "dashboard." I took the code and changed it — .dashboard .widget{margin_bottom:1.5em} — placed it along with the other "dashboard" code, saved the template, refreshed the blog page, and . . . it didn't work. Something was wrong. I knew it had to be the class name. After more searching through the code, I found what I believed was the correct class name, ".col3_content," which is an abbreviation for "column 3 content." I replaced ".sidebar" with ".col3_content," saved the template, reloaded the blog, and . . . violà! . . . it worked!

I enjoy messing with code like this, but I don't know if I could do it for a living or not. For one thing, it would require some training that I don't have.

My next goal is to figure out how to do the same thing to place space between the end of a blog post and the comment and label links below it. With this post, you can see just how little space there is. I hate it. It must be changed. [EDIT: This is now fixed.]

The goal I have after that is to increase the leading in my blog posts. "Leading" is another typographical term. It refers to the space between lines of text. In this blog, the lines are too close together for my tastes. I hate it. It must be changed, too. (Sometimes, I wonder what the hell some of these designers are thinking. :P) [EDIT: This is now fixed, too.]

[EDIT: It would appear that a lot has changed since I last did any major muckin' about with Cascading Style Sheets! o.o I've been able to slowly, but surely, decipher the mess, but while I recognize a lot of the code, there's a lot of new shit swimming around in that pool that I don't recognize. It's made me understandably cautious, lest my muckin' about should bite me in the arse by way of screwin' up this blog.]

Lists

Sunday, October 18, 2009
I've renamed most of the various lists of links found at the bottom of this blog page.

  • Garrulus' Travels — A half-assed attempt at a play on Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels.

    For those who know of my penchant for grammatical correctness (or at least my attempts to be grammatically correct), I use Garrulus' instead of Garrulus's because: 1) Garrulus is Latin, and 2) it's ancient. In fact, it is the Latin form of "garrulous," but I don't use it in the sense of that word's definition (excessively or tiresomely talkative). It's meant to be a play on my first name. Saith Strunk and White:

    1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's.
    Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names [ending] in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake.
    Garrulus may not end in -es or -is, but since it is ancient and since it is deliberately being misused as a noun, instead of being properly used as an adjective, I've chosen to form this possessive singular by adding only an apostrophe and omitting the s. Besides, omitting that final s preserves the admittedly stretched alliteration between Gulliver's Travels and Garrulus' Travels.

  • Perpetually Peregrine — The original title of this list was For Itinerant Souls. That was far too drab and cliché, and I longed for something better. Perpetually Peregrine is not only better, it, too, has some lovely alliteration. It's also rather descriptive of my life. Peregrine, if you didn't know, is Latin, coming from peregrinus, meaning "foreign," and peregre, meaning "abroad." In English, peregrine means "wandering," "travelling," "migratory." I've lived a perpetually peregrine existence, thus the title for this list of links.

  • Colloquiare Colloquially — Originally titled For the Colloquial of Heart, then renamed For Colloquial Hearts, I wanted something less romantic (as well as to avoid the cliché "colloquially speaking") and, after a little research, settled on Colloquiare Colloquially. Colloquiare is Italian, meaning "to talk" or "to converse." Thus, the new name is not only alliterative, it also means, quite literally, "to converse/speak colloquially." The links found in this list bear that out. You could say that I still ended up with "colloquially speaking" as the title for this list, but it's absolutely not cliché.

  • MultilingualityTwisted of Tongue was the original name for this list. The problem, however, was that it was too close to being cliché ("tongue twister"), and it was also too prosaic. I played around with several ideas using different versions of lingua, the Latin for "language" or "tongue." And then, in the process of my research, I came across the word "multilinguality" in the Wikipedia article First language. Plus, it's thoroughly Latin, as even the multi- prefix has a Latin root. It fit, it was unusual, so it stays.

  • Ars GratiaArts & Artists was the name I first used for this list. Sticking with the Latin theme that had developed, I settled on Ars Gratia. Ar is the Latin for "art" and ars the Latin for "arts." Ars Gratia is a phrase actually used in English, meaning "art for art's sake" or "for the sake of art."

  • News-SpeakNewspeak (unhyphenated, and the original title for this list) is actually a word invented by George Orwell, used in his book 1984. It is the fictional language of his imagined future. There is even a Wikipedia article on the subject. Given that modern news is sometimes little more than propaganda, depending on the source, News-Speak only seemed a fitting title for this list of news sources. It's a play on Orwell's word. You'll even see another play on this in the title for the quotes from writers, which has changed from Writers Speak . . . to Writer-Speak . . . . Thus, it's only fitting that the first quote posted in this new template should be from George Orwell.
If you're new here and are curious about this blog's title, here's a brief explanation:

Garrulus is simply a play on my first name, Gary. The original title for this blog was Garrulous Grumbling, but then it went through a name change and became Garrulus Grommeler. Why grommeler? Grommeler is Middle French for "to grumble."

Test — Yes, Another Test

Why? Why not? Actually, it's to see how this page will look with a second post added. So, let's take a peek, shall we?

New Template

Saturday, October 17, 2009
Well, this is a start, isn't it? Not a whole lot going on quite yet, but I've got a new template uploaded. I created a new blog and then exported the old blog to the new address, so everything is still intact. It was a bit of a mess at first, getting it all to do what I wanted it to do: creating a new blog, exporting the old to the new, updating the old to the new format, then importing the non-Blogger template I wanted to use. And now comes the long process of getting everything set up the way I want. It'll mean lots of editing, especially to get all the links and everything else I want transferred (that's the most laborious part of importing a new template, as those things get lost in the process — unless you take care to save them first).

I originally wanted to go with a template called Reckoning, but I experienced too many problems with the damned thing. The original template, which you can see here, was not designed for Blogger. It's a CSS template (CSS = Cascading Style Sheets) and it had to be converted to a format compatible with Blogger. It seems that almost all of the new templates you can find are designed for blog hosts like WordPress, and they get converted to Blogger format more as an afterthought. Makes one think that Blogger has become the ghetto of the blogging world.

So, why the change? Just wanted a change of pace, that's all. A new look. A retirement of an old design, but you can still access the old posts, as I've decided to provide a link to them in my blogroll which you can see at the right.

I've already discovered one little quirk about this template. I don't like how the box below each post nudges up against the last line of each post. So, to correct that, it means making sure that each post has the following code at the end: <br />&nbsp;. This — <br /> — tells Blogger to insert a line break, and this — &nbsp; — tells Blogger to follow it with a non-breaking space. Without the non-breaking space, a web browser acts as if the line break is non-existent.

I don't know why, but the templates I've chosen do not display Blogger's navigation bar at the top. It may display for others, but it does not display for me. Probably the most annoying bit about this is that I can't just click on a link to create a new post. There are, however, ways around this, and I plan to fix that. The web site where I got the new template, btemplates.com, says this about that little anomaly:

How do I log in to my blog without the navbar?
The navigation bar of Blogger is just a plug-in and provides a shortcut to enter your blog, but you can always log in from Blogger.com.
This is fine and dandy, but, as I noted above, it doesn't address the issue of the missing "new post" link and, I just noticed, it also doesn't address the issue of athe missing "sign out" link. These are relatively easy fixes.

Garrulus' Travels

Canada ::: England ::: France ::: Germany ::: Greece ::: Guam* ::: Ireland ::: Italy ::: Japan ::: Philippines* ::: Portugal ::: Scotland ::: South Vietnam* ::: Spain ::: Thailand ::: Turkey* ::: Wake Island* ::: Wales :::

LEGEND
Greece — countries where I've lived
Portugal — countries I've visited
* — airport layovers

Goals 2010

  • Find a Job
    date hired: —

  • Lose Weight
    GOAL: 150-159 lbs (68,0 – 72,1 kgs)
    current weight: 192 lbs (87,0 kgs)

  • Write 250,000 words
    53,177 | 21.27% compl.

  • Mythology Course
    date started: Mar 31
    date completed: —

  • Read 30-40 books
    — 20-27 must be fiction —
    11 — fiction
    7 — non-fiction
    18 — TOTAL READ

  • Learn Portuguese
    Complete Hugo Portuguese course
    date started: —
    date completed: —
    vocabulary words: —
    verbs: —

  • Life Goals
    goal achieved: —

  • Folding Bicycle
    Dahon JetStream P8
    date purchased: —

  • MacBook Pro
    13" 2.26GHz MacBook Pro
    date purchased: —

  • Manual Typewriter
    Corona Sterling/Silent of 1940s
    date purchased: —

  • 4 x 6 Index Card Cabinet
    date purchased: —

  • Metal Bulletin Board
    8 Umbra 12" x 12" Tiles
    date purchased: —

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