Taking the blame

Politics No Comments »

Let’s move into the realm of the hypothetical. Let’s say that Obama gets elected for President. Not only does he get one of the most powerful jobs on the face of the planet, but he also receives a damaged economy, high unemployment rates, states on the verge of bankruptcy and a stalled mortgage market. Frankly, I’m surprised that anybody really wants that job.

Nevertheless, the 850 billion dollar (700 + 150 in sweeteners) bailout package was passed. Within the next few weeks the government will be nursing failing banks and Wall Street back to health with money that will need to be repaid by tax payers. It will be the job of the next President (Obama or McCain) to assist in moving the money around to cover these debts. I believe that it is inevitable that taxes will be raised in order to make up the difference.

Now, in this hypothetical situation, we have Obama (a Democrat) in office, raising taxes. Yet, I have very little doubt that the Republicans will be fighting tooth and nail against tax increases. It’s in their blood. Not only that, but they will be blaming the Democrats for the financial mess that the previous Republican administration has left. The next president will be taking the blame and be responsible for this horrendous mess, and I bet Obama will take much more guff from politicians and pundits than McCain ever would.

Either way, the next President will have some tough decisions to make, and I don’t envy that job one bit.

Where art thou my css?

Geek, PHP Development No Comments »

I’ve been playing with the symfony auto-generated forms, which are a really nice way to bootstrap an application. However, the forms that it generates are not styled at all, which makes developing with it (and looking at it all the time) quite painful on the eyes. Here’s some CSS to make your auto-gen tables look more like what the forms book shows in the examples. All you’d need to do is class the table with “autoform”.

table.autoform {
	border: solid 1px #CCC;
	border-collapse: collapse;
	border-spacing: 0px;
	padding: 0px;
	margin: 0px;
	border-spacing: 0px;

table.autoform th,table.autoform td {
	border: solid 1px #CCC;
	border-collapse: collapse;
	border-spacing: 0px;
	padding: 3px;
	margin: 0px;

table.autoform th {
	background: #EEE;
	font-weight: bold;
	text-align: left;
	padding-left: 10px;
	padding-right: 20px;

table.autoform ul.error_list {
	color: red;
	padding-left: 20px;
	margin: 0px;

Tell me something I didn’t know

Drivel No Comments »

Pumped my gas today, and this is what it says to me.

1337 gas

1337 gas

Yeah. 1337.

Oil tycoon bastards.

I blame George Bush…

Drivel 3 Comments »

On Friday, March 28th, my wife and I went to visit my parents in a nice Sacramento suburb. We parked our car in the driveway overnight, and some bastards take some kind of instrument and smash the driver’s side window and dent the metal trim surrounding the window. Motivation: an iPod Touch that I, now regrettably, forgot to bring into the house.

Thankfully, the iPod was itemized on our renters insurance, and the window was covered with a small car insurance deductible. All in all, it was only a few hours of hassle to get everything sorted out over the phone, have the window replaced and clean up the mess.

However, I have been considering the following question: What, exactly, would prompt a minor crime such as this in a “nice” area of town. Perhaps the area is not as nice as I think it is, but all indications show that the population is generally of the older variety with grown children. Of course, miscreants may swing in to the nice neighborhoods specifically to target people they assume have a higher income than themselves. That notwithstanding, it still takes a certain amount of balls to break into a car just to steal an iPod. I believe that this specific crime boils down to the current economic climate of the country, and, ultimately, the combined actions (or inactions) of our government that has widened the perceived disparity between classes and the overall state of despair.

Our country, with no uncertainty, is in an economic downturn. I’m no economist, but I believe it’s more psychology than economic factors that’s stopping the government and officials from uttering the word ‘recession.’ No matter what it is, it ain’t good. The country is in great monetary debt and many families are tortured by the threat of having banks foreclose on their loans. Though the current administration passed the Economic Stimulus Package, I think it will take a regime change (either Democratic or Republican) before our country is able to get out of this rut. Meanwhile, our “team” morale has been shattered, and people who were doing fine before this rut are now, driven out of some form of desperation, acting on primal impulses and initiating misdemeanor crimes in order to satiate their inner desire.

Granted, no amount of perceived psychological security will ever completely stop crimes of this nature; there are certain primal urges that some types of people are unable to contain. However, as the country recovers from this mess that we’re in, I’m sure crimes of this nature will decrease, and restore the peace back into a local suburb near you.


Drivel No Comments »

Happy first day of Spring, everyone!

Spring has sprung,
the grasses riz.
I wonder where
da boidies is?

All da boids
is on da wing.
But dats absoid
because da wing
is on da boid.

Who-da thunk it: Garfield is funny without Garfield

Drivel No Comments »

Case in point: http://garfieldminusgarfield.tumblr.com/

As a kid, I’d read Garfield. Heck, I even watched the animated TV show. Looking back on it, my parents must have been spiking the punch or something to that effect.

Flight Simulation

Drivel No Comments »

Among the computer hobbies that I’ve picked up, Flight Simulation has been one of my passions. Although I have very little time to devote to this hobby, it has nonetheless been the source of many hours of challenging fun. In fact, my interest in flying began with Microsoft Flight Simulator for the IBM PCjr.

Microsoft Flight Simulator for the IBM PCjr

You can reach a high degree of realism in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator line of products, but one area that has consistently been lacking in all flight simulation programs is accurate air traffic control (ATC). This, as you obviously may know, is a vital part of the global air transit community. Talking to an actual person on the other end of your COM radio rather than punching buttons provides another level of complexity and realism to the simulation experience.

Fortunately, you can achieve this by using online multiplayer networks such as VATSIM. Using this system you can use voice, obviously the preferred and more realistic method, or text to communicate with air traffic controllers watching the traffic in their virtual scopes. VATSIM aims to be as realistic as possible, so you must file flight plans, use DP (Departure) and STAR (Standard Terminal ARrival) plates, and get required clearances to guide you from point to point in your flight path. Through VATSIM you are afforded a rich and vibrant community of avid flight simmers devoted to achieving the highest realism while also being extremely helpful and patient.

For all the fun this provides me, it still is a time consuming process; flights on VATSIM must be flown in “real time” (rather than using the time acceleration capabilities of the simulator); a 5 hour flight from KSFO to KJFK really must take 5 hours in the simulator as well while you’re on VATSIM. Of course, when you’re offline you can use whatever time shifting you like, but I feel it highly diminishes the entire simulation experience.

Ultimately, there are two roles you can play on VATSIM: Pilot or ATC. If you’re into flight simulation, then you can fly on your own, or find a Virtual Airline that fits your requirements. (I am currently AFA4431 at American Flight Airways.) If you’d like to try the scopes, you can get in touch with a specific virtual air traffic control center and use their documentation and guidelines to train you.

If you’re interested, here are some links for more information:

On one of the forums that I visit, a user has the signature: “If you think Flight Simulation is a game, then get out of my airspace.”

Virgin America vs. JetBlue

Drivel, Reviews 2 Comments »

On Friday, February 1st my wife and I had the experience on traveling via Virgin America from KSFO to KJFK. They just recently started providing domestic service and tout such amenities on the plane as mood lighting, power at every seat and an interactive seat-back entertainment system. AFAIK, this is the highest level of technology implemented in coach class at-seat amenities to date. I have also flown JetBlue (albeit from KSMF to KJFK) which provides a TV at every seat as well, although it acts as a standard television rather than an interactive system.

Red, the name of Virgin America’s seat back system, is novel at first, but my excitement faded as the interface was laggy and the TV quality was quite low. Both my wife and I had issues receiving some live television stations, and other stations were pixelated and annoying to watch. Perhaps the difference in signal quality is that Virgin uses Dish Network and JetBlue is on DirecTV. Red also offers an array of on-demand videos (tv shows, music videos) to be streamed to your seat, as well as a wide array of music stations to listen to. You can order snacks, meals and drinks right from your screen, and, by using the included controller, you can chat with other people on the plane, or play some of the included games.

If we consider that the price to fly these two airlines is generally the same (give or take a bit), the seats in coach are just as cramped, and the flight times are exactly the same, I’d still take Virgin America over JetBlue only for the fact that it has power at every seat. This means that no matter what kind of entertainment they provide on board, as long as I can plug in my laptop I can watch any entertainment that I bring along. This past trip we watched a few episodes of Futurama and Good Night, and Good Luck. Once they were completed, I was still able to use my laptop to do some programming I wanted to get done.

The Virgin America crew was friendly, the plane was clean, and it was about as enjoyable as a coach class flight across the country could be. With any luck the airline will be around for a long time and will expand its array of electronics and connectivity enabling it to be on the bleeding edge of technology at 35000 feet.

Zend Studio for Eclipse, Take 1

Geek, PHP Development, Reviews 1 Comment »

Zend Studio for Eclipse has finally arrived! I’ve been waiting for this upgrade for years. Zend Studio, in its previous incarnation, was certainly no slouch of a product. I’ve been using it since version 4. Aside from various Java platform issues, their product was extremely stable and increased my productivity over using other less featured editors.

My experience with Eclipse began in college while taking advanced programming courses in Java. It was an amazing product back then, and has only grown better since. However, the marriage of Zend Studio to Eclipse has proven to be a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps it is because I’m too used to the way that Studio 5.5 works and need to shift my IDE paradigm back to Eclipse. Maybe it’s the difference in how the system is configured by the preferences. Either way, it will take a bit of time to get used to and that’s just not something that I can afford at my job right now. Using Studio for Eclipse will have to be a weekend project to slowly ween myself off of 5.5 and learn how to manipulate Eclipse to assist, rather than hinder, my development.

One of the major pieces of integration that I’m interested in the new version of Studio is how well it handles remote files. My current development process requires that I use ssh/sftp to open and save files to a remote file system. In Zend Studio Neon (their beta version of the Eclipse integration, as well as in Eclipse in general), remote filesystem access was still a bit lacking and buggy. At first glance, it seems as if they have figured this out in Studio for Eclipse. However, I’m running into issues building the workspace through the remote filesystem. It’s slow and bogs down the Java process so I can’t develop while it’s building. I tried, heaven help me, to stop the build process, which locked up Studio, and now I can’t seem to open Zend Studio for Eclipse at all.

As for right now, I’m going to uninstall it and try re-installing over the weekend and playing around a bit more. They may call it Studio 6.0.0 — however, I think I need to treat this as a 1.0 release. Overall, I don’t think this release will be stable enough for me to use until a few more rounds of bug fixes, but I certainly like the direction that the platform is heading.

Multiple Computer and Screen Utilities

Drivel 2 Comments »

Both at home and at my job I utilize multiple computer systems, and now that I’m a Mac owner, it usually spans different operating systems. Here are a few utilities that I employ to assist in managing these computers.

  • Synergy – (Cross Platform) This is quite possibly the most useful tool that I have found. It simply shares the keyboard and mouse on a system that you designate a server to any number of client systems. This is not a KVM, as each system requires its own monitor system. However, with Synergy and a fairly simple configuration, your mouse will flow from one system to another as if you’re using a single computer. In addition, the clipboard is shared between systems. Setup can be a bit tricky on non-windows machines, but binaries are available for Windows, OS X and Linux.
  • UltraMon – (Windows) Ok, so you’ve got two monitors, and finally have the screen real estate to have many windows open in an order that you can create a comfortable work flow. Yet, all of your windows are stuffed onto your main screen task bar. Enter UltraMon. With this handy utility you can expand your task bar across multiple screens; tasks that are on screen 1 are on screen 1’s task bar, tasks on screen 2 on screen 2’s task bar. Aside from these great features, it also has other useful multiple monitor utilities. This is quite a great piece of software, and I highly recommend purchase of this product.
  • Foxmarks – (Firefox Plugin, cross platform) Within the course of a day, I can use up to 4 distinct copies of Firefox. Two on my laptop (OS X and Windows XP in a virtual machine), my office desktop (OS X) and my home desktop (Windows XP). FoxMarks helps to bridge that gap by providing a easy and transparent way to sync bookmarks between copies of Firefox.
  • LineIn (OS X) As documented by my post here on the trials and tribulations of moving sound between computers, LineIn is a great (and free) utility to enable line in monitoring on a Mac. Aside from the freebies on the same page as LineIn, Rogue Amoeba also provides other OS X based audio software to check out.

These tools help make my daily interaction with computers a bit easier, and I hope they’ll help other as well! If you know of other tools in the same vein, feel free to leave a comment or contact me.

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