Jun 10

Petaluma’s Big Box related lawsuits sedated

Congratulations Petaluma, your next soulless big-box shopping center strip mall is once again on track to dominating one of the most valuable pieces of land the city has to offer. While that may sound particularly negative and uninspired, it should. There is no way in hell the potential for the geographical center of Petaluma is going to be met by this shopping center in any form. This land could have synergized the East and West sides of town. Could have increased tourism by boosting individuality. And could have encouraged urban innovation in future projects.

But at least we’re getting something more modern. The original and previously envisioned designs were even less inspiring. Some essentially called it a 1970s architectural abomination requiring travel by car exclusively which, among others, alienates key concepts from the city’s General Plan.

This is precisely the platform the Petaluma community coalition (PCC) folks are standing on with the lawsuit and appeal filed against the city for Regency’s East Washington Place. It created a sort’ve trifecta of inaction with the City, PCC and Regency occupying corners and preventing ground-breaking of the project.

The latest is a deal involving all three that meets some each’s criteria requested; I imagine it as a precarious compromise at best. First off, Regency will drop their “unjustly delays” lawsuit and pay for the city’s legal fees required to defend itself against the suit. PCC has also agreed to drop their lawsuit contingent upon a few design changes.
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Jun 10

Under Pressure’s famous bass-line

“Under Pressure” is a 1981 song recorded by Queen and David Bowie. It marked Bowie’s first released collaboration with another recording artist as a performer…

Under Pressure album cover

“…the song’s primary musical songwriter was Freddie Mercury — though all contributed to the arrangement. The earlier, embryonic version of the song without Bowie “Feel Like” is widely available…”

“The September 2005 edition of online music magazine Stylus singled out the bassline as the best in popular music history.”

“There has been some confusion about who created the song’s famous bassline. John Deacon said … that David Bowie had created it. … Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have credited the bass riff to Deacon; Bowie also said on his website that the bassline was already written before he became involved.”

It’s fun to think about how this confusion may have happened. Deacon and Bowie in his studio in Switzerland, chatting, with their lush English accents, about the song and sounds. Deacon, has his trusty bass guitar, Bowie, is singing or just bustin’ out some crazy-cool 80s synth-pop sounds. They’re jammin’ back and forth and suddenly, they strike rhythmic gold.

Bombombom bada bombom

Whoa! So they roll with it. Deacon plays the jam with the rest of Queen in a collaborative session with Bowie. History was made in a matter of minutes. Perhaps it was an epiphany of musical sorts, or maybe even an accident.

Both men involved credit the other out of modesty and respect. Likely, one was particularly more instrumental in the creation than the other. But without two, it may have evolved into something entirely forgettable.
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Jun 10

Want to do something right?

Remember the Six P’s:
Piss Poor Planning Prevents Proper Performance.

Jun 10

Take a break .. take a break .. take a break …

If you’re a white-collar, soft hands clean clothes information-worker, you sit on your ass day in and day out and probably, at night too.  Using the computer is your work and play.  By now, you probably have decent desk ergonomics and understand the importance of them.  Carpul-tunnel and RSI are real, no matter who you are. 

Hell, I bet you’ve had some strange aching pains in your shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, and or hands at some point.  An early warning of what could come and enough to motivate you to make some positive, preventative changes. Let’s assess the basic ergonomics of a healthy desk:

  • Screen is at arms length from your face and at eye level.
  • Keyboard is parallel or slightly lower than where your arms rest on the desk. Your wrists should not be higher than your elbows.
  • Mouse easily accessible, moves effortlessly, requiring little to no movement of your arm.
  • You’re sitting up straight.  Shoulders back and not hunched over.  If it hurts, you probably need a better chair – get one with good lumbar support. Or, baring the new chair option, one of these inflatable cushions.
  • Feet flat on the ground or better yet, on a foot rest that promotes upright sitting (not slouching!).
  • Check this out for illustrations of an ideal workspace configuration.

Now, on to the meat of the meal: taking breaks.  
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Jun 10

Introducing the Countdown Timer gadget

The Countdown timer gadget was created as a learning project and because I needed something to remind me to take breaks throughout the day. I wanted something that had a tiny footprint both in appearance and function, similar to the gnome-timer applet (for Linux desktops).

5 minute countdown underway

The concept is very basic – countdown from a preset time (in minutes) and alert when time is up. This gadget is more akin to a kitchen timer than a countdown-until-my-birthday type timer. However, the gadget will happily countdown 135971947923 minutes in case that amount of time happens to be of value to you.

the settings dialog box

As with any quality gadget or applet, this one is configurable. The Custom Countdown setting (in minutes), if set, will override the default of 30 minutes and any Preset Timers selection (also in minutes). Lastly, the Number of Alarm Sounds option defines how many times the audible alarm will sound when time is up. Putting a 0 in this option field disables it.

The Countdown Timer gadget was designed to work with Windows 7 but there should be no problem running it in Vista. I’ve committed the code to my github account where you can follow along for nitty gritty details.

Download it now

See the included README for installation instructions and additional info. Post questions and comments to this entry and I hope you find it as useful as I have.

Last Updated: July 1st, 2010

Jun 10

PHP released 15 years ago today

PHP version 1, by Rasmus Lerdorf, was released into the world on June 8, 1995. It’s original name of Personal Home Page was renamed, with a heavy nod to recursion, to “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor” in 1998 with the launch of version 3.

I owe a great deal of my professional success to this language, it is the one that truly sold me on programming.

* June 9, 2010

* May your future be full of fantastic features and ever greater efficiencies.
* You've powered the dynamic web from yahoo to facebook.
* May you continue to enthrall and encourage programmers young and old.
* You've come a long way, be sure to have lots and lots of cake today.
* May your full fledged Unicode support be your gift to us sooner rather than later.
* You've got your problems, but then don't we all.
* May you survive and thrive another 15 years.

Bonus: here’s some cool PHP usage statistics and trend graphs.