Remember Bing?

Yeah, Bing. The Google-killer. The Decision Engine. $100 million marketing budget.

Bing.

The Waiting is Over!

I finally got my score back from round one of the Cyberspace Open and I think it’s unlikely that I will be (officially) advancing to the next round.

For reference, you can read my entry here. This is the review in full, with the reviewer’s ID and my email addy redacted:

Total Score–Calculated: [21+20+21+21]
Reviewer ID number:
Writer’s Name: Jerry Seeger
Writer’s Email Address:
Structure Score: 21
Dialogue Score: 20
Style Score: 21
Originality Score: 21
Judge’s Comments: The scene has a nice energy to it throughout, though the action feels a little hackneyed and familiar. The relationship between Tommy and Lenore is interesting but it never really becomes something easy to invest in. The dialogue is a little talky and the writing a bit wordy. Try not to open a scene with a large chunk of description – ugh! Apply the 4 line rule throughout (no more than 4 lines of description at any one time). A slimmed down writing style that shows rather than tells – using as few words as possible – would help to bring out the inherent drama and suspense. Less is often more! Good luck.

I knew some of this criticism was coming; the ‘hackneyed and familiar’ part was the subject of a previous lament in a comment somewhere. I failed to break the two out of the ‘modern Bonnie and Cyde’ mold and give the two their own identities. A pity. The opening wordiness demerit is a bit frustratiing; I had put in extra stuff to set the context of the scene better (in an actual script you’d know about the GTO already, for instance), and normally character descriptions would not happen there. They would have been taken care of long before.

As for the wordy dialog, there’s one phrase, “You got some drivin’ to do,” that I really dislike now, but I think the two are talky people. Once again without context the mercurial conversations don’t make as much sense. It goes back to me doing a better job establishing who these people are in the first few words. I failed at that.

Still, I think it’s a fair score and the comments are things I can definitely learn from as I work on other things.

Will I go on to round two? I have to admit that I’m pretty pessimistic on that front. I expect I’m firmly in the middle of the pack of competent entrants, but I think it’s going to take a little more than that to move on. Only time will tell, however, so keep your digits crossed!

Extra World Fantasy Convention Tickets?

A friend of a friend is looking for a ticket for this year’s World Fantasy Convention in San Jose. Apparently they’re sold out. Anyone out there have a spare?

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

As the end of judging nears, I still haven’t received my score. Is that a good sign? Does it mean they are holding back the top candidates so they can sort out the best 100 after their first pass? Do they want to announce the winning scores all at once? Or is it that since I submitted a long time before the deadline I’m at the bottom of the virtual pile, unread?

No way to tell.

However, while I can think of positive reasons my score announcement might be delayed, I can’t think of any negative ones — unless they lost my entry, but I think we’d be able to work that out. They’ve been quite reasonable with other folks who have fallen to technical glitches. So: only good reasons for them to delay telling me my score. Most likely they just haven’t got to me yet. No reason to fidget.

Except that I’m a writer, and I’m bound by the Writers’ Code to be neurotic about stuff like this.

Rounded Corners and CSS3

NOTE — June 7, 2010:
This page is a little out of date; the main Webkit browsers now work better with NO prefix on the styles. It’s time to say goodbye to -webkit-. In the following discussion, using the standard syntax will work with Chrome, Safari, and Opera as well. The table referenced below has been updated to reflect the newer browsers.

If you poke around this site you will see boxes with rounded corners. If you use Safari or Firefox, you will see even more.

Rounded corners are implemented here in two different ways. The main boxes with the drop shadows are done the old-fashioned way, the way that works on most browsers. Each corner is a graphic with an alpha-channel shadow, and the edges are yet more graphics, repeated as needed to span the distance between the corners. The boxes expand and contract infinitely in both directions. It’s not bad. It’s also a pain in the butt.

Yet, I like rounded corners. They seem friendlier. I have broken down, therefore, and in a few places I have added browser-specific style information to create a softer-feeling blog. Since the rounded corners are purely cosmetic — everything still works just fine in browsers that don’t support border-radius — I’m not too worried about it.

However, while I was looking into the border-radius CSS property, I discovered several sources that didn’t get it right.

Here’s the deal. The CSS3 standards draft includes a property called border-radius. Exactly how that property is going to work has not been finalized, but it’s not likely to undergo any more major revision. Meanwhile, Firefox and Safari have already worked out their own border-radius implementations, called -moz-border-radius and -webkit-border-radius respectively. Other browsers see the -moz and the -webkit prefixes and ignore the property.

Unfortunately, neither implementation matches how the proposed border-radius property will act. Oh, dear. When the browsers are updated to match the standard, those -vendor-border-radius properties may break. A lot of Web designers out there don’t seem to realize that.

NOTE: probably at this point you should open up this handy table to follow along.

It’s not all doom and gloom, however. As long as people using the vendor-specific border-radius properties keep things really simple, there won’t be a problem. Here’s the skinny:

std-br-15
All four corners with 15px radius
<style type="text/css"> .roundedBox { -webkit-border-radius: 15px; -moz-border-radius: 15px; border-radius: 15px; } </style>

will put a nice rounded corners on any block element of class roundedBox. Safari 4 and Firefox 3.5 (the browsers I have to test on) will work today, and when the formal border-radius is adopted and the other browsers support it, everyone will be happy. (Remember, of course, that in the meantime a large part of your audience will still see squared-off corners.)

The tricky part comes when one wants to specify elliptical corners, or specify different radii of curvature on different corners. When you start getting fancy, things get a little messed up. Let’s tackle the second one first, because it’s possible to find a way to specify the different corners that makes everyone happy. It’s just long-winded.

border-radius is really shorthand for four properties: border-top-left-radius, border-top-right-radius, and so forth. Therefore it’s perfectly safe to specify each corner independently, and all the browsers will act the same way:

moz-br-20-10
top-left and bottom-right 20px radius, others 10px
<style type="text/css"> .roundedBox { -webkit-border-top-left-radius: 20px; -webkit-border-top-right-radius: 10px; -webkit-border-bottom-right-radius: 20px; -webkit-border-bottom-left-radius: 10px; /* different! */ -moz-border-radius-topleft: 20px; -moz-border-radius-topright: 10px; -moz-border-radius-bottomright: 20px; -moz-border-radius-bottomleft: 10px; border-top-left-radius: 20px; border-top-right-radius: 10px; border-bottom-right-radius: 20px; border-bottom-left-radius: 10px; } </style>

Note that the names of the four corner properties are different for Mozilla. Aargh. All the more reason to hope the spec is finalized soon. I put the four properties in the order the software considers them when parsing the shorthand notation, just to get into the habit.

All those lines of CSS can be a pain in the butt, but it’s bulletproof and will work on into the future. But wouldn’t it be nice if you could use shorthand for the border radius the same way you do for margins and padding? The boys at Mozilla thought so, and the CSS3 standards team thought so, too. Webkit (Safari) seems content to only support the long-winded method for now (at least support it properly – more on that later).

Before talking about the differences between the browsers and the CSS3 spec, let’s take a quick look at the theory. As with properties like border, the border-radius property is just a shorthand so you don’t have to specify each corner individually. If you use one number, like border-radius: 10px; the style will be applied to all the corners. If you supply four values, the four corners each get their radius set, starting with the upper left and working clockwise. So far, so good, but there’s trouble ahead.

[The following has been edited since it was first published. I first said that Mozilla was doing the following drawing wrong, but it looks like they have it right and Safari is wrong. Sorry for any confusion. To make up for it I added box-shadow here and there for browsers that support it. They’re sweet!]

The difference is elliptical corners. CSS3 calls for them, but the draft isn’t very well-written. The mystery lies in what should happen when two values are specified: border-radius: 20px 10px. When you are specifying a single corner, the result will be an elliptical curve. When using the shorthand, however, Safari draws all four corners with the same ellipse, but Firefox (and the CSS3 spec) draw round corners that turn out just like the example above.

According to the spec (by my reading), when using shorthand if you don’t use slashes you don’t get ellipses.

std-br-20-10
All four corners with elliptical curvature
<style type="text/css"> .roundedBox { /* four elliptical corners */ -webkit-border-radius: 20px 5px; moz-border-radius: 20px / 5px; border-radius: 20px / 5px; } </style>

NOTE: The most recent builds from webkit.org match the spec. I don’t know when those changes will reach Safari, but sites using the two-value shorthand may have to deal with some inconsistencies between browser versions. Not sure, but I would avoid using that syntax just in case.

What about if four values are specified?

std-br-20-10-5-30
All corners different
<style type="text/css"> .roundedBox { /* four different circular corners */ /* no effect! */ -webkit-border-radius: 20px 10px 5px 30px; -moz-border-radius: 20px 10px 5px 30px; border-radius: 20px 10px 5px 30px; } </style>

Once again Webkit-based browsers like Safari and Chrome fall short. The Webkit team seems content to get the longhand method of specifying corners right, but not the shorthand. Mozilla, in the meantime, has worked out the most complex and versatile form of the shorthand, but disagrees with the spec fundamentals.

To use shorthand to specify four different elliptical corners, you would use something like:

-moz-border-radius: 20px 10px 20px 5px / 5px 10px;

where you specify up to four horizontal radii and then up to four vertical radii. The numbers before the slash are the horizontal radii, starting from the top left. If only two numbers are given, they alternate. Three numbers means top-right and bottom-left share. The y-radius values are the numbers after the slash, and are distributed the same way. Clear? Good.

I have read that if the text rendering is vertical, the horizontal and vertical parts are reversed, but I see nothing about that in the proposed specification.

This will make a lot more sense if you study the twoblue-shaded lines of the table.

While we’re looking at the table, note that Safari is perfectly capable of displaying the most complex borders, but they have not implemented the shorthand notation (except for the bit they did wrong). They’ve done the hard part, but left out the one-day coding job of parsing the shorthand strings into the properties for each corner. Odd. The rules are really very simple for a machine.

So what does this all mean?

In conclusion, while it’s possible to write different sets of -vendor-border-radius CSS properties and get what you want, things start to get quite messy. It’s a lot of effort for aesthetic touches that half your audience won’t see for the next couple of years. I’d advise just staying away from elliptical corners for now, and specifying round corners individually if any are different. It’s a bit more typing, but it’s a lot safer. Stay away from -webkit-border-radius: with two values.

Bad Judgement

I wrote this scene over the course of two days, and I stopped myself before I edited all the fun out of it. (At least, I hope I did.) Lenore and Tommy seem to be in a heap of trouble, but can they even trust each other? The scene that comes after this one is awesome, if unwritten.

As a reminder, here’s the premise:

Your PROTAGONIST is in a jam. He (or she) had been relying on deception in order to further his objective, but his ENEMY has figured out the ruse. Write the scene in which your protagonist’s LOVE INTEREST confronts him with this information acquired from the enemy – while in staging it in a tricky or dangerous situation.

I learned a few things while writing this… but let’s cut to the chase.

INT. GETAWAY CAR
LENORE (26,) a willowy blonde, is behind the wheel of a souped-up GTO, her hair blowing in the wind from the sunroof. She is grinning maniacally as she flies down a two-lane blacktop. Abruptly she cranks the wheel and the car goes into a sideways skid, kicking up a cloud of dust as she comes to rest by the prison wall. Sirens blare. She leans over, pulls the handle on the passenger door, and TOMMY (28,) tall and angular, jumps in. He is wearing orange prison overalls and his dark hair is buzzed short. Lenore stomps the gas pedal with her bare foot and the car leaps away. Up on the wall a few of the guards shoot at the fleeing vehicle.
Lenore is so excited she can’t sit still; she is bouncing in the seat.
LENORE
Hey, baby!
She leans over to kiss her boyfriend, almost driving off the road in the process. Tommy sits with arms folded, staring straight ahead. Lenore hesitates, then looks up barely in time to straighten the car before it goes in a ditch. Her enthusiasm is diminished.
LENORE
Ain’t you happy to see me?
TOMMY
Surprised you bothered to come.
LENORE
What?
Lenore slams on the brakes and the car comes screeching to a halt. Tommy bounces off the dash. Lenore glares at him.
LENORE
Just what are you insinuatin’?
Tommy glances back behind them. In the distance are the flashing lights of pursuing police cars.
TOMMY
Can’t we talk about this later?
LENORE
I’m not moving one inch until you explain to me what that remark was supposed to mean.
TOMMY
The cops are coming!
Lenore sits back and sets her jaw. A tear leaks from one eye.
LENORE
I don’t care.
TOMMY
You want to talk? Fine! Judge Hastings come down to visit me the other day.
Lenore pounds the steering wheel.
LENORE
(to herself)
That bastard!
TOMMY
He says you two been gallivanting all over town.
LENORE
Gallivanting!
TOMMY
That was the very word he used.
Lenore smashes down on the gas and the car rockets forward in a cloud of burning rubber.
LENORE
(under her breath)
I’ll gallivant his sorry ass…
TOMMY
So what about it?
Lenore picks up a pistol and puts on a bright smile.
LENORE
I got your favorite gun in the back seat.
TOMMY
Is it true? What he said?
The cars behind open fire, but with little effect.
LENORE
Can’t we talk about this later?
Lenore holds her gun out the window and fires a few shots. She pops the magazine from the gun and, driving with her knee, loads in another one. The car hits a bump and skids wildly. Tommy bounces off the head liner.
TOMMY
Dammit! Watch where you’re going!
LENORE
Tommy, we need drivin and we need shootin, and I got the only steering wheel.
Tommy sighs dramatically and reaches into the backseat and pulls out a wicked-looking automatic rifle. He caresses the finish.
TOMMY
Hello, baby.
LENORE
You two can cuddle later. It’s time to go to work.
Tommy works the bolt and takes a breath. He sticks his head out the sunroof and fires a few bursts with increasing glee. One of the pursuing cars skids off the road. Tommy laughs and sits down.
TOMMY
Whoo! Yessir! Tommy’s back!
He pops up and fires off another burst, spraying bullets behind them until he runs out. Return fire punches holes in the trunk. He sits down to reload. Lenore holds her gun out the sunroof and fires randomly. She swerves a little just for fun. Tommy looks over at her, grinning.
TOMMY
I love you, Sugar Pie.
LENORE
I love you too, Hunny Bear.
He leans over and kisses her hard, then turns back to the job at hand. He hesitates as he’s putting a fresh magazine into his gun, and pops out a cartridge. It has a dull gray case.
TOMMY
What’s this?
LENORE
What’s what?
He holds a bullet up in front of her, an inch from her face, blocking her vision. She swerves as she bats it away. He bounces off the dashboard again.
TOMMY
These cartridges have steel cases! You know Black Beauty here only likes brass.
LENORE
But the steel’s so much cheaper. Money’s tight right now.
Tommy stutters, trying to make sense of what she just said.
TOMMY
Money’s… what? Tight? We have thirty million dollars!
Lenore cringes and occupies herself with driving and shooting. A bullet come through the car, shattering the rear window and spidering the windshield.
LENORE
It’s just… not available right now.
Tommy is beyond words. More bullets hit the bodywork of the car. Tommy reaches up through the sunroof and fires, but his heart’s not in it. Lenore looks over at him and tries a feeble smile.
LENORE
It’s… invested?
Tommy points his gun at Lenore. He is shaking with rage.
TOMMY
Invested where.
Frightened, Lenore points her gun at Tommy. Ahead two police cars are blocking the highway; Lenore and Tommy don’t see them. After a momentary standoff the two begin to shout simultaneously, jabbing at each other with their guns.
TOMMY
Where’s the goddam money?
LENORE
Don’t be this way, Tommy. Don’t get all crazy on me now. Remember what the doctor said. You’re scaring me, baby.
TOMMY
Does Hastings have it? Hasting’s got our goddam money, don’t he? You gave Hastings our goddam money!
LENORE
No!
Lenore pauses and realizes that Tommy has handed her a convenient scapegoat. She “confesses” through her tears.
LENORE
Yes! It’s Hastings! He… uh… he tricked me, Hunny Bear. He said… We have to get our money back!
Tommy nods, suddenly calm.
TOMMY
You shoulda just said.
He gestures up the highway.
TOMMY (CONT’D)
Road block.
Lenore keeps the gas to the floor and braces herself. The engine is roaring and starting to smoke. The speedometer climbs. Tommy puts his seat belt on; ahead, police begin to scatter. The two face forward, their calm faces shiny with sweat.
LENORE
I’m sorry about the cheap ammo.
TOMMY
We’ll talk about it later, Sugar Pie. You got some drivin to do.
Lenore scans the scene ahead, concentrating, then cracks a little smile.
LENORE
Roll down your window.
Tommy works the window crank.
TOMMY
I love it when you smile like that.

Round One Complete

There are still several hours left before the deadline, but, well, I was done, so I submitted my entry. I just saw this message:

Seeing this screen means your entry arrived.

Finally, congratulate yourself for having the courage to say,
“I can create on deadline,” and then doing it. Yay!

There is nothing more to do; my fate is in the hands of the judges now. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for a top-100 finish. Think positive thoughts and all that crap. I’ll be posting my entry here in a while, but I’m going to reread the rules to make sure it’s OK first.

To the rest of you still working on the challenge: You can do it! Go Team Muddle!

Lost Weekend, Home Stretch

With nineteen hours before the end of round one in the Cyberspace Open, I’m feeling pretty good about the way it’s going, but there’s still plenty of room for improvement. I spent last night working with two of the plots from the list above. I really like the idea with the multiple personality disorders, but try as I might I couldn’t come up with a confrontation scene that could stand alone well enough to not confuse the reader. In an actual movie the viewer would already understand things that someone reading the scene cold would not know. The light of my life had a bunch of great suggestions that make the idea really intriguing, though. I’ll file the idea away for another time, when I’m drinking beers with a producer. Green light by the third round, baby!

Meanwhile, God getting distracted while making the universe will probably end up as a short story. As a scene in a feature film it actually told too much of the story. (Unless God and his rival spend the entire time messing with each other’s universes, until one universe breaks quarantine… hmm.)

Similarly waysided are the demons/aliens/whatevers taking over the Earth. Some fun ideas there, but I never came up with that sparkling moment of conversation that sells a scene. It’s probably better as a short story, too. Finally, protagonist as a criminal is actually based on an idea my sweetie and I hashed out one night which will make a great screenplay someday. I couldn’t get all the pieces right in my head to work it for this competition, though. Later, the title alone will sell it.

In the end, it’s the car chase. I don’t know why, but that’s where my creative juices flowed with the lowest viscosity. Little moments all strung together into something fun (at least, I think it’s fun). Drivin’, shootin’, arguin’, fibbin’. Mortal danger and true love. Outlaws on a two-lane blacktop.

Meanwhile, fuego is over on his side of the Atlantic, writing away. I have no idea what he’s cooking up, but it’s sure to be good. It’s too bad he’ll have to settle for second place.

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

It be takin’ a majer hollerday fer me ta notice tha’ we no be havin’ any event countdown on yon sidebarrr. I be addressin’ that oversight afterrr tha’ weekend. Arr!

Thinking Out Loud

The Cyberspace Open has been going for six hours now, and I’ve got some ideas percolating. Round one, which provides an entire weekend to write a scene, may be the most difficult because there is time for over-thinking and over-editing. Then mix in the “I’ve got lots of time, I can watch cartoons” trap and there are plenty of potential pitfalls. I’m not too worried, though. I’ve spent the time since the premise was distributed (see the previous episode) coming up with different approaches. Deception, confrontation, difficult task, and somewhere in the background there’s a bad guy, pulling strings. Not bad.

I’ve spent the last few hours simply brainstorming, coming up with different ideas that are off the beaten track but contain lots of room for drama. Tonight is the night when any idea is a good one. Here are a few I’ve come up with so far, in no particular order. None of them are perfect, but they all have something going for them.

  • God is busy creating the universe when his girlfriend comes in to confront him about cheating in the universe-building contest. God has pulled five consecutive all-nighters and just wants to get the damn thing done so he can rest the next day. During the argument he accidentally creates man, or maybe the tree of knowledge. Strongly implied are ensuing hijinks.
  • Protagonist is a notorious criminal – her rival (ex-boss?) tips off her boyfriend, who is inconveniently a cop (or the father of kidnapped children?). (She spends a lot of time dealing with the police.) It turns out that this time she is trying to use her skills for good to thwart ex-boss, but that’s going to be a hard sell, (hostages at risk?). Boyfriend is plenty pissed off and not ready to provide any constructive conversation. Perhaps she’s defusing a bomb during the conversation?
  • Enemy and love interest are both the same guy – with multiple personality disorder. Enemy persona has been leaving clues for love interest persona to find. Protagonist is trying to hide the truth from the love interest persona while dealing with the enemy persona in a way that won’t harm love interest persona.
  • Powerful outsider (demon from hell, alien from outer space, whatever) has been sent to Earth to enslave humanity. All beings in the universe love hot Earth women, though (look it up!). Chance for gender bending since outsider can choose inappropriate disguise. Some swashbuckling Biff-type has tipped off the lovely Tiffany that her BFF is not all she (he/it) appears to be. Good chance for some space opera dialog.
  • Bonnie-and-Clyde-style car chase. Bonnie has just broken Clyde out of jail. While the outlaw couple are drivin’ and shootin’, Clyde mentions to Bonnie that the Sheriff told him that Bonnie’s been right friendly with a certain judge. They have to cooperate to get away, but that doesn’t mean they have to be civil about it. The argument and the chase peak when the car breaks down… and they roll to a stop just over a county line — into the jurisdiction of a friendly judge.

And there they are. They range from fairly mainstream stuff that provides a lot of room for style, to the rather ridiculous. I could have sworn there were more; I should have been writing them down all along. If I think of others, I’ll add them here. Most likely the idea I go with is one I haven’t thought of yet.

Here We Go!

The first premise is out:

Cyberspace Open Round 1 Premise

Your PROTAGONIST is in a jam. He (or she) had been relying on deception in order to further his objective, but his ENEMY has figured out the ruse. Write the scene in which your protagonist’s LOVE INTEREST confronts him with this information acquired from the enemy – while in staging it in a tricky or dangerous situation.

Have at it! Pencils down Monday at 9 a.m. Pacific Time.

Wish me luck!

Health Update

Honestly, I don’t think this episode is very interesting. That happens sometimes. Still, if you want to learn the magic secrets of my fitness success, read on! Lose weight! Get in shape! No dieting! Extra hyperbole!

When I first made the leap over the pond from Prague to San Jose, I knew things would be different. First there are the obvious benefits of sharing an abode with one’s sweetie, but there are other changes as well. Notable changes included diet and exercise. I paused today to contemplate their effects. Good habits are the best health insurance anyone can have.

Behaviors:

Diet: I eat just as much as I did in Prague, in fact, I think I eat more. But while volume has increased, so has quality. Home-cooked meals are just plain healthier. (Did you know that there are special heavy versions of mayonnaise sold only to restaurants? No one would buy them in the stores, they’re too obviously unhealthy. But at your local diner your taste buds will rejoice, and you will say, “man, they have good salads here,” never knowing just how much saturated fat you dumped into your gut while thinking you were eating healthy food. But I digress.) My sweetie loves to cook and I love to eat her cookin’. Despite that I’m sure my fat intake is much lower, and my salad intake is through the roof.

Diet part 2: Alcohol and caffeine. Going from being a bachelor who wrote in bars in Prague to being a significant other who works at home has curtailed alcohol consumption considerably. Reduced calories from beer may completely offset the extra calories from all the food I’m eating. Not that we are teetotallers, mind; I still enjoy the joys of grape and barley, just not as much. Caffeine intake is down as well, as I won’t have five cups of tea to hold off the beertender.

Exercise: My sweetie already had a workout schedule for three days a week, and naturally I joined in. We join her family and because her brother is autistic the schedule is very rigid. This means no weaseling and no putting off until later. When it is time to work out, we do it, and I’ve been taking my gym time very seriously. (Although ‘gym’ is a bit of an exaggeration – the development where my sweetie’s folks live has an exercise room with a few machines in varying states of decay.) My sweetie and I have tried to extend out exercise habit to some of the off days as well, but that’s not been as successful. Just today I geeked around all afternoon and plain forgot to get up and go pursue Jim. Still, I’m getting a good workout on a regular basis.

Results:

Weight: I had really hoped to lose some weight. For one thing, my knees won’t last forever, but they’ll last a lot longer if I can take some of the stress off them. It’s too early to tell if it’s a trend, but if anything I’m gaining weight. Weight can be a deceptive measure, however…

Shape: Now here we have some good news. Although my weight may not be trending the right direction, its distribution certainly is. More muscle, less fat. I haven’t measured, but I expect I’ve added an inch around my chest. Some of my shirts are noticeably tighter up there. That’s good. From her vantage point, the light of my life tells me that my waist is getting trimmer, at least on the sides. So far my pants don’t feel any looser, but hopefully the belly fat will start to go eventually as well. There’s no hurry as long as the trend is in the right direction, and there’s still plenty of fat left on me to burn. (The very top lump in the classic ‘six-pack abs’ is visible if you know where to look and catch it in the right light.)

My arms and legs, never places to gather fat, look pretty good, if I say so myself. Not muscular by any stretch, but good definition. It’s gratifying. I flex my legs sometimes just to watch the muscles pop out.

Joints: My weakest points are my elbows and knees. Unfortunately almost every exercise ever invented applies force through those joints. (Maybe I need the Thigh Master!) So far they’re holding up all right. My old separated shoulder bothers me sometimes. Good candidate for arthritis, the doctors told me back when I was doing physical therapy. No point worrying about it, though.

Other: When I was younger I had very low blood pressure, low enough I wasn’t allowed to give blood. My resting heart rate often dipped below 50 (funny story about that… for another day). That was a long time ago; last time I had my blood pressure taken the nurse said it was on the high side – high enough to warrant watching. I haven’t watched. I don’t have any real measure of how I’m doing except that after working out I’ve been getting head rushes, like I did in the old days. It’s hard to believe only a few months of exercise could make such a dramatic difference, though, especially since I still have at least twenty pounds of extra fat on my frame. The head rushes may actually be a warning sign of something else. (I poked around online but didn’t find much helpful.) I just took my pulse and it’s 57 bpm, which I think is on the low side, which I choose to believe is a sign of cardio health.

Conclusion:

Overall, I have to say that there’s something to the whole “eat right and exercise” fad. It’s working for me, and I’m not depriving myself in any way. It’s actually… fun! As a bonus I get to watch my sweetie work out at the same time. Yow!

A Browser Experiment

Quite by accident this morning I stumbled across an image format that might turn out to be really cool. Unfortunately, like all things Internet, it’s not much use until the various browsers agree on how it should work. Just for giggles, I thought I’d play around with it a bit. Internet Explorer users — even IE 8 — need not continue with this episode.

One of the cool things about SVG is that it’s more a drawing system than an image format. Image files contain a set of instructions the computer uses to render the picture. That’s not especially new, but it’s nice to have a standard system built into browsers. With something like this I can write code on the server to generate very sophisticated and pretty graphs, without a lot of technical hoo-ha. It would be especially nice for some of the images used in the basic design of this site.

So here is an svg image, plopped into the page the way any image would be:

Emblem-fun

Alas, only those using Opera and Safari will see it. (PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong!) Alternately, here’s the contents of that same image file, plopped into the regular XHTML of this site in a big ol’ svg tag:

You can look at the source for the page and there it will be, all the drawing instructions used to render this happy little face. (Note that I removed some extraneous parts that connected to the source of the graphic (sodipodi) to see if I could make the image work.)

Except… hmm. The latter doesn’t work at all anywhere (that I know of). Obviously I’m missing something, but at this point it’s not worth figuring out. I did try to paste in an example directly from Mozilla’s site; maybe WordPress is subtly messing up the data. Or something else. If SVG ever becomes more universal, I’ll revisit it.

Edited to add: it looks like the browser has to load a file with an xhtml extension to know how to deal with other xml embedded in the code like that. Unfortunately, if your tell the browser that you are using xhtml, you have to use it exactly correctly. Alas, several of the plugins, and amazon, and Google, provide code that is not strictly compliant, and I shudder to think what would happen if I tried to validate all those old episodes I brought over from iBlog. Firefox can also use the <embed> tag to display the graphic, but ironically it is not compliant.

Let’s try the <object> tag and see if Firefox has relented and begun to support it:

Just for grins I specified a different size, to show the S in SVG. Safari didn’t do it right, but my version of Firefox and Opera did.

Note: The original graphic is under GPL and I got it from here.

Note 2: Since this episode, I’ve done some pretty extensive work with SVG, including using scripts to modify the image — even changing the actual structure of the image interactively. Try the dots!

Gambler’s Update

I’m not sure my sports curse still applies to the San Diego Chargers, (the Padres certainly managed to suck without me), but although I did just check in on tonight’s game in time to see San Diego fumble while deep in Raider’s territory, I’ll not be watching the rest of the game.

Reminder: Cyberspace Open

Round one of the Cyberspace Open writing contest is this weekend, and it’s going to be a hoot! While I don’t know whether anyone out there is interested in participating at an official level (if you are, you must enter by the 16th), I thought I’d remind you just in case. Even if you don’t register officially, you can still play along. Whee!

From the official Web site, here is the description of round one of the competition:

Round One: Your Lost Weekend

This round is like this real-life situation: A producer calls you at 5 pm Friday and says “We desperately need a new scene first thing Monday, or production stalls, with a $50,000/hour crew sitting around!”

This is your chance to save the production. We send every entrant the same premise and set of characters by email at or slightly before 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, 2009. The premise will also be posted above on this page where indicated in case you don’t get the email.

Contestants will have the entire weekend, until 9 AM Monday Sept. 21 — but not one second more– to write and submit one final version of one scene, three to five pages long, on line.

Then, judges from CoverageInk.com, the manager of the competition, will grade each scene. Entrants will receive feedback and a score from a judge by email.

Exactly 100 highest-scoring writers advance to the tighter deadline of Round Two.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m really looking forward to participating. When I get the notification of what the scene is supposed to be about, I’ll post it here, and when I submit my entry I’ll post that here as well. If anyone else writes something based on the challenge that they would like to share, I’ll happily post that as well. It could be a movie scene, but you could attack the subject in regular prose, poetry, or even photos if you want. I’m the only one who has to please a judge. Use it as an excuse to spend some time with your creative side.

At the very least, please stop by over the weekend and cheer me on!