November 2005


Joy and I went to see Nickel Creek last night. I heard about the concert on the radio last week and decided to check online just to see what tickets were left. I was shocked when the ticket system offered me two front row tickets. That was way too good to pass up at only $30 each, so I bought them. It turns out the concert was practically sold out, so I guess those two tickets must have been returned or something shortly before I checked. What a blessing.

Neither of us had seen Nickel Creek live before and the show was even better than I expected. I had heard they were very good in concert, but they were unbelievable! The have almost endless energy and seemingly effortless musical skill. I had a huge grin on my face for the entire concert. I think it’s really neat to see people with so much talent and skill perform because it reminds me of what creation is supposed to be like: beautiful, joyful, masterfully constructed. It was very cool. I’d love to see them again any time.

Our seats were on the left hand side of the theater. We were about 15 feet back from the edge of the stage (there was an orchestra pit) and about 5 feet to the left of Sara’s microphone. The crowd was very appreciative and in the mood for a good time, which made for a fun atmosphere. Here are some of the highlights:

Craziest Moments:

  • About half way though the show, they did a cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. Not just a chorus or two, but the entire song, complete with a little bit of gyrating dancing from Chris. Insane.
  • At one point Chris started to introduce the wrong song, and Sara and Sean corrected him. Then Chris went off on a long tangent about an old golden book from his childhood about Tootles the train and how you are always supposed to stay on the tracks. He ended the rambling story by saying something like “so I guess the moral of the story is never try anything new. Way to go Tootles.” It was very funny.

Most Unexpected Moments:

  • In the middle of “House of Tom Bombadil”, they segued into Sara singing Randy Newman’s “Short People”, then finished up Bombadil. Incredibly clever if you get the joke.
  • After several calls from the audience, they launched into a quick rendition of “Rocky Top”, including the opening verse. As you might imagine, the audience went completely nuts.

Best Moments:

  • They performed “Anthony” grouped together around a single microphone with their instruments unplugged. It was absolutely gorgeous.
  • Just before performing “Anthony”, Sara was ready to begin and Chris and Sean were still tuning their instruments. Sara quietly sang a line from Jimmie Rodgers’ “Any Old Time” to give the guys a bad time about taking so long. Chris noted that it was a great song and said she should sing it if she knew the rest. Well, she did know the rest, and boy, did she ever sing it. Probably the highlight of the concert for me.

Have you ever seen a font on a web site that you thought was neat and you wanted to use yourself but you had no idea what font it was? If so, I found the answer you’ve been looking for. “What the Font” is a site where you can upload an image of text and the site will tell you what font it is. For some reason I think this site just is amazing.

I tried it out with the Les Miserables font (of course) and the site came back with variations of Caslon, which is correct. Once you find the font, the site has links to purchase the font in several different formats. However, knowing the name of the font, you can also just do a regular web search to find free fonts that are very similar. Within just a few minutes I located several free versions of Caslon that would easily pass as the real thing. Very cool.

For years I used WS-FTP LE as my FTP client. I have a very old copy from 2000 that is free for personal use, but it’s also limited in a lot of ways. Since I’ve been posting a lot of pictures of Charis lately, I began to notice the shortcomings of WS-FTP LE much more than I used to. Eventually I got fed up and went to their website with the intention of purchasing a current version, but the $55 dollar price made me think twice. I knew there had to be something out there that would get the job done for a lot less, so I downloaded a wide variety of FTP clients and tried them all out. I was able to rule some of them out almost immediately because I just didn’t like how they worked. Others were okay, but not so great that I thought they really justified their price.

And then I tried FileZilla. The layout of all of the different areas on the screen took a little while to get used to, but once I got past that, I really liked it. FileZilla is very fast and the reconnent behavior when the connection is dropped is actually pretty decent (which is probably the thing that drove me crazy the most with WS-FTP LE). I’ve been using it for several weeks now and I haven’t had a single problem. I particularly love the batch processing for uploads, which is really handy for uploading pictures into my folder structure.

And the best thing of all? FileZilla is free. And open source. And it has an active community on SourceForge. What else could you want?

Click “more” to see a list of all of the interesting web sites I found this week. I keep track of my favorite sites using del.icio.us, a free web site where you can access your favorite links from any computer and share them with friends. You can also see all of my favorite links (not just the ones from this week).

(more…)

Joy said my previous choice for the website template for our new Sunday school website was too boring, so I’ve been looking around for other options. My favorite right now is Falling Leaves (with a less seasonal graphic), but even though it’s more exciting than Gila, it’s still too boring for Joy. I also like Small Studio and this template, but Joy wasn’t too crazy about them.

I’ve been frustrated that OSWD is still down because that’s the easiest way for Joy to see a whole bunch of templates all at once so I can get some idea of what she has in mind. After checking the OSWD site for weeks, I decided someone out there must have a mirror, so I started searching. Yesterday I finally found a mirror, but the site didn’t make it very easy to download the templates for offline viewing. I decided this was as good a time as any to try out HTTrack, a website copier that I downloaded a while back.

The interface for HTTrack was initially a little confusing, but it really isn’t too bad once you get the hang of it. The biggest problem I had was with the filter screen, which was not well documented in the help file or on the screen itself. Apparently, even though it is not explicitly stated in the default set of filters, the program will download all html files in any directory by default, as well as any links to PHP files. The mirror site I found had lots of PHP links and I didn’t want to pull down a bunch of stuff that I didn’t need and waste the site’s bandwidth, so I had override the default behavior. Eventually I decided to make the first line in the filter exclude everything and then add back what I wanted from there. All of the OSWD files were underneath a specific folder, so I started by including only files from that folder, but that still wasn’t quite good enough because there were some PHP links in the root of the OSWD folder. Thankfully, the site had each template in its own subfolder, and each subfolder started with a number, so I used that to my advantage. My final filter looked something like this:

-*.*
+*oswd.ztml.org/design/0*
+*oswd.ztml.org/design/1*
+*oswd.ztml.org/design/2*

That worked perfectly and pulled down every template and absolutely nothing else. So now I have a local copy of 1200 something templates for Joy to look through. She started looking tonight and got through about 100 templates, so she still has a lot left to go. Hopefully OSWD will be back up soon, but this local copy lets me move forward for now. Many thanks to ztml.org for posting a mirror!

I got my “My Neighbor Totoro” art book in the mail today. Amazon got it in early before the official release date and the package arrived today. Looking through the book reminded my how cool this movie is and it makes me very impatient for the DVD release in the spring.

The book is really neat with lots of concept sketches and storyboards drawn by Miyazaki himself. Some of the concept sketches of the Totoros have crazy expressions that didn’t make it into the film, so it’s fun to see those. Also, this book doesn’t have a copy of the screenplay in the back like the other more recent Miyazaki art books (Howl, Spirted Away, and Porco Rosso), so the entire book is dedicated to artwork, which I like.

Highly recommended for Miyazaki fans.

Microsoft announced today that the Visual Studio Express products will be available for free download for one year. They were originally supposed to be $49 each, but now you can download them all completely free. The express versions have their limitations, of course, but it’s very hard to argue with free.

Before they announced that the express versions would be free, I was thinking about getting Visual Studio Standard for $299. However, that’s a pretty sizable amount of money for me these days, so even though it has extra features that would certainly be useful, there’s no way I’m spending that much unless I run into a total brick wall with the express versions.

While I’ll definitely be downloading a few of the express packages, at this point I think I’ll probably use them with MySQL 5 as opposed to SQL Server Express. My machine at home is pretty slow and I think one database system is plenty for me until I upgrade to a newer machine.

I think Microsoft has a long way to go to gain back market share they’ve lost to Java, PHP, and (lately) Ruby on Rails, but at least this seems like a reasonable first step in the right direction.

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