Do you suffer from too much free time?

08.23.2009

This week looks to be busier than normal, and that busy-ness will be the norm for a while. On top of a full time job and a part time job, this week I start back to school.

For a while now I've been thinking about going back to school. Sure, deep down I've enjoyed not going to school any of the past 12 years since I graduated from Athens State. The lack of homework and trying to cram crap into my head has been pleasant. But I've come to learn that if I want to go farther in the direction my career looks to be turning, I need another piece of paper to open some doors :)

At Westar I got a taste of management while filling in for Keith after he went to Dealnews. The "management" job has always been something I've looked at with a bit of disgust. I'm a programmer, a coder, I get things done! I don't want to be off wasting time in meetings talking about things that might one day get done. At Westar I approached it with an open mind, though. I filled out reports, made schedules, held meetings that hopefully were useful. After 3 months of doing that, I found that I actually like it. Part of me felt guilty for liking it, but then I figured out why I liked it.

When I finally graduated college, I wasn't so much of a programmer as a coder. For me, a coder makes things work. I didn't know all the cool and/or proper ways to program, but when given a problem I could whip out a program that would work, and it would work well. A year out of school and I got started making web sites (or really web-based applications), and that's what I've been doing ever since. I joke around that I can't make the introductory "hello world" program in any language without a web browser. One of the benefits of sticking to web applications for over a decade is that, thanks in no small part to the people that first taught me, I learned not so much the right way to make a program for the web, but I know the things to check and look out for to make sure everything works the way it should. Sure, things slip by and I'll admit to not being perfect, but I'm generally able to take care of the little things that bite you in the butt along the way.

Over this past decade of web programming, it's getting gradually harder to keep up with the newest, latest, or coolest technology. There comes a time when it's cheaper to hire some kid fresh out of college that's been taught those new and cool ways of doing things as opposed to training the old fart who's been around forever. Especially when that old fart doesn't pick things up quite as fast as he used to.

I'll admit that I don't know all of the latest technical details of how to program. I used to, once upon a time. I used to be really good at it. Now, I'm average (or maybe a notch above average?). I don't think I've got what it takes to go back to being a really good programmer. I do think I can be a really good manager, though. I may not know the intricacies of the technical details, but I still know how to realistically estimate time, how to infer what a customer says into what they really want, and how to map out the code to where you don't lock yourself into something that will need to be changed 180° when somebody changes their mind down the road.

But to get there, I'm going to need some help. My resume spouts off loads of programming languages and different jobs, but my management experience, on paper at least, is minimal. I've been looking for a graduate program that matches up with me for years, and I may have finally found one in the MSIS program at UAH. Half technical, half business. Sounds like just what I need!

But before I can get started there, I have 4 undergraduate prerequisite classes to take. This will also be a good test to see if I can stick to going back to school after a 12 year break. Since it's cheaper, I'm starting off taking one of those classes at the local community college (which I also went to... 14 years go?). Tuesday night I go to Decatur for an orientation class for an online Accounting I class I've signed up and even already paid for.

Full time job. Part time job. Online accounting class. What am I thinking?


rambling random

Never has an IP sounded so good

08.12.2009

For those with speakers, this is my favorite link of late: http://www.moanmyip.com/ It sounds dirty, but it's not :)




Prepping for GI Joe: War Machine

08.02.2009

As my "I'm OK but busy" post, here's a fan-made, just different enough to hopefully avoid a lawsuit, GI Joe inspired trailer:

I've been on the mailing list for this thing for at least 6 months and I got an email Saturday saying they've finally released it. I'll be happy if it's as good as the preview looks to be (I just love the CGI blood splatter!).


random

Coding 099

07.20.2009

I've been working on a calendar script that uses CSS DIV tags instead of good old fashioned tables. Why? I want to make events on the calendar that can span multiple days. Actually, I found out once I started that spanning days isn't a big deal, but getting the event to show up where I want in the first place is.

I've been working on this for a couple of days, off and on, and finally got it like I wanted. At least in Firefox. Once I opened it in IE (IE6 no less), it was horrible. I should have seen a 700px wide by 600px high calendar, with headings for the days and numbers for each day of the month, sprinkled with some events here and there. What I got was a calendar that was 2.5 browsers tall, half of which had info, and the other half was just.. horrible.

I knew there were different ways that Firefox and IE handled positioning, it's one of the reasons I've stuck to tables for so long, but now I was committed to making it work. No matter how much of a pain in my arse it was going to be.

Over the next 4 hours I interwebbed problem after problem. Some solutions I had seen before, it had just been so long since I had needed them that they had slipped my mind. Others I saw for the first time. Yet others I had seen but didn't know what they were really used for.

Each day on the calendar is dynamically generated from a PHP script and positioned (X/Y coords) within the PHP. I use a stylesheet to cover the basics (font, colors, basic alignment), but PHP figures out the down and dirty of where stuff goes. For that reason loading a stylesheet based on the browser wouldn't work. I instead had to look at the differences between the output of the browsers, then figure out how to hack it all together. Here's what I ended up with:

		div.calendar{  						
			position: relative;
			margin-top: 20px !important; /*taken by FF*/
			margin-top: 0px ; /*taken by IE*/
			width: 100%;
			background-image: url(gridish.png);
			border-left: 1px black solid;
			border-top: 1px black solid;
			text-align: left;
			overflow:inherit !important; /*taken by FF*/
			overflow:hidden; /*taken by IE*/
		}
		div.ie_day_hack{
			position: relative;
			top: 0;
			left: 0px !important; /*taken by FF*/
			left: 7px; 	/*taken by IE*/
			text-align: left;
		}
		div.ie_event_hack{
			position: relative;
			top: 0;
			left: 0px !important; /*taken by FF*/
			left: -7px; 	/*taken by IE*/
			text-align: left;
		}


My first problem was that my calendar height of 500px, explicitly put in the DIV tag by the PHP when it's created, wasn't being respected by IE. I use a repeating grid background to fake the table-cell look, along with setting the height to determine how much of the grid repeats. With all of the DIVS for days and events inside the outer calendar, IE was allocating space for them even though they were explicitly positioned. There is a max-height property, but without a chunk of JavaScript there's no way to ensure IE will respect it. That's where overflow:hidden; comes in! That was how you just cut off everything else! I had forgotten that one.

Although I probably didn't need it, I left in some conditional IE/FF statements. It seems that this:

 

			overflow:inherit !important; /*taken by FF*/
			overflow:hidden; /*taken by IE*/


is the new way of doing this:

 

			 
			 
				overflow: inherit;
			 


I kind of like this new hotness.

My other bane was that IE was horizontally positioning things 7 pixels off. It was more than likely the way I was positioning things to begin with, but I'm still a newb with this positioning stuff! The first thing I do to the calendar is fill in all the days of the month, then I go back to fill in any events. I encapsulated a div before the days of the month and (ie_day_hack) and set my newly found conditional statement to fix those 7 pixels. That seemed to mess up the events, so I plopped in another DIV around the events to manipulate them another 7 pixels.

So there, wham bam. I looks right in IE and Firefox. On Windows. At home. How it'll look on an iPhone in a car going down the Parkway, I have no idea. Now I have to make the widget to fill in all the events, and maybe then I'll worry about the iPhone.


programming/interweb

Yo... Damn.

07.13.2009

I've been looking forward to the new GI Joe movie, and I'll admit that I was really looking forward more to the toys than to the movie. Yes, I'm 40, but I don't act it. Having fulfilled my dream of having a Stormtrooper Army, I now want a Cobra Legion to either join forces with the Empire, or battle the Empire for galactic domination. The old Cobra Troops were always a little cartoony, so I was hoping that the movie Cobras would be a little more... cool? This weekend Jerry and I happened to find ourselves in the a Toys R Us and I looked to see if the new Joe toys were out. The first batch is out, but it's not living up to my expectations.

Here's a look at what the Cobra troops from the movie look like:

It seems they're going for a true reptilian feel for the Cobra troops. Not what I was hoping for. The closest for what I envisioned are Destro's MARS Troopers:

Unfortunately, outside of an eBay auction from China, these are only available in 3-packs at $25+ each. They're not really cool enough to warrant that price tag from me.

In my dissapointment, I saw some picks of figures from different series. The Cobra Trooper from the Resolute series caught my eye:

This is more along the lines of what I was hoping for! All I ever saw from Resolute were some boxed sets of 5 figures along with a Cobra Commander and Cobra Paratrooper. Actually, I may have picked up the Cobra Commander. Although the trooper keeps the blue color scheme of old, it looks less cartoony than the deep blue of the original figures. Maybe this is the route to take for my Cobra Legion?

I can man my legion online in one fell swoop if I really want to go that route. How many Cobra Troopers would balance out 75 Stormtroopers?


action figures/toys

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