Sleddin' in Utah

Here's what we did today. Fun.


Design and Developer Tips

I stumbled on a treasure trove of design feeds full of tips, tricks and tutorials about web design and development. Jon over at spyre studios shares with us the rss feeds that have helped him with his web design skills - he is a self-made artist, you know. Here it is:

160+ RSS Feeds For Web-Designers And Developers


LDS Maps = Pretty Sweet

This was awhile ago, but the Church released a new map app for finding your closest meetinghouse (aka "church"). I remember the old text-based one that they used to have, it reminded me of Oregon Trail. "You've been bit by a snake. You've found your closest meetinghouse." Actually, it was nothing like that but for some reason it makes me think of it. Either way, this app blows the old one out of the water. Link: maps.lds.org

It's exciting to me to see how much the Church has opened it's doors technologically. Open source projects and profitable freelancing have skyrocketed the number of professional programmers and web developers with excellent skills, and the Church is reaching out to that community to built its online presence. I remember when the Church revamped its homepage (not too long ago) and I thought "Woo hoo, it will be awhile before we see another change around here." Not! The newsroom, a new media player for watching conference, and the tech site - and that's just the beginning! It looks like they've got a Home Teaching/Visiting Teaching web app in the works, which is still in the draft draft draft stage and pending approval before it can even move beyond a prototype, but that's still cool! It was funny because I stumbled on that piece of news right as I was finishing up my home teaching web app for the branch. Don't know if I'll ever roll it out, but it could be useful for the younger home teachers, anyway. That, of course, includes President. :)

One last thing: Church discussions on Twitter. I just joined Twitter so I'm still figuring out what a tweet and a hashtag are, but I caught the vision while reading the article of what this could mean in the future. My twitter feed can be found here (please no stalkers please), or it can be accessed directly from this blog (the bottom sidebar tab).

Tonight I told my wife that I'm getting in touch with my geeky side as we gorged ourselves on Korean banchan and bulgogi and tofu soup. She nonchalantly replied, "That's ok, as long as you don't cheat on me." What? I didn't see that one coming. Where did that come from? Did she hear what I said? I guess she meant spending more time with the computer than with her. That could be a form of infidelity. Man, I love that woman.


Christmas Tradition!

Some individuals have incredibly elaborate traditions to celebrate Christmas. As you can see, I am one of those individuals:

My Grinch tie on the Sunday before Christmas.

Presents for our friends at church (hey, when you're mass producing you've got to be a little creative!).


The Economy at Your Doorstep

The U.S. economy slipped into recession in December 2007, the nation's business cycle arbiter declared on Monday, and the downturn could be the worst since World War Two.
Reuters - Mon Dec 1, 2008

The above statement, or the basic idea anyway, has been haunting around our neighborhood for the last several months. I've heard rumors of job cuts. Church members catch me in the hall to tell me that their friends are being laid off and they're only working 30 hours a week. A friend will be taking a quick trip to Vietnam and back because her department was mandated to take a week off - unpaid. We all saw it coming, we all recognized the signs, but it's still an unpleasant surprise (to say the least) when it's staring you in the face. I just got out of a meeting with our department head who told us that we are safe from direct layoffs, for now anyway. Who knows what next week will bring.

Positivity is absolutely imperative. Of course I can "be" positive right now because I am still sitting at a desk getting paid to work. Many of my brothers and sisters, in the County and elsewhere, do not have this blessing or will soon be stripped of it. Finding the good in times like these can seem impossible, but truly it is the only way to survive. We must move with hope and not sit and bemoan tragedy. It is upon hope that we can regain our balance and continue forward; without it, we lose all and submit ourselves to defeat. And for what can we hope? Just as Mother Earth cleanses herself with fire, rain, and rumblings in the earth before shooting forth new life, the Economy must bend and break before it can start swinging up again. There's a pattern and a plan behind all of this - always.

Update: Here's the scoop on my county in particular. It will be interesting to see these leaders come to a collaborative agreement without tearing each other apart: County CEO proposes 3 percent across-the-board salary cut

Update 2: Looks like we're not the only ones: Việt Nam: Thất nghiệp tăng vọt


The Turtle is Real!

Ever wondered about the stories we hear about Hồ Hoàn Kiếm, the lake in the middle of Hà Nội that supposedly harbors the magic turtle who returned King Lê Lợi's sword to the gods? Yeah, well here's his brother, who apparently didn't hold on tight enough during the recent flooding in Northern Vietnam and got swept away into a hungry fisherman's hands. I'm glad the turtle was saved (it is now back home) because it is believed that he is one of only four of his kind (rafetus swinhoei) left on the entire earth. I say that's a pretty good number seeing that they're magic turtles.

By the way, the turtle in Hồ Hoàn Kiếm is not a legend. My mother in law saw it.


Revamping the Blog - xanghe v2.0

This blog has always been an experiment. Every time I learned something new, I would try to implement it. Well, I did it again.

This new design was inspired by the Web 2.0 sites I frequent (eBay, Facebook, Trulia, etc), some sites that try to break the Web 2.0 look (W3 <MARKUP/>, a Wordpress theme, Cameron Moll's site), and of course the magic of jQuery. I don't hold a candle to those masters, but by meager imitation I hope to achieve something that is appealing to me and functional for the readers (if any).

I'm caught between contemporary design and grunge, between straight lines and organic forms, so I end up with geometric shapes with shifting opacity, all superimposed over color-rich backgrounds. I love interaction (hence the really-useless dragging in the old blog) so I've attempted to encourage visitors (even force them) to interact with the site to initiate anything - even just reading. The icon in the bottom right opens the Background Picker, which... well... picks the background. The great part about the "picker" is that it is populated live from a google spreadsheet rss feed (didn't use an AJAX call because my database is on another domain and I don't like proxies - thank goodness for JSON!), so as soon as I add more background options, the menu will repopulate on the next click without even reloading the page!!! Ok, maybe the exclamation marks are too much, but I think it's cool.

Bedtime. Now that I enjoy seeing my own blog again I should probably start posting more. Or maybe I'll just play with the sidebar tabs.


Streamlining the Blog

Well, I'm working on the blog again. It should load up faster, but no changing and background and draggable things... for now. I kept getting a message that my blog was infected and stuff because I was pulling scripts from freewebtown.com, which is a "Reported Attack Site!" Oh well

At the bottom, you'll see some links called "version backtrack" - it's my first attempt at implementing the magic of jquery on the blog.

More to come.

travel log
  • 02.13.08 - to the temple with Luan and his mom, good to be back
  • 02.14.08 - Mẫu's alive! and staying for the weekend
  • 02.15.08 - floor hockey and Thái food makes for some strange dreams
  • 02.17.08 - frisbee and swamp monster at the park: fun but I'm pooped!
  • 02.19.08 - just read Triết's response to my last post - game on!
  • 02.20.08 - raining and expected to continue through Sunday - thank goodness!
  • 02.21.08 - 3-hour nap is a bad idea right before bed
  • 02.23.08 - to the beach to watch kites, a baptism @ 5pm, and homemade bulgogi - what a day!
  • 02.25.08 - just gave myself a haircut - woo, cold head!
  • 02.26.08 - 75° and spring cleaning - couldn't feel better
  • 02.27.08 - fed the elders bún đậu tonight - think it's their first time
  • 03.01.08 - working on new background...
  • 03.02.08 - finalized javascript to change background without muffing up my other scripts
  • 03.03.08 - fhe: "In his strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12)
  • 03.07.08 - some decisions are harder than others, but some are downright excruciating
  • 03.08.08 - there is life after work... i almost forgot
  • 03.11.08 - the distance between good and bad is much shorter than between better and best
  • 03.12.08 - conversion is sometimes a gradual process, so much so that we don't even notice
  • 03.14.08 - for some reason everything was a little harder today, looking forward for bed!
  • 03.15.08 - last night after blog reading, I missed OnlyBlue, today I find she's back
  • 03.16.08 - best day of my life!
  • 03.19.08 - "Pray for the answer that they've been looking for"
release notes v1.0 - FINALLY DONE!
  • 12.07 - first thought of starting a new blog
  • 01.08 - busy with election stuff but blog design still on back burner
  • 01.13.08 - first idea to imitate jk rowling with the "desk" theme
  • 01.28.08 - start sketching current design, breaking down development into phases
  • 02.02.08 - election only days away but still drafting final plans
  • 02.04.08 - v0.6 LAUNCH
    • main components (blog body, sidebar, header, etc) designed and implemented
    • styling for font, links, drop caps, etc. finished
  • 02.07.08 - v0.8 LAUNCH
    • image style to imitate polariod
    • moveability - post-it notes and static clings can be repositioned by drag and drop
    • release notes styled and written
  • 02.16.08 - travel log (beta) added in hopes of catching the mundane
  • 02.22.08 - lightbox 2.03 reinstalled and working fine (hopefully - let me know otherwise)
  • 02.26.08 - v0.9 LAUNCH
    • travel log seems to be working, so I'll keep it
    • lightbox also seems to have passed the test, so it's a keeper
    • some credits/info added to bottom (will expand)
    • keeping old Viet terms in archive for future viewing
  • 03.18.08 - v1.0 LAUNCH
    • installation and testing of time-sensitive background completed (for now)