Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fun with Firefox extensions

We've had a little downtime at work since the end of the year is approaching, so between emergencies I've been exploring the world of Firefox extensions. In standard open-source style, there are a few projects that are useful and are well-written, and many that are either whimsical or provide functionality that can be found in better quality apps elsewhere (calendar apps and web accelerators, for example).

The three I've installed so far are Adblock, NoScript, and Performancing (which I'm using to write this blog entry). Adblock does what the name suggests, blocks advertisements. Give it a pattern, such as http://**, and data that comes from that source is blocked. NoScript lets you block JavaScript (and applets like Java and Shockwave), but enable it on sites you trust.

Performancing links into a few blogging services, Blogger being one of them, and provides a little HTML editor about as sophisticated as the old Composer app from Netscape 3.0 Gold, one of my favorite editors from pre Y2K. Highlight the right blog, type your post, click Publish, voilá. The main drawback, which I can live with, is a slightly wacky rich text box. It reminds me a little of this (IE only, and try the right-click menu) editor I was working on several years back, one of my many abandoned projects.

Christmas went OK. The ex had Stacey, so she and I opened some presents a few days before Christmas, and I saved some for when she gets back from visiting Grandma and Grandpa up in Wisconsin. She was still in town Christmas day, so I picked her up in the afternoon and we saw Chicken Little, which was suprisingly good.

I had Friday and Monday off from work, and didn't have the kid, so I slept about 10 hours a night for 4 nights in a row. I'm a new man.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Merry Christmas

Hello, fair readers, I hope Christmas finds you well.
Here's a randomly generated ASCII tree for your enjoyment:


And the perl source code for generating it:


sub symbol {
my $r = rand;
return '|' if $r < .07;
return 'o' if $r < .15;

my $width = shift || 30;
for my $cnt (1..$width/2) {
print "\n", ' ' x ($width/2 - $cnt);
print symbol for 1..2*$cnt;

print "\n", ' ' x ($width/2 - 2) . "_||_\n\n\n";

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Christmas 2005

To-Do List:

- Visit relatives :: done
- Presents for relatives :: done
- Activity for Stacey and her friends :: done
- Presents for Stacey :: done
- Presents for Roomie :: done
- Presents for Mentee :: done
- Presents for dog :: done
- Buy tree :: done
- Bake cookies :: done
- Decorate tree :: in progress
- Wrap presents :: not started

Everything Christmas has progressed on schedule this year, and yet I feel that I'm really cutting it close. I think it's just the unwrapped presents that are gnawing at me, and possibly that Stacey has had a lot of activities that I had little choice in, such as singing exhibitions with her school choir and voice coach's theater group, a trip with her "Able and Talented" math class.

The main stressor on top of the crazy schedule was the one big event I tried to schedule in the middle of all that, the dinner/movie/sleepover with 6 of her friends. Strangely enough, that went off without a hitch. All but one of the girls who were invited were able to go, plus a friend of one of the neighbor girls who everyone thought should tag along to use up the extra movie ticket. Dinner was at Buca Di Beppo, a very good Italian restaurant close to my favorite theater, the Arena Grand. At the theater, I had balcony tickets for the girls to see "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe", which was great (and had most of the girls crying at some point or other).

At the sleepover everyone stayed up until about 3:30am playing singing and dancing games, and bickering as they got tired, standard fare when a bunch of little girls get together for a night. I came off looking like the cool dad I am, and plus that can count as Christmas presents for everyone, releaving us from an obligation that is still ill-defined in popular American holiday culture: gifts for neighbors.

Last night Stacey and I baked some homemade cookies that turned out great. I used a recipe from the Food Network show "How to Boil Water", of all things. The recipe was as follows:

1 cup + 6 tbs all purpose flour. (This amount is puzzling, but I do what I'm told)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Mix dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix:

1 softened stick of unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark brown to, um, kick it up a notch)
1/2 cup cane sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
Mix until creamy
Mix in dry ingredients

Chop up 6oz of bittersweet chocolate (not chips) into yeah-big pieces (I used 4 because that's the size of the bar I had, and that worked fine). Mix chocolate with other stuff. Roll into yeah-big spheres and squish down just a little. Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.

Good cookies, not much prep time, and we both had fun mixing, rolling, and squishing. Try it.