Changing Things Up A Bit

Perhaps there are still a few people who read this site. Though if you don’t, I wouldn’t blame you. It hasn’t been updated since when? March? Is that when I went down to SXSW? Anyways, I’ve started a site that is a place where I can post random/personal/non-nerdy things or just generally express myself more.

I’d like to transition this into a more technical site, writing more specifically about some of the web development that I do and things of that general nature. I haven’t decided if I am going to archive the older stuff on the site, move it to the new site, or what. I don’t think it’s all that important right now though.

Plus, I’ve always wanted to have a domain with my name it. Preferably, just my name. However, there is some English guy who does world-beat music – or some such thing – and has the name. So, I came up with Follow that link if you want to hear me rant and rave about stuff.

We Got A Puppy!

Becky’s birthday was the 18th of January and her present from me was a puppy. We’re moving into a new townhome at the end of the month and I thought having a puppy would be good for us.

We used the very helpful Pet Finder website to locate a dog that fit our requirements – namely that it be under 25 pounds, as specified by our new townhome lease. Now, don’t tell our new dog this, but our first choice was a cute Beagle puppy. However, due to restrictions of the The Humane Society of Greater Kansas City we were not allowed to adopt that puppy. I’d like to note that requiring a fence for every dog that gets adopted is ridiculous and simply impractical. This restriction unnecessarily rejects numerous potential adopters – namely us. I don’t know if these animals are living in a puppy-Hilton or what, but I would think that the purpose of the Humane Society is to get pets adopted into good homes. But anyways, I’m ranting.

Weiner Dog Vs. Hot DogBecky and I are now the proud parents of a 9 month old giant Dachshund. I say giant, because if you measure from the tip of the tail to the tip of her nose, this dog is 3 1/2 feet long. Maybe it’s a mix between Dachshund and Greyhound. Regardless, this dog is the longest Dachshund I’ve ever seen. But we love her anyways.

I don’t think it would have been appropriate for us to name her anything other than something alcohol related. Subsequently, our new edition is appropriately named Kahlua. 🙂Kahlua, The Dog

Thank You Providian

For about a month now I’ve had a Post-It Note on my desk telling myself to call up Providian and see if I can get a lower APR on my Visa that I have through them. At some point a while back my year-long introductory APR ended and I started on the not-so-nice higher APR. This was something like 13.5% variable. It was this high because I was recently out of college when I got the card and my credit score was around 45 points lower than it is now – at least this is why I think it was that high.

Anywho, I finally got around to calling them up to see what I could do about the high APR. After about 5 minutes of getting lost in their automated phone service, I finally get a real person. I asked if there was someone I could talk to about getting my APR lowered. She informed me that Providian does a periodic three month audit of your account and automatically offers you a higher limit or a lowered APR if it’s applicable. She also informed me that there was nothing on my account that indicated I had an offer for a lowered APR.

That’s all well and good. In fact I can vouch for this system because about four months ago my limit increased 1300 dollars without me calling and asking for it.

My issue was that I wanted it lowered now, I didn’t want to have to wait until they were nice enough to simply grant me a lowered APR. So, I asked her if I could talk to someone about getting it lowered. She put me on hold, talked to her supervisor (I assume), and then said that there was, in fact, an offer for a lowered APR on my account. She then transfered me to whatever department it is that handles that sort of thing.

I get transfered to a very vibrant lady who is nice enough to explain everything to me. She said I have 2 offers. One, I could take a fixed 11% APR. Two, I could take a three month fixed 1.5% APR teaser, then afterwards a fixed 11% APR. Seems like a no-brainer to me; I obviously took the latter.

However, that’s not quite the end of the story. I did learn something else from this phone call thanks to my very forthcoming contact on the other end of the phone. After I mentioned that the 11% was still above what I wanted to pay, she told me to simply call back after the three month teaser was over. She explained that there is a very good chance I could get it lowered more after that. In fact, she advises people to call their credit card company every 5-6 weeks to see if there are any offers for either a higher limit or a lower APR. Interesting, I learned something new.

So, my recomendation: Call your credit card companies and see what they can do for you, specifically, Providian. I can honestly say, despite the higher APR I had/will have three months from now, Providian is my favorite credit card. They gave me my highest limit on any of my cards and they have a free credit score that they give to you every month.

SXSWi – Tuesday – Day 5

I know, I know, everyone and their brother posted their SXSWi posts a week ago and I’m probably the only person who went who hasn’t finished posting, but eh. I mean, what else do I have to write about? 🙂

Behind the Scenes: Developing OS X and Longhorn
This was another instance where there wasn’t a whole lot of panels that interested me at this particular session. However, I say interested me, but I mean interested in terms of relating to my work. This panel certainly interested me, but more on a general nerd level. The panelists really illustrated the stark difference in design methodologies at Apple and Microsoft. Apple’s methodology was based on design first, develop later. Microsoft had the opposite methodology: develop first then design based on what your developers can accomplish. Being a nerd-conference, of sorts, there was an obvious audience bias towards Apple and I think that fact was visible in the facial expressions and general demeanor of the Microsoft panelist. Despite all that, I learned a lot about both companies. Interesting indeed.
Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps
This panel interested me simply because what I’ve been doing lately is web application development for our intranet at work. This panel was more of a discussion about current web apps, which was still better than What’s hot in web applications on Sunday. I really liked the visualizations that Eric Rodenbeck presented, however they kind of didn’t go with the flow of the other panelists. Cool nonetheless. A lot of the other discussion was about applications that I’ve heard of and know about like Flickr, LiveJournal, and Incidentally, Chicago Crime was designed by Wilson Miner who went with Jeff and I. Neat huh? All in all, I really enjoyed this panel.
Burnie Burns Keynote
Caught this keynote late as well. Burnie Burns, whose name I had to look up to figure out who he was exactly, puts on Red Vs. Blue. Once I heard that, I immediately knew who he was. I caught up on web stuff while listening, but did listen quite a bit. I did a bit of explaining to Jeff about who he was and what Red Vs. Blue was. Neat.
Dogma Free Design
This panel was… alright. There was much talk about how when designing a site, you can’t tell “if you got it” just by checking things off of a list provided by upper management – it just doesn’t work like that. I think this panel had a lot of good stuff to say, it just came off convoluted. People would just sort of chime in about whatever, really. It’s hard to give a quick summary of what I learned because, well, I’m not sure that I can really contextualize what I did learn, if anything, for that matter. C’est la vie. Perhaps I should have gone to Secret Sex Lives of Video Games, sounds more interesting.
Bruce Sterling Presentation: The State of the World
Everyone had talked about how Bruce Sterling always gave a great end-of-SXSWi-talk. Bruce pre-empted his esoteric tirade by saying that he was in a literary mood and not a very technical one, as of late. As such, he talked very abstactly about random things that, to me at least, made no sense whatsoever for him to be at SXSWi. I guess he had given great, relevant, talks in years past, but that was certainly not the case this year. Honestly he kept rambling on that I started to nod off. Maybe it’s because I was sort of tired and not really listening, but I really didn’t catch why he ended up reading poetry and crying at the end of the talk. Furthermore, I didn’t catch why everyone gave him a standing ovation at the end. Really, I just wanted dinner at that point. Meh.

So that was SXSWi, the next morning I caught a very early flight and headed back to Kansas. I want to apologize now to anyone who read all of these posts, I’m sure they were horrible, wrought with typographical errors and run-on sentences I’m sure. That’s the wonderment of the Intarweb, I don’t have to care. 🙂

SXSWi – Monday – Day 4

Sunday we had a good time after all the panels; we attended the Flickr/ party and then went on to the web awards after party. I’m just happy I found out there was a back bar on the other side of the bar. 🙂

This post has been 75% done for a few days, but I’ve been busy with stuff. My appologies.

On to the panels!

CSS Problem Solving
I went to this panel becuase I had hoped it would basically give me some new CSS techniques I could use. They had some very good designers on the panel, most notably Dave Shea and Ethan Marcotte. Dave talked about having an image at the end of a link, vertical centering, and certain margin issues. Ethan talked about absolute and float positioning. Another speaker, Charles Wyke-Smith – someone I hadn’t heard of until I came to the panel, gave examples of different page layouts that can be attained through absolute positioning, floats, and negative margins. IA lot of useful information for any budding designer for sure.
Standard Deviation: Hacks and Dirty Tricks for the Web
Here is another panel that I was disappointed at. I thought the panel had so much potential, especially with people like Aaron Boodman in on the discussion. However, as I say, the panel was not as I expected it to be. It’s hard for me to sit in a panel where people advocate goinng back to using tables for layout simply because it’s a little bit easier than using CSS. I understand their argument that if things are too complex or fragile then you may look for the easy way out. However, it just seems to me like people aren’t trying hard enough. If there is a valid way of doing something, then by all means do it that way. I guess everything comes down to a sliding scale of when to deviate from standards. A lot of what they used as examples for when they deviated from standards were in terms of Web 2.0 applications that weren’t your standard web pages. Take for example Google Talk in GMail using undocumented ActiveX components. However, I will say that they did end on a poignant note: Always know what standards you are breaking and why.
Craig Newmark Keynote Interview
We got back from lunch kind of late so we sat in on this one in the overflow room. Quite honestly, I didn’t pay all that much attention. I have never used craigslist and I don’t really see myself doing it. I casually listened to his talk, but mainly I just got caught up with internet stuff.
I took a nap. 🙂
Design Eye for the List Guy
The highlight panel of the day, really. This is the annual redesign panel and this year they tackled craigslist. Four of the five panelists made it to SXSW, apparently Andrei Herasimchuck (yes, I had to look up the spelling of the last name) was unable to make it physically, but was virtually there via iSight.
As for the topic of the actual panel, the redesign of craigslist. The common consensus was that craigslist was pretty good as it already is, it could just use a little tidding up. And, to that end, that’s just what they did; oh, and the listings page, too. I think their redesign, or realignment as I think they mentioned, was spot on. When displaying a lot of data like that on craigslist, you don’t want a very flashy kind of site, just something that is clean and easy to navigate.
One last note, Craig Newmark, the craig in craigslist, happened to be in the audience for this panel. During the Q & A he came up and sat with the panelists. To me, it seemed uncomfortable for Craig to be there – end of the first date kind of uncomfortable. He said he liked what they did, but that’s about it. He didn’t say much other than that. During his keynote speech and his short time with the panel, he mentioned that he wasn’t really in charge of craigslist nowadays. His CEO, I think it was his CEO, is really the one to talk to about these sort of things and that he would run it by him. Who knows. If I were a craigslist user, I’d be happy with the prospect of a redesign.

Again, sorry this was out so late!