One of the first games on got on my PC was SimCity. I got a copy from a friend and it was one of the few games my 486/25 could actually play – off the floppy. SimCity is a game that needs no introduction and we all know that it’s come a long way since it’s humble beginnings as a simple city management simulator. There was a “game” within SimCity, the goal being to just expand your city as much as possible, but SimCity did more than that. SimCity brought the enjoyment of order and aesthetics into our gaming lives. Continue reading
I usually let King Tom handle all the “24″ episode recaps, but I need to speak out about this week’s final finale. And while I’m not a regular “Lost” watcher, I did see the finale and have some thoughts…and a few questions. Continue reading
Working at a radio station poses some very interesting opportunities. I’ve already made my “debut” on-air as myself in an impromptu discussion about World of Warcraft, but this time I got jump into one of the best characters ever. Macho Man Randy Savage. Continue reading
This was Christmas #29 for me and I find it somewhat funny to think about Christmas presents over the years. Every year we get presents for Christmas, but how many presents to we actually remember getting and loving? Most of those are from our childhood, supposedly when presents were a big deal. But sometimes…just sometimes…you get a present that is a big deal even when you’re an adult.
The one Christmas present I remember getting that literally changed my life was my Nintendo. I got it when I was in fourth grade and it actually wasn’t much of a gift because I had to pay for half of it. I saved up $50, which was a feat when you’re 10, and dumped it all into that Christmas. Then without much surprise, the NES was under the tree Christmas morning. I still have that NES and it still works and still gets used. It has been a very well loved machine that I have to blame for my gaming addiction.
Outside of the Nintendo Christmas, presents seemingly blur between birthday and Christmas. I remember toys that I think I got for Christmas, but they might have come on my birthday. Hard to say. Another big present I remember getting was a slot car set. I wanted one so bad because a friend had a huge set. Well, I got it and it was loved for about a month, then it just sat there. Slot cars are really a team sport and being a solo kid I put more effort and care into my model train.
I remember getting a lot of GI Joe guys and toys every Christmas from relatives, along the lots of LEGO sets. All of this was great until Santa died and presents became less and less fun, at least those that came from the parents. But I admit, during my teens I was probably very hard to buy gifts for – or at least I made them think so.
By that point it was all about video games and not much else. And at that point in time the whole pop culture trinket market wasn’t quite as robust as it is today.
But sharing your Christmases with someone special changes everything. I’ve already stated how cool my wife is, and this Christmas she proved it yet again. Along with the requested video games, DVDs, and other Christmas list items, there was a small box of which I had no idea what was inside. Honestly, this Christmas I had forgotten most of what I had asked for. I figured I blew my wad on the Xbox on my birthday, which I accepted, so most of the Christmas gifts were legit surprises. I unwrapped the small box to findSpace GhostI was truly floored. It was a Space Ghost Christmas ornament. It wasn’t anything fancy or anything I could get much “use” out of, but it was something that was so personal and seemingly so rare that it just lit me up. Cartoons, and Space Ghost imparticular, have influenced my life just as much as video games. I owe a lot to Space Ghost, believe it or not. But Space Ghost got canceled years ago and alas there isn’t much out there for Space Ghost anymore. So to see something new with Space Ghost was just a treat.
It was the one gift I didn’t plan on getting. A true surprise. And those are always the best gifts to receive.
Chores suck. Nobody wants to do them but we all know they need to get done. From dishes to trash to scrubbing floors, it’s hard to get motivated to do things around the house. And if you’re like me, you’re not really motivated until it gets to a point of bad, and only then do you do something about it.
But a link tossed to me from Don the Idea Guy puts a new spin on common chores that may just be what I and others need to get motivated to do a little more work around the house. Enter Chore Wars, a simple on-line RPG engine that puts quests in your house instead of at the local renaissance festival.
Simply put, Chore Wars lets you create a party of friends (or you can go solo) and you create “quests” for things like mopping, dishwasher duty, laundry, etc. Then for each quest you complete you get experience points and some gold – just like any other generic RPG. And that’s pretty much it.
So what makes it so great? Not only does it turn housework into a game – which I believe any task (home or at work) is much better when presented as a game – but you can also play with friends, which may spark some friendly competition to see who can get the most items/gold/experience.
The only lacking part of Chore Wars is real motivation. I don’t blame Chore Wars for this, they’re just providing the tools, but otherwise it is just a game and doesn’t provide any tangible reward for playing. Sure, competition between husbands & wives may be enough for some, but after a while it will level out and no one will care – unless there is something to win.
To make things better, there have to be real world rewards based on in-game accomplishments. Just like back in elementary school, if you’re nice for the substitute you get a pizza party. It worked then, and that will work not. Well, maybe not the pizza party but you get the idea.
But as a married man even a real world prize offered by the wife is somewhat hard to use as motivation because I know whatever item is purchased all comes from the same pot. It’s not like I’m really gaining anything I couldn’t otherwise just buy anyway. Many husbands like myself might get excited at first about Chore Wars as a game, but it will wear out quickly. So here’s my solution…
To make it work well you need to play with friends and pool resources for rewards. As to not take a husband or wife side with this, lets say you have four households playing together. Everyone agrees to put some money (or items, like a gift card) into a winner’s pot. Chore Wars is setup with somewhat generic tasks that can apply to every household. Then the first player to achieve a preset level of experience and/or gold wins the pot.
If there are specific chores, I mean, quests that apply to individual households then those are handled separately and don’t qualify for the pot since others may not get similar chores. So say gold gained from quests is good for in-house rewards and experience is good for party prizes…or whatever. There are some other aspects that need figured out still, like confirmation of completed tasks and other checks-and-balances things, but that’s be pretty simple to plan out between friends.
Playing for real rewards that don’t just come from your own pocket will work, but everyone has to play along with the idea or it won’t work.
Chore Wars isn’t very complicated or feature-rich, but it has all the basics to setup a framework that has the potential to be a real motivator. I for one am willing to give it a try. I’m a sucker for games and the whole simple rewards system really works for me, but there needs to be a balance between work and reward. Because apparently a clean and tidy house life isn’t reward enough (and I’m just a guilty as the next guy – or girl).
Head over to Chore Wars and check it out. Word of warning, however. Your character can only belong to a single group, or party. So if you create an account and then create your own party, you’ll have to create a new character to join someone else’s group. I have setup a Morning Toast party that you are welcome to join. [Updated link] Jen and I will be using it for our household and everyone else is more than welcome to try it. Or you can create your own for your house.
Do you have one of those new fancy “smart” phones? Something like an iPhone or Black Berry? If so, then you’re in luck because you can now get the Morning Toast to go – Bonus!
Technically, you’ve always been able to get the site on a mobile browser but it just got all squished up. I didn’t have any mobile-specific stylesheets setup so if you tried to visit the site it was pretty much unreadable. Well, with my new upgrade to the latest WordPress, I also added a handy mobile site plug-in.
I found the MobilePress plug-in that creates a mobile-friendly version of the site with zero effort. OK, maybe not zero effort, I did have to create a database table manually, but after that it worked wonderfully. I go to the site with my normal desktop browser and it looks normal. Hit it on my Black Berry and it looks…well…mobile.
And one nice thing I have yet to exploit with MobilePress is the ability to create themes just for MobilePress without effecting the normal site theme. But right now I’m happy with the default theme.
So boot up that smart phone (do you boot up phones?) and hit the Toast and tell me what you think! No special web address needed, just hit the web address like normal.
And actually, if I can get nostalgic a moment, I must boast that my previous web site (MoogMan.com) was also phone-ready, way before any phone was considered smart. I had programmed a WAP page that gave you two options: get the weather, or check the daily quote. Pointless but it worked.
I do my best to organize my work, my at-work work and my home work. One of the things I really enjoy is figuring out how to help people get organized with their work. Finding that sweet spot that lets them have ready access to whatever they need while keeping them confident about their work. That’s why I enjoyed creating software for so long. I’ve made dozens of programs that essentially organize information for people, (hopefully) making their job a little easier. But sometimes it’s the simplest methods that make organizing work best.
While doing some reading around on grid-based design, I came across a blog post that summed up such a simple method of organizing files on your computer desktop that I just sat there smacking my forehead. Once again, I missed a simple solution because I overcomplicated things. I’ve downloaded programs, made my own, looked for widgets…all that in an effort to keep me on track with computer work. But this time the solution is just wallpaper.
This being the wallpaper you add to your desktop. The same wallpaper that is right now quite possibly a picture of your family, your pet, or that pretty little scene of a grass-covered hill that comes with Windows. The problem is I love to use that wallpaper as a form of expression – mine at work prior to today was of Bender – it was particularly useful but looked good when my computer was locked.
I honestly never thought about using the wallpaper as the organizing tool. I think most people will naturally organize their icons around their desktop, often using whatever picture is on the desktop to create regions of the desktop. This wallpaper gives you columns in which to place your icons, and each column is labeled. Simple. Effective.
I took the base wallpaper and edited the labels in Photoshop, which can also easily be done with good old Paint, but it’s easily done by just about anyone and gives you a quick, easy, and always-present organization tool. One problem many org tools have is that you have to load/launch/access them when you want them. In order to achieve effective organization, your tools have to fit in naturally with how you work. Your computer desktop is always there without any effort.
Thanks to Sarah France to creating the base wallpaper for this method. Just try it out and see how it works for you. Maybe not at home, but at work at least.
It’s not usually a good sign when you blog about blogging, but in this case it’s not really about getting down on my writing or complaining about how I don’t blog anymore. This time it’s about the technical side of blogging, which then leads to the writing side.
I had to do a fresh install of WordPress at work for a project and after going through the normal (and easy) installation found that the WordPress interface had changed entirely. I was blown away. I know the version of WordPress that runs the Toast is several years old (although not for long), but it has worked perfectly without problems, so naturally I never had a reason to upgrade. I don’t really pay attention to WordPress news either, so this change completely out the blue…and for the better!
I installed the Tiger front end for WordPress some time ago to give me better looking control over the (then) crazy ugly interface that WordPress used to have. But the interface included with this upgrade (2.7) is heads and tails over the Tiger overlay. No knock to the maker of Tiger, it is pretty awesome. So my next little project is updating my WordPress 2.0 to 2.7, which I’ve never tried before and I typically don’t do upgrades. I’ve said before, ending is better than mending, and for computer programs it usually goes the same way.
But the discovery of the new WordPress was completely secondary. My purpose of the fresh install of WP in the first place was to play with a concept I want to try for my blog at large – themes per entry. Otherwise, having the design of the site change per article. It’s something I spotted over at Jason Santa Maria’s blog and I really liked how it looked and presented his articles. As you all know my articles here are pretty long winded, so all that text can lend themselves to great designs. Since I don’t typically do one-off posts here, this lets me play with designs more often within a theme, something I like to do, plus it keeps the challenge going. However, if I do things properly, not every article will need a fancy design…ideally it should be a very flexible template that lets me style on-demand without having to change the site entirely like I’ve had to do in the past.
I don’t want to copy the JSM site by any means, but it has inspired me to try and get more creative with how I present my articles. Plus it’s a nice little WordPress programming challenge. Two birds one, one stone, and it might to something for the writing too. I think the type of presentation JSM has accomplished is something newspapers and magazines should really look hard to trying. With paper dying slowly and looking for ways to capitalize on this “new fad” the internet, this is the way to do it. It preserves the design of print but keeps publishing simple for editors. Just saying…it’ll work…
Oh, so if you hit the Toast one day and it looks a) all messed up, or b) doesn’t load at all – it’s probably because I F’ed something up with the upgrade. Live and learn.
Our first radio show back on the air wasn’t too bad. A lot of friends showed up to listen and chat and even though we were late to the dance thanks to some technical fooling, all went pretty well.
The new Ustream service we picked up worked pretty well. The built-in chat was a little to be desired, but it did work and let us talk with listeners. The lag between us and Ustream was very short, so when we asked a question on-air, people could answer in chat and we’d still be on the same conversation.
I know our show is one about “nothing” and we kind of pride ourselves on the rambling, this first trip back made me realize how tough it is to keep a show conherent and structured. I work for a radio station and am involved with a talk show everyday. They make it sound so easy and they’re just talking about sports (most of the time).
Before the show we had a list of stuff we wanted to talk about but I think we only hit two of the topics. Our gift of gab took the lead and we found ourselves talking about more about ourselves than about our opinions on things. Oh well, first show jitters I guess.
I still need to find or create some decent intro music for the show. The show started and ended not so well…at least not as well as I would want. It’s hard though considering there is not preceeding us or following us. We’re just an isolated 2-hours.
I also need to figure out the right way to use Twitter and the chat room during a show. I had trouble determining when to Twitter something and when to drop it in the chat…or when to do both. Obviously the people in chat are already listening (we assume), and Twittering may drag in people that aren’t, or at least that’s the thought.
I’m sure I’m hard on myself for us only being one show in, but getting this all out will help me figure out what I need to work on for the next show. If you were listening to the show, please drop a comment and let us know. I also setup a board in the forum for talks too. If you’re a member, you can drop your ideas and links for future show.
And please, if you come across any good stories while bouncing around on-line, please tweet us, mail us, or post in the forum. We want to talk about what you guys are interested in, so let us know!
My intern’s last day of work was this past week. While it seemed to have been very short, he was here for nearly three months. The experience overall was a good one. However, I don’t think I’m ready to be a supervisor. Sure, it’s “fun” to be able to tell people what to do, but it does take away from what I’m doing and right now I still like “doing” rather than “telling.”
I also discovered that I’m not a good teacher. There’s a reason the Wife teaches and a reason I sit at a computer all day. However, I also think that people going through internships should know that the people they are working for are not teacher or professors. Everyone is doing their job for a reason and unless you’re interning with a teacher, don’t expect too much one-on-one time. It’s just not practical. I felt kind of bad not being able to teach him all that he wanted to learn and all that I know he needed, but that’s the way it goes.
He has quite a head up on some people I’ve met. My intern’s design skills were really good. He “got it,” which is far more important than being able to technical do things. Anyone can learn how to use Photoshop and other software, but I don’t believe you can teach good design or art. Of course, in my world, there’s no time for “art,” it’s all about making sure colors are correct, logos are where they need to be, and that the design communicates well. I was fortunate I could give him a task and could trust that by the end of the day he’d have it done and done well. Unfortunately, my method of teaching is “here’s your task, you have the tools, figure it out.” Trial-and-error is how I learned, so that’s the only way I know how to do it.
But perhaps the best part of having an intern was learning from him. I’ve spent most of my career as a one-man design team, and that leads to a lot of similar designs and results. You get comfortable with what you do and don’t work too hard to really push yourself. Afterall, if “just enough” keeps people happy, why waste your effort? But intern’s take on designs really opened up my thoughts to how to design and what can be done. If anything, that’s the benefit of the “just do it” method of teaching. I gave him minimal constraints and let him run free and the results were great.
I’m almost emabarrased to say that I now know how to use Photoshop brushes thanks to the intern. Since I was never formally taught Photoshop, I figured out how to do things on my own and just kept doing them without exploring what Photoshop really has to offer. The intern came in and when we were working over a design said, “why don’t you just use a brush?” And I was like, “huh?” I’m sure at the point the intern thought to himself, “and this guy is going to teach me?”
Brushes are a pretty simple feature in Photoshop that makes adding pre-made designs (think clip-art stamps) very easily. It’s something I never learned about so to get the same effect I usually relied on wingding fonts and editing found images. Honestly, learning about brushes entirely changed how I come up with and create site designs. There are tons of brushes out there that give you quick designs and all you need to do is drop them in the right spot. But this trick also showed me that all the cool sites and designs I’ve seen where I thought the person must have mad design skills could very well be faked. When used properly, brushes can make your design look twice as professional and twice as expensive.
I’m not sure if I’d take another intern, but I told people I would, so we’ll see if anyone knocks on the door. All I know is that I don’t have the time or skill to teach any skills. Any future interns will have to come with some knowledge and otherwise just need real-world projects to hone their skills. If they all come like this recent intern then I’ll be completely happy. And it should be known that my intern’s work actually got used. It wasn’t throw away work and wasn’t all shit work.
If you’re in a spot like mine where you aren’t really interested in being a “manager” but have the chance to take on a intern, do so. Keep in mind that no matter what your intern knows or doesn’t know, you’re the expert. They are there to watch and study YOU. Even if they’re older, younger, or come pre-loaded with great work and skills, you’re the Yoda, they’re the Luke. Simple as that.