Archives » July, 2005

July 29, 2005

Bighouse Choppers

Here’s a concept that’s sure to keep a lot of stereotypes alive and well. For example, don’t we all know that most bikers and Hell’s Angels have been in prison at some point? (What? You didn’t know that? Must not be watching enough TV.) And, most TV mechanics on Monster Garage, Overhaulin’ and Pimp My Ride look like they’d fit right in behind bars. So why not marry the concepts together, and make a TV show about mechanics that actually are behind bars?

That’s exactly what they’re doing at the Southern Desert Correctional Center outside of Las Vegas. The prison auto restoration shop is in talks to be the focus of a new show called “Bighouse Choppers” on Court TV. Each episode will show the inmates creating a custom car or motorcycle. They’ve already done a pilot apparently, and the result is a motorcycle called “The Shank”. The rear fender struts are actually made out of cell bars!

Howard Skolnik, head of Nevada’s Prison Industries, hopes this show will counterbalance the negative way prison is portrayed on TV, in shows like OZ. But, if you’re showing the prison as a great place to work, doesn’t that hamper its effectiveness as a deterrent to crime? Won’t out-of-work gearheads be trying to break in to prison, so they can have steady jobs and be on TV?

Plus, of course, the show will bring in lots and lots of money for the prison, some of which they may even share with the inmates. I think we may have hit on the real motivation here…

The Missing Memorials

Who is removing the roadside memorials in Douglas County? That’s the question I ask, and partially answer, in The Missing Memorials at Around Carson. See this article for the beginning of the mystery, then read mine for a lament on how I need to be a better citizen journalist.

July 28, 2005

Vista Beta 1

Microsoft seems to be looking to extend some of the hype they got last week when they announced the “Vista” name for the next version of Windows (even though Dvorak doesn’t think there’s been much buzz. But the Vista announcement at least got people talking about Longhorn again). The first beta of Vista, which was supposed to be released on August 3rd, has been put out a week early and is available to a limited number of beta testers now. There are a few good in-depth looks at the beta at eWeek and PC Magazine.

And plus I’m totally not going to download a cracked copy so I can try it out for myself. Totally not.

July 22, 2005

A New Vista

I remember the puzzled looks and scratched heads when Microsoft first announced that their long-time “Whistler” product had been given the official name of Windows XP. Nobody could quite figure out what it meant or why they picked it. Or why they stopped using numbers and years for Windows versions. But there we were, with a puzzling name for the latest and greatest Microsoft had to offer, and we adapted. We got used to calling it XP, and now it’s like the name has been with us all along. “Whistler” is all but forgotten.

Today Microsoft shook thing up again by giving an official name to its new “Longhorn” version of Windows. As of right now, we have to ditch the code name and start calling it Windows Vista. Yes, Vista. Yes, it’s silly. Yes, it sounds like a marketing fluff name with absolutely no meaning. And yes, we better get used to it because it’s going to be around for a while.

Chris Pirillo has a list of alternative names they could have used. And there’s a whole debate on the name over at Channel 9. Plus 129,998 other links from Google.

July 21, 2005

I Feel So Dirty

Officially, it’s so I can learn how well Macs integrate into a Windows network, and study the viability of perhaps getting some Apples for our employees that are more Mac-inclined. Unofficially it’s just because I’ve never owned a Mac before and I want to play with one. But whatever the reason, when you can justify putting a Mac Mini on the company credit card, you jump at that opportunity.

A Mac Mini package

The one thing I’m not too thrilled about is that, even though Mac OS 10.4 Tiger has been out for a couple of months now, the Mini still comes with OS 10.3 Jaguar installed. What they did instead is slip a Tiger upgrade disc into the box, so at least I don’t have to shell out the $129 right away for the upgrade. But still, this means that my first 45 minutes of experience with the Mac is spent doing an upgrade. Since they claim to be so proud of their out-of-the-box experience, why wouldn’t they start shipping them with Tiger installed? Maybe it’s because I ordered from Amazon, and they’re still depleting their Jaguar stock? I don’t know.

A Mac Mini being held in my hand.

Anyway, any kind of review is going to have to wait because it’s all so overwhelming all at once. This is my first experience with OS X, and I’m going to have to take it slowly. But one thing I can say is that my websites, both this one and AroundCarson, look exactly perfect in Safari. So that’s kind of relief to me, since I’ve never tested them on a Mac, and a kudos to the power of standards, that we can finally build complicated sites that work equally well in all browsers.

But now, my indoctrination into the world of Apple must continue.

July 20, 2005


July 19, 2005

The Waterfall Fire: One Year Later

One year ago, the Waterfall Fire swept through Carson City and the hills outside of town. It was one of the biggest wildfires Carson’s ever seen, and one of the most devastating, with a total of 18 houses lost.

Soon after the fire, I drove up Kings Canyon and took pictures of the aftermath. Burnt trees, melted cars, whole hillsides blackened. There were some pretty devastated areas, but there were also remarkable saves where the firefighters managed to protect a house while everything around it was turned to ash.

Last week I went back up Kings Canyon and rephotographed many of those pictures. I wanted to see what kind of progress there has been in the devastated areas, how good of a job man and nature have done at springing back and reclaiming their land. And the results are pretty amazing. For one, all the blackened bushes and hillsides are gone, replaced with new grass and weeds. Fire is one of the best ways to rejuvenate an area and get things growing again. Of course, all the new grasses have already died and are quickly drying out, so the fire danger in the canyon is probably just as high as it was last summer. Think that once you have a wildfire you can’t have another one for a couple of years? Think again.

It’s also good to see that many of the houses are being rebuilt. Most of them are just in the early stages, still laying the foundations. And I think that’s because a lot of people have been fighting for the last year with insurance policies that aren’t paying out enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. Then on top of that there’s all the work of clearing the lot, hauling away debris, and removing the burnt trees (there are a lot fewer trees up there now, since most all the dead ones have already been removed). Plus there’s the emotional toll this took on a lot of people. Some folks took six months, or even longer, just to make up their minds if they wanted to rebuild or not. A few decided not to, but most of them are rebuilding. The Nevada Appeal revisited most of the families for the anniversary, and I linked to the stories in this post.

So I took the pictures from last year, and the pictures from this year, and I’ve put them together into a photo gallery that I call The Waterfall Fire: One Year Later. There are two pages to it, and it’s online now over at AroundCarson.

July 16, 2005

The Future is Not Yet Here

Somewhere inside of me, there is a little CSS purist writhing and screaming in pain. For you see, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been working on the layout over at I settled on a really basic three-column layout, but souped it up a little behind the scenes so I could turn each sidebar on or off with a simple boolean variable on each page. I can change it to 2-column, or even 1-column, just by changing True to False in my code.

Anyway, I ran into the same problem that so many have when you’re putting together a 3-column layout in pure CSS: the page footer is usually glued to the bottom of the middle column, since the sidebars are both absolutely positioned. And that works fine for most pages, but what happens when the sidebars are longer than the center column? The footer ends up in the middle of the page, with the sidebars extending beneath it. We’ve all had it happen to us; it happens on this very weblog. Just look at one of the archive calendars.

There have been dozens of ideas on how to fix this problem, and they’re all very ugly, because they involve JavaScript or floats, and they all seem to negate the simplicity that you get from working with CSS. And so as much as it causes me pain to do it, I decided to go with a simple 3-column table for the site. This is the so-called “Transitional Layout”, or “Hybrid Layout” that everyone wishes we could avoid, but that everyone has to deal with sooner or later. And there’s nothing wrong with it, as Eric Meyer says in this interview. The real danger is when you get into heavily nested tables, and you’re using tables and spacer gifs to do things like margins. That’s when you’re headed down the wrong path. But if you need one table with three columns just so everything sticks together and the footer stays at the bottom of the page, well then you go right ahead and do it. And that’s what I’ve done.

And I’m definitely feeling the advantages of the modular approach too. My entire layout is done with include files, so to change from the not-so-great CSS layout to the tabled layout, I had to change about five files. The change took place on every page on the site. Includes rock.

July 14, 2005

Richard H. Bryan State Office Building

The new Richard H. Bryan State Office Building, which has been under construction for over a year now, had its dedication and official opening today. This new office building is five stories tall and 130,000 square feet. It is located on Stewart Street in Carson City, just north of the NDOT building. I’m kicking off the new AroundCarson Buildings Database with the Bryan Building, so head over there and look at the entry. It’s pretty basic for now, but it does include construction photos from the past fifteen months.

This AroundCarson Buildings Database is something new I’m working on for my site, AroundCarson. I knew when I started this site that I wanted to have a lot of information about Carson City and its historic buildings, but at first I was thinking just static HTML pages. But as I began to work on the Bryan Building to get it ready in time for the dedication, I thought that static HTML wouldn’t be enough. Why not build a database of all the historic, important, and otherwise interesting buildings in Carson City, Minden, Gardnerville, Virginia City, and so on? With a database I could reuse a lot of code, and all the buildings are going to have the same basic information anyway. Name of the building, date built, address, at least one photo. And with a database, I’d be able to sort and display them in many different ways.

So I built one script that pulls building information out of a MySQL database and displays it. I use mod_rewrite to make the ugly URLs look a little better and get rid of the query strings. Also, I made the URLs look like they really belong in my site’s heirarchy. I have a /carsoncity/ folder on my site, and inside of that I’m going to have a lot of static HTML pages about imporant things in Carson City. I also will have carsonvalley and virginiacity folders, and I want each of the building descriptions to look like they’re inside of the folder for the town they’re located in. But I don’t want to duplicate my scripts. So I used mod_rewrite to change a URL like this: into one like this: That way, the location directory is still there in the URL, but there only needs to be one script to run the whole database.

Right now there’s just one building, but adding more is as simple as inserting rows into MySQL. Well, not that simple. I have to gather pictures and write copy too. But from a technical side, adding more buildings is simple. Now hopefully I can actually sit down and do it, so the Bryan Building won’t be so lonely in there!

July 10, 2005

Windows Search Doesn’t Look Inside PHP Files

Recently I was trying to search through a group of files for a particular word. And in most cases, Windows Search works fine for this. There’s a box to type in the text you’re looking for, and Windows scans the text of each file to find your word. But this time it wasn’t working. And the catch is that I was scanning a bunch of PHP files for a particular piece of code. And even though I knew that code existed in these files, the Search Assistant was saying “There were no results to display”.

So Windows is pissing me off again. What else is new? This time it was refusing to search inside PHP files, even when I told it to. After some searching around, I found the solution. It’s outlined in this Knowledge Base article, under Method 2.

  1. Click Start, and then click Search (or point to Search, and then click For Files or Folders).
  2. Click Change preferences, and then click With Indexing Service (for faster local searches).
  3. Click Change Indexing Service Settings (Advanced). Note that you do not have to turn on the Index service.
  4. On the toolbar, click Show/Hide Console Tree.
  5. In the left pane, right-click Indexing Service on Local Machine, and then click Properties.
  6. On the Generation tab, click to select the Index files with unknown extensions check box, and then click OK.
  7. Close the Indexing Service console.

And it works, and now I can search through PHP files for a particular piece of code. I don’t know why this is turned off in Windows XP…maybe to make searches faster? Personally I’d rather add five seconds to the search time and find the results I’m looking for, but I’m just kooky that way.