Friday, July 27, 2007

Americans, Canadians and Greatness

I'm just watching the YouTube/CNN Democratic debates here and, with a certain sense of awe, must give great credit to the power and influence of the United States. I think when you draw from an idealised well of hope and faith, as many Americans can (and probably should) do, combined with the reality of their lofty International position, you get a taste of what true greatness really is. I'm not saying that the Democratic candidates are JFKs or even LBPs, but wow, there is so much potential left in this country.

This leads me back to thoughts of another great country, my country: Canada. I know in my heart it's a great country (even if I don't want to live there at this point in my life), but when I watch a political debate or, God forbid, a session of Question Period at the House, it's actually embarrasing. Do we not have great potential? For what we are - a vast land of resources and big-hearted libertarian people - why aren't we, too, drawing from the same idealised well of hope and faith that will lead us forward to greatness?

Big ideas come from big minds and become real when the people see themselves as big and, more importantly, worthy. I feel that Canadians just don't know how big we really are. And to us I say, "it's okay to feel important; the responsibility that comes with it is worth it."

Maybe big minds can't fit hope back into their vocabulary. And maybe the big people are just too damn cynical these days.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What/Where/How are you doing?

In response to an email from a long-distance friend, here is my response to his questions.

Nope, not working at Apple. I did, however, wait in line for 19 hours for an iPhone. You know what that is of course. (right???) It would seem that all mobile devices attach a little signature to the end of any emails sent from it. Emails from a blackberry say "Sent from my blackberry." Mine says, "Sent from my iPhone." It's just automatic. I believe it's a disclaimer to the effect of "the above message may contain even more errors and typos than usual because I'm typing on an impossibly tiny keyboard not really designed for adult fingers but integrated into a small and sleek device so cool that it's worth suffering the above noted typos, so deal with it."

What am I doing?
Starting on a new project - Stylastic. In fact go there now: www.stylastic.com and register for news and beta testing. I'm helping with the prototype right now actually. I've been watching a lot of Nip/Tuck as well.

At this very minute I'm typing on my laptop.

Where am I doing?
I'm doing most things in my office/studio (studio always sounded so much cooler) called The Bunker. I shall have to share photos with you at some point. Not nearly as cool as yours from the sounds of it. Otherwise I can be found doing things at our impossibly small apartment. Its the size of the Lope de Vega place's living room and kitchen. That's it. So I do most of my things on the bed, which is the only place to sit/lay down besides the loveseat which is old and crappy and uncomfortable.

How am I doing?
I do most things by way of my computer which is a Macbook Pro that I bought in October of last year that, while seemingly breaking down every month or so, is my baby and I love her. She has no name, unlike Frank the Toshiba, but she wears a cool black plastic covering that makes her look like the Darth Vader of Macs. Frank sits on my desk, usually closed, until I have a new website for which I must see just how badly Internet Explorer has mangled my beautiful code. As you might imagine this confers bad feelings towards Frank, further reinforced by his wie-ein-faultier CPU speed.

In the conventional sense of the phrase, "how am I doing?" - I'm doing fine thank you. How are you?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Next stop: God

I just finished watching this video where Will Wright presents his latest game, Spore. I'd heard a bit about the game over the last six months or so, but I didn't realize how big it would be. This game is about bringing all the science of science fiction and reality into a big big simulation. From what I gather it's totally multiplayer as well, which, when you think about it, will make for some amazing interaction between players.

The even bigger picture is that Will Wright and Spore will help our civilization to understand our perspective in the galaxy and universe a bit better. I hope everyone can get a chance to paly this game.

Next step: God. :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Immigrants

Here's a copy of an email I forwarded around earlier this year in response to a forward I received.

Hi All,

This might come as unexpected. Indeed, the following email/letter from this American school teacher DID make my blood boil, but for none of the reasons he/she's so carefully selected nor intended. As an illegal expat (the difference between expat and immigrant is rather negligible except for the connotation to the ethnocentrics among us), I don't want to go on about why these illegal immigrants are actually beneficial (which indeed is debatable), but I do want to encourage the critical thinking that we must all impose on ourselves when we're faced with such a jaded tirade of short-sightedness.

The letter:

THE COST OF TOMATOES & MAIDS & GARDENERS

From an American school teacher - - - "As you listen to the news about the student protests over illegal immigration there are some things that you should be aware of:

I am in charge of the English-as-a-second-language department at a large southern California high school which is designated a Title 1 school, meaning that its students average lower socio-economicand income levels.

Most of the schools you are hearing about-South Gate High, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, etc.- where these students are protesting, are also Title 1

schools.

One hundred percent of the students in this school and other Title 1 schools

are on the free breakfast and free lunch program. When I say free breakfast I'm not talking a glass of milk and roll -- but a full breakfast and cereal bar with fruits and juices that would make a Marriott proud.

The waste of this food is monumental, with trays and trays of it being dumped in the trash uneaten.(OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I estimate that well over 50% of these students are obese or at least moderately overweight. About 75% or more DO have cell phones.

The school also provides day care centers for the unwed teenage pregnant girls (some as young as 13) so they can attend class without the inconvenience of having to arrange for babysitters or having family watch their kids. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I was ordered to spend $700,000 on my department or risk losing funding for the upcoming year even though there was little need for anything; my budget was already substantial. I ended up buying new computers for the computer learning center; half of which, one month later, have been carved with graffiti by the appreciative students who obviously feel humbled and grateful to have a free education in

America. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)

I have had to intervene several times for young and substitute teachers whose classes consist of many illegal immigrant students here in the country

less then 3 months who raised so much hell with the female teachers, calling

them "Putas"(whores) and throwing things that the teachers were in tears.

Free medical, free education, free food, day care etc., etc., etc. Is it any wonder they feel entitled to not only be in this country but to demand rights, privileges and entitlements?

To my bleeding-heart friends who want to point out how much these illegal immigrants contribute to our society because they LIKE their gardener and housekeeper and they like to pay less for tomatoes: spend some time in the real world of illegal immigration and see the TRUE costs.

Higher insurance, Medical facilities closing, higher medical costs, more crime, lower standards of education in our schools, overcrowding, new diseases etc., etc., etc. As for me, I'd be glad to pay more for my tomatoes.

We need to wake up. The guest worker program will be a disaster because we won't have the guts to enforce it.

Does anyone in their right mind really think they will voluntarily leave and

return?

There are many hardworking Hispanic/American citizens that contribute to our

country and many that I consider my true friends. We should encourage and

accept those Hispanics who have done it the right and legal way.

It does, however, have everything to do with culture: A third- world culture

that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15 and that refuses to assimilate, and an American

culture that has become so weak and worried about "politically correct" that

we don't have the will to do anything about it.

If this makes your blood boil, as it did mine, forward this to everyone you know."

My response:

First of all the author mentions some of these Title 1 schools that have been protesting recently. What are they protesting? An easy Google search for South Gate High School (mentioned by the author as a Title 1 school) reveals that these schools are suffering from mass overcrowding (http://www.the-spark.net/np764206.html ). Overcrowding doesn't make for a very ideal nor peaceful school environment. Yet despite that, these students have chosen a peaceful "sit-in" protest to make their voices heard and issues known. According to that article, $15 billion has been spent trying to alleviate overcrowding and upgrade the school systems in that area. How can $15 billion be spent and not alleviate the problem? Where's the money gone? I have no idea -- perhaps to these health-oriented, nutritious breakfasts and lunches (kudos to the system for not encouraging obesity) and perhaps to unappreciated IT equipment as the author points out. But apparently the overcrowding remains.

Furthermore, these schools manage to produce results -- despite the overcrowding. Newsweek recently cited one of the other schools noted by the author, Bell Gardens High School, for achieving a rank of number 915 of the top 1000 high schools in America

(http://www.bhs.montebello.k12.ca.us/newsweek_may_9.htm ). How many public high schools are there in America? I'm curious. According to http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7761678/site/newsweek/ there are 27,468. That means that a Title 1 school full of protesting and illegal immigrants manages to be in the top 3% of all high schools in America! Well, at least according to Newsweek, if we can trust them...

So we have massive capital investments squandered by, um, I don't know, but I'm guessing (and inferred by the author of the piece on overcrowding school protests) contractors and government officials (most of whom are clearly tax-paying middle to upper class Americans). We have illegal immigrants staging peaceful protests (a chartered right) in reaction to overcrowding. We have Title 1 schools feeding their/our kids healthy meals and saving parents from worrying about their children either starving or growing massive wastelines (obviously not the school's fault if the author's estimated 50% of students DO have an obesity problem).

These schools are providing day cares for students who make the same mistakes all of us might make, but they still want to be in school. That sounds like a good thing to me. Perhaps it's just TV/Hollywood's influence, but I get the impression that white American daughters get a lot less support from their parents when they end up pregnant; Hispanic women appreciate the family more of course -- it's in their culture (which, thank God they haven't entirely lost yet). White girls are out there getting a lot of abortions these days. In fact, according to

http://www.abortionfacts.com/statistics/us_stats_race.asp there are around 50% more white girls getting abortions than all other races combined in the USA (30% of Americans are non-white:

http://www.cdc.gov/OMH/Populations/populations.htm ). And maybe it's just me, but the author of the article SOUNDS like he/she'd be a Republican Pro-Lifer, doesn't he? By the way, all of those Hispanic children born to illegal parents are now legal Americans. They'll be paying taxes to help pay for Bush's new plan to avoid having the baby-boomers cripple the American economy and health care system.

Regarding the graffiti and vandalizing of his school's new computers that he bought (with the extra $700,000 that fell into his lap), do you think white, middle-income kids DON'T graffiti their school's computers? I went to some decent schools in my life and no matter what the school bought for us, within a few months there was some sort of graffiti scratched or inked into it, whether that's "Marsh + Tommy 4ever" or "Megadeath RULEZ". I'd guess a lot of the graffiti in these Title 1 schools are more like "Bush + Exxon 4ever" (after all, these kids are evidently in the top 3% of American schools: they're smart). Anyway, please ignore the last few sentences and they're pure speculation (but you knew that, right?).

Calling teachers names like "puta" is, indeed, a terrible thing. Perhaps the kids don't appreciate their educators nor all that they've been given by generous tax-paying Americans. Does anyone remember being in school though? Remember all the tough kids? The bullies and problem children? Take a read over at

http://www.partnershipforlearning.org/article.asp?ArticleID=2117 . Psychologists and school counselors will note that problematic behaviour in kids is often a result of change or transition, and particularly poverty. Kids AND teenagers have a tough time with moving or changing schools, let alone changing countries and languages! Give them a break. It's not the kids' fault their parents moved to the US, illegally or not. Their lack of initial gratitude should be overlooked; let's try to see the long-term benefits of their youthful integration into US society as immigrants. The entire country is a land of immigrants after all.

From

http://ceris.metropolis.net/Virtual%20Library/health/ocep_beiser1.htm : "...we hypothesize that immigrant families are more likely to move out of poverty, mainly through employment and increases in market earning, than are receiving society families. We also hypothesize that immigrant children will experience greater improvement in developmental behaviours once their families move out of poverty." So the problem seems very much related to poverty. Illegal immigrants are coming from poverty in search of prosperity. According to the above noted research conclusion, as these immigrants' families transition into society and move out of poverty (through employment, illegal or not), their children experience improvement in developmental behaviours such as those outlined by the letter's author. Sounds like we have a plan: help illegal immigrants become legal and thereby increase their opportunities for economic success for their families. And consider this: if you were living in poverty such as the many illegal immigrants were back home, wouldn't you move on to provide for better opportunities for your family? Illegal immigration is the only way for many. I'd venture to suggest that these families that make it into the US illegally are the toughest and smartest too, potentially benefiting American society (evolutionarily speaking of course).

"Higher insurance, Medical facilities closing, higher medical costs, more crime, lower standards of education in our schools, overcrowding, new diseases etc., etc., etc. As for me, I'd be glad to pay more for my tomatoes." Where does all of this come from? Since when are medical facilities closing? Indeed, medical costs are (apparently) rising, but it's certainly not the fault of illegal immigrants: they don't even get to utilize the same medical resources the rest of you do. "More crime" is a generalized statement that may or may not be true; maybe it is for the author in his barrio, but he hasn't mentioned anything about it -- peaceful protests are NOT a crime. "Lower standards of education" are, evidently, not the case here. "Overcrowding" seems to be more of a direct result of squandered state investment -- how many schools could $15 billion build? "New diseases"... um, sure. That's what they said in the 80's about AIDS being the gay disease. And finally, you'll indeed be paying more for your produce very soon, but that's because of the cold snap that hit California recently. The only ones you might blame for that would be the polluters causing Global Warming problems. Maybe the increased produce costs will get Americans thinking about it -- thousands of low-income, non-white American deaths in Katrina certainly didn't.

What really gets my blood boiling is the author's last statement. It's so ignorant to Cause and Effect it floors me. "A third- world culture that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15 and that refuses to assimilate, and an American culture that has become so weak and worried about "politically correct" that we don't have the will to do anything about it." Ethnocentric comes to mind. So does close-minded. That third world is third world (not even third world really: there are many and much worse places) for a lot of reasons and OBVIOUSLY it has nothing to do with American foreign policy over the last 200 years. I guess Hispanics don't care about education because they don't have their kids in school... oh wait, yes, they do put their kids in school. The author's. As for assimilation, thank God they don't assimilate to become fear-mongering, ethnocentric, baby-killing, "politically correct" white Americans. Otherwise the author would have nothing to bitch about except how Americans are too short-sighted, too polite, complain too much and pay too much for produce, gardening and maid services!

Note that any arguments the letter's author has made that weren't controverted above were just too ignorant to respond to. I'd credit my reader enough to see through these inadequate, inaccurate blanket statements. Kudos to Title 1 schools who seem to be doing an excellent job coping with a very difficult situation. Thank you to Bob for bringing the the author's trite rant to my attention as a concerned, possibly soon-to-be legalized resident of the USA.

"If this makes your blood boil, as it did mine, forward this to everyone you know."

Best regards,

Tyler

Thursday, July 12, 2007

ExpressionEngine Mailing list Signup - AJAX

A big part of any new social media site is the refined Web 2.0-y interface features enabled by AJAX technologies. As an ExpressionEngine guy I've been struggling to see how I can make EE functions work with AJAX. Well yesterday I finally hit some pay dirt.

Implementing an AJAX mailing list sign up for ExpressionEngine is, as it turns out, pretty simple, but you gotta hack a few things (at least with the solution I found). Here's what I did.

Using the default mailing list signup form with some added divs we get:

<h2>Join our default mailing list!</h2>
<div id="mailinglist">
{exp:mailinglist:form list="default"}

<p>Join our Mailing List</p>

<p><input type="text" name="email" value="{email}" /></p>

<p><input type="submit" value="submit" /></p>

{/exp:mailinglist:form}
</div>


Then we
1. run that through a template
2. copy and paste out the actual form code
3. throw in the XID global variable
4. grab an AJAX loader gif and upload that to your server, then put a bit of id'd code in for that in the div
5. paste in the submit button and replace the id names... I'll explain more in a second
6. add the following to your HEAD and, of course, get the prototype and scriptaculous code sets uploaded to your server and put in the /javascripts/ folder

<script src="/javascripts/prototype.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="/javascripts/scriptaculous.js" type="text/javascript"></script>


Here it is, the final form code for your sexy ajax body:

<div id="mailingList2">
<span id="indicator2" style="display: none"><img src="/images/ajax-loader.gif" alt="indicator icon" /></span>
<form id="mailinglist_form2">
<div>
<input type="hidden" name="XID" value="{XID_HASH}" />
<input type="hidden" name="ACT" value="3" />
<input type="hidden" name="RET" value="http://www.yoursite.com" />
<input type="hidden" name="list" value="beta" />
<input type="text" name="email" value="" class="text" /><br />
<input type="submit" value="Submit" onclick="new Ajax.Updater('mailingList2', '/index.php/', {onComplete:function(request, json){Element.hide('indicator2')}, onLoading:function(request, json){Element.show('indicator2'),Element.hide('mailinglist_form2')},parameters:Form.serialize(this.form),method:'post',asynchronous:true}); return false;" />
</div>
</form>
</div>

I'll explain a bit about the submit button, which kinda holds the key parts of this solution and on which I slaved away the most to understand (as a newbie to Prototype).
new Ajax.Updater(container,url,options)

a new Ajax.Updater is the Prototype class(?) that submits forms when you want to get some new HTML or code back from the server to replace it. I'm guessing this will be the most useful class for me. So you feed it the container div's id whose inner HTML you'll want replaced. In my case here I wanted to swap out the whole form for the page of results that EE provides back (more on this in a second). Next you put the URL on your server which will process the submitted form (the action). With EE it's going to be your site's index.php file. Lastly we get to the scary options...

In Prototype you tell it which optional features you want to make it do to get the right effects, decide whether it's POST or GET, etc. One by one:

1. The [options]. All your options are surrounded by {}s and each one is separated by commas therein

2. onLoading:function(request, json){Element.show('indicator2'),Element.hide('mailinglist_form2')}
As soon as the submit button fires and your data starts "loading" (clever eh?) it's going to show the indicator2 span which holds your ajax loader gif, then hide the form itself (it's not needed anymore right?).

3. onComplete:function(request, json){Element.hide('indicator2')}
When the returned data is done loading, we're going to hide the indicator2. Don't worry about the (request,json) parts of these, it doesn't seem to matter in this case. All of my functions have it and it works. I'm sure we can learn more about this part later. Since we already told it which div to put the returned data in, we can be assured that this will be hidden anyway (actually replaced). Perhaps this step is redundant. I'll find out later. Go experiment yourself too.

4. parameters:Form.serialize(this.form),method:'post',asynchronous:true}); return false;
This is the good stuff! The parameters are all the variables and information you're going to send to your processing page. With Prototyhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifpe it does this great Form.serialize() function which grabs all relevant input fields and their values from your form automatically! I put in this.form but you could put in the id of the form too (use your single quotes of course). Specify which method, either POST or GET next, with EE's mailing list you need to use 'post' because you're returning some data. I think all EE forms use POST but I could be very wrong about that. Lastly you want to keep the asynchronous-ness going on, making it true, otherwise you'd lock up the browser while it's loading your results.

And that's it! Oh wait, no it's not! Big next step: go into your EE's Admin > Specialty Templates > User Message Template and edit that (I just took out the CSS). Yes, this is going to be a problem, you'll also see that the RET value of the form gets a link at the bottom of this page's content. One of my next steps is to figure out what to do about this problem.

One solutions I just thought of while writing this is to not actually return any data from EE, in which case I believe you'd use new Ajax.Request instead of the Updater, then you can figure out some other content to show, like "Thank you!" using more Javascript. Feel free to suggest away here...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Transformers Review

I managed to get Em to go to Transformers with me tonight. She liked some of the funny bits (as did I) but what's up with all those plot holes? SPOILER ALERT: suddenly the cube can shoot Megatron (as long as it's close to his chest I guess) and Megatron was right behind Sam while he's carrying the cube up through the building and he's, well, Megatron... how did he NOT catch him? There was nothing holding him back! The whole "just place the cube in my chest and I will sacrifice myself" line, delivered twice, was corny and about as braindead as it gets. The action scenes are pretty amazing though. I loved the battle in the desert when the A10s come swooping in. Awesome stuff there.

Now if you're into the original Transformers I have a special treat for you.

Check out the 1986 Transformers Movie here. Here's a strange but nicely drawn Japanese cartoon series of Transformers (one which I haven't seen) with computer graphics for the Transformers themselves. And last but not least, the original three seasons of the hit series, Transformers. Obviously I bare no responsibility for external content!

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Press Coverage

A bit late, but better than never.

There's a good video of an interview the canuck in America on vnuenet here (skip to about half way through it). And a bit more here.