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My own domain: a gift to myself May 3, 2009

Posted by laelene in Uncategorized.
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I have, for a long time, wanted to claim my own domain name and have my blog hosted on there.  However, seeing as there aren’t really many people out there who would ever want to take my name from me, it didn’t feel justified to do so.  I became more and more interested lately, as I found that my dedication to my blog has not wavered and I got more involved in the online community.  Then I came across green hosting websites and that sealed the deal for me.  Cheap webhosting from energy efficient servers?  I’m in!  I chose Super Green Hosting for its great deal (it certainly helped that they were listed first on the list that I was reading and their website looks the nicest to me) and decided I’d wait until this month to sign up.

Why now?  I don’t really know.  And why do I need a website of my own?  Maybe I don’t.  In trying to justify this to anyone who doesn’t understand, I probably won’t come up with any answers.  All I know is that this is one of my deep heart desires.  One of those things that nags at you again and again, reminding you that you should do it.  There may not be a logical reason as to why I should get a website.  It’s not like I’m someone famous and well-followed or I’m trying to make money from the internet.  No, what I will say (and really the only thing I can say) is that it feels right, it makes me happy, and I’ll be darned if I don’t do that for myself at a mere $3.95 a month.  It’s a bit of peace of mind too, in knowing that this domain will belong to me and always be mine, whatever I may choose to do with it.  And hopefully one day I will be someone that people want to find and follow, so they will look for my domain.

Well, May 1st came along, the day I promised myself I would do this, and I spent the day out.  When I got back, I set out to order the service and begin building my new website.  Due to some snags, I wasn’t able to complete the order (and being out of the country only complicates things), so I had to wait.  After calling, “live chatting,” and e-mailing, I finally got too frustrated and needed a break from the process.  I spent all of today away from my e-mail and when I decided to check it, I found an e-mail confirming my order!  Apparently they’d been working as I put it aside, so everything was ready for me now.  I happily began the lengthy process to get used to their system, learn more about what having my own space means, and figuring out how to put a nice pretty blog there for people to find.

My CSS skills are sorely lacking, so much of my editing is done on a trial and error basis.  I was able to make all the edits I wanted except for one crucial one: allowing the header image to be bigger.  So, though I was able to lengthen the height and width of the area where the header is, the image just would not stretch to fit, no matter what I did.  Some of the tiling was quite visible on two of the sides, so I had to forfeit that idea and stick with a narrow look until I can find out how to fix that problem.  It certainly isn’t the image I’m using, since I cropped it to fit the dimensions I wanted.  There are also a couple of other issues that I am having with coding, so it has taken me a much longer time than usual to set this up.  I got spoiled with Weebly’s drag and drop method that required no technical skills of me.  Nonetheless, I am happy to have this now and I’m going to eventually look into having a professional help me out with a layout that I like.

So in the mean time, please excuse any and all errors that you find at maryqin.com.  It is still very much under construction.  Once that’s set up though, I anticipate only blogging through there, so do bookmark it and look for futher updates!  🙂

PC vs. Mac: the neverending debate April 24, 2009

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Disclaimer:  I have a strong bias towards PCs, so Mac-lovers may not like what I say.

Before I started to work here, Marylin warned me that I was entering Mac territory and would likely have to convert.  Dismayed, I tried to keep an open mind about it, but ultimately did not want to make the switch.  Thankfully, I have been able to use my HP Pavilion with few problems.  The only thing that stands out is my inability to connect to the company network to access shared files.  Other than that, I find that my PC is perfectly fine and usually outperforms those little Macs.  Unfortunately, my colleagues are far too enamored with Macs to appreciate it.  Recently, it seems like a lot more of the differences have become apparent to me.

First, let me go through the three experiences I had lately regarding the two different operating systems.  It started when I was retrieving some information off a website to store in our database for reference.  I thought I should use a Mac because it’s linked to the shared drive, so I could download directly to that.  However, I quickly lost patience using the clumsy mouse pad and decided to get it all done on my PC and then transfer it over via a thumb drive.  I found some articles that were embedded in the site, so they needed to be copy-pasted and then converted to a PDF.  When I did that on the Mac, all formatting was lost and I had to go through to change everything.  After switching over to my PC, I discovered that a quick copy-paste would yield basically ascreenshot of what was on the site, all formatting preserved nearly perfectly.  It was a breeze making the PDFs that way.

The next time I came across an issue was at a meeting, where Macs don’t have the right plug to connect to a projector, so we had to use my computer to present a PowerPoint to the clients.  Macs need this converter thing, which is such a hassle to remember to bring along.  Finally, later that same day I was compiling a list that I wanted to store in a database, where I could tag each item with keywords to cross-reference them according to the various categories they fit under.  I was looking into using Access to accomplish this, which would have been fine and dandy, except Macs can’t read those files.  So now we’ve got to look for a paid program or I’m going to have to painstakingly figure out how to make it work out decently on Excel.

Now my main reasons for preferring PCs have always been:
1. The right click!  So much functionality has been lost from not having that.  I really can’t live without it.  Granted, it seems that Apple has finally caught on are adding that in now.
2. The toolbar is at the top of my open box, no matter where that box is.  Why does it have to be the very top, no matter what program is open and where it is on the screen?  What if my window is open at the bottom right?  Then I have to travel all the way to the opposite corner to get to the "Finder" thing just to use the menu options.
3. Double-clicking that expands to full screen.  I am used to it expanding to full screen, not shrinking!  How do you even expand on a Mac, is it that teeny little green button?d
4. The buttons along the bottom of the screen to show all the programs I have open and one button to press to go to the desktop.  I often forget what is even still open on a Mac, and can someone please tell me if there’s any order to how the little screens appear when you sweep to one of those corners that shows all the open windows?  I don’t like accidentally moving my mouse to a corner and BAM everything disappears, or everything appears when I don’t want it to!
5. The backspace AND delete options.  Backspace removes characters to the left and delete removes characters to the right of the cursor.  Delete on a Mac does what backspace does on a PC.  So what on a Mac does what the delete does on a PC, pray tell?

And for HPs, I love the little remote that I get to allow me to control PowerPoints, movies, my music, or any other form of media from up to 10 feet away.  Then I am no longer tied down to where my laptop is sitting (like when it’s tied to the cable connecting it to the projector), so I am free to walk around as I present something, sit further away to watch a show, or dance around to my music, changing it as I want to hear a new song.

Another thing is that I like my mouse sensitivity set at very high.  I don’t know if it’s just because none of the Mac users I know like to make their mouse move faster, but I don’t have the patience to wait for the mouse to casually make its way across the screen.  In this new age of efficiency, that is just too slow.  I like a very sensitive touchpad.  And can someone explain to me why there’s an "apple" button and a control button?  Everything done with the apple button can pretty much be done with a control on a PC, so what in the world is the control for?  Is it trying to make up for the previously lacking right-click?  Maybe this is just something I’d get with time using it, but it seems superfluous to me.

A friend once told me that Macs are designed to be very childish and simple.  That’s very true.  Sometimes they are so simple it doesn’t make sense.  (Like the Finder example above – it’s very easy to always expect the toolbar in the same spot, no matter what, but it is also inefficient in many cases.)  Everything in their design is about simplicity and plainness.  Just one simple color, no designs.  Just one touch pad, nothing else.  Just a few small slits for USBs and CDs.  Oh, speaking of which, there are hardly enough USB ports!  With a wireless mouse and a thumb drive plugged in, they’re already maxed out!  What if I want to plug in just one more thing?  Now maybe it’s just my computer and not all PCs have three slots, but I’m comparing what I have to what I’ve seen of Macs (the new silver ones with the glass screen).

Even their logo is childish and simple.  For 22 years it was the apple shape we all know, but shaded in rainbow colors.  A very simple design and all those colors is rather reminiscent of crayons.  After it was revamped to be the new version that could be blown up without looking tacky, it’s now no more than a silhouette.  Yes, it looks sleeker, but it is still very basic.  And that is great for them – it costs much less to print just one color, the logo is easily recognizable, and it can readily be duplicated.

What I do like about Macs are the scrolling option if you use two fingers, as well as the expand or shrink option if you move your two fingers further away from or closer to each other.  They also tend to be the quietest, though if I keep my laptop parallel to the ground and off of soft surfaces, it doesn’t complain either.  The new glass screens are quite nice as well, leaving less room for dust to get in cracks and giving a nicely smooth texture.  And I do agree that Macs tend to be better for creative work though, in terms of design and whatnot.

My one gripe about my laptops are that they are dead heavy.  I have that one coming though, since I prefer to get the ones with wide screens and this one also has a reserve battery power that gives me extra oomph.  My shoulders pay the price of that decision, but ultimately I don’t mind.

The sleek designs of Macs are much of what makes them appealing, but a lot of functionality is lost through that.  I guess that’s why they sell/don’t sell.  Some of the population is out for aesthetics over usability.  Most of the population is looking for functionality.  And I am one of those individuals who would not pay exorbitant amounts for looks.  But hey, to each his own, I guess.

TV’s lack of appeal April 19, 2009

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I can’t recall where our household TVs were in most of the places I grew up.  In fact, my first memory of really consistently watching TV was back in middle school, around 7th grade.  That was when we had moved to New York and I remember coming back from school to watch trash shows like Ricki Lake and then classics like Fresh Prince of Bel Air as I ate my way through a few bags of instant chicken ramen.  I never really cared for cartoons and other animated shows, so I pretty much just stuck towhatever was on when I got home from school.  Prior to that, I had always read books for fun.  I think the change began when I started to come out of my shell and be more sociable at school.  Coming out of my own world and integrating into the larger one introduced me to this phenomenon that seems inescapable in the American culture.

Well, by the time I left New York three and a half years later, I had given up TV other than whatever was on that my dad was watching during dinner, which was usually 60 Minutes or 20/20.  The internet was booming and I could entertain myself far more with that than any TV show could ever provide.  Plus, I had much more control over what I would be exposed to, versus being at the mercy of some channel’s scheduling choices.  I can’t even remember what I used to watch, other than Gilmore Girls and Charmed.  I never really got into the whole TV or movie thing.  I’m not sure why, but I guess it was something about how unenlightening they seem and how they tend to encourage vanity.

Unfortunately, it’s gotten worse, from what I know, what with shows like Damages that I’ve seen commercials for and Gossip Girls that I’ve heard about.  Why would you spend hours of your life watching people be terrible to each other?  I hope this doesn’t produce a pathological society intent on revenge, greed, and other traits that will pick at our morals.  Entertainment is widely influential and the messages being sent these days are often questionable.  I’m not sure I want to know how this is affecting the younger generation as they grow up with their role models watching that kind of junk.

At the same time, there are some shows cropping up that I don’t mind, such as House and Lie to Me.  Initially my obsession with House started when I was moving in my second year of college and my friend was watching the season one DVDs.  The abrasive humor, fast-paced discourse, and insightful tidbits into the human body and mind attracted me.  Enough for me to decide to buy the first four seasons on DVD when I joined Columbia House.  As I spent the tail end of last year watching episode after episode, I started to notice the trends and patterns and slowly my interest waned.  I am still fond of the show, despite all its peculiarities (or maybe because of them) and I find it interesting because Dr. House is just so odd.

As for Lie to Me, I saw bus stop ads for it all over Westwood in the early parts of this year, as I was enjoying life with no schedule.  I decided to go check it out online once the show started airing and found it to be quite intriguing.  The entire thing is based on research done on microexpressions and body language, and how they can tell us when people are lying.  I have heard of this type of thing before, and having studied psychology as one of my majors, I find this fascinating.  There were a lot of facts in the show about how it all works, plus audiences get to see how what our behavior tells you is just the what, but not the why.  A lot of unexpected motives for lying are unveiled throughout the episodes, which makes you think before you assume.

I am also glad that the newer reality shows I’ve seen are getting more positive, rather than taking the dramatic approach by throwing a bunch of strangers to live together just to watch them fight.  I mentioned beforewatching some of the episodes of The Biggest Loser, which encourages people to take charge of their lives and finally get around to losing the unhealthy weight they’ve been bearing for years.  It’s not that I don’t have gripes about certain details of the show, but overall they are trying to send a good message.  I also like this one show I saw five minutes of, which pairs up children with their dads in a competition.  Done right, it encourages the parent-child relationship to be stronger and allows them to outperform by doing teamwork activities.  Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? can be positive too, by making being smart look cooler.  What kid doesn’t want bragging rights to knowing the answer that the adult didn’t and "saving" them in the show?  Though the show makes some adults look like fools, it also encourages kids to do well in their academics.

Even the good shows out there have their flaws, but I guess that is expected, since they can’t be perfect or they’d be uninteresting.  The main problem with TV shows for me, however, is that I bore of them easily.  For both House and Gilmore Girls, which are the only two shows I own on DVD and the only two shows I have ever watched every episode for, there came a point when I started to tire of the plot or the characters.  When you see a pattern or things become predictable, it’s just not fun anymore.  I like to be challenged to never expect things at face value, to have to think about things that are going on in the plot.  Perhaps that is why I also quite enjoy watching CSI with Marylin on the weekends, whenever she has it on.  There’s always mysteries and twists to look out for.  Yet, whatever draws most of the population to their television sets each day baffles me, for I could live perfectly well without it.  Actually, I can’t even remember the last time I turned on a TV; in the past few years I’ve only ever turned them off after people around me have finished watching and I am still left sitting there.  To me, TV is just unappealing.

Camera eyes April 7, 2009

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Every now and then, I come up with some outrageous idea that I really wish was possible.  One that I’ve been thinking of is if our eyes could be cameras.  I absolutely love to take pictures and I try to keep my camera on me at all times.  Sometimes, things just happen too fast for it to be pulled out, turned on, aimed, and shot.  So many brilliant pictures and shots have been lost that way.  To some extent it preserves the beauty of life, making living in real time worth so much more than trying to live through still shots.  However, those are often the very moments you really want to remember and be able to look back and share with others.

So my idea was that if there could be a pressure point with the shutter button at your temple, so whenever you want to capture something, all you need to do is press your temple.  Shots recorded from there would be taken exactly as the eyes see, with no altered colors and all the details we would normally distinguish with the naked eye – none of that distortion junk that happens with most cameras.  The downside to this would be not having a flash to illuminate things when it’s just too dark.  But generally, I find that I like things just the say my eyes see them.

Of course, this begs the question of how technology could possibly make this happen.  And in short, that is why this goes under my "ludicrous" ideas bag and gets stuffed away in a dusty corner for an indefinite period of time.  The plausibility of converting your eye into a camera without damaging your vision, making things captured just the way you see it (which would likely require access to your brain), then finding a way to store it without all kinds of crazy equipment is just nil.  Even if it could be developed, the legal issue of recording things without consent could crop up as a greater and greater issue.  Plus, the time and resources would likely not be worth the investment.

Sadly, I have to resort to just pretending, in my mind’s eye, that I can capture a moment so beautiful and memorable just the way it is to me.  I’ll never have anything concrete to share with others, so I guess I’ll just have to work on improving my memory.  This type of thing is borderline robotic, almost as if you’d have to start to convert the human body into a machine.  Now that is certainly not the direction I think we should be going in (or ever go in).  I guess we have an imagination for a reason: to let us live out all those silly things that cannot be, should not be, or will not be.