A cricket bat!
Twelve years, and four psychiatrists!
I kept biting them!
They said you weren't real.

Thursday, June 30


Steamed Shirts

The other thing about Rivers is that their online store takes the Steam approach to sales.

That is, its prices are regularly half that of their big-city retail stores (and the same as their country clearance stores).  But they have a constantly changing set of items that can be 75% off the already 50% off, so if you stop by at the right moment, a shirt that retails for $60 could cost $8, but be back to full (that is, half) price the next day.  In fact, a couple of shirts I ordered only two hours ago (along with the shoes) just dropped from $8 to $5...  And the shoes I ordered doubled in price.

(Which really tells you where the money goes in the rag trade, and it ain't on the manufacturing.)

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Unknown Territory

I buy most of my clothes at Rivers, a well-known Australian purveyor of, well, clothes.  They used to be a very good, very Australian company with reliably high-quality products, but over the past few years they've been trending towards being a clearing house for job lots from China (or India or Pakistan), about half of which are designed by colour-blind orangutans on acid.

This is supposedly a real shirt.

Fortunately, the other half still aren't.

And while it's become somewhat hit-and-miss, I can usually count on buying new clothing and footwear at their big country clearance stores whenever I head down to Melbourne to visit my family.

Except that that hasn't happened for nearly two years (due to fires and explosions at my day job that coincided with every opportunity to visit) and the shoes I bought from them last time turned out to be complete crap, with leather lining but synthetic "uppers" that fell apart very quickly.  So I've been wearing my last remaining old, good pair of shoes from them, which are over three years old now and starting to fall apart too.

And looking in the window of the shoe store near my house, a decent pair of shoes in a style I like goes for $200 these days.  Back at the time of the dot-com bubble I paid nearly that much, but back at the time of the dot-com bubble I was a paper multi-millionaire.  These days I'm decidedly not.

Anyways, I was poking around Rivers' online store looking for some cheap warm clothes to keep me warm cheaply, when I discovered something: The store doesn't actually show you everything they have in stock.

It has two different failure modes - one in which the bottom of the page is messed up, with a long list of product descriptions all mashed together but no pictures or links, and one where it just stops.  In the latter case, there's no indication at all that the list is incomplete.

It was only when I tried the search function that I discovered that they have quite a lot of discontinued lines still in stock, including real leather shoes in my size, in styles and colours I like, at 50% to 75% off - from prices that were already pretty good.  Some of them have been gone from their brick-and-mortar stores for four years or more.  The styles and sizes available are a complete grab bag, just what's left unsold, but for $15 I'm not going to make a fuss.

I ordered 6 different pairs.  First time I've ever ordered shoes online, but I figure that even if only half of them fit comfortably I've still done well.

I also bought three pairs of Bad Pants (factory seconds) to wear around the house because (a) $5 and (b) they call them Bad Pants.

* I'm tempted to buy this (link is gone already; amazingly bright scarlet shirt) even though it's not in stock in my size, just to blind people.

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Saturday, June 25


Well, Almost

My little tech demo works in Firefox 5, Safari, and Chrome, but not in IE9 or Opera.

The underlying library does work in IE 7+ and Opera 11, so I must have done something wrong there.

Update: Checked the home page in IE 9.  Nothing.  Opera 11, though, is fine.  So it's not just me.

Update: Fixed in 1.6.1, apparently, (it was an IE9 / FF4 compatibility release) but the copy available on Google's CDN is still 1.6.0.  So no IE9 until I get it installed on the mee.nu server.

By the time I've got the development done, 1.7 will likely be out, so I'll be testing against the 1.7 beta as well.

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Friday, June 24


Let's Go Dojo

I'm going to be switching Minx to the Dojo toolkit.  At present we're using Innova Editor, a tiny bit of Mootools, and some custom stuff I cooked up long ago.  I also have licenses for some Flash charting, mapping, and media player modules, but I haven't really deployed them yet.

I'm going with Dojo because it's a single, consistent library that's available under a sensible, no-strings license (BSD or AFL) and provides:
  • All the usual basic stuff to make JavaScript and AJAX nicer.
  • A solid set of form and layout widgets.
  • A WYSIWYG editor with blockquote - the only one I've ever seen.  (I have no idea why no-one implements this.)
  • A flexible grid component, ideal for managing posts and comments.
  • A capable charting component.
  • A lightbox / image gallery component.
  • A syntax highlighter.
  • A Flash/HTML5 flexible file uploader.
Plus a whole bunch of other goodies, all extensively documented, and it's relatively small, quite fast, is under very active development, and...  It works.

I don't think it's best-of-class in all the areas it covers.  But what it means is that I can say "The JavaScript toolkit for Minx is Dojo." and that pretty much covers it.*

I will be retaining Innova Editor as an option, but the Dojo editor will be the default for comments and for new blogs.

* As opposed to "MooTools, plus this list of plugins, plus Highcharts, plus Innova Editor, plus..."

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Let's See If I Can Do This...

Dum de dum...

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Last Heaven Of The Undersun

By Guy Gavriel Kay

The Last Light of the Sun
Under Heaven

I've always liked Guy Kay's work, even the Fionavar Tapestry which was an early work and rather derivative.  Tigana was and remains the standout; the theme of a country not merely conquered but wiped from history simply resonates.

His more recent works, starting with The Lions of Al-Rassan, have each recast a particular time and place in history into fantasy terms.

With Under Heaven he brings Tang Dynasty China very effectively to life.  The story doesn't work perfectly; the latter third of the book veers from the personal voyage to Great Events and loses much of its earlier charm.  But it remains compelling even so.

Less so (so far) with The Last Light of the Sun, for two reasons.  First, there is no central character, and none of the major characters gets enough time to really develop.  Second, it's set in 10th century Scandinavia and Britain, which is pretty much a crapsack world - unlike Sarantium (the Byzantine Empire) or Kitai (China), it has no charms to offer.  All you can do is wait for the arrival of the Black Death and the collapse of feudalism; by the 15th century things will be picking up a bit.  I haven't finished the book yet, but mid-way through I'm not very much inclined to.

If you're not familiar with Kay I definitely recommend picking up Tigana.  I'd suggest taking the books in order from there.

Update: I did finish The Last Light of the Sun, and...  Well, it's not quite the same telegraphed downer ending as The Lions of Al-Rassan, but it's near enough.

A consistent theme through both books is that of destiny; indeed, Kay has something of a habit of clubbing the reader over the head with this.  For a much defter handling of that subject, you can't go past Lois McMaster Bujold's Chalion books - The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls.  Now those I can recommend unreservedly.

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Thursday, June 23


Equestria Girls

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Monday, June 20


Slightly More Powerful Than The Original

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Sunday, June 19


Cloudworlds: Prehistory

The Cloudworlds were a campaign setting I originally designed for my D&D games, aimed at addressing two problems.  On the one hand, an Earth-sized planet is huge, and takes far too much effort to fill with people and places.  On the other, a single world only allows so much scope for variance; if you have a race of ancient mystics of enormous power on the same world as your low-level campaign, you have to wonder why they haven't just taken over.  The Cloudworlds solve this by being small, but many.

This is a reimagining of my original Cloudworlds campaign from two decades ago as a distinct RPG and accompanying campaign setting.  It will be posted in dribs and drabs as time and interest dictate.

In a time before time, the Gods Most High and the Elder Races forged a bargain: The Elder Races would craft for the Gods a miracle beyond miracles, a diadem known as the Thousand Stars. Their payment would be the knowledge of creation, held only by the Gods themselves.

The Elder Races laboured with a will, exercising their newfound talents with delight. And the Gods were pleased with what they wrought. These Dawn Ages were a time of unbounded wonders.

But neither side truly trusted the other. No-one can say who made the first betrayal, but this is known: The Gods Most High laid a trap for the Elder Races, a prison where they would be enslaved to toil forever. And the Elder Races forged a great weapon against the Gods, a weapon called the Spear of Night.

The Gods sprung their trap, and the Elder Races launched an assault against them, known to legend as the War in Heaven. The Gods were laid low, but so too were the Elder Races. Dragons were flung from the skies, the great cities of the Giants, the Apse, the Sidhe and the Made were reduced to rubble and ash; the Wilds, the Rafts and the Hives burned, screaming. Out of the dark millennia that followed, slowly the Elder Races rebuilt, and the Younger Races, their servants, and so began the First Age.

Or so the legends say. But this, my student, is the Ninth Age, as everyone knows. Since then, eight great cataclysms have befallen the worlds. What, and why? Not even legend tells us that. The Sidhe, the Apse, and the Giants are much reduced in power, their records scattered; what they once knew, they have forgotten. The Made chose not to remember. The Dragons know, perhaps, but they do not say. The Wilds and the Rafts do not know time as men do. The Hives know only the seasons, the Acari only hunger, and the Arana only hate. The great Wyrms do not speak at all. And only a fool would ask a question of the Dark...

And what of the diadem? The Elder Races never speak of it, nor write of it in their records. But if a man of keen eye studies the heavens, night after night, he will find, in all the skies of all the worlds, exactly nine hundred and ninety-eight stars.

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Tuesday, June 14


My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Still Short But Not Quite As Short Take

Yes, I really watched the whole of the new series of My Little Pony.

The thing is, while there is no question but that the show was created solely as a cynical exercise in manipulating little girls into getting their parents to exchange their hard-earned dollars for mass-produced plastic toy horses, it is actually pretty good.

I was persuaded of this first by the existence of Weird Al PMVs* and then by the Ponycast put out by the combined forces of the Anime World Order and Greatest Movie Ever podcasts.**

And, despite its origins, target audience, and current status as an internet meme plague, I really enjoyed it.


* Pony Music Videos.
** I've listened to every single episode of both.  Twice.

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