New Theme and Features for JDHarper.com

I’ve change the theme for JDHarper.com from Ceruleus, my contest entry for the Sandbox Design Competition, to this one. It’s based on the fabulous K2 theme, which looks great all on its own. I added some missing features (e.g. limiting image sizes to 500px across so they don’t poke into the sidebar if they’re too wide) and tweaked it a little here and there, but for the most part, it’s just the standard K2 theme.

K2 adds some neat features to the blog, most notably the live comment addition. When you add a new comment to a post, it will add your comment to the bottom of the list without reloading the page. It’s really spiffy looking. Try it out!

The “theoretically related posts” part of the individual blog pages has moved into the sidebar, and I’ve moved the archives from sidebar into their own page, linked in the header above. I’ve also switched from using the Google Reader widget in the sidebar to using one from del.icio.us, so that I can post links from sites that I’m not subscribed to.

Anyways, let me know if you find anything that looks broken, and tell me what you think about the new theme.

Family Photo Editing

Late in 2007, some of my relatives from Texas came up to visit with a huge tub of old family photos. I took a number of those photos, cleaned them up in Photoshop, and made picture CD’s that we sent back to our relatives with their Christmas gifts. (The reception from my extended family has been great, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.)

I’ve uploaded a few of the photos that I think were most improved to Flickr, both before and after shots. If you hover over the word “notes” in the slideshow below, I describe how I used Photoshop to improve the photos.

I may not be the best photo editor out there, but I think these came out pretty well.

Picture CD

I burned them onto LightScribe CD’s using my old LightScribe DVD burner. It took each of these about 40 minutes to burn, but they look really good. (By the way, this is first time I’ve ever used Lightscribe since getting the DVD burner several years ago. Sharpies are just faster.)

I’m just glad everyone in my family likes them! Let me know what you think.

Remember Everything with I Want Sandy

I Want Sandy is a new web service that helps you keep track of all the details of your life. The software takes on the pesona of an administrative assistant that you contact by email. This makes the service really easy to work with.

For example, lets say you want to remember to get a card for your mom’s birthday. You would write Sandy an email with the message “Remind me to buy a card for Mom on 4/23.” A minute or two later, you’ll get a response from Sandy confirming what you just sent. Then, on April 23rd, she will send you an email reminding you to get the card.

The feature I most use is reminders: it’s really easy to write “remind me to call my insurance guy next monday at 2:00 PM,” as opposed to the fairly clunky process of adding a task with a reminder to my Blackberry. And with Sandy, I don’t see that reminder again until Monday at 2 PM, which means a less cluttered to do list. In GTD terms, I use Sandy as my electronic tickler file.

Plus, I can contact Sandy through direct messages on Twitter. This is best combined with the Twitterbar Firefox extension. Instead of opening up my email, I just type “d s remind me to pay my credit card 12/1 @monthly —post” into my location bar in Firefox. When I type the last “t” in “post,” TwitterBar sends a direct message to Sandy. This way, I don’t even have to open my email to save a reminder.

You can even call Sandy through the Jott speech recognition service. After you get it set up, you call the Jott hotline, ask for Sandy, and then say what you want to remember. Jott will convert it to text and send it to Sandy. It’s really easy.

Sandy’s recognition engine is fairly robust too; there’s a handy cheat sheet that lists most of her vocabulary. You can say abstract things like “r my appointment next monday afternoon” or have repeated items like “r go running @bidaily.”

There are a lot of great features I haven’t even touched on yet, like tagging, list and contact management, and shared reminders with friends. It’s easy to use and it’s free. Check it out at http://iwantsandy.com/.

Where I’ve Been This Time: Starcraft

I’ve recently discovered an old classic RTS game, StarCraft. I had never played this before I saw the trailers for StarCraft II. Once I saw the trailer, I headed to the video game shop in the mall and bought the StarCraft Battlechest. I’m playing through the first game’s campaign now.

I had heard of people getting addicted to this game and dropping out of college back when it was first released. (Now that title has been passed to World of WarCraft, made by the same publisher, Blizzard.) I know that StarCraft is a huge part of the Korean professional video gaming scene. And I can see why, on both counts. This is an amazingly good game.

Of course, since this is an old game, the graphics are nothing special. But the core of the game is spectacular: the three races look and feel entirely different from each other, but they’re evenly balanced.

And the plus side of it being an old game is that I can play it on my tablet PC, which can’t handle modern games at all.

My only complaint: I can’t zoom in and out. I really want to be able to get a birds-eye view of the battlefield.

The other cool thing is that there’s now a StarCraft board game, which is as good as the video game. A friend of mine has bought it, and so my brother and I have gotten to play the game. Like the video game, it’s well-balanced and challenging. (And I’ve actually managed to win this game a couple of times, unlike most of our previous games.)

Blizzard Entertainment must have made a deal with the devil: everything they touch turns to crack cocaine. And I’m going to enjoy it while I can, the little junkie that I am.

The Spice Must Flow

Warning: This will make no sense if you have not read the Dune books.

In a Metafilter thread about the Spice Girls, never used baby shoes said “My question has always been if the Spice Girls are part of the Bene Gesserit sisterhood.”

empath on Metafilter responded:

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want

tell me what you want, what you really really want

I really really really wanna give birth to the Kwisatz Haderach.

Best thing I’ve read all day.