Congratulations to the Sandbox Design Competition Winners

I mentioned earlier that I had entered a theme in the Sandbox Design Competition. The winners were announced last night.

The results did not go quite as I thought they would. I would have sworn that Diurnal was going to win the whole thing. The way that it changes appearance throughout the day is a bit of genius. And I’m really partial to the third runner up, Shades of Gray. But the winning themes were all beautiful and well-designed too; it would be hard to pick the best of the 46 excellent themes in the competition.

While I did not win anything, it still think it was worthwhile for me to enter the competition. I discovered e and SftpDrive, found a reasonably bulletproof rounded corners technique, and found a lot of neat bloggers and designers.

Also, I found the Sandbox theme, which I really like. It provides all the framework you’d ever need to hang your CSS on for a WordPress theme. (It does need a wrapper class around the comments so I don’t have to resort to hackery to get rounded corners on my comments though.) I’m even tempted to put together another theme even without the incentive of a contest.

Anyways, if you like the theme and want to use it on your blog, you can download it and try it out. Like all the other themes in the Sandbox competition, it’s released under the GPL, which means that you can do pretty much whatever you want to with it. If you use this theme, I would love to know about it; please, drop a comment on the download page.

Constructive criticism is very much welcome. Tell me what you think of the theme!

Again, congrats to Arpit Jacob, designer of the winning Sandpress theme. Well done everybody!

Secret Project: Ceruleus Theme

The Sandbox Theme is a very well marked-up framework designed for building your own themes for WordPress blogs. Essentially, it has all of the HTML built for you, and you customize it with with your own CSS and images.

The designers of the Sandbox Theme held a design contest, which just ended tonight, offering readers the chance to customize their theme for a chance at some money. So, over the past several weeks I have been working on a contest entry for the Sandbox Design Contest, transforming this:


into this:


If you want to try it out, you can download it as well as the Sandbox Theme that it works with.

Where I’ve Been Lately

Sorry for the exceptionally low post volume lately; I’ve been busily spending more time than was probably prudent on a Secret Project.

But that should be done in the next day or two, and I’ll be ready to reveal this project to my loyal fanbase of almost a dozen people on Monday.

Cross your fingers….

Flash Project: Battlelore Line Of Sight Checker

My brother and I have been playing this game called Battlelore a lot lately. One thing that can be kind of tricky in the game is figuring out whether or not your archers have line-of-sight on their targets.

Since I had recently bought a copy of Flash CS3, I wanted to take some time and learn how to use it. So, after taking a couple of basic tutorials and doing a lot of searching on the internet to figure out how to write ActionScript, I put together this thing:

If you click on one of the green hexes, it will turn red to mark that hex as having an obstruction in it. All of the hexes that don’t have line of sight then turn gray.

It’s still pretty buggy, and it gets really slow if too many hexes are obstructed, but it’s mostly working, and I’m pretty proud of it.

CVS Camcorder

I recently bought a disposable camcorder from CVS.


Theoretically, users are supposed to buy these cameras, shoot about 20 minutes of video, then give them back to CVS. CVS keeps the camera and gives you a DVD with the videos you’ve shot.

However, some clever people have figured out how to pull the videos out themselves without having to pay CVS for processing or having to give CVS the camera. This makes the camera ideal for things like putting them into model rockets.

Unfortunately, the camera I bought has the newest firmware version. This new version can’t be hacked–yet. Eventually (hopefully sooner rather than later) someone will figure out how to hack this thing, and then I’m probably going to strap it to the front of my car and record my drive to work or something.

Hatcher Gardens

After dinner tonight I went out to Hatcher Gardens to take some photos. These are the best shots from the trip.

Next time I’ll need to get there a little earlier though. I was only there for a little while before I lost my daylight; some of these photos needed a little Photoshop magic to make them worth showing.

It’s a nice little place. Hatcher Gardens used to be the back yard of Harold and Josephine Hatcher. Over time more property was bought and new improvements were added. Now it’s sort of a public park, available free of charge to anyone who wants to come in. Call it the Central Park of Spartanburg.

So, a big thanks to the owners and to the volunteers who keep it looking nice. It looks great.

I Love Photoshop

Last week, I finally, finally, purchased my very own copy of Photoshop, and I’ve been playing with it ever since. I’ve been needing it for some time; I’m interested in graphic design, but I don’t have the necessary skills with Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign to make graphic design my job.

Mainly, I lack practice. The only access to Photoshop that I’ve had since I graduated is at one computer at work, and that only for job-related stuff like making buttons for our website. So, I finally shelled out ~$800 for the Adobe Creative Suite 2 Standard Edition, which include InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

Before I bought the software, I thought the price was exorbitant. Now that I have it and have been learning how to use it, I can see why they can get away with charging that much. Nothing else out there compares with Photoshop. It is some of the most well designed software I’ve ever had the pleasure of using, and it’s powerful stuff too.

I’ve discovered the fantastic video podcasts at, which teach viewers how to harness the power of Photoshop. For example, using the stuff I learned from Tutorial 1 (as well as stuff I learned from my Graphic Design class that I took in college) I turned this photo of a walkway in front of Spartanburg’s Episcopal Church of the Advent from this:

…into this…

It’s a pretty neat effect, I think. I’m looking forward to learning more from the rest of the tutorials.