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Elisabeth Sladen, 1948-2011

Elisabeth Sladen, best known as Sarah Jane Smith from Doctor Who, has passed away of cancer at the age of 63.

She's always been my favorite companion. And I'd even say she's the most important character in Doctor Who save the Doctor himself, and perhaps the most important actor/actress- including those who played The Doctor. She is a continuous link from the classic era to the new era. Same character, same actress. Bridging the gap in a wonderful way.

She will not be forgotten.
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The Event speculation

The "aliens" are homo sapiens descendants, from the future.

1) They can pass for human to medical exams short of a DNA screening.
2) They are reproductively compatible with humans with no apparent ill effect.
3) They are apparently perfectly biologically compatible with Earth environments

These things would very likely not hold for any species not directly related to Homo Sapiens. At the very least, anything outside the Homo genus would make these things all coming together essentially impossible. Give us a few hundred millennia, though, and there could easily be a new Homo species that would meet these observed characteristics.

Assuming a hard scifi stance on biology, the sleepers basically *have* to be a homo species. Of course, they could be taking a softer stance on the science, but there are far too many unknowns with that to ground any sort of speculation.

There's really two options from this point. They could be an evolved Homo Sapiens, or an engineered variant. I'm leaning towards time travel, the engineered variant seems too straightforward a conflict. Sure there'd the mystery of who engineered the sleepers, but the sleepers being us seems to fit the story they are building more.

Wonder if this will turn out to be anywhere near how things are.

Anyone who gave up after the confused storytelling style of the first half, it's shifted to a basic chronological format now. It's much better. It has actual mystery, not audience confusion pretending to be mystery.
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fun programming site

Having fun with the problems there. They are all math related problems, of a nature that is typically impractical to do by hand. I'm using Perl, though I have done one in C after doing it in Perl to see how much faster it was.
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Firefighting insurance

Youtube clip about Glenn Beck mocking the people who didn't pay and had their house burn down.

My position on that is that the firefighters who refused to help made the right decision given the policy that exists.  If they made exceptions, who would actually pay?  Maybe a handful, but if I knew my house would get put out anyways, that $75 dollar fee would go down really fast on my list of spending priorities.  My conscience would nag at me to pay it, but I'm not sure it would win out over the other things I need and want to spend money on.  

An objection that some people have is that the firefighters could bill them afterwards.  Yeah.  I'd be responding in the youtube thread, but there is no threading so tracking any real conversation in youtube comments is difficult to the point of pointlessness when it gets past a couple dozen comments.  It's also difficult to fully articulate what you are trying to say in a YouTube comment box when you are agreeing with a decision that, on the surface, appears to be pretty heartless.

But billing them afterwards sounds good.  Ok, firefighters take the money and put the fire out.  They then try to give it to the financial department, which says "OH HELL NO".  Taking payments not explicitly authorized by law would expose them to severe legal liability.  As ridiculous as some lawsuits in the US are, it would not surprise me to see someone pay, and then they sue the firefighters for collecting an extortion payment.  Might even be a legitimate case here.

How much do the firefighters charge?  The law and regulations implementing the law don't provide for this option, so they have no policy compliant amount they could charge.  Someone asks for money to do something, without legal authority to ask for it, well that's extortion.  Even if you could argue a justification defense in this case, there is no oversight for what they ask for.  "Hey, you got the deed to this place?  Want the fire put out?"  "Hey Bob, that's a really nice BMW there".   This would be an absolute disaster.  

So I agree with the firefighters decision in this case.  People don't pay, and the system has no funding to help anyone.  Sure, make the argument that the fire might spread- but wait, you make exceptions, you can't pay for equipment or training, so you can't put out the initial fire in time anyways.  Risk spreading fires, or risk not being able to put them out at all.  I'd rather the risk of spreading, at least you've got a chance to contain the situation.

Who I don't agree with are the policymakers who set this system up.  

This risks lives.  While yes, the firefighters would have rescued people, the system encourages those who do not pay to attempt to put the fire out themselves.  This is a risk even for a small fire.  

This risks fires spreading.  Oh- amateur firefighting attempts can sometimes increase this risk.

This makes people homeless.  

The firefighters making exceptions on their own risks their ability to help anyone at all.  The firefighters charging on their own risks exposing them to extortion charges, legitimate or otherwise.

These risks, because the policymakers view firefighting as a service rather than a necessity.  Firefighting should be universal.  Paid for from taxes is ideal.  Alternately, allow for an on site or after the fact payment through approved means at approved rates.  Such payments would be steep- it would be like paying for car repairs or health care without your insurance companies help.  But there needs to be universal service, whether it's through taxation or fines.  I'd prefer taxation because it spreads the cost over more people, which would allow for better service at rates people can reasonably afford.  But insurance with a fine for out of policy service would at least resolve the immediate concerns, though it could lead to some serious debt after the fact(less than if they had to buy or build a new house though).

Youtube clip this came from:
Much of my view on this was inspired by a post from theferrett, but I don't have the link to it handy.
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Blogging app

Got everything with a consistent look via the magic of CSS.

My main navigation menu is an included PHP file. I like this bit. On a CMS of any sort, you'll often want different types of users. An admin to make structural changes, add users, and the like, a writer to make posts, a commenter account is good too. To this I've added an "inactive" access level, and an "any" as a default. I've added the access level to the session variable array, the access level pulled from the user table when someone logs in. This lets me run a simple switch statement to decide what links are on my navigation menu. One file, gives me up to 5 different menu setups. Currently I only have menus for the default, the writer, and admin... but the structure allows for expansion as I scale this thing up to a production ready app.

I'd like to have a database table that stores every page in the app along with it's access level, so I can simply query the database. Keep the PHP code simpler. This would be especially useful with a feature I want to add in the future- Allow admin users to change the security setting of various parts of the app. With it in the database, it would be easy. With this tracked inside the PHP file, it would be difficult and introduce a potential security issue of an important include file being writable from the web. I tried a couple brief attempts at this, but it's a bit complicated for my level of SQL knowledge.

Still need to write the admin page. Initial features will be a user manager- add CMS users, set their access levels, delete users. I'll also be adding a post delete feature. At present, this stuff I have to do through the MySQL command line client. That's unacceptable for a release version. While I'm ok with it lagging behind in featureset when I release, it needs to have a minimum of features to be useable. It's not to that point yet, though what it does allow it does do reasonably well.

I also need to write a registration page so people could sign up, and a user profile page so people could manage their own posts. Comments and a permanent link feature need to go in, I need to add post time to the post database for sorting. Then pagination, and I think I'll be ready to release it.

Long term I'd like to look into localization. Perhaps put all the displayed strings into a database table, one table per supported language. Include the users selected language in a cookie and/or the session. I think I'll implement this as soon as the basic featureset is up- if I wait too long, the number of strings involved would make the job really, really annoying.

Will it have any real advantage over existing CMS's? Probably not. As a platform to fuel my studies in SQL and PHP, it should work well, but that's about all I expect. It might also be useful if I apply to jobs where I work with web technolgies or databases. Even if it's not specifically in the job domain, or is but isn't up to their standards, showing that I've been able to build a functional app with this stuff would be a good boost to my chances. Since it's done on my own they probably wouldn't expect something of the quality I could build with the support of the companies dev team.
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Well, I should have seen that coming

A reasonably okish user interface to my blogging tool is apparently going to require some at least one new table, and a modification of the schema to one of the existing tables.  Not sure how much new PHP code it will need in the end, but it's already more than I expected.

Thankfully, the existing table that has to change?  The part that needs changing is not currently used.  It was put in there because I knew the production version would need it, but I haven't actually touched it yet.  This makes things simpler.  I really hope I don't have to do this ever to fields that are currently in use.  That would probably be rather annoying once I get this thing to a point I'd actually try using it. 
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That PHP/SQL blogging app I was working on?

It works now.  

It rejects invalid logins.  It accepts new posts into the database.  It displays the posts in the database.

Design note I picked up- When using joined tables from within PHP, and I suppose any programming language, life is much easier when you use column aliases.  DB_FETCHMODE_ASSOC is also a friend of mine now.  Lets me use descriptive names for what I pull out of my query rows.  Not a huge deal for two databases of 5 columns each, but if things grow much beyond that, it would be a nightmare to keep it all straight with numbers.  I suppose I might investigate using numbers if I hit a performance problem and had tried basically everything else and it still isn't fast enough.  But at that point I'd probably be taking a serious look at using a compiled language.

I like the PHP session tracking.  So much simpler than the wild homebrew schemes I had been sketching out in my head.  

This project has renewed my love of Unix.  "cat apache_error_log | grep php" has been critically important.  I've also gotten a bit better with vi in this project.

There are some important features missing.  Pagination for one.  Better(read any at all) input validation would be kind of useful.  At some point I should probably work out a better login system- passwords plaintext literally everywhere they show up is not a particularly good design from a security standpoint.  Might be smart to not hardcode the database name, database user, and database password.  The ability to save a login for next time you come back would be a nice usability enhancement.  Comments are on my list to add at some point.

But I think I'll take a step back from the backend coding and tidy up the user interface.  As is, it is functional at best.  While I'm in the functional > pretty camp,  a well done UI isn't just pretty, it makes things more functional even with the exact same featureset. I probalby won't turn out a brilliant ui, but with a bit of work I can do better than I have now.  
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I've been sorta working on a concept of a Panzerkin. I've decided that it might be interesting to do a large part of my brainstorming and planning for this here on LJ rather than offline. This, and perhaps some other early planning posts, will be somewhat rambling as I'm just spitting stuff out off the top of my head.

A Panzerkin is World of Warcraft druid, who is speced and equipped to tank with a Balance spec rather than the usual feral spec.

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oh music

Here is a track I did a few years ago. It's not as polished as I would have liked, but the hard drive the data and all uncompressed versions died and this is the only version I've got left. Thankfully, it's also the most complete version.

Sort of dark trance/ebm/techno/something in that general direction.