VW GTI

Well I didn’t get a new car, but we did! Karen put her name on the loan and on the title, so its only fair that she gets to call it “ours” and drive it as well. We found a mint 2009 GTI with only 18,000 miles in Black Magic Pearl. Its in great condition and is a blast to own! Obviously it doesn’t have the same power as the Z, but because of smaller size and weight and because of the 2.0T TSI engine, it has much more torque on instant demand. In the Z power would slowly build before coming on like a tidal wave, whereas in the GTI its there as soon as you press the pedal. Instead of feeling like you’re being pushed by a freight train in the rear-wheel drive Z, it feels like you’re being dragged forward in the front-wheel drive GTI. Aside from the performance, the GTI is better in every way. More comfortable, better sound system, safer, feels smaller (not sure if it really is), brighter headlights (Xenon!), backseats, bigger tires, better gas mileage (like 10 more miles per gallon), quieter, and of course the automatic is a million times better to drive in traffic.

Pictures to come soon.

Installing WordPress

A few tips:

  • Install WordPress in its own directory, below the root, with a unique name. I tend to use a password generator to create my directory name. Although the location of your folder can easily be found in the HTML of your site (all your CSS and image files will be inside it), this will be a smaller barrier against scripts that look for WordPress at the root or in common folders like “blog”, “wp” or “wordpress”. Keeping WordPress out of the root will keep the install cleaner and allow you to have sub-directories and other files in your root that won’t conflict with WordPress.
  • Do not use admin as your username. Previous versions of WordPress forced you to use it on first install, but with 3.0 you can now choose your own username. It doesn’t have to be crazy, although the more complex it is the safer it will be, but anything besides admin will be an improvement.
  • Do not use an English word as your password. Again, use a password generator. In addition, consider using a password repository to store your password in case you want to access your admin from another computer. But trying to use a password that is easy to remember probably means it is easy to crack.
  • Install the plugins and themes you want, remove the ones you don’t. Although the default WordPress theme (Twenty Ten), akismet, and Hello Dolly are probably very safe, its good practice to just remove any files you aren’t using. Don’t worry, you can download them again if you really want them. But by keeping them off your server, its fewer files that you have to worry about updating and if you ever run into security problems, you won’t have to worry about checking them.
  • Update your comment settings. You’ll probably want to treat most posts spam, only allow comments from people who have posted before, and generally make it hard for your blog to get filled up with spam. Get an akismet API and activate the plugin. Once your blog gets popular, you’ll be happy you had it all ready to go first.
  • Setup your permalinks. Despite it not being an option, category/postname seems to be the most recommended option for SEO purposes. Its also the most readable for humans. No one cares what the post date was, but if they want to find more posts in that category, its easy for them to do by manipulating the URL. It also allows people on other sites to trust the link more which means they are more likely to click on it.

Starting an Online Business

I’ve been doing a lot of research, reading, and thinking about how to make money online. I know its the magical pot of gold that everyone is searching for, but I really feel that with all my knowledge of web design and development I can come up with something that would really fill a niche need and help me start making some passive income. I just don’t know what that is yet. But some great sites that I have found that are helping me are:

  • StartupFreedom.com – this is a blog with a lot of great articles as well as interested video interviews with entrepreneurs who have made it big doing some kind of online business.
  • I Will Teach You To Be Rich – this one is more personal finance, but it does have some great posts on making money online.
  • Mixergy – just started checking this out the other day. It has tons of video interviews (with transcripts) of other successful players in the online money-making business. Its really surprising how many different businesses that you haven’t even heard of are making millions of dollars each year.
  • Killer Startups – a daily list of 15+ ideas for online start ups. This makes for great inspiration.

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Karen and I bought the other Super Mario game and were really disappointed. It was a good enough game and really what most gamers are asking for in a return to retro. But maybe I’ve lost a step, or a finger, cause the game is just too damn hard! I think we died twice on level one alone! It only got worse from there. Every level was a bitter struggle. We must have continued 30 times. I think part of the problem is that two player sort of forces you to go slow, and that really makes things difficult. You need speed and a flow to really knock out out those difficult sections, but if one player gets too far ahead, the screen stretches out and eventually the other player gets killed. There is an ability to “bubble” allowing the second player to safely float back up to player one until they are popped, but it just makes things more complicated and again, slows down the pace.

Super Mario Galaxy on the other hand, is a masterpiece. The difficulty is just about perfect for Karen and I. She can handle most of the levels just fine, but if anything particularly difficult comes up its easy to switch controllers. The second player is involved, but not absolutely necessary and they don’t really ever get in the way.

Red Dead Redemption

Although I always enjoyed the Grand Theft Auto series and appreciated how good they were, for some reason I was never fully engrossed by any of them. I could only make it through about a third of the story before getting bored and running off to screw around in the city. Some would argue that “screwing around” is the greatest part of the series, but you can only go on so many joyrides and killing sprees before the novelty wears off. But in Red Dead Redemption, I can screw around all day long! I’m never bored.

I think the setting really makes this game totally different, despite the game mechanics being exactly the same. Combined with some much needed polish on all those GTA gimics and RDR is pretty much the perfect game to “screw around” in. All those stupid mini games that were mostly annoying in GTA are actually awesome distractions in RDR.

I’m a big fan of westerns (I wear a The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly t-shirt quite often). So unlike previous Rockstar games, I’m actually sucked into each little story. There’s something about westerns in that I can just keep watching them for hours on end and never get bored, no matter how slow they are. In fact the slower the better. Whenever I watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I never want it to end. I finally watched Wyatt Earp recently and it was fantastic. The Assassination of Jesse James is another one that most people fall asleep through, but I love every second. I think that’s why I love every bit of Red Dead Redemption.

The scenery is fantastic. Riding between towns on horseback is just pure bliss. I think the lawlessness of the time period also really helps the game. In GTA I was always getting annoyed by cops. The only fun things to do in the game are illegal, but you’re constantly getting spotted by the police which leads to a five minute chase which sends you way out of your way. It just gets frustrating. But in RDR you can hunt wildlife, run down thieves and murderers, enter into duels, all without worrying about the man trying to gun you down. If you’re feeling particularly evil, there’s still innocent people to kill and steal from which will get the law after you if there are any witnesses, but it happens much less than in previous GTA games.

Not to mention a great soundtrack:

You Can’t Beat LA (or so I hope)

If you didn’t know already, I’m a huge Lakers fan. I started watching the same year that Kobe was drafted into the league and played behind Eddie Jones. Although I loved the Shaqobe years, I honestly didn’t become a true die-hard fan until the years following their break-up. So watching Kobe make it all the way back to the finals only to lose to the rival Celtics was bittersweet.

Last year was rejuvenating, but honestly beating the Magic wasn’t as satisfying as watching the Lakers take revenge against the Celtics, or even show up Lebron and the Cavaliers. So this year’s attempt at a championship repeat has been both tantalizing and terrifying to watch. The Celtics are a great team. Period. Unbelievable defense, unwavering confidence, an extremely motivating coach, and a potent offense when they get rolling. So a win against this team would really validate the greatness of the Lakers. I’m finally more excited than nervous for the them, now that a championship is only one game away. Go Lakers!

A couple thoughts from last night’s game six:

  • The refs seem to call less fouls in games with the Celtics, because of their aggressive nature. If teams don’t return that aggression and physically attack, the Celtics are going to have a huge advantage.
  • Kobe tore his team down after the game five loss. He was overhead starting into a profanity-laden tirade as he entered the locker room and later claimed their team defense was on a milk carton. But he seemed positive and supportive at home last night: lots of high-fives, clapping and hugs.
  • Rondo and the Celtics in general played into the Lakers hands, almost seeming content to give this game away and try again on Thursday. The NBA Playbook has a great breakdown of the Lakers defense on Rondo, which is to basically ignore him outside of 15 feet.
  • In the press conference that followed the game, reporters questioned Doc Rivers if it was a lack of effort from the Celtics and he countered that no, its never a lack of effort in the playoffs. He claims that players get frustrated when they’re not successful and think about the game too much, making them hesitant and a step slower than a team that’s acting more on instinct.

Updating the Design

Although I started with a free theme, I ultimately knew I wanted to design my own theme. At first I started tweaking the current design, but the more I worked with it in Photoshop and the more stuff I tried to include, I realized I should probably start more or less from scratch. So that’s what I’ve done. I’m still working on it, but here’s a little teaser to sample:

Obviously its a lot more stylized and playful, which I usually try to do with all the designs I’ve made for simpixelated.com. The current theme was mostly a stepping stone, something to tide me over as I converted everything to WordPress. With this redesign I’m going to push the width out to give more room for the blog content. Then I’m going to add some actual navigation to the homepage, portfolio, and a new contact page. There’s lots of little icons to be added and hopefully some more social media functionality like Facebook sharing, Retweet, etc. It should be a lot better and hopefully serve me well for awhile.