Archive for August, 2007

Previously, I wrote about my friend Beth getting me hooked on Guitar Hero. So in celebration of being halfway done my MLS, I gave in to my new Beth-induced addiction and purchased a Guitar Hero bundle. Right now I’m working on mastering the medium difficulty in general, and “No One Knows” as made famous by Queens of the Stone Age from Guitar Hero 1 in particular.

Here’s a pic of my co-worker Kenny and I rocking out in the break room.

Playing Guitar Hero

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A couple weeks ago, I finished up Intermediate Web Development (final project here). Afterwards, I realized that I’m officially half-way done my MLS degree. 21 credits down, 21 to go! Yea!

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As I was previewing my previous entry, I noticed that the thumbnails that WordPress had created for the attached [jpeg] images were of rather poor quality—they exhibited significant compression artifacts—and they were a little smaller than I would have liked.

The latter problem was a simple fix. The Shift This WordPress Thumbnail Size Plugin creates a new configuration page that allows WordPress admins to specify the max dimensions for thumbnails. (I use 192px.)

The problem of poor jpeg thumbnail quality isn’t as clean to fix. The only solution I could find requires changing a line in the source code. As explained here in the WordPress support forums, the fix requires editing the wp_create_thumbnail function in wp-admin/admin-functions.php.

The following code takes the resampled image data and saves it as a file on the server.

// move the thumbnail to its final destination
if ( $type[2] == 1 ) {
	if (!imagegif( $thumbnail, $thumbpath ) ) {
		$error = __( "Thumbnail path invalid" );
	}
}
elseif ( $type[2] == 2 ) {
	if (!imagejpeg( $thumbnail, $thumbpath ) ) {
		$error = __( "Thumbnail path invalid" );
	}
}
elseif ( $type[2] == 3 ) {
	if (!imagepng( $thumbnail, $thumbpath ) ) {
		$error = __( "Thumbnail path invalid" );
	}
}

The following line from the above code handles jpeg images:

if (!imagejpeg( $thumbnail, $thumbpath ) ) {

The imagejpeg function can take a third argument that specifies the quality (0–100) of the resulting file. If that argument is not provided, it defaults to a value of “about 75” (according to the PHP manual). I think a value of 90 is more appropriate, so therefore I edited the above line to:

if (!imagejpeg( $thumbnail, $thumbpath, 90 ) ) {

The result is greatly improved; however, as the comparison below demonstrates, it’s still not quite as nice as what I can get using the application that I’ve been using for years to do thumbnails manually—ThumbsUp. The reason is that ThumbsUp provides options for antialiasing and sharpening the thumbnails that it generates.

Example ThumbnailGuitar Hero Cover
Left: WordPress-generated thumbnail (after applying the above hack)—clean, but kinda fuzzy.
Right: thumbnail generated using ThumbsUp—nice & sharp.

Incidentally, the thumbnails on the previous post were all generated using ThumbsUp (to replace the ones that WordPress had originally generated with all the compression artifacts). I had hoped the above hack would keep me from having to do that again; however, it looks like I may have to continue using ThumbsUp as my source for thumbnails.

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June 9, 2007

My Mom having flown to St. Louis earlier in the week, we hop in my car and started drive to PA. We make it all the way to the Eastern edge of Ohio before stopping for the night. We arrive in West Grove the following afternoon.

June 12, 2007

I drive up to Lancaster to have lunch with Paula at the Papaya Grill—a pan asian restaurant in the Park City mall. Over lunch we have a nice discussion of copyright law, amongst other topics.

Afterwards I head over to the F&M campus and check out all changes to the campus. Lots of stuff has changed, and yet it still felt familiar. I buy a nice new F&M window sticker for the car in the new bookstore.

June 13-16, 2007

I attend the American Theological Library Association conference at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Philadelphia along with 3 of my coworkers. On Saturday, one of my coworkers takes a fall on the campus of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary and breaks her leg in 5–6 places. Ouch!

Guitar Hero Cover

June 19, 2007

I visit my friend Beth, who introduces me to Guitar Hero. Once again, Beth gets me hooked on something. (Beth has previously turned me on to anime, Dance Dance Revolution, and Fluxx.)

June 20, 2007

I start my day by driving down to Baltimore, MD to visit my friend from college Wendy. Wendy and I take her daughter Laura to the National Zoo via the DC Metro. Wendy’s husband Jeff had to work that day, so I get to play substitute dad, helping to push Laura’s stroller and pointing out animals.

Visiting Wendy
Wendy, Laura, Me

After spending the afternoon with Wendy and Laura, I drive up the road a little bit to have dinner with my Internet friend Liesel and her family. After dinner, I introduce Liesel and her sister Abigail to Setters of Catan. I narrowly beat Liesel by one point, and manage to get her hooked on the game. (Now I’m getting people hooked on stuff!) In return, Liesel introduces me to P.D.Q. Bach.

LieselAbigail & Liesel
Liesel; Abigail (l) & Liesel (r)

June 22, 2007

My Dad and I set out for St. Louis.

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When Sex Goes To School

When Sex Goes To School is a very enlightening and frustrating book. On the one hand it provides a well-researched description of the two very polarized sides of the national debate about sex education (and sex, gender, and sexuality in general). Of particular note are chapters 2 (“The Birth of Sex Education”), 3 (“Sex Education, the Sexual Revolution, and the Sixties”), 8 (“The Politics of Sex”), and 9 (“Sex Education in America and Whether It Works or Doesn’t—and Why That’s Not the Right Question”). One of the more interesting points that Luker argues is that the sexual revolution began not in the 1960s but early in the 20th century. This was the time when dating replaced courtship and dramatic cultural shifts were taking place concerning the relationships between men and women. The 1960s were just when the cultural undercurrents that had been flowing since earlier in the century exploded to the fore and pre-marital sex became embraced by the mainstream.

The frustrating aspect is that this study, as the author acknowledges, focuses solely on the people at the extreme ends of the spectrum. Therefore, people are categorized either as prudish sexual conservatives who would rather not speak about sex, who feel that to talk about sex to teenagers inevitably leads them to promiscuity, and who desperately desire to turn back the clock to the idyllic 1950s; or as sexual liberals who see sex as no big deal, who desire to teach all kids about sex from an early age regardless of the values of other families, and who believe that more information about sex will inevitably lead teenagers to make “good choices”. In short, the book describes those who see giving teenagers more information about sex as an unqualified bad idea, and those who see it as an unqualified good idea. The weakness here is that it misses the middle ground. I found myself disturbed by the sexual conservatives as much as the sexual liberals.

Does “comprehensive” sex education sexualize our culture and encourage premature sexual behavior in kids? Does “abstinence-only” sex education endanger those teens who do not share the Judeo-Christian worldview in which that philosophy makes sense and who are thus likely to abandon chastity sooner or later? Should the sexual mores of conservatives be forced upon the children of liberals, or should the sexual mores of liberals be forced upon the children of conservatives? Should there be a unified, one-philosophy-fits-all sexual education program, or should parents have options from which to choose?

Ultimately, When Sex Goes To School creates more questions than answers. However, it helps the reader better understand the sides of the debate, and maybe that’s the first step forward.

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