Matt Brundage

Archive for 2007

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Mustard woes

Due to forces entirely beyond my control, my household now has four opened containers of mustard in varying states of use. Combining said containers is out of the question, as each blend is unique: classic yellow, honey mustard (in both “tangy” and “non-tangy” varieties), and brown mustard, which may or may not be zesty. Mustard is one of those foods that flies off the grocery store shelf, but has limited utility. Sure, it pairs well with meats (especially those with high saturated fat content) and freshly baked soft pretzels, but for everyday use, mustard is largely overlooked. I figure I’ll have to eat one half smoke every night for the rest of the year to reduce our mustard supply to a more manageable size.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Communist chic

Cameron Diaz What really gets my blood boiling these days is the “Communist chic”, especially on clothing and apparel. Why has the wearing of the Soviet hammer and sickle, the red star (of both the USSR and China), or images of Che Guevara, Marx, or Mao become stylish?

First, let’s analyze communism/socialism on an absolute basis: 100,000,000 lives lost to democide. Communism, wherever it’s tried, leaves a trail of death.

And what of living conditions of the survivors?

The irony of this is that communism in practice, even after decades of total control, did not improve the lot of the average person, but usually made their living conditions worse than before the revolution. It is not by chance that the greatest famines have occurred within the Soviet Union (about 5,000,000 dead during 1921-23 and 7,000,000 from 1932-3) and communist China (about 27,000,000 dead from 1959-61). In total almost 55,000,000 people died in various communist famines and associated diseases, a little over 10,000,000 of them from democidal famine.[1]

Throw in chronic political oppression, slave labor, and a basic lack of human rights (including fundamental property rights) and suddenly celebrities, actors, musicians, and Middle America are clamoring to be seen in Communist-themed apparel. Am I missing something here?

I’ve seen images of popular musicians and even television personalities wearing Communist-flavored shirts and hats; for the most part, there is no outrage! These people are subsequently lauded and with no mention of their disgusting logos.

Imagine, for a moment, if a celebrity were to wear, say, a Nazi or Hitler-themed shirt or logo. Remember that Nazi Germany was responsible for the deaths of over 20,000,000 people — a number that almost pales in comparison with Communism. This Nazi-logo sporting celebrity would be instantly vilified and his career would be essentially over. Well-meaning people would discuss his sanity (a-la Charles Manson). Yet if that same person were to wear a hammer and sickle shirt, replete with red star and perhaps a Fidel Castro-style hat, he would be seen as yet another rational, sensitive, well-meaning liberal. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Taking flight

In late May I was given the opportunity to join the web management team at the FAA. I enthusiastically accepted a position and started earlier this month.

FAA happens to be right next door to my previous location at the Department of Energy, but while my commute has barely changed, my job description has been given a huge shot in the arm, so to speak. However, I must point to serendipity rather than pure ambition as the reason for the “career” change — all the pieces came together at exactly the right moment. If you were to ask me what my ideal job would be, my answer wouldn’t differ much from what I’m doing now at the FAA: web management for the FAA’s various websites, coding, design, upkeep, testing, etc.

This is quite possibly my first truly fulfilling position.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Definition of a good day

  • Sleeping in until 10:45am
  • Light reading at home
  • Getting the kitchen completely clean
  • Working out at the Gwendolyn Coffield Center
  • Shopping at Montgomery Mall: getting things for “free” with gift cards and having way too much caffeine
  • Browsing the stacks at Davis Community Library
  • Celebrating mass at the century-old St. John’s historic church
  • Watching a baseball game in wide screen HDTV on Fox
  • Finishing my laundry
  • Listening to classic country music on KEXP
  • Web developing into the night
Thursday, 31 May 2007

When to Use the Perfect Tense

I recently wrote this for a former co-worker’s friend, who is Vietnamese. The friend had insisted upon using the present perfect tense in instances where the simple past tense would have been more appropriate.

Think of “perfect” as meaning “complete”: that is, the action being described has been completed, or will be completed.

People typically use the perfect tense when the action they are describing has some relevance to the present moment. Perfect tense also lends a sense of “immediacy” to the verb phrase and gives the impression that either an action has been completed recently or that the action is intrinsically linked to the current moment.

For example, notice the distinction between
Simple Past tense: I studied for my test.
Present perfect tense: I have studied for my test.
The latter phrase gives the impression that the studying has recently taken place and that you are prepared for the test. The former phrase is ambiguous because is gives no clue to when the studying took place or if you are finished studying.

Another example:
Simple Past tense: I embarked on a long journey.
Present perfect tense: I have embarked on a long journey.
The latter phrase gives the impression that you are still on the journey. The former phrase is ambiguous, because it can mean something that happened in the distant past: “I was 16 years old when I left home. I embarked on a long journey and sailed to Spain…” In that context, you wouldn’t say “I have embarked on a long journey…” because the action is not immediate and has no direct relevance to the present moment.

For more information:

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Gibbard, Bazan, and Rice

David Bazan, May 10, 2007 I saw Ben Gibbard, the ever-venerable David Bazan (pictured), and newcomer Johnathan Rice tonight at the 9:30 Club. NPR has a nice little writeup about the show, including download links.

While I bought the ticket solely for David Bazan’s set, I did enjoy Gibbard’s performance. I’m a casual fan of Death Cab for Cutie, but was actually disappointed that Bazan was touring with such a well-known and popular artist. I wanted another intimate show, with only the faithful standing by my side. The crowd was almost oblivious to Rice’s and Bazan’s sets, talking throughout most songs. When Gibbard walked on stage, the conversations ceased. While Gibbard did deserve the attention the crowd gave him, Rice and Bazan should have been afforded the same respect.

I’m officially in a rut with my concert going, with the majority of my shows involving David Bazan in some way. That Man Man show at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel in April doesn’t count because — as much as I enjoyed the show — I probably wouldn’t have gone if a certain someone hadn’t handed me a ticket and offered to drive. Man Man are a kind of “guilty-pleasure” band: not a band to tell your children about, but something to indulge in every now and then.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Vatsana Design

My wife approached me last Wednesday with the prospect of finally developing her website (her domain having already been registered in March). There was one big catch: It needed to go live before Tuesday the 10th. The rest of my week was already booked solid, what with Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday services, plus Easter dinner at my parents, etc. Somehow, I managed to piece together a coherent mass of code, and threw it online last night: Vatsana Design.

Right out of the starting block, she requested that the home page contain vertically-aligned content. I, wanting to accomplish this without the use of <table> elements, first downloaded and installed Dean Edwards’ IE7 script library, which basically forces IE 5 and 6 to behave like W3C-compliant browsers. It works wonders with positioning and also gives me the freedom to use certain CSS2 selectors such as > and +. (Both IE5 and 6 do not recognize these selectors natively.) Vertically-aligned content seemed deceptively simple, but I must have abandoned a couple design iterations before I found an implementation that worked.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Hey man, slow down

I recently touched on a small OK Computer-related coincidence back in November. Here’s another similar coincidence that bears repeating:

For a little over two years, I split my work days between the Dept. of Energy and the Smithsonian, in buildings facing each other on both sides of the National Mall in downtown DC. Each day before lunch, I’d leave Energy and walk across the Mall, passing tourists and their buses, large packs of school children on field trips, hot dog and t-shirt stands, and the like. One afternoon on my “commute”, I was running a bit late and made a conscious effort to pick up the pace. No sooner had I started walking briskly than Radiohead’s “The Tourist” started randomly playing on my MP3 player. The song is a lament of the average tourist, who, when pressed for time, will try to pack as many events into his day, pausing briefly at photogenic buildings and monuments to take sub-par snapshots.

While the song could easily have been directed at the myriad tourists around me that day, it was also speaking directly to me. People actually tour my city. They spend hundreds of dollars flying or busing themselves in, and I would like to think that they genuinely appreciate the attractions Washington DC has. I live three miles from the DC border, but you’ll rarely find me in DC on the weekends. Perhaps a handful of times a year at most. A shame, really.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Ford web developers advertise their own incompetence

Ford Fleet I used to see this more often in the formative days of the Internet — sites allegiant to Microsoft IE would display a “best viewed with IE” animation, cough up a popup of some sort, or, in extreme cases, deny entry., when encountering a non-IE browser (such as my latest version of Firefox), implements a JavaScript function ironically titled “oldBrowserAlert”. It should be the other way around — old site alert, the superfluous “last updated” date notwithstanding. Just be thankful that the aforementioned web developers had the wit to limit this function in a cookie.

While the site may work just fine with Firefox, its worth noting that the developers (or their superiors) either 1.) either feel it’s alright to alienate approximately one-sixth of their audience (who use Firefox)[1], or 2.) are oblivious to the situation.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Tyler at five months

Tyler Jordan Kinzy My nephew, Tyler Jordan Kinzy, at five months.

More Tyler