Matt Brundage

Archive for 2010

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The bunny diet

Matt with Munch A couple days ago, I was attempting to feed our rabbits something delicious: I believe it was a grape.

“That’s so unhealthy for them!”, Annie interjected.

Our rabbits tend to subsist primarily on hay, hay/alfalfa pellets, leafy greens (kale, lettuce), and carrot pieces. Sugary treats such as dried mango, raisins, and plump red grapes are apparently out of the question now, as we want our sniff machines to live as long as possible.

Then it dawned on me: kale — by far the healthiest food in our fridge — was more or less reserved for two eight-pound Holland Lops. So that’s when I decided to start eating raw kale. It’s actually quite tasty. And healthy as all get-out.

Friday, 17 December 2010

I’m hooked on speed

And, no, I’m not talking about alpha-methylphenethylamine or the dopamine receptors in my brain. Nay; I’m referring to improving the efficiency of two aspects of my daily life:

My recreational running speeds over various distances

In the early months of 2010, I began to notice that running at a given speed — say, 7 MPH was progressively taking less and less effort as my overall weight and health improved. So, naturally, I started to increase my average speed. 8 MPH became the new 7 MPH and it looks as if 9 MPH is becoming the new 8 MPH. In July, I started to keep track of my personal records for various distances and times. Records continue to fall, so I know that there’s still room for improvement.

Web page load times of websites for which I code

In September, a random blog post keyed me in to the goodness that is Page Speed, a Firefox extension, that, with the help of Firebug, analyzes a web page’s assets and server settings against a set of web performance best practices and assigns a numeric score between 1 and 100. Do you see where I’m going with this? I now have a somewhat-tangible way of expressing a web page’s speed and a method for calculating speed improvements over time!
Google Page Speed screenshot

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

I’m at a loss

I’ve lost nearly 50 pounds since the summer of 2008. I now weigh more or less what I weighed when I started college in 1998, so — needless to say — I’m pleased.

The cause

What’s changed? I haven’t exactly increased my exercise regimen. It’s still the same old running, volleyball, and casual weight training. In fact, when I initially joined a gym in 2006, I was mystified that my weight just kept creeping up. So I’ve learned not to attribute weight solely to an exercise regimen.

Japanese macaque Diet! I’m no longer eating meat (except for fish). I’m no longer overeating to the point of abdominal discomfort. I’d like to think that I’m consuming higher quality calories — and in reasonable quantities. Mainstays: nuts, beans, brown rice, fish (salmon, tuna), potatoes, tomatoes and tomato-based products (soups and V8), oatmeal, yogurt, milk, natural sweeteners (honey and maple syrup).

The effect

Last month, I went clothes shopping and bought a couple of size small polo shirts at the Gap. Small! And they fit just fine. Small is apparently the new medium.

The post-volleyball knee pain is completely gone. Two years, ago, I’d come home from volleyball and I’d barely be able to walk from the car to the front door — the pain in my knees was so bad. At the time, I didn’t even put two and two together; I just attributed the pain to repetitive jumping and pivoting. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that it dawned on me: I was carrying around the equivalent of two adult Japanese macaques 24/7!. How I managed to even run or jump at all is a mystery to me.

Aside from volleyball, I’ve been running progressively faster and for longer distances. I’ve even somehow begun to do sets of unassisted chin-ups at the gym. Remember, no more snow monkeys on my back.

The data

weight, 2001-2010

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Two new redesigns for your enjoyment

ECTutoringEducational Connections

Small Image In June, Annie got a referral from a book publisher in need of graphic design and layout for an upcoming title. As it turned out, the client also needed intensive web development, which presented a golden opportunity for Annie and me to work together for the first time. The book, Homework Made Simple (left), features her cover art, layout, and illustrations.

For the website, Annie provided page mockups, designed the logo, and gave much-needed creative input. I made a decision early on in the redesign process to ditch the site’s integration with WordPress — a decision I didn’t make rashly. WordPress definitely has its uses, but for Educational Connections, the drawbacks of WordPress outweighed the benefits.

The site is unique among my projects in that it boasts prominent stock photography of photogenic children and teens. I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I believe I have a new-found appreciation for happy, bubbly stock photos.

Practical PocketsPractical Pockets

Practical Pockets caters to, admittedly, a very niche market. Post-surgical recovery accessories for women? Hey — the site can’t redesign itself. A caveat: page content is served by a CMS which the client edits from time to time, so any peculiar page-specific layout decisions were probably not made by me.

I think my greatest accomplishment for Practical Pockets is that, even though I developed in Firefox and Chrome, used beaucoup progressive enhancement, and tended to push “aggressive” CSS rules, my Internet Explorer fixes file consists of a single float declaration.

For both of these projects, I “flipped the switch” and opted for the HTML5 doctype. Many developers are of the impression that HTML5 is “the future.” The future is now! Coding from the beginning in HTML5 now means not having to go back and correct markup later, as Jens Meiert can attest.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

STP giveaway

Medium Image To celebrate the release of Stone Temple Pilot’s self-titled sixth album on Tuesday, May 25, I hereby offer their first five albums, free. Simply contact me with your mailing address and preferred album, and I’ll ship it to you. Albums available: Core, Purple, Tiny Music…, No. 4, and Shangri-La Dee Da.


Shangri-La Dee Da is gone. Also, I forgot to mention, but Scott Weiland’s 1998 solo album 12 Bar Blues is also available.

Update #2

Tiny Music… is gone!

Friday, 16 April 2010

The futility of criticism

I’ve recently come to the realization that most criticism is ultimately futile, and for a variety of reasons:

You may face obstinacy

Some people just don’t take criticism well. The evidence is there: just take a look at their kindergarten report cards. Unfortunately, the types of people who exhibit brash, offensive, or inconsiderate behavior are also the types of people who will pay no heed to your remonstrances — however well-intentioned.

You risk looking like a stuck-up snoot

Say a friend or co-worker is cracking wise on topics generally considered to be scatological or prurient. What do you do? Indicating that certain conversation is “beneath you” will only make you come across as a holier-than-thou prude. And you also run the risk of being a hypocrite if you someday tolerate — or worse, make — similar comments.

You may be wrong

When attempting to correct someone, there’s always that hint of doubt that your advice is incorrect, inappropriate for that particular person, or could possibly be incorrect in the future.

You won’t be giving the person the benefit of the doubt

Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is actually easy in traffic situations. If someone cuts you off or comes too close, perhaps he didn’t see you, or perhaps he has a higher tolerance than you do for shorter distances between vehicles. If the car ahead of you is traveling below the speed limit or exhibiting inappropriate lane-changing behavior, then perhaps the driver is inexperienced, has low vision, is experiencing an acute illness, is bereaved, or some combination of the above.

However, giving a person the benefit of the doubt can lead to careless assumptions about a person’s intelligence, or lack thereof: “Why does that lady keep bumping into me on the train, and not even apologize?” Perhaps certain motor skills are still too advanced for her small brain.

You may be overlooking cultural differences

Case in point: the mullet factor. Hispanic men are generally exempt from the “no mullets” rule and any criticism relating to mullets.

You may push someone over the edge

Any criticism on your part may be taken the wrong way and you could wind up being the contributing factor to someone’s early demise.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Music recommendations

It’s difficult to make music recommendations. If only one in ten of my recommendations come to any sort of fruition, I will have considered it a success. I don’t expect people to instantly enjoy the music that I recommend to them — for the same reason that I rarely “get” a band or album the first time. In fact, as I’ve pointed out, it may take half a decade (or longer) for me to fully appreciate albums that I acquire for myself. This slow burn is one of the reasons that I hold recorded sound in such high esteem.

I’ll purposefully skip the powerhouses that should already be in your collection: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Johnny Cash, The Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., Radiohead, Pink Floyd, et cetera. Here is a list that I compiled today without any premeditation:

Lost in the Woods

My Morning Jacket, Band of Horses, Midlake, Fleet Foxes, J. Tillman, Department of Eagles

Somewhat Christian but not quite

Pedro the Lion, Sufjan Stevens, Damien Jurado, Denison Witmer, Rosie Thomas

Honky tonk and alternative country

Johnny Paycheck (especially his 1960s output), George Jones, Hank Williams Sr., Ray Price, Junior Brown, Blitzen Trapper, The Jayhawks, Neko Case (sometimes)

Panda Bear Indie and experimental indie

Panda Bear, Animal Collective, Of Montreal, Beck, Arcade Fire, The Verve, The White Stripes, The Shins

Scottish rock

Travis, The Trash Can Sinatras, Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura

Church music

Composers worth rediscovering: Lorenzo Allegri, J.S. Bach, Gabriel Fauré, W.A. Mozart

Choral groups: Chanticleer, The Tallis Scholars


Air (sort of), Daft Punk, Basement Jaxx, Hot Chip, The Chemical Brothers, Caribou

Pop (in its many forms)

Weezer, Bee Gees, John Denver, Electric Light Orchestra, Michael Jackson, ABBA


Man Man, Death From Above 1979, Black Eyes & Neckties, Neutral Milk Hotel

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Political conventional wisdom

How do politicians acquire nicknames that are often inaccurate, or, at worst, downright wrong? Take, for instance, the Kennedy clan. They are frequently referred to as a “dynasty” or as “American royalty”. What makes JFK’s presidency “royal”, but, say, Woodrow Wilson’s or George H.W. Bush’s presidency not royal? Speaking of which, if titles such as “dynastic” or “royal” should be bestowed upon an American political family, it should be the Bushes, as they have served in executive positions for roughly 2.5 times as long as the Kennedys (26 years vs. 10.5 years). And I am including Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend’s tenure in this equation, which is indeed generous of me.

And why is Barack Obama always referred to as a “rock star”? I have never heard him sing or play any kind of musical instrument. As far as I know, he has yet to release any songs. Furthermore, isn’t the typical rock star the last kind of person that one would want in the most important executive office in the land? The only thing Obama has in common with the typical rock star is the narcissism. Oh, and the cocaine use.

And why was Ted Kennedy known as a liberal lion? It was obvious that he was a liberal, but what about the lion, an animal known for a powerful libido and a ferocious appetite for raw flesh? Furthermore, people didn’t go around calling Jesse Helms a “conservative caribou” or a “Republican rabbit.” What gives?

And why-oh-why was Bill Clinton the first black president? Was it because of his saxophone playing, as Toni Morrison asserts? That musical ability alone would make Clinton much more deserving of the “rock star” moniker than Obama. And if Clinton truly was the first black president, then what of Obama’s supposed historicity?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

User agent esoterica

IE6 visits For the past 30 days, IE6 visits composed less than 5% of all browser visits to, a new low. Because the 5% threshold has now been breached, I’ll take this opportunity to state that, finally, IE6 is no longer a supported browser. Wow, it felt really good to type that! I had been flirting with the idea of dropping support for some time. In fact, it was supposed to be a Christmas gift to myself. But it is finally official.

What are we left with? Managing the quirks of IE7 and IE8 is a walk in the park compared to the frequently illogical rendering behavior of IE6.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Google is phasing out support for the 8 ½-year old browser — with support at YouTube to end just a couple of days before IE9 is announced at MIX10.

List of fun things to do in a post-IE6 world

  • start using alpha transparent PNG
  • start using CSS2/3 selectors
  • start using inline-block instead of float
  • start using “px” and “pt” again in font-sizing (perhaps)
  • start using position:fixed
  • stop adding cellspacing="0" to tables
  • stop filling empty table cells with “ 
  • More fun things to do
Saturday, 30 January 2010

The first ten years

screenshot This month marks the tenth anniversary of my website. I registered in early 2003, but the site had existed for three years prior at the now-defunct

I’m stopping short of providing a gallery of screen shots of my site through the years, but this I can tell you: the site gets progressively less embarrassing as time goes by. But even in rare instances when the design wasn’t half-bad, the underlying code was — by current standards — atrocious. A few examples:

  • I didn’t specify a doctype declaration, with the reasoning that I was keeping the page weight low. For similar reasons, or perhaps out of sheer laziness, I didn’t always enclose attribute values in double quotes. Doh! Both of these heinous practices ended in 2004.
  • In lieu of server-side file includes, I was using JavaScript includes simply to output common navigation menus on the page. In some parts of the site, this practice persisted until 2007. 2007!
  • I didn’t start validating my code until the summer of 2004, around the time that I started using Firefox. And yes, my site was “broken” when I first viewed it in Firefox, then on version 0.8 or 0.9.
  • I was declaring font sizes in points rather than “em”s or percentages as late as 2005.
  • I would sometimes separate paragraphs with two <br> tags instead of wrapping them in <p> tags. This practice finally ended site-wide in 2007.
  • I didn’t even start indenting my code at any discernible frequency until late 2007 — it was a conscious decision to keep the page weight as low as possible.

I feel as if I have finally absolved myself of past web development sins. The only real bright spot in my early code seems to be my wholehearted embrace of CSS.