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30 Day Game Music Challenge

Calendar image Day 1, title screen music: Hotline Miami Day 2, opening level music: Fantasy Zone Day 3, "8-bit" music: The Adventures of Bayou Billy (level 1) Day 4, music from a console exclusive series: Yoshi's Island (final boss) Day 5, hub world or overworld music: Puggsy (Sega CD) Day 6, music that makes you feel relaxed: Final Fantasy X - Besaid Island Day 7, music from an indie game: VVVVVV - Pipe Dream Day 8, music from a shooter: Whip Rush - Sky City Day 9, music from a licensed game: Silver Surfer (NES) Day 10, RPG battle music: Lisa - War Season Day 11, puzzle music: Baba is You - Cog is Push Day 12, music that makes you sad: Shining Force - City Destruction Day 13, music you like from a game you don't like: Jet Set Radio - Sneakman Day 14, Music featuring vocals: Muse Dash - Funkotsu Saishin Casino Day 15, boss battle Music: Shadow of the Colossus - The Opened Way Day 16, "16-bit" music: Wiz 'n Liz - Snow Land Day 17, music you never get tired of: Sonic & Knuckles - Flying Battery Zone 1 Day 18, music from a game released the year I was born: Space Harrier - Main Theme Day 19, cover of music by a different artist: virt - Once Upon A Time in Transylvania Day 20, music from a racing game: Lotus II - BGM 3 Day 21, music you associate with frustration: Sonic 3 - Carnival Night Zone Day 22, town/village music: Trails of Cold Steel - Leisure Day Day 23, underrated music: Sonic CD - Collision Chaos (past) Day 24, music you constantly have stuck in your head: Link to the Past - Hyrule Castle Day 25, music that gets you pumped: Guardian Legend - Opening Corridor Theme Day 26, music you like from a game you haven't played - Crypt of the Necrodancer (all) Day 27, music from a handheld game - Rhythm Heaven Megamix - Spaceball Day 28, music that makes you nostalgic - Metroid - Brinstar Theme Day 29, final boss music - Final Fantasy 6 - Dancing Mad Day 30, credits music - Rhythm Heaven Fever - Night Walk

voda 1.3 1.3.1 released

Download it or see the changes

Yakuza 0

I spent a considerable amount of my time for the past month playing Yakuza 0, and just so I have something to show for it, I expelled a quantity of text onto the internet re: what I think. TL;DR, it has a lot of problems but won me over. Click here to read the full thing, on Steam. (Sorry for the sloppy editing in parts, had to get it under 8000 characters. Cleaned it up as well as I could before the laziness kicked in) Final score: 7.5 piping hot takoyaki / 10 grilled marbled wagyu

Q&A: web dev pointers restored

At the request of the asker, the post "Q&A: Web dev pointers?" has been restored.

Dialect isn't dissent

There's a town in my state called Hurricane. It's named after the weather phenomenon - a group of surveyors noted that a number of trees had been bent in the same direction, and it looked like the town had been hit by a Hurricane. Locals don't pronounce it the way you're probably thinking though - they pronounce it HURR-i-kinn. Not just residents of the town, pretty much everyone who grew up in my town and the surrounding area says it that way. I pronounce it the way the word "hurricane" is pronounced. This isn't a situation where there's some other etymology, or a case of a false friend - the town was literally named after the weather phenomenon, so I say it the same way I say the weather phenomenon. This isn't a prescriptivist viewpoint. I don't care how other people pronounce it. As far as I'm concerned, they're just saying the word "hurricane" with an accent or in a dialect, similar to how folks of a certain older generation around here might say "warsh". It's an accent I don't have, but one I'm familiar with. I know they're saying "wash", and I'm not going to be a jerk about it, but I'm also not going to say the word that way, because it's not how I say it. I wish people would extend me the same "not being a jerk" courtesy though. I don't call the town Hurricane with a long "A" sound because I think it's the "correct" way to say it or to subtly imply that I think people who don't pronounce it that way are wrong. It just feels wrong coming out of my mouth when I say it that way, because it's the same as a word that I say a different way. I don't care how other people say it, but there are other people who care about how I say it, and I think that's unfair. If I grew up hearing the name of the town before hearing about the weather, I probably would have learned to say it that way, and it would feel normal to me. If I grew up in Philadelphia, saying "wooder" instead of "water" might sound normal to me. But I didn't, so it doesn't. It's sad that people take my saying words the way I learned to say them as some sort of challenge or statement. It's also sad when people are offended by people who use words they don't know. If I use a word you don't know and you ask me what it means, I'll give you the definition with no judgment or scorn. Everyone has to encounter a word for the first time at some point. But I pick the words I use because they feel like the best words to use. I know some people are assholes who go around "correcting" people's pronunciation and scoffing when someone doesn't know a word because it makes them feel smart, but that's not me. I use the words that I think are the best for communicating my thoughts, and there's nothing more to it than that. I'm mostly writing for myself, so that's fine. I'm not writing for any specific audience. While we're at it, can we declare a moratorium on the endless debate re: US English vs. UK English? There are plenty of instances where the US version of a word makes more sense or is more technically "correct" than the UK version and vice versa. People talk differently and that's ok. Don't pretend to misunderstand something just to make a point or start a fight. Likewise, if someone honestly doesn't know what you mean and asks for clarification in good faith, just tell them without being an asshole. The endless rehashing of these points is exhausting. With the internet, people who use all sorts of dialects of the same language can easily communicate with each other, and as long as we understand each other, that's all that matters.

Voda 1.2 is out

Voda 1.2 is out. This blog isn't supposed to be for updates like this anymore but it doesn't have its own project page so I don't have anywhere else to put it. Download it or see the changelog.

USLM is now voda

The little program I made to make streamlink easier to use is now called voda. It now has limited youtube-dl support. I'd like to make the youtube-dl support less limited in the future. Get it here (925 kB)

Voltorb

If Voltorb is a pokeball that developed sentience (which must be true, because it looks exactly like a pokeball and "was first sighted at a company that manufactures Poké Balls") Then why does it allow itself to be confined in a pokeball? Why does it inflict that fate on others? Maybe it's just self-aware enough to think that it's making its own decisions. It has just enough sentience to think that the thoughts it has are its own, and not placed there by the forces that control it. Voltorb is a tragic character. We could all learn a thing or two from it.

ADHD counter-programming

As a self-diagnosed ADHD sufferer, an idea that seems convincing to me is that the best way to counteract the negative effects of ADHD is not to make a conscious effort to do so, but rather reprogramming ourselves so that the desired behaviors are unconscious and happen automatically. A lot of what people say about the development of good habits don't apply with ADHD. The most stark example from my own life is the one time I had a consistent regimen of exercise-for-its-own-sake: something I've struggled with my whole life is deliberate body movement for purposes of maintaining health, commonly known as "exercise". For the first nine tenths of human civilization, the idea that someone would have to do pointless physical labor to stay healthy would seem preposterous: all of life is physical labor. Even for knowledge-based workers like scribes and teachers, the basic activities of life involved constant physical movement: walking from your home to the market, carrying food home, walking to the forum or wherever they did their daily work, climbing stairs, doing the washing, etc. Except for the very rich who had servants to carry them around in litters and do all the household work, exercise was an automatic side-effect of life, something that happened unconsciously. Sure, you had athletes and soldiers who had a specific reason for training, but most people were just workers who got an adequate amount of exercise in their daily lives and never had to think about it. Then the industrial revolution happened, and as time went on machines performed more and more of our daily labor. This isn't to say our lives got easier, since the owning class invented a lot of exciting new types of drudgery to make sure the working class didn't have the time and energy to develop class consciousness. All of the physical labor being saved by cars and washing machines and elevators was diverted into generating more wealth for the owning class. A side-effect of all this is that exercise, once something that happened automatically for abled working-class people, has become another tedious chore. After a too-long exhausting day of often pointless mental drudgery, we're expected to go to the gym and spend our precious few hours of freedom engaging in pointless physical work. Of course it's not pointless, it's to protect us against negative health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, but we're not wired to intuit this. Don't think I'm against technology or progress. I'm not saying life was better for people before, this is just one aspect of life that's gotten worse under capitalism. The time and human energy to exercise was once built into society, because there was no alternative. There was no way around the basic fact that people had to move around a lot to live, so they were allowed the time to do so by necessity. Technology, rather than saving us toil and drudgery, diverted the excess toil and drudgery into the pockets of the owning class. The free time promised by technological progress was a phantom. The grunt work and toil should have been replaced with physical leisure activities and hobbies, but every promise of a better life capitalism offers workers is a lie. Anyway, as someone born into post-industrial capitalism, exercise for its own sake never came easy to me. I'm lucky in that, as one of the very poorest of the poor, my family often struggled to own and maintain a car, so I got used to walking and public transit from an early age. I didn't consider this lucky at the time, of course; as a child fully indoctrinated into the cult of property, I saw not having a car as a mark of low status, a shameful fact that marked me as a pariah. I now see it as a blessing, because walking became an automatic activity that stays unconsciously doable for me to this day. Improvements in portable audio have helped, of course, but even without them I'd feel okay walking long distances on a regular basis. I don't have to think about it; even without music and podcasts, I could fully focus on daydreaming or whatever else and my body would handle the walking (with my eyes doing a little work to protect me from environmental hazards, of course.) Other types of exercise never became automatic for me, and they never will, no matter how hard I try. Conventional wisdom says that if you do something every day for 2 months, it becomes habit. I put that to the test. I had access to a stationary bicycle, and I worked hard to get into an exercise routine. I gamified it. I had a physical calender on which I would mark every day I used the bike, the time spent and distance for that day. At first, I struggled to use it for 5 minutes a day without getting winded. I told myself it was fine, I gave myself a goal of adding 2 minutes to my daily time each week. I was more successful than I could have imagined. I blew past the 2 month mark, then the 3 month mark, then the 4 month mark. It never got easier. Not a day passed that I didn't dread getting on the bike. The only thing that kept me going was a manic hyperfocus on this goal, and the belief in the conventional wisdom that if I kept doing it, it would get easier. It never did. By the end, I was doing 45 minutes a day. I was in the best physical shape I had ever been. You'd think this would be enough to motivate me. It wasn't. It never became automatic or stopped being a chore. Then, I plateaued. I hit an hour a day, and I figured spending more time than that would be absurd. Obviously, I couldn't keep adding time to my goal forever; there had to be a stopping point, and an hour a day seemed good enough to me. It seemed logical that I could keep it up; surely I wouldn't let the 4 months of hard work I spent getting to that point go to waste. Well, I did. Without the extrinsic motivation of trying to add to my time and increase my stats, I had nothing to look forward to. I got bored. I got tired of the tedium. I stopped. I don't know how to counter-program against ADHD in the long run. I figured out something for the short term, but it wasn't sustainable. I don't know how to actually make something a habit and make it stick. It's not enough to just do something every day for two months, I have to somehow rewire my brain into thinking it's something my body can do on autopilot. I can have some success with this in the short term, but it always comes unraveled. No matter how good something is for me, or even how much I enjoy it, the novelty-seeking part of my brain always gets bored and moves on. Good habits never stick, but my unconscious, automatic bad habits do. I at least don't blame myself anymore. My ADHD was always attributed to mental laziness or a lack of discipline. I've proven to myself that I'm not mentally lazy and I can be disciplined. It's that the rules of discipline don't apply to me. My brain doesn't respond the way other people's brains do. If there's a way to permanently develop good habits, it's going to involve circumventing the brain as much as possible. I need to create daemons that allow my body to take care of things without my brain getting involved. I don't think it's impossible, I just don't know how to do it. I have theories that these kinds of neural pathways can only be formed through positive social reinforcement. I'm also interested in the potential applications of psychedelic drugs.

Pokêpinions

1. It's incredible how Pokêmon battles manage to feel a thousand times more tedious and time-consuming than traditional JRPGs despite being theoretically streamlined 1-on-1 battles. It's because they have so many more animations and visual flourishes and pointless messages. In a vacuum it looks like "polish", but in practice it turns the games into unbearable slogs. The animations are not impressive the thousandth time you see them. They turn what could be a 10-hour game into a 20-hour one. (It should be 10 hours long. A game that's twice as long because of UI bloat is not twice as enriching an experience. It is literally stealing life from you.) 2. Machop is a creepy fish dinosaur gremlin baby. Get it away from me

Planet mnemonic

I realized that I never heard a mnemonic to rembember the order of the planets, which I thought was weird, so I decided to make my own. Here it is:

My very enthusiastic mom just scarfed, um, nine pies

Word pasta #1

Presenting "word pasta", a maybe-recurring feature in which I present a series of nonsense words that my brain spat out in lieu of an actual joke. No one wants to see how the sausage is made, but perhaps you might enjoy seeing how the pasta is made. The most expected responses to this feature are "what" and "didn't read it". Ready for episode 1, here we go: Passionate Rubric Nadia

Hilarious tree dream

Here's a dream that, in my dream, I thought would make a hilarious comic strip. In my dream I was like "Oh shit, this would be easy enough to draw or recreate with clip art or something, I should do that" but I think I'll just describe it instead. Two trees are talking about their day. They're asking how each other's days are going and commenting on the weather. They're normal-looking trees with cartoony faces. One of them says "Look out, someone's coming" and their faces disappear. A human walks into the frame. One of them has a thought bubble that says "Hey, if we can communicate telepathically, can't we just transmit an image of our faces too?" The other one thought bubbles back, "Nope." Okay fine I made it a real comic

Croissants

Croissants are so good. They should just be the default type of bread. During a disaster we should stock up on milk, eggs, and croissants. Every sandwich should be a croissan'wich. Selling pre-sliced croissants would be silly, so the expression should be "the best thing since croissants", because normal unsliced croissants are better than sliced bread.

Profanity: it's ok

My view of profanity (on internet social media posts specifically, but also in general) is that it's a useful intensifier when you need it, but the more it gets used, the less useful it is. It's fine, but I feel like it's getting weakened through overuse. I feel like "intensity creep" is a problem in general: the more intensifiers get used to show how strongly we feel about something, the more intensifiers we have to use to get the same effect in the future. What could once described as "great" might now be described as "insanely fucking awesome and epic", etc. What do we do when something actually epic comes along and you need to describe it? Another problem with intensity creep (not profanity-specific) is that trying to reverse this trend makes you look negative and cynical. If you don't use a bunch of exclamation points and intensifiers people think there's something wrong, or you come across as unpersonable. (I understand this is especially a problem for women in professional settings.) I don't know how to fix this. I'm going to try to just write in my own voice and hope people don't take it the wrong way. Here's another thing: if I make a post that gets a lot of boosts, and people enthusiastically agree with it, but they use a lot of profanity, I'm probably going to come away feeling bad about the experience, even if the profanity isn't directed at me. It's not the profanity per se I have a problem with, it's the volume of profanity over time. I feel like using a lot of profanity constantly contributes to a culture of negativity. It's not a 1:1 causal factor, of course, but I think it's part of it. I find myself feeling a lot calmer since I stopped using it so much and stopped consuming so much media where it's used in abundance. This probably makes me sound hopelessly square. Saying "square" probably makes me sound hopelessly lame. That's ok. I'll embrace that title if means I no longer have to accept a culture where people expressing uncool opinions makes them an "f-ing r-slur". See how I self-censored there? It's not because I hate the word "fuck" (although I do hate the r-slur,) it's because I already used it earlier in the post, and I didn't feel like I needed to use it a second time to make my point. Avoiding repetition makes writing more interesting. I've used it a second time now, but just for demonstrative purposes. It doesn't count as swearing if you're just using the word so people know what word you're talking about. Side note, and this might be a hot take, but I hate when people self-censor like this: f*** you To me it makes the person come across as more of a cop than if they censor the way I did: f-ing With the asterisks, you're trying to have your cake and eat it too. You want the intensity of the word, you want to put the word in the reader's head, but without actually using it. With f-ing (pronounced "effing") it's a different word entirely. It doesn't make the reader hear the word in their head. To me it's a more elegant solution. If the situation calls for a mild intensifier, I recommend using one of the cute ones instead: hecking or bleeping or frick or bakesale or whatever. Or make up your own. Almost anything is better than a letter + asterisks. Or, even worse, "f*cking". You might as well just write the word at that point. Defecate or remove yourself from the bucket, ch*mp.

No more RSS

Also, I'm not going to do the RSS feed anymore. Sorry. Part of the problem with posting on social media is the knowledge that everyone's timeline is going to be "flooded" with posts if you post a bunch in a row (like I'm doing right now) and I don't want that anxiety to factor into anything I write here. I apologize if anyone found it useful. If you want some way to know when there are new posts, I recommend bookmarking the page in your web browser and setting a reminder alarm on your phone or other device to check the page every day. If the note at the top of the page is one you've seen before, there are no new posts.

TLS sucks

If you're taking money from people or accepting wikileaks, you should probably use TLS or something, but for a normal personal homepage like this I shouldn't have it. I wish I didn't set it up. It makes it harder to look at the page on old computers. I have to trust some group called "Let's Encrypt" to give me some sort of "certificate", and really, who are these people? Why should I trust them? If the certificate is this easy to get, is it really worth anything? I read a thing about how a bunch of sites had to get new certificates because Let's Encrypt messed it up. I guess the thing I set up with my web host did it automatically, because nothing broke. But I'd rather not have to deal with it. Now I don't know how to get rid of the script that automatically updates it without breaking everything. If anyone knows how to do that let me know.

Tidying Up

I've come to the conclusion that my current blog setup is discouraging me from writing. Enshrining everything in a permanent archive with a publication date with a complicated multi-header template and complex archive format is too much work and pressure to just write when I have a thought that I want to express. Aside from the occasional wall of text, everything is a review or an update about a project. That's not what I want this to be. So I'm blatently ripping off josef k's anti-blog. I'm changing the title of the homepage to "notes", stripping away all of the cruft that's accumulated, and simplifying the menu. All the other sections will still be there but the blog archive will be gone, and all of the notes will be on one page. I backed everything up and I intend to copy the good posts onto this page eventually. I already had the freedom to change or remove anything because it's all a custom CMS, but now that everything's undated and intended to be more ephermeral I'll feel less bad about it. Part of me likes the structure and formality of a years-long archive list, because part of me still buys into the capitalist cult of productivity. Having a bunch of dated organized material is proof that I've been doing something. Well, screw that. That's toxic thinking that I need to excise from my worldview. I don't have to be productive and I have nothing to prove to anyone. A thing I write doesn't need to be cemented in the pages of history. If I do write something I feel is good enough to be cemented in the pages of history, it won't be here, it'll be in a book. Probably. Titles will still be permalinks because I still may want to link to individual posts. Will having the front page be a big wall of text with everything on it make it impossible to find anything? No, that's what Ctrl-F is for. The only problem I forsee is images. Having tons of images load on one page is going to bog it down, so I plan to make have a placeholder icon that only needs to load once that you click on to see the image. If a note requires several images I'll post it on its own page. I'm also gonna get rid of the little slug icons that take you to the top of the page. That's what the home key on your keyboard is for. If you're looking at the page on a device without a keyboard, get a keyboard. They're great. My review of keyboards: ***** (five stars, not censored profanity) Expect some of the old posts to return soon-ish.

Dead weight in games and writing

I think that designing games can make you a better writer, and this is something that I've been discovering in my VVVVVV level. This is the first time I've tried to make a large, cohesive space for the player to explore: all of the games I've made so far have been tiny bespoke experiences with very deliberate pacing. Making an exploration-focused game is presenting a lot of additional challenges, and that's why work on it has been so slow-going comparatively. It's very tempting to make a mostly-empty world with methodically placed things for the player to discover. This is the tack used by a lot of "open world" games, and it works okay, because it fulfills our expectations of a realistic world. Whatever things we're looking for, be it fossils or ancient temples or buried treasure or rare orchids, are scattered over a huge expanse of mostly-empty terrain. We know that exploring and searching for things in the real world requires patience and dedication, and we don't expect the empty space to have anything interesting in it. Open world games often try to fill this space with random encounters, which if done well (and in moderation) can help keep things exciting without hurting the feeling of discovery. However, a lot of the appeal of open world games is just in the zen quality of exploring a vast realistic space, and different players are going to have different thresholds for just how much stuff they want interrupting their zen. If you don't like the combat in a game, too many random encounters could turn a tight 10-hour exploration experience into a 40-hour slog. On the other hand, players who like the combat could find a 20-hour compromise boring and samey with too little to do during exploration. It's a hard balance to strike, and you have to be sure whatever experience you're building is being pitched to the right audience. As an exploration game, VVVVVV differs quite a bit from this. There are no random encounters; everything in the game is an authored experience. It's not a realistic world, it's totally abstract and the way you move around has no real-world analogue. It's not enough to have a big empty box and place things haphazardly for the player to discover; every screen has to be meaningful and justify its existence in some way, even if it's just a rest. A dead end can't just be a dead end: at the bare minimum, it has to feel like a break from the action surrounding it. Ideally, there will be some sort of easter egg or lore or joke or piece of information, but there has to be something the player isn't expecting. The core VVVVVV game uses the maximum possible 20x20 map layout (as one would expect) and it does a good job of pacing things for the player to discover without a lot of dead weight. Nothing feels like it only exists to justify the size of the map; every screen has a reason to be there. It has a small amount of empty space between the "levels", and getting across it never feels tedious. When I started making Abscondemonium, I chose the maximum 20x20 level size to challenge myself creatively, and I didn't give a lot of thought to pacing. The world is a very large building broken into 4 smaller section that the player has to complete in order. I started building out the first section before I knew what the whole level would look like, put all of my ideas into it, and made sure every screen felt like it had a reason to be there. When I started the second section, I realized that I didn't yet have enough ideas to fill it the same way. I started spreading my ideas more thinly, filling in the empty space with, well, nothing: just terrain to traverse. I thought this wouldn't be a problem; after all, look at how much of an open world game is just rote terrain traversal from point A to point B. It doesn't matter what's between points of discovery as long as the thing that's discovered is worthwhile. But when playing my own level with this mindset, I realized that this isn't true, and it's changed the way I think about open world games and fiction in general. Playtesting a level and having to go through space that's not thoughtfully designed over and over is a great demonstration of why this space should be cut. It's a way to tangibly experience dead weight, to physically know why something is wasting your time. When writing fiction, beginners tend to write a lot of scenes that simply shouldn't exist, and the story suffers for it. The urge is totally natural, and unavoidable: without these superfluous scenes, a story is just a list of things that happen. There's no tension, no pacing, no drama. In the foreword to the uncut edition of The Stand, Stephen King gives a great example of a totally functional version of Hansel and Gretel:

Hansel and Gretel were two children with a nice father and a nice mother. The nice mother died, and the father married a bitch. The bitch wanted the kids out of the way so she'd have more money to spend on herself. She bullied her spineless, soft-headed hubby into taking Hansel and Gretel into the woods and killing them. (etc)

He then goes on to give examples of details that can bring the story to life. I think it's really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything else you add to the story is just filler, additional writing you add because a story can't just be its plot beats. But that's not true. Every detail has to mean something. Paragraphs B and D can't just exist because you need something between paragraphs A, C, and E. For the reader, the dead weight will accumulate, the tedium will take its toll, and no matter how good the plot beats are, they'll be marred by having to wade through sludge to get to them. The author is often too close to the material to get a sense of how heavy the dead weight is. Designing a game gives you a different perspective on it. Every time you playtest the game, you encounter the dead weight as if it's the first time. You can't just skim over it. You feel it, physically, every time. It makes it a lot easier to figure out what needs to go. This ends up being a longer, more challenging creation process, but the result is worth it. A player should never feel like they're pointlessly spending time until they get to the next thing, and neither should a reader. Designing games changes the way a person thinks about creation, and I think it can help make them a better writer. I recommend it. (Disclaimer: blog posts are written stream-of-consciousness style with minimal editing, and this essay isn't to be taken as an example of what I think is good writing. Unless you think it's good. In that case, I meant to do it.)

Tape talk

When artists sell cassette tapes on Bandcamp, I wonder whether it's an actual analog recording, or if they're just recording the digital files to tape. "What does it matter? You wouldn't be able to tell the difference." Oh, I know, it's just. It's kind of silly to get a physical cassette tape if it's going to be exactly the same as the FLAC files I can download. Like, what would be the point? "What would be the point of doing it any other way if you couldn't tell the difference?" I mean... you know, sure, listening to tapes when there are way more convenient options is inherently silly. I know that. It's not a rational thing in the first place. That's why no one sells tapes anymore. But if someone was GOING to sell tapes, wouldn't you think that means they care enough about it to go all the way? Like, they're probably nostalgic for analog music the same as me, so wouldn't they want to do it right? "You know the chances they didn't record digitally in the first place are close to zero, right?" W... what do you mean? There are still analog multi-track recorders... "Yeah, and a good one is going to be super expensive and way harder to use than a computer. You really think an independent solo artist selling tapes on Bandcamp is going to have access to that?" But... if there's no analog recording, then selling a tape really is just a pointless gimmick. "Wouldn't it be a pointless gimmick anyway, if you wouldn't be able to tell the difference?" But... but I like tapes. "Why?" ...shut up, me.

Q&A: Web dev pointers?

Anonymous asks:

Have you thought about making a brief guide for building the ideal site, or at least refer to existing guides for such? I realize one can just google up them HTML pages, but considering how you discuss the topic quite a bit I feel such a post would be useful for us youngsters. Hope I'm not being too burdensome with this suggestion. Cheers.

I'm flattered that you'd think of me for this! I'm by no means an expert in web design, or any kind of design, and my idea of the ideal website is pretty idiosyncratic (as you can tell by the website you're looking at) and I think personal websites should be unique, an expression of the builder's personality. So I don't think I'm qualified to write a direct tutorial or anything. However, I can talk about how I learned, and hopefully that can help inspire you to learn. First off, the web is open-source by its very nature. Find a page someone built by hand, (you can usually tell which ones are handmade by disabling javascript in your browser - it should look mostly the same afterwards. You can see a few modern examples by visiting the low-tech webring.) Right-click anywhere on the page that isn't a link or a picture and choose "view source". This will show you all of the HTML that went into building the site you're looking at. Hopefully, this should mostly be the text on the page with all kids of weird words in <angle brackets> sprinkled in here and there. If you see something that looks like ancient Egyptian calculus with nary an English sentence to be seen, you're waist-deep in javascript land, run before it's too late. You can compare the source to the page to see how everything fits together, how paragraphs and sections are designed, how people make links, and the basic structural elements of a website. Most of the actual design work, the colors and fonts and columns and whatnot, is made in what's called "cascading style sheets", or CSS. Sometimes the CSS will be built into the page, in which case you want to look at everything between the <style> tags. (my own site is one example of this.) If it's a separate file, you want to look for a line near the top that says something like <link rel="stylesheet" href="style.css">. Click on that, and it'll open the CSS file in another window. Download a local copy of the HTML file to your computer (and the CSS file, if there is one) and mess around with them. You can use notepad or whatever text editor is on your computer, or download one that's good for HTML. If you're on Windows, Notepad++ is a popular free choice. It'll highlight different parts of the code in different colors. Open the HTML in your text editor and have the site open locally in a browser. Change things, refresh the site in your browser, and see how your changes affect what the site looks like. If you don't like it, ctrl-Z and try something else. You can't break anything or do anything wrong, just experiment. Once you make enough changes that it looks different enough from the original to satisfy you, congratulations! You now have your own unique website. If you want more information about a specific HTML or CSS tag, w3schools.com is my bible. I always have it open whenever I'm making any design changes to a site, especially when I'm working with CSS, because it can be pretty dang unintuitive and that site has good written explanations AND a tool that allows you to see how the code works and make changes right in your browser - click the "try it" button on any element and it'll open a little live code window that you can tinker with. (addendum: you will occasionally see sites that don't use CSS at all. They add colors and font styles with tags like <body bgcolor="gray">. This is the HTML 4 way of doing it, and even though tutorial sites will tell you it's deprecated or outdated, it still totally works, and will even work better on older browsers than CSS. Some people swear off CSS completely, which I can totally understand, it can be pretty intimidating for a beginner. I like it, once you start to understand how it works, I find it's a lot easier to make big style changes to a lot of pages at once.) This is how I learned, but it's not the only right way to do it. I'm definitely the kind of person who learns best by doing. If you learn best by reading, ask someone who would know about good books on the subject. If you learn best by watching, find some good video tutorials. There's plenty of good resources out there. Just don't listen to anyone who says your site has to have bootstrap and dynamic menus and 800 fonts and be a self-contained javascript app. The important things about a website are the words and pictures on it. Once you've messed around and you have a site you like, sign up for a free account at neocities and share it with people. It'll be a perfect cozy little home for all your pictures and words. Finally, if you try to learn about this stuff and you're bored to tears by it, don't worry about it. Web design definitely isn't for everyone, and there are lots of ways to make a website without having to think about it. Blogger still has some HTML-only templates that are totally fine, and some of my favorite sites are people writing with just the basic default template. If all you wanna do is write, black text on white background with blue links is easy to do and totally valid. But if you do want a bunch of clashing colors and weird gifs and randomly scattered text, that's ok too. Do what works for you. Make the thing you want to make. I hope this is helpful, and if you have any specific questions about how to do something, my inbox is always open.


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