Thursday, May 31, 2007

Aloha Mahalo: Man vs. Algorithm

Today was the launch date for the Alpha version of one of the most interesting web startups I've seen in a while. It's called Mahalo.

Mahalo is designed to be a search engine to rival Google and Yahoo. The main thing it does differently is power itself with people instead of algorithms. In this sense, many people are saying it's more like a wiki than a search engine. An information directory. If that's all Mahalo will ever be, let it be known that it's probably the most attractive one out there. I mean - that's got to count for something, right? Nevertheless, it's been met with a waterfall of dogged criticism from pretty much the entire Interweb. I wonder if the venture capitalists are sweating yet. Apparently it's got some impressive financial backing.

But you know what? I tried Mahalo out, and I happened to like it. In all fairness, even if the new search engine on the block's not going to dethrone anyone, I think the creators deserve a lot of credit. The query results page is nicely done, and little details and features are well thought-out. The amount of information on each result page is plentiful but not overwhelming.

To show you how it works, I slapped down a quick search for the movie Knocked Up, which premiers tomorrow in theatres. Here's what the results page looks like:

As you can see, the first portion of results are the top 7 most relevant links. In this case, they give you the film's official site, its Wikipedia entry, IMDb profile, and so on. After that they divvy up the results by categories such as Photo and Video. A sidebar gives you the most basic and probably most sought-after information, such as the fact that it stars Seth Rogan and the lovely Katherine Heigl of Grey's Anatomy prestige. Mahalo also places little icons next to some links, which are explained in a legend at the bottom. Hovering over one of the little yellow exlclamation icons will give you a little warning like, "this site is Flash-heavy" or "incoming popup!" This is what I was referring to earlier as "well-thought out details". Features like this are fairly common, but often more obtrusive. Another fun little addition is the inclusion of credit to the page's creator. (Amusing aside: The guy who wrote the result for Knocked Up is an actor. An actor working for a web startup. Here I thought I was one of a kind.)

Oh, one thing I forgot to mention is the fact that, since it's really new, there are plenty of things Mahalo doesn't have a hand-written page for yet. A search for "Muse", (whom I've been listening to pretty well non-stop all day today) yielded an apology for incompleteness, followed by some of the top Google results they throw in for you. Anyhow, who knows if this thing will ever fly, but I think it's pretty neat. I'll be watching its career with great interest. (First person to identify the reference gets a cookie.)

In other nooz, signups for the muchly anticipated MMO Warhammer Online's Closed Beta opened today. I applied, although I doubt they'd grant me access seeing as I have no prior experience with beta testing. Come to think of it, I could have just lied my head off and they'd probably have been none the wiser. Oh well.

Another random note, I have a whole whack of Joost invites now if anyone's interested. If you'd like one, just drop me a comment and I'll hook you up. Though, interestingly, when I was perusing Digg today I found something that could conceivably be a superior alternative to Joost. It's called and it lets you stream content from a myriad of popular television channels...supposedly. I haven't had a lot of time to fool around with it yet, but I tried getting Fox Soccer without any luck or explanation of error.

And remember my big exodus from Firefox to everything else under the sun, and how I eventually settled on Camino? Well, I've actually had no end of problems with Camino as well recently - problems that I'd dub even worse than those that plagued me with Firefox. For instance, I almost lost this entire entry while writing it, just a couple paragraphs ago, for reasons I can't explain. Fortunately Blogger's new Auto-save feature saved me from going completely bananas from losing so much writing. If I had to be descriptive about the problems I've been having, I'd say it crashes all the time like Firefox did and also screws up web pages, especially when dealing with input fields. My diagnosis? Time for a new browser. Again. God help me.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

...And I Just Can't Hide It!

I'm so excited!!! After some drama ensuing from using Ticketmaster, it is now official that Sarah and I are going to see Muse on August first in Toronto!

I've been listening to Muse a lot lately, especially their latest album's big hit "Starlight". My god, it's amazing. I'm sure he won't read this, but I need to thank my friend from school Stefan Herda for allerting me of this concert.


Random: I just want to mention that the word is out about Microsoft Surface. It actually sounds ridiculously cool, although it probably won't be the type of thing the masses are using for a long time yet.
See a full article and discussion from Paul S's blog.

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Life of a Non-Student, Part Deux

The last few days have been so awesome. On Friday, Alex and I had lunch at the bagel place on Locke street. Nothing like a toasted bagel with cream cheese! It was a really nice day too. We spent the afternoon devising plans for our video project. That night, Pete was back from Toronto and, after having Chinese food for dinner here, we went over to Sara's. For the past week or so we'd been planning a surprise birthday party for Jer, so the three of us set to work baking him a cake. We were there past midnight working on it while listening to some oldies. It was good times. The next day was the party, and it went off well. In attendance were most of the usual gang, except Katelin who was out of town, and Jeremy's girlfriend Nicole. The original plan was to have a picnic at Pier 4 park, but we decided to stick around Westdale since the weather threatened rain. It was strictly an afternoon thing because Jer and Nicole were leaving to go camping that night.

That night after the party, Pete and I rented The Last King of Scotland. It was a solid film, I really liked it. Forest Whitaker's performance as the dubious Ugandan president Idi Amin was definitely deserving of the Oscar award he won. Tonight, Pete, Paul, Luke and I went to Silver City to catch a 9pm showing of new Pirates of the Carribean movie, but, tragically, all shows were sold out. At a loss, we just hung out and ordered pizza. Stuffed crust.

Oh man. As I was typing that last sentence, my Donnie Darko poster fell off the wall. You don't know how depressing that is - because, I always have trouble getting posters to stay up. But I put my new ones (acquired last fall) up over a month ago with some awesome sticky tack and they've been fine...until now. Ah well.

Before I go fix that, I want to mention that there's still been no word from any of the places I applied for work at, but I'm now just starting to look into something I've heard about. I don't want to say what it is until I've learned more about it and decided whether it's even feasible - but I can tell you that, if I decide to go for it, I think those of you who know me will be fairly surprised. This is not a typical David-move. More to come.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Life of a Non-Student

My appreciation for summer still hasn't diminished. Some of my friends are already pining for the next school year to begin, which is a sentiment I can imagine, but not indulge in. As much as I appreciate the luxuries that student life affords, such as the facilitation of intelligent thought and the opportunity to meet like-minded people, I'm really enjoying the flexibility of a non-student life. It still seems like a novelty to be able to make plans to, say, hang out with friends for hours without worrying about looming responsibilities that will haunt you until they're finished. Of course, life would probably be more like that if I were working full-time. Take from that what you will, but I won't say any more publicly about my current job.

What I will say is that this afternoon I went with Alex to a Youth Employment Centre in Jackson Square. We spent probably a good hour going through their books of job listings and filling out applications. I don't know how she did it, but Alex filled out three times the number applications that I did, and in less time. But in any case, I applied to 4 positions that I think I have a pretty good chance at. The first two are with Children's Aid - both computer-oriented jobs, one being an IT person, (whose desired expertise is pretty unintimidating, mostly just dealing with Office applications and Internet Explorer) and the other a junior accountant. The third one was a no-brainer choice for both of us: a counsellor at a Theatre day camp for kids aged 7-14. Lastly on my part, I applied for a position with the Biochemistry and Biomedical Science Department at McMaster as a junior web designer. The job description actually emphasized proficiency with Word more than proficiency with Dreamweaver, which was a pleasant surprise seeing as, well...that is certainly the case with me. Although, there's no doubt in my mind that I'm qualified for the job, especially since Rockwell's visits to Hamilton have included a little time to show me some pro tips for use with Dreamweaver and HTML in general.

In other David-news, I need to mention the awesome time my friends and I had this past Sunday night. We went to check out the Victoria Day fireworks display at Dundas Driving Park. They were pretty amazing. I kept having flashbacks to when I was a young kid, and cowering in between my parents and under a wool blanket being terrified out of my mind at the same or similar show. Don't get me wrong though. I'm glad my parents took me. In fact, I've come to think of it as a rite of passage. If I ever have a son, I'll take him to some crazy Chinese fireworks, and he'll emerge from that night a man.

I may be going camping with some high school friends during the weekend of June 9th and 10th. The destination in mind is Fifty Point, just east of Confederation Park in Stoney Creek. In addition to this, my usual gang has hopes of organising some kind of camping slash backpacking excursion, since my hopes for a cottage-excursion got knocked out by the brutal uppercut of reality saying, "You're all relatively poor." Ouch.

Lastly, but absolutely not least-excitingly, Alex and I are in the ultra-early stages of planning some kind of low-stress video project. And before you start rolling your eyes, let me say that I know what you're thinking: How many times has Dave said something like this? When will it end?

Projects such as this one that never make it off my mental drawing board seem to be doomed to fail, and it's usually because what I have planned is too elaborate or beyond my means to create. It's also because I'm something of a perfectionist when it comes to these things, and I'd never create something that couldn't live up to the ideal in my ambitious little head. (Actually, my head is kind of big, but that's not important.)

The point is, this project is not beyond our means, and Alex is hopefully less anal about these things than I am, which would dramatically increase the likelihood of something actually being produced. Expect it to appear on this blog eventually, and if it doesn't please bug me about it. Danke.


Friday, May 18, 2007

StarCraft 2 Announced in Seoul

Just moments ago, Blizzard Entertainment officially unveiled their next big release title, STARCRAFT 2, on the show floor of the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational in Seoul, South Korea.

Note: See bottom of post for updates!

For those of you who don't know, the original StarCraft, released in 1998, is one of the most popular video games that exists. It is sometimes jokingly referred to as the national sport in Korea, for its popularity and permanent status in their culture is unprecedented. The attendance and coverage of StarCraft matches and tournaments, held in stadiums (yes, stadiums) crammed with adoring fans, are comparable to that of the Super Bowl in America. No joke! The top players, such as Lim Yo-Hwan and Lee Yun-Yeol have corporate sponsors and are recognized faces around the country, appearing on soda cans and cereal boxes and God knows what else.

The release of the sequel is something fans have been awaiting for just shy of 10 years. Blizzard's other two main franchises, Warcraft and Diablo, have each been given sequels. (Warcraft, of course, had no less than two RTS sequels and the MMO - World of Warcraft.)

As I'm typing this, internet forums around the web are exploding with threads hailing SC2's coming. The World of Warcraft Off-Topic Board in particular has been standing on its ear, keeping its fellows up-to-date within seconds of released information. I want to give a huge thank-you to Charles Onyett of, whose tireless updates from the floor of the show have been appearing at no more than 5-minute intervals for the past hour and a half in his article covering the event in exquisite detail. My favourite part of his frantically-taken notes so far is this excerpt:

"every unit on screen destroyed - three nukes were launched at once - then zergs rush in and spell 'GG' while turning into suicidal bombs."

Here's one gamer who can't wait to play this next installment. Thank you for the sequel Blizzard! Good game indeed.

Edit 5: OFFICIAL SITE is up! Download CGI video, wallpapers, and more.

Edit 4: High-resolution screenshots now on IGN! (Thanks to Berlyntroll)

Edit 3: Digital camera-captured Gameplay screens located @ bottom of post.

Edit 2: CGI Video appears on YouTube! (Thanks to Nigma for this)

Edit: I'd also like to express my amazement at the speed with which dedicated Wikipedi-ers made a detailed (as possible) entry for SC2.

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Too Good to be True

Desjardins called. They gave the job to someone else.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Stage, Linguene, Code

Life Update! It goes on as usual, and I mean that in the least desparaging way possible. My time in Hamilton has been really great so far. I wish I could take a whole year off school instead of just 4 months. I've done a lot with my friends in the last couple weeks, including the barbeque at Paul's, the night at the boat and Williams, as well St. Catherine's on Monday night. Jeremy, Alex, Katelin, Emmett, and I drove up to Brock University to support Westdale's Sears Drama Festival entry: The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ianesco, skillfully directed by Pete's sister Thea. We met up with Sara, Beth, and Pete who'd made the trip down from Toronto, as well as a host of other friends and former teachers from Westdale. Soprano, by the way, is an absurdist play that pokes fun of the more ridiculous points of conversational manners in the time Ianesco wrote it. It's hard to explain it in a way that makes it sound remotely amusing, but the play is honestly a riot. You'd have a good chuckle if all you did was sit and read the script to yourself, but seeing it in performance is something else. Ruthie Pytka-Jones' and Spencer Reynolds' (I think that's his last name?) highly physical and chemistry charged performances had the audience in stitches. They got a standing ovation.

Afterward we drove back to Hamilton and I met up with Pete, Sara and Emmett at East Side Marios. I had Linguene with some spicy meat sauce, plus Caesar salad and delicious garlic bread. My mouth is watering again thinking about it - it was awesome.

I'm not working much this week. In fact, my only shifts this week are on Saturday and Sunday night. I am, of course, more actively seeking an additional/replacement job. Desjardins haven't called me yet, but I happen to know they aren't finished interviewing candidates yet - so it's not a worry. In my spare time I've been trying to keep fairly busy. My mum has been considering quitting her current job for quite some time and migrate to greener pastures. Most options would require her to become more computer-literate, so I actually wrote a small course that features content I think would be relevant for most office jobs. One of the likely outcomes that we've just begun looking into is the possibility of starting a little business of selling things on eBay. We bought a book that explains how to go about it properly. According to the book, one important step in promoting your legitimacy as a seller is having your own company website. So, to help my mum out, and to educate myself in something that's worthwhile anyway, I've been re-learning HTML and teaching myself to use Dreamweaver. If my plans come to fruition, I'll build a simple website for my mum's potential company which will be good practice for my own eventual site. (I already mentioned my desire to create something more professional and independent in a previous post.)

Anyhow, I think that'll be all for tonight!

EDIT: I keep forgetting to mention that the feed from my is now in my sidebar. Keep an eye on the list to see what interesting articles and other items I've been looking at lately.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Fond Farewell, Firefox

Update: Since writing this I've found out I'm far from being the only person who is bemoaning Firefox's decline. This article that appeared early this morning on Wired informs that a lot of folks have had the same trouble with Firefox as me - especially Mac users. It goes on to discuss how much Firefox has changed from the lightweight open source champ that it once was.

Over the past couple of weeks my frustration with Firefox has been building. It fails to load some webpages correctly, but I can live with that. The real problem is the increasingly persistant crashes I keep getting - tonight it was three in the space of a few hours. When that happened I lost my cool and resolved to ditch my old Mozillian friend for good and switch to a new browser.

Fortunately, I recalled a fairly recent post Paul Stamatiou made about abandoning Firefox himself. I don't know much about the other browsers out there, or at least I didn't, so I used this entry of Paul's as a guide to other popular browsers. I ended up downloading and sampling several, and I thought I'd take this opportunity to talk briefly about each one. Perhaps this can serve as a little guide to anyone who's also considering a change of browsers.

This open source browser is really just a rendering engine for Apple's Safari, and was Paul Stamatiou's choice after switching from Firefox. The look of it is ok for a while, but I find the dark colours a bit depressing. It has some cool features for . sure, but it's not easy to import your data from a previous browser - which is pretty much a make or break factor for me. I love my setup.

This one's kind of neat. Probably the most visually appealing, Flock advertises itself as "the social web browser". It lets you grab a feed from Flickr or Photobucket and have access to it right in your browser UI - not that that feature's very useful, but I guess some would like it. Other than that it's pretty standard, but I found it a little clunky and hard to use.

OmniWeb (Mac Only)
I could see myself getting into this one, but sadly it's not free. That's pretty much a deal breaker right there. I'm not crazy about the interface either. The upside is that it's got lots of customization options - and therefore a steep learning curve.

Shiira (Mac Only)
This is definitely one of my favourites. In fact, probably the main reason I didn't end up choosing Shiira is because it's so different from what I'm used to - and I don't like change that much. Instead of tabs, Shiira employs graphical thumbnails in the "PageDock" at the bottom instead of the top. It's definitely a cool idea, but I find it a lot easier for all that stuff to be in one place...that is, my open tabs and my bookmark toolbar, which I use more than anything else. It also has a fullscreen mode. Why, I don't know. I guess these guys take the notion of browsers being the OS of the future pretty seriously.

Opera is insane. I guess I didn't choose it because I couldn't be bothered to figure it out. This one's even got widgets, and is also highly customizable. Not much else to say about it. I think it's a good browser, but it's not for me - at least, not now.

I have a confession to make. As of this hour, I started writing this post about 24 hours ago, (though I've only been working on it intermitantly of course) and I've lost all interest in writing little browser reviews. I'll just say that the last two I looked at were SeaMonkey and iCab, (Google 'em yourself) but the one I finally decided on was something I had all along: Camino.

Camino is made to be very similar to Firefox with a "more Mac" feel. This is mostly true, although more than anything it reminds me of the Mac version of Messenger - which I hate. After all this exploration and deliberation, I've arrived at the conclusion that Firefox rules. Sadly, it's become very unreliable for me but my hope is that I can find a fix, or that Mozilla will release a new version soon that doesn't have these problems.

Anyway! Enough about browsers already! I have more to say but I think I'll save it for a post of its own. But, while I'm thinking about it, I wanted to mention a neat little web app I found called Fidg't. This service attempts to merge many of your social tools into one. It's something I've been thinking of for a while myself: why run around checking multiple email accounts, Facebook walls and messages, Flickr photos and their comments, blog comments and all the rest if one service could bring them all to a single place? I know I'd use it if it was good. Which is why I'm not using Fidg't - not yet anyway - because it's not compatible with much yet, and frankly, kind of ugly. But one day, who knows? Something like this could change the way people use the web.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

A Hard-to-Name Post

Today I finished reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those people like Christopher Lee, the actor who played Saruman in Jackson's films, who has read The Lord of the Rings once every year for decades. As much as I enjoyed The Hobbit when I was younger, I never could get into the main series much. So, albeit very late in happening, I've made it my mission this summer to get them read. Needless to say, Fellowship was an exceptionally good read.

I was going to make a long and in-depth post about all the news articles I read today, from HD-DVD fiasco over at Digg that unexpectedly doubled its traffic according to Alexa, to Apple's announcement about using LED back-lighting in future computer monitors, but I think I'll skip over that part for now.

I had my interview at Desjardins yesterday, and it seemed to go fine. They didn't say they'd call me, or even when to expect contact, but that doesn't worry me - I think they're still figuring that stuff out. As I've mentioned before, I'm reluctant to publish as many details as I'd like. The last thing I need is my own dooce-effect. It's been a nice, relaxing week so far; one that will be made even better by the potluck barbeque at Paul's tomorrow night.

Also, I finally posted new photos up on Flickr and Facebook for the first time in ages - photos featuring Ava from when we had family for dinner last night. (Links to both on my sidebar, as always.)

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Chocolate Life

I don't have much to say tonight, but wanted to write something anyway for the sake of posting something.

Work at Baranga's is fairly nondescript. Thanks to the awesome weather we've been having, Saturday night was busy and therefore very stressful for me. Most of the time I can do my thing at a comfortable, leisurely pace and still get everything done. Not so during the dinner rush. I'd go so far as to call it "intense", as laughable as it may seem to refer to washing dishes like that.

Unexpectedly, my schedule for this week is barren. I worked a slow shift last night, and now I have the rest of the week off. (And they call it "full-time". Hmm.) Saturday and Sunday I'm scheduled to work again, for at least 9 hours each day. One really great thing about my job, probably the best thing in fact, is how much it makes me appreciate free time. Today I didn't do much, but for once that felt pretty great. I mostly just hung around reading articles online, and then in evening I met up with Alex at Second Cup. She helped me buy a surprisingly expensive Chocolate Chiller, (the new moniker for the apparently oxymoronic "frozen hot chocolate") and we just hung out for a couple hours catching up. It felt really good to hang out in such a familiar place on a warm evening with an old friend. Felt very much in the spirit of summer, if that makes sense. The song "Moi...Lolita" by Alizée has been hopelessly stuck in my head all day, and I must've played it about 30 times - maybe more. Intermittently I mix it up with "Change Your Mind" by The All-American Rejects. Both of these tracks pretty well reflect my mood today - which is good.

Otherwise when not working I've just been doing what you'd expect. We had a movie night at Alex's not long ago, (saw Brick again - better the second time around, I think) and met her boyfriend Josh from the east coast. Cool guy. Also, Pete and Jeremy and I saw Spiderman 3 at Westdale Theatre, which I really enjoyed. I may write a full-review later. Another night Jeremy and Sara and Paul and I met up for some pool at our usual hang-out. Pete has started his new job in Toronto and currently has no internet access where he lives. Our prayers go out to him.

Tomorrow morning I have an interview at Desjardins Credit Union, so I'll probably post something about that later. For now, here's a random quiz I pulled off my cousin Melissa's Facebook page and filled out (also posted on FB of course) just for fun.

1. Name one person who made you smile today?

2. What were you doing at 8 this morning?

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
...Facebook. =(

4. What is something that happened in 1995?
I don't know, I was 7. I guess I started school.

5. What is the last thing you said aloud?
"Hey mum! Can you think of anything cool I did when I was 7? No?....Ok."

6. How many different things did you drink today?
Water, milk, OJ, pineapple juice, chocolate chiller

7. What color is your hairbrush?
Don't think I own one? Used to have a blue one, now I just have a black comb I never use.

8. What was the last thing you bought?
Chocolate chiller from second cup.

9. What was the last gift you received for your birthday?
Money I think.

10. What color is your mouse?
Don't use a mouse, but my trackpad is black.

11. Where do you keep your change?

12. What was the weather like today?
Amazing! Warm and sunny.

13. What is the best ice-cream flavor?

14. What is something you are excited about?
My interview in the morning!

15. When was the last time you saw a rainbow?
Don't know.

16. What's your favorite gardening tool?
Clippers, because they're like scissors except more badass.

18. Are you very random?

19. Do you want to cut your hair?
Not yet.

20. Are you over the age of 25?
Thank god no.

21. Who are you talking to right now?

22. Do you watch the oc?
Nope. I did once though.

23. Does your screen name have an 'x' in it?

24. Do you know anyone called steve?

26. Are you ticklish?

27. Are you typically a jealous person?
Hm, no.

28. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter 'j'

29. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter 'k'?

30. Who's the 1st person on your received calls list?
Um, I don't know how to use my cellphone.

31. What did the last text message you received say?
See above.

32. Do you chew on your straws?

33. Do you have curly frizzy hair?

34. What is the next concert you're going to?
No plans to attend one, but I should make them.

35. Who is the most awful person in your life?
I like everyone in my life.

36. What is something you say a lot?
"Yeah, so, whatever."

37. What is the last thing you ate?
Can't remember what it was called - something weird that was in the freezer.

38. Have you seen the movie 'donnie darko'?
Only about a bajillion times or so. Amazing film.

39. Do you have work tomorrow?
As a matter of fact...I don't. Do have an interview though, hooray.

40. What about marriage?
Some day.

41. When was the last time you said 'i love you'?
Hrm, can't remember.

42. What should you be doing right now?
Nothing - should sleep soon though.

45. Are you a heavy sleeper?
Not really.

46. When was the last time you used a skateboard?
Years ago. Somebody gave me this really retro one with a skull and crossbones on it. Awesome stuff.

47. What is the best movie you've seen in the past two weeks?
Fellowship of the Ring is the most honest answer...but I saw Spider man 3 and that was wicked.

48. Is there anyone you like right now?
Yeap, I like lotsa people, hoho.

49. When was the last time you did the dishes, be honest!
RUB IT IN MY FACE WILL YOU?! lol yesterday at work.

50. Do you wish you were someWHERE else?
Nope, I'm content.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Blog Infidelity

Tonight I stumbled across Squarespace, a fabulously snazzy blog and website publisher. It's a lot like Blogger, except it makes Blogger seem about a million years old. There is a lot more customization available, flashier templates, and the ability to remove any trace of Squarespace themselves from the domain name, therefore making you look better. The only downside is the monthly (or yearly) fee you pay for hosting, but the prices do seem reasonable.

I'm not planning on abandoning this blog any time soon, although at some point in the future, maybe once I'm finished my undergrad and looking for work, I'd be interested in having a website that features a blog section with research or other writing, plus a resume/portfolio section for self-promotion. (Much along the lines of Geoffrey Rockwell's site or that of Heidi Hysell.)

Not much else to report tonight. I have the day off work again tomorrow, and then I go in Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

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