Geeky weekend: Star Wars I – VI

Saint Patrick’s day weekend is a three day weekend here in Ireland (hey, we don’t get president’s day), combine that with Paula still being sick and we had plenty of time to just vegge in front of the boob-tube. All we needed to do was find a good batch of entertainment.

We bought Revenge of the Sith about six months ago but we never got around to watching it.  We couldn’t, of course, just start with episode III, we had to start at the “beginning”, episode I (as painful as that would be to sit through).

Watching the whole series in the space of 5 days brought up a few of questions. 

  1. When Obi-Wan dies he vanishes, leaving just his cloak.  When Yoda dies, he vanishes leaving no clothes at all.  When Darth dies, he leaves everything behind, clothes, meat-sack and all.
  2. Why did Leia set out to bring Obi-Wan and the death star plans to Alderaan?  The rebel base was on Tatooine.  You’re going to great lengths to find this guy, why send him on a wild goose chase?
  3. At the end of episode VI when glowing Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin show up to watch the end party, why is Obi-Wan all old and Anakin all young?  Sure, George had to make his re-edits… but that one is just dumb.
  4. If Obi-Wan and the rebels were going to such great lengths to hide Luke from his father why didn’t they change his name to something other than Skywalker?  Combine that with stashing him on Darth Vader’s home planet with Darth’s step-brother and it makes me wonder how many brain cells Anakin had left functioning after being given the oven-baked ham treatment.

I guess it doesn’t take a genius to poke holes in George Lucas’s writing.  But honestly now, how were the Jedi able to keep peace in the galaxy when all it takes to defeat them is persistent taunting?

Jedi: “Stop you fiend! Put down those stolen power converters!”

Thief: “Oh no! The Jedi! Say, how’s your mother?  She still mad that I dumped her and dating your sister?”

Jedi: “Oh!!! Why you! Grrr!! …. Aw nuts.  Let me help you carry those.”

Thief: “Thanks”

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Saint Patrick’s day for most of the US (except for perhaps, Boston and New York) is much like Saint Valentine’s day: serious stuff… provided you work at Hallmark.  It was, however, a bit surreal for Paula and me… being our first year living in Dublin, Ireland.

 There were a bunch of events going on in downtown Dublin this weekend, but since Paula is still recovering from being sick we decided to just go to the St. Patrick’s day parade.  There were a ton of people downtown and it was fun to check out the scene.  Talking to my Irish co-workers it was interesting to find out that many in Ireland view Saint Patrick’s day as a minor, artificial holiday.  That said, the Irish people are a social lot and love an excuse to get together (which also explains the third-floor party with a chicken and cow… sort of).

Given the crowds, we couldn’t really see the parade all that well… but we’re both a fan of people watching, so that provided a ton of entertainment in its own right.  Here’s an interesting fact: the first Saint Patrick’s day parade wasn’t in Ireland, but in America (in New York or Boston, depending on whom you choose to believe).  I suppose that explains why the majority of people in silly leprechaun hats didn’t have Irish accents and hotels which normally charge 90 Euro a night were charging 300 this weekend.  Moichandising!


Food Note:

When we got done with the crowds we were having trouble picking out where to grab some lunch.  I have a weakness for good pie (especially blueberry) and so when I saw the restaurant “Delish”, which billed itself as a “pie cafe & juice bar” I had to drag Paula in to check it out.

Turns out that “pie” means “pot pie”… and I also love a good meat pie.  Paula had the beef and cheese pie while I ordered the chicken, ham and leek pie.  Toss in a side of mash (mashed potatoes) with gravy and you’ve got some serious comfort food.  It was also seriously tasty.  I recommend it if you’re in downtown Dublin and looking for a bit of nosh to warm your belly.

Turning on AutoComplete to make IE’s history useful

For ages I’ve been annoyed by the IE history drop down which appears when you start typing an address. Here’s the thing, most of the work we do is stored on our SharePoint server at work. This means that if I start to type the URL of the server I’ll get a massive autocomplete list pop down in IE. This makes the recent history that drops down completely useless for me.

Now, however, thanks to Sean (via Omar) I have been shown the light. I followed the simple steps and my life is now better.

Quote

My Favorite (hidden) IE feature

Whenever I install Windows on a new PC (which in my daily work happens far more frequently than I care to admit), there’s one* setting that I always tweak before doing anything else:

Internet Options, Advanced tab, "Use inline AutoComplete"

What this does is enables autocomplete of URLs (and other commands) in the address bar, instead of just as a drop-down.

Here is an example. Let’s say I visit both the IEblog (http://blogs.msdn.com/ie) and the RSS team blog (http://blogs.msdn.com/rssteam) regularly.

The next time I go to the address bar, I type "blo". IE shows me this:

Then I hit the right arrow (essentially to accept the text it’s given me), and I type "r":

Press enter, and I’m at my favorite blog!

Bonus feature: this works in every address bar: explorer, the run dialog, and system-supplied open/save dialogs, and any app that uses the system edit control (and enables URL autocomplete).
Double bonus: this works in IE6 as well (but upgrade to IE7 now!).

Downside, you probably should be a touch typist before turning this on. If you’re not paying attention to the screen while you type, you may inadvertently navigate to something you didn’t want to. Windows developer guru and part-time Windows historian has blogged about this, so I don’t have to (note: you should read the comments to see the correction to how he describes the feature — it doesn’t change the basic point, however).

* Truth in advertising: there were two settings I always changed. The second was to turn off "reuse windows for launching shortcuts" — a highly annoying feature of IE6 that picked one of my open windows and changed the page being viewed whenever I clicked on a link in Outlook or elsewhere. It was designed to help users keep the number of windows being opened under control. But IE7’s tabs make that unnecessary, because now the default is to open a new tab in the same window. Both problems solved!

4 Ways to make your blog really annoying

I think there are plenty of guides to good writing out there, I won’t tell
you about that.  You know that if you want people to read your blog you need to
have either great writing skills or unique content (note that I don’t claim to
have either).  Attracting readers is simple… driving them away is even
easier.  So, if you’re starting to cringe at the cost of your bandwidth or if
your artist friends think you’ve sold out… don’t fret, I have the answer for
you.  Read on to learn how to drive users away from your blog.

1. Play hide and seek with the RSS feed
Hide the RSS link
(or don’t show one at all).  Take, for example, the subscription link on this
page (I’m not sending any traffic their way… they annoyed me):

where's the link

The link is hard to find because it’s just a text link and it’s overshaddowed
by the visual clutter of throwing up every feed icon under the sun.  Honestly,
if you have to, read the Feed Icon Guidelines on
Mozilla.org
(but if you have to, you probably just don’t get it).

It’s quite simple, for your feed, put up a
standard web feed icon
 similar to this RSS feed
or this RSS feed.
Heck, the icon recognizable enough that you can even change the color to suit
your sense of style: RSS feed

2. Make RSS completely useless
If you put no useful info
in your RSS feed, what’s the point of offering a feed?  Fine, if you want to
pull peopel to your web page so you get ad revenue, great.  Even better, put ads
in your feed (e.g. use feedburner).  But one certain way to loose readers for
good is to do what CNN does on many posts, put this as the only content of the
RSS feed:

useless feed

Read full story for latest details?!?!? What kind of crap is that?  No, I
don’t think I’ll read the full story.  In fact, I think I’ll unsubscribe from
all the CNN feeds and subscribe to the Reuters and BBC feeds instead.

3. Provide links with zero context
You’ve put a link up
on your blog.  Great.  Um… why?

If you make a post that is simply a link and don’t tell the readers if you
think the target content is cool, useful… or at least tell what it is people
are just playing a guessing game.

Three years ago there weren’t many blogs, and those that existed may not be
updated frequently.  These days even dogs have their own blogs.  If you are just
posting links, go to del.ico.us.  Vapid content, go to twitter.  The world is pumping out a ton of
information and we don’t have time to sort through empty posts or, as Omar
learned on parental leave
, process feeds which post a thousand times a
day.

Time is short, make your content count.

4. Load your page up with every single profile icon you can
find
We’re all guilty of it… we sign up for some nifty service…
they offer a special link to add to our web page and, like sheep, we do it.
Yes, I’ve done it.  But honestly, do you really want to see a page crowded with
links to Technorati, LinkedIN, Xbox Live, Twitter…?

Human beings are pack animals, that’s a given.  We identify our affiliations
by the flags we fly, the clothes we wear and, now, by the extra crap we put on
our blog.  The extra details are great, but they don’t need to be on your front
page… put them in an “about me” section (they are, after all, just that).  The
front page should be about content.  I know it’s in our nature, but resist
flashing your geek gang signs on the front page.