Archive for August, 2006

Hurricane Katrina’s Anniversary

In case you haven’t heard, it has been a year since Hurricane Katrina struck. Here in California, on the other side of the country, it’s easy to forget that some of the people that were affected are still dealing with the damage done a year ago.

Last September, about a month after Katrina hit, and one week after Rita, I was able to go to the Gulf Coast area. I was then working at CityTeam Ministries, and they sent me, along with two other members of the marketing team, to document the work that CityTeam was doing. While being a photographer on assignment was exciting, it was also unexpectedly draining both physically and emotionally. I met people whose lives were literally taken away in the Hurricane –their homes, belongings, even family members. I was able to get the “real” story firsthand from the people themselves, and not just what the media was telling us.

During that week-long experience, I kept a blog and continually sent photos back to CityTeam in San Jose. Here are the Katrina Relief Pictures that I took while I was in Baton Rouge, LA, New Orleans, LA, Waveland, MS (“ground zero” for Hurricane Katrina), and Bay St. Louis, MS.

When I got back, I was able to share my photos with not just CityTeam and their donors, but to my own church personally, and this year, we sent our own team last month!

If you still desire to donate, or if you ever donate towards the relief effort of a disaster such as this one, I urge you to not knee-jerkingly donate to the Red Cross. At least consider the options. Do your homework and donate to a church team, or faith-based non-profit. They were the ones who were really making the difference. They were right there with the locals, cleaning up, distributing food, and more importantly caring for them and creating relationships. I didn’t meet a local resident who had anything nice to say about the Red Cross or FEMA (both of which I rarely saw when I was there), but loved the small church groups and faith-based non-profits who came in and helped out in whatever way they could. Your donation, I guarantee you, will go a lot farther.

Anyway, just some thoughts on the subject. Keep the people in the Gulf Coast area in your prayers.

I also put up the video that I made using the pictures that I took. It’s 30 MB, but it has Jars of Clay song on it, so it’s worth downloading.

I Am the New Harry Belafonte

Forget using face-recognition software to provide security at airports–we now have the chance to find out which celebrities we look most like–now THAT’S good use of taxpayer dollars. Take a look: |inline

Writing… About… MySpace…

Here I am on my lunch break at Barefoot Coffee Roasters, where I do a lot of my blogging. Yep, you read that title correctly: I’ll be writing about the site everyone loves to hate, MySpace.

More Popular Than Google

Even if you hate it, you have to concede that with over 75 million + users and growing, de-throning Google and Yahoo as the #1 most visited site in the U.S. on a given day last month, MySpace really is a web phenomenon. It’s great for getting in touch with long lost friends from your past, and keeping in touch with their lives. I have family and friends whose MySpace is central to their web presence–it’s their social headquarters–their blog, profile, friends all in one place.

A Site Design Nightmare

This is starting to sound like I love MySpace, so I better get ranting. It’s a horribly designed website with garish colors, non-standards code, and a general look that gives one the creepy feeling of being back on the 90’s internet. It’s nice to reminisce, but with “Web 2.0″ movement in full swing for some time now, MySpace can at least put out an effort to update the site. At least to something in the early 2000’s. Sorry, being a web designer, I have a lower threshold for tolerating bad site design than most people.

A Bear to Hack

Shortly after signing up, I vowed to make my profile something that I wouldn’t be embarrassed (as a web designer) to display. I tried once, to work some designer’s magic on my profile, to decipher the code monstrosity that is MySpace–and failed, miserably. I was so frustrated and baffled by the site’s coding structure that gave up in 10 minutes, curled up in a ball and had nightmares that night.

Here’s an example for ya…

In a normal web design workflow, you have something like this:

.modules {
background-color: #fff;
padding: 15px;
}

.modules p {
color: #aaa;
line-height: 150%;
}

In MySpace’s world, it’s more like this:

table table table table td, table table table table tbody td {
background-color: transparent !important;
padding: 15px !important;
}

table table table table td font, table table table table tbody td font {
color: aaaaaa !important;
line-height: 150% !important;
}

Nightmares, I tell you. Ones with vampires. And snakes even.

My MySpace Profile
Yay. MySpace.

Mike Davidson, Web Standards Celebrity, Does the Hard Work

I recently read Mike Davidson’s old “Hacking a More Tasteful MySpace” article from which the above example came from. Within an hour of reading the post (it would’ve been 2 minutes if I didn’t create my own graphics), using his tutorial, I had my brand-spankin’ new profile. It’s simple, I know, but at least the elements are consistent. Maybe I’ll make improvements in the future.

Ideas to Save the World

I can tell even without looking at the code carefully, that if MySpace would just hire a good web standards staff, they could clean up the code by as much as 70-80% (maybe more…hmmmm…testing this would be an interesting post). Ok, let’s be more conservative and say 50%. A code cleanup like this would make pages that much lighter, that much faster to download, and the whole site that much cheaper to run. Companies do have to pay for bandwidth costs, and with over 75-freakin’ million users, a 50% cost savings is easily something in the millions of dollars. And it would look better. Case in point: what Bryan Vesolo did for Facebook.

If you haven’t already, add me to your friends, so I can catch up to my brother-in-law, who has something like 200* friends.

*Oh, I’m sorry, Shawn has 300 friends, not 200.

Stylin’

So, would you guys wear this T-shirt?

Fun While it Lasted

Mom and Rachel fly away
The family is none-too-happy about leaving

Well, Mom and Rachel are on their way back to Manila, after spending a good 3 months here. It was fun to have the whole family back together in the same general area. Sure, I only saw them several times during the months that they were here, but it’s different to have them in the area, rather than knowing they’re on the other side of the globe. It was good that we got to go camping last weekend, to get together one more time.

Getting together with my brothers, sister, and parents seem to be getting harder and harder these days. I imagine it gets even harder as time goes by. I guess that comes with growing up.

Before we know it, Oliver and Nem will be off to serve is 4-year term as missionaries (with Wycliffe, of course) in Africa, Lem will be on a 6-month shoot in Brazil for a piece for National Geographic, Rachel will be studying Criminal Law with Rory at Yale, mom and dad will be sipping iced tea by the poolside of their retirement home on Boracay, and Chesney, Caleb, and I will be Italy eating gelato while I speak on a panel at some web design conference there.

Wow, if that’s not wishful thinking, I don’t know what is.

Since my family comes and goes a lot, starting when I visited and left the Philippines twice a year for 4 years while in college, we have a collection of pictures of the family looking sad and depressed at airports. The tradition continues.

“The Greatest Cover-up in Human History”

I just finished The DaVinci Code today. I really, really liked it and can see why it’s a best-seller. Everyone loves a conspiracy, and for me, a fictional conspiracy of that magnitude really captured my interest. But, I can also see why it got people all stirred up. Some of the stuff in there is pretty mind-blowing if you believe it, and when people do just that, that’s a problem. People should just pick it up and read it and take it for what it is–a very well-done fiction story. Mac wrote the same point a while back.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but when people complained about Tom Hanks playing the part of Robert Langdon, I now see why. He just doesn’t look the part. Especially with that nasty hair. But, now that I’ve read* the book, I want to see the movie and how badly it turned out, since apparetly, it got horrible reviews.

UPDATE: Ok, so I just saw the movie. It was…ok. I liked it. Just like any movie made from a book, things were cut out or compressed to save time, but it stayed pretty close to the book for the most part. Sophie was just how I pictured her, and Tom Hanks was better than I thought he would be for the part. Besides the mullet.

I liked that they got Sir Ian McKellan to play the character Sir Leigh Teabing. Nice.

Back when the movie first came out, I remember Lem telling me that his friends had seen it, and there was audible groaning at a certain part near the end, and I now know what part that was!

It wasn’t so much that this revelation, as well as other parts in the movie that explained the “great conspiracy” was badly acted–it was just that the movie didn’t have the advantage of the the long, descriptive historical arguments that the book described in great detail to prepare you for it. Everything was much less-convincing as Dan Brown made it in the book. Maybe that’s a good thing.

As always, the movie was good–the book was better.

*Technically, I listened to it. Unabridged though.