June 28, 2005

Freedom!

The Normal Heart is finally over, and I have my life back. Such as it is; the past few days have been spent relaxing and playing Destroy All Humans, which is quite fun but I'm not sure I'll be buying it.

Anyway, after Thursday (which is when I have to return the game), I'll probably get back to work on the Lair. There is only a week and a half until I leave for PA, and I'm quite psyched about it, though it does mean I have to be careful about getting food at the store; I don't want to get a bunch of food that will just sit here for a week. I'd rather not come home to a stinky apartment. :)

Posted by Eric at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2005

Arg, stupid car

My car is in dire need of a tune-up. It's sorta sputtering on the road, I don't have as much power as I usually do, and it stalled at a red light earlier today.

Fortunately, my mechanic is awesome. He's a good mechanic and a hell of a nice guy.

Unfortunately, he's in the middle of nowhere, and I've got a show tonight.

I'll be dropping the car off in a few hours, and my dad will then give me a ride to the theater. After the show, either I'll get a ride from an actor or he'll pick me up, and I'll crash at his place for the night, and then he'll take me in to work (saying as I work for him, it's pretty convenient). Then we'll drive out to the mechanic's tomorrow afternoon, I'll pick up my car, and then I'll go to tomorrow night's show.

*sigh* I hate being without my car.

But on the plus side, this is my last weekend for The Normal Heart, and after that, I have just two weeks until I leave for Pikeman's place, and then we're off to MacWorld Boston 2005. Hot diggity damn. :)

Posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (6)

June 20, 2005

Holy shit, I got a haircut!

This really isn't news; I got a haircut a month ago now.

However, it is becoming increasingly obvious that I wait perhaps a bit too long between trimmings; since doing this show, I've had no less than a dozen different people comment about my haircut (including people I've met only once or twice).

For some reason, I'm just finding it incredibly amusing. :)

--

I was thinking that I might get a small Lair update in this week before Thursday (the next performance of The Normal Heart), but this weekend absolutely exhausted me. As a result, I'm going to just take some Me Time and rest up. I'll work on the Lair, but I won't update it this week (after this weekend, I'll be done with the show, thankfully).

Posted by Eric at 02:09 PM | Comments (4)

June 15, 2005

Brainstorming about the Lair

I'm going to be doing a small update to the site in the next few days (hopefully early next week). It'll just cover minor stuff, like replacing all the PNG files with JPGs (which will have the dual purpose of reducing a bit of load).

I'm also going to redo the front page. The more I see it, the less and less pleased I am with it as it currently stands. :\ I think I'll go back to my previous layout of having the six most recent Rants and Reviews spread out horizontally; with the much shorter descriptions (which are now the first 33 words of the article, rather than the totally arbitrary amount it used to be), it doesn't work too well to have them all vertical. This also means I'll probably switch back to a two-column listing of jokes.

Depending on how much time I have, I might add some more content to the site (hopefully I'll have time to write a review of something).

For future updates, something that I want to do is rate all the content on the site (though it only really only be seen on a few pages, like the Jokes and Rants). Everything would get rated either G, PG, PG-13, or R. There would be two things that would change depending on the content rating:

  • Every page will have an ICRA rating embedded in the source code. How does this affect you? It doesn't! I just want to be complete, and I'm a big fan of self-rating my site than having someone else rate it.
  • With every page (or, more importantly, just the PG-13 and R stuff) labeled, I can "fine tune" some of the advertising. Specifically, I can comfortably add banners for "off-color" sites and restrict them to only pages whose content is PG-13 or R. That doesn't mean that I'm going to start having porn banners on the site (believe me, that won't happen), but I would like to have banners for stuff that could possibly be considered "not family friendly."

Though the content rating sounds like it could be a pain in the ass, it really won't be hard; the system will assume something is G-rated unless it is told otherwise, so I won't have to worry about getting every page, just the more profane stuff (and that only generally happens in Rants and Reviews, both of which have preliminary $content_rating values in place).

I'd also like to expand purchasing options on the Review pages. Nothing crazy, like having a thousand different merchants, but possibly supporting other people than Amazon.com. Dunno, what other stores do you think I should sign up with? I've thought about maybe TowerRecords.com and/or Overstock.com. It all depends on their respective affiliate programs, I suppose. Down the road, after I unleash one of my in-development <cryptic grin>s, I'd like for users to specify which vendor (out of a list) they use, and then have the site automatically generate the purchasing links based on that data. However, like I said, that's a ways down the road.

Another thing I'd like to do is have a "pros and cons" area at the end of each Review that would just sum up, surprise surprise, the pros and cons of whatever is being rated. I still need to fool around with the formatting with it, though, before I start implementing it.

Anyway, I'm just tossing out some ideas for ways to improve what I've got so far. If you've got any ideas, don't hesitate to post them; sure, the Lair is my site, but I'm doing it for my kick-ass users, so speak up and help make the Lair even better. :)

Posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (9)

June 06, 2005

Welcome to the new Lair!

It's finally here: the redesigned Lair. Faster. Stronger. Better.

Go ahead, take a look around. The first thing you'll notice is that there's no longer any border around everything; there's an image at the top to let you know where you are (among other things; more on that later), the standard sidebar navigation on the left, and everything in the middle.

The next thing you might notice is the right column. Yes, ads have managed to sneak their way onto evula.com. It sucks, I know, but I'd like to eventually start making less negative money on the site. Right now, I'm going to stick with plain text ads, as they are the least obtrusive, and there's no chance for obnoxious Flash or animated banners. Keep in mind that, no matter what, I will *NOT* have pop-up or pop-under ads; not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Hates them we do.

Something that *is* cool about the Google ads, though, is the fact that they are pseudo-intelligent when it comes to their size; lengthy pages have more ads on them than short pages. I also had to cheat a bit to make the ads "fit" on each page when it comes to the color scheme; it's not perfect, but I don't have a lot of control over it. Trust me, it's much better than the options they had.

The Reviews are the section that have the most dramatic change. Each Review (as well as the Rants and gaming articles) has a Review Information table off to the right of the content. This has everything you could need about the Review itself; the author, the date posted, the rating, purchasing information, etc. I'm pleased as punch about how it's turned out, and I'm planning on using that table for other features down the road; anything else on that will have to be summed up with a .

In addition to the visual change, there's a lot going on under the hood that you might not even notice. For example, it is now a lot easier to get around evula.com, using a nifty little feature called accesskey values. Each of the content headings (Games, Humor, Opinions) is numbered, starting with 1 for Games (if you hover over the link, you'll see what number it is pop up). In Safari, you can activate these by hitting control and the number (ie: Games is control-1). To get to the top of whatever section you're at, you can always hit control-9. Hit control-0 to get to the Lair's front page.

Also filed in the "happening under the hood" folder is the fact that the Lair now uses 100% valid XHTML and CSS. If you have serious trust issues, there are links at the bottom of the left navigation area that will validate wherever you are. The nice thing about the valid code is that it lets me shrink the markup significantly, letting pages download faster. I also structured the Lair a lot better so that search engines can get what they need quickly and easily.

The Contact Info page also got a major overhaul; now everything is run off of a single PHP include. When I mean everything, I also mean the Rants and Reviews; if I change a person's information in that one file, it changes everywhere. This is quite an improvement over the old system, and more importantly, it makes life easier for me. :)

From here on out, I'm going to start getting a lot better about date-stamping everything that goes up on the Lair. As a result, all of the Rants and Reviews have a "date added" value in their Information tables. This will be true for the jokes, as well.

I sort of went hog wild with adding meta and link tags; a quick peek at the source code will show what I mean. Some of the stuff may not even matter, but at the same time, the vast majority of it is generated automatically by whatever page you access, so it doesn't matter! :)

Some of the stuff that is new today is just your average, run-of-the-mill new content. For starters, there are three new Reviews (Hitchhiker's Guide, Republic Commando, and UT2k4) and one new Rant (George Lucas Rant). The bulk of the new content, however, is in the Quote Archive; it went from 288 quotes to 600, more than doubling the content there. Hot damn. :)

Now, it isn't perfect. For starters, I couldn't get the damn random text script that powers the Store Spotlight section to work in the two minutes I had, so right now it's just showcasing a single product (what pisses me off about that is I went ahead with all the trouble of recreating the fifty images that are swapped out). Same with the Random Quote feature that I used to have on the front page, although that is also a style sheet issue as well.

One of the things I had hoped to have finished was a varying ICRA rating meta tag that changed depending on what page you are on. It doesn't matter very much for most pages, but it would have come into play on stuff like the Rants (which is why there is a rating for each) and, later down the road, the jokes in the Joke Archive. Oh well, one of the things I learned from my failure with getting it working will come in handy when I redo it; I just didn't have time to take care of it for today.

Something else that people may notice: there are plenty of references to the Forums, in the form of links to the Update Log (on the front page) and prominent "discuss this whatever" links for Rants and Reviews, even though the Forums have been dead for half a year. They are still there because, eventually, the Forums will be recreated and I didn't want to disassemble parts of the layout just to put it back together down the road.

I'll have another update in a couple of weeks, where I'll be fixing some of the smaller, nagging issues, as well as adding any more new content that comes my way. I'll also be updating sections as I convert them.

If you see any issues (broken links, funky formatting, whatever), be sure to let me know (either reply here, or email me, or catch me on iChat) so that I can get it taken care of. Likewise, If you have any suggestions, run it by me; I might like it, or I might already have something in mind, but it never hurts to try.

Posted by Eric at 11:47 PM | Comments (21)

June 04, 2005

More on the upcoming Lair update

Well, one of the cool things that I wanted to do isn't working properly, but since it is jut a "behind the scenes" sort of thing that no one would actually see, it's no big deal and I'm not going to spend anymore time trying to fix it before Monday. Everything else is turning out as I'm expecting, more or less, so I'm still happy. :)

Right now, I've got 19 directories finished (with 17 remaining), as well as the recoded front page. I'm not sure if the new front page will work; I've tested it on a few different machines, and it changes a bit more than I would like. However, there's no way in hell that I'm going to take the time to recode it *again*, so I'll just change it after the fact if enough people think I should. It also doesn't have the current "Random Quote" thing since I was having trouble getting it to display properly, but it'll make a return once I sort out the issue with the code.

I finished assigning all the dates to everything for the Rants and Reviews, which was a mind-numbing task. Now all I have to do is add the new Rants and Reviews (3 total, I believe) and dump in the ton of new quotes into the Quote Archive. When I say "ton," I'm not exaggerating: the source file I made of all of the quotes has 1,165 lines in it (5,635 words, 32,871 characters). Granted, this is before styling and whatnot (ie: adding <q> and <cite> tags), and while I won't be adding every single quote, that's still a lot of quotes; for those that are curious, there are currently 288 quotes in there.

Alrighty, enough typing, now it's time to get more stuff done. :)

Posted by Eric at 03:54 PM | Comments (10)