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October 30, 2005

New Banner Pictures

In an effort to have as nice a blog as Kelly and Eric , I added pictures to the banner of my blog. There are 14 different pictures that can show up at the top of the page. With the exception of the Escher lizard pattern, Susan or I took all of the pictures. Most are from our trips including Baja California, Galapagos, New York, and Colorado, but also local trips to Stone Mountain and the Kangaroo Center. One (a funny one of Katie) is from my backyard. You can keep clicking Refresh (or Reload) to see more images. Or you can cheat and click here to see a list of them.

To do this I used Kelly's site as an example. I noticed that her images were sized to 702 pixels by 73. So I decided to to make mine the same size. However it's really hard to see what's going on with such a short picture, so on the first picture (the one of Katie) I decided to crop my pictures to 702 x 136. Once I had collected a bunch of images of the proper size, I logged on to my blog and used "Upload File" to transfer the files one by one to a local folder I called "rotateheader".

Then I had to read Jeb's blog entry about rotating pictures to figure out how to make that work. They key thing was I had to download the rotate.php script and upload it to the same folder as the pictures.

Then I tried to figure out how Kelly made hers work. At first I edited the main template and put an image link where the header went. But that just inserted a picture and then the text was below that. I wanted the picture to be the background of the title. I found out I had to edit the styles-site template, adding all of the stuff Kelly had after the stylecatcher code. Kelly's folder of images is called "rotatebanner" so I had to change that first in the "banner" section. Also she uses a reddish background color for the banner and I wanted to use the olive one that my site uses.

But when I tried that the images didn't come out quite right so I had to adjust the padding for the banner-header (Ted's Blog) and banner-description (Do not meddle . . . ). To see all of my taller pictures I had to increase the padding at the top (the first number for banner-header padding) to 50 pixels. The header itself is a font that is 30 pixels high, then there is 5 pixels of padding below that (the third number; I guess it goes top, right, bottom, left). So far that is 50+30+5 = 85 pixels of height for the banner area. Then the description has 5 pixels of padding at the top, plus the font is 12 pixels. So that gets you to 85+5+12 = 102 pixels. For whatever reason, that is exactly the right amount to see 136 pixels of height (actually I clip a couple of pixels off of the 136). On Kelly's all those numbers added up perfectly to 72. Kelly's template also had padding on the left and right, but I found that the pages for the individual entries, which have narrower banner areas, would wrap the description onto two lines and make the banner taller than it should be. To fill up that extra vertical space it would tile another copy of the image so you'd see a strip of the top of the next image in the banner below the image. That didn't look right. However by eliminating the side padding I was able to make the description fit on one line.

It took me most of the afternoon.

October 20, 2005

You Digg?

Yesterday I was checking the web page statistics for my website and saw a bunch of referrals coming from digg.com. Almost all of the hits on my web pages come from search engines with a few exceptions. This one showed up over and over again. I visited their website and found that digg.com is kind of like Slashdot where people submit links to websites or news stories they think are interesting. Then other people evaluate those articles and the ones that the most people approve (by clicking the 'digg it' button) are listed in their directory.

So it looked like someone had submitted my iPod battery pack page. I saw that 4 people were diggin' that page and I had gotten about 50 hits. I remember when iLounge's site came to a standstill when they posted a story by a guy who had taken apart and ruined a just-released iPod mini and someone had submitted a link to it to Slashdot. Would I have the same problem?

No, not really. The mini was brand new and it seemed amazing that anyone would willfully destroy something so hard to get. But most people aren't interested in battery packs. I did get up to about 80 hits per hour from digg, before that submission slipped to Page 2, then Page 3, then Page 4. Originally posted at 7:00 PM, by 11:00 I had been pushed down to the fifth page and had still only garnered 9 diggs. By this afternoon, I had stopped getting hits from digg entirely. It did push visits to my site past 500 for the day and I got 4 ad clicks.

October 19, 2005

10 Years of MARTA Cards

When I first started riding MARTA to work I would buy weekly or monthly passes made out of paper. They would be a different color each time and the monthly cards had a pattern on them. But nothing exciting. Then, in September 1995, they started making plastic cards. These had full-color pictures on them and they started with a series of cards with pictures of Olympic athletes for the upcoming 1996 Olympics. After the Olympics they started other series featuring local colleges, MARTA station artwork, MARTA employees, holidays, and even had one with the color-coded terrorism threat levels (I guess it would make a handy reference . . . they said "red", now is that good or bad?).

Deck of Cards

I've gotten my money's worth from each one, using one 40 times or so a month. Then they go into a drawer with all the others. With each trip being 10 miles, I have saved 48,000 miles of wear and tear on my car and saved about 2,000 gallons of gas from being burned. So now I have 120 cards. At about $40 each, that's almost $5,000 worth of MARTA cards in my drawer. Now worth zero.

Marta Card Collection

October 17, 2005

Bus Bridge

Today I got off of work at about the normal time (6:00) and walked to the MARTA station. Just outside the Georgia State Station a guy asked me which way Five Points was. I pointed and asked him why he was going there. He said that the MARTA system was shut down because someone jumped on the tracks (usually people do this as a suicide but sometimes they fall or are pushed; between the high voltage 'third rail' and a rapidly moving train, they usually die if they don't get out quickly). I asked where they jumped and he said Candler Park.


But just then a train pulled into the station above going Eastbound. The guy ran back to the station. I entered the station and went to the top of the steps. There was a MARTA guy up there who said the train that had pulled in would be going back towards Five Points (to the West) and that the only way to go East was to catch some buses at street level that would go to East Lake Station. MARTA calls this a 'bus bridge' since they are bridging a gap in the rail system with buses. It sounds great, but the trains carry so many people that it takes a lot of buses to carry that many people and those buses take a while to mobilize, plus it's not like they have a bunch of unused buses and drivers that need something to do during rush hour. As Samantha Baker said in Sixteen Candles 'I loathe the bus.'

So I went back downstairs to the other entrance to the Georgia State station and there were a couple of hundred people waiting for buses. There was a bus already there but it was almost full already. A few minutes later another bus pulled up and started taking passengers. Since I had just gotten there I didn't think I should take a spot on that bus and would wait for one. I don't know if I could have gotten on that one before it filled up anyway. So those two buses pulled off and then we waited about 10 minutes. No more buses. About then a reporter and her cameraman showed up from Channel 11 News. They filmed all the people waiting and interviewed a couple of people. Down the street I could see some buses going East, but I think they may have been going from Five Points to East Lake and bridging around us. I had a prime spot for leaning against a pole where the other bus had parked, but I decided to go back in the station and see if the trains would be running soon. I also thought about walking but it was probably 4 miles to East Lake. There was no new news, but about then a bus showed up and parked right in front of the pole I had been leaning on. Now there was no way I could get to that bus before it filled. But all was not lost because almost immediately another bus arrived and I was able to get on.

We drove to King Memorial to let people off who were going there. Then we drove to Inman Park/Reynoldstown to let people off there (not many people got off, but I couldn't really see). There were some police cars there so I think that was actually where the accident occurred. Then we drove on to Edgewood/Candler Park and stopped again. But they told all of us to get off at this station. A couple of minutes after we got there a nearly empty train pulled in going East. We pretty much filled it up, but most people got seats. The next station was East Lake and that station was very crowded with people from the bus bridge. Those people at East Lake didn't care how crowded the train was because they were just so glad to see one. So then the train was packed solid pretty much until we got to my station, Avondale.

I got home at about 7:10 which is 40 minutes later than usual. That was the first time I had ever had to use a bus bridge before even though I've had delays of up to half an hour before. Days like this are the equivalent of just a horrible day of traffic jams for people who drive, but they don't happen often.

I found out later from Channel 11's website that the guy had jumped in front of a train at 4:00, but had lived and was taken to the hospital.