OK, Microsoft, you’re off the hook…

ballmer_tongue.jpgBut not in the way that the Cheat is off the hook.

I fixed the IE6 CSS problem I ranted about yesterday, and it was perhaps one of the more satisfying solutions I’ve encountered where IE is concerned, because all it required was that I remove a few lines of CSS code that turned out to be unnecessary anyway.

My approach to CSS is one of building a solid page structure and then fine-tuning the details until I have exactly what I want. A side effect of this is that sometimes I leave in unnecessary definitions along the way. If they don’t alter the output in the browsers I test (Firefox always, Safari often, IE7 at least once or twice along the way), then it’s good.

But in this case I had an entire definition that was completely unnecessary. It wasn’t hurting anything in Firefox or Safari, but it was doing all sorts of crazy crap in IE6. Naturally, in such a situation, I blame Microsoft.

To be honest it’s not really (entirely) Microsoft’s fault. I have to recognize that I’m building pages to be interpreted by different rendering engines (the latter part of which is where Microsoft’s blame, to the extent it exists, resides). But there are an unlimited number of ways to write standards-compliant code (which I think I do pretty well, most of the time), not all of which lead to the same desirability of output. So if there’s a standards-complaint way to also accommodate IE’s quirks, that’s the way to go. My biggest problem is that my access to IE6 is fairly limited, and IE7, although it has its own quirks, is a lot closer to what Firefox and Safari produce.

So… there you have it. The site should now look good in every major browser currently in use (Firefox, Safari, IE7 and IE6). If not, complain below!

On a side note, Steve Ballmer sticks out his tongue a lot. (Even when you’re not deliberately looking for it.)

Something has to give in your life to be this good at Super Metroid

I didn’t play many console video games between outgrowing my Atari 2600 in high school (while I would visit friends’ houses for regular reminders of how much I sucked at newer games on their NESes) and getting my GameCube in 2003, but since then I’ve had a bit of a renaissance and am a lot better at these games than I used to be.

But I will never be great at Super Metroid. In particular, I cannot for the life of me get the timing right for wall jumps in that game. I’ve been able to do them on occasion, but it’s just been luck.

Now my son is playing it (on the Wii) and he seems to be drawn like a magnet to the spot where you have to wall jump to get out of a deep shaft. (The spot where the native creatures “teach” you the wall jump.) And then he wants me to help him. Good luck with that!

I decided to try to research what the trick is. I got some leads, but I still doubt I’ll master it. And there is no way that I’ll ever be able to do a 32-minute speed run like in the following video. Of course, wall jumps are all over it. (I can’t even begin to imagine how to do the wall jump against a single wall. I didn’t even realize it was possible until I saw this!)

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Top 5 Albums of 2007

Wow, I can’t believe this is already the fourth year I’ve been doing this. I am truly an old fart because the years really are flying by now. That’s what happens when you’ve made 34 trips around the sun. I’m just scared to think what it’ll feel like when I’m 60.

Well enough angst. Let’s talk music. And there’s a lot to talk about: 2007 has, for my tastes at least, been an unparalleled year for new music. I would have a hard time identifying a year that’s produced more great music without going all the way back to 1971. (And I wasn’t around to experience that firsthand.) So, without further ado, here we go.

5. Rush: Snakes and Arrows
I’ve been a Rush-head for over half my life now. A sad fact of a band this long-lived and prolific is watching the quality of their output deteriorate over time. The band’s last full-length album, 2002’s Vapor Trails, was surprisingly good musically, but suffered from some of the worst production in the last several decades. The band had been enthusiastically touting Snakes and Arrows for several months before its release, and with good reason. The album is phenomenal. Easily their best work since 1984’s Grace Under Pressure. Great, rocking music, with more dynamics and variety than we’ve heard from the boys in years; lyrics with surprisingly deep insight into the woes of early 21st century American society; first-rate production; and… well what can I say? Three instrumentals. It just doesn’t get much better in the Rush canon.
4. Michael Brecker: Pilgrimage
Michael Brecker was at the pinnacle of the post-Coltrane jazz world for upwards of 30 years. Late last year he was diagnosed with terminal leukemia, and with less than 5 months to live, he put together a final farewell to those of us who’ve followed his brilliant music over the years. This album is full of moments of profound beauty and intense burning jazz as full of life as anything he’d ever done. Sadly he did not survive to see the album released, but it remains a fitting good-bye to this jazz legend.
3. Wilco: Sky Blue Sky
I’ve enjoyed Wilco’s music since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and have been fascinated to hear the evolution of the band’s sound on each album. This is very much back-to-basics, and it works extraordinarily well. It’s simply not possible to listen to this music and not feel good. In a good way.
2. Radiohead: In Rainbows
This is the album it seems everyone was talking about in October. It may still see a traditional release in stores in 2008, but so far it’s only available as a pay-what-you-want download from the band’s website. But that in no way means it’s inferior work. The band has covered some challenging musical ground in the past decade since the release of their masterpiece, OK Computer, and this album bookends that one nicely. (There’s plenty of speculation out there that the albums really were intended to integrate in Wizard of Oz/Dark Side of the Moon style, but I’ll leave that to the stoners to prove.) If you haven’t already, download it now. What are you waiting for? (I assume you are wondering what, if anything, I paid for it. Well, I sucked it up and bought the £40 deluxe package, which should be arriving next month.
1. Foo Fighters: Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace
I loved In Your Honor so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this album and it did not disappoint! From the lead single “The Pretender” straight on through, the band displays brilliant songwriting, impeccable chops (these guys can really play, and if you doubt that, be sure also to check out drummer Taylor Hawkins’ guest work on Coheed and Cambria’s No World for Tomorrow), and a wide stylistic and dynamic range. Dave Grohl’s voice matches the music perfectly, from a delicate whisper to a larynx-shredding scream. The best album of a great year of music.

As I said, it’s been a great year for music. It was hard to narrow the list down to 5. Here, in no particular order (OK, they’re alphabetical by artist), are some of the other great albums I enjoyed this year:

The Bad Plus: Prog
Beastie Boys: The Mix-Up
Circa Survive: On Letting Go
Coheed and Cambria: No World for Tomorrow
Dream Theater: Systematic Chaos
LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver
Minus the Bear: Planet of Ice
Nine Inch Nails: Year Zero
Pinback: Autumn of the Seraphs
Porcupine Tree: Fear of a Blank Planet
Room 34: Highway 34 Revisited (Had to put in a bit of self-promotion!)

And there are a few others that just missed the cut, like The Dear Hunter and Portugal. The Man. (“Portugal. The Man.” is one band. You have to give them credit just for the audacity of that band name.)

Rush Bass Tabs!

I’m posting this mainly to remind myself to check it out more fully at a later date. (Hmm… could just bookmark it…)

Just what I was looking for (even though, curiously enough, I wasn’t looking for it at the time when I found it): Rush bass tabs! Any Rush fan or bass player (or, both, and I’d guess that both do occur in disproportionate numbers to that of the general populace) would want to check this out.

Frankly, since I can read music, I’d rather have actual notation instead of tablature, but any transcription is a good transcription. (Check that; not every transcription is a good one, but I’ll have to study these more closely to determine if that is true in this case.)

Top 5 Albums of 2005

OK, I realize that we are now precisely (give or take the days various Caesars stole from February) halfway through 2006, but I still haven’t gotten around to compiling my list of the top 5 albums of 2005. I think I actually did start one back in December but I couldn’t narrow it down, or I couldn’t be bothered to care to finish it or… something.

5. Beck: Guero
A lot of the same critics who praised 2002’s Sea Change for its growth came back to declare Guero a grand return to form over what they now called dark and depressing. Get over it! I actually liked Sea Change better, but anything from Beck is good.
4. Porcupine Tree: Deadwing
Speaking of anything from being good, here we have Porcupine Tree, without a doubt the most undeservingly underheard band around today. This album is so good I can’t even write a coherent sentence about it.
3. Foo Fighters: In Your Honor
Great album. At first I thought the idea of splitting all of the acoustic/mellow tracks onto one CD and all of the rockers onto another was a risky idea, but it actually works out great. The pair complement each other well, and are perfectly suitable soundtracks for diametrically-opposed moods.
2. Coldplay: X&Y
A lot of people I know hate Coldplay, and I just don’t get it. Perhaps they’re overrated now, and it’s just that I started to get into them before they got really big, but I think their music is full of great melodies and atmospheres.
1. Coheed and Cambria: Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
OK, this one had to win simply for the fact that these guys had the cojones to give their album such a title. C’mon guys, it’s not 1974! Unabashed prog rock seems to be making a comeback, but unlike the slightly more successful Mars Volta, these guys don’t pad each track out with aimless noodling filler (and I usually like bloat-prog).