Friday, March 26, 2010

tXtFL seasons

Seasons!  At last!

As the dust from the NFL season settles, tXtFL finally gets its act together with its first basic implementation of the Season.

In war games, it's called a mission, and in sports simulations, it's a season.  In either case, it's a battle to develop your team to face the rising competition and mount a stalwart case for victory.  Choosing to start a new season in tXtFL automatically generates a season schedule by shuffling all the league's teams for each week.  Seasons can be resumed at any time to bring up the next week's game against the scheduled opponent.

As usual, much work remains, including the option to run automated simulations of all the other scheduled games for the current week.  Each game will differentially impact players' health depending on their involvement, and those health levels will carry over into the next game and affect player performance.  And at the end of the season, of course, lies the postseason and nothing less than the tXtFL Bowl!

Stay tuned for tXtFL 2.0.0alpha3...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blogger fest!

I stumbled upon a swath of new features offered by Blogger while searching for a better way to integrate the Text Flex blog into its main website.  Evidently Blogger has such a wealth of new features released or on the horizon that apparently it has a special place in its heart for all of it--  So what wealth of the new does Blogger in Draft bring us?

Perhaps the most visible feature is, well, what we all around us on this page, the very work of the new Template Designer.  Setting up these new web 2.0 design (or is it 3.0 by now?) features was as easy as picking a template, then searching for alternate background pictures and adjusting a few sliders.  At first I had trouble integrating the text into the mix of lights and darks in the sky and forestial scene.  I tried updating text colors one by one, but I found that the template palette has a single slider that can adjust all colors at once.  The sidebar text still gets slightly lost in the lower levels, but I like to think that one "feature" is the effect from the text "emerging" out of the foliage and into the sky above.  Pretty deep, huh?

Over at Voice of Text Flex, I tried out a new two-column sidebar format that allows me to group up thin items in the same space.  Now the labels, links, and a new "share it" gadget all fit in one neat little square patch of space.  An older formatting customization that I found is to remove the navigation bar at the top, which allowed me to replace it with the Text Flex header as a sort of "branding."  It's the first step toward making the Text Flex blog more of an extension of the main site rather than a separate entity.

I'm sure that Blogger will keep us on its toes with newer and newer features, and I've probably only just brushed the surface.  One thing I'm looking forward to is the ability to add my own background images.  In the meantime, I'm just gonna sit back and enjoy and brooding English (or San Franciscan?) sky...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Puff, the Magic iPhone

Some of my favorite games as a kid were pushing pencils to pound targets across a page, or flipping tightly folded wads of binder paper through open fingers.  The games were all fun and good and, besides a little distraction to classmates, provided a simultaneously innocent and inexpensive form of entertainment to pass away the boredom of lazy Sunday afternoons or the doldrums of Chinese school.

But all that time, I never quite new how deprived I was--until today I saw this clip.  While my generation toiled with paper and pencils, the new generation of children will be blowing Styrofoam balls across hand drawn courts with potent puffs from their iPhones.  All it takes is a piece of scrap paper from the printer, a few brushes of ink, and foam dust from the trash.  Oh, and an iPhone.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

From ink well to Inkscape

I never had the privilege of dipping my pen into ink wells before composing my essay or marking a test.  I did however enjoy the modern equivalent of dip pens in the form of Apple ][ and Macintosh Classic paint programs.  The revolutionary software greatly simplified the mass creation of posters and handouts, but it didn't quite turn my elementary classmates and I into artists overnight.  We had to wait for Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to do that, and I, ahem, would still never consider myself an artist.

Recently however I had to generate a number of scientific figures at higher than my normal it's-ok-for-PowerPoint quality, and I found myself hunting down new techniques to make use of modern graphics editing software to make up for my artistic inadequacies.  As usual, I gravitated toward my old haunt, open-source software, and to one program in particular: Inkscape.

Inkscape is the open-source counterpart to Adobe Illustrator as a vector-graphics editing software.  Unlike typical raster-graphics software, if I draw a line, I can shift around its endpoints and even add new bends and twists.  Put this together for all lines and many other handy tools as well, and you have the perfect enabler for someone who can't even quite draw a straight line, let alone in the right place.

While browsing the Inkscape news, I saw the results of a class project that used Inkscape to teach 4th graders about graphics software and programming.  The artwork isn't exactly Van Gogh (ok, maybe the blobs look a little Gogh-esque), but I was thrilled by the resourcefulness and ingenuity of teaching young students through Inkscape.  Using Inkscape's toolset--surprisingly simple to the novice and yet packed with tons of hidden powers--students could draw and tweak without the frustration of the paint programs I grew up with.  If they make a mistake, they just drag drag the line's nodes.  No need for even a pencil eraser.  By learning to draw with Inkscape early on, they can hone their designer techniques through junior high and beyond and, hey, maybe some of their student election posters will one day look better than ours.

Oh, and in today's budget crisis, Inkscape's free.  Better yet, you don't even need an expensive Mac to run it.*

* But no need to fear, as you can run it on a Mac, or Windows, or Linux.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Andrew & Miyon Young, DDS

Andrew & Miyon have officially opened their dental practice in San Mateo! Here's a snapshot of Andrew finishing up on his last patient of his first day's work. That last patient was none other than myself, and of course I give him a two-tooths up for his excellent care!

Soon to come is his new website, currently parked at their domain of choice, If your teeth are itching to get their fill of the latest details, you can check out their temporary site hosted on Weebly, a nifty web creation site.
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Saturday, March 06, 2010


A couple months ago my brother brought up the question on many minds of why God allows such suffering as we see in Haiti and other such natural disasters that seemingly blast every man, woman, and child--not to mention every tree, animal, or home--in its path. It got me thinking about what's going on there and how we can make sense of all the carnage, and I jotted a few notes that helped me to process this age-old but ever-present problem.

Something that came to mind is that none of us have ever experienced such physical devastation as they have, so we are in essence acting as "advocates" for them, onlookers from the outside seeking justice in their plight. But having never experienced what they have for ourselves, we can make one of two errors, either to be be overly complacent as if to say to them, "That's not so bad; God has good purpose in it," to which they might respond, "How dare you say that! What do you know?" or on the flip side, to passionately cry out against their plight, to which some of them might say, "Who are you to say how I feel? I still have my faith." Of course we strive for the balance, but either extreme is always a possibility, simply because no matter how much we try to empathize, we have not undergone what they have.

I was thinking about this topic over the past couple months, and the church I've been attending is actually going over a book on suffering. The chapter I most recently read is on the Holocaust, and it made me think how of all the worst nightmares I could imagine, that is probably one of the worst. I was also thinking that if we are really to make sense of the plight of those in such dreadful and unjust circumstances, we are best to ask them how they themselves have responded. The book cited a survey conducted in the 70s (I haven't viewed the survey itself, so I'm just taking the book at its word) on Holocaust victims, and the surprising result was that for a vast majority of the victims, the Holocaust had no lasting impact on their faith, yay or nay. A small fraction turned to atheism, and a smaller fraction actually grew stronger in their faith. It made me think that from those who have actually undergone such atrocity, and not merely the spectators who do their best to place themselves in their shoes, a large fraction at the very least found the events essentially unrelated to the major thrust of their faith. In other words, they somehow found their God compatible with the atrocities they had suffered.

Of course, these people may be biased in another way, since they may "have no one else to turn to" in such dire conditions, for example. But even then, I find it remarkable that they still turn to and embrace the one whom we might otherwise castigate for having brought such genocide. Maybe it's the Stokholm Syndrome, or maybe they have a different view of who God is and what his obligations are. I was also watching a Frontline episode on "The Children of the Taliban," where they interviewed a girl of about 7 years in Pakistan at an amputee camp. They asked her what brought her there, and she said that a bomb had taken out her sister and father, and before that a mortar had consumed her aunt, and rocket fire had taken her cousins, and her second cousins were wiped out by gunfire, and on and on... I was appalled, but when they asked her what she thought of all this, she replied without expression of anger, "What can I say? It is the will of God. It just happens." I was humbled, and although I of course believe that God does not condone such action, I thought of how spoiled I am to think that God has an obligation to keep us all healthy and well.

CS Lewis wrote about how God allows evil because he wants to give us the freedom to love him. That of course begs the question of why God would then allow those who love him to experience such evil. What I think it may boil down to is the fact that when God allows us individual freedom to choose between good and evil, to love or to forsake him, it's implicit that he also allows for societal good and evil. Because individuals can choose evil, we as society must bear the consequences of their evil action, even if we have chosen good for ourselves. Societal freedom is sometimes an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of individual freedom. When it comes to cancer or earthquakes or other "acts of God," it becomes more difficult to see the explanation, and perhaps we never will, or at least until we experience them for ourselves. But even in the trivial things that we do experience, we can ask God to give us the strength to respond.