Monday, September 9, 2013

The Future

Recently I've been trying to find a new home for myself on the internet. A permanent one, based on my name. Andy.anything have all been taken long ago. Andy.com and Andy.net both aren't being used, and are even for sale. In the multiple thousand dollar range. Not happening. AndyMercer.com is unfortunately being used as a memorial page for an Andy Mercer from Florida who died in 2008. It's being maintained by a company who is run by the guy's uncle, so it'll be there, if not forever, for a a very long time.

I even looked into odd names. Ma.tt is currently the home of WordPress's founder. An.dy isn't possible though, because there is no .dy. There is a .er, so theoretically I could do AndyMerc.er. However, there are no companies selling that domain at the moment, and there are no plans for any other companies to start.

AndyMercer.net and AndyMercer.me both are second-tier choices, but both pretty good. I ended up going with AndyMercer.net because .net is a better known domain than .me. I have purchased .net (and given that it's only 15 bucks in the future I could always change to .me), and so I will be moving there shortly. I am going to be upgrading to a WordPress installation. Makes sense, given that I develop WordPress sites through Catstache Design, LLC. I'm really excited about the design of my new site. It's entirely from scratch, with heavy inspiration from several other sites which I'll detail soon. This URL will redirect to AndyMercer.net/blog, which will be the new URL of my blog until such time as I acquire AndyMercer.com or Andy.something (a long long time from now, if ever).

Anyway, stay tuned. The site is up and running on my internal server, and I'm getting the last few bugs worked. Should be up online soon. Thank you all for your continued support (support being reading, given that I don't do ads ... because screw ads).

Friday, August 9, 2013

Vegetarianism - A Choice?

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a status stating (paraphrase): You should avoid saying to vegetarians that "Well it's not that you can't eat meat. You choose to be a vegetarian." I humbly disagree. It could be phrased better, certainly. The thought behind it, though, that being a vegetarian is a choice, is true.

Being a vegetarian IS a choice for most vegetarians. Granted, there are always those few people who are allergic to meat [Ref.]. However, the vast majority of vegetarians choose it for moral reasons. They choose what they perceive to be the higher moral path, which is to avoid being responsible for the killing of animals. Granted, the question of the morality of eating animals is still being debated frequently and vehemently. However, if you are the type of person who reads this blog, you've probably read arguments on both sides before so I won't waste your time rehashing. For the purposes of this direct topic, it's enough to say that vegetarians believe they are making the moral choice.

The disconnect, I think, is that my friend believes that saying something is a choice makes it seem less sound, less respectful. More flightly, maybe. This is probably of their experience in the marriage equality struggle. One of the main arguments of traditional marriage proponents is that being gay is a choice. By saying that, they are diminishing it. In this case though, saying that choice is the primary reason doesn't diminish.

I hold that not only does the fact that choice is the primary reason not diminish being a vegetarian, it does the opposite. Saying that it isn't a choice is what diminishes. That idea robs vegetarians of their free will. It robs them of their choice to take the moral high road. Lets use an analogy:

Person X is driving along out in the middle of no where, and they see hitchhiker. For the sake of argument, this hitchhiker is homeless with no family, and somehow Person X knows this. They are far from any witnesses or cameras. Person X could stop, kill, and rob the hitchhiker without getting caught. They don't, and pass on by.

Person Y is driving along in the middle of New York City, and sees a hitchhiker. This hitchhiker has lots of family connections that would notice a disappearance, and there are witnesses and cameras all around. Person Y could stop, kill, and rob the hitchhiker, but would absolutely by caught. They don't, and pass on by.

I hold that Person X's action of passing by without doing anything to the hitchhiker is morally good, because it's not under duress. It's a totally free choice. Person Y is under duress. They are under threat of reprisal, be is jail-time, loss of income, maybe even the death penalty. Person Y's action of passing by isn't immoral, but it's not moral either. Any time an action is forced, it's not a free choice and therefore neither moral or immoral. That person doesn't have the opportunity to made the moral decision.

This applies because if we hold that vegetarianism is the higher moral path, then if a person has a free choice and they choose to follow it, they are taking that higher moral path. If it's not a choice though, we are robbing them of that opportunity to make the moral choice, just as the duress does for Person Y. Therefore acknowledgement of the fact that it is a choice does not diminish the vegetarian, it in fact is an acknowledgement of their taking a higher moral path. Not because it's forced upon them, but because they of their own free will are choosing to take the hard road, the moral road. I think that that is a good thing to acknowledge.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

WordPress Plugin

I recently finished work on IndyGreekFest.org (Old Site), and am in my reflective period that follows every project. One issue that I ran into with this site is the organization of images on the site.

Several sections of the website are basically image galleries; food, media, etc. It would be nice if I could upload images into folders and organize them by the page in which they are embedded. Unfortunately, with WordPress, this isn't possible.

WordPress started as a simple blog software, and while it's doing an admirable job slowly transforming itself into a full CMS, it's not there yet. The way it handles images is a prime example of this. Currently, there is a single media folder, in which all uploaded images go. WordPress each month, a new folders is made by wordpress inside the media folder. All images uploaded that month go in there. Additionally, when viewing the images, there is a single list of images. One can't view folders.

It would be nice to fix this. I have sketched out several user interfaces which would incorporate folders. A real fix would require updating the core, though, which I'm not really prepared to do. A plugin, however, I think is within my current capabilities. A plugin will not be able to full accomplish my goals, but it will let me start. So tonight, I am going to write a simple Hello World plugin to teach myself the basics. Having created several themes in the past, it shouldn't be too difficult.

From there, I can start figuring out how to go about adding folders to WordPress.

Friday, June 28, 2013

An Annoucement

This should have been posted about 2 weeks ago, but during the time I was doing a lot of soul searching about even continuing this blog. Everything that has come out in the past months about government surveillance gave me an initial reaction of wanting to withdraw from the internet entirely. That isn't possible, however. And upon further thought, I realized how silly I was being, since this blog is public anyway. So without further ado, on to my news.

I got engaged! My wonderful girlfriend and I went down for a walk on a local walking trail by a small river, and after finding a place out of site of any other living people, I dropped to one knee and popped the question. And she said yes! Odd to think how just how a year and three weeks ago I had such a dismal view of ever finding someone. Just a year ago I was too busy thinking about how did the last two dates go to worry about if we'd be engaged in a year. Yet here I am. It's been a pretty great year, looking back, but I'm happy to be where I am. Hopefully sometime next April or May you'll see a post here about how I am no longer engaged, but married.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Marriage Equality: The Aftermath

Yesterday, SCOTUS handed out it's decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act, and on Prop 8. They invalidated Prop 8 through technical reasons to avoid a country-wide decision, and fully invalidated the section of DOMA which kept the government from recognizing gay marriages from States which recognize them.

To put in another way, SCOTUS struck down DOMA, in the battle of the acronyms.

Humor aside, these decisions, along with the increasing speed at which States are coming into the marriage equality fold, leads me to the conclusion that full marriage equality is certain, within a matter of decades, if not years. And with this becoming a certainty, recent events are starting to cause me concern.

There was an indecent in the past year where a baker refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple, and was sued. This, in my mind, crosses the line from right to wrong. So far in this entire debate, the question has always been, are we trying to be free, or force our beliefs on others. Live and let live is the proper solution when possible, and so for marriage, the proper answer is to let anyone get married. Conservatives are trying to force their beliefs (that gay marriage is wrong) onto others, by controlling them and forcing them not to get married. Marriage equality proponents are therefore in the moral right.

Yet in the case of this baker, it becomes our side which is in the wrong. We are forcing someone else to do an action, namely making a cake, against their will. A couple has no moral right to have a cake made for them, just as conservatives have no moral right to live in a world filled only by people who fit their definition of "good". Because this example has already happened, I worry that in the future similar things will happen. Even more so, I worry that our side, filled with confidence from winning and bitterness from decades of struggle, will over react and become guilty of the same types of abuses of power that were used against them. Will it be considered okay to force a priest/pastor/minister/etc to marry someone? Or to force a Church to allow their building to be used for a marriage? I sincerely hope not, but I worry because I personally know several people who would consider those acceptable.

We are winning the war. Let us not lose our morality in the process.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

117

In general, the Halo 4 soundtrack disappointed me. Most of the music was bland at best. However, one song stood out. Number 12 on the disc, entitled simply '117'. Very powerful.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Wordpress and the Rise of Vector Image Fonts

As a Wordpress developer (ironic, I realize, since this blog is hosted on Blogger), one thing I follow pretty closely is the Wordpress Make UI blog. An overhaul of the WP backend has been cooking for several months now, and one aspect of that overhaul is a change in the way icons are displayed. Currently, WP uses PNG rastor icons, but the new backend will likely use vector icons in the format of a font. Confused yet? Let me give you some background info.

Images come in two types: Raster and Vector. Most images you see on the internet are Raster. JPGs, PNGs, GIFs, all of these are Raster images, which means that they are static. You can think of them as a giant grid, with each point, or pixel, having a specifically set color. When all these points are put close enough together, you can't tell that it's square points. But when images are zoomed in, they look blocky. Vector images don't consist of set points. They use lines and formulas and things that I don't fully understand. The end product is an image that will look sharp no matter how far it is zoomed in and out.

Wordpress is switching from Raster to Vector, because Vector images look better when zoomed in (when using a Retina display, for example). They are also going one step further and using a font, instead of image files. Fonts have used Vector images for a long time. Each character is a small image with a transparent background. It's certainly possible to place custom images yourself. I found a very interesting article on the reasoning behind switching to icon fonts, rather than using icon image files, which I've added a link to here.

The Era of Symbol Fonts