Archive for the ‘Squidoo’ Category

Rolling PinYou know me – ever the opportunist. Yesterday I did some research and discovered that there was no one comprehensive resource for the proper care and cleaning of my wooden rolling pin, so today I put one together.

Not a terribly glamorous topic, I know, but I saw a need and decided to fill it. While I was at it, I sharpened up my Illustrator skills by making my own graphic for it. If I was really ambitious, I’d do some more pics, but I’ve got a sore throat tonight and baby is due any day now, so … ambition will have to wait for a while. Maybe in a future update.


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My cat watching the fish tank
I’ve had a pair of the little guys since last summer, but when I decided to add some fish to their tank, I had a lot of research to do about species compatibility and so on. This lens will be an attempt to consolidate the most critical and useful information about African dwarf frogs that I’ve found over the last several months.

I’ve also decided that my camera stinks at taking pictures of the stuff in my tank. If anybody knows a way to manually focus a Sony digital camera, let me know.

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I’ve been adding content for a while, but I think I can finally say that my solar system generation lens is complete. To commemorate its completion, I’ve tossed together a tracking sheet, simple and free for anyone to download and use in their games. It’s nothing fancy, but I figure I’ll save the pretty version for the book.


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Even though I haven’t blogged in a while, I’m still around. I just haven’t done anything truly blogworthy in a while. I’m not running any campaigns or actively working on any projects…at least, not until this morning. My shiny brand-new (ok so it’s been sitting on the back-burner for a while, and just barely became presentable) project is called Building a Star System, and is a newly-published lens on Squidoo. It’s a tool to help people build planetary system models for fictional solar systems.

Now before you get all excited, it’s not a fancy 3D model generator, or anything like that. Rather, it’s a series of charts and dice rolls that will get you off the ground if you find yourself suddenly in need of a random star system. It can also be used to fine-tune an existing system you’re just not satisfied with, and eventually it will assist you in fleshing out your worlds as well. Currently it can do everything from choosing a star type to determining how many moons your planets have. It’s a great starting point, and there’s lots more to come.

I also did a little updating of some other lenses, particularly my most popular lens, How to Get Rid of a Kink in Your Neck. I’m amazed at the traffic it’s pulled in so far – it always comes up on the first page of google search, too. If I could post regularly, maybe I’d pull traffic like that to the blog again too…

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Well, that was fun. I wouldn’t say I’d mastered PHP yet, by far, but now I’ve got a fair idea of its capabilities and a good collection of stock code snippets to play with. Now that I’ve spent months crawling the web for some tips on building a website with PHP, I’ve decided to put together the PHP tutorial I wished I’d had at the beginning. I’ve skipped over the bare basics in favor of explaining each line of code one piece at a time, and tried to write with the assumption that the reader doesn’t have a background in programming beside html itself. (I think I might have to build an html and css tutorial later – it was fun).

The tutorial covers all the topics I thought were vital to my website project. I started out with a basic run-through of what PHP can do and what you have to know/have before you can use it. Then I went right in to the meat and potatoes, but in the order I wish I’d learned it, rather than in the order I did. I started with using includes – writing part of your page code in a separate file for ease of editing later – then moved on the the tough stuff – databases. Admittedly, I have no idea how any of the other databases might differ from MySQL, but since that’s not what the tutorial is about, anyone using a different one will have to debug things on their own (what better way to learn, after all!)

I focused a good bit of time on the part that took me the longest to get working – that is, generating dynamic URLs with a query string. I completely skipped the ‘try this example’ stuff – there’s plenty of those on w3schools, and they didn’t really help me. Instead I used an approach I learned in one of my textbooks – explaining lines of code one piece at a time with helpful examples and a personal style. I’ve also included real working examples of code and suggestions for what uses to put them to. The goal is to get the reader from knowing nothing to understanding PHP in 4,000 words or fewer. I’d appreciate any feedback, either here in the comments or on the lens itself (backlinks welcome – one per comment please) from anyone interested in PHP on how well it accomplishes this goal.

As a little extra tidbit, I’ve included some tips on converting dynamic URLs to static ones. There seem to be several different methods out there, many of them far too complicated for a beginner to try, so I snagged a pair of the better ones and did a little how-to for ‘dessert’. Enjoy!

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