Jan 192009

Welcome to the second edition of Weekly WordPress Roundup!

Sorry for the late posting!  I was busy making lemonade from life’s lemons…

What Is It?

Weekly WordPress Roundup is a hybrid between a blog carnival and a weblog.  Every Monday morning the editor of that week’s roundup makes a single post linking to the “best” WordPress articles they’ve come across that week.  The choices are made from their own web surfing and from articles submitted via the Roundup’s blogcarnival.com page.  If you’re interested in hosting the Weekly WordPress Roundup, just drop an email to: philaahzophy@gmail.com

On To The Entries…

General WordPress News-

Our first entry comes from Jackie at Internet Marketing Strategy For Moms and even though it was posted last October, it’s still very relevant today.  The title pretty much tells the story: WordPress.com Deleted All Of My Blogs.  Apparetnly the folks at WordPress.com decided she was a splogger simply because she linked out to her other blogs.  Not good news.  And it’s not a problem that’s going away.  It was a full year ago that I posted Isn’t Freedom Of Expression Worth $5 Per Month? right here at Philaahzophy.

Looking for work?  Well, according to the WordPress Publisher Blog, oDesk Reports “WordPress” Fastest Growing In-Demand Skill in 2008!  So it seems like your blogging skills can pay off in the “real world” as well.

WordPress Plugins-

Madeline Begun Kane submitted her brief article on the wonders of the WP-SpamFree plugin titled Life-Saving, Spam-Fighting WordPress Plugin.  I didn’t investigate WP-SpamFree during my own recent search for a comment spam solution, because it’s listed as only being compatible up to WordPress 2.6.2.  If you know that it’s been upgraded for (or is compatible with) 2.7 then I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!

WordPress Tips-

As I’ve started exploring the limits of what can be done with WordPress I’ve found myself coming closer and closer to altering the core WordPress files.  Since any changes to the core will have to be redone manually whenever a new update comes out, this is a very bad thing.  Luckily, the folx over at Cats Who Code have an elegant solution in their How To: Overwrite Core WordPress Functions.

Mike Mueller recently posted a great overview on Setting Up Your WP Blog at his Mike’s Minute Real Estate Blog.

WordPress Themes-

Ever wish you could use more widgets without your blog looking overcrowded?  Well check out last week’s Thursday Themeday review of the Quadruple Blue four column WordPress theme!  Considering many people (myself included much of the time) feel that three column themes are, by their very nature, cluttered, the concept of a four column theme may seem preposterous.  But, somehow, this one pulls it off.

Anthony Delgado’s Free WordPress Themes may not be what you expect.  Instead of listing more free themes he actually discusses how to make a theme “your own” with only minor modifications.

Want to use WordPress as a CMS?  Then you absolutely have to check out the WordPress ReMix Theme I reviewed last week!


That’s wraps up this week’s WordPress Roundup!  Look for next week’s edition over at Gilroy Review on Monday, January 26th!  Submit your WordPress-related article (or someone else’s that you find worthwhile!) to the next edition of Weekly WordPress Roundup using our carnival submission form or by emailing it to philaahzophy@gmail.com.  Future hosts can be found on the Weekly WordPress Roundup homepage.  If you’d like to be added to the list, just drop an email!

As always, comments, links and social bookmarks are very much appreciated!

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Dec 242008

I got pretty excited back in August when I first heard that the Leonardo DaVinci exhibit Leonardo: 500 Years Into The Future would be making its only U.S. stop at the Tech Museum in downtown San Jose. Yet, for some reason I just kept not making it up there to see it and time was running short (the exhibit has been extended until January 25, 2009).  But when Zaira told me that there was a carnival set up right next to the exhibit (in conjunction with Christmas In The Park) I knew the time had come.

Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly wake up on the right side of the bed yesterday morning and it was the last chance I was going to have spare time with Zaira before the end of the year.  So off we went.  Before we even got to The Tech (while walking along San Carlos St.) we were suddenly accosted by a couple of giant characters from The Nutcracker Suite!  Zaira made friends with Mouse King, but was frightened of the Nutcracker’s vicious sword.  Not that I blame her, this guy’s definitely an intimidating enforcer of the state’s power.

We made our way across the street, into The Tech, and (with my wallet $40 lighter) into the Leonardo exhibit itself. The gist of the exhibit (as I understood it going in) was that modern craftsmen and artisans had created many of the machines and devices detailed in Leornardo’s notebooks using only methods and materials available in DaVinci’s time. Upon entering the exhibit area we surely did discover a number of highly impressive archaic machines. Unfortunately, documentation was scant and I had difficulty trying to understand (much less explain to Z) what we were seeing or what significance it had. Even the famed flying machine itself (the very cornerstone of the exhibit) had only a few paragraphs discussing what it was.

Should you plan on attending the exhibit I highly recommend going at a time when you can join in on one of the free tours. We didn’t take one, but did manage to catch the tail end and the tour guide seemed both informative and friendly.

Our day was not yet done, however. Heading for the carnival, Zaira was quick to locate one of her personal heroines, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, painted into a window of the Carnival’s fun house. Unlike previous years Butler Amusements brought a full crew to Christmas in the Park this time with roughly a dozen different rides, a handful of carnival games, and even a souvenir photo booth!

We took a quick tour of the carnival (split between Park, Fairmont Plaza, and the Rep’s courtyard), stopped by the ticket booth, and Z headed straight to their Tilt-A-Whirl which was called Hot Wheels (though no miniature cars were in evidence). Our ‘tour’ required us to cut through Christmas In The Park (which Z had visited with her mother and brothers the night before) where we did pause momentarily for me to don some appropriate Christmas attire (pictured left 😉 ). We also stopped by one of the game booths and I managed to “Ring A Duck” and win a new Christmas puppy friend for Z. Her name is Joy and she’s now integrated herself into the horde that lives ‘upstairs’ on Zaira’s bed with a couple dozen other critters from various midways we’ve visited. But while we were waiting for our Sleigh Ride Portraits to be finished she did get a little frisky with the photo booth’s reindeer mascot 🙂

Although I never really shook my lethargy it was surely a satisfying day with many pleasant discoveries, a few educational lessons, and I even got a couple of those wonderful (and rare) laughs that truly warm a father’s heart.

Sep 262008

A few weeks back a friend pointed me to ForumFinder.net.  I have been unable to thank them enough for doing so.  As the name implies the website is actually a forum, but it doesn’t only deal with forums.  In fact, more and more it (like the internet itself) is being taken over by bloggers.

Essentially, ForumFinder is dedicated to helping its members promote their online projects – be those forums, traditional static websites, blogs, or pretty much anything else online.  It really is a great group of people that are interested in both sharing the hard lessons they’ve learned and pushing other members to excel in all ways.

In trying to find a way to give back to this new community I now call home I decided that the best thing for me to do would be to create the weekly ForumFinder Blog Carnival.  All of the rules and guidelines are available on the carnival homepage (check my right sidebar, or just click the link in the last sentence), and if you have any questions or comments you can submit them in the forum thread dedicated to the carnival here.

The deadline for the first edition is tonight at 9pm (Pacific time) and there’s still plenty of room for your best blog post of the week!   But if you read this late don’t worry, because we’ll be having one every week.  Articles can be submitted at BlogCarnival.com.

Sep 062008

I found myself browsing old editions of the Carnival of Financial Learning over at Financial Learn the other day and stumbled across his weekly “So You Think You Can Save”contest.  Since I’m a (poverty ridden) romantic and last week’s question was about saving on a first date I went ahead and entered.

Well, it turns out I won a $15 Starbucks gift card for my quick little reply!  Yeah me!  Not only did I come across some useful personal finance advice, but I also ‘earned’ $15 just for being a good blog visitor and contributing to the conversation.  Not bad at all…

Apr 282008
Part of the Carnival Midway Games Series - Previous in series         

Carnival season is upon us once again. Z and I visited our first carnival of the year a few weeks back and will be visiting our second this coming weekend. Thus, it seems time to refresh the memories of all those ‘big strapping’ men out there looking to win the affection of their lady love via giant teddy bears and other plush critters.

This is actually the third installment in a series of midway game secrets. The first two entries on how to win carnival games were written last July and have received consistent traffic ever since (even over the winter months), so there’s clearly interest in these tips. Already covered in those other entries were the following games-

Carnival Midway Games Revealed (Part One)
carnival midway games

  • General carnival midway tips
  • Basketball Toss
  • Jacob’s Ladder
  • Machine Gun Star
  • Dart Balloons
  • Test Of Strength / High Striker
  • Speed Throw
  • Chicken Catapult (or frog or witch or ???)

Carnival Midway Games Revealed (Part Two)
carnival midway games

  • Winning Without Playing
  • Patience and Observation
  • The Cat Rack / Clown Toss
  • Milk Bottle Pyramid
  • Dime Toss / Quarter Toss
  • Water Race / Balloon Pop
  • Bushel Baskets
  • Skee-Ball
  • The Claw

If you’re looking for general strategies I highly recommend you read the previous two articles in the series as there’s not really space to recap them here. Instead I’m going to focus on winning secrets for the following midway games: Stand A Bottle, Bank-A-Ball / Stop Signs, Whack-A-Mole, and The Stacker.

Stand A Bottle – This carnival classic dates back to the earliest of traveling circuses and sideshows, but seems to be making a comeback in recent years due to its simplicity and low overhead. The game looks simple enough – a milk bottle, soda bottle, etc lays on a small platform. You are given a simple fishing rod with a ring where the bait should go. All you have to do is use the ring to hook the bottle and stand it upright without knocking it off the platform in the process.

The reason this game keeps making a comeback is because each generation (wrongly) thinks they understand the science involved better than the previous one. This task is far more difficult then it seems. Nevertheless, I’ve actually seen two different strategies work consistently.

Strategy Tip One

Your instincts (and quite possibly the carny’s demonstration) will tell you to use the rod to lift the bottle by ‘pulling’ the bottle towards you. That is, start with the neck of the bottle pointing directly away from you and then pull it back into an upright position. Inevitably, though the bottle will rotate on its base, escape the ring, and fall from the platform.

Thus, the trick here is to ‘push’ the bottle instead of ‘pull it’. Start with the neck of the bottle pointing towards you and the rod, hook the ring and lift it away from you. Honestly, I don’t understand why this works, but can attest to the fact that it frequently does.

Strategy Tip Two –

For this one you do want the neck of the bottle facing away from you. However, instead of holding the rod at a 90 degree angle hold it at about a 5 degree angle – nearly upright. This will probably take long arms or a carny who doesn’t mind a bit of a lean, but if you have neither return to the first strategy above. Loop the ring over the neck of the bottle than slowly raise the rod (not the string – the entire rod) until the string is taut. This next step is where the steady hands are needed. Ignore the string, stay 100% focused on the rod itself and pull up and towards you slowly and steadily. The bottle needs to remain directly beneath the rod at all times. If it starts to waver, lower it to gently to the platform and start again. Remember to be the tortoise, not the hare and you’ll be walking away with the giant bear 😀

Bank A Ball / Stop Signs / Flukey Ball – In this game the player needs to bounce a ball (softball, baseball, wiffle ball, whatever) off of an angled sign (typically a stop sign or backboard with that summer’s hottest character on it) and drop it into a basket placed flat on the ground. The problem is that the angle of the backboard is so steep that it’s darn near impossible to both hit the board and land in the basket. Yet the booth operator seems to do it every time. That’ s because he is a) closer so doesn’t have to throw as hard and, b) can throw under hand so that the ball hits the sign while moving in an upward direction instead of falling down. It’s the latter advantage that is the most key.

Most players don’t even try to throw underhand, instead hoping to use some sort of spin to deaden the drop. But that won’t help you here. Nor will hitting the edges or rolling down the backboard as neither is permitted. The physics demand that the ball be moving in an upward direction when it comes into contact with the backboard. So why, you may ask, doesn’t the player simply lob it underhand just like the carny? Because the edge of the booth gets in the way! In order to hit the backboard with the ball gaining altitude it must be released fairly low and the booth construction generally prevents this.

If you really want to win this game, then keep the physics in mind and prepare to practice, practice, practice.

Whac A Mole – I’ve never personally worked this game and haven’t played it much either, but am constantly inundated with tips on how to gain the edge over the other players. Here are the tips that seem to be the most effective-

  1. Kneel in front of the game – this should put the mole holes at eye level allowing you to identify their locations more rapidly.
  2. Stare directly down into the center hole and don’t move your focus spot until the game is over. Essentially you’re allowing your peripheral vision and instinctive motion sense to rapidly identify where there are moving moles waiting to to be whacked.

The Stacker – Just like the claw games (discussed in part two), The Stacker isn’t really a ‘skill’ game at all. In fact, it is impossible to win until it has received enough money to make the game profitable for the arcade. You’re seeing those big ticket prizes (iPods, PS3, X-Box, etc) in the stacker for this very reason. The odds of winning are set internally somewhere between 1 in 200 plays and 1 in 800 plays depending on the value of the prize and the deisred profit margin.

In other words, as long as you think of it more as a raffle then anything that involves skill, you should do just fine 😉

That’s all I’ve got time for today. However, coming up in Part Four will be some tips, tricks and secrets for Wacky Wire, Cover The Spot / Spot The Spot, Milk can softball, and anything else I encounter at the carnival this weekend.

Until then, remember that the carnival is supposed to be about fun in the sun, not the size of the prize.

More from Carnival midway game items-

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Part of the Carnival Midway Games Series - Previous in series