Stephen's Statements A little bit of everything from Stephen Duncan Jr, a Programmer/Web Geek working in the defense industry

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Reconciling NBA and FIBA Rules

People who think that the rules difference between NBA and international basketball is just an excuse haven't really been paying attention. I think that some compromise on rules should occur, to get all the levels of basketball (NBA, College, International) at a mostly consistent rule-set. I'm not interested in making the rules adnantageous for the US, just improving the game of basketball. Here's the way I'd mix up the rules:

From the NBA:

  • Use 3 referees: It's been clear that a 3rd referee helps get rid of dirty play away from the ball, and improves the overall quality of the officiating.
  • Use the NBA 3-point line: the rules shouldn't encourage 3-ptrs. over the 2-pt shot. Maybe a little shorter, but not as short as the International 3 pt. line
  • Allow 6 fouls: Free throws, getting in the penalty are enough punishment. Alternately, call less fouls, which I like less.

From the international game:

  • 40 minute games: The NBA season is long and grueling. Less games means a lot less revenue, but slightly shortened games shouldn't be as bad, as the less time for commericals should be offset by people being more willing to watch whole games. It should also cut down on injuries, and increase drama.
  • The international lane: I think it's an improvement, especially the lack of a restricted area. Discourage players from going to the basket out of control.

There's a lot of other rules differences, but those are the major ones I'd be interested in reconciling.

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Mozilla Feeds Update

Improving the feed discovery for Firefox is being tracked at Bug 257247

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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Mozilla and Feeds

As I've mentioned, the new "Live Bookmarks" feature coming up in Firefox is not super useful. As in, it's not going to have the features to replace an aggregator. Which is fine. As I understand it, the purpose of adding it was to be able to get bookmarks from a remote location, even if it's only read-only for now. The idea, I guess, was to use RSS stuff, as it's an already widely-deployed format. So, in that light, it's at least pointing out to cool stuff in the future, though where the practical benefit will lie is still to be seen.

However, the RSS integration in Mozilla Thunderbird is ready to replace your favorite e-mail client style aggregator. Well, ok, not quite. It's in the nightly builds, and I'm sure there are bugs to be worked on. But it does support the standard concept: feeds as folders in your mail client, with posts as messages. Those wanting a full client aggregator that works on multiple platforms, Thunderbird may be your answer.

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Windows XP Service Pack 2

I decided that I would wait for Windows XP Service Pack 2 to come out over Windows Update, rather than install early. So, I did it today. Nothing big to report. It was rather rude, as it placed Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player shortcuts into my Quick Launch bar. Bad Microsoft! I have my quick bar and such set up exactly how I like it, leave it alone!

Beyond that, the ublocking of popup-ads in the new Internet Explorer seems rather buggy/un-intuitive compared to the feature in nightly builds of Firefox. I'm certainly not impressed with IE. But it is an improvement for all those who insist on using it, so good for them.

Blogger Icon Fixes

I recently sent in a question to Blogger support about my Delete Comment icons not showing up, because they'd replaced the code that put in an image tag from the template with a span filled with a non-breaking space. As usual, after I ask for help, I figured it out myself. It turns out you have to put <$BlogMetaData$> into your template so that you can get some style sheets that set the icons on the Delete Comment, E-mail Post, and Edit Post spans.

Speaking of which: that's right, there's a new feature for you, the reader. Now there's a handy button to let you send an e-mail to someone about one of my posts. There's also a nice feature for me: a way to click on an icon on a post, and take me straight to editing it in Blogger. The new e-mail feature was announced today, which led me to disover the rest of all of this.

The down-side to use the BlogMetaData tag is that it includes a tag for something to do with the Blogger API, that I don't quite undestand. Unfortunately, the current implementation of auto-discovery for Firefox brings up that feed along with my actual site feed, which could confuse user's of Firefox coming to this Blog (or others like it) in the future. However, it appears that Bloglines auto-discovery handles it properly, only showing my actual site feed. I guess it's time to go work on getting a bug filed against Firefox's auto-discovery to get it fixed, then.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Fixed Style-Sheet for IE

After a bit of looking and playing for another method, I decided to give up and use my first CSS-hack for IE. Ugh. Basically, IE doesn't support position: fixed, so instead of falling back to position: absolute, it falls back to position:static, placing my navigation bar at the bottom of the page, as that's where it falls in the source.

IE also doesn't understand the child selector: >. So, I changed the style on the navigation section to use position:absolute, then I add another style rule that IE doesn't understand to add position:fixed back:

body > #navigation_section { position: fixed;}

It's unfortunate to have to resort to such hacks, but it gets the job done. And now my site looks decent in IE, and exactly how I like it in Firefox. Opera still has an issue, but it's clearly a bug: if you zoom-out and zoom back in, the page will display correctly. If anybody wants to check out how my site looks in Safari or Konqueror, I'd appreciate it (I haven't got my Linux box hooked up, and won't for a while).

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Sunday, August 22, 2004

The New Design

Lot's of little changes involved in the redesign. The primary goal was a color change: the red on blue of the "Wheat" design (look for the alternate style-sheet of that name to see it, though some template changes on the Blog have also occurred). Unfortunately, the blue for links I liked so much was a bit hard to see on white. However, I think that bolding all links takes care of that nicely, with the added bonus of making links stand out more. I really like that minor change. A lot of the other color changes are just to add variety.

The other major change was moving the navigation section to the right. This gets it out of the way, so that you can view the content.

Unfortunately, I just got around to checking out how it looked in other browsers. Crap. The navigation section is at the bottom in IE, and it overlaps the content section in Opera. Man. I spent so much time on this already, and now I have to bugfix. I guess that'll have to wait until tomorrow. Until then, check out the page in a Mozilla-based browser, such as Firefox to see how it's supposed to look.

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Mel Gibson Threatens Photographers

Isn't this basically a feature-length threat against the Paparazzi?

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Blogger Navbar

Blogger is now offering a Navbar to be placed at the top of one's blog. This replaces an advertisement bar on Blogger/Blog*Spot hosted blogs. For those of us with sites being hosted externally and being published via FTP, it's optional. Unfortunately, at the moment it's simply a choice at the top, not a tag in a template, so it has to be at the top, and I have to change my design a little to accomodate it.

It provides the nice feature of allowing a search of the site (so I can get rid of the one in the navigation section), as well as supporting Blogger, which I've really enjoyed using. The downside is that it makes my site look less independent, and more like an amatuer-ish hosted site. It also allows people to visit other recently updated Blogger produced Blogs with a single click.

Should I put this on my page? I think I'll at least try putting it on to play around with the issues it may cause. So expect to see it at least temporarily.

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Blogger and Firefox

As I'm working through the new design, I happened to notice a link about supported browsers for Blogger.

The interesting part is at the bottom. Including "6% use Mozilla Firefox; an up-and-comer, which we all use internally." and "AOL users, as well as those unaccounted for here (Netscape, Opera, etc.), would be wise to use Mozilla Firefox in order to have the best possible experience using Blogger.", in addition to a "Get Firefox" button at the bottom.

Now if Google as a whole would develop some of their IE/Windows add-ons (Google Toolbar, Gmail notifier) as Firefox extensions, that would really be awesome.

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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Olympic Summary

Best sports we don't generally get to see:

  • Handball
  • Water Polo (Handball in water)

Sports that would fit in best at the X-Games:

  • Diving
  • Gymnastics

Sports that you're not quite sure qualify as "sports":

  • Table Tennis
  • Equestrian

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USA Loses to Puerto Rico

Well, there's no excuses this time. No jet-lag, no fluke 15 3-pointers. Just an old-fashioned butt-whooping.

The 3-point line is shorter: why do we shoot worse here than in the NBA?

And what did Carmelo Anthony do that made the coaches keep him on the bench?

And why didn't the US team try pressure defense until midway through the 3rd quarter? And why is Stephon Marbury still starting (Wade is better despite his tendency to get frustrated and make mistakes).

It ain't over, but Argentina is my second favorite. Did you see Ginobili's winning shot? Absolutely amazing. I only wish that game had come second, so that it would be the fresher moment in my mind.

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Saturday, August 14, 2004

WeatherFox Update

There's a new homepage for WeatherFox. Improvements are still coming quickly, which is nice.

By the way, "LiveMarks" or "Live Bookmarks" or whatever the current name for RSS in Firefox as bookmarks currently is, doesn't seem to be all that useful. Which, in a way, is good. People using tools like Bloglines cuts down on the hits to people's feeds.

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Sunday, August 08, 2004

Firefox Extensions

Here's a couple of extensions for Firefox that have me excited:

Bloglines Toolkit. This one has been out a while, and I've been using it constantly. It greatly simplifies subscribing to feeds, by adding a context menu that lets you choose to subscribe to the current page (or link if you right-clicked on a link). For the current page, it uses feed autodiscovery to list the feeds available for that site. Even better is that it also provides a notifier. It places a small icon in the bottom right corner of the browser, and adds a red dot to indicate when new posts are added to any of your subscribed feeds. Simply click on the icon to open up your Bloglines feeds list (you can configure it to open in new tabs, active or inactive, same page, etc.) This has made the process of surfing the web and keeping up to date on my favorite sites so much easier. It wouldn't be hyperbole to say that it's revolutionized my browsing experience.

WeatherFox. This was just created yesterday, and has been updated several times. Look for more improvements as time goes. Basically, it adds icons in the status bar indicating the weather for a zip code you supply. You can hover over an icon for more details, and you can also set how many days of icons to show. A handy way to always see up-to-date weather info without having to open up a website.

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Saturday, August 07, 2004

Olympic Basketball: Looking Up?

It's good to see the US improving, as I've now watched the US barely beat Germany, and decisively beat Serbia and Montenegro. And they did it by playing to their strengths: use superior athleticism to play pressure defense, and get most of their offense through the transition game. In fact, they looked a lot like a Roy Williams coached Kansas team: getting the "secondary break" as announcers referred to it.

And that's exactly what they need to improve on further. Kansas was known for managing to fast-break even after made shots by the other team. The US team must take full advantage of their superior speed and depth. And I think we can mark the loss to Italy as being due to jet-lag. Not to insult the Italian team: with the way they shot, we still would have lost. Just not by so much.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

3 Point Shooting

The best 3 point shooter on the US men's basketball team is Richard Jefferson at .364 for last season. The league average .347. The league leaders wer Anthony Peeler, at .482, and Brent Barry at .452. Jefferson, having made only 48 3-pointers, doesn't qualify for the Top 50 list, which cuts off at 50, but he'd have been around 45 or so.

The players on the team shot the 3 ball as following:

3pt % for U.S. Olympic Team Members
Player3-pt. %
Richard Jefferson.364
Shawn Marion.340
Carmelo Anthony.322
Stephon Marbury.321
Dwyane Wade.302
Lamar Odom.298
LeBron James.290
Allen Iverson.286
Amare Stoudemire.200
Tim Dunan.167
Carlos Boozer.167
Emeka OkaforN/A

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USA Olympic Basketball: The Problems

So, the men's Olympic basketball team lost badly. Will this Olympic games be the first, since NBA players started playing for the Olympic team?

Sure, it's only one game. But there are serious problems, and I don't know if they can be overcome. And the similarities to the woes of my favorite NBA team, the San Antonio Spurs, are striking.

It all starts with a change in the rules: the zone defense. The NBA only last season repealed the "illegal defense" rule that prevented an effective zone defense. The international game has no rules preventing it, nor does college basketball.

A zone defense allows you to pack a lot of players into the inside, making scoring around the basket very difficult. Unfortunately, almost all the players on the US team excel in play around the basket. We have no outside shooters. The other teams, however, are built for these rules, and have excellent outside shooters, including, usually, the power forward and center positions. This also exposes another weakeness of NBA-style basketball: Our big men are generally not prepared to defend on the perimeter.

So, what do we have? We have Tim Duncan, arguably the best player in the world. But, like he was against the Lakers in the playoffs, he will be surrounded in the paint, frequently effectively triple teamed, and will have a hard time being dominating. Effective: yes, dominating: no. Beyond that, we have guys who can dribble well, pass well off the drive, and dunk very well. None of which helps much against the zone.

The future looks bleak to me. The Spurs couldn't beat the Lakers, because they didn't have consistent outside shooting. The same goes for the US team. The US team would have been better off doing what the Spurs did in the offseason: get a guy like Brent Barry that can shoot the ball well, rather than another athletic around-the-basket superstar. Or even have chosen a guy like Bruce Bowen, who's an expert defender, unlike any of the superstars brought on the team.

The last thing we do have is excellent coaches. But coaches can't turn players into 3-point shooters. But, luckily we have excellent defensive coaches (the Spurs and Pistons were the two best defenses, statisically, in the NBA last season). And, with the athleticism of the players on the team, only dedication and teaching are needed to improve the defense. We can only hope better defense is enough to prevent another game like today's.

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Monday, August 02, 2004

1 Year Anniversary

Yesterday was my 1st Anniversary. I've been married to Diane for a full year, and I couldn't be happier.

Yay me!

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Sunday, August 01, 2004

Gmail

I know by this point, everybody who wanted one has one, and I don't even use mine anymore (I don't email that much, to be honest), but I apparently have 5 G-mail invites available, so if you want one, e-mail me. Preference will be given to e-mails from .mil addresses.

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