Short story: “Death Plays A Game”

This was my response to this post on Reddit.

“A game, really?”

“Yes. Any game. You win, you go back…you lose…well…”

How does one respond to that? Better yet, how does one respond to Death? Not death, as in the end of life. Death as in the (un)living embodiment of the hereafter. This sure isn’t the way my day was planned when I woke up.

“So, what will it be?”

“Well, that depends. What are the rules? I’m sure this isn’t entirely fair.”

“Oh, to be sure, it is fair. 100%. No gimmicks, no gotchas. You call the game, we play. You win, I send you back.”

I study the…man? woman?…thing in front of me. It’s DEFINITELY not what you expect. Death, contrary to popular opinion, is not a skeleton in a black robe carrying a sickle. It’s hard to nail down, because the face is constantly shifting between masculine and feminine aspects. But the eyes…the eyes never change. Bright white, dark gray, and as deep as every ocean on every planet and moon in the universe.

“We’re wasting time here. You have to make a decision…we don’t have eternity here.”

“Ok. Seeing as I have nothing to lose, I choose Russian roulette.” A cocky choice maybe, but I’m dead already, I can’t die again here in Purgatory…can I?

“Interesting choice. I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone choose that before. Do you have a choice of weapon?”

I could have sworn I saw a look of concern cross Death’s ever-changing face.

“Well, my dad had a Colt Army when I was young. I would play with it when no one was around…until I shot a hole in my parents’ bedroom wall, and my dad started locking it up. That should do nicely.”

Before I could blink, the gun appeared on the table between us, a single bullet standing on end next to it. It was exactly as I remembered, as if it was my dad’s gun.

“It is his gun,” Death said, reading my mind. “Shall I load, or would you prefer to do it yourself?”

“I’ll do it thanks.” This is what I was hoping. I know this gun, know how the cylinder spins. I know exactly which chamber to put the bullet in. “Since you’re my host, I defer the first turn to you. It’s only proper.”

Death is taken aback. It’s as if he’s scared to pick up the gun from where I laid it on the table.

“Perhaps there’s another game…”

“Nope. You said it was my choice. This is my choice…pick up the gun, cock the hammer, and pull the trigger.”

Slowly, Death picks up the gun, studying it, trying to figure out a way around putting the muzzle to it’s temple.

“Don’t forget, you have to spin the cylinder.”

“Of course.”

Death spins the cylinder, and snaps it into position. I try hard to stifle the grin that’s creeping across my face.

“Whenever you’re ready…what was it you said, we don’t have eternity?” The grin is more than obvious on my face now.

“Fine.” Death places the muzzle against it’s temple, closes it’s eyes, and pulls the trigger.

I sit bolt upright in bed. I grab my phone, and look at the date. Son of a bitch…Death wasn’t lying. Next to my phone is a note, written in the neatest script I have ever seen…

“See you soon. -D”

New WordPress Theme — News Portal

I finally found a few minutes to put the finishing touches on an open-source theme conversion I’ve been working on for a while. I have posted the theme for download here. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

WordCast Mugshot Contest Swag – Part 1

(Note: edited at 7:32pm to clean up my inadvertent foul language…who decided the “I” key should be next to the “O” key!? 🙂 )

Today I received the first part of the goodies I won by entering the WordCast Mugshot contest. I got a Lijit t-shirt and 3 stickers. Now I’m just waiting on a WordPress t-shirt and coffee mug, and a book.

Quick PopcornHour Firmware Tip

When upgrading the firmware on your PopcornHour A-100 Network Media Tank, you might end up with a hung machine before any operations take place. You’ll know this has happened because your TV screen will go black as soon as you start the process. If this happens to you, there’s a simple solution…remove your custom theme. You don’t have to delete it, just renaming the theme folder form _theme_ to theme and rebooting the A-100 is enough to get you in the firmware updating business. Once you’ve updated, you can safely re-apply your theme and be back in business.

Linux, SwissCenter, and the PopcornHour A-100

So I’ve been using the awesome SwissCenter media streaming server with my PopcornHour A-100 for a while now. Over the weekend, Windows XP decided it didn’t want to run on my file server any longer (yeah, I know… 🙂 ). In it’s place I installed Ubuntu 8.04 “Hardy Heron”. After migrating my SwissCenter settings over to the new Linux install, everything worked, except SwissCenter no longer showed up on the Sources page on the A-100.

After a few hours of searching and a post to the SwissCenter forums, I got a reply from the SwissCenter team pointing me at the script that comes with SwissCenter. Out of the box, things were promising, as I could see the A-100 talking to the broadcast script, but still no link on the sources screen. After another few hours of testing (and a good nights’ sleep), I found the problem.

You can read more about the script and my fix, and download my broadcast script package over at the SwissCenter UPnP/SSDP Broadcast Script for PopcornHour A-100 page. If you have any questions, please leave a comment either on this post, or on the download page.

Dynamic Page Graphics in WordPress

Recently, while developing a WordPress theme for a client, I devised a handy trick to use different headline graphics for pages (it should work for posts too) based on the page title. The basis of the trick is to name your headline graphics the same as the pages they are to show up on (ex. about.png for the About page). Once you do this, you simply need to insert the following bits of code into your theme’s page template:

Part 1: Add this to the beginning of your template (just after the line that starts with “<?php get_header(); ?>”):

NOTE: Modified this to actually, you know, WORK! 🙂
If you tried it before, and it didn’t do what you expected, change the code at the top of your template to this new version.

	global $post;
	$title = $post->post_name;
	$title = strtolower($title);
	$titlepic = $title.".png";

For those who don’t read PHP, what this block does is gets the title of the current page, stores it in a variable, converts it to lowercase, and then adds “.png” (changes this if you use gifs or jpgs) to the page title to create the image’s file name.

Part 2: Add this where you want the graphic to appear:

<img src="<?php bloginfo('template_directory'); ?>/images/<?php echo $titlepic ?>" alt="<?php $title ?>" />

This is a standard XHTML image tag. Change the directory to suit your needs, but leave the “<?php echo $titlepic ?>” bit as this is what does the magic. The alt parameter could likewise be changed, but it does need to be there for the XHTML to validate.

So there you have it. A painless method to get dynamic graphics for your blog, based on your page titles.

CTC Updated, Version 4.5 Released!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that I have bumped everyone’s favorite tag cloud plugin for WordPress 2.3+ to version 4.5. What’s new? The biggest change is the addition of an Options page for configuring the plugin when used as a template tag. As always, you can see the full changelog, get the new version, and leave comments from the CTC page.

TextMate WordPress Development Bundle

Just a quick note to release my newest WordPress-related download, a bundle for the excellent OS X text editor TextMate for doing WordPress development. The bundle includes template for common WP theme files, updated snippets for newer versions of WP, and various other time-savers. Head over to the Bundle page to check it out and download it.