News Archive


October 22, 2015 - Science Policy Essays

Two edited and revised essays about science policy topics are listed on my main page. They already were present in longer, less refined form on the blogs, but I consider these versions the polished ones.

by Erin Thead

June 22, 2015 - Potter Essay Updates

Two of my Harry Potter essays, "Wizards Everywhere and When," and "The Machinations of Prophecies," have had new material added at the end.

by Erin Thead

Sep. 20, 2014 - New Art Item

There is a new art gallery item: a 1366x768 wallpaper of snowflakes. Unlike the rest of the art gallery, this one is available as a JPG download, being a wallpaper. I have also continued to tweak the sidebar menu and other details of the site until I am satisfied, but I haven't been posting updates to the news feed for that.

by Erin Thead

Jun. 13, 2014 - New Theme, Research, and Consolidation

You might have noticed that this site looks different. It needed to be upgraded, and I think this color theme is an improvement. I have also reorganized the heading menu, though no links should be broken. I have simply consolidated all hobby-type material into one heading. I have added a new page about my meteorology research as well. The overall intent was to place more focus on my professional work.

by Erin Thead

Dec. 7, 2011 - Improved Art Galleries

I have made some substantial changes to the art galleries. First of all, "galleries" is now a misnomer; there is one central place for drawings, including the older illustrations of Tolkien's works. All drawings have thumbnails, and there is a hover effect to make it immediately obvious that the thumbnails are, in fact, links. The miniature pages displaying the art all contain dates, medium information, and comments about the piece. More importantly, however, all the drawings have been converted to Flash. This is to make them a little more protected from blatant theft. To my knowledge, this has not happened, but there is a reason why most professional art galleries are loaded in Flash. There are no more preview images in the artwork display mini-pages; instead, the entire Flash file of each drawing is loaded. This should be noted by anyone who may have bandwidth caps. The largest Flash file is a newly uploaded piece (of an alternate-history storm chaser) that is 771 KB in size, but most of them are at least 100 KB, roughly 10 times the size of the preview images that used to be present. I decided that it was an unnecessary and arguably annoying click to have to go through a preview image, and it was definitely annoying to have the full-size image appear in a different tab.

With the elimination of the Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion character drawings from a separate gallery, I saw no point in continuing with a "Tolkien" section. The four humor pieces have been merged into the main Writing section. The links have been updated in the site categories as well.

by Erin Thead

June 19, 2011 - New Content

It's been a while since I made any substantial updates to the static content on the site (which is to say, the non-blog content), but at last I have got off my rear and done something I should have done a long time ago. I've written quite a few essays about Harry Potter, but they were in Microsoft Word format, and it is a bit of a hassle to convert them to clean XHTML without any special tools to do that. However, it has been done now, and the essays can all be found in my Writing section. I rather recommend them if you like those books and have the taste for fairly high-level and complex analysis and theorizing about them. You will notice that in the categories for this website, there is a new category for this commentary.

I have also added a subheading to my Weather section page. There is no new content, per se, but the heading has made existing blog content easier to find in the future. See, there was this tornado outbreak on the 27th of April that was a little bit historic, and I was involved in it. Not as a victim, but I almost was. There was an EF-5 tornado (the strongest kind) that lifted before it would have struck my house/town, and I have a personal experience to relate about that. I also have some commentary (which may grow over time) about the truly horrible fatality count associated with the outbreak.

Finally, I've made some changes to both of my recommended links pages. I'm inclined, however, to simply take them down; they are duplicated on the blogs, and the blogs make it much easier to update them.

by Erin Thead

September 26, 2010 - A Makeover and a New Blog

As you might have already noticed, I've given the site a makeover. The site is now no longer a fixed width, and the size of the left panel on all sections varies with the width of your browser window and/or screen. There is a minimum width, 900 pixels, which may be larger than some screens, but I doubt that many people actually have 800x600 screens anymore. If you do, you're missing out on a lot more than just this website! I have revamped the menu and reorganized the menu links; the Tolkien-inspired content can now be found under both Writing and Art subheadings in the menu.

More importantly, however, I have created a new blog: Synoptic Flow. It is a meteorology-only blog and is entirely separate from my first blog, PolitiCalypso. I have moved a few old entries from the PolitiCalypso blog into the Synoptic Flow blog because they are weather-related. This is the division that I will use in the future when posting blog entries. The weather blog will contain weather forecasts, commentary on the current weather, historical weather, and general meteorology topics. Posts about global climate change are also there as long as they contain scientific content or references to scientific studies. Please note that anything that does not have actual meteorological content (for example, blog posts about the Katrina recovery, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, or the politics of cap-and-trade) will still be posted in the PolitiCalypso blog. I am not shutting down PolitiCalypso; both blogs will continue to be updated! I started the Synoptic Flow blog because I am getting a Master's degree in meteorology and I want to keep professional blog content entirely separate from blog entries of a more personal nature.

by Erin Thead

May 24, 2010 - A Picture I Would Rather Not Have Drawn

In one of my darker moods, I was inspired to create a picture in "honor" of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, oil spill, and environmental calamity in the Gulf of Mexico. It is linked on the Art index; look for it in "Other Pictures."

by Erin Thead

May 13, 2010 - Minor Updates Here and There

I have added a couple of pages to the Writing section: a somewhat humorous list of things that bother me and a political allegory that isn't funny at all. I've also gone back on what I said some time ago and fixed this site so that it works correctly with Internet Explorer in both new (8.0) and older versions. Finally, I've changed the "Hurricanes" section to a "Weather" section. The reason for this will become apparent at a later date.

by Erin Thead

February 18, 2010 - Changes in Galleries

I have completely revamped my Art and Tolkien pages, which were starting to seriously annoy me with their primitive and hackish means of navigation. I have used a script called Facebox for the reworked versions and I think it is much nicer. With this change, however, I have no choice but to say that JavaScript is definitely required to navigate this website. Additionally, I have removed some very old items from the Tolkien gallery which I do not think demonstrate the quality of artwork that I am capable of. Keeping a record of one's history is one thing, but publicly displaying eight-year-old scrawlings that make you yourself wince is quite another.

by Erin Thead

August 9, 2009 - A New Website and a New Theme

I just finished uploading and configuring the new website for the Noxubee County Public Library. Of the sites I have developed entirely by myself, this is most certainly the most ambitious, as it involves development in the complex Drupal content management system. Development in some sort of CMS was a necessity from the start; one of my primary objectives was to rework the existing site so that people did not have to know anything about HTML or Web development to create content for it. A blog platform such as WordPress was not sufficient either; as you can tell from visiting that link, a library's website is generally going to be much more than that. The website currently contains all the material that it had on its old format; I have not added anything new. However, this is going to change: In the near future, there will be a photo gallery and a blog, both of which should be maintained by numerous people (and not primarily me).

You'll also notice that I have repainted this website in a new theme, a more abstract and geometrical one that I have called "Ethereal." The color scheme is not that different from the previous Victorian theme, so the site's change should not be jarring to anyone's eyes the way the previous change might have been.

by Erin Thead

July 27, 2009 - IE 8

Apparently, Microsoft has broken the Internet again. This site's navigation menu does not display properly in Internet Explorer 8, and as it took me long enough to get it working with IE 7's eccentricities about CSS and other DHTML, I'm not really inclined to deal with this right now. Odds are that if I produced a perfect site for IE, it would break every other (standards-compliant) browser out there. That has been my experience, and it seems to be a common complaint among web developers. And the odds are also strong that the probable IE 9 (Lord help us) would then turn around and break the IE 8-compatible version of this and other sites. So no, I'm really not inclined to deal with this.

Especially considering that Microsoft has already provided a feature for its browser that more or less acknowledges its own problems. The Compatibility View button on IE 8 needs to be used for this web site, but once the browser is working in that mode, the site displays fine. The drop-down features of the menu don't work, but that has always been the case for Internet Explorer. It is because Microsoft has ignored the W3C standards for CSS, most likely because it has its own technology that it would prefer people use for DHTML-like features. It's just how they roll.

So if you have had this upgrade thrust upon you like so many of us have (and, to be fair, the browser itself does seem better than past versions once you ignore its standards noncompliance) and you have found that this website suddenly looks broken, don't worry. It's just IE, and the site works fine in Compatibility View.

by Erin Thead

April 22, 2009 - A Novel Image for Your Difference Engine's Optical Interface

Unless you are reading this through an RSS viewer, you can tell that, well, the site has had an across-the-board design makeover. The theme is "Victorian Gothic," and as is obvious, it has a new color scheme as well as new header graphics. It is much more high-contrast than the old theme, and I hope this does not present any visual problems for anyone. One thing all visitors can be assured of, though, is that I absolutely will not change the "dark text on a very light/white background" for the content panels. I get extremely irritated at bright-text-on-dark-background site themes, because I find them very difficult to read without developing eyestrain. Do let me know if this theme causes problems of that nature.

If you are wondering why I made the change, the basic reason is that I got tired of the old theme. Its red/white/blue color scheme and the blatantly political motifs in the page headers were simply not representative of how I want to present myself to the Internet world. I am not a political operative anymore, after all, and though my blog has a political name and most of its content is political in nature, the blog is not the website. Rather, it is a section of it—the section with the overwhelming majority of the domain's political content, among other content. That is not what I want to emphasize now. Going forward, I hope to emphasize my interests in art, writing, and science rather than politics, politics, and politics. The new theme is emblematic of that.

Why "Victorian Gothic"? Well, that's the $64,000 question, isn't it? The short answer is that I admire Victorian art and architecture and that the period saw a revolution in science and mathematics. As for the long answer... Well, let's just say that I am embarking on a project that will, I hope, be quite relevant to the site design at a future date.

(By the way, "difference engine" is essentially the term for "computer" in the steampunk genre.)

by Erin Thead

March 7, 2009 - It Didn't Break

I decided, as you might have noticed, to widen my website and blog by 100 pixels. The Web is no longer really catering specifically to the 800x600 screen resolution. I believe that 1024x768 or 1280x768 is the most common resolution now. With the way screens are going, this site would end up looking like a little stripe in the middle of the screen if I didn't widen it.

This was the first time I made a major, site-wide change through CSS. I have a custom CSS template for the blog, which is based very strongly on the one I designed for the main site, so I had to change both of them at once. I have tweaked the layout of the pages, but I have not made any far-reaching changes with CSS. This was a "stress test," so to speak. I am pleased to say that my design did not break with this change, nor did I have any straggling elements that were wrongly sized because of an HTML style override within the web page itself. This is an indication that the site truly is CSS-based, and that if I need to change things in the future in a big way, it will be easy to do.

by Erin Thead

February 19, 2009 - Multiple Updates

Several tweaks today. First, it came to my attention that e-mails sent from my mail system were not getting to me. The reason is because my mailbox was filtering them as spam and autodeleting them according to my e-mail settings. Apologies to anyone who attempted to contact me this way and didn't get a response. I don't know how long this was going on, but I do know that as of November last year it wasn't happening. I think the spam filter is one of these heuristic ones, which means false positives occasionally, but at least they won't be deleted immediately even if they are filtered into my bulk mail.

Secondly, I have made a few tweaks to my blog. I placed the code I mentioned in my last news post into my blog sidebar. Now you can go to the blog and see the updates to this website, just as you can come to this website (which I view as the "hub" now) and view updates to the blog. I have updated my Technorati information on the blog as well; it was still trying to use the old blog system. And for Facebook users, I have installed a WordPress plugin called Wordbook that posts blog updates to my Facebook feed. I don't care much for that site and log in very infrequently, but I had to create a profile a few years back for work. I have kept it active because I do not want someone to impersonate me to friends and people I know. So you can also view updates to the blog on Facebook if you know me personally, although not updates to this website.

by Erin Thead

February 8, 2009 - Blog Updates in the Sidebar

In consideration of my goal to integrate all parts of this website as much as possible, I decided to provide an automatic list of updates to the blog as a sidebar item to It's another PHP script, in this case one that reads the blog's RSS feed and grabs pertinent data from it. I fully intend to provide a reciprocal capability for the blog sidebar as soon as I am able. Look for it in a few days.

by Erin Thead

February 7, 2009 - The Blog Is Here

The change that I referred to last month has been more or less completed. My blog has been moved over—or, more accurately, copied over, at least for the time being. There are four ways of reaching it:

The "true" URL is the first one, in that it contains the actual directory, but I certainly don't care which one anyone uses as a bookmark. As I note in the top entry on the blog, the old system is still functional, but it won't be so indefinitely, and there will be no further updates to it. As of later this year, the last URL will point to the new system without a redirect page. Take note of this if you have any blog entries from the old system bookmarked.

by Erin Thead

January 7, 2009 - I'm Alive, and So Is the Site

A number of things have been changed. I've moved a couple of items around, added a PDF to my resume, and the Links page has a great deal of new content. This is all in preparation for a very big change that is coming relatively soon. Yes, it's that time of year again—time to revamp the website. This time, the big change will not be to the layout, though. And if you look hard enough, you'll be able to get a sneak peek at it. One page on the website gives it away. --No, I'm not saying which one!

by Erin Thead

June 23, 2008 - Two Short Stories

I have uploaded two short stories I wrote several years ago, one from 2001 and one from 2002, to the Writing section. They are called "Road" and "What Do You Do When the Lights Go Out?".

"Road" is a first-person account, written as a narrative history rather than a series of ongoing events. It's about a small Southern town that loses its identity and purpose after a highway bypass is built and new commercial development springs up under the town's name. There are many stories about towns that died with new highway construction, of course. This story focuses on the scenario in which the town is virtually taken over.

"What Do You Do When the Lights Go Out?" is a dark, cynical, rather-unpleasant-to-read story set in Florida in a college apartment complex. Its main theme is a pessimistic outlook on the progress of human relationships.

What, since when does any Southern writer have anything positive to write about?

by Erin Thead

April 4, 2008 - Cleanup and Tweaks

I've made some changes to much of the site. First, I've fixed the content panel (the box you're reading) on the Art and Tolkien sections so that it adjusts its size according to what it's displaying. Unfortunately it does not shrink, and from what I've been reading, I'm not sure it's possible to make it shrink, but this is still an improvement. The content panel encloses an HTML iframe on those two sections, unlike everywhere else.

I've also scripted the low-markup subpages, such as this one, so that they detect if they are being viewed inside their frames, and if they aren't, to display a link back to the main page for their category. My web stats have indicated that some of these pages are being directly linked, and I want potential readers to realize that there is a lot more to the site.

Finally, you'll observe that the "Currently" panel actually is current. I added a date script and a weather gadget to it.

by Erin Thead

February 24, 2008 - Category Software and Art

Two new items today: A modifiable version of my categorizing system, available on my Software page or direct download, and a new art piece of an evil mirror. No, seriously.

by Erin Thead

February 4, 2008 - Categories!

The first iteration of my XML-based content categorizing system is up and running.

At the moment, it's not at all fancy. It parses the pages in a given category and pulls out the title. The major category plugins for blogging packages pull up the entire contents of each page, resulting in very long pages. Mine is not able to do that—yet. (As I said, this is version 1.0!) My intention in creating this was to make a simple system that wasn't dependent on blogging systems or other software, a plain script that could be used by virtually anyone, with the potential for customization in the future. I'm pleased with it for that and feel that it succeeds at its purpose.

by Erin Thead

January 27, 2008 - All Content Is Online

Well, OK. After some rather annoying problems with Internet access, I've finally put everything up except for the PHP+XML system of categorizing the content. I'm coding it from scratch, and it's been hard to find a time when I was able to work on it and had Internet access and had nothing else to work on. I deemed it more important to get all the content up first.

The new pieces in my Art gallery are now up. The RSS feed is up, and no further changes to its address will be made. As soon as I get this PHP category program fully functional, I'll make it available for public download. There really is a dearth of scripts that do this feature, for all the sites that utilize the category system. Those sites use plugins that only work within their specific site management systems and blogging packages.

by Erin Thead

January 24, 2008 - Welcome to Web 2.0 welcomes you to Web 2.0! Although it's far more probable that you are already there, and the site is merely welcoming itself. Whatever the case may be, as you can tell, I've made big changes.

The most important change, in my opinion, is the one that you are reading. This news scroll is an RSS feed. No more of the silliness of (on your end) checking the site for a graphic indicating "new content," or (on my end) having to mark my site changes in such a way. By subscribing to this feed, you'll know when new content appears, and you'll know exactly what it is.

Another important change is the layout redesign. I think the new layout is far more intuitive and better structured. Take note that many links are different, particularly those relating to Lord of the Rings fan material. There are several new pieces in Art, and I've put my design documents for InnoVote, my secure election suite, online as well. Take a look around!

You'll also notice that every item on this site has been assigned one or more categories, and these are displayed in a column to the right. It's just another way to help people get to the content they want to see.

by Erin Thead