Mozilla Thunderbird 1.0: STILL not ready for prime time

I would like to use Mozilla Thunderbird to read my email, since Mozilla Mail only opens links in Mozilla, and I'm happy with Firefox. I tried switching again with the release of Thunderbird 1.0. My first impression about Thunderbird 1.0 was good: it imported my mail folders, address book, even mail filters.

I've switched back to Mozilla Mail. Here's why.

1. Thunderbird has an irritating habit of blanking out the pane that displays the message information (subject, sender, etc). If it only did it once in a while, that would be one thing, but this seems to be intended, and happens all the time. It shouldn't have been.

2. Slowness. Thunderbird would often show the hourglass wait icon, sometimes for reasons that still elude me. Granted, I have a complicated setup: 3 accounts, one of them a secure connection, and all using IMAP. But Mozilla Mail deals with it much more gracefully.

3. Worse, Thunderbird randomly crashed three or four times on me for no apparent reason. Googling led to some information that said I should delete my XUL cache. (Thunderbird uses this to keep track of all the menus and such.) What the heck, I did. It seemed to crash less after that. Not something you should need to do for an allegedly 1.0 version.

3. The dealbreaker? Spam. I wasn't surprised that I might have to train Thunderbird spam filter, and sure enough, 17 spam emails landed in my inbox. So I marked all 17 spam messages as spam, and they just sat there.

I checked the setting: it was indeed set to move spam to the Junk folder on marking. I tried the Run Junk Mail Controls on Folder command: nothing. I gave Thunderbird the benefit of the doubt and thought maybe it somehow didn't get that these were spam, so I tried a promising-looking function that would delete mail marked as spam in the current folder: nada.

Rather irritated, I quit Thunderbird and got back into it. The Mark submenu I use to mark spam had vanished. Mark was still there, but there was no arrow showing that it would expand out. Come on! I guess I wore it out from so much use. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. (It's possible, now that I think about it, that the menu was still there, just the arrow was missing, but I'm not going to use a program that flaky. )

Not only that, but when I pulled up my Task Manager, it was still running after I quit it. After killing it, I uninstalled with extreme prejudice.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, December 9, 2004 (Link)

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Science Hits and Misses

First up, check out Nanoparticles Keep Brain Cells Alive.

Secondly, find out if you write like a girl (or boy). Scientists claim to be able to tell with an 80% accuracy whether the author is male or female. So far, the Gender Genie is about 60% wrong according to its own stats, as of August 20, 2003.

It said an email I wrote recently was "male", while a story I'd written a long time back, with a first person narrarator who was female, was labeled "female". This would be more interesting if another story I wrote in the more typical third person was labeled as "male", but it still came out "female". Sounds screwy to me.

However, in the spirit of goofy fun, commenters are encouraged to "analyze" their own writing and report the results.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, August 20, 2003 (Link)

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Blue Man Group

I went to see Blue Man Group as couple of nights ago with my girlfriend Karen and her family. My two word review: very cool.

The opening acts were Tracy Bonham, who plays a wicked fiddle version of Led Zeppelin, among her other musical talents, and Venus Hum, which was more like Venus Ho-hum with their lead singer's voice barely audible on the first song and an incomprehensible drone or whine on the other tired techo songs. You can share in some of the crapiness by visiting their twitchy website.

The concert used huge video screens to have the audience do Rock Concert Movements such as #1 which is of course the head bob, and #3, which is the downward jump. Blue Man Group managed to simultaneously mock rock concerts, with a sarcastically large backing band, and throw a pretty good concert, all while keeping their trademark inventiveness and visual eye-candy intact.

I was worried for a second when they brought Venus Ho-Hum out again, but even they couldn't ruin a piece together with Blue Man Group that was a re-working of Cream's "I Feel Free". The ending was a resounding version of Baba O'Reilly that worked beautifully with Tracy Bonham playing some wicked fiddle.

No, I don't have pictures. I'm not that guy.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Sunday, August 3, 2003 (Link)

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Sunset in New Mexico background picture

Click on the picture for a 1024x768 JPG (56 Kb) suitable for a background image.

Sunset near Edgewood, New Mexico

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Sunday, July 6, 2003 (Link)

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Sexy Science Factoids

Sex ban for wannabe dads overturned. Turns out abstaining from sex actually hurts or has no affect on the chance of conception for couples having difficulties.

And, along the the same lines, different slants on the same thing. A Reuters headlines reads U.S. Birth Rate Drops Slightly: CDC whereas the MSNBC story reads "U.S. birth rate falls to record low". Yahoo picks up the more sober Reuters story, but I refuse to link to them because they always end up expiring their stories on me. [Update - 03/25/2004 - MSNBC expired their story on me. Link removed]

Another Reuters article with the headline "U.S. Birth Rate at Record Low" is most likely the source of the MSNBC story: "The birth rate was 13.9 per 1,000 people, down from 14.1 per 1,000 in 2001 and down 17 percent from a peak in 1990 of 16.7 per 1,000."

And last but certainly not least, a newly mapped enzyme called "arginase II" could yield new treatments for female sexual dysfunction since Viagra® has proved less effective for women than for men.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, June 30, 2003 (Link)

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Y Chromosomes and other manly stuff

The Y chromosome is more robust than originally thought.

"'Each male newborn undergoes an estimated 600 changes in DNA base pairs in an effort to overwrite any mutations....It seems that the repetitive sequences swap between the two arms of the Y, leaving a son's Y chromosome different from his father's.'" (Quoted from the Reuters story)

With that in mind, I'm looking forward to bendy computers, and am surprised that it was only last week that Americans rented more DVDs than VHS tapes .

And last and certainly least, what could be more manly than learning Spanish swear words [Well, pinche pendejo, the diveintomark site seems to have deleted this page. Link removed 03/25/2004]? Having lived in Albuquerque, I knew most of them, but I'm always up for learning more.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Sunday, June 22, 2003 (Link)

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Ice Cream Follies

My girlfriend and I are enjoying a show called Good Eats, featuring the wacky Alton Brown, which inspired us to make our own ice cream. The show tells us you want the ice cream maker that does not require ice. We buy a reasonable looking model from a company named Rival®. Notice the label reading "Easy to Use... No Ice or Rock Salt Needed". [Update 03/25/2004 - Updated the URL to add an "x" to an "asp". Sigh. This page lumps all their ice cream makers into one page and does not show any detail.]

The box

We follow the recipe and pre-cool it in the fridge. We load the ice cream in the ice cream maker and turn it on. It's noisy. It should take 30, but at 15 minutes in, it's not thickening.

Then my girlfriend looks in the manual and laughs. You have to freeze it over 20 hours before using it. It's basically a huge version of one of those frozen mugs.

in the freezer

What's up with that? Talk about a misleading label. My girlfriend and I had both assumed there was cool endothermic machinery involved. A quick Google search reveals that this is true of all iceless ice cream makers.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, May 31, 2003 (Link)

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US Twenties to be slightly prettier

The New US 20s were unveiled
(via daypop)

I wanted the whole bill a different color. It's a typically wimpy change on the part of the government. Better than no change, I suppose, given my loathing for boring greeness of American money.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 (Link)

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Mapping the Web Sites

Well, call me an old-school Internet geek, but I was taken with the GeoURL site, which arranges web sites, particularly web logs, by latitude and longitude. So I've added Zen Haiku to their database. (I first heard on IDBlog.)

Once you look yourself up, it's a simple matter of adding a couple of meta tags. I'm encouraging other New Mexico web sites and bloggers to do the same.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, April 26, 2003 (Link)

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Cell phone voice mail hell

You need to pay your cell phone bill so you can keep on talking. The crappy service almost goes without saying, giving that you are on an unlimited plan from Boomerang, which is the cheap side of Alltel®.

First, you call the phone number on the bill. They're closed, but all you want to do is give them a credit card number. They urge you to go to the alltel web site.

Being a bit of a web geek, you do. But, it turns out they only load new customers in once a month. This bizarre delay is not explained.

On the same web site you see a DIFFERENT 800 number, this one an actual "800" 800 number, not a 866 number. It says, "Just call 1-800-xxx-xxxx and follow the prompts to pay your bill automatically." Wouldn't you assume that means you can punch your credit card number in and pay your bill?

You call, but it sounds like the other number, complete with those annoying chimes. Sure enough, they are closed too.

Next day. You call during normal business hours. The automatic system takes your payment via credit card, complete with confirmation number. You never talk to an actual person.

What's up with that? An automatic system they turn off at night?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, March 31, 2003 (Link)

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A couple of Orwellian links

First up, an African American reporter who looks Middle Eastern get hassled (via BlogDex) until they realize he's a reporter for the Washington Post.

Even more disturbing, a teacher in Detroit notices one of her Iraqi students has vanished (via BlogDex).
What is wrong when the best case scenario is flight to Canada? On top of that, the staff have been ordered not to talk against the war to their students.

Update (03/31/03): the link has been removed, since the poster has apparently made it where only livejournal registered users can see it.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 (Link)

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Anti-Spam Spam anyone?

In the war on spam, it pays to read the small print (via Tomalak's Realm). Dan Gillmor says the Mailblocks service reserves "the right to send you commercial e-mail".

This seems like a good time to mention how much Tomalak's Realms rocks: he quotes from sources, and then indents and puts a bullet on articles commenting on the original. In this case, the first article is a New York Times article, the second is Dan Gillmor pointing out Mailblock's hypocrisy.

Speaking of the war on spam, I have an old Yahoo account that's starting to get nailed by spam. What happened to their spam filters?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, March 26, 2003 (Link)

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Gulf War II or Second Gulf War?

First up, a handy Gulf War II scorecard (via Oskar van Rijswijk's weblog).

Second, the requisite Blogdexxed Orwellian link du jour.

Thirdly, here is a fascinating piece on the President's real goal in Iraq [Link updated 03/25/2004] I researched the articles the author referred to, and I agree that that this group of conservatives, who are now running the country, want to be the world's policemen. (via WebWord). They seem to be sincere in their idealism (although it doesn't conflict with business interests since that's a large part of what their idealism is about) and that scares me more than anything.

And, as an apropos of nothing kicker, you can go to the Making Computers Talk page at IBM and make it say naughty things for a cheap laugh.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, March 20, 2003 (Link)

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Competence: Overestimating Happens

People, especially Americans, tend to overestimate their own competence, according to social psychologists. (Via Human Nature Daily, whose name overestimates their own publishing frequency.) Ironically, the worse someone actually does, the more likely they are to overestimate their performance.

While we're on the whole subject of incompetence, women tend not to buy excuses for poor performance from men (or women, but the article focuses more on the male-female side, presumably to add war-of-the-sexes drama.)

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, February 12, 2003 (Link)

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Phoenix 0.5: Ready for prime time?

Esoteric disclaimer: This may not make sense if you're not a web geek. It may not even make sense then, depending on how hyper-specialized you are.

Top ten reasons to switch to Phoenix 0.5 as your web browser.

1. Font sizes can be easily changed to be huge enough to read without my contacts, or way down to itty bitty sizes if you're into font masochism. Better than the Accessibility workaround for Internet Explorer.
2. Pop-up ad killer built in to the browser. (This is true of Netscape 6 and Mozilla 1, but watch out for Netscape 7!)
3. Interface reasons. Phoenix has a Google search box. I rarely use the advanced features of the Google toolbar. Also, unlike Mozilla, it has a real home button, not a shriveled one as with Mozilla and a history button on the default toolbar.
4. It runs on Windows and Linux.
5. You can customize like nobody's business. My favorite is turning Flash off. No more eyeblasters. Once in a blue moon, I actually want to run Flash, and so I cut and paste the Address into Internet Explorer. All you have to edit one file:

"This file sets the display rules for web content and is located in the sub-folder called chrome in your profile folder. [...] there is an example file that exists by default, called userContent-example.css. Basically, you can just rename that file by removing the -example part." (Thanks to Phoenix Help for the explanation). Run a search for that file, and once you rename it, add this bit to it:

embed[type="application/x-shockwave-flash"] {
display: none !important;
visibility: hidden !important;

and restart Phoenix.

And you will be surfing much happier. I can use my old Yahoo email in peace, and not get mugged by eyeblasters. Nice payoff for a little work.
6. Shows pages faster than IE.
7. Has Java that works.
8. Faster and less bloated than Mozilla. Not a big issue on my newer computer, but a life-saver before I upgraded.
9. Surprisingly stable on my Windows 2000 computer for a program that's not a 1.0 release. Being based on Mozilla helps.
10. You love lizards, and the Phoenix icon makes you all kinds of happy.

Reasons NOT to switch.

1. The stable downloads are harder to find than the nightly builds on the Phoenix site. This is some iffy usability by the Phoenix folks.
2. The history bar (located on the main bar like it should be) doesn't remember that you want things to be sorted by last visited. A minor annoyance, but one I encounter fairly often.
3. Every once in a blue moon, I get a weird error about XUL on launching Phoenix. It always works the second time.
4. You can't turn the Bookmarks bar below the address bar off. Not a biggie for me, but some people are annoyed by that. I'd be annoyed if it were a third toolbar.
5. There is no install program. You'll need to unzip the files into a directory you make and create your own shortcut. Not a big deal for me, but it may annoy you.
6. You hate lizards, so the Phoenix icon gives you the willies.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, February 3, 2003 (Link)

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Apropos of Nothingness

This is a grab bag of interesting links, hence the title, a morph of apropos of nothing because nothingness has more sex appeal than nothing, at least in my overeducated book.

I've written about the Usability of Curbs and Paying (or not!) at the Pump so it should not come as a surprise that I'm into Gas Tank Usability, (via WebWord) which opens up for surprisingly good discussion whether the gas tank on cars should be on the left or right side.

Why had I not heard of the WikiPedia? I had heard of Wikis: a wiki is a web site anyone can edit—not just post comments to, mind you, but edit. Now that's some serious anarchy. anyone?

While I'm being facetious, is Dobby Vladimir Putin? Dobby is that house elf in the Harry Potter movies.

Getting a bit more usability now, Jef Raskin of Macintosh inventing fame (Alan Kay invented the whole windows concept anyway.) wants to do better than the Mac, and is working on it. Annoyingly enough, his new text THE editor is only available for the Mac.

Speaking of Jef Raskin, Charles Miller, who calls himself Alpha Nerd, no longer cares where his files are stored.

Jef Raskin's book The Human Interface talks about a file system like that, where from the users point of view files are stored in one big chunk. Files are separated with File end and File Begin markers. Thus combining documents, which people do all the time, becomes much easier: just delete the two markers.

With that setup, you can use a type-ahead search to find what you're looking for. The font list in Microsoft Word is an example of this kind of search: just by typing "Ar" or "Ari" while the font menu is up you narrow it down to the Arial font. Those looking for a more geek chic example may know what the Control-S in emacs does, if not, please ignore.

And last and certainly least, there's this this amusingly clueless article, in which the author argues that My Yahoo type pages, using personalization (musty old buzz word alert!) will eliminate serendipity. It ends with the mildly pejorative sentence "In other words, instead of sitting in front of a computer screen all day, why not go out and experience the beauty of the unexpected, of randomness..."

Excuse me? I still discover many links via serendipity. Few web logs are 100% focused on their alleged topic, nor should they be. I'm often in a wandering mood whether it's virtual or actual.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, January 29, 2003 (Link)

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To hell with false dichotomies

PR flack James V. O'Connor wants people to stop swearing (via memepool).What bothers me is that he distinguishes between casual and causal swearing and then doesn't use his own distinction. Causal, of course, being swearing when have a reason, as when you're mad or have hurt yourself. O'Connor makes no allowances for swearing with a purpose, instead preaching a saccharine power-of-positive-thinking outlook of avoiding all swearing.

I avoid casual swearing on Zen Haiku as a conscious stylistic decision. But it's like cutting verbiage like "really" or "I think" (what else is a web log?).

Nor does swearing reflect a limited vocabulary. This false dichotomy implies you either have a big vocabulary and don't swear, or you swear and have a limited vocabulary, which, like many black-or-white dichotomies is simply not true.

A friend with a large vocabulary and a trenchant wit swears whenever she feels like it—which isn't often, but is just as trenchant as when she doesn't swear. A more accurate statement would be: people with limited vocabularies reuse more words in general, including (relatively) innocuous ones such as "like" or "you know".

Swearing is not inherently hostile either. Some of the most hostile situations (a tax audit, a day in court) typically involve no swearing, and hanging out with good friends, one of life's true pleasures, can involve lots of swearing.

Of course swearing isn't always appropriate, but I'd rather hear four letter words at a hardware store than details of a medical procedure or someone screaming into a cell phone (often without swearing, because that would annoy people.)

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, January 23, 2003 (Link)

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Should "Internet" be lower case?

A professor named Joseph Turow wants to make the "I" in "Internet" lower case (via Sci-Tech Daily), because he thinks the upper-case spelling looks like a name brand like Kleenex®™. I'm not sure I agree, but it's discussion-worthy.

What bothers me is "Internet" without a definitive article when it's used as a noun, not counting quoted contexts, of course. "I have Internet" sounds as silly as the opposite usage comedian Kevin "That's Not Right" Meany uses (when doing an impression of his mom) saying, "You're acting like a crazy person....Are you smoking the pot?"

I guess I'm snobbish about "the Internet". It's ironic, since a post of mine advocating linguistic tolerance has the dubious distinction of the number one hit on Google for my bad.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, January 20, 2003 (Link)

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Useful Photoshop Shortcuts

So there are articles on Photoshop shortcuts, but they tend to list all 600+ shortcuts and overwhelm all but the most hardcore keyboard fanatics.

So here is what I find useful working on web designs and digital photographs. The only Photoshop knowledge you need: what a layer is and what a selection is. I'm leaving off all the generic ones like cut and paste.

Generally what I do is try a bunch of keyboard shortcuts out and see which ones I actually use enough to remember. I remember some of the individual letter ones too depending on what I'm doing. These are the keyboard shortcuts that "stuck."

  1. Control-Alt-~. (you do not have to hold the Shift key down to get to it!). This selects the brightest half of the image. Great for toning down highlights a bit, or bringing out a little detail in the shadows if you Invert your selection.
  2. Control-Shift-I. Select Inverse. Makes the selection go the other way.
  3. Control-D. Deselect. Turns selection off.
  4. Control-M. Curves. This command lets you change brightness carefully if you bend it a little, or do a poor man's psychedelia if you get wacky and make the curve all hilly. I call it dropping Photoshop. nice carpet pattern, normal lookingYour soul has been pscyhedelisized
  5. h - hand tool. For dragging around when you're zoomed in
  6. z - zoom tool, aka the magnifying glass. For zooming in and out.
  7. m - marquee. Start a new selection. A selection is a marquee.
  8. f - full screen mode. Hit it multiple times to switch to different views, then back to normal.
  9. Tab - turn off the palettes - both this and "f" are great for working on big layouts or background images.
  10. Control-T for Transform. More useful for layouts than photographs.
  11. Control click on a layer to make a selection matching it. Then switching to another layer to use that selection, usually.
  12. Spacebar. This is one of the few shortcuts where you cannot use the functionality without using the keyboard. Simply put, when drawing a selection or box, while the spacebar is down, you are moving, not resizing the selection. Letting go of the spacebar returns you to the the normal resizing mode. Now that's useful.

This post occured to me because I've been working on pictures I took on a recent trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Not to mention the pictures of the Sandias with a cloud blanket on top of them. I plan to post some of these.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, January 8, 2003 (Link)

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Slightly Belated New Year's Resolutions

1. Stop using the form "The Usability of X" in the titles of my posts to the web log.

2. Stop using Internet Explorer altogether, except for compatiblity testing. The only thing holding me back a bit: iespell. Does anyone know of an equivalent for Phoenix/Mozilla 1? I couldn't find one on google. I'm finding Phoenix 0.5 stable enough to use as a primary browser.

3. Read more of Donna M's blog. Engaging writing, good information architecture stuff.

4. Put together an actual links page instead of a just a side bar.

5. Start a campaign to end the silly New Year's Resolution idea.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, January 3, 2003 (Link)

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I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave

I was looking around at screen reader products to get a feel for what they are like.

Image mocking the Dolphin Software site I made the mistake of downloading Hal™ from Dolphin Software (the lady holding glasses is such a generic stock image I recognized it without my contacts in. The blue link on top of the blue dolphin is nice.)

Did I learn nothing from 2001? The name should have warned me off, but I waded right into the artificial stupidity.

First off, the Hal™ software has a 30 minute demo period. Not 30 days, 30 minutes. Apparently this is about the same as JAWS, the leader in the field.

So I tried to change the settings and the best I could get is 1024x768 with 16 bit colors. I shrugged, uninstalled all three packages the HAL demo install, and rebooted.

The 16 bit setting was still the best I could get! You understand I've been doing 32 bit for a month now (with 64 Meg card my brother, a bleeding-edge gamer, no longer found adequate.)

For those of you wondering what bits are, I have a custom background with lots of swirling Jovian clouds. 16 bit color makes it look grainy and nasty. 24 or 32 bit means nice and smooth full color mode.

Every time I tried to use any 32 bit mode, it snaps back to 640x480, at 256 colors no less. Unbelievable! Finally, I re-installed my video drivers and that solved the problem.

Talk about anti-social software! There is an expression among hikers and cavers: Leave it as you found it. This is what an uninstall must do.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, December 21, 2002 (Link)

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AOL wins spam lawsuit over 1 billion spam emails

There are certain vermin for whom the legal system can be appropriately nasty. This is based on a Virginia anti-spam law.

AOL Wins $7 Million From Spammers (via Google News)

Update: 06/25/03. I had to delete all the comments to this entry and turn off comments because a big nasty batch of blog spam was being added. Giventhat I put recent comments on the home page, this is even worse than it might be otherwise. I deleted all the comments becasue in retrospect the first comment, which I was already suspicious of, was only the first of many spam.

Ironically enough, it was spam for something that claimed to stop popup windows. Get Mozilla, or better yet, Firebird, and you'll have that built in!

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, December 16, 2002 (Link)

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Eyeblaster Ads & Message Service Spam

Have you seen these ads that zoom all over your web browser? And slow computers freeze while this excrescence of capitalism-gone-mad is loaded.

I invented the term "insult ads" when I noticed one featuring insult comedian Don Rickles schilling for Las Vegas. Well, the self-damning name is eyeblasters. (Update: 04/18/2003. Link changed to ad gallery link. Warning: Will STILL eyeblast you.) The moniker "Eyeblaster" is appropriate for ads that behave like a hyperactive three year old hopped up on powdered sugar.

Highlights from a spec sheet of these crimes against decency:
(Updated 03/25/2003: The original spec sheet is gone, replaced by a spec sheet that features "istreams", or streaming video that is automatically played. But the original is worth quoting, so here you go: )

"Frequency Cap: One per 20-minute user session." —
They'll only be a water drop on your face every twenty minutes, how can you call that torture?

"Audio: Yes (can be host-initiated)" —
Can be host-initiated? You mean the ad can be set to be polite and let people turn the sound off, but the default is to assault them with it. If there's a good executive summary for usability, it's "making computers polite and helpful."

"Move Duration: 15 seconds".—
Excuse me? You admit you're hijacking the browser for 15 seconds, not counting download time?

Even more cutting edge in user-savage marketing evils is "Windows Message Service" spam-vertising. This uses a built-in Windows service to send popups without you even havnig a browser open. All you need is an Internet connection. I received a message like this yesterday, despite having ZoneAlarm on.

Guess what it was for? A service that will turn your Window Message Service off for you. They want you to pay them to go away. That's a hell of a business model.

I Googled to this helpful page about Windows Message Service Spam and how to turn it off, which I did.

Why does this anger me? It's like a public campground. It only takes a few hormone-drunk adolescents and some spray paint to pollute the whole place and make it seedy.

These make-money-fast, con artists don't care if they firehose the Internet with the white noise of spam so long as they make money. And spam is ever-growing, seeking new channels and increasing the amount in old channels. If information is viewed as a biological system, spam is cancer.

Turning to more traditional email spam, some enterprising folks have organized a junk mail campaign—using actual physical letters—against one of the most offensive spammers .

How else to fight back? I would love for an epileptic to sue the flashing ad banner people. People with extreme sensitivity to sudden sound bursts (like some autistic children) would be ideal candidates for lawsuits about automatically playing sound. Lawsuits will get these squalid, money-grubbers' attention like nothing else.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, December 11, 2002 (Link)

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Various Links and Web Designer Resumes

Some Windows 2000 users are seeing this error message when they attempt to change their password:

"Error Message: Your Password Must Be at Least 18770 Characters and Cannot Repeat Any of Your Previous 30689 Passwords". It's another Microsoft® bug. (Via Blogdex)

In other password silliness, people are still using social security numbers as passwords. Don't do this.

The new version of the password preview/debugging page is nearly complete. This version will do typability and password silliness checks, such as repeated characters, number patterns that look like dates, phone or social security numers, passwords like "password" and the like. I keep on find more silly passwords to add. Submissions welcome at .

This is a funny movie about switching to the dark side. No, not MicroSoft® , the dark side of the force in acual Star Wars®™ movies. Just watch.

This one may only appeal to web designer types. Find out how much of a page is text content, and how much is just HTML and graphics. It's the GetContentSize tool by Adrian Holovaty. I'm happy to report that Zen Haiku fares well, getting 40% - 60%. If you think that's low, many newspaper and TV sites weigh in at 5% - 8%.

Speaking of links, I was looking at my stats for the past week or so, and discovered that my resume is (as of November 9th) hit #8 for for the search web designer resume (without quotes even). I assume this is mostly temporary, since Google boosts recently changed stuff, and I changed my resume the 8th. I also assume the more often I link to my resume, the better google will rank it. I wonder if google ranks higher if you keep on mentioning google, and if you link to google?

Okay, I'll stop now. :-P

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Saturday, November 9, 2002 (Link)

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Voting Snafus

Yes, it's that time. The day you get to vote and finally stop seeing all those ads urging you to call some political candidate or other and tell them they suck. This seems to be the new trend in negative political ads this year.

One of my friends wondered what the point of that was. I said, they don't seriously expect you to call the person and tell them they suck, it just puts the candidate in a subordinate position when the ad says to call them up and tell them to stop selling out social security or whatever the scare tactic du jour is.

I pointed out the media has a command-oriented outlook: "Don't you dare miss our sale" said a recent radio ad for a car dealer here in New Mexico. The media favors imperative forms, linguistically speaking. People use imperative form most often to order people around.

As I walked through the chapel on the way to an auditorium to vote, I noticed two things: that musty chapel smell (hymnals?) and a cute girl on a cell phone sitting near the entrance.

On leaving, she asked me to fill out a survey, which I did. I chatted her up a bit and discovered she was a political science major from my alma mater, UNM.

Speaking of the media, the survey was ran by the Voter News Service, a consortium of a bunch of media, who took a lot of flak for their predictions on the presidential election night in 2000. Of course, it turns out some people think Voter News Service is a monopoly. They don't appear to have a web site, but here's their logo:
Voter News Service Logo, which consists of logos for CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and and the AP

Rumors that their new computer system is behind schedule on the programming seem to have come true: in a breaking story posted as I write this, says the VNS folks have given up on exit polling for this election [Link gone 03/25/2003]. Oh well, there goes my data. It's not the first time a computer has eaten my data. Having been the victim of at least one death march, I sympathize with the programmers given the impossible task.

Interestingly enough, Batelle Memorial, the company that won the contact, has also worked on lottery machines. Oddly enough, I could find nothing about Batelle's work for the Voters News Service on their site.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Tuesday, November 5, 2002 (Link)

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Underlined text that's not a link

Most people consider underlining text that's not a link a usability gaffe, but Warrior Librarian Weekly makes good use of the disconnect you feel when you move your mouse over what you think is a link but then realize is not. It works partially because she has a hover over the real links, and because the fake links look like this:

...There is no more to read >>

It mocks the convention of using "More..." or "More to read..." and then cheerfully goes on to use it on the same page.

Since I'm usually violently allergic to underlined text, disliking it even in print media, this is an accomplishment. The site also has some funny fake error messages.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, October 18, 2002 (Link)

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A good article about online retail (aka etailing) search engine usability

"Ivy-covered halls are filling up again with eager students of the user experience fields ready to change the world (or at least to study out the recession). But are these programs really teaching them what they need to know?" (Boxes and Arrows)

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, October 16, 2002 (Link)

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Learned Helplessness

My Windows 98 computer had a totally generic icon in place of the usual "My Computer" icon for a year or two. I thought I'd done something bizarre to it, and assumed it would be a royal pain to fix, involving registry hacks and the like.

So I downloaded the Windows Power Tools, even though they're supposedly only for Windows 95, and they didn't do what I wanted. So I poked around a bit more and discovered on the Screen control panel, there is an Effects tab. I'd only used it to turn on font smoothing, as I recall, and that was where you changed the icon. Not hard at all.

A trivial instance to be sure, but this brings up learned helplessness. You learn that you can't do something, and if you believe you can't, well then, you can't. It's completely different from not knowing whether you can or not, which allows you to find out.

The canonical example is elephants. According to the possibly apocryphal story, young elephants are chained up with strong iron shackles. They learn that they can't be broken, and by the time they're an adult, a simple rope restrains a grown elephant that could easily snap the rope from trying to get away because they know it can't be done.

While the elephant story verges dangerously close to an inspirational poster, I've found it a useful metaphor. There have been a number of things in my life that I have been convinced I could not do. Once I was able to move myself to the "Well, I may not be good at it, but I may be able to do it" frame of mind, progress usually followed. Examples include losing 100 pounds, dating, and, more recently, cooking. (Although I still maintain that forgetting aluminum foil was pretty funny.)

Many people have developed learned helplessness toward computers. Otherwise competent people suddenly say, "Oh, I don't know a thing about those computers." The very smart Phil Agre pointed out that the way computer users blame themselves for computer problems bears a disturbing resemblance to the way victims of domestic violence tend to blame themselves (usually with the help of the abuser) for the violence.

This applies to technical and usability difficulties. If I just weren't such an idiot, I wouldn't get hit with the blue screen of death. If I weren't such a space case, I wouldn't lose that email I'd been writing for an hour.

As in life in general, it's hard to break out of a cycle of learned helplessness when it comes to computers. Some time back Phil Agre wrote a great article called How to help someone use a computer that provides excellent advice for experienced computer users when they help less experienced users. I make it a point to go back and re-read it from time to time. I don't think the summary on his main page where he links to the article—"help helping people use computers without oppressing them"—overstates the case.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, October 16, 2002 (Link)

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Clay Shirky on Web Logs and Publishing

As usual, Clay Shirky has an interesting point to make:

"Rather than spawning a million micro-publishing empires, weblogs are becoming a vast and diffuse cocktail party, where most address not "the masses" but a small circle of readers, usually friends and colleagues. This is mass amateurization, and it points to a world where participating in the conversation is its own reward."

Although a goal of Zen Haiku is to have more edited writing than your average web log, this doesn't change the point. The poetry entries have comments from my friend Roslee, and the usability entries have comments from usability colleagues such as Joshua Kaufmann and Lyle Kantrovich.

I find it ironic in light of all the people who have been fired for their web logs, that in virtually every email cover letter I've sent out with my resume, I've referred to my web log, often with a link to my Usability Applied to Life column. [Link removed to diveintomark site 03/25/2004]

I've always generally avoided personal stuff. Not for job reasons, but just because I don't feel comfortable talking about personal issues in front of the world. It's like being at a cocktail party, to use Shirky's metaphor, and suddenly you're hearing about someone's embarrassing medical problem: it's a case of TMI (Too Much Information). TMI, once you explain it, is a usefully short interjection to interupt somebody with.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, October 3, 2002 (Link)

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Sexy Contacts and Googlefighting

A few diversions:

This article about contacts making you sexier makes me wonder. The students were taken to London nightclubs with "strict instructions to go and 'pull'." I assume 'pull' is British English for "mack" or "hit on" or "put the moves on" or whatnot. It rings a bit oddly in my ears.

How long have I been wearing contacts? That's what I thought. This is news? Next you're going to be telling me the whole blonds are dying out news story is fake. (update: Link changed 04/18/2003).

In a completely unrelated story, Googlefighting. Find out which keyword has the most results on on Google. My best: women versus men. Women edged men out by a narrow margin, with 49,500,000 results versus men's 49,100,000 results (As of October 2, 2002).

Maybe that is related somehow.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, October 2, 2002 (Link)

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So Joshua Kaufman mentions [Or not, he is giving the 410 message to a bunch of his stuff - link removed 03/25/2004] that he doesn't see a lot of TrackBacking going on.

Having just upgraded to MT2.21, my theory is that it's due to two things: 1) It's a cool idea, but not everyone gets it. I don't think it was initially explained as well as it could have been. Joshua does a good job of explaining, actually. 2) It took me more trouble to get Trackback implemented than the actual upgrade from MT2.1 to MT2.21.

I suspect I'll put more details up about this at a later date, when I have more sleep.

Update: when Joshua says "Usually I simply forget to send the TrackBack ping..." it gets me. Maybe it's the hour, but that sets off usability bells in my head. I would think that there has to be a better way than cutting and pasting URLs around.

Plus, I assumed for some reason that my second ping would replace my first, since it was the same post. I often don't bother with excerpts, but with a TrackBack entry, it's more important. Now I have two entries floating around over on Joshua's TrackBack page. (And is it weird to link to a TrackBack page on the post that started it? Seems a bit circular somehow)

I'll refrain from a tedious anti-popup window rant and let my site speak for itself.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, September 25, 2002 (Link)

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My first Usenet posting?

It's embarrassing enough. The program I was posting with to a Usenet discussion group didn't automatically word wrap. Google faithfully preserved the incredibly long third line that resulted from my failure to hit Enter at the right spots. Someone later in the thread complains about it, in fact.

Why should I have had to remember to word wrap? They'd invented word wrapping by then. Usability issue!

Here's the posting in its textual glory:

My first Usenet post in plain text format.

And here's the full thread.

I found this to show I have been on the Internet for 10 years. I was tempted to use another less embarrassing post, of nearly the same vintage, but this one, with its horizontal scrolling, shows how far back usability issues go.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Tuesday, September 24, 2002 (Link)

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Sometimes it's really cool to live in New Mexico. While working on a site I can't talk about until it launches, I was in Santa Fe late enough where I said heck, I'll should go to Zozobra again like I did last year.

Zozobra, of course, is Old Man Gloom, and you burn him to get rid of your woes. The effigy burning/music festival happens right before the Fiestas Days in Santa Fe which have been going on for hundreds of years.

I managed to get some pictures too. Most of them didn't come out, because the big effigy is slowly thrashing and my shutter speed is not adjustable.

Zozobra right before burning Here's the least blurry picture of Zozobra, right before he get torched, with fireworks smoke all around him.

Flame Juggling picture

My favorites are the fire jugglers anyway, which came out a bit better.

Zozobra explodes.

Zozobra explodes

Zozobra in full flame.

Zozobra in full flame

Zozobra is apparently based on an old Indian ritual, or pagan, as the religious folks would think, which outrages both the Catholic and Protestant religious folks in Santa Fe. Religious pamphleteers and banner wavers were out in force (again) this year, which only made the walk back to the car more fun. This year they stayed out the middle of the street.

The really bizarre thing about Zozobra though, is that the Kiwanis Club of Santa Fe puts it on. Go figure.

It's also where, last year at the 75th Burning of Zozobra, I (re-?)invented the term "secondhand ganja." The secondhand ganja factor was about the same, maybe a bit higher this year. (Just for the record, I don't think the secondhand ganja is really enough to have an effect.) There were also an outrageous number of beautiful women and girls there.

A nice Dionysian time, considering I didn't drink anything.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Sunday, September 8, 2002 (Link)

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Camera blues (and yellows)

I bought a new digital camera, a Kodak DX3500. Overall, it has solid usability: other cameras have annoyed and irritated me far more.

One thing drives me crazy, though. When you're scrolling through the pictures and pull up the delete function, sometimes, but not always, it jumps to the first picture, not the picture you're on. If you're going too fast, you end up deleting the wrong picture. No way of getting back.

Nice features:

  1. The preview mode is accurate, and avoids any parallax issues for close-up shots. It operates at 20 frames a second and is a nice looking screen. Does tend to nail the batteries though.
  2. You can turn the flash off.
  3. The focus and exposure are both automatic. No waiting for the focus to snap into place like with other cameras, which I hate.
  4. The menus make sense: have clear language.


  1. The focus and exposure are both automatic. Since it's fixed focus, I don't see that changing, but I would like more control over the exposure.
  2. The aforementioned jumping around when you're trying to delete things.
  3. The digital zoom quality is only good enough for web resolution, and then not for bigger images or tight crops.
  4. You cannot leave the self-timer as the default. I had one picture of my hand reaching for the camera.

Picture of sunglassesI was bored with the available lighting, so I used my Revo sunglasses as a filter, which worked pretty well, as Revo likes to brag about their optical quality lenses. (It's a Flash page). [Update 03/25/2004 - Link removed, but you can still go to Luxxotica, click on Brands, then Revo and be treated to a big Flash movie. In Italian, even though the page I was on clearly was in English. ]

(The indivdual entry contains more pictures).

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, September 4, 2002 (Link)

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Mildly Disturbing Radio Commercials

Two examples:

1) There's a commercial for Dickey's that has women singing in a come-hither manner to illustrate how good their barbeque is. I don't put much faith in pop psychology, but this "Food is love" marketing, conflating food with sex, bothers me.

2)There's a commercial for St. Vincent's Hospital in Santa Fe that includes "We've cured your abuelo's cancer and cast your daughter's arm." (Abuelo is Spanish for grandfather)

The second half of the sentence bothers me. Why are they throwing arms around? Why are they deaf to linguistic nuance?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, August 26, 2002 (Link)

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Touching News

More proof America's Puritan-derived touch-phobia is unhealthy:

"...Human skin has a special network of nerves that stimulate a pleasurable response to stroking...a second slow-conducting nerve network of unmyelinated fibres, called C-tactile (CT)...." New Scientist

"...Slow fibers function from the earliest hours of life, perhaps even in the womb, while the fast fibers develop slowly after birth." The Washington Post

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, July 29, 2002 (Link)

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Positive Usability

Usability types are often accused, with some justification, of focusing on the negative. It's easier to notice the lack of usability more often than the presence. Good usability is like a waiter that's only there when needed.

Some examples of good or improving usability:

I noticed a crew working on a curb near my work making it a more natural angle for people turning left. See the Usability of curbs posting for the original rant.

The manual for my Toyota had a complicated diagram for the situations under which you could shift to what gears (it's an automatic). I don't have to worry about it they did it right. It offers constraints that keep me from doing something stupid.

While I'm on cars, why do all those science fiction movies have cars with joysticks? The wheel is clearly the right solution.

Stephen Gass invented a saw brake. It stops the blade on power saws very rapidly if it stops cutting wood, causing only a slight cut rather than the alternative. This is what us usability types like to call constraints. It means not letting people do something they really don't want to.

I'm seeing more sites putting the cursor in the search field for you, a la Google, or the username field, because that's where you want to be. Yahoo mail, for instance, whatever else its flaws, does this right.

Between Photoshop 5 and Photoshop 6, the usability noticeably improved. Editing text on the canvas, showing selections when you change them even if they are hidden, putting the tool options in one place, these are all good things.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, July 19, 2002 (Link)

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Violent, covert tips

Studies often ignore domestic violence committed by women. This doesn't surprise me. Sexist stereotypes cut both ways.

Hacktivists to release covert communications tool . This hiding information in images, or steganography, has always appealed to me. Sign me up!

Study shows Americans more willing to reward with tips[Update 09/18/2003 - Link removed since the Nando Times site was shut down]. This article has bits about tips being higher if the server is the opposite gender as the tipper and such. The IRS is being their usual wonderful self and trying to crack down on the people who get tips. You do know the IRS is cracking down less on rich people and more on middle class people because they're not as good at defending themselves?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, July 5, 2002 (Link)

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Self-Righteousness is a Drug

Outrage rang forth from the nation's capital at Wednesday's court ruling that the pledge of allegiance is unconstitutional. All the congressman beat their breasts, said the pledge on the Capitol's steps, and passed resolutions, high on self-righteousness.

"High" is not a metaphor. Self-righteousness is anger at the out-group, self-congratulation at your chosen status, blended with your group's approval, all shaken[Link removed 03/24/2004] , not stirred, into a lovely but toxic drug cocktail using drugs already in the brain. I remember from when I was religious.

So no, the ruling is not silly or the pledge trivial. The ruling won't stand in the current group-think environment, in which political cartoonists are being persecuted and most news articles didn't quote anyone in favor of the decision. CNN quoted U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan professing bewilderment.

Group-think is not patriotism—America was founded on dissent! Criticizing the President is different from criticizing the constitution, or the democratic ideal of the United States, both of which I'm patriotic about. No "war on terrorism" is worth destroying either.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, June 27, 2002 (Link)

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Fascists R Us

I plan to keep Zen Haiku mostly on usability and information architecture, but I couldn't let this go by: The daypop top 40 links brings the distressing news that the FBI is rifling through library and book store records. Oh, it's all for terrorists, innocent people need not worry. Terrorists have replaced kids as the justification du jour for privacy invasion.

The terrorist argument is a retread of "If you're don't have anything to hide, why do you care?" Come on! A desire for privacy is normal: there are legitimate reasons not to disclose personal information. Anyone can be made to look bad: I like the expression No man is a hero to his valet although I've never had one.

Another argument implies you're paranoid & narcissistic: Why are you so special that the government care about you? The answer of course is that I'm not special. That's the point. The FBI doesn't have to care who anybody is, they can just rifle through big lists. For great demolitions of anti-privacy arguments, I recommend Phil Agre's writings.

Is it just me, or has the county gone mad? If we become as fascist as the terrorists, we lose. I'm old enough have been part of the blue ribbon protest against the original "Communications Decency Act". This current state of affairs worries me more. The first time I heard about Homeland Security I laughed. No one would really pick a name so obviously Orwellian.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, June 24, 2002 (Link)

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Google That Tune!

Google often feels like an extension of my brain. I want some technical trick I've forgotten--it's there. I rarely use bookmarks--it's easier to google it.

It's so good, I invented the Radio Free Santa Fe game. Using only lyrics, find those lyrics as well as the song name and artirst while the song plays. More mainstream stations, with their hit songs, offer little challenge. Only Radio Free Santa Fe's eclectic play list is challenging enough.

But marring this blissful cybernetic union is that Google doesn't really understand language. I want to say, I mean "pitch" as a noun, not as a verb; I mean "id" not "ID" as in "ID Card." Maybe if English weren't so weird, with nouns verbing themselves and verbs pulling a noun switch--all blissfully free of endings--this understanding would be easier to automate. Understanding language is hard, but then again, so was search pre-Google.

Speaking of automation, I'm curious how much hand-editing Google does to throw out bogus results. I was convinced that the attempt to Google bomb Versign had not worked, but as of today (early June 24th, 2002) the posting about their negligence is on the second page of results for "Verisign".

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, June 24, 2002 (Link)

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Lying for fun and profit

To me, the only question worth asking about people's lying behaviors is, how are they doing it? If they're only doing it to be polite or to make themselves look better, and they're not going against any of their firmly held beliefs, it's harmless. But if they make a habit of not standing up for their beliefs, and always saying what they think people want to hear, then it can become destructive.

For an excellent book with the theme of why a simplistic view of lying is a bad thing, check out James Morrow's City of Truth.

Not that I would know anything about lying for the wrong reasons. One of the reasons I started a blog was so that I could say what I wanted to say without worrying about being political or whatnot like I do when I'm doing stuff at work. I've deliberately not emailed my co-workers about it for that very reason. If I want to say something potentially controversial I don't want to have to worry about offending someone. I'm well aware that various people such as Cameron Barrett of CamWorld fame have been fired for their online stuff. I've decided I'll talk about whatever I want, including work, as long as I'm sufficiently vague about specific clients.

The other thing I should mention in this moment of partial disclosure, is that I've never been comfortable with the spill your guts kind of web log. It just seems too Jerry Springer-esque to me. It's one thing to email a friend or at least an acquaintance some shocking email or other, but to just post it out there for the world to see just smacks to me of a perverse narcissism, in assuming the world cares about your woes, and complete lack of a normal desire for a normal amount of privacy.

It may have made a bit of sense way back when the web was mostly university types with some government types mixed in, but now that the web is a big wide-open place that basically anyone can get to, it seems like walking down a major street and blaring stuff like "I have psoriasis, oh the heartbreak" at the top of your lungs.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, June 14, 2002 (Link)

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Skin cancer 'gene' breakthrough

"Scientists have discovered a common element in 70% of malignant skin cancers which could become a revolutionary new treatment."

(via bottomquark) I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the low point is about 5000 feet, and I'm melanin-deficient, so this is good news. We had one of our former Congressman, Congressman Schiff, die of skin cancer not long after he starting looking into the whole Roswell matter to be opened. Very X-Files. As I suspected, the conspiracy buffs loved it.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, June 12, 2002 (Link)

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Plagiarists beware.

So I noticed when looking at the stats that a robot called SlySearch had stopped by my web site. (Update 3/25/2003: It's now call TurnItInBot). It turns out to be a bot that's indexing the web, looking for stuff that students might be plagiarizing. The page describing what it does is pretty well done, except for the enormous text headline with an underline under it. Why do people underline text on the web? Are they trying to make people mad when they move their mouse and discover it's not a link?

The site professors use to check up on their students is

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Wednesday, June 12, 2002 (Link)

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Is "My Bad" Bad?

So Alyssa Wodtke rants about how much she hates the expression "my bad":

'You CANNOT say "my bad" as in "Sorry, that's my bad!"--this is not a grammatically correct statement.'

Alyssa is far from alone in her belief. People are convinced their grammatical sense is as right as the law of gravity, when, in fact, preferred dialects are nothing but an arbitrary social construct. "My bad" is yet another expression that white kids have borrowed from Black slang like "the bomb", and "phat" in an attempt to appear cool.

Linguistically speaking, African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) is just as regular and valid of a dialect as Standard English. While most people wouldn't dream of saying sexist or racist comments, many people still suffer from dialect prejudice. [Link updated 03/24/2004] It's not just AAVE: rural, Southern, Brooklyn, Appalachian dialects are all seen as less prestigious, less educated, than Standard English. Only British English is seen as better than Standard English.

I don't claim to be 100% immune from this dialect prejudice, but I try. Ironically, given my geekish tendencies to talk in complete sentences, I probably benefit from this prejudice, At least when I don't start revising my sentence assuming I don't revise the sentence in the middle of talking.

Speaking of which, a similar issue involves discourse markers, which are the "um" and "you know" type words, not to mention the repetitions and false starts that people use in spoken English. We all use them, but are often prejudiced against others using them.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, May 30, 2002 (Link)

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Google and Psychological Reality

I was inspired by John Rhodes' excellent post about netchecking [Link removed 03/25/2004 - Sadly, John is apparently NOT keeping his archives online] to think about what Google really does.

Google does not find the most authoritative source. It finds what people believe to be the most authoritative source. It is a good meter of what people believe something to mean. This is the psychological definition of reality: someone can have an intense belief that seems to them as real as anything else, but only they see. For some things, the only physical manifestation the rest of us can see is chemical level in the person afflicted.

To be more social about it, this gets into one of my favorite areas: linguistics. Much to the distress of grammatical puritans, language evolves. To someone my age (30), saying "The data are suspect." rings about as oddly as "The sand are wet." I am aware of its plural usage in scientific circles, but it still strikes me as silly. The only people using the word datum, the alleged singular, are surveyors.

This linguistic oddity stemmed from the fact that educated people used to learn Latin. This is no longer the case. In Latin, data is the plural, and datum is the singular. So it sort of bled over. I was delighted when reading early Roman texts that they considered Etruscan a "better" language and used it for religious purposes for quite some time. Sound familar? Apparently, "Roman Numerals" were borrowed from the Etruscans as well.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Thursday, May 23, 2002 (Link)

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Why I Hate Firewalls

To me, it's clear that the weakest point of any security system has always been the people. Social engineering, bad passwords, software that allows buffers to overflow (see the next page for more on that)

Firewalls use a militaristic metaphor that does not accurately capture the way the operate. A better metaphor would be black holes: your data goes in, dies silently, and is never heard from again. As a general rule, you can only guess at a firewall's existence. Or, if you want a more human metaphor, the silent treatment. You just never hear anything back.

Currently at my work, there are multiple firewalls running around. I cannot FTP to our web server at a usable speed when behind the firewall. The web server is, of course, outside the firewall.

So I finally managed to get a connection outside the firewall. Great. Well, not really. Not only do I have ZoneAlarm (another firewall) nagging me all the time, but there are some systems that can *only* be accessed from inside the firewall.

So I'm playing musical cables, switching stuff around.

But wait, there's more. I have to remember which way things go. Say I want to copy a file from one computer to another. I cannot copy from an outside computer into an inside computer. I have to go log into the inside computer, and then tell it to copy from the outside computer. There is no easy way to remember which is an inside and which is an outside.

And today, I've discovered a site that is outside the firewall (it's a web server) and cannot be FTP-ed to from the connection outside the firewall. It must be, you guessed it, another firewall.

It's like the formerly two-way Internet has a bunch of one-way streets.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Tuesday, May 14, 2002 (Link)

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Zen Haiku

There are no haiku on the site. What is the sound of zero zen haiku?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, May 13, 2002 (Link)

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Breastfeeding, part II

Speaking of neo-Puritans, another thing that bothers me is the rant, directed against men: women say, breasts are only for feeding a child, why do men sexualize them, they're just designed to feed the tykes, I know men are infantile but this is ridiculous.

Well, a little biology: only a small part of a woman's breast is actually devoted to producing milk: all the rest is there as a fertility symbol. I don't approve of men talking to women's chests, particularly in a business environment, but I find it a bit odd when women out in public wear blouses designed to get attention, and then seemed perturbed when they get it. I understand for staring, but it's often true even for glancing.

To me, there is not a bit of inconsistency in being pro-breastfeeding and finding breasts sexy. I seem to actually be a bit less obsessed than some of my male friends, to the extent where they have pointed out a woman, for her bosomy qualities, a woman I found attractive, but had not noticed said bosom.

I also love hair and laughter and smiles and wit and intelligence and can honestly say that the only physical parts of women I've never really felt attracted to are elbows and (usually) backs of knees and feet. I've been entranced by porcelain necks, delicate collarbones, cute noses, freckles, you name it.

Damn, I feel a poem coming on.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, May 13, 2002 (Link)

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Being around breastfeeding women increases other women's sexual desire .
(Via Sci-Tech Daily)

The theory being that other women breastfeeding implies that it's a good time to have kids, that the environment is suitable.

And I read study after study after study about how good breastfeeding is for the child as well. The last has about 100 citations.

To me, the fact that most women in America don't breastfeed gets at the root of two things people don't like to talk about in America: class, and sexuality.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Monday, May 13, 2002 (Link)

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Patently silly

So in a WebWord Posting on May 3[03/25/2004 - Link removed - John Rhodes is apparently not leaving his archives online.], I said that Adobe and Macromedia had both stolen features from each other. Well, take a look at this news story.

At least 2 juries agree: now both Macromedia and Adobe have won a lawsuit on patent infringement. I think it's completely ridiculous. It's not a bad thing for companies to be influenced by the ideas of other comanies, it's only bad when people are out there stealing code and the like. It's ridiculous for patent laws are being used to keep people from making common interfaces that would benefit everyone.

The quote from Macromedia implied that they had sued out of self-defense, and that the customers were the losers, but I haven't followed this closely enough to say whether that's true or just a PR thing.

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Friday, May 10, 2002 (Link)

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