News with a chaser
"Make love, not war" was a chant of the '60s, and there are
people who have cogently argued that American culture in particular,
is more at ease seeing people get blown up, than having sex.
It looks like a new trend may be sweeping toward us from the
east[ern bloc]. First Russia, and now Bulgaria, are playing
around with the idea of naked
newscasters. Yup, newscasters strip while reading the
news on TV. The Russian version has already, um, petered-out,
but there's also a Canadian
website that's having a go at it.
I used to work with a guy who talked about "vampire video"
- a problem that happens a lot in television commercials -
the visuals or some other factor in the commercial are so
strong, that you forget to pay attention to the product. I
don't know how much news the viewers [most likely male] will
retain, but I wouldn't be surprised if they sell more beer.
And now, a word from our sponsors...
Attack of the spambots
I've been finding increasing amounts of spam in my emailbox
these days. Many of these messages include the disclaimer
"This is not spam...blah, blah, blah...sent in response to
a service you signed up for...blah, blah, blah..."
Some time ago, I signed up for Spaminator on my Earthlink
account. The spam rate fell to virtually zero for a while,
but I suspect the promoters are finding clever ways around
the technology. They always do.
This from camworld: "If
you allow your email address to be publicly available, it
will eventually be collected by the spammers." The article
on fighting spam goes on to detail a number of things you
can do to keep spam out of your mailbox, but also acknowledges
that you'll go to great lengths.
People out in public can be so entertaining. A father and
his teen-age son and daughter were in the city for the day,
having coffee. The girl said "Don't drink my coffee - I might
be coming down with mono." The boy promptly took a sip. She
said "Didn't you hear me?" He responded that you only get
mono by exchanging bodily fluids. She replied "Isn't saliva
a bodily fluid?" He wasn't worried, he retorted. She said
"I'll let you know if I start feeling sicker."
Meanwhile, Dad was on the phone trying to set up some business.
Something about going to London. He told the person on the
other end of the line about taking the kids to the eye doctor.
The son got a new prescription, and more expensive lenses.
Bitched a little about how they're still selling you things
as you're headed out the door.
He said the doctor told the boy "This is going to burn and
sting..." The son had tried not to laugh, then lost it, and
ended up laughing for a solid 2 minutes. They were onto something:
clearly this doctor hadn't been to the school of understatement
that so many other doctors seem to have attended. During my
last visit to the Eye and Ear hospital in Manhattan, the doctor
put a scope in my left ear and wiggled it around. He pressed
something against the scope and said "this is going to tickle
a little." I felt a sharp pain in my ear! No tickle involved,
but then I hate being tickled, too.
Redefining the challenge
I've been doing technology stuff for roughly 20 years, now.
One of the pleasures of this kind of work is the sometimes
dozens of daily affirmations I receive, as the software yields
up secrets one by one. In short, I find joy in learning, and
learning what works.
For web developers, what works now is to lock in on the new
doctrine - the separation of structure and presentation. CSS,
standards-compliant code [XHTML], and forward compatibility
are the new mantra. Away with tables! Just when I thought
I'd learned a lot about how to turn out tight pages, it's
back to school.
We designers and developers were able to blame the browser
makers for our woes for some time, but they've cleaned up
their act. Then we were OK with going slow on switching over
to the new standards, because the installed base was going
to take some time to catch up. But guess what?
...Browser makers are no longer the problem. The problem
lies with designers and developers chained to the browser–quirk–oriented
markup of the 1990s—often because they don’t realize it
is possible to support
current standards while accommodating old browsers.
It lies with “helpful” software that generates sites optimized
for 4.0 browsers with nary a thought for document structure,
open standards, separation of structure from presentation,
or the long–term durability and viability of web documents.
The resulting sites quickly become useless unless their
browser–specific markup and code is continually updated
to reflect changes in the browser market. In today’s economic
climate, few site owners can afford such perpetual revision.
Thus these once–ripe sites begin to rot.
Above all the problem lies with clients who confuse the
web with print. Who insist on pixel-perfect rendering of
their sites in user agents incapable of such renderings
except at the expense of interoperability, accessibility,
and document structure. And who are so concerned with “backward
compatibility” that they neglect the far more important
issue of forward compability.
So your site looks the same in Netscape 4 as it does in
IE6. Mazel Tov. How will it look and function in a 7.0 browser?
In a wireless device? On a web phone? In a Braille reader?
What will become of your expensively–produced web documents
in two years? In five?...
from the Web Standards Project
Have you looked at sites like echo
echo or Browser
News lately? Looks like about 90% of web users are browsing
with 5.0 or better browsers, running at least 800 x 600 resolution,
and thousands of colors. Old browsers make up an ever - decreasing
percentage of the installed base, making it more clear that
building sites in the old "backward-compatible" style is not
just unwarranted, it's wasteful.
If you posted comments, and they've dissappeared, I apologize.
I'll try to get your comments back, and repost them somehow.
A while ago, I got excited about integrating a comment system
into the Muse. I tried one system, and didn't like its feature
set. So, when I found SnorComments, I considered it. "What
happens if your server goes down -- do I lose my comments?"
I asked. Reasonably satisfied with the response, I took a
chance. A couple of months later, I had to make a code change,
because they were moving to a new server. Today, I got word
that SnorComments is gone because they can't afford to pay
their hosting service for the excessive bandwidth use. At
least I can reclaim my comments, which were stored on their
I don't know enough PHP or Perl to write my own comments
engine, but I think that may be a worthy goal for the future.
Meanwhile, I've got to find and configure a new comments system...
Today's wisdom: If the system's broken, but a lot
of money's being made, maybe it's not so broken?! Stanford
Professor Paul Romer has posted a thorough set of materials
Microsoft Case, particularly detailing his assessment
of the damage
done to the computer industry and the consumer [that means
you and me].
In reaching the settlement that is being contested by 9 states,
it was somewhat succsessfully argued that Microsoft, even
though they were found to have broken the law, should not
be punished for their crimes, but should only be prevented
from further abuses. [ehem - are you at all skeptical about
our ability to prevent further abuses?] I don't think we use
the same logic in cases against individuals who commit crimes.
The machine is hungry. Feed the machine.
I find myself wondering if there really is a direct connection
between the economy, and freedom. Aren't we still free, even
if our economy is in a slump? It turns my stomach a little,
every time I see that TV ad for the tourism industry, that
says "do your busines...[eat, travel, spend money]" The message
is clear, but it may not be working. Reports are that holiday
spending is down.
I think people may just be getting in touch with how important
the non-material aspects of life are. They just might find
ways to nurture each other and celebrate the holidays in ways
that have nothing to do with spending money.
As the "New war" wages on, I find the inequities of this
society being drawn into increasingly stark clarity. The spin
tactics of the administration harken back to an earlier time,
when there was an undeclared civil war between the government
and certain members of American society - among them, the
anti-war activists, and the Black Panther Party.
Questions: why is "Cantor-Fitzgerald" the only company name
that ever seems to be associated with loss of life at the
World Trade Center? Isn't it significant that a higher than
average proportion of Cantor-Fitzgerald employees were millionaires?
How would the press response be different, if so many affluent
people weren't directly affected?
Lies of Omission
Is it me, or do the floors seem a bit tilted these days? I
spoke with my dad, who is a Korean War veteran, the other
day. He expressed a great deal of concern over what's going
on in Afghanistan and beyond. He does not sound convinced
that extended military action is the way to go.
Anyone with a nose for what's
wafting in the subtext senses that Iraq, Somalia, and
other places are on the short list for further attacks from
the US, and any allies who still have the stomach to stay
on the war machine bandwagon.
Every night, we're treated to the latest "any minute now..."
news, detailing how we're soooo close to getting Bin Laden.
That's been going on for weeks. It would be interesting to
do a detailed comparison between wartime coverage and coverage
of sporting events such as The World Series. I bet the similarities
are uncanny, except in this case, we're not casting the home
team as the underdog.
I was in a convenience store yesterday, and looked down to
see a stack of newspapers on the floor. The headline said
something about having Bin Laden surrounded. Two young men
entered the store. One saw the headline and commented to the
other that "they" were never going to get Bin Laden--certainly
not alive. The other man said "They framing Bin Laden."
That's when it hit me: The "unanimous support" for the President
and the US initiative is manufactured. The mainstream press
is simply not interested in covering any sentiment to the
contrary. They're also suppressing any information that might
suggest that our objectives and tactics are anything but noble
There's another interesting component to this phenomenon.
I suspect that divisons in the sentiment about what's happening
follow familiar patterns: Inner city African-Americans (the
most likely targets in America's last "new war" - The War
on Drugs) are more likely to be suspicious, and the wealthy
(who, by the way, have a big stake in the mass media) are
more likely to be gung-ho.
If history is always written by the victors, the would-be
victors are wasting no time. Topps is distributing Enduring
Freedom Picture Cards. They're telling the war story in
a kid-friendly way, leaving out the gorey details...
US firsts... the ones we don't want to own
We deplore the use of antrhax in the mail, but the practice
has a much earlier precedent: the Colonists waged biological
warfare against the indigenous people of the new world - they
infected them with smallpox by offering infected blankets
in trade, cheating them and poisoning them in one convenient
The US decries the attack on civlilans perpetrated on September
11, but conveniently sidesteps comment on what we did to Hiroshima
An article in Newsweek [referred to in the piece
linked above] implies Afghans are barbaric, in that they
would pour oil into the enemies' hideouts and light it; yet
Napalm was invented at Harvard University, and was used extensively
by the US in Viet Nam.