knowledge is power Last updated - March 2002

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 Archive - February 2002

     
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Language
A few articles on lanquage being passed around the weblog world recently.
  • Debate opens anew on language and its effect on cognition "A growing body of research suggests simple quirks of language - such as the lack of a word for left or right - can fundamentally alter the way people perceive the world around them."
  • They have a word for it "list of foreign words that address some strange or interesting ways of looking at things" Studying such a list could expand our levels of experience if you believe the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.
    The limits of my language indicate the limits of my world
    Wittgenstein
  • Who's Wittgenstein you ask? Find out by reading this weblog about him. Lots of deep talk about language there.
  • The Eskimo Snow Vocabulary debate "Yet another red herring is the claim that one's position on the Eskimo snow vocabulary question is in effect one's position on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis about the role that language has in shaping and constraining its speakers' worldview. But this claim simply has no merit; one can hold any imaginable position on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, or even never have heard of that hypothesis, regardless of the number of snow-related constructs one finds in Eskimo speakers' live vocabularies."
  • Do languages matter? "By the best estimates, around 6,000 languages are alive in the world today. Half of them, perhaps more, will die in the next century that's 1,200 months from now. So this means that somewhere in the world, a language dies about every two weeks. "

Web design
A few Web related links.
  • The 'Tables Are Bad' debate. One Dave ask why tables are evil, another Dave tells him. I personally don't think tables are evil, our President didn't mention them as part of the axis.
  • Photodude rebutes Dave W.'s CSS hurdles. "Individuals who place content on the web, and are serious about it, have learned basic HTML, and hopefully have enough sense to know it's not a one-stop education. HTML has evolved considerably over time, with an attendant learning curve, and now there's a new future of markup languages; XML, XHTML, and their partner, CSS. The learning curve is little different, we've just moved into a new alphabet. The basic principles are markedly the same, as is the ease of learning."

    For me, testing a style sheet takes about the same time it use to take me to debug an overtabled layout. And I think it's taking me the same amount of time to become competent with CSS layout as it did for me to learn HTML. So, you ask, why is KIPlog a festering mass of nested tables? Honestly, I'm too busy building sites with CSS for paying clients to redo this non-paying one.(The design of this site has only changed once in 2 ½ years, and that was barely what one would call a redesign.) Really honestly, I'm too lazy to even write a basic style sheet for this site. (I think I wrote one months ago, I never implemented it.)
  • In the previous list item, I used the numerical entity ½. I know it doesn't work with everybody. Look up which entities are safe in this nice entity chart. (found at zeldman) Really useful is a chart which shows which browsers support which entities (including WebTV) but it fails to describe platform character sets. Here's all about quotes and dashes.
  • Links & JavaScript Living Together in Harmony
  • iLoJack: A fantastic story of how AppleScript helped keep sensitive data from the prying eyes of a thief and helped recover a stolen iMac. "No, judge, the computer isn't IN timbuktu, it's being located BY timbuktu... no, not NEAR it, BY it... no, timbuktu is a PROGRAM... " Last two links courtesy of slorp.
    Random links
    • A "best beer for the money" taste test done sort of scientifically. Busch won. In my experience the Huber product "Rhinelander" is the best beer for the cheapest price. I recently heard that beer emperor, Fred Huber had passed away January 7, 2002. He brought "Bavarian Club" to the world. B.C. no longer exists, but it brought many of my friends together for 5 bucks a case (and we each needed our own case).
    • A Biological Homage to Mickey Mouse, by Stephen Jay Gould. via glossosaurus
    • I have to point out growlers, the weblog that once was iceberg273. It once was a good weblog, but for some reason the change has made it damn good.
    • I passed Patrick King's true Chicagoan test. Though, I had to practice the Empire song until it came to me, and I always thought the second one on number 12 was Regina. Pretty good, considering New Jersey is where I'm from.
    • Prepositions to end sentences with. CBC article on the myth that ending a sentence with a preposition is wrong. Also see it mentioned in the alt.usage.english FAQ


    I had no idea
    Northern vs. Southern Hemisphere Monitors Computer monitors are manufactured specifically for which hemisphere they are going to be used in. "CRT monitors work by moving electron beams back and forth behind the screen, and the earth's magnetic fields act on the electron beams, pulling them toward the field. A monitor calibrated for the Northern hemisphere can still be used in the Southern hemisphere, but the colors and the image would be slightly skewed."


    Web related reading list
    • Web style guide A good style reference, following AP Style for the most part. It drops capitalization of "web" and adopts the web standard "email".
    • A Search Engine in Perl A List Apart brings us something we can use here. I might just get it plugged in if I get some time, as long as I don't have to move my directories around.
    • Zeldman points out that the government's Section 508 website, is not 508 compliant. Section 508 requires that Federal agencies electronic and information technology is accessible to people with disabilities.


    Weblogging
    Every once in awhile I get meta about blogging, and it is usually spurred on when some "real writer" gets an article published about blogs. This time it's ZDNet's John Dvorak who writes about The online 'Blog' phenomenon. I've disagreed with Dvorak's techno-predictions in the past, but what this piece really needed was an editor to kill it. It sounds like he wrote this blather a year ago and was saving it for a dry spell. Either that or he read a few of the other mainstream media articles on blogs going around, and spent three minutes attempting to define the nature of personal expression. He links to the defunct blogfinder.com (don't go there) which is now a domain squatter running some very obnoxious pop-under scripts, he mentions pitas.com incorrectly as pita.com and his article contains one personal site example and its not even a blog, it's a Bugatti enthusiast's page which is probably a very complete resource for all things Bugatti, but I don't see how it can be described as "stunning" or what it has to do with blogs. Dvorak has succeeded in doing what he does best - trolling. His article also appears at PCMag complete with a discussion forum where it does nothing but generate more names on a registration list and serve up some more ad views.

    Every few months webloggers bring up the "phenomenon" and rant about either the importance of blogs or the unworthiness of teenagers' or housewives' journals. That discussion isn't important. What's important is the distinction between the weblog and the blog, and the reality that there are hundreds, and soon there will be thousands of weblog authors who are smarter, more informed, and more informative than John Dvorak.

    Web Use Ignorance
    Seven tricks that Web users don't know Covers navigation problems caused by not knowing what we Web geeks take for granted - like the company logo takes you to the company home page. About drop-over menus: "I don't care that prominent software vendors have been using cascading menus for years -- obviously they have forgotten that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. And that's exactly what users do -- they try to take the diagonal route to their desired menu option rather than across and down. And as soon as they move off the menu, they lose it (or even worse, get an unrelated one)." I don't know too many people who drive manual transmissions who try going from 1st gear to 2nd by forcing their gearshifts in a straight line. They quickly learn, by feel, how to shift the lever over and down. The reason pop-over menus fail, is they have no "feel". When we try to build "visual feel" into things like mouseovers, we discover that most people's eyes and hands aren't hooked up that way and they need to learn by trial and error. As basic and simple as these learned movements are, they will come up every time in testing if you test users that haven't learned them yet.

    Knowing the up and down arrow on the keyboard actually makes the page scroll up and down, not to mention that they can be used to navigate a drop-down list, is as basic as figuring out whether to push your turn signal lever up or down to make the right turn signal flash. These types of learned actions come very quickly with trial and error. What testing really should concentrate on is how easy it is to use once it is learned. (Like pop-over menus that pop-over 3 times and have buttons 15 pixels tall with that cute silkscreen font. That's just blatantly disregarding Fitt's law, and would equal designing a car with a pencil-size gearshift mounted where the glove box would be.)

    I post this article here not to encourage dumbing down of design and interface as suggested in the text, but to educate those who may not have discovered these tricks (and no, I'm not calling anyone ignorant, but jeesh, how long did it take you to learn that the little tab that says "lock" on the door will let you out of your car?). Brought to you by webmutant, who I'm glad to see is back.


    Random links
    Some things I've bookmarked that should be mentioned here
    • Food links (I'm presently making a page to list all the food links going around)
      • reverse engineered iron chef recipes
      • Sautewednesday Excellent food blog with great links - for instance - The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook "October 6 I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long."
      • Inconspicuous Consumption "It's about deconstructing the details of consumer culture -- details that are either so weird or obscure that we'd never see them, or so ubiquitous that we've essentially stopped seeing them." Deconstruction of subjects like Heinz's Blastin' Green Ketchup, "Classic" brands, and the Y2K compatibility of a Pineapple LifeSaver. Also covers non-food topics like hole punchers and can-openers.
      • Gohan Taberu "Let's eat" in Japanese. A blog about cooking in Tokyo, by a guy who used to live in Chicago. His regular weblog consumptive.org, is excellent. Tagline: art, photography, and the uncanny.
    • fengi A regularly updated Chicago-thing. I don't think "blog" is the right definition. Includes the KULTURBREMSE TERMINKALENDER or Cultural Gadfly's calendar of events for Chicago.


    Weblogging
    As I write this, I'm presently sitting in Quest, an internet cafe in Rogers Park, listening to the music of Kompressor ("kompressor break your glowstick, kompressor eat your candy"), with Jason, lay-c, Paul and Dave. How geeky can you get? Note the ancient (1983) VCR in the background. We just came from a Chicago Webloggers meeting at the Chase Cafe in the same building. Very cool place for such a meeting. Here's some pictures.
    The full list of those in attendance - fuckcorporategroceries, greasyskillet, lay-c, marcneedham, me3dia, no commercial potential, somnolent, smellen, phonezilla



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