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Mazel Tov!

Kat, Carolyn, and I send our good wishes and heartfelt congratulations to Jeffrey Zeldman and Carrie Bickner on the birth of their daughter, Ava Marie Zeldman.

Let the “valid and well-formed” jokes commence.

Automated Language Setting

Over dinner this evening, I wondered why it is that bank ATMs always have to ask me what language I prefer.  Why not just encode my language preference on the card’s magnetic strip, so that when I insert the card into the machine it immediately knows what language to use?

It was, of course, too obvious an idea for me to have had it first: Why Not? has a post proposing the same idea just over a year ago.  The followup comments pretty much covered all the related ideas that came up as well.

So while it turns out I don’t get points for having the idea first, the question still remains: why don’t ATM cards (and the ATMs themselves) offer this capability?

Update: I forgot to enable comments, so a few people have e-mailed me to say that Bank of America ATMs do in fact let you set your language preferences, along with several other options.  Apparently these settings only carry to other BoA ATMs, so I suspect it’s data being stored in their database instead of being written onto the card itself.  It would be nicer if the card could carry that information and have it recognized by all ATMs, but I suppose we get these things one step at a time.

Bay City Roller Coaster

Yesterday I returned from a whirlwind four days in San Francisco.  The primary reason for the trip was to conduct training for folks at the California Digital Library, but of course all kinds of other things happened.  Here’s the brain dump.

  • I can’t believe what great friends we have.  At a Sunday afternoon party at the gotomedia pad, we were joined by college friends from Oregon, others who live a four-hour drive from San Francisco, and another from Cleveland.  You read that right: one of our local friends flew out to the Bay Area to be at the party.  Well, that and to take a vacation in California, but still!  And that doesn’t even count the WaSP folks who also attended, like Simon, Porter, and Molly, who came from Kansas, Washington DC, and Arizona respectively.

    It was at the same party that I finally met Porter’s wife, so I can now stop referring to her as “Porter’s imaginary spouse.”

  • If there’s one thing I envy about San Francisco, it’s the BART system.  You can get darned near anywhere, and it makes commuting from the city over to Oakland a snap.  This is particularly true when your hotel is on a stop, and so is the place you’re headed.  Despite this, I still got turned around in downtown Oakland and was very nearly late for the second day of training.  The only reason I was able to find the place at all was that we’d walked over to the training facility the day before, so I was able to identify and use landmarks to reconstruct our path, and thus find the labs.

  • It turns out the BART ticket machines run on Windows.  I found this out by the usual method, of course. A picture of the screen on a BART ticket terminal with a Windows error dialog indicating a C++ crash.

  • In a conversation about the presidential campaign and Ohio being considered a key battleground state because of its employment situation and political complexity, one of my hosts opined, “The Bay Area pretty much spans the political spectrum from liberal to extremely liberal.”

  • At the WaSP and Friends after-dinner party on Tuesday, Tantek publicly announced his departure from Microsoft.  He refused to say where he was going next, although we’ve since learned that he’s headed to Technorati.  By Wednesday evening, I’d actually come to that conclusion without having seen the post, but of course I didn’t manage to post until now, so I look like a poser instead of eerily prescient… although if you’d take the word of a VP at Macromedia, he could attest to my prediction.

    Like others, in a way I’m sorry to see Microsoft losing such a passionate, intelligent, and committed standards advocate.  We could speculate all day as to whether or not there’s even room for people like him, but one could assume the same about AOL, and they funded a whole standards team for a few years.  In any case, Tantek firmly believes this is the right thing for him to do and seems happy with the life change it represents, so I can’t be anything but happy for him.  I can’t wait to see what he does at Technorati (and really hope the service stabilizes in the near future).

  • I spent a goodly portion of Tuesday evening talking, at various stages, with Rebecca Blood about the Web, adoption, growing up in the Midwest, and more.  On my flight home Thursday, I was delighted to discover a mini-profile of her in a Time article titled “Meet Joe Blog.”  It’s kind of a weird feeling to open a national magazine and read about someone you’d talked to just two days before.

  • Not only did Metagrrrl spend some time with my laptop at the party, so did Min Jung Kim.  Geez, this thing gets more action than I ever did.

  • At one point during the party, someone was copying a movie to his or her laptop.  I observed this activity for a few moments, then turned to Jonas Luster (who managed to get a picture of me drinking some MS kool-aid) and said, “You know, in Soviet America, the movies rip YOU!”

    Okay, maybe you had to be there.

Seeking In Seattle

A heads-up for readers in the Seattle area: FASA Studios is looking to hire an “HTML / CSS Specialist (Strong in Usability)” contractor.  FASA—man, that name takes me back to the old Star Trek tabletop games.  They also published two Xbox games I particularly enjoy, Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge and MechAssault.  (The teaser tagline for MechAssault was great: “Machines have evolved. Man hasn’t.”)  Anyway, the posting says that “This individual should be passionate about games and any experience working with game related websites will be a plus…”  Let’s see, being able to work with a game studio and create standards-oriented designs.  It almost makes me wish I lived out there.

Ordinarily I’d have let this slide, as I don’t intend to make this an employment board, except the combination of CSS skills and the name FASA really caught my eye and my inner geek forced me to post.

Switcheroo

I’ve converted “Thoughts From Eric” over to use WordPress, dropping my lovingly hand-crafted XML/XSLT solution for something packaged.  Since there’s no actual package, I guess I use that term somewhat loosely, but then I was also being very loose with the term “lovingly,” at least as pertains to XSLT.  I decided to go with WordPress because it’s all driven by HTML+CSS layout, and it uses PHP to generate the HTML.  I don’t know from PHP, but I can figure it out well enough to hack in the features I want, and the CSS-driven nature of the layout means I can do my own thing in a jiffy.  In this case, that meant bending the PHP files to produce markup consistent with the old meyerweb, and then applying my existing style sheets to the result.  Thus the visual consistency between yesterday and today.

Some changes that may or may not be of interest to you:

  • By default, comment posting will be disabled but trackbacks will be permitted.  I expect things to stay that way until I decide what my policy will be regarding anonymous posting, comment spammers, and the like.  I’ll open up commenting on the occasional question post—I expect to put up one later today, in fact—but I won’t be opening up every post for comments.  I’ve taken note of how that’s gone at some other sites, and have rarely liked what I’ve seen.
  • All feeds will continue to use excerpts; I will not be publishing full-content feeds, mostly because if I did y’all would saturate the outgoing pipes.  Yes, dammit, bandwidth does still matter.
  • Both RSS feeds have lost their word-count and category information.  As soon as I figure out how to recreate those in WordPress, they’ll be back.  I had them figured out for WP1.0.2, but the very same functions seem to silently fail in WP1.2 beta, which is what I’m using.  I’ll get it worked out eventually.
  • The RSS2.0 feed now includes <pubDate> elements for your sorting pleasure.  FeedDemon users of the world, rejoice.
  • About 300 back-catalog posts (roughly speaking, December 1999 through October 2002) all got dumped into the “General” category.  You might not want to try to read that category all in one shot.
  • I’ll likely fiddle with the categorization of old posts as I come across them, so don’t do anything that depends on a post being in a particular category.  No, I have no idea what that might be.
  • The old archive pages still exist, so your permalinks won’t break.  If you want to update them to the new URIs, that would be appreciated, but if not, no big deal.
  • The vast majority of posts, including posts up through last month, show as having been published precisely at midnight.  That’s because the old archive file didn’t carry time information for those posts, not because I’m an obsessive-compulsive night owl.
  • Posts now show their categories, and clicking on said category names gets you a list of every post in the category.  Right now, that means a page that shows the full post content for every post in the category.  I plan to create a condensed-summary category view at some point.
  • I’ll probably also continue fiddling with the layout, displayed information, and various other aspects of the post and archive pages.  Just don’t refer to a particular layout idea in a debate unless you grab a screenshot, that’s all.

That’s about it.  I just thought some of you out there would be interested in the details.

Linkapalooza!

Because it’s Friday and my brain is fried.  It won’t be as over the top as one of Owen’s magnum opii, but still, it should be a spot of fun.

  • Like you haven’t seen it already, but hey: Dave Shea‘s A Roadmap to Standards.  It’s definitely worth reading, and I’m not just saying that because somewhere near the end he recommends more than half my book catalog.
  • Seeing itself might get a massive upgrade in the near future thanks to laser light and mirrors.  Hmmm… how much fun would it be to have a complete CSS reference overlaying the world?  Yeah—not very.
  • It occurs to me that Simon St. Laurent might be interested in the possibilites that a full-color personal display might bring filtering the world, considering the thoughts he had with regard to this DVD player.
  • You could, of course, view DVD alterations as a way of correcting or filtering a piece of work to conform to your worldview.  Sometimes, as the British Medical Journal points out, corrections can be a good thing.
  • And I wonder what Jack Valenti thinks of a DVD player that alters copyrighted material?
  • Ro collected 300 images from around the Web and they’re… well… familiar.  It’s almost an art piece.  I like the use of negative letter-spacing for the title.
  • A note for OS X users: Panic, creators of the inestimable Transmit, have released Stattoo.  Looks veeeery interesting, although it’s so rare for me to have any appreciable portion of my desktop visible that I’m not sure how much use I’d get out of it.
  • Now here’s a tool we all can use: a list of the changeover points from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time all over the world.  And you can even find the change points for the last five years.  Woohoo!
  • Elena, the radioactive Russian rider, had to remove her photojournal because a few million too many people went to check it out.  Thankfully, there are a number of mirrors available.
  • Of course, if you wanted to get close to the high-Geiger action yourself, you could join a Chernobyl tour.  I didn’t see any mention of oversized earthworms or Matthew Broderick, though.
  • Tom proposes a geographical metaphor to measure your memetic cluefulness.  I put myself somewhere near Bingen, mostly because I like the sound of the word “Bingen.”
  • You may as well join the memtic herd, think of badgers, and then visit Kenya.  How long will you be able to stay?

No Foolin’

Gmail appears to be for real, so my idea that it was a joke was flat wrong.  Of course, some would say “flat wrong” has been a recurring theme of mine for the last few days.  (Or longer.)

Building Blocks

Imagine my surprise to discover that an off-hours bit of work done with a couple of colleagues got a mention in the mainstream press.  XFN, which seems to be spreading through the blog world and is generating some very good feedback, was mentioned in a Seattle Times article titled “Social networking beginning to take shape on the Web.”  I’m amused that years upon years of work on CSS, which is arguably a cornerstone of the modern Web, netted me (so far as I know) exactly zero newspaper coverage, while something to which I made minor contributions merited ink within a month of its launch.

With that article still fresh in my mind, I received something like my fourth or fifth invitation to join LinkedIn, which was mentioned in the very next paragraph after the bit about XFN.  Since I’m rather interested in social networking technologies these days, I decided to set up an account and experiment a bit—do some compare-and-contrast between LinkedIn and XFN, from a user’s point of view.  It’s interesting, but I’m not sure I quite grasp the point of it.  Are links intended solely to deliver prospective clients to vendors?  Or is it supposed to be a way to show who you know, and thus who they know, and so on?  For myself, I’ve decided to limit my connections to people with whom I’ve had some contact professionally.  So if you’re a member and want to invite me, go ahead.

One of the people I did invite to link to me is George Nemeth, Cleveland-based superblogger extraordinaire.  I dropped by his site to see what he’s talking about, and spotted a link to a LEGO® recreation of M. C. Escher’s Relativity.  The same people also did Ascending and Descending, and a few others besides.  Color me impressed!  From there, I visited some other LEGO®-sculpture sites, finding at one point a really large model of a stegosaur, which was even more impressive, both from a sheer achievement point of view as well as a testament to the amount of free time some people have available.  And check this out: the guy who came up with a model of the Nebuchadnezzar, a mostly working badger, and a whole bunch of other LEGO® sculptures besides, lives right here in Cleveland.

Like how I came full circle with that one?

April 2014
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