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Roadmarks II

Random observations and thoughts from the drive from New York City to Cleveland:

  • There are these signs along Interstate 80 in northern New Jersey that read, “UPGRADE – MAINTAIN SPEED.”  They come just before each hill, and I thought they very nicely captured what it’s like to be a computer user.
  • Peppered along the Pennsylvania stretch of I80 (all six hours of it), there are signs that read, “BUCKLE UP – NEXT MILLION MILES.”  My first thought was, As compared to what reference point?
  • In the middle of Pennsylvania, we discovered that hunting season is underway.  There were a lot of cars pulled off to the side of the interstate, and we saw quite a few men wearing faded camoflauge and bright orange vests, which seemed like the ultimate in contradictory clothing choices.  Later on, we saw a truck with a deer carcass lashed to a platform extended from the back bumper, right underneath the rear window and its stickered slogan: “Life’s a bitch – then you die.”
  • I’ve decided that if you’re a civilian and driving a Hummer, you’re basically piloting a giant self-propelled declaration of just how big a jerk you really are.  (I considered words other than “jerk” but this is, at least most of the time, a family site.)  As a civilian, you have no reason to own one, and even less reason to have it on the road.  That goes double for the H2, frankly.
  • On a very related note, I spotted a bumper sticker that said, “Supprt OPEC: Buy an SUV.”  No kidding!  I can’t tell you how pleased I was to learn that Saturn plans to introduce a gas/electric hybrid next year.

Roadmarks

Random observations and thoughts from the drive from Philadelphia to New York City:

  • A New Jersey license plate reading I4GOTT.
  • Back home in Ohio, gas pumps give you all kinds of directions, almost to the point of silliness.  After you insert your credit card and quickly remove it, they’ll tell you to LIFT NOZZLE and SELECT GRADE and BEGIN FUELING.  Out here on the Eastern Seaboard, the pumps read your card and tell you to OPERATE PUMP.  That’s it.  I guess if you can’t figure it out from there, it’s not their flippin’ problem.
  • There was a big sign right after we got on the New Jersey Turnpike that read “URGENT MESSAGE WHEN LIGHTS FLASHING – Tune radio to 1610 AM.”  There were no lights anywhere near the sign.
  • If you’re the driver of the large white Durango that was cut off twice by a yellow hardtop Tracker approaching the Verazzano Narrows Bridge, and almost cut off a third time getting onto the Belt Parkway East, early this afternoon, I’m really, really sorry.  Between the dense fog and the unfamiliar territory, we kept realizing we had to be in your lane at the last possible instant.  I swear to Doug it was nothing personal.

Signs and Importants

Spotted in and around Cedar Falls, Iowa:

  • The license plate 007 JFK.  Because Iowa plates are formatted as three numbers followed by three letters, this is likely a random occurence instead of a vanity plate; typically vanity plates aren’t allowed to be in the same format as the random plate series, for fear of platespace collisions.  Maybe that was a poor choice of words.
  • Two minutes later, a license plate reading 152 EGO.
  • A sign attached to a traffic light stating “OBEY ONLY YOUR SIGNAL.”  The one the CIA transmits via my fillings, or just the one I get on the car radio?  (The same signs were later spotted in the Chicago area.)
  • A gas station called “Kum ‘n’ Go.”  Seriously.  It has great big signs at each station reading “PAY AT PUMP.”
  • A whole bunch of people (as in a few dozen) standing around the downtown Cedar Falls area with nametags on their chests and clipboards in hand, looking at the buildings and putting pencil to paper.  It turns out they were design students studying the downtown, which is award-winning, but it was still just a tad creepy.  I couldn’t help wondering if they were collecting information for TIPS or not.

Spotted in the Minneapolis International Airport:

  • Restaurants called “Miami Subs” and “Malibu Al’s” adjacent to each other.  Doubtless they were related, probably had the same owner, but it was still strange to see in Minnesota—particularly since elsewhere in the airport I passed a “Maui Tacos.”
  • Pay-to-surf WiFi.  I thought about ponying up the money just so I could use Airport in the airport, but my cheapitude got the better of me.

I also noticed a lot of attention being paid to Jeff Veen’s article on the business benefits of standards, coincidentally published on the same day I delivered a talk on that very subject at the University of Northern Iowa.  Jeff’s piece is a great overview of why using standards can save you money, so if you haven’t read it, you should; this is an important and often overlooked aspect of the whole standards movement, even though it’s the thing that is most likely to drive more standards adoption.  Tristan Nitot published an article with a very similar title on DevEdge back in February, and it might be worth revisiting.  Of course, I believe so strongly in this that I founded a consultancy with a core goal of helping organizations figure out how to save money by better using standards in their Web sites, both internal and external.

Off the Wire

The TiBook’s Ethernet connection is all wireless now, thanks to the Netgear MR814 I installed yesterday.  I discovered that the one place on the front porch I really wanted to have access is a complete dead zone, which is highly annoying.  The rest of the house and the back yard all give me anywhere from 75% to 100% signal strength, and even the other half of the front porch wavers around 75%.  But the part where we have the really comfortable chairs set up, not to mention several short tables for drinks and such, is just a huge cone of silence.

Eventually, I realized it was probably our screen windows.  I’m pretty sure ours are a metal mesh, not vinyl, and if I’m correct it means they’re forming big impenetrable barriers to any WiFi signal.  My experiment of walking out into the front yard and immediately getting 50% signal seems to confirm this.  In all honesty, it’s probably just as well that there’s at least one area of the house that cuts me off from the Ethernet line.

To celebrate, I’m sitting here on the active side of my front porch, enjoying the sunny, breezy weather and listening to the cicadas while I share with you a few amusing and/or interesting things I’ve collected from various sources in the last few days:

  • You may recall the Bork edition of Opera, and of course there have long been scripts that alter content to sound like Yoda or any number of other distinctive speech patterns.  A close cousin to the Jive filter is Tha Shizzolator, courtesy everyone’s favorite rapper/porn artist, Snoop Dogg.  I found its translation of meyerweb highly amusing—I love the fact that it turns a reference to Doug and Tantek into “bomb diggity muthas”—and can hardly wait to see what it does with this entry.  Societal note: if you are offended by certain “naughty” words, or live/work in a place characterized by easy offense, you may want to avoid the Shizzolator.  I’m just sayin’.  Interesting technical note: the entity ¶ becomes &pimpa;.  I have no idea why.
  • I never enjoyed the group pictures taken ad nauseam throughout my senior year of high school, but at least none of them ended like this one did.  Takes ponding to a whole new level, really.
  • Speaking of group photos gone horribly wrong, this one also features a soaking.  The difference is in the liquid vector, and of course there’s a little more intention behind this one.  I just hope that was the last picture in the series, instead of the first one.  There’s one guy toward the left side of the group who seems to be a little more aware than the rest.  Or maybe he just had forewarning.
  • Badger aerobics were never so… odd.  I got this from Jeff Veen, who was dead on when he said, “Every single person you know is about to send you a link to this.”  You may as well just get it over with now.  How long can you stand to let it run?  I timed out after roughly five minutes.
  • This little Flash movie is funny in certain ways, and yet not funny in too many others.  Likely to be offensive to people who have an aversion to inconvenient truths.

Now You See Me…

Just some fair warning: meyerweb may be sporadically offline over the weekend, as my hosting provider (the incomparable gang at The Opal Group) switches locations, upgrades services, and that sort of thing.  So if you drop by and don’t get a response, try again later.  In the meantime, go for a walk, plant a tree, or scratch a puppy behind the ear.  They really love that.

It’s already the last third of June, and what I want to know is this:  how did so much of the year disappear so quickly?

Back From SxSW

After a great breakfast at El Sol y La Luna and a quick chat with Tantek on der cellphonen, I spent most of the day on planes and arrived back in Cleveland this evening sans Kat; we parted ways in Houston as I flew back home and she flew to San Francisco for a conference of her own.  I miss her already.

A quick SxSW Interactive braindump:

  • There was nowhere near enough time for me to talk with everyone I wanted to talk to, let alone spend time on it and really get in-depth.
  • WiFi is a particularly sharp sword of the two-edged variety.  It’s great to be able to check mail and IM while you’re sitting in a session, but it’s also kind of rude.  I sat listening to Bruce Sterling talk, and sort of felt like I was the only one doing so as everyone around me typed furiously.
  • Speaking of which, Tantek posted this journal entry while sitting on the podium during our panel.  While I was talking, in fact.
  • Apparently the panel was very, very well received.  There was a good deal of positive feedback from various people, and I heard a rumor that we scored very high on the audience evaluation cards.
  • If you’re going to have live entertainment in a small space, try not to deafen everyone with too much volume and way too much feedback.  (No, I’m not talking about Fray Café, which was very well mixed.)
  • Now I am talking about Fray Café: Scott Andrew’s bet-winning song is both a hoot and a holler.  Although it was much funnier when Scott performed it.
  • Apparently in Texas they spell it “Austin Geek Party” but pronounce it “Adult Webmasters Party.”  A small group of us found this out by dropping in to talk to the Austin geeks.  Imagine our surprise!
  • If there’s one useful thing I’ve learned about Austin, it’s that you need to either stay downtown or rent a car.  We did neither, to the detriment of our overall experience.
  • Cory Doctorow is a very high-speed guy.

Possibly I’ll have more to say, upon reflection.  For the moment, I’m going to go get some beauty sleep so I’ll be at my best for tomorrow’s Web Design Meetup.

Waiting For the Ebb

We all have fluctuating stress levels in our lives, and I’m currently fighting through a relative high tide.  Starting a few days ago, all kinds of pressure came flowing in, and I keep waiting for the ebb.  A while back, I assembled the “Fear” quadrology in iTunes, and it was the first thing I fired up this morning.

To you—is it movement, or is it action? Is it contact, or just reaction? And you—revolution, or just resistance? Is it living, or just existence?
(from “The Enemy Within“)

After the quadrology finishes, it’s a tossup between The Prodigy and Trevor Pinnock and the English Concert.  That should tell you how divergent my internal states are getting.

Nevertheless, I’m still interested in hearing about outbound traffic rates for large sites (see Saturday’s entry).  I’ve found a few plans that charge a nickel per megabyte—is that about the average?  Anyone paying a lot more or less than that?

Greek Gaming Gaffe

I’m sure I’ll be one of about six hundred thousand people making this particular observation, but here we go anyway: electronic games are now illegal in Greece.  Have been ever since the end of July, in fact.  If I show up in Greece with my cell phone, which has a few games built in and which I can’t remove, I could face a year of jail time and up to a 75,000 euro fine.  I suppose the fact that people can be just as deeply stupid the world over as here in America should be in some way comforting, but instead I find myself deeply frightened.

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