Plowman’s Holiday

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

A college classmate went on an Alaska cruise.  She loved it.  I look at the advertising photo and think: “Seriously?  You’re all lined up to look at a snowbank?

Where the hell are you from, that a snowbank is a big deal?”

I could make a fortune showiing people snowbanks along rural North Dakota highways…

Rules For Reactionaries

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Rules of telephone courtesy for people who want my help:

Do not leave me a voice mail, throw the handset back on the cradle and dash out of your office. When I call you back 30 seconds later, I don’t want to hear that you’ve just stepped out.  You’ve wasted my time responding to a call that you’re not available to take.  Wait a decent interval – five minutes or so – in case I reply immediately.  Yes, that means thinking ahead a bit: do not leave voice mails while you’re holding your pants to avoid wetting them; go to the can now and call me when you’re done.

Do not call me on the cell phone with your window down, the radio up, right before the tunnel, or when you’re on gravel roads at your lake place where the signal is iffy.  Inaudible and dropped calls waste my time.

Do not call me to discuss a file without having the file number in front of you.  When I have to wait on hold while you paw through the mess on your desk looking for basic information, it wastes my time.  And no, I won’t answer “just a general question” because I’ve been down that road before so I know the facts you recite are never what the facts turn out to be, but you’ll still blame me when general advice doesn’t solve your specific problem.

Do not leave a long message rambling on until you panic that your time is running out, then rattle off your number so fast I can’t make out the words.

When I call you back, do not answer the phone using the speaker phone setting.  Yes, it’s easier for you to shout while you lean back in the chair instead of hanging onto the handset and talking into the mouthpiece, but it’s harder for me to make out your words with the cacophony of paper rustling and chair squeaking and echo distortion.

I’m sure there are more of them, but those are the ones that have come up this morning.  So far.

Joe Doakes

Don’t talk with your mouth full.   Ever.

The Short Answer:  “Heck To The Yeah!”

Employment site Dice asks  “Is Flat Design Actually Awful?”, referring to the new “flat design” user interface fad.

The simple answer is “Usually”:

Jakob Nielsen, a Danish web usability guru, has co-authored a number of books on the subject of design. He is part of the Nielsen Norman group, which sparked quite a stir with a recent article about Flat UI elements causing uncertainty among users—a huge no-no. If that wasn’t damning enough, Nielsen also termed flat design a “threat to tablet usability.”

What does Nielsen mean by “uncertainty”? The firm conducted an experiment in which 71 respondents read nine pages from six different websites (topics ranged from e-commerce and non-profits to technology and finance). With some of these pages, the firm added shadows and gradients to make design elements stand out; with others, they “flattened” the design even more. The respondents found the pages with flatter design more confusing to navigate, taking an average of 22 percent longer to find a specific target.

That’s a pretty miserable result. But is flat design a pretty-looking sham? Has the entire technology industry gone down the wrong path when it comes to UX and design? Others don’t think so.

I design this stuff for a living – and when I find myself trying to guess where it is I’m supposed to “type” thing or what I’m supposed to do (the “uncertainty” mentioned in the article, which is a big black mark when it comes to system usability), I wonder;  if it were an application aimed at someone like my dad, who doesn’t know or care much about computers but is being forced to interact with them more and more, how would this fly?

On the other hand, it’s good to have a mission.  Vanquishing flat design is a good one.

 

A Tale Of Two Customers

Over the past couple of years, the move to legalize “suppressors” – basically mufflers for guns – for civilians, and to remove them from the National Firearms Act registry (regulating them the same as machine guns and sawed off shotguns) was met an amazing deluge of paranoia; “It’ll let murderers kill silently”, “It’ll negate shot-spotters”.

In the hands of agents of the state?   It‘s a matter of health!

Rifles carried by Spokane police on patrol will soon be equipped with suppressors, a move the department says will protect officers and civilians from hearing damage.

“It’s nothing more than like the muffler you put on your car,” said Lt. Rob Boothe, the range master and lead firearms instructor for the department.

Outfitting the department’s 181 service rifles with suppressors will protect the city from the legal costs of worker’s compensation claims filed by officers, as well as from potential lawsuits filed by bystanders whose ears are exposed to firearm blasts. The sound of a fired shot can be louder than the takeoff of jet engines, the department says.

Watch for suppressors to be the latest accessory in your neighborhood patrol car…

…as gun grabber groups continue to babble about “silencers” as they appear in movies.

(New to the discussion?  Here’s a demo of how they actually work)

 


 

Aesthetic Crisis

When I was a kid, a tattoo meant one of two things; you were a veteran (good) or you’d been in prison (bad).

Sometimes, the old ways are the best.

I’m not ever going to tell anyone how to live their life, much less how to decorate themselves.  I will say that there are few thing in the world more depressing that sitting at the beach and watching a tooled saddle in a bikini in roughly the shape of what might have been a breathtakingly attractive 20-something women walking along the beach.

Again – do what you want.

But America’s tattoo fetish is turning into an aesthetic crisis:

If tattoos were once an act of rebellion against cultural norms, now they are a well-established norm. If you want a tattoo, hey, it’s a free country. But it seems many people still get them laboring under the delusion that they’re a hallmark of individualism. The desire to use visual signals on your skin to proclaim yourself unique to people you don’t even know can’t be terribly healthy. It is, in a subtle and penetrating way, kind of selfish. Or maybe my misanthropy is showing, but the omnipresence of people begging to be noticed for such superficial reasons is surely annoying.

At a baseball game last year, I sat a few rows directly behind a woman with a tattoo on the back of her neck in typewritten script that said, “I’m the hero of this story.” She seemed like a perfectly nice woman—from what I observed, she was also a doting mom—but in these circumstances I was all but forced to stare downward at her tattoo. And the more I thought about the sentiment, the more irritating I found it. It took every ounce of patience within me to make it through nine innings without marching down to her and explaining to this self-proclaimed hero of her story that there’s such a thing as an unreliable narrator.

Also, get off my lawn.

Focusing On The Big Picture

Joe Doakes from Como Pak emails:

My office staff person is a millennial who cares about saving the planet.  She doesn’t use K-cups because plastic – ugh.  She insists we must go paperless to save the trees.  So she converted a bunch of paper files to electronic which freed up space in the filing cabinet and exceeded our recycling goal.  Then she set about reorganizing the electronic folders to be more efficient, deleting the ones we don’t need anymore.

Including the one she just created, with all my converted papers.  Deleted.

I.T. won’t guarantee they can recover the data, something about retention cycles, they’ll get back to us.  The data might be gone for good.  She’s crying because she feels awful.  I’m about to start crying because I remember what a gigantic pain in the neck the project was.

But at least the planet is safe.  So we’ve got that going for us.

Joe Doakes

Always back up everything before a millennial enters your office.

Ripped From Social Media – As Far As You Know

Q: “Did you see that episode of “The Office” where…

A: “See it? I don’t even own a TV! All TV is crap!”

Q: “Huh. Oh, I see Chris Cornell died…”

A: “Who? Some singer? I don’t listen to any pop music after 1970. I don’t even own a record, cassette, 8 track, CD or MP3 player!”

Q: “All right. So did you see that talk about…:”

A: “Talk? The English language is so debased. I only communicate in Kings’ Anglo-Saxon…”

(And SCENE)

Your Obligatory Feel Good Story

Fireman catches baby dropped from third-story window:

With heavy smoke billowing from the windows of the apartment building and the size of the fire inside unknown, Knoxville Senior Firefighter Eric “Bo” Merritt said he could only see one option – the father would have to drop the baby from the window.

Merritt made the “once-in-a-lifetime” catch to save the life of the one-month-old boy, who was among dozens of residents inside the Lakewood Building at Magnolia Apartments, 2730 E. Magnolia Ave., in East Knoxville when someone set a fire in the rear stairwell Sunday morning….”So before we even got the ladders set up, I told him to drop it – and hope for the best. He thought about it for a second and I guess he realized, too, that was the best option. I didn’t know how bad it was on the inside, if the fire was growing or not, so I didn’t want to take the chance of the baby staying up there.”

On the one hand, I love a good “saving the baby” story.

On the other – everyone else got out – right?

When Mob Justice Isn’t Good Enough

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Computer hackers got into the hotel’s electronic key system and locked guests out of their rooms until management paid a ransom.

 It’s a variation on the ransom-ware scam being used with other computer users.  Pay up or you won’t get your system back.

 This is modern-day piracy.  There should be world-wide jurisdiction to pursue them, and bounties paid for their scalps.  

 Joe Doakes

No argument here.  In fact, we‘ve touched on this before.

Next Week’s Trivia

Question:  Name a book that Trulbert may have outsold?

Answer:  Chelsea Clinton’s debut tome.

Almost no one is buying the Clinton title, co-authored by Devi Sridhar, a Global Public Health Professor at the University of Edinburgh.  It currently stands at No. 74,374 on the Amazon Bestsellers Chart.

The book profiles global health organizations and the work they do. Chelsea is Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation which prioritizes improving global health.

Published by Oxford University Press, the book is well-intentioned but bland in the extreme. And there is no answer given to the question “Who Runs the World and Why?”

In related news, “the Peter Principle” may soon be re-named “The Chelsea Principle”.

What The Heck Ya Gonna Do?

I’ll cop to it – I’m a sucker for language geekery.  I focused a lot on Linguistics in college, and still enjoy the subject, even though I don’t actually do it for  any kind of a living.

Daniel Foster in NRO reviews two new books on the subject – with some fascinating insights tucked in.

While I urge fellow language geeks to read the whole thing, I liked this bit in particular:

Bergen’s treatment of slurs is slight and tentative compared with his coverage of other subject areas, but he’s Kanye West compared with Adams. Consider that Bergen’s first chapter is titled “Holy, F*cking, Sh*t, N*gg*r” sans asterisks. It hits like a freight train, producing first an uncontrollable guffaw and then a pupil-dilating scandal. But the formulation is actually much more innocent, a shorthand for the ingenious theory that all languages are sortable into four categories according to whether their most taboo words are blasphemous, copulative, scatological, or bigoted. Spanish, for instance, is a sex language, while the French, for all their fallenness, consider sacrilegious speech most offensive. German, infamously, is a language obsessed with “scheisse.” And English, Bergen argues, is among the relatively few languages where the biggest taboos are slurs.

It’s interesting, reading “Beowulf” and seeing how very comfortable English speakers in that era were with scatological talk, but how very carefully they avoided blasphemy.  Given we’re a nation of immigrant’s, it’d seem we are little hinky about pretty much all cursing, one way or the other.

Three Centuries

This is the sort of statistical oddity that I obsess over.

In the entire world – eight billion people – there is one person alive known to have been born in the 19th century.  And she turns 117 today:

Born November 29, 1899, [Emma Morano] is the world’s oldest living person and the secret to her longevity appears to lie in eschewing usual medical wisdom.

“I eat two eggs a day, and that’s it. And cookies. But I do not eat much because I have no teeth,” she told AFP in an interview last month in her room in Verbania, a town in northern Italy on Lake Maggiore.

Apropos not much.

Alert The Nobel Committee

Our knowledge of the universe keeps expanding. Every year we make discoveries about the world and universe around us that make the Nobel Prize breakthroughs of previous years seem like nursery rhymes. Every new wave of discoveries pushes out the frontiers of human knowledge to levels that would leave the greatest thinkers of days gone by standing slack-jawed and agog.

And yet even the most brilliant of theoretical physicists knows that there are things that mankind may never, ever have the instrumentation, the knowledge, and even the imagination to measure.

Like my hatred of Twitter.

Happy Anniversary!

Nobody who was in Minnesota in 1991 needs to be reminded; today’s the 25th anniversary of the Halloween Blizzard.

I’m not sure if the blizzard caught everyone by surprise, but it sure fooled me.  I remember seeing the first snowflake that morning as I picked my mom up for the airport – she was back from Turkey – against a fairly pleasant-looking October sky.

By that evening, we were thoroughly stuck out at my in-laws, with a 3 month old, a 10 year old, my at-the-time wife and my mother.

For three days.

So yeah, I remember it.

On a more clinical note?  I did not know that the Halloween blizzard was in part a consequence of the so-called “Perfect Storm” of Hollywood fame.

Enjoy the relatively warm day!

A Luddite Of Things

I’ve been deeply ambivalent about “the Internet Of Things” (IoT) for as long as geeks  have been jabbering about it.

Now, bear in mind, I work in technology; I design how people and technology (at various levels) interact.  My home office looks like Chloe O’Brien’s cubicle, or Vernon Reid’s effects rig.

But I gotta draw the line at an internet that communicates between discrete machines and the people who run them.

Net-controlled home security?  Cars?  Ubiquitous online connections to everything we interact with in life?

Well, not after last Friday, where apparently cheap, insecure IoT devices in various online-enabled appliances – DVRs, video cameras and the like – were harnessed by incredibly sophisticated hackers to launch a denial of service attack that took down vast swathes of the internet.

I’ll drive my own car and lock my own doors, thanks.

The One Time Bernie Sanders Was Right

Well, partly

The former presidential candidate, Democrat rigging victim and socialist once famously complained that Americans had “too many choices” in the free market (to audiences of bobbleheaded millennials and vacuous hippies whose lifestyles would not exist without the surplus wealth the free market creates).

He was an idiot, of course.

But he was right about one thing; one Saint Paul brew pub has given drinkers a choice that, to a real beer drinker and confection fan, is not a choice at all; they’ve combined two flavors that never, ever belong together.

Don’t make me come down there.

Synergy!

Marty Neuman – who took over Keegans when the great Terry Keegan retired – is bringing another of my favorite brands to Nordeast across from Surdyk’s:

The owners of Keegan’s Irish Pub are opening a franchise location of Red’s Savoy Pizza next door to their University Avenue location, in what was formerly the clothing boutique Mona.

Keegan’s Owner Marty Neumann says he bought the franchise for the location. He’s looking to have the Red’s Savoy open by Jan. 1st.

No word whether Alondra Cano has criticized the deal for appropriating Italian culture, but this is otherwise fantastic news.