All the news that’s fit to syndicate…

If you are a regular, you’ve noticed over the last couple of days that the headlines that used to appear at the top of my home page (that’s MacBigot.com for those of you who only catch this blog on your PDA, etc.) were strangely missing. A quick glance around the ‘net provided no good news about the availability of this service to other sites, either.

Some background: I signed up to utilize the NewsHub headline feeds years ago — when they advertised it as a free service to small web site like mine. Eventually, though, they became well-known enough to stop offereing free accounts to not-for-profit web outfits, and took down the instructions for creating and managing what appeared on our sites.

I think I did actually get an email from them, saying that they weren’t planning on ‘unplugging’ those of us already using them; but that they were not accepting any new users.

We wish them well and all commercial success; they provided a lot for nothing, for years — and we appreciate their contribution.

There is a new mechanism in place today for bringing similar data from another source; but it may take a few months for us to get it fine-tuned to taste. We appreciate your patience through the growing pains!

I love you, too.

This morning, my son, Jarod, solemnly handed me two Spider-Man bean bags and said, “I want you to have these to take to work so that if you never see me again, you can look at them and remember me.”

I don’t know how I kept from losing it.

Mark your calendars: July 30, 2004 is International SysAdmin Day!

Traditionally celebrated on last Friday of July, the 5th annual International System Administrators Day (“Have You Hugged Your Head Geek Lately?”) falls this year on the 30th.

Plan to party like it’s 00110001001110010011100100111001 (that’s ‘1999’ for you carbon-based drones) with the traditional foods of SysAdmins (Doritos, pizza, ‘Dew’, jerky, and day-old Chinese take-out).

The whole department of professional geeks at my day-job will participate in an ‘off-site meeting’ all day for the event. We may even sample some non-traditional sunlight.

Still wondering if this day is meant to be celebrated BY you or FOR you? Try this link to find out: [http://www.raiden.net/humor/geek.html] .

MacBigot.com slightly refreshed … to make laziness easier!

Well, I’ve been playing around with the idea of doing my occassional updates through a blog utility, and it looks like the compromise of control to ease isn’t that bad at all. I still haven’t decided how to present the longer articles I feel compelled to post (still available online for PDA users at http://www.macbigot.com/pda/ ); but I like the overall feel.

The next step is creating some motion through javascript that will change things up a bit so that our readers get to see something new every day. Hopefully, that will bring back some of the readership that ‘came, saw,’ and got bored into not returning.

I’m open to suggestions — and from the statistics, it looks as though we still have a couple hundred readers who either haven’t figured out how to change their home page to something more interesting, or perhaps just get a kick out of annoying their Wintel-loving friends by keeping us in view around the office.

Hey, folks, speak up! Let me know if you’d like to see something in particular here; or if you’d like a ‘retired’ feature brought back in some way. I treat this space as my personal home page most of the time (and it’s serving that purpose quite nicely!), but if I can engender some more ‘sticky traffic’ I might feel like I’m helping someone. -Dan

My Prediction for The Demise of C2…

OK, just so you don’t hear it from someone else first — here is my prediction for the whole low-carb diet ‘thing’: It’s not going to last forever. In fact, although there might be a few million residual ‘believers’ (hey, there are still a few people who think we never really landed on the moon), we’ll all settle back into normal life just as soon as our egos will allow.

What’s that? Our egos? Well, you take the amount of time and effort any one individual has spent on fighting the number of carbs they’re ingesting, and multiply that by the number of people who have seen them do it in public, and you have the number of post-low-carb days that it will take for that same individual to admit to his friends that he doesn’t pray to the god of carbs (‘Atkins’?) any more.

And take that same number of days, doubled, to figure out how long it will take that person to admit — in public — that he realizes the whole exercise was a foolish endeavor, completely without benefit.

Let’s see; that should take us up to about the year 2042, for the most intelligent folk. YMMV (your mileage may vary).

It’s not even midnight in a Friday, and I’ve already been cut off…

No, it’s not the bar-tender; I’m actually at my kids’ day-care for their twice-annual ‘sleep-over’ — where parents get a night off, unless you happen to be a teacher (or the husband of one).

What makes me feel ‘cut off’ is the fact that the school has a live internet connection, but it’ not available in every room. They have so few computers that they don’t yet have a need for wireless; but ever since I started using it at home, I feel like my IV bag has been hidden in the next room, out of reach. -Dan

MacBigot dragged into the world of blogging, kicking and screaming…

Well, folks, it finally comes down to this. After years of lamenting how much WORK (ha!) it takes to make a change to a web page in BBEdit Lite (Notepad on steroids, for you Windows users), and then FTP’ing it up to the ‘net, I have finally come to the realization that the whole concept of blogging was created soley for me (all the rest of you that have been using it so far have just been beta testers — thank you for your devoted service…).

I’m leaving the preferences set pretty loosely for our maiden voyage — so please keep in mind that there are children reading this site that may not understand (and who’s parents might not appreciate) certain verbal tools.

Now maybe I’ll get a bit more feedback than the occassional athiest-turned-angry-Mac-user who is miffed because they think my web space should be a place to go where they can read their own opinions (huh? yeah, that’s what _I_ thought, too when I got lambasted for posting my own views on my own web site over the last few years). With Blogger.com, you’ll have the chance to poke at me on a per-post basis, instead of directing your flame-thrower at the entire site (or me). Enjoy! -Dan

[MBofA] Call for volunteers! Duplicate MacIndy.net for your town?

Some of our more rabid fans (OK, very few of us Mac users aren’t rabid about _something_) are aware that our sister site is MacIndy.net, a Business-to-Business Directory for companies and individuals in central Indiana.

It’s seen a bit of growth in the last few months, and the word is continuing to spread through our local user group (ApplePickers.org) and by word-of-mouth. The more participants there are, the easier it is to get more listings included (though admittedly, we began with a handful of entries found in a quick Google search).

Now I would like to begin searching for individuals interested in posting and maintaining similar directories for their own geographic areas. It would be fantastic if we could end up with a directory of directories — helping people to locate appropriate vendors and talent within arm’s reach.

So sometime this year, I will be looking into launching another domain name — one designed to be the home base for this uber-directory-of-directories. I haven’t come up with a solid idea for what that domain name will be yet; but a more pressing issue is to gather up the addresses and manpower to manage the other sub-sites for cities (Chicago? New York? Los Angeles? Cincinnati? Miami? Lexington?).

So it comes to this: Are you the person I’m looking for? I can provide a FileMaker database application that generates the web pages for you so there isn’t a lot of engineering involved — but I hope to get some volunteers who are willing to accept submissions for their area and upload updates to their local sites on a regular (monthly?) basis. Some people might even be savvy enough to host a live database-driven site that would allow people and companies to post and search without human intervention (but MacIndy.net is simply a ‘bucket-in-the-sky’ FTP/WWW site that I upload to using Fetch).

If you are not personally up to the challenge, then please pass this idea on to your local user group; perhaps this idea has enough merit to be hosted as part of their already-established web site — and having this resource online would mean increased publicity, which may be enough to spur the effort.

Thanks for your time in considering this idea — I look forward to hearing from many of you over the next few months! -Dan

_____

To join the MacBigots of America discussion list on the web:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MBofA/

Minnow Manor – Moving (in) Day

Minnow_Floorplan

—–Original Message—–
From: John Oblak [mailto:jdoblak@mac.com]
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 12:57 AM
To: Wayward Souls
Subject: IT’S MOVING DAY!

[PLEASE IGNORE ANY SUBLIMINAL MESSAGES YOU BELIEVE YOU SEE IN THIS MESSAGE]

As we have been priming you all for months (the twigs began to rise from the earth in January – ), you are no doubt aware that we are finally landing in our first home after much wandering in the wilderness. This weekend, we are hoping for a big finish that will completely empty out the last few (large and heavy) items remaining in our rented storage unit. We’ve rented the truck, are taking a head-count for the [BRIBE] pizza, and are willing to put any out-of-towners up for the night(s) before and after the big day [BRIBE] (since we never accumulated more furniture than could fit into a two-bedroom apartment, there will still be plenty of empty space for the dead bodies after all the heavy lifting).

With all that in mind, we are looking forward to Saturday, April 17th [ALL OTHER APPOINTMENTS YOU HAVE ARE NO LONGER OF CONSEQUENCE] to pull off this little miracle – beginning at about 10AM.

If you are still able to fit us into your busy schedules, we will feed you and keep you too busy to engage in whatever larcenous activities you normally have planned for a springtime Saturday. There is a neighborhood-level map attached to this message to compensate for the fact that Mapquest has not yet been alerted to the presence of our street — though if you punch in our address, it does give pretty accurate driving directions.

The geographic location our grand opening of Minnow Manor:
6847 Minnow Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46237

Program Notes:

1) David Shablak will not be allowed to choose the movie for wind-down time; so people with children (and/or taste) have nothing to fear.

2) Please do not bring housewarming gifts. This is not because we don’t trust that you will bring something absolutely delightful. We just haven’t had time to figure out which closet in our new home to set aside for ‘re-gifting’. If you still feel the urge, bring food; if that doesn’t leave you feeling fulfilled enough, give a kitten a good home (doesn’t matter if it’s your home).

3) There will be furniture to assemble, wires to connect, and things to sort (keeping this in mind, we are not inviting any stupid people). If you feel the need to bring any favorite tools, brownie points may be awarded — but to be really ‘AR’, make sure they have your name on them (Sharpies provided).

4) “Because it’s there.” Providing all goes as planned, we may be needing the expertise of the nearest geek to assemble an ad-hoc network to siphon bandwidth from the three nearest non-WEP networks within range. BYOB (Bring Your Own ‘Book).

5) For those of you traveling great distances, keep in mind that driving in Indiana is not like driving in other states. People here don’t really don’t need to learn how to drive before getting their license. Really. So consider waiting for daylight. And bring a cell phone. And maybe a gun.

6) Our new home number is 317/786-0638. We are telling you this because you may need to leave a phone number with your loved ones before you disappear for 12-20 hours to move the mountain to Mohammed. After the 17th, please forget you ever saw it — if you don’t call us on our cell phones, we will rarely get your call.

7) There is a very BIG clean-cut field out behind our house, and a playground within view of our back window. If the bigger kids want to take the little(r) ones out to play on the swings, slide, etc., that would be OK with us. Everybody pray it doesn’t rain.

If I’ve left anything out, it’s only because we’ve not really slept much over the last week (painting, hanging ceiling fans, waiting at the house ALL DAY for the SBC guy to show up, etc.). But we’re excited, and so far, REALLY happy with the new house. (Just don’t ask Leah how much we’ll really be paying after all the interest, etc. Unless you enjoy making her cry. Again.) We’re looking forward to having many of you drop by; the more hands, the quicker the work, and the more fun to be had by all.

_______________________________________
Dan Oblak – Dual-Platform PC Technician
317/345-7006 mobile 208/545-9969 eFax
Find me online at
AIM=jdoblak@mac.com Yahoo Chat=jdoblak
PLEASE NOTE new email
***************************************

Happy Kwanzaa, you helpless lemmings…

Those of you who read my ramblings on a regular basis have figured out that I am generally annoyed with western civilization’s brainwashed and ignorant grasp of why we do the things we do — customs, holidays, superstition, etc.

So it might seen refreshing to celebrate a holiday of thanks and reverence that makes no excuses about its origins, and doesn’t pretend to be divinely inspired. BUT, today I found a few articles that let the air out of that balloon for me, too.

“Did you have a happy Kwanzaa?”

“Happy Kwanzaa” (mirrored HERE and HERE)

“On the First Day of Kwanzaa, My True Love Tortured Me …”

“A Less Than Complimentary View of Dr. Maulana Karenga”

Maulana Karenga (formerly known as convicted felon Ron Everett), known now as the founder of Kwanzaa, has a past that should scare the living [guano con queso] out of normal people. But not only are descriptions and interviews of him completely devoid of the sparest mention of his history, but it seems no one who knows of him wants to talk about this now saintly leader of ‘his people’.

Unfortunately, this guy who purports to act as a guide and mentor to the afro-american community has spent much of his energies on killing off and torturing the same people most believe he is marketing his philosophies to. Instead of furthering the life of African culture and espousing togetherness and brotherhood among his followers, he kidnapped, tortured, and humiliated others under the guise of extracting information about some mysteriously unnamed enemies who were allegedly attempting to poison him with ‘crystals’ in his food, drink, and surroundings. He did time in a federal prison when he was caught in these acts, then changed his name when he was released, and began a new life — proclaiming his own Marxist conversion while in prison.

Now, I am willing to believe that a man who has been given a ‘time-out’ in a federal penitentiary perhaps indeed has the time to come to some life-changing realizations. What bothers me is that instead of admitting to the errors of his previous ways, and using what he has learned from them as a jumping-off point to becoming something much greater than his past — this man pretends that he is not come from the man who organized hate, and arranged murders. Even the man we now know as Paul, in the Bible, pays homage to the damage he did to humanity and himself — by noting that he would be no better than his past without the revelation and guidance bestowed to him by God.

Perhaps more disturbing, though, is the fact that the academic-types that employ him, and the media that heralds him, also cling to this comfortable ignorance. Just trying to get anyone to talk about the before and after of this individual gets anyone who dares asks nothing but stonewalling.

Now back to Kwanzaa — can there be a good thing that sprung from something not so good? Perhaps. In fact, it happens all the time.

But if I read one more article about how much a role-model Ron Everett is for black youths today, I think I am going to be sick.

‘Home-Bound’ no longer a negative term…

We are anticipating the arrival of our first house in the first quarter of 2004; we hope to move in during the first couple weeks of April.

We’re spending every spare moment thinking of ways to avoid spending every dangling penny on additional neato ideas. We have already begun designing a faux fireplace (I hate that word — no, not ‘fireplace’; ‘faux’ — why can’t we just say ‘fake’, or ‘pretend’?) that will house our television in the living room.

We’ll have a ‘living room’, where we will doing our living; I never did understand why, over the last couple of decades, american homes have been designed with a ‘family room’ for living in, and a ‘living room’ for placing too-clean furniture that no one ever uses. I always thought it more correct that we call them ‘living rooms’ and ‘sitting rooms’.

Hanah and Jarod have been taking turns looking forward to and being afraid of the idea of having their own rooms. Even in our old apartment, they shared a room (though they often ended up in our bed, anyway). And this week, Hanah told me that she didn’t want to move out of Steve & Denise’s house — or leave the newest of their cats behind, or sleep alone in her new room. Leah just mentioned that she and Hanah had a conversation about the kitty, Zoe, in which she reminded Hanah that Zoe belongs to Grandma. Hanah responded, “and Grandma is really going to miss her!”

For myself, I am just little bit curious to see what mysterious items from our past are waiting to be unearthed when we empty out the storage unit we have sequestered all of our worldly possessions in ‘just for a few months’. The original idea was that we would shack up with the in-laws for just 6 or 12 months, while we saved a few bucks on rent and beat down a few debts. We did the math — if we made minimum payments on all that we owed, we could be out from under the heap in a little as 28 years! So to keep the process from dragging out that long, we put our lives in a box, and here we are.

Soon, we will live and breathe again. But not yet today.

Attack on White House Twarted; Tip by Local Boy

[021225 Published with permission from Rooters Newswire*]

White House officials this morning announced that a failed attempt to breach White House perimeter security was thwarted in a combined effort by Secret Service and National Security Agency personnel when a 7-year-old boy alerted both agencies after watching a recent interview with First Lady Laura Bush, who is now under scrutiny by several law-enforcement organizations due to her comments several days earlier regarding the ability of the intruder’s ability to skirt security measures currently in place in and around the White House compound.

Apparently, at a function well-attended by press and witnessed by several dozen children, Mrs. Bush assured those listening that the expected visitor would have no trouble finding a way into the White House, on the premise that there were just so many fireplaces throughout the structure that it would be difficult for the Secret Service to keep track of them all.

Unfortunately for Mr. Claus, security personnel take their jobs very seriously, and with quick action were able to neutralize the prowler with only 72 rounds of small-arms fire.

Authorities released the following list of personal affects that were taken from the jolly old corpse and his vehicle:

  • 50-pound bag of high-protein reindeer treats
  • 70-pound bag of reindeer droppings
  • 200-pound bag of coal
  • 40-pound bag of cheap toys from Oriental Trading Co.
  • Single tattered copy of Penthouse magazine’s holiday edition
  • Latest subscription copy of AAA World Atlas
  • One mostly-consumed fifth of bourbon
  • Half-kilo of clean Afgani hash
  • Scrapbook of threatening letters from angry parents
  • Autographed Polaroid of Ms. Barbie Mattel (naked)
  • alt.2600 FAQ on circumventing the Norad satellite tracking system
  • 24 prints (evidently processed by the one-hour lab at a North-Pole WalMart) of recent unholy activities involving Mr. Clause and three of the animals found later at the crime scene.
  • A computerized database containing the names of every child on the planet — excluding Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Athiests, and Democrats. (As confidential demographic information about the individuals named on the list is protected under several laws regarding the treatment of minors, this item was confiscated and removed for closer scrutiny before the press arrived.)

Mrs. Bush was unavailable for response; however, Donald Gunsfeld, the United States’ Secretary of Defense, noted that such peculiar comments by the First Lady would not pass without a thorough investigation. President George W. Bush was saddened to hear the news that his wife is a Pagan-loving, Satan-worshipping follower of the fabled Santa Claus; and lamented that when it comes to those who mess with the heads of America’s children, “They all need to be rooted out, and buried in a very deep hole — even if they are close relatives.”

Generations of christian children all over the country have been urging the federal government for years to ban the juxtaposition of this and other non-biblical icons with the heralded birth of Jesus Christ. Little Jeremy Salinas, 12-year-old president of the ‘Santa Must Be Outed Club’, pointed out that “The best trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn’t exist; the second-best was convincing this whole country that decorated trees and Santa Claus are more ‘real’ than Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.”

This also may mark the resolution of a long-standing investigation being spearheaded by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, who has been receiving claims by angry, distraught parents for decades that far too many child abductions occur during Santa’s wild ride to be considered a mere coincidence. Arrangements are being made for the return of thousands of child-laborers, euphemistically refered to as ‘elves’ by Mr. Claus’ legal representation, to their families around the country.

Several organizations have been working tirelessly in an effort to quash the effect of Mr. Claus and his pagan activities over the last few months. Further information can be found at the addresses below:

————————————————————
*(C) 2002 Rooters Newswire – The News You Wish Were True[TM]

Cleaning up the Web – ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should…’

When Apple made DTP (Desktop Publishing) ‘reachable’ to anyone who had a wallet and enough free desk space for a Mac SE/30 and a laser printer, we (as in, the business community) learned something: “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

It seemed that folks thought that the ability to afford and install publishing tools was enough — they didn’t need to have an understanding of design, layout, or user behavior to successfully print to the masses.

They were wrong.

That new ease-of-use is now polluting the web in the same way that printed documentation went down the tubes during the first few years of DTP. Anybody can make a web page; but on most sites, locating information or trying to find the author’s flow of thought is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Now we have generally-accepted standards for design and especially where user-interfaces are concerned. There is a recognition in the publishing community that content may be ‘king’; but it’s every-watchful mistress is format. Following are some tips that we still see as ‘broken rules’ on far too many web sites. Of course, it is still up to each designer to decide which rules to ‘break’ (otherwise, everything in the world would look exactly the same); but you need to know the rules before you can make a leap like breaking them successfully.


  • Serif fonts at anything below 18pt are readable, but not attractive, on a screen or video projector.
  • Black text on a white background should be reserved for the printed page, unless fonts are carefully selected for readability to make up for the ‘background noise’ that is created visually by a bright color behind text. (For example, ‘Verdana’ is a san-serif font that is designed specifically for screen use. ‘Times’ is a serif font that was designed specifically for readability on the printed page.)
  • Laying one color on top of another that is the same level (brightness) is optically disturbing, and detracts from the message the text is supposed to convey because the reader has to strain to read it. Regardless of color, between the text and the background matched to it, there should be a strong difference in brightness (one very light, one very dark); however the extremes (black with white, for example) can exaggerate problems caused by poor typeface selection, as well.
  • Another interesting difference between for-paper and screen-destined imagery is that colors work better on the screen if they are from the same family (i.e., light blue on dark blue, yellow on dark green, dark purple on light blue, etc.), rather than a pairing of colors opposite each other on the color wheel (orange on blue, green on red, purple on yellow).
  • Interestingly, Microsoft PowerPoint, the industry standard for presentation graphics and business-grade one-to-many visual communication allows users to create their document with the screen in mind — and can be set to automatically compensate for these paper/screen differences when printing hand-outs for the audience. But a good, basic understanding of these rules is necessary to first create an attractive, readable, full-color page for projection (or for the web).

This, of course, only scratches the surface. We assume that a web author wants visitors to have a pleasant experience, and therefore not hesitate to return in the future. Anything that serves that end is a positive for both the author and the viewer.

Recommended reading about these and related topics can be found here:

  • Nielsen Norman Group: The members of Nielsen Norman Group are user experience pioneers…they advocated user-centered design and usability before it became popular to do so.
  • Human-Computer Interaction: dotPARAGON’s practical solutions to web problems
  • Usable Web: a collection of links about information architecture, human factors, user interface issues, and usable design specific to the World Wide Web.
  • IBM’s Ease of Use Web Site, (specifically, the page Web design guidelines)
  • ‘The Effect of Color in Web Page Design’ (112K PDF, requires Adobe Acrobat Reader) is a well-writtem paper by a student of Interactive Multimedia Design & Production at University of Texas – Austin
  • Usernomics: develops user interface designs for hardware and software for a wide range of products from web sites to consumer products to aircraft. We also conduct usability testing in our labs to ensure product functionality.

Dan Oblak