Blurried Musings (a Kafkaesquí blog joint)
"If you can't annoy somebody, there is little point in writing."    Kingsley Amis
June 01, 2002
Web Design Remedies

Over the years I've learned a lot about Web site design.

I can actually claim (without exceeding my quota for personal conceit) that I was fine-tuning Web pages long before HTML came with a version number attached to it. This was back when the major issue of layout was whether to use an HR tag to separate sections or a 'line' image. Back then one really did have to consider whether someone would wait the extra one-third of a second while your GIF graphic downloaded, and the further second the browser took to display it. I'd hardly claim this makes me an old timer, but I do feel a little older now just admitting to it. I remember the excitement in the community over Netscape's introduction of their TABLE element, and I recall a similar enthusiasm for the FRAME tag, which quickly slipped into dismay and then hostility when we realized how we'd end up using it.

As I was saying, I've picked up a thing or twelve about creating Web pages, much of which I freely pass on to others, whether or not it's requested of me. Several of these tags of wisdom I don't see mentioned all that often, or at least in the way I would formulate them. So in the interest of offering up a little more flavor in the Web design soup, and a dash for posterity's sake, here's several of my more well-worn personal maxims:

Make it worth a look

Forget about issues of readability or proper spelling and grammar (I can always use the comedy found in another's linguistical misadventures). If you can barely parse a sentence, even in your own language, but still have something important to say or something I may want, at least have it look presentable. This can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. Think of it like a house, whether a palatial mansion or mobile home: don't expect a lot of visitors if you never figured out how to use the vacuum.

Get past the clothes

Yes, I'm impressed with your ingenious use of stylesheets. Your design techniques are phenomenal, unique even. And your graphic work could make da Vinci weep, even if he is dead. Talent streams out your every orifice; I am damp with envy. But if fashion is all there is to your personal Web statement, may I suggest some other time-consuming yet productive hobby, like collecting aluminum cans. If the purpose is to get some development experience under your belt, then that's fine. Just don't be upset when I bypass your tinkerings.

Beat us over the head

Note: there's no "don't" at the beginning of that. What I mean is never hold back on repeating (and repeating) certain features, like navigation links or descriptive components. You can overdo it, but it's more likely you'll cause a few more people to figure out how to navigate your stuff. Web surfers want two things when visiting a site: they want it to load fast, and they hope they're smart enough to get around it even faster. Anything you do to improve the latter will make most of us a little more tolerant on the former. Only a very little, though.

Don't be boring

An easy one to proclaim, though I've never been able to delineate this to anyone else's satisfaction. Let's just say it's one of those "You'll know it when you yawn at it" rules.

May 31, 2002
Fragments From the Memory Log, Entry Nine

From lessons to teachers, from lunch to recess, my first six years spent in elementary school was a vast and confusing channel of mixed transmissions for me.

Going back to first grade, we had class sessions where our teacher read Bible stories to us. Honest to goodness Biblical tales, right out of the New Testaments (though not the King James version). Imagine something like that happening in a US classroom today! We'd have a dozen ACLU lawyers rappelling from helicopters before she could pass over a "begat". First Amendment rights are apparently trampled without thought in the interest of filling up classroom time. But not to worry: we, that is the students, took them in without ornamentation, never catching any preaching or an evangelizing hook. To our teacher they were nice stories, simple parables we might learn from. Their use was not an attempt to indoctrinate her students into the Christian faith. I'm proof positive of that.

My most indelible first grade recollection involves a written assignment. Actually, it's all about the recollection, since there was a dispute with another classmate over it. The paper I, or he, but definitely not we, turned in had no name attached to it, and both of us claimed ownership. Through some child logic and a bit of tears, I convinced our teacher I was its true author. Thing is, I've never been positive of the truth behind my claims, though I was quite certain at the time. So the event either displays one of the first just and proper decisions made in my favor, or shows how good at lying to myself I can be. Until further evidence is uncovered, I opt for the former.

Out of all school years, my favorite will always be third grade. Not for any particular incident or personal preference towards the teacher, but because I was doing so well during that time. There is also the fact we had a Kentucky Fried Chicken just across Main street and right outside our classroom windows, so pre-lunch periods always smelled of fried chicken and gravy. For a Midwestern kid, that tends to be a pretty good smell. But honestly, it wasn't the wafting odor of deep fried poultry but the straight A's I was receiving which really helped the school year move by swiftly. So it was the best, but by far the least entertaining to read about.

Every good thing has its opposite, and fifth grade was my karmic payback for the salad days of third. I can't claim living hell status for it, but it had it's moments. For starters early on in the year, our teacher, the kind of educator students pray to get, took maternity leave. Her substitute was, to put it mildly, never one to make it into our prayers, except on the tail end where we might request her ousting. To avoid unwanted legal concerns, I'll call her Ms. Scuttle.

My relationship with Ms. Scuttle is the worst I had with an adult while I was young, even though I met others far more unlikable than her. I no longer know who fired off the first salvo, but I admit to causing some of the battles along the way, if unintentionally. One time I fell ill and was sent to the nurse, whos office happened to be a room on the other side of the wall to my class. As I lay on the couch in the nurse's station, waiting for one of my parents to appear and take me home, I heard a tapping coming through that wall. What option as a ten year old did I have? I tapped back. My rapping was acknowledged, and soon I was one side of a faux Morse code chat. This ended abruptly two minutes into the discussion, as that's when Ms. Scuttle came bounding through the door, demanding to know who was tapping on the wall. Naturally I was completely in the dark, and told her so. I failed to see how she could find me responsible, even with the circumstantial evidence of me lying right next to the wall.

I was honestly sick and out for the next few days, and thankfully the issue was allowed to burn out. Not all of them did. My time with Ms. Scuttle was certainly a low period in my elementary remembrances. I seem to recall the bad grades easily, but forget much of the good ones. Fortunately, I learned a little from both of them.

May 30, 2002
Static Cat

Static Cat - Issue #2

May 29, 2002
The Everything Rant

I'd like to take this time to complain about something. Problem is, I want to do it about way too much stuff.

Terrorism, religion, government, our society, people in general, my family specifically. Life, death, and all the crap that goes on in between the two; I really am impotent to choose one topic from the myriad elements ticking me off, to one degree or another. I'd very much like to, but my mind reels and pitches at the examination of every possible issue and happening I may be ready to go on about. I look at one, think "this is worthy of a serious taunting," take a glance at the next, and word the exact same point. This is not the mind set of a full blown Curmudgeon, a title I've held for years.

Maybe it's that I've been a bit depressed of late; or perhaps being fitfully unemployed (I need no better reason for a strong attack of the blues) and spending a lot of time concerned about that keeps the moralistic bile at bay. I really can't say, though these are definitely personal problems which fit into the topic at hand quite well. If there's something to be discontent enough over to lament its existence, these two will do nicely. So where is the boisterous whine? Why am I unable to moan here in electronic print about how unfair my burdens have become? What a sad, sad little bellyacher I turned out to be.

So in lieu of an adequate target, and in the interest of getting something online, consider this a rant about everything. I'm getting old much too fast these days. I don't have the time to pick and choose my battles carefully. Instead, I choose them all.

I dislike the weather. Any weather. I loath Java (the programming language not the beverage, though in regards to coffee I can go either way). I'd prefer to see fast food sent the way of the Volkswagen Beetle -- which itself should have been completely forgotten and its designs shredded back in 1974. Loafers -- the shoes and the habitually idle -- are a scourge to our society. Yeah, shoelaces suck, but they're better than none at all. Aerosol spray cheese is an excellent symbol for product marketing stupidity. So is string cheese. So is any non-traditional cheese shape put to use in selling cheese. I hate SUV's. I mean I really hate them. If you spend more than ninety-nine percent of your drive time on well-maintained roads, then buy a vehicle built for that purpose. It's proper driving etiquette. And stop cutting in line, at least when I'm in that line. And speaking of lines, don't spill your soda in the movie theater anymore. Know how many times I've spilled my soda while watching a film? None. I'm hardly spill-proof, I just know the best places not to be an idiot.

Finally but on a much larger bitch front, our consumption of fossil fuels, wanton destruction of the environment, ready finger on every nuclear arsenal, our infinite desire to destroy take out and annihilate, is proof we are nature's answer to the question "is there intelligent life in the universe?" Don't bother looking in the back for the answer; it doesn't count towards our final score. Besides, we're already receiving a failing grade. I wish it only led to doing the year over.

OK, I'm done. For now. You'd imagine a rant that tries to go off on everything would be a great deal longer. If there's one thing I have a beef about, it's my writing endurance. It'll have to get in line.

May 28, 2002
Nothing Redux

I've gone and done it: having covered the subject once before, and really not all that long ago, still I find it again necessary to write about nothing. I could have composed a comedic song parody, or challenged one of the many assumptions I have about frozen peas, but instead I return to previously trodden ground. I guess I can't help myself, nothing being one of my favorite sublime topics of rumination.

Some study the universe; in other words, the totality of existence. When they do, there's an outcome planned for their troubles, some new or additional piece of knowledge is hoped for from the act. I, however, prefer the benefit of examining its opposite. There is no real expectation on returns, because the intellectual acrobats involved in thinking about nothing are utterly unprepared to bear fruit for ones labors. Such is rarely repeated in other pursuits of the mind. Philosophers of Everything are expected to publish, or at the very least work for their supper. Philosophers of Nothing are left to their own devices and seldom expected to generate dividends, even when duly covered by a modest investment.

I'm a fan of zero (0), it being the de facto symbol for nothing. There is no number smaller than zero, making it the final stop on a countdown chain, even if it often is replaced by a false equivalent, such as "launch" or "fire" or "Happy New Year." There is the arithmetical notion of negative numbers, but this is a mere abstraction, a thinker's contrivance, a calculated wrangle. In nature there is no such thing as a negative amount of anything -- whereas you can have a total lack of the same. For zero, 0, the mathematical nul, the inherent simplicity is fairly evident. Yet zero is also of such complexity that it took a very, very long time before it could make a contributory impact upon the science of math. Or any science for that matter. Such is the personality of nothing.

Nothing is, in a very strange and amusingly ironic way, two sides of the same non-existent coin. It makes up the ground surrounding loss and gain. It stands in for the impossible, and the potential. It represents the initial prefix for any project yet to start, and the past tense of its ultimate completion. What came before the Big Bang and what we can expect beyond that final Universal day (whether it's a long drawn out heat death, or creation turned on it's head in the Big Crunch), nothing is the only concept we have that can begin to embody it. Nothing is not just a placeholder, but a dust jacket for infinity. Nothing is the book ends for absolutely everything.

Nothing is so many things. I might even put forth the idea that nothing is not a lack of everything, but is in fact everything. Or should I rephrase that to say that everything includes nothing, and so nothing is a part of everything? Or maybe I should just stop writing on this topic.

May 27, 2002
Jobbing for a Job

I am looking for a job. I don't say this to appeal for offers from the Blurried Musings readership; far from it. I'm just stating it to make it clear how deep into this topic I am. Then again, if you're hiring...

There's little about job hunting that actually performs like an armed pursuit by the job seeker. First, and naturally enough, there's rarely a firearm involved. That's certainly a good thing from an interviewer's point of view. Second, the person on a hunt is not the one in control. It's the potential employer that's involved in the power and fun of aiming up a sight. I'm of a mind to start off a campaign to rename the activity employee hunt. The only real strange thing about it all is that this kind of hunt involves an extremely willing game. The phrase "like shooting ducks in a barrel" comes easily to mind.

The demoralizing aspects of a job search are what intrigue me most. (Or do I mean "upset?") Especially when it comes down to getting ones foot far enough past the company door to reach the interview stage. This is where it can become less a job hunt and more a seriously bad impersonation of the dating process. If women really are concerned that men have no idea what it feels like to wait by the phone for a call that will never come, I guarantee that's not the case. We do however have trouble making a connection between these two experiences, and then learning from them. But I digress.

Having been on both sides of the work begging desk, I can often read what's going on in an interviewer's mind. This is not as good a thing as it may sound; certainly not when an interview happens to be far to the south of "going well". And it makes the business of being interviewed a more excrutiating chore, as you end up spending valuable thinking trying to deduce why they're directing their questions in a certain direction. It's bad enough traveling through the maze of an interview without the additional burden of guessing what the architect was thinking when laying down the floor plan. But I'll admit there is some slight advantage to having a clue to how a questioner's internal gears are working -- at least for those who are substantively there with you. It's always a great confidence booster when you realize someone has turned on the auto-pilot to take a virtual hiking trip in their head. When that happens, better to flip over the sign for the next in line, and be done with it.

If the act of talking your way in wasn't enough of an anxiety-inducer, job seeking offers up other various land mines you have to learn how to circumvent. It's quite normal nowadays to require several versions of your resume, each seeking, based on the position or company you're applying for, to show a different light on your short list of strengths while sheltering your numerous weaknesses. I've had to pass along more than one translation of my work history to different departments within the same company. It ends up a bit parodic when you're placing sticky notes on your resume that specify who needs to see which resume (and presumedly, who shouldn't).

I won't even bother with the humiliation of collecting unemployment benefits, or the difficulty of marching through the quagmire of the jacked-in, online component to modern day employment procurement. At least, not this time around. Not because it's a lot to take in, but because my depression tank is now full.

May 26, 2002
Things God is Not Known to Have Said

  • Think I have it easy? You try doing My job for a day.

  • What time is it?

  • Let's see some more of that begatting.

  • You're all nothing but monkeys with pockets.

  • Damn Noah! I told him to leave wombats off his list.

  • I need another day off.

  • Got Milk?

  • I'm in the mood for a new religion.

  • What in Hell is wrong with you people?

  • Next time it's just one: Thou shalt not piss Me off.

  • Because I'm God, that's why.

  • I'm the King of the World!


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