An important note for Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines

I've just learned that apparently your fellows think that having PTSD or some other mental problem is something to be ashamed of. Something you should just "suck up and deal with."

PTSD, or any other emotional problem, isn't something you should be ashamed of. It's a real problem, and you should get help.

There's no shame in asking for help. You do it in combat, right? Except there you call the help "reinforcements".

So to all you warfighters who think your troops are faking it or pussies I can only say one thing: You're wrong. Those asshole terrorist insurgent bastards have found a way to hurt these troops, and the troops need some reinforcements. The headshrinkers are those reinforcements.

Get your reinforcements guys. If you crack up, those assholes who were shooting at you win. Don't give them the satisfaction.

Nook Color Notes

My experiences with the Nook Color.

Writing Tip: Please stop using "impacted" incorrectly

To all you writers and editors out there, here's my brief plea for you to stop using the word "impacted" incorrectly in your missives. I know you think it makes you sound smart, but in reality it makes you sound foolish. And there's a special meaning to the word for those in health care, which provides an even more impressive reason to stop using "impacted" when you mean "affected."

Why does this matter? According to Merriam-Webster, the root word of impacted is "impact", a verb which means either "to strike forcefully; also : to cause to strike forcefully" or "to impinge or make contact especially forcefully". So the word basically means "to hit".

Here's an example of the incorrect use of impact from a discussion of computer security breaches:

"Compuware does not filter its results by magnitude; a breach that affected two million people is treated equally to one that impacted just two."

This sentence means that the data security breach is actually physically hitting the people who were affected. This isn't what the author really means. They're trying to say that people's lives are affected by these data breaches.

Now for the non-grammar nitpicking reason not to use the word "impacted" when you mean "affected":

In the medical community, "impacted" is the term used to describe severe constipation. So every time you use the word "impacted" instead of affected, you're saying the person, company, organization, or whatever is full of... well... crap. Would you take that sentence seriously? I mean how does that example sound if we substitute constipation?

"Compuware does not filter its results by magnitude; a breach that affected two million people is treated equally to one that caused the severe constipation of just two."

Do you hear how stupid this sounds? Do you see why I want you to stop using the word impacted when you mean affected? You're smart but this incorrect use of a verb doesn't show it.

It just makes me (and everyone in the medical community) think of the potty.

Dear Google

Given that your Android operating system has support for GPS and accelerometers and stuff, maybe you should modify the OS to prevent the phone from working if it's traveling at more than say five miles per hour. Then it wouldn't work when someone's driving and people would pay attention on the roads.

Finally! I can get the channels I want to see!

If this consortium has their way, you and I could actually see the channels we want to see rather than paying for crap we don't care about!

And how sad is it that the American Government votes in favor of big companies, not realizing that nearly every time they do so it's a vote against the American people?

Microsoft Word Vs. HTML

I wrote this comparison of Microsoft Word and HTML in 2005 when I was working as a tech writer. I think it still holds up even after a few years.

Updated Work History page

Just to let you know, my Work History page has been updated to include my current employment.

Continuity of Advice

Just read a little thing over at about getting your short story published and the editor being interviewed says:

Be persistent. It's not enough to write, you have to get the stories out and in front of editors. Research markets and find the places that list new ones. Don't take rejections personally, but get the story right back out there.

It seems most, if not all, of the advice about getting something published, breaking into film, making your dreams come true, etc. boils down to perseverance. Just keep plugging away until you achieve your goal.

Take this NSA

XKCD Comic reads: Every now and then I announce (I know you're listening) to empty rooms. If I'm wrong, no one knows. And if I'm right, maybe I just freaked the hell out of some secret organization.


I just saw an article at where an Islamic cleric says women cause earthquakes (in addition to the other problems they cause), but I don't want to talk about that (except to say that I'd like to see the pair of mammaries that could cause tectonic shifts).

No, what really caught my eye was this part (emphasis mine):

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes."

This statement strikes me as blaming a rape victim for being raped. If a man cannot control his attraction and sexual urges when he sees a woman who doesn't dress "modestly"1, I would think that is a failure on the man's part, not the woman's. Maybe God has placed the immodest2 woman on Earth to test the young man's self-discipline. The fact that he failed is not her fault, but his.

Come to think of it, didn't his religion gave the world the harem? Are women so dangerous that they need to be locked away from sight? How difficult is it for Islamic men to control themselves? Or are Islamic women so incredibly, mind-bogglingly beautiful that men simply lose all control over themselves and revert to their basest animal nature? (If that's the case I'd like to meet a few.)

  1. Note 1: Definitions of modesty vary by culture.
  2. Note 2: Again, definitions of modesty vary by culture.

Top this Chuck Norris!

Good thing the Cold War never got hot. The USSR may have made shitty tanks, planes, and spaceships, but their troops were pretty damn tough. This dude assigned to an Antarctic expedition performed an emergency appendectomy...on himself.

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report -- Rogozov and Bermel 339: b4965 -- BMJ

Two websites I'd like to see

How about a website that tracks politician's statements vs. their actions? Or one that shows how a person's interests change over time?

Atomic Salt

You can read all about it!

And now for something completely different.

Well, I've been thinking that perhaps I could improve the site. After all I have the sIFR oddity to fix, and now that I've just upgraded to Firefox 3.5.1, my blockquote's cite attributes are way off. Plus I need to re-center a lot of images.

I think the best thing to do here is re-write my CSS code. I'm not using a reset stylesheet, and that's one thing that will make life a lot easier. Plus I can update the template to use IE-specific code for IE 8, which would be a huge advantage. This will require a lot more thought.

Oh goody! I just discovered that IE 8 doesn't show the train image correctly, and the navigation menu (based on a Suckerfish) doesn't seem to work right either. Two more things to fix.

I should really install the Selenium Firefox extension and set up a series of tests to make sure this site is running the same in IE and FF. (Not to mention Opera, Chrome, and Safari.) And setting up a Virtual PC 2007 machine to run Ubuntu to test on Linux would be good too. Fortunately I already have MultiIE installed, so that's taken care of.

I also need to find out why my Unicode characters aren't appearing correctly in FFox 3.5. They worked great in FFox 3. It's really irritating to see a lot of boxes with numbers in them rather than the glyphs I want to see. Maybe I need to do something with @font-face to get them working correctly.

Firefox & sIFR Weirdness

So I'm using sIFR to get the PlazaDReg font on my headings (H1, H2, etc.), and after upgrading to Firefox 3 I don't see that font anymore. Interestingly, Internet Explorer 7 still shows the correct font. At this point I suspect that there's some problem with the JavaScript function I wrote to call sIFR, but since there's a newer version available I should probably just try that.

August 12, 2009: Well, that was one of the easiest fixes I've ever done. I just had to update my sIFR script to version 2.0.7 and created a new PlazaDReg Flash file. And then change the case of the PlazaDReg file in my scripts file so the font would load.

Improving Usability of e-ink Display Systems

The e-ink displays in personal electronic libraries like the Amazon Kindle or Sony PRS-505 are pretty cool. They allow for long battery life and lots of information in a high-contrast environment just like traditional paper. But there are some flaws, and I think I've got a solution for at least one of the problems.

The best description of the shortcomings I've seen was in a review of Sony's PRS-505, where the reviewer said:

Three: books don't flash when you turn pages; Readers do. I showed the reader to my wife, a professor of great learning and refinement. Her comments: "Wow" regarding the display, followed by "Does it always flash like that when you turn a page?" The sad answer is that yes, it does in fact do this every single time you turn a page.

Four: the Delay. After noticing the Flash, you'll quickly pick up on the Delay. It takes about two seconds to turn an e-book page. After pressing the page turn button, nothing happens for a second or so, then the screen flashes black, and then the next page appears. You get used to it, but it can prove mildly annoying, especially when scrolling through menu options. That's right: each click of the directional arrow requires two seconds before control returns (though it can often do this by flashing only a small portion of the screen).

A review of the first generation Amazon Kindle at the same site (by a different author) said:

The key feature of the Kindle is its E Ink screen. It appears to use the exact same screen used by Sony's Reader, and pretty much everything Nate Anderson said about that device applies here.

And, as Nate noted, those screen transitions are slow, as the whole screen often needs to be redrawn at once. That also means that much of we're used to in terms of device interfaces—scrolling and rapid transitions—aren't options on the Kindle.

So one of the bigger problems facing e-ink display technology is the perceived lack of responsiveness when a user "flips pages." I don't know what you'd do about the flashing display problem, but the irritation caused by the delay could probably be reduced by including intelligent audio feedback. In this case, I'd suggest the makers of these electronic books use the sound of a page turning to indicate that something is happening. If the user hears the "page turning" they know something is happening, and they're more likely to be patient. After all everyone has had the experience of having trouble turning the pages of a book, magazine, or newspaper, and that's usually when we really notice the noise made by the pages flopping out of control. Providing an auditory cue that the Kindle or Reader lost control of the page would unconciously put the user in a sympathetic mindset, thereby making them less likely to get annoyed by the delay between page turns.

Solution to the "Half My SD Card Disappeared" Problem

Bought a 2GB SD Card for my laptop, plugged it in and it saw a 1.88GB FAT drive. Reformatted it using the Toshiba provided software, and the storage capacity dropped to 1GB! Since I wanted to use this SD card as a backup device instead of a digital camera card, this was a real problem.

Nothing I tried would get the original 1.88 GB size back. Windows Disk Manager couldn't see the card at all, and the included formatting tools didn't work either. Finally after I did a lot of web searching, I found a tool called the SD Formatter from the SD Association that did the trick. Just download it, install it, and follow the onscreen directions. The software wasn't the prettiest thing, but it worked. I now have my full 1.88GB of storage back.

You know what?

What I really need to do is diversify my income. That way when I'm between contracts I still have some cash coming in every week. I'll have to think about this some more.

I think a pretty good solution would:

Like I said, I'm going to have to think about this one some more. I've got some ideas, but I don't know how well they'll work out for me.

Confound you Ewokaphobes!

My good friend Jeff (who made a lot of good suggestions about my big ideas for the Navy) sent me this link to the Star Wars Ewok Gospel. Funniest thing I've seen in a while. It's so funny I'm putting it here. Oh, and my brother Mike coined the term "ewokaphobes" to describe the Ewok Haters decried in this video.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when I first saw it. (Of course it probably helps that I'm a huge fan of Star Wars, just like my Mom the Sunday School teacher really gets a kick out of the LOLCat Bible Translation project. The more familiar you are with the source, the funnier it is.)

LYRICS: It's been a quarter of a century now, people, since the Rebels won the day They destroyed that evil empire and the galaxy was saved Han Solo, Luke, Leia, Lando -- they're the heroes we all recall But let's not forget about their big-hearted friends who are only one meter tall I'm talking about the Ewoks They were more than just cute, cuddly bears Let's give some credit to the Ewoks Without their help, the Alliance didn't have a prayer. I was surfin' the Star Wars message boards and Lord, I was shocked to read All the haters puttin' down the Ewoks -- they say they ruined the first trilogy Well, they may have been added for the children and they may have been comic relief And it may not make sense that they could beat Stormtroopers with such primitive weaponry But why you hatin' on the Ewoks? Tell me what did they ever do to you? Where's the love for the Ewoks? Let's give it up 'cause it's long overdue (clap your hands now) EWOKS -- they're tiny warriors EWOKS -- they fought so bravely EWOKS -- livin' like the Amish EWOKS, EWOKS (take it Billy Dee...) After Princess Leia crashed her Speederbike, who had our sister's back? (the Ewoks!) And who was it that led the Rebels to the bunker backdoor for their sneak attack? (the Ewoks!) And at the end of Act 2 when all was lookin' bad, who set those captured Rebels free (the Ewoks!) Can somebody remind me who throws the hottest treetop parties in the galaxy? You know he's talking about the Ewoks They've still got it goin' on after twenty-five years Ewoks! Sing it loud so all those haters can hear EWOKS -- they're inspirational EWOKS -- they sold so many toys EWOKS -- a yub-nub now EWOKS, EWOKS Download the MP3 here: Special Thanks To: Billy Dee Williams, Leticia Ugwueke & The Gospel Singers, United Methodist Church

New interface I'd like to see

I was just thinking that it would be really cool to have an interface on my PC that showed events and activities on a timeline like this one from MIT's SIMILE project. That team is already using it in their Seek faceted browsing extension for Thunderbird, so it's not like there's no precedent for this.

And for Linux users, it could provide a nice interface for the desktop search tools like Tracker or Beagle.

Updated laptop...

Just a quick note to let you all know I've updated my ideal laptop page.

Fun with trains...

Do you see the little train image in the header of the page? Well, I've got a script in place that moves it across the page depending on the time of day. The problem I'm trying to solve now is getting it to appear behind the building images. I can get it to do so fairly well on Firefox, but when I do, the "Main Content" link becomes unusable. I can't get it to work in IE7 at all. So I'll just have to figure out some solution.

May 9th, 2008 OK. Got the train image fixed. Just added it to the header SSI as an IMG tag rather than trying to put it on the Main Content skip link like I had planned yesterday. It even works the way I want it to in Firefox right out of the gate. Of course I still need to find out why IE7 isn't honoring the z-index I have specified, but that will have to wait for a bit.

Later on May 9th, 2008 Found out that my train image was appearing in odd places in IE7. Floating above the bridge or falling below it. Adjusting the margin-top CSS call didn't work, because when the window was resized the margin was set incorrectly. So I used something I haven't used in a while: CSS positioning. Using an absolute position seems to have solved the problem.

Ugh. -- March 10, 2008

Being sick sucks. It's strange, but for the first time in more than a decade I actually ran a fever. I wasn't all that clear on how to deal with it. See in my family the men usually don't get sick, we tend to suffer from mechanical problems: Heart attacks, kidney stones, that sort of thing. So being laid out by a bug is unusual. But on the upside, I was able to sleep through most of the snow that arrived. And when I was feeling better I went outside to drive some of the snow away. That's right everyone, my extreme temperature broke the snowfall at least a day earlier than it would've broken otherwise.

You're welcome.

Discovery Channel's new "Smash Lab" program

Smash Lab sucks and should be cancelled


Please pardon the dust, but I'm working on changes to the site. Normally I would keep this under wraps, but somehow taking care of this in the public eye is more effective. I suppose it's because of the pressure I feel to get the job done so I don't disappoint the audience.

My Toshiba TabletPC had a problem with power. Here's how I fixed it.

More information about me can be found either on my resume or the detailed work history page.

Why are your page titles so weird?

Why are the page titles set up backwards?

The answer is simple: Search engines. Usually when you see a page title in Google's search results, it puts the title of the website first. This is useless. It doesn't tell you anything useful. So by reversing the page title, it's actually easier to see what the page is about. (I hope!)

What's the big idea?

Have you ever had an idea that you just couldn't get out of your head? One of those things where you think to yourself "Why hasn't anyone else thought about this?" Sure you have. Everyone has.

I have had these ideas myself, and I'm tired of them taking up space in my brain. For that reason, I've created a section of this site called Big Ideas. You can get to it from the navigation bar.

Here are some examples of what you'll find:

A few random questions

Speaking of big ideas, I wonder when medical equipment manufacturers will realize that they can use the USB interface to have an EKG or EEG that plugs into a port on a laptop or handheld computer? I mean then all they have to do is write a device driver to shift the heavy processing needs from the medical equipment to the laptop's CPU.

It really stinks that Seamonkey's mail client doesn't allow message filters to examine the content of an email message. That would be so convienient.

Is Open Source Software a modern example of a gift giving/potlatch culture?