Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What are the chances?

This afternoon in a comment I said, "Buckley's and no chance," and only later realised that for anybody not from Australia or New Zealand, such a statement might be incomprehensible. More usually expressed as "Buckley's chance and none" or shortened to just "Buckley's" alone, it's a way to say that something or someone has no chance whatsoever.

This reminded me of something which once happened to my sister Mavis (name changed to protect the litigious). One night years ago she was standing in a pub or a club - some sort of boozy establishment - chatting to a man who worked in his parents' restaurant along the street from where she was working. She basically only knew this man well enough to say hello to, and really only knew that much because she saw his parents in the street every day, going to and from work, and that distant familiarity transferred over to their son.

So there they both were, Mavis and the bloke, standing in said boozy establishment, loud music in the background, smoke dulling the atmosphere, people trying to make themselves heard in a rowdy Friday night crowd... I've got no idea, actually, I can't remember the details. But the important fact was this: he was talking to her loudly and she had to yell in reply, and when he asked her something (I know not what) she was halfway through bellowing "You've got BUCKLEY'S chance!" when she suddenly remembered his family's name.

No, really. True story. It was Buckley.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Don't be an idiot

Next time you're spraying herbicide around the base of your clothesline (because your mower is actually a small tractor with an overhead rollbar too tall to fit under the line) (and because you're too unmotivated to either weed the area by hand or plant something non-grass/weedy there instead), then for heaven's sake, reader! Don't spray the area, look at it, and then decide to spray it again (you know, like everything: just to be sure), because the second time around, you'll walk right through the sprayed area and get the stuff all over your boots, won't you? Yes, you will. And then when you walk away, the herbicide will go with you on the base of your boots, won't it? Yes, it will. And a week later - say, yesterday - the grass will look something like this:

Photo by Deirdre: green lawn showing a line of footprint-shaped dead grass where herbicide has been spread by the base of my boots

But you'd never do that, would you? You're not that silly.

Photo brought to you by someone standing at the top of a ladder. (The things I do for you, reader...)

Sunday, November 26, 2006


I've been fiddling about with Blogger templates again, trying to get to grips with the world of Beta. Have you any idea how much difference there is in appearance between browsers?? Shocking, it is. It's been driving me mad.

Font size is a particular problem, so I've taken out the "font-size" tag or attribute or whatever it's called (not just in the Beta blog but here too), after reading somewhere that this will force each browser to rely on its own default size.

If it works, great. If it doesn't and anything looks more clunky than usual, please say. I'll be moving on out to Beta soon anyway - this blog will stay here and I'll start Plodding v.2 - but until then... Any problems, please do say.

By the way, the Beta blogs have comment feeds unless the author decides not to enable this. There's supposed to be a link down the bottom of the page (with the link for post feeds: Subscribe to: Posts (Atom)) but I'm yet to see one for comments, and even though the links for posts usually do appear, often they don't actually work.

Never fear, though. The link for posts is:


and for comments:


I just did a quick test in my email-based reader and of course, no, it doesn't work. But I suspect the thing only reads RSS links, and these are Atom. If you're having trouble, use Google Reader. It's magnificent.

:) Well, it's good. Close enough.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Class consciousness

D-List Blogger

Yep, in the stats race this blog is lagging well behind the field. In fact, more specifically, it has "low authority", which is probably even more impressive than racing really damn slowly.

I'm so proud... :)

You can calculate your own blog's "bloglebrity status" with a Technorati-powered widget at Kineda (found via Pavlov's Cat). Are you A-list, B-list, C-list, or languishing with the leftovers?

Just between you and me: we D-listers are the only real groovers. We're cool, we're exclusive, we're uber-cliquey. Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Shadow flower

Photo by Deirdre: shadows falling across a round red reflector thing, looking like a flower
Something I found yesterday: the shadow from a weed falling across a red reflector thingie which had previously fallen off a post and onto the ground (no, I hadn't moved it there).


The bigger picture, another day, another time:

Photo by Deirdre: nothing of much interest, really - the scene on the ground near a fence

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I don't often read newspaper sports pages, but Australia's Hero (Ian Thorpe) announced his retirement from swimming, so... Good on him, by the way, choosing life instead of obligation. Or something. It's his own business, of course, but that doesn't stop the rest of us from passing judgement on it.

Yeah, we're horrible.

Anyway. The point. I think the following headline from aforementioned sports pages is so cute'n'clever, it deserves an award. From the tennis files, and in regard to "the former prodigy and Wimbledon finalist", Andrea Jaeger, who has decided to become a nun:

Short skirts are out and it's Miss Jaeger to serve


PS. While I'm giving out non-existent awards to people who will never even realise, Sunday's movie on Prime/the Seven Network, Touching the Void, had no ads running over the closing credits!! So impressed! So grateful!! I don't know whether they do this all the time now or not, but certainly hope so. Bravo again!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

This one a long time have I watched

I was just running through some old bookmarks and re-discovered this sweet gem:

Photographer unknown: a Yoda figurine stands in front of W.B. Yeats's gravestone(click image for a larger version)

Photo from a series called Yoda in Ireland which was posted at Tachyon Research, but is no more. There's no information on the front page there now, apart from "no albums, no images", so I don't know who the photographer was, or how he/she would feel about me having (a) pinched the photo, (b) lightened it, and (c) posted it. If anybody objects, please say and I'll take the thing down ASAP. It's all a bit rude, I know, but... it's so damn cute! That's reason enough, surely?

Continuing in this vein of not-being-sure-whether-I-should-post-this, you can still find links to the other photos in the series here: Index of /albums/Yoda-in-Ireland. I don't know why they're still there, but I don't know why my bookmark still worked either, so there we go. Ignorance aplenty.

Enjoy I hope you do.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This too shall pass

Gam zeh ya'avor in Hebrew.

Some Kind Person has compiled a whole blog about the origin of this phrase in Hebrew folklore and variations in the tale from around the world: GZY.

Blogging is a fine, fine thing.

And so is the title of the following book - but wait! An extract first:
[...] everything - the good and bad, pleasure and pain, approval and disapproval, achievements and mistakes, fame and shame - all come and go. Everything has a beginning and an ending and that's the way it's supposed to be.

Every experience you have ever had is over. Every thought you've ever had, started and finished. Every emotion and mood you've experienced has been replaced by another.

- Richard Carlson, Don't sweat the small stuff... and it's all small stuff (New York: Hyperion, 1997), ISBN: 073380084x, p. 223.

Here is the end of this blog post. So, see? It's true. This too shall, etc.

Cartoon treasure

Cartoon by Robert Weber: cavemen are trying to push a giant boulder, but it's not moving; one man stands back from the group and says: Wait a minute. This is getting us nowhere. Caption: The Dawn of Reason.
(click image for a larger version)

Cartoon by Robert Weber, published in The New Yorker, but I don't know when... Definitely before 1996; probably before 1988; but that's still not much help and I'm sorry.

I've had a copy of this for years now, so long that the paper is now getting scruffy and yellow. It's a masterpiece of a cartoon, I think, and should be online and I couldn't find one by googling, so here it is.**

I'm really sorry not to be able to specify the date of publication. Robert Weber has a number of cartoons in the CartoonBank - in fact, 53 pages of them at current count - but according to search results, this cartoon is not one of those thusly immortalised and that's a real pity, I say. Look at the thing: Big ideas! Simple execution! Perfect!

** Apologies to the copyright holder(s), not only for violation of whatever, but for not caring enough to find out what "whatever" is or means. If what it means is that most people would be prevented from ever seeing this cartoon, then it means shit, baby, and we should invent a different way to protect author/publisher income.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday mumbles

Ever wondered what a blog post would look like if the blogger was determined to post something, anything, and yet couldn't find a damn thing to say?

Yep. Exhibit A.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Juan Mann, many hugs

Need a hug? (Doesn't everybody?) Here's a video which might help, at least in a virtual way:

Free Hugs Campaign. Inspiring Story! (music by sick puppies)
YouTube video, nearly 8.5 Mb

It shows Juan Mann (pronounced "one man"; a pseudonym, yes) and his supporters in the streets of Sydney, giving people hugs. Free hugs. For anybody who wants one. No strings, no expectations, no obligations - free. Now, wouldn't that be nice?

Actually, no. I'd be too self-conscious to hug a stranger, but that's a personal failing, and the idea is remarkable and worthy, so God bless them for doing it. The video is so heartwarming it makes me happy just watching it, which is why I recommend saving it to your computer so you can watch it too. I think of it as a type of vitamin whenever my faith in humanity needs a boost. Love in action, and it's lovely.

You might already be aware of this video anyway. It was uploaded to YouTube and earned instant stardom: a quarter of a million views in two days. The Free Hugs Campaign has gone global, leading to the launch of a Free Help Campaign, and so on.

But what interests me most is the way the whole thing started. As he says on his MySpace page and in a WHO interview, Mr Mann came back from London and found himself alone and lonely in Australia. One night at a party a random stranger hugged him, and it made him feel so great that he decided to share the love around and start offering hugs to others. One of those others was Shimon Moore, member of the band, Sick Puppies, who was at the time working a sandwich board in Pitt Street Mall, Sydney (scene of Juan's weekly hugging activity). The two became friends and eventually Shimon - wanting to make a documentary about something - shot the footage of Juan's hugging campaign. But he didn't get around to actually putting the video together until one night when he and the band were in LA. From his WHO interview:
It was made because I had hours of this footage and Juan called me up because his grandmother had died and he’s now caring for his blind grandfather as we speak. His head was just spinning around and I was out in LA, busy and I wanted to do something for him. So I turned the footage into a short film for him, which took me till the next morning but I just did it in one night. I sent it to him on a disc as a present and I wrote down 'This is who you are'.
Now if that doesn't bring tears to your eyes, smack yourself in the head, reader. And watch the video, do. It's lovely. Thanks to my own friend, Em, for sharing the link in the first place - hug to you, sir. And non-Em reader, a hug to you too. Come on. Be nice. "Clasp Me"**


** The sign on one of the Free Hugs Campaign banners shown in A Thankyou Message from Juan Mann (YouTube, 3.8 Mb)

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Saving videos

In case you don't know and would like to, you can save online videos (eg. the Banana Splits one I mentioned yesterday) if you download and install VideoDownloader, which is available as a Mozilla Firefox Add-on. I've only used this twice now but it worked both times, so there we have it: a 100% success rate!**

In my experience (which might be freakish, I don't know) the video has to fully load in the browser first; you do have to view it online at least once, which can be a slow process if you're on a dial-up. But after that, save it to your computer. From then on, there'll be no wait for loading and no further cost to your download limit either, if you've got one. Watch at will, whenever. Fantastic.

The files are saved in .flv format, and one player which reads them is the VLC, which works even with older operating systems. I'm using Windows 98 and had to download the Microsoft Layer for Unicode (huh? see the note for Windows 95/98/Me users at VLC media player for Windows) but apart from that, all is well.

** The comments on that page are indicating problems at the moment and one of the links doesn't work, but here is the site approached from a different direction:


Or here's an alternative (which I haven't tried):

Ook? Video Ook!

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Banana Splits

Memory is so weird. A short while ago I was just minding my own business, not thinking of anything in particular, when suddenly my brain started singing the theme song from The Banana Splits, a children's television show which was broadcast here in (I'm guessing) the late 1960s/early 1970s. This sudden musical visitation was surprising enough, but even more surprising (or let's call it alarming) was the fact that the main lyrics go "Tra la laaa, laa-la la laaa / Tra la laaa, laa-la la laaa", and I managed to get them wrong.

Forgot the "Tra"s.


It's too strange. I didn't even like the show very much. Why on earth would the theme tune suddenly jump to mind about 30 years later?? ... No, can't think. Too busy singing.

Nostalgia makes you stupid. Well, specifically, it makes me stupid, and I hope I'm not alone in the universe on this. Maybe it's a process of ageing or something. Now that I'm 150, being able to say "I remember that!" (about anything, mind you - anything) is really thrilling. That's kind of pathetic and embarrassing, isn't it? Is it? ... Can't think. Too busy singing.

Look at this:

Photo from Nostalgia Central, showing (left to right) Fleegle, Drooper, Snorky, and Bingo.

The sight of that photo caused me to scream out loud and clap my hands. Actually, really-truly screaming and clapping. Yes I Am An Imbecile.

There's just no dignity in ageing. I see that now. Nostalgia-induced imbecility. Maybe it's waiting for us all. How depressing.

So thank God I can sing and scream and clap my hands...

If you want to play too, there are music files of The Tra-La-La Song available for download here (both 167kb):

Mike's Classic Cartoon Themes (for MP3)
Toon Tracker (for RealAudio)

And the really scream-worthy item: a YouTube video showing the Banana Splits in action at the start or end of their TV show.

Outstanding! Fine art, I tell you. Tra la laa, etc.

Kobayashi Issa

I just took a wander through some of the haiku written by Kobayashi Issa when he was aged 40 to 50 (Essential Issa: 500 haiku). Can't decide which one I like best, so I'm going to show you all candidates. No doubt this will reduce the impact of each one, but I really can't choose, so... you know... suffer.
Read slowly or something. Pause occasionally. Have a cup of tea between each one.

did you meet
a thousand years ago?
Mr. and Mrs. Crane

for my soul too
help arrives...
spring blossoms

misty day--
no doubt Heaven's saints
bored stiff

moon! blossoms!
forty-nine years walking around
a waste

quite remarkable
being born human...
autumn dusk

his detested wife's
all have bloomed

Happy Monday to you, wherever you are, whichever day it is. Wait long enough and it'll be Monday again; live long enough and at least one of them will be happy.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pondering the deep and meaningfuls

Photo by Deirdre: white roses against a blue sky
Question: Is it possible to stop and smell the roses without thinking of "stop and smell the roses"**?

Answer: No.

**I tried to be clever and find the origin of this phrase, but can't. According to The Phrase Finder, its modern use probably follows the release of Ringo Starr's album of the same name in 1981, featuring a song of seriously weird lyrics written by Harry Nilsson and Richard Starkey, Stop and take the time to smell the roses:
Stop and take the time to stop that smoking,
Stop, before the light turns green.
You won't be blue.
Stop, in the name of the law!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Your new version of Blogger is ready!

Uh-oh... A new notice on the Blogger dashboard when I signed in:
Your new version of Blogger is ready!

The new version of Blogger now has all the original features you're used to, plus new post labels, drag-and-drop template editing, and privacy controls. And, it's a lot more reliable.

After you switch you'll need to sign in with your Google Account, but your blogs will stay the same. Their content and layout will not change.

Switch to the new version.
I can't decide whether to switch or not, because despite what this notice says ("layout will not change") I think what they actually mean is that current layout won't change. That doesn't mean the previous layouts will stay too. Since losing one or two at the start, I've been careful to preserve the rest (by only publishing the index - the most recent posts), and now I don't want to lose them. They're possibly clunky and embarrassing, but they're my clunky and embarrassing, and I want to go back and visit them sometimes.

One of these days I'll probably just start a new Plodding in Beta and leave this one here as is, preserved for all eternity... (How long do you reckon modern eternity will last, then?)

Anyway, that's all by the bye. I signed in to say that I'm turning commenting on again. There are a number of reasons for doing this (I've been doing the yes/no dither for ages) but now I can't be bothered explaining. Suffice it to say: I had to move a motherless calf from a paddock on its own to a paddock where it would be reunited with the herd, and in some ways it was like looking at myself (only hairier). The calf didn't want to move; I don't want to turn comments back on. Both of us are being stupid.

So the point is: if you'd like to comment now, you can, and please do.

Remembrance Day, Australia, 2006

After the Wilderness
by Andrew Hudgins

MAY 3, 1863

When Clifford wasn't back to camp by nine,
I went to look among the fields of dead
before we lost him to a common grave.
But I kept tripping over living men
and had to stop and carry them to help
or carry them until they died,
which happened more than once upon my back.
And I got angry with those men because
they kept me from my search and I was out
still stumbling through the churned-up earth at dawn,
stopping to stare into each corpse's face,
and all the while I was writing in my head
the letter I would have to send our father,
saying Clifford was lost and I had lost him.

I found him bent above a dying squirrel
while trying to revive the little thing.
A battlefield is full of trash like that —
dead birds and squirrels, bits of uniform.
Its belly racked for air. It couldn't live.
Cliff knew it couldn't live without a jaw.
When in relief I called his name, he stared,
jumped back, and hissed at me like a startled cat.
I edged up slowly, murmuring "Clifford, Cliff,"
as you might talk to calm a skittery mare,
and then I helped him kill and bury all
the wounded squirrels he'd gathered from the field.
It seemed a game we might have played as boys.
We didn't bury them all at once, with lime,
the way they do on burial detail,
but scooped a dozen, tiny, separate graves.
When we were done he fell across the graves
and sobbed as though they'd been his unborn sons.
His chest was large — it covered most of them.
I wiped his tears and stroked his matted hair,
and as I hugged him to my chest I saw
he'd wet his pants. We called it Yankee tea.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Treasure alert, again

If you're not reading Stranger's Fever, you're really missing out on something fine, you know. At the moment Bronze John is in a psychiatric hospital being treated for bipolar depression, and illuminating the experience for the rest of us in his typically good-humoured way. This, for example, about his psychiatrist:
[...] an extremely tall man, an ectomorphic patrician with sea-green eyes, hooked nose and closely cropped hair. He speaks in a precise, European accent, and for some reason the thought of disobeying him, or of concealing things from him, does not enter my head. He sits, long legs crossed above the knee while I explain things to him – [...]

He generally attacks at dawn, like a Masai, seeing his first patient at seven AM. I think this is why psychiatrists think mental illness is so widespread. Many people who present as suicidal, homicidal or floridly psychotic at seven AM would be perfectly reasonable two hours later with a cup of coffee and a decent breakfast inside them.

- from Serum misery level by Bronze John

John was planning to kill himself the other day, by the way. At least, I think so. That's the way I'm reading this post about his reasons for going to hospital. He didn't kill himself. He might have, had he not recognised that his thoughts were symptoms of illness and something to treat, not follow.

Ignorance about mental illness can kill people, and at the very least, it makes people stupid. Take me, for example: I hesitated about writing this post, wondering whether it was the wrong time to point you towards John's blog. He's in a psychiatric hospital, after all, being treated for a mental illness. Maybe he doesn't want this getting around.

Maybe he doesn't want this getting around.

I hope you're as shocked by that as I now am. "Maybe he doesn't want this getting around"?? Maybe he'd be ashamed, in other words. Not ashamed of being in a hospital being treated for an illness - I meant ashamed of being in a psychiatric hospital being treated for a mental illness.

Bloody hell. It's unforgivable. Mental illness is illness, for God's sake, not a character flaw. Where the hell does shame come into it?

And look, now I've made a big issue about it, when all I meant was that Stranger's Fever is fantastic, continuously so, and the latest post is, you know, fantastic too.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Here's a handy thing:

Poetry Tool

It gives you lots of ways to search for poems or poets - by category, occasion, name, birth date, etc. For example:

Poets > Geographically > Australia & Pacific:

"There are 0 Poets from Australia"

Woops. (What's happened to our neighbours in Pacific, though? There'd have to be a few poets there, surely? All that sun, sand and sea - that'd make you poetic, wouldn't it?)

I've just spent too long trying to find a poem I like, but:
(a) can't find any, and
(b) it's taking too long.

So here's a little something I wrote myself:
The Poem


Yeah, I know. Brilliant. Thank-you-very-much-and-good-night.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

No more mess

If you occasionally despair about the mess and clutter and utter PIGSTYNESS of your surroundings - and of course you don't, being an upright citizen of firm virtues who never puts a foot or an item out of place; but let's just pretend for a moment that you did, okay? - and I do, all right? It's about me, this is all about me - then... help is at hand.

I've discovered a new way of looking at mess. It's a term, not a way of cleaning things up, but it turns mess into something else, and that is A Good Thing. It happened because I'm working in a plastics factory this week, assembling jars, and yesterday I learned about the two methods of packing them into boxes.

The first method is to arrange the jars neatly in rows and columns, filling the box layer by layer. We only do this if the client specifies it, because it's silly and annoying and slow. This method of packing is called "stack filling".

The second method is to throw the jars into the box. Throw 'em in. That's the method. When you reach the total number of jars required (counted by electronic scales which calculate numbers by weight), you stop throwing them in and close the box. And this method of packing is called "tumble filling".

This is my fantastic discovery: if something looks messy because you've just chucked everything in and left the scene of the crime - whether it be a room or a cupboard, a car, a bag, a pocket, a bookcase, a garden, even your brain or your life - look again. That thing is not messy at all. No. Look again. It's not messy. It's tumble filled.

Gold, reader. Gold.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Web science

Exciting times, reader:
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Southampton in England today [02 Nov] announced they would jointly start a new branch of science: the science of the Web.

- A Science of the Web Begins, Scientific American
Is this like watching the birth of a star or something? :)
A new branch of science...

I don't even know what the WWW is exactly, but maybe nobody does for sure, and that's the point. The Web is higgledy-piggledy, and that's the interesting thing. How is it growing? What's going on? What do we want it to become? The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) will be taking an interdisciplinary approach "to produce the fundamental scientific advances necessary to inform the future design and use of the World Wide Web."

Founder of said World Wide Web ... (pausing for applause - "Founder of the World Wide Web"? Bloody hell, the man is such a hero) ... Tim Berners-Lee:
All kinds of disciplines are going to have to converge. People with all kinds of skills are going to have to work together to build a new web which is going to be even better.

- Web inventor fears for the future, BBC News
Amen to that, and bravo! Heroes all: Creating a Science of the Web (follow link).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Accessibility, usability, inability, etc.

I was going to write a fantastic post about website accessibility and usability, but it's taking too long and going nowhere and I'm rapidly losing the will to live, so let's just call it a day and say this:

If you have a website and use images, please write ALT text for them so that people with low or no vision (who use text readers) or those who have turned off pictures (to minimise download size on slow or limited internet connections) will know what you're trying to show them. To write ALT text, find the image links in your html (in Blogger you'll find this in the Edit Html window, strangely enough) and then between the quotation marks at alt="" type a description or explanation of the image. For example, if you can see the following photo and can hover a mouse over it...

Photo by Deirdre: happy white clouds in a springtime blue sky
... you won't need me to tell you that the ALT text says "happy white clouds in a springtime blue sky", and it says that because I'm just an old hippy, yes.

There are lots of things to consider when designing an accessible blog/website, most of which I've never considered, and am only considering now because I got lost while trying to find information on link colours and ended up wandering through the archive of articles written by Jakob Nielsen: Current Issues in Web Usability. (I love the way that happens! Serendipity, etc. God bless the internet! Everybody should get the chance to get lost like this.)

Anyway, Nielsen highlights include:

- Accessibility Is Not Enough (2005)
[...] it's an oversimplification to distinguish between users with and without disabilities as if that were a dichotomy. It's really a continuum of people with more or less severe disabilities. For example, most users over the age of 45 have somewhat reduced vision and need resizable fonts, even if they don't qualify under the official definition as "low-vision users." Senior citizens' usability issues are different from those of young users with disabilities, but again, there are many similarities between the two groups.

- Beyond Accessibility: Treating Users with Disabilities as People
Our report documents numerous design flaws that reduce the Web's usability for users with disabilities. In other words, changing the designs to comply with the usability guidelines would reduce the difference in usability for users with and without disabilities. We are not stuck at the current level -- things can get better.

- Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute (2006)
In most online communities, 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute, 9% of users contribute a little, and 1% of users account for almost all the action. [...] There are about 1.1 billion Internet users, yet only 55 million users (5%) have weblogs according to Technorati. Worse, there are only 1.6 million postings per day; because some people post multiple times per day, only 0.1% of users post daily.
Blogs have even worse participation inequality than is evident in the 90-9-1 rule that characterizes most online communities. With blogs, the rule is more like 95-5-0.1.

- Usability for Senior Citizens (2002)
Websites tend to be produced by young designers, who often assume that all users have perfect vision and motor control, and know everything about the Web.

- Usability of Websites for Teenagers (2005)
Teenagers are not in fact superior Web geniuses who can use anything a site throws at them. We measured a success rate of only 55 percent for the teenage users in this study, which is substantially lower than the 66 percent success rate we found for adult users in our latest broad test of a wide range of websites.

- Kids' Corner: Website Usability for Children (2002)
Young children often have hand-me-down computers, whether at home (where they often inherit older machines when their parents upgrade) or at school (where budget constraints mandate keeping machines in service for many years). Kids also typically have slow connections and outdated software. Given these limitations, websites must avoid technical problems or crashes related to access by low-end equipment. Faced with an error message, kids in our study told us that they see them a lot, and that the best thing to do is to ignore them or close the window and find something else to do.

- Lower-Literacy Users (2005)
Based on the available information about Internet participation at different education levels, I estimate that 30% of Web users have low literacy. Because most of the higher-literacy population is already online, however, future growth in Internet usage will mainly come from adding lower-literacy users. Thus, in five years or so, lower-literacy users will probably be 40% of Web users.

So. That's it. The end. A long post, badly put together. Thank you and good night, reader. In a manner of speaking. ("In a manner of speaking"? What the hell does that mean??) Etc.


Random wisdom

On the Blogger sign in page there's a little list of blogs recently updated. I've never taken any notice of it before, but just as I was signing in this time I caught sight of one of the blog titles - Quotes Archive - and being currently hypersensitive to all things quote-related (trying to get my own quotes archive going), I toddled over there to have a look, and found this:
A painfully-sweet fact:

Truth is,

everyone's just gonna hurt you..

You just have to decide,

who's worth the pain.

posted by Cheol-su, Quotes Archive
Short, sweet and wise. I hope you're not thinking it sounds needlessly pessimistic or something. Maybe it is. But I'm thinking it's more like an acceptance of inevitabilities. We humans can hurt each other without even trying to, and there'll be times when we are trying to. That's the way it goes. Life. Human nature. Whatever the hell it is, it just is. To know that and accept it and to make decisions on the basis of it seems like wisdom, I'm thinking.

But yeah, like I'm the expert on human relationships... And that's not what I signed in to write, anyway. Back later, reader, all being well.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

1,234 =

The number of photos now in my Flickr account. Look:

Thanks to Em for pointing out the (should have been obvious but wasn't) fact that PC keyboards have a PrintScreen button (northeast of the Backspace key). When you want a copy of what's on your screen, press PrintScreen, then paste (Ctrl + v) into MS Paint, save, and then do whatever you want with it. Screen capture. Yay. It works.

Anyway, the number 1,234? I just like it. Neat and tidy, you know. Nice.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Okay, well this post started off as a way to show you this:

Cartoon by Matthew Diffee, via The Cartoon Bank, originally published in The New Yorker, 24 April 2006.

I wish I'd found it in time to add to last week's Vespa moment, that's all.

Then I went traipsing further through the work of Mr Diffee and found this:

(Bet there's a whole TV series with dessert, though.) Cartoon by Matthew Diffee, via The Cartoon Bank, originally published in The New Yorker, 24 November 2003.

Looking for info about the cartoonist, I found this - NEW YORKER Cartoonist Matt Diffee - which I obviously had to add because you shouldn't have to go through life without reading this:
So we're cartoonists at THE NEW YORKER, which sounds like a really good thing and a really cool gig, and it is, but there is a lot of rejection involved.

This is last week's reject. It's a restaurant, a fancy restaurant, and there is this announcement: "Will the owner of the black Humvee in the parking lot please get over themselves."

Then that article led to this one - The Artisan Profile - and this:
Matt Diffee is intimately involved with rejection. He’s a cartoonist for The New Yorker Magazine and in his first year with them he drew 15 cartoons per week. This adds up to 780 cartoons in total, and out of these they only bought 4. [...] the next year things improved – they bought 8. [...] Now in his sixth year, his rate of rejection has lowered to a mere 90%, and he sells about a cartoon a week, which puts him in the magazine almost every issue.
All that rejection! Now he's successful, and still gets rejected 90% of the time. Bloody hell. Made of stern stuff, I think.

And that thought led back to a Thoreau post earlier in the week - Thoreau's Journal: 28-Oct-1853 - in which poor Mr Thoreau had to find a place to store all the unsold copies of his book, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:
706 copies out of an edition of 1000 which I bought of Munroe four years ago and have ever since been paying for, and have not quite paid for yet. [...] I have now a library of nearly nine hundred volumes, over seven hundred of which I wrote myself.
How could you look at them and go on? I don't know. I don't think I could. But he did.

Pity there isn't a more uplifting conclusion to this post, really. The end.

No, that's hopeless. Go back to the thing about the Humvee. That was funny. And have a good Friday, please.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Starry skies above

Cartoon by Michael Leunig: The world is domed
Michael Leunig, cartoon for June, 2005 Calendar (printed supplement), Sydney Morning Herald.

The things I do for you, reader... It took about ten attempts and nearly an hour to get this image uploaded.

Applause and gratitude, please, or throw money.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Swallows 2

Remember the swallows who were nesting under the verandah roof in August? I'm happy to announce the babies have finally appeared and are flying around on their own now. Or some of them are. These two are still in the nest:

Photo by Deirdre: baby swallows in nestClick for a larger view. And if you can't quite make them out - look for big black eyes and white face stripes, which is practically all you can see of them: there's corrugated iron above, a nest below, and those big feathers (on the left-hand side of the photo) don't look like anybody in their family, so are probably imports.


Look out... More baby snaps...

A nest just a few metres away from the first one:

Yes, there are six (count 'em: six!) babies. The nest is big enough to accommodate them all because it's a freakish variation on the usual design: I messed with it myself. Years ago the original nest fell down and the resident babies fell with it. I tacked up a temporary house for them - a pocket of shadecloth wired onto an old bit of board - and put the one surviving baby back into it. He/she didn't go on surviving, unfortunately, but the temporary nest stayed where it was and became permanent, the birds returning in later years to add their own nesting materials to the outside of it (at the bottom of the photo you can see a bit of the green shadecloth poking out from within their mud wall extension).

Six babies though? That seems like a lot. I'm guessing that:
(a) the roominess of the nest meant that none fell or were pushed out (allowing more to survive than would normally be the case), or
b) more than one family has taken up residence there.

There's a lot of activity around the nest, anyway. Birds fly in and out all day, including all six of those babies whenever I walk too close.