Friday, December 30, 2005
French Fry Spam Casserole - Bake 30-40 minutes
Title: FRENCH FRY SPAM CASSEROLE
Categories: Main dish
Yield: 8 servings
1 pk Frozen french fry potatoes, -thawed (20 oz)
2 c Shredded Cheddar cheese
2 c Sour cream
1 cn Condensed cream of chicken -soup (10 3/4 oz)
1 cn SPAM Luncheon Meat, cubed -(12 oz)
1/2 c Chopped red bell pepper
1/2 c Chopped green onion
1/2 c Finely crushed corn flakes
Heat oven to 350'F. In large bowl, combine potatoes, cheese, sour cream, and soup. Stir in SPAM, bell pepper, and green onion. Spoon into 13x9" baking dish. Sprinkle with crushed flakes. Bake 30-40 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
Yum. Time to pre-heat the oven! Memo to Google: don't tie the RSS content to standard folder names. I don't want an ad for trash bags when I visit my Trash folder, and I don't want insulation when I visit my Drafts folder -- and I sure don't want a recipe for Hormel Spam with french fries when I visit my Spam folder!
Monday, December 26, 2005
Click to see full size image
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Click to see full-size image.
I'm looking forward to a whole passel of major motion pictures with Internet-related titles:
- The File Transfer Protocol
- Wi-Fi (and its sequel, Wi-MAX)
- XML (and its sequel, XSLT)
And, of course...
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Tonight I stumbled on this: Endgadget, a site that reports news and rumors about consumer electronics, has their own special menu item:
Yes, that's right: right there with cell phones, Ipods, and gadgets, we find Paris Hilton. What does Paris Hilton have to do with consumer electronics? I can't think of a direct link, but I bet a lot of the gadget nuts who click on this site are also prone to click on that link, driving up Endgadget's ad revenue. Sort of like the ads for strip joints in the sports section of the newspaper.
But now, there's more...
An old song from the 70s posits that "Everybody Plays the Fool -- Sometimes" ... and my colleague Justin Thorp has outed me as the fool. I followed a Google search to Endgadget, a site I thought I'd seen before. But the authentic gadget site is Engadget.com.
Google reveals 37,000 fools like me, out of 7 million who link to the real site.
It might be worth Engadget's effort to buy, or anti-cybersquatter halt, Endgadget. Or maybe they think we fools should be left to our own devices -- so to speak.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The PC industry had finally promulgated USB, but it was shockingly slow compared to Firewire. Hence we ended up with computers and devices that support both Firewire and USB.
But the rumor is that Apple is dropping support for Firewire.
Good grief, what's next? Apple computers running on Intel processors?
Monday, December 05, 2005
I thought I recognized the pitcher. It's John Smoltz of the Atlanta Braves, a native of Lansing. Huh? This guy has a totally clean image.
Turns out Channel 6 caught up with him when he was in the area watching Michigan State play basketball. And the interview was Smoltz' opinion about steroids, specifically baseball's new anti-steroids policy, which Smoltz endorsed ringingly.
I wonder how many people misconstrued the story to be that Smoltz himself was "on steroids"? Pays for the caption guy in the control room to choose words carefully.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
In case you haven't experienced business class on an international flight: it is far superior to "first class" on a domestic flight in the U.S. The gourmet meal happened to be salmon. Emily wouldn't eat it. She preferred the French cat food that her handler had with him. Now that is a spoiled cat. I doubt that Pet Supplies Plus in Appleton offers imported French cat food.
Surely this story will bring a Disney movie. News outlets from the UK to Australia to South Africa picked up Emily's story. I think people are hungry for happy penguins and other good news.
I laughed when a Wisconsin TV station got the story wrong. They reported that Emily flew from Paris to Milwaukee. Continental Airlines may have given Emily and her handler $12,000 worth of business class seats, but they didn't create a new direct flight from Paris to Wisconsin. Emily flew to Newark, and took a 50 seat connecting flight to Wisconsin.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
In the last few years turkey fryers have been popular items on the market -- standalone frying baskets on stilts. Before Thanksgiving, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) distributed video demonstrating that these things are incredibly dangerous. You've got a vat of hot oil perched precariously. If it tips, you have a fire. If you put an unthawed turkey into it, it explodes. They warned that these things could burn your house down, and they provided vivid video evidence.
No doubt UL made this video available to TV networks and local stations prior to the holiday. But no one covered it. They covered "the busiest travel day of the year" and "the busiest shopping day of the year."
It turns out that in at least one city. the turkey fryer nearly destroyed a house, causing over $150,000 damage.
Question for national and local TV producers: do you really think about, and analyze, new stories, or do you just pull up last year's Thanksgiving stories and recycle them?
Question for the Consumer Product Safety Commission: do you really think through relative risk of product safety? I can't imagine how the microwave recall that affected me and millions of people saved a single life. But it seems clear that these cheap fryers pose a clear threat. How do you rank risk? Why haven't you acted on this obvious risk?
Sunday, November 20, 2005
And here's the new address:
Now look at the French version of the home page:
And here's the URL for the French site:
Google is taking a lot of heat (inappropriately in my opinion) for starting the Google Books project with mostly English language collections. The French may also grumble about using the English word for books on the French site.
Ah, well, at least they spelled "images" right.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
I wanted to check the seating chart for some other concerts, and, being lazy, went to Google and searched for:
wharton center seating
And I found this chart by a third party ticket broker:
Having been at Wharton Center last night, I think the chart is accurate. But maybe not: it shows Wharton Center as being in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Famously, Michigan State University is considering adding a new medical school in Grand Rapids, but the rumor that the Wharton Center will move 60 miles northwest from East Lansing is a new one.
But there's more: on another page, we move the Wharton Center from Grand Rapids, Michigan, to Grand Forks, North Dakota (look at the blue title bar at the top):
Elsewhere, TickCo correctly shows Wharton Center in East Lansing. Memo to TickCo: this is why we use database-driven sites. If your Web site shows three locations for one venue, you need to embrace database management.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Never mind their financial woes; they are busy assaulting the English language.
For months now I've cringed whenever NWA urges me to "gift" frequent flyer miles to some person or charity. We've had an English verb for this for centuries, and the word is "give," not "gift."
But now Northwest, in concert with its partner "Dining for Miles," adds insult to injury. This program gives (not "gifts") you frequent flyer miles when you use a registered credit card at a participating restaurant. A new promotion gives you extra credit for each -- I am not making this up -- for each "dine."
That's right. According to Northwest Airlines, "gift" is now a verb and "dine" is now a noun.
There is a reason why I own the Internet domain northwestsucks.com.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
condition of Big Easy before and after Katrina
By Sara Beth Williams Special to THE DAILY
Home. It is where I am now, and it is where I have, in some ways, never left.
Whether you've spent only days or years away from this river valley, you know what I mean.
You know it when you cross the little bridge over some other creek bed in deepest, hottest July and the coolness rises up like an Alabama blessing. You know it wherever you are along the eastern migration route on a late fall day, when you look up to see the Canada geese in their old formation against the cumulus clouds.
You know it when, in a dream, you come into a landscape that is green, and rolling, and so lush with shadow and promise that you first believe it must be a sort of paradise, but then you recognize it as the place beyond the "No Trespassing" sign where you once escaped with your giggling co-criminals, tearing your bellbottoms on the barbed-wire fence, carrying a few contraband beers and a pack of Salems, to share.
You know that it actually exists, or did, somewhere out near a dirt road on Burningtree Mountain.
"It actually exists!" you say to yourself. And you are amazed with this lovely dream that is real.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Yes she went to jail to protect a source, but Judy Miller is no hero. I hope she and Jayson Blair spend long hours together chatting about their journalistic careers.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Our venue was Internet Librarian. Roy and I first discussed this issue at the 2001 conference. He was in Monterey at the event; I was in Maastricht debating from afar. We continued the conversation at Computers in Libraries in D.C. the following year, and, in light of Google Print, resumed the debate at IL 2005 back in Monterey. It's a friendly debate:
Courtesy of the mysterious "Distant Librarian" up in Alberta, you can hear audio of Roy Tennant and me debating the merits of Google Print. (23M MP3 download.)
You can also download my Google Print presentation at Internet Librarian 2005, entitled: "Google Print: Making the Virtual Library Real -- An Extended Conversation Between Roy Tennant and Rich Wiggins"
Monday, October 31, 2005
As we taxied I asked the youngster if she'd ever flown before. "With my parents" she said. I asked if she was OK for takeoff. She said yes, with a thin smile.
During the flight the girl pulled out an Ipod Mini and listened to music, then watched a movie on a portable DVD player, and tried to get her cell phone to work. (No, I did not tell her you're not supposed to use cell phones in flight. And the plane did not suddenly veer off course into Alberta, no matter what the FAA, the FCC, and Northwest might claim.)
At one point she asked me what time it was. I looked at my analog watch, adjusted for Central time, and told her. I kidded her about having all those gizmos and none of them could tell her the time. She laughed.
When we landed, she confidently called her aunt and her mom on her cell. Obviously Mom, aunt, and child were all in sync, long before the plane reached the gate.
Gone are the days when an unaccompanied minor on a commercial flight just gets a pat on the head and a piece of plastic airline insignia to wear. This kid was plugged in. It reminded me of the old Thurber story:
The Little Girl and the Wolf
by James Thurber
One afternoon a big wolf waited in a dark forest for a little girl to come along carrying a basket of food to her grandmother. Finally a little girl did come along and she was carrying a basket of food. "Are you carrying that basket to your grandmother?" asked the wolf. The little girl said yes, she was. So the wolf asked her where her grandmother lived and the little girl told him and he disappeared into the wood.
When the little girl opened the door of her grandmother's house she saw that there was somebody in bed with a nightcap and nightgown on. She had approached no nearer than twenty-five feet from the bed when she saw that it was not her grandmother but the wolf, for even in a nightcap a wolf does not look any more like your grandmother than the Metro-Goldwyn lion looks like Calvin Coolidge. So the little girl took an automatic out of her basket and shot the wolf dead.
(Moral: It is not so easy to fool little girls nowadays as it used to be.)
Friday, October 28, 2005
You'd guess that in this day and age maybe the Internet or DNA testing had something to do with her recovery, but the low-tech solution of a collar with a name tag led folks in France to call Emily's vet on the telephone.
Friday, October 14, 2005
"More and more, the intractable problems in our society have one answer: broad-based intolerance of unacceptable conditions and a commitment by many to fix problems."
Or this: "We must end collective acceptance of inappropriate conduct and increase education in professionalism."
Or this: "When consensus of diverse leadership can be achieved on issues of importance, the greatest impact can be achieved."
Or passages like this: "An organization must also implement programs to fulfill strategies established through its goals and mission. Methods for evaluation of these strategies are a necessity. With the framework of mission, goals, strategies, programs, and methods for evaluation in place, a meaningful budgeting process can begin."
Or, finally, this: "We have to understand and appreciate that achieving justice for all is in jeopardy before a call to arms to assist in obtaining support for the justice system will be effective. Achieving the necessary understanding and appreciation of why the challenge is so important, we can then turn to the task of providing the much needed support."
See http://select.nytimes.com/2005/10/13/opinion/13brooks.html (but as of late you have to belong to the club, TimesSelect, to read certain NYT content).
I understand Brooks' misgivings. He wants a conservative with a brain, an intellectual who can marshall an argument, on the Supreme Court. There are plenty to choose from, and Bush picks his personal lawyer who happens to be down the hall. She's never written a law review article, and, from these samples, appears to write meaningless mush.
One of the leading lights of conservative legal thinking is Michael McConnell, son of Mitch McConnell and a 1976 Michigan State graduate. I recall one day in an economics class the professor talking about the determinants of economic growth of a given nation. He said that history showed that given the right inputs -- natural materials, an educated populace, transportation infrastructure, geography -- that nations lagging behind tended to catch up to competing countries.
One student immediately said "Then the Marshall Plan wasn't necessary." This was a logical conclusion, but I don't think anyone else in the room had come up with that thought, including the prof. It was a fairly heretical thing to say about one of the most important examples of American generosity in the 20th century. I'm pretty sure that student was Mike McConnell.
I doubt Harriet Miers would've come up with that notion that day.
The Nobel in Economics went to a professor who studied game theory. For the Democrats the game might be rejoicing in approving a nominee who is just a nice Republican lawyer who will never marshall a strong legal argument.
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
I attended the first JavaOne conference that Sun put on, circa 1995. It was an amazing event with rock-star openings for folks like Gosling.
But I was never convinced that client-side Java made sense. This is one app that is way cool. My only question is whether the author could have done something so cool using other technology.
Thursday, October 06, 2005
Since 1997, bird flocks in 11 countries have been decimated by flu outbreaks. So far nearly all the people infected Â? more than 100, including more than 60 who died Â? contracted the sickness directly from birds. However, there has been little transmission between people.
The word "decimate" means something quite specific: to reduce the enemy's army by 1/10th. The Romans killed one out of ten soldiers in order to teach a lesson.
Think about it: "decimate". As in "decade" or "decimal" -- involving digits, or parts of 10.
Licentious dictionaries accept as a third meaning "to reduce drastically especially in number".
Thus even Governor Blanco of Louisiana gets that meaning wrong. She claims in her speeches that Katrina "decimated" New Orleans. Katrina wrought havoc on the city, and caused tremendous damage. But, thankfully, Katrina did not cause the huge loss of life the mayor and others predicted. Not even close to one in ten.
Katrina did not decimate New Orleans, and the 1918 flu pandemic, however horrible, did not kill 10% of any population.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Instead we got a promise that the companies would work together. The most concrete example was that you'd be able to download the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) with the Google Toolbar.
Sun has a long and rich history of over-hyping Java. I attended the first JavaOne conference and have followed the story since then.
The London Sunday Times reported in 1995 that Bill Joy said that “Javatization” could "end Microsoft." He said that “Java could spell an end to Intel’s rule as king of the chip world." He predicted that within a year there would be tens of thousands of Java applets to download.
Wow, that was really prescient. Ten years later, Microsoft remains dominant in operating systems and office software, AMD is struggling, and Apple is switching to Intel CPUs. And on the desktop, Java is insignificant. And Bill Joy has retired.
Ten years later, Sun is still hyping Java as a client-side solution. The. truth is, Java never caught on as a client-side technology. Java enjoys moderate success as a server-side, platform-independent programming environment.
If this announcement is about adding 20 megabytes to the downloading of the Google Toolbar in order to get the JRE on desktops that lack it, this ship will sink in the harbor.
There is a saying that "you can't sail to all ports at once." Google is doing everything from trying to provide free Wi-Fi in San Francisco to helping a company whose sunset was obvious years ago. Has Google lost its compass? Did it ever really have one?
Friday, September 30, 2005
Click to see full-size screen shot.
Those ad robots do some funny things at times. A more sophisticated robot would have changed the Clothing image to a flak jacket.
It is remarkable how US soldiers have to outfit themselves, given what we're spending on this war. A marine who took part in the invasion told me that he bought a consumer GPS device at Best Buy before he shipped out. He said it was much more convenient and user-friendly than the government-issued mil-spec GPS, which was large and heavy and had a clunky user interface.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
So it wasn't a surprise that I received an ad via e-mail from Hallmark. What did surprise me is that Gmail served up an ad from ... Hallmark. I wonder what Hallmark paid for that ad. Quite an irony to pay for a targeted ad that's keyed off of your own content.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
For years now I've used Imagestation to host my photos on the Web. They are trying to turn this free service into a revenue generator -- or at least achieve cost recovery. I've got gigabytes of images stored online for free.
Now they want me to convert to "Silver" membership at $9.99 a year, half off for the first year.
Really, it's not a bad deal. But they've given me until September 31, 2005 to decide.
The only problem with this: September hath 30 days, not 31.
Friday, September 16, 2005
And Apple has removed the Mini, only about 20 months old, from its catalog.
The Mini was a remarkable piece of engineering. The Nano blows it away. Apple was courageous, and wise, to replace the Mini with the Nano.
Everyone understands the purpose of a fire sale. What I don't understand is why Apple is pushing an item no longer on its catalog -- a product prone to hard drive and battery failure. If the "free" Mini comes with a warranty, it's going to cost Apple big bucks in the long run.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The vice president for university relations, Terry Denbow, found a new friend.
As did a computer nerd:
But an MSU student discovered absolute, unconditional, true love:
Click to see full-size images. For the complete collection of photos of the camel invasion, please see http://www.imagestation.com/album/?id=2120711596 . You have to subscribe to Imagestation, but it is free.
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Sunday, September 04, 2005
Carnival Sending Three Ships for Refugees
By TRAVIS REED
The Associated Press
Saturday, September 3, 2005; 6:11 PM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Three Carnival Cruise Lines ships have been pressed into service by the government to provide shelter for as many as 7,000 hurricane victims.
The Ecstasy, the Sensation and the Holiday will be pulled from regular use starting Monday at the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The cost of the charters was not disclosed.
The idea of using cruise ships to house the displaced is a good one; how else can you bring thousands of hotel rooms online instantly? But the names of the ships are definitely ironic.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
People can send mail to:
[name of person]
Houston TX 77230
What a simple yet clever idea! The address of "General Delivery" has a rich history: someone could travel to a town, inform friends and family that they would be there for a while, and pick up mail at the post office addressed only to their name with the "General Delivery" address.
An idea over 150 years old that could match people to their loved ones. Bravo to the USPS!
The problem of helping relatives contact loved ones who lived in New Orleans is massive. The former mayor of New Orleans says his wife's mother, elderly and infirm, cannot be reached. They do not know if she has been saved or has perished. If a former mayor can't get vital information about a loved one, who can?
There are many attempts to use the Web to match refugees with family members. (One of the major ones is the Red Cross site at: http://www.familylinks.icrc.org/katrina ). But how many refugees have access to the Internet in order to register? Suggestion: a major cell phone provider offers free phones and three months of free service to refugees. The cost to the company would be minimal, but the benefits to victims could be extraordinary.
To make the cell phone scheme work in both directions, you'd have to set up a registry of names and numbers; there is no directory assistance for cell phones. With a registry, a relative or friend could call an 800 number, ask for the phone number for John Q. Smith, get a cell number to call and hopefully connect with a loved one.
Friday, September 02, 2005
"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of levees."
-- President George W. Bush, on Good Morning America, September 1, 2005
I flashed back to when I heard Condeleeza Rice say:
“I don’t think anybody could have predicted that these people…would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile”
-- Condeleeza Rice, May 16, 2002
Of course many people anticipated the breach of the levees. A decades-long project has tried to shore up the levees, and the Bush administration cut the budget for the project in order to stanch the bleeding of the Federal treasury in order to fund the war in Iraq. The Army Corps of Engineers built the levees to withstand a Category 3 storm. The disaster planning community has known for years that a hurricane could mean total disaster if it hit New Orleans. FEMA has ranked New Orleans as among the top 3 disasters waiting to happen. See:
... and this Scientific American article entitled "Drowning New Orleans" from October 2001.
Of course one could've imagined that terrorists might hijack a plane and crash it into a major landmark. Intelligence agency reports warned about the risk long before 9/11. See:
This administration is good at anticipating some things that never happen, as Wolfowitz and Cheney predicted that American troops would be greeted as liberators in Iraq.
But when disaster strikes, why, gosh, no one could have predicted that.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
The university has repurposed their Web site for communications about the hurricane's aftermath and Tulane operations. The messages are directly from the university president, Scott Cowen.
Cowen's words are not only informative; they tear at your heart as you contemplate what that small slice of the New Orleans community is going through, along with all those who have fled -- as well as those who have not. From Cowen's August 30 posting:
As I suspect you all know, there is no contingency plan that could ever be developed to respond to what the area and the university are experiencing. However, all of us at the university are totally committed to doing whatever it takes to get the university operational as soon as possible. I hope you will be patient and understanding of our situation as we work our way through the complexities.
It is difficult to describe what this situation feels like for those involved. It is surreal and unfathomable; yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Our focus is on the light and not the darkness.
Click to see full-size screen shot.
Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Click to see full-size image.
Google Earth offers detailed historical imagery of New Orleans, Mobile, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, geocoded by street address. If the USGS, the military, or NASA took new aerial photos now, its hould be trivial to map the new photos against the old. A person could enter a street address and see what the property looked like before Katrina, and what it looks like now.
There may be over a million people who desperately want to know what their house or apartment or business looks like now. This would allow any refugee who can get to a Web browser to find out whether their home is rubble or at least superficially intact.
Use of geocoded data could even aid in rescue and recovery immediately. Louisiana Governor Blanco said today "We know people are trapped in their attics. We're trying to get them out now. I'll tell you something: Addresses mean nothing now because street signs are underwater." Given a street address and a precise GPS receiver, you could send a helicopter to within a few hundred feet of any given street address.
This is up from 50. A lot of people speculate that Google will eventually open up Gmail to work like Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, or any other competing free e-mail service. Want to open a new account? Just go to Hotmail.com and sign up; no invitation required.
I think there's a chance they will stick with the invitation model indefinitely. In an odd way, it helps foster a community of Gmail users. You have to find a Gmail pal to get started -- and many of us are Gmail evangelists, so that may not be a barrier for many people.
Maybe Google prefers the invitation model. At 2546 megabytes and growing, they've got to worry about people using their Gmail account as a storage vault.
I still think Google is capturing data as to how the invitations spread, and which service provider they poach customers from. (To accept an invitation, you click on a message sent to your current e-mail account.) I'd love to see a visualization of the spread of Gmail across the globe.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Click to see full-size screen shot
Miller muses that Williams might better spend his time reporting the news, than on reporting on the process of reporting on the news.
Well, now, Brian Williams and other reporters are in New Orleans, reporting on the devastation from Katrina. His most recent blog entry is from tonight, apologizing for the lack of recent blog entries:
Tonight, CNN's news crawl at the bottom of the screen urges people to go to CNN.com to read reporter Miles O'Brien's "hurricane blog." Go there, and you find he hasn't posted since Monday mid-day:
You can't blame Williams or O'Brien for failing to update their blogs from a city that has no electricity, has little or no cell phone service, and is 80% under water.
But Miller asks a trenchant question: why bother? Why not concentrate on your day job, reporting on television for millions of viewers who want to know what's happening?
Miller's commentary is at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4823307
Click to see full-size images
I know, a pretty silly tale on a day when dozens died under the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. But there is a link: safety codes exist for a reason. In South Florida, new homes are required by code to be able to withstand hurricane winds. Katrina apparently killed 30 or more people in Biloxi when an apartment building collapsed. I wonder what the local codes require there?
Construction firms and workers often resent safety rules. Recently a commons area in a building in Lansing collapsed -- just fell into rubble -- on a sunny warm day. Thank God, it happened on a weekend, and the building was empty. If it had happened on a weekday, people would have died. The Lansing building inspectors declare that they won't let people occupy the repaired building until it's safe. But, ipso facto, they already let people occupy the building when it wasn't safe.
Ann Arbor, put some construction fence around that site. And Lou, don't hang out under that chute.
Friday, August 26, 2005
On "CNN Daybreak," the anchor intoned ominously that "1.3 million people in Florida are without power." She then moved to California, where rolling blackouts have caused power outages. Again, she said how many "people" are without power.
Get a clue, CNN. Electric utility companies count customers, not people. Customers are homes and businesses. If Florida Power and Light counts 1.3 million customers without power, the number of people in the dark is quite a bit higher.
Click to see full size screen shot.
What mystifies me is why news outlets make this same mistake over and over again -- after every hurricane or snowstorm.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
Universities are no different than Fortune 500 companies. They worry endlessly about links, labels, images, and the entire "snap" of the home page.
So what do you do if you're a large university in South Florida, and a tropical storm -- or a hurricane -- is headed your way? Consider the home page of Florida Atlantic University, as cached by Google:
Now suppose you are an administrator - perhaps the president - of Florida Atlantic University.
There's a serious storm heading your way:
There's a pretty good chance a really serious storm will hit your campus. It might wipe out buildings. Hell, it might kill people.
So what do you do? Hold classes as usual? Probably not. How would you explain your choice to the parent of a dead student who watches those storm tracking maps on the Weather Channel? So you shut down classes until the storm passes.
Now, how do you communicate this? Obviously you issue press releases. You talk to the media. But how do you use the university's Web site to communicate the closures, as well as links to other campus resources, and to trusted national sites?
FAU chose to repurpose the entire university home page to handle the event:
Click to see full-size screen shot.
By choosing to hijack the entire architecture of the home page, the university decided that it was better to serve the information needs of current student, faculty, and staff, to the exclusion of prospective students, alumni, friends, and the public.
That might be the right decision, given the circumstances. A storm is on its way, and it may wipe out a large chunk of the campus. We have to serve the people who belong to the university community right now. Makes sense.
Or it might be the wrong decision. Maybe they should offer a prominent link to a page that offers storm information and advice for the current community, leveraging campus and other sources. Leave the university home page (mostly) intact, and offer a very visible link to resources for the crisis.
I honestly don't know the right answer.
But I do know that before, during, and after an emergency, people expect the enterprise home page to deliver current, timely, and useful information.
Click to see full-size screen shot.
Google Talk integrates with the other tool Google announced this week, Google Desktop 2.
It won't be long before they offer word processing, spreadsheet, presentation software -- a networked office suite.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
This week's deal offered a link with a typo:
The URL that Northwest offered was:
Obviously someone accidentally munged a bit of text -- "visit" -- with the URL prefix of "http". If you clicked on the link, you just got an error message. Of the millions of people who subscribe to NWA's Wednesday deals list, you've got to expect that thousands clicked on the link, and said "Oh, it's dead Jim" and moved on to some other surfing activity.
In other words, that little typo cost Northwest thousands of sales.
So you have to wonder:
- I wonder how many thousands of customers gave up when their click on this URL failed?
- I wonder how many seats on airplanes will be empty this weekend because of this typo?
- I wonder how many millions of dollars NWA lost because of this mistake?
- I wonder what changes in Web publishing procedures NWA will, or will not, now undertake?
Think about it: a typographical error could cost a company millions of dollars, and could keep thousands of people at home instead of at beach or mountain.
Monday, August 15, 2005
New York, New York. (Cue Sinatra.)
New York City.
But does anyone call it "the city of New York"???
While reviewing major university Web sites, I was surprised to see that Columbia University uses a name for NYC that I've never seen before:
My guess is that the Columbia Web Committee debated "what should our tagline be" endlessly and came up with a phrase that no one -- whether native or elsewhere -- ever thinks or says when they think of New York City.
I bet they could have come up with a better tagline. Without even thinking more than a minute, I propose "Academic excellence in the heart of New York City"
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Hmm... Goodrich Wiggins. How Dickensian.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
Someone is selling a kit that allows any backyard mechanic to reset digital odometers:
Click to see full-size screen shots.
Read the label on the CD, and you see a link to www.odometerwizard.com where you can buy this kit from the "retailer." At their Web site you'll find this inspiring disclaimer:
Yeah, right. We're selling this kit that will let anyone who's handy under the hood reset a digital odometer. Please do not use this to defraud anyone.
This was first reported on Dave Farber's mailing list by EEkid@aol.com, who was looking to buy a used truck, but found it odd to see listings of trucks that were years old with only 5000 miles on them. The odometer resetter was for sale on Ebay.
This raises some interesting questions:
- How widespread is this fraud? This could represent hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars in annual fraud.
- How will Ebay respond? The device isn't inherently evil, but you've gotta believe most buyers are not working in pristine mainstream repair shops.
- What is the auto industry's stance on this? Is there a technical solution that would at least inform buyers of used vehicles that the odometer is no longer in virgin factory status?
- When will the media pick this story up? (Farber's list is the source of many an article you read in The New York Times.)
- Will Congress respond?
- What will Elliot Spitzer (New York Attorney General, the Elliot Ness of our time) do?
And also: who the heck is EEkid@aol.com?
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
I tried to photograph the experience with my new Canon Rebel XT DSLR. This shot came out rather surrealistic:
Click on the image to see it full-size. Honest to God, that is not a computer generated image; it's a photo taken at dusk at a county fair as the world whirls around.