brad kagawa says a sign reading "</BUSH>" is the geekiest protest sign he's ever seen. but that's not valid XHTML, and everyone knows real geeks use XHTML. clearly some work is needed in encouraging use of modern web standards in protest sign markup. maybe a job for the web standards project?

 

i previously wrote about the multi-search functionality in firefox, and how it doesn't allow the full range of searches it could. this, along with a few other annoyances, caused me to continue using safari. unfortunately, safari doesn't have multi-search functionality. enter acidsearch, a free plugin that gives safari multi-search functionality and even allows for more searches than firefox. for example, i was able to make a search component for php.net, which is impossible in firefox.

 
 

a few days ago, dan gillmor wrote Of course, not even Microsoft's wildest partisans will claim that SP2 will turn the safety switch to "on'' in an all-encompassing way. robert scoble proved dan wrong by responding When he says "not perfect" that means that he believes it has a flaw that'll let an attacker in from the outside. That simply IS NOT TRUE. yesterday, information week reported Another flaw in Internet Explorer has been uncovered by Danish security firm Secunia, which said that the gaffe left all PC users open to attack, even those who had updated Windows XP with the massive Service Pack 2 upgrade. clearly dan has made a major error in underestimating just how wild microsoft's partisans can get.

 

the catholic church has a rule that communion wafers must be made of wheat. but some people are allergic to wheat. so what do you do if you're catholic and allergic to wheat? luckily, the chuch has been around a long time, so there's a rule for everything. in this case, the proper procedure is as follows: option (a): ignore your allergy, eat the communion wafer anyway, get sick, and die. if this option does not appeal to you, you can elect option (b): go to hell. god thanks you for your inquiry.

 

jon udell wrote (yet again) today about how there's no easy way to point to a URL for a clip of a video. he points out that it's entirely possible to do with real clips, but it's a tedious process. computers are good at tedious processes. real didn't see fit to enable this functionality for their users, but they did see fit to include a bunch of handy applescript hooks in their player (in version 9 at least), which allows a short bit of applescript to do the job nicely: here's some sample code. that applescript isn't especially useful as is, because it doesn't allow any gap between the start time and end time. doing that would require the script to continue running while the video clip runs, plus a bit of interface (a button or two). i don't have time to figure out how to do that right now, but if someone else does, we'd have exactly what jon wants:

It needs two new buttons: Start Clip and End Clip. When you click Start Clip, it notes the start time of a clip. When you click End Clip, it notes the end time and gives you the URL of the clip.

here's the code if you're interested:

tell application "RealOne Player" set wrapper_url to GetPlayingURL set start_time to GetPosition set start_seconds to round (start_time / 1000) rounding down set start_hours to round (start_seconds / 3600) rounding down set start_seconds to start_seconds - (start_hours * 3600) set start_minutes to round (start_seconds / 60) rounding down set start_seconds to start_seconds - (start_minutes * 60) set end_time to GetPosition set end_seconds to round (end_time / 1000) rounding down set end_hours to round (end_seconds / 3600) rounding down set end_seconds to end_seconds - (end_hours * 3600) set end_minutes to round (end_seconds / 60) rounding down set end_seconds to end_seconds - (end_minutes * 60) set real_url to do shell script "cURL " & wrapper_url set ramgen_url to real_url set AppleScript's text item delimiters to "/" set ramgen_parts to text items of ramgen_url set item 1 of ramgen_parts to "http:" set item 3 of ramgen_parts to item 3 of ramgen_parts & "/ramgen" set final_url to (ramgen_parts as string) & "?start=" if (start_hours > 0) then set final_url to final_url & start_hours & ":" end if set final_url to final_url & start_minutes & ":" & start_seconds & "&amp;end=" if (end_hours > 0) then set final_url to final_url & end_hours & ":" end if set final_url to final_url & end_minutes & ":" & end_seconds end tell
 

i think my health insurance provider, allegis group, is a serious contender for the title of "worst website ever." first, it doesn't even load with any browser other than internet explorer, instead spitting out an unhelpful error message: "If you need help using this Web Site, please call your dedicated service department..." there's no mention that my browser is the problem (and my browser isn't the problem, but they do javascript browser sniffing, and kick out non-IE browsers for no apparent reason), but the "netscape=Y" section of the error URL gave it away, so i tried internet explorer, and it loaded. and i clicked on the helpful "New User Help" button - one of only two links on the page. and i was told

If you have never logged in to AllegisBenefits.com before, your Username and Password will both be your social security number. Simply enter your social security number without dashes in both entry boxes and then click the "Login" button.

ordinarily i would point out that they could remove the dashes themselves rather than waste users' time, but they can't even make a remotely functional website, so they probably need all the help a user can give them. so i entered my social security number (noting how easy it is for anyone to get my social security number) and clicked the "Login" button, and i then got an error message, which helpfully explains "LOGIN ERROR!" with a flashing exclamation point. i tried again, and this time got the first error message "If you need help using this Web Site, please call your dedicated service department". the thought of navigating a phone system made by these people frightens me enough that i use the email option. so far no automated response, which is either a good sign (someone might actually get my message) or an indication that their email server is as useless as their website. if you were wondering what their motto is (unfortunately not "worst website ever"), they have a flash animation which covers a third of the page to tell you: "people. service. performance." i'm still waiting to experience any of those.

 

a metafilter post points to a wikipedia article on the uncanny valley, which is something i previous knew nothing about. apparently human responses to robots are increasingly positive as robots become increasingly human-like, up until robots are almost indistinguishable. at that point, our reactions to them take a steep negative turn, until the robots are complege indistinguishable, at which point the reactions are again positive (as they would be with humans).

i wonder if this same phenomenon affects issues such as racism, sexism, or homophobia. do we also react more negatively to people who are very similar to us, but slightly different in some way? for example, do men react to feminine men more negatively than to women - is there an uncanny valley of emotional responses to gender stereotypes? i'd be interested to see similar graphs with emotional response mapped against masculinity, skin color, age, and so on.

 

after reading encouragement from both jonathon delacour and shelley powers, i'm trying my best to like firefox. but i'm not having much luck. as i mentioned in comments to both those posts, my first problem was form elements. they were ugly enough to turn me away before i even used a form in firefox. but now as i'm trying to type into a textarea, my text is restricted to an area much smaller than the text area (for some unknown reason), yet the textarea doesn't force wrapping, so longer URLs create a horizontal scroll bar that makes me regularly lose my cursor while typing. ugh.

but that's just the beginning. in little time i've wandered to a page that for some reason displays as source rather than a web page. maybe the server is sending a bad mime type or something, but i don't see any way to change this. ugh. the search bar is nice, so i installed a bunch of engines, such as the one for php.net. php.net has this really nice feature that allows me to type in a URL like php.net/time and go directly to the page explaining the "time" function. i use this quite often. it's sort of like googles "i'm feeling lucky" feature. but because it doesn't put the search in the query string of the URL, it doesn't work with firefox's search engine format, so instead the php.net engine searches the site using google, and then i have to click on the result i want. ugh. maybe if i get through the other problems, i'll make a server-side application to convert a URL like randomchaos.com/php-net.php?q=time to php.net/time. the annoying thing is, i know the developers know how to make searches without using the query string, because the functionality is available in search keyword bookmarks, but that moves the search to the address bar (confusing) and forces me to type an identifier for the engine. that's scarcely simpler than typing the full URL php.net/time.

the only other problem i've had (in the less than an hour i've been using firefox) is the user interface for closing tabs. safari takes the (i think) rational approach of putting the tab close button on the tab to be closed. firefox for some reason has a single button off to the side to close the frontmost tab. this means i can't close tabs that aren't frontmost. but because the butotn is attached to the window rather than a tab, it also means (for now at least), i'm always unsure that clicking this button won't close the hole window, and i waste time worrying about this even when i'm closing the frontmost window. ugh.

i'll give it another day or so and see if the nicer features, like the web developer toolbar (which i just discovered disables text input whenever menus are open - ugh), overcome the problems.

 

here's a quiz for you: which of the following is an african american?

  • Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN [pictures]
  • Bob Marley, musician [pictures]
  • Naomi Campbell, model [pictures]
  • Teresa Heinz-Kerry, wife of presidential candidate John Kerry [pictures]

the correct answer is Teresa Heinz-Kerry. Kofi Annan is not american. Bob Marley was neither african nor american. Naomi Cambell is not american. of the choices, only Teresa Heinz-Kerry is an american born in africa.

 

the computer-generated poetry will now evolve. now two poems show up instead of one, and when you vote for one of the two, that makes future poems more like the poem you voted for (and less like the other). it does this by remembering which words are together in poems that you like (as well as the poems you don't like), and putting words together based on that information. there's still some randomness - mutations to allow for poem evolution rather than mere poem cloning. i have no idea how well it will work. but that's what makes it fun.

 

tired of a partisan executive branch? vote bush-edwards. electoral-vote.com says: Thus if the electoral college is tied and the House votes, Bush wins. However, all is not lost for the Democrats. The Senate picks the Vice President, so if the Democrats pick up the two seats needed to recapture the Senate, we get a hybrid administration: Bush-Edwards. that would be interesting.

 

unless i get a better offer before then, on august 16th i will begin work as an "office suport specialist" (tech support). my employer will be TEKsystems, but i'll be located at state farm insurance.

 

i find myself checking electoral-vote.com every day. i get a constant stream of polling information from various news sources, but - as many learned in 2000 - votes only matter in how they get translated into electoral votes. for example, recent nation-wide polling shows john kerry with only a very slight lead among potential voters, but that slight lead translates into a huge (118 vote) lead in the electoral college. i made an RSS feed of the more recent estimates from electoral-vote.com, so i can be notified of such important news immediately, and you can too.

 

if you're reading this, i've successfully moved randomchaos.com to a new server at hosting matters. i haven't been using them long enough to recommend, but everything's going well so far.