Archive for June, 2003


Office Space

As great a movie as it is, I don’t know that watching Office Space every couple days is such a hot idea.

Heh. Earlier this spring, our IT department did an internal employee satisfaction survey. Since I wrote the apps that ran the survey and produced the summaries, I had occasion to glance through the results. Office Space was mentioned in employee comments, but since the managers interpreting the comments had never seen the movie, they couldn’t understand, classify, or relate to the comments. So those comments are basically not reflected in any summary; they’re available only if people read the raw data.

Not that it matters, since the results have been released only to senior IT management anyway. Hopefully that’s just an oversight.


WWDC on big screen at U

Ooh, here’s a reason to miss next week’s open source conference: the WWDC keynote on a large screen at the University of Minnesota.

Update: Oh, damn. There’s no conflict with the conference. And I can’t go anyway, because I have a meeting. Aaargh!


Table-less sites

A number of our colleges and universities have been redesigning their web sites lately, and there’s some very impressive, beautiful work. Two in particular grabbed my interest: Minnesota State University, Mankato and Normandale Community College have implemented table-less layouts, using valid XHTML and CSS.

Now, I’m not a fanatic about this. I don’t strongly object to using tables for layout, as long as they remain simple. You can get a lot of mileage with basic tables (i.e. not nested in several layers) and CSS. But I do have a general preference for CSS-P and still get excited when I see something as marvelous as Normandale’s site pulled off with style sheets. Gives me hope that we might be able to do this on one of the redesigns that I’m working on this summer. Pointing to the CSS Zen Garden can only get me so far. Highlighting a few of our own colleges and universities who are doing this will carry some weight.


Open Source – Open Standards.

Cool-looking conference next week: Open Source – Open Standards. The Business, Legal, and Technical Challenges Ahead.

This one-and-a-half day standards conference for senior executives, comprising four panels, will feature an introduction of the issues and follow-up with an interactive discussion between the speakers and the audience. The aim is to capture and publish the issues that are discussed in order to raise the industry awareness of the benefits of Open Source.

It was suggested today that I go to this, and I probably should. I mean, hell, it’s in town! If I can still register, I just might. Thing is, I’m not sure that I want to spend two days at an event geared toward “senior business executives.” After a bizarre night several years ago in which I found myself at a cocktail party with CEOs of huge international corporations, followed by a late-night dinner with lawyers planning a trip to a week-long opera festival (I’ll save that story for another day), I don’t know that I’m ready for another schmooze-fest quite yet.

Then again, could be fun. At the very least, I have requested the proceedings, which may be all that I care about. We’ll see.


The Moldova Ill.

The squeamish might not want to read this. It’s nothing explicit, but if you’re squeamish, you’re squeamish.

Last weekend, I picked up my mother-in-law at the airport. She’d spent a few weeks in Moldova with several of her colleagues. (Don’t ask me where it is, my sense of geography is seriously lacking. Somewhere near Romania, I think.) While in Moldova, one by one each of them got sick with flu-like symptoms that they could never trace to food poisoning or anything. She got affected just as she left for the long international flight home. Fun.

This past Friday, Kiara succumbed to what we assumed was food poisoning. It passed after a day or so, but she’s still recovering. Then last night (all night), I fell victim to the same unpleasantness. And late last night, Owen threw up a couple times and was clearly uncomfortable. Poor little guy.

I’m not sure what would have affected us all. We blame Moldova. :-)


Gotta get this book.

While wandering through Ruminator Books yesterday, I came across a book that looks like it was written just for me: Beautiful Death: Jewish Poetry and Martyrdom in Medieval France. Maybe for my birthday…


Nowhere Girl

Nowhere Girl, an online comic.


Free Market

If you live in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area, here’s a neat idea: Twin Cities Free Market, “a listing service for Twin Cities residents who want to get or give free reusable goods for the home, garage and garden. It is part of an effort to reduce the amount of reusable goods being thrown away.”


Netscape 4

Earlier this week I was talking with a bunch of webmasters and mentioned that the main Minnesota State Colleges and Universities web site was still getting 10-15% Netscape 4 traffic.

Yesterday I took another look at the stats. To my surprise and delight, Netscape 4 is now hovering around 2% of the traffic. It seems that I was correct in my longstanding suspicion that most of that traffic was internal: our office switched to Netscape 7 and IE 6 a few months back, right around when the stats dropped. Yes, I could have easily verified my suspicion, but it was never important enough to bother.

Because, you see, I’m not sure how much I care, or what effect this drop in Netscape 4 traffic will have. My approach to dealing with Netscape 4 and other older, less-capable user agents has never been to ignore them completely. I just don’t bend over backward for them, spending ungodly amounts of time ensuring that everything looks perfect. As long as everyone can still access the content and the pages don’t look or act awful, then I’m happy. Nevertheless, 10-15% is nothing to sneeze at, so on the sites where I have influence, and certainly in my web applications, I spend a little time making sure that pages look more or less similar even for older browsers. Just not an undue amount of time,

My approach is similar to how I think about JavaScript. When I do accessibility training, I always emphasize that yes, you can use JavaScript and still have an accessible page. In fact, much as images can help some people understand or navigate a page, sometimes JavaScript can enhance a page’s accessibility. But that’s the key: treat it as an enhancement to core coontent and functionality rather than a basic requirement. Similarly, when putting together pages, I design with web standards so any user agent can access the content, then enhance and do cool things for modern browsers that can handle it. That is, I lean less toward graceful degradation as progressive enhancement.

Still, I must admit, 2% makes me feel a helluva lot more comfortable than 15%.


Car trouble

There’s nothing quite like starting the weekend several hundred dollars poorer. On her way into St. Paul today, our car’s brakes failed on Kiara. Not completely, but enough that they needed to be replaced right away. Thank goodness everyone was safe and that today was payday.

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