Wednesday, March 30, 2005


Overheard at Picadilly Liquor:

"My 33 year old friend just died, so I'm going to climb into this beer for the night...At least he made it to 33. I had another friend die at 25...If I did what he did, I'd be dead, too." news

The creator of has quit his job to work on full time. He got an "outside investment" that will allow him to keep "independent" and "acquire some much-needed infrastructure." I look forward to seeing what's next!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Talking points memo

From ABC News, excepts from a GOP talking points memo about Terri Schaivo, circulated to Republican Senators. Emphasis added.

  • This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.
  • This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

Remember that CBS poll where 74% of respondents answered, "advancing a political agenda" when asked, "why do you think congress got involved?" I think they were right.

Edit, 2005-04-06: The source of the memo has stepped forward. It was an aide to Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL).

Sunday, March 27, 2005

What I learned today

It's been said that you learn something new every day. I thought it might be fun to keep track of at least one thing each and every day. My goal is to write a single sentence daily. I don't know if I'll keep it up (I just started a few hours ago). I present: What I learned today. It's written in PHP with an XML datastore (yay for separation of data and presentation!). Maybe in the next iteration of this blog I'll integrate it (I want to do some sort of Wiki/blog combo thing that's pluggable to add things like WILT). We'll see.

Edit, 2005-03-29 22:19: I added an RSS feed. I'm hoping that "what I learned today" will become the next big thing on the Internet (like blogging) and I'll get to say that I started the craze, and I'll get interviewed on cable news and people will write books about me. Ready everyone? Add WILT to your blog!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Click here part 2

Following up to my previous post and Renice's comment that "context-relevant links are rumored to help a page's Google rank," I submit this:

The first result of a Google search for "click here" is the Acrobat Reader download page.

This leads me to believe that the biggest abuse of "click here" as link text on the Internet looks something like this: "This site requires Adobe Acrobat Reader. Click here to download."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Click here!

Possibly my biggest web-related pet peeve: web sites that use "click here" as link text.

My eyes skim over a web site, following visual cues. I process information without really thinking, stopping for a second look where I pick up something meaningful, skipping over things that aren't. A link (with its unique style from the surrounding text), is a visual cue. But "click here" delivers nothing meaningful.

With a particular company with which I have an online account, I had scoured their small online bill payment section trying to figure out how to change my email address. For the past 3 months, I've looked every time I've logged in. I had come to the conclusion that it was not possible to do online. Well, it was. (You see where this is going, right?)

This evening, after finally "clicking here" to find the page where I could edit my account, I was inspired to send this email to their "webmaster."


Please don't use "click here" as link text. It reduces usability of the web site.

I was trying to change my email address for my online bill payment. The help said, "visit the 'Edit Account' section." That's incorrect. It should have said, "visit the 'click here' section."

(Actually, your help is wrong regardless: the link reads "Click here" followed by "to edit online billing info." There's no mention of "edit account.")

Web users look for navigation cues, like menus. Or they skim the page for links. "Click here" gives nothing meaningful at a glance.

This is a good article on the subject:

I hope you act on this feedback,

Travis Pettijohn

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


According to a US Government report, in 2005 the US will consume 20.4 million barrels of oil per day. That same report states that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has 10.3 billion barrels of "technically recoverable" oil. That comes out to about 500 days worth of oil at our current consumption rates (but since consumption keeps rising, it will actually be less). That's not very much. In my opinion, it's not enough to risk the possible devastation that could occur in Alaska. And I don't believe that such a small amount will provide relief from foreign oil as proponents want you to think.

But a provision to allow drilling at the ANWR was tacked onto the budget in the Senate. A tricky move since Senate rules forbid a filibuster on the budget, thus ensuring its passage. Today, a vote to remove that provision failed 49-51. Our country just moved one step closer to drilling in Alaska. If the House passes it in their budget, that will be that.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Use Google...errr, MSN

I've picked on Chris Andersonbefore. Reading an interview today, he gave a funny quote: "If you want to hear about sharper fonts, you have to go Google for Bill Hill, sorry, search and you can read all about the fonts..." (emphasis added).

Wednesday, March 09, 2005


Ruby will be the next big open source programming language. It will rival (if not beat out) Perl, PHP and Python in terms of popularity. I say this because ever since I was made aware of it, it seems to keep popping up...and always in a positive light. Read this blog entry for an example of what I mean.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Richard Clarke at UIUC

Richard Clarke (click for bio), former "Terrorism Czar" and author of Against All Enemies, spoke this evening at the U of I. He gave a fascinating talk on the status of the war on terror. I managed to get a seat in the second row (I had to jump over empty seats to bypass the jam in the aisle.) Here are some pictures that I took with my camera phone. I'll share from my notes. At the end of the talk, I asked a question, and then later got an autograph of my copy of his book.

  • He began by defining the war. Terrorism is an methodology; you can't fight a war against that.
  • We are at war with Jihadists who practice a "perverted version of Islam." Also people that support the ideas of Jihadists, both politically and financially.
  • We must "win this war as a war of ideas."
  • Polling shows that the United States government has essentially "zero credibility in key Islamic countries." Thus, the we cannot be the ones fighting the war of ideas.
  • Are we making progress in the war on terror?
  • Comparing the amount of terrorist activity worldwide in the 36 months before and the 36 months after 9/11, Jihadist attacks have doubled since 9/11.
  • In Iraq, there are 60 to 70 attacks against U.S. forces every day.
  • Bush stresses that we are fighting the war overseas so that we don't have to fight it here at home.
  • Bin Laden recently told Zarqawi to send terrorists from Iraq to the U.S.
  • Clarke asserts that, "Because we are fighting in Iraq, terrorists are coming here."
  • "How are we doing in the war on terror? Not very well."
  • 3/11 in Madrid (bombs in subway) left over 2,000 dead.
  • Carried out not by suicide bombers, but people who got on, left backpacks of explosives on the train, and got off.
  • ABC did the same thing in New York (with cameras instead of explosives). No one did anything to check the bags.
  • 60 Minutes placed a bomb-look-alike package at a chemical plant next to a quantity of chlorine that could kill 100,000 people if released into the atmosphere. No one stopped or questioned them.
  • "You can't stop everything...."
  • It would cost $9 billion to implement working homeland security.
  • We've spent $100-some billion in Iraq, which is exporting terrorists.
  • Clarke points out that we're training police and firemen in Iraq, yet Bush's recent budget proposal will reduce those numbers here at home.
  • "Frankly, I think we made a mistake after 9/11," in our emotional state, we allowed the PATRIOT Act to be passed, which is abusive.
  • PATRIOT Act allows the FBI to force librarians to hand over records.
  • See José Padilla, a U.S. citizen who is being held without having been charged, without access to a lawyer, and without a trial by a jury of his peers.
  • We should "advocate better homeland security...and at the same time advocate for the Constitution."
  • Referenced the Benjamin Franklin quote: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."
  • His book is titled "Against All Enemies." The presidential oath, part of the constitution, states that the president-to-be shall defend the Constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.

He took questions. I asked the second question: Do you feel like you're preaching to the choir? That the people who should be listening—like the policy makers who get things done—aren't listening?

Somewhat, yes, he said. There are some people who will never say anything bad about the Bush administration; these people watch FOX News (the crowed roared with approval). But we all know people who need persuading, so we need to wear them down.

Someone else asked if he thought it would matter if Bin Laden were captured now. Clarke said no. Bin Laden has become a symbolic leader. If he were gone, it wouldn't really change things. (See Che Guevara after he was arrested by the CIA.) We should have captured or killed him in the mid-90s when Clinton authorized it. Or in the months following 9/11.

Someone else asked about Bush's vision to spread democracy in the Middle East. Clarke reminded us that terrorism can still be bred in democracies (see Timothy McVeigh). He also reminded us that "the Iranian-backed party won the election" in Iraq. So there are doubts about just how democratic Iraq will be.

He was also asked if he would consider going back into public service or run for office. No, not at all, he said. He feels that he can make a greater impact from the outside than he could from the inside.

After that, there was a book signing. As he signed my copy, I told him, "I saw you on the Daily Show...I saw the smear campaign that the Bush administration had launched against you...I bought your book the next day." He smiled, gave me a wink, and said, "I wish that they had kept it up; it was great for book sales." We shook hands and I thanked him for coming.

This was a very cool experience. Clarke is a very interesting and intelligent man with a very unique point of view. I learned a lot and I hope that you learned some, too.

It's also fun to think about the people that I'm connected to through him; you know, like the degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Not only presidents, but Jon Stewart.

Monday, March 07, 2005


From The Daily Show on Wed 2005-March-02:

Jon Stewart: "Dude I was in Half Baked, you don't think I know?"

The Rock: "I love that movie. That is a great movie."

Jon Stewart: "That is a fun movie. And we had a fun time doing it...especially the research."

Bolstering my Karma

I got mailings from NRDC and The Sierra Club recently. I was trying to decide which one to donate to, and I ended up donating to both of them. With four more years of the Bush Administration's assault on our environment, I figure I ought to lend a hand.

Paneer and ...

I made paneer last night, which is an easy to make unripened, soft cheese. Bring a half-gallon of whole milk to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Add 3 T lemon juice (supposedly vinegar works, too). Put on low heat. Stir for 30 seconds or so until the yellowish whey separates from the white curds. Strain through cheesecloth. (This is chenna.) Shape and press with a pot full of water (or other weight) for 30 to 60 minutes. Now you have paneer.

My intent was to make saag (spinach) paneer. I read a few recipes and sort of combined them. It's all right, but it doesn't compete with Bombay's. I'll definitely make paneer again. Probably add it to a store-bought simmer sauce. Or maybe I'll actually try following a saag paneer recipe next time.

Friday, March 04, 2005

iPod Shuffle

Ever since Iffy got an iPod Shuffle at the local Best Buy last weekend, I've been considering stopping by and seeing if there were still units available. Tonight I stopped by. There were still units available. I am now the proud new owner of a 512 MB iPod Shuffle. Nice.