Outstreched arm

Friday, December 29, 2006

Dear Prudence on dealing with religious friends

Well, this one just begs for me to comment. I won't repost the whole thing; read it here:

Dear Prudence: I'm tired of my friend attributing a successful surgery to God

Where I agree with Prudie:

No, don't let your friend know that you're annoyed by their religious displays. There's a bigger issue at hand right now and you should instead exercise your patience and polite, noncommittal generalities when the god-talk comes up, just as you do when your friends ask if their child's frightening drawing wasn't the most beautiful thing you've ever seen: "yes, honey, that's very nice."

Where I disagree:

...But let's not sing unnecessary praises either. Prudie does NOT know that the newly religious friend dealt with the matter better because they became more religious. Prudie does NOT know that the the medical staff was thanked beyond complimenting them on being such nice tools for J.C. to use; Prudie should understand the difference between that and thanking someone for their hard work. And no, you should not commit the ethical blunders of lying and encouraging behavior you don't endorse as advised by Prudie in the last sentence.

Simply focus on the wholly human medical miracle that took place and gently ignore the prayer-talk without getting into arguments about it. "I knew your daughter would be fine - she's a strong little thing!" instead of "Yeah, well explain why Jesus didn't heal hundreds of millions of other people in the world, HUH?" Not because the latter isn't a valid point, but because you're trying to preserve a friendship.

P.S. To clarify that last paragraph: lying by omission is still lying, but given the limitations of the human condition, all you can hope for is to keep your friends on the best possible terms. This will include either complete avoidance of a topic (omission of your true feelings by selectiveness) or outright falsehood (pretense of agreement with your friend's feelings). Omission is, in my humble opinion, the wiser option.


Friday, December 22, 2006

Some people actually *like* the Adobe CS3 icons

Like this guy.

Look, I don't care that the icons are "recognizable" now. A series of flat squares of different colors would sure as heck stand out in the Dock and be distinguishable as well. How's that - just remove the two-letter abbreviations. No one calls Adobe Bridge "Br" anyway. And what's "Jr"? Junior what?

Also, notice all the non-letterized icons. They make the key point in this miserable failure: if Acrobat Reader's funky triangle is so well known that it should stay its own symbol, how about focusing on creating equally impressive icons for the rest of the suite? I thought that's what icon designers did.

The most frequently repeated cliche in marketing is that any exposure, even exposure that provokes negative reactions, is good for the business. It's baloney. Regardless of that, though, and regardless of the recognizability of these icons touted by some people who need to go easy on the crack, can we agree that this is ugly? Even if it magically increases your productivity by .8%, please admit that it's basically non-design.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Inquisitor - search box enhancer for Safari

You know how Firefox's search box completes as you type, gives you the option of picking the search engine to use on the fly, and shows suggested search terms? That's a cool feature. If only Safari had something like that.

Well, if you were willing to fork over $5, it did; David Watanabe, a developer of fancy-schmancy Mac apps, created a Safari plug-in called Inquisitor. It replicated the above functionality in a more graphic way than Firefox. This worked well, though not always perfectly, and not everyone wanted to part with $5 (the very nerve of the developer...!)

Ok, no more excuses. If you use Safari, head on over to the Inquisitor website and get a FREE copy of the new version. It has all kinds of sweetness all over it. Here's what it looks like when you search for things with its help. It's completely and fully rad.

Apple should just buy Inquisitor, CoverFlow-style. David deserves more than donations and Safari users deserve Inquisitor.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Microsoft.com - new design, Vista-like

What an odd combination of strange elements. Click below for a screenshot of the Microsoft.com design launched today, and for the same image with comments on the design added by yours truly.

P.S. The screenshot was taken in IE 6 on a Windows box. When I first saw the page in Firefox, I thought it was broken because of all the disjointedness.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Tangerine 1.0 review

I tried the beta version of Potion Factory's Tangerine, a generator of mood-based playlists, and found the application beautiful but essentially useless.

Version 1.0, out now, is slightly enhanced, equally pretty, and still producing the same (non)results. My top twenty "fastest" and "most intensive" tracks (out of a library of 6,000) include a scratchy Django Reinhardt ballad, Neu!'s "Neuschnee" and Tricky's "Ghetto Youth" - tracks I'd describe as fairly slow and mellow. It bears repeating: no matter how I twiddle Tangerine's (precious few) knobs, I get good-as-random playlists.

Also, your iTunes-purchased songs will not be included in the analysis; I understand that Potion can't legally break Apple's DRM in order to analyze these songs, but it does cripple the whole enterprise significantly.

Keep the UI and rethink the algorithm.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On sad news

The body of James Kim, a senior CNET editor, has been found following a long search which had previously recovered his family alive and reasonably well. James had left their car, stranded in Oregon mountains, to look for help. This was a brave, if ultimately ill-advised and tragic, decision. It's not possible for me to relate in any meaningful way to the feelings of his loved ones, so here's merely hoping that they proceed strongly and that our memory of him is a good and long one.

Having said that I must comment at least briefly on the lamentably predictable response from many, many observers. To quote the above-linked CNET article:

Upon hearing the news, CNET readers immediately began to post their condolences on message boards and via e-mails.

"My family and I will continue to pray for James' family...When I try to put myself in his shoes, I think James did what every parent would do for his family. James, God bless," one reader wrote.

Wrote another: "Please realize that there were so many people praying for his safe return...I'm sorry!"

Let's be honest so as not to make mockery of Mr. Kim's unfortunate death: prayers for his safe return did nothing, since prayers do nothing for those prayed for. Prayers for his family will have the same result.

The limited (and, let's face it, dishonest) ways in which prayer "works" are: it mobilizes people to contemplation and action, and it lets victims know that they have our support. It is unnecessary, fruitless, and mildly contemptible to hide that kind of basic human compassion behind a mask of falsely hopeful and ludicrously ineffective chanting that is Christian prayer.

I understand that it may have consoled the Kims to know that others were praying for them, and it may console them now to know that prayers continue. This, however, is merely a baffling product of our tradition of praying for prayer's sake. We could have consoled them in countless other ways free of the pretentiousness and pointlessness of prayer.

In times of uncertainty and grief, let's express our sympathy honestly. Saying "I pray for you" usually means no more than "I think of you" anyway. Let's leave fictitious divine beings (who, were they to exist, don't seem to care either way) out of it.