Wednesday, November 29, 2000

High Standards

A article about standardized testing in Maryland schools contained this gem:

Despite the slight gains, almost half of the state's elementary and middle schools performed below average, a cause for concern among education officials...

Friday, November 24, 2000

Viewer Mail

Happy Thanksgiving.

I don't get as many e-mails about the weblog as I had expected, but I got a couple earlier this week.

A Trevor Bryan wrote to inform me that, "lisa bangerts from mansfeild nottingam not manchester". Good to know. Who's Lisa Bangert again? Oh, yeah, she's the Page 3 girl I mentioned in my '93 Britain diary. Glad to know she's acquiring a fan base.

I also got a note from someone at Tharsis Books in response to my review of Martian Race. They plugged As It Is On Mars, which they appear to publish, and Mars Crossing.

Finally, words of praise from a fan:

Pal, I had a read through your Android's dungeon today. That's

Friday, November 17, 2000

The Aztek

I was in Minnesota earlier this week. My rental car was a Pontiac Sunfire -- an adequate compact car. A co-worker of mine, however, belonged to Avis Preferred. Apparently, in addition to allowing you to skip the rental counter, this program will give you a free one-size upgrade on your rental. So my Sunfire would have been upgraded to a mid-sized car, a mid-sized car would be upgraded to a full-sized sedan, and my co-worker's full-sized reservation was upgraded SUV.

Pretty cool, right? I mean, better than the dorky rental cars we get most of the time. Wrong. Avis provided him with a Pontiac Aztek...truly the Pontiac of SUVs. I don't know if the pictures there truly capture the awfulness of the design. (Although the misspelled name certainly does.) Imagine a circa 1990 Honda Civic hatchback on steroids. Imagine an armored personnel carrier with less of a sense of style.

He complained that as he was driving it around, he could see people in other vehicles pointing and laughing at his car. The worst, he said, was when a woman driving a UPS truck laughed at his mode of transportation.

You know, I like the idea of skipping the rental counter, so I'm going to try to sing up for Avis Preferred. But I think I'll try to make sure I never have a full-sized car reserved for me.

Saturday, November 11, 2000

Remove Fork, Insert Foot in Mouth

In an earlier weblog entry, I predicted a Gore victory in this month's elections and refered to a William Saletan article in Slate. Well, he's written another article explaining his errors. I was still holding out hope that I could say "told you so" if Gore still pulls it out, but even then I'd have egg on my face.

OK, so why was I wrong? Well, you can look at Saletan's article for some of the explanation. As for my additional insight -- Bush's a jerk -- I neglected another factor. Gore's a jerk. But he's my kind of jerk.

When I was 14, I was on a TV quiz show called "It's Academic". One of my teammates buzzed in without knowing the answer. I glared at him to make sure everybody knew he was the bozo who had rung in. This is exactly the kind of pompous behavior the nation came to expect from Al Gore. (I, on the other hand, have matured since then.) I guess I had a blind spot because I thought Bush deserved to be shown up. I didn't realize that -- compared to frat boys -- American can't stand "smarty-pants".

So can Gore still win? My thought is that he has a decent chance in the hand recounts. He's only down by about 300 votes in Florida. Given how much that dropped from the initial count, and given how prone to error these ballots seem, I think it's very plausible he could pick those up if things were counted more carefully. Bush, on the other hand, wants to stop the hand recounts. I mean I guess I understand that -- it's like a football team running out the clock when they're ahead. But how is he going to sell this to the public? "I don't want a more accurate count 'cause it'll take longer." Maybe he'll wake up and realize he looks bad -- just like he stopped demanding Gore concede before the recount.

Speaking of looking bad, I'm afraid that Gore will have to drop the Palm Beach bad ballot challenge. Yes, it stinks. Yes, it probably cost Gore the election. But there's no realistic way to turn the clock back. And if they somehow manage to do that, it could open up all sorts of unpleasant challenges in other states. What's going on now is reasonable -- but I don't want to see this tied up in court for months. Hopefully this will at least throw the spotlight onto usability issues related to ballots. Yes, it's obvious to me how to fill out that ballot. No, it wasn't obvious to enough people. Let's make it more obvious.

Monday, November 06, 2000

Search Engine Madness

Inspired by West Coast Girl, I present my "Search Engine Outtakes". (All searches on Google unless otherwise mentioned):

  • Android's Dungeon -- #1 !
  • Southwark colleage -- #1 (oops)
  • boy-in-the-bubble disease -- #4
  • android sketches -- #12
  • Paul Simon's Graceland -- #50
  • dancing chicken carcass -- #16
  • Gibbs Lisa -- #16
  • android -- #14
  • Jaye P. Morgan gong show -- #17 (Northern Light)

Saturday, November 04, 2000


I got my hair cut today.

While I was trying to decipher what the guy cutting my hair was saying about the Redskins (he mumbles, and speaks with a Cuban accent), I heard the woman cutting hair next to me say something to her client like, "And that converts it back to decimal." After more discussion of the merits of Brad Johnson vs. Daunte Culpepper, I decided to listen in on the conversation taking place to my left. I heard the guy getting his hair cut say, "So 127 is localhost?" His sylist said, "Yeah," and then proceeded to go into a discourse on routers that went over my head. It was completely surreal. It was like I had been transported into some sort of .com commercial. I'm not sure what the tag line would be -- "Feel like everyone's getting in on the Internet economy but you?" or "Where do you go for your technical information?"

I briefly considered getting her to cut my hair instead because -- I mean, how cool is she? But then I realized that I was confusing two totally different skill sets, and I was really there to get a good haircut. Which I did.