They Don’t Like Us Much

A BBC Poll reveals that the U.S. and globalization is viewed as more harmful than terrorism and war.

Now, the in this country we haven’t had a stellar 4 years (or 60), but in general, we’re just not that bad, especially when viewed with a little relativity. However I can understand that in the heat of the moment people look at the big thing in front of them and focus on it–and it’s no shame to hold us up to the standard we set for ourselves and find us wanting.

What’s remarkable to me about the survey results is that they are almost in 100% opposition to the number of people killed by each problem. Arguably tainted water has killed and continues to kill more people than any other problem in the history of humanity. Bar none. Yet it only beat out migration as a world problem.

By comparison, the US and terrorists together have managed to kill only a few thousand people in the last three years, even if you account for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as 9/11 and the Madrid bombing–even if you include the death penalty. That’s sad, but it accounts for something like 0.000003 percent of the world’s population, even if you assume the total is on the order of 20,000.

But tainted water (and water-borne diseases) and illiteracy kill millions every year. Globalization is negatively correlated with illiteracy and tainted water. Yet Globalization is right behind the U.S. as a world problem. Assume 20 million in the same time period, and it’s 0.003 percent of the world’s population. Looks small, but it’s many orders of magnitude larger.

I’d say it should make everyone think, but with my previous post as evidence, people don’t seem to be in much of a mood for reflection.

Educated People Aren’t Introspective

In Salon, a woman learns her therapist likes Rush Limbaugh and freaks out. Make this her PhD-having urban Jewish therapist.

The writer doesn’t learn this at first, of course–she has several months of insightful therapy (so she says), then in the process of complaining about her husband comes the revelation:

“He’s a loving, caring, selfless man — but his politics are all about hatred,” I said. “He’s not educated, and more significant, he’s ignorant — he actually listens to Rush Limbaugh.”

I waited for a “Whoo boy!” or a sympathetic smile, but my shrink just stared at me, expressionless.

“I assume you’re not a Limbaugh fan,” I ventured, assured that this woman, so nuanced in her thinking, couldn’t possibly be a Dittohead. She was so reasonable that I couldn’t imagine her getting off on Rush’s demented tirades. She didn’t seem square enough for his politics, and I was certain no hate radio fan was capable of her intellectual sophistication. Besides, she was an educated urban Jewish professional, and Rush’s audience consisted largely of white suburban males.

She held my gaze a few excruciating seconds longer. “Actually, I am,” she said.

Now, there are two ways the writer could have taken this:

  1. Freak out and never get over the fact that this woman could simultaneously hold right-wing views and yet not drool or club the writer about the head while screeching, “Obey! Obey! Obey!”
  2. Take this as an opportunity to do the sort of introspection and questioning of assumptions that a mature, sensitive, educated person should do.

So it’s Salon–guess which option she took.

Actually, she took a variation on option 1, in true Salon fashion: she freaked out and then endlessly agonized and moaned about it in self-concious and very public Soulful Angst. Yet this woman never once in the article seems to question her assumptions, even though she baldly states the contradictions several times.

I’ve encountered this–supposedly educated people who assume that their echo-chamber is all there is, and if you aren’t an intellectual clone with only mild differences in emphasis of concern, you are obviously Not Intelligent. And if you’re Not Intelligent, you’re, well, just a teensy bit less than human.

The funny thing is, of course, that conservatives have much the same but mirror image views of liberals. “Them pointy-headed types get themselfs all mixed up with that book larnin’ and fergit common sense.” They view liberals as some sort of Satanic Moth–fascinating to look at for the irridescent spectacle but insidious if you discover them in your closet, leading to moral decay and naughty bits being shown in public.

I have seen intelligent, sensitive people who have divergent views on just about everything. Godwin’s Law states that whoever brings up Hitler or the Nazis in a political argument has left the bounds of reasonable discourse and the opponent should win by default. However, we need Hitler, because he’s the only guy we can all agree we hate. Lots of people to this day make excuses for Stalin–he doesn’t provoke the same instinctive disgust for them that, say, Ronald Reagan does.

I find myself more willing to forgive a closed-minded attitude in conservatives, as they don’t claim to be more intelligent, better educated, and more compassionate. But the writer of the Salon piece would do well to actually turn that brain power she alleges she has to a bit of self-reflection: perhaps her assumption that everyone who doesn’t share her exact political views isn’t automatically evil, stupid, incompetent, ignorant, or aching to revive the Third Reich. Especially as she’s married to one such.

I’d say to the same to conservatives, but everybody knows they can’t even read, let alone use computers. Chuh!

Disappearing text in IE 6 Fixed, Thanks Jason

So with some gracious help from Jason Lefkowitz, I’ve fixed the IE 6 problem noted below.

Just so you know what it was in case you don’t think to yourself, “Self, instead of spending two hours on this, I’m going to spend 15 minutes putting in a two-column table and be done with it,” I outline the problem and solution here.

The problem is if you have a div floated over another, and only in IE 6. If the div that is floated over has a background-color, that background color will cover everything in that non-floated div until IE is forced to redraw the screen (such as by covering it with another window or selecting the invisible text).

The solution is to take the background-color out.

Jason points out that this is Bill Gates’s fault, not WaSP or Zeldman’s. Technically, no, but here’s a case where I was on several other deadlines, and this weird issue comes up and sucks up two hours of my day as I debug it. Now, debugging is part of life, but a quick solution would have been to take the two columns of layout and plunk them in two table cells. That would have taken me 15 minutes to restructure the page and test in the applicable browsers.

Given the structure of the code it actually would have been the same on assistive devices, though a cell phone might have had more problems with it. Still, if we get sufficient cell phone traffic, I’ll just put up a WML version of the relevant information. So far, nary a one has been identified.

In this case, I didn’t even care what the thing looked like in NS 4, I just wanted it to work in IE 6 and Mozilla. That’s it, really, all I cared about. But doing it the “right” way cost me time I didn’t have.

The reason I spent it? Because that was how the code had been conceived originally, and I wanted to stay true to that. Also Jason helped, which basically goaded me into not just giving up on it. Had he not, there’d be one more table in existence today.

So — my problem is not with “Standards” per se, but rather unreasonable application of them when the tradeoffs just don’t work in their favor. Don’t expect to see me often going to these lengths. When in doubt, I will go with what works for the vast majority of my audience and keep my projects from going over budget.

When the browser market is such that doing away with tables for layout is more efficient, I will happily do so. It’s just not there yet, pace Zeldman.

Hidden Assumptions of CSS Zealots

I’ve been in an argument on a discussion list with a CSS Zealot. They’re the kind, like the Web Standards Project, or Zeldman, or even sometimes Eric Meyer who say that using W3C-approved code in a certain way is not just a superior technological or business choice, but a moral imperative. You are a Bad Person if you do not accept The Way.

Fittingly, one of the premiere sites for this sort of religous proselytizing (they make Mac advocates look like pussies, quite frankly–the only people they remotely compare to are the Stallmanesque GNU Cadres) is CSS Zen Garden, the Light and the Way.

It’s a nifty trick–some nicely structured markup, almost totally unlike anything you’d see in the real world of commercial Web development, that can be totally changed in look and feel through CSS ONLY. Oh, except for the buttload of images that no dialup connection could ever support (hmm…where’s the navigator.connectionSpeed property so I can detect that…gotta be in the docs somewhere).

But, admittedly, it’s a nifty trick, and a nice playground.

However, much as the Japanese government of 1934 had some un-Buddhist principles (or today for that matter), there are a couple of biases their rhetoric assumes you share if you are a Good and Right-Thinking Arya- I mean, Person.

Caveat and Disclaimer: The group is not monolithic, and here I publicize and sometimes even (hell, usually) exaggerate for comic effect the more extreme positions taken by the more extreme advocates. However I am trying to expose some contradictions, hidden value judgements, and distortions that the more adamant parts of the group make. I’ll leave it for someone more skilled and less pissed off than me to make the subtle, reasonable case. I’m here to blow it out of proportion so you can see the bits I’m talking about writ large–much like an actual assistive application.

Continue reading

Glug, glug

Tyler Cowen cites others who compare the cost of gasoline to other commonly-purchased items. I’d just like to add to the list bottled water, which is the biggest ripoff I’ve ever seen.

If the highest gas prices in the US are $2.12 a gallon, compare that to the bottled water that I regularly find for $1.19 for 20 ounces.

That’s around $7.62 a gallon. I guess that water-powered car isn’t such a great deal if you use bottled water…maybe you should drink the gasoline instead?

“It’s New” Is a Lame Excuse 4 Years Later

In this article in which Jeffrey Zeldman muses on why he struggles to do XHTML + CSS design despite the fact that it’s taking him a hell of a lot longer than it would have previously, he offers up this lame excuse, and goes on to assert the usual mantra as to why it’s important, which I will address soon.

Everything I�m doing in this troublesome part of the layout could be handled with table cells and traditional JavaScript rollovers and it would work everywhere. (By everywhere, of course I mean in popular browsers with default settings.) Not only would it work �everywhere,� it would also take much less time to code. Because I and you and everyone knows how to do it that way, whereas with complex layouts, The CSS Way is still a mostly unexplored continent.

Jesus H. Christ and his CSS-rendered dog Sparky, Zeldman, you’ve been braying about this shit for over 4 years now, and Mozilla and IE 6 have been fairly stable for 3. If you, who sits around all day doing nothing but thinking up ways that CSS angels can dance on the head of an XHTML pin, can’t do simple cross-browser rollovers and layout in “The CSS Way” (note the religious capitalization), then how is anybody who needs to make money supposed to do it?

Back in the bad old days, people managed to get reliable cross-browser DHTML working within a few months of each browser coming out. If you say after 3 years that it’s too new for anybody to reasonably expect you to develop something in, say 125% of the time you used to take to do it with HTML 4, then admit it: it just isn’t practical yet.

The reasons Zeldman goes on to give reveal the hidden biases of the Standards-worshipping cohort, and deserve a lengthy post of their own to address (that I was working on before I spotted this gem).

But seriously, “new” was an excuse I’d accept before the PATRIOT act. Now you’re supposed to know your shit and do it in a timely manner, or find alternate strategies to support the “more browsers and devices” you want to support. You’ve had time; now put up, shut up, or change your tune.