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It doth suck and, verily, doth it blow


Today’s the day I had to show my current multimedia dingus to the client. It’s basically a little interactive thing that asks a question, stores the answer, shows a video, and gives some feedback, times ten. Easy, right?

Then the artistic genius building the kiosk decided he wants it to run vertically. Like, portrait. Computers do not do this, says I. Well — says he — I’ve never done it before, either, but I think you build it sideways and we’ll physically rotate the monitor. Oh, and no touchscreen — we’re tucking the computer out of sight and giving you three hardwired buttons. Three whole buttons. This’ll be packed with interactive functionality.

Um. Monitor #2 will rotate (I have three monitors — worship me), but you can’t design rotated. Up/down arrows become side-to-side arrows, the mouse is all over the joint. I can rotate the monitor to run the application, but I have to design it sideways and crane. Fabulous.

I had to bribe the video guys to use their +3 Video Editing mojo to rotate all my .avi files for me. My primitive video stuff doesn’t have a “make it sideways” spell. I’ve been excreting building supplies over this for a week.

So today I pitch it to the client — no, the client, the client’s boss, and the client’s boss’ boss. The latter is a woman whose name strikes fear in the hearts of cubiclemonkeys everywhere. Say it aloud and hear the gentle pitter-pat of ass-cheeks clenching. She isn’t a cruel woman. She’s that potent combination of stupid and powerful. This is cubiclemonkey kryptonite.

They gather in my office. I rotate the monitor for them, and in so doing somehow hit a button that kills the signal. It goes black. I have a feeling now is a really bad time to figure out what all those little buttons at the bottom of the monitor do. Time rubberbands while I punch buttons and sweat, though it might’ve been kinder if I hadn’t gotten it working eventually.

I love working for a research and engineering company. I love learning about geeky, science-ish things. But there’s no getting around it: engineers hate subtlety. I designed an interface of duotoned photographs: all muted blue and dusty red. Earthy variations on our corporate colors, with a nice, bangy video window in front.

“My eye goes right to the video window in the middle”
“Excellent! That’s just what I intended.”
“But I can’t really see the photos in the background that well.”
“Excellent! That’s just what I intended.”
“Change it!”

They discuss among themselves what color goes best with red and blue. Something nice and bright. Orange? Yellow? And then one of them leans forward says, “you know those web sites where there’s text and it’s on this sort of lozenge thing and it’s tumbling over and over — can we have one of those animations?” Something inside of me rolled over, pulled the covers over its head and cried itself to sleep.

I had originally promised them a bunch of functionality, but I presumed I had a full keyboard to work with. Now I have three buttons: “yes” “no” and “reset.”

So they’re all like, “can we skip to specific scenarios?”
And I’m like, “no. I have three buttons, and they’re totally spoken for.”
“Can we have a demo mode?”
“No, I only have three buttons.”
“Can we have a help screen?”
“I have three buttons.”
“Can we have fast forward?”
“Yes, sure, if you can fast forward with your mind.”

Thank you, Ace, for planting that dangerously insubordinate snark in my brain.

It got back to me later that they were, on the whole, pleased. I mean, I’m going to have to rape and pillage my own design, but I’ve been professionally outraging my artistic sensibilities for decades. I’m getting good at it.

And, anyhow, it’s Friday. Like I give a rat’s ass about anything on Friday.

March 30, 2007 — 10:02 am
Comments: 14


This was Bill Paying Weekend, a monthly trauma I endure under the soothing alfluence of incohol. I have the money to settle my accounts these days, but I still dread this ordeal…sorting through a month’s worth of special offers from credit card companies cleverly designed to look like overdue notices so I’ll open them for sure (thus pissing me off so thoroughly they’d have to be Pretty Damn Special offers before I’d take a second look) and all the other irritations and stupidities that fall through my mail slot in thirty days.

Like this thing. This is a thirty page questionnaire from the Census Bureau. Why am I getting a questionnaire from the Census Bureau in 2007? Presumably because I blew them off in 2000.

I know, I know…I’m a Constitution-humping ‘winger and the Constitution says the government must do a census every ten years. I wouldn’t mind being a part of a head count. But I got the long form in 2000, too. Remember that? Some people got the usual few questions, and a random selection got a thirty page beast that asks nosey junque about years of schooling and income and how long my commute is and a bunch of other nunya bidness stuff. Oh, and about twenty different precise choices for race, of course. I’m an Eskimo princess, fuck off.

I wouldn’t, perhaps, be quite so set against it, if it weren’t marked “YOUR RESPONSE IS REQUIRED BY LAW.” And inside there’s this “title blah-blah-blah of the US Code, section blah-blah-blah, imposes a penalty for not responding.” Without, of course, mentioning what that penalty is.

OH! Threaten me? They can smooch silky weasel ass. I ain’t doing it. I assume the penalty is a fine, but you guys’ll visit me in the pen if I guess wrong, mmm?

Then I get four more pages of nosiness from Blue Cross. Do I smoke? Did my doctor tell me that’s bad? Naw, I gave up cigarettes so I could afford more heroin. Jesus.

So it was like a breath of warm Spring sunshine to get this in the mail. It’s NRA sweepstakes time again. I love the cheerful, breathless way the NRA flat-out fails to comprehend it’s supposed to be ashamed of itself. Guns, guns and more guns! Get one for grandma!

Though I prefer the one where they give you a page of stickers with photos of guns, and you have to peel off ten of your favorites and stick them on the Grand Prize page so they know what to send you when you win. I can spend a happy hour working out the logistics of that, maximizing the flexibility of my arsenal but minimizing the different kinds of ammo I’d have to keep in stock. Plus, colorful stickers!

Ooo! Mustn’t forget a shotgun for Grandma!

March 12, 2007 — 7:12 am
Comments: 5

Hiccup in the luncheon meat market

Fed crackdown on spam scam

According to the story, the SEC has suspended 35 of the companies mentioned in those irritating “set to explode!” spams.

The tactic does work, it says. One company saw its shares quadruple briefly after a flurry of spam went out. But it also says it’s unclear whether the companies themselves did the spamming.

It seems obvious that the companies did do the spamming, but I wonder if that’s true. Or will be true from now on. If these are boiler room operations set to snatch a quick profit in the brief period of time a stock is inflated, it doesn’t matter whose company they pump, right? And if they pick someone else’s company, what do they care if it gets a trading suspension after they’re done?

Most of the spam I get isn’t spam, it’s bounce messages from mailer daemons because some asshole spammer used a domain of mine as a return address. They don’t care who they snarl up on their way to a buck (or a yuan or a ruple or a quatloo).

I’m all for killing spam, but this strikes me as a dandy thing to do to a complete stranger. Or a competitor.

March 9, 2007 — 8:56 am
Comments: none