Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I make check lists. That way, I can check the list, and check off things that are no longer needed. Builders, I've noticed make punch lists. These are like check lists, but more emphatic. I guess this is because builders are manly men who would never merely check something when they have the option of punching it.

So really tough guys make bullet lists. These are even stronger than punch lists. Each item in a bullet list carries the threat of death if it is not fulfilled.

HTML users have two choices: ordered lists (delimited by <ol>...</ol>), and unordered lists (couched in <ul>...</ul>). I'm not sure if unordered lists are anything like disordered lists. If so, they would be pretty similar to my check lists.

A check list is not a list in HTML, though. You can have a check box, but it is independent of any list membership. In fact, it's independent of anything at all. You can simply have an unlabeled check box all by itself on an HTML page. Here's one now:

So you can check things off without first checking the list. This is the kind of list I really need ... just a set of boxes that I can check off for any reason at all. I'll have to make myself a list like this sometime.

I'll put it on my "to do" list.

Friday, January 5, 2007


Many people are familiar with the idea of Print on Demand. You know the hype. You walk into your local bookstore, order a copy of any book ever written, and in a few minutes (or hours), pick up your new printed, bound copy. Or you get your morning newspaper(?), filled with just the news you care about, off your printer. This technology is here today, and is starting to gain a foothold.

But really, this is just a special case of Manufacturing on Demand. Printers, binders, etc. are just manufacturing machines. As other processes become increasingly automated, and as that automation technology drops in price, there's no reason why there can't be distributed manufacturing everywhere. Why not show up at a car dealer and have the exact car you want built for you that day? Or choose your own cell phone features and gizmos and walk away with that exact phone? When you go on vacation, instead of packing, just have your hotel room closet stocked with all the clothes you'll need, made to your exact specifications.

To some extent, this is available in certain fields today. You can configure and order a PC on-line and pick it up at a retail store that day. And of course, you can get your coffee or food made to order.

Shipping parts and materials around is typically a lot cheaper than shipping finished manufactured goods. Retailers don't have to worry about which items to keep in inventory if all are made from the same set of parts. You can even design your own cell phones, laptops, etc. and have them assembled for you.

This was even embodied in the software development movement towards object-oriented programming. Once robust object classes had been designed and developed, software for all sorts of applications could be assembled from these parts.

At least, that was the theory.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

No Such Thing As Too Many Pockets

For years, I carried house/misc. keys in my front left pants pocket, car keys in the back left, change in the back right and wallet in the front right. As long as all my pants had at least those four pockets, I was all set.

Then came the portable appliances. For a while, I was carrying both a cell phone and a PDA. This necessitated two additional pockets, or one of those lame-looking belt holsters. I finally got a Treo, which serves as both phone and PDA, reducing my pocket requirements to five. Being an avid photographer (and stereo photographer, remember?), I find the Treo camera totally inadequate. So a small camera brings the requisite number of pockets back up to six.

There are cargo pants to meet these needs, and more, but I haven't yet seen them in dress versions, with pinstripes, etc. Even cargo jeans are hard to find if you don't want to look like those wacky carpenters from Green Acres. Even casual cargo pants don't seem to come in enough colors to get through the week. Remember when pants used to be blue, brown, black, tan or gray? Now they're heather, sage, rust, stone and pumpkin. Ugh!

So what to do? Male handbags have never made the cut, though a few resistance fighters still carry backpack like things or, more daringly, shoulder bags. Photographer's vests look totally dorky unless you're a photographer. Come to think of it, even if you're a photographer. Ok, especially if you're a photographer.

Belt holsters are ok ... if you don't mind Commissioner Gordon flashing the Bat-signal at you. Ordinary backpacks, particularly well-travelled ones, might be the best bet, but they have a habit of not staying with you. I want to wear all my essentials so I have no chance of leaving something vital behind.

I think it's time to bring back the Captain Kangaroo look!

Monday, January 1, 2007

The Camera Never Lies?

It's a well-known falsism that the camera never lies. Trick photography has been around about as long as photography itself, and newer technology keeps making it easier to manipulate photographic images. Now HP has a camera that makes people look slimmer in photographs.

This strikes me as so typically American. Instead of actually getting people to be slimmer, let's just make everyone look slimmer in photos. Then we can post these photos on the Web, so thousands of people we've never met will see us as svelt and fit. It's one more step towards isolating people from reality. The fact that the current crop of TV game shows are called reality shows is even more revealing of how unacquainted with reality we really are. We don't recognize reality when we see it, or miss it when we don't.