Stop! Look Before You Click!

Online waiver forms are not very useable. “Real users, not lawyers, need to write the forms. Then they need to redesign the sites so that the consent forms are visual, not legalese text blocks.” Interview with readability expert Mark Hochhauser.  –Stop! Look Before You Click! (C|Net)

A Second Helping of Spam

“We have recently become aware of the fact that our previous list management service erroneously failed to oversee certain remove requests. We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and would like to offer all of our valuable customers another chance to unsubscribe from our services.” A Second Helping of Spam That message was appended to the beginning of a piece of junk e-mail in my box this…

Harry Potter Fans Warn Against Dangers of the Bible

“A number of concerned British Harry Potter fans have spoken out against the Bible, claiming that the holy text of the Christian Church can cause serious damage to children…. The tales of Jesus turning water into wine are fairly harmless, but there is a serious risk of children drowning if they try to walk on water….”  –Harry Potter Fans Warn Against Dangers of the Bible (Satire from The Chaser)

The Elements of [UNIX] Style

The geekiest, most elite programming language, UNIX, seems to be associated with a love of words.  “Working on the command line, hands poised over the keys uninterrupted by frequent reaches for the mouse, is a posture familiar to wordsmiths (especially the really old guys who once worked on teletypes or electric typewriters). It makes some of the same demands as writing an essay. Both require composition skills. Both demand a…

Did I Miss Anything?

“Everything. A few minutes after we began last time a shaft of light descended and an angel or other heavenly being appeared and revealed to us what each woman or man must do to attain divine wisdom in this life and the hereafter…” Tom Wayman –Did I Miss Anything? (Question frequently asked by students after missing a class.)

The Art in the Popular

“[A]t the University of Virginia today I regularly teach the introductory comparative literature survey, which begins with the Iliad and the Odyssey and runs through all the traditional great authors, such as Virgil, Dante, Cervantes, Goethe, Austen, and Dostoevsky… why am I now writing about GilliganĀ“s Island and Star Trek?” Paul Cantor –The Art in the Popular (Wilson Quarterly)

Life Before Birth

“Babies are leaning their native language before birth. This is made possible by the development of hearing as early as 16 weeks gestational age. A mother’s voice reaches the uterus with very little distortion as the sound waves pass directly through her body.” David Chamberlain –Life Before Birth (

High-Tech Futures: How 'hard sf' keeps the science in science fiction

"There are two kinds of science-fiction reader, who in their extreme forms constitute disjoint reading populations. A pure Population One reader wants scientific ideas and will be tolerant of other flaws provided those ideas are present. A pure Population Two reader will tolerate (or fail to notice) scientific errors but insist on literary virtues. You can tell which population you belong to from what follows…" –High-Tech Futures: How ‘hard sf’…