Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I had a contracting interview where I used the expression "to come on like gangbusters." As soon as I said it, I realized that to those not of a certain age, that expression is probably strange and puzzling. Luckily, the fellow interviewing me was not extremely young or maybe heard it before and let it pass.

I was thinking about terms and expressions, like dialing a phone or telegraphing one's intentions. The newspaper I delivered as a boy had a columnist who liked to list "faded phrases" in his columns. Ever hear the expression "is it bigger than a breadbox?" I'm sure it would draw puzzling looks from many people because they don't seem to be used nowadays. After that thought, I noticed an article at bread.com (I wanted to see what was there, but it's only a large regional bread company).

While there, I saw that they recommend storing bread at room temperature rather than in the refrigerator, where they say it goes stale quicker. So I guess there is some value to the old antiquated breadbox.

As I said, I used to store bread in the refrigerator. If I would've said I stored it in the icebox, you might have also had an inkling I'm on the early side of the baby boomers.

At one time, icebox was a synonym for refrigerator, harkening back to when blocks of ice, delivered regularly, kept foods chilled.

Monday, October 29, 2007
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

You may not need this information for your own personal site, but you might know somebody who sells a product or service that could benefit from a higher ranking from search engines.

If you search for "Bellevue API writer" on Google, my web site is the #4 result. Search for "redmond sdk technical writer" and I'm #6. Similarly on Live Search, my website is in the first batch returned for "technical writer Redmond" and "technical writer Bellevue". This explains why I get "found-your-résumé-online" e-mails from contracting job agencies.

To be found, a web site should have some keywords people might search for in its title, sprinkle them in the body text, stow them in the alternative text for its images, and provide terms people search for in the keywords and description meta tags.

I didn't plan it this way, but whenever I posted a question or comment on the MSDN forums or blogs, I always included my personal web site www.avrashow.com in the space provided. Turns out these links may cause Google to improve my ranking. I've read that a web site must be linked to at least once to be included in Google's results.

But don't try to game the system--those copy-and-paste paragraphs of the same words in 6pt white text at the bottom of page won't help your ranking. They may get you dropped from Google results altogether!

As tickled as I am that somebody searching for a technical writer or programming writer in Bellevue or Redmond Washington will see my Web site, I'm more excited that if somebody types in "acoustic guitar mississippi john hurt” on youtube, my version of a guitar song comes up as the #7 entry.

I think this is the best I ever sang and I'm thrilled that a few thousand people have seen it and several have written kind comments.

If you type that same search string on Amazon, the first entry is John Sebastian's DVD lessons on how to play Mississippi John Hurt's songs along with reminiscences of days in coffee houses as he watched, trying to learn those songs.

It's been said one reason so many guitar players learned Mississippi John Hurt's songs is that he was always patient and willing to show young guitar players how to play those songs.

I can't play a song's melody on the high strings while keeping an alternating bass going with my thumb on the low strings, and try to sing at the same time.

My fingerpicking fingers play one repeating pattern. It only sounds different when the fingering of my left hand changes to a different chord.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Studies suggest canned tomatoes are better for you than typical supermarket (i.e., non-vine-ripened) tomatoes.

I don't think canned tomatoes get any better than Muir Glen's. I like to have some cans of whole tomatoes on hand in winter. I pour the juice they're packed in into a glass and it's the best tomato juice I can imagine.

The fire-roasted tomatoes are tasty and spicy as salsa (but don't overlook their jars of salsa, BTW). The juice these fire-roasted whole tomatoes are packed in poured into a glass surpasses V-8 for tastiness, IMO.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
George Carlin once said all other drivers are either morons or maniacs.

You're driving along, and the person in front of you is going slower than you. You think to yourself, "What a moron."

But you're driving along and somebody passes you, and you think, "Look at that maniac go!"

I find it amusing because I drove a Checker cab in Los Angeles many years ago. I didn't overtly speed, but few cars passed me. I'm sure some people in other cars thought I was driving like a maniac. My personal car was a Volkswagen bug, so after I turned the cab in, I was the moron driving along too slowly. Same guy, same day.

It shows how we judge things relative to our own perceptions and preferences.

If those California drivers visit someplace else, like New York, they'd know that driving in other places has its own sense of too fast or too slow, although I could never tell what would be considered too fast there; it seemed all drivers there thought everyone else was too slow.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
I'm writing a series of posts about design principles.

Here's a graphic:

It looks like I whipped out an old airbrush and sprayed a metallic finish on a 3D model, but it's done with one line (path), 3 rectangles, and one ellipse.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Does Internet Explorer ever lock up when you save a page?

I save web pages I might need later. Often, seemingly not due to any animated gif or flash banner, the progress bar on the modal Save Webpage dialog never moves and clicking the Cancel button or close box has no effect.

Even if you minimize the unresponsive dialog, you cannot click on that web page or another tab. You can kill it with Task Manager, but that closes all tabs and I think any instance of Internet Explorer running. If you Ctrl-clicked to open a bunch of pages from say a Google search, your efforts are lost.

Solution: After you click the Cancel button on the Save Webpage dialog, open another instance of Internet Explorer and close it. You should then see the stubborn dialog box has disappeared.

You probably still won't be able to save that web page, but I've copied the URL and pasted it into a new instance of Internet Explorer and sometimes this lets me save the page. Don't ask me why it works that way.

Also, it helps if you click the Cancel button several times before opening a new instance of Internet Explorer. It doesn't do anything to click it more than once, but it feels good.

If this is a general problem, feel free to pass this tip on.
Monday, October 08, 2007
I know there's no best song, but if I had to pick one song...

Most popular songs are based on a few standard chord progressions. The most basic is the 1-4-5, also known as the standard blues progression or 12-bar blues. You've heard it a million times. Whatever chord you start on, you go up to the fourth note and play that chord, then back to the first chord.

The notes in the key of C are C D E F G A B C, so C is the 1st, F the 4th, G the 5th. To "hear" these notes, consider the do-re-mi scale used in Western music. Sing 'do', think of 're' and mi', then sing "fa" (the 4th note). Try singing "DO do-do do-do do-do" (with the first 'DO' twice as long), then "FA fa-fa fa-fa fa-fa", and back to "DO do-do do-do do-do"

There's something about the song Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen that resonates with me. Several other singers have performed the song. My favorite version that combines rawness with purity is done by Brandi Carlile (the iTunes store recommended it, so I listened to an excerpt and bought it).

One verse is "It goes like this: the 4th, the 5th," and those words "the 4th, the 5th" are sung on the 4th and 5th chords. Can you hear it going higher as those lyrics are sung? And how can you not appreciate a song that would rhyme "Hallelujah" with "what's it to ya?"

I guess I like it partly because it's a song about songs, as Hamlet is a play about plays and The Player is a movie about movies.

The best movie might be "It's a Wonderful Life." It was painfully corny in 1948 and is no less so today. But why do so many people cherish this movie so?

Everyone's beliefs may differ, but I think the movie resonates with many people because it coincides with some spiritual reality (that our struggles are known) or maybe just coincides with the way we'd like it to be. I watch it just about every year around Christmas and still enjoy it.

Course if you chose "Seven Samurai" I wouldn't argue.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Silverlight 1.0 pages.


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