Category Archives: This or That

Trivial Quote

I liked this. Someone on the forum uses this as a signature:

God is good, all the time
Sometimes it’s obvious

This is a reminder that sometimes, God’s goodness is not obvious…but he’s still good.

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Nine Web Design No-Nos

One of my seminars at the Church Media conference last week dealt with web design. Frankly, I didn’t learn a whole lot; after all, this is something I do professionally. But I did get a kick out of the leader’s “Six Things Never To Use in Web Design.” I agreed with all six, and added three of my own. So that’s nine items. I’ve been trying, hard, to come up with a tenth thing, but though I’ve had some good candidates, nothing has surfaced as a rock solid “definitely don’t do this.”

So, I’ll run with the nine. Most of these were popular in the 1990s, and should have died in the 1990s, the early days of the web. And most of these are very common on local church websites, a fact of life which pains me greatly.

1. Frames. Don’t design web pages with frames. It is so 1990s. Some browsers have trouble with frames. And if you care about Google rankings, definitely avoid frames. (I’ve never designed with frames.)

2. Scrolling banner text. This comes under the heading “Don’t do it just because you can.” Designers see that their program enables them to scroll text, so they do it. It’s just annoying. Like the similar FX in Powerpoint, where letters come flying across one at a time to form words. Don’t do it just because you can.

3. Animated GIFS. I hate sites that are plastered with cutesy animations that the designer stole from somewhere else.

4. Hit counters. Don’t put these on your website. They look amateurish (from a design standpoint), and “hits” are not like the more accurate “visits” (by accessing my blog homepage, I got probably a dozen “hits” as you accessed pieces of artwork, plus my javascript and CSS pages).

5. Patterned backgrounds. You can download gobs of square patterns to use as backgrounds for your pages. In general, avoid them. They look cheap.

6. Template buttons and art. You can buy a CD with thousands of graphic buttons; you just add your words to it. Plus lines, shapes, stars, symbols, and all kinds of other things. All of which look cheap. They also take extra time to load, as opposed to using textual links and buttons, which is the current standard (in tandem with Cascading Style Sheets).

7. Midi music. If I come across a site with music playing on it‚Äîthat’s the quickest way to get me to close the page. Especially if I’m at work. Music is especially annoying on ebay.

8. Splash screens. This is a page you’re forced to endure before getting to the actual page you want. You certainly don’t want to see it every time you visit that site. Instead of directly entering the store, it’s like being forced to come through another entrance with a special waiting room. Splash screens kill you on Google rankings, and studies show that up to a third of people never go beyond the splash screen. I click out of them as fast as possible.

9. Under Construction pages. I constantly have pages under construction‚Äîbut I don’t advertise that fact. I only link to a page or a section when it’s done. Nobody wants to be taken to an “under construction” page. It just wastes your time. When you have something there, then give me a link. I’m not interested in your master plan or good intentions.

Any candidates for a 10th item?

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The Taylor Van Tragedy

taylorgirls.jpgEveryone in Fort Wayne has been talking about a tragedy which occurred five weeks ago, when a semi truck crossed the median on I-69 and struck a van carrying people from Taylor University, killing five of them. One girl was in a coma for five weeks, and she was identified as Laura VanRyn (left). But when she came out of the coma, she identified herself as Whitney Cerak (right)–a classmate who had been named among the dead. A case of mistaken identification.

What makes the story extra amazing is the response of the two families involved (especially the VanRyns, who had been keeping a bedside vigil over a girl who, it turns out, was not their daughter after all). I was going to write about this. It’s such an unusual, compelling story. But now I see a post by Ed Gebert on his blog about the whole thing. No reason for me to plow the same ground.

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Complex Coffee

I stop at Starbucks most mornings on my way to work. I did today. They always have three coffees available–a medium or mild roast, a bold roast, and decaf. The three selections are scribbled on a chalkboard with brief descriptions. And the descriptions contain words like these: bold, smooth, soft, well-balanced, nutty, herbal, fruity, earthy notes, spicy, sparkling, acidic, light, robust, citrusy. And my favorite: complex.

starbucksI don’t know what those mean. I’ve never sensed any nuttiness in coffee. No hints of oranges or mangoes or any other kind of fruit. To me, there are two types of coffee: strong, and not-so-strong. And decaf versions of each. Okay, I should add a third type, the kind grandpa always had sitting on the stove in the farmhouse, a roast which I call Terminal Stomach Radiation. Starbucks has nothing similar, beyond stuffing a handful of Komodo Dragon beans into your mouth.

Life needs to be kept simple pre-coffee. I don’t want to enter Starbucks and be confronted with difficult decisions: “Do I feel like nutty, or smooth? How many earthy notes can I handle today?” Before coffee, I can barely locate my truck in the garage. I just want to say, “Gimme coffee,” and leave. Then, having consumed my morning brew, I’m empowered to make decisions during the rest of the day. Never mind that I usually get decaf. There’s a psychological thing going on which still perks me up, enlivens my senses, as though I’m still mainlining caffeine. Let nothing jeopardize that illusion.

Anyway, I certainly don’t want “complex” coffee first thing in the morning. I want it strong or not-so-strong, and I don’t want to put any further thought into the purchase. Thank you.

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Welcome to My Revamped Blog

The move is complete. My blog has taken up residency at the domain, and I bought a whole new wardrobe for the place.

I started Whatever in the fall of 2004 and gave it a name with very little thought. I didn’t check around to see if other blogs were using the “Whatever” name. I just plugged it in and took off. I didn’t know if I would enjoy blogging or not. Just thought I’d give it a try.

Turns out I really enjoy it. As a writer, I’ve always been told that I should keep a journal. Well, journalling never worked for me, though I made half-hearted efforts over the years. But blogging is basically journalling, and this does work for me. Meaning, it helps me keep my literary muscles flexed.

Previously, I used Blogger, which is now owned by Google. It’s nice, and it’s free. But I’ve moved to Movable Type, which gives me all kinds of new flexibility and capabilities. Since I’m proficient with HTML and FTP and CSS, I can make it work (otherwise, stick with Blogger).

So, I’m here, and will be for the forseeable future. I’m sure there are all kinds of things I still need to fix, but I’ll catch those as I go. I’m just glad I was able to transfer all of my old posts. I didn’t get the comments moved, but maybe I’ll figure something out.

Anyway, enjoy RandomPokes, and stop by often. I’ll try not to bore you silly.

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Today’s Junk Email

I just finished checking my email. I received 76 emails since checking last night. Only one of them was NOT junk (and even that was just an email subscription I have which I deleted without reviewing). This is really getting out of hand. And it’s been like this for quite a while. It used to be that the government talked about doing something about it. Oh well.

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A Trivia Tidbit in Search of a Cause

In China, 84 percent of all car buyers are first-time buyers.

I’ve known that for a month now, and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with it. Was there some analogy, perhaps, with first-time visitors to my church? None that I’ve been able to find.

The United States probably passed that 84 percent mark in the 1940s. But during periods in my life, I’m sure 84 percent of all cell-phone buyers were first-time buyers, and likewise with computer buyers, home cable installers, and even color TV buyers.

So, I don’t know, there you have it–a useless fact. Hope you can figure out what to do with it.

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What I Really Think About Daylight Savings

A few weeks ago, Indiana climbed aboard the Daylight Savings Time train. We resisted it for decades, despite all kinds of arguments that it would be a good thing. But finally, the idea got through the legislature, and at the beginning of April, Hoosiers had to learn how to change their clocks.

We’re supposed to not like it. We’re supposed to gripe about it, just like we gripe about class basketball.

But I must admit–I like it. Today I mowed my yard late in the day, and didn’t finish until 8:30 pm–but it was still light out. That was nice.

And our cats love it. They love being outside in the grass, but know that when it gets dark, we won’t let them out. So now, when we come home at the end of the day, there is an extra hour of daylight they can claim as outside time.

So I, a Hoosier, a person who hates to change, admits that this change works well for me. Sorry.

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Domain Name Trivia

Here’s a fascinating page which talks about domain names. I know–probably boring stuff to most people. But to me, with about 20 names registered with Network Solutions (3 for church, 5 personal, 14 for work), it’s pretty fascinating. For instance:

  • There are 676 possible two-letter sequences ending in .com, and all are taken. So are all 17,576 of the three-letter combinations. The United Brethren domain is a two-letter domain (, but with the .org extension. However, we’re still pretty lucky to have registered it early.
  • Of the 467,000 four-letter domain possibilities, nearly 98,000 are still available. For now. The writer says, “Choose one, and then manufacture a ridiculous backronym to explain it.” Like, or
  • The average domain name is 11 letters long.
  • The maximum-allowed length is 63 characters. There are 538 domains of that length, including one with 63 Zs. followed by .com.
  • The US Census Bureau lists 1219 male names, and all of them are registered. But not all of the 2841 female names are registered. All of the top 10,000 family names are registered.

Like I said, it’s interesting to me.

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Continuous Partial Attention (continued)

Yesterday I ranted about Continuous Partial Attention, otherwise known as the Laptops in Meetings Disease. CPA has been around for a while, and it’s not limited to using computers during meetings. I find myself unable, or unwilling, to focus on something in a variety of settings. And I’m not alone. We quip, “I’m just multi-tasking,” which carries the pretense of being efficient, doing two or more things at once. But the reality is, you’re not giving any one thing your full attention. Like:

  • Talking on the cell phone while driving.
  • Jotting down ideas for my Sunday night small group meeting during the sermon. Guilty.
  • Reading Newsweek while watching TV (though TV rarely deserves your full attention, unless it’s “24” or Taylor Hicks is performing on American Idol).
  • Doing a project at work while chatting with someone via iChat (like, um, my wife; we’re linked that way all day long).
  • Reading a magazine while eating, which I always do. No, that doesn’t count, any more than eating popcorn while watching a movie does.

Can you think of other examples? I know there are gobs of them.

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