February 27, 2003
Making it Big: I'm on Edward Tufte's Site!

From the "Mediocrity can get you a long way!" Dept.

I'm amazed at what I can find on the web.

I was looking at Weblogs for inspiration on what type of graphics are suitable for a Weblog.

I was reading an information design piece at Designweenie.com.

I clicked on the Gantt Chart Graphics link to Edward Tufte's Site.

For those who don't know, E. Tufte is the preeminent authority in information visualization and design.

It's a pretty interesting thread--the-long-of-the-short being how does a project manager visualize complex projects, as Gantt charts just don't scale well.

He showed this example Gantt Chart:

An image of a Gannt Chart with a big, red strikethrough.

This is what he had to say about the above chart:

"About half the charts show their thin data in heavy grid prisons. For these charts the main visual statement is the grid prison of administration, not the actual tasks contained by the grid. ... The typography can be improved. The practice of first-initial-caps makes every word read a proper noun. Other problems are all-caps, poorly chosen fonts, mysterious acronyms."

Now if you look carefully at the legend (I've cropped it for your viewing pleasure below) you'll see the authors of the Gantt Chart.

A magnified image of the Legend from the above Gantt Chart. Very Blurry.

Can you make out the first author's name? I'll give you some help.

Through the magic of Photoshop, I am able to enhance the text:

A enhanced magnified image of the Legend from the above Gantt Chart. Very Clear.

I guess he didn't like my first foray into project management.

He actually lifted the Gantt Chart from a project I did during my final term of school at the University of Waterloo in 2001. I wish he would have at least told me.

I wonder if he realises that the chart was generated from Microsoft Excel?

You can find the original Gantt Chart at the IS 301a - Learning Languages Project Site.

Take a look at our Flash app with Lifty the Litfaßsäule: Click Here.

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 01:31 AM
February 26, 2003
Introvert?! I'll Introvert You!

From the "This Just in..." Dept.

I just had to ring in on this subject before I hit the hay.

Here is a excerpt of Jonathan Rauch's Caring for Your Introvert:

"With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like 'guarded,' 'loner,' 'reserved,' 'taciturn,' 'self-contained,' 'private'—narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality.

"Guarded", "reserved", "taciturn"--all words that have, at one time or another, been used to describe my nature. This is perhaps the most telling excerpt in the essay:

"If so, do you tell this person he is 'too serious,' or ask if he is okay? Regard him as aloof, arrogant, rude? Redouble your efforts to draw him out?"

Me?! (finger pointing to my noise) Too Serious?!

A project manager told me today that I had to "lighten up." They obviously haven't read this article.

It's funny. I know that I'm introverted by nature, but I have developed strategies and "extroverted-habits" to cope with the world outside of my head ("Alwasy look people in the eye when you speak", "Stand up tall, don't slouch", "Walk with purpose", "Speak out, Speak loud", "Ask people questions if you have nothing to talk about", etc.). I'm currently working on a new habit: "Smile when I see people".

Granted, I'm not open to flights of fantasy (like some people that I know), but I do think a lot. When I mean think, I don't mean compute, I mean "think" as in "ponder". Silence is golden sometimes.

I do find people tiring. Not that I don't treasure and cherish their companionship.

Of it, I think the Internet has been a great boon to Introverts. As Jason Kottke writes,

"The Internet has helped me a great deal in this regard. Email, IM, and my weblog allow me to communicate with people when I want and how I want, without worrying about all the things introverts worry about when interacting with people: small talk, first impressions, awkward silences, etc. With the web, I can carry on a conversation with a whole group of people and stare down at my shoes at the same time. That's an amazing and special thing for me."

I agree with his sentiments, but I know for a fact that the Internet (one of the best things since sliced-bread) won't ever replace human interaction. My work at OnX proves that. We get more done with one day of face-to-face client work than we can with several weeks of conference calls and email correspondence.

Just think about all those deep and intellectually stimulating conversations that spring up over IM. I've had a theory that the digital looking-glass of IM and Internet-supported communication really makes a huge impact at what people are willing to say. I've been caught doing it myself; telling perfect strangers, really deep personal stuff. It's something that just doesn't happen when I'm face-to-face with a person. In fact, I can see how people can fall in love over IM, or leave their husband/wife for an Internet Chat lover. Hell, I personally know examples for each of these instances.

I think too much.

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 12:02 AM
February 25, 2003
How about this?

From the "Right-side of the Brain" Dept.

Last night I was on crack. Looking back, the logo that I made wasn't very good. So I made a quick one that made more sense to me.

Another possible banner

Changes include:

  • Font: Changed the Geneva Font to Franklin Gothic No.2. I felt that the font was too thin, and rather than changing the font characteristics (Kerning, Leading, Horizontal scale, etc.) I figured that it would be better to just choose a different font. I figured that Franklin Gothic No. 2 was suitable--Thick, Strong and bold.
  • Background Colour: I stopped using the orange. My initial gut feeling is that the colour orange was a little dated (it was cool circa 2001), and my colour choice was whacked. Besides, I really should have used blue (orange's complimentary colour). So I went back to my normal colour scheme (Grey, Maroon) for the time being.
  • Used Uppercase Characters: I still like the idea of dropping the title below the break, so I kept that. I changed the words to all uppercase to get around that "g" problem. Now my "L" and "E"'s are having problems rendering
  • Addition of a physical break and tag line: I added my tag line "Human Performance Maintenance" and added a phyiscal line for separation. I might end up adding a colon to the end of the tag line.
  • Got rid of the Ampersand: I used a "+" symbol rather than the "&". It just didn't look raight and the overlap I used was terrible.

When I think about it, is this really from the "right-hemisphere" of my brain?

I just realise that I need to put up an updated version of my site map. I'll do that later today.

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 11:22 AM
Looking Glass

From the "Student Loan Blues" Dept.

I've been looking at the state of my student loan recently. I realise that now, if any time, is the best time for me to begin to aggressively pay back my student loan (just over $10 K CDN).

The way I see it, I have two approaches:

  • Option A: Call the CIBC National Student Loan Centre to increase the quantity of the automated monthly account withdrawal, or
  • Option B: Begin monthly lump-sum payments to my student loan.

I'm inclined to do Option B, as I'm not confident that my expenses will be constant enough to warrant a steady withdrawal amount. In other words, I have more flexibility with Option B.

I'm also considering, consolidating my student loans into a single loan offered from my bank. Does anyone do this? What are the advantages?

What are your strategies for paying off your student loan?

Now, I realise that I'm very fortunate to have only accrued a rather small Student Debt, but this thing has been bugging me.

From the "Web Works" Project

I've been working on some graphics / logos for my site, Pixelsandwidgets.

I'm thinking about something like this:

A possible logo for the new site

It's nothing much, and I think I may go with the plain text header again and such. I probably won't stick with the orange (that's so 2001), but I like how the "pixels" is dropped below the bottom edge. If anything, I'd do it for "widgets" as well, but the "g" in widgets is problematic when you try dropping it down a few pixels. I should really stick with one font for my titles as well.

How about this:

A possible logo for the new site

Anyways, time to sleep.

Night folks.

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 01:56 AM
February 24, 2003
The Weekend.

From the "Weekend Review" dept.

Another weekend has come and gone--they are never long enough.

Jen was visiting again from Vancouver. As always, I ended up spending a lot of time with her. We finally went to "the Groto on Main", an Italian Restaurant on Unionville Mainstreet that we've been interested in going to. We've attempted on previous occasions to have dinner there, but we always arrive too late.

It was pretty busy. The food was good, although Jen's risotto was inconsistent in it's hardness (oh where, oh where can I find a place with good risotto?!), my dishes were quite good. It's obvious that the restaurant puts a lot of effort to do things the "right way".

The weakest thing I ordered was the "Caesar Salad".

One dish that I really wished I had tried was the Tomato and Boccicini Cheese salad. It looked excellent. It's also one of the few restaurants I've tried that serves Carpacio (raw, cured beef).

Overall, a fine eating experience.

Saturday, Jen and I went shopping for a pair of Snow Boarding boots. Jen has recently taken the sport up while in Vancouver and was sick of wearing rental boots. It had started heiling rather hard when we left her house, so we decided to go to a local near-by mall, rather than heading down to the Sportmart.

Unfortunately, Jen didn't do any research, so our search was in vain.

It was snowing when we got back to my house.

We ended up having dinner with Jen's family and then heading downtown to a house-warming party in HighPark. Alex, Jen's co-worker, moved into this great apartment with her girlfriend. Met a lot of his friends (all engineers), a man from Paris France ( a boyfriend of one of Alex's peers, Melissa--He dropped everything in Paris and moved to Canada to be with her--Romance still lives).

Great people, interesting conversation. It's a shame that we had taken the TTC and had to head back early.

In hindsight, taking public transit was a wise decision, about 20 cm of wet snow had fallen throughout the evening. While driving back to Jen's house, we saw a near accident. A silver SUV nearly fish-tailed into the passenger side of a small white sedan. CRAZY!

Poor Cristine

I only found out this weekend that Cristine got into a car accident. I'm glad she's fine, and I hope her nagging back and neck pain disappears soon. I called her soon after I found out, and got th gory details.

We should all give her some support. Such things are normally rather traumatic (although I must say, Cris is handling it very well), and when compounded by such headaches as physical trauma, insurance auditors, repairmen, etc. Well, you get the picture.

The New Page

I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, but I did manage to get my Cascading Style Sheet to Validate using the W3C Validator. So I am making progress. Getting my webpage template to validate has been a different story, but I plan to release even if it doesn't validate--I'll figure out the problems later. I figure that It's better to have 90% of a page up and running, rather than 99% two months later...

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 12:05 AM
February 21, 2003
Update: New Site on the Way

From the "Yeah, we've heard this one before..." Dept

Hi all,

I've been promising a new site for about a month and a half now, and I'm happy to say that if things go well, it will be rolled out sometime next week.

Granted, the site won't look too different, but for me, v2 is really a proof of concept for some up-and-coming web technologies that I believe will gain a large foothold in about a year.

They include:

  • XHTML 1.0: To put is simply, this is the next version of HTML. It's been rewritten to conform with well-formed XML rules and standards. Super strict, almost masochistic in how strict it is.
  • CSS 1.0 and 2.0: Cascading Stylesheets are used for text formatting and object layout.
  • Content Management System: THis is a server based app that I will use to drive all my content. Saves a lot of time if you are willing to put the effort into setting it up.

I've decided to follow the rules by the book; that means that I am writing the site using "strict" guidelines. I will only use tables to show tabular data, I will not use tables to layout text and images, rather I will use CSS for that. Secondly, my site is should validate under the XHTML 1.0 Strict DTD. One cool outcome of this is that I'll be able to syndicate my site across different viewing platforms (you should be able to read my site on a cell phone or PDA, etc.) and it will have built-in accessibility features (for the sight-impaired, you can use a screen reader). Moreover, since the site will in XHTML, I can transform it like I would with XML. For the hardcore unix folks, since there are no tables, my site will read perfectly using a text HTML browser such as lynx.

When v2 of Pixels and Widgets is done, I'll start exploring how to modularize my page (pretty simple actually) using perl5 and php4 for v2.1. Thus, I'll have super flexibility to layout my page. Moving further, I'll explore using a database to contain my data, and possibly examine other data repositories (XML most likely).

Pretty cool, eh?

From the "This is what needs to be done" Dept.

I still have a ways to go before I release V2.0

  • Create header / branding graphics
  • Choose a colour scheme
  • Apply this template to all of my site
  • Get my formmail perl script up and running
  • tweak the style sheet layout

From the "Information Architecture" Department

One thing about my site that I haven't done is figure out a good naming convention for my images. I'm still working on that. It's proved problematic. I will talk about this in a later blog.

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 01:53 AM
February 16, 2003
St. Valentine's Day Weekend

From the "I was tricked..." Dept.

I had a pretty glorious weekend with Jen. We didn't do much for the weekend, but we spent a lot of time joking about me being her "pimp"and how I was prividing my "Number 1 Ho" with some bling, bling.

To be serious though, Jen and I don't really like the commercialism of St. Valentine's day. To me, it's a manufactured holiday...(much like any holiday).

However, I do love Jen, and what better way to show her how I feel than by buying here stuff and "clothing her in the fineries that she deserves."

ASIDE: That's an inside Joke between Jen and I

So I bought Jen a pair of leather, cashmere lined gloves from Holt Renfrew. Jeez, that place is sinfully expensive.

To top it off, I bought her a 14-K white gold, 0.2 carat diamond solitaire necklace.

Unfortunately, we were not able to Go to Kev's Winterlude Weekend in Ottawa, but I'm sure Nirvan, Anh, Neil, Florence, Cristine, Jennifer and Cam liked it.

Instead, we hiked through the Glen Rouge Valley off Port Union and Hwy. 401 East. It was icey, but Jen and I were equipped appropriately.

I did fall on my ass hard. I also nearly fell off the southern ridge that skirts the valley, but you know me: "Danger is my middle name".

From the "I'm working on it" Dept.

I started working on my website again. Will try to finish it off this week.

Talk to you later.

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 11:41 PM
February 13, 2003
Speeding up Microsoft Word v.X

From the "Only of interest to those who own a Mac" Dept.

I use Microsoft Word 2000 at work for word processing, but recently I've been using my iBook. Now normally I would use my PC, but I am currently working on a large technical document and I needed the added oomph of 640 MB of RAM rather than the piddly 128 MB on my Desktop PC.

A lot of reviewers say that Word v.X (Macintosh) is on par, if not better, than Word XP (PC) feature-per-feature. It does have some nice touches, but the performance on my iBook Dual USB 600 MHz is terrible!

So I spent a good half-hour trying to tweak Word v.X for more speed.

Here is a list of things that you can do to help reduce the sluggishness of MS Word vX (your mileage will vary of course):

  • Turn off Real-time Word Count: Go into your Preferences : View and un-check the "Live Word Count" option. It is located in the Row for "Window Settings", sub-tended under the "Status Bar"
  • Keep the Document in "Normal View": I found that while editing in "Page Layout View" the automatic repagination of the document really slows down editing. This problem is compounded when the document increases in size and complexity. I only use "Page Layout View" for previewing the documents now and do my editing in "Normal View". When in "Normal View" make sure that the you've deselected Background Repagination. You can find that option in your Preferences : General listing. I wonder why I don't see a significant performance hit in MS Word 2000 and XP on the PC?
  • Deselect "Enable Quartz Text Smoothing": I found this tip at Mac OS X Hints. It doesn't suprise me that quartz font smoothing is a resource hog. Some say that you should try this tip with Unsanity.com's SILK haxie.
  • Deselect both "Provide Feedback with Sound" and "Provide Feedback with Animation" options: To me, these two options are useless bloat, and unless you need these two "accessibility features", I would turn them off. You can find them in your Preferences : General Options.
  • Turn off "WYSIWYG Style and Font Menus" from your General : Preferences: I realise that this is an optional setting, and that in most cases it probably doesn't amount to much of a performance increase, but since I can't easily navigate the style menu via keyboard shortcuts (at least I don't think so), I turned it off. Granted, the negative impact isn't nearly as great as MS Word's (all versions; for every platform) poor style-sheet management and autoformat features--Don't get me started about the number of bad style sheets I've encountered......
  • Finally (for those who are brave), you can turn off the "Check Spelling as you Type" and "Check Grammar as you Type" options: I haven't done this yet, but if you consistently spell check your documents after you finish writing them, than why not? There must be some sort of performance penalty when those are in use.
  • Update 2003/03/03 - Remove pdfMaker.dot in Word v.X's startup folder: If you have installed Adobe Acrobat 5 on you mac, remove the "pdfMaker.dot " from "Applications/Microsoft Office X/Office/Startup/Word" Folder. Apparently this will significantly reduce the start up time

Sorry for the rather esoteric subject, but it really pisses me off when I can type text faster than my iBook can render it on-screen in MS Word v.X.

For those interested, I found that the Quartz Smoothing trick and the Turn off Background Repagination trick worked the best. I will experiment with grammar and spell checking.

If anyone finds this page, and has thoughts (excluding comments along the lines of, "By a faster Mac") or other speed tips, please leave a comment so that others can read this blog posting.

Cheers,

Tai

Posted by taitoh at 11:04 PM