I Know What You Did This Summer

No, not really. But I know what I did this summer so far.

Let’s recap: Got my driver’s license (finally). Started working for Evergreen’s Access Services and Evergreen’s Web Team while continuing my site manager work with the Writing Center. Started reading the books for my Fall quarter program Power in American Society, taught by Larry Mosqueda. Hmm.

I have done something recreational this summer, at least: Amanda and I recently celebrated our one-year anniversary by taking a four-day camping trip to Larrabee State Park. We had a nice, expansive 5-person tent which made this a real pleasure. We took walks, hiked up to a place called Fragrance Lake, watched the sun set over Puget Sound, took zillions of pictures (okay, fine, hundreds of pictures) and generally loafed. We’re hoping to do that again sometime this summer if we can.

That’s not the only thing we’re doing this summer — we’re headed over to Port Townsend to visit with a friend of ours from Evergreen on August 13, where we’ll be going to the Jefferson County Fair and hashing out the possibility of a road trip next summer. I’m hoping we can do a road trip, but without a car, this could be an interesting endeavor. We’ll see what happens — I’m still hoping to get a car before the school year starts, but since I’d be the one carrying all the costs (maintenance, gas, tabs, registration, emissions testing, insurance, taxes, the actual purchase cost, etc.), this might be a little hard. College students don’t tend to wallow in the millions like some people.

So far, it’s been a semi-productive and semi-relaxing summer (no, not necessarily in a 50-50 ratio). At least it’s a break from Data to Information and an opportunity to get ahead for next quarter so that I don’t get absolutely swamped. It should be interesting next year — between serving on the Enrollment Coordination Committee and the Enrollment Growth DTF, working 19 hours a week as a senior tutor in the Writing Center, taking classes, and doing things with Amanda, my time’s damn well booked already. Should be interesting — but hopefully not as mind-implodingly hectic as last year. We’ll see what happens.

Two-Wheeled Politics

Well, you can probably file this under the who-gives-a-rats-patootie department: Bush and Kerry ride two different kinds of bikes, both expensive. Apparently, the New York Times has nothing better to report on.

Then again, nor do I.

The article makes the suggestion that the bikes that these two presidential candidates ride are indicative of some of their political strategies. The article states that “Mr. Bush likes to ride up into the hills of his Texas ranch and then come flying down”. There’s an easy parallel here — Bush was entirely working uphill to get a war in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting against the United Nations Security Council and others who weren’t in favor of it. When he finally started the war with Iraq, based on claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he was flying high. His entire campaign for the war took a nose dive, however, when those claims failed to come true to date. This is only one example, which, I’m sure, could be attributed to his tax cuts, environmental policy, and any host of other things.

Note that I haven’t done this for Kerry. This isn’t because I support Kerry one way or another, but because I know nothing about him. Obviously, this makes it hard to draw parallels. Perhaps I should’ve watched his speech to the Democratic Convention in Boston a little more carefully. If someone who knows a lot about Kerry would like to try to draw parallels here, let me know.

Sick of Politicians: Update

It seems that JibJab, the producers of the Flash film below, has gotten into some hot water over fair-use rights of the song This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie. Personally, I don’t see this as a copyright violation, since it’s not in any way inflammatory and is used as a component of the movie itself. Admittedly, it is a central part of the movie, which is where this gets a little hairy.

This has been wildly popular on news media outlets, and none of their lawyers seemed to have a problem with announcing its presence. If they had thought it was an illegal thing, would they have mentioned it in the first place or just forwarded it onto legal teams?

Linux Updates

To further the Linux escapades I’ve been on, there’s a helpful article on using SpamAssassin with Novell Evolution. I also found an awesome apt for SuSE Howto – apt is usually limited in use to Debian and the like, so this is absolutely awesome. Just typing:

apt –no-checksig upgrade gtk
apt –no-checksig install gftp

gave me two new applications with no effort. I love it — now if they’ll expand to other areas. I may take the liberty of upgrading my KDE install, hoping like hell it doesn’t break too badly.

Evergreen Orientation Week

Evergreen has posted its preliminary New Student Orientation schedule. This doesn’t make much of a difference to me, but does give me an idea of what’s going on on campus that week. This way, I know what’s going on during the Writing Center’s tutor retreat on Wednesday and Thursday of that week. The only thing I’ll likely attend is the All-Student Convocation on Friday.

Hopefully, I’ll hear about my apartment in a couple weeks.

Accessibility and the Web

The need for web accessibility has forced users to take matters into their own hands. This is why I’m working with Evergreen on accessibility issues, precisely because that work needs to be done in order to ensure access across the potential student population. It’s also why I’m starting to integrate that work into my own web sites. The need to be HTML and CSS compliant is bigger than ever — if you’re not compliant, you run the risk of losing visitors left and right.

That doesn’t mean dropping Flash, Shockwave, Java, or any of those flashy technologies — but you do need to provide an alternative, or else you might end up with a site that people can’t navigate without downloading a plugin. Ironically, the site I link to there should be accessible by everyone — that’s the web site for my own audiologist.

The moral: run HTML and CSS vailidity checks on any web site you create, at a bare minimum. If you really want to be impressive, check out the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Accessibility Initiative or check out the links available through the University of Washington’s DO-IT program on accessible web design.

Has Microsoft Finally Dropped the Ball?

The Seattle Times today states that Microsoft’s Internet Explorer product is a major security problem and that it’s no longer worth using. This has been well known in the Internet community for quite some time, and led me to adopt Mozilla Firefox 0.9, which is far more powerful than IE, but provides a very easy transition from IE. Tabbed browsing is probably the biggest boost — forget opening multiple windows, just open a new tab by pressing CTRL+T. Beautiful browser with ongoing updates. Of course, there are other alternatives.

It’s doubtful, though, that Microsoft will drop what is clearly an ailing and outmoded product without a big fight. Computer experts are providing this fight by recommending people use alternative browsers. Microsoft’s upcoming Service Pack 2 for Windows XP is likely to cause even more frustrations with Microsoft products, since it’s quite possible that a lot of applications will be broken due to heightened security work.

I anticipate a lot of people who will likely begin to realize that alternatives to Microsoft products do exist, and that experts and computer-savvy users will begin to recommend those alternatives to others at a much higher rate. Hopefully, this will increase the visibility of open source, secure alternatives that work just as well as (or better than) Microsoft products.