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neurotwitch

Sunday, December 19, 2004

nor’easter?

Right now, it’s snowing. The temperature is 14 degrees F, with a wind chill of -2 degrees F. The wind speed is 11 mph gusting (an awful lot) to 27-30 mph. About 1 inch of snow has hit the ground already, with three more on tap by noon. The snowplows are out. It’s not supposed to hit 20 degrees Monday. Ginger loves it! Don’t know yet if this qualifies as a nor’easter or just a winter storm. I could do without it. Am very glad I don’t have to commute in the morning—just walk down the stairs,  pet the dog, pour some coffee, walk into the office, move the cat off my chair, and I’m at work.

TINKERING
I did some more work on this installation of ExpressionEngine. I installed the gallery module, and it seems to be working just fine. I LOVE the batch processor.  Check it out by clicking on the gallery link in the navs.

But, there are a couple of problems that are bugging me. When using Internet Explorer, when clicking on a link or doing a search (not an advanced search), the results page sometimes is blank. The stuff is there, but you have to reload the page to see it. VERY annoying because I can’t figure out what’s going on or what I need to do. So I posted an SOS in the EE tech forum and will probably get an answer soon.

The other thing that bugs me is that the Seach box is working weird. It works for certain terms, but not others. For example, searching for “Twitch” turns up a few (but not all) entries dealing with the beastie cat. But searching for “Ginger” returns zilch, even though I mention the pooch in, oh, 130 entries or so. And this is happening no matter which browser I use. I expect the techies will solve this little puzzle as well. Probably something I’m not setting properly.

EE is a great application, but the documentation, even supplemented with the EE Wiki and the Knowledgebase, is difficult to understand. Needs some good navigation as well (especially that Knowledgebase—egads that nav structure sucks. Too clever; not very usable.) But tech support is so good it compensates quite a bit for the inadequate documentation—which needs to be re-written by someone who doesn’t dream in PHP.

But I am so pleased with the gallery module!!

UPDATE
Tech support at EE came through. Chris Curtis suggested: ” ... go to Admin > Output Preferences and make sure the “Enable GZIP Output?” setting is turned off ... ” I did and it’s a miracle, it works! He also said simple search is designed to search for keywords in the titles only, and that I could add parameters to the search tag to get it to search in more. Makes sense to me.

Now I can go to bed happy.

posted by lee on 12/19/04 at 11:36 PM

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Neah Bay and the Makah Nation

Erik Gauger sent off another “Notes from the Road” dispatch a couple of weeks ago. This one covers Neah Bay in the Pacific Northwest. It begins:

There are parts of America so elusive, so far from anywhere, that they seem hardly to exist, like ghost civilizations.

Neah Bay is that other America, the most northwesterly place in the continental states. It is a small fishing village, seemingly forever shrouded in a thick fog and a light drizzle, as if from a plane you could never know it was there. Just a few miles beyond it is the tip of America. Cape Flattery, a rugged natural outpost against the sea, settled by puffins and deep-diving birds.

What makes Neah Bay especially unusual is that it is the unofficial capital of the Makah Tribe, and this land—this very tip—is the Makah Nation.

The shroud of fog lifted off Neah Bay just twice. For a few moments in the early 1970s and in the late 1990’s, two rather strange, if not related episodes unfolded. People who had never heard of the Makah came to protest against them. But the fog crept back in, and the world again forgot about Neah Bay and the Makah Indians of the Olympic Peninsula.

As usual, his photography is beautiful. He uses a large format Toyo AX camera. Spend some time visiting this site—it’s worth it.

posted by lee on 12/18/04 at 05:18 PM

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

an artist’s take: Baghdad Journal

Beneath the hard October sun recalcitrant Baghdad throws up a fistful of dust, so fine the soldiers call it moon dust. It hovers, despite the breeze, mixing with diesel fumes, wreathing this sprawling, dyspeptic city. Gleaming through the bright smog is a giant blimp, used by 1st Cav 1-9 to gather intelligence. It’s tethered to 1-9’s base, swinging gently, high above the city.

I often imagined the view from up there, especially on one afternoon in mid October when I found myself running across Tala’a Square with 3rd Platoon just after a young soldier had been killed by a sniper. We’d look as urgent as ants, rushing to repair a tunnel. Just another day in Baghdad’s Haifa Street neighborhood.

So begins the December installment of Baghdad Journal by Steve Mumford, a New York painter embedded with military units in Iraq hot spots like Baquba, Tikrit, and Baghdad. His journal entries contain paintings and sketches illustrating the people—both soldiers and Iraqi civilians—mentioned in the dispatch.copyright 2004 by Steve Mumford.
click image to enlarge

He work runs in artnet because, according to an article in the New York Times, that is the only organization that would provide Mumford a press pass so he could cover Iraq as an embedded journalist.

Mumford is a good writer as well as a fine illustrator; his narratives and sketches tell stories in a way that feels more real and honest to me than the bits and pieces fed to us in the mainstream media—if there is any coverage there at all.

posted by lee on 12/16/04 at 09:55 AM

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

flakes

image A total waste of time—addictive even. Check out Make-a-Flake. Courtesy Look and Feel Media, a Kansas City, MO interactive, um, solutions company. They offer some of the software they’ve developed for interactive applications, mostly MS-based stuff, for free.

posted by lee on 12/15/04 at 11:09 PM

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Thinking With Type

This is a companion site for Ellen Lupton’s book: Thinking with Type. It has lots interesting information about type, type families, what it all means. There’s a cool game section called, “Crimes Against Type.” While you’re poking around there, check out her own site: Design Writing Research. This comes from The Design Desk column at PoynterOnline.

posted by lee on 12/14/04 at 09:36 PM

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creepy, just plain creepy

Take a look at the Aquent | AMA - Compensation Survey of Marketing Professionals 2005. It gives me the creeps. The gimmick isn’t limited to the main page: check out the little boxes as you navigate through the site.

Looks like someone was overly influenced by Harry Potter.

At least the info is interesting!

posted by lee on 12/14/04 at 12:37 PM

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what’s even worse is: they’re boring

BadAds provides a list of the corporate headquarters of the movie chains. Why? So pissed off movie-goers can write to them demanding they stop playing all those tv ads before the movie:

You pay $8 for a ticket, then stand in a long line for the privilege of spending ten more dollars on fake-buttered popcorn and over-iced soda. You finally settle into your seat, anticipating the thrills and chills of Friday the 13th Part XVII. The lights dim, and…what’s this? A commercial! You paid almost twenty dollars to watch a commercial?

This isn’t the only site. There’s also Captive Motion Picture Audience of America and Stop Pre-Movie Ads at Shiny Blue Grasshopper, where a list of movie theaters that don’t show ads is being compiled. You can find other links to other sites, and even to a petition, beneath this list.

You can find information about a class-action suit filed to stop pre-movie ads at The Movie Theater Lawsuit Website.

The slide shows with the local ads don’t bother me—I kind of like them because they’re quiet and are local ads, and we don’t have to shout to talk over them and it’s a hoot to see how bad some of them are. And I love the trailers. The ads that bother me are the national ads, like the ones from Coca Cola. There’s also that stupid ad about the online ticket buying “service” where you pay even more for a ticket to avoid standing in a line for five minutes. I hate having them blasted at me after I’ve paid so much for the movie. I hate, most of all, those godawful Jimmy Fund ads then having the usher shove that can into my face. I’ll select my own charities, thank you very much. I hate it when a two-plus hour movie starts twenty minutes after the advertised start time. And I especially hate that the stupid tv ads are warped on the movie screen—tv ads have the wrong aspect ratio for the movies. So I will sign the petitions and send off a letter or two, but haven’t much hope this will change without legislation or legal action.

WHAT’S UP WITH IE?
A week or so ago, there was a series of updates for Internet Explorer. Security patches or whatever, so I downloaded them. What a mistake—now, IE keeps crashing like crazy where it never did before on my XP Pro machine. I’ve been using FireFox more and more because of this, but it’s annoying because I don’t have things like my little handy dandy spell checker that works inside forms (from IESpell, and it’s free) and FireFox just doesn’t handle things as well yet (using the html buttons for EE posting, for example, throws me all over the place instead of just leaving it the way it’s supposed to). Whine whine whine.

posted by lee on 12/14/04 at 10:09 AM

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Monday, December 13, 2004

they figured out how to cause psoriasis

Next step is figuring out how to stop it, which looks promising, according to a news story in Reuters today:

They found that it takes a combination of a protein called STAT3 and an active immune system to cause psoriasis, which experts estimate affects as much as 2 percent of the population.

Their finding suggests that psoriasis may start with an over-enthusiastic attempt by the body to heal wounds.

And the researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center made a skin cream that blocked the process that leads to psoriasis in mice.

“We may have found an entirely new treatment option for psoriasis,” said M.D. Anderson’s John DiGiovanni, who led the study.

“We have developed a mouse model that exhibits all the major features of human psoriatic lesions and shown we can reverse those steps.”

and

DiGiovanni’s team first looked for activated STAT3 in the skin of psoriasis patients and found high levels of activated STAT3 in psoriasis lesions in 19 of 21 of them.

They bred a mouse in which STAT3 is always turned on in the keratinocyte skin cells, and these mice always developed psoriasis.

The researchers then developed a solution containing a small piece of DNA called an oligonucleotide, which was designed to prevent STAT3 from activating genes.

It helped clear up the lesions in the mice.

“This study opens the door to a whole new kind of therapy for psoriasis,” said DiGiovanni.

Dare I hope? I wonder as I sit here writing this with crab-claw hands—the lesions are particularly painful today.

Here is the abstract from the journal Nature Medicine, the article is Stat3 links activated keratinocytes and immunocytes required for development of psoriasis in a novel transgenic mouse model

Here we report that epidermal keratinocytes in psoriatic lesions are characterized by activated Stat3. Transgenic mice with keratinocytes expressing a constitutively active Stat3 (K5.Stat3C mice) develop a skin phenotype either spontaneously, or in response to wounding, that closely resembles psoriasis. Keratinocytes from K5.Stat3C mice show upregulation of several molecules linked to the pathogenesis of psoriasis. In addition, the development of psoriatic lesions in K5.Stat3C mice requires cooperation between Stat3 activation in keratinocytes and activated T cells. Finally, abrogation of Stat3 function by a decoy oligonucleotide inhibits the onset and reverses established psoriatic lesions in K5.Stat3C mice. Thus, targeting Stat3 may be potentially therapeutic in the treatment of psoriasis.

It costs $30 to read the entire article, so I’ll pass on it at this time.

I hope they’re finally on the path to a real treatment for psoriasis. I volunteer to test the cream when it goes into trials. It would be great to have an effective treatment since I can’t yet afford to go soak in the Dead Sea for two weeks. Maybe it won’t be a poison. Maybe it will even be something I can afford ...

posted by lee on 12/13/04 at 09:51 AM

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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Somebody you know is obtaining ...

amended because of this product (the subject line)

The message:

My product cardinal of the international’s most broadly established treat depression drugs; it has been imposed for more than 90 million people worldwide. someone you know is incuring better because of it.

My spamblocker missed this one. Wonder what translation tool they used—it’s so bad I figure it must be Babel Fish.

 

posted by lee on 12/11/04 at 09:40 PM

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cablevision: a special kind of stupid

I’ve had an Optimum Online account with Cablevision for a long time, more than five years. I first got it when I lived in Westport. I moved in with Stanley on December 31, 2000 (we moved during a blizzard!) So, for nearly four years, I’ve been living here in Norwalk. When I moved, I called Cablevision to change my address for Optimum Online. They managed to change where they send the bill, but they never changed the service address, always showing my old Westport address. I tried four of five times to get this corrected, but Cablevision never got it right.  They always promised they’d fix it, always reassured me that it would be ok, but they never did get it corrected. I gave up.

Last month, Sean, Cablevision Rep. #758 (888-741-9159) called me to offer a great deal on my Optonline internet fee if I just added cable television to the package. I told him we already have Optimum Digital cable tv service (which was forced down our throat when Cablevision decided to switch to all digital without bothering to let any of its customers know). Sean told me we did not. I sighed; here we go down the rabbit hole yet again.

When I convinced Sean that we did indeed have cable service here, under Stanley’s name, I got a lecture about how I was not supposed to have cable service at a different address than where I was living. It was impossible, he said, how could that be that I was getting service? I posited that it was because I was paying $50 per month for it.

After I explained the whole song and dance about Cablevision’s fuck-up with the service address, he said I needed to put my account into Stanley’s cable tv account and that when that happened, it would save me $5 a month. I said I didn’t want to do this. He said I had to transfer my account to Stanley’s account, that I wouldn’t lose my email address (my primary concern), and that he would take care of transferring the account and closing the account at the old service address and transferring the charges, etc., to Stanley’s account (which Stanley had to say was ok—he did, right on the phone to Sean). All I had to do was sign the work order brought be the technician when he showed up the morning of November 17, then call Sean and let him know that it had been taken care of. Why they had to send someone out to the house for this to happen, I have no idea, but I signed the piece of paper, then called Sean, who said everything was taken care of.

No interruption of service, and my email still worked. Everything was fine. I thought. Until this afternoon, when I received not one, but two bills from Cablevision. One was for Stanley’s account, showing the cable tv charges as well as optonline charges, pro-rated for a month and not showing the amount that should have been transferred. The other was a bill for my supposedly canceled account, showing my billing address here but the service address STILL in Westport, showing a past-due balance for all of November instead of a pro-rated balance and a $50 charge for December.

Well screw that. I immediately called the Cablevision billing department. I spent twenty minutes going through it all with the woman on the phone, who was having trouble grasping it all. She said there was nothing on either account indicating that one account was being transferred into the other account, zilch. Nothing about the account showing my old service address closed.

Cablevision blew it again.

God how I hate this company. I pay my bills on time, have been for the entire five or six years I’ve had service, fixed my own modem troubles since they were too stupid to figure it out (their answer for tech support is to send somebody out—only, if they show up, it’s a fluke.) I’d think that they could get things right for my $600 per year. It was a simple account transfer, nothing unusual, nothing that doesn’t happen all the time, all within the same service area.

The woman on the phone seems to think that I will have to pay for the old account since it was not closed. I don’t think so. She is supposed to call me to verify that nothing will get screwed up (such as losing my email address) when she transfer the modem from the old account to the new account. I’ll be shocked if she actually does call. I suspect that I’ll have to go over to the Cablevision office, papers clutched in hand, and have to spend an hour getting it all straightened out. It’s such a pain in the ass. I just don’t understand why Cablevision hasn’t worked out all of the contingencies in their billing system—it’s had plenty of time to work out all the bugs.

If we had an alternative, we’d dump Cablevision in a heartbeat, get SBC Dish for the television and another service for the Internet. But it has to be cable or better—DSL doesn’t cut it. Unfortunately, there’s no competition for cable internet here. I’m hoping the Supreme Court rules that cable companies must share their internet lines with other ISPs, which would be actual competition. But I’m not holding my breath.

posted by lee on 12/11/04 at 04:10 PM

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