Monday, July 28, 2008
The verdict? So far: unimpressed.
1. The layout of search results on cuil.com looks cluttered. It is not, in reality, "cluttered" but the way it's organized makes my eye jump around without knowing where to land. Three columns of information are presented, with differing sizes of text boxes. On the right is a box titled "Explore by Category." But it's just sitting there with the search results, almost blending in. If this is a permanent feature, give it a different width in the layout or make it pop out some other way. Don't just stick it on top of result # x. I don't care how fancy your algorithm is if I can't look at the page. User interface is King here.
2. If you search for "google" the top graphic (somewhat ironically) for Google itself is missing with a little red x indicating the problem. It's enough to make one almost--almost!--wonder if this is really a mistake. I don't want to look at little red Xs. If the graphics don't work, you need to figure out a way to leave them out entirely. That could get really annoying really quickly.
3. Since I wasn't really looking for any information, cuil couldn't really demonstrate its algorithmic prowess to me. I admit that. What's a gal going to look for just to try out a new search engine? Herself of course. "true confessions mormon mother" did not find my website. Neither did "geekuniverse" (which found nothing, despite .com also being populated with information.) Neither did "jhm2.blogspot.com" which is my original blogger address. Cuil.com is claiming bragging rights about indexing MORE pages than Google, although the matter is up for debate. As far as that goes, they committed the greatest sin possible: they didn't find mine. ;) How hard is it to find public blogger sites? You'd think that would be dead easy for a search engine. Like falling off a log.
4. Last night I was thinking about making a "Better than (you know what) cake." ("You know what" being something I don't want adsense to crawl through and target ads for. So we'll have to leave the word out.) So I decided to search for that. I searched without quotation marks. Not a single website appeared. You mean that there is not a single website out there with a recipe for "Better than (you know what) cake" in your entire index of 121 billion websites? That's just not intuitive.
5. When I clicked in the search box to search for something else, it didn't highlight all the text so I could just start typing. Instead I had to manually go in to delete it all before I started a new search. I know I'm grasping at straws here, but it left me annoyed. Another little UI detail.
6. The individual results offer TOO MUCH information. I need the page title, the URL and a couple lines to see where the word shows up, in context, on the page. But only a couple lines so that I can scan through several sites very quickly to find the most reputable-looking source. If you try to offer too much, it just means more scrolling to find the other results.
Okay, in the positive department:
1. I love websites with a black background. (Although the smaller blue text is a bit of a strain on the eyes.)
2. The entire idea of launching a rival to the internet behemoth is outright audacious. They deserve a standing ovation for going for it.
I'm all about great technology, so I'm happy to keep an open mind regarding a rival to my favoritest internet company. But you're going to have to do better than that if you want to impress me. I got a whole lot of "No results found" pages and bad user interface on the pages it did find. Hire some UI guys, clean things up and then hope that CNN covers you again, because you usually only get one chance to make the headlines and win people over. Your 15 minutes are almost over.
Another invisible internet site
Thursday, July 24, 2008
* This week, somebody asked my Mom if I was her sister. My Mom beamed happily. I forced a smile and felt miserable. Her sister! Hmph!
* I was talking to some people and told them I'm turning 30 this week. They looked at me in shock and asked, "You're not 30 yet?!?!?" Yeah, thanks, you don't look a day past 75 either.
* I've been dressing like a 50-year-old since I was about 11. I've only recently added a few items to my wardrobe that don't make me look 20 years older than I really am. My Mom is shocked. "Juliana, that certainly is form fitting!" she'll say, scandalized. (Granted, a person of my generous size shouldn't wear clothing that is too form-fitting but wearing tents just gets really, really depressing.)
* I cut my hair short recently. It makes me feel like I've given in to the eventual Old-Lady hairdo. But I think it's a bit sassier than an old lady 'do, so I haven't given up yet. And I think I'm going to grow it out again because I can only handle short hair in small bursts. That was fun. Check. Done. Moving on. Let it grow.
I actually feel like I'm around 35 years old. I don't feel like I'm still in my 20s. 20s is kids stuff and I've really lived already. You know what I mean? I'm ready to move on and exclaim my 30+ status with pride.
Tomorrow morning, I'll wake up and it'll be official. The big 3-0.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
"An Old Friend"
It was one of those days that I hadn’t invested much in. I hadn’t showered yet, hadn’t really done anything with my hair, and hadn’t put on any makeup. I’d exercised that morning, which added to my disheveled look, and hadn’t bothered to get cleaned up afterwards. Now it was time to go out running some errands, and I wondered briefly if it was worth the effort to doll myself up at this point. I was on my way to meet with some construction subcontractors who I never planned to see again, and whose opinion was not exactly priceless to me.
I headed for the door, but on second thought, turned back. “It’ll only take a minute to brush my hair again,” I thought. So I brushed my hair and pulled it back into its ponytail. Not exactly glamorous, but not quite so careless, either. I headed for the door again, but turned back once more. This time I quickly applied a little blush, eye shadow and powder. As a finishing touch, I blotted on a little lipstick and smiled at myself in the mirror. Definitely not gorgeous… “Am I ever?” I wondered … but at least an improvement.
I picked up my 16-month-old son and we headed out the door one last time. After going to the paint store for color samples, the insulation company to pay a bill, and to our house under construction to view the finish carpentry, I decided to drop in one last place. I needed to get an estimate for our shower surround, so I stopped at a showroom that carried the kind of thing I was looking for.
I walked in and started to think about what colors and styles I liked, while I quickly scanned the showroom for a salesman. There was one person on the far end talking with a customer. He looked busy so I looked around for someone else. Not seeing anybody, I slowly made my way over to the other side of the room. As I got closer, the salesman looked up and noticed me. As our eyes met, I was surprised with recognition. That salesman was in my classes in elementary school!
Memories rushed back to me in an instant. I remembered sitting next to each other in Mrs. Hobby’s 3rd grade class, eyeing each other intensely. We had just been handed a math worksheet and the race was on. This was our standard exercise. We were both excellent at math—better, in fact, than anybody else in our class—and we knew each other as the only fair competition. So each day we would grab our worksheets quickly and work intensely until finished. As soon as we were done, we’d grab the worksheets in hand and race to the front of the room to turn them in. I remember we usually got to the front of the room at the same time, having mastered each of the problems quickly. It was a friendly race: competitive… but fun.
We weren’t really friends outside of class. Even then he was the “popular” one and I was just on the outside looking in. But each day as we raced through our homework, we had one small connection. That connection continued the next year when we were in 4th grade together. I don’t remember any in-class competitions that year. I just remember that the “smart kids” in the class got to study together for the spelling bee. He and I and a couple other students would sit outside in the hall, under the coat hooks, reading through lists of words. We’d quiz each other, laugh and have a good time. It’s strange how simple memories like that can last through the years.
The next year I went away to a different school and didn’t see him again until high school. By now, his social status definitely outstripped mine. I came to the school knowing very few people, practically friendless, and he was obviously one of the “in crowd.” I remember seeing him walking through the halls wearing his football jersey and knowing that we would never speak to each other. Elementary school was a long time ago and I knew it meant nothing now. High school was much more fierce in the social arena. The cool kids just didn’t talk to the uncool kids, and the uncool kids looked way less cool if they even tried.
So of course I never even said hi. It was like our past was erased. But now here he was again! I knew, from the look on his face, that he remembered me. I wondered to myself: is it like high school or elementary?
“I remember you,” I said.
“Yeah, I remember you, too,” he said.
We smiled at each other. Definitely elementary. He had another customer waiting, so I didn’t chit chat or anything. We talked for a few minutes about who I should contact to get an estimate and then I left. As I left I smiled and couldn’t help wondering, “If we see each other at a high school reunion, will it be like high school … or elementary?” I thought for a few minutes and knew the answer. Things might change in the real world, but high school will always be the same… even 10 or 20 years later. Definitely high school.
Monday, July 21, 2008
As the author of the article states, "I think there's something to be said for coming up with a list of impossible fantasies. Woman --at least this one --cannot live by reality alone."
And if my husband wants to retort with his own contingency plan, I'd enjoy that very, very much. :)
Here we go!
* For the last year, I've had a serious, serious crush on Frank Sinatra. I had always heard about him as a singer but I finally saw him in a movie last year and fell in love. I could be talked into staring into those eyes forever.
* Whoever invented frozen yogurt or yogurt-covered pretzels, I think I love you. I hope you're not a woman because that would be awkward.
* I also have a serious thing for James Dean. I was watching the first part of "East of Eden" last week and wondering why I loooove this boy. It wasn't his physical appearance, but more of his general essence. "The Essence of James Dean" could make somebody a millionaire if you could bottle it, sprinkle it on geeks and then watch as they turned into slightly mysterious, slightly bad but generally just misunderstood Rebels Without a Cause.
* Speaking of geeks, I have said (more than once): "Once you date a geek, you never go back." I love geeks. In honor of the strange magnetism between me and geeks of all varieties, I also nominate Bill Gates and the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, as men I could love.
* Since I am a voracious reader, I ought to throw out a little love to some of my favorite authors. Who could not include William Shakespeare? For the sheer sake of companionable conversation and my admiration of brilliant minds, I also need to include Alexander McCall Smith and E.M. Forster. (Besides being dead and a stranger, E.M. Forster is an even more doomed love affair since he'd be more likely to fall in love with my husband than myself, if you catch my drift.)
* In honor of my love of music, I also nominate Mozart, Beethoven and Handel as men I could love. In more contemporary culture, I would be very remiss if I didn't include John Denver. Rounding out the group, we'll throw in David Cook. Just for good measure. And because his faux-hawk rocks. And because he described himself as a "word nerd." Who wouldn't love a word nerd musician with a faux hawk? Seriously.
* You already know I have a thing for soccer. I'd be blind not to have noticed the many charms of the players themselves. So, naturally, I could love Beckham and Zidane. And who wouldn't love somebody who can do this?
* In the obscure category, I have this strange love for Pierluigi Collina, a famous soccer ref who became a pop culture icon.
So there is my contingency plan, just in case. I want to know who is on your list of people you could love. So go put together a blog entry of your own, leave a comment or drop me an email! Tag--you're it!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
What I remember most was the silence. As I steered the car through the ink-stained night, there was no hum of engine, no thunkety-thunk of tires rolling over asphalt, not even a whisper of a heartbeat inside my chest. The midnight air seemed to smother all sounds and colors from the landscape.
I was rolling slowly down a desolate industrial road. Warehouses, which would pulse with activity during the heat of day, stood silently strong in their sleep. They, like the men who sweated inside them while working, seemed to feel the urgent need for rest. No animals slunk through these alleys. Oil-stained roads and oil-stained sidewalks melded into the black soot of the aging buildings I passed.
Quietly some shadows took shape ahead of me. As I drove closer, the shadows transformed into the outline of several men standing in the road, facing each other. Silence continued to suffocate the scenery as I rolled past them. As I passed, I glanced over to see the eyes of one man pierce through me. I felt like I’d be stabbed by the hatred and dark menace behind them.
As I continued rolling on toward some train tracks, I glanced somewhat anxiously in my rear view mirror. The man with menacing eyes slowly raised his arm, as if pointing toward another of the men. The silence cracked wide open as a single gunshot filled my ears. The other man wilted down like a drop of water that is suddenly freed from a faucet and melted into the pavement.
My eyes were locked on the scene behind me as the evil eyes turned away from their victim and stared directly into the reflection of mine in the rear view mirror. I had seen him. He had seen that I had seen him. No emotion passed over his face, nor did he blink as he slowly turned to walk my direction. As the echo of the gunshot faded in my mind, the beating of my heart quietly and rhythmically awoke.
Colors, too, were suddenly awakened as a red light began flashing ahead of me. I peeled my eyes away from the murder I had just witnessed to see a train bearing down on me from the right. Red lights flashed at me angrily as I slammed on my brakes, barely avoiding the monstrous diesel engine that was now filling the space inches away from my front fender.
Behind me, I knew, was the determined aim of a madman seeking a target. I looked left and right for an alley to drive down but there was nothing but shallow parking lots open to the sight of the road. My only chance was to turn around and race past the group of malevolent men, knocking them aside if necessary, but another set of red lights suddenly blinked alive. Within seconds, I was in a virtual prison between the roaring life of two set of train tracks.
Forgetting escape plans, I looked back at the killer. He was slowly walking toward me, patiently aware that I had no chance. His eyes continued to stare at mine, unblinking and almost inhuman in their animal passion for blood. His skin was white, his hair chopped short and his mouth was barely visible as it was drawn into a tight grimace. Our eyes locked and I stared at him, hypnotized and helpless. His pace continued toward me unbroken as he slowly, slowly lifted his arm from his side. The blackness of his gun slowly took aim.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
When I'm in bed shifting from unconscious to reasonably-capable-of-thinking, these are the kind of descriptive sentences I formulate in my mind to try to rev my cerebral engines. I yearn to write more often, calling words to me and stringing them together in a tapestry of thoughts. In a different world, I would be sitting in some richly literary den writing for hours each day. If there had to be distractions, they would be in the form of classical music playing gently in the background. I would sit there, wishing I liked herbal tea and wearing black turtlenecks.
My thoughts would dance through my brain and exit through my fingers, while the conscious ME was just the tool that allowed them to filter through space. That's how writing is for me: essentially effortless. I have so many thoughts and ideas running chaotically through my being that I need to give them an outlet or they will eat me from the inside. They have a frighteningly real life of their own and they do not like to be ignored. This is why I started a blog: a place to plop down my random musings on the ironies and amusing contradictions of the world I know.
Giving them an outlet is like giving them wings to fly away from me and release the tension inside. To my 28 Google Reader subscribers and others who just flit this way on occasion, thanks for giving me that extra incentive to keep going. Someday, you'll turn around and I'll amaze you with what I've done. Someday when I don't have Sesame Street muddling my inner sanctum or children emptying flour onto the floor while I'm emptying my mental images onto paper.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
I have the telephone on my mind today: a beautiful modern convenience. Before the telephone, instant communication was only available via face-to-face contact. If you needed to get a message somewhere quickly, you didn't have the option to pick up the phone and dial a phone number.
It's good to ponder it occasionally, even if it seems too far away to comprehend or care about. I try to remind myself how wonderful the telephone is whenever I need to call somebody because I HATE calling people on the phone. I feel tense and anxious and can't wait to get the dreaded phone call out of the way. When people call me to chat socially, I have a mixed reaction. I love connecting with friends--THAT is one of my favorite things in the world. I love people. But the telephone just rubs me the wrong way.
1. You can't read facial expressions over the phone. Some people's verbal expression is easy to understand. Others' sarcasm and/or lack of expression makes it difficult to get the underlying subtleties.
2. My telephone is like a Pavlov's bell for my children. It means, "Start crying! Start clinging on Mom's arms and don't let go until she pries you off and slams her bedroom door in your face, locking your temporary "need"iness out! You need a snack! You need a drink! You spilled something and one of your brothers needs Mom immediately. It's an emergency! Scream! Cry! Don't stop until she's off the phone!"
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
My hair went straight UP and BACK. It was terrifying.
2. Asking your husband for help brushing your hair = very bad idea. Asking him to try to comb it back into a barrette would be highly amusing, if it weren't so nerve-wracking. "No! No! Comb it back not sideways. Now grab it HERE. Aaarrrgggghhhhh!!!" Honestly, dealing with my hair was the main reason I ended up in tears after my surgery. I chose the wrong time to try a short hairdo. My hair is growing until I do the left hand surgery. Pony tails all the way, baby!
3. I like Percocet. Really. This is really funny, but it's NOT FUNNY! I learned that I liked Percocet after my first c-section. I looked in the pills one day and only saw five left. I felt panicky all of a sudden and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I'd become dependent within only a few days. Yikes!! I had just been taking it every four hours like clockwork, and hadn't stopped to consider that I might not need it anymore.
So now I am really careful with the stuff. (This is the same stuff that other people break into pharmacies or old ladies' medicine cabinets to obtain. It's dangerous!) It's a good thing that I'm LDS and part of a religion that discourages drinking or drugs, because otherwise I'd apparently be a total addict... of some sort!
Percocet gives me the funkiest dreams. Every time I woke up while on it, I remembered the most vivid, detailed dreams. It was like going to sleep in a movie theater, where the show only starts after you close your eyes. (See previous blog post!) My brother-in-law, who is a pyschologist, tried to explain how it works and why people get addicted. It was interesting. I'm just glad that I had a few pills left to dispose of when I was done. It proves that I've learned my lesson! I hope.
Monday, July 14, 2008
And then I woke up. Ouch.
I felt an immediate sense of loss. The noctural fantasy had seemed so concrete and had made my emotions swell. The dream may have been false, but my emotions were still on an elated high as I woke up to reality. As my emotions crashed back down to earth, I wanted to just lay in bed and cry. It hurt so much to lose something that was just my brain's nighttime cinema.
It was then that I decided that the happiest dreams are the worst ones, because you wake up and have the harsh contrast of reality slapping you in your drowsy face. When you wake up from a nightmare, your heart may be pounding but at least you find yourself somewhere more safe and protected.
When I was a child, I hated falling asleep for fear of the nightmares that might haunt my night hours. I wonder then: do some people hate to wake up at all? Or do they look forward to night time because they look forward to slipping away to some fantasy cerebral playground? And isn't that just one step away from consciously slipping away from reality during the day time hours as well?
A few days ago, I was having a particularly rough day both physically and emotionally. I blogged about my friend's soul-searching question: "What do you do to not kill yourself with stress?" and read one of my friend's replies. She said that when you are an author, you can create whatever reality you want and slip in and out of it at will. I started thinking about what fantasy I would create for myself to slip into when I was stressed. It was late and I was tired and drugged up on my post-surgery Percocet (Wheeeee!) and my brain started whirring away. I don't remember what little fantasy I created in my mind, but I remember jolting back to reality. And then I thought that some people, who are in more pain than me, probably create little fantasies for themselves, slip into them and never slip back out. Like on the finale of M*A*S*H and Pierce's chicken.
But whatever my nightmares or my reality-numbing fantasies or intoxicating dreams, there is one thing that will always be here: reality. So for better or worse, that's where I have to live. And you too. But don't forget to take a mental vacation once in a while: lay back, relax and dream. Send a postcard while you're gone and come back soon.
Over the weekend, RSL floated to the top of the western division standings. No big deal, you say? Middle of the season, you say? We'll be bumped off the top within three seconds, you say? Go ahead and say it... I don't care! We've never even been handed this slight, momentary slice of joy, so I've got to enjoy it while I can.
I've been a fan long enough to expect us to crash and burn in the future. Playoffs? Don't even tease me with the word. I'm an RSL fan and I know how to swallow pain. I've been burned by RSL Fandom so many times that I don't even know how to be optimistic anymore.
... but ...
I'm going to enjoy this brief moment while I can. Just because. Goooo RSL!
Friday, July 11, 2008
What do I *love* about San Francisco?
I love the anticipation of seeing what awaits me when I walk around Ghiradelli Square. It's not just the chocolate but the clever t-shirts, gourmet cupcakes (that I imagine are more satisfying on an aesthetic level than a culinary level), cute postcards and rich salty air:
I love the Embarcadero Marketplace! So many amazing tastes, smells, and tantalizing temptations to drain my checking account. What a fabulous place to spend an hour or two:
I love this new hangout that Steve Pastorino mentioned on his blog. I emailed him for details and ended up having lunch there the day I flew out. Why can't we have an italian deli like this in my city?
I love The Incredible fun at Pixar! And I love posing with The Incredibles:
I love being greeted by these guys. I feel like one of the gang working to make a better tomorrow ... today! ... at Monsters Incorporated:
A special thank you to the various people who made this trip possible and who made it so much fun. You know who you are. :-)
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Try going to this view of Orem, Utah
Click inside the blue streets and you'll see photos of the street. And you can travel right along it by clicking farther on. I have no idea how they had the resources to drive their cameras all along roads all over the USA (and the world... check out the Eiffel Tower in Paris!) but it's awesome. You can drag the photo to look in a different direction, you can click to travel down the street or you can zoom in or out. This could make house-hunting or direction-finding so much simpler. This is one of my favorite online technologies ever... Google Maps Plus Plus!
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Have you ever thought about the purpose of lingo words such as "like" or "ya know" or "and stuff"? These words are another way of saying, "I'm not really sure that what I'm saying is exactly true" or "I'm not sure about this, but this is generally correct." I'm guilty of using "insecurity" phrases in almost every sentence I speak out loud.
I'm working on slashing these phrases out of my conversation... and stuff... (Couldn't resist.)
I've become addicted to a different phrase, which qualifies my opinions as potentially uninformed, while not sounding like such a teenager. The phrase is:
"I could be wrong."
Once you start using it, it's magical. And the best part is that it's not a phrase that is based in insecurity. It's based in the realization that.. hey, I could be wrong! And there's nothing wrong with that. :) It's much less annoying to hear people humbly admit that they don't know everything than to hear them like qualify everything with like really insecure words that are like totally meaningless and junk.
Give it a try. Next time somebody disagrees with you, bite your tongue. Don't argue. Even if you're 99.999999999% sure that you're right. Just smile and say:
"I could be wrong."
You'll feel better and you'll get hooked on taking the nonconfrontational, humble approach to dialogue. At least I think you'll get hooked.
I could be wrong about that.
Friday, July 04, 2008
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
"How do you not kill yourself with stress?"
Huh. Good question. I wished I had a good answer. Thinking about it inspired last week's post about how I love music. Music is relaxing. So is blogging.
What do you do to not kill yourself with stress? Please share. :)
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
We may never embrace in a hug or hear each other’s voices. It is strange that cold, emotionless technology can take our words to each other and connect our hearts across the distance of the whole earth. I am grateful that our lives will soon be tied together with the silken cords of friendship, woven piece by piece like the scarves you create.