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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Web and Your Brain!









 As a web designer, I've got to make sure that the web pages that I build are intuitive for the user.  That means that site navigation should be easily visible and accessible, the organization of my site (the sequence that my pages are linked together in) should be logical, and that there is NO page of my site that takes more than two clicks from my index page to get to.  

 Well, a lot of why that's important is due to how our brains work.  And, apparently, the Web, and the Internet overall, is reorganizing our brains!  Information is quicker than ever to access.  What's the weather forecast for Grimsby, Ontario?  How about Toronto, I'm going there tomorrow... Do FUNImation, Sentai Filmworks, or Bandai have any new anime licenses?  Did Stephen Harper say anything infuriating today?  Do I have any new Twitter followers? (Actually, I have many new followers everyday, check it out at twitter.com/kim_crawley!)  All of these questions can be reached with a few clicks.  Google, Wikipedia, RSS feeds (subscribe to mine at feeds.feedburner.com/kimcrawleycom-BrightIdeas) and social media are helping us access new information with great speed.  Therefore, people are developing shorter attention spans.  Television was nothing, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

 I've been using PCs daily since about 1992 (when I was eight years old!), and I've been on the Internet since 1994.  

 Last week, I was helping a family member post ads on kijiji.ca.  He does his everyday work on his computer.  He checks his e-mail and surfs the web regularly.  It surprised me that he needed my help.  But I can post a Kijiji ad in about thirty seconds, complete with photos and perfect spelling.  He can figure out how to do it himself, but it would take him such a loooong time.  And I've got to hold his hand while he uses Twitter.  "What do I do, Kim?"  "Type your message in 140 characters or less, then click 'tweet'!"  He can use the Internet for his purposes and enjoyment, but he seems slow and lacking confidence when he encounters something new.  I see something new, and within minutes, I'm using it as if I've always used it.

 He is a very bright man, but I grew up with computers and he didn't.  Of course, the brain is a lot more plastic when one is younger.

 But, according to a UCLA study (gosh, I hate linking to Fox News), there is hope for rewiring your brain with Internet use, even if you're older or new to the technology:

"We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain activity patterns and enhance function," Dr. Gary Small, study author and professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said in a statement.
 he UCLA team worked with 24 neurologically normal volunteers between the ages of 55 and 78. Prior to the study, half the participants used the Internet daily, while the other half had very little experience. Age, educational level and gender were similar between the two groups.
 The participants performed Web searches while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, which recorded the subtle brain-circuitry changes experienced during this activity. This type of scan tracks brain activity by measuring the level of blood flow in the brain during cognitive tasks. While the study involves a small number of people and more research on this topic is needed, small study sizes are typical of fMRI-based research.


 After the initial brain scan, subjects went home and conducted Internet searches for one hour a day for a total of seven days over a two-week period. These practice searches involved using the web to answer questions about various topics by exploring different websites and reading information. Participants then received a second brain scan using the same Internet simulation task, but with different topics.


 The first scan of participants with little Internet experience showed brain activity in the regions controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities. The second brain scan of these participants, conducted after the home practice searches, demonstrated activation of these same regions, but there was also activity in the middle frontal gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus – areas of the brain known to be important in working memory and decision-making.


 Thus, after Internet training at home, participants with minimal online experience displayed brain activation patterns very similar to those seen in the group of savvy Internet users.


 Why don't I see that happening in real life?  Either they need to use greater numbers of test subjects, or I'm being too hard on my dear old family member.


 But now there's scientific data to suggest that the Internet is getting into our BRAINS!  Not just via computers, but also through smartphones, tablets, and any other device that can use the Internet.


 We've got to design our websites with user's brains in mind, but perhaps user's brains are being designed with our websites in mind, too.  That's strange, exciting, and creepy! 


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Getting ready for HTML5- New tags, part three








 This is my final post about the new tags in HTML5.  There are still more Project HTML5 posts to come, but this concludes the 'new tags' series.


 Here are all of my previous Project HTML5 posts if you haven't read them already:






 So obviously, I haven't described all of the new features of HTML5, but I'm mentioning the new tags I find the most exciting.  You can look forward to a post coming up about the tags in HTML4 that have been dropped in 5, which is very useful if you're trying to convert your pages to the new HTML5 standard.  I'm definitely going to have to get out of my ugly habit of using the <center> tag, that's for sure!


 Okay, the last new HTML5 tags I believe that are worth mentioning-


 The new <mark> tag is like applying a highlighter to some of your prose text.  For reference purposes, and possibly to get the reader's attention, you want those words to stand out.  For example:


 <p>My name is Kim Crawley, and I'm a freelance web designer.  I can make a <mark style="background-color:#EC47FF;">beautiful, professional looking, custom website</mark> for you or your small business.</p>


I'm assuming that CSS3 will have some options for stylizing the way you want <mark> to display.


I've already gone into detail about the new <video> and <audio> tags, so I must describe the new <source> tag, too.   Most web designers know that visitors don't always have the right codecs available for their browser to use some types of audio or video files.  Some people might not even have codecs for popular media formats available in their browser.  Someone might have codecs for .wma files, but not for .mp3s, for instance.  If you are wise when integrating different media in your web design, you may have different file format versions of the same content.  You can make use of that sort of preparation this way:


Here's some proof that my mother is a horrible singer:<br><br>
<audio height="30" width="150" align="right" autoplay><source src="http://www.kimcrawley.com/mymothershorriblesinger.wma" type="audio/x-ms-wma"><source src="http://www.kimcrawley.com/mymotherisahorriblesinger.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">Your browser doesn't support HTML5.</audio>


 So, the <source> tag doesn't need a closing tag, but it must be between <audio> and </audio> or <video> and </video>.  As I mentioned in previous posts, any text between <audio> and </audio> or <video> and </video> will display in browsers that don't support the tag, but won't display in browsers that do.


 And the very last new HTML5 tag that I'll mention is the <nav> tag.  If your webpage's navigational links are rendered as text or images as opposed to JavaScript or Flash, this is a useful new tag to enclose your navigational links in.  Your browser may find this useful.  I'm thinking it may allow be useful with web bots, because it will know, for instance, not to display that data in your Google listing.


 So, the new <nav> tag may be used like this:


<nav><a href="http://www.kimcrawley.com/links.html">Links</a>|<a href="http://www.kimcrawley.com/portfolio.html">Portfolio</a>|<a href="http://www.kimcrawley.com/aboutme.html">About Me</a></nav>


 There are no attributes for the <nav> tag, but a closing </nav> tag must be used.


 Next in my Project HTML5 series, I'll mention some of the tags from earlier versions of HTML (and possibly some from XHTML) that have been dropped.


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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am OBSESSED with these songs, Al Jarreau edition



  Ah, my last post for today.  I did a previous post featuring a Youtube video of a Bob James song that I LOVE, but I've got to be one of the biggest Al Jarreau fans in the world.


 Today's a great day for lots of awesome Al Jarreau music!  Enjoy!










































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A 'Shout-Out' for Feminists for Choice


 Hey, I just want to give a 'shout-out' to Feminists For Choice.  I discovered, via Twitter yesterday, that they're looking for a logo designer.  See http://feministsforchoice.com/looking-for-pro-choice-graphic-designer.htm.  As I consider myself a feminist, I'm strongly pro-choice, and I'm good at graphic design, I thought I would give it a shot.  Below is the logo I designed and a sample 'web ad' for them:




 Serena Freewomyn, Feminists for Choice's founder, sent me a reply saying that she is considering me for the job.  I previously e-mailed her those samples.

 Although I'm a web designer, I love designing logos, and other graphics for professional purposes, too.  Below is the logo I designed for Buchalter Consulting, an investor relations firm I do all the webmastering, web design and social media for:



 I would love it if Serena would choose me.  I strongly support her organization, and it would be good promotion for my web design business, even though I would be creating a logo and ads for them, not doing web design.  

 Although I don't offer prices for logo and ad design on my website, people may gladly propose projects like that to me, possibly via e-mail, and I would be very inexpensive.

 If Serena and Feminists For Choice choose me, I would probably redo the ad by adding a graphic of a female, or a group of females, with their arms crossed, the body language suggesting 'MY body is MINE'.  The reason why I didn't simply do a Google image search for a photo is because I don't want a woman or womyn to come back to me saying 'hey, I don't permit this!'  But I would be okay with my photo being in the ad, and with having the photos of other adult females involved if they consent.

 Why don't you visit feminstsforchoice.com?









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The Best Little Whorehouse in Toronto



 The above image is courtesy of 'moi', thank you very much!


 Okay, here's the issue everyone in Canada, and a lot of people around the world are talking about today: yesterday's Ontario court ruling affectively legalizing everything associated with prostitution that wasn't legal previously.


 In Ontario, being a prostitute was legal, but paying for sex (being a 'john'), soliciting prostitution in public, and   'keeping a common bawdy house' were illegal.  So basically, you could be a prostitute and be open about it, but you may be arrested for soliciting prostitution in public, being a hooker.  So, you could walk up to a cop and say "I'm a prostitute" and not be arrested, but if a cop sees you walking up to a car and saying "Hey, wanna good time?  Blow jobs are only $15.00!", you could be arrested.  So could the guy for handing you money in that situation.  And if the cops find out you are using an apartment or house to 'perform your services', you could be arrested for that.  You could be also arrested for being a 'pimp' (soliciting the prostitution of someone else).  But TECHNICALLY speaking, being a prostitute was legal.  Yes, the law can be confusing sometimes.


 And in the back pages of most free urban weeklies in Ontario (our equivalents of 'The Village Voice') such as Now Magazine and Eye Magazine in Toronto, and View Magazine in Hamilton, ads for escorts of all kinds (Busty blondes! Exotic Asians! Well endowed but very feminine looking shemales! Buff young men!) proliferate.  Plus, one of the most poorly kept secrets around is that many, if not most, strip clubs have their customers enjoying sexual acts for money in the back room.  Cops would often visit strip clubs to make sure that all that was going on was stripteases and lap dances.  Well, that's what they would SAY their visits were for, anyway... nudge nudge, wink, wink.


 But now, as long as the federal government's appeal is rejected, prostitutes can be more open about what they're doing.  They may openly operate 'common bawdy houses', which makes the horrible violence that sex workers often endure much less likely.  They may hire bodyguards for their protection, instead of being at the mercy of exploitive pimps. (If you were to tell me that you're a prostitute, I would not think any less of you, especially if you use condoms.  If you were to tell me you're a pimp though, I would see red.)


 So, although I'm not crazy about prostitution, I strongly support the court ruling made yesterday.  (I'm an attractive young female, why would I ever have to pay for sex?)  Prostitution is often called the 'oldest profession', and in some form or another, it will always exist, regardless of the law or of how socially acceptable it is.


 From Jezebel, written by Anna North:

Several of Canada's anti-prostitution laws were ruled unconstitutional today, a decision that may make the lives of Canadian sex workers much safer.
According to CBC News, prostitution is legal in Canada, but "virtually every activity associated with it is not." Sex workers were previously barred from "keeping a common bawdy house, communicating for the purposes of prostitution and living on the avails of the trade." Even a judge once called these prohibitions "bizarre" — and three sex workers filed a lawsuit saying that the laws forced them to work outside their homes and in unsafe conditions, and kept them from doing things like paying security guards or screening clients. Dominatrix Terri-Jean Bedford (pictured, left) told Ontario's Superior Court of Justice that she still bore the scars from being attacked with a baseball bat by a client several years ago. But her job may be about to get a lot safer: the Court just ruled all three laws unconstitutional.
"These laws, individually and together, force prostitutes to choose between their liberty interest and their right to security of the person as protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms," said Justice Susan Himel in her decision. Conservative group Real Women of Canada argued against repealing the laws, alleging that prostitution harms women. But being attacked with a baseball bat pretty clearly harms women too, and making prostitutes' jobs more dangerous is hardly the way to help them. It appears that the Superior Court of Ontario has finally listened to sex workers' voices — maybe some in the US will start doing so too.


Read more: 
http://jezebel.com/5650209/canada-strikes-down-anti+prostitution-laws#ixzz10wC2f8RQ


The good news is that the federal government's appeal will probably be rejected.


 I strongly feel for sex workers, female and male alike, and how they are often subjected to horrible violence. These laws will make it more likely that they will be safer.  I hope sex workers everywhere put their foot down and insist a fresh condom is used whenever a penis is involved.  And I hope female sex workers make sure they are using birth control of some kind, in addition to condom use.


 Child prostitution, bestiality and sex with corpses (necrophilia) remains illegal.


 In Canada, we must set an example of social liberalism to the world.  I surely hope ending the war on drugs is next... but I'm not holding my breath.












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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Great Glasses Controversy


 Above is an image of the Great Glasses location in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.

  To visitors all over the world, and to those in Ontario who aren't aware of the issue, Great Glasses is an Ontario optical chain that is in serious legal trouble.
  
   What they provide is a very desirable service to Ontarians without private optical insurance coverage, a free eye test with only having to pay for the glasses or contact lenses a customer wants.  For customers who want glasses, they will usually sell three pairs for around $200 or so altogether.

  As of November 1st, 2004, in Ontario, OHIP stopped providing optical testing coverage for adults aged 20-64.  OHIP is the Ontario government's public health insurance plan.  See http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/providers/program/ohip/resources/fs_eyecare_110104.pdf for more on the optical care/OHIP issue.  

  My opinion of the matter is I'm outraged that OHIP no longer pays for optical testing for most Ontario adults.  But then, I'm also outraged that OHIP doesn't cover medically necessary dental care, either.  And untreated dental infections can actually become deadly.  OHIP covers all kinds of treatment for patients with non-lethal medical conditions.

  Anyway, in the wake of the coverage cuts made by OHIP in late 2004, Great Glasses started to thrive.  There are at least a couple of dozen locations across the province, with a few in Hamilton.  But ever since 2003, Great Glasses has faced legal trouble, too.  In order to provide free eye exams, Great Glasses can't hire optometrists.  Store clerks with just a little bit of store training use eye testing equipment to determine a customer's prescription.  But a non-optometrist with just a little bit of training about how to use eye testing equipment can determine a customer's correct prescription.  See this excerpt from Sam Blitz at Cracked.com about professions that may be disappearing:

 Those of you with glasses or contacts, think about the last time you went to the optometrist. What exactly did he or she actually do? They have a bunch of machines where an assistant checks you for cataracts or whatever, then the actual eye doctor has you look into a machine and you tell him whether or not you can see with various lenses. Then he writes down a number and they either feed it into a machine that spits out some lenses, or a lady at the counter grabs some contacts off the shelf. We're not looking to insult the eye doctors of the world but come on. These aren't exactly House-style medical mysteries here.

It doesn't take a million-dollar robot to do the job, either. Consider the smart phone app called NETRA, which stands for Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment. It aims to replace your local optometrist with a plastic lens phone attachment. The device is quite similar to the normal optometrist tool, except that it lets the user adjust the focus of the image on his own without the need of a Ph.D.-laden middleman.


Read more: 
http://www.cracked.com/article_18759_6-iconic-jobs-that-are-going-away-forever_p2.html#ixzz10qlAGUQC

 ______________________________


 I've read comments on articles on the Hamilton Spectator (TheSpec.com) saying that maybe non-medical professionals (or robots!) may be able to determine someone's glasses or contact lens prescription, but only a physician like an optometrist can diagnose eye diseases, which an optometrist may spot during an eye exam.   I have a father who's had cataract surgery in both eyes, a mother with glaucoma, and a legally blind paternal grandmother with macular degeneration, so I see the point.  But why don't we have store clerks or robots give glasses/contact lens prescriptions, and then have people visit a real optometrist once every few years to test for eye diseases?  Having store clerks make visual correction prescriptions would cut out a lot of an optometrists' workload, so that they can focus on glaucoma, etc.


  Ah, but then, we would need fewer optometrists.  I can certainly understand the College of Optometrists and College of Opticians pursuing legal action against Great Glasses founder Bruce Bergez.  See (http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/251006--great-glasses-bergez-wife-to-be-sentenced-oct-1)  And I'm usually a supporter of worker's rights and labour unions.  For instance, I've permanently boycotted Walmart.  


  Then, why doesn't the Ontario government/OHIP restore eye exam funding for ALL Ontarians?  And then cover all necessary (non-cosmetic) dental care for ALL Ontarians?  The Ontario government could afford it if the federal government would give more money to Ontario.  And the federal government would have more money for the Ontario government if: 


  • We cut funding to all three branches of the Canadian military, so that we have enough forces to protect Canada and her allies from International threats, but not so many troops and equipment to fight wars Canada shouldn't be involved in, such as Afghanistan.  I say this as a sister of a Canadian air force member who is currently stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, Captain Winston Crawley.  We can lay off half of our troops, cancel the over BILLION dollar order of fighter jets, and sell half of the military equipment currently in possession.  I have a lot of respect for our brave men and women in the armed forces, and the ones who are made to return to civilian life should get all the financial help from the government needed for college, university, retraining, and finding civilian applications for the special skills the former soldiers may have.  The government must protect their military pensions, and give all the financial help needed to find a decent paying civilian career.  But even with the billions of dollars that may be needed, we would quickly save the federal government billions of dollars by having smaller armed forces only fighting when necessary to protect Canada and her allies.
  • Marijuana was made legally available to Canadian adults (maybe take a cue from tobacco and alcohol laws and make the legal age 19), and taxed like tobacco.  Countless billions of dollars would be saved from freeing cops from pursuing people who are simply enjoying smoking weed, and billions saved from the criminal courts no longer dealing with marijuana possession/trafficking issues.  Marijuana taxes would fill the federal coffers with additonal billions.
  • These two things will only be made possible when we no longer have a 'Dubya' light like Stephen Harper as prime minister.  As an NDP supporter, I say we should change our election system from FPTP (first past the post) to proportional representation, and the Liberal party should split up.  The farther right Liberals could make the Conservatives a more moderate party and the farther left Liberals could join the NDP.  I have no problems with naming that new party the Liberal Party.  The fact that 38% or so of voting Canadians chose their Conservative MP candidate should not burden the rest of us with the farthest right wing federal government Canada has ever had.  And contrary to what the conservative media says about us wacky lefties, Harper's Conservatives have spent a lot more money than any other federal government previously, even when adjusted for inflation.


 Ah!  That's my political rant for today.  Anyway, for disclosure, I must say that I'm a customer of Great Glasses, I'm currently wearing a pair I bought from their now closed Ikea Plaza Burlington location last spring.


  Anyway, amidst all of their legal troubles (see  http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/251006--great-glasses-bergez-wife-to-be-sentenced-oct-1 and http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/250730--great-glasses-sentencing-put-off-till-oct-1), I'm surprised they're still in business.  I wonder for how much longer?















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