27 January 2007

Still More Whining About Annoyances

Another crop of meaningless, trivial, self-revealing annoyances:
  • Those of your having trouble reading this blawg should check to see what browser you're using. If you're still using an Internet Exploder version prior to 7, you need to upgrade. Version 7 fixes a longstanding Microsoft refusal to comply with the CSS standard that appears to affect versions 6 and before, not to mention a passel of security problems. (Or you could just switch to Firefox 2 as a browser and Thunderbird for e-mail instead of OE, but some work-based machines may not let you.)

    And, in the tradition of computer upgrade warnings everywhere, the ones who most need to see this suggestion — which is also good for your system security — won't be able to read it. Thanks, Bill. And thanks for requiring people to use Internet Exploder for all Windows-based security upgrades... even critical upgrades patching critical problems with Internet Exploder itself.

  • Hipness sucks. Just try quoting an article from Variety or The Hollywood Reporter in a scholarly piece. It's worse than Le Monde! It's hard to believe that going from French to English is harder than from Californian Narcissist to English, but at least there's a dictionary for the French problem. Or maybe there needs to be another option in BabelFish. Oh, wait a minute: BabelFish is about communication. Hollywood is about ego, not communication. I guess this was just a silly misunderstanding of their intent.
  • Public-organization webmasters: If you insist on using Flash and other non-textual means as the only navigation options on your organization's webpage, you'd better hide — I've loaded the 106mm recoilless rifle and I'm waiting in your parking lot. And you're getting two rounds, not just one through the windshield, if you put schedules — especially those announcing facility closure for private parties — in Flash or another non-textual display. You could also try reading the Americans With Disabilities Act and ponder what happened to Target recently...
  • Sometimes even the tort-reform crowd accurately assesses a lawsuit. In this instance, I'm referring to Walter Olson of Overlawyered (who isn't as unreasonable as most of the tort-reform crowd) and his comments on the bogus "You miscategorized my book for racially motivated reasons!" lawsuit against Penguin. Sure, the "industry" organizes books (in part) by purported "racial interests", which isn't the highest-personal-integrity method available.

    Unfortunately, that article — although it describes what happened reasonably well — falls prey to the problems plaguing virtually every article originally sourced to the WSJ on the publishing industry: It displays no understanding whatsoever of the "why"s in the industry, and in particular the economic basis for them. (Explicating the irony of the WSJ completely neglecting the economic and financial foundations of a story is left as an exercise for the student.) As I remarked in an e-mail to Mr Olson (formatting corrected):

    The real problem in this instance is not with Penguin. The real problem is an antitrust nightmare: the book distribution system, which is probably the paradigmatic example of "one man's antitrust is another man's economy of scale" — at least until you look into the financing and terms of doing business, which makes me ask "What economies of scale?" The distributors are the ones who demand "pigeonholing" of books, and Penguin's best defense will be to point out that books that are released without a category tend to stay in distributors' warehouses unshipped. In other words, "We had to put some category on it as a business necessity, and this is the one that in our commercial judgment was the best fit."

    In short, "Millenia Black"'s lawsuit needs to be dismissed for failure to join an indispensible party before we even begin consideration of the merits. And that's my overly lawyerly contribution to the debate at Overlawyered. In other words, "It's the procedure, stupid!"