Ted's Tidbits

The Zen TV Experiment

If you watch television, you should take a look at this post. It’s a repost of an article that first appeared in Adbusters Magazine on the effects of television on individuals and society. It proposes four experiments to attempt at home. I did this, and I recommend you do it to.

1) Watch TV for 10 minutes and count the technical events.

What is a technical event? We've all seen TV cameras in banks and jewelry stores. A stationary video camera simply recording what's in front of it is what I will call "pure TV." Anything other than pure TV is a technical event: the camera zooms up, that's a technical event; you are watching someone's profile talking and suddenly you are switched to another person responding, that's a technical event; a car is driving down the road and you also hear music playing, that's a technical event. Simply count the number of times there is a cut, zoom, superimposition, voice-over, appearance of words on the screen, fade in/out, etc.
For this test, I watched the first 10 minutes of this episode of my namesake show. In that 10 minutes I counted 223 technical events, and then I realized I didn't count any audio effects!

2) Watch any TV show for 15 minutes without turning on the sound.

For this, I simply muted the volume on the same show and watched the remainder.

3) Watch any news program for 15 minutes without turning on the sound.

It took a while for me to find a recording of an actual news program online (I needed 15 contiguous minutes, and the news sites only offer clips) but I finally found this on Hulu.

4) Watch television for one half hour without turning it on.

I must admit that I haven't done this yet. I want to do the experiment, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to waste a half hour sitting in front of a turned off television.

So, What's the Point?

Well, the point is that television is messing with your mind. All the technical events that occur in a normal TV show make for a very disjointed set of scenes that we have trained our brains to assemble into a narrative.
Television inhibits your ability to think, but it does not lead to freedom of mind, relaxation or renewal. It leads to a more exhausted mind. You may have time out from prior obsessive thought patterns, but that's as far as television goes. The mind is never empty, the mind is filled. What's worse, it is filled with someone else's obsessive thoughts and images.

Watching the TV without the sound makes it more difficult to connect with the story and therefore easier to observe all the technical events occurring. Switching to a news program you realize that there are fewer technical events.

With fewer technical events the news show appears realistic relative to other shows in the TV environment. Further, it appears super-realistic relative to the commercial shows in this environment. As earlier, we witnessed the joining of technical events in a coherent narrative. Here, we witness the reduction of worldly events into a narrative.

I admit I haven’t yet stared at a blank TV for a half hour, but I imagine two things would occur to me. First, I would realize just exactly how long a half hour feels, and I would be bothered by the things I could be doing with that time. Second, I would see the TV for what it is, an object, instead of what it is not, a companion.

If one is alone in one's room and turns on the TV, one actually doesn't feel alone anymore. It's as if companionship is experienced, as if communication is two-way.

Again, So What?

This does make for an interesting, if not disturbing, academic discussion, but it is not fruitful unless a behavioral change occurs. I encourage you to make your own resolutions. As for me, I am making a deliberate effort to watch less TV. This is actually something I started doing a while back when we canceled our cable. There are still some shows I enjoy watching, and I will continue to watch them. I don’t think I’m going to start watching any new shows, and I’m definitely going to stop watching shows I find myself complaining about. To do otherwise would just be stupid. Tonight, for example, I elected to write this blog post instead of watching The Office or some other show.

Maybe one day I’ll stop watching TV altogether (although I have no plans to cease watching the Dallas Cowboys, no matter how frustrating of an experience that may be). I don’t want to bind myself to a statement I won’t be able to live up to. At least for now, I feel encouraged to read more.

The Future of Javascript -- Who Cares?!?

Yesterday on Slashdot, someone posted an InfoWorld interview of Brendan Eich (the creator of JavaScript).  In the interview he lays out his plans of the evolution of JavaScript into what he calls JS2.  The discussion on Slashdot was over the details of whether the language changes made things better or worse.  The thing about programmers is that they won’t all agree on anything.  Everyone has their own understanding of how software should be written.  My critique isn’t on any of the details of the language changes, its the premise itself.

First of all, let me say that I don’t believe JavaScript to be the Holy Grail of languages.  It’s not perfect, there are things about it that I find irritating.  There are also things about it that I like.  This is true of any language with any competent hacker.

Why JavaScript Matters:

More and more software is being designed to run “in the cloud”.  The benefits are obvious.  Deployment is trivial, as are upgrades.  Developing for the web means not having to care about the users’ platforms.  Connectivity is becoming faster and more ubiquitous every day.  JavaScript matters because it is the language of the web.  It excels not on technical merit, but out of necessity.

In the 1990s, Netscape was in a unique position.  It essentially owned the web platform.  Whatever they decided became standard.  When Microsoft built IE, they had to include JavaScript support so their browser could compete.  Every new browser since then had to include a JavaScript engine.

In todays market, every computer has a web browser and therefore has a JavaScript engine.  JavaScript matters for one reason, and only one reason: it is ubiquitous.

Why JS2 Does Not Matter:

Although Mozilla acts as if they inherited Netscape’s mid 90s status as keeper of the web platform, this is not the case.  They say that it doesn’t matter is Microsoft adopts JS2 or not, they’ll just write an IE plugin.  This may work to increase JS2 adoption, but it doesn’t actually solve any real problems.  JS2 is a solution looking for a problem.

When building TileStack, my main problem with JS isn’t some language feature (native classes, typed variables, etc.) it’s the lack of consistency between browsers.  Granted this isn’t something the Mozilla Foundation can fix, but a new version of the JS language does more harm than good in this context. 

Why JS2 is Harmful to Mozilla:

While Mozilla has the best of their JavaScript team busy writing new language features, the competition is getting tough.  Apple continues to push the limits of WebKit.  The next version of Safari will smoke the competition when it comes to JS performance.  They are packing so much stuff into the browser, that web developers will start to question the need for Flash.  Meanwhile, Mozilla is working on the syntax for the “let” keyword.  Hey Mozilla, where’s mobile FireFox?  How come the poster boy for open source isn’t part of the first open source mobile phone platform (Android)?  Congratulations on all the downloads of FireFox 3.  Too bad it’s killer feature is that it doesn’t suck down resources like FireFox 2.  Wake up guys, you’re starting to lose!

I guess the point is that language syntax is one of the least important features of a platform.  Do developers use .Net for C#’s syntax?  Is Objective-C’s syntax the reason for Apple’s recent successes?  Will the declarative structure of JavaFX Script save the Java platform?  I could go on with more examples, but I wont.  The answer is a resounding NO!  There are much more important things to ensuring the success of a platform than language syntax.

I suppose this doesn’t really need to concern me.  The web as a platform will continue to exist and grow and mature.  It’s just frustrating to observe this waste of time and energy.

UPDATE: I want to give credit where credit is due.  My colleague Josh Gertzen was quoted in AjaxWorld magazine on the irrelevancy of JS2 in an article that ran on Slashdot for a while.

Sending Legitimate Bulk Email

This is for all those people who are trying to run a web business that need to send bulk email messages and don’t want them to go directly into their recipients’ spam folders.

Yesterday, I (and several others) dedicated several hours to the task of determining why every email we sent went directly into the spam folders of those we were trying to reach. When you search Google for information about spam filters, you find plenty of information about blocking unwanted email, but hardly anything about making sure your legitimate bulk email is not discarded with the trash. We were able to solve our issues, and so I thought I’d share our findings with the community.

  • Send only plain text. Attachments and HTML content raise flags with content filters.
  • Set the message header: “Precedence: bulk”
  • You must set a subject, body, from address, and reply-to address (not having reply-to was my problem
In addition, if you are hosting your own mail server you should:
  • Publish an SPF record in your DNS configuration
  • Configure your MTA to and DNS to use DKIM. (Acronyms FTW!)
I hope this info is helpful to someone. I wish I had it.


Things on My Desk (November 2007 Edition)

  • Airlink+ 802.11b Wireless Router
  • Cable Modem
  • Small box labeled "Everything Mac"
  • Smaller envelope labeled "Everything Else"
  • 1 empty Diet Pepsi can
  • Clipboard with notebook paper and a legal pad attached
  • Dillard's Gift card envelope
  • Open CD Jewel Case
  • 17" Macbook Pro
  • Kingston 1GB USB Memory Stick
  • Paperback TNIV translation of the Bible
  • Commentary on Romans
  • Digital Camera
  • Three cork coasters
  • One cup of cold coffee, 1/4 full
  • 15" Compaq LCD monitor
  • Kengington Bluetooth mouse
  • Apple Power Supply
  • Multi-colored index cards
  • Chip-clip
  • Empty Package of peanuts
  • Black dry-erase marker
  • Extra battery
  • Deck of playing cards with pictures of my friends plotting my demise
  • Bridal portrait of Megan
  • Broken pair of sunglasses
  • Stack of receipts
  • World clock paperweight (not weighing down any paper)
  • Analog clock with my initials engraved
  • Letter opener
  • Class of 2000 cup full of pens and pencils
  • Stereo speakers
  • DVI to VGA monitor adapter
  • KVM cables

Freedom of Speech OK Unless Talking Politics

Ok, so the guy that created the Hillary Clinton 1984 video that’s on YouTube revealed himeself.  Since he works for a consulting service that the Obama campaign uses, he was promptly fired.  What bothers me most about this is the fact that people are acting like this was the correct thing to do.  The article even speculates whether the Obama campaign did enough to distance itself from this video.

We are a country that’s proud of our freedom of speech.  YouTube is probably one of the best examples of this expression. Anyone with a video camera and an internet connection can send a message to the world.  You can say anything you like, and if everything lines up just right, your video could be seen by millions of people.  That’s power in the hands of individuals. This is what America is supposed to be all about.

But if you post something about a political candidate, people start questioning.

  • Who made this?
  • Who paid for it?
  • How much did it cost?
  • Can they say that?
  • Is this fair?
My question is, why do we restrict the very speech that the first ammendment was written to protect?  It’s not just the culture and the media.  There are laws.  Remember campain finance reform?  529 organizations?  Why should you have to register as a 529 to talk publicly about a political campaign?  Maybe it’s just me, but this whole thing seems hypocritical and, quite frankly, stupid.

Now 50% Less Calories

What’s Tumblr?  It’s basically a blog for someone who has such a severe case of ADD that they can’t concentrate long enough to read these short posts.


Madd Rappin EW - Cell Phones & Starbucks


Nigerian Dead Parrot


Cotton Bowl No Longer at Cotton Bowl

This could be the beginning of the end for this sports venue.

Dallas Morning News: Cotton Bowl Moving


Well, its apparently been over 2 months since I last posted anything to the ol’ blog.  The last think I wrote about was the late night release of ThinWire 1.2 RC 1.  So much has happened since then.  Instead of writing about everything, I’ll just list stuff that’s happened since then:

  • Two snapshot releases of ThinWire have been made.
  • I attended three weddings in three cities in three weeks.
  • I finished reading Asimov’s Foundation novels.
  • I attended a midnight wedding.
  • My printer broke.
  • Megan and I celebrated one year of marriage.
  • I purchased an iPod.
  • Epson sent me a brand new printer.
  • I read the New Testament
  • My company purchased additional office space.
  • I replaced the brake pads on my car.
Here’s what I haven’t done since the release of RC1:
  • Get a haircut.
See you in April!

Little T Learns to Share

Terrell Owens has released his first book in a series of childrens books.  His next book will be called Little T Learns What Not to Say, followed by Little T Learns To Say I’m Sorry.  I swear I’m not making this up.

Little T Learns to Share


Dallas Morning News

Ever been the only one?

I don’t know why I do the things I do.  Today I searched Google for a phrase that I used to say a lot: ”Sleepmode is the squidaud”  It was an inside joke of sorts.  Busta Rhymes often says “Flipmode is the Squidaud,” refering of course to his group. Some friends of mine hijacked that phrase and began using it to refer to a love of slumber.  Anyway, I digress.

The point is that I Googled ”sleepmode is the squidaud” and only got three results.  Two were from the previous version of TedCHoward.com, and one was from a blog that I apparantly had 4 years ago.  Using Google as the record, I am the only person to ever post the phrase “sleepmode is the squidaud” on the internet.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.

KFC Finally Taps Into the Lucrative Astronaut Demographic


Because what we really needed was a logo we could see from space.

An Excelent Use of Statistics

Pac-Man Pie Chart

6 Year Old Suspended for Bringing Watergun


As far as I’m concerned this is Class IV Retarded. It was an orange watergun. Now this six year old will be suspended for 10 days and have on his permanent record that he brought something resembling a weapon to school.

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Wench Swap

Talk Like a Pirate Day is tomorrow, and to help get you in the mood, ABC’s season premiere of Wife Swap features a pirate family.  Actually, not just any pirate family, but the family who started Talk Like a Pirate Day a few years back.


Gas Prices in Perspective

OmniNerd has a very interesting article on our obsession with finding the cheapest gas available.  He mathematically determines possible savings over a month, and then applies the formulas to other commodities that we generally aren’t as obsessive at finding better prices.

I have been known to go out of my way for that extra $0.05/gallon savings, but how much am I actually saving?

Arrrrr you well read?

Waiting for me in my inbox this morning was an email from Amazon.com.

As someone who has purchased books about pirates, you might like to know about our featured booklist celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Well, they’ve got me pegged. Here’s the list.

Slowly Drifting Towards Insanity

Of course some would argue that I’m already there.  Regardless, the following songs have been stuck in my (and my wife’s) head for a few days now.  Enjoy: