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Catching up with Facebook

Some things I posted on facebook which I thought I’d share here.  I’m also including a lot of other great stuff.

Lack of health insurance raises your risk of dying by 40%.

CBS/New York Times poll: 65% of Americans say they would favor "the government offering everyone a government-administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans."

States may sue utilities over climate change.  This is what happens when Congress refuses to pass a climate change bill.  Related:  Matthew Wald’s report about carbon capture plants indicates that  Carbon capture reduces plant efficiency by 15-30%. "Environmentalists … worry that sequestration could simply trade one problem, global warming, for another one, the pollution of water supplies."

J Wynia on making better presentations with Power Point:

I think the most important presentation habit I picked up was to start working on the presentation somewhere other than *in* Powerpoint or Keynote. Both of those tools encourage a pattern that I think is the number one cause of the bullet-point onslaught.

What I see people do is File->New Presentation and they start by filling in the title and adding a new slide. That slide is always the Title/Bullet Points layout and they start filling in those boxes and just keep right on going.

If you start away from the presentation editor and organize your thoughts and ideas into the points you want to make, the things you want to convince your audience of, the things you want to be sure you communicate, etc.

This is where good old fashioned note-taking, outlining, and mind-mapping come in. Capture the ideas so you can cut out the crap that doesn’t belong. Even if you take a bunch of notes, throw them all away and go to Powerpoint “fresh”, your thinking will be clearer and the presentation better for it.

By the way, I am currently testing Personal Brain, a mind mapping/organization problem. Will report back if I’m pleased with it. I badly need a mind mapping/outlining tool for my longer written pieces.  WhizFolders Organizer is an alternative.

Here’s a great matrix comparing the current ebook devices. Apparently the Sony PRS-505 has fallen in price to $199. That’s a great deal, especially if you pair it up with the free Calibre ebook conversion utility. Calibre lets you scrape various websites (Newsweek, Economist, New Yorker) into ebook format… for free!  It’s a big myth that you need your ebook device to have some wireless way to download books. You don’t!

My article about Fictionaut.  If you’re a writer and need an invitation, let me know.

Mike Hughes on Why PDFs are sucky for usability. (The article mainly talks about PDF for technical documentation, but some principles are universal here).

Dmitry Fadeyev gathers some top usability findings. What caught my eye are the typography findings:

  • Line height (in pixels) ÷ body copy font size (in pixels) = 1.48
    1.5 is commonly recommended in classic typographic books, so our study backs up this rule of thumb. Very few websites use anything less than this. And the number of websites that go over 1.48 decreases as you get further from this value.
  • Line length (pixels) ÷ line height (pixels) = 27.8
    The average line length is 538.64 pixels (excluding margins and padding), which is pretty large considering that many websites still have body copy that is 12 to 13 pixels in font size.
  • Space between paragraphs (pixels) ÷ line height (pixels) = 0.754
    It turns out that paragraph spacing (i.e. the space between the last line of one paragraph and the first line of the next) rarely equals the leading (which would be the main characteristic of perfect vertical rhythm). More often, paragraph spacing is just 75% of paragraph leading. The reason may be that leading usually includes the space taken up by descenders; and because most characters do not have descenders, additional white space is created under the line.
  • Optimal number of characters per line is 55 to 75
    According to classic typographic books, the optimal number of characters per line is between 55 and 75, but between 75 and 85 characters per line is more popular in practice.

By the way, I will be changing the WordPress theme in the next few weeks so that it conforms with these principles.

The Spearhead, a new men’s site about dating. Slightly vulgar but intelligently written, with contributions from Roissy. I just love it how a bunch of writers can just get together a start a magazine.

Walecia Konrad on how to manage dental costs.

It’s important to know the price before you agree to the procedure. Often patients sit down for a routine cleaning and checkup, only to find they have a problem. The dentist offers to take care of the situation on the spot, and the patient agrees — but then is socked with a surprising bill at the end of the visit.

That happened to Monica Gagnier of Beacon, N.Y., on a recent visit to her Manhattan dentist for a twice-yearly cleaning. Looking to save money, Ms. Gagnier was careful to tell the office when she made the appointment that she wasn’t due to get X-rays and didn’t need to see the dentist for a checkup. Without those two items, she figured she would save more than $100 on her bill.

You should always be given an opportunity to discuss any treatment, sitting up, without equipment in your mouth, says Dr. Messina. In addition, whenever you are facing an invasive dental procedure that is not an emergency, it makes sense to refuse treatment on the spot and get a second opinion, says Elizabeth Rogers, a spokeswoman for Oral Health America, a nonprofit advocacy and education group based in Chicago.

The range of prices on treatments like root canals, for instance, can easily differ by $1,000 or more.

Commonplace blog, a literary blog by D.G. Myers. Myers is a literary critic from Texas A&M with an interest in contemporary literature. More about him later.

Satirical video about a Microsoft marketing plan. My theory: MS made a dopey marketing video and then released an underground video with the bleeps and double entendres. Never underestimate marketing genius.

Two maxims about network TV. Cory Doctorow: The goal of network TV is to make you consume  shit and crap cash. (Someone else): The main message of cable news is: Shut Up and Spend!  Aha, I remember the source of that second quote. It was from a Project Censored Video (which I am too lazy to look up).

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2010 (I assume the list is about 2009 news items). Here’s the top 25 Censored Stories of 2009. I haven’t looked over the 2010 list, but it looks good!

I am happy to learn that Mark Ames’ satirical journal Exiled Online is back in business.  Some highlights: I predicted the financial crisis and you didn’t listen and how the pro-ABM advocates reminded him of the Great Gazoo from the Flintstones. More shocking is Mr. Bernacke’s plan to drain a trillion dollars from the US money supply as a way to “protect” the finance industry:

What’s even more strange is that the Fed’s plan to “drain” an incredible $1 trillion from our ruined economy comes after the Fed spent two years pumping trillions into the banking system, on the specious theory that the best way to get us regular folks that money isn’t to give it to us directly, but rather, to give it to the bankers first… because they know better than anyone, better than us especially, how to distribute it down to the rest of us (that ol’ trickle-down theory that’s been working magic since Reagan suckered us into believing it). We’d lose it as soon as we received it—whereas they know how to hide it for safe-keeping.

Then there’s the question of how: like, how do you actually “drain” or “”mop up” $1 trillion from our economy–it’s not like CIA agents running around Central Asia buying back Stingers from the mujahedeen in the 1990s. (The actual process makes for boring reading, having to do with the Fed and primary dealers and its balance sheet and reverse-repos, bla bla bla.) What matters is this: The Fed is going to re-steal $1 trillion of the trillions it doled out to everyone who isn’t us, because Wall Street is complaining that if some of those trillions do trickle down to the rest of us, it’ll cause inflation. They’re calling it “excess”—the same guys who are making so many billions they don’t know what to do with it, they’re the ones who know what’s excess liquidity or not. So by taking away $1 trillion of money we regular folks might get our hands on and use for our own selfish purposes, Wall Street thinks that it can contain the inflation disease that we carry around.

This is why the Fed and Treasury made sure that all those trillions went to a select few plutocratic institutions first, and not to the rest of us. See, those dollars only have value to them as long as they’re the ones in control of the dollars, and the amount of dollars. If we all have these dollars, then they’re not much value or use to the billionaires anymore. The billionaires in Wall Street, Zurich, Abu Dhabi, and Hong Kong had two goals: first, to get ahold of the trillions they’d lost, even if it meant stealing it all from Americans. Then, once they got the loot, the next goal was to make sure it didn’t leak out to the rest of us and inflate its value away, otherwise, what was the point of looting all those trillions?

So that’s where we are now, in Phase Two: we regular folks must not be allowed to get our hands on any of that dough, or all economic Hell will break loose. Drain it, mop it, suck it up–get the trillion out of our hands before we do something stupid like buy Jeep Cherokees with it. Because basically we non-millionaires are slobs, and they’re not. They know what to do with money: In their hands, money doesn’t lose value (it may vanish or turn into negative money due to overleveraging, but it doesn’t inflate away, and that’s what makes them so great!); in our feckless irresponsible hands, the value of the dollar goes to shit. So they’re taking it away from us, $1 trillion of it, for our own good.

The Fed says this is all about fighting inflation–which is exactly what Wall Street, the Chinese, Zurich and the rest of the super-wealthy world has been bitching about for the past six months or so–that is, ever since they gorged themselves on the trillions in handouts, and thought, “Okay, I’m happy again. Don’t need this government money anymore, at least not at this rate. Hey, wait a doggone minute here–why is the government letting the rest of the schmucks in on the trillions? Get it out of their hands now!” Everyone knows what happened to Spain after they plundered all that gold from the New World: too much gold in everyone’s home led to gold losing its value. Lesson: make sure only a few people share in the spoils. So they want a lot of that money drained out of the economy before the rest of us get our hands on it and mess everything up with our highly-communicable inflationary diseases, which we carry around us like head lice. According to the people who run our economy—Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner—regular taxpayers like you and me carry highly-communicable strains of inflation in our psyches, and so we have to be quarantined from that money to protect the nation, and especially to protect the super-rich, who shouldn’t have to suffer just because we don’t bathe properly.

Mark Ames is a polemicist, so you have to indulge him a little, but his grasp on facts seem basically sound. The other articles on Exiled Online are in the same vein.

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