05.08.15

V-E Day + 70 years

Posted in History, Life at 6:07 pm by

Atlantic Arch
Atlantic Arch, National World War II Memorial, August 2013

For those brave men and women who are still with us today, there may not be very many more of these days. We who are here today because of you salute you and thank you.

04.05.15

Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942

Posted in History, Life at 9:39 am by

Easter Sunrise Services, Seattle, Washington, April 5, 1942
Program for Easter Sunrise Services
Seattle, Washington
April 5, 1942

Ed and Dolores Ardisson, April 5, 1942
Ed and Dolores Ardisson Wedding Portrait
April 5, 1942

Ed and Dolores Ardisson outside University Methodist Temple
Mr and Mrs Edward S Ardisson
Outside University Methodist Temple, Seattle, Washington
Easter Sunday, April 5, 1942

Certificate of Marriage
Certificate of Marriage

Bridal Party
The Bridal Party

Congratulations
Congratulations of Guests

Ed, Dolores, and Eugene Ardisson, Seattle, Washington, April 1942
Ed, Dolores, and Eugene Ardisson
Seattle, Washington
April 1942

Easter Rites Unite Couple
Easter Rites Unite Couple

Pittsburgh Couple Marry in District
Pittsburgh Couple Marry in District

On my grandparents’ 69th and last anniversary, I asked my grandfather what his secrets were for a long and happy marriage; the first was “get married on Easter Sunday.”

03.24.15

What year is it again?

Posted in Rants, Software at 5:25 pm by

The other day, my brother asked me to log in to his account on his employer’s1HR system” in order to make him some backup copies of information presented there (his existing copies of which he had needed to provide to his supervisor). On the login screen, I was still slightly shocked2 to see the following message:

For an optimal experience, we recommend using these browsers:

Unexpected results may occur when using other browsers.

(If you view the source, you can see that each of the <a>s has an id="ielink_001" attribute—not only incorrect, but perhaps a holdover from the days this particular website “supported” only IE?)

Seriously? It’s 2015 and your website is not only not compatible with any version of Safari, but it is only compatible with versions of Chrome and Firefox that are four3 versions out-of-date!? (Kudos for supporting versions of IE dating back six years, though!)

I forged ahead, because if the site claimed to work properly in a six-year-old version of Internet Explorer, it surely would work in a current two-year-old version of Safari (the just-released version 6.2.4 on 10.8/Mountain Lion). Nothing I had to look at seemed to look or function incorrectly—until it came time to look for his timesheets. When I clicked on the tab entitled “Timesheets”, a page loaded with no “content” below the row of tabs, except for a link to help me return to the site I was already on. Indeed, unexpected results may occur when using a browser other than the last four versions of IE or versions of Chrome and Firefox four versions out-of-date! Eventually, I realized that the problem was that loading the page was triggering a pop-up window(!?) with the website for the company’s scheduling system, and Safari was (silently) blocking said pop-up.4

Allowing pop-ups and forging ahead again, I looked at the scheduling system’s website, and it reminded me of a poor knockoff of the web as rendered by Firebird 0.6 or 0.7 more than a decade ago (eerie, that poorly-rendered, overly-fat Helvetica—perhaps it’s Verdana or Tahoma?—and <table>s, lots of <table>s!) Also, there was a menu that seemed to have no useful functions. Finally relenting, I launched Firefox 36, discovered the functional part of the menu was indeed missing (according to the Web Inspector in Safari, that part of the menu was being rendered off-screen and I think zero-height; given that Blink and WebKit supposedly haven’t diverged that much, I wonder if this critical piece of the menu would have appeared in Chrome, either, supported version or otherwise?), found the link I needed, and returned to Safari to print out pages of multi-page <table>s.

These are websites/systems that are created and installed to be used by every employee of this company, from the convenience of each employee’s personal computing device, not systems that are to be used solely by the HR department on company computers where IT can mandate a certain browser and software combination. This is software whose purpose is to be used by everyone; why is it not designed to be used by everyone—compatible with current versions of the major rendering engines, avoiding unfriendly and abused technologies like pop-ups, and so on?

If the software is intended to be used by everyone (or, generally, people beyond those whose computer configuration you can dictate by supplying said computer) and it’s web-based software (or has a web front-end), then the company (or the company’s software vendor) needs to continually test the software/web front-end with new versions of major rendering engines, making changes (or reporting bugs in the rendering engine) in the unlikely event something breaks, so that they aren’t requiring employees to use six-month-old versions of browsers in order for the corporate software to work properly.

As for the integration between the main HR system and the scheduling system, if the two can’t talk to each other directly behind the scenes, then why not embed the scheduling system into the “Timesheets” tab with an <iframe> (<iframe>s are already present in some of the other tabs). If an <iframe> won’t work for some technical or security reasons, why not include a button on the “Timesheets” tab that the user can click to trigger the pop-up window with the scheduling system, thus escaping the pop-up blocker? It’s not as elegant in some ways as automatically launching, but pop-ups are already not as elegant as showing the data inline (and pop-ups are arguably not elegant at all), and manually-triggered pop-ups are more friendly since the human involved knows he or she is triggering some action and isn’t annoyed by blocked pop-up notifications. You also then get Safari compatibility “for free” without requiring users to change settings (and without having to tell them how to do so). If there are still legitimate reasons not to use a button or link or similar element, at the very least some explanatory text in the “content” section of the “Timesheets” tab is far more useful to anyone than a link to return to the very site you’re already viewing.

When I encounter software like this, I often wonder how it was built. Was there a user experience or human interface designer as part of the team? Was there any testing? Any quality assurance team involved? Or did some product manager just throw a spec sheet from marketing at the software engineers and tell them, “Not only do you have to write the code to make it do these things, but you have to determine how it’s going to do these things, too.” Or did management decide to ship as-is, perhaps over the objections of team members, in order to meet some deadline?

Design is how things work. Not everyone is a good designer, just like not everyone is a good programmer or tester (they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive, but many times excelling in one field means not learning as much about another), but every good piece of software needs all three skillsets, working in concert, whether in one body or more. Too often, “corporate software” like this seems to be missing one or more of the three, and that’s a shame, because with a little more effort, every interaction with the software could be improved. Then the vendor sells better software, the employees who use the software have a faster, easier experience and can get back to doing what they love and are good at, and the company installing the software can have happier employees. Everyone wins.

        

1 An unnamed major American restaurant group.
2 I know, I know, I really shouldn’t be. :P
3 In fairness, Firefox 31 is at least still in the ESR support window until May.
4 Question 1: Why, in 2015, does Safari still not support a per-site control for pop-ups (and, at least as of version 6, still not provide any sort of notification of blocked pop-ups; granted the UI balance there is hard—and a subject for another post—but still!)?
Question 2: The better question is, why, in 2015, are sites still using non-user-triggered pop-up windows for critical functions, or any functions at all?

11.11.14

November 11th

Posted in History, Life at 11:11 am by

As this year is the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, it seemed fitting to mark this Veterans Day with a pair of our World War I veterans.

John Ardison returns from WWI
John Ardison returns from WWI, 1919

Postcards from World War I
Postcards sent by George Arthur Benner (Corporal, US Army) from France to his family in Newark, OH during World War I

Uncle George, G'ma, "Jeff"
George Arthur Benner with his mother and dog

George Arthur Benner, 1894-1966
George Arthur Benner, 1894-1966

In Britain, the Tower of London was the site of an art installation titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the war. Each ceramic poppy represents a British or Commonwealth soldier who lost his life during the war, providing a beautiful memorial to those fallen yet also a somber reminder of the scale of the human cost of the conflict. (For more coverage of this art installation, see the aforementioned link, and click on the photo below from Getty Images and choose “More Like This” to find other views of the installation, which fills the entire Tower moat.)

06.12.14

663399

Posted in Camino, Links at 11:00 pm by

Some years ago now, long after nearly all web standards people had adopted Firefox or Safari, the great CSS guru Eric Meyer was (still) a Camino user. In that capacity, I interacted with him a few times in my role as a member of the Camino team.

Today I join with the global community of those who knew or were influenced by the Meyers in presenting a #663399Becca border on افكار و احلام (and background on the main ardisson.org landing page) as a mark of remembrance for their young daughter who tragically passed away last Saturday.

I have no more words.

(Via Jon Hicks)

06.06.14

June 6, 1944

Posted in History, Life at 6:00 am by

“Into the Jaws of Death”
“Into the Jaws of Death”
(courtesy Wikipedia/National Archives and Records Administration)

Atlantic Pavilion, National World War II Memorial
Atlantic Pavilion, National World War II Memorial, August 2013

Washington Monument from the Pacific Pavilion
Washington Monument from the Pacific Pavilion, National World War II Memorial, August 2013

03.12.13

PITA, October 2002-March 2013

Posted in Life at 6:05 pm by

Requiēscat in pāce
Requiēscat in pāce

To say that dogs and I have had a troubled relationship would be to put things mildly. Whether it was extremely early childhood trauma from Tribbie eating my Bristle Blocks (and whatever else of mine he could get his teeth on while we lived with the Hoods) or something else I can no longer remember, dogs and I have had an adversarial relationship nearly my entire life. There have been, to date, but two exceptions: the late Sam Beauregard the basset hound, faithful companion of the Danes, and my brother’s first dog, PITA.

My brother rescued PITA from rising water in the cave where he was born (beginning PITA’s life-long aversion to bodies of water, no matter how small or shallow) and brought the new puppy home, where he grew up to be a friendly, loyal, kind, and fiercely protective dog. He loved to sit and watch the birds eat and to howl with the fire, police, and ambulance sirens (there is a fire station only a few blocks away, as the crow flies, and it is rumored that his father was part Dalmatian), but he also would never fail to defend the women of the family from any perceived threat (most often other dogs encountered on walks). But PITA is also the animal who knew, each time, that one of my grandparents had died, and did his best to comfort me. What more could one ask for in a dog?

Good-bye, my friend; I’ll miss you.

PITA, Fall 2002
PITA, Fall 2002

PITA, June 2003
PITA, June 2003

PITA minds the store, August 2003
PITA minds the store, August 2003

PITA's first birthday, October 13, 2003
PITA’s first birthday, October 13, 2003

PITA with his daddy at his first birthday, October 13, 2003
PITA with his daddy at his first birthday, October 13, 2003

PITA waits for a treat, September 19, 2005
PITA waits for a treat, September 19, 2005

PITA watches his brothers, October 23, 2010
PITA watches his brothers, October 23, 2010

PITA with his blanket, February 2013
PITA with his blanket, February 2013

PITA in the sun, February 2013
PITA in the sun, February 2013

01.16.13

جامية حلب

Posted in Life, السياسة at 5:16 pm by

If you look at my undergraduate transcript, you will see from the summer of 1997 two course credits from the University of Aleppo. While in Aleppo (as part of the since-discontinued “Summer in Syria” program of the National Council on US-Arab Relations), we resided on campus and lived in the university dorms.

My anger is seething at those responsible for the cowardly act of targeting a university, and, worse, doing so during final exams yesterday.

My heart is weeping for the students and people of Aleppo and their families.

12.25.12

Pizzelles and Other Things

Posted in Life at 11:27 pm by

I haven’t written very much for a while. At least recently, in part it’s been a readjustment, in part the need to attend to so many things that had been delayed since the beginning of 2011, and, certainly, partly sadness.

I made pizzelles yesterday for the first time in more than half a dozen years. It’s also the first time I’ve made pizzelles without the able assistance of Grandpa Porczak, who for many years served as my timekeeper and as an extra set of hands when arranging and stacking the cooling cookies. Things definitely go better with a two-man team, so it’s unfortunate for me that he no longer travels south for Christmas. It was a bit of an adventure, with a rougher start than normal (I don’t think the rainy weather helped, either), but in the end, we once again have several years’ worth of pizzelles.

Pizzelles are Italian wedding cookies, though in our family they most often appear around Christmas (like most of our ethnic cookies).1 But they have also made appearances at family reunions in the summer, as well as whenever my grandmother felt like sending me a care package. So I have many happy memories associated with pizzelles, both baking and eating.2 It’s somehow comforting to press my parents’ forty-plus-year-old pizzelle iron into service and continue baking the same cookies as my Ardissone ancestors.

Maybe next year I’ll tackle potica.

        

1 I suppose that as our immigrant ancestors recede by more generations into the past, those pieces of that heritage we retain tend to focus on special occasions, and any stray elements shift to coincide with those occasions/holidays.
2 In addition, one of my favorite memories from Washington was after we’d returned from our first Christmas holiday; Meredith came back with her krumkake (a similarly-baked Norwegian cookie) and regaled me with tales of Norwegian treats from the holiday.

11.13.12

October 20, 2012

Posted in Life at 1:45 pm by

Dolores R Ardisson
February 4, 1920-October 13, 2012
Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont, PA, October 20, 2012
Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont, PA, October 20, 2012