Almost two dimensional

Last week was interesting, if you don't mind almost being killed.

Very exciting story. I'm on the driveway, taking out the trash (hence the excitement) and a big tree crashes to the ground, only inches away from me. It was like a fast cut in a movie—first nothing, then a crash, limbs, bark, a soft cloud of dust and silence. A second earlier and I'd have been a stain on the driveway! At one with the asphalt! Flattened like a cartoon character under a steam roller! And who says I don't live dangerously?

But "almost" was the most important part. I didn't die. I wasn't even hurt. Just kind of stunned. OK, very stunned. But since I was totally unscathed (physically) in some ways it shouldn't matter that this even happened. But because I can imagine what might have happened, it did matter, and it made me think, "You're always taking your life into your own hands." Every day you live, you have cheated death. Reason enough to celebrate.

I also thought I might go blind. No, I'm not a hypochondriac (though my wife might argue that point, even though when she gets a headache she immediately thinks "brain tumor"). I woke up and my eye was all wonky. Puffy. Weird. I'd never seen anything like that on anyone, much less on myself. I felt like a pirate, sans parrot. So I went to an ophthalmologist who said I had a "cold in the eye," and that it was going around. So it was like a stuffy nose, only in the eye.

Big deal, I know. But just like we often "don't know what we've got till it's gone," sometimes thinking you might lose something is enough to get the effect, without actually having to lose something. Much more convenient.

With this "good" news, I spent the rest of the day actually seeing things. I don't mean hallucinating, I mean actually seeing things—noticing things I looked at all the time but never really saw. Light. Leaves. Clouds. Pavement. Plastic. People. Everything looked different—because I was paying attention.

And these things made me truly thankful—rather than just taking things for granted, like we usually do.

Unfortunately, this feeling never seems to last very long. Even that same day I'd stop seeing, I'd just look. I'd forget to appreciate the fact that I could see.

So I have a wish for you this Thanksgiving (for those of you outside the United States, it's a popular holiday here in the US where you pretend to recreate the Pilgrim's first feast in "the new world," by getting together with friends and family and basically eating until you can hardly breathe, then falling asleep).

I wish that you appreciate all you really have. It's cliche but true, that if you have your health, you have what's really important. If you have friends and family you're even luckier.

And since you're reading this, you are part of the newest "New World," of the internet. You don't have to leave your homeland and ride on some creaking damp little boat across uncharted oceans. You can sit at home, in your underwear, and use this New World to help yourself create a whole new life, free of the tyrannies of the past.

So appreciate your health, friends and family, and the fact that we all have this new world to explore and stake a claim in. Hopefully, we can all use it to help make the old world a better place, too.

In this spirit, here are sites that, with a single click, let you donate food to the hungry, and relief to victims of a disaster.

Hunger Free Holiday: If you have at least $10 to spare, go here, where a $10 donation delivers 340 pounds of food to U.S. food banks, and gives you a macys.com 10% discount. (This is also a beautifully-designed site). I just did this—I mean, really, if you're lucky enough to have enough food, do a little something to spread that luck around.

The Hunger Site: One click a day donates food to feed a hungry person for one day. It costs you nothing except your time and effort (and clicking isn't very hard).

Cause & Affect - One click and you can help a victim of the huge Orrisa cyclone in India.

And Brittanica.com, the justifiably famous encyclopedia is now free, and when you visit, they'll donate $1 to Amnesty International, World Wildlife Fund, D.A.R.E, Shoah foundation, Cancer treatment research foundation, or Do Something. You can also win a $20,000 trip to places around the world.

Happy Holidays!

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PROJECTING AN IMAGE: Making your site for, not against you

Your site can make you look better—and if you're not careful, it can also make you look worse. For example, I found a site that sold very unique watches designed by architects. The watches looked great, but the site didn't look trustworthy. It kept me from ordering (until my watch fetish got the best of me). The watch was so great that I contacted the manufacturer and suggested a new site design. Read (and see) how the site design evolved, and how the software I used saved me at least 22 hours. Read all about it.


Now that you know the basics of your copyrights, you need to know when there are legal exceptions to copying. It's easy in principle, but, as with other situations in the law, these waters can get very murky, very quickly. So let's consider when copying is OK. We'll take it step by step and wade into the depths a little bit at a time. Got your snorkel? Take a deep breath and tread this way please!

Is your site suitable for younger audiences?
Rate it, or lose it.

There's a lot of concern (most of it completely valid) about protecting kids from "inappropriate" content on the web. It's all to easy to do an innocent search and find yourself staring at, well, you know. But there is a way to avoid this—and a way to make sure you site isn't locked out on browsers with content filters (if you don't have any ratings tag, your site may not be visible, even if it's totally fine for kids). If you didn't know about this, I strongly suggest you take a look—both for your own site, and site viewing for your kids).

The RSAC is a non-profit group that makes it easy to create what's called a PICS (Platform for Internet Content Selection) label that tells filters what kind of content is on your site.

This is not censorship of any kind, it's merely informing people what your site has in terms of language, nudity, sex and violence. (In Netscape 4.5 or newer, choose Help/Netwatch. In IE, choose Tools/Options/Content/Content Advisor Settings--see RSAC for more instructions).

RSAC has a simple online wizard asks you questions about what's on your site. Answer a few screens full, and you've given a PICS-label. You can create one single label for your entire site (put it on your home page), or one for each page or section, it's up to you.

To add the tag to NetObjects Fusion, Right Click on your home page and choose Layout HTML. Paste the RSAC tag in the Inside Head tag. Make sure not to add blank returns before or after it (as some browsers add extra space at the top of your page if you do this).

Full Text Search

(Faster than you can say antidisestablishmentarianism)

There's a new free site indexing service called http://www.atomz.com - I'm using it on the new http://www.fuseletter.com (is that enough URL's for one sentence?). You can use it with any web site, for free. And it's especially easy for use with NetObjects Fusion. Now there's no excuse to not have full text search (a very useful feature for visitors) on your web site.

One Final Word


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The SchoomozeLetter is ©1998-2005, Daniel Will-Harris, all rights reserved. If you'd like to use any article on the web or in print, please ask for permission. If you're an agent or publisher looking to publish these pieces, just drop me a note.