Did the earth move for you, too?

Sunday. 1:30 a.m. I wake up with the room rumbling. It feels like a big truck is rolling by. Then the truck hits the room with a *bang.*  Actually, a little earthquake, 5.2.

Only a few things fall, and it's more irritating than frightening. Since I was born and raised in California, I've come to find all but the big ones basically annoying.

When I lived in L.A., on the 11th floor of a 12 story building (really 13 floors, but of course they never say that), I did feel a big one—made even bigger since the building was on top of the ancient La Brea tar pits. Now *that* was scary, with the entire building swaying like a ship in a storm, and things flying around the room as if they were possessed. But the many aftershocks that followed for a week just became tedious. "Oh, here comes another one. Sigh. Honey, can you run over there and hold that antique lamp before it falls off the table and shatters? Thanks, Dear."

I now live about a mile from the San Andreas fault. In the big San Francisco quake of 1906, the place where I live moved 20 feet north in a single bound. You can still see where the road and fence posts were sliced, with half of them ending up 20 feet north of where they were just seconds before. Supposedly in a few million years this place will be up near Alaska but I don't think I'll be around to see it.

People who don't live in earthquake areas tend to think that anyone who does is nuts. Of course, we look at anyone who lives in the path of tornadoes or hurricanes or floods as nuts.

And a friend of mine in Denmark tells me that they never have any natural disasters there, so they basically think everyone except them is nuts (evidently they don't count blizzards or ice storms as natural disasters.) What I say is that all these people are just blissfully unaware that earthquakes can really happen anywhere.

When you live in California for more than a few years, you learn that quakes are just a part of life (or you move out of state). If you look at http://quake.usgs.gov/recenteqs it appears they're all over, all the time, and maybe they are, but they're usually so small you can't even feel them.

When you can feel them, what's most interesting is that there's nothing you can do but hold on for the ride. Any pretense that you're in control of your life goes right out the window.

One of the things I actually *like* about quakes (yes, there are things to like about smaller ones) is that they put things in perspective. You're reminded, in no uncertain terms, that nature is big and you are small and that's pretty well that.

And something extraordinary happens after an earthquake that lots of people can feel—it causes everyone in the vicinity to think about the same thing at the same time. All of life's little distractions disappear. Suddenly everyone in a 100-mile radius is focusing on the earth, and how it moved beneath their feet (or, at 1:30 a.m., their backs).

This creates a powerful force all its own. You can *feel* it. Everyone is focused on the same thing. There's a strange power to this—realizing that we're all in it together.

When it's over, and real life trickles back in, the quake's additional bonus is that it reminds you of how great it is to have a roof over your head, water in the faucets and electricity in the walls.

I realize that I may have made my life sound dramatic, what with near death experiences from falling trees and gas leaks and choking on grape nuts cereal and all. But you have to remember I'm only telling you the exciting bits. Your life is certainly as eventful as mine is—you just may not realize it.

That's how life is—something is happening all the time, whether you notice it or not. When I take notice, it helps remind me to be grateful that, so far, even when the earth is shaking, I've been lucky enough to wake up, in one piece, and see that the sun has managed to rise yet again.


Learn From The "Expert's Mistakes"

The big Seybold publishing conference was held last week in San Francisco.

You'd think that they'd want their site to make it easy to learn about the show. But you'd be wrong. Their site made it difficult to find out even the most basic information. For example, I just wanted to find the date and the hours of the event. Tthat information should be on the home page, since it's so basic, right? Once again, you'd be wrong. I spent about 10 minutes searching for it.

It was impossible to figure out the organization of their site just by looking at it. Nothing on the page told you *where* you were. And even more confusing, clicking on the same "Home" link would take you to different pages! This is a fine tactic for those times when you want to totally confuse your visitors, but when do you want to do that?

What it tells me is that no one who works at the company ever tried to find anything on the site. This is a big key—and an important thing to remember. YOU MUST USE YOUR OWN SITE. You must try to find things on it. On eFuse.com and FuseLetter.com I do this all the time. When I can't remember where something is mentioned, I use the full text search. So what's the moral of this sad story? There are two. One: Even "experts" can make mistakes (and yes, I make mistakes, too). Two: Use your own site—and if you can't find something, your visitors certainly can't.

Make Your Page Title Useful

I keep going to major sites and finding that their page titles consist of "Welcome to our Home page" or "Welcome to braindead!" This is a mistake YOU should NOT make. Page titles are vital for bookmarks/favorites, and search engines. The more descriptive, the better in both places.

Page titles can be as important as metatags for search engines. Just saying "Welcome" without any description is a total waste. Search engines won't find it, and even people who bookmark it may not find it later if they just see the name and can't remember what it's about. And when someone bookmarks your site in IE, it alphabetizes it, and you don't want your site under "W" for "Welcome" along with everyone else, do you?

So make your page titles descriptive. To learn more, see http://www.efuse.com/Grow/search_site_basics.html

To add page titles in NetObjects Fusion 4: Go to PageView. Choose Edit/Custom Names. Type the title in the box that not surprisingly says "Page Title."

In NetObjects Fusion 5: Go to Site View. Single click on the page icon. Enter the page title in the Property Palette (again not surprisingly) where it says "Page Title." That's all, folks.

Help A Computer Learn How To Think

GAC is a web site where you can ask "yes" or "no" questions. The computer answers, based on what other people have answered. So it learns, one little question at a time. Each time you ask a question, you must answer 20, and it builds a database of answers so it can build its "intelligence."

Very interesting (and built in NetObjects Fusion). See it, and add to its knowledge.

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One Final Word

Relax. As Doris Day sang, Que Sera Sera.




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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.