Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Wednesday morning random

* What I said this morning upon opening my work e-mail box: "I really don't want to deal with these student e-mails" (they were all from students who had already taken the final exam in their class, so I knew they weren't "Please help me, I don't understand this one topic from the review sheet" which is a lot less wearying to deal with.)

* But then I said, "But it's my job to deal with them" and opened them. That's the secret to adulthood, right there, I think: You do things you'd really rather not do because you know on some level it's expected of you. Now that I think of it - I often complain that when I was a kid, I expected there'd be some kind of Manual of Adulthood I'd be issued on my 18th birthday or so to help me figure it out. Now, I think if such a manual existed? Eighteen-year-olds all over the world would be running screaming from adulthood.

* I'm still reading Adam Bede. One thing I love about novels like this is how there are different storylines, but how they all interweave - Adam has his storyline, which interweaves with Arthur Donnithorne's, whose interweaves with Hetty's, whose interweaves with Diana's.....and probably some of those lines are going to arc around and weave back with others. (It's implied that Adam is a little smitten with Hetty, who I think is too vain and foolish for him. And I'm hoping that Diana winds up with either Adam or with Seth, although it's also possible she chooses to stay unmarried, which I would also be okay with).

I also love that the writing is good. Good writing in something like a classic novel is a nice antidote to the solipsistic/lazy/awkward writing I've been reading for my job lately.

* Another thought brought out in one of those articles about how reading online is changing people's brains, and not for the better - the layout of most online sites (especially newspapers or other sites that have to rely on ad revenue, at least partly, to survive) is inimical to being able to read in the "traditional" way. I've noticed this - some of the online news sites have the columns so junked up with ads and things with different-colored backgrounds and flashy blinky things, stuff designed to draw your attention away from the main article, that I find them hard to read. I notice this too in one of the journals I get: they make a practice of having "boxes" with either a yellow or teal or pale blue background that explains some aspect of the theory or research being discussed. Or that goes into greater depth about one of the mathematical models used. And it drives me crazy, because I get stuck in: "Do I read the boxen stuff first? Or do I try to make it through the article and then read what's in the boxes? Or do I stop midway, read the box, and lose my train of thought from the narrative of the article?" And yes, some of the articles are dense enough and are close enough to the limits of my comprehension of some topic that stopping midway means I have to go back and re-read the whole thing.

Another annoyance from reading on screens: lots of scientific journals use a two-column format, which means you have to scroll DOWN the page to read the first column, then scroll back UP to catch the head of the second column. In some cases I can shrink the page so that the full page fits on the computer screen - but some journals use an ugly enough typeface that it makes it hard to read when you shrink it down. Or some are bad scans of old paper journals that get really blurry when reduced more. So I admit: even though we're supposed to be as "paperless" as possible, I still print a lot of the articles I read. It's just easier for me to concentrate on them, easier for me to see them.

Which is why it's a relief at the end of the day to sit down with an "old-fashioned" ink-and-paper book and read it - no flashy blinky ads trying to steal my attention, no weird boxes with information I might or might not need. Just nice linear text.

* Sometimes I suspect I might be borderline dyslexic, or borderline ADD, or something - it seems that stuff like the blinky ads on websites annoy me more than most people. (And when I try to write on the board in class, I cannot speak and write at the same time or I misspell stuff, or sometimes even reverse letters (e.g., writing a b as a d). I've never had trouble reading print but reading off a screen bothers me some times. (That could be a vision issue, I suppose - I have bad astigmatism that is at best partially corrected)


Chris Laning said...

These are all hallmarks of bad web design. Web design training says they ALL are to be avoided. OTOH, sometimes the Web designer doesn't get to override the client they are designing the site for. Sigh.

Some people need to learn this lesson: if you make everything bold, it's like nothing is bold. Nothing stands out. People need clear visual priorities and a logical reading order.

Lynn said...

My biggest pet peeve about websites is bad color choices, such as light grey text on a white background, which seems to be really popular, or white text on a dark background.

Other than that, my biggest problem with reading online is the position of the screen - having to look straight out in front of me instead of looking down like you do with a book or a paper. I'm just fine with a tablet or a Kindle.