Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

An alternative to normal antibacterial soaps

Velma had been trying to get me to stop using antibacterial soap for a while. For starters, some of the main bacteria-fighting ingredients in these soaps, such as Triclosan, can create dioxins, chloroform gas, and have other harmful effects. Triclosan may also be harmful to downstream inhabitants we humans so often forget. There is also an argument that regular use of antibacterial agents may cause some bacteria to evolve resistance, making one susceptible to "superbugs" that can't be beaten by our normal treatments.

My counter-argument has always been that there are some things you occasionally get on your hands that you want every possible weapon in your arsenal to help get off. So maybe you do want to minimize or eliminate your use of antibacterial soaps, not use them for everyday use. But hell, if I'm gonna clean up cat vomit, or wipe dog crap off my boot, or...worse (*shudder*), then I want something just short of an acid dip for afterwards.

Finally I found an alternative product that claims to be antibacterial and protect the environment. I've been using it for a few weeks now, and while I certainly haven't tested it in any scientific way (sorry, my lab's been disassembled by government fiat), it seems to clean just as well as your average Dial of SoftSoap. I should note that I'm generally a skeptic when it comes to the claims of so-called "alternative" health and cleaning products, because I've tried so many of them over the past 10-15 years and far too many have failed utterly to work in the slightest perceptible way.

CleanWell claims its ingredient Ingenium "kills 99.99% of germs including MRSA (staph), E.Coli, and Salmonella on contact." The soap is kid-safe (no ingestion risk), and claims to be 100% green, 100% biodegradable, and is not tested on animals. It meets EPA and FDA standards for germ killing efficacy and contains no alcohol, nor the dreaded Triclosan. It's even made from plants on which no pesticides, irrigation, or fertilizers are used.

CleanWell's products include hand sanitizer and foaming soap, and it's still pretty new, just emerging in health food stores and the like. They have a list on their website of stores that carry CleanWell, but use my experience as a guide and call ahead to make sure they have the item you're looking for. I went to three places looking for the soap and they only carried the hand sanitizer in the first two. I finally tracked it down at Rainbow Grocery in the Mission.

CleanWell makes three soap fragrances: orange vanilla, lavender, and ginger bergamot. The labels peel right off if you want your soap dispenser to look more aesthetic (although I think their packaging design is far superior to most commercial soaps). When Jenny washed her hands at our house recently, she called CleanWell "so refreshing!" So I guess that's an endorsement ; )

If you're interested in further reading on the issues, science, and politics surrounding the efficacy of such health and cleaning products, CleanWell's Chief Technology Officer Dr. Larry Weiss writes a blog with voluminous amounts of information aimed at parents, kids, consumers, et al.

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New list of friends et al

I finally updated my sidebar with a list of friends, colleagues, et al (see "con-conspirators" below-right). If you're listed please check to make sure I linked to the site you'd prefer to be your public face. If you're not listed, either I couldn't find your link in my bookmarks, or you just haven't greased my palm lately. So pony up and maybe I'll show some love.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Google Me, the movie
Jim Killeen Googled his name and found there were Jim Killeens all around the world. So he traveled to meet some of them and made a documentary.
A group music blog anyone can contribute to.

I want to see that!
Every Monday, Ben and Katie review all the new movies. Even if they haven't seen them yet.

1,000 True Fans
Ever heard the term "the long tail" and wondered what the hell they were talking about? Here's an article that posits that a person (an artist, a musician or even a blogger, for example) can make a living if they can reach a point where they have 1,000 true fans.

Best first dance
Ha ha ha ha ha! Awesome.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Unearthing the story of Milliways

Twenty years after the fact, Andy Baio has uncovered the story of "Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe," the unreleased sequel to Infocom's interactive fiction computer game, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." More interestingly, his post has garnered over 200 comments, including a number by the people described in Baio's article, many of whom debate the appropriateness of releasing personal emails without prior consent. It's a fascinating, if long, read.

I always wondered about that sequel game. I met Douglas Adams as a kid, at a poorly-attended autograph session at an American chain bookstore in a shopping mall (which in and of itself should have been unbelievably absurd to me at the time, but sadly, wasn't), and I effused to him about — among other things — the Infocom Hitchhikers' game, having spent hours baffling out how to just get a damn fish out of a machine (among other baffling things).

I asked him if there would be a sequel game, and he told me that indeed there would. I probably effused some more, but my young mind quickly ran out of things to say to an adult whose books (and radio shows, and TV shows, et al) would turn out to have a lasting effect on the evolution of my young sense of humor and indeed my whole way of viewing the universe.

Much later, when the new Douglas Adams game was announced by Infocom, it was called Bureaucracy, and it didn't really seem to have anything to do with the Hichhikers' Guide, nor any of the H2G2 characters. I was confused by this until now.

By the way, the Infocom game still features prominently among my Douglas Adams collection, and I still have my Peril-Sensitive Sunglasses and Microscopic Space Fleet. And the pocket fluff too, of course — can't ever get rid of that stuff.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday Top 5

The Pixar Story
I hadn't heard about this documentary, and now I'm looking forward to it. Unfortunately, there's no trailer on the site yet (boo!), even though the film's been screening around the country for months. Meantime, I quenched my thirst by reading this column from a couple years ago, about Pixar's 10th birthday.

Four-handed guitar playing

Alllllmost as awesome as double-necked guitar soloing...
Moby has released a bunch of instrumental scores for free non-commercial use by people making independent films.

Snippets of the distressing things fundamentalists say on discussion boards.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

What I've been doing

You may envy me that I don't have a job these days, but I'm certainly occupying my days (and nights) with plenty of stuff, and not all of it is necessarily fun stuff. Here's what I've been up to (in no particular order) since my last list on February 13.
  • Broke my shoulder.
  • Finally filed for unemployment, at Anne's insistance.
  • Updated my résumé for the first time in several years.
  • Compiled receipts, 1040s, etc. for our 2007 taxes.
  • Washed the cat, with Velma's help.
  • Went to numerous Kaiser appointments with physician's assistants, physical therapists, and doctors.
  • Helped Velma in the garden, cleaning up after her planting frenzy, cutting some ivy and weeds, planting some wildflower seeds.
  • Did some laundry.
  • Swept the driveway and pulled some weeds in front of the flat.
  • Organized one of the shelf racks in the garage.
  • Washed a lot of dishes.
  • Called the IRS. Fun ensued.
  • Stayed up really late, got up really late.
  • Did a lot of miniscule but time-consuming paperwork.
  • Read the meter.
  • Swept the kitchen a bunch.
  • Paid bills.
  • Went to our storage facility, broke off the lock we lost the key to, went and bought a new lock, gathered a box of stuff I wanted and a toboggan Velma wanted.
  • Went to Wondercon, with a broken shoulder, without Yennej.
  • Dropped in on the Peninsula Conservation Center to visit with some of the people I used to work with.
  • Read a lot of stuff on Wikipedia, including the entries on Nikola Tesla, Ruđer Bošković, the 2004 Beslan massacre, Living Loud, Bob Daisley, Ozzy Osbourne, and Randy Rhoads.
  • Updated Wikipedia's pages on Adam Werbach and Bob Daisley.
  • Met with Phu and her mentee to tell her about the business of being a graphic designer.
  • Resized an ad for the Jefferson City Irregulars.
  • Wrote reviews of several DVDs (to be posted later).
  • Made a list of all the books that have been published about Ozzy Osbourne, with notes on the ones I own (to be posted later).
  • Bought a few valuable bootlegs.
  • Bought some very old and hard-to-find tour programs.
  • Bought some out-of-print vinyl.
  • Tried to find pictures of keyboardist Lindsay Bridgewater (to no avail).
  • Researched photographer Fin Costello.
  • Organized our stamps (I know that sounds lame, but we have a lot of random 3¢, 10¢, 50¢, and 78¢ stamps, so it took 30 minutes!).
  • Read a lot of newspaper reports and blog commentary about the Pacific Lumber Company bankruptcy case.
  • Bought some boxes to organize one of my CD collections.
  • Started organizing my Ozzy collection (books, records, CDs, DVDs, article clippings, etc.).
  • Further organized and annotated my Heinlein collection.
  • Started re-reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress which I haven't read since I was about 18.
  • Opened an Amazon Seller account and listed some books, magazines, and DVDs I don't want anymore.
  • Listed most of my design library on Shelfari and invited some friends to try out the site.
  • Reorganized some bookshelves.
  • Backed up Velma's computer and upgraded the OS to Leopard.
  • Ripped a few CDs to our iTunes master library.
  • Attended Adam Werbach's speech at the Commonwealth Club.
  • Attended Save the Redwood League's 90th birthday event at the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
  • Surprised Velma and my mom by taking them to Cirque du Soleil.
  • Got fairly feathered at the SF Pillow Fight Club on V-Day.
  • Went to a party with old middle school chums.
  • Further updated my master password list of all my online accounts.
  • Went shopping for flea remedies (see "Washed the cat," above).
  • Listened to KQED a lot, but not enough.
  • Performed proscribed physical therapy shoulder exercises once or twice a day.
  • Watched a lot of Ozzy and Randy Rhoads videos on YouTube.
  • Discovered and downloaded a bunch of Ozzy and Randy Rhoads bootlegs.
  • Designed several iterations of a Product Detail Page for the secret project.
  • Performed competitive analysis for the secret project.
  • Continued to consolidate data from three computers on one.
  • Installed another HD in my computer that I'd had lying around for two months (had to wait until I needed to restart).
  • Tried out Firefox 3 Beta.
  • Met with some former colleagues at CNET Networks.
  • Tried to figure out why one of my two Dell monitors died suddenly.
  • Continued research on a very long article I've been writing for over five years.
  • Made some design tweaks to a booklet I made last year for the Save the Redwoods League titled "The Redwood Highway: Sights & Experiences Between Southern Humboldt & Crescent City."
  • Took photos on several Photo Days around various parts of the City.
  • Organized some of my digital assets.
  • Downloaded some software to try.
  • Continued to lose the war on fight spam.
  • Ate a lot of cookies.
  • Organized and consolidated all my computer/electronics hardware (misc. parts, cables, cards, HDs, etc.) and got rid of a bunch (donating them to Goodwill or recycling them via Green Citizen).
  • Finally figured out a way to run multiple copies of the same version of Firefox.
  • Wrote a a how-to article about the above Firefox problem/solution.
  • Went to three different stores trying to buy CleanWell natural antibacterial hand soap.
  • Did some digital imaging pre-visualizations for an animation sequence for my friend Holly's latest documentary, about the use Agent Orange in Vietnam.
  • Read more of the magazines that have been piling up for 9 months.
  • Read a lot of design blogs.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thursday Top 5

Penguins Linux ad

Buy n Large
From aerospace to food services, robotics to watermills. Now that's a global corporation. Ten points if you can figure out why this site is humorous.

Five dangerous things you should let your kids do
I guess I was lucky. I got to do all of these things as a kid. Although it wasn't spears, it was Jarts (later banned), and the I didn't do the driving bit until maybe 13 or 14.

"Lemme finish"
In an interview with an Irish TV correspondent, Not-My-President Bush shows just how much of an idiot he is. "History will judge what I'm about."

English Russia
A blog of Russian interestingness. Apparently written by actual Russians, since the English is a little broken here and there.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

How to run multiple copies of (the same version of) Firefox

For the longest time, while using Firefox 1.x I was able to run two or more copies of the application at the same time. This was useful for partitioning my work and protecting it from being lost if there was a FF crash (which there were a lot of in the later Firefox 1.x days). If one instance crashed, the other would still keep chugging along. This was especially necessary because we didn't have Session Restore in back then.

When Firefox 2 came out, this capability was lost. I tried to figure out how to do it again by following several methods I saw mentioned on the the web, but none of them worked, and alas, I'm not nerdy enough to figure out why not. I'd always get a damn error message complaining that I'm not allowed to run multiple instances of the same app.

It didn't work even if you copied the app to a different folder and launched the copy. It didn't even matter if one was Firefox 2.1 and the other was Firefox 2.3.4. No work.

While you can run an old copy of Firefox 1.x at the same time as Firefox 2.x or even a beta copy of 3.x, you can't run two copies of Firefox 2.x on the same machine at the same time, not even if one is version 2.0 and the other is version 2.5.

An. Noy. Ing.

But, lo! I finally found a method that works. As you can see from the screenshot, I'm presently running three instances of the same version of Firefox on Mac OS X.

Here's how to do it:

First, Quit Firefox if it's running already.

Start Terminal and type in the directory path to your Firefox application. It'll probably be similar to mine below. Note that "espd" is my username, so yours will be different. "" is what I've named my app, but yours will probably just be "Firefox". It must be followed by the rest: "/Contents/MacOS/firefox-bin" is standard for a normal Mac OS X install but it could be possibly be different for you (probably not, though).

espd$ /Applications/ -P YourProfileName -no-remote &

If you can't figure out the right path to the app's binary file (the "firefox-bin" part), then here's how to find it: In the Finder, open your Applications folder, find the Firefox icon, and right-click (or Control-click) to get the Contextual menu (pictured below), and select "Show Package Contents." That's how you see the files inside an application bundle.

Now, inside the Finder window that will open, you'll see a folder named "Contents." Double click it, and you'll see a few more icons, including a folder titled "MacOS." Open that one and look for the file called "firefox-bin", with an icon like a Terminal session (pictured below).

Now arrange your Terminal window and the Finder window so you can see them both, and simply drag the "firefox-bin" icon directly into the Terminal session after your username-prompt (pictured below), and it'll instantly fill in the correct path. OS X is pretty neat that way.

So once you've got the path to your Firefox app in Terminal, you'll need to change the example text "YourProfileName" to your actual profile name.

espd$ /Applications/ -P YourProfileName -no-remote &

If you don't know your profile name, here's how you find it: In the Finder, navigate from your Home folder (usually your username, like mine in the screenshot below) to the folders "Library > Application Support > Firefox".

Inside the Firefox folder is your "Profiles" folder. You probably only have one profile inside, and it probably has a weird name like "65d7ghtn.default", although it might instead be called something like "qtgfxqc3.YourName".

That "YourName" part will actually be a profile name, not "YourName". You chose a name when you first installed Firefox way back in the Dark Ages, and you've probably never seen it since. Whether it's "YourName" or "Fred" or just "default", you can put that in where I've got "YourProfileName" in the example below.

espd$ /Applications/ -P YourProfileName -no-remote &

Now just type the "-no-remote &" part, then hit your Return key and Firefox will launch the Profile Manager (pictured below). This is a part of Firefox most people never see, but it's handy. It's off by default, but the Terminal command "-P" turns it on.

Now you want to un-check the "Don't ask at startup" checkbox, because if you're going to use multiple profiles you want Firefox to launch the Profile Manager each time you start Firefox, so you can choose which profile to use.

If you only have one profile listed, at this point create a new one. Follow the dialog boxes and it'll step you through the process, then it'll launch the browser as normal.

Now go back to Terminal and copy and past the command again, this time using the other profile name you haven't initiated yet. A new Profile manager will launch, you can select the profile you haven't launched a browser for yet, and click the "Start Firefox" button.

Voila! Two instances of Firefox running, using two different profiles.

PS> I should note that it's the magic "-no-remote" Terminal command that allows you run two or more instances of an app. You can do it with many other apps too, if you like (not all will work, your results may vary).

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Thursday Top 5

We Can Solve the Climate Crisis
Al Gore has launched a $300 million climate change initiative, one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history, according to the Washington Post. When you play this video, notice the W in "we." How much do you want to bet it's going to flip over and become "me" if you go to the site and join in?

"Amateur" by Lasse Gjertsen
I'm pretty sure I posted this a couple years ago, but it's such a classic I had to repost it.

The fierce Humboldt squid
When Jason sent me this description, at first he was playing an April Fool's joke on me. But the Humboldt squid is real. "A mysterious sea creature up to 7 feet long, with 10 arms, a sharp beak and a ravenous appetite, has invaded ocean waters off Northern California. Packs of fierce Humboldt Squid attack nearly everything they see, from fish to scuba divers."

Grolsch Gardens
This is a really innovative branded game built with Flash. It's sort of a noir detective story; you have to collect clues and items and the story unfolds. You'll need a lot of time to play it, but it's really engrossing...or would that be engrolsching?

Beam me up

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ZDNet and the Green Enterprise

My friends over at ZDNet have launched their redesigned website and it's looking great. I never used ZDNet that much before, but the new changes to the site make finding content and just browsing around a lot more pleasurable. I spent some time the other day watching some of the interesting videos in the "Green Enterprise" section.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tales of Mere Existence

Lev Yilmaz uses a great low-budget animation technique: He films himself drawing his cartoons in realtime, but from underneath, through a glass pane. So he has to write all the dialog in backward letters. It's an effective technique, and it must speed up the animation process tenfold or more (no stop-frame necessary).

But it wouldn't be worth a lick if the narratives themselves weren't downright funny, and Lev's certainly are. You can see more of his work at Ingredient X, or all his videos on his YouTube page.

Note: Most of them are clean but a few contain "strong language." This one's clean:

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