Blog: October 2017

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.


My employer, like many other large ones in the US, assesses a higher fee for health insurance if we don't cough up certain statistics for them. I don't know how much of this is snooping and how much is forcing us to at least get certain tests annually. Distasteful as the former is, we established several years ago that I can be bought on this if the price difference is high enough.

Many locations have on-site "clinics" where you can show up, let them prick your finger, fill out paperwork, and be done. My location is too small for that, though, so we have three choices: go to your doctor, go to a lab where they'll do it, or order a do-it-yourself kit. I didn't want to pay for an office visit just for this and the lab sounded like a hassle, so I ordered the kit. I mean, it's just a pin-prick, right? Even with my needle-aversion I can handle that. I did this through my doctor last year and through an on-site clinic at my previous employer, so I figured this'd be ok.

I will never, ever do that again. Their damned lancet hurt, and I had to do it twice to get enough blood (answering the question of why they sent two while providing instructions using one, I guess). It left bruises on my finger. Hours later it still hurts if I'm not careful when typing with that finger. And the puncture marks are bigger than I expected. This...did not happen with my past experiences.

Nope, not doing that again. Grr. What they learn about my blood sugar better be worth it.

Double rainbow

A few days ago I saw a double rainbow while at work -- and just a few days after Noach, the torah portion I chanted last week, too. I can't remember seeing one of these before "in person". The primary was pretty bright; the secondary, less so.

photo (taken through office window)

I then learned that the traditional Jewish view considers rainbows to be a bad omen. Why would that be, I wondered? I mean, they remind us of the covenant God made with Noach -- remembering a divine covenant is a good thing, right? It turns out this has been asked about on Mi Yodeya (also here).

Part of the answer is that the rainbow indicates there's cause for divine wrath -- the rainbow reminds us and also God of the promise. There are also sources that say that the rainbow looks like part of the divine form seen through prophecy, and we shouldn't be staring at the divine form.

I was going to ask my question before finding those. In doing some basic research to ask my question, I came across something that let me answer a different question. So my curiosity still managed to contribute to the site a little.

N.B.: Many Jews know this but, in my experience, many others don't or just never noticed: God promised in that covenant not to destroy the world again with a flood. Fire, meteor impacts, snowball Earth, and other calamities are still on the table.

Followup: Stack Exchange user-interface changes

A few weeks ago I wrote about a Stack Exchange design change that made the site much harder for me to use. I wrote a post about it that got a lot of attention -- which led to a meeting invitation from the relevant product manager. We had a very productive conversation, after which they fixed the main problems I reported (and one that came up during our meeting). Woot! Calm-but-firm user feedback works sometimes.

The meeting was supposed to include one of the designers, but time zones are hard. The product manager and I spent the better part of an hour talking about the design, use cases, the need for responsive design, vision problems, and so on. Through screen-sharing, I showed him what things were problems for me, what I was using user scripts or CSS overrides to get around (but I can't do that on my tablet), what I was just having to put up with, and what site functions I was just ignoring because they're too hard now. While it's not about the top bar (the specific UI change that led to this meeting), I pointed out a problem that basically means I can't do some key moderation tasks on any mobile device. (No word yet on whether they're going to fix that.) Along the way we bumped into a couple things where, apparently, normal people see some color differentiation that I couldn't see, and he said they'd work on that. He shared some of their then-future plans for the top bar and asked for feedback. He said they are trying to move to responsive design, which will make a lot of things better, but we both know that's a big change for a site that wasn't designed that way from the start.

This UI change has been quite contentious among the larger user community. Some users are, sadly, being quite rude about it. I'm glad that, against that backdrop, someone was willing to take the time to try to understand and address the problems I was facing with the new design. I'm one of about 15 million users and about 500 moderators, and nonetheless I was worth a few hours of somebody's time. Courtesy of course matters, but even with courtesy I'm usually brushed off, not engaged, when part of a large user base somewhere.

This is actually my fourth* significant meeting (not email, not site chat, but synchronous meeting) with SE employees -- two community managers, one VP (escalating a problem), and now this product manager. All have left me feeling that the employees in question really cared about me as a user and moderator, and most of them resulted in my problems being fixed.** I'm pretty impressed.

* I was also interviewed by a member of the design team for the now-ended Documentation product, I think because of this post I wrote about some planned changes there. That was them doing user research (for which they paid me), not me bringing something to them. And I once interviewed for a job there, but that's different.

** Then 2018-2019 happened. This did not age well.