Point, Click, and Kill: What is Humanity?

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/01/point-click-and-kill-what-is-humanity/

Special multimedia feature, from someone else’s website:

This is a video clip that’s been raging around the Internet the past few days. It is a one-minute clip from an Apache helicopter, shot from the sights of a night-vision gun. In it, you hear one man giving instructions to the gun operator, who tracks down three moving figures, squeezes the trigger, and blows each one into a great big mess on the sand.

I’d have warned you that it was graphic, but aside from the fact that the figures going splat are actual human beings, it is nowhere near as graphic as a kid’s video game.

Welcome to future warfare. Now, even men are glowing blips on a video screen. Configure your weapon, spot your enemy, point, and click.

I got a thrill out of watching this video, because it is educational. I’m not living in the sandy, gritty, heat and cold and cultural alienation and homesickness and constant fear of death that my countrymen are going through over there, and I have even less of a chance to really understand the Iraqi experience over there, but I appreciate … knowing. Seeing a little bit, of what it is like. It gives me a chance … to wonder, what is that guy behind the video screen, pointing the weapon and clicking away the lives of his enemy, what is he going to go through later?

There’s a big, and old, and to many people, a tired debate in this country over what constitutes a human life. This is the abortion debate. Many of the same people who adamantly advocate the humanity of even the smallest collection of cells, gestating embryonically inside a woman’s uterus, are the same people who support the subsequent murder of convicted criminals, who may even feel a sense of righteousness at a video like the one above. The philosophy is that human life is sacred until it has proven itself to be evil. Only then, may we exterminate it, and in doing so, we can take pleasure in eliminating evil.

But I don’t think that way. To me, every human being is a source of potential. Potential good, and potential evil. An embryonic human? A fetus? Its potential is based in large part upon the determination and capacity of its birth parents. The potential is infinite, but the investment is also small. I feel uncomfortable at the thought of abortion, but morally, I can accept the idea that it is better to back out before you embark down a difficult road you are ill-prepared for. In the old days mothers and communities that could not accept the burden of the newborn dispatched with the baby soon after birth. Abortion is the modern equivalent, for a world that remains imperfect, where the new being is smaller, even less identifiably human. We erase potential. We erase life, before it has happened.

But the debate wears on. Was that baby a human being?

And the debate wears on. Was that blip on the screen a human being?

Or was it an arbitrary, non-human arrangement of cells, which for some unfortunate accident found itself trying to kill our human beings, and had to be aborted?

Are the murderers on death row, are they human beings? (Well, there’s the harder question of whether they’re even murderers, and would they have made it to the executioner’s hall had they been wearing another color of human skin.)

Are they human only before death? Are they human even after they’ve ceased to be alive? Is the embalmed corpse, cold to the touch, in the casket, human? What of the steaming streaks of entrails in the sand?

We know why we kill convicted murderers, and we know why we kill enemy soldiers, but from a video console from far away, these recipients of our justice are no more than abstractions to us. How many inmates awaiting execution have any one of us known, face to face, in a human capacity? How many idealistic, or just plain confused, and desperate guerilla warriors have any of us known? They remain just as unknown to us as the babies who are never born. We must trust that to others, they were human beings.

A big problem is, we’re hung up on this question of abortion, and we’re rolling along full steam into the DNA age. We are already changing the cellular blueprints of living cells, and designing altered organisms. We have a debate on the legality of using “stem cells” … human cells that can grow into any other human cell, because they come from the process of conception. But if these same stem cells come from bone marrow, that’s okay, because bone marrow doesn’t normally grow into a baby … though it probably could, under the right circumstances … is a fetus that is not itself the product of conception a human?

It gets worse. We’re working on the transgenic pigs … pigs grown under very careful conditions, because they are pigs who have bits of human DNA in their own pig DNA, and these pigs are conceived, birthed, fed, grown and killed, not for their delicious pig bacon, but to harvest their organs, which thanks to their hybrid, human DNA, can be used to replace the failing organs in a human being. Are these pigs human?

But, wait, it will get even worse. We currently train intelligent animals, including dogs, dolphins, and our primate cousins, to assist us in ways in which they are uniquely capable. Some dogs lead the blind, or sniff for contraband. Dolphins are able to spot and tag explosive mines underneath the water. Some species of monkeys are trained as service animals, who help humans with physical limitations to get through their day, by opening the fridge and whatnot. Let us not also not forget the innumerable animals currently confined to laboratories, which are using them as test subjects that will educate us on the dangers of the world, and potential medical practices to improve our survival. Any number of these creatures might serve their function better with a little human DNA. Once upon a time we marked black people as non-human, so that they could labor in the brutal heat of the southern fields, growing sugar and cotton in the worst of conditions. What will we make of some future race of especially intelligent gorillas, designed, “manufactured” and marketed as companion animals, who may have sufficient aptitude to drive the car, perhaps fix it, or work in factories. Are they human? What if we design them without human DNA, but they have sufficient intelligence to do our taxes?

We’ve got plenty of work cut out for our philosophers.

I had a minor epiphany in Thailand. I walked into an American-style shopping mall. It felt like any store in America, except that every five feet, peppered through the merchandise, was an employee. How can they afford so many employees? Because labor expenses are low. There’s a question of supply and demand … the most alien thing for me about Thailand was the population density in Bangkok. I come from one of the largest cities in the United States, but what passes for a crowd in the U.S.A. with its mere 280 million human beings, aint as impressive as New Years Eve in Bangkok, where getting off the Sky Train, I was in a mind-boggling human gridlock, that started a few feet from the train platform, that took me half an hour to walk a block to my destination.

Someone remarked on Colin Quinn the other night that “sure, the Middle East is full of Weapons of Mass Destruction — they’re called Arabs.” I attended the lecture of a Neoconservative “Objectivist” last year in California. He explained that the solution to the War on Terror was to eliminate Radical Islamists. This meant that we had to invade not only Afghanistan, but Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and anywhere else there were Islamic Radicals, figure out which people were predisposed to killing us, and kill them first. Aside from the logistical problem of scale, the real problem I have with this strategy is that, well, you just don’t know who is, or who would be, a Radical Islamist. If the roles were reversed, which among us would be the suicide bomber? And just what would it take to bring us to such an act?

Malaysian Hobos
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Human potential: where are you going to go today? These folks are hopping a freight across the Malay-Thai border.

I looked around, when I was in Eastern Asia, agape at the density … the sea of people. The amount of life surrounding me. And I had just passed through Jordan, a poor, easy-going Arab country, sandwiched between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. I travelled in Southern Thailand and briefly crossed the Malaysian border. Muslim territory, where the women wore scarves on their heads. I wondered at the people I met, the people that passed before me, the infinite seperate stories, and I wondered how does Thailand provide for all its people? How does China provide for all its people? Japan is very crowded, with limited resources, but they are one of the most successful nations on Earth. In contrast, how do we do in America? How do they do in Afghanistan, mess of a nation that it is. How are they doing in Arabia?

The key is potential. If you have humans, they could go either way, or both. A woman can be both mother and suicide bomber. All these humans, spinning off in their various directions, could go either way. We can be saints, and we can be monsters, devoid of what the rest of us understand as “humanity” … and it is a matter of potential … we are what is made of us. If we can not give our gestating baby humanity, then we will not have a baby. And whether we have babies or not, we must reassure the rest of us that the humanity in each of us, the good, is more valued than the inhumanity, and the evil. Whomever operated that gun in that Apache, had to call on their inhuman capabilities, their capacity for evil, to kill three more humans who were themselves, as best as we can tell, operating from that same evil. Each evil was done in the service of a larger perceived good. We murder to make the world a better place.

But at the end of the day, we each have to live with our humanity, and our inhumanity …

Maybe I should just stay away from videos.


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Reverse Engineering is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/04/reverse-engineering-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery/

I was cleaning out the spam trap today, when I stumbled on a link from Aaron Fischer.

Hrmmm. Does this seem at all familiar to you? Maybe? Just a little? His top index page reveals the influence of a superior web designer too.

I love you, Aaron! Now publish an RSS feed so I can follow you in my aggregator!

Meanwhile, if you like to post data about your finances on the web, I have a pretty sad-looking graph to share as well:

dannymans cash flow

Yeah, kind of extremely flat there in the middle. I just started started using Quicken in July 2002, when I saw a major income spike from severance pay that helped tide me over for the next six months of world adventuring. Then it was back to America, and only this past December did I land a middle-class income, incurring some credit card debt on new home furnishings.

Not as responsible as Aaron, but I have my good times.

I’m still kind of freaked out that I have a job. And that despite my misgivings, I’m actually digging the gig much more than not. And, it is really damned nice to have my own place, and a girl to share it with. Too bad she’s allergic to Cats, but then Jordan’s been letting his kitten run around the office during the day, so that he’ll be less hyper at night.

Got it all.

For now.


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Dennis Kucinich is a Tofu-Eatin’ LIBERAL!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/04/dennis-kucinich-is-a-tofu-eatin-liberal/

On Wed, Feb 04, 2004 at 12:50:06PM -0500, Ed Burns wrote:
> >>>>> On Wed, 4 Feb 2004 09:19:44 -0800, Danny Howard <dannyman@toldme.com> said:
> > On Wed, Feb 04, 2004 at 06:48:56PM -0000, David Jeske wrote:
> >> — Rev. Joe Doyle Ardent wrote:

> >> > (all other candidates pale in comparison to Kucinich in my eyes).
> >>
> >> Why is that?
> > Openly anti-war.
> > Advocate of single-payer healthcare.
> > Concerned with equitable trade agreements.
> > He’s a solid liberal. The Ralph Nader of the Democratic party.
> Here’s a digression. Could anyone please explain to me why it seems
> that “liberal” is a bad word in today’s America? I don’t understand
> why being seen as “too liberal” would be such a bad thing.

Liberals are reluctant to kill the enemy.

Liberals would have protested at the systematic extermination and expulsion of the Native Americans.

Liberals would have questioned the Spanish American War that brought us half our territory.

Liberals are responsible for the socialism of Roosevelt, and the evil 1% rate-of-return from Social Security.

Liberals like French Wine.

Liberals would just as soon have seen a Red America where labor unions control the means of production, instead of free market capitalism. This is why Germany sucks.

Liberals hate nuclear power.

Liberals want you to walk.

Liberals eat tofu.

Liberals live in cities.

Liberals are well educated.

Liberals think they are better than you.

You need to hate somebody, and it sure shouldn’t be your patriotic corporate overlords. And you can’t openly hate black people anymore. So, you have to hate Arabs, Muslims, foreign migrants, and Liberals, who are responsible for the existence of Arabs, Muslims, and those “illegal” foreign migrants, who might speak to you in Spanish. They also made racism passé.

And remember, even though freeing the slaves was arguably a liberal act, it was a backwoods hickerbilly named Abraham Lincoln who founded the Republican party and yes, fought a long and bloody war to bring it about. That is the threshhold for when liberalism can be tolerated.

All other liberalism is anti-American. And you know where that belongs: Guantanamo Bay, Cuba!


P.S. Or if you prefer footnotes on why GWB is Evil, ask Dave.

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Pictures, Artastic Adventures, Howard Dean, and Fireworks!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/08/pictures-artastic-adventures-howard-dean-and-fireworks/

Yayoi and Birthday Cake
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Yayoi made me a birthday cake last month.

New Desk
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The new desk.

Winter Street View
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Looking Southeast down Milwaukee, from the second floor of an artist’s studio in the Flat Iron building.

Painting Angels
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The artist at work in his studio.

Yesterday I dropped Yayoi off at Harold Washington so she could join a ski trip to Wisconsin. Not a big fan of skiing myself, I returned home, and it being a pretty nice day, I struck off in search of adventure, or at least a quiet coffee shop to have a sit and read through my magazines.

I made my way to a coffee shop I like, Filter, in the Flat Iron building at Milwaukee and Damen. The place was crowded, and a poster in the window accounted for it – there was one heckuva artist’s exhibition going on upstairs. I wandered for hours the serpentine hallways of the Flat Iron building, visiting studio after studio, and all along the hallways were artists who didn’t have their studios there, but had brought their art to show and tell and sell as well.

It was a great time.

On my way back, I read through a New Yorker article that talks about Howard Dean, and his biography, which he has avoided sharing with us so much. He’s the eldest of four brothers, from a wealthy family, so of course he went to Yale, just like George, where he was also an underachiever, getting a B- average, just a little higher than George. Except, well, Howard’s kind of different. He requested black roommates, because the place was integrating. Those roommates recall that, unlike many white liberal contemporaries, Howard was approachable and open-minded, and not at all uncomfortable with open racial dialogue.

After Yale he went into the stock market business, but he wasn’t really enjoying it. He had this weird notion that maybe he wasn’t put on this Earth to make money. Well, what then? He hadn’t been a big fan of 1960s radical politics, and figured that the way to change things for the better was to help one person at a time. He’d done some volunteering at a hospital. He went to his Dad and said “I want to become a Doctor.” His Dad thought he was crazy, but didn’t say so, and gave Howard the support he needed.

And, well, he met a girl, moved to Vermont, eventually got engaged in politics, almost as a hobby, ended up Lieutenant Governor, which is pretty much a ceremonial position, then the Governor died, and he found himself with a full-time gig and a great big budget deficit. He turned that around by pretty much just being smart and sharp and persistent and listening to the right people.

Hey. I like the man. Whenever I see him talking, I feel like I’m really hearing him, and not John Kerry’s focus-grouped, campaign-managed message. Howard Dean is complicated enough as he is without having other people tell him who he should be. What I dug was his bizarre explanation as to why he isn’t in to dishing his biography out:

“That I don’t talk about my background, I have a feeling, is what makes me as passionate as I am. If I laid out the biography for everyone to kind of ooh and ah, it would be gone. I know this is sort of Zen-like. I don’t really have it down. The fact is, the experiences that are the most intense in my life are the ones that are not readily available to me, so they come out in a different way. I think that has a lot to do with my desire to have social justice, the passion I have about fairness and truthtelling. The two are connected. The fact that I’m the least autobiographical is very much connected with the fact that I’m the most passionate. Experiences that I don’t have access to consciously are what drive me — personal experiences that I can’t tell you about because I haven’t processed them.”

“I know this is kind of Zen-like. I don’t really have it down.”

Folks, the man is in it because trying to make the world a better place is what gets him off. Yeah, he’s prone to get carried away and let loose a war scream, and that’s because he really wants to fix your country bad.

Or, I’m just believing the hype. I’m ascribing what I will to Howard Dean, because, slacker college student kind of drifting through life as I am, I identity most readily with Howard Dean. My friend Jesse, a Marine Corps Veteran, digs Wesley Clark. Southerners dig Edwards, and his syrupy drawl. There are at least a few black folk who dig Sharpton for being an eloquent black man. And, well, there are plenty of squares in our nation that identify with Kerry.

At any rate, I hope Dean pulls through Wisconsin, and at least keeps the primary interesting. I’ve read some analyses that win or loose, he has made a great contribution to invigorating the Democratic party. It is important to get people who might vote excited about the idea of voting. That is what Al Gore failed to do. John Kerry’s riding around on his motorcycle, and dropping his Senatorese, and inviting George to “Bring it On”, where “it” is a debate as to which party is better at national security. So if he is the nominee, he ought to get not only the “Anyone But Bush” crowd, but also the “Damn, I’d like to feel maybe just a little inspired by our leaders” crowd as well.

Anyway, I went an picked up Yayoi at around six. Took forever to get my car out of its slippery, snowed-in spot. But after I picked her up and turned the corner we saw what looked like a big fireworks show inside of the Sun Times building. Huh? Gotta be a reflection in the windows. So, I swung right on to Wacker, and there were fireworks lighting up the scene, and well, Yayoi loves fireworks, and she squealed that this was indeed a very very good day, and I pulled to the curb so we could watch the fireworks.

A cop shooed me away. I left Yayoi on the street to enjoy the show as I slowly navigated the wagon up the road a bit, pulled a u-turn, picked Yayoi back up, and we cruised up the pretty winter lights of Michigan Avenue.

Yes, folks, Chicago is truly the greatest city on Earth.


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European Sushi

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/11/european-sushi/

On Tue, Feb 10, 2004 at 05:01:41PM -0800, Benjamin Feen wrote:
> Hey, this reminds me — it’s time once again to talk about Italian
> beef.
> Anyone have a recipe that can approximate the real thing?

I saw some in the Deli Case at Jewel today. I bet you get a few pounds of that sliced up REEL THEEN and some beef stock, french rolls, and peppers and onions, if you’re in to that stuff, you could have yourself a good ol’ time.

Personally, I dig the italian beef at Pizza Chicago. It aint all that authentic, but when I worked there’s I’d fuckin’ drench that thing super-juicy, and slide a slice of provolone in there that shit was good.

I just got some Natural Ovens whole grain bread, toasted it, good mayo, good good wonderful mustard, deli pastrami, swiss, tomatoes, lettuce .. put that shit together so fine my baby was like damn it’s like the elements blend harmoniously I feel like I’m on Iron Chef and I’m like yeah baby, this is the European equivalent ta SUSHI!

Guess I need some horse radish to dip that shit in.


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Cleaning out the E-mail Box …

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/11/cleaning-out-the-e-mail-box/

Cleaning out the e-mail box. A few gems:

And then, I share with you a bit of my childhood that I typed to another list . . .

The song on my schoolbus went like this:

I was down at the bar
Tryin’ to pick up some chick
But none of the girls were good to go
So I said “Hey what’s wrong [with my dick]?”

I looked over down
At the other side of the cantina
I asked the guy why you so fly?
He said “I’m funky Daniel Howard!”


My factual lack of funk in those days had a profound impact on the gifted, bored children I rode the schoolbus to and from the magnet school every day. By the way, some of you get excited because I’ve dated quite a few Asian girls what’s my strange fetish from? Heck if I know — I don’t really worry about these things — but since I mention many a long hour of my adolescence spent aboard the schoolbus, I will note that a very cute Korean-American girl blossomed before my eyes on a daily basis over a few years, a couple hours a day. I shall always have fond memories of that young lady, yes indeed.

See, we live at the far north end of the city. My grammar school was downtown. We were the first to board in the morning, and the last to alight in the evening. About an hour each way. Those were long hours indeed. Confessions of lab rat.

On that note . . . BADGER BADGER BADGER BADGER ! ! !

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Count Me In!

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/18/count-me-in/

He will not be our next President, but he has already helped change our country. Put best by Robert Menendez, House Democratic Caucus chair, via Thomas Ferraro, of Reuters:

“He gave a stiff spine to a lot of Democrats.”

Menendez said he and other members of Congress who had backed Dean had a conference telephone call with him shortly before his speech in Burlington. Dean first disclosed his plans to drop out about an hour earlier in an online message to backers.

Menendez said Dean told him many of his supporters backed consumer advocate Ralph Nader in the 2000 White House race.

Democrats with stiff spines, who oppose George Bush instead of appeasing George Bush. Bringing disaffected liberals who voted Green in the last election. I’d like to think that even though he’s not the candidate, he has already helped his party to win this year’s election.

I’m still disappointed that he didn’t get anywhere.


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Technical, Technology

Make Adobe Fast

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/20/make-adobe-fast/

Thank you, NTK:

         More cheap hacks to counter-impress smug MacOS X owners.
         Yes, Panther's "Preview" app is a super-fast PDF viewer that's 
         a lot snappier than Adobe "OMFG! A vector! How do I draw
         that??!!" Acrobat. Close the gap of shame (and stop yourself
         eating your own fist off waiting for Acrobat to start up) by
         running ADOBE READER SPEED-UP, a eensy-weensy Windows
         program that deletes a bunch of Adobe plugins that you don't
         care about. Voila: spend your spare time reading your doc
         rather than watching Adobe go "Loading dumb-ass marketing
         rubbish/lousy DRM feature" for a thousand hours.

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New Years: Back to the Apple

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/24/new-years-back-to-the-apple/

I was feeling ill just before New Years and went to bed early on New Years Eve, but Yayoi dragged me out of my dreamy reverie to watch the ball drop. I saw the throngs of happy people cheering on a cold Winter’s day in New York City, and I felt unusually emotional about it. I let it go … let it go, and figured that what it was is that it has been a pretty strange few years, for the country and for my own self. Strikes and gutters. World travel and layoffs. Lovers and heart breaks. Progress progress always progress. And nothing seems to symbolize a victory over the things that dog us more than a throng of New Yorkers packing in to Times Square to boldly shout that they are alive and happy. Ah, what a tasty target they must be … but they don’t care. They’re proud, and confident, and even if times are a bit rough they believe that tomorrow ought to be better. Fates bless ‘m!

Some time on the first I managed to pull this one out, to the tune of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s _Woodstock_:

Well I came upon a child of God
He was walkin along the road
And I asked him “Tell me where are you goin?”
This he told me,
Said “I’m goin down to NYC,
Gonna join with the American way
Got to get back the people,
and set my soul free.”

We are stardust
We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the Apple

“Well then can I walk beside you?
I have come to lose the fog
And I feel myself a cog in something turnin
And may be all the time that we live in
Or maybe too much CNN
But I dont know who I am,
and life is for learnin.”

We are stardust
We are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the Apple

By the time we got to Times Square
We were over one million strong
And everywhere was the sound and the celebration
And I dreamed I saw those death-bombin planes
And those buildings in the sky
Turning in to butterflys
above our nation

We are stardust
We are golden
And we all die Americans
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the Apple


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Gay Marriage: Republican Wedge Issue

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/26/gay-marriage-republican-wedge-issue/

I read something on the BBC today that gave me hope. You know how John Kerry and John Edwards are scared to say anything nice about gay marriage because the Republicans would use it as a wedge issue to deny Democrats the bigotry vote? Well, the thing I read made the point that if Bush is going to come out, so to speak, on the Straight Marriage Amendment, then the rumors that he could replace Evil Dick Cheney with Gay-Friendly Hero of 9/11 Rudy Guliani were entirely pointless. And it occurred to me that, in this scenario, Gay Marriage could cost the Republicans the election.

It is hard to hold a big tent up when your specialty is driving wedges.

Yeah, well, I should get back to work. A little bit of reading for those interested:

If anyone is doing some sort of pink pride parade, I’m down with that.
If people want to love each other, I’m down with that.


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Sullied Outlook

Link: https://dannyman.toldme.com/2004/02/26/sullied-outlook/

So, I’m told to send an e-mail to a third party. Microsoft Outlook conveniently highlights the e-mail address, so that I could click on it to end an e-mail. But the e-mail I’m sending is actually based on another e-mail, so I’d rather forward.

So, I right-click. Can I add the e-mail to my contacts list? No. So, I pull up contacts window. I put the guy’s first name in and drag the e-mail hyperlink to the e-mail address field. Close and some annoying dialogue pops up and I click it away without reading it because I don’t care what silly advice Outlook has for me.

So, I can not find the contact in my contacts list. Okay … I keep clicking away trying to make the search work right because I tell it to search all lists but it keeps switching to “search global list” but whatever.

So, instead of searching for the contact I guess I screwed up when I entered merely a first name and e-mail address, I go and drag the little blue e-mail address to the To: field in my message composer. Edit edit edit proof-read double-check contacts hey … why is the To: address prefixed with mailto:? Edit that …

Edit that … I mean … each time I try to edit the To: address it only let’s me select all or none. I can not edit an e-mail address. Can I right-click on it? Yes, but unlike, say, the file browser, there is no “rename” or other “edit the fucking e-mail address option.”

Stuff like this drives me crazy. Why do we put all these features in the software when none of the features are actually useful, and we actually have less ability to do things than we did in the evil bad old days when software was “hard” to use?

So, I delete the mailto: address, highlight the blue blob from the other message, right-click, and paste a well-formed e-mail address into the To: field.


I just have to rant sometimes. I’m usually a very easy-going guy, but over-engineering that interferes with my ability to do simple and obvious things I take for granted, like editing an e-mail address … that stuff makes me really really irritated. Dang.


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