Frequently Asked Questions (In My Own Mind)

Last updated January 7, 2012

How do you pronounce your last name?

Short answer: “zo~osh’ laug.” Rhymes with “bush frog.”

Long answer: There are several acceptable pronunciations, and even people in my immediate family don’t agree. My brother say “zush’ lahg,” rhymes with “slush hog” My father (a German immigrant) say “zo~osh’ lahg,” making it “bush hog.” One nephew says, “zo_sh’ lahg, casting a vote for a “whoosh hog.” Just don’t say “zo_osh’ lag.” It rhymes with “douche bag.” The reason there is no agreement is because all these are more or less pronounceable Americanizations of the original German.

Aha! So there is an official pronunciation from the original language. What is it?

Not so easy. It turns out not even Germans can agree on how to pronounce it. In hoity-toity high German, it’s something like “tso_osh’ lahg.” However, in every-day speech, it’s more like “tso_osh’ lahkh,” the “kh” being like that German “ch” as in “Bach.”

It should be noted that all acceptable pronunciations are indistinguishable from a sneeze.

Are you a geek?

Alas, no. I’m more a high-end luser. My wife thinks I’m a geek, but I know real geeks, and I’m not one of them. There’s a big difference between being a geek and engaging in geek-related activities. For example, my resume claims I know five computer languages. Unfortunately, the most modern language is C++. Also, I define “know a language” as “I’ve written at least one useful program with it.” Furthermore, as of 2012, I’ve not seen one of the first three episodes of Star Wars. There. I’ve confessed it.

When do posts appear?

Early each month, except they tend to be more sporadic in summer when my schedule gets busier. Usually I post sometime during the first weekend of the month when I have time to give the post one last look-over.

“Give the post one last look-over”? You mean you actually proof-read your posts? It sure doesn’t look like it.

I apparently have learning disability prevents me from effectively proof-reading own work. I tend to read what I remember thinking instead of what I actually wrote. I know this is true, because when I re-read a post a month or so later, I find about a dozen glaring grammatical errors, such as extra and missing words or suffixes, and, you know, it tends to affect the meaning a bit when you leave out a word like “not.” I’m not sure what to do about it. I could: (a) Recruit a proofreader. Any takers out there? (b) Adopt more effective proof-reading techniques. I’ve been tracking my errors with this as a goal. (c) Change my first name to Mikhail so people will excuse my errors as due to English being my second language.

For the record, if I find a grammatical or spelling error any time after a post is posted, I correct it. Other than that, I don’t update posts, although I may add a comment to clarify or completely reverse my position.

Why only monthly updates? Don’t you know that the web is moving towards ever shorter update cycles, weekly, daily, and now hourly?

That may be, but my posts tend to be long reasonably coherent pieces that would be disrupted if chopped up into daily chunks, and I don’t have time to post such long pieces more frequently than once a month. Most posts are not especially topical, so it doesn’t matter much when I post them.

I’ve thought of having additional smaller posts as quick reactions to something topical, like a specific post on another blog. However, usually it seems better to put such reactions in the comments of the other blog. It may be noted that my comments on other blogs also tend to be long-winded, although I try to keep them shorter than the original post, not always successfully.

How can you complain about other people’s designs when your own web site sucks?

Yeah, I know. This is what happens when you try to save development costs by using established components that don’t quite do the job. Wordpress is excellent blogging software in general, but it’s designed for the typical blog with short frequent serial posts, not long infrequent unconnected posts such as found here. With such blogware, sidebar links to posts are sorted by date when sorting by category would make more sense for this content (although I’d probably put a “new” or “previous” banner beside the links to the latest posts for regular readers). Because the search results and category pages use the same settings as the home page and because the only reasonable setting for the home page given long unconnected posts is to show only one post, the search results and category pages also show exactly one entire post. Pretty useless for hunting for a specific post. The site structure is this (as expressed as a NSD):

Serially linked posts within categories.

When it should be more like this:

Category listing page linking to all posts in category.

There should be a “Category Listing” page for each category that gives the category name and description (the latter appears today when you mouseover the category name on the sidebar). The Category Listing page would then have a list of all the posts for that category complete with a short statement of purpose for the post (which today you find in bold text at the beginning of each post). The search results page should similarly list multiple post titles, along with their categories. And speaking of the categories, they barely make any sense to me, so they probably don’t make any sense to you. I really need a bunch of users to do a card-sort on the posts. Actually, I could use some user research in general. Web stats only give me the vaguest sense of how users use this site, or what they’re trying to accomplish.

I’ve a Detailed Post Index page to make it a little easier to find the topics that may interest users. I’ve also fumbled with the PHP and CSS to try to make this site a little better, removing the useless calendar from the sidebar and displaying posts links by title rather than date. Further progress is hampered by a certain knowledge gap. For example, I still haven’t figured out why, despite my changes to the style sheet, visited links aren’t a different color than unvisited ones. But in any case, but I’m reluctant to do too much modification of the original code because I’ll just have to redo it all again the next time I upgrade Wordpress to fix a security issue.

All this is a fallout of using blogging software, a decision I made when I started this site because I was counting on comments to correct and clarify what I write. Since I don’t get comments or questions, frequently asked or otherwise, maybe I should’ve built the site from scratch rather than use blogging software. Oh well. I’m just happy each post prints out reasonably formatted, as I imagine many readers prefer printouts for reading on the train ride home from work. Or in bed with a warm glass of milk. I hear that works.

Why are your posts so long? They put me to sleep.

That’s another learning disability I have: AXS (Attention Excess Syndrome). When I get on a topic I tend to want to explore it ad somnus.

Why don’t you have real-life examples from your professional life? Maybe some results of actual usability tests and stuff?

Government ethics Standards of Conduct Subpart G, Section 2635.703 prohibit disclosing to anyone any non-public information about a project.


No, I’m actually being serious now. The intent of this standard is to prevent insider information being used for personal advantage, but the standard is written pretty broadly, so I play it safe, and don’t discuss specific things from a project at work. I can make generalizations about things I’ve learned, so when I write something like “it has been my experience that…” it may mean I’ve found something to be true in the course of a project or projects, but unless it’s in a publication, I won’t elaborate.

The ethics standards also make it clear I shouldn’t make it look like my employer is endorsing or condemning any product or service. Believe me, I do not speak for my employer. But because of that, I downplay my professional life on this site so I’m freer to critique UIs.

Besides, usability engineering has historically been a small part of my current job anyway, so there isn’t much there to talk about.

What’s up with so many of your example windows looking like Windows 98? It’s so old-fashioned.

What? Are you suggesting I’m some sort of Luddite who clung on to his Windows 98 machine until it was pried from his clutches by IT in December 2005? No, no, no, I’m all for technology and progress. I’m mean, just because I carry a paper notepad instead of a smart phone–

Ahem. Oh, you just want to know why my mockups look like Windows 98. First of all, it’s easier to edit screen captures of windows in the “Classic” theme because they don’t have all that trendy gradient shading found in more modern themes. Secondly, in addition to being easier to edit, the lack of gradient shading allows me to make good-quality gifs of my mock-ups, resulting in smaller file sizes for you to download when compared to jpegs of comparable fidelity. Thirdly, it is true that I immediately set my XP desktops to the Classic as soon as I got them, but that’s just because I personally don’t care for that Teletubbies XP theme. Even the default “Bliss” wallpaper –I expect to see Tinky-winky and Lulu bounding over the hill at any minute. So it’s not like I think Windows Classic is the ultimate theme. Motif is. No, no, no, I didn’t mean that. I’m not categorically opposed to any change. I like the light look of Window’s Vista and Windows 7, for example. I’m just in no particular rush to upgrade to  7, or migrate to Mac, for that matter. Doesn’t make me an old fogey. Just because I still wear a wrist watch… with hands….

I’ve got this problem with a UI I’m designing. Can I have some advice? For free?

Lately I’ve been hanging out on User Experience Stack Exchange inflicting my advice on hapless designers and developers. Generally you get an answer to whatever you post within an hour, just not from me. It can take me a day or two to respond, assuming I have a decent idea on how to solve the problem.

When are you going to post a real picture of yourself?

That’s me naked in the header image. How much more do you want to see?

That’s you? Wow, you’re in good shape!

Thanks. I got that way heaving CRTs out the window in frustration.

It’s not the CRTs fault the software sucks.

I’m aiming for the design team.