log (2000/03/03 to 2000/03/09)

older log
newer log


site news

Tell me something...
Thursday, March 9, 2000

Just as I was musing about what to put in the Log today, Steve (whose five-year-old Web page I will once again cite in an attempt to shame him into updating it) sent me one of these "get to know your friends" chain-spams that I've ignored in the past. I couldn't resist the synchronicity!

I've played it rather straight, so my answers aren't nearly as funny as Steve's. I only added one new question.   *8)   I think this counts as "sending it to my friends"; so now y'all should pass it along!

Subject: learn something about your friends

Okay, here's what you're supposed to do. Copy (not forward) this entire e-mail and paste it onto a new e-mail that you will send. Change all of the answers so that they apply to you. Then, send this to a whole bunch of people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. The theory is that you will learn a lot of little known facts about your friends. Remember to send yours back to the person who sent it to you.

(Sorry, Mickey Mouse won't give any starving child any money for this one.)

NAME: David Michael Chess

SEX: Male (no double-entendres here!)

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS: Big old house in the suburbs, traditional nuclear family

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT OUIJA BOARDS? Neat collective phenomenon; also awfully tempting to cheat ("w-h-o-o t-h-a-t g-u-y w-i-t-h t-h-e b-e-a-r-d s-u-r-e i-s c-u-t-e")

YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOWS: The X-Files and the Big Comfy Couch


FAVORITE MAGAZINES: Civilization, ftrain, Geegaw.

FAVORITE SMELLS: Vanilla, fresh-baked bread, sleeping wife

WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD: Consciousness of having been unintentionally cruel


FAVORITE CD/SOUNDTRACK/PIECE OF MUSIC: Today? That heartbreaking symphony whose name I can never remember; the B-52s "Time Capsule".


DO YOU GET MOTION SICKNESS? Not in airplanes. Swings have started to bother me, though. Old age.

ROLLER COASTERS-SCARY OR EXCITING? The one I went on was scary! So I stopped.

PEN OR PENCIL? Pen. Even on crossword puzzles. At home, the Bic round stic medium in blue; at work, these click-pens they have in the stockroom, in black.


PET PEEVE: "It's" for "Its" (it's a petty pet).

FUTURE SON'S NAME: Present son's name is Elias. No future sons are planned!

FUTURE DAUGHTER'S NAME: Present daughter's name is Mayanne. No future daughters are planned either!

CHOCOLATE OR VANILLA? Both, scooshed together into that very cold almost-pink slurry.

DO YOU LIKE TO DRIVE? Yeah, actually; it's a nice quiet time to think. After I graduated from college I used to drive down to Princeton to see M every Friday night, and drive back every Monday morning, a couple of hours each way. It was very nice, having two hours to do nothing but drive and think about the universe.

DO YOU SLEEP WITH STUFFED ANIMALS? Sort of; two or three that I've acquired over the years live at the head of the bed. Does that count?

IF YOU COULD MEET ONE PERSON, DEAD OR ALIVE: (This question could definitely use some rephrasing.) Thomas Jefferson?

WHAT IS YOUR ZODIAC SIGN? Virgo. I've always had a crush on her. Even as a kid, I liked having this cosmic female assigned to me, somehow.


DO YOU EAT THE STEMS OF BROCCOLI? I can't bring myself to pretend that there's some way to tell where the "stem" ends and the "non-stem" begins. Sorry! Come back when I'm feeling more dualistic.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Dilettante. Elementary-school teacher's assistant. Putterer. Computer hacker (oh yeah, I've already got that one!).

IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY COLOR, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I dyed one shock of it jet-black once. Hardly anyone noticed! But it was fun.

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE? Yep. Still am, in fact!

WHAT IS ON YOUR WALLS IN YOUR LIVING ROOM? Uhhhh... Lotsa pictures and stuff, two huge quilts, some old wooden toys. M is in charge of the walls.


WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE SNAPPLE? Grape (is that Snapple?)


WHAT'S UNDER YOUR BED? Boxes full of the kids' toys.



SAY ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU: His answers were much funnier than mine.



Wednesday, March 8, 2000

After a very long haitus, I've finally progressed a little (a rather pitiful little, actually) in the Forked Stick. Wander around if you've never been there; if you have been there, the new thing is that you can now read the book under the washbasin on the second floor of the Cup and Hen. It's short, but to the point.

I must own up, I'm obsessed with Metababy. I even dreamed about it last night! As I said on the mindless destruction page (which of course may have some entirely different content by now):

So I admit I was pretty bummed last night, when I saw that someone (or, more likely I suppose, some script) was replacing most Metababy pages with a less-than sign. I spent a good deal of the evening composing in my mind well-reasoned diatribes, about how that sort of thing really doesn't constitute creativity in any sense, about how an open-to-everyone collaborative art environment would be really neat, and how these people were preventing that really neat thing from coming into the world, or at least preventing it from working very well.

I even dreamed, during the night, that I ran into some of the trashers while hanging with the homies down at the sound-store, and we got into a screaming match.

But somehow I was much mellower this morning. Cut-and-paste isn't such a big deal, after all. I can put back the Suzie and Iris story at least as many times as someone can trash it (and as long as I put it back under another URL, they can't even claim I'm trashing their trash).

It's true that good and easy collaboration is harder in this environment. I can keep putting back Suzie and Iris, but if someone's done some clever stuff to it and posted that, and not saved a copy, then in the next trashing it goes away, and all I can put back up is my own original.

But there are other ways to do collaboration; I shouldn't expect that Metababy will be only and exactly what I want it to be.

I'm trying to think of Metababy, this morning, as a space that's periodically swept by high winds. No sense getting mad at the winds; just cope. It should be possible to make art from the destruction of art, from our own reactions to the destruction of art.

This doesn't prevent me from feeling, deep down, that the trashers are probably assholes. But hey; maybe they're artists.

I dunno.

I don't think I'd want my daughter to marry one. But I can cope with them.

I've really been thinking about this way too much, haven't I? But it's interesting; art, vandalism, the possibility of collaborating creatively with strangers. Seems to ring some of my internal bells.

Q: How many Motie engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Why bother? It'll just get trashed in the next Collapse anyway.

So what with this Metababy obsession and trying to get some actual work done, I have nothing terribly profound to say. (I haven't even read any Weblogs today!) Go over to Metababy and see what if anything has become of my latest posting of the Suzie and Iris story.

Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Metababy being what it is, there's no telling what people are going to find when they actually follow yesterday's link; I hereby disown it in advance! Just in case the clever JavaScript hacking gets lost, here's the original version (JavaScript, and quite likely either IE or NS, required).

Yesterday I took a red bell pepper that had been sitting around for a little too long, chopped it up, and pan-fried it with an egg and a bit of cheese and some curry powder. It was pretty good! And my fingers smelled like curry for the rest of the day. (This sounds like a Come to My Senses entry.)

Funny thing of the day: the Random Crap FAQ. He needs a slightly richer set of templates and vocabulary, but it's not bad as it is.

Q: How do you find an iceburg's cheeky smile?
A: You could always try getting strange, private pleasure out of an aging rock band. With any luck it'll waterproof the iceburg.

Go take the survey, if you haven't already, and then in any case go over and take the one on Geegaw.

Probably the thing I most like seeing in my referrer log: "bookmarks".

OK, Nomic time! This week I'm ignoring suggestions that would require me to check the spelling of moves and rules (I can't spell!), and that would make the sacred piece of paper an (ehem) unusual color, as well as two moves whose integers were even (see Rule 99).

I'm applying this:

proposal = The sacred piece of paper shall be renamed the scared piece of paper to substantiate the brilliant foresight exhibited in rules 5 and 6.
name = judith
integer = 21

An interesting one! I'm interpreting it as not creating a new rule, but calling for a blanket change to the existing rules. So shall it be! (And welcome, judith.)

Next, this:

proposal = Change Rule 14 to read "The integer submitted with a valid move which creates exactly one rule will become the number of the rule if the scribe decides to apply the move. For example, if a valid move is submitted with an accompanying integer of 17 and the scribe applies the move, and the move creates exactly one rule, the resulting rule will be rule number 17. When a rule comes into being in any other way, the Scribe will assign it the lowest positive integer that is not currently assigned to any existing Rule."
name = Hillary Clinton
integer = 99

Nice and precise! We now get our first firing of the parenthetical phrase in Rule 6, and Hillary Clinton and Bovine each receive twenty points. Whee!

proposal = Amend rule 1 to state : Any person (or other apparently sentient entity, including the scribe) in the universe may take part in this game by sending a Valid Move to the Scribe (or their being the scribe, telling themself).
name = gerph
integer = 1

I had to go look it up to make sure 1 wasn't prime. Anyway, now if I want to make a move myself the Rules explicitly give me a way! And then, of course, all scores get reduced by half, due to the second Rule 5, and the Scared Piece of Paper is emptied. Man, it's starting to get hard to keep track of this stuff!

proposal = The scores shall be listed in numerical order, starting with the highest score at the top.
name = Bovine
integer = 123

Whew! OK, assuming I didn't mess up, the current status of the Game is here as usual. The Scribe will look kindly on suggested Rule changes that reduce the number of opportunities he has to make errors!

Monday, March 6, 2000

Happy Michelangelo's Birthday!

Primate Tai Chi: We went to the Zoo over the weekend, and I visited my favorite animal, the Slow Loris. I would love to live my life moving as gently as consideredly as this creature does. My friend at the zoo was actually moving fast enough to notice this time; he must have been at the peak of the ol' biorhythm cycle.

Weekend HTML hacking: I spent a few hours trying to make a page where certain text blocks would appear (and disappear) when you touched other ones with a mouse. My first version used LAYER tags, but those only work in Netscape. I eventually developed a version that uses LAYER under Netscape and DIVs and the "document.all" construct everywhere else; see this page on Metababy for the result (unless someone's redesigned it since). Apparently the real W3C document model requires some third method, that no current browser supports. (If you know of a more perfect way to do it today, drop me a line!)

Thanks to all who've answered yesterday's survey; there are more of you out there than I thought!   *8)   The consensus seems to be that the design here is perfectly OK, and that truedoc dynamic fonts are by no means universal. So I may shut up about that for awhile! (If you haven't done the survey yet, by all means still do; the more bits the better. I'll probably post the results eventually, just for fun.)

Are you a cat person or a dog person? It's sort of a silly question, of course; that was part of the point. Lots of good reader responses; here are a few:

Both cats and dogs, thanks, though I can scarcely imagine anything closer to heaven than a Golden Retriever, a huge back yard, and a warm summer day. Hot fudge or, even better, just plain chocolate syrup, heavy on the nuts, no whipped cream (the nuts end up feeling like a mistake in your mouth), and please do keep that annoying little plasticine cherry far, far away. You didn't ask, but "vanilla." Those who make chocoloate sundays from Bananas-n-Popcorn, or Surly Celery are demonspawn. Midnight, definitely; morning is God's way of saying "Go back to sleep." Late, I'm afraid, except at airports, where my reputation for being absurdly early is both legendary and unparalleled. Probably tighter than I should be, especially recently; I'll have to work on that, and thanks for the reminder. Peanut. Absolutely. It's hard to think of much of anything that one typically could put peanuts in that would be better, or often even avoid being curiously bland, without peanuts. Think about it.

Both cat and dog person; have two cats and hope someday to have a dog. Both hot fudge and butterscotch, but plain by themselves right out of the jar - no ice cream underneath. Midnight all the way. The later the better. Neither too loose nor too tight. Peanut.

All the above, in equal measure. Although, having been a life-long cat person, I found myself moved to equal parts dog and cat person when we got our puppy in October99. Then (timing is an interesting thing) just yesterday, I became a card-carrying dog person for life... One of the cats was curled up on the rocking chair in the living room and the puppy was nowhere to be seen. I plucked a guitar from its case, settled down into the couch, and strummed an E chord. Before the strings fell silent l I turned to see the now vacant chair rocking back and forth -- an echo of its former occupant. Before the chair fell still, the puppy was there, at my feet, looking up expectantly waiting for the next chord. Dogs are the best!

Peanut, that magical bean. Who would have ever thought that there would be a legume that would go so well with chocolate, with caramel, with ice cream? Can you imagine chocolate covered string beans? Milky Way bars with peas in them? What about peanut brittle made, instead, with kidney beans. I rest my case.

With all of which I agree wholeheartedly. Except that I do eat the little plastic cherries now and then. Sweet and cloying; not high-quality, but with an appealing shamelessness...

Nomic tomorrow, probably; there's still time to get your move in!

Saturday, March 4, 2000

Jorn's mention that this log is painful to read with his (rather unique) browser settings inspires a brief survey. Responses greatly appreciated!

"I'm reading this on using . Design-wise, this log is In particular, . Oh, and the text "responses greatly appreciated" up above there appear in a funny "brush" font. "

Thanks very!

Games everyone can play: regular readers will know that I'm a fan of openlog, the Pitas weblog that anyone in the world can add to, edit, or change the design of. And I have my own (somewhat more restrictive) gLog log that anyone can add to if they go to the trouble of finding the password (it's "swordfish").

My most recent discovery in this area is metababy (cited on Apathy). It's just a collection of HTML pages that anyone can edit, or create new ones of. It's wonderful! (Go add some stuff yourself today.)

I plan to treat the Metababy changes page as a weblog for monitoring purposes. Maybe someone'll add it to LinkWatcher!

Remind me to talk about Wikis sometime...

On yesterday's review, a reader asks "Would you recommend Understanding Comics to someone who generally dislikes comics?"

I think so. In particular, if the comics you generally dislike are the typical American "anatomically impossible two-dimensional superheros in tight suits" comics, the book might help you discover the much wider and more interesting world of comics and sequential art in general. I'm not a big fan of American superhero comics myself; I got to Understanding Comics through looking into Japanese Manga, and I was doing that exactly because they seemed so much richer and more varied than the comics you can buy at the newsstand around here.

If for some reason you dislike the whole concept of having pictures and words at the same time, I'd still urge you to read the book, as it could change your mind; on the other hand, you might want to borrow it rather than buy it in that case, just in case.   *8)  

Two notes on yesterday's dynamic-font stuff. First, note that the free pfrs on the truedoc site don't work reliably on pages fetched in the "file:" domain (the FAQ says that they don't work at all there, but in my experience they occasionally do).

Second, in Windows IE (at least on my system), text displayed in one of the dynamic fonts looks horrible without Windows font smoothing turned on. You turn it on in Display Properties, by checking "Smooth Edges of Screen Fonts". If you have a Win95 system that doesn't have that checkbox, you can download and install the font smoother add-on from Microsoft.

Once you've turned it on, the dynamic fonts will look as good in IE as they do in Netscape. On the other hand, all fonts will be subject to smoothing, and fonts that were already rather spindly (like good old Garamond) get sort of anemic (the Garamond period and colon vanish almost entirely). So far I haven't decided whether or not to leave smoothing on.

Are you a cat person, or a dog person? Hot fudge, or butterscotch? Morning, or midnight? Late, or early? Tight, or loose? Plain, or peanut?

Friday, March 3, 2000

Rhinovirus update: I felt well enough this morning to go to the Gym, although I did the Aerobics Things rather than the Lifting Heavy Things Things. Even then, I felt pretty drained afterward (but in an energetic sort of way).

A short book review and some font-related stuff today. (Apologies to any reader for whom fonts and colors and stuff are uninteresting!) Also a couple of security notes at the end.

On the advice of the inchoate voices, I got Understanding Comics from Amazon, and devoured it. It was very good. I wrote this for Amazon (I hardly ever give five stars):

Deep and Clear (five stars)

I expected this book to be a witty and well-done presentation of mostly stuff that I already knew; but it was much more than that. McCloud has a deep understanding of art and society and people, and a completely lucid presentation.

There are neat and useful new ways of thinking about comics here (his comparisons of American and Japanese comics, his theories of panel transitions and why comic characters are sometimes drawn more simply than the backgrounds, his comments on the psychological impact of color), and for that matter ways of thinking about art in general, and design in general. And he makes masterly use of the comic medium itself to present the material in a way that never drags or confuses.

I hope someone programs the Orbital Mind Control Lasers so that McCloud extends this book into a whole series on the theory and practice of comics, and another on general visual design. The world needs it!

There's been some interesting discussion on the weblogs list at eGroups about colors and fonts and stuff; Jorn Barger of RobotWisdom has been asking good questions, as usual, and I've been rambling.

Long ago, I stumbled on some Web site that was using a font I'd never seen before (and didn't have installed), but was doing it through normal text, not as an image. I looked into it a little, but only enough to notice there was some stuff I didn't understand. I mentioned the other day at lunch that I was pretty sure there was a way to do this, but no one knew of one (none of the real Web gurus was at the table).

While looking around the Web yesterday for some documentation on what color combinations are most readable (see below), I came upon an article on font embedding in Web Review. Turns out that dynamic (or embedded, or whatever) fonts have been working to some extent for a long time now! In fact, for many readers reading this in NetScape, this paragraph is probably in the rather nice Baker Signet font, even if you don't have it installed locally. (I could have turned it on for IE users also, but then this page might have offered you an ActiveX control, and even then the result sometimes looks really putrid.)

It's very easy to do (two lines of HTML, basically; three to include the IE folks), as long as you use one of the couple dozen free pfr files that BitStream makes available at truedoc.com. Otherwise you have to get ahold of the right pfr file for the font you want to use, and make sure it's correctly hosted. So it's still a little touchy, but worth playing with; see the truedoc.com site for details.

Anyway, the best document I stumbled on for the "what colors work best?" question was this Lighthouse Document on Effective Color Contrast; it focuses on the needs of people with partial sight and color deficiencies, but there are lessons for the world of readers in general. I imagine the list discussion (the thread on "link colors" in particular) will come up with more sources also.

While messing around with that, I ran across U&lc Online, which is the online journal of ITC, International Typeface Corporation, the big font foundry. The journal has some interesting, and sometimes appropriately snooty, articles on fonts, type, design, the Web, and so on.

You cannot create a true "bold" font by increasing the stroke width of the character outlines.

You cannot create a true "italic" font by slanting the characters.

Words to remember. Oh! And in passing Jorn mentioned that he's stopped reading this log, because with his (rather unique) browser setup, the text comes out too big to read comfortably. If you yourself have any problems with the layout or design or text of the log (or anything else on the site), please let me know! Use the text-box above there, or send email. Don't just slink away...

Denial-of-service attacks: MSNBC said last week that the FBI's own Web site has been attacked. That same story cites online trading site NDB.com as another victim, but this morning Reuters says that it was probably just a bug. Kevin Mitnik's been talking to Congress, and the FBI has seized a computer apparently belonging to "coolio"; he may be charged with something other than the recent DDos attacks.

That's all for now; Happy New Week!


earlier entries