Team Murder No Brain No Headache.


No Pain, No Gain?

All class, these folks


Typography For Whoever Will Listen, I Hope

This site that Matt Mullenweg linked yesterday was notable for him because it used WordPress in a unique and novel way but the actual content of Typography for Lawyers is insanely well done in terms of writing and applicable use. I wish that this site had existed when I spent far too much time on a weekly basis translating Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals opinions into something web-worthy from the source PDFs.

The interview linked in the 'About' section of Typography for Lawyers is also an entertaining read. I didn't catch it on the first read through (hey, it's Monday morning and things are broken, man) but, according to the interview,:

Heller: On your website you list a number of books about law writing. Do any of these address typography?

Butterick: Bryan Garner’s books about legal writing touch briefly on typography. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has a great little guide to legal typography on the front page of their website. But I’ve recently signed a contract to turn Typography for Lawyers into a book, so the void will soon be filled.

it looks like Butterick is working on a print version of Typography for Lawyers which is good news since a dead tree version of anything loans credibility to the, um, man and might create some traction to get a text on typography added to law school curriculum.

My personal interest is long finished as I'm already five months away from my last job but, in the interest of making things more readable and less terrible, I'm excited for the potential of making specifically formatted printed matter less onerous to read.


Some Things Before I Pass Out At 9 PM On A Friday Night

I'm tired and no amount of this brutally strong press of Peets French Roast I just made is going to keep me vertical for very much longer so I'm just going to dump some links with minimal explication. I'm trusting that most of you can read.

1. Jo Shields eloquently and more calmly than the situation really calls for explains why Mono isn't going to be the undoing of FOSS by raining MSFT-dependence and a hail of lawyers down upon our heads. I admire people with this much patience and goodwill in them. When you're essentially dealing with a bunch of Ubuntards who got all bunched up on a couple different sites about the evil conspiracy to keep them down as users by including functional and quickly expanded software as part of the default set of packages included in the installation, one shouldn't feel obligated to explain your motivations to a bunch of lusers who blatantly accuse you of being a shadowy MSFT operative for making software using libraries that share functionality with MSFT product. It reminds me a little bit of what we called 'taste vegans': people who couldn't stand the idea of eating fake meat product because it simulated the taste of animal products. Whatever makes you feel better about your shallow understanding of the topic at hand I guess.

2. The generation of purposely corrupted Office documents for the purpose of extending assignment deadlines for profit is kind of amusing. I can't find much disdain for this service because it provides props for potentially hilarious dramas more or less. If you're not clever enough to do something really technologically advanced like twiddling system time before handing in the real assignment then you're sort of asking for it.

3. I guess that's really it. Now it is time for sleep. I hate you sleep.


Short Notes About Some Pretty Things

Well, two of them...

1. The Gentoo web site got an impressive makeover that adds a bunch of content from Packages and Planet Gentoo which is much nicer than the previous little paragraphs. I'm really hoping that Packages will eventually gain some of its old functionality back because it was one of the best package listing sites I've ever seen. In it's present state you cannot even search. Sigh.

2. Gimp FX Foundry is crazy awesome. I had no idea it existed until I read about it here via a tutorial but a half dozen "wow, holy shit"'s later I had a whole lot more scripting functionality going in the Gimp. I've always thought the installed base of effects was actually impressive given that they were just bundled in as part of the application but some of these scripts are amazing. As is nearly always the case, some Photoshop-esque functionality is the inspiration for a lot of the effects but then again how many years of darkroom and negative manipulation inspired the filters Adobe includes?


Shit, Order Two Or More While You’re At It

I took a sick day today because I feel horrible. This day has not been terribly productive. I did notice the most essential product ever manufactured. It pains me to contemplate just how long I spent staring at that thing and wondering if it was some kind of elaborate practical joke. That said, I've experiencing some internal dissonance about whether or not any of the above is really intended as sarcasm.


Underneath The Drop-cloth

Found via Jeremy Zawodny's always entertaining and time squandering linkblog today, at least for me who reads his aggregator data exploded in a browser while riding the bus, was this article about the hype/marketing versus reality when building application with frameworks. There are a number of really good questions that need to be considered when evaluating these sorts of claims in this post. It's also a pretty realistic summary of the sort of toil you are in for when designing an application that replaces an existing one especially when you have to carry all the data with you. He also made some decisions along the way that cost a considerable amount of time (the decision to switch to PostgreSQL during development) and some tasks that most sane folk wouldn't even consider like rewriting chunks of API (!) that didn't suit his purposes. If you've ever been faced with the choice between rolling your own or using a large framework or library when doing a project and ending up somewhere in between most of this will sound ominously familiar or possibly reopen some old wounds or at least headaches.

The only disagreement I could really find with his methodology is the question raised about using the appropriateness of the toolkit as an issue for debunking when looking at the amount of time that it require to build an application using it. You should be doing most of this before you decide to hand your life over to a framework. This is what becomes so worrisome about addressing all problems with a particular set of tools. Rails seems to be gaining on the Perl abuses of the good old days as it gains popularity and all of the trappings of duh-ness that come with getting religion all involved in your programming languages.

An side order of diversion-jitsu and disclaimer-fu here that needs to be made before the flaming begins: I'm blaming popularity for the abuse and zealous overuse and not the actual language here so drop it before it gets hot. I know it write things in far too many words but I expect you to read and comprehend some of them before I'm going to take any of your ham-fisted 'corrections' to my woeful ineptitude in the properly appraising the One True Flavor Of The Month according to the One True Source Of All Wisdom For Imbecilic Ponderers of Alleged Truth About Things Read About or Otherwise First Considered Ten Minutes Ago terribly seriously. Yes, too many words now please move on before I spill any more in anticipatory defenses of stupid, stupid acts performed by the invisible hordes of idiotic barbarians against my honor. This reminds me that I must get out the CrankyPhone at nearest convenience to demand Southern accent tags from W3C immediately, posthaste, and with damn-the-torpedoes style speeds of delivery... Please choose wisely your hammer oaf-y. Um, so, I kinda lost my train of though in approaching this paragraph or whatever other funny name you would like to give this train wreck of a construction so I will move on immediately before my word count exceeds that of the weblog post I intended to make a brief mention and quick commentary on...

I do think that one of the more enthusiastic positive notes for a first application developed in Django might be the inclusion of a link to the source code for the project which we'll have to shave a eighth of point or so off the overall delivery as it is mentioned as comment appended to post. Most first time developers in a new framework are too busy recovering from their newest ulcer and explaining copious new night sweats to their significant others to bother posting the actual source and/or discussing it in great detail. I think that more explicit discussions like these with some of both good and bad are more valuable as advocacy for a given framework or platform than marketing talk could ever be.  


It Can’t Possibly Make Things Worse

I'm not a huge fan of web based email as a day to day use sort of thing (meaning that Gmail is more useful a place to divert mail to when I can't check mail for a day or two than anything else) but Freenigma is a Firefox extension that makes some pretty valuable inroads into making the weirdness a little easier to cope with. The more encryption the merrier generally especially when services like Gmail like to employ AI on text to serve advertising. The one crucial feature missing (at least from what I read of the documentation on their site) for me is the ability to simply sign mail instead of encrypting it. Still, this is a huge step up for most web based email although it does necessitate the installation of a piece on a local machine.

This does make me wonder how free mail providers are going to respond to this especially those like Gmail that try to serve advertising based on the text content of mail that passes through the system. How will they react? I'm guessing that encryption won't get super wide use as most people who primarily depend on web clients for mail are already accustomed or unaware that it isn't the most secure way to either send or receive mail or are entirely ignorant of its shortcomings. Tools like the various pieces that use Gmail disk space as storage space are probably more troubling when it comes to cost of storage versus ad revenue.

I'll probably give this a whirl when I'm more situated to actually connect to a network but it's still more a useful implementation that partially heals or at least provides a functional crutch for a bad idea that is tremendously popular and vastly overused. That can't hurt more than it helps.


It’s Really Funny Because It’s Really True

This is probably the most funny thing I've seen yet this week. It is only Monday but don't let that keep you from clicking the shiny, candy-like play button. These spoofs neatly encapsulate all of the frustration of being seen with a Macintosh when many of its most ardent supporters are, well, kind of stupid. Luckily, I'm pretty mean so I manage to ward off most of it. It still bothers me the impression clings or that people assume I might be interested in the newest bits of iPod trivia. Not really and no thanks.


Out Of Print And Readily Available

Hey. So even though it is likely that Explosions in the Sky won't be playing your town any time soon (unless your town is either located in TX or Yurp) you can make yourself feel better about the shitty town you live in by downloading their The Rescue EP which is handy to have since the subscription-only release is long gone and despite the fact that they've said they will sell them at shows they're never coming to my shitty town. If you're a fan this might strike you as a little off the beaten path for them but I guess that's kind of the idea. You won't be startled by any means but the slight changes make for music that I can't immediately internalize. That seems like a good direction to head in.


Pre-Weekend Doldrums

Some things that didn't fit into anything longer:

Google making terrible choices when it comes to word choices for verifications. I laughed but many more will spend hours trying to unsee those words and atoning and all that shit.

Apparently TX law enforcement is trying to make people incredibly uncomfortable by scouting out public drunkenness in bars where people are both surprised and appalled by drunken behavior. We can't seem to fit any more fish into this barrel...

This otherwise well considered piece about desktop eyecandy, Windows Vista, and what it all means to the end user is hilariously sidetracked when people in the comments assert, without a trace of irony mind you, that eye candy is equitable to usability. Several people even say that they cannot be productive if their desktop isn't attractive. Insane.

I'm completely ignoring all of the incredulous news stories about the Windows Vista delay. Duh. Has a Windows release ever been on time? Have any of the features that would almost make life bearable ever actually made it into a product? Yup. You get new interface elements that your machine probably won't be able to handle. Luckily, I don't have to use that crap. I just have to fix it when it breaks which is like every fucking day of my life. As I am currently applying for jobs in the same painful area I don't see this ceasing in the near future.


Runs Best On Obsolete OS

I also noticed today after a rare visit to the always interesting Daring Fireball that there is actually a new version of Fontographer. Nothing could have eased the production of so many kerning ignorant grunge fonts as our old pal Fontographer. The announcement is here but the funniest part about the whole thing comes in the system requirements section of the announcement: if you're running this software on Windows you might have trouble with anything post-98/NT (including 2000, Me, and XP) which is pretty damned funny. I really wonder if this is one of those crappy conflicts between the registry and ini files that the installer uses. Either way it certainly makes the requirements list a whole funnier than it could be.


The Time Machine Of Boredom And Fear

If I haven't made this adundantly clearly in the past, despite my obsessive fixation on techofetishism and flagrant disregard for formatting, punctuation, and grammatical standards, I'm an English major. The internet, as the WWW is commonly referred to by Humanities types, and its direction of text away from the dead tree only distribution channel always elicits a mixed bag of reactions from fellow students and professors. I've recently heard one professor bemoaning the decline of academic publishing due to that pesky intarweb making texts accessible, capable of rapid revision and editing after review by peers and otherwise, and a whole slew of other generalizations about the influence of hypertext on the distribution of the written word. I guess that's where things intersect for me: the preoccupation with channels of distribution, specifically of information packaged as a marketable commodity, and how that might affect the livelihood or prestige of having that information (or equally often, research) transformed into commodity is often shared between the technologist and the literati. In other, probably more clear, words, it's another case of open/free and closed/proprietary information and by nature is as vehemently arguable as any topic on the planet. Depending on the day or the level of CRT burnout my eyes are currently experiencing, I might fall on either side of the argument but I love it when I find folks in the Humanities actively dealing with these issues in a constructive way.

Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities is a fabulous example of how this can play out. There are a collection of writings about teaching, researching, and studying Dickenson and Whitman using the Classroom Electric (forgive the term since it seems like this project, at least the MITHologies section, is frozen at 2001) called MITHologies that is really worth perusing despite their relative old age and limited scope of subject matter. The opinions in the essays are largely more mature in their lack of hysteria and a couple of them are conceptually kickass. I especially liked Jay Grossman's article about teaching Whitman's Civil War by the wide use of otherwise difficult to obtain or sanely navigate resources (the Library of Congress site is the example he uses) compiled into something useful and more linear for the sake of student sanity. He also mentions that many more forks of potential interest can be explored by allowing students to voluntarily explore divergences without simply relying on search terms shots in the dark or bibliographic information slapped into one of those damned 'Further Reading' lists.

Yeah, this is totally 1996 of me but my interest in the gee whiz technologies is in perpetual recession and I'm more actively interested (at least in the sense of things that I'd actually like to invest horrible hand dirtying labor into) in how to use all the crap that we already have. That's why I'm making this a 'Don't Forget' post -- because I'm going to try to find more actual instances of this sort of compromise between academia and the howling void that sometimes is the internet. So indulge my 1996-ness and help me out if you know of any projects (other than the blatantly obvious ones that everyone knows about) that fit this description or any that seem to argue either of the extremes.