2003.08.28a – WGBH releases 12,000-word guidelines on making DVD and set-top-box menus accessible. I need 7,700 words to correct it (with extensive quotations from the original).
2003.08.29 – Update: A 19-year-old puts Nottke in his place. Lovingly.
2003.08.28b – King of the oldschool A-list explains how the sky is blue and not, as people had apparently deluded themselves, green. Jason, we know that semantically-correct markup can be valid code, and the converse is also true, but neither description requires or implies the other.
I’d be willing to overlook his stating the obvious – when Jason states the obvious, so many of those oblivious to the obvious promiscuously link to it – if
kottke.org had anything resembling valid or semantic code. Here’s a doozy:
<!-- yes, i’m still using transparent gif spacers. why? because it’s quick and easy and fun! -->
<!-- this layout is getting old. so, so old. -->
<!-- begin content table -->
<table cellpadding=0 cellspacing=0 border=0 width=100%>
A lot of my old pages are much worse than that. Yesterday I updated a page from HTML 2.0! But I hope I have ridden every page relating to Web development or standards compliance of validation errors. I’ve been using semantic markup for a good two years, and told everyone to do the same in my book.
One could, however, nitpick over Jason’s extended malapropism of “
<table> tag” and the like, but my opponents will already have been persuaded that any criticism of the Jason–Meg Experience represents blog-deconstructing sour grapes, so why worsen things?
Meanwhile, his spousal equivalent’s site is one tiny error away from validating. I know who wears the pants there. ¶
2003.08.25a – Let’s run the Homosexualist Agenda through the gayest “men’s” magazine there is, Details. (“Now leave me alone, I’m in the middle of a waxing”; “What is Maer getting his panties in a twist about?”; “It’s for guys who like staring at pictures of naked men but haven’t quite figured out why.”)
September 2003 issue:
Details (“for men”) blew the very-most-obvious homosexualist tie-in: Cover mannequin A_shton Kuch_er is the reigning public obsession of snaggletoothed “advice” columnist Dan Savage (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, inter alia). Brad Pitt, come on down!
Must be open to the waist to be enumerated.
Hed (Tom Samiljan, “Does Bisexuality Really Exist?”) telegraphs intent to reinvent long-since-passé inquiry into bisexualism:
“Nocturnal Admissions” by Augusten (“I ♥ Trannies”) Burroughs, with note-perfect photo illustration of melting Creamsicle® by Bela Borsodi (“Is Dead”), on wet dreams:
“The End of Men?” by Jerry Stahl (still undead), on declining sperm counts, estrogenic poisoning, and Y-chromosome defects:
“Is There Such a Thing as Too Gay?” by Tony Hendra (still undead) states that Steven Cojocaru, whom I’d thankfully never heard of, embodies every “stereotype of ‘pansy,’ ‘fairy,’ ‘sissy,’ and all those other hilarious epithets we throw around in private.” (Careful with that “we.”) “He’s just what red-meat Republicans expect a gay man to be: Flirty, lisping, campy, dolled up in ridiculous clothes... [i]n a word, abnormal. His antics make conservatives totally comfortable in their ingrained biases: See, we were right all along.”
I would vouchsafe that this character is just that, a character. We reinvent ourselves for show business. But not by very much. Behind every pansy, fairy, or sissy is a pansy, fairy, or sissy. Some of us just are like that. It is normal for us.
Piece by cute but nerdy but also now influential and well-off Clive Thompson (“Why We Spend What Daddy Didn’t”) on the current generation of conspicuous consumers – demonstrably differentiable from previous generations of conspicuous consumers.
Speak for yourselves, Details. ¶
2003.08.25b – I’m liking the oldschool trend of publishing screenshots of compliant sites in PDAs and hideously outdated browsers. For example, Webstandards.org in Palm, PocketPC, Newton.
So I had Grant and his posse shoot this Weblog in a Newton. (The Newton my esteemed colleague gave me later died. I loved it, though. You can have it if you want it. And you realize Grant runs a Newton Web server?) Got a problem with them character entities.
Running 2003-era XML Web sites on 1992-era handheld computers is, I suppose, akin to watching 2003-era movies on 1997-era Betamaxen.
Now, what kind of a person would do a thing like that? ¶
2003.08.20 – After hours and hours of work, I have now retyped the very first article I got paid for, “Typography and TV Captioning,” Print, January/February 1989.
And I retypeset the copy in InDesign and added it to the scan of the original article’s pages I’ve been sitting on forever. The result is one of the few tagged accessible PDFs in existence.
And I gave my articles for Print their own page. You’ll find everything there.
We thus have the complete Caption Typography Ring Cycle available online. I’ll have more to say about this as I get closer to my ATypI presentation on the typography of online captioning.
2003.08.18 – The iBot got approved by the FDA. I’m as interested in tooling around town in one of these as in a Segway. The iBot is less likely to get stolen by some hoodlum outside the Suction Cup, for example. The demo videos of a volunteer tossing a ball back and forth with the machine hiked up on two wheels are literally incredible.
I think an acid test would involve riding the subway in one of these things – transverse to the direction of motion, parallel to it, or at an angle, on four wheels or two. Think of the acceleration–deceleration profiles and all-axis motion.
Both machines are all about balance. Perfect for the crips, right? Balance is a big problem. (So is standing tolerance for the elderly, but you can’t win ’em all.) In theory, you the person with CP or the amputee (leg amputee, at least) could tool around joyfully on a Segway. Tremors? What tremors? This thing recalculates its position, and yours, a thousand times a second.
I had previously rung up the Segway publicist and asked if the Segway had actually been tested with people with disabilities. My notes say:
Carla Vallone – No, no testing has been done because it’s not a medical device. I asked for someone to call me eventually to discuss how much this has been talked about so far and what the plans are in the future. Purely usability or human-factors testing . (2003.02.05 16:47)
Someone with a milder mobility impairment than Christopher Reeve’s is expected to sit down and pay 29 grand rather than stand up and pay five? ¶
I would also note that “iBot” is a shabby, patently juvenile, cutesy, and ill-suited name for a vehicle half the size of a new Toyota Echo. If I plug it into my PowerBook, will it sync right up with iTunes? ¶
2003.07.16a – The slogan for summer ’03!
2003.08.16b – Synthesized voice is complete shite and has been for the 20 years I’ve been listening to it. And I’m not even blind! I’m not stuck there all day listening to the damned thing yammer. The sole advantage of auditory delivery is speed: A trained listener can run the thing at 300 or more words a minute (wam – an actual acronym used in stenotypy [an actual word]).
This is not theory on my part. Every blind person I’ve asked has confirmed the fatigue. They’d prefer to call you, frankly.
Even Mac OS X speech isn’t so hot, you know.
There are, however, two experimental systems that could be used in actual products:
The trick is to find difficult sample text to articulate. Physics papers are too obvious. I think these two extracts work well:
The hot new rim technology is to have rims that also have rims. There are rims on the inside, and rims on the outside, and the ones on the inside spin when the wheels spin and the rims on the outside sort of spin occasionally. You’re going to love this exciting new mode of personal expression as it winds its way through society until your grade-school principal is all meta-rimmed out on his ’92 Saab.
Bubbleland’s identity system features richly-coloured signage in sculpted Plexiglas, a feisty mascot, and a custom typeface created specifically for dimensional usage.
You said a mouthful! ¶
2003.08.15 00:02 – It’s the blackout. I dialed into CompuServe in New York.
This is it. Not enough juice to log again, probably. And yes, I manually created this posting, with every accoutrement. I kept my head when all about me were losing theirs. Tomorrow, I rediscover literature. ¶
Addendum (16th): I forgot to mention that on the second of my walkabouts, having learned that other pedestrians are dumb as a sack of hammers and will threaten to walk right into you until you beam your flashing LED in their eyes, I zip-tied a second bike light (blinking red LED) to my cargo-pantalon pocket and managed to avoid collisions. Still, I liked the candy ravers’ glowsticks better, even though unclutched by a severed hand. ¶
2003.08.13 – I don’t do golf and I certainly don’t do tall, narrow-waisted golfers, but I still enjoyed the squibette in the June ’03 GQ on Charles (Not Thurston) Howell III and his endorsement deal with J. Lindeberg, the hardest Swedish name in the world for me to remember. (J. Lundberg? What?)
Adam “I Am in Fact” Rapoport:
- How is it that a kid from Augusta, Georgia, with a Roman numeral after his name, has the fashion sense you have?
- By accident.... Walking down the second fairway, asked me if I’d be interested in
accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal saviourwearing J. Lindeberg, his designer. I said, “No way at all.” But by the eighteenth fairway, I was writing down phone numbers to call Johan Lindeberg.
- What changed your mind?
- You know, we talked a while about my age , whether I just wanted to be a golfer or a golfer and more.... By wearing the clothing I do, a lot of people know me: “Oh, Charles Howell, he wears those goofy clothes.” [...]
- You wore those white pants with green piping at the 2002 Masters. What kind of reaction did you get at Augusta?
- I think they were shocked.... I was shocked myself that I actually wore them....
Hit the Hindenburg site and eventually you find this oddball type treatment – dark grey blackletter on charcoal black, seemingly stretched convexly around a large-radius sphere.
I suppose it’s intended to invoke Black Sabbath or other heavy-metal uses of “Gothic” type, but if you give me blackletter and put it on a fashionable young man, I wonder what the next step is gonna be.
“Tiger looked at me one day and just said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ ” You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. ¶
2003.08.10 – You know how people say the exact opposite of what they actually know to be true? Not through old-fashioned lying, but because it seems uncomfortable to say anything else? Or it is so shockingly and purely true you can’t face it? For example, Roger Ebert’s declaration that you could always figure out where you were in the battle scenes of Black Hawk Down, or Christopher Hume’s claiming the overpoliced denuded patch of concrete known as Dundas Square is a thriving city landmark.
Here is what I wrote on the bedroom computer (a PowerBook 100 I got for $60 from an Irishman heading back home) many weeks ago:
The microholiday (isn’t that a Couplandism?) is a cornerstone of the creative person’s coping strategy. It’s multitasking in drag: You’re hard at work all day, whether in an office or not, but you take time out for tiny interruptions – instant messaging, surfing, possibly snatchmail checking.
I used to be able to sit and write for extended periods. This was circa 1993, when snatchmail meant a phone call with a modem.... The microholidays at the time were limited by technology. Since they lasted minutes and were preceded by other minutes of setup time, they were miniholidays, really.
Today, you can be interrupted any number of ways. These microholidays – sometimes opted into, sometimes foisted on you – are the way the Internet works. It’s dysfunctional in some ways and a simple reflection of reality in others. [...]
I think I get less work done now than circa 1993. But I need to get less done because I’m earning more, and in fact I am working much longer hours. It really is true that I never actually book off. I have answered accessibility-related snatchmail at 1:00 in the morning, and I review standards documents when I go out for espresso. A common delaying tactic that keeps me from the gym is my to-do list.
So “getting less work done” may be a misnomer here. What I get less of is uninterrupted hours of writing. But what I write now does not require uninterrupted hours. Back in the day, I would experience the typical writer scenario of starting to write an article and awakening some time later with the thing done. I could remember much of what I had to do to write the piece (particularly copying and pasting from notes – all my reporting has been computer-assisted), but I could not remember acts of volition during that period. Something else took over, which I adjudge to be the SOURCE. (There is but one source of creativity.)
In no way was this fugue state a sure thing, but it happened so often – in fact, much of the time, and nearly all the time when writing self-directed columns for newspapers – that I still respect the phenomenon. I can’t explain it, but it happens and it’s powerful.
Richard Florida, in The Rise of the Creative Class, keeps annoying me by mentioning that creative people will “recharge” themselves during the day by, say, going for a lunchtime bike ride. Even that seems like warmed-over linear-schedule thinking to me. Anything you have to book into your calendar, or exempt from your timesheet, is old thinking.
In fact, we recharge ourseves by time-slicing our tasks through microholidays: Four minites of writing, 15 seconds to check snatchmail (x in Pine, then arrow keys to clear status line), ten seconds to check who just logged onto messaging, ten more minutes of writing, five minutes of Weblog-checking, trip to the can, then another mixture of all the same inputs.
We get our work done, our kind. If we have to, we can “buckle down.” We can singletask. It just isn’t a problem that we multitask. While writing the book, I was able to singletask by tuning into a drum & bass streaming radio station. Little did I know that iTunes can stream it perfectly, with no dropouts; I had put up with RealPlayer. The formless, hookless music induced a diluted form of the 1993-era fugue state. (Read about it in the book’s colophon.)
I trust that seasoned readers will not be snowed by the claims above that none of this is a problem. Of course it is. Now you can see why I sat on the piece excerpted above for so long. Apart from its untruthfulness, the Woman’s Intuition told me not to publish.
We are moving into a post-literate society, where pattern-recognition will replace the linear thinking of the current period. This doesn’t require a rejection of reading as a mode of understanding – pre-literate Greece, after all, gave us the basis for our current mode of thought.
At high dosages, “always on” may become counterproductive, but at least it’s easy to correct. The Web and E-mail combine to create the biggest distraction machine ever invented....
I may tell myself that I’m checking my E-mail while an idea “percolates,” but what I’m really doing, 100% of the time, is just putting off the hard work of focusing on a problem. When I really need to work, I unplug myself from the network, but that doesn’t address the underlying problem: Continuous partial attention.
...I have noticed my attention span diminishing, or rather becoming quite unreliable, and it is a problem. Sometimes I can work on a project for hours, but other times I sit down to read and, after a few paragraphs, find myself getting up to do something else before continuing to another page. I’m continually starting something and then wandering off to do something else without realizing it. I often come back into a room to discover a half-completed task. This isn’t productive multi-tasking, it’s the equivalent of walking around in a daze, and it’s no good.
I blame the Internet – with a million things just a screen away, I’ve trained my monkey brain always to be thinking of two things at once. That’s useful in certain situations, but it’s not ideal most of the time. It’s not a matter of preferring one “mode” to another. I would rather add a tool to my bag of tricks than replace a very useful one for one that is useful in a different way.
I’m not kidding myself anymore. I have a problem. What I don’t have is a solution.
It only really matters in the context of large projects, such as:
And those are only the projects I’m willing to mention in an infinitely-replicatable and well-archived public medium.
I see what Rands of JerkCity fame is talking about here when he makes light of the issue, and indeed tries to show it in a favourable light:
Stop reading right now and take a look at your desktop. How many things are you doing right now in addition to reading this column? Me, I’ve got a terminal session open to a chatroom, I’m listening to music, I’ve got Safari open with three tabs open where I’m watching Blogshares, tinkering with a Web site, and looking at weekend movie returns.... I’m writing this column as well.
Folks, this isn’t multitasking. This is advanced case of Nerd Attention Deficiency Disorder. I am unable to function at my desktop unless I’ve got, at least, five things going on at the same time. If your count came close, you’re probably afflicted as well. Most excellent.
My mother first diagnosed me with NADD. It was the late ’80s and she was bringing me dinner in my bedroom (nerd). I was merrily typing away to friends in some primitive chatroom on my IBM XT (supernerd)... and watching Back to the Future with the sound off
(nerd). She commented, “How can you focus on anything with all this stuff going on?” I responded, “Mom, I can’t focus without all this noise.”
I just recently wrote thousands of words defending my own workflow, which is a testimony to NADD. I even included screenshots of my work desktops. And then, a short time later, Jerkcity did the very same thing. In fact, Rands ran a competition for the most NADD-like desktop. Had I known about it, I would have cleaned up.
I thought – for a while – that the competition was cute. (Other people’s desktops do fascinate me.) But then I got real. We are merely attesting to our own deficiency. We are, moreover, using the cause and enabler of our deficiency to attest to it.
My issues here are:
I’ve gone through a number of crises and self-flagellating episodes in which I have promised myself to shape up. I haven’t yet.
I have a problem. ¶
Note: While writing this, Jerkcity.com went down, and I procrastinated finishing it over a period of two days, and even in the previous paragraph I started a SCIM session with one of my online pals. ¶
Note further: Jerkcity was an early interesting online comic series because it is created entirely in Comic Chat, for which Comic Sans was invented. If it comes back online later, I’ll link to some faves. I am, after all, primed and ready for gayness! ¶
2003.08.09 – Or rather, Paglia’s homosexualist domestic partner Allison Maddex has. Camille Paglia on C-SPAN, August 3:
PAGLIA: And may I take this opportunity –
– Just to say that: A scoop for C-Span. Our family expanded last year. Allison gave birth to a son, Lucien. I have kept this completely out of the media – very successfully. He’ll be a year old this fall. And, um... scoop for C-Span.
– What has that done to you?
– Well, it’s been great. It’s been incredible. It’s been quite – quite amazing.
– How do you intend on bringing him up?
– Well, as a free thinker. Allison is a free thinker, as I am.
Check the 37:50 mark in the uncaptioned RealPlayer Webcast. ¶
2003.08.08 – Walk your walk. Dogpoet, coming off all aggrieved while otherwise agreeing with my assessment (“Good writer not conventionally publishable”), writes:
And if I can be snarky for just one second, I believe that there is a saying that would apply well to this critique: “Consider the source.”
This source has been published almost 400 times in periodicals, wrote a published book, and has edited other people’s work. Worth considering.
Addendum: As I was mentioning to Dogpoet and one of his ardent defenders over a 37-minute SCIM converation, a model he could follow is Lynn Crosbie, writer of shockingly innovative creative nonfiction. Read Paul’s Case and Missing Children. Fictionalized nonfiction is viable and fascinating genre, dating all the way back to In Cold Blood. It’s a very gay genre, in fact. ¶
2003.08.05 – 6,912 words later, this month’s recapitulation of a dead magazine is more current than ever, what with a plethora of recently-published comparisons between Spy and Radar.
The July–August 1988 issue, moreover, contains the seminal analysis of Newport cigarette advertising, an article by the Little Bugger that could be reasonably applied to his own persona of the current era, and superb graphic design if one discounts the excess of teal–red combinations.
Next week: Letters to Ten Years Ago in Spy. Because I’m actually getting some.
But what I need more of are back issues. It turns out I’m missing entire years. I can’t handle this alone, people. ¶
2003.08.03c – On the residential sidestreet, a big dog sitting with his crotchety old master starts emitting warning barks. “OK, OK,” I say, backtracking around a car. We’ve also got a tiny black dog crossing the street followed by three cats.
I’m wary of that dog but I walk toward the cats. There are actually five, three of them obviously related because of their intricate and beautiful fawny coats. They seem to be sniffing each other’s rumps, rather like dogs. And following the dog. The dog is the star of the show. They adore the poochy.
All the creatures eventually make it across the street like a herd of camels. I pat a few of them. The dog comes over and obviously likes me. I pat him, after considerable wariness and having avoided him a bit. He walks away, taking three cats with him.
All the while I’m muttering about the menagerie we’ve got here and how I just can’t believe it. I assume the codger can hear me, as can the three guys down the road, two of them shirtless and all of them wearing working-class haircuts of the sort found among high-school dropouts (“Hey! I got my Grade 12!”) of any decade from the 1960s to present.
The herd of camels re-crosses the street. I push my luck and follow, and the dog starts yapping. Obviously its own turf. A fat battleaxe busts through a door and screeches “Get away from there! Paula! Get away from there or ’ll kill you!” (Who’s she talking to?) She then stage-whispered something that included the word “fuckin’ ” and closed the door.
What’s someone like that doing with a house?
Four doors down the street is an old white cat mottled with black patches. She wanders right over and I give her a nice pat. “Dingleballs! Git!” hollers one of the shirtless yahoos on the other sidewalk. “Get away there!”
But kitty is much too happy with me. I start walking away and there’s another cat behind me – a giant Persian I’d seen before. I tap the dense fur a few times.
“Blue! Blue!” the vulgarian starts yelling. I’m already walking off. “Blue! Blue!” he screeches.
The cat ignores him. Why not? She’s prettier. ¶
2003.08.02b – NoelDJ isn’t giving us all the details. I did, in fact, ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up, and tried to steer him from making the kind of mistake I did – ending up in some kind of technical program because nobody could think of anything better. (The comparison is not perfect: I was too immature to do anything else 20 years ago, but Noel isn’t.)
We then began a discussion of the concept of “already publishable.”
– But honestly, where do you go to get a degree in Web design... I know there isn’t such a thing, but where do they teach that?
– No. You don’t need a degree in it. You’re like David Leavitt. You are “already publishable.”
– What do you mean “publishable”? I may sound just dumb saying that, but explain.
– I was drawing a parallel with novelist David Leavitt, whom I’ve met. He’s nebbishy. Anyway, he, like, IIRC, Bret Easton Ellis, took a university writing course, and the prof told him to knock it off because he was already publishable. They later went on to publish first novels to great acclaim. I am using it metaphorically.
It’s actually a great strength of the Web: You can see for yourself, right then and there, that writers are “already publishable.” I’m not going to pretend that being published in print does not confer more prestige and imprimatur than (self-)publishing online, because it does. That’s one reason I still write for “the press.” There’s nothing wrong with online publishing and a great deal right with it. Publishing in print is, however, more important in definable ways, and more long-lasting. As I keep telling people, I wrote a book on Web development, and acted like it was an actual book that would be around for decades (complete with colophon and elaborate typography), because it probably will be around for decades.
When you’re “already publishable,” you don’t need formalized schooling in that field, whatever it may be.
The Web, it seems, enables our hidden talent-scout impulses. (And of course my own yenta impulses. In fact, I grow impatient that some of the names listed here have yet to put together book proposals.) ¶
NU-PDF: In other news, I’m thinking of trying a hybrid print–online republication of the NUblog. If authored correctly – in InDesign, as an ultimate tagged accessible PDF – one can achieve morally-correct print typography, status as a printed volume, and Web features like hyperlinks. In fact, the files being referred to could, in theory, be included, and that would be an interesting test case right there. It’s being idly considered. ¶
2003.08.02a – A woman answers.
– Emergency. Do you need police, fire, or ambulance?
– For what address or location?
– On Church St., on the west side, south of Wellesley. A man is walking down the street with a ten-foot-long python around his neck.
– With a what around his—
– A ten-foot-long python around his neck. A python is a large snake.
– I know that. I didn’t hear you before.
– He’s a white male, 5′8″, shaved head, wearing a black T-shirt, walking with another white male –
– Sir, I can only type so fast. Shaved head, black T-shi—
– I wasn’t trying to talk faster than you can type. A white male. With a shaved head. He’s about 5′8″, wearing a black T-shirt. Walking with another white male; I don’t have a description.
– OK. We’ll send someone to look at it.
– Thank you.
– Thank you. [immediate click] ¶
2003.08.01a – I scour the city for newsstands that carry Private Eye, the satirical, pulpy, but well-produced British fortnightly that includes reams of original journalism. I don’t pretend to understand the myriad political and other references, but I read it.
And most importantly, it’s the source of one of my fondest British affectations, shurely?!
Further, the term shurely (usually written with a trailing ?!) is not a misspelling. It’s an adaptation of the usage of Private Eye and Frank, the British and Canadian satirical newspapers. The original Private Eye–ism, attributed to the speech impediment of Lord Bill Deedes of the Daily Telegraph, is “shurely shome mishtake?!”
(I enjoy the occasional British affectation, but that hardly puts me in line to marry Guy Ritchie or anything.)
The magazine’s site is a bit of a joke. It’s virtually content-free, and won’t even work if you drop the www. hostname. It’s the sort of site that a cantankerous old fart who’s worked all his life in the shadow of Fleet St. would begrudgingly put together, with a strong undercurrent of distaste, antediluvianism, and an evident fear of cannibalization of print-magazine sales should the site deign to give anyone a real reason to read it.
Will that all be changing? Horus Web Engineering:
Lord Gnome’s mighty organ
We are delighted to say that we have been appointed to write a content-management system for that great British institution, Private Eye, together with a complete site redesign. The new site will be launched during summer 2003.
Horus supposedly does nothing but compliant sites, and Lord Gnome wouldn’t have ordered an entire CMS if there weren’t Content about to be Managed, so it looks like I will finally be able to justify bookmarking the Web site of a publication I read religiously. ¶
Logroll, or “low-threshold links.”
(View linklist separately)
fawny.blog is sibling to four other Joe Clark Weblogs (
AccessiBlog, Axxlog, Bookblog, NUblog
). ¶ Archives
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