Friday, January 21, 2005
Whoa! Big news - Michael
Powell resigns from FCC. I don't know if that makes Janet Jackson
or Howard Stern breathe
Without Powell, “there just won't be as much acrimony, and
there won't be as much contention.”
- Jessica Zufolo, telecommunications-policy
analyst, Medley Global Advisors in Washington
A week ago, I constructed a 98-or-so-page booklet in InDesign for a client. The
task was mainly one of copy fitting an MS Word document formatted for legal
size paper into a booklet with half-letter (8.5 x 5.5) pages. The Word document
was heavily formatted, and had a lot of inconsistencies in its style sheet,
plus a lot of styling had been applied directly to the text. But the biggest
challenge came in dealing with a large table that was appended at the end of
the document. The table had been formatted at 14" wide, and rotated. It did
not import well into InDesign at all.
The first task was dealing with the style sheets in Word. I simplified them
as much as I could, set the font, size, and leading appropriate for the smaller
format, and confirmed that all styles were based on the “Normal” style. Next,
I converted a
put the final, giant table off to the side, then placed the rest inside my
InDesign's formatting palette gives an indication when the style applied to
a paragraph has been overlaid with direct formatting — something I was not
able to see in word.
to go back to all of the sections in the document where direct formatting was
applied, and revert the section to its underlying format. A few additional
tweaks to the style definitions, and I had consistent looking text with the
styling for sections and headings intact. Believe me, it was better than importing
plain text and starting over with styling.
The imported tables based on tabs just needed their tab rulers adjusted. Several
tables had the same basic arrangement. I was able to create styles from the
tab stops, and apply the style as a shortcut to establishing the basic shape
of subsequent tables. From there, the tab stops could be adjusted separately
from the style definition, as each table needed small tweaks to some of the
The only major hurdle left was the monster table. Trying to resize
it in Word, much less in InDesign, was a losing proposition. There appeared
way to scale the table, and many of the tricks I tried, caused the columns
to drift, or the text to wrap in unsightly ways. I decided that working with
as text was a big problem, but maybe I could find a way to manipulate it as
I tried several approaches before I finally hit on one that worked: I was
able to “print” the chart as a PDF from Word, then open it and rasterize it
in Photoshop (200 dpi was a workable resolution). Within Photoshop, I was able
to break the table apart into workable chunks that would fit in spreads across
6 pages at the end of the document. Rather than rotate the table, which would
have required more severe reduction, I kept the text oriented horizontally
across the spreads. I replicated the headers across the tops of each page for
convenience. After all of the pages were properly composed and aligned, I trimmed
the edges, and saved them as .psd files. From there, I could place the Photoshop
files directly within InDesign.
Final tweaks and adjustments in place, I exported
the entire document as a PDF for delivery to the printers.
The Workaholic Circuit
studies, scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
have developed a technique that allows them to temporarily turn off receptors
in the brain which control the apes' ability to determine whether it is worthwhile
to continue working at a task. In effect, they found a way to flip a switch
that deactivates a circuit inside the brain, and turns the apes into workaholics.
Like many of us, monkeys normally slack off initially in working toward
a distant goal. They work more efficiently — make fewer errors — as
they get closer to being rewarded. But without the dopamine receptor, they
stayed on-task and made few errors, because they could no longer learn to
use visual cues to predict how their work was going to get them a reward....
The monkeys became extreme workaholics, as evidenced by a sustained low
rate of errors in performing the experimental task, irrespective of how distant
the reward might be. This was conspicuously out-of-character
for these animals. Like people, they tend to procrastinate when they know they
will have to do more work before getting a reward....
...In this case, it's worth noting that the ability to associate work with
reward is disturbed in mental disorders, including schizophrenia, mood disorders
obsessive-compulsive disorder, so our finding of the pivotal role played by
this gene and circuit may be of clinical interest.”
Barry Richmond, M.D., NIMH Laboratory of Neuropsychology
“Clinical interest” means the possibility of human
trials. Presently, the technology requires an injection directly into the rhinal
cortex of the brain; not exactly what I'd call stealthy or non-invasive. But
can work the kinks out... that might mean some kind of pill — Hello Zoloft!
Burroughs-Wellcome, are you listening? —
down the road. They could call the new drug Workahol, if that's not too pedestrian. Otherwise, I'm sure the folks at Namelab will be more than happy to charge a pretty penny to come up with a more sophisticated moniker. The prospect of being able to manage OCD and other mental disorders
would be a positive outcome. What if Coca-Cola could mix it with their venerable Classic formula, amp-up the caffeine and sell it as a “motivation booster”? I imagine that might
be a big hit with college students around exam time. Coke could call their product “Cram” ... But
there could also a
think... what if states could compel mothers in their workfare programs to
take Workahol? What
could get it blended into the coffee or slip it into the desserts in the cafeteria?
Or, maybe it becomes a secret ingredient in Big Macs...
I know — conspiracy theory stuff again. I'm not entirely serious; there's
a bit of a smirk on my face as I write this. But it wasn't I who said “The
nobody expected that
all-but-confirmed next Attorney General would be the same guy who wrote a legal
brief exploring ways to justify torture
in the prosecution of the war on terror. Then, there's the small matter of
the drug companies' extensive influence over the FDA, and the fact that productivity
boosts do enhance a company's competitive position...
So, don't be surprised
a few years from now, if you suddenly find one day that you can't tear yourself away
from even the most unsatisfying work! It's all for the best. After all, we're gonna need an army of workaholics
to make that whole mission to Mars thing work!
“There's a lower standard, frankly, for Attorney General than for judge,
because you give the president who he wants”
- Sen. Charles Schumer
“When you start looking at torture statutes and you look at ways around
the spirit of the law, you're losing the moral high ground... I
do believe that we've lost our way.”
- Sen. Lindsey Graham
If you've got the stomach for it, the New York Times has published the entire
of the Gonzales confirmation hearings. 78 pages you can read for yourself.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
“WASHINGTON - George W. Bush swore the presidential
oath for a second term in turbulent times Thursday and issued a sweeping pledge
the darkest corners of the world.’”
1) Aren't “liberty”
the same thing? Does he have to be tautological about it? Or, by Liberty, does
he mean one of 17 towns, including one in Texas?*
2) I thought we realized that Earth wasn't flat several centuries ago; or are
we going backward? In this article, it seems the world is being spoken of as a box we're living inside
— at least some of us live inside it; then there is the select few who are on top, doing their best
to keep from being knocked off.
Subject: Anti Inauguration Not One Damn Dime Day
Date: January 19, 2005 7:30:33 PM EST
Hi there. I wanted to pass on to you this message about how you might want to
respond to Bush's Inauguration tomorrow.
It was big business that helped get W elected & an inequitable economic
system that offered us the choice between him & Kerry to begin with —
so why not send the US economy a thank you note. It won't cost you a dime.
A one day boycott won't have the same impact as, say, the US-led embargo
on Iraq that killed as many as one million people before Bush's war even
began. But it
might lighten the wallets of the people for whom the US economy has been
booming in recent years — booming not despite but because unemployment remains
high & the
most that most americans can hope for is to rent themselves out from 9 to
5 for lower wages than they would have gotten for the very same job last
going to bring my lunch to work & cook dinner when I get home. I'm even
going to forgo the bottle of tequila I was counting on to get me through
$40 million swearing in.
So: we can sit around all bummed out or we can try to get the bums out.
After all, four years will go a lot quicker if we stay playful & compassionate,
Thanks for not moving to Canada just yet. It's nice having you around.
- Immunity from arbitrary exercise of authority
- The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of
one's own choosing
Liberty, IL (village, FIPS 43133)
Location: 39.88076 N, 91.10802 W
Population (1990): 541 (216 housing units)
Area: 0.8 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 62347
Liberty, IN (town, FIPS 43434)
Location: 39.63447 N, 84.92697 W
Population (1990): 2051 (888 housing units)
Area: 2.1 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 47353
Liberty, KS (city, FIPS 40250)
Location: 37.15614 N, 95.59775 W
Population (1990): 140 (63 housing units)
Area: 0.7 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 67351
Liberty, KY (city, FIPS 46072)
Location: 37.31785 N, 84.93060 W
Population (1990): 1937 (905 housing units)
Area: 4.4 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 42539
Zip code(s): 04949
Liberty, MO (city, FIPS 42032)
Location: 39.24205 N, 94.41911 W
Population (1990): 20459 (7645 housing units)
Area: 69.7 sq km (land), 0.1 sq km (water)
Liberty, MS (town, FIPS 40640)
Location: 31.16015 N, 90.80121 W
Population (1990): 624 (300 housing units)
Area: 5.3 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 39645
Liberty, NC (town, FIPS 38100)
Location: 35.85416 N, 79.57136 W
Population (1990): 2047 (929 housing units)
Area: 6.5 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 27298
Liberty, NE (village, FIPS 26980)
Location: 40.08503 N, 96.48304 W
Population (1990): 74 (44 housing units)
Area: 0.6 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 68381
Liberty, NY (village, FIPS 42224)
Location: 41.79746 N, 74.74636 W
Population (1990): 4128 (1827 housing units)
Area: 6.0 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 12754
Liberty, OK (town, FIPS 42860)
Location: 35.85872 N, 95.97720 W
Population (1990): 155 (67 housing units)
Area: 15.8 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Liberty, PA (borough, FIPS 43064)
Location: 40.32380 N, 79.85798 W
Population (1990): 2744 (1144 housing units)
Area: 3.7 sq km (land), 0.2 sq km (water)
Liberty, PA (borough, FIPS 43128)
Location: 41.55987 N, 77.10511 W
Population (1990): 199 (86 housing units)
Area: 1.3 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 16930
Liberty, SC (town, FIPS 41380)
Location: 34.79247 N, 82.69536 W
Population (1990): 3228 (1357 housing units)
Area: 10.6 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 29657
Liberty, TN (town, FIPS 42040)
Location: 36.00398 N, 85.97782 W
Population (1990): 391 (160 housing units)
Area: 2.7 sq km (land), 0.0 sq km (water)
Liberty, TX (city, FIPS 42568)
Location: 30.04602 N, 94.79769 W
Population (1990): 7733 (3125 housing units)
Area: 92.0 sq km (land), 0.9 sq km (water)
Zip code(s): 25124
Million Dollar Baby
is an extraordinary film. We saw it last night, and it's been bubbling in my
head ever since. The film is rich with threads that make connections between
disparate scenes, without the heavy handedness typical of the foreshadowing
in many popular
Well, it was playing in an “art house,” so maybe I shouldn't compare it to
popular movies. Clint Eastwood's skill and finesse as a director and an actor
are abundantly apparent.
The movie is about a lot more than boxing. It's about relationships and the
bond of kinship. It's about faith, redemption, acceptance, and forgiveness. It's about leaving a mark.
It's about being your own person, and it's interesting how that theme connects
back to the Jack Johnson story. It's about our notions of gender. It's about
class struggle. It's about doing the right thing. Ultimately, it's about the consequences
of our choices and the struggle to make things right.
The movie isn't light, but it's not heavy, either. The pacing is good, and
the plot has a few important surprises. The performances are solid. See it.
Even if you don't consider yourself an Eastwood fan, you may be pleasantly
Now that Hilary Swank has won a Golden Globe, I wouldn't be surprised if she
takes home another Oscar. She's that good in this movie.
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
is a really good, engaging, and revealing film.
It's not just about Jack Johnson, but about America in the early 1900s. See
chance. The PBS site has additional
materials and screening schedules, or you can buy
Killz Germz on Kontact
A Lysol ad, probably aimed at compulsive types, shows two boys playing with
a toy train. Mom is in the background, and becomes alarmed as one boy sneezes.
She runs to the cupboard for a can of Lysol. Close shot of the caboose
looking gobs. Cut to Mom's finger on the spray nozzle, a stream
of spray washing across the caboose, as the globules slowly disappear. [Immediately
I think of those folks who wash their hands 100 x per day.] The narrator's
voice (feminine and motherly) chimes in: Lysol spray kills nn% of germs
— even the germs that cause the flu.
Sounds nice, except influenza is caused by a VIRUS.
techniques I've gleaned from Meyer and Zeldman, I've been building the prototype
design you see at right. If you've ever done HTML layouts before, you know
that without CSS, you're going to need a bunch of tables and rows (some of them nested), maybe
a pile of spacer GIFs, and a mess of fiddling. The result can look pretty
good, and watching all the pieces fill in as the page downloads can be kind
of fun - for a minute.
Well, creating the CSS to do this for 6 different layout variations took a
bit of doing, but now it's pretty simple to do variations on the theme, and
it's a lot easier to make minor positional tweaks. As I said, the
HTML is a
lot leaner. I was able to put most of the CSS in an external
file (only the page-specific styles are inside the page), and I use server-side
includes to keep the thumbnails and menus modular. I didn't get rid of every
of my positioning
didn't seem to be working in an all-CSS design, so I added a few tables to
simplify the setup and get the look I wanted.
Couple of weird things: CSS has a vertical-align attribute. You'd think there'd
be an equivalent attribute called horizontal-align. There isn't. It's called
text-align, and it doesn't just align text. I thought I'd do the menu states
with CSS — I've seen examples where it's used to create rollovers with graphics
instead of just text. So far, no luck. Seems IE and Safari disagree greatly
on how to apply graphics to the background of a link.
Even with the hiccups and frustrations, I'm hooked.
I've just started reading Bringhurst's “The Elements of Typographic
The writing is fun. In a section discussing line length, he talks about the
risk of “pig bristles” (excessive hyphenation) or “white acne” (erratic and
splotchy word spaces) when lines of text are set justified and made too short
(typically less than 40 characters). He recommends using right-ragged alignment
when columns have to be more narrow: “Setting ragged right under these conditions
its stiffness, as well as preventing an outbreak of hyphenation.”
An ancient metaphor: thought is a thread, and the raconteur is a spinner of
yarns — but the true storyteller, the poet, is a weaver. The scribes made this
old and audible abstraction into a new and visible fact. After long practice,
their work took on such an even, flexible texture that they called the written
page a textus, which means cloth.
Earlier in the book, Bringhurst points out that typesetting was one of the
last crafts to be mechanized, and one of the first to be computerized.
I passed by the site of the Russian Tea Room last week, and saw a sign hanging
in the door:
THE RUSSIAN TEA ROOM IS CLOSED. PLEASE CONSIDER VISITING ANOTHER NEW YORK
I don't know how long it's been closed, but it been closed and reopened once
before. I guess the second coming didn't last either. Interesting that even
it their demise, they thought to label themselves a landmark.
[Jean] Baudrillard interprets many representations as a means of concealing
the absence of reality; he calls such representations ‘simulacra’ (or
copies without originals). He sees a degenerative evolution in modes of representation
in which signs are increasingly empty of meaning... As advertising, propaganda
and commodification set in, the sign began to hide ‘basic reality’.
In the postmodern age of ‘hyper-reality’ in which what are only
illusions in the media of communication seem very real, signs hide the absence
of reality and only
pretend to mean something. For Baudrillard, simulacra — the
signs that characterize late capitalism — come in three forms: counterfeit (imitation)
— when there was still a direct link between signifiers and their signifieds; production (illusion)
— when there was an indirect link between signifier and signified;
and simulation (fake)
— when signifiers come to stand in relation only to other signifiers
and not in relation to any fixed external reality....
Such perspectives, of course, beg the fundamental question, What is “real”?...However,
even philosophical realists would accept that much of our knowledge of the
world is indirect; we experience many things primarily (or even solely) as
they are represented to us within our media and communication technologies.
representations [signifiers] cannot be identical copies of what they represent
[signifieds] they can never be neutral and transparent but are instead constitutive
of reality... Semiotics helps us to ... take them apart and consider whose
realities they represent.
- From Semiotics: The Basics, by Daniel Chandler,
Few of us have direct knowledge of either the tsunami or the wars in the Middle
East, much less the strife in other parts of the world. Submitted for your
consideration as possible simulacra:
- War on Terror
- Level playing field
- The American Dream
Funny to read this stuff on the heels of the Armstrong Williams “fake news”
scandal, and especially after having seen “Outfoxed.”
Dubya Who Cried “Bankrupt”
OK, I know the intelligence was a little off and there were no WMDs, but it's
got to be different this time with the whole “Social Security is on the road
to bankruptcy” thing, right? After all this is a man who has direct experience
What?! Don't Worry — It's Not Like We're Destroying Biblical Artifacts...
“ This is tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great
Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain.”
– John Curtis, keeper of the British Museum's Near East department
“...just dreadful. Not only is what the American forces are doing damaging
the archaeology of Iraq, it's actually damaging the cultural heritage of the
- Lord Redesdale, an archaeologist who heads a parliamentary archaeology committee
A while ago, Denise and I saw a documentary about Iraq, some of which was
shot just before the assault on Baghdad began. Hussein was building an airfield
very near the site of one of the ancient ziggurats, a very important archeological
treasure. We figured there had to be significant damage to the site during
the war. We've heard nothing about damaged or lost antiquities in Iraq since
the early stories of the looting of the Baghdad museum. That is, until now:
U.S.-led troops using the ancient Iraqi city of Babylon as a base have damaged
and contaminated artifacts dating back thousands of years in one of the world's
most important archaeological sites, the British Museum said Saturday....
of sand mixed with archaeological fragments have been taken from the site
to fill military sandbags....
A.P. report 1/15/2005 read