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Friday, March 11, 2005
5:11 PM      


The End of Bringhurst
I've just about completed the straight text in Robert Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style. It's been a great trip. The first seven chapters discuss the shape, form, and nuance of text characters. Chapter 8 considers the shape of the page, and is rich with details that I am sure I'll be considering (and finding ways of applying) for some time to come.

Chapter 9 considers the state of the art. He points out, for example, that “Most of the Monotype digital revivals I have tested in recent years have serious flaws in the kerning tables. The problem occurs with Monotype Arrighi, Baskerville, Blado, Centaur, Dante, Fournier, Gill Sans, Poliphilus, Van Dijck, and other masterworks in the Monotype collection ... the maker's kerning tables call for a large space (as much as M/4) to be added whenever the f is followed by a word space. The result is a large white blotch after every word ending in f unless a mark of punctuation intervenes.”

Chapter 10, the final 70 pages before the appendices, takes the reader “Prowling the Specimen Books.”

While the book doesn't assign exercises, it is a very practical resource. My copy will be well-worn. In school, they taught us at least a little about grammar. Some of us learned it well. Typographic style is the visual grammar of the texts we read.



Can You SayOutsourcing?” (and More)
An LA Times article reported:

“The advantages of a college degree are being erased ... The same thing that happened to non- college-educated employees during the last recession is now happening to college-educated employees.”
- Marcus Courtenay, branch president, Communications Workers of America

Even with better-than-expected job growth, 373,000 people with college degrees quit job hunting and dropped out of the labor force last month, the Labor Department reported Friday.

... Nearly 1 in 5 of the long-term jobless are college graduates. If a degree holder loses a job, that worker is now more likely than a high school dropout to be chronically unemployed.

Since the 2001 recession, about one-fifth of the unemployed have been out of work for more than six months — and that proportion has steadily crept up even as the unemployment rate has fallen. The percentage of jobless who are chronically unemployed is even higher in California — 23.3% last month, versus 20.5% nationwide.

... Two economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York studied job losses during the last three recessions and concluded that the most recent one, in 2001, involved "structural" changes in industries rather than the usual ups and downs of the business cycle.

That means that certain jobs may never be replaced. ...

Just yesterday, Congress voted one for the credit card companies, passing an overhaul of the bankruptcy laws:

Between 30,000 and 210,000 people - from 3.5 percent to 20 percent of those who dissolve their debts in bankruptcy each year - would be disqualified from doing so under the legislation, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.

Under the new income test, those with insufficient assets or income could still file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which if approved by a judge, erases debts entirely after certain assets are forfeited. But those with income above the state's median income who can pay at least $6,000 over five years - $100 a month - would be forced into Chapter 13, where a judge would then order a repayment plan.

About 70 percent of the people who file for bankruptcy now do so under Chapter 7, while the other 30 percent or so fall under Chapter 13, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute.
- AP report

The bill is S.256. It is called the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005 (Introduced in Senate)”

Right now, it looks as if Bush is losing ground on Social Security. Considering how Congress is stacked, we'll see how that plays out. I haven't seen anything so far about the court nominees.

In light of this, it's interesting to see the approval rating trends. It doesn't mean much at this point – the guy's in office for the better part of the next 4 years. Considering what's happened in the first quarter alone, looks like it's going to be a long ride.


Ethics, Anyone?

At least eight House members and 15 House aides accepted trips to South Korea from a registered foreign agent despite rules prohibiting the practice, government documents show. Lawmakers said they didn't know the Korea-United States Exchange Council had registered as an agent of the South Korean government.

... the House ethics committee that would investigate whether rules were violated, has essentially shut down.
- AP report

These are the same folks who recently clamped down on the FDA over issues of ethics. It wasn't long ago that the Senate wanted to soften ethics rules for themselves, after a Republican member ran afoul of those rules. I guess you could call it a ‘walking the talk’ problem.

[ link | e-me ]

Wednesday, March 09, 2005
5:05 PM      

Nuke Cheney
This just in from Move.On:

Tomorrow, March 10th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the nomination of mining and cattle industry lobbyist William Myers III for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals—the second highest court in the land. Myers is the first of 20 judicial nominees Bush has re-submitted in his second term. All 20 repeat nominees were rejected last term by Senate Democrats (as compared to the 204 judges they accepted) because these nominees consistently sided with corporate special-interests over the rights of ordinary Americans. ...

The first phase is this national petition that we will hand deliver to your senators before the confirmation votes for the 20 judges. And tomorrow, MoveOn members will host over 1000 house meetings to create local plans to save the judiciary. The courts we have for the next 30 years may depend on your efforts in the next few weeks.

To ram his nominees through, Bush is hoping to use a parliamentary trick the Republicans refer to as the "nuclear option." For 200 years, if enough senators strongly objected to a federal judge, they could use a filibuster to force more debate until all their concerns were addressed. That's how Democrats blocked the worst of these 20 nominees last term. Actually changing the rule would require a 2/3 vote of the Senate—and Bush doesn't have near that level of support.

So instead, Vice President Cheney has threatened to abuse his authority as President of the Senate, and just declare that the right to filibuster judges is null and void. If Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist can twist enough arms to get 50 senators to support the ruling, the filibuster is history. For the first time ever, one party would have complete control over judicial nominations, all the way up to the Supreme Court.

The whole plot is set into motion tomorrow, with the committee vote on William Myers. We must draw the line here, by stopping Bush's 20 repeat nominees and standing up to the "nuclear option."

Please sign the petition today:

It's enough to make my scrote chafe.

[ link | e-me ]

4:28 PM      

Privatizing Craze
Below are excerpts [slightly edited] from an e-mail that I got from the DNC:

If you haven't yet signed our petition, please take a moment to show your support for the strong stand of our Democratic members of Congress:

In [the 24 hours between Monday and Tuesday of this week], nearly 100,000 of you have made your voices heard by signing the petition. That powerful response is making a difference. ...

Why should you take one minute to sign the petition? It's simple:

  • Privatizing Social Security would cut guaranteed benefits by 40 percent.
  • Bush's risky plan does not ensure the solvency of the program -- in fact, it would shorten the life of Social Security.
  • Bush's plan would add trillions of dollars in additional debt, mostly owed to China and OPEC nations.

As I write this email, President Bush is continuing with his 60-day tour trying to sell an unpopular plan to the American public. And although he'll fill audiences with pre-screened supporters asking pre-approved questions, Bush will have trouble convincing the rest of America to support a plan that puts the retirement security of you -- and millions of other Americans -- at risk.

If you haven't signed the petition yet, please sign it, and spread the word.


Who Knew?
Reading a catalog from MacConnection, I discovered something that hasn't been covered by any of the major media. Not only that, but it's something that seems to conflict with advertising by Mazda (‘zoom-zoom’) and several other car makers, who present their cars as sporty and fun to drive. Under the heading ‘It's Like Having a Jukebox in Your Passenger Seat,’ I spied this:

Listening to thousands of your favorite songs will put the fun back in driving...

I had no idea the fun was gone from driving! Nobody told me. And for as little as $249, I can get a Monster® iCruise (with patented technology that enables me to directly connect my iPod to my car stereo — yipee!). Just like that, the fun will be restored. If only the rest of life were so simple!

One thing — I don't own a car.


News Retreads

Mothra's home, and she's lost weight! Whatever. The press (who vilified, then sympathized with her) will now reinstate her as a media darling.

But, notice the story right next to it: ‘Key Iraq Wound: Brain Trauma.’ It's a story that's been coming out slowly over the last several months. The body armor the troops are wearing, and the emergency medical techniques that are being implemented, are effective in keeping soldiers alive with wounds that killed soldiers in earlier wars. They may lose all of their limbs and suffer significant brain damage, but they remain alive. We don't often get statistics about the wounded in Iraq. I think there are about ten wounded for every solider killed. What percentage of those soldiers are severely wounded - blinded or maimed? Enquiring minds want to know.

Ah, and there's the small matter of the Bush Administration looking into death row cases in, of all places, Texas. When his-dubya-ness was King, er – I mean Governor – of Texas, he refused to intervene in questionable death penalty cases in that state. He even said that the law specifically limited what he could do.

Now it seems clear that Mexicans (and possibly other foreign citizens) on death row in Texas were not allowed to contact their consulate to secure proper representation during their trials, and that's a foreign-policy problem. As a result, a couple of Mexican nationals might get spared. Nothing's changed for the rest of the folks on Texas' death row, though. The killing machine rolls on in the name of ‘justice’ and ‘closure.’

Mothra's done her time, and it's time to move on. Meanwhile, an 18-year-old was just convicted for pirating movies and music. The FBI found copies of movies that were available only in theaters at the time of the theft, including “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” “Matrix Revolutions,” “The Cat In The Hat,” and “Mona Lisa Smile.” His sentence: a three-month deferred jail term, three years of probation, 200 hours of community service and a $5,400 fine; plus, he must take a copyright class at the University of Arizona (which he attends) and avoid file-sharing programs. And you may ask yourself — what about Ken Lay?


MT + spam = dead server
I fooled around with PHP over the weekend, and built a form to collect information for an artists' organization that I work with. The form formats and forwards user input in an e-mail. One issue that came up was whether to try and implement file uploads. I researched the question, and found that while it was doable, it would take a bit more time than I had available — a blue-sky project for another time. A surprise benefit of my PHP research was the discovery that there are BIG problems with blogs based on Movable Type (MT). From what I read, I'm glad I never converted this blog over to MT.

The MT-comment.cgi script is being targeted by content spammers, and the problem is big enough that presence providers are starting to disable accounts that run MT, or at least disable the commenting system. Content spam has hobbled servers designed to easily handle 20 million hits a day. These are servers that cost $12,000 a year to lease. Many of the bloggers running MT are on shared servers, which means everybody on that server suffers. But it gets worse. DNS, Email, WWW, SSH, even MySQL can all be compromised.

If you’re an MT user, I’m not sure what advice to give you. I still use MT, but for two “miniblogs” in the sidebar with no comments, and one that does have comments enabled, but only gets a legitimate one maybe once per month (it’s never gotten spammed either). Still, my primary weblog, what you’re reading right now, is powered by Textpattern. In addition to its various built-in spam countermeasures, it’s a dynamic system rather than static. No rebuilds. Wordpress is similar, in that it is dynamic and has spam countermeasures.
- a concerned blogger

The word “host” has several meanings. When I tell people what I do, I tend to talk about it in terms of the “innkeeper” meaning: I have all these guests on my servers and I provide some basic services to them, and then they can do whatever they want. But when I think of the software running on all these sites, another definition of “host” seems to be a better fit - the one that goes “an animal or plant that nourishes and supports a parasite; the host does not benefit and is often harmed by the association".
- a frustrated presence provider

It seems that spammers don't like community. I took down the guest book on a couple of years ago, because of comment spam, and the news groups have pretty much been annexed by porn spammers. Anti-spam countermeasures for blogs often involve adding login interfaces to their comment systems. While such measures can virtually eliminate comment spam, they also present a hurdle that many would-be commenters refuse to jump, dampening enthusiasm and diluting the sense of community that arises from unfettered interaction.

For detailed discussion, see: The Daily Whim


Another Sucker
Reading my server logs this weekend, I also found another guy who's sucking my bandwidth. Instead of hosting a copy of my image on his own server, he pointed his image tag at my server. It's clear that I'm going to have to protect my source, and block bandwidth suckers.

[ link | e-me ]
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