Archive for July, 2003


New edition of the Chicago Manual of Style

The fifteenth edition of the Chicago Manual of Style will soon be released, with some very welcome updates.

There’s a special place in my heart for the Manual. As a kid I spent hours reading and rereading it, and to this day I get a warm feeling when I hold a copy, or even see one on a shelf. For some reason I no longer own a copy myself (though I do keep Turabian handy) so I’m looking forward to this new edition.


PHP 5, Perl 6

Harry Fuecks: “PHP5: Coming Soon to a Webserver Near You”, the clearest discussion I’ve read yet about what’s new in PHP5. I should start paying attention to this, now that betas are being released.

And while on topic, I might as well mention that Damian Conway’s Exegesis 6 has been published, demonstrating subroutines in Perl 6. If ever you held illusions that exegeses were more immediately accessible than their subject texta, Conway’s series should disavow you of that notion. As they and the Apocalypses progress, I’m having a harder and harder time following what’s going on. I think this is because each assumes a solid grounding in what’s come before, which I of course forget. Maybe some weekend I’ll sit down and read through them all succession. Then start writing with Perl 6 syntax, just to get the hang of it (CPAN modules make this possible).

In my dreams. Maybe I’d do this if I weren’t back in the “refamiliarizing myself with Java in my spare time” groove.


Watch your Lorem Ipsum.

The other night I emailed an HTML file to myself at work, but the message never arrived. At first I thought that we were blocking HTML mail, but other HTML mail was slipping past, so I set about analyzing the headers to see what the difference could be. That wasn’t the problem, as it turns out, so in a way I’m glad that my efforts were fruitless.

The file contained dummy “Lorem Ipsum” text generated at (a site worth bookmarking). This line was triggering the spam filters: “Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.” Cum was the offending word, and my mentioning it here will probably get this site blocked by filters in public libraries and schools. So watch the Latin, folks.

Of course, explaining that this was just Latin text used as filler has done nothing to discourage my coworkers’ notion that I’m an overeducated freak. Sigh.


Farscape mini-series?

It looks like there may be a Farscape mini-series that wraps up the loose ends. Of course, this could all be just rumor…

Predictably, Henson Co. is being cagey with information about a potential Farscape mini. After asking the company for a response for this story, they took four hours to come up with, “Though there are currently no plans for any immediate Farscape projects to be produced, the ‘To Be Continued’ ending in the final episode signifies The Jim Henson Company’s commitment to the property and our belief that there are future opportunities for it to grow. We truly appreciate all of the continued fan support and commitment to Farscape.” Which is a really fancy way of saying “no comment.”

I think that “woo-hoo!” is the right thing to say at this point.


Job Opportunity

North Hennepin Community College is looking for a web designer/developer.


iBook battery back from the dead

A couple months ago, my iBook battery died. Just seemed to stop taking a charge. For those who have little experience with iBooks, the end of the power cord glows orange while the battery is charging, green when it’s fully charged. All of a sudden, when I plugged in the iBook, it would glow orange for about 30 seconds, then turn green. But when I unplugged the laptop, it would immediately power down. Too, the battery monitor consistently showed 0% charge, with no sign of climbing.

Well, dang. I researched the problem, tried all the suggestions that I read, talked with the folks in the Apple store, and nothing worked. I was all set to buy a new battery, when all of a sudden yesterday I booted up the iBook for the first time in over a week, and it worked. The battery meter showed a 50% charge. It charged up to 100%, and right now I’m running quite happily on battery power. It’s at 83% and falling.

Weird. Good, but weird.


Passing WiFi notes in class.

Lisa Guernsey in the New York Times: In the Lecture Hall, a Geek Chorus.

I’ve been watching this trend develop from afar, not often finding myself in conferences or lectures where there’s a wifi connection available. It’s at the same time exciting and intimidating. I never stay long in IRC because the cacophony quickly becomes overwhelming (if I can speak of “cacophony” in a text-based world), so I’m not sure that I would respond well to a mixed, simultaneous online-offline environment

Years ago, while working as an engineer at a radio station, my father learned to follow several audio input streams simultaneously. He carried the same skill into reading while watching TV and listening to family conversation. Growing up with this, I picked up on the reading-while-watching-TV thing, but it stops there.

I was about to write that I didn’t think that an online component would be useful or effective in a very small group, but then I realized how handy it could be in discussions or meetings to easily pass links or make quick notes for everyone to see. This is what first attracted me to Hydra. I suspect that an online back channel would be most useful in a lecture or conference only once a group reaches a certain size, yet that threshold may be very near a group’s optimal size, beyond which the back channel becomes too hard to follow and too great a distraction. It certainly would for me. I’d have to school myself to tune out one or the other.

Later on, I’d love to have a transcript of the online discussion, ideally synched with audio and/or video.

I urge you to read Clay Shirky’s “A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy” if you haven’t already. His “In-Room Chat as a Social Tool” is also quite instructive, especially for ideas about how these tools are actually used.

On a related note, Ray Ozzie’s idea for a combination wiki and collaborative text editor, and (Hugh Pyle’s quick implementation) is more than a little intriguing.

And hmmm… Groove text tool? A quick search for that led me to Groove’s Notepad, which appears to be a Hydra-like tool for Windows, but more. Groove does such cool stuff, I wish I could use it.


Flash Click to View

You can control and even stop animated GIFs. You can block images from different and/or selected servers. Now with the “Flash Click to View” extension for Mozilla/Firebird, you can block Flash until you want to see it. Finally, an end to those god-awful annoying Flash ads.


ChemLawn Frells Up.

A friend arrived home the other day to discover ChemLawn signs in her yard. Her lawn and fenced garden had been treated, and a bill left for her.

Or rather, a bill had been left for her neighbor two doors down — ChemLawn had gone to the wrong house. Our friend never hired them to treat her lawn. And now everything in her garden — the garden she tended every day, the garden that had been thriving — is dead.

When she called ChemLawn to complain, they told her that she “didn’t have to pay for the treatment.”

When she pressed that no, ChemLawn would be compensating her for damage to her garden, they responded, “Well, we don’t know how much those plants were worth.”

Who says stupid shit like this?

That’s where it stands now. Rest assured that is not where it will end.


Joe Clark’s book online

Joe Clark’s Building Accessible Websites is now available online. The whole thing. This book is essential reading for those who need to, well, build accessible web sites. I still think that it is hands-down the best book out there on the subject.

(Online version discovered via Mark Newhouse’s WebVisions presentation, “CSS, Markup, and Standards”.)

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