less Homer Simpsons, more money for public schools

I stole this from the Guardian’s editorials. I’m not trying to be Mr. I-am-politically-active, but I found this to be very silly. I’ll bold the part that made me laugh. And reference the good lines with numbers incase people want to discuss this afterwards. I don’t know if this counts as a flame or nut. I feel nutty picking at each sentance, so I wont post my actual feelings about each number up here, except for 5 & 6. I laughed loudly at those. And #7 made cough and say ‘bullshit’ at the same time (like in Men in Tights).

Don’t let pie tossers roam our streets

   I am sitting here sipping upon my morning tea, and what do I see? Evan Brown – the man who, may I remind you, could have very well blinded Prime Minister Chretien by thrusting that whipped topping in the man’s face1 -will be roaming around our streets again.

   What message does this send to our children? Suppose little Patrick2 doesn’t like what his teacher put on his report card, or young Jonathan3 doesn’t want to wear the new sweater his father just bought him for Christmas. So what do they do, I ask? Why not lash out at their authority figures and cream them with a pie4? That is the message we have sent. Is this what we really want5? A generation of young, rebellious pie slingers?6

   
No, I am not saying that we should have thrown the book at him, or a pie at him (no pun intended7) but, hey, people, this is not civil. Pie tossing is wrong8 and Mr. Brown should have been ordered to issue a public apology to those he offended.9 Seriously, people, are you with me or against me? Who else wants an apology?

      That’s my two-cents worth.
      (name)

 

pinging Weblogs.com

I’m all about doing whatever it may be that’s the latest “thing to do”. Where I am these days, using XML-RPC to ping Weblogs.com is the thing to do (odd, I know).

So, I’m doing it. Actsofvolition.com now pings weblogs.com whenever it’s updated.

Props to the good people at Userland Software on their work with the XML-RPC protocol. For an Adbusters subscriber, I’ve always been quite sympathetic to Microsoft (I even like Clippy – seriously), the work being done on the SOAP and XML-RPC protocols by Dave Winer and the other folks at Userland may well save us (and Microsoft) from the Microsoft world.

What the hell does this mean? Well, in of itself, not a whole lot. It means that every time one of the geniuses around here makes a post, Weblogs.com will be notified and show our site on their list. Then, other sites can sort-of syndicate that list – for example, they could have a ’10 recently updated sites’ list that would grab its content from the master list at weblogs.com.

This is not a big deal, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. The more important thing is that I called a procedure on another web server and passed information in an understandable format – a simple, but powerful concept. Hopefully this simple experiment will be the begining of some more interesting and useful applications of this technology (more to come as I experiment further with this).

I often complain about the use of acronyms, so I appologize for this post. XML-RPC stands for Extensible Markup Language – Remote Procedure Calling. SOAP stands for Simple Object Access Protocol.

 

gamecubes drop the beat when appropriate

shifty logo
A couple of weeks before exams were finished, I treated myself to a little trip home from Sackville to eat food and sleep (I said I’d study too).

I stopped by silverorange to visit old war buddies, and Isaac showed me his marvelous new contraption; he showed me his GameCube1.

It was smooth and amazingly great. I also hear it’s the least expensive of the competing game consoles. I played with one all weekend and I have determined my favorite feature.

Back in time, during my wide-eyed game programming days, I was destined to wrangle DirectX with Visual Basic and kick the QBasic habit (I wasn’t familiar with OOP back then, someday I’ll come back). Anyway, one feature I was rather excited about was DirectMusic. It would give realtime control over the block-rocking MIDI tracks to breathe life into the format. Nice ‘rasterized’ soundtracks were doing just fine, so it never really caught on. But, I really liked the idea. I think Half-Life attempted active music too, but didn’t realize it as well as SSX Tricky or Luigi’s Mansion did. They managed to have active on-the-fly mixed music in their own creative ways.

In SSX Tricky, (a physics-free snowboarding game), the beat would kick along and each slope would get its own tune. But when your magic tricky-meter would max out (allowing you to do insanely impossible and entertaining tricks) they would mix on some guy rapping “(rap-rapity?rap-rap-rap) It’s tricky! It’s tricky!”. And if you caught giant air off big jumps, the music strips right down to the beat. For a “I am holding my breath” type feel that can’t be beaten.

In Luigi’s Mansion, poor, frightened Luigi hums along to the music. Sometimes he whistles, sometimes he makes nervous noises to the tune. Depending on what room of the mansion you are in, different instruments play along, and they smoothly cut in new ones as you step from room to room. There is also a puzzle involving getting a bunch of stray instruments (a 3-headed saxophone being among them) to play themselves, to make an amusing arrangement of the classic Mario theme. Good stuff.

So my verdict is, buy GameCube, it’s great. I haven’t tried the other systems, so I’ll assume they’re horrible. I have never been so impressed by the audio in any game. EAX was cute, it fleshed out games and if you run a guitar through the filters you can have hours of fun. We’ve had voice snippets since SNES, since then it has all sounded the same to me. The threshold which seems to have been static CD tracks has been shattered! Long live active music2!

  1. I am unsure about how to capitalize ‘gamecube’, on Nintendo’s site, they always used SMALLCAPS leaving me confused).
  2. Is it still called that? Was it ever called that?
 

words and phrases due for retirement

It is usually a good practice to have your house in order before start shitting on your neighbours, lest you be shit upon yourself (I know there are more appropriate analogies, but they all seem so cliché). Criticizing writing can be a dangerous thing to do. If you do so and make a typo (something I may well be doing right now) then you look like an idiot. As haste and sloth often trump good editing in my writings here on aov, I am in no position to criticize. However, if we all just stood around waiting for someone without sin, some much needed stones would go un-thrown.

What follows is a collection of words and phrases that, after noticing how dumb they make people sound, I am striving to avoid using myself:

  • “First and foremost” – Often used by public speakers, primarily politicians, looking to create an artificial depth and emphasis. Although the alliteration is awfully alluring, this phrase has been robbed of any meaning it may have originally had.
  • “At this time” – Often used by amateur public speakers, this phrase is oddly prevalent in Church settings (“I’d like to call on the choir at this time”). I suspect that there are people who use this term while speaking in church but never in any other setting. This has always confounded me. If you remove the phrase ‘at this time’ from your sentence, it is no less meaningful.
  • “If you will” & “per se” – No, thank you. I will not.
  • “Nothing but respect” – I have nothing but contempt for people who usually use this term to artificially sweeten their sour criticism.
  • “Utilize” – See “use“.

For a more intelligent and less derivative position on clear writing see George Orwell’s article Politics and the English Language where he declares that “The great enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

 

Yeah, what he said.

I love it when people say plainly and clearly what has been ambiguously bouncing around in my head, slightly beyond my ability to structure and articulate. This is how I felt when I read Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things and C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity (for those who only know Lewis from the Narnia series, I strongly recommend looking up some of his grown-up books – The Great Divorce is a good place to start).

The British Rail logomark

The defensible and “damn-near-timeless” design of the British Rail logomark

I had this feeling again today, when I read an article by Adam Greenfield in this week’s double issue of web-design-weekly A List Apart. Adam explores and contrasts the art and science of design as problem solving against the art of style as expression. Without shitting on anyone, he draws a line between the designer and the stylist.

The article, The Bathing Ape Has No Clothes: and Other Notes on the Distinction Between Style and Design expresses, better than I could myself, how I feel about design. Design and style are not mutually exclusive, but they are different.

Also worth a look, dicovered via v-2.org (warning – this site breaks your Back button), a site by the author of the aforementioned article, Gasoline Signs: corporate identity in the real world.

 

Why buy local?

I was thinking today about getting new envelopes printed. In itself, it is a trivial matter. Since I bask in trivial matters, I was thinking about how we could have much cooler envelopes if the printing shop had more selection and options. Then in occurred to me that there are probably loads of good print shops that could produce our envelopes that would offer loads of options – they just aren’t on PEI. Not problem – I think I dealt with the local printer completely via email and phone anyhow.

Then the thought comes – as I’ve been programmed to think – I should probably keep my business local. Then – out of nowhere – another thought: why? Why is it any better for me to spend my money in the town or region where I live than in any other town or region? I’m sure there’s a printing company in Chicoutimi (randomly selected town that I don’t live in) who would love to have our business (and may offer a cooler selection of envelopes).

At my business we don’t expect people to go with us because we are ‘from here’. We are also glad that our clients don’t ‘shop local’ – since many of them are not from this fair Isle.

I know there’s an environmental cost of shipping goods unnecessarily. But doesn’t that only apply to things whose raw materials are produced locally? For example, if I buy my turnip from Uzbekistan (randomly selected county that I don’t live in and whose existence have only discovered recently) then I cause an unnecessary plane trip that pumps all kinds of bad stuff into the atmosphere when I could have just grown the turnips in my backyard or bought them from my neighbour. However, when it comes to goods where the raw materials come from elsewhere, does it even matter? I mean, the local print shop is probably getting the envelopes from Malaysia anyhow.

It seems that you only want people where you live to buy local. If our clients did it, we’d be out of business. I learned in philosophy 101 that a good way to test a concept is to see if it applies universally. This doesn’t.

I suppose it has a lot to do with which groups and regions you associate yourself with. I’m from Charlottetown, I’m from Prince Edward Island, and I’m from Canada. Trouble is, I don’t really identify myself with any of those groups in any strong way. I’m glad I live in a country where you don’t get shot at and you can think what you want – but it was just dumb luck (or a cruel and vengeful god, for the religious types) that I was born here and some poor chap was born in Somalia. I don’t feel any more connected to the guy at the local print shop than I would do the print shop in Chicoutimi (again, randomly selected).

So tell me, why should I buy local?