June 17th, 2010

What it’s like to own an Apple product.

An online archive of images of Mohammed:

Until comparatively recently in Islamic history, it was perfectly common to show Mohammed, either in full or with his face hidden.

As a bonus, the page includes a link to an old article on the Washington Post site, which on its last page provides more insight about the origins and explanations on the ban than I’ve read in the last two years.

No one understands how Alvin Greene ended up becoming the South Carolina Democratic Party’s candidate for the United States Senate:

Around the state, Democratic activists were facing the smacking electoral truth that a non-campaigning, unemployed, black, country-living, coo-coo-for-Cocoa-Puffs nobody who’d been kicked out of the Army and was currently facing federal sex charges had just beaten — in the Democratic primary, and by 17 percentage points — a well-known former legislator, judge and current Charleston County councilman who’d raised a quarter of a million bucks for the race and for months been campaigning his ass off.

German throws puppy at Hells Angels bikers then flees on bulldozer.

June 16th, 2010

How to alter your database to support gay marriage and polygamy:

Altering the paper forms is not my department. It’s probably expensive and there are probably millions of existing incorrect forms which would need returning or recycling or burning instead of using. Or maybe it’s simple. I don’t know. The real question from my perspective is how you store a marriage in a computer.

Old, funny, rational and absolutely nerdy.

John Derbyshire reviews Bad Students, Not Bad Schools, which looks at why America’s schools are failing us:

[Weissberg] takes no prisoners, exposing the corruption, trashing the faddish crackpot theories, and lamenting the decline of what was, fifty years ago, poised to become the world’s finest system of education.

What killed that hope was educational romanticism, the theory that, as memorably expressed by New York Times columnist Deborah Solomon, “Given the opportunity, most people could do most anything.”

The basic premise seems to be that, no matter how much money, or how many ideas we toss at our eduction system, unless students show up ready and willing to learn, it’s all for naught.

(H)uge numbers of lagging students were offered a free tutoring option, often in the school they already attend, but only about 10 percent signed up, and even then, most dropped out after a few sessions.

This is why charter schools have always been so appealing to me as a concept. If only 10% of our students, whether by nature of nurture, have a desire to learn more, why not let them escape the crumbling atmosphere of their less bright peers? Why force everyone to be mediocre equally?

There are obviously ways to improve students. Projects like Harlem’s Children’s Zone show, at minimum, that the issue is not one of nature, but nurture.

June 15th, 2010

The sausage party that is Chatroulette may soon be over:

Look for feature changes soon that will try to send all those penises to the background. The service may add software that can quickly scan video to determine if a penis is being shown. And users that are consistently quickly skipped over (presumably because they are exposing themselves or otherwise being disgusting) can be flagged as well.

Venture capitalists continue to spoil our fun.

How to measure the speed of light using your microwave:

The quickest and tastiest way to perform this little experiment is with marshmallows, but chocolate chips also work. You’ll obviously need a microwave oven as well, and a large, microwaveable dish. You will need a ruler, too.

I’ll accept any excuse to buy marshmallows.

I’m Comic Sans, asshole:

You don’t like that your coworker used me on that note about stealing her yogurt from the break room fridge? You don’t like that I’m all over your sister-in-law’s blog? You don’t like that I’m on the sign for that new Thai place? You think I’m pedestrian and tacky?

Guess the fuck what, Picasso. We don’t all have seventy-three weights of stick-up-my-ass Helvetica sitting on our seventeen-inch MacBook Pros.

Don’t get me started on Helvetica.

Max Fawcett talks at length on the perils of self-help, and on embracing our flaws:

Dr. Neel Burton argues … [that] the true path to happiness doesn’t lie in thinking positively or mimicking the seven habits of highly effective people but instead in cultivating a greater self-awareness. He believes that our estrangement from that awareness, and our increasingly manic obsession with all things us, represent a departure from our natural instincts as human beings…

We are advised to do everything from improving our table manners to shaving our nether-regions in the circular quest for self-improvement, but we are rarely encouraged to embrace our flaws or to indulge our imperfections … It is our imperfections that make us human, and not the other way around.

Trite, but true. As the best things sometimes are.

An interactive map showing where Americans are moving from and to:

More than 10 million Americans moved from one county to another during 2008.

Most of the highlighted cities have similar migratory patterns. Folks moving in, moving out; it basically balances out. There are only two exceptions I noticed.

The first, was Manhattan, where far more people were moving into than out of. How that island hasn’t sunk from its own weight baffles me.

And then there’s Detroit.

How to piss off a baby.

September 22nd, 2009

The Google Chrome team has launched a plug-in that embeds their rendering engine inside Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8:

Thanks to this plugin, developers will now be able to give these users an option to at least switch to a faster rendering engine by just adding one single line of code to their sites.

If you don’t think this is awesome, or don’t realize how massively important this could be, you are pants-on-head retarded.

WebKit, inside Internet Explorer.

I’ll wait here while you dance around your office and sing.

As promised, I am now Google’s bestest-best friend.

September 16th, 2009

A sub-pixel typeface.

September 15th, 2009

A storm over the Golden Gate bridge.

The Big Bang, briefly.

September 14th, 2009

Gary Vaynerchuk:

Someone with less passion and talent and poorer content can totally beat you if they’re willing to work longer and harder than you are.

Things to do. Miles to go.

Thanks goes to Greg and Manton.

Steven Benen on the predictable right:

When JFK first raised the prospect of Medicare, Reagan warned that it had to be stopped or that generation would “spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it once was like in America when men were free.” When FDR proposed Social Security, a Republican congressman said, “If this bill becomes law, the lash of the dictator will be felt.”

Well, at least they’re consistent.

Work purchased at this weekend’s Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago included a fantastic Bowie poster from Delicious Design League, an art print from Nate Duvall and one of Kevin Tong’s still fantastic daVinci iPhones.

The fair was an amazing show of both talent, and cliché. On one hand, I’ve never been to a street fair that had such a fantastic collection of print makers. I had to literally walk away from the fair and smoke just to stop myself from buying any more prints.

On the other, if I had to endure one more 10-speed silhouette printed on an American Apparel shirt, or a cute plush pseudo-monster, I was going to burn the damn thing down and demand half the fair go home and think about what they’d done.

I don’t know why it is that certain styles seem to just engulf entire communities. It’s interesting to see several plays off of a similar theme, if done in concert and reflection, artists riffing and goofing on one another. It’s another when you wonder whether every other booth is just a front for some generic wholesaler.

A series of useless lectures including A Short List of the Worst Toys in the World and The Art of Taking Photos of Tourists Taking Photos.

Poe’s Law:

Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of Fundamentalism that someone won’t mistake for the real thing.

I love new laws.

In March 2003, Tom Chiarella hit Manhattan with two grand in twenty dollar-bills to see just what they could get him:

It won’t get you much … Not in the way of merchandise, anyway. No, you have to give the twenty. Pass it, release it. This is about as much Zen as I can muster: Stuff your pockets full of twenties and doors will open by themselves.

After hearing detractors say Manhattan was a special case, he decided to take his show on the road, traveling to Salt Lake City, Vegas and Los Angeles.

At the end of the second piece:

Our steaks came. A hostess stopped by. The sommelier joined her. My friend greeted them both by name. When we left, he said goodbye to everyone working in the restaurant by name, too.

“Man,” I said when we were on the terrace, “what’s with the names? Do you eat here every day?”

He smiled. A wind blew up a staircase. Men and women churned around us, moving from one important place to another. “People want to be remembered,” he said. “In my experience, names work way better than a twenty.”

Despite their simple premises, Chiarella manages to write each piece in a way that keeps you reading, even when the end result is something you may have guessed at long before you clicked my links.


Updated to reflect the article was from 2003, not this year. Thanks goes to Jason for catching it in his post.

A feature from the Atlantic in 1997 about the scientist Norman Borlaug, who passed away this weekend:

America’s third (Nobel) peace-prize winner … has been the subject of little public notice, and has passed up every opportunity to parley his award into riches or personal distinction. And the third winner’s accomplishments, unlike Kissinger’s, are morally unambiguous.

One reason is that Borlaug’s deeds are done in nations remote from the media spotlight: the Western press covers tragedy and strife in poor countries, but has little to say about progress there. Another reason is that Borlaug’s mission — to cause the environment to produce significantly more food — has come to be seen, at least by some securely affluent commentators, as perhaps better left undone.

“Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

Perhaps the issue is more complicated than that. Perhaps there are some valid concerns regarding genetically modified food. Perhaps we’ll find better ways to increase yields, without the application of chemicals. Perhaps.

But to quote Cynical-C:

If you die after selling between 250 million and 700 million records you’ll be on the front page of every newspaper while the entire world mourns.

If you die after saving between 250 million and 700 million people from starvation, your death notice will be somewhere near the classifieds section.

Sad, but true.

An interview with Philip Zimbardo, the pyschologist who conducted the now famous Stanford Prison Experiment.

Zimbardo discusses the experiment, of course, but more interesting is his own post mortem on his personal reactions to the experiment. How he got just as sucked into it as anyone else.

But most interesting is his take on moral responsibility, and what his experiments mean to justice. Does his experiment show that situations alone can alter someone’s behavior in such a way that they can’t be held responsible for their actions?

It’s really a philosophical and legal issue. In the extreme case, it really is “The situation made me do it.” So are we going to put the situation on trial? Well, we don’t have a mechanism.

Tribunals say, “We have the power to put leaders on trial, even though they in fact—none of them actually killed anybody—it’s just they created a policy, they created a system.”

But once it’s created, once the Stanford Prison Experiment was created, I’m irrelevant. If I had died during the thing, it would have gone on. The guards would have been happier. If Hitler had been killed, the whole thing would have gone on only because it had already corrupted the legal system, the educational system, the business system. With all these mechanisms in place, he became irrelevant.

Ansel Adams on how he shot Moonrise, arguably his most famous photo.

Perhaps most amazing to me is how he is able to recall with such detail the exact settings he used to capture the photo.

There’s another short clip of Ansel here, where he talks about his working methods. There’s a line he utters, that seems simple at first, but which caused me to pause.

The justification for technique is being able to do what you want to do when you want to do it.

In an age where so much technique is handled by software, or googled on demand, that line may ring quant. But it sticks, making me long for craftsmanship.

When Ansel discusses his photography in these clips, the art of it seems almost secondary to the technique of it to him. But the technique of it is the art, or at least, the art is dependent on it. As he says later in the same clip:

There is nothing mysterious about technique. It is merely a means to an end.

Jim Carroll is dead.

The first Carroll poem I ever heard was laced into a punk song. In the middle of Rancid’s Junkie Man, at the 1 minute and 54 second mark, Carroll’s voice squawked:

My hand went blind clairvoyant I make love to my trance sister My trance sister went on And my trance parents see from the balcony I looked out on the big field It opens like the cover of an old bible And out come the wolves Their paws trampling the snow The alphabet I stand on my head and watch it all go away

It was imaginative, dark, leering. It snuck into my head. I would hit reverse on the tape player, rewind to that moment, let it start up, and sing loudly trying to match Carroll’s staccato. Snarl and smile.

September 11th, 2009

The Preservation of Favoured Traces is an amazing visualization of the changes Darwin made to his opus The Origin of the Species over the years.

If architects had to work like software developers.

The only thing I’d add is a request that the architect find an inexpensive way to shorten the owner’s 1 hour commute from the suburbs to the city to less than 10 minutes.

September 10th, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut explains needless drama, with handy graphs:

(W)e grew up surrounded by big dramatic story arcs in books and movies, we think our lives are supposed to be filled with huge ups and downs! So people pretend there is drama where there is none.

I will now queue up Cake’s Tougher Than It Is.

September 9th, 2009

Tall people are happier than short people:

The study published in the journal Economics and Human Biology showed that tall people reported more enjoyment of life and less pain and sadness. Taller men also said they worry less though they are more likely to experience stress and anger than people of average height, said researchers led by Angus Deaton from Princeton University in New Jersey.

Each additional inch boosted happiness levels by the same amount as a 4.4 percent increase in family income for men and 3.8 percent pay raise for women.

At 6’8”, I’m a fucking ball of sunshine.

Melik Kaylan was all like…:

(S)everal times a day somewhere within earshot a teenager in full flow would utter the words, “I was like…,” followed by a little pause and then an accelerated torrent of more words oft accompanied by a cartoonish facial expression.

Why has an entire generation of kids caught this tick? What function does it serve and why them—that is, why this last decade or two of pre-teen to post-college age victims?

As an experiment back in my teenage days, I tried to eliminate all ums, ehs, likes and pauses in my speech. More than anything, I loathed the vagueness and repetition of “I/he/she was like…”, or even just “like”. Hated the way my peers stumbled around every sentence as though they were only partially convinced they should be speaking at all. How every story sounded like it was simile. So I sat down to correct it in my own speech first. Lead by example.

It was a grueling, completely self-inflicted process that did little more than make me sound overly formal for a kid with green hair.

Vegetarians apparently have nightmares about meat. They’re called meatmares.

I am not making this up:

A terrifying dream afflicting vegetarians in which the dreamer experiences extreme feelings of anxiety about meat. Nightmares might involve horrifying visions of meat or the (troubling) experience of eating meat.

By way of example:

“I was on like a hotel balcony just stuffing bacon in my mouth. I could hear my conscious mind telling me not to eat it, that it was bad for me. I also remember my brother in the dream yelling at me from below not to eat it. I made myself wake up and was so happy it was only a dream.”

To quote Bourdain:

Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It’s healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I’ve worked with is brought down by any rumor of a cold.

The New York Time’s gorgeous and time-sucking Video library, that I just discovered about 40 minutes ago, and that I will spend a good hour clicking through later tonight.

Joshua Allen on the HTML5 semantics debate:

Semantics are only important when they’re understood and used by specialized user agents or search tools. Do we imagine that calendar import of embedded time tags will suddenly become a killer feature of user agents, when microformats have been available for years? Will browsers resurrect the old and abandoned in-chrome site-tree features, and tie them only to nav tags, encouraging web developers to abandon their existing techniques en masse?

Allen’s article also points to this article from back in February by Joshua Allsopp:

By adding these elements, we are addressing the need for greater semantic capability in HTML, but only within a narrow scope. No matter how many elements we bolt on, we will always think of more semantic goodness to add to HTML. And so, having added as many new elements as we like, we still won’t have solved the problem. We don’t need to add specific terms to the vocabulary of HTML, we need to add a mechanism that allows semantic richness to be added to a document as required.

HTML 5, therefore, implements a feature that breaks a sizable percentage of current browsers, and doesn’t really allow us to add richer semantics to the language at all.

Both articles are a much better overview of the debate than what I scrawled out on Friday.

Normandy, France in 1944 and in 2009.

My grandfather was one of the many boys that landed on Normandy beach on June 6th, 1944. He never talked about the experience, at least not with me. Instead, he’d rattle on the beauty of France. On the tiny towns he made his way across. The food of the villages. The quaintness, laid thick in rubble, but still an essence he missed.

When he returned home, he named his new family after the towns he loved.

And so I spent a childhood explaining that “Norman D.” was my mother, a woman, and her name was actually just one word.

David Letterman has gotten his second wind:

The bad boy of Ball State, Huck Finn grown and weathered, David Letterman has become the national Daddy. He is the ideal dad for the age—not a particularly pristine dad, or full of Cronkitean certitude, but confused and serious and full of conflict, anger, and ambiguity. Letterman is not a fuzzy person; working live he gives off the kind of dangerous electricity of stripped, dangling power lines. But he is a fundamentally serious comedian holding onto the gig of his life—Late Show With David Letterman—the hour in his day that seems to give him purpose.

I’ve never read a better account of just what it is that makes Letterman so great.

His show was a constant in my life growing up. Huddled in my room, head down in homework, up too late, I’d watch the flickering visual trick box as Letterman seemed at once to be in his own world and in mine. Laughing internally and externally. Amusing himself while trying to amuse me.

His recent growth as a national backbone, during last year’s presidential campaign and thereafter as he swatted down the Palin cult of outrage, has shown he’s on his way to being an icon in a way Jay Leno never will be:

“Cat jokes work,” The Wall Street Journal reported on him, as he tested new material in Boston this summer. “Edible underwear doesn’t.” His incessant shtick and weightless political attacks have made him a risk-free franchise. Of course President Obama visited his couch in Burbank. “I don’t like the edgy comics out there,” Deb Stoddard of Natick, Massachusetts, told the Journal. But she loves Jay Leno.

Book Worship is a site dedicated to the obessions of an atypical book collector:

These are graphically interesting, but otherwise uncollectible, books that entered and exited bookstores quietly in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

A charming set of book covers, though some stand out more than others.

Tagged.

September 4th, 2009

Part the first:

The Hypertext Markup Language was designed to describe the structure of scientific documents and how they related to one another.

Part the second:

The Hypertext Markup Language is used to describe the way a given screen of information is structured, presented and responds to user input.

Thesis:

Everything wrong with HTML5 can be ascribed to the differences between those two sentences.

The premise of HTML5 is maddeningly simple. Over the last few years, it’s become painfully obvious that the elements, attributes and behavior described by HTML4 is woefully out of touch with how developers are using it. The approach, as best I can tell, is to describe a new set of elements, attributes and behaviors that will be woefully out of touch with how developers are using it ten years from now.

Some of this insanity is being done in the name of “backwards compatibility”, though a good deal of the specification isn’t backwards compatible. Some is being done in the name of what browser manufacturers will actually implement, though most haven’t been able to implement things we agreed on over a decade ago, while implementing numerous things none of us even thought of but now find vital. And some is being done based on consensus and best practices, which are not only arbitrary, but subjective; prone to changes like the weather in Chicago.

HTML is a simple construct riddled with deep logic and a rich history. It began as a way to tell an application how a document was structured, so that it could figure out how to display it. Then we added ways to tell the applications how to display it. Then how the document should behave.

When that got too complicated to fit in one language, we divided the task. We created Cascading Stylesheets so that the HTML didn’t have to tell the browser how to display the document. JavaScript was invented to tell the browser how the page should behave. Over the last few years, we’ve managed to cobble from these three pillars rich and interactive screens of information, the likes of which HTML was never designed to describe.

For the most part, it works.

It works largely because we decided, collectively, that HTML was woefully inadequate at describing these things. We accepted that we did not have a perfect match for every element we needed, and were more than happy to just describe the general structure of the page, and rely on our presentation layer to make everything look the way we want it to look and for our behavioral layer to make our gadgets dance shiny-bright-and-right.

We can pretend that we choose our markup carefully, and that the elements we use do have meaning, but in reality, the elements we use are at best abstract ideals of the thing we’re describing. The very existence of HTML5, with its new tag soup, gives voice to that. The passionate arguing of the Super Friends and their ilk make it clear that we know we’ve been lying to ourselves; that we’ve been compromising.

HTML5, as drafted, is just setting us up for new lies.

We’ve accepted we were meant to be women, and we’re just gonna apply some lipstick and hope we pass.

We were right.

The best part of the last six years of web development is how right so many people turned out to be about what we needed. The early evangelists drilled into our heads the idea that semantics and structure should be separated from display, that behavior should be added progressively. That we should consider the worst-case scenario and build around that.

The tiers we’ve setup work amazingly well.

Consider the stylesheet. Its basic construct is even simpler than HTML. A set of over 90 attributes that can be applied to any element to make it look however we want. The benefit of this fantastically simple design is that we can transform near any element to look like damn near any other element. Yes, the specification has holes, some gaping, but the principle of its simplicity is sound enough that building atop it is easy, and that very soon, all major browsers will implement a good enough version of it that we can get our jobs done.

Consider JavaScript. Instead of a specific set of tools, JavaScript defines itself as a general-purpose programming language, with relatively advanced features, and a set of simple behaviors we can override at our will. I can make a click do near anything I want. It isn’t defined by any rules which say that the click must “perform an action” or “open a link”.

General rules with massive flexibility, agnostic to to intent and focused on use. These defining qualities of CSS and JavaScript are what have gotten us this far.

Instead of exploring that success, HTML5 is a mess of forced semantics. It’s piles of paragraphs dedicated to when and why something should be called a footer. What a header should be. What elements should and shouldn’t have links on them.

Most of the tag soup in HTML5, and HTML in general, can be attributed to the belief that an element has an intrinsic meaning to a human being. A footer element exists so that someone can read the source code and know a thing is a footer. The specification doesn’t say that a footer should always appear at the bottom of a section, only that “they usually do”. It doesn’t outline exactly what we should put in a footer only that they generally include “who wrote it, links to related documents, copyright data, and the like.” It defines nothing more than that it, and I love this, “represents a footer for its nearest ancestor sectioning content.”

What type of backwards pseudo-explanation is that? It’s an explanation destined to be read and parsed by humans. It has no technical merit. No presentational or behavioral limitations imposed beyond an arbitrary recommendation about what it should include.

The mind races.

Johnny robot can’t read.

This push, towards creating an extended and representative set of elements is all about moving towards the semantic web. The belief, correct in my opinion, that to really move forward, we as developers need to be able to describe our applications and documents in more rich, appropriate ways that can give better hints as to the structure and nature of the thing we’re developing.

As our documents become more verbose, and better defined, new technologies will come online that can analyze these documents and inflect meaningful relationships between them. That our computers will be able to know when there’s an address on a page, and when there’s someone’s name.

Part of what HTML5 seeks to do is codify a large set of appropriate tags that all developers will use, so that these technologies are possible.

As I mentioned earlier, developers have gotten quite good at adopting informal protocols to represent things. Better still, many browser developers have come to adapt the more widely used of these informal protocols, or defining their own that we adopt en mass. It’s not perfect, but it works. Because a large part of our site’s success rests on other people being able to parse and analyze our documents, the best of us will adopt informal protocols without the necessity of a codified standard. We’ve already done it. Think micro-formats. Sure, they’re not pervasive, but that’s largely because they’re overly verbose and hard to remember. The spirit of the new specification is right. An address should be represented by an address tag.

We’re simply not very smart. We have no real clue what we’ll be doing through a web browser in 10 years. The next big wave of innovation could come from expressive, 3D simulations. We may return to mostly desktop-oriented applications with the web becoming a rich system of data sources with limited formatting. We might abandon the whole thing and go back to gopher.

One great idea could make all of HTML5, as it stands, look immediately insufficient.

So why bother defining specific tags at all?

In the style of a waltz.

The basics of CSS provide the perfect foundation for an element agnostic markup language. CSS does not care which display properties you apply to which elements. There are defaults, yes, some of which different browser manufacturers disagree on, but the first thing any competent web developer does is define a set of CSS rules that resets all browsers to making everything essentially look exactly the same.

So there is nothing stopping me from using my own set of arbitrary elements, beyond the fact that someone decided to ignore them for no other reason than because a specification told them to.

If HTML becomes nothing but a light, formal specification for the construct of a structure, we never have to revisit this damn discussion again. Browser makes will pay attention only to the structure of a document, applying presentational rules as required. Developers will adopt informal standards for what tags to use, with some killer application eventually deciding that a particular standard is the one it prefers, and we’ll all use that.

But without a standard, everyone will do things differently!

Well, yeah, for awhile. But frankly, that’s going to happen anyway. Opera is going to do one thing with your lovingly suggested address element, Safari will do another, Firefox yet another, until one of them does it right and the rest will copy them to stay relevant. There’s a guy in a basement apartment right now thinking of a new kind of web browser that it’s going to use all of this stuff in some manner none of us can fathom right now.

So break off the definition of specific element types into smaller, more agile working groups. Instead of revisiting a massive specification every 10 years, small communities can form around getting a subset of tags right, with the best standard becoming adopted by the vast majority of people. Advocates and evangelists will do what they’ve always done; make their case and make it loudly.

The notion of any standard, even one painstakingly constructed with the assistance of browser makers, ignores the idea that the guys working with us today might not be the ones we care about tomorrow. Safari, the best browser around, didn’t even exist until seven years ago, and you’re expecting the marketplace to remain stagnant for the next 25?

Insanity.

Behave, children.

Beyond the tag soup, the big HTML5 get is a new series of interactive form elements that will let developers create advanced, desktop-like behavior with better rich media capabilities.

My own excitement towards HTML5 is entirely based on these. Building something as basic as a slider, in the current environment, takes far too much code when compared to its desktop equivalent.

This has lead to thousands of different interpretations as to what a slider should look like, and act like. It’s a usability nightmare that stems from a development one.

But I wonder why an element that allows a user to drag a control in one direction or another to define a numerical value will always be a “input” of type “range”. It could just as easily be a thermometer. Or a scale. Or a gauge. Depending on the interface we’re describing, any noun could apply to that functionality, just as any noun could apply to a block of text.

What we really need is for the attributes of a slider to be available to any element. We need a way to say that what I call a gauge, acts like a slider, and the value it returns is called steam pressure, not “integer”.

Why are we correcting issues with one set of semantic names, which work but aren’t quite right, only to maintain and extend an entirely different set of nouns which are the most generic of the bunch.

Still with me?

I don’t mean to impugn or insult any of the people who’ve worked so hard, and so well, on the HTML5 specification. What they’ve managed to do, take a decidedly dead thing and give it life, is amazing. I applaud them. If I meet them, I’ll shake their hands, kiss their babies, and praise their gods.

But like them, this is the thing I do every day. The thing I think about every day.

And I guess I have some pretty strong feelings on the topic.

August 31st, 2009

Disney is buying Marvel Entertainment, the company behind X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America, et. al:

Under the terms of the agreement and based on the closing price of Disney on August 28, 2009, Marvel shareholders would receive a total of $30 per share in cash plus approximately 0.745 Disney shares for each Marvel share they own. Based on the closing price of Disney stock on Friday, August 28, the transaction value is $50 per Marvel share or approximately $4 billion.

Why does $4 billion sound like such a bargain to me?

And am I the only one who always thought DC Comics was a more likely Disney target?

Intelligent Life wonders if Google is killing off general knowledge:

(P)retty well everybody, from schoolchildren to drinkers in pubs, will be online pretty well all of the time. In that context, perhaps there is no longer any point in keeping facts in our heads.

Should schoolchildren be taught the capital of Colombia? You may well be saying yes, but David Fann, who chairs the primary schools committee of the National Association of Head Teachers, is quite sure the answer is no. “They just don’t need to learn off the capital cities of the world,” he says. “The capital of France, yes, but not the capital of Colombia. They will be much better off learning to use atlases as a skill.”