March 2009 Archives

♻ Unbacked...

| No TrackBacks

Garfield Minus Garfield has a new friend in my feed reader: Garfield: Lost in Translation.

Update: Unsubscribed since I just found out for myself that they aren’t using Google Translate, the best translation tool out there. It’s easy to tear down a straw man.

Errol Morris is back on one of his “behind the photograph” investigations on his NYT blog. A new installment will appear each weekday this week. Last time, the probe took place in “The Valley of the Shadow of Death;” this time, Gettysburg.

P.S.: I remember reading Morris’s first investigation and being amazed to find out the phrase “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” was not coined by Coolio.

♻ Quarters

| No TrackBacks

Behold—everything you ever wanted to know about the oft-forgotten Third Amendment: Forgotten but Not Gone.

Spoiler alert: The Third Amendment has actually been at issue in one Supreme Court case, Engblom v. Carey, accurately referenced in The Onion (as always).

I definitely clicked on this article in my Google Reader thinking it was from The Onion, and not Advertising Age: Hallmark Reminds Consumers That Little Things Mean a Lot.

I wonder just how much sucking up you have to do to get an article about your new campaign in AdAge…

I need to trust Netflix’s personalized ratings more; I’ve found some documentaries that had really interesting subject matter, but Netflix only predicts me giving 2-2.5 stars (out of five). Blinded by the captivating synopsis, I disregard the low rating, chalking it up to a low sample size or some other noise.

I have learned my lesson. I knew before that topic alone was not enough to make me love a doc, but I didn’t realize how severely an interesting topic could be destroyed by bad production.

Waiting for NESARA” was my first mistake. Ex-Mormons in Utah become caught up in quite a conspiracy theory. Awesome, right? Wrong. Most of the film’s scenes are just protracted shots of a lecturer in the original KFC filmed with a shaky Handycam.

Strangely, my other big Netflix regret so far is also about another former Mormon. “Nick Name and the Normals” follows missionary-cum-gay-rocker Kent James a.k.a. “Nick Name.” Damn interesting? Nope—not the film, at least. Unwatchable, the DVD was ejected about 20 minutes into the movie. I wanted to learn about the characters, but I just couldn’t watch a feature-length film produced with Windows Movie Maker.

Am I the only one who has trouble deciding what to rate movies from Netflix? Knowing that my ratings affect my future suggestions always makes for a difficult decision between ★★ and ★★★.

For the unfamiliar, here’s the guide Netflix gives you in the tooltips of its stars—what you see if you hover over them as you’re about to rate a movie:

  • ★: Hated It
  • ★★: Didn’t Like It
  • ★★★: Liked It
  • ★★★★: Really Liked It
  • ★★★★★: Loved It

Since there’s no “neutral,” I give a lot of ★★★ to movies I didn’t really like. ★★★★★ ratings are reserved for truly great films, so if I end up liking a movie a bit, since I’ve already used ★★★ to mean “meh,” I end up giving it a rating saying I “really like it.” Damn. I probably shouldn’t fret, though; I’m sure Netflix has some great algorithms (and data) to normalize it all …I hope.

♻ Mad flow

| No TrackBacks

I kind of thought Sad Guys on Trading Floors would be one of those blogs I subscribe to and eventually prune out of my feed reader because the joke had run its course (an ailment particularly common on tumblr), but today’s post reassured me that it’ll probably stick around in my Google Reader for a while.

What do you call these blogs? They’re a little bit more fun than single-serving sites, but fade fast. You know… sites like Scanwiches. Three-bite sites?

♻ laaaammeee

| No TrackBacks

Am I that big of a nerd that I enjoy the Ad Council’s PSAs? I only really found out about all of Ad Council’s ads through my job, as they’re the default “house ad” in a lot of publishers’ display ad management systems (e.g., DART). (The house ad is run when no other ad inventory is available and publisher wants to avoid leaving empty space on the page. Publishers make no money on a PSA click.)

The Ad Council coordinates non-partisan issues with agencies and directors (a favorite of mine, Errol Morris, even made some!) that then create the ads pro bono. Distribution is handled by the Ad Council.

In conclusion, don’t completely ignore these things! Some of them are pretty funny, as I’ve learned from subscribing to them on YouTube:

♻ Series1

| No TrackBacks

From the Excel blog: How to Create a Professional Chart using Excel 2007. It’s really too bad it takes 17 modifications of the default (not counting the clicks/entering of input) to make a “professional chart” (read: roughly Tufte-approved), and that the team acknowledges this. I’m eager to try out Numbers ‘09, but not holding my breath.

I love to think of the editor who got to settle on the title “Gervais + Elmo = Hilarity”:

♻ jus-ti-fied

| 5 Comments | No TrackBacks

For those of us who enjoy the readability of justified text, but aren’t satisfied with text-align: justify;, there’s Hyphenator.js. I just installed it on this site, and I’m pleased with the results.

A little reference

Ok, if you didn’t understand that first sentence, here’s some background. When you’re displaying text, you can choose between left flushing and full justification. Left flushing produces even spaces between words and leaves a “ragged right” edge, since a line break is inserted when the last word of a line would push it past the margin. Fully justified text does not have a ragged right, since it tries to achieve a smooth edge on both margins. Justified text is more readable, but left flushing is what most computer applications do by default, perhaps a vestige of its simple implementation.

The reason justification is harder to implement is because lines look bad if all you do is stretch the inter-word spacing. One way around this is finding more places to break a line, so you don’t need to stretch spaces as much. But how do you find more places to break a line? Hyphenation.

While some typesetting programs have algorithms that determine “good” hyphenation points in arbitrary words (LaTeX has this on by default; in Pages and MS Word, it must be activated manually), web browsers are not among them. Browsers have the ability to fully justify text, but don’t compute new hyphenation points, since it hasn’t been standardized yet.

The only way a hyphenation point can be specified within a word in HTML (without actually writing a hyphen, e.g., “well-liked”) is with the ­ (soft hyphen) entity. Modern browsers interpret ­ as “don’t display anything here, but this is a fine place to put a hyphen.” Of course, nobody actually writes ­ at every hyphenation point of every word in text as they write it. That’s insane.

Enter Javascript. Specifically, Hyphenator.js. (I was going to write a script that hyphenated HTML myself, but I’m glad googling saved me a bunch of work.) Given some text on a page, it computes hyphenation points à la TeX, inserts ­ entities in the words, and leaves the display of hyphens to the browser. Beautiful. It’s really customizable, and easy to use.

If you’re lazy, you can just wait for CSS3 to come out, where a standard for hyphenating on user agents might be finalized. I hope this is soon, so everybody who wants type that doesn’t look shitty doesn’t need to install this script (though it is sweet demonstration of the power of Javascript).

Of course, if you’re reading this via a feed reader (like you should be), the Javascript won’t be run and you won’t see any difference.

♻ All the samples you need

| No TrackBacks

Eh, screw the MPC, I’ve got it all covered.

♻ United States v. Basket

| No TrackBacks

I think I just came across my favorite Supreme Court case name: United States v. 12 200-Ft. Reels of Super 8mm. Film. The idea of the federal government fighting inanimate objects is just funny. If anybody can explain to me why this case was named this way (and not United States v. Paladini), fill me in.

A close second (and referenced in this case): United States v. Thirty-Seven Photographs.

Cited in a dissenting opinion of United States v. 12 200-Ft. Reels Of Film is Benjamin Franklin’s Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress, where he justifies his assertion that old women are superior to young ones (emphasis mine):

Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement.

Holy crap. Benjamin Franklin might be the first to ever call someone a one bagger—or a “one basketer,” at least.