25 August 2009

Squirrel Sausages

Shoe, 25 Aug 2009 (resized)

Substitute "Springfield" for "Washington" and that's about right.

  • What screen resolution makes sense for your webpage or blawg/blog? A Seattle company provides some data of dubious applicability (snurched from RightReading) that can be reanalyzed. The main problem is that the data leaves out a key variable: What browser is being used at the different screen sizes. For example, were I to repurpose this blawg for the lowest screen resolution covered, I'd want to know whether those users were using a fully CSS-compliant browser (that is, almost anything except Internet Exploder and Safari).

    What this really points to, though, is the problem with "standards" for electronic devices. Anyone who has done extensive overseas travel can commiserate — problems ranging from cellphone signals to the power outlets are just the beginning; the less said about character sets (and yes, I'm talking to you, Monster of Cupertino), the better. Isolated US-based users need not apply to any committee responsible for setting workable standards, though...

  • Are CDs on the way out? The Toronto Globe & Mail has jumped the shark bandwagon and claimed so, at least for classical music. Perhaps this is the time that there really is a wolf, but I doubt it for a very simple reason: The comparative (perceived) fragility of nonphysical media, which is a particular issue for classical music fans (who still rely on vinyl for many "definitive" recordings). Meanwhile, nobody is paying all that much attention to the output devices... which largely haven't advanced in a decade or more. Yeah, one can get "more channels", but they're still being played through crappy little speakers in rooms with random acoustics.
  • As if anyone needs further proof that there is no monolithic "publishing industry," consider this breathless piece from the New York Observer touting "jacketless hardbacks" as the next new thing. Maybe it's new to trade fiction... but it's standard now in educational publishing, and has been for three decades. Even when I was in college, self-covers on casebound books (note the difference in terminology?) were not just common, but virtually universal; I remember all the bitching as the LSD-inspired cover of the new edition of the multivariate calculus textbook (which, BTW, was largely considered by everyone except its author — who, naturally enough, was chair of the math department — as a piece of garbage) made it impossible for students to save money by buying used textbooks. On the other hand, maybe my own struggles with the class (bonus: I had a fresh-out-of-grad-school instructor who didn't learn how to teach until about ten weeks into the semester) make the memory more irritating; the other two expensive textbooks that memorable freshman year — new editions for organic chemistry and physics — were also self-covers, although not in as eye-straining a way.

    In any event, the bonus is this: The publisher of that calculus textbook was the same conglomerate as that of one of the three novels mentioned in the lede of the Observer story. So calling any of this "new" is more than a bit of a stretch.

  • In a truly astounding display of hubris and bad logic, Robert Wright opines that religious doctrine and science should just all get along because they don't really conflict. Leaving aside the unanswerable question — unanswerable if only because the language used to state it presupposes a definitive result — of "why" v. "how" as the foundation for understanding the universe, the "pro-religion" point of view depends upon an unsound premise: That an acceptable framework for understanding "the universe" accounts for unknown data, mechanisms, etc. ab initio, and does not itself evolve. (The less said about how to choose among various religious doctrines, the better.)
  • Late-breaking news bulletin: Hollywood is abandoning "adult" fare for kid-oriented visual extravaganzas. Leaving aside that this has been going on for at least thirty years, it ignores the converse trend in the opposite direction. Quickly: Is a Pixar film or another warmed-over Disney animation more likely to be a box-office success? <SARCASM> Maybe it's just that kids read more than do Hollywood executives (Harry Potter being a pretty substantial tip of the iceberg), so they can "tolerate" more story in their audiovisual entertainment. Or, perhaps, it's just more union-busting... since the union status of special-effects geeks is far less of an issue than is that for the writers, however pathetic the WGA is as a "union." <SARCASM>