Archive for the ‘Miscellany’ Category

Hey, Web Geniuses…

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

I’m working on my next entry, and I’d like to embed a pdf into the text using HTML.

If I use the EMBED tag, the pdf embeds nicely in Safari, but doesn’t work at all in Firefox, and I haven’t even begun to check it in Windows just yet.

Any tips on how to best do this?

Update: Okay, I got it working fairly well in Vista on both IE and Firefox. Firefox for Mac still eludes me. If anyone knows how get Firefox for Mac to recognize embedded PDF’s, go ahead and comment.

Quick Formatting Tips

Friday, May 11th, 2007

Some of you have been struggling with formatting in the comments section.

Some tips. Normal line breaks are fine...the program knows to format them as such.

For italics, enclose your words in single asterisks.

For instance, *these words* will become these words.

For bold, enclose your words in double asterisks.

**These words** will become these words.

The asterisks trick only works up to a line break, though, so if you start a new paragraph, enclose each paragraph in the asterisks if you want to italicize or bold.

Of course, standard HTML tags work as well.

Catching Up On The Times

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Nappy-headed schmo
Oh, blog, dear blog, I've been neglecting you. I'm racing toward a deadline on my script right now, so I've been keeping you at arm's length. Then, a couple of days ago, when I was thinking about posting, I gave myself a concussion (my head + underside of my son's wooden loft bed = pain and puking). But I can't stay away from you. I want to touch quickly on two topics that have been dominating the news.

First, the Virginia Tech jerk.

It's normal for everyone to navel-gaze and point fingers after something like this happens. One of the best classes I ever took in college was a course called "The Psychology of Justice." In that class, I learned about a phenomenon that is incredibly pervasive and persistent across all cultures: the Belief In A Just World. Belief in a just world often means that we deserve what we get, and we get what we deserve.

However, in cases like the Virginia Tech shooting, it's clear that the victims didn't deserve what they got. That doesn't mean Belief In A Just World goes away. Instead, the BJW theory says that great evils must have great causes.

The space shuttle doesn't blow up because a piece of rubber got cold—it blows up because of a culture of failure and the incompetence of an entire space agency and perhaps because of humanity's hubris… You know what I mean?

In this case, BJW says that video games, isolation, access to guns, non-access to guns, popular music, coarsening of culture and ultimately society itself is to blame for the tragedy at VT. Of course, the problem with BJW is that it's not true. The world is not just. Existence is not fair. Great evils sometimes happen for the most mundane reasons. The poor people who died at VT died because a mentally ill person made the insane choice to kill them. And if someone chooses to kill you, they are going to kill you, and there's nothing you can do about it. They might use guns, they might use gasoline and fertilizer, they might use poison…

…not a very comforting thought.

But that's life in an unjust, unfair world.

Of course, one can imagine Don Imus thinking to himself, "If only this asshole could have done the shooting a week earlier…I'd still have my job."

Frequent commenter Kevin Arbouet has a post up on the Imus situation. I agree 100% with Kevin that this is not a free speech issue at all. No one has the right to a radio talk show. The government didn't fire Imus. He's free to say "nappy headed-ho" all day long without fear of imprisonment or fines.

Now, when this whole thing went down, I was honestly puzzled. Imus has been saying stupid crap like that for years. So has Howard Stern. Have you heard the stuff the comedians say on the Friar's Club roasts? Hell, any four second sample of Lisa Lampanelli's act is waaaay worse than "nappy-headed ho's."

Should Imus have been fired? Yes, but years ago. For sucking. My view of this latest debacle is that it's an example par excellence of our nation's inability to discuss racial issues honestly. We have two cultures. The first culture is soaking in racial humor, racial observations, the n-word, bitches, ho's, racial suspicion, racial resentment and occasionally racial hostility. The second culture is a color-blind, multicultural rainbow coalition where no one sees race, no one ever says or thinks anything "offensive," and we all live, work and play in a bridge-of-the-Starship-Enterprise-like world of ethnic harmony.

The first culture is true. The second is a fraud. We all burble along in the first culture, until, occasionally, someone makes a stink. It's not always Jesse or Al. Sometimes it's the ADL, sometimes it's the guy from the Catholic League, sometimes it's GLAAD, sometimes it's O'Reilly yapping about the coarsening of culture. At that point, everyone suddenly pretends that the first culture is the anomaly, and the second, fraudulent culture is the reality. Somehow, we begin doing rhetorical backflips to denounce true culture as transgressive against a fictional culture that has never been and probably never will be.

But why Imus? Was Imus' "nappy-headed ho's" comment funny? No. Was it accurate? No, not even close.

The reason Imus said that comment is obvious to me: he thought he was sounding "cool." See, perversely, Imus is not part of true culture. He's out of the sphere of what is current. His attempt to be a part of that culture immediately rang false, and I think that's what caught people's attention.

If Howard Stern says, "Nappy-headed ho's," no one blinks. I guarantee it. Why? Because Howard has been manufacturing this kind of relaxed culture for years. Not Imus. When Imus tries it, it sounds tinny and fake and creepy.

Of all the stuff I've read about this affair, the best and most honest perspective is from this guy. I don't agree with everything he says in his piece (I don't have a stake in the cultural battles between black men and black women), and I think he's too hard on Cosby in particular, but when I read his essay, I thought, "Points for honesty."

When it comes to discussions of race in this country, we're in dire need of a Diogenes.


Tuesday, April 10th, 2007

Look around the site, and you'll see lots of little icons next to all of the links.

Welcome to Snap.

Instead of boring links that send you to sites unseen, if you hover your cursor on the link, Snap lets you see a miniature image of the page you're thinking about visiting. To visit the link, just click the image of the site. You can also search within the snap box. Kind of neat, I think (unless you use Safari…the search function seems to crash it).

If you hate Snap, just click on the options or disable link within the link bubble to customize your preferences. Admittedly, I've installed Snap if only to keep up with the Augusts (who went and installed a super nifty live comment preview function on his blog that's apparently super easy for WordPress blogs like his, but on par with nuclear fission for MovableType blogs like mine), but I really like it.

If any of you blog on MovableType or are familiar with functionality you'd like to see here, please let me know. I'm always looking to improve this site, and fussing with php tags at 1:30 in the morning actually keeps me young.

Windows On A Mac

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

Thanks, Parallels!
I was going to write this week’s essay about screenwriting analogies (you know, “It’s a blueprint!” or “It’s a roadmap” or “It’s a rough guideline!”), but I got a bit sidetracked.

See, I’ve been a Mac user my whole life, ever since my first Apple IIe clone back in ‘82 (the Franklin Ace 1000, to be exact…a computer that cost my poor dad $1400 back then…a computer I bought on eBay a few years ago for exactly one dollar), but every now and then, you find yourself stuck needing a Wintel machine. It’s not the way it used to be, where software offerings for Mac were seriously impoverished. There’s practically nothing you can’t get for the Mac nowadays, but it’s that “practically” part that still bugs every now and again.

A few years ago, feeling the need for a Wintel escape hatch for those occasional non-Mac apps (like that stupid Clifford The Big Red Dog Teaches Your Kid How To Read! game), I bought an IBM ThinkPad.

I hate everything about that machine.

Well…not everything. I am a bit fond of the little track nubbin (perhaps because it’s clitoral), but that’s about it. The case is plasticky and shoddy, the screen is horrendous, the drive is about as quiet as a VW bus going up hill, the key feel is cheap and clacky, the sound is dismal, there’s no firewire input, the CD tray is a half a foot-pound away from snapping off at any given moment, and even the power supply is bulky and ugly.

Other than that…

I didn’t mind Windows XP Pro so much, to be honest. It’s a decent system, although it comes up terribly short compared to the latest versions of OS X. Spotlight runs circles around the poky “cute li’l doggy” search function in XP, the Windows Explorer app is ugly and diminished compared to the Finder, and the entire look and feel of XP is very much…well…I want to say 90’s, but that’s almost being generous.

Even worse, any time XP had to do something on a root level (like install certain apps, reboot, upgrade some system software or run a diagnostic), it showed its true, clunky colors. Suddenly, I would find myself looking at fonts from 1983, jagged edges and all, while graphics drawing from a vast palette of about 16 colors blocked and flashed their way across my screen like the images from some awful BASIC program I wrote on my Atari 400 in 1981 (saved on cassette tape drive, natch). The overall effect was like paying for a high-class hooker, getting a low-rent one, and then watching horrified as she removed her wig, glass eye and fake leg.

Plus, if you have sex with her, you will absolutely get a virus, followed by worms, followed by a Trojan Horse humping you from behind.

Yeah, I’m not a Windows fan.

Maybe that’s why I balked at the notion of replacing my aging ThinkPad with a new one. I just hate the idea of spending more money on hardware that exists only to drive software I don’t even like that much.

Enter Parallels.

Because my MacBook Pro is powered by an Intel Processor, it should theoretically be easy to run Wintel apps, right? Well, sort of. I flirted with some apps that promised to run individual Wintel programs within the Mac OS, but they were pretty kludgy. Didn’t have much success with Crossover, for instance.

Parallels, however, works differently. Parallels doesn’t actually run the Wintel apps; rather, it works as a bridge between OS X and a separate installation of a Windows OS that you put on your Mac.

And so, off I went to purchase a copy of Windows Vista to see if this Parallels thing would work. First thing about Vista is this: hey, Microsoft…you still SUCK at packaging. You’d think getting mocked by your own design department would be enough of a sign, but apparently not. Opening the Vista container was slightly harder than convincing my very Catholic girlfriend in 11th grade to give up her virginity. Of course, the fact that they slapped a huge piece of cellophane tape over the “Certificate of Authenticity” didn’t help—in order to open the package, I had to basically shred the certificate, so here’s hoping I never need to show my papers to the Man.

Once the Gordian Knot of Microsoft packaging had been cut, I started up Parallels on my Macbook Pro and loaded in the Vista CD. I tells ya, folks…it worked like BUTTA from there. Took a while, sure, but once it was all loaded in, why, I had a fully operational Vista OS working in full-screen mode on my MacBook Pro. Hell, it somehow managed to tie right into my wireless network without me even telling it how to.

In fact…I’m writing this post within Firefox within Vista within Parallels within OS X.

I wonder if this is how transgendered people feel…