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Archive: January 2003

Oh, There’ll Be Plenty

So last night Kat and I headed down to the Cinematheque to meet up with Ferrett, Gini, and Jeff to see Jesus Christ Vampire HunterWow!  It was… well, it was… I mean to say, it… it’s not really describable.  But it was quite funny.  I might pick it up on DVD if it ever comes available.  As Ferrett said on the way out, “Oh, I can’t wait for the commentary track for that one.”

Meantime, the recent ruling on Eldred v. Ashcroft sparked a lot of debate on a computer book authors list to which I belong.  I stayed out of it for a while, because I didn’t have much to say, and then suddenly—as is often my wont—I realized I had something to say after all.  So I said it, and I figured, what the heck, I could say it here too.  So if you want to know what I think about copyright terms, feel free to read away.  If not, no sweat.  It’s automatically copyrighted either way, as it happens, and now nobody else can say the same thing for more than a century, or something like that.  How much sense does that make?

I still don’t know why I think so, but this is darned cool.  I’m probably just jealous I didn’t think of it first.

Dirty Harry!

Mark your calendars, Potterphiles: June 21st is when Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix is due to be released.  The book will come in at a svelte 255,000 words spread out across 768 pages, using a smaller type than previous books since sticking with the same type would have put the book at about 960 pages.  Even so, assuming the growth trend continues and the type doesn’t get any smaller, my rough calculations show the seventh book will be a bit over 436,000 words and 1,314 pages long.  It’s a bold new concept in fantasy writing: you’ll be able to experience the last year of Harry’s schooling in real time.  Just like being there!  Only with you sitting in a chair reading.

How have I gone this long without encountering Clagnut?  It’s the kind of design that I can sort of vaguely see in my head when I sit down to do something, but when I do it, the end result is never as good as I thought it would be.  Richard Rutter apparently has the ability to see things clearly from the start, and carry them through until they’re done so that they look as good, or better, when finished.  Although I do see some rendering differences between browsers due to box model problems, they somehow don’t really detract from the site’s appearance.  I’m seriously thinking of modifying some of his ideas for a theme here.  It’s about time I put together a presentation option that significantly modifies the layout, instead of just recolors the basic one.  “Wo hu cang long” was a faltering start down that path, but it’s not enough.

Agony and Ivory

I’m feeling better, thanks.  About most things, anyway.

If you’re seeing layout or other rendering bugs on this site in Safari, as some people have said they are, please use the bug icon in the browser to report the problem.  I can’t run Safari or else I’d report problems myself.  Apparently there are some weirdnesses with the navigation links in the sidebar, if nothing else.  Whatever problem you see, it’s worth reporting, so please do.

Most of you probably already know that Mark Pilgrim is upset with XHTML 2.0, and many of you may be aware that Tantek and Daniel Glazman are in agreement.  I’m broadly sympathetic with their frustrations, but since I was never that thrilled with XHTML in the first place, I can’t get too worked up about the breaks between 1.x and 2.0.  I never really got why HTML had to be reformulated as XML.  Yes, I’ve read all the arguments about later ease of conversion and all that.  I suppose there was some good in easing authors into XML authoring habits using a language they mostly recognized.  That just didn’t seem like enough.  This site has been, and continues to be, HTML 4.01 Transitional for a reason.

I do broadly agree that XHTML 2.0 is way too unrealistic for its own good.  It outright drops too many things authors find useful, like the style attribute (although I admit I’m biased there) and heading elements.  For that matter, yes, Virginia, there is a difference between abbr and acronym, so dropping either one seems like a mistake.  On the other hand, if this stuff was deprecated instead of eliminated, I’d have many fewer points of concern about XHTML 2.0.  I’d be worried that the deprecated stuff would be dropped in the next version of XHTML, but XHTML 2.0 would bother me less.

Then again, given that you can take XML and CSS and create your own documents out of whatever markup language you can invent, and use XSLT to bridge the gap between old browsers and new ones, I find XHTML to be of minor import.  If it gets too ivory, then it will be ignored, and some other XML-based language will take it place.  Or, more likely, lots of markup languages.  Either way it will be interesting, and the XHTML 2.0 advocates won’t be able to blame anyone else for the explosion of non-interoperable languages.  Which, I suppose, is the point of all the sturm und drang of late.  If XHTML 2.0 were interoperable with XHTML 1.1, people wouldn’t be nearly so upset.

Wow… all this concern over making things work together.  Can it be that the Web is getting all growed up?

Green Destiny

Simon Jessey has confessed he wrote the Amazon review I mentioned on Thursday, and furthermore says he pictures me mostly as Li Mu Bai with a little Jen Yu thrown in.  Hmmmm… that’s definitely an interesting image.  Anyway, I’ve created a new presentation option for the site to celebrate being called “The Li Mu Bai of Cascading Style Sheets”: please enjoy wo hu cang long.  Note that this new theme has a layout bug in IE5/Mac which appears to be related to the alternate-style switch, and not the CSS itself.  There isn’t much I can do about it, as the bug doesn’t happen in static test documents.

On the other hand, Robert Kirkpatrick wrote in to advise me that I should work to be the Cheng Pei-pei (who played the Jade Fox in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) of CSS.  Of course, we’re mixing actual people and characters here—in the movie, of course, Li Mu Bai is the more skilled, but in real life it’s likely Cheng is more skilled than Chow.  Either way, I’m flattered.

I’m also feeling under the weather, which is ironic given how nice a day it is today.  Off to the couch for tea with lemon and maybe a movie.  The Killer is always a good choice.

Lookin’ Up

In response to my rantings yesterday, David Hyatt has stated unequivocally that the Safari team did not, in fact, co-opt Netscape evangelism efforts during development.  I’m really very glad to hear that’s the case, and if I hadn’t had such a bad day Tuesday, I probably wouldn’t have mentioned the rumor in the first place.  Then again, the end result of my ranting is a negative rumor laid to rest, so perhaps it was all for the best.  That’s what I’ll tell myself to feel better about the whole situation, anyway.

To make it formal: I apologize for casting any unwarranted aspersions on the Safari team, Apple, etc.  With any luck this will help stamp out the rumors that were reaching me.

On to more trivial matters!  This is quite possibly the coolest review I’ve yet received:

Last year, I watched “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and I was amazed at the swordsmanship on display. Swords were no longer weapons, but extensions of arms – as if they were new appendages grown especially for the task. Eric Meyer can wield CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) in just the same way as those actors could wield swords.
–Amazon reader review for Eric Meyer on CSS

Being a big fan of the movie, I can’t help but be deeply flattered.  I’m just wondering if said reader pictures me as Li Mu Bai, Yu Shu Lien, or Jen Yu.

Beyond the Pale

First Nike claimed (so far as I can tell) a right to deceive the public under the First Amendment, and now Citrix is claiming that paying taxes violates its First Amendment rights.  I find it odd and faintly troubling  that I keep finding references to these cases on the O’Reilly Network, and not via more traditional news sources like CNN.

You know, I’m a big fan of capitalism.  It’s the one form of economics I’ve ever seen that best fits with basic human nature.  It allows capital to move around freely, which is the key to a healthy economy.  It’s based on currency, which is a very useful way to abstractly (and yet tangibly) represent the effort one expends in doing a task, and the worth of that effort.  It’s one step up from the barter system, but it’s an unimaginably powerful step.  It makes possible everything we take for granted in Western society.

Nonetheless, I do not and will not ever accept that capitalist actors—companies as well as individuals—should be totally unfettered and untaxed by government entities.  The government provides very useful services, ones I wouldn’t want to live without and that I can’t reasonably perform myself.  Like the people who inspect food to make sure it’s not going to kill me, for example.  They’re sort of important.  They aren’t perfect, but without them around I suspect food poisoning deaths would be a great deal more common in America.  After all, cleanliness is expensive.  Similarly, I think the EPA is useful, or would be if allowed to do its job.  In any case, taxes support those services.  Not to mention the military, which I’ve been given to understand is a popular institution with the American people these days.  No taxes?  No military.

I can hardly believe that any company has the gall to claim that they have First Amendment rights to not pay taxes.  Maybe, just maybe, the cumulative effect of these cases will be to have the Supreme Court definitively rule that corporations do not have rights, but are instead accorded privileges.  Am I dreaming?  Yeah, probably.

Meanwhile, I’ve heard credible rumors that Apple, while it was working on Safari, filed Bugzilla evangelism bugs so that the Standards Evangelists at Netscape (of which I’m one) would get the sites to fix their code to work with Gecko and other standards-compliant browsers.  This would then, they apparently hoped, get the sites working in Safari as well.  If this turns out to be true, I’m going to be furious; just the idea that it could be true makes me angry.  I don’t mind helping out Apple.  I’m a Macintosh guy and have been for more than a decade now.  I do mind being tricked into doing their work for them.  Hey, guys, what’s wrong with saying, “We’re both working on standards-based browsers, so let’s work together to get sites to support standards?”  You know, being honest?  How about that?  Anyone think of that?

The more I learn about corporate behavior these days, the more I think about becoming a hermit.  A high school friend of mine always said he could easily see me being a backwoods hermit philosopher, muttering about the Deep Mysteries to a bunch of squirrels and throwing a waist-length beard over my shoulder while munching wild strawberries.  Maybe he was just being prescient.

Beware of the Leopard

Apple has launched a new open-source browser called Safari.  I wonder how Tim O’Reilly feels about that, given how long ago he launched his own Safari.

Unfortunately, the user agent string of Safari is Netscape 5.0 Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/48 (like Gecko) Safari/48.  “Like Gecko?”  Right.  So if you’re doing client sniffing, better make sure you aren’t catching Safari in your “test for Gecko” code, because it’s not very much like Gecko.  Once again we see why client detection is a dangerously fragile and ultimately futile approach to, well, anything on the Web.  If you absolutely must detect, do object detection: look for support for the things you need to make your application work.  Otherwise, follow the standards and don’t try to serve up customized content, styles, or scripts to anyone.

Elegance and Eloquence

At least one good thing has come out of the apparently-ending-soon thread on www-style: Robin Berjon posted a link to the specification for Ook!, which I hadn’t encountered before.  It was so beautiful, I shed a tear of joy.  Great domain name, too.

As I read How to Write Like a Wanker (thanks to Simon for the pointer), for some strange and obscure reason I found my thoughts once more turning to the aforementioned www-style thread.  I really have to find something else to occupy my mind.  I hear girls are a very popular mental obsession for some people; maybe I’ll try that.  I’m sure my wife will be just thrilled.

Carol Spears wrote in to share some CSS magnetic poetry with me, so I’m sharing it with you.  There are some other interesting CSS examples on the same page, so check them out.  They remind me a little of my one bout of noodling.  (Suddenly I wonder if I should shift that into css/edge.)

Here’s something interesting: Now Corporations Claim The “Right to Lie”.  I found the link at the O’Reilly Network, so you’ve probably already seen it, but if not I highly recommend a reading.  The historical information alone was quite fascinating.  For another side to the story, there’s a wire piece from last November over at CNN Money that concerns me as well.  I don’t believe corporations should ever have a right to lie, and it appalls me that we’ve come to that even being a question.  But is there a right to restrict what news organizations (even those owned by huge media conglomerates) can say, or what corporate members can say to the press, about politics or corporate behavior?  Does the actual ruling mean that?  I don’t know, but the whole thing bothers me.

January 2003
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