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Archive: 2004

Behind The Beauty, Cracks Appear

This one is going out to all the social conservatives in the room.

Congratulations, people!  You’ve managed to strike a blow for the promulgation of promiscuity and the diminishment of the American dream.  That was the point, wasn’t it?

Yes, I’m referring to the eleven state issues that passed a week ago, each and every one declaring marriage to be the union of a man and a woman, period, move to France if you don’t like it, end of story.  Here in Ohio, we passed one of the most stringent versions by amending our state constitution to define marriage that way, and also to prohibit the granting of equivalent legal status to any other kind of union.  Which means that not only can gays not get married in Ohio, but their domestic partners can’t be granted any of the rights and priveleges that marriage confers even by means of a civil union or some other not-marriage-in-name-only device.  The same is true for heterosexual domestic partners.  You’re either married, or you’re out of luck.  And if you’re gay, well, it would seem you’re just plain out of luck.

So yes, that’s right, oh noble defenders of morality, by enshrining your discomfort with homosexuality, you’ve done your level best to promote continued homosexual promiscuity.  After all, American society is pretty clearly telling gays that they shouldn’t ever hope to have a long-term committed relationship recognized by the state.  So is it any wonder that they don’t tend to form such relationships?  There are, of course, exceptions; I know of at least one gay couple that’s been together for a decade and a half now.  But they aren’t legally married, nor can they be so long as they live in this state, or really almost anywhere in this country.  The message is loud and clear.

As for the American dream, well, your crusade has tarnished that as well.  Remember “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?  So much for the last of the three.  When two people love each other enough to commit their lives to each other, why should anyone else stand in the way of their happiness?  And yet we do, as a society.  In the name of our discomfort, we impair their happiness.  Life and liberty are still mostly assured, although it’s likely Matthew Shepard would choose to disagree, if only he could.

I know that I’m generalizing here, but at the same time, this is what our democratic process has delivered.  If a vote is the voice of the people, they’re saying something that tastes like ashes to me.  It’s the same process that blocked interracial marriages for so many years.  It’s about as right now as it was then.

You know, according to the CIA World Factbook, the population of the United States in 2003 was 290,809,777.  According to the ratios documented in multiple studies, approximately 29,080,977 of those Americans are homosexual.  The total membership of the largest Baptist churches in the United States, by comparison, was about 29,553,000—roughly the same size as the homosexual population.  (And of couse there are people who are members of both sets.)  Since we’re all apparently willing to prohibit small minorities from marrying, I say we define marriage to be a union between a man and a woman, neither of whom is Baptist.  Sound fair?

Yeah, I thought you’d feel that way.

  (Ed. note — it has been pointed out that the 10% figure is no longer accepted.  Unfortunately, there is not much in the way of firm data on the actual percentage of homosexuals in the American population.  One source describes research which gives a variety of numbers that can, depending on one’s definition of “gay”, yield figures anywhere from 4.2% to 13.4% of the population.  The abstract point being made still stands regardless of the exact numbers, but the original inaccuracy is regretted.)

I’ve had some friends ask me when I’ll be moving, and I can no longer answer “I don’t plan to”, because I’m just not sure any more.  The problem isn’t Cleveland, of course.  Sure, we have problems hereabouts, but this is a relatively tolerant corner of the state.  The particular suburb in which I reside, Cleveland Heights, had the first voter-approved domestic partner registry in America.  Our street had about two dozen Kerry signs and one Bush sign, but so far as I know nobody gave the Bush folks a hard time.  Heck, the guy who mowed “BUSH” into his lawn the next street over was talked about with neighborly amusement and a touch of admiration toward his level of dedication.  Nobody proposed running him out of town.  We didn’t even call him names, or speak with derision.  We generally live and let live around here.  That’s kind of a liberal trait, actually—at least, among the liberals I know.  And I know a lot of them.

The problem isn’t even Ohio.  Yes, this state collectively told gays (and unmarried heterosexual couples) that we don’t much like their kind.  So did ten other states.  Right now, the same would happen just about anywhere in America.  So the problem seems to be America, or maybe just Americans.  Either way, there’s something about homosexuals getting married that a whole lot us just can’t stomach.  I don’t know what it is about this issue that has everyone’s panties in a bunch, and to be frank I’m not sure I much care.  When I’m this far out of touch with so many of my fellow countrymen, maybe it’s time to consider leaving.  After all, if the majority is always sane, then I’m the one who’s wrong here.

It isn’t that easy, of course.  I have no real wish to leave behind the country of my birth; I have great affection for America, and deeply believe in the principles on which it was founded, in a time when so many people seem to feel otherwise.  It grieves me to think of my country as being on the wrong track, but I do.  And then there’s my family to think about, but that actually deepens the quandry.  I don’t exactly want to ask them to move over a point of principle, but at the same time, I’m not at all sure I want to raise my children in a country that seems to have become so shamefully intolerant and narrow-minded.  Kat and I will set for them the best example we can, but when it’s us against the body politic, well, we’re just a little outnumbered.  We might be better served to find a society that will support our beliefs, instead of one that opposes and belittles them.

This isn’t an attack on America, and it isn’t a promise to leave, and it isn’t a story with any kind of decent ending.  It’s a glimpse into one citizen’s inner disappointment.  It’s an attempt to exorcise some of my frustration, and to plead a case, however clumsily.  It’s a lament for a noble dream, one we seem to have forgotten in the heat and noise of our harried, fearful lives.

I wish I could end with a flourish, or even better, with an answer, a call to action.  All I have is a sorrowful shake of my head and a small shrug of resignation.

S5 1.1a1

I’m working on S5 1.1, and want to keep people involved in moving it forward.  So I’ve put up a testbed slide show file, which is simply a copy of the introductory presentation file that points to a new UI directory.  The current state of things, which I’ll call 1.1a01, adds two new features:

  1. An author can indicate whether or not the file should default to slide show or outline view.  The default is slide show.  If you want it to default to outline view, you add:

    <meta name="slideshow" content="no" />
    

    The other possible content value is, obviously, “yes”.  This should be useful to professors who want to present notes in class as a slide show, and then post the same file to the class Web site in outline view.  The toggle key and button will both still flip between outline and slide show views, so you aren’t trapped in one or the other.  You just get to choose how the file will load up.

  2. When in slide show view, the font size automatically scales based on the window size.  This means that if you’re expecting 1024×768 and get 800×600, the slides won’t become impossibly long.  Note, however, that this scales text—not images.  I’m not up to that yet, given that I have to think about how to (or even if I want to) handle them.  I’m using an onresize event handler to scale the fonts if you change the window size, as well as firing the scaling function when the slides are first loaded.  In outline view, the scaling is suppressed.

    In adding this, however, I’ve come up against the same problem that prevented font scaling from appearing in S5 1.0: Gecko-based browsers mangle the layout when the font scales.  To see what I mean, toggle the slide view off and then back on.  Text separation, and the widths of inline elements, will not be recalculated when the slide view is restored.  The same kind of thing happens if you change the window size.  Once you’ve settled on a new size or toggled back to slide view, just hit Reload and all is well.  So it seems to be a case of not consistently redrawing element boxes when font sizes change; force them to be redrawn with a reload, and things are drawn as they should be.

    I can’t figure out how to fix this short of firing a reload event in the fontScale() routine, which I’d really rather avoid.  I suppose I could suppress scaling for Gecko browsers on resize (and fire a reload after toggling back to slide view) but I’d like to find a more elegant way to fix the problem.  For that matter, if anyone wants to make my scaling logic more elegant, go for it.  The frustration of cross-browser incompatibilities in manipulating styles came to the fore when I wrote that routine.

There are several ideas and suggestions from the 1.0 release that have yet to be implemented: be patient!  We’re on 1.1a01, remember, and S5, for all its promise, remains a “free time” project.  (My editors will no doubt be dismayed to hear that I think I even have free time.)  If I get time, I’ll write up a concrete to-do list so you can see what’s planned.  For now, if you’d like to help, please just focus on the problems I mentioned, or new problems caused by these features that I didn’t find.  Speaking of which, if any of you IE/Mac wizards can figure out what I’ve done that breaks S5 in that browser, I’d very much appreciate it.

Look Who’s Walking Now

This past Tuesday, and by that I mean three days ago, Carolyn stood unsupported for the first time, wobbling in place for five seconds.  She stood on her own a few more times Wednesday and Thursday, gaining a little more experience and confidence each time.

This morning, she started walking.  They’re tentative, almost spastic steps, but she can get from one person to another without any support at all.  Her facial expression as she does so is a bizarre mixture of pure concentration and pure joy–almost as if she knows this is really, really hard, and yet loves to do it so much that she can barely breathe.

Remember, this is the little girl who didn’t even start crawling until about six weeks ago.  Now she’s walking, and she’s started crawling up the stairs to boot.  I can hardly believe it.  It’s almost like she was uninterested in mobility until she twigged onto the fact that she could actually move from place to place on her own… and once she figured that out, well, Katy bar the door.

And honestly, I’m not sure who’s more excited, her or us.  Yeah, I know, she’s walking now and that means our lives will never be the same, we’ll wonder why we were ever excited about this, blah blah parental scare stories blah.  You know what?  I will never wonder why I was excited about this.  As she’s moved through every stage, I’ve cherished and enjoyed where she was on each day, and how she’d changed from the past.  Kat has as well.  I think we’ll be free of the wistful regrets that so many other parents have talked about, saying things like, “Oh, I just couldn’t wait for little Joey to start talking, but now he just won’t stop with the chattering and I wonder why I ever wanted him to change!”  No matter how jovial the tone or wry the expression, there always seems to be an undercurrent of seriousness, as if they really do wish that little Joey would just shut up… or, at the least, that they’d fully appreciated the pre-talking stage.

I don’t know that we’ll ever understand that view, and I can’t say that bothers me.  Every time Carolyn makes a developmental advance, it’s a new and fascinating time.  But more immediately, every single day is exciting and wonderful, as we watch her figure out this thing or that; just share playtime with her; or take her for a walk in the yard to touch the trees’ bark, pull up tiny handfuls of the grass, and tilt back to look at the sky with storm-gray eyes full of awe.

Now she walks.  Soon, she’ll start signing to us.  A few months from now, she’ll begin to really talk; she’s already starting to assemble the rudiments of language, imitating things we say as best she can.  One day, she’ll go to kindergarten, and later to grade school.  In the farther future, she’ll become a teenager, and then a woman.  At every turning point, we’ll celebrate who she is and what she’s doing, and never regret the times that have passed into memory.

Keep walking, little one.  We’re right behind you.

Uncollapsing Margins

At long last, I’ve published a new article at Complex Spiral: “Uncollapsing Margins“.  In it, I explore how margin collapsing can lead to weird behaviors, why these behaviors arise, and ways to work around it when you want a different result.  If you’ve ever tried to figure out why a heading’s top margin seems to disappear when it’s the first thing in a div, this article will be of interest.

Oh, and if you were having trouble reaching meyerweb in the last 24 hours, we done got Slashdotted.  They posted an article about S5, and the ensuing geek stampede crushed my bandwidth like it was an overripe grape.  An overripe grape run over by a steamroller.  Once the article fell off the Slashdot home page, things got back to normal.

UI9

A blurry image of the display panel of another digital camera, which shows that camera is pointed at the display panel of yet another digital camera.

Vote Baby Vote

Okay, so yesterday’s post was a bit of tongue-in-cheekery, but with a very serious undertone.  As a matter of fact, today Kat, Carolyn, and I went to a doctor’s appointment, then to vote, and then out to lunch.  When we got back, there were two voice mail messages.  I laid 3:1 odds that they were both political, and yes, they were both GOP ads.  While we were retrieving those messages, another message landed in our voice mail box—this one also from the GOP.

The flood of political calls has been, not to put too fine a point on it, infuriating.  I signed up with the Do Not Call list for a reason, geniuses.  I’m doubly glad to be on it now that we have Carolyn.  I’m not especially concerned that the phone will wake her, bless her heart; once she goes to deep sleep, you could practically send a marching band through her room to play “Columbia, The Gem Of The Ocean” at full volume and she’d continue snoring.  (Such cute little snores they are, too.)  But some nights, especially when the teething is particularly bad, she never really gets to a deep sleep.  The last thing I want is for her to be woken up by a ringing phone and experience more pain because some politician or political activist thinks I really need to hear from him (or her).  I don’t.  Stop bothering me.

Now, I’ll admit that my vote for President was never in serious doubt.  It was easier to justify, though, on the grounds that Kerry and his allies had invaded my family’s privacy to a lesser extent than did his opponents.  It’s a classic “lesser of two evils” rationalization, but hey, any port in an electoral storm.  It’s also a metaphor for the Bush administration’s stance on social and privacy issues, now that I think about it.

And why was my vote never in serious doubt?  I can explain that in ten words (16 words and three letters if you count the names).

General Tendencies
Social Fiscal
Eric A. Meyer Liberal Conservative
George W. Bush Conservative Liberal
John F. Kerry Liberal Liberal

That’s it in a nutshell.  I’ve had a number problems with the Bush administration’s policies and actions, and most of them stem from the differences in philosophy that table summarizes.

There’s another reason I voted for Kerry, though: the Congress is almost certainly not going to be controlled by the Democrats.  Thus, the only things that will get through the legislative process are those with broad support.  Most observers feel that should Kerry win, he’ll have to set aside some of his grander (read: more expensive) plans for at least the first two years of his administration.  That’s just fine with me.  Since a Republican-dominated government apparently can’t show a sense of fiscal restraint, I’d be happy to have it arise as a side effect of an opposite-party government.

Well, not exactly happy, really, but hopefully you know what I mean.

It’ll certainly be interesting to watch how all this plays out.  Now, if you haven’t yet, get out there and vote!

Making A Call

Dear President Bush,

How are things going?  I hear you’ve been very busy, doing a lot of traveling, that sort of thing.  In a way, it’s too bad you don’t fly on commercial airlines, because you would have a whole pile of frequent flyer miles.  You could probably earn three or four round-the-world trips.  Though now that I think about it, you probably don’t really need that kind help getting around, do you?

I’ve long been an undecided voter, thanks in no small part to the choice of candidates this time around.  I’m sure you’re a very honorable man, at least to the extent your office will permit.  Nonetheless, about half your policies have been deeply dismaying to me.  On the other hand, about half your opponent’s positions are no more appealing to me.  On the whole, as I’ve complained from time to time, I’ve had a very difficult time making up my mind how to vote.  It’s true that I’m traditionally a liberal type, but that’s mostly in the social arena.  That, incidentally, should provide a good indication of which half of your policies have dismayed me.

As a resident of a “battleground” state, or “swing” state, or whatever it is we’re calling them these days, I’ve been getting a lot of phone calls these days.  I imagine you know a thing or two about that; after all, your mother and your wife both called.  So did Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Also Gwyneth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker, although they of course weren’t calling on your behalf.  In addition, I’ve heard from a number of dire-voiced men warning me about the terrible dangers inherent in electing you, or your opponent, to the White House.  Over the past month, I’d estimate that I’ve received at least fifty calls from campaigns, political parties, 527 groups, and so forth.  In one recent night, three such calls came in the space of twenty minutes.  I’d most certainly have gotten more calls, but I was out of town for a week.

Anyway, I thought I’d let you know that from what I can tell, the organization of your campaign, and of those efforts aligned with you, has been more effective at reaching voters in my area.  At a rough estimate, calls from your campaign, the Republican Party, and various 527 groups close to your side of the ideological spectrum have outnumbered those from the other side of the spectrum by about a third.

Accordingly, I’ll be casting my vote for John Kerry.

More Tools

For those who are interested, I’ve added some new stuff to the Tools page, in addition to reordering it just a little.  The first addition is a URL decoder/encoder, something I’ve needed from time to time when trying to unravel encoded-JavaScript bookmarklets.  I’m sure every other developer in the world has created his own version of this tool at some point; well, here’s mine.  The second new toolbox entry is for users of NetNewsWire 2: a small collection of themes.  There are three as of this posting, each with a very, very different aim—one artistic, one historical, and one technological.

Hopefully I’ll have more to add to the S5 portion of the toolbox in the near future.

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