Thursday Morning Post/Pre/Interwork Blips (April 12 Edition)

April 12th, 2007  |  Published in etc

» An NPR correspondent this morning suggested that people voting for Sanjaya on American Idol might be “acting in bad faith,” subverting the show by catapulting the most profoundly mediocre performer to victory.

I would invite that correspondent to consider that perhaps those so voting are acting in very good faith by refusing to take American Idol, or the diseased industry that spawned it, seriously.

» I’m sorry Kurt Vonnegut is dead. That bastard Steve Inskeep hogged “So it goes,” but I would have regretted saying that anyhow. Mr. Vonnegut was very important to me in high school, same as Hunter Thompson, Douglas Adams and Ray Bradbury. Vonnegut’s language, like Bradbury’s form, was deceptively simple. Over the years, I’ve profited every time I’ve returned to his writing.

» Recent books added to the shelf. I’ve got to organize a reading schedule:


I like this book the further I get into it, and I like the index.

I bet I would have liked the O’Reilly one better, but this one’s o.k. as a book-in-the-lap reference.


Just getting into it, but I like the practical angle.

  • The Non-Designer’s Design Book: I’m kind of curious about Williams’ followup, devoted to Web design, but I leafed through it and it felt too big and cluttery. The plain old Design Book doesn’t talk about Web typography or design at all (in the first edition, which I own), but that’s good: I’d rather have a guide to basic design principles that doesn’t try to tackle CSS and fail. As a side note, I’m also interested in Williams’ The Non-Designer’s Type Book, but I haven’t seen it on the shelves and a few of the Amazon reviews imply that it might not be so good, and may not really provide much more than you get with the Design Book.

  • Bulletproof Web Design:

I read through most of this in one sitting last night. It condenses a lot of the wisdom you can find here and there into a single volume, and its approach to CSS font sizing (use a keyword for the base size of the document, use percentages for everything else) flies in the face of the more common “just use ems” advice, but makes as much sense. Maybe a bit more.

Stuff I’ve had and have recently been nosing around in again:

I wish the author of this and Matt Neuberg of Applescript: The Definitive Guide would join efforts. I know O’Reilly’s just segmenting its market, but the practical focus of the Missing Manual combined with some of the detail and thoroughness of the Definitive Guide would kill the whole Applescript category.

I have the first edition, which was written before, I think, we had any idea just what people were really going to be doing with XML. The second edition looks more appropriate to 2007, but I can’t justify buying that one when I could probably supplement what it provides with a few web tutorials.

The “how to search” stuff isn’t so useful, but I like the API info and I appreciate the comprehensive section on how Google sees a site. See also a review I wrote for PracNet that ended up on ecommerce-guide instead. I think I prefer the earlier editions to the third, though, because the new focus on some of the services outside the core search and API makes the book feel like it’s becoming as diffuse as other “Hacks” books I haven’t cared for as much.

Found in the Basement, File Under “those were the days”:

  • Creating Killer Web Sites: I have the first edition, (c)1996, and I guess I’m glad, for David Siegel’s sake, that accusing your favorite Web designer of being an obvious student of his isn’t treated like the blood libel it would have been just two or three years ago. I mean, 1996! I admire the fact that the very designers HTML’s creators had no use for came up with stuff like the single-pixel GIF. Someone on Amazon calls the book “a millstone around the neck of web designers and developers. I think it did more to widen the gulf between designers and developers than help us work together.” I think we’d do better to think of the book as indicative of a failure of the developer community, though more a failure of imagination than engineering. I wasn’t participating in any debates on the matter at the time, but I’d guess that asking nicely with sugar on top for something besides what the designers had to devise workarounds for probably wasn’t getting them anywhere.

  • The LaTeX Web Companion,The LaTeX Graphics Companion & LaTeX: A Document Preparation System: What can I say? I was just getting into participating in the GNOME Documentation Project (“Mike_H: Documenting the Sawfish Capplet”) and I was curious about markup beyond HTML.

» Hey, Mike, why all the Web stuff? The job, partially. And it looks like I might have a chance to do some side work for a small business site in need of an overhaul, so I’m trying to solidify what I know into something more consistent.

» Hey, Mike, what about that Applescript and Ruby stuff? Ruby because of Applescript, Applescript because my laziness has a masochistic dimension.

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