Slight redesign

I’ve been re-reading Mark Pilgrim’s 30 Days to a More Accessible Weblog and updating various bits on this (relatively new) blog. One thing he doesn't point out, particularly in day 26's column, is a combined application of day 9's and day 14's tips that will help Bill (and other Mozilla users): adding a title attribute to the <link rel="stylesheet"> tag. This allows them to completely turn off the styles that have been defined in that sheet using the “View > Use Style > Basic Page Style” menu item—fonts, colours, sizes, everything as you've told your browser to display it. (The W3C refers to this in the HTML 4.01 Specification as defining a preferred stylesheet.)

Oh yeah, a sample:
<link rel="stylesheet" href="styles.css" title="Default site styles" />

Hmm…

It’s odd—a lot of the courses I enjoyed the least at university were electives, which I chose because I had some existing interest in the topics. What does that say, exactly: never learn more about things you enjoy? Somehow I just don’t buy that.

Let’s try this again…

This may seem like an obvious point to make, but I like music. A recent discussion with a friend made me wonder, though, just what it is about music that I like, and it’s not as simple as “it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”

First, to quote C. Montgomery “Monty” Burns, “I know what I hate.” I’d rather pull a da Vinci (twice) than listen to most hip-hop, country (particularly “new” country, whatever that means), hardcore “metal” rock, and Celine Dion.

For any- and everything else, tune me in. I’ve got a particular predilection towards somewhat quirky (I like to say “unique”) acts; some that come to mind immediately are Lenni Jabour, who plays “cabaret pop” with her band The Third Floor; Moxy Früvous and Barenaked Ladies, who made their names in Canada writing witty, satirical songs; Sirens, “a cross between the Andrews Sisters and Manhattan Transfer with acoustic guitars”; and Ken Nordine, the creator and master of “word jazz”.

The list above may suggest a certain national bias—everyone except Ken Nordine is Canadian—and that’s certainly a factor. I like Canadian music, which is why I’ve hardly tuned my radio away from CBC in the past 15 years.

And I’m willing to admit that I’m a sucker for a pretty face (but not to the exclusion of talent): Emm Gryner (who I also attended high school with), Sheryl Crow, Dayna Manning, Melanie Doane, the aforementioned Lenni Jabour, and too many more to list.

And then there’s jazz… and folk… and world music… and all of the other nebulous genres that people use to define musicians and groups. Continuing what’s becoming a pattern of lists with an eclectic set of people: Loreena McKennitt, whose “Celtic” music traces the history of the Celts back across Europe, Africa and Asia; “Weird Al” Yankovic, the king of musical parodists (and not a bad songwriter in his own right, either); Peter Gabriel, Genesis, the Police, and others about who nothing more needs be said; Paris Combo and Pink Martini and Quartetto Gelato, who all perform ensemble work that makes me think of cafés in France; Stan Rogers and Stompin’ Tom Connors, two singers who have written some of the most uniquely Canadian songs there have ever been; Spirit of the West and Gowan, two acts that I’ll travel long distances to see; and so many more than I have space or time to list.

And still none of that answers the question of what it is about music that I enjoy. There’s no common thread or quality; it’s not about a particular instrument, voice, style, or experience, and it’s not music selection, or lyrics, or technical skill, although they all play a part. I’m going to need to think about this some more.

Continue reading Let’s try this again…

It’s not that simple

From mozillazine.org:

Re: It’s not that simple
submitted by DJGM2002
Friday May 31st, 2002 02:02:58 PM

As far as I’m concerned these days, if any webmaster is not interested in creating standards compliant pages, or cannot even be bothered to fix their already non-compliant pages, they should not bother creating a website in the 1st place.

’Nuff said.

Licence plates

Several years ago, Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation introduced seven-character licence plates. Since shortly after this event, they’ve been driving me batty. The new plates started, logically enough, with AAAA-000, and proceeded through AAAA-999 and then AAAB-000; my own plate begins with “AC”. But then came the most evil occurrence: plates beginning with ADSF.

I’m a QWERTY touch-typist. Since grade eight the left-hand “home row” characters have been engraved in my brain: ASDF. It’s second nature. After alphabetical order, “home row” order is the most recognizable sequence of letters I can think of.

One of these things is not like the other

Let me repeat that sequence: A, S, D, F. Now compare it to that licence plate prefix: A, D, S, F. The middle letters are reversed, and to a left-brained guy like me that is, simply, wrong!

I’ve been waiting for the day when ASDF plates appear—in fact, I’m sure they have—but do you think I’ve seen any? No. I’m beginning to think that every ADSF plate was issued in this city, and the ASDF plates were only ever distributed to Moose Factory or Lively. (Not that I have any problem with either town… they’re just the smallest, recognizable, relatively remote places I could think of off the top of my head.)

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.”

There’s nothing that can be done, of course, short of the Oedipal solution. Fortunately I don’t know anyone named Jocasta, let alone anyone who might lend me any jewellery.

But the great thing about this teensy little character flaw—and the scariest—is that there are bound to be other people out there who feel exactly the same way. So this is my primal scream, and my announcement to the world that I’m a freak of nature who’s obsessed with a logical, innocuous, trivial, aggravating chain of alphanumeric characters. The quote from Peter Steiner above is slightly inaccurate: in weblogs on the Internet, everyone knows you’re a dog—because you tell them!

Lenni Jabour @ C’est What

At the risk of appearing to be talking to myself (I know you folks are out there, my webserver log files say you are), I’m going to post some impressions of last night’s performance at C’est What in downtown Toronto.

This is the fifth time I’ve seen Lenni and The Third Floor since April 2001, and the group has changed quite a bit in the last year. Pamela Bettger (viola), Andrew Downing (double bass) and Frédéric Comeau (guitar) have been replaced by Natasha Sharko (viola), Drew Birston (double bass) and Stephen McGrath (drums), with a guest appearance by Anne O’Kane on cello last June. Not to take anything away from the earlier musicians–I know Downing and Comeau have left to pursue other efforts, both solo and in other groups–but the concert on Sunday night was the best to date.
Continue reading Lenni Jabour @ C’est What

Dear Diary…

I’ve never been one who’s seen the point of so-called “weblogs” or “blogs”, and also never had much of an interest in creating my own. I kept a diary when I was younger, but found it a chore, and the content was fairly mundane as a result.

“Dear Diary,

(Yup, I actually started each entry with “Dear Diary”.)

Today I had pancakes for breakfast. I went to school and did a spelling test.”

“Dear Diary,

Today is Wednesday. We played baseball in gym class.”

And so on. I don’t think I kept at it for more than a month.

But I’ve discovered a growing personal interest in writing, and every successful writer I’ve encountered has said the same thing: the way to become a good writer is to write. (The same people also tell you to write only if you have something to say; but I’m going to ignore that advice for now.)

So why do I think this will go any further than my old diary? I’m not sure I do, but I’m going to give it a try. Do I think this will add anything of value instead of contributing to the preponderance of useless clutter (I won’t glorify it as “content”) on the ’Net? Unlikely. This page will be, if nothing else, an experiment to see if I have, or can develop, some marginal level of talent. That’s all I’ll promise—as the saying goes, “Never precede a demonstration with anything more predictive than ‘Watch this!’”