Casting Call

Last weekend was a good weekend for dinners. A dinner to celebrate the Sabbath, a dinner to celebrate my Mom and Dad’s collective birthday, and a dinner to celebrate Marissa’s new book.

At that last dinner, I met Marissa’s friend Jenn, who is a writer, and her companion Yony, a string theorist. I was tempted to ask Yony an incisive, thoughtful question, such as, “Like… ummm… why is it eleven dimensions, anyway?” Of course the last time I asked a string theorist that very question, the string theorist proceeded to launch into what can only be described as ten uninterrupted minutes of Mathematical Gobbledygook. My physics knowledge has since waned considerably1, and I thought it best not to risk asking again.

At one point in the dinner, Jenn casually mentioned that one of her characters looks like Sheena Easton. At that, poor M’ris blew a synapse. I certainly sympathize with Marissa here — when you imagine what a character looks like, and then you see what someone else thinks they look like, it can come as quite a shock. For example, when I discovered that the title role in the upcoming Alexander the Great movie will be played by Leonardo DiCaprio, I was stunned. They couldn’t pick anybody else? Heath Ledger, maybe?

That got me thinking about my (imaginary) screenplay for the 1527 Sack of Rome. Machiavelli is a no-brainer: Jeremy Irons (or maybe Viggo Mortensen in a pinch). Baldesar Castliogne is a bit tougher. Sir Anthony Hopkins could pull it off, given sufficient facial hair. But what about the cowardly Pope Clement VII? The brilliant Isabella d’Este? The self-aggrandizing Benvenuto Cellini? And last but not least, our tragic hero, The Constable (Duke of Bourbon)? Suggestions are welcome on this pressing issue.

Interesting side note on Yony: when he graduates this year, he’ll be taking a short internship with Google Labs. This leads us to the following dilemma:

  1. Is it ethical to be nice to someone solely for the purpose that they put in a good word for you at their company?
  2. Would candy and flowers be out of line?

1. My loss of mathematical prowess probably has nothing to do with the string theorist and his Mathematical Gobbledygook all those years ago. In particular, I wish to emphasize that it is highly unlikely that the string theorist incanted some sort of voodoo hex that nowadays prevents me from solving anything other than the most elementary partial differential equations.

More or Less Geeky

The last time I wrote about geeky stuff, I got an angry letter from one of my readers. “Do you just do this to make your non computer geek readers feel bad?” she fumed.

Of course, when that reader is your own mother, it is wise to pay her heed.

So today I’m clearly separating the more-geeky stuff from the errr… less-geeky stuff. First, the less-geeky stuff, in brief:

  • M’ris has finished her fifth book! I’m a few days late on this news item, but in my defense, I sent M’ris a congratulatory email the day of. In that email I told her that now it was time to start working on rev02, rev03, et cetera. She sighed and said she’d start that “tomorrow”. Pfft. Lazy as always, that one.

    In other M’ris-related news, it looks like the Black Beret of Revolution is being passed (oops, a correction: loaned) to someone else. Unfortunately, M’ris never exhibited the requisite level of enthusiasm for the Movement (don’t let the picture fool you).

  • The best part of last week’s “Freedom Fries” fooflah was the rather dry response from the French Embassy:

    The French Embassy in Washington had no immediate comment, except to say that french fries actually come from Belgium.

    Actually, Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-North Carolina) have it all wrong. If they really wanted to make the French angry, they should start slapping the “French” label on even more plebian American foods. Cheeseburgers would be “French Burgers”. Pork rinds would be “French rinds”. Pabst Blue Ribbon would be “Ruban Bleu du Lafayette”. And so on.

  • I helped Nancy move out of her old place last weekend in preparation for her move to Seattle. Nancy says that my Move Karma is so high I am actually banned from helping her with the final stage of the move. I’ve never heard of having an enforced cap on one’s Move Karma, but I suppose it’s a plausible explanation. (As are the other, much more obvious reasons why I would be banned from the next move, but let’s not think about that shall we?)

    Anyway, what with Mike gone, Sam is the last one left in that apartment. Replacing Nancy and Mike are two cute, athletic college girls, which — I know — I know — is truly awful, isn’t it? Send your sympathy cards for Sammy here, I’ll collect them and forward them in due course.

Now to the more-geeky stuff. In the last entry, I mentioned my frustration with HTML tables and how the spec treated them inconsistently. This spawned an interesting conversation with Kelly Cochran about table-based designs vs. CSS-P designs, standards, and other topics. It turns out that I wasn’t too clear in the previous entry, so for the record: I prefer CSS-P designs over table-based designs, and I use them wherever possible.1 I was just trying to make a point about tables qua tables: if you use tables to mark up tabular data, and you want to make sure that your tables are HTML 4.01 Strict, you will run into strange inconsistencies in the spec. That’s all.

1. On the other hand, I’m not a fanatic about using CSS-P, and I’m certainly not prone to making grand, hand-wringing pronouncements about how tables are evil.

Driven Up the Wall

The tutorial is humming along. It still needs some serious work, but we’re getting there.

Sticking with an “HTML 4.01 Strict” approach has been educational, at least. For example, it’s becoming pretty clear that tables in HTML 4.01 weren’t thought out very well. In the Strict interpretation, the width attribute is not allowed for table headers and table data cells. Okay, fair enough, you’re supposed to set cell widths with CSS. But HTML 4.01 Strict permits the width attribute for the <table> tag itself. Ditto for the <colgroup> element.1

Then there’s align, which is disallowed… but cellpadding, cellspacing, and border are all perfectly okay. <b> is in. <u> is out. <blink> is out but text-decoration: blink is in. Those are some crazy cats over at the W3C, I tell ya.

In more exciting news, Jedediah Purdy is on NPR tomorrow. I enjoyed Being America — it struck me as much more grown-up than his earlier For Common Things. (That’s an extraordinarily patronizing thing to say, coming from someone who’s the same age as Purdy, but there you have it.) Now to be totally honest: despite my sincere affection for Purdy, Being America doesn’t tell us too much that Thomas Friedman hasn’t said already. And for that matter, both men strike me as equally heartfelt and sincere. Purdy just seems to drive more people up the wall. He’s a gifted young man. Buy his book.

Anyway, for now I’ve had enough of modern politics. After this it’ll be finishing up the last few episodes of Sports Night. Reading Vile Florentines, on Bill’s recommendation. And maybe a re-reading of the Sandman series, if M’ris ever sees fit to return them to “poor” lil’ old me. Hope springs eternal.

1. But of course IE ignores setting the width using <colgroup>, so the tag is effectively useless. Sigh.