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friday, may 02, 2008
Another dumb Wikipedia game

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tuesday, march 13, 2007
Many standards arguments hide in these corners

Which is an extended color name in CSS, and which is an alpaca yarn color?

pistachio	blanched almond
midnight sky	seashell
barn red	fire brick
fern		thistle
old rose	misty rose
wedgwood blue	navajo white
denim		peru
mahogany	corn silk
nutmeg		papaya whip
dark spruce	antique white

If you said the first column was Honey Lane Farms and the second was web design, you’d be correct! Also, you’d be lying; you can’t tell the difference. Bonus: both color systems include bisque and lemon chiffon.

I adore CSS color names. They are a perfect opportunity for making sneaky jokes, such as using all food-name colors (chocolate, tomato, honeydew, salmon, wheat), or making a snowman snow-colored. See the happy post-xmas tree for an example which happens to also illustrate my deep love for Unicode dingbats.

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saturday, january 27, 2007
Shadows of things to come

A while ago, I was a silly thirteen-year-old who posted silly things to

One day a few weeks ago, I was playing a wiz named Arakazoom with
Magicbane.  That night, I dreamed that it started to talk to me.  It went
something like this:

Magicbane says: "Why do you keep hitting monsters with me?" --More--
"That athame you have would be better!" --More--
"I'm sick and tired of all this blood!"
"I'm leaving you for good!" --More--
Magicbane drops out of your hands and walks away. --More--
You feel that Thoth is amused.

I woke up the next morning and started to play my game again.  I was
almost immediately killed by a gnome lord wearing a cloak of MR [magic 
resistance - ed.].

Google Groups is unforgiving in its search-archives-by-email-address powers. Apparently I posted lots of embarassing things to and too.

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thursday, january 25, 2007
Writing for new media but not

A few weeks ago, I read a review of From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism and decided it probably wasn’t as good as it sounded. Then David Smith pointed me to an excerpt from the book, and I think I changed my mind. Here are parts that stuck in my head:

…Culture had grown out of man’s biological evolution and had become a force through which humans could recursively influence their biological development. For Ehrlich and Holm, and the young Stewart Brand, cultural activities such as politics, art, conversation, and play took on a deep significance for the survival of the species…Brand could also begin to view the political confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States and its potential for nuclear holocaust in evolutionary terms.

This reminds me of Robert Axelrod’s The Evolution of Cooperation, which discusses nuclear proliferation in evolutionary terms, based on programmed models of cooperation. (I read it during my winter holiday, and a person asked, “Is that for school? No? You mean you couldn’t find anything better to read?” He didn’t know me very well.)

In McLuhan’s view, the individual human body and the species as a whole were linked by a single nervous system, an array of electronic signals fired across neurons in the human body and circulating from television set to television set, radio to radio, computer to computer, across the globe…[His] simultaneous celebration of new media and tribal social forms allowed people like Stewart Brand to imagine technology itself as a tool with which to resolve the twin cold war dilemmas of humanity’s fate and their own trajectory into adulthood.

I like the vision of the internet as a nervous system; it’s all…artificial intelligence. Also, those “cold war” dilemmas have always been relevant. My college is something of a tribal social form, with about 350 people split into eight unruly clans, wrangled together and led by the Dean.

Now switching from biological ideas to design-y ideas.

The Gutenberg Galaxy asserted that mankind was leaving a typographic age and entering an electronic one. With its sequential orientation, its segmented letters and words, McLuhan claimed, the technology of type had tended to create a world of “lineal specialism and separation of functions.” That is, he held type responsible in large part for the development of rationalization, bureaucracy, and industrial life. By contrast, he said, electronic technologies had begun to break down the barriers of bureaucracy, as well as those of time and space, and so had brought human beings to the brink of a new age.

In the first part of “The Futures of Literacy”, which I read for class, Guther Gress discusses the implications of modern society shifting from words and paper to images and the screen. He says a lot of dumb things, but I liked his idea that the main difference between words and images is the difference between time and space: between information arranged in temporal, sequential order and information arranged spatially and simultaneously. Of course that separation gets horribly muddy when you step outside of theory, but it’s interesting.

Anyway, I don’t think McLuhan means that type itself — text — leads to boring standardization. He’s talking about the publishing system embodied in typesetting machines, which concentrated power in bureaucracies that could buy the expensive things. Both desktop publishing and the web are full of type, but it’s inexpensive type that can be easily combined with images, so the power is in the hands of the general public. The age before Gutenberg was typographic too, just even worse in terms of bureacracy and power.

Fuller, like Emerson, saw the material world as the reflection of an otherwise intangible system of rules…What humankind required, [Buckminster Fuller] came to believe, was an individual who could recognize the universal patterns inherent in nature, design new technologies in accord with both these patterns and the industrial resources already created by corporations and the military, and see that those new technologies were deployed in everyday life…In a 1963 volume called Ideas and Integrities, a book that would have a strong impact on USCO and Stewart Brand, Fuller named this individual the “Comprehensive Designer”…an artist and an intellectual migrant…an information processor…a descendent of cold war psychology and systems theory as much as a child of Fuller’s own imagination.

I like how Fuller updated transcendentalism for the internet age by describing a role that a web designer-developer might adapt and inhabit. I also have some extra affection for him because he visited my funky little college on one of his grand educational tours around the country and led a class or two on geodesic domes and “spaceship earth”.

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monday, june 19, 2006
I like spam sometimes

Do you have a BAD HABIT

Like what, you may ask?

Computer additions

Computer additions? Yeah, I have some friends who sneak off to Central Stores every once in a while and buy more parts, parts they don’t even need, and then these things pile up in odd places. You find dead video cards, old hard drives, floppy disks, and who knows what else in the corners of their rooms and in TV cabinets. Definitely a bad habit. Ruining their health.

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I’m Britta Gustafson.

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