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March 9, 2004

Open thread 19
Posted by Teresa at 10:03 AM *

Tlak asmnogt yvorlusees.

Comments on Open thread 19:
#1 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 10:23 AM:

Excellent, I've got a book design question which has been bothering me for a few days (since picking up a particular book). Is it still considered a general rule that an entire book should not be set in a san-serif face? If not, was there ever such a rule, or was it wishful thinking on my part?

#2 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:03 AM:

This book, by Robert Bringhurst, has been the answer to every typographic question I've ever had...

The idea of an entire book set in sans-serif frightens me... from a readability standpoint? I don't even want to consider the implications....


#3 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:20 AM:

I think it's one of those things that depends on who you ask. There's a common belief that legibility studies have proven that sans-serif types are less readable, but I've researched that a bit and found very little evidence for that. The one study I found that claims that unequivocally (Colin Wheildon's Type And Layout) is transparently bogus, and there's at least one older study where a sans-serif face came out on top. To add to the confusion, sans faces are usually considered more legible, i.e., the individual characters are easier to distinguish. That's why road signs are always sans (although street signs are usually in all caps, which makes them much harder to read--so go figure). An elementary school teacher friend of mine tells me that her children find sans letters noticeably easier to learn.

My own opinion (backed up to some degree by authorities such as Bringhurst) is that serif vs. sans-serif is the wrong place to draw the line (if a line needs to be drawn at all). A humanistic, well-made sans such as Cronos or Lucida is more readable, to my eye, than a geometric, formal serif face such as Bulmer or most Bodonis. And I would argue that proper use of leading and line length is more important to readability than typeface (within reason).

I've read many books set in sans faces. The ones set by skilled designers are a pleasure to read; those that aren't, aren't--the same as with serif faces.

#4 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:24 AM:

The Bringhurst book (The Elements of Typographic Style) is one of those rare books that I think everyone should read whether they think they're interested in the topic or not. It's beautifully written and full of insights that extend well outside the area of typography. Understanding Comics is another.

#5 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:28 AM:

There's some other thread in which we talked about using particular sans-serifs for footnote text, and that's about as much sans-serif text as I personally would want to see at one time, on the printed page. Sans-serif is actually good for that; it compresses more easily, and the eye tends not to be distracted from the main text.

Conventional wisdom is that the opposite holds true for on-screen text; sans-serif text is easier to read in big chunks, because most monitors don't have the resolution to render serifs as sharply as they need to be to be effective.

I'd just like to add that Robert Bringhurst does indeed speak with the voice of the Holy Spirit, in so far as the Holy Spirit addresses typography. I love that book. This is Bringhurst on the Clarendon typefaces:

These faces reflect the hearty, stolid, bland, unstoppable aspects of the British Empire. They lack cultivation, but they also lack menace and guile. They squint and stand their ground, but they do not glare. In other words, they consist of thick strokes melding into thick slab serifs, fat ball terminals, vertical axis, large eye, low contrast and tiny aperture.

Poetic geekiness is the best.

#6 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:31 AM:

Since we're talking typography, here's my new favourite on-line typography reference: Encyclopædia of Typography and Electric Communications. Though not precisely poetic, it's wonderfully geeky and incredibly useful. Enjoy!

#7 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:44 AM:

Apropos of nothing except our hosts' Brooklyn residence, I am fascinated by this t-shirt design: Brooklyn neighborhoods on a beef diagram.

#8 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 12:02 PM:

Dept. of Brain Hurt:

Allen Varney's site points to this re-imagining of Sei Shonagon's "Pillow Book" as a blog:

#9 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 12:10 PM:

The sweaters didn't trouble me; it was the shimmery golden and apparently utterly rigid trousers that shifted an apparent fondness for sweaters into something disturbing.

I shouldn't talk about type faces at all, because I esteem Hiberno-saxon uncials above all other letterforms, and no one uses those in print. Nor would the k or the g be comprehensible to the casual reader, but still; Eadfrith's gospels have some lovely letters.

#10 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 12:14 PM:

I turned away from my commenting and returned to my book, to realise that the thing that has been on my desk these past weeks is, indeed, typeset entirely in sans-serif. Really, incredibly tiny sans-serif. I believe the typeface was chose in the interest of clarity, ligibility, and condensability---the book is approximately 1111 pages of diagrammes, minutely labelled in five different languages. Having each entry as legible as possible in as small a space is important. However, with the text and images condensed to fit a 6 x 8 trim size from an 8 1/2 x 11 trim size, the kerning of the letters becomes tricky and important. Not only does it become difficult to distinguish a lowercase "l" from a numeral "1", from uppercase "I", but it also becomes challenging telling lowercase "l" from lowercase "i", and "o" followed by "l" from "d".

We can get away with this because there are very few sentences in the book---as I said, it's just a collection of diagrammes; most entries are single words or short phrases "bell tower", "clinical thermometer", "gas-powered lawnmower" etc. Reading actual sentences in this typeface at this size would make one's eyes cross. Late in the day, reading the individual entries in this typeface makes my eyes, if not cross, then at least behave rather oddly.

#11 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Well, as a physics major working on a senior thesis, most of the stuff I keep producing uses Computer Modern Roman... whatever would I do without LaTeX?

#12 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 12:59 PM:
Dept. of Brain Hurt:

Allen Varney's site points to this re-imagining of Sei Shonagon's "Pillow Book" as a blog

That's a hoot, but I didn't find it brain-hurting - I find that pillow book and blog are just too closely related for that. Now, if someone wants to tackle The Tale of Genji...

#13 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 01:01 PM:
I've read many books set in sans faces. The ones set by skilled designers are a pleasure to read; those that aren't, aren't--the same as with serif faces.

Seems reasonable. I would be curious to see a book set well in san-serif, if you can think of any off the top of your head, just to see how one strikes me. The book I am struggling with is clearly not one of them.

#14 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 01:25 PM:

Jan Tschichold's The New Typography is the one I remember most clearly, but since it's a design book it's cheating a bit.

1000 Chairs works for me, although there's only twenty pages or so of full-page text, so maybe that's cheating as well.

I have a Martin Gardner book set in Futura that works fine if not brilliantly, but I can't remember the title right now.

I'll have a browse through my library when I get home and see if I can turn up something canonical.

#15 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 01:35 PM:

Well, I happen to know why serifs increase readability in print, but I won't go into it (it has to do with kinds of processing that can be done by the retina, and kinds that have to be done by the main brain).

Take a quick look at the name DiIelsi. Now would that be DILELSI or DIIELSI in all caps? Getting it wrong cost me a lot of time and embarrassment at work a while ago, and serifs, even at a rudimentary screen-possible level, would have helped a lot.

I flatly refuse to read long passages in sans. My comprehension falls to almost nothing, and I spend the rest of the afternoon nursing a headache. Ditto point sizes below 10 for most fonts (my rapidly-aging eyes just can't take it); in fact I insist on 12 for Times New Roman (my fave) whenever possible. Fortunately, at least at the office I can usually get a softcopy and render it readable; don't even have to change the size in Word, just set the view scaling to 120%, and all the 10 becomes 12.

After previewing: it looks like this font doesn't have the DiIelsi problem. The font my work tool insists on (set explicitly in the code, despite the tool being browser-based) does, though.

#16 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 01:44 PM:

I picked up from the local used-book vendor an interesting volume called "Mother Goose in Prose" by L. Frank Baum(!!) -- I never really knew he had written anything besides the Oz books and journalism -- he apparently took a number of nursery rhymes and created stories for them. Does anyone know about this book?

#17 ::: Stephanie ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 01:58 PM:

Re: the pillow book... I'd like to see someone tackle the Arabian Nights. In a threaded view.

#18 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 02:29 PM:

Graydon writes: "The sweaters didn't trouble me; it was the shimmery golden and apparently utterly rigid trousers..."

That was my problem also. The trousers were creepy. There may be some people in this world who look alluring in shimmery golden trousers, but the sweater lady is not one of them.

In other news, "Tlak asmnogt yvorlusees." just now popped into my head as 'Talk amongst yourselves.' *sigh* What can I say? Slow learner, I guess.

#19 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 02:32 PM:

Jeremy -

Baum wrote a lot of children's books besides the Oz books; the Oz series was the most successful, and eventually he just gave up and settled down to cranking out an Oz book a year, even though he was increasingly bored with them, I think.

Mother Goose in Prose was his first children's book. He also wrote a very interesting book called American Fairy Tales, which are tales set mostly in typical American settings (a Chicago tenement, for example) and for that reason was largely panned at the time. Critics wanted to see a magical fairyland, not a magical America.

American Fairy Tales came out the same year as Wizard of Oz; so did The Magical Monarch of Mo, which is a series of stories set in a magical otherland, and isn't nearly as interesting as either Wizard or American Fairy Tales.

The Master Key, about a Demon of Electricity, is also a fun one.

#20 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 02:33 PM:

Thanks, Seth!

#21 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 02:52 PM:

Well, I happen to know why serifs increase readability in print, but I won't go into it (it has to do with kinds of processing that can be done by the retina, and kinds that have to be done by the main brain).

I would think that one would have to establish the fact before attempting to explain it. I'm not aware of any evidence better than "some people don't like sans." If you could point me to some, I'd be happy to take a look at it.

But I admit that I find it hard to believe that there's a built-in biological rationale for one small feature of one of the world's many writing systems. Does your theory cover Chinese? Sanskrit? Greek (where serifs are still regarded with some suspicion)? What about other font features such as aperture, color, and x-height? Why don't people use serifs in their handwriting if they're so important?

It seems to me that after 2,000 years of imitating Roman letterforms, we in the West are used to serifs in printed material, and that's all there is to it. To be sure, that's enough reason not to set long texts in sans unless some feature of the text or design really calls for it.

#22 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 03:14 PM:

Seth E.: Identifont-- awesome. Thanks.

Apropos of nothing, would anyone think that the phrase "grave architecture" is a cliche?

#23 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 03:18 PM:

would anyone think that the phrase "grave architecture" is a cliche?

I would think that a building could be either grave or acute, depending on which way it's leaning.

#24 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 03:22 PM:

European type designers have less prejudice against sans faces than American, for some reason. Gill Sans is quite popular in England. Because of this, I want to see a rigorous study that removed cultural bias before accepting that sans really are harder to read than serifed.

It's like the whole women love chocolate thing. Studies in Spain discovered it really is cultural — men and women equally preferred it over there, as opposed to American women preferring it more than American men do.


#25 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 03:36 PM:

I for one could do with some comic architecture right about now. Also, Adam and Jeremy, you're both welcome.

#26 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 03:40 PM:

This site of Bembo animations was all over the web a couple years ago. It's still a delight. If it's new to you, enjoy!

In Textbook Land ('here be dragons, and state boards, and other monsters') sans serif is perceived as easy to read. I think it looks cleaner on the page but isn't necessarily easier to read.

#27 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 03:53 PM:

I'd like to take this opportunity to point you and Patrick to a particular Media Item, one (well, part of) which Avram and Josh can vouch for as pretty good. To wit, an anime called Read or Die. It's about the covert ops wing of the British Library.

Yes. Really.

To date, it is composed of a three-part OVA series (~90 minutes total) available in an American, dual-language DVD wherever moving media is sold, or in a greymarket DVD from Hong Kong wherever HK greymarket DVDs are sold (this is the form I own it in, predating its American release -- I think Avram has my copy), and a TV series, soon to be available in American release (the TV series is more of a sequel to the originating novel & comic series, but does tie to the OVAs).

I highly recommend it, if for nothing else than the first appearance of the main character (whose name can be taken to mean "Read-girl Read-man").

#28 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 04:09 PM:

If nothing else, the I, l, 1, i (all different letters) problem is evidence enough in the discussion. Incidentally, that distinguishing mark at the top of the number 1 and the capital I are serifs, even if the type face is sans. I have a friend with the surname Illif, and in sans it is illegible. Any type which slows your eye movements down, especially if you have to look at the word three times and then spell it to yourself, is wanting in utility.

#29 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 04:33 PM:

Jennie: …it's just [1111 pages] of diagrammes; most entries are single words or short phrases “bell tower”, “clinical thermometer”, “gas-powered lawnmower” etc….

I've been thinking about this phrase all afternoon. I suspect that the book I'm imagining is more remarkable than the book you're reading, but my imaginary book is pretty fascinating, so thanks.

#30 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 04:46 PM:

Tim Walters - I'm basing this off a Master's thesis in Graphology (or rather IN Linguistics and ON Graphology) that I just leafed through in about 1981, so sorry.

And the research the guy did was confined to the Roman alphabet, but isn't that what we're talking about? The upshot is, it's easier to find edges and ends if they're well marked, and the retina sends a preworked package to the brain. This is true of trees and sticks and flint-flaked chopping tools as well as letters, which is why (I speculate) such a retinal process may have developed as we evolved. Serifs are one way of marking an end.

In general, more distinctive characters are easier to read, which is why ALL CAPS IS SO IRRITATING to try to read: majuscules are intrinsically harder to read than minuscules. (I don't know if Russian natives read printed Russian (basically majuscule in both "cases") any slower than English natives read English. Actually the best study would be Serbo-Croatian, which is written in Cyrillic by the Serbs and Roman by the Croats.)

I haven't studied Graphology in a long time, nor kept up with the field. That's its name, though, so you can do your own research if you want.

#31 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 05:00 PM:

Well, for comic architecture, you can't beat Unseen University. Or anything built by B. S. Johnson.

Seriously though; "Grave Architecture" is the name of a song by Pavement, and I'd used it in a short story in a college class as a section heading (all the headings were song titles). And one girl in the class said that it's a cliche. I responded "No it isn't," having never heard the phrase outside of the song, to which she responded, "Yes it is." I challenged her to prove it's cliche status, which she didn't at all. Ever since I've wondered what she could possibly have been referring to or thinking of by mistake.

#32 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 05:21 PM:

I have a friend with the surname Illif, and in sans it is illegible.

There's no such thing as "sans." There are, rather, a wide variety of sans-serif fonts which have little else in common. In Helvetica, yes, it's a problem. That's not because Helvetica has no serifs, but because it's a crappy font. In Lucida, Myriad or Futura it's perfectly clear (I just tried it). At small sizes, "Illif" is easier to read in any of these fonts than in Times, because they have a structural difference between "l" and "I", whereas Times relies on its serifs alone.

In general, more distinctive characters are easier to read

Yes, but that has nothing to do with serifs. If anything, serifs tend to obscure the differences between letterforms. See my post above about signage and primers.

I'll keep an open mind on the end-of-stick thing, but (much as with all those studies that purport to find a biological preference for Western common-practice harmony) I remain skeptical, given the amount of evidence for cultural determination.

#33 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 05:31 PM:

I'm a big advocate of serifs for large blocks of text. I generally read much more speedily from a text with serifs than without.

I think, too, that the serifs actually tend to reduce words to a single mental image for me, but the I process all the little ears, tails, feet, ligatures on that image rather quickly, and the baseline serifs draw my eye along at a much quicker pace.

I'm sure you could do a book in sans serif fonts if you wanted--it's not as distracting as, say, putting fancy borders or margins on every page. (One Patricia McKillip book that I read precisely once suffered from this--some designer somewhere decided to give the book a woodcut feeling and put margin illustrations on the top and bottom of every page--it was too much for the paperback edition that I was reading, and I kept having to fight with the damn margins to read the text. To this day, I remember very little about this particular book, and I have no desire to re-read it and refresh my memory. It might be a really awesome book, but it was painful to read.)

#34 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 06:09 PM:

PiscusFiche said:
I'm a big advocate of serifs for large blocks of text. I generally read much more speedily from a text with serifs than without.

I wonder if that's why I prefer Arial when I'm editing or revising something -- it slows me down and makes me read closer? Something to think about!

#35 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 06:16 PM:

FWIW, when I worked for a major computer trade-book publisher, the standard was sans serif for display type and serif for running text. (My favorite series used Universal and Bookman, IIRC.) The theory being that these books were designed to be flipped through until you found what you were looking for.

My S.O. is fond of art and design stuff, and every once in a while I'll try to buy her a design book at the bookstore. Haven't succeeded yet. It seems that design books are not designed by book designers (or not designed to be read).

#36 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 07:04 PM:

*pops popcorn* *sits back*

I love the serif vs sans-serif argument. I refuse to take a side because I firmly believe it's a matter of personal taste. (I like sans-serif somewhat better as I find serifs tend to make the words and letters blend together, but it really depends on the font in general, so...)

But it's interesting to watch people come up with evidence and refutation on it.

#37 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 07:06 PM:

BSD, is this the one with the line (aw hell, it's kind of a spoiler, so ROT-13 to salve my conscience):

V nz Bggb Yvyvraguny!

If it is, I nearly broke something laughing at that point.


#38 ::: Reimer Behrends ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 07:48 PM:

Tina, luckily the wonderful owners of this site have made it easy to regurgitate old material.

Now, could I have some popcorn, too?

#39 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 08:02 PM:

PiscusFische, was that McKillip's Throme of the Erril of Sherril by any chance? It fits the description, and in retrospect, it probably didn't bother me where it bothered you so because I am very text-oriented, but non-visual; I have to consciously remind myself to look at things like pictures in such a book, as I'll otherwise whiz right by them, having managed to tune 'em out.

Apropos of nothing, after I got assigned why-ell-one-one-two for my netID at Cornell, they stopped giving out numbers beginning with one (sometime my senior year?) because it confusticated things for people with ell (L) for a last initial. Even with YL112 people would sometimes get the one's and ell confused.

Okay, so they could have assigned me YHL and used the "middle name," but that wouldn't've solved the problem for all the other high-frequency initials.

#40 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 08:03 PM:

I am a philistine. I honestly couild not tell you what sort of font any of the books I have ever read is in. I would never have noticed that all the text on this page (as I see it, anyway) is in a sanserif font if no one had mentioned it. The only time I particularly notice fonts is when I am setting them.

Part of this, I think is how I interact with text. Once I'm connected with what I am reading, I don't notice the physical letters and words anymore. I'm caught up in the meaning and flow of what I read. No idea how common this is. I'm a reasonably fast reader, also.

#41 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 08:08 PM:

Janet - I have to remember that "convert to Arial for proofing" idea. I've been burned too many times firing off memos etc with flagrant errors, just from reading too fast.

And thanks to Mark W. for the Bembo zoo - whee!

But to all: does anyone else long for text numerals?? Ever since I encountered them in Bringhurst (may his tribe increase) and The Book of Common Prayer I watch for them everywhere - in vain.

Bringhurst (p. 47): "[Text figures] are basic parts of typographic speech, and they are a sign of civilization: a sign that dollars are not really twice as important as ideas, and numbers are not afraid to consort on an equal footing with words."

#42 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 08:20 PM:

But to all: does anyone else long for text numerals?? Ever since I encountered them in Bringhurst (may his tribe increase) and The Book of Common Prayer I watch for them everywhere - in vain.

I see them a lot more than I used to, and I credit Bringhurst for that.

If I remember correctly, Penguin never dropped them. Just another reason to love Penguin.

With OpenType fonts you can finally do the right thing and turn them on by default.

#43 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 08:54 PM:

Regarding the reading rates of Russians vs. English readers. I can't read Russian quite as quickly, in the main, as I can rad English, mostly because there are very few words in Engligh which I need to stop and ponder (that and the parts of speech sometimes needing deciphering, esp. when a verb of motion; or carriage is involved, but I digress).

But, where the subject matter is as transparent to me as it would be in English, it feels to me that I apprehend Russian as easily as I do English, to the point that I have at times not really noticed that I had seen a Russian sign on a local shop, until after I'd parsed the meaning.

When I've been to Ukraine, the abilty to read street signs, recognise labels &c was fairly quickly done without thought.

So I'd say that most native speakers of Russian read it as quickly as they would read English (oh, and Russian handwriting is vile, and the problems with a word like Illip are nothing to a sloppily written Misha, or Sashulka).


#44 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 09:23 PM:

Yoon Ha Lee: That's the one.

#45 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 10:11 PM:

Yes, it is -- and while the conceit of who the enemy is using as soldiers is kind of silly, it makes a bit more sense if you're familiar with the manga and novels (fanlations oddly difficult to find, though I've read partials and summaries of both). Of course, the best part is the doomsday plot, and exactly who that is they're using to carry it out.

I still can't shake the feeling that Mr. Gentleman is meant to be someone actually historic, viewed through a particularly bizarre lens...

#46 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 10:17 PM:

I have firm opinions on serif and san serif. For myself. It all depends on your wiring, neurochemistry, visual acuity, and whatever. All text in paperbacks is too small though the reading glasses help. On my monitor it's 14 or even 18 point san serif (probably Arial). However there are very many pretty fonts I use for things like signs and menu placards and stuff. I'm currently having lots of fun with fonts and grapics while designing name badges, menus, banquet tickets, drink tickets, signs and such for the upcoming Nebula weekend in Seattle. I kept myself amused for a whole airplane ride from Seattle to Boston doing this. And I've been playing with it ever since. When I wasn't sick. Or having a houseguest. Or running another convention. Or out of town. Or or or

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:20 PM:

Terry: try shishka (a little bump). Or my favorite Russian phrase, 'samo zashchishchayushchaya zhenshchina'. If you use the under- and over-lines it's not SO bad, but bad enough.

And thanks for the info...but I was already thinking about how to set up the experiment. I think for sheer alphabet comparison, the language to use is Serbo-Croatian, for reasons cited earlier. Too bad Serbs don't admit to speaking Croatian and vice versa.

#48 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:23 PM:

Didn't know about the Sei Shonagon blog! It's translated in a delightfully breezy style. One to add to my "check daily" list.

I note there's a link in the Particles to Oxo's site. The linked page is a hoot; and I also wanted to say that anyone who hasn't seen Oxo's angled measuring cup should go look at it without delay -- it's one of those ideas you wonder why people didn't have decades ago.

#49 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: March 09, 2004, 11:49 PM:

And here I thought TIME had made a big typo on their cover. The expression really is "Just deserts", not "Just desserts".

#50 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 12:49 AM:

OK, I'm willing to believe that setting a book in the proper san serif face (properly sized) is a fine idea. However, having checked the book I was complaining about, I think setting a book in 8.8-point Myriad is a bad idea.

I also think that if you are going to print the page numbers sideways you should be obliged to explain why, or at least give a hint.

#51 ::: Julie Mensch ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 12:58 AM:

Speaking of desserts, I'm still searching for the best tiramisu recipe on the planet. Any suggestions?

#52 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 01:59 AM:

Open Thread New Idea/News:
Dee Willis, from Kansas City, was pronounced dead at 1:45 p.m. Monday. I've started and stalled at least five times on passing this news along here. It hurts deeply, we had so much hope when we found out she was accepted, then recieved the transplant. I do not know how many people here knew her, she was the driving force for us getting World Horror in KC,

She has had, all her life, heart problems caused by (probably, I do not know the exact circumstances, but know her heart was weak) rheumatic fever. The doctors told her she would not make 21. She made more than a few years over twice that, in fact she had a big 41st birthday party to celebrate the party she'd wanted to have at 21 but felt to disheartened to have.

She received a new heart the first week or so of February, felt really GOOD for the first time in her memory for a week or so, then contracted a viral encephalitis and went to sleep, forever.

She will be sorely missed. There will be a memorial service in KC on Saturday, followed by a reception near the service, then a wake at the Satter-Klein residence. Anyone seeking more details should contact me privately at

Thanks for reading,

Paula Helm Murray

#53 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 09:49 AM:

I don't know if it's the best tiramisu recipe on the planet, but people seem to like it:

recipe that a genuine Italian person taught me

#54 ::: Holly M. ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 10:28 AM:

Paula: I never met Dee Willis personally, but I knew who she was and I have some idea of the contributions she made to the KCSF community. Please accept my condolences.

#55 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:01 AM:

On the "Pay Any Price... To Avoid Creating Jobs" link:

I see this in the Postal Service, too. Mucho overtime (good for keeping the door-wolves fed, crappy for personal life), temporary employees, etc.

But benefit costs -are- a tremendous hassle for businesses, particularly small businesses. Not just the direct costs of the benefits themselves, but the indirect costs of administering the benefits. It's been years since I've seen a doctor's office that -hasn't- had to have a separate, fulltime employee just to deal with the paperwork and phone calls for patients' health insurance.

Plus the fact that medical costs continue to rise a -lot- faster than anything else. I keep expecting to see our insurer's annual report to members announce "We're having to raise premiums again--" [insert photo of Hilde into report] "--AND IT'S THIS WOMAN'S FAULT." (Last year was noteworthy in that it was the first time in six years we -didn't- qualify for our policy's catastrophic coverage provisions.)

Unrelated comment: that "Clinger" thing -is- creepy.

#56 ::: tomb ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:09 AM:

Re: the pillow book... I'd like to see someone tackle the Arabian Nights. In a threaded view.

Best presented in the very attractive Omar Serif.

#57 ::: jennie ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:12 AM:

Andrew Willett,

Glad to have inspired your imagination. The book I'm working on is pretty fascinating, though will indeed probably pale compared to what you're imagining. Will the assembled company forgive me a shameless boast? You can take a gander at the monolingual English version here. I'm looking at the pages on cricket in the new multi-language edition; yesterday I was looking at aircraft carriers, bazookas, and firetrucks, among other things. It's really been a great project, and I'm completely blown away by the original editors' work.

O.k. back to the parts of a cricket field (campo, terrain, Feld, campo).

#58 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:28 AM:

Alan, I've always said that "Just Desserts" would be a great name for a pastry-and-cake restaurant. Especially one across from the courthouse. "Just deserts," of course, is what ignorant people think there is in Iraq.

Bruce, a friend once told me the only "free lunch" in economics is an increase in productivity. Not true, of course, as we're finding. Another friend told me "never do the work of two people. You will get a 2% raise and the person next to you will be fired." She was right about all but the raise.

#59 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:54 AM:

I note that a recent local election in California using an electronic system went publically awry, including the classic "more votes than voters". Ah, the old ones are the best.

But due to the tough security protocols, there's no hope of tracing what went wrong. Hmm, dry run for later this year?

#60 ::: Edward Liu ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 12:14 PM:


The Howard Dean speech linked to is fantastic and heartbreaking at the same time. Then again, maybe Dean's value is not as an actual politician, but as the gadfly who says what the politicians can't.

The photo essay that starts at (not there forever, according to the person running the site) is terrific, too. I'd send him/her an e-mail, but there's none easily visible on the site.

So, if you're reading this "Gmooth," thanks.

-- Ed

#61 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 12:27 PM:

The typeface argument seems to ignore (I skimmed rather than read, but it's not a major element) the difference between display faces and body faces. Display faces are good for a few words: basically, for something one wants to apprehend rather than read. Body faces make long-term reading easier. Some people have no real sense of the difference -- thus, many Underwood-Miller books used a serif display face as a body face and are very difficult to read. The folks at White Wolf have always struck me as being much more interested in design than legibility, and did awful things with san-serif faces on the William Browning Spencer books.

I am not a typographer. I don't even play one on television. But I've read a lot of books, and know when a book is easy to read or difficult to read. Typeface is only one element (leading is an unsung problem as well). In general, with exceptions, I find serif faces easier to read for body text, and sans-serif for display. YMMV.

#62 ::: aha ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 12:36 PM:

re: serif fans pan sans fans tiff

#63 ::: Sheila ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 01:30 PM:

While there are certainly elements of mausoleum construction that may qualify, it's unfair to dismiss the entire class of "grave architecture" as cliché.

#64 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:00 PM:

BSD - there's also a sequel to Read or Die, called Read or Dream, which is still running in Japan. While Ms. Yomiko Readman doesn't show up in the series, the three sisters starring in the series share her abilities to manipulate paper.

Unfortunately, from what I've heard so far, it's not nearly as good.

(Just when I thought I had nothing to add to this thread, someone brought up anime . . .)

#65 ::: aha ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:20 PM:

I really don’t care if
sans fans ban serif,
but the reverse,
is far worse.

It’s only right
to put up a fight.
and cancel their plans
for the ultimate theft--
‘cause without sans,
what’s left?

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:23 PM:


#67 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:30 PM:

Xopher, there's a small San Francisco Bay Area chain called Just Desserts.

I've been waiting for an open thread to ask this: regarding this picture, can anyone assure me that that's an exceptionally petite woman, please? I think I'd sleep easier at night.

#68 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:43 PM:

Zed - well, obviously they stole my idea! And time-traveled back with it, the devious bastards.

And no, sorry. That's a Maine Coon Cat. They're gigantic. And don't get more than one if you live in a two-story house. They like to run up and down the stairs all night.

#69 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:56 PM:

Zed, Xopher, I'd read that they were big, but never thought they were that big. Heck, I want a cat...but one of those would likely end up bigger than me. Stupid small-Asian genes.

Someday, someday, I will be able to do the stereotypical writer-thing and get a cat. Any breed particularly friendly to children over, say, 5? (Since that's probably the earliest we'd be able to get one.)

--kitty deprived.

#70 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 02:57 PM:

The typeface argument seems to ignore (I skimmed rather than read, but it's not a major element) the difference between display faces and body faces.

[shudders delicately] I took it for granted that only body faces were being considered for extended text.

The font study is interesting, but since they only examine one font in each category you can't conclude anything about serifs per se. Times and Arial have many differences besides serifitude.

My favorite on-screen font is Rosie, a pure bitmap. It's no use on OSX, but you Windows and OS9 folks should check it out.

#71 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 03:09 PM:

And they sing, too. Coon Cats, that is.

#72 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 03:23 PM:

Zed, the picture's for real -- the woman may be small but the cat is a Maine Coon and weighs 24 pounds. Snopes has the scoop as usual.

#73 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 03:44 PM:

There are individual non-Maine Coon housecats that run to the larger end of size spectrum. Alexis, who first belonged to Madeleine Robins but took up residence with me for the last couple of years of his life, was quite large. He wasn't fat, oh no, that boy was all muscle (and he'd let you know if once in a while, too). And the runt of his litter, too, Madeleine said. I shudder to think what his brothers looked like--they must have been the size of panthers.

Alexis was a charming lad one of whose favorite things was to lie on the back of the couch behind your shoulders so that he could knead the back of your neck with his large, clawless paws (done before any of us knew better, and he was still capable of destroying upholstery with his pads alone). Once he'd worked out your, and his, kinks, he'd drape himself across your neck and shoulders and vibrate. Cat as massage therapist.

He's gone 9 years now and still missed.

#74 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 03:49 PM:

Anybody got recommendations for a good monospace font? I use Lucida Console currently but I haven't seen many others to choose between (the only monospace fonts I've tried out are Courier, Terminal, FixedSys, 8514oem, Reuters Mono, and Lucida Console. Monospace fonts are very useful to programmers.

#75 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 04:06 PM:

I bought Bembo's Zoo on the strength of the website; it's a fine picture book for people who are a little daft about fonts, but, in truth, the website is better, especially for children. Making an advertising website better than the thing it advertises is probably a mistake...

#76 ::: tomb ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 04:23 PM:


#77 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 04:56 PM:

Jeremy -

Luxi Mono. Donated to the XFree86 folks by B&H, it's basically Courier as a screen font and quite lovely -- dark, emphatic, and easy to read.

#78 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 05:09 PM:

I use Monaco, at 9 point so that OSX doesn't anti-alias it. But I'll have to check out some of the others mentioned.

#79 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 07:24 PM:

Yoon Ha - Me and my three sisters had cats all while we were growing up, so I can say that your average calico or tiger mutt isn't going to be detrimental to most children, over or under 5. As for breeds, I'd stay away from anything manufactured by pedigree or pet store, and drop by my local shelter or friend-giving-away-free-kittens. The non-pedigree ones tend to have fewer defects built into them.

Also, look for a shorthair cat. The less likely a child can reach out and grab a fistful of fur, the better off both parties are. But that really only applies with the little ones - human, that is.

Also, resist the urge to get a kitten JUST because it's so cute and fluffy. A child will fall in love with a kitten's innocent, playful nature, and grow bored with the cat that sleeps more and isn't as interested in playing (unless you're blessed with a cat who shares a few traits with my Hercules - he's a beautiful black cat with green eyes who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, but will be WIDE awake the moment he hears the chink of the chain on our little laser pointer. Also has a habit of standing on his hind legs for extended periods of time, much to my delight).

I'm sure other readers will have more information on breed-specific temperaments. As for me, I'll go with a mutt every time.

#80 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 08:12 PM:

Yoon Ha Lee: Most (I will not say all) housecats can be trained to a reasonable level of civility.

I have met less than satisfactory cats in my time. I suspect that this is because their owners do not know better is possible. Better is possible. Cats can be trained.

Set up for success. Make it easy for the cat to 'win'. Remember, cats are not self-motivated learners, not like dogs. You have to build in the motivation.

For example, practice "come in from the outside* when I call you" on a cold (40F), rainy day, preferably an hour or two before the cat gets fed. (This is so that your cat will WANT to come inside, for warm, dry, and food.)

Put the cat outside.

Wait an hour.

Open the door and call the cat.

If your cat comes, let him/her in.

If your cat is not in the house after you've called five times, shut the door.

Wait another hour, EVEN, and this is important, EVEN if the cat shows up at the door whining before the hour is up. The door opens at YOUR convenience, not because he or she whines. The cat needs to learn this.

Repeat the "open door, call five times, shut door, wait an hour" procedure until the cat comes in. This will NOT take all night more than about twice.

When you can reliably get the cat in the house on the second or third go each time that you try this, then stop giving chances every hour. Start giving chances twice per day.

My cats run home like the dickens when I call because they know full well that if they do not make it into the house before I shut the door, there is not going to be another chance to come inside until the morrow.

*I live down a two-mile dirt road in the middle of nowhere. For my cats to get run over, they would have to trek two miles, uphill, to the paved road. In the seven years I've had them, this has not yet been a problem. They are mostly indoor cats, but when it's nice outside and daylight, they are allowed to go out and kill chipmunks and baby bunnies as long as they come back home when I call them

#81 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 08:34 PM:

Will remember advice on mutts vs. breeds. Any friendly, reasonably healthy cat would be all right by me. Kitten sounds ambitious for a first-time cat owner.

Right now we're in apartments right by the train tracks and highway, so an outdoor kitty would probably be inadvisable, but we'll probably have left this area before we can actually get a cat. In the meantime, I am collecting advice and reading books on kitty-care, even if I imagine it's something you still have to experience. :-p


#82 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 08:39 PM:

Curiously enough, I just finished installing Andale Mono on this computer.

It's a Microsoft-designed font that used to be free, specially designed for onscreen display. (They were thinking of web use, I suppose, but I use it for work; it lets me set up more simultaneously visible windows. Procomm Plus is a perfectly good terminal emulator that comes with a lousy set of screen fonts.)

#83 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 09:04 PM:

Oh, yes. That would be another point I stress. Indoor cats. Our Herc is an indoor cat. Yes, we have to clean his litterbox and clean the nose prints off the insides of all of our windows. But we also live several hundred feet away from a major 5-lane road whose speed limit is 45.

Even back at my parents' house, we lived miles from any major road. However, we lived in front of a cranberry bog, which coyotes moved into when I was about 12 years old. We have since had 5 cats that never returned.

All of my future felines WILL be indoor cats. If not just for my selfish peace of mind.

#84 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:14 PM:

Alice Keezer -
As noted above, I am fully aware of, and have seen 1-22 of, the TV series (properly, "R.o.D. The TV" -- the ambiguation of the D seems deliberate given later developments). And, frankly, while the first few episodes are not up to the caliber of the OVA, they are certainly not, in any sense, BAD, and once things get moving, all the objections to the show (absence of The Paper, lack of action), dry up FAST.

I highly recommend it. If for no other reason than to watch someone experience physical symptoms of withdrawal from an addiction because they have to walk through a book-district without buying anything...

#85 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:46 PM:

Even our cats are very kid-friendly, even though two out of three are elderly. My first cat, Aja, was totally ruined for kids because of a KaCSSFS meeting where someone brought a totally clueless, uncontrolled child who spent the evening pursuing her. She never, ever liked many kids again until Inger's daughter, quite and cautious Samantha came to visit. My most touching photo of my beloved Aja (passed in 2001, the November after my father died) is of Aja standing in our living room being patted by Sam. Both parties look tentative.

The current crop like Margene's grandkids, Melisande has been witnessed to be exhibiting walking behaviour to a 12 month old... I really wish I had a video cam because she let him hold (lightly of course) her tail tip and led him all over the ground floor of our house on 75th Street. With a patient look on her face of 'this cub needs to be taught how to walk around...must be PATIENT!"

My cats are all indoor cats because I like to know they're save and I'm allergi to fleas-- though because of the feral cats we need to use Advantage now. The fleas come in through the front door,.... and the only overall attack was really icky. The youngest (now three) bit almost all of her lovely longish hair off of herself to attack them. They're all better now....

#86 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 10, 2004, 11:59 PM:

My apologies, BSD. I missed that, somehow. Probably has something to do with twice the dose of caffeine in my bloodstream today than what I'm used to.

I think the most amusing part I've seen in Read or Die (I haven't seen the last episode - bad subtitling) was the opening scene, which shows her small apartment simply COVERED in books. Not an inch of floor space left open, and she's even sleeping between several of them, stacked on her bed. If I'm recalling correctly, anyway.

The second most interesting was the way she blushes upon opening a much-coveted book (a blush in anime being akin to little hearts over one's head).

#87 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 02:21 AM:

It wasn't the sweaters or the trousers that got me, it was the woman's face, particularly her facial expression, which was the very acme of sullenness. She seemed to be brooding about why she was forced to wear those horrible trousers.

#88 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 05:34 AM:

Tim Walters: Interesting coincidence, I use 9-point Monaco also. I have for years. It's now the font I associate with Usenet -- reading Usenet with any other font doesn't really feel like Usenet.

They actually tinkered with Monaco when they moved from system 7 to system 8. Before that, l and I were identical, but they added a little serif to the bottom of the l. Took a bit of getting used to for me.

#89 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 09:21 AM:

I was wondering why that cat looked even bigger than my similarly shaggy Emperor Horton, who is 19 pounds. Maine Coon Cat explains it, since Horton is a Norwegian Forest Cat. (Holding him for long still strains my arms, since I'm a wimpy 5'3".) For his picture, see the second one down at:

#90 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 10:52 AM:

Browsing around led me to this page which appears to link to a vast number of monspaced fonts...

#91 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 10:58 AM:

Xopher, Jed re "Just Desserts": see Venus Plus X (Sturgeon, 1960) -- and even though Sturgeon was an incorrigible punster (I reread "To Here and the Easel" two nights ago and my head still hurts) I wouldn't bet this one originated with him.

#92 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 12:21 PM:

Alisa Ek: Cats? Sing? As in something other than caterwauling? Tell!


#93 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 12:45 PM:

I sought sans serif, but I did not seek Helvetica.

#94 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 12:58 PM:

Since it's an open thread, if anybody wants to return to the issue of POD, Nick Mamatas, who writes for and has been involved with various small presses, has a fun rant here.

Also, to Grayon and Mitch Wagner: In fact it's the combination of the disco pants, the replicant thousand-yard stare, and the title "Bead Me a Shimmering Dance" that really makes me think that a Gate is about to be opened into a different and a terrible world. And she knows it too, you can see it in her face.

#95 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 02:15 PM:

Speaking of typesetting...The major research collection at my university just bought a Kelmscott Chaucer! Squeeeeee!!1!

We now return you to the erudite discourse already in progress.

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 02:16 PM:

What, the one holding the Maine Coon Cat? I thought she looked proud and happy. "I take pride in my work, and work on my pride (of Maine Coons). I'm glad to be here, and I'm so happy I'm a Beta."

#97 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 02:34 PM:

Hmm well a bit of browsing around different monospace fonts convinces me that Lucida console is indeed the way to go. I use it at 10-pt. which on my monitor, shows up as about 3/16" or 1/4" tall letters (very roughly, I don't have a ruler on hand).

What I like about Lucida Console (among other things): The letters can be fairly big before they start to be rendered with heavy lines, a trait I associate with bold text and which doesn't look right in code (to my eyes). I and l and 1 are nice and easy to distinguish; 0 and O not quite as easy (if they are not side by side) but not impossible; I wish commas were a bit more visually distinct from periods (and semi-colons from colons); but this complaint applies fairly generally across all fonts that I am familiar with and it would not be fair to Lucida Console to place this at its door.

#98 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 02:36 PM:

Oh and, in the course of my browsing I found Lucida Unicode Sans (not a monospaced font), which makes a very nice display font for my browser.

#99 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 02:48 PM:

We got some kittens from a friend who had raised them to the age of eight weeks. They'd been locked in a room with their mother and remained feral. They attacked us when we tried to feed them. They attacked us pretty much any time we were within attack range. I think cats, like humans and dogs, need a certain amount of human interaction in their formative weeks or they're going to be trouble. Also, I think sometimes the cats we get at the Humane Society are on their best behavior until we've had them at home for a while.

But a word of advice - do not get a Mastiff. They snore with the force of a .4 earthquake, eyes wide open, then fling slobber on every possible surface, including your keyboard.

#100 ::: Sheila ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 03:40 PM:

Kip W.: You're evil. Now I've got that song stuck in my head.

In re: religious kitsch, has anyone else seen the "Bag of plagues"? I hope they include a key because I'm not seeing the connections between some of the plagues and the "symbols" included.

#101 ::: Sheila ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 03:59 PM:

Ok, I found a better picture. Apparently it's:

powered dye and a plastic syringe = water turning to blood
jumping frog = frogs
tick = lice/flies/gnats
leopard mask = wild beasts
strange green hand = some kind of pestilence causing micro-organism
ping-pong ball = "hail stone"
praying mantis = locust
sunglasses = darkness
puzzle (presumably with a dead child on it) = death of the firstborn

Plus, the plagues are just good clean fun, suitable for a variety of educational merchandising such as:
Passover Ten Plagues Finger Puppers
Crawling plagues

#102 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 04:23 PM:

Yoon Ha Lee:

Coon Cats have more of a trill than a standard meow for their normal conversation, and they are rather fond of conversing. I'd say they're about as talkative as Siamese, just not as discordant. It's not really singing as birds sing, but it is pleasant and companionable to listen to. Coon Cats are excellent company.


All my cats are in theory indoor cats, although one of them is more an indoor-outdoor cat in practice. I expect it will kill him someday, but he's way too creative at escaping for there to be any real hope of preventing it.

Flea attacks are hell. I love those online purveyors of Frontline for cheap. They saved my sanity last summer.

#103 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 04:47 PM:

The Ten Plagues Finger Puppets! I was just talking about these with a coworker yesterday!

ME: Okay, I can identify all the plagues but the upside-down one on the bottom. What is that, Hair on Fire?

KAREN: Apparently he's a little hailstone, although Estelle suggested it could be the Plague of Clowns.

Oh, right. You remember:

"And Moses spake unto Pharaoh, saying, let my people go; but the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart, and Pharaoh would not release them. And so Moses did as the LORD had said, and struck himself with in the face with a pie, and bade the children of Israel do likewise; and soon afterwards all of Egypt shook beneath the tread of big floppy shoes. And the LORD sent a multitude of clowns into the land, and the children of Egypt ran in fear from the honking noses and the pratfalls and the little yippy dogs jumping and dancing, and the juggling pins falling upon the ground like hail, and their dreams were troubled by the unnatural smiles and the hair upon the heads of the clowns, which was as flame. And everywhere was the shpritzing of the seltzer bottles, and still Pharaoh would not release the children of Israel."

#104 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 05:47 PM:

Re: maine coons.

I live with a couple of them, and they are the most dog-like cats I have ever met. One greets you every time he comes in the house, and if he's wet, demands to be towelled off. The other warbles kinda like Marge Simpson.

And the big one is long enough to reach the counter while his back paws are on the ground -- something like 38 inches fully stretched out.

#105 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 06:01 PM:

Emperor Horton vocalizes a lot (when he's awake), in tones ranging from trills to meows to INCREDIBLY LOUD DEMANDS. Back when he was new to us and still an outdoor cat, in an El Nino year, his demand to be let into the house in the middle of the night was the loudest sound I've ever heard from a cat. He does greet us at the door. But my favorite behavior is the "roller cat" flashing his incredibly fluffy white stomach as he rocks back and forth on the rug.

#106 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 06:04 PM:

Our Hoover, who is a part-Coon, does the cat roller too, or just lies there shamelessly flaunting his fuzzy white belly. Woe betide anyone who rubs his belly, though. He has very Coon-cat-like humongous paws.

#107 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 06:09 PM:

For the POD threads:

They print your blog, on demand. At least they dont seem to be selling fame and fortune.

#108 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 07:40 PM:

eric - Herc, the comparably teensy kitty (at 13 1/2 pounds) can also stand so that his front paws rest on our table or counter while his back paws are on the floor.

Whenever people accuse my cat of being "big," I mkae sure they clarify that he's long and muscular. He is most certainly not fat, despite the fact that he always has food available and is given a few more treats than packages recommend.

I wish I could get a good picture of him without the flash reflecting off his fur, making him look mottled, or entirely white.

#109 ::: Ailsa Ek ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 10:29 PM:

Hoover, who just looks big. For a Coon, he's tiny - maybe ten pounds. He also doesn't trill, he whines. Or swears occasionally.

Tigger, who's three and still looks adolescent.

Roshi, our big kitty. He's still tiny compared to a Coon Cat, but he's bigger than the other three. (I don't have any recent pictures of our other cat, also part Coon, less than 5 lbs., as she's very reclusive.)

#110 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2004, 10:43 PM:

Karen, kittens need to be socialized just like puppies. Handled gently, loved, taught that the human hand is a nice thing, not scary. And once obtained from wherever (I've got one literally from the street, someone found her and brought her to a friend's garage sale the next day and now it's 17 years on, one that came from the pound and one that was rescued by a friend from a dog barn in St. Louis--two of her siblings and maybe her mom were et by the dogs). They're all people friendly, partly because when they were bitty kitties, I made sure to hug, cuddle, pet, whatever, to make sure they knew they were beloved pets.

Fergal came that way (he's the one that came from the pound), I'm still not sure why he went to the pound. He was over 8. I hope beyond hope that he came from loving owners who had to go to assisted care and could not take him. He's just about 8 lbs of pure love and kindness, even when the kitten pesters him. He's got kidney disease and we're treasuring every day we get with him while he tolerates his treatment/until it gets too bad.

Alice, Herc is a good healthy size for a neutered male. I've got a friend who had a 30-lb housecat and it's all flab and it looks gross. We keep teasing the kitty who was born in a dog barn about being fat, because she chows down on anything that's put down and has sort of a filled out butt, but she doesn't tip the scales at more than 15 lbs (maybe), and she's either got Norweigan or Maine blood in her, she has the semi-long hair, looks long but does not mat...

#111 ::: DaveKuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 08:43 AM:

Teep, I must have one of your cats. He comes to the front porch when it gets cold and waits patiently for the door to open. Follows me inside to the room we let him use. Behaves very well.

#112 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 11:08 AM:

Re: Cats who sing

Abyssinians have lovely, sometimes musical voices. They are often as vocal as Siamese, but, as others have commented, without the "whine" that characterizes the Siamese tone.

I had a cat that was half-Aby. She communicated in a wide variety of tones and "words" and often "asked questions" by using a particular two-part trill that rose at the end.

At the moment I have a half-Russian Blue who barely has a voice at all (pure Blues are basically silent).

I'm a big advocate of indoor-only cats regardless of where you live because of fleas, ticks, diseases, the potential for interaction with wild creatures or other people's pets, etc. And I've seen the heartache and agony friends have gone through when their indoor-outdoor cats go missing . . . .

As for cats and kids, that depends on the cat and the kid. My cats were not interested in my daughter at all until she was capable of sitting upright, though one did like to sleep in the baby carriage. Once she could sit, the half-Russian Blue (who was only a year old) adopted her, taught her to crawl (she'd sit just out of reach and when the baby moved toward her, she'd move just enough to keep the kid going), and has adored her deeply and significantly from that moment on. The other cat, who was several years older and was really "mine," was not a big fan of the child until she was walking, but the cat never injured the child except by accident (attemping to jump _over_ the toddler who had penned her into a corner while I was out of the room--in other words, the cat decided to escape rather than attack).

In any case, the relationship between my daughter and her cat is a significant one, and quite deep, and has grown tremendously in just the last couple of years (the kid is almost 8).

A word of warning, though--some shelters will not place cats, especially kittens, in homes with children under 5.

My half-Aby was given to me by a former roommate who got it from a neighbor whose outdoor cat hadn't been neutered. My half-Blue is a shelter cat.

I want a marmalade cat, and I'd prefer to adopt an adult cat at this point. Maybe for my birthday this year . . . .

#113 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 12:29 PM:

Oh dear. I should stop reading this thread. I miss having a cat.

(Short version: Have a dog, love the dog, wouldn't be fair to either the dog or a potential cat to introduce a cat into the situation.)

#114 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: March 12, 2004, 12:33 PM:

maine coons... are the most dog-like cats I have ever met.

A guy in my neighborhood brings his Maine Coon cat, Coochy (sp?) to the coffeehouse down the street almost everyday (this is in NYC). He walks him on a leash, or sometimes carries him in a sort of Snugli. He's been doing this since Coochy was a kitten. On very cold days he puts a sort of hip-hop bandanna over Coochy's ears. And he's careful to clean the cat's paws with water the moment he gets indoors on wet winter days so he won't lick up the salt and calcium chloride that's all over the sidewalk. Coochy is very typically feline combination of boldness and skittishness. He knows the coffeehouse and makes himself at home there. When people bring their dogs in, he can be very aggressive. On the street recently he slashed open the nose of a pit bull that was getting too friendly....He's definitely one of my favorite cats...

#115 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2004, 04:55 PM:

Kate Nepveu - I lived in a house with two roommates and two dogs a couple of years ago. The dogs were both 80+ pounds, very exuberant. I adopted a kitten into the house and the dogs and cat got along extremely well, they romped and played and got into trouble together all day. The kitten slept curled up next to the dogs. It was extremely cute.

Of course, your dog might be a different situation entirely. Not telling you what to do here, just offering a datapoint.

#116 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2004, 05:06 PM:

Department of Coincidences: Just after posting the last, I checked out Scalzi's blog and found the following:

"Dogs and Cats! Living Together!"

about how his pet dog and cat get along - short version, extremely well - with cute photo of same. Very cute photo of same. Warning: Cute dog and cat photo.

It's the usual well-written Scalzi stuff, so if you wish to be informed or entertained on the subject of dog/cat cohabitation, go thee hence.

#117 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2004, 05:50 PM:

Mitch: thanks, but it's stuff particular to this dog, not a general reluctance to mix cats & dogs.

#118 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2004, 06:16 PM:

We've had many cats in my childhood home, and only a few dogs. Our first dog, Baby, a hound/Doberman mix, loved cats. She thought they were very strange puppies, and tried to clean them in her dog-slobbery way whenever they allowed her to come near. The cats avoided her like the plague.

Then came our temporary resident, whose name escapes me. "Houdini," which he was named by the Hell's Angels chapter in New Hampshire that adopted him, suited him far better than his original name. He also loved the cats, in a far different way. He would chase them, corner them, and, upon being scratched on the nose, would pounce on them. I understand pit bulls have a diminished sense of pain, which would explain why he wasn't deterred, and why the cats were so terrified. Fortunately, we never found out what he'd do if he caught a cat, and all of our cats became outdoor cats or wandered away to new homes while he was staying with us.

Lilith is also a pit bull, and I haven't seen the impact she's had in the long term on the cats, since I moved when Lilith was still a puppy. However, she also delighted in chasing and antagonizing the felines that were left after Houdini. I understand that, with training and patience, she's learned to ignore them, for the most part.

My conclusion: a cat and a dog together are not a death sentence for either animal, but pit bulls and cats don't seem to mix at all.

#119 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2004, 07:56 PM:

Alice Keezer: We've had many cats in my childhood home, and only a few dogs. Our first dog, Baby, a hound/Doberman mix, loved cats. She thought they were very strange puppies, and tried to clean them in her dog-slobbery way whenever they allowed her to come near. The cats avoided her like the plague.

Yes, the male dog in our household adopted the kitten that way, and was content to spend his time licking and grooming the kitten, which the kitten didn't like but tolerated.

The only danger that kitten faced was drowning in dog saliva.

Actually, that's not true: the male dog used to like to stand and hold the cat's head in his mouth. That's all: just hold him, wagging his tail slightly, apparently blissed out. At the time we thought it was extremely cute, but now, looking back, I realize that was extremely dangerous for the cat: one twitch of the dog's jaws would have been followed by one dead crush-head kitten. And dogs are not noted for their impulse control. I'm sure the dog would have felt just terrible about it afterwards, but that wouldn't have made much difference to the dead kitten.

#120 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: March 13, 2004, 10:46 PM:

The cats, for their part, would act the part of the trapped creature quite dutifully throughout the cleanings. They'd lie under the dog's paws, perfectly still, until there was an opening. We kept towels handy; it could be some time before there was an opening, in many cases.

I think the part the cats hated the most, actually, was being laughed at while they walked around with fur that most resembled a porcupine's hide.

#121 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 12:08 PM:

Having had to clean up the awful mess after one housemate's dog killed another housemate's kitten (I was still finding small, isolated blood spots weeks later), I have gained a tendency to be very, very cautious about admitting new animals into the household.

(When we got our Corgi, Madame Mim, a few months ago, it was with the proviso that she could be returned to her previous owner if she and the cats didn't get along together. Turned out to be okay. It might be an exaggeration to say Mim is "pussy-whipped", but not by much.)

#122 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 02:26 PM:

Bruce, that is horrible.

We got our dog as a puppy so the cats would get to train her, and had one rule for the interactions of cats and dog: the cats win. Nothing the cats did was ever disciplined. But if a cat was clearly getting annoyed or scared, the dog was forced to behave herself. So now we have a dog who, while she is larger and clearly stronger than the cats, treats them relatively gently. She could still inadvertently cause harm, but the cats are pretty clued in to her and stay clear when she starts jumping like an idiot, trying to get them to wrestle with her.

We made some big choices up front before getting a dog: we chose a breed known for having a gentle mouth, calm disposition, and which is not bred to chase small animals (Labrador Retreiver). We found an excellent breeder who chose the right puppy for us, from the litter. We gave up on rescuing a dog because we wanted to know for certain that the puppy had never killed anything. We also spent a lot of time training the dog to bite inhibition. To the point where she will put her teeth on somebody, but refuses to bite down even enough to hold on. Last summer she caught a mouse in the yard, and was prancing around with it in her mouth as if she were the queen of the world. I told her to "give" it, and she spat it out. The poor thing was coated head to toe in dog spit, and a bit dizzy from being shaken around in the mouth, but completely unharmed.

A week later a mouse made itself known in the enclosed, dog-free area near the cat food. I found its tail the next day.

#123 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 02:32 PM:

try shishka (a little bump). Or my favorite Russian phrase, 'samo zashchishchayushchaya zhenshchina'

And there is the reason I hate, loathe, despise (insert terms of great dislike, as suits your mood) transliteration.

I can decipher such things, but like any other cipher, I need the key of the creator. And to comprehend such things as above I have to decipher it, and then read the Russian.

But yes, indicator lines are useful, and so far as I can tell, rarely used.


#124 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 03:44 PM:

I always used them in handwriting. I don't write anything in Russian anymore though. Somebody had a Cyrillic font on here one time, unless that was Electrolite; if I get ahold of it, I'll write the words out in it. But you'll have to handwrite them to see how ambiguous and confusing they are.

#125 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 03:45 PM:

I ran across a management book from my University Library set in Courier (from 1986). It looked like it was shot directly from the typed MS. It was so distracting to see a book in Courier that I couldn't actually read it, I just flipped throught he pages, marvelling at the grotesque beauty, the complete disregard for aesthetics.

#126 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 03:49 PM:

As impracticle and imprecise as it is, this serif font based on Edward Gorey's lettering is fun.

#127 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 06:25 PM:

On the off-chance that anyone here is in the SF Bay area and interested in electronic music, I'm doing a show this Saturday under the nom de guerre of Shalmaneser.

If pimping my gigs here is out of line, even in an open thread, let me know and I'll do it no more.

#128 ::: Laurel Amberdine ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2004, 07:02 PM:

Speaking of, well, slobbery cats:

I was shopping for a small farm years ago. One place I looked had a cat and a milk cow. They were apparently friends. The cat came over and rubbed against the cow. The cow went lick with its big cow tongue (about the size of the cat). One swipe and the cat was completely wet. The cat had arched into it though, so I assume this was okay with it.

I wonder what the cow thought. That the cat was a really small member of its herd?

#129 ::: JMKagan ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 01:44 AM:

Laurel---The first cat I ever met was my granddad's barncat and the cows loved her and her kittens. I never saw the cows do 'em the slobbery tongue you describe, but cows aren't stupid and cats aren't stupid. At a guess, I'd say the cows knew the cat and kittens killed the mice that annoyed them, and that the cat and kittens knew they could get a drip of milk from the cows when they wanted one. Um, loosely said: mammals are mammals...and, unless the mammals are homo SAPs, they try to get along if there's any chance whatsoever.

#130 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 06:49 AM:

With regard to Dan Blum's original question (at the top, there) about fonts. I think Keith's recent post suggests a workable solution: pick up a book you like the look of, and use whatever it uses. As someone who occasionally plays a graphic designer at work, I wouldn't proscribe a serif/sans dichotomy, because both sides have their share of ugly fonts.

#131 ::: Mris ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 11:50 AM:

Pit bulls and cats don't seem to mix at all.

It sounds to me like pit bulls vary a good deal, because I have a friend with a very gentle pit bull and a younger kitten who bosses the pit bull. So I think individual dog personality/temperament is likely more important than breed.

We would love to be cat people around here, but all three of us are allergic. (We keep making friends with cat-owners, sadly, so we do a lot of entertaining.) I've been saying I'm going to get a puppy when the snow is gone, now that we have room for a puppy, but in Minnesota who knows when that will be? I just keep waiting.

#132 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 01:53 PM:

I was talking with a co-worker about fonts the other day - turns out we both fell in love with Comic Sans in the mid-to-late-90s, and started using it as a standard screen font. I had my e-mail in Comic Sans, my web browser in Comic Sans, my word processor screen font in Comic Sans. I even had my web journal set up to display in Comic Sans, so that the entire world might know and enjoy the beauty that is Comic Sans.

My co-worker said he went through the same phase at about the same time. We didn't even know each other then.

Now, Comic Sans looks ghastly to me, and my favorite screen font is Verdana, with Lucida Console for monospace fonts.

Comic Sans is the leisure suit of fonts.

There is one area where Comic Sans is still the best font: I have a high-resolution color PalmPilot, the Palm Tungsten C. I use a word processor called WordSmith. WordSmith permits you to convert TrueType fonts and use them on your PalmPilot, and I find that Comic Sans is a very good screen font for the Palm.

Hmmmm... that leads me to the speculation that Comic Sans is a good screen font for relatively low-resolution devices like today's Palm Tungsten Cs, or a PC ca. 1997. (I know I described the Tungsten C as a high-res device, but what I mean is that it's high-res for a handheld computer.)

#133 ::: tomb ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 04:29 PM:

I use Comic Sans for "to be resolved" comments in technical documents. (Un)fortunately MT strips out the font tags so I can't give an example. Anyway, there's always a feeling of satisfaction when I can make such text go away.

#134 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 15, 2004, 06:23 PM:

That's a great idea, tomb.

#135 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2004, 12:41 AM:

Oh, goody. This gem comes from one of the dim bulbs in my own state.

#136 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2004, 12:48 PM:

"Things Editorial Assistants Should Never Say to Senior Editors", from McSweeney's.

Though I'd think the last is just things one should never (find oneself in the position of having to) say at work in general.

#137 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2004, 02:17 PM:

Wow, Alan. They're really getting blatant, aren't they? That would mean a supermajority of Congress can pass any law it

It'll never pass. I hope.

#138 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2004, 08:06 PM:

I wonder what would happen if it did pass, and the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional?

#139 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 16, 2004, 08:32 PM:

Yeah, I wondered that about the bill which would make it an impeachable offense for a federal judge to hold that something violated the seperation of church and state (which is still lurking in the dark corners of the Dominionist Agenda).

Xopher: You may use indicators, I may use indicators, but the Russians I know (and the other letters and manuscripts I get to read) seem to think they are for children, and so they don't include them.


#140 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2004, 07:32 AM:

Kate said (re the McSweeney's list):

"Though I'd think the last is just things one should never (find oneself in the position of having to) say at work in general."

It can be just as inappropriate to assume that someone is NOT a lesbian. (Trust me on this.)

#142 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2004, 12:44 PM:

Re the McSweeney's thing:

Little smack of elitism in the Shirley McLean reference . . . and like it's a senior editor's business what a junior staffer (or the junior staffer's mother or sister or friend) reads anyway. (ditto the Da Vinci Code reference--this is the "mainstream literary" equivalent of the low-brow vs. high-brow stuff that is going on in the Yngve thread on Electrolite)

Around here, authors coming around formally to sign books are publicly posted on the office email; no one needs _permission_ to get a book signed.

#143 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: March 17, 2004, 12:45 PM:

Children named after typefaces (search for "caslon") and a great concept.

#144 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 18, 2004, 07:32 AM:

Xopher: I'm not trying to be rude, but I do (and have, from the get go) see how they would be confusing... I am a fluent speaker of Russian. I was just commenting on the vagaries of transliterational systems (Nabokov's was spot on accurate, but it was more trouble to learn than cyrillic, the rest have too many ambiguities to be comfortable for me, who doesn't need them, and [like all such systems] are too vague for those who do).

I keep hoping my next deployment (Bog forbid) will be to Kosovo, or Bosnia, where I can use it (and add Serbo-Croat) or a TDY to Korea (where I got to use far more than I expected because no small part of the alien population around Soeul is Russian women come to work the, "juicy bars," and my sidekick was chasing one of them, so I had to do a lot more clubbing than I expected... was nice, actually).


#145 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 04:25 AM:

Speaking of cats (it occurs to me, by the way, that one great similarity between here and RASFF is that almost any message can reasonably use those words as an opening gambit), those of you who used to play along at home with the "how many cats does Ray have?" game on RASFF may remember Loki, our genial short-haired orange tabby who was, as of my strategic withdrawal from the newsgroup, the senior cat of the house. Well, he has, as of this last Saturday, passed that title on to Aurora. To quote an old memory from RASFF:

When Aurora was a kitten, freshly introduced into our household, she was your basic beautiful elfin terror weapon. The one cat who got along with her the best at the time was Loki, an orange shorthair tabby who currently weighs just under 20 lbs (he weighed a bit less then, but not much). One of my favorite memories is of watching Aurora try to ambush Loki once: He was just sitting there, in his placid Kliban cat pose, when tiny little Aurora wiggled, set, and leaped on him, hitting him squarely in his side.

She bounced off.

She shook herself off, darted away, and came back for a second try. Run, leap... bounce. And a third try: Same result. All the while, Loki sat there, looking straight ahead, unmoving and unmoved, apparently unaware of her. Until her third leap and bounce, after which he casually reached out his paw and pinned Aurora to the ground. She sat there wriggling for a moment or two, as he continued to stare calmly ahead. Finally, he let go, and she scampered off, allowing him to return to the important business of sitting still.

In recent years, he took a special liking to Calliope, who is the one kitten (by years, she's an adult, but still) in the house whom everyone loves. Thanks no doubt to the way we had to carefully hand-feed her as a sickly kitten (her weight dropped down to .6 pounds at one point), she associates food with love more than any other cat, and prefers at all times to eat in company. If we're around, she'll insist that Angie or I pet her while she eats, unless her sister, Clio, is around. Aside from Clio, the only other cat she would use as a substitute for our presence was Loki. He was her Food Buddy. In the last year or so, he spent a lot of time on a sunny little hammock we set up by the sliding glass doors from the kitchen to the porch. But whenever Calliope came into the kitchen and over to the food bowls, he would open his eyes, hop down from his cushy perch, and walk over to the food bowls so that they could eat together.

In his last couple of weeks, he was getting less and less mobile, and sometimes stayed on his hammock when Calliope came around. Until then, we had just figured he was getting, you know, old. Finally, we took him to the vet, and his tests came back mostly normal -- slightly elevated glucose, everything else okay. So we gave him some of this and we gave him some of that and we put away the food Thursday night and took him in first thing Friday morning to see if he had diabetes, like Topaz (Angie's mother's cat) does. Heck, we thought, maybe that's why he used to sneak into Carolyn's room to eat Topaz's Special Food all the time.

Well, the blood sugar test came out perfectly normal, so our vet started doing x-rays and other tests and finally a sonogram, which revealed that his bladder, which looked perfectly normal on the x-rays aside from being roughly the size of George Foreman, was, in fact, a giant tumor. She gave him a heaping cortisone shot and some other meds and sent him home with instructions to bring him back in a couple of days to see if there had been any improvement at all.

He ended up returning the next day. As that evening had worn on, his condition visibly deteriorated. He was obviously not in any pain, but he was just as obviously not the least bit comfortable. His body temperature began to drop considerably, reminding me of our first cat, Tip, who drifted slowly away as I lay curled around her, keeping her warm on her final night.

Before I went to bed, I got a little fur heating pad cover and placed it over him as he lay on our living room floor. Persephone immediately wandered over, sniffed at him, and lay down on the edge of the blanket, up against his side. He was in good hands.

The next morning, he was still there, mostly. I am basically incapable of leaving the house these days (once a week if I'm lucky), and there was no way that I could make it out two days in a row; so Angie and her mom had to take him to the vet. He's the first one of our cats I haven't been able to be with at the end.

And then they came home, and I sealed and wrapped and taped and wrapped and taped the box while Angie went out to perform another of my traditional duties, the digging of the hole. On the outer wrapping of the box, on the tape arrow I added to let Angie know which way he was facing, I wrote his name, his dates, and his epitaph:


Calliope wandered all around the house the next few times she wanted to eat, crying her food cry. Some of the other cats are auditioning to be her new Food Buddy.

#146 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 07:33 AM:

Oh, Ray, I'm sorry.

#147 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 12:06 PM:

Ray, I'm very sorry for your loss.

#148 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 12:56 PM:

Ray, I'm very sorry to hear about Loki. Condolences to you, Angie, Calliope, and the rest of your family.

#149 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 01:46 PM:

I'm really sorry to hear this. I hope you're doing OK.

#150 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 04:52 PM:

About "Duck Tape" -- I had occasion to buy some duct tape recently, and it was in a blisterpack clearly labeled "Duck Tape." No duck logo, no cutesy sayings about how waterproof it is, just someone who really didn't know any better.

#151 ::: Yoon Ha Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 05:24 PM:

Ray, I am sorry, and only wish I could send some virtual catnip. Or whatever is appropriate to mourning cats. And humans.

#152 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 19, 2004, 11:04 PM:

Warm thoughts, Ray. Losing loved ones is always hard.

#153 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 01:30 AM:

Duck Tape is a brand of duct tape.

#154 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 09:45 AM:

I presume that if you took the jacket off the sitter in Bad to the Bun, his t-shirt would read HELL'S ANGORAS.

#155 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: March 20, 2004, 11:16 PM:

re the British Trojan ads:

"not work safe" because the sexual content may be construed as downloading naughty pictures on company time? Or because it's hard to get any work done when you're laughing hysterically?

And perhaps I should change "hard" in that last sentence to "difficult"....

#156 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 08:49 AM:

Xopher (in addition to Mitch's observation): I've seen at least one plausible exposition that "duck tape" is the original name -- that it was designed to be waterproofing (e.g. for ammo boxes during World War II) and is definitely not what an HVAC tech would use on ducts. (I don't recall how such techs distinguish what they use.) And I note that most of what's sold as "duct tape" today is what I learned ~30 years ago to call "quack tape": plastic with a few threads, or even thread imprints, instead of heavy, tightly-woven cloth; I suppose the new stuff would actually serve better for waterproofing if anyone used it for that.

#157 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 09:12 AM:

Why a duck?
Somehow had always assumed it had to do with those air ducts. It seems to be close to "gaffer tape", also sometimes seen spelt as "gaffa" or "gaffah", but the versions I've seen here are less cloth-textured and more straight plastic.

The gaffer tape is said to be named after electricians & electrical technicians in music or films.

Setting up a gig or a set entails a great deal of running wires & electrical cords over carpets & solid flooring, along walls, or around objects. They found or developed a strong tape which would fasten firmly to all these things, and mould around bumps and corners, yet not be all that damaging or difficult to remove. (Not so much to stop punters damaging themselves & others when they tripped over them, but wrenching out connexions and pulling over gear.)

I've certainly used it for both film & music. Also useful in the rest of my life, such as running repairs to mobile phones and fastening bumpers to antique furniture. For taping plastic over my scars when showering, tho', masking tape is considerably better.

#158 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 09:13 AM:

Why a duck?
Somehow had always assumed it had to do with those air ducts. It seems to be close to "gaffer tape", also sometimes seen spelt as "gaffa" or "gaffah", but the versions I've seen here are less cloth-textured and more straight plastic.

The gaffer tape is said to be named after electricians & electrical technicians in music or films.

Setting up a gig or a set entails a great deal of running wires & electrical cords over carpets & solid flooring, along walls, or around objects. They found or developed a strong tape which would fasten firmly to all these things, and mould around bumps and corners, yet not be all that damaging or difficult to remove. (Not so much to stop punters damaging themselves & others when they tripped over them, but wrenching out connexions and pulling over gear.)

I've certainly used it for both film & music. Also useful in the rest of my life, such as running repairs to mobile phones and fastening bumpers to antique furniture. For taping plastic over my scars when showering, tho', masking tape is considerably better.

#159 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: March 21, 2004, 09:27 AM:

There's no Sanity Clause! Sigh. Sorry about that (above).
Those seeking other recent references to Sanitary Claws might care to examine comments on Holy Trinity! Batman (Re filoque: St Augustine's day is my birthday. I find his vision of trying to fill a hole in the sandy beach by carrying water from the sea in a sieve very apt for attempting to explicate the Trinity.)

#160 ::: Ayse Sercan ::: (view all by) ::: March 22, 2004, 09:22 PM:

Apropos of nothing, I thought Teresa might be interested in this video for Walkie Talkie Man, in which yarn is used with more wit and flair than is usual in music videos these days.

#161 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 08:33 AM:

On a whole 'nother subject, I just saw one of the fast-proliferating references to a peachy-keen new blog, The Panda's Thumb. It's a group blog populated by scientists and aimed at "dedicated to defending the integrity of science against all attempts to weaken it, distort it, or destroy it", particularly (so far) those who focus on debunking creationist and ID propaganda.

Much cool stuff, and I look forward to reading it. (Frankly, I'd rather not HAVE to read it, but I don't expect the fallacies they cope with to disappear anytime soon.)

(Late thought: gee, this really DOES tie in to the beginning of this thread, considering the posts about fonts and design -- hopefully intelligent -- there :-)

#162 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 12:13 PM:

RE "duck tape:"

Duck tape probably gots its name from the fact that it is tape made from duck, a light-duty canvas.

#163 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 11:02 PM:

If I may, I'd like to use this thread to ask a small favor - if anyone reading this has an e-mail address for the Thomas Galloway who was on the ConJose staff (he was in charge of Fun & Games, it says), I would appreciate either obtaining said address, or, if you are leery of giving out people's addresses (I am, myself), having it known that I'm interested in asking him about his game Space Huk, if in fact he's the Thomas Galloway who designed it.

What a horrible sentence. But I don't feel up to fixing it.

#164 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 25, 2004, 11:26 PM:

Good lord . . . "Space Huk" was mentioned in an old, old issue of The Space Gamer. 1974 or so.

I'd be interested in anything you find out about this primordial SF game.

I have a (bad, incomplete) xerox of another oldy called "Space Centurians V."

#165 ::: JMKagan ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 12:05 AM:

It's "gaffer's tape" and I wish I could promote myself another roll of it. Go here
and scroll down to read about both "The Gaffer" and "The Best Boy."

Ooops, I hope that link works. Ricky & I are both down with something suspiciously like Creeping Con Crud, except we caught it from our current favorite 2-year-old, so I'm not compos mentis and I'm only up waiting for the next round of drugs to kick in.

I couldn't figure the connection between lighting a movie set and hanging a ship's sails. Ricky says, "Think heights!" I don't want to because that means I also have to think about working without a net.

#166 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 01:24 AM:
Good lord . . . "Space Huk" was mentioned in an old, old issue of The Space Gamer. 1974 or so.

Not quite as old as that, I don't think, the oldest issue I have is #12 and that's from 1977. The game is that old, though.

I'd be interested in anything you find out about this primordial SF game.

Well, I've got two copies of it (first edition from 1973, second from 1974). It's a "variable-player, limited intelligence, tactical, space wargame." It requires a GM. It seems to involve a reasonable amount of math.

If it's primordial, what do we call Lensman?

I have a (bad, incomplete) xerox of another oldy called "Space Centurians V."

Ah, I've heard of that, it's on Tom Granvold's Spaceship Game List. Never seen it, though.

#167 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 05:11 AM:

Tom Galloway reads and posts to this very blog, there's a good chance he'll see your comment. But I'll send him a heads-up anyway.

#168 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 09:55 AM:

Duct/duck/gaffer's tape, aka gaffa tape, is also the Gaffa in which Kate Bush found herself Suspended, lo these many years past.

I can't believe I only figured that out, like, six months ago. I always thought it was some kind of obscure metaphysical reference...

#169 ::: Tom Galloway ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 10:21 PM:

Well, this particular Tom Galloway (who is also the ConJose Tom Galloway) was a whopping 12-13 years old in 1973-4, and was definitely not the Jim Shooter of the games world.

However, I wonder if this isn't more evidence that I'm due to time travel back into the 1970s at some point. Y'see, I didn't get into organized/convention sf fandom until 1981/2. But there's a Tom Galloway on the membership list of both Suncon (Florida, 1977) and Noreascon 2 (Boston, 1980). Who no one in fandom seems to have ever actually met, at least no one who's encountered me. In all seriousness, it could be the same person. No close relation to me though; while I'm the fourth generation in a row to have "Thomas" in my name, I'm also the fourth generation in a row to be the single male in the family, so any other Galloway at best shares ancestry with me four generations back.

#170 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 11:22 PM:

Reminiscent of the well known statisticians John and Paul Tukey, both of whom I did some work with (and both of whom I respect a great deal!) who did a lot of work to determine that they were actually fifth cousins (with a name like Tukey, which is much less common than Galloway, it's probably less work than tyg would have!).

#171 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: March 26, 2004, 11:35 PM:
Well, this particular Tom Galloway (who is also the ConJose Tom Galloway) was a whopping 12-13 years old in 1973-4, and was definitely not the Jim Shooter of the games world.

Thanks for the response. Just out of curiosity (since I have no special interest in the subject), are you the person of your name who's created Diplomacy variants such as Lunatic Diplomacy?

#172 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 02:02 PM:

For what it's worth, there exists an unauthorized open source computer version of Space Hulk for Windows platforms.

#173 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 06:55 PM:

Those who are looking for Yet More Teresa Writing can look here.

#174 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: March 27, 2004, 07:21 PM:

Where they will find one editorial by P+T jointly and a fair supply of TNH artwork; not quite the clear quill thionite some of would prefer....

#175 ::: Tom Galloway ::: (view all by) ::: March 28, 2004, 02:02 AM:

As far as I know, I have no credits in the gaming world whatsoever (unless someone has run a scenario based on probably my most famous quote involving a battle between Imperial Stormtroopers who can't hit the broad side of a planet and Star Trek Security types who have to die within 5 minutes of beaming down).

#176 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2004, 09:07 PM:

If anyone is still looking for a good monospaced font, this is worth a look. Bitstream has open-sourced its "Vera" font family as part of an agreement with the Gnome project. The whole family is quite graceful, and I find that the boldfaced version of the monospaced variant makes an excellent default font for BBEdit.

#177 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2004, 02:15 PM:

I've done several computer-related panels at SF cons with Tom Galloway. He is extremely learned in that area. I suggest that the "OTHER Tom Galloway is actually an AI of the orginal.

As opposed to Stephen King, whose books written under pseudonym were actually by a zombie; or Stephen Hawking, who prodigious output is by a time travel version of himself from the future. Or Mike Resnick, who has an entire African city filled with writers working in his fictional universes...

#178 ::: David Goldfarb finds comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: September 25, 2004, 04:56 AM:

Bye there roulette....

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