Monthly Archives: February 2013

Why Are Heroes Always Serious?

why_so_cerberusWhy are protagonists the serious ones in the fight? The partial explanation, of course, is that the villain sees a minor breach of scruples, like kidnapping or murder, as a means to a grander end. The protagonist’s outrage is a source of the villain’s distracted amusement.

The hero’s end, the intrinsic value of a human qua human, does not suffer the grand schemes of the villain’s global, “higher end” morality. The villain seeks a nobel goal for humanity at large; the hero denies such abstractions and knows saving the human race is a series of small salvations for individual humans within his reach: the gunpoint hostage, the child trapped in a burning building, the unfortunate addict.

Anti-heroes are villains searching for heroism. Through a series of encounters the morality of the anti-hero’s world eventually becomes breached. Reconciliation involves jettisoning a flaw to install a virtue.

Spike Spiegel, from the Cowboy Bebop series, reconciles his organized crime-ridden past by hunting bounty. Throughout the series he is the consummate anti-hero except when he faces off against the other two components of a love triangle from his former career, Vicious and Julia. The bounty hunter life is externalized and impersonal, but the morality of his own world is compromised and that’s when Spike gets serious.

Notice the different attitudes Spike has in these two videos. The first clip is a fight from the first episode, where he attempts to capture the targeted drug dealer with his characteristic bravado. The second is the lengthy showdown with Vicious and Spike’s former gang and you will notice a switch has been flipped.

Spoiler/content warnings, especially in the second clip.

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Another Blog Design Update, Maybe a Little More Interesting

Taking out the trash.

Taking out the trash.

Hot on the heels* of my last update about the design tomfoolery on this blog, I’ve made some further mods.

  1. The jQuery scroll to top/bottom animation was ditched. I couldn’t make it work on mobile the way it does on normal OS browsers. I’d rather have a consistent experience, cross-device, than a fancy-pants experience on only half of them.
  2. The “Scroll to Top” button that appears on the right was also cut out for the same reasons. Now I just have a simple button in the footer to hop up to the browser top.
  3. Mostly little changes/additions to the UI, the most obvious were the large blocky page-level navigation type of things. They look good in the mobile version and are a lot easier to see and tap. It doesn’t hurt the desktop experience either. Gently “guiding” user with obvious UI can be a good idea.
  4. No more side scroll on mobile! Both on landscape and portrait orientations. The Adsense ads were causing it and it bugged me to no end. Now they are mobile-sized. There is side-scrolling if I embed some videos but I don’t have the inclination to regression fix all of that.
  5. I’ve had them for a while, but I don’t think I mentioned the social media icons you see in the footer. They were modified a bit from the original, which were taken from Pink Mustache, a design site whose ill-conceived name will not live past the two awful trends it references. The vector art on there can’t be beat with a stick, though.
  6. For some reason WordPress blanked out my 404 page, so I decided to make error pages a step back, at the server level, using the .htaccess file. Go ahead, try it out. You receive my undying admiration if you understand the reference there.
  7. There was a seventh thing I wanted to mention but I forget what it was. Go have a beer!

* Not really “hot on the heels”. That last post was weeks ago, which is ancient history in Internet chronology.

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A Compendium of Smoking Writers, Mostly Bertrand Russell Edition

It’s been a while since I did one of these, but the post I did earlier on Russell’s teapot lit a match and ignited the shreds of inspiration tobacco in my bloodstream.

Albert Camus:
Albert Camus Smoking
Albert Camus Smoking 2

Albert Einstein:
Albert Einstein Smoking
Albert Einstein Smoking 2

Aldous Huxley:
Aldous Huxley Smoking

Bertrand Russell:
Bertrand Russell Smoking
Bertrand Russell Smoking 2
Bertrand Russell Smoking 3
Bertrand Russell Smoking 4
Bertrand Russell Smoking 5
Bertrand Russell Smoking 6

George Edward Moore:
George Edward Moore

Harold Lesch:
Harold Lesch Smoking

Jean Baudrill:
Jean Baudrill Smoking

Jean-Paul Sartre:
Jean-Paul Sartre Smoking
Jean-Paul Sartre Smoking 2
Jean-Paul Sartre Smoking 3

Karl Barth:
Karl Barth Smoking

Mircea Eliade:
Mircea Eliade Smoking

Oscar Wilde:
Oscar Wilde Smoking

Roland Barthes:
Roland Barthes Smoking

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Linguistic Nitpicking: The “Number-Plus” Dilemma

What could have been.

What could have been.

I had a dream that involved a news anchor, and not the fun, drunkish, Ron Burgundy kind. He was a boring weatherman and he said the temperature for the next day was going down to “-20-plus” degrees.

It was a dream, but the nightmare started when I woke up and thought all day if “-20-plus” was really the correct word choice for the boring, imaginary non-Will Ferrell anchor to pick. “-20-plus” means that it’s at least -20 degrees or somewhat higher in degree, which doesn’t fit the context of what he was saying…which was more along the lines of “at least as cold as -20 degrees”.

I shot out a few emails to some certified “knowledge keepers”, who could provide valid input. My conclusion on the whole thing was that it is context-based. In the weather anchor situation, the “-20-plus” is technically ambiguous, but people (i.e., viewers and listeners) would probably understand what is being said. It’s contextualized enough to be meaningful the way it’s intended. The fact that it is spoken amongst a flurry of facts encourages the viewer not to dwell on the technical incorrectness of its usage.

This is what Hal (a non-homicidal* supercomputer** named Hal) said. He’s is a professor of IT at Penn State who may know a thing or two about the math angle:

If we let the internet speak, an interpretation of plus is “at least” which means “-20 plus” wouldn’t work. There doesn’t seem to be a similar interpretation for minus. The best bet would be “at most -20 degrees”.

That said, verbally I think you could get away with “-20 plus” based on you pauses/cadence/however you describe it. So, “minus (twenty plus)” would indicate the negative of some value at least as large as 20 as opposed to “(minus twenty) plus” which would be indicate a value at least -20.

Not necessarily related…I received a University email that included a deadline for an activity as “12:00 midnight Feb. 1”. As it turns out, this is ambiguous business.

Then I asked another professional acquaintance of mine, Stephanie, who was an English Lit major:

I would probably say “-20 degrees or below.” You have set the scale as weather related, so your listener should understand that you are setting -20 as the warmest/highest temperature with the possibility of going lower. Here “-20” is not a quantity (the way “400 plus people” would be) but a point on a scale, on which a higher number preceded by a negative indicator (such as -30) is actually a lower point.

Finally, here’s input from a linguistics professor:

Yes, it seems that it makes sense that “Plus” would work because you are adding, but you are adding “backwards”. To me it would be the same as if you said “-20 degrees or more” which is said by weathercasters all the time. Just my opinion, though. Not sure.

If there’s any takeaway from this, it’s that one shouldn’t have dreams that don’t involve Will Ferrell.

* I don’t actually know that he’s not homicidal. I’m just going by statistics.
** I don’t actually know that he’s not a supercomputer. His profession is rather computer-based, so there’s that.

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An Uninteresting Update About This Blog’s Design

"yo dawg i herd you like blogs..."

“yo dawg i herd you like blogs…”

Ever since entering the smartphone world recently I’ve been more aware of how this site looks on mobile viewports. On the whole it transfers well; I use my own child theme, based on WordPress’ Twenty Eleven theme with only a few CSS adjustments and stuff like custom PHP functions for the ads.

The thing that really bugged me was the search bar, which seemed to be just plonked up in the header arbitrarily. It stuck out more on mobile devices. So I decided to put it in the footer, where I keep all the sidebar type of things, and I added a link to it from my main menu.

The new problem was that it was an anchor tag, which is really disorienting native functionality and in this case creates another click (it seems petty but it will get noticed…design minutia is the heart and soul of UI/UX). So I solved it by using jQuery’s fun scroll function and set the focus on the search field. So now it operates as click-type and not click-click-type. I also used this scroll for the “Contact” first tier link and the “More>>” sub-link.

Additionally I added a nice “Scroll To Top” button that appears when you…scroll down from the top. It zips the user to (surprise!) the top. It works fine in every browser but it’s wonky on my Android (Gingerbread) phone. So there’s something else to think about.

To do list:
01 Make better header – doesn’t look fun on mobile
02 Dewonkified version of scroll to top function for mobile
03 Fix width of Google ads? It causes horizontal scrolling on mobile. Seems to come “as is” from Google so I don’t know if I can really customize.

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