30 June 2005

[sundial_life] Things You Don't Expect To Find In Another City

In Victoria BC, there's a Banfield Park in the 600-700 block of Craigflower Road in West Victoria.

It's quite cute. Nezt to the Victoria West Community Y.

[net_life] PharmOn babble line Sh pluralism op

This is a screenshot of a spam just recieved by my gmail.com. Click on it to read it upclose. Isn't it amazing?

Corrupt opera cloaks, anyone?

So desparate are they to get thier trash into my inbox that they make it hilarious. I'm not sure if I want "total pillion confdentiality", and I know everyone wants you to get religion these days, but I"m just not sure how I'm gonna pull off "SHIPP devout ING".

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure what's "dodgery in 130 countries" isn't just thier customers.

27 June 2005

[sundial_life] An Heraldic Expedition To The North Country

We are in recovery mode here, at the Station.

Since Friday we have either been in transit or active in an event staged by the Society for Creative Anachronism.

This is a significant part of my life. Or is turning out to be. I'm taking up a few loose ends.

Saturday, 25 June 2005, was the date of the An Tir Kingdom Heraldic Symposium (I'll explain the kingdom part later). In the SCA, "Heraldry" encompasses word (the calling "hear ye, hear ye", announcing at courts and events sort of thing), deed (research and documentation of the theory and practice of how medieval people named themselves) and art (the creation of coats of arms). And, over the past several years, I have been priviledged to have a front row seat at times for some of the most brilliant, contentious, honest, and vibrant heraldic research a bunch of cool kids can do.

The location was Victoria, BC...known in the Society as the Barony of Seagirt. The site was the University of Victoria (UVic), a site for a previous Symposium. And making the trip was myself (Societally Known As Sebastian zem Sterne, The Wife[tm] as the Lady Teceangl Bach, once "Lion's Blood" Herald, the Lady Meadbha ingen Mhilloar Bhrain (we just say "Mave"...it's Gael, and I probably massacred the name spelling), and long time heraldic partisan, personal mentor, and all around boot-to-the-head Ciaran Cluana Ferta, all in one car.

Our course was north to Olympia, up US 101 to Port Angeles, across the Juan de Fuca on the M.V. Coho, and into Vic at the downtown berth, within sight of the Parliament buildings. Since I had been up all night before at TCWMNBN it was a tough trip up, though beautiful. I came nearer to carsickness than ever before, and waited at the ferry dock for about 1h 30m, then got on the ferry just to nearly get seasick.

In these days of fear and loathing at border crossings, I must say that the officials at both sides were straight up good people. The Canadian authorities made us all fill in customs cards going north-which were duly examined at the Vic POE-and the US authorities coming back were models of humanity and efficiency, though the DHS patches on the shoulders still is something that makes you go hmmmm....

And strangely too, even though we keep hearing that the USA is starting to become a nation with some sort of security fetish, they didn't make us fill in one form or card. They examined our documents, judged us sincere, and passed us.

One thing you should know if you are going to Canada, is that you should make sure your ID is current and in order before you go. That, of course, has never been untrue, but since the passage of the US, A PATRIOT Act, you must have a copy of your birth certificate to cross back into the land(free) and home(brave). There is word that, within the next two years, we will need Passports to cross back into our home country. That is a sad thing, because it will end over 100 years of free and unimpeded passage between the USA and Canada, but the way things are going, a passport is probably going to be a good document to have, and as ID, it's ironclad, legally, so you're probably better off with one.

For me, this KHS was an opportunity to learn but more an opportunity to reconnect. There are really nice people in the SCA, people who encouraged me with heraldic art and was thus indirectly inspirational for me going back to school to become a trained designer. They still encourage me; they are still some of my biggest cheerleaders. We are all artistic types, whether or not we create "art", and so we are all contentious, ready to argue, but at the end of it all, they'll make your way easy for you if they can.

In Victoria we stayed with a very wonderful Lady, the Baronial Harold, Meg Gwyneth, who billeted us for two days, allowed for our needs, and her and her SO even bought us some steaks for the evening barbeque.

But the hide-a-bed...murder! But you take the hospitality you're offered and you resolve to return it some other time, if you can.

I must still be tired. I'm rambling and I know it. Went over 1,500 miles through two countries in the last couple of days, but there are things I want to say, and I'm kind of losing it. So I'll close with the following:

At the Black Lion (Kingdom Principal Herald) meeting on Sunday, just before the returning, we all introduced ourselves to the room so we all knew who was who. When it was my turn, some little insane person in my head said:

"My name is Siiimon...and I do drawrings..."

The crowd was won over. Who says heralds are a tough room?

21 June 2005

[geography] The Address Nerd Ruminates

I love addresses. Yes, I mean postal addresses.

When I was a kid, I lived on a rural route. Old fashioned Route and Box (you know, like Route 1 Box 118).

I terribly envied kid in town not because they lived in town but because they had real live addresses, house number and street. 525 South 2nd. 615 Oak Street.

The ones I really envied lived in bigger towns with sophisticated addresses. You know, the ones like we seem to have all over the place these days, with compass directions-NE, SE, NW, SW. Those sounded good.

When I finally left the small town to move into Salem, we managed to say south of the State Street baseline. Salem's addresses carry the directional as a suffix (19th St SE, Market St NE) and due to the way Salem grew and the way the river runs, there is offically no SW. This was a disappointment, as SW is my very favorite directional.

Not officially, anyway. The Salem address grid extends throughout Marion and Polk counties from a notional origin point which is essentially where State Street and the Willamette River intersect. The NE, N, S, and SE suffixes effect throughout Marion County, but the NW directional, on the Polk county side, seems to give up approximtely at the Independence junction-where State Hwys 51 and 22 come together. The last so-suffixed road seems to be Oak Grove Road NW, which is just west of the highest-numbered street I can find on that side of the River...55th Ave NW.

In case anyone's curious, the highest numbered street on the east side of the Salem grid is in deep-eastside Marion County, some distance east of Stayton. 170th Ave SE. Going east from Salem's eastern boundary, addresses go 10 100-house number blocks to the mile...82nd Ave NE outside of Salem is about 10 miles out from the River, whilst in Portland, NE 82nd Ave is just over four miles east of the River.

Since the universal advent of 911 emergency systems, Rural Route addressing has slowly gone away. I doubt it exists anywhere anymore, at least anywhere of which I'm aware. Emergency services need to find locations quickly, and that just doesn't happen with Rural Routes. There are many ways to do it too. A future rumination on the subject will go on and on drearily about how many ways there are. Not just now tho'.

What got me going about this was thinking about Spokane. I've had a certain fascination with Spokane ever since I was a neat thing and heard they were having a World's Fair in 1974 there (Expo '74, which has left its mark on downtown Spokane in the form of a tram over the Falls and, from what I've been told, a lovely downtown park). I noticed, a long time back, that they had a different take on where the directional goes-as a suffix before the entire address, something I've not seen before and not since.

Now, the Spokane grid is a simple one, cleft in four quarters by the east-west Sprague Avenue and the north-south, aptly named Division Street. Streets and Avenues are either simply N or S or E or W depending. But, as in another town, where a notional address of 3550 on the E half of Sprague Avenue would be written:

3550 E Sprague Ave

In Spokane this would have been written

E 3550 Sprague Ave.

I thought that was so cool.

Alas, that era seems to be over. Some old-timers may still do things in that way, but most publications now use the former, "ordinary" format. Nowadays, everything interesting seems to be being conformed into sameness.

Address Nerd, out for now.

[design] Badia: Must-Have XTensions for QuarkXPress Users

In this review on QuarkVSInDesign.com, I go on at length about some products of a publisher called Badia Software. I am really quite impressed with thier quality.

They have freebies there. The concept of a "loss-leader" is nothing new to marketing, and freebies are the ultimate. The free sofware available there, though, is so good I feel like I should be paying something for it.

Badia is one of the software developers who craft what is known, in the QuarkXPress argot, XTensions. If you're an InDesigner, you'd say plug-ins. These are applets which do not stand along, but add functionality to a host application. QuarkXPress comes with several XTensions standard, and many third-party developers make quite a good living producing XPress-compatible XTensions. All that's needed to do, usually, is dragon-drop the XTension into the XTensions folder, and they appear the next time XPress is fired up.

Enough digression, though. What I'm truly impressed with is the Badia freebies. They have four, and I've installed two. The ones I have on board right now, Vistas and ReplaceInPlace, appeal by giving XPress functions that come standard on InDesign.

Yes. There's that feature-parity thing again. Anyway.

Vistas is a graphical navigation palette. Very simple and elegant: a previous-view button, a slider for zoom, and a dropdown for instantly jumping to any spread in the document. The slider-zoom has an extremely lively live-effect, and the XTension as a whole works flawlessly, and is intiuitive to boot; I figured out how to use it in mere minutes with no reference to any readmes or manual documents. Even the non-obvious features-clicking on the thumbnail to recenter and dragging of a box on the thumbnail to zoom-gave themselves up after a very short search.

ReplaceInPlace brings another something InDesign does naturally to XPress. After doing another edition of the Columbia Overlook, it was once again made plain just how nifty a thing replacing-in-place...importing a new graphic to a graphic frame whilst preserving attributes such as scaling and position...is. Not having to resize and move a graphic within its frame is a good burden to have removed.

XPress doesn't do it, at least, not until one installs the ReplaceInPlace XTension. It adds a new tab to the Get Picture dialog (titled ReplaceInPlace) with a checkbox allowing the user to specify preservation of content attributes. XPress layout artists should love this.

As far as I'm concerned, these are two XTensions that I don't plan on doing without, provided that Quark doesn't come out with this functionality in V7.

There are also super for-price XTensions that answer a lot of needs. I highly recommend checking out the FullMeasure XTension, which brings a supercharged Measurements palette to XPress that allows you to access nearly every XPress command from the Measurements palette. If it's crafted as tightly as the freebies are, XPress users really owe it to themselves to check them out.

Badia Software's website is http://www.badiaxt.com

14 June 2005

[design] Aulakh Out As Quark Supremo

Kamar Aulakh, CEO of graphics software giant Quark, Incorporated, has abruptly left the Denver-based company, according to industry sources. Reasons for his leaving are not being given at this time.

Aulakh succeeded CEO Fred Ebrahimi in 2003 (who remains with Quark as chairman of the board of directors), being promoted from vice-president of research and development. In replacing Ebrahimi, a leader who developed a reputation of disdain toward his customers, particularly toward Macintosh users-a style which seemed to set the corporate tone for Quark-Aulakh promised a new era of customer-centered corporate behavior.

Conventional wisdom seems to hold that the changes Aulakh instituted have been in the main positive and have moved Quark in the direction it needs to be moving. Such changes as unlimited free email tech support (formerly just one free support request) and free upgrades from XPress 6 to XPress 6.5 have turned many heads. Quark still suffers from a tendency to send a mixed message, though, as the now-infamous Postcards from the Edge will attest.

In the interim, Linda Chase, senior VP of commerce product development, will serve as CEO, while Quark contracts with an outside company to find Aulakh's replacement.

Implications for the near-term future of Quark and its flagship product, XPress, remain unclear, though the rumored rollout of the next version of XPress, Version 7, seems to still be on track, though the date is still a matter of conjecture.

Relevant links:

[design] QvID-I Get Letters

Returning to posting after being busier than...well, someone who's been extremely busy.

Writing for QuarkVSInDesign.com, I meet some of the nicest people sometimes, and some with a keen sense of humor.

In response to a how-to article on approaching the concept of what XPress calls "Text Runaround" and InDesign calls "Text Wrap", a correspondent offered this feedback:
You’ve saved our marrage and quite possibly… my wifes eternal soul! The wife is a dyed in the wool Quark user being forced to design in InDesign for one of her clients. We both work from home, and she began cursing like a sailor. Something about changing terminology between products and Adobe is full of $#!+. Well… I quickly and easily Googled the offending functions to find your site. Hats off to you for offering such a valuable service!

I don't know anyone else who gets such cool responses. Now I get to notch marriage counselor and maybe even spiritual guide on the resume.

Seriously, though, this is one of the plusses of doing stuff like this. You get to help others in your trade and you make thier life just a little easier.

For what it's worth, this is one of the big issues in crossing over from one app to the other. Even though I'm proficient in both QuarkXPress and InDesign, it gets me too and I have to go for the help file. When you put aside what the best and most unique features of each aggregator is, though, they largely do the same things. They have different terms and different ways of access (InDesign, for instance, puts a lot of this functionality in free-floating "palettes" whilst XPress tends to use dialog boxes), but in the main, the same thing.

One of the biggest opportunities for service to layout artists who want to make the switch, then, is going to be things that guide from one to the other.

Also, for what it's worth, I have more how-to's in the planning stages.

The how-to that contained the above comment, by the way, is here.