There are a number of things that I believe in. For the record and for whatever they’re worth, here they are:
- G-d exists in some definitive form outside of human knowledge or full awareness. The presence of G-d can be felt on occasion the way a cat might walk past a mirror and get a glimpse of herself but not really know that it’s her reflection in the mirror.
- It’s quite possible that G-d was once here and, at some point, abandoned us, as the ancient Gnostics believed.
- History is very long and life is very short. It’s troubling that the present government has a strong, albeit ideologically driven, understanding of the historical past but no way to interpret it and no way to set new life and action into the world.
- Light comes from exhausted souls who seek presence in our lives.
- Human communication is necessarily frail, incomplete, and inherently tragic because everything that wants to be said to another cannot. At the same time, it’s all we have to go on and we truly should be thankful for all forms of language.
- Being surprised is one of the last forms of expressed innocence we have as adults.
- In many ways, belief is the opposite of expressed innocence; it is the internalized activity of true experience.
Reuters/Yahoo today posted the proposed newflag for Iraq. It somehow completely denies the symbology of the former flag (which nonetheless represented course evility) and I can’t help but think it looks a number of non-designers pulled it together over a period of days — the blues are the colors of sleep medications and the yellow the color of mustard. The crescent looks far too much like a “c,” stretched and pulled and smashed down. Maybe it’s appropriate afterall.
This is probably boring. But Mark Pilgrim and friend came out with the latest and greatest little tool: Feed Validator for Atom and RSS.
What does it do? It allows owners of sites like Deckchairs to make sure website content is readable by RSS readers/browsers. Who cares? Well, it sure seems that everyone will once RSS truly catches on and it looks like it is. Here’s an important post by JK about little old it. Does Deckchairs validate? Yes, it does which means something.
I read with great curiosity Richard Bernstein’s article in today’s New York Times, called International > Europe > The New Europe: Poland Is Worried That Border Controls Create a New Divide” href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2004/04/25/international/europe/25POLA.html”>”The New Europe: Poland Is Worried That Border Controls Create a New Divide”. Now that Poland will soon be on the good (read: Catholic, capitalist, and calm) side of the European border, the Western Europeans have armed the country to deal with the potential flood of immigrants.
I lived in Poland for a year, and back then (1995), I was fortunate to meet up with the very few minorities living in the country: a few Polish Jews, a few Africans, and a few Koreans. I remember that the official non-Catholic population was about 2%, which included Roma and immigrants from outside of Europa. It was a new time of ethnic anxiety, as described by those I met, and I can see that those worries will continue to be stoked by both Western Europeans and the new security apparatus that is Poland.
Moreover, I can’t get over the incredible irony of Poland, sandwiched between traditionally bellicose Germany and Russia, now the border guard for the wealthy to the West. Called the new “Iron Curtain,” the article above mentions “exacerbating tensions around who is on the inside and who is left out of the new Europe.”
I did a lot of driving today. 2.25 hours to Philadelphia and then 2.75 hours back, much thanks to a seemingly tiny accident on the Staten Island Expressway Parking Lot. In any case, I think I realized today that vanity license plates are the true predecessors of the Internet’s domain names.
Both are registered through demi-oligarchic means (the State and the state); both involve using specified letters, numbers and dashes (but no semicolons, colons, or asterisks) to lay claim to a piece of common cultural infrastructure; both are necessarily publicly displayed; both are treasured, admired, and critiqued for their logic, humor, and simplicity; and finally, both belong to a visual history of insignias, coats of arms, and other personalized or customized means of signifying one’s presence in the world.
It’s been a very hectic few days but I’m always eager to give credit where credit is due: the new issue of Reservocation is out and there are some excellent pieces on illustration, typography on the Web, and other good design stuff. Relatedly, I have not gotten to one item on the list from Sunday. Help me, people.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything about website accessibility, but it’s never far from my interests and aspirations. The Disability Rights Commission, a U.K.-based Government-affilated organization just released its Formal Investigation Report on web accessibility. This is from their introduction:
Disabled people must frequently overcome additional obstacles before they can enjoy the full range of information, services, entertainment and social interaction offered by the Web: blind people need sites to provide, for example, text as an alternative to images for translation into audible or legible words by specially designed screenreading devices; partially sighted people may be especially reliant upon large-format text and effective colour contrast; people who are dyslexic or have cognitive impairments may benefit in particular from the use of simpler English or alternative text formats, such as Easy Read, and from the clear and logical layout of an uncluttered website; people whose first language is British Sign Language may also find Plain English indispensable; and people with manual dexterity impairments may need to navigate with a keyboard rather than with a mouse.
Nevertheless, the Web has enormous potential for disabled people. In contrast to other information media, it is, with the benefit of assistive technology1, potentially tolerant of impairment. Inclusive website design makes it easier to use these alternative means of access, without making a site less attractive to unimpaired users. Irresponsible and inconsiderate design, on the other hand, not only puts disabled users at a significant disadvantage but can make life unnecessarily difficult for everyone, whether disabled or not.
And a few of the reports findings are interesting:
1.1 Few (19%) websites comply even with the lowest priority Checkpoints for accessibility.
1.2 All categories of disabled user consider that site designs take insufficient account of their specific needs.
1.3 Blind users, who employ screen readers to access the web, although not alone in being disadvantaged, are particularly disadvantaged by websites whose design does not take full account of their needs.
1.4 Although many of those commissioning websites state that they are alert to the needs of disabled people, there is very little evidence of such awareness being translated into effective usability for disabled people.
And perhaps most interestingly, the organization tested 1000 home pages from across numerous sectors. Only 16 were Level A compliant (this is the 19% noted above), meaning minimally accessible to those with disabilities. 6 home pages were Level AA compliant, which means that sites deliberately worked to assure accessibility. And NO home pages achieved Level AAA (or total) compliance.
After putting the book down a while ago, I just completed reading sci-fi author Bruce Sterling’s quite excellent Tomorrow Now : Envisioning the Next Fifty Years. It’s a very smart read about how the future could look for all of us. Alternating between a dystopia where governments are consistently challenged by terror and crime and the planet wastes away under its noxious gasses and a utopia in which medicine provides strange life-changing elixirs to the common man, Sterling hits many great futurist notes.
Interestingly as well, within its pages, Sterling praises doctors, lawyers, scientists, writers, industrial designers, corporate technocrats, government policy wonks, and political activists. But the book gives pretty short shrift to art, makers of culture, and the visionary potential of aesthetics. I don’t want to agree with him but I can’t help but wonder if his ellision is all too true. Perhaps art (e.g. film, painting, music, etc.), in the most traditional Western and Eastern senses of the word, can only envision a future of one (viewer, participant, extremist) at this point — it can no longer participate in true social patterns or partake in the biggest issues of our days. I don’t think Sterling is explicitly saying this. But I do wonder if this is what the book, by its omissions, implies.
A series of lovely colds swept through the place last week, leaving my written logs incomplete. But I have a number of in-house redesigns I’d like to accomplish this week and only with you, my willful reader, will I perhaps have a chance at fulfillment thanks to the inevitable public humiliation that will follow if I dare not act:
- Redesign the MANOVERBOARD.com home page to allow for more text and updates
- Slightly revise the Deckchairs home page to allow for more color and variety
- Push Ruth Root’s incredible paintings to MANOVERBOARD.net once and for all
- Send out The Telegraph, which went sadly unsent the month of March
I promise not to drag this dead horse around another time, but I was glad to see that someone on Metafilter posted a heavily commented piece on the possibility of a real real estate bubble.
(I had forgotten how great Metafilter is; I hadn’t posted to it in a long, long time.)