50 stories

Hot dog


Sarah Connors reports:

To the ladies in an SUV who just stopped on Summer St. in Somerville to help out a person carrying this large dog in 90 degree heat because she decided to just give up walking halfway home? You're my and Maggie's hero, thank you x1000 for the ride.

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15 days ago
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The dream of the Tsar's clock

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Last night I had a dream in which I was telling the following hilarious joke:

Once upon a time in Russia, the Tsar owned a magnificent handmade clock. It covered almost an entire wall, and was marvelously ornamented, with two accompanying decorations, resembling religious icons, to be hung on the wall flanking it.

There was a merchant who coveted the clock, and one day, unable to resist any longer, he hired some thieves to break into the Tsar's palace and steal the clock, which he then hung in his own home.

The very next day, who should happen by but the Tsar himself, with his retinue and bodyguards. Of course it would have been unforgivably rude to turn away that Tsar, so the merchant reluctantly invited him in.

The Tsar gazed at the clock on the wall. “That is a magnificent clock,” he said at last. Not knowing what else to say, the merchant agreed.

“I have one just like it,” said the Tsar.

That was the punch line.

Dreams. (Shrug.)

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23 days ago
I thought it was a good joke.
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One space between each sentence, they said.  Science just proved them wrong.

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The typography in this article is [puts on sunglasses] on point.

In the beginning, the rules of the space bar were simple.  Two spaces after each period.  Every time.  Easy.

But then, at the end of the 20th century, the typewriter gave way to the word processor, and the computer, and modern variable-width fonts.  And the world divided.

Some insisted on keeping the two-space rule.  They couldn't get used to seeing just one space after a period.  It simply looked wrong.

Some said this was blasphemy. The designers of modern fonts had built the perfect amount of spacing, they said.

And when you really get right down to it, aren't we being pretty closed-minded to accept the false dichotomy of "one space" versus "two space", when here in this bright future we have such a glorious manifold panoply of spacing possibilities?

  • SPACE -- '󠀠 ' -- sometimes considered a control code
  • NO-BREAK SPACE -- '󠀠 ' -- commonly abbreviated as NBSP
  • OGHAM SPACE MARK -- ' ' -- glyph is blank in "stemless" style fonts
  • EN QUAD -- ' '
  • EM QUAD -- ' ' -- mutton quad
  • EN SPACE -- ' ' -- nut; half an em
  • EM SPACE -- ' ' -- mutton; nominally, a space equal to the type size in points;may scale by the condensation factor of a font
  • THREE-PER-EM SPACE -- ' ' -- thick space
  • FOUR-PER-EM SPACE -- ' ' -- mid space
  • SIX-PER-EM SPACE -- ' ' -- in computer typography sometimes equated to thin space
  • FIGURE SPACE -- ' ' -- space equal to tabular width of a font; this is equivalent to the digit width of fonts with fixed-width digits
  • PUNCTUATION SPACE -- ' ' -- space equal to narrow punctuation of a font
  • THIN SPACE -- ' ' -- a fifth of an em (or sometimes a sixth)
  • HAIR SPACE -- ' ' -- thinner than a thin space; in traditional typography, the thinnest space available
  • ZERO WIDTH SPACE -- '' -- commonly abbreviated ZWSP; this character is intended for invisible word separation and for line break control; it has no width, but its presence between two characters does not prevent increased letter spacing in justification
  • NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE -- ' ' -- commonly abbreviated NNBSP; a narrow form of a no-break space, typically the width of a thin space or a mid space
  • MEDIUM MATHEMATICAL SPACE -- ' ' -- abbreviated MMSP; four-eighteenths of an em
  • BLANK SYMBOL -- '␢' -- graphic for space
  • OPEN BOX -- '␣' -- graphic for space
  • IDEOGRAPHIC HALF FILL SPACE -- '〿' -- visual indicator of a screen space for half of an ideograph
  • ZERO WIDTH NO-BREAK SPACE -- '' -- BOM, ZWNBSP; may be used to detect byte order by contrast with the noncharacter code point U+FFFE; use as an indication of non-breaking is deprecated; see WORD JOINER instead
  • TAG SPACE -- '󠀠'

Oh My Genitals.

I always type two spaces, though HTML hides that. It's what they taught me when I was pressing my Cuneiform reeds into the clay, and the habit was reinforced by the justification idiosyncrasy that M-j fill-paragraph-or-region does not break lines at a single space following a period so that mid-sentence abbreviations are never wrapped from the following word. Which is another thing that HTML hides.

But then, for decades I used to type double-quotes ``like this'' in English text because ASCII doesn't contain ““” and “””. I eventually gave up on that, but by that time I had developed such an abiding hatred of "smart" quotes that now I just use straight-up-and-down ASCII double quotes for everything.

Also, punctuation goes inside the quotation marks only if the punctuation is part of the thing being quoted, because that's proper scoping, and I'll die on that hill.


Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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68 days ago
The study cited used Courier, meaning they didn’t in fact prove anything meaningful.
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67 days ago
It’s like they were trolling for attention by carefully avoiding testing the actual claim that proportional fonts make the double space unnecessary, not to mention using one of the lowest-quality fixed width fonts in widespread usage.
Washington, DC
70 days ago
70 days ago
" punctuation goes inside the quotation marks only if the punctuation is part of the thing being quoted, because that's proper scoping, and I'll die on that hill."

New York, NY

Knott Memories (Bill Knott, 1940-2014)

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My first class with Bill Knott consisted of him harranging the students about how difficult writing poetry in form is and how we would all want to drop out and how people just sign up for the class but can’t see it through. I had taken the class specifically because it would be acceptable to write in meter and alliteration and so there was pretty much nothing he could say that was going to make me change my mind. I was so intent on the course material—and proving him wrong—that I can’t tell you how many people dropped the class and didn’t show for the second meeting.

The ironic thing about Bill was that he was an excellent teacher—you just had to weather out the storm. (And sometimes I got very angry about that storm.) Whether you reached the eye or some other calm, I was never sure. But I will never forget the classes where he composed in rhyming iambic pentameter on the spot, writing stuff up on the blackboard and not erasing as he went. He spent hours going over student work in class talking about where stresses fall in English words and how those places are affected by the context and meaning of the sentence.

Another strong memory of Bill is how he acted at readings. Poems were infinitely valuable—you could tell by the way he read them—and he would interrupt himself when a new audience member came in late so that he could hand them printouts of his work. I’m sure in the greater context of the po-biz that might have meant something else but, not being in that whirlwind, all I saw was someone who cared so much about poetry he wanted everyone to have it.

Thomas Lux’s introduction to I Am Flying Into Myself: Selected Poems, 1960-2014 both upholds and expands my viewpoint on Knott. Lux writes (page xxvi) “In my opinion, Knott did not become an exceptional poet because he was an orphan, because of abuse, because of poverty, because of illness, because of any kind of suffering. Everybody suffers. Knott became an exceptional poet despite these things.” He continues (page xxvi) “Knott possessed a wide range of subject matter, a long working life, and a prodigious work ethic.” To show that, Lux tells us (page xxix) “Knott published twelve print books between 1968 and 2004—with small presses, university presses, and major houses.” The Unsubscriber was published by Farrar, Straus, and Giraux, and it still strikes me as amazing how Bill scribbled all over the title page of my copy with his dedication, as if the pen marks were trying to cover over the famous publishing house. Lux closes his introduction by mentioning how Bill met Randall Jarrell’s criteria requirement regarding lightning for being a poet many times over but I appreciate this statement as an attempt to summarize Bill more: (page xxx) “He is one, in a school of one, among the American poets.”

And then, of course, there is re-reading his poems now that he’s gone. Bill’s book The Unsubscriber is one of the few books I have been able to use successfully to interest non-poet non-poetry-reading readers in poetry.

I admire the wordplay, which really ought to be word play so that you see both the “word” and the “play”. Bill wrote in “Step on It”:

Passing the threshold one
does not reach
the threshyoung.

contains words
which contain words
that contain us
who contain no words

prior to birthsill—

I admire the pithy in all of Bill’s work. His poem “Flash” is, in its entirety:

lightningbolts which,
their shadows having caught up with them,

There are too many here, and too many in Lux’s selections—and unlike most contemporary poetry books, with Bill’s work it is A-OK to just open to a page and read the poem—that just lift my head-hairs and beg for a second reading. I’m going to close with another short one, because it seems to say a lot to me, both about people in general and Bill in specific.


I wish to be misunderstood;
that is,
to be understood from your perspective.

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115 days ago
An excellent remembrance of an excellent poet.
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2018 Spring Super Sale!!

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I am now running a big sale on the first 2 books. Buy Vol 2 (in either paperback or hardcover) and get Vol 1 FOR FREE!! I’m hoping to draw in some new readers before RUNNERS Vol 3 launches here later this year. Very excited to be finally returning to this series with Vol 3 and for the long haul! Please share this deal with anyone you think would enjoy the series. Now would be a great time to give it a try. Get the deal at my runnersuniverse.com Store!

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124 days ago
This is a fun SF comic with serious alien form diversity.
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Open letter: Slack should not discontinue its gateways

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I sent this message to feedback@slack.com today.

I saw yesterday that you are planning to discontinue your IRC and XMPP gateways. You are making a mistake. You should keep supporting the gateways.
That's the one-line summary. You want to keep reading?
The gateways are a valuable feature and they make Slack more valuable to users. Yes, I'm sure you have charts showing how few users connect through the gateways. And yes, the gateways can't keep up with your shiny new Slack features. But those of us who use the gateways, use them because we like them! They let us Slack in the ways that we get work done. If they vanish, Slack turns into a second-best service.
I don't despise the Mac Slack app. I have it running right now. But -- sometimes I shut it down. This is how I use Slack: a few high-priority channels in my XMPP client, and the Slack app for everything else. The XMPP client is always running; it has my most important chats ganged together in one tidy window. The Slack app is different; it's a busy free-for-all that I peek at when I have a few free minutes.
Today, Slack supports this. I can direct channels where I want them on my screen. It's flexible and it fits me. But you're telling me that in two months, I lose that flexibility. I won't lose access to my chats, but I'll lose the ability to read them how I want.
That's bad. It is a mistake.
Flexibility isn't the only issue. On your explanation page, you say you are "focused on making Slack accessible to all people". Good! Please keep working on that. But then you admit "these changes are just the beginning of our accessibility journey." Doesn't that mean you should keep supporting the mature technologies that people already use?
Similarly, the "creative integrations" you mention. It's great that your APIs support some users' needs. Probably even most users' needs. But that's not an argument for cutting off the standardized mechanisms that people are already using.
Honestly, I think you know this. Your explanation page is written with a tinge of defensiveness. "We're hopeful that [tech] will meet the majority of your needs..." ...but you know it won't meet all of them. Yeah. Your only actual argument for removing the gateways -- as opposed to apologies -- is "to provide a secure and high-quality experience across all platforms." Look: taking away a user's current platform doesn't improve their experience. It is a removal. It takes away the experience they want.
At this point you maybe want to bargain with me (and people like me). You want to say "We'll keep running the gateways for another six months -- or another twelve months -- until Slack's accessibility and APIs are good enough. Then we'll shut them down for real."
No. Still wrong.
There are plenty of web services which demand total control over how users use them. (Think of a little blue bird.) That's their brand; they protect it fiercely.
(Twitter may not block third-party clients, but it sure wants to discourage people from using them.)
I would like Slack to not be that way.
I would like to be able to use Slack however I need. No offense to the emoji, but I don't need emoji to get work done. Slack was valuable before the reaction tags, before the threads, before the shared channels. (I haven't even looked to see what "shared channels" are.) Slack was valuable because it was a simple stream of text messages shared between people. I still use it that way. And that's exactly the format that fits into the XMPP/IRC model!
It's also, by no coincidence, the format which is maximally accessible. A simple linear stream of text messages can be translated into any user interface and any platform -- mobile, audio, you name it. Morse Code if that's your kick. You can pile on all the extra features you like, and yes, a lot of people will use them. Sometimes I will use them. But some people -- maybe, now and then, a lot of people -- will stick to the simple linear stream, because it suits their technology and their needs.
Slack has to keep supporting that simple use pattern. For accessibility, for portability, for flexibility. And if it supports that pattern, it can support IRC/XMPP without much hassle.
That's my argument. Thanks for reading.
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128 days ago
Some true words for Slack.
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