Saturday, May 31, 2008

spelling is hot

It's National Spelling Bee season, and that means my friends with the Simplified Spelling Society are out in full force. The Wall Street Journal has a piece about them. It's essentially the same version of what you see in most newspaper articles about the picketers, but the reporter does touch on the question of future spelling, which I was glad to see. On the topic of spelling (drum roll), it's now only 4 months until the launch of Righting the Mother Tongue ! The HarperCollins website has posted the book jacket image, so there's no legit reason for me to keep that under wraps any longer. Voila.

A few other article links and bloggish notes that are overdue. The first is this Times piece, about people with mental illness building a sort of pride movement, for lack of a more specific term. A number of people commented that it was reminiscent of my story for Wired about autism. It's true, and the Times article even opens with a YouTube clip, produced by one of the people central to this movement.

Less fascinating was this bit of drive-by journalism, also in the Times, about race and gentrification in Portland. I'm bias, of course, because I live here, but I felt the piece was thinly reported, not to mention simplistic and predictable. Oh well. Off for a bike ride. Got to keep training for Ride the Rockies, so I don't die on one of those high-mountain passes.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

operation grapple and christmas island adventures

Just back from Christmas Island. Operation Grapple was the name of the British military program to test nuclear weapons at and around Christmas. Today, most of what you see--aside from some rather impoverished villages and salt-bushes adorned with aluminum cans--looks like this:

And here's a nice bit of public health-related information, Kiribati style:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, a few thousands Brits, as well as some Americans, lived and worked on the island. On this spot near "the airport," sat hundreds of airplanes and vehicles.

In slightly related news, friend and fellow Portland writer, Julian Smith, wrote this recent package for US News & World Report, about endangered destinations. Coincidentally, an Australian couple I met at Christmas Island added personal testimony to the talk about the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef. The snorkeling in and around Christmas, they said, is as good if not better. That was cool to hear because we were there, taking it all in, with no other people in sight. Yet it was also not so cool to hear because of the underlying tragedy. The Great Barrier Reef, in shambles and someday gone? It's hard to get your mind around.

Friday, May 9, 2008

new font

I know fonts have power, but I'm sometimes reluctant to admit it. Recently, however, a friend who is in marketing and PR was entertaining enough in her criticism of my continued use of Times New Roman in email correspondences, that I decided to take the plunge and change the default font. Here's what she sent me. The last line refers to a crappy shwag book bag I used to port to the local coffee shop.

n the font front, once again, I take my cue from Microsoft because I know the bajillions of dollars they invest in this type of research. The font is Calibri. It shipped as the default font (as opposed to Times New Romans) on all Vista PCs. The spare, modern style of Calibri is the font equivalent of the good design that is making headway in the mainstream. Microsoft will ship as the standard font something that strikes a balance between design and seriousness but also something they think will stand the test of time for foreseeable future (since operating systems stay on the market at least a few years). As for your use of Times New Romans, I’ll just say that fonts are like book bags: they say a lot about you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

some youtube strangeness (plus two cents on laterality and an upcoming adventure)

This clip, best described as a Japanese assault-and-language-training-plus-aerobics video, is almost as disturbing as it is hilarious. My brother also sent me this one, imagining Facebook in real life. Genius.

In other news, my electronic edition of Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition just arrived, which for handedness geeks is cool because it contains studies with titles such as: "Linear versus non-linear measures of temporal variability in finger tapping and their relation to performance on open- versus closed-loop motor tasks: Comparing standard deviations to Lyapunov exponents." What isn't to love about science? Coincidentally, a reader in Italy just wrote me to share the following:

I know that the incidence of left handedness amongst Jews is much higher than amongst most Gentile groups. There is a very high incidence of left handed people in Israel. Your book was written in 2005. In 2007, researchers discovered LRRTM1, the first gene linked to increased odds of being left-handed.
Sounds like something worth looking into, but it will have to wait until I get back from Christmas Island. Bonefishing anyone?