Monday, January 29, 2007

More Codswallop...

I don't mean to be a complete curmudgeon, but there's this meme going around on Digg these days that says that if Google would just switch to a black background, some huge amount of energy would be saved around the world.

In the case of CRT monitors, this is true, but with the prevalence of LCD displays these days, it's nonsense. LCD displays are backlit with a fluorescent tube which is on, at the same intensity, all the time. A black pixel on an LCD display completely obscures the light coming out of the tube.

Well, you hope it does - that's why LCD makers brag about how black their blacks are - a really good black mask is actually pretty difficult to attain, so most LCDs show black as a sort of vaguely glow-ey grey. Which is why you have to power your monitor off if it's in your bedroom - a completely black screen is still bright enough to keep you awake. And anyway, that actually does save power.

But the idea that all of the web designers in the world should drop all of their aesthetic efforts and switch to pure white-on-black or some other cockamamie idea is going to be a real bummer if it catches on. I've grown to appreciate visual design over the years. I hate to say it, but it's one of the reasons I can't stomach using a Linux box or a Windows box - the design is just too visually unpleasant now that I've been spoiled by Mac OS X. Thanks, Steve. :')

Happy Meals...

There's an article in the International Herald Tribune today about nutrition, which is pretty cool. I recommend reading it.

People talk about the paradox of the French diet - that people in France eat supposedly unhealthy foods and yet they are healthier than Americans. The author is perhaps too polite to come out and say what is obvious, but I will not be so polite.

If you have ever been to France, you know this, but I think most people haven't been to France. The notion that the French have a less healthy diet than we do, and that there is some one ingredient in their diet, coming perhaps from red wine or red grapes, that makes up for all their dietary mistakes, is complete, utter, catastrophic, pathetic, murderous codswallop.

I will tell you what you see when you go into a French grocery store. You see a cornucopia. You see beautiful fresh fruit. You see fresh vegetables. You see amazing cheeses. You see breads that would make a grown man weep (don't ask me how I know this). They have product, it is true. There are things in packages on the shelves. But the guts of the French diet are things that are actually good for you. Fresh fruits and vegetables. If you go to a traditional French restaurant and order the chef's pride and joy, it will contain meat, but it won't contain even eight ounces of meat. And it will contain a ton of vegetables too.

All this sage advice we're fed here in the 'states about how to be healthy by eating processed foods containing this little thing, or that little thing, that's supposedly nutritious, is killing us. The article I mention above has a single sentence that contains everything you need to know about eating, right at the beginning. I won't repeat it here, because that would be cheating. Go read the article.

I'm sorry I haven't been blogging much recently - I've been really working hard. Amazingly. I taught a course in Tucson this past month that finished up on Thursday. I've been doing some serious django hacking, and am getting to the point where I have a good gestalt understanding of the system, which was, I must say, hard fought. There's more to learn, of course.

I've been having some major brainstorms about UI design recently, which I hope to turn into a demo of sorts when I have time. But I have plenty of actual work work to do, so I'm not sure when I'll get to that.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gathering 'round the fire...

In the country, you have to build a large family to gather. But it's not a consensual gathering - you were brought there by your parents. They love you, but do they understand you? Sometimes it works. Sometimes the gathering scatters to the four winds, and all is lost.

We have created a new kind of gathering, like and yet unlike the campfire. In the great cities, we have places that we can go. The oxygen that feeds their fires is people, the minds of people who want to be together. It's beyond consent - a good place is a flue that draws us in, keeps us warm, spits us out again happy and refreshed.

This is the city. The great genius of the modern city is its density. The denser it is, the more oxygen there is, the more beauty can be created, the more who can enjoy it. When we smash the city and smear it across the landscape, it loses its power. We can try to glue it together, with energy, but it's never as good.