Tommyjournal  archive    September 2004

Sunday  09.19.04

The Washington Post ran an article yesterday about the 1970s memos that have gotten CBS News into such hot water. According to the WaPo, "font experts say that the CBS memos, left, were almost certainly written using modern word-processing software". The article includes an illustration showing various points (relating to typography, style and content) to cast doubt on the authenticity of the memos from CBS. The WaPo article points out what it calls "kerning":
CBS memo excerpt
Kerning refers to overlapping character placement (e.g., the way the o sits under the roof of the T in the logo at the top of the main Tommyjournal page). But the fi in the WaPo illustration is a ligature, not kerning. A ligature is a composite of several characters, often modified in shape, e.g. æ (and other popular ligatures assembled from fi, ff, fl, ffl, ffi). In the excerpts from the CBS memo shown below, notice how the top of the f in the ligatures extends farther to the right than in the instances of plain f. Kerning would just be a close spacing and wouldn't entail a change in the shape of the f.

fi ligature f
identified before if
fixed follow

The memos may well be fake; I wouldn't expect a 1970s typewriter to have an fi ligature. But to the Washington Post: your "font experts" don't come across as credible if they don't know the difference between a ligature and kerning.

Note: I'm not a font expert, but I've worked for a printer, I've published a magazine, and I find typography fascinating.

Friday  09.10.04

A friend of mine has been in
jail for a while, awaiting trial. He's delayed the trial to continue preparing his defense, but not much is happening because he can't afford a lawyer and his public defender hasn't been very helpful.

For now, his trial is scheduled for early October. He's facing a potential three strikes sentence, i.e. a long long time. He tells me he'd rather kill himself than spend 25 years in prison, and I think he's not kidding.

I've visited him in jail a bunch of times. After last weekend's visit, I got a letter where he asked
Something else I keep meaning to ask is how you feel about the whole Heaven/Hell thing. You have had a lot more time to think about it than I have. What's your opinion. Is there something after all this other than worm food?

I'm not complainin', I'd make great worm food. I've been eating pretty good in here & I can think of worse things.
His letters from jail come in (sometimes elaborately) hand-decorated envelopes; I don't think I've had more time that he's had to think about the question. I think he meant that I may have taken more time to investigate/discuss/ponder it than he has. My thoughts:
  • I don't know for sure.
  • Ever had general anesthesia? It's not like sleep; you're still functioning at some level while asleep, e.g. you're still able to note that time has passed. Anesthesia is like a hole cut out of your life--there's nothing there. I doubt that death is any less of an extinguishing of cognition.
  • Of all the various stories about what happens after death, Heaven/Hell seems to me among the most contrived. It's bizarre, this idea of dividing earth's population into two classes that get night-and-day different treatment for eternity.
  • Modern urban life is artificial. Being removed from nature's rhythms makes it harder to appreciate life and death.
Just today, the NY Times has an essay about dualism (the notion of a nonphysical soul) and its consequences. I agree with the author (Paul Bloom) that "what people think about many of the big issues that will be discussed in the next two months--like gay marriage, stem-cell research and the role of religion in public life--is intimately related to their views on human nature." I disagree with his assessment that science plainly "tells us" that dualism is mistaken. I think there's a substantial body of evidence that tends to discredit dualism, but cognitive science is still a contentious field.

I started reading the NY Times back in the 1970s. Back then, they ran more essays on philosophical topics, sometimes a day's entire Op-Ed page. I miss that.

Thursday  09.09.04

Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, had this to say about the prospect of three major hurricanes in a month:
Maybe someone in Hollywood could come up with something like this, but this is past my imagination.
About as unlikely as a Presidential election hanging on a few votes in a state whose Governor was the brother of one of the candidates, isn't it.

Wednesday  09.08.04

I went to the DMV today to renew my driver's license. Before they took my picture, I realized I hadn't brought a comb with me. So for the next ten years or so, my license may well have a bad-hair photo on it. Oh, the horror.

Thursday  09.02.04

Yesterday, while in the middle of a 400' tall route on a steep granite wall near Lake Tahoe, my climbing partner called my attention to someone climbing unroped, on a nearby route a notch more difficult than the one we were on. Shortly after I topped out, the solo climber finished his route and came over to chat with me. I had a good appreciation for what he'd just done, as I'd climbed his route before (although never unroped). He was about 20 years old, lithe, and soft-spoken; he said that was his first time on the route. He asked me about some of the other routes in the area and proceeded to climb another 400' route on his own, unroped.

This morning, after I'd told the story of talking to the unroped boy climber, JW asked whether I'd told him how stupid he was. I said no, I hadn't. (Why should I think I know better than someone else what risks they should or shouldn't accept?) JW's question struck me as naïve, but I let it pass without comment.

Climbing is inherently dangerous. But people who think I climb for an adrenaline rush miss the point. In fact, they have it backwards: I want that rush not to happen. My goal is to maintain equanimity.

You don't have to have a death wish to accept (some degree of) risk in climbing. It's more about appreciating the fact that if climbing weren't dangerous, it wouldn't develop mental discipline the way it does.

Equipment and judgment reduce the risk; even so, plenty of people would deem the (roped) climbing I do to be "stupid". But not all of them would feel the need to tell me so.

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