Finally, the Right Font?

I think I may have found it: TeX Gyre Schola, a free Century Schoolbook clone. It’s been around for years, which hopefully has given people plenty of time to work the glitches out of the thing. (Glitches being the bane of open source fonts, and one of the reasons people still pay for commercial fonts.)

Century Schoolbook, like most of the serif fonts in the Century family, is a modern serif font. It’s not exactly the sort of modern serif font I typically really like; glyph sizes tend to be wider and the variation in the font weight less than in typical 19th century typography. Both were of course deliberate design decisions made in the name of creating a font easy for children to read (it’s not called Century Schoolbook for nothing).

However, those minuses tend to become plusses on the Web. Even the best screens pale in comparison to the resolution a low-end laser printer (much less a printing press) can deliver. That makes reproducing the fine details in most modern serif fonts tricky. So the very same features that make larger sizes of this font easy for beginning readers tend to improve on-screen legibility for smaller sizes of it.

Being a TeX font, it has a lot of glyphs, which makes for larger font files and slower web download times. If anything makes me dump the new design, that will probably be it.

An Election with Real Consequences

I think Jones’ victory in Alabama will prove to be as described in the subject in this post. Presidents are term-limited, so even if he weren’t historically unpopular, Trump’s days would be numbered compared to Representatives and Senators (who can serve for decades).

The Jones victory shows that Trumpism is having increasing difficulty attracting popular support. Republicans who want to serve the long careers in Congress they envisioned are now on notice that their own self-interest may well be better served by taking a political stance that’s independent of the White House.

At the very least, the influence of fascists like Steve Bannon over the the Republicans just suffered a big setback tonight.

Remembering Muhammad Ali

I don’t follow sports much (never have, probably never will) but I came of age in the 1970s when Ali was making his comeback and it was hard not to be aware of him unless you were living under a rock.

But even then, the media mostly portrayed him as this talented boxer with a huge ego. (Both of which were aspects he indeed had, but which alone were an incomplete picture.)

It was only much later that I became aware of how much an amazing fighter he really was, both inside and outside the ring. He literally gave up the best years he could have had in his career as a professional boxer for his principles, principles that were based on fighting for a better world for the oppressed.

It’s a commitment to personal honor exceptionally rare in this world. (The only comparable example I can think of is Paul Robeson.)

Yes, he was in a sport that is now looked down on (in part because of outcomes like the early-onset Parkinson’s disease that Ali himself eventually succumbed to). Yes, in his early years he aligned themselves with the Nation of Islam and embraced their sometimes hateful rhetoric.

That just makes him a real person with real-world flaws who still achieved the greatness he did, which just makes me admire him all the more.

Not Much Happened Today

Not much happened as a result of my having the discussion with my boss. They may have other projects I can work on which are a better match. On the other hand, they may also end up deciding I’m just too poor a match.

So while I remain employed I am also very much am back in the job market at this point.

Not a Surprise

The new light rail extension to the University of Washington hasn’t even been open for a week and it’s already subject to a problem that the experts hadn’t foreseen (but which I predicted but alas can’t find the entry predicting it): crowding due to unexpectedly high demand. So they’re having to make plans to add extra cars to the trains already.

It’s the induced demand I talked about when I made my prediction. It’s now very much easier to travel between the neighborhoods where the new stations are. It used to take at least 20 minutes and often 50 to get between the University of Washington and Downtown. It now takes eight. So of course people are starting to make trips they never would have considered before (such as going from the UW campus to Capitol Hill for lunch).

I Have My Office Back

I am once again typing into my computer from my home office.

Saturday evening, my that room basically got shut down in preparation for painting. It was a task I expected to finish Sunday, but which stretched into most of Monday.

The issue: Edging, edging, edging, and more edging. The room has four windows and a closet in addition to an entry door. There’s so little unbroken expanse of wall, in fact, that it wasn’t worth my time to dirty a 9″ roller to paint it; the time saved over just using the 4″ roller on the one side with significant expanse of wall wouldn’t have paid back the extra time spent cleaning the 9″ roller.

The second time ’round took two hours less than the first, so at least I do seem to be learning how to paint faster. I also plan on painting my bedroom this summer. Although larger, I expect that to go quicker than this room; it has only one window, and the 9″ roller will let me really speed through the extra expanse of wall.

I Expect Schadenfreude

The code I was working on has its tricky aspects. Moreover, my departure has made an already short-staffed team even worse so. That means its maintenance will probably at least partially end up in the hands of those who consume its data.

Those are the same people who tended to have a lack of respect for me, so it’s reasonable to expect my (incomplete; I was asked to leave before I had finished comprehensively updating it) documentation and cautions will be ignored. And one of the modifications that software needs should prove very tricky (I know, I tried to make it).

So I expect things to blow up messily in the next month or two, as fools rush in where angels fear to tread. At that point, I might get called for a consulting gig, who knows. And who knows if I’ll accept it; that depends on many factors. The last time that happened, many years ago, when they first asked I simply needed a break from the place, and by the time they asked a second time I was working at another job and simply didn’t have the time.

New Fridge is Here

The refrigerator I ordered finally arrived yesterday. Noise-wise, it sounds a lot like an old, manual-defrost refrigerator, with an added amount of fa noise underneath. So it’s still noisier than an old-fashioned refrigerator. But by modern, frost-free standards (the only models available these days), it’s not bad. It’s quieter than what it replaced.

I’m sure a Liebherr would have been quieter. But those: a) tend to be taller than standard US models, meaning I’d have to remove a cabinet, and b) in this country, at least, are only available in stainless steel. The latter is one of the stupider recent design fads; it shows fingerprints like crazy, plus it isn’t magnetic, so say goodbye to sticking reminders on the door with a magnet. Add to that a price over five times higher than what I paid, and it’s no sale.

The delivery experience left much to be desired.

  1. I never got the promised confirmation call the morning of the delivery.
  2. I requested it be delivered yesterday morning. When Sears contacted me with a delivery window on Wednesday, it was 11:15 to 13:15. Hello? Not only does that intrude upon afternoon hours, but the majority of the interval does.
  3. Then they don’t show up during that interval at all. Not only don’t they show up, they don’t even bother calling me with a warning about the delay. It’s left up to me to call Sears, sit on hold for about five minutes, and then get an update.
  4. When they show up, they push the both the old and new refrigerator across the floor, not doing anything to protect the floors. (The installers of my range were careful to use Teflon appliance slides to protect my floor.) Thankfully only few minor scratches result.
  5. They use one of my dish towels as a door stop, without so much as asking me.
  6. They did not fully remove all the packing material from the inside of the refrigerator.

I have two more aging major appliances to replace within the next year or so (the washer and dryer). My experience with Sears has probably just convinced me it’s worth paying a premium to order those from my local mom and pop appliance dealer.

It IS Going to Be a Bad Fire Season

I see Cliff Mass is now backpedaling from his earlier pooh-poohing about the abnormal warmth and low snow levels ever since last autumn implying ominous things about the coming fire season.

It’s just as well. His earlier dismissal was based on the assumption that fires would only really be a problem east of the Cascades. That’s indeed normally the case, but this is far from a normal year, and there have sometimes been truly epic forest fires on the west side.

And the first one of the season is already under way, in June, far earlier than such things normally prove an issue.

A Bizarre Economic Analysis, with an Explanation

When I noticed this, at first I thought “WTF?” — it’s obviously a preposterous assertion, as anyone with much experience in the US West (where private lands have been clearcut, strip mined, and overgrazed routinely) can see. In my own state, it’s typically obvious when one moves from private to public timber lands: the public lands — while often still abused — are abused less harshly, typically much less so. Political pressure on the agencies that manage said lands has caused restrictions on the worst logging practices. Private corporations, in contrast, exist to maximize shareholder profits, not to cater to the public’s political preferences.

Moreover, the bit about “patience” is bogus. The chief factor in determining ability to invest in any business is personal wealth, which in a class society is not distributed equally. So the private lands will be owned disproportionately by a wealthy elite, who in many cases won’t even live anywhere near the resource lands themselves. The incentive will exist to do precisely the sort of things the Pacific Lumber Company did in redwood country when they were bought out by corporate raiders: liquidate assets and maximimize short-term profits. The investors won’t care about what’s left in their wake; they’ll have taken their profits and moved on to their next profit-maximizing venture.

I was away from the article over the weekend, and came up with two theses as to how anyone could come up with such an assertion in the first place:

  1. Inexperience, coupled with ideological bias. If one is biased in favor of capitalism, and one has little or no actual personal experience in a natural resources economy (say, because one works in some big East Coast city), then one would have both the motive to make such a proposition and be largely shielded from any contrary information as to how preposterous one’s assertion actually is.
  2. Kleptocracy. In a kleptocratic state, it’s actually possible private ownership could come out on top. The backroom deals giving access to exploit public land might be less certain than a title deed giving one possession of the resource lands in perpetuity, so the motive would exist to extract as much as possible as soon as possible from the public lands. This would be the case if the state is kleptocratic yet relatively stable; in an unstable kleptocratic situation the value of land titles themselves would be questionable, so the incentive would be to plunder as quickly as possible regardless of ownership. Also note that in a kleptocracy, the government is much less subject to public pressure than in a less corrupt society, eliminating the chief mechanism by which public lands get steered toward wiser management.

And lo, when I checked today, I see the article cited was authored in Russia by two Russian economists. Mystery solved.