When the Pendulum Swings Too Far Back…

…In a rather comic, yet irritating example.

I downloaded the Anthem beta (which was a demo, by the way–there’s a difference), and began the sequence with a very basic character creation.  If memory serves, the character creation boiled down to a single option, which was this:

“Pilot Voice [Female/Male]”.  The default was female, but who exactly was “The Pilot”.  I pondered a moment, considering two implications:

  1. Our society seems to prefer female voices as the deliverers of information (i.e. Siri, Alexa, et al.).
  2. We’ve hit a point where “Girl Power” has advanced beyond the point of reason.  And in fear that failure to adopt this trend will lead to both social and financial ruin, Corporate America has jumped on the band wagon and now everything marketed is pro-girl/woman.

My conclusion, then, was that “The Pilot” was either a voiceover AI (a la Cortana), or that it was the player’s voice (me).  But which was it?

I debated, and landed upon an analysis of what would bother me more:

  1. The in-game AI would have a male voice (no real problem there).
  2. My character–me–would be a woman.

Were the choice made without my input, I would say “whatever” and move on.  But the choice was mine, granted unto me by BioWare.  What bothered me was the assumption, that the game would even make a default.  Why–if the goal is equality, and the in-game choice could have been neutral through simple programming, would it choose to go to the other extreme–the polar opposite extreme of which was what caused this ongoing social battle in the first place?

The assumption for the male player-character was originally an acknowledgement of the target audience.  Then we learned through market research that gamers were split pretty 50-50 men to women, so to consciously change the default to something other than neutral comes off as a bit…disingenuously pandering.  You already had female gamers.  You had both.  Why show a preference now?

I encountered this same problem when I booted up The Division 2 demo (again-a demo).  Although not as cryptic, the default was definitively a female character.

I’ve had this post sitting in my Drafts for a month now.  I wish I had a conclusion with which to finally conclude this, but I don’t think it even needs one.  I’ll leave it as an observation.  Formulate your own opinion.

–Simon

Who Shot the Serif?

Okay I admit, I didn’t make that joke up.  But I like it so I’ll “repost” it.

My recent post on cursive got me thinking about text again.  In it, I briefly mentioned the common knowledge that sans-serif fonts were supposedly easier to read on a digital medium, whereas serif fonts were better in their printed form.  Of course, the CSS class I had taken once also touted an ideal single-line character limit as the easiest to read.  I was skeptical at the time, and talked about how to override the default WordPress line limit.  Now, staring at what I consider to be a juvenile-looking default sans-serif font, I decided that needed changing too.  In short–the Internet is wrong and I have to take matters into my own hands.

And so, you might have noticed that the fonts on this site are different now.  After some trial and error, I decided upon “Freight Text”, based on nothing more than the fact that I found it the most visually pleasing.

I have no idea who develops fonts and what’s involved with the process of their standardization.  That’s a topic for another day’s adventure through the interwebs.  But I found this brief description:

“About Freight Text

Phil’s Fonts evolved from one of the most well known and respected photolettering studios in the industry – Phil’s Photo. We carry on the traditions and standards established by its founders. As the state of typography changes in the digital era, Phil’s Fonts continues its love affair with beautiful faces, making fine typography available to artists and communicators around the world.”

Apparently there’s some studio that makes these and people decide whether or not to adopt them?  Whatever

Regardless, if you don’t have the font installed, your browser will revert to its default serif font:

    {
font-family: “Freight Text”, serif;
color: #000000;
}

And that’s it, really.  I changed the CSS for a number of elements.  Sure, fonts might be a pointless argument, but in this specific instance, I’d rather choose a more sophisticated-looking variant over its overly-simplified modern counterpart.

–Simon

Penmanship

I’ve always fancied cursive.  However, my contemporaries, as well as my teachers, hated it.  Yet, it remained in the curriculum back in the early 90s regardless.  And while it might now be falling into the myriad of lost/obsolete skills, I refuse to let it die completely.

Amusingly, because so many have written it off (hehe), so few are able to readily even read it.  I’ve even been asked on occasion to stop.  But I look back on my college years and note that none of my professors ever had the slightest hint of difficulty reading my writing, and were it not for my adeptness with the seemingly ancient script, those lengthy hand-written final exam essays would have been much more difficult.  So I say unto these people: No!  Learn how to read!

But many today too predict the impracticality of modern higher education–that it will collapse under its own unsustainability and become less higher, and more vocational.  College, like cursive, will become an academic relic.

Apparently, I can be pompous and nihilistic.  That seems to suit me.

The irony of blogging about handwriting is not lost on me, and I still on occasion relish the pure analog methods.  And in this I am certainly not alone, for I listened to a recent podcast that discussed the history of penmanship at length.  The host (approximately my age) mentioned that he had been taught the D’Nealian method, and this got me curious, for I had never considered the type of cursive that I use.  It seemed like a good time to find out.

So I took a sample of my writing for the base comparison:

In an attempt to remove bias (which I’m sure isn’t perfect), I wrote a sentence as automatically as possible, so as to preserve the natural form of the letters.  Then I compared it to the D’Nealian alphabet:

It didn’t seem quite the same, so I wrote out the alphabet as I would normally make the letters:

There were a lot of similarities, but it wasn’t quite the same, mostly in my upper case characters.  Mine had more loops and flair.  I wondered why that was?  I doubt that’s something I would have picked up on my own, so where did it come from?  Time to dig further back.

D’Nealian was apparently an attempt to ease the transition between cursive and print.  Prior to this, we had Zaner-Bloser.

There appeared to be variations with Zaner-Bloser, and most of the modern samples I found strongly resembled D’Nealian, but I did find this sample, which included the loops that I use:

In fact, it used more loops than I use.  So it would appear that I was taught during some transitional period wherein I developed a Zaner-Bloser/D’Nealian hybrid.  But from where did Zaner-Bloser orginate?

Apparently, from the Palmer Method:

Palmer varied significantly from my method–not just in loops, but is some examples of fundamental character structure, notably the F, R, and T.

And just to complete this line of inquiry, I dove back one iteration further–Spencerian:

Spencerian was ridiculously loopy, and even incorporated shading accents.  It was an obvious predecessor, but certainly nothing that would be taught in gradeschool.

I conclude then, that my cursive writing style is founded on Plamer, which had been modified into Zaner-Bloser.  But at some point in my learning, the style had changed to D’Nealian.  I do recall at one point there being a discussion with my teacher that I was using unsanctioned loops, which I specifically recall having been previously taught to use, so there was apparently no formal cutoff between the two styles, and I had been taught both–ultimately resulting in the hybrid style I use today, which might be fairly unique in its own right.

The modern equivalent is the evolution of fonts.  Monospaced fonts, created for efficiency and their lack of computing resource demand, gave way to variable-width serif fonts, which were created to be easier to read in print, which gave way to sans-serif fonts, supposedly easiest to read on the variety of modern computer screens.  At one point I was instructed to type all manuscripts in size 12 Times New Roman–a variable-width serif font–yet the standard now is Arial.  Who knows–maybe one day someone 10-20 years my junior will lament on the passing of serif fonts much the way I’m lamenting now on the obsolescence of handwritten cursive.

In loving memory
Cursive

–Simon

Unnecessary Improvements

When we bought this house, I installed ethernet.

Then I began working at home, and discussed my basement setup.

Then I upgraded my basement setup.

Then I installed a patch panel.

Then I upgraded my basement setup again.

But still–something nagged at me.  My Linux machine demanded more respect.  It was connected to the intranet via a crimped CAT6, but that connection was merely a hack.  The wire was solid core, and not intended to be crimped to an RJ-45.  It needed improvement, and that improvement would ordinarily be very low-priority, were it not February.  But then Liz took the kid out shopping for summer clothes, and I found myself suddenly free of time.  I decided it was as good an excuse as any.

I concluded that I would wire the desk itself and install two CAT6 jacks into the middle of the second section, next to the Linux machine, and attach the cables to the underside via a cable organizer.  The desk, being of IKEA construction, was a laminated particle board and surprisingly tough.  I considered the daunting task of drilling out a rectangle for a low-voltage box, but that hardly seemed necessary.  There wouldn’t be any need to shield the wires since they wouldn’t be exposed in dead space, and if I drilled the plate down directly into the wood, there wouldn’t be any advantage to the box’s drywall tension wings.  Plus, selective drilling would minimize undermining the desk’s structural integrity.  I would just need two holes, just large enough to accommodate CAT6 keystone jacks, which I would then push up through the desk, snap into the plate, then mount the plate.  I had a plan–it was off to the hardware store (Home Depot)!

Initially, I planned to wire both desks, so I purchased 2 2x white keystone plates, 4 white CAT6 keystone punchdown jacks, 2 5ft cable organizers plus elbow, and a small bag of wood screws.  Side note: keystone jacks and cable organizers are kind of expensive.  The total price came to about $60.

Back home, I measured and placed the plate to my liking, then traced its shape.

Then I started drilling.  In hindsight, I should have started with a 1/2″ bit and made the initial holes just deep enough for the jacks, then finished the cable drops with a 3/8″,  but at the time I just continually widened the holes with the 3/8″–a minor end result, but using the 1/2″ would have looked cleaner.

Then I measured off some bulk CAT6, punched the two into the patch panel, then fed the cables up through the two drops, punched those ends down into the jacks, connected the new patch panel drops to the switch via CAT6 patch cables, then tested the new connections by plugging in the laptop.  And everything worked perfect and life was grand.

Kidding.  Neither line registered any signal.

To be clear, I’m no rookie at this.  I stared, confused, at my failed handiwork, and let the universe know my displeasure with a manly battle shout of despair towards the heavens.  Then I contemplated the sources of failure.

The cable itself should be good, as I had already used 500ft of it.  The patch cables so far hadn’t been a problem, but I tried swapping them out anyway to no avail.  The patch panel should be okay, as the first 5 lines punched down just fine.  I then tried a different computer, but still no connection.

My theory, then, was the most untested variable: the keystone jacks.  So I ripped them off and tried a new one.  Same problem.  It was irritating, seeing as they cost $5 each.  So I repackaged them and headed back to the store.

At the return desk, I mentioned that they might have a bad batch of these.  The lady didn’t acknowledge me, and simply refunded my purchase.  I have no doubt that those same jacks ended up right back on the wall, and some other home renovator would soon also be wasting 2 hours trying to figure out a bad ethernet drop.  Sigh.

For the record, they were this brand (Commercial Electric):

I’ve bought this kind before, so I dunno why I got so many that were bad this time around.

I initially had gone to Home Depot because they cater a little more to home repair, rather than improvement, and as such they carry more contractor-grade inventory.  When I was forced to try Lowe’s, I only found bags of jacks, and since I didn’t need a whole bag, I had to pay for more than I wanted–$10 more in fact.  The bill was up to $70 now.

CAT6 isn’t 2X the speed of CAT5e–it’s “potentially” 10X.

This was especially irritating since I only chose the color white to better match the minimalist theme of the basement setup, but everyplace else in the house used almond.  Maybe I would install a proper jack in the garage ceiling next (it currently has an RJ-45 crimped on the end, feeding the hotspot.  That would be another place to use white.

But anyway, I was antsy to get this project done, so I simply grumbled at the price, took them home, attached one, and it worked instantly.  Same deal with the second.  So I guess no more Commercial Electric for me.

After that, it was a simple matter of snapping in the jacks, bolting down the plate, sticking up the cable organizers and popping in the cable.  Here’s some photos of the final result:

Few things are more satisfying than a bundle of well-organized highspeed data cables.

–Simon