The Mouse

23 April 2019

PG discovered ergonomic keyboards and ergonomic mice a long time ago.

Given how many hours he has spent and continues to spend at his computer, his hands and wrists are grateful for those discoveries.

PG has used the Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard for a very long time. Although he would still like to combine the refined key clicks of the legendary Northgate OmniKey Keyboard of the distant past with the Microsoft layout, he’ll live with the less assertive feel of the MS keyboard for now.

 

PG is pretty much in love with everything he’s purchased from Anker. He used now-discontinued Logitech Performance MX wireless mouse and the Logitech MX Ergo Wireless Trackball Mouse, but his initial contact with an Anker mouse was love at first touch.

He started with the original (he thinks) Anker vertical mouse and still keeps a couple of his older ones handy as backups. However, when he tried the more recent updated version of the Anker Ergonomic Mouse, he liked the somewhat more palm-filling feel even more.

In addition to feeling better (at least for PG), PG’s keyboard and mouse choices are also made to avoid carpal tunnel problems, which PG most definitely prefers not to experience.

Although he thinks he occupies the best of all present keyboard and mouse worlds, PG would be interested in the experiences of visitors to TPV with various keyboards and mice and their current favorites.

 

Biographies

23 April 2019

Biographies are no longer written to explain or explore the greatness of the great. They redress balances, explore secret weaknesses, demolish legends.

~ A. S. Byatt

Tolkien Estate Disavows Forthcoming Film

23 April 2019

From The Guardian:

The family and estate of JRR Tolkien have fired a broadside against the forthcoming film starring Nicholas Hoult as a young version of the author, saying that they “do not endorse it or its content in any way”.

Out in May, and starring Hoult in the title role and Lily Collins as his wife Edith, Tolkien explores “the formative years of the renowned author’s life as he finds friendship, courage and inspiration among a fellow group of writers and artists at school”. Directed by Dome Karukoski, it promises to reveal how “their brotherhood strengthens as they grow up … until the outbreak of the first world war which threatens to tear their fellowship apart”, all of which, according to studio Fox Searchlight, would inspire Tolkien to “write his famous Middle-earth novels”.

. . . .

On Tuesday morning, the estate and family of Tolkien issued a terse statement in which they announced their “wish to make clear that they did not approve of, authorise or participate in the making of this film”, and that “they do not endorse it or its content in any way”.

. . . .

John Garth, author of the biography Tolkien and the Great War, said he felt the estate’s response to the film was “sensible”.

“Biopics typically take considerable licence with the facts, and this one is no exception. Endorsement by the Tolkien family would lend credibility to any divergences and distortions. That would be a disservice to history,” he said. “As a biographer, I expect I’ll be busy correcting new misconceptions arising from the movie. I hope that anyone who enjoys the film and is interested in Tolkien’s formative years will pick up a reliable biography.”

Tolkien’s estate has been careful to protect his legacy. In 2011, it took legal action over a novel that used the author as a central character, months after his heirs settled a multimillion-pound lawsuit over royalties from the Lord of the Rings films. In 2012, the estate also took legal action over gambling games featuring Lord of the Rings characters, saying that it was “causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

 

Good Things Continue to Happen for BYU Grad Who Published His MBA Sketchnotes

23 April 2019

From The Deseret News:

In 2017, Jason Barron compiled countless hours of sketchnotes from his two-year Master of Business Administration program at Brigham Young University and self-published a book he titled “The Visual MBA.”

Then, thanks to a kickstarter campaign that raised 1,000 percent of its goal, the Latter-day Saint husband and father of five not only covered the publishing costs, but he paid off his student debt and took his family to Disneyland.

. . . .

As an independent publisher, Barron estimates he sold about 2,500 copies. But the effort and time required to pack, ship and handle customer service led him to consider other options.

A friend with publishing experience suggested he find a book agent.

. . . .

Not only did Houghton Mifflin Harcourt like Barron’s work, they believed his book had major upside. The publisher has plans to translate “The Visual MBA” into at least 10 languages and release it worldwide. They also see potential for a series. Barron signed the deal, he said.

Now he’s really glad he didn’t give up on the idea, although he almost did several times.

“It’s been incredible. I’m really humbled,” Barron said. “It came back to that time when I wondered is anybody going to like this? My wife encouraged me. I’m so grateful I muscled through the opposition and pursued it. Because now looking back, it’s like holy cow. Imagine if I wouldn’t have? What if I had given up or abandoned it? I would have missed out on this great opportunity to help other people and have this book shared throughout the world. I really am just blown away and I’m grateful that I didn’t listen to that little negative voice and just pushed through it.”

. . . .

Barron, who produced his own handwritten font for the book, said the project has blessed his family in many ways. Not only was it financially beneficial, it served to unify, encourage creativity and creation, and hopefully inspire courage to do hard things.

“My kids have seen that I’ve accomplished something difficult, along with the tangible results of that,” he said. “I hope it shows my kids in a really important way that if they work hard at something they can make something cool happen. It’s possible.”

Link to the rest at The Deseret News

As he read the OP and checked out the book’s Look Inside interior via Amazon (lots of pictures), PG was interested in the challenge of self-publishing a picture book.

He found the following from  Darcy Pattison via The Creative Penn about children’s picture books:

At some point, many successful writers want to try writing and publishing a children’s picture book. There are many reasons: their own children inspire a story, they fondly remember a childhood event, or their muse gives them a story that doesn’t seem right for their usual genre.

Writers often tell themselves that they are professionals and can switch to this new genre without problems.

. . . .

How Children’s Books are Similar to Publishing for Adults

The most common advice given to those writing for adults are these:

  • write a compelling story
  • get amazing cover art
  • know your audience
  • market as much as possible.

Children’s books are the same.

. . . .

Children’s stories are usually 500 words or less. In that space, the story sets up a problem and a character, puts obstacles in the character’s way, and finally solves the problem.

If you take the 32 pages and lay it out in a book, there are about 14 double-page spreads, which means the images spread across the opened page. Divide your story into fourteen sections.

Each section must:

  • Advance the story. If you remove this section it should destroy the story. Each section must be integral to the story. Something must happen that changes the story in some way.
  • Give the illustrators something to illustrate. Think action. Include action verbs that inspire amazing art from the illustrators. Variety of illustrations is important so be sure the story moves to different locations.
  • Make the reader want to turn the page. The story should pull the reader through the story.

After the story is written and each section works, think short. When I critique picture book manuscripts, I usually ask the author to cut the story in half. And then remove another 100 words. Picture books, like poetry, require very tight writing.

. . . .

Adult books demand amazing cover art that are genre appropriate. Likewise, children’s books need great cover art; but they also need great art on each of the 32 pages. This is, of course, one of the main differences between children’s books and other genres.

. . . .

Take the time to study the dual audience of children and adults for picture books. While you must appeal to the child, you must also catch the adult’s attention because they’ll be paying for the book.

. . . .

It’s strange though because you’ll advertise the ebook and find that that paperback will sell instead because many parents still prefer a print book for kids.

. . . .

If you plan to sell ebooks of your picture book, and you should, there’s one big caution: Amazon Kindle download fees can kill your profit.

Children’s picture book file sizes can be bloated because of the illustrations. If your files are over 7MB, you should opt for the 35% royalty, which doesn’t charge download fees.

I’ve written a long tutorial on how to reduce the files to a more reasonable and profitable 2-3 MB. Basically, reduce the image quality to medium, limit files to 1000 px wide, and strip out extra metadata.

Link to the rest at The Creative Penn and here’s a link Darcy Pattison’s website.

PG sees a lot of author websites, but was particularly impressed by Ms. Pattison’s. Her website also includes detailed information about best practices for Author Websites, including understandable explanations about technical topics such as WordPress themes and plugins, search engine optimization, etc.

Can You Save a Dying Italian Town with the Art of Storytelling?

23 April 2019

From The Literary Hub:

When Angelo Carchidi returned to Rosarno in 2012, the peak of Europe’s debt crisis, the place of his birth and home of his youth had become a ghost town. The piazzas, the public squares that are at the heart of Italian social life, were quiet and empty. Homes and apartments were boarded and padlocked and “for sale” signs hung from their façades. Persistent neglect from all levels of government had spurred the collapse of social services, including the public library—one of the town’s only cultural spaces, which seemed neglected and imbued with the smell of mold. Thirty-year-old Carchidi, an architect by trade, was accustomed to the city’s rural slumber. But this time, it was if a malaise had descended upon the town.

Once known as Medma, a name given by the ancient Greeks for this city in southern Italy, Rosarno now exists at the margin of a margin. The town of 15,000 people is located in Calabria, one of Italy’s most disadvantaged regions and the stronghold of the ‘Ndrangheta, the country’s most powerful mafia. For decades, the violence of poverty, crime, and a lack of opportunity has caused young Calabrians like Carchidi to flock to the prosperous north, or others—like my own grandparents—to emigrate elsewhere.

. . . .

“The place you are born forms you, it makes you grow, it makes you frustrated,” Carchidi said. “But in some way, you are indebted to it.”

Seated outside Rosarno’s Bar Spagnolo on a languorous late summer evening last year, Carchidi recounted this story to me, interrupting his musings on urban renewal to joke in Calabrese dialect with friends who pass by. Humble and welcoming, tough and stubborn, Carchidi embodies the Calabrian character that is magnified in the people of Rosarno. When he returned to the city seven years ago, Carchidi was lucky to find people who shared his interests—and more so, his hopes for what Rosarno could be. Along with four friends—Ettore Guerriero, Giovanna Tutino, Umberto Carchidi and Miriana Zungri—the group formed A di Città, an association that exists somewhere between an arts collective and a cultural enterprise. Their first project was a Festival of Urban Regeneration, an attempt to resuscitate the city through art and, in turn, revive the community. But, once the festivities ended, the city’s local council—who were, for a time, attentive to the needs of the people—relapsed.

“We realized that our work through the festival had limitations,” he said. “So we asked, if we were to recount Rosarno in a book, a tourist guidebook, what would we include in it?”

. . . .

“When you say to a person who has always lived in a place, who sees it every day, ‘If you could tell the story of this place, how would you tell it?’ It awakens a whole series of questions that can bring out even the possibilities of a place,” Carchidi said.

In late 2014, A di Città began work on Kiwi: Deliziosa Guida di Rosarno, or as it translates from the Italian, “a delicious guide to Rosarno.” The guide’s name, Kiwi, is both ambiguous and fitting. Across the plains of Gioia Tauro, an area that encompasses Rosarno, the juicy, prickly kiwifruit has begun to supplant the region’s orange groves. While the switch from oranges to kiwifruit is driven by economics, the latter—foreign and exotic to Calabria—is representative of a changing region. The guide would encompass both the old and the new, the local and the foreign, the past and the tentative future.

Over the course of three years, A di Città held workshops and meetings, involving the public in the planning, writing, and distribution of Kiwi. The team decided that their office would be the city and held meetings, much like my own with Carchidi, in the cafés, pizzerias, and piazzas that dot the historic center. During Kiwi’s production, the public library became a makeshift editorial office and the “beating heart” of the guidebook. But just before the book was published in early 2017, the council decided to close the library.

“Culture is not a priority in this city,” Carchidi said. “And this was a question of priorities.”

Kiwi, on the other hand, was the product of prioritizing culture through storytelling and, to paraphrase the Italian writer Cesare Pavese, prioritizing the stories of those for whom Rosarno is “in their blood beyond anyone else’s understanding.” As a hardcover book with more than 200-pages, the guide is punctuated with color photographs, historical illustrations, and chunks of lime green paper that divide it in two. The first half follows the structure of a conventional guidebook with maps, history, notable people, and places of interest. But the preface to this section, aptly titled “before you leave,” begins with a rumination on the perfume of orange blossoms and ends with a note about the book’s underlying purpose: to tell a nuanced story of a typecast city.

“The media have often (and sometimes with reason) written about Rosarno as the land of mafia and exploitation,” it reads. “Before continuing, we recommend leaving the labels and prejudice at home and being open to discover a contradictory place, full of contrast and surprise, with which you will fall in love.”

. . . .

At Bar Duomo, as we snack on olives and crunchy bread, Carchidi opens a copy of Kiwi and flips to this second half of the book entitled, Rosarno Ulterior. The section begins with a preface, written by the A di Città team, on the idea of “possible places” and the importance of paying attention to the everyday spaces in which we spend our lives. What follows is a series of essays that together form an oral history of Rosarno and, more so, an ode to places that exist on the periphery.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

PG couldn’t find Kiwi: Deliziosa Guida di Rosarno on Amazon US, but here is a link to the book’s Home Page (which has a “Buy Now” button in English which, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to work) and its Facebook page.

Here’s the introduction to a video about the book (translated from Italian via Google Translate):

Kiwi is a shared guide of the city of Rosarno, written by citizens and travelers, a choral story of the territory made up of internal and external voices. It is a laboratory to find a collective narrative of one’s own community. The path started in October 2014, with the Terra Terra Restart workshop, during which the skeleton of the guide was defined and the involvement of the citizens was started through the construction of a walking cart, a wooden structure that represents the book itself. which will gradually be enriched with pages. Kiwi is taking life thanks to the parallel work of two editorial offices: a local one, made up of citizens who have joined the project and therefore strongly rooted in the territory, and an extra-territorial one, which keeps its eye on the entire national scene.

Helvetica, the World’s Most Popular Font, Gets a Face-Lift

22 April 2019

From Wired:

“Helvetica is like water,” says a recent video about the most popular typeface in the world. The 62-year-old font family, with its sans-serif shapes and clean corners, is ubiquitous. It is used on the signage in New York’s subway system. It is the brand identity of American Airlines, as well as American Apparel. It is on those unfortunate T-shirts that say things like “John & Paul & Ringo & George.”

“When something is constructed as well as Helvetica, it should last for a couple of hundred years, just like great architecture,” designer Danny van den Dungen told The New York Times in 2007, when the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective in honor of the typeface.

But Charles Nix is not a fan. Nix is the director of Monotype, the world’s largest type company, which currently owns the licensing rights to Helvetica. He doesn’t like that the letters scrunch together at small sizes, that the kerning isn’t even across the board. Designers have gotten used to all sorts of magic tricks to make Helvetica look more legible, like changing the size of punctuation marks to balance the letters. “We jokingly refer to it as Helvetica Stockholm Syndrome,” says Nix.

A few years ago, Nix and others at Monotype decided a change was due. The whiff of Helvetica had begun to stink. Major companies, which had used Helvetica for years in branding and other materials, had begun to eschew the typeface. Google stopped using it in 2011, in lieu of a custom font that looks a lot like Helvetica, but better. Apple followed suit in 2013 with its own font. So did IBM. Ditto for Netflix.

Now, Monotype has given Helvetica a face-lift, in the hopes that it can restore some of the magic to the iconic typeface. The new version, Helvetica Now, updates each of Helvetica’s 40,000 characters to reflect the demands of the 21st century. It’s designed to be more legible in miniature, like on the tiny screen of an Apple Watch, and hold its own in large-scale applications like gigantic billboards.

. . . .

Before there was Helvetica, there was Neue Haas Grotesk. Created in 1957, the typeface sprung from the mind of Swiss designers Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffman. Emblematic of Swiss design and midcentury modernism, it was meant to be simple and clean—a set of letters that would disappear to let the words speak for themselves. In 1961, typeface maker Haas rebranded it as Helvetica and introduced to the wider world.

. . . .

Helvetica Now seeks to remedy some of these issues. The family includes three versions: Helvetica Now Micro, designed for use on small screens, recasts the font with more open forms, open spacing, and larger accents. Helvetica Now Display evens out the kerning for larger type sizes. Helvetica Now Text, the workhorse of the three, is intended for visually crowded environments, so it incorporates more white space into the design for greater legibility.

Link to the rest at Wired

From Edition Guard:

The Best Fonts for E-Books – Ultimate Typography Guide

. . . .

It’s easy for readers to take the number of choices we take for granted.

In the age of digital content, customization has become so ubiquitous that most of us have forgotten a time where there was only one way to interact with written information: the way the publisher intended.

From simple tweaks, like setting your browser’s zoom-level, to more granular ones like your e-book reader’s text alignment and font, creating your “ideal” reading experience is just a view clicks or taps away.

However, with the number of options for customization that we have, often comes the temptation to customize simply for the sake of it. Collectively the team at Edition Guard have lost count of the number of times we selected a new font for our e-book readers, with the most popular justification for doing so being: “I remembered that I could.”

This made us wonder whether there is such a thing as an objectively “better” font for reading an e-book in.

. . . .

[F]rom notable typeface historian and designer Charles Bigelow:

“I recently read nearly every important book, and many of the important papers, on the study of legibility from 1905 to the present….nearly all the good ones say that it is very difficult or nearly impossible to find statistically significant differences in intrinsic legibility between common typefaces read at common sizes and normal distances,” he said in an academic text he published in 2012.

. . . .

Bookerly

Designed in 2015 by independent font foundry Dalton Maag exclusively for the Amazon Kindle, Bookerly is the youngest font on our list. So invested were Amazon in their creation that the font has replaced Caecilia as the default option in all their future devices.

Here’s what the company’s marketing people have to say about the font:

“Warm and contemporary, Bookerly is inspired by the artistry of the best fonts in modern print books but is hand-crafted for great readability at any size. It introduces a lighter, more graceful look and outperforms other digital reading fonts to help you read faster with less eyestrain.”

. . . .

Having been purpose-built for on-screen display, one would think that Bookerly is the easy choice for e-book enthusiasts.

Design writer John Brownlee certainly agrees. “Read Bookerly at much larger font sizes, and some of the fonts delicate touches are allowed to shine: for example, the delicate way the upper arm almost licks the stem of the lower case ‘k’,” he writes in Co.Design.

“Bookerly even includes some lovely ligatures that makes reading on the Kindle feel more like printed typography, like the way the terminal on a lowercase ‘f’ will replace the title on the lower case ‘i’, if they are right next to each other,” he adds. “…it’s a lovely font. And in my testing, I thought it was even more pleasant than Palatino, the typeface I previously used on my Kindle.”

Piotr Kowalczyk from E-bookfriendly.com praised more than the font’s visual appeal, citing Bookerly’s readability as one of its best features.

“The designers of Bookerly font have created a useful visual showing the organic structure of the font. Font serifs are not symmetric, like in Caecilia, the former default Kindle typeface,” he writes.

“What’s more, the serif for each letter is different from the others, what helps create a varied flow of the text,” he said . . . .

. . . .

Baskerville

Designed by lacquered-goods tycoon, John Baskerville (1706–1775), this typeface was created as part of an ambitious undertaking he described as follows:

“Having been an early admirer of the beauty of Letters, I became insensibly desirous of contributing to the perfection of them,” the former and calligraphy instructor wrote in his preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost.

. . . .

A notable difference between Baskerville and other fonts of the era was the increased difference between the letters’ thick and thin strokes, with serifs sharper than its contemporaries.

. . . .

Baskerville is mostly given credit for being the most ornate and historically significant of the fonts available for selection in most popular e-book readers.

“It has respect,” Anna Thompson, Penguin Random House designer told Co.Design, indicating that it would be her choice if she owned an e-book reader.

Robert Slimbach, principal type designer at Adobe Systems, is also a fan, but seems to be one of a small group of readers who considers it a comfortable font to read.

“Its classical characteristics and open counters make it very inviting to read and less fatiguing to the eye,” he told Co.Design.

The font is, however, criticized for some on-screen display issues – most notably as a result of the finer components of the strokes.

“ Rather than showing off how nice the display is, Baskerville does the opposite: it shows how relatively crude it is, resolution-wise,” the experts at Daring Fireball say.

Joel Friedlander over at Thebookdesigner.com feels that, while it is a fine option for printed medium, its Kindle incarnation is “weak-tea.”

Link to the rest at Edition Guard

PG may be atypical in his response to fonts (as he is in so many other ways), but he is mostly oblivious to which font is delivering his reading material.

“[T]he delicate way the upper arm almost licks the stem of the lower case ‘k’” and “Bookerly even includes some lovely ligatures” are well beyond PG’s typical visual comprehension.

OTOH, per the OP, “If you use a typeface that annoys readers or that they find even slightly difficult to read, then you are giving yourself problems.”

PG is thus inclined to live with Kindle’s default fonts in both his e-reading and in formatting Mrs. PG’s ebooks on the theory that the more he doesn’t notice the font, the better.

However, for shorter messages, PG loves the bizarre.

.

See Weird Fonts for many more examples

An Open-Minded and Diverse Population

22 April 2019

An open-minded and diverse population that readily shares information, encourages experimentation, accepts failure and dispenses with formality and hierarchy is what makes Silicon Valley the successful hub that it is.

~ Vivek Wadhwa

Facebook Hires Top State Department Lawyer

22 April 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook Inc. is bringing on a new top lawyer and a communications boss to handle the mounting regulatory and public-relations issues facing the social-media giant.

The company named Jennifer Newstead as its general counsel on Monday, putting a longtime Washington attorney in charge of its legal affairs at a time when it is increasingly engaged with regulators around the world about how best to police social media.

The company separately named John Pinette, who previously advised Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates among other jobs, to be the new vice president of global communications.

. . . .

The moves help restock Facebook’s leadership in the levels below Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. A number of senior officials and department heads have left Facebook over the past year, an unusual rate of turnover after the executive team was relatively stable for most of its tenure as a public company. (emphasis supplied)

Facebook in October hired former U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to be its global head of policy and communications.

. . . .

Mr. Stretch, who led the company’s legal response to Russian political interference on Facebook’s platform during the 2016 election, stayed on longer amid high-profile questions last year about how the company handled user data.

Before her most recent stint in government, Ms. Newstead was a partner at Davis, Polk & Wardwell LLP handling cross-border regulatory matters. She also previously served as an attorney in the George W. Bush administration and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. She is credited with writing portions of the Patriot Act, which expanded law enforcement’s ability to conduct surveillance in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

First, Zuckerberg starts spending lots of time in Washington DC, now many of the people most responsible for Facebook’s current online dominance are headed for the door.

PG suggests that sound you hear is the air going out of Facebook’s creative balloon.

When a company lawyers up with establishment types, avoiding mistakes tends to become the company’s primary focus, lots of things slow down and the opportunities for innovative startups to eat the giant’s lunch increase a thousandfold.

UPDATE:

From The Washington Post:

Sri Lanka’s social media shutdown illustrates global discontent with Silicon Valley

The Sri Lankan government’s decision to shutter access to social media sites after Sunday’s deadly bombings may mark a turning point in how countries around the world perceive Silicon Valley — and their willingness to act to stop the spread of falsehoods online.

A decade ago, Facebook, Twitter and their social media peers helped spearhead pro-democracy uprisings that toppled dictators throughout the Middle East, and their services were seen as a way to help in catastrophes, allowing authorities a vehicle to convey crucial information and organize assistance.

Today, though, those same social media sites appear to some as a force that can corrode democracy as much as promote it, spreading disinformation to an audience of millions in a matter of minutes and fueling ethnic violence before authorities can take steps to stop it. That sense is heightened by tech giants’ seeming inability to strike a balance between free expression and protecting the public from harm.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

 

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