[Home]Art Sackett

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Art Sackett is a regular on alt.html and the contributor of insightful, usually no-nonsense postings on that newsgroup. -- Jerry Muelver

Jerry's too nice. It's almost always mostly nonsense. -- Art Sackett


Art says:

How to justify type

 Some folks don't differentiate justification from rationalization. :D

 Now, the really tricky part is to get it so that you have a justified
 right without using additional spaces. If you can manage to pull that
 one off, then you have the best of both worlds. It might be a pain in
 some cases, though, to get it just right. That's the fun part for me.
 Those who are reading this article with a fixed-width font can see it
 in action right here -- and the rest of you are missing the humour...

 Does this doing both at once make me the professional's professional?

    Shakespeare, shmakespeare. I want an infinite number of monkeys to do
    fully-justified non-multiply-spaced Usenet articles right in alt.html
    We have a good start on the lower primates, but probably no interest.

    Ya wanna know what's really scary? I am actually entertained by this.
    This stuff, well, what can I say? It's so easy that even I can do it!
    In 100 years, some poor schmoe will encounter this, and remark to his
    colleagues, "Yes boys those were the primitive days of the internet."

-- Art Sackett --

 You guys really ought to get a hobby. Writing in justified
 text will never catch on because reading justified text is
 too difficult. The human eye needs the tracking aid of the
 ragged right edge to guage just how far into the paragraph
 the reader has gotten. With a smooth right edge, you can't
 figure out where you are. Like when you're surreptitiously
 eyballing your next true love at a bar, you need the clues
 of geometric variations to keep track of exactly where you
 have read the page, and where you have yet to go. However,
 bear in mind that this scientific explanation is pseudo in
 nature (in fact, it is bogus, though but it was offered in
 the 50's as Yet Another Soft-Science Psychologically Valid
 Discovery. Point is, I just do not like justified text and
 all the fine typograpical screwing around that it requires!!!! 

--Jerry Muelver


Q:Every time I post I have to spend a lot of time reading over what I have written, making sure that there is no way in which I can be criticised, but usually I am wrong...

Art says --

If you're providing answers to questions, then you should be held to a high standard, don't you think?

I mean, some poor hapless soul comes wandering in here, has a problem that has already caused her great anxiety, and expresses it as best as she can. "I went to publish my web, but my ISP doesn't support FrontPage Erections so I had to take a lot out, and now my images don't load into my web properly." You and I both know that the poor protonewbie has wasted her time learning how to work software that doesn't.

There are some putzes who would jump in and say, without benefit of a URL or psychic friends network, "Change your filenames to all lower case and it will be fixed."

You and I both know that the putz might accidentally have hit on the right answer. The protonewbie doesn't, takes it as gospel, and doesn't come back until after she's wasted an hour and a half doing something that didn't make any difference at all.

Some other putz will have countered by then, "Your web pages are all trying to load images from your C:\ drive. You should make all your links relative."

You and I both know that web pages don't load images, web browsers do, and that this putz might have accidentally got it right. Off goes protonewbie, and wastes another two hours figuring out how to convince her cool software to make links relative.

Protonewbie comes back, pissed, and says something about the fact that the only answers she got were flat wrong, and how it was rotten for people who don't know what they're talking about to play expert. Then some putz, putz #3, pipes in about how nobody owes her anything, yadda yadda. Well, at least this time the putz was right, albeit in the wrong way.

It's for the benefit of the clueless that we expect the clued to think before puking up information, and thrash the clueless when they try to impersonate the clued. "We" in this case being those of us who don't just belittle everyone. There are a couple of those. You know who they are.

-- Art Sackett On 7 Mar 2001 10:13:39 GMT, in alt.html


Q: What's the point of putting OT in the subject line on a newsgroup for an off-ttoic posting? Either posting off-topic is okay or it's not, right?

Art says --

It's not that simple. It is okay for some, sinful for others. If you wish to post off-topic, you have to ingratiate yourself with the powers.

First you have to attain true enlightenment. You will know when this happens, as will others who have gone before you. None will speak of it, though, as speaking of it is not permitted. It is just known and accepted.

If you believe you have attained enlightenment but others who have gone before do not recognize it, you have achieved self deception, not enlightenment. If you assert that it is enlightenment, you will lose ground in the quest for enlightenment, and the gods may bar you from the path forever. Those who find themselves barred from the path gradually come to accept their lot, and move on to other endeavors at which they can fail less publicly.

Enlightenment changes your life, and once it is attained, it can only be lost by going over to the dark side. The dark side is the perfect opposite of enlightenment. It is every bit as powerful as enlightenment, but it is evil. It is nervous and twitchy, whereas enlightenment is calm and relaxed. The dark side asserts itself as enlightenment, and newbies are at risk of accepting it as such if they are not careful to find the flawed logic of the dark side. The dark side always uses convincing sounding arguments that are logically flawed.

George W. Bush is of the dark side, as was Bill Clinton. Maggie Thatcher switched to the dark side in the early 1980's. The last enlightened US president was Jimmy Carter. The last enlightened leader in the UK (who never switched) was Churchill. Russia's never had one, nor has France. Italy doesn't stand a chance, but at least they had a porn star, which isn't enlightened but is at least fitting. Eminem is the dark side, Elton John switched to it in 1978. The Atlanta Rhythm Section is enlightened. All reggae is enlightened, no rap is. Starbucks is the dark side, Jack Daniel's is enlightened. All WYSIWYG editors are of the dark side.

There is an equal amount of energy on the dark side as in enlightenment, but because there are more people on the dark side, a high guru is always more powerful than the most powerful dark force. It is unwise to anger a guru. Bad things happen to those who anger gurus. Their businesses fail, they develop dental problems, or their butts grow far wider than proportional. The consequences of angering a guru are very rarely swiftly delivered, but they are always sure. Sometimes those who regularly annoy gurus become instruments of fate, delivering the misfortune to the bigger target, and taking the blame for it. Monica Lewinsky angered a guru, Linda Tripp simply annoyed one. Al Gore claimed too much credit for the opening of the internet to the public, which angered gurus. Most of Florida annoyed them. Obviously.

When you are enlightened, you can post any damn thing you want in alt.html -- when you are not, you must be absolutely certain that all of your facts are correct, and while you may participate in off-topic perambulations, you may not initiate them.

The enlightened do not topic cop. Nor do they rag on others about their citation style. They Q&A cite with noise stripped. They are favored by the gods, and granted great latitude, which they do not abuse. The enlightened will thrash those who are on the path to enlightenment, but very rarely anyone else except the most arrogant newbie. Thrashings from gurus take many forms, often are recognized for what they are only by those on the path to enlightenment.

Gurus are not prejudiced. They practice their craft with compassion and vision, and are not prone to casting judgment against client software. They understand that good technology is indistinguishable from magic, and, more importantly, that good magic is undetectable. When you encounter a web site that you just interact with, fluidly, knowing what to do to accomplish a task the first time and without pausing to think about it, a guru was involved.

There are those among us to whom even the gurus are deferent. The gurus know of them, and why they are deferent. We are not permitted this knowledge, and bothering the gurus with questions about them is sure to annoy or anger them, which is unwise.

-- Art Sackett 7 Mar 2001 09:27:38 GMT, in alt.html


Give the client what he wants... or what he needs?

Art says --

Clients are largely ignorant of how web sites work, or fail to work. If this were not the case, web geeking would not be a career.

Clients are like children, often unaware of the fact that getting is often far more unpleasant than wanting. We, who are not supposed to be ignorant, are supposed to do what we can to keep them from hurting themselves. Depending upon the laws your subject to, it can be really expensive, as a professional, to discover the true meaning of "The customer is always right".

You are the professional whose expertise the client is acting in reliance upon. In some places, the laws are such that if a client asks you for a thing and you provide it, when you know or reasonably should have known it was likely that it would cause damage, you are responsible for any damage the client suffers as a result. (Here in the States where we're notoriously stupid, a bartender is responsible for damage done by drunk patrons after they leave the drinking establishment. That's how right the customer always is.)

Live like you want to live, of course, but my advice is to get into the habit of asking yourself, about everydamnedthing, "How will this enable the user to accomplish the task(s) he comes to this web site to perform?". If the answer is "It doesn't", you should ask, "Why then am I providing this?", and if you are happy with the answer, go for it. But if the asnwer is, "It actually impedes progress", then you should not include the thing.

-- Art Sackett On 8 Mar 2001 00:28:24 GMT, in alt.html


On rendering passionate, though misguided, advice

Art says --

Once upon a time there was a little fly. As she was flying over the barnyard, she noticed a nice, fresh, steamy cow pie. As it had been some time since her last meal, she landed on the flop and began to eat.

Realizing just how hungry she'd been, she ate, and ate, and ate. After a time, her belly distended, and uncomfortably full, while wiping the last of the regurgitation away with her forelegs, she realized that she would be easy prey for the chickens if she didn't find somewhere else to be.

Alas, she was too heavy, and her wings would not lift her. But, looking around, she saw a rake leaning against the barn, and thought that if she could just get to the top of it, with some air under her wings, she would have no trouble remaining airborn. So she walked up the rake, her belly fairly dragging, she was so full. Finally, she reached the top of the handle, and with a great burst of energy, lept off.

Unable to fly, she crashed to the ground. Lying there, awaiting death, she realized the meaning of her life, which is the moral of this story:

Never fly off the handle when you know you're full of shit.

-- Art Sackett On 8 Mar 2001 07:17:04 GMT, in alt.html


On newsgroup style and/vs content

Art says --

I have somehow managed to convince myself that I only post when I believe I can contribute something useful to the discussion. About the only time I say things that are negative is when some fool lies to people, or is terribly disrespectful of others. I usually try to be more restrained when it's me who was disrespected, than when it's someone else. Frequently, I ignore it when I'm the subject.

I have worked alongside, and supervised, those who were once taught and forever unable to unlearn incorrect information. It's frustrating, at best. But the part that bothers me is that they were taught the wrong things in the first place. What that indicates is that some arrogant bastard stood up in front of a classroom, either oblivious to the fact that he didn't know what he was talking about, or intentionally making things up as he went along because his ego was more important to him than the lives he was willfully damaging.

Here, while not a classroom, and very informal, we have dozens of teachers, all spewing information at students of the school of self education. People who are learning this stuff not because it's required that they do so in order to get a degree in subsurface aquatic textile processing, but because they are motivated to learn things that interest them. Some of these folks are going to take whatever we give them, and within minutes of reading it, apply it in their work, the work that feeds their families. I would not want to be the one who helped a guy to lose his job, or to have to look into his children's eyes and explain that it's my fault they're learning the meaning of want.

Some may not see how their words here affect the real lives of real people, and those who are dependent upon them. Some may even argue that self-education is folly so those pursuing it deserve to take a rough fucking for getting information in Usenet and trusting it. I am not among them. I believe that sharing information is a noble act, but that spreading half-truths and lies is terribly ignoble. I believe that speaking ill of another person is sometimes justified, but should never be done without just cause.

As a feeling human being, I recognize that we are all taking part in a very complex interdependence that none can fully comprehend. I believe that it is not always my role to help, but it IS always my role to (try to) prevent harm.

-- Art Sackett on 8 Mar 2001 23:13:49 GMT on alt.html


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