As noted last year, my friends have reached the age when babies appear at their New Year’s parties. This year Jo hosted two: Nathaniel is now a Methuselah of fourteen months compared to Penny and Jason’s Eleanor’s four.

The Festival of the New Calendar is a great antidote to the religious winter holidays. Debriefing one another about their Christmas encounters with family acts as a fine ice-breaker. When that palls we can also compare notes about The Two Towers. Is it just me, or has this winter had more summer blockbuster films than summer had?

Pictures by Jenni! Quick off the mark!

We thought we would go visit Habitat, which is down Botley Road. On the way we popped in to the Oxford Botanical Garden, only to discover it half-flooded and frozen over! Trundling through town and over the bridges we eventually discovered that Botley Road itself was impassable on foot without wellington boots, being more than ankle deep even on the pavements. We turned back and had tea at Mark’s and he showed us a reprehensible video game with a very impressive simulation of real London locations in it. As we left to go home we noticed the waters had risen another couple of centimetres...

Much to my surprise, Scott Adams has published three Dilbert strips on Extreme Programming (main site) of all things. (I fear the above Dilbert links will not work beyond this month, since they only keep a subset of the Dilbert corpus on their site). This is kind of bizarre—are mainstream readers really expected to have any understanding of the XP methodology? If humour often depends on confounding our expectations, doesn’t the audience need some expectations that may be confounded? Hmmm?

Mr Steve announced two new PowerBooks, one large (more a portfolio than a notebook) and one dinky (smaller than a PowerBook Duo, apparently). The new 12 model has a lot of similarities with the 12″ iBook, not least the screen (1024×768 with a 12·1″ diagonal), maximum memory (640 MB), and network (10/100 base-T). So it is kind of an ‘iBook G4’ with the following differences from the iBook Combo

Feel Mark Pilgrim’s distress at the excision of cite from XHTML 2.0’s Text module. The irony is that cite is one of the ‘semantic’ tags (‘logical’ tags, as they used to be called) that is actually used and supported by web browsers. Meanwhile fossils like dfn, kbd and samp are retained.

The case for cite

I once visited a real printing house, and discovered that the keyboards actually have two quotation-mark keys: one for the apostrophe (’) and one for the inverted comma (‘). Alas! That such simplicity was denied to us by, well, by Apple.

A tragicomic tale of the lost punctuation

We have a client who decided that a shared ‘document library’ was the way to collaborate on a bug list. They gave me a URL and said to log in with my full name.

So what went wrong?

Apparently cite was not intentionally deleted from the XHTML draft. Mark Pilgrim has decided to spend some time being a ‘late adopter’ for a while anyway. He probably deserves the holiday, and a change is as good as a rest...

Mark uses cite differently from me: I follow the semantics of @cite in Texinfo, where it is used for titles of publications you are citing, where it might be translated as italic text or as a quoted title. Mark also uses it for author’s names; I suppose you could rationalize that by saying that personal weblogs have the author’s name as their alternative title. It’s necessary if his automatic list of citations is to work.

There is a general problem with (X)HTML text styles: their meaning is not well specified. That’s why I fall back on the Texinfo definitions.

People who know him may be interested to hear Jamie Lokier has (a) fresh internet access, (b) clippers, and, consequently (c) almost no hair.

Responding to my quotation-marks rant, an anonymous poster points out some browsers do support q elements. Well, they sort of do.

Here is a silly proposal for a solution to the problem of English punctuation and conventional keyboards: define a new character encoding that blesses the Knuthian convention used on Unix systems. Obviously this would need support in web browsers (they would have to allow charset=Latin-1p and add an extra table to their built in character maps). But a few web sites already use the `...' convention, and Latin-1p pages would work no worse than they do.

One objection to sorting out the problem of computer keyboards’ lack of English punctuation (or rather restriction to typewriter-style punctuation) is that typewriter punctuation is OK, so why bother?

On with the slipperty slope argument...

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