We will fight them in the dorms

And we will fight them in the quad

The student-body president of Emory University has dissolved the legislature, named himself supreme leader and declared war on Washington University in St. Louis.


Over the weekend, the campuses of both schools were vandalized with graffiti, toilet paper and random Jasmin live flyers. “Emory sucks,” proclaimed graffiti painted on the windows of buildings on the school’s Atlanta campus. “Wash U girls are ugly,” rebutted graffiti found on that school’s walkways.

On Monday, Emory Student Government Association president Amrit Dhir stormed into an emergency meeting of the student legislature wearing pseudo-military fatigues and sporting a scruffy beard reminiscent of a young Che Guevara. “Emory University was suddenly and deliberately attacked,” Dhir declared. “In a community where scholarship and peace once existed, we are now faced with a terrifying shadow of war.”

Dhir’s speechwriters could not be reached for comment.

Addressing the assembled student legislators, Dhir announced, “Your services are no longer needed. Democracy can do nothing for us now.”

In addition to the Pulitzer-quality coverage by Emory Wheel war correspondent Chris Megerian, the online journal Inside Higher Ed has a story on the emerging conflict. It features the worst headline ever written.

Notes for a character sketch of a drizzly Saturday in January

I awoke sometime during the night to the bass-heavy white noise of rain on the roof. The water falling from the gutter onto the driveway made a slapping, clapping sound like a dozen ren applauding in an empty room. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

The sun rose feebly, half-heartedly, as if it, too, wanted to linger under the covers all toasty and warm. It didn’t so much peek through the unbroken sheet of clouds as illuminate it from above.

There are deep, murky puddles in the street. When a breeze passes, droplets of water shower down from the naked trees, making it impossible to tell whether it’s actually raining at any given moment or not.

I take my clothes out of the dryer, lingering for a moment with my face inside the appliance, my nose an inch from the clean-smelling socks and underwear, the little incandescent bulb enveloping me in a warm, buttery glow.

Then I slam the door and it’s back into the cold, wet, blue world again.

When democracy fails

So the Palestinians have overwhelmingly shown their support for Hamas, a political party that the State Department officially considers to be a foreign terrorist organization.

We Americans have a lot of faith in democracy. We believe — at least, those of us who weren’t stuck down with the debilitating nihilism that some suffered after the 2000 Presidential election — that democracy will produce the best possible result. Not necessarily the best result, but the best possible result. We believe that if we go through the motions, we’ll end up with a good government. Maybe not a great one, certainly not a perfect one, but a good one.

Yesterday Palestinians went to the polls and elected a group that, in its founding document, calls for the utter destruction of another country: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it,” reads the preamble to the Hamas Covenant. And it’s not just talk. Hamas has a twelve-year history of carrying out brutal and horrific attacks against Israeli targets, including the 2002 Passover massacre in which 30 Israelis were killed by a suicide bomber during a seder.

There’s no other way to say this. With their ballots, the voters of Palestine yesterday overwhelmingly chose murder.

Democracy isn’t perfect. Democracy isn’t magical. Putting ballots in front of three million people doesn’t mean they will suddenly become moral. If democracy is to work, the voters must be men and women of conscience before they ever step into the booth. If they’re not, democracy is doomed to something worse than failure: It will serve only to legitimize the inherently illegitimate, to prop up regimes that have no moral ground on which to stand. “The people have spoken,” yes, but they said the wrong thing.

I’ve frickin’ had it with TypePad

I’ve been a happy TypePad customer for nearly two years now, though my working definition of “happy” has ranged from “ecstatic” to “tolerant.” But all that has changed now.

When the now-infamous TypePad growing pains began to affect me in January, I suffered through the inconveniences content in the knowledge that it was still less of a pain in the ass than going out and finding another host. TypePad took care of the real headaches of running my site and left me free to focus on my content. That’s exactly what I’d been looking for when I signed up, and that’s exactly what I got, albeit with some massive inconveniences from time to time. As a trade-off proposition, it made sense.

But as time went on and the problems persisted, my patience grew shorter and shorter. I logged repeated trouble tickets through the company’s infuriating Web support application — can somebody please explain to me the sense of using the Web to provide customer support to customers who need customer support to tell you that the Web application isn’t working correctly? — and each time was rebuffed with a stock answer.

“Our engineers are working hard to correct the Jasminelive performance and you should be seeing the improvement.” (January 13)

“We’re also working hard on the performance... you should see the improvement currently and we’re going to be posting further details.” (March 16)

“We’ve been working on this and you should definitely be seeing the improvement.” (July 9)

“Our team continually monitors the performance on the servers and watches for slowness so we can try and make improvements as needed.” (July 14)

“We are continually working to make sure our network is fast and reliable. If these issues persist, please let us know, so we can investigate further.” (August 26)

“We’ve made this a priority to correct, especially because it affects our most active users specifically. We know that this is a tough situation and we want to assure you that we’re working actively on resolving the problem. We appreciate your patience.” (November 10)

Finally, just after I spent five days straight fighting with the TypePad system to input the necessary changes for my blog relaunch, I decided to take matters into my own hands. Since I wasn’t getting any support at all from TypePad, I figured my best option was to download my entire blog archive, some 12 megabytes of raw text, create a new blog and import the contents into it. That would let me know once and for all whether the problem I was experiencing lay with the TypePad system or with my one particular blog.

It took me two solid days to go through that process, two solid days of attempting to download an archive and having the process fail part-way through, then getting a good archive and experiencing failure after failure while trying to import it into the new blog. It was just one system error after another, until I was ready to jump off the damn roof.

Once I finally cajoled the TypePad system into letting me create a new blog and import my archives, I found that the application was generally more reliable but that the domain-mapping system that TypePad offers to link www.theshapeofdays.com to my blog was totally unreliable. This morning, for example, depending on how your luck has been, you may or may not have been able to get to my blog. It seems like the blog will be available for a few minutes, then mis-mapped for a few minutes, then available again.

I’ve fucking had it with this. I paid TypePad a grand total of $300 for two years’ of service, way more than I would have if I’d bought hosting from somebody else. That’s a price I would have been content to pay if I’d gotten even a minimally acceptable level of service, but I didn’t. So I’m done. Out. Casper.

I’ve got a friend I have meet on https://www.chaturbaterooms.com/ who’s offered me space in his small data center. He’s got uninterrupted power and a T-1, and for a tiny site like mine, that’s plenty, especially since I host all the big content on Apple’s servers anyway. And I’ve got a spare iMac that’s literally collecting dust right now. So as of right now, I’m going to start the process of getting that iMac set up to run Movable Type so I can pull all of my content and templates off of TypePad once and for all. I’ve got a few more months’ of service left on my TypePad contract — I paid by the year to get a small discount — and I’ll probably have to just write those off, but I can live with that.

You know, it’s tough. If we were talking about Cingular or Comcast or some other fuck-you-up-the-ass monstrosity, I’d have no qualms whatsoever about bailing on them and letting the whole world know why. But I honestly believe the TypePad guys are good people who just happen to be unable to get their shit together. I don’t think they deserve to be so widely disliked, not personally; they just haven’t been providing the service they committed to provide when they took their customers’ money.

I’d love nothing more than to crack out some kind of awesome metaphor here, something about how TypePad and I need to go back to being just friends, or how I love TypePad but I’m not in love with TypePad, but seriously, I got nothing. I’m so livid right now, I can’t even write. And for those of you who know me, that is most definitely saying something.

Blogging will be light the rest of the day while I do a shitload of work to get ready for the move. And I guess, at some point, I should probably get around to asking my friend whether his offer still stands. Because if he doesn’t get that tractor beam out of commission, this could be a real short trip.

On which side do we want our leaders to err?

Lorie Byrd has an amazing column on Town Hall today. And I’m not just saying this because I’ve got the biggest blog-crush on her ever. She gave me a little sneak-preview of it tonight, and it just blew me away. She articulates something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of weeks now in a way that eclipses anything I could have mustered up on the subject.

I don’t often do quotes here because I think context is important, but I’m just going to excerpt a couple of sentences to give you an idea of what Lorie’s thesis is.

One lesson learned over the past three years is that intelligence collected and interpreted by humans always contains an element of subjectivity and even what might appear a “slam dunk” can be found to be wrong.

In light of this, voters have to ask on which side of the decision-making equation they want their leaders to err in this post-9/11 world.

That says it all, doesn’t it? It is not possible to be perfect; when it comes to intelligence, it’s mind-bogglingly hard to even get close. Mistakes of fact are going to be made; intelligence is going to be misinterpreted. Sooner or later, these things will happen. The question, come election season, is whether we want our leaders to be overly timid and unwilling to commit American force when threats loom, inviting another 9/11 or worse, or whether we want them to be overly zealous and run the risk of acting decisively when it may not be absolutely necessary. The obvious answer, of course, is “neither,” but real life doesn’t work like that. It’s going to be one or the other, and we voters have to choose.

Lorie makes the point brilliantly. Go read her column, okay? It’s not very long, only about 800 words. It’ll take you five minutes. Just read it, and think about what she’s got to say.

My contribution to the CSS shadow kerfuffle

So for a couple of years now, folks have been trying to find ways to work around the fact that the box-shadow property from CSS3 seems to perpetually be just a few months away from actually appearing in Web browsers everywhere. Box shadows are a very common design element, and not being able to use them on the Web is a real pain in the ass.

You may have noticed that all block-style elements on this site include a very subtle shadow behind them. You can check out this post to see an example of what I’m talking about, and also to look at a picture of a really pretty girl. Two birds with one stone, I say.

I’ve been adding shadows to my art with the aid of a little Photoshop automation. When I’ve got a piece of art cropped and color-corrected the way I want it, I run a Photoshop action that adds a five-pixel border around the art, throws a very subtle shadow behind it, and comps the whole thing on top of my background color. It’s easy and fast.

But it would be even easier and even faster not to have to. Which is why I’d love to have something like the CSS box-shadow property. That way I could just tell my style sheet to throw a five-pixel white border around all my photos (with padding) and apply a shadow (with box-shadow). That’d be pretty awesome, in a nerdy sort of way. Especially when it comes to building sites for clients. It’s one thing for me to run all my art through Photoshop to apply the artistic elements; it’s another thing to tell a client they have to. So doing it all inside the site style sheet would be more than just a convenience there. It’s basically a necessity.

There are some techniques out there for doing shadows entirely with CSS, but they’re not really suitable for my purposes. See, all the techniques I know about rely on what we call a 315° shadow. That is, the notional light source is 45° counter-clockwise of vertical, which means the shadow appears below and to the right of the element that’s casting it. The only problem is, I don’t know anybody who’s really thought about it who thinks that kind of shadow looks good. The shadows I use on this site are 0° shadows, meaning they appear below and on both side of the object casting them, as if the notional light source were right above your screen. Existing CSS shadow techniques are totally unsuitable for creating shadows like those.

So I went to work concocting my own.

Like something out of a fairy tale

It’s like something out of a fairy tale: Blushing virgin shares love’s first kiss with a noble and good-hearted suitor, then falls into a deep sleep from which she never awakes. Except it really happened, and the deep sleep was acute anaphylaxis, and the cause was a peanut allergy.

Allergic reactions are part of life. At the very least they’re inconvenient, and they can be very serious. But doctors have understood the mechanism of the reaction for years, and have time-tested protocols for dealing with it. A fatality from an allergic reaction is nearly unheard of these days.

One can’t help but wonder what aggravating circumstances accompanied this story. Was this an undiagnosed allergy? Why didn’t this girl have an epinephrine injector with her? Why were doctors not able to treat her with epinephrine and antihistamines quickly enough to reverse the reaction?

And, of course, the obvious question no one wants to ask: What part, if any, did Canada’s notoriously problematic nationalized health service play in this girl’s death? We can only speculate at this point, thanks to the most minimal reporting by the Associated Press, but when an otherwise healthy girl dies of a reaction that should not have been life-threatening and that doctors everywhere know how to treat, certain questions just spring naturally to mind. Like why did this girl not receive the expected standard of care, and what stood between her and life-saving medical attention?