On holidays

July 19th, 2016

You may have wondered where I am. (Or maybe not, and I’m just hoping you did). I’m on holidays and preoccupied with things like garden maintenance and painting the kitchen. I’ll be back here around the end of the month.

World Fantasy Awards shortlist

July 12th, 2016

The shortlist for the 2016 World Fantasy Awards have been announced. The awards will be presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio in October. These are the nominees for best novel:

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Buried Giant (Knopf/Faber& Faber)
  • N. K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season (Orbit)
  • Naomi Novik, Uprooted (Del Rey Books/Macmillan UK)
  • K. J. Parker, Savages (Subterranean Press)
  • Anna Smaill, The Chimes (Sceptre)
  • Paul Tremblay, A Head Full of Ghosts (William Morrow & Co.)

What I Read in June 2016

July 11th, 2016

I managed to finish only one book in June 2016, mostly because I spent most of my reading time catching up on about 50 long-form articles that I’d downloaded with Instapaper.The one novel was METAtropolis: The Wings We Dare Aspire by Jay Lake and Ken Scholes. I referred to it as a novel, but it’s actually a collection of closely connected novellas. It’s one of the best near future SF stories that I’ve read. Sadly there will be no more stories from Jay Lake, who died recently – it’s clear he was a major talent and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by him so far.

How Typography Makes Toronto More Accessible

July 7th, 2016

Most people probably don’t think of typography as an accessibility issue, unless they have a visual impairment like colour blindness or nearsightedness. But it is important and it can be important – think of having only a fraction of a second to read a road sign, for example. It has to be legible in all sorts of lighting and weather conditions. Park Avenue or Comic Sans are not good typefaces to choose.

The city of Toronto has an active program to improve the city’s signage and typography is a big part of that.

Along with landmarks and lighting, typography is one of the queues the City took into consideration when creating its pilot project. Working alongside consultants Steer Davies Gleaves, the City designed sleek information pillars that display distances on maps, street names, icons representing nearby facilities (such as the subway or public washrooms), and descriptions of the particular neighbourhood’s history and its local attractions.

Juan Pablo Rioseco, an associate with Steer Davies Gleaves and the Wayfinding Strategy’s principal designer, says they needed to tick a few boxes when it came to making the city more accessible with typography. The first was choosing a legible typeface to use on signs. This meant using a font that was sans serif, geometric, rounded yet sharp, and came in a family of different weights and sizes.

The font that ticked all of these boxes is Gotham, a sleek typeface first commissioned by GQ magazine that is now widely used by brands like Saturday Night Live and Twitter. Gotham was used in different forms for TO360. For example, Gotham Narrow was used for street names and for neighbourhood signs they used the font in all capitals.

Comparing Spreadsheets

July 6th, 2016

I’ve used Word’s compare feature many, many times, but I’ve never had a need to compare spreadsheet, until now.

At work, we have large spreadsheets that are exported from our job control software. I have to use some of the information in these in my documentation. Finding changes is painful as there’s no change logs (don’t get me started). Todsy, I figured I’d use Excel’s compare feature to check for updates from the last revision in March. I just assumed it was a standard feature in Excel. Of course, it’s not.

After some googling, I found this Microsoft support page. It turns out that the Profession Plus versions of Office 2013 and Office365 include a spreadsheet comparison tool. You can also install it as part of the Inquiry add-in, again, if you have the right version of Office. Fortunately, we do, and I was able to use it to compare my spreadsheets.

If you don’t have the tool in your build of Office, you could dump the spreadsheets into Word and use Word’s compare document feature. That will catch some of the changes, but not everything the Excel tool will, but it might be better than nothing.


An Adjunct to the Drake Equation

July 5th, 2016

How often does life arise in the universe? It’s a question that’s been aaked for a long time and astronomers have used the famous Drake equation as a guideline. That equation gives an estimate for the number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy. Now astronomers have developed another equation to help them estimate the odds that life will arise.

The new equation, developed by Caleb Scharf from Columbia Astrobiology Center and Leroy Cronin from the School of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, can’t yet be used to determine the chances of life existing elsewhere, but it’s a promising start in that direction.

Fundamentally, the researchers hope that their new formula, described in the latest edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, will encourage scientists to study the various factors that link origin-of-life events to specific characteristics within planetary environments. More conceptually, they hope their equation will eventually be used to predict the frequency at which planets experience an origin-of-life event, also known as abiogenesis. As the researchers explained to Gizmodo, “This would allow us to figure out the likelihood of life arising elsewhere in the Universe.”