September 1st, 2008

krazy koati

Turn and face the strange

Good grief! The Straight Dope has redesigned its web site, so that it no longer looks like it was put together by someone who spent maybe four hours in web design classes, in 1997. Now it looks a little bit closer to kind of this design that Salon tried out in ... ah ... 1998 or so, that didn't work at all. Salon's scheme didn't work because for some insane reason they figured the thing to do when you clicked on, say, the review of a book was to take you to the front page of the book-reviews section, inspiring the grand question of whether any of the people behind that design had ever used a web site ever. The Straight Dope isn't making that same mistake, although right now I haven't figured out how to get Advisory Board articles except through searching the archives.

I was briefly delighted to discover in reading the ``random article'' view -- I think that's something good for any basically independent set of blocks of content with a large backlog -- turned up something with an original publication date of the 31st of December, 1969. I knew The Straight Dope went way back, but had no idea exactly how far and relatively little of their pre-1990 content has been shown in the archives before. That article was a follow-up, too, questioning Cecil Adams's advice about washing mushrooms, and with some searching I found the article which it was following up on ... another 31 December 1969 article, this one sent over AOL. I suspect the shadowy hand of a database with an un-filled ``publication date'' entry.

Trivia: The Byzantine year started on 1 September. This starting date was also used by the supreme tribunal of the Holy Roman Empire. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Forgotten News: the Crime of the Century And Other Lost Stories, Jack Finney. Finney started out enchanted by the illustrations in Leslie's Illustrated Weekly while researching for Time And Again, and thought it'd be great to do a book just reprinting forgotten yet great artwork. Then he put together an article about one bit of big news, a salacious murder, from 1857, and thought he should cross-check the The New York Times archive about it. It turned out to be a really hot, exciting story --- it's quite a tale --- and before you knew it he had a new book based on that murder plus some miscellaneties, such as the sinking of the Central America. Let this serve as a lesson of the dangers of doing actual research before writing novels!