Thursday, September 16, 2004
  Put your money where your mouth is

Tradesports has long contracts on Bush winning the election at a 67.0/67.8 bid/ask spread tonight. Of course the final winner of the election will be whoever cracks a majority in the college, and sites like Election Projection have a much more detailed (nuanced?) analysis of the outcome, but a verdict like this from an efficent information aggregator does not bode well for Kerry.

  Orthographic horrorshow

The InstaProf points to an excellent synoptic article about l'affaire Rather in The Scotsman. He makes a parenthetical remark about pyjamas although, bizarrely, he spells them as 'pajamas' [sic]. Even more oddly, he insists on using the curious young participle 'spelled' when of course he intended to write 'spelt'. Those crazy Americans and their neologisms.

Monday, September 13, 2004
  Blogging attire

By the way, it is highly insulting to imply that I blog in my pyjamas. I live in a tropical country. On the rare occasions that I wear any clothing at all whilst blogging, it is almost invariably a loinskin. At this point I will typically be daubed with woad. To wear pyjamas whilst blogging is simply to invite an attack of prickly heat.

  My thoughts entirely

A bit behind the times, but from the keyboard of the sainted Professor Bunyip, a post that encapsulates my feelings perfectly.


Fifty days to go until the election. Has any challenging candidate ever pulled back from a deficit this big to win?

Sunday, September 12, 2004
  William of Ockham and his handy dandy Gillette Mach 3

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.

Analogous: frustra fit per plura quod potest fieri per pauciora (it is pointless to do with more that which can be done with less).

  Why the letter spacing matters

There appears among non-technical people some confusion as to the significance of the fact that the font pitch in the purported memos is the same as Microsoft Times New Roman. This is an attempt to explain that significance:

The fact that the letter spacing in the 'memos' matches Microsoft's Times New Roman is absolutely dispositive of the falsity of these documents. Not only could these documents not have been produced by 1970's-era technology; they could not have been produced in Microsoft Word prior to about 1992, when Microsoft licensed its version of Times New Roman from Monotype. TrueType (a joint Microsoft/Apple scalable font technology) was released in 1991. At that point, Adobe was in direct competition with its Type 1 technology, with a program called Adobe Type Manager which allowed PostScript fonts to render on-screen on Macs. Before that, although proportional fonts were available, they required separate bitmapped screen fonts in order to render in a pleasing fashion on-screen. Eventually, after some teething troubles on the 16-bit Windows platform, TrueType became the dominant player. The Monotype TrueType fonts that Microsoft licensed are acknowledged as being of very high quality. A word on terminology: Times New Roman is not a font. It is a typeface. A font is an example of a typeface in a specific style, at a specific size, for example Times New Roman 12 point Bold Italic. A particular letter shape within a font is known as a glyph. It must be understood that there are differences between typefaces from different foundries, even if the family name is the same. Monotype Times New Roman is different from Linotype's version.

The original Times New Roman typeface was commissioned by The Times in 1931 (note: it's not 'The London Times', as so many people in the US refer to it. UK dailies are nationwide, so it's just 'The Times'). Monotype got the job, and a typographer named Victor Lardent created the typeface. It was adopted by The Times in 1932. When Monotype created its TrueType versions for Microsoft, it chose certain design parameters (known as metrics) for things like width of strokes, size of serifs and so forth, all consistent with the original metal version, but very much sui generis for that particular instance of the typeface. Adobe and Linotype, in their licensed version, again chose certain metrics. To a casual observer, all the typeface versions look very similar, but they differ in certain respects. In particular, if the same line of text is typed in different versions, they will have slightly differing letter spacings, and the glyphs themselves will be very slightly different. This is absolutely crucial. That the purported memos can be recreated in Microsoft Word is not at issue (I've tried it myself). The important thing is that it can only be created in Microsoft Word. And you have to use Microsoft's TrueType version of Times New Roman MT. Adobe's version won't work. Neither will Linotype's. Oh, sure, they'll look pretty damn similar side-by-side. But overlay them, and it will be immediately apparent that they are not the same.

This fact applies, necessarily, to any hypothetical Times New Roman font available on 1970's technology. Monotype created its TrueType version of Times New Roman completely from scratch. Of course the design elements of the font were preserved - the letter shapes of the glyphs, the ratio of the x-height to the height and so forth - but the precise metrics were brand new. Even if a proportional-spacing typewriter from the 1970's, with a Times New Roman ball and superscripting capability could be found, the likelihood that the letter spacing would be the same is zero, nada, zilch.

  The forger, redux

Jeff Harrell at Shape of Days, who is proving to be pretty much the go-to guy for coverage of the technical aspect of the fake memos, has an interesting post. He says he's had people saying that the reason the memos look like they've been created in Microsoft Word is because Microsoft designed Word to adhere to orthodox typewriting standards. OK, sure. Ya frickin' morons.

Microsoft Word did not spring fully formed from the forehead of Bill Gates in 1998. The first version of Word was a DOS program, released in 1983. Remember DOS, anyone? I first used MS Word on a Mac 512 in 1985. At that point, although fonts were proportionately spaced, they were bitmapped. Outline (scalable) fonts were a pipe-dream. It wasn't until the release of System 6 in the late 80's that some of the features we associate with modern word processing became standard. Apple was king of the hill at this point. Many people were still using Word Perfect under DOS as their primary word processor into the nineties. My first 600 dpi laser printer cost me nearly $2500 in today's money, and that was mid-nineties. I've ridden the desktop publishing revolution. I've played with beta versions of Photoshop. I recall the battles between Aldus Pagemaker and Quark Express. Or Freehand and Illustrator.

I can play the old fogey, 'when I were a lad' card all night. I had an email address in 1989. That was before the Web existed. In 1990, ferchrissakes, my undergraduate physics degree programming class had to write an n-body gravitational simulation in FORTRAN to run on a CDC Cyber 960 under NOS. My summer project that year was writing verification software for a simulation of one aspect of the LEP particle accelerator. It was FORTRAN again, on a VAX 6850 under VMS/DCL using a Textronix VT100 green-screen terminal. Oh, let's go for broke. I played Terry Winograd's SHRDLU on a VAX 10/PDP 11 cluster in nineteen-frickin-seventy-eight, people. I also played a certain hot new game in which the words 'Flood Control Dam #3' attained significance.

OK, so a lot of that is gibberish to most people. And that's precisely my point. If you don't understand what I just wrote, then you are not in a good position to debate why CBS's Bush TANG memos are bogus. I stipulate that Kevin Drum, Markos Zuniga and Oliver 'Whatchoo talkin' 'bout?' Willis fall into that category.

Musings from Costa Rica

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