The Friday Fillip

End of the month and time to clean out the Fillip Folder on my machine — which means it’s a six-pack today, apropos for (what should be) the long weekend, perhaps.

1. FontStruct
I worked at a university for a great many years, and I eventually discovered that most of the faculty had no eyes. For them the visual world was purely a source of information, primarily in the form of text. All else was ornamentation, something that others might add on at the end — if there was time or an obscure need. The best illustration of this, for profs and, indeed, for many lawyers and librarians, who are also info-grabbers, is the complete lack of attention to type faces. Now, there’s a sense in which this is exactly what the type designer wants: the best fonts should slip below consciousness and simply offer up text as pretty as you please. But that marvelous disappearing act doesn’t mean we should be unaware of the wonders of design that go into the making of good type faces. FontStruct is the right tool to give you that appreciation. You sign up and then are invited to make your own type face online. The tools are well explained and there are lots of examples by others that you can learn from. And the beauty is that you’ll see that beauty in this information delivery system is… difficult.

2. Sustainable Energy, Without The Hot Air
Professor David J.C. MacKay, a natural philosopher in the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, is writing a “popular book” on the problem of weaning ourselves off fossil fuels, and he’s made a draft copy available online. What distinguishes this book from others on the topic is MacKay’s insistence on using numbers rather than adjectives to delineate the problem, leading to conclusions such as: “To provide one quarter of [the U.K.] current energy consumption by growing energy crops, for example, would require 75% of Britain to be covered with biomass plantations.” He’s posted an executive synopsis of the book in PDF for those who don’t want to expend the energy it would take to read the whole thing.

3. Ultimate Flash Face
You’ve seen these “draw a face” kits online, typically offering you a limited selection of cartoon features with which to remake yourself. Well this, as the name suggests, is a more serious and a much more flexible application. fodden_thumb.jpgFrom the big catalogue of bits you can pluck eyebrows, tweak noses and purse lips until you’ve got the likeness you’d like — for yourself or that elusive other. My attempt at me — click on the thumbnail to the right to see the larger version — is only vaguely like me, and it’s intriguing to try to figure out exactly what’s wrong — with my drawing, I mean.

4. World Community Grid
Lend a byte to make the world a better place. Here’s the place to go to donate time on your computer to any of a raft of worthwhile research projects. You install their software and then, when you’re online but idle — your computer, I mean — the researchers nip in and take advantage of your surplus computing power. You can donate your cpu’s to fighting AIDS, for example, or help develop more nutritious rice and half a dozen other worthy projects.

5. Kokanee Canary Canoe
Here’s a Friday project: learn the words to “The Kokanee Canary Canoe,” a very Canadian ditty by Ross Douglas, and get out that uke to serenade your sweetie on Canada Day as you glide along in peace and contentment. For a bit of a head start, here’s the first verse:

Hey don’t you brood if your mood is a sourin
Come to the Bowron it’s waitng for you
There neath the moon you will soon stop your glowerin
I’ll take you out in my Kokanee Canary Canoe

Oh, and so you know what tune to use, here’s an MP3 clip from the song.

6. Irn-Bru Ads
Finally, lest even number 5 is too earnest, let me close with something radically unearnest. Irn-Bru is that Scottish pop that outsells even Coke in the land of the kilt. And though it doesn’t really seem necessary, they advertise the thing — with movie spots that take the piss out of many many things, so to speak. Bottoms up.

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