I beg to propose

Wednesday, 15 September 2004 — 8:45pm | Debate, Journalism, Studentpolitik

I do a number of things for the University of Alberta Debate Society over the course of the school year, one of which is the maintenance of the website to which I just linked. I put it together over the course of a few afternoons back in the summer of 2003, and the only real change I have made since was changing the typeface from the now thoroughly out-of-fashion Verdana to the slimmer, more scalable Lucida family.

Looking back at it now, there are a number of things I would do differently. In fact, when I have time, I want to give it a complete overhaul. I did that site after about two years of dormancy from the wild, wild world of web design, so it represents a kind of blend between old and new. By “old” I refer to the liberal use of <table> as a layout device in the old three-panel tradition; by “new” I mean that it was with this site that I swore off <font> tags for good and used CSS for all my formatting. As is the case with this weblog, I eventually want to redesign it with a pure-CSS layout and pretty it up with some glitzier, more flexible design elements.

Good debate society websites are hard to find – on the CUSID circuit, I see Carleton as the role model, which is no real surprise since it is by Wayne Chu, who runs Freethought.ca and served as CUSID’s Executive Director before I took on the job. (He also plays a mean trumpet – or did, anyway, back when we were both in the Sir Winston Churchill Symphonic Band under the direction of Judy Wishloff.)

The other big project I do for the Debate Society is a quarterly newsletter entitled The Times Tribune. I spent most of last night working on the latest one (split into two PDFs about a megabyte apiece, here and here), which features an, er, interesting comic strip on Page 2. I do all of the layouts in QuarkXPress, but its handling of image scaling is becoming an increasing source of irritation, as is evidenced in part by the girth of the resulting output files. Cost-related prohibitions notwithstanding, I would ideally get a hold of something like Adobe InDesign, just for the smoother integration with other Adobe tools.

The first UADS meeting of the 2004-2005 season was earlier tonight, and I was one of the participants in the annual demonstration round, arguing in favour of negotiating with terrorists. There was some serious head-eating going on, only part of which was alleviated by a reference to Star Wars. No more will be said of this.

On a Gateway-related note, yesterday’s issue featured a Letter to the Editor from Gary Wicentowich, whose turn it apparently was to deliver the ritual explanation of why it is the Engineering end of campus sees so much in the way of development, facilities and cash. This is one of those issues that pops up in the Letters page rather frequently, probably because the complainants never read the responses. I’m beginning to think the Engineering Students’ Society should just prefer a standard draft statement on the subject, they’ve had to explain it so many times.

I do, however, wonder about a slightly tangential remark on Gary’s part:

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to give Mr Sobchak a good old-fashioned sack beating, because believe it or not, very few engineers are “huge nerds.” Continuing to perpetuate the idea that people who are good at math and science are nerds is not only outdated and unjustified, it’s also rather offensive.

To which my immediate reaction was: really? I wasn’t aware that this commonly-propagated sterotype was either a) inaccurate or b) derogatory. More than any period in contemporary cultural history, now is the time that wearing the geek subculture on the sleeve is becoming a chic thing to do. Are the films of The Lord of the Rings not enough of a flagpole? Be proud of being absorbed in the high romances of intellect, I say.

Of course, take this here online writer’s word with a grain of salt; he’s not exactly speaking of this as an outside observer.


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