December 22nd, 2008


an observant Jew

alternate title "Jewnicode"
first, kinship terms out of the way: N. is my mom's half-brother's wife's adoptive father -- let's just call him "a family elder", eh?

N. cornered me at the Hanukkah gathering last night, and --on finding out what I work on-- started trying to get his mind around Chinese, asking the usual questions about "is Chinese just one language?" and some more finance- and business-oriented questions where I floundered a bit ("what's the language for computer business in China?" -- I guessed Mandarin, but then again, Cantonese? because I don't really know). I tried to dig myself out by sharing that I found the writing system in Chinese to be the biggest challenge but great chunks of it are shared among the various Chinese languages, and then he wanted to know "but how many letters are there in Chinese?"

This is actually an excellent question, and there's not really an absolute, sociologically valid answer in the same way that "how many words are there in English?" doesn't have an absolute answer. I hedged, and said "three or four thousand to read a newspaper well, but there are thousands more, and scholars get into an argument about which ones deserve their own number in this big common book of Unicode."

"Sounds like Talmudic scholarship," he said. Indeed: like Talmudic scholarship, it only matters if you think the particular shared-intellectual apparatus that the Book describes matters.
pedant, law and order

graphic design layout advice sought

I will be writing a poster for the LSA conference in a few weeks.

My results for the poster aren't all finished yet, but I would like it to look sharp. I don't have (or want) Powerpoint, and I'm working on my entirely-adequate Ubuntu laptop for nearly everything I'm working on.

So do any of you have suggestions for a good layout tool that will be able to mix graphical design and text layout? This poster will probably be a mixture of diagrams, tables, and prose. I could probably coerce LaTeX into doing something, but I'd rather use something like the old PageMaker .

those of you who know it -- is Scribus ready for prime time? I would consider Inkscape, but it seems a little too close to the graphics end -- flowing text into a paragraph there seems difficult. (this is an academic poster, not a wheat-paste poster, so the ability to modify text easily while I'm still developing the poster design feels important to me).

Does Scribus work for any of you? Any alternative suggestions for accessible (open source?) poster design tools?