image captions

Since mouse-over message-area text doesn't work any more in this modern world (and since I hate the use of tooltips as image captions) I played around with putting text directly in the images on the gallery snapshots on the DNA front page. What do you think? <LJ-CUT text="I think...">

I think it looks crummy for two reasons: first, aesthetically: I just prefer the look with no text cluttering up the images. Yet, that means the text doesn't get presented anywhere at all for most people.

Second: technically. The text is often hard to read, because it has no dropshadow, and the background colors vary. I tried putting the text on with my ppmcaption program, but it looked like crap. This version is using ImageMagick to do it, but I don't see how to put a dropshadow on. Also, it's insanely slow: it appears to be firing up GhostScript to render the text!

I'm generating them like this: is there a better way?

    convert large.jpg \
    -geometry W2xH2 \                 # twice the target size
    -fill '#00DDFF' \
    -font HelveticaBold \
    -pointsize 16 \
    -gravity southeast \
    -draw "text 5 5 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -geometry WxH \                   # actual target size (to antialias the font)
    thumb.jpg

Update: I guess it's a little better if I fake a dropshadow by drawing the text five times:

    convert large.jpg \
    -geometry W2xH2
    -gravity southeast \
    -font HelveticaBold \
    -pointsize 16 \
    -fill '#000000' \
    -annotate "text +4+4 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -annotate "text +4+6 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -annotate "text +6+4 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -annotate "text +6+6 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -fill '#00DDFF' \
    -annotate "text +5+5 'DATE\\nTITLE'" \
    -geometry WxH \
    thumb.jpg
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"for the ultra hip"

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the 10,000 year clock

The cover story of this month's Discover is about one of my favorite gizmos ever, the Clock of the Long Now. It goes into some technical details that I hadn't heard before.
Any description of the clock must begin and end with that ridiculous projected working life, that insane, heroic, incomprehensible span of time during which it is expected to serenely tick.

Ten thousand years.

The span of time from the invention of agriculture to the present. Twice as long as the Great Pyramid of Giza has stood. Four hundred human generations.

Hillis's plan for the final clock has it built inside a series of rooms carved into white limestone cliffs, 10,000 feet up the Snake Range's west side. A full day's walk from anything resembling a road will be required to reach what looks like a natural opening in the rock. Continuing inside, the cavern will become more and more obviously human made. Closest to vast natural time cycles, the clock's slowest parts, such as the zodiacal precession wheel that turns once every 260 centuries, will come into view first. Such parts will appear stock-still, and it will require a heroic mental exertion to imagine their movement. Each succeeding room will reveal a faster moving and more intricate part of the mechanism and/or display, until, at the end, the visitor comprehends, or is nudged a bit closer to comprehending, the whole vast, complex, slow/fast, cosmic/human, inexorable, mysterious, terrible, joyous sweep of time and feels kinship with all who live, or will live, in its embrace.

Or so Hillis hopes.

Incidentally, I see that there is finally an iCal feed for the usually-awesome Long Now lecture series.

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