Posts tagged ‘2021’


Laying out French articles in HTML takes a long time

05.08.2022


Above: Some French text in Lucire.
 
Regular Lucire readers will have seen a number of articles run in English and French (and one in Japanese) on our main website. Typographically, the French ones are tricky, since we have to distinguish between non-breaking spaces and non-breaking thin spaces, and as far as I know, there is no code for the latter in HTML. Indeed, even with a non-breaking space, a browser can treat it as it would a regular space.

So what’s our solution? Manually, and laboriously, putting in <NOBR> tags around the words that cannot be broken. It’s not efficient but typographically, it makes the text look right and, unless we’ve missed one, we don’t have the problem of guillemets being left on a line by themselves without a word to attach to.

The language is set to fr in the meta tags.

Among our French colleagues, I have seen some go Anglo with their quotation marks and ignoring the traditional French guillemets. Others omit any thin spaces and, consequently, adopt the English spacing rules with punctuation. For some reason, I just can’t bring ourselves to do it, and maybe there is an easier way that we haven’t heard of. I hope nos lecteurs français appreciate the extra effort.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, design, interests, internet, media, publishing, technology, USA, Wellington | No Comments »


A new video for the home page

23.07.2022

Earlier today, Amanda and I had a wonderful time at Te Papa to celebrate the Chinese Languages in Aotearoa programme. My contribution was appearing in a video, that was on this blog last October.

It dawned on me that despite being on YouTube, this really needs to be on the home page of this website, replacing the below.
 

 

It just never occurred to me any earlier how ideal the Te Papa video was, and how much it speaks to my whakapapa and my identity. But the penny has dropped now.

I know I still need to update the 2018 intro. It needs to be more profound than what appears in these blog posts.

It should also reduce confusion for visitors trying to find out more about my Toronto mayoral candidate namesake, who I note still does not have a declared website or email address on the that city’s official list.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


Here’s the latest book I worked on: Panos: My Life, My Odyssey out May 26

17.05.2022


 
[Originally posted in Lucire] Toward the end of next week, Panos Papadopoulos’s autobiography, Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, comes out in London, with an event in Stockholm following. This is an intimate memoir about Panos’s rise, from childhood poverty in Greece to the ‘king of swimwear’ in Scandinavia. Not only do I have an advance copy, I collaborated with Panos on it.

I’m fascinated by autobiographies. When I was a teenager, I read Lee Iacocca’s one, written with William Novak. I presume Novak interviewed Iacocca, or he worked with some additional notes, and ghosted for him. Whatever the case, it remains an engaging read, and I replaced my well worn paperback with a hardcover one a few years ago, when I spotted it at a charity fair. More recently I bought Don Black’s autobiography, The Sanest Guy in the Room, and enjoyed that thoroughly.

Panos and I probably had a similar arrangement to Iacocca and Novak, whereby I interviewed and prompted him for some stories, and I wrote from copious notes that he gave me. There’s an entire chapter in there that’s based on his reflections about the time he bought into a football team in Sweden, that he wrote in great detail himself soon after the events took place. Somehow over 10 months of 2021—though the idea has been floating around for many years before—Panos and I created this eminently readable tale, the sort of autobiography I would like to read.

Of course we start in Greece in 1958, and how a young lad, who begins working at age five alongside his mother as she cleaned an office, finds poverty a torment, and vows to get himself out of it. He also cannot tolerate injustice, and attempts to expose pollution, workplace accidents, and corruption—only to find himself and his parents harassed. By his late teens, after taking an interrail journey to northern Europe, he finds an opportunity to study in Sweden.

It’s not “the rest is history”, as Panos works in kitchens, washing dishes and peeling potatoes. He also finds gigs as a prison guard, a parole officer, a rest home carer, and a substitute teacher.

His first taste of fame is for a postgraduate sociology paper, where he examines the importance of clothing in nighttime disco settings, which captures the imagination of major newspapers and TV networks.

Finding dissatisfaction and frustration working in health care for the city of Göteborg, he seized upon an idea one day when spying just how drab the beaches were in Sweden: beautiful bodies covered in monochrome swimwear.

Injecting colour on to the beaches through his Panos Emporio swimwear label wasn’t an overnight success, and Panos elaborates on his story with the sort of passion you would expect from a Greek native, capturing your attention and leaving you wanting more.

He reveals his secrets about how he lifted himself out of poverty, creating a company given a platinum rating in Sweden, an honour reserved only for the top 450, out of half a million limited-liability companies there.

Read about how he managed his first sales despite doubts from the entire industry, how he secured Jannike Björling—then Sweden’s most sought-after woman, photographed constantly by the paparazzi—as Panos Emporio’s model, and how he followed up with securing Victoria Silvstedt, just as she was about to become world-famous posing for Playboy.

By 1996, 10 years into his label’s journey, and with the release of the Paillot (still offered in the Panos Emporio range today), the press dubbed him ‘the king of swimwear’, but he wasn’t done yet.

More high-profile models followed, and there’s even an encounter with Whitney Houston, revealed for the first time in the book. There are royal encounters, with former King Constantine II, and Sweden’s HM King Carl XVI Gustaf and HM Queen Sofia. HSH Princess Stéphanie almost makes it into the book.

There are touching moments, too, such as his heartfelt recollection of his friendship with Jean-Louis Dumas, the chairman of Hermès, and his wife Rena.

We’ve known each other for over 20 years, and from the start he complimented me on my writing, so I have a feeling he wanted me for this task for some time. We’ve both had to start businesses from scratch, and we did them away from our countries of birth. Additionally, he knew I grew up amongst Greeks so I had more than an average insight into his culture. We’ve talked about it numerous times, maybe as far back as 2016, when Panos Emporio celebrated its 30th anniversary. I’m very grateful for that. There were obviously stories I knew, since I interviewed him about them over the years, but plenty I did not, and they form the bulk of this 320 pp. book, published by LID Publishing of London, and released on May 26. A party in Stockholm follows on May 31.
 
Technically, the process was an easy collaboration as Panos and I shared notes and written manuscripts back and forth, and I had the privilege to lay it out and edit the photos as well. The whole book was typed out on WordPerfect, which gave an almost perfect re-creation of how the copyfitting would go in InDesign, unlike Word—for a while others doubted I could fit the contents into the agreed page length, since they couldn’t see it in the same format that I did. Martin Majoor’s FF Nexus Serif is used for the body text. And, while hardly anyone probably cares about such things, I managed to deliver it so the printer could do the book without wasting paper with the right page impositions. I know what it’s like to have printing bills.

My Life, My Odyssey was the working title, but it seems LID liked it enough to retain it for the final product. I wanted to retitle it Panos: Who Designs Wins, but the experts in charge of sales preferred the working title. ‘Who designs wins’ appears on the back cover, so it’s still getting out there!

Caroline Li, LID’s designer, did the cover, and I followed her lead with the headline typeface choice; and Martin Liu, who I’ve known from Stefan Engeseth’s many books, published and coordinated. I’m grateful to the watchful eye and coordination of Aiyana Curtis, who oversaw the production stage and did the first edit; she also engaged the copy editor and proofreader, who turned my stubborn Hart’s Rules-compliant text into LID’s house style.

I see from her résumé that Aiyana had done some work here in Aotearoa, and Caroline and Martin, like me, have Hong Kong roots, so we all probably had some things in common that made the process easier. It was particularly easy to understand Caroline’s design approach, and as someone who had done mock covers while we were trying out potential photos, I will say hers is infinitely superior to mine. Similarly, I understood Martin’s business approach from day one.

The final manuscript was done in October 2021 and we’ve spent the last few months doing production, shooting the cover, and preparing for the launch, where LID’s Teya Ucherdzhieva has ably been working on a marketing plan. Panos himself, never one to do things by halves, has thrown himself into doing the launch, and it promises to be an excellent event.
 
For those who’d like to get their hands on a copy, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble are retailing Panos: My Life, My Odyssey, and a US launch is slated for October (Amazon and other retailers will have it in their catalogues).

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, culture, design, media, publishing, Sweden, typography, UK | No Comments »


Hopefully this week: farewell, Amazon Web Services

10.04.2022


 
Wow, we’re nearly there: the long journey to migrate our sites off AWS and on to a new box.

We began hosting there in 2012 but the server—which appears to have had a single major update in 2016—was getting very old. In 2018 we began searching for someone who knew about migrations.

A second instance for Lucire Rouge was fired up in September 2020, thanks to a wonderful developer in the US. A New Zealand expert moved Medinge’s website on to there subsequently.

The work hadn’t been finished but both gentlemen wound up getting very occupied in their regular gigs, and it was another year before a good friend said he knew how to do it.

From that point, it was about finding a few hours here and there that worked with both our time zones.

I am deeply grateful to him because I know just how busy he got, both professionally and privately.

The sites are now all on to a new box, and not on AWS.

We were only on there to begin with because in 2012, we chose to host with a friend’s company. AWS was familiar turf for him, but I never understood it. It’s a mess of a website, with an incomprehensible interface. No wonder people have to do courses on it. You really need a professional computing qualification to understand it.

Whomever said computers would become easier to use in the future was dead wrong, as I have never seen such a maze of technobabble offered to consumers before. It’s not even that presentable.

My hosting friend soon was head-hunted and I was left to deal with AWS.

The fact is if AWS was even remotely comprehensible I might have been able to do the migration myself. I estimate that if it were anything like normal, each of the sites would have taken me about five hours to do. It would have all been over in a month in 2018. If I had a week off to just do this, I probably could have done it—if server software was how it was in 2005.

It’s little wonder, given the convoluted confusion that AWS is, that it took three years to find someone match-fit to tackle it. And even then it took several months.

A week in 2005, three years in 2022. I don’t call that progress.

I approached half a dozen techs who had experience in web hosting and serving environments, some of them with very major organizations. A few of them were even given the keys to SSH into the server. I think three of them were never heard from again. I can only surmise that they saw a Japanese girl with long hair in front of her face crawl out of a well when they Telnetted into the box.

Once my latest friend had set up the basics, I was even able to do a few migrations myself, and handled the static sites. I even got a couple of Wordpress ones done. He did the lion’s share, beginning with the most complex (Lucire and Autocade, plus the advertising server).

Tonight, he did the last two sites from the second AWS instance.

The first instance has been stopped. The second is still running in case DNS hasn’t updated for the last two sites. The database has also been stopped.

You probably wouldn’t ever hire me or this firm to deal with AWS and, as it turns out, there are quite a few techs out there, who do this as their full-time job, who also don’t know it.

I plan to terminate the instances and the database by mid-week and close my AWS account. Amazon can figure out what to do with the S3 boxes, VPC, Cloudwatch, Cloudfront, and all the other stuff which I have no idea about.

It’s going to be a good day, provided they haven’t made account closures as contemptible a process. Because it’s not the only thing contemptible about Amazon.
 
Speaking of technology, it looks like I’ll be sticking with Opera GX going forward. The bugs in Vivaldi persist, despite another bug-fixing update last week. Five years with one browser isn’t too bad, and probably one of the longer periods I’ve stuck with a single brand.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, technology, USA | No Comments »


April 2022 gallery

02.04.2022

Here are April 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, gallery, interests, publishing, Sweden, technology, USA | No Comments »


Most of our top 10 sellers reflect our ignorance

25.03.2022


The Suzuki Swift: one of the saving graces on New Zealand’s top 10 list.
 
At the Opel relaunch briefing yesterday, I was shocked to find that these were New Zealand’s top selling vehicles for 2021. I knew about the first two, but had always assumed a Toyota Corolla would follow, plus some regular cars. From this, I gather the rest of New Zealand thinks the opposite to me. I personally believe petrol is expensive.
 
1. Ford Ranger
2. Toyota Hilux
3. Mitsubishi Triton
4. Mitsubishi ASX (RVR on the home market)
5. Toyota RAV4
6. Mitsubishi Outlander (presumably the outgoing one)
7. Mazda CX-5
8. Nissan Navara
9. Suzuki Swift
10. Kia Stonic
 

Not a very discerning lot, are we? We say we care about the environment yet enough of us have helped fuel the second biggest contributor to the carbon emissions’ rise in the last 10 years: the crossover or SUV.

And I’ve driven those RVRs. Why are people buying, in 2021, a vehicle that feels like a taller, larger Colt from the 2000s?

I have no issue with those of you who really need an SUV or ute. But for those who pose, you aren’t helping yourself or your planet. And even if you bought some electrified variant, I thought it was universally understood (certainly for any of us alive during the 1970s fuel crises and those who observed the aerodynamic trend of the 1980s) that tall bodies and big frontal areas would consume more energy.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in cars, culture, New Zealand | No Comments »


Stanley Moss’s latest Global Brand Letter out now

10.01.2022

Finally, a happier post. For many years (since 2004), my dear friend Stanley Moss has been publishing his Global Brand Letter, which is not only a wonderful summary of the year (or the last half-year, since he often writes every six months) in branding, but an excellent record of the evolution of culture.
   He has finished his latest and, for the first time, he has allowed me to host a copy for you to download and read (below). I commend it to you highly. Keep an eye out for future issues, while past ones can be found on his website at www.diganzi.com.

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in business, China, culture, design, globalization, interests, internet, marketing, media, publishing, technology, UK, USA | No Comments »


Don’t put your events on just Facebook—they won’t be seen

31.12.2021

We’re probably far enough along from the event for people not to know which one I am referring to, as I’ve no wish to embarrass the organizers.
   Earlier in 2021, we saw a weekend event that would take place at the ‘Johnsonville Community Hub’. No address was given other than that. Both Duck Duck Go and Google seemed to think this meant Waitohi, the new library and swimming pool complex.
   We arrived there to find that no one knew of this event, but maybe we could try the community hall next door?
   No joy.
   There was the Collective Community Hub on Johnsonville Road but their website made it clear that it wasn’t open at the weekend.
   We hung round Johnsonville for a bit and decided we would check out the Collective place, just to see it up close.
   Sure enough, that’s where the event was—it was open at the weekend—and we got there after everyone had packed up.
   They were very apologetic and we told them the above. They had noted, however, that there had been more information on Facebook.
   To me, that’s a big mistake, because I don’t know what their Facebook page is, and even if I did, there was no guarantee I would see it for a variety of reasons. (Try loading any fan page on Facebook on mobile: the posts take unbearably long and few people would have the patience.) A search for the event on both Duck Duck Go and Google never showed a Facebook page, either.
   A similar event posted its cancellation on Facebook exclusively, something which we didn’t know till we got there, and after getting puzzled looks from the party that had booked the venue, I randomly found one organizer’s page and clicked on his Facebook link. Again, nothing about the event itself came up on Duck Duck Go or on Google.
   In the latter case, the organizer had the skills to make a web page, a normal one, so was it so hard to put the cancellation there?
   You just can’t find things on Facebook. They don’t appear to be indexed. And if they are, they’re probably so far down the results’ pages that they won’t be seen. If you’re organizing an event, by all means, post there to those who use Facebook keenly (a much smaller number than you think, with engagement decreasing year after year), but it is no substitute for getting it into properly indexed event calendars or on to the web, where regular people will put in search terms and look for it.
   Facebook is not the internet. Thank God.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, marketing, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


Instagram scammers are next-level lazy (and greedy)

22.12.2021

This was somewhat disappointing.
   This chap contacts me, seemingly wanting permission to repost our Instagram images. His personal info has been removed.

Hello there,

We have reviewed your page and we truly loved your work!
   We’d like to repost your pictures on our profile. Our account is [redacted] and we have over 200.000 followers. If our followers see your work a large number of them are extremely likely to follow you.
   I hope this sounds great to you since we are convinced you are going to receive a lot of new fans from this.
   Would you like to be published on our page?

All the best,

   I realize this was a form email but I thought: how courteous that they ask permission first. So many just steal your work. I felt they should be complimented on doing the right thing.

Dear [redacted]:

Thank you for reaching out but we must decline your offer. Our work is licensed for our use only, and we cannot permit it to be reposted. We truly appreciate your asking us first and for doing the right thing.

Kind regards,

Jack Yan
Publisher, Lucire

   Seems their email system is set up assuming that all replies are positive, because I next get this:

I appreciate you getting back to us!
   We have delivered many sponsored shoutouts and the results were always terrific. When we saw your Instagram profile we were confident you would get the same results. You can choose the photos for the promotion yourself or we can help you out with that.
   We guarantee at least 500 new followers with just one picture. With 3 published photos you will get at least 1500 new followers, and with 7 – more than 3500 new followers! If we don’t deliver these results, we will issue a full refund.

Packages:
1 shoutout – $39
3 shoutouts – $79
7 shoutouts – $159

And it goes on.
   This doesn’t deserve much more than:

Dear [redacted]:

I don’t know if you read my reply at 11.31 a.m. UTC—it seems like you haven’t. It’s a no.

Regards,

Jack

And a block of the schmuck’s domain on our server, plus two reports from us on Instagram for spamming.
   I know you’re thinking: why did you even bother replying in the first place?
   Well, usually when people send me unsolicited emails, they’re not so stupid as to not read the replies. This Instagram scammer, whose followers are probably all fake anyway, had automated everything, and took things to the next level of laziness. And he’s a greedy bugger as well, wanting to use your work and charge you for their using it!
   This is a sure way to ruin your reputation, and if you feel public policy would be served by my revealing their identity, I’m very happy to do so.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in business, internet, technology | No Comments »


Facebook pages no longer immediately update after you post

21.12.2021

With Lucire’s Twitter restored—it was a huge distraction over the last two months with various automatic posting gadgets needing to be reprogrammed, and the Twitter-to-Mastodon cross-poster still does not work (it’s what happens when you modify things that are working perfectly well: it’s impossible to put them back)—we wanted to get some of our social media back up to speed.
   So let’s get back to rubbishing Facebook, shall we?
   Because whenever we post, whether it’s through another program or directly on Facebook, the post just does not show on the page itself, unless you’re on the ultra-slow mobile edition (m.facebook.com) where you’re likely to give up before the posts begin to load. You have to wait many hours, even a day, for something to appear on the full-fat web version.
   This reminds me of those days when our Facebook walls stopped updating on the 1st of each month, presumably because someone in Menlo Park had to flip a switch to tell the website that the new month had begun. And they wouldn’t do it till it hit midnight in California since everyone on the planet must live in the one time zone.
   What’s the bet it’s a related glitch that existed at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, but we need to wait till midnight in California for Facebook to know it’s a new day?
   Here’s the mobile version (albeit viewed on the desktop) earlier on Tuesday:

And here’s the web version, still unchanged 12 hours later, with the newest post after the pinned one from December 18.

   Lesson: don’t use Facebook if you wish to tell your audience something urgently. You are better off sending an email: they’re more likely to see it in a timely fashion. And if your following isn’t that big, and you need your fans to know something urgently, it might actually be quicker to telephone them! Social media—forget it.

Tags: , , , , , ,
Posted in internet, marketing, technology | No Comments »