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Posts from — May 2010

A chordingly

A little fun fact: on the Mac you can type alternate characters using by holding down the option key while pressing the letter (the use of two or more keys in tandem to send input to the computer is known as a chord—the most common ones obviously being uppercase characters).

Some of my favorites:

  • The em dash—for making asides—is longer than a plain hyphen: opt + SHIFT + -
  • The ellipsis, dot dot dot… can be typed as a single character… opt + ;
  • Degree sign, opt + 0 (that’s the number zero, as in 0º, not a capital o).

Of course there are many other useful ones, such as currency symbols.

Some characters need accent marks. You enter these with a combination of chords. If you enter option + e, your cursor turns into a highlight with the acute accent (´). If the next character you type can take an accent, it will be printed with the accent: á é í ó ú. If it can’t be accented, you’ll just get a the accent all by itself, plus the new character (as above inside parenthesis.

Some combinations I figured out by playing around:

  • Acute ´: opt + e
  • Umlaut ¨: opt + u
  • Circumflex ˆ: opt + i

Finally, there are the ligatures we should see more often: œ and æ. They’re in there, but hiding.

May 21, 2010   Comments Off

Portable Document Philes


“How do you change a pedophile?”


“I have something that I need to make changes to. A pedophile.”

“Ahhh… I’m not sure what you mean?”

“You know, these pedophiles? Or what do you call them? PD files?”

“Oh. You mean Adobe Reader files? Like PDF?”

“Yes, yes. Pedophiles.”

Beware, the PD Bear.

May 20, 2010   Comments Off

Caveman Grammar

I just taught what was quite likely the best 25 minute introduction to grammar, ever, and I made it all up on the fly.

I did it by describing language as developing first from the caveman’s desire to name things, and from that came the first NOUNS. So any word that names a thing—objects, people, ideas—is a NOUN. Next cavemen wanted to describe those things by size, shape, or color, so the ADJECTIVE was invented. Eventually it wasn’t enough to talk about things, and people needed to talk about what things-with-names were doing, so VERBS were created. Just like the ADJECTIVE was needed to NOUN, the ADVERB was needed to describe the VERB’S activity.

It may sound simple, but those guys learned more about the parts of speech in 25 minutes that they had in four years of high school. They were able to identify word roles easily where 30 minute earlier they couldn’t even say with confidence what the parts of speech were.

Of course language almost certainly did not develop that way at all, but that’s some effective pedagogy.

May 19, 2010   Comments Off

Cheaper Madness

Obviously, the government is going to have to step in to prop up these business which are failing because of changing economic circumstances. California is too broke, but the Federal Government isn’t completely broke, yet.

Marijuana in California costs much less than $2,000 a pound, according to interviews with more than a dozen growers and dealers. But the people who don’t have quality product aren’t selling it, according to a former underground grower who now cultivates medical marijuana…

Won’t somebody please think of the stoners?

(From “Plummeting Marijuana Prices Create A Panic In California : NPR“)

May 19, 2010   Comments Off

The inner secrets of B-Mesonry, revealed

Well, at least somebody is doing some cool science and not freaking out. I bet that with these freaky-deaky B-mesons you can make a neat gun.

Physicists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory are reporting that they have discovered a new clue that could help unravel one of the biggest mysteries of cosmology: why the universe is composed of matter and not its evil-twin opposite, antimatter. If confirmed, the finding portends fundamental discoveries at the new Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, as well as a possible explanation for our own existence.

Somebody’s finger was on the scale?

(From “From Fermilab, a New Clue to Explain Human Existence? – NYTimes.com“, via I forgot…)

May 18, 2010   Comments Off

Roger that

Toronto woman sues Rogers after her affair is exposed – thestar.com

Rogers probably did screw up here, but their actions obviously are the proximate cause of the husband leaving. What I like about this though is the histrionic protest, “I didn’t deserve to lose my life!”

And… you didn’t. So that worked out.

Case dismissed, Toronto woman.

May 18, 2010   Comments Off

The Iron Kitty

Some other people have, against my recommendation, adopted the feral kitty that used to live under my CHU. It’s pretty aggressive about getting attention, and attention in its mind means food. It tried to run into my CHU once but I stomped my feet and it backed off. I think my neighbor, before he left, was feeding it.

They claim it will kill mice, but I’m pretty sure that the cat is smart enough to know that mousing in 120°F heat is hard work and its a lot easier to sit inside the air conditioned hard shell tent and wait to be fed tuna and leftover chicken.

They have named the cat Margaret Scratcher.

That is all.

May 17, 2010   Comments Off

Blue Screen vs. Lethe

If this is true—and I think it is up in the air whether this is pure quackery or sound science—it would explain a lot here. There are many people who complain of the same problem, being tired and not being able to fall asleep. Virtually everybody uses a computer a night to read, watch movies or TV, etc. It’s sort of a chronic thing. I had always attributed to general stress and vague apprehension.

This is a big, long article in CNN that doesn’t seem have much science to it.  Theoretically, the light emanating from electronic screens is different from the light from a lamp that bounces off a paper book or a nonglowing screen like the Kindle. Much is made of blueness.

(From “Althouse: So now there’s this theory that the iPad is going to cause insomnia but the Kindle will not.“, via Ann Althouse.)

May 16, 2010   Comments Off

Dead air

I just saw that Law & Order was canceled. I don’t care about the show a whit. We only watch shows based on word of mouth/Internet recommendations, and I’m not really aware of what is or isn’t current on television these days. I was vaguely aware that Law & Order was still on, but I had no idea that it had finished its 20th season. 20 years! I remember when it was a relatively new show. So that’s a horrible marker of the passage of years. Yeah, now that I think about it I remember watching it in college, and it was already an established show. Horrible, just horrible.

Disappointingly, Flashforward is canceled. I’ve been receiving copies of that, and it was at least an interesting, slightly science fictional story. No, wait. Now I remember my original thinking on this. I’m glad it’s canceled since the entire premise is only good for a one season story, and I was hoping it wouldn’t be renewed so that the story could be told the way it was meant to play out, because if it were renewed it would force the producers to contrive some improbable way of extending the Big Mystery from the first season. They were trying to do exactly this in a recent episode with an absurdly transparent plot twist. So hooray, maybe the story will be told tightly and well, with a definite end in mind. More shows should be like this.

Heroes, gone. Good. Nice first season, but if you’re going to use a time travel paradox more than once to explain things then you have already failed at good story telling. Another show that should have been a well-told story in one season, although I didn’t hate the basically unrelated second season the way most people did.

V, renewed. Surprising. I assumed people would have given up on this one. It started out creepy and tense, and much smarter than the original 80s miniseries, but it’s become a pretty predictable and dull buddy-cop-fugitive-adventure show instead of an interesting commentary about power, deception, free will, and technology. It wanted to be Battlestar Galactica but now it’s more like… V. I’ll continue watching it for a while. It’s still fixable.

(From “Armchair Commentary: Breaking News: “Law & Order,” “FlashForward,” More Shows Canceled“, via Instapundit.)

May 15, 2010   Comments Off

Separation anxiety

Curious fact: in every position I’ve held in my current job (that’s three), my top assistant has been relieved of his position. The first one, I had nothing to do with, although I was immensely relieved that he managed to talk himself out of his job, since I was new, unknown, and didn’t want to rock the boat. I was involved with the second two, although my authority doesn’t extend to actually making personnel positions about people of relative stature.

In my fourth job here, I’ve inherited the local problem. We had to actually make up a position for him since he couldn’t be entrusted with genuine responsibility. Everyone knows he is doomed, his career over, a condemned man walking, except maybe for himself.

Well, after our chat tonight, I’m sure he knows.

Man I put on a good performance—a virtuoso negative professional developmental counseling. Tough! But fair!

Yeah, it’s harder than you would think to let people go here.

May 15, 2010   Comments Off