Archive for June, 2007

Hello. My name is Harry Potter.

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Well, maybe they can, but I sure couldn’t

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

And, continuing on the subject of toys from the last post, a team of scientists has proven that you can solve any Rubik’s Cube configuration in not more than 26 moves, beating the prior record by one move.

I used to be able to solve Rubik’s Cube when I was younger (and playing with it fairly regularly), but I couldn’t do it now without help. I remember the first computerized Rubik’s Cube solver I ever saw – it was a program for the Apple ][. You would enter your configuration and tell it to solve the cube. A short time later, it would come back and tell you that it had solved it, and how many moves it took.

What those moves were? Who knew. The program wouldn’t tell you. Why they expected anybody to buy that program, I’ll never know. I’m just glad that programs came in baggies and without activation codesĀ  back then. Because of that, there was no problem getting the people at the computer store to open a baggie and run a program so you could see it in action.

A better-flying cake pan

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

I wasn’t aware of this, but this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Frisbee. Getcher souvenirs here.

Via GeekDad.

Just like when you’re not the lead dog …

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

The scenery never changes.

I suspect this is a misprint

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

I like shiny tech toys as much as the next geek, but there may be a problem with the 1TB drives described here:

Seagate’s Barracuda 7200.11 and Barracuda ES.2 feature 7,200-rpm spin speeds, up to 32MB cache, average seek times of 8.5 milliseconds, and a 1.2-hour mean time before failure (MBTF) rating, according to Seagate officials.

A 1.2 hour MTBF? Really?

Remind me not to buy one, then.

On this day in history

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

In 1284, the Pied Piper lured 130 children from the village of Hamelin. Other things also happened on this day; I just wanted to note the Pied Piper thing.

I guess I’m not one of the cool kids

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Not that this was deliberate or anything – I try not to use much profanity, but I don’t have that much problem with it.

Online Dating

Mingle2Online Dating

Via David J. (although that link’s going to add to my score – the only thing Mingle found was one use of the word “gun”).

Update: I guess it doesn’t … the link is treated like a single word. So, if you want to use a lot of profanity without boosting your rating, stickthe wordstogether.

Why learn a language?

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

Jed points out the essay Why the Gun is Civilization. Well-said, in my opinion.

After I read that one, I looked around Marko’s site a little and found this other post, We don’t need to learn no foreignese. This one hits a couple of my other hot buttons. The first is that, if you want to learn a language for business purposes, learn English.

And, I mean, learn English. I happen to enjoy reading fanfiction, much of which is pretty bad. Some is surprisingly good, but more is abysmal. One of the things that makes for a painful read is the fact that many of the authors don’t know English. I’m not talking about the ones for whom it’s a second language – it’s usually pretty obvious when that’s the case. I’m talking about the native speakers who haven’t learned proper spelling, grammar, or idioms.

Who don’t know which to use of “to,” “two,” and “too.”

Who use “would of” instead of “would have.”

Who write (and this is surprisingly common, in my experience) “If that’s what you think, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Who use “who” where “whom” would be correct, and sometimes sprinkle “whom” in a few inappropriate places because they’ve seen it used in other writing.

Who misuse “your” and “you’re.”

Who don’t know where commas go, nor when semicolons or periods should be used in their stead.

Who use “loose” when the correct word would be “lose.”

Every word processor I’m aware of these days (and many text editors) has a spelling checker. Grammar checkers come with some, and are available for others. Books abound on the subject, both academic and popular. My daughter ran off with my copy of The Transitive Vampire; I suppose I’m lucky that she let me keep Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. English is the most common business language, for historical reasons, and because we drive the global economy. Learn to speak and write it properly, particularly if you need to use it professionally.

If you want to learn a language for purposes other than business, you can choose from any number of other languages. I have friends who learned Japanese so that they could watch anime and read manga. This was before English translations became widely available, and learning Japanese (or reading a plot synopsis produced by someone who knew the language) was about the only way to follow the action. One of these friends now travels to Japan on his company’s business; his knowledge of the language became a professional asset.

I have other friends who learned Portuguese and Swahili, because they served in the Peace Corps in countries where those languages were spoken. Another friend used to be a business translator of French.

It’s true that geography doesn’t provide much reason for Americans to learn a second language; it’s not like Europe, where a day’s driving can potentially take you through several countries. Demographics can provide a reason, though. I once read that there were 26 languages in use in the San Francisco school system, because there was a requirement that teachers be available who could teach in every child’s native language.

If there’s a Chinatown, a Little Italy, or any other such neighborhood in your city, you’ll find people there who speak that language, and I doubt that there’s anywhere in the country where Spanish wouldn’t be useful (although that leads into another rant). Here in Denver, we have a large Vietnamese community, as well as a Greektown. We have organized societies for learning French and Japanese that I’m aware of, and there may be other such groups.

To an extent, it’s intellectual curiosity – it sometimes seems that it’s actively discouraged. Accept what you’re told, and don’t ask questions. To an extent, it’s relevance – if nobody in your area speaks Catalan, unless you have a specific reason to learn apart from, “That would be a cool language to learn,” you’re going to have trouble. And, to an extent, it’s need – unless you have an actual or perceived need, there’s little to drive you toward learning another language in this country.

My needs with respect to learning another language aren’t very important; my job won’t be affected, nor will much of my personal life. It’s more for fun, and to “prevent my brain from ossifying.” I also think there’s a good chance that the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis will turn out to be correct, which is one reason (and a good one, in my mind) to learn another language.

But mostly, it’s for fun.

“I guess we’ll go back to Dale”

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

You can find this at YouTube, but none of the videos there are complete. This one, however, is:

World’s Clumsiest Reporter

Posted Jan 15, 2006

Bryant Varney constructed a Guinness World Record-sized Tower of Pisa out of Jenga blocks, but made one fatal mistake…inviting TV reporter Mike Roy to the festivities.

Could be worse

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

I finally had my orthopedic consultation this afternoon – for the most part, I figured the pains I’ve got as a result of my bicycle accident would go away eventually, but I lost feeling in part of my thumb, which said “nerve damage” to me, so I wanted someone very competent to take a look at it.

In any case, I have damaged a nerve branch in my thumb, and it will either get better, or it won’t. If it doesn’t, there’s a test they can perform. The jammed finger on my left hand was confirmed as a jammed finger. My wrist is a lot better, but still painful from time to time if I use it a lot. I also injured a finger on my right hand, which didn’t become evident until some time after the accident. That one is a synovial cyst on the end knuckle of my index finger, which is swollen and painful. No treatment; apparently, they used to poke a hole at the location and drain it, but infections were very common when that was done.

My right shoulder turns out to be separated. Not very severely (a grade 2 AC separation), but I’ve now got a prescription for twice-a-week therapy sessions. Just what I need, when I’m behind schedule and on the critical path at work.

Ah, well. When they issued me this body, they neither authorized nor included a spare (other than the spare tire around the middle). I suppose I’d better try to keep it in good working order.