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Thursday: January 29, 2009


Filed under: — site admin @ 12:31 AM GMT-0500

Dustbury mentions a professional basketball player named O. J. Mayo. If you’re going to have a name consisting of a food and a beverage, it helps if they actually taste good together. I can’t think of any food with a significant quantity of mayonnaise in it or on it that would taste good with a glass of orange juice.

Wednesday: January 28, 2009

Yet Another Peculiarity of the English Language

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:17 PM GMT-0500

Until I sat down today to compile a review worksheet on Latin prepositions, I had never noticed an inconsistency or inconcinnity in the names of the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. If non-visible frequencies of light are seen as metaphorically going beyond or falling short of the visible spectrum, the opposite of ‘ultraviolet’ should be ‘citrared’. On the other hand, if they are seen as metaphorically placed above or below the visible spectrum, the opposite of ‘infrared’ should be ‘suprared’. I wonder if other languages are more logical or (if you like) more pedantically Latinate.

Which reminds me: when I first saw the word ‘infrared’ in (I suppose) 5th or 6th grade, I thought it was a disyllable, the perfect passive participle of a verb infrare* that I had somehow never run across before. I wonder if that is a common misapprehension.

And speaking of illogic: why does the spell-checker tell me to write ‘pedantically’ rather than ‘pedanticly’? There’s no such word as ‘pedantical’. I suppose I could research this, but I have more worksheets to put together before I go to bed. I would have thought that two Snow Days in a row would be enough to catch up on my work and my blogging, but apparently not.

Thursday: January 8, 2009

Dear Netflix

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:06 PM GMT-0500

Three pieces of advice, the first fairly urgent:

1. When I put a particular movie at the top of my queue, I expect it to be the next one I receive. I do not expect to receive #2 instead, with no explanation and without being asked if I’d rather have it instead. Obviously, I would rather have #1 than #2: I put it first because I want to see it next. This has happened five times in the last six months, including the last three movies shipped. Every time it happens I have a strong urge to cancel my membership. So far these urges have been momentary, but that could change.

2. Please add another box to your rating system: ‘I own this movie’. This should be checkable either with or without selecting a one-to-five-star rating. (I haven’t actually watched everything I have on DVD.) If I check ‘I own this movie’, stop recommending it to me. You’re just wasting my time. Why should I rent it from Netflix when I already own it? If I check the box and also give it a rating of four or five stars, do feel free to recommend similar movies, as long as I don’t own them either. If I check the box and give it a rating of one or two stars, try to avoid recommending similar movies.

3. Please allow me the option of not seeing specific categories of information currently offered to everyone. If programmed properly, your computer could already have told you that my taste in movies has little resemblance to the average taste of other people who happen to live in the same town. I am therefore not interested in knowing what they’re watching. Case in point: today’s ‘local favorites’ are: Jeff Dunham Very Special Christmas Special; Sex and the City: the Movie; Miss Potter; Run, Fat Boy, Run; and The Nativity Story. Sorry, not interested.

I am also emphatically uninterested in knowing which movies have been recommended by Roger Ebert. On the other hand, I would be interested in a feature that allowed me to select specific critics whose recommendations I could see, e.g. James Bowman or Terry Teachout. Of course, I already get such information from their websites. (I wonder if Netflix sees a detectable surge when (e.g.) Terry Teachout or Eve Tushnet plugs a movie, with some members adding it to their queue, others moving it to the top, and a few doing both.)

Wednesday: January 7, 2009

Who’s Killing Brick-and-Mortar Retailers?

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:56 PM GMT-0500

InstaPundit, that’s who. Here’s the beginning of something he posted yesterday:

NETBOOK UPDATE: I stopped at Circuit City to pick up some stuff today and tried out some netbooks. The Acer Inspire was nice, and so was the little Lenovo, but the best keyboard by far — better than my Asus, too — was on the HP Mini 1035.

He helpfully links the last bit so readers can read more about his favorite netbook and possibly buy one. Does he link to Circuit City’s page on the HP Mini 1035? No, he links to Amazon’s, though their price is only $5 (1.1%) less than Circuit City’s.

Monday: January 5, 2009

Your Tax Dollars At Work

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:16 PM GMT-0500

I’ve posted on this before, but it’s gotten particularly bad recently. Four times in the last week, the National Weather Service has displayed a current temperature for my town higher than the expected high for the day. Surely if the current temperature is 68o F, the expected high cannot be 62o, it must be at least 68o. Is there any programming language in which that cannot be fixed with a single line of code?

Today the expected high was 49o, while the reported temperature around noon was 63o, which is what it felt like. A fourteen degree discrepancy is impressive, even for government bureaucrats.

A subtler problem seems equally serious. Tomorrow’s expected high (or “hi”) is 34o, while tomorrow night’s expected low (or “lo”) is 35o. Is that mathematically possible? Surely a nightly low cannot be higher than the high in a directly adjacent day, either before or after? I don’t know when the official switchover from day to night is (sunset?), but if the temperature in the last minute of day is 34o or less, can it really be 35o or more in the first minute of night? If anything, we would expect a relatively sudden drop in temperature at sunset, but today’s forecast implies a sudden jump.

I would feel a lot more confident in estimating the chances that tomorrow will be a Snow Day if I thought I could trust the NWS website.

Sunday: January 4, 2009

Consumer Feedback

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:27 PM GMT-0500

Ethnic Gourmet’s microwavable Pad Thai with Tofu would be quite tasty if they would remove the carrots, or at least figure out some way to keep them semi-crispy. As far as I’m concerned, mushy carrots make Pad Thai not worth eating, much less buying and eating.

Saturday: January 3, 2009

Horace Kippled

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:54 PM GMT-0500

D. A. West, in Horace Odes I: Carpe Diem, Oxford 1995, 6-7:

In Horace the tone is often elusive. Perhaps the nearest thing in English is the parody [of Odes 1.1] by Kipling in ‘A Diversity of Creatures’:

There are whose study is of smells,
    Who to attentive schools rehearse
How something mixed with something else
    Makes something worse.

Some cultivate in broths impure
    The clients of our body; these,
Increasing without Venus, cure
    Or cause disease.

Others the heated wheel extol,
    And all its offspring, whose concern
Is how to make it farthest roll
    And fastest turn.

Me, much incurious if the hour
    Present, or to be paid for, brings
Me to Brundisium by the power
    Of wheels or wings,

Me, in whose breast no flame has burned
    Life long, save that by Pindar lit,
Such lore leaves cold; nor have I turned
    Aside for it,

More than when, sunk in thought profound
    of what the unaltered Gods require,
My steward (friend but slave) brings round
    Logs for my fire.

Friday: January 2, 2009

The Usefulness of Classics

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:57 PM GMT-0500

Another British policeman (Pumphrey) interrogates the headmaster (Crumwallis) of a worse than mediocre private school:

‘Hmmmm’, said Pumphrey. ‘You seem to do a lot of classics.’

It was not the remark Mr. Crumwallis had been expecting, but he perked up, as he frequently did in interviews with parents, when an opportunity for fraudulent self-congratulation presented itself.

‘Yes, indeed’, he said. ‘We lay great stress on them. So sad to see their decline — their so rapid decline — in other schools, elsewhere. But if the private schools will not be custodians of the great classical tradition, who will be?’

Mike Pumphrey did not feel called upon to reply. He wondered whether, in view of the decline of classics elsewhere, classics teachers might not be in a state of glut upon the market, and therefore to be had cheap. He rather thought they might be. He looked cynically at Mr. Crumwallis, swelling with spurious pride.

(Robert Barnard, School for Murder, 1983, ch. 9)

Thursday: January 1, 2009

Royal Edward

Filed under: — site admin @ 11:48 PM GMT-0500

A British policeman is looking for a millionaire at a posh hotel in Bradford:

It was called the Royal Edward, and for once it lived up to its name. The foyer was all white and gold and plush pink, with spotty mirrors in gilt frames; scattered around were pink and gold velvet sofas, on which one could imagine Royal Edward perching his ample frame, perhaps placing his hand on a not-unwilling knee the while, or pinching a bebustled bottom while whispering an assignation. Through the door to the left I caught a glimpse of an oak-panelled dining-room, where one could imagine him eating one of his piggish meals. It was all rather daunting — as if I’d strayed on to the set of one of those BBC historical serials for television.

(Robert Barnard, The Case of the Missing Brontë, 1983, ch. 8)

Was ‘bebustled’ an attempt to make it into the next revision of the OED?