What’s in a Name?

There have been many, many stories about the demotion of Pluto, but I was interested in this story because it;s about a counter-vote by elementary school students to keep Pluto a planet. Which is very sweet, but it’s hard to tell from the story if the students really understood that this wasn’t just a decision about Pluto, with the vote slogans being things like “Pluto makes the world go round!” and “Boo Pluto!”. The vote was not pro- or anti-Pluto. Pluto is still there, after all. The question, after all, is what we mean when we say the word “planet”. … Continue reading What’s in a Name?

Myth Confirmed

I had a sense of deja vu watching tonight’s episode of Mythbusters (Episode 59: Crimes and Myth-Demeanors 2) where they test the claims that various high tech security systems are intrusion proof – including fingerprint scanners! As I mentioned in my entry earlier this month, my Cyberattacks intersession course tried this same thing, though only with the small computer access scanner, not the major door access scanner Mythbusters featured. They, too, were able to beat the scanners, using more sophisticated techniques, but also being able to use a more plausible method of fingerprint capture. Whereas I like to think that … Continue reading Myth Confirmed

Obscured by trivia

I’ll admit up front that I’ve never been a fan of books of trivia so this discussion of the growing popularity of trivia books was both surprising (there’s really interest in those things?) and interesting [via A&L Daily]. The supposition made is that increased interest in trivia is a symptom of an increased desire for information mixing with an increased desire for instant gratification. There is also the suggestion that a focus on trivia reflects a loss of “the patience required to mine the deeper satisfactions of old”. There is no rigorous support for these claims, but they sound plausible … Continue reading Obscured by trivia

The Final Soution Review

In the further adventures of catching up on book reviews, I give you my review of The Final Solution by Michael Chabon, reproduced below for your convenience.

On the Importance of Being a Nit-Picking Language Geek

In the case of the $2.13 million comma, misplaced punctuation in a contract will allow one of the parties to withdraw earlier than intended, as the contract-cancelation clause was inadvertently attached to the entire contract, and not just a restricted time period [via Language Log]. It’s a lovely example for use in any course where the instructor might want to justify grammar “counting”. I think it also illustrates the value of practicing the skill of proofreading.

Security Holes

Of course, having decided to try browsing via RSS feeds a few days ago (and, btw, I am loving the convenience of seeing which of the pages I read regularly has new content), Slashdot has to link to a whitepaper describing the security risks in subscribing to RSS and Atom feeds. They’re what you would expect – the standard potential for the site owner to insert malicious code in the feed, along with concerns that, because of the ability to put third-party feeds in what might be an otherwise trusted site, feeds allow insertion of exploits into new realms. The … Continue reading Security Holes

Sweet, Delicious Data

OMG! Google has announced that not only have they been collecting n-gram data from a training corpus they have built from on-line sources of a trillion works, but they’re goiing to make the n-gram data available via the UPenn Linguistic Data Consortium in the near future. I don’t even have a need for this data at the moment, but I’m drooling over the idea. I’m sure there’s some way I can make use of this in my current project…… [via Language Log]

Grade A Milk

You’re Amazon. You decide to branch into the on-line grocery sales business. It’s still an Amazon store, so you show a photo, list product features, and, sure, you allow product reviews. And then, inevitably, people review your milk [via Boing Boing]. And your bananas. And your cucumbers. By the way, don’t ever have dinner over at Amazon – they think that baked “scooped out [cucumbers] halves with buttered break crumbs, top with parmesan cheese makes a great side dish”.

Behind the Scenes Tidying

This afternoon I did some behind the scenes tidying around Screenshot-ville. I upgraded from Movable Type 3.2 to 3.3 – amazingly, while I backed things up, it went entirely smoothly and I don’t appear to have lost any functionality (let me know if it appears otherwise to you!!!). I had been getting between 100 and 200 spam comments a day, and while they were mostly getting marked as junk, about 50-60 were coming through as either needing moderation or getting posted outright. I was going to try to install a Captcha plugin, but I noticed that all but a half-dozen … Continue reading Behind the Scenes Tidying

Extremity Knitting

It just came to my attention that the summer issue of Knitty is out; they’re calling it “the extremities issue”, as it is focusing on gloves and socks and the like. This is very sensible for a summer issue – small projects are way more tolerable in this weather than big sweaters and afghans that lay across your lap. (I, of couse, am quite intelligently spending my summer making a beaded mohair shawl….) Looking at their new pattern offerings, there’s a pretty toe-up sock design, Widdershins that I might try, or maybe the longer, lacy Baudelaire pair. The Sock Monkey … Continue reading Extremity Knitting