Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Lazy Americans

Thomas J. Brown said...

30 minute increments? And people say Americans work too hard...

Thomas, they used to say that Americans were lazy. Not so long ago there was the economy bubble in Japan (similar to the Dot-Com bubble in America, but more widespread). It was a common complaint among JETs that they would get asked "Why are Americans so lazy?", the belief being that the Japanese must be harder workers because they were so prosperous. The really ironic thing was that even when the economy was booming over here, things were still less prosperous than in America, on average. Americans work fewer hours, but are more efficient and productive (and have a higher per-capita income) than just about any other country in the world.

Which isn't to say that Americans aren't lazy. Efficiency and laziness aren't mutually incompatible, rather, they complement each other nicely. I believe I'm efficient because I'm lazy.

The Dilbert comic for May 29th, 2005 illustrates (ha!) how one event can be interpreted both ways. The comics are only archived for a month, so I'll transcribe the text:

Dilbert: Can I show you something that I'm proud of? I automated a task that used to take me three hours.
PHB: Well, well, well. Isn't that just like you?
Dilbert: Resourceful?
PHB: Lazy.
Dilbert: Did you just turn my brilliant accomplishment into a character flaw?
PHB: Complainer.
Dilbert: Let's just forget the whole thing.
PHB: Quitter.

Alone Again, Naturally

So, I'm at work, almost entirely by myself.

I mentioned before that one of my teachers told me that there was a school trip this week. Well, my other school didn't know anything about it, and none of my other teachers at this school mentioned it (including my supervisor, whose responsibility it is to make sure I know of any changes to the schedule), so I began to assume that the one teacher who did mention it was only referring to the 2nd graders, and that the rest of the school was on the regular schedule.

Not so, not so.

I rode up to the school this morning, and there were 5 or 6 big charter buses, overflowing with students. All of the students, and all of the teachers, and all the King's horses, and all the King's men, are gone. The secretary is still here, and the cleaning lady, and probably the principal (his office door is closed), though I haven't actually seen him.

I predict today will be quite boringuneventful. On the other hand, I will definitely have time to pay my bill. So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

Where Does The Time Go?

Anonymous said...

which is your base school? asahi - the one with the vp from hell? and just how many classes are you teaching each day? i teach 4 classes a day and with my 2 free periods, no one ever notices when i go 'missing' (as long as all my prep work is done and i come back in time for the next class).

worst case scenario: leave the money and your bill on the OL's desk with a "yoroshiku" note attached to it.

Asahi is my base school, but the VP is awesome. The principal is the psychotic^Wstrict one. If I tried to disappear, they'd likely notice, and I'd get called into the principal's office (*again*).
"Phoenix, I noticed you weren't at your desk studying Japanese from 10:45 to 11:00. From now on, you aren't allowed to leave your desk unless accompanied by a chaperone. Also, no more riding your bike to school. From now on, you ONLY WALK!"
Sigh. I wish that were more of a joke.

I'm not allowed to leave without checking in with the VP, but it shouldn't be a problem. The real difficulty is finding a free hour (between 9 and 3, when the bank is open).

I usually teach only three classes a day, but there's always prep-work.

"Phoenix, make a handout that matches the textbook for Yumi's trip to see the Great Buddha of Leshan, but make it something you've seen."

So, I make it of the Space Needle in Seattle. Then, I need a picture of the Space Needle, I need to know how tall it is, when it was built, why it was built, etc. All the things that the textbook had. And then I have to come up with Q&A, and possibly new words. And then I have to talk to the JTE about it and make changes, and when it's all fixed again (2nd or 3rd draft) I get it approved. And so it goes, and the hour (or more) is gone.

Worse than the prep-work is correcting. Last school year, the 3rd grade teacher had me start checking their end-of-the-year papers. I enjoyed it, actually. These students (usually) had a fairly good grasp of basic English, having studied it for almost three years.

Well, this year, I'm still correcting papers, but for all three grades. And when the student writes something totally nonsensical, I have to guess what they meant and write that down. That's the hard, tear-what-remains-of-your-hair-out part. And then there's the grading. Last year, I was just marking errors. This year, I mark errors, make suggestions and corrections, guess what they meant to say (sometimes they write the Japanese down too, which can help, but they rarely write down the furigana), and then give a grade (A-D) based on how they did. Oy, that's hard. I usually have to go through and make notes at the bottom of each paper, and when I'm done, go through again and sort the papers into semi-organized groups, and grade each group appropriately. How do teachers do this? It's sometimes feels a bit arbitrary. How do I indicate that one person's B is because they made too many simple errors (spelling, word form, etc) and another's B is because they made no mistakes but their sentences were too simple, or their overall paper was too short? Or someone else's B was because they made many mistakes (maybe even major mistakes) but deviated enough from the script to show that they understand the premise more than their peers, and so deserved more than a C?

Both of these things (prep and grading), I prefer to do as soon as possible. What good does it do to grade papers after school if their presentation is later today? Or they have a test tomorrow? Don't they need that information now? Everything else (English Bulletin Board and things like that) can wait until later.

This is why I stay after (sometimes until 7 or 8 or 9; whenever the last teacher leaves and I'm kicked out of the building): the more I can get done today for tomorrow's work, the more time I will (theoretically) have free tomorrow. But there's always more to do....sigh.

Monday, May 30, 2005

I've Forgot

Long day today, extra classes, and it doesn't help that I worked 12+ hours yesterday and stayed up until 3am this morning. And I'm sick, but that's fine. Sore throat, and some sort of sore on my lip that has puffed it out so it looks like I'm chewing tobacco.

Not that I'm complaining.

But, even with all that, I still spotted two mistakes in my first class. We're doing games today (first time in 3rd grade this school year), and the students have handouts with word-searches and crossword puzzles.

Well, on one of the word-searches, you aren't given a list of words, you're give a bunch of pictures representing actions, and you have to find the words that match. Or, you do what most of us did, you found words and tried to find a picture that matched. Well, a lot of the students found a word that didn't match any picture, and it was causing a bit of a ruckus. So, I counted words on the answer sheet, and pictures on the word-search. 25 words, 24 pictures. Weak.

The last crossword puzzle (which the students didn't get to during class) gives a sentence as a clue, with one word that needs to change forms. One clue was:

"I've (forget) his name."

The answer is six letters. Got it? It's 'forgot', right?


Forgot is the past tense form of Forget. But the clue isn't "I (forget) his name." The have requires the past participle form, which is Forgotten. You wouldn't say "We've chose" would you? Well, you might, but you should say "We've chosen." "It's became"? No, "It's become." "I've broke"? No, "I've broken." "He has knew"? Don't be ridiculous. "He has known", of course. It's not rocket surgery.

Now, English is stupid, I'll grant you, but this company, whose JOB is to make and distribute helpful handouts, has had errors on TWO of the FOUR worksheets I've used today. That's 50%, for you non-math majors (I used a calculator).

And that's just the first class. I have a feeling it's going to be a long, LONG day.

1. After checking numerous dictionaries (at least eight, probably more), I have found TWO references to the use of 'forgot' as past-participle. Both are for British English. It's still not the past-participle in American English. However, they didn't mention which was correct for Japanese English. Sigh.

2. One of the pictures was a woman walking, holding a purse. This apparently counts for both the word 'walk' and the word 'have'. Although, why not the boy eating a piece of fruit? He's eating and holding. Or the girl with the treasure? She found it, now she has it. Meh.

One of the sites that listed 'forgot' as past-participle in British English has changed their page, so that it is no longer listed as a past-participle in either BrE or AmE. Now I'm starting to believe that the one remaining reference is, in fact, incorrect.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

[Walken] Christopher Walken

Stolen from Class Maledictorian:

I am reminded of an exchange between Jay Mohr and Christopher Walken on the set of Suicide Kings regarding the benefits of having a tail.

"Jay, I noticed your dog - eh, your dog was in here a moment ago - that dog had no tail. What happened?"
"You know, they cut it off when they're puppies. It's called docking the tail."
"That's too bad, you know. Think about it; it would be so great to have a tail. People could tell when you were angry. They'd go, 'Get back! Look out! Don't fuck with Chris today; look at his tail.'"
"I think you mean happy, Chris. Dogs wag their tails when they're happy."
"Oh well, maybe you. But if I had a tail, you have to be expressive with that tail, otherwise, what's the point, right. They'd know, they'd know. They'd go, 'Get back, don't bother Chris today. He's having a bad day.' 'How do you know?' "Well, did you look at his tail?'"
(Hours later, it comes up again. Mohr asks Walken a question.)
"What would you rather do: have a tail or the gift of flight?"
Walken responds immediately. "Oh, have a tail! Come on, that's the dumbest thing I ever heard. You can always get on an airplane, but a tail . . ."

High Five!

I got my first '5' post on Slashdot! Of course, it had to be in a post about an adult movie.

The really sad part is the vast majority of that post was copied and pasted from another site (which I linked to). So, now I know the secret to racking up karma: blatant plagiarism*.

My Slashdot karma didn't use to be a concern for me, but they added a new 'feature' recently. You know, the one where you see a graphic of some letters and have to type them in? What's that called anyway? I know there's a word for it, but how do you search Google for something when you don't know the word? Anyway, the graphic isn't needed if you have high karma, which may be why they introduced it.

UPDATE: It's called CAPTCHA.

*OK, it wasn't technically plagiarism, since I didn't claim that I wrote it, but my sole contribution to the post consisted of three sentences that said:
  1. That's not true.
  2. Here's what Roger Ebert said.
  3. Here's a bit from his review.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Work Life III

I didn't have any classes from Friday through Tuesday, and if they had told me about that beforehand, I could have taken the time off!

There's nothing like getting a call on Sunday night to tell you to bring your own lunch on Monday because the students are going home at noon after their tests. Not that I'm still bitter about it or anything. Happy

The worst thing was the fact that everyone was surprised that I came to work. Well, of course I'm going to come to work, if no one tells me the schedule has changed! Not Amused I just found out that the school trip is next week, Wednesday through Friday. It was mentioned in conversation, no one has actually told me anything about it yet.

No one has said what I should be doing that Wednesday. Maybe they'll tell me to go to my visiting school a day early, I don't know.

I have to pay my "Low Displacement Car Tax" and for some reason, the only place I can do this is at the bank. The bank that is only open briefly during work hours. I missed my window during lunch, and didn't go later because I have a class. Or, I should have a class. Apparently, the schedule isn't quite right today, either. Now it's after 3pm, and the bank is closed. I won't have another opportunity to go to the bank while it's open until MONDAY.

Random News

  1. I got a package from home! It included a bottle of my allergy medication (loratadine), 90 days worth. I had six of my old pills left. So, it's not like I was worried or anything. Happy It also had a bottle of my favorite mouthwash, which had unfortunately opened during transit. Crying 2 Almost everything was encased in ziplock bags though, so it was mostly ok. It did eat away at the side of the box, however. Perhaps that's why the nice folks at Japan Post opened it? Though, when they re-taped it, I don't know why they didn't tape up that side of the box.
  2. Speaking of Japan Post, I sent a CD and DVD to my friend George in India. When I was sending it, I was given the choice between regular mail ($3.30) and speedy special mail ($9.00). Being the cheapskate I am, I said regular mail. ... There was a hesitation....the man at the post office asked me if I was sure. Sure I was sure! ... Hesitation... He then told me that in his country (that would be: JAPAN) bad men open packages and take out valuables. In Japan? I thought the Japanese were all honest and hard-working! But, since I wasn't sending valuables anyway (two pieces of media, total value maybe $2.00), I said that was OK. ... Hesitation... He decided to just check if I could even send it the other way. It didn't cover everywhere on the globe, and I was sending it to a kind of obscure place...so, tap tap tap on the computer. You know what? I can't use the special speedy service. In fact, I'm going to have to pay extra for the regular mail service. So, now we're up to $8.00. Sigh.
  3. They changed the vending machine in front of my house. I don't often use it, but tonight I did. When I was getting my drink, I noticed that it wasn't covered with the usual mass of moths that are normally attracted to the always-on light. No, it was covered with a mass of MOSQUITOES! Possibly the most mosquitoes I've seen in one place at one time. It was definitely a back-away-slowly moment.
  4. I've had this odd stomach sensation for a while now. It comes and goes. The past few days though, it hasn't been going. It's pretty much stayed constant. It's not pain, per se, just...a feeling. Like someone's poking me in the belly. Or tugging on my intestines. Or something. It's hard to describe. Anyway, I thought it would go away after a few days, but it's staying constant (or getting worse). How long should I wait before going to a doctor? I think I'll give it another week at least, unless I double-over in class tomorrow.
  5. I'm going to Tokyo for a JET conference, June 6-8, so if I don't post for a while...it'll be just like I was still here. Happy

Monday, May 23, 2005

NJ: TechTV

Still haven't had my coffee yet.

Spent the morning trying to read kevinrose.com and leoville.com but it looks like they were Slashdotted. Sad.

I did grab the torrent for the first SYSTM episode, and finally got around to grabbing the torrents for This Week In Tech. Now I just need to get the torrents for the Canadian version of Call For Help, and I can pretend that the G4-TechTV tragedy never happened.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Congratulations, you're not a complete tech nerd.

Sigh. I miss ZDTV. Crying 2

NJ: Microwaves

RE: Because I haven't had my coffee yet today....

Here's a random thought for you: How often do you think about your microwave oven?

My microwave oven actually is an oven (conventional). I can bake things in it (like pizza), but it does tend to get hot on top, so I have to remember to take the cereal boxes off first.

That's all the boring part. The interesting part, to me, is the lack of control over microwaving.

My microwave has three settings. 200 watts, 600 watts, 1000 watts. Coming from America, with my 1200 watt microwave with power levels between 0 and 100%, this is a cutback. On the other hand, virtually every microwave defaults to 500/600 watts, so everything microwavable comes with instructions precisely for those settings. Anyway...

Also, the time can be set with three buttons. 10 minutes, 1 minute, 10 seconds. Need to microwave something for 55 seconds? Better round up or down. I haven't found a microwave yet here in Japan that allows 1 second precision (or even 5 seconds). But I rarely feel the need to microwave something for less than 10 seconds, so it's not really a problem. Also, the turntable is calibrated to make one complete turn every 10 seconds, so however long I microwave a cup of cocoa, it always finishes exactly how it started.

Which is all well and good. How much control do you need over your microwaving, anyway?

Well, it turns out, for me at least, more.

You can't buy microwave popcorn in Japan, and I'll tell you why: you can't microwave it. My family sent me some microwavable popcorn (thank you!) but when I nuked it, I discovered another 'feature' of microwaves in Japan. Even at full (1000 watt) power, the microwave will shut off at times, like American microwaves set to less than 100% power. So, the popcorn will be fine for a minute or so, start popping, the bag expands, and....click. The light's still on, the turntable is still turning, the fan is still humming, but the microwave is not microwaving. The bag collapses as the steam escapes and cools, and now it looks like vacuum-sealed partially-popped corn, which it kind of is.


Note to self...

Sitting on your down-comforter to put your socks on while wearing black slacks....bad.

NJ: Nerd Test

66.66666666666667% of me is a huge nerd! How about you?

Normally, I hate this things. Online quizes seem an especially inacurate way to waste your time. But this one did have "TROGDOOOOR!!!!" as one of the wrong answers. How can you beat that?

Recover Post has a(nother) bug.

Darn BLOGGER bugs! If you don't use Blogger (you should) you can safely ignore this entire rant^H^H^H^Hpost.

Right now, the "Recover Post" link goes all the way across the toolbar. Why? I don't know. It looks like a regular link, but it's not. And that's the problem.

It's reproducible:

1) Edit or Create a post. Make sure it has something on it (for Recover Post to save). Don't save it, just leave the window or tab open.

2) Edit or Create a second post in a new tab or window. Make sure it has something in it (for Recover Post to overwrite). Take all the time you want.

3) Accidentally click just below "Preview" in the second post (actually, you can click anywhere in the toolbar along the "Recover Post" horizontal, but when I "discovered" this problem, I was trying to click "Preview"). Voila! Everything you wrote is gone. Recover Post overwrote it with the text from the first post. It is completely, irrevocably, UNrecoverable.

I tested this in FireFox 1.0.3 and IE 6, it happens in both. It happens also in both separate windows and separate tabs in the same window.

The clear immediate fix would be to make sure the "Recover Post" is limited to the actual "Recover Post" link-looking text.

An additional fix would be to assign a unique number to each edited post, and incorporate that into the Recover Post mechanism. That would be nice also, as some of us like to work on several things at once (including writing several posts at the same time), and that would allow us to recover each post individually.

It's not rocket surgery, people!

Update: When I submitted this on Blogger's BUG Report form, I discovered that the form doesn't give you any feedback when you send an item! Why would they do this? How am I to know if my bug was reported or not? I resubmitted it two more times before I got an e-mail confirmation (the first of three, actually). Stupid, senseless.

Phoenix changes the world! Well, I changed Blogger anyway. Now if you click on 'Recover post', you get a javascript popup (similar to when you accidentally browse away from a post in progress) that tells you what's going to happen, and asks you if you're sure. I found this out by accidentally clicking just beneath the Preview button again (twice, actually). Hooray!

The Nerdiest Thing I've Ever Done

Was reading Slashdot (instead of studying Japanese, unfortunately), and ran across a comment that mentioned the C=64. It reminded me of possibly the nerdiest thing I've ever done.

When I was a kid, I had this C=64 game, and the floppy disk went bad in a sector. Because I had a cartridge that allowed me to view the raw data on the disk (as well as make changes), I managed to:
  1. Figure out the pattern of sectors (where the next block would be, usually six blocks away)
  2. Figure out which part of the block pointed to the next block (the first two bytes)
  3. Find the bad blocks (they were shifted one byte over, and the next-block information was missing)
  4. COPY (by hand, on paper) the correct data for the block
  5. TYPE (from paper, hoping I copied it down correctly) the data back in on a working block
  6. Find the next block and point to it
  7. Find the previous block and update it so that it pointed to the new working block.
Voila, the game worked again. It was literally a manual (as in by-hand) scandisk.

Upon further reflection, this may not have been the nerdiest thing I've ever done after all, but it might be the nerdiest thing I will admit to publicly.

Learning to Drive III

So, we shuffled days so I wouldn't have to use vacation time to take the driving tests, and then the principal left and the BoE tried to take my vacation time anyway. It's sorted out now, but we'll see how long it lasts. Sigh.

Anyway, here's what happened on the 2nd try:

First of all, don't take the test on a Friday! It was crazy busy! The short couple-hour wait of the previous Wednesday test would have been luxury! This time took probably six hours total. Sigh.

Now, I had been practicing since the 1st failure, and I can say two things with certainty:
  1. I deserved to fail the first time.
  2. I was a much better driver by the time I took the second test
Practicing all week, I found that I really did make a lot of mistakes. A LOT a lot. Many. A bunch.

However, by the time I took the second test, I was driving smooth. Much more aware of my surroundings, much more careful about distance and lane usage and turning. Mentally checking off the list of things to do each turn (just like they tell you to in the book, but I never actually did it before). Actually, I got in the habit of pointing to each mirror as I looked at it, and saying what I was doing out-loud (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn), and it really stuck.

I was ready to kick ass.

I started out really smooth. No stalling, no jerking start, just pure refined smoothness. During the first loop, I accelerated and slowed down just right, changed lanes to avoid mock-construction (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn). I changed back (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn) and went around the curve. Time to change lanes (again) to prepare to turn at the intersection (rear, blinker, side...) slow down for crosswalk (...shoulder...) intersection! Turn! Turn! Turn!


I just turned across another lane to make it into the intersection in time. I didn't change lanes fast enough. I got confused when I slowed down for the crosswalk.

I had failed, AGAIN! And I was just starting out! When I asked if I should stop, he said, "No, finish the course." So I did, reasoning that it would be good practice for the 3rd try later. Rats.

Actually, I drove the rest of the course even (if possible) smoother than the start. Now that there was no pressure, I completely relaxed. I still counted off each action as I was doing it (rear, blinker, side, shoulder, turn), whipped through the "difficult" close-quarters turns, and came back to the testing center. Flawless. And the whole time, I berated myself for screwing up the start. Ah, well.

He told me I had done pretty good (yeah, except for where I pulled across traffic, sure), and asked me to wait in the lobby while he ran through the other test takers.

I was so bummed, but I remembered to say thank you. I went inside and waited.

I pulled out my course-map and studied where I had made my mistake. My stupid, stupid mistake. I just had to make that lane-change a little swifter next time. Although, there really isn't a lot of time between the last corner and the intersection. But, I knew it was possible.

A guy from the license section came over and asked me if I had passed. Grr. Way to rub it in. No, I had failed. I shouldn't be mad at him, he just wanted to shut down for the day (it was close to 4 or 5pm at this point), and was just asking if there were any more people who needed to get their license. Alas.

While I was waiting, I chatted with another testee. He didn't speak much English (I think he was from Brazil), but we managed to communicate a bit. He was trying to tell me something important, and was very excited by it, but I wasn't getting it. When his friend finished her test and came through the lobby, he grabbed her and brought her over and tried to explain again.
See her paperwork?
Uh, yeah?
Where's your paperwork?
The tester still has it. I guess that's why I'm waiting; he'll give me my paperwork when he's done testing everyone.
She has her paperwork. She failed the test.
You don't have your paperwork. You PASSED the test.

I couldn't believe it. First of all, it was only my second try, and second of all, I had made such a big mistake! The instructor later told me that, yeah, I had made a pretty big mistake, but the rest of my driving was so good that he passed me anyway. Also, I had recognized my mistake right away (before I had even left the intersection).

Wow. I passed. I spent maybe another hour going through the eye and color test. I was a bit worried about that, as I'm near-sighted and color-blind. As for the vision test, it was really REALLY easy, even with my poor eyes. Really. You can apparently be quite blind and still be OK to drive in Japan (which may explain a lot about the other drivers I see on the road). As for the color test...I messed up again. You see a light, you say what color it is.

The first light looked orange to me. But that's not an option. I guessed red. The next light was clearly green. So far, so good.

The third light was red. Not the same orange (maybe red) as before, but red-red. So, I knew I has messed up that first one, and said so. The last light was orange (apparently, it was really yellow). Now I know. And just as a hint, it looks like a little traffic light, but each light can be any color, so watch it. Anyway, it turned out to be no big deal. I passed.

But...I still don't have my license. The guy had closed that section.

I have my results, and can go get my license any time (there's a center somewhat near my house, even), but only during work hours. So I don't have it yet. And if I don't want to take vacation to do it, I'll have to wait until Summer. That's OK with me, I'd rather look nice for my picture anyway, since I doubt I'm going to get another one while I'm here.

"Atlas Shrugged" quote

I read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" recently, and thought this quote was topical (despite the fact that the book itself was written half a century ago):
     Dr. Ferris: "You honest men are such a problem and such a headache. But we knew you'd slip sooner or later--and this is just what we wanted."
     Hank Rearden: "You seem to be pleased about it."
     "Don't I have good reason to be?"
     "But, after all, I did break one of your laws."
     "Well, what do you think they're for?"
     Dr. Ferris did not notice the sudden look on Rearden's face, the look of a man hit by the first vision of that which he had sought to see. Dr. Ferris was past the stage of seeing; he was intent upon delivering the last blows to an animal caught in a trap.
     "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We want them broken. You'd better get it straight that it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against--then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted--and you create a nation of law-breakers--and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

"Eats, Shoots & Leaves"....where to begin. I saw this review somewhere (I wish I could remember where) and it summed it up nicely for me: "The good news for us grammar sticklers is that a book on grammar is a best seller. The bad news is that it's 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves'...."

I could start with the title, which isn't even grammatically incorrect, only misleading (It would make sense in a larger context, such as: Sleeps, 12 hours a day; eats, shoots and leaves; mates, once a year...etc). In British English, you omit the serial comma before the 'and' so it becomes "eats, shoots, and leaves" but in American English you don't. The book was written by a British author, and it wasn't changed for publication in the U.S., so there are a number of places where it's just....WRONG...for American grammar. And even for British grammar, it is not internally consistent within the book itself. Sigh.

I hesitate to even mention the punctuation game on the book's website (except of course that I just did), and how it has ERRORS IN GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION on it. This is a book on punctuation, and ON THE WEBSITE it has errors.

In the Apostrophe section:
"Four yards' worth"
This is an example of British punctuation versus American punctuation. In American punctuation, it would be "Four yards worth". Sigh.

In the Comma section, it's worse. It starts saying: "If you don't think a comma is NEEDED anywhere click the NO COMMA button." (emphasis on NEEDED mine)
We have:
"Stop, or I'll scream."
A comma indicates a pause. In this sentence, I think the pause is clearly optional.

"Of course, there weren't enough tickets to go round."
First of all, it would be 'round because it's short for around and contractions require apostrophes to indicate where the omitted letters were. Second, this sentence could be read as exasperation, meaning "Of course" isn't set off on its own.

Finally, if you miss three, you see:
"You're a 83% STICKLER!"
which should be:
"You're AN 83% STICKLER!" (emphasis mine)
whether you're British or not.

Personally, I think I'm a 100% stickler. Anyway...

Here's a great review from the New Yorker. It's interesting to observe that as written communication becomes more important, people's ability to write is decreasing. Blame e-mail, or Internet chat, or cell-phone text messaging (where brevity outweighs correctness), but more and more I see people unable to string literate sentences together. Which is OK with me, since it inevitably means there will be less competent competition for me when I become a writer. Winking 3 And yet, I weep for future generations. Sigh.

Get Firefox

Check out the Firemonger Project, and get all the Firefox you need on one downloadable CD. ^_^

OK, if you don't know what to do first, I'll walk you through it.

1. Download and install Firefox. That's the easy part.
2. Get some extensions. This is the hard part.

Firefox is very capable, but it's barebones out of the box. You need lots of extensions if you want to match (exceed) the functions of IE (note: properly rendering pages is not a function, it should be standard. I'm looking at YOU, IE).

So, here's a list of what I use. This may be long, but bear with me.

  • Adblock ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Get Filterset.G and you may never see another ad again.
  • Mouse Gestures 1.0 Something I didn't think I would use, until I started using it. Opening new tabs, going back and forth between pages, opening the source....all with gestures.
  • Tab Mix 0.2.1 (mirror here) Where to begin....I keep all my browser windows...in one window. I rely on tabs. This extension is actually a collection of other tab-related extensions. Very VERY handy. Another ESSENTIAL.
  • SessionSaver .2 Ah...SessionSaver. Actually, I use Tab Mix (see above) to save my day-to-day sessions, and SessionSaver as a backup. It saves my sessions in case of a crash, and I can also store specific sessions to be recalled at any time (my pages for studying Japanese, for example). You can also store all open tabs as bookmarks and open them again as a group. Confused? You won't be.
  • Linkification 0.9.20 Someone didn't add clicky-goodness to a link? This fixes it.
  • SpellBound 0.7.3 The essential spell-checker so you don't look foolish in your posts.
  • ForecastFox 0.7.1 Puts little weather icons on the bottem right of the browser (on the status bar). Very unobtrusive, and very handy.
  • googlebar Just like Googlebar for IE, only...not. But very similar.
  • Smiley Xtra 3.1.3 Inserts smiley graphics into your posts, like this: Hopping Devil
  • InfoLister 0.8.2 A handy extension to turn "about:info" into a list of your installed extensions, if you wanted to post them on your blog or something.
  • Slim Extension List 0.1 Hides extended information about extensions not currently selected. Makes browsing the extension list much easier. It's the little things...
  • xMirror 0.1.1 Don't put all your eggs in one basket. In this case, don't rely on one source for your extensions.
  • Stop-or-Reload Button 0.1 Combines two buttons into one. Another thing I didn't think I would use until I installed it. Now, having two buttons just doesn't make any sense.
  • User Agent Switcher 0.6.6 For the foolish web n00bs that hard-code compatible clients. Actually, I don't think I've every used this.
  • ieview 0.86 Right-click, "View this page in IE"
  • FirefoxView 0.31.1 Ah...right click (in IE), "View this page in Firefox"
  • BGM Conductor Fixes the minor annoyance non-standards-compliant pages cause with the Microsoft-only BGSound tag.
  • Show Failed URL 0.1.4 Another annoyance fixer. Displays failed URLs in the Location Bar when XUL error pages are enabled. XUL error pages are enabled by setting browser.xul.error_pages.enabled to true (this can be done via about:config, prefs.js or user.js). I'll explain in step 3.
  • ChromEdit Finally, a handy tool to facilitate editing of your user files. See next step.
3. Customize your Firefox.

These tips are from Customizing Firefox and Customizing Mozilla.

Basically, my user.js file looks like:
// Reveal more tab/window options:
user_pref("browser.tabs.showSingleWindowModePrefs", true);

// Instead of annoying error dialog messages, display pages:
user_pref("browser.xul.error_pages.enabled", true);

/* Force New Windows Restrictions
0: Default - Divert *all* new windows to current tab/window or new tab
1: Don't divert *any* windows spawned by JS
2: Don't divert JS windows that include size/placement/toolbar info */
user_pref("browser.link.open_newwindow.restriction", 0);
There are many more things you can do, but this will get you started. Victory

4. (Optional) Optimize your screen real-estate.

To make room for the tabs and the googlebar, I moved the navigation buttons and the address bar to the top.


If I'm not blogging, it's not because I'm ignoring it or that I've forgotten about it, it's because I'm BUSY.

Lately, I've been very, very busy. But, today I'm not, so let's update the blog.

First, I noticed that the previous post does not render properly in Internet Explorer. So, let's fix it!

Step 1: Everyone, switch to Firefox.
Step 2: There's no step 2.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


So, I'm downloading updates for a friend who lacks broadband (alas), and I get to the motherboard drivers page. At the bottom of the page is the link for the manual.

The description actually says RTFM. That just made my day. Laughing

From the actual page:

File Type Motherboard manual File Size 1.03MB
Version Date
Update Description RTFM