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Pet peeve, red pens Dec. 12th, 2008 @ 11:09 am
This is probably irrelevant for anyone reading this (I suppose it might have been when whoever you all are were in university), but that's okay. I have found that I do not like receiving paper assignments torn from a spiral notebook that hasn't been properly trimmed or torn along the perforation. It's just plain annoying (uncomfortable to handle, they get all tangled up, etc.). Definitely more annoying than not stapling your homework, since I carry a stapler around on days HW is due, for the sole purpose of making sure assignments don't get lost (but it's a little hard to carry around a paper cutter).

[PS: yes, this is a very low-level annoyance]

Also, over the past few days there's been some discussion about school districts in Australia mandating non-red ink for correcting student work. Although as I write this, I'm grading assignments with a red pen, I do prefer to use other colors (usually green or purple). My main concern is basically distinguishing my writing from that of the student's. At the same time, I was intrigued when some of my professors used green instead of red for the particular reason that it was, in some sense, "nicer" than using red. Especially when the nature of the grading is more holistic (e.g., evaluating argumentation and logical structure, and questioning students' assumptions, rather than proper execution of algorithmic problem-solving methods), I think it makes a certain sense to use a non-red color. That is, given that the primary association with red ink is that it is for making corrections, not engaging with argumentation.

OTOH, maybe it was just an excuse to buy a bunch of different colored pens.

Things that take time Nov. 26th, 2008 @ 03:17 pm
So, you know what takes up time? A dissertation prospectus. But hey, that's done with! Now I just have so much time...

Shannara Jul. 23rd, 2008 @ 09:37 am
Let's see how short I can make this.

1. As a youngster, read the Shannara trilogy (and Heritage of Shannara tetralogy)
2. Spend a long time reading non-Brooks fantasy (not for any particular hatred of his writing)
3. A few months ago, discover his Word/Void series, and start reading it, thinking it would be interesting to read some modern fantasy
4. Discover that's the Word/Void series is actually a far-prequel to Shannara
5. Yesterday, start reading the Genesis of Shannara series

It sort of makes me want to dig up the old books and reread them. Or maybe some of them.

Garfield...FF6 Jun. 26th, 2008 @ 10:46 pm
Okay, so first I was at Language Log. I followed a random link to Josh Millard's blog, and from there to his project: Garkov, which generates new Garfield strips from a Markov model trained on previous strips. On that page there is a link to Lasagna Cat, which does reenactments of Garfield strips. Those are hilarious in their own way, but the best is the "tribute" to Jim Davis (the creator of said comic) that come after. And so I submit for your approval:

Garfield in FF6.

(You can all just not tell me that you've seen this a million times before, okay?)

Scrap the satellites Jun. 23rd, 2008 @ 12:16 pm
I've spent a good part of the past week watching all of season 5 of 24 on DVD (don't worry, this will be basically spoiler-free). At one point, it comes about that most of LA's streets are empty of vehicle traffic except for police and military traffic. Then, when it comes time to do some tracking of vehicles, there is, as usual, scrambling to get satellite imagery, the effort for which takes up one or two scenes in each case. I wondered while watching it -- on the freeways there should be vehicle speed and weight sensors every so often - wouldn't it be useful to get that information? With so little traffic on the freeway, there would be little confusion as to what is moving where. On the street level this is not possible (in most cases), but there was at least one place where you'd think you could just get the traffic sensor info from CalTrans or whoever, and not have to worry about satellites or traffic cameras. Eh.
Other entries
» Cody's closes
Yes, I still exist.

In any case, in case you hadn't heard (and if you don't live around SF, you probably haven't), a major institution of Berkeley, Cody's Books, is closing its last store. After an iconic existence on (equally iconic) Telegraph avenue for decades, and a (most people say) ill-conceived attempt to expand to SF and gentrified 4th Street in Berkeley, Cody's made a last ditch attempt to have a viable business by opening in a corner location that had previously killed numerous retail outlets (Eddie Bauer and Hewlett-Packard). Now the news is they're closing that location as well.

It's sad, true. The location at Telegraph had huge selections in what I wanted (Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Linguistics). But their new location stocked so little of what interested me (they decided to stock large amounts of political and social commentary, and a significant amount of popular science texts, most of which I am either not interested in or could find in used book stores or on the web). I never found the Shattuck location (or the 4th street one) particularly attractive in the way the Telegraph avenue one was. But in any case, it's not as though there aren't plenty of independent booksellers in Berkeley and the East Bay.
» This must exist
AMC is playing Terminator 2, and there's a part where he's explaining to John Connor how he was sent by the future Connor, and then a bit after that he's explaining the abilities of the T-1000, and I just had a vision. What if the Terminator was retroactively a politician? You could get lines like, "Don't worry John. In the future I will cripple the economy so much that nothing like the T-1000 could be built. The manufacturing business will be faced with tremendous tax burdens. They will be destroyed."

Something like this must already exist...?
» Baffling photos
Ah, coincidences. As it turns out, one of the more memorable lolcat photos I've seen, INVISIBLE SWIMMING POOL, was taken by someone I know! Actually, it was my girlfriend who noticed the striking resemblance to the cat found by a couple of our college classmates when they were in Egypt. Personally, one of my favorites is this one.
» Cows in hell
Up there in the idiotic marketing taglines and slogans is Splenda's "made from sugar so it tastes like sugar." The inference is false, and as far as I'm concerned, Splenda tastes pretty damned bad (whereas sugar as a sweetener is just about okay).

Not even close to this bad (since it's clearly tongue-in-cheek) is a rhetorical question from a Wendy's commercial I just heard: "If hamburgers were meant to be frozen, wouldn't cows come from Antarctica?" Wow - I hope this doesn't actually convince anyone. And that's aside from the question of whether frozen burgers taste worse than those made from refrigerated meat (cows actually come from Canada, or something). And let's not forget the milk shakes served by Wendy's - I suppose those milk cows do come from Antarctica.

The best (read: most hilarious) reaction to this ad I've seen is here: clickety!. Check out the last response, from cloud s.
» I signed your ticket
A couple weeks ago I got my first car-related ticket: missing a front plate. Since this is the sort of ticket, as my girlfriend so kindly informed me, that can have its fine reduced if you fix the problem, I had that fixed and prepared myself to get official approval from a law enforcement officer, as the ticket instructed me to. So I went to the relevant police department and asked the receptionist (I think?) there how I could get the front plate approved. When I did, she asked where my car was. I pointed it out to her: it was parked across the street about a block away. She then asked me to wait as she went back to, I thought, find someone to go out and check the plate. But when she came back, it was with signed ticket in hand. I wonder what would have happened if I had just taped a white piece of cardboard to the front of the car.
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