Random Thursday

Oh, boy...the first Random Thursday of 2011. I hope it's a good one! (See, I never know what I'm going to write until it happens, and the words flow like the aftereffects of a bad batch of shrimp.)

  • Let's wax nostalgic for a bit. Remember when ordering from an out-of-town company meant getting a paper catalog, tearing out the form and filling it out by hand, in the processing computing the shipping, sales tax, and order total yourself, carefully recording your credit card number in those little boxes (no such thing as a security code back then, by the way), putting it into an envelope, dropping it in the mail, and then waiting for delivery without being able to track the status in real time (or at all, for that matter)? Those were the good old days of delayed gratification, and remembering them is a good segue for today's column by George Will in which he explores how the reduction of "life's frictional costs" has changed us individually and as a society. I recommend it.

  • It doesn't happen very often, but even Macs sometimes lock up with the equivalent of the BSOD. I got a call yesterday from a friend whose high dollar Mac Pro ingested a DVD and wouldn't eject it. This is normally child's play to fix, but for some unknown reason, her entire system was also frozen. She couldn't use the keyboard or mouse, and all applications and settings were unresponsive. I googled around and found a rather desperate technique involving a business card, and passed it along, albeit without much hope that it would actually work. She called back in ten minutes, ecstatic. So, Mac users, if this strange thing ever happens to you, don't discount this potential solution.

  • January typically brings a lot of "Best Of" lists related to the previous year, and one of my favorites is MyFonts.com's Top Fonts. This year's list contains some typically impressive fonts - my favorite on the list is Origins, although I can envision very few web-related uses for it - but what strikes me is the flowery language the editors use to describe typefaces, evoking the work of professional wine tasters or product description writers for  The J. Peterman Company.  But, anyone who can wax poetic at the sight of fonts is OK in my book.

  • I suspect you've seen the following video, about the homeless man with the "classic radio voice." But it's worth re-watching. Not only is his voice amazing, but his situation and how he's coping with it is somehow winsome, and you just want to root for him to succeed. I suspect he will, somehow. [Update: His strategy is working; he's making the morning talk show rounds and "job offers are pouring in."]

  • I dig Venn diagrams, especially the ones that purport to show relationships of dubious credibility but maximum hilarity. Here's a good example that's recently been making the rounds (source unknown):

    The only thing is, according to this article, this is not really a Venn diagram. Or, as Crocodile Dundee would say were he a statistician instead of a knife-wielding gadabout, you call that a Venn diagram? That's not a Venn diagram; this is a Venn diagram:

    If the implications escape you, don't worry. We're all good at different things. As are TSA agents, doctors, and...well, you get the picture. But Andrew Plotkin's article, linked above, is still an amusing deconstruction of the original gag, and manages to be educational at the same time. This is the stuff that makes the interwebz sick (and I mean that in the good way that the cool kids say it).

  • Rick Aschman is a Christian missionary and a linguist specializing in "indigenous Amerindian languages." His hobby, however, is categorizing and collecting samples of American English dialects, and he's got a fascinating website devoted to those efforts. He's categorized those dialects into eight major groupings, based primarily on geography, each with a myriad of sub-dialects. The website has a clickable map that leads to a table of cities and towns, with links to examples of the representative dialect for those locations.

    West Texas is included in the "Inland South" category, and Aschman provides distinct examples of dialects originating from residents of cities such as Fort Stockton (oilman Clayton Williams), Odessa (singer Larry Gatlin), San Angelo (actor Fess Parker), Uvalde (actress Dale Evans) and Midland (General Tommy Franks). The linguistic categorizations are quite interesting, although the representative samples should be taken with a heaping helping of salt. While I won't dispute that Claytie talks like a lot of West Texans I know, I suspect that Dallasites will balk at being represented by the dulcet nasal tones of H. Ross Perot.


OK, I only made it word for word through the first item and link, but I really appreciated it. It was worth the read for me. I skimmed the rest and may come back. Overall, yes, I'd say it's a "good one" as far as a start for 2011 Random Thursdays.

I'd say that most West Texans veer more towards sounding like General Tommy Franks than Clayton Williams and I pray that my own twang is not as severe despite being a native.

I thoroughly enjoyed, agreed, and (unfortunately) identified with George Will's article. I myself have lamented the scarcity of patience that's so readily facilitated by our modern conveniences. I especially liked Daniel Akst's calling the Internet the "collapse of delay between impulse and action." It's precisely because of our temptation-rich environment that I feel it's all the more important to rail against things that're so casually accepted as norm - like computers in the classroom, for example. We brazenly roll forward (with an increasing pace) with that wasteful and mostly foolhardy concept regardless that there's little or no evidence that it truly does enrich the learning process or boost academic performance.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on January 6, 2011 6:43 AM.

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