James Burke's first Connections series drove home the idea that change in one area can have unexpected impact in far different fields. The Butterfly Effect reminds us that the tiniest difference may lead to great changes. The invention of the automobile was one event that led to vast societal changes no one could have predicted. Television was another. Then the Internet. Within the Internet, there was Google, which may be the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in our time, who knows? And now there is Wolfram|Alpha. (More)
Is anyone else as frustrated as I am with Word's so-called Title Case (called "Capitalize Each Word" in Word 2007)? I haven't actually found any use for that option; in general, only the more important words of a title should begin with uppercase letters.
But ta-da! The Internet comes to the rescue, again. Allen Wyatt's WordTips has a macro that will do what is needed. Here it is, modified slightly—I added "an" and "and" to the list of words that should not be capitalized, and removed "is"; I was taught that all verbs, even small ones, are important enough to be capitalized. It's easy to change the list to suit your needs, and I may modify it further through time. If the excluded words occur at the beginning of the title, they are left in uppercase. (More)
As I try to steer a course between providing too much information and too little, let me attempt to explain what I plan to institute as a general policy with regard to links in my posts. I provide links to other sites for various purposes: to give credit where it is due, to provide resources for further exploration of a subject, and/or because I think I can't do justice to the source with a few excerpts. At the request of several of my readers, what I will try to do is provide enough information within my own post to make it informative and perhaps interesting, providing links for the above-mentioned purposes but not expecting the majority of my readers to follow them. When I do think a link is particuarly important, I'll make that clear.I've been thinking about the subject recently, as the amount of information that comes my way continues to expand exponentially. I like to think of myself as an aggregator for my friends and family, passing on important ideas, worrisome trends, and interesting stories that others might not find; I know that I am grateful to people who provide that service for me. But I also know that merely being sent a link is no longer particularly helpful. If I don't know something about the subject, and what's more important, what the sender himself thinks about the link he has sent, I find I'm less and less likely to check it out. Too much information, too little time. Since many of my readers have less time than I do, I'll try to provide better service here.
Feeling the relief of the immediate pressure of travel/Christmas/wedding, I decided to make some long-overdue blog modifications. Some were easy, and some...well, let's just say that—as with much system maintenance—it started by breaking more than it fixed. Specifically, links. And because this particular change was system-wide, it messed up Janet's links as well as mine. Not all of them, but some, and finding out which ones is part of the fun. :) So please be patient as I continue to work on this, all the while trying not to let it consume too much of the time that should be spent on laundry, etc.Your Webmaster.
Please be patient, those of you who sent me the innundation of e-mails that awaited me tonight. You know the stories you hear about people in a coma who can understand all that is going on around them but can't respond? It's something like that. At the moment I can receive e-mail but not send it. I have no idea why, but I'll be working on it soon.Maybe after the Scattergories game that is calling me right now....
During the 18 months we lived in the Boston area, we experienced three deaths in our immediate family. This, as I realized how much vital information was being lost, was half the reason I developed an unexpected and almost obsessive interest in genealogical research. The other half was inspired by the proximity of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) library on Newbury Street. Although I am now over 1200 miles away from that treasure trove of information, I maintain my membership in the Society, and their eNews letter arrived at my inbox this morning.Normally I can skim the newsletter quickly, maybe click on a link or two and read associated articles, bookmark an occasional new resource, then liberate my inbox. This time, however, the missive included a link to a new (to me) blog that is only tangentially connected with genealogy. Over an hour has since elapsed and I am still on the course begun when I opened that e-mail, now making my own post about The Occasional CEO. (More)
Thanks to Andy B.'s suggestion, I just installed the latest version of Firefox. No verdict on it as yet—it was an easy install, and some of it is seamless, some really cool (such as the security information you can get by clicking on the title bar icon, though the number of websites that identify themselves has been disappointing), and some annoying (changed appearance of some of the icons, which will take some getting used to for someone with the kind of visual memory I have). Some of the big new features include lots of things you can do from the title bar, and I see that how bookmarks are organized has changed; also, security has supposedly been significantly enhanced.So far I've liked the evolution of Firefox, unlike Netscape which got more and more annoying with each new version, as they added features I didn't want and which ate up more and more memory and disk space. Time will tell with 3.0.
Here's a scary article for you: Emily Gould's Exposed, from the May 25, 2008 New York Times Magazine. Andrew Keen (The Cult of the Amateur) would definitely appreciate this story of one woman's venture into a world of publishing unfettered by editorial oversight and subsequent free-fall into the Dark Side of Blogging.
I slumped to the kitchen floor and lay there in the fetal position. I didn’t want to exist. I had made my existence so public in such a strange way, and I wanted to take it all back, but in order to do that I’d have to destroy the entire Internet. If only I could! Google, YouTube, Gawker, Facebook, WordPress, all gone. I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed for an electromagnetic storm that would cancel out every mistake I’d ever made.
Another sad story about a naïve teenaged girl molested by someone she met on MySpace? Not at all. Just an imprudent adult woman seduced by the delights of seeing her thoughts in print. Scary.
The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen (Doubleday, 2007)
I'm finally reading the book I first wrote about a month an a half ago. This post is no more a proper book review than the earlier one, since I'm only through the introduction and 3/4 of Chapter One. I can feel Mr. Keen's keenly disapproving I Told You So look: yet another example of amateurs doing things badly. So be it. I just experienced a perfect example of why I have a problem with some of his assertions, and want to share it with you, my minuscule but beloved audience. Otherwise, distracted amateur that I am, I'd probably forget the illustration before finishing the book.
While I am reading The Cult of the Amateur, Porter is enjoying a G. A. Henty novel, In the Reign of Terror, and tonight he came upon a word with which he was unfamiliar: louvetier. Naturally, he asked me about it, since for years I have been the family's reference-book-of-choice. If Mom doesn't know, she'll look it up and save the rest of us the trouble. Well, I didn't know, so I went to my handy dictionary. This is no pocket-sized or student edition, but a thick, heavy Webster's with its own dictionary stand—but it failed me. On to the next room, and my online references. BabelFish: No. Answers.com: No. Merriam-Webster: No. Encyclopedia Britannica, surely: Not at all. Yet the combination of Google and Wikipedia, very much maligned in that first chapter I had been reading when Porter's question interrupted me, gave me the answer in a matter of seconds. I should have tried them first, but I was under the influence of the book. A louvetier, for those of you who are panting to know, is a French wolfcatcher, master of the wolfhounds and responsible for organizing the wolf hunts. Wikipedia may indeed be amateurish and prone to bias and error, but it answered the question swiftly and—confirmed by Porter from the context of the book—accurately.More to come. I can see there is more to appreciate about Keen's insights than I was expecting, as well as plenty with which to disagree.
Okay, so it may not generate any cash income, but my status as a blogger has earned me a free, one-year subscription to the Encyclopedia Britannica online! Many thanks to Groshlink for the alert. I'm grateful for the existence of Wikipedia, the hare in the online encyclopedia race, because of its wide-ranging, rapid-response (if not necessarily dependable) fluidity, but the opportunity to be able to access, and link to, a steady, reliable tortoise like the Britannica is not to be missed.The application site has been swamped, it is claimed, but my blog was approved for the free account in less than 24 hours. Try it with your blog, before they change their minds!
Our spam filter usually works really, really well, but the stupid spammers are getting more and more clever, and there were two when I awoke this morning. I deleted them, but those of you who use feedreaders will no doubt see them. In case you were wondering, my posts were shanghaied—the spam came from Shanghai, China. (Thanks, Feedjit!)More disturbing, however, was that in the process of deleting them I discovered two legitimate comments that had been marked as spam. I fixed that, but one was in made January and the other in February, so they don't show up in the Recent Comments list. My apologies to Peter V and Stephan; click on their names to see the posts and their comments.
I've known the Agony of Defeat often enough when it comes to the sport of e-mail balancing, but today I glory in a victory: My Inbox is empty.
That's rare enough, but not enough to merit a blog post. Although it seems to balloon to over 100 e-mails with unconscionable ease, and sad to say even 300 if I blink, I can usually whack it down to manageable size, even briefly zero, with a little sustained effort. And some cheating. (More)
For those of you who don't read Heather and Jon's blog, I can't resist posting this view of life through the eyes of a four-year-old living in a geek house in this new century:
We happened to get two pictures in the mail, and Jonathan was holding them and looking at them. Then he piped up, "How do you get pictures to look like this?" Like what? This is a 21st century boy—he meant how do they get on paper.