24 September 2015

Bits and Pieces

* A YA lit author is saving her pennies by not hiring someone to invent a new language for her aliens  to speak, and instead recycling Sumerian.  It would have been cooler is she'd inserted the origin of the Sumerian language isolate into the plot.  I had a hunch and Google sniffed it out right away.

* It is still disturbing and not widely known that police are allowed to lie to secure confessions (with rare exceptions) even though lawyers are not.  This is a systemic issue that helps to create a significant risk of false confessions and wrongful convictions.

* The evidence upon which Richard Glossip was convicted and sentenced to death for in Oklahoma is stunningly weak. It involves another major systemic issue - the use of plea bargain induced testimony from clearly guilty individuals to convict people who are not clearly guilty in the absence of that testimony.

* It has long been known that dating and courtship behavior is heavily influenced by the ratio of available men to available women.  Case studies of Mormons and ultra-Orthodox communities, however, illustrate how these imbalances can come about.  Men are much more likely to leave the Mormon church than women.  In part, women tend to be more religious, in part, the pressure to go on a missionary stint as a young Mormon man drives men out of the church and sheds light on why early Mormons may have felt that polygamy served a useful purpose. In the case of ultra-Orthodox communities a different factor is at work.  The well established trend if for older men to marry younger women, and rapid growth in cohort size in the pro-natal community means that there are more young women than there are suitably older men.

* The percentage of people who are left handed is mostly a function of the tendency of elementary school teachers and parents to force left handed people to become right handed.  This, in turn, varies by U.S. region and by the time period when you were in elementary school.  About 12% of Americans born in the 1960s or later are left handed, and the real "natural" percentage of left handers is probably a bit higher due to regional variation and the fact that some percentage of parents and teachers everywhere teach left eye dominant kids to be right handed.  I am an anomaly on that score. I write left handed, but I am right eye dominant and perform many tasks other than writing with my right hand.  Basically, someone mistakenly thought I was left handed due to false signals of that early on that were really just random "noise" about handedness and trained me to be left handed when I should have been right handed.  Cross-dominance is hardly the worst thing to experience, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone - I had some mild speech issues as a child because of it, and I have very bad handwriting and generally poor manual dexterity, in part, as a result of that developmental environment issue.

* Untreated severe sleep apnea is a major risk factor for symptoms of depression (73% have depressive symptoms) that is almost eliminated with compliant CPAP treatment (basically a mask connected to a machine that prevents you from snoring), with just 4% of those compliantly treated having depressive symptoms.  The sample size (N=293) wasn't huge, but given the immense effect size, it is perfectly adequate to be statistically significant.

* Understatement of the day:
Last week, the Open Science Collaboration reported that only 36% of a sample of 100 claims from published psychology studies were succesfully replicated: Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science.

A reproducibility rate of 36% seems bad.
* The keyboard on my computer does not meet my needs very well. It has about the right number of keys, but not all of the right ones while having others that I don't want or need to be that accessible. There are a couple of "special characters" that I use many times a day that are not assigned to keys: the paragraph mark ¶, and the section mark §. Yet, the Euro mark €, which I rarely need, is right next to prime keyboard real estate (the arrow keys) leading to many erroneous euro marks in my rough draft writing, and the $ mark which I use only now and then, has to separate keys assigned to it. I also have no use for the redundant number keys and numbers in the main keyboard area.

Other special characters that I often use (or would like to use) are ± (plus or minus), µ (lower case mu), Σ (upper case sigma), and п (lower case pi). Lower case epsilon and lower case sigma would also be nice.

And, it would also be nice to more easily add superscripts, subscripts, degree signs, and accent marks to text without going through multiple key strokes (again, I know that there are shortcuts to do it, but want to be able to do it without memorizing a lot of key strokes).

I know that, in principle, it is possible to reprogram keys to your personal preferences and to put a sticker on the appropriate keys to repurpose them, but in practice, that is too much of a pain for me to figure out relative to the benefit associated with it.

* Another rant that I have is that it is far to hard to customize a word processor to make some options more prominent while concealing other options. I would easily be willing to pay $100 or maybe even $200 to have a complete suite of customizations and I am sure that many people would like to have the same thing, but nobody in the marketplace seems to offer this as an affordable price. My guess is that it could be done with $5,000 to $25,000 of skilled programming work for each version (with some versions cheaper than others and some economies of scale), and I'm sure that the market for that product would be far more than 250 units in the entire United States.  I did much of this myself to one of my computers two or three computers ago, but computers only last a few years and aren't worth that kind of investment of time and learning how the software works that often.

What custom features (which are possible but a lot of work with existing software) would I like to have (or more often, be rid of):

1. Reduce the number of fonts that display when you pull down the font tab to 3-6 options (Times New Roman, Courier, Arial, and maybe a couple more that are used in many applications).

2. Upgrade the spell checkers to recognize specialized words from law, science and other academic disciplines. For example, I'd like to not have to teach my word processor that "tortious" is a properly spelled word that is frequently used in legal writing.

3. Remove automatic outlining with section numbering.

4. Make a "bullet" a special character rather than an outlining based function.

5. Eliminate the ability to custom set tab stop locations.

6. Include a footer with a page number centered at the bottom in 12 point font as a standard part of the document template that you remove rather than add.

7. Make widow and orphan control standard, while disabling automatic hyphenation. Automatically attach single line paragraphs (usually headings) to the following paragraph for this purpose.

8. Disable almost all auto replace features like the one that replaces (c) which is a subsection identification with the less frequently used © logogram from "coypright" that I use less often.

9. Remove about two-thirds of the top level drop down menu options that I never use, and reduce the number of ways that each feature can be accessed to one in almost all cases.

10. Reduce the number of available text colors to four to eight, rather than the several dozen I have available now.

11. Automatically convert all cut and pasted text to twelve point, Times New Roman font in standard text color with hyperlinks stripped out unless a special "paste with formatting" (or 10 point if pasted into a footnote) option is elected.

12. Make it easier to break a document into sections with distinct page numbering.

13. Eliminate the grammar checker (which is rarely helpful), but keep the spell check and word count features.

14. Make it harder to change the zoom magnification setting currently in place.

15. Eliminate "save" and always "save as" instead, to reduce the risk of accidentally erasing forms or prior versions of documents.

16. Have a "print" menu that always confirms that the printer that you are printing to is attached before it sends documents to the print cache.

17. Make it possible to select a section of text and purge all double spaces (or more) from the text in a single function.

* The song "Happy Birthday" is finally in the public domain and should have been there many decades ago according to a court ruling this week (which is still subject to appeal). The government should have just purchased that one for the public domain and been done with it long ago.

* Obvious headline of the day:
Man charged with murder in Denver fatal shooting.
Man charged with murder in non-fatal Denver shooting would be interesting. The reality, not so much.

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

• = option-8 on my Mac keyboard
what is your problem?

I love custom tab stops.

Helpful reading for you