2016.08 minutiae

  • In July I had to renew my Apple account so I could continue selling the iOS versions of Photopia and 9:05 for another year.  But there is no "renew account" button on Apple's web site.  After all, this is Apple we're talking about.  What Apple made me do was download 200 megabytes of software in order to run the program with the "renew account" button in it.  (I would say "that's the most Apple thing ever", but failing to pay $14.5 billion in taxes is up there.)

  • During one of my tutoring appointments, my student's tween sister was in the kitchen taking her first stab at making cookies from scratch.  After putting the first batch in the oven, she got out a bowl, which she proudly labeled "CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES".  Seventeen minutes later, the cookies come out of the oven.  After they've cooled down a bit, she shares them with family members.  The reaction:

    "These are awful!"

    The girl herself tries one.  "Oh, yecch," she says, disappointed.  Then, immediately, she brightens up.  "Wait! I know what to do!"

    As I pass through the kitchen on the way out, I see that the bowl is now labeled "GLUTEN-FREE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES".

  • One thing that struck me when I watched the Chilean movie No is that I understood the dialogue about as well as I understand the dialogue when I watch French movies.  I speak French, at least to the extent that, if you give me a moment to think, I can come up with a sentence that communicates roughly what I want to say, albeit with some grammatical errors; I do not speak Spanish except to the extent that I can order at a taqueria.  But as far as understanding what people are saying in those languages while speaking at a normal rate, yeah, my comprehension is about even — i.e., poor, but good enough that I can tell when the English subtitles aren't literal translations of the dialogue.

  • I was also interested to discover that Chilean speakers seem to drop most of their s's.  In No, people talk about the communists a lot, but they drop both s's in the word "comunistas" — it comes out as "comunita".

  • One of the big stories of the Democratic National Convention was a speech given by a man named Khizr Khan, whose son was a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.  I would estimate that, in the online comments following that speech and Donald Trump's attacks on the Khan family, about sixty percent of people misspelled "Khan" as "Kahn".  To me this is like misspelling "Abdulaziz" as "Goldstein".  "Khan" is a Mongolian title that has been widely adopted as a surname among South Asian Muslims; "Kahn" is a Germanicized version of "Cohen".  How do people get those confused?  What, just because they have the same letters?  So do "clam" and "calm", and people don't mix those up.  But I remembered that there was a big hullaballoo a few years back about the notion that, when people read, they process the first letter, the last letter, and which letters are in between, but not the order of those middle letters, so smotehnig lkie tihs is atcaully sruprsiinlgy itnellgibile.  Still, it makes me wonder.  Many years ago, Dan Schmidt wrote that he could not visualize anything when he closed his eyes, and that when he told people this, people generally replied in one of three ways:

    • Oh yeah, I can't either!
    • Really? Bizarre! I can't imagine that!
    • Well, no one literally "visualizes" things. It's all semantics.

    Dan's hypothesis was that visualization ability was a continuum, so if you were in the 10th percentile, you would know that ability was one you did not possess, and if you were in the 90th percentile, you would know that ability was one you did possess… but if you were in the 40th percentile, and could dimly visualize things, you might think that everyone had roughly the same ability, and that the 90th percentile people were overselling their abilities and the 10th percentile people were underselling theirs.  I wonder whether the same is true about dyslexia.  I.e., could it be that people diagnosed with dyslexia know very clearly that letters "jump around" when they read, and that people who have no dyslexia at all cannot imagine mistaking "Khan" for "Kahn", but that there are lots of people with mild dyslexia who find that an easy mistake to make, and that these are the people who write "Ghandi" for "Gandhi" and who see "defiantly" and think that must be how to spell "definitely"?

  • What jumped out at me when the Clintons released their tax returns was that both Hillary (who has written five books) and Bill (who has written four) make less than $30,000 a year in royalties.  I wonder what level of success an author has to achieve in order to be able to live off her back catalog.

  • You know that "it's my party and I'll cry if I want to" song from the early '60s?  It turns out that the next six songs on the album are: "Cry Me a River"; "Cry"; "Just Let Me Cry"; "Cry and You Cry Alone"; "No More Tears Left to Cry"; "Judy's Turn to Cry".  I haven't seen an album with that kind of thematic coherence since Hodor dropped his latest.

  • One of the runners on my Facebook list linked to an event that proudly declared, "With Half Marathon, 10K and 5K races there's a distance for everyone!"  Which is only slightly less obnoxious than if Tesla were to advertise, "With models at $150,000, $100,000, and $75,000, there's a car for everyone!"

  • Another Facebook post that popped up in my feed wondered how computer manufacturers could expect there to be a market for computers with only 4 GB of RAM in 2016.  And it occurred to me: my computer, which I've had since 2010, has 4 GB of RAM, and it's holding up fine; I guess it would be nice to be able to convert Youtube videos of history lectures to MP3s a little faster so I can listen to them in my car, but otherwise I have no complaints.  And yet the idea of bringing my 1984 computer (a monochrome IBM PC with no hard drive) to college with me in 1990 would have been preposterous.  It now occurs to me to wonder whether there's any technology from 2010 that would be too outdated for me to use today.  Any ideas?

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