Non-Computer

  • The Old New Thing

    What two-year-olds think about when they are placed in time-out

    • 10 Comments

    My niece (two years old at the time) was put in the corner as punishment for some sort of misdeed. At the expiration of her punishment, her grandfather returned and asked her, "你乖唔乖?" (Are you going to be nice?)

    She cheerfully replied, "仲未乖!" (Still naughty!)

    In an unrelated incident, one of my honorary nieces was being similarly punished. She told her aunt who was passing nearby, "In a little while, my daddy is going to ask me if I'm sorry. I'm not really sorry, but I'm going to say that I am."

  • The Old New Thing

    A simple email introduction: Fan mail

    • 6 Comments

    One of my former colleagues on the Windows kernel team wasn't afraid to make changes all across the system when necessary. If the engineering team decided to upgrade to a new version of the C++ compiler, my colleague was the one who gave it a test-drive on the entire Windows source code, and fixed all the warnings and errors that kick up as well as ensuring that it passed the build verification tests before updating the compiler in the official toolset. Beyond that, my colleague also ran around being a superhero, writing tools that needed to be written, fixing tools that were broken, and generally being somebody.

    Since the effect on the Windows project was so far-reaching, everybody on the team knew this person, or at least recognized the name, and as a result, my colleage ended up receiving a lot of email about all different parts of Windows, be they bug reports, requests for help using a particular component, whatever.

    And when the question was about something outside my colleague's sphere of responsibility, the message was forwarded to the correct people with a simple introduction:

    From: A
    To: XYZ-owners, Y
    Subject: Problem with XYZ

    Fan mail.

    From: Y
    To: A
    Subject: Problem with XYZ

    Blah blah blah blah

    I've used this technique a few times, but it's been a while. I should start using it again.

    Bonus chatter: At least one of you has come out and said that you post your complaints here with the expectation that the complaints will be forwarded to the appropriate team. This expectation is false. No such forwarding occurs. This Web site is not a complaint desk.

  • The Old New Thing

    Nieces sometimes extrapolate from insufficient contextual data

    • 10 Comments

    My brother-in-law enjoys greeting his nieces when they come over to visit by throwing them into the air and asking, "叫聲我?" (Who am I?)

    The nieces happily reply, "舅舅." (Uncle.)

    He then tosses them up into the air a second time and says, "大聲啲!" (Louder!)

    And the nieces happily shout, "舅舅!"

    One time, my wife was talking with her brother at a normal volume, and his niece came into the room and said to my wife, "大聲啲! 舅舅聽唔到!" (Louder! Uncle can't hear you!)

    Update: Per Frank's suggestion below, changed the niece's outburst from "舅舅冇聽到!" The incident occurred many years ago, and I cannot remember exactly what was said, so I'll go with what's funnier.

  • The Old New Thing

    The Grand Duke's monocle is an affectation

    • 10 Comments

    In the Disney adaptation of Cinderella, the Grand Duke wears a monocle. The monocle moves from eye to eye during the course of the story.

    The Grand Duke's monocle is an affectation.

    Either that, or he needs a full pair of glasses, but is very frugal.

  • The Old New Thing

    When someone proposes marriage, bear in mind that there is a question that needs to be answered

    • 31 Comments

    A colleague of mine was at a restaurant, and he spotted a young couple at the next table. The woman fawned over a classic diamond engagement ring, and when she put it on her finger, he decided that it was safe to ask them about it.

    They had gotten engaged earlier that day, and the man told the story of the proposal, up to the point where he asked her to marry him.

    My colleague then turned to the woman and teasingly asked, "And what did you say?"

    The woman chuckled, then suddenly her eyes opened wide with the realization that she had skipped over this important technical detail. She became dead serious and very, very clearly said to the man seated across the table from her, "Yes."

    My colleague paid for their dinner.

    Related story: When I proposed to my wife, the first three things she said were, "What are you doing?", "What's this?", and "Oh, my God!"

    If all you knew was that these three sentences were uttered in response to a marriage proposal, it would be difficult to determine with certainty whether the proposal was accepted or rejected.

    Fortunately for me, it went well, but after the hugging and kissing, I had to remind her, "You haven't answered the question yet."

  • The Old New Thing

    The heavy metal umlaut encroaches into Seattle real estate

    • 29 Comments

    The heavy metal umlaut is creeping into Seattle real estate.

    I submit for your consideration the condominium known as Bleü. I can't even tell what language they are trying to pretend to be.

    There are other properties in Seattle with dots, but at least the dots aren't gratuitous.

    Hotel Ändra in Belltown takes its name from the Swedish word meaning to change. (The hotel is consistent with its use of the dots, but outsiders frequently omit them, changing the hotel's name to Andra, which means "Others".)

    Hjärta Condos takes its name from the Swedish word meaning heart. Hjärta is in the Ballard neighborhood, the traditional center of Scandinavian life in Seattle. (The people who run the Web site can't seem to remember to put the dots over the a. They often spell it Hjarta, which is not a word in Swedish.)

    Note that in Swedish, the dots over the a and o are not umlauts nor are they diaereses. They're just dots. The ä and ö are not variants of a and o; they are letters in their own right. Sort of how like Q and R are like O and P with a tail, but nobody thinks of them as related letters. It's just a superficial graphical similarity.

  • The Old New Thing

    Excuses I learned from babies

    • 10 Comments

    I was visiting a friend of mine, and his young daughter was being unusually cranky. He explained, "Oh, she's teething."

    I filed that away as an excuse I could use the next time I felt cranky. "Sorry about that. I'm teething."

    Here's another excuse you might want to use:

    "No, I'm not drunk. I simply lost interest in remaining upright."

  • The Old New Thing

    The United States Team uniforms for the opening ceremony is rather hideous, and illegal, and a bit anachronistic

    • 26 Comments

    By the time you read this, the opening ceremony for a large sporting event organized by a lawsuit-happy organization may already have taken place. As part of the ceremony, the team representing the United States entered wearing ugly uniforms. They're so ugly that even the hideous Christmas sweater in your closet, the one with the reindeer and wreaths and candy canes, actually steps out, points, and laughs, saying "Ha ha, what an ugly sweater!"

    If you study the picture carefully, you will observe a number of things.

    First of all, the incorporation of the flag into the sweater pattern (and once in the pants) violates Title 4, Section 8, paragraphs(d) and (j) of the United States Code.¹

    (d) The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. …

    (j) No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. …

    Of course, this section of the United States Code is violated constantly because it specifies no penalty for violation. Therefore, you can break this law all you want; even if caught, there is no punishment. (Exception: Penalties are specified for violations within the District of Columbia. So the Olympic Team had better not wear those sweaters when they meet with the President. Actually, that's probably good advice anyway from a fashion standpoint, completely ignoring the legal angle.)

    But more interesting is that if you look closely at the picture, you might notice that the giant flag in the background has 48 stars on it, which means that this photo was taken some time between 1912 and 1959. I guess they've been working on this uniform for a long time. Either that, or they decided to kick Alaska and Hawaii off the team.

    (Actually, if you're kicking states off the flag for not being part of the team, then the flag should have only 39 stars because there is nobody from Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, or West Virginia.)

    ¹ There is disagreement over whether a flag pattern counts as a flag. Since there is no enforcement, it doesn't really matter, so work with me here. I'm going somewhere with this.

  • The Old New Thing

    The new research citation format, if students got to design it

    • 8 Comments

    References

    ¹ The Internets.
    ² Ibid.
    ³ Ibid.

  • The Old New Thing

    Why chicken wings dominate Super Bowl snack time

    • 13 Comments

    This upcoming Sunday is the biggest sports day of the year in the United States: The championship game for the professional American Football league. The entire country grinds to a halt.

    The most famous secondary effect of the game is the commercials. So many people watch the game that television advertisement costs are the highest for the Super Bowl, which means that companies will produce spectacular ads specifically for the Super Bowl, which means that more people watch the Super Bowl just for the ads.

    Another secondary effect of the Super Bowl is the spike in chicken wing sales. The United States chicken industry even issues an Annual Chicken Wing Report. NPR explains how the chicken wing became the dominant snack food for the Super Bowl.

    Bonus viewing: A Guide to American Football.

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