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  • Blog Post: The citizenship test is pass/fail; there's no blue ribbon for acing it

    The civics portion of the United States citizenship test is an oral exam wherein you must correctly answer six out of ten questions. One of my friends studiously prepared for his examination, going so far as buying a CD with the questions and answers and listening to it every day during his commute to...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: spend

    Remember, Microspeak is not merely for jargon exclusive to Microsoft, but it's jargon you need to know. We don't encounter the term spend much in the engineering side of the company, but it's in common use among those who regularly deal with money and budgets. We are in line with company standards...
  • Blog Post: The wisdom of seventh graders: The emergency survival kit

    As a precursor to reading a story about survival, seventh grade students were asked to come up with a list of things they would want to have in their emergency survival kit. Students were specifically instructed to limit themselves to things that were readily available (so no Apache helicopters ),...
  • Blog Post: News flash: Big houses cost more to maintain

    In 2005, we learned that big houses cost more to heat . In 2006, we learned that big houses cost more to cool . But then the research into big houses seems to have stalled. No worries. The research journal The Wall Street Journal recently released a paper concluding that big houses cost...
  • Blog Post: Revival of the Daleks: Act One, Scene One

    In 2009, a group of volunteers on a routine cleanup of a pond in Hampshire, England discovered a Dalek . (Later in the episode, the story may introduce a scientist who is thawing out a 30,000-year-old-virus .)
  • Blog Post: Outdoor Trek: Mirror, Mirror starts this weekend

    As previously noted , Outdoor Trek will be staging live performances of the Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror . The schedule is up . Three weekends starting this Saturday at Blanche Lavizzo Park . Saturday performances are 7pm; Sunday performances are 2pm. Admission is free. Attend if you...
  • Blog Post: The social interactions in two preschool classes, in graphic form

    Each preschooler at my daughter's school was asked a few simple questions, and the answers were printed in the yearbook. Among other things, the preschoolers were asked to complete the sentence, "I like to play with (person)." This is the type of question that leads to tears and hurt feelings. ...
  • Blog Post: Microspeak: Brownbag

    Remember, Microspeak is not merely for jargon exclusive to Microsoft, but it's jargon that you need to know. The term brownbag (always one word, accent on the first syllable) refers to a presentation given during lunch. The attendees are expected to bring their lunch to the meeting room and eat while...
  • Blog Post: Get your hex wrench ready, because here comes the Ikea bicycle

    Ikea säljer elcyklar . Click through for two-image slide show. Ikea selling electric bicycles Forget furniture. Ikea is now launching, that's right, an electric bicycle. It goes under the name People-Friendly and costs around 6000 SEK ($900 USD). But only in Älmhult,...
  • Blog Post: How to take down the entire Internet with this one weird trick, according to Crisis

    According to the television documentary Crisis which aired on NBC last Sunday , a cyberattack took over the entire Internet. Timecode 13:00: "Anything connected to the Internet. Banking systems, power grid, air traffic control, emergency services. The virus has spread into them all." And...
  • Blog Post: Eventually, we may find out where notes eight through twelve came from

    CBC Radio's Tom Allen investigates the origin of the opening four notes of the classic Star Trek theme . He traces it to the opening of Mahler's First Symphony, then further back to Brahms's Second Symphony and Beethoven's Fourth Symphony. In college, one of my classmates (the same one that...
  • Blog Post: Even if you're the President, your mother still has the power to embarrass you

    Last year, in honor of Mother's Day (the United States version), the John F. Kennedy Library shared a letter sent by President Kennedy to his mother . Mrs. Kennedy had contacted Premier Khrushchev asking for an autographed photo, copies of which were subsequently forwarded to the White House so...
  • Blog Post: Raymond's house rules for Easter Egg Hunts

    One of my colleagues frustrates his family by hiding the eggs for the annual Egg Hunt way too well . "Apparently, drawers and freezers are out of bounds in the traditional egg hunt." Here are my house rules for Easter Egg Hunts: All eggs must be hidden within the implied egg-hiding area. No...
  • Blog Post: The gradual erosion of the car trip experience, part 2

    When I learned that my nieces were heading out on a road trip, I asked, "Are you going to sing songs?" My eldest niece looked at me as if I were from Mars, then replied, "No, we bring electronics ."
  • Blog Post: Different senses of scale create different travel expectations

    A friend of mine had a business meeting near London, and he decided to extend it to a tour of Scotland and England once the meetings were over. (This is the same friend who took me on the emergency vacation many years ago.) His plan was to rent a car early one morning and drive from the meeting location...
  • Blog Post: When visitors to the United States underestimate the size of the country

    A friend of mine who is from Lebanon (but now lives in Seattle) invited his grandmother to come visit for the summer. When she arrived, he asked her, "Grandma, is there anywhere in particular you would like to visit?" His grandmother replied, "I'd like go to to Washington, DC." "Okay, Grandma...
  • Blog Post: Raymond's highly scientific predictions for the 2014 NCAA men's basketball tournament

    Once again, it's time for Raymond to come up with an absurd , arbitrary criterion for filling out his NCAA bracket . This year, I look at the number of followers of of the basketball team's official Twitter account, or one tenth of the number of followers of the school's athletic department...
  • Blog Post: On live performances of Star Trek

    Spock's Brain is generally considered to be the worst episode of Star Trek . That may be why in 2009 Mike Carano decided to perform it as a theatrical production. Here is the opening scene , and here's Carano talking about the show's genesis . In the second video, skip ahead to 2:40 to see more clips...
  • Blog Post: Why Johnny can't read music

    In the book He Bear, She Bear , the musical instrument identified as a tuba is clearly a sousaphone. (For those who are wondering what the title has to do with the topic of musical instrument identification: It's a reference to the classic book Why Johnny Can't Read .)
  • Blog Post: What two-year-olds think about when they are placed in time-out

    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...
  • Blog Post: A simple email introduction: Fan mail

    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...
  • Blog Post: Nieces sometimes extrapolate from insufficient contextual data

    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...
  • Blog Post: The Grand Duke's monocle is an affectation

    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.
  • Blog Post: When someone proposes marriage, bear in mind that there is a question that needs to be answered

    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...
  • Blog Post: The heavy metal umlaut encroaches into Seattle real estate

    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. ...
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