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26 February 2008

Time, Satirized

Even with the breadth of items on today's web, one may still encounter and savor combinations of bits whose very existence has the power to surprise. TO believes that WWV-The Tick, cited under the unexpected Satire heading within Wikipedia's article on the U.S. standard time station, parodying what might occur if commercial interests overtook the National Institute of Standards and Technology's time signal broadcasts, clearly appears to qualify.

25 February 2008

Constitutional Edge Cases

There's interesting commentary at today's, under the heading "Homework for the Legal Beagles". TO hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court will not be called upon to make a contentious interpretation relative to these factors following the upcoming election.

23 February 2008

Open Source: The Prospect of Self-Driven Control

This post is being written using open source software. Why is this? There are a number of technical arguments, but they aren't the focus of this post. TO observes a subjective factor that makes OSS attractive: the ability to reach "under the covers" to adjust, configure, customize, or add to it. The title and theme of the excellent Freedom To Tinker blog, though not primarily oriented to OSS, captures this motivation well. If our lives evolve to balance precariously on top of more and more pieces of technology that we can neither understand nor influence, we lose control over these aspects of our environments and become alienated from them. Even if rarely or ever exercised for reasons such as available time, complexity, or lack of functional need, the potential ability to change their behavior allows a potential avenue of self-driven control. Today, many of us have only infrequent occasion to build fire from available woodland materials, but can nonetheless be facile in building or installing kernel updates. We may not be involved in building our houses, but can take satisfaction in how we shelter and arrange data. TO appreciates the satisfaction of "making things work" and enjoys amenable opportunities to do so, though can sometimes be less appreciative if a machine elects to dictate the circumstances when diagnostic assistance is demanded.

19 February 2008

Doubled LeTTers, Sometimes SOOthing, Sometimes MiSSing

While paTTing a puRRing cat, TO's Significant Other (TOSO) wondered whether other words bearing adjacent doubled leTTers were more likely than most to have sOOthing characteristics. This led TO to ponder how much of the alphabet could be speLLed with English words that doubled particular leTTers in question. Representatives for the foLLowing sixtEEn leTTers came to mind in fairly short order, some sOOthing and others not: AArdvark, eBB, aCCuse, eDDy, bEE, eFFort, eGG, teLL, coMMit, coNNect, pOOl, oPPosite, eRR, leSS, aTTend, and buZZ. (Besides Q, the gaps are concentrated: H-K and U-Y. Coincidence?) If you identify candidates for the miSSing leTTers, please coMMent. TO may also consider further or check other references, but doing so beforehand sEEmed to spoil the puZZle's chaLLenge.

18 February 2008

Observing The International Neighborhood

Having encamped on Blogspot, TO set out to survey the neighborhood with a series of clicks on the "Next Blog" link, and was interested there to encounter a number of families (particularly with young children), several photographers, and a store or two, and to observe the diverse range of languages in use. TO recalls from childhood the thrill of tuning a shortwave receiver and listening to a broadcast from a near-antipodal source, then a rare achievement. The implications of geographic distance have narrowed dramatically in the interim, and it's fascinating to be able to see shared slices of worldwide life offered at a click. Not so many years ago, it was a mark of recognized distinction to be "known internationally", which now seems archaic. TO appreciates the fact that communities can now develop based on interests rather than physical borders.

Setting Clocks Less

TO once stayed in a European hotel during the night when Summer Time shifted back to Standard Time, departing on an early flight the following morning. At that time, TO had a new watch, or at least one whose behavior TO had not previously observed across such a transition. Should TO reset the watch, or would the watch note the date and reset itself? If the latter, TO wouldn't wish to double the effect and arrive at the airport uncharacteristically late. A possible problem created by new technology (the potential of a self-setting watch) demanded and received an obvious solution created by new technology (finding the watch's instructions on the web). As it turned out, the watch didn't set itself, but the prospect that it might created new uncertainty and consumed more time than it would have taken to set it manually. Alternatively, if it became common and general knowledge that electronic watches always set themselves on time zone changes, and they did, that would also be fine. Warning of the impending time change, the hotel thoughtfully posted signs inviting guests to "set your clocks less" that night. TO interpreted their intended meaning as one of reducing their indicated hour by one, but self-setting clocks would also achieve the stated goal. It would be good to know ahead of time if you were carrying one, though.

Inscribing Web-Facing Parchment

On registering this blog, TO was interested to be able to select a template format that appeared (at least in its background) subtly reminiscent not only of the pre-web era, but perhaps even of the pre-paper era. Evocative of tradition, but neither bound nor chained to a library table. No need for electronic quill pens for inscription, either; a browser serves well. TO appreciates these contrasts and is pleased to post among them, but does not anticipate recourse to archaic fonts or engagement of manuscript illuminators to compound their effect.

Observing On The Edge

An opening post, in which This Observer presents a brief introduction for this blog's esteemed readers, if, when, and as they emerge. If a keyword query for "on the edge" brought you here in search of informed insider commentary on skydiving or other risk-seeking physical pursuits, you'll probably be disappointed. Instead, TO is more likely to comment on "edge cases" in and around the contemporary world and life within it, items that don't seem to behave in the ways that TO might expect, that juxtapose oddly with their surroundings, or that are simply amusing. TO is intrigued by these (whether in appreciation, dismay, or both), and hopes that readers will share these interests.