Excuse me, but you seem to have stumbled into my little corner of the World Wide Web. Please wipe your feet.
Saturday, June 7, 2003
The weather being what it is, I decided not to go to the lake this weekend. Now I'm feeling doubly bad that I missed
last weekend. So I’m doing the usual sour grapes thing, glancing out the window frequently and smiling smugly as I take in
the looming clouds. I suppose I’d be truly happy if it were to start raining…hard. A little severe weather wouldn’t
hurt. Unfortunately, I can't get it out of my head that it could be gorgeous at the lake, 150 miles away. I’m
trying not to think about that.
Oh no... please, someone tell me that's not the sun coming out... and what's that?
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the Internet
you’ve run across 404 error pages. Broken link, server down, mistyped URL, whatever. Usually you don’t bother to read them.
Lots of tiny type suggesting what might be wrong and what you might do about it that probably won’t work anyway. Every once
in a while, though, you run across one that grabs your attention just as you’re about to click away. I’m not sure whether this is an emerging art form or what,
but it serves to illustrate my contention that no matter how inconsequential the topic, there’s always at least one website devoted to it.
I've expressed my opinion on this issue a couple of times already (and judging by the resounding silence, it's
not a widely held one), so I really don't want to beat a dead horse, but I thought this was pretty good.
I have a thing about word origins. Every once in a while I’ll run into a word whose origin seems to defy any logical
explanation. This bothers me. It happened quite recently with regard to the word “cheapskate.” “Cheap” I understand (boy,
do I understand!), but “skate”? So I turned to The Word Detective, and this is what he had to say:
No one knows for certain where the “skate” in “cheapskate” (meaning a very stingy person) came from, although we
do know that “cheapskate” first appeared in English around 1896. Authorities are also fairly certain that this kind of “skate”
is not related to the “skate” fish, which resembles a ray and takes its name from the Old Norse word “skata.” The other common
kind of “skate” (as in roller-skate or ice-skate) is also not related to “cheapskate,” and comes from an Old French word (“eschasse”)
meaning “stilts.” Go figure.
The most plausible theory about the “skate” in “cheapskate” traces it to the Scots word “skate,” a term of contempt
which apparently also crops up in a slightly different form in the archaic term “blatherskite,” meaning a person who blathers,
or babbles nonsense. If this theory is true, “cheapskate” would thus translate as essentially “stingy creep,” which makes
Thanks, Word Detective!
(Note to self: In future, try to refrain from referring to yourself as stingy creep.)
The ancient art of origami meets the modern art of CD burning. Here’s a cool way to label and protect all of those mix CDs you’ve been burning while earning Zen points with the contemplative
art of oriental paper folding. Strictly a web-based interface and you need Adobe’s Acrobat Reader (you already have that,
don’t you?). Prints out an 8-1/2" x 11" page with fold marks indicated. It’s a quick, easy and – dare I say – elegant alternative
to expensive jewel cases (all right, they’re not that expensive, I’m a cheapskate). Give it a try.
Over the past few years Google has risen to preeminence as the search engine
of choice for many Internet users. So much so, in fact, that “google” has entered the slang lexicon as a verb referring to
a Google search. Google is apparently fighting such usage, but I suspect it’s a lost cause. Most people will stop using it
at about the same time they start referring to Bandaids as "plastic adhesive bandage strips" and Post-It Notes as "self-stick removable reminder labels". Success can bring unexpected consequences. Glad it’s not my battle.
Google’s private ownership and secretive
nature have led some to question its motives and tactics. And while I’m not sure I buy into all of their concerns, it’s certainly something
to think about. The Internet is a remarkable resource, but as we’ve all learned in these days of spam, spyware and identity
theft, you’ve got to approach it with both eyes wide open.
point of all this is to tell you about a little-documented Google feature of which I recently became aware. Did you know that
you can enter an area code and telephone number, separated by hyphens, as a Google Search? If the number is listed, it will
return the name and address for that number together with links to Yahoo! Maps and MapQuest giving detailed
driving instructions to the location. Sinister? Not necessarily. Could be quite useful, in fact. It all depends on who’s looking
if you are uncomfortable with this, you can request removal from the phone book. To do this you first need to find
out whether your number is listed in this manner by attempting a search, entering your full telephone number separated by
dashes (e.g. 555-555-5555). If the number appears in the mapping database, an icon resembling a telephone will appear next
to the first or second entry on the results page. Clicking on this icon will take you to a page containing a description of
the service, and a link to request your number be removed from the database.
I decided to forego what
would have been a spectacular weekend at the lake to take care of some pressing matters at home. My loss. But
at least I think I’ve managed to keep the neighborhood dandelion vigilantes at bay for another week or so.
We have the misfortune
of living in close proximity to a large expanse of land containing the local elementary and high schools. No doubt, in the
interest of ensuring that toxic fumes don’t fell our youth, chemical weed control on these lands is verboten. The result is
the horticultural equivalent of a toxic waste dump hunkered down in the midst of pristine suburbia. Each spring, vast clouds
of superbly healthy dandelion seed darken the sky over the neighborhood (much of it making a beeline for our lawn). Manual
control of the resulting spawn using those puny forked tools is laughable, as my back and knees will stridently attest.
Chemlawn rules here!
crumbling like a saltine to unspoken peer pressure, I’ve abandoned any environmentalist notions and ruthlessly obliterated
the last bastion of weeds in the neighborhood with a chemical spray so powerful that I dare not set foot in the yard for…well,
hey, perhaps there is a silver lining.
The dated links above are to previous week's posts. Take a look if you haven't been following along.
And just for the record, all words and pictures, except as noted, are mine and mine alone. I take full responsibility
for them (unless, of course, legal action is threatened).
Willie, here, is both the mascot and the arbiter of good taste for this site... So, as you might
expect, people will be offended. My apologies.
"There's nary an animal alive that can outrun a greased Scotsman!"