Strange Ideas in Grammar

I don't know whether there are any natural languages that do these things, but my brain just comes up with this stuff...

What if there were a language with both prepositions and postpositions? Would certain words always be prepositions, and others always be postpositions? Would some words be able to function as either? If so, what would determine when it could be used each way? Would a given word have a different range of meaning as a postposition from what it would have as a preposition? Perhaps the surrounding grammar would determine the word order. Perhaps prepositional phrases would function as nouns or adjectives, but postpositional phrases would function in other ways (e.g., adverbially). Or perhaps some other factor would determine the word order. Maybe prepositions would introduce their phrases when the speaker is happy or content, but follow their objects in postpositional fashion when the speaker is angry, sad, or nervous. Or maybe postpositions would be more formal and polite than prepositions. Or vice versa.

Then there's case. Natural languages have a fair variety of different case systems. Some languages, like English, barely even HAVE a case morphology, because everything is determined by word order. Greek is practically the opposite: word order has pretty much nothing to do with case, so it's all determined at the individual word level by case endings. In Greek, case is determined pretty much just by function: direct objects are in the accusative, for instance, irrespective of the rest of the structure of the sentence. There are exceptions to that simple rule, of course. Certain Greek verbs, for instance, take what we think of as their direct object in the dative case. Still, though, it's the role of the noun as the verb's object that is determining its case, and that selection doesn't change to accommodate other aspects of the grammar of the sentence. I think I would say the same of ergative-absolutive systems: even if the subjective case varies depending on the transitivity of the verb, it is still the role of the noun as subject of a given verb that drives its case selection, so while it's more complex than a straightforward subjective/objective case system, it is guided by the same basic principle. However, what if there were languages that determined a noun's case by not just its role in the sentence but also other factors? What if the mood of verb, for instance, determined case roles, so that e.g. in a subjunctive clause the subject were in the case that would be used for the indirect object in an indicative clause? Or what if a combination of case and word order determined function, so that if the first major noun in a sentence were the subject it would be in a certain case, but if the second noun were the subject it would be in a different case? (There could be whole systems of word-order/case patterns, so that SVO sentences would, say, put the subject in the A case and the direct object in the B case, but OVS sentences would put the direct object in the B case and the subject in the D case. This sort of thing could even be combined with mood-driven case selection as above...)

And what if there were a language with an extremely small number of verbs, perhaps just one (a linking verb, presumably), with actions specified periphrastically using other grammatical constructs, such as adjectives? I can just imagine the kinds of sentences you could get... Instead of saying that someone ran, you would say they were fast. Instead of saying that Bob gave Mary a box of chocolates, you would say that Bob was generous and then there was a box of chocolates in Mary's hands. Replacing verbs that carry more meaning would require more acrobatics, but I'm convinced it would be possible to say just about anything in such a language, with sufficient noun and adjective vocabulary, once you got used to it.

Book Review: A Thousand Splendid Suns

First off, let me preface this review by saying that this is pretty far removed from the kind of book I normally read. It's basically Romantic (in the older sense of that term) fiction. However, the setting sort of reached out and grabbed me: the book is set in the historical twentieth-century third world. When I discovered that the public library had it on audio, I went ahead and checked it out.

As historical fiction, however, I found the book disappointing. The book jacket information raves that "personal lives are inextricable from the history playing out around them", but I find this to be less than altogether true, as the main characters are two very reclusive women. During the bulk of the story they almost never leave the house and so have almost no opportunity to directly observe anything going on outside its walls. The history is reported almost entirely through the men in the story, who are really side characters, and through intermittent narration largely irrelevant to the story. We hear about the Soviets through Laila's father, and about the Mujahideen and the Taliban through Rasheed, a man so distant (and poorly detailed) that he is himself almost a part of the setting rather than a character. There are two notable times that the history really has a direct impact. One is when a stray rocket serves as a plot device to keep Laila from leaving the city with her family. Historical fiction is not a genre that I've read extensively, but in what I have read of it, the history was much more integrated into the story than this. (The other instance, admittedly, is better writing, if a bit macabre: the hospital conditions for the delivery of Laila's second child.)

The two main characters are developed thoroughly and well. They are multi-faceted, dynamic, interesting, and reasonably realistic, and the reader can identify with them and feel sympathy for them. Most of the other characters, however, are relatively underdeveloped: flat, largely uninteresting, and in many cases static. The story suffers for this, particularly from the poor development of Rasheed. Here we have a major character, around whom the plot is wrapped like a glove, so that virtually everything that happens to the other major characters is a result of some action on his part, and yet he is so poorly developed, so distant, that I found myself completely unable to identify with him at all, unable to care at all what happened to him (for good or ill). The parents of the four women all also have important roles in the early part of the book, but of the four, only Jalil has more than one facet of his personality explored in any depth. Later, Aziza is a fairly important character, or could be, but we know almost nothing about her.

The plot writing is, in my estimation, better than the characters. Although it is predictable and even obvious at times, there are a number of unexpected turns. Most of these turns are created by actions taken by Rasheed, not by the "history playing out"; nonetheless the story has a satisfying complexity and completeness. This had to be difficult to achieve, with characters who spend nearly all of their time at home, but the author manages it surprisingly well.

Windows 7 timeline updates

There have been some significant developments apropos the Windows Blackcomb/Vienna/7 development timeline, which I've discussed in the comments there.

MT Tech Rally

Yesterday I attended a Tech Rally in Mansfield, hosted by a local reseller-and-servicer business there with the word "typewriter" in its name (or, at least, that's what it used to stand for).

The Sophos presentation on network security was a real eye-opener for me. A lot of what the guy said made sense, on some level, but he was talking mostly about kinds of networking we don't even have at the library. In particular, the whole mindset of the talk was deep in Microsoft think. When he spoke of not allowing a system "onto the network" if it doesn't meet your requirements (e.g., for having certain antivirus software installed), I'm pretty sure he was actually thinking mostly in terms of not allowing it to access certain services on the network, e.g., application servers. There were also a lot of highly-Microsoft-centric things that were fairly central to his talk, not least Active Directory. (As an administrator of OS-agnostic/heterogenous TCP/IP-style networks, I only just barely know what AD even *is*. It's not really relevant to any kind of computer network I've ever worked with.)

This doesn't make everything he said invalid, it only makes it irrelevant to me, at this time. (If I'd known that was the kind of network he was going to be talking about, I wouldn't have attended the talk, but it was just labelled "Network Security", and I work with network security (I write firewall rulesets, for instance), so how was I to know?)

I did catch the presenter in one mistake, which he made presumably because he is thinking at a higher level (specifically, at the application layer on the OSI model) and mostly looking past or ignoring the details on lower layers (notably the data link and network layers). The specific mistake he made (which I swear on Dave Barry's life that I'm not making up) was in speaking of DHCP as an enforcement mechanism. As anyone who understands TCP/IP at even a basic level can tell you, it fundamentally isn't that. (DHCP is a convenience mechanism; it doesn't enforce squat.) If the system doesn't meet your requirements, he was saying, then the DHCP server can hand it a 32-bit subnet mask, and so then it "can't go anywhere" on the network.

Yeah, he really said that. The reader may now laugh heartily at the prospect of an attacker that does not know how to change the TCP/IP settings on his computer. What kind of threat are we protecting against here? Great Aunt Mildred? Dilbert's boss?

However, he also talked about other enforcement mechanisms, including access control lists, among other things. To fully evaluate the correctness of his talk I'd have to know more about things like LDAP and NT's non-DNS "domain"-based networking, but I didn't get the impression that it was all bogus like the DHCP thing. On the whole the talk seemed coherent and mostly sane. Not that any network administrator should ever swallow anything said by any security vendor without a large helping of salt, mind you.

I also got to see one of the Microsoft "across America" vehicles (sort of like a converted bookmobile or mobile home with a lot of computer hardware crammed inside). On feature, of course, was Vista, which I got to see up close and personal for the first time. (Previously I'd seen screenshots on the web and a couple of short promo videos.) The demo guy (whose name I didn't catch) did a really nice job and seemed to be pretty well informed.

First, I want to say that the Aero Glass visual enhancements are quite slick. As someone who generally sets XP systems to the Classic look because it's just less goofy and dumb-looking than the default appearance in XP, I must say I'm pleased this time.

Some of the improvements to the Start menu in Vista also appear to be quite worthwhile. Expanding folders vertically (right into the list, albeit with an indent, sort of like in the left pane of the Explorer view in the Windows Explorer file manager) rather than horizontally seems like it will overall be an improvement (less mouse movement is required, for one thing), and the Start Search appeared to be really slick. I don't know what kind of hardware they were running it on, but it did perform really well. Impressively well, compared with XP on any hardware I've ever seen it on. These are small things, but it's often the small things that determine the quality of the user's experience. I am optimistic now about Vista being a real improvement over XP.

Not that I'm going to rush to deploy it right away, mind you. I'd like to hold out for SP1 if possible, or at least wait until next year when it's been out for a while and the first round of post-release bugs found and fixed. Nonetheless, I'm now kind of looking forward to it.

Lastly, I want to talk about the panel applets. (Microsoft has another name for them, which I forget at the moment, but I'm talking about the little applications that run embedded in that panel on, by default, the right side of the screen, updating the display in realtime.) As I predicted, it *is* more than just a fancier clock: it's a real panel-applet capability, or at least the beginnings of one, and thus a major step forward for Microsoft. I asked specifically about biff, and the demo guy confirmed that yes, there is one. Although he specifically used the word "Outlook" (which suggests to me that it may be specific to that (highly undesirable) mailreader, rather than doing POP3 or IMAP checks itself), it is nonetheless a good beginning. That's one of the major things people use panel applets for, so it's important that Microsoft thought to include it. It means they're thinking in the right directions. Also there was a system monitor of sorts (showing CPU usage and a couple of other things; gkrellm it is not, but for a ships-with-the-OS component it is a worthwhile inclusion) and something that looked like it might have been an RSS reader, though I don't actually know where it was getting its data. I didn't ask about the availability of third-party ones, but I imagine they will appear in time.

The bad news is that these panel applets cannot be placed on the regular panel (the taskbar in Windows parlance), only on the special panel dedicated to them. I asked specifically about this and the demo guy confirmed my suspicion. I didn't get a chance to find out how resizeable it is. Nonetheless, it's a beginning, and a good one. Hopefully now that it's a core feature of the Windows UI it will see improvements in future releases.

Vienna Timeline Update

An MS exec has announced that the next version of Windows will be "fundamentally redesigned" to take better advantage of multi-core processors. I discuss this further in my Windows Vienna Development Timeline thread.

Turning the Users Loose

You never find all the bugs in anything until you turn real users loose on it.

Yesterday at work, while the library was closed, I made the changes to our network infrastructure that have been in the planning and testing stages for several months now. Instead of one firewall protecting our network from the outside world and the subnets from one another, we now have two firewalls: an outer firewall that protects the whole network from the outside world, and an inner firewall that protects mission-critical systems from the rest of the local network. At both points there is no ethernet path past the firewall, so the isolation is at the physical level, and the only stuff that goes through is what the firewall expressly forwards.

I tested everything I could think of to test, of course. My testing checklist, which I spent weeks compiling, was a full page, and many of the lines read along the lines of "Test foo, bar, and baz on all of the staff workstations". I tested ICMP echo. I tested ssh. I tested the web. I tested the ability to access our web catalog. I tested the ability to access our cgi server, and whether each of several internal databases thereon automatically authenticate the user by IP address (which they *are* supposed to do for staff workstations, and *not* for anything else). I tested ftp. I tested the ability to print, to each printer. I tested all of that on each and every computer in the building.

But I forgot to test encrypted websites (https). Naturally, this morning at 9:30 (we open at 9), about five users discovered this oversight at more or less the same time (within the space of a couple of minutes).

I had to actually go in to find out what was wrong, because my coworker who was describing the problem to me on the phone was too flustered (what with several people hounding her about it at once and everything, and not being very technically inclined anyhow) to explain it very well.

So all the way there I was thinking that the internet was completely not working, and I'm like, but I *tested* that right before I left. I tested *every* computer. They could all access the internet last night...

When I got there, of course, I walked over to a patron, who promptly explained that she could access Yahoo mail, but when she tried to "do anything" (which she demonstrates by clicking a "log in" button), ... Ah, yes. I did indeed forget to test any encrypted sites. (I even tested sites that have you log in, but the ones I tested were low-security sites where the only thing at stake would be a little public profile information, so they didn't bother with SSL...)

Sure enough, port 443, although I had intended for it to be forwarded, wasn't. Well, it was from some parts of the network, but not from the patron subnet. Oops. Fixing it, once I figured out what the problem was, was a simple matter.

You never find all the bugs until you deploy.

No, Your Child is Not at the Library

Earth to parents:

No. If you have to call the library and ask if your child is here, the answer is no. I know your child probably told you he'd be at the library, but what that really means is he didn't want to tell you where he was going to be, either because he hadn't decided yet, or because he just doesn't want you to know. This is true for children of all ages, but of course it goes double for teenagers. The library is the number one leading lie American children tell their parents about where they are going to be. This was true even before the Spiderman movie a couple of years ago gave the idea to the other 7% of kids who hadn't already come up with it on their own or picked it up from a friend.

Almost all kids who come to the library come with their parents. If you aren't here, then your kids almost certainly aren't here either.

Yes, we do have kids in the library all the time who are not accompanied by their parents, but it's the same two or three dozen kids all the time. (Some of them are here almost as much as they're in school.) If your child were one of them, you would know.

Let me reiterate that: if your child were one of the ones who comes to the library, you would know. If you have to ask, then he's not here. Please stop calling the library and asking if your child is here. Your child is not here.

Most Abused Scripture Passages: Ephesians 5

I have for some time intended to document my frustration with the carelessness and disregard with which some people treat the scriptures and, in particular, certain famous passages. In his Mother's Day sermon, Pastor Simpson used Ephesians 5. He handled it correctly (our church is fortunate), but I was reminded of some of the ways I've seen the passage handled in the past, and of my intention to write about this subject.

Marriage too has been on my mind of late, primarily since this May-July this year see me attending three wedding ceremonies in as many months (which is rather unusually many for me).

Note first of all that this passage (and the entire book of Ephesians, really) is primarily talking about the church. The passage certainly does speak to marriage, but people who ignore the larger context often get confused about what it says about marriage. The worst offenders quote just verses 22-24:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

These three verses, out of context, have been used to prooftext all manner of dire heresy. I will not dignify most of it with specific responses, except to say that anyone who quotes just these three verses in isolation from the rest of the context is invariably up to no good.

The bare minimum you can quote at one go and have a reasonable chance of doing the passage anything resembling justice is verses 21-33:
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

You can see there the mutual nature of the relationship. It's not entirely symetrical, but it is very much cooperative on both sides. And yes, I have looked at verse 21 in the Greek, and it says the same thing as the English translation I quoted. If there is a word there that someone could reasonably take issue with it is "reverence", which could also be rendered "fear". Doing a detailed study on fearing the Lord would take us far off track, and in any case it would not change the basic meaning of this passage. People have been known to take issue with the word "submit", but again any wording that can reasonably be chosen (e.g., place yourselves under one another) would not change the basic meaning of this passage. "One another" is the part of this verse that we cannot get around, and it is borne out in any case by the verses that follow.

Now with that said, the wording and emphasis are quite different on the two sides of the relationship, because the man fills one role in the family and the woman another. And it is true that the man is to be the head of the household (and this is even more clear in other passages). Yet the relationship is very much reciprocal in nature, and if a man is treating his wife as some kind of servant or lesser partner, he is absolutely missing the mark.

It is worth mentioning too that the very closeness of relationship herein implied is fundamentally alien to popular culture's concept of marriage, wherein a much greater separation and individuality is retained.

But we still have not touched upon the main point of the passage. Paul explicitely states in verse 32 what should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention to the general flow of the whole letter: he is talking about the church. A proper treatment of this passage really should look at 5:21 — 6:9 as a unit. 5:21, in particular, is a concise statement of the whole passage, which is expanded then in three main parts: 5:22-33 (wives and husbands), 6:1-4 (children and parents), and 6:5-9 (slaves and masters) — all of which is talking primarily about proper relationships among believers within the church, and all of which also ties back into what was said in chapter 4.

So if you see a man use Ephesians 5:22 as an excuse to live his live selfishly, making decisions without consulting with his wife, expecting her to work a side job in addition to doing all the cooking and laundry and whatnot while he sits in a chair, and generally treating her badly, tell him to go back and read it again.

Wow, it feels good to vent. There are plenty of other frequently abused passages in scripture. Perhaps I should write up a few more in the coming months.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved. The "NIV" and "New International Version" trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Lightening and Brightening: Color-Safe Bleach for Digital Photographs

I recently mentioned the technique of using an unsharp mask to brighten a dark image, and someone asked me how "sharpening" can compensate for underexposure. This post is an attempt to explain. First, I should note up front that it's better to get a good clear photo in the first place. For the example, though, I have chosen one that is, in a word, not. The end result would be a bit better if the starting photo were a bit better, but using a really poor photo makes it easier to see what is going on, so for the sake of example, that's what I'm doing. This photo was taken using a cheap old consumer-grade digital camera. Here it is in mostly undoctored form:

I say mostly undoctored because I've cropped it. The curious can see more of the context here (this is part of the second photo there), but this much will do for the sake of explanation.

When a photo is terribly dark like this, the first thing most of us want to do (assuming we don't want to just throw it out) is lighten it up. There are various ways to do that, each with advantages and disadvantages (brightness/contrast, gamma correction, channel curves, ...) but the method I usually use in this kind of situation is the levels dialog box. (I'm using Gimp here, but other photo editors presumably have something similar.)

This photo was so underexposed, a significant band of values at the bright end was entirely unused in the original. So I brought the rightmost of the three sliders left to the point where the graph tapered off into nothing. Additionally, the darkest values are over-represented (note the giant spike on the left side of the graph), so I dragged the middle slider to the left a bit in an attempt to compensate. There is, however, a limit to how far you can go with this. After a little experimentation, these are the positions I ended up with:

The color is now rather dull, especially in the background. It was dark, and we've lightened it a bit, but lightening it too much more would wash it out. Instead, at this point I opted to use the unsharp mask filter. Again, I'm using Gimp, but other photo editors (well, ones serious enough to have filters) probably have something similar. Note that I ran the radius up to 50 pixels:

With a small radius (the default in Gimp is five pixels) the unsharp mask exaggerates changes in color across short distances, which helps blurry edges to seem sharper (though, technically, they aren't actually made sharper as such). With a larger radius like this, though, the changes in color are measured, and exaggerated, over larger distances. Rather than picking out edges, this picks out whole areas of the photo and makes them seem more distinct from one another. This has an overall brightening effect, making the colors seem bolder. Again, it can be overdone, but this image really needed it. Look at the difference in the woodwork around the windows from the image above to the one below. The snowflake also now looks white instead of dingy gray.

Finally, this image, in addition to being dark, was also rather grainy. Fortunately, it was taken at a larger resolution than I needed for the web, so I was able to solve this problem simply by scaling it down to a factor of its original size. Note the use of the cubic interpolation: chintzier scaling algorithms like nearest neighbor are not recommended, as they can actually exacerbate image quality problems. Here is my result:

It's still not the best photo ever, but if you scroll back up and look at the original again, you will notice how much worse it was. This really is an improvement. Of course, starting with a better photo initially will yield better results.

Book Review: Born on a Blue Day

[cover image]
The opening paragraph of this book had me hooked right away. That's usually a good sign.

As the next few pages progressed, I began to worry that the entire book would be a loose collection of examples of synesthesia. Then the first chapter ended, and the second chapter began a chronological journey through the author's life. The book is indeed well organized.

I found this book rather interesting. It is well-written and engaging, and the main character (the author himself) is interesting to get to know. The reader can sympathize with him from fairly early in the book.

I do have a couple of caveats, however. In the first place, the cover is a bit misleading with the tagline, "inside the extraordinary mind of an autistic savant". The author is not, in fact, autistic, and never was. This becomes immediately clear upon reading the first pages of the book. He does have Asperger's syndrome, but although Asperger's is considered to be loosely related to autism, it is certainly not the same. It is a much milder disorder, much less debilitating, and much more common. It is normal for someone with Asperger's to lead a more or less normal life. Several major Silicon Valley CEOs have been diagnosed with it. There was an article on Wired a while back entitled The Geek Syndrome, which seems to cover Asperger's pretty well, at a layman's level, so I'm not going to detail it further here. Long story short, I consider this tagline disingenuous on the part of the publisher.

The more interesting thing about the author's mind is indeed (as was hinted from the first paragraph) his pervasive synesthesia, and it IS fascinating, particularly so because it is a first-person account. The first several chapters of the book, covering the author's early childhood, are particularly interesting.

The other caveat comes to light later in the book, when the author reveals he is a practicing homosexual. This is not by any means the focus of the book, however, and it does not appear to color the remainder. For a discerning adult, I would say that the book is still interesting and, indeed, valuable. But I thought I would be remiss if I did not mention it.

A third caveat, if it can be called such, is that I am writing this review without having actually finished the book. I am writing this now, but I may update it later if I come back and finish the book. Another book has pulled me away from it for the time being, but I intend to get back to it and at least read more of the account of the trip to Lithuania, which was only just starting where I left off. That another book was able to pull me away is not a significant criticism. In the first place, this happens to me all the time, and in the second place, the book that pulled me away is by one of my favorite authors. So this is more a caveat about my review, than about the book itself. Caveat lector.

I have little doubt that a significant portion of the critical acclaim this book has received is due at least in part to the fact that the author is homosexual. Nonetheless, it does not follow that the book does not deserve some significant acclaim. It is rare, in my opinion, to see a non-fiction book about a fascinating subject like this receive any significant attention in the kinds of sources where this one has been written up — library-oriented publications particularly. Normally they focus on much less worthwhile books: formula fiction (lots of this), inane autobiographies by celebrities who neither can write well nor have had interesting lives, incoherent political ramblings, vapid self-help books... in a word, drivel. This book is certainly not that, and although the critics may like it for the wrong reasons, they are not wrong to like it.

Born on a Blue Day

[cover image]
I saw this book at the library, and it looked interesting. Now I'm reading it, and it is interesting. So I've set Stone of Farewell on the back burner and am planning to finish this one first. I'll post a review when I finish it.

On monikers, real names, and finding yourself on the web

I have for years used the moniker Jonadab the Unsightly One on the internet, partly because it struck my fancy, but also partly because I expected it to be more unique and identifiable than my actual name.

Yesterday, on a whim, I punched my first and last name (Nathan Eady) into Google and started looking through the results. I expected the first several to be me, because Eady is not a terribly common name, and because I've been active on the internet for a while. But I did not expect to get past the first page of results. In fact, the first result I found that does not, in fact, refer to me was the very last result on the fourth page, i.e., the fourtieth result overall. It's a PDF entitled 'Slide 1' from the Development Services department of the city of San Diego, and the name Nathan Eady (both halves together, even though I didn't do the search as a quoted phrase) occurs in a list of employees being noted for some dubious award. Having never been anywhere near San Diego, I am pretty well certain this isn't me.

What is perhaps more interesting is some of the stuff I found along the way -- reference to myself, or my participation in various things, that I had not thought about in some while. For example, I received an honorable mention in a contest for short bad prose, entitled the Lyttle Lytton, in 2001. I remember that sentence very well, but I had forgotten that I wrote it myself, or why. (I do remember the contest, though. It was announced on a usenet group I was reading regularly at the time.) In another place, someone had collected something I said once in a list of quotes. It was clearly something I said, but I have no recollection of the context in which I said it, only the quote remains. I found a number of things like that, obscure places I'd turned up over the years that I'd nearly forgotten about.

Two observations I'd like to draw out of this. First, it's interesting to look at what other people see and remember of you, the things that have been recorded. Second, if I'd just used my actual name in the first place instead of a moniker all these years, that guy in San Diego would be *way* further down the list.

VBS Materials moved to Blogger

A while ago I secured free hosting for our Vacation Bible School materials.

Well, the free hosting didn't work out. The site was constantly going down, presumably because the free hosting service offered some things that are difficult to secure when the content providers are untrusted. More than half the time when I tried to update the content I was unable to do so, due to technical problems.

So I've moved it over to and am now using Blogger to post the materials. One positive side of this is that it makes it easy (err, automatic, really) to keep an update history.

The downside is that it takes time to post things, since I can't just use FTP. (At least I'm *able* to post, though; with the hosting site, ftp was down half the time.) So far, all I've got up is the Bible lessons for 2007, and some general information. Nonetheless, it seems to be working out, so hopefully in the coming weeks I'll get things fleshed out over there.

Map of Osten Ard

I've been rereading The Dragonbone Chair, and in the process I've been working on this composite map. There are maps in the books, of course, but there are several issues. First, each book only has some of the maps, so one would have to carry all three (rather thick) volumes around in order to have all the maps handy, and there can be a lot of flipping around to find them. Even if you photocopy all the maps from the books and keep them paperclipped together or something, it can still be a lot of shuffling to find something, because different maps, aside from showing different areas, also have different details. Also, some things on the maps sometimes go by other names (e.g., a Sithi name, a Qanuc name, ...), so having them labeled with both names can make referring to the map easier in some cases. Finally, there are a few instances in which the text of the story directly contradicts the maps (e.g., the location of Haethstad, which on one of the maps is placed where Hullnir is on my map, but the story clearly states its correct location for Heathstad is the northeast corner of the lake). So I've been putting it all together into one map.

I'm not done, obviously. (Some of the islands in the south aren't drawn in at all...) I'll be finishing up while I reread the other books in the series. Nonetheless, what I have is already good enough to be useful, so, here it is. Update: I've since added a preview of the completed version.

Trying to look for Osten Ard maps on the internet doesn't appear to turn up anything this good or detailed, so I figure making it available to the public is a (small) service to Tad's readership. It's available in larger resolutions and in vector formats (SVG or eps (update: or PDF)) upon request. To request a copy now that this blog entry is no longer current, contact jonadab AT columbus PERIOD rr PERIOD com and be sure to put the words Osten Ard in the subject of the message. I've been answering one or two of these requests each month.

Please note that leaving a comment here does not automatically give me any way to contact you or send you the map. So if you want a copy, you need to follow the above instructions.

French Songs

One of the songs my piano book has had me playing for a while now is Alouette. The song is, of course, unmistakably French. For some reason, it was bugging me that I didn't know the words very well. So I looked them up. Unfortunately, being the curious sort of person that I am, I also looked up what they actually mean. Skylark, gentle skylark, skylark, I will pluck you. I will pluck your head! Skylark, gentle skylark, skylark, I will pluck you. I will pluck your beak! The scary thing is, this is supposedly a popular children's song.

When I read that, it caused me to wonder a bit about French culture. Bear in mind, this is only the third French song that I have seen translated into English. There's nothing particularly worrisome about Frere Jacques, but La Marseillaise is... very violent. Of course, it was written during a rather bloody revolution, and it's doubtless not the only national anthem to have a little war in it. Even our own Star Spangled Banner, which is mostly about a flag, nonetheless speaks of munitions going off in the first verse, and the third verse, although it is less graphic than the French anthem, is very much the stuff of war. Again, the song was written during a war of revolution, so it's going to contain some violence. Goes with the territory.

So what's running through my head now is, maybe Alouette is an aberration, and most French children's songs are more like Frere Jacques. Probably that is the case, and I just had the misfortune, in knowing only three French songs, to run into an abnormally high percentage of violent ones.

Still, would you encourage your children to sing a song with lyrics like that? Skylark, gentle skylark, skylark, I will pluck you. I will pluck your neck! And your beak! And your head! I'm pretty sure that if I were a French parent, I wouldn't teach my children this song.

Pink Grapefruit Pie

Crust Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soft shortening
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 7/4 cups wheat flour
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP hot water

Filling Ingredients:
  • 1 ripe pink grapefruit
  • boiling water, divided
  • 3 cups granulated sugar, or a bit less
  • 3/4 cups cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 TBSP shortening (optional)
  • 1 drop each red and yellow food coloring (optional)

Mirengue Ingredients:
  • 4 egg whites
  • 4 TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla flavoring

First, mix the crust dough: beat the butter together with the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and hot water until creamy, then add the cornstarch and flour and mix thoroughly with a sturdy spoon until it looks homogenous at a glance. Form into two lumps and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the filling: Stir the cornstarch into the sugar. Bring the water to a rolling boil. Grate some grapefruit rind (according to taste) into a large measuring cup, then add the pulp and juice, discarding the section dividers, seeds, and remaining peel. Add boiling water to make a total volume of four and a half cups, including the fruit, then immediately combine this with the sugar and cornstarch, stirring. Place this mixture in a saucepan over low to medium heat, and stir until it boils gently. Add another half cup of boiling water and the egg yolks and continue stirring until it comes to a good boil. It should be a nice translucent pale pink. Stir in the food coloring if desired, for a stronger shade of pink. Remove from heat and stir in the butter, if desired. Let it cool.

Preheat your oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

When the dough has chilled enough to be workable, place each half of it in turn on a large floured board and roll with a floured rolling pin, flipping and flouring once or twice as necessary, rolling it into (approximately) a circle a bit larger than a pie pan. Using a broad plastic spatula, loosen it from the board. Place a pie pan over it (upside down) and invert both together, then adjust as necessary so that the crust fits the pan, cutting off the edges. One nice thing about this shortbread crust recipe is that if it tears a bit, it mends easily enough: take a small scrap from the edge and patch the hole or tear, pressing gently. This works better than with traditional pie crust dough. Once you have both pie pans nicely lined with shortbread dough, bake them for a few minutes until they are nearly done, but don't overdo it, as they're going to spend some more time in the oven after they're filled.

When the crusts are ready and the filling cool, put half the filling in each of them, then make the meringue: beat the egg whites thoroughly, then add the sugar 1 TBSP at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla last, when the merengue is already beaten well enough, and then beat it only just enough to mix the vanilla in. Using a rubber spatula, spread it evenly over the filling, making sure it goes all the way to the edge and seals to the crust. Bake until the meringue is just lightly browned, then cool them.

Makes two pies. Serve chilled. (Yes, I know I misspelled marang about five different ways. I have never quite gotten the hang of French phonetics.)

Nice to have an excuse

I must be the most efficient person in my workplace.

Esoteric Knowledge Quiz #1

Do your friends, family, and coworkers accuse you of being a repository of useless information? (Mine do.) Here's your chance to test your knowledge of obscure but interesting tidbits...

  1. In a large glass bowl over medium heat, mix distilled water, gastric acid, and lye, taking care that it doesn't get out of the bowl. Balance the amounts of the acid and the lye so that the pH is precisely neutral, then boil away all the water. What's left?
    1. sodium hydroxide
    2. calcium perchlorate
    3. table salt
    4. sneezing powder

  2. What was the name of Julius Caesar's wife?
    1. Cornelia
    2. Calpurnia
    3. Pompeia
    4. all of the above

  3. The English words dam, dyke, and sluice all come from the same source language. Which language is that?
    1. Old German
    2. Dutch
    3. Greek
    4. Finnish

  4. When the priest Hilkiah found a long-lost copy of the book of the law while cleaning the temple, he gave it to a secretary, who read it, then took it to King Josiah and read it to him. What was the secretary's name?
    1. Shaphan son of Azaliah
    2. Joah son of Asaph
    3. Benaiah son of Jehoiada
    4. Shebna

  5. For most of the twentieth century, the Poincaire Conjecture was widely considered to be the most important open problem in mathematics. Today it is widely considered solved, due mostly to the work of one man. What is his nationality?
    1. Russian
    2. German
    3. American (of mixed European descent)
    4. Han Chinese

Answers have been posted: see the comments.

A Treatise on Mustard

I grew up thinking I didn't like mustard. The reason I thought this... well, I'll come back around to the reason in a moment. Anyway, my dad really liked mustard, but I liked ketchup, not mustard, or so I thought. But I have since discovered that mustard can actually be a quite worthwhile culinary item.

The first seeds of doubt about my dislike of mustard were sewn years ago, when I was working in fast food and became cognizant for the first time of the fact that some of the items on the menu contained mustard, and (although I had not been a big fan of fast food for other reasons) the mustard had never bothered me. At first I thought maybe it was a different, more palatable form of mustard, but no, it was indeed regular ordinary yellow mustard.

If I'd been making the sandwiches (and thus actually dispensing the mustard) right away, I'd have figured out the real issue sooner, but assembling sandwiches requires actual training, so they don't teach you to do it until you've demonstrated the ability to show up for several consecutive shifts. (Back then you could spend your first week doing nothing but toasting buns; this practice was discontinued in the late nineties, but I assume they still find extremely easy things for the first-week employees to do, because something like half of all new hires industry-wide never make it to the second week, and it would be a waste of other employees' time to train them on anything very significant.)

So anyway, what I did really notice first was that the ketchup had to be refilled about every hour (more during a busy lunch), but the mustard dispenser, which was smaller, was refilled much less often (perhaps twice a day, thrice at the outside). I watched for items that received ketchup but not mustard; there weren't any. Light bulbs started going on in my head. I already knew that fast food didn't go very heavy on the ketchup, but yet it disappeared much faster than the mustard.

Indeed, mustard is typically used in smaller quantities. This, believe it or not, was news to me. Growing up, I only had my dad's example to look at. He uses mustard in roughly the same way I use ketchup, applying it liberally to both sides. (He puts his mustard straight on the bread; I tend to put something (lettuce for instance) between the ketchup and the bread, to keep the bread from getting soggy, but other than that the principle is the same.) He uses it in quantities such that in addition to dominating the flavoring it also significantly increases the moisture level of the sandwich, oozes around when you take a bite, and so forth. I don't think I will ever like mustard used in this way.

Having discovered, however, that mustard used in smaller quantities as a seasoning is much more palatable, I began to experiment. I've since discovered any number of uses for it, some few of which I will list here:

  • Downmixed with about ten parts ketchup (and possibly some brown sugar, depending on your mood and the rest of the meal), it jazzes up the flavor, making a good dipping sauce for anything from dill pickles to fried potatoes.

  • It also adds interest to barbeque sauce. I use about the same amount of mustard as worchestershire sauce in this context.

  • A little mustard in some water makes a good cooking medium for chicken.

  • A couple of teaspoons of mustard goes well in some molasses-based sauces, e.g. for over a stir-fry or glazed carrots.

Basically, the trick is to know how to use it.

Paul's News (draft two)

As I said initially back in January, I've been working some more on this poem, which I like to think of as potential song lyrics (though a refrain would probably be needed). Anyway, I've worked on it a little more and have made good progress, so I thought I'd post an update. I expected to only go through chapter 12, but it fell shy of the end of the stanza, so I added brief synopses of the following three chapters, which in some ways does draw the whole thing to a better close.

The Good News According to Paul:
A Synopsis of Romans 1-15

God can be known, but men turned aside, exchanging their God for nothing.
Wickedness grew, and God let them go, his judgement in sin erupting.
Hypocrites boast, condemning themselves, but Gentiles and Jews are the same.
No one does good, but God gave the law to show us our sin, then he came.
Righteousness comes apart from the law by faith in the act of his Son.
Abraham's faith that justified him preceded his circumcision.
He is our father, we who believe. Our sins are not held against us;
Thus we rejoice: our hope comes from God, and hope does not disappoint us.

While we were helpless, God demonstrated love when he shed his own blood.
Death from the time of Adam till Moses reigned, for we couldn't make good.
Now we can die to sin and can live to God through the life of one man.
Slaves must obey the master they serve, but sin is no more our sultan!
Freed by this gift, we die to the law, which made us aware of our sin.
Ruled by my sin, I do what I hate: I know nothing good is within.
Through the command sin put me to death — I can't keep the law, I now see.
Sin within me does what I should not; he rescues me, setting me free.

God sent his Son in likeness of man to do what the law requires.
Live by the Spirit: you are in Christ, your mind set on God's desires.
We are his children, led by the Spirit; this is our obligation.
Nothing can take away his great love; we wait in anticipation,
Children of promise, chosen by God, because of his mercy righteous.
Israel's sons, to whom it belongs, received it from God before us.
Though they pursued, they did not obtain; they fell on a stone of stumbling.
We are his people, though we were not; they did not accept his coming.

Working to gain salvation themselves, they did not rely on God's plan.
Faith comes from hearing: someone must preach, and it is by faith that you stand.
You make them jealous, that they may come; a remnant was chosen by grace;
We are included based on their fall. They will be restored to their place.
Their unbelief was mercy for us, so God may receive the glory;
Therefore, respond by giving yourselves to God. We all form one body,
Different gifts for serving the Lord. With love accept one another,
Living in peace and trusting in God and praying for me, your brother.

Isomorphisms, Popular Hymns, Equivalence Classes, and Gilligan's Island

I have known for some time that an isomorphism of timing exists between certain popular hymns (e.g., Amazing Grace, and the verse of Oh, How I Love Jesus), campfile songs (e.g., Fill Up My Cup), and the theme song from Gilligan's Island. As a result, the music and lyrics are interchangeable, so you can sing the words from one to the tune of another.

It has now come to my attention that the popular Christmas carol, Joy to the World, is also a member of this same equivalence class. So if you've ever wanted to sing Joy to the World to the tune of Gilligan's Island, now you can.

Stuffed Shells

We recently made stuffed shells, but I said something to the effect of not being overly fond of them, on account of that just being too much ricotta in one place. So we modified the recipe, putting in spinach and mushrooms and motzarella and a good deal less ricotta. And lo, the stuffed shells were actually good.

I should have changed the recipe sooner.

Three Flats

I haven't said much about the piano lately, so here's an update. I'm now playing melodies on the piano in E-flat major (three flats on A, B, and E) on the treble cleff straight out of the hymnal. I can't play in this key very *fast* yet, but I can play in it well enough to start practicing.

I'm getting better at moving and reaching up and down for higher range, too: I can now play things that I can't sing properly, because my vocal range isn't wide enough. For congregational singing, I have to wrap the higher notes of some of these songs around into the same octave as the lower ones, or some days I just can't hit them at all. But on the piano I can reach over and actually hit them. It's cool.

Finally, I think the previously mentioned course book is about ready to start me in on chords in G Major (one sharp on F); until now I have played chords only in C Major (all white keys except for marked accidentals, which do occur e.g. with the G7 chord), but I think that is about to change. G Major is pretty much a breeze now for playing melodies, so chords in that key is a logical next step. Soon. Later this week, perhaps.

Hairdressers, Bartenders, and Librarians

I'm not sure what it is about the public library that attracts people who just need to talk about their problems, but they'll stand there at the desk for hours, telling you all about their messy personal issues. It's not just a few people either. I'm starting to think we should change our mission statement from meeting the "educational, informational, and entertainment needs" of the community to the "educational, informational, entertainment, and counselling" needs.

Do all public libraries see this phenomenon, or is it peculiar to our community?

Snow day? Work on VBS!

The library was closed on Tuesday, because they couldn't keep the walks clear, and on Wednesday due to the level 3 condition. Besides taking Puff for an hour-plus walk, shovelling a lot of snow, and visiting mom in rehab, we also worked a little on assorted bits and pieces of our Bible School Materials.

We now have patterns for the preschool sheep bank craft. The Saul & the Sheep filmstrip craft still needs the three pictures from the lesson, but we have the frame pattern done for it.


We've combined two related concepts: regular lasagna, and vegetable lasagna.

Ordinary lasagna typically has (besides the noodles) a tomato-based sauce, ricotta, ground beef, motzarella and parmesan cheeses. Sometimes there are other ingredients (e.g., mushrooms), but those are the basics.

Vegetable lasagna is typically made with a different sauce, usually something white (e.g., alfredo), no meat, but lots of vegetables. It may or may not have the cheeses, in some cases just one of them.

So we made it with the usual tomato-based sauce, ground beef, and motzarella and parmesan cheeses, but also inserted broccoli, peas, and carrots into the recipe. This is good. We'd have used a little ricotta and also spinach, but we didn't have either, and Sarah wouldn't let me substitute collard greens for the spinach. I suspect the spinach would have improved the flavor if we'd had it, but it was good as it was. (The ricotta I can take or leave, but Sarah was disappointed we didn't have it -- not disappointed enough to make a special trip to the 24-hour grocery four blocks away, though, so she must not have wanted it too badly. I could also take or leave the beef, but we browned, drained, and rinsed it before putting it in, so it didn't really hurt anything much.) I also might have liked to add kidney beans and mushrooms, but Sarah was against including these ingredients, so we didn't.

I must say, even with the missing ingredients, I like this a lot better than traditional vegetable lasagna. I guess I like the tomato-based sauce a lot better than the traditional white or alfredo sauces. Pasta without tomato sauce tends to seem a bit off to me.

Windows Vienna development updates

Microsoft has already made two announcements (that I'm aware of) about the next version of Windows. I'm tracking all these developments by adding comments to my timeline article on the subject. Long story short, it seems Vienna is on, if not ahead of, schedule so far. I'll be tracking further developments as they arise. If anyone notices any articles or press releases containing announcements or developments I have not covered, feel free to chime in with them.

When Vienna is finally released, I'll have a full history of all the developments, which we can analyze in retrospect, use to make predictions about the subsequent release, laugh at, poke fun, et cetera.

Mom in rehab

I mentioned previously that my mother was having joint replacement surgery on her hip on the seventh. That went well, better than the doctor expected, the surgery being completed in only two hours with minimal loss of blood.

However, when they were evaluating the possibility of sending her home, a test revealed that she is a bit anemic, so they instead transferred her to the rehab unit in Galion hospital. This makes it easy for us to visit, and once she gets her hemoglobin count up she'll hopefully be able to come home.

(Even then, of course, she will have a considerable amount of recovery to do, but that is expected.)

D Major makes four key signatures.

I'm now playing (on the piano) melodies written in C Major, G Major (one sharp on F), F Major (one flat on B), and D Major (sharps on F and C).

This last key is technically a two-sharp signature, but it effectively means sharps in three places, since the same melody often hits both middle C# and also the next C# above it, in addition to the F# between them. Obviously that's possible in the other keys as well, and there are additional occurances in the bass cleff, but playing just melodies I didn't run into that often in those keys; in D Major, I do.

Also with this new key signature I for the first time am no longer using the crutch of introducing myself softly to a new key signature by highlighting the notes that are sharp or flat. I just started finding two-sharp pieces in the hymnal and playing them directly, and I found that I am able to do it.

Playing in this key is a little slow going at first, but not too bad.

Memory verse lessons complete.

With the addition of the preschool verse, the memory verse lessons for God's Sheep are now complete.

Promotional materials for Bible School are online

Yesterday we worked on a poem that we intend to use as a dramatic reading in the church service, to announce Bible School to the congretation. We also finished up the fliers. So this morning I put our promotional materials online, or, at any rate, what we have done of them thus far: the poem, the poster, the fliers, the invitations, and a sample invitation letter similar to what we plan to mail-merge.

Any additional ideas for things we can do to help our congregation get excited about inviting children to Bible School this summer?

The living room is ready

Well, we had to measure everything and play around with a graph paper scale model of the room and construction paper furniture to get it all figured out, but the actual furniture has now been shuffled around as necessary, and so the living room is now ready.

Ready for what? Oh, yeah, this will be the first time I've mentioned it. My mom's going to have joint replacement surgery on her hip, on the seventh. When she comes home, she won't be able to go upstairs to her bedroom for a few weeks, so we set up a bed for her on the main floor. Also we had to be sure that the walker, which is wider than you might think, can go everywhere she will need to go. This is now done.

G Major -- for real!

A while ago I started playing (the melody line of) works written in G Major, but with the F# notes highlighted. Today I started playing (the melody line of) works written in G Major, without the benefit of the highlighter, and it isn't nearly as much harder as I expected. Really, figuring out the fingering when the melody goes up and down beyond where a hand can reach is still the hardest part, and I'm getting better at that, too, insofar as I no longer precalculate the fingering and mark finger numbers over the notes. Sometimes I still stumble when the fingering is hard, and sometimes I hesitate longer than I should between notes, but the key signature is barely even an issue any more. (It will be again when I add in the left hand, because the bass clef will add another place where F can be, but if it's no more an issue there than it was on the treble clef, I should be playing comfortably in G Major by March, no sweat.

I've got some hymns in F Major (one flat on B) highlighted already, so maybe next week or so I'll start trying to play some of them.

Meanwhile, as I mentioned yesterday, practice with chords in C Major is ongoing.

Ah, more material.

I now have another book of piano music I can play, when practicing chords. This is right at my level, at this point: the first several pieces are all in C Major, with the right hand doing mostly just the melody, and the left hand doing chords, mostly chords with which I am already familiar. (This is not a coincidence; the book was designed to go with the piano course book I am using.)

These are fun to play, because I can actually play them, but they do stretch me a little at this point, and the practice is good.

Paul's News (draft one)

I've been working on this, off and on, in my spare time, for a while now. It's intended as song lyrics, but it would need a chorus, plus of course the music. Otherwise, it's just a poem, as presented here.

The Good News According to Paul:
A Synopsis of Romans 1-12

God can be known, but men turned aside, exchanging their God for nothing.
Wickedness grew, and God let them go, his judgement in sin erupting.
Hypocrites boast, condemning themselves, but Gentiles and Jews are the same.
No one does good, but God gave the law to show us our sin, then he came.

Righteousness comes apart from the law by faith in the act of his Son.
Abraham's faith that justified him preceded his circumcision.
He is our father, we who believe. Our sins are not held against us;
Thus we rejoice: our hope comes from God, and hope does not disappoint us.

While we were helpless, God demonstrated love when he shed his own blood.
Death from the time of Adam till Moses reigned, for we couldn't make good.
Now we can die to sin and can live to God through the life of one man.
Slaves must obey the master they serve, but sin is no more our sultan!

Freed by this gift, we die to the law, which made us aware of our sin.
[line needed; possible ending: I know nothing good is within.]
Through the command sin put me to death — I can't keep the law, I now see.
Sin within me does what I should not; he rescues me, setting me free.

As it now stands, it leaves off in the first part of chapter eight. I'm still working on it, obviously. The intention is to take it through the end of chapter twelve, where the topic finally changes. I was going to wait until I finished to post it, but &e says I should post stuff here more frequently, so I guess I'll go ahead and post now, and then post again later when I finish some more of it.

Incidentally, the metrical pattern of each line is as follows:
dactyl trochee dactyl trochee dactyl trochee spondee

Music Group Theory

I was reading an Uncyclopedia article on Music, and it contained a link to an article on Music Group Theory. This sounded like a fascinating topic (group theory, after all, is my favorite branch of mathematics), so I clicked the link, but it turned out to be an edit link. The article hadn't been written yet.

So I wrote it.

One Sharp

With the assistance of a hymnal, photocopier, and highlighter (my mom's idea), I've begun to practice playing in G Major. For the time being I am playing just the soprano part when I do this, but once I get comfortable with it I will attempt to add in other parts. Eventually I'll want to wean myself off the highlighter and play straight from the hymnal, but one thing at a time.

Actually, two things at a time: in addition to practically every occurrance of F being sharped, this is also giving me a real workout in terms of shifting to the right and back to the left when the piece moves up and down. My piano lesson book has only just begun to introduce such position shifts, but of course most real music has a bit more up and down to it. In practice, I think this is going to take me longer to get used to than the key signature, but I'm working on both.

Puff's dog tag

The state of Ohio really needs to invest in sturdier materials.

This is Puff's dog license tag, after one year. Puff at this point is over seven years old and is starting to become lethargic in his old age. He lays around the house a lot, scarcely deigning to open an eye when someone passes, the picture of lassitude. He still enjoys going on walks, but he gets them only once a week or so at this point, and never for more than a few minutes. So his tag is in much better condition than his ones from several years ago. I wish I'd saved one, for comparison, but you'll note that this tag is still almost totally legible, after a full year. You can easily tell the county, and only one digit got cut off from the number, and that only partly, so that you can still nearly make it out. Also the hole where it was attached to his collar ring is less than twice its original size, and nearly circular, and the edges are not very worn, especially the broken-off end. Also most of the paint is still present. When he was younger and more active, his tags did not fare so well. And Puff is really only a medium-sized dog: half black lab, part golden retriever, and part chow. I hate to think what a Saint or a Husky would do to such a tag.

Here's the back. My apologies for the quality of the second image. I am not very experienced at photographing small objects, and also I am not very familiar with the controls of the digital camera I used to take the shot.

VBS Materials Online

The other day we did some more work on the Bible School materials, to the effect of three missions lessons, and I wanted to write about that here. But it seemed strange to do so without linking to the updated document. However, I had not, up to that point, gotten around to securing hosting for the materials and publishing them.

So now I have. Here they are. (Update: ZendURL didn't work out. Links updated.)

The new missions lessons are here. Meanwhile yesterday we wrote most of Tuesday's missions lesson as well, but I haven't got that one added to the HTML document yet (update: now I have, although it could use further work).

Intervals, chords, notation, and superscripts, take one

Now that I'm starting to play chords, I'm trying to understand some of the traditional nomenclature and concepts surrounding them. (If I'm going to play counterpoint eventually, I'm going to have to play harmonic chords quickly and easily first. I figure one of the steps along that path is to be able to see a chord on the staff, know what it is as a unit, and play it, without thinking about the individual notes. That means I've gotta understand the structure of the chords, at least the common ones.)

So I was trying to understand what makes the G7 and D7 chords what they are, versus the C and F chords with no superscript. After some Q&A with my dad, combined with some deduction and calculation of my own, I partly understand it.

My dad's first instinct was to say that G7 and D7 contain "a seventh that wants to resolve". This was way over my head, but after some pressing I got him to explain that the ones with no superscript are "Major" chords, and that they start on the note whose name they bear, C being the first note in C Major, F being the fourth. (They are typically played with the notes out of order, but fortunately I have enough math background to understand equivalence classes, so we didn't get hung up on that.) Dad also showed me the "fifth" major chord in C major, G, and revealed that there are no others, just those three.

Some counting reveals that the three major chords, starting from their named letter, go up four semitones and then three. This, apparently, is what gives them the "major chord" sound. (They do sound similar to one another, when compared to the other chords.) Further investigation reveals that forming a major chord in like manner starting on any note other than C, F, or G forces the use of a black key, i.e., in C Major it means an accidental. Hence, there are no other major chords that fall within the key of C Major, because any others would violate the key signature. One supposes that in a different key signature one could form major chords starting on different notes.

Similar counting reveals that the 7-superscript chords go up four semitones and then six, so they are similar to one another in exactly the same way that the major chords are similar to one another. I have not yet determined, however, how the 7 superscript denotes this. My dad said it means there's a seventh, but Wikipedia says a major seventh is eleven semitones, which is way more than six, so I'm not clear on the connection. Perhaps once I see some chords with other superscripts I will be able to deduce a pattern.

Getting old doesn't seem so bad if...

I've been telling people I'm 20. As a computer programmer, I feel I should be entitled to express my age in hex. My mom asked how old she'd be under the same system and, hearing the answer (39 I think) said, "I like that".

So I'm 20 years old in hex, or 0x20 for notational purists.