Friday Four

Friday, March 04, 2016

1. Just before I took my wife out for her birthday dinner this week, I realized that I had, once again, forgotten to get her cards. But the sitter was home and there was time before Mrs. Van Horn would get there...

So I'd knock off some chores and run to the nearest store for cards. But, with the sitter around, Little Man knew something was up, and he threw a fit every time I left the room. This slowed me down, and I decided to take him with me to the store. He was drawn to a card with a piñata on it, so I decided that could be the kids' card. On theme, I'd write something in Spanish since Pumpkin is taking lessons. As Murphy would have it, my wife got home while I was away, and so wanted me to move our reservation earlier. I never had a chance to write anything in either card.

But my wife knows me, and nonchalantly whipped out a pen when we sat down for dinner.

"I'm keeping it simple," I told her, slapping down a couple of one-liners.

"Merry Christmas?" she asked, laughing, when she got to their card.

As I've said, being in a hurry is like losing a few dozen IQ points.

2. Here's a description of a device that may have been used to drill teeth in the stone age:

Some indigenous societies today carve holes in objects using a tool called a bow-drill. This consists of a few sticks of wood, a sharp stone, and a length of cord. The cord is tied to either end of one flexible stick, making it look like a small version of an archer's bow.

The cord is then wrapped tightly around a second stick held perpendicular to the "bow". By simply moving the bow back and forth, this second stick will rotate just as a drill does. Attaching a sharp stone to the end of this drill increases its cutting power.
Some researchers tried a small one of these on teeth: "The results were surprising; it took under a minute to drill holes of the kind seen in the 9,000-year-old teeth."

3. I cannot let the recent passing of Umberto Eco, author of The Name of the Rose, go unremarked: He is indirectly responsible for me discovering the work of Ayn Rand.

A fellow student at my university wrote a letter-to-the-editor in the student paper, analyzing the movie from an explicitly Objectivist standpoint. I first read the reply, which said inter alia that, "a philosophy that holds atheism and selfishness as virtues cannot be profound." Questioning religion and never hearing selfishness called a virtue, I was intrigued and decided to find out for myself. Thanks to the original letter-writer, I quickly learned otherwise from Ayn Rand's writings.

4. The below pretty much explains the value proposition for me of learning Emacs:
Emacs rather errs on the side of including more features rather than fewer when it is convenient. The goal of the GNU project never was to merely provide a free clone of proprietary Unices, but to give users software freedom. In the case of Emacs the boundary between user and programmer is blurred as adapting the environment to one's needs is already an act of programming with a very low barrier to entry. Emacs provides practical software freedom and that's one of the main reasons why over the course of many years my perception of it has slowly shifted from a belittled tool only old-fashioned people use to the centre-piece of most of my daily computing activities.
It's been about a year since I made the switch, and I'm quite glad I did. Rather than having to settle for a poor substitute for an editor I could only wish someone would produce, I have been able to customize this one to become almost exactly what I have always wanted.

-- CAV

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