Zone38 Presents...
Letters to the World


Literacy? What’s that?

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 7:09 pm

Report: Uh, it’s like student writing is bad

Ask high school juniors to write a paragraph about a haunted house, and nearly half are unable to do so satisfactorily. That’s because writing has been neglected in school reform, according to a report by the National Commission on Writing in America’s Schools and Colleges. So, students finish high school without the ability to write in a sophisticated, precise or engaging fashion, the commission says.

It figures, doesn’t it? That would explain the lack of literacy found in so many forum postings, online profiles, works of fan fiction, and the like… ::shakes head, sighs::


while (x != 0) head.Bang(desk);

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 12:30 am

Argh. While working on a programming assignment for File Structures class, I’ve come to the conclusion that I absolutely detest off-by-one errors. They’re so easy to make, considering that our natural human impulse is to begin counting at one rather than zero; yet they can wreak an immense amount of havoc on even the simplest program. It’s quite annoying to see an algorithm that took several hours to write end up failing because it’s reading in values from a nonexistent address… and it’s even more annoying to try to debug it, because it’s so hard to find the actual source of the error.


Well, I do empathize with the socially inept…

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 2:21 am

Is there a neurological difference between women and men? And how does this idea relate to conditions such as high-functioning autism? This rather interesting article by neurologist Simon Baron-Cohen explores these rather interesting questions of neurology and psychology.

Also, be sure to take the test to determine your empathizing and systemizing quotients. Interestingly, I scored rather low on both— 13 EQ (considering the asocial creature that I am, not entirely surprising, though I would have expected it to have been somewhat higher), and 28 SQ (about the average for males).

East is east and west is west…

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 2:06 am

Hmm; while browsing through my server’s access logs, I discovered that I’m on the first page of Google results for “directionally challenged”— #10, to be precise.

I suppose this could be considered an honor, in some twisted sort of way; if nothing else, my fellow directionally-impaired people will be able to find my site easily so that they can commiserate…

And the #1 hit, incidentally? It’s a site dedicated to Ryouga Hibiki, a character from the anime series Ranma 1/2 who’s more or less the personification of the directionally impaired. Needless to say, he’s a character with whom I associate rather well…::grin::


Bitstream Vera released!

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 5:39 pm

Well, it’s official: Bitstream and The GNOME Foundation have, at long last, released their much-hyped Vera font family.

My opinions? The standard Sans font looks somewhat like Verdana (which, admittedly, is a nice font to begin with), but it now has the added benefit of being released under an open license, allowing users to modify the font with new characters as they see fit, as long as they change the name. But even better, in my opinion, is Vera Sans Mono: finally, a decent, free monospaced font to use for program listings and terminal emulators, and one which has taken the place of Andale Mono as my default fixed-width font.

The fonts linked above should work perfectly fine on Unix and Windows systems, as long as you have a decompression program that can open tar files (which most popular compression software can). For the Mac people out there, I’ve gone ahead and converted them to Macintosh suitcase format, and you can download the Mac version from my site and use it right now. (Don’t you just love open licenses?)


Paradoxical junk mail

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 10:11 am

OK, this may be the most ridiculous spam disclaimer I’ve seen yet:

To be removed please call our automated removal system at (215)###-####. [number removed by codeman38]

Please note this is the only way to be removed. Removal request via fax or telephone will NOT be honored.

Besides the fact that they want us to pay long distance fees to access their “automated removal system”, they’re openly claiming that removal requests via telephone won’t be honored, so it would be useless anyway. Whaa?


Shame on whom?

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 5:25 pm

As most of you probably know, the e-mail address I use for submissions to the Proofreader’s Hall of Shame (and yes, I realize it drastically needs to be updated) is

However, when spammers get a hold of that particular address, hilarity quite often ensues. I received a spam today with the subject line of:

“shame,Now – Powerful Anti-Aging Breakthrough”

I don’t know why, but for some reason, I find that oddly amusing…

Oh, and a note to spammers: For reasons of security, many of us geeks either use e-mail clients that cannot display images at all or set our mail clients’ preferences so that they will not display any images. I do both; I use Pine frequently while telnetting into my school account, and I have Mozilla set not to display hotlinked images in e-mails. If you really want to sell something to us, try including some actual readable text in your messages; it’s generally a lot more persuasive than a lone string of incomprehensible gibberish.


u r not supposed 2 write lyk that~!!!

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 11:25 pm

Found via the grammar_whores community on LiveJournal:

‘Yo, can u plz help me write English?’

Carl Sharp knew there was a problem when he spotted his 15-year-old son’s summer job application: “i want 2 b a counselor because i love 2 work with kids.”

That night, the father in Phoenix removed the AOL Instant Messenger program from the family computer and informed both his children they were no longer to chat with friends online.

Granted, I can understand where Sharp is coming from— such writing is the result of the explosion of text messaging among my generation— yet at the same time, it does seem a bit unfair, as some of us do try to write instant messages in something resembling proper English.

It’s all a matter of style, and it seems that far too many children these days don’t understand the difference between formal and informal writing (remember the SMS-speak essay I blogged about a month ago?). Sure, one can write in an abbreviated, “netspeak” style in one’s personal journal, in letters to one’s friends, and the like— but one simply should not turn in a formal essay or a job application littered with abbreviations like “u” and “r”. Argh.

Edit 2003/04/03: I just noticed something even more disturbing in that article. It’s not just middle-schoolers who have difficulty distinguishing between proper English and netspeak; apparently even college freshmen have trouble with it:

English instructor Cindy Glover, who last year taught a section of freshman composition at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, says she spent a lot of time unteaching Internet-speak. “My students were trying to communicate fairly academic, scholarly thoughts, but some of them didn’t seem to know it’s ‘y-o-u,’ not ‘u,’ ” Glover says. “I wanted to teach them to communicate persuasively, but I couldn’t get past the really horrific spelling or grammar.”

More fun with proofreading

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 10:02 pm

Apparently it’s not just locally-made flyers that have sloppy proofreading mistakes. I just noticed a Smithsonian-sponsored poster here in the music building which reads, in huge letters:


If you want proof, here’s a photo I took while in the building. Oops.

You’d think college students would proofread…

Filed under: General — codeman38 @ 9:56 pm

Heh. Shows you how much I have to talk about lately; I haven’t posted anything for a week, and my blog’s index page has actually been blank for several hours. Go figure…

Anyway, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately around Mercer’s campus. It seems that the people who make and post flyers around the various buildings on campus can’t be bothered to actually proofread their work. In the past few days, among other proofreading atrocities, I’ve seen ads promoting a late-night showing of the “lasted” movies (my friends and I suppose that the guilty party originally typed “lastest”, intending to have written “latest”, and hastily chose the first option offered by the spelling checker) and a party “sponsered” by several fraternities with food catered by “El Sombero”.

Today at dinner, I discovered yet another badly proofread delight sitting on many of the tables in the dining hall. It seems that yet another of the local fraternity chapters is going to be having a bachelor auction. The only problem is that they apparently can’t spell it.

Let’s just hope the responsible parties learn to omit that pesky “t” before they graduate with their bachelors’ degrees…

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