In plain English

On the subject of the English language. Marketplace program had an interesting segment about a non-profit center called the Center for Plain Language. The mission of the center is to make sure we use simple, understandable and actionable language in our conversations.

I am sure we have all seen this before - the use of dense verbiage while writing. Lawyers have been guilty of it, doctors relish it; hell even I love long-winded sentences. If you live in the US, you would have seen a lot more of this because of the need to be politically correct all the time. It is about time, we thought beyond the need to be absolutely politically correct, and instead gave language the greater attention it deserves.

April 22, 2010

In defence of whole words

Whole words are like whole grains. The difference may be just bran - but bran contains fiber. And we all know what happens when there isn't enough fiber in our diet - posterior occlusion.

The twitter lifestyle has taken its toll on thoughts as well as words. When it is acceptable to yell ideas to the whole world in 140 characters or less, there is little need to keep words whole. What started off as a measure of relief for cramped fingers on ancient keyboards, has now morphed into a dissonant assault on language sovereignty.

Da tru stmts v make wid da cripld words, do lil 2 convy da msg, let alone beauty. Instead dey tnd 2 frstrait n slo u dn. ur readin speed goes down, n da pleasure of readin disappears. When you tend to favor the shortened words 2 regular words, it directly impacts ur credibility. It is easy to judge a book by the cover. And the cover you present the most when you write is the words you choose. Choose the word, and nothing but the whole word.

I make no claims to even remotely being a purist. I have been known to occasionally dab in the forbidden myself. But, lets make a pledge, you and I:

If you have different keys for B, C & A,
we keep the L-O-Ls at bay.

SMS speak and l33t speak are a precious commodity, use them as sparingly - like expensive china.

Chirp in the comments if you agree.

Sensory overload

Holy cow!

A couple of really good videos, from TED. Repetitive, so you need not watch both. But what it boils down to is the ability to better integrate the natural world and the digital world. A combination of off the shelf camera and projector, with the processing power of a mobile phone gives the ability to project information on everyday objects and use natural motions to access and manipulate digital information. More after the break.

April 21, 2010

Circular Feeding

This is a good one. When I set up my new site-wide syndication service, through feedburner, I decided to redirect my blogger feed to feedburner as well. But about an hour later, I noticed, that I had over a 100 entries in my feed, with mostly duplicates and an increasing count. Something surely was not right.

The setup: So here is what I have. Two feeds - one from blogger, and one manually created. Both were sent to Yahoo pipes, to be mixed re-sorted. Feedburner then picked the final product up, and, well, burned the daylights out of it.

The problem: When I set up the blogger redirect, the yahoo pipe data request began to be redirected to feedburner. So my pipe began with data from feedburner, added my manual feed, and supplied data back to feedburner. A pretty little infinite loop. Good thing I checked an hour later.

The solution: First things first, I shut the redirection off. Then I began to search the Interwebs for a solution. I did not do so well initially. I found a few pages that described my predicament (almost), but none that came up with a solution. I almost gave up and began to draft a post on the mosh pit called Google's help groups - when I found this. Thanks Chuck.

Turns out, when you append the modifier '?redirect=false' (without the quotes, of course) at the end of any blogger feed, the feed, doesn't get redirected. Instead you get the original feed from Blogger. Woohoo! You'd suspect something like that has to exist, considering Feedburner does not tie itself into knots for every blogger re-direct out there. Beats me why this would be such a secret though.

Here is a message to all you Blogger RSS users out there. Look for a modifier. They do not seem to be documented anywhere. Nevertheless, look for one; that will fix your problem.

April 16, 2010

Pied piper of Yahoo

The problem:
I have a blog and a website - the blog is maintained by blogger, and the latter manually by me. Now I want to syndicate (via Feedburner) updates to either of these locations, transparently to the end user.

The solution - Part 1:
To begin, I did not have a feed for my website. So, well, I went about creating one. A couple of sites got me started. I would strongly urge the use of the <published> tag in addition to the other recommended ones. What I came up with, continued after the break:

April 14, 2010

Scientific denial

An interesting watch - for a variety of reasons. This is an issue that generally seems to be splitting a lot of educated people down the middle. While no one seems to deny the impact science has had on humans, few seem to want to trust science either.

Maybe it is all down the the definitions. As I grew up, my vision of a 'scientist' was someone in a lab, highly intelligent, educated and motivated, pursuing a topic with a single minded dedication. A scientist, I believed, did not have to deal with the worldly problems & pressures like the rest of us - as if they lived in a sterile environment, just like in their own experiments.

Unfortunately, this is seldom the case. Scientists, live in and share the same world as us. And there is no 'science' that stands alone, in unblemished purity. So when people attack science, or they think they are, they really are not. They are attacking a hybrid cabal of scientists, businessmen, government and media. The reason they are attacking this cabal, is because the cabal is advertising itself as 'science'. When we have scientifically proven face creams, that are more in-your-face than the lack of correlation between vaccines and autism - how can you really distinguish between the two.

I don't believe the intelligent disbeliever is directly questioning science as defined by the scientific method, but what is questionable is the cabal claiming indulgence in and of the scientific method. That is not to say there there will always be someone that will never believe, but instead want to take things to their illogical extreme conclusions. I guess they believe they are 'scientists' in their own right.

April 13, 2010

Science & Morality

Have always been a fan of the TED website, and their collection of talks. Having just heard one of their videos, I was browsing the site, trying to learn a bit more about them - turns out, they actually encourage embedding and discussing their videos. Cue, glint in eye. So, here we are.

Morality, in the sense discussed in the video below is the definition of right and wrong, irrespective of what people think. Sam Harris, argues that, on the contrary to what many people assume, science is capable of reaching such definite answers on its own, based on facts, and can therefore complete eliminate the need for a morality-based declarations. Well thought and presented of course - but for me the crux of the matter lay in the Q&A at the end. When asked to prove the immorality of the Burqa, Sam scientifically fell back to the answer the basically said - we may not have a rigorous proof now, but given the rate of our scientific progress, we will eventually get there.

In his answer, I believe, Sam was absolutely correct and negligent. Yes, science will eventually get there, but people need an answer now - on what is correct and what is not. People have all been created with consciousness, but a varying degree of intellect. Waiting for an intellect-appealing morality, that may eventually get here is a very bad survival skill. Instead, society taking advantage of the common denominator, appealed to human consciousness. Turns out, morality is a lot like having immortal parents. Even if you replace parents with Man with beard in sky, things work just as well. True, such a replacement has side-effects, a lot of side-effects, but at least it kept humanity going till science would eventually evolve to appeal to the most intellectually-challenged among us.

April 12, 2010

Google -> Topeka

Updated: Seems like a very Happy April fool's day from Google

Official Google Blog: A different kind of company name: "Google employees once known as “Googlers” should now be referred to as either “Topekers” or “Topekans,” depending on the result of a board meeting that’s ongoing at this hour. Whatever the outcome, the conclusion is clear: we aren’t in Google anymore."

Standard Voicemail Mode: Do you ever grow nostalgic for your old voicemail system and its long list of idiosyncrasies? That's where Standard Voicemail Mode comes in.

Introducing Translate for Animals (beta): Bridging the gap between animals and humans.

TEXTp saves YouTube bandwidth, money: It’s great news that there are 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we support 1080p and HD uploads are rising quickly, but that’s also meant increasing bandwidth costs cutting into our bottom line. And so, in our drive to keep expenses under control, we’ve decided that April 1 is the perfect day to take the important step of offering a new way to experience YouTube: text-only mode, or TEXTp.

The Google Annotations Gallery is an exciting new Java open source library that provides a rich set of annotations for developers to express themselves.

Upload and store anything in the cloud with Google Docs: In January, we added the ability to upload and store any file in Google Docs, and in response to your feedback, we increased the maximum file size to 1 GB a couple weeks later. Based on the overwhelming response to this feature, we're happy to announce a big update. Starting today, you can upload and store anything in Google Docs. With this change, you'll be able to store items in the cloud and access them from any computer - all you need is an Internet connection and a Google Account.

Try out new Google Wave wave notifications!: We know that one painpoint for people using Google Wave is that sometimes they don't know when others are trying to wave with them or whether anyone has responded to their waves. In designing notifications, we realized that people use lots of different tools on the web, but one system that is compatible with everyone is the physical world. So, today we are excited to roll out an early preview of Google Wave wave notifications.

April 01, 2010

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