Posts Tagged ‘everyday frustrations’

I suspect everyone, and no one!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

I loathe the way that police officials and journalists will use the word suspect as if it means perpetrator, as in

When the register was opened, the suspect partially jumped over the counter and thrust both hands into the cash drawer, police spokesman Joel DeSpain said.

A suspect is one suspected — that is to say surmised — to have done something. To baldly declare that a person did something is to speak with far more than suspicion.

One can have multiple suspects even knowing that an act was committed by just one perpetrator. And one can have no suspects despite knowing that some person or persons must have acted; the use of suspect for perpetrator becomes utterly absurd when virtually nothing is known about the perpetrator. Here

An unknown suspect (or suspects) allegedly entered the garage during the previous night and removed a Cannondale bicycle valued at $500.
the police don't even know how many perpetrators there were. On whom does suspicion fall? Here
officers have no description of the suspect, except that he was wearing a black, red and white bunnyhug
they have a gender and a hooded, tri-color sweatshirt. On whom does suspicion fall?

Baby Gays

Saturday, 2 January 2010

There's a fair amount of annoying absurdity associated with [remarkably realistic picture of cotton swab] the cotton swab.

The traditional use for these things is, of course, cleaning-out one's ear canal. Probably that's not a good idea, though. The back of the Q-tips® package at which I'm looking says

If used to clean ears, stroke swab gently around the outer surface of the ear, without entering the ear canal.

WARNING: Use only as directed. Entering the ear canal could cause injury. Keep out of reach of children.
(Emphasis theirs.) A swab could push cerumen (ear wax) deeper into the canal, and pack it more tightly. With or without the cerumen, the swab could be pressed hard enough to rupture the tympanic membrane (ear drum). And the swab might even promote infection.

But, though there may be some tiny number of people with such odd convolutions to their outer ears that a cotton swab would be helpful in cleaning them, most of the rest of us could get better or faster results with a cloth or tissue. If we're not going to put the swab in our ears, then it probably just shouldn't touch our ears at all. Granted that the box merely says If used to clean ears, but I remember a commercial from Cheesebrough-Ponds featuring Orson Bean, cleaning his outer ear with a Q-tip®, and advising us Never put anything in your ear, except your elbow. (Someone get that man a tissue.)

When doctors and medical advice columns tell their audience not to use these things in the ear, they frequently use a formula which gets my back up. Formally, it's

Not-X. When X, then Y.
which is to say that they claim something doesn't happen, and then tell us what to do when it happens. Geez! More specifically, they tell us
The ear canal does not need to be cleaned, because it's a self-cleaning organ. […] When the ear canal needs to be cleaned, one should see a doctor.
Okay, the ear canal does need to be cleaned, because it is an imperfectly self-cleaning organ; let's not pretend otherwise while we're trying to keep the swabs out. And, as far as this see a doctor business, while it may seem like a mighty fine idea to the doctors, most people don't want to pay the cost of seeing a doctor. Even where medicine is socialized to the point that there would be no pecuniary cost in seeing a doctor, there will be the cost of waiting (which will typically be significantly higher where medicine is socialized). People want their ears unclogged quickly.

A better alternative to the swab for cleaning the ear canal is the syringe. For a few bucks, most druggists will sell you a syringe that's basically a rubber ball with a nozzle. If you went to the doctor, then he'd probably use a more impressive syringe, made of metal and with a plunger. You could order one of those for yourself for about US$20, but it's unlikely to be more useful for you unless you start syringing not only the ears of everyone in your household but also those of all your friends and neighbors.

If you read the instructions on the syringe package, it will basically tell you to dribble water into your ear. You will probably find this dribbling signally unhelpful unless you've used other fluid to dissove the cerumen and are now just rinsing the mess out. You can buy expensive fluids from your druggist, or you can use the dilute hydrogen peroxide that he'll sell you for much less, or you can use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, each bought from the grocer. In all three cases, that's going to tickle maddeningly.

I once had my ear canals cleaned by a Doctor Villavecer, in Westerville, OH. He used one of those impressive metal syringes. He didn't dribble the water into my ear; he blasted it. That worked pretty well, though I might have felt differently had a tympanic membrane ruptured. In any case, subsequently, this blasting is how I clean my canals, except that I use a rubber ball syringe, as I am leaving the ears of my friends and neighbors clogged but unmolested.

Backing-up, let's return to the warning on that Q-tips® package:

Keep out of reach of children.
Now, unless we're prepared to tell people to keep lollipops and twigs out of reach of children, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to put the Q-tips® with the pornography and assault rifles. We can instead tell junior not to put anything into his ear, and reälize that a swab would be less terrible in disobedience than many other candidates. I reälize that Cheesebrough-Ponds is not really to blame for this specific bit of nonsense (responsibility lies in the hands of lawyers, of state officials, and of the fools who empower them), but nonsense it is, none-the-less.

Unthwarted

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

I received notice this morning from eBay:

We received a report about a message you sent to another eBay member through our Email Forwarding System. The message violates the Misuse of eBay Email Forwarding System policy. We want to let you know about the report and invite you to learn more about communication between sellers and buyers. To learn more about the Email Forwarding System guidelines, please go to:

http://pages.ebay.com/help/policies/rfe-unwelcome-email-misuse.html

We're taking a neutral position regarding the report we received, but if we continue to receive similar reports, we'll have to investigate. Policy violations can result in a formal warning, a temporary suspension, or an indefinite suspension.

If you have concerns related to this matter, you can contact us by going to:

http://pages.ebay.com/help/contact_us/_base/index_selection.html
Well, I'd like to know about what message this complaint was levelled. But, naturally (this being eBay), there's no appropriate option at index_selection.html, and the best fitting options require that in one field I provide a relevant item number or user ID about whom I'm complaining. My own user ID is rejected from this field.

Over the years, eBay, like many other corporations, has modified its interface and protocols to make them dumber in ways that specifically increase the difficulty of confronting it with responsibility.

eBay was founded by Pierre Omidyar, whose user ID is pierre. So I entered that user ID in the field, and it was accepted. Doubtless that, if others do likewise, then the software will be tweaked to prevent it.

Third Toss

Sunday, 19 July 2009

I have submitted my paper to a third journal, that recommended by the editor who rejected it at the previous journal.

This third journal is one from an association which, like many, charges a lower submission fee to its members. Even with the annual dues and on the assumption that I only made one submission in a year, I would still save money, so I joined. However, after I registered and paid, I learned that it could take up to four weeks for my membership information to be recorded and provided to me. Hence, this delay between submissions. I'm not sure that the money saved was worth that delay.

Irksome Declaration

Saturday, 20 June 2009

In looking for an established notation for a particular sort of permutation, I have run across a large number of tutorials that declare that the notation and formula for a permutation is

nPr = n! / (n - r)!
This claim complete confuses the concept of a permutation with the count of possible permutations. It's rather like saying that an American is 306,719,000.

Rats!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Yester-day, I found a rat's nest under the hood of my car. Literally.

I visited my parents in Tucson from late March until last Tuesday. I parked outside, just off their drive-way, and didn't use my car very much during that time. They live far east of the city center, out amongst the cactus, gilla monsters, and pack rats. I spotted the occasional pack rat under my car, but thought very little of it.

On my way home, I was pulled-over by an officer of the Arizona Highway Patrol, because my passenger-side head-light was out. (He was simply concerned that the problem be addressed, and gave me a written warning rather than ticketting me.) I went to an automotive store on the next day or the day after that, and bought new bulbs. But, when I popped the hood to replace the bulb, I found that the wires to the bulb were frayed and broken. There was nothing there to bang-around. The Woman of Interest suggested that they'd been chewed by a mouse. Rodent damage seemed plausible, and I couldn't think of a good rival explanation. Anyway, I decided that the best way to effect a repair was with a new connector and some butt connectors (metal sleeves, which are in turn ensleeved in plastic, and which are crimped to join wires or cables).

Apparently, I was operating with a sort of tunnel vision when I discovered the chewed wires. Although the rat's nest was quite big, I didn't spot it, sitting on the engine behind the valve cover, until yester-day, as I was effecting the repair. The nest was built of twigs, sticks, and some soft fibrous material. I was puzzled about why I hadn't had an engine fire, until I reälized that the soft fiber was produced by shredding swatches of the hood insulator. That rat really did considerable damage.

None-the-less, its actions weren't malicious, and I rather hope that it either wasn't in the car at all when I was driving, or leapt out before I was going more than a few miles per hour. Otherwise, the pack rat almost certainly was cooked to death or was killed when it hit the pavement. Had it cooked, I probably would have found a body. And if the nest was built between my previous use of the car and when I was loading it to go home, then the rat probably fled as the car shook from that loading.

Gah!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Another one of the many perturbing errors in Jeffrey's Subjective Probability, this from §4.1:

If I am sure that it was one of the years from 1951 to 1959, with equal probabilities, then my ex(X) will be 1951
9
+ 1952
9
+ … + 1959
9
, which works out to be 1954.5.
One doesn't even have to do any arithmetic (I didn't) to spot the error; for a sequence of an odd number of equally-spaced integers, the average is the middle-most value, in this case 1955.

Decemberween

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Some of you will recall my highly-localized tradition of anonymous Butterfinger bars. Last night, I went to the local CVS pharmacy and bought an eight-pack of Butterfinger Mini bars, took it home and gift-wrapped it, and then snuck it under the miniature Christmas tree on my neighbors' table.

While at CVS pharmacy, I encountered Chris, who was despairing over an immediate lack of consumer choice. He had an urgent need to replace a mislaid umbrella. He had checked at the local Rite Aid and found none. At CVS pharmacy, his choices were amongst just two children's umbrellas, one with a race-car theme, the other a pink princess thing. Recognizing that the ironic charm of the latter would be quickly exhausted, he chose the former.

My very best seasonal wishes to my friends who are reading this. As to the rest of you, I eye you with suspicion. Don't try nothin' funny!

Backing-up to /dev/null

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

One of the Corsair 8GB Voyager USB flash drives that I bought seems to have completely failed, before I even received the mail-in rebate for it. Grand.

Post Apocalypse

Thursday, 23 October 2008

I got a note the other day referring to 12:00p.m when its author plainly meant noon.

Okay, now, folks, p.m. stands for post meridiemafter noon. Noon isn't after itself. There is a 12:01 p.m., a 12:00:01 p.m., a 12:00:00.0…01 p.m.. But if there is any 12:00 p.m., then it would be mid-night; which, awkwardly, is also the only candidate for 12:00 a.m., since noon also isn't before noon (ante meridiem) either.

Calling noon 12:00 m. would just confuse people, as they'd take the m. as standing for midnight, but 12:00 n. is nicely unambiguous.