This blog post is divided into three sections.
In the first, I give you my latest personal news. It’s mostly social events, and can be thought of as a continuation of my previous post. In the second, I share some interesting links. Since this is the first time I’ve shared links in 2012, a few of them go back to last December, though most are more recent. In the third, I mention a few customisations I’ve made to software on my new computer, which can also be thought of as a continuation of my previous post. It’s a sampling only, because a long list of tweaks would be pretty boring, but we can take it further in the comments if you like.
I had my third and final Austalk session on February 2 (I wrote about Austalk last time). Now I’m just waiting eagerly for the results to be made available on the web, which I expect to see later in the year. I got paid $25 for each of the first two sessions, and for the third I got $40 plus a souvineer coffee mug with the Austalk logo plus the words “I gave my voice to Australia“. The third session was different from the others in that it contained a two-player game with another volunteer, which involved one player giving directions to another on a fictional map.
Socially I’ve had some good times in the last month, catching up with friends and so forth. I won’t go into details, but January 26 was the day I spent an afternoon with my excellent friend Julia Lee. Julia and I met at work, where we used to sit next to each other on Wednesday afternoon shifts. Later she changed shifts and so we were no longer there at the same time, but we stayed in touch and always intended to get together socially sometime. We’ve now done that, and I look forward to doing it again. In fact, I’m taking her to see Eidolon at the Adelaide Fringe in March…
I also caught up with other friends that same week: the Lauries at a restaurant in Murray Bridge on the Tuesday and the Twelftrees at their place in Unley on the Wednesday. These are all friends I don’t see very often, so it was good to catch up. Mum and Dad were in town that week to go to the cricket and socialise, so we all got together with friends those two evenings.
Dad’s birthday is coming up on February 11 as I write this, and I bought him a copy of Blood Work by Holly Tucker which I gave him on February 6. That was the day my parents and I went to see John Cleese on stage at Her Majesty’s Theatre. That was a good night out, and my cousin Caroline was there too (we caught up during the interval).
Photograph of me wearing new sunglasses. My old ones broke over Christmas (the bit that goes over the ear snapped).
- Kory Stamper’s lexicography blog Harmless Drudgery is worth keeping an eye on.
- A possible purpose for the appendix.
- A strange, upside-down world.
- Software that calculates mathematical laws.
- Why the transforming triceratops idea doesn’t stand up.
- An upcoming co-authored Terry Pratchett book.
- Great video of an outstanding archer.
- You know the Greek Sphynx and the Egyptian Sphynx; now here’s the Antarctic Sphynx to inspire your imagination.
- A clip from every Doctor Who story.
- Incidentally, if the Doctor had landed in PIE times and the vocabulary passed down, a TARDIS would now be called a thoot and a Dalek would be a toolay (which sounds decidedly unthreatening).
- Interesting article about torture in the Inquisition and now (though I read it with an occasional pinch of salt).
- Leonardo has been in the news of late. New insights into the Vitruvian Man and the Mona Lisa (more).
- The problem of head movement in studies of brain connectivity.
- People flying off cliffs in Norway.
- An underground (in every sense) group of French art lovers.
- Gorillas can learn to control their breath.
- I think the February 2 edition of 365 Days of Astronomy is the best so far this year.
- I’ve seen similar paradoxes before, but this particular version is new to me.
- An eye for romance.
There’s plenty I could say about my new computer, including which software I have installed and which has caused me the most grief. But that would be tedious, so this will just be an arbitrary sampling, covering some customisations I’ve made to Firefox, Skype, and Microsoft Word, with no attempt to be comprehensive even about those.
For web browsing, I’m still using Firefox. Add-ons I’ve installed for the first time include the Quicktime plugin so that I can play MP3/WAV links inside the browser (I used to use Quicktime Alternative but that doesn’t work anymore), plus a extension that enables you to change the default zoom level for all websites. Add-ons I’m still using that I was also using on my old computer include the Planets Close-Up theme and the indispensible Tab Mix Plus extension. Add-ons that I used on my old computer but haven’t got around to installing on this one include Cookie Monster, Character Identifier and Link Visitor.
In Skype I’ve changed the sound that plays when I receive a new Instant Message, because I wanted something that would grab my attention even if I’m elsewhere in the house. After browsing the sound files available on the Monty Python’s Complete Waste of Time CD, which I have, I selected the voice of Eric Idle saying, “And now for the moment you’ve been waiting for“. At first Skype refused to play the sound, but then I modified it based on instructions here (see comments), and everything was fine. Here is the Skype-compatible WAV file in case you’d like to try it. (Incidentally, on my old computer I had various Windows system events set to play Monty Python quotations, but on the new one I’ve kept the defaults, except that the event Microsoft calls “Asterisk” has been silenced.)
When I use a word processor, it’s usually to print articles from the Internet so that I can devote more attention to them than I can from the screen (preformatting them on a word processor saves paper compared to printing them directly from my browser). I’m now using Microsoft Word 2010, and my customisations reflect this usage. Items currently on my Quick Access Toolbar are: “Quick Print“; “Undo“; “Redo“; “Select All“; “Advanced Layout: Size“; “Square“; “Align“. Some of these were a challenge to find on the alphabetical list of available tools — for example, who would think of looking under A for Advanced? — but now that I’ve found them I can format articles reasonably efficiently. I’ve also made other customisations, such as font settings for styles.
That will do for today’s sampling. If you’re curious about anything, feel free to ask.