Sundry Obscure Topics
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Dave Barber

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Version of Saturday 11 June 2023



Other math:

Computer topics:

Calculators (in JavaScript):



Public affairs:


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It is intentional that these pages use the simplest web technology possible, so as to maximize compatibility with various browsers, and to minimize internet bandwidth consumption. The author does not attempt to stay au courant with the HTML standards du jour; in part because HTML, although it is an excellent tool, has led a confused existence, with some markups indicating how text should look, and other markups indicating how the text should be interpreted.

I am a firm adherent of Sturgeon's Law, which says that ninety percent of everything is garbage. I have no doubt that Sturgeon's Law applies to this very website. Had I any way to discern which of the above pages were indeed vapid trash, I would be pleased to promptly delete them; I welcome nominations.

A persistent recursivist might inquire:

Atlanta driving rules:

Among the glories of mensuration in the United States is the following:

Feathers, and most other things, are weighed by the avoirdupois ounce, which is about 28.35 grams. However, gold and other precious metals are weighed by the troy ounce, which is about 31.10 grams. So the ounce of feathers weighs less than the ounce of gold.

Meanwhile, an avoirdupois pound is sixteen avoirdupois ounces, making the pound of feathers weigh about 453.59 grams. But a troy pound is only twelve troy ounces, which works out to about 373.24 grams. So the pound of feathers weighs more than the pound of gold.

With all the attention given to the Ides of March, often overlooked is that every month has an Ides, observed on the following days:

Jan 13 Apr 13 Jul 15 Oct 15
Feb 13 May 15 Aug 13 Nov 13
Mar 15 Jun 13 Sep 13 Dec 13

The English word Ides comes from the fourth-declension Latin noun Idus, so a suitable English adjective would be Idual, on the model of Latin spiritus whence English spiritual.

Particular quotes:

I calls 'em as I sees 'em. — often attributed to baseball umpires.

I shall go to Korea.Dwight David Eisenhower

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.Mark Twain

Assorted musings:

• Long live the obelus ÷ as a symbol for division! The explicit multiplication symbol ×, although sadly neglected, is also deserving of use.

• We must teach our children Boolean algebra, because it is too simple for adults to learn.

Beans, eaten directly from the can: real food for real men.

• LINGVA LATINA OPTIMISSIMA: Latin is the bestest.

• Unshackle yourself from the mathematical ball-and-chain dating back to horse-and-buggy times: seek those algebras wherein multiplication is not burdened by commutativity.

• Perfection is easy to attain if you set your standards low enough.

• I have suspended my support of Major League Baseball until the 1994 World Series takes place.

• In Neapolitan ice cream, the vanilla should be situated between the chocolate and strawberry; in other words the chocolate and strawberry should never adjoin. By the same token, in a Neapolitan citrus sherbet, the lemon should be located between the lime and orange. (The same principle applies to a three-layer cake.)

• What this world needs is a pinto bean that does not lose its spots when cooked.

Bezier curves are remarkable for their simplicity, elegance, usefulness, computational efficiency, and generalizability.

• Don't trust any musical composer who doesn't know how and when to use double sharps and double flats.

• The best comic ever: They'll Do It Every Time.

• If you accuse me of being a curmudgeonly old crank, you may be right. (Either that, or maybe I'm a cranky old curmudgeon instead.)

Deeply-held binary convictions
bad good
Printed plaids Woven plaids
Books with glued-in pages Books with sewn-in pages
Five-line monthly calendars
("23/30", "24/31")
Six-line monthly calendars
inches, feet, miles
American paper sizes,
e.g. letter = 8½ × 11 inches
Bridge-size playing cards
millimeters, meters, kilometers
International paper sizes,
e.g. A4 = 297 × 210 millimeters
Poker-size playing cards
(international size B8)
Prescriptive grammar
and vocabulary
Descriptive grammar
and vocabulary
Diet Coca-Cola Coca-Cola Zero [1]
Tab (R.I.P.)
PC Mac
monetary denominations,
for example:
monetary denominations,
for example:
Cubed ice Crushed ice
Infix calculator syntax Postfix calculator syntax [3]

[1] Diet Pepsi would get a nod here, except for chronic quality-control problems.

[2] The equally valid but rarely seem system 1-2-4-10-20-40-100-200-400 also has the feature that each denomination has exactly one nonzero digit, and that the sequence of ratios is 2-2-212 repeating. The difference between 1-2-4... and 1-2-5... is where the starting point of the ratios is placed.

[3] By the principle of symmetry, one can argue that prefix syntax ought to be held in the same high regard.

In the never-ending battle among C++ programmers, I stand firmly on the east-const side, rejecting the inconsistency demanded by the west-const adherents. For instance,

C++ declarations
bad good
const int i; int const i;
constexpr int i; int constexpr i;

"You were under the impression
That when you were walking forwards
You'd end up further onward,
But things ain't quite that simple"
— "I've Had Enough", Quadrophenia, The Who.