Monthly Archives: September 2011

Two spaces after a period …

From Farhad Manjoo at Slate.

Do you use one space or two after a period?  Typographers recommend a single space.  I confess that I use two.

The reason for the two-space convention is an interesting example of how technology changes behavior.

The problem with typewriters was that they used monospaced type—that is, every character occupied an equal amount of horizontal space. This bucked a long tradition of proportional typesetting, in which skinny characters (like I or 1) were given less space than fat ones (like W or M). Monospaced type gives you text that looks “loose” and uneven; there’s a lot of white space between characters and words, so it’s more difficult to spot the spaces between sentences immediately. Hence the adoption of the two-space rule—on a typewriter, an extra space after a sentence makes text easier to read.

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xkcd: Hotels

I don’t quite get the Tragedy of the Commons analogy, but it’s funny nevertheless.    For more xkcd, the website is here.

 


Pakistan is the enemy

The latest from Christopher Hitchens at Slate.  Nothing new, but acerbic and well-written as always.  The Indian intelligence agencies are probably dealing in smug “I told you so”s right now.


Distributional Ethics and Economic Justice

In which I excerpt a conversation between Baruk, master alchemist, and Kruppe, petty thief and spymaster, originally recorded in Toll the Hounds, the eighth installment in The Malazan Book of the Fallen.  Baruk’s comments are in green.

K: Kruppe asks this: witness two scenes.  In one, an angry, bitter man beats another man to death in an alley in the Gadrobi District.  In another, a man of vast wealth conspires with equally wealthy compatriots to raise yet again the price grain, making the cost of simple bread so prohibitive that families starve, are led into lives of crime, and die young.  Are both acts of violence?

B: In only one of those examples will you find blood on a man’s hands.

K: True, deplorable as such stains are.

B: There are countless constructs whereby the wealthy man might claim innocence.  Mitigating circumstances, unexpected costs of production, the law of supply and demand, and so on.

K: Indeed, a plethora of justifications, making the waters so very murky, and who then sees the blood?

B: And yet, destitution results with all its misery, its stresses and anxieties, its foul vapours of the soul.  It can be said that the wealthy grain merchant wages subtle war.

Fantasy often gets a bad rap, but I enjoy Steve Erikson’s forays into history, economics, politics and ethics, made all the more enjoyable by his highly literate style.


Military Nomenclature

From the Johnson blog at The Economist.

it once bugged me that in British and American officer ranks, a lieutenant general outranked a major general, while by contrast a major outranks a lieutenant. (Plain “general” outranks both.)  Only later did I learn: major general is shortened from sergeant-major-general. So just as ranks proceed upwards as sergeant-major, lieutenant, captain, so do (sergeant-)major-general, lieutenant-general and (captain-)general.

Never thought about it, but it is interesting.


Financial genocide in Greece

I never realized that the situation on the ground was quite so dire.  The international media covers only the money.  The social cost remains buried.

  • One third of the country’s 165,000 commercial firms shut down; a third can no longer pay wages
  • The billions of euros in tranches from the EU actually flow back immediately into the EU – reportedly, 97 percent of it – as annual loan repayment instalments to the banks and as new interest charges
  • There have been no textbooks in the public education system for months, since the state owes huge sums of money to the publishers and the publishers have stopped the deliveries

More here.

The question that arises is:  where did all that money go?  Did the powerful and politically well-connected manage to siphon off everything?  Or were all Greeks living beyond their means, as goes the primary narrative?


Japanese Desolation

An elegy to Kiyosato, which was a resort town that came into prominence in the heydays of the 1980s.  Today, the crowds have gone, the stores have shuttered and everything gently and oh so slowly rusts or rots or crumbles away.

Today, Kiyosato stands as a cautionary tale of the consumerist excess that often accompanies a bubble.  Will some consumerist havens in the US and Europe look like this in two decades?