My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

9 Articles in August 2008

  1. Yay for reading!

    Holy books, Batman!

    Literacy is wonderful. I love reading. I spent most of this summer reading Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, fed to me by my coworker. So I went to the library for the first time this summer last week and got out the books you see in the stack on the right. Three of those books are the second or fifth book in a series, however, so I'll need to read the other books in those series before I can begin reading them. Naturally I made a list of books I wanted to get at the library. However, I forgot the list at home, and I ended up not needing it anyway, because I pretty much took home the New Books shelf, as I often do.

    But first, The Pillars of the Earth! I bought that copy for my friend Carly for Christmas. She foolishly((Never mention to me that you have nothing to read or that you are planning to read book x but don't have it. Many a friend has realized the error of such statements in my presence.)) mentioned that she was intending to read The Pillars of the Earth, and she did indeed have…

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  2. Give me a beat, a bass line ... anything

    This is my third day of typing in Colemak. It's weird. At times I feel like I'm really getting it: my accuracy is great, my speed is better than I expected, I'm getting into a rhythm. Then I type a QWERTY-ism and all that progress disappears.

    To learn I've been using Colemak lessons for TypeFaster. TypeFaster itself is a great program, and the lessons are helping. I like to use the hi-games.net typing test, because it uses a large variety of random sentences that better gauge my speed. In addition to the lessons, I've been typing mostly in Colemak, interspersed with some QWERTY to keep me in practice.

    This has been a learning experience in more ways than one! Until now, I have taken my typing speed for granted--it is so ingrained in me that its just a skill I use, like reading. I never really understood how frustrating it must be for those without typing skills to use a computer--one skill totally changes how one can interact with technology. I'm used to being able to type almost as quickly as I can think. On the other hand, this new perspective will likely improve my communication skills. I'm…

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  3. QWERTY? More like QWFPGJ!

    Colemak logo

    Partly out of concern for my fingers, but mostly out of errant boredom, I have decided to try to learn Colemak. The QWERTY keyboard layout was intentionally designed to slow down typists, lest their typewriters jam. Now that computers have largely replaced typewriters, such a layout is inefficient, but we still use it anyway. Other layouts, such as the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, just didn't catch on.

    Colemak is another alternative layout that comes to me highly recommended. I can type 100-150 WPM in QWERTY, so why switch? My humourous little sidebar about shift key abuse is the symptom of an underlying problem; all these hours at the computer leave my fingers strained. A more ergonomic layout may be the solution. Besides, if I can type 100 WPM in a layout designed to slow me down, I should be able to type faster and more comfortably in a more efficient layout (once I master it, of course).

    This was my first post (of hopefully many posts) composed using Colemak. It took a very long time, and I'm finding it frustrating, but that's expected. I haven't abandoned QWERTY, but the more I practice, the faster I'll learn. Wish me…

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  4. Trying out Digsby

    I've got a bunch of things I should blog about, so let's start with Digsby, a new free multi-service IM program. I have both an MSN (I suppose it's "Windows Live Messenger" now) account and an AIM screenname. Up until recently, I used two separate programs. I've tried Pidgin and Trillian; however, I found the former too spartan and the latter too bloated. I couldn't get comfortable with either--it's cool that Pidgin's free and open-source, but it's just not for me!

    Lately I've been trying the new IM program on the block: Digsby. It's still in "beta" (for what that word is worth in the Google era), but it's very functional and constantly being updated to improve features and stability. In addition to the major IM protocols, it also supports Facebook Chat. I find this useful, because it means I know when some of my Facebook friends are online without having to check Facebook; then I can talk to them directly from Digsby.

    Digsby does more than IM: it's touted as your "IM + Email + Social Networks" program. It'll check your mail accounts and supports Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, sending you notifications from these sites and letting…

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  5. What a crazy world

    Humans are an insane and suicidal species. This is not a new revelation to most of us, I'm sure. Nor is it news that the world is crazy. But let's stop and reflect for a moment on some recent events that underline such insanity, shall we?

    First on the block is the situation in Georgia. When this originally happened, I could understand (but did not approve of) Russia's actions. The area is ethnically diverse and highly conflicted. While South Ossetia may be a part of Georgia, it seems to be more sympathetic to Russia. Unfortunately for them, they're still part of Georgia, and that doesn't give Russia much business sending troops in there. Russia claims that their troops are peacekeeping forces, a response to Georgian troops sent into South Ossetia to quell militants. Then, however, Russia sent troops past the border of South Ossetia into other regions of Georgia!

    After France finally brokered a ceasefire, Russia agreed to withdraw its troops. So far such withdrawals have been minimal. The Russians are playing the old game of "the truth is what we say it is, not what you see." The Russian officials insist that they are withdrawing; soldiers continue to…

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  6. Shifty habits

    Right, so, I have a confession to make. I am a left-shift-key discriminator (or a right-shift-key abuser, your choice).

    What is an LSKD (or RSKA)? Simply put, it is someone who uses his or her right shift key almost exclusively when capitalizing letters. Just reverse the terms if you abuse your left shift key.

    I learned how to "touch type" (or whatever you want to call it) in grade 4, and I'm proud of my speed and accuracy on the QWERTY keyboard. I've pondered learning something like Colemak, but I don't have the time to devote to retraining myself, unfortunately.((Yes, that is a code phrase for "I'm lazy." Good catch.))

    Unfortunately, as with most abilities, I've developed some bad habits with typing. The abuse of the right shift key is one that particularly annoys me now. I was taught that you hit the shift key with the opposite hand of the letter you're capitalizing. So to capitalize "S", I hit the right shift key; to capitalize "I", I hit the left shift key--except not so much. I've developed this habit of using the right shift key, even on characters on the right side of the keyboard.

    This habit has…

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  7. Read the diaries of George Orwell

    George Orwell was an English author of great talent. In addition to Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, his two most well-known works of fiction, he was a journalist and an essayist. His topics varied; he covered politics and philosophy, as well as the evolving nature of language. Nineteen Eighty-Four has had a profound affect on our culture, introducing phrases like "Big Brother" into the English language. I'm certain that Orwell would shudder to learn that a term from one of his novels has become the title of a reality TV show . . . but I don't think he'd be all that surprised.

    Beginning Saturday, August 9, The United Kingdom's Orwell Prize will serialize Orwell's diary online. Apparently this date is significant, as it marks 70 years since the day Orwell first began writing his diary. The website will publish one entry a day until 2012, 70 years after Orwell stopped writing his diary. Seventy years ago would be 1938, so this means we get to read the diary of a brilliant writer watching Europe descend into World War II.

    I've already subscribed to the feed from the Orwell diaries blog.

  8. They're here

    The back to school ads have landed.

    Going back to university is different from going back to high school. For one thing, I'm not in school all day, so it feels like I have more free time. In general my schedule is more flexible. Since I'm in a fairly academic program, my school supplies are limited to notebooks, pens, and pencils. I can otherwise ignore the exhortations of sneakers, markers, pencil crayons, and whatnot. Give me something on which to scribble my equations, and I'm happy. :D

    I certainly learned a lot in my first year of university; reflection on this knowledge has led me to make a few resolutions about this year. Firstly, I'm going to try and establish a more consistent schedule in terms of sleeping, when I do homework, writing, working on my computer stuff, etc. While I still need to be flexible, hopefully this will help me manage my time better. I have four math courses in the fall term, all of which will have weekly assignments, I'm sure. Compared to my two full-year math courses last year, this will make things more complicated.

    Secondly, I'm going to try harder. I did well last year,…

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  9. Some villainy to brighten your day

    Where would we be without villains? Well probably happier, and healthier ... maybe safer. But perhaps a little more ignorant when it comes to matters of the human soul....

    On Saturday I went to see a performance of Zastrozzi: Master of Discipline by a local amateur theatre group as a fundraiser for their local Belegarth guild. The play consists of an insane artist on the run from Zastrozzi, master criminal of all Europe (apparently set in 1893). Zastrozzi finally corners Verezzi only to face Verezzi's tutor and guardian, Victor. As the play progresses, Zastrozzi and Verezzi both show signs of insanity while they separately investigate the nature of good and evil. Zastrozzi is a misanthrope and an atheist who believes his only purpose is to hold people accountable for their actions. Verezzi believes he is a servant, then a messenger of God, then a visionary, and finally a saint. Whether or not these men are sane is open to interpretation (what is sane anyway)? The play ends on a depressing minor chord, as such plays are wont to do.

    The performance was excellent, especially the two actors who played Zastrozzi and Verezzi; they really threw themselves into the part and…

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About Me

I’m a 26-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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About this site

I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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