Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Red, budding
Green, growing
Yellow, fluttering
Brown, crunching
The life of a leaf

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Too Many Color Names

I like colors, but sometimes too much of a good thing is not a good thing anymore.

An explosion of color names
I cringe when I hear people refer to colors like chartreuse, fuchsia, cerulean, taupe, or ochre.  Don't get me wrong - they are fun words.  I just don't think we need so many words to describe colors.  Not to mention (but I'm going to anyway) that one person's ecru is another person's beige.

Scientists estimate that people can distinguish MILLIONS of different colors.  But how many of them deserve unique names?

Here's an analogy: numbers.  Consider the numbers from 1 to 1,000,000.  Even though we can distinguish the number 56,342 from the number 56,343, it doesn't mean they each deserve unique names.  In fact we only have unique names for a small fraction of the total: one, two, three four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, hundred, thousand, million.  That's it.  There are fifteen unique names for numbers in English.  All the rest are formed by combining* those fifteen with each other and certain suffixes (-teen, and -ty)**. For example: fifty-six thousand three hundred forty-two.

Similarly, I think we only need unique names for a small fraction of the millions of colors.  Here are my choices: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, white, grey, and brown.  If you combine those with each other, and with certain adjectives (light, dark, bright, etc.), I think we can describe any color.  Watch:  Light blue-green.  Dark red.  Bright yellow-orange.

If more precision is needed, like in a design industry for clothing or paint, one of the standard computer-based system of describing colors can be used.  For example, ochre is the hex triplet #CC7722.

But does the typical person on the street really need to know that a certain color is periwinkle or lavender.  Isn't it easier just to say light purple?

For a different perspective, see the color survey results at xkcd (not necessarily safe for work, depending on your definition of "safe").

* With the usual goofy English spelling variations: e.g. three-teen becomes thirteen.
** I suspect that -teen and -ty are both variations on -ten, but I'm too tired to research it tonight.  :(

Monday, June 6, 2011

Apple Cooks Up A Surprise

After telling the world about iOS 5, OS X Lion, and iCloud, Steve Jobs said "One more thing..."

Jobs continued, "Don't we all hate the boring toppings on our hot dogs, hamburgers, and french fries? Ketchup, mustard, salsa, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onions are so last millennium. With Apple's new iToppings, you can create the toppings YOU want!"

"Now you can have kustard, ketchonaise, salsions, mayocheese, or mustuce. Just point your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad at the ingredients, and with one swipe of your finger, the device will emit enough non-ionizing radiation to fuse the ingredients into your tasty iTopping." said Jobs.

"They best part is that it's FREE." he declared.

Apparently, a lead-lined apron is optional, at $29.99.

[Inspired by Loqwacious]

[Update: Changed to NON-ionizing radiation. Oops!]

Thursday, March 31, 2011


I recently took a class about IPv6, and while I was busy converting numbers from decimal to binary and hexadecimal, it occurred to me that saying hexadecimal numbers aloud is very awkward.

For example, most engineers I know will pronounce "18, 19, 1A, 1B, 1C" as "eighteen, nineteen, one-A, one-B, one-C".

Why not incorporate the hexadecimal digits A, B, C, D, E, F into the same number pronunciation scheme as 0 through 9?

Here's how it would work.  Let's write out the hex digits as follows:


Now we can combine them with existing number parts, like -teen or twenty-.

18eighteen    28twenty-eight
19nineteen    29twenty-nine
1Aayteen    2Atwenty-ay
1Bbeeteen    2Btwenty-bee
1Cceeteen    2Ctwenty-cee
1Ddeeteen    2Dtwenty-dee
1Eeeteen    2Etwenty-ee
1Feffteen    2Ftwenty-eff
20twenty    30thirty

Also, B5 is "beety-five", DA is "deety-ay", FF is "effty-eff", E7C is "ee hundred seventy-cee", etc.

One drawback is that "ay" sounds a lot like "eight". So 80 (eighty) and A0 (ayty) are a problem. But we already have some close sound-alikes, such as "seventy" and "seventeen".

Now I just have to remember to use this in meetings. I'm sure to get some funny looks!

Friday, March 18, 2011


Now that most of my old CDs are in iTunes, I realized I could analyze it a little.

I made playlists by decade to see how my music is distributed.  I think it's pretty accurate, because whenever I rip a CD, I verify all the information, including the year of each song.


I was curious about that one song from the 1910s.  It's a Christmas carol!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Great Mascot

I just noticed that there are a lot of sports teams that have Devils as their nickname.  I can't remember ever seeing one named the Gods.  Isn't Good supposed to triumph over Evil?  Wouldn't people want to play for a team that's got thousands of years of philosophy on its side?  It would be pretty cool to have a team mascot that's a bearded old man in a toga throwing thunderbolts!

Friday, February 11, 2011


Top 5 Lists I Don't Like To Read

5. Top 20 Lists
4. Top 3 Lists
3. Top 100 Lists
2. Top 10 Lists
1. Top 5 Lists