Minecraft

At Christmas the kids caught the Minecraft bug from their cousins. They pooled their birthday and chore money and bought it. They’ve been enjoying tinkering around with it, together with the help of some books we reserved at the library. Today I installed Ubuntu on the old Windows XP laptop, and voila! We have a dedicated Minecraft computer now.

Defect

defect

Root cause: powdery snow
Resolution: usage error

Concerning intermittent things, I am still tickled by the old Microsoft Word tip of the day, “Things that go away by themselves can come back by themselves.”

Concerning intermitten things, it seems prudent to assume that things that go away at great speed can come back at great speed.

Kindle

I bought a basic Kindle recently and I’m enjoying it. I don’t currently plan to buy many e-books, but rather use the Kindle as a better tool for existing reading compared to my computer and phone. Here’s what I’ve discovered so far:

PDFs

PDF’s aren’t the best format for reading on Kindle. I’ve found two tools for converting PDFs to e-books and uploading them to my Kindle. For simple PDFs (e.g., single column, and not a scanned image), Calibre is great for converting and uploading. However, Calibre does a poor job with PDFs that are scanned copies of books (this applies to many of the books linked above). For these I use a two-step process: first, I run the PDF through the K2PDFOpt tool (at the time of this writing, version 1.63 crashes for me on some books, but 1.51 is stable). This increases the size of the PDF file significantly, but it organizes it in a form that Calibre is much better able to handle. Then I use Calibre to convert these PDFs to e-books, and upload them to my Kindle.

Articles

Until now, I saved longer articles and blog posts for later reading using open tabs in my browser. This quickly grows unwieldy. The Instapaper service allows you to save web pages for later reading, and it integrates with Kindle. Now when I run across a longer article, I click a button to send it to Instapaper, and by the next morning the article is ready to read on my Kindle.

Blogs

The Kindlefeeder service allows you to send blog and news feeds to your Kindle. I’ve selected several of the blogs I read (ones that tend to have longer articles) to be sent to my Kindle, and now I read them there rather than on my computer.

Other

If you have any other tips and tricks I’d appreciate hearing about them.

All of the above should work with e-readers other than Kindle. In the case of Instapaper and Kindlefeeder, you may need to upload a file manually to your reader instead of having it automatically sent there.

Computer monster

Speaking of Sesame Street (see my last post), below is a funny video of a proto-Cookie Monster eating a computer. This monster is a little bigger than Cookie Monster and has fangs. Unlike Cookie Monster, he has a hole in his mouth and actually consumes some of what he destroys. Apparently he was the origin of Cookie Monster. My favorite part is the Jabberwocky reference. What’s yours?

HT: Jeffrey Meyers

Richard Scarry and hexadecimal

When you read a hexadecimal number out loud, how do you pronounce the letters?

At my workplace, I’ve grown used to our custom of pronouncing the letters using the Joint Army/Navy Phonetic Alphabet standardized in 1941. The letter digits are pronounced Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy and Fox. Under this scheme, the hexadecimal number 0x7F8D3BC0 would be pronounced “Seven Fox Eight Dog Three Baker Charlie Zero.” This was disorienting to me at first, but after eight years this is now so natural that this is how I pronounce the digits in my mind even if I’m not speaking them.

We’ve started collecting Richard Scarry’s children’s books. Richard Scarry writes with a degree of detail and whimsy that holds an adult’s interest — much like old-school Sesame Street. (How far it has fallen — modern-day Sesame Street is much too postmodern, pluralistic, saccharine and juvenile for my taste. I console myself by searching for old Sesame Street clips on Youtube.) Recently I was amused and pleased to discover that one of Richard Scarry’s characters is named Able Baker Charlie! What a strange juxtaposition of worlds for me — programming and children’s books.

Able Baker Charlie is a mouse. He is a baker, and assists Baker Humperdink, a pig. Despite his small size, Able Baker Charlie is capable assisting with any step of the baking process, from stoking the oven, to mixing the dough, to putting loaves in the oven, and even delivering bread around Busytown. Below you may see a picture of Able Baker Charlie ably distributing French baguettes to Louie’s Restaurant.

Richard Scarry served in the U. S. Army during World War II. No doubt this is the source of the Able Baker Charlie aptonym. It still gives me a chuckle every time we read it.