CSS Catastrophe

Ad Hoc has been out of commission for awhile. While trying to categorize my former posts, I managed to lose a bunch of them. Server owner Prodos worked heroically to recover some (most?) of them from Google’s cache.

Prodos is also trying to find out what caused the loss in the first place. We have determined that it has something to do with CSS settings. Ad Hoc does not display properly in my browser. This apparently caused a misalignment of buttons and labels in the editiing page, so that when I hit “edit” I instead got “delete.”

In fact, I have two browsers and the blog does not look the way it should in either. I suspect some conflict with another program. I’ve been trying, sporadically, to be systematic in trying to track down which it might be.
In any case, Prodos found me a way to work around the problem while he applies his magnificent mind to its solution, so the blog is (sort of) back in business.

–Ken

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Vicissitudes of the Heart

No postings to Ad Hoc in a long time. It’s probably time for an explanatiion.

Back before Thanksgiving, while I was out for my customary walk/run, …I fainted. One moment I was walking along, listening to Tara Smith on my iPod; the next moment I was on my back looking up at the trees and clouds.

I was only out for a maximum of two seconds. I know this, because I later determined that I had only missed a couple of words of the lecture.

Although my heart has always been declared strong and healthy at physical exam time, a closer look with high powered (and expensive) equipment showed some blockage in a coronary artery and a tendency for my heart’s timeing to be off when it gets above a certain rate.

The upshot is, I’ve had a stent installed and then a pacemaker implanted. I’m still dealing with the latter, and the former requires taking blood thinning drugs which complicates healing.

So, boys and girls, now you know why you’ve had to wait — breathlessly, I’m sure — for Ad Hoc to return.

Merry Saturnalia!

–Ken

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Surgery

My apologies to the many fans waiting breathlessly for my next post! I am scheduled for rotator cuff repair tomorrow morning. I’m told that, depending on what the surgeon finds he has to do, I will be in a sling for a week — or six weeks. This is likely to affect my ability to type for awhile. You will all just have to grin and bear it!

–Ken

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Running, Swallows, & A Day of Changes

A lovely day — until 4:15 pm. I got in my first run of the year. Too much cold, snow and rain to do much any earlier. I have contented myself with “running” on the rebounder. It’s very different to get out and actually run, well, walk/run for two miles in about the same amount of time. But, it’s hardly the Boston Marathon, which also happened today. I’ll probably have sore ankles, calves and whatnot tomorrow.

Today the swallows returned! They come every year, of course. We have the violet-green variety. They seem to have a good time, wheeling through the sunshine and chattering to each other. They will nest in a couple of our bird houses.

Starlings are here now, too, but they aren’t nearly as much fun. The bluebirds cased the yard out a couple of months ago, as is their wont. They’ll probably move in shortly.

So, at 4:15 pm, we got a storm. Wind, rain, hail that covered the ground. The weather lady tells me to watch out for a hard freeze tonight, but that isn’t really so different from last night, when our thermometer registered 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Today we have gone from glorious warm sunshine to chilly, windy storm. It must be spring….
–Ken

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Ayn Rand and Life

Diana Hsieh recently asked, on her blog, “At what point in reading Ayn Rand did you realize that she had something really significant to contribute to your understanding of the world?”

Several of her many readers responded with their first encounters with Objectivism. Most of them are appallingly young, recounting first experiences during their high school years. Would that Ayn Rand’s works had been available during my high school years!

If I had replied to Diana’s question, it would have gone something like this: I happened on Atlas Shrugged in the early 1960’s. My mother, a voracious and indiscriminate reader of any new library books, had read AS several years previously, but had said something about the story going “on and on,” and she didn’t understand it. The book was huge, and that, along with Mom’s somewhat negative review, made it uninteresting to me at the time.

In 1963 the 13th printing of the paperback Signet edition of AS was in the drug store book racks (price: $0.95). I recall being discouraged about the novels being published at the time. My conscious thought was, “I don’t think I’ve ever read anything worthwhile by a woman author. Maybe I should give this a try.” I was about 31 years of age.

The story was gripping and its ideas were intriguing. As many people have done, I questioned whether people like Ayn Rand’s protagonists were even possible, but I certainly found them inspiring.

The answer to my question (and to Diana’s) happened when I came to the “About the Author” page at the end of the book. The quotation there was, “My personal life is a postscript to my novels; it consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it.’ I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books — and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters. The concretes differ, the abstractions are the same.”

It was then that I realized I had not just read a great story. I had happened onto something that would make an enormous difference in my life.

–Ken

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Learning Curves

A “learning curve” is, in my understanding, a graph which describes the rate at which you learn something as a function of the time spent learning it. The progress of your learning measured against the time you take to acquire mastery. The more quickly you learn the subject, the steeper the curve on the graph.

The-common-man-in-the-street thinks of it differently. To him, “a steep learning curve” means the subject is a really tough one — hard to learn. This interpretation makes sense if you think of “steepness” as slowing progress. If you are going from here to there on a bicycle, for example, and “there” is at the top of a hill, the steepness of the hill is something to be overcome. It slows your progress toward “there.” (Bicyclist’s Lament: “The meanest dog always lives halfway up the steepest hill.”)

What’s all this relevant to? Well, I’ve lately been trying to learn calculus. I have a collection of about a dozen books that claim they will teach me calculus quickly and easily. Some of them are decades old, because my desire to learn the subject is long-term. I’ve finally decided to devote some time and effort to actually using the books.

I’m finding my learning curve for calculus is nearly flat, or very steep, depending on which interpretation of “learning curve” we go with. It has been a carload of years since my last math class of any kind, and over the years there has not been a lot of reason to use much of the math I ever learned, anyway. Thus far in my pursuit of calculus, the main thing I’ve learned is that my algebra is pretty weak. Now, I used to consider myself pretty good at algebra, so it’s sort of a blow to realize that my learning of calculus is going to be delayed by having to re-learn algebra as I go. (I suspect I’ll trip over some trig concepts, too.)

An added delay turns out to be …blogging. I have thought it might be fun to play around with a blog, and when Prodos made his offer of free use of his blogging resources with the only stipulation being that one is a proponent of Capitalism, I figured it probably wouldn’t get any better than this. I have been an advocate of laissez faire capitalism for donkey’s years. It’s the only social system that recognizes individual rights and private ownership of property.

But, blogging turns out to have its own learning curve. Prodos made it simpler by having format themes available and taking care of all the server stuff, but it looks like there are lots of things to learn as I go along — linking, text formatting, managing comments, if any, etc., etc. So, I expect this to be an on again, off again undertaking until I get comfortable with the mÃ

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