Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Curse of Microwave Oven Controls

Both cars and microwave ovens are very common.

With most cars, you can figure out how to operate a new-to-you car very quickly. The ignition might be a different place than you are used to, but there only a few places where it can be. The accelerator and brake pedals (and maybe clutch pedal) will be in the same places. The list goes on; there are many similarities.

I wish it were that way with microwave ovens. For a fairly simple piece of equipment, there sure are a lot of variations on how to set the microwave oven to heat up something for one and a half minutes. Some of them are quite unobvious, even after several tries.

It is a good thing we do not have to drive microwave ovens.

Odd Language #133: Context Counts

828-5000: what is this?
AB1234: what is this?
(For privacy issues, each of these has been changed, but they are in the same format as the actual data.)

The issue: You might know what these are if you knew the context they occur in. But maybe not. Sometimes, there is more than one interpretation. Assuming that it is obvious can lead to confusion.

The first is a phone number in British Columbia. Although we use 10-digit numbers now, quite often, people leave the area code off. Three digits, hyphen, four digits is the format for them. It was also the format for student numbers at Thompson Rivers University.

The second is one format of licence plate numbers in British Columbia. It is also the format for WIS employee numbers. Just after I qualified as a driver, the schedule had a job where I was driver. After my name was a sequence of two letters followed by four digits. I did not know what it meant. Finally, it occurred to me that it was the van’s licence plate number. (It might have been my supervisor’s employee number. The letters are surname and first given name initials, and they were right for him.)

Puzzle #136: Square Hearts?

Hearts is a card game for three or four players. Each turn, either 26 points are distributed amongst two or more of the players, or every player gets 26 points except one player who gets none. A game is over when one or more players reach 100 or more points. The low score wins.

Is it possible in a three-player game for each players’ score each turn to be a square? How about in a four-player game?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #134 Solution: Whodunnit

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

Happy Holidays

Have a happy holiday season.

Have fun. Do not let it turn into a rat race for you or your loved ones. (Christmas dinner is a lot of work. If you are not doing anything in the kitchen, why not give a hand?)

Be safe. There is less drinking and driving now than there used to be, but there is still too much.

Odd Language #132: Off Off

I recently wrote a USENET post in which I stated: “The trolley buses in Vancouver had — probably still do have — batteries and could operate off the wires and off the batteries for a short time, respectively.”

The issue: As I continued, ‘That is, “off” as in “not on” and “off” as in “from”.’ “off” is being used for not using the wires and for using the batteries.

Puzzle #135: Cookie Ripoff

You just bought a package of two dozen oatmeal cookies. Well, you thought you did. It turns out that eight cookies with cinnamon, eight with raisins, and eight with chocolate chips do not make twenty-four if some cookies are counted more than once.

Four cookies have both cinnamon and raisins. Two have both cinnamon and chocolate chips. Three have both raisins and chocolate chips. There are no cookies with all three ingredients.

So how many cookies did you get shorted?

Submit your answer to Gene Wirchenko <>. Your answer should be in the form of a proof. That means to show how your answer must be correct. The deadline is Wednesday, January 6, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Handling Snow

A few weeks back, I was in Grande Prairie, Alberta on inventory counts. I drove up and back.

Before the trip, I was being a bit of a snow wussie. (That is what I call someone who worries too much about the snow.) It turns out that I did have cause to worry a bit, but not where I expected.

I thought that the North (where I saw highway signs indicating Alaska via the west highway) might give me some trouble. HA! They banish the snow from the roads. The roads were wonderfully clear and a pleasure to drive.

This lasted until about 10-20 km north of Williams Lake where suddenly, the roads were not cleared bare. From there to Cache Creek, most of the time, the highway had snow on it. (This was not just-fallen snow.) It was actually more trouble driving in the South.

Somewhere south of Williams Lake, we passed emergency vehicles where a vehicle that had gone off the road had somehow flipped over. Shortly before we reached the accident scene, we were passed by a vehicle going very fast. The accident happened near where a nasty accident had happened in the summer.

We could stand to have drivers showing more respect for the weather and road conditions.

If you respect hazards and give them appropriate consideration, you can often deal with them quite effectively. I have always worried a bit about driving in the winter, and before my trip to Grande Prairie, my winter driving had always been in southern B.C. It turns out that there is a connection!

We could also stand to have the road maintenance people dealing with snow more effectively.

Odd Language #131: Colourful Expression

Every so often, I run across an expression that makes it point so well. is a strip of Thunderstruck that has ‘The needle on my kosher-meter just dipped down to “ham sandwich.”

The issue: “kosher” and “ham” do not go together, and the sentence uses this wonderfully. The attitude suits the character making it very well.