Monthly Archives: November 2016

Are You Seeing What You Think You Are Seeing?

URLs are used quite heavily by some to point others to some interesting material. Some URLs end with a anchor. That is a specific point on the page that is to be displayed. For example, a long Webpage may be divided into four sections, and the person referring it to you may wish to point out section three (on, say, poodles).

The URL could be or something similar. If given just, you would see the start of the article. With the anchor, presumably, you would see the article displayed at the start of the section on poodles.

Unfortunately for me, I just noticed that when Firefox (version 28.0) loads a Webpage, it does not display at the anchor point but only the beginning. If I reload, the same behaviour occurs again. If I click on the address and then press [Enter], only then do I see the article positioned at the anchor point.

I wonder how many times I have given up on a Webpage referred to me, because I thought it did not have the content I wanted.

Odd Language #181: When After?

“Ongoing: After the first time you play an action each turn …” – instruction on Jason card in Smash Up.

The issue: Does this mean 1) immediately after the first time you have played an action in a turn, 2) only the second, third, fourth, etc. times you play an action in a turn, or 3) as in point 2 but immediately? I suspect that the first was meant, but all three are possible.

Smash Up is a game by Alderac Entertainment Group. It is great fun. It has fairly simple mechanics, but there can be some tricky side effects. This means that clear language is a must.

Puzzle #184: More Alphabet Sets

Each letter of the alphabet has been put into one of three sets.

Set 1: A, F, H, K, M, N, P, R, T, V, W, X, Y
Set 2: B, D, E, I, L, Z
Set 3: C, G, J, O, Q, S, U

The solution has something to do with the shape of the letters. Depending on how you print it, Q might be considered to belong to set 1 instead. Depending on how you print them, I and some others might be considered to belong to set 1 or set 2, but commonly, I consider that they belong as above. If you get the basic rule, you will probably understand why.

What is the rule for which set a letter goes into? Tie-breaker question: What is that secondary rule about set 1 and 2?

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, December 14, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Whom Do You Trust?

The recent U.S. presidential election had rather ugly rhetoric. The first item in RISKS List volume 29, issue 93 *Fake News* gives new meaning to *No news is good news*?!! lists a number of articles in media dealing with fake news. It is sobering reading. Some fake news stories got more engagement than genuine news stories. And people decided whom to vote for based on this?

Please do not blindly trust everything you read even if, and maybe especially if, it is telling you something you agree with.

With computers, information can spread very quickly. It does not mean that the information is correct.

Odd Language #180: Help.

For help, type “help.”

The issue: Others have made this point before, but it bears repeating. In some styles of English writing, punctuation marks by a quotation mark are put inside the quote. (He said, “Stop.”) In some, they are put outside. (He said, “Stop”.)

The problem with the first style is that the period can be taken as being part of the quote. If this is a command to type into a computer, it has likely been made wrong as the command probably does not include a period. If writing in the first style is converted to the second style, the command will also be made wrong. One possible solution is to rearrange the sentence: Type “help” for help.

This distortion can happen in other ways. ‘Did he say, “Help?”‘ makes the quote into a question which it probably was not.

Puzzle #183: Marbles

You have some marbles, each one of the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

The number of red marbles is twice the number of green marbles. The number of yellow marbles is one-half the number of blue marbles. The number of green marbles is two more than the number of yellow marbles. The number of blue marbles is three less than the number of violet marbles. The number of violet marbles is four more than the number of orange marbles.

If the number of orange marbles is the same as the number of green marbles, how many marbles do you have?

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, December 7, 2016 at noon Pacific Time. I will post the answer shortly after.

Puzzle #181 Solution: Paths

Spoiler Inside: Solution to Puzzle SelectShow

What They Say, What They Do

The U.S.A.’s presidential election is finally over. (Technically, the Electoral College has to do its part, but is anyone really expecting them to not choose Donald Trump?)

It has been a rather unpleasant time. The phrase “the lesser of the two evils” has sadly been all too applicable.

So how much of the rhetoric was meant, and how much was just yapping? There will be loud complaining either way; that seems to be politics for the U.S.A. With U.S.A. politics as polarised as it is, how much will get done? It is likely to be all too “interesting”.

“May you live in interesting times.”

Odd Language #179: Hit By Car

This news story (“Evansville school bus unloading students hit by car”) has a misleading headline.

The issue: Students were not hit by the car. It was the school bus that was hit by the car.

From the story: “Deputies say the driver of a red Pontiac Grand Prix exited a curve and noticed the school bus stopped in the opposing lane when he veered into the front of the bus to avoid hitting the children crossing the street.”

Misplaced modifiers ride again!