Saturday, April 15, 2006

Cracker Barrel Hide and Seek

Why do they hide Cracker Barrel restaurants? They always have huge signs on the side of the interstate telling you that there's a Cracker Barrel some ten miles down the road at exit number whatever. And once you get to that exit, you may even be able to see it from the interstate. But once you get off at that exit, actually getting to the Cracker Barrel inevitably involves five left turns, driving through a hotel parking lot, and following a narrow, winding road to some nook or cranny that may have been visible from the interstate, just not from anywhere else. Is the purpose of this to encourage you to stay a spell, since it was so much trouble to get there. "You've been on the road a while, and it was such a pain to get here. You might as well kick back and rest for a couple of hours, seeing as how you probably still have a long drive ahead of you." Or is the point to make you feel like you're really out in the country by isolating it from the surroundings? They must run high on reputation, because I'm not sure I'd have the patience to squint at road signs and drive further and further away from the comfort of brightly-lit fast-food and gas-station clusters to eat at some place I'd never heard of when it's dark and I'm tired and hungry. Cracker Barrel? What do they serve, cheese and crackers?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Where are you now?

It's 5:30. Do you know where your kids are? Check your Sprint phone or your computer to find out. Of course, if the kid doesn't want you to know where they are, they can always turn off the phone. Or were off buttons made illegal while I wasn't looking?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Quote of the Day - April 12, 2006

"Bother," said Pooh. "Eeyore, ready two photon torpedos and lock phaser on the Huffalump. Piglet, meet me in transporter room 3."

- bumper sticker

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

France Surrenders to Itself

I think it's official. They've surrendered to everyone, now, right?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Name, Please

Here’s another one for the Human Interface Protocol.

Kinds of Names

A name is something used to distinguish one individual from another, both when referring to them in conversation and when determining whom a specific statement is directed toward. Every person has at least three names: a first name, a last name, and a full name. Full names are usually only referral names – names used to refer to someone, but not to address them (“Have you seen John Doe today?”). First names are the most common interface name – names used to address someone (“Hello, Jane.”) – but are also commonly used as a referral name. Last names are commonly used as call names – names used to get someone’s attention (“Hey, Smith! Over here!”) – since the likelihood of having multiple people in a crowd with the same last name is smaller than the likelihood of having multiple people in a crowd with the same first name. However, things get more complicated from here. People with common first names may have to be referred to by their full name at least once in a conversation if context does not allow them to be distinguished otherwise. They may even have to use their last name as an interface name if they find themselves in a room with several people who share their first name. Last names are also commonly used in the military to address individuals. In rare cases, people with short, simple full names that flow as easily as a single name may be interfaced using their full name.

Nicknames are often used to in lieu of given names. The reasons for this can vary from distinguishing between several people with the same given name (as in “James”, “Jim”, and “Jimmy”) to singling out someone of particular importance (“Sugar plum” for you significant other or “The Big Boss” for the manager you would least like to screw up in front of). Nicknames used to interface can be “communal” (used by everyone), much like a first name. However, individuals may have nicknames that are used by one or a few people who are closer to them as a term of endearment. Referral nicknames are used to refer to someone, but may be awkward when used to address them (see every mob nickname).

Some people may have additions to their names known as “titles” – Doctor, General, Senator, Sir etc. These titles can be used alone or in conjunction with the last name when addressing someone. The title is rarely used alone when referring to someone (unless you’re talking about The Doctor). It is best to use a title in conjunction with at least the last name if not the full name when referring to someone.


Now that we are familiar with several different kinds of names, it is important to understand the context in which these may be used. Formal requests should use more formal names, using titles where applicable. Casual conversation may involve first names and communal nicknames. A more familiar nickname may be appropriate when trying to comfort or encourage someone. Trash talk is a special category, which may result in new nicknames being created for the express purpose of taunting.

It’s also important to consider the relationship between you and the person you are talking to. Parents may have multiple nicknames for their children, but children have only a few things that they can call their parents. Some names are appropriate for close friends but not for acquaintances. If you are not sure if a name is appropriate, use a name that is the next level up in formality.

When referring to someone in conversation, it is important to pay attention to context to avoid confusion. If there is a “Sam” in your department at work, it is sufficient to refer to him as “Sam” to other coworkers in your department. However, when talking to people in other departments or outside of work, it is necessary to clarify which Sam you are talking about. You can use their full name, or call them “Sam from finance” or “Sam from work” or “Sam the stalker”, so long as it creates a unique identifier in the context of the conversation. This is particularly crucial if you know multiple people with the same name. You wouldn’t want to be talking about stalker Sam while the people you’re talking to think you’re talking about your cousin Sam. That's just awkward.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bashing Bush from the Peanut Gallery

In an "it's about time!' moment for Democrats and Republicans, a man stood up and criticized Bush to his face, and didn't get ejected as a result. Democrats are happy because finally Bush was faced with someone who wasn't a political or media pundit or a screaming party-crasher who really is deeply and reasonably opposed to his policies. Republicans are happy because Bush survived the encounter with his world view intact, and he even responded to the criticism, though only to not apologize for approving warrantless wiretaps. Taylor's delivery (I've seen the full video of his remarks) was calm, tinged with more disappointment than anger. Bush hushed the crowd when they tried to drown out Taylor's comments with booing. But neither Taylor nor Bush won anyone over. There was no actual debate over the constitutional limitations on the powers of the president, the plans on how to stabilize Iraq, the implications of the "Long War", exploding government spending, or any number of issues currently facing our country. It was a citizen who did not ask a question and a President who did not give an answer.