Zhaba Zhournal
Friday, October 10, 2003 
Na zdorovye! 
Hey, it's the 500th anniversary of vodka. It was originally used as an antiseptic. Then they figured out you could drink it, and the rest is history. (Much of it lost to blackouts.)

Damn, do I love vodka. (I'm half-Slavic. I can't help it.) Straight up, please, and preferably distilled from potatoes. I think I'll go home and have some Luksusowa tonight...

[ at 4:15 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Mental health 
Apparently yesterday was Bipolar Awareness Day. Hm. I wasn't aware of that. And I'm bipolar. Are we supposed to find this stuff out via brainwaves or something?

I got that from this article about how most Americans don't understand bipolar disorder:
A new survey found 78 percent of Americans polled failed to name bipolar disorder as a mental illness and 38 percent couldn't name a single symptom associated with the disease.
In all fairness, I bet they'd have responded differently if the surveyors had called it "manic depression." But we don't call it that anymore, it sounds too crazy...

[ at 3:32 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Editing geekery 
Okay, this is how much of a regular-expression geek I am: I have previously had dreams in which I did regular expression searches, but last night I had one that was so accurate I was able to use it, to good effect, at work this morning. (Warning: This next bit probably doesn't make much/any sense if you don't use regular expressions. But I'm pleased with myself, so I'm writing it anyway.)


I'd been searching the files I'm editing for HTML character entities—&eacute; instead of é, for instance. So I searched for this:
Except that kept bringing up every line that had an ampersand and a semicolon, including the lines with bizarre hidden Word coding.

(This, for instance: T]?C@T0?}G ڡEt;oKôv(>DP/il?Ds &y+;D} What the hell is that?)

And I wound up with the dismaying message "Found 109 occurrence(s) in 32 file(s)"—a pain in the neck to individually examine. Feh.

But in my dream, it occurred to me to limit the size of the string: &[^&;]{2,8}; I.e., to only catch strings with two to eight characters between the & and the ;. And I managed to remember it, and I tried it when I got to work this morning. And not only did it work, I was actually correct about the number of characters in a legitimate HTML entity. (In general, the longest ones have six characters, but in the Greek language set there's one with eight characters: &thetasym; I don't know if that will show up if I try to put it in here, though. ϑ—does that work on anyone's browser?)

Anyway, I ran that search, and got this: "Found 5 occurrence(s) in 5 file(s)". Hey, I like those numbers a lot better...


And now, back to my regularly scheduled editing...

[ at 10:02 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Thursday, October 09, 2003 
Shiny rocks 
Half-assed Guarantee of the Day:

For an eBay gem auction:
*Item looked at and verified by certified gemologist*
(Asterisks and all.)

Um, "looked at"? From where, across the room? And "verified" as what? ("Yup, that's a physical object of some kind.")

Oh, and by the way, eBay gem dealers: There is no such fucking thing as African moldavite! It's called "moldavite" because it's from a meteor that landed in the Moldau region of the Czech Republic. I don't know, maybe there are meteor-based gems in other parts of the world, but they're not frickin' moldavite, okay?*

(I really, really like gems and minerals—or, more inclusively, shiny rocks—but I haven't bought any in a long time, since it's not exactly a cheap hobby. I'm getting an itch for moldavite, though, and maybe a demantoid garnet. And maybe a chrysoberyl cat's eye. And maybe...oh, crap, here I go again...)

(Here, for reference, is some moldavite. And here are some demantoid garnets. I assume everyone knows what chrysoberyl cat's eyes look like, but they're pretty, so here are some of them, too.)

*Update: On 12/23/03, I wrote another entry on the African moldavite question.

[ at 3:16 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Things I've said 
To J., last night, when he asked how my work day had gone: "I'm going to make Microsoft Word my bitch."

[ at 2:47 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

"Excuse me, I have to go find a ten-foot pole to not touch that with."

[ at 2:46 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Wednesday, October 08, 2003 
Evil Microsoft Word 
I hate Microsoft Word. I hate it more than most government officials, more than the public transit authority, more than menstrual cramps. If it were a person, I'd hire someone to beat it up or set its car on fire or have an affair with its spouse. I. Hate. It.

Since our clients insist upon using this evil thing, however, I have to deal with it. And I am, slowly but surely, bending it to my will. Today, for instance, I achieved something that I have hitherto only dreamed of: turning those God-awful automatic numbered lists into actual paragraphs with actual text numbers in front of them.

How? Well, I looked in all the menus. I looked at the included "Help" file. I dug up a Word 97 manual and read everything about lists and numbers. I looked at the "Help" file some more. I did a Web search. I checked the O'Reilly Hacks page. I checked the Microsoft Help page. I checked the Microsoft Help discussion lists. I was directed to use the VisualBasic Editor. I opened it and found out I didn't have the elusive VBAWRD8.HLP file. I looked for it on my hard drive. I looked for it on the office server. I tried to find our original installation CDs. (Of course we don't have them anymore.) I did another Web search. I found a Korean Web page with a link to a download that was, well, sort of like it. (VBAWD10.CHM.) I downloaded it. I read it. I ignored the constant "Internet Explorer Script Error" pop-ups I got on every page. I put together a macro. I ran it. It didn't work. I tried again. And again. And again. And finally—finally—after only three hours of not getting any frippin' work done—I had a macro that would do what the frippin' program should be able to do anyway.

And here it is, in all its deceptive simplicity:
Sub convertnumber()

ActiveDocument.ConvertNumbersToText (wdNumberParagraph)

End Sub
Yeah, it doesn't look like much. And no, it doesn't solve everything. And the programmers among you are probably entirely unimpressed. But I'm not a programmer. And I shouldn't have to be.

And now, back to the editing I was supposed to be doing in the first place...

[ at 1:47 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Monday, October 06, 2003 
Dear SoBe,

Why, pray tell, does the lid from my bottle of green tea bear the slogan "Remember the Alamo"? Since "SoBe" is an abbreviation for "South Beach," which is not in Texas, and your corporate address is in Norwalk, Conn., which is also not in Texas, I'm not sure why you feel the need to promote Alamo remembrance. I, personally, have absolutely no interest in whether the Alamo is remembered or not, being a) not from Texas and b) living in this century, thank you. (I mean, seriously; is anyone in the U.S. really afraid of the might of the Mexican army?)

I'm starting to worry about what I'm going to find under my next bottlecap. "The South will rise again"? "Fifty-four forty or fight"? There's enough antiquated, ack-basswards political thinking in this country without soft-drink companies throwing out last century's sound bites. Okay?



P.S. Your Web site looks like it was designed by three spastic, colorblind first-graders with attention deficit disorder. I know you're trying to sell energy drinks, but jeez, do you have to make your Web site hyperactive too?

[ at 4:20 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

I've gotten two searches in the past few days for the literal meaning of Schwarzenegger, so, being the public-spirited person that I am, I'll do my best to provide it.

Via the German Surname Lexikon:
Schwar(t)z black

Egger/Eggers harrow, plow man
So it's something like "black plowman." No, I do not know what "black" has to do with anything in this context. Maybe just that the first person with this name was a plowman with black hair or a really deep tan. (Come to think of it, you would get a really deep tan if you were out plowing in the sun all day.)

[ at 3:05 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

Weekend, schmeekend 
What with one thing and another, I didn't get any time to post over the weekend, leaving me with an even greater backlog of Things I Want To Write About. Much of the weekend was spent helping my brother work on his new house; it's a South Philly rowhouse like mine, although with a much nicer basement. We scrubbed down walls, steam-cleaned the carpets that were decent, tore up the carpets that weren't, and removed three layers of tile from the kitchen floor. He's helped me move many, many times, so I don't begrudge the time or effort J. and I spent on his house; but it did use up most of my time and energy.

Speaking of my brother, on Saturday morning he made his first TV appearance as Cop In Background. The local NBC station had a report on a murder that occurred in his district, and you could see him for about a second on the porch in front of the house. (My parents recognized him right away and called me at 8 a.m. to tell me to turn the TV on.) We all hope, of course, that he never winds up being the focus of a news story; but it was cool to get a glimpse of him in full Officer Mode.

(I tried to find a link to the story, but I can't find it at the NBC 10 Web site or on Philly.com. I guess murders in Southwest Philly aren't considered newsworthy after two days.)

[ at 12:17 PM • by Abby • permalink  ]

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