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I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 35 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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Writing a book is an adventure: it begins as an amusement, then it becomes a mistress, then a master, and finally a tyrant.

— Winston Churchill



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 6/2/2024

Totals
Posts - 2654
Comments - 2677
Hits - 2,672,114

Averages
Entries/day - 0.35
Comments/entry - 1.01
Hits/day - 349

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 10:57 PM Pacific


  08:17 PM

Another month, another crop of new terms. To restate the premise, these terms are warranted only to be new to me. I note after listing these that there's a preponderance of terms that start with p, hmm.

detour and frolic A concept in law pertaining to an employee who, while on the job, engages in actions that aren't related to the job to a lesser (detour) or greater (frolic) degree. The example in Wikipedia is of a truck driver who takes a non-direct route in order to run a personal errand (detour) versus ditching the truck for a few hours to go to a ballgame (frolic). The legal interest in these terms has to do with whether the employer has liability for the employee's actions during the detour or frolic. More reading: What does Frolic and Detour Legally Mean? Although really, my interest in the term is not so much in its legal meaning as in what a fun term, don't you think?

p-hacking Trying different ways to interpret data until one of those ways results in a statistically significant result. This practice is part of a wider discussion recently about problems with the current system of how scientific results are published. I'm not statistician (or hey, scientist), so you should read Nate Silver's excellent description here: Science Isn't Broken. Incidentally, Silver references another great term in his article: HARKing (hypothesizing after results are known).

handegg A non-American slang term for American football, either the game or the ball. Here's an example:


Well, yeah.

principle of least astonishment (POLA) A principle that recommends the design that most conforms to the experience of the audience. "When two elements of an interface conflict, or are ambiguous, the behavior should be that which will least surprise the user." (Wikipedia) I ran across this in an article by Eric Lippert about programming, where POLA is (or should be) a well-respected principle.

psychophysics The study of how we perceive physical stimuli. I encountered the term in the book Stuff Matters, a pop-science tour through material science. The author mentioned the importance of crispiness in our perception of certain foods as an example of psychophysics, but the term covers our reactions to sounds, colors, etc.

poe A noun referring to a person who writes a parody (e.g., of religious belief) but is taken seriously. I've also seen the term being used to refer to the parody itself. This is a back-formation from Poe's Law, which states that "Without a clear indication of the author's intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism."

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