Michael Herrick's blog

Chickens

I’m surprised how much I enjoy owning chickens. At least so far. We picked up two pairs of pretty hens yesterday and I think they’re nice little animals. I insisted on buying layers, not chicks, and one of the year-olds left an ashy egg this morning in the outdoor chiminea. Each chicken escaped the yard yesterday and there’s probably no activity more undignified than chicken-chasing, but today they’re already settling in and I think they’ll be homebodies in no time.

While searching for a chicken seller, I came across this cute Craigslist ad:

William is an almost year old duck who loves people and kids, but unfortunately he is pimping my chickens. He had a mate who was hurt badly by a dog last summer and had to be put down, and up until a few weeks ago got along fine with the chickens. But now he is grabbing them by the necks and ripping their feathers out. They don’t particularly like him, and I think he is lonely. Rather then getting a new duck to be his woman, I think I’d rather he go to a home that could give him more room to move about and more water to swim in. Perhaps he’ll find that special girl someday. I would super prefer for him not to end up in someone’s casserole or stir fry, so if that is your ultimate plan for him please just humor me and don’t tell me. Also, I don’t really know if he is actually a boy. I just decided to name him (it) William when we got it (him). His (it’s) mate was named Kate.

Tocayo—Meaning and Etymology

This is a useful Spanish word with no English counterpart. I’m not sure how widespread it is but it is definitely in use in Northern New Mexico. Tocayo, or feminine tocaya, means roughly, “A person who shares your first name.” The closest English translation would be namesake, but the Spanish usage differs significantly.

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Michael Herrick, quarterback

One of my tocayos managed to bump me off the number one Google spot for a few years. Yes, I check. Is that wrong? I’ve recently overtaken him and reclaimed my accustomed first place position on the search results page for Michael Herrick. But for how long?

From Jack Central:

Herrick was a PrepStar All-America selection while playing at Valencia High School and was named Junior All-American by Studentsports.com. He is the all-time leading passer in California history with more than 11,000 yards. Herrick threw 73 career TD passes, and he was a finalist for 2005 California Mr. Football. While in high school, Herrick was rated the No. 48 quarterback in the nation by Scout.com and the No. 56 quarterback in the nation by ESPN.com.

Frigging: From the obscene to the vulgar

I was surprised to see in the Sunday comics recently the word frigging. Maybe it was friggin’. My son also read the comics and found a new word, ergo, which he asked me about. I’m glad he didn’t ask about friggin’, because when I was growing up, only a couple decades ago, that word was among the unspeakably obscene words that were never, ever used in polite company.

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First Sleep and Second Sleep

A historian named Roger Ekirch proposed more than ten years ago that the eight-hour uninterrupted sleep pattern we’re accustomed to is actually a recent and anomalous historical development. Few have heard of his research. I just read about it in a BBC article, The myth of the eight-hour sleep. From the article:

In 2001, historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech published a seminal paper, drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.

His book At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past, published four years later, unearths more than 500 references to a segmented sleeping pattern—in diaries, court records, medical books and literature, from Homer’s Odyssey to an anthropological account of modern tribes in Nigeria.

The two chunks were usually referred to as “first sleep” and “second sleep.” First sleep would usually start a few hours after dark. Then folks would wake for a few hours of light activity—snacks, chatting, prayer, sex—and finish the night with a second sleep till dawn.

People are now calling it segmented sleep and it sounds immensely more refreshing.

A reference to segmented sleep that Ekirch finds in Don Quixote:

Don Quixote followed nature, and being satisfied with his first sleep, did not solicit more. As for Sancho, he never wanted a second, for the first lasted him from night to morning.

The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

I pre-ordered this book on Amazon after reading a fascinating article by the same author, How Companies Learn Your Secrets.

The article tells how retailers use neuroscience, psychology and statistics to identify times in shoppers lives when they are most open to changing their shopping habits. The case study is how Target was able to find out about a teen shopper’s pregnancy before her family did.

Amusingly, the finding of unguarded secrets is itself a secret the company guards pretty closely.

But the interesting statistics work was only a side story to the author’s research into the science and technology of habit. A bit of that makes it into the article, and the full book promises to be very interesting. Amazon blurb after the jump.

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The World Wide Web is still 45 years behind the times

My friend Daniel wrote an article titled A rejection of the rejection of the 1970s where, among other things, he describes some remarkable artificial intelligence programs from the late ’60s with natural language powers far more sophisticated than that of certain trendy technologies people pay through the nose for today. How far we haven’t come! An even more depressing example is a technology that’s literally changed the world, but hasn’t come even close to its full potential—the World Wide Web.

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Fixing the keyboard

The image here is a picture of the keyboard I use every day which, combined with a Dvorak layout, enables me to achieve typing rates that sound like a dull buzz. So I’m all for improving the keyboard. And here’s a great article that makes some simple, common-sense proposals. A key for the em dash. How fantastic would that be?

Caps lock has to go, and other proposals for improving the computer keyboard

His ideas:

  • Get rid of caps lock
  • Dedicated em-dash key
  • Put the exclamation mark and question mark on the same, shiftable key, near the period and comma
  • A key for @. The shift should type .com (I’m less jazzed about that one)
  • Eliminate all the dumb ancient terminal options that were yanked from the Mac keyboard decades ago but still linger on PCs

There are all kinds of people who will say, “Oh, I’m so used to my keyboard, I could never change.” That attitude baffles me. My response is usually, “You’re right, you couldn’t.” But recent experiments with touch-screen keyboards prove that people change and adapt just fine. Time for Apple to start work on fixing the keyboard. They’re probably the only ones who can pull it off right now.

The Titanic Effect

Killed by a movie cliché. Very sad.

It is cruel to say, but if some of these people had not been mystified by the Titanic analogy, they might have seen that they were only a few feet from shore, that other means of rescue were available besides the ship’s own boats, and that their best bet was to be calm and stay with the ship. But no. Generations of pseudo-Titanic propaganda have led people to believe that all risks to life can be averted – if only government regulations are followed and sufficient lifeboats appear on deck. The mere fact that such provisions have been made may lull both passengers and crew into thinking that it is the boats themselves, rather than human intelligence, good order, calm, and courage that are necessary to save human lives.

From The Titanic Effect by Stephen Cox

I can create a job for a million bucks

Here’s some remarkable data I just ran across on a Web site about the Albuquerque’s government finances. According to a table there, reproduced below, Albuquerque received $591 million dollars from the federal stimulus package.

That’s a pretty staggering number all by itself. Half a billion dollars just for Albuquerque. In fact, I’m not even sure how it fits in, considering that Albuquerque’s entire budget runs “only” about $800 million a year, according to the same site.

But the really remarkable thing is the jobs figure provided. I seem to remember that the stimulus was about “creating jobs.” And Albuquerque’s stimulus money did create jobs, they say. 596 of them.

That’s a million dollars per job.

Give me a million dollars and I’ll hire two people! Double your return! Hell, I’ll hire three! Where do I sign up?

Stimulus

Albuquerque has received $591,525,791 from the stimulus package.

Type # of Awards Amount Jobs Reported
Contracts479$202,584,279138.64
Grants412$387,441,511453.01
Loans2$1,500,0004.5
Total893$591,525,791596.15

—From Sunshine Review

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What's New

Chickens
Tocayo—Meaning and Etymology
Michael Herrick, quarterback
First Sleep and Second Sleep
Fixing the keyboard
The Titanic Effect