Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Spell Check And AutoCorrect Are Killing Me

Not to go off on a curmudgeonly rant or anything, but yesterday I gave myself an ulcer trying to correct something on Apple's iTunes store.  CBS is debuting a new sitcom this month called Friends With Better Lives.  Good for them; I wish them well.  But on the iTunes store, in their "Free on iTunes" section, they offered us a "Sneak Peak" at the new series.  Yeah, "peak."

Spell Check and AutoCorrect can be wonderful tools.  They have all but eliminated one of my great pet peeves of all time, namely the misspelling of the word "deity" (meaning a god or godlike being) as "diety."  Some of my favorite writers used to make this mistake, and every bloody time it had the effect of completely knocking me out of the story narrative.  Thanks to modern software, though, this has all but gone away completely.

What has gotten much worse, though, is the misuse of homonyms.  Spell Check is not Usage Check, at least not yet, so words that sound the same -- their, they're and there, for example -- are often used interchangeably.  And incorrectly.

So for the record, here are a few of the worst -- now go ye, and sin no more:

HOARD -- a dragon's stash of gold and goodies
HORDE -- a huge group of something, like Attila's Huns, or lemmings headed for a cliff.

PEAK --  the top of the mountain
PEEK -- a quick look
PIQUE -- a feeling of irritation or resentment; you usually leave in a fit of one.  (Or, the feeling I have right after seeing Apple or CBS describe their quick look as a "Sneak Peak.")

And I shouldn't even have to, but:

THEIR -- belonging to them.  It's their problem that they can't spell.
THEY'RE -- a contraction of "they are," as in, "They're going to get this right if it kills me."
THERE -- a place indicator, as in, "The grammar book is right over there."

TO -- a preposition expressing direction
TWO -- more than one but less than three.  You know, just a couple.
TOO -- also, or as well, as in, "This frustrates the hell out of me, too."

BY -- next to, or close to
BUY -- as a verb, to purchase, and as a noun, simply a purchase.

THREW -- what you did to the ball
THROUGH -- how you went via the tunnel

Here's the thing:  you're sitting there, reading this, and thinking, "Geez, this guy is an uptight asshole.  Who freaking cares?"  Well, you should.  You can be making the tightest, most cogent argument in the world about something -- anything -- and it could be that you're making a point that I agree with completely, and then you misspell a simple word or phrase and it blows your argument up in your face.  I have a harder time being convinced of anything by someone who can't spell.  I'm not alone in this, I promise.

So please, please, please stop using Spell Check or AutoCorrect as your safety net.  It doesn't help with words that sound the same, even though they are used horribly and incorrectly with the end result of you seeming ignorant.  Which I know you're not, because you're reading me.  ;P

Friday, March 14, 2014

Daylight Saving Time: The More You Know...

...the more you'll hate it.

I'm usually set off into a major rant twice a year thanks to the switch back and forth with Daylight Saving Time (and yes, it's "Saving," not "Savings.")  I've always hated it and thought it was a stupid idea.  That we humans are essentially sheep who keep doing the same dumb thing over and over again because it has become a habit.  Nowhere is this more true than with the semiannual switch between standards of time.

As a kid growing up, I heard all the reasons for it; reasons which all turned out to be wrong.  That the switch was to accommodate farm schedules and give farmers "an extra hour of daylight" in which to tend crops.  That it was to create energy savings in time of oil crises.  And every single reason I ever heard growing up as to why we had to do this idiotic thing to ourselves twice a year is complete BS.

(Yeah, I'll get my hoe ready.  So I can shove it up your....)

I will spare you all the Wikipedia entry -- you can go read that for yourselves -- but the short version is that Daylight Saving Time was instituted in the 19th Century because of the independent efforts of two men.  One was an entomologist in New Zealand who wanted the extra daylight to hunt bugs for his collection after his workday was over.  The other was a Londoner who wanted more time for golf after work since dusk came too soon to suit him.

That's it.  That's why millions of people blindly put up with this crap every year.  Bugs and golf.

Bugs.  And.  Golf.

Early studies showing substantial energy savings turn out to be flawed.  If there are any savings at all -- and studies disagree even on that point -- those savings are in the neighborhood of less than one percent.  In fact, in 2000, parts of Australia began DST in late winter and promptly found that overall electricity consumption did not decrease.  Instead, the morning peak load and electricity prices both increased.  And it turns out that the majority of those farmers in whose name we do this stupidity hate it.  Absolutely hate it.

Just to be absolutely clear on a purely scientific point -- changing the clocks does not give us an "extra hour of daylight."  Our changing a clock does not make the sun stay in the sky for an extra hour.  The sun shines when the sun shines.  Which is why farmers are not fans of DST.  Farmers were never responsible for it.  No other profession works more with the sun itself -- not some arbitrary number on a dial -- than farmers.  They go out when there's light and work until it gets dark.  Period.  The time change has nothing to do with harvests or crop tending or anything else.  Bugs and golf.

I like to say that I never thought I'd admire the state of Arizona for anything.  I find their laws concerning immigration, their statewide reluctance to recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday and their overall conservatism offensive.  But I have to admire them for getting rid of DST over 40 years ago.  And the way they did it was genius.  They countered stupid reasons with their own stupid reason:  that DST gave them, not an extra hour of light, but an extra hour of DESERT HEAT, which was burdensome to their population.  So the federal government granted them an exemption.  Genius.

So while I can't believe this sentence is coming out of me -- we can all learn a lot from Arizona.  Get rid of the time change.