4 things to know

That’s not because Rudin did a bad job. It’s because there ain’t no way to re-write mathematical analysis as a “list”. When you do write a list, you are promising that you’ve figured out a way to cover the subject in that way without losing essential detail. Provided that you deliver on that promise, it’s a powerful thing.

~ “Dynomight” from, https://dynomight.net/lists/
  1. This article makes several (while the article is a list, it’s unnumbered and I’m too lazy to count, you should just be happy I sometimes check my speling) magnificent points about what lists have going for them. There’s a lot. The only problem with lists (generally, on the Internet, These Days™) is that spammers and search–engine–optimizing mouth-breathers have published an insane amount of crap, in list format. It turns out that if you publish great content as a list it’s even better than long–form prose. It turns out that it looks like chapters, sections and sub-sections!
  2. I recently learned a lot about proper use of the three different types of dashes: hyphen (-), en-dash (–), and em-dash (—). Their relative lengths are pretty clear when you see a family portrait like that previous sentence. It turns out that: Compound words, like en-dash and mouth-breathers, are assembled using hyphens. Compound adjectives, like search–engine–optimizing, are assembled with en-dashes. You can use em-dashes—that’s a hyphen in there—to insert gently–parenthetical commentary.
  3. A case can be made—here, I’m making a case—that my weekly email is my way of turning my blog into a list which makes it easier to… oh, just go read the article.


Never how it actually goes

This is one of the main obstacles to forming habits. Our hopeful idea of how it will go, and then our disappointment and frustration with ourselves when it doesn’t go that way.

~ Leo Babauta from, https://zenhabits.net/perfectionism/

Nerd alert: I’ve always appreciated that Babauta takes the time to craft the URL paths (often called the “slug”) by hand. They’re not simply auto-generated from the titles of the posts. I love that this particular one, about perfectionism, has a single-word slug that contains the word “perfect”.

While writing this post I spun off to discover Grammar Monster. Yikes! Driven by my perfectionism, that’s the sort of thing that I could spend hours in. I backed away from it very slowly.


Only one !

Writing is hard. (I hear you besmirching my intelligence.) One thing I constantly struggle with is exaggeration and hyperbole. There’s an ancient Bill Cosby skit about Noah trying to collect the animals after building The Ark—”Two mosquitos… male? female?!” and an endless fight with the rabbits, “only two. ONLY TWO!” But this post is about my recent efforts to use only one ‘!’ per post. And you thought that was a stray space there in the title. In this post, I’ve only used one ‘!’ in my punctuation. (Quoted ‘!’ characters I’m accounting to the speaker’s quota. It’s my blog and I’ll make up the rules as I go along, thank-you-very-much.)

One dimension of writing which I find hard is getting the range of expression wide. Quiet in parts, so to speak… err… to write— middle-volume mostly, and just a wee dash of shouting like a Scotsman at level 11. Over on that shouting end, I find that when I’m shift-reaching-for-the-1-key more than once, it’s time to reign that high end in tad. All of which speaks to that old tip about awareness: That which gets measured, gets improved.

Another dimension of writing I struggle with is vocabulary: I get lost reading my dictionary. I get curious about pronunciation—don’t get me started about how dictionaries used to be prescriptive and now are simply lazily being descriptive—and I end up learning for the umpteenth time that hyperbole does not ever rhyme with the little mammal known as a vole. It’s always hyperbole like Brenda-Lee… And, somehow, I thought that the rhymes-with-Brenda-lee pronunciation was a different word that was something like some kind of poetry. Possibly because hyperbole actually does rhyme with poetry? And anyway, on my w-a-y to h-y-, with m-y magnifying glass, I stopped at “Hilbert space” when it caught my e-y-e at the top of another page, as it was said page’s final entry. (What? “n. [David Hilbert] (1911) : a vector space for which a scalar product is defined and in which every Cauchy sequence composed of elements in the space converges to a limit in the space.”) Rats! I forgot what I was talking about.