Sunday, December 11, 2005

Tidbits from Sunday Reading

There's a pretty good piece about America's swelling controversy over science in today's NYTimes Magazine, by Jim Holt. Read the whole article, or just enjoy the money quote (sorry for stepping on your punch line, Mr. Holt):
Only a philosopher, and perhaps an oversubtle one, would advocate acting on science without believing it is really true. But to believe it and yet refuse to act on it - now, that takes a politician.
While reading the article, I came across a word that I had never heard: afflatus. (Are you guessing what I guessed?) Using the handy-dandy define: feature of Google, I came across the following definition:
Afflatus: This is a Latin term for poetic inspiration, not a digestive problem. You can get one if you sit in a chair for too long hoping that your muse will turn up, though. (source)
Nice to know someone else over eight still likes fart jokes.

The rest of this post requires a pocket protector . . .

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What is this define: feature of Google, you ask? Only one of the greatest little features ever added to anything. At the usual search box where you'd type in your text, prepend your mystery word with define:. You get back a definition (usually a list of them) with links to the sources for the definitions, just as clean and fast as you'd expect. Delightful! Since cool browsers now have a search box built right into the toolbar that links to Google you can define:afflatus without even going to Google's home page.

More Google tricks at their cheat sheet.


. . . and maybe some tape on your glasses.


As it happens, you can put the Google search box on any page you want. I have one on my browser's starting page as the first link, so it's a small matter of keystrokes to look up a word: <CTRL>+T, <ALT>+<HOME>, four <TAB>'s, and away we go, defining afflatus. Without even grabbing the mouse! I have a second one that links to Google's image search, so five <TAB>'s instead of four, and I'm looking at thumbnails of . . . let's not go there. On a Sunday morning. During Advent. On a family blog. BTW: <CTRL>+T is the shortcut for opening a new tab on your browser, provided you have a cool browser.

Google will give you the code to get you started, if you want to put a search box on a page that you're creating. I wanted it a little less busy (no graphics, no "go" button), so here's how I hacked it up:

<FORM method=GET action="">
  <INPUT TYPE=text name=q size=25 maxlength=255 value="">

<FORM method=GET action="">
  <INPUT TYPE=text name=q size=25 maxlength=255 value="">

This gives you two boxes, the first for text search, the second for image search. You'll need to have Javascript enabled for your <ENTER> key to actually submit the search string.


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