2010 — 13 July: Tuesday

I make no apology1 for a "late" start — it's already 11:01 and the initial cuppas and breakfast have been ingested while I've been having too much fun skimming a trail kicked off here, pausing briefly here, and then stubbing my ex-writer's toe hard against the good ol' Flesch2 Index. Source and delicious snippet:

He investigated this by 2 separate methods. First, he took a sample of 10 management journals, and rated each one for readability using the Flesch reading ease test. He then determined the prestige of each journal by asking a sample of 20 academics in the field to give each journal a rating. He found a significant correlation between the complexity of writing and the prestige of the journal.

Realising that one possible explanation for the results was that more prestigious journals handle more complex topics, requiring more complex language, Armstrong then went on to test his hypothesis with a further experiment. He took the conclusions sections from papers in 4 management journals, and rewrote them to alter their readability scores without affecting the content. He produced both simplified and more complex versions for each passage. He then asked academics to rate the competence of the research described in the articles. Based on 32 responses, he found that passages written in a simplified style were rated of significantly lower competence than the others, despite the way in which he had controlled for the nature of the research described.

This makes depressing reading for medical writers.

Adam Jacobs, citing JS Armstrong (1980) in "Unintelligible Management Research and Academic Prestige". Interfaces 1980;10(2):80—86 (PDF file here)

Actually, Adam, it makes depressing reading for any writer! I have an amusing fund of war stories about my quarter century in IBM bumping up against (for random example):

  1. The experienced senior programmer
    This charm-free character, newly appointed my manager, who3 startled me by declaring as an edict that "reference manuals have to be written in reference manual English". (Mind you, nobody could understand or, more crucially, maintain, his doubtless clever code — even he had trouble after a month or so — so [after invoking the "Open Door" process on him two years running] I merely arranged to get out from under him at the first opportunity.)
  2. The experienced senior programmer
    This almost equally charm-free character, sadly left with enough time on his idle hands, computerised Flesch index assessment, and caused me a great deal of pain by thus "proving" to a senior development manager that some sections of the CICS General Information manual (wot I wrote) required the reader to have a PhD to understand them. It was fun having this manager read the sections, asking him if he understood them (to his growing irritation as he said "Yes" to each one) and then gleefully pointing out that, since he lacked the all-important doctorate tag, there was no way he could have understood them. "Don't be stupid!" quoth he. "I rest my case" quoth I.

As for the war story in which I first learned the proposition that "bullshit baffles brains" — a favourite saying of Major Vladimir Peniakoff — well, that was in Park Yunnie's wonderful "Warriors on Wheels" (a book detailing some of the WW II exploits of Popski's Private Army) back in 1961. (Though I did buy an updated edition just last year as the Arrow books paperback I, erm, borrowed from Big Bro had long since lost its covers and was generally looking very battered.)

It's dark, and raining

So, let (some of) the tidying up commence. I think the kitchen could be more effectively re-organised than in the days of yore. Besides, if I put things back, I should be able to find them, yes? It's a theory. Can I have a PhD for it?

Wasted efforts

Remind me why (as a [distant violins playing Krzysztof Penderecki's "Threnody to the victims of Hiroshima" would be appropriate at this point] retired poor widower) I would ever want an Amex Platinum card on which, if I spend more in the first month than my monthly pittance of a pension actually adds up to, they would give me 40,000 points? Particularly as, when they saw my income, I'd never qualify for one of the things in the first place. When I had a Corporate one, it was eventually suspended on the grounds of inactivity. Hardly surprising when I never used it once. Thanks for nothing, Mr Postie.

Back to my delicious turkey and ham pie and salad as I check this out...

Welcome, new power amplifier

... before going near it with a wire (bi- or otherwise). It's already 13:35, tick tock.

"Right," said Mole...

... "to the devil with this endless tidying up. I'm off for an audio break over in Winklechestershire to listen to a new set of bass units matched to an old set of Quads with some digital magic". (A line you never saw in Wind in the Willows.) Back later.

Sherlock Mounce, and the case of...

... the missing channel. I don't generally ask too much of technology, but is it too much to ask a stereo power amp to contain two channels of amplification? I've switched, changed, and swapped around every combination of input signal lead and output speaker lead. The sound from the left hand channel is glorious. The sound from the right hand channel is marked by the complete absence of, erm, sound. Or buzz, or hiss, or (in short) any sign of audio life. Still, at least while the obliging Mr Audio T is sorting this out he's promised to find me another box to play with. "It might be an odd shape", quoth he. "Does this face look bothered?"

It's a good job I hadn't yet stuck on the annular blanking ring...


Don't you just love last-minute hi-tech customer solutions after your hardware has shipped to manufacturing? Quite why I (or anyone else) would ever want a bright blue headlight glaring at me from below my little TV screen is a mystery to me. Right. It's 18:57 and definitely time I zapped an evening meal. I don't think I can be bothered to haul the Denon amp back downstairs, so it's going to be a quiet evening ahead of me. That's what books are for, of course. And PCs, come to that.

The ex-proprietor of "Pinpoint Music" sent me the following fascinating link, from which I also found my next DIY project. Talk about taking a trip down Memory Lane. As for the radioactive link, well that's funny, and scary, in equal measure. I should probably stick to hi-fi.



1  Do I ever?
2  I confess I'd been a successful technical and instructional writer and programmer for nearly a decade (employed and freelance, simultaneously) before my first exposure to this idiocy. (Managers / non-writers /programmers were always a lot more keen on it for some unaccountable reason.)
3  After first drawing up an ordered list of his writers ranked by educational qualification, which placed me right where I belonged, at the bottom.