The Heart of a Teacher

Dave Ramsey often encourages people to look for an investment advisor with the heart of a teacher. I’m learning more about what that means.

Some people are in the position of training a new person, on the job, for example. But they don’t enjoy it. They hope the person will learn the new skills as quickly as possible, and go away and not ask for any more training. They want the new person to do their job, and do it well, so that the reluctant trainer won’t get in trouble with their supervisor.

A person with a teacher’s heart loves the learning process. They like the challenge of finding new ways of explaining the lesson. They demonstrate the skill once, then ask them to do it while they shadow them. They are willing to repeat the lesson until the person gets it.

A teacher has a patient heart, and enjoys the teaching process–and the learning process. Teachers, whether by vocation or avocation, are usually lifelong learners, and often enjoy reading and traveling for that reason.

A person can have a teacher’s heart no matter their profession. I believe both my parents were teachers, though they earned their bread in other ways.


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“Eugenics” by Another Name…

Replying to 

Everyone will stay opposed to ‘eugenics’… right up until the microsecond that they can use it to give their own kids an advantage in life.

Me:

We just re-brand it as “Pro-choice”-problem solved! Progressives on-board! (Some of that “lateral thinking” I’ve been hearing about).

So, who all here has read Heinlein’s first (published) novel Beyond This Horizon? Skillfully explored the ethics of ‘eugenics’ and also a heavily armed, and thus, extremely polite, society. Heinlein had the government run the (voluntary) eugenics program, and distribute Basic Income (just how topical to 2018 can a 1940 novel be?!)

My current take: Unless we do some kind of World-Treaty, eugenics arms race with the Red Chinese started approximately last month. We just don’t know it yet. And as Geoffrey Miller so pithily notes, no one is going to unilaterally disarm.


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Knowledge Base: Apostrophe

"Its" and "It's"There are few things which make your post or comment appear unprofessional so much as misuse of the humble apostrophe. This is in large part because it’s so easy to get it right. Here are five rules for use of the apostrophe:

  1. If you mean “it is,” or “it has,” write “it’s.” Otherwise, write “its.”
  2. Contractions (can’t, I’ll, you’re) always use an apostrophe, replacing the omitted letters.
  3. Possessive nouns always use an apostrophe.
  4. Possessive pronouns (hers, yours, ours, etc.) never use an apostrophe.
  5. One never forms a plural by adding an apostrophe.

For a deeper exploration of this, including rare exceptions, see my 2008 document, “The Use of the Apostrophe in the English Language.”


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Knowledge Base: Cross-Posting and Copyright

Ratburger.org asserts no copyright (including compilation copyright) over anything published here. Authors retain copyright over anything they publish here, and are free to publish their work anywhere else without any restrictions whatsoever. (If another venue requires that the work not have been published elsewhere, that’s between the author and that publication’s editors.)

Material whose copyright is not owned by the person who posts it should not be published on Ratburger.org, except for quotations and excerpts for critical purposes under the doctrine of fair use.  Such material should be identified as to its source including, if on-line, a link to the original document.

This is intended to actively promote cross-posting.  In particular, people who wish to submit material to sites which pay for content are encouraged to post drafts here for comment among the user community before subjecting them to scrutiny by editors and a larger audience.


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Knowledge Base: RSS Feeds

Ratburger.org, like most WordPress-based sites, offers RSS feeds which provide notification when new posts and comments are published.  You will find links to these feeds in the “Meta” section of the sidebar at the right of the desktop site or the bottom of the home page on mobile devices under “Entries RSS” and “Comments RSS”.

These feeds are XML files in the RSS 1.0 standard format which list the most recent 25 entries and comments on the site.  You can subscribe to these feeds with any compatible feed reader (sometimes called an “aggregator”), of which a multitude exist.  You just supply the URL of the feed to the reader program, and it will show the recent entries.  You can usually tell the reader to poll the feed, for example, every ten minutes, to inform you of new posts and comments.

For example, here is the Entries RSS feed as displayed by the QuiteRSS program, which is free and available for Linux/Unix, Windows, and MacOS.

Entries RSS feed as displayed by QuiteRSS

QuiteRSS has an embedded Web browser, so you can see the entries and comments right in the reader.  Other RSS feed readers may just provide links to the items.

Following RSS feeds allows you to follow activity on the site without the need to keep refreshing the site or cluttering up your E-mail in box with lots of notification messages.

You can also follow new posts (but not comments), by following Ratburger_org on Twitter, which is also linked in the “Meta” section.


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Knowledge Base: Spoiler Warnings

When you’re writing a post, for example a book or movie review, and you don’t want to give away plot or ending spoilers to those who haven’t yet encountered the story, you can wrap the spoilers in the [spoiler] and [/spoiler] shortcodes.  These will cause the text they enclose to be hidden unless the user explicitly displays it by clicking on the title of the spoiler box.  You can specify any title you wish with the “title=” attribute in the [spoiler] shortcode.

For example, if you write in your post:

[spoiler title="Show plot spoilers"]
Darph Nader was Fluke’s father.
[/spoiler]

the post will appear as follows:

You can use the [spoiler] shortcode anywhere you wish to hide some text from readers, for example punch lines of jokes and answers to puzzles.

This only works in main posts and main post comments, not in group posts and comments.

Knowledge Base: Drop Caps

Would you like your posts to use drop caps as in  beautifully typeset documents of yore?  Yes you can, as long as you’re posting at Ratburger.org!  To use a drop cap in your post (it’s available only for main posts on the site, not comments or messages and comments in groups, which are informal conversations), simply wrap [dropcap] and [/dropcap] shortcodes around the first word of the paragraph you wish rendered with a drop cap.

This is best if used sparingly.  Use a drop cap at the start of your post and after breaks between main sections of long posts.  They indicate to the reader they’re moving from one part of the text to another.

Are they optimally beautiful?  No…that would have required the Web to adopt \(\TeX\) as its markup language which, sadly, never happened.  The kerning of text around drop caps is less than ideal and sometimes bug ugly.  But it often does the job, and works typographically in long, formal documents.


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Knowledge Base: Editing Published Posts

When you publish a post on Ratburger.org, it moves from being a Draft you can edit at will to the exalted status of a published post.  Published posts cannot be edited, since there is no facility to save incremental changes to a non-public draft, and hence visitors to the site might read something you aren’t ready to place before their eyes.

Consequently, when you find an error or wish to amend what you’ve said in a published post, proceed as follows.

  1. Use the Ratburger/Dashboard menu item in the navigation bar at the top of the screen to display the administration menu at the left of the screen.
  2. Click “Posts”.  You will see a list of all of your posts: published and drafts.
  3. Find the published post you wish to edit.
  4. Mouse-over the post, and a series of buttons will appear beneath its title, one of which is “Revert to Draft”.
  5. Press “Revert to Draft”.   The post will be removed from the public part of the site and returned to your private space as a draft.
  6. Now you can press “Edit” and edit to your heart’s content, including saving drafts as you work and using Preview to see how your post will appear when published.  You can also change the categories and tags associated with your post while you edit it.
  7. Finally, when you’re ready to return the post to public view, press “Publish”.  The post will be returned to the same point in the timeline it occupied before.

That’s it.  You can edit any post you’ve  published.  Instead of editing the published post in place, it’s removed from the site while you’re editing it and returned when you’re happy with the changes.


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Knowledge Base: Embedding Media in Posts and Comments

Thanks to a technology called oEmbed, it is possible to embed videos, documents, tweets from Twitter, images from image hosting sites, polls, and other media in your posts on the main site and in groups, and in comments on those posts.

It couldn’t be easier.  For example, suppose you’re viewing an interesting video in YouTube which you’d like to share.  As long as the person who posted the video hasn’t marked it as ineligible for embedding, you simply copy the URL from the address bar of your Web browser, something that looks like “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJ6nn8fZOmc” into your post on a line by itself, without any formatting (such as bold or italic type), and the link address will be automatically transformed into embedded media when you publish the post or comment.

In order for a link to be embedded,

  1. The site linked to must support the oEmbed protocol and,
  2. The site must be on a “white list” of acceptable sites.

The white list for ratburger.org is presently the standard list supplied with a stock installation of WordPress, but sites may be added or removed in the future based upon user requests and experience.  Here is the complete list of sites from which you may currently embed content.  In addition, you can embed links to posts or comments on ratburger.org.

This about 95% of what you need to know.  What follows are more technical details which many users can safely ignore.  But this is the knowledge base, so here’s the knowledge.

Some sites, for example YouTube and Twitter, will give you “embed code” which often starts with something like “<iframe”.  This is not what you should paste into your post or comment.  That is intended for sites which do not support oEmbed but rather require you to paste the raw HTML (the markup language for Web documents).  Ratburger, like most modern WordPress-based sites, fully supports oEmbed and does not permit raw HTML in posts.  Simply post the URL from your browser’s address bar on a line by itself, and the site will take care of all of the details of embedding.

But how does it work, you ask.  The oEmbed protocol is clever.  Upon encountering what looks like a URL in text, and determining that it references a site our white list allows embedding, a special request is sent to that site for the embed code for that URL.  If the site recognises the URL and permits embedding it, it supplies the HTML code to be inserted to embed the media in the page.  This step should make it abundantly clear why a white list is necessary: without massively complex parsing and analysis of this HTML, there’s the possibility it might contain malicious code which could damage the user’s computer or compromise privacy.  Consequently, embedding is restricted to sites with deep pockets where the damages from such misbehaviour deter them from engaging in it.  (In other words, “Don’t be evil, or we’ll sue you into the stone age”.)

Finally, what if you want to cite a URL, but not have it embedded?  This happens frequently when writing about resources on the Web or documenting work which cites them.  It’s beyond irritating to try to provide the user a URL and have it expanded into a box which disrupts the flow of the text.  When I first encountered this, I slew more thesauruses than the Chicxulub impactor trying to express my distaste for this: my favourite was “the mephitic URL expander”.  The secret lies in recalling the phrase “on a line by itself, without any formatting”.  To cite a URL without invoking oExpand, simply break one of these rules.  The easiest way is to work it into your text, quoted, for example, as I did in the second paragraph of this post.  You can also simply precede the URL with a period, which few people will notice, but which breaks embedding of the URL.

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJ6nn8fZOmc


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Knowledge Base: Including Images in Comments on Posts

When you’re writing a comment on a post and wish to include an image, it can seem puzzling, since the mechanism is entirely different from that used when you add an image to a main post.  Why?  Because the image facility for main posts is a WordPress built-in feature while the comment composition editor is a plug-in by a third party which does not conform to the same interface.  It would be nice if it did, but, not wishing to implement everything from scratch, we work with what’s available.  Once you get used to it, including images in comments isn’t all that painful.  Let’s dig into it.

You insert images in comments by clicking the icon at the right of the comment composition box that looks like a mountain range (that’s supposed to suggest a picture).  When it pops up, you’ll see the following dialogue:

Insert image dialogue

(The icon which summons this dialogue is shown at the top left, subdued.)

In the Source field, you enter the URL of the image you wish to insert.  That’s the Web address whence the image can be accessed.  You can use any image hosting service, but by far the best way is to upload the image to the Ratburger Media Library.  You do this, ideally before beginning to compose the comment (but if you forget, simply open another window, navigate to Ratburger, then use the New/Media item in the menu at the top left), by specifying the image file to upload from your local computer.

After you’ve uploaded the image, its URL at Ratburger will appear in the panel at the right of the window.  Copy it to the clipboard and dismiss the Media Library window.  It will look something like:

https://www.ratburger.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/insimg.png

which happens to be the URL for the image above.  That’s what you paste into the Source field of the Insert/edit image box.  The “Image description” field is optional, and specifies the alternative text displayed for users whose browsers cannot display images.  This is particularly important for the blind who use screen reader programs, but this is a courtesy and not a requirement.  The Dimensions will be filled in automatically and needn’t be changed unless you wish to resize the image.

If you upload a very large image (for example, a raw snap from a digital camera which you haven’t resized for use on the Web, the image will be automatically scaled to fit within a 600×600 pixel bounding box.  It is not possible to specify alignment (left, centre, right) of images within comments as one can for images in main posts.

Let me be the first to say that this is less than ideal, but it’s a lot better than what WordPress provides out of the box: no facility for including images in comments whatsoever.

In WordPress/BuddyPress posts and comments on posts have nothing in common with posts and comments in groups.  There is presently no simple way to include images in groups.  That doesn’t mean you can’t include images there, just that you’ll have to know how to type an HTML img tag into your message to embed the image.


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