How To, humor

Trust, But Verify

Ronald Reagan’s remark about arms control is not an oxymoron, as I learned while coping with the discovery that my phone-friendly blog was not so friendly after all.  Able to handle mobile calls with a simple flip phone (and unable to type with my thumbs), I had seen no reason to have a smartphone and had trusted the WordPress previewer to warn me if a blog post would look bad there.  But then I bought a smartphone.
– Gray button (upper left corner) reveals widgets, –
– above post (on phone) or beside it (on desktop). –

Until recently, I used a desktop computer for all my online activities.  I surrendered to modernity in 2021-05 and bought a smartphone with a stylus that would make hunt-and-peck typing tolerable in short stints.  Now I use the new phone about 1% of my time online and have backup for coping with hazards like extended power outages.

Aware that many people do use their phones the way I use my desktop, I am careful to preview my blog posts as they would look on a phone.  Previews cannot be perfectly accurate, but I leave some pixels of wiggle room whenever I want everything in a line of text on my desktop to appear as a single line on the narrower screen of a phone.  The WP previewer displays a plausible phone rendering, and I change my draft as needed to make posts look OK on both desktop and phone.

Wanting to get used to my new phone w/o accidentally buying junk or installing malware, I installed my usual browser (Firefox) and browsed some familiar sites, including this blog.  Oops.  The fonts actually used were much larger than what I expected from the WP previews.  My posts were awash in weird line breaks and required absurdly much scrolling.

13204746 - dinosaur and comet, vector illustration

© Evgenii Komissarov | 123RF Stock Photo

I tried the popular Chrome browser and found that it also rendered text much too big.  After much thrashing around, I stumbled onto a simple way to make many of my posts look almost the same on my actual phone as they do in the WP phone preview.  Many, yes.  All, no.  Here is a screenshot of part of a recent post as viewed in phone mode on WP from my desktop:


Here is the corresponding screenshot as viewed on the actual phone:


Yuck.  After comparing the screenshots, I revised the post to avoid rogue line breaks (and demystify how to access my blog’s widgets) on a phone.  Tentatively, I trusted the WP phone preview on my desktop.  When the revision seemed ready to go live, I switched to the phone, tweaked the revision (by hunt-and-peck typing) as needed to work on the actual phone, and only then hit the [Update] button.  Likewise with the [Publish] button for this post.  Trust, but verify.

Is there anybody else who uses a desktop (or tablet) and has been blindsided by a clash between how things should look on a phone and how they do look?  Here is the simple partial fix I stumbled upon.  Us dinosaurs gotta stick together.

The [Appearance] item appears most of the way down in the menu on the left side of WP site pages.  The click sequence


gave me a chance to change font sizes used to display posts.

Both [Headings] and [Base Fonts] had defaulted to [Normal] size.  I set them to [Small].  While this might make text too small in some browsers on some desktops, I am sure that anybody using a desktop has already gotten used to pressing Ctrl-Plus or Ctrl-Minus as needed.

haiku, humor, politics

Oxymoronic Selfie

The [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.  Typing just the [Enter] key into the Search box is a way to browse WordPress blogs.

Yes, the title of this blog is an oxymoron.  (More on oxymorons shortly.)  This blog will touch on many things in life and language, but only when I think I have something to add to whatever has already been said.  I will try to be humorous w/o being too flippant and serious w/o being too solemn.  Some posts will end with haiku poems, as this one does.

Oxymorons can be a quick and colorful way to designate something with an unusual (but not really contradictory) mix of characteristics.  In American politics in the 1850-s, Stephen A Douglas was called the “Little Giant” because he was both short and influential.  Some other examples:  equal and opposite; fried ice cream; libertarian paternalism; love-hate relationship; passive-aggressive; tough love; virtual reality.

Tho I cannot be mellow and curmudgeonly simultaneously, I can shift quickly from one to the other when considering different aspects of something.  Before giving an example, let me issue two disclaimers:  I am not in the shall/will crowd and do not fit neatly into any common political category.  I do not hassle people who violate silly rules invented long ago by prigs with too much free time.  When I gripe about a misuse of language, it is because I see a substantial hindrance to communication.  When I take an example from politics, it is not part of a rant that has already been repeated thousands of times.

Living languages do change, often getting better and sometimes getting worse.  One change for the worse that may be happening now is the use of “legitimate” as a synonym for “genuine” or “actual” (in addition to its legitimate uses).  This usage is not in my printed dictionary from 2005 or in the online Wictionary entry last updated in 2014, but I have heard it ominously often.  In 2012, Senate candidate Todd Akin was vilified as a cruel misogynist for using the oxymoronic phrase “legitimate rape” (which illustrates why misusing “legitimate” is such a bad idea).  My initial reaction to the oxymoron by itself was mellow:  Akin is just a linguistic slob who said “legitimate” when he meant “genuine” during his pseudoscientific riff on whether a rape that causes a pregnancy could really be a rape.

On the other hand, I am old enough to remember when willful ignorance or distortion of relevant facts was frowned upon.  It did happen (perhaps more often than a curmudgeon’s memory of the good old days will admit).  Among legislators, it tended to come only from certain people on certain subjects.  Akin’s reliance on a physiological fantasy to avoid dealing with the implications of a policy position struck me as emblematic of a serious general decline in intellectual honesty.  Nowadays, pols and pundits launch outrageous factoids faster than fact checkers can sink them.  Harrumph!  So I contributed what little I could to the campaign of Akin’s opponent.  Tho I still do not believe Akin really meant what his oxymoron said, I am glad he is not in the US Senate.  Truth matters.

Still Standing
|Mellow curmudgeon
|shrugs off fate and stands proudly