Monday, August 13, 2012

Victims of an Ancient Spell

The question normally thrown at me is “Why do you pronounce it that way?” When what should be asked is, “what’s with the weird spelling?” I refer, of course, to the element with the atomic number of 13—Alumin(i)um.

Lots of words are pronounced differently between the U.S. and the U.K. Most have the same spelling (the ‘either’ ‘tomato’ ‘advertisement’ ‘controversy’ rages on) some are said differently because of different spelling. In England, and most of the world, element 13 has an extra letter.

Alumin(i)um was actually named before it was discovered. British physicist and chemical guru Humphry Davy was trying to isolate the metal from the mineral alumina in 1808 and proposed that if successful it be named Alumium, then changed his mind to make it Aluminum (strike one for the US spelling).

Davy was quite the element celebrity of the time having previously isolated the elements potassium, sodium, calcium, strontium, barium, and magnesium.

Devotees could hardly wait for his next –ium discovery but then he upset his fan base by dropping the last “i” for element 13. Giving the metal a non-ium ending created, literally, hardly any contention amongst everyday folk. People the world over barely raised an eyebrow and many just put in the “I” because they expected it to be there. So there were two spellings and pronunciations. It’s not like they were ever confused by what they were referring to.

Webster dictionaries in the U.S. actually listed the –ium spelling all through the 19th Century, but the largest U.S. manufacturer of the material preferred the shorter spelling and in the mid 1920s, The American Chemical Society decided there was no room for “i” in ium, and officially adopted the spelling as Aluminum.

However, in 1990 the –ium ending was officially accepted by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemists (IUPAC), (strike one for the Brits spelling) and it is used in most of the world. The IUPAC actually lists both spellings on its periodic table though (for you nitpickers out there) Aluminum is listed as an ‘also known as’. Incidentally, it’s also not the only element with an a.k.a. The debate over whether its caesium or cesium just never ends.

There is little (i.e. nothing) to substantiate the story of the American Chemical Society representative who, at a loss for words when asked for the official ending of element number 13 said “…um…” thereby condemning forever the U.S. spelling to be shorter. Seldom addressed is the question of why Humphry Davy suddenly broke with his own tradition by leaving the “i” out element 13’s name. Perhaps sudden bitterness at his parents having left the “e” out of both his?

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Facebook’s stock went public late last week and has gone down every day since. The press is all over how Facebook is overvalued (don’t buy) while at the same time touting its future potential as being unlimited (buy now while you can).

Seeing as its stock value is directly related to advertisement revenue I decided to monitor all the ads on my Facebook pages for a day with the specific purpose of seeing how relevant they were to me and thus decide whether to buy or not.


There were seven ads on my morning Facebook page. The first ad was for Spartan Beast—a 13 mile assault course consisting of mud and military grade obstacles. Those that know me are already laughing. I cannot think of anything, ANYTHING, in ANY of my digital profiles that would cause any company to think that I am either capable or interested in such an endeavor. I could hardly be said to be a Spartan Puppy let alone a beast of any sort of fierceness. Zero out of ten for this ad.

Four ads are about dating (from three dating sites). It doesn’t take a massive amount of data mining to figure out I’m single, so I can see the logic in targeting me. However, one ad states “see pictures of women, free” and another “find your next hot date.” These ads work on the assumption that, as a single male, my priorities are looks and loose morals. This may be relevant to many to single men, but I doubt anyone would deny that looks-only ads relate to short-term situations. Any long-term relationship would need to consider traits such as personality, good conversation, or hobbies. Regardless of how shallow I may or may not be (which depends on if it’s a Friday night), I deliberately don’t volunteer as little personal information online as possible—and this alone should tell the singles sites that I’m not the sort of person to whom online dating appeals. These ads, collectively, get two out of ten.

There is an ad for a specific product—a survival strap—which looks like a braided bracelet but which, in an emergency, unravels into a potentially lifesaving piece of military grade rope. Now, I am a bit of a ‘be prepared’ nut so I clicked over to the Website which contained a number of testimonials. A firefighter used it as a replacement bootstrap in a wildfire; a cross country skier used it to splint a friends broken leg; and while some stories are everyday life (tying cans to the back of a ‘just married’ car; making a leash for a dog) most fall into the category of extreme sports/military/survival type situations. Again, it is difficult to conceive a situation where I’m in a military or extreme sport emergency because for that to happen I’d have to be in the military or do extreme sports. The most extreme pastime I’m involved in is Youtube surfing. But for reasons of geekness this product appeals to me to the tune of four out of ten.

The final ad is for Michaels Stores—a hub of art and craft supplies including floral, scrapbooking, and wall decor. I would assume that the user profile used to generate a Michaels Stores ad would be almost the exact opposite of the profile that appeals to a Spartan Beast. This can only mean I have yet to put enough detail online for anyone to say for certain what appeals to me and someone figured that one of the two diametrically opposite ads would surely appeal. No. Nil points.


My mid-afternoon ads kick off with one from a company that sells “intelligently funny tee shirts,” a fact they illustrate with an image of a squirrel sitting on top of an amplifier playing a banjo. How much intelligence is needed to know this is not actually possible I don’t know, but suspect it’s not much. Even a squirrel knows it can’t play a banjo (they are not the easiest instrument to play) so anyone with the intelligence of a squirrel should see though the slogan. However, funny tee shirts I’m all for, I’m just not sure about how they’ve chosen to promote them. This gets a four.

I can list my home for 3.99% with a certain realtor. This assumes I’m a home owner which I’m not so it’s an instant zero, but I should note the text which states “I’ll get you results or fire me the next day!” The next day after what? The next day after you sign up? The next day after a trial period ends? The next day after a full moon? Other non-useful sales statements include “founded in the year X” and “billions and billions served.”

The number of ads from dating sites has dropped to three (from two companies), though two of them still insist I am interested in “looking for free” at girls designated “hot.”

A curious ad that’s just a name. Terry Fator. I realize, but only after following the link, that he and his cast of ‘hilarious characters’ are performing at the Mirage in Las Vegas. No disrespect to Mr. Fator, but is he enough of a household star that his name alone can carry the ad? One out of ten because I had to work hard to know what the ad was.

And finally, a product. Like the survival strap, it consists of rope. This one however is a “chunky and show stopping rope necklace.” And I can hardly argue. If I were to wear in public the bright yellow, inches thick piece of neck ware, the show would certainly stop and, in all likelihood, refunds demanded and the authorities sent for. Zero.


This is actually late night because I have a life in the real world and it takes precedence.

First off was the Spartan Beast again, and if anything I was feeling less adventurous at midnight than I was at mid-morning but it can’t go lower than zero. Second was a new ad—Simons Shoes—including the tag line “from the oldest shoe store in Boston.” Boston is approximately 2,400 miles away from where I’m sitting, so I’m guessing they want me to buy shoes online. I never buy clothes online. I can’t figure out why, of two pairs of jeans, both with a 34 waist, only one will actually fit me. An inch is a standard measurement. Clothes shopping where you can try them on is frustrating enough, why would I do it online? A one.

Just one ad about meeting single women. Apparently as the day progresses it is assumed my libido decreases.

Firestone tires is up next, with a special offer no less. Fair enough on this one. In all likelihood I drive, and maybe I need tires. Two.

The next heading was “Careers at TSA.” Like many international travelers I have opinions about the Transportation Security Administration. It suffices me to say however, that as a non-US citizen I’m not eligible to work for any US government agency. Another zero then.

And finally, another attempt to get me to buy the necklace; which contains just enough rope for me to hang myself if I wore it in public.

Extra credit

For bonus marks I looked at the ads generated when I used aps and notifications.

These included a much better ad for Vegas titled “Terry Fator at the Mirage” I knew what and where instantly.

There was a very pertinent ad from the Scifi movie channel wanting me be aware of an upcoming movie, but where’s the trailer? Two other ads—for a kids snack food and a charity—both had little youtube videos I could watch. Surely a movie, whose product is moving images, should have a trailer.

The matchmaking companies gave up on subtlety and posted one that simply said “Like hot single freaky girls ? (click here)”. Not one of these ads has said “want to meet women that have similar interests, and like-minded points of view?”

A couple of ads were there because they had been ‘liked’ by a friend, and a few ads were there probably because of some piece of data in my profile. The best of these being an ad for a bookshelf that looks like a TARDIS. Very me. I attended BYU so there was an ad for BYU books for young readers though only two ads were from local businesses—a dentist and a bank.

So, for those that keep count, here are the scores (total ads 26):
• Pertinent ads, likely generated by information Facebook knows about me, eight.
• Somewhat pertinent ads, but probably shots in the dark, five.
• Completely irrelevant or confusing ads, eight.
• Ads because a friend has ‘liked’ or is into that sort of thing, five.
For all their algorithmic profiling of what will surely appeal to me, Facebook ads seem to miss as much as they hit for three reasons.

The first problem here is me. I withhold as much information as I can and allow only three apps to run, meaning that neither Facebook nor advertisers have much to go on (or so I think, they protect themselves legally from telling you what they know about you, which some say is a lot). I could fake a profile and frankly, I’d like my online persona to be that of a 32 year-old executive with a New York Penthouse and original Picasso’s in every bathroom, but I couldn’t bear repeated friend requests from all the hot single women.

The second reason is Facebook itself. It allows advertisers to target potential customers by selecting criteria—age, where they live etc. but it is only as good as the data users input. It also greatly restricts the ad size and number of letters advertisers have to work with.

Thirdly, the companies’ ads. Facebook does not advise companies on who to target or how to write an ad. So why aren’t companies smarter about this? If your product is a movie, put in a trailer; if your product is a destination, name it; don’t use a confusing image or a clich├ęd sales line. I think a lot of basic advertising principles are ignored in the Facebook world.

So, after all of that what’s the verdict? Well, I think Facebook’s stock is overvalued. I also think its future potential is unlimited. No, don’t thank me for wasting your time, if you hadn’t been reading this you’d have been reading status updates or looking at recently posted pictures.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Xmas 2011 pics at Temple SQuare

IMG_1491 b&w by Lincoln H
IMG_1491 b&w, a photo by Lincoln H on Flickr.

IMG_1507 a by Lincoln H
IMG_1507 a, a photo by Lincoln H on Flickr.
IMG_1482 Light b&w by Lincoln H
IMG_1482 Light b&w, a photo by Lincoln H on Flickr.

A couple of pics from last Christmas at Temple Square.

temple blue by Lincoln H
temple blue, a photo by Lincoln H on Flickr.
Xmas 2011, temple square

My Flickr account has more if you're interested.