January 2011 Issue

What else. Speaking of eyesight, I woke up early the other morning and discovered, on my way to the bathroom, that I had apparently gone blind in my left eye. Totally black. Bummer. This was especially distressing because that’s my good eye. The right one has been screwed up to the point of near blindness since birth by severe amblyopia, so I’ve actually never seen the world in three dimensions. (So I watched the 2D version of Avatar last year. I heartily recommend the 0D version.) Anyway, I resolved to worry about it later (which is easy when I’m still basically asleep; it takes me a good hour to become functional in the morning) and went back to bed. When I got up later it was working somewhat but hurt quite a bit, so I guess it’s my optic nerve acting up, as happens every so often in my right eye. I had noticed the night before that I suddenly couldn’t read anything at all with my left eye, which tends to support that theory. As of this writing it is still difficult to read printed matter, not a walk in the park on my best days.

All of which brings me to a couple of suggestions for anyone with less than stellar vision who spends a lot of time trying to read things on a computer. I’ve mentioned both of these things before, but they’re so cool I think it’s worth a rerun. One is an add-on for Firefox called No Squint, which allows you to increase the size of a web page and/or just increase the size of the fonts on a page (my preference). You can even set a default magnification for all pages and per-site settings so that every time you go back to Slashdot, for example, the page will be easily readable.

For reading long articles, however, Readability is, hands down, the most radical improvement to the web I’ve ever seen. Faced with a page of tiny type strewn with ads and “most emailed” boxes, you just click a button on your browser toolbar and the page is transformed into a single column of readable text (you can set the size and style) on a perfectly blank page, just as if you’d typed it yourself.


They make great pets!

Elsewhere in the news, we run a fairly tidy ship here at Word Detective World Headquarters, probably because we both grew up in pretty orderly households. My parents really didn’t accumulate anything except books and the piles of New Yorker magazines that seemed to spring up in nearly every room. Time and Newsweek went in the trash after a week, but nobody threw out the New Yorker. As for the books, they were almost all freebies that had arrived in the mail. At some point, for instance, my parents landed on the “free” list at Bantam Books, so every month a large box would arrive packed with mass-market paperbacks representing everything Bantam had issued that month. I loved those boxes. They almost always contained some science fiction, and frequently cool books about science and history. Other books arrived alone or in small bunches from other publishers, and, by the time I left home, the house was literally full of books.

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