A teense faster, I hope

In an effort to speed up the response time of my site when posting new articles, or when visitors leave comments, I’m experimenting with simplifying this page a bit. I think it’s working — things seem a teense snappier so far — but I’m still banging away at it.

In an effort to speed up the response time of my site when posting new articles, or when visitors leave comments, I’m experimenting with simplifying this page a bit. I think it’s working — things seem a teense snappier so far — but I’m still banging away at it.

Unfortunately, this means I’ve deleted the ‘Recently seen’ and ‘Recently read’ sections of my sidebar. Neither had been updated lately, so it may not be too big of a loss, but I’d still like to find a way to get them integrated back in later on if I can do so without impacting the server as much.

Geeky bits (and a question of written English usage) follow, if you’re interested.

I used to have the ‘Recent reads’ section (which listed books I was reading, along with reviews when I bothered) as a seperate blog, which I included in this page as an SSI.

Quick unrelated question — when including acronyms in text, does one decide on using ‘a’ or ‘an’ before the acronym by the sound of the acronym, or by the sound of the meaning? Since ‘SSI’ is pronounced ‘ess ess aye’, that would call for using ‘an’, but when the meaning starts with the sibilant (Server), that would call for using ‘a’. Anyone know? I guessed and used ‘an’ on the assumption that most people would read the acronym rather than parsing the full meaning as they read, but I’m not sure if that’s correct or not. Anyway….

The last time I redesigned The Long Letter, I incorporated the ‘Recently read’ blog into The Long Letter as a category, and added the ‘Recently seen’ category for my movie reviews. Then, in order to only display them in the sidebar and not in the main content area, I used a lot of ‘OR’ statements in my main content <MTEntries> tag, so it looked like <MTEntries category="Books OR CSS OR DJing OR HTML OR Humor OR Internet OR Life OR Links OR Macintosh OR MovableType OR Movies OR Music OR PHP OR Politics OR Quotes OR Trek OR Website">. The sidebar <MTEntries> tags were <MTEntries category="BookReviews"> and <MTEntries category="MovieReviews">.

I’m thinking that this may have contributed to how long it took to rebuild when making changes, though. Anytime MT had to rebuild the front page — which it did both when adding new posts (obviously) and when a new comment was posted (in order to display the ‘Last 10 comments’ section of the sidebar) — it had to sort through and filter which posts were displayed according to what category they were assigned to.

So, for the moment, I’ve deleted the ‘Recently read’ and ‘Recently seen’ sidebar bits, and set the primary content area to a very simple <MTEntries>. Theoretically (in my brain, at least), this should speed things up.

As a last resort, I could take the ‘Last 10 comments’ section off, but I’d really hate to do that. It’s a really handy way for me to keep an eye on feedback on my posts, and a nice visual indicator that people are actually stopping by from time to time! So I’m hoping I don’t reach a point where I feel I have to lose that. Hopefully, simplifying the main content display will be enough to speed things up for now.

Author: djwudi

Enthusiastic ambivert. Geeky, liberal, friendly, curious, feminist ally; trying to be a good person. (he/him)

0 thoughts on “A teense faster, I hope”

  1. Re Acronym pronunciation:
    I’ve seen aconyms presented both ways (articles referring to the full word rather than the letter), but I think it’s more common to see ‘an SSI’ rather than the other way. I know that even if I know what an acronym means, I don’t “parse” it on the fly — that would just slow everything down (afterall, the CPU in my head is nearly 20 years old).
    Here’s a question for you. Do you say ‘a historic moment’ or ‘an historic moment’? Apparently the correct usage is ‘an historic’, but that just doesn’t sound right.

  2. I’ve been saying “an historic” for my entire life, as far as I know.

    I’ve always figured that the basic rule had to do with whether or not the word started with a ‘hard’ h (such as ‘house’ or ‘horrific’, which would both use ‘a’ — “a house down the street” or “a horrific experience”) or a ‘soft’ h (such as ‘hour’ or ‘honor’, which would use ‘an’ — “be there in an hour” or “quite an honor“).

    Of course, by that rule, it would be “an historic occasion” rather than “a historic occasion”. My guess as to why I tend to use ‘an’ in this instance is a holdover from British English. Since many of the various British accents have a tendency to drop the beginning ‘h’ sound in words, using ‘an’ becomes more proper for British English (just try saying “an ‘istoric” versus “a ‘istoric” a few times). So what about present-day American English, when the ‘h’ is pronounced?

    To my ear, the ‘h’ in ‘historic’ is one of those oddball sounds in English that in actual usage, falls somewhere between a soft ‘h’ and a hard ‘h’. I’ve rarely heard it dropped entirely, but I’ve also rarely heard it stressed quite as much as the usual hard ‘h’. So, I tend to err on the side of British English (which, if nothing else, has been around longer than American English, so it gets seniority rights…or something like that…) and use ‘an historic’ when I’m writing or speaking.

    But then, this may be one of those questions that doesn’t really have a good answer. A quick Google search turned up two pages of interest on the topic.

    This page from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation shows that of the people listening to a show by Spencer Howson, 62.5% preferred ‘an historic’ while 37.5% preferred ‘a historic’. To settle the answer, Spencer spoke to linguistic professor Roly Sussex — the resulting conversation is presented as a Real Audio file, where he says that it depends on where the word is stressed. For instance ‘history’ would use ‘a’, while ‘historic’ could go either way, depending on the speaker’s preference, with the current tendency leaning towards using ‘a’.*

    This page, however, says that it depends on the speaker’s pronounciation of the word — so an American speaker, likely to use the hard ‘h’ would use ‘a’, while a British speaker, more likely to drop the ‘h’, would use ‘an’. Reader responses to this tip, however, seem to side with the above referenced rule of deciding by where the word is stressed.

    End result? Use whichever sounds right, at least for ‘an historic’ or ‘a historic’. Myself, I’ve got ‘an historic’ so ingrained that I’ll probably never be able to use anything other than that — but now at least I know that I shouldn’t cringe when I hear other people use ‘a historic’ (though it’ll be hard not to — even knowing that it’s acceptable in today’s usage, it still sounds wrong to me).

    This has been fun to poke around with, though!

    * Here’s a transcription of that Real Audio file:

    Spencer Howson: Professor Roly Sussex is the god, and he’s with me now on the phone. What is the official ruling, Professor Sussex, is it ‘an’ or ‘a’?

    Roly Sussex: (laugh) Devil, rather than god, I should think in this case, Spencer!

    According to the good books, if a word begins with ‘h’ and has a stress on the first syllable, like ‘history,’ it’s ‘a’, so it’s just like an ordinary consonant, ‘a history of Australia.’ But if it’s not stressed on the first syllable, then it can go either way, you can say either, “a historical study,” or, “an historical study.” But the tendency now is to go for ‘a’.

    SH: ‘A’. Now is there such a thing as a, a religious divide with this? I mentioned before that I’d heard that Catholic schools had taught ‘an’, Protestant schools ‘a’. Is that right, or did I totally mishear that somewhere?

    RS: I’d heard the story, but I’ve never found anyone who can actually substantiate that one.

    SH: Okay.

    RS: But what I can tell you is that round about 1920, people used to pronounce some of these words a bit more the French way, so that Lord Peter Wimsey [? — ed] would put up at “an ‘otel” for the weekend.

    SH: Ah-ha.

    RS: But ‘hotel’ has now got its ‘h’ really pronounced, as you called it in the program earlier on, ‘hard’, and so it is pronounced as a consonant.

    SH: You were listening, I knew you’d be listening! (laughs)

    RS: Of course!

    SH: Professor Roly Sussex, 11:30 Tuesday mornings with Peter Girsh, thank you for making the ruling — talk to you again Roly.

    RS: Okay, my pleasure. Bye-bye.

    Of course, these are Aussies talking — neither Americans nor Brits — so who can say whether or not they’ve got it right? ;) Now, pardon me while I go hide before any Aussies find this page and hunt me down…

  3. I acutally e-mailed Mr. North, the gent behind the writing website that was the second of the two sites I linked to above, and asked him about the a/an rule for acronyms. Here’s what he sent back:

    The answer to this is not written on a stone tablet anywhere, but my advice has always been “Write it like you’d say it”. Thus I suggest that you read the sentence out loud, and then write it that same way.

    For example, if you’d say “an ess-ess-aye” then write “an SSI”, but if you’d say “a server “, write “a SSI”.

    In this instance, I suspect the former is more likely to be the case. Hope this helps.


    Tim North (Perth, Western Australia)

    So it looks like I was right to begin with — go me!

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