Academic habits, Lifestyle: preliminary ideas about successful email communication

The tutor gives a few ideas about email habits.

I don’t use email much; at times I’ve used it more.

Email is a type of communication that, because it’s recorded, perhaps needs special preparation before engaging. Here are some hints I find helpful:

Non-routine emails

  • If the email isn’t necessary, don’t write it (unless it’s a leisure email to a friend).
  • If its topic is emotionally affecting at all, wait (at least) half a day before composing the email.
  • If phone contact is approved, it might well be better: you can always email to follow up.
  • Conversely, you can offer phone contact in an introductory email.
  • If it’s a question, boil it down to one that will be as easy to answer as possible.

Routine emails

  • If it’s a simple answer or confirmation, perhaps tell it in the subject, so the person may not even need to open it.

Email is a wide-reaching topic; I’ll be following up with further posts:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Typing: some dangerous hotkeys (keyboard shortcuts)

The tutor finds the “keys” to missing sections of text.

Especially on a laptop, when I’m typing a post, a chunk of text suddenly disappears. I’ve got in the habit of right-clicking, then clicking undo, to resurrect the accidentally deleted text. If I don’t notice in time, however, I lose that section so have to retype it.

I’ve always known that, unwittingly, I must be hitting a hotkey that causes the deletion of the text. Today I researched the problem, and now I know perhaps some of them:

Shift Home selects from the cursor to the beginning of the line.

Shift End selects from the cursor to the end of the line.

Shift PageUp selects from the cursor to the beginning of the text.

Shift PageDown selects from the cursor to the end of the text.

As points out: once you select the text, whatever you type afterwards replaces it. You don’t have to purposely delete it.

I’ve tried the four shortcut combinations above: they all work in this context. Clearly, I’ve been unwittingly selecting those combinations. On a laptop, typing in the dark, it’s easy to imagine.

I’ll be talking more about hotkeys in future posts:)


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Coffee: fair trade

The tutor shares some reflections about the fair trade movement in connection with coffee.

My wife and I were very poor while I was at university.  My joke is that we didn’t eat Kraft Dinner; rather, we ate the store brand, since it was about 25% less.  It’s a joke, but nonetheless true.

I got out of UVic in ’95; finding a good job was tough.   However, by the end of ’96, life was looking up. While we were earning more money, we lived in fear of being poor again, so continued to consume generic brands.  Despite my love of coffee, I wouldn’t buy “the good stuff”, though I noticed more and more new kinds on store shelves.

Sometime in 2001, I’d guess, my wife brought home a few parcels of the new coffee.  “It was on special,” she explained, so it hadn’t cost much more than our normal kinds.  The packages were bright and attractive, displaying words like “ethical” or  “fair”.

After we put the groceries away, I opened one of the packages and ground some up.  It was a cautiously festive occasion:  how good was the “fair trade” coffee that I’d been rejecting?

I poured our cups and put cream in them (and sugar in my wife’s).  What happened next was a revelation and a revolution.

The coffee in our cups was obviously much better than the “standard” kinds we’d always drunk. Half a cup in, I knew I couldn’t go back.  The “fair trade” coffee was so good, I’d have to join my politically correct cohorts.  Since then, I’ve paid the premium for the “fair trade” coffee, and been happy to do so.

I don’t buy “fair trade” coffee to be a good person; I buy it because I like it.  Is it “fair trade”, or just fair trade?

I drank two cups of coffee while producing this article:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Coffee: a tutor’s reflections, part 0

The tutor discusses coffee, a cornerstone of the academic lifestyle.

In high school, I drank 8 cups of coffee a day. (I’m 6′ anyway; any taller and clothes might not be so easy to find.) My doctor told me, at age 17, that I should back off. Because he was a good guy, I did – for a week:)

At UVic, you could get coffee (back in ’95) for 30¢ if you had your own mug. The coffee bar opened at 8am; there was a line-up. It might be the only line I’ve been proud to be part of. For such a big place, the line was short – maybe around six people. We all knew each other, if only from there.

Imagining academic life without coffee is difficult. Good thing it’s cheap, because at times, academia doesn’t pay a lot of money. Sitting back, nose in a book, with a cup of coffee – to me, that’s the academic lifestyle.

Coffee has gotten more complicated since I was a student. However, it’s one of the few fronts of which I’ve kept abreast. What’s more, I haven’t learned about it by reading, but by doing – of me, atypical.

In future posts I’ll be sharing some of my discoveries from the field of coffee:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Internet research: the tutor comments

The tutor opens a discussion of research in today’s context.

Nowadays, virtually everyone counts on the internet not just for entertainment, but for important information.  Travelers likely use it to access ferry schedules, highway routes, and weather forecasts.  DIYers might use it to gain advice about projects. Of course, students use it for research towards papers.

I think there are more mundane uses people make of the internet that aren’t even considered research.  Recipes, for example, are easy to get from it.  In fact, I think the internet offers better coverage of recipes than of academic information.

If you use the internet to find a garlic bread recipe (which I did, here), you needn’t report the source or judge its validity. You’ll know by how the bread turns out whether it’s a good one. (BTW: that recipe worked out well for me on the first try:) The recipe is likely not controversial; moreover, you’re not quoting it.

Compared to the safety of recipe hunting, academic research can be a whole other thing. There might be four reasons:

  1. The point is usually to write an article based on what you find from the sources.
  2. Often, an academic article is based on surprise or controversy.
  3. Unlike a recipe, an academic article can’t be “proven in the pudding.” Its only legitimacy may be its credibility.
  4. People who read an academic article like to see evidence you’ve “done your homework.”

For the above reasons, it’s my opinion that citing sources is much more important for academic research than for domestic.

Of course, if one cites sources, it’s best to have good ones. Below are some of my favourites. A regular reader of this blog might recognize them:

I’ll be talking more about research in future posts.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

chmod: Setting a file read-only in Linux

The tutor uses Linux and Windows both, so he tries to cover them equally.

In yesterday’s post I explained a way to set a file read-only in Windows. Today, I do so for a Linux system.

Linux has many flavours; I use Ubuntu. I’m told that some more elite Linux users find Ubuntu “too easy to use – anyone can use it.” (I’m sure the Ubuntu developers are only too happy to hear such criticism.)

Although Ubuntu has a very user-friendly desktop, it also has the terminal. The highbrow might be more comfortable there. It’s the context I’m using today, because so far as I know, the terminal is common to all Linux users.

Let’s imagine you’ve just finished a program called prog0.txt, which you’ve saved in your scripts directory. You’ve tested it and you’re very pleased. Naturally, you want to safeguard it from impetuous changes.

Here’s how you can set it read-only:

  1. For simplicity’s sake, close the file first.
  2. In the terminal, navigate yourself into the scripts directory.
  3. Type the command chmod 444 prog0.txt

On Linux, the text editor I use is gedit. When I open a read-only file in gedit, no indication appears that the file is read only. However, when I try to make a change to the file, a read-only message appears across the top. If I try to save any changes, I am forced to save them under a different file name.

Besides this simple use, the chmod command has other capabilities. I’ll be covering some of them in future posts:)


McGrath, Mike. Linux in easy steps. Southam: Computer Step, 2008.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

How to make files read-only in Windows

The tutor continues his discussion of read-only files.

In yesterday’s post I opened the discussion about read-only files – specifically, why one might want to use them.

Suppose one did want to use them. How would they go about doing so, on Windows?

Let’s imagine you’ve just finished a computer program whose file name is prototype.txt. You’ve tested it and you’re satisfied it finally does exactly what you want. You don’t want it changed.

To set the file read-only, there is more than one way. Today I’ll describe the method most people will likely prefer; i.e., using the desktop:

  1. In Windows Explorer, find the file.
  2. Select the file and right-click it.
  3. Click Properties (it’s at the bottom).
  4. At the bottom of the Properties dialogue, notice Attributes.
  5. Click the Read-only box.
  6. Click Apply, then OK.

I find I can only do this successfully when the file is closed.

My experience is that, once I’ve done this to a Word document, then I open the document, it says Read-Only at the top. By contrast, when I open a read-only file in Notepad, there seems no indication that the file is read-only. However, when I make a change to the file, then try to save it, I’m finally told that the file is read-only. The dialogue box explains that, to save the changes, I need to call the file a different name.

Tomorrow, perhaps a method for Linux.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Academic habits: using read-only files

The tutor shares a habit he recently began.

Let’s imagine writing a large essay or computer program, then reaching a point of satisfaction.  You save it to disk, then contentedly go off to celebrate with a visit to a friend, a TV show, or what have you.

A few hours later, a new idea materializes.  While still happy with your project, you’re excitedly thinking that the change you’ve newly conceived will take it to the “next level.” You end off celebrating, anxious to get back to the computer to improve your project. You open the file and start changing it….

So many of us have lived the above scenario, only to realize that the new idea doesn’t work because of something we failed to recall.  Now the project is half-changed, but needs to be changed back.  If we’ve been saving as we go (which, generally, is the way we’ve been trained), it’s too late; reconstructing the original project is likely impossible. Even if we can rewrite it very similarly – often an exercise in self-deprecatory frustration  – we know, at the end, it’s not so shiny and neat as before.

For me – not anymore!  I’ve begun the habit of setting my completed work “read-only”. In order to rework a piece set that way, I just make a copy of it to a new file, then start reworking the copy.  If the rebuild goes bad, no problem; the original is safe.

Without marking the original “read-only”, a person could just make a copy of it and start changing the copy, leaving the original intact. Yes, they could, but if they’re excited and confident about the changes they want to make, they just might not take that precaution.  The “read-only” setting on the file – though it can be changed – reminds me of why it’s there.  Not wanting to reverse what I’ve done earlier for my own protection, I just copy the file and start changing the copy.

I’ll be discussing how to set files “read-only” on both Windows and Linux in coming posts:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.