Category Archives: getting the point across

Citations, blog posts, and WordPress

When adding citations to blog posts the bibliography as an endnote seems untenable. The very nature of web pages promotes a non-linear approach to content.

Browser tabs help quickly switching between pages, but the reader has to get to the page with the endnotes (bibliography). It is annoying to know the author is referring to a scholarly work, a clarification, or another web page and not have a ready hyperlink to what is referred to.

Bloggs and web pages are actually fairly straightforward links to add in WordPress. If either of these are from you’r own site it is relatively easy, if you’re good at the page or post titles.

Academic writing frequently uses inline citations and Reference lists  or Bibliographies at the end of Articles. Books are another story. When a book has multiple authors and compiled by editors each Chapter is self contained with respect to the inline citations and bibliography or reference list. It would not be uncommon to direct a citation back to a specific Chapter.

Increasingly, Books, and Book Chapters are available online.

This weblog post chronicles a glimpse of my approaching citations to Books and Book Chapters using WordPress in the least cumbersome and most coherent manor. I would like my site to have some coherency and reflect scholarly norms by including citations. Wikipedia is also moving down this path of documenting the citations on a per-page basis.

Another issue is that I reuse Book and Book Chapter citations and it would be handy to have them ready made in WordPress similar to how pictures. Another example that I have found is the TablePress plugin for reusing tables.

Where I am at

The current list of webpages that I am looking at to help with this is below.

Limited time keeps me from attacking this in one chunk. I expect this list to grow and this post get refreshed and updated.



Once you have performed a calculation and determined the correct number of significant digits to keep, you must round off your answer. There are two steps involved in rounding off a number, and you are already likely to be familiar with the rounding process from your earlier math classes. The steps for rounding are:

  1. Starting from the leftmost significant digit, move to the right until you have as many digits as you are allowed to keep. Then look to the immediate right and note the number present.
  2. If the number to the right is a 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9, round the last significant digit up one. If the number to the right is a 4, 3, 2, 1, or 0, keep the last significant digit the same.


Round 1034.56 to 4 significant digits.

  1. Step 1: Start with 1 and keep 0, 3, and 4. To the immediate right of 4 is a 5.
  2. Step 2: From the above rules, since we have a 5 to the immediate right, we round 4 up to 5.

ANSWER: 1035

Round 0.000343 to 1 significant digit.

  1. Step 1: Start from the left and skip all of the 0’s (they aren’t significant). The first significant digit encountered is a 3. To the immediate right of the 3 is a 4.
  2. Step 2: From the rules above, since we have a 4 to the immediate right, we leave the 3 alone.

ANSWER: 0.0003

Round 4589 to 3 significant digits.

  1. Step 1: Start from the 4 at the left and keep the 5 and 8. To the immediate right of the 8 is another 9.
  2. Step 2: From the rules above, since we have a 9, we must round up.

ANSWER: 4590

Scientific Notation

Scientific Notation

Scientific Notation

Chemistry quantities and units are more specialized, or more refined, than everyday usages. Numbers that are very large, or very small, are frequently expressed in scientific notation such as the value for 1 mole of atoms (6.022 x 1023 atoms). Scientific notation utilizes the powers of 10 and this has advantages because writing out very large numbers is
cumbersome especially when many zeros are involved.

Sometimes the term “order of magnitude” is used. While this can be any base unit the term is typically used in a base 10 context.

The value for a mole (6.022 x 1023) can be converted from scientific notation by moving the decimal 23 places to the right. The value 3.7 x 10-9 m can be converted from scientific notation by moving the decimal place 9 places to the left (0.0000000037 m).

For 2 x 10-3 the exponent is –3 and this is division becoming 2 ÷ (10 x 10 x 10) = 0.002. Note that if a zero is to the right of the decimal a zero must proceed the decimal.

For 2 x 103 the exponent 3 is positive and multiplication becoming 2 x (10 x 10 x 10) = 2,000.

Two observations can be made about what is written above. First, we can sometimes write words rather than numbers. The example above, 2 x 103, is could have been stated as two thousand. Many readers will readily know and be able to have a mental image of two thousand written out in Arabic Numerals. The example, 3.7 x 10-9 m, is not so readily known as three point seven nanometers and also as 3.7 nm. See how crafty I was to use the symbol for meter (m) in the example above? You probably knew the symbol for meter but may not have known the value for nanometer 10-9 m.

Second, be aware that when the valence state of ions is written on elements we often use superscript(s) just as exponents are superscripts. The difference here is that the plus or minus symbol comes after the number representing the valence state of an element or compound that is greater than one (Fe3+). When the valence state is one, the number is implied and only the positive or negative symbol is used in the superscript location (Na+ or Cl).

Beyond convenience and efficiency, scientific notation offers a clean way to communicate information about significant figures (see section on significant figures).


Word Superscript and Subscript Find and Replace

Did you know that you can do a find for something like H2O and replace it with H2O, m3 with m3, and kg-1 with kg1?

Word’s Find and Replace to the rescue… In this example, I’ll use H2O but the same technique applies for anything similar.

  1. Change one of the incorrect instances of H2SO4 to the correct formatting  (H2SO4).
  2. Copy the correct format (H2SO4) to the clipboard (select all the text and then press Ctrl+C).
  3. Open Word’s Find and Replace (Ctrl+H).
  4. In the Find what field, type H2O (the incorrect format).
  5. In the Replace with field, type ^c (that’s a Shift+6 for the caret [^] character and a lower case ‘c‘ — the ‘c’ MUST be lower case).
  6. Click Replace All.

Keep it Together

By Donald G. McGahan
March 10, 2016

One of the annoying things about word processors is actually a strength. Word wrap. Think about it. You don’t have to: usually.

Word processors do an amazing task of wrapping text to fit within the lines, margins really, and they adapt when you change the margins. Brilliant really.

But, what if you do not want a hyphenated technical term to break at the end of the line? Worse yet are technical values with units that break between the units. Very difficult to read.

Following, I jot some quick ways to keep them –hyphen (em dash), spacebar break, underscores– from breaking at the end of the line.

Drumroll please….

hold down the Ctrl and Shift keys as you type the dash, hyphen, space, or underscore.

You do know that you are not generally supposed to put a dash between a number and the unit, right?

Wrong: 12-cm

Right: 12 cm

use a non-breaking space between the value and the units.

If the value and units are a complex adjective preceding a noun then the hyphen is called for. For more about hyphen grammar guidelines see the GrammarBook blog by Jane Straus at

Significant Figures

Mathematics Basics

Significant Figures

Communicating information as values infers that something was measured. If reported correctly, how well the measurement was performed is, generally, communicated in the value reported for a single measurement.

The objective of this section is to survey significant figures rules, significant figure use in mathematical operations, and identifying when to communicate the accuracy of the measurement explicitly.

Four rules apply to reporting significant figures (sometimes called significant digits).

  1. All non-zero numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9) are always significant.
  2. All zeroes between non-zero numbers are always significant.
  3. All zeroes which are successively to the right of the decimal point and at the end of the number are always significant.
  4. All zeroes which are to the left of a written decimal point and are in a number greater or equal to 10 are always significant.

Determining the Correct Number of Significant Digits

Addition and Subtraction

Look at all the numbers used and adjust your answer to the same as the least accurate number (least accurate place) added or subtracted using the rounding rules below.

Multiplication or Division

Look at all the numbers used and adjust your answer to the same as the number used with the least number of signifiant digits (least significant digits) using the rounding rules below.



Scientific Notation


Scaling iPad photos for use in presentations or weblogs

Images are a great way to engage an audience.  A quick look on Wikipedia for the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words” will return the premise of the use of graphics, be they drawings or photographs.

Binging pictures into a PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi presentation is easy enough. Pictures we take today with our digital cameras often contain much more resolution, and are much larger in file size, that is necessary for projecting during a lecture. Even the cameras in todays tablets and phones are overkill for projected images.

Large images take up space on storage media, are slower for the program to load, and if the presentation is located in the cloud, requires significantly more bandwidth to transfer.

Scaling images is a “best practice” for matching a presentations content to presentation delivery method.

Beyond the face-to-face presentation software, digital delivery to distance learners also has similar constraints with the bandwidth to transfer to the end user increasing in importance in the consideration of image quality and file size.

Viewing hidden files in OSX Finder

To view hidden files in Finder go to the Spotlight and enter Terminal. The Terminal app should be the first choice.

Start Terminal and at the command prompt enter:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles -boolean true
killall Finder

Now when you return to Finder the lighter grey file names are files that are normally hidden and are now visible. Generally, it is not prudent to delete these files unless you have investigated the implications of deleting these files.

The difficulty now is that thereafter the hidden files will show in the Finder. To make the files hidden to the finder again, enter the following at the command prompt in Terminal:

defaults delete AppleShowAllFiles
killall Finder

While this is a bit techie, I do have need of this from time to time. Mostly, in user mode, we don’t want to be bothered with seeing these files.

However, sometimes I am communicating with users who live in the Microsoft Windows Operating System world and they are confused when they see hidden files in shared folders. This is especially true of some of the shared cloud folders for collaborations. It those cases, I can sometimes simple state that the files preceded by a ‘dot’ are to be left alone.

Sometimes, I must go further to satisfy their curiosity, or to convince them to leave those files alone, and then I explain that the prepending ‘dot’ hides the files in the BSD, UNIX, and LINIX operating systems. Generally, I don’t have to go farther than that, but occasionally, it helps to point out specific examples and to name a file that they are seeing in there ‘explorer’ that is/are to be left alone.

Perhaps the quickest way for me to see the hidden files to point out an existing example file they are seeing, is to enter the Terminal app and list the folder in question using the command

[Machine_Name]:[Path_to_Folder] [User_Name]$ ls -al

Where I have navigated to the folder [Path_to_Folder] in question.

I have found that when we are looking at the screen of my Mac together, the Windows user can be severely intimidated by the command line. They seem to simply stop processing anything that is said when the terminal is open. Not their fault! They might have never seen the power and majesty of the way computers really work (and they probably never saw the first Tron movie either).

Therefore, the above method of revealing the hidden files in the Mac OSX Finder has, in my experience, been a ‘less jarring’ experience for them.
Though you might have to envok a little ‘wizard of OZ “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” while you run the command to reveal the hidden files. (Hint: you can have a stickie that has the command at the ready to paste in at the command line)

Do you have a favorite Apple Mac OS X terminal command?

Presentation Software

I have to admit I am starting to develop bad habits.  I know better.  I have to be stronger at resisting.

“PowerPoint makes us stupid.”
— Gen. James N. Mattis, Marine Corps

I came across this page.

What Not To Do When Making a Keynote Presentation

by Dr. Donald E. Wetmore

In academia we are constantly pushed to take important information and make it simple.

I like steak.  If someone chops up a steak and then puts it in a blender until I no longer have to chew, it is just not the same!  This is what students often ask for.  Furthermore, they want us to add sugar.  That’s baby food!  In college, students need to chew on it.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is important that the steak is cooked correctly; and the cut of meat determines the preparation, cooking, and presentation of the steak.

Presentation is important, and Dr. Wetmore has a few Don’ts that I agree with.

Podcasting or Vodcasting

I have begun to explore the world of podcasting.
During a recent presentation at a Universal Design Faculty Learning Community Committee meeting at Tarleton State University I was asked about the hardware, software, and work flow for the creation of a rough Enhanced Podcast that I produced and demonstrated based on a lecture module for my Soils, Land Use and The Environment (AGRN302) course.

The Enhanced Podcast was audio laid over the Powerpoint(R) slides.  I used on my MacBook Pro to do this.  A very nice feature was the addition of loops.  Apple has a very brief how-to.

plantronicsFoldingThe Plantronics headset (Plantronics Foldable USB Stereo Headset) was chosen after a, not inconsiderable, investigation on the web.  I believe what swayed my decision to purchase this headset was several comments to the effect that if the podcast creation task was untenable that the headset could be used for Skype or music.  The price was modest and the audio is acceptable.  I have noted that the audio can be different from on session to another so I must be mindful of this.