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User:Double sharp

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I have had quite a few pseudonyms on WP, which I joined on 7 August 2009, before finally deciding on this one in late 2011. I'm still not sure I like it, but I haven't thought of anything better, and in any case after five years it is surely too late to change it when people know me as this now. I suppose it does put my "Wikipedia character" in the tradition of the comical music teacher Solfa from Ramond's Les Dernières aventures du jeune d'Olban, but I of course am not a character, so I do more than that.

I tend to focus on writing and improving content, which for me is after all the main thing in Wikipedia. Therefore, I tend to stick to writing what I know about and can improve, preferably to GA or FA, so that interested readers will get quality information. So far, I have only made such large-scale contributions in chemistry, although I have made smaller-scale ones in some other fields, such as classical music, mathematics, chess, and astronomy. I would like to think that my current main virtue is actually being able to think, learn, and admit being mistaken, which has apparently become a surprisingly rare ability on most people's character sheets today (well I never) – the main vice probably being an unhealthy taste for magical girl shows.

(Besides the piano I mention in my userboxes, I did train for a while in singing and have played the harpsichord a few times, but I haven't been active in either for a long while. No doubt the former is the reason my German is so very outdated, given its source in poetic texts of a bygone age...)

I tend to use userspace drafts (see Special:PrefixIndex/User:Double sharp/ for a list) instead of writing directly into an article. This allows me to space work out and avoid burnout, and allows me to work on things in any order before the first draft of the final product comes out. To write a quality article on a subject, one has to love it, to lovingly write every bit of it from the most esoteric to the most common, and work it out in all its dimensions in research. If done well, the reader should realise how much love has been given in the writing and the text. As Beethoven wrote in the dedication to the Missa solemnis, Op. 123, Von Herzen – Möge es wieder – Zu Herzen gehn!

I don't really have that much to say about myself here, though if you want to metaphorically sit down and have a chat over some imaginary tea, my talk page is always open. ^_^

Unfortunately, though I have little to say about myself, I have too many other things to say like Piotrus (who I borrowed my talk-page header from). My userpage is currently groaning under the weight of some of this, which I will hopefully move somewhere at some point. Given that R8R Gtrs has now given me a mention on the WMF blog, doing this has just become a little more urgent. ^_^

My writing on Wikipedia[edit]

It can really be difficult in chemistry articles to write something that is correct, reasonably complete, and is easily understandable to the layman. Any combination of the two would be much easier. This is why reviews are invaluable!

I use British English, with the exception of sulfur and its derivatives (e.g. sulfurous, sulfuric, sulfide, etc.). (I also tend to use logical full stops like that one when no one else would probably be bothered in talk-page comments, but this wouldn't normally arise in articles.) This is mostly because of IUPAC, and is really mandated on WP only for chemistry articles, but I may unconsciously use it elsewhere (and if so, I have no problem with it being edited!)

Singular they and GNL[edit]

I don't use singular they. I used to in talk-page comments, but I always disliked how it makes it difficult to distinguish singular and plural, so I finally stopped due to lack of precision. Part of it is also assuredly because it gets highlighted mentally for me because I don't actually naturally use it when talking (yes, yes, I know that's hard to believe today, but it is true whether you like it or not). I realise that "s/he" and other such constructions are immensely ugly, but they sound a little more natural to me and have the advantage of precision - which is pretty vital to some of the articles I have worked on (particularly the chess-variant ones). Of course, it is still pretty awkward, and I would still prefer generic "he" in such a case. Alternation is pretty useful when referring to hypothetical people (e.g. White and Black in chess) and I often use it for clarity. No one – at least, I hope so, perhaps over-optimistically – could plausibly interpret that as implying that White is always female and Black is always male, or the other way round. To those who would argue that we suffer this singular-plural ambiguity with "you": assuredly we do, but at least then it should be clear who you are addressing (and you can always insert a parenthetical to clarify it anyway). "They" can be used with hypothetical people too, in which case the lack of clarity becomes all the starker. I don't care a whit how many authors used singular "they", as Language Log loves to argue; I am writing descriptive, encyclopaedic prose, not a novel, and the priorities are different. I could easily find any number of sensibly ungrammatical constructions in literature that work in context and would be utterly senselessly ungrammatical without that context.

Incidentally, for all that people like to say that "generic he" tends to imply a male image, I can tell you with a perfectly straight face after reading Language Log again that no, the sentence "Was it your father or your mother who could hold his breath for four minutes?" does not sound at all ridiculous to me. I do recognise that this puts me in a rapidly diminishing minority, but yes, people who actually naturally respond that way to language exist, and formal usage tends to always lag behind colloquial usage by a few decades anyhow. For me, "generic she" also works just as neutrally, but anything else tends to distract, kind of like this scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian illustrating the problem with "generic he or she" forcing the gender to your mind even when it is supposed to not matter:

FRANCIS: Yeah. I think Judith's point of view is very valid, Reg, provided the Movement never forgets that it is the inalienable right of every man–

STAN: Or woman.
FRANCIS: Or woman... to rid himself--
STAN: Or herself.
FRANCIS: Or herself.
REG: Agreed.
FRANCIS: Thank you, brother.
STAN: Or sister.
FRANCIS: Or sister. Where was I?
REG: I think you'd finished.
FRANCIS: Oh. Right.
REG: Furthermore, it is the birthright of every man–
STAN: Or woman.
REG: Why don't you shut up about women, Stan. You're putting us off.

There are pretty much always better options to make text gender-neutral, although I would submit that clarity should win out when the two cannot coexist, which is actually pretty often. (Somehow, generic "she" seems to be viewed as less unsupportable than generic "he"; I suppose it's a matter of equalising the bias, and alternating between the two generic usages seems a fair approach.) Of course, there will always be the loud opposers on both sides claiming that they are excluded by generic "he", generic "she", or even generic "he or she". Somehow one never hears of opposers to generic "they", though it seems to be about the same thing logically. If one decides to obtusely and stubbornly decide that one does not have to listen to those who one thinks are excluding oneself, it is one's own loss, not anyone else's, and the ignorance that results is wilful and I have not one jot of sympathy for it. It is about the same sort of nonsense that is impossible to avoid in op-eds about gender equality in the arts, ranging from video games to literature, in which one supposedly can only identify with characters that are like oneself. Putting aside the fact that I am not sure identifying oneself with a character and circumscribing one's personality in that way is a good or even entirely sane idea – even when the great Romantic composers did that for their public faces, they invented their own characters, most famously Florestan and Eusebius – I was under the impression that one of the great reasons always adduced to start exposing oneself to all these media was to understand those who were not like oneself. Or is the idea that one cannot appreciate Goethe's Werther without wearing a yellow jacket, giving disquieting demonstrations involving pistols, pining for unattainable beloveds and shooting oneself?

I have no objection against gender-neutrality in language per se except when it results in this sort of lack of clarity, or otherwise involves using neologisms that have not yet gained currency. We are an encyclopaedia, not a soapbox for whatever new cause has been decided upon. I feel the need to write that sentence in bold because it seems that whenever I end up fighting that battle (always reluctantly) the valid reasons get overlooked in favour of the new progressive revolutionary agenda and a desire to overlook everything that doesn't conform to the desired reality as antiquated and irrelevant. In case you think I am exaggerating, see Talk:Moon#"Crewed" replacing "manned", which is an article I have just about given up on (I have not checked if it still uses "crewed" and find it difficult to be moved enough to care a whit). If you know I am not exaggerating and are depressed by the whole thing, I sympathise, and for this reason took the page off my watchlist. (It's a wonderful solution, marred only by the need to leave one's pride at the door and stop having fantasies of oneself as a fidei defensor or defensatrix, and then let it go.) If you want to leave an angry note on my talk page, please feel free to do so; I could always use more fair pearls in my diadem, even if they are tears of anger rather than grief. Consecrate them for me and be not ashamed to shed them! I assume all right-thinking people, a category you may interpret as you see fit, will immediately know which side to agree with.

Of course, if you have a preference (or if you've previously declared what gender you are) I will try to adhere to it when referring to you (I may forget and if I do I apologise here in advance). As for myself, I do not particularly care what pronouns you use for me as long as it is clear who you are addressing, though my preference would be he or she first (I don't really mind whichever you guess, or if you use both), singular they a more distant second, and any other pronoun that essentially no one to a first approximation uses a third so distant that it might as well not be a preference.

If you prefer one of those pronouns which nobody uses, the most likely result is that I will end up forgetting pretty often; I'm not even sure on Wikipedia which editors are male or female unless their username makes it pretty obvious. (I suppose some could plausibly use a username of the opposite gender, but such a practice would frankly be asking for getting addressed by the "wrong" pronoun, and would seem to almost imply an expectation of that.) If this results in a visceral and immediate reaction from you, I suppose I should apologise in advance, but alas! I find it difficult to sympathise with such a marked inability to control one's emotions, which does not bode well for one's ability to contribute in a dare I say normal environment such as this one. After all, it is not as if it is immediately physically detectable which pronoun someone would prefer, outside "he" or "she" – and even that disappears here, where we can't see each other, and know no information save that which is voluntarily given, and frankly that is probably a good thing. If it on the contrary results in a polite correction and restatement of one's preference, you shall receive a sincere and heartfelt apology, and I will try my very best not to forget when I interact with you again – neither your pronoun nor your civility.

I suppose one could argue that soon enough singular "they" will become standard. And well it may, but as it stands it is not, it rankles to a significant majority of people including myself, and I do not feel we should use it in articles. Whether one chooses to use it in discussion is entirely one's own affair, though I personally will not do so.


Argh, I'd better finish radium too (10.1002/14356007.o22_o15 Ullmann is lame, but contains a few things; Gmelin should have more)

and the halogen main article and phosphorus and silicon and sulfur and calcium and magnesium and praseodymium and the alkaline earth metals and the other groups and why do I do this to myself? Because it teaches us all a lot, both myself and my readers. And even if the vast majority of our readers are uninterested and won't read most of it, I want those who know their stuff to be impressed, as their opinion is informed and is far more precious.

     Articles for which I have done some rewriting, research, or both have a red outline for the cell.

     Those in violet have not yet been released to the mainspace, since they are in progress.

Regarding the composition of group 3 in this table, see User:Sandbh/Group 3. The main point is that La and Ac have no f-orbital involvement and so it is very silly to put them in the f-block. While the shift of He to the p-block for chemical reasons might be taken as a precedent for this kind of thing, it would be unjustified for La and Ac because they continue the trend down from Sc and Y better than Lu and Lr do, so there is no reason to move them. Finally, one of the basic (no pun intended) principles of the periodic table is that basicity increases down a group, and this works for Sc-Y-La but is broken for Sc-Y-Lu. If you want to show Sc-Y-Lu, you'd also logically have to show things like Be-Mg-Zn.

I have chosen to follow the old tradition for delimiting the lanthanides and actinides (Ce–Lu and Th–Lr); if we can exclude Sc and Y even though they behave similarly, then I don't see why we can't exclude La and Ac as well to have a complete d-block column. I colour group 12 as post-transition metals because it is frankly more reflective of their chemistry.

The next ones will probably be the really famous elements in the first 20. The ones left are Mg, Al, Si, P, S, and Ca. Maybe calcium will be first to complete the Ca-Sr-Ba triad, even if I can't stop giggling stupidly at it thanks to Look Around You. (They also had silly modules about S and Fe, but I already did Fe in 2016.) So maybe the nonmetals Si, P, and S will come first. (Yes, yes, I know we colour Si as a metalloid, but you know what I mean!)

I suppose the element-by-element way of looking at thing is a very inorganic-minded approach. I would do it differently for organic compounds, except that since we look at individual elements so early in chemistry teaching I think it's a good approach to clear out the famous elements first. Maybe we'll move on in a few years?

By the way, why do so many People capitalise the Names of Elements? Surely we are not speaking German, and they are not Proper Nouns.

Reminder to self: go through IAEA's nuclear data and add all those more recent heavy isotopes which NUBASE doesn't have to the isotope articles.

Wow, 2017 has been a great deal more tiring than 2016 thus far. I promise at least to finish the things I started in that year or earlier (Ca, Pr, Ra among metals; I finished Ag at last; now I need to get to P as well and maybe fix As on the side).


Mostly, in this field I write about the First Viennese School, as that is the music I grew up with and that I love the most. I also think it is borderline scandalous that Mozart and Beethoven are household names and Haydn is not; all three ought to be!

I have an almost equal love for the Second, as well as many of the other 20th-century composers active in Western Europe, but I do find it more difficult to understand despite being impressed by how beautiful it sounds. This is not a criticism: the latter is already a great victory for the composer, and I think that perhaps in some time I shall be able to naturally understand it more quickly. (And, after all, I do not think my understanding of Webern's Variations improved that significantly after finding out what the tone row it used actually was, because it is already so expressive regardless of that and perhaps a conscious understanding of those elements is neither necessary nor altogether desirable!)

Still, I really do miss the ability to describe simple joy in music that one finds in the First Viennese School. That is one area in which eighteenth-century tonality has never been, and will never be, surpassed. Later composers who managed the effect (for example Strauss at the end of Der Rosenkavalier) always ended up doing so through reusing the language, but through a filter of anachronism that makes the loss all the sadder. As Schubert set, Schöne Welt, wo bist du? Kehre wieder, Holdes Blütenalter der Natur!

(Of course, I love J. S. Bach as well – that goes without saying – but I find that I much prefer playing him than listening to him. There are many things that only become obvious when they are under one's fingers, and remain out of reach when they are under one's nose.)

Entering the common-sense business[edit]

I must write something about cranks on WP at one point. They really do have a lot in common with the clueless but well-intentioned, who are usually young; they take their limited knowledge as the gospel truth, try to propagate it everywhere, and cannot be reasoned out of their positions. The only difference is how much sympathy I am willing to extend to them, which is obviously greater for the second group. I find that that group is more easily dealt with by stepping back and waiting for them to mature, only making sure they don't mess too many things up in the meantime. The first group will never change. Look on the bright side: you're working on an encyclopaedia, which guarantees that at least the majority of the people you encounter will be articulate and intelligent fellows. The ones who are not will likely be busy puttering around among themselves in userspace and wasting time at the Department of Fun instead of doing anything serious, so they will also stay out of your way. That leaves the tiny minority of trolls. There, does that sense of perspective make it seem so much better now? ^_^

As a generalisation, people don't learn in arguments. Indeed, attacking arguments is a good way to make them be defended more and more strongly and emotionally as their purveyor starts feeling under siege. Polemics tend to be searched for, and read without rising blood pressure, by people who already agree with them – that is, if they're not deliberately provocative statements made by gadflies, who are too clever for us naughty people. Diving directly into the sea of insanity and not drowning yourself perforce means that you will only be able to rescue those nearest the shore.

The best way to get someone to change his/her mind (if s/he is clearly wrong and anyone with more understanding can see it) is to use a medium without comments (books are good for this), so that s/he is forced to listen to the sound of someone else's voice instead of his/her own. (This does not apply to issues where the dispute is still ongoing even at the highest level – and that means actual intellectuals. Such arguments are very exceptional, because the people who get into them, on both sides, are well-informed and are assuredly not cranks.) And the most amazing thing about arguments is how much people unconsciously seek them out anyway even though they should know better. An even more amazing thing is that even recognising this is not a foolproof inoculation: I have been guilty of it several times.

Above all, resist the temptation to use language commonly considered to be crude when arguing, especially with the clueless. With the clueless, this may be emotionally understandable, but it provides the best excuse for the other party to stop listening to one's content and concentrate on one's manner. It also makes it look to the person seeing only the dénouement as though one was being the initial aggressor, which does not lead to a very desirable outcome. With the non-clueless, it simply does not belong in a civilised discourse, and if one is in this situation one might just consider that the labels of 'clueless' and 'non-clueless' might have been mixed up.

The most indicative sign of development of the mental faculties and manners of a person is a willingness to respect those who have more experience in a subject. To that end, don't look for me for guidance; look for a real WP sage instead.

On immaturity and trolling[edit]

Fangirling about the past really does let you think in terms of longer spans of time, so much so that when this article came out (on collapsism regarding North Korea), and I read all those statements about how it would probably endure and the reunification would be by gradual reconciliation, I burst out laughing. There are two reasons for this. The first is, of course, that the Soviet Union lasted so long that when it finally collapsed nobody was expecting it to, whether at that moment or even at that all. The second is that, when I realise how much time has passed since the time period from the 1760s to the 1820s I keep writing about in music, what's another 20 more years? I can wait.

Seriously, it is true that this sort of nostalgia "born in the wrong century" is often overstated and over-romanticised. On the face of it, it seems patently absurd to say that you miss a time period you cannot possibly have been alive in, and I'm pretty sure that if any of those people were transported to their beloved time period they would instantly miss all the luxuries of modern life. This impression is just. Yet there is also something behind the sentiment that Brahms expressed regarding how nice it would have been to write music in the time of Mozart when composing was still easy, and it is even more true today: how nice it is to avoid the great pluralism of thought and escape to (for example) 1790, when every composer, great, mediocre, or incompetent, wrote in the same way with varying quality, and when everything was much more certain. (Actually 1790 might be a little too late for most such, because the French Revolution would already have started.) Today, someone who was that certain about everything would be at best amusing and immature, and at worst a complete lunatic. And yet, despite the increased ease of the former, it seems very clear that the latter has been the best route to progress on a scale that has never been seen before. Even if it like anything else brings with it some stupidity, so does everything else: after all, stupidity is more common than hydrogen.

The immaturity thing is important for Wikipedia, and it is the only reason why this essay is here. It also explains why young editors who lack the maturity are often indistinguishable from trolls; the only difference is the amount of accountability they have for their exasperating nature. They simply push the POV they are so certain of, only it's not so much related to hot-button topics like politics but things that appear clearly structured and nicely organised. This kind of neat-list sort of article, like hexafluoride or list of regular polytopes and compounds, can be stimulating and nourishing to the young mind, but they will not take too kindly to finding out that their picture is not complete once they have incorporated it into their heads. This is perhaps another argument in favour of our current anonymity, because it is so much easier to move past initial silliness when it's not tied to your real name. (I am mildly ashamed to admit that I was rather like that when I joined WP in 2009, when I was quite justifiably blocked for similar reasons. I use the same account today to indicate that I was indeed responsible for that silliness, even though I am not really the same person today in anything other than continuity of thought.)

The relation back to the first paragraph is regarding patience. When an article is continually being edited to what one sees as the wrong version, a lack of patience and an unwillingness to discuss, and simply assuming that the status quo will continue forever, is a good way to succumb to despair on Wikipedia. While the results are thankfully not quite as physical as they are in Madoka, they are about as spectacular and destructive virtually, even if it is not always clear when the supply of good faith drains completely. (Some readers of this may be wondering if this essay perhaps stems from a bet to include references to as many topics as possible, no matter how sacrilegious some of the links may be. No, it doesn't, but I wish there was such a bet now!)

The situation is a little different in science. Here, no amount of time or patience is going to change the status quo of widely and conclusively researched like the alleged autism–vaccines link (see here for the current answer to the question of the URL). What is needed here is to escape from crankery, and while it no doubt does happen occasionally, I think the North Korean collapse I alluded to in the first paragraph is more likely than any significant number of such trolls on Wikipedia (let alone in real life) making that escape. The problem, of course, is that escaping from crankery requires a basic trust in those with more expertise, something that crankery unfortunately precludes. The immature who are caught here probably have the best chances at doing so, even if their situation is the most heartbreaking.

It might help to remember that any viewpoint held by a significant number of reliable sources – either the clear majority, or a prominent minority with respected adherents – is fair game for Wikipedia, and nothing else is. This is the nature of this website. Of course, its somewhat increased prestige amongst websites may be reason enough for one to want to push in one's fringe viewpoints in (which would hilariously damage this very prestige), but it is not reason enough for one to succeed.

How to befriend a troll[edit]

Despite the title of this section it is probably best not to befriend them into the metaphorical hospital, because then you will get indeffed too

Wait a little for them to lose interest before undoing their edits.

Oh, you mean the actual definition of the word. Unless they are of the immature variety, it won't happen. One can try to reason with them, but one will always fail.

Why I write about elements and not about myself[edit]

I present you some funny instances from the past to show you what would happen!

(Yes, I know perfectly well that it's not technically a diary.)

(Yes, one thing that is totally lost in the article is that the diary ends on March 15 with a mysterious blank entry. Presumably nothing happened again, or she was preoccupied by the clearly horrifying prospect of turning thirteen and becoming Novalis' fiancée. I suspect both happened, although given the general hilarity that was apparently going on I think we might have very different definitions of "nothing".)