Boolean Operations

For anyone who uses the internet, Boolean operations are part of our everyday existence: they are, by default, at work in all of your searches. And because they are latent and not manifest and you don’t know you are using them, the search engines are using them in a way that gives you the most results for your search, leaving the sorting and evaluating of results to you. In most cases, that means you scan through pages of search results in search of results worth your time, OR, you only look at the first one or two pages of not-very-useful results and reinforce the business plans of hundreds of businesses built around expiating search engine results. (The made search engine optimization an acronym [SEO] for a reason: it’s done so often.)

But what if Boolean operators were more easily understood? Andy Finnell wrote about Boolean operators in terms of graphics, but his graphical illustrators actually make Boolean operations more understandable to a larger audience.

*Note: I have reproduced Finnell’s table here, and re-used his graphics, so as not to add undue traffic to his website. The graphics below are his originals. I hope in time to expand this post a bit and to re-do the graphics to make them more in keeping with gray-ness of this site.*


Union (logical “or”)
Intersection (logical “and”)
Join (Exclusive “or”: written “EOR”)

Using Google Books to Search a Book I Own.

Oh, the irony, but also the utility. I recently recalled that somewhere in my college years I had come across a passage in a text that gave a lovely, elaborate definition of irony versus satire. In my memory, it was quadripartite and involved satire, irony, sarcasm, and a fourth term. It was, I swore, in Roger Shattuck’s _The Banquet Years_. I found my copy, yellowed and hauntingly close to saw dust after all these years and flipped through it, hoping some bit of juvenile marginalia would quicken my search.

No such luck. I did not mark up my books in my youth, apparently. And if I made a note of it in a notebook somewhere, those notes are long gone or are practically unsearchable — another reason why I prefer to keep most of my notes in _MacJournal_, where they are all searchable.[^1]

With no way to discover if Shattuck’s book was indeed the source of the definition that I remembered outside of re-reading the book itself, I turned to a resource I have used before for books I do not own: *Google Books*. I found “their” copy of [_The Banquet Years_]( (link is to Google Books version) and then searched inside of it for satire:

Google Books Search

How amazing! I now have three pages at which to look to see if they hold the beloved definition of my youth.

There is an unhappy ending to this story, alas: the definition in Shattuck is not what I remembered, but I include it here for those readers who have followed this tale to its melancholy end:

> Humor describes the world exhaustively and scientifically *just as it is*, as if that were the way things should be. Irony haughtily describes the world as it should be, as if that were just the way things are. Bergson calls them the two aspects of satire. (32)

[^1]: My current setup in MacJournal is to keep two journals, one public and one private. The public journal feeds this blog. MacJournal still has a few more steps to take to be a great blogging application — it doesn’t update entries that you have changed via other means, for instance — but it’s good enough for now and it lets me have one place to go to when I need to search through my notes. That’s nice.

Playing with Wolfram Alpha

I decided to play a bit with Wolfram Alpha. If I day traded, it would be a terrific resource. So far, that’s the only thing I have tried that has given me results that I knew what to do with. Now, it could very well be that WA is giving me results that are smarter than I am…

Here’s a [trial search](

Clicking on the link is just like visiting WA and typing in:

`caterpillar cummins john deere`

(Searching for makers of heavy equipment was the first thing that came to my mind.)