[Taxacom] The 'X' factor

Lewis, Deborah A [EEOBS] dlewis at iastate.edu
Thu May 20 08:40:17 CDT 2010

For alphabetizing lists of taxa, at least in MS Word, the alphabet letter "x" is alphabetized (sending hybrids to or near the end of the list), whereas the multiplication symbol "x" is ignored. Thus my preference for the symbol in at least some situations, even if it means a few extra keystrokes.

Deb Lewis

Deborah Q. Lewis, Curator
Ada Hayden Herbarium                Phone: [1] 515-294-9499
Iowa State University               FAX:      [1] 515-294-1337
340 Bessey                          Email:   dlewis at iastate.edu
Ames, IA  50011-1020                Web:    www.herbarium.iastate.edu

-----Original Message-----
From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] On Behalf Of Curtis Clark
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 2010 12:00 AM
To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] The 'X' factor

On 5/19/2010 5:18 PM, Frederick W. Schueler wrote:
> * and more importantly, the character that one computer program
> interprets as the "multiplication thingy" will be interpreted as a black
> blot or a musical instrument by another program.

That's why there are interoperability standards. ASCII is one. Unicode 
is another. Part of interoperability is the use of default encodings, 
and the proper tagging of non-default ones.

By default, every XML file, including RDF/RSS and XHTML web pages, is 
encoded in UTF-8, one of the Unicode encodings. In such a file, × is 
always represented by the same byte sequence. In a properly made font, 
it will display either as the "times" sign, or else as the font's 
"missing character" glyph, often a box or question mark. If it displays 
as a musical instrument, something is broken, either the font or the 
program displaying the text.

Microsoft Word is always substituting "curly quotes" (“ and ”) for 
straight ASCII quotes, and m- and n-dashes (— and –) for doubled 
hyphens; these are also non-ASCII characters, as are § section marks, 
†extinct species, degree° signs, and µm. It's true that × looks like x, 
just as µ looks like u (a decade ago I saw so many "um" in scientific 
presentations that I started calling my colleagues "uicrobiologists).

In ancient times, you could type _Encelia_ x _laciniata_, and the 
typesetter for the journal would set /Encelia/ × /laciniata/. Now we can 
make our own italics. It's an artifact of technology that it's somewhat 
less easy to produce our own times signs.

Curtis Clark                  http://www.csupomona.edu/~jcclark/
Director, I&IT Web Development                   +1 909 979 6371
University Web Coordinator, Cal Poly Pomona


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