macOS tip: You can pause printer jobs

As I’ve mentioned before, my printer is not located in my office, which is inconvenient when I’m doing a lot of printing, such as producing my series of Bizarre Fact Files.

An additional time-saving technique that I use is to pause the printer, run several jobs, then go put the appropriate paper tray in place before resuming the jobs. Not having to go back and forth between my computer and printer saves me about 70 stair steps. Here’s how it works:

Before printing, open System Preferences > Printer & Scanners, then double-click the printer in the Printers list. In the window that appears, click the Pause button. Important: Do not close the window where the Pause button appears.

screen shot of printer window

Next, print the file as you normally would. When the warning message about the printer being paused appears, click “Add to Printer.” Repeat for each document that you want to add to the printer’s queue.

screen shot of paused printer window

To take this even further, I created a Keyboard Maestro macro, triggered via Alfred Remote, to unpause the queue when I’m on the other floor. You’d need both of these pieces of software — which I recommend — to do this, so I won’t dwell on the details. But, briefly, you need to trigger the macro via Keyboard Maestro’s web server. The macro source is available at this gist.

The sad death of computer magazines

I am sad that there are no more American computer magazines. See these two articles for the ugly details:

I grew up with Family Computing and K-Power, then fell in love with Mac User, Byte, ST Format, and Dr. Dobb’s Journal. As a college student, I dreamt about someday being a columnist. (And I ended up doing some ad hoc writing for several of them. It was always a treat to be published like that, but it was a side gig, so the dreams of my youth were only partially fulfilled.)

Perhaps this reveals something about the adult that I grew to be, but these are some of my fondest childhood memories. Looking over the code printed (!) in the magazine, dutifully typing it all in, then finding my mistakes and making it work taught me about computers, writing, and myself. The code was an incantation that invoked magic, and not only could I wield it, I could actually understand it through study.

Today, Readly provides me with enjoyment of the few computer magazines that remain, including HackSpace, MagPi, Retro Gamer, and Linux Format. (All of which are British, by the way. British magazine racks are outstanding.)

But I hold out hope for a retro-resurgence in the US. Even after the shocking death of Playboy, it managed to return to newsstands (in a much lamer form). Hope springs eternal.

Descaling the KitchenAid Nespresso machine

I have written about my beloved KitchenAid Nespresso Espresso machine. Here are a few more tips, but this time related to cleaning and descaling the unit.

  • The descaling information provided by Nespresso’s website isn’t very helpful. I refer to this eight-year old YouTube video every time. (I hope it stays published!)
  • However, the video has a horrible instructional flaw. Namely, you must close the pod chamber before starting the descaling process. The video does not mention this, and you’re likely to have the chamber open as you’ve naturally ejected the last pod before cleaning. Do not forget to close the chamber or you will have a considerable mess on your hands! (Yes, I speak from experience.)
  • A related discovery, thanks to the above situation, once the descaling process is started it cannot be stopped. Even if you unplug the machine, it will resume until both cycles are complete.
  • No, I can’t fathom why the video instructs you to clean and dry the water chamber before filling it with water again. Seems like busy work. This sort of thing is typical of amateur technical writing, though this is an official video, so it should be better.
  • KitchenAid recommends descaling the unit monthly! This seems excessive to me, especially given the amount of time it requires, but I guess it depends on how hard your water is.
  • Unscientifically, making a cuppa seems to go a lot quicker after the machine has been descaled. If your machine’s coffee stream reminds you of an old man during the middle of the night, consider that it might need to be descaled.

And yes, thank you, I would like another cup. Black.

Book Review: Snails and Monkey Tails

This 2022 publication by Michael Arndt is subtitled “A Visual Guide to Punctuation & Symbols.” I was initially drawn to the book by its distinctive design, which definitely makes it stand out among other reference books for writers.

gordon meyer holding book cover

But, I didn’t buy it the first time I saw it, as the bookstore only had one copy and it was rather shelf-worn. Nor did I buy the book when I saw it the second time, in a different store, as it was shelved with the design books, and I was thinking it might be more style than substance.

But, as they say, the third time is the charm, especially when yet a different book store had it in their remainders section for less than the price of a nice coffee. I figured it was worth a purchase. And boy, was I right.

It does belong in the design book section because it is a lovingly, beautifully produced publication. (All those bleeds! The typography!) But as a reference for writers and word-lovers, it really shines. There’s no usage information (aside admonishment that one exclamation point is enough), instead it consists of the fascinating history of punctuation marks.

Just a couple of the things it taught me:

  • The abbreviation “lb” for pound originates in “Libra Pondo,” where libra is “scale” in Latin, and is also related to the astrological sign of the same name, which is depicted as scales. Over time, the abbreviation was written with a tittle (a crossbar connecting the two letters), which eventually morphed into a currency symbol for the British pound (£).
  • The ampersand is a twisted rendition of “et,” which is Latin for “and.”
  • My favorite punctuation mark, the interrobang, gets only a brief mention‽ Well, partial forgiveness is granted for introducing me to the percontation point, which is a backwards question mark meant to signal a rhetorical question. I wonder why nobody uses it⸮
  • The pointing hand symbol (manicule) lives on in emoji, but was commonly used in medieval times and Renaissance. ☜
  • In addition to the period (full stop) we know today, dots shifted off the baseline were the original forms of the comma and colon.

Usually, a book like this I’ll read, take some notes, and then donate to a Little Free Library. But this one, I’m keeping. It was Unabridged Books where I finally got my copy, but you can find it at the Amazon too. Don’t be like me and procrastinate.

Salt of many flavors

This is about the furthest away from a “food blog” than you can get, so pardon the surprise diversion of topic. (Although years ago I did publish a few restaurant reviews, before the hell spawn Yelp became a big thing.)

Anyway, I have called you here today to recommend Sel Magique. It is the “the worlds finest blend of salt and herbs,” and it’s French. So you know it’s pretentiously expensive.

But it’s also very delicious. Especially with smashed Avocado. This is the sort of seasoning for which kings launched a brigade of ships to retrieve from a distant land, but you can have it delivered to your door via the Amazon. What a time to be alive!

Thanks to friend and Realtor Brian Loomis for pointing my taste buds in this direction.