The art of dottage


My favourite class this semester is Cataloguing, which is either a very sad statement on my other courses or a very odd statement on my personality. In truth, it's a combination of both. Two weeks ago, we dealt with Dewey. I like Dewey. It makes sense. You can unravel the pieces. You can have numbers with fifteen digits beyond the decimal. Ok, that last part is one of the few negative aspects of Dewey.

This week, we went over Library of Congress Classification. I'm less thrilled by it, mostly because it's not a simple matter of memorizing facets. You actually have to use the tools. Where's the fun in that?

LCC did, however, spark a great discussion. The prof had given some examples in his slides. In one, a dot before a topical Cutter was missing (this is probably meaningless to non-librarians, suffice it to say there appeared to be an atypical omission of a period). Being the nudge that I am, I asked him about this. I really like this prof, but communication is sometimes sketchy, as English isn't his first language. So a debate ensued amongst the class. We started out a cross purposes because I called the dot a decimal, which is problematic because LCC isn't a decimal classification system. When we got that sorted out, we learned that the dot is aesthetic and not necessary, except when it is. The rules for this were decidedly vague. Basically, we learned to dot if told to and not to dot if told to. So much for "teaching us correct principles".

All this reminded me of another time I asked a question that sparked this much controversy. We were studying Boolean logic. We covered the standard AND, OR, NOT. I wanted to know if there were an operator that would exclude the overlap, giving us everything outside the vesica piscis. So, if you wanted everything that had pigs and everything that had swine but not things that had swine AND pigs. A discussion followed about such not being possible in a single operator (but possible by combining two NOTs with an AND), sprinkled with a whole a lot of confusion. The prof settled it finally by telling us "It's called Boolean logic." Yeah, but that's disspointing.

In fact, there is such an operator. It's the XOR one. Ha! Now if only I could think of a use for it...


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