Generating Boilerplate Content within Word

Word 2013

Perhaps you’ve been in this situation: Need to work on the formatting of a document, but the author hasn’t provided the text yet. What you really need is some sample text in your Word document, but you don’t want to go out and find some text online, possibly for fear of getting interested in some new topic. (Or is that just me?)

Microsoft Word actually has a function just for this purpose. Actually, I lie, it has two functions just for this purpose.

To see this in action, fire up Word, open up a new document and type (without the quote marks, of course) “=lorem(5,8)” and then hit Enter. You should be looking at five paragraphs of eight sentences each, filled with that psuedo-Latin “Lorem ipsum” text. Naturally you can change the numbers in that, with the first controlling number of paragraphs and the second controlling number of sentences, so “=lorem(71,3)” would result in many short paragraphs.

But what if you want some boilerplate text, but want something that will be readable English? In that case, type in “=rand(5,3)” (or whatever numbers of paragraphs and sentences you want), and hit Enter. Text will appear, drawn from Microsoft help files. (At one time it used to iterate “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” But this changed to somewhat meaningful text around Word 2007.)

So there you have it, two functions to generate some throw-away text. Now you can get to testing font styles, preparing the locations of images, anything else to beautify the document, all without waiting for the author to get the text to you.

New Faculty Technology-related Cheat Sheet

Palomar logo 200x200

One frustration for new faculty here at Palomar is simply remembering which systems are supported by which departments, and where the various resources are. (Honestly, that’s pretty frustrating for ME still, as I approach two decades at Palomar.) So here’s a short cheat sheet to answer the question “who you gonna’ call?” Hint: the answer, sadly, is not “Ghostbusters.”

Palomar E-mail will take you to a webmail interface for Palomar’s Exchange email system. Also, knowing we use Exchange may help you in configuring a mobile device to check your Palomar email.

Faculty eServices will take you to the faculty login screen for the eServices enrollment system. Given that the actual address of that page is quite lengthy, you may just want to go to the main Palomar web site, click eServices, then click the Faculty tab.

Both email and eServices are supported by the Information Services department. They also do the support on the office desktop computers and classroom workstations and projectors. You can reach the Information Services helpdesk by email at, or by phoning X2140 on campus.

Blackboard will take you to Palomar’s course management system. Alternately, if you’re putting the address in print, you may want to put

WordPress will allow you to log into the Palomar WordPress system, to make changes to your own website on our servers. If you’ve never logged in before, simply logging in will create a site for you.

Both Blackboard and WordPress are supported by the Academic Technology department. We also have two classroom computer labs which can be reserved for classes to use, as well as a variety of other services. You can reach Academic Technology using the ATRC helpdesk, by emailing, or by phoning X2862 on campus.

Disability Resource Center will take you to information, mostly geared towards students, on what accommodations may be made for students with disabilities. So should you have students who need it, you can contact our experts in the DRC by phoning X2375 on campus.

Hey, worst case scenario, if you don’t know who to ask for help with a particular problem… ask anyone. If nothing else, we should all be able to point you in the right direction to get whatever help you need.

World War II on the iPad


A search on World War II (world war ii, world war 2, ww2, etc.) at the app store will yield scores of apps over several app categories, only two of which, in my opinion, are worthwhile.

First the categories:  By far the category leader is games.  You will find game titles like “World Conqueror,” “Little Commander,” “Fighter Pilot Killer Air Combat,” “World War 2 Assault,” “Commando Global Assassin,” and on and on.  Stop wasting time and money on this nonsense.  Sit down with your kids and explain why war, and especially this cataclysmic war that cost the lives of over 60,000,000 people, is not a game.  After recently completing Rick Atkinson’s Liberation trilogy, I have been reawakened to this truth.

A second, less prominent category is the infotainment app that poses as free, but is really just a leader to guide you into in-app purchases.  Many titles by TuAbogado publishers seem to fall in this category (“World War II, 1939-45 Lite,” “World War II Special 2.0,” “Great World War II Songs,” and so on).  You can’t blame them for trying, and with these apps (if you wish to clutter up your iPad with them) will give you a taste of War reference materials but want to charge you for more.  It is not a marketing ploy that I favor, and having sampled some of these apps the quality does not seem to merit the purchase.  You may disagree.

A third category of app is aimed at the military history hobbyist: “World War II Posters,” Aircraft of World War II,” World War II Warships Bible,” “WW2 Weapons,” etc.  The appeal of these is narrow, of course, and has more to do with stamp collecting than the war.

A fourth category is books and/or reference.  These are the ones in my opinion are generally worthwhile.  I found several audiobooks from Blackstone Audio, priced at $9.99, which a student of the war would want to own:  Shirer The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Winters’ Beyond Band of Brothers, interestingly C. S. Lewis’ war sermons The Weight of Glory, Axelrod’s Patton, and several others, all priced at $9.99.  Then again, if you are a student of the war you probably already own and have read (or listened to) these volumes.

What the iPad uniquely brings to the study of the war is a multimedia overview that facilitates comprehension of the grand movement of the war, with exemplary drill-downs.  I found two apps that fit this description, one good World War II Interactive ($4.99), and one even better, Timeline WW2 with Robert MacNeil ($13.99).

 World War II Interactive

The app’s table of contents scrolls across the bottom of the screen, and is divided into nine major sections:

  1. Roots of the War
  2. The War Erupts
  3. German Blitzkrieg
  4. The War Spreads
  5. Axis Advance Stalls
  6. The Tide Turns
  7. The Axis in Retreat
  8. Victory for Allies
  9. Aftermath
Intro Screen
Size reduced to fit blog post

Each major section is broken into a number of sub-sections.  The War Erupts, for example, contains the sub-heads:

  1. Invasion of Poland
  2. Phoney War
  3. Battle of the Atlantic
  4. Winter War

with Events, Timeline and Map views:

The War Erupts screen

Each of these sub-heads, when entered, contains a fact column (When, Where, Who, Result); an introductory text containing links to prominent facts or personages, which in turn pop-up info-boxes about the event or personage (Winter War, for example, contains links to Joseph Stalin and the Moscow Peace Treaty); and some embedded multimedia, mostly vintage photos but some containing video or audio.

Winter War

The text is all licensed via Wikipedia and the multimedia all seems to be creative commons or public domain, much from Wikipedia, but some from other sources, like Library of Congress or Russian and German libraries.

What’s good about it is the succinct introduction, with graphics, to the events of the war.  It would be a great introduction for war history novices.

What’s bad about it is that the text and images cannot be enlarged, and therefore presents barriers to adpative needs users.  The level is, as I say, elementary, but that is probably a virtue when introducing someone to the history of the war.

Timeline World War 2 with Robert MacNeil

The level of detail and amount of content in this app puts the other to shame.  It costs nearly three times as much, but that’s still only $13.99.  Come on, you probably spend more than that at Starbucks on the way in to work.  What makes it truly valuable is the large amount of video content packaged in this elegant interface, which contain the original soundtracks and new, interpretive soundtracks recorded by MacNeil.  I would take the space to describe it all, but the app producers have already done so with this really helpful video by Robert Macneil.  Watch.

While no space is allocated to the roots of the war or the aftermath contexts, as in the app described above (we begin on September 1, 1939 with the invasion of Poland and end on September 2, 1945 with the surrender of Japan) the stunning level of detail between the two events makes up for it, not to mention the ability to filter on various topics (Battles, Key Events, Location, Mode of War, Nationality, etc.) and a truly useful interactive map.

WW2 Timeline 1942 with Filter Menu

All multimedia can be played full screen, or photos can all be pinch enlarged, as can the maps.  Text on individual documents cannot be enlarged, but most of it is very legible (except to the vision impaired) because it is usually presented as fixed font courier type, as if rendered on a period Underwood typewriter  (Young people:  a typewriter was similar to our current day keyboards, having a more or less similar keypad layout, but when you pressed a key a mechanical metal typeface on a hinged arm ascended to strike an inked ribbon and left the impression of a letter of the alphabet or special symbol on paper.  Yes, I know.  There were actually jobs for people who did nothing but type.  They were called typists, and a group was called a typing pool).

Text is also presented in many cases as telegrams with map links.  (Young people:  don’t ask.  The last telegram ever will be sent next month in India.  Read this for more).


I especially like the alternate narratives for the many videos.  The original is extraordinarily valuable, and then the MacNeil narrative adds historical perspective.

Audio Choice

In fact, since this app is timeline and document based, the MacNeil narratives help to give it a larger consistency than it would otherwise have.

The maps are useful, but they are all geo-political maps that do not contain topographic features.  In war, rivers, mountains, ravines, and roads are all important, and there is not a hint of those on the maps.  Integration with Google Earth, or supplying topographic details would be very useful.  Nevertheless, because of the enormous detail, and great multimedia effects, this app is a jewel for the price.

Beethoven 9


Touch Press is the most innovative, creative, even transformational publisher of iPad apps in the sciences and humanities today.  They have collaborated with Deutsche Grammophon to bring us, at only $13.99, a splendid treatment of Beethoven’s 9th symphony, featuring in-full four classic recordings of the work: 1958 Berlin Philharmoniker conducted by Ferenc Fricsay, 1962 Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by the great Herbert Von Karajan, 1979 Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Leonard Bernstein (including a filmed performance), and 1992 Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique on period instruments conducted by John Eliot Gardiner.  For those familiar with Touch Press’s “The Orchestra” app, this Beethoven app will be familiar territory.  For those who are not, experiencing this app will be astounding.

Before I launch into the review, watch this brief Vimeo video to get a feel for the work.

The app is advertised as free at the app store, but the free version is just a teaser, with 2 minutes of audio per recording.  The in-app purchase price is $13.99, and worth every penny of it.  (Note to blockhead complainers who have reviewed the app at itunes:  What?  Did you think you were going to get four great recordings (worth a cumulative $69.96 at Amazon), the printed score, an analysis by D. O. Norris, and lots of video interviews with the greatest musicians on the planet, not to mention the programming it took to synchronize it all, for free?  What country did you grow up in?  At $13.99 it’s a steal, so get over it and pay the publishers for their efforts).

The Home Screen

The Home screen acts as menu to the various parts of the app, of course (illustrated below—all graphics have been reduced to fit the blog margins below, and do not represent the quality available in the app).

Home Screen

Tapping on the photo of any of the conductors will bring one to a screen where (to start with) a curated score (showing select instruments playing, rather than all instruments) crawls in sync across the bottom half of the screen while icons for all four conductors remains in the upper left—allowing the listener to switch between recordings as the score moves—and next to the conductor icons there is a seating chart of the orchestra, comprised of little colored discs, that light up when the instruments play.  This latter device is described as a “mesmeric Beatmap” by the publisher’s press release, and I have to believe it is popular with those who cannot read music, judging by its prominence, but fortunately you can exchange it with either a detailed written analysis of the passage being played, or in the case of the Bernstein recording, a video of the Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.  All synchronized with the score, of course.  If you are not apt to switch between recordings, or take advantage of the other media available at the top of the screen, you can expand the score to fill the entire screen.  (I have added labels to the screenshot below).

Play Screen with labels

What I have called the “instrumental map” in the illustration above is sort of an orchestal tab arrangement, if you will, that displays when instruments (or voices) are performing with dashes to indicate duration and tone, included, one supposes, for non-musicians.

If you do not have headphones (or earbuds) plugged into the audio port when you start the app, it will warn you that they are required for an acceptable audio experience, which is certainly true.  Apple’s inexplicably poor external speaker choice on the iPad means that any serious music listening must be done with headphones.


If you tap “Insights” from the home screen you will be taken to a screen from which you can tap a face to hear the comments of the musical expert, or a series of comments from various experts grouped by topic; part of the “two hours of specially exclusive interviews” included in the app.


Most of these interviews are specific to the work, sometimes in enormous technical detail, but the Bernstein interview (if you are too young to have experienced Bernstein as a living cultural presence you have missed a lot) might serve as an impassioned introduction to a Western humanities course.  The Dudamel interviews are in Spanish, the Helbig, Kussner, and Mayer interviews are in German, and the Ott interviews are in Japanese, all with English subtitles.  My favorite is the Sarah Willis interviews, where she plays horn, demonstrating the practical musical difficulties that the 9th poses for her instrument, and particularly for players on the period horns.

The Story

The section titled “The Story” is a longish essay by David Owen Norris whose major sections are “A Brief History of Beethoven,” “Beethoven’s Ninth in Context,” “Listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony,” and “The Performance and Synchronised Score.”

The Story

The most interesting passage of the essay describes how the Royal Philharmonic Society, having commissioned the work, first performed it in Beethoven’s absence.

Sir George Smart valiantly conducted a work of which he understood little.  One critic suggested, in effect, that what Beethoven needed was a decent editor.  ‘We must express our hope that hits new work of the great Beethoven may be put into a produceable form, that the repetitions may be omitted, and the chorus removed altogether.  The Symphony will then be heard with unmixed pleasure, and the reputation of its author will, if possible, be further augmented.’  It’s interesting to think that it’s the long shadow of Beethoven that is perhaps the chief reason that composers, unlike novelists and playwrights, are not normally subjected to editorial interference.

All fascinating, while the essay does a good job of initiating those unfamiliar with Beethoven’s career in general, and the career of the 9th in particular.  The section on “Listening to Beethoven’s 9th Symphony” is especially notable for its use of inline music (symbolized by an inline “play” symbol, that actually plays the musical idea being discussed.

The passage-by-passage analysis of the piece as it plays is completely different than this essay, and is musically technical.  For example “The woodwind hold on the D minor chord, and the strings have no chance to insert the dominant chord that would have hit the nail on the head and made a proper perfect cadence.”  And so on.  As I say, there are various features included to make the performance appealing to non-music readers and non-musicians, but these will be the app’s primary audience.

 The Music

The most powerful and precise performance is conducted by Karajan, with dependable precision, but the most interesting is the Gardiner version played on period pieces—meaning valveless horns, gut strings, and a slightly lower tuning, which can be a minor distraction when switching between performances on the go.  The score is the famous “Urtext” of Jonathan Del Mar, a story in itself, and remarkably accessible as part of the app.

In the interests of honesty I have to say that I am not a fan of Beethoven’s symphonic works (though am very much a fan of some of the piano sonatas and string quartets).  Terms like “swagger,” “gaseous bloat,” and “misty German romanticism” come to mind when considering the German symphonic form in general and Beethoven and Schiller in particular.  Nevertheless, you have to admire the self consistency, inventiveness, and striking originality of Beethoven, even if it is not to my particular taste.  This app makes it all accessible in a unique way that breeds admiration, if not love.

To me the fugue in movement 2 and the lyricism of the Adagio movement are the most interesting parts of the work.  The overheated movement 1 and the Schiller choral Ode that wraps it up lead, historically, to those awful Wagner operas that I would rather not even think about.  On the other hand, I’m sure I sound an awful lot like the early English critic quoted above, who suggested a sweeping edit, so the piece could be heard with “unmixed pleasure.”  Such is taste.  If yours tends to Beethoven, or even if it does not, you will find a lot to like in this app.  And in a academic setting, that’s pretty much the point.  It makes the work, undoubtedly a monument of Western culture, more accessible than it has ever been for appreciation and comment.


As indicated above, this is a terrific app, and shows, as the other great Touch Press apps do, the potential for the iPad as a publishing platform.  I could not recommend it more highly.

Have iPad, Will Travel

vacation car

I’ve just got back into the office today, after taking a nearly five week vacation. (Yes, I really can accumulate a LOT of vacation time.) I lumped in a good deal of time staying around home, taking care of yardwork and such, and spending quality family time too. However, I also took a thirteen day road trip out to Saint Louis alone, and that made for an interesting experience that I wished to share.

Preparing for my trip, I made what is for me a momentous decision: I would not bring a laptop with me on my travels.

I’ve lugged laptops with me on flights before, so deciding against bringing a portable computer with me on a car trip where space was not at a premium was very out of the ordinary. I wanted to see if I could live entirely out of my smart phone and iPad. Short answer? Yes, I could, and I felt good about the experience.

Naturally I didn’t have much call for computing resources on the three days drive out to Missouri, nor on the two days drive home from there. But each night in my hotels during the trip, wireless network was no problem, and my iPad was fully able to keep me in touch with my personal email, Facebook news, Twitter feed, and even work emails. (When I got back to the office this morning, I actually had zero unread messages. How sad is that? I hope you don’t let work eat up your off time attention as much as I do.)

My smart phone did a bang-up job of keeping me in touch with my family on my travels as well. I’m currently using Sprint, and with the exception of right around the border of Arizona and New Mexico on the I-40, I always had good cell coverage. And, as I said, wireless network in the actual hotels, as well as the convention center I visited during my stay in Saint Louis, was plentiful and free.

The only thing that didn’t work perfectly for me was typing on the iPad. This is no surprise, as I did not bring a bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case – I was just using the iPad itself. Even then, the virtual keyboard was sufficient for the amount of typing I did need. However, if I’d been in the position of doing this over again, I think I may have gone ahead and used a keyboard case.

Now, why do I think this is worth sharing with the faculty here? Well, I’ve now vaulted from the ranks of “it should work okay” to “it works just fine” when talking about travel without a laptop. And, with the inline Assignment grading available soon in Blackboard, I could even have been marking up student papers if I’d needed to. (Sadly, the Blackboard Grade Center still does not play nice with tablet browsers, on either the iPad or other devices. That problem point really has to do with the way the independently scrollable grade grid is nested within a scrollable web page, and that problem does still remain.) Recent improvements in the way the iPad allows browser access to files in Dropbox even allow for uploading content if needed… although if I truly needed to compose a new document on my travels, I’d have stopped by a hotel business center to use a real computer for that part of the work. (However, I did use the Scanner Pro app on the iPad to scan to PDF my receipts, which worked very well. Direct upload the PDFs to Dropbox automatically, and I didn’t need to keep the paper receipts around cluttering up my car.)

So if you’re contemplating a trip this summer, and trying to decide if you need to bring your laptop or if you can just get away with an iPad… leave the laptop. I did, and it was marvelous.