I'm just this blokeEdit

I love Baroque and world fusion music; the sunlight of a late afternoon in spring; making pretty mathematical pictures.

I am afflicted (to varying degrees) with depression, insomnia, underemployment, and Rapture of the Future; allergic to perfumes, pollen, authority and good advice.

I was once fluent in Esperanto, French and Tourist Italian. I can also count to ten in Spanish, Latin, German, Russian, Japanese, Elvish; and can recite the alphabet in Greek and Hebrew.

I attended University Laboratory High School of Urbana, Illinois, but have not won a Nobel, Nebula, Pulitzer or Ig Nobel Prize. I do have two Knuth reward checks.

According to one who keeps track of such things, I was the first Libertarian in California to be endorsed for partisan office (Assembly) by a major daily newspaper (the San Francisco Examiner before Hearst Corporation sold it). This happened during the newspaper strike of 1994.

the handleEdit

Tamfang, in case you were wondering, is intended as Elvish for copper beard.

The first element is attested (so far as I know) only in a footnote to an early version of The Chaining of Melko; but the later canonical word for copper is less euphonious, so I choose to assume that a cognate of tambe survived east of the Misty Mountains.

I may someday have to change it to Nimfang.

Recently (February 2020) someone used TAMFANG for "Tesla Amazon Microsoft Facebook Apple Netflix Google", but it wasn't me.


As of 2019 November 18 I had made 25741 edits to articles, median change -3 bytes, total -1593631.


User:Tamfang/blazons (in sporadic progress) is a collection of blazons of "good" coats of arms – consistent with my notions of heraldic style – found in Wikipedia, so that I can find them when I want an illustration of a given feature.

User:Tamfang/QC cast is a count of appearances of each character (above a threshold) in Questionable Content, started in response to a dispute about who are the "major" characters worth listing in the article.

User:Tamfang/Stuart is a list of legitimate descendants of King James VI&I who were alive at some point between the flight of James II (1688) and the death of Queen Anne (1714), in the normal order of succession. See Act of Settlement 1701 for context. I chose those dates as convenient boundaries to the succession crisis.

good writingEdit

Anyone who aspires to write well could do worse than to read A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. You need not agree with all of its recommendations (I don't) but the core principles are sound:

  • Preserve useful distinctions between words.
  • Structure your sentences so that they resist misunderstanding.
  • Resist the temptation to show off with fancy synonyms.

(Caveat: I have not looked at the editions of 1996 or later.)

the diacritics controversyEdit

I'm a member of the vast majority of English-speakers who don't understand (for example) Czech; but I do know the difference between ‹c› and ‹č› and I prefer to know which it is so that I have a chance of pronouncing it less incorrectly. There presumably exist readers who can say the same of Vietnamese, and I want them to have the same benefit even if the diacritics are meaningless to me; I am not harmed by seeing the funny squiggles, now that Unicode fonts are generally available. If Wikipedia excluded everything that a substantial number of English-speakers don't understand, I wouldn't bother with it.

pet peevesEdit

This list is potentially endless, but it's my peeves, not yours.

  • A framistan is a term that refers to ... — Too many articles begin like that! A name refers to a thing, but a thing is not its name and does not refer to itself; it is itself. See WP:REFER.
  • the fact that — A sentence containing this phrase can nearly always be made shorter and clearer.
  • as such is rarely used correctly; it is not a full synonym of thus or therefore. Correct: I am an adult citizen and as such [i.e., as an adult citizen] I have a right to vote.
  • in terms of — just don't, okay? It has a meaning in the hard sciences, but popularly it seems to mean "I can't be bothered to choose a preposition."
  • refer to and describe are not synonyms. To refer to X as Z is to use Z as a substitute reference for X; this may implicitly describe X as Z, as in:
You can vote for me, or you can vote for a crook.
but the relation is not symmetric. This sentence:
That movie with Rick and Ilsa is the best movie ever!
refers to Casablanca as "that movie with Rick and Ilsa" and describes it as "the best movie ever".
  • comprise and compose are (approximately) reciprocal, not synonyms. New York City is composed of five boroughs; New York City comprises five boroughs. See also User:Giraffedata/comprised of.
  • false precision — Don't write $176 billion as $176,000,000,000.00; even if each of those zeroes is accurate (which is unlikely), it does the reader no good to have to count them.
    • Percentage notation is generally not called for if you're talking about fewer than 100 of something. If you say fifty percent when you mean half, you're asking the audience to do extra mental work for no benefit.
    • Similarly, is increased 1900% more informative than increased twentyfold ?
  • seven-year anniversary — The correct phrase is seventh anniversary. An anniversary is when the year (anno) completes a turn (versu). It follows that there cannot be a six-month anniversary; call it a sixth mensiversary (or first semi-anniversary) if you don't mind being suspected of cleverness.
    • How come you never hear of a 21-year birthday?
  • triangular-shaped — Is there any other way to be triangular?
  • The X is just that: a X. Thank you for reminding us what that means; we might have forgotten it while processing the phrase "is just that".
  • book attribution — a matter of style.
In “Only the Paranoid Survive”, Dr Grove’s bestselling book, he argues ....
This could sometimes mean that someone else (perhaps named in the preceding sentence) argues, in a book edited by Grove. Where someone is mentioned by name and by a pronoun, the explicit name ought to be in the most prominent position, namely (if possible) the subject of the sentence. I'd make it:
In his bestselling book "Only the Paranoid Survive", Dr Grove argues ....
  • decided to and managed to can usually be omitted without changing meaning. An exception: where there was a significant delay between the decision and the action: It was then that X decided to Z at the next opportunity.
    • Similarly, let's not mention announcements that something was about to happen, if it has already happened.
  • Some of the notable examples include ... — What does that mean exactly? Of those notable examples that include the items listed, does each one include them? Do some other notable examples also include them? Either drop some of or change include to are.
  • A suspect is a known person who is suspected of an act. The word should not be used for the unknown person who definitely did the act; to conflate the two is to empower the police to declare you guilty.
  • contemporary means of the same time; to use it as a synonym for modern or recent invites ambiguity.
  • A crucifix is something (e.g. an enemy of the state) affixed to a cross, not the cross itself; thus an unoccupied cross, no matter how ornate, is not a crucifix.
  • A tragedy, in classical theatre, is a play in which a hero is ruined by his own flaws. I don't insist on such a narrow definition, but let's confine the words tragedy and tragic to consequences of human error. Other words like sorrow and misfortune and disaster are available for premeditated murder and act of god.
  • late 1960s and early 1970s — Why not around 1970 ?
  • X is (not) worth Y — Am I alone in thinking the cost is worth the benefit makes no sense?
  • forego (precede) ≠ forgo (do without, give up). The prefix fore– as in forearm, forebear ['ancestor'], foreboding, forecast, forehead, forewarn means, as you'd expect, 'before' in some sense: early or frontward. The prefix for– as in forbear ['refrain'], forbid, forfeit, forfend, forget, forlorn, forsake, forswear means 'away' or 'without'. (Exceptions to the spelling rule include forward.) The word forego is used most often in foregoing meaning 'what has already been said', and in the fixed idiom foregone conclusion meaning something that has effectively been determined in advance.
  • his fellow teammates — Redundant at best; omit fellow, or replace teammates with the name of the team (his fellow Dodgers). Taken literally it seems to include anyone who is anyone's teammate, not only his.
  • on a . . . basis — What's the worst that can happen if you drop these words? You'll probably have to change an adjective to an adverb.
  • as with — Could the main clause be reworded so that with [subject] makes sense? If not, stick with like. (I imagine that people who misuse as with do it because they were scolded about misusing like; compare . . . and I.)
  • parentheses and punctuation — A sentence containing "( )" should be phrased and punctuated in such a way that if the parenthesis is removed, or the arcs are replaced by a pair of commata, it's still a meaningful and grammatical sentence. A parenthesized phrase within a sentence does not get its own sentence capital. It is not followed by a comma, unless a comma would be required if the parenthetical insertion were absent.
My friend Barry (who married an architect) said the other day ...
My friend Barry (who has a funny beard), on his way to lunch, suddenly remembered ...
Definitely don't give the parenthesis its own capital and stop, unless it is an independent sentence; i.e., don't do this:
My friend Barry (Who married an architect.) said ...
  • [Artist]'s final [work] — final connotes, to me at least, that [Artist] intended it to be the last, rather than that it's the last because [Artist] died soon after making it. What's wrong with last ? Would you describe [Artist]'s first work as initial ?
  • reticent means unwilling to speak; it's cognate to tacit. Don't use it as an elegant synonym for reluctant.
  • anticipate has twice as many syllables as expect or predict, so it's obviously preferable, unless one wishes to reserve anticipate for the sense 'act ahead of'.
  • If you prefer in-depth discussion and on-the-job training and in-vitro fertilization to discussion in depth, training on the job, fertilization in vitro, go speak German already. Or Japanese, I guess.

I made theseEdit

made with PythonEdit

See my page on Commons.

made with PovrayEdit

made with JennEdit


I'm sometimes surprised at what gets noticed. Such is the reward of the Sloth!

for assuming good faith. ([1]) —D-Rock (talk) 06:08, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
  The Goat Star
For contributions to Caprinae Solidarius ([2])

Lance Corporal William Windsor salutes you!

 Chzz  ►  22:09, 2 June 2009 (UTC)

  The Mullet Pierced
Truly miscellanous, contributions to lots of pages, helping others with this regard, doing leg work. (About time.)- Jarry1250 [ humourousdiscuss ] 10:20, 4 July 2009 (UTC)
  The Copyeditor's Barnstar
For cleaning up after me at Papal conclave. ([3]) KTC (talk) 05:28, 29 June 2012 (UTC)
  The Barnstar of Diligence
For all your edits to Poland–Russia border. Legolover26 (talk) 15:58, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
  The Copyeditor's Barnstar
Thanks for copy-editing work here Tito Dutta (talk) 08:43, 18 October 2012 (UTC)
  The Surreal Barnstar
For providing a unique personal voice in answers to many Reference Desk queries. RomanSpa (talk) 09:18, 10 July 2014 (UTC)
  The Reference Desk Barnstar
Thanks for answering my font size question on the Mathematics Reference desk! --Aabicus (talk) 17:34, 9 September 2020 (UTC)