the commuter's eye

Displaying PDF pages like a book (or magazine)

Posted in how tos by martzipan on October 23, 2015

This evening I’ve (re-)made a marvelous discovery. I’ve been using Adobe Acrobat for about ten or twelve years by know, and – at least in theory – I’m supposed to be some sort of guru. However, since the days when I was working in the publishing business are long gone, I’ve somewhat forgotten how to make PDFs display like books.

To be more specific, books written and printed in Europe and Americas always start with a right-hand or odd page after the cover. The second page is always a left-hand or even page, the third is odd again and so on.

The problem is that when you normally open a PDF and choose to display it in a Two Page View or a Two Page Scrolling View in Acrobat, it nudges the first page of the document to the left, transforming it into a left-hand/even page, as shown in the screenshot below:

Two Pages View Continuous - First page nudged to left

Two Pages View Continuous – First page nudged to left

If you have a document consisting mostly of text, it shouldn’t normally bother you too much, unless you have some obsessive-compulsive thing for page numbers that display on the inside of the page rather than on the outside, as it would normally be.

However, when dealing with illustrated content that spreads on two pages – like in magazines, for instance – things are a bit nasty, because the left half of your photo would get on the right page, and the right half on the next left page, as shown below:

Left pages go right, and right goes left, messing the two-page illustration.

Left pages go right, and right pages go left, messing the two-page illustration.

Or, the idea is to display them side by side, like this:

Two-page illustration properly displayed - even goes left, and odd goes right.

Two-page illustration properly displayed – even goes left, and odd goes right.

The solution would be to tell Acrobat to put the first page back in its place, on the right. Luckily, someone from Adobe has thought about the obsessive-compulsive readers and the illustration amateurs and came up with a solution.

So, to display the pages properly, choose from the main menu: View > Page Display > Show Cover Page in Two Page View, as shown below:

Choosing to show a Cover Page in Acrobat from the View menu

Choosing to show a Cover Page in Acrobat from the View menu

When applied to our first example, the result in the Two Page View should be something like this, with the cover – in this case – displayed all by itself on the right side (that is where the cover of your printed version of the magazine would actually be):

Magazine Cover Page properly displayed

Magazine Cover Page properly displayed

Highlighting Deadlines in Excel with Conditional Formatting

Posted in help, how tos by martzipan on August 6, 2014

The problem is extremely simple, yet somewhat arcane with Excel. Basically, I want Excel to highlight my dates when a deadline approaches, like a color-codified countdown. The logic behind is:

If the deadline:

  • has passed, then do nothing
  • is two weeks from now, then highlight it in red
  • is two or three weeks from now, then highlight it in yellow
  • is three weeks or more from now, then highlight it in green.

In Excelish, this translates as:

IF cell Value IS less than     =TODAY()+0                 THEN No Format

IF cell Value IS between       =TODAY()+0 AND =TODAY()+14 THEN Format Red

IF cell Value IS between       =TODAY()+15 AND =TODAY()+21 THEN Format Yellow

IF cell Value IS greater than   =TODAY()+22                 THEN Format Green

Out of SLA

Out of SLA

The result looks like this:

Results Highlight

Results Highlight

on good wording

Posted in how tos, on wording and writing by martzipan on July 27, 2011

a funny and edifying excerpt from doug newsom and jim haynes’ public relations writing. form & style, 8th edition, thomson wadsworth, 2008, p. 112

Some writers can’t resist filling their prose with important-sounding phrases like “integrated conceptual analysis” or similar verbose nonsense. At least twice in every sentence they use words ending in -ment, -any, -ial, -ization, -action and -ability. Avoid such words when you can. They make reading more difficult and diminish the forcefulness of your statement. As public relations writer Alden S. Wood asks, who would have responded to these words?

Retain your earth! Abstain from engagement in interpersonal ballistic relationships unless these relationships are initiated by the power incumbents. If, however, it becomes apparent that overt hostile interaction is to commence, let this commencement have its genesis in this geopolitical region.

The average sentence length in this paragraph is less than 14 words. But the words are so foggy that the meaning is completely lost. Fortunately, Captain John Parker didn’t talk like that. Instead he uttered the famous command, “Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon. But if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.”

how to get in and around paris the economic way

Posted in cityscapes, how tos, trips by martzipan on July 15, 2011

a quick guide to travelling fast and cheap

as three of my friends asked me in less than two days how could they get to paris fast and cheap, i thought that it would be a good idea to post something about it for further reference for anyone who might ask.

first of all, it depends on where you come from. second, it matters a lot if you can fly or not.

if you do come from the western side of the europe, it could be much easier to get in paris by train. from london, amsterdam, brussels, cologne and other cities you can get to paris by high speed trains in less than three and a half hours. booking in advance on can save you a great deal of money (sometimes you get to pay less than you would normally do for a plane ticket) and time (no 3-hrs before flight check-in and stuff). to give you an example, for one-way ticket to amsterdam, booked a month in advance, i paid about 50 EUR (the trip took 3:20 hrs, from paris nord station to amsterdam centraal).

however, if you plan your trip from the central and eastern side of the old continent, then you should probably check the low cost air operators, as this is the fastest and cheapest way to get in paris. they run pretty much the same type of planes as major carriers (i.e. airbus a318, 319, 320 or boeings – at least the two companies i frequently fly with from bucharest to paris and vicevera), they ask you to print your own ticket and they let you carry as many pieces of 32-kilos of checked-in luggage as you want, if you pay 15-20 EUR/bag. they don’t give you taste-like-plastic-food or any beverage for free, but you can buy stuff to eat or drink while on board (a bit expensive, true, but you can get a workaround by making your own toast sandwich at home or bringing a few packs of crackers). as always, as usual, booking in advance is crucial, so you may want to check their web sites at least a month before your trip, although the prices you get for last minute bookings are substantially below those of large carriers. my favorite is wizzair ( ) – i’ve flown with them ever since they entered the romanian market, in 2006 or 2007, and i’m still a very big fan – although i’ve heard all sort of stories (same kind of complaints and rubbish you can hear about bigger names in the industry) and people are criticizing them for the peculiar color scheme they’ve painted they jets. second choice is blue air ( ) – i traveled with them occasionally, mostly because it happened to have cheaper tickets. there are probably some other companies, depending on your origin country, and, by now, you probably know them better than i do.

these two fly regularly from bucharest to paris and back. they don’t actually land on paris – this doesn’t happen with the big companies either, as they go on charles de gaulle (25 km away from the french capital) or orly (13 km away from paris). wizz and blue land on and take off from beauvais-tillé airport (which is about 80 km north of paris). here’s its web site:

although located way far than the others, it takes about the same amount of time to get in the city, which is around 45-50 minutes, by bus. as you exit the airport, on your right hand, there’s a bus/shuttle station from beauvais to porte maillot (palais des congres), which costs 15 EUR/ride/person. don’t worry, they’re set up according to the planes’ schedule, so you can’t miss your buss (you can check their service here: which is useful especially for your trip back, when they normally leave three hours before your planes takes off). just follow the crowd and the ticket line, as you exit the airport, on your right hand.

as a piece of advice, beware of taxis in the airport area – as we do talk about 80 and some km, chances are for you to end up by paying a small fortune of few hundred euros, so stick to the buss.

there is another convenient option, especially if you have plenty of luggage or if you have to get back to the airport very early am and the public transportation service is not operating (getting a cab + 15 EUR more can actually be more expensive). it is a minivan shuttle service, that can take you from the airport and actually drop you everywhere you want (it goes the same for the other way around – it picks you up from your hotel or whatever address and it drops you in front of the airport). the price is double – around 32 EUR/person/trip, but, again, it could be more convenient if you have a lot of bags or have to leave early in the morning. here’s their website:

as for the regular buss shuttle, after the about-an-hour-or-so trip – which is very comfortable and calming, as you get to see some beautiful pastures and a panorama of the north of paris – its terminus at porte maillot is only three to five minutes’ walk away from the subway station with the same name on the yellow line 1. from here, you can get in (almost) a blink of an eye to anywhere in paris, as it connects you with the main sightseeings and other important transportation services. you can check/plan your itinerary here, on the transportation authority website: by the way, from their web site you can download maps free of charge and also mobile phone apps (but i guess the latter aren’t quite for free).

as you won’t probably be the only traveler, be advised that chances are for you to wait in line for buying subway tickets from desk or distributors. i strongly advise you to get some change and head to the distributors, as you can spare a lot of time. currently, one fare is 1.70 EUR. if you plan to stay for two or three days, you should consider getting a ‘paris visite’ travel card instead, as it’s much cheaper – details here . however, if you plan staying for a week or two, as well as if you think you will return frequently, then it would probably be better to sign up for a ‘navigo decouverte’ card, for which you will need a standard photo and 5 EUR for the plastic badge (details in french here – section ‘passe navigo decouverte’, in the lower side of the page). you can then charge your navigo with subscription for a week (starting monday morning and ending sunday night – you can’t get a week pass from wed to tue, for instance, only from mon to sun), which costs 18.85 EUR for zones 1-2 (this covers all transportation services, such as subway, bus, tramway and partially rer from center paris up to the city outskirts, with unlimited number of fares between mon to sun). you can download the list of agencies selling the badges from here:

this being said, soyez les bienvenus et bonne visite!

foreign humanities graduate seeks master program in romania

Posted in how tos, likes and dislikes, romania is my country, socioholicalishism by martzipan on June 24, 2011

how romanian universities are not thinking out-of-the-box

these days my (former) students (1) presented their dissertations and, technically speaking, they’ve graduated – i take this opportunity to warmly congratulate them all and wish them all the best for the upcoming academic and less academic endeavors they’ll undertake. one of them posted this afternoon a question on a social network asking about an interesting romanian master program to apply to. answers start popping-up, with hyperlinks directing towards different universities and faculties. so far so good, nothing unusual. for the romanian humanities graduates – native speakers, most likely – the offer is apparently quite rich with sufficient choices, unless they want to embark on a journey that will take them beyond the borders of our fatherland to a foreign university, which, hopefully, will better suit their research interests. most of my students already know that i’ve always been a keen supporter of this second option – i was and i am pestering them about applying to any available program abroad (even if it is only for few months or a semester) each time i have the chance to do it.

however, this afternoon i’ve made a different exercise, i.e. to put myself in the shoes of a foreigner who recently graduated in humanities and who may have the (not so) peculiar idea to explore his or her options for a ma program in… romania. we have plenty of foreign students in medicine, applied sciences, engineering, it, maths, etc. coming here for studies, so why not having some of them in… humanities?

here is what i’ve discovered in terms of offers:

* according to the web site of the university of bucharest, i’ve found the impressive amount of… five master programs in foreign languages. actually, i guess there may be more, especially at the faculty of foreign languages and literatures, but i didn’t have the patience to scrutinize the entire english version of the web site. you can find their full description here:

* university of cluj provides a richer offer on their web page, with at least ten such programs – smart choice to group them all on a single page (including those that the folks from the university of bucharest would probably mention on the foreign languages faculty but without listing them as programs taught in english, french or whatever other language than romanian). you can find them, with a full description too, here:

* university of timisoara has interesting programs too, but it doesn’t say whether they are taught in foreign languages or not:

* university of oradea has its main site in english (, but the web pages of the faculty of letters are in romanian only (

* university of iasi – – lists several programs, but without telling which one is taught in a foreign language, if any

* university of contanta presents directly in english its programs, but again you have to guess if they are taught in other language than romanian:

one could argue that there are some other reputable romanian universities and research centers offering similar master programs that are not present in my list. true. it is a personal/biased choice, as all our choices are in the end. if you want a complete list of universities, just google it. here are the top three results google returned to my query after ‘romanian universities’ string:

i believe that it would have been nice to have a decent official information portal ranking first, but, hey, wikipedia goes as well. good luck at studying in romania as a foreign student!


(1) i’ve put ‘former’ between parentheses because i like to think that my students will always be my students.