hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I haven't forgotten this series! It just took me a few days to write this up. I hope you enjoy it.

Gretchen McCulloch, internet linguist, has been talking a lot about the IPA on Twitter lately (I've been tagged in quote-tweets of both how to type the IPA on an Android phone and the thread of IPA (symbols) as IPAs (beers), and I think what she says about learning the IPA is well-timed for where we're up to:
Useful caveat about learning the IPA: there are a LOT of symbols, because it's designed to represent all sounds used in human language. Intro linguistics/phonetics courses often prioritize more frequently used IPA symbols, but I find self-taught people are more likely to get discouraged that they have a hard time remembering like, all the mid-central unrounded vowels except schwa They're v infrequent, it's okay. You still "know the IPA" for functional purposes if you have a good grasp on the symbols for the sounds you encounter regularly and know how to use the resources of the IPA to figure out less familiar sounds/symbols.
And it's this familiarity I'm trying to offer. )
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
[personal profile] moem's comment to the post I wrote yesterday got me thinking. After asking how something is pronounced, it went "I'm worried that you will only be able to reply in those characters that I can't read, the ones that indicate how words sound... I don't even know what they are called."

I wanted to reply not just to explain the pronunciation but to answer the question of what those characters are called, and maybe give a little basic info. So I googled "International Phonetic Alphabet" and...I was surprised not to find anything useful. Everything seems to be just the charts, with at most a little history but I don't expect anyone cares what year the IPA was invented or whose idea it was. And the charts aren't much use if you don't know how to read them.

I find it really frustrating that I was exposed for years in high school to, say, the periodic table -- I had to memorize the first twenty elements, I can recognize a bunch of the symbols still, I know the chart's organization tells you stuff about electron shells and similarities between elements' properties, I knew what atomic number and atomic weight are -- and, no shade but...I can't recall it having been useful to me since. Whereas I long for a wider knowledge of the IPA every time people talk about accents, or about unfamiliar words, or even how unfamiliar a familiar word can sound sometimes.

I can imagine a high-school level linguistics knowledge, but it doesn't really exist. There's this frustrating gap: practically nothing's out there between the level of (often uninformed and bigoted) rants about personal langauge peeves and undergrad-level linguistics. Sure there are some cool podcasts and twitter accounts and stuff (that's how I ended up inspired to do a lingulistics degree, after all!) but I think there's a lot of potential for more interested-layperson level stuff, and I thought a good place to start might be by talking about how to read the IPA chart. I promise it's way easier than a periodic table.

How to Read the International Phonetic Alphabet, Part 1 - voicing and some places of articulation )


Sep. 29th, 2018 01:27 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I don't understand how I've lived for more than a dozen years in a city with such an ego about itself (especially concerning the Industrial Revolution), that brags and makes all kinds of claims for its exceptional status,and yet I didn't know until today that Australia calls its bedding, towels and suchlike "manchester" because they used to get it from Manchester.

This seems like just the kind of anecdote the local museums, tours, and other purveyors of history would love: an indication of Manchester's global influence and whatnot. And I love museums and local history so I'd think I'd have known that by now...but it wasn't even anybody in Manchester who's told me now; it's a friend who used to live in Australia.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Andrew's listening to the History of Rome podcast, on his computer so I can hear it too.

He's on like the second episode, so the guy, Mike Duncan is talking about Romulus and how while it might seem weird to us to hear so much stuff attributed to this founder of the city, its not all that different from how Americans think about George Washington. He didn't single-handedly win the American Revolution, Duncan says. "In fact, most people don't even know how crucial French involvement was to its success."

"This was before Hamilton," I told Andrew in a theatrical aside. "People know now."

I know what Duncan says was true when he said it, but a few years can be such a long time in history.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I've seen a bunch of my friends do this and thought it might be fun.
Did you have a cell phone prior to your thirties? I think I even had a smartphone before my thirties, though only just if I did.
Did they exist? Before my thirties?! I turned 30 in 2011, just saying.
Did you have cable when you were a little kid? You can't get cable where my parents live; we had to wait for satellite TV to become a thing. They got that...I think when I was in high school, but not long before I left. Only time I lived in a house with it; I only had a TV for a year or two of college and could never afford cable. And I haven't had a TV since then
Do you know what 8-track tapes are? Yes. My dad had an 8-track player in the basement and my brother and I liked a few of them so we'd play Simon & Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, stuff like that.
How about cassette tapes? Do I know what they are? Yes. I started recording my dad's records (with his help of course) onto tapes with my little Fischer Price cassette player when I was about three, and I didn't have CDs until I was in high school, so the time in between was filled with a love of music and thus dozens of cassette tapes.
When did you get your first DVD player? Second year of college. I only had money afterwards to buy two DVDs, so for a while my collection consisted of Shrek and Memento. I still have that Shrek DVD, though the Memento one was stolen by a later roommate who insisted it was hers when it was definitely mine.
Did you learn to type on a typewriter? I played on my grandma's typewriter but I learned to type in a combination of classes in fourth grade (on computers known as "IBM-compatibles" and we were told to call it keyboarding instead of typing).

Oh and I learned a little on this weird Pre-Computer thing which I got because one year when I went to see Santa you were sent home with a letter saying "I'll sure try to get you a [whatever you asked for] kid!" so that your parents knew what you'd said. Only I got must've someone else's letter who'd asked for a computer. I don't remember what it was I'd actually asked for but I never had any interest in computers. This thing did teach me a little BASIC, though, as well as a start on typing.
What was the first computer you owned? My parents sent me away to college with a laptop; I think it was a Compaq? I remember nothing about it really.
What age were you when you first got e-mail? Eighteen, because I got it when I started college. I still remember my e-mail address; it was the first four letters of your last name and then a four-digit number that I think was sequential. I actually recognized someone's LJ screen name as being in this format a couple years later and he also went to the University of Minnesota.
Was the Internet around when you were a kid? Well, yes it existed but not in a way anyone knew about. The internet was a thing that happened to me a very little in high school, mostly at school (my mom didn't want it at home because she thought it was evil) and which I mostly found really dull. We had to pass some kind of test to get a "Internet Driver's License" when I was about 15 and I was like "Can I not take the test if I don't intend to ever use the internet?" and the teacher who was telling us about it was so baffled at that question; I don't think she'd ever been asked that.
What age were you when Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal, and Dreamwidth started? I don't even know when they started but I started them...let's see, this Facebook account goes back to 2013 but I had one before that, managed to delete it and then got sucked back in by volunteering. Twitter I also had and deleted a couple of times; I think this iteration dates from 2015. LiveJournal I started in 2002, Dreamwidth I started in 2009 and used exclusively since 2016.
What was the first printer you owned like? It'd have been an inkjet (they all have), but otherwise I have no idea. I don't care about printers. I can only tell you what kind I have now because I finally tore down the box for it a few days ago.
Collegiate papers: typewriter or computer? Computer. But they still had to be printed out and handed in. I remember frantically e-mailing a prof to beg them to accept an e-mailed version because for whatever reason I couldn't get it to them by hand.
How old were you when streaming came into being? ...I don't know. What kind of streaming? I think RealPlayer is the first such thing I can think of, and I'm pretty sure I was in college by then though if it was a thing in high school I wouldn't have known about it (we had 56k dial-up internet at my parents until about six years ago).
What age were you when you got your first MP3 player? My parents bought me a minidisc player the first time I asked for an MP3 player for Christmas, and that was when I was in college, so it must've been early twenties? Actually I wonder if the first one I had was when I was living in Didsbury and working in Stockport; I had a tiny cheap one with really wonky controls, you couldn't always tell what song you were going to get if you tried to do something advanced like change the volume. It was my coping mechanism for the bus rides, especially going home in the dark almost alone. I fell in love with the Hold Steady via Separation Sunday by listening to it on that thing.
Did you own a record player, cassette player, CD player, or MP3 player as a teen? I didn't own a record player but there was one in the house -- maybe even two for part of that time. I had lots of walkmans and boom boxes and I did get my first CD player as a teen. Not MP
At what age did you start blogging on the Internet? Twenty.
What age were you when the e-readers came out? I don't know when they came out, but I remember Andrew got one when we were living in our old flat (so between 2009 and 2014) because it was an early one that had a whole keyboard and could play music and stuff and he was so excited about it he said he loved it almost as much as he did me. The only time in my life I've ever heard him compare anything so favorably.
How do you listen to music? Mostly on Spotify, either on my computer or my phone. Sometimes I still listen to 6music on my DAB. Mostly I don't listen to a lot of music; Andrew's usually got it playing if he's awake and when he's not I'm happy with the silence. Or else I play podcasts or audiobooks. But I do like music for when I'm writing (I just play random ambient music on Spotify then) or sometimes if I'm struggling to get things done: chores, getting out of the house, whatever.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I saw somebody retweet this blog post, which has some interesting questions about nystagmus. Nystagmus is one of the eye conditions I have, it's the one that makes my eyes jump back and forth so even before I had glasses or pointless and counterproductive accommodations in grade school, people could tell just from looking at me that there's something wrong with my eyes.

No one ever explained anything about this, or my other eye conditions to me. I only know what they're called because I was a nerdy kid who remembered long words I overheard or saw written down once. So my explanations of it aren't going to be any better than you can get on Wikipedia, but I can certainly talk about what it's like to have it.

1. Are you the only one in your family to have nystagmus? )

2. How has your nystagmus affected you throughout your life so far? )

3. What are you registered as – partially sighted, severely sight impaired, blind, etc? )

4. Do you have any other eye conditions with your nystagmus? )

5. Do you have any visual aids to help you with your condition? )

6. Do you have any advice for parents of children with nystagmus? )

7. Describe your vision in 3 words. )

8. What help did you get in school/work? )

A meme

Jul. 8th, 2017 01:13 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
Nicked this from [personal profile] mrs_leroy_brown because I was just getting myself riled up looking at twitter, and figured I could use something brainless to do.

Are you named after someone?
My middle name is Michelle because I share my birthday with my dad's brother, Michael.

Cut to save your scrolling fingers )
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
So they call it a "Senate" in Canada, but it sounds like it's just the House of Lords!

I'm embarrassed by how surprised I was to learn this, especially in a conversation in the pub with a Canadian who, y'know, thinks highly of me.

At least they don't have bishops in the government!

But man. I need a good recommendation for a book about Canadian history and/or politics. They didn't teach me anything in school.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
I found this on Facebook a while ago and found it so phenomenally useful that I wanted to a) go back and make sure I was still explaining it right and b) put it somewhere I can link people to it or read it again if I want to.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, "Life is unfair" and "Why me?" That's the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

When you are talking to a person in a ring smaller than yours, someone closer to the center of the crisis, the goal is to help. Listening is often more helpful than talking. But if you're going to open your mouth, ask yourself if what you are about to say is likely to provide comfort and support. If it isn't, don't say it. So say, "I'm sorry" or "This must really be hard for you" or "Can I bring you a pot roast?" Don't say, "You should hear what happened to me" or "Here's what I would do if I were you." And don't say, "This is really bringing me down."

If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring.

Comfort IN, dump OUT.

Complaining to someone in a smaller ring than yours doesn't do either of you any good. On the other hand, being supportive to her principal caregiver may be the best thing you can do for the patient.

Most of us know this. Almost nobody would complain to the patient about how rotten she looks. Almost no one would say that looking at her makes them think of the fragility of life and their own closeness to death. In other words, we know enough not to dump into the center ring. Ring Theory merely expands that intuition and makes it more concrete: Don't just avoid dumping into the center ring, avoid dumping into any ring smaller than your own.

Remember, you can say whatever you want if you just wait until you're talking to someone in a larger ring than yours.
I'm finding it really useful in curbing my desire/habit/reflex to say "Oh, something a bit like that happened to me" (which often is a misapplication of the well-intentioned desire to offer empathy and solidarity), but where I'm really getting the benefit of it is identifying this as a thing that makes me uncomfortable or unhappy in interactions I see, for instance, among my own family. My horrible aunt has a horrible tendency to "dump in." My brother dying was a huge problem for her, as she told my mom at every available opportunity. I always knew this kind of thing was awful behavior, but it helps to have a way to articulate it.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (i love)
...I'd be nagging them for a quilt that looks like this.

It's time zones in Antarctica.
Given that Antarctica rests on every line of longitude, you might be tempted to think the continent observes every single time zone, but this is not the case. In fact, as the maps featured here illustrate, even regions that lie along the same meridian don't necessarily observe the same time zones, due in large part to the range of territorial claims on the continent. Some places — labeled in red — have no time zone, and just observe Coordinated Universal Time, by default.

Coordinated Universal Time. I know geeks will laugh at me but I think that's a wonderfully evocative phrase. Don't you want to know what that is now?

The world time zone map is rainbow-tastic as well as informative (but I don't have the odd but compelling urge to want it on a quilt like I do the Antarctica map).


Jun. 13th, 2011 07:39 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
It's funny the things you don't know you know until you have some reason to call up data on a random subject.

A Facebook friend asked "Do any of you know much about Utah?" (Actually I see now that she was specifically directing this question at "'Mericans" but I jumped in long before this...) and when the first couple of comments seemed unhelpful to me -- "Mormons. Salt Lake City." "Utah Saints...duh duh duh" (and I needed Andrew to translate that second one for me) -- I wanted to combat the lazy stereotypes.

And you know, I've never even been to Utah, but without so much as looking anything up, I said "It's got one of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. (Arches National Park). I hear it's very good for skiing too, though can't vouch for that. Land speed records are set on the salt flats in Utah, and the Mythbusters sometimes blow things up there."

And when she peppered me with more questions in response to that -- "Roughly whereabouts is it? Does it cost a lot to get there? Who's the, the... what do you call them, senator or something? Does it have laws that other states don't? Is it picturesque? What's its National Park like? By which i mean... er... how big? Has it got bears in it?" -- I tried to answer them.

"Utah is in the western bit of America, not far from California in the grand scheme of things. It does indeed have mountains, the lovely Rockies. It is not a hugely populated state other than Salt Lake City so there are lots of breathtaking nature. It probably would cost a lot to go there; I can't get to the US for less than five hundred quid these days and it does tend to get more expensive as you go further west. Utah's senior senator (each state gets two) is a very very conservative, even by US standards, called Orrin Hatch." And I offered up some lovely pictures.

But man. Land speed records in the Bonneville salt flats. Messien. It's crazy the things your brain stashes away, isn't it? No reason to leave it with the lazy stereotypes if you've got stuff like that filling up your mind-tank!

I tried to tell Andrew this but now I can't get him to stop telling me things about Mormons. Oh and he told me Jello is the official snack food of Utah.


Jan. 5th, 2008 06:47 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (rhubarb)
I'm reassembling the bookmarks on my new computer, and I thought I'd take the opportunity to ask what blogs you read, what things on the internet you think I'd like.

This is not only because I can't remember a lot of the stuff I had in my old bookmarks, but that helps.

So far I've got Pharyngula, Stephen Fry, Andrew's blog, and Babelfish. You see I need the help.

In 2008, minnesattva resolves to...
Buy new hackers.
Keep my narrativium clean.
Take evening classes in hedonism.
Get back in contact with some old koans.
Eat more chaos.
Stop cuddling with princemuchao.

Get your own New Year's Resolutions:
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (hollyicon)
Something I found on the Guardian website when I was looking for that other one has me despairing on a large scale but amused on a smaller one (and feeling smug, which is good too). It's a corrollary to this article about science illiteracy among normal people (at least in the UK and US, not so much in Asia or Eastern Europe) these days.*

I like to think I'm a reasonably science-savvy humanities student. Here's how I fared on the six questions asked of a panel of scientists and writers, along with some of the bits I found amusing, despairing, or at least likely to cheer me up when I got stuff wrong myself.

Q: Why does salt dissolve in water?

Funny celebrity answer (Kirsty Wark): Because it's less dense.

Me: It doesn't, does it? I mean, really. You can evaporate the water and the salt is still there, so it's not like it's chemically altered, right? I have no idea; I never really grokked chemistry.

Q: Roughly how old is the earth?

Funny celebrity answer (Susan Greenfield): Oh blimey. Well, I know that human beings have been going for about a million and a half years, so ... I'm just grasping here. Something like 60 billion years or something like that, but that's a grasp. I'm not a physical scientist and it shows. I'm probably not scientifically literate.

Me: Four and a half billion years.

Q: What happens when you turn on a light?

Funny celebrity answer (Iain Stewart): This is taking me right back to school physics. It's the kind of question I always pray a nine-year-old won't ask me. I think the switch closes a loop for the circuit.

Me: The switch closes a circuit, so electricity flows through it, and the electricity heats up the filament so it glows.

Q: Is a clone the same as a twin?

Funny celebrity answer (Daisy Goodwin): As an identical twin? That's quite interesting. No. Well, I'm not sure about that. I'd say no. But maybe yes. I'm baffled.

Me: No way! Twins have different DNA and fingerprints and stuff.

Q: Why is the sky blue?

Funny celebrity answer (Kirsty Wark): Because it's a reflection of the oceans on the planet. No idea apart from that. I think the sky is blue because... the rain clouds obscure the blue, and the blue is a reflection... because of the sunshine. Fuck! I don't know! Why is the sky blue?

Honorable mention (Robert Winston): Oh bugger, I can't remember now. Um. Oh Jesus. It isn't really blue actually. It doesn't actually have a colour at all. It just simply appears blue.

Me: Because blue light has the shortest waivelength in the visible spectrum, it gets scattered the most.

Q: What is the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

Funny celebrity answer (John O'Farrell): Let me think. Is it to do with heat conductors? Metal is an effective heat conductor and wood is not. I remember that from metalwork classes.

Me: Entropy increases in a closed system. Chaos increases.

Answers. )

How did you do?

* The clash between "the two cultures" has always been an interest, if often a sensitive subject, for me because I find myself unable to concentrate on either arts or sciences well enough to make a living from one or the other of them. My current response is to resent the Aristotelian dichotomy, but that only helps so much!

Anyway, I think if I still have a "dream job," it'd be to write what has long been my favorite kind of book, popular science renderings of the sexy complicated Universe. I was originally turned on to this by Carl Sagan, but I am always looking out for books that walk the fine line between dumbing things down in froo-froo poetic language and unreachably esoteric technical detail that leaves even well-meaning people in th dust if they're not specialists in the field bieng discussed.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (duck)
My fortune cookie at Panda Express last Monday told me ... well, my fortune, first of all, which was something like "Change is happening in your life, so go with the flow!" (stupid but improved by Seth adding "in bed!", which I'd forgotten he does to all fortune-cookie fortunes; Elizabeth was really annoyed by hers — "Courtesy pays" — and while I must admit that fortunes should be fortunes and not advice, that one is helped by Seth's contribution).

But the other side of the paper taught me a Chinese word, with the (alleged) ideogram and all. My first one, so far as I know. Sugar, it said, is tang.

How cool is that?
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (q fry)
I can't decide if Wikipedia is good for me or if it's just squandering my youth.

Thanks, autocomplete!


Mar. 12th, 2007 09:12 am
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (q fry)
I really have to go grocery shoppng; we're out of everything again.

I should finish the dishes. The kitchen floor is sticky and I can't remember the last time it was washed.

Oh we need dish soap. And toilet paper too.

I have to remind myself of these things or else I'll get sucked into Damn Interesting like I did yesterday.

Somewhere I found a link to this damn interesting article about the strange, vivid hallucinations some people see as they're gradually losing their vision. Before I knew it, it was several hours later and I knew all about a guy who thinks three hundred years of the Middle Ages never happened. I learned to appreciate I'm actually living at quite a good time because I can still see solar eclipses but no longer are lobotomies prescribed for daydreamers. I read about something Neil Gaiman probably knew when he wrote the beginning of Sandman, and now I know the name you can call it if you too have heard all this before.

One of the things I find most interesting is that I've found stories here that I learned about on my favorite TV show, QI, or Quite Interesting — like the sad story of the Radium Girls, the fact that we have between nine and 21 senses rather than the measly five Aristotle would have us believe, and the answer to the question from how many stories should you drop a cat? Even the kind of coffee Stephen Fry gives royalty as a wedding gift shows up.

I'm having a great time here, but I fear the distraction. I've got so much to do! Man, I need this like a hole in the head


Sep. 24th, 2006 08:49 pm
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)
A couple of days ago [livejournal.com profile] textivore was delighted to tell me that "someone just proposed a counterpart to transgendered: cisgendered."

I started to type a message telling him that this wasn't new, but by that point he'd said, "If you don't get that, it's a chemistry joke." Now I was excited: I keep meaning to ask or figure out where it came from, because I've often wondered about it, but I haven't managed to get around to it.

So I told him that it wasn't quite new ("well, you've had more exposure to out trans than I have" he said, and I agreed that was surely the reason, though I'm still a bit surprised when other people don't know the things I do; I seem to think that by the time they trickle down to me they must have reached everyone else already) and he told me about isomers, even grabbing a chemistry textbook to make sure he got it right. He is awesome.
hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (eyebrow)
The soap dispenser to the right of the sinks in the ladies' toilets at work makes a noise when you hit it with the heel of your hand, a squeaky noise that sounds exactly like the first two or three notes of the guitar intro to Steely Dan's "Reeling in the Years."

(Or at least it did when I used it this afternoon.)


hollymath: Selfie: white person, three-quarter profile, smiling, brown hair shaved on the side we can see, chin-length on the other (Default)

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