Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fast Thumbs at Timpanogos High

Seems a 18-year-old from Provo, Utah, just set the world record for what's called "competitive texting." Ben Cook managed to type out, on a cell phone:
"The razor-toothed piranhas of the genera Serrasalmus and Pygocentrus are the most ferocious freshwater fish in the world. In reality they seldom attack a human."
That he managed to do this at all impresses me, bcuz whn it cms 2 txt-msgng, im all thmbs. (Or rather, I wish I were.) That he did it in 42.22 seconds -- breaking his previous record established while he was a student at Timpanogos High -- is astounding. Can commercial endorsements be far behind? (Assuming Ben's urine tests come back negative, of course.)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Talk to Me, Baby!

A Reuters story about the new trend of parents teaching sign language to their hearing infants:

"It is about empowering children to communicate. They can communicate with you at an early age and not be frustrated," according to a teacher at a sign-language class for babies in Los Angeles.
Maybe, although others chalk it up to "over-achieving parent syndrome." But just think: If they could teach those toddlers to scream and wail in ASL, long plane flights would be that much more pleasant.

Rhymes with Orange?

If I hadn't been reading A Capital Idea, then I wouldn't have known about these neat-o T-shirts for verbivores.

Lots of other interesting stuff for language lovers there, too.

Welcome Learning Magazine Readers!

A special welcome to readers who found their way here thanks to the the latest issue of Learning magazine!

(Speaking of learning and magazines, did you know that the English word "magazine" has its roots in Arabic?)

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Today's Word: Notflix

I'm indebted to Claire Zulkey for introducing me to the useful term "Notflix," meaning "to send a movie back to Netflix before you've watched it." I don't yet subscribe to Netflix, but I can certainly relate to the sense of guilt and failure upon returning a DVD to the rental store before getting around to watching it -- most recently, with Capote. Oh well, reading her blog was more fun, anyway.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Mac the Knife?!

What in the world were the engineers at Apple thinking when they designed the new MacBooks with such sharp edges? Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about.

Many other users are now complaining about this – even posting pictures of the red marks on their wrists left by "Mac the Knife." One guy’s wrists are so marked up by his, he’s proposing a new name for these laptops: Emobooks.

Several others report using sandpaper or a file TO SAND DOWN THE EDGES OF THEIR LAPTOPS. Let me repeat that: People are SANDING DOWN THEIR LAPTOPS because they’re too painful to use.

So this is what they mean by cutting-edge technology?

Macworld magazine mentions this design flaw here in its review.

The iBooks that preceded this new model had rounded edges. My beloved IBM Thinkpad (may it R.I.P.) had rounded edges. So do all the other laptops I’ve since been eyeing enviously in coffee shops and elsewhere. So why did Apple let such dopey design out of the factory?

When I called Apple to ask, the pleasant young man handling the call relayed messages back and forth between Apple’s engineers and me. Their version, according to him, was that this was a “user issue.” Clearly, they said, I wasn’t using the laptop ergonomically.

Hey, I know from ergonomics, but the fact is that the MacBook’s edge is uncomfortable even if you’re just resting your hand by the trackpad or the sides of the keyboard, as you might want to do while pausing to think of what to type next. It also hurts when you pick up an open laptop with both hands to move it.

Readers of this blog know I was all primed to come over to The Light Side and enthusiastically embrace the superior technology of Macs that I’d been hearing about for years from my Macarized friends. But who knew the embrace would be so painful?

Meanwhile, check out the photo of this kludgy solution -- slitting a piece of plastic tubing and fitting it over the offending edges.

Since Apple won’t take back its lemon, anybody out there have a better workaround that doesn’t involve taking 300-grit sandpaper to a $1500+ computer, or wearing garden gloves or sweat bands to the coffee shop, or schlepping around some contraption that defeats the purpose of having a light, portable computer? (And yeah, I’ve read about the iLap, but I’m not yet sold on having to carry something like that around during all my peregrinations.)

Monday, July 10, 2006

It Had To Happen, I Suppose

Just came across this video of Ali G interviewing Noam Chomsky (or as Ali calls him, "Norman Chomsky"). In it, they address some linguistic FAQs (and a few other not-so-FAQs).

Maybe not as funny as his interview with Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros-Ghali, but still: Respek!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Today's Word: Formication

Formication -- spell it carefully, now! -- is an "abnormal sense of ants crawling over one's skin." It's from Latin formica, meaning "ant," and no relation to Formica kitchen countertops.

Remember a while back when I was marveling at how scientists measure the size of ants' heads? Well, here's an even more mind-blowing story. Seems a German team has discovered that ants find their way back to their nests across long distances by somehow counting their steps. The scientists discovered the apparent existence of these "internal pedometers" with two experiments: They either cut off the tips of ant legs (in which case the ants walked the same number of steps back to the nest, and thus came up short), or they fashioned little anty "stilts" for them out of pig hair bristles (in which case, the ants, walking the same number of steps, overshot their nest).

If I hadn't already read all that business about ant-head measurments, I might have taken all this with at least an ant-sized grain of salt. And there's video of the little things on stilts accompanying an article in New Scientist, as well as an audio report on NPR.

Fascinating to learn about this, of course. But I have to say, as far as I'm concerned, the whole thing is giving me a bad case of formication.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Leonards Latkovskis

While nattering on yesterday about reading the Batrachomyomachia in Greek, I was fondly remembering being introduced to that text by my extraordinary tutor, Professor Leonard Latkovski. A few hours later, I was reminded that yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the polyglot professor's death. His daughter Stephanie sent around an email suggesting that those of us who knew him might do any of several things in his memory that day. I loved the way that, even though the list was spare, it revealed a lot about his character. It included such suggestions as:

Tell a corny joke

Have some zubrowka

Make French bread

Walk around the block to mail a letter

Buy four gallons of milk and carry them home in two
cloth bags

Read a Lermontov or Pushkin poem

Conjugate a Spanish verb in nine tenses and two

Sing the Hatikvah (Israeli national anthem)

Read from The Iliad

Write a letter to the editor

Go to the public library and read for four hours

Type a manuscript with carbon paper on a manual

Oh, and the first suggestion on her list? Read the "Exordium" to Martha Barnette's book, A Garden of Words. The exordium tells the story of how, inspired by the Professor, I fell in love with ancient Greek -- and learned that, in the Professor's words, "to study language is to study the human soul."

If you're now remembering a favorite teacher you once had, I invite you to do any or all of the above -- or perhaps make a similar list of your own.