Philip Newton's Journal
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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Philip Newton's LiveJournal:

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    Tuesday, June 17th, 2014
    12:28 pm
    The things you learn: Canaanite shift

    Someone on Quora linked to the Wikipedia article on the ‘Canaanite shift’:

    In historical linguistics, the Canaanite shift is a sound change that took place in the Canaanite dialects, which belong to the Northwest Semitic branch of the Semitic languages family. This sound change caused Proto-NW-Semitic *ā (long a) to turn into ō (long o) in Proto-Canaanite. It accounts, for example, for the difference between the second vowel of Hebrew שלום (šalom, Tiberian šālōm) and its Arabic cognate سلام (salām). The original word was probably *šalām-, with the ā preserved in Arabic, but transformed into ō in Hebrew.

    The article cites several examples, some of which I had known independently as Arabic and Hebrew forms, but I had never inferred that regular sound shift from them! (Quite possibly because I don’t really know Hebrew and Arabic.)


    Monday, May 12th, 2014
    3:10 pm
    You know you’re getting better at a language when…

    …you see it written in ASCII and your mind automatically fills in the appropriate diacritics. (In some cases, even guessing them based on some kind of statistical process.)

    I shall have to make some time to brush up on my Slovak before I head to SES again this summer, but probably not till after my Cornish exam in June as I don’t want to get mixed up.

    Recently, Maltese has started to tickle the back of my brain again as well. We’ll see which language will be the next to take hold of me. Though currently I’m hoping to stick with Cornish till at least next year and take the level 3 exam then.

    Current Mood: accomplished
    Friday, March 14th, 2014
    1:59 pm
    3/14 1:59

    Happy Pi Day!

    Current Mood: geeky
    Monday, March 10th, 2014
    5:32 am
    Speaking Cornish is so easy, I can do it in my sleep!

    Last night, I dreamed I was at a Cornish-speaking event and I actually spoke in Cornish when someone asked me about something I was doing!

    It was a bit slow and halting as I searched for words and the right conjugation, but I was speaking Cornish in (near) real time, to another person, and I remember feeling rather proud of myself for that!

    Current Mood: accomplished
    Sunday, March 2nd, 2014
    3:28 am
    Cornish homonyms

    I just noticed that ‘I used to love Karen’ is ‘Y karen Karen’ in Cornish (SWF/M spelling).

    Current Mood: amused
    Saturday, May 4th, 2013
    10:17 pm
    May the 4th be with you!

    Dun dun dun, dun de-dun, dun de-dun... dun dun dun, dun de-dun, dun de-dun.

    5:41 pm
    Philip Newton, horse breeder

    Another alter ego of mine: Philip Newton, horse breeder.

    You wouldn’t believe what all I do in my spare time! :D

    Thursday, March 28th, 2013
    8:01 pm
    Chemistry fail

    One of the very first things we learned in chemistry (it may even have been on the first day) was the difference between chemical compounds and mixtures, and how the properties of a mixture are a combination of the properties of the components but the properties of a compound may be very different.

    The example we used was iron filings mixed with bits of yellow sulphur, compared to iron sulfide. Another good example is water, which is liquid and non-flammable, unlike hydrogen, which is gaseous and flammable, and oxygen, which is also gaseous.

    Yet today, I saw a repost on Facebook warning about brominated vegetable oil and claiming that "The main ingredient, bromine, is a poisonous, corrosive chemical".

    So should we also warn that the main ingredient of table salt is "a poisonous, corrosive chemical"? Chlorine is no joke... but sodium chloride doesn't act like chlorine gas any more than a Hindenburg filled with water would be able to burn.


    Current Mood: annoyed
    Tuesday, February 26th, 2013
    3:03 pm
    Long cows

    I just found out that Czech has “1 kráva; 5 krav” while Slovak has “1 krava; 5 kráv” with exactly opposite vowel length distribution in those two forms. Amusing :)

    9:23 am
    Wikipedia: access to languages by country

    Wikimedia stats: pages views per country

    Interesting statistics about which language versions of Wikipedia are accessed in various countries.

    Unsurprisingly, the official language of the various countries tends to do well (if there is just one); also fairly unsurprisingly (since it's probably the most complete), the English version tends to do well, often better than the country's own-language version.

    I found it interesting that Polish appears in the stats of a few countries such as Ireland and Jersey.

    And I'm guessing that the accesses to German Wikipedia from Afghanistan are probably from German soldiers stationed there rather than from permanent inhabitants.

    Thursday, February 21st, 2013
    4:31 pm
    Finger macros

    In German, “Stelle” means “place” and I sometimes have occasion to type that… but what usually comes out is “Stella” (the name of my wife). A kind of auto-complete that my fingers do without thinking, once they “notice” what word I’m beginning to type :)

    What are your most common finger macros, where you keep having to correct yourself with certain words because your fingers expand them into other words?

    Monday, February 4th, 2013
    2:55 pm
    LJ often unusable: LJ's fault or Opera's?

    Today, LiveJournal often doesn't react to keypresses (such as page-down to scroll, 2 to go a tab to the right, or even Ctrl+W to close a tab); it seems to be more or less random (if I open ten tabs, three might be wonky and the other seven work).

    I wonder whether that's due to the Opera update I installed this morning or whether it's just LiveJournal getting flakier and flakier.

    If that kind of thing keeps up, it'll be more hassle than it's worth to check LiveJournal, which is kind of a pity; I had a good several years there, and a handful of the friends I made still update there regularly.

    Current Mood: annoyed
    Thursday, January 31st, 2013
    10:04 am
    V.90 modem handshake diagram

    The Sound of the Dialup: an Example Handshake by Oona Räisänen (2500×1301px JPEG, cc-by-sa 3.0)

    via dotaturls

    A fascinating, annotated image of what a modem handshake (V.90, apparently) looks like when split up into frequences (is that called a spectrogram?), and what the individual bits mean.

    A pity that my modem days were so long ago that I don’t really recall what the handshake sounded like; it would have been even more fun to correlate the sound I heard with the visual description in that image.

    Current Mood: geeky
    9:50 am
    Food prices in Nunavut

    Food prices in Nunavut (in Arctic Canada) are legendarily high, because pretty much everything that’s not “country food” (traditional local food such as seal, berries, etc.) is imported by air from the south.

    Here’s a blog post that includes a flyer from a local supermarket, showing what sale prices are like in Baker Lake (Qamani'tuaq, ᖃᒪᓂᑦᑐᐊᖅ).

    Those of you from other parts of Canada may wish to compare the prices (especially for the small variety of fresh produce) with what you pay at your local supermarket; those of you from other places will have to do currency conversion (and possibly purchasing-power-parity adjustments).

    Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
    11:01 pm
    You know that you’re old when…

    …you realise that Windows 95 came out 18 years ago.

    Friday, January 4th, 2013
    10:27 am

    I seem to have discovered swap-bot, a site which organises swaps between people.

    I found it while idly googling for “we swap snacks”, while waiting for assignments on the recent we_swap_snacks swap. (Signups are probably still open due to the low number of participants by the original date! Join now so that we have a goodly number of participants!)

    The main focus on swap-bot seems to be on swapping arts and crafts (I got bombarded with a whole host of terms I had never come across before, such as “ATCs”, “twinchies”, and “SMASH books”) but also has frequent swaps for postcards (which is right up my alley given my long involvement in Postcrossing) as well as other things—including the occasional snack swap and a number of electronic-only swaps such as blog followers, profile comments, or uplifting emails.

    I’ve already taken part in a couple of swaps so far and have received my first rating—whee! Seems fun, and a bit addictive :)

    Current Mood: giddy
    Tuesday, December 25th, 2012
    8:46 pm
    Merry Christmas!

    Have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year—Philip

    We spent this Christmas in Borstel again at my sister’s: a family get-together, as usual. My second sister couldn’t be there in person with her family, at least partly due to the recent birth of her youngest son, but she was there virtually for part of it by Skype.

    We exchanged presents in the morning, ate dinner (and later cake) together, and just talked. The children played with one another a fair bit.

    It was interesting to see who spoke which language with whom :) All the children are growing up with at least English (for my youngest sister’s children, the father speaks to them in English, too; for the others, the spouse speaks German to them), yet some of them spoke German to each other. But not necessarily to everyone!

    For example, Amy speaks German with her cousins Emily and Frederick but English with their little sister Lucy—and Lucy speaks English with Amy but German with cousin Tamino.

    I think part of it is what “category” their cousins fit into in their minds; most know that most children only speak German and so when they meet a new cousin, they assume that German is the appropriate language to speak to them. But I presume that Amy speaks English to Lucianne because when Lucy was small, she spoke only English, and so I guess she got put into the category “people to speak English to”: even now that Lucy speaks quite reasonable German.

    I got a number of books: a couple of Calvin and Hobbes ones, some language-related ones and a maths-related one.

    Monday, December 24th, 2012
    3:18 pm
    Of ships and trains

    If an opportunity has passed, you might say in English, “That ship has sailed.”

    In German, it’s “Der Zug ist abgefahren” (That train has left).

    Interesting that the metaphor is quite similar, except for the choice of vehicle.

    Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
    7:16 pm
    I has English food!

    My parcel with English food has arrived! Yay!

    All wrapped very carefully.

    So now I have some English cereal and some English Christmas goodies, as well as miscellaneous other stuff that’s difficult to get in Germany.

    Current Mood: giddy
    Friday, December 21st, 2012
    12:11 pm
    11:11 UTC: December solstice

    Happy Solstice!

    I’m glad that the days will be getting longer again now.

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