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

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Friday, June 26th, 2015
6:57 am
Amy’s end-of-school party; Dilara’s languages

It was Amy’s (and her class’s) end-of-school party yesterday; their elementary school years will be over in two and a half weeks and then it’ll be off to secondary school for the children.

The class performed a few acrobatics and a couple of songs, including a surprise one for their teacher which they had secretly practised with a couple of the parents. The teacher showed a slideshow of the class’s highlights over the last four years, using photos she had received from parents. (Ms Schamne had only been their teacher for a year and a half, after their first teacher had to take a longer break for medical reasons.) There was also a “then and now” bit with photographs of the children in 1st and 4th grade, which got a fair number of laughs out of the children :) ("Look how you looked back then!")

Afterwards, there was food, and then general “free time”. At 10, the parents got kicked out (though I didn’t stay that long) and the children stayed behind to spend the night at school. This morning, they’ll come home at around 10.)

While I was playing “keep the balloon in the air” with Amy, Dilara from her class came up to me and asked me whether I was Amy’s father and whether I speak English with her.

I said yes, and added, “Ve sen, Türkçe konuşabilir misin?” (And you, can you speak Turkish?). She was surprised and asked me where I knew that from :) (I’m learning Turkish now; started about five weeks ago.) She said that she’s a Turkish Kurd and knows five languages: German, Turkish, Kurdish, English, and Arabic. Not bad.

Arabic she says she only knows a bit in, just some sentences, and I’m guessing that English also refers to 4th grade school English rather than a fluent command. But still; I was impressed.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015
3:21 pm
Random memory: memorising powers of two

When I was a child, I memorised the powers of two up to 216 = 65536.

I don’t remember why I decided to do that, nor why in particular I decided to stop there, but it did come in handy occasionally later in my computing career.

Current Mood: pensive
Wednesday, March 11th, 2015
10:44 am
The things you learn: inhaled objects are more likely to land in your right lung

According to Wikipedia, Foreign bodies that fall down the trachea are more likely to enter the right bronchus because the carina of the trachea (a little ridge at the place where it divides into the two bronchi) lies to the left of the midline.

Friday, October 3rd, 2014
8:49 pm
Two things that don’t go together

Occasionally, someone mistypes their email address on some form, ending up with mine instead. Lack of confirmation (confirmed opt-in; what some call ‘double opt-in’) results in unwanted email in my inbox.

Recently, I’ve got some stuff from Telstra in Australia, with a slightly puzzling footer. It tells me that if I have received the email in error, to contact Telstra immediately. Which is fair enough; I’d love to let them know that they haven’t reached the intended recipient. Except that the mail also has the usual ‘please don’t reply to this email address as that box is not monitored for replies’ line in it.

So that makes the footer rather pointless. ‘Please contact us, but we’re not going to tell you how.’

Boo for Telstra.

Current Mood: annoyed
Tuesday, September 9th, 2014
7:48 pm
I can speak Esperanto; the test says so!

So, about three years ago, I took an Esperanto exam at level B2, and figured that would be the highest level I would take; partly since certification in Esperanto is pretty pointless anyway and partly because I didn’t think I’d ever get to C1, as I thought that’s basically native-speaker level.

But this year, I decided (more or less on a whim) to apply for the C1-level test held during SES 2014 in Slovakia, which I attended. I figured that not enough people would apply and that the test would get cancelled like it did last year.

But no, when I got there, I found that the test was actually scheduled, so I got to sit it. The spoken part was via Google Hangout with two teachers in different parts of Europe; the written part was the next day in a big room with all the other participants. (I sat next to a nun who was sitting the B1 level, if I remember correctly.)

It did take me nearly all the time scheduled, which surprised me a little; especially the essay tasks. (Plus I had to come up with an opinion on Google Glass and its influence on society, a topic I hadn’t given all that much specific thought to before.) And I was glad that I had borrowed a [monolingual Esperanto] dictionary from my teacher, since I referred to it fairly often during the test and did not have to share one of the few shared ones.

I got the scores for my individual spoken portion during the SES week, but was told that complete scores would have to wait until September.

Fast forward till today: my scores are now available in a password-protected area on the ITK website.

And I did fairly well, if I do say so myself: 84/90 spoken, 76/80 written. I was a little surprised that my “written self-expression” scored better than my “reading understanding”, but whatever.

So, in a few more weeks I should have a little bound diploma telling me that I can officially speak Esperanto at a C1 level; who would have thought that a couple of years ago!

Detailed results below the cutCollapse )

Current Mood: accomplished
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
11:27 am
English needs a preposition “atto”

I thought of a gap in English: it has no preposition corresponding to German “an”+accusative.

In some cases, what is one preposition in German with dative or accusative (for position vs. movement) is the same preposition in English (The cat is under the table vs. The cat runs under the table; The bird is over the table vs. The bird flies over the table) or is differentiated with -to for the movement version (The ball is in the box vs. The ball falls into the box; The pen is on the table vs. The pen falls onto the table).

But for “at”, there’s only the “position” meaning, and there’s no “movement” variant.

For example, in German, you could say, “Schieb den Karton an die Wand”; in English, you’d need a circumlocution such as “Push the cardboard box all the way to the wall” or “right up to the wall”. “Push it at the wall” wouldn’t have the same meaning, and there’s no *“Push it atto the wall” or *“Push it to at the wall”.

There is “to”, but it’s more similar to German “zu” or Esperanto “al” rather than to German “an” or Esperanto “ĝis” with their connotation of touching at the end.

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).

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