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For anyone who cares, the author in question is Carol Berg. I'd just read an excerpt from one of her novels after Zhe told me that he borrowed a book of hers from the library. The following conversation ensued.


me
: there was far too much exposition in it though, and i really hate it when authors come up with arbitrary units of measurement to make hteir world feel more foreign

17:38 Zhe:
i would prefer if authors used metric units of measurement
 Zhe: like
17:39 he wielded a huge sword of 95 cm
 me: actually i lie, the excerpt i read before was also in first person
  lol i don't mind imperial that much
17:40 at least we're somewhat familiar with both imperial and metric
 Zhe: that's true
 me: whereas i don't have any idea what a quant is and it just makes one more thing you need to explain to me before i can start appreciating the parts of the story that i care about
17:41 Zhe: u sure it's not a real unit of measurement?
 me: considering that she defined it immediately afterwards, almost certainly not
  apparently its the length of a knucklebone
  or somesuch
 Zhe: to make it extra difficult, they should use a logrithmic unit if measurement for lengths and weights
17:42 me: or obsolete ones like links and chains..
  haha
 Zhe: or to the power of some irrational number
  like e
 me: his sword was 3 times the golden ratio phi in units
17:43 or the new way they like to measure metric, in terms of vibration of caesium atoms or whatnot
  or the amount of time it takes light to travel X distance
 Zhe: or in terms of mythical creatures that they themselves invented
17:44 like "it would have taken a gobberwookie three seconds of the fourth moon's lunar time to travel it's breadth
 me: heh i think you're onto something
17:45 i had to wait thrice the fourth moons orbit before meeting her
17:48 Zhe: i had to wait thrice the eclipse of the third and seventh moon, whereby the third moon has an orbital frequency 1/pi of the second second moon, and the seventh moon had an orbital frequency of 1/e of the fourth moon, and the second and fourth moon eclipses when the jabberwokkie migrates across the great plains of elih
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* Dear paper authors: You are writing in English for an English-speaking audience. As such, I really wish that you wouldn't liberally fill your papers with random French and Latin phrases. It doesn't make your arguments any better and in fact only makes you look like a pretentious snob who only wants their paper to be comprehensible to other pretentious snobs.

* Me to my friends: "I was asking because some people theorise that the pseudo-knots in RNA are analogous to the way transformational grammar moves things around in sentences, like moving the auxiliary in questions. Morphology can be likened to viruses and transformational grammar to the immune system. And that's not just a wanky Arts analogy, they actually have some evidence for this!" (It sure does sound like a wanky Arts analogy when you try to explain it though...)

* Half these authors constantly reference their own papers, which seems a little like cheating, almost. It's like if you can get the same or a similar argument published enough times, it makes you more likely to be correct? At least, that's what it feels like, since referencing usually makes it look as though your research is all backed up by other research. It would be like if I claimed constantly for the last five years that pigs can fly, and then used the fact that I've been saying it for five years with various different justifications each time as proof that they really can. Having said that, it's pretty useful being able to see which of their previous papers relate to the same topic.

* Don't suppose anyone knows any really good papers about how features spread from language to language (or between dialects)?

* Why yes, I *am* writing this post as procrastination, why do you ask?

A theory

May. 22nd, 2008 02:35 pm
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The more I learn about how society works the more I think that most laws/rules that are put in place aren't actually intended to be followed to the letter, but are there to ensure that people only break them infrequently and in relatively safe ways

Speeding is an obvious example in society. I know very few people who never speed, but the speed cameras and the no tolerance policies on holidays ensure that most people are very careful about how and when they speed - going 50km over the limit on the freeway is one thing, but speeding in areas where children can run out into the road is something else. And this is something that most people implicitly understand, that it's the kind of law that it's ok to break as long as you're careful.

Another example is the rules against plagiarism at university. In first year most of us were terrified to discuss any part of the assignment with each other because it might lead to accidentally incorporating someone else's idea into your work without realising it, and the penalty for getting caught ranges from immediate failure of the assignment to expulsion from the university. Now, five years later, we have no problems discussing the assignment and ideas on how to tackle it. On occasion I've even looked at my friends' code, both to help them debug and to get help. But again, the net effect of the rule is to make us very cautious about how we do that sort of thing. We always stop before actual plagiarism but all those lesser offences like sharing ideas, we do but in a fairly careful manner, and always make sure that whatever we write or code is entirely our own style.

Recreational drugs is another example (technically illegal but it's easy enough to find someone who knows someone if you really want to, and the more drugs you do the more likely you are to be caught)

Obviously there are places in the laws that this doesn't hold. There's no 'nice' way to murder or steal. My theory is also not intended to cover the excuse of "but everyone else is doing it" to justify doing things that are wrong. It's more a sense of, sometimes there's a reason why breaking a particular rule is so widespread, and in those cases I don't think much harm is done.
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So I just go to check my Unimail to see if the provisional exam results were out (they weren't), and the blurb thingy on the Firefox tab caught my attention:

UniMail :: UNSW E-Mail Via the Web.

Which leads me to wonder how one is meant to check one's email without using the web.
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People like to say that if aliens exist they most likely do it in a form that is in no way similar to ours, and to believe otherwise is grossly anthropocentric. But then what if we have contact with aliens and they *are* humanoid? Will it in fact prove that humanity/humanoids really are the superior race? And then there'll be another race that was 'created in God's image', so it would be fascinating listening to what the various religious institutions had to say about it. Even more outlandish would be if we got Star Trek style aliens who are identical to humans except for silly brow ridges and stuff, and who use language in the same manner we do. That would really be stacking the odds though.


These days when I get on a bus I sometimes like to check out my fellow passengers. Generally there's a few types: There's the daydreamer, who stares out the window and steadfastly refuses to admit to the reality of his existence on public transpot. Then there's the business-like approach of the starer, who just sits there and stares straight ahead. No doubt they're lost in their own little world even more than the daydreamer. Then there's the inevitable person or two who spends the entire trip on their mobile. Then there are the couples who can't keep their hands off eachother, the schoolkids who think no one else in the world matters, the crazies who'll talk to anyone who'll listen (and frequently to the air if no one else will), and many many elderly.


I want to create but I'm having trouble staying focussed on anything long enough to develop it past, oh.. 50% of an initial draft? Possibly less even. I'll start out with an interesting idea and then lose steam within a paragraph or two of the outline. I probably shouldn't force it but it's not like I have anything else to do during these holidays... *shrug* They weren't such great ideas after all.


I find it interesting to try to guess what people are saying from context alone. Mise en scene my Year 10 English teacher called it, I think. One of my Bangladeshi coworkers seems to find it equally amusing to speak to me entirely in Hindi and see how I respond (since it's a very controlled context my response is usually fairly accurate). People are always so surprised to find out that despite not understanding any of the words the context, body language and tone of voice gives away nearly as much as the words themselves. But then online one can do more or less the same thing by analysing people's grammar, spelling and word choices. Get all that extra meaning that is, not understand foreign languages :P The textual equivalent of body language?
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You know you've been working at Coles too long when:
a) You know where every item is on the shelves down to exact locations
b) You're so used to Indian accents that ,after seeing a film where all the actors spoke in strong Indian accents and your Indo friend who saw it with you complained that they were too hard to understand, you find yourself slightly bemused because to you all the accents were clear as crystal
c) All of the above

So yeh, tonight I went to see The Namesake with Ronald. All I knew going in was that it was Indian and it had won awards or something. Well turns out both of these were slightly wrong; It follows Bengali people and it was based on a prize-winning novel as opposed to being prizewinning itself. It's a slow-paced story that mostly deals with the anomie (heh, I love Linguistics for teaching me this word. Basically it's when you find yourself torn between two identities) of being both Bengali and American. I guess I identify partly because I have the same kind of relationship with my Jewishness.

In other news, there's someone who I sorta know who's driving me crazy at the moment. Not in a bad way or a good way, just.. a way. The reason is because they remind me so strongly of my ex that it's slightly freaky. In fact it's people like this that make me believe that MBTI is a good tool for seeing people with, because this person is practically a clone of my ex, just from a different angle. Even down to a lot of the little mannerisms which you would swear were a unique personality quirk except that I've now seen the same quirks in two different people. Meh.

How good is it when you go to a restaurant for a quick dinner before the movie and sit down and order, right. And then they accidentally take your dish to the table behind you, who think it's their dish and promptly eat it. So then your dish takes ages to arrive, except it's not really your dish, it belongs to the table behind you. And then the waitresses waste another 5 minutes of your time having a conversation about how to deal with them stuffing up the orders. Grrr.

At work there's exactly one person who I would really consider a friend. And that person just got offered a grad job. Sigh. I'm happy that he's made something of himself but obviously it does rather suck for me.

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