Getting off-topic

I thought I might be imagining it, but I don’t think so anymore: Language Log is getting less focused and less good than it used to be.

Bill Poser today wrote an entry about how runners hear the start gun at different times because of the speed of sound in air. The ‘hook’ used to relate this to linguistics is that if people studied acoustic phonetics, they would know this was a problem.

Yes…but if they studied physics, or even general science, they would know this too. I am not impressed with this as a linguistics hook. Sorry, but Language Log is supposed to be about linguistics, not about the fairness of Olympic track racing. Read down the list of recent entries, and then browse through a segment of LL Classic and see what you think about their relative interestingness.

I don’t know if this is an affliction common to blogs, but I’ve seen it happen to several. BoingBoing, which was once what its tagline claims (a directory of wonderful things) has become highly political. I still find it interesting to check out, but the slant on the politics is also high (unclear incidents of civil liberty violations are made to sound highly inflammatory), and that makes it even less interesting than just politics (which after all is also interesting, though perhaps not always wonderful).

Both BB and LL also added comments fairly recently. The comments sections are generally better than average, but they rarely add much to the original entry. I preferred both blogs when you had to email the original poster to comment, even though your words were subject to their whims. (My comments were mentioned or published a couple of times on both BB and LL, which was neat, but that’s neither here nor there.) This has contributed to my current feelings about their decline — which is funny because I can always just skip the comments if I don’t want to read them.

Navigating the world of new phones

My Verizon “new every two” thing keeps showing up in my mail in recent months — I think it started last year sometime, but I’ve been resisting.

However, the BlueAnt V1 is coming out soon! And I have been helping to test the tech in them at work* (and may eventually get one), so it is a pain for me not to have a Bluetooth-enabled phone. Thus, I’m finally going to give into the desire to get a new phone.

The only question is: what phone?

I am not getting a Blackberry because they are too expensive for data, and I really don’t need one.

(I am not getting an iPhone for a multitude of reasons, not least that I would have to switch carriers. My objections to the iPhone are really a whole other entry, and not very interesting.)

So that left me with the options of upgrading to other phones within Verizon. I decided I would rather stick with LG because although their phones have certain quirks, I am used to them.

So today I looked at the Dare, the enV2, and the basic VX8350, which is essentially just a modernized, Bluetooth-capable version of my current phone (the VX6100).

1) Stay with the same kind of phone and plan
2) Upgrade a bit, QWERTY keyboard & camera w/higher resolution, same plan
3) Major upgrade plus web data plan

The LG Dare is basically Verizon’s iPhone, though there are a lot of differences. It’s touchscreen only, but not capacitative (wtf?). It also has a 3MP camera (…almost as many MP as my large 2002 digicam!) and full web browser (which is the part of the Blackberry function I would actually like, though the quality of the rendering engine gets mediocre reviews). It’s also really new, and I’m worried about it having weird flaws (user reviews of the Voyager, the previous all-touch phone, suggest the touch screen may not be that great).

The enV2 doesn’t have a true web browser or as good a camera (CNet says mediocre) but evidently is sturdy and has good sound quality and a good keyboard.

The VX8350 has some neat features, like being able to be a USB mass-storage device and transferring files via Bluetooth. Photo quality is said to be good but MP is only 1.3.

All of them play music, which is kinda cool — I haven’t had a phone before that would do that — but may require some extra equipment to transfer files, which isn’t so cool. (None of them plays OGG, of course, but I didn’t expect a phone to do that.)

And they basically cost either $100, $50, or $0 (after contract credit + rebate). Kind of an interesting stack, that.

I’m going to think about it for a while longer, but right now I’m basically playing with the tradeoff of better camera & web/risky touchscreen & web contract expense vs. mediocre camera & no web/good quality keypad interface & no new contract expense. One thing that worries me is that I tend to knock my phones around a bit in my bags, and I’m worried about damaging the Dare. OTOH people keep iPhones in their pockets with no apparent ill effects, so maybe it isn’t really a problem.

*This blog should not be taken as representing the views of anyone other than me, certainly not my employer or any business the company works with.

Reality of language

I almost have a hard time believing this, except that there are so many Google results for the word:

Is hited a word??

People ask Yahoo Answers a lot of strange questions, including many that would be best answered by a dictionary and another whole batch that would be best answered by a philosopher, plus a lot of others that just really aren’t the Internet’s business, but this one just kind of bowled me over.

How to relearn Spanish and have fun too

My Spanish is, to say the least, rusty. At one time in my life I could do literary analysis in Spanish and probably knew more technical poetry terms in Spanish than in English. These days it’s pretty much limited to “Hi, how are you?” (“Hola, como estás?” for those who didn’t just translate that in their heads.) Okay, not really, I can still say a variety of things and read and write pretty fluently, but my vocabulary and fluency has really dropped off because it’s not refreshed regularly.

So when I saw Isa’s post on vegan food blogs in Spanish, I was like, awesome! Vegan food from other cuisines, plus the opportunity to refresh my Spanish with language that people actually use, rather than arcane items like sinécdoque (a word I learned first in Spanish V AP and only later in English). And the linguistics geek in me (who am I kidding, the linguistics geek that IS me) jumped for joy at the chance to learn about recipe register in another language.

I like CreatiVegan particularly because the recipes are given in English and Spanish. The English translations are a little rough but all the more charming and linguistically interesting for it (also much better than I could do translating my recipes into Spanish). I love the look of the Rollitos de berenjena con verduras [Little Eggplant rolls with vegetables] in Gastronomia Vegana — very creative, I’ve never thought of using eggplant as a tortilla replacement. And El Delantal Verde [The Green Apron] is just pretty!

By the way, Google Translate thinks that the Tarta fria de yogur (which looks lovely) should be called “Tartan cold yogurt”. I think Google might be confused about what country we’re in…

updated webpage

I updated my webpage last night, which I evidently hadn’t done in a couple of years. That’s hard to believe — time has flown. But the content was showing its age, and links to my gallery and blog (which have been set up and working for almost six months now) now exist, which should help people find them.

Working with the static content of the webpage was interesting, and lent insight into why many popular websites have essentially become blogs. Tomato Nation made this transition not long ago, and while I was dismayed at first, I really don’t miss the old site arrangement now (except for the giant tomato graphic) because all the content is there and the updates show up right at the top, all without Sars (I would imagine) having to do anything more than open a posting window.

The fact is that most websites have always been interesting primarily for little chunks of content, and that said chunks are most interesting when they are either new (something blog posts handle much better than “New!” graphics) or old and popular. It’s easy to put or keep your popular chunks in posts, and add a list of the popular posts to your blog front page. So the blog (especially ones that use software that leans to the CMS side, like WordPress) really handles pretty much everything you would want in a website, with the possible exception of other specialized content like photos, which can be easily set up in Gallery or similar and just linked in to the front page.

I’m not sure if I’ll do that. There’s a certain appeal to the old-fashioned pages too.

I also added a lot of blogs to my blogroll. Some of them are ones I’ve been reading, but that aren’t on my syndicated feeds list on LiveJournal for some reason, and some are ones I’d bookmarked and forgetten about but would like to read more often. Most of them seem to be about cooking or cycling. Not entirely surprising, but there are a few others.

Amazon feature I want

I just sent Amazon a feedback comment asking if they have either of two features:
1) Notification when an item on your wishlist becomes unavailable, and/or
2) The ability to easily switch from an unavailable edition of something to an available one.

I had quite a few items on my wishlist that had become unavailable. Some of them are really no longer available, but a lot have just changed editions. I want to 1) find out the items are not there without having to go look all the time, and 2) have an easy way to switch.

Do these features actually already exist, and would anyone else use them, if they don’t?

I’m not a bird…

…I don’t twitter. But apparently several of you do. I’m curious why. It doesn’t really resonate with me — too much announcement, too little interaction, maybe? It seems like Facebook status on crack, with what is entered becoming a kind of social performance piece to up the entertainment value. It reminds me of the way AIM messages were used in college when everyone was logged on all the time, often either vaguely mysterious or highly uninformative. I got uncomfortable with that during my extended AIM hiatus in Scotland, and now the idea of updating people on my status even as often as I do on Facebook (which isn’t very) seems odd to me.