s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: July 2009

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tribond Tuesday

Sigourney Weaver
Mary McDonnell
Stockard Channing

Friday, July 24, 2009

Christmas carols: Quando nascette ninno

This is a traditional Neapolitan shepherd's carol. The only version I liked was instrumental, so I'll give you the words to the first verse:

Quando nascette Ninno a Bettelemme,
Era notte a parea mmiezo juorno!
Maje le stelle
Lustere belle,
Se vedettero accusi!
La chiù lucente
Jette a chiammà li Magi, in Oriente.

When Christ, the Son of Mary, in Bethlehem was born,
'Twas night, and yet the light was bright as summer's morn!
Stars were gleaming,
Brightly beaming
O'er the town of Bethlehem
A brighter star there shone
For magi far, a guiding star that led them on.

Fans of Handel's Messiah will notice a striking similarity between this tune and "He shall feed his flock." Scholars have postulated that Handel may have heard the song when he visited Rome in his youth.

Guitar orchestra of the Ivanka pri Dunaji music school, 2007:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tribond Tuesday


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Things I have learned in Primary

1. Kids act up because they're bored

I sympathize with bored, restless kids because I hated primary. It bored me to tears. (Literally. I used to cry on Saturday nights because I had to go to primary the next day. Or maybe it was on Sunday nights because I had to go to school and be bored. I'll have to check.)

So, sometimes the thing is to give them more to do (at an age-appropriate level), not less. And if they can get up and move around, so much the better.

2. Sign language is great

I forgot about using sign language to learn songs because it didn't work well with the first song I tought them in May. (The song was very short and full of proper names, and sign language doesn't help much for those.) Come the end of June, we'd been working on a song all month and the kids still weren't getting it. Then I introduced sign language and we learned almost the entire song in one day.

To do justice to my linguistics training, I should point out that we're not learning actual sign language (whose grammar is entirely different from English). And we're not even doing proper Signed English, because we're not signing all of the grammar words, just the major content words. (You'd think we could just make up actions to go to the words, but it doesn't work as well as the actual ASL signs. I'm not sure what the significance of that is.) It also helps them remember some of the more arcane vocabulary. (I.e., the sign for "abound" looks like "lots and lots.")

Friday, July 17, 2009

Christmas carols: O little town of Bethlehem

When I started working on this project, I decided that I wanted to see if I could spend the first six months highlighting only more obscure carols. Now that it's July, I figured it was finally time to cover a more popular carol.

The first thing I noticed when doing research on this carol was that most of the recordings I heard used a different melody than the one I thought was standard. The melody I know (the one that appears in the LDS hymn book) was written by Lewis Redner in 1868 and was the original melody for the tune. It's also referred to as "St. Louis."

The other setting is a traditional melody called "Forest Green," first collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1903 and now apparently the standard tune for this carol in England. (This tune also appears in the LDS hymn book as the melody for "I saw a mighty angel fly.")

Further research revealed that there is still another common melody for this carol which was written by Henry Walford Davies and published in 1978.

"St. Louis": Susan Paree (voice and harp), 2006(?):

Tune: St. Louis

"Forest Green": Kiri te Kanawa and Unknown Choir:

Tune: Forest Green

Aled Jones and the Westminster Cathedral Choir, ca. 1980(?):

Walford Davies melody

Honorable Mention: The honorable mention recordings cover a variety of musical genres, including brass ensemble (Salvation Army, Hythe Band), barbershop quartet (On This Rock), gospel (The Clark Sisters), contemporary Christian, (First Call), and The King (who is a genre unto himself),

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tribond Tuesday

Tribond is a game where you are given three things and you have to figure out what they have in common. There's an ongoing Tribond thread on another forum I frequent, but it turns out that I like coming up with Tribond clues more than I like solving other people's clues, so the thread often lies dormant for months at a time.

As an outlet for my Tribond-coming-up-with impulses, I figure maybe I'll start posting them here so that my beloved readers can have the pleasure of solving them. We'll see how it goes.

Puzzle #1:

Monday, July 06, 2009

In which I do the mocking, in my turn

[Necessary background info: (1) I am the primary chorister. (2)  There is a family in the ward whose mother is German, so the kids speak it a little, but I get the impression they're not fully bilingual.]

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month, so it was time to teach my primary kids a new song. When I'm teaching a new song, one of the first things I like to do is go over any of the hard or unusual words and explain what they mean (and sometimes we act them out or do silly things so we can remember them). When I got to the word "proclaim," I went to the podium and made a loud announcement, and then explained that "to proclaim" is kind of like "to announce."

One of my kids said "I proclaim that we must all now speak German!" I laughed and said that was a good example of a proclamation and started to go on to the next word. "Nein, nein!" he interrupted, "Auf deutsch!"

I gave him my best "Oh, honey, you have no idea" look and said: "Meinetwegen ist das keine gute Ahnung weil est gibt nur du und ich die sprechen können. Stimmt?"*

He looked stunned and didn't say anything, but his teacher laughed at him (and we continued in English).

See here for a previous episode of "Katya smacks down a 10-year-old."
*"In my opinion, that's not a good idea because there's only you and I that can speak [it]. Do you agree?" (If there be faults, they are the faults of Katya not having studied German in over nine years.)

Friday, July 03, 2009

Christmas carols: Lo! he comes, with clouds descending

I don't yet have a new laptop, but I've managed to pull this together while borrowing a friend's.

The history of this carol begins with John Cennick, an 18th century convert to Methodism. John Cennick wrote the text for an Advent hymn, which in turn inspired John Wesley (one of the founders of the Methodist movement), to write more verses for it. (Cennick's original text became verses 3 and 4 of the current version. Wesley's contribution became verses 1, 2, and 5-7). The tune was written by Martin Madan, another Methodist convert.

I only liked one YouTube version of this enough to post it, and it doesn't include any voices, so I'm giving you the first verse of the song:

Lo! he comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand, thousand saints, attending,
Swell the triumph of his train.
Hallelujah! hallelujah! hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.

Unknown organist, Stahlhuth organ, Friedenskirche (Meckenheim, Germany), 2007:

Thursday, July 02, 2009

In which I am thoroughly mocked

Saturday, Kelly was sitting at the table working a math problem related to paying some bills. I was on her computer (my own having died earlier in the week), so I offered to bring up the calculator function on it.

"That's OK," she said, "My phone has a calculator."

"Oh, yeah," I said, "It would." Then I added, "My new phone has a calculator, but I'm kind of bummed that it doesn't have a square root function."

"You're disappointed that your phone doesn't have a square root function?!" she asked, incredulously. (Apparently this is not a very credulous thing to say.)

"Well, yeah," I said, defensively, "I was lying in bed the other night thinking about square roots—"

"You were lying in bed thinking about square roots?!" (Apparently this did not help my case.)

So then I had to go back and explain even more to show her that it was perfectly reasonable for me to be lying in bed thinking about square roots. (Cue flashback sequence.)


Like Michael Jackson, my laptop unexpectedly met its demise last week. Because of this, I'm shopping for a new laptop, ideally one that's a bit smaller. I saw a good deal on laptops with an 10" monitor, but I wasn't really sure how small of a screen that would be. (As you may or may not know, computer monitors are measured diagonally, so it can be hard to picture the actual dimensions of the monitor without referring to a ruler.) 

I was thinking about this in bed and then I thought that maybe it would help if I could compare the size to an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper. Of course, to do that, I'd need to figure out the diagonal length of such a sheet of paper. I got as far as a^2 + b^2, but then I couldn't figure out the square root in my head. 

So I grabbed my phone, which was by my alarm clock, and flipped it open to use the square root function . . . which proved to be sadly nonexistent. (In retrospect, I could have tried squaring different numbers until I got close to the number whose root I wanted, but give me a break, I was half asleep!)


So, now that I have explained myself, I'm sure you can see how perfectly reasonable my train of thought was. All the same, I think I'm going to go lift some weights so I don't get my lunch money stolen tomorrow.