s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: August 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

Christmas carols: Nowel: Owt of your slepe aryse

This carol comes from the Selden manuscript at the Bodleian Library and dates to the mid-fifteenth century.

It's always tough when I only find one video of a carol, because I either have to go with the recording (no matter how bad it is) or leave the carol out of my series. Luckily for me, this rendition is lovely, even if there are some background noise issues.

Meghan Coviello, Kris Martin-Baker, and Amy Travis, 2008:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tribond Tuesday

Sean Penn
Susan Sarandon
Jamie Lee Curtis

(I think this one's a bit harder than the others have been, so I'll post a hint tomorrow if no one gets it.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Christmas carols: The Angel Gabriel from heaven came

This is a traditional Basque carol which was collected in 1895 by Charles Bordes. Alas, I was not able to find any versions sung in Basque, although I did find one in Welsh. (Welsh, Basque, they're both . . . not English, right?)

Choir of King's College, Cambridge, 2007(?):

Aled Jones, 2007:

Idiom breaking

I want to start throwing (perfectly innocuous) French phrases into my casual conversation, and then say "Pardon my French."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tribond Tuesday


("Tri" is Welsh for "three." Most of you probably know that "cinco" is Spanish for five. )

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cat. & Reference: Taking it on faith

Catalogers are supposed to be unbiased. We are supposed to accept, at face value, the information in the books we works we come across. If we think someone's made a mistake, we can supply corrections or explanatory notes in brackets, but that's about it.

The upshot of this is that if someone says that they channeled the spirit of a dead person who wrote a book through them, the cataloger has to put the dead person as the author. (The medium who channeled the spirit is cataloged as an "added entry," which means someone who helped out with the creation of the work, but isn't considered primarily responsible for its content. Translators, illustrators, and editors are other common "added entry" roles.)

Of course, a good cataloger also gives patrons the proper information they need to make a choice about material selection, and that information probably includes whether or not a book was written by a living person or through a medium.

The official way to distinguish between the two types of authors is to add the word "Spirit" in parentheses after the author's name. That way, the two authors show up together when browsing, but books written by each are ultimately kept separate in the catalog.

You'd be surprised at how many famous people have written books from beyond the grave. (You wouldn't be surprised, perhaps, that it's mostly famous people who seem to be doing it.)

The Library of Congress owns books written by the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (fittingly, since he was very involved in spiritualism in his later years), as well as John Lennon, Princess Diana and Sitting Bull.

Lest I start sounding a bit smug, it's worth noting that most people (and, presumably, most librarians) don't believe that Joseph Smith actually translated The Book of Mormon from an ancient source. And yet, because he's listed as the translator on the title page of The Book of Mormon, that's how he's credited in the catalog records (such as this one).

Of course, "Mormon" isn't credited as an editor or compiler, so I guess you can only suspend disbelief for so long. And I was going to say that the records didn't include an language code variable field, either (a field that includes 3-letter codes for the language of translation and original language of the book), but then I came a cross a record which does include them (here). (The "eng" stands for English and the "und" stands for "undetermined," I guess because there isn't a standard ISO 639-2 language code for "Reformed Egyptian.")

For some reason it gives me cataloger warm fuzzies to know that some Library of Congress librarian actually bothered to add in translation codes for The Book of Mormon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Christmas carols: Psallite Unigenito

This carol is often credited to Michael Praetorius, but the music is actually an older French melody. The New Oxford Book of Carols refers to this piece as "macaronic," which sent me to the dictionary to discover that it means "mixed language," especially Latin mixed with a vernacular language (in this case, Latin and German).

I found several recordings of this, and I liked this one best:

Ensemble D.E.U.M., November 2008:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

On average

Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot is supposed to have quipped "I was born in Poland and raised in France, so I am, on average, German."

Having spent most of my live in Utah, but the last four years in Illinois and Maine, I am, on average, a Coloradan. (From somewhere in Routt County, to be precise.)

Where are you from?

(n.b. I calculated this by averaging and the latitude and longitude of the places I've lived after weighting them by how long I've lived there, which would tend to bias my answer towards the north, due to the uneven spacing between lines of longitude. However, Urbana and Provo are actually at almost the exact same latitude and I've spent 93% of of my life in either one or the other, so I trust that Maine is not exerting an undue influence. Someone who had spent, say, 18 months as far north as Sweden would be well advised not to take the same mathematical shortcut.)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tribond Tuesday

James Bond
Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Lost Islands*

*I confess to not having been familiar with this program before I went looking for something to complete the set, thus, the Wikipedia link.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Being difficult

A friend of mine was born in South Africa, but he and his family now live in the US. Because of this, he figures he's as "African-American" as anyone, even though he's not black.

Another friend of mine refuses to mark "Caucasian" on forms, because he's spent time in the Caucasus and doesn't look like people from that area. If "white" is not available as an option, he fills in "other" and writes "European-American."

I, in turn, think my skin is not "white," but "peachy-pinkish-brown" (although I haven't gone so far as to write this on any forms).

Friday, August 07, 2009

Christmas carols: God rest ye merry, gentlemen

I've been slacking off on these, but now that I have my new computer, I've no excuse. This week's carol is "God rest ye merry, gentlemen," a traditional English carol. While doing research for this carol, I realized for the first time that the title isn't [God rest ye] [merry gentlemen] (more or less "Rest, merry gentlement"), but [God rest ye merry] [gentlemen] (closer to "stay merry, gentlemen." What a difference a comma makes.

Sissel, 2007(?):

A version sung by Sissel, the Norwegian coloratura soprano. This isn't the most traditional arrangement, but I liked it the best of the vocal versions I heard.

Stu and Sniper, 2007:

An instrumental jazz duet on piano.

Unknown group, 2008:

A celtic arrangement. Go to about one minute in if you want to skip the introduction.

Bonus: Barenaked Ladies, 2007:

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tribond Tuesday


*I* liked it

A few years ago, I was talking with a friend about a classic 20th century novel. He’d read it, but I never had, even though it was vaguely on my mental list of “books I ought to read someday.” I asked, “Is it good?” He paused and said, “I liked it,” with a definite stress on the first person implying “but I don’t guarantee that you will.”

After I read it, I could see why he’d phrased the recommendation in just that way, since some people might have been uncomfortable with the violence, language, and sexual references in the book. Or maybe wouldn’t have cared for the somewhat disjointed writing style. (The book was Slaughterhouse-Five, if you’re wondering.)

As it turned out, though, I loved it, and ended up reading a dozen more Kurt Vonnegut books over the next couple of years.

A recent conversation with Melyngoch about R-rated movies, as well as her latest post at Zelophehad’s Daughters, has got me thinking again about media and Mormon standards again.

To be fair, there are good reasons for not watching R-rated movies. If my goal is to encourage critical thinking and good judgment, making a blanket statement that everyone has to watch something is as bad making a blanket statement that says nobody should watch it.

Along those lines, I feel like I’m pretty willing to “enter into someone else’s world,” so to speak. I’m comfortable hanging out with people who drink or are living their significant other or who are staunch atheists. I get that they’re making choices I wouldn’t make, but I feel that the sum total of a person goes beyond that and I’ve found that they’re often willing to meet me halfway, as well.

But when I’m hanging out with more conservative Mormons (or “average” Mormons, but we’ll get to whether or not they’re actually average in a minute), I feel like I'm the one who has to make all of the social compromises, for fear of doing irreparable damage to their tender little psyches if they (to quote Melyngoch) discover “I’m not the Mormon [they] thought I was” and “react as if betrayed.” (If you think that’s an overstatement, allow me to direct you to Board Question #23236.)

It’s a vicious circle, of course. The more quiet I am about my actual feelings and interests, the more I let people assume that the “Deseret Book Mormon” is the only kind of faithful Mormon that exists. (For all I know, the Church is full of kindred spirits, only we keep missing each other because we don’t speak up.)

So, I feel that I should be able to say “Pan’s Labyrinth is an amazing film.” Period. “The Backslider is one of the most faith-affirming books I've ever read.” Period. No asterisks, no qualifiers, no apologies.

It’s not that I’m out to deceive anyone by tricking them into watching or reading something they’d rather not. If someone asked me, straight up, whether there was anything potentially objectionable in the film or book, I’d be happy to give them an honest evaluation. But I don’t think I should have to add a warning statement to all of my recommendation unless specifically asked for one.

See, I’m a big fan of research. The way I look at it, If I go to the trouble of reading reviews and checking detailed ratings to decide if I want to see a movie or not, you can do it, too. Of course, talking to friends and family members who’ve seen the movie is another part of doing research, and when I talk to them, it’s sort of understood that they’re not just recommending a movie or book, they’re recommending it to me, and I’d be pretty annoyed if they failed to mention something in it that I might find hugely upsetting or problematic. Which is quite possibly what my more conservative friends expect of me, as well.

So maybe I should just learn to say “I liked it . . .”

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New computer

About a month ago, my old laptop's motherboard died. Since my laptop was too old to be worth fixing up, I decided to buy a new one, which just arrived last week.

Things I like:

1. The color

Online, the laptop colors looked like something out of the late '90s iMac era. In real life, though, the colors are actually much more muted and opalescent. It's a pity, since I would probably have gone with purple if I'd known what it would actually look like. (I went with blue.)

2. That it's not a Mac

Don't get me wrong — I am infinitely grateful for the the loan of my roommate's school computer over the last six weeks. However, I am greatly fond of keyboard shortcuts and I find my style rather cramped without access to Home, Delete, Pg Up, and Pg Down buttons. (The Mac has a key called "Delete," but it functions the same as a PC "Backspace," which is to say that it deletes characters to the left of the cursor. What I was lacked was a button that deleted characters to the right.)

3. The Vista widgets

I was not at all excited about upgrading to Windows Vista, and even looked into Dell's program where you can pay extra and stick with Windows XP (but it wasn't available on the model of laptop I wanted). I'm not a fan of change, generally, and I'm still having some trouble finding my way around on the thing, but I actually kind of like some of the little widgets that came with it, including the clock and weather button.

4. The super long battery life

It probably helps that I don't have many programs loaded on this computer, but my battery life is crazy long right now. (I'm sure it also helps that I opted for the dual battery option.)

Things I don't like:

1. The twitchy trackpad

I don't know how to describe my trackpad issues any better than to call it "twitchy." I've turned down the sensitivity quite a bit and slowed down the cursor movement so that I don't go flying across the screen unexpectedly. In all likelihood, my old laptop was so old that the trackpad had become very unresponsive, so that's what I've gotten used to.

2. The lack of a 10 key pad

I know that laptops don't generally have 10 key pads, but my old laptop had one on the main keypad that you could access by holding down the blue function key. One of the main things I used it for was special character shortcuts, such as Alt + 0233 = é. Inexplicably, the shortcuts don't work with the top row numbers — with the keypad numbers — and I'm already getting annoyed at having to find workarounds to pull up the em-dashes for this sentence, for example.

3. The keyboard

In addition to the trackpad being twitchy, the keyboard is squishy.

4. Virus software issues

My computer came with a McAfee trial, but I'm supposed to get a free version of Symantec through the university. I had to uninstall McAfee in order to install Symantec, but the Symantec version that's supposed to be compatible with my operating system isn't working properly. So my computer is currently immuno-compromised. (This isn't technically Dell's fault, but it's still a problem until I can get our IT people to fix it.)