Linguist; musician.
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I’m very excited to announce that there’s going to be a...

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I’m very excited to announce that there’s going to be a Crash Course​ Linguistics mini-course coming out at some point in 2020! 

I’m even more excited to say that I’m involved in creating it, along with the excellent linguists Lauren Gawne and Jessi Grieser! Stay tuned for more news as we’re able to share it next year! 

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lelandpaul
1 day ago
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yessssssss I've been wanting this to happen for years, and Gretchen is just the right person to do it. (And Lauren & Jessi are wonderful too!)
San Francisco, CA
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Change Ringing in Boston and Northampton

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This blog is 6 years old today, which means it’s my birthday! Anyway, on to the bells.

My fall break in Massachusetts was not entirely devoted to visiting bookstores. I flew into Boston on Saturday evening and spent the night with a close high school friend and her husband. On Sunday morning, I joined Leland and the Boston band for my first close encounter with change ringing. Here’s my non-ringer’s explanation for non-ringers: change ringing is ringing church tower bells with ropes, one ringer to a bell. Change ringing is not melodic, so the ringers aren’t playing a tune. Rather, the bells are rung in different orders/permutations. There are named patterns that consist of a specific set of permutations. Ringers learn these patterns, called methods, so when the conductor calls out a particular method, they know what their bell is supposed to do. It’s physical, mathematical, and very English. I thought I had some esoteric hobbies, but change ringing (like lined-out hymnody!) makes shape note singing look mainstream.

Church of the Advent

On Sunday morning, I first walked through Back Bay to the Church of the Advent. The sidewalks were paved in red brick, and the front steps of most townhouses were festively decorated for autumn/Halloween, with pumpkins and gourds galore (also, you know, the odd fresh grave in a little front garden). Advent is an Episcopalian/Anglican church, and from what I could glean it’s about as close as you can get to Catholic without recognizing the Pope. Veeery high church. When Leland and his partner, also a ringer, arrived, we ascended the narrow spiral staircase to an anteroom that gave onto the ringing room beyond. There were lots of signs about when to be quiet.

We were there for service ringing, that is, bell ringing as the current service was getting out, so the ringers had to wait for the right moment. Then they went into the ringing room; I was invited to come in too, as long as I did not touch or go near any ropes. The first thing the band had to do was ring the tower bells up (so their mouths were up; this is their rest position when ringers are actively using the bells). After this, I went back to the anteroom while different sets of ringers rang different methods on the bells. I picked up some change ringing jargon over the course of the morning (some of which I may get wrong in this post), but I have to admit that all the methods sounded the same to me. It’s kind of beautiful to watch, though, without even seeing the bells: the ringers’ movements are very fluid, and it all looks like this somewhat hypnotizing human machine.

Simon the church cat

After about twenty minutes of ringing, we went downstairs and around the corner for the fellowship hour. Advent has a resident church cat, Simon, who was very sweet! Possibly because he could butter people into sharing treats from the table with him.

Next we walked to Old North Church, of Paul Revere fame (he rang the same bells that the Boston band still rings!), for more service ringing. The ringing room of Old North felt a bit more rustic (all wood and brick), and I perched on the staircase that led to the upper stories of the tower to watch. When the bells rang, the whole tower thrummed. A few methods in, Leland and I went through the door at the top of my steps, climbed another staircase, and then climbed a sort of stair-ladder hybrid to a platform just overlooking the bells. From here, with ear protection, we watched the bells swing up and down as the ringers below handled the ropes for the next pattern.

The bells of Old North

The band rang at Old North for about an hour, and then we all had lunch at the Boston Public Market. I went back to my friend’s place to pick up my stuff and took the T to Cambridge to meet up with Leland again. At his partner’s apartment, we had tea, and then they brought out a set of handbells to try to teach me to ring some changes. The actual ringing technique is different from the technique I’m accustomed to from ringing in handbell choirs; there are two strokes, the way there are with tower bells. This was a little awkward, but much more difficult was trying to ring permutations. They’d given me the two bells that rang “symmetrically,” which was supposed to make the task easier, but as soon as the changes began, I found myself completely lost. It was like my brain had hit a wall; it was actually kind of impressive. We switched from six bells to five, and with only one bell, I was able to keep up a bit better, thinking to myself something like, This time through I ring in position one, this time through in position two…

Soon after the handbell ringing, Leland and I drove to Northampton, where on Monday evening I would get one more dose of change ringing in the tower of Smith College. The tower is not as pretty on the outside and not as atmospheric on the inside as the towers in Boston, but you do get to climb a ladder to reach the ringing room. The group here silenced the bells and rang using a simulator (that is, they were ringing the muted bells, and a computer played bell sounds synchronized to their strokes, because apparently not everyone around the tower loves listening to bell practice). I watched and listened for a bit (Leland gave me some things to keep my ear out for, which made the methods more intelligible), and then Leland gave me a lesson in handling a bell. Conclusion: it’s hard! And that’s just one part of change ringing because then there are all the methods to learn!

Smith tower ringing room (upwards leads to the bells)

Later, I started poking around the shelves underneath the benches against the brick walls of the ringing room. There were stacks of books about ringing. Leland suggested one with anecdotes from the history of change ringing. There was a whole section on women and change ringing, including a rather hilarious excerpt from a letter or somesuch in which the writer said that the tower was one of the few places where men could experience friendship with each other, and with the presence of a woman it just wasn’t the same, so couldn’t women leave men this one thing?

When Leland first explained change ringing to me, years ago, he said that in his experience, when you first encounter it, “either you get it and it instantly seems like the most enjoyable activity imaginable or you don’t and it just sounds totally weird.” I think I rather regrettably fall into the latter category, but I’m glad at least to have seen and heard actual change ringing and to have stood in a tower watching Paul Revere’s bells sound at my feet.

 











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lelandpaul
10 days ago
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San Francisco, CA
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Bookstores of the Pioneer Valley

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Last week was fall break, and I spent most of it visiting my friend Leland in Western Massachusetts. The weather was mostly splendid, the fall color was glorious, and the bookstores were abundant. (In general, Northampton, where I was staying, affords many more delights than Grinnell. It probably helps that it has more than three times the population.) Here’s a little travelogue in bookstores:

On Tuesday, on my afternoon wanderings, I came upon a sandwich board for Raven Used Books. The shop was partway down a curved, sloping street and set partly below street level, so entering it was a bit like climbing down into a book cave. Inside, it was crammed with books, exactly as you’d wish. I first lingered in the Medieval section, where I discovered the Proceedings of the Pseudo Society (sample papers included “The Badman of Bossy-sur-Inept: Memoirs of a Medieval Peasant” and “The Lost Letters of Charlemagne’s First Wife, Autostrada, Also Called Desiderata or Desideria”). Then I went to Science Fiction & Fantasy, thinking there was a good chance I could find the next book for the Grinnell Pioneer Bookshop’s Speculative Fiction Reading Group. (The Drake Community Library’s sole copy was currently checked out.) Indeed, there were three copies of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, of which I bought one. (There was also a sex manual misshelved in SFF; I left it there.)

Raven Used Books

On Wednesday, Leland and I drove to the Montague Book Mill (“books you don’t need in a place you can’t find”), tucked away in a rural, woodsy region and perched over a stream. There’s no longer a mill, but in addition to the bookstore there’s a restaurant, a café, a music store, and an art gallery selling local artists’ work. The ground floor of the bookstore had a sort of cabin feel. Sunlight poured in the windows overlooking the water. I found a shelf full of copies of A. S. Byatt’s Possession, and upstairs in the linguistics section there was Kenstowicz & Kisseberth’s Generative Phonology. There was also a shelf for Books of No Obvious Category. The rooms of the upper level reminded me a little of Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in that there were little tables tucked under windows where people were sitting and working. Later, I found the paths down to the stream and its rapids. There were some old stone walls and a little brick building with green window frames. I dipped my hands in the water; it was cold.

The Book Mill

On Thursday, back in Northampton, I stepped briefly into Tim’s Used Books to look around. This store was just one room, but despite being small it had a nice children’s section. Then I went up the street to Broadside Bookshop, the first new bookstore (as opposed to used bookstore) of my trip. I spent a lot of time in SFF, which was on the right as soon as you entered, and then a little time in Fiction, where I spotted the anthology The Best American Nonrequired Reading. I know someone who has a story in there: Maddy Raskulinecz! Next I ambled over to the children’s and YA section. There are so. many. books. in the world. Also, The Secret Commonwealth, the second volume in Philip Pullman’s new Book of Dust trilogy, is hefty. Despite having read some worrisome things about it, I still want to read it, even if 20-year-old Lyra is going to depress me. (Side note: In that interview with Pullman I mentioned in my last post, I learned that the U.S. edition of The Amber Spyglass cut some material that was deemed overly sensual or somesuch, and I was betrayed. I looked it up too, and it was utterly harmless. I mean, compared to the big thoughts His Dark Materials might make you think…)

The lower level of Amherst Books

Later that day, I was in Amherst, and after visiting the Emily Dickinson museum (more on that another time!), I hung out at Amherst Books until Leland came to join me. Used books were in the basement, and I heeded the many dire warnings to leave bags upstairs. There were some excellent bookshelf ladders downstairs. Back on the main floor, I parked myself in the SFF section, where Leland found me. We exchanged recommendations for a bit. I could point to at least three books shelved face-out that I had heard good things about and wanted to read (I’m so behind on my to-read list). Then we walked down the street to have ramen.











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lelandpaul
17 days ago
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<3 this was a lovey visit
San Francisco, CA
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An Indian orbiter reached Mars five years ago, and it’s still ticking

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Without fanfare, an Indian spacecraft just completed its fifth year in orbit around Mars last week. As the spacecraft nears the end of its design lifetime, this is a moment that seems worth a little more recognition.

When it launched the Mars Orbiter Mission in November, 2013, India had never attempted an interplanetary flight before. And Mars is really treacherous. About 50% of spacecraft sent to Mars fail either upon launch, attempting to enter orbit, or landing on the surface. India made it on the country's first try, with a budget significantly less than $100 million. The spacecraft remains in good working order, with fuel for at least another year of operations.

While the orbiter didn't make any huge new scientific discoveries—it had neither the very best cameras nor instruments among its modest 15kg of payload—it carried far more weight symbolically as it expanded the community of Mars exploration beyond the traditional space-faring nations. Before the Mars Orbiter Mission reached Mars, only the United States, Soviet Union, and European Space Agency had successfully sent robotic missions to Mars.

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lelandpaul
44 days ago
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For all that the camera wasn't "the very best", a number of my very favorite images have come from this mission. Check out the one of Phobos!
San Francisco, CA
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★ iOS 13 Autocorrect Is Drunk

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I asked the following on Twitter Tuesday: “Does anyone else find that autocorrect on iOS 13 (including 13.1) makes more mistakes than before? Can’t tell if it’s a real issue or just an anti-placebo effect.”

The resulting thread is overflowing with answers in the affirmative. One thing I and others have noticed is that when you type a dictionary word correctly — meaning you hit the exact right keys on the on-screen keyboard — iOS 13 autocorrect will replace it with a different dictionary word that makes no contextual sense. Even beyond dictionary words, I’m seeing really strange corrections. Two nights ago I typed “Dobbs”, including the Shift key for the “D”, and iOS 13.1 autocorrected it to “adobe”, with a lowercase “a”.

I don’t see how that’s even close on a QWERTY keyboard. The way autocorrect tends to work is to look for alternate words based on the proximity of letters on the keyboard. Most famously, fuck gets replaced by duck because the D key is next to F on a QWERTY keyboard. That’s why it never replaces fuck with, say, suck or puck or luck — it’s always duck because D and F are next to each other.1

So how in the world does “Dobbs” get replaced by “adobe”? Even “Adobe” would make slightly more sense, because that’s a common proper noun (and one I personally use) and would acknowledge that I hit the Shift the key to type an uppercase letter. Letter-by-letter, with “×” denoting letters nowhere near each other on the keyboard, “✓” denoting the same letter, and “-” denoting characters close to each other on the keyboard:

D o b b s
a d o b e
× × × ✓ - 

Even the S/E substitution is questionable, though — iOS’s autocorrect, in my experience, usually looks at characters next to each other in the same row of the keyboard. The E key is above and mostly to the right of S.

A lot of the examples in the responses to my tweet are even more baffling, including words being substituted [from other languages][L].

[l}: https://twitter.com/mattcassinelli/status/1177281315147636736

I tweeted this wondering if the autocorrect suckage I was seeing was just me — perhaps the result of a reverse placebo effect (a.k.a. nocebo effect) where, once I suspected autocorrect in iOS 13 might be bad, I started seeing what I expected to see. But now I’m close to convinced that, among iOS 13.1’s numerous other bugs and problems, autocorrect has suffered a severe regression.

One possible culprit: iOS 13’s new “Slide to Type” feature, which is on by default. I have tried various swipe-to-type keyboards over the years (on both iOS, via third-party keyboards, and Android, where they’re more prevalent), and have never taken to them. My thumb-pecking habits were long ago hardwired into my brain. So I turned this feature off on iOS 13 last night. I have no idea if that’s the culprit — I haven’t used the iPhone long enough since turning it off to pass judgment — but given that I don’t want to use Slide to Type anyway, it can’t hurt to try. Feel free to chime in on the Twitter thread if you’re seeing similar autocorrect wonkiness.


  1. The origins of this heuristic are explored and explained in detail by the creator of the original iPhone keyboard, Ken Kocienda, in his book Creative Selection. Truly one of the most remarkable books on Apple ever written. ↩︎

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lelandpaul
51 days ago
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The shift key is close to “a”, though, and guessing that a repeated key is a mistake is not unreasonable. I’m guessing this was actually:

⬆️ d o b b s
a d o b • e


Which is very close, string-distance-wise. I’m not saying this is a good result — my own experience is similar to Gruber’s, I do think there’s been a regression — but at least the error is comprehensible.
San Francisco, CA
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Ten Authentic Mennonite Dishes to Make for Mennonite Heritage Week

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It’s finally here! Mennonite Heritage Week! A time to sit back and reflect on everything that it means to be Mennonite. While you’re arguing in the church lobby about the nuances of being a pacifist in the 21st century, here are some authentic Mennonite dishes to satiate your appetites!

  • Nasi goreng – You can’t have a Mennonite feast without this rice and meat dish from Indonesia. Try it once and you’ll never go back to eating non-Mennonite food again!
  • Injera – This delicious sourdough flatbread made of teff flour is a popular dish among Ethiopia’s 172,000 Mennonites.
  • Salteña – Please, don’t call it an empanada. More Bolivian salteñas are consumed each year than any other Mennonite pocket of dough.
  • Moambe chicken – The national dish of the Democratic Republic of Congo, this chicken stew is an excellent addition to your Mennonite Heritage Week party.
  • Bhutte Ka Kees  – You’ll find this popular corn snack on the streets of Madhya Pradesh, India. A truly wonderful Mennonite experience!
  • Raclette – Anyone up for a few pounds of boiling hot cheese? If you are, you may want to join the Swiss and try a real Mennonite raclette this week.
  • Som tam – Also known as green papaya salad, this is one of the most delicious dishes consumed by Mennonites. Trust me on this one. Mennonite grandma’s love it!
  • Cochinita pibil – No one makes this slow-roasted pork dish like the Mennonites of Mexico. Perfect for an after church meal!
  • Vereniki – Little known to most Mennonites, this obscure dish is popular among the small number of Dutch-origin Mennonites whose ancestors happen to have lived for a few centuries in Prussia and Ukraine.
  • Gross pizza from the food court – Once thought of a novelty, in recent years gross pizza from the food court has become a go-to meal for many North American Mennonites.

(photo credit: Rama/CC)

The post Ten Authentic Mennonite Dishes to Make for Mennonite Heritage Week appeared first on The Daily Bonnet.

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lelandpaul
69 days ago
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San Francisco, CA
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1 public comment
diannemharris
69 days ago
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hehe
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