Month: July, 2015

Applied linguistics boot camp

For me going to Czech is now like a boot camp in applied linguistics.

There’s an overview in this 2001 lecture on the mortality of language learning methods and the 20th-century history of language instruction, and Wikipedia’s list of theories of second-language . When browsing around on Krashen’s comprehension hypothesis model of L2 learning, I found the wonderful lecture Stephen Krashen on Second Language Acquisition at Pagoda Academy in Busan Part 1:

The first 30 minutes are the best. He goes on to praise James Asher and TPR, Tracy Terell and the natural approach, and TPRS.

It’s interesting to see what insights here remain valuable and which seem somewhat dated: his demonstration of comprehensible input speaks for itself. But the idea that input is the only thing needed to attune a speaker to her language’s specific parameters of the universal grammar is one I find…rather dubious.


TIL: On Photography

Take a photography class if you need to fill an arts elective. Taking a good photo takes much more expertise and skill than taking a snapshot. I’ve been all over Europe and Asia, and I have some good pictures. But nothing at all like the pictures I’d have if I were minimally competent at photography!

TIL: On Gaining Weight

When I was younger, I always thought I would maintain my weight until I reached middle age. Then my metabolism would slow and I would struggle with gaining weight.

Now that I am in middle age, I realize that this was wrong. I dropped a lot of weight when I lived in Japan, and after that I only gained a steady 4 pounds per year. The problem is that it has been a total of more than 15 years since I came back from Japan. :(

The bicycle patter

One bad habit of mine is commenting on Facebook news stories about bicycling, like this one. I’ve about got the patter down:

I am a regular cycle commuter and use bike lanes (especially 3rd St., Kentucky, and Breckinridge) at every opportunity. The bike lanes have been a godsend; before the first bike lanes, nearly once a week I’d have an angry driver screaming obscenities or throwing things out the car window, and that has dropped to maybe once a year on my normal routes, in my experience. There can be a big disconnect between “people on bicycles” (who dart into traffic, go the wrong way on the lanes, &c. &c.) and “cyclists” who take pride in their bicycle use and are aware of and follow the traffic laws. Sure, some cyclists run traffic lights, but so do motorists; the last time I was hit by a car was last summer when a car tried to ease through a right-on-red turn without stopping. The scariest crash I ever had was when a driver blew through a fresh red light at 40+ mph, clipped my front wheel, and smashed into the car to my left. Motorists and cyclists tend to run red lights in different ways; drivers tend to try to “make” a yellow light (and miss it), while cyclists tend to stop at the light, check for oncoming traffic, and run it. Besides, drivers frequently take it as an entitlement to speed 10-15 mph over the limit; I’d be curious if WDRB is going to run an investigation on how often cars speed and run red lights in the city? In any case, the traffic laws are really the only thing that keep us all safe. Stay safe, people!

It’s not safe to ride on the sidewalk, because cross traffic doesn’t watch for vehicles to dart into the street out there, and the bicycle will get hit. It’s really important for cyclists to follow the traffic laws, because they are literally the only thing keeping us safe. But let’s not pretend that the only scofflaws are people on bicycles: drivers feel entitled to speed, and run red lights all the time. Sometimes I think a traffic light hardly ever turns red in Louisville without a driver running it.

This year the Louisville Metro budget for road paving and improvements is $13.4 million ( ). If $300k of that is being spent on bike lanes, that’s 2.2% of the budget being spent on bike lanes when 3% of trips are made by cyclists. If anything, more money should be spent on cycling infrastructure!

Make your own Cards Against Humanity

Cards Against Humanity is a party game for terrible people, but I suspect that it’s also best as a homemade, nomic game like 1000 Blank White Cards. Add plenty of blank cards, but you need lots of premade cards too. Some of the fandom sets—Cards Against Gallifrey, Nerds Against Humanity, and Ladies Against Humanity—have some great cards. Once you get going, making up a bunch of cards for Cards Against Humanity is easy, just keep your eye open for good snippets. Here we’ll start by converting this 9gag meme.

First make the black card: How will I die?

Then make the white cards. Here, we’ll make a rules change so that if a white card has a blank, you can add in another white card to fill it.

Being fellated by _____.
Being stabbed by _____.
Being penetrated by _____.
Being run over by _____.
Being crushed by _____.
Being smothered by _____.
Being lynched by _____.
Being assassinated by _____.
Being drowned in _____.
Being suffocated by _____.
Being strangled by _____.
Being devoured by _____.
Being buried alive by _____.
Being eaten out by _____.
Being crippled by _____.
Being bored of _____.
Being murdered by _____.
Being skinned alive by _____.
Being tortured by _____.
Being fucked by _____.
Being beaten by _____.
Being consumed by _____.
Being annoyed by _____.
Being ravaged by _____.
Being infected by _____.
Being happy with _____.

My existence
The world we live in. 
Meth addicts. 
The Lord Jesus Christ.
Justin Bieber. 
A cloud. 
My family.
Every member of Limp Bizkit. 
My failures. 
The Internet. 
Ranch dressing.

Reading CAH cards gives you ideas for more:

Getting your face chewed off by _____.
Being eaten by _____.
Bath salts addicts.
Florida Man. 

Plug these into a custom card generator, print off the cards, cut them out. I like the 2″-by-2″ format of the Cards Against Humanity download edition rather than the playing-card size of the printed edition.

Let’s try WordPress

Seven or eight years ago I chose between Blogger and WordPress, and went with Blogger. It was the wrong choice. The editor increasingly made it too irksome to write posts in plain HTML instead of the visual editor, ever more complex and crufty. When writing isn’t much fun, you don’t write much. For a time, I thought about writing in Markdown and setting up a static blog with Pure Pelican for Python, but I spent too much time fiddling with it instead of writing, and lost some work during a recent hard drive failure. Also it looks like most compiled static blogs don’t have a long history, and history is something WordPress has in Web terms anyway. And WordPress now has native Markdown support. So, let’s try WordPress.

New Horizons is very nominal

We watched New Horizons make its phone call home last night. New Horizons is alive:

Is nominal a good thing? “Nominal” is beautiful. Nominal is perfect. Nominal is everything showing up exactly as we want it to. Amusingly, the team has been unsatisfied with calling things just nominal, and has been substituting “extremely nominal.”

This is longstanding NASA slang:

So if you want to know if MSL will nail the EDL and what it can do on different sols, you have to learn the language. …Let’s start with the rover’s name. In the halls of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it’s called MSL — short for Mars Science Laboratory. Spacecraft typically have technical names before being rechristened by the public through naming contests sponsored by NASA.

For example: the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity that landed in 2004 were known as MER-A and MER-B for the longest time (MER is shorthand for Mars Exploration Rover.) …Before Curiosity can start science experiments, it must first survive an intense EDL — entry, descent and landing — or as NASA has come to call it: Seven minutes of terror.

Signals are received through the DSN, or Deep Space Network, a worldwide network of antenna dishes that communicates with interplanetary spacecraft. Nominal means A-OK. Not so for anomaly (translation: Houston, we have a problem.)

The dizzying naming system even extends to time. It takes Earth 24 hours to spin on its axis — the definition of a day. Mars spins more slowly than Earth — taking 24 hours and 39 minutes. To distinguish between Earth and Mars time, a Martian day is called a sol, Latin for “sun.” Yesterday on Mars is yestersol.

It’s going to take New Horizons 16 days to beam back all the images from its flyby.