Futurese: How will Americans speak in 1,000 years?

Justin B. Rye graduated from a Scottish University in Linguistics, worked for a short time as a sysadmin, and then spent the last 10 years unemployed. He built computers out of spare parts and wrote science fiction. He put his studies and interests together in a web page called Futurese, where he explores how English in the US will change over the next 1,000 years. He starts 1,000 years ago and extrapolates changes into the future. With a great focus on pronunciation (reading the IPA, International Phonetic Alphabet, helps), and some very interesting theories, it invites a lot of idle speculation that is a great way to look at the future.

Just a short sample… In 3000 AD we will say:
Za kiad w’-exùn ya tijuh, da ya-gAr’-eduketan zA da wa-tAgan lidla, kaz ‘ban iagnaran an wa-tAg kurrap…

Originally found in BoingBoing, through a blogger called Presurfer.

Photosynth amazing

Microsoft has gotten its act together in forming a small team to develop software independently. The results are amazing. Photosynth is online software that “stitches” you photos together. We used to do this with paper pictures, taking many shots of the same thing, and pasting the pictures together in kind of a collage. Here it is done automatically, and beautifully. There are a million ways to exploit this. I’m going to make my first one this afternoon.

First Person in College Humor

POV means Point of View. There are now 2 or 3 short, very funny, videos about college life using a first-person point of view. This means that we can hear what the person is thinking. The one I like best is the bored student in the classroom. Please remember, this is college humor, so things like sex and drinking come up often at this site.

Beatles: The meaning is in the chords

A very interesting linguistic analysis of the Beatles songs, and how meaning is conveyed by chord change. Written by Ger Tillekens from the Netherlands, this requires some knowledge of music, and of linguistics, but is an amazing look at how the two interact to provide meaning.

The Future of Literature

Penguin Books has commissioned 6 authors to tell 6 digital stories, one each week, for 6 weeks. The last one, and I think what is going to be the best one, is coming up on April 22. This is the future of literature, where a linear paper-based model is no longer applicable to the way people think (or at least the way young people think).

Check out We Tell Stories, and read at least Hard Times, and 21 Steps. I can’t wait till the last one comes out.

Judge orders convicts to learn English

A judge in Pennsylvania has ordered 4 robbers who needed translators to learn English in one year or get put in jail for two years.

WILKES-BARRE – Learn English or go to jail.

That’s the succinct directive Luzerne County Judge Peter Paul Olszewski Jr. made as part of his sentence to four criminals on Tuesday.

The defendants – Luis Reyes, Ricardo Dominguez, Kelvin Reyes-Rosario and Rafael Guzman-Mateo – all needed translators when they appeared in court to plead guilty to criminal conspiracy to commit robbery. It led to Olszewski leveling the unusual condition.

He sentenced them each to four to 24 months in the county prison, but paroled three of them because they have already served at least four months.

But in order for them to avoid the 24 months in prison, Olszewski ordered the men to learn to read and write the English language, earn their GED, and, within 30 days of release, get a full-time job while on parole. The defendants, who range in age from 17 to 22, are to return to court in one year with their parole officers to take an English test, according to Olszewski’s order.

“If they don’t pass, they’re going in for the 24 (months),” Olszewski said.

This is from the local newspaper.

Education in America

My younger daughter may be going over to the US for high school. I am looking forward to seeing her older sister attend university in the US, but am wary about the prospects for the one going into 10th grade. This article in the Atlantic is one reason why I worry. It shows how local control is causing the US to fall behind. Here in Japan every teacher follows a very specific national curriculum so they are all teaching the same concept, the same equation, the same event in history in the same week. This may seem crazy to you, but it works here. There is a very high literacy rate with a writing system that is 100 times as hard as English. It works. Find out why the locally-run system in the US doesn’t.

A good quote from the article:

“In the first place, God made idiots,” Mark Twain once wrote. “This was for practice. Then He made School Boards.”

And kudos to The Atlantic for opening up their archives to all. I’m sure it will lead to increased revenue from increased traffic.

Brains work differently in US and Asia

That’s what a study done at MIT says. East Asians and Americans were asked to make both absolute and relative judgments about shapes and length of lines in a drawing. The Americans used more of their brain for relative judgments, and the East Asians used more of their brains for absolute judgments. Reported in PsyCentral online magazine.

Spellify Spell Checker for your website

I use Firefox as my browser, much better than Internet Explorer. One of the add-ons I use is a spell checker. But many people don’t have a spell checker in their browser.

What if I could put a nice spell checker on my web site? Well, I can. Spellify is an Ajax based web 2.0 software application that you can add to your domain hosting site so that everyone can have their form input checked for spelling. I have to try this out and see if it works with other programs like Moodle.

Love on Campus

William Deresiewicz writes a stupendous article, Love on Campus, for the American Scholar in the style of a literary critic about how English professors are portrayed in the movies these days; weak, philandering, selfish, pompous, self-pitying.  He goes on to stipulate how wrong this is, and that in reality, intellectual intercourse is a goal of the university, and since WW2 a number of social and cultural trends have made this kind of “brain sex” more and more illusory or taboo.

The article borders on the absurd at times, with thick prose (I had to look up the word demotic), and used the words luftmensch and parvenu in the same sentence. But his logic is impressive and he reaches a surprising conclusion; that lust, or eros, has its place on campus. Between your ears, and not your legs.