The Annotated Capernaum

Capernaum is a poem by Lewis Spence, which was set to music by Ed Miller and appears on his album, Border Background (1989). Miller’s arrangement is also the title song on the Tannahill Weaver’s album, Capernaum (1994).

I own both of those albums, and it’s a catchy song, so it gets stuck in my head a lot. But there’s a lot to the lyrics that I was having trouble following; so here’s my Annotated Capernaum:

If a’ the blood shed at thy Tron
If all the blood shed at your Tron1
Edinbro’, Edinbro’
Edinburgh, Edinburgh
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Whedons ruled the twilight sky

“It was long after the passing of the second shadow, whendragons ruled the twilight sky, and the stars were bright and numerous…”

While I’m describing writers with other writers, I was recently thinking about this line from the Loom Audio Drama and Joss Whedon recently:

“The natural talents of their membership was nurtured and purified generation after generation until the greatest among them wove fabrics of such extraordinary beauty, that the whole world wondered at their achievements.”

I just hope by the time we get to
“In the fullness of time [… t]hey abandoned the flax and dyes of their ancestors to wield the very stuff of light and music and spun new patterns directly in the fabric of reality.”
we have more benevolent Whedons ;p

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Trochees and Dactyls

We celebrated Talk Like a Trochee Day by going to see Trochees and Dactyls1,2,3 James Bond and Indiana Jones Cowboys and Aliens at the discount theater.

Also apparently we’re going to be seeing Olivia Wilde in a lot of SFF Movies because apparently (for real spoilers for Cowboys and Aliens and Tron): casting directors look at her face and say “Your like on Earth I ne’er did see”4.

What, the movie? Oh, it was entertaining. Had some quite good moments. Ultimately nothing that special.


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Playing with Raphael

Been working on creating a product with Raphael at work. Yesterday I took a diversion into starting a tiny geometry library for myself, that handles angles the way I want, and adds easy capability of drawing polygons anchored to their centers and/or sized by their radii.

Here are some things I drew, once I had things working (and the code I used to draw each, mostly for my own archival purposes):
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Playing with Canvas

Today was the first day of classwork for my internship. Since there are 28 of us with various backgrounds, the first day meant basic HTML, which nearly none of us needed, and I certainly didn’t. So I started learning to use HTML5 canvas instead.

I made a little page that draws.

The first person I showed it to, a fellow intern, said “Oh, you made a drawing program.” And started trying to draw on it with the mouse. This is funny, because that’s presumably most people’s first inclination about how a drawing program works, but not at all what I want out of a drawing program. I have a good eye for detail, but miserable fine motor control, which means drawing by hand is extremely frustrating (or carving pumpkins by hand, or calligraphy by hand, or any number of handicrafts).

But I adore programs in which I can draw with numbers, like Adobe Illustrator; I can tell a point to be at exactly 211, 100 and to go from there in a straight line to exactly 234.57, 21.22 and it does! and it stays there! This drawing page likewise takes input from numbers, not from hand waving.

Sarkat, on the other hand, said, “You made it box. How did you?” And sat down and played with the controls until she figured it all out. Somewhat hampered by my idiosyncratic trackpad configuration. Also by it having less features and more bugs than it does now.

It also includes a Turns-Radians-Degrees interconversion function. Turns is the default angle unit, in support of the τ movement.

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The Populated Clock

The Populated Clock 1.2

World Population by time zone, draft 1.1

Before you ask, the colors don’t mean anything, there just to make it easier to tell one bar from another.

Modified logarithmic scale.

All time zones are standard time for their locations, except for Russia.

6.9 billion people included. Not pictured: UTC+12:45 (pop. 650), UTC+13 (pop. 104,000), or UTC+14 (pop. 8,800). Some people not yet properly distributed where an administrative region crosses a timezone, such as western Kansas or eastern Micronesia (but many are).

(for other locations of Sulawesi, see 1, 2.)

2011/06/24, 10:45UTC-7: whoops, just noticed the UTC+12 bar isn’t in there by mistake, I hid it while doing some work, and forgot to re-show it. I’ll fix that when I get home from work.

2011/06/24, 15:50UTC-7: the spans, especially for NYC and Ca. are imprecisely constructed and on the logarithmic scale suggest meanings that are false (such as NYC having a population of 150 million). I will make them precise.

2011/06/24, 21:45UTC-7: Updated with both of these corrections. (previous version)

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Stick Comic: The Hammer

Yes, I really did. It was part of my application to IGN CodeFoo Academy. It seems to have impressed someone, since I was accepted!

kellan said it was a nice show of bravado. As in, “No one in their right mind would possibly do that, so you must know something I don’t.” Which was part of the fun.

It also demonstrates an interesting tool in my toolbox. Not a good tool for this problem, but a good tool for other problems, and one of my better tools. Thus, “My hammer, let me show you it.”

Oh, and if you don’t get the last panel, you should watch Doctor Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog.

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Time Zone data collection

I’m currently working on a Visualization of time zones by population.

When I started the Tabulation phase (which I’m still mostly in), I realized, “this calls for being a pivot table!” Luckily, unlike the last several times I’ve started a project and realized it required a pivot table, I actually have a pivot table tool available! Yay Google Docs!

Some random facts I’ve picked up while tabulating:

There is exactly one time zone which exists but has no population whatsoever: UTC+12:00.

Most areas either have Standard Time all year round, or Standard Time during local winter and Summer Time/Daylight Savings Time during local summer. There are 1.5 exceptions: Russia and Ireland. Ireland really does follow this pattern since 1971, but through historical frankensteinization calls its timezones Western European Time (winter) and Irish Standard Time (summer). Russia, on the other hand, is just sort of chuckling technically observes Daylight Savings Time all year round, in each of its 8 time zones, as of a few months ago (March 2011).

Arizona, though completely surrounded by regions that observe DST, does not observe DST. This I knew. What I didn’t know is that the Arizona Navajo Nation, which is mostly, but not entirely contained inside Arizona, does observe DST. But wait, there’s more. The Hopi Nation, which is entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation doesn’t observe DST.

China is all one time zone. This I knew. But did you know that China shares border with every timezone from UTC+5 to UTC+11? Including UTC+5:30 and UTC+5:45 (because Nepal is a special snowflake).

Part of the fault for that lies with Russia’s wacky timezones, though. The UTC+11 timezone that China borders, Vladivostok Time, is geographically closer to +10 which is its technical standard time, though under the current rules, it never observes standard time. Actually, it’s even closer to +9, having the same longitudinal spread as Japan, which is at UTC+9 for its Standard Time. That’s the really weird part, Russia’s timezones were already shifted over. After first I though the permanent Daylight Savings-thing was to compensate for the time zones being drawn all shifted over. But, no, they shifted it the wrong way. It made it worse. Because Russia is impossible to understand with your brain.

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I’ve been busy lately and writing hasn’t happened. In the mean time, here are two charts I’ve been working on recently. I will eventually write posts walking through them, but in the meantime, here are the punchlines!

Solar Bodies:


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Yoshimi Battles the Rock and Roll Vowel Laxing

We got Rock Band 3 a little while ago, and it comes with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which OStone really likes, so I’ve listened to that a few times.

The first two lines caught my attention as a phonologist: “Her name is Yoshimi/She’s a black belt in karate”. The rhyming words in both lines are Japanese. In Japanese “Yoshimi” would end with the high front vowel /i/, while “karate” would end with the mid front vowel /e/. That is, the vowel in the first line is a full step higher than the vowel in the second.

But in English, neither of the vowels are pronounced the same way. The English pronunciation of “karate” raises the final vowel to /i:/, as it does with most Japanese loanwords ending in /e/ (“kamikaze”, “karaoke”, etc.), and the singer (Wayne Coyne?) pronounces it as such. This is because English doesn’t use /e/ as a vowel at all. The closest English vowels would be either /ɛ/ or /eɪ/. But lax vowels like /ɛ/ can’t normally appear at the end of words, and /eɪ/ interacts with stress and meter differently than /i:/ and doesn’t like to appear like this at the end of a word when the preceding syllable is stressed. So in this position, the Japanese /e/ is bumped up to the third or fourth closest English vowel, /i/, and we get /kǝɹ’ɑ:ti:/.

Now I just said you can’t use lax vowels at the end of words in English. Except when you’re singing Rock music. In the name “Yoshimi”, which would also end in /i:/ in normal English, we see Rock and Roll vowel laxing to [ɪ]. Rock music is often sung in or influenced by a standard Rock and Roll accent, which includes laxing of word final [i:]’s, archetypically in “baby” to “babih” (/beɪbi:/ to [beɪbɪ]).

My Phonetic Analysis professor once asserted, “You can’t make a tense vowel in that position or you’d lose your recording contract.” (Though The Flaming Lips don’t seem to have lost their recording contract over the tense vowel in “karate”.)

Now the tense/lax distinction in vowels is squidgy. Actually vowels in general are squidgy, but this distinction is particularly squidgy. But lax vowels are generally held to be lower than their corresponding tense vowels, along with whatever other characteristics distinguish them, which are not always agreed upon.

Taken together:
In Japanese, the first vowel would be a full step higher than the second ([i] over [e])
As sung in English, the first vowel is a small step lower than the second ([ɪ] under [i:]), due to the combination of how “karate” is borrowed plus Rock and Roll Vowel Laxing being applied to “Yoshimi” but not “karate”.

(Note: the whole first verse is “Her name is Yoshimi/She’s a black belt in karate/Working for the city/She has to discipline her body”. So the not-quite rhyme in the first two lines under discussion is only part of a verse-wide rhyming structure. I’m not critiquing the rhyme at all, I’m being amused by the reversal of vowel heights.)

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