Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Year in the Life of a Tree

That video in the last post was a camera travelling along a long-distance trail. In today's video the camera is stationary and it's time that's moving on: a tree in Italy through the seasons.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Pacific Coast Trail

I guess it's no secret that I really enjoy long-distance walking. Though I've never hiked any part of the Pacific Coast Trail, I loved Wild, Cheryl Strayed's book about walking it solo and I heard that the movie starring Reese Witherspoon was terrific. 

For me, though, the hard part would be carrying that huge heavy backpack full of tent, sleeping bag, and everything else you need. For sure, that would take some of the enjoyment of it away for me. So isn't it wonderful that others share their experience in books and videos? 

The following video was posted 3 years ago by Halfway Anywhere and uses 3-second clips to document the journey. 





Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Word by Word

Word by Word

I hereby confess that I giggled my way through this book.

Word by Word is a serious non-fiction account of what it’s like to be a lexicographer, an employee of the dictionary company, Merriam-Webster, which is just what author, Kory Stamper is. Stamper’s writing style, while imparting accurate information about dictionary entries and how they come about is so engaging and so self-deprecating and downright humorous, that reading the entire book was a joy.

Non-fiction books, especially those providing information but even biographies can sometimes so overwhelm me with details that I often skip over paragraphs or pages in order to remain engaged. No problem with Word by Word. I don’t think I missed a single word – actually I read it word by word ;)

Author Kory Stamper begins the book telling us a little about her pre-work life and then about applying for a job at M-W and her training to become a proper lexicographer, who can take a word, find its origins, its pronunciation, its various spellings and meanings and so on, then craft a definition which includes all the various senses or meanings of that particular word and write them in the properly formatted version needed for the dictionary in a way which will not be conflicted, controversial or inflammatory but will still be understood and usable by the reader.

Lexicography is a scholarly pursuit, wherein words and meanings are always changing and new words are being coined at an accelerating rate. Hard to keep up! Before a dictionary is published it is already in need of revision. The work is never done.  

Stamper writes about some of the difficulties of word defining, finding short words, swear words and colour-related words (“nude” caused a lot of angst!) among the most challenging. Her chapters are full of amusing stories and examples. Footnotes are especially fun and elicited many snorts during my reading.

For example:
Stamper writes, “In the event you don’t know what the obelus is for,* we have a short usage paragraph…..etc. etc.

Footnote: * “And you are not alone, though here I ask you, again and graciously, to read the goddamned front matter.”

What is “front matter”, you ask? It's the written material at the beginning of every dictionary telling you what you need to know in order to understand what exists in the main body of the tome. Read it! 

Of course, these days, few people refer to dictionaries in hard copy. In fact, people are using dictionary pages for creative paper art or crafts which can then be sold and are probably collectively worth more than that old dusty gigantic book taking so much room on a shelf.

So yes, dictionaries are online which makes things both easier and more difficult for lexicographers. On the one hand, changes can be made at less cost and more rapidly than republishing new versions of complete dictionaries. On the other hand, people find it easier to complain (few people actually think to compliment the folks who do all this work – why is it human nature to always look for the mistake, the omission, the supposed disrespect instead of saying, “well done!”?)

And yes, lexicographers read and answer all the emails and letters they receive. Dealing with reader mail seems to be one of a lexicographer’s most time-consuming duties. Stamper has quite a few letters to share with us and I found them valuable in explaining the difference between the WORD and the MEANING OF THE WORD. For example, when the word is ‘marriage’, with one of its senses being ‘same-sex marriage’, people wrote in dismay that having this meaning in the dictionary would promote the LGBTQetc agenda to the detriment of American society and HOW COULD THEY! But the fact is, the word, ‘same-sex marriage’ is a word that is in usage, both orally and in print and therefore it needs to be included in the dictionary and whether one is for or against the issue is BESIDE THE POINT. The opinion of the reader, whatever it is, is not part of the equation.

The chapter on pronunciation is also interesting. You know those ridiculously complicated keys in dictionaries to help pronounce a word? Did you know that if you are actually able to navigate the keyed symbols for the word, it will come up being pronounced in your own accent, whether it be Cajun, Scottish or Newfie. If dictionaries were to use the phonetic spelling as opposed to the key (phonemic), pronunciations would then not reflect the way a person would actually say the word, but would be in someone else’s accent.

Stamper gives quite a few pages to a mis-pronunciation that bothers me quite often and which I found most interesting: “nuclear” vs “nucular” (aaaargh…it’s painful just typing it!) Now I’d like to hear the arguments around “envelope” (n-velope vs on-velope) and “experiment” (ex-pair-iment vs ex-spear-iment: this one is in almost every episode of Big Bang Theory, thanks to Sheldon Cooper/Jim Parsons) and what about Hallo-ween vs Hollo-ween!

I guess by now you can tell how much I liked this book. I recommend it to anybody who loves the English language and the hunt for the right word.


Thursday, September 14, 2017

Watermelon Farming

Here's another interesting farming video. I'm starting to look at food differently on my trips to grocery stores and the farmers' markets. 



Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Diversification

Trueman maze

Many investors and small business owners have found that one of the keys to success is to diversify and farmers are no exception.

Farmers everywhere seem to just pretty much scrape by economically. At the mercy of weather, pests and consumer ups and downs, and competing against multinationals, farmers are always looking for ways to increase revenue or to fortify themselves against a bad crop and one of the ways is to diversify. 


Tom Trueman is the eighth generation of his family to farm this land. 'I don’t think any generation ever did whatever the previous ones did,' he says.

Tom Trueman, a New Brunswick blueberry and raspberry farmer, and the 8th generation of his family to farm their land, runs a pick-your-own operation as well as a roadside stand. This year he came up with the idea of planting and maintaining a sunflower maze and inviting the public to meander through it. It is conveniently located just off the main highway that runs through New Brunswick on the way to Nova Scotia and PEI.


Trueman maze

The CBC interviewed Mr. Trueman and put a video on their website which you can find here. When I went to YouTube to see if the interview would be there so that I could include it here (sadly, it wasn't) I found lots of other sunflower maze videos and it seems that sunflower mazes are popular across the US. Trueman believes his is the only one in NB. 

Trueman's farm also has honeybees, so the sunflowers provide a plentiful supply of pollen for them, but it begs the question about whether he keeps a bee sting kit or two handy throughout the season.






Thursday, September 7, 2017

Clouds can Inspire

I discovered there are a lot of Twitter posts about clouds and lots of YouTube videos as well. (none of these photos and videos is mine)

First, recent (Aug.1) mammatus clouds in Ontario

@AnthonyFarnell

Then, spectacular clouds in Cumbria, the north of England:








Falling clouds:



Finally, an iridescent cloud over Ethiopia:

@WorldAndScience