Hacked from beyond the virtual grave

So it appears that my account was hacked by some lovely Russian folks who decided to spam what's left of my LJ friends-list with some nonsense. I've changed my password and all should now be well. Sorry that my first post in three years was Cyrillic-alphabet spam, and sorry that my first real post in three years is an apology for the aforementioned spam. Thanks to sorceror, mousme, ancarett, and whatifoundthere for looking out for me. So, err ... how's it going?

The Arthur Show (in text format)

Hi! This is Arthur! You may remember me from my Youtube channel. Watch my videos and subscribe!

I am writing this to tell you that I am going to Nana and Papa's soon (Stephen's mom and dad). Nana and Papa live in Cobourg. You can see it here.

They are taking me to Canada's Wonderland and the Cobourg Beach. We're also going to the cottage. We might be going to a couple of museums. Well anyways, this has been a good post. Arthur (and Stephen) out!


Phrontistery format changes

This is a little advance warning, to long-time readers of the Phrontistery, that I will no longer be featuring linguistic content from my Livejournal page on the homepage of the site.   In other words, if you're reading this from the Phrontistery homepage, or if you use an RSS feed to read Phrontistery-related material, very soon, you won't be able to do so.   Instead, I strongly encourage readers to visit my blog, Glossographia, which has a large amount of content relating to language and linguistics, going back to 2008.   I am looking at options for embedding content from the blog at the Phrontistery homepage (i.e. replacing the Livejournal content). While I had originally thought it wise to try to keep the Phrontistery separate from my academic life, this decision has come to seem increasingly short-sighted and insular over time.   It has also proven impossible, given my professional commitments, to manage two entirely distinct sets of language-related essays, with the result being that I have done neither one well. Consolidating is an attempt to make it right.    Rest assured that nothing else is changing at the Phrontistery; in fact, I hope that making this decision will allow me to manage things more effectively in the months to come.   I hope you will read my work over at Glossographia. 

Language and Societies abstracts, vol. 5 (2013)

The students in the 2013 edition of my Language and Societies course are extremely proud to present abstracts of their research papers which they have been working on for the past three months, published at our course blog of the same name. As has become an annual tradition, I am sharing this work with a broader audience. I invite you to take a few minutes to look at the abstracts of interest to you, and to offer comments and questions, especially at this critical juncture over the next week, when the authors are making final revisions to their papers.   Thanks!

Heather Buza: An Analysis of Driving Contracts for Persons with Dementia

Darlene Pennington-Johnson: The Verbal Art of Bribery:  Going Further than Detroit’s Front Door

Stephen Teran: Aviation English and Communication Problems

Hind Ababtain: Saudi Arabic Diglossia and Code-Switching in Twitter: Education and Gender Effect

Kaitlin Muklewicz: Physician communication with women who have multiple sclerosis

Jennifer O'Hare: Irish or English? An Irish Parent’s Decision about a Child’s Education

Michael Thomas: Fixing and Fixing: Literal Language and Perceptual Relevance in High-Functioning Autism and the Less Wrong Community

Georgia Diamantopoulos: The Linguistic Expression of a Greek-American Identity

Kelsey Garason: Exploring Language and Gender through Blood and Combat

Brenna Moloney: The Dialectics of Pronoun Use in Modern Russia

Elspeth Geiger: Anishinaabemowin Animacy:  The Metalinguistic Beliefs in Language Revitalization Websites

Jeri L. Pajor: Can Sacred Spaces Reveal Clues to Wyandotte’s German Ethnic Heritage and Show Status?

C.A. Donnelly: I Want to Convince You to Believe: Discourse and Authority in the Moon Landing Hoax Conspiracy Theory

Kelly A. Johnston: The Invisible Majority: Language as a Means of Education in the Context of a German-American Historic House Museum

Talia Gordon: Beyond the Board: Metalinguistic Awareness and Language Beliefs Among Expert Scrabble Players

Leah Esslinger: Greeting Patterns in Midtown Detroit

Kimberly Anne Shay: Indigenous Language and Assimilation: Navajo and the Workplace

Sarah Carson: Black Nerds in the Media: A Linguistic Analysis

Monica Mieczkowski: “She may have wanted it”: Discourse of Consent in Online Accounts of the Steubenville, Ohio Rape

Julie Haase: Judging a Wine (Or Winery) by its Label

Kimberly A. Compton: A Community of Practice and Constructing Children’s Agency

Katherine Korth: AKC: Ravelry’s Impact on the Language of Knitters


Tiny editor

(in case you're still reading ... you are, aren't you?)

This evening, after Arthur and I were working on binary and hexadecimal numerals (yes, yes, I know, nerd alert), he wanted to know if there were any other ways of writing numbers.  So of course I told him that I wrote a book on the subject.  That was where my trouble began.  Then he asked how many books I've written, and I told him: just the one, but I have another one coming out soon.    So naturally, he asked me how long it was, and I told him, about 300 pages, to which he replied, "Well, I can see why you aren't done it yet, then!"  Hmph.  And then he wanted to know my publication plans for the next several books after that.    What will the next one be?   Well, I wasn't sure, but I thought it might be on my stop signs research (for which he has been my field research 'assistant' in the past), but he remarked skeptically, "Why would anyone care about that and why would it be a good book?"  Fair enough, I suppose.   I probably should be able to answer that question.  He then wanted to know about the next one, and I told him it might be about my Math Corps research.    He looked at me and then said seriously, "Your first book was pretty good.  It was about a specific subject in math.  So you should do that again."    Then he suggested that maybe what I need to do is to publish a 'special edition' of my first book, with 15% new material so we can just put a sticker on the cover.    I told him that I already put everything I knew about numerical notation in the first edition.  He suggested that that was a mistake.    So there.

On the plus side, when I showed him his name in the acknowledgements of Numerical Notation, where I wrote, "Arthur Chrisomalis provided useful firsthand insights into the childhood acquisition of lexical and graphic numeration,
and rekindled his father’s wonderment at the magic of numbers," he gave me a big hug and told me he loved me.  Awwww.  Then, for his bedtime story tonight, he asked me to read to him from Numerical Notation, which of course I did, and he even laughed at the joke on page 2 (where I give as an example of ordination the list, "1. Wash dishes, 2. Sweep floor, 3. Finish manuscript").  However, after reading a long and dense paragraph I turned to him and asked, "Did you understand any of that?", to which he replied, "I wasn't really paying attention to half of it."  So, I'll count that as a half-win.


"Vote your conscience"

"Vote your conscience" - in Canada, it used to be practically the slogan for the NDP. And you hear it trotted out in American politics around election time as various minor parties aim to pick off a percent or two from the Democrats or Republicans in some state or another. The problem with the sentiment as expressed is that "vote your conscience" is implicitly, pragmatically placed in contrast with something else. But what is that thing? Voting against one's conscience? Voting without a conscience? Implicitly, the sense is that voting for the lesser of two evils, or pragmatically, is either amoral at best, immoral at worst. That either you vote according to some pristine ideal, or else you are a spineless, unprincipled voter blowing with the winds of popularity. And to choose to vote your conscience, even when that would help bring about the least desirable of several possible outcomes, is somehow a nobler and more moral action than the alternatives. Nonsense. Every vote is a vote of conscience. Of course, voting for the party or candidate that, in some ideal world, most closely approximates the positions you agree with most fully, can be a reasonable choice. Of course radical leftists in Wyoming should vote for Jill Stein and conservative libertarians in New York should vote for Gary Johnson. Or whatever. But conscience does not exist in a vacuum, absent the consequences of the choices that it motivates. To vote for a flawed candidate, where it might really make a difference and prevent your least preferred candidate from winning, is a moral decision. It involves your conscience in a fundamental way, as you look, as a voter, at all of the potential consequences and work to avoid the worst-case scenario. So, to my American friends, when you go to vote on Tuesday (if you have not voted already), please do cast a vote of conscience, by reflecting consciously on the outcomes you can produce.

9/26 report, 2012 edition

Every year for the past several years I've been tracking the number of jobs listed on the American Anthropological Association job postings as of September 26. That date is somewhat arbitrary and I chose it for historical reasons, but a slightly different date wouldn't really change much when what I'm looking at is the overall trend, year-over-year. As a proxy for the health of the job market in anthropology, though, the AAA listings are ideal, since, at least historically, virtually every tenure-stream position in the discipline gets listed there (but see below). So here we have it, including the 2012 figure:

2006: 190
2007: 186
2008: 168
2009: 78
2010: 112
2011: 117
2012: 109

While this looks like a slight decrease from last year, I actually think that actually there are around the same number of jobs, or possibly even trending slightly up, for three reasons:

First, there are definitely fewer postdocs or nationally-advertised one-year positions listed on the AAA site than in the past.    In the past, upwards of 20% of jobs posted were postdocs or visiting positions or jobs outside the academy; this year, fewer than 10% of the posted jobs are non-tenure-track.  So that's a good sign just in general (though it makes me wonder where all the postdocs have gone). 

Second, I've noticed a lot more institutions posting tenure-track anthropology jobs on more general sites (like the Chronicle of Higher Ed or Inside Higher Ed) rather than the AAA.  One possibility is that this may reflect a decline in the AAA's prestige, but I don't think that's too likely.  Alternately, I've heard that the their AAA's job listings are quite pricey, so maybe they're just getting priced out of the market in an era when deans are more reluctant in the past to allow big budgets for job searches. 

Third, my sense (anecdotal, admittedly) is that while formerly many if not most jobs were posted in September, now lots of tenure-track positions get posted in October or later.  This may partly be because deans/provosts don't approve searches as early, although I've heard that jobs in English lit are decidedly up already by this point, which would work against that idea.  More significantly, anthropology departments are definitelyl less likely in the past to interview candidates at the November annual meetings (relying on Skype or phone interviews instead), because of the cost of national searches and the ease of video interview.  Thus, positions can be advertised later and with a later closing date.   This will be confirmed or refuted within a few weeks as we see how many new postings come in October.


A puzzle and an error

Today, Arthur and I finished his first 'real' (i.e. not toddler-oriented) jigsaw puzzle, a map of Canada.  He got the puzzling bug while we were up visiting a friend's cottage this summer and they had a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle of Michigan and its tourist sights, which he worked on for quite a while, but really couldn't come close to finishing.   So I picked this one up at Zellers super-cheap as they are going out of business and had everything on deep discount.  And after about seven or eight evenings of work on it, we got it done:

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Unfortunately, despite the puzzle being perfect in lots of ways (it's educational, it's complex enough but not ridiculous, it was cheap as hell), it has one small flaw, but one that is particularly galling to me.  Those astute in the ways of Canadian geography will spot it:

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Well, you can't have everything.  Anyway, Arthur is now ready to take on a bigger challenge. 


A correspondent to the Phrontistery yesterday posed a very interesting riddle:

I was in a pub the other day and saw a barometer on the wall. It was old and has the word pausodonoptic on it. I had never heard of this before and was curious so I did a bit of searching online. I didn't really find any definition of the word anywhere. I was disappointed that I couldn't find it on your site either. Have you any idea what it means? I shall look forward to hearing back from you.

I get plenty of these from my dutiful readers, and most of them are easily handled, but this one is a real puzzle: pausodonoptic is not in any of the usual online dictionaries, nor is it in the OED. The correspondent sent a photo of the object, so the spelling is correct. While there are a couple dozen websites that use the word, applied to various items (spectacles, barometers, cameras), but none that give a real sense of what it is supposed to mean. So, a mystery - but one that I was eventually able to solve (I think). My response:

You're quite right that 'pausodonoptic' is not used in context anywhere on the web, and indeed, nothing like it is found in the mammoth Oxford English Dictionary. This suggests that it is a coinage used by a manufacturer for the purposes of advertising some feature of the device. Now, 'pausodontic' looks as if it must be Greek-derived, so I turned to the Liddell and Scott classical Greek lexicon. There I looked for words starting with 'pauso-' and found pausodunos 'soothing pain'. This could then combine (a little improperly, and changing the final 'u' to 'o'), with -optic to mean something like 'soothing pain of the eyes', or in other words, relieving eye strain or pain. I was still a little confused, because this doesn't seem to be a suitable characteristic for a barometer. However, looking at the range of products called 'pausodonoptic' using a Google search, I note that there is a pausodonoptic camera and pausodonoptic spectacles. One advertisement from 1890 even says "You will act with discretion if you buy the New Pausodonoptic Spectacles or Eye-Glasses, (convex or concave), so comfortable and cooling to the eyes. They will enable you to read or sew, especially at night, with positive pleasure when others fail." The photo you sent afterwards, with the maker indicated as an optician, confirms this idea. My guess, then, is that the glass used in the barometer must be somehow specially treated in the same way, perhaps to reduce glare. Whether any of the buyers could figure out, or cared about, the Greek-derived coinage is unknown, but manufacturers both then and now often give scientific-sounding names to their products to enhance the sense that they must be effective.

So, what do you think of my explanation? Anyone have any alternate suggestions?

Four by four

Heading to Montreal tomorrow - leaving Julia and Arthur behind this trip, with Grammie on hand to help out.  Four hours of driving tomorrow to see my parents and especially my grandmother, who just moved into assisted living this week and is feeling pretty vulnerable, I think.    Four hours of driving on Monday to get to Montreal, possibly to hang out with people but with no firm plans.    Attend my doctoral student's defense on Tuesday (which is a story in itself, how I came to be the co-supervisor of a McGill doctoral student) and then four hours of driving to get back to Cobourg.   Then four hours of driving on Wednesday morning to get back home, collapse, and get ready for the onslaught of things here.     I suppose the only saving grace is that the trip is paid for (mostly).  But still.