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Odd Lots

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  1. Bob Fegert says:

    re the ugliest house.

    I couldn’t sleep in the bedroom with the hideous purple carpet even with the light off!

    I’d still know that hideous carpet was there.

    Oscar Wilde on his deathbed “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

    (he actually said “This wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. Either it goes or I do” but the above is funnier)

  2. TRX says:

    I suggested that to Kate the day after she put the SP4 site up. Now if they only had colored T-shirts without the giant white box…

    T-shirts are temporary, but coffee cups can last a long time. I once saw a comment that someone’s co-worker used a cup that said “IBM: THE SYSTEM OF THE SIXTIES.”

    I’ve seen several of mine float back through the ‘net. Though to be honest, whole they were 100% my original thoughts, they probably occurred to someone else too…

    I have trouble understanding regional dialects of English *now*. I have just enough hearing loss that I actually have to *listen* to what people are saying… and what’s coming out of their mouth is usually some stream of consciousness babble with random inflection, no real sentence structure, and missing words.

    As corroboration, I present “The White House Transcripts”, which are the transcripts of some of the recordings of the Oval Office in the Nixon Administration. Almost all of the parties involved were lawyers and politicians, for whome words are precision tools. (there are transcripts from the Johnson and Kennedy administrations, and they’re no better)

    I don’t use the stuff myself, but some years back my wife’s shopping list included “American Cheese”, so I was standing there at a 40-foot display (literally) of packaged cheeses when I noticed that most of them said “cheese product” or “cheese food.” Some research revealed that almost any mass-market cheesy substance in the USA couldn’t lawfully be called “cheese” in any reasonably civilized country.

  3. godescalc says:

    Ferrocyanide sounds scarier than it is – cyanides are toxic because they bind strongly to iron and don’t easily come off; ferrocyanides contain cyanide already bound to iron so they’re safe (unless you add strong acid – I don’t know how much ferrocyanide you get in kitchen salt but if you pour battery acid onto it and smell almonds, run away). The toxicity comes from iron enzymes which need the iron to bind to a molecule weakly, catalyse a reaction, and let it go after a while – if cyanide has come along and permanently taken up the binding slot, the enzyme can’t do its job any more.

    1. Thanks for clarifying that; I was mostly going for grins and do understand that sodium ferrocyanide is not itself harmful. Did not know you could release the cyanide with acid, which is a little scary, considering that I had sodium ferrocyanide in my Porter chemistry set in 1966 and a bottle of weak sulfuric acid that my father bought at Central Scientific to clean metals.

  4. Carrington Dixon says:

    As I grew up when the King James Bible was still the default (Protestant) translation, I don’t have much trouble back through Elizabethan English. I have a little trouble with Spenser and Chaucer, but not that much. Old English is a foreign language. I can kind of follow the Lord’s Prayer, but only because I know that it’s the Lord’s Prayer. Beowulf, for example, could be in Hungarian for all I can recognize.

    1. I read some chunks of Chaucer in Middle English back in college, and while it was slow going at first, after awhile I got a sense for it and it was much easier. More recently I read sections of Lady Julian of Norwich’s book Revelations of Divine Love in Middle English, and again, once I got into her rhythms and a developed a sense for her grammar, it became a reasonable thing to do. (My earlier struggles with Chaucer helped a great deal.) One trick that helped (I learned this from reading Chaucer) is to try to read it aloud, phonetically. Some of the difficulty is just a matter of archaic spelling.

      One of my profs in college went through a few paragraphs of the original text of Beowulf with us, and it was indeed like a foreign language, reminding me more of German than anything else. Afterwards, with (great) relief, we read the rest in a modern translation.

      My problems with the video I linked to mostly cook down to the question, How do we know how people pronounced anything 600 years ago? This has bothered me for a long time. I guessed that poetry can provide clues. I’m not sure what else we might have to guide us.

      1. Bruce C. Baker says:

        “How do we know how people pronounced anything 600 years ago?”:

        The answer begins around 3:45.

      2. Bruce C. Baker says:

        Well, if you’re gonna be picky, Shakespeare was only circa 400 years ago, but Crystal’s explanations would hold true for Chaucer as well. 🙂

      3. Carrington Dixon says:

        Of course, we cannot know how anyone pronounced anything much before the turn of the 20th Century. It’s all educated guesses. And less educated and more guess the further back we go.

        We talk as if we could discover how ‘people’ talked in Shakespeare’s time, but of course there were class and regional accents in those days just as there are now. Does any particular rhyme reflect the majority, learned pronunciation or the dialect that the poet thought appropriate to the poem at hand?

        For example, Kipling wrote “Gunga Din” as from a British Infantryman. He rhymes “Din” with “green”, “spleen”, and “been”. We can infer that he exacted that last to be a homophone for “bean”. Was this Kipling’s usual pronunciation? (Rhetorical question; although, Kipling lived recently enough that we may know the answer to this one.) Or merely what he would expect from a 19th C Brit grunt?

  5. jon spencer says:

    Just read a KU series that had roughly 10 pages of reviews at the end of the book and just before the next book in the series teaser pages. Was wondering if Amazon was paying for those pages?
    Because they did not contribute to the story, at least for me.

    1. As far as I know, KU counts it all and pays for it all, including previews etc. after the end of the book proper. I put a few reviews at the very beginning of The Cunning Blood to sort of “seal the deal” when people looked at the preview on Kindle. The book got a rave in Analog, which might well persuade someone that the book was worth a shot at $2.99. As far as stuff at the end of the book is concerned, it doesn’t have to be read, and doesn’t increase the cost (or the weight, heh) of the book. I’ve gotten emails telling me explicitly that people bought The Cunning Blood because of a preview in Cold Hands and Other Stories, so previews do work. I haven’t put previews at the ends of my two novels because they’re so utterly different (serious hard SF vs. whimsical fantasy) but maybe that’s a mistake. It would cost me nothing to add them and see.

  6. jon spencer says:

    A correction, “at the end of the book” should read “at the end of each book”.

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