frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (haters gonna make good points)
What did you recently finish reading?

Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: the Untold Story of English audiobook, written and read by John McWhorter. This was mostly an interesting and engaging book. He focuses on changes in English's grammar, which he argues (and I agree) is a lot more interesting than just word etymologies, and specifically looks at how encounters with other languages changed English. First when the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes came to Britain and had their language changed by the Celts. Then the Vikings came and brought a language that was similar to proto-English, but not the same, and what emerged was simpler than either, in a least-common-denominator sort of way. He argues that the Normans had little influence on English grammar because French was the language of the ruling class and only spoken by a tiny minority (and not for very long). In the last chapter, he speculates on the possible influence of Semitic languages on proto-Germanic to account for the differences between Germanic languages and other Indo-European ones. That hypothesis really is just a hypothesis, without enough evidence to support it fully, but it's interesting nonetheless.

As interesting as the story of English itself was the insight I got into the methods that linguists use to trace how languages have changed. McWhorter also discussed how those methods can lead linguists astray -- for example, by assuming that changes in spoken language are mirrored by changes in written language, which isn't even true for all languages now, much less at a time and place where most people were illiterate.

He also had a chapter debunking the Sapir-Worf hypotesis (of Arrival fame), but I'd already heard and been convinced by that argument in his podcast, so it was the least interesting chapter to me. I get the impression that the Sapir-Worf hypothesis is to linguistics as the Gulf Stream* is to climate science -- its importance is vastly overstated in popular literature, media, and even some introductory textbooks, much to the chagrin of experts.

I like McWhorter's writing and narrating style, and he has a very pleasant voice to boot. The book gets a bit dry at times when he is describing conjugations etc, but those times are brief.

What are you reading now?

Ninefox Gambt, by Yoon Ha Lee. This is working much better for me now than last week. First, I followed [personal profile] isis's suggestion and stopped to read this short story prequel first, which helped me make sense of the world a bit. Second, I realised that the word "calendar" is actually used in more or less the usual sense, to mean tracking time and noting dates -- at first I was convinced it had to mean something totally different and unfamiliar, because it was being used *so weirdly*. Third, I realised that I needed to stop approaching this story like hard sci-fi and start approaching it like fantasy -- I needed to just accept the magical tech rather than hurt my head trying to make some sense it. In a way, it's almost the inverse of the Steerswoman books.

What will you read next?

I'm gonna catch up on some podcasts and then choose my next audiobook. I'm thinking one of the Great Courses history series, but I'm choosing from a few.

* 1) the Gulf Stream is not the main reason why Northern Europe is warm -- the Atlantic Ocean generally is the first reason, and, interestingly, the Rocky Mountains are the second. 2) even if the thermohaline circulation were shut down a la The Day After Tomorrow, the Gulf Stream would still be there, because it's driven by winds which exist because the Earth rotates and the sun shines more on the tropics than the poles -- global warming isn't going to change that fact.

frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (!Adorkable)
I forgot to include audiobooks in my Wednesday reading meme, so I'm posting about them now, and for good measure throwing in what I've been watching and listening to.

The last audiobook I finished was Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes. I finished it a couple months ago so my memory is a little vague. When I started it I was in the midst a roughly two month spike in anxiety, which made it a struggle to leave the house every day, and I was often late for work. (There are generally no short-term consequences for me for that -- I have Stuff I Must Do and where/when I do them doesn't matter much. But coming in at 11 when I'm not willing or able to stay correspondingly late isn't good for my career.) Year of Yes helped with that both by making my walk to work more enjoyable and by giving me motivation to leave the house, because I wouldn't let myself listen to it otherwise. Rhimes is a funny and engaging writer and speaker. I felt inspired as I listened to it to say yes to more things, but of course it didn't magically change my patterns of behaviour. I'm working on it though.

Now I'm listening to Amy Poehler's Yes Please -- I somehow missed the amusing similarity of titles till just now. Because I enjoyed Year of Yes I thought I'd like to listen to another fun/easy audiobook by a famous lady. I was trying to decide between Poehler's book and one of Mindy Kaling's, and I chose Poehler's because it has a bunch of cool sounding guest appearances. So far, though, most of the guest appearances have been very, very brief. It's an entertaining book, it occupies my mind on my long walk to/from work, but it's not doing anything more than that for me. TBH I kinda wish I'd gotten one of Kaling's books instead -- I listened to an interview with her recently and really enjoyed hearing her talk about early experiences with comedy.

I'm also very, very slowly and intermittently listening to Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. Her central thesis is that the changes required to (hopefully) prevent catastrophic global warming are fundamental (i.e., socialist) changes that can make life better in many ways, and that fighting global warming is a unique opportunity for building a powerful movement. I want to like it, I want to embrace the hope that it offers, but frankly right now I don't. It feels very 2014.

My next audiobook will be Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold History of English by John McWhorter. Which takes me to my next topic: podcasts I've been listening to! Because sometime around October I finally caught up with everyone else and started doing that. I started with Lexicon Valley, a linguistics podcast for a lay audience hosted by McWhorter. Obviously I like it a lot since I decided to buy his book.

The other one was, of course, Buffering the Vampire Slayer. It's squeeful and queer and the two women who run it are my age which I think substantially adds to my enjoyment. For example, one of my pet peeves with people talking about Buffy is when they mock the outfits. I mean yes, there are some examples of appalling taste, but mostly it's just a fancier, leatheryer version of how people dressed then, and I find the joking tiresome. On Buffering the Vampire Slayer, they note the costumes with nostalgic glee, and even genuine appreciation during their Buffy Fashion Watch segment, which I love. Also they love Cordelia and made her a song, and they love Buffy too. It warms my heart.

Now I've started also listening to Fangirl Happy Hour, NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, and am in the process of sorting through some leftist stuff to see which ones I like. Oh, and Stuff You Missed in History Class, which is a lot of fun and has two women hosts.

Now, for what I've been watching. I started a Gilmore Girls rewatch and got to the point in Season 1 where Christopher returns. I was enjoying it but I haven't picked it back up again and probably won't. Getting sucked into a multi-season rewatch is not in the cards right now. I've watched the first two episodes of The Get Down, a Netflix show about hip hop and disco in the Bronx in the late '70's. I liked it but didn't get sucked in, so I'm taking my time. There are only two episodes and I love the music, so I'll likely finish it. Finally, Mr. Adjacent and I have been watching Parks and Recreation for the last month or so. I can't believe how much I've forgotten from the first three seasons! It's been very fun to rewatch. As for my current shows, Steven Universe and The Mindy Project are coming back next month.

Also, I'm watching Booktubers, especially Claire Rousseau and Elizabeth at Books and Pieces.
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Lenticular Clouds)
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is in the midst of releasing its 5th assessment report on climate change, impacts, and mitigation.  The group that focuses on the physical science of climate change has produced a video summarizing this year's report.

And here's a nice video visualizing some of the main conclusions from that report:

Some climate and global warming-related websites that I like:
  • Skeptical Science: compares the arguments of global warming "skeptics" to what the peer-reviewed literature says.
  • Real Climate: a general climate blog.  I'd say it's unintentionally geared toward people with some science background, though not necessarily climate science. 
  • Climate and Capitalism: for my fellow left-wing weirdos.  :)

frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (BtVS: Big Damn Hero)
Weather and Climate

My department chair gave a great presentation at this week's weather discussion on what happened with "Nemo".  The storm, not the fish.  The situation started about a week before, with two low pressure systems in the Eastern half of the US, one in the midwest, one roughly over North Carolina (if I remember correctly!  He drew maps on the white board). 

Weather: just another reason why physics is fun! )

At the same time, the storms were blowing from west to east, as these things do, and so the storm intensification happened over the Northeastern US, and that counterclockwise rotation meant that a bunch of cold ass air was blown into the NE from arctic Canada, and there was plenty of moisture in the system from the parts of it that had come from the South.  The result was a huge blizzard, with record-breaking snow in many places, especially Connecticut.

In other weather (and climate) news, last month was the hottest on record in Australia.  From the University of Reading World Weather News:
Australia recorded its hottest month on record in January 2013, with both the average mean temperature of 29.68C [85.42 F] and the average mean maximum temperature of 36.92C (98.46), surpassing previous records set in January 1932. The national average maximum temperature on 7 January was the highest on record. Numerous stations set records for the most days in succession above 40C, including Alice Springs (17 days) and Birdsville (31 days). A large number of stations set all-time record high temperatures during the January heatwave, including Sydney (45.8C [114F] on 18 January) and Hobart (41.8C [107.24 F] on 4 January). The highest temperature recorded during the heatwave was at Moomba in South Australia (49.6C, 121F, on 12 January).
The average temperature -- day, night, all month, across an entire continent -- was 85 F.  The average daily high -- again, across the entire country -- was almost 100 F.   That is just miserable. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I know this has been making its way around LJ/DW already, but this article about why Buffy is so much more than a metaphor for growing up resonated strongly with me, what I find so moving about the show.  Why it is My Show.
My point is that not once in the course of watching or re-watching Buffy did it ever feel to me like the supernatural elements of the story could be explained away as mere stand-ins for everyday experiences, shrunk down to the dimensions of ordinary life. On the contrary, the magic in Buffy gives the story its epic character and that epic-ness has drawn bigger, more deeply lodged emotions from me than any naturalistic drama ever has.
As we watch Buffy take on an authoritarian principal, an ominously wholesome mayor, a covert government initiative that experiments on monsters, a patriarchal Watchers Council that seeks to control her power—each a representative of the established social order and its accompanying storylines—we hear Whedon whispering to us: You don’t have to accept this either. There’s another world, another way. See that crack in the wall?
Of course, there are plenty of epic tales that hint at "another world, another way".  The reason Buffy affects me so much more than most isn't only its epic, fantastical nature, but that nature in combination with a bunch of other things, mostly related to superb characterization and its number and variety of female characters with a complex web of relationships.

Is Angel more mature than Buffy? )

Also, I'm kind of sad that there seems to be this awesome, thriving community of Buffy fans on LJ and not DW.  I started this journal primarily for vidding, but sometimes I miss discussing My Show.  I could always put more effort into LJ, but I also dislike being split between two journals, and I just really prefer the look, stability, and lack of ads on DW. Plus so many of my vidding friends are here.
frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Default)
The National Climatic Data Center just released its 2012 temperature estimates for the United States, and last year was the hottest year on record.  By more than a degree Fahrenheit (a bit less than half a degree C).  That is a HUGE jump.  Incidentally, the previous record holder was 1998, a year of an extreme El Nino event -- which tends to raise temperatures globally.

There's a really nice article about the record in the New York Times, too.  That paper posts some fishy stuff about global warming on both sides of the "debate", but this does a great job at explaining that the attribution is both natural, year-to-year variability and also is very likely human-caused global warming.

If you like graphs, here's a plot of the contiguous US temperature record over the past century or so, in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.  And here's a map of global surface warming -- it shows how much warmer the average surface temperature in the period between 1999 and 2008 was compared to the period between 1940 and 1980.   (It's in Celsius; roughly double the numbers for Fahrenheit.) 

It wasn't the hottest year on record globally -- the NCDC expects 2012 will rank around 9. 

If you're wondering why I call them "temperature estimates", it's because even thermometers have biases and can be affected by things like nearby buildings, and there isn't a thermometer on every square meter of the US.  (Though the US has some of the most thorough weather-station coverage anywhere.)  So it's not the absolute truth, but every effort has been made -- by many very smart people -- to have as accurate an estimate as possible.


frayadjacent: Buffy smirking over Giles with quarterstaff (Default)

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