Friday, 25 April 2014

Stalking the stork

Cycling along the Old Basingstoke Road  this morning I saw a cluster of photographers with long lenses trained over the fields. A friend who had spoken to them told me they were looking at a stork (a Great White as it happens [not THAT sort of Great White, silly]), and I mused about the possibile irony of a Twitterstorm leading to Birders (I doubt if they'd call themselves Twitchers) mobbing a bird.

After my Tai Chi class (which had been my destination) I had a look on Twitter to see whether that irony had really happened. And it hadn't. Twitter had a few hits for Spencers Wood's Great White:

Hardly a Twitterstorm – scarcely a tweacup-ful. I may have missed a couple, but there were only ever a handful, spread out over four hours. Those dozen or more photographers I had seen must have had some pre-Twitter network.

I didn't see the stork, but I saw its photographers. I wonder whether that counts as a '#LifeTick' to quote the second-last of those tweets. Hardly. But it made me think of an inconsequential musing that occurred to me recently – not consequential enough to merit a blog-post all to itself. It was about Erdős numbers.

These have become quite a Thing recently, though it hadn't seeped through to my neck of the academic woods by the early 'seventies (when the Professor may still have been productive, if any of his 1,525 papers was published that late in his life – he was born in 1913
a contemporary of my mother, as it happens, though Erdős enjoyed a longer education, she having left school in 1925; she was, after all, only a girl, and my grandfather (whose wife Bertha Fergusson, had proudly preceded him carrying a suitcase bearing the admonitory initials BF), a school-master [or dominie
<meta-digression theme="dominie">
Was a 'dominie''s class, I wonder, full of dominees [<boo-boom tsh>
I thangyou]

I should perhaps say in the appropriate argot], was amply equipped to teach her enough to get her a job as a shorthand-typist, she's pretty bright after all.
<meta-digression theme="autobiography/shorthand">
I still recall her shopping lists, written in Pitman's shorthand. Perhaps my first brush with phonemes was the /t/ stroke that represented 'tea'.
Forgive him. He was born in the 19th century.
). In brief they are a measure of mathematical proximity: if you've co-written  with Erdős, your EN is 1; if you've co-written with someone with an EN of 1, your EN is 2; etc.... As he recedes into the history of mathematics, ENs are getting higher. Wikipedia says the mean (at some time of writing [though the primary source is given as a web-page updated Feb. 2014]) is 3.

My contribution to  Erdős-related-angels-on-a-pinhead-speculation is this: if you co-write with several other authors, several or all of whom have an EN, how do you calculate your EN? Do you just take the lowest and add 1 to that, or do you do something fractional? To take an unrealistically simple example, if you have two co-authors each with an EN of 3, is your EN 3.5? Hmm.


PS Another plea for reviews of Digraphs and Diphthongs . (And if you didn't download a copy while it was free, DM @WVGTbook for a review copy) I'm really unsure of what to do next (apart from DIY, that is).

Update 2014.05.08,17:55 – Added this PPS:

Belatedly, this update rubricates what would have beeen her 100th birthday, if the world had had that good fortune.

I've borrowed this, with appropriate anglicization, from Borges' rubricar. Well, maybe it's not his exactly – I dunno – but if he didn't coin it he used it in a memorable way.

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 40.300 views  and well over 5,600 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with well over 2,000 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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