Friday, 10 April 2015

Android and Billy Bean

Tales from the word-face                                                

Image result for billy bean and his funny machine
Bill Bean's machine; see more here.
This Billy Bean is not the world's first openly gay baseball player, who is discussed here. He is the forerunner of that Bertha once beloved of my son, although Billy Bean BUILT his machine ('to see what it would do' according to the theme tune now playing in my mind's ear), whereas Bertha had a mind of her own.
Image result for tv comic annual
An early BBC publication (possibly even pre-dating BBC Publications) was  TV Comic
(published for the first 33 years of my life)
and a spin-off from this was TV Comic Annual.

A tussle I've been having with Android of late involved a solution that reminded me of a story in the one such Annual I ever wasted my pocket money on. The story involved Billy Bean diagnosing a problem caused by a red/green colour-blind engine driver. It was a fairly forgettable story, but it involved a rhyming couplet  (produced by the machine):
Take the train to there and back
That will put you on the track

My Android problem involved IPA characters. When I edited an HTML file the characters behaved, but when I opened it after compiling the HTML the IPA symbols started misbehaving.  But only after a while. The first few files I produced were fine. I tried again and again ...
Which reminds me of a Human/Computer Interface ('HCI') course I did in the late '80s, in which the presenter told us that the Captain of the USS Vincennes in the crisis of the incident described here issued a mistaken command to his computer 17 times, hoping against hope that the response would become intelligible.
... and then gave up. I sent two files (both of which had IPA symbols [the same characters, cutNpasted from the good file to the bad one] that seemed fine in a text editor but not in an HTML compiler) in a mail to an Android guru (who I had worked with at about the same time as that HCI course).

He was confused. And I was – at first  – even more confused. I thought the problem was obvious, but he couldn't see it at all. It was only after I took a deep breath and looked at what I had sent that I understood. It turned out that Gmail had automatically changed a setting that fixed the problem. My Android expert couldn't see what was wrong because there was nothing wrong. 

This is where Billy Bean comes in: he diagnosed the problem  accidentally, just by going for a ride. In my case, I diagnosed a problem accidentally by trying to describe it to someone else. If Gmail could do something perhaps the text editor I was using could have done it too. And I had changed editors (a detail that I had not mentioned in my mail, thinking it irrelevant).

Anyway, my HTML files are now behaving;  I just have to use a particular editor.  I'd like to know why (the particular setting that is involved), but at least they work. And after I've recharged my Android thingy I'll add one in an update. Meanwhile... gotta go.


PS The News on the radio as I type is reporting on Clegg's blood-money. Why-ever does he think a handful of loose change will wipe away the guilt of tricking a generation out of their birthright?

Update 2015.04.11.10:45 – Added PPS
PPS Extract from the very distant (horizontal?) WVGT2,  sv AL representing /ɑ:/
  1. almond
    Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes "almond" with this long vowel and no /l/, but many other pronunciations are current among native-speakers of British English. I have heard /ɑ:l/, /ɔ:l/, /æl/ and /ɒl/. Some of these are reported in Cambridge Dictionaries Online and identified as "American".
  2. almoner
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include "almoner", but other dictionaries (for example, Collins) do. In this and many other "-al-" words the letters "al" represent the phoneme /ɑ:/; there is no /l/.
  3. alms
    Note the plural ending.
  4. aloo
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives "aloo" this long vowel, but other pronunciations are common (as is normal with foreign borrowings).
  5. fly-half
    In this expression (a position in a game of rugby) there is no clear (immediate) sense of " divided by two".
  6. gala
    Used in compounds, probably the most successful being "swimming gala". In many northern dialects the stressed vowel is pronounced /eɪ/. (This pronunciation is identified in the Macmillan English Dictionary as "American".)
  7. half-baked , half-breed and half-caste
    In these and many other words that use the qualifier "half" "half"-ness does not have a direct and/or obvious association with the word that follows "half-".
  8. half-timbered
    In this sort of building, some of the structural timbers (not necessarily half) have a cosmetic function.
  9. half-truth
    In this sort of misleading statement much of what is asserted is true (often more than half).
  10. Kabbalah
    The Macmillan English Dictionary transcribes this word with the long /ɑ:/ vowel, but the audio sample has a clear /æ/. Both pronunciations are common.
  11. marsala
    The Macmillan English Dictionary does not include this word but other dictionaries (for example, Collins) do.
  12. qualms
    The Macmillan English Dictionary gives this in the plural. The plural is indeed more common; the British National Corpus contains 141 instances of the plural and only 30 of the singular, and in the Corpus Of Contemporary American (a much bigger corpus) the preference is even stronger (705:71). But the singular is used  most commonly after a negative, as in the idiom "without a qualm".
Update 2015,10,13,16:30 – Added footnote.
This was also the source, now I think of it, of a gag I "wrote" [plagiarized, really] when I was in Edinburgh in 1976: (an event I mentioned in passing here. 'Don't anybody move, [said the MGM lion, threateningly, at the beginning of the Oxford Theatre Group Review] I've got eyes like a larynx'. 
The (lukewarm) review in the Scotsman accurately  observed that the line (lifted, all except the opening warning from that annual) would have worked better on paper than when spoken. Little did the reviewer know that the line had (originally) been written  with a reader rather than an audience in mind; nor did they know that when I had first read it, in the early '60s, I had had to look up larynx in the dictionary (and, knowing neither the word lynx nor the phrase eyes like a lynx, I didn't get it at the time; still, I filed it away, never knowing when it might come in handy.) 

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 pairs of vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, 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.

I'm thinking about doing a native iBook version in due course, but for now Mac users can use Kindle's own (free) simulator.

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

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

Freebies (Teaching resources:  
Nearly 50,000 views  and over 7,500 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 over 2,600 views and 1,050 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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