A Trackback is Like An Open Door

A trackback is like an open door: it beckons, and when you walk through it, you find such a vast array of distractions and entertainments that you can easily spend an hour or two in rapt fascination. I am trying to consolidate my bloglines subscriptions these days, to reduce the number of subscriptions I have, because even though I read my subscriptions mainly in RSS-feed form, I still have over three hundred on my list and can’t keep up. But this morning, I rediscovered the joy of just wandering through a link, over to a bunch of other pages, and fiddling and fiddling. A fine way to spend my first Friday morning off from work, in a semester of long weekends, I think.

I followed a trackback over to Blinger: A linguistics & ESL Blog this morning—the website of a fellow teacher whom I envy for good reason—and was led down dozens of interesting corridors, only some of which I’ll note here:

A link to Polyglot Conspiracy’s link to an NPR radio piece about the uniqueness of some ideas for which words exist only in certain languages.

This thoughtful entry about how motivating language learners might make the crucial difference between language zombies and people whose English study actually benefits them. It’s a topic near and dear to Blinger’s heart, too.

A WIRED piece on the influence of the Net on language, and how some idiots are, of course, wigging out.

This very cool SF scholarship project, in which people are gathering citations of SF neologisms for the OED.

Someone, somewhere, along this chain of links, brought me back to McSweeney’s Open Letters to People or Entities Who Are Unlikely To Respond, a page which is fun to poke through. Despite the pretension of McSweeney’s according to some of my more literate friends, I get a kick out of some of this site, at least.

At Language Log, there’s a discussion of whether the English language’s treatment of numbers complexifies Mathematics for children. It is pointed out that in Hindi, the number system is even more difficult but Hindi-speakers seem to do alright with maths. I’d like to add that in Korean, the number system is dual: there are Chinese and native-Korean based number systems, used for different functions and in different combinations (such as using Korean numbers for the hour and Chinese numbers for the minutes when telling time) and Korean kids are pretty good at math nonetheless… so good, in fact, that some of the mathematics they learn in middle school is much more advanced than anything I studied in high school.

Language Log ended up being quite fascinating, in fact: there’s lots of discussion of different approaches to grammar and style—such as this piece about Henry James’ use of nevertheless—and criticism of stupid discussions of the same; there’s some discussion of testing and test design… aw, heck, why should I list all the good stuff? Go look there yourself!

Finally, Mark Liberman at Language Log pointed at a cool gadget by Christine Sugrue called OrganicHTML, a little webgizmo that greats a plant based on all kinds of aspects of your website. Mine looks like this:


It’s nothing as beautiful as the plant generated from Language Log, but ah well, it’s mine, and kind of neat. Note that the originally-offered link is down, but you can access OrganicHTML here if you want to give it a try yourself.

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