How to say it, maybe

A brief screed and pronunciation guide for science fiction names, in particular those of the inhabitants of Ann McCaffrey’s Pern. This material is intended for those who think they speak English :p

The greatest danger in pronunciation of “strange” names is our perceptual habits. Skimming carelessly over an unfamiliar combination of letters can result in the incoming data being interpreted as something familiar, from a first impression based on only a few letters. Sticking with that, not taking a second look, results in the mangled pronunciation being reinforced!

Our word recognition algorithms are only as good as information and *Practice* make them. Exercising the mind, and self-checking – not always accepting what seemed to be at first glance – sharpen one’s ability. The more new things become familiar, the more effective the process can be.

Experience with languages other than one’s native tongue can help by providing an alternative framework of pronunciation guidelines, as well as merely making us more aware (and wary) of what we see. Or think we see.

When I was a small child (back when God was making rocks), my favorite crayon color was magenta. I construed the color name as “magNETa.” Eventually I saw it as it was. Eh, it’s not my fave color any more anyway.

Accent on the first syllable. (JAXom, FANdarel, ROBinton)
Exception: Double letters take the accent in names of more than two syllables (MenOLLy) – although it seems a general rule that female names are accented on second or next-to-last anyway! Considered this way, Ruatha Hold is – um – a female. As for Sebell . . . eh, I think SEA-bell sounds silly.

Consonants as in normal English, except that hard G may be preferred to soft (by me).

Gaelic-derived names should be approached warily. Guidance is available. You get the hang of ot after a while.

Vowels – a matter of context.
A – Lean toward AH, with some long A in accented syllables
E – Generally short, as in lEft, with some more of an “ei” (as in Spanish). Meh-LEI-na (Melena, Robinton’s mum), Feh-LEI-na (Felena, Benden Weyr personnel))
I – “eee” in most cases (internal). Igen is a problem. Eye-gen (hard G) is my pref.
O – Can usually be played by ear according to context with no unfamiliar twists.
U – Generally a trouble-free letter, unless it gets inserted where it isn’t.
Y – This ambiguous – nay, amphibious! – vowel-consonant does not appear much, at least among the people of Pern. I just want to say, while I have the opportunity, that hearing it pronounced as if it were plying both trades at once is horribly annoying. In other words, if I had a friend named Yvonne, I would NOT call her Yivonne, Yuvonne, Yehvonne, or Yavonne. It ain’t a one-letter diphthong.

Diphthongs and other pairs:
AI – as in “aye-aye, my eye” – AIVAS should be EYE-vas, yes?
IE – I insist that Harper Piemur / Rhymes with bubbly pie fur. (Of course, you will never see a bubbly pie with fur, because they must all be eaten fresh, and sharding well will be if Piemur is around!)
The rare (to us) consonant combo “MN” just had to be thrown in for F’lar’s dragon. If you can’t figure out how to get some M in your N, just do the N! Mnementh won’t care.

Weyr: Weer (not wire or ware)

There. More may be added. Like it or bite me.

The White Goddess

Beneath the Moon I slept as it rose full.
It was Midsummer’s Eve, and I was young;
Unformed, untutored, but I felt its pull.
In a dream, that night, an ancient tale was sung:
A Goddess who upon occasion sought
Her long-dead lover; her unfettered might
Disguised in mortal form, her spell so wrought
That men must long for her to spend the night.
Each time she came among men, only one
Could she select, one man to try and test.
If he should prove unworthy ere the sun,
His lot was death, his heart cold in his chest.
The story told, I saw her, tall and fair
Beneath the full moon on a nearby hill.
Her robes were white, her gaze was hard to bear.
Upon her hand a white bird sat, so still.
She sent it flying out on thunder wings,
Its eyes dark pools of bottomless desire.
I woke, and saw the moon, a shining spring
Of icy light to set my heart afire.

[This is a true account of a dream I had, sleeping outside on a Midsummer Night many years ago. At the time, I was not aware of this potent Archetype.]

F1L3Z

I am a file hoarder.I have files that were created or downloaded nearly twenty years ago, when I had little drive space and my only option for backup storage was floppies.

Over the years a few have been lost, and some have been permanently deleted because they outlived their usefulness and had no sentimental value. But the collection has steadily grown. Not just photos, music, movies and e-books; I have stashed whole websites, some of which no longer exist on the Web. Reference material, vintage software, clipart, backups of websites that I created, backups of files recovered from other people’s computers (I keep those for at least a year). My writings, fan-fic written by others that I enjoyed reading, half-finished stories, rants, souvenirs of odd occurrences, screenshots of every desktop I ever had, memories of LARTs well done.

It’s interesting to poke around in, and now and then rewarding in unexpected ways. Recently an old Internet friend looked me up. In our email exchange, I mentioned some floppies that she had sent me. She said that the files on them no longer existed on her present computer. I dove straight into my archives, found the files, zipped them up and sent them to her.

Files don’t collect dust. 😉
screenshot - copying files

Kingdom of the Blind Giant

A Parable of Privacy and Security

Once upon a time there was a a country ruled by a blind giant. In the beginning, he seemed to be a kind ruler. His subjects were contented and happy. Neighboring kingdoms readily allied with his.

Since most of the people thought that he had their best interests at heart, few objected when he asked them all to wear bells. It was for their own good, after all. A blind king must have some way to know where people were.

The bells gave the blind giant more freedom to move. He persuaded other kingdoms to merge with his, and their people wore bells too.

There were still some people who didn’t like wearing bells. And, of course, there were many more who would forget to put their bells on when they went out. People without bells were apt to get hurt if they got in the giant’s way. At first, no one paid much attention to their cries of pain. The king said that it was sad that anyone was harmed, but had he not given them bells? Surely it was no his fault if anyone was not using them.

After a while, the people who tended to forget their bells started to wear them all the time. It became a common custom for everyone to have their bells on at all times. Despite the inconvenience, they felt safer with the bells.

Those who disagreed strongly with bell-wearing were alarmed by the nearly universal acceptance. They would ask their friends, “Why do you wear your bells all day, even at home? What are you afraid of?”

The answer was always, “No, no, I’m not afraid! The bells are for my protection. The king is good, bells are good.”

But the anti-bell faction continued speak out against bells, insisting that they were unnecessary. If people accepted personal responsibility and kept out of the blind giant’s way, they would never get stepped on, they said. “Watch out for yourselves,” they repeated. “The king gives you bells so that he can avoid blame. The bells are for his convenience, not yours.” In fact, the constant jangling of bells had begun to negate their supposed purpose. In the cacophonous confusion, people who wore bells suffered injury more than those who kept their eyes open and kept out of harm’s way.

The king denied this, of course. Being blind, he knew only what his advisers told him, and he chose his advisers carefully. All of them had well-tuned bells. They never got stepped on or knocked over, which proved to them — and the giant — that bells were completely effective. If people got hurt, it was their own fault.

Life was getting harder for the anti-bell people. They were often denied access to basic public services because they had no bells. It often took them several times as long to get anything done because of bell discrimination. But there was no where they could go to escape the tyranny of the bell cult, since the giant had taken over nearly all the adjacent kingdoms, and most of the territories that still claimed to be independent had adopted their own system of bells.

The giant’s name was Google.

Farting Out The Lights

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Apophenia
“Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data. The term was coined by neurologist Klaus Conrad and defined as the ‘unmotivated seeing of connections.'”

One evening, a good many years ago, I was exercising — just a sort of free-form dance — in the living room, with no light except what came through the open door from the kitchen. A street light gave some extra illumination. After a while, I farted. The street light went out.

The light came back on as I continued to enjoy my exercise. But once again, because I was moving around, I farted. The light went out.

At least three times that evening, the street light blinked out at the exact moment of my expulsion of gas.

Of course it was not my pooting that put out the light. It was defective, and was replaced a couple of days later. What is significant is that, on that particular evening, the malfunction of the street light coincided exactly with my farts. What is even more significant is that these coincidental events had no significance. There was no connection, no cause-and-effect.

Yet every day things like this can and do happen. And, if the observer allows an emotional attachment to attribute meaning to the events, it can result in distorted thinking that feeds on itself, building and strengthening a perceptual filter that allows everything to be interpreted as having personal meaning.

We are all the center of our own universe. Giving meaning to things that are not really connected is a natural effect of our search for personal meaning. Being conscious of this tendency may prevent a desperate need for self-importance from running wild. In other words, don’t fart out the lights.

Letter to Charter Communications

Dear Minions of the Insane Monopoly;

My check for the current amount due is enclosed. Please also accept my sincere disgust for your cavalier treatment of an honest, reliable paying customer.

For several years I have enjoyed the convenience of paying my bill online. Lately, it has changed from a convenience to a growing annoyance. Finally, the waste of my time became so unbearable that I was forced to waste even more time obtaining a mailing address.

I am tired of being treated like a criminal when I try to log in to pay my bill. Not once, but over and over IN ONE SESSION I am presented with a time-wasting game to “prove” that I am not a bot. When I have completed the test, the website sits grinding its gears until it times out, and then demands that I do it again. Rinse and repeat.

And there is no way out of this automated Hell! Why should I have to “prove that I’m not a robot” only to chat with your robots? Seriously? I tried a phone call, and never got past a brainless recording! The very next day, I had a problem with eBay, which was pleasantly resolved with a phone call, during which I spoke to two human beings. EBay has real customer support!

I am a human being, and as such I have a right to be treated with a minimum of respect; in return I will give whatever respect is due. I can not respect any entity that wants to punish me for honestly trying to pay a bill! Nor do I appreciate the assumption that I am just another inept, ignorant user “having trouble logging in” when the fact is that the website’s automated rudeness and seemingly purposeful slowness are preventing my login. Moments earlier I had logged into my bank to check my account balance. It was all over in a minute.

My apparent location should have no bearing on my ability to pay my bills online. What if someone is out of town on business or visiting a relative? Should their actual, physical change of location, and therefore change of IP address, make it impossible to pay a bill? Isn’t that one of the things the Internet is for, to make distance irrelevant? AT&T makes no fuss about it when I pay my phone bill; my ID, password, and zip code are good enough. I can get the whole process over with in less time than it takes to suffer ONE bout of your obstructive game-playing.

My use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is not a sign of criminal activity. I maintain several websites, and log into other non-https sites; the VPN makes this much more secure. It is not illegal for an ordinary citizen to take precautions against being hacked. I can see no reason why I should take time to stop the VPN simply because I want to pay a bill in an idle moment between other activities. My time is just as valuable as that of anyone my money goes toward paying (that’s you, Bunky, and you’re not that special). If your system can’t understand who I am unless my identity is tied to an apparent location, there is something wrong with your system.

An IP address is not a personal identifier; it is nothing but a temporary identifier for a device or group of devices that allows communication with other devices. A hacker could, theoretically, use my wifi. Does that make us the same person, one that you would trust because you “know” the location? Even judges have ruled that an IP address is NOT an infallible means of identification of a person. To wit:

“An IP address provides only the location at which one of any number of computer devices may be deployed, much like a telephone number can be used for any number of telephones.”
— Judge Gary Brown, United States District Court of the Eastern District of New York.

If you are truly concerned about security, there are much better ways to ascertain the correct identity of an individual logging in than their IP address. There are also better ways to ensure my legitimacy than to use a CAPTCHA that works so poorly that it never really works! There are certainly better ways to handle regional data — AT&T seems to manage this quite well. Perhaps you should ask them how they manage their database.

No amount of advertising and promotional hype (which I also have to pay for) can cover the fact that Spectrum has become an inhuman monster with no respect or consideration whatsoever for the faceless, dehumanized masses it feeds on.

Masu Module Drawers

I love small things. Looking at origami furniture models, I thought how fun it would be to assemble a paper suite for Borrowers. But out of all the chest-of-drawers type models available, I found none that I really wanted to fold. Either they were fussily complex, or not proportioned right.

So I took paper in hand and started experimenting. This is what I came up with. Based on the traditional masu box, it works and looks pretty cool. I’ve constructed three so far, and I’m sure there are some variations that will be lots of fun to discover.

For the shelf units, start with a square of paper folded for a masu. You need to know how to do that anyway. 😉
shelf unit base

Fold two of the triangular sides back. The points are going to remain outside the box.
fold sides back

Fold the front flap inward. This leaves the front open, and creates side pockets that will receive the pointy tabs of another unit.
fold the front flap in

Fold the rear point down, because we don’t want it getting in the way of the drawer!
fold point down

Collapse the back in as you would a normal masu. A little glue here is good, because you can’t get back in there handily after the whole thing is assembled.
close the back

Here are some finished shelf units.
shelf units

Now for the drawers. They need to be a little smaller so they slide well. Exactly how much smaller depends on the paper. Using heavy paper for the shelf units gives greater solidity, but it also fattens the sides, leaving less room inside. You will have to do a test fold to see exactly how much smaller your paper should be. It could be cut smaller, but I prefer to fudge-fold it so I can use the same size sheets for all parts. The fudge-fold also strengthens the drawer and helps make a nice pull.

Before finishing a drawer, you might want to test your fudge. This is also useful in making covered boxes.
fudge test

Fudge folds are done on the backside of two-color paper. They must be straight and even. If your fudge is sweet, the paper will still be perfectly square 🙂
fudge folds

Anyway, on with the folding. Do the same old masu folds, with the fudge-folds inward. Then open it up and find the point where the fudge-folds meet. Fold it up so that the double fudge triangle peeks over the edge.
front point

Now fold the point over the edge to make a nice drawer-pull.
fold point over

Bring the front and back up, ready to fold in the sides. You can fold the side and back points under first; if your Borrowers are neat-freaks they’ll appreciate this. We’re doing the collapse-in on the sides because 1. the front flap is altered and 2. it makes the sides of the drawers stronger.
ready to bring it together

Finished drawers
drawers

Putting it all together!

Now, put the loose flaps into the pockets. Put a dab of glue in the pockets first, and make sure all sides are aligned and tight together before clamping.
tab A, slot B

There’s nothing like a bunch of cheap made-in-China hair clips for origami clamping.
glue clamps

When it’s all solid, in go the drawers.
all done

Note that the top unit has its “ears” folded in. Even if you forget to do it while folding, they should tuck in fairly easily…usually with a little help from a paper creaser and a sharp knife point. I always forget. :p

The bottom shelf unit can be folded differently to give it a more polished appearance. It doesn’t need the gozintas anyway.
bottom unit

Fold it down onto the underside. The side flaps will cover the odd bits, and lock it in place.

If you don’t want an open space in the bottom, you can simply make a base with all four sides by not folding the front side in, or maybe do something creative with a menko or modified Sonobe unit or whateverg. It has to have something under the bottom drawer, but it doesn’t have to be a space to chuck shoes in.

Number of drawers is up to you too, of course. The ceiling’s the limit. It should also be pretty easy to side-connect two or three sets for a wide storage unit. I can imagine two linked by a flat piece for a desk or vanity. That kind of flexibility was one of my requirements for this project.

A Mystery

I was sitting at my computer (where else), hopping between Twitter and other things. Music suddenly started playing out of nowhere, loud and clear. I went all WTF and looked for the source. With four workspaces, four browsers and a few other windows open…woof. On my way down through my cyberspace mansion, I closed the GIMP because I was done using it, and I didn’t know if something was hiding behind it.

The music stopped. Instantly.

The only reasonable, non-paranoia-inducing explanation is that it was pure co-inky-dink involving a stray radio signal. But that’s one heck of a co-inky-dink, right on the old mouseclick. Plus, the speakers I’m currently using don’t seem to pick up shight like that. The cheapos I used previously often spoke in tiny, tinny voices.

The browsers were all innocent, all still open.

Kind of like that time I was playimg with Windwoes’ voice recognition, forgot I left it running, watched part of a video, and then found a mysterious message inserted into a text file I’d left open. Only no easy explanation, and no evidence (grr, I likes me some evidence).

Oh well, I don’t think it was Russian music :p

Fifty Shades of White

A Short Tale of Betrayal

I have built a reputation for honest work and trustworthiness. People rely on me to help them recover their passwords, rescue locked email accounts, salvage their lost files, clean up and speed up their computers. Last Friday, I was fired from a job I held for nearly ten years. Seems that my computer skills are no longer needed, and that’s all I was good for. (I have some other thoughts….)

I wanted to clear the office computer of files and software that no one else would know what to do with. I was not allowed to finish the job. This made the computer very unhappy, I am told. I do not feel that this was my fault; my intentions were only to remove things that might be confusing. Had I been allowed to do it completely and systematically, there would have been no trouble. Paranoia born of ignorance can cause more problems than it could possibly prevent.

One thing I left behind was my personal web browser — chock full of cookies! Because of this, I have been forced to change passwords for a forum I visit frequently, Facebluk, Gmail, and anything else I might have checked into. Yes, I should have known better than to stay logged in, lol.

It is well known that firing the hacker can have unpleasant consequences. However, I had no intentions of taking any vengeful action. If the princess who took over management last year thinks otherwise, she is dead wrong. The funniest thing is, her IT pet still hasn’t changed some passwords. [eyeroll] I logged into wordpress as another user and removed my personal login, because I like tidying things up.

I removed myself as admin of their Facebook page (which of course I had created, along with a Twitter account and other good things that I am now locked out of). I also created a new FB page for the organization that previously owned my workplace, because I still help them out.

Life goes on; I made many friends in that job, and they are still my friends. They will still trust me with their computers. As for the princess, I wouldn’t trust her as far as I can throw “Leviathan,” my favorite computer. That’s not far at all, the damn thing is heavy.