Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, July 19, 2019

Four Things

1. Over the past couple of weeks, I've taken my kids sans Mrs. Van Horn to see their cousins in Mississippi and in California. The latter trip included a long layover in Nashville due to a delayed flight. There, desperation drove me to an internet search of things for kids to do at airports.

Nothing I could use turned up, but I did find a list from Parenting of airports with play areas and other fun activities. I've bookmarked it for possible later use and am passing it on for the sake of any fellow parents who happen by. BWI has one I didn't know about, despite living in the area for about three years:

Upstairs in the main terminal, in BWI's Observation Gallery, is a one-of-a-kind children's play area. There's an array of airplane parts: a wing, tail, wheels -- even part of a fuselage. Plus some fun equipment meant to be played on (don't fret -- the area is carpeted).
Several airports have impressive offerings, topped by the seven play areas of Detroit's airport.

2. Statistician John Cook discusses the peculiar case of the initial vote count of an election being affected by a cosmic ray "flipping" a bit (i.e., changing a 1 to a 0 or vice versa in the computer's memory):
Radiolab did an episode on the case of a cosmic bit flip changing the vote tally in a Belgian election in 2003. The error was caught because one candidate got more votes than was logically possible. A recount showed that the person in question got 4096 more votes in the first count than the second count. The difference of exactly 212 votes was a clue that there had been a bit flip. All the other counts remained unchanged when they reran the tally. [link omitted]
I, too, had been aware of such bit flips as a theoretical possibility, but had never heard of one being documented until I read Cook's post.

3. I use a shortened form of my middle name in the same manner most people use their first names. In my case, it's because I was named after my father, who used his first name. And so it is that I find humor in this list of "10 Struggles People Who Go by Their Middle Name Understand, Because No, We're Not Trying to Confuse You." Item six applies to me only to the extent that many forms only allow a middle initial, and seven doesn't really apply because I never list my middle name as my first name.

But item eight does:
Remember when Homer Simpson was impersonating Mr. Burns, but he couldn't come up with his first name when asked? Yeah, that's how I sound whenever a hotel clerk asks for my name. Because saying "Well, you might have me down as..." doesn't seem sketchy at all...
This affects me a little because many places are kind enough to ask what you prefer to be called, but don't pass the information around consistently. On top of that, my wife usually handles our travel arrangements, and she uses her maiden name for professional reasons. So, when I travel, I get to do the "you might have me down as" with my last name, too.

There are advantages to using my middle name. It's generally easy to tell over the phone if I am speaking to someone who actually knows me, for example.

A Father's Day gift and a bottle of muscadine wine. (Image by me. Feel free to reproduce or use with or without modification. Attribution would be appreciated.)
4. When visiting my mother recently, I learned that Mississippi has a small wine industry. But since the climate there is unsuitable for grapes, the wine is made from the related muscadine.

I had a white from the Old South Winery of Natchez. The result was sweet, and had both the distinctive flavor and some of the gelatinous mouthfeel of the fruit. (This instantly took me down memory lane to the small part of my grandfather's back yard where he grew muscadines.)

I brought a couple of bottles back home, but Mrs. Van Horn was not a fan.

More for me!

-- CAV


Snedcat said...

A penguin drinking Old South Wine. That's WAY south.

Gus Van Horn said...

Hah! I can't believe that didn't occur to me.

The kids and I all love penguins and the bottle holder caught my wife's eye around Father's Day -- so that ended up being my big surprise for the day.

Jennifer Snow said...

I get a little bit of that name thing because my housemate and I have completely different names, so when people call and ask me "is this Mrs. Krupke?" I know they don't know us.

Plus NOBODY can pronounce Krupke, a fact I find hilarious because, come on, it's 2 syllables.

Gus Van Horn said...

It looks like it could be German, which would make me want to pronounce the final e like -uh, but lots of Americans with names with a pronounceable final e say it -ee, so I'd be at a loss until I heard it.

But perhaps any hesitation gives you a chance to interject "Snow"...

Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "It looks like it could be German, which would make me want to pronounce the final e like -uh, but lots of Americans with names with a pronounceable final e say it -ee, so I'd be at a loss until I heard it."

In many cases that's what is in fact the "correct" pronunciation. Many Russians of German descent (not all Jewish, but many of them are) pronounce their names in Russian fashion. The -ke ending is unstressed in German, and in Russian, unstressed e is pronounced i. Such names are common enough among the Eastern European Jewish families that immigrated to the US, and it wouldn't surprise me if that pronunciation as kee is due primarily to that.

An amusing story about that is that one of the modernist Russian composers was Alfred Schnittke. I like many (not all) of his pieces okay (not overwhelmingly); he was pretty abrasive but usually to a decent esthetic purpose. However, as a thorough-going modernist, I doubt he'll ever have much appeal. In any case, I was talking once with my best friend in grad school, a Russian woman, who was telling me about Darya Dontsova, a very popular, very prolific writer of very bad mysteries (she has written 117 so far, according to Wiki). "Her supposed detective is this older woman with lots of nieces, and she's rich so she uses her money to run her nieces' lives, and after about the third or fourth novel there stopped being real mysteries; they're just awful comedies of manners, except no one has any manners, and they're all just wealth-fulfillment fantasies for New Russians without any culture who love money because it gives them power over other people, especially greedy nieces who'll kill you for your money because you and they are all horrible horrible people. And in the one I read, the woman is invited to a concert of Schnittke's music [pronounced Russian fashion, SHNEET-kee], but she keeps putting it off, and finally she runs into them and they ask her why she's so busy and she finally admits it's because she hates Schnittke, and they look relieved and say, 'We hate him too, we just thought since you're rich and cultured you'd want to go,' and everybody's happy, including Schnittke because he hated people like that so they won't be there to disturb his spirit." Then she laughed because I immediately said, "But I like Schnittke!" (pronounced in German fashion, SHNIT-kuh). Then a few months later she had taken a German reading class for a language requirement and I had hung around some Russian musicologists and we laughed when I called him SHNEET-kee and she called him SHNIT-kuh. (Apparently his family spoke German in the home, so he didn't mind either pronunciation, though I'm not sure about that point.)

As I suppose it's not fair to mention Schnittke without steering someone toward his more listenable works, this is my favorite piece of his (and the favorite of many other people), a setting of Old Russian poems by a poetically inclined monk in traditional Russian liturgical style (heavy basses, no instruments) with a lot of more modern harmonies and touches. If you don't like that, you won't like Schnittke; if you do like that, you still might well not like the rest of Schnittke.

And of course, for Krupke, there's always this.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for explaining that bit of weirdness. It's good knowing why that is.

I'll take a listen to the music at a better time than now: I've limited internet and time to use it for reasons I just blogged -- although perhaps the post tomorrow will prove something of a shaggy dog tale...


Snedcat said...

Yo, Gus, you write, "Thanks for explaining that bit of weirdness. It's good knowing why that is."

I should add one little note that might clarify things for anyone who actually bothered to read it: The Russian transcription into Cyrillic of German (and French) names is centuries old and thoroughly standardized, so it's by the German spelling and not pronunciation that it works. And as the German spelling is itself a centuries-old standard (it owes a lot to Luther, actually), the mismatches in Russian pronunciations and German pronunciations can be impressive.

One especially impressive example that might explain something you've probably noticed is that in fact the standard started in Kiev at a time (perhaps as early as Kievan Rus, that is, before the Mongol Conquest of c. 1240) when g had softened to a voiced h sound of some sort. As Russian didn't have an h sound, this sound, written g, was considered the closest equivalent, so German h is written g in Russian, hence Geller as the Russian form of Heller, and so on for all those other names--but since the more northern Russian dialects retain a hard g, you get the weird equivalence.

Thus, the three German poets Goethe, Hesse, and Heine (GOOD-tuh, HESS-uh, and HIGH-nuh, roughly) are in Russian called GYAY-tyee, GYAY-syee, and GYAY-nyee, roughly. (Goethe is so pronounced because Russian doesn't have the o-umlaut sound.)