A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Monthly Archives: October 2007

First mention: T.S. Eliot

First mention of T.S. Eliot in the New York Times:

T.S. Eliot of St. Louis, a student in the Summer school of Magedeburg University, arrived in London today with a number of students from Freiburg and other German universities which have been closed on account of the war.

“The German officials,” said Mr. Eliot, “showed the students much consideration and helped us in every way, but traffic was interrupted by the military operations and there were few trains. Consequently foreigners are getting out of Germany slowly.”

August 27, 1914 “German Universities Shut”

First mention: Harriet Beecher Stowe

First mention of Harriet Beecher Stowe in the New York Times:

Harriet Beecher Stowe, wife of Professor Stowe, of Bowdoin College, and the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” has received $4,000, as her share of the sales already made of that book. She receives 10 cents on each copy sold, and a Bangor paper says she has been offered $10,000 for the copyright of the book. This is an extraordinary case of good luck or success in authorship in this country.

May 14, 1852 (Untitled article)

Cucumber curse of the day

This cross-legg’d cabbage-eating son of a cucumber!

(Sir J. Jollup in Hone Every-day Book 2, from the OED entry for cucumber.)

"When you mix politics and religion, you get politics"

Second thoughts, perhaps, on the part of the religious right, according to the New York Times Magazine’s David D. Kirkpatrick.

(Perhaps I should tag this under ‘politics’ alone).

Yet another theme tryout

I have no time to create my own, but I hope this is easier to read than the last. Three columns are a bit much, though. And for some reason I wasn’t getting updates about comments, but I seem to be doing so now.

Let me know what you think (esp if you’re Michael Hanneman).

More ubiquitous helmet news …

In more news of our always-wearing-helmets future:

“This is more a piece of safety equipment, along the lines of a child car seat, than just a piece of athletic equipment,” Ferrara said.

From Helmet design Absorbs Shock in a New Way — yet another new helmet design.


I was reviewing a Wiki project, Wikicompany.org, today. Its stated mission is be a “free, worldwide business directory that anyone can edit,” in the same spirit as Wikipedia. I thought it might be a good resource for company names and facts.

But then I noticed that the vast majority of edits in the past sixty days are about the vast conspiracy behind 9/11 and the new world order. The original 9/11 start page says it’s being done by “the Dutch cooperation to find out the truth behind the events relating to 9/11/2001.”

The main contributor is also the founder, Jama Poulsen, or “Walden,” according to a Wikicompany page. He has posted hundreds of innocuous articles about companies. But, since about a year ago, it looks like he’s dedicated himself to informing us about the Jesuits, the Masons, the Trilateral Commission, etc. For example:

The Vatican-Jesuit-Masonic mafia network has been the primary origin of high-crimes over the past centuries: wars, assassinations, organized torture, enslavement, religious prosecution, state treason, censorship, history falsification, and judicial and economic fraud.

Yikes! I don’t think we’ll be mining Wikicompany for company data (unless my facist overlords tell me to).

New Google translation software

Google is now using their internal translation software for all language pairs, and my very, very brief look at their results look good. This is very idiomatic, for example:

I was amused by calculating the number of video tags football (soccer) and rugby on Dailymotion (English pages). No doubt, soccer is more popular than rugby!

The original French (from Jean Véronis’s blog):

Je me suis amusé à calculer le nombre de vidéos portant les tags foot (ou football) et rugby sur Dailymotion (pages françaises). Pas de doute, le foot est plus populaire que le rugby !

What is amazing to me is that the ‘use/mention’ distinction is handled well without dysfluency, although an ideal translator would probably have left ‘foot’ and ‘football’ in the original French. It amuses me to see that ‘pages françaises’ is translated as ‘English pages,’ a kind of meta use/mention distinction.

Kudos to the Google translation teams. I hope people don’t beat you up too much.

RIP, David G. Lockwood

David G. Lockwood has died, reports the Linguist List.

David Lockwood was one of my professors when I did my degree in linguistics at Michigan State in the 70’s. He was (and remained, I think) an adherent of “stratificationalism,” a kind of constraint-based network theory of language. His classes were the closest I had to mathematical (remember, this was in the heyday of symbolist linguistic theory). I also took historical linguistics, structural (descriptive) linguistics and phonology from him. I never took any Slavic language or linguistics classes from him, mores the pity.

Lockwood was quirky and interesting. He cared deeply about his research; he was, perhaps, the first professor I knew who ‘had a view’ with respect to theory, and cared that that theory be expanded upon and ‘win’ in the marketplace of ideas (I met many others later on, of course). I think, too, using his Intro to Stratificational Linguistics and his edited Readings in Stratificational Linguistics was the first time I knew the author of a non-introductory textbook. (My first linguistic professor, Julia S. Falk, wrote the Introduction to Linguistics we used; but it was an overview book). I really wish I’d had a chance to talk about computational linguistics with him, and how stratificational theory fits into that.

I learned a lot from David Lockwood, and I’m grateful to have known him.

Powerset and Hadoop


Over at the Powerset blog, Jim Kellerman is talking about Powerset’s use of Hadoop and development of HBase, an open-source replacement for Google’s BigTable.

If you have any idea what ‘Hadoop’ or ‘BigTable’ or ‘HBase’ are, it’s worth checking out.