Archive for Brain Output

Garden Path Sentences and Paraprosdokians

Two of my favorite linguistic devices are the garden path sentence and the paraprosdokian. You’ve likely encountered these many times in the past, even if you didn’t know how they were categorized. They are both sentences that cause the reader to reconsider information as the sentence is being read. For garden path sentences, this is a result of the reader parsing a sentence incorrectly, and for a paraprosdokian, the sentence is introduced in a manner to intentionally set the reader up for an unexpected conclusion.

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A Year of Commercial Flying

Kotzebue in the winter

I live in a remote village in Alaska that is only accessible by air. I suppose you could get here by boat, but that would be both costly and dangerous. I live in a hub village that gets passenger jet service twice daily from Alaska Airlines. Living in a hub presents the fewest possible barriers to traveling out. Boeing 737s can take off and land safely in a broader range of wind and visibility conditions than the smaller aircraft that serve the outlying villages. Extreme weather results in long delays and cancellations. Mechanical issues can do the same.

My first year here, I flew on commercial aircraft more than I had the prior 30 years of my life. As I have become more involved in my union and taken on other leadership roles, this has unlocked meetings, conferences, and training opportunities that require air travel. I even occasionally manage to just go for no other purpose than to get out of town and shop where my dollars go much further. Over the past 5 years, I’ve learned how to streamline all aspects of the traveling process that I have any control over. I’ve also learned how to have a more comfortable flying experience which is the part of traveling that often contains the most variables. Being able to travel frequently has been very much a privilege. I’m writing about my experiences not to boast but to inform.

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Archer Vocabulary: jingoist


I won’t go off on a Ferris Bueller-esque rant about -isms in society today. I also won’t rant about people unnecessarily adding -esque to proper nouns. Having removed myself almost entirely from the realm of mainstream political news, I tend to encounter words like this less often than before.


Season 3 – Episode 6 “The Limited”
The ISIS gang is transporting Nova Scotian separatist, Kenny Bilko, back to Canada to curry favor with the RCMP. The unusual setting of a train and the general incompetence of the ISIS staff drives much of the plot. The action culminates on the roof of the train where Archer and Bilko discuss how fighting on the roof of a train is a ridiculous plot device.

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Shoe Size – Age Math Trick

You’ve likely seen this type of math riddle before. Take some number, do some arithmetic, and you get some other number. This variation begins with your shoe size and ends with your age. Can your shoe size really determine your age? Of course not. The explanation is below the fold.

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Notes missing after Yosemite upgrade


If you recently upgraded to OS X Yosemite from Mavericks or another previous version, you may have found that your notes not synced to iCloud did not appear when you opened the app on your computer. Since I sync none of my notes to iCloud, I was worried that my notes were gone forever. Luckily, I found an easy fix online which I have distilled below.

  1. Open finder and locate your primary OS hard drive. Navigate to /Users/YOURUSERNAME/Library/
    Containers/ . (If you cannot see your Library folder, right click anywhere in the Finder window or select the settings gear icon and click Show View Options. From there, tick the box marked Show Library Folder.)
  2. You should see two sets of files in that folder: one set prefixed with NotesV2 and one set with NotesV3. Delete (or temporarily move to your desktop to be safe) the files prefixed NotesV3.
  3. Rename the remaining NotesV2 files by replacing V2 with V3.
  4. Close Notes and reopen to verify that your notes have been restored.
  5. Delete the useless V3 files if you played it safe in step 2.

Language Nerd

I love XKCD.


The What If? blog is also pretty amazing.

Archer Vocabulary: putative


For too long, I have heard about television’s deleterious effects on child development. I don’t know about all of that, but some shows are definitely beneficial to vocabulary development. Animated comedies occasionally push the intellectual envelope but, more often than not, they tend to cater to the lowest common denominator. Archer is a shining example of witty, intelligent, and non-formulaic programming that you find quite often on its network, FX. FX is where some really great TV is happening right now with Louie, Wilfred, Fargo, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Sons of Anarchy,


Season 2 – Episode 12 “White Nights”
Archer drops into Russia to confront the head of the KGB, who is possibly his father, and is captured in the attempt. Mallory contracts Archer’s nemesis, Barry, to smuggle him home. Hilarity ensues.

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Vegetarians eat what they deserve

I have no problem with vegetarians. I really don’t. I equally have no problems with vegans, pescatarians, ovo-lacto-whatevers, or any other dietary choices. People choose vegetarian diets for many reasons including concern for animal welfare, living a healthier lifestyle, or concerns over food safety. Polls show that the 7-13% of Americans who identify themselves as vegetarians have followed that diet for 10 or more years. There are studies that show marginal extensions in lifespan and other health benefits from eating vegetarian, so why don’t more people do it?

I don’t like vegetables. That’s why I don’t do it.¬†When I was young, my vegetable intake was limited to corn and potatoes, primarily. Now, I enjoy a leafy green salad, the occasional slice of onion on my hamburger, and green smoothies. I still cannot stand broccoli, cauliflower, cooked spinach, carrots, celery, beets, radishes, bell peppers (occasionally), tomatoes (I know they are a fruit), and peas. That is not an exhaustive list by any means. As an adult, I absolutely have more options at salad bars and buffets than when I was younger, but there are plenty of foods that I still avoid. THAT’S why I’m not a vegetarian. I’d be limiting my diet to a very narrow set of foods. My current schedule also makes it hard to plan and pack meals, so I eat out frequently. Have you ever looked for vegetarian options at fast food restaurants? I haven’t, but I hear it’s horrible.

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Wordle for Game of Thrones Season 4

I love Wordles. If you’re not familiar with a Wordle, it is a composite image of words of varying size based on the frequency of their use. The user (that’s you) pastes a block of text or provides the URL to a webpage. Wordle then generates an image for you which you may customize with various fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

So? Why would I need a jumbled collage of words? I’ve found several great uses for them. In several of my graduate classes, I have used them as visual aids to accompany a presentation on journal articles or policy statements. It can also be a unique way of previewing a scholarly journal article (especially if it is lengthy) by glancing over the keywords that will pop up throughout. This can also give you a chance to look up any words you may be unfamiliar with beforehand. When you encounter these words in context, you will already have prior knowledge to aid in comprehension.

I used the text from the subtitle files from season 4 of Game of Thrones to generate a Wordle. I didn’t really have a motive when I set out, but I was curious to see what words and names came up the most often. This can be hard to assess qualitatively as the show bounces between several point of view characters spread across a large fictional world. I did not edit the text in anyway, so you will likely find a few words deemed naughty by the highborn.

game of thrones season 4

Click to view the full image size that still isn’t terribly large.

Archer Vocabulary: aquiline


I found that after writing the first “Archer Vocabulary” post, I not only quickly internalized the definition of “bailiwick,” I found myself trying to use it in sentences. So whether anyone else is reading this or not, it’s a potentially fantastic way for me to expand my word choice.


Season 1 – Episode 8 “The Rock”
After a botched job in San Marino, Mallory Archer finds herself on a video call with Len Trexler, head of ODIN, ISIS’s chief competitor in the world of espionage and security contracting. What starts as a verbal assault softens into a schoolgirl’s yearning as Mallory begins to list Len’s physical features.

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