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Cows probably don’t have accents

Mark Liberman at* Language Log takes the scientific props away from the story that cows have accents, including quoting a testimony from John Wells, the linguist in question (and one of ours).

I particularly like Professor Wells’s complaint about a PR company who issued the original press release on behalf of a Somerset cheese company:

They showed it to me only after they had sent it out, which meant that it was too late for me to protest that they had put into my mouth the solecism “This phenomena is…”. Of course I would always say only “This phenomenon is…” or “These phenomena are”.

*I refuse to use over at to refer to another weblog.

Update: More from Language Log and Professor Wells.

Cows have accents

The BBC reports that researchers have found that cows have regional accents. Apparently birds do as well, although some farmers suggest a human cause that wouldn’t be appropriate for birds:

Farmer Lloyd Green, from Glastonbury, said: “I spend a lot of time with my ones and they definitely moo with a Somerset drawl.”

Logically, then, French cows should have French accents, German cows should have German accents, etc. I would love to hear a Geordie moo.

Aurlog left out again

Aurlog has been left out of the Time Magazine 50 coolest websites again. I think it is because of Time’s American bias. Out of the fifty, I think I’ve only visited Myspace and YouTube. That’s how cool I am.

Big Brother RSS feed yet again again

A little late as the final is this Friday, but I ought to mention that I noticed a week or two ago that the Big Brother site now has an RSS feed, part of a family of Channel 4 RSS feeds. The feed looks to be exactly the same (in output, I haven’t checked the XML code) as mine except that a picture is added, something that I was loath to do anyway, thinking that republishing pictures is one step too many beyond screenscraping.

The other major difference is that the official feed already has 28 subscribers, on Bloglines anyway, despite its relative youth compared to the 2 subscribers (including myself, goodness knows who the other person was) that I generated.

I have to say I am actually quite vague about what happened in Big Brother this year as I have so many feeds set up in Bloglines that I have to filter my way through the same thing happening three or four times, on my feed, on Channel 4’s, and on the Sun’s feed (15 subscribers), which is independent as to content and is in many ways better than the official news. Next year should be easier.

Worldcat now on the web

OCLC have now put WorldCat (1.3 billion items in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide properly on the internet (rather than through Google or some other means). It says Beta although I don’t know if this is a proper beta, although the write-up and other documentation don’t seem to mention the fact at all, or a Google-style beta. Looks like the second.

The aim of the thing is clearly to enable one to find items locally. I tried to find Vromans’s Perl pocket reference somewhere near my postcode, and managed to get to a good set of results on the third screen: I didn’t even have to tell it that what I entered for location was a UK postcode (rather than a US zip code or a small town in Germany), a degree of intuition rare in library software. Cambridge University is actually not that far away really (28 km according to Worlcat), although the fact that the next two nearest libraries were Oxford and the British Library gives some idea of the paucity of coverage in the UK: the next nearest location is Institut informacijskih znanosti / Knjinica in Sloveniaafter which I’m looking at McGill in Canada and the Boston Public Library. All for so little a book.

Although not properly FRBRised, the interface is refreshingly helpful in narrowing down large results sets, having options that look a little like the gubbins on the left of this weblog. For instance, search for Hard Times and you get about 5300 results. The five most popular authors are listed on the left. Click on Dickens and you’re on a more manageable 156. Click on Book format and you’re down to 153. Click on English language and you’re down to 119. This leaves you with a further choice of dates. These choices are only the five most popular, which is a shame (well, it doesn’t clog the screen up which is definitely a good thing), especially in this case the top five dates are 1900, 1800, 1901, 1910, and 1880. A majority of all these hits are not actual editions from those dates, but unknown publication dates, where the cataloguer has put [19–?], or in one case [1—] (which means that the cataloguer knew which millenium the item was published but not the year, decade, or even century). For comparison, I tried our catalogue, which is for a large university research library (about 1 million records compared to 1.3 billion), and got 40 hits, had to go to a separate screen coyly marked Filter and use some pull-down boxes to get 6 results which looked on the nail.

For me, what seems very promising is what Lorcan Dempsey mentions: a simple syntax for linking. The example he gives is for The road to reality by Roger Penrose. If nothing else, this might be a better way of referring to a book rather than linking to an Amazon record. It looks neater, should be more accurate and complete, and even lets you buy from Amazon using a link on the right. It could be the book equivalent of the ubiquitous IMDB link. The only problem is I couldn’t see any documentation on how to do it on the WorldCat site. Incidentally, the aforementioned book can apparently be found in Bedfordshire Libraries, which gives the lie to my comments above about poor coverage, which applies only to Perl books.

WorldCat also lets one put a searchbox on your site, which is modelled below:

It should work, so do try it. All very good, although the scary list of terms and conditions and personal details needed for registration seems a reassuring return to a more-library-like fear of loss of control and openness.

The value of CILIP

In lieu of a proper post, I would like to point you in the direction of a post on Ian Snowley’s weblog from April about the Value of CILIP on which we had a short exchange of comments. Ian Snowley went to a meeting with other CILIP councillors at which Bob McKee suggested an exercise to assess the value of CILIP membership:

Bob started by asking us to list the five main benefits that members receive from CILIP:

  • Qualifications
  • Publications (Update & Gazette)
  • Networks
  • Community (Jobs Market/Info & Advice/Advocacy)
  • Discounted Products (Courses and Facet Books)

And then asked us to put a value on them, on a monthly basis – taking into account what we spend on other ‘comparable’ activities.

I disagreed with his conclusions: The main reason I have never been a member of CILIP is that I don’t think it is worth the money. I could quote the whole post, but probably best to read it there.

New cow game: Cow Tipping

John Phethean of Pave Graphics recently emailed me about a whack-a-rat style Flash game he has written for the A-Coo-Stik site. The game is Cow Tipping and is very hard, so far as I’ve tried it.

I’ve added it to the canonical list of cow games.