Posts Tagged teaching

Things I forgot to blog about, part n+1: NanoRhymo #2


In November 2018 I created NanoRhymo (inspired by NaNoWriMo), in which I wrote and tweeted a very short rhyming poem every day. I did the same thing in April 2019 for Global Poetry Writing Month. I started pretty late with NanoRhymo in 2019, and didn’t end up with a poem for each day of November, but I’ve started it again on January 1 and made up for the missing poems. In November, I mostly stuck to writing something based on a random rhyme from the rhyming dictionary I made, rhyme.science — either a new one I’d found each day, or one generated earlier for the @RhymeScience twitter feed. In January, I’ve often been inspired by other things.

I’ll continue writing a NanoRhymo a day for as long as I can. Here’s what I’ve written so far:

Day 1,  inspired by the rhymes later, translator, and (in non-rhotic accents) convey to:

When you’ve got a thought to convey to
many mortals, sooner or later,
then you ought to get a translator.

Day 2, inspired by the rhyme chunked and bunked, and the folk etymology of ‘chunder’:

Sailors lying in their bunks
would shout “Ahoy there, mate… watch under!”
and then let loose digested chunks
on hapless seamen sleeping under.

That’s why even now, down under,
[I am lying; truth debunks!]
some refer to puke as chunder.
[This is half-digested junk
Please accept my weak apology
and not this doubtful etymology.]

Day 3, inspired by a friend’s experience learning flying trapeze:

My friend Robert Burke tried the flying trapeze.
It meant lots of work mulling hypotheses,
and then much amusement and catching catchees,
to end up all bruised on the backs of the knees.

Day 4, inspired by the rhyme spermicides and germicide’s:

Looking at small things up close and myopically,
one might prevent overgrowth with a germicide.
But looking at large things afar, macroscopically,
one must prevent unchecked growth with a spermicide.

Day 5, inspired by the rhyme explainable and containable:

As soon as the bug is explainable,
we can hope that it might be containable,
and our neural nets will be retrainable,
and our code is so very maintainable
that this progress is surely sustainable!

Day 6, inspired by the rhyme freaking and unspeaking:

Mouth agape, stunned, unspeaking
Eyes wide open, silent freaking,
What could this strange vision be?
a music video, on MTV?!

Day 7, inspired by the rhyme trekked and collect:

Over much terrain they trekked;
specimens they did collect,
to show just how diverse life was
before we killed it off, just ‘cause.

Day 8, inspired by the rhyme interleaved and peeved:

If rhyming couplets leave you peeved,
here, I tried ABAB.
Now the rhymes are interleaved!
This rhyme and rhythm’s reason-free.

Day 9, a rewrite of Day 8 that can be sung to a possibly recognisable tune:

If rhyming couplets leave you peeved,
Then try to make them interleaved
Or don’t, and then just let the hate flow through ya
Just AAB, then CCB
This rhyme and rhythm’s reason-free.
At least it can be sung to Hallelujah.

The most Hallelujest Joey Marianer sang that version:

Day 10, inspired by the rhyme platitudes and latitude’s, and my general dislike of casual hemispherism:

I’m just fine with the end-of-year platitudes —
“Happy Holidays”, nice and generic,
but please, be inclusive of latitudes:
“Happy Winter” is too hemispheric!

Day 11, another Hallelujah, inspired by Joey’s singing of the previous Hallelujah:

A kitchen scale, a petrol gauge,
a cylinder, a final page
will tell you up to what things have amounted.
An abacus, a quipu string,
some tally sticks, to always sing,
are all things on which Joey can be counted.

Day 12, inspired by the rhyme deprecations and lamentations, some deprecated code I was removing from the software I develop at work, and also complaints about macOS Catalina dropping support for 32-bit applications. I imagine it sung to the tune of Camp Bachelor Alma Mater:

Hear the coders’ lamentations
over apps that will not run,
due to years-old deprecations,
updates that they’ve never done.

Day 13, inspired by the rhyme whoop’s and sloop’s, and the tradition on JoCo Cruise of ending the final concert with the song Sloop John B:

Have some more whoops on me,
hearing the Sloop John B
as JoCo Cruise comes to an end.
You still have all night.
Hang loose, or sleep tight.
Well, we feel so broke up
but you’ll stay my friend.

Day 14, to the tune of Morning Has Broken:

Something is broken;
look at that warning!
Unbalanced token.
Unknown keyword.
Raise the exceptions.
Erase all the warnings.
Raze preconceptions wrongly inferred.

Day 15, inspired by Hilbert’s paradox of the Grand Hotel:

The rooms are all full for as far out as they can see;
such a big guest house to fill, but oh well.
What’s this? Nonetheless, there’s a sign saying vacancy!
There’s always more room at the Hilbert hotel.

Day 16, inspired by the rhyme feeling’s and ceilings, and the song Happy, by Pharrell Williams:

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. 👏
Please applaud if you think you’re a chamber with no ceiling. 👏
Clap along If you feel like happiness is the truth. 👏
Please applaud if you think there’s veracity in good feelings. 👏

For day 17, I let Pico, emacs, ed, vi count as the NanoRhymo, even though it does not mention the text editor nano.

November ended with no more rhymes, but I started it up again on January 1, simply because I was inspired to, and I continued to get ideas every day since. I’m not promising to keep this up daily all year (indeed, I promise not to keep it up during MarsCon and JoCo Cruise 2020) but I’ll post NanoRhymi whenever I feel inspired to.

Day 18 (on January 1, 2020) was inspired by the rhyme unworthy and incur the:

Don’t worry that you might incur the
sentence, “That person’s unworthy.”
Just try what you wish, and try plenty,
and have a great year twenty-twenty.

Day 19, inspired by the rhyme verb and kerb, but using the North American ‘curb’ spelling because it’s closer to the verb derived from the noun:

If you’d punch down, or kick to the curb
for verbing a noun, or nouning a verb,
researching the past will amount your disturb.

So many of the words we used today, including some in that poem, were once strictly parts of speech other than the ones they’re used as without a second thought today, and people objected to their shifts in usage just as they object to all manner of language change today.

Day 20, inspired by the rhymes occur to, Berta, and (in non-rhotic accents) subverter:

If it were to occur to Berta the subverter to hurt Alberta,
she’d prefer to assert a slur to refer to her to stir internal murder.
(Stones break bones but names make shame — heals more slowly, hurts the same.)

Day 21, inspired by the rhyme unconcealed and unpeeled:

While you’re growing in the field,
all your goodness is concealed,
till some lovely creature picks you,
doesn’t think they have to fix you,
lets you chill, let down your shield;
then, when you are fully peeled,
your sweetest inner self revealed,
that cunning rascal bites and licks you.

Day 22, inspired by the rhymes for fish, dwarfish, and (maybe in some non-rhotic accents with the cot-caught merger) standoffish, the ‘teach a man to fish‘ metaphor, and of course, my own poem, They Might Not Be Giants:

If a person’s always asking for fish,
don’t give them one, and go away, standoffish.
Teach techniques that they’ll expand on.
Be the shoulders they will stand on.
Not a giant — generous and dwarfish.

And then the same thing as a limerick:

There once was a man asking for fish,
who got one from someone standoffish.
Then shoulders to stand on
and tricks to expand on,
were given by someone quite dwarfish.

Day 23, inspired by… certain kinds of transphobic people, I guess:

Some folk seem to be offended
by the thought the queerly gendered
might themselves become offended
when they’re purposely misgendered,
so they’ve boorishly defended
all the hurt that they intended
towards the “easily offended”
who are “wimps” to try to end it.

Day 24, a double dactyl inspired by a conversation with someone who’s considering hormone therapy with one aim being a reduction of schlength, during which we noticed that ‘endocrinologist’ is a double dactyl, and also inspired by Paul and Storm’s habit of calling Jonathan Coulton ‘Dr. Smallpenis‘ (with the ‘e’ unstressed) which began on JoCo Cruise 2013:

Dr. Jon Smallpənis,
Endocrinologist,
helps you to shrink all the
parts that aren’t you.

Piss off, dysphoria!
Spironolactone could
soon make you tinkle the
whole darn day through.

Spironolactone is a medication that blocks the effect of testosterone, which as a side effect can increase urinary frequency.

Day 25, inspired by the rhyme eleven words and heavenwards:

Dear Father, a prayer I remember, amen.
Another, sincere from a vendor, again.
As if by reciting just ten or eleven words
I’ll lift myself quite transcendentally heavenwards.

Day 26, inspired by what I was actually told at my first comprehensive annual checkup:

Sit up straight!
Lose some weight!
Take these pills!
Cure your ills!
Your heart is beating!
You’re good at breathing!
With those two habits kept up,
We’ll see you at the next year’s checkup.

They really did seem impressed by how well I could breathe. I wasn’t too good at it when I started, but I have been practising my whole life, and if I’m good then I may as well continue the habit.

Day 27, inspired by this Smarter Every Day video about activating smart speakers using laser light instead of sound:

Here’s a technique that is quite underhand
to beam gadgets speaking they might understand,
and give an unsound and light-fingered command.

This one works best in accents without the trap-bath split, so that ‘command’ rhymes with ‘understand’ and ‘underhand’.

A small, transparent plastic container with a label saying: 105030064 Bodenträger Safety Safety Trans. 20 Stk.

Day 28, inspired by a container of those little dowel things to hold up shelves, which was labelled ‘Safety trans.’, and the song The Safety Dance, by Men Without Hats. This parody is presumedly to be sung by Women and Nonbinary People Without Hats:

You can trans[ition] iff you want to.
You can leave your assigned gender behind.
‘Cause your assigned gender ain’t trans and if you don’t trans[ition],
Well your assigned gender stays assigned.

Day 29, inspired by a video about Jason Padgett, who survived a vicious beating to end up with (among less attractive brain issues) savant skills and a kind of synaesthesia:

Acquired savants suffer pain,
to wake up with a better brain.
Get a bump, or have a seizure,
then end up with synaesthesia —
not the grapheme-colour kind,
rather, an amazing mind!

Day 30 is a version of day 29’s poem which can be sung to the tune of Hallelujah, with a second verse reminding people that synaesthesia is actually pretty common, affecting about 4.4% of people, (I have the grapheme-colour kind) and doesn’t necessarily confer superpowers:

Acquired savants suffer pain,
to wake up with a better brain
by healing from an injury or seizure.
They sometimes get amazing minds
associating different kinds
of input in a thing called synaesthesia.
Synaesthesia, synaesthesia, synaesthesia, synaesthesia.

But synaesthetes are everywhere,
not magical, or even rare.
It doesn’t make them smart or make things easier.
It just makes Thursday forest green,
or K maroon and 7 mean.
Your ‘the’-tastes-like-vanilla synaesthesia
Synaesthesia, synaesthesia, synaesthesia…

This refers to time-unit-color synaesthesia, grapheme-colour synaesthesia, ordinal linguistic personification (also known as sequence-personality synaesthesia), and lexical-gustatory synaesthesia, but there are many other kinds.

Day 31, a parody of ABBA’s Fernando for which I am deeply sorry:

Did you hear he goes commando?
I remember long ago another starry night like this.
In the firelight, commando,
he was wearing his new kilt and playing bagpipes by the fire.
I could hear his sudden screams
and sounds of mountain oysters sizzling in the fryer.

Day 32, inspired by two tweets I saw, each quoting the same tweet where someone had contrasted pictures of Prince Harry in the army with pictures of him with his wife, and claimed that getting out of the army and getting married was somehow emasculation caused by ‘toxic’ Hollywood feminism:

The two tweets happened to rhyme with each other and follow the same structure, from the ‘fellas, is it gay’ meme, so I put them together, and added a few lines:

Fellas, is is gay to have a wife?
Fellas, is it gay to be a human being with a life?
Fellas, is it gay to wear a suit?
Fellas, is it gay to dress to socialise instead of shoot?
(Fellas, is it toxic to be gay?
Fellas, why frame questions with a word she didn’t say?)

Day 33, another Hallelujah parody, inspired by Joey’s observation that NanoRhymo scans:

You want to practise writing verse.
The secret’s to be very terse.
You don’t have to try hard, just have to try mo’.
You write some dogg’rel every day
and some you’ll toss, but some will stay.
An atom at a time; it’s NanoRhymo.
NanoRhymo, NanoRhymo, NanoRhymo, NanoRhymo.

Day 34, inspired by a Twitter thread which began with my friend Rob Rix expressing frustration with type inference, and one of his followers suggesting the term ‘type deference’:

I love when it complies,
regards me with deference,
and bravely compiles
my unguarded dereference.

Day 35, inspired by… tea. I feel so rich when I make a pot of tea and top it up all day, having unlimited tea without feeling like maybe it’s wasteful to be using my eighth teabag of the day:

If hot tea’s an oddity,
the tea bag’s your commodity,
but if you drink a lot of tea,
you should make a pot of tea.
(To add some boiling water t’
whenever you want hotter tea.)

Day 36, inspired by my efforts to write an AppleScript to copy all my NanoRhymi and GloPoWriMo poems from Notes into a spreadsheet in Numbers, which initially failed because I had accidentally addressed the script to Pages instead, and Pages don’t know sheet:

👩🏻‍💻Hello there! Your finest Greek corpus, to go!
👩‍🍳The what now? Not understand corpus, no no!
👩🏻‍💻The active Greek corpus, the frontmost, the first, display all the corpora you have; am I cursed?
👩‍🍳I’m sorry? Your question is Greek to me… how?
👩🏻‍💻Okay then, just show me your bookcases, now!
👩‍🍳Bookcases? I have none; you’ve made a mistake.
👩🏻‍💻Ah, frack! You’re no linguist! You’re actually the baker!

The spreadsheet, by the way, shows I’ve written about a hundred of these small poems in total so far, in the course of my NanoRhymo and GloPoWriMo stints. I haven’t gone through it checking for notes that didn’t contain completed poems, so I don’t know the exact number yet. In the next roundup of these things, I’ll probably start numbering them based on that total, rather than the ‘days’ of any particular run of them.

Day 37 (today, as I write this), a parody of Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off‘ inspired by another tweet by Rob Rix, in which he notices that a calculation done in Spotlight Search which should give the result zero does not, and remarks, ‘computers gonna compute’:

’Cause the bugs are are gonna ship, ship, ship, ship, ship
And an on bit is a blip, blip, blip, blip, blip
I’m just gonna flip, flip, flip, flip, flip
I flip it off ⌽, I flip it off 🖕🏻

That’s all of the NanoRhymi I have so far; I’ll post more here occasionally, but follow me on Twitter if you want to see them as they happen.

In other news, please consider buying one or all of the MarsCon Dementia Track Fundraiser albums, which are albums of live comedy music performances from previous MarsCon Dementia Tracks, sold to raise funds for the performers’ hotel costs for the next one. The 2020 fundraiser album (with the concerts from MarsCon 2019) is nearly four hours of live comedy music for $20, and includes my performances of Chicken Monkey Duck and Why I Perform at Open Mics.

For yet more music, Joey and I will be participating in round #16 of SpinTunes, a songwriting competition following in the footsteps of Masters of Song Fu. I’ve been following it since the beginning, but never had the accompaniment to actually enter.

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They Might Not Be Giants Posters, now touched by my own hands


Note: I am back in Europe now, and have the posters available on my Etsy store, which are good value for anyone ordering from Europe. From the US it may work out better to get them from Zazzle.

At the Presidential Variety Show, and later the Open Mic Night, on JoCo Cruise Crazy 5, I recited my poem ‘They might not be giants.‘ Here’s a video from the Open Mic; pretend I said that ‘I was waiting for the shaking to stop’ was the name of my Taylor Swift cover band.

I brought along some locally-printed copies of this Len-Peralta-drawn poster of the poem, since I figured people would like them, and if they bought the ones on Zazzle they’d have to give a lot of extra money to Zazzle and the postal service.

The posters I printed are 11×17 inches (approximately A3) on 300gsm silk-coated stock, which is really quite fancy and sturdy. Quite a few people wanted them, which meant (since we’re not supposed to sell things while onboard, and I was mostly able to resist the urge to give them away) I had more fruity drinks and other items than I otherwise would have, plus some cash from sea monkeys I saw on land. But some people who wanted posters didn’t manage to catch me at the right time to get one. I have some posters left, which you can order from my Etsy store. (Note: when I wrote this post originally, I was temporarily in New Zealand, and it was economical for me to send posters to the US for a lowish price. That is no longer the case, so I have updated the post with a link to my Etsy store which has the correct postage from Austria.) If you’re in Europe, the combined price is slightly lower than from Zazzle while still giving me a bigger cut and getting you a better-quality poster. It is of course better value for both of us if you order more than one at a time, since the postage costs the same amount for multiple posters unless you’re ordering a ridiculous number of them. I’m not a warehouse full of elves, nor am I on my home turf at the moment (update: okay, now I am), so I can’t make any promises about how soon I will post posters after you order, but I’ll do my best. Feel free to order from Zazzle if you prefer elven reliability.

If you want me to sign it or write some kind of message or doodle in the small area or empty space, say so in the message to the vendor when you check out (update: I am not sure if there is a way to do that on Etsy, but contact me here, on twitter, on Etsy or something). Please note that I have not settled on an official famous-person-style autograph yet, so results may vary. Also, my doodles are the doodles of a poet, not those of Len Peralta, so don’t expect them to match the quality of the rest of the poster.

If I gave you a poster on the ship and you didn’t have anything to give in return, you can donate something:

Contribute to the They Might Not Be Giants Appreciation FundOr you could lend some money on Kiva and join the Sea Monkey team I created yesterday. I don’t have a day job at the moment, so I am no longer promising to lend poster proceeds on Kiva before using them, but I probably will anyway as long as I have enough savings to live on.

Many other things also happened on JoCo Cruise Crazy, which I might summarise when I have time. I have a lot of video to upload when I eventually get home. For now, here’s The Future Soon a cappella and Jim Boggia’s cover of Paul McCartney’s ‘Junk’.

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‘They might not be giants’ Poster


A while ago I wrote a poem called ‘They might not be giants‘, about the famous phrase, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ A while later, that poem was published in Offshoots 12, the 2013 anthology of the Geneva Writers’ Group.

Ever since writing it, I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to see a picture of the tower of dwarves described. I’ve also been thinking about which plural of ‘dwarf’ is best, and a couple of grammatical and typographical decisions I made regarding the poem, but mostly I’ve been thinking about the picture. Well, I finally commissioned Len Peralta to draw that picture for me! It is gorgeous.

It is also the real reason I set up a Zazzle store; you can buy it as an 11×17 poster featuring the poem. I’ll have some printed locally as well, so if anyone near Vienna wants one they can buy one directly from me. Maybe you’d like one for yourself, or an aspiring scientist, or an inspiring teacher, or a Len Peralta fan, or an Angela Brett fan (do they exist? Edit: there is one) or even a They Might Be Giants fan who wants their poster collection to cover all possibilities. I think it’s suitable for anyone who has walls. If you know anyone who doesn’t have walls who would like some, see if you can help them find a home.

I’ve always been fascinated by Len’s videos of himself drawing, so I paid a little extra to get this mesmerising speedpaint video, which doubles as a great way to get an idea of what the poster looks like close-up. Note that the final poster has the title of the poem on it, and a few other small changes to the text.

I still can’t watch it without squeeing. It took him 2 hours, 36 minutes, which is about how long it would take me to draw a stick figure version indistinguishable from a Christmas tree.

This is actually not the first time I’ve commissioned Len to draw something for me; he also drew the picture of Jonathan Coulton transforming into an internet superstar at the beginning of a video I made to celebrate Jonathan’s Thing A Week by summarising each song in the form of a ‘roses are red’ poem. He drew most of the rest of the art in the video, too, but that was done already as part of his Visual Thing A Week project, which is the reason I know he exists.

That’s all from me. Go have fun, and tune in tomorrow for the next exciting installment of Forms and Formulae.

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Jack of Diamonds: They might not be giants


Note: this poem is now available on a poster!

“If I have seen farther,” the scientist said,
“it’s not because I am a giant.
“Great minds of the past have helped me get ahead;
it’s their shoulders on which I’m reliant.”

“Now listen to me!” said the great on whose shoulder
the first one was glad to have stood.
“I’m quite short of stature, it’s just that I’m older
and those before me were so good.”

And sure enough, this one was perched on the neck
of a giantist of great renown
who balanced in turn on another; by heck!
It’s little guys all the way down.

And some were thought giants, and some were thought midgets
and some were thought nothing at all,
but each would insist, “Those below were no idjits.
It’s them that have made me so tall.”

And scrambling around them their fans would aspire,
to see something not seen before
by climbing the tower of dwarves, ever higher
for glimpses, or footholds, or more.

Most could not scale to the summit in time,
before their peak fitness would end.
Some found it tough and abandoned the climb
while some would, with vigor, descend:

Aware that such heights were so taxing to reach,
they helped to lift people and hopes,
inventing new ladders and platforms to teach,
securing and showing the ropes.

“They might not be giants, but they must go far
and that journey isn’t for me.
I’ll boost them through science, raise them and the bar
and profit from what they will see.”

So said the teacher while lifting a child
on shoulders so humble and stressed.
The youth saw a vista that had them beguiled
and bounded straight up to the crest.

Quotes similar to “If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” have been attributed to many scientists and scholars. It’s been bugging me for a while, because even if the people whose shoulders they’re standing on are metaphorically taller than average, they’re nowhere near as big as how giants are imagined today, and they’re surely standing on someone else’s shoulders. There are no giants; it’s a tower of dwarves, and if it ever looks like it’s made of ivory, it’s just because the dwarves don’t spend enough time in the sun. You don’t need to be a giant to get up onto the topmost shoulders, but you need to do an awful lot of climbing; there’s a lot to learn before you can discover something new these days. Enjoy the view on the way up.

Luckily, we have people who invent new climbing techniques and equipment, and telescopes to see more when we get up there. This poem focusses more on teachers, but they could be science writers, YouTubers, educational charities, scientific songwriters (yes, even the ones that might be giants), inventors of more efficient lab equipment (the real or metaphorical telescope), maybe even code monkeys like me. Now that I’ve listed those things, it reminds me of the song ‘Somebody Will‘ by Sassafrass.

I would love to see illustrations of the tower of dwarves.

Read the rest of this entry »

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