Thursday, February 14, 2013


I've learned that I probably spend more time thinking about grammar/usage than others. Here's one example that lept off the wall at me while at a conference center in November.

See it? MENS. Not Men's or Men. MENS. Apparently there's a new acceptable form of the plural for man. I must have missed the memo. This post has little to do with that example, but it shows you that I cared enough about grammar to take out my phone to take a picture to see if others would notice/care about such egregious mistakes. Let's move on to the real reason everyone is reading this post. You, like I, have spent a lot of time thinking about the pronunciation of that word in the subject of this post.

I needed some clarity, so I reached out to someone who thinks about (and has studied) language even more than I have: my brother. He's a smart guy. He, more than anyone I know, manages to nonchalantly bring up declensions, word origin, and general oddities in the language as a part of regular conversation. Here are the pertinent parts of our email conversation:

Dave: Hey word guru. How do I pronounce that word? Is it process(ehs) or process(eez)?

Dan: Both allowed according to Webster, in phonetic nomenclature the short e appears as an upside-down e or a 'schwa', which is usually more like a guttural grunt like 'uh' or 'i' which you already felt in your 'eh' clarification below.  The 'ee' sound is usually represented by ē, or an i with and hour glass style double triangle to the right.

Dave: Which one do you use?

Dan: This is a good question.  I have been using the latter, long e, but I would not criticize anybody using the shorter schwa. The problem is the syllable stress in English.  Prócesses expects an accent or stress on the o, which is the antepenultimate syllable, which is where many long English words like to be accented (mágnify, tranquílity, rastafárian).  You would never say procésses, unless you are a choir director discussing entrance into a concert -- anachronistic intransitive usage from the 1800's in my opinion--proceed and recede would be useful enough. 
When I use the long <e> in processes, it's nearly impossible to hear at least a little accent at both the antepenult and the ultima (prócessés) because of the length of the last vowel.  Therefore I have no problem with Webster treating the plural like a short e because my English ear likes to hear prócesses. (Sounds melodic as well: tri-pl-et, YA-da-da,YA-da-da, YA-da-da)
Here's the real mind-blower:
Pronunciation of eez at the end of a word is an anglicization of a Latin/Greek plural in the third declension. Pure third decl. loan words in English (with some plurals, to see the pattern) are
Crisis  > crises
Axis > axes
Ellipsis > ellipses
[ some X words]
Matrix > matrices
Index> indices
Appendix > appendices 
Vertex > vertices 

All these are usually pronounced with eez in the plural, but guess what, 'process' does not exist as a third declension noun (it is a 4th in Latin) so we appear to be letting the influence of the words listed above 'back-form' our pronunciation of the plural of process and probably a few other English words too.  

To my knowledge there are no loan words in English from the Latin 4th declension, otherwise we wouldn't even be having this conversation, because we would be saying 'processūs'

Dave: Now THAT'S a Dan response (i.e., what I was expecting). I greatly appreciate it. Here's why I asked in the first place: I have always pronounced it with the schwa. I've been hearing more people use the long e, and wondered why. I use it probably once a class when I'm teaching and I always catch on that word because if I pronounce it with the schwa, I wonder how many think I'm pronouncing it incorrectly. I also wonder if I switch the long e, how many will wonder why I'm pronouncing it that way. This is my thought process (yep, singular) during the sentence leading up to my pronunciation, so I actually just end up bailing entirely on the word and swallowing the last part or mutating the last part of the sentence so I can pronounce it in the singular. 

I'm really interested in your analysis (yep, singular) of how this list of words that switch to the long e plurals has influenced our pronunciation of the word at hand. That sounds about right. Thank you. 

Dan: Taking it back once more to your precisely correct question from 1:34 today : "Which one do you USE?"
 In language--there is no such thing as in/correct. [This is a major linguistics thesis to which everyone ought to be exposed in high school, but which seems to slip through the cracks somewhere between Romeo and Juliet and research papers] 
There is no such thing as in/correct,  only mutual intelligibility (or the lack thereof, therefore distinct dialects/languages) through USAGE.  So if one of your students thinks your pronunciation is incorrect, direct them to our good friends Merriam, Webster, Associated Press, Oxford, or dare I say any other publisher who has recognized multiple usages such as the two plurals of process. And rest as easily about your own correctness... 

Perhaps you have now thought more about that word than you ever thought possible. After all this, I'm still not sure which one I'll use. I'll probably switch because my big brother says it that way, and I'll probably still think about the Latin 4th declension every time I use it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Alternative to Apple TV?

My brother's school is looking to pilot iOS devices as a teacher device in its language division, so he called me with a few questions - I'm only addressing one in this blog. He began asking about mirroring the iPad through the projector wirelessly (to not have to deal with the annoying little VGA or HDMI adapters and to be able to walk about the room). I immediately brought up Apple TV as the only obvious way to mirror your device through projection. He then surprised me by questioning my vast amount of iPad knowledge by simply discussing two software programs about which he had been reading. I, as the techier of the two brothers, was shocked that I had somehow missed these products. Every time a student in an iPad class asks how to get their iPad projected wirelessly, I tell them that Apple TV is the only option... Not any more.

The products: AirServer and ReflectionApp. Both computer software programs - not apps.

[Update: It is now called ReflectorApp]

I naturally thought that these had just been released, and I must have simply missed the announcement. Nope. AirServer has been around over a year and a half. ReflectionApp is nearly a year old. How on earth did I miss these? Perhaps they were so poorly made, that no one gave them press because they were more headache than beneficial. It was time to try them.

Test Run
I started with AirServer because, frankly, the website looked more impressive. I installed the trial version. I was getting more excited by the second as it downloaded. I began the testrun. I made it about three seconds before my computer completely froze (a mac less than a year old, running lion with 4GB of RAM). Dang. When my computer restarted, I realized I had a ton of programs running. That must have been the problem. (Sidenote: my hard drive was also re-indexing itself at this point - never a good sign). I quit every program except Chrome and retried. This time I made it 10 seconds before a full freeze. So much for AirServer. I was beginning to think there was a reason I had never heard of these options. On to ReflectionApp...

After a restart (and indexing was complete), I ran Reflection App with only Chrome running. Worked like a dream. It doesn't display full screen on my laptop (see screenshot below), but who cares? I now might have an alternative to the $99 Apple TV. Maybe it was only good when I was running minimal programs. Time to fire up the six programs that were running when I tried AirServer. Flawless. Next test. Will it run video? I went into Sock Puppets to play one of my previously recorded creations - no go. I then tried to stream a show from the ABC player app. Worked great! AND (get ready for this)... audio came through my computer speakers! Tried Sock Puppets again and it worked just fine. Must have been a small hiccup.

Wrapping up
Please understand how rarely I use the exclamation mark. I usually reserve it for significant life events (e.g., my sister is having a child, a friend finished the Boston Marathon in the top 200). I used this punctuation mark twice in the last paragraph. I am extremely excited by an alternative to Apple TV that doesn't require schools to purchase more hardware and strap them up to projectors. A way to mirror the screen with full audio...amazing. If you have any friends that have been hesitant to spend the full $99 on an Apple TV (still a solid investment), please share this software with them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

To signature or not to signature

Since the inception of mobile mail applications, we started to see things like this show up at the end of emails:

Sent from my iPad
Sent from my Blackberry Wireless Handheld
Sent from my iPhone

This is called an email signature. Many of us have used the email signature for a long time to include details like contact information, title, etc. Many mobile devices default the signature to something like those listed above - I think for obvious advertising space.

If you're like me, the first time you saw something like "Sent from my iPhone 4S," you probably thought of many adjectives to describe the person that sent said email - namely: smug. However, I'm convinced that this appears at the bottom of most emails because many people 1) Have no idea how to get rid of it, or 2) Don't want to spend time figuring out how to get rid of it. Rather than spend time teaching you how to get rid of it (you could find a link from Google in 3.4 seconds), this post has more to do with the philosophical side of signatures. When I first got into the iPad game, I immediately took off the signature to eliminate the smugness factor. Then I heard some reasons (that you'll see below) that made me rethink it, so I put it back on.

About a day after adding the signature, it was included in an email to a family member. At the end of his reply to my email he inserted the following:

Sent from my laptop

- confirming my initial thoughts on the whole subject. I then sent this email back to him:

All right...the "Sent from my iPad" takes a little explanation (and I deserve a "Sent from my laptop"). I had taken that signature off for a long time because I was always a little annoyed when people had that on the bottom of an email - somewhat braggy. Or I just thought that perhaps they didn't know how to take it off of there. I later heard someone say that there is some etiquette when emailing from a mobile device. If you leave that on there, people are slightly more forgiving on spelling/punctuation errors. They also know that you may not be able to respond quickly because you sent it "on the go." I thought those were reasons enough, but after your response, you've confirmed what I've thought all along. I'm taking it off again. Thank you,

To which he replied:

People should never be forgiving about speling / punctuation errors:
I thoroughly enjoyed your well-rounded reasoning...

To which I replied:

Eye ugreee aboat knot forgiveing spehling airors...
Sent from my Dell Latitude E5520

So if you agree with some of the reasoning stated above to include a signature, perhaps you could consider changing your signature to "Sent from a mobile device" (a colleague of mine does this). Or perhaps you believe that the ten hours you spent waiting in line for your mobile device deserves the reward of including the device name in your signature. So be it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Google Documents Picture Problems

In an attempt to move most of what I did in the classroom over to Google Drive/Docs, I decided to start creating quizzes in Documents. Things went fine until I needed to start inserting pictures all over the page. For those who have been using picture functionality, you know that Documents can be frustrating/infuriating at times. There are times when you can't even click on the image you've inserted, but have to click where the image used to be, etc. There are other times that you can click on the picture, but can't move it at all. Then when you spend way more time than you'd like to admit, you finally have things in place (like this):

But along the way, things can go crazy like this:

I've found that this issue (which is getting considerably better all the time - thanks Google) has everything to do with the menu options that you see in both screenshots above - the "In line with text | Fixed position" options. If you have some of the issues I mention above, I've found that choosing "In line with text" and then choosing "Fixed position" again (which is what I wanted all along) gives me the ability to select and move the picture. Not always, and there may be more formatting to do, but this usually gave me the ability to move pictures again.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chromebook VGA adapters

Have you recently opened your new Samsung Series 5 550 Chromebook only to be surprised that you couldn’t hook it up to your projector? That’s because Samsung/Google decided that they would only allow output through a little connector called DisplayPort++. The older Chromebooks had an entirely different port for output. If you go to amazon today and search “chromebook VGA adapter,” you will get a page full of items you aren’t looking for. What you need to search is “DisplayPort to VGA adapter” or “DisplayPort to HDMI adapter.” If you do this, you will get many options that will work with your chromebook, but plenty that won’t. The issue is that Apple calls their output a Mini DisplayPort, which is different than the DisplayPort on the chromebook. To simplify the process for you, I have tested three adapters that will be compatible with your chromebook:

Dell DP to VGA Adapter - This is a DisplayPort to VGA adapter that worked flawlessly with the chromebook. When refreshing the output (Ctrl + full screen function button), it even cycled through the normal options for outputs (1. just projector,2. just monitor, 3. both). A very nice option.

Cables to Buy DP to VGA Adapter – This is another DisplayPort to VGA adapter that worked flawlessly. Even with shipping, this is still less than half the price of the first adapter. So now the obvious question: Why would I buy a more expensive adapter (i.e., number 1) if they do the exact same thing. Here are two things to consider: 1) The VGA cable connects directly to the adapter, which can weigh it down and loosen the connection, which may cause the adapter to fall out of the port. 2)Because it is rather wide, the two ports next to the DisplayPort (USB and Ethernet) are tricky to access. The Ethernet is still accessible, but the USB port is impossible to use. There is still another USB port available on the other side of the Chromebook.

Cable Matters DP to HDMI - This adapter is DisplayPort to HDMI, which is nice because it brings sound with it through the connection. The problem is that this connection had the most troubles interacting with the projector. The first time it was plugged in, the screen on the chromebook flashed repeatedly and would not stop. The second try worked fine until I tried to refresh the output; then the screen started flashing again and wouldn’t stop until I unplugged it.

Summary: If you want to spend a little more money to have access to a second USB port, go with number 2. If you want to save money (like me) and still be able to project your chromebook, go with number 1. If you really want audio running into the projector, go with the HDMI and number 3, but prepare to deal with screen refresh issues (I would avoid this option). Conclustion: I’m going to recommend number 2 to anyone that asks.

Happy Chromebooking!