Archive for the ‘This blogging life’ Category

On the unicorn watch

July 4, 2013

The story starts with this cartoon, sent to me by Don Steiny for pretty obvious reasons:


The cartoon is one of several offering, as an explanation for why unicorns went extinct, that Noah took two male unicorns onto the ark, so of course they couldn’t re-populate the species after the Flood. (In another version, the unicorns are explaining Noah’s mistake to him.) In another vein of cartoons, the extinction of unicorns is explained by their having missed the sailing of the ark, through a misunderstanding about the day or the time of day of the ark’s departure.

Side matters: one, the source of #1, which is obviously a professionally drawn cartoon; and two, the rise of a rainbow – butterfly – unicorn association in popular culture (a modern wrinkle in unicornology).


Website and blog changes

June 28, 2013

The world of AZ websites and blogs has altered, and will change further in coming days. Most of these changes are behind the scenes — access to all this material will continue to be possible by familiar means — but here’s what’s happened:

First, AZBlog is now


will work; it simply links to my new site. (Along the way, I have arranged to have ads removed from the site.)

My Stanford website — – remains, but in severely reduced form; all of its substantive content is now on the AZBlog About page — — and my Stanford site merely links to that About page. All of my .pdf files continue to be housed at Stanford, so a URL you currently have for one of these .pdf files will work exactly as before.


Briefly noted: endorsements for skills or expertise

May 20, 2013

LinkedIn tells me every so often about endorsements I’ve received for skills or expertise, from friends, colleagues, former students, and readers of my blogs (about 30 of them so far). For:

Teaching, Linguistics, Academic Writing, Research, Computational Linguistics, Higher Education, Natural Language Processing, Courses, Text Mining, Theory, University Teaching

Teaching figures prominently. I must say that’s gratifying.

I’m not at all sure what these endorsements mean, but it’s always nice to be recognized for your abilities and accomplishments.


Sex sells

May 19, 2013

… or, at least, attracts readers. From WordPress stats yesterday on my most-viewed postings during the previous week, the top six:

agapanthus: 1,019 views
The body and its parts: 359 views
Pub(l)ic notice: 345 views
Cock tease: 131 views
Bell pepper sex: 97 views
Annals of ejaculation: 87 views

The agapanthus posting, about a plant and the etymology of its name, has been at the top of the charts for quite some time, for no reason I can fathom. But the next five all have sexual content.

Now I do post fairly often on sex- or sexuality-related topics, though most of my postings are on other things — only one of my last twelve postings had to do with sex or sexuality — but these are the postings that attract attention.

Code 404

May 9, 2013

Today’s Rhymes With Orange, with a pun on page:

A pun of a type that juxtaposes two strikingly different contexts (here, court life in a monarchy, on the one hand, and the internet, on the other) in such a way that two different senses of an expression are both applicable.


Facebook bizarreness

April 24, 2013

My posting this morning on three references to putative sex / gender differences caused Facebook to put me through a captcha test to get the thing posted — I presume because of the word sex in the text. Then people began reporting that FB had been labeling this posting (and two previous ones) as potential spam, in a bizarre use of the word spam, since the objection would have to be to the content of the postings (not to bulk mailing of unsolicited messages, especially advertising, which I certainly can’t be accused of doing: people get FB postings from me by virtue of having mutually friended me).


Spam comment watch

March 8, 2013

Every so often I report on the march of comments spam, which is quite remarkable. Back in 2011, there were about 100,000 spam comments on this blog. At the time this was about 27 times the legitimate comments.  This week we passed 300,000 spam comments, and the ratio to legitimate comments was about 44:1. Oi.



February 14, 2013

WordPress tells me that I now have 100 “followers”, people who get notifications of each of my postings on this blog. Amazing, in a way, especially since only a few of these are friends or colleagues.While I have my dark moments in thinking about my net life, there are also gratifying moments. (That goes along with being a teacher.)



Fear of Twitter

January 28, 2013

Back at the beginning of this month, an invitation (with the header “3Q Twinterview”) in e-mail:

I’m sorry to bother you at a busy time of the year, but I wondered if you’d be interested in taking part in a really very short Twitter interview? I run the language/linguistics Twitter/Facebook pages for UCLan ( and and for 2013, I’m starting a monthly Mini Bios feature where I ask a famous linguist three questions and tweet the answers. If you are interested, there is one catch: due to the limitations of Twitter, each answer would need to be around fifty words, maximum.

Something of a nightmare prospect for me. Not just an interview, but one with extraordinarily tight space limitations. I do have a Twitter account, but have never used it, so that’s a graceful way out of this exercise.


The wonders of spam

December 28, 2012

I get huge amounts of spam, both in e-mail and in blog comments, so I mostly don’t even look at the stuff. But here’s one (lightly edited to remove links) that caught my eye as I was deleting spam from my mail:

The Better Business Bureau has been recorded the above mentioned plaint from one of your users as regards their business relations with you. The information about the consumer’s uneasiness are available at the link below. Please give attention to this issue and notify us about your glance as soon as possible.

We amiably ask you to click and review the [Grievance Report] to respond on this grievance.

We awaits to your prompt rebound.

It has been coming in multiple copies, with small variations in form. The text looks like it’s inexpertly translated from another language, but whether that effect is inadvertent or intentional I cannot tell.

I am, however, considering using “We awaits to your prompt rebound” in my own writing, or possibly working it into a piece of light verse.


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