A test of music memory and tonedeafness

I ran across Jake Mandell's online test of your musical skills. I've often wondered about the relation between musical and linguistic ability. My ear must be pretty good, because I scored 89.9% when I took the test. So I'm not tone deaf and I have pretty good short term music memory. As I have a good ear for languages (and a good accent in general when speaking them) this doesn't surprise me. I've never been able to read music, though. Since I'm not good at maths either, I wonder if those skills are related.


Rehabilitating two Cyrillic characters

The other week I worked on a project to “rehabilitate” two already-encoded letters that are badly specified, and which cause problems to people using Cyrillic in the UCS. Not problems just for the end user, but problems for implementers as well. The characters in question are U+0478 CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER UK, U+0479 CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER UK, U+047C CYRILLIC CAPITAL LETTER OMEGA WITH TITLO, U+047D CYRILLIC SMALL LETTER OMEGA WITH TITLO. The exciting story is found in this document.

My idea was to come up with practical solutions that will avoid ambiguity. On the other hand, theoretical perfection is something we don’t have the luxury for. We are doing damage control on bad choices made more than a decade ago! I am sure we would not have made those mistakes were we encoding Cyrillic for the first time today.

Today, I think we would have encoded a BROAD OMEGA and used diacritics for the beautiful omega or other things, and we would have encoded MONOGRAPH UK and left digraph UK to be encoded as a string of characters, Cyrillic о and у. Solution 2b and 3b in my document were attempts to achieve that situation, which would have been ideal, in my view.

The UTC was conservative on the side of stability, and more or less chose solutions 2a and 3a. (It's not done till it's published of course.) I had a concern that if they choose 2a, it will be possible to represent beautiful omega both as 047D and as BROAD OMEGA with two diacritics, and those will not be equivalent, which would cause ambiguity in text representation. (Of course, we have this now with OMEGA WITH TITLO, so the situation would not be worse than it is today.)

I thought that the case against 3a is a good deal stronger. A number of vendors are happy shipping monograph glyphs for 0479, and this poses no security issues. Looking at the Cyrillic fonts shipping with Windows XP, however, I found that all but one of them avoids encoding this character at all. My guess is that this is a question of security. So... we still have a problem here, since digraph UK can be represented by two letters, or (in principle) by this UK. I am thinking that the best solution for security's sake is to recommend that the reference glyphs for 0479 are drawn with half-width letters, to distinguish it and make it unappealing to use the character at all. This is tantamount to deprecation—if everyone does this in their fonts, it would be a real solution.


Snow on Croagh Patrick and Ben Goram

We have snow today! Here is Croagh Patrick seen from the back porch:

Snowy Croagh Patrick

And here is Ben Goram, just to the west of Croagh Patrick in the same range.
Snowy Ben Goram


A journey to Cornwall

I recently published three books by Nicholas Williams about Revived Cornish, and we discovered a small but irritating typographical error on the title page of one of them. Normally correction of typos is left for an errata sheet, but in this case we decided it would be best to print a correction on an adhesive sticker and paste it down on the title page. This gave me the chance to visit Cornwall for the first time in some years.

And what a splendid trip it was! I flew to Heathrow and took the Heathrow Express to Paddington—what a pleasure such a quick train is—and then took the train down to Truro. It was bright sunny November day, and the four-and-a-half hour journey passed very quickly. I spent some of it correcting an edition of Nicholas Boson’s story “Jowan Chy an Hor" as transcribed by Edward Lhuyd as “Dzhûan Tshei an Hɐr” in his 1707 Archaeologia Britannica. Quite a pleasure it was correcting it, too, as I recently acquired a copy of the original 1707 publication, rebound in red morocco in 1955 by “Nanquelsek”, an American bard of the Cornish Gorsedd. (I have a photo of the book's original binding and am thinking of having it rebound again in that more authentic style.)

At Truro I was met by Neil Kennedy, who has been living in Brittany for the past few years, but who is one of the people who have been using a form of Richard Gendall’s Revived Late Cornish orthography for the past 18 years or so. Neil and I spent several hours over dinner discussing the varieties of Revived Cornish orthography and our thoughts about how the current work towards a Single Written Form for Cornish is going. Later we drove to Portreath on the northwest coast to meet with Ray and Denise Chubb, proprietors of Spyrys a Gernow and members of Agan Tavas. Ray and Neil and I retired to Ray’s local for a few pints of real ale and more talk of orthography. There’s nothing like writing out comparisons of long and short vowels in different orthographies on beer mats with good company and tasty ale! Much has been written about the animosity between different factions of the Cornish Revival. The road ahead looks hopeful to me, though. Certainly seems to me to be nothing but growing mutual respect and friendly regards on the side of those who prefer authentic Cornish orthography for Revived Cornish.