Monthly Archives: June 2010

Phonetic Survey!

Because you asked for it! Because Labov can’t call everybody in America’s house! Because it can be done!

There’s a new North American English dialect survey going on, and they want you and you and you to contribute. Basically, the idea is to amass as large a database of recordings as possible, so they had to make it fast and easy. All you have to do is go to the website, answer a few questions (or fewer, if you’re feeling shy) that don’t even require personal identifiers, and then read a list of words into your computer microphone.

Pretty easy, huh?

The idea is that there are certain common words which can be pronounced several different ways, and are. By mapping how people from various places say things, you can map their dialectal features — in this case, their accents.

This survey is for people who’ve grown up speaking English, in the US or Canada. (So yeah, it’s not really all of North America, as of yet.) English doesn’t have to be your native or only language for this, but you should have spoken English as a kid. (But if this survey works, more surveys for other areas and languages will probably follow, as night follows day.)

I don’t know these Yale linguists from Adam, but it’s a good thing they’re doing.

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Well, That Explains It.

Greene County, 1803-1908 says that there were Owenites in Yellow Springs. Owenism was a utopian movement founded by Robert Owen. These particular Owenites were religious, however.

I am starting to wonder what there hasn’t been, in Yellow Springs.

There’s no denying that Ohio has had more than its share of community-oriented sects and utopian movements. This book review actually gives a pretty good list of them.

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To Say Nothing of the Bear.

My dad informs me that the tavern/hotel/first Greene County courthouse was furnished with its own bear.

Not for bearbaiting. He just lived outside the courthouse, on a chain like a dog chain, and was relatively tame. Sort of a yard bear.

Ah, the young statehood of Ohio.

I haven’t found whatever my dad found this in; but apparently in Howe’s Historical Collections of Ohio, there’s a picture Howe made of the ex-courthouse in 1846, with a young black bear tied to a corner of the tavern/house. Broadstone’s 1918 History of Greene County, Ohio, where I read this, says that a young bear was a common pet for children at the time. Oooooookay….

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Swear on the Book….

I was going to look up previous shootings in Beavercreek for you, of which there have not been many. Instead, I found a brief history of the first courthouse in Greene County, which was actually a log house and tavern/hotel in Beavercreek or Alpha. It was not used for more than a year or two. But its last session, in 1804, was notorious for setting a local precedent about swearing courtroom oaths.

It so happened that when it came time to swear, nobody had brought along a Bible. There were books on a small shelf area by one wall, though, so Arthur St. Clair*, the lawyer from Cincinnati who was serving as prosecuting attorney, went rummaging through this ill-lit area. (You must picture him wearing a cocked hat and a sword, and unfortunately having a slight lisp. He apparently made an impression.) He searched around, and finally announced, “Well, gentlemen, here is a book which looks thist like a Testament.” So they started court with it.

After court, when they could see what they’d been doing, it turned out that they’d done all that swearing on a volume of the Arabian Nights. So… what with this incident, and probably what with local religious groups often being uneasy about swearing… for a century or so, it became the custom in Greene County to just swear with your hand in the air, not on the Bible or a New Testament or anything else.

Man, I need to read more local history.

* Not the General/Governor Arthur St. Clair of St. Clair’s Defeat, who was one of the ten congressional presidents under the Articles of Confederation, and who was an old geezer in Pennsylvania by then. This was his son, Arthur St. Clair II, who served as prosecuting attorney and attorney general of the Northwest Territory. Arthur St. Clair III was also a Cincinnati lawyer.

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Drunken Charging at Police with Knife Is Bad Idea

While I was gone, a guy managed to get himself killed by a Beavercreek police officer, over in the new apartments over the way from my parents’ place. This is pretty freaky, since it’s never happened since Beavercreek got incorporated as a city back in the Eighties. But what’s freakier is that the guy was a retired master sergeant and not just J. Random Loser. Beavercreek’s an Air Force town, so it’s (probably) not some case of a cop not being used to military people.

Scott Brogli apparently was involved in some kind of domestic violence with his wife and 17 year old son. (He didn’t have any previous record of such, at least around here.) The police were called by a neighbor who said he saw some drunk guy at the apartments with a gun case in hand, chasing a woman. He said in the 911 call that the drunk guy had fallen and dropped the gun case, and that the neighbor had then picked up the gun case and run away to his own nearby apartment. The 911 caller sounded pretty nervous about the prospects that the drunk guy would come after him. The wife got away and drove away, and at some point she ended up at Miami Valley Hospital getting treated for whatever happened to her. The son was apparently still at the apartment when everything went worse.

At some point, Brogli also apparently barricaded himself in (or at least blocked the entrance by throwing stuff around), and he was sleeping/passed out/resting on the floor, before the police arrived. When they dropped by, he apparently responded by charging out the door at the officers with a kitchen knife, so they shot him.

Of course, this sort of thing is not what Beavercreek police officers are used to, either. (Riverside or Fairborn, maybe occasionally this would happen. Beavercreek, not so much.) Also, people are wondering whether the barricade stuff was some kind of flashback, and hence that he wasn’t responsible for the attack and the domestic violence. Hard to say. Probably mostly being drunk, unless some kind of physical or mental illness made him seem drunk when he wasn’t.

Here’s a 2009 picture from Langley AFB of the man at his work. He’s the guy on the right. (Boy, you never can tell what will happen with people.) So I guess he _just_ retired. (Not a good time to do it, with this economy and a teenage kid.)

Anyway, Beavercreek Police will be investigating further. The officer who shot him is on administrative leave. I don’t think the Air Force JAG will get involved, because the guy was retired. They might help out, maybe.

UPDATE: Excessive use of search terms in post is bad idea.

Apparently I used a man’s last name too many times in a single blog post, because apparently my obscure little true crime post on my obscure little blog got found by a couple of upset people. I have corrected this, because it’s a bit stupid to have random punditry get a high search engine rating. If they came here via another blog that links to mine, I can’t do anything about that.

I have replied to these folks in the combox. I agree that I might have used more decorum in my post — probably should have. I think they took my post rather harder than is justified, though.

The whole point of this post, which I apparently didn’t make clear, is that whatever happened is clearly very strange, and a mystery; and very personally disturbing to a lot of people beyond those directly involved. Comparing it to Darwin Awards stuff is the only way to express how bizarre it all is. What would bring a reputable retired master sergeant, a family man, into collision with a young suburban police officer, also a family man? What on earth was going on, in a place so peaceful and so close to my own family? I want to know, because I want to be sure that my family is safe; and I am afraid that we will all find out something scary. About whom and what, I don’t know.

If this were a mystery show, I could list a dozen possible plots. I could devise motives for every single person involved (including the 911 neighbor) or some kind of horrible twist of fate, or a terrible illness, or an accidental ingestion of jimsonweed or other poisons. But I don’t have any kind of information for that, and I really don’t find it appropriate to just speculate wildly like that. This made people feel I was leaning too hard on the dead, as definitely guilty or evil. Well, I didn’t mean it that way. (And you’d already have heard a lot meaner comments from other people if you’re from the area, about both the police and the dead man. There’s nothing more guaranteed to put people in a bad mood than shots fired in anger somewhere even vaguely in their vicinity. Or their children’s vicinity, especially.)

I do have a right to talk about it on my blog, though. Something happened, and it is shocking, and the only way I know to deal with the horror of it is to talk about it. It’s the normal thing one does as a human — yap and yammer. (If you don’t like it, you’ll have to find another species. Maybe elves deal with it through interpretive dance.) I also tend to deal with such things by dark humor. If bad things happen to me, I laugh. If I’m scared, I laugh. If bad things happen in what used to be a woods I played in, I laugh. The shrieking and crying hysterically can be put off till later, that way.

I’m sorry I didn’t offer condolences right off to the family or to the guy’s friends. You have a right to ding me about that. But I’m not sure what one would say. It’s not an etiquette problem that shows up often in ordinary life.

I also don’t think we should assume this is PTSD. The Vietnam vets spent a zillion years telling people that military veterans don’t go running around attacking people like maniacs when they have attacks of PTSD, and I believe them.

I’m also not anti-military. (The US military, anyway. Pakistan, not so much.) Given that it’s the default American attitude unless you’re someplace like Berkeley, I didn’t think it was necessary to say anything. But fine, I’ll be clear. I assume that US military and ex-military people are sane, intelligent, responsible, solid citizens who protect their families and their neighbors, and very seldom have I seen it be otherwise. That’s why this happening is so wacked.

Look, I’m not in favor of whipping up a lynch mob about sensational crimes. But I’m not going to pretend all is well, or keep my mouth demurely shut. The shooting was a news event, which makes all participants open to public comment. I’m talking about it. I’m linking to articles about it, so you can see what definite info I’m basing my comments on, and also see just what is guesswork and gas. If you don’t like my writing, the comment box is open, and so is the rest of the Internet. Enjoy.

UPDATE: I’ve given folks a week of Liberty Hall, but the comment box is now closed. If I’ve done this right, the old comments will still be visible.


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I’m Back….

On the whole, it was a fun trip. Could have done with fewer adventures and sudden twists (not to mention a more level glycemic index) but there you go. 🙂

It’s amazing how much better life looks, though, when you’re back in your own little home. I like Going Places and Doing Things (not to mention Copying Books That Aren’t Easily Available), but I’m a hobbity homebody at heart.

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Never Speak Descriptively of the Dead?

Look, I don’t want to be a jerk about this. But the fact is that the late Senator Byrd was in the KKK as a Kleagle (recruiter) and an Exalted Cyclops, and that the historical evidence is all against his later claims only to have joined the KKK in WWII or as an anticommunist organization. So it’s a bit difficult to mention his career as a politician without pointing out that his original base was not just the Young War Hero thing, but also the White Hoods and Sheets Vote, the Burning Cross Vote. He only changed his harsh public position on race when it began to endanger his further election.

CNN has assiduously avoided mentioning this, and it’s been covering the heck out of Byrd’s death in their airport coverage. The newspapers seem to have been more of a mind to comment on this aspect of his life.

I’m not glad he’s dead; he was a fellow creature, and I hope for the salvation of his soul as I would for anyone’s. I hope the change in his ideas was genuine, and that he truly regretted what he did. But his death does close a very dark chapter of American history, the passing of which nobody is going to regret. It is ridiculous to speak so guilelessly about him as being nothing but a nice man and a pattern of senatorial civility.

(I’ve noticed that no non-white CNN reporters seem to have been asked to say all these nice things about him. Hmmmmmm.)

It’s also a bit ingenuous to mention all his pork barrel politics as being solely for the good of his state, when he had his name plastered all over a zillion public works in West Virginia as a continuing campaign ad. Not a man of self-effacing duty, no.


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