Opera Opus

S and I have been really happy with our first-ever Metropolitan Opera subscription this year. Last week we got a renewal packet in the mail, and the same problem presented itself this time as last time: subscriptions are grouped by the day of the week of the performances you’re going to see, but we’re more interested in choosing individual operas, since, given a year’s advance notice, we can go on any day at all. But there are so many packages that it’s too much to juggle to see which package you want to buy.
So I snarfed the Met’s subscription listings and made a page with JQuery and tablesorter that reveals the packages that have the most shows that you want to see, and count how many shows you need to exchange or buy individually to see everything you’ve selected.
For us, it looks like it might be Wednesday 3, since Saturday Matinees don’t appeal very much. Find out for yourself with the Metropolitan Opera Subscription Helper. It is not in any way affiliated with the Met or anything else.

The causes of causes

I went to the Aston Corpus Symposium last week and it was exciting and even moving; at every talk I jotted down notes that didn’t relate to the talk but to tangential ideas that the talk was unearthing and catalyzing.

One of them was from a talk by Bill Dodd, ‘Semantic prosody’ in FL teaching and learning’. He took the now-near-chestnut of the verb ’cause’ from English, and looked at three different ’cause’ verbs in German, finding them to have the same semantic bias.

[In a corpus of English, you’ll find that the overwhelming majority of occurrences of ’cause’ as a verb have collocations that are bad things: viruses, negligence, vandals, infections, assaults, and deficiencies cause devastation, delay, injury, nuisance, consternation, havoc, death, ruckus and loss; not a lot of kittens causing giggles.]

Dodd looked at verursachen, bewirken, and hervorrufen in the corpus of the Digitale Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache and found (as you may see yourself, either in deutsch or in google’s translation) that all three had exclusively nasty neighbors: Schade, Kosten, Brand, Störung, Verlust, Geräusch, Tod, Kopfschmerz.

I haven’t looked at evidence from other languages, but posit for a moment that all languages’ verbs of causality are associated with negative things. What does it tell us about causality, and the circumstances in which people think about causality?

Maybe people simply don’t often stop to ask why good things happen. Good things are exactly what are supposed to happen all the goddamn time; good things are what I deserve and there’s no “cause” for them: they are the natural order of things. So maybe a person looks for a cause only when they’re disappointed by an effect.

Are you stalking me?

I was walking home from work the other day and happened to notice (for the first time) the Lamb & Flag Passage and, not having any urgent need to get back to my turret, decided to walk along it to see what it held. Backstreets are always enjoyable, and in Oxford I always feel I’m going to turn down one and myself in Diagon Alley or Jordan College or some Lovecraftian street that I’ll never find again.

I walked through (uneventfully) and then along Museum Road and noticed one of the great, outlandishly-named buildings I love to see in Oxford: the Henry Wellcome Ancient Biomolecules Centre. I thought about the kinds of things that a center for Ancient Biomolecules might investigate, and they all seemed incredibly interesting.

No visibly welcoming public entrance (apparently with good reason), nothing visible through the ground-floor windows. Today a mention of neuroeconomics brought up my mental note to look up the biomolecules center, but all I could remember was the “ancient” part. Well, let’s try Google.

I typed in my Firefox search box:

oxford ancient

and paused to try to remember ‘biomolecules’, which was not coming to mind. Obviously ‘oxford ancient’ alone wouldn’t do it, because there are so many Oxfordy Ancienty things. So let’s think: bio cellulo radio hmm.

And then Google’s suggestion popped down:

oxford ancient biomolecules

(Oh my god, what the fuck, barbecue, bang bang bang one bang).