Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Three

Previous chapter: The First Week.

Chapter Three: Later That First Week.

"I'm not going to abandon this experiment." ~The Watcher.

"Fran! We're back!" Attie shouted as she approached the front door with Isabel. Francesca opened the door with a nervous look on her face, and let the Twins enter.

"Look, cousin, we got your favorite chips and ice cream with the rest of the groceries," Isabel said in a coaxing tone. "Help us sort out the food."

"Yes, Isabel," Francesca said in a little voice.

As she stuffed the packets of food in the cupboards and fridge, her elder cousin continued talking. "We saw the cutest pile of toy puppies in the store on the way home," Isabel said. "Black and white and polka-dotted."

"Like Hera's dog?" Francesca asked.

"Yep, just like my Nightshade," Hera interrupted. "She was such a fluffy wiggly girl."

"Do tell," Attie said in a bored voice. "If you ask me, I'd rather have a copy of the latest Assassin's Creed. Pirates, just like that Puzzle Cove game Francesca used to play."

"I still play it," Francesca said in that little voice. "Sinopia's a famous sailor now."

"Sharpens your brain, doesn't it?" said Hera, arranging the cold meat in the freezer.

"Kinda. The sea battles helped me plan ahead," Francesca replied as she put the last packet of biscuits in place. "I've made the sandwiches as you asked, Isabel."

"Great! I'm famished," Attie said boldly.

"Then set out the plates," Isabel said, deflating her twin's bravado. Attie sighed and started arranging the plates to put the sandwiches on.

Francesca felt unhappy.
That evening, Francesca went to the balcony after another dinner of the remaining sandwiches with her housemates. She started drawing, and could hear Attie's noisy video game through the window behind her. Francesca was overcome with longing for her family back in New York, along with her childhood days.

She cried softly as she tried to finish her drawing. "I've been a fool to mope my youth away," she sniffled. "Yet I can't help over-thinking everything."

Attie was too engrossed in her game to bother about Francesca crying outside, even though she heard the sniffling. After a while, Francesca managed to stop crying so much, and hid in her room to think things over. She fell asleep while thinking about her high school days.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Four Stars Chapter Two

Previous chapter: Moving Day.

Chapter Two: The First Week.

It's so much easier for sims to get work than in our world. ~The Watcher.

The first thing the four friends did next day was to find work that would start later that week. Isabel jumped at the chance to work for the local art museum, while Francesca timidly applied for work at a magazine house. Alas, neither Hera nor Attie could decide what to do. They sprawled on the sofa while mulling over their decisions.

"Don't tell me you DON'T want to go on Broadway, Hera," Attie said as Hera scratched her head about the online classifieds.

"I do want to go on Broadway, but I want to play computer games as well."

"Choose one or the other."

"If I could do that, or both at once, I wouldn't ask you, Attie," Hera said peevishly, "Not that you'd give me good career advice either." She stood up, shut off her phone, and went to her room to sulk.

"Attie, you're a big hypocrite," Isabel remarked. "You're also having a hard time deciding now that there's no more openings for sportswomen."

"Unlike Hera, I have a backup plan in mind," Attie said proudly. "Look, clerk required for the Secret Service."

"You don't even like office work," Isabel said in surprise.

"If I play my cards right, Isabel, I'll be out as a super spy in no time," Attie said. "Amelia Bonn sounds like a pretty good spy name," she said with a grin and applied for the job.

Isabel sighed. "Once an adventure junkie, always an adventure junkie," she muttered. She then went upstairs to the balcony and started drawing. As she drew, she became aware of a brassy little voice talking in her ear. She turned to see Francesca complaining about something while holding the remains of her bacon breakfast in one hand.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Four Stars Chapter One

Previous chapter: Prologue.

Chapter One: Moving Day.

The new world's ready, I'm ready to guard it and guide my chosen. ~The Watcher.

A red car with silver trimming went down the winding road to the outskirts of the city. The car was packed full of luggage, and the rear passengers were snoozing on the luggage put in the back seat.

"You sure we came to the right place?" Attie asked her twin sister Isabel, pushing her sharply cut fringe away from her face.

"Yes, Willow Creek. You asked that same question last month when we were first looking up real estate to move into," said Isabel.

"I asked that because Willow Creek was an area in one of the old video games we used to play in high school."

"Yes, it is named the same. No, your game didn't come to life. Tell me if any turns are coming up," the older Lion said.

Attie imitated the GPS in her hand, "Turn out left in five kilometers. Signboard will tell you anyhow."

"By the way, wake Hera and Francesca up. They ought to clap eyes on our new home."

Attie looked at the back seat and hissed, "Wake up, you lazybones."

The two rear passengers, one a plump young woman with brown hair, the other thin with dark skin and black hair, replied with snores.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

The Four Stars: Main Characters

Main Characters (Click to enlarge)
Some of you won't be familiar with these people's origins, so I shall explain to the best of my ability. I have a personal connection with each of my chosen ones in some way as their patron.

From left to right, the four stars are Herakaris Keller, Isabel Lion, Attie Lion, and Francesca Takahashi.

Herakaris Keller

She is a musical maniac, a lazybones, and a gamer. In the old world, her music was so powerful that she could either fell people with her singing or calm down a crowd with a well-played song. Her singing is terrible no matter what reality she lives in. Should her music fail, she turns to guns as a backup plan.

Today, she only needs to worry about her bad singing irritating everyone else instead of felling them, and can lie around as much as she likes until business calls. My reason for being her patron is her passion for music and our shared fault of laziness.

Isabel Lion

She is a lover of books, art, and goodness of humanity. The elder twin sister of Attie, Isabel used to wield the power of life itself whenever she painted. In this world, she is simply a talented painter and craftsman. My reason for being her patron is her passion for art and loving nature.

Attie Lion
She is a lover of sports, self-confidence bordering on vanity, and the occasional unkindness. Despite this, she loves her twin sister Isabel. In the old world, she used her long legs and arms to fight. She also had an immense knowledge of poisons unprecedented in any superhero. My reason for being her patron is her passionate temper and her relation as Isabel's sister.

Francesca Takahashi
A tragic story follows this one. A loner who loves books but has an easily hurt heart. To put it simply, she (in her superhero persona of Demolicious) committed the crime of abusing the old world's most powerful artifact, as she wanted to sell the artifact in order to pay for her father's treatment. The artifact fell into the villains' hands instead of being sold on the black market, and Francesca could not cure her father.

Either way, Francesca/Demolicious was scorned, hated by all save my other three chosen. I became her patron out of pity, and hope to cure this wounded heart through her new life in my reality. To this end, I patched up her family as well as I could, for the old gods did not bother to elaborate on her home life. Mind you, she pronounces her name as "Fran-sess-ka" instead of the other way, a verbal tic.

The Watcher.

Article summary: Linguistic features in Norwegian SMS. (Part 3)

Previous section here.
First section here.

My Reaction

    This section includes my thoughts on the article, such as the possibility of carrying out a similar research in this country, and how different the results of this research could be if repeated today. The article's organization could be improved by adding an abstract at the start, even though the whole article is a mere nine pages. The abstract would give potential readers an idea of what the article contains, and might spark further interest in reading it.

    The topic of sociolinguistic features in SMS is an interesting one, as Malaysians frequently use SMS and other forms of electronic communication in for many purposes. The main purpose of SMS, emails, and calls remains constant, that is, to communicate. However, another study on the various ways of Asian communication in electronic form would be something to consider.

    Since the research mentioned in this article was carried out in 2002 and technology has advanced rapidly in the years after the study, research on this topic today would probably show different results. A study on the Malaysian use of SMS is bound to showcase the characteristic features of Malaysian English and code switching, and how SMS can change the way we express Manglish.

    The researcher discusses a few ways in which his research could be improved. In the article's introduction, he mentions that there may be selective filtering as respondents may be reluctant to share embarrassing or private messages. He has a point, as many SMS users, myself included, are bound to have messages that we'd rather keep for a few certain eyes, not for strangers to read.

    He also states that the respondents had to read out three of the last sent messages in their phones to an interviewer, which made it difficult to get an accurate transcription. Now, with the advent of email, collecting more accurate samples of SMS messages will be easier as respondents could copy the text of their messages into their emails and send them to an interviewer; should this research be carried out again.

    The researcher mentions that abbreviations do not appear very often in the sampled messages. At the time the article was written, SMS messaging was a relatively new system; so most of the widely known acronyms found in a modern SMS wouldn't exist back then. If this research was carried out again in Malaysia today, there might be more instances of abbreviations, especially Manglish-related ones.

    Women and teenagers often send more emotional SMS messages. In my opinion, this is because of the social norms in European culture, where men are expected to be stoic compared to women. This expectation is slowly being eroded as men express themselves creatively nowadays.

    In the study, users in the 20-24 age group were more likely to capitalize and punctuate their messages. This may be attributed to the fact that these users are usually in tertiary education, and the formalities of university may influence the way they compose their SMS messages. The researcher doesn't really address why young Norwegian adults tend to use relatively formal punctuation, so this is just a guess.

    Perhaps the researcher could study the effects of social class and education level on the sociolinguistic features of SMS messages, as many people from various walks of life have at least one cell phone at this time of writing. The article does not make any mention of the general social class of the randomly sampled Norwegians, although a pilot study was carried out on small-town teenagers. To sum up, the sociolinguistic features of SMS messages is a good research topic, although Rich Ling or another researcher could expand on this.

The Four Stars Prologue

Prologue: The Watcher Disapproves.

I see a world very like our Earth that its creators have abandoned for lack  of their own initiative. The fools. Just because the viewers in our world think this world's uninteresting and unprofitable, they gave up. What happened to their verve of years past?

They say that the gods gave up as people no longer wanted to be heroes or villains in that particular universe. I say they were more interested in making celebrities in their medieval "pantomime" world.

Worse still, the old ones have committed one of the worst sins in creating worlds: refusing to salvage any good ideas from the husk they leave behind. For no work is completely irredeemable unless one is already terrible at creating worlds. The gods I criticize in this case are not bad at making worlds, but bad at maintaining anything but medieval Broadways.

I have asked them time and time again whether they will revive the idea of a superhero who is filial to her father, or a supervillain so suave that everyone believed him at first hearing. No, was their answer each time.

Very well, I will salvage the scraps they don't want, and use them in my own reboot of Super City. I have already salvaged the Lion Twins and Herakaris long before I started questioning the creators for abandoning their world. Francesca, you're coming too.

I'll make sure that all of you will have nothing to worry about but yourselves, ever again. I will not leave you to rot unlike your old gods. I shall protect this world with a vengeance.

The Watcher.

Next chapter: Moving Day.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Pondering on Prudence

Prudence, a noun and a name, a virtuous one at that. Supposedly for good judgement. The first time I saw this name was when I read Enid Blyton's "Summer Term at Saint Clare's."

Prudence at Saint Clare's.
Unfortunately, the Prudence who features there is a hypocrite and a spiteful sort. Pretty much the opposite of good judgement. First of all, Prudence Arnold makes nasty remarks on almost everyone, and constantly tries to get her opinion heard.

Her first line of dialogue is a mean remark about Sadie "being a bad influence" on the class, simply because Sadie is an American. Later, she complains that playing cards will lead to gambling, and tries to get the others to debate on feminist issues. The other students blow her off as being uptight.

It is mentioned by Blyton that Prudence was brought up in a vicarage, under the strict eye of her parents. This may be part of the reason Prudence thinks she is better than the other students at school. She is portrayed by Blyton as a manipulative person, only befriending those who could help her and ignoring everyone else. She befriends Pamela because of her great intelligence, and tries to strike a friendship with Sadie after learning that Sadie will inherit a fortune as an adult.

Prudence is also unwilling to help the other students due to her mix of loner and self-righteousness. When Janet (a trickster) accidentally spills some water on Prudence, the latter starts complaining and saying that Jane meant to do so on purpose. Janet tries to get Prudence to tell the form teacher to let her off, but Prudence refuses because Janet and Bobby (Roberta) constantly play "silly" tricks in class.

Prudence did not even consider that Janet needed to go to watch a film in order to complete her history assignment, but continued to push her serious attitude in this case. Adding insult to injury, she mocks Janet for having to write out Prudence's homework notes. Bobby tried to help Janet out by imitating her writing, but Prudence, bearing a grudge, makes a fuss out of this. This causes even more trouble to the class and the other students start to notice her spiteful nature.

Throughout the novel, Prudence also sneers at Carlotta and tries to smear her reputation by finding out about the latter's background. Prudence is under the impression that if the other girls know that Carlotta isn't from a noble background, they will snub her. This backfires because the other girls happen to like circuses and aren't so particular about good backgrounds.

Another incident in the book brings Prudence's hypocritical nature to light. Bobby's second trick with a squealing biscuit irritates the French teacher into threatening the class with a test the next day. Prudence, fearing a scolding from the headmistress if she fails the test, thinks that it would be a good idea to look up the questions and answers for the test, then get top marks.

Prudence tries to explain Bobby's joke to the French teacher, hoping to sneak a look at the test as it is prepared. The French teacher becomes irritated with Prudence and sends her away. That night, Prudence decides to sneak into the teacher's room and look up the test that way. She is caught by Bobby and Carlotta. When Bobby tells Prudence off for being a hypocrite, she cries and causes the headmistress to come and investigate the situation.

It would have been better for Prudence if she studied for the test the honest way even if she didn't get good marks, in my opinion. For some reason, the French teacher decides not to hold the test after all, rendering Prudence's attempt to cheat worthless.

Near the end of the novel, Prudence becomes an accessory to kidnapping completely by mistake, thinking that a letter from a shady character was meant for Carlotta. Spite clouded her mind and made her irrational, so she went along with the shady guy's plan despite being warned by Pamela.

Personally, I believe that Prudence was expelled mainly for attempted cheating, and her part in Sadie's kidnapping was the last straw. If her serious attitude had been tempered by a kindly or just nature, she might have been able to stay on at Saint Clare's.

Why the name, if its bearer was the opposite?
I was struck mainly by the sound of it, and thought it would make a good pseudonym for someone who has completed her journeyman years. The unusual sound and virtuous meaning is why Purpure adopted Prudence as her time-traveling name, despite its rarity.

As for Prudence Trenton (alias Purpure), she is just as serious as Prudence Arnold, but Miss Trenton's serious nature is tempered by a love of jokes and the occasional trick. Miss Trenton is also very forthright and honest about everything except where she really comes from. As far as anyone can get out of Miss Trenton, she's from England.

Purpure might not be from a good background, as she's a bastard child, but she stepped beyond it to leave a legacy of an intelligent traveler with a sense of justice.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Article summary: Linguistic features in Norwegian SMS. (Part 2)

Part 1 of the summary can be found here.

This study was conducted by Rich Ling in the early 2000's, thus some of the phones described have older features.

Statistical summary.

The messages were analysed by their type/token ratio, defined as the number of different words (type) compared to the total number of words (token). The researcher's hypothesis is that the faster a medium of producing language becomes, the lower the type/token ratio would be. The researcher also justifies the hypothesis, saying that writing by hand, or even writing for formal purposes takes a long time, and one would be likely to draw on a wider range of words when there is a longer delay between thought and expressing said thought.

However, based on the type/token ratio of the studied SMS messages, it appears that SMS is an unusual case. The range of type/token ratios mentioned in the article is between 0.487 and 0.609. SMS messages are typed in with the keypad of one's cell phone, which can take a longer time to produce coherent messages.

According to the hypothesis stated in the previous paragraph, a slower method of writing should give more time for the user to think of different words, leading to a higher type/token ratio. The results in the article show otherwise, having an average type/token ratio compared to several reference texts.

The researcher points out this discrepancy by stating that SMS users often have to focus on the writing tool, that is, the keypads of their phones, so they are less likely to think of unusual words. Users between the ages of 16 to 19 years of age have the lowest type/token ratio, whereas users between the ages of 35 and 44 have the highest type/token ratio.

When the messages were analysed by mean word and message length as well as complexity, there were no statistically significant differences in the length of words between genders or age groups. There was also no significant age-based difference in the mean number of words per message. There were gender-based differences in SMS message complexity and number of words in a message.

Women were more likely to write longer and more complex SMS messages, with 6.95 words per message on average. In contrast, men tend to write simpler and shorter messages, with an average of 5.54 words per message. Females in the 16-19 age group were found to write the highest amount of complex SMS messages, while males in the same age group wrote the simplest messages.

Surprisingly enough, abbreviations weren't used often in the sampled SMS messages, and any abbreviations that showed up were mainly used by teenagers and young adults. Users who were between 20 and 24 years of age were also more likely to capitalize and punctuate their messages properly. Besides, women or younger users wrote most of the messages that included salutations or closing phrases.

The article concludes that SMS messages have features of both spoken and written language with their own unique characteristics. SMS messages are similar to spoken language in terms of immediate communication and informality. SMS is similar to writing in the assumption that the participants aren't in close proximity, and the text of an SMS message can be edited before the message is sent.

The unique characteristics of SMS messages arise from the electronic medium they originated in, such as the ability to save messages in one's cell phone. These messages only last as long as the phone's memory remains intact, which may not be as long as a letter's storage period. Norwegian women are more likely to send complex SMS messages, express their feelings and plan for more immediate events. Young adults are more likely to write messages that contain advanced capitalization and punctuation.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Article summary: Linguistic features in Norwegian SMS. (Part 1)

This is a review of a Norwegian research article back when the short-messaging system of mobile phones (SMS) was in its infancy. This text was part of an assignment in university.

Article Summary (General remarks).

Rich Ling wrote this article in 2005. It is about research on the sociolinguistic features in the short message system (SMS) as used by a random sample of Norwegians. The article introduces a brief history of SMS and its general usage in Norway. The research objectives in the paper include determining whether SMS is spontaneous or rehearsed communication, and how the desire to communicate overcame the technological limits of SMS.

In this article, the researcher examines 882 SMS messages from a random sample of Norwegians. These SMS messages were collected in May 2002 by telephone. The researcher requested demographic data from each of the respondents, as well as the last 3 SMS messages sent. However, only 463 (23%) of the respondents managed to provide the SMS messages that were requested by the researcher. 40% of women in the survey sent at least one SMS message a day, compared to the 36% of men who did. The women who sent the most messages were in the 16 to 19 age group, with an average of 9.03 messages a day.

The SMS messages were first analysed by the themes they contained, such as coordination, grooming, answers, questions, information, commands or requests, personal news, and diverse other categories. Although grooming was defined as miscellaneous emotional remarks in the analysis of the data, the “diverse other categories” grouping serves a similar function. The most common theme in the messages was coordination, which appeared in 33% of the samples, implying that most users send SMS messages in order to set up meetings or plan events.

Next, the SMS messages were analysed by socio-demographical differences. Gender differences were mentioned in the article. Men were more likely to use one-word replies in their messages and plan activities in the middle future. The middle future was defined as a few days later. Women were likely to send “grooming” type messages and plan activities for the immediate future.

The researcher also analysed the types of words that often appeared in the SMS messages. The most common word used by both men and women was du (you) while other common words included jeg (I), (on/in/at/to) and i (in/at). In general, prepositions appeared more frequently in the SMS messages studied.

The frequent use of prepositions can be attributed to the role of SMS in coordination of events. Adverbs do not usually show up in the analysed messages due to the character limit, so the messages appear telegraphic in nature. Further analysis of a sample of words shows that women often used more verbs, adjectives and prepositions. In contrast, men tend to use more pronouns and nouns.

Part 2: Statistical details.