Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, November 14, 2021

I like linguistics. I like sports.

That doesn’t mean I like the two combined, ala spelling bees — particularly not the late mini-fad of ESPN-like coverage of said scholastic competitions. But insight into the mental methodology of standout kid speller Samir Patel, and why his knack for success also contained the seeds of his failure, is certainly interesting:

Samir is “a root-word man, which… is akin to calling him a purist,” says Katy Vine in Texas Monthly. His ability to divine obscure words from obscure roots allowed Mr. Patel to reach the final three of the national spelling bee in 2003 at the precocious age of nine. But it also left him at the mercy of English’s idiosyncrasies in later competitions.

In English, the same root can give rise to divergent spellings. Gentile, genteel, and gentle all come from the Latin word gentilis. Also, a single word can sometimes suggest multiple roots. In 2006, Mr. Patel lost in the seventh round thanks to just such a word, eremacausis (“gradual oxidation of organic matter from exposure to air and moisture”).

Our polyglot tongue foils the most disciplined strategy. Hmmm… Maybe there is something to this sports-ification of spelling…

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/14/2007 11:37:27 PM
Category: Wordsmithing
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I haven’t gone to see Bee Movie, and there’s a strong chance that I never will.

But I will give the production props for delivering on an obvious stunt-casting opportunity: Putting the one and only Sting in the movie:

Sting falls foul of bee humour when he’s accused of stealing the idea for his name from the insects and has to defend himself in court. He is later arrested by the bee police, who interrupt him in the middle of a yoga session.

That covers the ex-Police man’s cinematic imperatives. At least until someone decides to remake The Sting.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/14/2007 11:25:50 PM
Category: Celebrity, Movies
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How big of a believer in the new free-for-all Facebook is Lee Lorenzen? Enough so that that he’s starting a venture capital fund available exclusively to developers producing Facebook applications/widgets.

What does he expect the return-on-investment to be?

Lorenzen, based in Monterey, Calif., has founded several companies, including Shop.com, and is unfazed by criticism. He truly believes Facebook will be huge and that it is the first mainstream social operating system, taking a page from the playbook of Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former self-proclaimed evangelist.

Lorenzen thinks Facebook will eventually become a massive Web-based mall, but with much more value because people are shopping based on their friends recommendations, with Facebook as their main portal.

The first step in that evolution was the company’s introduction last week of its Social Ads. The idea is that a purchase made by a Facebook member on other Web sites can be listed on their page, allowing their friends see, for example, what book they bought on the other site.

Is Facebook the long-awaited critical-mass online hangout? I really don’t see it. In the popular consciousness, MySpace is probably a stronger, more recognizable brand. Facebook’s stolen the thunder in terms of buzzworthiness, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stay that way — especially not with the synergies possible at MySpace parent company News Corp. Add in the innate fickleness of social networking participants, and I’m secure in my skepticism.

If anything, I’d have guessed some VC — Lorenzen or someone else — would have anointed Second Life as the messianist online community, just by virtue of all the marketing efforts directed there. Not to mention that SL’s wholly graphical interfaces, with animated avatars and rendered landscapes, make that site that much more inviting than Facebook’s text-based format.

I’m sure Lorenzen will burn through a sizable hunk of cash before it becomes apparent that he’s bet on the wrong pony. If his fund has anything left over, maybe he can use that to seed the next Big Thing Online.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/14/2007 10:58:18 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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