Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Outlining your Novel |

I saw Peter Brett mention a stepsheet and I've never heard the phrase before.

Turns out it's a sort of outline.

Outlining your Novel |

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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Why British Singers Lose Their Accents When Singing

Why British Singers Lose Their Accents When Singing:

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I always wondered. This kind of explains it.


Mick Jagger, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Ed Sheeran, Phil Collins and George Michael all grew up in or near London and have very recognizably British accents. Once on stage, they sing like someone who grew up in New England rather than old. Yet another example is Adele, who has a lovely speaking voice, a very heavy cockney accent, yet her singing pipes do not indicate her dialect. One might argue that Adele’s speaking and singing voices were two different people if listening without visuals. Going beyond the British, we see the same thing with other non-American musicians, such as the Swedish band ABBA, and many others singing in English, yet from various places around the world. It seems like no matter where you’re from, if you’re singing in English, you’re probably singing with an American accent, unless you’re actively trying to retain your native accent, which some groups do.
There are several reasons we notice accents ‘disappearing’ in song, and why those singing accents seem to default to “American”. In a nutshell, it has a lot to do with phonetics, the pace at which they sing and speak, and the air pressure from one’s vocal chords. As far as why “American” and not some other accent, it’s simply because the generic “American” accent is fairly neutral. Even American singers, if they have, for instance, a strong “New Yorker” or perhaps a “Hillbilly” accent, will also tend to lose their specific accent, gravitating more towards neutral English, unless they are actively trying not to, as many Country singers might.
For the specific details, we’ll turn to linguist and author, David Crystal, from Northern Ireland. According to Crystal, a song’s melody cancels out the intonations of speech, followed by the beat of the music cancelling out the rhythm of speech. Once this takes place, singers are forced to stress syllables as they are accented in the music, which forces singers to elongate their vowels. Singers who speak with an accent, but sing it without, aren’t trying to throw their voice to be deceptive or to appeal to a different market; they are simply singing in a way that naturally comes easiest, which happens to be a more neutral way of speaking, which also just so happens to be the core of what many people consider an “American” accent.
To put it in another way, it’s the pace of the music that affects the pace of the singer’s delivery. A person’s accent is easily detectable when they are speaking at normal speed. When singing, the pace is often slower. Words are drawn out and more powerfully pronounced and the accent becomes more neutral.
Another factor is that the air pressure we use to make sounds is much greater when we sing. Those who sing have to learn to breathe correctly to sustain notes for the right amount of time, and singing requires the air passages to expand and become larger. This changes the quality of the sound. As a result, regional accents can disappear because syllables are stretched out and stresses fall differently than in normal speech. So, once again, this all adds up to singing accents becoming more neutral.
So at this point, you might be wondering if the musicians actually know they are losing their accents when they sing. Working in radio, I’ve contemplated how accents seem to disappear over my 20-year career. Keith Urban isn’t British, though fans of the Aussie singer swoon over his speaking voice (many women could listen to him read the dictionary) and have noticed that he sounds more American when he sings. I have spoken to Keith a few times and decided the good-natured Keith wouldn’t mind me posing the question: How is it you sing differently than you talk? (Certainly not wanting to offend Keith, I began with a few genuine compliments admiring his genius guitar skills.) He took it all in stride, laughed, then responded, ‘I don’t know.’ (More like kneh-owww) ‘Good question,’ he said. Though I don’t think I have an accent. I think you do!’ It’s quite reasonable to believe that a Hoosier like me sounds a bit hillbilly to a guy from down under. Keith could not really explain the mystery behind it, and instead went on to explain why he was wearing black toenail polish the last time I chatted him up in person. (His wife, Nicole, has since been his inspiration to stop, he says.) So it would seem, that at least with this sample size of one, the artist in question is not aware of any accent change when he sings. So what about others?
Andy Gibson, a New Zealand researcher at AUT’s University Institute of Culture, Discourse & Communication also believes the change in accent between speaking and singing is not a deliberate one, nor are artists even aware of the change. A 2010 study he conducted of singers with speaking accents showed indeed that they were not aware that they sounded any different; they felt they were singing naturally. Crystal says it is unusual for a singer to hold a regional accent through an entire song, resulting in what he calls ‘mixed accents’ for most.
And then there’s Kate Nash, the anti-norm. The English-singing sensation was an unknown until Lily Allen mentioned her on a MySpace page and now she boasts more than 100,000 followers on twitter. She didn’t know she had talent until she picked up her first guitar two years ago, and the rest is history. Nash has garnered success on the music charts, accent and all, and flat out refuses to even attempt to sing with an American accent. She makes no apologies for her background and even themes her lyrics toward an English audience. She is as English as tea in the afternoon and proud of bucking the trend that so many British artists seem to follow, whether intentionally, or more likely in most cases, not.
Bonus Facts:
  • Eeyore’s name is based off the British Cockney dialect version of the phrase “hee-haw”.
  • The guy who did the voice for Optimus Prime also did the voice for Eeyore and was the first person to voice Nintendo’s Mario character.
  • Similar to how their are numerous accents within the generic “American” accent, it’s not quite accurate to simply say “British accent”. There are quite a few British accents- an amazing amount actually, particularly considering the entire UK could fit into Texas, and England itself is only about the size of Alabama. A few of the most common “British accents” out there include: Cockney (which was butchered by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins), Estuary English (Southeast British), West Country (Southwest British), Midlands English, Northern England English, Geordie, and Welsh English, among many others.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Angie Tribeca - Season 1

Found a great show on TBS. They put out all of season 1 at one time, so I was able to binge watch it, but it definitely left me wanting more.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Early clue to why some children may have reading woes -

Early clue to why some children may have reading woes -

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Early clue to why some children may have reading woes

This photo provided by the Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University, shows scalp electrodes to pick up how children's brains react to sounds such as speech in a noisy background. New research suggests it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle to read, and it has to do with how they decipher speech when it's noisy.

This photo provided by the Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University, shows scalp electrodes to pick up how children's brains react to sounds such as speech in a noisy background. New research suggests it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle to read, and it has to do with how they decipher speech when it's noisy.
Photo courtesy of Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University

Associated PressBy Lauran Neergaard
AP Medical Writer

WASHINGTON -- New research suggests it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle to read -- and it has to do with how the brain deciphers speech when it's noisy.
Scientists are looking for ways to tell, as young as possible, when children are at risk for later learning difficulties so they can get early interventions.
There are some simple pre-reading assessments for preschoolers. But Northwestern University researchers went further and analyzed brain waves of children as young as 3.
How well youngsters' brains recognize specific sounds -- consonants -- amid background noise can help identify who is more likely to have trouble with reading development, the team reported recently in the journal PLOS Biology.
If the approach pans out, it may provide "a biological looking glass," said study senior author Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.
"If you know you have a 3-year-old at risk, you can as soon as possible begin to enrich their life in sound so that you don't lose those crucial early developmental years."
Connecting sound to meaning is a key foundation for reading. For example, preschoolers who can match sounds to letters earlier go on to read more easily.
Auditory processing is part of that pre-reading development: If your brain is slower to distinguish a "D" from a "B" sound, for example, then recognizing words and piecing together sentences could be affected, too.
What does noise have to do with it?
It stresses the system, as the brain has to tune out competing sounds to selectively focus, in just fractions of milliseconds. And consonants are more vulnerable to noise than vowels, which tend to be louder and longer, Kraus explained.
"Hearing in noise is arguably one of the most computationally difficult things we ask our brain to do," she said.
The new study used an EEG to directly measure the brain's response to sound, attaching electrodes to children's scalps and recording the patterns of electric activity as nerve cells fired.
The youngsters sat still to watch a video of their choice, listening to the soundtrack in one ear while an earpiece in the other periodically piped in the sound "dah" superimposed over a babble of talking.
Measuring how the brain's circuitry responded, the team developed a model to predict children's performance on early literacy tests. Then they did a series of experiments with 112 kids between the ages of 3 and 14.
The 30-minute test predicted how well 3-year-olds performed a language-development skill and how those same youngsters fared a year later on several standard pre-reading assessments, the team reported. Time will tell how well those children eventually read.
But Kraus' team also tested older children -- and the EEG scores correlated with their current reading competence in school, and even flagged a small number who'd been diagnosed with learning disabilities.
Oral language exposure is one of the drivers of reading development, and the study is part of a broader push to find ways to spot problem signs early, said Brett Miller, who oversees reading disabilities research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which helped fund the work.
But don't expect EEGs for preschoolers any time soon. While the machines are common among brain specialists, this particular use is complicated and expensive, and further research is necessary, Kraus cautioned.
Her ultimate goal is to test how a child's brain processes sound even younger, maybe one day as a part of the routine newborn hearing screening.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How Stress & Learning Affect the Brain

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning | Edutopia:

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By Judy Willis, MD

The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain's learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.

The Proven Effects of Positive Motivation

Thankfully, this information has led to the development of brain-compatible strategies to help students through the bleak terrain created by some of the current trends imposed by the Common Core State Standards and similar mandates. With brain-based teaching strategies that reduce classroom anxiety and increase student connection to their lessons, educators can help students learn more effectively.
In the past two decades, neuroimaging and brain-mapping research have provided objective support to the student-centered educational model. This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are relevant to students' lives, interests, and experiences. Lessons can be stimulating and challenging without being intimidating, and the increasing curriculum requirements can be achieved without stress, anxiety, boredom, and alienation as the pervasive emotions of the school day.
During my 15 years of practicing adult and child neurology with neuroimaging and brain mapping as part of my diagnostic tool kit, I worked with children and adults with brain function disorders, including learning differences. When I then returned to university to obtain my credential and Masters of Education degree, these familiar neuroimaging tools had become available to education researchers. Their widespread use in schools and classrooms globally has yet to occur.
This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are motivating and engaging. Positive motivation impacts brain metabolism, conduction of nerve impulses through the memory areas, and the release of neurotransmitters that increase executive function and attention. Relevant lessons help students feel that they are partners in their education, and they are engaged and motivated.
We live in a stressful world and troubled times, and that is not supposed to be the way for children to grow up. Schools can be the safe haven where academic practices and classroom strategies provide children with emotional comfort and pleasure as well as knowledge. When teachers use strategies to reduce stress and build a positive emotional environment, students gain emotional resilience and learn more efficiently and at higher levels of cognition.

Neuroimaging and EEG Studies

Studies of electrical activity (EEG or brain waves) and metabolic activity (from specialized brain scans measuring glucose or oxygen use and blood flow) show the synchronization of brain activity as information passes from the sensory input processing areas of the somatosensory cortex to the reticular activating and limbic systems. For example, bursts of brain activity from the somatosensory cortex are followed milliseconds later by bursts of electrical activity in the hippocampus, amygdala, and then the other parts of the limbic system. This data from one of the most exciting areas of brain-based learning research gives us a way to see which techniques and strategies stimulate or impede communication between the parts of the brain when information is processed and stored. In other words, properly applied, we can identify and remove barriers to student understanding!
The amygdala is part of limbic system in the temporal lobe. It was first believed to function as a brain center for responding primarily to anxiety and fear. Indeed, when the amygdala senses threat, it becomes over-activated. In students, these neuroimaging findings in the amygdala are seen with feelings of helplessness and anxiety. When the amygdala is in this state of stress-induced over-activation, new sensory information cannot pass through it to access the memory and association circuits.
This is the actual neuroimaging visualization of what has been called theaffective filter by Stephen Krashen and others. This term describes an emotional state of stress in students during which they are not responsive to learning and storing new information. What is now evident on brain scans during times of stress is objective physical evidence of this affective filter. With such evidence-based research, the affective filter theories cannot be disparaged as "feel-good education" or an "excuse to coddle students" -- if students are stressed out, the information cannot get in. This is a matter of science.
This affective state occurs when students feel alienated from their academic experience and anxious about their lack of understanding. Consider the example of the decodable "books" used in phonics-heavy reading instruction. These are not engaging and motivating. They are usually not relevant to the students' lives because their goal is to include words that can be decoded based on the lesson. Decodability is often at the expense of authentic meaning to the child. Reading becomes tedious and, for some children, confusing and anxiety-provoking. In this state, there is reduced passage of information through the neural pathways from the amygdala to higher cognitive centers of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, where information is processed, associated, and stored for later retrieval and executive functioning.
Additional neuroimaging studies of the amygdala, hippocampus, and the rest of the limbic system, along with measurement of dopamine and other brain chemical transmitters during the learning process, reveal that students' comfort level has critical impact on information transmission and storage in the brain. The factors that have been found to affect this comfort level such as self-confidence, trust and positive feelings for teachers, and supportive classroom and school communities are directly related to the state of mind compatible with the most successful learning, remembering, and higher-order thinking.

The Power of Joyful Learning

The highest-level executive thinking, making connections, and "aha" moments of insight and creative innovation are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of what Alfie Kohn calls exuberant discovery, where students of all ages retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning. With current research and data in the field of neuroscience, we see growing opportunities to coordinate the design of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in ways that will reflect these incredible discoveries.
Joy and enthusiasm are absolutely essential for learning to happen -- literally, scientifically, as a matter of fact and research. Shouldn't it be our challenge and opportunity to design learning that embraces these ingredients?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Teachers tap into brain science to boost learning

Teachers tap into brain science to boost learning

PBS NewHour- Education

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: neuroscience and education.
Thousands of teachers around the country are learning about an alternative teaching program that aims to use scientific discoveries about the brain to improve the way children learn in the classroom.
Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports from Philadelphia.
JASSELLE CIRINO, Teacher, Francis Scott Key Elementary: When I say class, you…
CLASS: You stop what you’re doing. Look at the teacher.
JOHN TULENKO: Today is Wacky Wednesday in Jasselle Cirino’s third grade classroom, which explains the blue wig.
JASSELLE CIRINO: So I want you to teach your neighbor.
JOHN TULENKO: But the rest of what you’re about to see is what her classroom looks like every day.
JASSELLE CIRINO: I want giant gestures.
JOHN TULENKO: She uses a set of techniques some call whole brain teaching.
JASSELLE CIRINO: A lot of times in traditional teaching, you’re just lecturing, and you’re talking and talking. And what we like to say, whole brainers, we like to say that the more you talk, the more students you lose. And so we use different methods to engage multiple parts of the brain. And that way, you get 100 percent engagement.
JOHN TULENKO: These days, scientists can look further into the brain than ever, pinpointing the neurons and circuits that control how we think and act. All that’s sparking a movement that’s changing the way some teachers teach.
Are there parts of the brain that you’re aiming at?
JASSELLE CIRINO: Yes, the hippocampus, the motor cortex, the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s boss, so something like class, it turns on the prefrontal cortex, which makes the brain’s decisions.
So it says, hey, pay attention. I’m about to tell you something. So, once I have their attention, I teach the material usually through mirrors.
This deals with the mirror neurons in your brain. And so what I say, they repeat. To learn anything, you have to repeat something. You have to repeat something that’s modeled to you. That’s where it starts.
JOHN TULENKO: A lot of times in your class, I saw you gesture, and then you asked your students to gesture.
JASSELLE CIRINO: Right. That’s for engaging their motor cortex. When you act things out while you’re reading, you comprehend more. And we use brainees. These are gestures that are tied to writing skills.
JOHN TULENKO: Can you give me some examples?
JASSELLE CIRINO: Sure. For example is an example. But or however. If, then, so more of like a cause and effect. Adjective. A noun is a person, place or thing, compare, contrast, simile, metaphor, I mean, the list goes on and on.
JOHN TULENKO: I saw you a bunch of times where you would stop, and then you would say to the group, teach.
JOHN TULENKO: What’s going on there?
JASSELLE CIRINO: So I have taught them the lesson, but now they need to teach that main point to each other. They’re getting another repetition of the material, but, this time, a lot of times it’s in their own words. And they’re learning how to put things in their own words.
You’re writing while you’re doing it. You’re gesturing, so you’re remembering it in different parts of the brain. You’re not just listening. You’re also speaking. You need to be doing all of these things at once in order to engage the whole brain.
JOHN TULENKO: We wanted to know if science actually backed up any of this. So we brought a video of Jasselle’s class to Daphna Shohamy, a neuroscientist at Columbia University.
DAPHNA SHOHAMY, Columbia University: I buy it. It makes great sense to me.
I mean, the brain is really in many ways wired for actions. Right? It’s — it’s really not wired to sit passively and absorb any information. But I think where — you know, where I wouldn’t fully agree is the idea that more activity is always good. More brain activity in more places doesn’t equal more learning or a better memory.
JOHN TULENKO: OK. How can children learn better?
DAPHNA SHOHAMY: Right, right. Yes, it’s the million-dollar question. I think we have some answers.
The brain learns when things are surprising and interesting.
JASSELLE CIRINO: What is going on here?
DAPHNA SHOHAMY: So if I give you a $20 bill, now, all of a sudden, you will sort of have a burst of activity in your dopamine neurons. They fire.
But if I do that regularly, like every five minutes, I give you $20, your dopamine neurons will stop firing. So what these neurons are doing is they’re signaling how unexpected an event was in the world. They’re not signaling how good or bad it was. They’re signaling how unexpectedly good or unexpectedly bad it was.
So keeping things a little bit noisy and a little bit different is actually really beneficial for learning in many different ways.
JASSELLE CIRINO: Hold your horses.
JOHN TULENKO: Neuroscience says there’s something else important going on here.
JASSELLE CIRINO: When you’re learning things, just even in life, you connect it with a type of feeling. And so the main emotion we want you to feel in a whole brain classroom is fun.
DAPHNA SHOHAMY: Our brain was evolved to survive. We need to remember things that were of emotional and social significance. That’s probably much more important than remembering any bit of information that was communicated to us within a lecture.
JASSELLE CIRINO: We’re done being blah. It’s time to get fuzzy.
CLASS: Fuzzy!
JOHN TULENKO: Here are a few other things neuroscientists think the rest of us ought to know about the brain, that stress damages neurons and impairs learning. Brain training games claim to be effective, but, in fact, the jury’s still out.
What does help is regular physical exercise. Staying active keeps the brain developing and delays cognitive decline as we get older.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I’m John Tulenko reporting for the NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As for results, a study on the effect of whole brain teaching in one California elementary school found test scores in math and language arts rose by an average of 11 percent.