Monday, November 13, 2017

Glossophobia: Better Not Eat Before a Speech

By Melina Leon
Fall 2017 Intern

Just kidding . . . it’s probably not best to make a speech on an empty stomach. But don’t worry, if you’re one of many people with glossophobia, the fear of public speaking, there are some tips and tricks to calm the feeling of nervousness—and, in some cases, nausea—before publicly speaking.

This Harper’s Bazaar article gives some great advice to get over the fear. Some good tips are to know your audience and their expectations; find your natural voice and what you’re comfortable with; write down notes for reference if allowed and familiarize yourself with them; and, most importantly, breathe!

The best way to conquer nerves is to focus on breathing, says Patsy Rodenburg, a Shakespearean voice coach who has worked with many famous actors. Rodenburg also recommends practicing out loud. In an article with the Guardian, Rodenburg says, “The body houses the voice, and the breath energizes it.” A physical warm-up is just as necessary as a vocal one because it is all connected.

However, warm-ups are often overlooked, which can hinder the quality of the speech. There is more to preparing than just memorization. A simple stretching warm-up, paired with breathing exercises, can make a big improvement in the presentation.

Not only will these exercises make you feel more prepared, they will help ease away the nerves so you can feel confident in how you are speaking! So long, glossophobia!

Meeting One of My Heroes: An Evening with Patrick Rothfuss

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern

A few weeks ago, I got to meet my favorite author—Patrick Rothfuss. He was doing a book tour to celebrate the release of the tenth anniversary edition of his fantasy novel The Name of the Wind, and made a stop at Brookline Booksmith to do a Q&A session in the store’s basement and a signing upstairs afterwards.

I wasn’t able to secure a ticket for a seat at the Q&A, but because I arrived almost two hours early, I was able to go downstairs and stand in the back for the Q&A. Everyone who hadn’t arrived so eagerly early was still able to listen to the session over a loudspeaker upstairs.

After the session, I waited for about an hour to get my book signed. There were hundreds of people crammed into this small bookstore, but he happily talked with each person as he signed their books. When it was my turn, he greeted me with a smile and asked how I was doing in a way that wasn’t just a greeting, but a genuine question. We talked briefly and then I said goodbye so the next person could have their book signed.

Getting to meet the person behind the writing I’ve admired for years was amazing and definitely worth the wait!

Pok-A-Tok: A Mayan Ball Game

by Christine Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

In my recently found passion for pre-Colombian cultures, I went to visit Chichén Itzá, a world famous site of Mayan ruins in Yucatán, Mexico. The site hosts one of the largest surviving stone courts where the Maya once competed in a ball game sport called Pok-A-Tok, derived from the Yucatec Mayan word pokolpok.

The court at Chichén Itzá measures 551 feet long and 230 feet wide—about twice the size of an American football field— with surrounding walls that are 26 feet high. Teams of two to three players competed by using their padded elbows, arms, knees, thighs and shoulders—but no hands—to bounce a solid rubber ball through an inverted stone hoop in the center of the wall. The ball, ranging from the size of a softball to a soccer ball, could weigh up to 20 pounds.

Can you imagine how challenging it must have been to throw a 20-pound rubber ball through a 20-foot-high hoop without using your hands? According to my guide in Chichén Itzá, the feat proved so difficult that modern men were unable to replicate the game in the stone court!

The Text With No Meaning: Lorem Ipsum

by Melina Leon
2017 Fall Intern

Imagine randomly hitting the keys on your computer, creating nonsense words as you type. I like to imagine that is how Lorem Ipsum—the filler text that often comes standard with many digital publishing programs—started. However, it actually started with a printer from the 1500s who scrambled up one of Cicero's works, which may be why it’s often mistaken for Latin.

To my surprise, though, Lorem Ipsum isn’t readable Latin. The text doesn’t mean anything at all. It does consist of some Latin words, but the words go through “Greeking,” a process that makes the text unreadable.

Lorem Ipsum is the dummy text of the design world. The purpose of it is to make it easier for designers to get an idea of how their work will look until they have the final text to insert. Another purpose of this filler text is to avoid any distractions that readable text could cause during the layout process.

It’s a shame I can’t write my college papers using Lorem Ipsum!


PSG Reads: Our Favorite Nonfiction

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern 

Fall is a great time to curl up with a good book, and it’s no surprise that we love to read at PSG! This week we asked our staff about nonfiction. Here are some of our favorite titles:

  •            Nora loves In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The first nonfiction book that she read and loved, Nora says that the story was enveloping and chilling to read. She also loves Stephen King’s memoir On Writing for its humor and advice to writers.
  •           Melina agrees with Nora and also loves Stephen King’s On Writing, which she describes as “a refreshing read with a lot of useful tips on becoming a better writer.” She also enjoys how King shares a lot about his life, making the read both informative and entertaining!
  •            Don enjoyed Alone by Richard E. Byrd, who spent five months alone in a shack in Antarctica in 1934. The autobiography is based on the author’s diary entries, which become more and more incomprehensible as he slowly succumbs to carbon monoxide poisoning from his malfunctioning heater. (Spoiler alert: He lives to publish the book!)
  •            Annette’s favorite nonfiction book is Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is a collection of hilarious essays by David Sedaris.
  •           Tess usually prefers fiction, but has a wide range of interests when it comes to nonfiction. She enjoyed Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer when she had to read it in high school. She also loves reading biographies about classical Hollywood actresses like Audrey Hepburn and memoirs written about people’s experiences during WWII.

As for me, I read fiction almost exclusively but I’ve been having a lot of fun reading the textbook for my Intro to Linguistics class—learning about language is a reader’s dream!



In Sync: How Our Brain Waves Affect Each Other

by Christine Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

Most of us have, at some point, felt in sync with a friend or a family member because of a shared experience or shared perspectives. Not only can this “feeling” be measured in oscillation patterns of electrical signals—brain waves— that occur when brain cells communicate with each other, but brain-scanning studies revealed that human brain wave patterns do synchronize in an interactive group of people.

In one such study, researchers had a group of students wear portable electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets to measure changes in their brain wave patterns for the duration of a biology course at a New York high school. Brain waves known as beta bands started synchronizing among the subjects as they were learning. When the students’ brain waves were in sync with one another, the students became more engaged with the class and gave positive feedback about the course and the teacher.
What this study suggests is the mutual benefit of interacting with one another one-on-one or as a team: syncing our brain waves can help improve collaboration and advance a mutual goal. So let’s sync!



Tired of TV? Try Binge-Reading Your Favorite Author

by Melina Leon
Fall 2017 Intern

Binge-watching TV shows has become a popular hobby and it had me wondering if the same could be done with books. Not just reading one book after another, but reading books written by the same author.

I have been reading a lot of work by Stephen King recently. This is partly due to taking a course about him for school, but also because he has such an imaginative mind and has written so many books. I read his memoir, On Writing, over the summer and that sparked major interest in his novels.

A pro of binge-reading authors is getting great insight into their writing habits and common themes used throughout their stories. Another pro is seeing if they take risks and expand out of their go-to genres. King is known for his horror novels, but he dabbles in science fiction and mystery as well. The latter could be seen as a con as well because many authors stick to one genre, so you limit yourself as a reader. Another con is missing out on the creativity and writing styles other authors have to offer, and after reading On Writing, King has made it clear that writers have endless possibilities with their work.

Cons aside, so far I’ve really enjoyed binge-reading King—I definitely recommend it to any fan!


For the Love of Fall

by Nora Chan

Many are disappointed that summer has come to an end. There are no more beach trips or sandals, no more s’mores by the campfire, and school begins once again. But for me, the end of the summer marks the beginning of my favorite season of the year, and it’s not just because of all the pumpkin spice flavors.

Where there is fall, there are apple and pumpkin pies, chicken noodle soup, sweaters and blankets. Not to mention the glorious sound of fallen leaves crunching beneath your feet as you walk. I even enjoy raking the leaves in my yard! It is the best time of the year to curl up under soft layers, drink a hot cup of tea and read all the books in my growing to-be-read pile. And don’t forget about watching football with friends and family every week—and all the food that comes with it.

For the ultimate in comfort clothing, food and activities, autumn is the only season for me. And if this doesn’t convince you that fall is the greatest season, find yourself a place to go apple picking, and get some yourself some apple cider donuts—I promise they won’t disappoint.

Sing-Song and Ping-Pong: Ablaut Reduplication

by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern

Did you know that English is full of little unspoken rules? One of these strange rules happens in ablaut reduplication, which is the repetition of a word with a change in one of its vowels. Terms like criss-cross, Kit-Kat and sing-song are examples of this linguistic phenomenon.

But have you ever noticed that there’s a pattern to these phrases? Try saying them backwards: cross-criss, Kat-Kit, song-sing. It just doesn’t feel right. It turns out that there is a specific order to the vowels we use in these phrases. We always start with the “high” vowels and move progressively towards the “low” vowels. A high vowel, like the i in criss-cross, is formed when your tongue is closer to the roof of your mouth, while a low vowel like the o in sing-song is formed with your tongue in a lower position.

One theory of why we do this is because low vowels are closer to our mouth’s natural resting position, so it’s easier to start in an unnatural position and work our way back to normal. So the order of these phrases will always be I-A-O: sing sang song!


Further Reading
Ohio State University Department of Linguistics, Language Files: Materials for an Introduction to Languages and Linguistics (Ohio State University Press, 2016), 59–60.

From Candy to Chemistry: Working in a Factory Turned Laboratory


by Christine Chen
Fall 2017 Intern

Before joining PSG as an editorial intern, I worked as a chemist in Cambridge, MA, in a six-story structure that once belonged to the New England Confectionary Company—famous for their colorful wafers and conversation hearts, and more commonly known as Necco.

Back in 1928, the Necco candy factory embodied the “promising future of American architecture,” but in 2001, with manufacturing industries moving out of the Cambridge area, Necco sold the building to a pharmaceutical company. The building was gutted out to include an open space at the center. Glass-enclosed elevators moved between floors of biomedical research laboratories.

The cafeteria where I’d meet my colleagues for lunch used to be the power plant. A “winter garden” with tropical plants had replaced the loading dock. The water tower, once painted in colorful stripes like the Necco wafers, was replaced with a double-stranded helix of DNA.

How amazing that a candy-making factory became a center for a cutting-edge research facility, a place where I had been going day in and day out mixing chemicals to synthesize new molecules. The same place where, years ago, workers had mixed batches of sugars and flavors to churn out Necco treats. There were days my lab mate swore he caught a whiff of peppermint candies!

New Season Means New Seasons: PSG’s Favorite Fall Shows

by Melina Leon
Fall 2017 Intern
 
Fall has arrived and there are new television shows starting up this season that some PSG staff members are very excited for, while others are returning with new seasons that are garnering just as much enthusiasm.

During this time of the year I always get ready for a new season of “American Horror Story,” but am also looking forward to “Bob’s Burgers”—I like to balance out the creepiness of one with the comedy of the other.

Here are what others at PSG are watching:
  •            Kate is excited for the revival of “Will and Grace.” She has also been loving “The Good Place,” so her Thursday nights will be filled with great comedy!
  •            Don prefers to binge-watch his shows, and is consumed with dramas like “The Walking Dead,” “Better Call Saul,” “Detectorists,” and “Game of Thrones.”
  •           Bridget hasn’t been watching a lot of TV lately, but she really likes “Águila Roja,” which is a Spanish show similar to “Game of Thrones” and “Zorro.”
  •            Tess is another staff member who is very excited for the return of “Will and Grace.” She also enjoys “This Is Us” and the British drama “The Crown.”
  •            Annette is eagerly awaiting the final season of the hilarious sitcom “New Girl,” which is scheduled to be short, but guaranteed to be sweet.  
  •            Nora is making her way through the original “Will and Grace” so she can dive into the reboot. She is also excited about “Young Sheldon,” which is a spin-off of “The Big Bang Theory.”
  •            Colleen is also enjoying the heartfelt series “This Is Us,” and is very excited for the return of the fantastic cast, especially Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown.

We at PSG have a range of taste in TV shows, but it seems like we will be tuning into some of the same shows this fall. So there will be plenty to chat about on breaks—but we’re always wary of spoilers!
 

Slaying Dragons on the Weekends: Why Dungeons & Dragons is More Than Just a Game


by Bridget Marturano
Fall 2017 Intern


I’ve always been a fairly geeky person, so when I started playing Dungeons and Dragons (also known as D&D) it was no surprise that I immediately fell in love with it. For those who don’t know, D&D is a tabletop roleplaying game that uses polyhedral dice to determine the outcome of in-game events in a fantasy world controlled by the Dungeon Master (DM). Each player creates a unique character and acts out the role of that character throughout the course of the game.

I love D&D so much because, unlike with traditional forms of storytelling, I get to directly participate and help create the story with a group of friends for several hours every week. My particular group of adventurers consists of my human wizard, a half-elf ranger, an elven cleric, and a few others. We’ve spent countless evenings together in taverns, hatched and raised a baby dragon, slain powerful evil entities, and even brought a fallen comrade back to life.

While it’s fun to pick up something like The Lord of the Rings and read about a group of heroes going on a grand quest, it’s even more fun to experience such an adventure firsthand.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Qwerty Waltz: The Boston Typewriter Orchestra


by Katy Rosen
Summer 2017 Intern

I love the sound that typewriters make almost as much as I love satire. These are two elements rarely brought together, so when I started researching the Boston Typewriter Orchestra (BTO), I got unreasonably excited.

Self-described as a group that combines “elements of performance, comedy and satire,” the BTO, a group of five typists, uses typewriter keys to create music. Bedecked in 1950s-style with starchy white shirts and polyester ties, they pound on the keys to self-created rhythms. Their website serves as a place for both updates and pithy inter-office jokes, such as, “There is some leftover Limburger cheese in the company cafeteria. Please take a pound home.”

They have, however, drawn some negative attention for the harsh way they treat their machines. Derrik Albertelli, the “executive typist,” acknowledges that “we whale on them pretty hard and we break a lot of them,” but that the group strives to repurpose the mostly obsolete machines. By transforming an antiquated piece of office technology into a musical instrument, the BTO is keeping the intricate typewriter from rusting away. So, thanks to this group, long lives the typewriter!


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Must-See Mini Monuments


by Rachel Matthews
Summer 2017 Intern

Some landmarks are designed to stand out: DC’s Washington Monument, London’s Big Ben, Russia’s the Motherland Calls (a sword-wielding stone woman who reaches nearly 300 feet!). But other marvels are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them.

In contrast to its towering warrior, Russia houses the smallest public monument in the world. The tiny frog statue, named the Frog Traveler, sits at only 1.7 inches high! It was inspired by the Russian children’s book The Frog Went Travelling, and pays homage to all travelers of the world.

You may have been to the Washington Monument, but did you know that it has a mini-me buried nearby? This 12-foot replica is officially called “Bench Mark A” and serves as a geodetic control point—a point of reference for creating accurate maps. If you want to see it for yourself, you’ll need a park ranger to help you open the manhole cover!

London has an even smaller sight to hunt for. High up on the side of a building on Philpot Lane is the Two Mice Eating Cheese. These mice may be cute, but they have a devious past. Supposedly they commemorate two construction workers who fell to their deaths in a fight after one accused the other of stealing his cheese sandwich. The real thieves got away squeaky clean.

Stockholm is home to the Järnpojke, the Iron Boy (also called the “little boy who looks at the moon”). This monument is less than 6 inches in height and has been sitting in Old Town for 50 years. In the winter, visitors even dress him in warm clothes!

I know on my next vacation, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for small wonders like these!


Image Credit: Pieter Claerhout