01-17-2019

English: For the most part, I enjoy reading content on NPR. But I often see typos, even (especially!) in the titles of articles. I realize that there might be many biases at play, but I did some searching to see if this is a known phenomenon. What I found was the following post, from NPR itself: The Biggest Sticklers For Typos Tend To Be ‘Jerks’.

Prompted: [Why do you like/share on social media?] I don’t post much, but when I do, it’s usually because the content is so engaging (e.g., informative, shocking, funny) that I want to share it with multiple people, yet I’m too lazy to send individual messages. I’m also afraid that they’ll react indifferently, and passive rejection stings more in private messages. But for the most part, I think I have a fairly good sense of how each of my friends would react to different content, so I message them accordingly.

Sometimes I’ll “like” something to get the platform (e.g., Facebook) to show me similar content in the future—surely this makes a difference (?). And sometimes I even feel that basketball players, say, derive some amount of confidence from their popularity on social media. So by liking a post about a certain player, I feel like I’m galvanizing them to play better. This idea isn’t too absurd, I think, but I do feel like I’m peeing in the ocean.

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01-03-2019

Books: I recently read The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin, based on a recommendation given by a friend. I’m definitely going to read the second book as well, since I feel like the first was mostly setting the scene for the real stuff. But on its own, I think the book is quite good; it blends science and historical fiction with elements of mystery. And I think it’s the only thing I’ve read (so far) about first contact.

12-27-2018

Board Games: I recently got to play Puerto Rico, one of the highest-rated and most well-known games of all time. The three-player game was a great experience, but I’d definitely like to try it with four players as well. I’ve also gotten to play Magic Maze at various player counts, which I’ve wanted to do for a while.

English: So jury-rig is assembling a temporary solution, and jerry-built describes something cheaply or flimsly built. Finally, there’s jerry-rigged, which isn’t recognized by most dictionaries but used in everyday speech to mean jury-rigged. The origins of these terms are unclear, but it’s possible that jerry-rig is just a misspelling of jury-rig.

12-20-2018

Leisure: One aspect of podcasts that I appreciate is their relatively barren comments sections. I often read YouTube/Reddit/Facebook comments, sometimes without even watching/reading the video/post itself, and though they can be quite funny, most comments are rather mundane.

But with podcasts, I simply download every episode (without knowing how popular it was) and listen, without scrolling through any comments. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places, but this unadulterated freedom is really pleasant.

12-13-2018

Leisure: I’ve been playing quite a bit of Hanabi at Board Game Arena, with both real-life and Internet friends. It’s a cooperative game played silently, so it’s usually a very satisfying experience. But I definitely get frustrated (sometimes) when players deviate from (my) expectations.

A friend once recommended watching movies in order to participate in a larger number of conversations. I haven’t been following this advice, but I indeed often find myself excluded from conversations about movies. This doesn’t upset me per se, but I am reconsidering the advice. My favorite movies are nearly all from my childhood; maybe I haven’t watched enough.

English sidenote: Apparently (see here, here), we see movies in theaters and watch movies at home. Seeing is more passive (e.g., immersed in front of a giant screen), while watching is more active (e.g., directing one’s eyes at a small screen). Another explanation is this: seeing encompasses the whole process of going out and looking at something, and when we’re actually sitting in the movie theater, we’re watching the movie.

12-06-2018

English: I didn’t realize there are pretty firm rules regarding prefer and rather (e.g., here and here); I’ve always played it by ear. For my own reference, here’s a little rundown (based on the links above). As usual, what I write might not be entirely correct.

For general preferences (prefer):

  1. I prefer pizza to celery. I prefer eating to running.
  2. I do not like celery; I prefer to eat pizza. I prefer eating pizza to celery.
  3. I prefer pizza rather than celery.

Notice that to can be used after prefer in two ways: between two nouns (or activities), or as a to-infinitive form. The –ing form is also fine, but sounds a bit less natural to me (see #2 above).

For specific preferences (would prefer):

  1. I ate celery yesterday; I‘d prefer to eat pizza today.
  2. I’m craving cheese right now; I‘d prefer pizza. I would prefer to eat pizza.
  3. I‘d prefer to eat this pizza rather than run up that hill. (Note that the second infinitive does not have a to.)

It seems that here, we must use the to-infinitive; the –ing form is not fine (even though “I’d prefer driving” sounds very natural to me). To remember this, observe that the “d” in would and the “t” in to are aveolar stops, so they must go together.

Remark: We can use would rather for both general and specific preferences:

  1. I‘d rather drive a car than ride a bike. (general)
  2. I ate celery yesterday; I‘d rather eat pizza today. (specific)

We never use to with would rather: we use than, or the to-infinitive without the to. And of course, we can’t rather anything; rather (as a verb) is always preceded by a would.

However, rather can be used as part of the phrase rather than; here, the verb can be prefer or would prefer, depending on specificity (see the #3 examples above).

For other people:

I think this situation is the most complicated. When referring to the actions of other people, we can use would prefer or would rather. With would prefer, we add object pronoun + to-infinitive, or we add “it if” + past simple. The latter sounds more natural to me:

  1. She‘d prefer me to eat the celery. She‘d prefer it if I ate the celery.
  2. I‘d prefer him to drive. I‘d prefer it if he drove.
  3. This film is scary; they‘d prefer their children to not watch it. They‘d prefer it if their children didn’t watch it.

In contrast, with would rather, we simply add a past simple:

  1. She‘d rather I ate the celery.
  2. I‘d rather he drove.
  3. This film is scary; they‘d rather their children didn’t watch it.

In summary:

Phrase Preference
prefer general
would prefer specific, other people
would rather general or specific, other people
rather n/a; used in “(would) prefer … rather than”

Finally, let’s look at some incorrect sentences:

  1. I prefer pizza than celery. (When making comparisons after prefer, we use to or rather than.)
  2. I prefer drive. (After prefer, we use to-infinitive or –ing.)
  3. I‘d prefer driving tonight. (After would prefer, we use a to-infinitive or a noun. But again, this sentence sounds very natural to me.)
  4. I‘d rather eat pizza rather than celery. (The verb preceding rather than should be prefer or would prefer.)
  5. She‘d prefer me eating the celery. (Here after would prefer, we use a to-infinitive.)
  6. I‘d rather he drive. I‘d rather him drive. (After would rather, we would add a past simple. But this sentence sounds natural to me.)

So in conclusion, would rather seems to be the (grammatically) safest, easiest bet. It can be general or specific, and for other people, we just add a past simple phrase. But it can also sound a bit disrespectful, considering that people often use would rather in jokes or exaggerations.

11-29-18

Leisure: I started listening to Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, and I’m glad that for once, I can listen a podcast from the beginning as new episodes are released. With other podcasts, I started listening years after they launched, and sometimes I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot.

And regarding podcasts, I used to listen to mostly informative channels (e.g., FreakonomicsStuff You Should Know, The Tim Ferriss Show), but now I listen to comedy (e.g., Monday Morning Podcast, Ear Biscuits). It’s definitely more relaxing: when listening for information, I tend to play the episode at least twice as fast as normal, but I never speed up comedy. Also, I’ve become interested in comedy itself (e.g., what makes people funny, how to be funny), so I guess listening to comedians is informative in that regard.