Tuesday, April 04, 2006

closing the S&T gender gap: www.girlhype.org

i recently happened across a web site of the American Girl Scouts´ Association (http://www.girlsgotech.org/ ) dedicated to raising awareness and S&T literacy among young girls. then some days ago received similar news via a list i sub to, about a South African initiative this time, called Girlhype http://www.girlhype.org/

"Girlhype offers a variety of educational formats designed for school girls through after-school programs, Saturday camps, and school holiday camps"

i like these kinds of programmes, if only so that they eliminate the fear factor for girls vis-a-vis tech, which btw is not something i think about too often, but have to add that i saw often enough when teaching how frequently (some of) the female students had all sorts of hang ups when doing the tech subjects. they would approach and say:

S: I´m not a tech fundi, so computers are a mystery
JAD: Do you have a cellphone?
(Comment: redundant question really; not having a cellphone is an absolute rarity) S: Yes
JAD: You use it often?
S: Yes
JAD: You know most of its functions, and know your way around?
S: Yes
JAD: Think of the PC as a bigger cellphone with slightly different buttons. Still have a problem?
S: ahem,...no...


now that i look at the word "girlhype" as in its lc format in the domain, it seems odd somehow. ooooh, i guess i´m tired since i start to see shapes in words the same way that people see things in cloud formations...

this reminds me, ever noticed how German folk tend to have hyphens in their URLs? i noticed this last week when in Berlin. can´t say i made the same observation in Cologne some weeks before. but then again, maybe when in Cologne, since i was with friends, i guess looking at billboards was not a priority. anyhow, i´d asked some german/speaking people about this hyphenation-tendency, but did not arrive at a too satisfactory conclusion yet. think about it, it is against the (linguistic) norm to hyphenate phrases as URLs in English. so, we have www.girlhype.org instead of www.girl-hype.org. in the german variation it would take the latter form.

another linguistic oddity was my seeing a word which had three r´s right down the middle. it was a compound (word) , and had to do with the place for returning one´s tray in the cafeteria. so word #1 was semantically equivalent to "return" and word # 2 denoted "tray" if i remember. so imagine word 1 of the form "abcdefghrr" and word 2 of the form "rzyx" and the compound then becomes "abcdefghrrrzyx". i know, phonetically the three r´s may not be a problem, in that "rr" could be a particular sound, and "r" another (and so not as if one had three distinct sounds, yet similar, one after the other) It´s just still strange that orthographically one would have those three same consonants like that, and that one of them would not have dropped away...

the problem with URLs and e-mail addresses also, frequently is that they don´t transpose well to the spoken word, in that you are sure to run into difficulties if you try to give someone an address over the phone (and in anglosajonia, if it is hyphenated - that´s simply fatale ) Not to mention that it is quite simply frowned upon if you were to use a hyphen in an English URL, and doing so denotes some kind of newbieness if not ignorance on the part of the person or entity who created the URL/domain. But thinking further about German tendencies in this regard, since compound words in german are seldom hyphenated (so i´m told), could it be that if one didn´t have the hyphens in the URLs the resulting compound as demonstrated in the web domain, could be semantically distinct from its constituent parts, and so signify something altogether different to its original signification, maybe even verging on the obscene at times? well, that is not impossible, but i don´t know, i am only what one would call "functionally literate" in German (due to a combination of: knowledge of Afrikaans as germanic linguistic base, some rudimentary recall of a German 101 elective some years ago, and some Linguistics-based guesswork).

developing content for free high school science textbooks

Scientific Writing Competition

The Free High School Science Textbook (FHSST) project is holding a
scientific writing competition to develop content for free high
school science textbooks for South Africa.

FHSST will offer prizes to the competition entrants who write the
best section for a Chemistry or Mathematics text book for Grades
10 to 12.

1st : R 5000
2nd : R 3000
3rd : R 2000

About FHSST:
The FHSST project aims to provide free science and mathematics
textbooks for Grades 10-12 to all South African learners. Started
in 2002 by young South African scientists, one of the primary aims
of the project is to develop a complete set of high school science
textbooks, FREE of authors', publishers' and editors' royalties in
line with the new South African curriculum. This is accomplished
through contributions by volunteers. Physics, Chemistry and
Mathematics books are currently being worked on, with Computer
Literacy and Biology in the pipe-line.

Visit http://www.fhsst.org/ for more details on the project. Click
on the "Competition" link for details on how to enter the

-- Jaynie Padayachee
Free High School Science Texts: Physics and Mathematics
Email: jaynie@fhsst.org

Monday, April 03, 2006

post-berlin blog

yes, i attended the berlin 4 open access conference http://berlin4.aei.mpg.de/ , yet my presence there is characterised here (in this blog) by silence. not so unusual, for i seldom if ever blog about the conferences i attend. for sure, there are sufficient others who already do so, and so i don´t feel the need, nor feel compelled. and unlike most who "write once publish many", i prefer to "write/ruminate much and publish once or never". what does that mean? that i find i still use good old-fashioned writing on good old paper as a way to distill my thoughts, so i prefer to not "go public" immediately directly and en vivo.

much as characterises my approach to movies (not reading the reviews extensively beforehand) the same applies when visiting places. maybe this has to do with a not wanting to be overly primed beforehand, and so still have some kind of sense of discovery after having visited. but, so imagine that last week i had wandered around berlin sans map (one doesn´t always need a map; sometimes it´s enough to just literally "follow the crowd"), and imagine further when i turned into a street, saw a starbucks, and thought to myself: okay, i am now in a touristy zone. and i thought then how starbucks had so obviously become some kind of marker in the latter regard. i was reminded of the latter when reading today, post-visit, the following on wikipedia:

"There is some local controversy in Berlin over the fact there is a Starbucks within a few yards of the gate. It is seen as a corporational intrusion upon a national treasure."

I guess we should praise the Germans for having any such debate in the first place, but other sites in other places can have a similar gripe e.g. Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, where the Starbucks is right there at the olden-time gate into the complex which I thought, when seeing it at first, was that thát must be one expensive retail space.