Thursday, February 27, 2020

A pair of radio interviews! (February 2020)

The other day I was interviewed on the radio... 

But because we live in a world of streaming media, you can listen to the whole conversation anytime you'd like.  

In fact, I was interviewed twice.  Once by radio host Bob Laughton on the "Point and Click" show out of KZYX (in Mendocino, CA), and again by Larry Magid on his show, "Larry's World."  

I have to say--they were both very fun to do.  In both cases, we just sat and chatted about Google, search, how to improve your search skills... and The Joy of Search as well.  

Here are the links to the shows.  Hope you enjoy them!  

Feb 12, 2020: Interview on "Point and Click" technology radio show with host Bob Laughton 

Feb 19, 2020: Interview on "Larry's World" CBS News Radio with Larry Magid, technology reporter. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

SearchResearch Challenge (2/26/20): Does banning plastic bags actually help? How can you find out?

I'm interested in a variety of topics.. 

... If you've been reading SRS for a while you know I'm fascinated by matters cognitive, aquatic, geologic, musical, and biological.  We've also talked about historical issues and hysterical tales. 

One thing we haven't talked about much is the effect of unanticipated consequences.  

We invent something for a particular purpose--that is, we design or build something to achieve a particular end.  We do X to achieve Y.  

But as you know, The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley.  

For example: Eugene Schieffelin's plan was to introduce a few starlings into the American landscape, and within a few years, all of North America suffers from an abundance of giant flocks of starlings filling the sky, leaving messes everywhere, and eating crops.  Even the Audubon Society says it's okay to hate starlings.  

So it was with great interest that I heard a story on NPR (here's the transcript and the audio) pointing out that passing a law banning thin-film plastic bags in supermarkets seems to have actually caused an INCREASE in the number of plastic bags sold. 

That's pretty counter-intuitive--and clearly an unintended consequence of the law.  The intent was to reduce the consumption of bags.  That doesn't seem to have worked out.   

BUT... the story producers did  one thing that drives me crazy:  After creating a great story (and I encourage you to listen to it, because the story really is excellent), they neglect to give any citations or follow-up!  

Don't DO that!  

However, it give us, the Regulars at SRS, a chance to practice our sleuthing skills.  Our Challenge for this week is a natural outgrowth from reading this story.  These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself every time you hear a news story that makes a surprising claim.  In particular, news stories that make counterintuitive claims should be followed up... if only with a single query to validate what you've heard.  

After hearing this story about plastic bags, I naturally asked: 

1. The story is clearly talking about a paper that Rebecca Taylor wrote.  Can you find that paper?  (What's the title?  Where was it published?)  
2. Once you find that paper, can you tell us where the data was collected from?  How representative is this data?  
3.  What do you call the counterintuitive effect when a partial regulation of consumer products results in the increased consumption of these products?  Is there a technical term we can use in future searches on this topic?  
4. How well has banning plastic bags worked in other places?  Can you find another study of a place where plastic bags have been banned?  How well did that work out?

I hope you see this little Challenge as a kind of model for your own research practices when reading the news.  Many stories leave you with deep questions, even if the writers don't provide the follow-up information, I'm sure our SRS readers can find the missing information.  

Can you? 

Let us know if you can, and how you went about finding it!  

Search on.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Answer: What is Bernard singing about?

Still enchanted...  

... even though Ranz des Vaches has been an earworm for this week.  

Recall that I found this YouTube video with the song “Ranz des Vaches” as sung by Bernard Romanens. 

Bernard Romanens singing Ranz des Vaches.

After listening to this a few times, I had Research Questions.  Maybe you did  too.  Let's tackle them one at a time:  

1. He’s singing this song at a festival.  What festival was it?  

Unfortunately, I don't read French, but I do know how to get to Google Translate.  

This tells me a couple of things.  First, "Armailli" is clearly some kind of title or job description (we'll look this up in RQ 5).  But more importantly, he sings this song at the "Fête des vingerons" in Vevey.  That looks like the name of a party or festival of some kind.  So.... 

     [ Fête des vingerons ] 

The official Fête page (in EN) quickly tells us that this is the Winegrowers Festival, held in the town of Vevey, located in the far southwestern corner of Switzerland, near the border with France.  The festivals date from the 18th century; the last five were in 1927, 1955, 1977, 1999, and 2019.  As it tells us: 

"The Fête des Vignerons pays homage to viticultural traditions many centuries old of an entire region with a spectacular show and coronation of the vineyard hands."

It certainly seems like quite the spectacle! 

2. When will that festival be held next?

That same page tells us that the festival is held every 20 years ("once a generation") ... AND that the previous festival was held LAST YEAR in 2019!   (I'd love to attend this festival--you're telling me I have to wait until 2039?  Arrrgh!)  

3. Once upon a time, this song was forbidden from being sung?  (What?  Why?  Where?  When?) 

My query was the obvious: 

     [ Ranz des Vaches forbidden ] 

which unsurprisingly led me to the Wikipedia page for Ranz des Vaches.  This leads to a fascinating excerpt:  

The Reverend James Wood, writing in the Nuttall Encyclopaedia in 1907, said that such a tune "when played in foreign lands, produces on a Swiss an almost irrepressible yearning for home", repeating 18th century accounts the mal du Suisse or nostalgia diagnosed in Swiss mercenaries. Singing of Kuhreihen was forbidden to Swiss mercenaries because they led to nostalgia to the point of desertion, illness or death.

The 1767 Dictionnaire de Musique by Jean-Jacques Rousseau claims that Swiss mercenaries were threatened with severe punishment to prevent them from singing their Swiss songs. The Romantic connection of nostalgia, the Kuhreihen and the Swiss Alps was a significant factor in the enthusiasm for Switzerland, the development of early tourism in Switzerland and Alpinism that took hold of the European cultural elite in the 19th century.

I didn't know what "Kuhreihen" was, so I looked THAT up.  Turns out that this is a collective noun for the "simple melodies of the Swiss mountain folk."  (And, as the definition below adds, sometimes "...with a middle section in which the names of the cattle are listed..."  

      Maxim:  Never leave a word unknown. 
                         Look those things up!

4. What are the lyrics?   What is the translation into English?  (I can’t understand ANYTHING!) 

The obvious query works here too, although you have to read through the results to make sure you're getting THIS version of the song.  Here are the lyrics I found, in both the original Arpitan and English: 

Le ranz des vaches
The Cows Song

1. Lè j'armayi di Kolonbètè
Dè bon matin chè chon lèvâ.

(Redzingon 1)
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Vinyidè totè, byantsè, nêre,
Rodzè, mothêlè, dzouvenè, ôtrè,
Dèjo chti tsâno, yô vo j'âryo,
Dèjo chti trinbyo, yô i trintso,
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.

2. Kan chon vinyê i Bachè j'Ivouè
Tsankro lo mè! n'an pu pachâ.

(Redzingon 2)
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Lè chenayirè van lè premirè,
Lè totè nêrè van lè dêrêrè.
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.
Lyôba, lyôba, por aryâ.

3. Tyè fan no ché mon pouro Piéro ?
No no chin pâ mô l'inrinbyâ.

(Redzingon 1)

4. Tè fô alâ fiêr a la pouârta,
A la pouârta dè l'inkourâ.

(Redzingon 2)

5. Tyè voli vo ke li dyécho ?
A nouthron brâvo l'inkourâ.

(Redzingon 1)

6. I fô ke dyéchè ouna mècha
Po ke no l'y pouéchan pachâ

(Redzingon 2)

7. L'y è j'elâ fiêr a la pouârta
È l'a de dinche a l'inkourâ :

(Redzingon 1)

8. I fô ke vo dyécho ouna mècha
Po ke no l'y puéchan pachâ.

(Redzingon 2)

9. L'inkourâ li fâ la rèponcha :
Pouro frârè che te vou pachâ,

(Redzingon 1)

10. Tè fô mè bayi ouna motèta
Ma ne tè fô pâ l'èhyorâ.

(Redzingon 2)

11. Invouyi no vouthra chèrvinta
No li farin on bon pri grâ.

(Redzingon 1)

12. Ma chèrvinta l'è tru galéja
Vo porâ bin la vo vouêrdâ.

(Redzingon 2)

13. N'ôchi pâ pouêre, nouthron prithre,
No n'in chin pâ tan afamâ.

(Redzingon 1)

14. Dè tru molâ vouthra chèrvinta
Fudrè èpè no konfèchâ.

(Redzingon 2)

15. Dè prindre le bin dè l'èlyije
No ne cherin pâ pèrdenâ.

(Redzingon 1)

16. Rètouârna t'in mon pouro Piéro
Deri por vo on'Avé Maria.

(Redzingon 2)

17. Prou bin, prou pri i vo chouèto
Ma vinyi mè chovin trovâ.

(Redzingon 1)

18. Piéro rèvin i Bâchè j'Ivouè
È to le trin l'a pu pachâ.

(Redzingon 2)

19. L'y an mè le kiô a la tsoudêre
Ke n'avan pâ la mityi aryâ.

(Redzingon 1).


1. The cowherd from The Colombettes
Got up very early.

(Chorus 1)
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.
Come all, white ones, black ones,
Red ones, the ones marked with stars, young ones, other ones,
Under this oak tree where I milk you,
Under this aspen tree where I make cheese.
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.

2. When they reached Bachè j'Ivouè
A pox upon me! They couldn't get through.

(Chorus 2)
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.
The ones with bells go first,
The completely black ones go last.
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.
Lyoba, lyoba, for milking.

3. "Poor Peter, what do we do here?
We're pretty stuck in the mud."

(Chorus 1)

4. "You must go and knock on the door,
On the priest's door."

(Chorus 2)

5. "What do you want me to say
To our good priest?"

(Chorus 1)

6. "He must say a mass
So that we can get through."

(Chorus 2)

7. He went to knock on the door
And said this to the priest:

(Chorus 1)

8. "You must say a mass
So that we can get through."

(Chorus 2)

9. The priest gave his answer:
"Poor brother, if you want to get through..."

(Chorus 1)

10. "You must give me a bit of cheese
But without skimming the milk."

(Chorus 2)

11. "Send us your maid,
We'll make a good, fat cheese for her."

(Chorus 1)

12. "My maid is too pretty,
You could very well keep her."

(Chorus 2)

13. "Don't be afraid, dear priest,
We're not that hungry for her."

(Chorus 1)

14. "You'll have to hear our confession
Because we kissed your servant too much."

(Chorus 2)

15. "We wouldn't be forgiven
For taking the Church's property".

(Chorus 1)

16."Go back, my poor Peter,
I'll say a Hail Mary for you."

(Chorus 2)

17. "I wish you many goods and cheese,
But come see me often."

(Chorus 1)

18. Peter went back to the Bachè j'Ivouè
And all the herd could get through.

(Chorus 2)

19. They put the rennet in the cauldron
Before they milked half the herd.

(Chorus 1)

5. Bernard Romanens is clearly wearing some kind of traditional costume that suggests a particular kind of job.  What is Romanens job (as indicated by his costume)?  

I started by doing a Search-By-Image for the picture of Bernard (the first picture above).  Here's what I found.  Wonderful things!  Lots of images from the festival.  

But I didn't learn too much about his costume.  But let's start with that description of Bernard we saw before.  

In Wikipedia "... the Armailli (from the patois gruérien armaye, cow) is a typical shepherd of the Friborg and Vaud Alps... the master armailli is the head of the cheese farm on the pasture where the herds of cows spend the months of summer..."  

So let's do this search:  

     Armailli costume ] 

This costume is the "Costume du soliste du Ranz des vaches (Armailli) de la fête des vignerons."  But clearly derived from the traditional shepherd / cheesemaker costume.  

As you know, there are links to all of the places in Wikipedia where this image is used.  (Scroll to the bottom of the page.)  

In this list we find the word "Bredzon," which turns out to be the name of the tradiational outfit worn by Swiss herdsmen--the clothing of the Armailli!  

But what of the man himself?  Bernard was an Armailli and cheese professional, a member of the Choir of the herdsmen of Gruyère.  Alas, after touring extensively as a singer of traditional Swiss songs, he died under mysterious circumstances in the village of Villarimboud at age 37.  

Bernard's tragedy aside, this song and this festival are fantastic.  You can watch the 2019 performance of Rache des Vaches on this YouTube video.  (It's worth it if you have a shred of Swiss soul in you. It might even make you desert your post!)  

I think I have to go to this festival... even if I have to wait 19 years.  See you in Vevey in 2039!   

Search Lessons

There's one big and obvious one here... and a more subtle one... 

1.  Not everything is in English.  In fact, few of the resources we used for this Challenge are.  Learn to use Google Translate and count on looking up all of the sources in French and German!  (There is, unfortunately, no translation for Arpitan!)  

2.  Learn the words you don't know In fact, be SURE to look up the terms you find that you don't really understand.  That's how we learned about what "Armailli" means... which is important to answering the Challenge!  

Search on!  

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

SearchResearch Challenge (2/12/20): What is Bernard singing about?

I guess I'm still in a Central European frame of mind... 

A few weeks ago we had a Challenge about the song that goes "eins, zwei, g'suffa."  

In the process of doing my research for that Challenge, I ran across a hauntingly beautiful song on YouTube. 

I found this YouTube video with the song “Ranz des Vaches” as sung by Bernard Romanens. 

Bernard Romanens singing Ranz des Vaches.

Listen to it--a wonderful song that strikes at your heartstrings.  

But the description is in French, and as I listened, I realized that I don't understand either the song OR the context.  

What's going on in this little video? 

As I listened I couldn't help my curiosity about what's happening here.  My brain started asking questions--maybe you can answer them!!  (Doesn't your mind work like this too?)  

In particular... 

1. He’s singing this song at a festival.  What festival was it?  

2. When will that festival be held next?

3. Once upon a time, this song was forbidden from being sung?  (What?  Why?  Where?  When?) 

4. What are the lyrics?   What is the translation into English?  (I can’t understand ANYTHING!) 

5. Bernard Romanens is clearly wearing some kind of traditional costume that suggests a particular kind of job.  What is Romanens job (as indicated by his costume)?  

Next time we'll move beyond Central European tunes, but I had to pose this Challenge because I couldn't get this song out of my head for the past two weeks.  Ever since I heard it, I've been dreaming of singing in a sunny field in Switzerland, alphorns in the distance, gazing happily across the snowy Alps with clouds of edelweiss in the meadow before me.  

Search on!