Seattle Accent

There is apparently a debate about whether the Northwest has its own accent. It’s surprising that there is even a debate. If you talk to anyone who grew up in this area; especially the non-urban outskirts, you can immediately tell — and the accent is definitely different from California and Canada.

I think the reason that some people have trouble believing that there is a local accent is because there are so few actual locals in the Northwest. Most people in the Northwest have been here less than five years. And many of the people who were raised here (since childhood is when accents most strongly form) were raised by parents who weren’t from the Northwest. Most of the people I work with on a daily basis are from outside the U.S., and certainly aren’t “locals”. Most UW professors I know are not from the area, and don’t have deep roots with the “locals”. Seattle is the typical modern port town; most of the people you meet will not be sporting a local accent.

But when you meet someone born and bred by locals, you hear it in their voices. Ever since moving here, I’ve been interested by the accent, in part because there shouldn’t be one, and in part because I’ve noticed that it’s strongest in women (as the study shows) and particular groups of residents. I theorize that accent is as much an outgrowth of cultural self-identification as geography (how else to explain that people in Vancouver B.C. sound more like people in Toronto than like people in Seattle?). Does this mean that women who move to Seattle are more likely to self-identify with a particular clique or culture?

What’s up with x104?

Since moving to Seattle from Detroit 7 years ago, one of the things I have missed most is quality local radio. Being used to talents like Bushman, Electrifying Mojo, and “The Reverend Doctor Deacon Doug”, Seattle radio was a joke. The whole Northwest has never had a real hip-hop station.

But about a year ago, x104 appeared on the airwaves. They play really good music; including lots of stuff that’s not for sale. For quality of lineup, the other stations in Seattle are not even in the same category. It’s right up there with Hot 97 or the Detroit stations, IMO. But I keep expecting them to go out of business or off the air any day now.

For starters,they’re broadcasting from Mercer Island. The signal dies out by Kent to the south and Everett to the north, and doesn’t go much past Kirkland to the east. In other words, if you are trying to build a hip-hop station built on ads, that is exactly the wrong market.

This might explain why they have no ads. None. I have heard a public service announcement before, but that’s about it. Are you even “in business” if you don’t sell any ads? Is this channel going to disappear as soon as its benefactor gets bored or runs out of money? It is still the first and only real hip-hop station in the Northwest, but I can’t help feeling they won’t have staying power. Enjoy it while you can.

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I’ve e-mailed with both station manager and music director at x104. They are funded through people who underwrite them and private donations. They explained that they have a deal where they pay a flat fee rather than per-song royalties, which is apparently very affordable. No mention of Mercer Island High, although the call letters KMIH suggest some affiliation.

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That makes three good options for local FM with no commercials. 104.5 for hip-hop; 90.3/91.7 for eclectic, including a good hip-hop show; and 89.5 for dance.

US/China Trading Bloc?

Zimran Ahmed is asking why the alarm about the Yuan. I have my own questions. If it is good for the Europeans to share a common currency, why shouldn’t the U.S. become more competitive by forming a single-currency trading bloc with China? Pegging yuan to the dollar means that we’ve alreadycreated a de facto common currency. And although we don’t share a central bank,at least we are moving in the right direction, and it’s not as if the Chinese are the ones printing dollars out of thin air. If we do convince them to unpeg their currency, I have a feeling that in 20 years we will be regretting it. Old Europe initially had the same arguments against allowing Eastern Europe into Euro-land that we use to say that China should not peg to the dollar.Cheaper labor, less reguations, etc. — but now Eastern Europe is the growth engine for all of the countries in the Euro bloc.

Genius in Shanghai

With all due respect to Tyler and Bill, this oneis wrong. It is not an insightful question about globalization at all.

“Twenty years ago would you rather have been a B-student in Poughkeepsie or a genius in Shanghai? And today?”

Thechange in answersis purely becausethe political climate in Shanghaihas changed; it has nothing to do with globalization. Go back more than 20 years, and the answer changes yet again. It is only a few generations back when a smart business person in Shanghai could manage to acquire a sizable harem and luxurious lifestyle that would make the Poughkeepsie B-student green with envy (certainly the student of that time, perhaps even today).

Genius has always been a special case. The only question worth asking in the context of globalization, IMO, is “would you rather raise a B-student in Poughkeepsie or a B-student in Shanghai?” In other words, if you had a choice of where to raise your kids, where would it be? We have statistics on this one, and although Shanghai is still nowhere near the favorite for families given the choice, it is far more likely than in the past.

What a Character

Seth Godin, having discovered RSS just a few weeks ago, is now ready to proclaim that RSS is part of the new litmus test to distinguish between digerati and the lumpen. Most people I know who fit his litmus test would not fit my concept of ‘digerati’, though, so it goes to show that such stratifying definitions are rather vainglorious. Like “high IQ societies” or “luxury homes”, such labelsare meaningless without their accompanying subjectivemetrics (and if you supply the metrics, the label is pointless).

And I think that using Microsoft as a whipping-boy went out of fashion in 1997 for the true digerati; Seth needs new fashion advisors!

TIP: Visio Auto Layout from C#

I couldn’t find this anywhere on the web, and needed some help from Visio team to figure it out, so here it is. If you want to get your shapes to layout using left-to-right flowchart format, use the CellsU property on the pagesheet:

Document doc = app.Documents.Add(“”);
Page page = doc.Pages[1];
page.PageSheet.get_CellsU(“PlaceStyle”).FormulaU = “2”;
page.PageSheet.get_CellsU(“RouteStyle”).FormulaU = “6”;
// code to drop and glue all the shapes
page.Layout();

The numbers are the constants for layout style from the SDK.

AJAX and Accessibility

At the recent friday cabal, while discussing AJAX and extensibility, I was struck by one of the more interesting implications of the rapid adoption of AJAX toolkits. Currently, everyone is building toolkits to help them buid richer client-side logic in DHTML and JavaScript and to communicate with HTTP web services. These toolkits will save developers lots of time, but they will also encourage developers to support more dynamic functionality than the accessibility community is accustomed to dealing with. If you look at some of the better examples of AJAX applications out there today, they get low marks for accessibility.

On one hand, this is an opportunity, because it means that the toolkit providers can bake accessibility hooks into their frameworks and pass the benefits on to developers. But it also means that there will be a proliferation of apps which use newer, non-accessible UI functionality enabled by other toolkits. So in the short term, and until there is some degree of consolidation, there will be a negative impact to accessibility on the web. And the accessiblity community will need to target improvements in the toolkits with broadest scope (whether large vendors, or large open source following).

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To the person who cursed creatively at me for using terms like AJAX and POX, I did not delete your comment purposely. My server has been unreliable, and I am in the process of moving off of shared hosting. This has been the longest I have ever gone without blogging, due to work commitments (I hope my boss is reading), so it is taking some time.