Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Goat Skin Pants

I am moving the blog. The true paca has decided to combine forces with a killer llama, and we have created a new blog at Goat-skin Pants. So I am going to start posting over there. There's really no great change. I will be posting the same stuff over there as I do here, so just wander that way. The only difference is that the llama will also be posting over there. It should be clear who is who. So I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Careen or Karen - accents

All my life I have pronounced the word "careen" so that it rhymes with Kareem, as in Abdul-Jabar. The speeding car lost control and careened into the empty cafe. kuh-reeeeen. However, when I used to listen to hockey broadcasts for the Predators, the announcers who are Canadian by birth always said "the puck careened off the boards" where it rhymes with Karen. It Karened off the boards. Have I been saying it wrong all my life? Is the Karen version a Canadian thing? Or is just a Pete Webber thing? C-H-R, feel free to step in here.

Also, I have been reminded that I am in fact southern, as of late. I have virtually no accent anymore, but a couple small things crop up still. In class a few weeks back I said some word like "center" or the like and everyone stared at me. What did you say? they wanted to know. "Center" So, of course, I say this the correct way, which is to say the Southern way, meaning that "cen" from "center" rhymes with "sin". "Pen" rhymes with "pin". But in fact, this is of course just the remains of my Louisiana upbringing. The standard American way makes pen different from pin.

I was also cornered by a classmate recently who teaches Ling 102. They are doing the section on dialects and the textbook apparently mentions constructions like "might could" as in "I might could do that." The students in the class refused to believe any English speaker would come up with such a thing. Since the classmate/teacher is Serbian, she could only tell them it's in the book, so it must be true. Therefore, she cornered me and asked. "Can you really produce such abominations?" I stewed on it and confirmed that "might could" is just fine. It's real. I also decided you could say "I may can do that." Then I hedged on "may could". So, southern readers, can you say "may could"? " I just realized you can definitely say "I might can do that" too. Do you agree? What do they mean, the non-southerners ask? It means "it is likely that I will be able to do that."

On a final language and accents note, my father (northern Louisiana pretty much all his life) loves to make country analogies. I love them. It's like Cleetus saying on the Dukes of Hazzard "well, possum on a gum bush!" What's nice about my dad's stuff is that you know he's always making up new ones because most of them don't work. So, my niece who is 18 and a senior in high school in Baton Rouge just moved out of home, leaving her mom to go live with, I think, her step-mom (I believe ex-wife) of her natural father. Confused? Yeah, me too. The important point is that an 18 year old stopped living with her mom. My dad tried to explain the motivation thus: "It's just like two hens in a barnyard where one of ems got to be the top dog." First, they are hens, not dogs. Second, I don't remember people betting on hen fights. I think you need a rooster in there. What's amusing in general about these stories of barnyards and dawgs and skeeterhawks (that's a dragon fly, you silly Yankees), is that almost none of this is his adult life. He has an MBA and sells gourmet pecan oil in high-end grocery stores and B&Bs. He called me once from a cafe in San Francisco sipping a Napa wine, where we proceeded to discuss the liberal Hollywood elite. But, I guess you never leave your roots. Eventually, the dawgs always come back to roost.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Confessions

So I've been in school now for, what was it, 19.5 years. And, no, none of those were repeats. But I still have to tell the truth:

I confuse imminent and immanent.
Principle and principal make me think.
I'm not all that solid on lay and lie.
And I have a devil of a time knowing when to double a consonant in a verb - occurring or occuring, happening or happenning, etc.

I am so ashamed.

children I guess

I was over at BitchPhD by chance. I don't read there frequently, but several people I do read link that way. Anyway, she had a nice post about children and work, particularly related to academia. Part of her post was the following:

"Children are part of society. They are human beings. They are not exotic pets. They get to go into restaurants; they get to eat in places other than public bathrooms; they get to have bad days; they get to have their needs met, too."

The first place I remember encountering the opposite of this was visiting N's dad who lives in a sort of retirement community in Arizona. It's not an assisted living place at all. Instead people have campers and they dock there for a while before driving across the country in their RV. Her dad and step-mom are one of the few year-round residents. But anyway only people above 50 are allowed to live there. If you are under 50, you are only allowed to visit for a certain number of days. Children are not allowed to use the pool. Now, I grant the right of everyone to control their own living environment, but doesn't it, at best, seem awfully impoverished to exclude large swaths of society from your life?

I understand this desire to exclude children from your life. I know how teenagers can take over a public pool so that no one else can use it. It's no fun to have a baby screaming in to your ear on a crowded plane. Or to watch to 9 year olds fighting over the dinner rolls when you are trying to have a romantic dinner for two. But, hey, kids are part of the world. It's time to get used to it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

King of the Grottoes or Grottos

I'd like to keep up the Hawaii-is-totally-different-from-the-Mainland schtick and tell you of the bizarre things we ate for T-giving. Perhaps a little hot and spicy squid? Maybe a bit of the squashed pig's face? A few gallons of Hawaiian poke, aka marinated raw fish, perchance? But, alas, we had a turkey, stuffing (Stove Top of course), Turkey dressing with some hard-boiled egg inside (my mom's creation, as far as I know), asparagus, and a pumpkin pie. "Say it isn't so!" you exclaim. "Tell me of kochu jang paste!" But it is.

And I liked it.

Somehow I've been cooking up a lot lately. On Monday I created completely from scratch salmon crepes in an herb cream sauce. Bizarrely, the crepes themselves were mediocre, using the recipe from my Crepes cookbook, so I'm going to go back to Fanny Farmer's version. I was happy with this because it wasn't something I planned out over the weekend and laboriously prepped for. We just had some salmon and I stood there thinking "what's an interesting way to eat it?" Crepes it was. I like taking things and wrapping them up. 2 days later it was fajitas. Then N did the pumpkin pie, and I did everything else for Turkey day. N has been the queen of breakfast with some yummy berry pancakes and the like.

Today, the day after T-giving, we went up to Waimea Valley, which is on the North Shore. It's a beautiful lush valley with moss covering all the rocks and a nice waterfall in the back. One of the highlights was the ruins of Hawaiian settlements that remain there. That's my sort of thing. I have talked about going to Tahiti here before, but it's not so much for the ocean, though the pictures of those small huts standing over the crystal clear blue-tinged water are heartstopping. No, I want to go up into the mountains and move through the trees and find how the Tahitians lived before Captain Cook came. There's always been something about large rocks that you can move under and around, while the air is cool and slightly moist that takes me away. You can call me the Grotto King.

In other news, I actually had a chance to use my Chinese today. The family went to the Xmas parade this evening. On the way back we stopped for a mango-pinapple-more-stuff smoothie. As we were there a small group stopped and asked in broken English for directions to a hotel, showing the hotel key. Unfortunately, we had no idea where it was, but in talking the man said "nei ge" in Chinese which just means "that". Or "which" since my tones are horrible. Since their English was even worse than my awful Chinese, I flipped into it. Of course, they were rather pleased to stop some white guy on the street and have him respond in their language. While the meeting became quite jovial at that point, and I did better than expected speaking, it didn't help that I still did not know where the hotel was. In the end, they knew it was on the beach, which isn't very helpful in Waikiki, and I pointed them at least towards the ocean. You must understand that this was rather exceptional in my life. The great majority of Chinese-speaking people in the U.S. speak Cantonese, while all the colleges teach Mandarin. My years of Chinese study have only been useful maybe 5 times in the U.S., so it was nice to get one more chance.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Story of a Life

These lyrics aren't perfect, but they always get me in the end anyway. Here you go:

Story of a Life
by Harry Chapin

I can see myself it's a golden sunrise
Young boy open up your eyes
It's supposed to be your day.
Now off you go horizon bound
And you won't stop until you've found
Your own kind of way.
And the wind will whip your tousled hair,
The sun, the rain, the sweet despair,
Great tales of love and strife.
And somewhere on your path to glory
You will write your story of a life.


And all the towns that you walk through
And all the people that you talk to
Sing you their songs.
And there are times you change your stride,
There are times you can't decide
Still you go on.
And then the young girls dance their gypsy tunes
And share the secrets of the moon
So soon you find a wife.
And though she sees your dreams go poorly
Still she joins your story of a life.


So you settle down and the children come
And you find a place that you come from.
Your wandering is done.
And all your dreams of open spaces
You find in your children's faces
One by one.
And all the trips you know you missed
And all the lips you never kissed
Cut through you like a knife.
And now you see stretched out before thee
Just another story of a life.


So what do you do now?
When she looks at you now?
You know those same old jokes all the jesters tell
You tell them to her now.
And all the same old songs all the minstrels sang
You sing 'em to her now.
But it don't matter anyhow
'Cause she knows by now.


So every chance you take don't mean a thing.
What variations can you bring
To this shopworn melody.
And every year goes by like a tollin' bell.
It's battered merchandise you sell.
Not well, she can see.
And though she's heard it all a thousand times
Couched in your attempted rhymes
She'll march to your drum and fife.
But the question echoes up before me
Where's the magic story of a life?


Now sometimes words can serve me well
Sometimes words can go to hell
For all that they do.
And for every dream that took me high
There's been a dream that's passed me by.
I know it's so true
And I can see it clear out to the end
And I'll whisper to her now again
Because she shared my life.
For more than all the ghosts of glory
She makes up the story,
She's the only story
Of my life.

light at the end of the tunnel

It's been a nasty couple of weeks with night after night of 2:00 bed times, but I think I finally see an end in sight. I get to devote all of today to the journal, copy-editing all the articles. I have to ship everything off to our web mistress by December 2 for publication in January. For several days I was hitting the panic button, but I think now I might actually pull it off. Famous last words.

Also, did you know that the language Kabardian, spoken in the northwest Caucasus (Russia, between the Black and Caspian Seas, right next to Chechnya and north of Georgia and Armenia), has 48 consonants and only 2 vowels. To put that in perspective, Hawaiian (which is the opposite extreme) has 8 I think. English has 19 or so, depending on what you count. There are 12 possible different places to articulate a consonant with the tongue, lips, and mouth, and Kabardian uses 11 of them. English uses 6. They even have two different types of glottal stop. What's a glottal stop you ask? It's when you close off the air in your larynx (voice box, adam's apple), producing complete silence. English, well most dialects, actually have this, though we don't recognize it. Say the sentence "I've got three buttons on my cotton shirt." Try to say it normally and don't hyper-articulate each sound. Chances are you just produced three glottal stops. There's one in button and one in cotton. Say it again normally, concentrating on button and cotton. Now, say "terrible atomic tigers." Notice where you put your tongue when you say each of those ts. A little behind and above your teeth, right? Now say cotton and button again, doing your best not to say them super-slow. Notice how your tongue doesn't go to the same place for the t in cotton as it does in tiger? Well, at least it doesn't until you get to the n sound. What most American dialects do on those words is not produce a real t at all. Instead you cut off your air at your larynx, right before the n. (Why we think we are saying t or switch to say t when we are super careful is a topic for another day.) Anyway, a glottal stop is just silence, so how can Kabardian have two of them? They have one like the one in English and they have another which has the lips rounded. Of course, you can't hear the difference on the consonant itself, because, it is, well, silent. You can only hear it when a vowel is next to it. The vowel comes out rounded due to the rounded consonant next to it. (English doesn't have a perfect pair to demonstrate rounding, but compare the vowel in bean versus in boondocks. Notice the lips. It's better in French. Compare the last vowel in Evangeline to the first in "une vache qui ruit." Did I spell laughing right, you French speakers?)

For those of you fascinated by my tense / subject issue, I am making progress and want to have a rought draft done by the end of the holiday. We will see. If I do come up with a solution, I will be sure to post it hear, as I know you are all captivated. Actually, I have a pseudo workaround if I fail. I want to disprove the conclusion to three experiments, only one of which is this tense/subject thing. If I fail there, then I will just write a paper on the first two. I'd like to actually hand in a rough draft. If I do, it will be the first time ever when it wasn't required. I've been in school now for... 19 and a half years. Good lord. And I have 2-3 more to go.

Also, today at 3:00 I am headed to the lab to record sentences for someone doing an experiment in English intonation. Being a native speaker of English is something of a commodity. Also, I am the only native speaker of English in my intonation class, except for the teacher, so I get to be very special. (Other languages are Japanese, Korean, Serbian, and Kalmyk (a Mongolian language).) A student in Second Language Acquisition wants to run some experiment related to English intonation, so I will be recording the sounds for her experiment.

Oh, and I threw my back out again last night. B slipped and fell on the ground, so without thinking I bent over to pick him up. I never made it. Pop. I spent the rest of the night lying on the bed again.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A list of stuff

I stole this one from Kristy (see link on right).

1. What is your occupation?   Student

2. Marital status? Married to N

3. What are you listening to right now? Ummm. Nothing. I can hear something whirring. Is it the PC?
4. What was the last thing you ate? a banana
5. Do you wish on stars?  no
6. If you were a crayon what color would you be?  teal (you forget it's there, but when you use it, it's a pleasant enough color)
7. How is the weather right now? warm and sunny (a little too warm)

8. Last person you spoke to on the phone? N

9. Do you like the person who sent this to you?  well, no one sent it to me directly, but Kristy seems nice enough. (I will write a post about the nature of blogger friends another day)
10. How old are you today? 32
11. Favorite drink? Vanilla Coke (which I have read is being discontinued)
12. Favorite sport to watch? I don't watch any nowadays, but it used to be American football.
13. Have you ever dyed your hair?  yes (one of those 4-7 washes thingies; I tinted it slightly red)
14. Do you wear contacts or glasses? no
15. Pets?  no
16. Favorite month? forever, it's been October with the turning leaves and Indian Summer. There's no fall in Hawaii though
17. Favorite food? Chicken n dumplins probably; love a good Thai curry too; chili (maybe the theme is yummy stews)
18. What was the last movie you watched? geez... I saw half of March of the Penguins. I know I've seen a couple movies this year.... Was it Hitchhiker's Guide?
19. Favorite day of the year ? last day of exams - after the exams that is
20. What do you do to vent anger? yell, then feel guilty for much longer that I yelled.
21. What was your favorite toy as a child? my old Star Wars figures perhaps
22. Fall or Spring? Fall
23. Hugs or kisses? Kisses
24. Cherry or blueberry? blueberry
25. Do you want your friends to answer this? no strong feeling; I don't think anyone is learning stunning things about me due to this.
26. Who is most likely to respond? Uhhh. Hmmm. Since I'm not sending it to anyone, probably some blogger friend who needs an entry for the day.
27. Who is least likely to respond? everyone else
28. Living arrangements? I like living and have arranged to continue doing so.
29. When was the last time you cried? Some happy story of true love I think.
30. What is on the floor of your closet? dirty clothes
31. Who is the friend you have had the longest? llama
32. What did you do last night? cooked dinner, did dishes, went... somewhere... oh, walked around Waikiki and bought an Xmas present. Gave B some apple sauce and put him to bed. Fell asleep in the process.
33. Favorite smell? baking bread? Never really ranked smells before.
34. What inspires you? deadlines
35. What are you most afraid of? fear itself, no, let's see; I hate cockroaches. I guess my biggest fear is disappointing others in some horrible way.
36. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburger? Let's just give the real answer - avocado, bacon, grilled onions and Texas BBQ sauce - with cheese
37. Favorite car? my old Miata was the favorite of the ones I have owned.
38. Favorite dog breed? Spaniels I guess.
39. How many years at your current job? 1.5
40. Favorite day of the week? Saturday is the day off so I guess that's it. I get to spend time with N and B. At the same time, I really do enjoy my work at times, so....
41. How many states have you lived in? 6/7/8, I think
42. How many cities have you lived in? Winnsboro, LA; Lawrenceville, NJ; Oxford, MS; Northfield, MN; Franklin, TN; Spring Hill, TN; Honolulu, HI, and Tianjin, China for a semester if it counts. Oh, does 6 weeks in London get me anything? Oh, I also have spent summers in Monroe, LA, and Ruston, LA. Hmm. How long does it take to live somewhere?

Go education!

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 10 out of 10 correct!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Role Models - A Series

Inspired by my earlier posting concerning Nobel Peace Prize winners, I have decided to periodically feature impressive people. This is Harry Chapin, a musician, film maker, and activist fighting world hunger who left us all in 1981. This is an obituary of him I found at Harry Chapin.com. Read if you are interested. I edited it a little to get it shorter.

"Harry Chapin: 1942-1981"
Rolling Stone, September 3, 1981
by Dave Marsh

Harry Chapin often described himself as a "third-rate folk singer," and judging from most of the reviews he received in these pages and elsewhere, he wasn't only kidding. Yet Harry Chapin was something more than that. For many who knew him, he was a legitimate hero, not so much for his music as for his consistent and conscientious willingness to fight the right battles, to stand up for a just cause, no matter how hopeless.

When his friends and political associates -- from Mary Rogol and Bill Ayres of World Hunger Year to Ralph Nader and Representative Tom Downey -- spoke of Chapin after his death in an auto accident on the Long Island Expressway July 16th, the word they all used was *fearless*. "It was the one quality of Harry's that I admired most," said Rogol. "Harry was never afraid. Not just physically. Where most people feared embarrassment, being laughed at or rejected, Harry just went right ahead. He just wanted to know what was right and what was the best way to accomplish it. That's real courage."

As Chapin was the first to acknowledge, such bravery isn't cool, for it lacks the necessary arm's-length distance from the world and its problems. Harry Chapin's function in the music world was not to be cool. He was *supposed* to be awkward and overtly unhip; he was *supposed* to stand in contrast to the glibness and callousness of many of his peers.

Harry Chapin was a pure product of the Fifties world of Greenwich Village and the Brooklyn Heights. Born on December 7th, 1942, he was the second song of Big Jim Chapin, a jazz drummer with Tommy Dorsey's and Woody Herman's bands. From the time they were in grammar school, Harry and younger brothers Tom and Steve performed together in various groups, Harry at first playing trumpet but later switching to guitar.

After high school, Harry studied at the Air Force Academy, from which he dropped out, then at Cornell University, where he flunked out twice. In 1964, he re-formed the family group, adding his father on drums. The Chapin Brothers played the usual rounds of Village clubs and folk-scene hangouts and recorded an album, "Chapin Music," on the Rockland Music label. But the band broke up when Tom and Steve returned to school, and Harry soon turned his attention to film, eventually making several documentaries, including "Legendary Champions," a boxing film that earned him an Oscar nomination in 1969.

A year later, at the height of the singer-songwriter boom, Chapin resumed his musical career. After playing the Village Gate in New York for the entire summer of '71, he was signed to Elektra Records. In 1972, he scored his first hit, "Taxi," from his debut LP, "Heads and Tales." Ten more albums followed, yielding a handful of other hits, notably "Cat's in the Cradle," "W*O*L*D," "Sniper," and last year's "Sequel," a follow-up to "Taxi."

Although he never sold a spectacular number of records, Chapin toured a great deal and his concerts were always well attended; it's estimated that his benefits alone netted more than $5 million for various charities.

On July 23rd, Harry Chapin's family and friends held a memorial service for him at Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights. There was some fine singing that afternoon by such musicians as Tom and Steve Chapin, Oscar Brand, Steve Goodman, Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow and Harry's idol Pete Seeger. Along with the family members and politicians, fans and paparazzi, they sang and celebrated, and some of the best singing and celebrating came during Harry's songs: "Circle," "Remember When the Music," and a new tune, "Jubilation," that may be the best thing he ever wrote.

If Harry Chapin was more than a third-rate folk singer, he was less than a pop star of the highest order. Even so, the immediate response to his death, in the media and among his fans, was overwhelming. It was as if he reached out and touched lives in a permanent and irrevocable way. This was true of fans (one speaker at the Brooklyn service was a railroad brakeman), of journalists (the finest eulogy to Chapin was written by former sportswriter Tony Kornheiser, a friend from Long Island, in the "Washington Post") and, most of all, of Congressmen.

Three of the speakers at Grace Church were members of Congress. Representative Tom Downey, the young Long Island Democrat, was an obvious colleague, but Representative Ben Gilman is a more conservative, older New York Republican. Gilman was there because, through his work with Chapin on Jimmy Carter's Presidential Commission on World Hunger, he came to cherish Harry as the best kind of American citizen. Most eloquent of all, though, was Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the only Democratic senator that state has ever elected, and a man who attributes his narrow victory in 1980 to Harry Chapin's campaign work for him. Leahy was the chief mover in the Senate effort to pass a resolution in support of the hunger commission, and because Chapin also had a vacation home in Vermont, the two had grown personally close. Leahy's eulogy was well written and moving, but what I'll always recall was what he said before he read it: "You know, I think I've shed more tears in the last few days than at any other time in my adult life."

On the floor of Congress, the reaction was very similar. No other singer -- not Bing Crosby, nor Elvis Presley, nor John Lennon -- has ever been so widely honored by the nation's legislators. Nine senators and thirty congressmen paid tribute to Harry Chapin on the floor, and not all of them were the kind of liberal Democrats on whose behalf Harry had campaigned so long and hard last fall. No less a conservative than Senator Robert Dole of Kansas, not exactly known for his political generosity of spirit, called Chapin "a liberal, and a liberal in the best sense of the word. He possessed a spirit of generosity and optimism that carried him through his various commitments with a great sense of seriousness and purpose... What he was really committed to was decency and dignity."

Harry Chapin was just the sort of man who would inspire tributes even from ideological foes. He believed deeply in all those corny virtues and ideals that the rest of us are too cynical, jaded, or just plain scared to admit that we, too, cherish. "He constantly talked about reinventing America," remembered Bill Ayres, the writer and broadcaster who in 1975 founded World Hunger Year, an educational and research organization, with Chapin. "In his vision, the Constitution established a democratic process in which people were being asked not just to vote, but to be informed and involved." And Chapin acted on that belief.

Though he is best known for his activism on the hunger issue, Chapin was also a member of the Cambodia Crisis Committee and raised money for the Public Interest Research Group and Congresswatch (two Ralph Nader organizations), as well as Consumer Action Now. In addition, he campaigned on behalf of such past and present senators as Leahy, Mo Udall, Frank Church, Gary Hart, and Alan Cranston. And on Long Island, where he lived with his wife, Sandy, and their five children (Jamie, Jason, Jono, Jenny, and Josh), he was a member of the boards of Hofstra University, the Long Island Association, Long Island Cares (a local hunger effort), the Action Committee for Long Island (a convocation of businessmen), the Performing Arts Foundation, the Long Island Philharmonic, and the Eglevsky Ballet.

Chapin focused on hunger at least partly because it touches on so many other critical issues, from the political power of multinational corporations to basic land reform. "Harry was big on empowerment," said Ayres. "The idea of World Hunger Year isn't simply to put food in people's mouths, but to help them change their lives, to get people involved in their own desire to help themselves. Harry wanted to reach both people who are hungry and people who feel left out of the political process. He did not want to motivate people through guilt; he wanted to combine a sense of awareness of responsibility with a sense of life."

Chapin worked with unique focus and effectiveness in lobbying Congress on World Hunger. He succeeded partly because so many congressmen were nonplussed by such energy and commitment from a celebrity, but also because some would have done anything to get rid of his pestering. In his eulogy, Leahy recalled a meeting with President Carter, at which the president agreed to create the commission. "Harry would not stop. He continued to hammer the reasons for it into the president. Carter sat there trying to explain that he agreed, he agreed, but Harry wasn't going to let him off that easy. He wanted not only for him to agree, he wanted him to be committed. That's the difference between Harry Chapin and those who simply give lip service to a cause."

Unfortunately, the hunger commission was ineffective. Except for Chapin. His unique combination of celebrity and commitment created a real congressional constituency for his ideals and dreams, and he was still putting together plans for hunger legislation and public-food policy initiatives when he died.

Ralph Nader called Harry Chapin "the most effective outsider I've ever seen in this town," and that was due mostly to Harry's conviction that all his work -- musical and political, artistic and charitable -- should not be "event-oriented" but committed to a process in which each segment leads naturally to the next, and into which others can be enticed and pulled along. It worked at all sorts of levels, from the fundraising radiothons he and Ayres staged in ten cities over the years, reaching an audience of 15 million people, to the new chapter of World Hunger Year recently created in Arizona.

The question now is what happens without Harry Chapin? At meeting, Chapin used to stress the involvement of others, not only by good-naturedly disparaging himself, but by pointing out that "if I should walk across the street and get hit by a taxi tomorrow, what's left of this organization?" It was one of his greatest hopes that other musicians would get involved in the hunger issue in the way that some have become involved in antinuclear activism, for instance James Taylor and Gordon Lightfoot, among others, have appeared at World Hunger Year events in recent years, and in early July, just a few weeks before Chapin's death, Kenny Rogers donated more than $150,000, the entire proceeds from a show at the Capitol Center in largo, Maryland, to the organization. But none of these performers is likely to bring a continuous and persistent focus to bear on hunger or political issues, none of them is likely to subordinate his career to the cause of feeding the world (or, as Harry surely would have corrected me, helping the world to feed itself), social justice and more perfectly ordered democratic institutions in America. Those were the causes at the center of Harry Chapin's work, which was not so much a career as a vocation. And as with all vocations, they belong to the man who hears the calling. In this regard, Chapin really is irreplaceable, and even a great many rock stars and ordinary citizens working together won't make up for what we have lost.

(Contributions may be sent to the Harry Chapin Memorial Fund, c/o World Hunger Year, address found at WHY's WWW site, http://www.iglou.com/why)

Political Islands

I've noted that almost every blog I read nowadays has a liberal bent. I'm at a University, which means most people are liberal. Whenever politics is mentioned in conversation or as I read, I hear views in the same ballpark as mine.

That's not good.

It's not good because I am liable to end up in the same little shell that Bush is in with his neo-con cronies controlling all access to him, and any access he has to other people. I tried just reading some conservative blogs, but most of those are innane. The best I have on an ongoing basis is the Charging Rino over there (see link to right) who describes himself as a moderate Republican, which typically means he likes smaller government and fiscal responsibility and then has similar social values. It's a start.

I have to be careful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

role models

1) I think this is the 7th entry since Saturday, so scroll down. I am so prolific because it puts off real work and Blogger is functioning on my work computer again. I was going to say "work PC" but it's a Mac, yet "work Mac" sounds wrong.

2) I saw a headline on USA Today that said some magazine like GQ or Esquire had named Jennifer Aniston as their first ever "Woman of the Year." Now, Jennifer Aniston might be a fine person, even though the only thing I know she has done in the last year is get divorced. Handling a divorce can be quite trying personally, but in the entire world is that the best we can do? I have had thought about role models for women (actually these are role models for everyone, but I specificaly have in mind people that girls can admire) in the past. The first time was several years ago when my sister was a young teen, maybe even a tween, and thought Alicia Silverstone was the best thing ever. That was her role model, and I thought then "isn't there someone else?"

Back when I was in high school, so this would be around 1989, I had a brief chance to meet a woman who had won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 for being one of the Founders of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement. She was giving a talk at our school (yes, my high school could get Nobel Peace Prize Winners to show up) and since I was one of the primary theater techies, setting up the sound, podium, curtains and such for her, she smiled at me and we exchanged about 2 sentences. I couldn't recall her name today, so I looked up the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize online. Here are the ones that seem female from either the name or the description going back to 1976.

a) 1976 BETTY WILLIAMS and MAIREAD CORRIGAN Founders of the Northern Ireland Peace Movement (later renamed Community of Peace People).

b) 1979 MOTHER TERESA, India, Leader of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity

c) 1982 ALVA MYRDAL, former Cabinet Minister, diplomat, delegate to United Nations General Assembly on Disarmament, writer.

d) 1991 AUNG SAN SUU KYI, Burma. Oppositional leader, human rights advocate.

e) 1992 RIGOBERTA MENCHU TUM, Guatemala. Campaigner for human rights, especially for indigenous peoples.

f) 1997 INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN TO BAN LANDMINES (ICBL) and JODY WILLIAMS for their work for the banning and clearing of anti-personnel mines.

g) 2003 SHIRIN EBADI for her efforts for democracy and human rights

h) 2004 WANGARI MAATHAI for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.

Do none of these amazing women exist in 2005? I bet they do, so maybe GQ could raise its standards a bit. Many of you will say "c'mon, it's a men's entertainment magazine." I get the point. I just wish there was another magazine that did have one of these people on the front - and I don't mean that obscure one at the bottom right corner behind the knitting section at your local Border's. Maybe these women don't have the great hair that Jen does.

But at the same time, I think winning a Nobel Peace Prize is pretty damn sexy. No, I didn't have a poster of Mother Teresa in a bikini on my wall when I was 12, but I'm serious. Accomplishment like all of the women above have achieved is hot.

Monday, November 14, 2005

evil people sure are complicated!

Bush' right hand:

There are evil people in the world who will stop at nothing. They cannot be reasoned with. They value death more than life. They will never stop until they are killed.

Bush's left hand:

Any time someone questions the decision to go to war with Iraq, we comfort the enemy and give them courage to go on.

So, let's see. On one hand, they are irrevocably evil (which many of them are, by the way) and will stop at nothing, and on the other hand, they watch American political polls and contemplate capitulation whenever Bush's ratings go up. I get the idea that Al-Zarqawi is sitting in his house watching the satellite feed waiting for the latest speech on C-Span. Whenever, Harry Reid issues a statement in support of Bush, he cowers under the table and waits for his imminent destruction. Whenever Harry Reid opposes the Iraq war, he leaps for joy and orders another beheading.

I don't think Al-Qaida in Iraq watches your poll numbers as closely as you do, Mr. President.

Time to step away from the computer

As many of you know I work as the editorial assistant for a journal, which means I mostly shuffle electronic papers between authors, reviewers, and editors. I just forwarded a notice of rejection to one author, and you can tell they are angry. He or she has already sent three emails within 20 minutes explaining how their paper needs to be given another chance. Now, they may or may not be right, but if they don't calm down, we are going to have some annoyed editors soon and that's the very person you want on your side. The author needs to step away from their computer, go beat up something, get a good night's sleep, and only then send an email back, presenting his or her entire case. Instead we get one short email saying thank you. Then a justification of some data analysis. Then a request for a fourth reviewer. Then additional information not in the original article. This person needs to stop and go home. We will all be here tomorrow.

I get to learn with this job.

research

I stopped by the UH Manoa main web site today to look up some email addresses, and right at the top is this big banner which says, in fancy-ish graphics, "Research. Manoa's Essence is Research."

I kindly beg to differ. Oh, this is not a slam on the University's research program. They do excellent research in some areas, and fine research in many others. What I take issue with is that the university's essence - its core, its primary goal - is to do great research. The simple fact is that it's not. I have heard this before and may have written a blog entry earlier. This is a research university and not a teaching school like, I guess, community colleges or liberal arts colleges. It's false. If the University never published a single article ever again but did a bang-up job of teaching the young adults of Hawaii, the state funding of this state institution would continue unabated. However, if we stopped teaching and instead published stunning research, the whole institution would be phased out. At best, a handful of departments would get some support - the National Weather Service is here, etc. But linguistics, English, history, foreign languages, psychology, economics, most basic sciences, etc. would all go away. No, our purpose is to teach. To reveal what we have learned to the next generation. To make them think. Perhaps even to make them better people. That is what we are paid to do. Research is great as well, but it is not the Essence. It is this erroneous belief, held strongly in academia and by professors I greatly admire, which gets amazing teachers fired for people who publish the right number of articles in the right places. (It's also the fact that most Professors have no idea how to measure teaching, but we can literally count the number of pages in refereed journals.) Don't get me wrong. I do understand that research can help us be better educators. And I realize that part of what we are teaching is, in fact, how to do research. But we exist to educate. The end.

religious rebellion - it's been done

I've ranted on here before about pundits and their idiocies. I am still not sure who my least favorite it. Is it Michelle Malkin who lacks the discriminatory powers of a poodle, but is aggresively entertaining to her pandering fans, or is it Bill Bennett with slightly greater thinking abilities, but the most boring radio persona you've ever heard. But I won't go into that again. Instead, I am going to tackle the classic "lefties just wanna send terrorists to psycho-therapy, while we understand their is evil in the world" crap. So way way way back in 1994 I did my senior thesis on "Millenarian Rebellion in China." It covered three separate uprisings - the Wang Lun uprising of 1774, the Eight Trigrams Rebellion of 1813, and the Taiping Rebellion, which lasted several years. The commonality is that each one had some sort of religious background, where generally, they thought the world was at an end. That's where the term "millenarian" comes from. Millenarian rebellions are a phenomena that occur around the world in all societies and religious traditions. In my case, the first two are Buddhist in origin, while in the Taiping, the leader thought he was Jesus' brother I think. Now only Chinese historians have ever heard of the first two. That's because they were small events. The Wang Lun rebellion occured in a couple towns in Shandong province, I believe. In the Eight Trigrams rebellion, some believers were in the Forbidden City and they occupied it for a bit. But soon it was done and over. Then you have the Taiping Rebellion. It lasted several years and covered multiple provinces. It was perhaps the biggest event of the 19th century in Chinese history. A virtual separate state existed for some time and hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives. What was the difference? The Taiping occurred at the time of vast flooding, starvation, economic recession, government corruption, etc. So for two rebellions you have this religiously motivated small group of people who cause some limited trouble. In the third rebellion, the religious motivations hooked into a vast array of other social, economic, and political concerns and ended up causing severe devastation. How does this all hook up with many people's inability to make basic judgements? There will always be people who, for various reasons, wish to cause damage. These people must be contained and stopped. One way to contain their effect is to make sure their actions do not occur simultaneously with larger economic and social issues. So when someone says that we should be addressing "root causes" of the current Islamic-tinged trouble, they are really saying that we need to make this a Wang Lun uprising, and not a Taiping.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

long weekend


We've been out and about over the last couple days. We have Veteran's Day off here, so it was a 3-day-er for us. Well, it's still Saturday, so I shouldn't have used the past tense. However tomorrow is Daddy work day, so the weekend is pretty much over.

Anyway.

We've been out. Yesterday afternoon, we went out towards Koko Crater Botanical Garden. It's on one of the arid sides of Oahu. The crater is, well, just that, a dormant crater, like Diamond Head and the PunchBowl Crater (the War Memorial of the Pacific is inside the Punchbowl(guess what shape it has)). Being on the desert-ish side of the island, the garden is a xeriscape, which means it's covered in plants that do well with little water. They do have a cactus garden, but it has more water than that generally, so there are plenty of flowering trees like plumeria. You enter with a plumeria grove surrounded by umm bourgainvillia's or something like that (yes, i am so lazy I refuse to look up the spelling; hey's it's my blog, so there). Then you enter the main two mile trail inside the Koko Crater. However, for B, a good rock or a stick is just as interesting as a native shrub, and so we made slow progress. In fact, we just circled the plumeria for about 40 minutes and took off. Then we went to Sandy Beach. That's the picture. It was twilight at the time, so we sat on the sand and watched the waves. The biggest excitement was a surfer who just couldn't stop and had to go out one more time in the darkness. We all began to wonder, since he could not be seen, is he coming back? When do you decide to really worry? But eventually he made his way in.

Today, we did a repeat of all that except we did it while there was light. We ended up at Makapuu Beach Park, which is just a surfing beach with crashing waves and hazard-do-not-swim signs everywhere. But the waves are magnificent with towering Makapuu Point and a lighthouse around you. We stayed there about an hour and a half or something then went back to Koko Crater Garden. Did a very European style picnic - French loaf, brie, avocado, a salad, etc. and then did the whole garden this time. It was quite nice, but I became so concentrated on lugging B and the stroller over the 2 mile loop that I didn't see much. Apparently, it all wore B out completely. He napped from 1:30 - 4:30. In fact, we are all pretty much dead. It's 8:30 and we're just trying to take it as easy as a 2 year old will let you before bed. N and B are watching Bolek and Lolek in the other room as I type this.

It's been a good weekend.

officially old

Well, I think I might as well send a note to the AARP that I am ready for their representation at the ripe old age of 32, because I am now officially old. Oh, it's not because of my tragic lack of hipness. Though the fact that the only word I can come up with for that is "hipness" demonstrates that should be a factor. No, I am officially old because I have lower backpain. It started on Tuesday evening, I think. I was changing B on the diaper table, which is actually a beautiful, cherry hope chest of N's covered in a towel, when I stood up and felt this shooting pain through my lower back. That was only moderate pain though so I simple grimaced a little and went on. It seemed to get better about mid-way through the next day. That night I was giving B a bath which involves lots of hunching over of course. When I stood up from that, I was gone. I could barely walk through the pain. I moved around a bit grimacing and then suddenly turned the wrong way, let out a scream, and collapsed on the bed. I stayed there until the next day, when it had finally lessened. It keeps coming back if I am not super careful. I forgot about it Friday and started scrubbing the kitchen floor on hands and knees. Bad idea. It keeps coming and going. We will see.

Anyway, back pain makes me officially old. I'm going to start wearing black socks with shorts and penny loafers next week. I'm also gonna work on the comeover.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Feel the Funk y'all

I have a particular liking for old skool funk, as the youngsters say. Sitting next to my Manchu Grammar I've got James Brown's In the Jungle Groove (You know we need it, Soul Power), Maceo Parker's Life On Planet Groove (Shake Everything you Got), and 4 Kool & the Gang CDs (Can't get enough of that funky stuff, i've tried, i've tried). I've even got little B singing Jungle Boogie (Get Down Get Down!) which is particularly apt for the following article from The Onion. Here is the first little section from the article. Follow the link to read the rest. The article reminds me of a princely gentleman instructing us on the one hand to "getya getya getya groove on" while just a few years earlier he told us of happiness if one were only to "get off." Next thing we know the Low--- Ri--- Der will "wanna take ya higher, higher!" Or as the Godfather might say "ain't it funky now?" And if it isn't you can always just "Make it Funky." But you have to be careful or it could be "too funky in here."

The Onion:

National Funk Congress Deadlocked On Get Up/Get Down Issue

CHOCOLATE CITY—After months of ceaseless debate, including last week's record 76-hour filibuster slap-bass solo from Senate Rubber Band Minority Leader Bootsy Collins (D-OH), the National Funk Congress is no closer to resolving its deadlock over the controversial "get up/get down" issue, insiders reported Monday.

"Get up-uh, get on up! Get up-uh, get on up!" shouted Getuplican Party supporters on the steps of the Capitol as the debate, as well as a massive 14-piece instrumental jam, raged within. The pro-up-getting demonstrators' chants were nearly drowned out by those of a nearby group of jungle-boogie Downocrats, who called upon all citizens to "Get down, get down!"

The bitter "get up/get down" battle, which has polarized the nation's funk community, is part of a long-running battle between the two factions, rooted in more than 35 years of conflict over the direction in which the American people should shake it.

"The time has come to face facts: To move forward, we've got to get on up, and stay on the scene, like a sex machine," said Brick House Majority Leader James Brown (G-GA), one of getting on up's most vocal supporters. "Say it loud: Only when we have gotten up offa that thing will we, as a nation, finally get back on the good foot."

Upon learning of Brown's remarks, Downocratic leaders openly questioned his commitment to getting up. Said Robert "Kool" Bell, a top-ranking Brick House Downocrat: "It is a well-known fact that Brown has, on many past occasions, urged
his supporters to get down with they bad selves. In response to his inconsistent voting record and history of waffling on this crucial issue, we will not rest until every American, as is their birthright, has gotten down."

"You got to get down," Bell added. "Hyuh!"

Friday, November 04, 2005

Campus Beat

Every week or so the school newpaper publishes the campus beat, which is the log from Campus Security. Sometimes it is wholly dull. Today's is like a little compendium of both the Weird and weird reporting.

First up we have a serious one. There was a sexual assault a couple weeks ago where a woman answered an ad for nude modeling. The person asked her to come to his place, which she did alone, and was raped. OK, so this is big and has been discussed on campus a lot. They only good news is that those reports said there was an immediate arrest of the suspect. This makes sense since he took her to HIS house. But then we have the following Campus Beat notes:

10/24 9:17 PM --- A woman gave Campus Security information about a man who tried to get her to pose nude for him.
10/26 12:22 PM --- A woman reported that she saw the art model suspect posting fliers on campus.

OK, so now I am confused, because supposedly they arrested the guy several days before he was spotted twice on campus. And if he isn't arrested, are they even looking for him since he appears to come to school every day posting messages on the
bulletin boards?

Similarly on the bad reporting, we have:

10/27 --- A witness reported seeing a man set a book on fire in Sinclair Library. Campus Security issued the man a trespass warning.

OK, you need some context for this. Last spring, several books were found in the Hamilton Library burned. This was right after a flood had destroyed most of the bottom two floors of the building, so that it had just been re-opened and no one
was supposed to spend long times inside. This became a huge deal. The library completely revamped its security to stop this. Every floor had several security officers on it. A video camera was set up at the entrance. We all had to show our
school ID and sign in every single time we went inside the place. Disgusted professors sent emails around because nothing horrifies an academic like burning a book.

So, now, after all that - tens of thousands of dollars spent on security, video-taping the students, etc. - they possibly catch the guy, and the response is "hey, get out of here, bud."
What the hell?! Had the Security officers over in Sinclair not heard about this, or did they give him a high-five for giving them their jobs in the first place? Moreover, after days of front page articles about the book burning when it first happened, this doesn't deserve an article in the paper other than in a little buried blurb in Campus Beat?

10/28 5:36 p.m. — A man reported that while his motorcycle was parked at Sinclair Library, someone stole the keys out of the ignition.

You, sir, yes you, I mean the man whose key was stolen, you, sir, are an idiot. Nothing is stolen more often on campus than bikes, mopeds, and motorcycles. Happens every few days. In fact, it happened this week on... 10/26 at 6:34 PM, by chance. If you own a moped for more than a year at UH, you make an offering to Pele. But this gentleman leaves his key in the ignition to his motorcyle and takes off. He comes back and find the key gone and is upset enough to call Security. It's like leaving your wallet stuffed with $100 bills on the sidewalk for the afternoon, returning to find your grocery store discount card missing, and going bananas over the injustice of it all. I will get all uppity about Security not seeming to know whether or not they arrested a rapist yet, but I don't think they are going to search the pockets of 20,000 students for a key. The "man" should have posted an announcement to the effect of "I was dumb enough to leave my key in a motorcycle on a college campus. Thank you, thank you for not taking it. I am truly lucky."

Finally, this was just amusing.

10/27 7:34 p.m. — A man was asked to leave an event at the Hawaiian Studies building. He had been feeding his dog with the food provided for the event.

I hope the dog didn't have to eat any poi. Let's just say it's an acquired taste.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

now this is funny

This is one of the funnier things I have read in a while. This is my sense of humor in a nutshell. It's from Mimi Smartipants. Thanks yet again, Jill.

"1. We dug big holes on the beach, ran into the crashing surf screaming with our arms open wide (it is strangely fun to scream at the ocean---I even taught Nora how to shake her fist and yell, "I WILL DRAIN YOU!"), and played in the pool."

And now this one:

"1. I have used puppets during sex. Although technically it wasn't a puppet but a sock gorilla, and technically it wasn't during sex but immediately afterwards. I was doing something to LT while he sat in a chair and when I finished the sock gorilla just happened to be right there next to me and I could not stop myself from poking the sock gorilla up over the arm of the chair and making him say, "Dude, what'd I miss?" It was a lot funnier to me than it was to LT, but maybe humor has a refractory period, just like other things."

And this:
Chewie

music in Malcolm X

According to my blog stat counter, on Tuesday, someone from New York did a Google search on rhythm and musical devices in The Ballot or the Bullet Malcolm X. I am apparently the third Google link on this search, and, this is just to say that, whoever you are, I want to talk to you! My email is on the right there, or you can Comment. Talk to me!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bawling like a Baby

I have confessed previously on another web site (Hey Jill at YellowSnapdragons) to curling up into a fetal position and bawling every single time I see the end of It's a Wonderful Life. You all know the scene. Well, now I can add a song to that list. I don't listen to much bluegrass - maybe own 4 albums - but I have Dolly Parton's Little Sparrow. Very good album, and she is the queen of portraying naive young women who are hopelessly taken in by a handsome boy. Sometimes it is to comic effect, such as in "Marry Me" ('he done kissed me on the mouth so he's gonna marry me'); and sometimes it is to tragic effect like in "Down from Dover". Anyone who listens to bluegrass knows they don't pull any punches on tragedy, and on this one we have a girl who falls for a handsome stranger, cannot deny him anything he wants, and waits and waits for him to come back from Dover. She knows he will come back soon. It's just a matter of time. She is pregnant with his child and, as befits the time, gets abandoned by her family for her mistake. She ends up on a farm waiting for the baby and him to return. In the end, the baby arrives, but it is too quiet and not crying. "Maybe dying was her way since she knew she'd never have a daddy to hold her." I'm about to start bawling again. Gotta stop talking about it.

pacapaca

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

linguistic obsession

Sorry all. I'm just obsessed with this tense thing. I spend all my time thinking about it. It's silly and unproductive. And, no, I haven't solved it, but I am inching my way forward or more like stumbling through the dark, but still feel that more steps are in the right direction than in the wrong. I discussed it with N a couple days back, and she gave me an idea that, simply put, children learn that subjects are attached to tense and when the tense gets dropped, the subject gets dropped. Is that what you said, N? It is all running together. But I have been following this lead to some extent, looking at explanations where subjects get built on to tense, and so when tense is dropped, so is the subject. How far even this would get me though isn't obvious. Again, I'd have to prove that this construction with either learned, or, else, somehow part of a domain-general mechanism. Sigh... On the other hand, I saw a wonderful article today by a nativist tying together, much more coherently, many of the things that I have been pursuing, such as anaphora, tense, and agreement. One nice thing she said was that the original pointing reference might be in the pragmatic system, with the grammar following that non-grammatical link. This is very close to my search for a connection between syntax and semantics, where the co-indexing in syntax is in fact a semantic link. So, this annoying search is why I am so boring lately.

In other news, we did Halloween last night. B was a ghost pirate and N was a butterfly. I wore a big hat.
pacapaca

Friday, October 28, 2005

semantics syntax interface

OK, only the one linguistics reader I have will follow this, but I want to document my thoughts. It's 3:15 in the morning, and I have been stewing on this problem for almost two hours now. So, let's see. I am in a class on nativism in language acquisition, which is the argument that children at birth have certain language-specific knowledge, classically about grammar, and stunningly detailed. My prof has authored an argument designed to prove that this is the case. In Swahili, the verbs are marked with Tense morphemes, as well as mood, agreement, and other stuff. Children not infrequently, when learning their native Swahili, drop the tense marker. Nothing too exciting here, as children make all sorts of errors. What is interesting is that when they drop the tense marker they almost always drop the subject as well. If they don't drop the tense marker, they may or may not drop the subject, but if the tense marker is absent then without exception the subject is absent as well. Why?

The nativist explanation is that in generative syntax, the syntactic feature Tense licenses the subject. The exact reasons do not seem important. What is important is that these children are very young, 2-3, I think, and if you look at all the other, seemingly related patterns in Swahili, none of them seem to be viable models from which the child could learn to make this pattern of error. So, if the child can't learn it, then it is innate knowledge they are born with. Somehow, in their head, is the rule that if a sentence is -Tense, then you cannot have a Subject.

Now, the goal of the students in the class is to prove that nativism is a load of crap, so I've been puzzling on this for a few weeks now. I have to prove this argument is incorrect in some way. There are only a few possibilities. First, I cannot use syntax to solve the problem really, as the whole purpose of the argument is to show that kids are born innately knowing syntax. I lose no matter what the syntactic explanation is. The only way syntax is useful to me is if I can show that some piece of syntax, which is learned, can handle it. It's possible, in theory, that I could do that, but there would be problems. One is that if you alter the syntax too greatly from generative stuff, then the nativists have already stopped listening and you persuade no one. The second is the practical reason that I'd have to re-engineer a whole new syntax in my spare time.

So instead I have been trying to tweak either syntax or how syntax relates to other parts of language. I am going to assume, for now, that Tense does in fact license subjects. The goal then will be to try and figure out why this is the case, not relying on the syntactic theory (Case basically for anyone still reading). So, the most promising way would seem to have to deal with semantics (or pragmatics or discourse). There is something about the meaning of Tense that ties it to subjects when it gets sent into the syntactic module. In other words, meaning has structure too and when you run what you want to say (semantics) through how you want to say it (syntax), you end up with a link between Tense and Subjects. And it is this that the children have learned which causes the subject drop behavior in Swahili.

Nice theory, but does it work? Not yet. The bad news is that I know virtually nothing about semantics, so I have been trying to bone up on it in my great spare time, yet I have made a little headway. First, Tense is anaphoric in meaning. In a sentence like "If John comes to a party, Sue immediately leaves," when does Sue leave? She leaves right after John shows up. The time for her leaving is bound to the time that John arrives. This is what it means to be anaphoric. The time for Sue's departure can only be determined with reference to the time of John's arrival. This is similar to pronouns. Who "he" refers to can only be determined by a previous noun phrase that is indexed with the pronoun. Now, there is a huge literature on the concept of bound variables within syntax, starting with pronouns. They are called binding principles and they govern just how pronouns relate to their antecedents (loosely). But there is no such discussion that I have yet seen about Tense as a bound variable.

Why would I care if Tense is a bound variable? If a sentence has tense, then it is bound by something. It can't be bound in the syntax without really enhancing the Tense features, as they just don't handle the complexities of the meaning of Time. I am going to say it is bound in the semantics. That's my link from syntax to semantics that I have been looking for. Next, if something has no Tense, then is it bound? I am going to say, 'no', it is a free expression, like a referring noun phrase (any noun not a pronoun basically; you know what "tree" refers to without a previous antecedent to explain it.) This all has some potential because subjects, in the generative tradition, are supposed to be found in the Specifier position of the Inflectional Phrase. Interesting connection that subjects in particular are in the specifier of IP and nothing else. So what I am hoping for is that if I can give some content to the notion that -Tense is free, while +T is bound, that it will behave differently with regard to subjects.

And that's the theory. It's now 4:00 AM, and I'm really going to regret this in about 2 hours when B wakes up. I wish puzzles like this didn't get me so stoked, because I'm still rather wired and I need to sleep.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zell Miller

I've been listening to various political speeches of the last 40 years for some research on intonation in language that I am doing. All I can say is that I better get a damn good published article from this, because I had to spend 20 minutes of hell listening to Zell Miller's loathesome speech from the RNC 2004. To use understatement, let's just say it makes me angry.

Ah, the sacrifices I make for science. ;)

Back to politics, we now have Bush approval ratings below 40% and a majority of Americans realizing Iraq was a bad idea. Where were these geniuses in early November last year? Katrina is the only major event since then. Everything else has been the same. Were so many people that wrapped up in fear and blind patriotism?

OK, I am going to say a thought that has been in the back of my mind for a while. It's going to get me in trouble, because it will be wrong, but it is one in the morning and you get in one of these moods sometimes. You know what would have prevented 9/11? Locks on the cockpit doors and pilots' knowledge not to come out. That's it. I'm not saying this would have prevented any terrorist attack from ever occurring again, but then nothing we have done since then has insured that. We now have 2000 dead American service men with thousands more injured and likely between 10,000 and 20,000 dead Iraqi civilians. I wish all the best for the possible Iraqi democracy that might be created there, and I think tens of thousands of American troops are doing their jobs the absolute best they can and I truly admire them for it, but it is clear we did not take the best path to security and freedom.

If you'd like a more nuanced take on things, you can root through my archives from May and June of this year, where I consider things more calmly.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Things you don't hear often

George Carlin had a comedy bit with lines you don't hear often. I think one was "hand me that piano." I used to invent new ones periodically like "do what you want with the girl but leave me alone." I just came across something I never thought I would read in an AP Sports article: "The Nashville Predators (7-0) are the only remaining unbeaten team in the NHL." I talk about this so much so that I don't have to think about the Titans.

going androgynous

So we all know that when you start spending a lot of time with someone, you very often end up sharing traits. This could be the teen girls at the mall who toss their hair the same way, the guys on the team who have the same haircut and laugh at the same jokes, or the long-time couple who just look the same, though when they met they sure seemed different.

B and I were in this place Saturday night called Swirl. I think it is a franchise. You can get 3, maybe 4, things. You can get an apple, a frozen banana, and a frozen ice cream bar. You then have a big selection of what you want to dip the thing in - three kinds of chocolate or caramel. The dipped item then gets rolled in your choice of crushed nuts, crushed oreos, dried fruit, whatever. This is all they do.

In walk two women and a man in their mid-20s. Actually, it took me a little time to figure that out. The woman had hair slightly shorter, and the man had hair slightly longer than is stereotypical. The women looked a little more athletic, and he looked a little more soft. They looked to be about a size 10 or 12 or something, and he would have been the same if he wore dresses. I'm not talking about Pat from Saturday Night Live where you can't tell if Pat is a man or woman. It was just that he was a little more feminine (his shirt would ride up to bear a midriff) and the women were a little more masculine. They wore similar clothes - clothes I imagine wearing to a grunge concert in Seattle in the 90s, sans flannel. In short, each had grown to be a little more like the other even across the gender line. The three of them walked around the place, inspecting every display in detail but with disinterest. They checked out this sign and that sign and didn't speak much. I had the feeling that they spent so much time together that they didn't need to talk anymore. They did this for several minutes. At some point, I am thinking, "look, you just choose an apple, a banana, or an ice cream bar. You can't find a simpler concept." I should emphasize that they weren't studying the menu to choose between which crushed candy they want on their apple. They were just kind of wandering around, sizing the place up to see if it met their standards. Eventually, some sort of question was asked - was it the type of apple? - and it didn't meet their high expectations, so without a word, they moved towards the door. On the way out, I noticed that each one of them had a toothpick in their mouth, fiddling away. I had only one conclusion as they left:

These people spend a little too much time together.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

blog apologies

First, I need to apologize for last week's blog. What? One entry in a week and that was just a few old emails I had lying around? Bah. Enough to kill a blog right there. I have various excuses. Incredibly busy at times. N has been working a conference most of the week. She checked into a hotel near the convention center on Wedneday and we haven't seen her since. The conference ends today, though. Still, the truth is I was just never horribly inspired. Now, I did get inspired for a few minutes once to write about my new shoes. That didn't last very long though.

It's been raining here pretty much since Thursday. This morning B and I drove over to Koko Head Crater and went walking around the Koko Head Botanical Garden. OK, OK, we went to Costco too. The reason for this garden trip was the rain. I have spoken on here before a few times about how local the weather is. It can rain on one block and not on another. This is largely created by the mountain ridges that criss-cross Oahu. Due to this, the windward side is incredibly lush like a rainforest, Waikiki is fairly temperate, and the far leeward and Koko Head sides are dry enough to have cacti. So the idea was to escape the rain by going to the deserty side of the island. It worked. The garden is a two mile trail in a loop inside the Koko Head crater. Don't worry. Diamond Head and Koko Head craters are extinct. We didn't see that much, mostly some plumeria, because picking up rocks and tossing them a couple feet is far more interesting to B than walking to see silly flowers and cacti. So, I think we covered about .2 miles of the garden, which means we have 1.8 left to see one day.

I've been alternating between being a very good parent, cooking nice relatively healthy meals once a day for the two of us, with being a bad parent, stopping off at KFC on the way home. I was incredibly successful a couple days ago whipping up a Korean-style meal with ingredients lying around the house, and got so inspired that I want to do it again soon. We will see. You just cook some rice and cheat by frying up some frozen gyoza, which are Japanese dumplings like Korean Mondoo and Chinese jiaozi (pot stickers). Then you stir-fry some green onions, toasted sesame seeds, zuccini, and mushrooms in a little soy sauce and sesame oil. Put it all together, stir in some spicy Gochu Jang paste, and, there you go, yummy meal. I liked it enough that I got some Kimchee and bean sprouts to throw in next time. I'm also planning to add a little beef and an fried egg, and it wil be my very own Bi Bim Bap. I was just pleased that I could do it without a recipe. Of course, I happen to have developed a fridge that has toasted sesame seeds and Gochu Jang paste just hanging around.

Well, B is napping, so I'm going to run off and do some homework before he wakes. Happy Monday, all.

Oh yeah, Predators are now 7 and 0. That's right 7 wins and 0 losses. The Titans are still playing, so I can't report there, but let's just say that it hasn't been a good year so far for them.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

my political interview

A very nice centrist political blog I read called ChargingRino (see the link on the right there) had an interview today with Congressman Tanner of Tennessee about a redisctricting bill in the House. I've never spoken to a Congressman, or at least they never reply when I speak to them, but I did have an email exchange once about same sex marriage with the President of an organization opposing it in Tennessee. As the email exchange was private, I have removed all information about that person's name or organization. I also changed my name to Paca for no good reason because I think everyone knows who I am. You will see I tried to express my beliefs in language that the Other Person might share.

Me:

Please do not keep advocating for the passage of the amendment against same sex marriage.  Since I just moved from Tennessee my opinion may not count anymore, but since my heart remains in Tennessee I have to speak.
 
Please see that you are not preserving a sacred institution but instead writing discrimination into the very constitution.  There is a difference between religious marriage and state marriage.  State marriage is a legal institution like entering contracts, owning property, making wills, and voting, and we all get to participate.  I do not have the right to decide who gets married, and neither do you or anyone else.  Legal marriage is up to the two people and filling out the right forms.  Religious marriage is up to the church and God.

Let God try men's souls and judge the holy sanctity of a couple's marriage, but let our legislators and our judges and our constitution stand for legal equality for all.

However I confess I am pessimistic and fully expect Tennessee to pass the amendment, and in the end it will be yet one more chapter in Tennessee's history of denying legal rights to its citizens.  Women owning property was against tradition, non-white people voting was against tradition, and same-sex legal marriage may be against tradition, but in the end tradition is not the same as righteousness. 

Thank you,

Paca
formerly of Spring Hill with Tennessee still on my mind

Other person:

I appreciate the 'tone' of your email, Paca.

I really cannot stop advocating for a constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage here in Tennessee.  Our state constitution will be amended, the only question is who will do the amending.  Will it be some judge or will the decision rest with the people and their elected representatives.

The last poll showed that 82% of Tennesseans oppose same-sex marriage.  EVERY TIME the people have the opportunity to have a voice, they vote overwhelmingly to affirm traditional marriage.  Eleven states did so last November. This is something people care deeply about.

Paca, this is not about being against anything it is about recognizing that marriage is so special and so fundamental that it is worth protecting.

There are some other reasons to ponder:
1. Same-sex families always deny children either their mother or father.

2. Same-sex family is a vast, untested social experiment with children.

3. Where does it stop? How do we say "no" to group marriage?

4. Schools will be forced to teach that the homosexual family is normal. Churches could be legally forced to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Homosexuals can choose whatever living arrangements they like, but that does not translate into the right to fundamentally change our culture.

In Scandinavia since same-sex marriage was legalized, marriage has lost its meaning and even hetrosexuals don't get married like they did before.

I assume you are in school in Hawaii.  I hope your time there is profitable.
Other Person

Me:

I thank you kindly for responding, and I mean that.  I have written various politicians in the past, and have gotten nothing other than form responses or silence.  Of course, I realize that you are a private individual and not an elected representative.  I appreciate that you took the time to write me.

I am afraid several issues are being put together that need not be.  For instance, the argument about same-sex families.  I hear this as saying 'I do not mind same-sex marriage, but I do mind same-sex families.'  So it seems then we should all be supporting same-sex legal marriage and then saying no to the next question about families.  The same sort of thing goes for the argument against same-sex marriage because of the opposition to polygamy.  There is no legal institution of group marriages in the United States, so we would have to create a whole new legal form to get there.  As you can tell, my worry is that this amendment does not allow all people to be treated equally under the law.  Since there is no legal institution of group marriage, equal protection is not an issue. 

You mention churches being forced to perform same-sex marriages.  Here I have to admit ignorance.  My personal experience was my brother getting married. My family is Methodist and my sister-in-law is Catholic.  Her church's priest could not perform the ceremony since my brother is not Catholic.  From this, I believed that churches have the liberty currently to not perform ceremonies with which they disagree, and that this would extend to same-sex marriages.  This may be wrong.

I will not write too much, as a discussion like this about one's deepest values is not best carried on over anonymous email.  My concern is that an amendment banning same-sex marriage is a tyranny of the majority.  We don't get to vote on legal protection.  The entire purpose of our Bill of Rights and the courts is to protect small minorities against the desires of the majority even when the majority is overwhelming.  I am sure 82% of Tennesseans were against interracial
marriage 30 years ago as well.  But in the end, it is not our business. I don't want Bill Clinton or George Bush or John Wilder or Phil Bredeson or me voting on someone's right to legally marry the one they love.  Whenever I think of this issue, I think of the gay men and women I have known in my life and their partners, the actual people and not a group with a label.  I cannot imagine what right I have to tell "Rebecca" she cannot marry the person she has already dedicated her life to. I also think of my own son and the world I want for him, and I can only think it would be a better one when any adult gets to decide for him or herself their own legal affairs. I think that is a fundamental change worth fighting for.

May we both fight for what we believe and hold our own opinions with appropriate humility.

Other Person:

I am a private individual but I am president of GroupX, the local chapter of a national pro-family organization.  I have been a full-time lobbyist at the state capitol for XX years.

As you may know the legislature is in session right now and I have an extremely busy schedule, but, although I really don't have the time to get into a running dialogue, I did want to take just a few minutes to respond to your email.

I don't know where you have heard the distinction between same-sex marriage and same-sex families. I have not heard that any where.

You are right, there is not legal polygamy right now, however, until the Massachusetts decision, there was NEVER any legal same-sex marriage in the US either.

There are presently legal restrictions on marriage: age, relative status, etc.

Currently churches do have the authority to set whatever criteria for marriage they want.  But already in Canada, because of their hate crime law and acceptance of same-sex marriage, some pastors have gotten into trouble for preaching Biblical truth.

This is intended to be an incrementally enacted agenda (I am sending in a separate email an article that explains my comment.)  For many homosexuals, they are content to live lives and arrangements of their own choosing, which is as it should be.  For some others, pushing for 'marriage' is a goal. For other groups of homosexuals, they are pushing for marriage as a way of destroying the institution of marriage and they have been quoted saying precisely that.

Same-sex marriage cannot be rightly compared to interracial marriage as interracial marriage was still between a man and a woman.  Homosexuality cannot be compared to immutable characteristics such as race and gender.

I since the compassion in your email and you are to be commended for that.

Your friend "Rebecca" is free to love and to make whatever living arrangement she chooses.

You are very correct when you say having a 'conversation' about deeply held values is difficult.

You say: "I also think of my own son and the world I want for him, and I can only think it would be a better one when any adult gets to decide for himself his own legal affairs."

On the one hand, each of us can NOW decide our own legal affairs but within the parameters of out state and national laws.  To have complete unrestrained freedom would produce anarchy.  

We are blessed to live in a country where we can as individuals support our positions on issues and have civil debates.

Me:

Again thanks for taking the time to respond.  We might have taken the conversation about as far as possible through email and busy schedules.  I was not expecting to change the world through this email, but I think you understand that there are plenty of morally-upright (well I try to be) people who view amendments against the marriage of two of-age consenting adults as an attack on the rights of all of us.  For now, perhaps we can agree on this:  I believe we both share two moral principles.  1) We believe in the importance of marriage and 2) we believe in legal equality for all Americans.  I can only ask that as you do what is right by your conscience, you try to satisfy both principles, and I will do the same.

Other Person:

Thank you Paca - I am sure we both will!

Monday, October 17, 2005

I suck

So my part-time job is managing an academic journal. When a decision is made by the editors, I compile the official notice and the anonymous reviews and send them on to the author. I've done a bunch of these, as we get a lot of submissions. Part of getting the reviews ready for the author is removing any information about what the reviewer recommended explicitly (though you can tell from the review almost always), as well as making sure the reviewer is anonymous. I do the same thing when a manuscript comes in, anonymizing it, finding hidden places that Word identifies them that many authors don't know about and removing them, etc. Well, today in my copy and pasting, I took a review that I had cleansed of everything that was to be cleansed and put it into the email to the author. Hit the send button. As soon as I did it, I noticed something. I still had a reviewer's last name sitting near the top. OK the reviewers name is not very name-like and could almost be a common English word, and maybe it is so buried in there the author won't notice it or won't have any idea who it is, but the conclusion is still clear. I suck. Makes me wonder if I am competent for this job. Did I say yet that I suck? I've already apologized to the Editor and there's nothing else to do now, other than make sure it doesn't happen again or get fired.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bond is Blonde

So they apparently announced the actor playing Bond today, replacing Pierce Brosnan. He's got blonde hair. I just don't know about that. It ain't right.

Preds win again

4 games up; 4 Predators victories. It's the strangest thing I've ever heard of.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Favorite things, couples, and adoption

For some reason I am in a good mood today even though I don't know how I will possibly get all my work done.

I think right now my favorite thing in life is walking down the street with B holding my hand. N may not believe this with the way B and I struggle all the time, but it's true. I was trying to think what in the world I could give that up for, and it's hard to come up with something.

I'd also like to say that I really like vanilla coke, chicken and dumplins and a really good Thai curry. I think that is an equivalent level of importance. How about you?

I also saw some article last night about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher getting married. This may seem silly. Ok, it is silly. But that makes me happy too. I always like it when people who aren't supposed to be together are together and are happy. I feel this way whenever I see couples that don't fit the stereotype, and I wish them well. See love conquers all.

Nice if that were true.

Makes me think of an episode of CSI that was out in the last few weeks. The main cop, not a CSI investigator, but a cop (don't know character name), went to visit his estranged daughter because her friend had been murdered. His daughter had become addicted to drugs and a prostitute. So there was this little scene where he drives to her place but doesn't go up because he hasn't called and she doesn't know he is there. He calls up to her from his cell phone and she starts to tell him some lies about how well her life is going, while he can see her lean out the window and her also black boyfriend leans out, offers her a crack pipe or something, and kisses her. OK, some of this I get. Becoming an addict, selling herself, lying to her parents, etc. Actual bad things that parents should worry about. But I had to think that they deliberately threw in her boyfriend being black as well to tap into a hidden white fear, as if that somehow makes it even worse. That was a really bad idea on the writer's or casting director's part. It's possible that the actor was just the best they could find to play the boyfriend, and maybe later in the episode it was important what race he was. I don't know. I didn't watch the rest of it. If either is true, they get a pass. But my guess is those weren't the reasons, and it's depressing to think that your white daughter dating a black man is still something to fear in the minds of much of their audience.

I also got reminded recently how different my views about adoption are than many. Maybe it's because I am male, so feel free to set me straight. Anyway, there was some NPR news account of Connecticut now having their health coverage cover fertility treatments, but there is an age cap of 40. They spoke with a woman who is now 42 who has been undergoing treatment for years and will continue to do so. They've spent over $100,000 on this and have no plans to stop. The whole time I am thinking that there are thousands of children in foster homes and tens of thousands more, young babies, in other nations just sitting and waiting for a mother. Why can't the two of them team up? I know I don't get it. Is it because I'm a guy, so that I don't get the drive? I think N understands better than I do. Are my views on adoption abnormal still in the US? Is it because I have a biological child that I don't feel the pressure to produce anymore, and I would feel like her if I was in the same boat? I don't know.

In other news, I have three more phonological reviews due by the end of the semester, so I picked up some books yesterday. I have to do 3 of these 4: Manchu (spoken in northeastern China, which was Manchuria. It's always a mistake to conquer China; you just end up Chinese; ask the Mongols.), Vietnamese, Kabardian (language in the Caucasus mountains; think Georgia, Armenia, Chechnya, etc.), and Karao (language in the Phillipines).

Today's projects: Prep John Searle's argument against Artificial Intelligence for debate tomorrow and prep the first couple statistical learning articles for discussion leading tomorrow. Dang, already 2:30. I'm out.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Onion funny

I very rarely go read The Onion, but this headline was funny. Reggae is really big here:

Bob Marley Rises From Grave To Free Frat Boys From Bonds Of Oppression

Gonna be busy

It's getting busy around here. First up, I am about to take over presentations for the next three weeks in my Language Acquisition seminar. The format of the seminar is that for the first 6 weeks or so we read papers attempting to prove that language is "innate." Then the rest of the class is devoted to students providing anti-nativist papers for the semester. There are only 4 of us in the class, so I have the next 3 weeks all to my lonesome self. A full 9 hours of class where I select the readings, do the presentations, and lead discussions. Shouldn't they pay me for this or something? My topic is statistical learning in language acquisition, so my goal is to convince the class that children don't need innate linguistic constraints on language learning because their statistical learning abilities do the trick. This may sound absurd for two reasons. 1) Paca, you are teaching statistical learning, but you've never taken a class in statistics in your life? Here you make a good point, and it might in fact be absurd. Of course, there comes a time in your life where if you only do things you learned in classes, then you are never going to do anything. 2) You are gonna tell me a one year old knows statistics?! Uh-huh. Sure. However, the truth is they do. Kids can detect all sorts of amazing statistical patterns. And presumably so can you, even if you did fail your stats class. It's like being able to catch a ball even though you can't consciously do the integral calculus required to model this mathematically.

On Thursday, I am debating a second time as well. This time I am to be John Searle arguing against the prospects for true artificial intelligence. I have the good fortune of going against a Computer Science prof who has spent many years of her life arguing against Searle's position. So, yeah, this should be fun. Nothing like a little public humiliation to start the day off right. That's part of the Cognitive Science Colloquium CogSci Smackdown! series. Of course, it's my fault, since I am the one who came up with the idea in the first place.

I also really need to get some copy-editing done for my journal. I have finally caught up in the shuffling of manuscripts off to review and the like. So now I really need to get the copy editing started for our January issue.

Today's main homework project was a review of Finnish phonology. Did you know that Finnish has 17 separate diphthongs and that they have short and long consonants and vowels? That's right 'tippa' is a different word from 'tipa' which could be different from 'ttipa' or 'tiipa' or 'tipaa'. You get the idea. Cool, huh?

Song of the moment: Do it by Poncho Sanchez off the album Do It! Only because that's what's playing right now.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Go Preds

The Nashville Preds beat the Anaheim Mighty Ducks tonight 3-2. They won in a shootout in OT when Paul Kariya put it in. As the Notes at the end of the AP article said: Nashville is 2-0 to start the season for the first time in franchise history.
Note that I am also a big Tennessee Titans fan, but since they are not winning this year, I am remaining quiet about the game results.

Song in the Head Today - Captain Feathersword Ahoy by the Wiggles.

Tonight was Supper Club night with 4 folk from Linguistics. The them was "cold". N did the work for us making guacamole and a spinach bacon quiche. Other items consumed included a German cucumber salad, tomatoes and mozzarella, pecan pie, tiramisu, and couscous salad. B provided entertainment as always.

Tonight's project until I fall asleep is a review of Finnish Phonology.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm easy

So several months back I posted this whole thing about my anger at the NHL lock-out and how maybe when they started hockey up again I just wouldn't go back. But here it is. The first night of a real game and I was checking the NHL scores. The Nashville Predators won 3-2 over the San Jose Sharks. Yippee! But isn't it sad how quickly I crumbled?

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cold food

I need recipe ideas. N, B, and I get together about once a month or so to have a cooking fest with some friends at school. There is always a theme. The first theme was uhhh Italian? The next one was wrapped things - crepes, manicotti, gyoza, etc. Our next theme for this coming Saturday is "cold" so I need your best cold food recipe. I keep thinking gozpacho, but I don't know. And sorry for not knowing how to spell gozpacho. It's gonna make it harder to search for a recipe though, isn't it?

Here's Random

I got some random for you:

Song of the Day in My Head: The Helping Song from the Koala Brothers. Splendid!

Child Physical Therapy report: So B was a late walker and was recommended to Easter Seals for physical therapy. He was walking really quick (actually before the first session) and today he was officially labeled "age-appropriate" on social, cognitive, gross, and fine motor skills. Go, B!

Adult Physical Therapy: Yesterday was exercise day. First, I bike about 15-20 minutes to school and then 20-25 home because I sometimes pick up B from day care. Then I joined N on her exercise walk with periodic jogs. Then we came back and did 20 push-ups (one set with B on the back and one set without), 20 sit-ups, 55 jumping jacks, and some leg lifts. N did about all of this too, except the biking. Go us.

Do beans count as healthy veggies? Cause if so, then, as they say, I'm brilliant. I'm eating a yummy bowl of black-eyed peas and andouille sausage as we speak. If not, then I'm not so brilliant.

I have no opinion of Bush' latest supreme court nominee.

I heard some calls recently from "moderate" Democrats for a Clark/Obama 2008 ticket. And some for an Obama/Clark ticket. I could get excited about that one. I really could. Most of the other tickets are like: welll, it's better than the option.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Juicy political and social discussion

Below I had taken a political test which labeled me as a Democrat. Jill at Yellow Snapdragons also mentioned this test at Political Compass. I'm not going to post my scores. The test basically said I was significantly a social liberal with very centrist economic impulses, which I guess is pretty much how I think of myself. What was most interesting from the test were the questions that were really hard to answer. Here are some:

STATEMENT: 'No one can feel naturally homosexual.'

Wow, how to answer this one? I can guess where they are headed here. If I believe being gay is natural, then I am socially liberal, because if it is somehow a biological fact, like skin color, then it is illogical to discriminate based upon this fact. Usually conservatives think that being gay is not biological but, in the extreme, some sort of spiritual or moral disease. I, however, disagree with the whole basis of this discussion. I don't know if being gay is biological or not, and honestly I really don't care. First of all, no one has any real idea concerning complex behaviors like love, sexual desire, etc. what being natural or unnatural means. I am in an entire seminar right now to discuss whether or not language is innate. However, the reason I don't care if homosexuality is genetically specified or not is that I don't see it as very important to my moral or political views. What is it supposed to mean? If I discover my friend is gay not because it's in his genes but because he just thinks men are hot, it's now OK to discriminate on housing, marriage, adoption, employment, etc.? I think not. I can't fathom that a person who is honorable, strong, righteous, intelligent and kind is in any way more or less so if the partner beside him is a man, a woman, white, black, red-head, blonde, etc. So, I am arguing that I would be more of a social liberal if I think that being gay is not biological and yet still it is a right that I should fight for. The statement is also of couse highly ambiguous. Is it a question of how people feel – people feel lots of true and untrue things – or a question of whether they are or are not naturally homosexual?

STATEMENT: 'There are no savage and civilised peoples; there are only different cultures.'

I think I agreed on this one, but it truly isn't clear. As always, these are very imprecise terms being used. It certainly is possible for a people to become corrupted for a given time. Let's think of Nazi Germany, where, as a whole, the culture had fallen off the deep-end. This might be an example of a "savage" people, if you allow all of the caveats that are obvious. The Holocaust was not just another morally-equivalent cultural practice. So people for a time can screw up. Let's accept that. But of course Nazi Germany is not usually what people have in mind when they are talking of savage versus civilized peoples. Instead, it usually has to do with a certain level of technological sophistication. And here I can basically agree with the statement. If I have a servant boil some tea for me and bring it to the drawing room, I don't know if I am particularly more civilized in an interesting way than some one in New Guinea who is boiling some roots for himself next to his straw hut. He'd probably be pleased to have someone make his tea in the new kettle from Williams-Sonoma as well.

STATEMENT: 'You cannot be moral without being religious.'

Here is another where I question the assumptions. I assume what they are going for is the very common belief that only those who have God in their hearts can be truly moral. Think of Dante's Inferno here where the pagans that he admires most as great men – Socrates, Virgil, etc. – are still in the first ring of Hell because they weren't Christian. (As aways, C.S. Lewis has some nice things to say about this in his Mere Chrisitianity.) If this is what they are talking about, then I can mark down an easy "Disagree." But what does it mean to be religious? Being religious is more than having a membership card to a certain organization. You may wish to read my Koala Brothers and Moral Philosophy essay here. If being religious means questioning your purpose in life, trying to fulfill that purpose, wondering from whence we came and where we are going, then it might truly be necessary to be religious to be moral.

STATEMENT: 'In a civilised society, one must always have people above to be obeyed and people below to be commanded.'

If I am in a battle situation in the army, then someone needs to say go and others need to go. The odds are that we all die without this. But does this mean that there is a permanent group of people who are commanders with others simply to serve them? No.

STATEMENT: 'Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers.'

OK, they are going for a certain "conservative" viewpoint here, but yet again this isn't obviously right or wrong on reflection. If this is the traditional old thing that a woman's place is in the home, and the man's job is to earn money and glory in the public world, then you can just disagree. But what if this question is: what should parents, any parents, hold most dear – the home or the job? Then, the answer is in fact the home. Many fathers and mothers could make more money if they abandoned their children and focused all effort on their public lives. But this is the wrong thing to do. There are times all parents sacrfice for their children. If that is the meaning of the statement, then I agree.

STATEMENT: 'It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals.'

Yes, it is. Some people are too far gone. The next question, though, is do we know which ones they are when we start? It's the same question for the death penalty. Yes, there are some crimes which deserve death, but am I the one to make that call?

STATEMENT: 'The businessperson and the manufacturer are more important than the writer and the artist.'

I don't know if I agree or not here. If we are talking about DaVinci versus Bill Gates, then I'd go for DaVinci. (I think Gates would too, by the way. He's the one who got one of the DaVinci codexes on display in a Seattle museum.) But if the business person and the manufacturer are standing in for the activities of creating housing, growing food, essentially providing us with the necessities of life, the jobs we need to stay alive, then I'd go with the manufacturers. Again, on the other side if writers and artists are standing in for concepts like spirituality, freedom, questioning authority, etc., then I'd go with the artists again.