Sunday, July 31, 2005

How Children Learn Language - Grammar 1

So I will be taking a seminar next semester which is intended to be a debate about how children learn language among different schools of thought. But I haven't studied language acquisition for a couple years now, so I am trying to read some items to get ready. Here are my notes on the first one. If you are interested in exactly how kids figure out the language they speak, then read on. If not, ummm, then that's not good. This is going to be much longer than notes to myself would be, but I am also using this as a sort of Ling 102 practice session.

The things that children learn to do are astounding. Anyone who has seen a baby, especially one a few weeks old, and then sees them again months or years later, can be captivated by the enormous changes that have occurred. Many of these changes are physical, but just as many are mental. One of the most amazing feats that children accomplish is that within a few short years they learn to speak. They learn to speak any language that they are born into. Consider how hard it was when you studied a language in class, high school or college, then think about how a child can pretty much speak like an adult at the age of 6. They might not be able to tie their shoes or stay at home after school safely, but they can string all these words together, using their tongues and throat, or hands and arms for some, and talk to us.

This fact has captivated linguists for years. A small child can speak any language on earth, but the most advanced computers can't really speak any yet. What exactly makes the child so special? Additionally, some linguists have spent years and years teaching language to animals of other species, the most famous and successful being Savage-Rumbaugh's work with bonobos and chimps. First, those animals do more than we ever thought possible - hundreds of words, putting some of the words together in novel combinations - but they are still surpassed by small children. (The bonobos are being taught sign language, as it fits their physiology better, but healthy children whose native language is signed are far more eloquent.) Noam Chomsky, far and away the most famous linguist of the 20th century (and also into politics if you read that sort of stuff) hypothesized that these special abilities of children are, in fact, special. He argued for a special language organ that is genetically specified and unique to humans. Our DNA literally instructs us on how language works, and that is why small children can outdo supercomputers and every other animal on earth. For a very popular account of language working in this Chomskian tradition, see Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct.

Actually, the reasons for Chomsky's assertion of this Language Organ or Language Device were quite different from the reasons I gave. He argued that from the data presented to children, it was impossible for them to learn language, and yet all healthy children across the world do. This argument has been called the "Poverty of the Stimulus" or the "Logical Problem of Language Acquisition." Since it is impossible to learn language from what children hear, then they must in a sense already know it. Philosophers among you should now be thinking of Plato's theories of knowledge. So, argues Chomsky, a child learning English is less like an adult learning basket-weaving, and more like an organ that grows in the brain, according to principles of biological development.

This blog's topic is actually my notes from an article by Brain MacWhinney, a psychologist at Carnegie Mellon, called "A multiple process solution to the logical problem of language acquisition" (MacWhinney 2004 Journal of Child Language, 31, 883-914.) The purpose of the article is to show that there really is no "logical problem" that requires a language organ to get around. In other words, it is to show that the Chomsky stuff above is all wrong. Looking at the title of the article again, MacWhinney will demonstrate that the logical problem of language isn't all that big, and what is left of it can be handled with a host of cogntive process that are not language-specific at all, but general to the way humans think. Before we jump into it, I should say that we are not going to talk about all the things children learn about language. After all, they memorize words, how the words sound, what the words mean, when to use the words, etc. This article is almost entirely concerned with how the words go together; i.e., the syntax or grammar of language. So, this deals with the question of how English speaking kids learn that "John likes dogs" is OK and "John dogs likes" is not OK. (But note that it is perfectly fine in many other languages, such as Japanese and German, assuming the words are Japanese or German words of course.)

OK, so MacWhinney's first task is to define what the supposed logical problem is, in order to get rid of it. Chomsky and his tradition (the dominant school of linguistics) have several arguments for the logical problem.

1) Most of what children actually hear is not grammatical. There are mistakes, retracings, and missing words. They cannot learn correct grammar from incorrect input. MacWhinney cites articles briefly that demonstrate that care-giver language is as grammatically correct as searching formal corpuses as the Wall Street Journal, so this goes away quick.
2) Beyond the bad input children receive, they also rarely get corrective advice - negative evidence. No one says 'no' when the child makes a mistake. Even when someone does provide negative evidence, the children appear to ignore it. (The lit is full of amusing dialogs between parents and children where a parent attempts to correct a child's speech, and the child blithefully ignores them.) Gold (1967) provides a proof that negative evidence is absolutely necessary for a child to learn grammar. He takes as a model that the child will be attempting to put words together to see what works. When the child does this, she is trying different possible grammars of English to see which is the correct one. Gold demonstrated that if you have at least one non-finite grammar as a possibility, then you can never rule it out with positive evidence alone. The non-finite grammar will generate all of the sentences which the child knows are valid, because she hears them, but that grammar will also allow sentences which are, in fact, ungrammatical in the language. If no one ever says 'no' then simply hearing more sentences will never get the child to the correct language. The key here is that hearing the language only - positive evidence - is insufficient. Negative evidence is required, but, says Chomsky et al, children don't get negative evidence.
3) Chilren are able to say some sentences that are good, valid sentences in their language, but they never hear anyone say similar sentences. In fact, Chomsky states, they use such sentences error free. The argument, if all the sentences are true, is strong. It says a) there is such and such type of grammar, b) children use this grammatical stucture without error, c) children never hear such structures; d) therefore there is some innate mechanism guiding them. MacWhinney runs through Chomsky's example of "structural dependence." This has to do with what auxiliary words can be moved to make a sentence a question. To take the most basic, take 'is' from 'Paca is crazy' and move it to the front making 'is Paca crazy?" The child might think the rule is "take the first auxililary and move it to the front." But English grammar is not so simple. Take the case where there is a relative clause inside the sentence:

(1) The man who is running is angry.

You can only move the second 'is' to the front to make a grammatical sentence.

(2) Is the man who is running angry?

You cannot say

(3) Is the man who running is angry?

Notice that in (3) we moved the first 'is' but it makes no sense. The ability to move words does not depend on what comes first but on the grammatical structure the words are parts of.

Chomsky claims that 1) children use this structure error-free but 2) never hear such sentences.

MacWhinney, who is the maintainer of the largest child language corpus (and which did not exist when Chomsky first came up with the argument), decided to do a search on child language data to see if children really never hear this sentence. His search agreed with Chomsky that it was exceedingly rare, but he found examples of parallel types of senteces which children hear all the time. Questions with wh-words are quite common and have the same rule on auxiliaries. See:

(4) Where is the man who is running?

If the child can see that this is the same pattern, then the data is in fact abundant about how to move auxiliaries. In other words, Chomsky's claim that children have no evidence for how to do this just isn't true. MacWhinney then moves through similar arguments for other grammatical structures and shows that in truth there is positive evidence. He also discusses how pronouns relate to nouns (binding conditions for the UG folk) and shows that neither do children produce these structures error-free.

So at this point, MacWhinney is asserting that children don't learn structures error-free and that they do have good positive evidence for their language's grammar. However, note that this leaves Gold's objections largely in tact, i.e., that children must have negative evidence ('no') to rule out certain grammars. MacWhinney's next task then is to demonstrate that a child can in fact learn language from positive evidence only. Now we get to the 'multiple process' part of the solution to the logical problem.

An undercurrent through-out this section of the paper, though MacWhinney never really makes it a bullet point, is that the Gold/Chomsky framing of what children do to learn grammar is wrong. The Chomsky 'generative' tradition always has the child trying out enormous sets of possible grammars. The child then requires enormous evidence to reign herself in - to show that large numbers of the grammars she is trying are incorrect. MacWhinney argues that children never really do this at all, due to a number of cognitive buffers. Here are his 7 solutions:

1) Gold argued that negative evidence was required to back off from a non-finite grammar. There has been work in the last 30 years though, which could indicate that human language is in fact finite, not non-finite. He cites Hausser's work with left-associative grammars, and Kanazawa's work with categorial grammars called k-valued grammars. I have no idea what these grammars are, but the point is clear. If these finite grammars are adequate to describe human language, then Gold's worries about non-finite grammars is irrelevant - for children at least.

2) The Chomskian tradition has always believed grammar is the manipulations of discrete symbols. However, there is evidence that grammar is actually probabilistic - it is 95% likely that a noun phrase will be followed by a Verb Phrase is probalistic. Again, this makes a huge mathematical difference, as it has been shown that probabilistic grammars are learnable with positive evidence alone, again getting us around Gold. Amusingly, MacWhinney states that 'it is surprising that this solution has not received more attention,' and yet this is the shortest section of his paper as well. Fortunately, for us, others have not ignored this. A book called Probabilistic Linguistics, edited by Hay, Jannedy, and Bod sits upon my shelf. It makes the same point that a probabilistic grammar is learnable, getting around Chomsky.

Points 1 and 2 make the same point. If you conceive of what grammar is differently than Chomsky does, the logical problem of acquiring said grammar vanishes. Of course, MacWhinney neither establishes that these grammars are sufficient to describe human language or shows how k-valued and probabilistic grammars go together. But then, he only has 20 pages or so here.

3) The next solution has to do with that idea of children generating large numbers of possible grammars, each of which, other than the correct one, must be ruled out. He argues for a principle of conservatism by which children only hypothesize the least-powerful grammar that their evidence allows. Such a conservative principle will not rule out every incorrect grammar by itself, but it certainly restricts the problem to an enormous degree. MacWhinney particularly mentions his item-based theory of acquisition. By this theory, when a child hears a sentence, such as "Bill gives a gift to John," they learn "giver+give+gift+to+recipient." Nothing more general. Notice that the very word 'give' is listed there, not any group of words such as 'verb', which would create tons of errors - *"Bill salutes a gift to John." So the item-based concept of learning is very conservative, and hence restricts the grammars significantly. Such an item-based grammar is extended to a large degree through analogy. More on that next.

4) MacWhinney argues that 'all errors can be viewed as cases of overapplication of productive patterns.' So like the give/salute thing above. The child learned a correct sentence of English, but then over-generalized the pattern. A verb like 'salute' cannot go into such a pattern. If this is the sort of errors left to solve, then MacWhinney has mechanisms to solve them. His main one is the idea of Competition.

(A side note before proceeding from me. Isn't not extending a productive pattern equally a problem? So instead of producing too much and getting it wrong, the child never makes the connection and never extends his grammar. This would have to be tested. My thoughts on how to test for underproductivity: a) child must possess the syntactic frame for another word (say, a double object pattern with 'give'); b) the child must know another word and know the meaning of the word which could go in his syntactic frame c) the child must be paying attention and yet 4) not figure out that the other word can go in that sentence. Main point, however, is that underproduction might be an error as well, and figuring out how children escape that one could be as enlightening as learning how to escape overgeneralization.)

MacWhinney sees two competing forces in language acquisition. On the one side is the force of analogy, where a child thinks that this word or this syntactic structure is kinda like this one, maybe I can try it too? On the other side is simple rote memorization. Often these two forces compete. MacWhinney discusses the word *'goed.' Analogy with regular verbs of English will create pressure to try sticking an -ed on the end of 'go' to make it past tense. On the other hand, the child will be hearing 'went.' In time, the strength of 'went' will be greater than 'goed' and 'went' will win out. MacWhinney never really discusses it as a central topic, but he very likely has neural network modeling in mind here in this discussion, especially networks that use competitive learning algorithms, such as the winner take all method, which have exhibited many of the features of human language learning. The main problem with this section is that it is only 3 pages or so, and we are left wondering how well competition really works as a model. It's a very solid idea, but.... evidence?

5) A fifth solution is that of cue construction. Honestly, this part is rather confusing. I think MacWhinney is saying that sometimes Competition is not enough, and the child will have to hypothesize additional cues which help them resolve problems. These cues appear to be nuanced semantic distinctions in the examples.

6) A sixth method that children could use to fix problems of over-generalization is self-monitoring. This monitoring actually helps to strengthen one option over another, as they block mistakes.

One very intriguing idea comes up in this section. Quoting (2004:907-8) "Berwick (1987) found that syntactic learning could arise from the attempt to extract meaning during comprehension." Now, this is a very interesting idea. If you go back to Gold, there seems to be little relationship between what a child is trying to understand and how they expand their grammar. The child simply knows some bits of their language and, constrained by universal grammar, just tries a whole bunch of stuff, but as long as it fits UG, there is no method to the experimentation. Berwick is bringing up the idea that grammars expand for very particular reasons - as a means to comprehend speech coming at them right then. This introduces the possibility of grammar expanding in a very particular way as a child explores ways to understand what he just heard. Moreover, most models of speech comprehension seem to have syntax as a sort of gateway to meaning, where only if the syntax is already known, do children understand the meaning of the words. But this is almost certainly not correct. Instead the child hears a grammatical structure they do not know, and in an attempt to ferret out a possible meaning, they rearrange their grammar until it fits. How do they make this re-arrangement?

7) Last one! Indirect negative evidence is also available. A child may never be told that 'goed' is wrong - direct negative evidence - but if they compare how often they expect to hear this form and compare that to how often they actually hear it (hardly ever if at all), they may surmise that 'goed' must be ungrammatical, since otherwise she would almost certainly have heard it by now.

Voila. Long enough for ya?


Friday, July 29, 2005

Linguistics Warning

School will be starting up again in about 3 weeks, so I will be prepping soon. What that means is you guys are about to hear more about linguistics stuff. I might use this place as a sort of notebook. The idea is to attempt to write my notes so that a general audience can understand, because if I can do that, then I truly get it myself. If I'm just noting obscure things like "violations of the subjacency principle are found before 2;6 but not after in the CHILDES corpus" then I'm probably just making it up, as I just did. Soon to come: A multiple process solution to the logical problem of language acquisition by Brian MacWhinney. Excited?!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One of those "tests" that bloggers do

I decided to take one of those tests or lists or surveys that lots of bloggers do and fill it out. I saw this one, and it often had insteresting answers on other people's blogs, so here we go. It's just questions with my answers:

5 things I miss about my childhood:

1) Playing "killer" around town. It was basically a water gun game and you had teams and hiked all over town trying to get the other team. We were heavily armed. I had two basic water pistols on each hip, this water gun shaped like a machine gun, and a backpack full of water hand grenades, also known as balloons. Of course running around with a sack full of water balloons was a little dangerous for killing yourself.
2) Mary's chicken and dumplins
3) Trips after school to my grandmother Smoochie's when i was 9 or so. I would take the bus there and we had this ritual that I would try to sneak up on her and scare her. This involved slowly opening the door, so that she did not know if I had come in or not. Then I would try to crawl behind the furniture, ever so sneaky like, until I popped up behind her chair. (At that time, she had several broken hips (ok, 1 or 2, but broken several times) and was confined to her chair at home. Osteoporosis.) Somehow she almost always caught me. Maybe it was because I came to her place at the same time every day.
4) Quiz bowl. My mom was a librarian and ran quiz bowl. I always liked it, but I was never the best. N and I sometimes pull out Trivial Pursuit questions and ask them. We don't bother with the game; we just ask questions.
5) Cub Dad weekend. A weekend at Camp TLJames with my dad. I would have been 7 or 8. I think it was just dad/son alone time.
I am supposed to stop at 5, but I am throwing in making sasafrass tea at David Newman's farm from the roots, as well as D and D with Kevin and Benjamin, even though they did spend a summer, while I was away at camp, plotting how to kill me off.

10 years ago today:

July 27, 1995. Hmmm... This is in between the first and second years of my masters degree in philosophy. I was working either at Victor's Ristorante, Square Books, or McDonalds, or Shoney's in Oxford, Ms. huh. I don't know. N and I were living together and were moving to this ugly apartment with peach walls and teal carpet, but it was a paradise next to our cockroach infested, no airconditiong stink pit at the Phoenix Apartments. Of course, we paid 350 a month for a 2 bedroom apt. Paying 900 now for a 1 bedroom in Honolulu.

5 years ago:

July, 2000.

N and I are married now and living in our house in Spring Hill. I think I was a program manager for Aspect Communications. In fact that may have been the time when I finally mentally checked out on Aspect, and went from an interested employee to someone collecting a paycheck and biding my time. The bad news is that was 4 years before I left. At this time, I decided to quit, but they talked me into staying by switching jobs. Instead of being a program manager I would move back into Technical Support and spend at least half my time - guaranteed! ha ha ha ha ha - developing inhouse web software to improve our support operation. Anyway, instead of quitting I took a 2 week vacation and went travelling to the mountains of western NC, Virginia Beach, and back. I was supposed to visit the Llama in NYC, but I got tired of driving and didn't make it.

1 year ago:

July 27. We have been in Hawaii for 3 weeks at that point. I am gearing up for school, N is looking for work, and we both look for day care for B. In the mean time, we explored a lot of Oahu.


Taught school all day. We worked on Probability in the morning and then practiced pronunciation (for the Korean English-learners) doing tongue twisters in the afternoon. Sally sells seashells, peter piper, fuzzy wuzzy, etc. Then I tried to explain phonetics too them in half an hour. Maybe the last wasn't my best idea. Afterwards, I came home and we did the exercise walk with B in the stroller. Dinner. Then it was a walk around Waikiki, a trip to Long's drugs to pick up manila file folders to get ready for school, putting B to bed, and then N and I finished the anime movie Castle in the Sky, which I recommend.


Math in the morning. I meet Jee-won to edit a piece of her dissertation for her in the afternoon.

There you go.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Where does the blog get its name?

Occurred to me I should explain the origin of the blog name. It's simply because I once had a particular fondness for these creatures. The alpaca. Of course, many have thought I was female from the feminine ending of paca, but oh well. I don't really want to be paco or pacus.

Long long political article link

Here is an interesting article about political language and the current Democratic party. One thing to note when reading this is that, while you may disagree with much of Lakoff's popular face, he is in fact a top-notch linguist, whose ideas have inspired some really nice theoretical and experimental research on language. A warning, though. It is very very long.
This is basically an article about framing political issues through language. It also discusses whether or not there are other issues for Democrats in recent election losses, such as a basic philosophy disagreement with the majority of Americans. I have revealed on here before that for the first time in my life, after the Bush 2004 victory, I volunteered to work for a political party - the Democrats. However, in this article there is a mention of a dinner party with Bill Clinton and others. Clinton was decent, though he wasn't able to live up to his potential, so it could be a little interesting to meet him, but for the most part I have no interest in dining with anyone else mentioned in the room. Is it a problem that a Democrat doesn't particularly like the Democratic "leaders"? I really have no idea why I am supposed to vote for Hillary in a 2008 election. I'm still waiting for her to do something or inspire me in some manner.

At the same time, if it was Dobson, Bauer, Kristol, Bush, Rove, etc. in the dinner party, I'd want to slap em around to get a modicum of sense into their brains. Guess that makes me a Democrat in our 2 party world.

The above is another example of why I should not write blog entries at 3:00 am.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Duh Headline of the Day

Browsed over to yahoo for a sec and saw the following headline on their News section:

"Battle over Nominee May Center on Abortion"



Never realized that issue was particularly controversial....

In case it is not clear to new visitors, everything above this sentence will require that we build a special sarcasm Ark for all of the sarcasm dripping down.

Blogspot Crazy!

Well, I apparently made some list, because all of a sudden yesterday I have gotten visits from a huge number of links. So welcome in everyone! Feel free to say hello in a comment, and ummmm yeah hello!

Topics in this blog:

  • language - learn what a consonant is!
  • philosophical/spiritual stuff - are we all One?
  • political stuff - where i start off railing against the Bush admin and then attempt to rein myself in and be more constructive
  • stuff about Hawaii - see a rainbow! learn about spam musubi! Get a superfast Hawaiian history
  • Food - I eat a lot apparently. Trade bread recipes. Marvel at the wonder of Pho
  • Family - see pics of the little guy (he's 2) and read about me as a dad
  • Reporting - patiently watch me try to puzzle out things that smarter people wrote books about
  • Teaching - hear me learn how to teach a crew of 8-12 yo Korean and Korean-Am kids
  • Music - music is my aesthetic of choice, so I will talk about it periodically (go Puffy Amiyumi!)

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

More minimum wages

I decided to elevate this from a Comment section, because I am interested in other's opinions. Below in the downhome economic theory entry, Serena and I discuss minimum wages. Here are my latest thoughts:

Been pondering this a bit, and I think I am going to go with Serena to the extent that I am not sure the ability to send your children to college should be part of Minimum wage, emphasis on the word minimum. It is asking too much, especially since a college eduation is really useful, but not a real requirement for decent life, like shelter and food, etc. This is not to say that our nation as a whole has no interest in everyone having the opportunity for higher education. After all, brains don't come with family money, and we are best off if our best brains, no matter their economic background, get into college. But the fact that our nation is better off that way is likely a separate question from government-mandated minimum wage. It should be discussed another day.

Now, I did pick up an Economics textbook recently, since I know nothing about economic theory. I came across an interesting point. It had an opinion arguing against goverment minimum wages, because it removed the opportunity for some to bid low for their services. I get the point. The reason that much of our production is moving to the Third World is exactly because they have the ability to bid low wage-wise. If they could not work for less, our work would not go there at all. However, there is a possibility that this is missing some information if it is intended to be a complete policy rationale. What I am thinking of at the moment is that it is middle class wealth that most benefits our economy. I don't mean of course that everyone must be average - that's borderline contradiction. What I mean is that the poorest share no wealth due to having to spend every penny to make ends meet. The wealthiest often share less because if I have 10 million or 11 million, will my spending habits change much? It is the middle class whom consumes such to drive our economy, and if a minimum wage moves more people into the class of those who consume, then that will benefit our economy.

These are incomplete thoughts, so completion is welcome.

How long will I be here?

People periodically ask me how much longer I will be in my doctoral program. I decided to sit down and actually figure it out this morning. This is what I currently think:

I have three more semesters of course work, which wraps things up in December of 2006.
Next I do a working paper, but I hope to have something published before classes are finished.
Then I do my comprehensive exams and the dissertation proposal. That should be done in the Spring of 2007.
Then I just write my dissertation. I hope that will take a year to year and a half. No more. I need a job. So that finishes me up in Spring of 2008. Kinda scary. I will be 35 at that point.

However, there is still the question of where I will be when I write my dissertation. There is no reason I have to be in Hawaii. However, I can't say where I will be until I know what my dissertation topic is, so you can ask me that in Spring of 2007.

There are chances of shortening this a semester or 2, but there are also chances of lengthening it, if I have to work more or such. But basically I hope to keep this to a 4 year program with one year being done.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Now here's a job title

Reading a little news article about a conviction in Nigeria on an email fraud case, I came across this sentence:

"Ranked the world's second most corrupt country after Bangladesh by sleaze watchdog Transparency International...."

I just love that term - sleaze watchdog. I looked up Transparency International's description of themselves on their web site. Here is a piece:

"Transparency International, the only international non-governmental organisation devoted to combating corruption, brings civil society, business, and governments together in a powerful global coalition.

TI, through its International Secretariat and more than 85 independent national chapters around the world, works at both the national and international level to curb both the supply and demand of corruption. In the international arena, TI raises awareness about the damaging effects of corruption, advocates policy reform, works towards the implementation of multilateral conventions and subsequently monitors compliance by governments, corporations and banks. At the national level, chapters work to increase levels of accountability and transparency, monitoring the performance of key institutions and pressing for necessary reforms in a non-party political manner."

That sounds nice and all, but it's clearly not as engaging as "sleaze watchdog". I hereby recommend that they delete all of the above and simply say, "We are a bunch of people who watch sleaze. And if we see it, we bark. Real loud. Grrr... Just saying 'Bangladesh' makes me wanna gnaw through something, especially something sleazy."

Pics for Mom

My mom is back in Virginia, and she let me know she was going to take a look at my blog soon for pics, so here is a pic from yesterday morning when we went to a Farmer's Market at Kapiolani Community College as well as a pic of the three of us on Father's Day. Notice the lei. No, I don't usually wear necklaces. Also below are some pics from the 4th of July.

4th of July pics - Kualoa Ranch Beach Park

Here are some pics of the three of us during our 4th of July at the Kualoa Beach Park - picnic, flying a kite, and swimming in the water. Kualoa Ranch is up on the windward side of Oahu. Check out those green cliffs in the kite pic. N doesn't appear in many pics because she is the photographer most of the time. And you would see why when you compare hers to mine.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

baking bread tips?

Here is my most successful loaf of French Bread so far. I've been intermittently trying to cook a decent loaf for a while. I recently switched from the James Beard bread book to just the one that came with our big mixer which the father-in-law gave to us, and the results have been much better. There are three changes. One is just a slightly different recipe of water, salt, flour, and yeast. Also, I let the mixer do the kneading with the dough hook. Finally, this recipe has you roll out the dough after the first rising to a square. Then you roll it up again. The end result is that I am finally pleased with the flesh of the bread inside. It's nice and airy, rose nicely, tastes good, etc. However, I haven't quite gotten the crust down to a real good crust. My crust is staying too soft to be a good French baguette. From the Beard book, I have been adding a shallow pan of water during baking to get some steam in there. Any one have any tips to make my bread better? Actually, I'd be interested in any good bread baking tips. I now have three passable varieties - the french, a basic white loaf, and a cornbread. Recipes, recipes!!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hearing the voice of the people?

N and I just received the "Legislative Survey 2005" from our state rep, the Republican minority leader and the rep for my district - Waikiki - Galen Fox. Right at the top it says:

"Your views are important to me. As your Representative, I do better when I know how you feel. Please take a moment...."

OK, so that's cool. My rep wants to know the opinion of his constituents on certain state matters. Good. But when you read the survey, it turns out he has no interest in getting honest opinions from us. Instead, the entire thing is designed to get bogus stats to back up his already formed opinions. Here are some of the questions:

"1. Many experts believe the proposed gasoline pricecap will cause shortages and boost prices at the pump. Do you support government price fixing for gasoline? Yes/No"
I happen not to be a big price-fixing supporter, but this question is clearly designed to get a predetermined answer. It reads "Pricecaps are stupid. Do you want them?"

"2. Hawaii residents pay the third highest state and local taxes in the country. Would you like to see state surpluses returned to taxpayers as tax cuts or used for goverment pay increases?"
Nother bogus question. It starts off saying taxes are too high in order to set the stage for the question. Then the question itself is both a false choice and vaguely worded. After all, the question could be "would you like a tax cut or to feed our homeless children" and then it mentions goverment pay increases, making you think of the fat cat state reps, when goverment pay might be increasing teacher salaries.

3. "Insurance companies believe car alarms no longer stop theft. Should we outlaw car alarms?" This one isn't horrible, but it clearly presents only one side. It also doesn't bring up the issue of whether or not government should get involved in outlawing something a car owner wants to put in the car. This question, by the way, is about car alarms going off at night.

There are a couple more like this where he tells you what to say and then asks what you think. Sounds like he has no interest in finding out our opinions at all.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Superfast Hawaiian history

In case you are wondering how Hawaiian culture came to be what it is today, here is my superfast history.

Hot spot in the earth's crust created created a bunch of islands in the middle Pacific about 2000 miles from L.A., which is not quite far enough in my mind, but we get by. :) The big isle of Hawaii is the newest and that is where the active volcanoes are - Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, and Kilouea (spelling is wrong) and the last is the most active in the world, continually pouring out lava as we speak. The full Hawaiian chain actually stretches for a thousand miles from Hawaii to the northwest, including Midway.

The polynesians were the first settlers who came here about a 1000 years ago in outrigger canoes, sailing the ocean currents and stars for thousands of miles, from the Society Islands (Tahiti) and the Marquesas (like that Survivor series). The polynesians were some of the greatest sailors in world history and their homes stretch all the way from Hawaii to the Maori in New Zealand. In 1778, Captian Cook showed up in the islands, changing everything. Some Europeans and many Americans soon followed. There were three immediate consequences. Using European guns King Kamehameha of Hawaii conquered all of the islands for the first time in their history, establishing the Hawaiian monarchy and the capital in Honolulu. Second, the Americans soon set up plantations, and the plantations drove the Hawaiian economy for a hundred years. Sugar was the main crop with pineapples as well. As a note, pineapples and macadamia nuts were all brought to Hawaii at this time, but they happen to grow really well in the climate. Third, new diseases devastated the Hawaiian population. I have heard one estimate that as many as 90% died. This seems high, but the effect was at least as powerful as the Black Death in Europe.

The plantations transformed Hawaii. In the latter half of the 19th century, the plantations began to import workers, mostly from Asia, but some others. These included Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Puerto Rican, and Filipinos. The number of immigrants brought in to work the plantations was vast. In the early 20th century, some 40% of the population was Japanese. The workers also had to create a new language with which to communicate, which is called Hawaiian pidgin, but is actually a creole language - more on that at another time. Also, there were increasing tensions between the Americans running the plantations and the Hawaiian monarchy. In the end, the plantation owners organized a militia and imprisoned Queen Lili'uokalani in 1893. In 1898, Hawaii became a territory of the United States.

In the 1920s and 1930s the immigrations slowed down, as did the plantation economy. The next great economic boom came with the second world war, which established Hawaii as one of the principal military bases for the U.S. (Large sections of Oahu are military; it's much more than just Pearl Harbor). Also, the tourist economy really took off. In 1959, the Hawaiian citizens elected to become the 50th state.

I think one of the great treasures of Hawaii, other than its natural beauty, is the ethnic diversity here. Here are the last U.S Census numbers on that. Basically, 20% are white, 20% identify with two or more races, 50% is Asian, and 10% are Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (Samoan, Guam, Micronesia mostly). Of course that lumps all Asians together. To get a better idea, here are the stats for the University system: Caucasian 22%, Hawaiian 13%, Filipino 13%, Chinese 6%, Japanese 16%, Pacific Islander 3%, all other 15% (must include Korean, Indian, African-American etc.) and Mixed 12%. Notice that mixed is almost tied for the 2nd largest group here. I keep hearing that the majority of marriages here are interracial or intercultural, but I have no data to back that up. And so that's Hawaii.

You aren't in Tennessee anymore when...

A few Hawaiian observations with a Foxworthy theme:

When you wake up late, and you run into a store to get a spam musubi for breakfast and not an egg mcmuffin, you aren't in TN anymore....

When the old shopping center near work has a Subway, a wrap place, a TCBY, a Thai fast place, a Pizza Hut, and a Burger King, and the new one has Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, and a Taco Bell, you aren't in TN anymore....

When the big bruiser and his buddies on the back of the bus are strumming a ukelele, you aren't in TN anymore....

When the guy in the pickup truck in the parking lot is shaking his windows with the blasts of traditional Polynesian chants, you aren't in TN anymore....

When place names seem to repeat the same sounds, like the LikeLike highway, King Kamehameha, and HuliHuli chicken, you aren't in TN anymore. (For the linguistically inclined, it is called reduplication, and it is very common in languages. Also the first is pronounced LeekayLeekay)

When you used to giggle when you said you were at the corner of Harding and Harding, and now you can say that you are at the corner of Ke'eaomoku and Kapi'olani, you aren't in TN anymore....

When you can ask someone what they are doing for Prince Kuhio day, you aren't in TN anymore....

When a woman walks through the mall in a bikini, wrap around the waist, and flipflops and no one really notices, you aren't in TN anymore....

When you know the difference between windward and leeward, can say that RadioShack is on the mauka side of the mall, and that the picnic is on the Ewa side of the beach park, you aren't in TN anymore....

When there are no country stations on the FM dial, but you can easily find Hawaiian and reggae, you aren't in TN anymore.

When the kick off for the Titans game is at 7:00 AM and Monday night football starts at 2:00, you aren't in TN anymore....

When a gallon of milk can cost over $7 and a whole squid just over $2, you aren't in TN anymore....

When you have an opinion which raw fish is better - sushi or poke - you aren't in TN anymore....

When you tell the parking lot attendant you are pau for the day and he says "see ya tumarra bruddah", you aren't in TN anymore....

When it takes 5 minutes to think of a single sit-down pizza place in the city, you aren't in TN anymore....

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I've gone international!

Well, I just got my first non US hit today. It's from Perth, Australia, and I will say no more. Amazingly, not long after, I got my second international hit - this time from Finland. The latter appears to have come from a beast of a search engine that gives me as a link on Socrates a mere hours after I mentioned the word in a blog.

Anyway, a big kudos to Ever since I and the Digital Cowboy made fun of each other (well now that I think of it, I think only he made fun of me... hey, that's not right!), his link to me has made this the single biggest day in pacatrue.blogspot history.

While it is quite cool to meet people (and it is my fault because I am the annoying guy saying hello on other blogs like the Cowboy's), it's also a little weird. This blog was created basically to let my family in on my life, since I am sitting in the middle of the Pacific. But now instead of just my wife and sis checking it each day, I got 10 other people today I have never met. Well, we will see how it goes....

downhome economic theory

You hear a lot about earning a living wage. I like the idea, meaning I want a family to be able to live on what they earn. Now, I am also honest enough to admit I do not know at the moment what we should do about a job that does not provide a living wage. Anyway, I thought I would try my hand at what seems to be a living wage to me.

I would hope that if a family had two adults and two children, that if one of the adults worked a full 40 hours a week, they could:

Live in a small home (apartment if in NYC, San Fran, etc.) Probably 2 bedrooms. Basically safe neighborhood.
They could afford one 5-10 year old used car.
They could go to eat at a medium price restaurant maybe twice a month (thinking Chili's on the expensive side, maybe Country Buffet)
Their children could go to school through 12th, and then could attend some 4-year institution (not necessarily any 4-year, just some decent 4-year place)
They are able to save for their own retirement so that they do not lose their home and can make it for a couple decades after 65.
They have one TV in the home, and it's 30" max - probably use the antenna.
Each person would have a couple nice pieces of clothing, and everything else is basic.
Medical care - I don't know here. I just don't. I am not convinced good medical care is a right, but it is awfully sad if Americans' mortality rates are based on income level.

So, if someone works full-time, I would want their wage to allow them to live about like this, no worse. However, there would be times when it is tight, and to make it all work, they would have to manage their money well. This is what minimum wage for a worker should provide.

Of course, I would hope lots of people can work for above minimum wage so they can do more, but in this vision a person could raise a small family, providing food, shelter, clothes, basic transport, with any full-time job. This seems to be about what those old union jobs you used to hear about where their old man worked in the factory for 40 years got you - just the basics. And I would like that to still be the case. You could push me and make a case that I am asking too much. Perhaps an extra part-time job should be necessary to live this life. The other adult could work as well, increasing the earnings. However, it is ideal if that is an honest choice - it is not necessary for both adults to work full-time to lead this basic life - but if they do, then they can live in a little more material comfort than I have prescribed here. In the end, it just seems right if one salary can make ends meet for a family - all families.

So who cares? The reason I am thinking of it is due to all the discussions lately of taking reponsibility for oneself or having an "ownership" society. I would be much more open to such concepts if everyone who works 40-60 hours a week can really make a life. But if our jobs are such that not everyone even can provide for their families with hard work, then the "ownership" idea seems to be no more than just letting some people fall by the wayside.

All this depends on the idea that someone will have the minimum jobs. Sure, a single individual can work super hard and get a better paying job, but someone is still left handing out the fries. They need to be able to live too.

Make It Funky, Doctor Seuss

Since B is 2, he has hit Dr. Seuss stage. His two favorite Seuss' right now are Green Eggs and Ham and Ten Apples Up on Top. It's fun reading these things as adults, because Seuss, well, he was apparently a strange one. Let's take Ten Apples up on Top. It starts off normal enough with a lion, a dog, and a tiger having a competition for how many apples they can put on their head. But soon the lion and dog are breaking into some bear's apartment by walking on electrical wires. They open her fridge and grab apples and milk and start drinking them and tossing the apples on their heads as they skate around her place. She runs in with a mop to smack em to get them to leave, so they run out, pushing and knocking over a bear kid not once but twice. The bear town folk join in chasing them across the countryside carrying, literally, baseball bats, crowbars, etc. And I'm sorry, they aren't going for the apples with a crowbar, they are going for the lion's head. We are about to have a mob scene. Eventually they all run smack into a huge cart full of apples and somehow when the apples land on everyone's head, they all make peace. You gotta love the crime spree he has in his children's lit. We need to have a Grand Theft Auto: Seuss Edition.

That wacky Plato

Just thought I would make it clear how obtuse Plato's dialogue "Parmenides" is. All my books are boxed up in Louisiana, but here is the online version's last two lines:

Parmenides: Let thus much be said; and further let us affirm what seems to be the truth, that, whether one is or is not, one and the others in relation to themselves and one another, all of them, in every way, are and are not, and appear to be and appear not to be.

Socrates: Most true.

Ummm, yeah. Most true... In fact, that's just what I was thinking.
Or maybe better put: riiiiiiighht.

If you wish to read less obtuse Plato, I always recommend his dialogue on love "the Symposium", or "Apology" which is Socrates' justification of his life.

cell phones galore

Just read this on the Sprint / Nextel merger:

The combination, which still requires approval from the FCC and the Justice Department forms a company with more than 40 million wireless customers and $40 billion in annual revenue.

So, on average, the company gets a thousand dollars a year from each customer?! I better go check my Sprint PCS bill again. Yep. Math sure is dangerous. If you spend about $83 dollars a month, you are forking over a thousand a year for that cell phone. Maybe pay phones weren't such a bad idea after all.

Hockey is back, huh?

Well, it looks like the NHL finally got their act together and have worked out a new player contract agreement. But I can only say that I am still angry, and I am not sure I will go back. I am something of a Nashville Predators fan, but it angers me that they could now work out an agreement last season. I mean they all knew they would eventually, right? But instead they fought and fought until the season was gone. That was a choice on all sides. And so since they decided their money was more important than the game, maybe the fans will decide the same?

Wow, all my life's a circle

Serena posted some very nice thoughts, commenting on my Imitation of Christ blog, and I wanted to elevate them here, especially to respond too, instead of leaving them trapped in Comment land. Hope you do not mind, Serena, and welcome to the blog. Here they are:

"Surely, God does not want all humans to be exactly the same."

That sure is the truth and what I have seen as a problem so often with religion. I hate being with a bunch of people with a cookie-cutter mindset. The glory of it all is that our Creator does the work in us to conform us to the image of Messiah. It is His work. Since we were originally created in YHWH's image, then it stands to reason that we can be "like Messiah(Christ)" and still be entirely and original. That is an awesome thought and something that the cookie-cutter types have a hard time with. Of course, even cookie-cutters if they gave it a lot of thought would realize that no 2 cookies are alike and that you can decorate them entirely different. I'm glad that none of us can be put in a box (no matter how hard others try) and that our Father delights in the unique creation each of us are. He works with us and in us no matter where we are in the journey. The most important thing is that we trust in Him and what He has done for us.


This is me again:
It is entirely a great mystery how billions of people can be unique, and not simply unique but the result of their own self-creation based on how they handle their life (the veil of souls), and yet simultaneously all the same - as Serena mentioned in the image of YHWH. How is that possible? Isn't it just a contradiction? Let's put basic logic into it. If X = Z and Y = Z, then X=Y. Right?

Well, not really. It isn't actually that clear. And now I fiiiinally get what Plato was wrestling with for all those dialogues. As people surely remember from their college days, Plato had this idea that what all beautiful things had in common was that they "participated" in the Idea (notice the Cap) or Form of Beauty. All beautiful things are the same due to this. But then he got himself into this very trap. If all things are the same, then is there really only one Beautiful thing at all, or in the end only one single thing, only One? In fact, a gent named Parmenides who "was an old man at the time of Socrates' youth" and one of the earliest philosophers attempted to assert exactly this. From his logic, Parmenides asserted that there was in fact only One - One undifferentiated single thing with no parts, just One. And now 3 generations later, Plato found himself headed in this same direction, when he could tell it was obviously wrong.

Amusingly, Plato attempted to resolve this in a dialogue called "Parmenides" where a wise Parmenides leads Socrates through all the stupidity of his Form ideas, and then resolves it for him with his fabled 8 hypotheses, that are made of things like, "let us suppose the One is," "let us suppose the One is not," "let us suppose the Other is," etc. As much as Plato thought he resolved this issue here, and rarely dealt with it later, no one has ever really been sure what the heck the 8 hypotheses demonstrated. Confusion is so great, that it was a genuine scholarly hypothesis at times that the whole dialogue was a joke.

Well, I have gone too far into Plato, but I was just so stunned how this seemingly arcane dialogue truly can be important to our lives. Actually, not the dialogue itself as much as the problem it tries to solve. In that dialogue, Socrates does make one interesting suggestion about how we could all be the same and yet different, but it is only an analogy. The analogy is simply the idea of the various things of the world all being different, and yet it is the one and same day for them all. So perhaps our solution is somewhere in here. We are all unique souls, but at the same time we participate in the form of Christ.

A.N. Whitehead said that all western philosophy is little more than footnotes to Plato.

This basic error, though, of identifying good things with a single Good carries over to all sorts of daily life. One version is with artistic experience. Let's say that Beethoven's 9th is better than the Beatles "Day Tripper". Seems quite true. Arguments for it can be presented another day. The mistake that many then make is, "Therefore, there is no point in listening to the Beatles." (Insert any band you might like here.) But this entirely misses the point of musical experience. Things are not ranked on a ladder with each piece of music one step better or worse than the other with the ladder ascending to the moon. And you do not discard each bit of the ladder that you climbed as you find better stuff. Because the two songs do different things. They create different experiences, different emotions, and have different purposes. But this is not some radical relativism. Beethoven's 9th is still in fact richer and can do more for you, but doing more is not the same as replacing.

Ranking people is the same. Mother Theresa was a better person than I am, than most of us are, and better than most of us will be, but we are not therefore superfluous or simply pale imitations of her. We are our own people and have to find our own way to be as "rich" in life. We have to find our unique way of being in the image of Christ.

(Disclosure for new folk. I don't consider myself Christian; just a guy thinking.)
(Also, if you waded this far, one of Plato's problems was, really, figuring out what the meaning of 'is' is. In English, the word has at least 3 meanings. 1: Purely grammatical tense/aspect marker like "is running." 2: Indicates having a property "the flower is red." and 3: indicates identity, "Jesus is Christ". So imagine if the last 2 are conflated. When you say the flower is read, and 'is' means identity, then you just said the flower is red itself and all red things are flowers.)

Isolation to Destroy

I probably shouldn't be posting this, because it is 3:00 am, and who knows how clouded my mind is, but 2 days in a row now I keep falling asleep when putting B to bed, so now here I am awake.

I've just been reading various conservative blogs discussing terrorism, Iraq, etc. One re-occurring theme is a false dichotomy presented between the use of military force against terrorists and the review of American policy to make sure it has our best long-term interests at heart. The argument is basically this: "Terrorists are evil, and the only way to stop them is by killing them. It just won't work to appease them, sending flowers to them to convince them we are OK." Neville Chamberlain is thrown in a lot.

Related, another blog was quoting an editorial approvingly stating that no number of policemen can ever stop bombings like those in London. It will require the Muslim countries themselves deciding to root out the evil in its mist, because, paraphrasing, 'no policeman can ever have as great an influence on behavior as the condemnation of one's own society.'

I would just like to put these two concepts together. The idea to lessen terrorism is 1) to kill those who cannot be reasoned with AND 2) to isolate them by convincing the vast majority of their neighbors to support us. There are evil people, and American policy will have no effect on their intentions. These people cannot be gotten in any other way than military or criminal prosecution. At the same time, the support that helps the terrorists keep working must dry up. We need to have more and more people who right now might provide a meal or turn the other way, when they know who is down the street, change their mind and point out the house we need to raid or at least view the evil neighbor with obvious disgust.

In short, we are talking about 2 different people. One cannot be changed and must be taken forcefully; the other can be persuaded, and killing others down the street will do nothing to make that persuasion. Instead, they must feel unequivocably that the people the terrorists are fighting are the good ones, and it is their moral duty to risk their lives to help us. I keep thinking that we would be in a much better way if the $150 billion dollars so far in Iraq had gone into building hospitals, schools and creating jobs in a some shape of a Palestinian state. (Yes, yes, there are huge issues with the capabilities of the Palestinian government, but the basic point that the Isreal/Palestine conflict is the number one disagreement most Middle Easterners have with American foreign policy remains true, and the image of thousands of Palestinian children in schools and their parents at work would do us a world of good.) Would it have killed the bad guys and dismantled Al Qaeda? No. Undoubtedly no. Obviously no. But it would have gotten rid of much of the popular support that the bad guys have, so that they become increasingly isolated, pariahs in their own towns and mosques. That is what the review of American policy is about, defending American interests by having greater and greater numbers in the Middle East on our side, so that the terrorists become an increasingly isolated and unsupported fringe group. This is not an either/or choice. In the fight, you do 2 things: persuade those you can AND kill those you must.

It is similar to the shift that has occurred within the American South with regard to groups such as the KKK. (Yes, regular blog readers, I have mentioned this before.) The KKK is still around, but they have less and less influence on the society in which they live. It is becoming rarer and rarer for the tpyical Southerner to view a KKK attack as a bizarre form of vigilante justice or "just the way it is." Instead, most Southerners now view such crimes as crimes and their perpetrators as abhorrent.

I am reminded of a crime that occurred here in Hawaii recently. A woman was abducted right off the UH campus by 5 men, raped, and then tossed off at a dorm later. So, somewhere on this tiny island there are 5 men who need to be captured and locked up for the rest of their lives. But I keep thinking also that one of these men's brothers or mothers or friends has an idea their guy was involved, but they aren't saying anything. It is a small place, and I am sure someone knows. We need to lock up the rapists, but to get these rapists we also need to have that other silent person believe their duty is to speak. When your own mother, girlfriend, or buddy turns away from you, and the world think that person tragically had to make that choice, it makes the clearest statement how the crime is viewed. And you finally get the scum.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Imitation of Christ

It has been a long tradition of Christianity to view Christ as a model for one's life. The imitation of Christ as the highest calling for mortals. I have been viewing some evangelical web sites over the last few days, and this is a big topic. Christ as a model of masculinity. This all makes sense; however, it is a more complicated issue than I first realized.

One might assume that to be in the imitation of Christ, you simply try to figure out what Christ was like, and then you imitate it as much as you are able. Of course, since we are not God personified, we will have some troubles with that, but the concept makes sense. However, I realized there is more.

Surely, God does not want all humans to be exactly the same. This is based on nothing more than the idea that if God wanted us all to be the same, he wouldn't have created us this way, i.e., starting off with variable genes and then building us to change with experience. So even if you knew exactly what Christ was like, and if you were able to become that way, there is still the issue of being Christ-like and yet simultaneously individual. All this makes me think that the ultimate goal is not to be exactly like Christ, but to be as good as Christ, or at least as good as his human side. This is a much more difficult notion, because you ultimately have to find your own way, and not simply repeat a model. Of course, you are allowed to stand on the shoulders of Christ as you work it out, but you can't stop there. You must keep going.


Rainbows are pretty common here on Oahu. The mountain ridges trap the rain on top of them, and whenever you have light rain in one place, and sunshine in another, you are going to have rainbows. The UH men's teams are the Rainbow Warriors and the women are the Rainbow Wahine. Wahine just means "woman" in Hawaiian, so it is the Hawaiian version of the Lady Techsters and Lady Bulldogs and such. Anyway, here is a nice full rainbow that I took from the car window at a stoplight (Kalakaua and Kapiolani to be exact). It is sort of Hawaiian nature asserting itself over a modern city environment.


I have sooooo become a Dad. B has a video which is his favorite right now called Kipper the Dog, the stories of a friendly laid-back very English orange dog. In one of the stories, Kipper wakes up at night and goes to get some milk from the fridge and meets a ghost. They talk and Kipper gets milk and biscuits for the ghost who is on his first haunting and is not very scary. Kipper tries to teach him to be scary by putting a sheet over him and going wooo-oo-oooo-oooooo. Several times they cross in front of the fridge with the door still open. All I could think was, "For god's sake, close the door before you let all the air out!"

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pho Photo Folio

A nice new comfort food here in Hawaii is the Vietnamese soup Pho. It is cheap and yummy. You shouldn't spend much over $5 for a bowl, and can choose various beefs, chicken, pork, and tofu versions. All around town there are Vietnamese Pho shops. It's popular enough that even if it is a full restaurant with all sorts of stuff, you need to have a glowing Pho neon sign on the outside to keep appearances up. So here is my photo essay for Pho.

First, you get the bowl of broth and meats if chosen. It also has the yummy noodles in it. Next you get the plate of fresh basil, bean sprouts, and kaffir leaves. Everything is fresh.

Once you have everything, add the leaves and sprouts as desired. Don't put the basil stems in; just leaves.

Next up... sauces! I almost always add some soy, a big dash of hot sauce, and this sweet tangy stuff that reminds me of a Chinese Hoisin sort of thing.

And voila. Take out your chopsticks and spoon and go at it. B likes the Pho noodles, but you have to take them out for him before you dump the hot sauce in.

The end result is... This!

You can even get Pho at the Pacific Mart where I get my Cokes next to school where I teach, but I haven't tried theirs yet. I usually eat Pho at Bale, which advertises French sandwiches and Vietnamese Pho. I think it's that whole Indochine thing.

And that's my photo essay on Pho.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Famous Me...

I just googled myself. First I did pacatrue. Two things came up - one completely irrelevant, and the other a Comment I did on another blog. This blog doesnt exist yet in Google.

More interesting was some of my history that I had forgotten about, which is still on record online. For instance, I had a brief letter to the Editor on Salon in 2002. I had forgotten about it:
"According to Dave Appell's article "The Next Newton?" Stephen Wolfram appears to be trying to take credit for all of complexity theory. These ideas of using computer simulations to model self-organizing systems are hardly new. They have been studied for at least 20 years. There are many previously published books on the subject. Academia commonly teaches courses now on nonlinear dynamic systems. There are even entire institutes devoted to the study of these topics, such as the Santa Fe Institute. Is Wolfram taking credit for too much, was Appell not aware of Wolfram's context, or do I just not understand this article?

-- Hunter Hatfield"

I also have a couple postings from CHI-WEB, a human-computer interaction website, back when I was attempting to do that.

There was even a link, but now dead, referencing a post of mine I sent in to the Van Morrison mailing list back in 1995 or so.

My community award from Aspect in 2001 is there.

My life as a Marathoner is subject of an article on

I also just discovered that my old thesis advisor lists me in the Preface to his book on Truth and Objectivity. My thesis was the first he had supervised. Nathalie says we already knew this, but that I forgot. So that's kinda cool

My participation in a summer Ultimate league in 2001 is there.

And then, somewhat amusingly, the very very last search result on page 5 is my pseudo home page at UH.

Hmmm.. Apparently, there is actually another person with my name out in the world. He seems to be younger and smart. Apparently he attends or attended a magnet school and he posts to game boards about driver installs and dlls. And a Britt Hunter Hatfield as well! He's a physician at Harvard. Well at least my name didnt come up on prison records or some such. It appears to have a nice record of achievement so far. Good job on naming, mom and dad!

It's all rather scary. A little pseudo-bio of me has been created in the cybersphere, which I cannot control. And various spiders have collected my name as well, so that I am a random key word for them. How odd....


I just added a stat counter to this, as I am a nosy busy-body bee umm thing. Anyway, let me know if you notice any problems with the page loading as a result. It uses a cookie, so let me know if that's a big deal. I can look for others.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bad Reporting Example

So I just ran over to Yahoo AP news and saw this
article . It is an article on a Bush/Blair news conference about the fact that the other 7 of the G8 could not get Bush to budge on the Kyoto climate control agreements. The article is essentially a report of each man's words. In short, it is the sort of article that anyone with a tape recorder could write, and it leaves out almost all context or assessment of what the political leaders say. Examples:

"Now is the time to get beyond the
Kyoto protocol and develop a strategy forward," Bush said.

OK. Has the administration ever presented this new strategy? Mention the publication of the document and one or two critical ways it is different.

'The president says the Kyoto treaty, aside from being bad for the U.S. economy, is seriously flawed because it does not include developing countries such as China and India.'

OK. What evidence does Bush present that it is bad for the economy and how bad? Just a couple numbers. And then why are the other 7 of the G8 members so stupid to sign this thing which will wipe out their economies? Do they agree with the US numbers, and why not? Also, they have started to implement the Kyoto protocols already. How are the costs actually coming in?

'Bush said he would stick to what he has previously supported — a reduction in U.S. emissions by roughly 18 percent.'

OK. Assuming not everyone has the Kyoto Treaty memorized, how does this compare to what the other nations agreed to? And why was the US stupid enough to agree to an 18% reduction since it will damage our economy?

"The goal of the United States is to neutralize and then reduce greenhouse gases," he [Bush] said. "We are now developing the better way forward."

OK. So the US has this goal. First, why, since they don't believe there is global warming anyway, do they have such a goal? Of if they do think the global warming models are accurate, and they think warming is related to green house gases, hence this goal, what is better about the new way forward, as opposed to Kyoto?

Finally, don't let Blair and the other G7 off without some context as well. Explain in 3-4 sentences that there are models predicting global warming, and at what human and economic cost. Then mention how those models are models, and Kyoto is based on a scientific "guess" for lack of a better word, but one based on evidence.

This article was written by an AP Economics Editor, so let him show off what he knows. The way it comes out, I, with no economics or climatology or government policy background, could have written it.

Interesting article

Been exploring Andrew Sullivan's blog. It apparently is a very popular one, though I had never heard of him, not running in either blog or political circles much. He is generally labeled a "neo-con", and he wears the mantel of conservatism proudly. This is a very long piece he wrote in the New Republic. here

What is intriguing is how much I agree with. His criticisms of his own Republican party are dead on in my opinion. In fact his discussion of Republicans working towards a tyrrany of the majority echoes my own thoughts. But then he will throw out some phrase like "the decadent left" or whatever to label millions of people with some useless ad hominem or ad groupem :) attack. (Apologies to Mr. Robbins for my Latin failing me.) One reason I find the article interesting is that in my head I have been saying that I feel like I am trying to out-conservative the "conservatives". Sullivan is attempting the same thing from a different angle.

The Two Hour Reporter

A few years ago I was getting more and more frustrated with reporting. It seemed that reporting had reduced to "getting both sides of the issue" and writing up what they say, and then just leaving it at that. Either from laziness or a misguided notion of objectivity, the news had turned into no more than a "he said, she said". But when someone cited a fact, did the reporter make any attempt to see if it was true, or what the evidence for it was? Did they make a concerted effort to get genuine, real answers to the questions posed by the other party? In short, did they ever make a side work? Did they ever call anybody on anything?

It seemed there was a market for some sort of analytical reporting. It would not be immediate news. Instead, it would publish once a week or so, and it would get both sides, and then attempt to do genuine criticism of the evidence, and present the best conclusions it could - with the reasoning for said conclusions stated and clear. I thought about this enough that I researched graduate journalism schools for a while. Again this was several years ago; I am not thinking about leaving linguistics.

I have been exploring the blogosphere a little in the last few days. I have never really paid attention to it previously. But it occurred to me today that perhaps a proper blog could serve this function. One thing it cannot be is, of course, true policy analysis as should be in a journal, since I lack access to the sources, training, and mostly time. The final thought I had was to make a virtue of these limitations. What could I do in a defined amount of time, say, 2 hours? I would take a single issue and over a week spend about 2 hours investigating it. Then I would write it up on the blog. The main purpose would be to gather facts for people in a few paragraphs. The second purpose would be to make a point. If I could do something worthwhile with my tiny amount of ability and time, think what a real reporter could do?

It's a thought.

The goal would be to be as objective as possible. Get as many sides as I can, but then analyze them as well - NOT just repeat what they said. Of course, all people have points of view which properly shape how they see the world. I toyed with a sort of disclosure at the bottom of each article. The article would be written on some topic as best I can, and then at the end there is a link to "personal opinion," where I go ahead and simply say what I think myself on the topic. The concept would be to provide that disclosure in order for the reader to analyze my own article, so that they can look for pitfalls that I was unable to avoid.

All of this would be a separate blog, as this one is really intended to just keep friends and family up to date. Thoughts?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

terrorism in America

I was debating in my head today the U.S strategy for defeating terrorism. One question was, "have we ever faced anything similar before?" One thought was that we have actually had domestic terrorism before named the KKK. The scale of what they did in the past was never that of Al Qaeda's, but they created true fear nonetheless. It was also targeted somewhat more specifically at certain perceived ethnicities, and therefore not felt as acutely by the, well, basically WASPs. But there was a time, when politicians had to think about what the KKK would do when making decisions. American citizens might fear to go certain places or do certain things because of their presence. It was also quite loosely organized, similar to contemporary terrorist groups.

What is interesting about it is that it seems the KKK is largely defeated. Yes, it still exists. But the general support it once had regionally is now almost gone. Few fear to go some places because they exist. Their political views are those of an increasingly small and isolated minority. And those who commit hate crimes such as this are generally viewed with disgust and disdain, not pseudo-heroes. If this is true, how did we pull it off? How did it become a tiny bunch of malcontents with no public sway, thought of as at best stupid, and at worst gross criminals?

Good question. Part of it is greater prosecution. It has taken a long while, but there is no denying that governments have cracked down on racially motivated crimes, as compared to the 50s. That is the go get em, lock em up, and kill em component. There has also been a mental shift. The societal base has srunk and shrunk. How did that happen exactly? The culture turned. I cannot say exactly how this occurred. It's general. It's in housing, employment, pop culture of movies and music..... But somehow the very same "silent majority" which condoned lynching in the South turned against it.

So the point? It seems like this is generally what needs to happen in the war on terrorism. We will never get rid of every person who wants to hurt Americans. Bad guys are here to stay, so you need a plan to get them. You also need a plan to isolate them from their support. They must become the bad guys in their own countries. It is surely possible. If the south can turn against violent racism, then it can happen. So let's see the plan for making that happen.

It is sad that there will be a number of people who view this with suspicion. But let me repeat. The idea is to isolate radicals. Surely, that is important, as we have managed to increasingly isolate racists in the US.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Fourth of July

Well, Happy Anniversary, America.

You started off things prety decently. Now, let's see if you can keep it going.

This also marks the one year anniversary for N, B, and I in Hawaii. We arrived in Honolulu on July 3 last year. We've been doing the Hawaiian version of celebrating the 4th. We drove up to Kualoa Beach Park which is on the Windward side. We got there about 10:30. We froliced in the water as appropriate, and N collected shells. B is getting really comfortable in the water now. He was rolling around in his water wings for quite some time. Then it was a picnic lunch, followed be a little kite flying. It went well. It's a good beach. There were a lot of people there, but we still had a little slice of beach to ourselves, and a free picnic table. It's mostly locals on that side of the island and is about 45 minutes from Waikiki. Many locals make a much bigger deal of it. First, you get a huge family tent and either camp out for the weekend or at least stay for the whole day. They have the big tent for shade, a hibachi, about 10 of their closest friends, and stacks of gear to entertain. You swim some, you fish some, you hang out and play the uke, etc. Maybe next year, N and I can take our celebrating to that level.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Links to People

I just discovered Blogger's ability to find other profiles who mention similar interests, books, music, etc., so I have been exploring. Shockingly, no one else is into tree fungi. Of course, I am not either, but it seemed nice and random when I was creating my profile.

Let's see, things I have learned,

If you search on The Manuscript Found in Saragossa, it is just me, and this former Navy guy based in Hawaii amazingly enough. He seems to have left the Armed Forces now and moves around the Pacific, using his various nautical skills for temporary employ.

If you put in C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, you get mostly Christians, often with an evangelical bent, which makes sense, but if you put in C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, you get Christians with a more mystical bent.

If you put in Plautus, you get former and present Classics majors, which is not too weird, considering he was a Roman playwright.

Michael Nesmith gets artsy types, usually in their 30s and 40s. Often in the West somewhere.

Puffy Amiyumi gets people into anime....

Every once in a while, I am surprised by connections. Several people have had more than one match with me. And I don't just mean a bunch of C.S. Lewis books.

At the same time, I have been re-affirmed that the only person you ever agree with 100% is yourself. So if I only speak to people with whom I agree, then I will end up talking to the mirror. And I would not be surprised if the mirror points out my various mistakes.

I have tried saying hello to a few of these folk. If any of you do drop by my Blog, then I apologize that it is largely focused on friends and family. I created it specifically as a way to communicate with them, since I am halfway across an ocean, or across two oceans for some. But hopefully, there will be a post periodically that may be hopelessly in error, but perhaps of interest nevertheless.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Recent Bran

And here is a recent picture of Brannon in early June. We were at a park up in the Manoa Valley, which is a valley just on the north side of Honolulu. The main campus of UH is in Manoa, hence the name U of Hawaii Manoa. It is not more than 2 miles from Waikiki, so we are just talking about an area of the city. Honolulu is sandwiched between the ocean on the south, and a mountain ridge about 2000 feet up. Manoa is one of the many valleys that people live in.

The Linguistics Crew

So when fall semester opened last year, N and I invited many of the linguistics grad students to come over for dinner. We had gumbo and cornbread and salad, I think. Most of the people got the gumbo idea a little wrong due to their backgrounds. There was rice for the gumbo to go over, but instead of a little scoop of rice with a nice bowl of gumbo on top, they all got a big mound of rice, and added a little gumbo sauce, as you would if it was Asian and not Cajun. Anyway, here is a picture from the gig. This is from last September. There is actually another male in the group, Toshi. But he is taking the picture.