Friday, November 30, 2007

Staff - Can you dig it?

You, blog readers, are reading the blog of "Staff". Oh, yeah.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that the core phonetics course required of all incoming grad students as well as people over in speech pathology was assigned to "Staff" for the Spring semester. And then I noticed that the three profs who usually would teach it already had full course loads for themselves. I've wanted to get teaching experience for a while and in fact I am the teaching assistant for the course this semester and so, boom, I leaped.

"Please, sir, can I teach this course?"

And emails went around and hip hip, I'm now the instructor for articulatory phonetics next semester. I've had to put in my book order and so far I have 13 students enrolled.

This is very cool.

And so I now go by the name, Staff. Go, me. In honor of the occasion, here are a few extra lyrics to the tune of Shaft by Isaac Hayes.

Who is the white guy who teaches students to make those Xhosa clicks?
You're damn right.

Who is the man who knows how to read spectrograms?
Can you dig it?

Who's the cat who won't cop out when there's midterms all about?
Right on.

They say this cat Staff is a bad motha-
Shut yo mouth!
I'm just talking IPA
Then we can dig it

He's an articulatin' man, and all will understand how to transcribe
Go Staff!

Yes, Samuel L. Jackson will play me in the movie. Or maybe Weird Al.

And finally here is Shaft being played by a ukelele orchestra. I'm not kidding.

Hollandaise Sauce - not so easy

Update: I am getting a lot of hits for hollandaise sauce now, but they usually come to this entry, which is just where things go wrong. To find the actual recipe, scan down this post instead, which is for bacon avocado omelettes with hollandaise sauce.

On T-giving I made my first homemade hollandaise sauce and it came out pretty well. So tonight, well, I was full of myself. I had this steak that I was going to braise; I was whipping up some cheesy mashed potatoes from scratch; I had julienned zucchini; and I was going to make another homemade hollandaise sauce to go over it all. Oh yeah, I was all ready to come and strut my stuff on the blog.

And then, well, turns out I have no idea how to braise anything. Meat=tough, gray mass. And the hollandaise? Chemistry lesson. In one instant, I let it get too hot and the whole sauce disintegrated into a sloppy mess of scrambled eggs floating in a huge pool of butter. Tossed the whole sauce pan.

Nicely done, Iron Paca. Nicely done.

So my new hollandaise sauce tips: 1) find your whisk first and use it often; 2) low heat means freaking low heat. Not 2, not 3, but low. 3) it's an easy sauce if you can focus on it the whole time.

In other culinary news, it turns out the Joy of Cooking is not in fact the best source for Thai soup recipes. Meatloaf, yes. Thai, no.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fave Music 3.5

Writing this post scares me a bit. I want to choose THE right song, the one that will be the gateway song to get you interested enough to listen to other songs? But what if I choose one you hate and so you never go on to the next one? C'est un disastre! (Not sure if that's grammatical.)

But the idea behind these posts was to share songs that I particularly enjoyed or have been important to me, and therefore, of all the Harry Chapin songs, I'm going to post this "Story of a Life" at the top.

I got introduced to Harry Chapin when I was 12 and in 8th grade in 1985. It was my first year at boarding school in Jersey and my housemaster (the teacher who was in charge of our "house") was an English teacher with a cool attitude who played guitar. And he would sing, "All My Life's a Circle" by Chapin. I later found some cassette tapes and was moved by a lot of songs. I remember quite clearly some time first year of college or so talking to the llama some late night and telling him I suspected that this song would be my story of a life. Once you hear the song, it might be a bit surprising that an 18 year old would identify with it already, but there you go.

That clip is supposedly from 1981, the year he died in a car accident on the Long Island Expressway. Chapin was first a documentary film maker in the late 60s and won an Oscar. Then he had a hit record with "Taxi" in 1972, and he was a fulltime musician from that point on.

That song was a bit unusual because what Chapin is best known for is his story songs, and I really do think that his songs could work as a model for many a short story writer. In under 10 minutes, he can make you bawl like a baby. At least I was close to it when listening to these songs again tonight after about a year's break.

Here's a selection of some of my favorite songs of his with teaser lyrics (and remember that since he's often telling stories, the lyrics are a character's thoughts).

Better Place To Be
It was an early morning bar room
And the place just opened up
And the little man run in so fast and
started at his cup
The broad who served the whiskey
was a big old friendly girl
who tried to fight her empty nights by
smiling at the world.

Mister Tanner was a cleaner from a town in the Midwest.
And of all the cleaning shops around he'd made his the best.
But he also was a baritone who sang while hanging clothes.
He practiced scales while pressing tails and sang at local shows.

Corey's Coming
I was quite surprised to find out all the places that he knew
So I asked the townsfolk if his stories were true
Well they said, "Old John was born here, he's lived here all his life
Never had a woman, let alone a wife

And very soon you'll find out as you check around
That no one named Corey's ever lived in this town"

Some of Chapin's most affecting songs are about children and our raising of them. Here are three.

Flowers are Red (Someone's taken this song and set it to pictures of art at MOMA in NY. You might prefer to close your eyes and just listen to the song, but hey, your call.
The teacher said, "you're sassy!"
There's ways that things should be
And you'll paint flowers the way they are
so repeat after me

Tangled Up Puppet (Definitely close your eyes on this one, or you'll be watching some random images from a soap opera or something of dads and their daughters. I think this song is somewhat overblown, but it's worth it for the final few lines.)
What I mean is,
I have watched you take shape from a jumble of parts
to find the grace and form of a fine work of art
Hey you, my brand new woman newly come into her own
Don't you know that you don't need to grow up all alone?

And if you know the name Harry Chapin at all, you've likely been waiting for the ultimate dad-son relationship song, his major hit:
Cat's Cradle
When ya comin' home dad?
I don't know when
But we'll get together then son
I know we'll have a good time then.

But no list of Chapin tunes is complete without Taxi itself.
It was raining hard in Frisco
I needed one more fair to make my night
A lady up ahead waved to flag me down
She got in at the light.

But not all of his stories end poorly and several years later, Chapin wrote

That's when I asked her where was that actress
She said "That was somebody else"
And then I asked her why she looked so happy now
She said "I finally like myself, at last I like myself."

If you want to take a laugh break, here's William Shatner "singing" Taxi. After that, the song's dead, Jim.

If you are interested in Chapin, the man, I posted an obituary about him a couple years ago, which is here. Harry gave 150-200 concerts a year, so almost playing every other night. And around half of them were benefits. His main cause was fighting hunger around the world. Despite being a straight up liberal who campaigned for people such as Patrick Leahy in his first election, he was able to transcend party such that Robert Dole, the Kansas Republican, lionized him on the Senate floor. Quoting from the obituary:

"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."

There was a tribute concert several years after his death, and Bruce Springsteen does a nice job here. (Besides with several female readers right around the age of 40, I wouldn't be surprised if there aren't a couple of Springsteen crushes going around.) And here's a 3 minute tribute to him using Harry's own words.

To finish this off, why not post Circle, the first song of his I heard.

More geography quizzes

For all of you who enjoyed the geography quizzes, there are more maps of the same game at this link. Maps include the USA, North America, Europe, Asia, UNESCO sites, photos of the world, and more.

You get better as you practice since you get repeats. I've managed to nudge my traveller IQ up 3 or 4 more points by getting better scores on earlier levels, but I always flame out in level 11 (three tries). It gets insanely difficult up there where they toss out random cities in Russia. Things like Yakatarinburg. Has anyone noticed how big Russia is? So you stick it in the middle and hope to get lucky. And then there are pseudo-tricks. A city in Norway which turns out to not be in Norway proper but on some island near Greenland. Or Christmas Island, Australia, which isn't near Australia but close to Sumatra, Indonesia. In level 12, they must actually shock you each time you get one right. Dare you to keep playing.

New family members

B is still rather scared of dogs and even cats. We can't get one of those in our apartment, so we decided to get him used to the idea of having pets with two...

Guinea Pigs!

We picked up this guy first and his name is Machu Picchu.

A couple weeks later we picked up a black and white female version and B named her babababa, or just baba for short. I have a pic of her, but all you see is a black lump. She was tiny then.

Guinea pigs are alright. We are still working on the sit peacefully in your lap while Paca works thing, but otherwise they've worked out fine. Low maintenance for a live creature, but I do think getting a companion for Picchu was a good idea. So say hello to them.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Geography quiz

As a geography geek, I had to take this quiz, which J posted at her blog.

I made it to level 11, but didn't score enough to get to 12, the final level. This earned me a 121 IQ. I'd do it again but I do have alife to lead.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holy Children's Television Workshop!!!

I just found this video of Stevie Wonder playing Superstitious live on Sesame Street. Holy ?!:*#! I cannot believe the same show that now hosts Elmo's World and Mr Noodle once was like this -- about 35 years ago. The kids aren't shown until about 4 minutes in, but they've got the groove on. Check out the one on the balcony.

It's hard to remember that the original Sesame Street was daring and controversial by setting a children's show in the inner city. I recently read an article that the Television Workshop slapped a "not appropriate for children" sticker on some DVD release of early Sesame Street. Apparently, they are now worried that toddlers will be corrupted by Cookie Monster dressed up as Alistair Cookie hosting Masterpiece theater with a pipe. I'm not making this up. And I'm glad they are on the case, because pipe smoking is rampant among the under 6 crowd I've seen here. It's time to nip that fashion in the bud.

I used to be a little worried when B and I dance to Kool & the Gang's Jungle Boogie when he's only 4. But apparently, I'm not unusual. I'm just about three decades too late.

I still can't believe this is from Sesame Street though....

Slowly introducing the dissertation 1

So I'm going to slowly start introducing the dissertation topic here. It has to be slow because I'm still working it out myself. The first exhibit is his video of Finnish hockey. You only need to listen to about 30 seconds.

Is my dissertation about language use in hockey games?

Unfortunately, no.

The point of the clip is that I have absolutely no idea what they said. (But I may have heard a hockey player's name, Kimmo Timonen, who was until this year a Nashville Predator.) Not only do I have no idea what they said, I can't even go look up the words, because I have no idea how many words were there, where they started and stopped, or anything. There were some pauses, but in between the pauses, it was just a bunch of sounds. Was that one word, two words, 10 words? No idea.

But when I listen to English I hear nothing but words. Every once in a while I might be confused between "carpool" and "carp pool", but not too often. And yet when I was born, English sounded just like the Finnish.

I was born in a hockey rink.

Or rather I had no idea where words started or stopped or even that there were words or maybe even that there was this thing called language that I should bother learning. Good lord, I was mostly just moving things in and out of various orifices without noticing.

How did I go from "oharentyousocuteyoulookjustlikeyourdaddywiththebignoseandpointyhead" to hearing nice cleanly divided words without blinking? Or if it was too easy to read that, then from "ahnixiangnidefuqinzhendehahanidebizihenda" to words?

That's the dissertation topic.

More later.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fave Music 2 - Gymnopédie No. 1

It's hard to choose a more different piece in mood from James Brown than this one: Erik Satie's Gymnopedie #1 published first in 1888. Here is a bit of what wikipedia says about Satie:
"Satie and boredom.
Satie often consciously disregarded the conception of development found in the German tradition (Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms). Satie's compositions tend to be very short; a typical movement of a Satie composition takes less than two minutes to play, and compositions with more than five movements are exceptional. Even his larger-scale works conforming to the genres known in his time would be two to five times shorter than the usual duration of such compositions (Socrate, a secular oratorio — or "symphonic drama" — lasting about half an hour, is the longest). In general, Satie thought it to be a great fault for a composer to bore his audience in any way."

The following piece is indeed quite short, just over 3 minutes. However, it is also very slow, so you will have to decide for yourself if it's boring. I find it amazing.

This link is to someone on YouTube playing it on the piano. I'd recommend just closing your eyes and listening, but feel free to watch him play as you please.

I actually discovered this music when I was learning classical guitar. However, it's not exactly an unknown piece of music. It's apparently even been covered by Dave Navarro and Blood, Sweat, and Tears among others. Regardless, here's a link to the song on guitar which someone used to show photos of his model railroads.

Finally, if you like this sort of music, here is a less than a minute clip of a pianist playing another one of Satie's works

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fave Music 1 - Get Up Offa That Thing

As many of you may have noticed, music is a rather important thing to me. In the same way that many of my readers just have to tell others about a new novel they've read that's fantastic, I have to share music I really enjoy. So I'm going to be posting stuff over the next couple weeks. As you will see, the genres I enjoy vary quite a lot -- soul, jazz, funk, classical, rock, and pop. (I actually own maybe three bluegrass CDs total, but I think it gets a worse rap than it deserves, hence the recent posts.)

First up, we have James Brown. My fave tune of his might be Soul Power or Funky Drummer, but I find the following video to be a hell of a lot of fun. And some of us may need some fun right now. Give the guy in the zebra shirt a chance. He's got some moves.

(Also, note there's another recipe post below this one.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Bacon avocado omelette with hollandaise sauce

Update: Searchers who come here looking for a hollandaise recipe might also find this later blog post where things go wrong of use.

Ello asked for a new recipe and since I've been planning on one for a while anyway, here you go. This was today's (Saturday's) breakfast. When I got up this morning I told N I was going to eat a bowl of cereal, because I was basically feeling lazy. However a minute later I remembered we have this avocado in the fridge that needed to be used up. One of N's co-workers, sort of, has an avocado tree and he keeps dumping extra avocados at the office. We've already thrown away two that we just never got around to and I declared, "no more! Avocadoes are far too yummy to throw away three. It. Will. Not. Happen." Or something of the sort.

Step One:
First, cook up the bacon. I actually crumbled my bacon up and put it in the omelette. N always prefers to just eat the bacon on the side, so that's up to you.

Step Two: Make the hollandaise sauce.
I've never before today made my own hollandaise sause. That's always a package deal. McCormick's, I believe, is the package. But we didn't have any such thing, so I had to look it up in a French cookbook we have called "The Food of France." Turns out to be easy.

a) 2 egg yolks. I used to have separating-egg-yolks-and-egg-whites phobia and whenever I saw a receipe that called for either a white or a yolk, I didn't do the recipe. Turns out it isn't that hard. Crack the egg and slowly slide it back and forth in the shell from one half to the other. The white will slowly fall away. Umm, have a bowl under the tossing bit.
b) 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.
c) 6 Tablespoons of butter. I didn't say this was healthy. But then aren't the French supposed to be surprisingly healthy despite their cuisine?
d) To cook, first put the egg yolks and lemon juice in a small sauce pan. On a low heat. I never got above "2". Whisk the two together and heat. Add one tablespoon of butter and whisk. Obviously, you will be waiting here and there to let the butter heat/melt. Keep doing this until all 6 Tbs are in. The recipe books says to be sure to whisk frequently so that the yolks don't cook as scrambled eggs but remain a part of the sauce.
e) The sauce should be pourable if not, add a couple teaspoons of warm/hot water and whisk. The sauce sits pretty well while cooking the other stuff.

Step Three: Omelettes
Omelettes again are something I used to have real trouble with. I could never ever ever keep it as an omelette. By the time I scraped it from the pot, it was scrambled eggs. Tastes the same, but it's the principle. One key to actually doing an omelette is to have a good quality non-stick skillet. The second key is to have the skillet nice and hot at full temperature before putting the eggs in. When you put the eggs in, wait a bit and then as it firms up (and it should be firming within 30 seconds), pry up the edges with a fork. Sometimes, you can also do quick little back and forth shakes. The omelette, once it is firming, should slide around. Back to the recipe.

a) We had a big avocado, so I used half of it. Sliced into ummm slices.
b) Scramble 2 eggs in a bowl. I like hot things so I almost always dump in some Sarancha hot sauce, which I think is Vietnamese. N doesn't, so I sprinkled a bit of black pepper and dried parsley flakes into hers. Other herbs are clearly possible.
c) Add the eggs to the pan, spinning the skillet so the whole bottom is covered.
d) Follow my omelette hints above. When it is almost done, which means that there is just a bit of runniness on top still, throw a few avocado slices in the middle and add the crumbled bacon in.

e) OK, this step is the hardest part of the whole thing. I am at best 65% successful at getting the omelette out of the pan without it unfolding. In theory, you fold it into thirds. Fold one third with a fork and spatula over the middle third. Then, in theory, as you are sort of pushing it out onto the plate, you can roll it, so that the last third gets rolled over. Yeah, right. I end up just doing the whole folding bit in the pan and then lifting it out with a couple spatulas or something. Good news is that it tastes the same, folded perfectly or not.

Step Four: Spoon the hollandaise sauce over the omelette.

Step Five: Eat.


Obvious variations are to do ham or cheese or something normal as the filling. Fry the filling up in a pan and have it all sitting warm and ready before you start doing the omelettes. Trying to time cooking the filling with the first omelette is a recipe for disaster. Get it? Recipe? Um, another variation I like is "mushroom cream", but then I like "everything cream." Slice up mushrooms. Melt a tablespoon or two of butter in a skillet and then add the mushrooms. Cook them. (Don't you love these helpful steps?) When cooked, turn to low temperature and then add a bit of heavy cream to them. How much? I don't know. How many mushrooms did you cook? You aren't doing a soup, so just enough so that the cream sauce will run out of the omelette and you can spoon a bit on top. Sprinkle some salt and pepper in, maybe some red pepper or a dash of Sarancha hot sauce if you like that. Keep on low so that the sauce doesn't burn. As each omelette is ready, spoon the mushrooms in the middle. Then spoon some mushroom cream sauce on top of the omelette when done. Sprinkle parsley flakes on top just because you can. Besides if there's green on top, you can pretend you aren't eating a load of cream, butter, and eggs.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all. If you had dropped by today, you would have eaten this:

And then this evening was the Christmas parade. It's always at night, so every year I go to take a picture of Aloha Santa and the high school bands, and every year I toss the pictures as just too dark. But here's a lighted up fire truck.

And here's B wearing my Titans jersey and "playing football". Those are Xmas lights wrapped around a couple palm trees. We are sitting in front of Tiffany's.

In other Hawaii news, the Rainbow Warriors won their biggest football game probably in their history today, beating 17th ranked Boise State. This keeps them undefeated, and so if they can beat the Washington Huskies next week, they are very likely going to a BCS bowl. It's a huge college football deal. Go Warriors!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Here's an intro to bluegrass with a focus on its current directions. First off, here's a bit from Wikipedia:
"Bluegrass music is a form of American roots music. It has its own roots in Irish, Scottish and English traditional music. Bluegrass was inspired by the music of immigrants from the British Isles (particularly the Scots-Irish immigrants in Appalachia), as well as that of rural African-Americans, jazz, and blues. In bluegrass, as in jazz, each instrument takes a turn playing the melody and improvising around it, while the others revert to backing; this is in contrast to old-time music, in which all instruments play the melody together or one instrument carries the lead throughout while the others provide accompaniment. Bluegrass is distinctively acoustic, rarely using electrical instruments.
Bluegrass as a style developed during the mid 1940s. Because of war rationing, recording was limited during that time, and the best that can be said is that bluegrass was played some time after World War II, but no earlier. As with any musical genre, no one person can claim to have "invented" it. Rather, bluegrass is an amalgam of old-time music, blues, ragtime and jazz. Nevertheless, bluegrass's beginnings can be traced to one band. Today Bill Monroe is referred to as the "founding father" of bluegrass music; the bluegrass style was named for his band, the Blue Grass Boys, formed in 1939. The 1945 addition of banjo player Earl Scruggs, who played with a three-finger roll originally developed by Snuffy Jenkins but now almost universally known as "Scruggs style", is considered the key moment in the development of this genre. Monroe's 1945 to 1948 band, which featured Scruggs, singer-guitarist Lester Flatt, fiddler Chubby Wise and bassist Howard Watts, also known as "Cedric Rainwater," created the definitive sound and instrumental configuration that remains a model to this day."

I've got a link to Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs who were just mentioned at the end of this link. I put it at the end because, despite the fact that it's great music, if you've ever heard of bluegrass at all, you are likely already thinking of their style. Their likely most famous number is the theme song to the Beverly Hillbillies, so you already know that.

Bluegrass has been going though a number of innovations in the last couple decades. Some of the people most pushing the possibilities of bluegrass include Bela Fleck, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, and Edgar Meyers, who all got together for a sort of supergroup in the 80s called Strength in Numbers. Here's a beautiful song called Winter's Night

Another direction that bluegrass took in the late 90s can be personified by Alison Krauss and Union Station. They do a number of traditional style bluegrass tunes. They also do many songs where Alison's voice is the feature and the band supports her. Here's a number that let's you see a little of both.

Bluegrass became popular enough in the mid-90s that a lot of country stars who grew up with the stuff turned back to it. Dolly Parton in particular made a number of top quality albums in the bluegrass style. Many people had sort of forgotten how good of a singer and songwriter she is behind her legendary personality. Here she is doing a great and depressing song called Mountain Angel that she wrote.

One of the other great trends in the last 10 years is the emergence of bands who grew up on bluegrass as well as rock like everyone else. A lot of bluegrass bands in this set are jam bands as well. Two very popular groups are Nickel Creek and Yonder Mountain String Band. The Nickel Creek video is nice because it adds a bit of history, too.

Nickel Creek

Yonder Mountain String Band

As you can see bluegrass is very much alive and growing. Another piece of evidence is this band of kids, Pacific Ocean Bluegrass playing with guest on fiddle Katie Nakamura.

So there's a taste of the future of bluegrass. To go way back in time now, here are Flatt and Scruggs

And if it's hard to see any connection between this stuff and Scotch-Irish folk music, as Wikipedia claimed, here we have Earl Scruggs on banjo with The Chieftains. He fits right in.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I'm very behind on my dissertation proposal still and, since a lot of people disappear from blogger world around the holidays anyway, I might cool it on the blogging thing for this week and see everyone on the other side of Turkey Day. I hope everyone has a great Thursday, and if you don't do T-giving where you are, have a great Thursday anyway.

Now that I've said this, the probability of me posting again within 24 hours... 63%.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Agony and Into the Woods

For brief periods of my life, I've been rather heavily involved in the theater, typically backstage. The major period remains back in high school where I worked on close to some 30-40 productions as well as attended theater camps at the University of Texas and worked a summer for the New Jersey June Opera Festival.

My high school was sandwiched in a town between Trenton and Princeton, NJ, which put us about an hour away from both NYC and Philly, and so the school would periodically run arts-related field trips such as excursions to the Met or Broadway. Stephen Sondheim had opened a new musical in 1987 on Broadway starring Bernadette Peters called "Into the Woods". In case you aren't familiar with it, it takes traditional fairy tales, mostly Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Little Red Ridinghood, weaves them together in the first act, and then explores the (dark) aftermath of the stories in the second act. Being a theater guy at the time, my friends and I jumped on the trip to see the show.

I probably had my life's greatest weird coincidence during the show. I walked out into the lobby during intermission and suddenly I hear this voice saying, "Paca! Paca?!" to me. And I turn around to find my uncle and grandmother who lived in Austin and Houston, TX, respectively standing there. My uncle for years ran arts program for the U of Texas all around the world, and he just happened to be leading one that very weekend to New York and just happened to be attending the very same show the very same night as me. Very weird. We spoke through intermission and then I was wisked back to school and didn't see them again until Xmas or something.

Anyway, I do enjoy the show, so below I have two videos for you. These are the 1987 Broadway Cast and so you can pretend we run into each other in the lobby after watching them. Both clips star the shows two princes. The dark haired one is Cinderella's prince and the blonde one is Rapunzel's prince. In the terms of 2007, they are playas. Cinderella's prince pursues Cinderella in the first act, as well as the Baker's Wife, and then goes after Sleeping Beauty in the second. It's also traditional to have the same actor play the role of the wolf for Little Red Riding Hood and we know what the subtext for that story is. The princes are charming, dashing, completely smitten with themselves, and funny.

Here they are in the first act when chasing their maidens du jour, Cinderelle and Rapunzel.

And this second video is the reprise in the second act when both have gotten bored with this marriage and commitment thing and are wondering about those other babes, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

I don't think all of the show is on YouTube, but if you'd like to see how the show begins, follow this link and then this one.

Later in college, I actually tried out for Cinderella's Prince. Let's just say, I didn't get.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Literary criticism discussion

If you are interested in a discussion of popular versus literary fiction with a focus on romance, head over to Teach Me Tonight here. Things get most interesting in the comments, though that isn't to disparage the initial post. It's a blog run by academics who do romance scholarship. In the comments, Laura, Eric, and Sara are all profs. Then there's lowly me who's only read like three romances in my life.

My lesson for today

I just got a little reminder lesson for myself. Our university chancellor just sent out an email report. Included in it is a subheading for priorities. Here are her priorities:

# A destination of choice for students, faculty and staff, the citizens of Hawai‘i and beyond;
# A leading, global research university performing at the highest levels and solving society’s problems;
# A respectful, inclusive community that welcomes and nurtures diversity.

Is it just me, or does that pretty much just say, "our priority is to be a good school." However, later there is a supplemental budget item, and this includes the following list:

# Repairs and maintenance of our campus infrastructure
# Health, safety, and emergency preparedness
# Support of our graduate students
# Native Hawaiian programming for Access and Hawaiian Language
# Upgrading classroom technology
# Title IX compliance for gender equity in athletics
# Support for accreditation through WASC
# Support for faculty development
# Community outreach and communications

Now, those are some actual priorities. So note to self: When looking for an organization's objectives, skip the "objectives" part and look for the money.

Yet more book ideas

Here are yet more idea for books one could write.

1) Language Interviews -- Last week I sent an email to a linguistics prof at the U of South Carolina wondering if she would like to do an interview on this blog. I never heard back, so that one fell through. However, the idea lit my imagination. I think a set of interviews with linguists in which I help them pitch their work at a popular science level, as well as inject some humor, could be quite enjoyable. I don't think it would be a best seller, but it could fit on the science shelf with the story of e, or some such. It might also be picked up by some linguistics classes as a supplementary text. Again, not best seller, but that could be several thousand copies there. It seems like you could start it as a blog to gain practice in interviewing, gain a little platform, and if I did one a week, I might even squeeze it into my current schedule. Would any of you ever buy such a thing?

2) To Err is Human -- that's the obvious and slightly annoying title. This is nonfiction as well. I have a book called Kid's Slips which is about the sorts of language errors kids make. You could expand this into a general profile of human error - visual, auditory, speech, decision making, George Bush, etc. This would be a harder one for me, requiring many months of research, but I think there's potential.

3) Puku the Naughty Cat - a children's book. It would be Hawaiian themed and all I know is that Puku does all those things you aren't supposed to do. And she doesn't get away with it. Now, I just have to look up what puku means in Hawaiian so I'm not insulting anyone.

4) 12 Days of Monster Christmas -- I started making up new lyrics to the `12 days of christmas tune for B a couple days ago. Four orange claws, three googly eyes, two dripping fangs, and a little child to eat all up. I really liked this idea for a bit, but here are the problems I would have to solve: 1) not actually scary but fun monsters, 2) that song sure does get repetitive, 3) there is no third thing, 4) nice to somehow find an actual christmas feel.

5) An actual dissertation so I can actually pay the rent.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Some thoughts on art and experience

I was recently reading a discussion again of the romance genre's literary merit, which comes up about once a week on romance publishing blogs. This time the discussion was on Teach me Tonight an academic romance blog, which is linked in the sidebar under the name Hot for Teacher. Anyway, I wrote a long comment and I thought it was worth copying here. Any thoughts are welcome, as always. For the record, I enjoy both literary and genre fiction, though as you will see I think literary often is just a genre, too. Here we go:

rfp's comments, perhaps in particular this part, "But that doesn't mean every reading experience must be planned as an opportunity for moral improvement and reinforcement of Fowler's approved ideals. (Talk about repetitious reading!)," reminds me of an error I see over and over again in art criticism, as well as in the public in general. People (I am not saying rfp does this) conflate the quality of the experience with the completeness of the experience. The best way to explain this is with an example, and since I came to aesthetics through music, I will start there.

Let's say that somehow miraculously we were actually able to judge the aesthetic worth of some piece of art. I have no idea what the criteria would be, but let's say we all agreed upon it. And it turns out that Beethoven's 9th symphony is in fact the greatest piece of music ever. It is THE BEST. It gets 162 aestheme points.

Remember that for the sake of the example we are all agreeing that this is the case.

This does not mean, however, that even the best piece of music ever gives listeners every single possible musical experience they could ever have. Beethoven's 9th does whatever it does better than anything else, but it doesn't do everything. Louie Louie by the Troggs which might only have 12 aestheme points generates a different experience than Beethoven. So no matter how objective aesthetic goodness is, and we are granting 100% objectiveness in this example, goodness is not completeness. If people wish a certain type of musical experience they may need to listen to the Troggs even if the Troggs is objectively, demonstrably worse than Beethoven.

So, even if one could determine that certain literary works are indeed better works than other non-literary ones, it in no way follows that non-literary works lack value. Indeed, if you want a certain type of experience, the literary ones are unable to provide it.

Even if Mother Theresa was a better person than "the man on the Clapham omnibus" we don't toss the Clapham gentleman in the garbage heap.

As a brief addendum, literary fiction is as easy to lampoon as any genre. You take some sort of odd characters, abuse them or have them be dreadfully bored, and then write long, flowing sentences about them that go nowhere, but are dreadfully important. Oh, it's completely unfair, but literary works often have their own cliches that are easily parodied.

To make the point, I am going to copy in an old blog post of mine which parodies various genres. My literary parody is fake plot number 2. The question is whether the literary plot is any less formulaic in its way than the thriller or erotic romance ones. Here you go:

So another bit of blog participation over at Evil Editor's House is the Guess the Plot game. In this one, authors have submitted their query letters with a title. EE posts the titles only and the EE minions make up stupid plots to go with the title. Then, when EE is ready to critique the letter, he publishes 4 or 5 of the bogus plots along with the real one, and the readers are supposed to guess which is real. I don't usually participate in this activity, but I got on a tear today, so below we have 5 idiotic plots for some novel I know nothing about other than it is titled "FireHouse". So here you go:


Matthew's band FireHouse is going nowhere until J-Pop sensation Hiroko Girls hire them for a tour of East Asia. But does lead singer Yuko rock Singapore as much as she rocks Matthew's world?

It's been 9 years since one-armed albino meth-addict Josh saw his dad who with one hand ran a cactus nursery in the heart of New Orleans and with the other hand beat Josh and his mother every afternoon over tea. Now, Josh is bringing a gasoline can to the reunion. Firehouse: a heart warming Lit-fic Cozy.

14 year old Katie is the good natured joke of the DC fire department until she single-handedly carries the President out of a burning White House on her back.

Hunky firefighters seemed like a great idea for Jessica's new network reality show until the pent-up manheat becomes hotter than the blazes they fight. Will she lose her job to smarmy Randall or her innocence to studly Jared... and Stan... and Michael... and Stan and Michael. (I haven't ever read one of these, but I think this plot would fit right in at women's romantica publisher Ellora's Cave.)

When right-wing petroleum tycoons from the Amazon threaten to incinerate all of New Jersey with their "Firehouse" bio weapon, only fashion designer Alara Bouzenbottom stands in their way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nothing today

I pretty much got nothing for today. I found a bunch of articles about rhythm in music and speech, and that's today's official gist. Oh, and the new Safeway opened.

Hope everyone is well.

Banjo Beyond

Some of you are still lambasting the banjo. Such silly people. Therefore, I am going to post a few videos of the banjo in action. It's an instrument that has been around for a long time and for the first half of the 20th century appeared in all sorts of music - folk, jazz, blues a bit, minstrel shows, etc. In the second half of the 20th century, it somehow got pigeon-holed into just being a hick instrument for playing hick bluegrass. I happen to like bluegrass, and so I will have one of those videos near the end. In the meantime here are some different ways to hear the instrument.

When you are talking about innovative uses of the banjo in the last three decades, you have to talk about Bela Fleck. Here he is with the Flecktones, doing their own thing. I guess it's jazz, but it's really their own thing. Notice both the instrumentation here -- banjo, steel drum, bass, drum machine, English horn, bassoon, and soprano sax, WTF? -- as well as the bass player, Victor Wooten. He is indisputable one of the best bass players today and he will pop up again in some future post.

If you prefer classical, here is a Bach prelude, also from Bela.

If you like old, old jazz from like the 20s, you may appreciate this video

Here the banjo appears in an ensemble in Switzerland performing old ragtime numbers.

Here's one more rather bluesy Flecktones number.

And then finally, banjo's not bad for bluegrass, so here we have Steve Martin, yes that Steve Martin, with a legendary banjo player, Earl Scruggs, and an all star band, playing on David Letterman.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Accents - Once More with Sound

I happened to have a copy of a radio interview that my father did a few months ago about the Pecan Oil business he is running. If you want to know all about pecan oil and, hey buy some! and tell him I sent you, go to Anyway, since it includes him talking, I realized you could hear the Louisiana accent I am referring to. And since it is my dad, we will have something of similar voices, and so I re-read the first few sentences of what he said in my version of a standard American accent so that you can compare.

First up, we have the first minute of the intereview. My father will obviously be the male one speaking.

Pecan oil interview as an mp3.
When I speak to him, I can't even hear an accent, but when I heard this radio interview, it's loud and clear. I don't know what this is. The same is true for all of my family. Here I am saying the same thing in a standard accent, and a little faster.

Part 1
Part 2

Hopefully, you can all hear a clear difference between the two dialects. However, if you are like me, you can hear it, but it isn't obvious exactly what's different. So I did some analysis of the files, listening for precise changes. Most of it appears to have to do with the vowels. We are pronouncing different vowels in the same words. There's also something going on with my father's [r]s, but I am not sure exactly what. Are they just being dropped? Not really. Anyway, here are singel words and phrases picked out between him and me, so you can compare.

Healthy Lousiana
Healthy Standard
Notice how my father has a diphthong in healthy where I do no? The vowel shifts from a central-ish area up high. I, however, stay mostly central.

Oil Lousiana
Oil Standard
The opposite happens on this vowel pair. I have a diphthong in oil, sliding from the back of my mouth to the top and front. [Oi]. My father, however, keeps the same vowel through-out the word.

High Lousiana
High Standard
Another diphthong/monothong difference. I slide during the vowel from a front and low area, while my father keeps the same vowel through-out.

And now you've done linguistic analysis. If people find this interesting, I will try to do similar posts in the future with other accents and languages -- as long as the university here gives me more web space.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Things you don't care to know

but I'm going to tell you anyway.

I very much enjoy gift certificates, but I'm often afraid to use them. You see, if I have $20 at Amazon, I want to get the PERFECT book. I can't just waste it, and so I never buy for weeks and months on end. Similarly, maybe last Xmas or so, N gave me a $15 gift iTunes card, and I just finally used it. My first ever iTunes purchases actually. And what did I purchase?

Three tracks by Van Morrison
That's Life -- a live version that I don't have on CD
Wavelength -- both from the album Wavelength that I used to only have on vinyl.

Three tracks by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra
Down Beat Stomp
Kanriya Naku Sora
Too Hip! Gotta Go! -- I just listened to a bunch of tracks of theirs and selected them. They are ska with a heavy dose of modern big band sound, like Brian Setzers Orchestra

Benny Goodman
Sing! Sing! Sing! Parts 1, 2, and 3. -- I really wanted the Benny Goodman Live at Carnegie Hall double set from the mid-30s, but I definitely couldn't afford it by the time I got this far.

The J.B.'s (Maceo Marker, Clyde Stubblefield, Fred Wesley, and others from James Brown's bands)
All Aboard the Funky Soul Train
It's the J.B.'s Monaurail -- two largely instrumental horn-driven soul funk numbers. Really, who wouldn't buy a song named "All Aboard the Funky Soul Train," I ask you.

Chick Corea and Bela Fleck
The Enchantment - entire album, which means I just went about $6 over. Doh!
For all of you who hate the banjo (and you know who I'm looking at!), this is an album for you. Chick Corea, legendary jazz pianist, on piano and Bela Fleck on banjo. Bela travels from jazz to funk to bluegrass to classical and back again. You never knew a banjo could do this. And just for Szelsofa, he's Hungarian by his roots.

And now you've had a glimpse of my weird musical tastes. I better get out of this iTunes store, because my money could disappear in an instant.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


B learned the question "why?" last Sunday. You now know how I have spent the entire week.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The morgue

Well, I was typing away on the computer this evening, and I kept hearing people talking on their radios outside the window. It did sounds like police, but I mostly ignored it because the police pull cars over for traffic violations on our street all. the. time. However, the commotion got louder and more sirens came, so eventually I wandered into B's bedroom and looked out the window. There were about three cop cars there, and one of the cops sees me and gives me the slash throat signal with a smile.

I couldn't figure out quite what he was telling me. It wasn't that he was going to slash my throat.

Then an ambulance pulls up and I finally notice something. Right on the curb about 6 feet from our window is a body.

Yes, a body.

The ambulance and two fire trucks arrive, and about 10 minutes later, they've taken the body away. I never got a real look at the person, but the slight glimpse looked like someone older. The police didn't seem to think they needed to question anyone. If they had asked us a question, we knew nothing. The officials knew about the body before I did.

And like that it was over.

So that's the first ever corpse in my front yard.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Where'd my accent go?

As most of you may remember, I'm a southern boy by birth (and grace of God, as they saying goes). I was in Louisiana full time until the age of 12, after which I did 5 years in Jersey for boarding school, 4 years in Minnesota for college, then 10 more in the the South, followed by a move to Hawaii 3 years ago. So basically 12 years not in the South and then, how old am I, 22 years as a Southerner, including the pivotal first bunch.

However, I have no Southern accent anymore. One of my current phonetics profs has remarked that he'd put me on display as an example of accent reduction or some such. Essentially, unless you are a phonetics prof and know some tale-tell signs of what to look for, I've got the official standard accent now.** Where'd my Southernness go?

The basic answer is clear. I lost it when I went to school in Jersey. I remember being teased for my yankee accent at home within a year of attending the school in Jersey. I never consciously chose to not be southern in the way I talk, but unconsciously it seems I did. I just immediately started talking like my friends in Jersey. (OK, not really. I never once said "yous guys", never bought a bowling shirt, or an old Camaro, but you get the idea ;) ). This is a pretty common phenomenon.

One of the earliest studies that kicked off the field of sociolinguistics was a study of pronouncing the sound [r] in NYC by a man named William Labov. He had noticed that certain people in New York pronounced an [r] when it was at the end of a syllable and others did not. He had an idea that it was based partly on social class. So he did a neat little experiment. He chose three department stores that would be visited by people of different social classes - Saks 5th Avenue for upper class, Macy's for middle, and S. Klein for lower. Does S. Klein still exist, my NY readers? He then went around asking clerks where some item was that he knew was on the fourth floor, since the word "fourth" has an [r], in standard American dialect, at the end of a syllable. He also thought that pronouncing or dropping the [r] might depend on how carefully and formally people spoke. And so he would ask one time and they would answer naturally; then he asked again as if he couldn't hear, and they would speak it nice and formally for him.

I don't remember anymore who dropped the [r] and who didn't, but I do remember that the classes behaved differently. The upper and lower class people did whatever they did, r-wise, no matter how casual or how formal they were speaking. The word was what it was. But the middle class folk would say it the lower-class way when speaking casually and then the upper class way when speaking formally. They would switch to the high status way of speaking when they were thinking about it. Labov attributed this to the middle class aspirations of being upper class one day.

That was all in the late 60s. I am sure things have changed, and as always it's never as simple as you would like. The middle class doesn't always speak like the upper class to look good. On other tasks the classes would behave differently,

However, it still reminds me of my lost Southern accent. Even though I never chose to stop using it, I sometimes wonder if I'm some sort of poser talking the way I do in order to fit in with all those people who look down on accents. (See robin's comment on my accent post below, or that people talk in a southern accent to sound uneducated or stupid.)

My first way of speaking is still inside my head, hiding back there. Every once in a while, some strange vowel will come flying out, and then I catch myself and speak properly again. Bizarrely, I can't pretend to have a southern accent now, I can't fake it, but N tells me that when I speak to my father on the phone, then and only then I do.

You know how when you are a teen, you find yourself acting like all your friends, but when you grow up into a full, independent adult, you can only shake your head at yourself? I sometimes wonder if the day is coming when my first way of speaking will return. And I will just talk properly, the Southern way, :) no matter what***.

** My accent isn't completely gone. You just have to know what to listen for. One vestige is that "pin" and "pen" are pronounced identically for me. Similarly, the first part of "center" is the same as "sin". There's also another slight vowel difference. The "a" in anthropology is not quite the same "a" as in "had", which it should be according to Standard American English. The "a" in anthro is almost, but not quite, the same as the "e" in "bet".

*** There are actually several Southern accents. Which is why many a Hollywood actor sounds idiotic when they are trying to be Southern, but they sound like someone sipping lemonade at Tera in Gone with the Wind, while their charactor is an army instructor in Mississippi.

Eye doctor?

Every time I pick up a book today or look at the computer, I want to stop and just lay back and close my eyes. I thought I was just being lazy and putting off work, like I always need to get a drink or check a blog whenever it's work time, but maybe I actually need glasses.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Some haiku

I had a comment over at EE's that I didn't want to lose. The Evil Minions were again discussing how long a book should be, so I added this really useful comment:

I personally think the shorter novel the better because I have better things to do than read fiction. In fact, I recommend haiku for everything.

Locked in jail for life
Monte Cristo gets the loot
Revenge served quite cold.

Lion with wardrobe
Kids and talking animals
It's gospel, moron.

My Joyce impression
Stream of consciousness, but I
ran out of space here

Dialects 1 - Accents

I just sent an email to a prof asking if I could interview them on this blog. Therefore, I must (MUST) get something else up here besides my humor in the misheard lyrics post. No, this blog is very serious and would never include misconstruable silliness.

Ahem, serious.

For some reason, I keep choosing to do linguistics posts on topics I don't study. Here is another example. Dialects. Specifically dialects v. languages v. accents.

I don't know if there is an agreed upon definition of any of these terms, though I am sure there are plenty of suggestions floating out there. What exactly makes something a dialect versus a separate language? It's hard to say, really. It seems to have to do more with how people think of themselves than any descriptions of the languages / dialects people speak. For instance, Chinese is often described as having many dialects, including things like Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese (Min), and many more. However, many of these varieties are so different from one another that people of a different "dialect" can't understand one another. In the case of Chinese, they do share a writing system, but then at times Japanese and Korean were written using Chinese characters and yet no one ever thought that they were a dialect of Chinese. It appears to have as much to do with the notion that Cantonese speakers and Mandarin speakers both conceive of themselves as speaking Chinese and being Chinese, such that we call it one language despite the fact that they cannot understand each other, as much as anything else. (Note that many speakers of one Chinese dialect also know another one, usually Mandarin, but they have simply learned two languagese/dialects.)

So in China we have different dialects that are mutually unintelligible. But on the other hand, you can also find groups of separate "languages" where the people can understand each other pretty darn well, despite clear differences. This happens most often in places where there are many groups of people who each see themselves as distinct, but yet who are close together geographically. Some Native American languages are like this, Amazonian, Australian Aboriginal ones, certain clusters of Pacific languages, Papuan, etc. Despite the fact that you can talk with people who kinda speak a different language, they classify themselves and their languages as separate.

In short, the difference between languages and dialects often has a lot to do with things like identity and status as much as grammar and vocabulary. People express who they are through their language. Studying how people shape society through language, and how society shapes language, is a subfield called sociolinguistics. We make guesses and judgments about people by the way they speak. We infer things like: where they are from, their education level (and often their intelligence), their economic status, their masculinity or femininity, their politeness, their age, the social groups they belong to, their ethnicity, and more.

Part of doing this is through creating the idea of accents. An accent is basically a dialect, but to me it sounds a bit different. An accent is something laid on top of something else. Like a little accent in French here: é, or in German here: ë. You have the base item, and then you stick something funny on top. Accents of English are often thought of this way. There is some standard language and then everything that is different is an accent. People speak with southern accents, Japanese accents, Spanish accents, or just a foreign accent. You have the right way to speak and then all the others. But of course who gets to decide what the starting point is?

It most often has to do, again, with issues of status and power. Americans have never spoken English in a single way ever. Same for the Brits. And yet both nations have selected one of the various ways they do speak and decided that is the right way. In the U.S., it is called Standard (or Mainstream) American English. And in the UK, it's RP, Received Pronunciation. How did this happen? Who died and made them standard?

In essense, the right people said so. They acted just like everybody else and assumed that whatever they did was the right way to do it. And so when they set up schools, they taught their accent as the proper way to speak. When they published books, they published books that sounded the best to them. They formed companies and got along better with people who sounded like them and promoted them. Other people wanted to hang out with people who ran companies and founded schools and ran governments and set up printing presses, and so they started speaking more like the people who did. And so people who had high status sounded one way, and people of a lower status sounded a different way. Naturally, people who wanted to be high status figured out that they had a better shot if they sounded like the high folks did. In fact, it became clearer and clearer to others that, if you didn't speak the standard, you weren't educated properly, were not from the right part of society. You probably were also not very intelligent.

A standard way to pretend to be dumb for a joke is to fake an accent.

And so despite the fact that there is nothing at all inherently superior about the standard, a person was often considered inferior if they did not use it.

To be continued later -- hey, where's my accent?!

Misheard lyrics

Warning, I did 2.5 posts tonight for some reason.

Here are some lyrics that I've always misheard. I could look up what they really are, but that seems anticlimactic somehow.

AC/DC "You should me all night long"
Had to cool me down
to take another round
Now I'm back in the rig
to take another swing
Now the walls were shakin'
the earth was quakin'
My mind was achin'
And we were bakin' when you
Shook Me All Night Long

Oh!! So that's what the song is about. A late night baking episode. If they don't wear oven mitts, they might end up with one unplanned bun in the oven.

Al Green "I'm so Tired of Being Alone"
I'm so tired of being alone
I'm so tired of growing my own
Won't you help me girl just as soon as you can

This song is apparently about farming solo and its pitfalls.

Then this is a pair, which, well, it's just rude:

ELO "Don't bring me down"
Don't bring me dooowwwwnn

And Manfred Mann's Earth Band "Blinded by the light"
Blinded by the light
Revved up like a douche
Another runner in the night

WTF?! These people seem to have an odd obsession with feminine hygiene.

But then, wasn't the old Seals and Croft song:
Summer's Eve!
Makes me feel fine
Blowing through the jasmine of my thii-ighs?

Maybe not.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My house is full of weapons I never knew

I am a typical modern parent in that I try to avoid too much violent content around B, who is currently 4. Some PG and PG-13 movies are too violent for that age. For instance, N and I watched the Transformers movie a week or so ago and a mother in front of us had her 3 year old with her, and I'm sorry, but I'm not sure that was the best choice. (However, that's nothing compared to the aprocryphal story I had heard of someone viewing Hannibal, as in Hannibal the Cannibal, with their 5 year old.)

Now, I'm not all flufffy bunnies and rainbows either. We've watched some Jackie Chan; N has let B watch some Naruto and Inuyasha with her, which are both really violent actually (particularly Inuyasha); we've watched the battles in Lord of the Rings and Lion Witch and Wardrobe. In short, some violence is around and B can see it, but we try to keep things moderate at the age of 4. When B and I go to a video game store, I don't let him play or watch me play any game that involves a gun. There is absolutely no reason he needs to be thinking of guns as toys when he really is only so-so on the difference between pretending and reality.

Regardless of such parenting desires on our part, however, B plays with toy guns all the time. We don't actually have any toy guns at the house, but this is no barrier to a boy. Things which our "oh so protected from violence" child has turned into a toy gun include:

his fingers
a stick bent such that one part could be a handle
a cardboard tube also bent
a flexy straw
the J.Jill catalog
the Common Birds of Hawaii brochure

There's just no stopping kids, usually boys it appears, from this stuff.

In the end, it might actually be a mistake to attempt to keep any and all violence away from children. It's like never letting a child fail, and then suddenly they enter the real world and have no idea how to cope. Instead, it's better to let the child grow into it in steps. For instance, after we watched our Jackie Chan movies, B was immediately influenced and started running around pretending to fight the bad guys, kicking and punching. And for a couple weeks at school, we'd sometimes get reports where he was doing this stuff, always as play to him, but still kicking at someone. And so we had talks about it, including things like 1) if you are going to do this, we won't be able to watch Jackie anymore at home, 2) it's only pretend fighting, and 3) they all go to fighting school to do this (by which we mean martial arts); i.e., if you want to fight for fun, you have to learn to do it with discipline.

At the time, I thought watching Jackie Chan at 4 years old was a mistake, but in hindsight I'm not so sure. There have been no such punching/kicking reports in a long time, so it seems he's learned. Every child has to go through this at some point, where they learn they can kick and then they must learn that they should not. Perhaps it is better to go through it now at 4, when the kicks don't really hurt anyone, than at 7 or 8 when they can.

Hm. This was mostly just supposed to be a funny post about B using the J.Jill catalog as a toy gun. Oh well.

Dialect Week 0 - Note Taking

I had a bunch of ideas for posts while doing dishes tonight that all revolved around dialects in some way, and so I'm going to declare this dialect week. Before I forget here are my teasers:

1) Dialects versus languages and why is standard English standard?
2) Middle class, status, and, hey, who stole my accent?
3) Humor, Margaret Cho, and "Mock Asian"
4) Anything interesting that I remember about dialectology in the next few days
5) Tom and Jerry and AAVE

I don't know if these will all be individual posts, but there you go.

And now that I've declared that this is dialect week, I am going to type up a much shorter post having nothing to do with dialects at all.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Little Anecdotes

I was waiting for the bus home tonight (Sunday) around 11:00 pm. At this time of the week, I think there's only one bus running my route. As I got to the bus stop, I noticed my bus, but going in the opposite direction. However, instead of going anywhere, it was just sitting there with its lights flashing and about three people on board. I had a feeling something wasn't quite right, and sure enough about 10 minutes later, three cop cars pull up behind it.

I watched as one of the cops boarded the bus and talked to some guy in a white shirt. In less than a minute, he got up and left the bus. Immediately, the bus turned its engine on again and left. After another couple minutes, the police seemed to let him go and everyone wandered off, leaving me alone still on the other side of the street waiting for the bus to come back.

As I'm sitting there reading an article and waiting, a guy in a white shirt comes walking up to me, and, asks me if the buses are still running tonight. Granted I never got a great look at him when talking to the police, but my guy looks exactly like the man the police just kicked off 5 minutes earlier.

What I'm thinking is, "You just froze my bus across the street and the police had to come kick you off the bus. What? Are you so stoned, you've forgotten, or are you planning to spend all night long pulling buses over? Even if you are harmless and got kicked off for not paying $2, there is no way in hell I am going to assist you in boarding any bus I plan to ride this year."

What I say is, "Uhhh, I don't know. I mean, I'm waiting, but maybe they've stopped. I just don't know."

Apparently, my clueless answer was the correct approach because he wandered on down the street. I'm such a silver-tongued devil.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hawaii Collage

I just realized how to take a photo slideshow on my Mac and turn it into a movie. Therefore, I just spent the last three hours doing so. I ended up grabbing a bunch of my favorite Hawaii-themed photos and setting them to a song I really like. This is sort of me just playing around still, but, well, here's the video after I uploaded it to YouTube.

Here is the movie directly on YouTube.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Washoe moves on

Washoe was a 42 year old chimpanzee living at Central Washington University who died on Tuesday night. She is famous because she was a participant in one of the most important animal language studies in the last three decades. People have always wondered about and debated upon the true differences between humans and animals, and one of the primary differences that has been held up for centuries is language. Some linguists had tried to teach various primates, usually chimps and bonobos, aspects of human speech, but they never went very well.

The great insight came in the 70s (or maybe 60s), when scientists simply noted that a chimp's vocal tract is built rather differently than ours and so, even if they are mentally capable of speech, they just won't be able to get it out of their throats. There's a physical reason that chimp's calls sound different from a human's. So the researchers switched to sign languages and the results were drastically different. Chimps could learn a hundred or more signs. They seemed to be able to combine signs in novel pairs to make new sentences they had never heard. And Washoe, Washoe was one of the best. She also taught some of what she had learned to her own children.

Critics have long said that Washoe and others have not captured true language the way that people do. I think they are right. B, at 4, has vastly exceeded Washoe's abilities despite years and years of training for her and little explicit training for B. However, before Washoe, who knew that a chimp could do so much? Time and again, we underestimate what others can do. Did you know that infants can track conditional probabilities over time? Newborns can tell the difference between stories their mother read while they were in the womb versus a story they've never heard. Tamarins can find words in a speech stream. Rats can distinguish languages. Dogs get depressed. Parrots can dance in rhythm with the Back Street Boys.

Washoe is not human. Maybe she is proud of that. But she is yet another reminder of our ignorance about the abilities of other creatures in this world. They deserve our humility and respect.

choosing the best moments again

A couple days ago I did yet another determined "that's it!" moment. This sort of moment runs like this:

Paca: That's it! I am in control of my own life. And if I wish to weigh less, I will. So it's back to eating healthy, right? Right. At least as of this moment, no more candy bars or chocolate. Easy first step. And I will not put myself in situations either where I am inclined to binge just because I'm bored or to keep energy up. Yes, self? Yes.

Paca goes to sleep. Next morning arrives.

N: Happy Halloween! Where do you want to take B trick or treating this year?

That's right. I managed to cluelessly swear off candy the night before the whole family walks around getting bags of free candy.

I'm an idiot.

So now I keep imagining this likely future conversation:

Paca: That's it! When it rains, only the top half of my stomach gets wet! That's embarrassing. I declare that as of this moment I will run again three times a week. And I will watch my portion size. No filling plates up anymore, stacking things high. And definitely, definitely much less pie. I'm turning a new leaf and will live a lifestyle in which I am less tempted to do such things. That's what it's all about. Eating just what you need. Okay. Done. Good.

Alright everyone, do you have everything? It's time to go to your grandmother's for Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

New papers up

This has been a very productive week. My working paper on causation (remember my 'academic story' a few weeks back?) has been accepted as a working paper, checking off another item on the dissertation list. Also, my collaborator and I truly finished the Korean apology paper draft enough that it's been shipped off to professors to obliterate for us. Ello mentioned maybe wanting to read the apology one, and my mother has mentioned the causation one, and so I finally updated my "professional" web site research page with actual current stuff, including these. You can find the link here.

I managed to lose most of the formatting I once had on this page with my last edit, but I'm tired of fooling with it. Have better things to do. The two papers are both pdfs and one is called "The Biological Endowment for Language and the Poverty of the Simulus" and the other is "Concepts of Face and Korean Apologies". Neither is written for a general audience, being hopeful journal submissions, but the apology one will likely be an easier read than the biology one. If you do read the biology one, you might want to skip the highly technical section 3 altogether. On the Korean apology one, you can probably skim the intro-theory part and then focus on the examples in the latter half.