Friday, May 29, 2009

eye opener

We all have our little pet peeves. Precie hates the word irregardless. robin s hates bad education systems. EE hates authors. So it is.

Apparently, one of my pet peeves is willful ignorance. It's beyond my comprehension when people wish not to know stuff or cannot think in a coherent fashion.

I discovered this yesterday when I ran across an article about volcanic activity perhaps triggering extinctions. As I become more familiar with the topic, I can see that the article is poorly written. What it's really about is the greatest mass extinction in the history of the earth that occurred at the end of the Permian era. We know the extinctions occurred, but the mechanism or mechanisms have been elusive and remain controversial. Volcanism is one suggested hypothesis with pros and cons for it, and some researchers are now providing some additional evidence for volcanism. The popular article, however, doesn't get much past "scientists think volcanoes killed everything 260 million years ago."

Regardless of the state of science journalism, when I scrolled down to the comments, I didn't expect much in the way of controversy. I mean, who gets upset about volcanism at the end of the Permian other than researchers who prefer the methane explanation?

Apparently, lots of people get upset about this. If you click on the link above and scroll down, it will take you to the comments. What will the comments be like? Possibly some science folk who have their own pet theories? Perhaps a lot of people worrying about this happening next week?

Not at all. Instead you get things like:

- typical of the country's lib media
- science = satan (I started off assuming this was a joke, but I think it's real.)
- why do scientists get paid to make up crap like this?
- text-bookcase [sic] of global warming
- guess the dinosaurs didn't paint their roofs white!
- this is Real! The scientists were there to see it with their own eyes. They also found that dinosaur tastes like chicken
- I must have missed the news flash of the working time machine these scientists traveled in to gather their astounding data

These aren't the exceptions but the main response. As the comments go on, there are repeated jokes about Al Gore, repeated religious declarations, and even more just simple denial.

And it's really that last crew that I think bugged me more than anyone. How can you categorically deny something when you know nothing about it? (as becomes really clear when the discussions start). I couldn't help myself and entered the fray, losing a few hours to this.

It really was an eye opener. I guess I had gotten sheltered here in academia, since almost everyone really does attempt to use evidence and stuff here. And they mostly have a curiosity about the world. I suppose I was also taken aback by the dominance of these opinions. The "fringe" is the mainstream apparently. My favorite thing I learned from my debaters was that the biblical flood is likely responsible for the destruction of marine life. Think about that. But, with their version of the Bible, there's no room for any general destruction other than that one. And so they are left with too much rain killing the fish.

I don't know. Form your own opinions. I can't take it anymore. You will see me in a couple comments and mostly in replies under the familiar name of pacatrue.

Oooh, oooh, is this the closest I've come to a rant? Maybe so. Yay!! I ranted!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

This is me

From PhD comics, I've been on that panel on the right a lot of times.

homologous habitus

I just read the following sentence:

Moreover, as in the case of homologous habitus reflecting similarities in the objective conditions of existence, so interlocuters' repertories of frames will only overlap to the extent that their past experience overlaps.

Beautiful stuff.

Translation: If two people have similar backgrounds, their expectations when talking will be similar, too.

This is actually a very good paper, but the sentence almost sounds like a spell from Harry Potter. Homologous Habitus!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Satire alert

Ummm... FYI, the video a few posts down with the "Congressman" whose son won't be quiet? That's a video from the Onion. so it's completely fake. It's not very funny if it's real, I don't think, since the dad goes inappropriately over the top. But as fakery, more funny. I think. Just to be clear. I'm not endorsing congressman dad's behavior. Behaviour -- that spelling's for you, 'oala and hedgehog. Humourous. Colourful. Shhhedule. Not spelled that way, but pronounced that way.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Each year we think about attending the lantern floating festival here in Hawaii, which occurs on Memorial Day. We finally made it this year and I had never known how big a deal it is. It's easily equal to a city's 4th of July festival, as it included the Honolulu Symphony, the mayor, the lieutenant governor, tv cameras on cranes, tv cameras on wires running 200 yards over the ocean, and literally tens of thousands of people. Apparently, the whole thing is even televised in Japan.

Despite all of that, it turned out to be worth it.

I've edited together a little 8 minute video of "highlights" off our little camera. As there are thousands of people there, you can't actually be next to the stage. Except for the final footage of lanterns near the end, mostly you will be watching a film of the big projection screen we were watching. There are at least three of these big screens. You will notice a time delay between the sound and the projection screen. That's not my camera; that's how it really was. This footage is just me with our little digital camera as I sat there trying not to shake, so it's hardly great quality, but this is more like the real experience, which might be worth something.

I have all sorts of little comments about various sections, but instead I'll just go ahead and let you watch. If it doesn't work for you, and you are interested, let me know and I can put it on YouTube instead.

If you are interested in the festival, here's a link to the main web site. And here's a link to a documentary on the festival.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gendered Reading

So, when I am trying to buy a book for N, I almost exclusively buy female authors. If I'm looking at, say, two mysteries as possibilities for her and have no other basis upon which to select one, I will choose the female author. I think this is basically the correct move for me as well, as most of N's favorite authors are female.

When I look at my own books, most of them are male authors. When I created a list of my favorite books a year or two ago, I had like 7 books and 6 of them were male authored and one female authored.

Of course, there are exceptions for both of us. I think I've only read one novel this year, and it was Diana Wynne Jones (Howl's Moving Castle which I read entirely in one day). But generally I seem to prefer male authors and she seems to prefer female authors.

The gender of the protagonist is less important. As I think through N's mysteries and fantasy titles, many, many of them have male protagonists. When I write, which has been a while, I have a female protagonist most of the time. But there is a correlation between the gender of the author and the gender of the reader for us.

How about you? If you don't read, what about other arts? Are you a woman and prefer female singers? It's hard to say with movies, as there are so few female directors in the big studio productions (for instance, if you like action movies, there are almost zero done by women).

What's the word?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

No experience with this

I have no experience with this sort of situation. At all. It must be a video targeted towards other parents.

Congressman's Son Won't Shut The Hell Up During Hearing

And the Good

Now that you are all nauseated by Sweet Sue's delicious roasted chicken meal, I will post some food that I actually thought was pretty good. That's because I made it, naturally.

Picture this: Mother's Day. Paca needs to create something that N will particularly like, so he lists things in that category. Bernaise sauce, salmon, capers, tomatoes, crepes.... Maybe I can make salmon bernaise crepes. So I did. I actually got lucky because when I bought the bernaise sauce package, McCormick's, it had a recipe for tomato caper bernaise salmon, so I got to combine my ideas and theirs. Yes, I could have made the bernaise from scratch, since it's just eggs and butter, but that takes serious attention and I didn't have time for that kind of attention.

To start, make the crepes. You can actually do this the night before and then reheat them in the morning. I had a plan to do that, but, um, didn't. So everyone just had to wait.

The crepe batter is pretty simple. You can just do a cup of flour and a cup of milk. You can add in a bit of melted butter if it pleases you. You can also make a batter with flour, water, and a couple eggs. To make the crepe sweet, add in a couple tablespoons of sugar. You can also flavor the crepes by stirring in some sort of herb, such as dill weed. The recipe in these pictures is just milk and flour.

The batter should be thin enough so that you can whirl it around the skillet to make a nice flat crepe the size of the skillet. Of course, it shouldn't fall apart either. To cook, put a little oil or butter in.

Pour some batter in and whirl it around in the pan to cover the bottom. After waiting just a little bit, pry the edges up with a fork. Not always necessary, but it helps keep the crepe from sticking. Same thing as an omelet, except this goes much faster. Wait a bit more. Perhaps shake the pan back and forth in short motions so that the crepe slides around a bit. Wait a bit more and then flip to the other side. A crepe shouldn't take more than a minute.

OK, so make a bunch of crepes, placing each on on a plate in a stack. They will keep each other warm pretty well, but you could keep them warm in an oven, too. Now make the filling:

First you dice a little onion:

And bake some salmon. (Do this actually before or while making crepes, since it takes about 20 minutes.)

Dice up some tomato and then add the onion, tomato, and a bit of butter to a pot and cook until onions are transparent.

Follow the recipe for the bernaise sauce package. At the end, toss in a bunch of capers.

Now, just assemble the crepes. Use a fork to put the salmon in pieces. Pour some sauce over it.

Roll it up and put a little more sauce on for appearance.

Ta-daaa. Mother's Day breakfast with salmon caper crepes in bernaise sauce.

It's easy to do dessert crepes, too. For instance, here we have banana crepes with whipped cream.

Make the dessert crepes the same was as before but add in some melted butter and sugar to the batter. Do this early enough that the crepes will be cool before eating. If they are still warm, they will melt the whipped cream, ruining the idea. Next, fry up a couple bananas with 2-3 TBs of butter in a skillet and maybe a bit of brown sugar though that's optional. Slice up a third banana, but don't cook it. Roll a mix of the cooked and uncooked bananas inside the crepe and then put the whipped cream on top. One of these is pretty hardy actually. OK, I ate two.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Both the Bad and the Ugly

It's always good to experiment a little with the food, right? Riiigghht.

So this weekend, I needed to pick up something for dinner while N and B were having a lovely time at the laundromat. I wasn't sure if we would go home immediately afterwards or not, so I decided I would pick up some sort of canned meat. Chili, tamales, all were under consideration. And then I saw this lovely gift from Sweet Sue.

An entire cooked chicken in a can. Stunning. Miraculous. Almost certainly going to be really bad. How the hell could you put a whole chicken in a can and have it come out tasting good.

So I bought it.

Warning. I am about to show you a picture of what came out of this can. You may want to step away from any food that you may be snacking on. You may wish to check your heart rate, because I don't want to harm anyone with this image. Indeed, I would rate this image NFC-17. Not For Consumption.

You've been warned, right?
Seriously, why are you still scrolling down? What's wrong with you?
At gym class when someone handed you a smelly sock and said, "smell this," you smelled it, didn't you?

You looked, didn't you? But don't worry. When you roast it, it looks like this:

Completely transformed. Yes, that's it.

After you pull all the chicken off that doesn't look nauseating, you end up with a few pieces that were salty but edible.

In the end, I recommend you leave Sweet Sue to her own devices. It will be better for both of you in the long term, and for you in the short term.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I'm gonna live forever....

B brought home a little writing sample from kindergarten today. He was supposed to write down three things that bug him. His three, in order, are:

1) When a bug pinches me.
2) When someone hits me.
3) When dad says "Go on time out" but I didn't do something bad.


Amusingly, we don't really use time outs anymore, but he does not get to watch movies sometimes or have to go to his room.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Chinese" Food

And here's an interesting talk about the history of American Chinese food. The talk reminded me how I used to love Chinese restaurants even as a kid when we had to drive to another town 40 miles away to go to one, loved them for years and years, all until I went to study in China and discovered that I'd largely been eating American food. Only rarely visit Chinese-American restaurants now. Anyway, the link:

Hip Hop Acapella?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Useless subject headings

The paper that I am writing with a co-author about Korean is being done almost entirely through gmail chat sessions. We used to meet in person when she was still in the same country, but that's been 2 years now.

One nice gmail feature is that it can save your chat sessions, which has been very useful for us, since I hate taking notes. One problem, however, is that it records the subject of your chats with the last few lines of the chat session. This makes sense in theory, but it yields the most useless subject headings ever. Here are the last 5 subject headings from out chats (with C-A subbed in for coauthor's name:

1) me: bye C-A: bye C-A: me too me: ok, good night
2) C-A: bye me: bye me: I will write if I can C-A
3) me: good night C-A: good night C-A: I will
4) C-A: good bye me: good night me: yes C-A: definitely
5) me: bye C-A bye

Enlightening, no? I know exactly where to look for something now. I think they'd do better to grab any random 3 lines in the middle.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Apparently, not swine flu

The old H1N1 flu is at UH with a small number of confirmed cases. Since we flew to Texas right around the outbreak, now a month ago, it's been on my mind. And so today I was sitting in the lab and just started feeling bad. Kind of nauseous, felt like my heart was going fast, a little clammy. Nothing severe at all, but just not right.

After about an hour of this, I decided to take all my signs down and leave. I called N to see if she could pick up B because, well I knew I didn't have the swine flu but I still didn't want to go into a room with 150 elementary school kids just to be safe. So I went to N's work (one car and I had it) and picked her up. On the way, I decided why not: I know I don't have swine flu and this is all a waste of time, but I'll just have N drop me by the urgent care clinic on the way and they can check me out.

Went on in and talked about my heart racing a bit.

Pulse: 80-something, which is super normal.

Well, my blood pressure was high once when I took it at the drug store

Blood pressure: 120 over 80.

Breathe deep. Sounds fine. Breathe normal. Sounds fine.

Well, doctor, I almost coughed once on that deep breath.


Maybe you have a cold coming on. Maybe you're just tired. Take some cold medicine if you need it.

Sigh... no swine flu. No quarantines or social isolation. No worrying about whether I've infected others. The only person I've infected is N. She might get tired too, since I often leave the light on when she's trying to sleep.

And so back to school tomorrow. I have a feeling I've got a new note in my file at the clinic: hypochondriac.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Maybe not Japan for me

I've sometimes thought about looking at jobs in East Asia, mostly Korea, but maybe Japan, too. I'm sure it's a nice place.

But then I saw this video.

As someone who really must be on an aisle seat on a plane or I can freak out, this is an absolute nightmare. To get on this train, I would literally need to think that it's ride the train or one of my family member's is set on fire. And it would need to be a whole body fire. If they're just going to lose a hand, I might still stay off this train.

Research Ideas

(OK, this is probably a post mostly for me as I work things out, but, hey, I'm going to write it anyway. Really, feel free to ignore it because I end up almost talking to myself. Still, my mom might be interested to see the kind of stuff I get up to.)

As always at the beginning of a semester, I think of accomplishing amazing things, far too much for any human to do. The Spring semester is ending and I am neither teaching nor taking classes for the first time ever. This means it's research time. What to do?

1) The obvious #1 thing is continuing my dissertation experiments. Everything takes a backseat to this. However, I spend most of my time for the dissertation waiting for another person to participate in the experiment. This lets me do other stuff in the meantime.

2) Revise Korean apology paper. We got a revise and resubmit response from the journal we submitted to. So we are now revising and resubmitting. This also ties directly into the conference presentation I am making in Melbourne in July, so it's got to happen.

3) On the same theme, we have a second poster for the Melbourne conference about apologies in English and Korean (different topic in the same area). Got to do this one, too.

4) I'm working on a theoretical / philosophical paper about what can and cannot be learned. I wrote several pages of it, and it's a new version of my old "working paper" which is a doctoral requirement. Be good to finish it, but I'm still working through some of the logic.

5) In my working paper, I also came up with a new version of how pronouns work in language. However, I came up with it not because I believed it was the ideal way to understand pronouns, but to prove a philosophical point that it's always possible to come up with reasonable alternate explanations for things. So I just ignored the idea as soon as the paper was complete. Lately, though, I've been wondering if the ideas were really that throw-away. Perhaps they could be developed further and be worth something. (Note to self: would need to build in scope and quantification ideas; also good to test learnability on it.)

6) There were several class projects this semester that could be worth following. First up, we looked at sentences like, "Mr. Bear found a blue fish and Mr. Tiger did, too." For English-speaking adults and kids, this sentence is not ambiguous at all. It's true if Mr. Tiger also found a blue fish, but false if Mr. Tiger found a red fish. There are grammatically similar but different sentences in Korean and Japanese, and based on previous research Japanese children behave very differently, i.e., they will label the red fish possibility as true. My students designed a version of this experiment and ran them with 3 English-speaking children, 1 Korean-speaking child, and 1 Japanese-speaking child. There are some problems with the stories they used, and the Japanese and Korean infants all displayed the famous "yes bias" of child research, which is when the child just says yes to anything. Story: "Elmo had ice cream at the party." Test sentence: "Elmo had cake at the party." Child answer: "Yes." Whatever you say, they say yes. Anyway, I'd like to fix and try this experiment again, but to do it, I need Japanese and Korean speakers. I had them in my class, but my class is no more.

7) Specific Language Impairment is a clinically diagnosed condition in which, by definition, a person tests out as completely normal on all cognitive, hearing, visual, and other tasks, and yet has problems specifically with language (hence the name). It occurs in various forms, in about 5% of the population, and is more common with boys than girls. The earliest we can currently diagnose SLI is at about 3-4 years of age. Speech pathologists are able to help children with SLI to some degree, but there might be limitations at this point. It might be "too late" to really change things. Another student group worked on designing a test for SLI that we could run at 1 year. This project has huge upside, as it could one day help real people and not just be a bit of scientific knowledge, like most of what linguistics does. However, it's also a huge project, probably needing 200 children and about 3.5 years of testing and retesting. This means grants, hiring someone, and more, and would be most appropriate if I'm settled somewhere. There are some preliminary tests however I could start now about how well young children hear verb inflection (kick versus kicked versus kicks). SLI children seem to have particular trouble with verbs. It would be good to start these warm-ups now, which would make serious NSF funding more likely in the future. Funding makes me hirable.

8) Another class project has to do with how children break actions apart into their components. This was started, needs to be fixed, and could be run. The nice thing about this experiment is that it's really quite easy. One could get it going in a few weeks. It's not as important as some of the others, but still. THE MAIN barrier between me and a job is publications. I needs me some.

9) There's a prof in computer science, whom I will start calling Smackdown, that I took a class from who once offered to be my dissertation chair. That really meant a lot to me at the time for reasons I won't put on this public blog. Her being my chair wasn't possible for various reasons, but I really don't want to abandon this connection. I would like to apply some of her machine learning models to language data before it's too late. But I have to find an idea and get her time.

10) I designed an experiment two semesters ago looking at the influence of rhythm on how infants find words in speech. The pros for this experiment are that it's right in my area of specialization where I'd like to get a job, and ties immediately into my dissertation. However, there are some technically challenging components of the experiment, like getting various items perfectly synchronized, that make it a bit of stretch. Moreover, recruiting young infants, like 9 months old, can be difficult and requires installing myself in one of the labs.

To throw one more component into all of this, I've got 3 students who might be interested in helping with research. That's awesome. I don't really think all 3 will stay involved, but maybe 1 or 2 might. For them to help, I need to either pay them as research assistants or find projects that really are likely to end in a publication, which is good for their grad school records. (They are mostly graduating and moving into masters programs in speech pathology.) Since I have no money, the latter option seems best.

OK, now to review all of this, I come to a few conclusions:

a) It's stupid to run any experiments with English-speaking adults, because that's who I need in my dissertation research.

b) Theoretical things make sense as those can neatly fill the time when sitting around hoping to get a research participant.

c) I need publications and that's the way I can "pay" my possible research compatriots, i.e., former students. So choose options that are likely to get a publication in a year, not in 3 years after five failed attempts.

d) Doing experiments in other languages or with children is logical since that doesn't pull from my dissertation pool.

So after all that, what do I think? Well, 1-3 come first. Easy one there. After that? Hmmm.... Lots of variables too long to consider here. Must stew.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Appropriate Children's Songs

I'm no prude about everything children should see. It's okay to venture away from the Island of Sodor** before 3rd grade. Yeah, sure you can watch a movie with a sword fight. We've been listening to Jungle Boogie since B was 2 or 3. I've spoken before on this blog about how Stevie Wonder's Superstition may be better fare on Sesame Street than Elmo.

Anyway, today I was at B's elementary school for "Fun Fair" this week, which is inflatable jumpies and classic young kid games like "throw the string on a fishing rod behind the wall and have the person clip a cheep 50 cent prize to the clothes pin" game. As I walked into the school yard to find him, suddenly some teacher kicks off the music with J. Geils Band "Centerfold".

Really? Your playing Angel is a Centerfold for the 6 and 7 year olds?

Sure that's your best choice?

Now, I'm not denying it's a catchy tune. I was a huge fan in 1982 of the song, when I would have been... 9. But I don't think it was featured at Winnsboro Upper Elementary.

For the record, I'm not actually upset. None of the 6 year olds know what the song is about. (It's about a guy finding the schoolgirl he had a crush on appearing as a playboy-type centerfold). Still. Let's just say... incongruous.

Kindergarten, kindergarten, angel is a centerfold. One of these things is not like the other.

**Translation for those not blessed with very young children at this moment, the island of Sodor is Thomas the Tank Engine's home.

Underdogs and Girls Basketball

Terrific article on the above two topics. I really think its life lesson cannot be underestimated. Emotional IQ is at least as important as intellectual IQ in the real world. It's a place I've suffered.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Teacher Anxiety

There are only two classes left this semester and they are both filled with student presentations, so there's not much for me left to do. That doesn't stop me from having teacher anxiety, however. Witness last night's dream:

Paca brings son to class to demonstrate some bit of children's speech. He thought he had worked everything out beforehand, but when Paca gets there, he can't get the equipment to work. And it turns out that my class is in the middle of some huge festival so that I'm not at the front of a classroom, but on some stage with thousands of people watching me speak into a mic hanging from the staging. I can't figure out what to do, and I fumble and search and never get it working, as everyone shakes their head at my incompetence. In the end, the entire class is wasted and the students never get to make their presentations. Disaster!

Let's hope the real class, which is in 3 hours, goes better.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

thank you or no?

About three years ago, I posted a story online which has been relatively popular. No, you cannot read it. (Sorry, don't mean to be mean, but yeah....) Anyway, I got a little email from someone today which was very nice, saying they liked the story. Actually, saying they liked the story in rather extraordinary terms. They talked about how this was the first time they've ever written to an author, but it was just so so moving. And ended it with please respond.

Typically, I would send a nice thank you message and then move on. I really do appreciate kind words like this and that they took their time to read a silly story of mine.

However, this email address rung a bell and so I did a search for it in my Inbox. This person has sent me 4 different emails about this story, two of which state that it's the first time they've ever written an author. They wrote me twice in 2006 about the story. Again, in 2008, and now in 2009.

So, do I just have a very forgetful fan, in which case I will send a thank you note (the previous three emails all got thank yous), or do I have a stalker, in which case I perhaps shouldn't encourage them? I don't think I will be mean enough to forward the previous first time ever letter to them.

Please advise.