Friday, October 28, 2005

semantics syntax interface

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Zell Miller

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

Ah, the sacrifices I make for science. ;)

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2005

Things you don't hear often

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

going androgynous

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

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

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

These people spend a little too much time together.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

blog apologies

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2005

my political interview

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

Me:

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

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

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

Thank you,

Paca
formerly of Spring Hill with Tennessee still on my mind

Other person:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:

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

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

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

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

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

Other Person:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:

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

Other Person:

Thank you Paca - I am sure we both will!

Monday, October 17, 2005

I suck

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

Friday, October 14, 2005

Bond is Blonde

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

Preds win again

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Favorite things, couples, and adoption

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

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

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

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

Nice if that were true.

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 10, 2005

Onion funny

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

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

Gonna be busy

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Go Preds

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I'm easy

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

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Cold food

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

Here's Random

I got some random for you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Juicy political and social discussion

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

STATEMENT: 'No one can feel naturally homosexual.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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