Monday, June 30, 2008

roof

So, is it "roofs" or "rooves" for you? Both in spelling and in pronunciation. Dwarfs or dwarves? Halfs or halves?

Also does the vowel in roof sound closer to the vowel in tooth or the vowel in book or woof woof (depending on how you say woof woof)?

For the phonetically inclined, in the first question, I'm asking if the last fricative is voiced or voiceless, which means "are your vocal cords vibrating?" which is the difference between f and v. For the second question, I'm asking if the vowel is a tense high back rounded vowel (booth, true, woo) or lax high back rounded (book, cook, hook). Tense versus lax here is the degree to which your lips are rounded and just how high and back your tongue is (or how far down and close together formants 1 and 2 are).

the onion funny

Through a sort of random chain of blog posts I ended up in a discussion again about language use in describing homosexuality. One item was that the term "homosexual" is favored over "gay" by many social conservative such as the American Family Association. I also pointed out my pet theory again that you can often tell how someone feels about homosexuality by seeing if they use "gay" and "homosexual" more as nouns or as adjectives. Someone who talks about "the gays" is more often socially conservative than someone who says "gay men."

Anyway, through this chain, I ended up at an old Onion (the satire faux news site) piece entitled "Area Homosexual Saves Four From Fire." Cracked me up in a serious way; I think because some people indeed think this way.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

439

$4.39 a gallon now. How 'bout you?

Since we live about 3 miles from where we work, gas itself isn't that huge a deal to us, particularly since we have a little Toyota Echo that gets 35 odd miles to the gallon (well, it would if we ever traveled more than 5 blocks without a red light). It's the effect on other things. 90% of Hawaii's food must come from across the ocean (and that's ignoring the stuff from neighbor isles) so the grocery bill keeps climbing. I've seen some discounts recently, but a couple weeks ago I couldn't find any loaves of bread under $5. So I decided to make my own. Of course, it took me 2-3 weeks to get around to it. Finally this morning, using a recipe from my lovely sis who is currently in a pastries and baking program in Austin (go, sis!), I made a couple passable baguettes. The key is the 2 lb package of yeast from Costco for under $5. One batch of bread uses half an ounce.

Also broke out some cans of salmon we've had sitting around for a couple months and made a curry salmon soup to go with the bread for dinner. It was decent enough. I was using a discount soup book from Barnes and Noble. I love me some soup. Seriously. Anyway, it's Thai-like with some coconut cream, curry paste, white wine, heavy cream, and parsley. I actually made it because we had this big thing of cream that's about to go bad, so I went searching for cream recipes.

In other news, N's work had a beach picnic/get together thing on Saturday, which we all attended. She has a small workplace with maybe 7, 8 employees. We propped some potluck dishes on someone's pick-up, set up an umbrella for B and the boss' almost-4-year-old, and then jumped in the waves with the boogie board.

I really have no idea what I'm doing with the boogie board. I get a wave; it carries me for about 5 feet; and then moves on without me. And so I'm at the point where it's almost more fun to go out right now than come in. When you're going out, you can jump through the waves with your board, getting a tiny little rush. You all should understand that I'm going about 30 feet out at most. I'm not exactly ready for the next episode of Riding Giants. The swells were maybe 4 feet? And I was contemplating for a while whether I was a good enough swimmer for that. Turns out I am.

To underscore my ineptitude, I ended my amazing run when I sliced open a toe on a reef. Apparently, they are sharp. I didn't even know the reef was there. It was a superficial cut though. Boss' husband had some vinegar, a bunch of band-aids, and that was that. He and boss are surfers so I asked how they avoid the cuts and the answer was, "well, you just get cut sometimes." One of the less glorious parts of surfing they don't emphasize. Even though my boogie boarding was inept, the whole experience is a change from 15 years ago when I wouldn't have gone at all: too embarrassed to have my shirt off around others, etc. I'm still pasty white and jiggle in places, but I go anyway.

And this was a post about gas prices.

Clearly.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pretending to be WrittenWyrdd

For everyone who regularly reads Wyrdd's blog, you will know that she frequently sees some interesting idea and then gives a bunch of suggestions on how to use it for speculative fiction. Well, I'm going to kind of do the same.

So Agent Kelly had a link on her blog about some scientist who wants to use man-made tornadoes around the equator to combat global warming. Someone in the tornado discussion then linked to an old Isaac Asimov lecture from 1974, which had an interesting bit in it. Here's the whole Asimov talk. Anyway, he's talking about some story of his, perhaps his very first story, that was sold to a publisher and he thinks it sold because one component of his story was that many people on Earth were not interested in going to space. In fact they opposed it bitterly, and at the time this was innovative. All other stories had either astronauts as heroes or as travelers on distant planets with space centipedes and women in green skin and tiny bikinis. (Not his exact examples, but that's basically what he says.)

It seems one could use this innovation of Asimov's to come up with all sorts of more complex societies and conflict for the protagonist. Take your initial idea of how society would react to something in your fiction - and then splinter it. Find a legitimate and appealing reason that people might oppose it. Or find people on your protagonist's side who have stupid, frustrating reasons for supporting his or her cause. Makes everything more complex and intriguing. As long as it's not needlessly complicating things. In the real world, a planet like ours has 200 some odd countries, but, boy, would that be confusing in some SF. Sometimes we read to get away from that kind of stuff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Problems in the Empire

So.... The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the Star Wars movies and I enjoy it very much, but there's one thing I just can't figure out. Okay, two.

First, how long did Luke exactly train with Yoda?

His story is told in parallel with Han and Leia. Luke's time is not clear, but Han and Leia's story doesn't appear to take more than 3 days, a week at best. They fly into some asteroids; they leave asteroids and fly to Cloud City; they get captured by Darth Vader. Luke shows up to attempt a rescue. The only time I could find in there for Luke to train is if they are being tortured for several weeks by the Empire. Maybe so, but Luke leaves Yoda as soon as he senses they are in trouble. I guess they could have spent several weeks in Cloud City before Darth captures them, but surely Darth's got better things to do than hide in closets for days and days on end, waiting to capture people that he can capture with the wave of a hand when he gets around to it. N had one idea which is probably the best. Since the hyperdrive on the Falcon was broken maybe it took a couple months to fly from the asteroids to Cloud City. Maybe.... Maybe Dagobah is in a different time stream.

Personally, I think Yoda trained Luke in 72 hours to be a Jedi. He's that good.

In the same vein, what's up with the armor on the AT-ATs/ Imperial Wakers that attacked the rebel base on Hoth? It's too thick for the little Hoth fighter jets, so they use ropes to trip them. No problem there. But as soon as the AT-AT falls over the same fighter jet shoots it one time and it blows up in a fiery ball? Does falling down hurt the armor more than the weapons on the fighters? If so, they need new weapons.

UPDATE: Stunningly, I'm not the first person to think about the time problem. Here's a link to one discussion. People seem to have found some training time for Luke while Han and Leia travel to the Cloud City. But then it's only a week or a few weeks still, while ObiWan and Anikan trained for years.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Maui Report

We left on Friday afternoon to celebrate the 10th anniversary with a long weekend on Maui. At 3:30, we boarded the Hawaiian SuperFerry, which for now only runs between Oahu and Maui. We left Oahu...



sitting on the ferry boat



for Maui. Maui is nicknamed the Valley Isle, because it has a large dormant (but not extinct) volcano named Haleakalaa on the eastern bit and another set of mountains on the western bit with a large valley in between used for shopping strips, tourist attractions, and sugar cane farming. Our hotel was on the western side of the isle with a cliff-like coastline as the ferry goes.



The evening we arrived, I looked at the map we bought in a gas station and decided that the northern loop around the mountains to our hotel, the great "highway" 340, looked to be the shortest. Well, it was in distance but not in speed. Literally one lane roads around cliffs with 10 mph curves that sometimes go back almost the direction you came from. It took about 1 and a half hours to go the 20 miles or so. I have a feeling it was quite beautiful, but it quickly became night time, so I don't really know. The concierge at our hotel said his wife refuses to take that road and the second map we got (not the one we had for the original choice) says literally, "drive at your own risk." Needless to say, I enjoyed it immensely.

The second day was the first day of tourism. I first took B to the hotel swimming pool and then we drove south through the leeward side of Maui. Just like the other isles, there can be a vast difference in climate just a few miles apart. A point in the western mountains supposedly gets around 400 inches of rain annually. For comparison, Seattle and Louisiana get about 40-50. However, just a handful of miles over the mountains, you get brown, arid grass with few trees. However, there's a beautiful harbor once you get around the mountains towards the Valley. The islands are close together here and you can see the isles of Molikini (tiny, uninhabited, used for snorkeling trips), Kaho'olawe and Lana'i (inhabited, small, pretty isles) from the shoreline, forming an amazing deep blue blue sheltered spot that the humpbacks use for birthing. This is the main area of the Hawaiian Humpback Sanctuary. They come to Hawaii in the winter, so we didn't see them this time.





Our first major stop was the Maui Ocean Center where we met an aggressive parrot fish (about $25 in the grocery store for one of these guys, so I've never tried).



Then we walked around and saw various creatures such as surgeonfish, jellyfish, hammerhead sharks, and coral reef ecosystems.





After the Ocean Center, we went back up the coast towards our hotel and the town of Lahaina. Lahaina used to be the whaling capital of the world in the 19th century and has been preserved somewhat. Lots of little tourist shops, art galleries, and the like are there today.




The next day was "nature day" and we eventually decided to drive the Road to Hana as far as we could with stopping whenever we wanted and a 5 year old. The road to Hana is fabled for its 600 turns and 1 lane bridges and such. It was all that, but it's nothing compared to that stunning, frightening 340 the night we arrived. It's hard to scare someone after that. However, the scenery was worth a windy drive. Here's a view from a lookout still on the road to the Road to Hana-proper.



Then it was on to the Road to Hana. We didn't have any idea what we were doing. We just stopped when other people stopped or it looked interesting. The first major thing we found was Twin Falls. Here we are going into and behind the second falls. Since we were completely unprepared, we had no swimsuits and did nothing more than wade this time. B wanted to take the rope swing in to the water, but I told him he really did have to know how to swim first. Maybe it will be good motivation. Actually, I sort of told him that once he could swim across the pool and back by himself, then he could do the waterfall rope swing. Could be expensive if he remembers this. (Yes, I am in blue; B in orange.)




You can also stop and take pics of whatever nature and farmers throw at you.


Our final stop turned out to be the "Garden of Eden" Botanical Garden, because evening came as we were there. No real point in driving a waterfall-lined tropical highway if you can't see anything.

Supposedly, this valley you can see here was used for the opening shots of Jurassic Park, which was filmed all over various Hawaiian Isles.


Otherwise, you walk around, feed ducks and a peacock (I had a couple of these same hissing Moscovy ducks when I was a kid), and look over mountain ridges to waterfalls far below (again you will see a woman getting ready to jump in).





And that was a wrap. We took the ferry back this morning. One little bonus was that our hotel had a small kitchen in it, which allowed us to cook breakfast each morning and keep a half gallon of milk. I bought a little thing of ice cream the second night there, anniversary night, as a small celebration. However, since we didn't eat it all that evening and didn't want it to go to waste, I was forced to eat double brownie ice cream for breakfast this morning. Hate that.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The pseudo-voice post

Well, Robin kicked off a "post your voice" thingie that I've really enjoyed. I would like to do it myself, but I don't have anything to read, I'm supposed to be in bed, and I don't want to have to fool with YouTube this late. Therefore, the best I can do for now is to post a link once again to my old GoatSkin Pants theme song, which is all me acting weird (including the goat sounds) on top of various Apple loops.

Here you go.

For those relatively new to the blog, I used to co-blog with my friend the killer llama on a blog called Goatskin Pants.

This is about a 5 minute track. It's an mp3 and should launch in itunes, Media Player, Quicktime, or something similar. Unfortunately, the best part, I think, is the end, so if you are short on time, skip to about the midway point. The closest to my natural voice is probably the tribute to Falco in the second section. And at the very very end, there are a couple words where I was just speaking and not trying to do anything.

For those of you who've heard this a million times already, apologies. Maybe when I get back, I will do better by you.

10 years ago

This was me 10 years ago. Well, at least on the summer solstice it will be me 10 years ago. And so we are headed to Maui this afternoon on the ferry. Be back Monday night.

Have a good weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Johnny!

As I may have mentioned before, Airplane likely remains my favorite movie. Someone on YouTube took all of the Johnny the Office Boy bits and put them in one clip. Great stuff. And Leon's getting Laaaarrgger.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Translating Man Talk

Yahoo had an article about translating men's talk. (It was linked from the front page; give me a break. -- Translation: I'm a man and cannot have people thinking that I might be interested in relationships or anything emotional; therefore I must offer an excuse for reading this article.) I decided I would offer my own translations. I'm copying pretty extensively from the article, so please click on this link to read the original so that I don't feel bad. (Translation: I think this is fair use, but I'm not certain so please don't sue me, Ms. Yahoo Attorney. Remember that I linked to your site so that I'm actually directing traffic your way. In fact, you should pay me.)

Anyway, each numbered paragraph is from the article and my comment is beneath it. Others are welcome to translate my translations as they wish.

The original article.

1. He starts talking about how crazy all his single friends lives are, and then he tells you that he doesn't miss it at all. What most women will think if they hear this, is that he misses those days. This is not true. He says this because he is looking for confirmation that you feel exactly the same way. He also wants to communicate that he's ready to take the relationship to the next level.

Well, depends on the crazy activities he's telling you about. If his crazy friend was walking home to find his clothes being tossed out the window of his no longer shared apartment or his friend got drunk and shacked up with someone you know your boyfriend doesn't like, then, yes, he's showing off how much smarter he is to be in a relationship with you. If his crazy friend ended up on the bus for the local NFL cheerleaders team on the way to San Francisco and, moreover, he left the bus with two dates and a collar with lipstick on it, then, sorry, but he's missing the single life suddenly. If the bus thing happened, he's actually telling you in hopes of getting a few boyfriend points. "See, I could be with hot cheerleaders but I'm choosing you! Don't you want to, um, reward me for being so into you?"

2. Since you recently took him to your family's house for dinner, he can't stop talking about how much fun he had with your brother. What he means here is that he really likes your family, and wouldn't mind being a part of your family.

What he's saying is that he likes your brother. It's not a code. He wouldn't mind hanging out with your brother even if you broke up, but most guys are not that stupid.

3. He teases you about things like how clumsy you are or about how you put smiley faces in every one of your emails. What he's really telling you when he does this is that he really likes you a lot. Remember that men are just giant boys... we tease the ones we love and ignore the ones we don't.

Yes, wasn't that hand in the warm water while you were sleeping last week so endearing? And don't you want to spend your life with a giant boy? What? No? You were looking for a man? As Corey Flood said to Lloyd Dobler (played by John Cusack) in the movie Say Anything: The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy.

4. A man tells you he needs his space. So what does this mean to you? It means that you need to ignore him and not call him. Men love the chase. By not calling him, he'll start calling you and wondering what happened.


Yes, nothing says love like being ignored. This one does depend on the man. Some people, which includes the male ones, would tell their grandmother off if they thought they were in the right. Some people would politely say, "um, that's interesting, I'll have to check my calendar," when Hitler asks them to the movies. Which one is he closer to? Can he hurt feelings for long term good, or is he going to finagle out. I'm a finagler. If he's a finagler, "space" probably means he's breaking up. Sorry.

5. A man says that he really wants you to meet his parents. What does this mean in man talk? He's telling you that you are his girlfriend, and that he is ready to take it to the next level by getting you involved with his family. This brings us right to the next bit of man talk.

Yeah, this one's accurate. The only thing else I can think of is that he's finally found a girl he thinks his mom will like and so he's taking the opportunity to show you off. Unfortunately, he might not like you as much as he thinks his mom will. If he's only going for son points with his mom though, he will regret it for many years when his mother compares everyone else to you. At least it's a little payback.

6. When a man calls you and says, "I want you to meet my friends on Friday night," this is as big as meeting his parents. He's introducing you to his pack. It means that he thinks you are attractive and sexy, and he wants to show you off to his friends.

This man has friends he likes to see on Friday night?! Why isn't he spending Friday night with you?! Bastard.

7. After sleeping over at his house several times, he tells you that the next time you sleep over you should bring some things to make you feel more comfortable and a change of clothing. In man talk, that is basically telling you that he's wondering what it would be like to live with you. He also wants your things around.

A sleep over?! Yes, definitely bring your sesame street sleeping bag, your Dukes of Hazzard lunch box, and a ouija board.

Oh, you mean THAT kind of sleepover. Maybe he just wants to make THAT kind of sleepover happen more often.

8. You have plans with him on a Sunday, and you find out that he passed up floor seats to his favorite basketball team to keep those plans with you. What does that tell you in man talk? It tells you that he's hooked... and that you are his girlfriend.

This tells you the man's got serious cash. Floor seats at a basketball stadium and he can go again later? Damn. If you've been dining at Denny's, you're getting gipped big time. If you know he's got no cash, then you've found yourself a man with a load of credit card debt. Run.

9. He is watching one of your favorite shows on a night you're not together, and he calls you afterwards to talk about it. In man talk, what does this mean? By doing this, he's telling you that he pays attention to you, and he's interested in learning more about you and sharing more things with you. Men generally do not choose to watch "Project Runway" on their own. If we're watching your TV shows, we really like you.

True that, as Sammy would say. By the way, is Project Runway like a This Old House of airports? If so, I'd totally watch that. Nothing like watching a little cement pouring on TV. Mmmm, ready mix.

10. He tells you, "I've cleaned today." What this means in man talk is, "I spent the day doing something I dislike more than anything." You need to realize that when a man says this to you, he really likes you. To most men, cleaning the house is just about the worst way he can spend a day.

I thought this meant, "ok, I could see you wrinkling your nose when the milk in the fridge was green and you had to leap over stuff to get into the bed, but, um, I'm really, really hoping that maybe, you know, we could try that sleepover thing again? Please? You can sleep on top!"

This looks like a blast

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Reading Essay at Moonie's

My celebrate reading essay is now up over at Moonrat's. I hope people will drop by and give any thoughts they have. In the end I chose this book over the others as I've become sort of a proselytizer for the thing.

Pacapaca

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Not so much

Sorry, but the only thing going on here is causal models and language modeling. I can talk about the Markov assumption and conditional independence, but otherwise I got nothing. Sorry. I'll try again tomorrow.

Incidentally, I've been consuming far too much chocolate butter mochi.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Happy Kamehameha Day

Today (ok, yesterday for pretty much everyone not living in the central Pacific) was King Kamehameha Day. Here are some excerpts from Tammy Yee's description of Kamehameha. Tammy Yee, by the way, is a fine illustrator who has done many Hawaiian-themed children's books including The Tsunami Quilt, Island Style Alphabet, Baby Honu (sea turtle) Saves the Day, Leliani's Hula, Iki the Littlest Opihi (it's a mollusk/shell thingie), and Goldie and the Three Geckos. We own the latter two books. Anyway, Kamehameha:



June 11 is King Kamehameha Day in Hawai'i. This official holiday was established in 1871 by King Kamehameha V to honor his grandfather, Kamehameha I.

...

Legend surrounds the birth and death of Hawai'i's greatest warrior-king. Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great or Pai'ea Kamehameha, was born in North Kohala on the island of Hawai'i, sometime between 1748 and 1761.

...

Kamehameha grew up to be the great leader as the priests had foretold. The young warrior was present when his uncle Kalani'opu'u boarded Captain James Cook's ship, the HMS Discovery in 1779. Bright, ambitious and resourceful, he used foreign weapons and skills to his advantage. In 1790 he and his warriors confiscated a small schooner, the Fair American, that was captured in retaliation for an earlier skirmish with another American vessel. The lone survivor of the Fair American was an Englishman named Isaac Davis. Davis, along with another prisoner named John Young, eventually became a trusted advisor to Kamehameha, teaching him the use of the muskets and cannon aboard the small ship.

Kamehameha soon amassed a formidable army and a huge fleet of war canoes. By 1810, the islands of Hawai'i, Maui, O'ahu and Kaua'i were under his rule, and the Hawaiian Kingdom was established.

With unification came peace and prosperity. Kamehameha the great warrior became known as a great statesman. Among his accomplishments were the establishment of trade with foreign countries and the development of the sandalwood industry. He was also known as a just ruler, introducing the Law of the Splintered Paddle, which protected the weak from the strong and insured that every man, woman and child had the right to "lie down to sleep by the roadside without fear of harm." In 1816 he introduced the Hawaiian flag, with its Union Jack in the upper corner and 8 stripes representing the eight main Hawaiian islands.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blogroll Updates

Finally updated the old blog roll. Welcome:

Blogful
For Pete's Sake
She comes from the land down unda
What an Ass
and robin s - Sexpot

to the blog roll.

Oh, and I think it's time that churkoda became rhinothongbutt. Past time.

Paca

More misheard lyrics

I was just reflecting on songs I remember from my childhood and why we might remember those particular songs of all the ones we heard. One I remember hearing was Kenny Rogers' "You picked a fine time to leave my Lucille." The actual refrain is:

You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille
With 4 hungry children and crops in the field.

I very much remember, however, always hearing:

You picked a fine time to leave my Lucille
With 400 children all lost in the field.

The shelf life of milk

Why different milks last different amounts of time and more. As a person who drinks milk every day, I found this pretty interesting:

link

Spam songs

I've mentioned a couple times already that Hawaii has a continuing love affair with Spam, coming from the WWII experience, and continuing on with spam musubi at 7-11, spam rice and eggs and McDonalds, and even the Spam festival which I blogged. Just to complete the spam experience, here are a Monty Python sketch featuring spam egg sausage and spam, and some Vikings, and then a Weird Al parody of REM.



Saturday, June 07, 2008

Things I don't believe

1) I don't believe in conspiracies. I mean those amazing world-shaking, generation-spreading conspiracies. Conspiracies like that require far more competence from humans than I've ever seen. The American IRS can't even get rebate checks out on their original schedule. They'd never pull off the first 15 minutes of an X-Files episode.

2) I don't believe Mariah Carey's sold as many records as she has. She's had more number one records in the U.S. than anyone. More than Madonna, more than Aretha Franklin, more than freaking Elvis. And yet I think I know one, maybe two songs. Do any of you have a Mariah Carey album?! I think my younger sis had one. That's one with some odd many million more to go. Who's buying these things?

3) In 50 years, I still don't think we will have flying cars. We can't drive safely on the ground. How will we ever pull it off going a hundred miles an hour faster and in 3 dimensions? And as for the car folding up into a briefcase so I can take it to work? Fugeddaboutit. I am looking forward to my jet pack, though. I'd be looking forward to it even more if I was a personal injury lawyer.

Yeah, apparently this song, One Sweet Day, a duet between Carey and Boyz II Men spent more weeks at number one than any song ever. Don't think I've ever heard it before. Where was I in the mid-90s? I can answer that -- in Mississippi listening to Van Morrison and a bunch of people like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker in my blues phase.

Hmm. While my blues phase has passed, I still prefer this:

Friday, June 06, 2008

Research help again?

My research co-author and I have come up with some little "what would you do" situations for a research project. Would 2 or 3 of you mind reading our draft and giving any thoughts you might have? It's only one page long. I would send them through an email. It should take about 15 minutes tops. I decided not to post them here, because you folk could do it for real in the future. Just let me know through a comment. Thank!

4.09

$4.09 a gallon for the cheapest unleaded here. And this is before the $11 jump per barrel today. How are you guys doing? (Non-Americans are not allowed to tell us how much more their petrol is because this is a commiseration post.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Knight of Maison Rouge

I promised a review of Dumas' The Knight of Maison Rouge, so here we go.

As most of you might remember I am a big Count of Monte Cristo fan and read it again every couple years, but I've never read anything else by Dumas. The obvious next choice would be the Three Musketeers, but there are so many movie and cartoon versions of it that I just have never gotten interested in the real thing.

On the cover of my version, it reads "The Knight of Maison Rouge: A Novel of Marie Antoinette". It's set in 1793 as the Terror begins and the plot is driven by attempts to free Marie Antoinette. The former Queen, or Citizen Capet as the revolutionaries like to call her, is also a side character in the book with chapters focused solely upon her. I know that this sort of historical fiction is what Dumas was known for, and indeed the book is filled with both fictional and real people side-by-side, and the uninformed such as me often don't know where reality stops and fiction begins. (This reminds me of Clarke's Jonathan Strange where some of her world seemed so real that I went to look up various clubs and people that apparently never existed.)

The novel begins with a woman ducking through the shadows one Parisian night and being caught by a band of thugs/citizen patrol who catch her and are going to take her in. Our hero, Maurice, a Captain in the National Guard who was there at the storming of the Bastille and even marched on Versailles to take in Louis VXI, hears the calls of a woman in distress and comes to her rescue. After a brief struggle between our noble National Guard stud, his poetry spouting friend Lorin, and the citizen patrol, our shadow-darting woman who just happens to be stunningly beautiful talks Maurice into accompanying her back to her part of town. She refuses to tell him what she was doing out, what her name was, or where she lives, but she gets him to close his eyes for 60 seconds when near her home, gives him a lingering kiss, and vanishes. Maurice is smitten for the rest of the novel.

As all of you can probably already guess, our mystery woman is a royalist involved in plots to free Marie Antoinette. Moreover, she's married but does indeed fall in love with Maurice. What's more important? Their love or marriage? The Republic or personal honor? Unlike the Count of Monte Cristo which never has a sword fight, this one is packed with action. From fighting a mob along the path towards the guillotine to digging secret tunnels to madly searching a house for Genevieve, our mystery woman, while the house is burning down around him.

Now, many will likely find some of the characters rather frustrating. Maurice in particular is very dense and jealous in love at times. One would like a little more worldly wit to go with our noble passions and manly physique. Without giving it away, I will also say that the ending is very.... French. I don't think a contemporary American author would ever end a book like this.

One thing I haven't revealed however is who exactly is The Knight of Maison Rouge? Maurice? His friend Lorin? Genevieve in disguise? It's actually another man who is the leader of the plots to free Marie Antoinette. Maurice and Lorin all agree that the Knight is a most wonderful and honorable gentleman. Too bad he's on the wrong side. As Lorin says near the end of the book, "That's the thing about revolutions. Often your enemies are people you wish could be your friends."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Petty Laziness

Sorry no new post in a couple days. I'm being supremely lazy. I kept working fairly constantly after the semester finished because my journal published a new issue as of this Sunday. But now that it's out/published, I just find myself not wanting to do much of anything for a bit. Going to bed around 1:00 AM for weeks and weeks just mounts up after a while and you want a break. I'm still working, but I probably put in three good hours today instead of 7-8. I'll get it going again soon. Maybe tomorrow.

In other news, after not calling 911 for 34 years (yes, I'm 34), I've called them 3 times in the last couple months. The first time was when some neighbor was screaming that he was going to kill his girlfriend and he didn't care if people called the police, so I obliged him by calling the police. She drove away while I was still on the phone, though, so nothing much came of it. Then I called a second time after our burglary. Finally Monday or Tuesday night, I called a third time.

This was a tough decision to make. Someone was going through all of our garbage on the street. (There are 4 apartments in our building.) Nothing unusual there because tons of people, homeless and otherwise, collect bottles to get the 5 cent deposit back, routinely going through public trash cans. Then the person started ripping open bags and looked liked they were getting clothes. That bugged me some, but still if you are homeless and need clothes, it's okay if you take some from garbage.

But then the person sat down and looked like they were going through papers and I kept thinking "identity theft, identity theft," so I finally called the police. I think the person had spent a full 30 minutes going through our garbage before the police cruiser came by. I don't know what happened really. They sat the person down and got an ID, but eventually they left in one direction and the police left in another. The thing is, I'm not sure going through garbage on the street is illegal, but half an hour in my apartment's stuff just bugged me. And, yes, we will definitely be making sure we cut up any account numbers on anything before they go out.

It could be yet another reason to move out of Waikiki, but there seems to be a little property crime spree going all around. A couple weeks ago a classmate was also hit while they were sleeping; the crooks making off with backpacks and laptops. And then just yesterday a mother at daycare was also saying they were recently robbed of a backpack while sleeping. This last one wasn't in Waikiki at all, but up in the valley for the university. The only thing to do would be to move to a secure building of some sort. It's not quite right to say that it scares me still, but I do find myself double and triple checking our locks and windows every night. That I do this bugs me more than anything else.

Monday, June 02, 2008

General Thoughts

On the way to pick B up at daycare today, I was listening to an interview on NPR's Speaking of Faith program. The interviewee is John Polkinghorne (now there's an English name for you) who's both a former chair of mathematical physics at Cambridge as well as an Anglican priest and theologian. Here's an excerpt from the interview about God and creating (the full interview can be found here)

Ms. Tippett: I think you also bring your theology and your science together interestingly in seeing that there's also something going on in the world, including human beings' interaction with nature at any given time, that there are sort of competing freedoms. I think that's a very interesting, complex idea.

Mr. Polkinghorne: Yeah. Well, I think we live in a world of true becoming. That's to say, I don't think that the future is fixed; I don't think God fixed it. I think God allows creatures to be themselves.

Ms. Tippett: Does God know it?

Mr. Polkinghorne: If we live in a world of true becoming so that we play our little parts in making the future — and I believe God's providence also plays a part in making the future, and also the laws of nature that God has ordained play a part in constraining the form of the future — if that's the sort of world in which we live, then I think actually even God doesn't know the future. And that's not an imperfection because the future is not yet there to be known. Now, that's a very controversial view, and not everybody, by any matter of means…

Ms. Tippett: We'll let you have it here.

Mr. Polkinghorne: …has agreed with me about that, but that's how it seems to me. And I think that, you see, there's been a very important development in theological thinking in the 20th century, and it's reflected in all sorts of quite different theologians, but they have this thing in common: They see the act of creation, the act of bringing into being a world in which creatures are allowed to be themselves, to make themselves, is an act of love and it is an act of divine self-limitation. The theologians like to call it kenosis from the Greek word, and so that God is not the puppet master of the universe, pulling every string. God has taken, if you like, a risk. Creation is more like an improvisation than the performance of a fixed score that God wrote in eternity. And that sort of world of becoming involves God's accepting limitations, and I believe, accepting limitations not knowing the future. That doesn't mean, of course, that God will be caught out by the future in the same way that you and I are. I mean, God can see how history is moving, so to speak, but God has to react to the way history moves. Now, that makes, to me, quite a lot of sense about the world.

Ms. Tippett: Well, and really that's a kind of theological way of describing evolution, in a sense, this becoming this creation that creates itself.

Mr. Polkinghorne: Yes. Absolutely.

Polkinghorne mentions that some of these ideas come through different theological schools, but this sounds to me like Alfred North Whitehead (developed into a rich theology by Charles Hartshorne) more than anything else.

A world of becoming.

This is precisely Whitehead's fundamental point. Whitehead was a mathematician who turned into a philosopher, writing his most famous philosophical works in the 30s. He saw two trends in Western philosophy, one of which comes from Herodotus and the other Parmenides. Herodotus famously said that one never stepped in the same river twice. Everything is constantly changing. Parmenides on the other hand believed in absolute Being with a capital B. Both trends can be seen in Plato and Aristotle. Plato had his Parminidean-like Forms, eternal unchanging Ideas and the rest of the world was made of transient impure imitations of the Forms. However, Plato also knew there were problems with this notion and, depending on how you intepret the dialog, set to work attacking his own idea, sorry Ideas, in a dialogue named... Parmenides.

Aristotle also had his Parmenidean strain of thought as well when he set some of the fundamental notions of physics that lasted until Einstein at least in the world of physics and until today with the general population. Namely, he thought of the world as having various Substances. This Substance is the fundamental stuff of which the world is made, and then Substances have properties. They can be blue, hard, round, smarmy, etc. Things and properties. A problem with such a notion is that once you take away all the properties, it's not clear what this Substance that's left is.

Whitehead's most basic thought, inspired by Einsteinian relativity as well as American pragmatist philosophy, was that these earlier thinkers had emphasized Being too much. Substances and Forms. Things which are supposed to be Eternal and Unchanging and somehow Perfect. But it becomes impossible to see how such eternal Forms interact with, well, with anything. If they change at all, they must not have been perfect, because now they are different. And you end up with this synchronized dance of eternal things which don't really interact or relate to one another. They just move such as to appear to interact. Instead of this world of perfected Being, the more accurate fundamental notion is Becoming. The most basic "things" are Processes. The world is made of verbs not nouns. Events and actions, not objects.

It is interesting that there appears to be no language which lacks verbs. English has nouns, verb, and adjectives, among other things. However, in many languages, there's no clear distinction between adjectives and verbs. You can use adjectives in the same places as verbs. In such a language, one can arguably say that there are only nouns and verbs of the main word classes. Almost every language does indeed have nouns and verbs, but there appear to be a very small number which don't distinguish nouns from verbs. One is Southern Salish, a Native American language spoken in British Colombia and the Pacific Northwest. It certainly appears that every word we would think of as a noun can act just like a verb. You can add tense to these "nouns", conjugate them, use them as predicates. So in English, "Bob is a chief," but in Southern Salish, "Bob chiefs" or "chiefed," if you get the idea. The point is that, while Salish might allow all words to act like verbs, there is no language where all words act like nouns.

Now, a small part of Whitehead's process philosophy concerned God whom he thought was a fundamental notion necessary to understand the world. Deriving in part from Plato (it's not clear how much this is actually part of the Hebrew Bible), God had traditionally been seen as the ultimate Form. For Aristotle, who of course wasn't Christian or Jewish, there was an Unmoved Mover -- the first Cause, the first source of all Motion -- but who was not moved. God is perfect and this had often been taken to mean as Eternal and Unchanging. Whitehead accepted the idea of eternal, in a certain sense, but rejected that God was unchanging. God in fact affects the world and is affected by it. Little puny things that we are, we change God because God interacts with us. We humans, God, plants, insects, all "things" are in motion, processes, in a continual state of becoming. The future is not yet written and the future of God is not yet written.

Much of Anglo-American philosophy of the 20th century believed itself to be sort of the evaluators of other more specific fields of knowledge. Philosophers would look at the results of physics and point out flaws and implications, or they would evaluate what words mean to clear things up, or they would propose arguments for and against some other belief like "it is wrong to kill" or "God is omnipotent." Evaluating arguments remains the fundamental skill that a philosophical education attempts to provide. Whitehead had a rather different notion of the purpose of philosophy. He stated that philosophy's goal was to "to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every item of our experience can be interpreted." Philosophers aim at the most general and the most basic notions, impossible to hit, but the target nonetheless.

One of Whitehead's general ideas was the the actual occasion, in his terms. The actual occasion is always in the present, the here and now; it in fact is the present. And it is here with this becoming, changing process of the present that creation occurs, where freedom is located. Perhaps oddly, for there to be creativity of this sort, the future cannot be known. It does not yet exist, it is being improvised, in Polkinghorne's language. True freedom requires this limitation. It requires God taking a risk. The present occasions, the true reality of the changing here and now, interact with other processes. In a certain sense, they hold up the most important aspects of their existence and other processes grab that aspect and make it part of themselves as they continue growing.

This is all very hard to grasp, isn't it? Part of the problem is me. It's hard for me, too, and so hard to explain. But the other part of the problem is that what makes Whitehead's ideas so fruitful is precisely that they are so general. As I quoted earlier, that's the whole point for him.

Language, and this is all me here and very vague, appears to work along similar lines. You have some sort of ongoing moment in the speech stream, the changing present, the part of speech that is in your attention at this moment. This present moment of language grew out of the past moments that are now gone forever, preserved only in the way that they make you understand the present. Simultaneously, the present moment of language holds up certain aspects as the key notions, the main predictors, of what will happen in the future.

There's a theory of pronouns (basically) called Centering Theory. In this theory, you have a group of "centers of attention" (usually, just the nouns, to keep it simple) which are held up as possible referents for the future. Let's say that the first sentence is "John kicked Jack." John and Jack would be held up as "forward-looking centers". Later moments in speech might relate to them; however, languages seem to rank their centers so that different forward-looking centers are more highly ranked than others. In English, all else being equal, we like our subjects to be the most highly ranked center going forward. Now, language keeps moving in time; i.e., people keep talking; and the next sentence arrives "He's angry." As "he" hits out ear, how do we know who it refers to? Sometimes the rest of the sentence gives us a clue, but in this case, it's deliberately vague. Well, turns out most English speakers will guess that "he" is John from before, the most highly ranked center of attention. When we mark that the present person, the "he", refers to the previous forward-looking center, John, then it's (the referent of he) called the backwards-looking Center, because it connect the second sentence with the former sentence.

It's not just past, present, and future. Instead, the ever-changing present takes the most important forward-looking aspects from the past and incorporates them to create its own future. God, finally connecting all this, gave a creation in which we are ever-changing bits of the present, using what is given to us, to create ourselves. We are eternal in that others, and even God, take what we offer and incorporate it into the present that is to come.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Look at that horse!

J posted a link to this like two years ago, but I still find it funny.

Hiking Collection

I and my classmate co-hiker finally went hiking again -- first time since last summer I think -- and we went back up the kuli'ou'ou ridge trail. I was thus inspired to collect all my earlier hiking posts so that I can find them more easily.

Kuli'ou'ou Ridge
Wa'ahila Ridge
Makapu'u Point plus some Makiki trails, including Manoa Falls
Koko Crater