Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Kindergarten time

I spent much of the morning at Kindergarten. Honolulu follows a "year-round" schedule, so today was the first day. All that B did was take a 30 minute sort of test so that they can place him in one of the two kindergarten classes. He will attend either Thursday or Friday, depending on the placement, and then start every day on Monday.

Kindergarten is stressful for children, but it's stressful for parents, too. He's been at day care and then pre-school since he was 1 and a half, so we are used to him being under another's care for much of the day. However, after two years at pre-school, one builds up confidence in the school, or at least they are a known commodity who seems to do no harm, but now you have to switch and you wonder, "is this place going to be good for him? Do they know what they are doing?"

It's our first entrance into a mass educational system. His school was just by itself. His daycare was just the one care-giver and her 6 infants. But here you spend half an hour signing forms for lunch, for the library, for medical care, for attendance, and more. Only some of the documents are specific to school and some aren't even specific to Hawaii, just something some bureaucracy somewhere in the world spit out.

And you read the pamphlet about standard-based curriculum and wonder, "are they actually going to teach my son as a unique human being, or just push everyone to meet the 3rd grade test written by a committee in D.C.? Which is more important? The child or the curriculum?"

But the teacher who spoke to me seemed nice. And as we left, B was jumping and singing, "I'm so happy, I'm so happy," which is a little bit from Boowa and Kwala.

He's probably going to have an easier time adjusting than me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sweet Okole and Hawaiian Humor

One of the most popular Hawaiian albums of all time was Honolulu City Lights by Keola and Kapono Beamer in the mid 70s. The tune Honolulu City Lights itself is quite beautiful and I've embedded a link to it below. Apparently it was covered by the Carpenters in 1978 and that version is on YouTube as well.

However, another tune on the same album is called Sweet Okole and it always cracks me up. Okole, for people who've never lived in Hawaii, is 3 syllables -- oh koh leh. I won't say what the word means, but give you the lyrics. Here you go:

I was sitting on the curb without a nickel
And a pretty little girl passed by on her bicycle.
I must confess I was a little bored
But when she passed by she made my spirits soar.
There was something about her that made me change my mood.

She had a sweet-sweeet okole
She had a sweet-sweeeet okole

There's many fine young men come into this tavern
And you'd think that a glass of beer is what they're after.
They sit alone in the candlelight
They gaze intensely at the many sights.
What do they want to take home with them tonight?

They want a sweet-sweeeet okole
They want a sweet-sweeeet okole

Bridge:
How I love that sweet okole
Everybody needs some sweet okole

There was a fine young wrestler from Kalihi
and he built his big strong body eating sashimi.
Girls would scream wherever he went
It wasn't for his intelligence
They only screamed when he put on his tight black shorts

They were screaming for sweet-sweeet okole
They were screaming for sweet-sweeeet okole

How I love that sweet okole
Everybody needs some sweet okole
Everybody needs some sweet okoooooooooole

In case it isn't clear yet what okole is, click on this link. (Entirely work safe and non-offensive.)

Yes, it's Hawaiian Sweet Bread! Uh-huh.... You can tell it's Hawaiian humor though because of the equal opportunity raciness.

Here's a completely non-silly song if you want to hear Keola and Kapono's voiced from 1976 or so.

Paca's Useless Inventions

I'm still not here. You just can't tell that by my presence. I'm currently working on the language acquisition essay. The goal is to finish that draft up by tomorrow night, then the draft for psycholinguistics by Friday night. Then edit them. Editing's a bigger deal than one might think, since essay One is several pages over the limit and includes notes to myself like (I'M MAKING THIS UP, CHECK JUN 2005 TO SEE WHAT'S TRUE).

Anyway, here's my latest invention.

Buses.

The biggest problem in Honolulu with buses is getting on them, specifically waiting. The things are never on schedule so I've routinely ended up sitting around for 30, 40 minutes for the bus to show up. If buses are supposed to be an efficient mode of transport such that people who need to be at work on time or to pick up the kids from school on time without losing an hour to sitting a stop everyday can use the bus system, then people need a way to know just when that stupid bus really is likely to show up.

So, install a GPS on each bus. Collect data for a few days so that we have rough time estimates for how long it takes to get from one bus stop to a future bus stop. GPS says the closest current bus stop for route 4 is corner of Wilder and Ke'eaumoku and, based on history, the bus should therefore be at University in 9 minutes. Then send out the info on some appropriate periodic basis, like every tenth of a mile or each stop, with an RSS feed. People could check online, or fancy people could check their little mobiles, to see where the bus is and how long it is likely to take to get to your stop. To take into account current traffic, you might average the last two runs in the route with the overall time it takes, or keep time patterns for different times of the day. This latter part is really easy, and I actually know that it is because for 8 years I supported scheduling software for call centers in which we tracked half hourly call traffic patterns.

Now many of you will be saying, how many bus riders have Blackberries? Good question, because I don't have one either. But the idea for the future is for bus ridership to include people generally, and some majority of Americans have internet access and that's increasing. Clearly, the best thing to do would be to have a display of estimated arrival times at the bus stop itself. Then people could decide if it's safe to get that cup of coffee and come back or not. Of course, there are problems with this. Number One is probably security for the device so it doesn't get trashed or stolen. Then you have to get internet access to the little bench by the side of the road. Regardless, I think Paca's Bus Scheduler (Paca's BS) would be quite useful and increase public transport ridership.

One guess where I was when engineering this.

Back to language acquisition.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It's the egg

There's no real question, right? It's the egg first, then the chicken. As I understand things, there was once some non-chicken bird, the proto-chicken, and one day either the mother or the father produced an egg or sperm that had a random genetic difference from it's own DNA. Egg gets fertilized and out pops the first baby chick. Baby chick gets some action when older and on it goes. The end. Do I have that right?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One more example of why our energy policy sucks

There was a debate today in Congress about a law concerning speculation on oil prices. All evidence from the news reports is that the esteemed debate quickly turned into this:

Democrats: The problem's speculation.

Republicans: Well, that might be part of it, but it's really supply and demand.

Democrats: Um, no, it's speculation.

Republicans: Did I say supply and demand? Forget that last part. Just supply. I'm sticking to that. Let's not think about the demand part anymore. That doesn't play well anywhere.

Democrats: Speculation.

Republicans: Supply.

The answer, as I understand it, is of course that it's both. There is rampant speculation in the oil futures markets, a majority of which is not from people in the oil business at all, and there are true supply issues. While I realize that price is very likely not a linear system, if you look at supply and demand charts for petroleum, the demand has not increased at a rate equivalent to the increase in prices. Prices appear to be outstripping simply the supply and demand chain. (Note: Never taken an economics course.) However, simply because speculation is a factor, as Democrats were arguing (and Republicans used to until they've now switched, but that's a different issue), it doesn't mean that supply isn't also a factor. Again if you look at the charts, demand has continued to rise, while supply has not. Increasing supply will certainly, as the Republicans were arguing, also help lower oil prices. The Dems like the speculation part because it's a seeming easy governmental band-aid without addressing deeper issues.

What was infuriating was the false dichotomy that both parties represent. The Dems don't want to drill and so they have to pretend that drilling is completely irrelevant and that a simple speculation law will do the trick. Instead, what they need to be saying is that increasing supply would of course help lower oil prices, but it also has a significant cost, the most obvious of which is the very likely effects on world climate. With a few foot rise in sea level, much of my state's economy would be wrecked (tourism, rebuilding Pearl Harbor, the home of the entire Pacific fleet), and large parts of the island (such as Waikiki) would be under water. Lay out the problems with drilling and let people decide. Don't pretend that more oil won't lower prices (in a decade or so). For the Repubs, they need to be saying that speculation and supply are both issues as well (assuming I haven't heard incorrectly and that they are indeed both real factors), and that they will give the Dems the speculation issue if the Dems give them some increased supply targets -- and why lower prices today is more important than flooding parts of the nation. Or whatever. Ironically, the only way that leasing territories for increased domestic drilling would affect immediate oil prices (because getting billions of barrels from the ground's gonna take a few years) is the influence such a plan would have on... oil futures speculation.

But instead it's all a political game for both parties. Which is why there's no coherent energy policy that addresses supply, demand, the energy markets, and the price of the dollar.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Questions

Well, I picked up the questions for comps this morning. Three questions, three subfields of linguistics. I guess I can't discuss them, not because they are secret as far as anyone knows, but because I can't get help from others.

I've got two weeks to write the papers and then return them to the department. Then they will sit until the semester starts, at which point I then have to defend them. It's kind of nice to pick the questions up. It's very similar to my theater days in high school and college. I'd always be supremely nervous the entire day of the opening, unable to eat much, just antsy. And then the curtain would go up (usually because I was the guy doing the curtain) and I'd be calm and get down to business.

We'll see. I will likely go back to freak out mode in about an hour.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cooking Fiesta

I spent about three hours cooking up a bunch of stuff. Tomato soup, black bean soup, and my own creation of crab avocado mandoo. Let's start with the original one first. I need a catchy name

California Sand Crawlers (crab avocado mandoo)

1 package of mandoo pi (dumpling wrappers)
Half a large avocado (one small avocado) (small cubes)
1/2 a lb of (imitation) crab (to match your budget)
1 head of bok choi (chopped)
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 TB Thai fish sauce (sub: soy sauce)
garlic powder
black pepper
1 egg
2 TB water

In a bowl, combine avocado, crab, and bok choi. Add sesame oil and stir. Add fish sauce, garlic powder, and black pepper. Stir again.



To make the dumplings, place a small clump in the middle of a wrapper.



Mix the egg and water in a small bowl. For each dumpling, dip your finger into the egg wash (I assume a brush is acceptable, too. Oh, wash if you're using the finger.) and run your finger around the edge of the dumpling. Then fold it together and press.



Finally, you cook them up by pouring a bit of vegie oil and sesame oil in a pan, bringing to medium heat, and placing a few of the mandoo in. Cook for a minute or two, then add like 1/8 cup of water into the pan and cover to steam. You might need to do this twice, depending on size. Done!



For sauce, I put a splash of sesame oil, 2 TBs of soy, 1 TB of this spicy garlic sauce, and some black pepper in a bowl and stirred it around. N just used some tartar sauce.

BLACK BEAN SOUP

1 cup dried black beans
1 cup dried pinto beans
Various amounts of water to be discussed below
2 TBs of butter or oil
2 carrots (chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
1 celery stalk (chopped)
5 cups beef broth
1/4 cup red wine
pepper
salt if needed (most purchased broths are salty)
cilantro
cumin
garlic powder

Overnight soak your beans in 6-8 cups of water. Drain the next day. Day of cooking, add beans to pot and just barely cover in water. Bring to boil for 10 minutes and then simmer for about an hour. Drain.

Chop everything not already chopped. Sautee the vegies until soft in the butter or oil.



Add in the broth, wine, seasonings, and beans. Bring to boil and simmer for another 20 minutes or something. Puree about 2/3rds of the soup in a blender, including most of the solids (vegies and beans).



Bring back to a low boil/simmer. Serve in a bowl. (That's a few strips of Hillshire Farms sausage on the side.)



TOMATO SOUP

OK, N hates hates hates beans. And so I made this tomato soup for her at the same time. It turned out to be really darn simple (except for the pureeing which is always just annoying.)

2 TBs of butter
1 onion (chopped)
2 lbs of tomatoes (I had a few fresh ones, quartered, and one can of diced tomatoes)
1 carrot (peeled and chopped)
2 cups chicken broth
thyme
salt and pepper to taste (again store broths usually are quite salty already)
parsley

Melt the butter in a good pot for soup. Cook the chopped onion for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the carrots and tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes more, making sure you stir periodically.



Add the chicken broth and seasonings. Bring to boil and then simmer for about 20. Puree in the blender. If you want super creamy soup, you will want to use a sieve here, but I didn't bother. N ate her bowl anyway. After pureeing the soup, bring it slowly back to boil. The recipe this is based off of had 5 TBs of heavy cream here, but I didn't have any cream. Serve and eat.



Kept me busy....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Famous

My beef and broccoli recipe is on the first page of Google now and I get hits for it every day. Same thing goes for the bacon avocado omelet. I wonder if anyone's ever actually made the recipe? Are they still alive?

No, I'm not here. Still working.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pseudo-Voice2

I told Robin I'd record my voice last week, so here we go. This really is me speaking without bizarre Garageband Loops behind me this time. I didn't have anything to read of interest, so I decided to punish you by reading one of the stacks of articles I've been stuck with for weeks now. This is a link to an mp3 file, so it should open in iTunes or Media Player or your browser or something.

Pacapaca

Exponential distribution

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Vanished

Hi all. I might remain incognito for a while. I'm due to pick up the questions for my comprehensive exams in 2 weeks and I have some couple thousand pages to read or so before then. Maybe I will poke my head up, but likely not. If not, I will catch you all on the backside. One exception is that I told Robin I'd record something, so I will still try to do that. Hope you are all well.