Monday, November 22, 2010

Voice Blog - Maintenance

Finally, got the voice blog up. It's a YouTube video as a workaround for audio. You can view my shining face as you listen.

Anyway, this is a little excerpt from a bunch of word dumping I did around 1995. I would have been 21 or 22 then. I was working on my philosophy master's degree then and living in Oxford, MS, and the evidence of this drips from every slip of paper in the folder. Overwrought expositions on the nature of Being, written up as fiction? Check. Dallying with every southern litfic stereotype written? Check.

It's also quite clear that I was interested in this transition from childhood to adulthood at the time. Of course, when I was living it, I did not think of myself as young and unsure of where I fit in the world. I was just the same old me. But, I was in fact precisely a young thang, with an extended education, but not sure how it could be useful to me or anyone else. I assume in 15 years, I will see what I am now more clearly. None of this is to say that my characters were exactly me. They were not. It's just that I was apparently interested in these issues 15 years ago.

I have also, from the time I first put pen to paper around age 12, explored a female point of view when I write, and here I go at it again. Actually, I suppose this little bit is probably a male narrating a female protagonist story.

Anyway, here you go. Me writing at age 21, but I confess the me at 37 couldn't let the worst bits remain and did edit just a wee bit. But it's 95% the same as then. Okay, 90%.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Datamine this!

I was reading an article about web traffic on Yahoo! just now and I noticed an ad on the right for Air New Zealand.

Now, maybe, they just posted that ad because it's a US ip address, or there's a Hawaii campaign going on. If so, that's probably fine.

But if they targeted that to me because it's me... then I don't like it at all. I happened to be logged in under my paca-related account. Do my emails mention those key words? I really don't want Yahoo's computers looking for statistically rare phrases in my private messages* and then matching that with ads they can display. You are a computer. You don't need to know about me and give stuff to me that I care about. My friends can do that, because they are actual people that I have an actual relationship with. Honestly, I don't know how Yahoo would know my NZ connection. Do they have some info from Facebook? If so, even more, boo!

Now, I get that some people really do want to have things sent to them that they care about. They like ads targeted to them instead of completely useless stuff. That's fine. Give them a checkbox saying "please send me targeted ads" and then send away. Don't just datamine me though without asking. If I get mad enough about it, I will just stop using your software and you won't even get to send mass ads to me.

But maybe it's just an ad campaign to the U.S. and I'm not personally relevant. If so, this is just a hypothetical rant.

And for the record, no, I don't like cameras taking pics of public streets either just in case someone breaks a law. Yes, we can save money if a camera does it instead of a cop, but that's sort of the point. There's an actual cost when you have a real person watch the public and so the government only can afford to do it when it's possibly important. The lower cost it is to monitor the public, the more monitoring there will be.

We shouldn't completely cede public space to those who wish to make a buck from us or who have a laudable public goal. Yes, there is an important distinction between public and private areas, but just because it's "public" it doesn't mean you can treat me like crap.

So there.

*Yes, I know that emails should not be viewed as truly private, but more like postcards that could be read my someone else. But I don't want a company reading my postcards either, writing down my interests, and then sticking an appropriate mailer in my box either. Wasn't some guy convicted recently for hacking into Sarah Palin's emails? If so, then why do Google and Yahoo's computers get to do it? Yes, yes, it's sort of how we pay them. We get to use their service for free; they get to record what we do and sell ads. But that deal is nowhere near as upfront as it needs to be. Instead, we get a constantly changing deal where what we have given up changes, often without our knowledge or where we have to opt out.

UPDATE:

Just this morning I received an email from Sprint about their privacy policy. Here are paragraphs 2 and 3:

"We collect information about how you use your phone, including the types of Web sites you visit and services you purchase such as ringtones or wallpaper downloads billed through Sprint. We aggregate the information, packaging it in a form that does not personally identify you (does not include identifying information such as your name, address, email address or telephone number). Then, we may share it with our partners. The purpose is to provide you advertisements about goods and services that may be useful to you. For example, based on your mobile purchase of a sports-themed ring tone, Sprint may, along with its ad partners, present an ad about an upcoming sports event on a Web site you visit using your device, instead of a random ad.

If you'd rather we didn't use this information for selecting the ads that you see, you may opt-out. To find out how to opt-out and to learn more about internet-based advertising and your privacy, click here."

Now, I applaud Sprint for actually saying this, and they don't just say it on page 11 of a user agreement. This was a three paragraph email and I copied two of the paragraphs above. So, for honesty, go Sprint. That said, they've got the choosing backwards. It needs to be opt in, not opt out. You don't start recording what I do and then only stop if I say so. If this is so helpful, tell me you can do it for me and let me choose it. Moreover, this is Sprint, I pay them hundreds of dollars a year so that I can use this phone and I would pay more for a data plan. This isn't ad-based broadcast television where I don't pay for the service.

In this case, it doesn't particularly affect me, since I don't use the web on my phone. The phone's getting so beat up and old, I can barely use it as a phone still. But at the end of the email, I did "click here."

voice blog on the way

Accidentally left the excerpt to be read elsewhere, so I will have to make the recording tonight. So... Saturday for most of you.

Paca

Monday, November 15, 2010

My EE dedication

Continuing the recreation of 2008, I discovered that this dedication to one of EE's anniversaries was way back then as well. Here's the original with comments that are better than the actual post.

And the post copied to 2010:

Ah, I remember it like yesterday. I was browsing along and umm uhhh somehow I uhhh ended up reading EE's blog. But I don't remember why. Maybe it was uhhh Miss Snark or something? Maybe ummm PubRants. And uhhh.

Well, I don't remember yesterday very well either. So I'll just make something up about my first week on EE's blog, which seems to have been some time in June of 2006.



A handsome young man sits at a desk; papers sprawl around him. He has been working for many hours but his strength and vitality are such that he is as energetic as any a man can be. He fiddles with a pen for a moment and looks at a mass of equations on the notepad in front of him.

"Just about there," he thinks to himself. "I've completed the proofs of each sub-module and the only thing left is to demonstrate the necessary convergence of the two systems into a single equation. And then the world will have it's Theory of Everything. When it's published I should finally obtain that position so I can help feed my family."

He stretches his arms up towards the sky.

"Just a quick breather and then it's off to implement the algorithm, collapsing the systems. Hm. What's this? Evileditor.blogspot.com."

He scans the page without emotion.

Then a corner of the mouth turns. "Heh. AFTER GOYA."

Then a smile. "Brutal eunuchs. Ha ha."

He sips his hot tea and reads further. Suddenly, he spews his tea all over the computer. "Vigilante sorcerors! OMG! That's too much! Oh crap, my ink is running on the proof. Well, that's alright. I know what it said. I'll just umm fix this bit here and- What's this? I can submit a continuation myself? Oooh, ooh. People will laugh at me! With me, with me." Click, click. Type, type. "I'll still remember the final equation even after I submit a continuation. Or two. Or three. Wow, how many are on this site? I must submit something for every single one of them!"

That night Paca is laying in bed after correcting about half of his tea-splattered theory of everything. "Choose mine, choose mine. It's the funniest. I know it is. Please, please."

The next day.

"F-ing Ril. What the hell, EE?! Clearly my clever twist in which the romance heroine is truly a brain-dead zombie is better. That's it. I'll try again." Paca types frantically into the keyboard.

When he goes home that night, his beautiful, hard-working wife asks, "honey, how's the development of the algorithm going?"

"What? Oh, yeah, going well. It'll converge. I'm sure it will. And then he'll choose mine."

"Someone will choose your what?" Paca doesn't answer, but his wife listens to him mumbling something about zombie deathfish all night long. Of course, aren't these academics always coming up with weird names for their ideas?

Next day.

"F-ing Ril! Yeah, so technically I would guess that this one from Ril is in fact, if you want to get into the details of it, actually funny, while mine was a contrived piece of garbage. Dammit!" Paca hurls paper from his desk and then falls onto the floor sobbing. "I'm a horrible writer! I'll never come up with anything funny! Oh, what will I do with my life? It's all been a waste. A waste. Oh god, in just two days this Evil Editor has exposed me as a fraud and a talentless two-bit... something. I can't even think of a way to curse myself creatively. I'm so pathetic."

At 6:30 that evening, there is a knock on the office door. Paca's wife opens it to find Paca sprawling with his pants half-way off, his head dipping over a pail of gin. It isn't clear if he's drinking it or about to vomit into it. She rushes to his side.

"Honey, Paca honey! What's wrong?!"

He mumbles something, but his tongue seems to be as effective as his sense of humor. He tries again. "I'm nussing."

"Nothing?" she asks.

"A human stale. A piece of filth. I've been teprending, te-te-pretending all my life."

"Your work?"

"Not just wok. Work. My bean. My bean."

"I thought we agreed you wouldn't call it that anymore, and you know I don't mind how small-"

"No, no. My being. What I wiv for."

"Oh, the algorithm didn't work? It doesn't reliably converge like you were sure it would and you've wasted 5 years of effort?"

"Algowim? Don't need no fucking algowim. You're crazy. Yes, I think you crazy. What's an algowim? Algowim! Algowim!"

We can see Paca's wife composing herself, repeating innwardly, "it's just the alcohol talking. Don't let it get to me. At least it's not as bad as that time with the silly puddy and tacks."

"I could just die now," the drunk concludes. "Do you think I would die if I sat on my own head?"

"Uhhh-"

"I think I would. Look." Paca starts contorting himself in an attempt to sit on himself. "Watch. I'm gonna be dead once I sit on my own head."

"Hey, at least you can still rhyme even when you're being an asshole. Don't have a fit. Just look at it-"

Paca pops up suddenly awake again. "That's it!!"

"What's it?"

"Dying children! Now that's some funny stuff!"

She stares at him for a moment without speaking. "Maybe you should try the head-sitting thing again."

"No need!" He pops up from the floor, knocking the gin over. "I've got it! Take this, ril! Blogless! Little cute 'oala! Robin, you'll never flirt with EE again! You too, rhinothongbuttchurkodeldin! You'll never usurp my continuation position again!"

Next day.

Paca is scanning over the divorce papers as he hits refresh on his computer screen. Refresh. Refresh.

Refresh.

"YESSSSSS!!!!!"




Happy Anniversary, EE!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Disconcerting Fact 1

My current students, who are essentially freshmen in college, were in 4th grade (one said 3rd grade) for the September 11th attacks.

2008 - Redo!

Following Shona's lead and my laziness (I also just woke up and have a head weighing about 40 pounds), I'm reposting something from 2008 as part of Blogger Nostalgia Week 2010. This is me as a llama reading Freddie's story. It was one of Robin's voice posts.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Education

Dr. Stanley Fish recently did a blog post about the decline of the humanities on the NY Times blogs. I found his post to be okay, but I really loved a comment on that blog from Peter Power, who appears to be an English and Ethnic Studies prof at Messiah College, which I adored. I even wrote him fan mail saying so. If he can teach his classes as well as he writes blog comments, his students are well served. Anyway, I am copying his comment here for preservation. It makes the most sense in the context of Fish' article, but is worthy apart from it as well.

...

Professor Fish maintains an admirable consistency as he always has in refusing to argue for the liberal arts broadly and the humanities more specifically on the basis of their utilitarian value to society. However, it's unclear on what basis he really does expect leaders of our academic institutions to carry the day politically in their arguments for the liberal arts. The force of their argument can't simply be that they can speak with facility and argue more vociferously for the right to keep humanists employed. In the end this is merely an argument to keep trolley car drivers employed when no one rides the trolley. Even more, facility and force in argument depend as much on having something substantive worth saying as they do on rhetorical skill. And so the question of value can't easily be sidestepped.

There are cases to be made, however, for the utility of the liberal arts for society, and they aren't just Victorian sentimentalities. The pursuit of Truth through rigorous inquiry has been thought to be the foundation of a just Republic since Plato, not since Matthew Arnold. At its root, as I'm sure Professor Fish well knows, the liberal arts are the practices and disciplines appropriate to a free person. And while in Artistotle's day this freedom was rigidly restricted to the ruling classes, there is one strong strain of the liberal arts that suggests that the pursuit of knowledge is not the privileged pastime of the tenured few but the effective means of liberating oneself and others--from ill-considered prejudice, from superstitious ignorance, or, appropriate to our own age, from the onslaught of misinformation, among many other things. When African Americans slaves sought learning, they were not merely seeking a disciplinary delight. They were seeking freedom. I doubt they had time for sentimentality.

Professor Fish is suspicious that these views of the liberal arts have about them the genteel whiff of the nineteenth century gentleman. Perhaps they do. But they speak to an idealism that is missing in our discourse and that has the force to speak to human aspirations that we do not exist solely for the pursuit of bread. We exist also for the betterment of our selves and others. Milton, for whom Professor Fish so often serves as avatar, said that the end of learning is to repair the ruin of our first parents. In short, and in more secular terms, learning ought to serve the purpose of making ourselves and our world better than it is now. A utilitarian virtue in Milton's world, even though not a commercial one. At least part of the problem is that we have ceased entirely to speak in any terms like these regarding the role of learning in our world, and humanists have been at the forefront of our somewhat suspicious sneering at the ideals of education. This is not to say that our current crisis is to be blamed on its humanist victims; but it is to say that we have been poor defenders, and it is clear that no one else can do it for us.

Our president's soaring rhetoric in so many other instances can only say about his educational programs that they will help people get jobs. Important to be sure, but not likely to do much for the humanities. Whereas if we asked what it might take to make us more informed, thoughtful and engaged citizenry, if we asked what it might take to make us a better country instead of simply a richer one, we might actually have to ask whether the humanities and the liberal arts more generally had something to contribute that was of central social value. These are values that must be argued for, to be sure, but at least they are substantial ideals to be championed no matter how imperfectly they have been realized in practice. Without such ideals and without a willingness to embrace the idea that our education can do good in the world beyond the walls of our disciplines and our universities, it's unclear what grounds an academic leader can take to defend the liberal arts with the passion and conviction that will be necessary. I doubt, sincerely, that the desire to save Professor Fish's job, or my own, will be sufficient.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Ways in which ma boy idn't southern

1)

Walking into after school care with 7yo, we pass the coordinator.

Paca: Howdy
7yo: What's howdy?
Paca: It means 'hello'.
7yo: That's Japanese (he says, proud that his daddy can speak Japanese).
Paca: Uh, no, it's Southern.

2) Plain rice is on plate (with other stuff). I have no sauces today, so bring out some butter.

7yo: what's the butter for?
Paca: You can put some on your rice.
7yo: Butter on rice?
Paca: Uh yeah.
7yo: I want shoyu (soy sauce).
*7yo pours a big helping of shoyu all over the rice while I quietly stir in some butter on my own*

As a note, never try to tell junior high kids from Japan that Nashville is famous for country music and then explain what country music is by naming famous people: Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Hank Williams, Randy Travis, Patsy Cline. They've never heard of any of 'em.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Aloha and Spice

We saved up enough money this week to go out to dinner, and go out to dinner we did to this restaurant that I've wanted to try as soon as I saw the sign a few weeks ago.

Soul: Cuisine with Aloha and Spice

Sort of a blend of southern soul food and the flavors of Hawaii. I had a straight up southern dish that I can't believe I found here: shrimp and cheese grits. It was most awesome. Super creamy and TONS of shrimp. It had this fancy stream of black strap molasses going back and forth over the top. 7yo had fried chicken and cornbread a la carte, and both were the best fried chicken and cornbread that I've yet had in Hawaii. N now tells me I need to make my cornbread like THAT and not like the dry crap I make. Well, I try. Both the cornbread and the chicken (oddly to me) come with a side of honey butter.

Not everything was a hit. N chose the chicken, portuguese sausage, and sweet potato gumbo. I think it's pretty good (we have leftovers and I can try again tomorrow), but it's not like any gumbo I've ever seen. It's not just the presence of sweet potato, which is a clever fusion idea, it's just that it wasn't a soup really and had no rice. I didn't taste it in detail yet, but I'm not sure if it was roux-based. I will have to investigate further. It was heavy on the cayenne.

Another negative thing was that some of the prices are up there. My shrimp and grits were $18. I don't know if they have a choice, since there were a lot of shrimp in that puppy. The good thing is that it was as rich as all get out (we literally went walking around a mountainside afterwards to work it off), and you could easily share it with someone, add a side of cornbread, and you're good. We ended up bringing almost all the gumbo home.

Another highlight from the menu that I'm going to have to go back for one day include the vegetarian black-eyed peas chili, cornbread, and "buttermilk cilantro cole slaw" for only $8. Black-eyed peas and cornbread! That's my kind of food. They've got collard greens with ham hocks. Also they have real southern-style sweet tea, which is just iced tea where the sugar was added while the tea was still hot, making it permeate the tea like a syrup. This is special enough in Hawaii that it's the only beverage listen on the menu, though they do have other things to drink.

What's most exciting about the place to me, however, is that Chef Sean is doing what I've thought about. I've talked about creating some southern/asian dishes that I randomly call Cajun Seoul (no, not very creative). I once stuffed some mandoo (gyoza, jiaozi, pot stickers) with andouille sausage and made a cream sauce for them. Chef Sean's really doing it though. Besides the sweet potato gumbo, the special for the day was kalbi po-boys with kimchi, which sounds awesome. You can also get "Carolina Pulled Pork Adobo."

So there you go. Go split some sweet potato gumbo or shrimp and grits with a friend, or just grab the black-eyed pea chili and cornbread for yourself. Then bring some to me. I'll have the pecan pie waiting.

Friday, July 16, 2010

my Old Spice voice

Sound file (wav file) on top; script below.

Manly Day Plans


Hello readers,

I've decided to read everything in this, my Old Spice manly voice. I'm sure you will enjoy these entries, because I'm speaking lower, and everything lower is better. Who can resist a man with large flapping vocal cords that move slowly yet in a controlled, sinusoidal manner. The answer: No one. A woman who was not attracted to this voice would be like a baby bird that did not wish to consume the regurgitated remains of a worm from its loving mother. In a single word: Impossible. In two words: not possible. In three words: I always lie.

And so, let us blog.

Today, your manly narrator shall work with his son to finish a movie about those beings only slightly less strong than myself, The Transformers. Perhaps if they consumed all the energon available in the sun, they would be as strong as my right pinky, and that is something for which they should feel blessed. This creative endeavor is to be followed by cooking lunch. Macaroni and cheese shall be served, along with fruit. After this, we plan to wrestle on the bed and then make a poster about nutrition to finish the requirements for the Cub Scout belt loop. Nothing says masculinity like finishing the requirements for the Cub Scout's nutrition belt loop. And after that, oh yes after that. Well. I must remain a man of mystery.

I'm on a horse.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Impossible Unholy Compasses of Ember

One of the main differences between me being in a doctoral program and me finishing a doctoral program is that, in the latter condition, I read more fiction. In fact, I've read 4 actual novels in the last few weeks, which is, well, quite a lot compared to my normal fiction habits. I selected the books I did for a purpose.

Three of them all revolve around my possible writing - that Halia bit you heard. I decided that if I'm going to pretend to write a book for kids, I should read some written for them. Halia is a science fiction novel with an 11-year-old heroine, and I eventually grabbed City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau as an example of middle grade scifi. I also ended up grabbing The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. It's perhaps not sci-fi, but it's speculative fiction and is considered a contemporary classic, so I went for it. I also picked up Impossible by Nancy Werlin. It's classified as Young Adult, but had a blend of fantasy and romance that I was intrigued by.

Finally, I got Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane, honestly just because I know Stacia as a blogger and it was about time. Unholy Ghosts is a dark urban fantasy and quite different from the top three.

So, what did I think?

Well, I ended up staying up late to finish all 4 of them. I won't publicly announce how late this was, mostly so N doesn't get mad at me, but let's just say it was unreasonably late. City of Ember I finished in a couple of sittings. The others I would read a couple chapters each day until I was quite into it, and then stay up forever to finish them, because I just had to know what happened.

Based upon this, I would have to recommend all 4. However, I will only go out and buy the sequels or other books by the same author for The Golden Compass and Unholy Ghosts. Going through each one:

The City of Ember remains perhaps the best model for my Halia book. It figures a hero and heroine who live in a City called, um, Ember. The sky is dark and impenetrable. There are no stars or moon, but the inhabitants are not aware there should be. The Builders had left supplies and homes for all the inhabitants to live in, but things are starting to run out or crumble. Our two protagonists wonder if there is any way to leave Ember, or even if there is any other place in existence. It's a fast, enjoyable read. I'm probably not going to pick up the sequel, not because I didn't like City of Ember, but because it appears the author has decided to set a whole series of adventures in this alternate world, and I don't really feel I need to hear about them all. One was sufficient. If someone sends me book 2 in a box, I will certainly read it, but not otherwise.

The Golden Compass, probably everyone knows. I had seen the movie before, and that surely changed how I read the novel. I thought the themes, and even more the language, particularly intriguing in the sense that they seemed particularly adult. City of Ember is a classic middle grade to young adult novel in which the kids are saving their world, but they also are discovering how to be adults, finding their place in society, etc. -- all that stuff YA novels are supposed to have. The Golden Compass, while starring an 11 or 12 year old, seemed to have bigger fish to fry than a coming of age novel. From that perspective, The Golden Compass, makes me want to aim higher in my writing. Say something more than a cute coming of age novel.

Impossible by Nancy Werlin- rather different. This is set in the contemporary world with a 17-18 year old heroine. Her age is important because it appears her family has been cursed so that mother to daughter and so on down the line all go insane at age 18. The old folk song Scarborough Fair is the inspiration for the entire novel. The heroine must complete a set of seemingly impossible (hence the novel's title) tasks set forth in the song in order to save herself from the curse and the one who cursed her. Here's what I found most interesting about this book and I hope it's not a spoiler: The protag has a best friend, a boyfriend, and parents who adopted her. All of them remain supportive and helpful and believing throughout the whole book. She's never betrayed, mistrusted, abused, or ignored by any of these people. Her school doesn't kick her out.... Instead they do everything they can to help her. That seems rare to me -- usually someone turns their back or doesn't believe. Not here. They all act like we hope our best friends, boy friends, and parents would act. So I stayed up again until an ungodly hour to finish this book. But now that it's done, I'm a little "meh" about running to find another by the author. Enjoyed it, but done.

Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane. This one is classified as Urban Fantasy, I think. I don't think I've ever read urban fantasy, so I'm a newbie. In this alternate world, ghosts come out to kill the living, or they would except that the Church of Truth knows how to control and combat ghosts. In return for running the entire world, they protect the living from the dead. The protagonist Chess Putnam works for the Church. Her job is to find out whether a reported haunting is real. If not, she reveals the liars as liars. If yes, she performs her magic to get rid of the ghost. It's a really rough world. Chess is addicted to drugs and spends most of the novel trying to stay away from going into withdrawal. Horribly painful things happen to everyone; good and bad alike. A drug lord's enforcer is one's most loyal friend, and one must ignore the kids being abused around the corner to keep oneself safe. Not usually my thing. But as the mystery deepened, I kept turning page after page, wanting to know the answers to the puzzles and how Chess would get through it all in the end. I recommend it and will go pick up the sequel Unholy Magic in a couple months once I have some book spending money again.

What are your thoughts on any of these books?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

the barrier that may not be crossed

When 7yo was 3yo or so, he was very vague about the difference between boys and girls. In fact, for about a year, girls were the ones who had bangs in their hair while boys did not. The fact that he's always had bangs confused me, but such was the rule. Since around 6 though, he's not just become aware of sex differences with body parts, but he's fascinated with gender construction.

In fact, gender is the one line that may not be crossed in imaginative play. When pretending to be something else, one can clearly imagine being a robot, a dog, a crocodile, a mutant, a giant monster, a chair,... but one cannot ever be... a girl.

He's a little director and assigns all of us roles to play. Last night walking along the canal I was variously Superman, War Machine, and our own made-up superhero named Same Old Fish. He was Iron Man, Justice Lord Superman, and more. N of course was Wonder Woman or Spider Woman or Scarlet Witch. None of us are ever allowed to pretend to be a gender we are not.

This rule is even more strict than the good guy / bad guy rule. He must be labeled the good guy 97% of the time. Even if the good guy is chopping off limbs of bad guys who seem to be doing nothing other than standing there. But they're bad so they deserve it. But 97% is not 100%, and I've never heard him pretend to be anything labeled "girl".

Good news is that he's not obsessed with silly rules. For instance, he recently declared that all colors were okay for boys and girls. Blue is his favorite color, but it's okay if a boy wears something pink.

---

Interview because he just sat next to me:

Me: 7yo, how are boys different from girls?

7yo: Girls have 4 private parts. The little dot, their bottom, and they have boobies.

Me: Where did you learn that word "boobies". I don't use that word, Maman doesn't.

7yo: If you want to use the short word for boobies, it's just boobs. Boys only have 2 private parts.

Me: Do they act the same or act different?

7yo: Different. In French Polynesia, girls do this: *starts twisting hips* Boys do the funky chicken dance: *moves knees in an out* (He just went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, where they did a session of Tahitian dance where this is true.

And they have different languages. Some boys have the same language as girls. Some boys don't. (However, he can't come up with any examples of different boy/girl languages. Btw, depends on what you want to call a language, but he's right about different speech between the two in many cultures.)

Me: Any other differences?

7yo: It's what bathroom they go in. The boys go in the boys bathroom; the girls go in the girls bathroom.

Me: Your friend YYY at school. Why is she a cool girl?

7yo: Because she's nice. I ask her for a pencil, she let's me have a pencil.

Me: Anything else you want to say about boys and girls?

7yo: The End.

---

Overall pretty healthy attitudes about girls and boys I think. Nothing crazy in there. But just don't cross that line.

---
Update:

I read the post to them and N says, "it's sometimes okay for me to be a boy."
Me: "Can maman pretend to be Superman?"
7yo: ummmm Spider WomanMan. Half girl, half boy.
---
Barriers are collapsing!!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hanauma Bay

N just started her vacation today until the 6th of July, which means I am on vacation now as well. Typically each year we go to a neighbor island for vacation, but this year we couldn't see how that would fit in any budget. Therefore, we are doing one of the legendary staycations. Fortunately, we live in Hawaii.

Today was our only day without 7yo, and I talked N into going to Hanauma Bay, which is a really, really popular site for snorkeling. We're talking a million people a year visit this place. Anyway, it's now 1 million and 2. Since I'm still extremely pleased that I have an underwater camera, let's just cut to the chase, shall we.

I SWAM WITH THREE HUMUHUMUNUKUNUKUAPUA'A!! I.e., triggerfish of particular sorts; these are Reef Triggerfish. I like this video, because I'm sitting there following some yellow-striped goatfish, a goatfish!, and then a banded thing and boom! humuhumu shoots into the scene and we are off to the races. Suddenly, I found myself with three of them.

The video is just under a minute.



Anyway, Hanauma Bay is an old collapsed volcanic cinder cone. One side fell down some tens of thousands of years ago and the ocean came for a visit. Later coral did its thing and voila State Park. Here's a couple picks for what the place looks like:




And here are some fish that I (ok, N in the end) have done my (our) best to identify.

This you will be surprised to hear is possibly a humuhumunukunukuapua'a, the Hawaii state fish.


Spotted boxfish under a rock and not under a rock.



The blackspot sergeantfish



Orangespine Unicorn Fish



The legendary yellow-striped goatfish



And the orange-banded surgeon fish



The orange-banded buddies are particularly cool live, because those orange bands just pop out when they swim by. Here's a final 30 second video.



Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day Report

Sunday, the 20th, was Father's Day here in the U.S. I was able to sleep in a bit, received a nice couple presents from a store, plus two homemade ones, and then went out for breakfast. Woohoo. Afterwards, well...

I splurged. For a long time I've wanted a camera that could go underwater for snorkeling purposes. And so eventually we went down to Best Buy and I spent my graduation present, any extra father's day credits I have, and my birthday present budget from August to purchase a little Fujifilm camera that's certified to 10 feet underwater. I'm a bad man.

Therefore, a few hours later, it was off to Lanikai Beach in Kailua, island of O'ahu. It's a famous beach with white sand and pale blue ocean. It's roughly where Obama vacations when he comes here and rents that multi-million dollar home. However, I had never been, so off we go.

Setting the scene:



It would be nice to say the beach is abandoned except for us, but as you can see, that isn't the case. Still very pretty. (There are such beaches on Oahu, but this ain't one of 'em.)



Here come's 7yo with his kickboard, practicing to look ubercool as a surfing teen. However, right now we are taking swimming lessons from the Y and are in the beginner Polliwog group.



And here's me with the 7yo in action photos. I'm functioning as the midsection flotation device. (And, yes, I have a goatee right now and yes there's some gray in it.)



I don't actually have a real swimshirt like little guy. This is a running shirt from back when I was in better shape. Scratch that. Back when I was exercising. I did walk/run 3 miles on Saturday morning, but that's the first time I've run a mile in a few months.



After various other family play time, I put on the snorkeling gear and headed off. First, let me say it's really weird intentionally putting a digital camera into the ocean. You know what the packaging says, but it just feels wrong. Anyway, I took a series of photos, but none are particularly good. I'm both a beginner snorkeler (snorkeled about 6 times now) and beginner underwater photographer. I've got fish pictures, but all you see are gray fish shapes. Here's some of the coral I was swimming around.





And here's a video that's about 40 seconds long. I won't win any nature photography awards with this video. (Right now the whole video is playing in Firefox, while only the first 13 seconds play in Safari. Not sure what's up.)




After a couple spins out there, for maybe 40 minutes, the sun was headed down. You can see that it's quieter now and the shadows are longer. We jumped back in the car, headed over the mountains, and back into Honolulu.



And, tomorrow, (or today for everyone in the world reading this) is N and my 12th wedding anniversary. It's party central at Paca Headquarters.

Monday, June 14, 2010

citizenship

As people may have heard, there's a movement afoot in the Arizona legislature to find a way to deny citizenship to children born in the U.S. based upon the immigration status of their parents.

It's a clear hot button issue. That Yahoo news article I linked has gotten 21,000 comments, ignoring any and all replies on top of that, within 2 days. Practically, the bill is almost certainly a non-starter. The Constitution itself states that anyone born in the U.S. is a citizen and the 14th amendment made it even stronger: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States..." The authors of the Arizona bill say they will try to write it in a way that isn't unconstitutional, but it's difficult to see how they'd pull it off. We have a long history in the U.S. of finding ways to deny citizenship rights to citizens of the wrong type (usually based on race), and so the Courts have a long history now of seeing that and striking the laws down. In the end, the bill is probably entirely political and feel-good for those of a certain political persuasion.

That said, my opposition to such a bill has mostly been wishy-washy. I like to be nice to people no matter where the person came from, so you know....

That's not much of a thought process. Through a Facebook comment, however, I think I understand why the law is wrong. Someone who supports the bill used the phrase: "denying birth certificates to illegals." However, this is not what the bill proposes.

No one is attempting to give the parent that is in the country illegally an American birth certificate. That wouldn't make any sense; they weren't born in the U.S. (Naturalization being distinct from a birth certificate). Instead proponents of the Arizona bill are attempting to deny American birth certificates to children born in the U.S. whom the Constitution explicitly declares to be American. They are abridging the privileges of American children. The baby is in no way illegal, but they are going to be denied citizenship based upon the legal issues that their parents are involved in.

We don't deny American birth certificates based on any other crime. Your parents can be murderers, thieves, perverts, rapists, cannibals, traitors.... The kids are still American no matter what heinous act their parents did. Moreover, we don't hold the child responsible for those acts. While imperial China did punish entire families when one family member committed a crime, today we don't legally punish an infant for its parent's actions. And citizenship is the fundamental right from which all others follow. The Bill of Rights only applies to American citizens. Take away citizenship from an American child because of the legal problems of their parents, and you've taken away all legal rights. It cuts right to the core.

The purpose of the bill, then, is to remove all rights from some American children who have done nothing illegal so that it is easier to punish the parents who have.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Assundry

a:

Here's something that makes me very angry: when another adult tries to circumvent the parent and go directly to the child.

Case 1: Random sales person at an open air booth with some sort of light up doohickey. 7yo wants to go over and look at it, but I say, "no we have to keep going." But sales person jumps in with, "oh, it's okay. c'mere, take a look." me: "no, 7yo, we have to go." salesperson: "it's okay, i won't bite." me says: "I know you don't bite, but we are actually going somewhere," but thinking "hey! i'm the kid's parent and I may or may not be right, but I'm the kid's parent, so back the hell off."

Case 2: Guy feeding ducks next to the canal with a loaf of bread. 7yo and I walk by on the way home from 1st grade. Guy: "hey, little one, want to feed the ducks?" me: "we can't; we have to go home." Now, lest I come across as a complete wet blanket, there are actual reasons for this. We had just picked up literature days before from wildlife specialists about how it wasn't good to feed ducks in our area because they interfere with other wildlife we'd like to support in various ways. Moreover, the canal actually has signs posted saying, "don't feed the birds. $500 fine." I'm not joking. Such signs are there. So I said no. Naturally, it's not the end of it. Man: "it's okay. here's the bread." 7yo walks to man to get the loaf of bread as man gives me a "you are such a horrible father" look. me: "I said we had do go." Man pointedly gives the bread to 7yo. I could have forced it and went off on the guy. Perhaps I should have, but at that point with bread in child's hand, we went ahead and fed the damn ducks. Now, the guy wasn't creepy. It's not that. It's just that I'm clearly saying no over and over, and he's determined to do this nice thing for my son, no matter what the stupid parent says. And that's completely wrong. Generally, a good spouse doesn't overrule their mate on parenting decisions in front of the kid unless it's a really bad decision. This should go 50-fold for a stranger, even if he's trying to be nice. Mr. Stranger needed to be fed to the ducks.

b: Did you know that "assundry" isn't an official standard American word? It may be a regional southernism. I had no idea it was so. Seems kinda formalish to me.

c: There was some commercial today where the tagline was "re-imagine possible," or some close thing. My question is: what the heck grammar is that? Is possible a noun there or an adjective? I can say "re-imagine the possible." Possible is a clear noun in that case. Are people in standard American English dropping more articles such that you get "re-imagine possible?" You can also say "re-imagine what's possible," where "possible is now an adjective in the clause "what is possible." Or perhaps it's an adjective in a shortened version of something like "re-imagine possible stuff." I'm mostly curious because I'm wondering if it's becoming more okay to drop articles. Or maybe "possible" can be used as a mass noun. You don't need articles with mass nows. "Re-imagine water," "re-imagine slime," "re-imagine brilliance." All good. But when did "possible" become a mass noun? Thoughts?

d. In Australia, filet as in filet mignon sounds like "fill it". How cool is that?

e. Apparently, there are real live rock wallabies living on O'ahu in Kalihi Valley. Wallabies in Hawai'i. A pair escaped about 100 years ago from some person, and, voila, wallabies. I might have to hike Kalihi Valley soon.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Reading for June

UPDATE: We have a last minute entry from the one and only Precie! I've added a link to her post below. Definitely worth listening to!

Hi all,

I've got mine up. You may hear a bit of Master Chef Australia in the background, but one records in the conditions one must. This is a .wav file and should play in most any software you've got on your computer, though the file is a good bit bigger than ideal. Let me know if you have trouble hearing it.

This is a bit of the writing I did for Nanowrimo, which is the last fiction writing I have done.

Halia

Sylvia is creating a very nice looking set of links here:
Voices

And here are links to the other readings that I've gotten so far:

Pete
McK
Robin
Sylvia
JaneyV
Aerin
Faerie Hedgehog
Precie

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial writing

We did about as traditional of a Memorial Day as one can do. On Sunday, the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts added small flags and leis to each of the 30,000 graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which is inside Punchbowl crater. Then today we ended up at a park grilling up some hot dogs and playing catch.

And that has nothing to do with reading our stories.

(Best. segway. ever.)

For the reading project, I think we've got: fairyhedgehog, sylvia, robin writtenwyrdd, janeyv, Pete, McK, and Aerin. I think I've got everyone on Facebook as well, so I will send a message there. Others are very welcome to join. If I don't know you, I will get to know you.

To keep things simple, let's try: hosting on our own blog and reading our own stuff. Some reasonable size chunk that takes just a few minutes to ready. And let's aim for posting on Friday. That enough time? Then, Sylvia, can you add links to a nice page like you did once before? People can also post there links in comments here.

Let me know if any details left out.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

story time?

While I am certainly no robin s and never shall be, I would like to suggest we blogger writers do a new audio festival. In particular, how about we do the one where we read each other's story as done before? It may be the only way I will actually write something.

Who's in? If you are in, can you post to your own blogs since not everyone stops here? Someone else might even host the links if that's better and this is just the suggestion.

Whaddya think?

Monday, May 17, 2010

School Year 24 - Check

I just turned in the grades for my students and with that, Spring, 2010, comes to a close. As everyone knows I also defended my dissertation last week, which could signal the end of me as a student after 24 delicious years of it. I started first grade in... 1978, I think, and it is now 2010. Now, I did take 8 years off between 1996 and 2004, but still, I think that's enough.

I'm not technically done yet. I have to submit revisions to my dissertation, though I don't really have any yet. My own notes for fixes is longer than those from my committee, though I haven't heard from them all. This should mean fairly straightforward revisions and a quick turn in. This lets me graduate in August. However, there is no ceremony, so I will only get a chance to walk if I remain / return to Hawaii in December just for that purpose.

Here I am at the defense with my leis and a few of my committee. (Facebook people can click over to my blog pacatrue.blogspot.com to see the pic.)



What's next? No idea. I've got some applications out that I've got a decent shot at and I may hear from those in 2-3 weeks. I will send more out if they aren't all too late in the next couple of weeks. If none of that's going anywhere, then I'll have to broaden my search out to industry of various sorts. And if that goes no where, I've got waiting skills from back in the day.

On to the next stage of Paca Life....

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Draft done

It is April 18, 2010, 2:35 AM, HST, and I just sent the complete draft to my committee chair. All the way from the title page to the bibliography. 162 pages of yummy academia. (Which, fine, is kind of short for like a humanities dissertation, but experimental ones are often shorter).

So I'm all Hoo-Yaa! and stuff while simultaneously being exhausted. I'm going to celebrate by only working tomorrow evening for the first time in a month. Seriously, I haven't put in less than 14 hours a day in a long while. Average has to be higher.

Not quite done yet though. My chair will have revisions. Then I will defend and probably have even more revisions from the committee which will be finished over the summer.

But... getting there.

I will yell once my defense date is set -- probably early May, which is like 3 weeks or less.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Emotions and Authors

Something got me a little bit angry yesterday. I really mean just a little bit. I think it was political, but I don't particularly remember what it was now. Texas School Board, who knows.

I then left to get 7yo while I was in a slightly bad mood, so as I was walking I started thinking back to my experiences with Verizon Wireless. I once had a little local cell phone plan but was going to take a trip, so I called them up and asked about roaming and the like. They offered to put me on a nationwide plan, which sounded great, so I said, "let's do it" and took off. I came home from my trip (to VA and NC) and found they had charged me over $200 in roaming. Turns out my phone can't use that plan, but they didn't tell me that.

Naturally, they refused to take off any of the charges. Charges that only existed because they told me they would change me to a plan they did not in fact change me to.

I spent months calling them and not being called back and them writing threatening letters about the bill, etc. Stupidly, in the end, I folded, paid them, and promised to never go anywhere near Verizon again for the rest of my life. I hope that one of you will also refuse to be their customer in solidarity with me.

What's interesting to me about this is that this all happened almost 10 years ago now. I've never forgotten and never forgiven. But as I was walking I was only minimally living out any actual memories of the situation. Instead I was imaging various scenes. I was creating the phone conversations, the emotions as I screamed at them, the utter frustration and sense of injustice (nothing gets me angrier than someone wrongly accused by the way), and my own emotions were building and building. Someone walked by on the sidewalk and I had worked myself up into such a lather that I wanted to punch them for existing. Literally, I wanted to attack something.

When I realized how angry I had become over nothing that existed anymore, I was able to laugh and finally chill out. It helped that I imagined myself doing "Bret's Angry Dance" from Flight of the Conchords.



Anyway, I was wondering 1) can everyone get themselves worked up like this through just imagining conversations and scenes? and 2) how does it affect you when writing?

The only fiction I've written in a year was that scene Freddy read as part of a Robin-athon, but when I do write, I get into it if it's any good. It makes me a very slow writer. Imagined emotions very often become real ones to me. I can pace around the room after some particularly strong bit, because I'm too wired by the scene in my head. I'm sure this is good in some ways, but it's also a negative. Sometimes the emotions I am feeling due to imagination are stronger than what I've actually written. In other words, I can feel the scene, so I assume that my words have actually created such a scene, which may not be true.

Can you write angry scenes without becoming angry? Tense scenes without becoming tense?

Discuss.

And don't use Verizon Wireless.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

tsunami 2010

8:21 AM

I'm staying off cell phones, since we're doing fine, so I am using the blog to keep people updated.

I heard of the tsunami warning this morning at about 2:30 AM (Yes, fell asleep on the sofa again; woke up at 2:30.) Tsunami waves have been generated and are expected to arrive at the Big Isle at 11:19 AM Hawaii time; at Oahu at 11:25AM. After waking up N, we decided to go back to sleep and check in the morning.

At 5:30, N woke up and heard they would blow the evacuation sirens at 6:00 AM. In case there were traffic jams, we decided to get up and leave right then. We got the important papers, cans of food, huge thing of water, key stuffed animals, this laptop, the guinea pigs, and all humans in the car right as the siren started. After this we waited in a line for gas, and then waited in a line again at Safeway for some fruit and such. Now we are up on campus, guinea pigs and all.

The most likely scenario is that various waves will come ashore this afternoon and we will head back home some time tonight. However, if there is significant damage in Waikiki, we might be stuck at one of our workplaces tonight. Can only wait and see at this point. There's no point in getting a hotel room because almost all hotels are either in Waikiki or on another beach. I can only think of one on the whole island that doesn't fit that description.

Since we are up here, there should be no risk to us personally. Our apartment is on the first floor of a building in Waikiki. Parts of Waikiki are evacuation zones, though out particular bit is not. So, the water is not supposed to reach our place. However, we decided to be safe than sorry.

Will report again later.

12:36 PM

So far, it appears that small tsunamis did indeed come this way. Places like Hilo Bay (BIg Isle) keep swinging in and out as if the tide were going in and out every 10 minutes. Heard reports of reefs that are normally not seen at this time of day being exposed. Also the canal went down and up and then the wrong way. However, so far, none of the return swells became flooding.

Hope it stays like this way.

4:30 PM.

Left for home again at 2:30. Never got any worse than the above, so all's good. After some chores, I am now either taking a nap or grading papers. Mostly likely I am grading papers and unintentionally taking a nap about 10 minutes in.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

CIT believes in the passive

When you use an active sentence, you are forced to give a sentence a subject in English.

Mary kicked the ball.
The Saints won the Super Bowl.
The executives of major financial companies either made serious mistakes or presided over wide-scale fraud leading to the collapse of the world financial network and the disappearance of millions of jobs.

If you work on Wall Street, you apparently do not like the active voice. Instead you prefer the passive.

The ball was kicked (by Mary but only if you can prove it).
The Super Bowl was won (but no particular people were responsible for that).
The collapse of the world financial network and the disappearance of millions of jobs ummm just happened. (The executives at the time certainly didn't do anything to bring it on.)

And so CIT group has just hired as their new chairman and CEO the former head of Merrill Lynch, John Thain. You may remember Merrill Lynch. Last time we saw it, it was collapsing into bankruptcy. A stalwart financial company of over 100 years, a bellweather and safehaven, dying quickly with billions in unsecured investments about to go poof. The government pushed it off to Bank of America and then Bank of America was bailed out to keep it all going. Who was the head of Merrill Lynch during this catastrophe?

John Thain, of course.

Here's his resumé from the Yahoo AP article:

"Thain, 54, served as chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch until its sale to Bank of America was completed in January 2009. He resigned under pressure from the combined company after reports he rushed out billions in bonuses to Merrill employees in his final days as CEO, while the brokerage was suffering huge losses and just before Bank of America took it over.
Prior to Merrill, Thain served as CEO of the New York Stock Exchange and president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs."

It's an impressive resumé no doubt. Particularly since no one at NYSE, Merrill Lynch, or Goldman Sachs did anything wrong. So there you go. For presiding over the destruction of Merrill Lynch, he gets hired to direct the new CIT group.

That financial collapse was just so unfortunate. No one really did anything to bring it on and there's no one to blame. And so on we go... in the passive.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

My other life

So I have a confession. I have been unfaithful. Yes, unfaithful to my blogging friends. You see, one of the reasons I haven't been around as much is that I started playing Second Life (SL) over the holidays.

From what I know of my readers here, my guess would be that few of you are Second Life personalities. (I can imagine one of you being there, however....) Unfortunately, I am. I can live in my imagination quite well -- for better or for worse. But here are some of the things I've done in my time playing in that world and some observations:

1) Meeting people around the world. Because my only pseudo-free time runs from about 9:00 PM to midnight, most of the people I have met have been in Europe or Oz, with a few American West Coasters who are night owls. So I've got "friends" from Portugal (I can only speak with this person through a translator), France, Holland, Scotland, Israel, England, and more. I've met, bizarrely, two other linguists and am friends with some guy in Washington state working on his PhD. He's got one son, and I swear we are living parallel lives. One time I was "dancing" with a French woman and made a joke about Occitan (I'm sure you all have at least one Occitan joke [it's another Romance language spoken in a region of France]) and she announced she was Occitan and started speaking in it. To me, that's a great treat.

2) One of the main things I do is go "dancing". Most of my favorite clubs have DJs who play jazz and standards. Oh, and one 80s rock club. The DJ is a person who is playing music on their computer which streams in to the simulated region you are in. The DJ also has an avatar who stands in the DJ booth while playing music. I then chat at the club with friends I've made there and periodically dance. Dancing involves asking a person to dance and then choosing dance animations for the avatars on the dance floor. This could be considered weird, but I enjoy it fairly well. The dancing really functions as an excuse to chat. It's strange to walk up to someone you don't know and ask them about their life. But you ask them to dance and then chat away while the avatars do their thing. Of course, one does not need have dancing animations to speak, but they serve as an ice breaker for me.

3) I attend live music events. These are technically done the same way as the DJing and dancing. Some real person performs on their computer at home. This is then streamed into the simulation for everyone to hear. The musician will also have some avatar with a singing or instrument-playing animation going. These events are live and done by a real person, but, since they are mostly by someone just at their computer, they can be limited. This most common music event is a singer singing in front of backing tracks. In other words, it's glorified karaoke. I've also heard a couple guitarists and a pianist. Often I use SL as a juke box. You stick your avatar in a sim with a music event and then do work while you listen.

4) I've been to two readings so far. This naturally could be of the most interest to my author readers here. In one, we all gathered at the top of this tower, had our avatars sit on pillows, and he read the first chapter of his sci fi work. You can turn on voice chat, so the reader just reads into his computer's mic while we listen. I've joined another group that has great potential. The sim is of a coffee house, so there are all these couches lying around to sit on. They do poetry readings, and I've talked to the sim's owner about getting play readings going.

5) You can watch movies inside SL as well. One of the oddest but fun experiences was a sim I found that's dedicated to showing Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies. For those who do not recall, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a show where they play bad old movies and crack jokes through-out. In this Sim, all our avatars sit in a movie theater and crack jokes about the movie as well. It's a sort of meta-MST3K.

6) For me, SL has really spurred my creative ambitions. I've started singing to backing tracks for fun again. I created two characters once and brought them both into SL, where I practiced dialogue for some fictional scenes in my head. In theory, one could use SL to develop parts of your writing. And in theory one could really create fictional works of art in the SL medium. In theory. I was dreaming tonight of learning to play the piano again. I imagined trying to create the fictional world from that NaNoWriMo novel inside SL. My biggest idea was doing live theater inside SL. A hundred issues with it, but in theory one could have people perform a show and invite an audience. Your "set designers" are people who build the sim for the show; your costume design is done by people creating avatars and clothing, etc. If you built up a whole program, you could sell tickets and have people come for a night on the town. I don't know if I will ever do any of these things -- perhaps I will just wander around places listening to music and cracking jokes -- but it's always good to be inspired.

7) Maybe it's the places I go, but I've found it intriguing that, if they are telling the truth, most of the people I've met are like my blog readers -- intelligent women with a mean age of about 44 or so. The stereotype of online games is that they are dominated by people in their 20s. Perhaps if I was in rave clubs, not jazz clubs, I would be meeting different people, but so far the people in SL are not the stereotype.

8) Other sims have allowed me to go surfing in Kauai, do a go-cart race, walk in the sewers of a haunted island, search for a hobbit's missing items, and solve puzzles in a weird dystopian Myst-like world.

There are drawbacks to the place as well.

1) The major one for me is time. I have enjoyed myself immensely, but I don't have time for enjoyment. I seriously have to watch time I spend doing anything, including SL.

2) Lots of people are looking for love in SL. Some want real life love, meeting people there, and others want second life love. I've got in my profile now that I'm married and only making friends, but you still have to watch what you are doing. This is particularly a drawback when you are "dancing". It means I meet more women than men (though my male friends list is slowly growing). But my blog readers are 80% female, and there's nothing weird here, to it must be navigable in SL, too.

3) In the same vein, I haven't figured out yet how my second life relates to my first one. Some people are in there just as themselves playing around and we happily discuss their families and children. Other people take the completely opposite tack. They play characters in Second Life and make no connection to their real life at all. The most common avatar is a fantastically beautiful human (you only rarely see an avatar that's been made dumpy), but there are all sorts of other creatures running around as well -- vampires, trolls, bunnies, foxes, human-animal hybrids, robots, monsters and demons, etc. (A couple days ago I was at a jazz club doing homework and one of the couples dancing was a bunny and fox. I thought it was really cute. You may have other opinions.) I've swung back and forth between real me and character. I've met a number of people just being me (not using my name and such, of course). Then I will decide I don't like this and try to create a character. And then I'll decide again that I like meeting people as the real me. I can't figure it out. It's the same issue that most of us have with a blog -- just how anonymous or how personal shall I be?

4) Of course, one can ask -- why not just do these things in real life instead of second life? Watching an animated avatar is not actually dancing. (But reading a book about war is not the same as being a soldier, and yet I assume no one here thinks that reading is inherently weird and bad. Though I have met such people in my life who can't see the purpose to imagination.) There's a fundamental point to that, but notice that I have been giving examples of how the second life fantasy has inspired real life things, such as singing and playing the piano. A few days ago I wandered by a new Waikiki night club. I've never been to a night club in my entire life. I've been to bars but was horribly bored. I prefer 4 friends in a coffee house making jokes to 40 people in a bar standing around screaming over the music. But, if I enjoy my chatting and dancing in SL, I was wondering if I might like it in real life, too. Maybe I will be inspired to drag N out on the town some night.

I can guess how my second life adventure will end. Possibly, I will become bored, or, more likely knowing myself, I will finally decide I've spent too much time and uninstall everything.

Anyone else here ever ventured into these virtual worlds? Post anonymously if you wish.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Immoderate political rant

Alright. Usually I try to take a moderate approach to things, even though I'm generally left-leaning. My long earlier post about global warming for instance was about the science of it, not the politics. Be productive and understanding and such.

Today I will rant. I may even allow myself to curse.

Been a lousy few days for political and social issues. First up, thousands of people showed up at the Hawaii Legislature to protest a bill allowing same sex couples to form civil unions. Organized by one of these "family" organizations whose main purpose is to decide for others what families they are allowed to have. That family group is in turn composed mostly of various churches, catholic and evangelical. It's not even a damn marriage bill; it's a civil unions bill that allows people who love each other to get benefits and see each other in the hospital and such without carrying a lawyer with them. You know, to support and love one another. Apparently, this is evil and unacceptable. I literally flipped off the newspaper with the story.

I'm not really even Christian anymore, but I get the impression that these people have never really read the Gospels. Yes, I know you can find some comments from St. Paul and Leviticus against same sex relationships, but how much time did Jesus go around worrying about this issue? I love me some Leviticus, but if I'm going to be a Christian, I'm going to worry about what Christ said and did first. Priorities. I'm well aware that many churches do in fact do tons of stuff that relates to the life of Jesus. In high school, I worked in a soup kitchen in the basement of a Catholic Church. Catholic charities are everywhere and doing great things. Many evangelicals do the same thing.

But if you can only get thousands of people to show up for something one time in a year... Really? Same sex civil unions is it? Not the homeless. Not children on the street. Not abandoned seniors. You're going to set your foot down politically only one time and it's about keeping gay people from seeing each other in the hospital.

Supposedly, these thousands of people had signs saying "I vote" to show there would be political consequences. Well, you know what? I vote too. Not only will I vote against a politician who votes against this bill; I vote against churches who choose to use their political power to tell others what legal contracts they can sign. Jesus spent most of his time, as I recall, trying to bring others to God. Above all else, that's the most important thing. Well, you, idiotic "family" organization, are driving people like me away from God. I will never walk through your doors. If you think civil unions are bad, fine. But use your time and money on something that Christ would have spent his time on. Not on the three phrases you've latched onto in 800 pages of text.

Next up, Democrats lost a Senate seat. Whatever. I'm too angry to really worry about this one at the moment.

And then today the Supreme Court virtually declared that corporations are covered under the First Amendment. My understanding has always been that the First Amendment is about people. You know, American citizens, not pieces of paper. It's undoubtedly going to make the nation worse. No matter what political stance you have, well unless you are fascist, one of the greatest problems our government faces is corporate influence. Corporations and unions practically write the legislation already. The Dems were planning to give the unions an exemption on some health care taxes for no real reason, but only because they support the Democrats and so it's payback. The major 5 or so financial institutions largely control financial regulations. After all, the former head of Citibank is the one in the government handling these issues.

And for over 100 years, laws have been created to limit corporate influence on politics by banning them from political ads and campaigns and such, originating with Teddy Roosevelt (a Republican who mostly rocked, for the record). But today the Supreme Court threw out almost all of these restrictions. (Remember that the most recent round of restrictions was written by John McCain and Russ Feingold.) They still cannot directly fund a national party or a federal candidate, so that's good, but otherwise it appears they can say whatever they want whenever they want. Basically, the argument to strike the laws down is that they violate the First Amendment, but as I recall, the First Amendment guarantees rights to people, not pieces of legal paper.

This could be really, really bad. By giving free speech to major corporations, the potential effect is to render the free speech of actual physical people meaningless.

Remember that Goldman Sachs, for instance, gives out billions of dollars in bonuses in a single quarter. The entire Obama campaign for the Presidency, the richest in history, was like a billion or something. Chump change. McCain's was similar but a bit smaller as I recall. That's like one department's bonus at Goldman. Again, they can't directly fund the candidate, but they can do entire campaigns that just copy what the candidate they like says as long as they remain "independent".

Why in the world would a candidate give a damn about any random person's opinion, or even that of a billionaire like a Forbes or Soros who spends tens of millions, when they can get some company to make their campaign for them "independently"? It's a recipe for corruption.

But fine. Companies are people, too. If we ever shut one down, we should prosecute the culprits for murder. Whatever.

I think the only way to save ourselves is to make the participation of corporations in politics so damaging financially to them that few will want to. Therefore, a company can blow whatever money it wants to on an ad, but every 10 seconds a big title must appear in all caps saying,"

THIS AD ABOUT ISSUE X IS PAID FOR BY JOHNSON & JOHNSON. REMEMBER THAT. EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU BUY ONE OF OUR PRODUCTS YOU ARE FUNDING THIS AD CAMPAIGN. I HOPE YOU AGREE WITH US. IF YOU DO NOT, YOU ARE STILL FUNDING THIS.

And then there's a warning label on every product. Above "lunch" at McDonald's it says,

"BY BUYING LUNCH HERE, YOU ARE FUNDING OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST SAFE FOOD REGULATIONS. ENJOY YOUR MEAL."

Maybe we could end up with political restaurant chains. If you are Democrat, you go eat at TGI Friday's and fund climate change campaigns. If you are Republican, you eat at Applebee's and fund restrictions on abortions.

Sounds like a great world and I know I'll enjoy every product I buy more knowing that each one has a direct political consequence. It also sounds wonderful for corporations. They used to only have to worry about finding the best salespeople or computer programmers or financial analysts. Now each one of those employees gets to worry about the company's political stances before choosing to join.

Eat up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Be grateful, you wretch!

I imagine that all parents have their favorite threats. I guess they're not really threats as ways to point out that one's lousy life could be a lot lousier. When my sister, brother, or I refused to do something beneficial to us, such as tie our shoelaces or eat vegetables, my mother always threatened us with "you know, no one cares if you fall and break a leg at the orphanage" or "no one cares if you grow to be healthy and strong at the orphanage." We all naturally thought the orphanage must be a paradise. Much food has been eaten to the refrain about starving children in Ethiopia.

Yesterday when 6yo (new name for B) refused to do some simple chore such as taking his plate to the sink, N delightfully came up with "you know, some children have to work in coal mines."

That's awesome. The coal mine threat. Do your damned homework or you're going to be shipped to the coal mines and be forced to address me as "gov'ner".

So, stop putting off writing that next 1,000 words and be grateful, because, you know, some children have to work in coal mines.

Anyone care to share their favorite "be grateful, you wretch" line?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Christmas Pics

In this space I provide unto thee, dear ladies and gentlemen, a wondrous collection of life-like portraits electronik from yon month of December.

Cub Scout Pack before the Kaimuki Christmas Parade (I usually don't post pics that contain other kids, but, since we are always dressing up in uniforms to be in newspapers or on TV, I decided it was okay.)



Here we are, living it up at the 3 hour Cub Scout Christmas bonanza.



Every year, the City and County of Honolulu puts up their huge City Lights display. They pack City Hall, i.e., Honolulu Hale, with Christmas trees, plus lots of displays outside. Here we have some Menehune on a Xmas train.



Over Christmas, the mother-in-law, who's actually a very nice person whom I get along with well (and please notice the use of "whom"), visited for a week and a half. We took our semi-annual Christmas Eve around the island tour. Two years ago, we ate Christmas Eve dinner in some random park in the rain. This year, we first stopped at this beach, which might now be our favorite new beach.



You can see how slowly the beach slopes, making it perfect for little ones.





(For the Hawaii folk who might read, I have forgotten this park's name as I always do (ends with "kahana"). It's up past Ka'a'awa, and a good ways before Lihu'e. When you are driving around the windward side, you get to this sort of inlet, where the road has to go in and around, before heading back out again. It's on the Lihu'e side of that.)

(For the non-Hawaii folk, if you ever do visit Oahu, there are indeed peaceful beaches with only a handful of other people on them, but you have to drive far away from Waikiki. Basically, you will want to go up the Windward side, to the North Shore, but go West from Haleiwa instead of East to the famous surfing spots, or way up the leeward side.)

After lunch at this beach, as is Christmas tradition, it started to rain on us. I, however, was stubborn as a mule and forced everyone to continue up to a beginner's snorkeling beach at the Turtle Bay Resort and went snorkeling as it rained and the sun fell. However, I did manage to see some fish, including the legendary humuhumunukunukapua'a, wedgetail trigger fish, which is the state fish of Hawaii. This is not my pic, but here is a humuhumunukunukuapua'a.



I choose to imagine a team of them pulling a little Santa sleigh.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Fireworks

Every Friday night the Hilton Hawaiian resort does a 5-10 minute fireworks show. When I grew up the only fireworks show was shooting bottle rockets at your friend. Now I'm at a place with fireworks every night and a good 4-5 aerial shows in different places on the island on the 4th. On the 4th, you can sit at one fireworks show and watch 2 others going off in the distance.

Anyway, last October, N, B, and myself had fun with our new digital camera. It has a special "fireworks" setting which keeps the aperture open for a while to nice effect.
(pics here Facebook people)






It was also fun to play some. When the camera kept the shutter open, you could deliberately move it around to get some funky effects.





The above are things like the Hilton's large tower of rooms, a lamppost, a party in the distance.

I tried to draw with the moon here. This is the moon solo as I moved the camera around.



This is the little guy kinda fuzzy. If he was a phantom, maybe this is what he would be like:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Puzzles for the ages

Paca to the 6yo: How was your first day of [After School Program]?
6yo: Well, I got into a little trouble.
Paca: Oh?
6yo: So I had to do a lot of thinking. It took several minutes and it was hard thinking. How do I solve this problem? To not get in trouble anymore?
Paca: How did you solve it?
6yo: Stay sitting.
Paca: Good solution.