Saturday, December 31, 2005

Interesting Debate Wrong Issue (paca)

This is a little blurb from an AP report this morning about the NSA domestic spying:

"The administration formally defended its domestic spying program in a letter to Congress last week, saying the nation's security outweighs privacy concerns of individuals who are monitored. In a letter to the chairs of the House and Senate intelligence committees, the Justice Department said Bush authorized conducting electronic surveillance without first obtaining a warrant in an effort to thwart terrorist acts against the United States. Assistant Attorney General William E. Moschella acknowledged 'legitimate' privacy interests. But he said those interests 'must be balanced' against national security."

I see the Asst Attorney General's point. Of course, civil rights and national security must be balanced. Reasonable debate and reasonable people could disagree on what the precise limits should be. But that is completely the wrong freaking issue.

This isn't a policy debate about what the law should be. That's what Congress is supposed to do. Debate the pluses and minuses to statue revisions and try to find the right balance. Notice what I just said. That is what CONGRESS is supposed to do, not the Executive Branch. Congress makes the law not the President. It certainly might be possible that whatever the NSA is doing should be legal. But, umm, it's not. There already is a law here on Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance. The executive branch must follow that law, even if they think it is a dumb one. Even if the Asst. Attorney General thinks the balance isn't quite right, it doesn't matter. It's still a law. The President has decided the law doesn't work and so he is going to go around it. You can't do that in a country based on law. The place isn't run by well-meaning people doing what is best. It's run by well-meaning people doing what is best under the law. I totally understand if someone thinks FISA needs to be re-written. If so, re-write it. But don't ignore it because it doesn't work for you.

I was able to get a little, albeit speculative, clarification on why the Administration decided to go around the FISA court when the court historically has approved over 99% of requests, is secret so no one would know they are being monitored, and allows for immediate monitoring of anyone as long as a Retroactive warrant is obtained within 72 hours. The administration has thrown out some odd explanations like the FISA court is too slow, but the whole Retroactive thing makes that less than clear. It has to be because they believed FISA would have denied some of the requests. From an NPR discussion this morning, it sounds like the Administration wants to fish for bad guys while FISA and any court requires probable cause. We know there are drug dealers in our community but the Court requires that you have probable cause before you go search their house. Same basic principle here. We know there are wannabe terrorists among us but FISA requires that you have some probable cause before you start monitoring American citizens. The Admin likely didn't think they could meet the rather low threshold and so went around it. As Bush said in his news conference "but- but- there are limits and controls; we can't just search everyone." (not a quote). But what Bush is asserting is that the Executive Branch gets to set those limits all by themselves. They determine who can be monitored, who is an enemy combatant, and what does and does not constitute torture. The fact that conservatives, the very people who are supposed to be fighting for smaller government, don't see the dangers inherent is a true testament to the power of loyalty.

Summary: Yes, reasonable people can disagree on what the law should be, but we aren't debating the law. We are requesting that the executive branch of our government follow it.

Update: I just had another thought. I think the majority of Americans don't care a lot about this because they don't see it applying to them. The Admin has been very adamant to say that they are focusing on international connections, though they have already acknowledged that they have had some pure domestic to domestic hits as well. Most Americans, at least where I grew up in North Louisiana, don't have international phone calls unless they are talking to a friend or relative in the military stationed abroad. Probably most of what the NSA would be interested in would be going to the Middle East, though certainly not exclusively, and that limits the perceived potential monitorees even more. My guess is that most Americans who like the program unconsciously imagine it watching that Pakistani or Egyptian guy in New York or the liberal Muslim professor; i.e., someone else. But, you see, my mother and dad live 2/3rds of the time in Morocco, so I call there sometimes. I haven't been yet but I would like to visit one day. Will I one day be on a list because of this? Moreover, just yesterday, N's mom called someone in Morocco to deliver a message (for my mom) about when they'd be returning. N's mom is a French professor (gasp!) and, I believe, a permanent resident. A french citizen, not an American citizen, calling Morocco? I wonder if a computer somewhere put a record in a database with the name, time, and date of the call. It won't tell anyone because that is not suspicious enough but it's there to be watched to see if a pattern grows. My guess is that I and my step-mom are not on a list. The point for me is that I don't want the same people who wish to use the spying software to be deciding who to use it on.

Friday, December 30, 2005

More videos

So, I wasted some time browsing the videos from the site of the rap. Here are some links:

Try to ignore the annoying audience laughter and the obvious staging. I still think their dance moves are crazy delicious.
Korean dancing

And this guy is so going to kill himself, but his stunts are amazing. I didn't know humans could do this without wires.
Urban ninja

Since I am in Hawaii I can appreciate this more. Holy crap, that's a monster wave.
Eddie would go

OK, this one is amazing to me as the old lighting techie. It's dancing Christmas Lights! How did they do it? Is everything on dimmer boxes with a lighting control board, or did they run around for hours and hours unplugging each item in a totally scripted maner. Either way I am impressed.
Hmmm I read the comments on this one and it looks like he did use a lighting board. I once had some Xmas lights for a show hooked into my lighting system for a play. Do I get any credit for that?

The Muppets!! Mahnamahna
Muppets forever!!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Funny rap (paca)

Apparently everyone and their brother has been linking to his already, but it's new to me.

Puppy Love (Llama)

It's safe to say that my time at Louisiana School was critical in my development as an individual. The sense of family that developed between myself and the other students there has proven to me that it is possible to grow to love a group of friends, and that not everything in this world is about money or achievement. The bonds of friendship that were formed between myself and my fellow almuni are still strong to this day... and among many they are even stronger. We were close, very close.

I still remember, and will always remember, my first post-adolescent love: Sara Crosby. She had extremely long, straight, dirty blond hair - like corn silk. She had a face like a cherub, and a heart of gold. She was smart, even among a throng of "gifties", and a strict non-conformist. I developed a crush on her from the moment I laid eyes on her. Through my efforts to introduce myself to her, I fell into a whole new group of friends that I would otherwise have never known. Amy, Heather, Joel, and myself formed a little alternative clique, and I eventually ended up having a few dates with Amy. But the reason I was even there was Sara... I carried a flame for her through graduation and beyond.

I don't remember when it was exactly, but at some point Sara and Joel got together, and they became quite serious with each other. I remember feeling absolutely heart broken at the time. The whole experience was purely emotional - to this day I can't separate reality from whatever visions of loss I created through my despondancy. I remember early morning walks through the mist, stopping to climb a tree or play on some children's playground equipment. I remember watching Joel and Sara climb the tree together, while I remained on the ground. I remember watching them touch hands, laugh softly to each other, speak in tones only they could hear. I remember these things and remember feeling my heart just tighten up into a ball. For a high school kid, when a couple is that close, they might as well be married. Even though Sara and I had never gone out or been together at all, I knew that any chance I had with her was gone, and it was devastating. As much I liked Joel as a friend, and as much as I wanted Sara to be happy, seeing them together like that was seeing the end of my dream - and not just any dream, the dream of love.

This morning I received an email from a friend of mine. Many of you know her, her name is Yummy. She wrote me to say that she is engaged to be married. This girl... this woman... I won't recount the long history here. But despite some difficulties she and I have had in the past, I've continued to harbor this secret desire for her. In many ways I see her as absolutely perfect for me. She is extremely smart and driven, she's beautiful, she's entrepreneurial. But most of all, through a rather unusual email and telephone relationship with her, I've always been completely honest and forthcoming with her. I talked to her about absolutely everything, and she did the same with me. We grew very, very close through those converstations. Eventually we met, and, suffice it to say not everything went smoothly. We stopped talking for a while, and things have never quite been the same.

Nonetheless, I continued to harbor in my mind this idea that, at some point, I'd find my way to her again and this time we would make it work. It almost seemed inevitable. And so, today, when I receive word that she's is to be married, I feel that same sense of loss that I felt with Sara. It's not that I've lost her... she was never mine to lose. But I've lost the dream... the hope. The belief that this woman is perfect for me and one day we will be together - just because we are meant to be.

I still think about Jah quite a bit. That was painful. But with Jah, it was real. We tried each other on for a while, and it didn't quite fit. I can look back on those chaffe points and convince myself that losing her was the right course of action. With Yummy, as with Sara, since we were never together, there are no negatives about her that I can use to comfort my loss. There's only the positive dreams of what a future with her would hold... a future that is now irrevocably defunct.

Heart broken,


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Yet more book ideas (paca)

I always have ideas for stories and books to write. If only I wrote some of them. Readers of the old pacatrue blog may remember my Hawaiian Hotties Handbook, where I interview hot Hawaiians about how they got so damn hot and publish a diet/exercise/lifestyle book from it. I've also had various linguistics related book ideas pitched at various levels:

1) A series of mystery novels where our intrepid linguist heroine from the University of the Pacific (I have to look up still if that exists already - the U of South Pacific is in Tahiti; it sooo must exist and I will have to come up with a new name) travels to remote places to document a dying language. Murder ensues. She solves the crime with a little romance and suspense along the way. This is plain pulp fiction for adults with serious backdrops of language extinction, changing culture, and the nature of human language. Trust me. Some languages are freaky in the way they work from an English perspective. Fortunately, the people who read books, namely women, also often like language stuff.

2) A guide to the writing systems of the world for young adults. If you go to the children's section at a large bookstore, you will discover whole series of books for 10 year olds with titles like Pyramids, Knights, Castles, Cars, Dinosaurs, etc. So we would add mine to the list.

3) Idea 2 actually came from this idea here at 3. An alphabet book with words from many languages, probably languages common to multicultural America - English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi, Arabic, Navaho, Tlingit - you get the idea. This is for the younger than 10 crowd. Maybe N will do this one for me.

4) Language Music Brain. Some nonfiction popularization of what I want my dissertation to be. I am working - supposed to be anyway - on an abstract for a music psychology conference about the connections between music and speech intonation.

5) This is more do-able, but is purely for the academic presses. Two phonology courses are required for my doctorate - one is an intro to phonological analysis where you learn how to analyze speech sounds; the second is phonological theory where you learn umm the theory side of that analysis. There needs to be a simple book on phonological description. One that simple tells you all of the things going on in an easy to follow format. As far as I can tell right now, it is all piecemeal. You look at language x and Y; you look at how this and this is explained by this theory. We need a theoretically neutral story of what sound systems are like across the world. I can't tell you how many times I have used the same 3 examples in my essays due to a lack of knowledge.

OK, off to pick up B at day care.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

They don't make em like they used to (paca)

So, with this whole raising a 2 year old thing, I am coming to know cartoons quite well. OK, not like the manga-adult-swim people who can give cartoon trivia like sports fans give baseball trivia. But in a recent linguistics article they were using various characters from cartoons and children's shows to perform an experiment and the article decided to add a little parenthetical comment on who Baby Bop was. Well, I need no such comments. I know who B.J. and Baby Bop are. I know who Dora is and I can name a tank engine other than Thomas.

Anyway, N and I have been buying some old cartoons for $1 or so for B, because, well, they are $1. I think it is safe to say that these cartoons wouldn't be made anymore. First, we have some old ones from the 30s and 40s, such as one where the teacher drop kicks the lamb as hard as she can out of the the school one day. There's also an early Looney Tunes where Porky the Pig is being annoyed by a cat singing late at night. Porky gets his gun and at one point declares to the cat with the gun poking into his chin "I'm gonna blow your head off!" Later in the cartoon he does. The head stays on, but Porky shoots the cat whose 9 ghosts then sing a farewell song. We also purchased Kimba the White Lion, which as I just looked up, appears to be a Japanese cartoon from the early 60s made/adapted for NBC. It plays now as sort of a prelude to the Lion King or more accurately the Lion King is a rip-off of Kimba. Kimba is the son of a mighty king of the lions who tries to maintain order between humans and all animal-kind. Kimba had a million names in his history, but was even once called Simba until they discovered the name had been copyrighted, so they switched the S with a K. Kimba's father is killed and Kimba has to come back to lead the animals again. He even has a wise baboon as a friend. I'm about to start singing Elton John tunes. Anyway, the first episode is a light affair with both Kimba's dad being shot and his mom drowining in a sea wreck. In our other episode, episode iv, Kimba has to decide whether or not to allow the animals to kill some domesticated pack mules for food, which his father allowed, or not. Kimba goes off to search for guidance, so his friends try to help him out. How? Well, it turns out Kimba's dad's skin is a rug on the floor of some hunters' cabin. So the baboon, gazelle, and parrot go to steal the skin. They then wear it and pretend to be Kimba's dad's ghost. Kimba figures it out pretty soon and the friends say they were just attempting to help. All I can say is that if I am ever uncertain about something, please do not take the skin of my dead father and wear it while you talk to me. It won't go over very well.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Yummy Christmas (paca)

For the most part I cannot speak of what I got people for Christmas presents as most of the receivers read this blog. However, as my father, to my knowledge anyway, has never yet stopped by I can talk about his early. Basically, I just wish I was my father for Xmas this year because he is now to be the (late) recipient of a yummy macnut pie, as can be found here. Hmmm... Maybe I can call them back and just change the address from Louisiana to Hawaii. I do have a good excuse lined up for why the present is late. You see if I had sent the present on time other relatives would have shown up and eaten his pie. But this way, he and E get it all to themselves. Aren't I a thoughtful son?


Thursday, December 22, 2005

On God, Christmas, Jesus, and such

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone. This time has always been very special in my family, as we always try to come together from our far-flung locations. Christmas is one way in which the family stays together, in which we manage to let each other know... "hey, you may drive me crazy sometimes, but I still love you and always will." I think this will be the first time I've ever not spent the holiday with my parents and sisters. Once I was stranded in Mississippi because of a snow storm (how odd is that?) and couldn't make it home for Christmas itself, but I rolled in on the 26th. This time... I won't be rolling anywhere!

So I have been less than productive this afternoon at work. I probably got a good solid hour in, but I've spent most of my post lunch time reading about the historical life of Jesus. I didn't learn much new, but it did turn me onto something of conteplative mood, so please forgive me as I do some stream of consciousness stuff now.

It appears as if there is very little in the historical record to support that Jesus ever existed. I'm sure my mother and father are more knowledgable about this than I, so maybe they can post a comment illuminating us. What evidence there is seems to come from Josephus, but even his account is suspect as it appears as if he wasn't a contemporary of Jesus but rather was writing after the fact; heresay.

One thing that does appear certain is that, assuming Jesus was born, he most certainly wasn't born in December. "Shephards watching their flocks by night" isn't exactly a winter time activity; more likely they'll be huddled up in a barn somewhere trying to keep warm. Aparently the church proclaimed Dec. 25th the day to celebrate the birth of Christ because it was already a popular pagan holiday, or around the time of several. Winter solstice and all that.

Which is fine... if we are celebrating the birth of someone that may not have even lived, we might as well make up his birthday as well. Dec. 25 is as good a day as any. What's important for Christians is just to have the celebration, to set aside a day every year to commemorate the coming of the Lord. When that day is should be of little consequence, so long as it exists.

What makes Christians so secure in their belief that Christianity is the one true way? What reason do we have to believe in Jesus and Jehova rather than Shiva or Mohommad? Or Zeus for that matter? It's not a new argument, and I don't mean to be argumentative, but it just seems so glaringly obvious that I can't resist stating it.

My boss, Mike, gave me a book about religious extremism... I forget the name. One very small point that it made was the following. If you were to transport through time someone, let's call him "Tim", from the first century AD to now, and then sit down and have a conversation with him, you would likely think "Tim" to be completely ignorant, uneducated, and completely out of place. Tim would be unable to comprehend how a television works; how an automobile works; whole branches of science wouldn't exist to him; heck, he wouldn't even understand what science is. Social conventions such as ethnic tolerance and value in cultural diversity would be contrary to his cor beliefs. Even the concept of "freedom" would likely be beyond his comprehension. In short, in almost every conceivable area of human achievement, Tim would be utterly primative and inept. I say almost, because in just one area - that of religion, Tim could very well be regarded as expert. In other words, over the past 2000 years the human race has made huge advancements in practically every aspect of our society and culture - except that of spirtuality. We are still using the same religious definitions, rules, and teachings to shape our spiritual beliefs that were developed at a time when people still belived that the sun traveled around the earth. The book uses this as an argument - not for athiesm - but that we must allow ourselves the same freedom to advance our understanding of the spiritual world that we have in the physical world.

A few years back I read another book called "Jesus The Man". It advanced the idea that, by using something called a "pesher" method, one could decipher a literal, historical account of Jesus' life from the gospels. The author postulated that the gospels were written at a dual level... the surface level for children and simpletons (her argument) who needed to believe in magic and miracles, and a second level for the true scholar of Judaism that details the actual life of Jesus and what he accomplished in extending his particular Jewish sect. I found it very interesting and it was attractive to me in that it made sense... even if some the logic the author used sometimes seems a bit reaching. Today I did a Google on reviews of this book, hoping to find an academic critique of the author's theories. I turned up a couple of reviews that were highly critical... a core assumption in her logic is that the dead sea scrolls are actually from the 1st century AD, which is apparently contrary to orthodoxy that holds they are from the 2nd century.

Anyway, I won't go into anymore except to say that, even though the criticisms of the author's work are rampant, I found little out there as an alternative. The bulk of the historical Jesus academic field appears to be populated by quasi-academics who graduated seminary with a firm belief in the almighty but a curiosity to find the truth behind the mythology. This fundamental belief in the Christian God colors their ability to do serious exploration about the history of Jesus. Barbara Theiring (the author of "Jesus the Man") may not be correct as she attempts to analyze the New Testement using a "pesher" methodology, but at least she is trying. She as come up with an interesting theory. Rather than simply claiming that she is wrong because she goes against orthodoxy, I'd like to see a serious investigation of her claims, as well as alternative theories to Jesus's life proposed that can be explored.

Well this was long and rambling, and probably not the kind of feel-good Christmas message you wanted to read. I'm really not a scrooge... just a skeptic. Someone in the news media made the point that the wonderful thing about Christmas is that it is really two holidays in one: a religious celebration about the birth of Jesus, and a secular one about the importance of family. One can choose to participate in either or both. I tend to celebrate the secular holiday, while most of my family celebrates both the secular and religious versions. And that's OK... it works. Even if I have become doubtful about the deification of Christ, Christmas is now and will always be a very dear and sacred time for me. A time of introspection, warmth and sharing; even rebirth.

So merry Christmas, everyone. May whatever path you choose in the new year bring you happiness and good fortune.


General life update (paca)

So the last paper was Friday and I am now done, sort of, with school. I managed to get the proper grade on everything, so I guess the term was successful from that perspective, but I was doing everything so last minute this term that I need to improve things. I never even read one paper. The first draft was the only draft. Since the thing was written usually at 3:00 AM who knows what I wrote.

In other news, B is obsessed with the old Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer cartoon. He's on his 3rd straight viewing of the Destiny's Child Rudolph bonus feature.

Anyway, so now I am on pseudo-vacation. I still go in each morning to work on the journal whose next issue publishes on January 2. In the afternoon, I am supposed to be vacationing, and I'm doing OK with that, but 2 days in a row now I have gone to the mall to see Narnia and been late. Maybe on Thursday. Pretty much this week is the only vacation. I take my 4-day prelim exams on the 3-6th, so I have to start studying for those. And I take the morphology exemption exam on the 9th, so I have to study for that. And I want to submit my intonation paper to the international music psychology conference. The abstract is due on the 31st. So pretty much tomorrow is my last vacation day. Oh well. It's been good.

I'm complaining too much. B just came over to sing Jungle Boogie to me. Life is fine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Nice quote

Sorry to disappear for a while. No excuse. Just lazy. And well I was doing that whole exam thing.

I just came across this beautiful post from the White House via a tip at Crooks and Liars. It is a Bush speech from 2004. Here is the relevant section:

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

And here is the link to the whole 2004 Bush speech.

UPDATE: Clip here, which pretty much sums it up.
I don't need to add anything.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fox News is a plague on our community

This is in today's Tennessean (a Nashville-based newspaper):

Christmas or Holiday Tree?

The journalist, for whatever reason, has bought hook, line, and sinker into the mythical "War on Christmas" that is being promoted by the Faux News journalists. I'm talking about you, Bill O'Reilly, and you, John Gibson.

The "War on Christmas" is not just some harmless ratings grabber. It is indicative of the kind of divisive tripe that these people put on a consistent basis out in an effort to attract viewers. They appeal to American's sense of moral outrage (of which we have an abundance) in order to pit one segment of society against another. This Tennessean article talks about how the Metro government received 170 complaints about their "Holiday Tree", some as far away as California. I wonder how people thousands of miles away could have learned what Metro was calling it's tree? If Metro wants to promote their "Holiday Tree", what business is it of anyone else? The city had for years and years done this, presumably without any complaint from local citizens. But now that Fox News is filling people's minds with this divisive rhetoric, all of sudden there's an outrage.

The article starts out detailing how a local teacher has decided to cancel his annual Christmas/Holiday party for fear of offending someone. This is your work, Bill O'Reilly. Citizens of Franklin are complaining because the city put a banner that reads "Season's Greetings" instead of "Merry Christmas." How absurd is that? It's because of you, John Gibson.

Stories like this only add fuel to the fire. It's irresponsible journalism. How does the reporter know that citizens of Franklin are "irked"? How many? Who are they? How do they express there irkiness? Are there any that aren't "irked"? Who knows? The reporter certainly doesn't say... s/he would apparently prefer to appeal to the same emotional level that O'Reilly does... facts are purely optional.

It talks about Bush "wading into the fray" by sending out cards wishing a "happy holiday season", "disappoint[ing] conservative christians." Newsflash! Bush didn't wade anywhere... he simply followed Whitehouse tradition, in which every Pres since Ronald Reagan has sent out "holiday greetings." Finally the artical closes with a quote from a school principal, remininincing about a "simpler time", when kids called their December celebrations "Christmas parties" and not just "parties". Oh the humanity!

Why does it matter a hill of beans how Wal-Mart, Metro-Nashville, or Ron Jeremy's House of Porn wishes good will to others? Aren't we all just trying to be kind to each other, enjoy the season, visit with family, and celebrate what's important to us in our communities? Can't we do that without having some looney blow-hard with a TV show criticize us for it? Without having that same guy start a culture war between neighbors while he sits on his ever growing pile of money in his Atlanta penthouse? Wish me a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, Happy Channukah. Heck, last year I was wishing people Happy Festivus! Does that mean I'm out to destroy Christams? Let's come back to reality.

Thupity Thupt Thupt
Thupity Thupt Thupt

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Llama Christmas in Bangkok

The famous song goes "Tis the season to be jolly." But here in Thailand it should read "Tis the season to be sweaty, just like every other sun-baked part of the year." Yes, the Christmas lights and music are out here, and have been since even before Thanksgiving. Certainly it's mostly a way for stores to attract Western customers - which is a bit odd. In the US I think something like 70% of retail business is conducted around Christmas, and so it makes economic sense for companies to invest all that PR and advertising money around the Christmas celebration. But here in Thailand, surely Christmas doesn't count for that much... 95% of the country is Buddhist, after all.

Nonetheless all the department stores have set up their plastic trees (nothing real here, of course). Sometimes they are this flourescent green, sometimes pink; this very nice tree at the Emporium is all white... but not frost white, more of an ice white. And it's lit up with white lights, shaped like lanters. It's all very mod and symetric, and quite nice, I must admit.

Christmas music is played in the establishments that cater to westerners... but it's not the awe-inspiring choral music of religious standards, nor the pop/jazz remakes of old favorites. Rather the Christmas music flavor of choice seems to be children singing commercial Christmas songs... Frosty, Rudolph, Jingle Bells, etc. It's maddening. I was at The Pizza Company friday night and the whole time I was there a single medley of "Christmas" tunes was being belted out by some British children's group. I know they were British because everytime they were required to utter a sylable that ends with an "-er" sound, they would pronounce it "eha". And I put "Christmas" in parentheses because towards the end of the medley they had apparently exhausted the supply of sacharin songs of the season and so added on a few general feel-good songs to drive out the last ounce of sanity in my brain. AFter the finishing the usual dirges, the group added in "I'd like to teach the world to sing" (from the Coke commercial), "We are the World", "Let It Be", and a couple of others I can't remember. All accompanied by synthesized pop instrumentation. It was so bad I was sure Rummy was sitting in the back somewhere spinning the records himself.

Does this mean I'm turning into a scrooge? Maybe I just need my family around me again. Well, time is flying fast so it'll come sooner rather than later, I'm sure.


Wedding oops (paca)

So my office is right next to the Korean Studies building, which is this beautiful replica of a traditional Korean palace. As I was walking back from the library just now, I passed a young couple and their photographer taking pictures in front of it. He appeared to be in his dress uniform. I am not sure of the exact military branch, but it was a khaki with a dark black beret. Very dashing. She was in a slender pure white thing with long arms and very simple fall. No obvious beading and the like. The bride-to-be held a small bouquet of flowers.The photographer was positioning them in front of a rock that is inscribed with a dedication in Korean. I am guessing that these were the pre-wedding photos because they would not have time on the day when everyone else arrived. The only problem with this lovely scene was that her dress was so simple and slender and pure that it was largely transluscent. From 50 feet away her underwear was showing quite clearly. I can tell you it was white as well and if my wife didn't read this blog, I would go on about the cut. (Yes, I did keep walking.) Now, I am sure her groom appreciated the look quite a lot, what with the wedding night not far off, but I have a feeling she is going to be a little surprised when she sees the wedding photos in a couple weeks. Hopefully for her there will be less light when the ceremony kicks off.


Friday, December 09, 2005

10 pages

I remember being in 11th grade AP American history. We had to write a 10 page paper for the class which was the first long research paper we had ever written. My topic was the battle of Vicksburg in the Civil War. We worked on that paper for at least two terms, researching, turning in outlines, turning in drafts until the day of doom. Such a big task. Grad school is here now and things have changed. My time is 11:28 PM. I have a 10-15 page paper that I haven't started writing yet. Not a word. It's due tomorrow. 40% of the grade and all that.

Here's my caffeine-induced academic tribute to the Blues Brothers.

I've got the Mac powered up and the chair comfy. Pepsi to my right. Reeses to my left. I'm wearing my John Deere boots and the Titans jersey. Puffy Amiyumi is in the CD Player and a mile-high stack of articles by my side.

Hit it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

more Narnia! (paca)

I managed to catch a couple items yesterday related to the Narnia movie. One, believe it or not was the 700 Club. It was an interview with an author who had written a book about the religious meaning of the Narnian stories. First, he has seen the movie and it met with his aesthetic and religious approval. He encouraged all Christians to see the movie in order to show Hollywood that religious stuff makes money. The interview then turned to the oh-so-important question of "but this is a fantasy novel. Isn't that icky devil stuff like Harry Potter?" No, no, he assured us. Despite the presence of imaginary gryphons we won't all become satan worshippers by seeing the movie - unlike Harry Potter. The difference you see is that the children of Narnia utimately need Aslan's help, while Harry Potter solves his own problems if he thinks of the right spell. I will let you have your own thoughts on the vileness of Potter, but I can't help but feel that Lewis wouldn't have disliked J.K. Rowling all that much. Oh, I don't mean he'd be a fan. Not his sort of thing. I think Lewis would rather curl up with Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queen, but Potter leading towards Satan, I think not. In case my ironic tone is not clear, I will add that as soon as I can find a baby-sitter, I want to go see Goblet of Fire with N.

On the other side, I was driving home from my office around 2:45 AM listening to the BBC World news. A lead for the next segment came on: "The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe - a harmless children's fantasy movie or a way to get religion in through the back door."

I almost wrecked.

Look, I'm a good agnostic and if you press me I will confess I don't particularly believe in God, but the BBC announcer needs to calm down a bit. The lead-in sounds like there is this sinister plot to sneak religion into children's head through hidden means. Come on. It's a freaking allegory. Lewis loved Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and wrote his own Pilgrim's Regress about his conversion to Christianity.

Spoilers are about to come if you've never read the books...

Aslan appears as a lamb at the end of the world.
He sings the world into creation.
Whosoever believes in him when the world ends journeys after death to a brigher, happier world.
He sacrifices himself to redeem a traitor and is reborn.
He is the only son of the Emperor over the Sea.

There is no sneakiness here. It's a straightforward allegory that is wholly transparent. Lewis wrote that he hoped it would be easier for children to find Aslan in our world by knowing him in Narnia. There's no mystery or controversy. And there is no harm in a child of strong atheist parents seeing this movie. I fully plan on buying B a children's Bible in a couple years. Those are good stories with good values and are one of the foundation's of our culture. And unless the direction of the movie is heavy-handed, you can actually just ignore all this religious stuff and watch a fantasy movie of some kids running around with talking animals and getting presents from Father Christmas.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Mortality: 2 Can Play At That Game (Llama)

Paca brings up living a fulfilling life, and states that he is not ready to die because there is still much he wishes to accomplish. He then attempts to refute the implication that if one has achieved all that one wishes to, then one would be ready to keel over - careen into the here-after, if you will - by making a rather cryptic statement:

"...there is a difference between missing something you love and feeling you have been robbed of something that is yours."

This confuses the llama. If one has not yet acheived it, how can it be yours?

Regardless, I too have contemplated death, and not just in the angst-ridden teenager sort of way. But contrary to Paca, I find that I least fear death when I feel I have little for which to live. That is, when I have achieved, when I am content, is when I most want to savor every breath. Peace of mind and contentment doesn't make the prospect of death more acceptable, it makes it less. Failure, rejection, and feelings of hopelessness makes me think ... "it'll be so much easier when I don't have to worry about all this." No, I'm not suicidal, just trying to be open.

Actually my most suicidal moments come when I'm someplace high - a bridge, skyscraper, etc. Many times I've looked down and just thought how easy it would be to fall over. I have no desire to, but the prospect of being so close to certain death is simultaneously repulsive and attractive. I always have to take a moment to collect my thoughts in such situations.


No, I don't post as much as Paca... I still plan to post 2 to 3 times a week, the same as on my old blog. One must wait for inspiration, you know.

A little trans-dental meditation (paca)

I'm back in my office on campus to do some more editing. It's 10:00 at night here in Hawaii. That's midnight in Seattle; 2:00AM in Louisiana, Texas, and Chicago, 3:00 AM on the east coast and like sometime next Thursday in Thailand. OK, OK. According to our blog which is on Thai time, it is 3:00 PM on the 6th there. There's only, I think, one time zone behind us by the way. You go a couple hours west and you're at tomorrow.

Anyway, I'm here trying to get some more journal work done, and I started hearing this beating outside my window. I started getting pissed. Who the hell is beating on the wooden platforms outside my door at 10 at night? Slowly, it dawned on me that I am right next to the Korean Studies building, which is this amazing structure built in mimic of a traditional Korean palace. They are having a music performance. If I was there listening to it, I'd be all over it, thinking how cool it is, but when I'm not there but here in front of a computer, it's not so worthy.

On a different topic, I remember the exact day that I really realized that I was going to die at some point. Lovely topic, huh? I remember as a kid hearing people say things like "at that age you think you are going to live forever." I never got this at the time. I mean, kids aren't stupid. We all know people die. But I don't think it really sinks in and becomes a part of your life until you are at least in your 20s. (OK, some kids are obsessed with it; let's forget the human universals here and get back to my story) I was standing near my car in Nashville, on some little side street near Vanderbilt and Tower Records and my old work place. I remember it was a cool evening and I was alone. Suddenly, I really knew that one day, maybe tomorrow, maybe in 100 years, I'm going away. That'll be it. It wasn't a depressing thought, just a thought. But at that time I suddenly knew it wasn't just that people die, but that I, the true paca, would die and be no more. And of course in more time than that, but it's just more time, everything else will go to. Our species, planet, star, galaxy. It all disappears.

One way I can tell I am not completely at peace right now is that I'd be rather angry if it all ended tomorrow. I have stuff I want to do and I haven't done it yet. It wouldn't be fair for it to end now. (This is also I think when I started becoming afraid of flying when I never had been my whole life.) But of course it would be fair. Why is 32 years unfair but 33 or 43 or 93 OK? How many years does it take to lead a fulfilled life? None is probably the right answer. It's how one lives it not how long. Now, I am not saying that a person at peace would not be sad to not see tomorrow, but there is a difference between missing something you love and feeling you have been robbed of something that is yours. Ahh attachment.

And now back to editing.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Narnia on the way (paca)

I am so ready for the Narnia movie and if Andrew Adamson, the Director, screws up my childhood, I'm gonna be so pissed.

No pressure.

You are Aslan

Final Run (paca)

So, this is the last week of classes as well as the week in which all the articles have to be ready for publication in the journal. Here's what I have to do:

Make final changes to 2 manuscripts, send to Web Manager
Make changes to column, send to Web Manager
Copy edit two reviews, send to authors for edits
Accept changes for all reviews, send to Web manager
This Wednesday, turn in a review of the phonology of Karao (Phillipines)
Friday, turn in my paper surveying the motivations for sound change in the world's languages
Wednesday week - turn in my paper on intonation in political speech
Thursday week - turn in my paper on linguistic nativism.
Some time in that week, take a phonology exam
Some time in that week, take a historical linguistics exam.

I guess that's not as abysmally difficult as it seemed a few minutes ago. And, in the final reckoning, it's not as if any of it is really all that important. The items I really care about are the intonation and nativism papers, as those are the places where I am really doing research. Everything else is just a class item to check off. Once the semester wraps up next week, I will take a couple days off (or more), and then I must continue working on the journal and studying for my prelim exams (the first big test in the doctoral program to make sure you know the basics) and a morphology exemption exam. Ok, off to copy edit a review. Today's goal: copy edit the reviews, submit one more final ms to Web Manager, do a good chunk of reading for the sound change paper. Off I go.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Paca: courses coming up

Well, annoyingly enough, right in the middle of this semester's final week of classes they make you sign up for the next round. This is what I know so far:

Optimality Theory - it's basically the hot theory in phonology (sound systems of languages) so I have to take it as a budding phonologist.

Field Methods - This is where I learn how to go out "in the field" and document a language. About camera use, recording use, eliciting useful data, storing it, asking the right questions, ethics of gathering data, etc. So if I go to document Sibe Manchu in northwestern China, I would use those skills.

Psycholinguistics - basically the study of language using the methods of experimental psychology. I will be reading research papers and critiquing their methodoogy and such, as well as learn how to do my own experimental design.

After this it is up in the air.
Possibility One: Morphology (words) - This is a required course, which I take unless I exempt out.
Possibility Two: Behavioral Neuroscience - intro course on the topic from the psych department.
Possibility Three: Fiction Writing (Plot) - just for the fun of it.
Possibility Four: Emergentism and Minimalism in Syntax - a seminar on ummm syntax and how grammars can be described through small constraints, kind of. This is a course that ties into the whole tense/subject paper I have been working on for this semester - a problem I still haven't solved by the way. This could be a good course, but it is at the same time as the Field Methods course which is required.

We will see.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

And no, I don't mean Merry Christmas. Nor Happy Chanakuh. Nor Happy Kwanza. I'm talking, of course, about the King's Birthday! Yes, it's that magical time of the year again when Thai's all over the world join in praising their beloved King Bhumibol. The beloved monarch's birthday is Monday and so all Thai businesses will be closed. TASC, of course, will be open; but I'm sure we'll hold a moment of silence in honor of his worshipfulness.

The Thai king, for those that don't know, is truly adored by Thais. An homage to his greatness is played before every movie. There's a skyscraper opposite the TASC office that has an entire side covered with a mural to His Greatness. Now that it is his birthday, many businesses are erecting in their store fronts little King Monuments in his honor. Should he want to, The King could most likely re-assert control over the government without raising too many hackles. Sure, the current president would be upset, and might even try to resist, but popular support is so strong for the King that it would be futile effort. It's not like in Britain, where the Royal Family are more like national pets, kept mainly for the amusement of the populace. The King is a father figure here; you do not, under any circumstances, ridicule him.

His son is another story, however. I don't know much about it, but apparently he is known as being quite the playboy and is a spoiled brat. Should he eventually become King it could be quite bad for Thailand, as the Thai's faith in their monarchy, I believe, is one of the things that makes this country so unusually tranquil (the southern muslim rebelion being a notable exception). Without that faith, the whole country could become more cynical... much more like the US is currently. Luckily there is another who could assume the throne upon the King's death; he has a daughter and she is held in very high esteem. Chances are that she will take the thrown upon her father's death.

So on Monday, remember to raise a glass to King King Bhumibol. Long live the King.


The llama mentioned Bill O'Reilly a couple posts down, and I wanted to chime in about his now annual "I'm going to save Christmas for us all from the secular progressives" campaign. The fight is over the fact that a lot of public institutions now are using the word holiday more and Christmas less. First, I will agree with him on one point. If what you mean is "Merry Christmas" then say it. Supposedly, there is a Honda commercial where they sing "I wish you Happy Holidays" instead of "I wish you a Merry Christmas." I agree that's silly.


When you listen to his show, they are discussing boycotting businesses that wish them a Happy Holidays instead of a Merry Christmas. Such horrible, disgusting companies are to be ridiculed and scorned.

Now let's think about this and think of some of the other objectionable items that companies sometimes get up to.
1) Cancel pension plans that they had previously guaranteed. These are pension plans and so are often the primary means of support of someone who worked at a company for 30 years, specifically so they could have such a plan. Sometimes the worker is just screwed and sometimes the government, meaning you and I throught taxes, pick up the bill.
2) Some companies run sweatshops where people work 14 hour days.
3) Some companies dump chemicals into the air we breathe and the water we drink.
4) Some companies pay their workers so little that their full-time employees must work 2 and 3 jobs to make ends meet.
5) Some companies give gigantic bonuses to their executives when times are good so that when times are bad they have no savings and must fire their workers. Imagine how many workers could be retained in a slump if the CEO got a 2 million dollar bonus instead of a 20 million dollar bonus. If a fully loaded cost for a worker were to be $100,000 that's 180 workers you later have to fire to make up the difference.

This isn't an anti-business rant. But some companies do get up to such practices.

So, is O'Reilly leading a campaign to punish companies with poor environment records, bloated executive salaries, lousy wages, and the like? The actual issues that can harm our health, destroy a family, and lose a job? No. But if Macy's spends several million dollars of its own money to celebrate a holiday but they dare to call it a holiday and not Christmas so that they don't offend some of their customers, then we will declare them an enemy of all that is right and good and refuse to shop there. Priorities?

Interesting. On a related note, I came across this posting.
Fox betrays Christmas crusade, sells "Holiday" ornaments for your "Holiday tree"