Tuesday, February 28, 2006

True Neutral Human Barbarian

Well, as someone who played D&D a lot when I was 10, I had to take the quiz, copying Jill over at Yellow Snapdragons. Turns out I'm Mr. Dont Take Sides:

True Neutral characters are very rare. They believe that balance is the most important thing, and will not side with any other force. They will do whatever is necessary to preserve that balance, even if it means switching allegiances suddenly.

Humans are the 'average' race. They have the shortest life spans, and because of this, they tend to avoid the racial prejudices that other races are known for. They are also very curious and tend to live 'for the moment'.

Primary Class:
Barbarians live outside the 'civilized' They have tribal goverments, and are often nomads. What they may lack in refinement is balanced by there strength of individual character and ability to survive.

The main problem here is that when I was playing, I almost always played the Chaotic Good Human Fighter-Magic User, Marvo the Magician, God of Death and Magic, with my wife Rneigh (my 10 year old spelling, hee hee!) and Cindy, Goddess of Water. All I remember about Cindy was that I thought she was ultimately cool because she could turn any enemy's blood to ice, killing them instantly. For some reason, no Dungeon Masters, read my brother, would let me use this power frequently. It was wonderful until my brother and friend conspired to kill me off when I returned from summer camp in central Texas. Such betrayal! Such dastardly behavior! It is that which has turned me into the shattered bitter wreck of a man I am today.

But Cindy, the Goddess of Water, shall return upon her War Tiger. Oh yes.

Are children at risk in Republican homes? (paca)

I know I am a couple days behind on this in the blogosphere, but I love it nonetheless. Following a bill in the Ohio legislature to ban any adoption into a household with a gay, bi, or trans member, a wonderful Ohio legislator introduced a companion bill to bar Republican households from having children. The bill came complete with bogus reasons, just like the first one:

"To further lampoon Hood’s bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that 'credible research' shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing 'emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.'"

The bill's author freely admits that there is no scientific basis whatsoever for his bill, but then neither is there any for the first one that is being taken seriously. If you follow the link here and above, read the comments as well, they get pretty funny near the end, when they move into the debate over whether or not Republicanism is a lifestyle choice or biological. There are repeated calls to cure the sad souls as well.

Actually, during the gay marriage debate of 2004, I wanted to find out what color hair Frist's wife had and then introduce legislation banning the marriage of people with said hair color. And no dyeing please. No one is fooled by that.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Here's More Random (paca)

Item 1: I have lead a fairly innocent sort of life in many respects. For those who want to read all about it, you can read the autobio. I drink, but not much. I don't smoke. Never had an illegal drug. I don't really gamble, though I have a little. I haven't cheated on my wife. I haven't ever been to a strip club. Sometimes, I'd like to think that this shows some sort of great moral strength, but honestly it doesn't. The truth is that there has been little temptation to resist for most of these things.

When I was in high school, a boarding school, drinking and smoking were both expellable offenses, but of course most people drank and smoked quite a lot (and some got caught and kicked out), but no one was ever offering me anything. I didn't have friends tossing me their bottle of Jack, which I then declined. They never tossed it to me. I heard stories of my friends getting drunk, but they never did when I was there. Why not? I also never resisted drug peer pressure. The first time I was offered marijuana was in a park in Memphis listening to a blues band at the age of 17 when I was in grad school. I gave a guy I had been talking to $5 (after going to get change for a 20...), and he was so shocked that I did that, he offered me some of his stash. I did get to decline there, but where was all the drug peer pressure from my youth? That was the first time?

Similarly, I asked N recently about the whole cheating thing. The truth is that no woman has hit on me in years, so it's not as if I have amazing staying power, at least in evidence. Now, it is possible that I am just hideously unattractive, so that's what N and I discussed. She got asked out when she was single in her Master's program. But no one is hitting on us now. Why not? Do I exude boring pheromones? Do I just look so obviously uninterested? I think I would prefer a switch in things. It would be nice to have fabulously amazing women asking me out every day, to which I could then decline, and say, "sorry, you are very nice, but I'm into someone else." That would stroke my ego by being approached and then stroke it some more because I could resist their charms.

It is kind of fun being naive and innocent on most things. This will shock all of you, but I have also never been with a prostitute. I did get my first opportunity a few months back. I decided to go on a walk around 10:30 or 11:00 at night in Waikiki, just to get out of the house. I walked a few blocks and was going past the Sheraton (sketchy part of town you see) and there were a number of women in very little clothing standing around. Even though people routinely wear miniskirts in Waikiki, even I could figure out what was going on there. I decided to loop around one of the side streets so I didn't have to walk through the group. Turns out there were women looking for business there too and one of them reaches out to grab my arm and says something to the effect of, "hey, where you going?" My reaction was speeding up and saying as I ran away, "going home to my WIFE!"

Oh well. Another opportunity for loss of innocence lost to my innocence. Of course, if I had reacted differently, I wouldn't have told this story. I'm naive, not an idiot.

Honestly, some things don't interest me much. For instance, I like margaritas, but I don't like being tipsy too much and I'd rather save the $5. I remember in college once, all the friends, including me, sat around someone's room drinking rum and cokes. Booooring. I much preferred the time when this Alt Rock station was switching formats to country, and so they played REM's "It's the End of the World as we Know it" for two days straight. The whole group of us danced on the beds for an hour and a half to the same song over and over. Much better.

Item 2: Things you will never hear on this blog. Some people use their blogs as sort of online diaries where they write everything they would write to themselves or discuss with their best friend. That isn't me. For better or for worse, I revealed my blog to friends, family, and even have a link to it from my academic web site, meaning by department and co-workers and bosses could read this. Therefore, I will never discuss things that I wouldn't want pretty much anyone in the world reading. This is bad in some ways. I can't discuss many things about my job because part of my job is keeping things anonymous. I won't discuss negative things about my department or my classes except in general terms. I won't discuss my relationship with N in great detail, because its OUR relationship, not the world's. Etc. I hope that many of you still find the blog enjoyable despite these limitations.

Item 3: They should rename Ph.D programs to Art.D, standing for "Doctorate in Articles." That's what I do. I read articles. I also edit them part time. And if my training goes well, I will write articles. That seems to be the job. If I get really good at my job, maybe one day I will be given the chance to review articles. Ooooohh...

Item 4: The Lottery. Every time there is a huge lottery win, one is tempted to think about what you would do as the winner. As above, I have no lottery temptation here, as there isn't one. Anyway, what would I do if I won $300 million or so? The very first thing would to remain as anonymous as possible. Is it possible? Ideally, I would draw a hugely binding contract up with a lawyer to represent me. I mean represent me to the extent that they go turn the ticket in for their anonymous client. Is there any way to do this without them taking the ticket for themselves? I don't know, but I'd want to try it. Then I would keep it as secret as I could. I'd prefer not to tell my family even, but whenever my mom volunteered to buy me a plane ticket to come see her and I was sitting on $300 million, well, that'd just be wrong. So I'd have to fess up to the immediates. After that, I don't think I would quit my job actually. Or at least not my doctoral program. I'm not here for money; I'm here because it's interesting. It wouldn't stop being interesting just because I was suddenly rich. After this, things get fuzzy. Oooh. Ooh. I could regularly hire a baby sitter and N and I could go see a movie! Wow, that rocks. A 3 hour baby sitter calls over $30. Besides this, I could set up a fund of some sort for B and any future children. I think N could finally go shopping. We'd probably move to a nicer apartment. Maybe I'd want a car. One for her and one for me. After that, I'm at a loss. If I was still aiming at being a linguist, I would have a job to take up daily life, so I'd have to do things with it that were easy on the side. Linguistic scholarships for endangered languages. Some other charity. Various investments? Or I could just forget all of this and build a mansion in the very walls of a cliff with a vast balcony overlooking the ocean from which I could hang-glide down to my 300 foot yacht. Then I could try to take over the world with my hideous death ray, while my trained pet sharks performed synchronized swimming to the strains of a bazooki orchestra. Hee-hee. Bazooki.

Oh, and I'd eat lots of expensive cheese.


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Abortion thoughts (Llama)

I just finished reading an article in the NY Times about a new South Dakota bill that is expected to soon become law. It's an anti-abortion bill that makes abortion illegal in all cases except where the life of the mother is at risk.

Ban on Most Abortions Advances in South Dakota

I know abortion is a topic very much in the public debate in the US, and most of us have considered it carefully and come to some conclusion. Probably most of us over the age of 25 are now pretty much locked into our beliefs... I know I am. I'm staunchly pro-abortion. My reason for that is based in the social problems and public health concerns that result when abortion is illegal.

Should abortion be outlawed then women that would previously aborted now have one of five options. 1) Deliver and raise the child, 2) Deliver and give the child up for adoption (whether through legal or illegal means), 3) Deliver and abandon the child (in the woods, river, garbage bin, etc), 4) Travel to another country for an abortion, 5) Obtain an abortion illegally in the US.

Option 3, in which a woman abandons a child after birth, is self-evidently a negative outcome. At best the child will be found and enter the oprhanage system, in which case it moves into option 2; at worst it will lead to the infant's death.

Options 4 and 5, in which a woman obtains an abortion from either another country or the black market, is also self-evidently negative outcome. In those cases not only is the fetus still detroyed (thus circumventing the ban) but we as a society lose all ability to ensure the safety of the operation and the health of the mother. Furthermore, in the case of the black market, we will both create criminals out of otherwise law-abiding, medically trained doctors sympathetic to the woman's plight; as well as create another profit opportunity for non-medically trained criminals who are already accustomed to breaking the law.

This leaves us with options 1 and 2, then.

According to this study, published in the journal "Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health":

53% of abortions between 1994 and 2000 were from black and hispanic women. Black women had the highest abortion rate at 49 per 1,000 women; white women had the lowest rate at 13 per 1,000.

The abortion rate of women on medicaid (57 per 1,000) was three times that of women not on medicaid.

27% of abortions occured in women living below the poverty line, and 31% of abortions occurred in women with income between 100% and 199% of the poverty line. Less you think 200% of poverty is a decent wage, note that she referenced the U.S. Current Population Survey to define the poverty line. According to that survey, the poverty line in 2001 for a single individual was only $8,317 per year; so 200% of that would be $16,634 per year... hardly middle class.

The point of all this is to illustrate that most women that are aborting are poor minorities. If these women choose to keep their child, then these kids are likely to be raised in poverty, subject to violence and criminal behavior. We will be increasing our under class: the discontented, the welfare dependent, the uneducated. Are those pushing for an end to abortion now pushing just as hard for an increase in spending on public health and education so that these lives that they want to save can lead some kind of meaningful, productive existence?

Ok, finally, what if these saved abortions are given up for adoption? Point 2. This option assumes that there are individuals lining up to adopt children. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In 2003 there were 119,348 children in foster care, nation wide, still waiting to be adopted. As a nation, to meet this demand of unadopted youth, we would essentially have to double our adoption rate; in 2001, we adopted 127,407 children, but left another 129,923 still waiting in foster care.

So, by outlawing abortion we will 1) endanger the lives of young women who seek abortion through other channels, 2) create a new criminal market and criminalize otherwise law abiding doctors, 3) enlarge the population of our lowest income class, thus creating greater social problems, 4) and place a greater strain on our welfare programs.

SO, all of that is why I rationally support abortion. But that NY Times article I referenced at the beginning of this had a quotes Leslee J. Unruh, "founder and president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls . . . 'We're concerned with the 800 children aborted here every year.'"

800 aborted every year, vs. 120,000 waiting for adoption?

That's just an aside. The quote really got me because he called those being aborted "children." It made me think... we all have an idea of what a child is. It's something that is dependent on you; you hold it in your arms clean up its poop, make funny sounds at it... but it is a person, an entity that can physically exist on its own. First and second term pregnancy's at the least... these are not children. If it were possible to remove these fetuses from the woman's body so that Mr. Unruh and his cohorts could care for it, then that's one thing. But that is not possible, is it? Until that baby comes out, it is completely dependent upon the women whose womb is providing incubation. It is the most personal thing imaginable. And these folks want the state to be able to FORCE a woman to treat her body, her very self, in a way that may be in opposition to her will and possibly her health and therefor livelihood. This is a fundamental attack on individual rights by the government, and it is immoral.

Flower Collecting (paca)

Since we moved to Hawaii, I have been collecting/taking pictures of flowers we encountered at various stages of closeness. I don't know what almost any of these are. I just like the idea. Here you go.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Curry Shrimp (paca)

There were some larger Tiger shrimp on sale, so I had some fun tonight cooking up a Curry Shrimp recipe from the Indian cookbook. Turns out to be pretty simple. Fry up some onions (I added zucchini as well for more veggies). Get some turmeric, ginger, chili powder, cumin, and coriander, then add vinegar to make a paste. Saute the spices with the onions. Add the shrimp and a little water and simmer. It wasn't bad. By the way, if anyone decides to do some Indian cooking and hasn't, you will save a lot of money if you can find an Indian grocery. A little spice container of tumeric at the normal grocery store will be easily 3-4 times as expensive as it would be at the Indian grocery. Actually, the big thing for me was to learn how to make a spice paste. That should be useful in all sorts of cooking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Notes to self and others (paca)

Note to self: When submitting an article to a language teaching journal, don't have a typo in the name of the journal. Moreover, don't mispell the word grammar in the title of manuscript. It doesn't build confidence with the person who would be copy editing.

Note to llama: I am currently eating my Wensleydale cheese that I received for Valentine's Day.

"Oh! Well, I'll have some of that then."
"No, sir. Winsleydale, that's my name."
"Greek feta?"

Note to lawyers and lawyers to be: I have been hoping to write some musical essays that might involve posting 15 second musical clips to my web site. This is copyrighted material. Is it legal?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Life update (Llama)

Hi everyone,

Well, I know I haven't been writing as much as I probably should. The fact is that there's not much to write about... or at least not much that moves me to write. I've established a status quo here in Bangkok and life doesn't vary much. It's a good life, I'm generally pleased, but not much excitement to write about.

I have a pretty great job... I usually wake up at 8, lay in bed till 8:30 watching CNN, then mosy into work by 9:30. Usually stay at work till about 6, at which time I either go home for an evening of HBO (if I'm being good) or head over to Gulliver's or Hillary Bar for a couple of beers and some pool. Rinse, wash, and repeat.

The program I'm writing for entering surveillance data in Bangladesh is finally coming together. I should have version one completed within two weeks. That doesn't mean my work with the program is done... version 1 will not contain the code for reconcilling double entered data or any reporting capability. But it will let the data enterers start, well, entering data. And I'm only 4 months behind schedule!

But that's one of the reason's I enjoy my work; I have relatively little pressure from my boss. There's alot riding on the success of this program, but Mike has been quite good about letting me get it right. Not that he had much choice in the matter... :)

Once the program is complete I'll head to Bangladesh again, and this time for at least a week, maybe two or three. Not looking forward to that. But I'll have to be on hand for a while when they start using the software. I'm sure they will turn up bugs and I'll need to fix them. I also have to get their networked configured in a way that we can access the survey data over the internet from here in Bangkok, as well as install and setup a Linux network, which I've never done before. And that's just the technical issues... then there's all the management issues to address. If I wanted to I'm quite sure I could have a professional position managing the data collection project, at least for a year. Mike has already agreed with me that we need someone there that reports directly to TASC. But that would require living in Dhaka... not an ideal residental environment.

Let's see... what else. Love life, nothing going on there. Next...

We have an intern in the office... this British kid that grew up in Hong Kong. His family is wealthy enough that he is basically working for us for free for 3 months. He is 22 and seems so young and naive in his outlook. Sitting next to him makes me feel old. And then there's Katie, a fellow from Australia. She's great and we get along very well... she and I are only about a month apart in age. She's definately the closest friend I've made since I've been here. She'll leave in April, unfortunately.

It's raining here now... the first rain in about 2 weeks. The city needs it... it was getting too hot. How long have I been here now? Almost a year, right? It's been good, very good. A shame I couldn't work things out with Jah, but that is my only regret.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wordforms and Hunting Accidents

As a continuing source of humor, the Cheney hunting accident continues unabated. A conversation from yesterday follows (well, the memoir version, not the autobiography version).

The Scene: Field Methods class where we are working with a speaker of a Micronesian language to document the sounds and grammar of her dialect. The general process to start is that you collect a lot of very common words that almost every culture has and then use them to investigate how the language works. So some of the words we had collected include spouse and beautiful.

Syntax Group: How would you say "his wife is beautiful?"

Speaker: There is only one word in our language for husband and wife. Only spouse.

Syntax Group: So, imagine I am talking to Paca here, and I say, "Paca, your spouse is beautiful."

Paca: "What are you trying to say here?"

Class giggle.

Paca: "Maybe you should wait until after Valentine's Day to ask my wife out."

Sounds Group: "Uh-oh, Paca's gonna go all Cheney on your ass."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More Daily Show video

I confess to being someone who doesn't think the Cheney hunting accident is much of a story. Whether the victim was the idiot or Cheney, or neither, who really cares? Accidents happen in hunting. However, I love this Daily Show video send-up of it. This link will get you to the Most Recent videos page. Then click on the Video labeled VP Firearms Mishap Analyst. Important? No. Funny? Apparently so.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Net Warriors (the Guide) - paca

I was taking a break reading this guide to the warriors of the Internet. My favorite is this one. It seems like I see him all the time. Of course, that couldn't possible be me, no, no, no.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Weird Things in Print

This has to be the strangest article I've ever seen in mainstream newspaper. It's basically an opinion piece in which the guy starts out talking about how good Prince's SNL performance was and ends up hurling profanity at conservative religious dogma. Bizarre, but pretty fun to read.

The Religion of Prince

24 hour doctoral exam - check

Just after the New Year I complained a lot about my 4 day, 6 hours each day prelim test for the doctoral program here. Really, it was just a blatant ploy for sympathy. Anyway, the good news is that I just got a letter today that I passed said test. Cool beans. I will have to go celebrate in some manner. Not tonight, as tonight is N night, giving me primary B duty, and N is going shopping. But tomorrow perhaps. Now I am supposed to get a paper published and form a PhD committee. Soon they will start expecting me to know crap.

West Side Story - Redux (paca)

I've been a big fan of the movie West Side Story since I was a teen. I just watched the Zombie West Side Story trailer. If you've ever seen the original, watch this. Seriously, whoever did this one needs to get a job editing. Brokeback to the Future is pretty good, but this one wins, I think.


Nevermind, this one is funnier:

I might be behind the times on this one. Is the Revenge of the Sith DVD already out? My geeky American license will probably be revoked for having no idea.


Back to work.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A refreshing, thoughtful piece about the Danish cartoons

From Slate:

"So, while in Europe and the United States the row over the cartoons has been painted as a conflict between secular democratic freedoms and arcane religious dogma, the controversy is really about neither. Instead, it's another manifestation of the ongoing ethnic and religious tensions that have been simmering beneath the surface of European society for decades..."

Depicting Mohammed

The Game is Afoot 2 (paca)

Anyone remember some movie about a young Sherlock Holmes in the mid-80s? Was it called The Young Sherlocke Holmes? Was it even a movie or a TV show? I remember that somehow the plot involved worshippers of the Egyptian god Set and sacrificing a virgin of some sort, perhaps in this huge underground cavern beneath London. So basically right in the spirit of Arthur Conan Doyle. Or am I confusing this movie with the Dragnet movie?

Anyway, the tag line from the movie is "The Game is Afoot."

The second version of the Linguistics department murder game begins tomorrow (Thursday). I was the evil killer last time. This time everyone is a killer and you take over the potential victim of whoever you knock off. Last person standing wins. Here is the web site if you want to look at silly pictures of academics and try to figure out which one I am.

Update: OK, I bothered to look up this movie. Here are some links:
http://www.iofilm.co.uk/fm/y/young_sherlock_holmes_1985.shtml - Wow this guy actually likes it. Both this one and the Wikipedia link say there are lots of Harry Potter parallels, though this one is of course about 15 years earlier. So I guess if you are a Potter nut, you should check it out or something.

Links added

So a bunch of links were added to the blog on the bottom right. Mostly friends or blogger friends of one of us along with some other web site - political and not - that the llama or paca periodically read. There are some other web sites I use a lot that aren't there. For instance, I sometimes go to a site called, let me look it up, uhhh Google. If you want me to add a link to that one too I can. And if you are not listed there, it's because you've been blacklisted pretty much. That list is exclusive to all and only the people we like. If you aren't there, we don't mind if you burn in hell for eternity.

Or that is was what I happened to think of in 10 minutes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

New music by Prince (Llama)

Everyone knows I'm a big Prince fan... no suprise there. Prince had a bit of comeback in 2004 with the album "Musicology" and the 20th anniversery of Purble Rain. He had a couple of notable TV appearances and the top selling concert tour of the year. Though "Musicology" has its moments, most Prince fans, myself included, consider it a fairly weak album; "The Rainbow Children" came out in 2002 is much, much more interesting, but the absence of a strong single and the controversial religious lyrics meant that it never found a wide audience.

Prince has always been someone that can produce music in a wide variety of formats. His music travels between funk, r & b, rock, blues, and jazz. The album generally considered his masterpiece is "Sign O' The Times", an eclectic double album that covers all of these pop styles, sometimes within the same song. This diversity in music means that he can attract many different types of music fans; his embrace of Rock on Purple Rain helped him cross over to white audiences and cemented his place in pantheon of top 80's pop stars.

Now he has a new album coming out in March called "3121". There have been 4 tracks that have made it out into the public domain so far, and everyone in the fan community is getting really stoked. It sounds like it could be a very strong album. The 4 tracks are all completely different from each other. "Te Amo Corazon" is a slow ballad set against a latin beat - it has been released to jazz radio stations. "Black Sweat" is a funk tune that uses only electronic instruments; it sounds something like a cross between early 90's west coast hip hop and mid 80's prince dance funk; it is being released to pop and r and b stations. "Beautiful Loved and Blessed" (my personal favorite) is a fairly conventional sounding mid-tempo r and b joint but with a very catchy melody and uplifting lyrics; it is a duet with his newest "protege". It is being released to adult contempory and r & b stations. Finally "Fury" is a Hendrix-esque rocker that Prince debut'd on SNL this week that has the whole net buzzing; the amount of positive talk about this song is staggering - unfortunately it's not currently a single and so it's a bit of a lost opportunity.

Leave it to Prince, though, to have 3 songs released as singles simultaneously.

Chances are none of these will become massive hits; Prince just doesn't have the charting power that he use to. If Fury is released as a single it has chance, but who knows. These songs, though, are perfect examples of why I am a fan. They are diverse, musically complex (except "Black Sweat", which is minimalistic), simultaneously sexual and spiritual. I recommend that you check them out. Probably the most accessible one is "Beautiful Loved and Blessed", so I would start there.

If you want to hear snippets of the three singles and/or download them, go to www.npgmusicclub.com. I think ITunes has them also, but I don't know if ITunes lets you hear snippets of the tunes like NPGMusicClub does.


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Betty Friedan is gone (paca)

Betty Friedan, one of the founders of the modern feminist movement, with her book The Feminine Mystique and creating NOW, has died. I learned about it on the blog BitchPhD. As one of the commenters said, I heard about Grandpa Munster's passing on the news but not Betty Friedan's. Make of that what you will. Here is a link to her obit at the L.A. Times.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Do you know the Koasati? (paca)

It is easy to think that your home, wherever it is, is totally boring with no one interesting anywhere around you. To experience new cultures and languages, you have to go far away. Of course, this is usually false. For instance, though I grew up in Northeast Louisiana, I had never heard of the Koasati, also called the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana. This is a group of about 350 Native Americans that live near Elton and Kinder, Louisiana, to the east of Lake Charles and west of Baton Rouge. Their language is Muskogean and is related to Alabama (most closely), Creek, Mikasuki, Choctaw, and Chickasaw.

Now, I have a Koasati Grammar sitting on my desk and since this blog has a lot of Louisiana readers, I thought I would introduce you a bit to their language.

My Grammar was written in 1990 and the little history section ends thus: "Prospects for the amelioration of the financial situation depend entirely on the vagaries of national politics. The community does not have the resources to be economically self-sufficient, and the local economy has been in a depression for nearly a decade. Although the prospects for the Koasati are not very promising at present, these people have shown great strength and endurance in overcoming obstacles to their survival in the past, and there is no reason why they should not overcome their present difficuties and endure as a distinct group for many years to come." (Kimball, 1990)

Well, I did a quick Google search on Koasati, and it looks like they have found a way to survive economically. It 1995 the Coushatta Casino Resort opened in Kinder, along with the Koasati Pines golf course. So, many of you may have been thinking, "yeah, I know them; they advertise the casino everywhere on I-10." If so, this is a bit about those people before they ran a gambling operation.

The Koasati were orginally from the Upper Tennessee valley, with the Yuchi and Cherokee to their East and the Alabama and Creek to their south. This is how De Soto recorded things in 1540. They don't show up in written history again for 200 years, when they now live in central Alabama. It looks like they were among a series of different refugee villages from wars to the north. The Koasati began to play a role in the Creek Confederacy and traded with the Spanish in New Orleans and Mobile. In 1795, however, the Koasati opposed a war between the Creek Confederacy and the Chickasaw. As a result, many of them moved to an area around the Mississippi and Red Rivers junction. The remaining Koasati in Alabama had their town destroyed once by Creeks, once by the U.S., and then were finally removed to Oklahoma with all the Creek nation, with which they eventually assimilated, becoming Creek.

This left the Red River group as the remaining Koasati. They soon moved towards the Sabine River in 1806 and some further west to the Trinity River in Texas. They continued good relations with the Spanish and traded in Galveston. In 1840, the Congress of the Republic of Texas granted two reservations. However, when the surveryor went out three years later, one town had been occupied by whites who refused to leave. The other town was purchased by a white man, though he allowed the Koasati to continue living there. The result was they never got a reservation. Some remaining Texas Koasati joined the Alabama on their reservation near Livingston, Texas, where they still live. The rest moved to SW Louisiana to get away.

In 1860, there were about 250 Koasati living near the present day town of Indian Village. However, the land they were living on was sold, so they homesteaded the area just north of Elton. Various things happened, from emigration to disease to land being seized, but this is where the Koasati remain today.

Here are some interesting things about their language:

1) Koasati is the only Muskogean language that retains pitch accents on words. This means that certain words are marked with a pitch. There will be some words that sound exactly the same except you speak the word with a high pitch or a low pitch. This is rare in European languages, so it is hard for us to hear, but it's not rare in the world. Swedish and Japanese are famous pitch accent languages. Even more robust use of pitch in language is called tone and is found all over the world, including Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Hausa, and various other North American, meso-American, ad African languages.

2) Koasati (and other Muskogean languages) have very complicated verb forms, putting simple things like German and Spanish to shame. There can be up to 9 different prefixes all on a verb. They also have what are often called verb grades. An example is that to make a question in Koasati, you stick a consonant in between the last and next to last syllable. A different grade is when you stick an h in the same place to indicate that two actions occur in a sequence.

3) There are seven different grammatical cases, which are markers on nouns to indicate the role the noun plays in the sentence; i.e., is it a subject, object, etc. Lots of European languages do this. One interesting Koasati case is called the Inessive and indicates the location of the object in a certain area. There is also a case (you add "p" to the end) which says this is a new topic. I haven't talked about this noun before.

4) In pronouns, they have I, you (singular), we, you (plural), but only one form to designate he, she, it, and they all at once.

5) Languages borrow words all the time. English has borrowed heavily over and over. We borrowed "wine" from the Romans; "sky" and "skirt" from the Vikings; a billion words from French with the Battle of Hastings (cardiac is French; heart is Old English); sushi and tsunami recently from Japanese; and kahuna and taboo from Hawaiian. However, in English, there is no way to tell what word was borrowed and what not. Well, no obvious way. Koasati marks borrowed words with a suffix "ka" so truck is borrowd as trukka, tea as tiyka, motorcycle as motosikilka, etc.

6) Heh-heh is an interjection indicating giggling. No problem there. But just Heh means "go on" and xe means "bad dog". (The x there is the sound from German, indicated in English with spellings like night for nicht. Also, there is a cry of surprise "ga!" but it is only used by men. Inappropriate for a woman to go "Ga!"

If anyone is still reading, here is a link to some basic words in Koasati as well as several related languages.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Irony defined (Llama)

So you know these muslims that are upset over the cartoon depicting the prophet Mohammed? And you know that one of the cartoons shows the prophet with a turban shaped like a bomb... Well, apparently these Muslims are so upset over this that they are threatening to lob mortars at miscellaneous EU buildings.

I'd like to think that if the Boston Globe ran a cartoon of Jesus in the cockpit of an F-18 launching missles at Mecca that the American public would be smart enough to understand the political point being made... but I'm not sure about that. After all we are the ones that protested Scorsese's "Passion of the Christ" because it dared to suggest that Christ had sex with Mary Magdeline.

P.S. Paca, your memory astounds me.

World's Best... Journal Article's First Line (paca)

I was looking at an old issue of the journal I work for and came across the best first line I've seen in an academic journal:

"In a single week, I met five people each claiming to be the world's worst language learner. Having legitimately claimed this title for myself long ago, it's obvious they were only exaggerating."

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Pet Peeve 319 (paca)

This is really, really important. You know those metal things that go in the drain of your sink, where you are supposed to push down and it stops the water, and you pull up a little bit and the water goes through the holes but it catches the food? I hate those things. Sometimes they work, but most of the time, they just cause trouble. The main problem is, periodically, you can't keep them from stopping up the sink. A cup touches it and it goes to stop mode. The water touches it and it goes to stop mode. I've put the silly thing on the side of the basin, not even in the drain, and it will slide down to the middle and stop the drain. Then when it isn't doing that, it periodically decides to not stop water at all. You push and adjust and shove and water keeps slipping through. What of that?

And, yes, llama, my pet peeve number was selected for you.

From 5 to 90 (paca)

Tuesday was B's 3 year physical. He did just fine, but wasn't a big fan of the TB test. When he was born he was 4 pounds and 13 ounces, which a few days later at the pediatrician put him at the 5% ranking. 95% of infants were bigger. This Tuesday, he came in at 90% on height and 80% on weight. And it always seems like he never eats.