Friday, June 29, 2007

Little Hawaii facts (paca)

1. There do not appear to be squirrels in Hawaii. Mongooses, yes.

2. It's rare to be able to go faster than 30 mph on a Hawaii road due to traffic. And yet you can rent a Ferrarri if you like. Somehow, though, saying, "I can clock 0 - 30 in 2.6 seconds," just doesn't have a ring to it.

3. The Hawaiian islands actually stretch all the way from Hawaii to Midway. The newest island is already forming to the east, south-east of Hawaii. It will be a few hundred thousand years, however, before it emerges from the ocean.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

This Just In (paca)

You know that Plato guy? He's really smart.

Mrs. Smith's apple pie? Good.

Dick Cheney? A silly man.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Eugénie Danglars (paca)

I just finished re-reading Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo again. I take it up every couple years ago and plough through the 850 pages of the unabridged version. It's a very well plotted book in that it can both be summarized in a single line "Man is falsely imprisoned and escapes to get revenge upon his accusors", such a simple plot that works almost as a myth (see The Simpsons Count of Monte Cristo take-off here), but simultaneously is enormously complex. The imprisonment, escape, and treasure are all complete by about page 150 in my edition, which leaves 700 pages for the revenge -- the part that is always completely rewritten in movie versions because it's far too involved for the 90 minutes left in screen time. Dumas wrote Monte Cristo as a serial novel in 1844, the same year as The Three Musketeers, which means he wrote some 1500 pages of two of the most famous novels of the century in the same year. Nora Roberts and Stephen King, take that.

Warning: Spoilers coming up if you've never read the book.

One of the minor characters in Monte Cristo who has always been fascinating to many is Eugénie Danglars. Her role for the story of the Count if fairly unimportant. She is the daughter of one of the people Monte Cristo is getting revenge upon, Baron Danglars. She is also engaged to the son of another revengee, the Count de Morcerf.

Again, warning: spoilers!

The major way in which Monte Cristo gets revenge upon the father-in-law-to-be of Eugénie is to expose that the man was a traitor during the Greek war for independence from Turkey, turning a Greek city over to the Turks and selling off the Pasha's daughter into slavery. When Eugénie's dad, Danglars, learns of this disgrace, he breaks off the betrothal and, in a matter of days, betrothes her to the seeming-Prince Andrea Cavalcanti. At the contract signing ceremony between Eugénie and Cavalcanti, however, Monte Cristo reveals that Cavalcanti is actually a murderer using a false identity (which Monte Cristo just happens to have provided). Cavalcanti is also her half-brother, but that is, bizarrely, never revealed as part of the revenge. From this, you would think that Eugénie's role is just to be a victim of the plots of those around her, but she feels no disgrace at all.

In many ways, Eugénie seems to live in another world from everyone else. She is quite haughty and believes in her Baron's daughter station in life, but at the same time she shares virtually no interest with anyone else. Instead, she is interested in only two things really, her art and her friend and music teacher Louise D'Armilly. She had no desire to ever be married to either man and had no choice in the matter ever. She was promised to the first guy when she was nine or so. (She's seventeen in the novel.)

Later when she is to be engaged to the false Prince, she sets a formal appointment with her father and in no uncertain terms declares that she will not marry him, thank you. Apparently, French law had changed enough in 1844 that her father cannot force her to marry, even if fathers are still arranging them, and so what proceeds is a business negotiation. Her father explains to her, charmingly, that she is not being married to the prince because he cares in any way about her. Instead, he needs the money from the Prince's family to revive his financial standing. Eugénie understands this tack, as she has little personal regard for her father either, and then negotiates how much of the principal would be left to her and how much would be invested by the father. When terms are sufficient she agrees to go forward with the business transaction, i.e, marriage. Eugénie can make this decision because she decides during the conversation she is going to escape to make her way in the world with her music, her friend, and little else. So her marriage will mean little to her anyway. Indeed after the Prince's revealing, she and Louise leave together.

For the modern world with our current interests, what is most often discussed about Eugénie is that she is apparently lesbian. If you accept the stereotypes of what being a lesbian is, then this is almost a foregone conclusion. When Eugénie is making her escape, she cuts off her hair and puts on men's clothing and pretends to be Louise's brother. Louise is delighted with how much better she looks as a man. Dumas describes Eugénie several times as masculine and lacking in "the gentler qualities of the fair sex." In short, it's a classic butch/femme relationship. However, it really isn't so straightforward if you ignore the stereotyped connection between sexual orientation and gender roles -- i.e., not everyone who dresses as the other gender is, in fact, gay and vice versa. After all, if you saw the movie Shakespeare in Love, the main character dresses as a man so that she can have a chance to act, not because she is attracted to women or even because she wishes to adopt the make gender role as a piece of identity.

Many of Dumas' descriptions of Eugénie as masculine are rather careful and go against such stereotyes as well. She is stunningly beautiful in a traditional feminine manner; she doesn't look like a man. What is masculine about her is supposed to be her determination, resolve, and interests in things that only men are supposed to be interested in. Most women in her society were supposed to take language lessons and learn a bit of music so that they could entertain and greet guests in the parlor. But Eugénie is interested not in playing a few pretty tunes but in becoming a true composer -- something only men were supposed to be. And while other women in the novel know enough Italian or English to carry a conversation and are praised for it, Eugénie is decribed as a "perfect linguist". It's like all of a sudden the 19th century Parisian housewife doesn't want to just cook hardy meals for her family but instead wants to be the world's greatest chef and celebrated for her accomplishments throughout the world. To everyone around Eugénie, this is being masculine. She doesn't back down except by her own choice; devoted to her intellect; she's forceful; and has little interest in society and its doings.

It's also hard to know precisely what Dumas truly thinks and what is his sense of humor. Much of what he writes is firmly tongue-in-cheek. Dumas writes a few chapters that take place in the various boxes and lobbies of the Paris Opera House. He patiently explains how no one shows up until the first act is almost complete and that watching the opera is simply an excuse to study the audience in their box seats as a social occasion. It is also stated that Eugénie spends all of her time at home with her music teacher Louise, but cannot be seen in public with her as Louise is almost certainly destined for life as a singer / actress, and it is not possible for someone of Eugénie's station to be seen with a future member of the theatre. What must be remembered in such discussions, however, is that Dumas was first and continued to be a playwright. He spent much of his life in theaters hanging out with actresses whom he presumably had great respect for. In other words, he is making fun of his own audiences who always show up late and talk through his plays, as well as making fun of other people's perception of actresses. And since he clearly in real life respects people just like Eugénie and associates with them, when he describes her as masculine, he might be poking as much fun at Parisian society's perceptions of a Eugénie as actually describing her.

If one has to get back to whether or not Eugénie is truly attracted to women, the answer is probably yes. There is going to be no direct way to see it, as even the hetero couples in lust address each other in full title and are formally received. It's not just a matter of going into the couple's bedroom and closing the door on the reader. Dumas never shows them in the bed room at all, even when they are in the middle of a torrid love affair. There are two possible moments when Eugénie and Louise's relationship is revealed. The seemingly obvious one is in Eugénie's last scene. Eugénie and Louise are on the first night of their escape and have checked into an inn using the brother and sister disguises and requested two beds. However, in the morning, someone running from the police (Cavalcanti in fact) falls into their room through the chimney and they are sleeping in the same bed. Even this, however, isn't an ironclad case. While today, it's pretty rare for two female friends to sleep in the same bed when there is a choice, I am not sure it was all that unusual for female friends in the 19th century. Moreover, this is not just any night. This is the first night of their new lives when they are running from the families and society, and under some emotional stress. Louise is portrayed as quite nervous and shy and you can imagine them sleeping next to each other for comfort.

The more revealing part is actually in Eugénie's very first scene in the entire book. She and her mother have gone to the opera along with the rest of society. The two women cannot attend the opera by themselves, because two women should not travel alone like this. (A good reminder for the later part of Eugénie's life where she dresses as a man to escape. Was there any other choice? As a writer, this is also stunning on Dumas' part because this was a serial novel published chapter by chapter as they were written. Did he have this so well plotted out in his head that he knew to add such a tiny hint to explain Eugenie's future actions months before that later scene was even written?) Therefore, they are accompanied by her mother's publicly known lover Monsieur Lucien Debray. Or as Dumas amusingly puts it:

"There is no gainsaying the fact that a very unfavourable construction would have been put upon the circumstance if the two women had gone without escort, while the addition of a third, in the person of her mother's admitted lover, enabled Mademoiselle Danglars to defy malice and ill-nature. One must take the world as one finds it."

The Count has just entered his box with his female companion Haydee who we all know to be the Greek / Albanian princess sold into slavery years ago. She is dazzingly beautiful and exotic and people do notice her, but everyone in the whole opera turns to see the mysterious Count who is the talk of all of society. The whole chamber murmurs with discussion of the Count. And the very first thing Eugénie says in the whole book?

"Have you noticed the remarkable beauty of the young woman, M. Lucien?" enquired Eugénie.

On the next page, the conversation continues. The participants are the Baroness Danglars, Eugenie Danglars, Lucien Debray (the baroness' lover) and Albert de Morcerf (Eugénie's betrothed who is visiting their box; he is little more attracted to Eugénie than she is to him, as he finds her cold). The baroness begins:

"Well, then," said the baroness, "if slave she be, she has all the air and manner of a princess."

"Of The Arabian Nights?"

"If you like; but tell me, my dear Lucien, what is it that constitutes a princess. Why, diamonds - and she is covered with them."

"To me she seems overloaded," observed Eugénie, "she would look far better if she wore fewer, and we would then be able to see her finely formed throat and wrists."

"See how the artist peeps out!" exclaimed Madame Danglars. "My poor Eugénie, you must conceal your passion for the fine arts." (Dumas must have been giggling continuously writing this. Fine arts, yeah, that's it.)

"I admire all that is beautiful," returned the young lady.

"What do you think of the count?" enquired Debray; "he is not much amiss, according to my idea of good looks."

"The count?" repeated Eugénie, as though it had not occurred to her to observe him sooner; "the count? - oh he is so dreadfully pale."

"I quite agree with you," said Morcerf; "and the secret of that very pallor is what we are here to find out. The Countess G- insists upon it that he is a vampire."

"Then the Countess G- has returned to Paris, has she?" asked the baroness.

"Is that she, mamma?" asked Eugénie, "almost opposite to us, with that profusion of beautiful light hair?"

Well, somehow this essay became a detective story about Eugénie's sexuality, though that isn't what I intended to write. She's a fascinating character and I've always intended to tell her story. One candidate novel is clear. What happens to Eugénie and Louise after they abandon society for a life in the arts? The other idea is to write Eugénie's story during the events of the Monte Cristo novel, as sort of a parallel novel. Go, public domain! Despite the space I have devoted to her here, Eugénie probably occupies not more than 30 pages, at most, of the 850 page tome that Dumas wrote. Even if I never get to it, she remains a little jewel of a character hidden within this classic adventure novel from 1844.

As a final note, if you decide to read an abridged version, you will find Eugénie in it, but much of this material will likely be absent as it is not critical to the Count's story. I also have read that many of her parts were often cut out of other translations precisely because of the issues I've been talking about which didn't go over well with Victorian England. I purchased the original French in a Paris bookshop several years ago, but I haven't spent the effort yet to attempt the reading of it. I would guess I will get a completely new take from it once again.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Doesn't this just warm your heart? (Llama)

He's back!

Apparently this is hysterically funny (paca)

Hysterically funny to a 4 year old that is.

I and B are doing the bath thing. I hold up my little plastic cup and say, "hot water, please."

B pours bath water from his little plastic tea pot into the cup.

"Tea bag, please."

B moves his hand up and down above the cup as if steeping a tea bag.

"Lemon, please."

B pours some more water in.

"Honey, please."

B pour a bit more water in.

I blow gently over the cup as if trying to cool the hot tea down. Then, just before putting it to my lips, I toss it down with a disgusted look on my face and yell, "Ewwww, it's bath water!!"


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Flying Dude and Dudette (paca)

I like to do this whenever I finish homework. In fact, this is me over Mauna Loa. I just don't like to admit it very often. Or that my name is really Loic Jean.

And here's one of someone doing a first skydive over Hawaii. I'm not sure which isle. It seems a great view of a first time. She is attached to the professional the whole time it seems. And then there seems to be a small chute that triggers immediately with a larger chute at the end. It's kinda long, but well done. I always have thought that if I was going to risk my life for a flying thrill I'd rather sky dive than bungie jump.

So I'll get right on this....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Working hard or hardly working?

-e had a link to this on her blog. Upon second viewing, I realized that katze might enjoy this video, considering some of her posts regarding noisy, annoying cubicle neighbors, Ethel and Myrtle. Warning: Has naugty bad words in it said with delight and much volume.

You are boring me. - YouTube video

The Geneology Game (paca)

Does anyone have experience with all of the online geneology web sites? I was listening to NPR this morning, and they were talking to, which is coordinating DNA home kit tests for people. This reminded my of a project I've always intended to do but never gotten around to.

My paternal grandmother was an amateur geneologist who spent years and years researching both my grandfather's paternal line as well as her own. The results was two self-published 4 volume sets -- yes, 4 volumes each -- of family history. I've always guessed that there was some other person who would find all of her work as a treasure trove of geneology. If they find one of us, then we can supply them two three hundred year old family trees and fill out an entire branch for them.

My understanding is that geneology has moved online to a great degree, which makes sense with its web design and ability to contact people hundreds of miles away. My intended but never done project then was to put at least the family trees she's built online in one of the geneology web databases where others might find them. Has anyone gotten into this yet?

I just created an account on, which pretends it is free until you want to, you know, do anything. It looks like you are typing in your name and hitting search. In fact, you are filling out an account form, and when you want to actually see a match, it starts telling you how much a membership costs. And it ain't cheap. It's basically $20 - $30 a month and up, which makes it around $300 a year. However, the tools provided do seem good.

Has anyone yet used one of these sites? What are good ones? Are there great free sites I should use first? $300 a year is a bit steep. Also for the family members reading, i.e., mom and sis, do you want to participate? We could perhaps create a single account and then all upload the family stuff we know. Sis, do you have the books with you? Mine are in a warehouse in the Boro and weren't shipped to Hawaii. Mom, maybe you can fill in a lot of your side? I actually can't supply complete information about all my great grandparents on any side. I know Uncle J has done a fair amount of this work.

For people interested in trivia, the llama and I are actually distant distant cousins. We share a great great great grandfather or something like that. He married twice. One grandma produced my dad eventually; and the other produced the llama's mom eventually. So actually perhaps the llama or his family (sr, "mom", p), maybe we all need to go in. I wonder if there are family accounts....


UPDATE: OK, I just typed in maternal grandad's name and, voila, someone has filled in his parents and up with possibly five generations on top. I wonder who? Uncle J? I can't find out more. When I click, it's pay time.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Llama Land

Nothing new in the BKK...

The convicts have been running the prison as of late... the two bosses have been out of the country for over a month, which means that I and the interns have been working independently. Boss 1 finally returned last weekend, but he's off again already, this time to the Philippines. He does like to travel. Boss 2, meanwhile, returns this weekend. It'll be good to have him back in the office... he's positive presence.

My Cambodia and Bangladesh projects are, while not resolved, way past the point where I have a significant amount of work to do on a daily basis. I'm doing updates on the code, and giving advice periodically. But it's really time for me to get something new going. I mentioned this to Boss 1, he says we'll talk about it. But we haven't yet. Hopefully when he gets back. Otherwise, I should have plenty of extra time for blogging!

BKK is hot. Also, it's hot. And did I mention hot? Maybe it's time to take a vacation to... oh, I don't know... Siberia.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Move to Hawaii! (paca)

I got an email today for some rental apartments in Hawaii that included gems like:
Waikiki studio apartment - 1200
1 bed / 1 bath apt on ZZZ Heights, no parking - 1500.

Ah, lovely.

However, there was also a 3 bedroom house on ZZZ Heights for 2900. Now 2900 is a wee bit out of the prince range for us, which now brings me to suggest that...

yes, dear reader, you should move to Hawaii. Only required for a year or two. Move to Hawaii and split the rent with a charming young family. There's only three of us.

Why would I want to do that? you may ask. For 1450 where I am I can pay the mortgage on my own 3 bedroom home that I own myself. What offer can you make to beat that? The answer of course is that I can offer:


Go to the beach on Christmas; eat piles of sushi; visit the rainforest; learn the hula.

It's time for an adventure in your life don't you think? Yes, you do think. I can feel it in the monitor vibes. You want to spend time in Hawaii. You want to share a small house with three other people. It'll be like college without the classes (except for me where it's like college with the classes).

All the cool people are doing it... Admit it. It's intriguing. If so, just hit that little comment button. You can do it. Doesn't it look enticing? Yes, it does. One little click....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The coolest parade float ever (paca)

I hope I didn't post pics of this before a couple years ago. If I did, well, you can just pretend that I'm one of those people whose memory is going and every time you come to his house, he tells you the same stories over and over. With no further ado:

Our very first year here, way back in 2004 or so, the Honolulu Festival, which is a festival to get Japanese tourists to come to Hawaii, had the coolest float ever in the history of parade floats. Rose Bowl parade - nothing. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and 40 foot balloons - embarassing. As you can see it's a large Japanese dragon.

Up closer, it is a large cart on wheels that must take 30 people to push. As you can see, it is decorated with lanterns and a gigantic dragon head on the front.

On top of the structure are these guys, and at various times on the route, they light up some sort of sparkler type firework, every body launches into a really cool chant, and boom, you get this.

And here it comes down the street. Run away!

They've had some cool things in the years since - a huge Taiko drum ensemble and a gigantic dragon balloon - but they haven't topped this one yet. Unfortunately, the festival's contract with the Japanese group that does this ran out that very first year, so we may not see it again. It's good we didn't come in 2005 then.

Stolen Meme (paca)

I grabbed this from GiftieEtc and -e.

1. Were you named after anyone? Nope. I'm all imagination, baby. (Mom, am I right?)
2. When was the last time you cried? What?! Me, a real man, cry? Yeah, right.... Hm. Sometimes with a dream. A movie can do it. The last exact memory of it is this Dolly Parton tune Down from Dover.
3. Do you like your handwriting? It's really, really bad. Pretty much illegible in cursive.
4. What is your favorite lunch meat? Ma-ma-ma-myyy bologna.
5. Do you have kids? one boy
6. If you were another person would you be friends with you? Probably not, because the original me doesn't go out much and so I wouldn't know him very well. Besides he'd use too much sarcasm in an attempt at humor. I'm starting to hate myself!
7. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Uh, nooooo.
8. Do you still have your tonsils? Yes.
9. Do you bungee jump? No thanks.
10. What is your favorite cereal? Let's go with Peanut Butter Capn Crunch.
11. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? Most of my shoes do not have laces, but I just saw my running shoes which are indeed tied.
12. Do you think you are strong? Compared to adult men?
13. What is your favorite ice cream? Used to be Pecans and Praline. I'm partial to chocolate with walnuts and cookie dough mix-ins.
14. What is the first thing you notice about people? Whether or not I'm about to run into them.
15. Red or pink? I guess red.
16. What is the least favorite thing about yourself? Not a big fan of not being a big fan of confrontation (particularly with large fans).
17. Who do you miss the most? My family's pretty cool.
18. Do you want everyone to send this back to you? I don't really get this question. Oh. Do I want them to do this form, too, and then let me know? Uhhh. I'd prefer a link to it on their own blog.
19. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Hunter green shorts, no shoes, but they would be brown sandals.
20. What was the last thing you ate? The vegie mini plate from the Indian food stand across campus.
21. What are you listening to right now? Guys using a nail gun, redoing the floor outside my office.
22. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Burnt Sienna. No, Aquamarine. No, Mahogany!
23. Favorite smells? food...? Uh, flowers. Let me check my smell list. No, not boiled asparagus. Let's go with bread.
24. Who was the last person you talked to on the phone? Very likely, N.
25. Do you like the person who sent this to you? No one sent it to me. I like to thrust myself into places I am unwanted. But I like both -e and K in their internet personae just fine.
26. Favorite sports to watch? Titans football.
27. Hair color? Brown/dirty blonde, but getting bits of gray.
28. Eye Color? Hazel
29. Do you wear contacts? No.
30. Favorite food? Chicken n dumplins.
31. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings.
32. Last movie you watched? Surfs Up. Gnarly penguiroonies, dude.
33. What color shirt are you wearing? Who says I'm wearing anything, baby? Rowr. Um, navy blue.
34. Summer or winter? Winter. Of course, in Hawaii, there's a 10 degree difference.
35. Hugs or kisses? Kisses.
36. Favorite dessert? Cheese cake.
37. Most likely to respond? Whoever gets in the mood.
38. Least likely to respond? Llama (aha! threw down the gauntlet; did I not?)
39. What book are you reading now? Rereading parts of Modes of Thought by Alfred North Whitehead (1937 philo).
40. What is on your mouse pad? no mouse pad.
41. What did you watch on T.V. last night? nada. right, N? B watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, so I saw some of it too.
42. Favorite sound? Erik Satie's Gymnopedie No. 1, I choose you.
43. Rolling Stones or Beatles? When you start me up, I often listen to the Beatles, and I never stop, never stop, never stop.
44. What is the farthest you have been from home? Jakarta, Indonesia.
45. Do you have a special talent? No.
46. Where were you born? Winnsboro, Louisiana
47. Whose answers are you looking forward to getting back? N.
48. What time is it now? 1:00 p.m.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bad girls, talkin' bout those bad, bad girls (paca)

That's a Donna Summers thing, by the way. I think. Isn't it?

Conversation at dinner tonight.

Paca: Sha la la la la, my oh my, you know you want to Kiss the Girl.

B: What's that?

Paca: Mermaid.

B: Kiss the bad girls.

Paca: The bad girls?

B: Yeah.

Paca: Don't you want to kiss the good girls?

B: No, kiss the bad girls.

Paca: Huh.

B: Bad girls, police come and take them away. Take them to jail.

Paca: So you are gonna have to kiss them them before they go to jail.

B: Yeah.

I'm going to have to really watch this guy, aren't I?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paca's Greatest Hits (paca)

I just had a guest post over on The Moderate Voice. It's a fairly well-traveled blog, and so it's likely that a number of visitors will come by. To the TMV visitors, welcome. If you browse down, you will quickly see that this is not a political blog, though I do hit social and political items periodically. Feel free to scroll down past the copy of the post on TMV and see what else is here. If you do, you will discover that this is a team blog by myself and my cohort, killer llama. Each post is labeled as such. I've also decided to take this opportunity to update my "Greatest Hits" blog entry, where I catalog some of my favorite posts. And so here it is.

Goatskin Pants Theme Song!!

Paca does linguistics and psych

The Language Instinct
English as official language debate
The Koasati language of Louisiana
old languages
Not a southerner anymore

Paca tries humor

Fish in the sea
The mighty alpaca
Some Guess the Plots at EE
A lot more EE continuations
working for the consulate
whale calving
The probability of love
You can call me P
Aim high

Paca Gets Philosophical

What the world is not
Chastity and Choice
Politics and the Personal
Science, i, and God
Reason and spirituality
Intelligence and music
Oneness, Christ, and Plato
What is the moral context?
Instrumentalism - stem cells, animal cruelty, and the purpose of life all in one post

Get to Know Paca – the Life, the Pictures

The Autobiography
Pictures over 17 years
Meme of Threes
My life at boarding school
Some family pics
Life snapshot meme
Pic of the linguistics crew
shy yet sociable
remembering my grandparents


Flatbreads Inc.
Cajun Seoul
Mandoo recipe with pics
a green curry
Baking Bread
Mushroom spinach omelettes
Open-face Strawberry Pie

Paca's Social and Political Stuff

social programs and overwhelming force
Principle of Foreseeable Effects
immigration and owning the earth
Are children a choice?
Problems with world peace
My same sex marriage debate
gigantic TMV same sex marriage debate
Couples and adoption
neurology and sexual desire
Downhome economic theory
Terrorism in America
Campaigning for Bill Richardson
The New Presidency - Tag Team
Yet another take on illegal immigration
Cultural Relativity

Writing and Book Ideas

Paca's EE continuations
Some Guess the plots over at EE
Love letter to EE
Two months of pregnancy
Paca and romance
Which novel this summer?
A character study I did
Hawaiian Hottie Handbook
I don't read
Bad Poetry
Yet more book ideas
Awful wedding proposal
Yippee, fiction is subjective
A quick amusing scene in a bar.
I am not your Father
Script Frenzy

Paca's Current Life (over the life of this blog)

my first earthquake
Notices from child care
Pirate Pooh - Halloween 2006
Bath time for a three year old
Trip to the store for a 4 year old
Trip to Montreal
Happy B-day to me
2005 Summer Plans
Me and the Sisa Kids
Weight change report
Biking and humor
Teaching at Sisa
Honolululu Festival Pics
*B at 3.5
Wednesday, October 4
Trip over to the Big Isle 1 2 3 4
Visiting Oahu's Valley of the Temples
Lost dog
Neighbors gone wild

Music stuff (some links, some essays)
Unfortunately, many of these are based on YouTube links many of which are becoming obsolete.

Van Morrison
Cui Jian morphing into traditional Chinese instruments
Michael Nesmith
Kool & the Gang - Summer Madness
80s Hair Rock
Puffy Amiyumi 1 2 3 4
James Brown and old writing
Nina Simone, Wilson Pickett, and a little EE. Also, a zombie father of Jesus.
Charles Smith - Kool and the Gang guitarist - passes on
Puffy Amiyumi adoration
Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra

Paca's Random

Happy Mother's Day
Wondering out loud about the nature of ethnicity and specifically international adoption
Confessing your feelings
Celebration of Welly Yang
Tap dancing
My fave virus videos
King of the Grottoes
Katrina coming
Bounty Buff
Bad Reporting
Guns in the home
Arigorizumu Taiso!
But I am cool, I am
How to pretend to win a blog debate

Aspects of Cultural Relativity (paca)

I wrote this as a possible guest blogger on The Moderate Voice political blog, but I have no idea if they will want it. Anyway, I decided to post it here as well. It will be of interest if you like essays on ethics.

Why Choose "Cultural Relativity"?

This post was inspired by a couple recent ones from Marc and Michael, but it isn't particularly in opposition to or support of their posts. Each of them happened to bring up the notion of cultural relativity in ethics, and this inspired me to reflect on the concept a bit. Generally speaking, cultural relativity is the idea that morals are relative to a specific culture, and therefore not real or true. The sun is real. It is independent of us and it would be there if we had never existed. However, according to the common concept of cultural relativity, morality, right and wrong, are phenomena of cultures that have no independent existence. We don't say the sun exists only relative to something else. It's there. But not so, say the cultural relativists, about morals. There is no independent right and wrong.

Of course, hundreds of articles and volumes have been devoted to these notions over hundreds of years. I've deliberately kept it non-academic, hoping my own thoughts would be of interest. I'd enjoy any feedback.

My interest in this post is in why anyone would ever want to be a "cultural relativist"? Why would someone declare a person or an action wrong and then turn around and refuse to declare something in another culture or society as wrong? Typically, when this occurs, a charge of cultural or moral relativity is levelled. Action X is bad for Culture X but Action X is okay for Culture Y, so clearly the person doesn't really believe in real objective right and wrong at all. Why would so many people want to take such a seemingly inconsistent position or declare that morality is not real? As always, there are many factors at play. I'm going to list a few good and bad reasons to adopt a stance of cultural relativity, as it is defined in each section. The good ones are, of course, the ones that I think are legit and intriguing.

Bad Reason 1: It's okay for the good guys. The person wants to justify the actions of those with whom they sympathize and, at least subconsciously, they don't care how inconsistent they are as long as the people they care for are treated well. This reason is quite common, but in most versions isn't particularly compelling if we are trying to figure out how to behave. I will let this one go. However it's worth noting that the motive for inconsistency is sometimes a good one -- to help others.

Negative Reason 2: There is no right or wrong. This is what a cultural relativist is usually assumed to believe. The person doesn't believe in right or wrong at all; morality is like hemlines. They go up; they go down; and there's no particular reason why one is better than the other. A good number of people will argue for this, but it isn't clear how much this belief actually changes their lives and the actions they take. You can find people breaking the bounds of conventional morality espousing this, and find people who are as conventional as they come. One problem is that people are as attached to their culture as they are to specific moral beliefs. Again, this is the popular conception of cultural relativity as spelled out earlier, and I agree with the critics if this were the only justification. I at least want to say that honesty really is good and slavery bad, and that isn't just something we all pretend together. (Gross simplification, I'm aware.)

Neutral Reason: Humility. I am personally a big fan of humility, and there are good reasons to exercise humility in our judgments of others and their cultures. After all, history is filled with ethnocentric morality as an excuse or a reason to dominate others. At the same time, humility by itself isn't a complete moral philosophy. We have to act at some point and must make the best moral guess we can.

Positive Reason 1: There is more than one right way to live. Even saints aren't the same. Mother Theresa, the Buddha, St. Peter, Moses, and Dogen all acted differently from one another. Of course, these people shared many, many moral principles, but the fact remains that they were also different in the way they led their moral lives. For one, spiritual practice was the focus; for another, feeding the hungry; for another, spreading the truth. How do you handle this? (You don't have to choose people from different religious traditions, which I did simply to incorporate moral icons of various readers. Even if you believe that a single religious doctrine is correct, you still have saints, rabbis, and monks who differed from one another and are still moral examples.) One reaction to this diversity is to declare that there is in fact a single way that all people should live, and that differences between people, even moral saints, are symptoms of our failings. In this frame, people just cannot meet that single standard (perhaps due to original sin) and we all fail in different ways. This is certainly a possible position, but it runs the risk of making our individuality, our uniqueness, essentially a failure. Instead of celebrating the different lives that people lead, and their different characters, we end up arguing that humans just aren't wise or strong enough to be identical. In the Garden of Eden, then, we are all the same. But no one hopes for this, do they? If not, we have to allow for the possibility that people could lead moral lives in very different ways, choosing different values and goods for themselves. But perhaps due to our individuality, these different moral lives are truly the best ethical way for us as unique people to live. This is clearly a perilous road to take. Is it possible that one good person could be more courageous than an equally good person? How about more honest? The dangers are obvious, and yet I have never found a religious or ethical tradition that doesn't tacitly believe people will naturally seek different values as the focus of their lives. The best moral life for a unique person should, instead, be the perfect fit for that person's natural character. One size does not fit all.

If we allow that two people can have different morally decent, ideal ways for each to live, then should we not allow the same thing of two cultures? If not, are we essentially saying that in a perfect world there would only be one moral culture to which we would all adhere? If so, then the moral lives encouraged by each culture differ and are in this sense "relative".

Positive Reason 2: Morality is a system, not a list. Most people agree about what the basic virtues are: Honesty, dignity, respect, freedom, individuality, humility, courage, etc. It's not that easy to find someone who actually thinks that honesty is always bad at all times. Where we disagree most often is how to rank these various virtues when they come into conflict. Most Western Europeans and Americans value honesty very highly, and anyone who were to lie to a respected individual just to be in agreement typically comes off as a brown noser who will do anything to stay in the good graces of the powerful. Other societies rank more highly paying respect to other people and their societal roles, and if one has to lie every once in a while to treat others decently, well, so be it. A white lie. Even if you ignore cross-cultural currents, essentially every moral decision depends on how to make our various values work together. Now the key for this essay is that one thing a culture does is harmonize the various virtues into a way of life. A culture does it in fits and starts and contradictions, but turning a list of virtues into a life is one of the great functions of cultural life. This way of life that, when working well, brings out the better sides of people, only emerges from putting all the virtues together in an tangled knot with their own rankings and compatibilities. If you take one virtue out of the system by itself, it could be a complete moral failure, but when incorporated back into the whole culture, it does work. Outside of a culture, saying certain words or wearing certain clothing means nothing or can even be slightly harmful. But inside the culture, as part of the entire system, such items can become part of an expression of human dignity. If morals were a list, then one could easily check that everyone is following them. Instead, they are an interconnected system, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In short, if we have moral disagreements due to the different rankings of agreed upon virtues, and the rankings only work when they are part of an entire culture, then, straight up objective morality is, in this specific sense, relative to a culture and cannot be wantonly transplanted from one society to another. Real, objective morals then are indeed relative to culture in that they often only function effectively as part of a whole and because there might truly be more than one way to live (more than one way to worship God, more than one path to Eglightenment, etc.)

This post opens up more questions than it solves. One question is how to keep the "positive reasons" from falling into morality-as-random-and-baseless. But of course, there's the opposite perspective; i.e., people might be attempting to express the positive reasons for relativity when they are being wrongly accused of the negative ones. There's also the gigantic question of deciding when a culture's moral rankings and the form of life they create are failing its people and not bringing out their better natures. However, in the same way that it isn't always clear when to be honest and when to lie and yet we still think honesty is a virtue, we can acknowledge that it isn't always clear when to leave other cultures alone and when to interfere and yet still entertain the notion that, objectively speaking, morals might be "relative". Indeed, if morality is most concerned with creating virtuous people (the Aristotlean tradition of ethics) then insisting that virtues be independent of people and cultures can cause harm. A morality independent of the human context risks making good people into mirror images of one another and destroying the systemic manner in which virtues must fit together into a way of living your life. A set of virtues independent of humans fails to effect a transformation in our souls, which is its very purpose.

people and women (paca)

I know I'm not the first person to notice this, but notice it I did.

When something awful happens to the men in a nation, it is described as happening to the entire people. When something awful happens to the women in a nation, it happens to women.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

What it's like to have a four year old 2 (paca)

I previously wrote up a little dialogue between myself and B about his bath time. to give the single folks an idea what it's like having a child. Here is another snippet from my life.

The players? Paca, wonder-dad, alpha male extraordinaire, silly man with a blog. B, 4 year old, wonder-son, true master of the household, cute little boy with a Clifford dog.

Scene. Long's Drugs. (There is essentially only one drugstore in Hawaii - Long's. No Eckerds, no CVS, not even a Walgreens. Long's appears to be a California chain.) In the parking lot. Night.

PACA and B emerge from their golden Echo and start towards the entrance.

Paca: We are looking for medicine for a headache.

B: Oh-no. Belt fell down!

B is wearing an adult belt that is far, far, far too large for him. It's been wrapped around him twice and then wrapped a couple times around itself. But the belt has fallen down. Paca lifts it back up and wraps it around the boy again.

Paca: There you go.

B: (beaming) I wear a belt like you! Like Daddy!

Paca: (beaming too): Yes, you are. Just like your daddy.

B: B is like daddy! I'm big now too!

Paca: (smiling, ahh, this is what it's like to be a dad; best thing ever) Yes, you are getting so big. Let's go inside.

Scene 2. Inside a large commercial drug store. Night but all is brightly lit with flourescents. Elevator music plays softly.

Paca: I think the headache medicine is over here.

B: Oh no! Belt fell down!

Paca: (chuckling) Oh no! Let's fix it. (pulls belt back up and wraps around again)

B; Thank you.

Paca: You're welcome.

B: I'm big!

Paca: That's right. (Paca and B move down an aisle a couple steps.)

B: Oh no! Belt fell down.

Paca bends down examining it; tries to pull it tighter, wraps it around itself three times.

Paca: There you go.

Paca and B take a couple more steps.

B: What's this?

Paca: Macadamia Nuts. Yummy.

B: Buy some.

Paca: No, not today.

B: Chocolate ones.

Paca: Not today. We just need to buy medicine today.

B: Oh no! Belt fell down!

Paca: (sighing) Yes, it did. Let me fix it again. (tries to fix it, but it's the same thing as last time.) C'mon, let's go.

Paca and B proceed to the medicine aisle and Paca grabs some ibuprofin.

Paca: Here we go.

B: Medicine make you better.

Paca: I hope so.

B: And batteries and an ice pack. You need new batteries.

Paca: Yep. Let's go pay the money.

B: Oh no! Belt fell down!

Paca: Why don't we just take it off for now?

B: No, I'm big like you.

Paca: I know, yes, you are. I just want to leave the store some time today.

B: It's night.

Paca: I don't think it was when we put that belt on.

B: Fix it.

Paca: I've tried. It's just too big for you.

B: I'm like Daddy.

Paca bends over and fixes the belt yet again.

B: Yay, fixed.

Paca: Yep. Let's go pay the money.

(6 more steps.)

B: Oh no!

Paca: Look, the belt's just too big. You can't wear it right now. You can wear it at home.

B: Fix it.

Paca: I've tried. It's just not going to stay up and we have to get to the front of the store. (explaining with false patience) Let's just take it off now and go pay the money.

B: No.

Paca: OK, fine. No, actually, no, it doesn't work. You can't walk with a belt around your ankles. I'm taking it off.

B: That's not nice.

Paca: I know. I'm the evil troll under the bridge. (thinking, no, this is what it's like being a dad.)

B: What's that?

Paca: Pine Sol.

B: For drinking.

Paca: I'm thinking about it suddenly. I mean, no, not for drinking.

B: You're a troll.

Paca picks up B with the belt dangling from him.

Paca: Totally troll here.

B: Who's that triptrapping over my bridge?

Paca: It's me, tiny goat....

(Ok, ok, i took a couple liberties in telling this story.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Llama goes to Hua Hin (Llama)

I visited Hua Hin this past weekend. I left Saturday morning about 10:00. I took a van from "Victory Monument", one of the two large public monuments in the city. The fare cost about 180 baht (5.5 dollars). Hiring a private van or car would have run about 1,000 to 1,200 baht, so I was happy to find a more affordable alternative.

I've been to Hua Hin several times now. It's a nice little beach resort that is only 2 1/2 - 3 hours away from Bangkok by car. The alternative, if you want the beach, is to go to Pattaya. Pattaya is more developed and filled with the sex trade. Hua Hin is much more quiet, although it has grown in popularity greatly over the past few years.

This time I spent very little time at the actual beach... which was fine because the one or two hours I was there were very uncomfortable. It was so, so hot. And now that I have little hair on my head, it is easy for me to get sunburned. I managed to get a nice tan but avoided most of the pain.

I spent most all of Saturday afternoon at a mall there. I bought some new sandals and saw a movie. The sandals are rubbing my feet now and causing blisters... I have to go through this every time I get a new pair. Have to develop callouses where the straps contact my foot. In the meantime its just grin and bear it. But the sandals are Timberlands and weren't cheap, so hopefully they will last a while. I tend to keep these things for a long time... 3, 4 years at a minimum!

The movie I saw was 28 Weeks Later. It was good fun, but not as nice as 28 Days Later. The American military was portrayed as a giant robotic killing machine, which seems a little unbelievable. I think there is a story to be told about how well meaning people can end up committing horrible atrocities... but this wasn't it. Nonetheless, it was easy to care for the protagonists and the action was fairly well executed, even if the director did cheat too much by using dim lighting and extreme closeups to ratchet up tension. In short, I enjoyed it but can't recommend it.

Saturday night was spent eating some very questionable food. It was 10:00 PM by the time I was able to look for food, and by then most places were closed. The only one that was open was ... less than ideal. But beggars can't be choosers, right? Right.

I returned yesterday. Just one night in Hua Hin. It took about 3 hours to get from BKK to Hua Hin, but about 6 to get back. A large chunk of that was spent waiting at the pickup location for the van, and then traffic coming into Bangkok was heavy, as expected.

My finger is pretty much healed now, which is a relief. It even looks fairly healthy today, though dead skin is peeling off and there's still some scabs where they removed the nail. But it doesn't look nearly as disgusting as it did just a couple of days ago.

And that's that!


Friday, June 08, 2007

How to pretend to win a blog debate (paca)

I have just picked up on a neat little trick in blog debate technique that allows one to pretend to successfully argue a point, while not in fact arguing the point much at all. The trick is to wait for the crazy guy to show up and then latch on to him as the only opposing point being made. The form is this:

Step 1: Write a blog post about some topic that is plausible but might have some genuine flaws. It always helps to pretend that what you are saying is the only reasonable viewpoint and drop hints that only freaks would disagree.

Step 2: Let the comments come in, but don't answer any of the legitimate criticisms of your post. After all, if your blog is heavily traveled enough, a crazy guy will show up eventually.

Step 3: Wait. This can be the most difficult step. You might be tempted to respond to reasonable people. Don't. Down that path lies actual discussion, and there's a chance you might have to change your view. No one wants that. Your goal is to prove yourself right by making the other side seem completely bonkers.

Step 4: There it is! The crazy comment! Sieze on it. Now, the key here is not to simply point out the obvious problems with crazy guy's opinion. The objective is to pretend that crazy guy is the only point of view other than your own. If you can convince yourself of this, then you get to think that you are engaging in conversation and genuinely justifying your points, when in actuality you are ignoring every point you can't handle and engaging with no one.

Step 5: Celebrate the reasonableness of your opinion and wonder why you participate in blog discussions at all since only crazy people disagree.

Here's a made-up example.

Blog post: Why There is No God by Blogger Extraordinaire
Paragraph about the incompatibility of omnipotence and evil; perhaps a paragraph about the lack of evidence and the scientific method; perhaps one about solving a mystery with a mystery; etc. (i.e., plausible points). Obligatory paragraph of disdain for people who disagree, such as hinting that anyone who does believe in God is weak-minded and needs comfort.

Comment 1. Blogger, you mention the problem of evil, but this has been discussed several times before and there are answers to each of your points. Here's a link dealing with point 1. Here's a link dealing with Point 2.

Comment 2. I find it interesting, Blogger, that you believe that the scientific method doesn't allow for God, and yet almost all the great mathmaticians and scientists in history in fact believed in God, from Newton to Leibniz to Einstein to Darwin (I think) to Pascal and Descartes.

Comment 3. You say that God is a mystery, but it's only a mystery because you've never bothered to learn theology which in fact tries to handle this very point....

(Now, if Blogger Exraordinaire was actually interested in discussion to see if he can handle these objections, he might try to respond to comments 1, 2, or 3. Don't do it. One of you may learn something and your goal is victory. The crazy guy will show up.)

Comment 4. All atheists are going to hell. I hope you burn, blogger, for eternity. And you can take all your secular progressive moonbat friends with you. It was revealed in the lost scriptures of BorgleBorgle that....


Blogger Extraordinaire Comments: I think it indicates something when the response to my well-argued post is to hope that I die and rot in hell. Did you even bother to read it? It says something about religious belief and....

Success!! You've just won! Only crazy people disagree! Your beliefs go unchallenged in any substantive way and you can sleep comfortably knowing that the only positions are yours or the weirdo's. Nicely done. If you do this regularly, the people who wrote comments 1, 2, and 3 will eventually wander off.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The alpha male revealed! (paca)

Those of you who know me from romance-related discussions know that I periodically go off about the unfathomable mystery of why women like "alpha males" in romance novels. Now, I'm not going to try to define the definitive uhhh definition of the definite alpha male. Definitely not.

... verb, check. adjective, check. noun, adjective again, adverb, check. preposition, not possible. Interjection? Definitely!

sorry, I got lost in my own little part of speech game. Where was I? Oh, alpha males. Well, a classic romance hero is a duke, CEO, sheik, pirate captain, vampire lord. He's covered in muscles and he takes charge of anything and everything. None of those items are necessarily bad. But he's almost always arrogant as well. Often it's supposed to be "confident" but it's usually arrogant in reality.

I hate those guys, in real life and in fiction. I sorta went off on this when I discussed the erotic romance I read. (I've now read two, 'cause I read one of December's as well.) What's the charm in arrogance?

A lot of reasons have come up to explain the appeal. Here are a couple discussions:
One at Romancing the Blog
One at Teach Me Tonight

I've had my own pet theories, one or two of which you will find buried in the comments to the linked posts. But I now have a better and more basic insight than my former folk psychology.

When I normally write fiction, the heroes and heroines are typically ideal versions of what I find most attractive. I like to have characters who are in fact amazing, brilliant, beautiful, and strong, but those qualities are often not immediately seen by the world at large, and even more often they are not seen by the person themselves. They aren't weak or lack self-esteem. They just don't realize quite how smart or wonderful they are. I love genuine humility paired with genuine achievement. This fantasy of hidden wonders even extends to my ideas of a dream home. I often imagine a little house next to a hill, which looks like a normal small 2 or 3 bedroom simple home. However, the house in reality extends into the hill, underground, wherever, and includes swimming pools, 4 story libraries, helicopter pads, etc. In other words, I like to dream of the same silly gigantic things that others do, but I like the idea of no one knowing about it. I hate "flaunt". You can place whatever psychological interpretation you want on this, but notice this is almost always the opposite of the alpha hero, who is a leader of men and knows it (and sometimes is conflicted about it, but he knows he is worthy of it (ok, i'm simplifying but I have to get to my point eventually)).

So that's my normal hero / heroine. For the fun of it, I've started a new story where the dialog is inspired by Raymond Chandler type novels, a la The Maltese Falcon, just because it's funny to write that stuff. And my typical heroine doesn't talk like that, so I've ended up creating an alpha heroine as the protagonist. She thinks highly of herself - her attractiveness, her brain, everything pretty much. She busts into a room and takes charge and knows she should. Oh, she's not mean. But she certainly is arrogant. And, I've discovered that this time I don't mind.

Shouldn't I?

Apparently, it's as simple as being someone who's attracted to women, and not men. Since in my head, this heroine is wonderfully sexy, I can consciously stick in character flaws like arrogance and they don't bother me at all. It's kind of fun. It's fun to write someone who struts around and takes what she wants and expects others to fall for her with barely a nod. These are traits I would never accept from an alpha male. After all, there, I'm not attracted to him, so I have to like the guy for being a great guy on other merits.

So that's my insight. Alpha males populate romance fiction because straight women find men attractive and don't experience the heroes the same way a straight guy does. Genius, I know.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Paca explains the world (paca)

So B is 4 and that means that he now asks questions. He does ask the evil "why" a little, but not all that often and one doesn't need that word to stump a parent. A simple "what" will do the trick when used with the right object. Your job as reader is to tell me how I'm doing with my answers, should it take your fancy.

On the way home from the grocery store tonight in the car, he pointed at someone walking on the street and made a comment. I decided to add in, "he's a seurity guard." You know, one has to do vocab building exercises frequently so that he's ready to score at least 650 on the PKAT. Preliminary Kindergarten Achievement Test.

"What's security guard?"

Hmm... how to explain for a 4 year old. "He watches buildings and makes sure bad people don't get in."

"Keep the bad people out."


B then points at people walking down the main drag in Waikiki. "Those are bad people."

He has a point because they aren't inside, so it's very possible they are being kept out by the security guard, which means they are bad. (If Agent Kelly is still stopping by here, yep, this is the logical fallacy of affirming the consquent, but since adults do it routinely, I won't get upset when a preschooler does.) "Well," says Paca, "they could be bad, but they are probably good."

"Lots of bad people?"

"No, not too many, but there are some."

A bit later as we pull into the driveway, he says, "B, daddy, and maman aren't bad."

"No, we're not bad."

"We're good."

"Yep. But it's easy to be bad. You have to try really hard to stay good."

"Bad people are good people."

"Most of the time, yes."

I thought about going into an explanation of Aristotlean virtue ethics, but I let it go. That one was fairly easy to handle, though he now has the concept of bad people, so we will have to see how that plays out. He's already tried to force me to tackle religion, however, which is a bit more difficult. We visited the Japanese Byodo-In temple on Sunday by chance and there is a 19-foot Buddha inside. I don't think he knows who Buddha is other than a 19-foot statue inside the temple. On our first visit, he thought Buddha was scary, but he likes him now. This time I decided to light incense for the Buddha, a little stick for each of us. B asked why. I don't really know why you burn incense for the Buddha, so I said it makes Buddha happy. I then explained how his Uncle Llama also recently burned incense sticks for Buddha because it was Buddha's birthday. We were discussing Buddha's birthday until N comments, "hey, he knows more now about the Buddha than about-" I started whistling Dixie to pretend it was all a plot of mine to make our child Buddhist. Then I realized I was being falsely accused. "Hey, we spend weeks celebrating Jesus' birthday. We even have a nativity set. I don't remember playing 'The wise man brings presents to Baby Buddha nightly.'"

B did try to make me tackle God a couple months ago. The three of us were sitting in the Fort DeRussy Park which is our local beach access and is also a military recreation area, including a small church. The service inside apparently ended because lots of people were coming out. Somehow it got stated that they were coming out of church.

"What's church?"

"It's God's house."

"Who's God?"

"Yes, Paca," says N with a smirk, "who is God?" I'm the agnostic one, and she actually has beliefs. To me, this makes her far more qualified to answer the question, but for some reason, she seems to think I am responsible for this, being Mr. Philosophical. I was actually pretty stumped. I don't want to tell him something I think is false, but I also don't want to, well... remember, I'm agnostic, not atheist. I was certain I didn't want to talk about a guy with a beard on a cloud even as the child's version. I was stumped. Fortunately, B had little patience for my internal debates.

"I'm going to go see him."


"Go see God."

"At the church?"



"God lives there."

"Pretty much, yeah. Let's go see him."

B gets up from our little rest and heads off towards the church. This should be interesting, is what I'm thinking.

Unfortunately, dear reader, the ending to the story is anticlimactic, because a 4 year old's mind doesn't stay on one topic very long, even visiting God. We looked inside the open air chapel and I pointed out the cross and a pastor came and said hello to us. And by this time seeing God was no longer on his mind. I do suppose it is good that he wanted to see him in the first place.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Good news, bad news redux (Llama)

First the bad news. I wrote earlier about an infection in my index finger. Well, it never improved, but only grew worse. Eventually the entire top third of my finger was red and swollen, and touching it was very painful. A few days earlier I had asked Mike (who is an MD) over the phone what I should do, and he recommended some antibiotics. I immediately started on them, but after 3 days and the thing just got worse and worse I decided to go to the hospital.

The doctor said that there was so much puss built up in there that the antibiotics couldn't work. He then proceeded to remove a small slice of the fingernail to allow it to drain. He gave me some new antibiotics to take and told me to return in 10 days for a follow-up. That was Sunday at about 1:00 PM.

By Sunday night at about 8:00 I noticed that my arm was sore. I figured it was residual pain left over from the trauma of the scalpels and needles from earlier in the day, or possibly a sign that the new antibiotics were working. But then by about 10:00 it was easy to see that the soreness I felt was very localized and was also visible as a red rash that twists from my finger, all the way up my arm, and into my arm pit. Worried that anything that led up my arm and possibly into my heart or my brain was a bad thing, I decided to go back to the hospital. Due to the lateness of the hour, it had to be the emergency room.

The nurses at first thought it was an allergic reaction, but the doctor on call soon straightened them out. The infection has apparently spread from my finger up through my lymphatic system. This is great cause for alarm if left untreated. They gave me two large injections of a third antibiotic and eventually sent me on my way. I'm currently still taking the originally prescribed antibiotic, cleaning and binding my wound every day, and waiting till end of day tomorrow to see if there is any improvement.

So that's the bad news. Now the good news, which is completely unrelated to the bad. This month, in fact about 15 minutes ago, I paid off the last of my credit card debt. Hooray! I've been carrying that burden since NYC (2001) and am thrilled to have it gone at last. Now I just have to stop myself from doing it again :)


Hit the road, Jack (paca)

You don't see as much of N on this blog as one should which is unfortunate. One reason for that is that she is the primary photographer, so whenever a pic is taken, you can only see her invisible hand. You still will only see her invisible hand in the pictures in this post, but what you will see is all her.

What is this picture above?

A few months ago N took an old cardboard box and turned it into a road map toy mat thing extravaganza! The top picture is the whole thing. It's a flattened cardboard box with paint. And a layer of contact paper on one side to protect it. Since there's no layer on the other side, I guess it's not quite finished yet (N also points out that the white lines in the road aren't there yet either). Anyway, I think it is a very cool creation. Below are some pics of specific portions. And then a pic of the road map toy mat thing extravaganza in use.

The little house is our 4 apartment little building. We do have a palm tree in front, but the rainbows are only periodic.

And B goes on a race.

Monday, June 04, 2007

girls v boys and movie recs (paca)

While giving B his bath tonight, I had him lift his head up to the ceiling so that I cold pour water on his hair without it going in his eyes. After doing so, he informed me that he was a girl. Why, asks the paca. Because boys have hair on their forehead (bangs) and girls do not. So with his hair slicked back, he was now a girl.

I had never known the true difference. It's good to have him around.

B is rather lose with the sex / gender roles. He's often been a self-declared boy mommy, for instance.

In other stereotypical gender issues, B and I were wrestling on the bed this morning. N and B don't really wrestle. I wonder if I would wrestle with my daughter? I'm going to go snag one and then find out.

As to the movie rec part of the blog title, I am looking for family movie recommendations. It would be nice to sit back more often and watch a movie on the DVD player that's OK for the whole family. This pretty much means a) enjoyable to adults b) not too scary or violent, and c) interesting to a 4 year old too. It's quite difficult to find such movies and so we watch a lot of B's stuff - wiggles, bob the builder, disney movies, etc. We have The Empire Strikes Back and that works pretty well, but you can only watch even a good movie so many times. We also have the Narnia movie, but it's too boring for B half of the time. So we watch the lion and the battle scenes (what was that violent part again?). Anyway, any good movie recs are most welcome.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

paca emerges from his rock (paca)

So where've I been? Two places mostly. As mentioned a few days back, paternal grandpa and grandma on N's side are in town, so I've spent a good bit of time with them. At the same time, today was publication day for my journal. 148 pages, and some 50-60 thousand words, of yummy academic goodness. Since that was on a strict deadline, but I could not be in my office during much of the day, I was back to my old tricks of going to bed at 1:00 AM, 2:00 AM, 4:00 AM, midnight, and 1:00 am respectively. None of this left much room for inspiration for the blog. I did manage to pull off a pirate speak query letter in a comment over at Evil Editor's however. However, we did indeed publish today, and so that's now off my chest. The father-in-law also heads back to the Mainland tomorrow so things should go back to normal.

In other news, I can make a children's book recommendation. The Alley Cat's Meow by Kathi Appelt. It's the story of two dancing cats, Red and Ginger, swinging their way through love. It's told in rhymes which I find fun:

It was a full moon, jazz tune
swinging kind of night
when Red hopped the A train
and it rumbled out of sight.

And later when he sees Ginger for the first time:

She was jazzy
She was snazzy
she was my-oh-my-oh-my

And when Ginger sees Red

He was dashing
He was smashing
He was la-di-da-di-da

I enjoy it. It might be one of those books too old for children and too young for adults; however, it's working at our house. B likes saying the jazzy, snazzy line. The highlight of the book, however, are the remarkable paintings by Jon Goodell, the illustrator. The images I've found online don't do them justice, so I won't post.

The job now is to decide how to spend my summer. The job keeps going, and I will be doing some research and comps reading and Japanese... well, that might be enough. I'm still contemplating the Script Frenzy thing, though, even though it started today. We will see.

In other news. Hi again!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Llama does something cultural (Llama)

Last night I went bowling. Very cultural, yes? OK, maybe not. But it was fun! My middle finger (finger 2) has some kind of painful infection, though, so I couldn't bowl normally. Instead of using fingers 2 and 3, I used fingers 1 and 3 (index and ring). Finger 2 just kind of stuck out, flat against the ball. I could bowl alright, but wasn't in the least bit accurate. My high score after three games was 101.

But after bowling I actually did do something cultural. Yesterday the Thais celebrated "Wisakha Bucha" day, which, as I understand it, is when Buddha was born, achieved enlightenment, and died. It's like Christmas and Easter all rolled into one. Anyway, on the way home from bowling I went to one of the local wats. There were many people there... maybe 1,000?

The path leading up to the Wat was filled with vendors selling everything from food to jewelry to Buddhist amulets. I stopped to buy a lotus and some incense. Once at the Wat, I asked a stranger to please light my candle, which I then used to light the incense. I then joined the crowd of Thais that were circling the temple. I was supposed to circle three times, reflecting on my life. In reality, most of my attention was given to not bumping into someone else that was carrying a lit candle.

After three trips around the Wat, which took about 10 minutes to complete, I melted the bottom of my candle and attempted to affix it to this metal railing outside the Wat. This was difficult, however, and I was unable to get enough wax down to hold the candle up. Eventually I just kind of leaned it against the rail. Then I stuck the burning incense in a trough of sand below the rail, and laid the lotus on a table behind all of this. And that was it.

It was interesting; I was definitely an outsider. I saw only one other farang the whole time. But for the most part I was made to feel welcome.

Now if I can just find a puppet show...