Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gym time (Llama)

I joined a gym. I joined a gym! I joined a gym?

I've long held a distasted for what one friend once called "picking stuff up and then putting it down." But given that I'm now 34 and completely out of shape, I figured I should make an effort to take care of my body lest I end up at 80 with multiple tubes entering and exiting various orifices. So I joined a gym.

As most of you know, I have, in the past, made multiple efforts to exercise; typically involving push-ups, with a few other various activities (situps, jogging, weights...) thrown in for good measure. But I never stick with it. I never even really get close. The summer of disc golf was my most successful attempt, but that effort faded with the leaves.

So this time I'm actually financially engaged; perhaps that will add an additional impetus. One of the biggest obstacles to me joining in the past was this fear of appearing weak in public... by going to the gym with a bunch of muscle heads, I would, at least at first, look like that scrawny kid getting sand kicked in his face. Cleverly enough, all of the machines are designed so that the actual amount of weight being lifted is easily visible only to the lifter. So, I'm the only one that knows that I'm benching only 80 lbs and not 200 like Boris the Stud at the next machine. Of course, Boris' arms are thrice as big as mine, but never mind that!

Also, I've added aerobics to my regimen; in fact, it's what I'm starting with. I run or bike for 40 minutes, and then hit a few of the weight machines.

My first day, after using only 3 machines, I felt so bad that ran to the bathroom to puke up my lunch. Not a pleasant experience. So the following day I avoided the weights altogether and just ran. Then yesterday I returned to the machines after biking, and I was able to comfortably use 3 of them... although I didn't max out my muscles like I did the first day... rather, I chose a relatively light load. The idea, according to my boss the doctor, is to first get my body in good enough condition that it can take the stress of heavy weights. That involves cardio, and just getting it used to the range of motion of the weight machines I will be using. Then, after about two weeks, I should be able to start weight training in earnest.

We'll see how long it lasts this time!


Monday, July 30, 2007

Doo-doo time (paca)

Apparently, 4 years old is the age that you become fascinated with your own body.

First up, we cannot keep clothes on the boy. He wants to sleep naked, eat naked, go outside naked. Every time you look up he's pulled his clothes off and is running around the apartment au naturale. (sp?) So far we've managed to always have clothes on him when he's outside and when he's cooking near the stove with us. Other than that, all bets are off.

Secondly, B entered doo-doo land a couple months back. He just says the word (or pee-pee which in Hawaii is called "she-she") and giggles. We've got "Doo Doo Head" this and "Doo Doo Head" that. N and I just try to minimize the discussion in public places. Especially on blogs. B also likes to stick "doo doo" in a song.

For instance, we saw the preview for the Simpson's movie in which Homer sings, to the tune of Spiderman, "Spider pig, spider pig." B, naturally, turned this within hours into "spider doo doo, spider doo doo".


Of course he does it all the time, and I'm someone who sings songs I hear freqently to myself. So, unfortunately, a couple days ago, I was walking around the apartment to the laundry room and heard myself singing, "Spider doo doo, spider doodoo, does whatever spider doo doo does."

At least we haven't hit fart jokes yet. B loves cutting things for me with his plastic knife when we are cooking - mushrooms, zucchini, whatever. I probably won't be able to ask him to cut the cheese until he's in college.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

1421 and the duties of a publisher (paca)

Geoff Wade, a professor at the Nat. U. of Singapore, stopped by my blog entry on 1421 and left a comment. He maintains a web site debunking various aspects of the 1421 book, as well as, you know, doing professor stuff. (Dr. Wade, I'm a doctoral student and so I'm just being silly.) He also left a link to an Australian documentary which, well, let's just call it harrowing, about the book.


I'm not going to wade into the debate about the book itself as all I know is from reading the Wikipedia entry and browsing Dr. Wade's web site. However, as a number of authors read this blog, this whole scene raises a lot of difficult questions about the role of a publisher. I can't help but think of the firestorm about Frey's 'memoir' A Million Little Pieces from a few months back where he basically rewrote real life to make a better story and yet persisted in calling it a memoir. Many people criticized Frey's publisher for not checking that Frey wasn't making things up. No matter what you believe on that, I had assumed the publisher then stopped selling it when they discovered parts of it weren't real. However, a few weeks ago, I saw it sitting right there on a table at B&N still. The publisher has added a rather odd prelude about what memoir is and Frey adds a preface about reality and perception in the mind...; i.e., they make up something short to pretend they care about the issue and then go right back to selling the same thing they were before.

In the case of 1421, at a minimum, the publisher didn't care if the history they were publishing was accurate, if the Aussie documentary is to be believed. (I would have been happier if more of the scholars they quote to debunk the book were not participating in the 1421 debunking web site, but that's a separate issue.) Should the publisher care? A lot of questions pop up. First up, this is being sold as history, not as historical fiction; so there is an implicit claim to readers that the facts in here are largely true, or at least decently established according to the methods of the day. But if we accept this as a duty of a historical publisher, what does it mean precisely in practice? An acquisitions manager at a commercial publishing house has no ability to assess the claims. Are we ready to claim that nonfiction publishers must go through the anonymous review process that an academic journal goes through? Text book houses do in fact do this. However, external review for both journals and text book houses is strictly optional. We do it because it lends credibility to the work we publish, but nothing makes us do it. And academia has always used some research that has never been reviewed. Periodically an unpublished manuscript of a researcher circulates for years before it is published. This is actually increasing. In my field of linguistics, there is an archive established for a certain phonological theory that houses papers that are quite widely read, but no one reviews them, and they vary in quality from some notes that the linguist wanted to get thoughts on to extraordinary works of scholarship.

Anyawy, I'm not yet prepared to claim that national law should require external review either for academic journals or for the publisher of 1421. But if we agree that this is the case, what is to stop someone from making up the most outlandish claims just to sell books, as looks likely in this case? Can the market ever stop this from happening? One can imagine that if people who enjoy reading history books learn that one publisher's books are completely untrustworthy, then they might stop buying them. However, only a minority of readers ever check the publisher before purchasing a book. Also, is it the role of a publisher to only provide some semblance of the truth, or are they simply supposed to get stuff out there that people want to buy and then let the customer decide on quality? Part of me chooses the latter, but these fake claims actually do cause harm to people, so....

I don't know. It's all quite interesting and I am afraid my questions wander more than pierce.

As a final note, the 1421 author appears to have some new hypotheses, one of which is that the Maori of New Zealand are descended from Melanesians and perhaps Chinese people (actually the claim wasn't completely clear). As a linguist this seems utterly improbable. The problem is the Maori language. It's quite clearly Polynesian. I don't have the exact percentages on hand, but a majority of the vocabulary is easily seen as connected to Hawaiian. Now, Chinese is a completely different language family. Maori is as close to Chinese as Russian is to Choctaw. There's a little better shot with the mysterious Melanesian inheritance. Most melanesian languages are at least in the same overall family as Polynesian -- they are usually Austronesian languages. (The Austronesian language family seems to have originated in Taiwan several thousand years ago and stretches from Madagascar through parts of Papua New Guinea (that island is actually divided between Austronesian and non-Austronesian languages) into Melanesia, the Phillipines, Micronesia and all the way to Hawaii and Easter Island.) I haven't read the exact cultures and languages that the 1421 author is claiming, but I can't see how there is any timeline in which a non-Polynesian language evolves magically in the same way that the Polynesian languages did.

Well, I don't really know what I am talking about here. I do language acquisition and intonation, not Austronesian historical work. I just have a hunch that the 1421 author didn't even bother to make up a way for the languages to work. But maybe he did. Maybe it's on page 422.


tree alert (paca)

That was the subject heading for an email I just received from the university announcement email address which sends emails to some 20,000 people.

Tree Alert

What could a tree alert be? Have the ents come alive and are currently storming the chemistry building? Apparently, it is this:

"Several trees around the Campus Center are being prepared for a tree-climbing competition that is being held here on Saturday. Areas around those trees are marked with tape as a safety precaution, so please be extra-alert in that vicinity between now and Saturday.

Everyone is invited to attend Saturday's events, sponsored by the International Society of Arboriculture, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m."

So there you go. Tree climbing competition. I'm glad they send the alert out. I've always viewed trees with considerable suspicion. Damn stinking trees.

Friday, July 27, 2007

1421 (paca)

Many of you may have noticed in your local chain bookstore over the last few years a book that seems to re-appear periodically on a front table called 1421: The Year China Discovered the World (sometimes America). I've always thought it an intriguing book because of my old interest in Chinese history. There's very strong evidence that Chinese fleets had sailed around Southeast Asia, around India, Arabia, and very likely to the eastern coast of Africa before the great European explorations ever began. The 1421 book argues that one of these Chinese fleets sailed to America as well around 1421, 71 years before Columbus (and about 300 years after the Vikings and some unknown number of years after the Polynesians which has now been proven by chicken DNA.) Anyway, that's what I thought the book was about.

However, today, through a long chain, I ended up at the Wikipedia entry for the 1421 hypothesis, which comes from the book. And, boy, does the theory claim a bit more for this 1421 expedition from China. They not only supposedly discovered the New Word, but large chunks of Africa, Antartica, and Australia. Not only did they supposedly visit these places, but they left various colonies all over the world. Moreover, virtually every slightly mysterious structure the man had ever heard of appears to amazingly be a remain from this expedition.

One example is The Newport Tower in Newport, RI. I had never heard of this tower before today. It's quite fascinating reading both of these articles as a study of "conspiracy" theories for lack of a better term. The basic gist is that you take the theory with the most evidence and notice a couple things that may not make total sense. And, instead of realizing that you just can't reconstruct history from 400 or 600 years ago perfectly, just like you may not even agree with your own spouse about who kissed whom first, you make up a new theory and adhere to that, even though the problems in the new theory are vast compared to the old one.

Either way, both of these stories are great for setting the imagination on fire, wondering just how you can pick and choose facts to establish the most bizarre theories. By the way, if you like old maps at all, there are numerous links in the 1421 site to maps from hundreds of years ago that are all fascinating in their own right. I lost way too much time to this this morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Love it - Potter puppet pals (paca)

Answering Sammy's question in the comments: No, there are no spoilers. You could watch this after book one.

Nightmares -Updated (paca)

Ever since college, almost all of my nightmares have been largely of the same form. I most frequently get them when I am just starting to fall asleep, but they can occur in the middle of the night as well.

In all of them, something bad is happening around me and I am unable to move. My mind doesn't work; I cannot speak; I cannot stand or move a muscle. Actually, some times, nothing else is happening. I am simply frozen, stuck, and that itself is the nightmare.

The version last night started with mysterious creeping things going on around the apartment, which got closer. In my dream, I frequently know it's not real, but it escalates anyway. Last night's climaxed with my noticing that someone was in the apartment. I could just see a dim light-colored shape standing not 5 feet from the bed. When I saw him, I managed to yell, "GET OUT OF MY HOUSE! NOW!" The figure started running, but then stopped when he realized I was unable to even rise from the bed. He seemed to hide in the closet, but I knew it was just a matter of time before he came out, more confident that nothing could be done. However, when I, in the dream, yelled "get out of my house," in real life I moaned something incoherent, waking N up who then touched my arm to wake me.

This happens enough that I think N is quite used to them and turns comfortably over after she has woken me, not terribly alarmed by my outburst. These sorts of dreams usually are set wherever I am in real life, though some details may not quite be right. For instance, when I woke up last night, I eventually realized that there was a chair in real life that was missing in the dream. That didn't stop me from eventually getting up, glancing in the closet, and checking B before going back to bed.

In another version a few months ago, I was not in my real life bed or apartment. Instead, I was in some sort of ornate library-type room. It ended with this disembodied hand slowly walking along my body, and I was unable to move or speak. In my dream, I knew I was asleep, and I struggled to wake myself up. But no matter what, I just couldn't. I was ready to grab the hand and slam it against the wall or punch whatever was attached to it, but I couldn't wake up enough to save myself. It feels like your head is going to burst with the effort to awake.

Like most of these, eventually I moan something out in real life in my attempts to wake myself up, and then N does the job for real. I often know when I am likely to have one. They occur when the bridge between being awake and already dreaming is very short. As soon as I close my eyes, there are images, sounds, and feelings that occur immediately. I am still basically alert, but already dreaming. It's as if there are two states of consciousness at war in these dreams. On the one hand, I am asleep and cannot control my body. On the other hand, I am awake enough that I know I cannot control my body, and therefore feel helpless.

I get one of these every few weeks.

Bunnygirl asked in the comments if I wasn't possibly having night terrors?

So I started doing research. I have heard the word, but wasn't sure what they are. And now, from reading, I can say that it really, really, really sounds like I have a form of sleep paralysis, in fact. It's characterized by being unable to move and often there is an ominous presence around. Here is a fun but frightening article on it from Science News. "Night of the Crusher" from Science News. Before you read it, know that I have nothing as severe as is described here. However, some of this is accurate for me, and this bit from some researchers on sleep paralysis seems exactly right:

"In a sleep laboratory, the Japanese team monitored the volunteers, whom they roused at various times during the night to trigger the phenomenon. The researchers found that during sleep paralysis, the brain, suddenly awake, nonetheless displays electrical responses typical of sleep characterized by rapid eye movement (REM).

Two brain systems contribute to sleep paralysis, Cheyne proposes. The most prominent one consists of inner-brain structures that monitor one's surroundings for threats and launches responses to perceived dangers. As Cheyne sees it, REM-based activation of this system, in the absence of any real threat, triggers a sense of an ominous entity lurking nearby. Other neural areas that contribute to REM-dream imagery could draw on personal and cultural knowledge to flesh out the evil presence."

However, the best site is this one from a researcher. Cheyne You can fill out a questionnaire at the beginning and about a quarter of the questions match my experience perfectly. What really convinced me though was this bit of one of Cheyne's own experiences of sleep paralysis on a page ominously called The Intruder. Quoting again:

The presence is not always immediately interpreted as something bizarre or frightening. Occasionally, the presence is thought to be someone who might plausibly be thought to be ready to hand.

'At some point in the episode, I also usually think that one of my roommates is trying to wake me up, but cannot.
I thought the presence was my roommate returning from class. '

Most of these experiences are reasonable attempts to interpret a feeling that someone or something is present in the room. Sometimes the presence may be associated with sensory experiences. During one of my own experiences, I sometimes thought my wife had come into the room, but subsequently realized that she was not there at which time the presence rapidly turned into a sinister presence. In this case I had been making a low moaning sound in an attempt to alert her to my condition. After a few moments I heard footsteps coming up the stairs, along the hall, and into the room. I inferred was that it was my wife approaching. The footsteps appeared to stop at the side of the bed and I waited for her hand to shake my shoulder. When this did not happen I realized that she was not there and, on reflection, realized that she was not even in the house. I was then immediately filled with a sense of dread and formed a distinct awareness of a sinister presence in the room.

I'm not sure I've heard footsteps, but the rest is exactly right for me. Sometimes the presence is ominous or evil, but it just as well might be a roommate or N. The eyes-watering moment though was when he mentions making a low moaning sound to alert his wife to his paralyzed state. Last night I moaned when yelling at The Intruder, but sometimes I am deliberately moaning hoping N will hear me and wake me up. I have often moaned so that I wake myself up. It's such a weird experience when you wake yourself up. I sit there trying with all my might to just raise my hand and I can't and the tension builds until suddenly, boom!, you pop up, the hold broken, with your heart racing a million miles an hour.

One connection I made from all of this bit about "The Intruder" is to some experiences as a child. I have no memory of ever having one of these sleep experiences as a child (I do remember a few key nightmares, but those were completely different). In fact, I distinctly remember the paralysis thing starting in 1992 during my semester abroad to China, being frozen in that bed, unable to speak or move, and the terrifying sensation of it. This is one of many differences between sleep paralysis and night terrors. While night terrors are experienced by adults, they are much more common in children. It doesn't appear from my cursory glance that this is the case with sleep paralysis.

As a child, I was very much always aware of spooky presences, not when asleep so much but when awake. As an example, I remember walking alone down my street in the Boro. It was dark and quiet, but I was within sight of my own home. However, I just knew there were other people watching me, following me. Werewolves or vampires, or just some spooky something. If I did not keep control of my emotions, I could end up running down the street to get away from the spooky thing. Of course, running was the absolute worst thing you could do, because as soon as you run, your worries break loose and the Things are chasing you faster and faster.

Of course, probably all children have such frightening episodes, but I really was very susceptible to them and slept with a light until... college? Many adults like to turn a TV on or something to avoid such fears. I seem to have gotten over those largely as an adult**, but now I have the sleep paralysis things -- if I've diagnosed myself correctly.

To anyone I've scared, from reading these sites, it doesn't appear I'm all that unusual. Some 30% of people report having at least one instance of this. I might be a little less usual in having them every few weeks, but some thousands of people have filled out Cheyne's questionnaire. They also don't appear to be associated with any other particular medical or mental condition. The occurrences occur more frequently with lack of sleep and stress, and I, due to HP7 indeed went to bed at 2:30 AM and then 4:30 AM the previous two nights. But they are not necessarily caused by stress; i.e., if you aren't a person who gets them generally, stress will not start them.

Maybe I need to drop attempts at comedy and romance, and switch to "Night of the Crusher." Bruhahahahaaaaaa.

I do wonder if a sense of humor could get me out of them more, or at least make them more enjoyable. One of the articles mentioned a Cambodian woman being suffocated by three furry monsters. If I get the furry monsters ever, can I ask them to dance?

Have sweet dreams! I know I will.

At least after I pull the Crusher off my chest.

** Well, maybe not. I bet if I was walking along one of my mountain trails at night with the wind blowing, I could convince myself something is following me. I'm not sure.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Done (paca)

It is now 4:35 AM and I have finished Harry Potter 7.

That is all.

Language differences (Llama)

Lately I have, once again, been attempting to learn some Thai. I've found a couple of differences between Thai and English that I find curious. Note: I'm no grammarian and even most of what I've learned from elementary school I have forgotten, so please forgive me when don't employ the proper descriptive terms.

Thais don't have a way to indicate future perfect or, it seems, future progressive. It's impossible to say that I will have done something by a certain time. The best Thai can manage is to say that I will do something at a certain time. In one conversation, this deficiency led to some stressful moments, as I attempted to explain that, though I did not know precisely when I would return from a trip, I knew it would be no later than Friday.

Thais do, however, have a way of expressing something that we can't express in English. They can take a verb such as "to go" (bai), "to love" (raak), "to eat" (gin) and "to scare" (glua) and precede it with "naa" (naa bai, naa raak, naa gin, naa glua). This new construction is an adjective that describes the potential for something. So naa rak, loosely translated, means "cute", but literally it means that something looks like it could be loved. Naa glua crudely translates to "scary", but it also means something that looks like it could be scary, even if we don't know yet if it actually is scary or not. Naa gin means that something looks appetizing. And "naa bai" can best be explained with an example of the negative... if it looks like it is going to rain, I might say "mai naa bai. fon ja dok.", which loosely means "It think it is a bad idea to go. It is going to rain."

I found it interesting, anyway :)


Friday, July 20, 2007

My weird memory (paca)

I am a classic example of why there is no such thing as intelligence.

I should end my post right there. What more is there to say?

What I meant, however was, "I am a classic example of why there is no single thing to be called intelligence."

A couple days ago, B and I were picking up N from her office at the end of the day. On the way out, N asks, "So, do you notice anything different?"

I am well trained, so I first look her over to see if I am missing a new haircut or something. No dice. I turn back around, and something looks vaguely different. "Ummm..."

N and her co-workers start laughing.

"See, he is just so focused on you, N, that he doesn't even see the rest of the office," says one of the co-workers.

I think. "Ah-ha! A clue! Something is different about the office." I look around. The coffee table is really red. Maybe I would have noticed a really red coffee table before. "Is it a new coffee table?"

More laughter.

Apparently, they'd gotten an entire new set of furniture and moved bookcases, maybe, in an entire section of the main room.

So I have no visual memory. (Oddly, I can tell you about some of the books on the coffee table, but not necessarily the coffee table.)

However, on the opposite end of the memory scale, I am working on a paper on politeness and apologies with former classmate J-W. And I'm currently trying to revamp politeness theory based on the concept of "Rectification of Names", which is a very important term in Confucianism. I even remembered that the Chinese word for it is "Zheng Ming", though I apparently did get the characters wrong. The point? I think the last time I ever discussed Rectification of Names was in a class in 1991 or 1992.

Why can I remember that, but not realize an entire room's furniture has changed in between Monday and Tuesday? No idea.

(Sticklers among you may point out that I have actually discussed two forms of memory, and intelligence may be something different, perhaps about the ability to manipulate variables, not recall them. To which I say, "touché", but also point out that manipulating variables requires that you hold a large number of variables in working memory, so there is some relation, and moreover, it isn't clear that true inspiration, the Archimedes' moment, is actually a function of variable manipulation at all. )

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Making fun of Wii Fit

The last game system I owned was the Oddyssey (why is that word impossible to spell? Oddessey, Odyssey, Oddysey,...) from Magnavox. A system that came out before the Atari 2600. But that didn't stop me from going into laughing fits from this video making fun of the new Nintendo Wii Fit. So many great lines in there. I picked it up from Alan's blog and am shamelessly reproducing the link here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Let's go Private (paca)

I submitted another guest post over at The Moderate Voice political blog, and I thought I'd like any thoughts from readers here as well. It's kind of a follow-up to an old post of mine here. So here it is:

Title: Let's Go Private

I have always been very open to the idea that many things which the government does today could be done privately. However, when it comes down to it, I frequently have a hard time coming up with much of a practical list. So, I'd like to open my conundrum up to TMV readers. Here are some questions that might bring up possibilities in your mind:

When you vote now, one reason is possibly because you think the government should be doing something that it is not. Go through that mental list. Can any of it be done without the government?

What does the government do now, inherently by force due to mandatory taxation, that might be done without force?

What are some things the government does that you agree are worth doing ethically and politically but that might be done without the government, by private citizens or organizations?

One thing not to put down, should you decide to respond, is lobbying. Any number of private organizations can be created whose purpose is not to solve the actual problem, but to persuade government to solve it in some way. We want to throw those out for now.

Some items seem inherently governmental. A private organization cannot change a law. But could we be doing something right now to solve the health care crisis without waiting for government? How about adequate psychological care for returning vets? How about improving diplomatic and cultural ties with other nations? How about making your city's worst schools its best?

My problem is I can think of a million reasons that a private citizen cannot do all these things. Not on the scale needed to have an effect. I want to be wrong about that. Even though the U.S. is already one of the greatest givers in the world to philanthropic societies, I want there to be a creative, non-coercive solution to problems. If government is broken, our culture need not be.

I'm particularly interested in going beyond the answer that "the government should not do X because it has no constitutional or moral right to do so." Let's not stop there, but move to the next step: "If not with government, then how do we get it done without government?"

I look forward to your thoughts. Thank you!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Our first movie (paca and N)

This is a very whimsical creation that may amuse you. It's almost entirely N's work. She bought these little wooden things that have a cylinder for a body and a little ball on top that could be a head. She then drew on them with colored pencil and added some clothing of origami paper and, voila, little dolls. B was playing with them today and I said something to the effect of, "I wonder if you could take a whole bunch of pictures of them and make a little movie." And N said, "Yes, you can. Let's do it." So I sat down and moved the dolls around almost randomly. B also participated and you can see his efforts with the items that flash in and out of existence. B and I then went out of the apartment for about 4 hours. When we came back, N had cleaned the living room and created this little movie using Apple iMovie, which we have now uploaded to YouTube. Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Stairway to Hell (paca)

There's a hike on Oahu nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven, as it climbs up into a wet mountain range, often into the clouds themselves. Unfortunately, while the trail is open, the only access point to it is on private land and closed. The rumor is that to actually do the trail you have to trespass by ducking behind trees and crawling through tall grasses. Thus, it's effectively closed. If that, however, is the stairway to heaven, then what I did on Wednesday was the stairway to hell.

If you recall from the last hiking post, the goal was to get to the top of Koko Crater. Here it is from the top of Makapu'u point a couple weeks back.

The tall point in the back is named Pu'u Mai with pu'u meaning peak or mountain and mai meaning ummm ummm, anyone here know a linguist in Hawai'i? Koko Crater was pushed up at the same time as Diamond Head and the Punchbowl Crater (in which resides the military National Memorial of the Pacific) and so are extinct volcanoes. Within Koko Crater is a botanical garden. You cannot go up the walls inside, though, so our trail leads up from the opposite side of what you are seeing here.

Voila, the stairway to hell.

According to my hiking web site, Koko Crater is 1,206 feet, and there are 1,106 steps made of old railroad ties. You go for 550 steps that are up but not too steep. Then there's this bridge which seems odd for a highly traveled trail because the spaces between the railroad ties are big enough to fall through. And then you have another close to 500 steps that are much steeper.

Somewhere on this steep portion, I took this picture. The bay you can see is Hanauma Bay and is one of the great snorkeling locations. It's a national preserve and you have to watch a video about not destroying the reefs before you can go down into it. One way to get a sense of how high up we are is to look in great detail at the picture. On the left, the grassy area is a shooting range and you can literally hear gunfire the entire way up. (Ruins the peaceful image a bit.) On the right is a park and you can see the tip of a baseball field and a parking lot. In the parking lot, there's a dark dot, a red dot, and a gold dot. The gold dot is our car. Actually, if you are going to have your car stolen, this is a great place for it to happen, because you can see the car the whole time, see the roads for miles, and your cell phone works. But this picture isn't all the way up yet.

This one, however, is. It's a view west towards Diamond Head and the tip of Waikiki. It was hazy that day, however.

And then since you are at the top, it is now possible to see Makapu'u point, which is that rise of rock at the corner of the island. That's where N and I were for the picture that started this. It seemed tall when we were there. Now, I laugh at the girlyman point.

And just to prove that I was really there and am not bumming pics off my cool friends, here's me. Oh yeah, this is definitely me at my best. Haven't shaved in a week, shirt soaked through.

And then you are done. There are left over fortifications from WWII that have been taken down and the remains are now covered in grafitti. I presume that's why the staircase is here, too. Of course, after your lovely view, there's a penalty. You have to go down.

I'm far sorer today than from any of the other hikes, but then, if a "story" is 10 feet, then that thing would have been a 110 story staircase.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Relationships are not commerce (paca)

First up, llama has an update on his life below where he contemplates the bacteria in his feet. Normally, I'd wait a day to post in such circumstances, but I was already typing this one up when I saw that one appear, so I'm going with it. But please keep reading below this post. (I love my maliciious spin on his post. It's techncally true, but completely misleading as to the true content of what he wrote. I'm ready for negative politics!)


A couple days ago there was a post over at the romance writers and readers blog "Romancing the Blog" from a woman who is always being accused by her family of being brainwashed by romance books to have too great an expectation of men, since she is not already partnered up in a lifelong thing yet. Don't adult children love being bugged about this? I won't tackle her post here, which I agree with 95% of the time -- that this is a silly accusation unless we are also going to accuse people who love mysteries of being brainwashed into wanting to commit murder -- though I do think there's a 5% problem that is being ignored in such reactions. (For instance, we often do think that men can be influenced in their preconceptions of a normal attractive woman by looking at digitized, airbrushed bikini models all day long. ). However, there was one comment (not the original blog post author) that among other things included the following:

"If every woman on earth said: “You men aren’t getting ANYTHING from us (our companionship, love, sex, cuddling, cooking, clean homes, your laundry done, etc.) until the whole lot of you step up and start treating us like the goddesses we ARE,” how long do you think it would take before they straightened up and flew right?"

I completely get what her basic point was; i.e., all people deserve being treated as someone special by their partners. After all, it's the rough plot of Aristophanes' Lysistrata and I love all classical allusions. However, this still struck me the wrong way. Probably, my gut reaction was negative because it seems to declare that all men are currently louts. She's never met me or Sammy or llama or a lot of the even studlier amazing men in the world, but she knows we all suck already. I take that back. There are no hunkier men than the llama and Sammy.

However, I know that's just bad phrasing, and so I tried to figure out if anything more important than a little slap to men was putting me off. And I decided that what's bugging me most is that a love relationship in this view seems to come off as some sort of business transaction, or buying and selling of goods. The woman, in this view, walks among the men of her life and waits to be treated the right way (as a goddess). When someone does treat her this way, and presumably if she likes him too, she will then do his laundry, cook his meals, provide companionship, and offer a lot of hanky panky.

Here's my first problem with that. She is offering to do HIS laundry. In a certain sense, ok, sure, a spouse does the other spouse's laundry. But in a perhaps better sense, a spouse does the laundry for the family. The family is a unit, a single thing, and it generates dirty clothes, which someone must wash. And that someone washes them because they think it's important for the people they love to be clean. The point I am trying to make is that the people in a family must do the chores that are necessary for the family. Now, I admit, that N does 90% of the laundry for us. I happen to cook most meals right now. I don't think that, while standing at the stove frying up some eggs, the thought that I was cooking N's meals for her (but that she deserves it) has ever popped up. Instead I'm cooking the family meal and that means providing food for all three of us.

Of course, our household is not one constant state of domestic bliss. I am sure sometimes N think she's getting the short end of the stick with chores, and sometimes I think that, too. But it's only when things start falling apart that you start complaining to yourself about doing this and that for someone else. When it's all working right, each person is helping to support the family in itself, something greater than any individual person.

I also got the impression from the comment that she is going to give love to a deserving person. Again, in one sense, this is clearly correct. You have to be worthy of love and spend the energy to make your partner happy. In another sense, this feels just wrong. I don't think that someone treats you well and therefore you love them. You simply love being with them. They don't do something and you pay them with friendship. Instead, you love being with your best friend because of what being with them is like.

I am having a really hard time expressing this one.

I kind of feel like the commenter is expressing this notion that one person gives love to another, and then the other person gives love in return, since they now deserve it. This is what feels commercial about it. However, if you are really in love both of you adore being together because the feelings that are created when you are together are amazing. It's like the chore thing, where the partners don't take turns giving things to each other. Instead, they build a house together. With love and friendship, you are not exchanging warm fuzzies; you are creating a loving relationship together. This relationship is not internal to either person, but is something external, that you both participate in and that gives each of you fulfillment if it's a good one. Naturally, both people must contribute to the relationship, but it is how participating in this relationship makes you a better person that is the key. It's not a trade between people who stay separate.

And since she mentioned sex, sex sometimes happens because your loved one did something great, and so you give him a little physical reward. Yeah, I like that. Where's my To Do list again? But that's not usually the best reason to have sex. The best reason is because when the two of you do that TOGETHER, it



That physical contact and its feelings are something you create as a couple, not something you exchange to each individual's pleasure.

Is this where I talk about "one body and one flesh"?

Llama Land

I've been stationary here in Bangkok for a few months now, but I'm traveling again soon. Next week I go back to Bangladesh, and the week after that, to Cambodia. They should relatively stress free, as I'm going on both trips in a supporting role. I just have to make sure I'm here over the weekend so I can pick up the final Harry Potter book.

It's the rainy season here, which means that most afternoon most of the roads flood. It's fun to guess which bacteria would infect me if I had an open cut on my foot.

And on a political note, yesterday I read that Bush's first Surgeon General (a man with solid conservative credentials) testified before Congress that he was forced by the adminstration to edit or supress the scientific findings of his reports to serve the political positions of the president. And today, two adminstration aides are refusing to answer questions under Congressional subpoena regarding the firing of US prosecutors.

These are just the two most recent examples of the dangers of a Unitary President. His is not king; the president must be held accountable.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Balloon man (paca)

This sounds ultimately cool, and, yeah, as a kid I thought about it every time I held a balloon. Of course, if things had gone wrong, he would have been the number one story in the Darwin Awards.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hiking Oahu Bonanza (paca)

A couple weeks ago my mother forwarded me this link from CNN about hiking in Oahu. We've been on one or two hikes in the three years we've been here, but that's it. Her link got me inspired once again, and so I've now done three hikes from 2-4 hours in length in the last two weeks. The first was N's idea and it involved trekking up Makapu'u Point on the leeward side, in this case on the far eastern tip of Oahu. It's very arid over here and one can see many cacti. There are some really nice view as well, however.

Here are B and I all excited about our new exercise endeavor.

This is also a really popular whale watching spot. The humpbacks only winter in Hawaii, so there are none out here today, but we can come back in January and try again. This was also the first time I have been able to see another island in the distance. We think it is the island of Molokai.

Some decent views from the top, I think. This is looking up towards the windward side. The beach you can just see there, where the cliff wraps around is a popular body boarding site due to bigger waves. The beach is always covered in official Caution: Not Safe for Swimming signs, which everyone is ignoring. And then the little collection of buildings is Sea Life Park where they do dolphin shows. N and I have not been yet, because we're too cheap, but B has with his school.

I was stoked enough from this trip that a couple days later I went out on my own. This time I headed up Manoa Falls trail, which goes towards a 100 foot waterfall, then up the ridge on the 'aihualama Trail where it connects to Pauoa Flats trail for a nice overlook at the end. All of this is quite close to me. The full name of my U is University of Hawaii Manoa, named for the valley in Honolulu that it is located in. The Manoa falls are at the back of the valley. I think it's a little under a mile from the trail head to the falls.

As you can see here on the road towards the trailhead, it's a bit more humid. You have to switch out the sunscreen for the mosquito repellent.

A view of the Manoa stream. It's not always quite so benign. My first year here there were some torrential rains and the stream which flows behind the East-West center at the U jumped its banks and rerouted itself for a few hours through the biomedical building and the library. About a hundred million in damage with the biomed building still closed due to flood damage.

Ummmm, a flower.

And here we get to the falls. Someone did take a pic of me, but I'm covered in mud and sweat so you get to see the falls instead of me. There is a woman on the left hand side of the pic, which can help with scale. (Well, OK, this is supposed to have been flipped rightside up, but it's not. So just tilt your head to the left. All the pics that aren't vertical like this don't get the entire fall.)

The falls are the end of this trail and now it is up the valley wall to the summit. Manoa Falls trail is quite popular and relatively easy. N, B, and I did it a couple years ago and I carried B about 2/3rds of the way. But on the new trail, there are far less people. In fact, I only saw a single person the entire way up, which took close to an hour. Just to make me mad, he was trail running, while I was huffing and puffing my way up, a mere walker. The greatest mystery to me in trail running is how in the world a runner doesn't twist his or her ankle every second run. At the run club, it seems like someone falls down on the sidewalk each week (I've done it once), so I can't imagine leaping the continuous roots and boulders here.

There were two really nice bamboo forests along the way.

And closer to the top of the trail.

For almost the entire hour up the trail, it is so densely forested that there are no great views, but every once in a while, the trees will give a small break. Here you are looking over Manoa valley, Waikiki, and you can see Diamond Head Crater and the ocean in the far distance.

This trail in the middle of that bamboo forest connects to the Pauoa Flatts trail which is a main hiking thoroughfare. In one direction, you can connect up to another large system of trails. In the other, you get to the End. In fact, they have a nice little sign to let you know you are at the end.

But somehow, if you raise your head from the sign, I think most people will figure out they better stop walking here.

I keep saying that you can see both oceans from up here. What it really is is a view of Nuuanu valley and on one side, you can look over the Pali cliffs and out to the ocean on the windward side. On the other, you can see towards Pearl Harbor and the leeward side. Basically, you can see oceans on both north and south sides of the ocean. Such views do not come for free, and there is a reminder of that on a bench right at the top. It's a memorial to someone who gave a call to someone from the top of the ridge here, and then was found 4 days later dead at the bottom of a water fall. It's not clear if he fell on the trails I was doing by myself or if he had gotten far more adventurous. This is the end of the official trail, but there's a tiny little dirt path that starts at this lookout and starts going further up the mountains. Supposedly, if you take it and go far enough, you get to the two highest peaks of the Koolau Range, and the path up there is NOT wide.

That ended the big hike of that day. This morning I did a quick hour and a half walk through the Makiki Valley Loop. It's wet and mountainous like this, but is more cultural with tons of native Hawaiian plants and little signs and such. Still got my heart racing though. It's actually a set of three trails as well -- Kanealole, Makiki Valley, and Maunalaha. I didn't have my camera this time, so you can read about them at the links. I was actually looking for a trail that the whole family could go on, which I had read about in this area, but I ended up doing a forested ridge again that no jogging stroller can make.

Finally, I am supposed to be going this Wednesday morning with a classmate on another hike. We are going back to the desert-like eastern coast again, we think, and will try going to the top of Koko Crater. You can actually see it quite nicely from the first hike reported in this post. Here's the pic we took of Koko Crater on that hike.

Supposedly, there's a 1000 and some step staircase made of old railroad ties that goes to the top of Pu'u Mai. We will see on Wednesday.

Calling all the physicists (paca)

Anyone know the answer to the snaking water question?

Monday, July 09, 2007

A little research help? (paca)

A former classmate and I are designing some materials for research. I have written up a few test sentences that we are trying to get very informal feedback on before we create the real first draft. I was wondering if any of the readers here would like to participate in giving their opinion. You can be a speaker of any language, but if you respond and you learned any language other than English first, please let me know in the comment. I unfortunately can only tell you what I am testing after I get your feedback. Interested? Here's the task:

Below are five sentences. Read the first one silently to yourself. Do not read it aloud. As you read it to yourself, listen to the way it sounds in your mind. Do any of the words sound louder or longer or just bigger or more prominent to you? Also, do you seem to break the sentence up into smaller phrases of any sort when reading to yourself? I want you to tell me which words are bigger and where the phrases are, if any. The best way to do this is to retype the sentence (or copy and paste it) into the comment, and then modify it so that the big words are now ALL CAPS and a couple slashes (//) are added in between words to indicate where the phrases begin and end. Here is an example:

Given Sentence) Paca asked me to do this silly language experiment on his blog.

Modified Sentence) PACA asked me to do this // silly LANGUAGE experiment // on his BLOG.

When modifying, do your best to just judge how things sound in the mind. Do not attempt to come up with some way that it should be, based upon previous education. Just, how does it "sound" when you read?

The easiest way to do this might be to simply copy the five sentences below. (Edit menu, copy, or control-C) Then go to the comments page and Paste them in to your new comment. (Edit menu, paste, or control-V). Only read one sentence and provide an answer before reading the next sentence. For me, it seems best to read it just a couple times and not worry about each one or too long. The longer I take, the more peculiar my answers become. But of course, take as much time as you need. Finally, please, please, please do your best NOT to read any other responses until after you have submitted your answer. The more one response influences another, the less useful this becomes. Once you have hit submit on the Comment, please feel free to read and analyze and debate to your hearts content. OK, ready? Get set, go!

Five sentences:

1) And then, striking the edge of the grand circle, he disappeared headfirst towards the stalls below.

2) Her first thought, curiously, was of Auden's poem on the fall of Icarus.

3) Gabe walked quickly towards Jen's diner hoping to see her serving the last cup of coffee to the last customer.

4) As he passed under the flashing neon sign of Victor Coronelli's bar, he saw that the diner's overheads were off and there was not a soul in sight.

5) Gabe's disappointment turned to alarm when he noticed a gaping hole in the window that normally read "Old Time Food" and then heard a whimpering deep inside the kitchen.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Announcing a new blog (paca)

What is it? Mystere a boule de gum.

In fact, it's N's blog. I know several of you don't think she really exists, but a-ha! she does, and she has a blog now. It's theoretically a joint blog between herself and maman, but the maman has yet to post anything. Take a look. You will see that it's rather different from me.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

And how do you know that? (paca)

Here's a little bit of linguistics fun that I thought might interest people.

In English, verbs have to express whether or not the subject is singular or plural, the tense of the event or action (past, present, or future), mood (declarative versus subjunctive), as well as "aspect", which is whether the action is completed, a regular occurrence, or currently ongoing. The verb "walks" tells you that the subject is singular (the s), that it is basically present, and that it happens regularly, as in "she walks". If you leave off the "s" to say "she walk", it sounds wrong to us. Of course, if you say "walked", the walking is in the past now. If you add versions of "has and had" to "walked", then the action must be complete. She is no longer walking.** Most of the languages that we learn have different versions of these sorts of things, and so it can sometimes seem that this is the way things must be. How could you possibly speak differently? But, as always, very little of this is actually obligatory. French doesn't distinguish in its grammar between "she walks" and "she is walking". This can trip English speakers up when learning French, but the French get by just fine. In fact, how often do you really need to say, "she walks". In Mandarin Chinese, they don't do true tense on the verbs. You can say that an action is completed, or if it has ever been done, or if the action is ongoing at the moment, but none of those are truly tense. So how do they get by? You just say things like "yesterday" and "next year".

But these features of number, tense, mood, and aspect (and person and gender) are by no means the only possible things one can mark on a verb, and compared to some languages, English is hopelessly imprecise. Speakers of such languages must be baffled at how we ever get along without the grammatical feature they grew up with. One such item is "object marking". While Spanish, French, German, and English worry a lot about making the verb agree with the subject of the sentence ("he runs" but "they run" for instance), some languages match the subject marking and raise your grammar by one object. So one particle on the verb might say that the subject is singular, while a second particle says that the object is plural. So "he kicks the ball" might be "he kicksur the ball" while "he kicks the balls" (cue Ril here) might be "he kicksoo the balls."

Another category that we also miss out on is frequently called "evidentiality". Evidential grammatical particles inscribe right on the verb how the speaker came to know the information she is stating. An example is the Amazonian language, Taliana (spoken not by people who live in the Amazon basin, but by large beautiful she-warriors lead by Zena and Wonder Woman). Little known fact. In this language, if you saw Jose playing soccer, your verb would be "dimanika-ka". But if you did not see it, but heard the roar of the statdium (and perhaps people chanting Jose's name, your verb would be "dimanika-mahka." If you went home and saw the soccer ball missing and Jose's soccer shoes gone, you might infer that he is playing soccer, and your verb becomes "dimanika-nihka". If it's Sunday afternoon, and Jose always plays soccer on Sunday afternoons, you might simply assume that's what he's doing and so then you use "dimanika-sika". Finally, if you just heard it from someone, then you have to use "dimanika-pidaka."***

I don't do syntax, but that's pretty cool.

This stuff really isn't as weird as it may seem. English has ways of getting this same info across. You can say "I heard that Jose...." You can use "seems". There are lots of options. The difference between English and a language like Taliana is that it is obligatory in the Taliana language. If you leave the evidentiality bit off, it sounds just as weird as if someone said in English, "Yesterday, I walk to the store." You have to have that "ed" on there. And in Taliana, you have to have evidentiality marked.

A final interesting fact about the Taliana people is that they, along with other people in this area, are "multilingual exogamous." It is only permissable to marry someone who speaks a different language and is from a different tribe. Fortunately for everyone, there are lots of other languages in close proximity. And so people end up speaking 4-5 languages typically.

** What is the difference between "has walked" and "had walked"? If she "has walked" then as of this moment, she has done the action of walking and it is completed. She has walked. If she "had walked" then there is some point in time in the past, perhaps yesterday at 2:15 at which she had done the action of walking and completed it. So they both say that the action is completed. The first says that it is completed as of now; the second says it is completed as of some point in the past.

*** All of this info on Evidentiality is based on the work of Alexandra Aikhenvald. In particular, 2006. 'Evidentiality in grammar', pp. 320-5, Volume 4 (article 0252), of Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition, edited by Keith Brown. Elsevier: Oxford, and 2006. 'Tariana', pp. 506-7 of Volume 12 (article 4489) of Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics, 2nd edition, edited by Keith Brown. Elsevier: Oxford. Those are both pdfs if you want to click on them.

Ups and downs (paca)

It's amazing how quickly the spirits can plummet and then rise again. Yesterday, I was completely down about my professional life. Somehow, the whole day has just seemed a complete waste. One way I wasted the day was in looking for possible publishing houses for some stuff I have written. After about 3 hours, I concluded that no one would ever want to look at anything I'd ever done. I don't have the right type of hero, the right length, the right type of writing.... Then I have a list of academic things I haven't yet accomplished. Even worse, late last week, I discovered that a couple profs might have just done in the last 6 months the exact topic I was hoping to do my dissertation on. Grrr!!!

And then to top it all off, really important things happened, like... I tried to go to Friday's for a bowl of French Onion soup for my special Paca Night off and Friday's is closed and gone. Isn't that just the greatest travesty ever? Of course, no, but when you get in these funks, it sure seemed like it at the time. I was certain that I simply was not able to make a correct decision in my life. It then got worse, because I then ended up at a mall at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner, and I ended up paying way more than we can afford for a mediocre salad bar. In sum, I've wasted my life and I'm going to go broke eating lousy food. Oh the humanity!

Today? Well, not on cloud nine, but I did just get promoted from Editorial Assistant to Managing Editor for my journal. I don't earn a dime more, but it's something for the resume that actually will get a couple of looks from employers. Editorial Assistant? Might as well have a job keeping the printer stocked with toner in the department. Managing Editor? A significant point in my favor. And, while I may earn no more for it, I've been the managing editor for two years in function (there is no other operational editor than me-

And, OK, this could be a short promotion. The ridge behind the University is on fire. There's the ridge, a dorm, and then my building. The first helicopter just dropped a huge thing of water on it. I think I'm going to spend my time backing up my computer instead of talking. Bye.
Info on the fire The helicopter seems to have stopped it from traveling down the ridge, which it was doing when I typed "bye".

Update 2:

They evacuated a set of faculty housing for a couple hours today, but they've since reopened them and declared the fire contained. Of course, they declared the fire contained early this morning, apparently, before it flared up again around the time of my post here and spread to approximately 50 acres. I am definitely taking my backup drive home with me tonight. But things seem to have gotten back to normal overall. There's a nice black charred ridge I can see from my office and a smell of smoke, but that's it.

And so to finish my post. Yeah, I'm Managing Editor now, wahoo. And while I still have no place to publish my silly writings, some anonymous person who read something of mine yesterday sent a very kind message to me about how I should be published. So there you go.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Lost dog, lost leg, will beg (Llama)

So a year or two ago I blogged about the number and variety of beggars that one sees on the street here in the BKK. One my favorites was this very large man with a gammy leg and a dog. You know how supposedly people resemble their dogs? Well that was certainly true in this case. The man is rather large (at least 300 lbs), very tan, very relaxed, always smiling and always sitting down because of his leg problem. His dog, while not tan at all (yellow haired), was also large and about the laziest dog I've ever known. He was so lazy that, when the dog was laying on his fat dog belly, which was always, the beggar routinely placed his beggars cup on the dog's head to collect donations. Most dogs I know would shake their head to get whatever was up there off... but not this dog. He just laid there on his belly. People would plop coins into it, and he wouldn't even open his eyes. Often the man would increase the cute factor by keeping a puppy as well. The puppy never seemed to age, though... as soon as one got too big to be cute, it was replaced with a younger one.

Well things took a turn for the worse for this guy. He disappeared for about a month, and has recently returned to the streets... minus the dog, and a leg. Apparently his leg was cancerous and he had to have it amputated.

Previously I rarely gave to this man, despite his smiling face, because I didn't want to reward him keeping these very young puppies in the hot BKK sun all day. Now, however, I usually give him 10 baht whenever I see him.


Thursday, July 05, 2007

Belief Persistence (paca)

Written Wyrdd had an interesting post today about confirmation bias on her blog. In brief, it is the tendency to seek out information which confirms a belief and avoid or discount any contrary evidence. I happened to be reading last night about a related, but slightly different, bias in judgement called Belief Persistence. Here's one of the experiments that gives us evidence for the phenomenon.

An experimenter tells a research participant that they are going to be asked to judge which suicide notes in a list are real and which were made up by psych students. The participant goes through and moves the suicide notes into two stacks based on whatever criteria they like. Afterwards, the experimenter looks at the result and then tells the participant if they did very well in discerning the real notes, if they did quite poorly, or if they just did average. The participant then nods their head.

However, at this point, the researcher reveals that the evaluation they just gave was completely made up. The participant was assigned to a good, average, or bad group before they ever walked in the door. The supposed evaluation therefore has no relationship at all to how they did. The researcher even shows them the instructions they had and how they were assigned to a meaningless group.

In the final step before the participant leaves, the participant is then asked how good they think they are at judging suicide notes. Here's the belief persistence.... Even though the researcher just told them that their assigned rating was meaningless and had no relationship to how good or bad they are, the participants typically rate themselves as good, average, or bad just as they had been falsely told a couple minutes earlier. So the participant continues to believe the evaluation they received even when they know the evaluation was meaningless.

This is an important finding for designing psychology experiments as it is not too uncommon to tell some participants some really weird or even traumatic things, but then later debrief them that they were false. However, if belief persistence is right, that's really not good enough. The participant might keep on believing those weird facts despite the follow-up explanation.

It's of course also important for understanding how we think in general. It reminds me at the moment of the dangers of teasing. When a parent teases their child about something, the child is likely to continue believing it even when the same parent takes the time to explain that it was just a joke.

Belief Persistence

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Pet peeve update (Llama)

Heard on CNN this morning:

"she was literally glued to the television."

Really? Did she go to the emergency room afterwards, because that could result in some skin loss. At least her eyes weren't literally glued to the television...


Things you never want to hear (paca)

Things you never want to hear from the person cutting your hair at a hair salon. Well, if Supercuts counts as a hair salon. And, no, I am not making this up.

"I love mullets!"

Or in full context...

"I like the hair long in the back. Some say it's a mullet but I love mullets!"

The good news is that it was B's hair being cut not mine, and, well, sure enough his hair is a little longer in the back than expected with the shorter hair in the front. But it's not bad.

"I love mullets!"

Is that when you just stand up mid-snip and thank her for her time?

Why do these people have radio shows? (paca)

A brilliant conversation on talk radio today on the way back to the house this morning between radio host Michael Medved and a random caller, "Roger".

Medved: What do you choose, Roger? Victory in Iraq or defeat in Iraq?

Roger: I don't choose either. I don't think we can win at this point.

Medved: So, you choose defeat.

Roger: No, I said I so not think we can win. I think that is the unfortunate reality.

Medved: You choose defeat. You want the U.S. to lose.

Roger: It's not that simple! It is not possible for us to be victorious. I am not choosing either.

Medved: It's a simple question, Roger. Do you choose victory or defeat? You apparently choose defeat.

I couldn't take anymore and slammed the radio off. I'm sorry, but that "simple question" is so impossibly innane I'm embarassed that Medved has a national radio show at all. Don't the stations which purchase his program hear this and think, "maybe we should look for other shows that would be popular with our audience." The 'simple question' is only legitimate if Medved believes that our desires create the world. I don't like mosquitos, so -poof!- no mosquitos! This is a parallel conversation which would be legitimate if Medved's line of questioning were valid:

Medved: Sun, Roger. You know the big ball up in the sky? Do you choose hot or cold?

Roger: Um, it's hot.

Medved: So you choose a hot sun.

Roger: Well, it is good that it's hot; you know, sun's energy and all for life on the planet.

Medved: You clearly have chosen a hot sun then.

Roger: What?!

The point? One does not choose facts. They just are. That's why they are called facts.*

Of course, there is a legitimate question that Medved could be asking; i.e., is it a fact that we can no longer win in Iraq? That's a legit question and well worth discussing on political radio. What are the facts? But this stupidity of "choosing" reality is embarassing. The conversation clearly only has one purpose. Medved wants to blame people, people that he was waiting to blame before anyone ever spoke, i.e., the mysterious and mighty Left, for a possible reality he doesn't like. I don't mind conservative radio. I just get infuriated at stupid radio.

*Facts, yes, yes, I know about pragmatism, relativism, conceptual shaping of reality, etc. Basic point stands, and Medved certainly doesn't think he's a relativist about reality, though he's acting precisely like one here. A dumb one.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bah! (Llama)

You win this round, Paca!

$3775.00The Cadaver Calculator - Find out how much your body is worth


(But only because they didn't ask about my unusually large brain!)

Know your acids (paca)

Every time I go to the dentist and have to get a filling, I declare that this time I really am giving up sodas. After all, everyone knows that the sugar and acid in soda rot away your teeth over time. However, since I declare this every time, it is clear that this "no more soda" thing doesn't work. I still have my caffeine addiction and I don't drink coffee, so what to do?

The first thing I tried was switching to iced tea. Diet Lipton iced tea, in fact, and I did that for a few days. But then I read the label. Citric Acid. Hmmm.... Pepsi has phosphoric acid. Is phosphoric acid that much worse for your teeth than citric? After all, no one goes off about the evils of tea like they do soda. But, wait! Here's 7-up. It's only got citric acid, too, so could I be drinking citric acid sodas, just not phosphoric acid ones?

So I did some online reading and here's what I learned. First up, both sugar and acid are of course bad for the old mandibles. Dropping either helps. Citric acid also seems to be just as bad as phosphoric acid, so you don't gain anything by dropping Diet Coke and taking up lemon-lime flavored things. Even Crystal Light tea is full of acid which can eat at the enamel. (I do not know proportions in any of these things, which would naturally play a role.)

Next up, it's the acid lingering on teeth which is bad. So supposedly the worst thing you can do teeth-wise is to sit at your desk and take a swig of your soda every few minutes for two hours straight. It actually makes a difference if you just drink a soda with lunch in a couple minutes rather than slowly savoring it throughout the afternoon. Similarly, there are claims that using a straw can help, since the straw mostly bypasses your teeth and goes to the back of your mouth. So, what does all this mean?

Drink water, of course.

But if you are determined to not drink water, fake sugars are better than real sugar (for teeth anyway; don't know about the rest). And you have to watch the lemon / citrus flavored things. I haven't completely investigated yet, but it appears that if I were to make a pitcher of my own iced tea from tea leaves (not from lemon flavored tea mix), and then add Splenda, that would be not-bad for the incisers. And for whatever reasons, apparently root beer is the best of all the sodas and sweet drinks. If you can find a good diet root beer or similar (cream soda?), that would probably be good for your teeth as well. And then have the drink with a meal, not as a long snack, and use a straw. And there you go.

Now, my step-dad is actually a dentist / oral surgeon. If he lets me know that any of this is completely wrong, I will update you.

More Indy (paca)

As llama seems to be pretty stoked about the new Indy movie, I thought I would add a new link here. I happened to run across these pictures of some of the production work. This is on a liberal political blog (Tom Tomorrow who does the This Modern World cartoon), but it appears he lives near Yale which is being converted to look like the 50s for the movie. Did any of the previous movies make it past WWII? Anyway, here's a link to a bunch of pictures of some set work.

Indy at Yale

Take this, llama!

No way you are worth $4400.

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Whose the phd candidate now? (Llama)

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Take that, Paca!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Ouch (paca)

Stephen Colbert's comedy program on Dick Lugar's recent speech on Iraq.



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