Archive for January, 2011

ranoj ran rano

In my philosophy of language course, we’ve been looking at coreference. For example, Bruce Wayne and Batman are different expressions, with different senses, but they refer to the same person. It’s interesting, because this semester it seems that everywhere I’m looking at the reverse.  Two objects that will share a name.

Sometimes it’s a matter of switching between languages.  I’m (struggling through) studying Polish, but I have a really lazy brain.  I tell it to think up a way to express that green little amphibian we call a frog in English.  My brain thinks “okay, she wants to say ‘frog’ but in foreign-speak. Well, ‘rano’ is just sitting here all convenient like, and it’s not English.  Sounds good, we’ll go with that.” Yeah, “rano” is a word I use on occasion to refer to that object, but it’s also one I use in Polish.  When I want to talk about something happening “in the morning.” (It’s great when I do this in reverse and instead of doing something “matene,” I claim to do it “rane”)

It happens when I stick to English too.  Up until this semester–and if I’m being totally honest with when I’m doing my reading, up until today–an asterisk preceding a word (at least in a linguistic context) has meant “ungrammatical.” Now, I’ve been able to understand that it meant that, but I’m pretty sure nobody told me that, so I’m a little peeved.  Honestly, it’s kind of a dumb system.  I hope that I had just happened to have a few professors who liked using dumb systems, but today I learned that I’ll have to exit the field of linguistics to avoid this one.  I learned that gem while learning the alternate meaning of *word that I’ll use only in historical linguistics (diachronic linguistics, if you want a fancier sounding word than historical).  *word means that it’s a reconstructed form.  In that class I’m also getting used to > being neither a crocodile mouth nor “greater than.”  But that one isn’t so bad. It looks like an arrow, which is what I would naturally use for “changed into,” and I suppose logically then < would be the opposite.

Heading back to the philosophy of language course that started this series of thought, I get to play around with some familiar terms there too.  Philosophy, like language, can apparently be synthetic or analytic and is either a priori or a posteriori. Yeah, I know, we’re working with the same English language here, there’s going to be some overlap.  There’s just a moment of disconnect when you see a word and think “yeah, I completely know what that means” but then realize that in this context, you’re completely lost.  But hey, that’s what school is for,  huh? :]


For those of you trying to decode the title: First, know that it doesn’t have exciting meaning.  Second, the order of the languages is Esperanto, English, then Polish.  Finally, I’ve given you the meaning of the words in the text, but you may find it helpful to know that -j is the plural marker in Esperanto.

The most frustrating thing in the world may very well be my inability to read. I don’t know if I get bored and just insert what I want it to say, or if I read it too fast and just make up what I think it will say, but it’s really irritating.  Especially when it comes to proofreading.  So usually, I just don’t proofread.  But sometimes, I really want to impress someone.  But I know what I meant to type, even if I dropped an N (ĉi-fojon, ne temas pri la akuzativo!) or a parenthesis or whatever, so I just assume I typed what I meant.  Because really, why would I type something different?  Naturally, once an error is pointed out it’s clear as day and haunts me forever.  You know, that whole wanting to impress problem? It goes well with the general fretting, and unbearable need to not be wrong.  Because one misplaced letter can totally change someone’s impression–especially if it’s a close to first impression. The good news: even I know I’ll remember these kinds of errors much longer than anyone else.  Phew.

There are probably only about 3 people who know how much I enjoyed playing pool.  Now I’ll tell you all too. I’m not very good at it, and I don’t feel like thinking through the geometry of it, but it’s like bowling: no matter how terribly I play, I still enjoy every time I do.  Speaking of bowling and pool, is that a segue I hear? This game looks to be like something I’d really, really enjoy.  If you have a backyard and some time to kill, build me one please? Oh, and please note that this is in my home state.  Wow, could anything be cooler than Missouri?  You know, other than the subzero temperatures we’ve got here now.  But you knew I was talking about the other kind of cool. Sheesh.

yum yum long weekend

The other day, I was walking home from parking the car (oh, to live on a college campus) with a couple of friends.  We saw a dump truck drive by and Jeff asks, “is that dump truck just full of snow?”  I laugh, and assumed that there was just snow on top of what was inside it.  But no, this was a truck just carrying snow.  We saw a couple others, and a parking lot piled high.  I never really thought about what happens to the snow that is plowed.  Up here, where it’s too cold and not sunny enough for the snow to melt after being pushed into piles, I guess that they really do need somewhere to get rid of the snow.  After getting home, I googled “dump trucks of snow” and found a great story from–where else?–Russia (well, the Chechen Republic, but it’s part of Russia).  Apparently for a  New Years, 100 dump trucks of snow were ordered by the President to be delivered to the capital city so that children could play in the snow.  Crazy, huh?

And now for the excuse for the procrastinated post–I moved.  Nowhere exciting, just across campus. It was pretty crazy… I had to wait an extra day to get my key to the new place because my first flight didn’t get in in time to catch my connection so I had to fly standby on a later flight. And then my car wouldn’t start (battery was bad–I just replaced it in August! I hate cars).  Now I have all my stuff moved, at least.  And I have wireless internet in the new place (hurrah!) and my own bedroom (I’m not so good at sharing a bedroom… especially when my natural sleeping patterns aren’t the same as hers).  To celebrate moving in,  I made a (sort of) special dinner.  It wasn’t fancy or anything, but it was a little time consuming; and something that, to my knowledge, can’t be easily procured here; and I had a couple of friends help to eat it.  I made a bunch of tamales, because it is so not easy in my neck of the woods to find vegan tamales.  The Whole Foods back home used to carry some which were okay, but now they sell veggie cheese ones instead.  The nerve! Anyway, I think they turned out pretty okay. I’m no expert–I’d never made them or seen them made, but I I wasn’t in love with the dough (I settled on the PPK/Veganomicon recipe–it was good, but not great) , but I really like my fillings.  I did two–I started both of them with some garlic and onion sauteed in olive oil.  To one I then added mushrooms chopped finely and once they cooked down a bouillon cube and some water.  Once that boiled, I added in a cup or so of TVP and let it… do whatever TVP does.  Added chili powder, cumin, salt (my cube was salt-free) and a little oregano and paprika. The second filling was the onions and garlic plus a sweet potato (smashed) I had baked, and a poblano pepper I had roasted and peeled (chopped finely) and a little cumin, with fresh kale and the juice of half a lime.  The fillings were pretty simple to make–I’m used to throwing things in a pot/pan and cooking until they’re done.  The filling and wrapping process (and the dough simply because I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be like) was a little crazy, but definitely worth it.  Cold weather calls for warm carbohydrateful comfort foods, after all. Maybe I’ll snap a picture of the leftovers and post it later.

In other news, I still haven’t quite figured out my class schedule.  I think I’m going to add Money, Credit, and Banking–if only because I don’t understand those things and everyone assumes that an economist should understand them.  And I may drop Historical Linguistics in favor of Advanced Topics in Microeconomic theory.  Any thoughts? I’m totally digging my classes so far that I am keeping though. Woohoo new semester optimism.

Off to read some poetry.  Oh dear.

how to seem fluent in two words

While I have SO MUCH to share about my life… I’m going to skip that for a bit. Because I have some other thoughts at the moment.

Now that I can no longer call myself a beginner (my 2 year anniversary with Esperanto is coming up soon!) I find myself looking back fondly at the memory.  Sure, at the time it was frustrating to not be able to adequately express myself (one could argue that I still can’t do that, even in English), but everything fit together in those sixteen rules, it was new and exciting–and everyone I met seemed to speak confidently and flawlessly.  Fast forward two years. Yeah, it’s great to be able to use the language now. It’s great to no longer have people assume that because I don’t feel so great stringing together thoughts in Esperanto, I don’t understand what’s being said. True story: “Stop listening, Chris, this is too hard for you.” And most importantly, it’s wonderful to be able to think in the language.  But now… I pick up on errors. Everywhere. I try to be patient (and when appropriate, helpful), but it’s hard not to notice.

Before Esperanto, I may have occasionally earned the title of “Grammar Nazi.”  Really, I just like rules.  Rules should (as long as I agree with them?) be followed.  If you’ve been speaking the language for 20 years–as a native speaker, no less–you should know it pretty well.  I get (though am bugged) that modern usage has made things like proper use of “whom” less important, but I still do my best to follow those rules. (Once, during an interview, I was asked if my mother was an English teacher because I actually used “whom” correctly.  I cried a single tear for the English language that day)

It’s not surprising, then, that I cringe a little on the inside when those folks* who seemed so fluent even a year and a half ago stumble over suffixes and speak with a strong (rhymes with wrong) American accent. But do you know what really makes them sound like they’re speaking a tongue totally foreign to them? The word “um.”

If you would like to sound like you are more fluent in Esperanto than you do now, please cut out “um” and start adding in Esperanto filler words.  Say “nu” and “do” and I guarantee that other people will think you are more fluent than if you do not say them.  It will make you sound 100000** times more natural–if you’re pausing to think with a filler word that is Esperanto, they can assume you are thinking in Esperanto too.   If you can throw some other interjections in there, all the better.  True story: I was at a conversation round once, at which I spoke barely a handful of words, but I about half of them were filler words or interjections.  Someone said “wow, you’ve become really fluent now!”

I understand that if you’re reading this (unless I have some readers I don’t know about), you are either already fluent in Esperanto, or you do not speak it at all.  I have good news for you if you are in the latter category: this works in other languages too! I recently discovered the word “no” in Polish (it means “nu,” or “well,”). That was the happiest discovery I could have made.  I am far from fluent, but by adding “no” to my vocabulary, I sound much less stilted, and much more confident.  Even if I butcher the pronunciation of every other word.

*not you
**give or take

!@#$%@&ed $%^*ing words

I don’t believe in swear words. Wait–you don’t believe me, do you? And you shouldn’t. I curse all the time.  Less so among some people, more so in certain circumstances.  But enough to say that I do it. But “swear words,” “curse words,” “bad words,” whatever you want to call them–they don’t exist.  There are simply words, and they are strung together to express some feeling, thought, fact, et cetera, with a certain intent.  The key is pragmatics.  That separates “the bloody car,” which is covered in blood, from “the bloody car,” which is in someway offensive at the moment.  I can say “fuck” in a manner such that it seems perfectly fit for conversation over tea with the queen and I can say something completely mundane and make your blood boil.  Euphemisms, while sometimes fun, do not mask meaning or intent.  If you know that I mean “fuck” when I say “freak” why bother saying something other than what I mean?

I could go on, but that’s sufficient to tell you that there’s yet another attack on literature. If you haven’t yet heard, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will be re-released.  This time, without “the n-word.” As a fellow Missourian, I feel compelled to speak out in defense of Mark Twain’s work. Despite my cursing “all the time,” I do not make use of that word. I don’t have much use for racial slurs in general.  I bristle at the word “dyke” rolling off most tongues.  But whether or not it’s a word I’d like to use or hear is not the issue.  The issue is whether it is right to alter–to sugarcoat–our literature and therefore our history.

In this new edition, 219 times the “the n-word” will be changed to “slave” (“injun” will also be replaced). First let’s talk about how you simply cannot alter classical literature.  Then we’ll talk about how “the n-word” actually is kind of a big party of the story, understanding the racism of the time, and all that jazz.  We’ll take a moment to address that “slave” really doesn’t have the same ring to it.  Then we’ll end with “anyone reading the book and seeing ‘slave’ will understand that to mean ‘derogatory term for person of African descent’ anyway.”

The first time this issue was brought to my attention was freshman year of high school.  We had been assigned to read what would become my all time favorite book–To Kill a Mockingbird. As you may know, that book also includes use of “the n-word.” That wasn’t too startling.  I was aware of when the book was written, and I have (and had) a passable knowledge of American history.  I wasn’t too surprised that during class discussions, the teacher said “the n word” instead of saying the actual word.  It is, after all, an unsavory term. What was quite startling, was having my paper edited to say “n*” at all my quotations I had pulled from the book.  We all knew what the book said–we all read it. Why pretend it said something it didn’t? The Huck Finn case is going to allow that pretending to stretch further.  Not only in paper writing and class discussing, but in reading the book as well.  That is an outrage, and it makes me sick to think about the future of American education.

Now I think I’ll go reread some of Twain’s stuff.  As it was written.  While I still can.

how a magic genie lamp kept me from getting a cold

A real title? No song lyrics? Right. I wanted to make sure you didn’t stop reading after seeing the post was going to be about a series of gibberish words.

Saturday morning, I woke up exhausted and with that feeling in my throat that said, how would you like to spend your last week of break feeling like you’re dying? Initially I thought, well, how about I drink lots of water and pretend this is just a matter of dehydration (I’m not very good at getting enough water sometimes) and take a nap and by tomorrow it’ll all be hunky-dory? That did not work so well.  By Monday, my lymph nodes informed me that I was getting sick.  I respect my lymph nodes very much, but was not going to let them be right.  I gargled some saltwater to calm down the bear that was tearing at my throat (I can only assume that is why my throat felt that way) and then thought, hey, why don’t I just let my entire head gargle salt water?

About a million years ago, la patrino bought a neti pot, which is basically a genie lamp looking thing that you fill up with saline solution and stick in your nose. You pour in one nostril… it comes out the other.  Magic+gravity=cleaned out sinus passages.  It sounds bizarre, uncomfortable, and questionably effective.  For those reasons, this magic genie lamp has remained unused for long enough that the little saline mixes were expired.  I, however, was desperate to not be sick (and really, how does salt go bad?!) so I decided to try it.  It’s not exactly a comfortable sensation–think of how great it feels to get water up your nose while you’re swimming.  It does, however, work. (And it is not as bad as swimming pool water which is all chlorine-y and cold and whatnot).  I don’t want to jinx it or anything, but the sniffles and sore throat did not progress, and the lymph nodes have shut up.  So if you’re into weird non-medicine cures, maybe you should try it too.  And Oprah/Dr. Oz endorse them, so they must be good–right?

Today, I had to cope with not being sick, but being trapped in the home (alright, I could have walked somewhere… but there’s not really anywhere in walking distance that’s worth visiting. I finished reading a book I started (Anansi’s Boys, to finish up a Neil Gaiman kick). I considered hitting up Starbucks to read there, since I got a giftcard for there, but I’ve got a mental block on walking more than a mile and a half to get some subpar coffee (sorry, Starbucks, I blame that trip to Italy for my inability to appreciate you for more than your higher-than-average caffeine content). I’m glad to have the time to read some novels, and I’m glad that there are still folks writing enjoyable books. It seems that the today’s culture is moving from books to blogs to books based on blogs but with very few words.  Sure we’ve got new gadgets to read books–Kindle, iPad, Nook, other with equally silly names–but honestly, how many people use them primarily to sit down and read a novel? How many more use them to flip through things… to search for some key phrase without doing the traditional reading bit? I’ve considered the merits of one of these gadgets myself–how many times have I been packing for a trip and had to limit how many books I brought because of space? Finishing up the book tonight, I wished I could remember who said this thing that was later referenced.  Both of those problems would be solved with one of those gizmos. But you just can’t beat the feel of a paperback in hand.  And I fear that I would become a skimmer and a searcher, instead of a devourer of books.  Wow, I didn’t mean to go on that tangent.  My “culture is moving” was going to segue into: And have you noticed these book trailers?! So now…

Have you noticed these book trailers?! The first one I saw, I thought, oh, that’s neat, a teaser trailer for a book!  The second one, I thought, oh gods what has this world come to? If you don’t have time/are too lazy/just don’t want to read a summary/excerpt/review/whatever it is that makes you decide to read a book… are you really going to buy/borrow/check out the book?! Admittedly, I’d only seen two myself, so I thought maybe the world isn’t coming to a screeching halt–I just happened to find two oddities. But then I decided to google “book trailer.” It seems there are a lot of trailers. I watched a few, so that I could confirm my opinion, or perhaps even change it.  There are some that make me wish I could just read the back of the book, since that’s basically all the trailer was… but in a minute and a half instead of the twenty seconds it would take to read it.  Boring.  Then some that made me confused about what it was even a trailer for.  I’m also concerned about putting any images in my head that may distort how I would imagine characters and the like.  Yes, I’m pretty convinced that book trailers could ruin books for me.  And this is coming from someone who frequently read the last page first.

There was one trailer I watched, however, that made me think I’d maybe pick up the book if it were handy.  It looks like a repeat of a story I’ve seen a thousand times, but then again I read a lot of Redwall books back in the day and those are pretty much all about the same meal.  But, the trailer made me take notice, and it told me that if I like Christopher Moore (and I do) that I would love this book.  So perhaps not every single trailer will ruin its book, and maybe some are effective, but seriously–trailers? for books?

de do do do, de da da da is all i want to say to you

Real thing that I just said: “I JUST GOT BOATS!”

Thing that I just meant to say: “I JUST GOT BOOTS!”

Yet another reason why I really need to learn to keep my languages straight. Or perhaps just get more sleep.

The lack of sleep started out my fault–Thursday bedtime got pushed back because of the internet and clicking. Friday was NYE and even though I initially decided to stay in and do nothing, around 10:30 I made the decision to get out of bed (yes, really) and head over to a small get-together at a friend’s place.  I hadn’t seen her in forever, it was good to see the other people there, it was overall a good decision.  It was not good, however, for getting sleep.  I have a lot of trouble getting comfortable enough to sleep and I woke up several times and had weird dreams–the most memorable was finding a cure for zombiism in the form of nutritional yeast packed cinnamon scones (yuck!) and then of course we were too late to save them since the government got impatient and decided to blow them all up anyway.  Stupid government intervention.  Anyway, I had to nap yesterday as a result (after the black-eyed peas, of course) which made sleep last night come late.  Now I’m tired, but a little wired from exciting reuniting and epic Super Smash Bros battles and all that. *sigh*

In honor of this new year, I’ve been thinking about resolutions.  I don’t generally make them–perhaps I’m too pessimistic or maybe I just know I’ll be filled with self-hatred should I let them slide.  Lent is generally a much better period of self-improvement for me.  Growing up just shy of the bible belt makes religious guilt a might strong motivator, no matter my current beliefs. And 46 days is a bit more manageable than thinking about an entire year–or even worse, an entire rest of life! Maybe then a resolution for January would be more realistic.  Something with shades of gray so that there’s no absolute failure possible.

I’m not sure if this really counts, as I’ve been working slowly on it, and some parts can’t really be worked on until I’m back at school, but one of the things that bothers me most is the trouble I have with communication.  I’m not talking about my language mix-ups again.  I’m also not really talking about the lack of clarity in my speech–more often than not, I find that I am able to more or less express what I want to when I want to. It’s more a problem of staying in touch.   One aspect is that I don’t contact people as much as I should, in meaningful enough ways.    Another part of the problem is that when I contact someone, I want contact back.  Seems reasonable enough, right? Maybe I should be blaming technology here, or maybe I’m trying to use things like text messaging for meaningful conversation that they aren’t meant to handle.  Either way, I end up rather put off when someone leaves without word in the middle of a conversation–or prematurely ends it by simple ceasing to respond.  This would never happen–at least not with a friendly person–in real life or even a phone call. You simply don’t walk away when having a conversation.  Lastly, it annoys me to no end when people do not initiate conversation.  The message this sends to me is “I don’t really want to talk to you enough to send the first message.”  I’m sure (I hope) that isn’t the real message, but it hurts.  And gets me thinking–does s/he really want to talk at all? Am I sending too many messages? Eventually, I’ll back off of the messages in hopes of reestablishing conversational balance. All this leads to less than satisfying contact.

What I’ll be doing: Firstly, I’ll try to get less upset when others commit the conversation fouls I’ve mentioned–I have to be able to assume that if it’s a friend, s/he’s probably not intentionally being a jerk.  And I’ll work on not committing them myself–I’m sure I do it, and if it bothers me, it probably bothers other people.  I’m also setting up a phone call schedule with a friend from home to make sure we keep up with each other, in a more meaningful manner than texts or instant messages.

I’ll check back in at the beginning of February–maybe by then I can tell you about a new habit of staying better in touch.