February 25th, 2008


[links] Link salad for a travel day

A reader reacts to Mainspring Powell's | Amazon | Audible ]

An attendee reports on the SC Book Festival — With a photo of the SF panel, including yours truly.

Manga Shakespeare — The Bard of Avon kicks it Tokyo style. Sayonara, soliloquy!

Graphene Transistors — A potential 100x speed increase over silicon...

Time in saddle: 0 minutes (up at 3 am Eastern to head for the Charleston airport)
Last night's weigh-out: n/a
This morning's weigh-in: n/a
Currently reading: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image, by Leonard Shlain Powell's | Amazon ]

[travel|personal] There's planes in that there air

At the Charleston airport, waiting to connect to DFW and on to Omaha. I got up at 3 am Eastern (that would be midnight in my home time zone, folks) and drove the 120 miles to the airport here from Columbia (that would be because I can't handle airline bookings, apparently). A small price to pay for greatness.

The South Carolina Book Festival was an awesome experience. Jim Born (a/k/a mystery writer James O. Born and fantasy writer James O'Neill) was a very sharp moderator on the SF panel, and went out of his way to befriend me and the VanderMeers. Spent a lot of time talking about literature and mystery genres with academics and writers of same, hit a couple of good parties, and generally enjoyed myself to a ridiculous degree.

Working this week in Omaha, then off to Seattle Friday for Potlatch.

I have some comments on Nader's announcement of candidacy, but I think I'll wait til I'm less cranky tired. Suffice to say that I, a Nader voter in 2000, wish to hell he'd shut up now.

I need to do a little workshop reading, then I'm going to wrap Madness of Flowers, fix "The Baby Killers", and jump back into Green.

Y'all play nice.

[language] English is a foreign language

This is the sort of thing my mind gets up to when I haven't had enough sleep. I've been sitting here for a while trying to unwind the semantic implications of the fact that we quite commonly refer to non-English tongues as "foreign languages." Use of the adjective "foreign" in that noun phrase brings a lot of freight to the term.

Consider Polish. It's a language with an ethnic basis and a political basis. Poles in Poland speak it. So do some others, such as goulo. Not hard to see why Polish might be characterized as a "foreign" language, from an American point of view.

What about languages which have lost their ethnic and political basis, but remain in use? I'm thinking here of liturgical languages such as Latin or Old Church Slavonic. They don't have cradle speakers, but there is a reasonable population of adult speakers who perpetuate the language. How are they foreign? There hasn't been a Latium in a very long time.

Likewise invented languages. Esperanto has very few cradle speakers, but there is certainly a healthy community of adult speakers. And while Esperanto has a political slant, it is not a state language anywhere. Quite deliberately so.

Then there are languages with an ethnic basis but no current or historical political basis. Romany, or Yiddish. Likewise dead languages, such as Sumerian or Tocharian A. No speakers, no ethnic affiliation, no political basis. But they are still studied to a limited degree. (Distinguish this from Attic Greek, which has a descendant culture that claims affiliation with its ancient form.)

The most ridiculous example of a "foreign" language would an indigenous tongue. Cherokee or Iroquois can't possibly be foreign here in North America. English is the invasive species. If you're looking at the question from the British Isles, likewise Manx and Cornish.

Clearly this isn't a serious issue. One very common usage of "Foreign" just means "not local", as in "foreign food," "foreign parts", and the phrase "this was foreign to me". "Foreign language" means the language we don't speak here. I just find myself wondering how much the conceptual freight of the word "foreign", with its connotations around patriotism and political power, imbues the way people think about non-English languages. Would the English only movement be so attractive to some people?

One irony of the barely-disguised racism and anti-immigrant sentiment of the English only movement is that English as we know and love it is a Romance-Germanic creole of Norman French and Old English. Driven underground for generations by an overwhelming military conquest and subsequent permanent occupation, our own language was what the field hands and kitchen help spoke, while the people with money and status and power conversed in French. Our linguistic ancestors, and in my case genetic ancestors, were marginalized, overwhelmed and discriminated against, because English was a foreign language in its own country.

[personal|tech] Big trouble in little China

I experienced a disaster of miniseries proportions today. (It did not reach epic status, thankfully.) I had slept much of the flight CHS-DFW, then did about another hour of crit on the Potlatch workshop stories. On the ground in DFW I did a bunch of ratkilling, posting, emails, etc. Pretty close to boarding time for OMA, the Mac started throwing the beachball cursor all over the place. I wound up doing a hard shut down via the power button.

It never came back up.

On landing in OMA, I used Google maps on my Treo to locate the Apple dealer here in town, then phoned them for a Genius Bar appointment. They were very nice and fit me in almost immediately. I postponed dinner with garyomaha and elusivem and headed way the heck out to west Omaha (170th and Dodge, basically).

Diagnosis quickly confirmed my hard drive was hosed. They recovered some data to my memory stick, and replaced the drive under AppleCare at no financial cost to me. I have good backups at home, and my data loss is quite minimal, albeit impossible to restore here while I am travelling. I'm currently running with the factory disk image of OS X 10.4, without my Microsoft Office suite, without any of my bookmarks for my morning blurgroll, and without any of my files.

I lost the Potlatch crit (about 2-3 hours of effort so far). I lost some recent audio.xml work (easily recreated). I lost 4-5 hours of editing time on Madness of Flowers. And while I'm supposed to turn the book in at the end of this week, I'm not sure how I'm going to edit it on this machine. Probably I'll recover the file from Gmail, convert it to .rtf on my Dell, then edit that in TextEdit. But cripes. Cripes cripes cripes cripes.

A huge fricking hassle. I had to drive all over town in subfreezing weather with 30 mph winds and blowing snow. I was 2+ hours late to dinner, never did run the errands I needed, and my entire writing week is disrupted. Plus limited to no link salads since I'm missing my usual bookmarks.

Still, Time Machine has all the core data backed up at home. All my important drafts are in my Gmail archive. I just despise the hassle and the lost productivity, and the fact that this will knock my deadlines back. As I said, a disaster, but not of epic proportions.