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correctness in language

I've been really impressed by an online Spanish program I've been working through via a local community college. It's called "Speed Spanish," and I get the impression it's been around for a while. I like it. I'm into Speed Spanish III now, and the creator of the program, Dan Mikels, has said some things that impressed me so much I've been sharing them all over the place (as [personal profile] missroserose can attest to). AND NOW I SHALL SHARE THEM HERE.

In any language, there are certain things that are extra difficult for learners to master. People can teach you rules and exceptions, or give you examples, but if it's not your native language, you'll have trouble. Dan was going over one of those and trying to reassure students that it doesn't really matter that much if you make a mistake. He said this:
All spontaneous speech, no matter the language, is sloppy ... From the university professor who teaches speech courses, to the person who's had no formal education—all spontaneous speech is sloppy. It doesn't matter who you are. Shouldn't you avoid this sloppiness? It's impossible in spontaneous speech.

And earlier, he points out the political underpinnings to what's considered "correct" in a language and says,
Whenever I'm puzzling over whether a particular sentence pattern is used in a particular language, I do what I can to find a native speaker with the least amount of education. I want to find the language speaker who can be more descriptive and less prescriptive. I want to know what is and not what should be.

On the other hand, it's true that speaking the lingo of the elite confers advantages (and not knowing it can shut doors). That's why people want to learn it! And that's why people get to have power trips being sticklers for grammatical niceties, or pronunciation.

... My brain just clocked off, so this post is going to come to an abrupt end. Maybe in the morning I can add to it!

Annnnd.... now the meter on my brain has run out. More another day I guess?

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/894038.html. Comments are welcome at either location.


Final cover for The Inconvenient God

Here is the final cover for my novelette, The Inconvenient God, which Annorlunda Books is bringing out in October! In case you can't read the text blurb, it says,
What happens if you try to retire a god who is not ready to leave?

An official from the Ministry of Divinity arrives at a university to decommission a local god. She is expecting an easy decommissioning of a waning god of mischief but finds instead an active god not interested in retiring and university administrators who have not told her the full story about the god. Can the Decommissioner discover the true story of this god in time to prevent his most destructive round of mischief yet?


This story had its genesis in a conversation on [personal profile] sovay's journal years ago--the talk turned to exorcisms and exorcising a god from his precinct (this entry; this thread), and the idea lingered.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/893837.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

wooly achoo

Between tags, which I confess I'm not that fond of, and beautiful murals (such as this new one by the street artist who goes by the name "guache_art"), there are the fancy, elaborate versions of tags that you can see--for instance, on train cars, like these ones parked in B-town.

Here is one labeled "wooly achoo"


I like the color and circles on this one:


several more examplesCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/893579.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Wednesday reading--singing to the trees

More Timor ca. 1960:
They also chant "songs of instruction" to the trees before they are hewn down, asking that they provide strong supports for the house and allow no harm to come to the family who will ultimately live within; and there are songs to encourage the Nautilus pompilius, to leave their sea bed and decorate the roofs of the most important houses with their shells.

That is a mighty fine tradition, and I wish we had it here. (I wonder if they still have it there.)

Here's a picture taken in 2006 by Flickr user giantpandinha of a house going up in Timor-Leste

On the rooftop

And here's another by her from the same year, looking up at those strong supports:

Solid house

There are different styles of house in different parts of Timor, but the ones King was talking about are the very distinctive house of Lospalos. Here's a photo taken in 1988 by Flickr user incitio.vacations

Raca Village, Los Palos - Timor Leste

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/893316.html. Comments are welcome at either location.
We've reached it: Yet Another Asakiyume Rant on the Trolley Problem. When I first committed to writing this, I was all fired up. I was sure I had a totally new and many-splendored rant that would *not* merely be a rehash of my past rants. Now that some time has passed, I ... think I was wrong.

Here's the slim thought that seemed new at the time: trying to find out which of two (or however many) awful options a person will take in a controlled simulation is asking the wrong questions. It's assuming a forgone conclusion (death) and so it asks, which deaths? who dies? But the future is never known, and it's much, much more meaningful to have people exert their energies toward other solutions. "What can be done in this situation?" That's the question to ask--open ended, not an either-or. Letting people imagine deploying secret brakes or giant trolley airbags or robot rescue dirigibles might appear to be an exercise in escapism, but it also might generate actual ideas for ways actual situations could be made safer.

I think the rest of what I'm tempted to say is all stuff I've said before. [personal profile] sovay asked me once whether I thought even just the act of engaging with the trolley scenario in imagination was harmful, and as I recall I equivocated, but coming back to it now, I guess I think yes, if it won't allow for alternative answers, it is. It's a way of compelling people to accede to death and rehearse manslaughter.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/893110.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

Wednesday reading

I'm reading through Eden to Paradise, by Margaret King. She was an anthropologist, and this book, published in 1963, describes her time in what was then Portuguese Timor. I'm excited to read it because there's not a whole lot that's easily available to me about Timorese lifeways prior to independence. But oh holy wow to the wowth, this woman is self-satisfied, self-congratulatory, and casually racist like you wouldn't believe. (Actually, you would probably believe it.) I kept on mentally thinking I was reading something from the 1930s or something and then having to remind myself that this was the 1960s. Her attitudes seem just so... ugh. It made me curious about the woman herself, and it turns out she was born in 1922, so her notions probably reflect the era in which she was raised.

For all that she condescends massively toward the Timorese (and then is irritated when a Chinese man condescends to her, ah, yes, feels different in that direction, doesn't it), she clearly likes Timorese culture, and when she's talking about fishing practices or dances or things like that, you can brush aside her condescending remarks and just enjoy the thing she's talking about:
The Timorese women work long hours planting out the seedling rice and as each paddy is completed a long banner of bamboo, browned leaves waving in the slightest breeze, is raised as the signal to all who pass by of the successful beginning to another season. The paddies stand ranked in tiers one above the other, protected by their dry stone walls or earthen banks. These signals of bamboo are reminiscent of the scarecrows standing so solemnly in the fields of Europe to guard the newly planted grains, yet they have one enchanting difference, for, while the European scarecrows are either menacing or pathetic in their dilapidation, the bamboo signals wave gaily to everyone.

But oh man, when she's going on about herself, or when she's trying to wax poetic, she's just awful! Try not to choke on the self-congratulation in this excerpt:
Never having bothered very much about nationalities, preferring always to judge people as individuals,* it was a strange experience to be accepted as a compatriot by four different nationalities in one day. To make matters even more interesting the four races were widely divergent and, after the third encounter, I did begin to wonder whether I possessed the characteristics of a chameleon.

She's mistaken for Portuguese because of her fair skin, for Kashmiri because she knows about Kashmiri music, for Chinese because she quotes the poetry of Po Chü-i and Ou Yang Hsiu, and Timorese because she plays two Timorese tunes from memory on a Timorese flute. See how **special** she is?

The copy I have does have a lovely cover, however. Wakanomori found it in a used bookstore in England and presented it to me without comment--and I could tell by the houses and the woman's face that it was Timor. (Hmm, a little self-congratulation of my own, heh. So easy to criticize others; so hard to acknowledge the same flaws in myself)

*Not true: she remarks on everyone's nationality and talks about whether they adhere to her notion of the national stereotype.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/892806.html. Comments are welcome at either location.
Part one is here. The question for part two is Will a Powerful Enough Computer Result in Unerring Predictions?

Annnnnd ... The answer is NO. No, it's not possible to amass enough information to make unerring predictions. It's like the problem of Glinda's record book in the Oz series. Glinda's record book was supposed to list everything that ever happened anywhere in the world, the problem being that to capture every single thing, you'd need a book the size of the universe (that's not even going into the recursive problems of describing the updating going on in the book). Data-based predictions have an added problem, because they assume you understand cause and effect. I'd argue that humanity's propensity for seeing relationships and patterns means that we're actually quite bad at correctly assigning cause and effect--if it's even possible. I sometimes wonder if beyond certain basic physical rules cause and effect might not be illusion. Meaning-creating illusion, but illusion all the same. BUT NOW I'VE SAID TOO MUCH.

Nevertheless, the notion that enough data will let you predict the future is a premise that has evergreen appeal for SF writers. You may remember it from such classics as the Foundation trilogy or The Minority Report. Tangentially, I think it's interesting that these days stories tend to support the premise that your fate is never fixed, whereas in lots of old stories, the opposite is true--like in ancient Greek stories, for example. If there's a prophecy, it will come true.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/892505.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

"say" sound in three languages

This doesn't qualify as a poem; it's just playing with sound.

誰のせい? [dare no sei/ whose fault]?

no sé [I don't know]

say what?

no dice nada [says nothing]

dime [tell me]

だめ [dame/ no way]

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/892267.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

talk-to-me powder

I generally like, or at least don't mind, people talking to me, but I *do* notice when it's out of the ordinary. Today, I have the distinct impression that I'd inadvertently sprinkled myself with talk-to-me powder.

First in the supermarket, a girl stocking the shelves, looked up as I approached and said, "Is it raining outside?" (It's not; it's a sunny day.)

"No," I told her, "It's still clear out."

"It's just... " she indicated a rumbling noise coming from overhead. "It sounds like thunder."

"Hmmm, yeah, it does. Could it be the air conditioning units?" We mused for a few minutes more and then I went on with my shopping.

Next, as I was gazing abstractedly at the grass-fed beef, a man came up to me and said, "Is this the grass-fed beef?"

"Yes, all of this," I said. There were about three shelves of little one-pound packages.

"Oh! And it's only $7.00 a pound! That's better than at [competitor supermarket]. Over there it's $9.00."

"Then this is a bargain," I said, though I don't really know what constitutes a bargain in the area of sustainably raised beef. In the end I didn't buy any--I don't know whether the man did or not.

Last was at the farm stand across the way from the supermarket. There's a young guy staffing it, vaguely familiar looking. He obviously had the same feeling about me, because he abruptly said,

"Whose mom are you? You look really familiar."

"What year did you graduate?" I ask back, and it's the same year as my youngest, which is complicated, because (a) she detested high school, and (b) about six months after graduating--and moving overseas--she came out as trans female.... which means her classmates knew her as a boy.

Always in these situations I have to make a snap decision: go into the story, or don't go into the story. This kid seemed friendly enough, but I have no idea what kind of relationship he and my youngest had, or if they even crossed paths. So I asked him if he knew [child's old name] and he said yes, that they'd been in band together.

"Tell him I say hello," he said.

"What's your name?" I asked.

He told me. I reported the whole thing to my youngest via messages. She said asking abrupt questions was very much that guy's personality. I said maybe it wasn't him; after all, I'd been wearing talk-to-me powder.

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/892017.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

cover: The Inconvenient God

I am staggeringly lucky to have cover art by Likhain for "The Inconvenient God," a novelette (maybe a noveletina? Extra long short story?) coming out this fall from Annorlunda Press.

Behold! (All Likhain's art is just gorgeous.)

(link to her original tweet here)

This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/891683.html. Comments are welcome at either location.

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