Friday, April 30, 2004

Bahasa Rojak

The Kementerian Penerangan (KEMPEN), the Malaysian Ministry of Information, in mid-April stirred up a bit of debate about what's appropriate to air on the channels of Radio-Television Malaysia. The concern wasn't about Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake, Howard Stern or even crank calls to Fidel Castro, no the problem is "rojak language."

Rojak, according to my only Bahasa Melayu dictionary, is a "cold dish of sliced vegetables or fruits seasoned with a sauce," or basically a mixed salad. (Here's a recipe that describes rojak as "Singapore salad.") But in the context of the Malaysian debate, the rojak is being used to describe the common mixture of English (and Hindi and Arabic and French and other languages -- although English is the admixture in question at the moment) with Basaha Melayu. From an article by Zieman in The Star:
"The ministry disallows Malay songs that incorporate English lyrics. We are following the guidelines given by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP [the Institute of Language and Literature]) which state that songs with inaccurate translations or improper language should be banned," [Deputy Information Minister Datuk Zainuddin Maidin] said.
However, there seems to be some disagreement about what is to be banned.
"A few English words in a Malay song is quite normal in this borderless world. I am certain the ban was not imposed for that reason because many English words or terms have been Malaysianised," [said Information Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir].
A "Malaysianised" word is part of the problem with at least one of the songs, "Seksis" (Sexist) by Singaporean diva Anita Sarawak. Songwriter Norman Halim said that the word seksis had to be used for the song "because we could not find a suitable word in Malay to describe the content of the song. It should consider including new words like Seksis in the Malay dictionary."

Dara Naga's Lair has a good two-part [ I | II ] rant about mixing English and Bahasa Melayu (with a bit of code switching to help make her point): "I'm all for upholding the national language but unlike some people, I'm not stupid enough to think that our language in its present form is perfect."

However, others don't agree, including Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Rais Yatim, who said that "most Malaysians spoke 'half-eel, half-snake' language." To counter this, the ministry plans "several language culture education programmes to revive and protect Bahasa Melayu as the nation's heritage."

Beyond all the actual issue of whether or not a language should grow by adopting words from other languages, the use of rojak to describe the process and to label the "mixed language" as a bahasa rojak (as former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad did). The only parallel I can think of in English is salgamundi, which in cuisine terms is a composed salad, but it also has the meaning "a mixture, olio or medley." The mixture aspect can refer to foods, such as a stew, but the word is also used more broadly. However, salgamundi is hardly a common word.

Going back to Zieman's article in The Star, Zieman makes the argument that Bahasa Melayu must evolve and adopt new words if it is "to be an effective language:"
One language expert [unnamed] went so far as to claim that there are only four words in the Malay vocabulary that are genuinely Malay: api (fire), besi (iron), padi (rice) and nasi (cooked rice).
I'm sure there is a bit of hyperbole going on here, but the point is valid. English borrows heavily from pretty much every language it encounters without suffering a lowering of status or a loss of cultural identity. And considering that Malay-Indonesian in one form or another is among the top ten most widely spoken languages in the world (this article (Google cached version) argues it's among the top four, but that doesn't jive with other sources I've seen), it would seem that borrowing and evolution can only help ensure that the language remains pertinent to its speakers.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Flowing from his bat like water flowing from the Ganges ...

Flowing from his bat like water flowing from the Ganges ...
A common pastime in my office is trying to figure out how to translate or rewrite a colloquialism from the U.S. edition of one of our magazines when the story is being run internationally. In some cases, it's simply a matter of replacing an American football reference with a soccer one, but other times it means recasting sentences to replace a bit of slang that makes no sense in translation. has an interesting story (picked up from AP via The Wall Street Journal) about how Asian sportscasters have to stretch their languages when calling a game:
Often, sports terms can't be translated directly. There's no way to replicate expressions such as "to hot dog," meaning to show off, or to make a basketball shot "from downtown" or from long distance, says Kennegh Lau Yeung, an announcer for ESPN/Star and former Hong Kong basketball player. "We have to avoid expert terms, like rotation defense, and look for things that are familiar in the Asian lifestyle."

That's why an "air ball," a basketball shot that misses the hoop and backboard entirely, becomes, a "mian bao" -- or bread roll -- in Taiwan. The Chinese-language analogy, created by Taiwanese fans, probably came about, says Mr. Lau, because bread rolls "look hard on the outside but are very soft on the inside." And a blocked shot, meanwhile, is "kai mao" in the Mandarin dialect of Chinese, meaning "a hat covering your head," while a slam dunk is "yup jun" in the Cantonese dialect spoken in Hong Kong -- roughly, "cork the bottle."
According to the article, much of the time these expressions come from the imagination of the presenters:
Just as U.S. commentators compete with unique terms, Indian announcers seek to outdo each other with distinctive expressions. One, a retired cricket player named Navjot Singh Sidhu, has become famous for his "Sidhuisms," as when he refers to a losing team as "tumbling over like a row of bicycles without their stands."
And that doesn't even get into dealing with the names of individuals. May Chew and her fellow researchers at ESPN/Star headquarters in Singapore had to spend 48 hours with only five hours of rest finding three-syllable Chinese equivalents for all the players on the 64 teams in the NCAA March Madness basketball tourney. "This isn't sport, it's linguistics," Chew said.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Reality Television

Since I seem to be in a confessional mood at the moment, I have been watching American Idol this season, but other than that I haven't really watched much so-called reality TV since Manor House.

That said, I would have been interested in seeing the shearing of Shrek. I saw a brief bit about him on the BBC last week, and apparently yesterday they shaved the poor guy, live on television.

Shrek, named after the movie ogre, is a 10-year-old merino sheep who's managed to avoid being captured for shearing for six years; when he was first spotted this year, he wasn't immediately recognizable as a sheep: "He looked like some biblical creature," according to John Perriam, owner of the hill station where Shrek was roaming.

The fleece ended up weighing 27 kilograms, and it's going to be auctioned off online.

[ADDENDUM: Shrek may not be the shaggiest sheep around. In the comments, Patrick has alerted me to the North Island based Taharoa Trio, three sheep who've gone unshorn for at least six years. Apparently, they're shaggier than Shrek, but no word on whether or not they're getting TV deals.]

Reporters and Quotes

First off, I admit I am not perfect; mistakes of spelling, grammar, and fact slip past me, sometimes making it all the way into print (and more than a few of them make it into my blog, but I still hold that I have different processes going on in my mind and eye when writing vs. editing, and I don't edit my blog too closely).

That said, sometimes I wonder about the state of my profession these days.

Over the past few days, there have been a lot of articles about the new flag the Coalition Provisional Authority is floating for Iraq [ BBC | AP (via Salon) | The Guardian | al Jazeera | The Globe and Mail | Daily Farce (satire) | Muslim Wake Up! (satire) ]. Most of the commentary, such as the article from The Globe and Mail, have been pretty good with explaining vexillology, the old flag, and the new flag, but the initial AP report by Lee Keath claimed that Saddam Hussein addاللهُ أَكْبَر to the old Iraqi flag in the 1980s:
The old Iraq flag had red and black bands across the top and bottom, and a white band in between with three green stars. During the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, Saddam added the words "Allahu akbar" to boost the religious credentials of his secular regime.
But the addition was actually made in 1991, just prior to the first Gulf War. Later reports fixed the error, but many papers seem to have only run the original AP report.

It should have been a simple thing to fact check (especially since the argument about boosting religious credentials was something Saddam needed when facing Coalition forces in 1991, not during the Iran-Iraq War -- at that point it was his secularism that was drawing support from Washington).

The other one that made me stop and wonder was in an article (subscription required) by Patrick Day in the 19 April Los Angles Times (I picked up a copy while in Las Vegas):
Revenge may be a dish best served cold, according to the Klingon proverb, but apparently a single serving is all moviegoers wanted this weekend, as "Kill Bill Vol. 2" easily beat "The Punisher" for the top place at the box office, according to estimates released Sunday.
Okay, I admit I didn't immediately place the origin of "revenge is a dish best served cold" -- it's from Pierre Ambroise François Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons dangereuses: "La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid." -- but I knew it wasn't originally Klingon.

It was a throw-away lede that attempted to be cute (something I tend to dislike anyway), but still. Revenge is central to both Kill Bill and The Punisher, but the Klingon reference did nothing for that theme or the story. Instead it seems the author (or editor) never bothered to track down the originator of the quote.

And, by the by, the Klingon version is bortaS bIr jablu'DI', reH QaQqu' nay' ("When cold revenge is served, the dish is always very good"), according to the Klingon Imperial Diplomatic Corps message boards. And to totally geek out about it, in pIqaD, the phrase is (using the KlingonTNG TrueType font) BORTAS BIR JABLU'DI', REH QAQKU' NAY'.

[ADDENDUM: Margaret pointed out in the comments that the connection of Klingons and serving suggestions for revenge was made in the opening of Kill Bill Vol. 1, so I there is a reason for the connection in the LA Times article. Also, it looks AP movie writer David Germain addressed the quote-sourcing issue when Vol. 1 came out.]

It's a Secret

With the amnio now past, the world outside immediate family and blogdom is getting the word about the pregnancy. And the one big question is what's the sex?

That's been pretty much the first question from everyone -- my mother, Evelin's friends online, my coworkers, everyone. But here's the thing: Since so much about this pregnancy has been out in the public (or at least public knowledge for multiple doctors, blogs, and Internet support groups), Evelin wants to keep the sex on the QT.

And that drives people crazy.

It actually is a bit funny watching people react to the idea that we'd know but not tell. Evelin's been warned that people will only get yellow or green (supposedly gender-neutral colors) baby items for us if they don't know the sex; but that would be better than some pink and blue stuff, I think. Others say it's okay not to share names, but that you have to say whether you're having a boy or a girl.

So, the answer may come out before the due date, but for right now, it's going to stay a secret. And that's how it's going to stay until Evelin changes her mind ...

Oh, and the cutest thing Monday night was when we took the Volvo back to the sellers. The seller is about 14 weeks pregnant and has a little girl about 3 years old. The mother told the little girl in Italian that Evelin was pregnant too, and the girl immediately ordered us (in Italian) to talk quietly because loud noises can scare babies. I'm not sure where that came from, but it was pretty cute.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Amnio is Normal

The doctor called and left a message on our machine about 5 minutes after we left for work this morning. Evelin has a call in for complete details, but according to the message "the results were normal."

Massive relief, and I can't stop crying right now...

I know there's time/room for things to still go wrong, but the feeling right now is so incredible!!!!

Language in the News

Some days, I use Google News and search for "language" to see what turns up. A lot of the time it's articles about shopkeepers trying to learn some Spanish or dissections of the use of various acronyms, SMS abbreviations, and hip hop or l33t influences on spelling.

But other times, there are some interesting stories about language survival/promotion:
  • a press release about the Kanien'kehaka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa in Kahnawa:ke, Québec, using Rosetta Stone software to teach the Kanien'kéha (Mohawk) language;

  • Microsoft developing a Te Reo Māori version of Windows XP, leading to the Microsoft Community Glossary Project, which is looking for suggestions from users about how to translate thinks like hotkey, hyperlink, n/a, and launch into Kannada, Māori, Nepali, Tamil, and Vietnamese. Sadly, it doesn't seem to let you look into the existing suggestions;

  • Heritage Malta’s plans for a museum for the Maltese language in the Auberge de France in Vittoriosa;

  • efforts in Oklahoma to preserve the Euchee language; and
  • weather forecasts being delivered in Cajun French at KATC-TV in Lafayette (although it's not fair for the station's weather website not to include Lucille Briscoe, the Cadien weather reader, among its list of forecasters).

Not Gonna Do It

The Volvo is going to be a no go.

Yesterday morning was on the cool side, so I took the Volvo for a quick run to see if the colder weather made a difference. I also asked Evelin to watch me drive away to see if there was any smoking. It didn't give out the big puff of blue-gray smoke that the Mazda used to, but it did have a small, continuous plume of blue-gray/white smoke, which makes me think it's burning more oil than I'd like for it to.

That wouldn't be ideal, but the seller said that it sometimes took a quart of oil between oil changes; I could live with that. However, this morning, I had Evelin drive it so I could observe the plume. When she stopped at the top of the hill, however, I noticed the brake lights weren't working. After a bit of experimenting, it seemed that it wasn't a fluke: The brakes were nice and tight, but the lights didn't go on.

Maybe this was weather related (it rained overnight), but brake lights are something we'd like in a car. Plus, Evelin's uncle had said that if the rear lights weren't working, it could be expensive to repair, and we'd have to repair them for the inspection before we could register the car. The other lights all worked, however, which was a little odd.

So that's that; we're not having the mechanic look at the car, and will return it to the owner tonight. And then it's back to CarMax, eBay, etc.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

What Have We Done?

Okay, if anyone knows anything about '88 Volvo 240DL wagons, please speak up before Monday evening.

Evelin and I went to a townwide garage sale in University Park, Maryland, this morning and came back with a few things, including the aforementioned Volvo wagon. I guess anyone who doesn't know about the pregnancy (or who doesn't read this blog) will figure it out now; I mean, why else would we be buying an old Volvo wagon?

It started off innocently enough. Evelin passes through University Park each day on her way to work and noticed that they were having a townwide garage sale. We thought it'd be like her friend's church garage sale (where I found several great Slavic dictionaries): all in one place. Instead, the whole town set aside Saturday morning as a day for people to have yard sales. On some blocks it was every house; on others there were only one or two houses selling things.

We started off looking at baby things (which made me a bit uncomfortable: I tend to be superstitious, and I don't want us to get too far ahead of ourselves), and picked up a little playmat with arches for hanging toys and things from, a copy of Gregory, the Terrible Eater, and a seltzer bottle.

We then found a little dresser, the right height to work as a changing table. The person who lugged it up to the driveway we were shopping in said something to the person in charge of the sale about the dresser being the one she'd been given by them. (I'm not sure that is scanning correctly: The people in charge of the garage sale had originally given the dresser to the person who brought it back for the sale.)

Evelin immediately asked the price once the people decided it should go into the sale. They asked us to make an offer, and Evelin countered that the person who was now selling it had given it away once. They asked for a dollar, and Evelin immediately paid before anyone had a chance to change their mind.

[ASIDE: Evelin's version of the bureau story: Then we walked on, and somebody had just brought out a bureau. Cheaply made, blue, nothing special. BUT, her neighbors commented and she said, "yes, this is the bureau you gave me for free" so I said (Carter was mortified) "You got the bureau for free and are going to make money off it now? How much?" So she quoted me ...$1!!! OK, we had to have it. For one dollar a cardboard bureau is worth it!]

I ran back to where we were parked while Evelin watched over her new prize. After I picked her and the dresser up, Evelin said that she'd been looking for that sort of dresser for a while, which inspired her to say that she hoped we'd find an old Volvo for sale.

We've been figuring that we'll need another car at some point in the near future. I like taking Metro to work, but since my office is so far from a train line it adds an hour or so to my morning commute. (The upside is that I'm more relaxed when I use Metro, I am forced to leave on time because of the bus schedules, and I'd get a bit of walking in to/from the train station, but until a trolley or rail line goes to Bailey's Crossroads, or until I change jobs, I'm doomed to driving to/from work more often than not, I think.)

In our talking about it, Evelin's made up her mind that she wants an old Volvo wagon (one of the square ones, like Click and Clack always recommend) or a Subaru Forrester. We've looked a little in the papers, CarMax, online, and on eBay, and nothing's turned up to tickle our fancy.

So we keep looking around the garage sales. Evelin finds a flour shifter in a pile of stuff marked free, and she stops to enthuse over an old library stool (one of the metal ones with wheels on springs so that when you step on it, the wheels retract it steady the stool).

A little further down the street, we saw a wing chair that looked interesting. (A chair is something else we've been looking for for a while.) We give it a test sitting, and the owner pointed out that it was a recliner ... and we decide to go for it. At $35, it was our most expensive purchase of the day.

Evelin then turned around and saw it. The Volvo. With a "for sale" sign on the window. The excitement was immediate. We asked a few questions and then set up a time later in the day to come back to take it for a test drive. While we were talking someone else asked about the car, but Evelin chased him away by saying that she needed the car more than he did because she was expecting; interestingly enough, the woman selling the car is also pregnant (about a month behind Evelin).

On the walk from there back to our car, we pass the library stool again, and the person holding the sale calls out to us and tells Evelin that she wants her to have the stool because no-one else is going to appreciate it as much as Evelin would. Plus it got it out of her garage.

At this point, I tell Evelin she better not be using up all our luck with these reasonably priced old cars and free library stools. Evelin counters that luck is made, not used up, so I should stop worrying.

When we got home, we called two of Evelin's uncles who happen to be foreign car mechanics to ask about what we should look out for with a Volvo 240DL of that vintage, get a short list of concerns and then piddle around the garden until it's time for the test drive.

We headed back and talked to the husband. They are the second owners of the car; it was originally bought new by a Volvo mechanic who did all the maintenance himself. They've had it for about four years, and a relatively short list of repairs. I think we're going to have to expect some issues, but it should be better than the Mazda 626 was, if for no other reason because the roof isn't leaking everywhere.

For our test drive, we loaded up the chair we'd bought earlier and drove it home -- a little noisy, but not bad considering it's a 16-year-old tank of a car. We dropped off the chair, checked out Evelin's uncle's list of things to watch for, and then headed back to haggle.

Long story short, we have the car now and are taking it to my mechanic on Monday for a look-see. If things check out (or unless I get a horror story or two in my comments), we'll be motoring Swedish style come next week.

To work out my anxieties over buying the car (cheap though it will be and negligible to insure, I'm a worrywart by nature), I spent the afternoon cutting the ogräs while Evelin transplanted tomato and pepper seedlings into bigger pots. We thought about bringing the seedlings back inside, but they need to harden off so Evelin rebuilt the coldframe (basically some old windows set up on stray bricks around the plants) and put them in there.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Maybe Movement ...

So this morning, Evelin tells me she thinks maybe she felt some fluttering that could be baby kicks.

(It's just a neat and beautiful thing that I don't want to add any comments or anything to, except to say that I'm smiling and awed.)

Still no news on the amnio. I guess we're going to be on the two to three weeks results track instead of the one week the doctor initially thought ...

And my computer seems to be up at work this morning. Maybe there was some cycling or something going on as a result of the blown transformer yesterday that kept causing the shutdowns instead of a blown power supply. This would be a good thing.

Other Things

Blogging: I added a post from Wednesday night that was sitting on my Palm but that I didn't get to upload until this morning.

Garden: Blueberries are setting fruit, strawberries are flowering, the garlic looks great, peas are getting bigger, spinach looks ready to start harvesting, tomato and pepper seedlings were out yesterday to start hardening off, but we need a bed to put them in before we can do anything with them. We still have to figure out how to protect the apple tree from the Brood X cicadas.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

It's So Green ...

After a mostly sleepless night flying from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh to Baltimore, I'm feeling a bit woozy, but glad to be home.

[Oh, and still no news about the amnio, but we did get our water tests back: Lead levels are at 0.0 mg/L.]

On the cab ride home (I wanted to use the express bus to Greenbelt, but I didn't want to wait another hour at the airport, so I took a cab) I was a bit overwhelmed by how green everything was. Not only was it a change from the pinks, grays, tans and drab cactus greens of the desert in and around Las Vegas, but it was a change from when I left on Saturday. The trees are full of new leaves (and the cars are covered with pollen), and a lot of the dogwoods and azaleas are in full bloom.

After a quick shower, I headed into the office, but went back home after less than an hour because the power transformer outside my window literally exploded taking out power to parts of our building and frying the power supply in my computer.

Back home, ended up with a short nap or three, which I think have left me a more out of it than not. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be back to normal, but I really hate red-eye flights.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Airport Update

It's quarter to 9 at McCarran International Airport (LAS), and I'm killing time waiting for the red-eye. On the Ted flight in to the city, the pilot suggested getting to the airport three hours ahead of our return flight because of the enhanced security measures TSA has in place for LAS.

I don't particularly mind getting to an airport early (Evelin would say I'm pretty neurotic about making sure we are early), but considering how little I enjoy Las Vegas and the pilot's suggestion, I got here four hours early.

[ASIDE: It was after an earlier version of this tradeshow in Vegas that taught me that you are not allowed to check in for a flight any earlier than four hours before the flight. I am always ready to get out of Vegas long before my scheduled departure time.]

All in all it was a pretty hectic show. Dealing with OS X issues, some hardware problems, and the usual scrum of PR people and others who want special coverage in the on-site newspaper made for a very busy, stressful time.

On the plus side, I did get away from
The Strip to go to the zoo (and the more I think about it, the more I find myself liking the Southern Nevada Zoological-Botanical Park).

Today, the newsroom was pretty much broken down by 2 p.m., and a few of us took the opportunity to split. After a bit of equivocating about what to do, we decided to head to The Mirage to visit Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat.

All in all, I was more impressed with the zoo. The Atlantic bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were cute and seem to have a pretty good setup (three interconnected pools, no forced show routines), but I'm a tad skeptical about the claims of it being a research facility.

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) looked uncomfortably overweight and she had only a turkey in her enclosure with her. I could be wrong about the sociability needs of an elephant (and it could be that her life in the circus and then magic show have left her a bit of a loner), but it seems she could have had a better setup.

[ADDENDUM: Digging some more, Gildah, the elephant, is a mainland elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) from Thailand, and that subspecies tends (at least according to Elephant Nature Park in Thailand) to be smaller and stouter than the Sri Lankan subspecies (Elephas maximus maximus); of the elephants at the National Zoo, Shanthi, Ambika and Kandula are all E.m. maximus, while Toni is E.m. indicus. That said, Gildah still looked uncomfortably large.]

The lions, tigers, panther and leopard looked like they were doing okay (only one tiger was exhibiting stereotypic pacing), but they definitely were well fed.

I probably should have gone over to MGM Grand (so that I could see the trifecta of Vegas lions -- Zoo, Secret Garden, Lion Habitat), but instead I headed back to the hotel to gather my baggage and get to the airport four hours early.

[FULL DISCLOSURE: Composed at the airport; posted from home, but backdated to time of composition.]

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Still Around ...

First up: No news from the perinatologist about the amniocentesis today. I figure the results are just taking longer to get back than she initially expected; so I'm not going to stress about things.

Second up: I haven't been posting much lately because I've been being overworked doing the onsite newspaper at a trade show out in Las Vegas since Saturday. (Our Japanese salesguy, who brought me a nice little bottle of saké as a thank you for getting him some information prior to the show, might mention the word 過労死.)

Not too much to really say: I'm staying at the Sahara, which is an upgrade from my usual digs at Circus Circus (a.k.a., "The Clown Hospital"), but it's still obviously an older property that's seen better days; and I'm on the night shift, which means working from about 11 a.m. to 3 a.m., depending upon whether I go the printer on a given night or not.

On Saturday (after the sales meetings were over), I snuck away to Star Trek: The Experience at the Las Vegas Hilton. It's featuring a new "4D" Borg Invasion ride that was pretty good. The live action bits were decently done (although some of the actors were a bit lackluster) and the special effects were mostly cool, but the Klingon Encounter ride was bit more exciting, I felt. It also sucks that they combined the tickets so you cannot decide to do just one of the rides; you have to pay for both, even if you only want to do one.

This morning, I woke up early so that I could visit the Southern Nevada Zoological Botanical Park. It is a ways away from The Strip (I took a cab there and a CAT bus back) and on the small side, but interesting.

It's a completely private zoo and parts of it look like a road-side attraction, but obviously something good is going on here. On the scary side, there is a huge bird collection, including lots of free-roaming Indian peafowl and a wide variety of chickens (plus pigeons that seem to be squatting in the zoo), and most of the enclosures are chain-link fences and on the small side.

However, they do have some enclosures that look newer and more naturalistic (the otters and tortoises, for example), and I didn't see any major examples of stereotypy. They are working with the San Diego Zoo, so their programs must be up to snuff, and the keeper I talked to seemed really energetic. Plus they have the largest fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) enclosure in North America, although the pair is not on display yet.

I'm sure there's more to blog about (including the monorail), but we're still working right now and I'm due to take the red-eye home tomorrow, so I'll blog it then ...

[ADDENDUM: Oh, not that I have to mention it, but it really sucks to be sitting here at the eastern edge of the Pacific time zone while waiting for the amnio results.]

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Three Rooms

In late 2002, Evelin and took a trip to Scotland, which consisted mostly of driving through the Highlands visiting various Pictish sites, National Trust sites, and sites associated with Clan names/septs to which I can claim some connection.

However, we did make a stop at the old Saline cemetery in the Kingdom of Fife to visit the graves of four of my ancestors.

While we were there, we noticed a curious thing about some of the grave markers. In addition to some interesting statuary and bas-relief ornamentation on some of the gravestones, there were more than a few that read "3 rooms."

We were curious, but googling the phrase turned up few ghits that were not related to real estate. After a bit more fruitless wondering, I posted a query on one of the message boards at and, about 18 months later, I got my answer this afternoon:
"3 rooms" means that the stone marked space for 3 bodies. In other chuchyards they were called "lairs" or "layers". Often the lairs were bought in advance by the family and a small marker was put in the ground to mark the alloted spot. Later on a proper headstone would replace the marker but sometimes the families could not afford a headstone and the marker remained.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Not Much to Say ...

I'm a bit busy with work at the moment and still stewing in the wait for the amnio results, trying not to thing too much about things.

Actually, Evelin has been a little worried about the possible size of the little guy or girl: The doctor gave us an estimated weight of about 5 ounces on Monday, and, if we're reading the stats on the ultrasound pictures correctly, the crown-to-rump length was between 10.4 and 15.7 centimeters. According to all the baby books we have (and we have quite a few) and some online sources Evelin consulted, for 15 weeks, which is where we were on Monday, the averages should be 1.5 ounces and 10 centimeters; 5 ounces would be a fine weight for 17 weeks, which we won't reach until a week from today or so.

I know pregnancy math and calculating due dates and gestational ages are an inexact science at best, but we have no real reason to think that our dating is off. So, who knows what it means ...

Otherwise, I'm almost finished with Naomi Wolf's Misconceptions: Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood, which is a nicely frightening book. J---, who we visited a few weeks ago, loaned the book to Evelin and she wanted me to read it after she did. It's definitely making us think and worry about the whole birthing process (assuming we make it that far -- given our history, I still feel the need to put that caveat in), not to mention the work/family balancing act that will come into our lives along with a baby.

But, we have a few more hurdles to clear before worrying too much about birthing centers, hospitals, doulas, midwives, etc.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Get smart

Evelin just e-mailed me this story from The Boston Globe: Mercedes is trying to boost U.S. awareness of its smart cars by using them as pace cars for the Boston Marathon.
Over the next week, a fleet of 13 European smart cars will blitz Boston, appearing at Red Sox and Celtics games, cruising city streets, and leading a pack of more than 20,000 runners competing in Monday's marathon.
The cars made their U.S. debut in November at the New York City Marathon. smart won't actually sell cars in the States until 2006, and even then the smart fortwo coupé won't be on offer; instead, the plan is to launch in the U.S. with the forfour.

I have been wanting a smart for several years now. I was seeing a lot of them in 2002, the last time I was in Munich, and I see smarts (well, pictures at least) at work because a lot of European radio stations have them tricked out to use as city cars, both for visibility at events and for outside broadcasting.

I know they're a bit small for U.S. roadways clogged with monstrosities like the H2 (see the Globe graphic), but they are cute, super fuel-efficient, and just plain fun.

Sadly, when Evelin and I went to Scotland (also in 2002), Arnold Clark in Edinburgh didn't rent out any smarts, so we had to make do with a Daewoo Matiz, which was roomier than expected, but a bit harrowing to drive on the M9.

[ADDENDUM: smart may not be planning to offer the fortwo coupé in the U.S., but it will offer it in Canada starting in autumn 2005. I wonder how complicated it is to buy a car in Canada and then bring it back to the States ...]

Oneida Follow Up

The Green Bay Press-Gazette has more about the Oneida Language Charter, which is being signed today, in this morning's issue:
Today, the Oneida Nation will reclaim part of its history when tribal officials sign a charter outlining ways to preserve the language.

"The goal is to have language as a part of our day-to-day life in Oneida," said [Carol] Cornelius, area manager of the Oneida Cultural Heritage Department. "We only heard the language when we got around grandpa and grandma. Now you’re going to hear it throughout the course of your day."

The Oneida Language Charter Team — made up of 13 representatives from various branches of the tribe including the Oneida Language Revitalization Program, business committee, human resources, gaming and education — has developed a plan to help the tribe’s 15,000 members across the nation become fluent in the language.

Goals for the charter team are to create a pool of fluent Oneida speakers who can teach the Oneida language, research and identify all Oneida language speakers and develop a teacher certification program for Oneida language teachers.

In keeping with an Oneida tradition, the charter states as its objective that the Oneida people and the Oneida organization will speak the language within seven generations, Cornelius said.
Currently, there are only 25 to 30 speakers of Oneida (Onʌyota’a:ka), all elders who learned it as their first language. As I said yesterday, it's an ambitious effort; hopefully one that will succed.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Oneida Revitalization

Scanning around, I found this article from Sunday's Green Bay News-Chronicle about rather ambitious Oneida (Onʌyota’a:ka) language-revitalization efforts.
While short-term plans for language immersion are coming together, long-range objectives to get the nation's 15,000 members scattered across the globe to speak fluent Oneida are on the horizon, according to Brian A. Doxtator, charter team member and member of the Oneida Business Committee. Members of the Oneida tribe living on or near the reservation number 5,000.
The Oneida Language Revitalization Program uses a faceless corn husk doll carrying a basket as the primary image on its home page. The basket represents the passing of knowledge from one generation to another.

The program website includes several pages of language lessons, mostly short phrases and snippets of audio, such as náhte í·hsélhe ashnekíhla (What do you want to drink?) and í·hsélhe kʌ ashnekíhla otlatákli (Do you want some tea?)

[ASIDE: I rendered the Oneida words with Aboriginal Serif; not all characters may appear in other Unicode type faces. The Oneida Language Revitalization Program uses jpeg images to ensure that the proper letters/diacritical marks appear on its website.]


I don't know if it's some sort of nesting instinct or what, but I've noticed that at times when I might otherwise let loose a few "colorful" words -- such as spilling a bunch of water on myself, as just happened a few moments ago -- I've instead been saying things like "Bother!," "Frick!" or other nonsense substitutes for the "colorful" words.

I know "bother" is the favorite curse of a certain bear of very little brain, but I'm just not sure why it's become my explicative of choice, especially since I am apparently more Kanga than Pooh.

Take the 100 Acre Personality Quiz!

Monday, April 12, 2004

And Now We Wait ...

The amniocentesis went smoothly. Evelin's upstairs resting for the rest of the day, and she'll take it easy at work tomorrow. And we now get to wait a week or so for the results.

Before test -- and the needle was a tiny gauge and fairly long, but no where near as long as Evelin and I both imagined/feared -- the doctor did a fairly comprehensive ultrasound giving us little peaks at the face, hands, feet, etc. No problems jumped out at the doctor, so that's a good sign. Lots of measurements of ears, feet, various bones, etc. were made. The heartbeat was 161 bmp, and the estimated weight is about 5 ounces, which is on the bigger side of things for this gestational age.

So at this point we get to wait and see. Wait and see. Wait and see. Oh, and eat chocolate, because Finnish researchers, according to the BBC, have found that "eating chocolate during pregnancy may make for happier, livelier babies."

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Public Service Announcement: I Am Not PAAS

Just to clear things up for those who find my blog by googling "PAAS+dyes" or similar things, I am not affiliated in any way with PAAS or Signature Brands LLC. I did use two of their products last weekend (with no problems) and I have been on-and-off wondering about the origin of the company name over the past week.

If you have problems with PAAS products, you'd be better off complaining directly to the company than leaving comments here. From the Signature Brands FAQ:
What is the best way to get in touch with Signature Brands, LLC?
If you have an e-mail address, you can send an e-mail to us at If you prefer to speak to us, call our toll free number 1-800-456-9573.
Also according to the FAQ, the regular business hours for the toll-free number are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., East Coast time.

For those who want to dye eggs without resorting to a kit, here are some links for recipes/suggestions:

Saturday, April 10, 2004

A Few More Tasks Done

I got a few more household tasks finished last night and this morning: I installed the new light switch in the living room last night (now I just need to find a new dimmer for the dining room), and this morning I double-checked the taxes and got them into the mail.

While I was working my way through the various state and federal forms, Evelin was cooking orange-date cookies to mail to her father for his birthday. (I'm 99% sure he doesn't read my blog; if I'm wrong, I hope I'm not spoiling the surprise.)

I mailed the cookies and taxes as the same time, which meant a trip to the old Main Post Office in downtown. From the outside, it's a fairly small, nondescript building, but when you get inside you find several large WPA-era murals. It's not the post office I use most often, but I always like the old feel of the place and, as a fan of public art, I love seeing WPA/FAP/PWAP works.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Interpreting Globalization

Last night, Evelin and I went to a lecture by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich at University of Maryland University College. The lecture was part of the spring colloquium marking the 25th anniversary of the UMUC graduate school.

It was an interesting talk about what exactly globalization means these days and the risks, benefits, and strategies for adapting to the global economy, and Reich sounds exactly like he does in his "Marketplace" commentaries. Also, he's a really funny guy.

During the introductory comments from the UMUC provost, I was watching the ASL interpreter and it got me to wondering how much is missed/glossed over/simplified when interpreting. I could recognize some patterns (for example, the phrase "graduate school" was used a number of times, and that sign became apparent fairly quickly), and it seemed the interpreter would sometimes seem to fall behind the speaker and then jump ahead to the next phrase/concept. I know there's a degree of reinterpretation inherent in any interpreting/translation, but it just got me curious.

Oh, and one thing that cracked me up was recognizing the ASL for "more," which is something Evelin and I learned a long, long, long time ago when we started the whole babymaking journey and we were reading about Baby Sign.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The Paas Mystery

I've apparently spent way too much time, energy, and thought on this: Last Saturday, while at J--- and M---'s Easter egg-dying party, someone wondered where the PAAS name came from. A cursory glance at the box led to a parent company in Florida, but the truth is more complicated.

In a Tuesday comment, Jenn pointed to the PAAS history page:
By the late 1800s, William Townley, a druggist in Newark, New Jersey, had started selling packets of Easter egg dye to mothers in his neighborhood (mostly Pennsylvania Dutch). Soon Townley's idea caught on and his sideline had grown into a new business. In 1880, Townley founded a new company, Townley's Easter Egg Dye, to produce the dye packets, which he sold for five cents each. In honor of his early customers, he soon changed the company's name to PAAS® Dye Company, derived from Passen, a Pennsylvania Dutch word for Easter.
So far, so good, right? Well, maybe. Checking the Revised Pennsylvania German Dictionary, Easter is given as Oschder and Passover/Pasch is given as Oschderfescht (Easter feast/festival).

The reason I mention Passover/Pasch is that the initial digging around into the source of PAAS on Sunday, gave some indication that Paas could be a variant of Pasch, which was the Passover (פסח) celebration as marked by early Christians. The word Pasch comes from the Late Greek πάσχα.

The Paas is a variant of Pasch theory seemed to be supported by an online Webster's definition from 1913 which defined Paas as "Pace; The Easter festival." The Shorter OED noted that Pace (pronounced /peɪs/, and an alternate form of Pasch) was of Scots and/or Northern English derivation, which lead to the Pocket Scots Dictionary and several forms of the word: Pace, Paice, Pasch, Pask, Pes, Pesch, and Peace.

Again, nothing definitive about Paas, but it does seem to be a closer source than the "official" Pennsylvania Dutch explanation.

However, digging in a few other dictionaries, I find Passah and Passahfest (Passover) in several German dictionaries, which matches the Pasch track. By comparison, Easter is Ostern, which parallels the Pennsylvania German Oschder.

Turning to Dutch dictionaries, however, something interesting pops up: Pasen is Easter, but Paasdag is given for Easter day. Checking another Dutch dictionary, Pass- is given as the combination form for Easter-related items: Passbrood, Easter loaf or Passover bread; Passei, Easter egg; Paasmaandag, Easter Monday; Paastijd, Eastertide; etc. Paas (Easter, Passover) is similarly used in Afrikaans.

Now the question becomes, why does the PAAS company history attribute the word to "Pennsylvania Dutch" (which is really a form of German)?

Turning to Google, haven't found a good combination of keyword to get ghits for the presence of Pennsylvania German speakers in Newark in the late 1800s. But I did run across one site about the book Minority Languages of the Mid-Atlantic: A Bibliography, which mentions the now extinct Jersey Dutch:
The Dutch dialects spoken in New York and New Jersey were quite firmly established there in preceding centuries, but by now are totally extinct. Jersey Dutch enjoyed some currency in Bergen and Passaic Counties until about the turn of the century. It was essentially a variety of Flemish, colored with words from English and the Minsi [Munsee] dialect of the local Indian tribes. Jersey Dutch was also used by the Negroes of the area, who developed a variety with its own dialectal peculiarities.
Newark is in Essex County, which is just the other side of the Passaic River from Passaic and Bergen Counties, so it's possible Jersey Dutch speakers were present in Newark. Of course, I have no word lists for Jersey Dutch, so it is just a supposition that Paas could have come from Jersey Dutch.

Supposition or not, however, it's interesting to learn more about Jersey Dutch. According to an article on Radio Netherlands Wereldomroep (RNW), Jersey Dutch is derived from Low Dutch-speaking immigrants of the 17th century.
According to Professor [Jaap] van Marle, Low Dutch is different from the language later immigrants spoke who settled in the Mid-West. "The most crucial characteristic is that there is much English influence in it. For instance, the sentence 'Tomorrow I'll go home' translates to Dutch as 'Morgen ga ik naar huis'. However, in Low Dutch it would be 'Morgen ik ga naar huis'. So the inversion after the adverb in the first position has disappeared and this is a typical aspect of English. The syntactic pattern of English has become the syntactic pattern of this variety of Dutch. Low Dutch is, in many respects, English grammar with Dutch words."
RNW has some text in Jersey Dutch and a RealAudio version of the story.

According to a post on the Lowlands-L Listserv, Jersey Dutch (which was still spoken into the 1940s) is the "most important" of a handful of Dutch-based languages/dialects that evolved in the former Dutch colony of New Netherlands. Other dialects include Albany Dutch (died out in the 1920s) and the less-well-known Mohawk Dutch and Schoharie Dutch. There also the creolized "Neger Duits," the last speakers of which were the Ramapo Mountain People or Jackson Whites. Another Lowlands-L post goes into some detail about the language and its speakers.

Lyin' Husband

Yesterday morning, I told Evelin I was going to work, but it was a total lie. Instead I took a day off to try and catch up on yard work. I've been known to do this from time to time, staying home to rake up leaves or to clean the gutters. This time, it was the springtime yard jumpstart.

The grass (and ogräs and moss) was cut low, Milky Spore set out, grass seed scattered, and a little bit of fertilizer added. I also pulled more weeds, filled the birdfeeders, added beneficial bacteria to the pond, and turned the compost.

And it was all done by noon, which left time to run a load of laundry and to slip off to the National Gallery of Art to see the fantastic Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya exhibit. There are some amazing pieces in the exhibit, and one room is devoted to Mayan hieroglyphics, which statues and images of scribes and some explanations of how to break down the cartouches into the various phonetic elements. I also took in the exhibit of cubist paintings by Diego Rivera.

After the exhibits, I took the car for a wash and went to the store to make groceries. It was getting close to 4:00 p.m. at this point, and I debated going for a haircut and a shave, but instead opted to settling in to finish My Name Is Red (Benim Adım Kırmızı) by Orhan Pamuk and translated by Erdağ Göknar. Just as I was opening the book, Evelin called -- busting me for not being at work and looking for a ride home from her office as she was feeling a bit tired.

Since it was a nice evening out (and we were both home), we decided to fire up the grill and roasted some corn on the cob and Boca Italian sausages.

Other Things

Trees: The oak silks are out on some of the trees around our yard, the dogwoods and red buds are budding, the Bradford pears and cherries are shifting from flowers to leaves, and we are sure to be under a ton of pollen before too long.

BoSox: Two out of three starts in the W column. This is the year.

Paas: Jenn stored things out in Tuesday's comments. I'll post a full entry later.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I Like Daylight Savings Time

Last night, I left the office at a decent hour, and there was a ton of daylight left by the time I got home. That meant I had a chance to look through the garden and to see how much the weeds, moss, and ogräs have grown.

I pulled the weeds from between the raised beds and in the raspberry patch, and I cleaned up the hill and around the butterfly bushes. I also trimmed back dead bits from the raspberry canes and the butterfly bushes.

Evelin and I never found out what we were supposed to do with the raspberry canes, and we're still not sure if they should have been cut back to the ground last year or what. There is a lot of new growth, both on some of the one-year-old canes and new shoots coming out of the ground. (They're not necessarily spreading the direction I would prefer, but whatever it takes to get raspberries.) On the two- and three-year-old canes, I snipped things back to just above the point where new growth was evident. Hopefully that was the right thing; if not, we'll find out.

Elsewhere in the yard, the hostas and lilies of the valley are popping up, most of the bulbs have their leaves up and a few are starting to sport flowers, and the blueberry bushes look like they’re coming along nicely.

Now, the ogräs needs a good cutting, some new grass seed needs to be put down, and the garden needs many bags of mulch. Plus I need to shake out the milky spore to help get rid of the grubs, and I have to figure out how to protect the apple tree we planted last autumn from the 17-year cicada invasion.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Better Late Than Never

So it looks like I have gotten out of habit of blogging first thing in the morning. I'll try to get back on track, but until then, I'll aim to get in at least one entry a day. Things are little calmer at work, at least for the next week or so, but then things will heat back up for a few weeks.

I did manage to get my newspaper final proofed before noon, which gave me time to run out for a walk during lunch. After a few cold, wet days, the weather is nice today: temperatures flirting with 60°F, a nice breeze, lots of sunshine. I walked along the W&OD trail through Bluemont Park, and saw a few birds, nothing stellar, but it was a nice day for a walk.

Evelin and I have been telling more people about the pregnancy. I called my grandmother last week (which was the act necessary to release my mother from her vow to secrecy -- she did pretty good, only spilling things to one of her sisters and to her next-door neighbor), and most everyone in Evelin's office knows, and we told our friends in Philly last weekend.

I'm waiting for the amniocentesis results before telling too many others, however.

And I think that's what's stressing me now. I know I've been crazed with work, which is really stressful, but the existential dread of the amnio and what it might reveal is what's weighing on me most at this point. (Just typing this, I can feel my shoulders tensing up and my jaw clenching some.)

The test is on Monday, and then it'll be a week or three before we get results; it'll be a long wait.

Other Things

Paas: I did some looking in my Shorter OED when I got to the office yesterday and while there was no entry for Paas, the entry for Pace (which the 1913 edition of Webster's gives as a synonym for Paas) lists the word as being from Scots and Northern English.

That leads me to the Pocket Scots Dictionary which offers several forms of the word: Pace, Paice, Pasch, Pask, Pes, Pesch, Peace -- all defined as "Pasch, Easter," matching the information I dug up on Sunday.

Bringing things full cirlce to the PAAS brandname for Easter egg dyes, the Shorter OED notes that Pace is now used most commonly in the combination "pace egg."

Pandas: April is officially Giant Panda Month in D.C. At the end of the month, the ground breaking for the new panda habitat begins, and April is traditionally the height of the breeding season, so it is sure to be an exciting time at the zoo.

Lead Tests: WSSC finally came on Sunday and picked up the water samples. Evelin's blood tests came back negative for lead, so if we do have elevated levels in our water, the Brita filter must be doing a good job. We'll just be certain to change it every two months...

Sunday, April 04, 2004

We Now Resume Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Okay, so it's been a few days since I last blogged. Nothing cricital's happened; I've just been crazy-busy.

Wednesday night, Evelin called from her sister's in New Jersey to let me know she was going to take the early train home, which meant she'd get into D.C. around 9:15 a.m. Since we'd finished things up with the contract publishing job the night before, I figured it wouldn't be any trouble to come into the office late on Thursday morning, so we scrapped plans for Evelin to hail a cab, and I met her at the train station.

It was great to get Evelin home and to get her settled back into the house after a few days away, but once I got to the office around 11:00 a.m. I ran into a crisis -- three of the files for the contract-publishing project had been corrupted and all the data lost. So, Thursday (which was supposed to be my chance to catch up on my regular work) was spent largely updating week-old files to the version that was approved by the client and final proofed.

Friday, was spent working on my regular newspaper: I got two-thirds or so of it finished, and I need to edit a few more things before I can layout that middle third to finish things on Monday.

Evelin had a doctor's appointment (she needed to see her new GP to get a referral for the amniocentesis), so I was taking Metro to/from work. When I got home, I found out Evelin had some spare time during the day to make lasagna. Yum.

Actually, the lasagna I got to eat was made from the leftover materials from the lasagna she made for friends of ours, P--- and J---, who had their baby two weeks ago. Which brings us to Saturday, when we drove up to Philadelphia to see P---, J--- and their 11 pound, 4 ounce, little boy.

We had a good visit and got to hold the baby and pet the greyhounds, but not at the same time, before heading out to J--- and M---'s new house to dye Easter eggs.

Evelin's been wanting to dye eggs for a few years now, but we never got around to it; in fact, earlier this year, she threw out the two or three PAAS egg dying sets that had been bought in previous years but never used.

[ASIDE: We started wondering during the egg-dying festivities where the PAAS name came from, especially when we noticed the company address (Signature Brands LLC) was in Ocala, Florida. It turns out to be a term for the Easter season (comparable to Yule and the Christmas season), according to entries in various online Webster's.

Paas is not in my American Heritage 3rd Edition, but the Webster's gives Pace as part of the definition, which might yield some clues: pāce is the ablative of the Latin pāx, or peace. While I can find some online Easter prayers that include the phrase "a season of peace," that phrase seems to be more closely identified with Yuletide. Easter seems to mark the season of hope. So that looks like a wrong turn.

Digging some more into information on the church calendar, it looks like Paas could come from or be a variant of Pasch, which is derived from the Late Greek πάσχα or Passover, which until the fourth century or so was celebrated by early Christians who gradually replaced Pasch with the Easter feast.]

Much fun was had with the dying, only one big spill of blue dye (and J--- had wrapped the table we were using in plastic packing wrap, which made clean up easy and permanent color changes to the table nearly impossible) and three or four eggs that fell from hands to crack on the table.

Evelin won the prize for egg decoration when she was trying the EggAround wrapper. Basically, EggAround is a heat-shrink sleeve to that’s placed around the egg and then dropped for a few seconds into boiling water to cinch around the egg. Evelin managed to get the wire egg holder trapped under the EggAround before dipping it into the water effectively creating a handle for her plastic-wrapped egg. The prize was a pint of Ben & Jerry's Terra Fuela "super nutrient-enriched intervale organic potting soil complete with sow-your-own [sunflower] seeds."

Today, thus far, has been alternately rainy and sunny but really windy and cold. We took a look around the garden and there are signs of life in the pea patches and spinach bed (although it looks more like neat rows of grass or weeds than spinach at this point), as well as on the raspberries and apple tree.

On the downside, about half the rosemary bush looks like it was serious frost damaged/killed during the winter. We'll have to see how much of it comes back. And a freeze is predicted for tonight, but hopefully everything will weather it well.

Evelin's also been cooking up a storm today: <NewEnglandAccent>cown chowdah</NewEnglandAccent>, apple pandowdy, and she may be thinking of some bread or something else. However, because the kitchen floor is cold, she is refusing to be barefoot while cooking …