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11th March 2014
puzzlement @ : topic #3: second languages
Suggestions for topics are still open.
What language(s) would you like to learn?— pfctdayelise
I have the typical image-conscious and not overly extroverted engineer approach to language learning, that is, it makes me want to go and hide because it's hundreds of hours to basic competency and probably (since I'm an adult) never true proficiency. (I am similarly stuck on music at present, weirdly since I have some prior competency there.)
Howver, leaving that aside as much as possible: Spanish, on practicality grounds. It has a very large number of speakers, Latin alphabet, close-ish linguistic relative of English, and widespread resources for English speaking learners.
Andrew and I did roughly a high school year's worth of Spanish in the first 6 months of 2007. It hasn't entirely left us, at least for comprehension: I still remember a lot of the very common verbs in a few tenses, and of course in a Romance language I can guess at many nouns. Having just learned about Duolingo, I'm thinking of having a go. It may not be immersion because nothing other than immersion is, but almost anything would be better than nothing at all.
Other possibilities: many people I know who love learning languages have especially loved learning Arabic (Standard/Literary, I assume), so that's obviously tempting; Cantonese or Mandarin, because they're also widely spoken (and if I could learn to read the characters, there's an enormous literary canon) but are harder for English speakers; French because I know a few advanced learners who could hook me up with conversational resources. Latin is an interesting possibility: very free word order compared to English, and while it's a dead language you get an automatic level-up in many of its descendants, plus studying a dead language removes the need to converse with native speakers…
I would like to learn more about the linguistics of Australian languages (I'll return to that in answer to skud's question) but as best I understand it, me becoming conversant in them is likely to be considered cultural appropriation by at least speakers of some languages, so I'd probably say I'd study these rather than learn them, and only the forms they've allowed outsiders to document.
I'm trying to think how we could possibly give our children the chance to learn Latvian, given that they'll perhaps be citizens. This is at least theoretically possible in Sydney, but it involves driving them to Strathfield every Saturday morning (which involves buying a car), and accepting that we'd be adding half a day of schooling to their lives indefinitely.
10th March 2014
johnsu01 @ : Cooking diary
I'm working on a project to cook every recipe and major variation in Veganomicon.
Over the last week I made:
6th March 2014
puzzlement @ : Topic #1: expat intentions
This is one of those "suggest what to write about" things. Suggestions are still open.
Have you ever considered living overseas? Where would you like to live, if not Sydney?— penelly
Yes, several times. The two times I came closest were when I was considering applying to do a PhD at the University of Edinburgh (one of the leading computational linguistics centres), and when I applied for an internship at Microsoft Research in Beijing, although that would have just been for a season. I was turned down for the internship, the first was more complicated and more typical of my approach to this whole issue.
I have a serious answer to this and something more fluffy below it!
At the moment I am actively considering whether to move to the United States, specifically, the San Francisco Bay Area. That for what are basically obvious reasons. One is convenience: Andrew currently works for Google which is headquartered there and while arranging an internal transfer wouldn't be a slam dunk, it's certainly a well-trod path. It's also a really obvious place for both of us to work, him because it's one of the major software centres of the world, and me because of that and it being one of the major geek feminism centres of the world. In addition to my Ada Initiative co-founder vaurora and our staff member being there, it's where Double Union is, it's where the Model View Culture co-founders are and so on. I'll probably talk about this a bit more in answer to cavlec's question. My involvement in that scene has corresponded to an extent with the decline of my involvement in academia and in the Australian free software scene, which means that it is increasingly where my people are professionally.
Even aside from career issues, I also have a large number of friends in the Bay Area. When I was there in July 2012, I invited people I knew to meet me for dinner and it ended up being, I think, about 14 people. I do know more than 14 people in Sydney, but getting 14 people to dinner here would not be trivial. So at a personal level, it's also increasingly where my people are.
So what's stopping me? There's a few things. Well, right now, I have an 8 week old baby, so it's not a short term thing in any case. But what's stopping me from declaring that as of, say, January 2016, I aim to be living in the Bay Area?
Obviously, also it's not just my decision, and it won't be for a long long time. (It would actually be even worse if my marriage broke up, as the custody agreements for our children would inhibit us relocating, so basically until our children are adults Andrew and I probably need to live in at least the same city.) But you didn't pose this question to Andrew and me jointly, so I'll answer for me and ignore the nuclear family issue from here. But Andrew's separate desires are one answer.
There's a few general issues with moving anywhere: first, moving is bogus; second, being an expat is really hard; and third, family.
Moving is just so hard. Andrew and I moved halfway across Sydney at the beginning of 2012 and we were in a slough of despond for quite some time afterwards. It's a ton of work and it's totally unsatisfying for its own sake: at the end of it, you are still living more or less the same way, in different rooms. This sounds trivial to me writing it out, but if I had a choice between reliving January 2012 (moving) or April & May 2012 (writing 100 pages of my PhD thesis in 6 weeks), I would choose April & May. If I had a choice between January 2012 and Januaries 2010 and 2014 (the months my babies were newborns), I would choose 2010 and 2014. If I had a choice between January 2012 and September 2012 (when I was hospitalised with severe cellulitis)… OK, I'd go with January then. But it is impossible for me to state how strongly I despise moving and how much work I find it to be and even if I did state it, I'm sure I'm underestimating it by at least a factor of three.
Meanwhile, on the subject of being an expat, here's a quote from me to someone else, today:
I think people seriously underrate the expat-ness of being an expat between Anglosphere countries.It's a big decision, to go somewhere where I will always be a foreigner. (Yes, many hundreds of millions of people who have done this. Even so.) Where I will always not quite get it. Where my heart will probably never quite fully reside.
Finally, my family is here. My parents and my in-laws live just far enough away that it's not really a day trip, so we don't see them nearly as often as we might, but if we moved overseas, we'd be down to at most twice a year. My parents are not elderly and they will likely live to see my children become adults (as my own grandparents did me, albeit barely in one case) but even so.
As regards the US decision specifically, I'm also not sure I want to live in the US in general (as opposed to the Bay Area in particular), or want my children to be adults there by default. I obviously don't know everything there is to know about it, but specifically, healthcare and education concern me. I'd rather not have my children start off their young adulthood at risk of high levels of medical or student debt and at present in Australia they'd be at lower risk of it.
Australia has problems, but I know them better.
But then… on the flipside, who knows what Australia will be like in 2032, the year Lexi will be 18? (For people who've read karenhealey's When We Wake, I think Tegan is Vincent's age, so you can definitely think of Lexi as the far future for now.) Sovereign risk and world-historical-moment risk, it is a thing.
Returning to the Edinburgh thing for a second: similar issues held me back on that. I was happy enough to not want to do the work and take the risk of that move.
As I write this tonight, we are in the process of assembling the identity documents needed to acquire Latvian citizenship (by right of descent from exiles) for Andrew and his children. Latvia is an EU country, and at present citizenship thus conveys residency and work rights to them (and to me, if I'm living with any of them, the EU is quite generous in this respect).
We're not seriously considering moving to Europe at all — although Google's offices in either London or Zürich would not be a totally left-field transfer for Andrew — but it does invite me to make a list of places in Europe I could picture emigrating to.
London: I wouldn't be thrilled about it (although only because I spent all of about two gloomy days there a decade ago), but in some ways it's almost Andrew's second city. He doesn't actually like it terribly either, but he's been there on what has to be five or six separate work trips, so in a weird way it's almost like a default second home.
Edinburgh: I'm assured it's hella gloomy in winter, but I've only visited in summer. What a great city. One of my favourite places in the world.
You'll note those are both (presently…) in the UK. I'd be reluctant to move to any non-English speaking country without significant lead time to do intensive study of the local dominant language, and it's hard to picture anyone at the other end who'd want me enough to say "sure, move here, and for your first three months, go to fulltime language school". So it's hard to come up with places I'd realistically plan on moving to. I'd want to travel more first. Non-English speaking countries I've travelled to are France, Germany (for one night only though), Spain, the Czech Republic and Thailand. I liked them all but none of them grabbed me by the throat and screamed "homeland!" I can say I'd be reluctant to live in Bangkok specifically.
I'd also very seriously consider moving to New Zealand — which I have the right to do, as an Australian — for the right job. That would probably mean living in Wellington, on which I can't really comment because I've only spent one night there in my life and most of that was in a bar. (Seemed fine!) But I've spent about three weeks on the South Island and it is stunning. If I was aiming for a rural-ish life (I'm not), I'd move there.
In Australia itself, my favourite non-Sydney city is Melbourne. (I wouldn't say I prefer either Sydney or Melbourne to the other, at this time.) I can imagine living happily enough in most of the state capitals and the bigger non-capitals like Newcastle, although not so much more happily that I am champing at the bit to move to any of them right now.
1st March 2014
johnsu01 @ : Spritz
Spritz seems like a very interesting way to read quickly. It's the opposite of everything I've read (slowly) about speed reading, which focuses on using peripheral vision and not reading word-by-word. You're supposed to do things like move your eyes straight down the page, taking in whole lines at a time.
Interruptions seem like a big problem; interruptions that make me look away, or interruptions in my brain, where I might realize I've not been paying attention for some amount of time. Maybe they should have navigation buttons similar to video players, so you can skip backward 15 seconds at a time. I also do want to go back and review previous pages sometimes for reasons that have nothing to do with interruption, so I wouldn't want word-by-word to be the only way to view a text -- especially when reading nonfiction. I might event want it to work in a mode where you hold down the button on the side of your phone or tablet in order to move the words, and then have them automatically pause when you release. It feels like I'd want a lot of short breaks when reading in this style.
It should also be free software, but unfortunately I'm guessing it won't be. I hope someone will make a free software application along these lines -- the basics seem pretty basic.
johnsu01 @ : Dan Weiss
These videos of Dan Weiss adding drum tracks to "vocal" things are a lot of fun. I'll definitely be checking out his album "Fourteen" when it's out (March 25th).
28th February 2014
johnsu01 @ : No place like home
23rd February 2014
writinghawk @ : De-duplication
Occasionally I find that a thing for which I have some well-defined slot in my brain is actually two different things, sharing the slot like Cox and Box. They might have different names, but since I only ever hear one of the names at a time, I don't notice the duplication.
A few months ago I went with a friend to hear a storyteller telling the rather amazing life of Richard Burton, the Victorian explorer and orientalist. In perfectly good faith I mentioned afterwards that Burton had also written An Anatomy of Melancholy. Well that's true in a way, of course, except that it was Robert Burton in the 17th century.
There's a weird feeling of the world shifting when the penny drops. It happened this morning when I realised I'd done it again with that famous classic film musical that everyone's seen except me, the one about the nanny. You know, the nanny who can do magic and helps the family escape from the Nazis. I'd just never really noticed before when people were talking about it that sometimes it gets called The Sound of Music and sometimes it's Mary Poppins.