April 28th, 2009

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LAadan Language Website

The new LAadan Language website is now open, complete with a new set of lessons for beginners. Those of you interested in linguistics, xenolinguistics, gender studies, and/or science fiction are likely to enjoy it. This site presents extensive resources dealing with Suzette Haden Elgin's invented language, LAadan. It is one of the very few invented languages made by a professional linguist, very thoughtfully and artfully designed to express the perceptions of women, although people of any gender can learn it. You may know Suzette as ozarque on LiveJournal.
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Poetry Fishbowl on Tuesday, May 5

This is an advance announcement for the May Poetry Fishbowl. This time the theme will be "travel and exploration." I'll be soliciting ideas for bold adventurers, fish out of water, exotic locales, ordinary locales, travel complications, exploration ideals and goals, historic examples, and poetic forms in particular.

If you're interested, mark the date on your calendar, and please hold actual prompts until the "Poetry Fishbowl Open" post next week. Meanwhile, if you want to help with promotion, please feel free to link back here or repost this on your blog.

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Writing Exercise: Conspiracy Theories

Today's writing exercise features conspiracy theories. These are good for exploring alternate history and timelines.

1) Read this list of "Top 10 Conspiracy Theories."

2) According to one theory of quantum mechanics, every "possible" choice or path manifests itself in some branch of reality. According to one theory of time travel, a time machine does not move "vertically" through the past and future of a single timeline, but rather "laterally" to adjacent timestreams that may be flowing faster or slower, thus creating the subjective sense of traveling to the past or future. For the purposes of this excercise, suppose these theories to be true.

3) Time has currents and eddies such that some things clump together. The above set of conspiracies are manifest in closely adjacent timelines.

4) You (or a character of your choice) are traveling across the timelines in a time machine. Unfortunately, you encounter a rival who beats you up and takes potshots at your vehicle. You barely manage to activate the controls and escape into another timeline. Your dastardly rival scored a direct hit on the Timeline Positioning System. You land safely, but you could be in any one of the ten conspiracy timelines.

5) With your TPS offline, what steps do you take to identify which of the conspiracies is actually manifest in the timeline you've reached? You cannot reach a specific timeline without coordinates for both ends of the trip, so you need this information in order to get home.

6) Also, you damaged your rival's chrononavigation system. Your rival has a random 1 in 10 chance of arriving in the same timeline, or an indeterminate chance of repairing the damage and pursuing you more purposely. What happens next?
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Study on Switching Religions

I was intrigued by this study about why people switch religions. A list of reasons appears later in the article.

Survey: Half of U.S. adults have switched religions
Pew's new survey is based on re-contacting 2,800 people from its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 35,000 people, released last year. Pew estimated at the time that about 44% of Americans have changed religions. It now says between 47% and 59% have, if you count the millions who once switched but have returned to their childhood faith.
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Free Speech and the FCC

Occasionally the Ayn Rand institute posts news items or essays that happen to match my stance. I'm with them on free speech.

The Supreme Court Abets the FCC’s War on Free Speech

Washington, D.C., April 28, 2009--Today the Supreme Court ruled in FCC v. Fox that the FCC can continue to fine broadcasters for “fleeting expletives.” According to Don Watkins, a writer for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights:

“The Court failed to address the basic constitutional question in this case: are the non-objective ‘indecency’ laws that permit the FCC to dictate what Americans can say and hear on the airwaves consistent with the right to free speech? The answer to that is: absolutely not.

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Switching Horses in Midstream

I found this article today:

Sen. Arlen Specter to Switch Parties
Chris Cillizza, The Washington Post: "Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter will switch his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and announced today that he will run in 2010 as a Democrat, according to a statement he released this morning. Specter's decision would give Democrats a 60 seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate assuming Democrat Al Franken is eventually sworn in as the next senator from Minnesota."


I have very mixed feelings about this, including ...

1) Everyone has the right to their own political beliefs and actions.

2) Politicians are free to vote however they wish on any given issue, regardless of their party affiliation and their party's stance on said issue. There are career implications if they diverge too far from their party's platform, but that doesn't actually obligate them to vote a certain way. Sometimes people drift away from their party's platform after they are in office a while.

3) If one's party diverges from one's personal stance, or one's beliefs change, then one is free to select a different party that is currently a better match.

4) If I voted for a candidate belonging to a certain party, which I believed to reflect my personal stance, and that candidate changed affiliation after the election, I would be really really upset on grounds of bait-and-switch. (Although I do not actually anticipate that politicians will keep their campaign promises, I believe they should be obliged to for similar reasons, and I'm disappointed when they break those promises.)

5) Based on my observation of the Republican Party, I am appalled by many of its stances and actions, particularly in recent months. So I can understand why someone might wish to leave it.

6) I do not trust any human entity, including the Democratic Party, with total power or anything resembling that. While I am frustrated by the behavior of the Republican Party and its politicians, and consider them to be doing more harm than good more often than not, they are sometimes right -- and the Democratic Party and its politicians have done some tomfool things. I am therefore not sure whether a "filibuster-proof majority" is desirable or beneficial; I suspect that it would do as much harm as good, perhaps more. The competitive side of me is thrilled by the prospect; the rational side is dubious and wary.


In the end, what Sen. Specter does is his choice. But I think that, in order to be fair to his constituents, he should either A) resign or B) remain affiliated with the Republican Party but vote his conscience, rather than switch party affiliation while in office.

What do you think?
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Factory Farms Are Germ Farms

It's fairly obvious that if you cram together a bunch of animals, away from sunlight, with often-insufficient sewage control, the result is optimum conditiions for disease transmission. People are starting to realize that factory farms may contribute to disease outbreaks that harm humans:

Swine Flu Outbreak Could Be Linked to Smithfield Factory Farms
Tom Philpott, Grist: "One flu east, one flu west. The outbreak of a new flu strain - a nasty mash-up of swine, avian, and human viruses - has infected 1,000 people in Mexico and the US, killing 68. The World Health Organization warned Saturday that the outbreak could reach global pandemic levels. Is Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork packer and hog producer, linked to the outbreak? Smithfield operates massive hog-raising operations Perote, Mexico, in the state of Vera Cruz, where the outbreak originated. The operations, grouped under a Smithfield subsidiary called Granjas Carroll, raise 950,000 hogs per year, according to the company Web site."

That's not a proven connection between this particular germ and this particular farm, yet -- but it's plenty enough to justify a closer look.
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Yardsharing for Hyperlocavores

While researching yardshare resources for a Gaiatribe post, "The Sharing Garden," I found the Hyperlocavore site on Ning.

A "hyperlocavore" is someone who eats as much locally grown food as possible, preferably growing some of their own. This is related to the "eat local" and "100 mile diet" movements that are beginning to compete with "organic" foods for being the greenest sustainance option.

The "yardshare" movement is a branch of community building. It connects people who have yards with people who have gardening ability. This allows more people to grow at least some of their own food. This is something I've been doing very casually for some time -- we have friends in the area who sometimes swap or share yard/garden work, supplies, and harvests.

The Hyperlocavore network is a place for people to discuss yardshare ideas, opportunities, and resources. The forums provide a place to find other people who are seeking a yard to garden in, or who have a yard and need gardeners, in your area. The network itself is new but shows promise. You can read my profile page there, and if you wish, Friend me.