The SkywalkerSwartz Blog

Sunday, April 20, 2003

The fake blogger

So I was going through old email messages trying to find out how to get into my old Geocities account (They got bought by Yahoo...the answer is that you use your old login with ".geo" appended...which means that my hasn't-been-updated-in-four-years Bach website is now at both http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/2547/bachsecular.html and http://www.geocities.com/lswartz.geo/bachsecular.html. But I digress.) ...ahem...so I'm looking through old emails and find this odd email from "Bianca Broussar" that mentions weblogging. I don't think I had heard of blogging until at least last year, but here is an email from 2000 that mentions it. At first glance, I wondered why I never responded to this email ("How rude of me!" I thought). But then I grew suspicious...for example, why does she say "Hi 'lswartz'" as though my real name isn't on the site a bunch of times?

Well, it turns out that "Bianca" is really just a not-so-clever piece of viral marketing from Xenga.com.



What are you?

I recently attended a photo shoot for the Hapa Project, which is designed to "promote awareness and recognition" of multiracial people with some Asian descent. The idea is, they show all these pictures of people along with their handwritten responses to the question "What are you?" My favorite is one of a little kid talking about why he doesn't tell people he's part Danish.

Anyhow, I had a hard time deciding what to write...and a hard time fitting it into a half-sheet of paper. I ended up with something that was probably too long for them to use. But, in the blogging spirit of self-disclosure (and because there's a slim chance that this may be in a book someday), here's what I wrote:
I am a perpetual student and teacher, a proud American, a lover of language and languages, a budding triathlete, a Roman Catholic, a future Naval officer, a friend, a son, a grandson, a brother.

But this is the hapa project. So...

I recently got a ticket...not stopping at a stopsign on my bike. I looked at the slip the officer gave me. For "Race," he had checked "White." Just "White."

Part of me wanted to yell, "Hey! I'm Asian, too!" as he sped off in his squad car.

Only recently have I faced the fact that whatever I feel on the inside, to many people I look white. This is strange for me, because I'm much closer with my mom's family than with my dad's. I didn't know the English word for "hanakuso" until I was six, and I still don't know the English word for "shamoji."

Am I "passing"?

Note: "hanakuso" is, litterally, "nose-shit" (i.e snot)...and "shamoji" is a rice paddle/scooper thingie that, as far as I know, has no (good) English translation.



Friday, April 18, 2003

How many speakers?

Geoff Pullum made the assertion at the Symbolic Systems Forum that "Hawaiian is almost a dead language," which prompted a (presumably Hawaiian) audience member to object that the are a number of Hawaiian schools which teach the language, among other revival techniques. Pullum responded, "Well, I studied Latin in school as well. The number of native speakers is declining, and Hawaiian will eventually die."

So, who is right? It turns out that it's very difficult to tell how many native speakers still exist. When someone asked "Ask Yahoo!" how many people still speak Hawaiian, he was not really given a clear answer, with some somewhat questionable statistics from the 1990 census (are these native speakers, fluent speakers, people who speak it at home, people who know a few phrases, or what?). The Hawaiian revival organizations, like the audience member, tend to claim that their techniques are working, but a recent conference in O'ahu put on by 'Ahahui 'Olelo Hawai'i tried to gather as many native speakers as possible...and found only twenty-five. Even the Ethnologue database, usually a reputable source about languages of all types, seems to have pretty old data...data which supports the claim that, while Hawaiian may be used more, the number of native speakers has failed to increase substantively.

Is there hope, then? A number of linguists point to the revival of Hebrew in the 20th century as a case of a once-dead language springing back to life, now with millions of native speakers (mostly in Israel). Some note that Hebrew never really "died" but rather was relegated to "low" forms such as Yiddish or official religious ceremonies--but one could argue that the combination of Hawaiian Creole English (commonly known as "Pidgin"...listen to a sample here), the preschool immersion programs, and ceremonial uses (such as in the lu'au and hula) are similar. While I share some of Prof. Pullum's skepticism about the new programs and their ability to produce native speakers, I doubt that Hawaiian will ever be truly dead.



Editing and Timestamps

I'm musing about exactly how much these timestamps can be trusted.... I just fixed some errors (missing parentheses, HTML tag inconsistencies, etc.) on my last post, but of course it still says "Posted 18:56 PST." On the one hand, I like being able to fix past mistakes, but on the other hand, this makes me more skeptical of the timestamps on blogs. Another note: the blogger defaults don't allow you to post your time zone on the "Posted" message. Nevertheless their own "blog editor" window displays all the times in...hmmm...GMT? I'm not exactly sure. Given the worldwide-ness of the worldwide web, one would think they'd be more careful about this...



My first dilemma

So, I'd like to track web traffic on this blog...but how do I do it? There seem to be a bunch of services: SiteMeter, The Red Toolbox, and ServUStats were a few on the Blogger site alone. (Incidentally, it looks like "webtracker" no longer exits? The link is dead, and I can't find good information on it. Unless it's morphed into VisitTracker). I'll have to ask around to see what people are using, but right now I'm leaning toward Bravenet.



My first post

I'm in a course studying the blogging phenomenom and, since I've never actually tried blogging before, thought I'd give it a whirl. I doubt that I'll continue this in the long-term, though, for a number of reasons:
  • None of my attempts to keep a journal has succeeded for more than a week or so

  • I'm less comfortable posting spur-of-the-moment ideas on the web than (relatively) more thought-out writings or sometimes academic work.
  • I'm about to join the Navy, where web access will be spotty, if not impossible (particularly on a submarine)

Well, let's see how this goes...



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