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Nepal

I try to write a brief article every week or so for raport.info. And I try to keep up with what is being posted there. There is a fellow there who reports regularly from Nepal. He has been describing the perspective as a "king" who installed himself via a coup d' etat has been taking steps to consolidate power and repress the ability of people to make statements objecting to his dictatorial rule. Today he wrote that the opposition had called for a demonstration on Friday (today) and so the "king" arrested leaders of the opposition and has imposed a curfew: for the next three days it is illegal to leave your house. Cell phone service has been stopped and most network addresses are currently blocked. Can you imagine it?

European morons

Someone who claims to be representing European linguistic policy has set up a website that has a FAQ page that disparages Esperanto. It says:

How about an artificial language? By definition such a language is no one?s native language, and words with no relation to a history or a living culture are not precise enough in meaning for legislation.

I sent them a email this evening:

I believe it is a very foolish and short-sighted policy to discriminate against artificial languages, saying that they have no native speakers, history, or culture. The statements in your website go beyond foolishness, however, and disseminate false and misleading statements to the public. By including these statements, you demonstrate profound ignorance on the part of yourself and the organization you represent.

Esperanto is an artificial language that has thousands of native speakers (children who grew up in familes for whom it was their everyday language) and has more than 100 years of history and culture. Moreover, it's speakers being drawn from more than 100 countries around the world, Esperanto has already confronted and dealt with many of the critical issues of international communication in ways few other languages have.

Because it's speakers are drawn from many countries, Esperanto has little political power and it may seem trivial to disparage it. But as Europe seeks to confront the linguistic imperialism of English, Esperanto may be the only hope to prevent the destruction of minority languages and cultures. It may not be in your power to support Esperanto, but I encourage you to at least remain neutral. Stop spreading malicious and false information about Esperanto. If you can do nothing constructive, at least do no harm.

It probably won't do any good, but if enough people point out their lies and mendacious statements, maybe they will at least retract them, if not come around to a more productive point of view.

Stunningly, staggeringly busy

Although the intersession is, in many ways, a brief respite in the usual madness, I have been incredibly busy due to the variety of projects I've been trying to squeeze into every available moment. Read more to hear about them.

The biggest project this week has been setting up a pair of servers with Randy to implement LON-CAPA at UMass. We special-ordered two servers from Amherst Computer Works, installed Fedora Core 4 on them, installed LON-CAPA, and are now trying to figure out how to make it work. George did the heavy lifting on ordering the servers last month. Randy wanted to be more hands-on, so I've been trying have him actually do as much of the work as possible, but in teaching him linux along the way, its actually taking more time than if I just did it myself. It's been fun and there have been a few places where my experience with linux was really valuable. For example, the new machines use very new Intel motherboards that are not supported, so we had to do some searches and, eventually download updated RPMs and burn them to CD to install them. Other than that, it has worked pretty well, but has taken a fair amount of time.

Although we did a huge amount of work at the LAN party, the New ELNA website continues to require significant ongoing changes. I've been trying to keep up with all the email and actually participate in at least some of the on-going discussions. I've been really happy with Phil Dorcas being a facilitator and moderator among the various competing voices.

The ADTC is also requiring input -- not too much yet, but increasing as the caucuses approach. I continue to try to write brief notes in my blog there. It's interesting to me how many people were interested in the idea of having blogs there, but who haven't gotten around to trying to write anything. Peter wrote one entry and promised to write more and find more people to contribute. But he hasn't. I'm actually writing this at the Loose Stool waiting to meet with him. We were supposed to meet at 3pm, but it looks like he's not coming. He seems, if anything, even busier than I am.

The house continues to progress. They've been dropping off the supplies for the siding. Today, Alisa and I picked out replacements for the horrible porchlights that the house has. I'm really excited to see what the house is going to look like when we're done.

But at least it's Friday. Friday! I can't wait to go home, kick off my shoes, and relax in my recliner. Friday!

Windows and siding

Mia domoWhen we bought our house 7 years ago, we recognized that the house really needed new windows and siding. We had to do the roof first, and in the interim, installed WindowQuilts to cut our heating bills until we could get new windows. This year, with the increasing price of oil, we're finally getting the windows and siding done.

I took this picture that shows the downstairs windows replaced with the upstairs window still original. From the outside the difference is not terribly apparent, but from the inside the result is striking. Not only do the rooms receive more light, you can actually see out the windows. I find myself standing by windows and looking out purely for the novelty of being able to. The old windows were dirty and essentially impossible to clean. The new windows are sparkling clean and clear and seem to bring the outside inside, which makes all of the rooms seem larger and brighter.

There is a notable reduction in drafts as well. I can sit by the window with the windowquilt open and not get a chill from the breeze blowing in. We anticipate the new windows will substantially reduce our heating costs.

The siding should be done sometime over the next couple of weeks. I'll be sure to post some followup pictures then.

Followup on Austin LAN party

D-ro Read has written a nice followup on the LAN party. I thing he's exactly right. For many things, discussion on the Internet(s) will work fine, but at some point, you can be a lot more productive when you have everyone face to face. The work on the webpages was critical, but there were several other things that took place that are probably equally important.

Getting everyone up-to-speed and on-the-same-page is a lot easier face-to-face. As everyone worked, we could listen and one person would explain to another what we were doing, or how something worked, and join in if what that person was saying was different than what we thought. This back-channel communication was really valuable for achieving concensus on building the site. We also could easily change modes, from "work" to "discuss" to "play". This leads to my next point.

Bringing everyone together creates a stronger peer-bond. Most of us knew one another from before, but working and playing together helps cement personal relationships. Having us jostling one another and grunting like children while getting into the car seems trivial, but those kinds of experiences can help tie the group together and build trust.

Finally, having a few relaxation periods: watching Blade III and looking for the Esperanto references, taking a stroll in the park, acting out good-armadillo/bad-armadillo, created a pleasant atmosphere and gave us a variety of opportunities to reflect on what we were doing and why. It's a great model for getting stuff done, which I think we should all consider doing more often.

Back from Austin

Well, I'm back from the LAN party in Austin. It was an intense weekend. We started working on Friday evening and worked pretty much straight through until Sunday night. We did it! We brought up the new ELNA website. There is still work to be done, but I feel comfortable saying that we did what we set out to do. We made some pixels too: I was invited to draft an article for Libera Folio.

Staying with Dr. Read was very comfortable. He and his family were particularly welcoming and hospitable. I was pleased this morning that, when Hannah was grumpy, I was able to cheer her up. She didn't get enough sleep because she was asleep when we took her brother Kelvin out for dinner (to Shady Grove, an excellent restaurant that he had recommended). But when we got back, Hannah had awaken and needed a sandwich to assuage her sense of indignation for not having been able to join us, and, therefore, didn't get to bed on time.

Back to being grumpy, Dr. Read pointed out that he and his daughter shared the trait of being grumpy if they didn't get enough sleep. I pointed out that I had a snake like that. Hannah couldn't help smiling, and soon we had a pleasant and far-ranging discussion about snakes, pets, fungi, and zoology songs. I sang her the beaver song. She said she'd already heard it and that I was getting the hand-motions wrong, but she humored me by smiling anyway. She has a very pretty smile.

We stopped by Nodog's place to pick up Jacob. I decided that they ought to be "nehundo" and "j-hundo". If you don't get it, don't lose any sleep over it. After going through security, j-hundo and I had a nice cup of coffee talking about a bunch of the various ideas that had come up over the weekend. We both had flights at the same time, so we split up around 10:30 to catch our respective flights home.

The flight home was uneventful. The flight to BWI was packed, but at least I didn't have to sit in the middle. I hate that. I was able to find a place for both of my bags and I survived, so I can't really complain. It only took about 12 hours from door to door. Now I'm getting myself around a drink and wrapping up loose ends before I got to bed in my own bed for a change.

Rolling back into Amherst, I realize how at-home I feel here. I haven't felt so much at home anyplace before. Driving through town, each corner, building, and sign has become dear to me. I feel like know each pothole and pebble as we turn the corner onto My Street and into my driveway. Home. I'm home. What a wonderfully great feeling to be home.

Alvenis ĉe Aŭstino

Mi alvenis bonorde ĉe Aŭstino eble dudek minutoj frue. D-ro Read renkontis min ĉe la pakaĵreklamilo kaj portis min al sia domo. La komputiloj alvenis bonorder ankaŭ. Mi starigis sendratan retkonekton kaj ĉio funkcias.

Dum la semajnfino, mi ne plu skribos ĉi tie: Mi skribos ĉe mia blogo ĉe la nova E-USA retpaĝaro.

For English speakers: I've arrived in Austin and for the rest of the weekend, I'll be posting in my blog at the new Esperanto-USA site we're working on.

Alisa Blogging

Yesterday I got Alisa to start blogging. She's been talking about it for more than a year and has finally taken the plunge. She's involved with so many things around town -- I'm looking forward to seeing the kinds of things she posts on. Most people blog on the stuff they find: in the media or on the web. I'm more likely to write about what I'm working on, although primarily in a self-serving way: I'm writing more for myself than for an audience. I've always thought of my writing more as a "journal" than a "blog". I'm fairly careful in terms of what I write about: I try to avoid writing things that I wouldn't want my children, students, or colleagues to read. In fact, I'd want them to be comfortable reading my blog. Well, mostly. I wrote about Randy once and, the next day another faculty member said to me, "I'm afraid to talk to you, Brewer. You might write about me on the web!" He was kidding. Mostly.

First day back at work

Today was my first day back at work after vacation. I got a bit of stuff done -- including drafting a to-do list for intersession (which is about as long as my arm. Sigh...) Between catching up with email, touching base with people regarding intersession projects, and cleaning up, I snatched a few minutes here and there to start pulling the things together for the Austin LAN party: I got out my old airport basestation that I had taken into work and I'm checking a couple of ancient laptops to see if I can get one running linux with a modern enough browser to accomplish useful work with Drupal. I've been meaning to try PowerPC Ubuntu with them anyway, so this is as good a chance as any.

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