My life

My blogging comeback was interrupted when…

…this happened.

I had just picked up my wife at the airport after she flew in from Colombia on June 10. We had crossed Tampa and were pulling up to turn right on SR 60 in Brandon when I heard Alicia exclaim something. I glanced left and saw a black car sliding sideways toward us. A split second later, “Boom!” When I opened my eyes, our car was full of airbags and smoke.

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The other car had struck ours with the driver’s side front fender and spun around to stop on the shoulder beside us. Apparently someone had bumped it on SR 60 and the driver lost control on the damp pavement.13418774_1397312800286092_1540690061826362243_n

My wife broke her right arm, probably because of the airbag slamming it. They took her by ambulance to the nearest hospital. 13423931_1397312880286084_4322232543574044777_n

A month later, we’re still dealing with the fracture and related damage to her arm.

Our car was considered a total loss. It was a nice car. 13412926_1397312840286088_1308829388980235118_n

I miss the consistently good gas mileage (31-34 mpg) but we decided to go back to a van. This time it’s a Kia Sedona.

 

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Language, My life

Back when I was a real linguist…

…one of my profs was Kenneth Pike. He was an eminence in American linguistics, although his name became less known following the Chomskyan revolution. Pike is responsible for the terms “etic” and “emic” which have to do with description of behavior by an outside observer or by an insider. His 1943 book Phonetics was for many years the most comprehensive resource for articulatory phonetics, his 1947 book Phonemics became the essential text on phonology, and those are just two of 0ver 250 works he published in the course of over 60 years as a linguist.

One of my favorite and most challenging courses in grad school was a history of American linguistics taught by Dr. Pike. Our text was a pamphlet written in 1965 by him and his sister Eunice Pike called Live Issues in Descriptive Linguistics, which was a linguistics bibliography organized under discussion questions. For each class, one of the discussion questions was assigned and we had to read several of the listed publications and write a response paper. In class, Pike would flip through our papers, select a few, and cross-examine each author regarding what he had said. (I don’t recall any women in that class.) It could be quite intimidating.

One of my proudest moments was when I compared an old article by Pike on Immediate Constituent analysis with one by Longacre (another of my profs and a close colleague of Pike’s) on string analysis. IC analysis breaks linguistic constructs into two parts (subject/predicate, verb phrase/prepositional phrase, preposition/noun phrase, etc.) until a sentence is completely parsed. String analysis, on the other hand, parses a sentence based on the number of sentence-level elements it contains (subject/verb/object/location/time, etc.) and then each of those elements is parsed similarly. I argued that the IC assumption that each structure can be divided into two primary parts was arbitrary, and that the tree chart in Pike’s article made it look like some phrase elements were at the same level as some sentence elements, whereas Longacre’s chart made it much clearer to which level the elements belonged. Pike and I had a fairly long discussion about this in class, while my classmates looked on in admiration and/or bewilderment. In the end, Pike agreed with me.

Occasionally Ken  would scrawl comments in the margins of our papers. His handwriting was worse than a medical doctor’s. I once showed him one of his notes and asked him what it said. He stared at it and said, “I have no idea.”

Pike’s sister Eunice and wife Evelyn were also outstanding linguists. I never had a class with either, but Eunice had taught phonology to some of my classmates, and Evelyn lectured in Pike’s class once on discourse analysis. I argued with Evelyn about one part of her analysis of a narrative about the Dunkirk evacuation; the story included a sentence something along the lines of “Then a miracle began to occur.” Evelyn had charted it as a sequential part of the narrative, whereas I argued that it was an editorial comment by the narrator. She agreed that I had a valid point.

I sat with the Pikes three times that I can recall: for a UTA faculty meeting (I was briefly an adjunct professor), in the cafeteria at the SIL linguistics institute, and at a neighborhood association meeting (the Pikes lived a couple of blocks from me in a little neighborhood full of missionary linguists). Each time we had stimulating conversations. At least once, maybe twice, I heard Ken ask his wife afterwards, “Who was that young man?” He was a genius but not known for his social skills.

Pike died in 2000. Evelyn died just the other day. You can read her obit here.

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Handyman, My life

Returning the ladder

The Toyota Corolla is highly prized by contractors for its large payload capacity coupled with fuel economy.

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I saved $20 and quite a bit of time by using my own car to return the  ladder to Home Depot rather than renting one of their trucks. After I took this picture, I tied a piece of fabric to the end of the ladder to make it more visible.

A week’s ladder rental is far too expensive, about 60% of the purchase price. The ridiculous thing is that their price table include a monthly rental rate that is far more than the purchase price! Seems unethical to me.

Oh, well. I’m just glad to have most of the high parts painted. I still have the side of the middle dormer to do; there was no safe way to reach it because the porch roof is in the way. When I tried leaning the ladder against it from the side, I couldn’t make stable contact, although the picture makes it look sooooo close… The porch roof doesn’t appear designed to handle my weight. I think I’ll screw a 2×4 down along its back edge as a safe base for my own light ladder. (I wonder what color of paint will hide the paint spatters.)

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Handyman, My life

House painting

I have been working very hard at painting my house because I rented a 32′ ladder from Home Depot and want to return it before the rental costs as much as buying it would have been.  I’ve been focusing on the high areas that I can’t reach with my own ladder.

Like this tall gable that faces east. With the weird barn shape of my house, it gets taller toward the front, so I started at the back and worked forward, raising the ladder as I went, painting wherever there was shade. (What looks like brick on the first story is actually fancy stucco. Most of my neighborhood has faux brick siding.)

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The dormers are my current challenge. Each one requires having the ladder to the left, on the front, to the right, and lower on the front… and you have to do everything twice to get the paint to cover. The shingles around the painted dormers look like I’ve had a plague of seagulls perching on the roof. Fortunately the drips don’t show in this photo.

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Handling a 32′ ladder by myself is a challenge, but so far I haven’t dropped it or broken any windows.

My house is looking a lot less dreary now that the water-damaged siding has been replaced and the faded barn-red is getting covered up. Lord willing, tonight I’ll finish putting the first coat on the dormers and begin applying the second.

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My life

I used to have a blog…

When I moved to Tampa three and a half years ago, I was assigned to my agency’s St. Petersburg office. It was a fairly interesting place to work, and I enjoyed the drive across the causeway (when it wasn’t a 7-mile traffic jam). I was isolated out there (it’s a small office) and entertained myself by blogging fairly regularly, and reading other people’s blogs.

However, the St. Pete office didn’t generate much work, so after a couple of years I reluctantly moved to the Tampa office. Unfortunately, the computers here are configured in such a way that WordPress is barely functional. I can read my feed, but if I want to post something, most of the time I get a nearly blank screen when I click on Create a New Post. And when I’m at home, I’m usually with my wife, so I’m not thinking about WP.

All this to explain why I haven’t been here.

Shortly after my last post, my beloved cat Simon (the one I had just taken to the vet) disappeared. I had to work an evening shift, and when I got home after midnight, he was nowhere to be found. He never wandered; he always hung out in the driveway, waiting for me to pull in so he could run to the back porch and meow until I fed him. I suppose some kind of animal got him; we have eagles and huge owls and even coyotes from time to time, since there is a small patch of jungle behind our yard.

I got as far as I could with siding the house and left to spend a month in Colombia. We had a great time down there; we took a week-long vacation trip to the islands of San Andrés and Providencia, plus a couple of days at the National Coffee Park in Quindío. If I were to do it again I would skip all but Providencia. It is an idyllic place; a small island (you can drive all the way around in 45 minutes in a rental golf cart), small hotels (big chains have been desperate to put in their hotels but the locals are very careful to keep things small and local), spectacular and uncrowded beaches, delicious fresh seafood.

One of these days I’ll post pictures.

Alicia’s son and one of his school buddies came for three weeks in January, and had a great time. I scrounged up what soccer opportunities I could find: Juan Manuel tried out for the Orlando City B team (more than 100 showed up) and for the University of Tampa, and he and Santiago played 5-on-5 at Cinco Soccer a couple of evenings. They ran around Brandon and Valrico on the two bikes I inherited from my dad, worked out at the gym, played with an ancient XBox, and generally enjoyed themselves.

After the boys left, we had a quiet winter/spring. Now Alicia is back in Colombia for a few weeks, and I’m busy painting the house, changing it from faded barn-red to a bright cream-yellow. It is very satisfying to see the changes.

And who knows? I may start blogging again.

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Handyman, My life

Stuff I did today

I’ve been working on the siding on the back of my house for about a week. Last weekend I got the old siding off, and a neighbor helped me sheathe the wall with OSB. I wrapped it with Tyvek, used roof tape where the siding boards meet, and improvised flashing for the windowsills.

Today we got just over half of the siding nailed up. Those sheets of Hardieboard are heavy. There’s no way I could get them up there by myself. We used score-and-snap to cut them to length, and I used a tile circular wet saw to cut out the windows.

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Earlier in the day, while I was waiting for my neighbor, I replaced this soffit and put in a new light and ventilation grille. The grille is a little puckered but it will have to come off anyway when I paint, so I’ll straighten it then. I had to cover the hole to keep out critters. Sheesh, I need to figure out a way to get my pressure washer to this corner of the house!

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Handyman, My life

Veteran’s Day Splinter

Since I had the 11th off, I worked on my house, repairing water-damaged soffit and fascia along one side of the garage. For the fascia I bought a piece of 5/4 x 6 pressure treated pine, since there was no 1 x 6 PT or redwood lumber at Home Depot, and I want to use something that will last.

The existing fascia has a half-inch slot routed into the back side, to hold the soffit. To create my slot, I made long cuts with my circular saw and then chiseled out the remaining material, lifting long splinters as I went.

One of those splinters decided to go under my nail, as far as it could go. It hurt.20151111_163824[1]
I tried to pull it out with a pliers, and it broke off. I thought about going to a doc-in-the-box, but it was nearly 5:00 and I would have used up the remaining daylight and besides, what a wimpy thing to see a doctor for. I tried continuing my work, but it was too uncomfortable. So I gave the pliers another try. This time the splinter came right out.
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Here is the board with the channel partway cleared. The line on the left is because I made my first cut on the wrong side by mistake. Putting the channel over there would have exposed a ragged part of the board instead of hiding it.
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I finished installing the soffit Thursday morning because I worked an evening shift that day. Unfortunately I forgot to cut vents in the first two pieces, so I had to cut them in place after I took this photo. It was awkward, made additionally so because I had hidden all the TV cables on top of the plywood and had to be careful not to cut them.
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Cutting soffit vents in place is a sawdusty business.2015-11-12_13.19.27[1]

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