My life

i lie the locust, a villanelle 11-30-16

My daughter can write circles around me and most other people I know. I wish she would post more often.

a handful of feathers

aka “abstraction is difficult and I haven’t written a poem in over a year”

i lie the locust in the honey tree
sip slow and sweetly soft the summer dew
i fly throughout your flowers honeybee

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Language, Music, My life, Spanish, Translation

The loveliest version of the loveliest tango…

…is this recording made of El día que me quieras by my wife, Alicia Isabel Santacruz. I have scoured the internet, and have not found a better performance.

It was written by Alfredo Le Pera and Carlos Gardel, and featured in a movie by the same name in 1935, performed by Gardel. Alicia’s recording was released a couple of years ago but is not widely available.


Following are the lyrics, along with my translation:

Acaricia mi ensueño el suave murmullo de tu suspirar
Como ríe la vida si tus ojos negros me quieren mirar
Y si es mío el amparo de tu risa leve que es como un cantar
Ella aquieta mi herida. Todo, todo se olvida

El día que me quieras la rosa que engalana
Se vestirá de fiesta con su mejor color
Y al viento las campanas dirán que ya eres mía
Y locas las fontanas se contarán su amor

La noche que me quieras desde el azul del cielo
Las estrellas celosas nos mirarán pasar
Y un rayo misterioso hará nido en tu pelo
Luciernaga curiosa que verá que eres mi consuelo

The soft murmur of your sighing caresses my reverie
How life will laugh if your dark eyes choose to see me
And if the refuge of your light song-like laughter is mine
It will soothe my wound. All, all is forgotten
The day that you love me, the rose that adorns
will put on party clothes of its favorite color
And the bells will tell the wind that you are finally mine
The fountains, delirious, will tell each other of their love
The night that you love me, from the blue of the sky
the jealous stars will watch us go by
And a mysterious ray will make its nest in your hair
A curious firefly that will see that you are my solace


My life

And now we’re moving…

…but staying in Tampa. We found a buyer for our big old barn-style house and are moving into a newer one-story over in Riverview where I’ll be a bit closer to work.

I’ll miss the isolation and the trees, but not the mowing. I’ll miss my huge shop out back, which I rarely use. Instead I’ll have to pare down my tools and make them fit in half my garage. We won’t miss the musty smell of the kitchen or the squeaky upstairs floors or the Spanish moss.

The new house looks like this:


The weird spot over the garage door is where I obliterated the house number for posting.

At some point we’ll have to negotiate with the HOA for a cheerier color. In the meantime, we’ll live in a gray house. We can’t close until Nov. 1, because there are tenants, so we’ll be in a short-term rental for a month.

This has been a stressful year. I look forward to when it settles down.

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.


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.


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.

Handyman, My life

Returning the ladder

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


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.)



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.)



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.



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.