Bek from Great Hall Games (in Dobie Mall) told me that Wednesday afternoons in April they're hosting LOONEY LAB TOURNAMENTS!
April 16: Aquarius
starting at 2:00
$5 entry, $5 GHG coupon to all registrants
BradS had Good News and Bad News, namely that he has accepted a tenured position teaching astronomy (that's the good news) but that it's not in Austin (that's the bad news). But he won't be moving away for a few months, so the good news outnumbers the bad. :) Congrats!
April 27 will be a Dell Recycling Tour in Austin as part of Earth Day activities, where you can bring old unwanted computer equipment for recycling. This will be from 11am to 5pm at Auditorium Shores parking lot beneath Drake/1st Street bridge. Normally a lot of computer equipment ends up in landfills, which is not nice for the environment due to various nasty stuff in some of the parts. With nudging by environmentalists, Dell is starting to take seriously the idea of recycling old computer stuff, so if you have any stuff to get rid of, this would be a good time to show there is interest in recycling it.
I have now heard 2 yeses, 1 no, and 1 murky vote on moving the russcon list to yahoogroups. If we were already on yahoogroups, I could have just set up a vote for this. :)
This week I got unexpectedly interested in constructed languages. LangMaker.com is a nifty site with lots of information about them. The most widespread and famous constructed language is of course Esperanto, which is over a century old, and very Eurocentric with an Italian or Spanish feel, and by many accounts is apparently much easier to learn than most languages (old or new). Its creation, history, and culture include some peacenik idealism which is appealing.
My recent personal interest actually began with the more obscure language Lojban which was intentionally designed to be less Eurocentric: the root words were created by a computer from words in the six most widely-spoken languages in the world: Chinese, Hindi/Urdu, English, Spanish, Arabic and Russian. Its creation and history includes a desire for unambiguous grammar based on predicate logic and exploring the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Lojban is very interesting but has the drawback that its vocabulary is hard to learn since by design the words are not similar to any other particular language, and the other drawback that very few people are into it, hence there's less support for learning Lojban than Esperanto. So I have "math Russ" wanting to learn the geeky/logical and theoretically interesting Lojban, and "peacenik Russ" wanting to learn the international-peace-and-love Esperanto. Currently peacenik Russ is winning, and I'm more interested in Esperanto... especially since (1) it's much easier and (2) it's reached a critical mass where probably millions of people speak it and there are lots of good support material.
One reason I am interested in this is that I was always frustrated by my slow progress in learning languages back in school (Latin, German, Finnish). I finally gave up, but was always bothered by feeling like a typical "ugly American" (i.e. "I don't speak other languages, I expect other people to learn English"). Since Esperanto is said to be much easier to learn, I might actually have a chance to get competent at it. And the process of achieving competency might give me better experience and learning techniques for learning additional languages. For these purposes, Esperanto is certainly better than Lojban.
As for learning Esperanto, Lernu.net seems to be considered the best site to start with. Don Harlow has an online book with an in-depth history and comparison of major constructed languages which is pretty interesting and informative. His personal history has fun anecdotes, e.g. " In the early sixties, the People's Republic of China was heavily into the publication of political pamphlets in Esperanto, and they would send them gratis to all Esperantists whose names and addresses they could find." The US government required the Post Office to track the recipients as possible communist sympathizers! "Later, the government of North Vietnam also undertook a major Esperanto publishing program in an effort to present its side in the ongoing Southeast Asian war, but the reader usually had to pay at least a nominal sum to get access to this viewpoint." Hitler banned Esperanto on the grounds that "practicing a non-national language with foreigners can only cause damage to nationalistic feelings among its practitioners."
As for learning Lojban, ARJ's Lojban pages are a good introduction and overview. Welcome to Lojbanistan! There exists a good introductory tutorial site: start here. Overall I must sadly admit there is a lot less material for Lojban than Esperanto.
Several cow-orkers and I have now started studying Lojban and Esperanto. If anyone else is interested in Lojban or Esperanto, let me know. Having a group of people who know each other and can practice speaking would be great. I emailed my ex-cow-orker Mooloch Monday night and mentioned Lojban; to my surprise, he wrote back a paragraph of Lojban text, already being familiar with the language!
Both Lojban and Esperanto are based on Roman alphabets which is handy, but both do some funky stuff which makes them suboptimal for computers, alas! Esperanto uses non-ASCII characters (diacriticals on some letters); Lojban uses apostrophe as a letter. For display purposes Lojban is much nicer. Creating web pages in Esperanto would give some nifty geek experience in playing with Esperanto Unicode, UTF-8, and all that... E.g. the "C with circumflex" (which looks like ĉ if your browser will display it... if not, let me know: I'm curious) seems to be hacked in ASCII various ways: c^, ^c, cx, ch, ...
A bit of geek trivia: the figlet software is primarily by John Cowan, a major Lojban contributor.
Naturally a language like Esperanto has its various detractors. I agree that like any language, Esperanto is flawed. Obvious stuff that strikes me is the annoying typography issue and that (like many languages) it is sexist. Shrug. By this sort of reasoning, one shouldn't learn any language. Then there's that whole shady association with the William Shatner movie Incubus. :) (There are actually other Esperanto films too!)
There are famous languages from fiction, the 2 big ones being Klingon (which has a Lojban flag on the top, taking you to a Lojban page about Klingon and an Esperanto flag and page), and Tolkien's Middle Earth languages, which are discussed at Ardalambion. I'm currently less interested in learning languages from fiction. Check out LangMaker's Top 10 List of what are the most interesting languages to study (including some other famous yet less obvious examples from fiction).
Accordion Guy's account of new romance gone horribly awry is fascinating and sad and disturbing.
How to make a starship Enterprise out of an old floppy disk... Dan has made a couple already
No War, Era Won is a palindromic war poem.
These Colors Don't Run... So Let's Roll is a song oozing with the cheesiest sort of patriotism. "They can run, but they can't hide. They can't run fast enough." "You mess with us, you gonna pay the toll." "These colors don't run, baby!"
A different devildoll animation from the one we know and love from the past...
Honda commercial has an impressively long elaborate series of Rube Goldberg machinations. Is it all real and one continuous take? I think so, though I'm not positive there's no cheating editing or computer manipulation.
Rock and Roll Confidential