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12 of 12 for February 2010

14 Feb

On the 11th I flew home to New Hampshire for Reading Week (aka “Spring” Break). I didn’t get a chance to say hello to Angel that night, but on the morning of the 12th I greeted her in bed. Her ears were back but she was so sleepy she could barely open her eyes.

The lake is frozen and covered with bobhouses, but there’s not much snow on top of the ice. While the South and Mid-Atlantic have been blasted with record amounts of snowfall this winter, New England has been abnormally dry.

This ice along the road leading to my house may appear to be a beautiful natural phenomenon, but it seems that someone has actually been “vandalizing” the ice. There are also spots of yellow, red, and purple.

My parents and I decided to go for a ride in the afternoon. We headed up north — here we’re approaching Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch.

A snow-capped Mt. Adams towers over this white birch-laden road (what could be more quintessentially New Hampshire?)

We stopped in Bretton Woods for this picturesque shot of the White Mountains and the Ammonoosuc River.

The grandiose Mt. Washington Hotel is nothing compared to the grandeur of the Presidential Range behind it.

We continued on to North Conway, where I caught a glimpse of Mt. Washington from another angle. The late afternoon light reflecting off the snow was particularly eye-catching.

It being the Friday of Presidents’ Day Weekend, North Conway was bustling with skiers coming from the south.

Of course, we couldn’t drive by the Christmas Tree Shop without my mom having to go inside.

After returning home, we made pizza for supper and sat down in front of the TV as the Olympics came on. You’ll notice that Angel only has her mind on one thing.

Deep down, part of me is rooting for Canada. O Canada, terre de nos aïeux…

12 of 12 for January 2009

13 Jan

2009 is here, and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the rest of the year. Here’s how January 12th went.

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After a very busy past couple of weeks, the 12th was a relatively uneventful day. I snapped this shot of the lake from my window upon waking up. The clouds had just started to move out, giving way to a wonderfully blue sky. As you can tell by comparing this photo to a similar one in December’s 12 of 12, the lake has now frozen over completely.

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Since my parents got a new bedspread, Angel has been barred from her normal lounging place — on top of my parents’ bed. While she could choose to lie on a couch or on the carpet, instead she opts for the tile near the bottom of the stairs. It’s actually a strategic choice, since it allows her to watch over several different rooms at once. She’s a smart little girl. And adorable.

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After spending a week in Canada, the 20-degree high yesterday seemed balmy in comparison (unfortunately, that Arctic Canadian air is headed our way this week). I took advantage of the nice weather to go for a walk. This is our house under the snow.

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On my way up to Sunset Heights, I peered into the forest along the road and eyed this shot. Winter presents a lot of unique photographic opportunities, like the long shadows on the snow here. There’s something really intriguing and inviting about a snowy forest. I’ve been meaning to try out the snowshoes I got for Christmas.

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The view of Newfound from the top of the hill. Quite different from what Squamloon photographed back in June.  But equally beautiful.

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Lunch. One of Campbell’s new Select Harvest soups, “Light Savory Chicken with Vegetables.” For canned soup, it’s actually pretty good. And only 80 calories.

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After lunch, I went out to shovel the snow on the deck. My camera was having battery problems, and as I was examining it, I accidentally snapped this shot of myself. Turned out pretty well, eh? I just love that blue sky.

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This one wasn’t accidental. I usually hate the cliché mirror / Myspace shot, but I just liked the lighting in the mudroom. I need to shave, but I’m lazy.

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These French magnets were a Christmas gift from several years ago. They’ve been collecting dust in my desk since then, so on Sunday I decided to make some sentences on the fridge. Frustrated by the lack of vocabulary, I resorted to scatalogical humour.

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All photographers, amateur or professional, love l’heure bleue. The silhouettes of the trees against the fleeting sun’s light made for a nice composition. Venus was the icing on the cake.

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It was only at the end of 24’s 2-day, 4-hour season 7 premiere that I thought to get a photo of the show. It’s blurry, but at least I captured the trademark splitscreen. I think it’ll be hard for 24 to return to the glory of its first few seasons, but I can at least hope that it’ll be better than last season. So far, I’m not particularly intrigued, but I’m sure I’ll keep watching anyway. THOUSANDS OF LIVES ARE AT STAKE!

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Wait… I actually had work to do today. I’m in the middle of applying to both graduate schools and summer teaching internships. Unfortunately, I’ve procrastinated quite a bit and will likely have to express mail them this week. My top choice for the summer internship is Philips-Exeter Academy, but I’m also applying to Choate Rosemary Hall, Northfield Mount Hermon School, and Cushing Academy.

My graduate school visits have also helped me form a better idea of which programs I want to go to. I really liked Georgetown, but the statement of purpose I submitted for my application was terrible, so I’m not confident about my chances. Toronto and Ottawa both have the advantage of a 1-year program and generous funding, although they would be quite intense. Toronto has the professor I’d most like to work with, but Ottawa has the whole French thing and more applied ling. And I guess that McGill’s still a possibility…

Well, those are issues I’ll address in future posts. I’m very optimistic about 2009.

12 of 12 for December 2008

13 Dec

Another fascinating slice of my life.

Breakfast. A chocolate chip muffin and skim milk. Not the healthiest breakfast, but it was my first day back home after a very long and stressful semester. So I splurged a little.

Angel giving me a quizzical look. I’m not sure if she was actually confused by my taking pictures, or if she was really just hoping to get a piece of muffin. She has earned the nickname of “The Muffin Bandit” after she not-so-stealthily grabbed my brother’s muffin in her mouth off of the coffee table one morning. I feel bad about her evident arthritis and other old (12) age-related ailments (she’s lost a lot of muscle), but I think she has good genes. We got a Christmas card from her breeder, which told us that Angel’s uncle had recently passed away. He was 16.

Ahh, Christmastime. One of the absolute best times of year. I’m a bit ashamed of our fake little tree (and I miss the smell of the real kind), but after years of pine needle-covered parlor carpets, I guess my parents were fed up.

The backyard from my window. Last night, New England got hit with a devastating ice storm that left about 25% of New Hampshire’s population without power. We felt pretty lucky to still have it — most of the worst damage was south of us. Fortunately for us, the freezing rain turned into sleet and snow and we now have a shallow carpet of the white stuff.

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Watching some of the devastation on TV. Channel 9 wouldn’t come in at all, so I watched the Boston news. Deval Patrick (Governor of Massachusetts) was giving a press conference on the state of emergency. The pictures from Worcester were pretty incredible.

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As the morning fog and clouds started to break, I spotted this surreal view of the hills to the southwest, just above the condos on the southern end of Newfound Lake. That’s ice and snow covering all those trees.

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Remember what I said about splurging? I spotted one of my absolute favourite culinary delicacies in the freezer – BBQ chicken pizza – and decided to have some for lunch. I seriously would murder my first-born child for this stuff.

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Now that the clouds had cleared up, I decided to take a shot of the lake as well. I don’t like the picture very much, though. It doesn’t really capture the wildness and the desolateness of the lake on a windy, winter day that I was hoping to capture. The white crests on the blue-grey water, with the snow-covered cliffs behind… it’s a pretty amazing sight.

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In the afternoon, my dad (who was home from work due to a power outage) asked to watch my latest Netflix. Although I was quite busy working on my grad school applications, finishing my honors thesis, and preparing for my upcoming Mid-Atlantic trip (the stressful semester isn’t *quite* over), I decided to watch as well. It was a film called “Mongol,” which recounted the origins of Genghis Khan. It was actually in Mongolian and everything. I was kind of hoping it would go more into the whole empire-conquering stuff, but nonetheless it was very interesting and well-made film.

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I guess my mom’s supper was slightly healthier than my other two meals of the day, although still guiltfully tasty. Breaded haddock and some of her delicious roast potatoes. It’s nice to have some Yankee cooking again.

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Mom wrapping presents for our Madan family Christmas gathering today. I still haven’t gotten my Yankee swap gift, but I’ll probably pick it up at Wal-Mart later (most likely going to get a haircut…). I’m thinking Apples to Apples. My memory of the game was jogged by SquamLoon’s photostream. …yeah, I’m not e-stalking you or anything, LB.

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Just felt like taking a picture of my room. Boy it feels good to sleep in my bed again. Actually, that’s what I should be doing right now, but instead I’m working on a million things I should have finished ages ago (not including this post – but I knew that if I didn’t post it now, I never would). I’m heading to NYC on Sunday and then DC on Tuesday night to visit grad schools. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to lug my laptop along with me to continue working on stuff.

How the New Hampshire accent is disappearing – Part I

30 Nov

As some of you may know, I am currently in the process of writing an honors thesis for my B.A. in Linguistics, entitled “Variation and Change in New Hampshire English: The Loss of Local Distinctiveness.” Over the summer, I recorded 20- to 30-minute interviews with 12 local New Hampshirites who had spent almost their entire lives in the state. These people ranged from age 20 to age 70 — the wide range was intentional, since I was trying to see what differences exist in the speech of younger people vs. that of older people, and consequently, what changes are happening to English in New Hampshire.

Before I discuss those changes, however, I think it’s important to start with those aspects of our speech that make New Hampshire unique from the rest of the country.

New Hampshire within the New England Dialects

Well, first of all, the New Hampshire accent isn’t that unique – it shares a lot features with the accents of surrounding states, particularly Maine and Massachusetts. When linguists draw dialect maps of the United States, NH is placed in the “Eastern New England” (ENE) region, and sometimes in the “Northeastern New England” (NENE) subregion. Here’s a map of New England dialect regions:

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New England is divided into two major dialect regions: Eastern (blue) and Western (green). The boundary between the two largely follows the Connecticut River in southern New England, and then follows the Green Mountains in Vermont. This division actually reflects historical settlement patterns: the ENE areas share a common nucleus of colonial settlement (Boston), as do the WNE areas (New Haven). The majority of settlers in each region originated from these cities. The WNE dialect also appears to extend slightly into New York state, but stops abruptly east of the Hudson River.

Each region also consists of a northern and southern subregion, but the boundaries between these are a bit more difficult to establish due to a lack of research data. The SENE dialect is primarily centered around Providence and Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, but extends slightly into neighbouring areas of MA and CT. It is clear that Springfield is part of the SWNE dialect, but it is unclear how far into southern Vermont this dialect extends, if at all.

Of course, these boundaries are hardly concrete walls. There are bound to be “mixed” areas in-between, not to mention all the variability in each individual region. Do people in northern Maine sound like people in Boston? Those of us who live in the area can easily make these geographic distinctions when we hear someone talk, but the point is that those of us in NH have more in common with people in Bangor or Boston than we do with people in Burlington or Bridgeport, at least linguistically.

So what defines these boundaries?

Eastern New England vs. Western New England

(The Connecticut River – an important isogloss in New England)

The boundary between ENE and WNE is defined primarily by three historically different pronunciations:

1. R-dropping. Eastern New England speakers tend to show higher rates of r-dropping, as in pahk the cah in Hahvid yahd or New Hampshah, whereas in Western New England these r’s are almost always pronounced. Of course, many speakers in ENE do pronounce the r’s as well, which is something we will address later.

2. The “broad a.” Another highly recessive feature of ENE, this so-called “broad a” is often heard in words like aunt, father, laugh, half, can’t, etc. It’s also typically heard in “ar” words like car. For most older speakers, father and bother do not rhyme (the only area in North America where this is still true). For WNE speakers, father rhymes with bother and can’t rhymes with rant.

3. The horsehoarse distinction in ENE. This characteristic is the most recessive of all, appearing only in the speech of older speakers, and is most prevalent in coastal areas (particulary in Maine). For these speakers, horse is pronounced like “hoss.” Similarly, morning and mourning are not pronounced the same (“Good monnin'” is a common greeting in the area). Speakers also show this pattern in words like orange and Florida, whose first syllables do not sound like oar or floor, but rather use the vowel in fog.

Click here to listen to a 57-year-old woman from New Hampshire reading a short passage of text, demonstrating many of the characteristic features of the Eastern New England dialect:

He would dream of leaving the cold North and moving to Florida or some foreign country to see the palm trees and enjoy the warm weather. But whenever he told aunt Mary about his dreams, she would laugh.

R-dropping can be heard in North, warm, weather, and whenever. The “broad a” can be heard in palm, aunt, and laugh. And note the pronunciation of Florida and foreign, which contrasts with the vowels in North and warm — in the most conservative dialects, however, these vowels are also pronounced the same way (“noth” and “wom”). In other words, this speaker has partially lost the horsehoarse distinction.

Northern New England vs. Southern New England

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Don’t let this map scare you. It basically points out the major distinction between the northern and southern New England dialects:

1. The cotcaught merger. In northern New England, these two words are pronounced the same, as are don and dawn and similar pairs. NNE is one of the few areas of the English-speaking world, along with Canada, western Pennsylvania, and much of the western USA, where this merger has taken place. In southern New England, by contrast, the vowels are quite distinct.

Compare the pronunciation of “hotdog” in Boston and Providence. Note that the vowels are the same in Boston but very different in Providence. For many SENE speakers, “cot” sounds the same as “cart,” whereas “caught” has a pronunciation close to that of the New York City area. NNE speakers, on the other hand, use a unique, semi-rounded low-back vowel for both; this rounded form is very pronounced in the Boston example, although not all northern New Englanders consistently produce such a rounded vowel (more on this later).

(And yes, I’m aware that a lot of people in Boston actually say “hutdog,” but that would ruin my example. The pronunciation of “hot” as “hut” is an unrelated phenomenon.)

2. The pronunciation of the “ow” diphthong before voiceless consonants. This one I’m less certain about because it hasn’t been well-studied, but my personal observation leads me to believe that there is a difference in the way words like out and house are pronounced in northern and southern New England. If you listen to the reading passage above, the pronunciation of about might stand out — northern New Englanders seem to have a somewhat centralized nucleus in this diphthong, vaguely similar to the Canadian pronunciation but still unique. Also very distinct from the pronunciation of many Americans, whose diphthong consists of the vowel in cat plus the vowel in ewe: “ab-a-ewe-t.”

This is something I will address in greater detail in Part II, as it seems like young people in northern NE (myself included) are doing very interesting things with this diphthong.

Common Features in New England

(Just wanted to add a photo here.)

So what features, then, unify New England accents and separate them from the rest of the country?

1. The raising of “short-a” before nasal consonants. Most Americans raise the “short-a” (as in mad) when it occurs before a nasal (as in man, ham, etc.) However, many New Englanders raise it even more (producing something like “mee-an” for man). This might be a bit more pronounced in coastal ENE, but it occurs throughout the region (and may be dying off, of course).

The only other region of the US where this occurs is the Upper Midwest (or “Inland North” dialect region), but there it is part of a general raising trend of the “short-a” (they pronounce mad like “may-ad.”) There is some slight raising of the vowel in other contexts in New England, but this has not been well-studied. I may address it later.

2. The “broad a” before “r.” Although this feature is also recessive, it occurs across New England: words like car are pronounced with a fronted “ah” vowel rather than the back vowel used in most other American dialects. Another feature shared with the Upper Midwest and parts of the Canadian plains, although the vowel is never raised in NE as it sometimes is in these dialects.

3. The pronunciation of “oo” and “oh.” This actually isn’t unique to NE and in fact is rapidly changing, but NE and many other Northern dialects show resistance to the fronting of these vowels (imagine how ooze and hose are pronounced in the South or California).

With all this talk of recessive sounds, you may wonder what evidence I have for these changes. Well, you’ll have to wait until I post the results of my NH dialect study in Part II – stay tuned.

To be continued…

12 of 12 for November 2008

13 Nov

Considering I have the sleeping habits of a typical college student, I was wide awake when the clock struck midnight on the 12th of the month. In fact, I was doing laundry.

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Heading down the hall to put my clothes in the dryer. The fluorescent lighting and lack of windows eliminate any reminders that I’m defying the natural sleep cycle. Instead, I’m thinking about how ’80s that carpeting is.

I got to the laundry room about a minute after my clothes finished washing, and someone had already taken them out of the washing machines and put them on top of the dryers. I hate when that happens. She was still there, too, so it was rather awkward. Of course, I hate being in the opposite situation and having to handle other people’s undergarments. She was probably more embarrassed than I was annoyed.

Every time I do laundry here, I’m thankful of how cheap it is compared to in England. There, I spent the equivalent of about $6.50 on every single load (not including the cost of detergent).

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As exciting as laundry is, I still had to wait for my clothes to dry. I returned to my apartment to prepare for a meeting with my Phonology professor later in the day. For our final project in the course, we have to write and present a paper on a phonological topic of our choosing. I knew I wanted to do something with French, but unfortunately I chose one of the most ridiculously complicated elements of French phonology: the schwa. I snapped the above photo around 3:30am as I attempted to make some sense out of the articles I was reading (but my brain wasn’t functioning very well at that hour). The articles came from the proceedings of a linguistics conference last year in France dedicated entirely to the schwa. I can’t believe I missed it.

The schwa, or “e muet,” is typically represented in French orthography as the letter “e.” However, its pronunciation is optional — but guided by certain phonological conditions (or, more specifically, Optimality Theory constraints, at least under my analysis). The schwa is normally pronounced in order to break up unacceptable consonant clusters. For example, in standard French, one would pronounce “une table propre” as [yn tablə propr] — leaving out the schwa in “table” would create a string of four consonants ([blpr]), which doesn’t jive too well with French phonology.

The main premise behind my paper was to study cross-dialectal differences in the behavior of French schwa. For example, in Southern French dialects, the schwa is very often pronounced, even where it doesn’t prevent clusters. The phonology of these dialects (derived from Occitan) seems to disprefer codas in general (in favour of consonant-vowel syllable structure). So in the above example, the word-final schwa in “propre” would be pronounced as well. I also considered looking into Canadian French, which doesn’t seem to mind clusters as much as European dialects. In the above example, however, Canadian French has a different strategy for resolving the clusters altogether, yielding [yn tab prop] — Canadian French deletes word-final liquids in clusters.

I won’t get into the details as to why this is an incredibly overwhelming topic, but let’s just say that schwa isn’t as simple as it sounds. Prosody and rhythm appear to play a role, for example… and schwas behave very differently if they’re word-final or not.

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Anyway, after realizing that my brain had had as much schwa as it could handle, I went to bed for a meager five hours. I took the above photo on my way to campus in the morning, at the intersection of Jefferson and Hoover – the intersection that I have probably crossed about a million times so far to get to and from campus. (LA isn’t very pedestrian friendly, if you weren’t aware). My least favourite thing about the intersection (and the entire USC campus) is the insane bicyclists who go a million miles per hour or talk / text on their cell phones while riding. Making matters worse, this year they created diagonal crosswalks through the intersection, so there’s a deadly “X” in the middle where you’re almost guaranteed to trapped in a crossfire of bicycles.

Have I mentioned that there’s a lot of concrete in LA?

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I first headed to the library to print out some papers for the meeting with my Phonology professor, but I accidentally jammed the printer by attempting to print double-sided (there was supposed to be a warning sign!!!!!!!!!). Anyway, I didn’t have time to re-print but a nice Australian girl gave me a refund, even though I couldn’t remember exactly how much the print job cost (I think I gained a few cents).

Anyway, that anecdote has nothing to do with the above photo, which I snapped on my way to class (which I was already running late for). There was some international food festival going on in Alumni Park. That photo was taken near one of USC’s numerous fountains, looking towards Bovard Auditorium (featured in season 2 of 24!)

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I turned around to get this shot from the other side, looking towards Doheny Library (probably one of the nicest buildings on campus). And yes, people were wearing shorts (myself included) and flip-flops. After a week of genuinely fall-like weather, the high topped at about 80 degrees yesterday. The forecast says 91 for Saturday.

I hate this weather.

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Got to my Japanese Syntax class a few minutes late because of the printer trouble. My professor is great, but I’m always sleepy and distracted in the class. Probably because I’m not really a syntax person. As intriguing as it can be, I don’t foresee myself researching bound variable anaphora (BVA) after my final paper.

Here, the professor was explaining the difference between sentences like “It seems that John likes Sue” vs. “John seems to like Sue.” In both cases, John is actually the subject of “like” but in the second example the subject is “raised.” I could probably explain a lot more about it, but to avoid boring anyone I suggest looking it up on your own if you’re really intrigued. And yes, this does have to do with Japanese syntax.

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Italian class was next. The class is a mixed bag… on the one hand, I love speaking Italian and I enjoy the ease of the class, but on the other hand, it’s really too easy. Here, the professor was going over the imperfect subjunctive, which is essentially the first new grammar we’ve learned all semester. Kind of sad. But at least I have to use my brain a bit more, since nobody uses the imperfect subjunctive in spoken French AFAIK.

I think the most frustrating part of the class is the language barrier between the professor and the other students. Most of my classmates seem to have a hard time understanding anything she says, and vice versa. Unfortunately, I can understand both of them perfectly and I get insanely annoyed by how slow the class moves as a result. And people asking for the translations of obvious cognates like “incoraggiare”…grrr…

Pensavo che italiano 3 fosse più difficile!

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My graduate Phonology class was next, but I didn’t have a good opportunity to discretely snap a photo. I waited until after class to capture my fellow undergrad linguistics majors here in the “Teal Lounge.” I think they were all feeling lethargic after stuffing themselves on doughnuts from the department’s weekly “Tea Time.”

I should also point out that linguistics majors are inherently weird people. And awesome.

After meeting with my professor to talk about schwas, she expressed paranoid concern about being on campus after dark (I mean, there has been a lot of violence in the neighbourhood, but not on campus at 5pm…) and so I accompanied her towards her car. We talked about grad schools and she naturally suggested I look for one with good phonologists… among my top choices, Ottawa and Georgetown seem to have a few.

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On the way back to my apartment. This concrete pedestrian walkway is usually crowded with students going to and fro between the residences and campus, in addition to the local skater punks and foul-mouthed school children. While this is probably the safest possible block off of campus, I can’t help but be paranoid when I’m walking late at night in this area. I live in the ghetto.

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Just to show you how ghetto it is. These are some houses adjacent to my dorm. It’s hard to find any houses in LA without fenced yards and barred windows. I know I rag on LA all the time, but it really is an awful, awful place. 🙂

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I did spot these cute cats in one of the ghetto yards. Unfortunately, the flash seems to have transformed them into demon cats.

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Back in the apartment. Back on the computer. What percentage of my day do I spend in front of a computer screen? A ridiculous percentage, that’s what. I was back to preparing for another meeting, this one with my Honors Thesis advisor. I’m presenting my research on New Hampshire dialects at the graduate students’ workshop in December, so I really have to get into gear with my project.

The map above is taken from the Atlas of North American English, showing the “cot”/”caught” merger in New England. The two words are pronounced the same in northern New England (and eastern Massachusetts), while they are noticeably destinct in southern New England. Interestingly, my parents, who were born fifteen miles apart, were also born on either side of the isogloss.

The other major isogloss in the region, which separates Eastern New England from Western New England, is rhoticity – eastern New England has historically been “r-less” (vocalization of post-vocalic /r/), but this is rapidly changing. Anyway, I’ll write more on this subject in a future post… after I’ve finished my paper.

One month and I’m out of LA forever.

The Season of Change

1 Nov

Since I’ve been rather busy the past month, I’ve neglected to blog about two things I really wanted to talk about: my short trip home (touched upon in my 12 of 12) as well as the election.

If there is any common theme between New England foliage and this election, it’s change. And so I’ve decided to intertwine the two subjects in one post.

Some leaves photographed at home. Walking around New England in October is like bathing in rainbows, although a lot less gay-sounding.

Fall foliage is an interesting phenomenon. People fret over how vibrant the colours will be every year, when they’ll hit peak, etc. They cite a lot of meterological factors but it’s always impossible to predict. This year, the colours seemed to be progressing more slowly than usual due to some warm (and dry) late September temperatures, but suddenly the rain and cool air came rushing down and the foliage began progressing towards peak more quickly than usual.

Although some years are better than others, I think it’s impossible to see anything less than the most vibrant fall colours in New England. I actually noticed slightly fewer reds this year than last year; I noticed that one or two red trees in particular that I had photographed in 2007 were orange this year. Compare the same tree, photographed in 2007 and 2008.

Of course, the orange is just as beautiful, if not moreso.

I guess I have a thing for colours. When I take pictures, my eye is very frequently captured by colour and it often shapes the composition of my photographs.

That’s a shot of Lake Winnepesaukee in Alton.

Since I wasn’t about to sit around at home during the entire weekend, my mom and I made some requisite leaf-peeping drives in the area. Interestingly, we noted a wide variety of colour quality. We crossed over to Woodstock in Vermont and drove some lovely backroads, but the colours were surprisingly weak. I thought that maybe the valley had had an early frost.

On the other hand, the White Mountains were aflame with colour, at least south of the notches. North of Franconia and Crawford Notch, almost all the reds had already disappeared. Still pretty, though. But the best colour was easily in the Conway area. The colours in the Lakes Region were also fantastic, although just short of full peak by a few days.

Ahh, New Hampshire…

Anyway, driving all these backroads, we also saw a lot of lawn signs for Obama and McCain (a relatively rare phenomenon in California, it seems). At one spot along Route 16 in Tamworth, where a lot of leaf-peepers stop to get a shot of Mt. Chocorua, the farmer who owns the property had placed an Obama sign in his field for all the leaf-peepers to see.

We also went to the Sandwich Fair, which typically isn’t my cup of tea because of all the people and the general lack of excitement (although I did get head-butted by a horse… no injuries), but in the centre of town there were two little political camps campaigning for the two parties. As we passed by the Democratic camp, they suggested I take a picture with Obama, but I politely declined and just took a picture of him.

Anyway, that brings us to the second topic of this post — the election.

I typically describe myself as a moderate libertarian. I tend to follow the mold of “classical liberalism,” which embraces the ideals of individual liberty, limited government, and personal responsibility. Interestingly, I wouldn’t say that my political beliefs necessarily reflect my personal moral values. For example, while I am pro-life in principle, I don’t think there’s enough legal reason to ban abortion. Of course, that’s an incredibly complicated issue.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where I lie on the political spectrum, especially if one attempts to confine me to the ridiculous left/right line. According to my most recent Political Compass results, I score a 4.50 on the x-axis (economic right) and a -2.72 on the y-axis (social libertarian). The scores are out of 10.

I would say that I generally can see both sides of most arguments, and am infinitely frustrated by those who can’t. While I favour the freedom offered by capitalism, is the idea of collectively providing for the poor so outrageous? While I think that the second amendment is a fundamentally good idea, is it so ridiculous to suggest methods of decreasing the sad amount of gun violence in this country? (Ironically, the fervent gun rights people are probably the least likely to revolt against the government. The founding fathers were the original unpatriotic “angry left.”)

I defy labels. I despise political correctness and affirmative action quotas. I am anti-dealth penalty and a pacifist. I oppose amnesty for illegal immigrants but I am not xenophobic and also recognize that mass deportation would be unfeasibly expensive. I am pro-environment. I believe strongly in the free market, despite its flaws. I think spending should be cut BEFORE taxes. And there’s a lot of spending that can be cut. I don’t think any single group should get a tax break, be they rich or poor. I think people should be able to marry whomever they want. I think the United States has an obligation to help promote liberty, peace, and well-being across the world, but that our current foreign policy is incredibly dangerous and misguided.

I think education is incredibly, incredibly important to the nation as a whole and not enough politicians give a rat’s arse about it.

Now, while I actually have a strong sense of enmity towards politics and politicians in general, this election has brought a lot out in me. I should note that I used to admire John McCain when he ran for President back in 2000, because I associated with his “RINO” identity and his moderate positions. Unfortunately, as the Daily Show pointed out, McCain has basically abandoned everything he ever stood for. I was actually just watching the documentary “Why We Fight” (2005) and was amazed at how candid and critical McCain was of the military-industrial complex. Of course, that was before he started running for president.

Heck, even his positions on torture and offshore drilling have changed since the primaries. Rather than moving towards the centre like most presidential candidates tend to do after the primaries, McCain has only moved farther and farther to the right. His campaign, and more specifically the people who actually buy into the BS it spews, have made me very angry. Recently, a post on the NH forum of the city-data.com message boards (which I frequent) asked the following question:

Just wondering what is happening in NH as far as the election goes. I have seen several “polls” which are showing that Obama has/will win NH I thought and was hoping that NH was still a predominantly Republican state. Am I wrong or are things changing rapidly?

This post, while not infuriating in itself, spawned replies like this one:

A couple of extra footnotes. Personally I would prefer Palin as our next president. But if Obama wins I predict some of the following to happen in NH and the USA;

  • Private Property Ownership will cease to exist as we know it today.
  • Reparations will be paid to slave descendents
  • Israel will cease to exist
  • The UN will control our military more
  • Energy Companies will be nationalized
  • free speech will be greatly hindered
  • Right to own a firearm will be taken away.
  • Our borders will no longer be secure
  • The Obama party will encourage illegal immigration

Since this was the same kind of insane sh*t I’ve been hearing for the past few months, especially from my own father and other relatives, a lot of anger had built up inside me and I was forced to vent in my reply post:

These political threads always make me angry so I usually try to avoid them, but people really need to learn to stop being so ridiculously alarmist.

First of all, there is no such thing as a “red state” or a “blue state.” If you look at any election map, you will see that there are Republican-leaning areas and Democratic-leaning areas in every state of the nation. Moreover, a lot of Americans are independents who vote either way.

The concept of “red states” and “blue states” is one used by idealogues to further polarize this country, and used by the media to simplify and stereotype. It’s also worth noting that just because a particular party may win in certain states, it doesn’t mean that people in those states share the same ideals. For example, the religious right and neoconservatives make up a much smaller portion of the Republican Party in New Hampshire than they do in other states (say, Texas).

The reason that New Hampshire has been voting out Republicans for the past two years is because many traditional conservatives in this state do not share the current national party’s support of an extremely expensive and ideologically misguided foreign policy, curtailing of civil liberties in the name of national security (or religious beliefs), and extensive government meddling in the economy. In this sense, many NH conservatives are more faithful to the roots of the Republican Party; that is, how the party was before it integrated the southern Dixiecrats in the ’60s and ’70s.

While I’m disheartened that NHites are voting out Republicans on the local level, since they have nothing to do with national policies and are usually socially moderate, fiscally conservative politicians, this is just part of a temporary backlash against the party. NH is, always has been, and always will be an independent, libertarian-minded state that will vote for either party.

I am voting Libertarian in the election because my views are not particularly compatible with those of either candidate. However, I am seriously infuriated by the Republican’s party continual move towards the far right, utilizing right-wing propoganda and fear tactics to insinuate that Obama somehow sympathizes with terrorists or is going to turn our nation into a “socialist” society (the horror!). And don’t get me started on Palin… the woman represents the most right-wing element of the party and her knowledge of federal government and foreign affairs is pretty pathetic. If you’re worried about your right of free speech, you should be worried about Palin, not Obama.

All this talk about “real Americans” and “anti-American elites” is the most divisive, Orwellian rhetoric I’ve heard of in the US since McCarthyism. The McCain campaign’s only tool for acquiring voters is fear, and their campaign has focused almost entirely on trying to make people afraid of Obama rather than actually talking about concrete plans for repairing the country and moving on from this rather depressing decade. John Kerry’s entire platform in 2004 was essentially “Bush sucks, so vote for me,” and we saw how well that campaign turned out.

Whoever wins, we are not going to turn into a communist or fascist state, have our free speech or right to bear arms taken away, or be overridden by terrorists crossing unsecure borders. Don’t be ridiculous. I can’t stand partisan types because they attack the other party for things they would defend if conducted by their own party. So what if Obama wins? New Hampshire voted for Bill Clinton, and under that Democratic administration we had relative peace and economic prosperity, including a surplus. Sure, things might not turn out great if a Democrat wins, but how the heck do you know they’ll be better if a Republican wins? The past 8 years certainly haven’t been peachy keen.

Sorry for going off on a rant here, I don’t want to incite an argument with anyone. But I feel compelled to respond because I think that my views reflect those of a lot of New Hampshirities who will NOT be voting Republican this year. Just my two cents.

I disagree with Obama on several issues, primarily economic, but I don’t think McCain’s positions are any better. I voted Libertarian for all the major offices on the ballot; although if I was less certain that Obama was going to win New Hampshire, I might have thought twice about that. But I feel good about voting on principle and the Libertarians need all the votes they can get in order to achieve recognition and money. God I hope the two-party system dies soon.

As I mentioned, a lot of my relatives, including my own father, are rather diehard Republicans. Not really of the socially conservative kind, but very partisan nonetheless. It’s very frustrating to put up with people who are so narrow-minded; and that includes my liberal friends, too.

I was very glad when Colin Powell appeared on Meet the Press. I agree with pretty much everything he said, and I think his comments about Islam were wonderful. He belongs to a list of moderate Republicans whom I admire more than any other group of politicans. I just hope the party doesn’t keep moving to the right when they abandon ship.

While Obama’s lack of experience is a legitimate concern (although not really compared to Palin’s lack of experience AND intelligence), I recently came across something which pointed out that experience isn’t always everything. Obama has more in common with Abraham Lincoln than you might realize.

I did vote Republican for most of the state offices, in large part for the reasons I mentioned in my quoted post above. I am also a bit wary about one party controlling the White House and both houses of Congress (like the Republicans in 2002-2006), but who knows what will happen.

If the current polls are to believed, this will be the outcome of the presidential election on Tuesday:

I do despise the red/blue state concept, but I use it here for recognition purposes. I hope that we are moving towards eliminating this kind of categorization and redrawing the political map.

If you do like colours, though, check out my photo albums from my autumnal trip back home:

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

12 of 12 for October 2008

14 Oct

So, I got the idea for this from SquamLoon, who in turn got it from PodCacher, who got it from someone named Chad. Basically, a “12 of 12” is a monthly blog post which recounts the 12th day of the month with 12 photographs.

I went home to New Hampshire this weekend. I fly home in October in lieu of going home on Thanksgiving because 1) it’s nice to go home in the middle of the semester instead of towards the end, and 2) October is much nicer than November. On the morning of the 12th, I was getting ready to go to the airport and fly back to LA.

The fall colours were getting close to peak in the Lakes Region this Columbus Day weekend. I love waking up to beauty like this right outside the windows of our house. A bittersweet moment, however, since I was packing my bags for “Hell-A.” You can’t get such snuggly autumn mornings out here.

Another view from our house, with some morning fog lingering over Newfound Lake. I was particularly mesmerized by the light blue colour of the lake, and the contrast with the foliage. Our house is on the market, and nothing about the prospect of moving makes me sadder than giving up this view.

We drove down to the airport in Manchester. Takeoff provided an excellent view of the foliage down below (despite being a native New Englander, I am a proud leaf-peeper). Manchester is New Hampshire’s largest city, with about 100,000 inhabitants. Second and third are Nashua and Concord, with around 80,000 and 40,000 citizens, respectively. There are only 11 towns and cities in NH with more than 20,000 people. Looking at the photo of Manchester above, it really does look like a bastion of civilization within the wilderness.

Since I’m such a geography nut, I love spotting landmarks from the plane. The lake nearest the wing above is Pleasant Lake in Northwood, while the elongated lake just north of it is Northwood Lake (which is just south of Route 4). Northwood Lake was one of the sites of the bizarre tornado damage this summer; if you look carefully at the western end of the lake, you can spot a small area that’s been cleared of trees. The tornado actually crossed right over the lake (some of the damage can be seen here).

In the distance you can make out Lake Winnipesaukee and a host of summits, including the most prominent, Mount Washington.

Seeing all the colour from the air is breahtaking. The small village in the bottom right corner is Deerfield Center, I believe.

On its way to Washington (Dulles), the plane briefly followed the coast. I snapped a cool shot of Boston, but since I’m limited to 12 photos, I opted to post a different shot taken over Massachusetts. In the foreground, you can see Cape Ann, and in the distance, across Massachusetts Bay, is Cape Cod. Pretty cool, if I say so myself.

Thanks to the clear weather, I also had an unobstructed view of Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and most of the major Northeastern cities.

After hopping on my connecting flight in D.C., I snapped this shot, presumably somewhere over Virginia (I haven’t bothered to figure out exactly where yet). Evidently the foliage has not turned here yet, although if you look carefully, you can see a hint of colour at the top of the ridges.

I’m always fascinated by the changes in landscape as I fly over the country. The endless geometrical farmland in the Midwest… the other-wordly, desolate landscapes of the Southwest… and of course, the mighty Rockies.

I think this is somewhere over Colorado, although it might even be northern New Mexico. The snow-capped peaks stand in stark contrast to the desert below.

Perhaps the most remarkable sight of the journey is the seemingly infinite SoCal metropolis. This photograph only represents a fraction of the incredible urban sprawl here. Even NYC, despite its larger population, is a mere fraction of LA’s land area, and is much greener than LA’s sprawling mass of concrete and stucco. Fortunately, the smog level was relatively low this day, allowing me a clear shot of downtown LA with the San Gabriels behind (you can still see all that grey in the background though).

Sadly, the wing is obscuring both the Hollywood sign and the USC campus.

After a somewhat bumpy descent into LAX, I was happy to be back on terra firma and got in my shuttle back to USC. What should’ve been a 20-minute ride turned out to be nearly an hour as the driver took an out-of-the-way route through Ladera Heights, an interesting section of LA that I’d never seen before. Ugly brown hills covered with oil rigs.

It was suppertime when I got finally got back to campus, so I stopped in the dining hall for some bouffe. After a week of stuffing myself on Thai takeout, free colloqium food, airport fast food, and “I’m home so I should treat myself” food, I tried to eat something relatively healthy (terriyaki chicken, green beans, potatoes, and cranberry juice). Unfortunately, more free food (pizza) the past few days has ruined any sort of healthy diet I may have hoped to maintain this week.

I’m trying hard, though, because 1) I gained way too much weight last year by not watching what I ate, 2) I’m starting to have digestive system-related problems, which makes me nervous at my age, and 3) I don’t really feel comfortable in my skin at the moment. Every time I see skinny college students eating a plate full of pizza and chicken nuggets for supper, a little part of me dies.

Anyway, the main reason I took that photo was to show the skateboard rack in the background. Each of the dining halls has one. How much more Californian can something be?

I was hoping to get a cool shot of the LA skyline at night for my 12 of 12, so I walked to the top of one of the parking structures on campus before realizing that the view of downtown was obstructed by another building. Instead, I looked to the west and saw this view of the sunset over the horizon. You can see the two tallest buildings on the USC campus, the Von Kleinsmid Center (with a globe on top – VKC typically houses courses in international relations, political science, foreign languages (including my Italian class), etc.) and Waite Phillips Hall, the education school building (whose 12 storeys I ascend for exercise).

On the way back to my apartment, I walked by the Shrine Auditorium. My apartment is located one block from campus, and that block is occupied by the Shrine. It was built in 1926, hosted the Oscars in 1947-8 and 1988-2001, as well as the Emmys in 1998-2007 (this year they moved to the much nicer and newer Nokia Theatre downtown).

The road on which this picture was taken is where the red carpet is rolled out. It’s a bit odd to think that I was walking in the same place that so many famous celebrities have walked before. But considering the countless times I’ve walked here to and from campus, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.

It’s no surprise that the Emmys moved, however, considering what a ghetto the Shrine is located in. There’s really no glamour at all, and I have to admit that I’m always nervous walking to my apartment at night.

Since I gained 3 extra hours with the time change, by the time I went to bed I had been up for over 20 hours and was quite tired. Travel days are very fatiguing.