May 31st, 2001

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

The line above doesn't refer to this blog entry, unfortunately, but rather to the novel of the same title by Dave Eggers. It's really quite good; I just finished reading it today (after buying it yesterday---it's one of those books which I just *had* to read cover-to-cover, immediately). It's got some "formal fun" with diagrams and footnotes, alterations on the copyright page & etc, but it's also a deeply moving story. At times. The author's disclaimers in the front matter are right on: the first four parts or so are completely gripping, and after that it loses some focus and coherency. But by then you don't care, because you're so deeply attached to the characters. It was funny to find out that the author and his brother eat like my step-sister, or that their family plays the same Christmas-delay games mine does. But above all, he completely sold me on his "lattice" theory --- much like Pirsig and Bach managed to sell their philosophy through their writing; I do *care* about what happens to the Eggers now, which the author insists was his pure intention from the start.

Anyway, I recommend the book. Read it, then use the comment link below. It'll be fun!

Linguistics and the Meaning Of Being Alive

The title is actually two separate memes, not just one. =)

For your enjoyment (if that is the correct word to use) I'm posting a link to my linguistics paper on English reduplication that I mentioned a few entries back. I'm rather proud of it, actually, in a "proud-father-of-new-work" sort of way. I'm really a complete newcomer to the whole world of Phonology, and it feels *wonderful* to even imagine that perhaps I've tried something no one else has tried before, or thought about a problem in a way quite different from any of those before me. I think I'm feeling a bit at a loss over computer science, these days: so much of the ground has been so thoroughly plowed over, so many ideas that merely lack implementations --- and implementations of existing ideas (although quite hard work) do not a published paper make. There are so many unexplored avenues in linguistics. Even a complete naif can find himself alone sometimes.

Also, here's a little essay I wrote for my Embodied Intelligence class, on what it means to be alive. I think this is the first bit of semi-creative writing I've done for quite some time --- I've been rather happy, ergo no driving creative urge --- and so it pleases me, humble though it is.

Finally, I rediscovered Paco Ignacio Taibo II, a Mexican author of revolutionary mystery novels, today. And because I don't want to lose him again (or Leonardo's Bicycle, an influential book for me), I'm tacking him here, on my web log, for permanent record. And hopefully sharing him with you (whoever you are, you readers) as well. Share and enjoy.