Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Odds and ends

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Rainy day on Diamond Ridge - fall is practically here already
 It was a dreary day today. It was okay with me because I didn't mind being kept indoors on such a foul day. The U.S. Open is on TV every day now (and for the next 2 weeks) and I've been watching it more than I want. Then in the afternoon I watched the Boston Red Sox destroy the Yankees in an exciting 9-5 victory. I hardly ever watch baseball but a Bosox/Yankee matchup is too big a temptation to resist. This time the Sox won but it hasn't always gone their way. When I lived in Boston in the 70s the Yankees were dominant and the Red Sox hadn't won a World Series since about 1916. Things are different now and the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry is between two teams that are more or less equals in abilities (and payrolls). My brother and some of my old friends still living in New York State like the Yankees -- but they've never lived in Beantown as I have, or caught Red Sox fever, as I have. Consequently they don't know any better and love the Yankees -- they've no other teams to root for, with the possible exception of the Mets. To this observer, who left Buffalo and New York State many years ago, any Bosox victory over the goddamn NY Yankees is sweet, very sweet.

Members of the Homer Tennis Association and I played quite a bit of tennis last weekend. Several kids from the Kodiak High School Tennis Team came over on the Tustamena ferry Saturday morning for an impromptu tournament. We had fun and just about knocked ourselves out up at the courts; we played for about 6 hours Saturday and another 5 on Sunday.

Saturday morning at 7am - Homer Spit

The "Trusty Tusty" arriving Homer Harbor
The tournament crew

We ended the weekend with a pizza fling at Starvin' Marvin's on the Spit. Sunday was a beautiful day -- below is a view of the mudflats and mountains from Marvin's window. By the time I crawled into bed that night I was bone tired.

And of course, I studied Thai. It's going slowly but I am beginning to gain familiarity with the Thai alphabet. I like the shapes of the Thai characters so as I watch tennis I draw chaw chaang and tau poo tau and raw rhua repeatedly in hopes that by writing them over and over again their names and shapes will somehow sink into my brain. I'm bound and determined to learn those confusing W shaped characters I put in my previous post: ผ, ฝ, พ, ฟ.

Here's a note sheet I taped up on my wall above the computer. I'm trying to create a memory trick that will help me to recognize these very similar characters when I come across them.

Then it's just a matter of knowing the 25 consonants that come before the "W characters" and the dozen or so that follow. LOL

I signed up for a few hours of instruction with a Thai woman in Bangkok who conducts classes via Skype. I've had two meetings with Narissa so far and have benefited from both. She stresses pronunciation and occasionally speaks in Thai so I can get a feel for conversations. I'm not sure yet if I'll continue with the Skype tutorials after I get to Bangkok but at that point many other options will be available.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I had wanted to publish this entry on the same day I started it but packing and tennis on TV have distracted me. At this point it seems my little method has worked and I can pretty much recognize the W characters on sight. I do have to recite a little ditty in my head though. It goes like this: two pairs of paw-faw sounds, the first two have their "heads" inside (innies). One of the strangest things about Thai is that while there are 44 consonants many of them have the same sound. For example, there are four characters that have a "kaw" sound (like our K), three with a "chaw" sound (like our C), six(!) with a taw sound (like our T). Why that should be is unknown to me but it makes things just a bit more interesting.

As I work on my Thai lessons I'm reading a fascinating book about language, The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker. At some level it's discouraging to read about language acquisition in this book because humans acquire language skills from their parents when they're babies. Pinker and others believe that inherent in humans is an instinct, we are in fact hard-wired, for language and grammar but that it's the parents that babies model their speech after. The book is full of interesting tidbits about language that relate to what I'm trying to do here. A full review is more than I want to include in here but you can follow this link to for more.

Learning a new language is fraught with problems, especially if one's brain has started to atrophy ;-) Although I've been trying to illustrate some of the strange and tricky  features of the Thai language, all languages are difficult to learn if you're not a native speaker, English included. Take English spelling for example. Pinker includes this nifty little rhyme in his book:

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead: it's said like bed, not bead --
For goodness' sake don't call it "deed"!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

He goes on the tell us about George Bernard Shaw's campaign to "reform the English alphabet, a system so illogical, Shaw said, that it could spell fish as "ghoti" -- gh as in tough, o as in women, ti as in nation." Indeed, English is every bit as crazy as Thai when you look into the details.

The Language Instinct is a very entertaining and informative read that's sprinkled with humor and fascinating insights. Highly recommended.

Okay, enough said. I need to run into town for a few more boxes and get the rest of my packing done.  After the kitchen is packed I'll be eating out with the exception of my morning tea and a few cans of soup for lunches. I'll be in Thailand in just over two weeks. But before that I'll be visiting Harper, aka Harpzilla, my grandson in Eugene, where it's still summer!

It's all good.

สวัสดีครับ (sa~wat-dii krap) (hello, goodbye)
เดวิด (David)