Monday, September 10, 2007

Gone on holiday

Nothing to say really, except that there are photos here.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Keep out!

Thomas has become obsessed with Doctor Who. He is also starting to want to assert his independence and demand private space. This is manifesting in amusing signs that he writes when he's cross. A few days ago he did this one:

Beware Cybermen! however gosin will be Deleted Exept thomas.

He also made one that says:

go away.
remeber that?
don't you foget it!

And another that says:

Keep out! Espeshely you Natalie!

The last is my favourite, because Natalie can't read yet.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"A fixing mens"

"Once upon a time there was a hole in this road. But then one day a mens came, and it was a fixing mens, and they fixed it!"

Friday, May 11, 2007

A question for the ages

Is it better to have two slightly weak gin-and-tonics, or one really strong gin-and-tonic?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Again, not so much with the posting

This does seem to happen.
I've been spending a lot of time annotating and editing my recordings, trying to make sure that the transcriptions are accurate, and fixing up the first-pass translations I did ages ago. This takes up an unbelievable amount of time.
And there's a bunch of papers I've been working on.
And my thesis which needs to be bookified.
And a conference I'm organizing.
And, you know, the kids, and stuff.
And generally dicking around.
You know how it is.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mad Dog Morgan

I quite often cycle late at night, usually back from Cambridge but occasionally from Foxton (for a change). A few weeks ago a deer burst out of some bushes in front of me on a particularly dark stretch between Fowlmere and Newton, which was nice though somewhat surprising.
However, although I am usually three sheets to the wind, I've noticed that this section of road (Shelford Rd), between Newton and Little Shelford and just next to St Margaret's Mount, is for no apparent reason unaccountably creepy.
It is my opinion that this is because it is haunted by the ghost of either Mad Dog Morgan, Mad Dog McGraw, Mad Dog Maguire, Mad Dog Munro, or Mad Dog Morris. Whichever one it is, he makes it downright unpleasant. As soon as I turn onto that stretch of road I have the distinct feeling that something scary is chasing me, all the way along and under the M11, and until I actually get into the village.
Perhaps I shall choose to go a different way.

Monday, March 26, 2007


I am spending the night in Singapore Changi Airport waiting for a flight to London in the morning. There are certainly worse airports to spend the night, although I must admit I have spent a lot of time in Changi over the last couple of years and it is starting to get a little dull.

Yesterday was my last day in Wioi, which also coincided with the villages 155th birthday, so there was quite a knees-up. I was called up on stage to say some incoherent words, and then Om Bert got up and gave a stirring speech in Toratán about how important the language is, and if I could go to all that effort of coming from England to learn about it, then young people in Wioi could too. It was a nice speech and the old people nodded in agreement. The young people didn't understand a word, of course. Oh well.

Anyway, it was a productive fieldtrip, I think. I got several good long conversations and stories recorded and got some way to transcribing them before leaving, and managed to follow up some things I thought might be interesting.

I also had plans to do a few other non-work things - climb one of the volcanoes, go to the beach, do a dive course. I didn't do any of those. I did (today, just before it was too late) manage to catch up with our old neighbours in Woloan and see how our anak baptisan is going (fine). He is 17 months old now. He liked the toffees I gave him and smeared sticky handprints on everything, then threw a ball at my head several times.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

'You want to eat Batman?'

People eat bats here. And in plenty of other places too, I guess. Bat is not the worst of the festive meats (that honour I think shared between dog and snake), but it's interesting that Indonesians generally believe that the English word for 'bat' is 'Batman'.
He's not my favourite superhero, but I don't think he should be butchered, chopped into irregular lumps and served in a spicy sauce.

Saturday, March 24, 2007


On Friday I ran a workshop on language documentation at UNIMA in Tondano (it was supposed to be at UKIT in Tomohon but there's an ongoing 'situation' there, so we moved it). 30 people came from UNIMA, UNSRAT and UKIT. I talked a lot and got tired. And in the end everyone got a certificate. They seemed pretty happy, and I guess so was I.
Today we went all the way down the terrible road to Wongkai, and went off to find the village head on his vanilla/coconut/clove etc plantation. Had a chat, did some filming, learnt some rude words, then came all the way back.
Tomorrow is Wioi's 155th birthday. Happy Birthday Wioi! I am invited to the party - I have an intuition that speeches and lots of sitting around will be involved.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hey there shaky shaky

A nice little earthquake last night, which I enjoyed from the comfort of my bed.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

No, I'm really not hungry.

So, I am back in Manado for the afternoon, to pick up the video camera which still isn't ready, although they like to say on the phone that it is.
What else can I say?
I recorded a really old guy whose false teeth rattled a lot and kept almost falling out.
I did some recording using MPI cut & break movies for elicitation. I had mixed results. With one guy, I repeatedly explained what to do, showed an example of someone else's responses, and started the movies. He sat there in total silence. So I stopped, explained again, started again. Total silence. So I tried again, asking him each time what he had seen. He just said "there was someone, a man or a woman. Looked Dutch". What did he or she do? "Don't know".
I was bitten repeatedly by some kind of insect while out in the hills near Wioi, and now I have itchy lumps on my legs.
I have been trying to organize a workshop on language documentation tools and techniques for local language workers for next Friday, and this necessitates many discussions about whether we should opt for the 12500 or 17500 rupiah lunch packet. 70p or £1? Let's go crazy!
I bought a bag of rambutans from a stall on the street, and while I walked along ants swarmed out of the bag and up my arm. I was tempted to drop the bag and shriek, but instead I brushed them off in a dignified manner.
I've gone on a semi-hunger strike. In whichever house I'm staying in, in both Tomohon and Wioi , whenever anyone sees me they make me eat. I don't have the chance to actually get hungry. So I have had to put a stop to that by simply refusing to eat half the time, and if necessary, running away. I'll show em!
And that will do for now.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Interesting facts about birds

If a scrub turkey crosses your path from west to east, it is enough to stop briefly and then continue. But if it goes from east to west, you have to have a cigarette. Well, you have to inhale some smoke.


Any discussion of Toratan vocabulary seems to require that someone make the observation that whereas Indonesian has one word naik, Toratan has different verbs for entering a vehicle or house (rumasoh), climbing a tree (maawit), climbing a mountain (I forget), etc. I've heard this at least 20 times now. Eventually I had to say that this was something weird about Indonesian, and other languages also have special words for the different meanings of naik. Dudes, there are plenty of interesting things about Toratan, but this isn't particularly one of them.

Field report

I'm in Manado, the provincial capital, for R and R. Which includes some time on a moderately fast internet connection.
So, I have been here 10 days already. I've spent most of that time in the village (Wioi), recording old people and generally asking a lot of questions and making a nuisance of myself.

Can you watch these silly movies on my computer and say what is happening?
Can you tell me what this word means?
Can you say this sentence a different way?
Can you tell me about birds?
Here's someone from another village, can you have a conversation with him in front of this camera?

Also a lot of time waiting for people to turn up, or waiting to see if the rain will stop so we can go out, or if the power will come back on so I can charge the camera and laptop.

Saturday was fairly typical. I'd arranged to go to the village of Tatengesan (30 mins away) and collect Om Willem from there so he could work with the other guys in Wioi - my plan was that I'd split the guys into two groups and try to do some lexical brainstorming and beef up the dictionary a bit. But Om Willem had bathed at the wrong time the previous day and given himself a headache (this is a legitimate way to acquire a headache or other malady in Indonesia, as is eating something at the wrong time. But probably he was just nervous about leaving the village). So he couldn't come. He said ask Om Wawo, he's from Wongkai and speaks really well. Om Wawo is sent for, but he can't get in a car or cross a bridge because his wife died recently. So I arranged to come back the next day and record them. (Which I did, they had a splendid time talking about the Permesta rebellion and other matters of local history for about 3 hours.)
I didn't have much success with the brainstorming in the end. Well, it went OK, but there weren't enough participants, and only Om Bert got the idea, so it was just like working with him on his own, which is what we usually do. I'd brought along a student to work with the putative second group, but I had to find other chores for him to do. No shortage of them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I suspect not

Will it be anything other than incredibly frustrating to blog via dial-up in North Sulawesi?

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Both the kids enjoyed sliding on this patch of ice, on the path up to the Holmenkollen ski jump.

a natural

Thomas had a ski lesson.


Thomas wanted to do this.

down the hill

By the way, we went to Norway last week, which was very cold but fun. This is Thomas sliding down the slope outside the youth hostel in Oslo.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Woolly batter

I spent nearly 2 hrs at Kings Cross last night, much of that sitting on a train which then turned out to be broken. The replacement one was very slow and too full and I ended up sitting with 4 middle-aged skinhead cockney chappies who farted a lot and incessantly repeated the phrase 'woolly batter', which they found incredibly funny but it all just reminded me that sometimes I want to punch England in the face really hard. And then I cycled home in the rain, arriving at 2.30 am. Anyway, I shall never again leave my house.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

I'm not a pheasant plucker

A strange thing happened this afternoon. I was sitting at the computer when I heard a loud thud, as if something heavy had fallen down in another room. I had a look around, couldn't see anything, then looked out the bedroom window and saw a large female pheasant (like the one in the picture) lying in the front yard. It must have crashed right into the window at high speed.

It blinked for a while, then tried to get up. And then it died.
A friend suggested plucking it and roasting it, but (a) see the title of the post, and (b) given Mad Bird Flu Disease and whatnot I'm not really game (ha!) to start chowing down on a bird which was clearly Not of Sound Mind.
That said I gather pheasants are not the Einsteins of birds at the best of times. But still.


This article about Japanese food from the Guardian is nice enough, but I was particularly struck by these two sentences:

We make cucumber maki rolls, coWattal hand rolls...

I vow to take the time to prepare it properly, forsaking MSG (discovered, trivia fans, by a Japanese chemist analysing what made kombu taste Watte) for the real thing.

CoWattal? Watte? What's with the Watt?

The article is about a chef called Nic Watt. I suppose the author originally referred to him as 'Nic', then one of the Grauniad's eagle-eyed sub-editors all-changed 'Nic' to 'Watt'.
Watte work.

Monday, January 29, 2007

More snow (same snow)

A movie of a snowball fight (Google video)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


snow in the backyard
Originally uploaded by nakku.

We woke up this morning to find a nice white blanket over everything. The kids were very excited and managed to have a snowball fight, though for some reason they couldn't get the hang of actually making snowballs and I had to do that.

More snow fell while they walked to school.
It stayed for a couple of hours. More photos at Flickr

We last saw snow in August of 2004 when we went to ... where? Mt Beauty? Somewhere in Victoria anyway. Thomas remembers it (he says), Natalie doesn't of course.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Trains. Boring.

I take the train into London a few times a week. I quite like it for the most part, barring the occasional miss-of-the-last-train-back and resulting epic wanders/hitchhikes around Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Actually, even those aren't so bad really. But there are a few really annoying things.
The most obvious being that the train is too damned expensive. Avoiding peak times and shelling out for a Network Card has brought the price down to merely horribly unreasonable (from incomprehensibly, stupidly, disgustingly unreasonable). It still rankles. But there's more...

The fastest way from Shelford to London is via Cambridge to Kings Cross. I can get a train from Shelford to Cambridge which takes 5 minutes and usually arrives just in time to connect with an express to Kings Cross, from where I can cycle to work in 5 mins. If all goes well, this way I can get from home to office in just over an hour.


Although I can buy a ticket from Shelford to London, which says it is valid via any route (and although consistently show Shelford-Cambridge-Kings Cross as an option), I am not allowed to use this ticket on the Kings Cross train, but only on the Liverpool St train. Confused? I was. I found this out one day by being fined £20 by a particularly unpleasant conductor called Barry (Hi Barry! You suck!). Later I appealed and got the money back, as there was no way I could have known, but I Learnt My Lesson. So instead I have to buy a ticket for the 5 min journey Shelford-Cambridge, then go to the ticket office in Cambridge and buy another ticket there, meanwhile missing the conveniently-timed train so I have to wait for the next one. Suddenly my commute is 30 mins longer.
(On the bright side, I can wander up and down Cambridge station and dream of going to exotic destinations such as Birmingham, Peterborough, and Kings Lynn).

The alternative to the Cambridge-Kings Cross route is to take the slow train from Shelford to Liverpool St. The advantage is that I can buy the right ticket at Shelford and don't have to change trains, and it's a bit cheaper. The disadvantage is that I have to get the Tube or cycle from Liverpool St to Bloomsbury. The whole process is nearly 2 hrs each way. Bah, I say.
And there is another pitfall for the unwary. At Shelford station, to get to the platform towards Liverpool St one has to cross the train tracks at a level crossing. But as much as 10 minutes before the train goes, the barriers can inexplicably come down and all you can do is watch impotently as (1) nothing happens for a while, and then (2) your train arrives and leaves without you, with an hour to wait for the next one. Note that this does not happen every time, you get lulled into thinking 5 minutes early will be time enough, and then it gets you.

This was the scene today.
Get to the station, wait behind the barrier while the train leaves. Bugger. Get the train to Cambridge, miss the Kings Cross express while buying a ticket. Bugger. Wait 30 mins, catch the next train, go to work, go to a seminar and out to dinner. Back to Kings Cross to catch the scheduled 2315 train. Cancelled. All cancelled. Bugger. To get to Cambridge, you have to go to Stevenage then do some complicated thing involving a bus. Can I take my bike on the bus? No. Bugger. Better go to Liverpool St then. No time to cycle, better get the Tube. Can I take my bike? Maybe. I take that as yes, get to Liverpool St, get stuck in a barrier with my bike and get told off by a station worker. Released, I sprint for the last train, making it with 20 seconds to spare! The listless bunch of passengers care little for my triumph.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007


I went to a pub in Islington for a friend's birthday, then caught a late train home.
Cycling through the village, three dogs slunk onto the road in front of me, causing me to slow down. One looked at me. "Dude", I said, and they all ran away.
So I rode the rest of the way. When I walked into the house I said "dude" again. But everyone was asleep.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Too much stilton

Originally uploaded by nakku.

I do like Stilton. But given that no-one else in my family will touch it, two large mouldy cheeses just for me seems a bit excessive.
The first was bought for Christmas with my cousin, but wasn't eaten so I took it home. Sonia bought the second for me because it was on special. A thoughtful act, or an attempt at slow assassination by cheese? You decide.