Super Duck

Closing Up Shop

I've avoided making this post for quite a while, but I think the time has come. This will be my last LiveJournal post. For the curious, it's not because of the format, or anything, or even lack of interest. I really like the LiveJournal interface, and have enjoyed posting to this blog over the past three years. Unfortunately, the move is due entirely to the enormous amount of spam comments my old posts are receiving, and the lack of a method for effectively dealing with them. At present, I think I am going to leave the comments open on some of my posts, at least, but if it gets worse, I'll probably close comments on all posts and leave this up as a read-only memento.

If you'd like to find me around the web or see what I'm up to, you can go to the following sites:

  • My old conlanging site (sadly neglected nowadays).

  • The Dothraki blog.

  • An aggregator that collects all my blog posts.

  • My Tumblr: The likely destination for posts that would have gone here.

  • Google+: The second most likely destination for posts that would have gone here.

  • Twitter: My Twitter account.
If you do happen upon a post and would like to comment, I do still get notifications for comments, and I will read it. If the spam becomes too great, though, I'll probably close up all comments on the blog, and may find a place to port all these old posts, if I can.

If you're a LiveJournal employee/tech and you're reading this: I still loves you! This LiveJournal took me from a non-blogger to at least a semi-regular blogger. I still like the interface, and like how I can follow others' blogs, but the level of spam has made the entire thing an annoyance to me, and makes it less likely that I go to to my My LJ page—which means I'm no longer following my friends' blogs, and no longer interested in posting. WordPress's spam control plugins are so much more effective that even though there isn't a built-in community, I find it much easier to use a WordPress blog than to use this LJ. :(

Thanks to all those who've followed this blog in the past! I wish you the best.
Super Duck

On Conlanging

It's been a couple days since the New York Times article on Dothraki came out (and, in case you missed that, an article on Dothraki came out in The New York Times), and in case viewers of that article have found their way to this blog, I wanted to add some commentary. While it would have been ideal for this to have been written before the article came out, real life got in the way, as it's wont to do (especially around the holidays), so this will have to suffice.

As there's only so much space in a newspaper article, this one was bound to leave a lot unsaid. Of course, as it's just an article, not an archive or a history, that's its job, and I think it did its job very well. As I see it, then, it's my job to fill in the gaps, and that's what I intend to do here—specifically, one gap: the status of conlanging itself.

Most of the modern professional conlangers one hears about (Marc Okrand, Victoria Fromkin, Paul Frommer, Wolf Wikeley...) kind of emerged out of the ether. They were discovered by chance, asked to invent a language (something they'd never done before), and when they were finished, they returned to their lives. All would be asked again to create a language for some new project (and some of them did), but otherwise, they remained solitary in their achievement. They garnered success by dint of their own efforts, and owe nothing to anyone—and more power to them! Without Na'vi, without Pakuni, without Klingon, I wouldn't be writing this. Klingon itself has done more to popularize conlanging than even Tolkien—and the effect that Na'vi has had can't even be measured at this point.

That said, this is not my story, and I think that's one thing the article fails to make clear. I owe a lot to many different people—and I don't mean my parents, or my supportive wife, or even my linguistics professors, or anything like that (though I certainly owe a great deal to them): I mean to conlangers whose work has inspired me, and whose examples I've followed.

If I may back up a bit, language creation has a long and colorful history (see Arika Okrent's In the Land of Invented Languages for a fair summary). It basically went in four waves. First, there were the philosophical language creators (guys who created languages in order to "perfect" human cognition). Next came the auxlangers: Idealists who created languages to facilitate international communication, and thereby realize world peace (this was primarily in the late 19th and early 20th century, though it's continued steadily into the 21st). After that came the solitary artists—those who created languages to embellish their fictional worlds (or created worlds where their languages could be spoken, as the case may be). Primary among them is, of course, J. R. R. Tolkien, but another big name that's oft ignored is M. A. R. Barker, whose work is just incredible. And then, with the advent of the internet, came the modern conlangers, and it's these I'd like to talk about.

Back when Tolkien was creating his languages, he was alone. He knew other philologists, sure, and he knew other writers (and influenced them linguistically. C. S. Lewis tried his hand at a little conlanging under Tolkien's influence), but there was no one else like him that he knew of (in fact, the one instance in his life where he believes he overheard someone he thought might be a conlanger is treated like a divine miracle). Even now, I think this is something that conlangers are quite familiar with. Yes, conlanging has gotten a lot of press recently, and it's getting to be common knowledge, but how many conlangers have physically met a conlanger whom they haven't first "met" online? It's never happened to me. As far as I know, there are no other conlangers in Orange County (though OC conlangers: this is your chance to speak up!). The closest conlanger I know lives 160 miles away, and I'm grateful to know one who lives so close!

Given such a situation, a conlanger like Tolkien didn't have the benefit of a community. It's easy to set up a writers' group; nearly impossible to set up a conlangers' group. It's a rare calling, and one that's often far more private than even fiction, or poetry. As a result, someone like Tolkien didn't have anyone to bounce ideas off of (for me, someone like Doug Ball, the creator of Skerre, whose insight, general linguistic brilliance and friendship have been invaluable to me over the years). It's a source of constant wonder to me not that Tolkien was such a good conlanger (talent is talent), but that he didn't simply give it up. I'm sure there were hundreds—if not thousands—of others in similar circumstances who did, dismissing their work as "childish" or even "crazy" (as many today still do). Without anyone else to say, at the very least, "Hey, that's neat!", how does one persist?

Myself, I'm sure I wouldn't have. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, there was an entire community of conlangers who basically did exactly that. This was back in 2000 (which, for the uninitiated, makes me a "newcomer"), and the community was an online listerv called the Conlang-List (and it's still there. If you're interested, you can join up!). I've been on the Conlang-List since 2000, and it's from there, and from the conlangers there, that I've learned the art of conlanging—from hundreds of conlangers. I could probably rattle off more than 100 names right now (Padraic Brown, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets, Amanda Babcock Furrow, Andrew Smith, Rik Roots, Jörg Rhiemeier, Ray Brown, Gary Shannon Jan van Steenbergen, Benct Philip Jonsson, Carsten Becker—literally, I could go on), all of whom have done fantastic work. And collectively, we've gotten better at what we do. If you want to see some concrete evidence, you can take a look at my first conlang (most of which was constructed before I came into contact with any other conlanger). It's awful!

Anyway, little by little I got better, mainly by looking at the fantastic work of others. And that's what's so wonderful about community, in general—and it's what's transforming conlanging from a hobby (or a "neurosis", as the uncharitable used to say) into an artform, albeit slowly.

And what's been amazing for me has been to watch how quickly the community has grown over the years. Back when I joined the online conlanging community, everyone knew each other. Even as late as 2004, I'd say, if there was someone creating a language somewhere, someone in the community had probably heard of them or knew them. By 2008, that was no longer possible—and now it's not even possible to keep track of the communities themselves! For example, though the Conlang-Listserv has been around since the mid-90s, the Zompist Bulletin Board (ZBB) has been around for more than ten years, if I'm counting right, and may be the largest conlanging community not dedicated to a single conlang. And after awhile it gave birth to another bulletin board, the Conlangers Bulletin Board (CBB), focused more on international conlangers. And there were other splinter communities—and then still others. Omniglot, a site dedicated to writing systems, now has its own forum, with an active subforum dedicated to conlanging. There are (at least?) three different Facebook groups, innumerable fora dedicated to conlanging in languages other than English, and a number of communities dedicated to specific languages (shout out to the lajaki over at the Dothraki forum!)—and while there's some overlap in membership, the percentage is surprisingly small. In short, I don't think we can even call it a community anymore. It's huge!

I wanted to make the above clear, because I wanted to at least mention some of the work that I find incredible, but I don't want anyone to feel slighted. There was a time where we could actually list everyone's conlang website in one blog post. Those days are long gone. But anyway, if you've come to this blog post from a google search because you read the article in the Times, or because you've heard of Dothraki on Game of Thrones, I wanted you to know there's more out there than Dothraki, than Na'vi, than Klingon—even than Tolkien (though if you want more information on Tolkien's languages, the place to go is Ardalambion). Here are some links to get you started:

  • The Smiley Award: Every year since 2006 I've given out an award to an outstanding conlang. Check out the ones that have gotten awards thus far; they're some of the best examples of conlangs we have, and each one has served as inspiration not just for me, but for many, many conlangers. This is a good place to start.

  • CALS: Based on WALS, the Conlang Atlas of Language Structures has a large number of conlangs listed, many with detailed typological descriptions and translations.

  • FrathWiki: FrathWiki is kind of like Wikipedia for conlangs, but rather than encyclopedia-like descriptions, many conlangers use FrathWiki to host all the information about their conlang (for a nice example, take a look at Pete Bleackley's Khangaþyagon).

  • Conlang Blog Aggregator: Many conlangers blog about their conlangs, and we try to gather all those blogs and rebroadcast that content on the Conlang Blog Aggregator. If you have a feed to spare in your RSS reader, subscribe!

  • The Conlanger's Library: For more general information about conlanging (and also some links to some great resources), check out the Conlanger's Library, which catalogs information about conlanging that appears in various media.

  • Since they don't seem to fit anywhere else, check out the incredible Akana World Building Project, and then also Denis Moskowitz's Rikchik language, signed by aliens with 49 tentacles who lack the ability to produce speech sounds.
I could go on, but I don't want to overwhelm the non-conlangers who are just here for a quick intro.

Also, while I'm here, I did want to comment on one thread that has run through some of the comments on the Times article, since it's come up before (indeed, if you thought you were being original posting a comment with content similar to this, you are sadly mistaken). The gist of it is this: Why would anyone create a language when there are so many natural languages vanishing from the face of the Earth?

In repudiating this notion, I think Mia Soderquist said it best: "Creating a new hobby language doesn't affect natural languages any more than playing Monopoly affects the economy." But even though that rather succinctly summarizes the silliness of the entire argument, let me take a moment to tease out all the implications of what's being suggested.

First, there's a general ignorance about language that underlies a claim like this, and it's one that linguists—not just conlangers—have had to deal with for years. As linguists say, an astrophysicist doesn't have to deal with any old person off the street coming up to them and telling them they're wrong. Linguists do. The reason is quite simple: All humans use language, in one form or another. This fact leads many humans to believe they have an informed opinion about how language works, and that their opinion is as good as any "expert's" (why humans don't think this about, say, the biology of the brain is a good question [after all, every human's got a brain! Their opinion about the brain is as good as any neuroscientist's, right?]). So it's not surprising to see comments like this in an article on conlanging. We've seen it all before, and we'll see it all again. Keep it coming!

Artistically, there's about as much relationship between creating a conlang and a dying natural language as there is between writing a novel and a dying human's oral history. Novelists, though, don't have to deal with questions such as, "Why are you writing a story about fake people? The stories of real people are vanishing from this planet everyday!" Neither do filmmakers who make fictional films rather than documentaries. Basically, whether one thinks conlanging is art or not (or if it is, whether it's "high" art or not), a conlang is a work of fiction. To question it, is to question fictional endeavors themselves, and I think that question has been answered many times over; we need no longer take such questions seriously.

The issue regarding language preservation is a bit more tangled. Personally, I think when the question is raised, it's linguists who should be insulted—field linguists, specifically. "Why invent a conlang, when you can be saving an endangered language?" one asks. Why indeed! I have a few free hours, why don't I just go and do that little thing? For that matter, why doesn't the questioner do so, if it's apparently that simple? And, indeed, we conlangers have endless resources at our fingertips. Every morning I wake up and wonder, "Gee, should I hop a plane and head down to South America and work on a grammar of the Amahuaca language, or should I create me a conlang? Eh... Airplanes are lame. Conlanging it is!"

Seriously, though, as someone who's worked on an underdescribed minority language (Moro, a Niger-Khordofanian language spoken in Sudan), it's not that simple. It requires specialized training just to be able to do passable field work, and then it requires institutional support to be able to conduct it. It's not something that can be done on a whim, and it's not something that anyone can do without training.

Furthermore (and this is important), simply recording an endangered language does nothing to save it. Sure, in one sense it "saves" it for posterity, but to imagine that writing up a dictionary and a grammar for a language spoken by twenty people is going to lead to some magical revitalization is, again, insulting. Take a look at the situation with the Ayapaneco language, for example. There are two speakers left, and they refuse to speak to one another. The story is so interesting that the language has gotten a lot of press. Is that going to save it, though? Sure, linguists are producing a grammar and dictionary (two, in fact), but in order for a language to be saved, it needs to be spoken by a community—and you can't force a community to use a language they no longer want to use. The best one can hope for is to start up a new community based on what little information there is, and build it up little by little, as happened with Modern Hebrew. Even in that situation, though, the resulting language will be different from the original: there won't be an unbroken chain.

No, language death is far more complicated than simply having a dictionary on the shelf, or even a speaker or two. Language isn't a thing: it's a habit. It's a behavior—and a communal one, at that. A language can't exist apart from a community, and the creation of a fictional language isn't going to do anything to revive a community, or to harm it. Ayapaneco speakers aren't turning away from their language because they want to learn Dothraki: They're turning away because they want to learn Spanish—and English. They want to learn the language that's going to give them the best chance to succeed in a modern economy, because to them (as it is for most humans on Earth), language is a tool—not a work of art. If they find a better tool, they'll switch.

But you want to know something? The ones who don't think that—the ones who value the diversity of language and the diversity of culture—are, more often than not, conlangers. Ask any conlanger how many language grammars they have—how many teach yourself manuals they have, how many languages they've tried to learn—and then ask a non-conlanger. In fact, I did ask conlangers recently (a rather informal survey; got about 70 responses). I asked conlangers how many languages they'd sat down and actually tried to learn (not just glanced at, but tried to learn to use). The average was 6.5. Languages are like cake to us: We can't get enough! We'll sit down with a grammar of an obscure language for fun. As a wedding present, in fact, my friend Doug (mentioned above) got me a grammar of Fijian. I couldn't have been happier. (My wife was less thrilled, but as a former linguistics graduate student herself, she could appreciate it.)

As a final note, though conlanging is more mainstream than it was ten years ago, it remains an esoteric practice. As the circle expands, it will reach new audiences, who will continue to have the same reactions that conlangers have been getting for years. My message to conlangers: Don't sweat it. Keep at it, and don't be shy about what you do. Little by little things will expand; things will improve.

Happy conlanging!

Edit: By the way, if you're a conlanger and you have a website (and it's not mentioned already), feel free to leave a link to it in the comments!

Second Edit: Eric Bakovic (mentioned above) wrote a response to the comments in the Times article as well on Language Log. You can read it here.
Super Duck

Found in Chico, Vol. 2

I don't know how many people will remember my incredibly infrequent series Found in Chico, but I think it's about time for a second installment (only been, what, ten months?). Frankly, though, I think this one's worth the wait.

Now, if you're like me, you're probably a big fan of objects that aren't human beings being used to create mini human being statuettes. But even if for some crazy reason you're not, you've got be a fan of this guy:

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Super Duck

It's Been Awhile...

I've had a tough time trying to figure out how to maintain my blogginess, as I now maintain, like, five blogs outside of this one. I have an idea that I think will revolutionize the world (that I'll post about here), but it's not ready yet.

Anyway, I did want to take some time to note a couple of things here. Two of them are relatively minor (a new Dothraki post over at the Dothraki blog, and a review of the brand new From Elvish to Klingon in Fiat Lingua), but I did want to note something special that came out for Speculative Grammarian.

Over the past who knows how many years, Speculative Grammarian, an online magazine dedicated to linguistic humor, has been run on the blood, sweat and tears of one guy: Trey Jones. There have been a number of contributors, of course, and many hands working behind the scenes, but it's all been thanks to Trey's efforts. In addition to completely handling publication (converting to HTML, handling social media, advertising, etc. [not to mention the podcast]), he also has written a mountain of articles (just look at how many articles he's either authored or contributed to here!), and created the entire backend workflow that makes the site function. The amount of work he's put in over the years is mind-boggling.

Today, those of us who work on SpecGram decided to dedicate an entire issue to Trey—our own unique version of a festschrift: The PestSchrift. It's our way of letting Trey know that we appreciate him, and that we can, actually, produce articles on our own unbidden (on rare, rare occasions).

Personally, I'm quite thankful to Trey. I've been involved with SpecGram for about five years now (maybe closer to six), and though I often promise more than I can deliver, I've really enjoyed my time there. It's where I went after leaving linguistics (the field which now treats me like a pariah), and it's been quite good to me. So, thank you, Trey! I swear I'm working on an article...
Super Duck

Looking for an Everyday Hero

Let me start this post off by saying I hate the city of Irvine.

Yesterday I met some friends at the Irvine Spectrum to see the movie Drive (which was incredible!). I was hoping we were going to choose some other theater, because I have this history of getting completely lost every time I go to the Spectrum—even though I've been there probably a dozen times. Yesterday, I thought I'd be fine, since I had Google Maps directions (the ones on my phone, not from the website). So off I went.

The directions told me to take the 5 South to the 133 South and exit at Barranca. I was running a little late, so I was watching the signs (and, yes, I should probably wear my glasses while driving), and saw the 133, and got off. As I was on the ramp, I saw the next sign on the 5 which read "133 S 1 mile". "Oh, crap," I thought, "I'm on the north." And I was. Which meant I was going to be even later than I thought. No big deal, though. I'll just get off on the first exit and turn around.

The next exit, if you get on the 133 N from the 5 S, is Irvine, and so I got off, and felt my heart fall into my boots: It was a toll road. A #@%&*ing toll road!

No, I'm not so poor that I can't afford $1.25. However, I haven't carried cash regularly since 2003. And while we do keep some change in the white car, I was in the green car. I looked around quickly and found nothing. My first thought was to call my friend, who was nearby, to see if he could get some cash and then get to the exit behind me. As I was on the phone with him, though, another car rolled up behind me, and bad turned to nightmare real quick.

I got off the phone with Jon and saw the driver's side window of the car behind me was open, so I went up intending to explain the situation and say that if I could just get a few minutes to thoroughly search my car (it's kind of messy; you never know), I'd go ahead and blow through the toll booth and get my ticket (by the way: the violation incurs a penalty of $57.50 plus the original toll—not outrageously expensive, but supremely awful when you were intending to incur no other cost but the cost of gas).

I told the driver of the car behind me that I'd accidentally gotten on the 133 N while intending to get on the 133 S, and he said, "Join the club" (it's really an easy mistake to make at night, and Irvine is your first opportunity to get off the stupid toll road). Anyway, now I get to the point of my story: Without my asking, he offered me the $1.25 I needed to pay the toll (he wasn't unprepared).

Needless to say, that made my day (I'm probably too long-winded to put it up on IMMD, but it would fit). But here's where I want to make use of the internet: I want to find this person. At the very, very least, I'd like to pay him back his $1.25 and thank him profusely for saving my bacon.

The relevant information is as follows:

  • What: Paid my toll of $1.25, saving me from a fine of $58.75.

  • Where: Irvine toll plaza off of the 133 N, just north of the 5 S/133 N interchange.

  • When: I didn't check, but it was probably somewhere between 10:19-10:26 p.m. on September 30th, 2011.

  • Who: I didn't get his name (I was trying to get out of there because we both had places to go, otherwise I could've settled this very easily), but he looked like a tall guy (though everyone's tall to me) with kind of a buzz cut, blonde hair. He looked younger than me (23-28, guessing...?), had a girl in the car with him in the passenger seat (didn't get a good look), and was driving a very large SUV-ish car that may have been gray (unfortunately, it was quite dark).
Oh, and if it helps, I was driving a green Honda accord which looks like this:

My car getting towed

And I look mostly like this. I was wearing a copper-colored t-shirt with blue jeans and sandals.

So, mighty internet (especially Southern Californios), share this around! Let's see if I can find this guy.

Also, though, I'd like to share some information I found out just today which should be very useful to anyone who finds themselves in the same situation as me: If you are on any of the SoCal toll roads, you can pay your toll late if you don't have the cash on you. You can do this one time, and I'm guessing you have to do it pretty quick after your violation. Nevertheless, if I'd known that, I wouldn't even have hesitated: I would've gone through.

Given the fact that it seems like these stupid toll roads are out to trick unwary travelers (and, honestly, who doesn't accept credit cards nowadays?!), I think it's rather good of them to give you this option. For more information on this option, go here. Sounds like you just need info about the car you were driving, yourself, and the location of the toll booth, and you can pay your toll online late and avoid the $57.50 fine. Wish I'd known it yesterday, but I know it.

All right, that's it. You may continue your regular day of internet surfing and listening to the NONONONO Cat.
Super Duck


Before you get the wrong idea, I'm a huge fan of Snickers. I can say—without exaggerating and without any trace of irony—that Snickers is the best candy bar. Period. Nothing else even comes close. If they made a dark chocolate Snickers*, it would be a dream come true. If they made a dark chocolate ice cream Snickers, I'm pretty sure I would die on the spot. But this only serves to further prove my point that Snickers is the best candy bar on the planet: The only candy bar that can even compete with it is a hypothetical candy bar. That's how superb it is.

Anyway, outside of the candy itself, its packaging has always been pretty decent (clean, simple logo set against a brown wrapper: solid). Awhile back, they felt they needed to jazz things up a bit, so they started coining words, putting them on the bottom of Snickers bars, and defining them on the inside of the wrapper. Here are some of the terms they came up with: nougatocity; peanutopolis; hungerectomy; satisfectellent. Not bad, as far as portmanteaux go.

The other day I had the good fortune to come into a regular-sized Snickers bar. On the bottom of the bar was written "Substantialiscious"—not a bad one! I unwrapped it, began eating, and then glanced at the definition and thought to myself, "No... That can't be. There must be some extra derivation that I'm not seeing." I finished the Snickers bar, fully unfurled the wrapper, checked twice, and then grabbed my phone to take a picture. I was not mistaken. It was...well, perhaps you should see for yourself:

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Super Duck

O Circumfix, O Circumfix...

So way, way back on August 20th, Twitter user bestilheiro tweeted the following:

@Dedalvs I've been reading about your work in GoT (congrats!). You said there are no circumfixes in English. What about Dylan's a-changing?
Good question! As I told him then, though, it's probably not answerable in 140 characters, so that's why I've come here.

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Super Duck

Back from Renovation

I'm back from spending a week in Reno at the 69th Annual World Science Fiction Convention. It was quite the trip! This was my first such convention (before this I'd only attended linguistics conferences and LCCs), and I was, perhaps, a bit overwhelmed, but I had a great time.

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The real impetus for writing this blog post was that I wanted to answer a linguistics question I got on Twitter a few days ago. It's become apparent that this isn't the place for that, though, so I'll post this and get started on a new post. Anyway, as a final note, a big thank you to everyone that stopped by to say "hi" while I was up there! I hope to see everyone again some day soon.
Super Duck

Updated WorldCon Schedule

I've gotten a final schedule for my appearances at the 69th Annual World Science Fiction Convention, so I wanted to update my last post. Here are the panels I'll be participating in, along with their times and locations:

  • Thursday 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. Language Creation Workshop (Special Interest
    Group), A18 (RSCC)

    Are you looking to incorporate a created language or two into your fictional universe? Are you curious what goes into creating a language? Perhaps you just find language fascinating? Whatever the case, the Language Creation Society's workshop is for you! In this hands-on workshop, participants will work together to create a miniature language, and learn what goes into creating an authentic language. No prior experience is necessary.

  • Friday 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Neologism and Linguicide: How the Dominant
    Language Mutates and Assimilates Other Languages
    (Panel), D04

    We've all heard of species becoming endangered, but the famous anthropologist Wade Davis warns of a similar problem happening to the languages which endangers the richness of the world's cultures. How we preserve or destroy these languages and how we cultivate linguistic habits, will determine what we are able to think in the world of the near future.

Update: You can now download the full Renovation schedule in .pdf form by clicking here.
Super Duck

Out of the Ashes

So, it's been a while, hasn't it? My apologies. There was a time when I blogged here with regularity. Those days appear to have passed me by. We'll see what I can manage.

I did, though, want to eat up some space here to discuss some of the things I've been up to, and what's in the works for me. After all, it's summer, and summer's the time for discussing future plans. (Note: I just made this up.)

First, I wanted to mention something I've been working on for several months. For the past few years, I've been writing up book reviews (mainly for my amusement, and to give myself a place to write about literature). Acting on a suggestion from years ago by shellaby, I finally turned that section of my website into a WordPress blog. In addition, I've roped a few of my friends (and spouses) into writing for the blog, as well. And so now we're giving it a go: a blog dedicated to reading. I've ported over all my early reviews, but now in addition to book reviews, there will be chatty posts about books and reading, in general (in today's, allegram writes about her secret lover: the library). The blog is now housed at And, since it's a blog, you can comment (so now folks won't have to resort to e-mail to try to convince me that Hemingway isn't terrible).

Next, I wanted to mention something that those of us at SpecGram have been up to for a few months now. For awhile, SpecGram has had a podcast, which has primarily featured audio recordings of a number of SpecGram's articles. To add to it, though, Keith, Bill, Trey and I started up a bantery segment of the podcast we call Language Made Difficult (RSS feed here). Once a month or so, we get together and discuss language-related topics in the news, and find some way to humiliate me on air. It's great fun! We've had five episodes so far, and are recording a sixth on Tuesday. If you like language, or listen to podcasts—or if you frequently find yourself lying perfectly still for several hours during the day—give this one a shot.

Finally, I also wanted to mention a couple of public appearances I'll be making. If you're going to be at WorldCon this summer in Reno (dubbed Renovation), I will be there. I'm tentatively scheduled for two panels (one Friday, one Saturday), plus a solo talk titled "Understanding Dothraki" (Thursday at 3:00 p.m. local). Later on Thursday, the Language Creation Society will also be hosting a workshop on creating your own language. I and several other conlangers will be putting it on (Sylvia Sotomayor, Jeff Jones and Jim Henry so far). Renovation runs from August 17th to August 21st. If you're interested in attending, be sure to buy a membership soon.

I'll also be speaking this September at the 2011 Faith, Reason & World Affairs Symposium. It's being held at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota (a stone's throw from Fargo) from September 13th to the 14th. I'll be presenting one of the concurrent sessions; the title is "To Live a Wooden Life: The Art and Humanity of Language Creation". Kind of out of the way for California folk like me, but if you live in Lakota territory, come on by!

I've been busy, but I have no new Game of Thrones news at the moment. If I do (and am able), I'll be sure to share.