Stages of language acquisition
Standard disclaimer - this is just my own experience, your mileage may vary, void where prohibited, etc.
1. Dabbling phase - wherein you learn a few basics like hello/goodbye, yes/no, numbers, etc. You might also learn a lot about the language, like grammar rules or phonemes that are (from your perspective) unusual and interesting. This is fun because you can show off what you know to your friends, but you can't do anything with the language yet.
2. Flashcard phase - wherein you cram and drill and memorize a lot of vocabulary and sentence patterns, do translation exercises, etc. It's tough going, because there's no way around the need for massive amounts of rote memorization. You're drilling on colors, family members, modes of transportation, foods, clothing, moods, days of the week, basic action verbs, etc. Many of the words in your new language sound almost identical to your untrained ear. It can be easy to despair when you realize just how many things there are in the world that you need to learn words for...
3. Textbook phase - you're still memorizing stuff, but it starts to get easier since you can now relate new words to words that you already know. So it's more like slotting bricks into place in a growing edifice, instead of accumulating a pile of random facts. You can form complete sentences now. You know how to decline verbs and how to phrase questions, and you're starting to get into the fancy stuff like passive voice and dependent clauses. You're doing translation exercises and starting to feel really smart...
4. ...Until you encounter a native speaker and realize you still can't understand a word they say. It's the rude awakening phase! Listening comprehension is by far the hardest skill to learn, and it's the most important, but you can't learn it from a textbook or even a set of CDs. There's really no way to get it except by hanging around native speakers a lot and repeatedly making a fool of yourself. Classroom study alone won't get you beyond phase 3: that's my experience anyway. This is why people can study a language for four years in college and get straight As, but still be completely unable to hold a basic conversation in that language.
5. Idiot phase - Now begins the task of getting your practical ability caught up to your theoretical knowledge. In this phase you can ask people for directions and how much something costs and where the bathroom is and whether they would like some tea, but you still have a lot of trouble understanding the responses, because real people don't restrict themselves to words in your vocabulary list. You might catch one or two words of what they're saying and have to guess the rest. You know grammar on paper, but you may still have trouble figuring out what order to put your words in when speaking. Sometimes people don't understand you and you're not sure what you did wrong. You may have to fall back on gestures and pidgin to get a point across. Basically you feel like an idiot.
6. Survival phase - Finally, you can have a back-and-forth conversation in the language with a native speaker. Your vocabulary is still small so you can't exctly discuss philosophy or nuclear fusion but at least you can talk about jobs and family and stuff and ask for help if you're in trouble. In this phase you begin to notice words and phrases that native speakers actually use often (which can be quite different from the words and phrases that are used often in a classroom) and copy them. Circumlocution is an important skill in this phase: Maybe you don't know the word for "faucet" but you can say "that thing in the kitchen that you turn it and water comes out".
7. Bootstrapping phase - This is the point when you can learn new words in the language. You start picking up new words just by hearing them in context, or by asking native speakers, in the language, "that word you just used, what does it mean?" and understanding the answer. This phase is really fun because you're now acquiring new vocabulary the way the native speakers do. You can move beyond just reading signs and try to read your first book or magazine (get a dictionary; you'll still need to look up several words per paragraph). Also by this point you've probably mastered just about all the grammar you need for common use, and are confused only by obscure literary constructions. You still make mistakes but they're the kind that make people smile and correct you, not the kind that impede understanding so much.
8. Fluency phase - Congratulations, you've now reached the point where you don't feel like you're lying when you say you "can speak" the language. But there's always more to learn! From here on, it's a matter of deciding what you want to do with your language skills and pursuing advanced study in particular specializations. You can learn the subtle nuances of usage so that you can express your feelings, make jokes, and imply things without stating them outright. You can learn specialized vocabulary for your areas of interest, to have a professional conversation or read technical materials. You can attempt to read a newspaper (it's hard - newspaper writing in any language is chock full of ten-dollar words and is much denser than normal communication) or a novel. You can learn the archaic forms of the language in order to understand the ancient philosophers. You can learn to sing songs, give speeches, or do translation work. You can keep learning for the rest of your life. The sky's the limit!
In Chinese I'm currently in phase 5. In Japanese I experienced a taste of phase 8 during my last year in Japan but I'm so rusty by now that I'm back down in phase 7. I've never studied Spanish but like most Americans I have at least phase 1 just from childhood exposure to Sesame Street.
Readers: If you've learned another language to a high level, I would love to hear about how your experiences compare to mine.
Chinese words of the day
I'm trying to learn a few new Chinese words each day, and use each one in sentences as often as possible so I remember it.
Yesterday's words: 文明，葡萄，爽，帽子 (civilized, grapes, refreshing, hat)
Today's words, so far: 成功，八号线 (success， number 8 train line)
I have a ton of cool pictures from the World Expo, so I'll publish a giant picture-heavy post about that within the next few days.
A way of thinking about culture
Traveling to lots of foreign lands, as I'm doing this summer, has been making me wonder about the diversity of human culture. What is culture, anyway? I'm not talking about capital-C Culture like famous operas and monuments and stuff that countries show off at the World Expo; I'm talking about little-c culture; the stuff you take for granted and never even think about until you're in a place where they do it differently.
I've been learning how to cross the street in Shanghai. Some major intersections in Shanghai have crossing signals, but on most of the smaller roads, it's useless to wait for the cars (and the more numerous bycycles and motor scooters) to stop. Because they don't. Ever. They don't even slow down. You just wait for a gap and then dodge through, like playing Frogger.
Clearly Shanghai is a place where it's the pedestrian's responsibility, not the driver's responsibility, to prevent a collision.
Traffic safety might not be something you usually think of as "culture", but I think a lot of cultural issues can be phrased in terms of "whose responsibility is it to avoid a collision"?
The Shanghai attitude towards waiting in line is similar to their attitude about crossing the street. You'd better protect your place in line vigilantly, because if you don't, someone will squeeze in ahead of you. If you come from a place which has the social rule "Don't cut in line", then this can seem very rude. But in Shanghai, the responsibility for maintaining the line belongs to the person who's standing there already, not to the person who is trying to enter. If you don't care enough about your spot in line to defend it, why should you keep it?
This reminds me of that thing about "Ask" cultures vs. "Guess" cultures. I forgot where I read it for the first time, but the idea is that an Ask culture has the following two rules:
- You can ask for anything you want, but don't expect to get it.
- When someone asks you for something, it's not rude to say "No".
"Hey dude I'm gonna be in your city next week, can I crash on your couch?"
"Uh, no, sorry, I barely know you."
"OK bro that's cool, just asking".
A Guess culture has the following rules instead:
- It's rude to directly refuse a request.
- So don't ask directly for something if the answer might be "no", because you'd be putting the other person in an awkward position. You're allowed to hint, though.
- Since other people are too polite to ask for things, you should pay attention to what they might be needing and offer it to them.
"So I'm going to be in your city next week, and I'm looking for a place to stay, can you suggest any cheap hotels maybe?"
"If you don't mind sleeping on a couch, you could stay at my place."
"Oh I couldn't possibly impose on you like that."
"No, please, I insist."
Either system works fine if everyone is following it. But interacting with people from the opposite culture can be frustrating. To guessers, Askers seem outrageously selfish and demanding. To askers, Guessers seem timid and passive-aggressive and why can't they just come out and say what they want, I'm not a mind-reader you know!
Ask culture and guess culture are like countries that drive on the left and countries that drive on the right. There is absolutely no objective reason why the left side or the right side of the road is a better place to drive. But you have to have an agreement, however arbitrary. If one car is driving on the opposite side from everyone else, then people are going to die. Offending someone because you asked for something they can't give you is obviously not as serious as a car crash, but it's similar in that there was a mismatch of expectations because you weren't following the same unspoken, pre-negotiated agreement.
Without such pre-negotiated agreements, every single social interaction would have to be re-negotiated from scratch. You know that thing when two people are walking towards each other in a hallway: they try to weave around each other, but they both weave the same direction, so they both switch and go the other way, then the first way again, then after three tries they both give up and shrug and giggle. How many times has this happened to you? There isn't a cultural rule for this situation (at least not where I grew up) but there could be: if the rule was 'always turn right' then that wouldn't happen anymore.
We can list plenty more examples:
- Do you keep your floors clean and ask guests to take off their shoes? Or tell them to keep their shoes on because the floor's dirty? Either system works as long as people are in agreement about whether the floor is considered a clean zone or not.
- In your company, if you need to communicate something to someone in a different department, do you go directly to the person in question and ask them yourself? Or do you ask your boss and they ask the other person's boss? Companies that have settled on the social rule of relaying requests through management can get quite upset if you go outside this system.
- Are insults something to be laughed off and ignored in good humor? Or are they something to be taken seriously, as threats to your honor, so that you must demand a retraction or else retaliate? I read somewhere that the "defend your honor from all insults" rule is something that often arose in shepherding cultures, because when your wealth is in the form of easily stolen animals, instead of land or gold or whatever, then the best way to defend it is to develop a reputation as a crazy motherfucker who will totally murder anybody who dares lay a finger on your sheep. The idea is that once you have that reputation, nobody will dare mess with you, so you won't actually have to kill anybody. So threatening brutal retaliation is, weirdly, a way to prevent violence -- seems like a weird system to me, but again the point is that it works as long as everybody is following it.
The fact that most of these cases require everyone to follow the same system to avoid problems explains why cultures are often so harsh on anyone who violates one of their shared understandings. There has to be some enforcement to keep people cooperating. The fact that the understandings are never spoken or explained, and many people wouldn't even know how to put them into words, having gotten used to them from growing up in that culture, explains why it's often so hard for outsiders to understand what it is that they did wrong.
So anyway, that's how I've been thinking about cultural rules lately. It doesn't explain everything but it seems to be a useful framework. If you're traveling to a lot of different countries, it's never good to be in a mindset of "All these people are crazy, why do they care so much about this stupid thing, why can't they just be normal." But it's also not helpful to be in a 60s-era anthropologist "Humans are blank slates controlled by cultures which have nothing in common with each other and are inherently unknowable to outsiders and cannot be judged or understood by any terms but their own" mindset.
Instead of thinking in either of those ways, I can approach new social situations with the mindset of: What's the rule here about avoiding collisions?
My flight to China was delayed in departing for over two hours (during which time I played some more Starcraft 2 via the T-mobile hotspot in the airport lounge). As a result, our connecting flight to Shanghai to had already left by the time we got to Beijing.
Everybody was upset. Dozens of angry people were shouting at one beleaguered Air China stewardess, who was on a cell phone trying to figure out a plan. It was 8:30pm local time, and the next flight to Shanghai left at midnight and would arrive at 2 am. Meanwhile Sushu would be waiting for me at the Shanghai airport at 10pm when my original connecting flight was supposed to arrive... and I had no way of calling her.
I managed to borrow a gadget from one of my fellow stranded passengers and send Sushu an email on it, but I had no idea whether she'd get it or not. (I figured she probably would, since she managed to send me emails from her Kindle while she was on the freakin' Trans-Siberian Railroad.)
It gets worse. I was following a small clump of people from my flight who all wanted to go to Shanghai, and I had found somebody who spoke really good English and Chinese (he's a foreigner who works for a construction company in Shanghai), so I tagged along with him, but it quickly became apparent that nobody knew what was going on. There were offers to send us to a hotel for the night, and offers to put us on an earlier flight to Shanghai which would land at Hongqian airport instead of Pudong airport. But I figured both of those were bad ideas because Sushu wouldn't know where I was. I figured my best bet was to get to Pudong that night no matter how late it had to be. (Not that I had any concept of day or night after having my internal clock thoroughly scrambled by the 16-hour Pacific crossing).
So I tried to follow the directions to where I could get on the next transfer flight, which involved going out of the airport and then back in to the domestic terminal. This got me separated from my fellow travelers, so now I was on my own trying to navigate Beijing aiport.
I spent a lot of time inwardly cursing myself for playing all that Starcraft 2 instead of spending that time studying Mandarin like a good boy. As it is, I know just enough Chinese to be able to ask "where/what time is the plane to Shanghai Pudong airport and can I get on it" but not enough Chinese to be able to understand the response. Which means I'm completely useless. Being super groggy didn't help either.
I asked about the flight at one Air China counter, who pointed me to a second Air China counter, where we had some awkward attempts at conversation and then they told me to wait. So I waited. And waited. I got bounced around a lot between different windows and gates and told to wait here and wait there. Meanwhile the clock crept closer and closer to midnight and the airport got more and more deserted as areas shut down for the night one by one.
It turns out the problem was that I didn't have a transfer boarding pass for the other flight. I tried to ask people where to get it, but the answer was that I was supposed to have it already. My original boarding pass was not good enough; there was this other mystical boarding pass that I needed, and nobody understood why I didn't already have it. And I had never seen it before and didn't understand where they thought I was supposed to have gotten it. Without it, I couldn't go through security.
Around this time I ran into my original group again, and they all had the Boarding Pass of Destiny, and I asked them where they got it, and they said they were all given one when they got off the first plane, and why didn't I have one? And I said I had no idea why they gave a boarding pass to everyone else but not to me. People were actually laughing at me at this point. I was tired and cranky and I felt really stupid because I had screwed everything up by not stopping to ask for this transfer boarding pass when I got off the plane. But how was I supposed to know?
I got bounced around a bunch more times and eventually ended up in some kind of special employees-only security checkpoint, where I was surrounded by uniformed airport police. It wasn't that scary, because they were mostly in a good mood, and cracking jokes that I couldn't understand. But I was acutely aware at that point that I was not a citizen, had no rights, had no means of contacting anyone who could help me, nowhere else to go, and was entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers who I couldn't communicate with. Was I going to have to sleep in the airport?
I still don't know what they did, but finally about 20 minutes before the flight had to leave, another airport policeman came running up waving the magic boarding pass. I don't know if it was mine originally and they found it, or if they made me a new one, or what. But either way I'm deeply grateful to the Beijing airport dudes for rescuing me from my own mistake.
It was after 2 am when we finally got to Pudong airport, which was completely deserted by then: a vast echoing cavern of neon lights and emptiness. I found my luggage and wandered forlornly between one deserted arrivals exit and another, wondering whether I would have to sleep in the airport after all or get in a random taxi and try to explain the concept of "hotel" with sign language, when suddenly I spotted a short woman about a kilometer down the concourse; yes, it was Sushu, and yes, she and her uncle had stayed up until 2 am waiting for me. Oh joy! Deliverance! I'm saved!
Sushu's mom later described the situation I was in as "有惊无险", which means "Startlement but no real danger". It sure didn't feel that way to me then. Having made it out alive, I'm going to study Chinese every day from now on so that nothing like this happens to me again.
"Waaa! Waaa! Stop censoring me!"
Since there's such an interesting conversation going on in the comments of my previous post about free speech, I thought I'd talk about the most annoying misunderstanding people have of the concept.
Nobody's been doing this on my blog, but people do it ALL THE TIME in online political discussions and it drives me crazy. It goes like this:
- Say something that's stupid, hurtful, racist, hateful, or otherwise just plain wrong.
- Other people in the discussion call you out on the stupid shit you are saying.
- You wrap yourself in the flag and scream about your first amendment rights, censorship, how you are being oppressed, etc. etc.
- The discussion gets massively derailed and never gets back to the content of your original statement, so you are relieved of the burden of having to defend it. Great success!
One example I've seen a lot the past couple of years is conservatives calling Obama a Nazi... and then when people object, whining that they "aren't allowed" to call Obama a Nazi and that liberals want to censor them.
I'm like... Dude, what do you mean you're "not allowed to"? You just did. Disagreement is not the same as censorship.
When you have to watch the content of your speech to avoid *legal punishment*, that's censorship. Facing *social* ramifications for the content of your speech — e.g. the fact that if you say racist shit, people will shun you for being a racist — that has nothing to do with censorship, it's just other people using their freedom of association to not associate with you.
You have the right to say anything you want; I have the right to disagree with you and point out where you're wrong. That's how it works. If you want to convince people you're right, try engaging in actual discussion - asking questions, citing evidence, making better arguments, etc. instead of turning it into a meta-discussion about what you have the right to say.
Making a stirring monologue in defense of free speech in a conversation where nobody is even proposing censorship is as much of a non-sequitur as if you had started listing your favorite ice cream flavors. And it's generally the last refuge of people who can neither defend their statements nor admit when they're wrong.
"Isn't that illegal?"
My coworker Jinghua is from China. She's been here less than a year. I am her go-to guy for asking questions about American culture.
A couple days ago she said, "I keep seeing cartoons making fun of the president. Isn't that illegal?"
So, yeah, I had to explain that whole thing about how Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances, and all that kind of stuff.
This was a really interesting conversation both for what it reveals about Chinese attitudes, and also because she kept pressing me on it until I admitted that, yes, actually we do have slander laws, and you can get sued in civil court if you knowingly and maliciously damage someone's reputation by spreading falsehoods about them. And then I had to try to explain the fine legal line between what's slanderous intentional falsehoods, and what's protected speech, and how parody and statements of opinion don't count as intentional falsehoods, and also how if you're an elected official than all bets are pretty much off and your whole life is a legitimate target for any kind of attack.
I realized that a lot of these lines are really complex and fuzzy, and it's not as simple as just saying "we have freedom of speech in this country".
But anyway, yeah, I'm glad it's not illegal to draw cartoons making fun of the president. I'm glad I live in a country where people have the freedom to parade around with signs that have Obama with a Hitler moustache or say "TAXES = SLAVERY".
And I'm glad that I am free to call those people obnoxious ignoramuses with no sense of proportion or knowledge of history, because that's what they are.
Anyway, Happy Fourth of July!
One of the people in my neighborhood built this solar car. Sometimes I see it parked in front of his house, other times I see it parked in front of an office building downtown (Only on sunny days... gee, I wonder why). So I guess he made it street legal and uses it for short-range commuting.
I know he built it because he's got the newspaper article about himself laminated and stuck to the outside of his garage. I guess he's kind of proud of it. I would be, too.
I complain about the Silicon Valley / San Francisco bay area a lot, but there are some cool things about having a lot of rich, eco-conscious people who like to build things, all living in one place.
A realization about Trader Joe's
Trader Joe's is not actually a grocery store. They have very few groceries in the sense of "fresh raw ingredients". They've got a tiny meat section and a tiny vegetable section, but if you want to actually cook something from scratch you will find they are sadly lacking in even very basic things.
Almost everything they sell is pre-packaged, either frozen, canned, dried, or ready-to-eat out of the box. It's a good place to go if you want to stock up on instant meals but very disappointing if you want to make your own food.
Like the Apple store, what they're selling is three-quarters self-image. You wouldn't expect anti-consumerist hipsters to be unironically in love with a corporate, global, consumer-electronics brand. But Apple uses their gigantic marketing budget to persuade them that it's OK; in fact it makes them an individualist!
Trader Joe's does the same thing. You wouldn't expect to find health-conscious food snobs stocking up on processed, packaged, dehydrated food, boxes of cookies, and microwave dinners. But Trader Joe's are experts at using subliminal cultural signaling -- wooden paneling! groovy hawaiian shirts! whimsical paintings of pirates and hot-air balloons! hand-lettered chalkboards! The word 'organic' everywhere! -- to lure in the "wants to be a food snob, but not rich enough to waste their money at Whole Foods" set, and make them feel righteous about eating junk food that is just slightly different from the mass-market equivalent.
(Noooo, these aren't Doritos, they're made of blue Aztec corn and mediterranean sea salt! That's completely different! They're like healthy or something! These aren't Oreos, see, they've got a toucan on the box! That means they're... um... something something rainforest? Shut up, I'm an enlightened foodie! I know what qinoa is!)
Mecha Guan Yu
Thanks to Chris for this link: some Chinese art school students took an old Chinese military truck and converted it, Transformer-style, into a giant metal statue of Guan Yu (roughly speaking, the Chinese god of war).
Giant Robo Cosplay
Yeah, ACen was like two months ago, so sue me. Like I said, I've got a lot of blomiting to catch up on.
Me and Sushu decided to go as characters from Giant Robo. I'm Taiso (the dude who swigs sake from a jug and spits fire) and she's Youshi (the barbarian woman with the magic extend-o-pole), who are husband and wife in the cartoon too, appropriately enough.
Both of our characters are originally bandits from the ancient Chinese story of the Water Margin, better known to anime fans by its Japanese title, Suikoden. Sushu's character is a man in the original story, so, um... they took a lot of license with the adaptation, I guess.
One more cosplay pic: this is our friend Rachel from the U of C anime club. She's a character from Zeta Gundam (don't know anything else about her, never having seen Zeta Gundam). And her costume was so cool I can't resist posting it:
In the background on the right you can see the sheet music to Yakusoku wa Iranai, which my accordion teacher Denis helped me figure out and write down. (Yes, I brought the accordion to ACen. I'm not real good yet, but my goal is to get good enough by next year that I can jam out with The Spoony Bards.)
Denis was really amazing at figuring out the song. I had found some sheet music for piano on the internet, but I was having a lot of trouble figuring out how to rearrange it for accordion. I brought Denis a YouTube video link and said "I want to learn to play THIS." He watched it, got a real strange look on his face, then started feeling it out on the keyboard, rewinding, playing again, feeling out the notes some more... then he turned to me and said "You picked a really good song! This is a beautiful chord progression. It's going to be really hard to play, though. Hear that? That's an inverted ninth chord... you don't have a button for that but you can fake it by doing this..."
Yeah. Yoko Kanno doesn't fool around. It is a hard song, but it's so beautiful.
Oh, by the way, note the first comment on this Yakusoku wa Iranai video:
dude i really love this song!! my mom was always playing anime music when i was really little and this is my FAVORITE!!
Dude. That made me feel so OLD. Gah.
Hunter-gatherer diet, or: Sugar is the enemy!
Co-worker Alexander Limi gave an impromptu talk about nutrition at work the other day. (This is just a thing that people do at Mozilla: give talks about random topics in the middle of the workday. It's a pretty laid-back place.) He told us about glycemic indices, insulin levels, and how eating refined sugar totally fucks up your body. He showed a bunch of pictures of supposedly healthy drinks and how much sugar they contain (1 bottle of Sobe brand green-tea-like-subtance = half a cherry pie worth of sugar. 1 Monster brand energy drink = six donuts.) It was pretty scary! He also said "Lots of ingredient lists will try to trick you by saying something like 'organic beet syrup' but don't be fooled - it's still sugar."
Sugar is the enemy. And the enemy is everywhere.
Limi had a bunch of arguments about why the number 2 enemy is grains, like how grains basically evolved a bunch of toxins to prevent themselves from being eaten, and they're not something humans can eat without intensive processing so our bodies are not really adapted for them. He thinks fat is not that bad, compared to sugar and grains. ("Fat is great because it makes you feel full, and if your insulin levels aren't spiked from eating grains at the same time, your body won't actually store it as fat"). He talked about how he went off sugar and grains completely, made up the difference by eating more fat ("every day for breakfast I have a huge omelet with bacon in it, fried in butter") and lost like 40% of his body weight in 6 months.
"Isn't that basically the Atkins diet" -- well, not exactly; Atkins forbids you from eating fruits and vegetables that have carbohydrates in them, which is most of them. Limi was like "Any diet that tells you not to eat vegetables is insane." He showed a bunch of slides about how the sugar in fruit is not nearly as bad for you as refined sugar because it's bound up in soluble fiber and stuff. He recommended snacking on fruits and nuts all day long -- "it's really hard to overdose on fruit. Like, you would have to really be working at it." He said the overall rule of thumb should be "Would a caveman have been able to eat this?" Lots of meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and nuts and no grains or sugar -- it's basically the hunter-gatherer diet.
My main goal in picking a diet is to be healthy, not to lose weight. Losing weight would be nice but it's not my main priority; that's why I would never do the Atkins diet -- you lose a lot of weight fast but that doesn't mean it's good for you. I'm also staying away from some of Limi's more extreme suggestions (like frying everything in butter).
But cutting out sugar completely sounds like a great idea (i'm usually a total sugar fiend, and I usually regret it when I start to feel sick halfway through my third donut). And the other nice thing is that the hunter-gatherer diet sounds like something I might be able to actually stay on for more than three days. The user-friendliness of a diet plan is really important, because if it's too strict you're not going to actually do it, or you're going to be tempted to cheat all the time. The hunter-gatherer diet lets you eat lots of yummy satisfying things and it doesn't tell you to starve yourself; you can eat till you're full. (The idea is that you'll be processing calories better without all those blood-sugar rushes and blood-sugar crashes, so once you adjust to the new diet you'll feel full after consuming fewer total calories).
So I'm giving it a try. It's been a week so far. I haven't been as strict as Limi's no-grains-at-all version; I've cut out white rice and bread completely but I'll have brown rice and soba noodles in small quantities, like one serving a day, since at least those are whole grains. But I'm being quite strict about the sugar thing. I think the only sugar I've had in the last week was whatever sugar Chinese restaurants sneak into their sauces.
Cereal is pretty much totally disqualified, so I've had to adapt to thinking of tea, a banana, and some raisins and almonds as a complete breakfast.
I feel pretty good. I feel like my energy levels are more consistent, I'm not getting tired in the middle of the day, my pants fit a little better already, and I haven't had heartburn (which is usually a regular occurence for me) at all.
I'm also enjoying having a reason to cook more vegetables and fish, stock up on peaches and blueberries at the Mountain View farmer's market, and generally feel good about paying attention to what I eat and what ingredients I cook with, instead of just cramming cereal and bagels in my face all the time. One of the biggest benefits of this diet is that it disqualifies pretty much everything on the Mozilla snack shelf, which is itself probably my biggest enemy. I'm not drinking liquid calories anymore either; nothing but tea and water, and I feel like that's a really good change too.
A really interesting phenomenon I've noticed is that my sense of taste is actually changing, and quite rapidly. In one week without sugar, my standards for sweetness have gone way down. Like, carrots taste sweet to me now. Apples and oranges are really sweet. Grapes are almost too sweet. It's an interesting experiment to see how much sugar warps your sense of taste.
I'll keep doing this for a month or so and see hoe I feel.
Summer travel plans
Wow, I didn't write anything pretty much for the whole month of June. And I can't even blame Starcraft this time; it was really the result of work -- trying to get Test Pilot ready to ship in the Firefox 4 beta took up all my time and then some. (That link has a video of me and Jinghua with goofy flight goggles, if you're into that sort of thing.) I did a lot of Test Pilot work in June and not much else. I brought my work home with me a lot of evenings, did a lot of weekend coding, and the times I was able to get away I basically wanted to do anything except type words into a computer. So instead of blogging, I went outside. Remember outside?
Oh hey! Travel plans! We've got some! Sushu has just left for Moscow today. Tomorrow morning I'm flying to Chicago for a long overdue visit with the family. Right after that I'm flying to the global Mozilla summit, which this year is once again in Whistler, British Colombia. Then I'll return and meanwhile Sushu will be traveling to Beijing by land, spending a week on the storied Trans-Siberian Railroad. We're going to meet up in Shanghai and spend a week there going to the 2010 World Expo. Then it's off to Japan, where I will spend a couple weeks without using up vacation days by working from Mozilla's Tokyo branch office, and we'll travel up to North on the weekends to see the Three Famous Summer Festivals of Tohoku. We'll both fly back to America together on August 10.
Since I'm way behind on stuff I want to write about, and since I'm not going to see Sushu for two weeks ;_; I'm going to try to do some massive blomiting. Let's see if I can hit 50 posts in two weeks! Here goes!