Friday, June 16, 2017

Learning about Hawaii

As we usually do in the summer, we are learning about other places. To be more patriotic, we chose US territories and tribes/peoples. For the first half of June, we learned about Hawaii. I've never been to Hawaii, but I know lots of people who have.

I bought the children a little ukulele, and two or three of the family (including me) have learned to play some simple chords on it. A friend whose mother was raised in Hawaii showed us the "Pearly Shells" hula actions this morning. We watched Lilo & Stitch, Moana (not specifically Hawaiian, but great at showing many aspects of traditional Polynesian life), and Blue Hawaii starring Elvis. We went swimming and tried an indoor version of ulumaika (rolling a stone disc through two stakes in the ground). I bought leis for the children, and we wore flowers in our hair. Everyone was taught to say "mahalo" and "aloha."

And the food...such tasty food. We ate shaved ice, donuts (sadly, not actual malasadas), kalua pork made with Hawaiian sea salt, Spam stir fry, Spam with ramen noodles, Spam musubi, haupia, mango, fresh pineapple, macaroni salad, Hawaiian sweet rolls, coconut, macadamia nuts, laulau fish (using spinach instead of taro leaves), and rice. I'm disappointed that I didn't make it to an Asian store to buy taro root for poi, but I'll try to buy some taro before the end of the summer, when we are scheduled to learn about the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Except for the fresh fruit and fish, Hawaiian food doesn't seem very healthy. Spam, pork, and fatty nuts? With lots of sugar, oil, and white rice? And where's the glycine betaine? (See my posts from the last two months if you're wondering why I care about that nutrient.) I found no evidence for any traditional Hawaiian plant staple being a good source of glycine betaine; it's a good thing that they ate a lot of marine animals--shrimp, mussels, oysters, clams, and scallops are glycine betaine sources--before they began receiving shipments of wheat from beyond the islands. (Update: I forgot about hibiscus, the state flower. Hibiscus plants contain glycine betaine-- http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0031942201002631--and are sometimes used in food and drink.)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Web page translation

As I research new cuisines, I often surf onto websites written in languages I don't know. My browser has started asking me if it can translate those sites into English for me. The result is surprisingly readable. No, it's not perfect, but it's much better than I thought artificial intelligence translation could be.

So when I discovered a possible diet connection to Zika-caused microcephaly, I decided to try using Google Translate to put that hypothesis out there in Spanish and Portugese for the benefit of people in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Brazil. I know Spanish fairly well, so I fixed the few little errors from the Google-translated Spanish version myself. Because Portugese is similar to Spanish, I fixed those same few little errors in the Google-translated Portugese version and ran it by a relative who was an LDS missionary in Brazil in case I missed anything else (he said it looked fine). Are my translations perfect? I highly doubt it. But they're good enough to do the job of passing on information.

Amateur translation has gotten much cheaper and doable. Of course, I was also dealing with languages that are not especially hard to learn. I've been learning a little Arabic recently, and Google Translate isn't especially good at translating between Arabic and English. Yet.

For those relying on computer translation for important things like business negotiations and affairs of the heart, I will just post this video as a cautionary example of how it can go wrong: