Came back home. Finished "The origin of language", which read like a better-written version of a stomach-churning Usenet rant. It had some interesting ideas -- all of them unabashedly supporting proto-World, Nostratic, et al. -- but the argumentation was horrible. It spent too many pages whining that the methodology of its championed researchers was viciously attacked from all sides and none actually looking at the details of their methodology and/or vindicating it, which ought to have been easy if their methods were so obviously valid. More progress on "The phoenix guard". Started a little bit of "The loom of language" which is sort of a mix between a Romance-or-Germanic-language-learning textbook and a simple history-of-stuff book. Though it is from 1944 and oh god it shows. It is sort of doubly anti-Raumist, in that it takes the point of view of (a) taking the international auxlang question very seriously and (b) Esperanto is useless crap.
Oh, and capsule review of "atoms of language", for kaustuv: okay, sure, there seem to be simple tendencies (head directionality, for instance) that manifest themselves in multiple ways, so that apparent massive differences in language structure are actually less massive, and explainable in elegant ways. Good work. Hurrah. You win a chomsky-snack. Please, however, work more on explaining why this parametrization should come about (in fact the theory that it arises out of a more general capacity for quasilinguistic pattern recognition and production appeals to me a lot, although the author pooh-poohs it) and less on mystical mumbling about the deep and profound riddles of cognitive science and philosophy, and failed attempts at connecting them to the actual question at hand.
Yikes, I just read what I wrote. Perhaps I am just in a bile-spittin' mood. I will begin my christmas reading wish-list for next year: The Adventures of Billy the Preciously Cute Fuzzy Yellow Duckling who Engages in No Academic Controverseys Whatsoever Except Perhaps on the Side that Jason Wholeheartedly Supports, pts 1-30.