Saturday, November 03, 2012

The official panheresy political endorsement.

Vote for whoever you want, I find both candidates to be odious in many ways. If you can pretend that third party candidates are real candidates, sure, vote for them, whatevs. As for Mittens, to paraphrase Michael Scott, "I hate so much about the things that [he chooses] to be." As for Barry O, drone strikes, continuations of Bush-style attacks on civil liberties, killing whoever he wants to kill as long as they're not on American soil, several other things.

Neither side is willing to even think about climate change, energy policy, world population, and many other issues related to risk management in the way they must be considered. Barry O is at least willing to admit that global warming is occurring and humans are at least partly responsible, but he is not willing to really take the necessary action. It is politically intractable. For Mittens, of course, this is all just a joke. Roffles. I especially like how the Forbes article - from August 31st, mind you - points out that a substantial portion of the US population is on coastlines, sea level is definitely rising, and this definitely increases risk from storms. As they say, "Denying this (as some state and local governments are doing) is crazy: sooner or later, the people living in these places, and the businesses they built there, will pay the price." PRESCIENT MUCH?

And but so anyways, we will have to get off carbon fuels rather soon. Even if we weren't to do so, in a couple generations, we will have completely burnt through our billion-year inheritance and will discover that we will have to have started today in replacing carbon-based fuels to maintain anything close to our "standard of living", as none of the alternatives are as "nice" as carbon-based fuels. Unfortunately, given the way humans are prone to managing risk (e.g., poorly), we are exceedingly likely to realize this far too late, even if the political process were completely objective and unswayed by unlimited anonymous donations by the fossil fuel industry.

Anyway, my own personal recommendation in this election to vote for the guy who is less likely to set off a nuclear war and who is more likely to reform energy policy away from our addiction to cheap carbon-based energy. Neither real candidate is going to stop the murder of babies and Mittens isn't going to be more "liberal" about killing American citizens outside the boundaries of America.

Frankly, in a certain sense, I don't care about getting out of the current economic abyss, as reforming energy policy may require certain sacrifices, economic prosperity among them. However, you know, sometimes buying insurance is costly, but it's better to buy insurance than to clean up from a disaster. Rational risk mitigation, baby. It's something humans aren't good at.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A few more thoughts on languages

I'm by no means a person who knows anything about languages, language acquisition, language pedagogy, or linguistics. However, despite my profound ignorance of anything, I will note a few things here.

It is universally agreed that Rosetta Stone kind of sucks. It's like the CrossFit of language acquisition: it makes a lot of claims that just fall short of reality. Here's an interesting article - and there are others on the site - about some of its inadequacies.

Esperanto makes (or has made) some ludicrous claims as well, of course. I'm still idly learning on my (short) bus commute because, well, why not? But I have no illusions about it. Generally speaking, the typical method of teaching Esperanto is kind of an old-school pedagogy - go over the grammar pretty much "in order" and then work through stuff until you've mastered the language - but it isn't too terrible for Esperanto because there's relatively little "new" grammar if you're used to an Indo-European (emphasis on European) tongue. But there's a surprising amount of grammar and odd Indo-European stuff for a language that claims to be simple for everybody in the world - but I'll leave that discussion to actual linguists. See also:

So if you're wondering what to do instead of Rosetta Stone: Rosetta Stone might be good for helping to drill vocabulary or something. That's all. I've heard good things about Assimil. Pimsleur is good for what it is, but beware of thinking it teaches you all that much. All of this is quite useless without the opportunity to speak with real speakers of your target language. But, really, this is all baseless from me, I'm more of a dead languages guy and my French was always more of a reading ability than anything else (and why not, who would I talk to?).

Unless R or MATLAB count as languages, then I could talk about... something.

And another thing about the Volapuk wikipedia: one of the annoying things to me is that, if somebody were genuinely curious about Volapuk and were interested in reading some honest human-written article in Volapuk just to see what a Volapuk article would look like, it would be rather hard to find substantial Volapuk content (as opposed to machine-translated stuff).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Le Corbeau

We've been watching French films on Sunday afternoons and I suppose we're coincidentally on a Clouzot kick. Last week, we watched Pepe le Moko and this week we watched Le Corbeau. We liked one of the actors enough that I made it a point to plan on watching the other movie I have that he is in, Les Diaboliques. Coincidentally, this is also a Clouzot. But here is a great scene:
Vorzet: But where's the light? Where's the shadow? Where does evil start? Do you know which side you're on?
Germain: It's of small importance. But we must stop the light swinging.
(Germain reaches to halt the light bulb, but recoils with burnt fingers)
Vorzet: (laughs) You hurt yourself! That proves something. There . . . I like you, so let me confide something. I take drugs. I inject myself. (spoilers removed) But I don't take myself to be a monster! Think about that, and check your conscience. The results could surprise you.
Germain: I know myself.
Vorzet: You're proud. Since the winds of hate blew through this town all values have been more-or-less corrupted. You're stricken too. You'll fall like the rest. Oh I'm not saying you'll strangle your mistress, but you'd go through my bag if I wasn't here! ... One simply has the choice.
It makes more sense in context, of course. I highly recommend the film. It also brings up two important considerations: don't gossip, and don't "inform". But it's all much more complex than that, you know.

Better than Pepe le Moko in that the women weren't just tropes.