Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dr. Trumpenstein's Monster

I am still trying to remain aloof and bemused by the election fun.  But now I have to speculate a bit: what would the situation be if someone could engineer a creature that feeds on cheap shots, insults, misrepresentations, libels, caricatures and drive-by sliming?  In other words, all of the tools of modern intellectual discourse - whether it be philosophy, theology, politics, economics, ethics or morality - are absorbed by the monster and serve as catalysts and energizers to invigorate and empower the creature to even more horrific acts of rhetorical desecration against all that is dear in the era of political correctness?  I am not suggesting that the creature is particularly rational, but it might grow uncontrollably and wreck havoc for a time before the Earthlings figure out a better remedy. But will they be able to change their behavior?

Someone may protest that this Trump creature isn't only offending against Political Correctness.  Instead he is in violation of the laws of God, Man, Civilization and Physics.  No doubt that is true.  It is also true that the peddlers of Political Correctness deliberately equated their notions with the laws of God, Man, Civilization and Physics.  Why should we expect a mere brute to maintain the distinctions, when it was the intellectual geniuses of our time who destroyed the distinctions?  God is just and He is certainly happy to let us suffer some of the consequences of our folly.

Time to kick back and watch The Fifth Element again.  Or maybe The Blob.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Guilt

I woke up with a stuffy nose in the middle of the night.  Clearly a cold was coming on, so I got up and sent a note to my swim partner telling him I wouldn't be able to make it to the lake this morning.  Yes, I missed a swim.  The bad part of this is that I don't yet know if my swimming partner got the email before he drove to the lake.

The last temperature reading was 53 degrees, which is getting nice and warm now.  I did 3,000 yards a week ago and felt fairly comfortable getting out.  Given the climate here, it seems like spring has already sprung, with flowers on the trees and leaves sprouting out of the bare winter trunks.  Last year I had a long illness which caused me to miss nearly all of January for swimming, but this year I stayed healthy until today.  Thus, I managed to swim at least once a week, usually twice, and rarely three times throughout January and February.  I was thinking that January would be the hardest, but in fact the temperature warmed shortly after New Year so that I was really feeling like this had become a pointless show.  It is much more difficult to walk across a frosty beach into the water and out again than when the air temperature is in the 50's or 60's.  So I will note this as the first year that I succeeded in swimming regularly throughout the winter.  It is God who grants me the health to do such things.  And my own disorder that causes me to pursue such a goal.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Memrise and Chinese

My Chinese studies began in 1979 as an add-on to my engineering studies.  This limited the amount of time that could be committed, but I had the advantage that after the first quarter I was the only student of Chinese in the University, which meant I had a private instructor for the next five quarters.  The class didn't do any written Chinese, but was instead all spoken using Pinyin, audio tapes and conversations with the instructor, who was a student from Taiwan.  This made for some good basic conversation.

After college I attempted to learn reading and writing on my own, which progressed for a time, but everything got stuck since there was not enough opportunity to use the language.  Then in the early 1990's, my direction changed towards Japan and the effort was left off.  I largely gave up hope that there would be any further progress.

But then along came Memrise with its vocabulary drill.  Suddenly there is hope again.  I learned that there are now 6 levels of Chinese for the Taiwan TOCFL language exam, and a similar number for the China HSK exam.  Memrise has word drill sets for each of the levels, which allowed me to find out something of where I stand.  The level 1 sets are a breeze to go through, provided I don't need to accurately regurgitate the spelling for the Pinyin.  For example, I confuse "dou" with "duo" and often mix up the 2nd and 3rd tone, but it seems Chinese have issues with these too.  The level 2 is going quickly.  Level 3 has much that is familiar, but maybe half isn't.  Level 4 is mostly unfamiliar.  Writing characters by hand is something that I don't want to attempt unless I am forced into retirement and get very bored.

One thing that is really useful is that there are both Traditional and Simplified character drills.  My self learning was originally all on Traditional characters, but I would like to be equally proficient at both.  That will take some extra work, although it seems that only about 20% of the characters are significantly different.  Besides the vocabulary drill, however, I need to add in some conversation and reading.  Hopefully most of the skills can be moved up to the level 5.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A thought about Justice Scalia

In case anyone was wondering about the meaning of my blog's name and the quote on the home page, I will add this quote from Justice Scalia as mentioned in Newsweek:

"God assumed from the beginning that the wise of the world would view Christians as fools ... and he has not been disappointed ...  If I have brought any message today, it is this:  Have the courage to have your wisdom regarded as stupidity.  Be fools for Christ.  And have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

I am told that he repeated this theme in his last public speech before dying.  He was definitely a kindred spirit.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Memrise review

I discovered the Memrise website recently and this has consumed a great deal of my attention.  It is another mostly free language memorization aide using spaced repetition.  I wish I had discovered this 50 years earlier.  My language interests span many languages, but the one that I have invested the most effort learning is Chinese.  The frustrating point for me was that I have been stuck at an intermediate stage for decades.  About one third of the needed traditional characters were committed to memory, but this isn't enough to read anything serious and then the mainland China simplified characters came along to clutter the picture.  My study materials were too archaic, so they have all been tossed out.  The ideal solution would be to quit my job and move to China for a year, but that is a non-starter once you have a family.

But then along came Memrise which has all the word memory lists that are stored in C-3PO for communication.  For Chinese, it looks like they have a few hundred word lists, but the main ones of interest are the lists needed for the TOCFL and HSK exams, which are roughly equivalents of the TOEFL, but for foreigners moving to Taiwan or China intending to work or go to school.  So now I am plowing through different traditional and simplified lists for these exams working my way back up from the beginning.  The program keeps track of how often I use it and is now reporting that I have been continuously drilling for 27 days.  There is still some lesser drilling going on with the Duolingo program which reports that I have been faithful for 92 days straight.

A nice thing about the lists is that they give an estimate of the number of hours of drill needed to complete each list, presumably based on the statistics developed from previous users.  Then there is the pickiness of the program as it zaps me for each wrong keystroke as I type out the pinyin with tones for each character.  For German, this works out to needing to type up to 50 or 60 keystrokes without making a mistake.  At this point I have a few hundred hours of Chinese drill ahead to get where I want to be.  This should keep me out of trouble for awhile.