31 December 2009

The Workshops of Languages

Here is a strange little map showing the world with relative size based on how many languages the area has produced. Notice how big Papua New Guinea is: it has 800 languages, one spoken by 5 people. Presumably baring any deaths or births since the survey was made.

Learn all about its source, the Limits of Language here. And, from the Amazon readers' comments page, what author would not kill for a review like this:
I've never smoked crack, but reading this book approximates what I imagine it would feel like -- an initial rush of pure pleasure, followed by the irresistible craving for just one more bump, yielding to that craving over and over until - six hours later - you find yourself surrounded by cats not fed, laundry not done, unwashed dishes, unpaid bills, and yet you still can't stop yourself. You want more.

Actually, I WOULD kill for a review like that.


Esperanto and Zamenhof: Happy Birthday

Who, you may say. L. L. Zamenhof, aka Dr Esperanto, the man who invented the world's most successful artificial language. Well, maybe after Elvish and Klingon. His 150th birthday was 15 December. There is an excellent article about him and his language movement, which was for him much more than a language movement, here, by Esther Schor.

To Esperantists, the man who created the language-movement is a household god, a patron saint. As for non-Esperantists who are aware of Zamenhof, he’s too unthreatening nowadays to be derided as a quixotic dreamer. Most regard him with mild condescension as a MittelEuropean, Jewish Geppetto, hammering together his little toy language in the hope that it might someday become real.

But inside this Geppetto was not only the dream of a new language, but also of something far stranger and unimagined: a new people altogether, and neither the Jews nor the Esperantists were the people he envisioned. Project by project, credo by credo, member by member, he tried to build a new people, a Geppetto with the audacity of Frankenstein.

Esperanto, here, here, and, of course, here.

By the way, he was born in Bialystock, Poland.

Think Max Bialystock.


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22 December 2009

Iranian math

According to a pro-regime newspaper, "a maximum of 5,000" mourners showed up for Ayatollah Montazeri's funeral.

This is what 5,000 people look like.

Montazeri was a brave, devout, Muslim, and as far as I can tell, a decent human being. Dead, he may overcome yet.

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21 December 2009

What does English sound like?

[from a link on Andrew Sullivan, this is dedicated to Jack, for what I think are obvious reasons]

Ever wonder what English must sound like to non-English speakers? Like, say, Italians?

now, about that choreography

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19 December 2009

Santa Meets Bollywood

And emerges .... well, a bit odd. Scary in fact.

but I thought I should have a holiday themed post. Feliz navidad, you all.

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18 December 2009

A memory of Minnesota

Years ago, I used to take great delight in watching self-important University of Minnesota administrators and professors trek across the river to St Paul to appear before legislative hearings to set them straight. The politicos, not giving a tinker's damn for their self importance, their titles, or anything else in regards to the academics, usually handed them their heads.

And they would slink back across the river to the hallowed halls of academe muttering about how stupid the people of Minnesota were to elect such dunderheads.

I thought of this today when I read an article about Sen. James Inhoffe (R-OK) and his trip to Copenhagen. It did not go well.

Inhofe scheduled a brief visit to Copenhagen -- arrive, spread nonsense, fly back -- but his stay was poorly timed. When the right-wing Oklahoman got there, it was early morning, and no one was around. He was able to arrange zero meetings, met no foreign officials, and had no discussions with U.S. negotiators.

Eventually, Inhofe aides were able to corral some journalists into attending a hastily-arranged media availability, where the strange senator proceeded to share his belief that the United Nations came up with global warming as an elaborate hoax, and only the "Hollywood elite" believe the scientific evidence.

A reporter from Der Spiegel told the senator, "You're ridiculous."

Soon after, Inhofe dashed back to the airport for the nine-hour flight back to D.C., having accomplished nothing.

Oh well. Back to the US, muttering all the way.

I wonder who paid for the trip?


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Saab Story

Saab, formerly known as Svenska Aeroplan AB, is no more.

sorry about the pun



Personal note

Today I finished my work for the semester.

And it promptly started snowing at about 10:30 am. Still going strong. 10 inches at least. The dawg loves it. He's a lunatic.

But now maybe I'll have some time to catch up on posting, etc.

Meanwhile Carmen has wrapped herself in layers of blankets and says I can wake her up when we leave for that steaming, humid swamp-hole to the south.

no accounting for taste

16 December 2009

Stimulating the Grassroots.

Or perhaps the proper gerund is titillating. All in a good cause, I am sure.

wonder what the social conservatives think of this?


14 December 2009

Keanu Reeves and Clovis

Young Clovis came into my office today, mainly to harass me, keep me from grading, and to steal my umbrella. He also decided to show me this.

I am beginning to suspect that Clovis works for Mora, sprite of procrastination.

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13 December 2009

What Carmen finds funny

She started telling me about this as the dinner table. Well, it is food oriented. In fact it seems to be a commercial for Raisin Brand. Anyway - it is funny.

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No Comment

11 December 2009

Just becuz


Surprising sex scandal!

The surprise is: it doesn't involve a Republican nor a Conservative Christian. This time it is a dyed in the wool Demo.

Max Baucus.

Only my innate sense of fairness causes me to bring this to your attention.

that and the fact that I think that Congress is a criminal conspiracy by America's only native criminal class (as someone whose name I forget once said)

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Republicans, sane and otherwise

Steven Perstein has a good column in today's Washington Post about two Repubs, Mitch McConnell of the US Senate and Mitch Daniels, gov. of Indiana.

Mitch no. 1
The bad Mitch, as most Americans know by now, is the charmless and shameless hypocrite who offers up a steady stream of stale ideology and snarky talking points but almost never a constructive idea. McConnell has decided that the only way for Republicans to win is for President Obama to lose, and he will use lies, threats and all manner of parliamentary subterfuge to obstruct the president's programs.

And Mich no. 2:
The good Mitch, by contrast, is a principled but practical conservative who respects the intelligence of voters and would rather get something done than score political points. Daniels is a genuine fiscal conservative who took a $600 million state budget deficit and turned it into a $1 billion surplus but managed to do so without cutting spending for education and even increased funding for child welfare services. He pushed hard to lower property taxes but didn't hesitate to propose temporary hikes in income and sales taxes to keep the state in the black. He privatized the state's toll road and then used the $4 billion proceeds to launch a major public works investment program.

Summing up:
In a prescient speech earlier this year in Washington, the governor of Indiana told a group of fellow conservatives that they could not regain the trust of the American people unless they accepted gracefully their new role as the loyal opposition and learned to root for the success of the country and its political institutions. The question now facing Republicans is whether they are willing to follow Indiana Mitch and become a vital and active part of the solution, or continue to follow Washington Mitch off the political cliff.

Read the whole piece. It is going to be a long slow slog for the 'good' Mitches of the party to recapture their own party. But, it could happen. And there is always David Frum, former pompous twit and now voice of reason.

change we can believe in.


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10 December 2009

The other conservatives

James DeMint's take on what the Republican Party must do, from The Washington Monthly.

Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Wednesday called out the leadership of the Republican Party for straying too far from conservative principles.

DeMint, in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, also said that he is trying to recruit a new crop of GOP lawmakers to challenge the party establishment.

"The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left," he said. "I need some new Republicans."

yes, I think we could all use some new Republicans.

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Sane conservatives!, take four

They're out there I tell you! One of them has finally figured out the consequences of being the party of NO.

David Frum, of all people.

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09 December 2009

Another thing about education

It can involve a lot of work on the part of the educators.

Especially at the end of the semester.

Which is why posts have been a little thin lately. But I can see light at the end of the tunnel.

especially when one has cats and dogs that must be tended to.

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The value of an education

This just in from the Washington Monthly.

* Oh my: "A report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities indicates that the U.S. is one of only two nations on Earth in which people aged 25 to 34 have lower educational attainment than their parents."

Meanwhile, just about every state is raising tuition much faster than the rate of inflation.

although that doesn't explain the size of my last pay raise.

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