30 December 2016

A Little Comparative Linguistics

All words and word elements between // are rendered in IPA, or at least as close to it as my keyboard sets will allow.  * denotes a word I cannot easily pronounce.

English gloss Japanese Korean Hungarian Finnish
"water"[0] /mizu/ * /vi:z/ /ves/
"language, speech" /go/[1] /jo/[1] /njelv/ /'kieli/
"sun, day" /ni:/[2] /i:/ /na:p/ /'paiva/
"God, heaven" /tengoku/[3] /tʃəngʊk/[3] /'iʃten/ /'taivaʃ/
"tree" /ki/ /namu/ /fa/ /pu:/

[0] Compare with Ojibwe /mɪʃigama:/ "large water, large lake."
[1] Both may be derived from Chinese /ju/ , "language."
[2] Not the usual word for "sun" or "day" but the first part of /niho:n/, what Japanese speakers call Japan.
[3] Both are probably derived from Chinese /tjen gwo/, "heavenly realm."

27 December 2016

...Now there is the great paradox that these electors want low prices, but reject the dependence on imports from lower-wage economies overseas, or from the employment of new immigrants. It is similar to deploring the disappearance of the corner shop, but steadfastly shopping at the supermarket. The “right”, whether Ukip or even much of the Conservative party, can mouth slogans, but their world is a chimera and their appeal is fraudulent. The past, as this swathe of good, solid citizens remembers it, has gone and cannot return in the same form. What is needed is a commitment to long-term support for different but worthwhile jobs, for domestic policies that provide the basis for rebuilding local communities, and for an emphasis on human values that do not depend on high earning.
It is not easy to combat selfishness – particularly when a few earn shamefully high salaries while average wages decline in real terms – but there is no stability nor worthwhile future if we do not succeed.
Michael Meadowcroft

22 December 2016

21 December 2016

Nothing like some SNES nostalgia on a grey winter solstice day. 
(Thanks to Rebecca Skinner)
[in Kohlingen] 
Celes:     Setzer!
Setzer:    You're alive!?
Celes:     Come along with us! We're after Kefka!
Setzer:    Phew... I don't know if I have it in me anymore...
Celes:     What are you saying!?
Setzer:    I'm just a gambler... I just want to be left alone... This world is 
           too chaotic for me. What's worse, I've lost my wings...
Celes:     But before the world collapsed, you fought with all your heart! You 
           were absolutely fearless...
Setzer:    That was then... We can never have that world back!
Celes:     You want to live in this world as it is? No? Then do something 
           about it!
Setzer:    Mwa ha! All right... you win! I'm starting to feel lucky!!
Setzer:    Thanks... I needed that. Now, let's go visit Daryl's Tomb.
Setzer:    ...... We're gonna get us another one... Airship, that is...!

20 December 2016

This essay by Dan Luu on what "hiring the best" means gave me much food for thought, not least because my beloved Cubs triumphed this year over a team headed by a very successful* manager with a weakness for chewing tobacco.

*It is also, dare I suggest, possible to credit players such as Jon Lester (Red Sox 2007, Cubs 2016) for the championships Francona has nabbed. 

17 December 2016

"I also know that we have come, as they say in my church, a mighty long way ... ordinary people just like you here today:  they were the ones who made the progress that we celebrate.  They were the ones who gave us the examples in the cases that we make."
--Attorney General Lynch
"The subjugation of eastern Aleppo by Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has shown the effectiveness of violence and the reluctance of other countries to step in."

How I would put it:  it has shown the political effectiveness of having a beautiful British-born wife  to sanitize your genocidal policies and the rank incompetence of proxy "moderate rebel" military forces -- who are only distinguishable from Islamic State militias by the fact that certain foreign policy poobahs, through moral telepathy, have pronounced them good.

15 December 2016

We should use moments like this, and technological moments like this, because basically it's not about technology and the software, it's about us the people, and we gotta include everybody, and if technology can help us get more folks on the table, well then let's do it: y'all all right with that?

--Keith Ellison, last night

14 December 2016

This is a rendition (I won't call it a translation, because my German is so poor and I'm cramming it with imaginative guesswork) of a poem by Stefan George.  It comes from his book Algabal , and is found in the chapter "In the Underworld."

You're prowling upon strong walls
Not knowing what's under your feet
The owner left his private beach unlocked
As owners do when they go out to blend in.

Houses and castles as he advertises them
And under the tires' rubber much swearing
The hill exists without his commentary...

Some are blinking in eternal winter,
Every hundred-colored arch to see;
Boys with jewels be trippin'
And gleamin' in front of your patient eyes.

Streams that come out from high up
Have granite and robins to sing to them;
When they've rolled down below
Their colors change.  Now they're fickle
Like the rose-petal.

When you see deep green in the harbor
There be dragons.

The creature, he transforms;
frequent return to newness satisfies.
Out of his self and his will
There is a place where light and weather play.

10 December 2016

Our President, who clearly has some reverence for Martin Luther King, is once again sounding awfully similar to those moderate leaders that King did not hesitate to rebuke when he was in the Birmingham jail.

"There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience."

I have no better words in response to President Obama.  Sir, you talk of being patient with the 'slowness of democracy,' as if the outcome of November's election was at all democratic.  Undoubtedly you would argue that we need to preserve the federal constitution in all particulars, including the Electoral College.  Yet it is facetious to say that our constitution is now perfect, or has been since the last amendment in 1992.

The Electoral College is not suitable for our time.  (This is a widely held opinion among Americans, as you must know.)  You have had a bully pulpit for the last eight years to speak about constitutional reform.  If you are truly worried about the stability of the American system, and also willing to hear a broad range of ideas for changing it, why not call for a constitutional convention? 

I am not pleased that you're turning to the tired rhetoric of aristocratic conservatives such as the Duke of Wellington, who thought institutions were more important than people and resisted the rising tide of democratization in their societies because they saw only howling anarchy and some unspeakable specter of "complete revolution" behind it all.

08 December 2016

Orc-people always turn against each other eventually, and this process is only accelerated when they think they have "won."

Call me clairvoyant, but I think I know exactly how this altercation started. 

'I'm not going down those stairs again,' growled Snaga, 'be you captain or no.  Nar!  Keep your hands off your knife, or I'll put an arrow in your guts.  You won't be a captain long when They hear about all these goings-on.  I've fought for the Tower against those stinking Morgul-rats, but a nice mess you two precious captains have made of things, fighting over the swag.'  'That's enough from you,' snarled Shagrat.  'I had my orders:  It was Gorbag started it, trying to pinch that pretty shirt.'  'Well, you put his back up, being so high and mighty.  And he had more sense than you anyway.  He told you more than once that the most dangerous of these spies was still loose, and you wouldn't listen...'
--Tolkien, Return of the King, chapter 11

03 December 2016

A terrible lot of bad advice is floating around on the Internets about how to cope with the new regime in Washington.  Some of it, we must regret to say, is coming from foreigners who will never have to drive the privatized toll road from Mar-a-Lago to Indianapolis.  Other people have been more constructive, calling for increased donations to charities -- yet there are many of us who do not have hundreds of dollars to spend on such purposes, and not all charities are created equal (you may wish to think twice about the veterans' charities mentioned in this article*).

It can't be retweeted enough:  Audre Lorde had some good advice.  Take care of yourself, because self-care is an act of political warfare

* Edit:  I am talking about the Wounded Warrior Project, which is a multi-level marketing scheme not unlike Herbalife, and Veterans for a Strong America.

02 December 2016

Pensées sur la décision du Président Hollande (en mon français élementaire)

1. La France vit avec les memes problèmes que les Etats-Unis: c'est certain

2.  J'applaudis la décision d'Hollande; il faut du courage pour admettre qu'on n'est pas populaire

3.  La tradition socialiste continuera indépendamment de qui porte l'étendard du parti

4.  Ceçi n'est pas une victoire pour Marine Le Pen; le moins d'éminences grises qui l'opposent, le meilleur