October 21, 2010

QotD: Linguistic voids and what they say about that culture

Filed under: Liberty, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 16:45

I thought a bit more about how languages differ on how they assign words to concepts and how this affects the thought processes of people who think in those languages. For example, imagine if some language had only one word that meant both “buy” and “steal”, and you had to express the notion of free markets to them. Yet equally absurd examples abound in English that, despite its huge vocabulary, still uses one word “love” to express how newlyweds love each other, a parent loves a child, a Southerner loves good barbeque and a liberal loves Che Guevara, even though all four are utterly different things. Equally oddly, the verb “play” is used for poker, hopscotch, trumpet and Hamlet: maybe this somehow makes sense for native speakers, but in Finnish all four are different words. Another gap in English that I find ever stranger the more I think about it is how you have to say “extended family” since English does not have a separate word for this hugely important concept (at least I have never heard of it). Such gaps reveal a lot about the speakers who develop the language; for example, recall how the Chinese have one word “crisatunity” to mean both crisis and opportunity, Russians have no word for “freedom” and the French lack the word for an “entrepreneur”.

Ilkka, “A word for everything and everything in a word”, The Fourth Checkraise, 2010-10-21

Aha! I knew there had to be a way!

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:54

Tech Support
Click image to see the whole strip.

I still think they should call it the “milliVolt”

The much-less-than-promised Chevy Volt goes on sale next month. If it had been a private company delivering so few of their promises, lawsuits or regulatory sanctions would be forthcoming. Because it’s a product of Government Motors, we’re being told that the “Electric Edsel” is not fraud, it’s fantastic:

Government Motors’ all-electric car isn’t all-electric and doesn’t get near the touted hundreds of miles per gallon. Like “shovel-ready” jobs, maybe there’s no such thing as “plug-ready” cars either.

The Chevy Volt, hailed by the Obama administration as the electric savior of the auto industry and the planet, makes its debut in showrooms next month, but it’s already being rolled out for test drives by journalists. It appears we’re all being taken for a ride.

[. . .]

So it’s not an all-electric car, but rather a pricey $41,000 hybrid that requires a taxpayer-funded $7,500 subsidy to get car shoppers to look at it. But gee, even despite the false advertising about the powertrain, isn’t a car that gets 230 miles per gallon of gas worth it?

We heard GM’s then-CEO Fritz Henderson claim the Volt would get 230 miles per gallon in city conditions. Popular Mechanics found the Volt to get about 37.5 mpg in city driving, and Motor Trend reports: “Without any plugging in, (a weeklong trip to Grandma’s house) should return fuel economy in the high 30s to low 40s.”

Car and Driver reported that “getting on the nearest highway and commuting with the 80-mph flow of traffic — basically the worst-case scenario — yielded 26 miles; a fairly spirited backroad loop netted 31; and a carefully modulated cruise below 60 mph pushed the figure into the upper 30s.”

As I said in an earlier post:

I’m very much in favour of an economical electric car: the Volt doesn’t meet that definition. It’s been rushed to market for political, not for economic reasons. It’ll be kept in the market regardless of sales figures for the same reason: it allows Barack Obama and senate leaders to point at the Volt as tangible proof that they care about the environment and reducing American dependence on foreign oil.

Biodiversity the new “climate change”?

Filed under: Environment, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:50

James Delingpole points to the successor to global warming/climate change as the cause of the decade:

And so it begins. With all the shamelessness of a Goldman Sachser trading in his middle-aged wife for a hot, pouting twentysomething called Ivanka, the green movement is ditching “Climate Change”. The newer, younger, sexier model’s name? Biodiversity.

When I say shameless, I’m talking so amoral it makes the Whore of Babylon look like Mother Theresa; so flagrant it makes Al Gore’s, ahem, alleged drunken “Love poodle” assault on the Portland Masseuse look like an especially delicate passage from Andreas Capellanus’s The Art of Courtly Love.

[. . .]

Suddenly it becomes clear why they kept Pachauri on at the IPCC. Because the IPCC simply doesn’t matter any more. Sure it will go on, churning out Assessment Report after Assessment Report, bringing pots of money to the usual gang of bent scientists prepared to act as lead authors. But the world’s mainstream media — especially all those environment correspondents who so lovingly transcribe the press releases of Greenpeace and the WWF as if they were holy writ — will have moved on, according to the dictates of the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) fashionable crise du jour.

“Never mind ‘Climate Change’,” they’ll say to themselves. “Our readers and viewers aren’t really so into that now all the winters seem to have got so very cold. Biodiversity, that’s the thing.”

An excellent example of how not to teach

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Education, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:49

Cory Doctorow finds the worst example of teacher overreach (for this week, anyway):

Fundamentally, these teachers have prohibited doing any kind of outside work, having any productive discussion with your friends and family that might connect the history you’re learning with the world you’re living in. They have reduced education to absorbing and regurgitating a specific set of facts, divorcing it from any kind of critical thinking, synthesis, or intellectual rigor.

Parents have complained to the principal, who “will decide soon whether these rules are okay.”

I had a high school history teacher who marked me down for including additional information that wasn’t in the textbook (I read history for interest well before high school). I wonder if this is one of her relatives . . .

If I was a parent of one of these students, I’d be giving strong consideration to moving my kid to another school if the principal upholds this policy.

Bringing back the American Chestnut tree

Filed under: Environment, Science, USA, Woodworking — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:22

The once-common American Chestnut tree fell victim to a blight during the last century, almost wiping out the species. The American Chestnut Foundation is hopeful of a revival:

By interbreeding the American with its Chinese cousin, tree lovers have created an American chestnut with some resistance to Asian blight and have developed a virus that can be injected into affected trees to combat the fungus. It’s a project that shows every sign of promise — with about 25,000 of the new chestnuts planted under the guidance of trained scientists and chestnut devotees.

If the hybrid plantings thrive, some envision huge tracts of strip-mined Appalachia one day being restored with lovely chestnut forests.

“We know we’re interbreeding resistance. Now we have to figure out, does it have enough resistance?” said Bryan Burhans, president of the American Chestnut Foundation, which has led the revival efforts.

He said it will take 75 to 100 years to know whether the tree can be reestablished as a mainstay of Eastern forests. But he said he’s “very optimistic” about the American chestnut’s future.

[. . .]

A fast-growing, hardy tree that thrives on rocky and acidic soil, the American chestnut served as an economic engine for Appalachia. Families fattened livestock with its nuts and used its wood for fuel, railroad ties, fence posts, musical instruments and furniture. It was a fixture along East Coast and Appalachian streets and highways, where its display of fingery white flowers was a springtime delight.

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