Thursday, March 23, 2017

Found Math Notes

I spent part of Spring Break sorting through boxes of garbage, which means I found these notes I made when I asked myself: what proportions would a paper need to have so that, when folded in half and turned 90 degrees, the proportions remained the same?

The answer is: one-over-the-square-root-of-two to one.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Another Blog Post About Word Pronunciation

Some of you might be aware that I notice words that change pronunciation when they change parts of speech. Blog posts I've written about this can be found here, here, and here.

Well, I found a piece of paper I used to remember some of them, and it has three more I've never blogged about.

PROGRESS: The progress will progress until it stops. The noun has the stress on the first syllable, while the verb has it on the second syllable. Also, some people pronounce the first syllable of the noun with a different vowel noise, more of an "aw."

SUSPECT: I suspect the suspect will be caught. Again, the noun has the stress on the first syllable and the verb doesn't.

ADVOCATE: The advocate will advocate on your behalf. The stress is the same, but the noun has almost a short-I vowel in the final syllable, while the verb has the long-A noise the spelling would indicate.

And along the same lines as "advocate" is SYNDICATE. The syndicate will syndicate the TV episodes.

Finally, I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but now that I'm in my 12th year blogging, I think I have earned the right to repeat myself: there are two word pairs where the change of a letter changes the pronunciation of a different letter. They are: prophesy/prophecy and Nigerian/Nigerien. (A quick search of my blog reveals this is the FOURTH time I've written about prophesy/prophecy, but only the FIRST time I've written about Nigerian/Nigerien.)

Found Quotation While Cleaning

The fact that the ship is sinking is no reason for allowing her to be a floating hell while she still floats.

Well-brought-up people have always regarded the tumbril and the scaffold as places for one's best clothes and best manners.

C.S. Lewis, "De Futilitate," Christian Reflections.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Reading Movie Title Cards

This morning, while reading Wodehouse's Meet Mr. Mulliner, I came across this, said by a movie talent scout to one of Mr. Mulliner's nephews:

I want you, and I'm going to get you. And if you think you're going to prevent me, you're trying to stop Niagara with a tennis racket. Boy, you're great! When you register, you register. Your face is as chatty as a board of directors. Say, listen. You know the great thing we folks in the motion-picture industry have got to contend with? The curse of the motion-picture industry is that in every audience there are from six to seven young women with adenoids who will insist on reading out the titles as they are flashed on the screen, filling the rest of the customers with harsh thoughts and dreams of murder. What we're trying to collect is stars that can register so well that titles won't be needed. And, boy, you're the king of them. [pp. 111-2]
This reminded me of when I went to see Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace at Carriage Square Theaters in Orem, Utah.

Carriage Square was one of those second-run theaters with severe maintenance issues. A friend of mine said, "I have never been to a movie at Carriage Square that didn't involve at least one delay." When I saw The Sixth Sense there, the projector broke while Cole is peeing, before the ghost walks past in the hallway. The house lights came up while they worked on the projector. The movie restarted with no warning, house lights still up, just as the ghost enters stage right. It was the least-startling screening of The Sixth Sense ever experienced.

Anyway, when I went to see The Menace of Jar-Jar Binks, the place was packed with poor college students who had probably all seen the film at least once before, but who were eager to see it again at a discounted price. Along with them was one woman there with her pre-K children. When the Star Wars screen crawl began, she leaned across her children and began reading it to them. She wasn't trying to be loud, but she had more than one kid and she had to be heard over top of the film score. For at least one college kid in the audience, it was too much to take. He turned to her and said clearly and loudly, "Shut the hell up!"

To her credit, the woman did not sound like she had adenoids.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Complacency of Lulz Culture

Three years ago I read this article from The Economist which showed the human achievements society has foregone because we were busy watching the music video for "Gangnam Style." Now, one could argue that the rejuvenation we experience after a good "Gangnam Style" refresher makes us more likely to, say, build this millennium's equivalent of the Pyramids, but I doubt that's the way things are going right now. At the end of the week we're no further done with anything major but "Gangnam Style" has a few million more views.

Today a friend of mine re-tweeted this video. It takes 30 seconds to make this point: a set of shoe squeaks in this weekend's Michigan State/Kansas basketball games resembles a segment of the hook in Cypress Hill's song "Insane in the Membrane." The video is even tagged with the label "This Is So Stupid."

What becomes society's set of possible achievements when high school students perfect the flipping of water bottles?

NB: When I first published this, I wrote that the song was House of Pain's "Jump Around." And then I immediately realized I was wrong because my brain was singing the rest of "Insane in the Membrane."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Church Comic

Last week a guy at church told a story about his sister having abdominal surgery, and for some reason the surgeons were unable to sew her back up. It sounded like the sister had permanent access to her internal organs. I'm not sure. Anyway, because I could tell my kids were super grossed out by this story, I drew this comic for them.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Striver or Just Really Poor?

Economist Tyler Cowen has a new book, The Complacent Class. I haven't read it. What I understand from blog posts is that it's about Americans' loss of motivation for improvement.

To help spread exposure to the book, there's a quiz to determine how complacent you are. At the end, you get sorted into one of four categories: trailblazer, striver, comfortable, or complacent. I took the quiz, and it said I was a striver.

Here's the thing, though: many of the answers that make me seem like a striver are really just results of my failures. For instance, the reason I have lived in over five states is because I'm constantly earning subsistence wages. The reason I have visited five foreign countries is because I couldn't support my family in America and we had to go work in China. My "striver" badge is really just a poverty badge.

Maybe that's the real reason for the rise of a complacent class. As Pat Buchanan once said [paraphrasing from memory], "There's something fundamentally wrong with this country that wasn't wrong when we were a much poorer country."

Wives, Nannies, and Perceptions of Racism

Most people are now aware of the BBC interview of political science professor Robert Kelly that was crashed by his children. A woman speeds in the room and pulls the children away. Early commenters guessed at the woman's identity. Some guessed (correctly) wife, and some guessed (incorrectly) nanny. And, of course, what with the civility that pervades the Internet, each side was calm and reasonable about the other side's guess. LOL, j/k, it because a major point of argument.

Is there an argument for guessing the woman is a nanny without necessarily being a racist? Let me point some things out:

  • Prof. Kelly very much appears to be Caucasian in the video.
  • Most children of Caucasians are Caucasian.
  • The video quality being sub-optimal, and his children's race therefore not being obvious, there is room to assume that his children are Caucasian.
  • The video quality being sub-optimal, and the woman only being in the background and trying to be as unobtrusive as possible (and only for eight seconds), I would argue her race is also not obvious. Ladies with dark hair exist in every racial group. I think the assumption that she is Asian (here a correct assumption) is influenced by Prof. Kelly's declared location: Busan, South Korea. If this interview had been happening from, say, Lansing, Michigan, I think an assumption that the woman is Asian is less-supported guess.
Okay, so now we have an (assumed to be) white guy in Korea with (assumed to be) white kids and an (assumed to be) Asian woman who is a caregiver. With this information, we are guessing as to the relationship between the guy and the woman. Is it racist to guess that the woman is a nanny?

I say no, and here's why. How many white guys with kids, in Korea, are married to Korean women? How many white guys with kids, in Korea, have Korean nannies? While obviously both groups have a lot of guys in them, I think the second group is larger. Some white guys are married to Korean women, sure, but some are married to white women. However, I would bet that the number of white guys in Korea with a non-Korean nanny is practically zero, since nannies are more-likely to come from the local population. So whether or not the woman is statistically more likely to be a nanny or a wife depends on likelihood that a white guy with kids, in Korea, has a nanny at all. I see the assumption that the woman is a nanny as based on the assumption that he has a nanny. When I lived in China, I knew white guys with Chinese wives and white guys with white wives, but provided the family had a nanny, it was always a Chinese nanny.

Notice how many assumptions this is all based on. There's a reason they say assuming makes an ass of "u" and ming. But I don't see a racist reason behind the wrong assumption. It would be just as presumptuous to assume she was his wife. "What, only a wife can be in the same house?! Maybe she's a sister, or a friend, or who knows what?! Jeez!" The point is, we all presume lots of stuff, all day long, because information gathering is not costless. Assumptions are only racist if they are made on race-based assumptions. Assuming she's a nanny because, say, white guys aren't attracted to Asian women, or Asian women are less-desirable to have as wives, or whites and Asians shouldn't marry--then THAT would be a racist assumption. But assuming she's a nanny because we're assuming there's a higher probability that a white guy in Korea has an Asian nanny than that he has an Asian wife might be WRONG (I don't know statistics for these groups), and it was wrong in this case even if it does have a higher probability, but it's not a racist assumption.

Personally, what did I assume? When I showed this video to my wife that morning, I said, "A woman comes in the room." My wife said, "Is it his wife?" I said, "I don't know. It could be his wife or a nanny." And for me, the data I needed before I assumed one way or the other, was their ages. If they were of relatively similar ages, I would assume wife, and if they were of quite-distinct ages, I would assume nanny.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Feminism and the Other "F" Word

There are two meanings to the "f" word: one is discussing sexual intercourse, and the other conveys contempt for a person or a thing. The first meaning is given when you tell someone, "I want to f--- you," and the second meaning is given when you tell someone, "F--- you."

Why are we to understand that a word for sex expresses contempt? You're supposed to have affection for your sexual partners, not contempt. There's an element of self-loathing involved in it, basically saying, "If you would take me as a sexual partner you must not be worthy of my esteem."

Why don't we refute the idea that one should have contempt for one's sexual partners? And that would begin by no longer using the "f" word in the second sense. This would seem especially true from a feminist perspective. Feminists who use the "f" word in the second sense are inconsistent, on the one hand supporting female equality but on the other hand continuing the notion of having contempt for the things that we f---.

("But, A Random Stranger, the verb 'to f---' implies no gender!" I disagree; there's a reason that the Blink-182 song "Dammit" includes the line "did you hear he f---ed her" instead of the line "she f---ed him." Most people instinctively feel that the guy is doing the verb.)

Instead of implying that someone having sex with them is the ultimate worst thing that can happen to someone we hate, let's move on to other expressions of contempt that don't have anything to do with sex. My personal favorite is "die in a fire." Very little ambiguity there.

Really FINISHED Finished States

I keep track of the counties I visit. Currently, I've been to 1,774 of America's 3,132 counties (and county-equivalents). I am finished with 15 states. Today I spent some time thinking about which of those states you could say I'm "most" done with.

Map courtesy of the awesome county-gathering website www.mob-rule.com/counties

STATES COMPLETED (15): Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia.

STATES COMPLETED & I'VE VISITED EVERY NEIGHBORING STATE (14): Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia. [Not Nevada, because I have not yet visited Oregon.]

STATES COMPLETED & I'VE VISITED EVERY NEIGHBORING COUNTY (eight): Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia. [Not Kansas, because I'm missing five neighboring counties in Nebraska. Not Kentucky, because I'm missing two neighboring counties in Tennessee. Not Missouri, because I'm missing four neighboring counties in Arkansas and one neighboring county in Oklahoma. Not New Jersey, because I'm missing one neighboring county in New York and one neighboring county in Pennsylvania. Not New Mexico, because I'm missing one neighboring county in Texas. Not Virginia, because I'm missing three neighboring counties in North Carolina.]

STATES COMPLETED & I'VE COMPLETED EVERY NEIGHBORING STATE (zero). [Not Arizona, because I've not completed California. Not Colorado, because I've not completed Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Not Delaware, because I've not completed Pennsylvania. Not Indiana, because I've not completed Illinois and Michigan. Not Maryland, because I've not completed Pennsylvania. Not Ohio, because I've not completed Michigan and Pennsylvania. Not Utah, because I've not completed Idaho and Wyoming. Not West Virginia, because I've not completed Pennsylvania.]

Perhaps of added consideration is which states I've visited not just every county, but also the capitol, the high point, and any Mormon temple. Those are Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. As soon as I complete Pennsylvania, three of them will be completely finished, meaning there's nothing left for me to do in those states or in a surrounding state.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We Used to Just Call This the Howell Freeway

I was reminded of my post about hyper-detailed highway signs when I read this section of the Wikipedia article about Interstate 580 in Nevada.

There was a time we would have just called it King Freeway and Howell Freeway. Time's arrow is hinted at with the way the older naming includes Dr. King's full name but none of his titles ("the reverend doctor"), while the newer naming includes not just Officer Howell's titles ("deputy sheriff"), but also the jurisdiction that employed him.

And don't be a jerk who tries to turn this into "A Random Stranger thinks Officer Howell shouldn't have a freeway named after him!" That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying there's a loss of public safety when we decide to post eight-word freeway signs where two-word signs would do, and if we still go around using eight-word signs, we must feel we're getting something else that compensates for the increased danger. I believe that "something else" is anthrotheism.

Songs That Refer to Their Song Properties

I've written before about noticing songs that mention other songs. I also notice songs that refer to properties of the songs themselves. For instance, dot dot dot:

  • "When You Were Young," by The Killers. When singing the line "I know we can make it if we take it slow," Brandon Flowers slows down for the last three words.
  • "Sweet Transvestite," from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. When singing the line "I see you shiver with anticipation," Tim Curry stops for a bit in the middle of the word "anticipation."
  • "Thunder Road," by Bruce Springsteen. First, when singing the line "I've got this guitar and I've learned how to make it talk," this is immediately followed by a short guitar riff. Second, when singing the very next line, "My car's out back if you're ready to take that long walk," the word "long" is held for a long time.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Great Moments from the Comments Section

Yesterday I read two articles that were good enough that I found myself reading the comments, which is something I almost never do. The first was Charles Murray's assessment of his experience two weeks ago at Middlebury College. In the comment section was this exchange.

That's gold, Jerry. GOLD!

Following the principle that it never rains but it pours, within 24 hours I also read this priceless exchange in the comments section of an article about Israeli-American footballer Kenny Saief's international football career.

This also made me laugh out loud, or "LOL," as some kids are starting to say these days.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Qutting: Good or Bad?

Yesterday I mentioned that I applied Fundamental Truth of Life #4 ("If something is stressing you out, stop doing it") to my Chinese class. But my quitting Chinese could also be related to my winding down all my interpersonal relationships. Which is it?

Probably both. But, if things go for us how I'd like this summer, I have plans to start attending Chinese class again this fall. And to anyone who might care whether or not I have interpersonal connections, that would probably seem like a good thing.