Consummate dilettantism!

Monday, March 30, 2009

"I Never Thought He Would Do Something Like That..."

You know how it works. Someone shoots up a school/classroom/office building for no apparent reason, and police interview people who knew the person. They usually give variations on "he was the sweetest guy; I never would have imagined he could do this". So it was a total shock to read this in an AP story about a man who murdered seven residents and a nurse at a nursing home today:
Griffin said Stewart had once been a painter. She said she had no idea whether her ex-husband was somehow connected to the nursing home or why he would shoot people there.

"He did have some violent tendencies from time to time," Griffin said. "I wouldn't put it past him. I hate to say it, but it is true."
You wouldn't put it past him to go into a place reserved for sick octogenarians and kill them all?! What kind of a man is this?!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Listening to this is like listening to this.

"Umm, so, and I think, such as, because, but, umm..."

It's kind of like a bloody car accident. You know it's terrible, but you just can't stop watching.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Pedagogical Purpose Of Text Memorization Finally Revealed!

In Chinese, we are given substantial passages of text to memorize each week. I always wondered what the purpose of this was. It seemed terribly silly, really; I did not understand how my Chinese could possibly improve by reading passages over and over again. Possibly, I thought, they were targeting pronunciation, and I still think that this is the primary purpose. But what a waste of time for just pronunciation, right? Well, I realized just now that there is another, much more important reason for them -- they give you prepared, rapidly usable phrases. Think about it: Generating sentences with grammatical structures you haven't used in a while is hard enough in English ("umm, umm, but, umm, like"), and so it's naturally even harder in a foreign language. Dialogues and narratives effectively serve contextualize words and grammar, such that if you're in a conversation and you need to use the word "progress," but forget how to say "progress very quickly," you're in luck; when you think of the word, your brain searches that memorized lexical database you've stored up and brings back phrases that contain the word. In other words, you don't have to think about how to say "progress very quickly," because you have a freeze-dried phrase that will do it for you.

Lexical Prolixity Is Asymptomatic Of Morphological Fusionality

Oh, hi. No, I don't have anything to say; I just thought that was a really smart-sounding title. (It's not a meaningless one, though. I doubt it's true -- in fact, even if the two are somehow correlated, the link is probably not causal. But I had better stop or risk exploring a question I posed without realizing it. Funny how that works.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Mensa? Pshaw.

Mensa? LOL. 1 person in 50 qualifies. That's easy pickings: There are six million people in this country alone who can join. But you still think you're smart, eh? Try qualifying for Mega Society membership, for which only being in the 99.9999th IQ percentile suffices. That's one in a million.

Take it with a grain of salt, especially when their fancy schmancy journal includes garbage like this. Also see this partial refutation. This too (third item down). Oh, and this (scroll down).

Sunday, March 1, 2009

My Moral Realism Is As Justifiable As Your Morally Skeptical Morals

Moral skeptics (those who question the existence of moral truth) have it easy. Obviously there's no such thing as morality; prove it exists, they argue. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:
Opponents often accuse moral skepticism of leading to immorality. However, skeptics about justified moral belief can act well and be nice people. They need not be any less motivated to be moral, nor need they have (or believe in) any less reason to be moral than non-skeptics have (or believe in). Moral skeptics can hold substantive moral beliefs just as strongly as non-skeptics. [...] All that moral skeptics deny is that their (or anyone's) moral beliefs are justified. This meta-ethical position about the epistemic status of moral beliefs need not trickle down and infect anyone's substantive moral beliefs or actions.
Moral skeptics must claim to be following moral principles that they cannot justify, or risk being unable to argue against torturing babies for sexual pleasure. But how can they follow unjustifiable moral principles? Is this not as absurd as being a moral realist, ostensibly an equally unjustifiable position? Occam's razor, my friend.

(I do believe that "morality" exists, but I just thought I'd take a little wind out of the skeptics' sails.)