4 Sep 2013

30 minute workout first thing at 6:00 AM: warmup (100 motions), 250 lowrise steps, walk and 150 very-low-impact dance movements (the old soft shoe) which are getting aerobic but without impact, (note to self, increase the count and recharge the iPod for further advances on the dancing front), 50 supine weight movements. Will probably do 20 minutes physio later today, so that’s two workouts and a total of 50 minutes (five mile equivalent by my old metric in which 10 minutes of most exercises = one mile of running).

A Note on Stupid Errors!

On Facebook, WordPress, and other facilities I am very careful about proofreading for two reasons.

One is that the sheer volume of my postings mathematically increases the probability of stupid, foolish errors in spelling, grammar and even logic. These errors as made by an unknown person like me cause my credibility to drop to a negative range. Computers only seem to make many errors; the rate is low but perceived to be high because computers execute so many operations (for example, in a modern spreadsheet such as used by Harvard researchers to call for austerity in the infamous Rogoff/Reinhardt brouhaha).


Example: I wrote “One is that the sheer volume of my postings mathematically increase” which only sounds right. Logically and syntactically it’s very wrong: do you know why?

It’s an example of thinking that the closest noun to the left of the verb controls the “number” of the verb, and that because the closest noun is “postings” I must use “increase”.

But in fact the controlling noun is “volume” which is not in the scope of the preposition “of” as is “postings”, and “volume” is singular!

Explaining grammar is so much fun and I miss teaching ESL. I could do so on Skype or in my jammies from my Grantham hospital bed. I could be “bound in a nutshell, and count myself king of infinite space”.

But I miss work per se. I love watching the nurses do things right, and I love helping the sweepers sweep up the crap from under my bed. I miss The Great Chinese Fire Drill in which we all hustle to get to work on time and work hard once we get there.

These digressions are pretty obvious as italicized interjections but I also miss the ability one has in Word: to create light grey sidebars with marginalia, for marginalia usually contain your best work, such as “I have discovered a marvelous proof that for n>2, there’s no solution to x**n+y**n = z**n”. This ability may exist in WordPress and I will research WordPress to see if that is so.

One woman complained about my “frequent” spelling errors. She’d found one or two. They stick out, I believe, because of their rarity, as Homeric Nods. At the same time, despite having taught “its” versus “it’s” (neuter possessive versus a contraction of subject and the head of its predicate) I can make, in the heat of writing, that very confusion. When other strangers on the Internet make that error I think of them as rubes, Yahoos, and worse, for I have some really choice things to say when I get in a rage about the general degringolade. When I make it, it’s a case of “even good Homer nods”. Yeah, right.

The problem is, as I learned when I had the services of one of the most notable authors of computer books internationally (Dan Appleman) and subsequently of a less well known but brilliant man at Fawcette Technical Publications, nothing replaces a separate set of eyeballs connected to a giant brain and good heart. Dan is the reason why I had few errata in my computer book and the Fawcette guy helped me with a number of articles when I was living at the YMCA and desperate for cash, mostly to buy donuts and coffee and Bennison’s and Italian Beef at Gigio’s to be sure. I was willing to work all night to get away from Korean noodles in a styrofoam cup, fueled only by the remnants of that morning’s coffee, nursed until four AM.

Well, “name” celebrity bloggers like Paul Krugman (Princeton prof, courageous Keynesian) and Stanley Fish (slowly reforming neo-con, retired English professor, writer on language aspects of the law) have nameless editors such that, when unknown people with good qualifications (formerly tenured professors et al.) make stupid errors in the Comments zone, it makes them look bad…whereas Fish and Krugman (outside of Krugman’s personal blog as far as I can tell) sail on, looking good, lookin’ “fly”, because one doesn’t find stupid spelling, grammar and logic errors (“I have read Socrates’ and Homer’s writings” eewwwww you pompous SOB) in Fish or Krugman at all…their interns eradicate any similar howlers from Fish and Krugman’s own posts. People who recently went to college retain more, such as the use of the apostrophe in the neuter personal pronoun and who was Socrates, dammit. People including college professors retired or not forget what they learned in school. So an intern is nice to have as a proof-reader.

“Fly” – outdated African-American slang as in “you look so FLY in that suit” to mean you look good, eg., like SuperFly or John Shaft. Canya dig it. Not really because it’s really OLD slang.

I will find stupid errors months, even years after posting an entry in my blog, so I often reread old postings and make corrections, documenting them (as I learned to do when correcting software code) in a “Change Record” at the end of the posting.

Dan Appleman repeatedly encouraged me to “read your work aloud” because he didn’t have much spare time as it was yet he was up all hours finding stupid errors in my drafts: likewise some PhD types who tried to clean my essays on computer science up for an ACM conference in 2005 (they never were published because I could not financially attend the conference). It is especially important in writing poetry because poetry, even “free verse” (is there any such thing?) has to sound good, period, no exceptions, because as the brilliant editors of the Norton Anthology of English poetry assure us, poetry is writing meant to be read aloud. Very few exceptions exist to this.

Finally…that “red squiggle” you now see ubiquitously should be taken seriously. Correct red squiggles (sometimes they are a different color). What’s happening? An Open Source code has been developed to do really thorough spelling checks in all cases where you’re entering text. It even highlights unfamiliar given names (as opposed to surnames) which takes some non-trivial syntax analysis. Might as well pay attention to it although it does NOT avoid all errors (spelling checks never do, and never will).

Notes On Having an English Professor in the Family

My sister, an English professor, constantly beats me up, figuratively to be sure, over my careless writing. Makes her look bad once people make the connection.

On Nipping “Budding Writers” in the Bud

People who use the phrase “budding writer” as in “I yam a medical billing specialist and budding writer” are probably great medical billing specialists in a world that needs such specialists, especially when they can advocate for patients, tell us what we have coming under ObamaCare, and teach classes in their profession at community colleges. As a retired computer programmer I think that the sort of skills that are taught in community college build employability and hence self-esteem…not being an unpublished writer, or a writer like me, with a rather disappointing record of sales. That lowers self-esteem.

People who can drive trucks with 17 separate gearshift settings, program in object-oriented C++, and advise sick people about their rights under ObamaCare don’t live with their Mom and Dad after graduation. Their salaries pay the rent. They do not max out their credit. They make extra money by teaching and consulting on the side, becoming later on full-time consultants owning their own business. They get jobs that pay into their Social Security for their retirement.

Their salaries pay the rent and support Mom and Dad.

The people living with Mom would be Princeton PhDs who know why Saul Kripke crashed and burned. This group needs to go to South Korea’s DMZ (that part that will get nuked if a war with North Korea breaks out) and use that Master’s degree that comes with the PhD to teach South Korean kids ESL. They are great kids, much less formal than China’s equally great-in-their-own-way kids, for PJ O’Rorke (the conservative humorist) was right: South Koreans are the Irish of Asia, and Pyongyang is its Belfast. Don’t worry, North Korea probably won’t nuke you, and if it does, it will all be over in a flash.

But the former group, of honest hard working skilled people, should not be writers, both because of the hackneyism “budding writer” which occurs too often in the corpus to be anything but lame (6 million hits on Google) and because “writer” is too abstract: the reader wants to know, about what?

Heck, I am a published writer of one book…a nerd book which is sad and lame when you think about it, and the smallness of my royalties: I try not to, it makes me weep.

30% international tax withholding and 13.00 USD charged by HSBC merely to credit 100.00 USD net to my account. Boo most assuredly hoo.

As a startup, not a budding, writer, you need to decide on your genre: if you love mysteries, crime and noir you need to decide what type you shall write about (Downton Abbey, Elmore Leonard, Dashiell Hammett ). Before you set pen to paper or switch electrons on in your computer, be prepared to write about whatchoo wanna write about. Eliminate mention of any other writer. If you write “I want to make millions and be a writer like that woman who wrote Harry Potter, whatsername CK Rowling”…boom, there’s the door, both because you are engaging in “me-too marketing” (“I sell the same product at a discount!”) and because no one will read it.

I mean: I love writing. It should be obvious, one never has seen such a flood of words since Edward Gibbon as one finds here. But I also love proof-reading. I love proofing my own work, it looks so nice (which means I don’t do a very good job on my own work). I also love editing and proofreading others’ work, it’s remarkably easy and avoids the commitments of writing. This love of the nitty gritty of writing helped me get published three years after starting to write (in 1976).

“Nitty gritty”…hackneyed phrase or Nod Homerique? You decide! My rule: if it’s something that would be said in a boring and vicious office, don’t use it. “Nitty gritty.” “We’re going to have to let you go.” “ring a bell?” “Productivity.” Don’t use these words and phrases.

Dream

…wandering around my home town (Evanston, Illinois) on the southern side near the lake, a neighborhood of big homes and flat blocks built in a false mediaeval style (with turrets and gargoyles) in the 1920s which have retained their value and are used as investments. I go to the Orthodox church there (in the dream: there is no such actual church), the one with very steep and missing stairs to its main entrance that must be negotiated by worshippers and wedding parties.

I am in my flat next to the library and hotel (Orrington) but the electricity is failing. Some things work, others do not. I had this experience in the waking world in China but never in America. You get confused: what is the ON setting on this thing? How long should I wait after turning the device on or off, that is, how long does this complex computer take to execute power down instructions in firmware?

At the end of the dream I had a whole room of Northwestern students trying to help me, switching various devices on and off.

In darkness, then, I seek the light. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light”. I know more Scripture from good old Handel than actually reading the Bible. It is well known that just as Tea Baggers never read the Constitution (its reading level is pitched way above grade school) they cannot name the four Gospels whereas their Protestant ancestors could. But I seldom read the Bible, just listen to works including the Messiah and Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

But here I go spreading religious hatred. I need to stay away from that stick of shitfire with a wick on it, it’s ruined Belfast and Glasgow. I shall leave it here as an example of how religion so often becomes hate, and if I find myself becoming overly compulsively Catholic I will leave the Church again. I just find prayer calming given my situation.

Study

Grand High Re-read of Kant’s Critique: did a long review of PF Strawson’s Bounds of Sense (a reading of the Critique) with academic footnotes “and all”. It’s been bounced, I now realized by an automated scoring tool that measured its size and…the automated tool “was like, WTF”. In addition, an automated tool can detect one or more external Web addresses which might indicate spam and/or promotion. Finally, there may also be “bad language”. Good people, I feel, use bad language in a bad world.

Not really up to revising it, replied (like a silly man) to the automated tool saying back off: need instead to contact a Human Being at Amazon. May say heck with it. It’s published here on my blog. It’s really just part of my Kant study. I’m not even happy with its contents as opposed to its outside references. I never deeply read Strawson who is a great analytic philosopher. Perhaps I need to do a quick re-read and then rewrite the Strawson review.

“ESF Shocker??”

ESF stands for the English Schools Foundation whose charter seems to be “reserve places in good English medium-of-instruction schools for wealthy parents”.

The “shocker” is that the fee merely for applying for your child to an ESF school has gone from 150.00 to two thousand Hong Kong dollars. The fee doesn’t guarantee admission and is not refunded if your kid doesn’t get in. Whereas the parents of the kids that I teach balk at paying much more than one hundred fifty per hour of my teaching.

This unconscionable charge, together with the facts found by the BBC about millionaire “super star” English and test prep tutors, primarily young and sexy Chinese with English names who dress fashionably, alarm me.

See the BBC documentary here.

I have these questions.

Why is such an important social task, the preparation of children for life, such a sordid, almost gangsta affair and what sort of message does it send kids when they and their future are bought and sold…on dat ole cross of gold?

Why does the millionaire star tutor of the BBC documentary get away with merely feeding kids, whose parents pay him thousands, lists of words he thinks will appear on the exam merely because they appear on past papers available on the Internet to his students?

Why does he use Cantonese as his medium of instruction when we know that learning a new language demands that that unfamiliar language, in this case English, be the medium of instruction from day one?

Why does he fail to teach grammar, for all I can tell, and then smirk when the student tracked by the BBC fails the trial examination because he doesn’t know grammar???.

And finally, why is it that I am retiring on US Social Security and an MPF balance where MPF is Hong Komg’s limited retirement savings scheme, also known as Mandatory Provident Fund, whereas this clown Lam, the so-called “tiger tutor” is a millionaire? I hammered the Oxford Reference Grammar cover to cover, I created charts for verb phrase analysis using my knowledge of formal grammars in computing …

I used YouTube movies to get the students’ attention: at several schools I reversed deep alienation by taking the risk of showing kids bored to tears by the pap they were being fed, the film I Not Stupid about the system in Singapore, which is very similar in intensity and cruelty to Hong Kong’s system …

… and, as I have said, I am on Queer Street financially …

… Why? Am I just a wanker, or does the system manufacture wankerdom when you don’t choose to be a shark? When you’re not an American Psycho of any nationality? Just askin’. …

… BTW, “Queer Street” doesn’t have anything to do with homosexuality: it is a British English phrase that means “the poor house” …

The rest is silence …

Change Record

7 Sep 2013 Correct “nuked if a war with North Korea”

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