Saturday, March 24, 2007

Caught up in Suspense of Mystery Bride

"The world's hairiest man, Yu Zhenhuan, is going to marry this year."

Came across this great article on Pravda (yes, I know it's an ironic name for a newspaper).

Check it out, by all means, but I wasn't able to spot any hint of old Yu's fioncee, which is surely what we all want to see.

I'm just so caught up in the suspense of it all. What will she look like?

We must proceed by a process of deduction.

I'm not game enough to type 'world's hairiest woman' into Google, but if anyone else is, please let me know what you find.

On that note, this seems an ideal time to update on Amanda Vanstone (via AAP):
"It is mischief making in the extreme to suggest I used taxpayer funds to learn another language," Senator Vanstone said.

Ah, but Mandy, I'm not suggesting that you used taxpayer funds to learn another language.

I'm saying you used taxpayer funds and failed to learn another language; an even more despicable waste of money.

But nonetheless, what could her motivations for learning Chinese have been?

I put it to you, that Old Yu's bride-to-be is none other than.........

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mandy Vandy

Editors must be having the pun-tastic time of their lives.
Vandy spent up to $70,000 trying to learn Mandy.
That's our crazy Mandy Vandy. It would normally defy belief, except that it's now relative to the very recent revelations of stupidity from Ian Campbell, Kelvin Thomson and Santo Santoro.

Firstly, I'm amazed that such a sum of money could be spent at all, given that someone could do an Arts degree double majoring in Chinese and still only incur $12,000 in costs.
$70,000? Granted, the confirmed figure so far is $31,000, but even that is still ridiculous.

But aside from the issue of cost itself, the part that disgusts me the most is that it has apparently been wasted on an inept Vanstone. A Mandarin-speaking businessman was present at a speech which Vanstone delivered in Canberra, and apparently (from the Sydney Morning Herald):

"She doesn't appear to believe in tones, which are the most important part of speaking Mandarin," the businessman said. "It was excruciating".

Appalling. Keep in mind Vanstone very recently pronounced:

"If you say hello to someone in their own language, you touch their heart, if you say hello in your language you only touch their head,"

Indeed. I might add, if you butcher someones native language, you can piss them off.

Quite literally, in Chinese, one tone can be the difference between an accent(口音) and a blowjob (口淫).

And to think, the PM is considering posting her to Beijing as an ambassador. That's an alarming lack of judgement. It's no wonder Rudd is leading Howard on the issue of national security.

It's an interesting time we're at. Some of the most valid criticism of the Howard government is coming from conservatives like Andrew Bolt, criticism which by its nature isn't based on left or right ideology, but on pure rationality. To the point where Bolt is pointing out that "From this Government now comes the first unmistakable whiff of decay."

Some would say that the smell has been there a while now, but the point remains.
I suppose this whole Mandy Vandy Mandy issue will just act as a metaphor for the larger issues of incompetency of the incumbent government.

Compare Mandy Vandy's Mandy to Rudd's. Whilst it's not really related to policy, I think it's that sort of contrast that people are starting to perceive, and that's what's leading to the consensus of 'it's time'. It's not just an issue of ideology, but competency.

I'm sure Liberal party advisers will be desperately searching for a fluent Mandarin-speaking, fresh faced member to hold up to the spotlight.
That's definitely not Mandy Vandy though.

Vanstone, in the middle of a Mandarin tutorial.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Sufficient Reason" vs "Causal Chains"

And now for something completely different...

Have you ever considered the question of whether everything needs a cause or reason? A lot of scientific method relies upon the assumption of cause and effect, and subsequent inductions are made. And the argument of "Sufficient Reason" assumes that the world, composed of contingent objects which have an external cause, must have some being or event which is the reason of itself, not consequential of a contingent other. It concludes the existence of a 'necessary being'.

On the other hand, it's been suggested that perhaps events merely occur in 'causal chains', whereby the first cause in the chain has no antecedant cause. In these cases of first cause, it would seem to suggest that there is room for chance (something happening without cause). Take the quantum transition of atoms, for example.

So what do you think? Is there true chance in the world, or is it just our lack of knowledge that leads us to appeal to chance?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Categorising Language According to Difficulty

I was idling around some language based websearches and came across an interesting wikipedia article.
It was about the language aptitude test employed by the U.S Defence Language Institute. Based on the results of the test, applicants are allowed to enroll to study a language thought to be of appropriate difficulty, in regards to applicants language apptitude. Essentially then, they've listed popular languages in order of difficulty. Note that they are considered relative only to native English speakers.

From the article:
  • Category I language: 95 or better

(Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish)

  • Category II language: 100 or better


  • Category III language: 105 or better

(Belarusian, Czech, Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Polish, Russian, Croatian, Slovak, Tagalog, Thai, Turkic, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese)

  • Category IV language: 110 or better

(Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean)

Well. I would think a large factor pushing Chinese, Japanese and Korean to the top of the list is the written component of the language, but I'm not sure. On the other hand I get much better marks in Chinese than I do in Russian, so perhaps the list is rather subjective. I understand we have one or two students of linguistics who may occasionaly read this blog; I'd very much like to hear their opinion on this.

M.L.A vs Peta: Marketing

Readers will remember my uncharacteristic outburst a few months ago regarding the moral vanity of certain vegetarians.

Peta are smart though. Or at least, they've got a far better marketing team than Meat and Livestock Australia. Allow me to explain. Underlying both marketing campgains is an appeal to our baser instincts. Peta has realised that some instincts are more powerful than others.

Exhibit A:

The M.L.A's campaign, to quote directly from their marketing page, explains:
"The new Instinct ad shows that craving red meat is instinctive behaviour; in fact we’ve been craving it for millions of years."

The execution of the idea, in my opinion, lacked the aesthetics of the Peta campaign.

Exhibit B:

I think my case speaks for itself. M.L.A needs to hit back and sink to Peta's level; I expect to see a new campaign without Sam Neill, and would instead propose the following:


A lone figure wrapped in a well-worn trench coat hobbles down a bleak alley. The sky overhead is washed out and colourless, like the pavement. The buildings are decaying, as are the tattered posters on the walls. They depict an extreme close-up view of a dictators face; it is Hitler. Beneath the menacing face lie the words
"Eat your greens like the Fuhrer. Meat is something that must be overcome."

The lone figure arrives at a nondescript doorway and knocks carefully five times. A viewing slide opens and a pair of eyes appear. There is a metallic snap and the door is opened.

The figure enters a corridor and a slow, deep hum can be heard. As the figure walks down the corridor the hum grows louder; it is becoming rhythm, it is becoming beat. There is a door at the end of the dark corridor which beckons. As the figure finally reaches it, he pushes it open to reveal...

There is an exhuberant, surreal celebration taking place. The Russian disco-rock band Accident is blasting the song "Drink Beer, Eat Meat" from a stage that has been dressed in tribal-noveau. Red and purple light rages from all directions. Opium and cigar smoke fills the air, and grinning faces lay passed out on oriental pillows. Scantily clad young women and smiling young men bring trays of steaks, sausages and bread around to couples and singles alike, of various nationalities, who sit at huge wooden tables, and barbeques rage in the background with huge flames roaring. Little children run around belting drums, squirting tomato sauce on effegies of Hitler and playing catch whilst Japanese paper-walls reveal the shadows of copulating couples. Upon a dais in the center of the ballroom is a section of burlesque dancers playfully feeding each other mouthfuls of meat, and the camera pans up to a huge banner depicting five faces from different continents, and the words:
"Support the Anti-fascism, pro-liberation movement of the peoples of the world."

Of course, I'll happily write out a counter-campaign for Peta, for the right sum of money.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Navigating Ones Political Standings

I was recently introduced to the Political Compass. It's fairly unbiased (from what I've seen so far at least) website, which contains a test which is designed to map your beliefs on the political compass. It states a point which I think is lost on a lot of people these days: it's not as simple as left and right. The test will map political-standing to an X and Y axis, based on economic and social issues. Apparently I'm an ever-so-slightly-Left-of-Center Libertarian. Which is not surprising to me, given that my usual position on an issue is: "Both sides have a point and are considerably flawed in different ways".

So, why not take the test and post your result in the comments here?
You can compare yourself with famous world leaders. If I ever become a politician, or even better, prominent philosopher, they shall know me as being "In the middle-ground between Angela Merkel and the Dalai Lama".