It’s tricky

Learning Chinese is complicated, even though the grammar is simple and flexible.

The problem for foreigners is found in the four tones, flat or dipping, rising or falling. So each syllable

cannot be spoken; it must be sung. Also, hitting the wrong note produces the wrong word or gibberish.

The Chinese ear is accustomed to listening for the tones, not for piecing together syllables, as in the West.

As a result, unless one hits the exact tone, and I mean exact, then people will simply stare at you and wait patiently for

something more intelligible to emerge. We westerners are barbarians after all! :)

“Close” only counts in horseshoes, hand-grenades, and western and non-tonal languages.

There is an excellent website for learning Chinese here. Click on Free Mandarin and behold the building block approch.




KTV Karaoke













New Pics



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Egyptian Cargo Cult

This is an interesting explanation of “cargo cults.”

From Wikipedia:

“A cargo cult is a Melanesian millenarian movement encompassing a diverse range of practices and occurring in the wake of contact with the commercial networks of colonizing societies. The name derives from the belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth (“cargo”).

And from a university webpage:

“The Cargo Cult members built replicas of airports and airplanes out of twigs and branches and made the sounds associated with airplanes to try to activate the shipment of cargo. Although the existence of the Cargo Cult only became known after World War II the cult had developed long before, when the Europeans first arrived in the area in ships. There were legends among the islanders of their distant ancestor-god having journeyed to the west and promised to someday return.”

So… Where is this going? Is this an exercise in “flash fiction” of the sci-fi variety? Or for real? Either way, you heard it here first.

The idea being floated here is that ancient Egyptian civilization was nothing more and nothing less than a cargo cult, revering the super-intelligent, extra-terrestrial giants, “demi-gods” if you will, who founded (and then abandoned!) their colony on Earth. Their statues are shown in the photograph below. Actual size!

Believe it Or Not!  Well, it’s not April Fools Day, but close, July 21, my birthday…


The more things change…

Two things strike me as absurd in Israel’s latest offensive against Gaza.

The first was Israel’s leadership pointing out, in a carefully worded statement, that Hamas was firing rockets from civilian areas. This statement relies on the international community forgetting that all of Gaza is a residential zone and one of the most densely-populated areas in the world. It’s a wall to wall city.

The second absurdity is Israel asking some 100,000 people within Gaza to “evacuate” as reported on the Drudge report. The city is basically quarantined, living under a strict blockade (blockades are always acts of war).

There is another absurdity, of course, which is based on the idea of Israeli restraint (with occasional press-friendly tactics), as Palestinian casualties push into the hundreds, and as Israeli casualties remain near zero…

In any case, if Hamas actually killed the Israeli teenagers, provoking the current crisis, then Hamas reveals a brand of cowardice, lacking the courage to take on uniformed agents of control/occupation and choosing, instead, to kill schoolboys.

This all appears to be a marriage made in ‘heaven’ then, by the newfound cowardly, psychopathic gods of both sides. That nothing has changed for decades – and that the same news stories are likely to be repeated 11 years from now – is all the proof we need that the forces behind those on the ground simply scale up – and amplify – the curse upon this planet.


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Language acquisition

Hopefully, impatience can also be a virtue. I’ll be attempting to learn as much conversational Chinese as possible in August, when I have off. A 30-day crash course. Also, I will be posting longer and more regular articles, etc., slowly cranking back up again.


In the summer program here, I’m teaching with an interesting guy from Suny/Buffalo, a philosophy professor specializing in the philosophy of religion. No one can ever accuse him of sitting around; he’s thinking, working… It is interesting to have long conversations on, for example, the topic of his dissertation, free will. He agrees that it is heavily constrained, but does not quite go to my extreme that, facing constant manipulation and interference, humans do not have sufficient free will to be held accountable. Context over agency. Free will, the broken promise. Do lab rats have free will?