Practical Joke #13

1. Go to college. Study something in the psychiatry or counseling field.

2. Build a private practice as a counselor.

3. Wait for one of your clients to come to your office and reveal something particularly private and sensitive.

4. At this point fling open the false wall of your office to reveal an auditorium filled with thousands of people.

5. Stage lights come on. Music begins to play. TV cameras are switched on.

6. Dr. Phil comes in and begins addressing the camera: "Ladies and gentlemen, I've seen some pretty twisted, perverted individuals in my career, but I have never seen anything as disgusting as the guest we have today...."

Flash-card Case Study: My Chinese Anki Decks Structure, Part I


(First in a series of posts describing the Anki flash-card decks I use to study Chinese)

Previously I reviewed Anki software for electronic flashcards, and also about using multimedia flashcards. Currently I use somewhat more than 50 Anki decks (nope, that is not a misprint) to study various languages and other stuff.

Some decks are modest in size, for example to learn a new alphabet. For such I add no new cards once the deck is complete and the daily review time dwindles to a fraction of a minute. Others grow indefinitely, for example the various decks I employ to study Chinese. This reflects both the inherent complexity of the language and the level of effort I have put into it for the past several years.

As a case study, I outline here my decks for Chinese study. First, a list of the decks themselves:

Chinese characters: For learning the individual characters. This started based on Heisig's books and has been extended by myself based on Heisig's principles. Currently consists of 3952 "notes" and 23733 "cards." (To clarify, in Anki a single "note" links two or more pieces of information. From this one or more "cards" are created by specifying various pieces of information as the "cue" [front of the card] and others as the "response" [back of the card].)

Chinese vocabulary: Consists of words and some phrases or even entire sentences in (Mandarin) Chinese. Currently contains 4335 notes and 17311 cards.

Cantonese: Currently contains 296 notes and 1025 cards. These numbers reflect the fact that my Cantonese is at a much earlier stage than my Mandarin.

Cantonese Mnemonics: stable at 89 notes and 178 cards. Embodies Stefan's (of Language Ninja) system for memorizing Cantonese pronunciation.

Chinese 20000 HSK Sentences: I downloaded this as an Anki shared deck. True to its name, contains 22148 notes and 22148 cards, each with a single sentence. The HSK is a Chinese government test for evaluating Chinese proficiency.

Chinese Mnemonics: stable at 95 notes and 95 cards. Embodies my own system for memorizing Mandarin pronunciation of characters.

Chinese Williamson's Teach Yourself: When I first took up Chinese decades ago, it was with Teach Yourself Chinese by H. R. Williamson. I struggled mightily and never got past Chapter 10 (although having some worthwhile adventures in the process). This failure nagged at me ever since. A few years ago I set a goal to go back and crush Williamson's book. This Anki deck (125 notes, 125 cards) contains some oddities that I encountered in Williamson's book but haven't been able to cross-reference anywhere else. The Chinese in Williamson's book is old-fashioned to say the least.

Subsequent posts will outline the internal structure of the most interesting of these.

Some Aphorisms Apropos of Men's Rights

I chose this topic because there appears to be plenty of leeway for additional clear thinking on both sides (all sides?) of the issue.

1. Hysteria in the service of a good cause helps no one.

2. "Men's rights" is not an oxymoron.

3. "Men's rights" is not a synonym for Fascism.

4. If you know a woman living in a man's body, don't ridicule or dismiss her feelings. Don't tell her to "get over" the way she feels or that she can be educated out of it. Understand that gender identity is a deeply-rooted essential element of well-being. (Look up "David Reimer" if you don't understand what I mean.)

5. Of course the same considerations apply to a man living in a man's body.

6. A woman's (or a man's) body is her domain. It is not for others to dictate what she can or cannot do with it.

7. I refer, of course, to women who want to take their clothes off for money, or consent to sexual activity in the way they choose.

8. Feminism does not mean women should lead their lives according to your rules.

9. If your problem a minute ago was that the law/social norms don't allow you to behave like a man, don't complain now that they don't allow you to behave like a woman.

10. If you want to be free to behave like a man, a good first step would be to stop whining so much.

11. Someone else's choice of romantic partner, male or female, has no effect on you and you therefore have no standing to object to or dictate it. You are not the romance police.

12. If someone else's choice of spouse inspires in you uncontrollable feelings of disgust, this does not make you a bad person. Good manners, however, dictate that you keep your feelings to yourself. (This is by no means a new rule of etiquette. Disgusting spouses have been around for all of human history.)

13. The foregoing applies of course if a middle-aged man is interested in a much younger woman.

14. Or a woman is interested in a much younger man.

15. Or indeed any permutation you can think up.

16. If you exclude me from your discussion because of the accident of my gender, skin color, or whatever, that's up to you. Surely you are not surprised if I then have little interest in what you say?

17. If the women around you seem to object when you act like a man, perhaps you're not very good at it.

18. So why not learn to do it better?

Yet Another Benefit of Aging

Description of bifocals by Benjamin Franklin

Growing up, I was the one member of my household that did not need glasses. I mocked the other members of my family as they stumbled around the house, bumping into walls (or perhaps I exaggerate). Eventually, of course, time caught up with me. Now, like many or most people my age, I have different vision issues at different distances.

At long distances I am mildly astigmatic. This means that at night the moon and stars appear as vertical smears. I have a prescription pair of glasses that corrects for this, but my astigmatism is mild enough that I generally get by without them ("generally" meaning I haven't put them on in years). They would come in handy if I wanted to do some serious stargazing, for example, so I'm glad to have them on hand.

I also have increasing difficulty focusing on close-up objects. This is due to the increasing stiffness of the lens of the eye with aging. I can still read a newspaper with some effort, but tiny print is essentially unreadable without help. Also reading menus in dimly-lit restaurants, etc. I therefore keep several pairs of cheap reading glasses around. I try not to wear them habitually. This is not an issue of vanity (I have no problem pulling my glasses out and putting them on in front of people) but rather because I find the focusing muscles of the eye weaken if not used (just like other muscles).

Benjamin Franklin of course addressed this issue of different visual problems at different distances by inventing bifocals. As one can see in the illustration above (also photos if you seek them out), the original bifocals had a two-part frame for each eye. This was replaced with a two-part lens and later with bifocals with no visible lines (because needing bifocals is apparently some mark of shame). Personally I find the original two-pane design much cooler:

However, with no aspersions to Benjamin Franklin, I have decided that bifocals are definitely not for me. Not because visually I couldn't use them but as an antidote to multitasking. TV commercials for bifocals always show people instantly shifting attention from the book they're reading to their angelic kids playing in the sprinkler, etc., but what if I don't want to instantly shift my attention?

I've found I rather enjoy putting my reading glasses on as a gesture of deliberate commitment to focus on what is directly in front of me. Or conversely, taking them off as in order to focus on what is happening at a distance. I pity the young punks who have no such physical mechanism for deliberately directing attention.