Creuset of Ideas
A collection of various ideas

Archives of 2006-06


Wednesday Linguistics: Quebec (by special request)

2006-06-28 @ 10:25

In a comment on last week’s instalment, Mr Pregunto asked me what was my opinion “on the value of the local dialects of French, here in Quebec”. Well, here goes.

From a purely utilitarian point of view, I actually find it quite advantageous to speak a dialect that is further from the “standard” than most European ones. That meant I learnt another variety at school, and hear it in movies, tv shows, etc. The result of which is that I can understand many French dialects (although by no means all), whereas most French speakers from outside Quebec would understand me if I didn’t tone down mine.

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Wednesday Linguistics: Foolishness

2006-06-21 @ 11:01

When I was young and foolish (those by-gone days), I started devising weird linguistics theories (that was before I started university). Those tended to be of the strong Whorf-Sapir kind. I remember two of those, both having to do with the grammar of specific languages.

The first concerned grammatical gender, the number used by some IE languages. German has three: feminine, masculine and neuter; French has two: feminine and masculine and English only one, called neuter (lit. “not the others”) for lack of a better term. This I decided to compare, for some strange reason, with the offerings of each culture in the field of philosophy.

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2006-06-17 @ 21:27

That’s dust in the background, tens of feet high. This picture was taken in Texas during the Dust Bowl.


Wednesday Linguistics: Space and Time

2006-06-14 @ 18:05

Guess we figured it out way before Einstein did. that time is a dimension. Indo-European Language speakers, I mean. That’s why we’ve got all these words used to describe space that are also applied to time: preposition (in five minutes, from three to six, after), adjectives (short¸ long) and so on.

(Of course, there’s always the question of whether we have two words with the same sound or one word with two senses — but since there’s a pattern that affect a variety of different words, it’s a fair bet that we’re talking about words with two senses.)

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self portrait challenge - glasses

2006-06-12 @ 7:16

For the second June self portrait challenge instalment, I thought I’d have a go at a classic Pop Art reference, except that here, it’s not the colours that change, but the glasses.


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Habeas corpus

2006-06-10 @ 14:21

Seventeen alleged terrorists on the verge of terrorizing Ottawa and Toronto were recently arrested. Front page news, panic (”you now have a reason to be frighten”), intolerance. Something bothers in this story. Sure, the people who were arrested could be terrorists, that’s not the problem. The problem is all this hype.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Canada suspended the Habeas corpus. The oldest common law), it is the rule according to which an accused has the right to a fair trial and to confront and challenge the evidence against him. There are currently five people stuck in prison without trials, under “security certificates” (by which the writ of Habeas corpus is dismissed).

According to the anti-terrorist rationale of the governemnt, if the danger posed by the Toronto group was clear and present, shouldn’t they have simply been thrown in jail? Or did the government need a publicity stunt to sprinkle a bit of fear in the population, so certain actions be more favourably looked upon? Bush used that a lot: he raised the threat level every time his popularity droped — until one of his own advisered publicly resigned in protest.



2006-06-6 @ 9:31

Watched CSI last night, the “Werewolf” episode (I missed it the first time around). I know shows like that don’t have to be 100% realistic, and aren’t. But in this case, it was on things I happen to know something about: Old English and silver.

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Coffee as pigment

2006-06-5 @ 9:33

By Craig Marshall


Gender issues

2006-06-4 @ 10:35

I’ve just read about the interseting, if informal, social experiment:

A new baby was left in a park with an attendent who, when ask by passerby, would claim to have agreed to sit with the child for a few moments and did not know if it was a boy or girl. Everyone stopping to admire the infant was quite distressed at not being able to know the child’s gender. Some even offred to undress the child to find out.

I already knew little girls and boys were treated differently (there is a lot of evidence on the subject), I never knew how bad people had to know. We are so used to social pressure that we feel threatened if, through lack of information or other reasons, we don’t know the right way to behave, even if — as in this case — there is no one to judge us, since no one else knows the sex of the infant.


Stupid Americans?

2006-06-2 @ 10:24

You’ll be happy to know that there aren’t as many stupid Amercians as we had thought. Turns out that probably more than half the population actually voted (or would have if not prevented by Republicans) for Kerry:

what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I’ve become convinced that the president’s party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004


Hurray for the greatest Democracy on the planet!