Month: March 2016

Ukiah Reflections


Back in Ukiah, there’s this pond near by house. In truth, it’s not really a pond; it’s just a reservoir for the nearby vineyard. It’s been dry for most of the last few years, but this spring break when I returned I saw that it was incredibly full – almost overflowing! Such good news.

Churchill Learning Latin

I recently came upon Churchill’s account of his Latin-learning experience while reading a book on historical Japanese linguistics (what that has to do with Churchill, I’m still not sure), and it vaguely reminds me of my experiences learning Classical Chinese when I was young. At that time I had no clue (nor did my teachers) what 之乎也者 all meant, and getting a detailed explanation was also impossible.

Churchill’s Travails:

“What does it mean, sir?”

“It means what it says. Mensa, a table. Mensa is a noun of the First Declension. There are five declensions. You have learnt the singular of the First Declension.”

“But,” I repeated,” what does it mean?”

Mensa means a table,” he answered.

“Then why does mensa also mean ‘O table,'” I enquired, “and what does ‘O table’ mean?”

Mensa, ‘O table’, is the vocative case,” he replied.

“But why ‘O table?'” I persisted in genuine curiosity.

“O table – you would use that in addressing a table, in invoking a table.” And then seeing he was not carrying me with him, “You would use it in speaking to a table.”

“But I never do,” I blurted out in honest amazement.

“If you are impertinent, you will be punished, and punished, let me tell you, very severely,” was his conclusive rejoinder.

Such was my first introduction to the classics from which, I have been told, many of our cleverest men have derived so much solace and profit.

Rubio’s Concession Speech

I’m no fan of Marco Rubio. In many ways, his policies are even more extreme than the vast majority of the Republican Party, despite his favored position in the establishment (he opposes abortion even in the case of rape, for example). However, I thought he gave a very powerful (and surprisingly gracious) concession speech after losing Florida to Donald Trump in last night’s primary, particularly this line:

“In our veins runs the blood of people who gave it all up so we would have the chances they never did. We are all the descendants of someone who made our future the purpose of their lives.”

Interesting despite the fervent anti-immigration sentiment currently popular among people participating in the GOP primary this year, two of the three candidates left are children of immigrants and the third one is the grandchild of immigrants.

Technology Tuesday: Flightradar 24


As an aviation geek, one of my favorite apps has been Flightradar24 – specifically, the ability to point to almost any plane passing in the sky and see what aircraft it is, which airline it belongs to, and where it’s going. It’s not as useful here in Santa Barbara compared to summer at LMU for CTY, where LAX’s close proximity allows you to see aircraft any time of the day. Pretty much all we get here at SBA are small regional craft.

Twitter’s Travails

Julianne Smolinksi writing for New York Magazine on the problems with Twitter (emphasis mine):

Let me try to explain how I see it. Twitter is like a beloved public park that used to be nice, but now has a rusty jungle gym, dozens of really persistent masturbators, and a nighttime bat problem. Eventually the Parks Department might rip up the jungle gym, and make some noise about fixing the other problems, because that’s what invisible administrators like Twitter staff and municipal recreation departments tend to do. But if the perverts and the bats got to be bad enough with no recourse, you’d probably just eventually stop going.

(Additionally frustrating is that everybody is complaining about the safety issues at the park, and instead of addressing them, the city installs a crazy new slide. What? Nobody was calling for that. What about the perverts? What about the bats?)

Twitter has over two thousand engineers working for them (source: International Business Times and yet the service is still as arcane as it has ever been to use and find an audience. The number of my college friends who use the service on a regular basis is in the single digits, while many others have created accounts but haven’t touched them in the last three years. It’s a social service that provides an important need, and it sucks to see it stagnate like this.

Twitter’s Moments help people better consume the data coming through the service, but it doesn’t help alleviate the feeling that tweeting is like yelling in a deserted forest: You’re not sure if anyone can hear you, and even if there are, you’re not sure if they can hear you anyway.

Widow’s Memorial Arch – Sichuan

Widow's Memorial Arch in Sichuan, China. Photo by Wilson Edward Manly, courtesy USC.
Widow’s Memorial Arch in Sichuan, China. Photo by Wilson Edward Manly courtesy USC.

Reading Gail Hershatter‘s The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past for a class this week and I was piqued by the mentions of the memorial arches (牌坊) that were erected under imperial decree for women who had stayed faithful to their long-deceased husbands. (They’re also extensively mentioned in Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China, by Matthew Sommer.

I found this image on USC’s International Mission Photography Archive. The main heading reads 一門三節 yī-mén sān-jié – “one family, three chaste [widows]”. Must have been a particularly great honor in those days.

Technology Tuesdays: Math Ace

When I was young, I spent a lot of time learning math on our family computer (an old Windows 98 hulk that my father and I had retrieved from the CA state surplus in Sacramento for $150). I’m so delighted that RetroSwim managed to find a copy and upload the gameplay to YouTube. “You have been terminated.” That quote is still an indelible part of my childhood.