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“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.” is a grammatically valid sentence in the English language, used as an example of how homonyms and homophones can be used to create complicated linguistic constructs.

via Patrick

To Win Over Users, Gadgets Have to Be Touchable

Whoever said technology was dehumanizing was wrong. On screens everywhere — cellphones, e-readers, A.T.M.’s — as Diana Ross sang, we just want to reach out and touch.

The End of Tenure?

The labor system, for one thing, is clearly unjust. Tenured and tenure-track professors earn most of the money and benefits, but they’re a minority at the top of a pyramid. Nearly two-thirds of all college teachers are non-tenure-track adjuncts like Matt Williams, who told Hacker and Dreifus he had taught a dozen courses at two colleges in the Akron area the previous year, earning the equivalent of about $8.50 an hour by his reckoning. It is foolish that graduate programs are pumping new Ph.D.’s into a world without decent jobs for them. If some programs were phased out, teaching loads might be raised for some on the tenure track, to the benefit of undergraduate education.

Computers as Invisible as the Air

“The thing that is happening right now is that we’re drowning in data,” said Stan Williams, director of H.P.’s Information and Quantum Systems Lab. “The amount of data is increasing at an absolutely ferocious pace, and unless we can catch up it will remain useless.”

If he is right, and the memristor makes possible superdense computing memories — one computer chip will hold as much data as an entire disk drive holds today.

A Taste of Home in Foil Packets and Powder

Each year, among the countries with troops in Afghanistan — the current number is 47 — tens of millions of dollars are spent researching how to fit the most calories, nutrition and either comfort or fun into a small, light package. The menus and accompaniments are intended not just to nourish but also to remind the soldier of home. Some include branded comfort foods — Australians get a dark-brown spreadable yeast-paste treat called Vegemite, for example — while others get national staples like liverwurst (Germany), or lamb curry (Britain’s current culinary obsession).

Some of the contents are practical. Italians get three disposable toothbrushes per day of combat. Americans get pound cake, which military folklore says reduces the need for toilet breaks.

People and Places That Innovate

Good ideas and their successful execution are a result of connections and existing knowledge embedded in a particular context. The individual, of course, plays an important role, but it is defined more by collaboration than by solitary brilliance.

Words Cannot Express

Is language first and foremost an artifact of culture? Or is it largely determined by human biology? This issue has been argued back and forth for a couple of centuries with no clear resolution in sight. Guy Deutscher’s 2005 book “The Unfolding of Language” placed him firmly in the pro-culture camp. Now, in his new book, “Through the Language Glass,” he examines some idiosyncratic aspects of particular languages that, in his opinion, cast further doubt on biologically based theories of language.

America’s History of Fear

Americans have called on moderates in Muslim countries to speak out against extremists, to stand up for the tolerance they say they believe in. We should all have the guts do the same at home.

The Meaning of ‘Man Up’

But man up isn’t just being used to package machismo as a commodity. Its spectrum of meanings runs from “Don’t be a sissy; toughen up” all the way to “Do the right thing; be a mensch,” to use the Yiddishism for an honorable or upright person. The Man Up Campaign, for instance, is a new global initiative that engages youth to stop gender-based violence: “Our call to action challenges each of us to ‘man up’ and declare that violence against women and girls must end,” its mission statement reads.

The Many Iterations of William Shatner

Outside Starbucks, Shatner said to me: “If someone criticizes my acting, they may be right. Sometimes you shouldn’t work so hard” to entertain. Then, softly, he said: “I never thought of myself as a great actor, like Olivier. I was a working actor. I entertained people and always tried to be terrific at whatever it was.” His problem and his salvation. He played so many different roles that “people couldn’t define me like they could De Niro. I took whatever work came my way to pay the bills, even if it wasn’t a decent role.”

だまれ (da-ma-reh) : To be silent

GawkerTV – Dumbest Stuff Said About the Internet 

Japanese is no Navajo or even Basque, but it’s still pretty damn hard. There are plenty of “harder” languages, but this one has been particularly difficult for me. I feel like I’m still at intermediate, and have been for the last 3 years. I’ll be going to third year college level Japanese next semester at IU, and I have to say, I’m a bit worried. I’m out of practice. With that bad news (for my personal academic life), there comes good news. The internet has improved, and offers a lot of help for students like me now—a lot of which, I wish I had when I was first starting. Here is a collection of my findings in three sections:

  1. Personal experience and foresight. “I wish I knew what I knew Now…When I was younger.”
    • Alright. Flat out, and this is sort of paradoxical. Don’t have any goals or expectations, er…well. This is hard to explain, but basically, Japanese will take you ages, you’ll get sick of it, don’t give up because you expected something to happen that didn’t. If you ask me this is sort of a metaphor for a lot of things, but particularly for lifelong learning processes like secondary languages.
    • Here’s a testimonial. This is pretty good information just to brace yourself for the learning process. Don’t be too disillusioned. I particularly like number 17, in that regard, because it exemplifies that, though not everyday and every moment, the experience should be fun.
    • Getting into the culture is the understatement of the year. But, if you ask me, it’s not too hard to find a way to fall in love with Japan. Watch  movies, read books, check out blogs, photographers, artists, history, politics, whatever. There are plenty of tools that can help which brings me to:
  2. The Internet
    • I really don’t think you can learn Japanese through just one method. Just listening to a Podcast, or just watching anime, or just reading books, will not do it. Podcasts, however, can fill in the gap between semesters if you want to keep your ear tuned in (and like me, don’t have proper connections with native speakers). I find that podcasts aren’t that rewarding, I find reading and writing a lot more rewarding (while talking out loud). Regardless, here’s a compliation of web resources I use:
    • JapanesePod 101. You’ll notice that they really want you to sign up, and to charge you. It didn’t used to be this way with this resource. That said, you can still get them easily on iTunes without login information (I’m pretty sure). They are pretty funny, incredibly quirky, and at entertaining at the very least. I’ve tried a couple other ones, but this one’s pretty much the best.
    • I would highly suggest installing the English to Japanese keyboard input converter on your personal computer. It makes things a lot easier. Once you’ve installed this, and turned on the Japanese input methods, you can type romaji and it will automatically convert it the the proper hiragana. Then, when you’ve typed hiragana that make up a kanji character you can press space and a small list of kanji possibilities show up to choose from to replace the hiragana. It’s crucial. I use this off and on to ‘journal’, which basically means to try creative ways to use my resources and new knowledge.
    • Alright, so now what to read on the internet? Well, anything, blogs, whatever. There hasn’t been precident for this sort of thing before. There weren’t everyday blogs to read by random Japanese people 10 years ago like there are today. I think it’s valuable and quite rewarding. There’s newspapers, too, of course, which are fantastic resources.
    • But, whoa, that’s way overwhelming, right? Right. So, here’s what you do. First: Get Firefox. Trust me. It’s the best. Got it? Good.
      • Now get this extension: Rikaichan, once you’ve installed it, make sure you’ve got the dictionaries installed too (same page). If you are unsure of what any character means, just turn this on via right-clicking in the window, and then whenever you hover over a character, or set of characters, it will reveal the reading and possible definitions of the word.
      • If you need even less help than that, you can also install this: Furigana Injector. When installed it will place the reading above the kanji when displayed on any webpage. It’ll help a lot, and you’ll speed through articles a little quicker hopefully.
    • Then, there’s always helpful “learning” websites. I don’t usually trust these things. Ideally, I could just be in school, or have a proper book. But, right now I’m depending on these. All my books are at home, with my notes, and I don’t want to buy anything to take back when I have to come home from England, so the Internet is my only resource. This one is nice for grammar patterns, and simple sentences and lessons. I’ve never used this one, but it’s the first thing that showed up on Google when I typed in “Japanese Grammar.” You get the idea.
    • Other online dictionaries. Sometimes I use WWWJDIC, or I’ll cheat and look up english words to convert here.
  3. Classes, Books and Other Resources
    • It’s not uncommon that you don’t have the internet. But you still want to study Japanese. So, get books. I’m not really sure what the best. But I can tell you what I’ve used in class are the Genki textbooks. I found them really great for the classroom setting. Other than that, I don’t know.
    • Once, in class, my teacher recommended some software. I can’t remember exactly which one it was, but the idea still remains: you can get a dictionary for your computer to use offline for free. Try here.

Anyway, it’s fun to try and figure out ways to learn for yourself too. Finding a way to make it a fun habit is very rewarding. But, if you get a chance, take a class, it’ll probably be easier that way.