On Languages

First, a fun video!

(That being said, I’ve thought about changing the title of this blog to Letters to My Friend, Canova because she’s really the only person that reads this blog at this time.)

Other things to note about languages:

Chinese is really not a single language so much as a family of languages that are sometimes termed “dialects.” The language most often taught as “Chinese” is Mandarin, the language spoken around the Beijing area of China.

Mandarin is also sometimes called the “Standard Dialect” or something like that and is the “official” language taught in schools throughout China.

The Chinese languages are “tonal” in nature in that a specific kind of “tone” to each syllable can alter the meaning of the word. I’m not sure that we use tone to convey different meanings in the word in English, but “tone” in English refers more to the emotional quality of the voice.

Japanese and Korean lack tonal systems, but depending on the region, they have a sort of “pitch accent” of words.

In regards to the characters, Korean is the easier of the two to learn because most of the hanja have a single pronunciation as opposed to the multiple pronunciations we learned that Japanese has.

However, in addition, Korean is largely written in hangul as oppose to hanja, and you can learn to read the Korean alphabet very quickly.

Korean grammar, however, is more difficult than Japanese grammar because there are more variations in verbs and levels of politeness; Japanese has two major levels of politeness, and Korean has six.

Japanese uses other writing systems as well- hiragana and katakana, which are “abbreviated” versions of various kanji and are used as a syllabary to spell out words.

Think of hiragana as writing a kanji in cursive extremely fast, and then katakana is “printing” that fast abbreviation.

Katakana’s shape resembles kanji more than hiragana because of the blockiness.

It’s postulated that one day, Japanese will also stop using kanji and will write sentences in the hiragana and katakana.

Now, another fun video!

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More on Tea

Miss Manners set me on the straight and narrow regarding techincal definitions, and most Americans, I suppose, could be forgiven for not knowing proper terminology; I myself have fallen prey to confusing the definitions of various kinds of teas, and our local tea shop has also not helped.

The difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea is that, ironically, Afternoon Tea is the “higher” affair of the two; “High Tea” comes from a reference to the meal being served on a high table, and it’s more of an actual meal than a sort of delicate snacking social affair.

What most of us think of as “tea” is, in fact, “Afternoon Tea.”

The previously shown pink tea set comes with a metal tea strainer that fits in the tea pot (into which tea bags are going to be popped in my case) as well as teaspoons specifically designed for the set; customer reviews for the set are high, and customer photos for the set make it look like an exceptional choice.

In fact, it would be much easier to set a white table cloth and have the pink set on it to create a lovely affect than to try to find something that specifically matches the white and blue sets.

But they are gorgeous.

Now on to deciding what kind of food to go with the tea! A trip to get some Digestive Biscuits is definitely in order, and something my husband likes would do us well.

Steve

Of Tea Sets

My options on tea sets are as follows: I can construct a sort of “helter-skelter” version of potentially mismatched pieces, or I can buy an entire matching set together.

The sets are fairly expensive, though, for something I’ll likely only use on occasion.

That being said, at the suggestion of Canova, we’re going to have a tea party celebrate my husband Christopher making his next military rank, Master Sergeant!!!

Thus my purchase of tea sets will be justified.

Here’s a selection I’ve chosen:

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The most expensive, coming close to $200 for the whole set, but the colors are superb.

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A bit less expensive, but still with the superb aesthetic of blue and white. This one is less expensive as it comes with fewer pieces.

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Less than $100, but there are only two cups and saucers- I think four is the more ideal number.

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This set doesn’t include the serving tray picture, which is a pity, but it the most affordable of all the show sets.

A tea set (for me) must include the following:
A tea pot (for holding the tea itself; not to be confused with a tea kettle, in which water for the tea is boiled)

A cream pitcher, for the holding of milk or cream; properly, cream is added first to reduce the tannin, and then tea is added afterward.

A sugar bowl; traditionally, sugar has been done with cubes and “one or two sugars,” though “one or none” is becoming more common, as I understand it

Tea cups and saucers, for the individual to have tea.

The serving tier is ideal but not necessarily required, I think. A tea cozy is also probably in order because that prevents people from getting burned by the tea.

I’m excited, but as usual, I want to get the best deal possible.

On to having tea!

Steve

Of Media Bias and Factual Reporting

“Biased” does not mean “untrue” or “made-up” or “not factual.” A media source can be biased while simultaneously having factual reporting, that is, solid evidence and facts from which their story is derived.

So what’s the issue with bias? Things become a bit trickier here.

I’ve lately checked some of the media bias websites and fact-checkers to see what they have to say on the issue. Magazines like The New Yorker get rated as Left-biased while having High Factual Reporting.

From Medias Bias Fact Check:

“These media sources are moderately to strongly biased toward liberal causes through story selection and/or political affiliation.  They may utilize strong loaded words (wording that attempts to influence an audience by using appeal to emotion or stereotypes), publish misleading reports and omit reporting of information that may damage liberal causes. Some sources in this category may be untrustworthy.”

“Story selection” as a determinant of bias raises a red flag for me. My first reaction is to think of this in terms of selecting stories that show minorities favorably; I can almost guarantee you a source that is pro-LGBTQ will be labeled as “Left-biased.”

Do you see why that’s a problem for those of us in the minority? We don’t get to have a “neutral” position, because from the get-go, our support is chunked into a category. Excluded from the table, as it were.

There are several websites featuring fact-checkers, but who fact-checks the fact-checkers? What happens when they get something incorrect? My first guess is that many people who fall into this category are eager to live up to some kind of integrity and would correct mistakes if they were pointed out, but I’m also aware that’s not necessarily the case.

But let’s get back to my central point about bias: I’m absolutely “biased” in favor of LGBTQ rights. It’s just silly for me not to be.

Bias ultimately has to do with being prone to something; in the USA, we’re biased toward eating three meals a day. We’re biased toward speaking English. We’re biased toward wiping our asses after we poop, at least in most cases.

Beyond having facts of a situation, there’s a way in which we construct the facts to form a narrative of what happened. Preconceptions of the world will influence how we experience facts; in a word, there’s truly never a matter of “only the facts” or having no perception, because even a person not conditioned in a particular society would still have some variation of the animalistic perception of the human form.

Which is to say, “objective” reality may well exist, but as humans, we’re ever doomed to have a human experience. This hits too close to the likes of philosophers and world of Phenomenon versus the world of Noumen, so I’ll stop short here.

For those of you who’ve made it this far, congratulations; you’ll soon be rewarded (if all goes according to plan) with a blog about me prattling on about making a tea-set purchase.

With kindest regards,

Steve

Ahead of the Curve

Over the last several months, I’ve tried to think more reasonably and clearly. I’ve taken refuge in a few different sources and have generally been more emotionally stable than usual, but that could all be an illusion or my misremembering things. So it goes.

I left Twitter a while back because it’s full of inflammatory posts and outrage with few people offering any kind of solution.

Instead, I spend my time taking learning through bite-sized chunks of information. I’m subscribed to TED Talks on Youtube and have the app on my phone; I’m subscribed to a number of channels that give brief, basic explanations about the world and all its phenomena.

I decided I should keep up with the news. But how does one keep sane during the Trump administration if one desires to read the news?

Simple: I selected high-quality sources and have a daily newsletter sent to my email. I started with NPR in the morning and Vox Sentences as night.

To this, I eventually added BBC, The Economist, and The New Yorker. My friend Susie introduced me to The New Yorker, and my husband and I received it in the mail for a while. I miss those days, but the truth is this: The New Yorker is a dense magazine that you would spend all your time reading if you tried to read it from cover-to-cover.

Maybe I could get The New Yorker in digital form and just log in on the website to read it. The feel of Americana while reading it is unmistakable.

My biggest love is for news magazines, especially the TV shows; my mother-in-law, Anita, introduced me to CBS Sunday Morning, and as a strange child, I grew up watching 20/20 on Friday nights along with Dateline NBC, and as an adult, I have a taste for 60 Minutes as well.

The newest show flying on my radar is America Inside Out with Katie Couric, a show done by National Geographic.

Bill Nye Saves the World just released the second half of its second season, though Netflix lists it as “Season 3.” Another fantastic show for education.

I also made an account for Wikipedia and its various associate websites so I could more easily save articles. I still haven’t figured out how to save articles, but I’m sure there’s a great explanation for it online.

I’m signed up to do several edX courses (that I’ve never gotten around to) and also downloaded iTunes U as well as something called Coursera, and do you know that Yale University has full lecture courses available on Youtube?

Of course, these are not the equivalent of a college degree (but edX can give a certificate of completion for some of their courses for a certain fee), but online learning is very, very likely the way of the future.

I think I’m just ahead of the curve.

Steve

 

 

The Emptiness: A Poem

Neither here nor there

I cannot save my past

Though my future is unknown

To the Emptiness I can go

Source of all

But Nothing Itself

Sink into the Sea of Emptiness

The cracks in reality

That which is Not

Gives rise to meaning

All you have valued

Is sustained by Non-Being

Die before you die

To know what life is

To know what death is

Endless flow, endless suffering

Let it all come to rest

Let it all come to Silence

And in Silence, know

Let the Center collapse

That the All may be All

Let that which is Empty

Become Awake

On Thoughts and Prayers

Let’s break this down.

The criticism I have of “thoughts and prayers” isn’t that I think they’re entirely ineffectual (I don’t), it’s that the people who usually say those things are doing it to make themselves feel better and avoid doing anything useful.

Even if the usefulness is something like directly contacting someone and having lengthy conversations with them so they can vent to you (something I’ve done for most of my life), that’s still better than the hollow-ringing “thoughts and prayers.”

Yes, I admit that we can manipulate energy or something along those lines in this world. I also acknowledge that takes specific conditions and hefty training. Yes, if someone’s thinking about me, that can make me feel better or know that I’ve “got this.”

But that only goes so far. At some point in time, people need resources- time, energy, supplies, you name it. At some point in time, “thoughts and prayers” just becomes one giant “fuck you; I’m going on with my life” to the people in need.

And I’m not okay with that.

On the other hand, there are people who themselves have limited resources and who literally can’t help. “Thoughts and prayers” from them may be the way they’re expressing sympathy- that may be all they can give. In which case, I think it would be better to simply express condolences of some sort. Someone telling me they wish they could help me but aren’t in a position to do so will not make me feel ill-will towards them in the way that someone who absolutely can help me denies that help by saying “thoughts and prayers.”

So yeah. There’s my critique and nuance. Take it or leave it.

Steve