This morning I received a question about how the present perfect tense works in English:
Is the following sentence correct in terms of grammar ‘Yet ongoing political stabilization has been beneficial for further political and legal development of the country’? I am a little bit embarrassed by the use of present perfect tense for the event which has not been completed yet but is progressing, so it is impossible so far to predict for sure an outcome of it.
Here is my reply.
The “has been” refers not to the state of completion of the stabilization, nor even that the benefits are already palpable and therefore contain some complete benefits. The use of this tense is predicated by the fact that we are still in the time period the writer has in mind. It does not really equate to perfective aspect, but to cut-off or periodization of times.
This is the difference between tense and aspect, in a nutshell.
Read the rest of this entry
Now that the World Cup has kicked off in Brazil, football is in the air all over the world, and with it, our minds are distracted from the hum-drum routine of ordinary life into the never-failing topic of corruption.
Once again there is investigation into corruption and even money laundering in football in various parts of the world. Today someone commented that football is the fifth largest channel of illegal money in the world. I do not know how they know that or where that ranking is made or how it was made, but it certainly seems to underline the conception that sport is not always healthy, also underlined this week by comedy icon Rik Mayall collapsing and dying of a heart attack after a run. I thought people ran to avoid heart attacks, not bring them on? And here he is, only six years my senior and, unlike me, in perfectly reasonable shape. I think I shall stick to walking.
Yesterday Polish media announced an investigation into the finances of former President Kwasniewski – apparently he also seems to be “considerably richer than yow” as either Shakespeare or Harry Enfield put it, I can’t remember which – they would like to know whence the abundance that hath become his portion is come.
This made me think that there should be an investigation made not only at the close of a person who holds public office but also at the beginning – an audit of their personal wealth and that of their families. Doing one at the beginning tells people to mind their Ps and Qs while serving the people on public money. This also avoids the chance that they can say that they had these investments all along.
There should be a standard work programme approved by the public affairs committee and the national chamber of auditors, or chambers where as in the UK there is more than one. The statement of personal wealth should be drawn up and signed off by the auditor stating what kinds of investigations they made in order to produce this statement and if anything in the list of procedures was not possible to do then their report should state so and give the reasons. The work would be carried out by people who have audit licences who have been screened for political neutrality, and the choice of Firm should be agreed by the public affairs committee.
The report should be held by a politically independent committee and compared to the one made after the person comes to the end of his or her office and then again 5 years later. Accumulations of wealth should be reconciled to declared sources.
All bank accounts of these public figures should be declared and unusually large expenditures or outgoing gifts should also be investigated as well as the ‘as at’ financial position. It should be an offence for a person who falls under the law to own a bank account anywhere in the world which is not declared to the auditor.
This should apply first to the heads of state. Royalty who did not choose to have their role and simply are born into it should be exempt, although they might opt in voluntarily in some countries. After the heads of state then through the cabinet, all MPs, all senior civil servants, judges, and members of committees and panels whose work determines the expenditure of public monies. Including the panels of bit sporting events who determine who is going to host football or other sporting tournaments and how the money that pours into them is going to be spent.
If this became law around the world in all the different jurisdictions that there are, we might finally get to a situation where decisions are in the hands of people who are basically honest or at least have no motivation to give vent to their dishonest tendencies.
Enjoy the games.
This came to me on the plane the other day. It is not really a sonnet as they are supposed to be iambic pentameter, and this is iambic quadrameter, but a verse is a verse for better or worse. See if you like it.
To sing a new song to the Lord
And yet include there no strange fire
To take up psaltery and lyre
And sing according to His Word
How can the song be new, and yet
Stay in the range that God commands?
Right ways to praise and worship’s bounds,
These God within His Word has set.
The Gospel is the song that’s new
New from the cross and empty tomb
This song is new yet ancient too
Planned ere a child had breached a womb.
We are the children planned to be
God’s own, a people He set free.
Today since I finally have half an hour of free time in peace and quiet, I would like to come back to the very good question posed by Fintan (I won’t say his surname as that would identify him, I’ll leave you guessing which Fintan it is) several weeks ago already (sorry about that), and in particular the second part of his question where he raises the issue of activation and asks what I think about things like “full circle method” by Luca Lampariello.
The first thing I want to say, is far be it from me to detract from what any accomplished polyglot, be that Signor Lampariello (who is a capital fellow on top of being a great polyglot) or any other of the well-known polyglots who do follow some form of activation. I make the assumption that these people know what they’re doing, and that they do what they enjoy and what works for them.
If continually activating during the process of language learning is something that keeps you motivated in which you enjoy doing, then it’s valuable. Anything which keeps you going in the marathon of learning languages, is your friend. Anything which you find demotivating which detracts from the pleasure of doing it, is not your friend.
And in the above I said the most important thing that needed to be said. Having said that, I will now go on to explain the core of my own approach and philosophy with regard to the question of activating language knowledge in the whole course of study. Read the rest of this entry
Is it time for the Roman Catholic Church to repeal the celibacy vow imposed on those who would serve?
While there were traditions of celibacy even from early times in order to embolden ministers of the Gospel in times of tribulation, the requirement for celibacy is from the twelfth century. Churches whose schism with Rome predate that do allow marriage of elders and deacons (the only terms for Church officers which I can justify biblically, since these are the only ones which are defined in the Epistles). The Bible itself requires that a “bishop” (from episkopos or overseer, a synonym with elder or presbyter) must the the husband of one wife and haven proven parenting skills. The new Testament also clearly defines the forbidding of marriage as “a Doctrine of Demons”. So we know where it comes from. The mechanism by which it appeared sensible in the Middle Ages was purely carnal – the coffers of the church were depleting through a widespread disinterestedness in faith in Europe, and money was not available to provide for the widows and orphans of ministers. Aware of the verse that says (1 Tim 5 v 8) “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” they simply cynically made sure that such claimants would not exist.
This was not the action of spirit-filled Church leaders but of carnal eccesiastical politicians whose effect has always been hard to combat in the Roman Church because of their interpretations of Apostolic succession and Church governance and from where, in the life of a Church, authority derives. These were the key issues of the Reformation which at the time led to bloodshed as they were politically charged. These days and for the last 200 years Catholics and Protestants have been able to discuss these issues in a civilised way, often a way of great love and respect, and still we have differing views. I am ready to say that most protestants are wrong on something – there are so many strands of thought in Protestantism that of course we are all wrong on something probably many things, hopefully mainly secondary things but are right in having a personal relationship with God based on faith in Jesus – but the chances that only one denomination has got the whole of theology right – how high are they? Catholics also therefore need to be able to question where they derive authority.
This celibacy doctrine, which began so unworthily, underscores so many of the sexual scandals and crimes of people who have been ministers in the Roman Catholic church since the twelfth century, right up to today. of course if someone does not have a normal sexual relationship which is considered not sinful they will be at a higher risk of temptation to have a sinful one. It is hard enough, Lord knows, even for those of us who are lawfully married. It is all very well for Brother Francis to apologise for the sexual crimes of church ministers and say that he takes responsibility, but unless something is then done by him to correct it, it will doubtless seem to many to be an empty and bogus acceptance of responsibility.
If on the other hand Brother Francis has the will and ability to right this wrong, this denial of basic human rights to his colleagues in a way Christ never commanded and which indeed is in flagrant disobedience to Apostolic Revelation, then many Christians, Roman or non-Roman, will respect him and it will be a huge step towards enabling more Christian union around the feet of our Saviour
Fintan, a language learning fan, wrote to me the following:
Hi David, I am a language learner and am impressed with your Goldlist system. I want to ask you a question about the Goldlist method if that’s ok. Why did you choose 2 weeks as the minimum period for the first distillation? Was it efficiency/management of growing bronze lists that decided this period of time as I can’t find info on the association between 2 weeks and the end of short term memory? I understand the 20-30% retention by this passed time but I just want to check with you. Also, it occurred to me that one could activate this first 20-30% after only 2 weeks rather than waiting to be finished all distillations. By activating, I mean using a full circle method like Luca Lampariello to translate the known passive sentences back into the target language. I think this does not contradict the long term memory goal as you are only activating known words. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. Fintan.
My reply, as ever when someone asks a great question which others could really benefit from;
Can I write the answer as an article on huliganov.tv?
To which Fintan kindly responds:
Absolutely :) Looking forward to it! Thanks
So here goes…
Now and again in my writings (which anybody could be forgiven for not having read all of), I have spoken a few times about what the significance of the two week fermentation period in Goldlisting is.
However, I don’t think I’ve really said enough about it and so this question is a very useful one for those who would also like to know more about the topic and many readers no doubt will be interested in delving into this particular issue more closely just as Fintan is.
As you know, the Goldlist method is based upon the findings of Ebbinghaus, known as the father of the study of memory as well as the father of clinical psychology. Very little prior to Ebbinghaus’ work had been done on the human mind and memory using the scientific method, namely experimentation and the testing of various theories by performing logical experiments giving tangible evidence which can be repeated by other people. Ebbinghaus was groundbreaking because he did this for the first time in a very imaginative way – and in a way very interesting for polyglots. That is to say he taught himself nonsense words and measured how quickly he would forget them. One weakness about his method was that he used himself as the main subject, being too kind to inflict the rigours of learning nonsense for the pure sake of forgetting them while measuring the rate of doing so on his students.
If you want to know more about this pioneering scientist, a good place to start would be the Wikipedia articles on him and on his theories.
Reading them however you will probably notice that two weeks per se is not mentioned. And neither is the idea of there being a short-term memory which is for conscious and long-term memory which is for unconscious learning. You can look for these concepts in the work of Ebbinghaus in the way that you could look for the term Trinity in the Bible, or indeed the name of God in the book of Esther. These are things which are intrinsic, and go without saying to a degree. It is not possible to understand all the observations of fact without such a theory, and therefore it emerges from the work even if not explicitlt mentioned.
Of course, it is also possible that I’ve read into what Ebbinghaus did more than he ever intended, and if that is the case then of course on the one hand that would put me in a position of being less “scientific” than such methods as Supermemo by Wozniak or Anki which certainly do map onto the forgetting curve in a way which the Goldlist method does not, but for reasons I’m going to come to an moment that actually doesn’t matter.
Let me just grab a picture of the forgetting curve if I can. Bear with me one moment.
Right, here we go. Thanks to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Icez for this, which he placed into the public domain.
As you will see, it is not that you remember everything well for two weeks and then get a sudden deterioration. Not according to this, anyway, and not according to the raw data Ebbinghaus made from his experiments with himself.
There are reasons that I will go into a little bit later on in this article that make me think that such phenomenon does exist. However I don’t know of any actual scientific evidence proving the observation is measurably true rather than simply anecdotal but I will give you all the reasons why I think that the two-week cut-off is more than just an arbitrary point in the forgetting curve. That’s coming up below in the article. Read the rest of this entry
I was asked today in a private message how to measure sarcasm.
The idea of sarcasm is that what a person says in plain text is different to what they actually mean, and certain parts of the audience are supposed to understand it, possibly find a humourous twist in the juxtaposition of what you said and what you meant, while the person or people who is the butt of the sarcasm ideally should remain confused by it and publicly shown up as stupid.
There are two ways of measuring sarcasm in a remark, one is the effectiveness of the sarcasm in doing the above job, while the other measurement refers to the pithiness, as sarcasm is particularly appreciated by connoisseurs if it has a “pithy” quality. The thing is, sarcasm is seen as “the lowest form of wit”, while brevity is called “the soul of wit”, and souls like to rise up, so therefore sarcasm which is both pithy and also very sarcastic sarcasm has forces in it moving up and down at the same time creating internal circulating flows like a storm cloud or a galaxy and draws into itself the energy and attention of the audience. A much-appreciated sarcastic comment then needs to have two measurements, a pithiness score and a score for sarcasm effectiveness.
As explained above, effective sarcasm is all about the intended listeners understanding the hidden meaning or it being lost on them, depending on the intention of the remark issuer (RI). Therefore, the formula for sarcasm effectiveness (FSE) is (n/e)+(u/i)*100%, where n = number of those not understanding the comment from those who were not supposed (by the RI) to understand it, e = number of those who were not supposed to understand it, u = number of those who were supposed to understand it and did understand it and i = number of those who were supposed to understand it.
I hope you understood that.
This is separate to the measure of sarcasm pithiness. An ideally pithy sarcastic remark is supposed to have five words in it. The pithiness score is therefore 5 minus the actual variance from 5 words, plus or minus. So a one word sarcastic remark as well as a nine word answer achieves a pithiness score of 1. This only applies to the final sentence if we are referring to multi-sentence pieces of sarcasm.
Hope that answers your question.
One reader with the pleasant name of Marlon wrote in one comment recently the following great question, and thus coaxed me to impart some advanced goldlisting knowledge which I was keeping back for the book:
I am eager to start the Goldlist method. However, I need further clarification about scheduling. I read your post responding to Abdul some years back but I am still not sure how I can avoid distillations and new headlist overlapping. I do understand I could simply insert a batch of words and not use the step system, but it is not my desire to take that route.
I would prefer to use the step Goldlist method. I think I am most confused by time allotment. I decided to use the 20mins/25words/10min break format. When distilling to the first set (from 25 to 17), I believe you suggest use the same format, that is to use 20mins/25words/10mins. What about D2? Do I still need to use 20 mins to go from D1–>D2 (and D2—>D3)? In other words, do I perform as many distillations as possible after D1 is completed in the 20 min allotment? For example, Would it be prudent to distill maybe 2 sets from 17–>12 in one 20 min block?
I am looking forward to your response.
I will write the answer to this as a main article, partly because it’s a better way to get more readers to read it, and it is a good and useful topic for those who are using the Goldlist, and partly because I can use tables better in a new article than in a response.
I think it’s an excellent question, which shows that you’ve understood most of what I need you to understand in order to work successfully with the method.
I have in the past left people to fill in the blanks for this one themselves, as there are a number of ways in which you could fill in the blanks and they would all be good as long as the basic tenets are agreed to, and also I was leaving something back for the book, but just to give you an example of what works for me, imagine that you decide to do a project in which you have a good idea how many lines will be in the headlist in total, and lets say it’s going to be 3000 lines of headlist.
I would split that task into Batches, and each batch I give letters of the Alphabet, so Batch A, Batch B, etc.
Now because we want to avoid running into within two weeks of ourselves, as well as not have too long periods of not getting to review the same material (more than a quarter of a year is not necessarily harmful, but means you have little momentum, in practice, which can be demotivating) we need to plan it so that the first batch is the biggest batch, and then they get gradually smaller.
So the last batch will be 100 words, the second from last will be 200 words, etc.
Now follow me through this logic: Read the rest of this entry