The point of this video is discussing what Descartes‘ famous maxim “I think therefore I am” means to me today, whilst driving past the house he grew up in in the village that bears his name in France.
This is actually video number 18 in the French holiday season, but I didn’t number it as I wanted to present it earlier, so later on the French series will jump from 17 to 19.
The phrase “I think therefore I am” always seemed to me to be ridiculous. After all, when people become thoughtless they don’t just stop existing. They exist as they did before. Some even go through life in a thoughtless state. We have no idea to the extent that animals think – some such as bonoboes, whales and elephants may experience thoughts closer to our own than we may expect. Maybe there is thoughtfulness even further away in the cladoscope from mankind than we would even expect. It doesn’t make the more thinking animal more or less existant than the less thinking animal.
So I decided some time ago that another verb was needed rather than “to be” in order to make a more fitting end to this sentence, and I came upon it while teaching audit. I used to, and still do from time to time, train younger folk how to audit businesses, do reviews, due diligences and all manner of accountancy related services for business. I taught that mindless ticking and bashing of documents, without understanding the heart of an entity’s business, its purposes and its systems, would lead to a valueless and proabably flawed audit process, and that the only way to audit properly was to switch the brain on and keep it switched on for the duration of the audit. So I coined the term “I think, therefore I audit” and taught with this motto all around East Europe in the nineteen nineties and still do from time to time now.
The problem is of course, that because the audit profession is dominated by Big Four firms, who know that they cannot make profits on audits by putting people who can think for themselves on jobs, they have made the profession more and more of a box-filling matter so that junior staff, especially first years fresh from university with precious little practical training and little time to have learned how to think about the things they need to look out for, even though they mainly would probably want to, can go in and perform the bulk of an audit. This is not popular with middle tier clients who want some added value from the observations of their auditor which these younger ones are not yet ready to give, and on the contrary frustrate the client with naive questions as it becomes painfully apparent how they are learning on the job, and the middle tier try to field more senior people on work, and this actually costs our firms more, although we are taking generally less because the audits are smaller and the Big Four are erroneously assumed to have more prestige.
Yes. Even after Enron, and all the other Big Four messes. And the middle tier are forced to endure tighter regulation to assure that audits are being done “properly” but this “properly” means being done the way the Big Four instituted and keep on doing – namely mindless box filling. The Big Four lobby the professional bodies and state how things need to look in the way a standardised audit is carried out, and having any actual talent for sniffing out what could be wrong in a company, having any ability to think your own way through to what could be ailing in a company, these things have no premium whatsoever, on the contrary audit has become such a secretarial job over the last ten years that anyone with a spark of imagination is likely to run from the profession screaming. Continue reading “I think, therefore I audit. I film, therefore I am. (CUV)”→
He then got back to me and said that what he had in mind was that people should just be allowed to pledge allegiance to what they wanted, to their families, their own state if they wanted, to Nato if they felt strongly about that level, etc etc.
But here’s the rub with that one: what if I pledge allegiance to the ordinary man and woman, regardless of where they are born, but no-one pledges allegiance back to me, then it seems I’m on the losing end. So the only way to be fair is for everyone to pledge allegiance to everyone else. Nation of birth should be as irrelevant as star sign.
To war for a country should be as ludicrous as to war for Gemini or Sagitarius. Time and space are both dimensions so if we can be agreed, as most sensible people are, that the timing of your birth shouldn’t prejudge anything about you, and that all these star signs are just sillinesses, then why can’t we apply the same reasoning to space also? Why does the fact that you are born in this point on earth and not another give you a different status in the eyes of some people? Why will they pledge allegiance on to those born near them to go and fight against you? Is there any real sense in that?
We’re human beings, and when you go around the world, either by travelling physically or by using the social platforms that the internet affords, you can find people who are on your wavelength and who share your views and passions and priorities and likes and dislikes who look completely different to you in that they might be a so-called race, gender, generation, class, nationality, etc, from the ones you’d expect to have any similarity with.
You might find a partner for life in a nation which is supposed to be utterly unlike your own, and understand that person more closely than if she had been the girl next door when you were kids.
And you might find that your own family members, brothers and sisters you shared a table, a telly or even a bedroom with growing up are utterly different to you in outlook, priorities, likes and dislikes, personality traits…
So why even have nations? Why get so het up about them? If they are the cause for people to be segregated and given unfairly differing packets of rights, then we need to treat the nation state with the contempt it deserves, along with everything else that divides us.
I understand that the download from DocsStocs made by Claude Cartaginese has now reached into over 5,000 downloads, with also many other sources of this document appearing also on the web as people share it freely as intended, so that the full number of downloads may be as high as 10,000 or more.
Set against that, though is the fact that not nearly so many paper copies have been ordered. The only place they can be ordered is Amazon in America, not the UK Amazon as yet, and the link to the product is embedded on the thumbnail.
If you would like a book worth in fact over 50 USD if it had not be gifted by over 40 volunteers each telling how they managed to learn multiple languages for less than 17 dollars, and also support Uncle Claude who had to fork out some of his private lolly on making the first bunch of paper books that are not selling, even though people have been eager to take the free version, then either click on the link here (which gives you the same price and I think I’m on 6% without costing you any more) or if you don’t want to give me 6% but still pay the same, then find the link just by going normally to Amazon.com and searching for it.
If you read the e-version and liked it, why not buy the paper version as a gift for someone else? It will always be possible to get a free version of this booki, but the printed one is very nice too and a good use of seventeen dollars, so please let’s be having a few more purchases of it.
… but nevertheless that’s what happened last night. I don’t think he meant anything by it as I have never received this treatment at his hands, or paws, before.
But it did give my wife the excuse she needed not only to change the bedding, but also to reorganise all the furniture in the bedroom, so that the cabinet my grandfather made (probably from twocked materials as he was a bit of a wide boy by all accounts) is now on my side of the bed, and the Japanese step cabinet from reclaimed teak is on my wife’s side. This apparently creates a lot of space, although I will have to see how I feel about it after I have put it to the test by sleeping there, which will happen in the not too distant future. but first I have to watch Lost…
So if you follow that link you should see the whole thread, but just for some context here I’ll include the post just before mine, by Harry, which I basically agree with:
Nola I am with you. I have looked at books that have no Cyrillic and
they are a joke. Even for the absolute beginner, and we all were
there at one time and confused. I think these books are attractive to
some because let’s face it the Cyrillic alphabet is intimidating to a
beginner. If you are serious about learning this beautiful language
don’t waste your money on books like this. Since the language is
purely phonetic it is essential to understand the alphabet before
going very far. This helps a great deal when you hear words and can
recognize verb conjugation or the case of the word which Nola has
pointed out. Unless you recognize these two things you may recognize
the words the other person is saying but you will not have a clue as
what they are trying to communicate. Learning phrases is useless if
you can not understand the person’s response.
I have reviewed a lot of learning programs and of course everybody has
their own preferences. Personally, I am impressed with the Michel
Thomas method. The format is an instructor with a male and female
student as she teaches them. The advantage of this method is that you
get a lot of grammar explanations on the spot for both male and female
verbiage. Hope I it is OK to plug the course here. I would be
interested in Doctor Victor’s input. I love his course and
methodology but the lessons are incomplete. After you are comfortable
with Rl101 and Rl102 you will be hungry for more.
OK, so here’s my reponse to the thread, not just what Harry said although I do refer to it in one or two points:
There is no point in books on Russian which are simply written in
transcribed Latin letters. I understand why books about Japanese need
to be written first off with romaji, I understand why western learners
of Mandarin need to lean on pinyin for a while. I can see that with
three separate sets of consonants depending on which tone group the
word is in, learners of Thai need to use their own clumsy Latin
transcription system (or pick one of a number of conflicting ones)
I’ll even go so far as to say that because of the lack of vowels
(although you can add them, of course) Arabic and Hebrew learners need
to lean on their own alphabets for a while. The shorter the better.
Now you probably DO need to know how to transcribe Russian into
“western” if you intend to go far with it, but then what you need to
know is that each language has its own system for transcribing
Russian. So the person whose eyebrows are similar to mine, and who is
older than me so I can’t even say I thought of them first, is known as
Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev in the English speaking world, but you just
look at his wikipedia entries, you’ll find the following:
German: Leonid Iljitsch Breschnew
French: Léonid Ilitch Brejnev (you’ll also see them writing the ending
in “eff” in older texts)
Czech: Leonid Iljič Brežněv
Spanish: Leonid Ilich Brézhnev
Polish: Leonid Iljicz Breżniew
Italian: Leonid Il’ič Brežnev (which is bizarre, as those signs aren’t
even part of the Italian language)
Danish: Leonid Iljitj Bresjnev
So while there’s general agreement about the “Leonid” with only the
French dissenting, and that only because of the demands of their
farmers, we have in a sample of eight languages including English,
eight different ways of spelling his patronymic and eight different
ways of spelling his family name!
And they are all quite correct, for the language they are used in.
If there were a single international system for the transliteration of
Russian, a kind of Russian pinyin (there is actually, but only really
used by librarians and people quoting scientific papers) that they
would look after, then there would be a bit more marginal value in
using it to learn, but even in that case it would be stupid, given
that actual cyrillics can be learned so quickly. Thousands have
learned cyrillics off my 101 series. If it’s taking more that two or
three weeks then the person either isn’t getting the method right or
they are not very adept, and either way that gate will prevent those
people wasting their time getting into the meat of the language, which
they probably won’t be able to get their heads round either, if they
baulked at the alphabet, so it’s a mercy for them.
So I just demonstrated that with a book on Russian in English letters,
not only will you not communicate properly in Russia, but also you
won’t communicate properly with people who did the same thing as you
did but coming from other language groups, even neighbouring languages
to ours. So it really is a pointless exercise, other than to make
money for the author, of course, as it’s an easier book to typeset,
and will attract its share of buyers despite being hopeless,
especially if they are not honest enough to describe online or in the
paper catalogue the absence of proper cyrillics.
Thankfully with things like Amazon we have the opportunity to add our
own reviews, and I’d really encourage you to flag up any language
books which don’t teach proper literacy. Both in Russian and in any
other language – the new TY series have removed proper literacy from a
number of their books and this really deserves to be flagged.
That doesn’t mean that audio only courses like Pimsleur or the
superior Michel Thomas method by Natasha Bershadski (should be –
dskaya, of course, which is not a great start – I hope she doesn’t
teach the language that way getting the genders of adjectives all
wrong) which Harry talks about hoping I won’t mind (of course not!)
are not valuable. They might be a nice entry-level way to see if you
like the sound and the kind of structures that you have ahead before
you ever put pero to bumaga in Russian. What the course consists of
I’ll come to in a second
I got told off by my friend Harold Goodman (I hope he’s still my
friend!) who did Michel Thomas’ Mandarin Course for suggesting in a
forum ways in which these courses could be available for less than the
cover price, and given that the cover prices of all MT courses fell on
Amazon by 30% (looks like what I was saying and some others too
started filtering back to Hodder) and given that you have to
appreciate the work the authors and everyone else put into this, and
most overridingly given that there won’t be any more courses in the
new series of MT if they’re not making money, and I seriously want
Harold to make the Hebrew course, I shall not be giving that advice
out any more. If you know it, you know it – and if you don’t, you
don’t. If you want something free, what’s on Youtube is free.
A course like Michel Thomas method contains generally 8 CDs of about
an hour in length for the foundation course. The first two of these
will be a repetition of the two CDs in the introductory course, hence
the latter is not worth buying unless all you want is an answer to the
question whether the method works for you or not. I’ll give you the
answer to that, if it doesn’t work, nothing will, so just go ahead and
buy the foundation course, especially while it’s 30% off. After this
you get an “advanced” course (it’s not really “advanced”, off course,
expect in comparison with the foundation course) and that has 4 CDs
with the pace slightly upped so that you really score as much vocab
again off the advanced course as you did on the Foundation course. And
then after that you get for most languages a vocab course (for Greek
there isn’t a vocab MT course but the authress has craftily made her
own Chinnor-based vocab book and CD set and Amazon sells it of course
as a set with her two MT products) and in the case of MT Russian you
get 4 CDs. And you are getting drilled on the vocab as it emerges –
you are using it in sentences that also reinforce recently learned
So if you take the three together you have 16 hours of recordings.
Used properly, ie with the pause button, you’re going to use 50 hours
of your time or more to go through the three level course. Equivalent
class room time would have cost a good deal more of course, but you
would have been able to ask questions. But I’m really no fan of the
language classroom, not as an efficient means of learning languages,
anyhow, however pleasant and collegial it may be.
And maybe we can say that Pareto’s rule has applied to MT’s method
course, that these 50 hours, spent efficiently, will give you 80% of
what 250 hours of conventional learning would have given. That may be
a bit overgenerous on my part, as I am still not convinced that a lot
of what goes on in the lessons isn’t going into the short term memory.
Only a staged presentation system that goes over two weeks can really
tell you that. But on the other hand if you don’t rush at a Michel
Thomas course like a bull in a china shop, but take it relaxed, and go
back after two weeks and check you can still do it – don’t try to
learn while you are doing it – then you may well find that the key
drivers of the goldlist method as regards short and long term memory
can also come into play in the MT method.
However, all of this still only gets you, regardless of the ambitious
names of the courses, at a level where you will be close to entry
point once you start actually writing in Russian. If you did the MT
course, you’ll feel a familiarity with the words when you come to
write them. While doing the MT course, an absolute beginner might do
my RL 101 which keeps the actual Russian content intentionally low for
the first half – those cyrillics equally well apply to almost all
languages written in cyrillics. And then that beginner should drill
the Russian alphabet as I say, by writing his own language in
cyrillics. Or they can learn (using Wikipedia, for example, or Google
translate) how place names and personal names are transcribed into
cyrillics by Russians. That will be a very good drill for cyrillics,
as well as be useful for the future for the learner to know, but won’t
conflict much with what the MT tutor Natasha is presenting the MT way.
It’s coming in from a wholly different direction.
Then when you finish all that MT has to offer and also feel really
comfortable with cyrillics as a writing system, then you go an get a
nice, traditional book and put the two together, or you can watch what
there is of my RL 102 course, an unfinished work as we all know, and
go to the course book from there.
Before I finish I will say that a learner’s book should have the
cyrillics with stresses on the stressed vowels and the two dots on the
‘yo’, but also make it clear to students that they shouldn’t get used
to them. I decided in the video course that as I was sitting there
giving the pronunciation for the words on screen anyway, that neither
of these crutches were necessary, and so it is in real Russian. Which
you may say is ironic.