Archive for February, 2011

VOCABULARY NOTES-7

February 27, 2011

The word to forage is also applied to information search. When I Google for some information, my strategy is similar to what an animal searching for good is doing: I evaluate the list of addresses by their clipped commentaries (weighing the benefits of the next step: opening a particular page). When I open the page and see that there’s too little of what I expected, I go searching (“foraging”) to some other addresses, etc. Hence, the new word combination is information foraging (derivatives: information forager and to information forage. The example citation is from Jason Withrow’s “Do your links stink?,” American Society for Information Science Bulletin, June 1, 2002: Information foraging theory…views humans as informavores, continually seeking information from our environment. In a sense we are foraging for information, a process with parallels to how animals forage for food. For both human and animal there are cues in the environment that help us judge whether to continue foraging in the same location or to forage elsewhere.

In the citation above you may see another interesting word informavore (a person who consumes information) – by the analogy with carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore. The citation: Which of these activities occupies more of your time: foraging for food or surfing the Web? Probably the latter. We’re all informavores now, hunting down and consuming data as our ancestors once sought woolly mammoths and witchetty grubs. You may even buy your groceries online.—Rachel Chalmers, “Surf like a Bushman,” New Scientist, November 11, 2000. Incidentally, there are two more words with –vore – which are not related to the Internet vocabulary: locavores = people who eat food that they had either grown themselves or had bought from the surrounding area. —Ed Pilkington, “Back to the land,” The Guardian, June 26, 2007 and opportunivores = people who eat whatever he or she can find; A variation on the opportunivore theme is a person who is mostly vegetarian but who eats meat if it happens to be around. This sense of the term is slightly older, dating to 1997: ‘I enjoy eating meat occasionally,’ she explained, ‘but I don’t have to feel guilty about it, because I never buy it myself. I only eat meat when it is cooked for me by my friends.’ And she added, with just a hint of smugness, ‘I like to call myself an opportunivore.’ —Hugh Fearnley Whittingsall,Cowardly carnivore,” The Evening Standard, May 27, 1997

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YOUNG AND OLD

February 27, 2011

There follows a poem “Young and Old” by Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875), an English writer, historian, University professor and clergyman. I’m sure  the poem will be appreciated by readers.

When all the world is young, lad,

And all the trees are green;

And every goose a swan, lad,

And every lass a queen;

Then hey for boot and horse, lad,

And round the world away;

Young blood must have its course, lad,

And every dog his day.

When all the world is old, lad,

And all the trees are brown;

And all the sport is stale, lad,

And all the wheels run down;

Creep home and take your place there,

The spent and maimed among:

God grant you find one face there,

You loved when all was young.

The poem is all about me – with a slight alteration. The last line should be read:

You love the way when you were young.

MOURNING RIBBON

February 26, 2011

While having a walk this morning I noticed a strange thing attached to the stem of a tree. When I came nearer I saw that it was a kind of name tag with a mourning ribbon on it and the words: “Yanukovych – one year in power”. Really, some of those in Independence Square (Maidan) who were watching Yanukovych talking with the all-Ukrainian audience on TV yesterday called the day of February 25 (his inauguration anniversary) Day of Mourning. I closely follow the media reporting on the Yanukovich presidency. The “pro-Yanukovich” analysts are giving him credit for an improving economy, government effectiveness, international relations and administrative reforms. Before mentioning his other “achievements” I would like to comment on the ones advocated by the analysts:

  1. It makes no difference to me how much the economy has grown if that growth is not reflected in people’s well-being. Nigeria sits on the richest oil deposits but its people are as poor as church mice. Shall I believe the proclaimed 15% -economy -growth if the ratio of my family “food budget” is growing with every going to the supermarket, though I buy the same quantity of the same products?
  2. The governing structure would be even more effective if the fascist regime were introduced. There would be no dissenting opinion then and the Western powers would not have a headache in the form of unpredictable Ukraine.
  3. Do you call it an improved international standing of the country if it refuses to send its representative to the Nobel Prize Award ceremony where the Chinese dissident is honored with the Nobel Peace award? Or the refusal to condemn the utterly undemocratic presidential elections in the neighboring Belarus? Or the consent for the Russian military base to stay on the Ukrainian territory for another 25 years?
  4. So far the administrative reform is confined to sacking a part of government employees – among them there was a considerable share of the opponents of the ruling clan.

There are many more harmful effects of the first year of the Yanukovych presidency:

  • The Parliament has been turned into a yes-body rubber-stamping the president’s decrees. This has been done through unashamed bribery when “rats” were recruited by giving them millions of dollars on condition that they should leave the opposition and join the ruling faction. And so they did.
  • The recent local elections were undemocratic, the results were rigged, which gives no hope that any future elections will express the will of the people.
  • All courts – from the Constitutional Court to the lowest in rank– have become “pocket instruments” for solving political issues (of course, in favor of the president and his party). Should the president decide who to arrest or who to release from jail, it is done that very day by the independent (tongue in cheek!) courts. The new Constitution ‘restored’ by the Constitutional Court from the “darker” times confers absolute power to Yanukovych. Actually, he has monopolized all official political power.
  • Corruption is found mainly in the ranks of the opposition. People from the opposition are mainly  under arrest. If a member of the opposition escapes to another country and asks for political asylum and the asylum is given (the case of the former deputy premier Mr. Danylyshyn), the ruling party screams that the opposition has bribed the judicial organs of that other country. The former prime minister isn’t allowed to leave the country to attend some international meetings. Every day she is interrogated at the General Prosecutor’s Office, and charges against her are completely groundless to the point of being ridiculous.
  • While launching a campaign against corruption, the president buys super-costly things (for people’s money, of course): a helicopter at $17 m (Obama’s,  Merkel’s  or Putin’s helicopters cost  $5-8 m each), a chandelier for his residential house at $45,000. Incidentally, his new residency is a former historic place which in a more civilized country would be have been turned into a historical reserve.
  • During his election campaign in 2009 Yanukovych was accusing his opponents of focusing on the issues which divided the country: history, language, culture, etc. As president he did exactly the same but in the way he understands it should be done: monuments to Josef Stalin are erected and protected, Ukrainian schools are closed down, Ukraine’s historical struggle for its independence is silenced down and thrown out of school curricula, the share of Ukrainian Studies in the curricula is reduced, Ukrainian churches are taken from the Ukrainian patriarchate and given over to the Russian patriarchate, the dubbing of foreign films in Ukrainian is limited, fewer Ukrainian songs are heard on the radio, Ukrainian historians and writers are persecuted.
  • Pupils at secondary schools study one year less. All-Ukrainian universal testing has been become not the only criterion for university admission after oral admission examinations were allowed (they are arranged by universities) – which again gives a green light to the ill-famed bribe-giving, as was the case in the past.

I saw only one mourning ribbon. Will there be more next year?

SOON IT WILL COME

February 25, 2011

While celebrating today his first anniversary in the capacity of the Ukrainian president,  Mr. Yanukovich was having a three-hour TV dialogue with people from all over Ukraine. The questions asked were thoroughly selected and the dialogue was well orchestrated. However, I noticed two more things no less important for me. Practically all those who were presenting their problems, came up with their petitions in an obsequious way. For almost all of them Yanukovich was not a person they had employed to work for the country, but he was a god they were ready to  pray to. The second thing was my feeling of déjà-vu:  many complaints were being solved by the president with a promise of “It will be put right soon.” Isn’t it a replica of what this people had heard for dozens of years under communism: SKORO BUDET (“Soon it will come…”)? I don’t believe in the Ukrainian democracy as long as the “god” Yanukovych is soothing the people with the SOON-IT-WILL-COME promise. Neither do I believe that with the situation getting far worse, the people of Ukraine may rise up in protest against the authoritarian regime. The mentality of the Ukrainians is murderously peaceful. Remember: there were no protests in the famished years of 1932-1933: the peasants were just dying. The Jewish people, to the contrary, started an uprising in the ghetto of Warsaw in 1943 (the largest during the Holocaust) although they had little chances to survive.

GRAMMAR NOTES-7

February 23, 2011

THE PRONOUN (concluded). The choice between it and that (when these two are related to something said earlier) is the following: it is connected with an object/phenomenon expressed by a word, while that orients the reader to the situation: He gave me a book to read. It was very interesting and He gave me a book to read. That was very interesting.

The pattern such +a+ noun makes an utterance somewhat bookish (or, at least, neutral). To impart colloquial tonality to it, the patterns any such…, that/this kind of…, a + noun + like that may be recommended: He wasn’t a person to make any such blunder; He has conducted an investigation like that

THE ADJECTIVE.  Analytical forms are becoming more popular. Cf. He’s more lazy than stupid (of course, in this case the reason for the form with more may be that stupid does not use the suffix –er-). Not once did I hear from native speakers the forms more bad, more new, more hot, less well. To say nothing of the compounds like more good-looking,  the most well-known (earlier: better-looking, best-known)

The superlative degree is also used when only two things are compared (earlier you had to use the comparative degree only): he’s the strongest of the two, she’s the nicest of the two.

In colloquial speech further is used to express both spatial and non-spatial relations (further off the road; further he said…). Older/the oldest is more and more often used instead of elder/the eldest, the latter becoming outdated.

 

THE NEW COUNTRY

February 23, 2011

At the moment our son is in Japan participating in an international linguistic conference. My wife and I are following his scholarly trips with great interest. Besides Europe, Bogdan has already been to quite a number of countries in Africa and Asia, he also travelled to Australia and the U. S.A. Today he spoke to us via Skype sharing his first impressions of the country. The Japanese hosting the conference turned out to be very responsible and hospitable. When the participants were taken by bus on a sightseeing tour they were given tags with their bus seat numbers.  After the passengers had surmised that the tags might not be particularly needed on such a short tour, the Japanese guides started passionately explaining the necessity of the tags (“to track the passengers in case someone fails to keep up with those on the bus”). The Japanese were horrified at the very suggestion that a person who stayed behind might try to find his way back to the hotel by metro! The guides counted those in the bus three (!) times. On international flights passengers are counted only once, Bogdan said. When the tour was over, the organizers lined up and waved good-bye to the travelers in the departing bus.

The hotel accommodation was also exotic. Instead of a bed there was a low podium with pillows and mats to sleep on. In the room there was a book containing the teaching of Buddha. There was no television, since – as it was explained in a special note – the administration took special care of guests’ rest being quiet. However, if the guests preferred watching TV, “they should offer one at the reception.” Bogdan said it was not quite clear from the instruction whether the television could be collected at the reception desk or the guests were supposed to arrive with their own televisions and get them registered by the receptionist. A toilet with a remote control of its functions also looked an innovation to the Europeans. Some buttons had English names under them, the others carried hieroglyphs. Not knowing Japanese, Bogdan didn’t dare experiment .

In one of Tokyo streets there were many people sitting narrowly on benches. Bogdan’s friend living now in Japan explained to him that those were homeless people who had just had their meal and were being entertained. I liked the idea of this “value-added” service.  Here in Kyiv we have managed to arrange only soup kitchens for the homeless so far. However, with the days being rather cold now, tents are pitched up up for such people too – something which was not heard of before. We are becoming more civilized in Ukraine.  IMHO, a greater evidence of humane and ethical advancement would be if all people in Ukraine had a home. I got used to this idea during the first forty years of my life.

HOPE

February 22, 2011

What can and what cannot be bought in this world? Somebody says it depends on the money you have. One person can buy an airplane while another saves up to buy a meal. Somebody says you can’t buy health. Essentially, that is right, though with bigger money you have a chance to be physically healthier – at least for some longer time. Unfortunately, one may buy other people’s readiness to do something morally unacceptable as soon as those people feel they will gain some profit from their action. The number of things that cannot be purchased keeps shrinking. Still, it gives me a relief to know that there are things that can NEVER be bought. Like something which is “fair”: you cannot buy fair elections or a fair trial in court because in that case they cease to be fair. You cannot buy kindness of heart, innate intelligence, natural talent. And nobody has yet bought the amazement at the “starry sky above me” and the “Moral Law within me” (Immanuel Kant).

There’s hope until there are un-buyable things.

VOCABULARY NOTES-6

February 20, 2011

I’m a subscriber to several Internet dictionaries. It takes some time to retrieve the vocab info from them by category. What usually crystallizes in this blog is the result of a few-hour work. But I’ll be really glad if it proves helpful.

The next portion of the Internet words and phrases deals with the key lexeme “Web.”

WEBRARIAN:  A person who is an expert at not only finding information on the World Wide Web, but also at prioritizing, organizing, and cataloguing that information. Also: cybrarian (1992).

Most Web pages are not indexed or retrieved by major search engines. This places a premium on the ability to ferret out resources buried in remote areas of the Web. An in-house “Webrarian” may be quite adept at such techniques.
—Brett Lockwood, “Web-savvy lawyers are taking care of business,” The National Law Journal, July 26, 1999

 

WEBSUMER:  A person who indiscriminately consumes information obtained via the World Wide Web.

“It would be OK if students saw the Internet as a delivery channel for information resources of various quality. But they don’t. They are ‘Websumers’ — to them the Internet is a one stop shopping place where you can get information, even if you can’t (or don’t) distinguish between partial vs. complete, authoritative vs. dubious, biased vs. unbiased, old vs. current, or accurate vs. in accurate information.”
—D. Scott Brandt, “Beyond ‘Websumerism’,” Computers in Libraries, May 1, 2001

WEBOLOGY: a Web Science internet journal. Its address is: http://www.webology.org/

 

WEBLIOGRAPHY: a list of the websites you used to get information when writing something

INVISIBLE WEB: the collection of searchable Web sites whose content exists within databases and so cannot be indexed by search engines.

WEB RING :a group of similar websites which are connected to each other by links, so that it is easy for people to find a lot of information on a particular subject on the Internet:

a classical music web ring

WEBISODE: a short audio or video presentation on the Web. Webisodes are used to promote a product, preview music, deliver news events and present all sorts of information. Flash animation is often used for Webisodes

WEB-ENABLED: a label given to something which has the ability to access the World Wide Web. My new mobile is web-enabled

 

WEB HERRING:  analogous to “red herring”: something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue:  Do you really need examples of all the misleading information on the web that can be considered a “web herring”?

 

WEB SHAME:  a feeling of inadequacy over one’s own website or blog because one doesen’t feel it measures up to current “cool” web standards.  Antonym: web pride or web proud

John: “So, do you have a website?” Mary: “Oh, yeah, but don’t check it out. It needs work.” John: “Oh, Mary — do you have web shame?”

CULTURE SENT OFF

February 19, 2011

The Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine is the largest library in the country. The collection contains more than 15 million items. The main building of the library is a high-rise with a rather pleasant interior and an effective book-finding service. The high-rise is towering over hundreds of much lower buildings, and I call it a “wisdom tooth”.

In the Soviet times the library had even a special department where “forbidden” books were kept (a mark of distinction and high ranking). If you wrote a dissertation on a “secret” topic, or if your research involved the use of books prohibited for lesser mortals, you could get permission to read the materials of the special department. The permission was given on the basis of a positive reference from your university administration.

As a post-graduate student I used to work in four libraries of the ex-U.S.S.R.: the Lenin Library in Moscow, the Moscow Library of Foreign Literature, the Saltykov-Shchedrin Library in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), and the Vernadsky Library in Kyiv. Of these the Lenin Library was the richest. Among post-graduates, it was valued also for its canteen, where the meals were good and cheap. The Vernadsky Library could not boast a rich collection of reading items or a canteen, but for me it was the “warmest” : working in this library I felt “at home”.

My niece is a post-graduate student. She came to visit us today and said that it’s impossible to work in the Vernadsky Library now : it was unbearably cold there inside. Who cares for libraries, or book-shops, or education nowadays? Well, there were worser times. As long ago as in 1933 a character in Hans Johst’s Nazi drama “Schlageter” said: “When I hear the word culture…, I release the safety on my Browning!”

NO VALUE ADDED

February 18, 2011

Apartment houses in any Ukrainian city are often a pathetic sight to see: entrance doors are papered all over with notes advertizing small services, staircases are smelly, graffiti are inside and outside. Administrator offices responsible for utilities (known as Zheks) recommend that tenants themselves organize housing committees, collect money, employ people, etc. and maintain order. Really, some houses are almost perfect: persons on entrance duty will never let any visitor in unless they clear up the purpose of the visit as well as the apartment where the guest is going; the steps are clean, the walls of the staircase are freshly painted. There may be even flowers in the entrance hall and mirrors in the lift.

However, when I hear the advice to ‘self-organize’ for the purpose of order maintenance, I always ask myself: why isn’t the same approach suggested in relation to national defense, the provision of fire or police protection. Say, people could ‘self-organize’ and collect money for building a road or launching a satellite. Tenants of several blocks of flats could probably – within a decade or two – invest in a missile of their own. Absurd, isn’t it?

There are some sensitive points in the societal texture, a kind of nerve centers, which must function effectively. That’s where the government steps in. For example, we could contribute voluntarily to care for the elderly or the handicapped, but instead we choose the government to be our conduit. The critical mass of tenants (with their social background, history, origin, everyday culture, family earnings etc.) varies from one apartment house to another. When one apartment house can arrange the things easily, it may be next to impossible to do the same in the neighboring house. Besides drastically poor dwellers or young vandals, there may be quite a number of those who have little “community awareness”, are aggressive, or just …stupid.

I would be ready to pay an additional “apartment house tax.” But … would there be any use? Don’t we pay an education tax, or a health protection tax? And after that we again pay when we get our children educated or go to the doctor for treatment.

Incidentally, the former Interior Minister once suggested that people be allowed to buy fire arms to protect themselves when needed. He knew the effectiveness of the police protection he was responsible for.


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