Archive for March, 2011

‘TWIXT THE CUP AND THE LIP

March 31, 2011

Last August President Yanukovych set a goal for the Ministry of Education in Ukraine: no less than 3-5 Ukrainian universities should be among those which are officially recognized as world’s leading universities. Seven months passed and five schools of higher learning in Ukraine are now among 500 world’s best universities! They are Kharkiv technical university, Donetsk technical university, University of Kharkiv, University of Donetsk and Tavriyski University in Simferopol (Crimea).

 

One could only be glad to see our national institutions going up the world ranking scale. But… there’s a shadow of doubt here: the rating agency was RatER(http://www.globaluniversitiesranking.org/ ) which was founded by the Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.. Mr. Deripaska graduated from Moscow State University and this may explain the fact that his alma mater stands higher in the Global Universities Ranking drawn by RatER than Harvard, Stanford or Cambridge Universities:

 

1 Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

2 California Institute of Technology, USA

3 University of Tokyo, Japan

4 Columbia University, USA

5 Lomonosov’s Moscow State University, Russia

6 Harvard University, USA

7 Stanford University, USA

8 University of Cambridge, UK

9 Johns Hopkins University, USA

10 University of Chicago, USA

 

I have no doubt that Mr. Deripaska decided to “reward” the pro-Russian Ukrainian government with the first ever listing among the top 500 universities just for their being “pro-Russian”. How many Ukrainian professors are cited the world over? What is the practical application and the financial return of scientific projects done at Ukrainian universities? How many research papers are published in English (which would make them more accessible for scholars in other countries)? For that matter, how many “kandidats” and “doctors” in Ukraine can fluently communicate in a foreign language? Before claiming high places in international ranking, Ukrainian universities must get rid of corruption at every stage of higher education – from students’ admission to graduation. You are to write a year paper or a diploma paper? Or a dissertation? I give only one URL (there are hundreds): http://kursak.cepbic.com/

A year paper is sold at UAH120 (USD 15), a diploma paper (bachelor’s degree) – at UAH 500, a research paper for obtaining the master’s degree will cost you USD 75. Interestingly, most of the paid research papers are written by university professors themselves. First they set themes of research papers and then cooperate with respective agencies who call them “our experts”.

 

Judging by the educational level of our president, in his time he must also have turned to “experts” while “writing” his dissertation. However, prices quoted in those days might have been different: the inflation in this country is in double digits.

 

Incidentally, a competition for the best cheat sheet (see the picture) has been announced in Ukraine. The competition is going to last until 1st June 2011. The site http://www.osvita.com/news/04-03-2011/1299238480/ invites professors to participate.

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GRAMMAR NOTES-10

March 30, 2011

It looks as if the adverb far relates to its synonym a long way (from) as the adverbs much/many and their equivalent a lot of relate to each other: far is used mainly in negative and interrogative sentences while a long way — in affirmative ones: Do you live far from the center of the town? — Yes, I live a long way from it.

The adverb yet, when used in questions, is close to already in the same position — the difference being that yet refers to something expected and already expresses a kind of surprise. The situation in the classroom: a teacher gave students some time to write a short essay. After a minute she sees a student not writing. She says: “Have you already finished?” After 15 minutes she addresses the whole class: “Have you finished yet?”

In colloquial speech adverbs are often used in the form of adjectives: It sounds real good, Is he hurt bad? He speaks terrible, he walks too slow, etc. The same may be observed in advertisements with big: Think big! Save big! etc

SCHOLARS VS COLONELS

March 30, 2011

The Institute of Ukrainian Studies was formed 20 years ago – right after Ukraine became independent. Five days ago the Ministry for Education, Science, Youth and Sports (there is such a ministry in the Ukrainian government!) issued an order to the effect that the Institute be disbanded. The former director of the Institute Petro Kononenko has been suspended since March 28. The liquidation committee is headed by colonel (?) Anatoliy Chaykovskiy. It reminds me of the film Ordinary Fascism by Michail Romm. Arts and literature were objects of Nazi vilification in the 1930s in Germany. Snapshots of the film show that people in military uniform “knew” more about the world of spirit than artists or writers did. And it’s not accidental that the present-day Minister of the above Ministry  Dmytro Tabachnyk (another hater of everything that is Ukrainian) has also the military rank of a colonel.

Petro Kononenko says that the liquidation of the Institute of Ukrainian Studies is another step towards the implementation of the Russian World concept which is aggressively being pushed forward by the Russian Orthodox Church – an instrument in Kremlin’s hands

GOING BY BUS (CONTINUED)

March 29, 2011

However, the movie was shown in the bus on my return trip. The sound was rather loud and you couldn’t but hear it all the time while you were on the bus. The title of the film was Strelyayushchiye Gory (The Mountains That Shoot). A Russian superhero in the film disperses an armed group which has penetrated from the territory of Georgia in the Caucasus into Russia. I wondered why the drivers were showing that kind of film. The answer could be found in an observation made by my teacher long ago: we, teachers, teach the way we were taught when we were students. It looks that the drivers showed the kinds of films they were shown in olden times. The manner of demonstrating the movie was also “olden”: nobody asked the passengers whether they liked suchlike movies or not, or what their aesthetic or political views were. One had to possess unbelievable stamina to withstand the four-hour bombardment with military songs, patriotic shouts, primitive propagandist dialogues, or prolonged fights in which the “white man” – a Russian border-guard – is usually a winner. At the end of the film a certain Merkuryev after a five-minute karate fight throws the leader of the “illegal armed gang” (Hassan) into a precipice. Still conscious, the leader sees birds of prey floating in the high sky waiting for his death.

As twenty years before, we keep jolting in the same Russian-owned, shabby “imperialist” bus.

GOING BY BUS

March 28, 2011

Sounds like a topic for learning English, doesn’t it? However, these are notes about my recent trip to another town in Ukraine.

Only a small bus is supplied for an intercity route this time.  All the seats (about thirty of them) have been sold out and their occupants, including your humble narrator, are happily looking through the windows of the bus at those two dozen who haven’t managed to  get in. A plump lady – the ticket inspector – after checking the availability of the passengers gets out of the bus and waves to the two drivers inside to start off. The moment she turns her back on the bus one of the drivers makes a sign to the ticketless who are crowding at the side of the bus on the platform. When they see the sign, the would-be travelers race off in the direction shown. The bus backs from the platform, turns left and stops at a place about 100 meters away. The place is beyond the official territory of the bus-station and it’s quite legal for drivers to let new passengers in without their tickets being inspected by the plump lady.

Actually, there are no tickets. Ready cash is collected from the newcomers, and the small bus runs briskly along a busy thoroughfare. Babies are crying, the engine is droning, the bus is jumping on the “yamas” (pits on the road)…  A squeezed mass of people are clutching at bags on their knees, some others are trying to push huge bundles under the seats, still others are sitting on their suitcases in the passage.

Our 11-month-old granddaughter enjoys a priviledged space on the raised podium right behind the drivers. She is  staring at both of them with a special interest. I’m looking at her – this sight is better than any you can think of. And there’s no need to show a movie, which is often the case (not this time) on intercity buses. With or without the film, my eyes will be riveted on the dear tiny creature. Six hours of going by bus pass as fast as if it was only six minutes.

FIRST ARRIVAL

March 25, 2011

Our granddaughter, aged 11 months and 20 days, has arrived in Ukraine. This is her first visit to the land where her parents were born. Her grandparents (yours truly and his wife) had seen little Sophijka only via Skype. She was asleep in a buggy when her elder sister, who had also come with her, rolled her into the Arrivals hall at the Terminal F of Boryspil Airport. Sophia’s comparatively young age and the fact that she was asleep in her baby carriage, brought tangible dividends to all those who were associated with her at the time of the arrival – like going through passport and customs control without queuing up, the supply of a taxi-cab, etc. A true VIP welcome, that’s what I call it!

Sophia woke up when the taxi was shooting ahead towards the city.  She woke up and… she smiled at me. Do you know many people who would wake up and smile at a complete stranger? I would like to possess the same feeling of security and to be positive towards the world in the same way.

Now Sophia is asleep. No wonder – she has traveled from one end of Europe to the other and must be sort of tired. Her tiny dinner chair remains fixed to the lid of our kitchen table, while her tomorrow’s breakfast (a banana and an orange) is ready for her. After breakfast Sophia will travel again – this time by bus – to further explore the land of her ancestors, her Land of Promise.

VOCABULARY NOTES-9

March 23, 2011

For today’s Vocabulary Notes I have chosen words directly relating to the Internet: bookmark click-print, cobweb page, as well as words describing work in an office: office-free, to office, telework, zero drag, clockless worker, sunlighting. There follow definitions and illustrative examples:

bookmark

v. To remember a person or company for future reference.

“I don’t need his services now, but I’ve bookmarked him and I’ll see what happens at fiscal year-end.”

click-print

n. A pattern of web surfing behavior that uniquely identifies the person doing the surfing.

e.g.: Your mouse is leaving tracks all over the Net”By observing the online behavior of a Web surfer for as few as three sessions on the Internet, researchers say they can identify that person by his or her “click-print.” A click-print is a “unique pattern of Web-surfing behavior based on actions such as the number of pages viewed per session, the number of minutes spent on each Web page, the time or day of the week the page is visited, and so on,” said a report last week from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania
—”Clicks,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 24, 2006

[B]y observing how people navigate around a site over a number of sessions, an e-commerce company could distinguish between two anonymous surfers. That could have important implications in preventing fraud: if someone signed in with an existing user’s logon, but their click-print differed, that might be an indication that their ID had been stolen.
—Charles Arthur, “Is it possible to be identified by your ‘click-print‘?,” The Guardian, September 28, 2006

office-free

adj. Describes employees whose jobs do not require them to work inside an office.

office

v. To perform office-related tasks, such as photocopying and faxing.

telework

n. Work performed by an employee while away from the office.

zero drag

adj. Relating to a highly motivated employee who has few personal responsibilities and so can work long hours, travel frequently, or be called in to work with little notice.

“The ideal zero-drag employee is young, unmarried and childless with no responsibilities and an eagerness to do well.”
—Diane E. Lewis, “Wedded to workplace,” The Boston Globe, March 11, 2001

In physics, drag refers to the resistance experienced by an object moving through a fluid medium (such as air). Zero drag is an ideal state where the object experiences no resistance at all

clockless worker

n. An employee who is willing to work at any time, day or night.

sunlighting

pp. Doing paid work while taking time away from one’s day job.

Allowing an employee to reconfigure her day can lead to free agency. First, she takes work home and leaves early on certain afternoons. Then she arranges to telecommute three days per week. Then, while she’s telecommuting, she begins moonlighting — or “sunlighting.” if she’s working on side gigs during the day.
—Daniel Pink, Free Agent Nation, 2001

This word is a play on moonlighting — doing paid work in the evening or at night in addition to one’s day job — which has been in the language since 1957. The Oxford English Dictionary has an entry for sunlighting, which would normally disqualify it as a Word Spy term. However, sunlighting seems to have become quite popular over the past few years (I found half a dozen citations since 2000), so I’m declaring it post-worthy. The OED’s two earliest citations are from medical journals — one in 1977 and one in 1978.

cobweb page

n. A Web page that hasn’t been updated in a long time.

ABOUT MYSELF

March 23, 2011

The two photos of the same person posted in this blog are separated by some four decades. There could as well be four centuries. The communicable look of the child who loves the world and is trustfully open to it. The hardened expression on the face of the adult who has seen much in this world and who does not expect anything more from it.

I also thought about the responsibility of the adult. His own ones and friends rely upon his communicability and his openness. None of us is isolated from other people and we irradiate our moods on to the frame of mind, thoughts, behavior, and the overall attitude of people with whom we associate.

So… summon your spirits, turn up the corners of your mouth, get your eyes brightened up with interest in things and people around you and … rekindle a child in yourself.

KINDRED SPIRIT

March 22, 2011

I bought a book Translator’s Companion (see the picture). The book is a special one in terms of giving some practical recommendations on how a translation business can be arranged. Among others, it gives a survey of translation services, advises how translators should be selected and tested, describes the technology of translating a text by several translators simultaneously, emphasizes the importance of formatting the translated variant. In the process of translating the translator may need to consult the customer about some fine points of the original. However, there is a danger, the author says, that in the future the customer will address the translator about further translations directly — over the head of the translation agency. To exclude this, the author recommends that the agency representative be always present at the consultations when a translator and a customer meet to discuss some points of the material which is being translated. Other suggestions concern paying taxes, cooperation with law firms to get translated documents authorized, etc.

I remembered a case when an engineer whom I knew was made redundant. His friend advised that he should get re-trained and get some other job — that of a salesman, or a builder, or a kind of operator… “I want you to understand me”, the engineer said wistfully, “I want to be just …an engineer”.

After reading the Translator’s Companion I understood the engineer.

A UNIVERSE

March 22, 2011

When the Ukrainian president met representatives of the “intelligentsia”  (writers, musicians, artists) the other day, some Internet comments regretted he had not met bloggers’ representatives. The remark brings forth an ambiguous feeling: on the one hand, it’s pleasant that the blogosphere has become an institution to be reckoned with. However, as soon as bloggers get dressed in a straight-jacket of an official organization, they’ll lose the naturalness and frankness of their voice. Fortunately, this second variant of the blogosphere development seems very unlikely. One can’t harness the spirit.

It’s amazing how effective such ever-widening immaterial phenomena, as social networks, can become. Twitters, Facebookers, Classmates, Flickrers , and many more (see  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_social_networking_websites) form Internet communities which are much more numerous than “physical” segments of society. They share their ideas, feelings, interests, values, they cross geographic and state boundaries, they make presidents join them and converse with them.


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