Tuesday, January 30, 2007

103 meanings of qi

Out of a combination of pretension and nerdiness, I generally get pretty anal when I use foreign words in my writing. Greek words are put in Greek font. In working on my Theragāthā paper I became really anal about accents for Sanskrit words. I couldn't just write "nirvana" I had to write "nirvāņa."

So now I'm writing a little about Chinese nature attitudes, so I have to (have to!) use the little accents to marks to indicate tone, even though most people use the Pinyin system without the marks. Since I have to (have to!) use the accent marks, but don't actually know any Chinese, I've been looking everything up on Mandarin Tools. I learn a lot of interesting things this way, although most of it is not relevant to anything. For instance, I wanted to know which tone you use on the word "qi" when you want to refer to the cosmic energy. Well it turns out that Mandarin Tools lists 103 meanings for the word qi, including: foot with six toes, water chestnut, to marry off (a daughter), hill without trees, bow to the ground, odd, weird, and wonderful. Separate characters were listed for "seven" and "seven (fraud-proof)." One meaning of qi (using the rising tone, qí) is tholepin. Another character pronounced qì can mean to whisper, to blame, or to slander, which I think is a splendid combination of meanings.

I still can't figure out which qi is cosmic energy, though. [update: use the fourth tone to mean cosmic energy.]

On a related note, here is a 93 word poem in Mandarin where every word is rendered as "shi" in unaccented pinyin. The words themselves differ only in tone, which makes the accompanying sound file interesting to listen to.

The fine art of voice looping

Reggie Watts: Out Of Control on Vimeo via apo@unfogged

Chinese National Geographic

Three Gorges Probe has a translation of part of an article from a 2004 Chinese National Geographic on the state of dam safety in China. It has good statistics and examples for people who are following the issue closely. More interesting for me: The existence of a Chinese National Geographic magazine. (It is here for those who can read it.) The existence of National Geographic is a nice indicator of growing popular environmental consciousness. Apparently, NG has been offering an expanding line of non-English language editions since 1995. The environmental consciousness represented by NG might not live up to the pure, noncommercial standards of Edward Abbey fans, but it is exactly the kind of popular environmental awareness that makes environmentalism possible as a social movement.

Monday, January 29, 2007


Noesis, the limited area search engine for academic philosophy, is back on line, now in partnership with Google.

Update: Episteme links also has some customized philosophy search engines.

Alberto Gonzales Explains it all for you.

It's so simple, I don't see how any of us could have missed it! The constitution doesn't grant habeas corpus after all. See, article 1 section 9 says: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." But wait, it doesn't say that we *have* the right to habeas; it just says that *if* we had that right, the government couldn't take it away. Here, let Gonzales explain: “The Constitution doesn’t say every individual in the United States or citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right shall not be suspended...”

via TNR via unfogged

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chinese EPA takes action against polluters; Three Gorges Probe has translated interview

According to the Three Gorges Probe
In an unprecedented move, SEPA slapped "regional permit restrictions" on four cities (Tangshan, Luliang, Laiwu and Liupanshui) and four major power companies (Datang International, Huaneng, Huadian and Guodian), suspending approval of any new projects until they bring their existing facilities into compliance with environmental regulations.
I still don't have enough of a sense of Chinese environmental politics to know how big a deal this is, but TGP is generally critical of Party environmental policy.

As a part of this story, TGP translate an interview with Pan Yue, originally conducted in Southern Weekend (Nanfang Zhoumo). Pan comes off as an environmental good guy. In the interview, he places some blame for pollution on regional officials who stand to gain more by promoting economic growth than protecting the air
TGP: What is the crux of the problem? You've criticized local officials who are intent on launching new projects as having a distorted view of what constitutes achievement in political life. The central government does not approve of these projects and, for example, has punished the company and local officials who were behind the Xinfeng Power Plant in Inner Mongolia.

Pan Yue: I have repeatedly stressed that the environment deteriorates because of officials' skewed concept of political accomplishment. But now, powerful interest groups and officials' distorted view of what constitutes political achievement have joined forces, to the environment's detriment....This [the behavior of the interest groups] has not only undermined the central government's macroeconomic policies but has also gone against the interests of ordinary people, and led to social unrest.
Pan asks for help, though, in his fight against the people he sees as behind the rising pollution. (Perhaps the whole goal of the interview is to push this agenda)
At the moment, the reality is that the current environmental laws look good on paper, but that's by and large where they remain because our power to punish offenders is pretty limited. In terms of the administrative measures in our arsenal, we don't have the power to close down offending companies or to remove the local government officials who should be held accountable, or even to perform our management functions of environmental monitoring and enforcement of environmental protection laws in a top-down manner.

Hey SLU Folk! Check this out!

John Collins is running an excellent series of discussions on the use of language in the War on Whatever Bush Decides to Label Terrorism. The stuff below is adapted from his flier. The full information, including a complete schedule can be found here.

Keywords: Explorations in the Politics of Language and the Language of Politics

Organized by the members of Save Our Constitution
Tuesdays 7:00-8:30 in Dean-Eaton Lounge (with refreshments!)

Keywords is a series of campus conversations designed to stimulate awareness and critical analysis of the language through which contemporary politics is framed. The series will pay particular attention to language associated with the ongoing “war on terrorism.” Each session will focus on one or two words or phrases. Drawing on their own research and class discussions, student and faculty facilitators will make brief presentations, prepare concrete examples of how the language has been and is being used, and lead a discussion based on key questions.

Some highlights from the schedule
  • February 20: Patriotism (Rob Loftis and “Ethical Theory” students)
  • February 27: Peace (Laura O’Shaughnessy and “Introduction to Peace Studies” students)
  • April 17: Security/Homeland Security (John Collins and “Terror Alert!” FYS students)
  • May 1: Jihad (Michael Kemper and “Jihad Movements” class students)
Be there or be square.

Andy Griffith v. The Patriot Act

Via joeo at unfogged

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Fun tool applied to Chinese Environment

B-wo at unfogged a fun tool. Amaznode allows you to search the amazon database by keyword and then gives you a network of books linked together by the measure "users who bought this book also bought." Searching for China and Environmentquickly brings up three books we have been working with a lot in preparing our course: Judith Shapiro, Mao's War Against Nature; Vaclav Smil, China's Past, China's Future; and Elizabeth Economy, The River Runs Black. As the cart evolves though, these books turn out to be bridges between three clusters: one on energy and business issues focussed on China Shifts Gears; one one cultural history, focussed on China Marches West: the Qing Conquest of Central Asia; and one on ancient military history, focussed on Ancient China and its Enemies.

Floating free of these clusters are a cluster about Discovering Nature: Globalization and Environmental Culture in China and Taiwan, which I just got out of the library an hour ago, and a cluster about Tigers, Rice, Silk and Silt. The latter cluster includes a lot of Foucault and Gramsci, along with Said's Orientalism, so it may contain just the book I've been looking for that does Orientalism in a specifically Chinese context. [Update: No luck, Said and Orientalism aren't in the index. It does look like a good environmental history, though. This also looks nice.]

[Interesting self reflective note: I didn't feel I understood the chart I had generated until I wrote the little narrative above about it.]

Later: Gapminder as applied to China.

The map of China that I want

I am looking for an online resource for maps of china that includes all and only the points of interest for my course. Picky, I know. Some notes so far.

I am finding Google Earth difficult to deal with. Now that I have upgraded to 4.0, unchecking boxes in the "layers" menu actually makes extraneous information go away, which is a serious improvement. However, checking boxes in the "layers" menu does not make useful information appear. No matter how many boxes you check under "borders", including "first level admin names (states/provinces)" you cannot see province names. Also, for what we are doing, a map with bright blue lines for the major rivers would be nice, but checking "water bodies" does no good.

This tourist site at least has interesting maps that show the extent of the different major Chinese empires.

Lots of fun maps at the Wikimedia Atlas of China, including also maps of the various empires. In a couple cases has conflicting maps for the same period, is missing other periods. Also, each map has a different frame. It would be nice for all the maps to have the same frame so you can click through them in sequence.

Ok, I've spent too much time on this. To the library to get books on Chinese environmental movements.

World's Dirtiest City

Check out this CNN story on Linfen China. (Scroll down to sci-tech.) Oddly, the story doesn't mention what standard they used to judge Linfen the world's dirtiest city. (The reporter's say so?)

Suddenly, I want to take my students there.

A NSF funded program to take American students to China

Preparing Resource and Environmental Managers with International Understandings and Merits (PREMIUM). Not so much impressed with the acronym.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Street crime in China

One of the things we have been telling students in preparation for the China trip is that there is virtually no street crime in China. This claim is belied by this report about Guangzhou, the industrial southeastern city (and sometime namesake of our tiny village of Canton) recently flooded with migrants from the countryside. The times reports that there has been a surge of muggings and purse snatching in Guangzho, and the city has responded by banning motorcycles, which are associated with immigrants and alleged gang activity. Banning motorcycles seems to have driven some immigrants out of town, but I can't see at all how it would reduce crime. It seems more a symptom of class tension than an effective policy, almost as if San Antonio had responded to a crime wave by banning taquerias. You can't call Guangzho's laws racist, because everyone involved is Han Chinese, but it represents a similar prejudice.

In honor of the Day

Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967.
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.


A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
Via the Apostropher

A nice asian philosophy resource page


Friday, January 12, 2007

Dear Senator Clinton,

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
United States Senate
476 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: (202) 228-0282
Voice: (202) 224-4451

January 12, 2007

Dear Senator Clinton,

Please do everything in your power to stop George Bush’s dangerous plans to escalate the war in Iraq, including exercising the power of the purse to defund any war efforts and altering the authorization to use military force to prevent inserting more troops or expanding the war into Iran or Syria. The bill proposed by Senators Kennedy and Markey to require congressional authorization for any increase in troop levels beyond where they were on January 9 deserves your full support.

I am especially concerned about attempts by this administration to provoke a conflict with Iran, including the raid on the Iranian consulate and the positioning of a carrier group in the Persian Gulf. Senator Biden suggested that an attack on Iran would generate a constitutional crisis. This would be an appropriate and proportional reaction. The administration has already committed many impeachable offenses, such as warrantless wiretapping. The house and senate should make it clear that they will remove this administration from office if it launches any effort to expand the chaotic war beyond the borders of Iraq.


Rob Loftis

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Kunming - IMG_3724

Kunming - IMG_3724
Originally uploaded by Robi L3.
More flickr finds from Kunming.

Kunming - IMG_3698

Kunming - IMG_3698
Originally uploaded by Robi L3.

The description says "Woman from the Sani branch of the Yi tribespeople." c

Karaok on the boat

Karaok on the boat
Originally uploaded by ericworld.
Flickr lets you browse by geographic location. I've been surfing photos from areas we are likely to visit this summer. This one is from Kunming, the capitol of Yunnan province. I'll be able to fill you in on ethnic costumes like these shortly, I hope

List of Resources for Environmental Issues in China

I've started a list in the side bar for resources for environmental issues in China. First on the list is China Dialogue: China and the World Discuss the Environment, a nifty site. Recent articles include a call to slow construction to reduce energy consumption, ease pressure on agricultural land, and avoid huge maintenance costs down the road; a lament for the river dolphin; and alternative energy sources for cars.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

This should help things a little

My new grading standard for class participation
Classroom Participation: Most classes will contain periods of open discussion, because conversation is at the heart of the philosophic enterprise. You cannot understand a philosophical idea unless you have actively played around with it in conversation. To encourage involvement in conversation, I have made class participation 5% of your grade. You will get a 2.0 for participation if you speak when called on, but are otherwise disengaged. Someone who volunteers frequently receives a 3.0. A 4.0 is reserved for those who not only participate in conversations, but follow up on the ideas offered by others. The highest grade goes not to those who answer my questions, but those who help others talk through their own ideas.
I'm pleased with myself here because the grade scale better reflects the philosophical motivations for grading participation.

Worldwide philosophy job listings

This site lists philosophy jobs worldwide. It's been up since 1999, but seems underutilized.

RIP Momofuku Ando

The world mourns the loss of Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodle soup and founder of Nissen foods. Here are appreciations from the NYTimes, NPR, and The World. This is the site of the Momofuku Ando Instant ramen Museum. Here is the ramen wikipedia page

Here is the ramen noodle song we sing at dinner time in our house:

Ra! Ra! Ramen noodle!
Ra! Ra! Ramen noodle!
Ra! Ra! Ramen noodle!
Everything else is toaster strudel.

As near as I can tell, the English phrase "ramen noodle" is a pleonasm, like "pizza pie." Ramen basically means noodle in Japanese, just as pizza basically means pie in Italian.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Rural decay

Originally uploaded by myriadgreen.
One from the Rural Decay pool, a group I am more likely to contribute to. Heck, I could send some pictures of our barn.

Grazing Giants

Grazing Giants
Originally uploaded by Lost America.
from the Abandoned flickr group

Aesthetics of unscenic artifice

Originally uploaded by Madame Suzuki.
I've been meaning for a while to write something relating efforts by environmental ethicists and aestheticians to defend the value of unscenic nature with the popular movement to find beauty in urban decay, industrial development, and other ugly built environments.

Pippy and I have been emailing back and forth about this, as she has been
enjoying the post industrial sights of northwest Indiana.
. She couldn't think of any professional artists doing work on this sort of landscape off the top of her head, but she did point out that there are a million flicker groups devoted to the topic. I've decided to join a couple ("urban decay" and "abandoned", so far) to see what comes up. This one is from Urban Decay

Monday, January 08, 2007

Richard Posner, Partisan Hack

Posner's most recent book defending the administrations right to try suspected terrorists using secret evidence gained from torture, was harshly criticized in the New York Review of Books by David Cole. His letter responding to the review opens with an ad hominem attack based on guilt by association.
Professor David Cole, who doubles as the legal affairs correspondent of The Nation and has received awards from the National Lawyers Guild and the American Muslim Council (founded by Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, a supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah who in 2004 was sentenced to twenty-three years in prison for illegal dealings with Libya), is far to the left on matters of civil liberties and national security.
This is the sort of cheap shot one expects from Ann Coulter or Michelle Malkin, not a sitting federal judge and important conservative intellectual. "My opponent is a liberal who associates with Muslims." Oooh, burn. Perhaps I am being unfair in calling him a partisan hack, though. One cheap shot does not mean the arguer has abandoned fair play in argument, right? Unfortunately, in addition to being an ad hominem attack based on guilt by association, Posner's comment is based on a simple falsehood. Cole explains in his rebuttal:
For the record, the American Muslim Council was not founded by Mr. al-Amoudi, and in fact the council fired Mr. al-Amoudi as its executive director in 2000, after he made statements supporting Hamas and Hezbollah.
It is possible that Posner made this mistake in earnest. The wikipedia page for the AMC listed al-Amoudi as a founder as of 11 PM on Jan 9. However the source listed on the wikipedia page says that al-Amoudi was not a founder, and even says that the current organization using the name is different than the original. (This has inspired me to make my first edit to the Wikipedia; the article now reflects the source.)

Whether or not Posner was honestly mistaken about the history of the American Muslim Council, attempting to tar your oponents by calling them liberal and assocating them with Muslims is not the sort of thing one expects from a sitting federal judge.