It’s fine if you’re a Technolibertarian, just don’t pretend it’s progressive

Just one more thing, and I will leave you, folks, in peace for today. Here is a great post on why the so-called “sharing economy” fad is a bunch of crap. I wanted to write something like this but wouldn’t be able to articulate it half as well as this blogger did. Enjoy!

PAN KISSES KAFKA

Last summer, I visited LA for a week without a car, and twice used Lyft, in which random strangers in their own cars come and give you a ride for about 75% of what a taxi costs. It was really easy! I used an app on my phone (into which I also put my credit card info), and then paid at the end of each ride with the app. No money changed hands. I met two new interesting people, both of whom enjoyed driving for Lyft. I saved a small amount of money. It all seemed too good to be true.

That’s because it was. I used Lyft when it was brand-brand new, and before its larger and more popular competitor, Uber, became Ub-iquitous (ha). But shortly after I got home from LA, I started reading articles about these unregulated, underground taxi services (which is actually what they are)…

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Opinions

I always struggle with getting students to understand that not all opinions are equally valid. When they begin to moan that “But it’s just my opinion!”, I always play the following game to make them see why some “opinions” are less worthy of respect than others.

“What did you have for breakfast today, Bethany?” I ask one of them.

“Cereal!” Bethany reports cheerfully.

“No,” I say. “You had an enormous steak with fries.”

“That’s not true,” Bethany laughs. “You weren’t there, so you don’t know.”

“But it’s my opinion,” I insist. “I’m entitled to my opinion.”

Everybody giggles and I add, “So do you see now why your opinion that Miguel de Unamuno denounced Franco’s dictatorship in his novel published in 1931 is less valuable than my knowledge that he couldn’t have done that?”

That usually gets the point across and makes it stick. At least, for a while.

The same goes for the events in Ukraine and Russia.

The only people I believe are entitled to express opinions about Ukraine and Russia in my presence are those who possess all of the following characteristics:

  1. They are native speakers of Russian.
  2. They watch news from Russia every day.
  3. They watch news from Ukraine every day.
  4. They read Russian and Ukrainian blogs and newspapers every day.
  5. They lived in Russia or Ukraine for at least several years.

When anybody other than such people tries to express “opinions” on this subject in my presence, I feel a deep vicarious shame. It’s OK to ask questions, try to get informed, express solidarity, and offer condolences. But it’s not OK to opine in the presence of somebody who is enormously better informed of the facts.

I can opine about, say, events in Pakistan when I’m in the company of people who are as little informed as I am. But it would never occur to me to offer these opinions to the Pakistanis who are daily in touch with what is happening in their country. Neither would I be interested in hearing the opinions on the use of the subjunctive mood in Spanish with somebody who doesn’t speak a word of the language and is unfamiliar with its grammar.

I read Russian and Ukrainian blogs every day and many times a day. And you know what I never do there? I don’t leave any comments offering my opinions. I might express gratitude for the information and ask questions, but that’s as far as I go because I understand how bizarre it would be of me to do anything besides this.

Simply put, I believe you are as entitled to disagree with me on Russia and Ukraine as you are on what I had for breakfast this morning. Of course, if anybody has reasons to think differently, I’d like to hear them.

Bildung 8

I felt that I was stagnating intellectually (as well as personally, emotionally, romantically, and on every other level, but that’s not the point of this post) in Ukraine and decided to emigrate. My intellectual goal was to enter into a completely new profession and see if I could rise to the top in it in spite if being an immigrant. I wanted a challenge, and this seemed like a really big one.

At first, I was planning to become a literary translator. I always feel like I need to imagine my perfect existence down to the smallest detail to make it real (and this method works, I highly recommend). In my literary translator dream, I would live in a second-floor condo in a small cobblestone street, and sit on the balcony, surrounded with flowers, working on my translations.

There were two problems with this plan. One was that I had been working as a translator for years and was already quite good, so it didn’t seem like that much of a change.

The second problem was that, as an immigrant, I felt I needed to succeed within a group, a structure, a community, if you will, that would recognize my worth on a daily basis. Being even the most successful translator would not legitimate me as much as I needed. An immigrant needs a lot more in terms of social prestige than a non-immigrant.

Teaching Native Speakers

I’m not doing all that well with my Spanish-speaking students, to be honest. I mean, it’s great to have real Spanish-speakers in the classroom but I don’t feel like I’m doing anything to advance their learning.

For one, they don’t recognize my authority in the classroom. I understand that as a non-native speaker I have to dedicate the first 2-3 week of each course proving that I do know the language and have the right to teach it. But usually after a couple of weeks I’m done displaying my skills and proving my worth and can just have students trust me when I say something is incorrect. With the native speakers (NS), I have to engage in a constant battle until the very end of the semester over pretty trivial things. This disorients the non-native speakers who don’t know whether to trust me or the NS, and it all eats up tons of valuable time.

Another problem is that the NS don’t have the same degree of excitement over the language as the people who learn it in adulthood. They are immigrants and they see their parents constantly thwarted because of the language and the culture I’m asking them to love.

My NS are obviously not Anglo-Saxon, which means that the determined patient plodding that is the Anglos’ best and most valuable characteristic is not something they tend to possess. They are a lot more given to flashes of brilliance but a lot less interested in constancy and hard-work, and we all know it’s the hard-working plodders who will inherit the world.

Yet another issue is that they are not very much into discipline and silence, and constant loud outbursts tire me.

When I wasn’t hired at Pomona, I was told it was because the hiring department didn’t think I’d be successful teaching their numerous heritage speakers. I was upset to hear this at the time, but now I see they were right.

Tuesday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion

Photos of how Sloviansk looked before terrorists came. But of course you cannot be bothered to sign the petition to call the crimes committed against these people with the name they deserve.

“I think the whole idea of air travel passengers standing in a line holding their shoes is the result of a brain storm session where one hot shot told the other, “I bet you a thousand bucks I can make everyone take off their shoes in some twisted patriotic sense of homeland security.”” I suspect there were quite a few drinks involved in said brain storm session, but I agree with this blogger’s insight.

An enormous list of links to video and photo footage of what happened with Odessa. Of course, I know nobody cares because BBC or CNN or some other loser network has already declared that Ukrainians deserve nothing better.

Over the last six years, as the state of Kentucky shrank public education funding, it spent nearly $18 million to pay for student busing at private, mostly religious schools in two dozen counties, according to state financial records.”

Long gone are the days when supply outweighed demand and job seekers had to go an extra mile to stand out and appease recruiters and hiring managers. While top headhunting firms are now recognizing the need to differentiate in order to engage potential candidates, outdated advice to job seekers still abounds.” Old-school thinking takes forever to give way to the new.

When reports of the “botched execution” (lovely phrase) in Oklahoma came out, it didn’t even occur to me to wonder what the crimes involved were because it didn’t matter.” Yeah, because it’s easy to be a preachy do-gooder when you don’t have to imagine the suffering of a raped and murdered 11-month-old baby girl or of the young woman buried alive. These are female victims, which means that they don’t matter anyway. And if somebody decides on the basis of this that I support the death penalty, then I seriously worry for such a person’s intellect.

Finally, political analysts are starting to clock on to the change in the US foreign policy towards the withdrawal mode. Maybe we will even see an analysis of this development that will go deeper than the tired old discussion of Obama’s personality.

Under a mountain of empty and boring verbiage in the linked post, I did manage to find something kind of insightful: “We must see marriage only and always as endangered or broken, because that is the only reliable way to enshrine it as valuable and important. If people are fighting to preserve it, if its hollowing out is felt as a loss — well, then, it must be something very precious!” It’s true that people who declare with scary solemnity that “marriage is hard work” are the ones who live in really shitty and worthless relationships.

And the most hilarious post I read in a while: “Given all of the vicious homophobia of Russia and its self-proclaimed Tsar, Vladimr Putin, along with the recent annexation of Crimea and the long-established regional history of misogyny and anti-Semitism, I’m starting to get a bit worried about a possible resurrection of a new USSR.” I shouldn’t laugh, this blogger means well. It’s just weird to see somebody realize something so painfully obvious about a year after everybody else got it.

In Russian: a hybrid war in theory and in practice.

I saw this article announced as “a devastating indictment to Harper’s Canada” but found a mumbly collection of useless quotes. It’s no wonder nobody can create a strong opposition to Harper if even online people are incapable of writing in a way that will really arouse passions against him.

Photos of a newspaper office in the Ukrainian city of Torez destroyed by Russian terrorists.

In Russian: Russian terrorists in Donetsk continue with their anti-semitic outbursts.

Out of these “9 Incredibly Useful Russian Words With No English Equivalent”, I never heard 2. Who makes these lists if even a very educated native speaker of a language with a very limited vocabulary can’t identify some of the words on the list?

Isn’t it cute when a man pompously declares that it’s unnatural for women to enjoy sex? (The exact quote is, “Some women’s clits are fully engaged during intercourse without any extra effort (they can come “just” from fucking), but they’re in the minority.” The whole statement is out-of-this-world idiotic.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged that a planned May 11 referendum on autonomy in southeast Ukraine be postponed. In a Wednesday meeting with Swiss president Didier Burkhalter, Putin also called on Ukraine’s military to halt all operations against pro-Russia activists who have seized government buildings and police stations across at least a dozen towns in eastern Ukraine.” What a disgusting horrible cockroach. He will have a second Ossetia in the East of Ukraine at any cost.

In Russian: Putin explains the tenets of Russian Nazism and why this ideology is dear to his heart.

A book list of the best books of 2013 for entrepreneurs.

The Dead Horse Is Back

It’s the end of the academic year, a very busy time, so I haven’t been to the gym as often as I used to go. Yesterday, I finally finished my pre-finals grading, got to the gym, and saw two TV sets right in front if me. One was showing the CNN newscast and the other one was offering the Fox News newscast. But this wasn’t easy to determine at a first glance because both channels were showing old footage of Monica Lewinsky.

After I got over my Rip Van Winklean shock of seeing this dead horse beaten on the news yet again, I wondered if my gym had purchased the Lewinsky segment and was showing it obsessively on an endless loop. The “news” about Lewinsky was that there was no news (shocking, I know). Lewinsky seems to have made a statement about nothing in particular, and this breaking news of international importance was yet again offered to the viewers in lieu of actual news.

And do you know what it means that this non-story gets such a massive coverage? That the majority of viewers is interested in these inane newscasts and wants to keep seeing them. And that’s really scary.

Is Lithuania Next?

While everybody is distracted by the invasion of Ukraine, Russia is showing hostility towards the Baltic states:

Russia has suspended a 2001 agreement on mutual military inspections with Lithuania, the defense ministry said on Monday. . .

“Lithuania kept all conditions of this agreement and has not given a pretext for such Russian action,” a spokesperson for Lithuania’s defense ministry said in an e-mail to Reuters.

Even if Putin wants to stop the invasions now, he will not be able to do that. The Russian people get increasingly less bread from him and, as a result, demand increasingly more circuses. There is no stopping the aggression machine at this point.

Of course, when I ask if Lithuania is next, I don’t mean “next” as in “right now.” There were several years between the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine. Russian authorities will find it extremely easy to convince the population that the Baltics are all fascists. These ideas have been circulating in Russia for a while and can be turned into a massive propaganda campaign within days.