It’s always bugged me how in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat Pharaoh hires Joseph rather arbitrarily to be his Vizier responsible for Egypt’s economic policies over the next fourteen years, based solely on Joseph’s (as yet unproven) ability to explain his dreams. Even if Joseph’s forecasting was accurate, as a lowly foreign-born slave-turn-prisoner would he have had the administrative skills to oversee such huge reforms?
Then, I realised: Assuming that Egypt had existed for centuries before the time of Joseph, then successive Pharaohs might have appointed lots of people to be Viziers in this way, based solely on their abilities to make predictions based on individual dreams. Those who turned out to be wrong, or who were unable to enact the appropriate policies, were disposed of and their stories were not recorded and have not been passed down to us.
I’ve noticed an annoying and persistent tendency for people to inaccurately claim that certain sayings are Chinese proverbs. ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ is one example of such. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ is another.
These are admittedly only a couple of examples, so I may be going a bit far, but nonetheless, I claim that the following proverbs are true:
- C0: For any proverb P, ‘P is a Chinese proverb’ is a proverb.
- C1: For any proverb P, P is not a Chinese proverb if and only if P is claimed to be a Chinese proverb.
Since it is unnecessary for the Chinese to claim that a statement is a Chinese proverb (we need merely claim it to be a proverb), I make also the following claim:
- C2: For any proverb P, ‘P is a Chinese proverb’ is not a Chinese proverb.
Can these claims be consistent, and which (if any) can I consistently claim to be Chinese proverbs?
Addendum: Oftentimes, the claim that a proverb is Chinese is used by orientalist woo-peddlers to create credence for their claims. Allow me therefore to go so far as to claim:
- C3: For any proverb P, if P is claimed to be a Chinese proverb then P is false.
Is this consistent?
LaTeX’s output, showing its hyphenation algorithms at work, makes me want to set my bibliography to plainchant:
   (./blasius.bbl
Underfull \hbox (badness 1210) in paragraph at lines 13--15
\OT1/cmr/m/sc/9 Andreotti, Bruno, Forterre, Yoel & Pouliquen, Oliver \OT1/c
mr/m/n/9 2013 \OT1/cmr/m/it/9 Gran-u-lar Me-dia\OT1/cmr/m/n/9 .
Underfull \hbox (badness 6396) in paragraph at lines 156--158
\OT1/cmr/m/sc/9 Peregrine, D. H. \OT1/cmr/m/n/9 1967 Long waves on a beach. \
OT1/cmr/m/it/9 Jour-nal of Fluid Me-chan-ics
Underfull \hbox (badness 5954) in paragraph at lines 180--184
\OT1/cmr/m/sc/9 Rajchenbach, Jean \OT1/cmr/m/n/9 2005 Rhe-ol-ogy of dense gra
n-u-lar ma-te-ri-als: steady, uni-form
Underfull \hbox (badness 10000) in paragraph at lines 180--184
\OT1/cmr/m/n/9 flow and the avalanche regime. \OT1/cmr/m/it/9 Jour-nal of Physi
cs: Con-densed Mat-ter
)  (./blasius.aux)
I didn’t notice this at first, but one of my friends pointed out that most of the wizarding labour in the Harry Potter universe seemed to be employed by one of two employers. As a graduate of Hogwarts, you could respectably become a teacher at Hogwarts, or a civil servant of some description in the Ministry of Magic. Or you could leave the wizarding world and live a low-key existence amongst the Muggles. Appointments to either Hogwarts or the Ministry of Magic are conditional on you performing exceptionally well in a number of exams.
It then hit me that the Harry Potter world is actually an implementation of Confucius’ vision of society, complete with all the flaws in such a system!
The bureaucracy of the Ministry of Magic is sprawling and has an almost totalitarian (but not necessarily adversarial) influence over wizarding life. The same people constitute the executive, legislative and judiciary branches, with no separation of powers. There is only a very small private sector, and the state does not practise outsourcing.
Entry into the wizarding world is in theory open to all that display magical abilities, but in practice such abilities run mostly down bloodlines and there are relatively few Muggle-borns. While Muggle-borns are no less talented than their pure-blood colleagues, they nonetheless face either explicit hostility, or subtle prejudice. Such prejudice is common within the pure-blood aristocracy, with dissenting voices being rare and limited to liberals such as the Weasley House, who have some, but not much, political influence.
The Ministry of Magic is mostly concerned with policing the activities of wizards, and is uninterested in the Muggle world, for the most part desiring neither to improve nor oppress the latter. Like the Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Ministry is concerned with staying in power and focuses its efforts on fighting potential rivals such as Albus Dumbledore, rather than effectively addressing the evils of society.
Nigel Farage has called for a second Brexit referendum, and in an unusual alliance this is very much welcomed by Remainers like Nick Clegg. It is perhaps heretical for me, a Remainer, LibDem voter (and lapsed party member and volunteer) to say this, but I’m not too keen on a second referendum.
Continue reading Second Brexit referendum
I came across a couple of Buddhist monks who have been going up and down Denver’s 16th Street Mall all day today and yesterday. The monks were approaching people, insistently soliciting (cash) donations towards the construction of a temple in the city. Rather large donations, too: they suggested $20.
It is only through alms that the Buddhist community can survive — the alternative would be theocracy. But the proactive approach of the monks makes me very uncomfortable, especially in a community where Buddhists are in a very small minority. While dāna (charity) is an important part of Buddhist practice, there is no reason to impose this on anybody else. (Confession: I didn’t give.)
‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Sed dulcior est pro patria vivere, et dulcissimus est pro patria bibere.’
If you accept the Axiom of Choice, then it is possible to show the existence of a solution. Finding such a solution may be left as a trivial exercise.
‘Atheism is a religion as much as not collecting stamps is a hobby.’
Not collecting stamps is not a hobby, but spending endless hours polemicising against stamp collectors, and inciting hatred towards the children of stamp collectors, is a hobby.