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Asa (simpla) propunere de imbunatatire, da!


V-aţi întrebat vreodată cum de există? Şi cum există? Sau e suficient că există şi e moca?

Are 2 milioane de vizitatori unici lunar şi îl “ţin” doi oameni – Cătălin Frâncu şi Radu Borza, programatori amândoi. Plus echipa de voluntari: cei care pun online sutele de mii de definiţii, ţin pagina de Facebook (Dorelian Bellu) sau desenează (Carmen Nistor).

Oamenii ăştia nu doar că lucrează gratis ca să facă ceva ce a devenit instrumentul de referinţă de pe net, atât de uzual încât nimeni nu se mai întreabă cum de-a apărut şi din ce “trăieşte”, ba mai pun şi bani din buzunar. Cu 14 ani de muncă şi resurse proprii au ajuns la 2 milioane de vizitatori unici pe lună. 10% din populaţia României. Uneori mai primesc şi donaţii – nu prea mari, că nu salvează nici câini, nici oameni. O mie de euro…

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Dialogue with Australia

This is a dialogue with UNE, by which I mean the University of New England (in Armidale, New South Wales), my Alma Mater in Australia.


Now, you have to understand that all of my interactions with UNE have been carried out from Tokyo, Japan.

I have yet to set a foot in Australia.

So, I’m in Japan, sitting in front of my computer (or any computer with Internet access) and

I have an online dialogue for about 3 years with people in Australia.

Who are these people in Armidale, Australia? Well, first of all, I would learn about the weather, which is (obviously) different, the Southern Hemisphere.

When they had the fall (in Australia), we had the spring (in Japan).

How come this sort of dialogue has become possible?

We live in an age when you could virtually attend courses from fairly prestigious universities and access the knowledge which used to be available only to the privileged 1%.

Of course, if you’re not a paying student, you usually don’t get the diploma; you only get the personal satisfaction of knowing and learning more.

You can do this from whatever distance: You could be living in a tent in Siberia and, if you had Internet access, you could learn what some people in North America have been thinking about.

You could be living in the bush in Australia and communicate with some random Romanian who’s in Tokyo,

if you happen to take the same course (Applied Linguistics).

The Linguistics departments of universities in Australia owe much of their success to the geographical location:

Australia is (at this incredible point in history) the country which is doing the most to recover its Aboriginal roots, with the vast majority of the current population being different from the original inhabitants.

This curiosity about one’s past history is not unique. If you’re French, you could go to the public archives and try to trace out your genealogy.

If you’re Japanese, you could go and check the family register (koseki 戸籍) scroll at the city hall.

I guess the same feeling (of having roots in the place one inhabits) exists among Chinese or Vietnamese, even though the relevant documents might not be as readily available.

However, if you’re Australian or American, the search for your family history may (very quickly) take you back to Europe:

Away from the land you currently find yourself inhabiting.

There’s a very troubling aspect in making this kind of discovery because it reminds you that the first ancestors to set foot on this land have done so in a manner that has left a huge foot-print, by which we don’t mean just the flora and the fauna, even if Aboriginal people were classed together with fauna or the fish.

Of course the story is similar in the US: We have a continuous chase to reach the last frontier.

The Wild West is a concept showing you that (some) people kept pushing westwards and that strip of western lands became wild because (some other) people were being pushed away.

Those (others) who stayed got to stay in reservations

Native American joke: “We used to like the white man, but now we have our reservations

Reservations: We shall keep them: Not in zoos, but pretty close.

How do we use the word “reservation” nowadays? We have “natural reservations” to preserve the environment, to preserve the natural habitat.

Now try to imagine that you’re the (other) people who get pushed away from your lands by these guys who then come up with the Declaration of Rights of Man.

So we all have a very mixed past. And a mixed path. We are the survivors and, when we haven’t been justifying ourselves in Darwinian terms, we have been justifying ourselves

  • in religious terms (“the chosen people”) or
  • in racist terms (“the Aryan race”)…

Darwinian-ism is still misunderstood to apply to humans by many idiots (from idios “one’s own”).

You should realize that this is idiotic because it doesn’t take into account the cultural factor, the language factor, what Richard Dawkins and others have called memes.

What are memes? Memes are the new things that seem to be fighting for survival.

A current meme is that (in this world) “You can connect with anybody”

and it’s one that I’ve tested out in my dialogue with UNE. I have found a lot of good-will on the other side of the Pacific (in the South), at the University of New England.

I also found a lot of knowledge and many smart people capable of facing our difficult inheritance.

Engaging in a dialogue with the others can offer you an insight into another way of looking at the world. An interesting aspect of the Anglo-Aboriginal connection is that the sense of humor (what is called deadpan humor) seems to have some aspects in common with the Black Fella’s way of talking.

I find it incredible that

humor can help bridge a chasm as huge as that which exists between a majority-minority population

  • with a very troubling past,
  • with a very mixed record.

UNE is a great place because it has taught me that respect for each other and dialogue with each other can (again) become possible after being absent for periods of time. This kind of recovery of the past can lead to better insights into who we (all) are and what we (all) do.

It has shown me that we should not despair, even though it is difficult to live in this world

  1. which is not perfect,
  2. where things do not work out,
  3. where the bad seem to prosper and the good seem to suffer.

There is too much bad at any given point for us to be phlegmatic about the state of things, but it doesn’t mean we should lose heart.

Australia is a good example for everybody else in the Anglo world (and not only), showing how we can surge forward from a state of bad into a state of better.

Let’s not rest on our laurels lest we slide back to that point of declaring the others unworthy as dialogue partners.

A society gone mad on war

Beyond the endless War. And this applies not just in the USA, but also to (increasingly vast portions of) Europe, Africa and Asia as well.

Martin Luther King speaking in 1967 about Vietnam:

Perhaps a more tragic recognition of reality took place when it became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.

We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.

So we have been repeatedly faced with the cruel irony of watching Negro and white boys on TV screens as they kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools.

So we watch them in brutal solidarity burning the huts of a poor village, but we realize that they would hardly live on the same block in Chicago. I could not be silent in the face of such cruel manipulation of the poor.


Precious documents: 1840s children’s letters and contemporary children’s book.

“My mala love to clap”.
Sometimes we need to use children’s language to remember why we use language

Australian Aboriginal Languages Student Blog

Today I came across two separate articles about written records of two different Australian languages. The documents are separated by a century and a half; with the earlier written by children from Kaurna country and the contemporary written for Warrgamay children.

What unites these two is the meaning and value that they have for their communities.

The first article celebrates the return of letters written in Kaurna to their home country from Germany, where they were sent by children in 1843. These letters are “three of just five known surviving documents” of written Kaurna from the 19th century. In addition to being important artefacts for linguistic and historic study, they provide a “tangible connection” for Kaurna people to their ancestors.

In the second, two Warrgamay sisters have collaborated on series of children’s books written in English and Warrgamay, to help children, their families, and their schools in the teaching and learning of…

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Eat, Sleep, Leave

The strangeness effect: When you suppose something to be true, then discover something else is true, but that something else sheds a new light onto the first something.

Known in Japanese as 異化効果 (ika kouka) Different-Change Effect-Achieve and as Verfremdungseffekt in (what else?) German; (originally coined for drama by Brecht variously translated in English as the “alienation effect”, the “estrangement effect”, the “distancing effect” or the “defamiliarization effect”.

Take your pick and choose your favourite pet.

Fiction, Amongst Other Things

She wakes from slumber

and he’s already waiting

for breakfast.

She makes it, he eats it

and leaves. She doesn’t

know where he goes or

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Language and Well-being – Is there a link?

Keep your own language in order not to lose yourself.
Learn another’s language in order to gain a new self.

Australian Aboriginal Languages Student Blog

Earlier this year (5th February, 2014), the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) released the results of the National Indigenous Languages Survey 2 (NILS 2) which was aimed at gathering information about a variety of issues pertaining to Australian languages. It focuses on their current health, the activities used to support Australian languages, the attitudes towards Australian languages,and the most effective language actions that can be taken to maintain language use.

The survey indicates that not only is language maintenance important to the retention of culture, but it is also closely linked to the view held by the majority of respondents that “connecting with and learning about language has a powerfully beneficial effect on people’s well-being” (AIATSIS, 2014). The report recommends that more research is necessary to explore a possible connection between language and identity/self-esteem. 

You can find more information on the story (and links to…

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