Thursday, June 19, 2014

"...not a thief, or vicious man... among them..."

From the Wikipedia article on Túpac Amaru:
"In Cuzco in 1589, Don Mancio Serra de Leguisamo — one of the last survivors of the original conquerors of Peru—wrote in the preamble of his will, the following, in parts:
We found these kingdoms in such good order, and the said Incas governed them in such wise [manner] that throughout them there was not a thief, nor a vicious man, nor an adulteress, nor was a bad woman admitted among them, nor were there immoral people. The men had honest and useful occupations. The lands, forests, mines, pastures, houses and all kinds of products were regulated and distributed in such sort that each one knew his property without any other person seizing it or occupying it, nor were there law suits respecting it… the motive which obliges me to make this statement is the discharge of my conscience, as I find myself guilty. For we have destroyed by our evil example, the people who had such a government as was enjoyed by these natives. They were so free from the committal of crimes or excesses, as well men as women, that the Indian who had 100,000 pesos worth of gold or silver in his house, left it open merely placing a small stick against the door, as a sign that its master was out. With that, according to their custom, no one could enter or take anything that was there. When they saw that we put locks and keys on our doors, they supposed that it was from fear of them, that they might not kill us, but not because they believed that anyone would steal the property of another. So that when they found that we had thieves among us, and men who sought to make their daughters commit sin, they despised us."

Monday, June 9, 2014

Plover Song of Sixpence

Learning to type with Plover, an open-source stenotype program. Here is an auto-updating chart of my progress learning to type the "Song of Sixpence" as fast as possible. Each timed repetition is a point on the chart. Untimed repetitions are less than 20% of total reps.



Here are the incredible lyrics to the Song of Sixpence:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie,
When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing,
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the King!

The King was in the counting house,
Counting out his money,
The Queen was in the parlor,
Eating bread and honey,
The maid was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
There came a little blackbird,
And nipped off her nose!

And here is a 1-year Stenotype progress chart from Mirabai Knight, stenotypist and guru of Plover. Note that:

  • The axes are flipped between my chart and Mirabai's
  • I'm such a beginner that my WPMs aren't even on Mirabai's chart yet! (As of this writing.)  ;)
Mirabai Knight's progress in steno school 2006-2007.  (Link to her blogpost.)



Friday, June 6, 2014

Wikipedia Language Barrier: The Great Wall

There was an important (and awful, as such things are) battle on the Korean peninsula in April 1951. The Chinese PRC army attacked UN positions held by troops from the USA, UK, South Korea (ROK) and other nations, but was held back by the UN troops. Casualties were heavy all around, especially for the Chinese. This and the subsequent few battles were important in delineating the modern border between the Koreas.

Youths playing the roles of soldiers on all sides should have been able to re-purpose all that war-cortisol toward cramming for exams, applying for jobs, awkwardly courting girls, and otherwise learning about and building their worlds.

But I'm not here to talk history, but meta-history. The English-language Wikipedia article is drastically different from the Chinese-language one. In particular,
  • The Chinese-language article includes exclusively quotes from Chinese politicians and generals, while the English-language article includes only quotes from American and British figures.
  • The English-language article describes how the battle is remembered by British communities for their fierce fighting, and how they defended their positions in certain battles with much fewer troops and fewer losses while causing large numbers of Chinese casualties. The Chinese-language article emphasizes the provocation created by Allied bombings of Pyongyang and other cities, the Western advantage in logistics, and marginal territorial gains from Chinese attacks.
  • The Chinese-language article follows the decision-making process through the battle of the Chinese side, and the English article follows the Allied side. For instance, the English article reads "The Royal Ulster Rifles were unable to secure the bridges. This development meant that the Belgian battalion on the north bank of the river was in danger of being isolated from the rest of the 29th Brigade." The English article does not explore similar tactical considerations from the Chinese army's point of view.
  • The distribution of content among these and other related wikipedia articles are structured differently in the two encyclopedia versions, reflecting the priorities of the authors in each language. 
  • The English wikipedia pages are larger and include more detail than the relevant Chinese pages. But, remember that Wikipedia is banned on the Chinese mainland. And, the corresponding page on the battle on the probably-censored but also collaboratively-written Chinese BaiDu/BaiKe encyclopedia website is similary detailed as Wikipedia, and also has a considerable political slant.
All in all, these articles could use a great deal of cross-pollination between language versions, but Google Translate isn't really up to the task yet, and has a long way to go. Chinese-proficient contributors in the diaspora and Taiwan express diverse political viewpoints, and often help balance the content across the languages for more important Wikipedia articles. But it seems that in an obscure historical article like this one, we can actually observe history being told by two sides. (Not that there are only two!) Wikipedia is doing its best at NPOV, but it's a tough world out there.

I haven't seen this kind of thing on Wikipedia much yet, but that's probably because I haven't really started looking for it yet. I bet it's everywhere...

In the future, these Wikipedia and BaiDuBaiKe articles will be very different from the way they are now. But here is my folder of pdfs of these articles and talk pages as they were today, for future reference.

Links to the articles: English-Wikipedia, Chinese-Wikipedia, Chinese-BaiDuBaiKe.