Welcome back! Spring semester 2021

Hope all my Chi Nan students had a good break and have signed up for the classes you need. Make sure you add before the deadline!

It was a busy week for me, I’m still setting up the moodle pages for my classes. That should be done soon, so check back on Monday, March 1st.

In the meantime, enjoy your three day weekend!

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A Chinese controversy at USC

[I will continue adding links to this post as I find relevant material on-line.]

This is a post about an unusual controversy in the United States over the use of the Chinese language in teaching. The controversy occurred at the University of Southern California (USC), in the university’s Marshall School of Business. Ironically, it concerns a class on Business Communications. The class was taught by Prof. Greg Patton, a scholar with years of experience in China and U.S.-China relations. Here is a link to Patton’s page at the USC US-China Institute, and another link to his page at the Marshall School of Business.

A brief segment of Prof. Patton’s class illustrated how the problem of inadequate preparation for speech or presentations may prompt one to use meaningless “filler-words”, confusing or blocking the flow of speech and ideas. As an example, Prof. Patton gave the chinese word ‘nei-ge’ 那個, usually translated in English as ‘that’, but also often used in a non-directional sense close to English ‘the’. As a filler word, it is more like English “um”, “er”, “ah”, having no real meaning at all, except “I’m thinking … I’m thinking …” and is usually said several times in rapid succession. Prof. Patton’s example was: “nei-ge nei-ge nei-ge”.

As anyone who lives in a Chinese speaking country knows, this is a good, clear example of a filler, extremely common in casual, un-planned speech. Unfortunately, however, despite Prof. Patton’s clear statement that this was an example from Chinese, some students in his class interpreted the phrase as a racial slur in English. They promptly wrote a letter of complaint to the business school. As a result, Prof. Patton was removed as instructor for the class, and the dean of the business school, Professor Geoffrey Garrett, sent an email apology to the class.

I’ve been following the controversy as more has come out about what the exact nature of the students’ complaint was, and how USC has handled it. As of now, I am deeply concerned about the consequences of the controversy for Chinese language teaching in America, and more generally for the Chinese speaking community in America. I’ll have more to say about this in the next week or so. In the meantime, I’ve put together some links to various statements and letters from a variety of people. A lot of this material comes from The Volokh Conspiracy, a law blog run by Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA. Prof. Volokh’s field is freedom of speech, hence his interest in the controversy.

Links on the controversy

  1. A clip of the class at USC Marshall School of Business in which Prof. Patton gives nei-ge as an example of “filler words” (youtube)
  2. A post on Professor’s removal from the class, from U Penn Professor Victor Mair’s ”Language Log” blog with many interesting comments from several American academics specializing in matters Chinese. Commenting here has been ongoing until the last couple of days. (I have some comments here myself) (Mair 8/28)
  3. The first post at ”The Volokh conspiracy” (volokh 9/3)
  4. The initial letter of complaint from the students, a letter sent to all students in the 2020 class by Dean Geofrrey Garrett, and a response to the students’ letter from Professor Patton were posted at a website run by USC business students (Quants 9/04)
  5. Post from Volokh on some of the news coverage of the students’ complaint and Prof. Patton’s removal (volokh 09/05)
  6. A little joke from Prof. Volokh about “homonymophobia” (volokh 09/06a)
  7. Prof. Volokh’s response to the students’ claim that Prof. Patton’s lecture ‘affected our mental health’ (volokh 09/06b)
  8. A letter from Chinese and East Asian graduates of USC Business School in support of Prof. Patton (volokh 09/07)
  9. Letters from USC president and provost to the Chinese students who wrote to support Prof. Patton (volokh 9/9)
  10. A letter from the Business School Faculty Council to faculty members (volokh 9/10)
  11. Volokh’s comments on the implications and long-term effects of the controversy (volokh 9/12a)
  12. Volokh post on the USC students who complained and earlier incidents in China and Taiwan (volokh 9/12b)

More links

  1. How one word led to an uproar“: A long article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the story, with comments from Patton and others. The CHE article is paywalled, but Eugene Volokh has excerpts so try there first (Volokh 09/17)
  2. Two more articles on the story, both discussing USC faculty reaction to the business school handling of students’ complaint against Prof. Patton. One, based on an internal survey of USC business faculty, appears in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The other appears in this month’s issue of the Atlantic. Links and brief excerpts can be found again at the Volokh Conspiracy blog (volokh 9/22).
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Welcome to Chi Nan’s fall semester 2020!

At last an update, just in time for the beginning of the new semester! Welcome here to the new students, welcome back to the old.

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Made it through the mid-term

Finally reached the halfway point in this tricky semester. We have been lucky to keep meeting in class as usual, except for our classmate who has not been able to come back from winter break in Macau. Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you! This week we are all supposed to be wearing face masks. A hassle, but working through it. Stay well, all!

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Welcome back to the spring semester 2020!

After an extra week of vacation (which we will have to pay back at the end of June), we have made it through the first week of the new semester. Welcome back everyone, and for our students/classmates who are still in Macau or Hong Kong, hang in there guys!

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Group on table joins

This is one of the more confusing issues of table joins. To make it extra confusing, try an outer join:

Select * from ta as a
left outer join tb as b
on a.key = b.key

Both tables have duplicate records for the field they are joined on. To clear up which tables have which records, I want to group on the key. Which table should I group by key?

I suspect there is not a general answer, it will depend on what you want to do. However, choose a simpler case, where ta has no duplicates in the key field, and tb does.
The answer was not what I expected (yes, I know, shows what a dunce I am). The CORRECT answer is to group on a.key

Select * from ta as a
left outer join tb as b
on a.key = b.key
group by a.key

Why? Say table b has no fields with key = x and key = y. You can catch this by using
where b.key is null
BUT if you group by b.key, the value of both these non-existent records in tb is null, so only one of them will show up as null, and this will also mean that only one of these values, x and y, is selected in ta. Tricky for guys like me.

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Happy Chinese New Year

Even though it’s three weeks late, Happy year of the Rat! 恭喜! 恭喜!

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Merry Christmas!

It’s not very cold in Taiwan, and Christmas is no longer a holiday here, but Merry Christmas to all, just the same.

And for those of you who like countdowns, get ready to say goodbye to the 201Xs (unless you are one of those perverse people who count their decades not from zero, but from 1).

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jfkarc.info now online

I now have a new website on the JFK Assassination Records Collection at jfkarc.info. All my future posts on the JFK ARC will go up there. The new site now includes all my previous posts on the ARC from this site, with long overdue corrections on some of them. I had several ARC posts almost ready to go which the failed upgrade of this site put on the back burner, so there should be new material up there in the near future. I have some interesting notes for this site as well, so visit again soon!

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Back online!

The Warren is back after a two month break. The unintended pause was the result of a failed upgrade from Ubuntu 12.04 to 14.04. Yuck, what a mess!

Thanks to Chi Nan University’s Computer Center, however, I am now up and running on Ubuntu 18.04, with the current version of WordPress as well. I have done my best to restore the site as it was before, but there are probably still some links that do not work. If you find any, let me know in a comment to this post.

I plan on a number of changes to the Warren. The main change: after two years of posting on the JFK Assassination Records Collection, any future writing on this subject will go on another site, and the Warren will return to its original function as a platform for my miscellaneous notes.

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