Modern Thousand Character Classic ‘中华字经’不是‘千字文’

Chinese Character Canon

As wikipedia said (accessed: 12Oct2014)

The Thousand Character Classic is a Chinese poem used as a primer for teaching Chinese characters to children from the sixth century onward. It contains exactly one thousand characters, each used only once, arranged into 250 lines of four characters apiece and grouped into four line rhyming stanzas to make it easy to memorize. It is sung in a way similar to children learning the Latin alphabet singing an “alphabet song.”

But there’s an improved version called the Chinese Character Canon (中华字经). It has 4000 characters in thirteen chapters covering such things as astronomy, history, ethics and the natural world.

If you’re learning Mandarin or keen to have your pre-schooler learn the chant, it might be a good resource. I don’t know the science on how it stacks up against other learning methods, but I think it’s worth a go.

4,000 characters is only a good solid start. My personal list is now exceeds 7,000 and like every human on the planet (with the possible exception of savants) I still need to do my revision regularly.

The makers of the Chinese Character Canon, Miktam Chinese, say it takes a couple of years to master the 4,000 characters. The course has a DVD and three books: Book 1: Chinese Character Canon (CCC), with 13 main lessons. Each lesson is a rhyming poem on a topic such as geography, ethics, Chinese history, animals, fruits and trees, etc. Books 2 and 3: supplements to reinforce the main lessons and demonstrate usage of characters in short stories, poems, songs, Chinese folktales and historical events.

If you’re using it with a child, it has to be part of a loving relationship where the teacher/parent/babysitter and child interact in a natural language environment. Check youtube for  ‘中华字经’ for lots of examples. This two year old was being hot-housed and at his limit, but dad was pretty patient and generally let him make his own mistakes. Speaking as a literacy teacher, this was good. I’m not sure the child understood the meaning of all the characters he “knew” but that will come. What is clear is that he had it by rote and in learning a tonal language – THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.

But don’t get hung up on the characters. First comes talking. Here’s a teacher in a Vancouver public school setting up a chant which happens at 8.45 minutes into the video.  Here’s a four year old with what looks like a wonderfully handmade scrap book of beautiful calligraphy. This teacher is trying but needs some more teacher education.

And my conclusion, as always, is that the Chinese writing system, though of beauty, is an absolute disaster that should have been binned years ago (as the Vietnamese did). It costs extra YEARS of a child’s life and leaves millions millions of Chinese people illiterate. Just watch this kid struggle, even with all the love and good will in the world when in English she’s at an age where she would be self reading and lapping up book after book all by herself, having more fun and learning heaps more. Disgraceful.

Anyway, we’re stuck with it for the time being, so here’s my non-rhyming translation of the first chapter:

第1课 天 象 Universe and Weather
乾坤有序  qián kūn yǒu xù,  There is order in the universe
宇宙无疆  yǔ zhòu wú jiāng,  the universe has no boundaries
星辰密布  xīng chén mì bù,  the stars are dense
斗柄指航  dǒu bǐng zhǐ háng,  the big dipper points direction
昼白夜黑  zhòu bái yè hēi, day is white and night is black
日明月亮  rì míng yuè liàng,  the sun brigthens and moon rises
风驰雪舞  fēng chi xue wu, wind gallops snow dances
电闪雷响  Diàn shǎn léi xiǎng, lightening flashes thunder crashes
云腾致雨    Yún téng zhì yǔ , clouds soar and become rain
露结晨霜    lù jié chen shuāng,  dew forms into morning frost
虹霓霞辉    hóng ní xiá huī,  brilliant rainbows in rosy clouds
雾沉雹降     wù chén báo jiàng,  fog descends and hail falls
春生夏长     Chūnshēng xià zhǎng,   [crops in] spring birth summer grow
秋收冬藏    qiūshōu dōng cáng,  autumn harvest for winter store
时令应候    shílìng yīng hou,  The seasons follow in order
寒来暑往     hán lái shǔ wǎng,  cold comes and heat departs

Is the Green Party of the Left or is it a Party of Sustainability?

Originally posted on Vernon Tava:

GREEN-logo-icon-colThe Greens can be described as ‘left’, just as the colour of a puriri tree can be described as ‘dark’, but not adequately so. The Greens have an uncompromising commitment to fairness and equality. They also have a commitment to individual rights and to limitations on the power of the State, but I wouldn’t describe them as ‘right wing’ either. What I would say is that by rejecting the left/right dichotomy as inadequate to describe Green politics, the Greens become free to adopt what is valuable from either end of the spectrum and evolve it in accordance with their own philosophies. Some people on the left would say that there is nothing valuable to be found on the right, and vice versa. That kind of locked-in thinking is exactly the problem.

- Nandor Tanczos, 2011

I believe the Green Party is at a crossroads. After a lower-than-expected party vote in the…

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Gavin Ellis – Retired 2005 as editor-in-chief of the New Zealand Herald

Dear Sir/Madam


It is hard to imagine what value Gavin Ellis adds to your operation. Perhaps I’m wrong and I would like to know if I am.

Having just heard him on Radio NZ National with Kathryn Ryan (about 11.45 am 16Sep2014) I am shocked at his stupidity and lack of a scientific outlook. I can’t imagine a role for him in a Science Media Centre.

He made one statement after another which was demonstrably false. Fortunately Kathryn Ryan pulled him up.

But the amazing thing to hear was how he then glibly contradicted himself, apparently now agreeing with Kathryn. Is there a role for this type of person in the Science Media Centre?

In particular, he insults my integrity by telling me – at the end of the day people always vote with their wallets. Again, clearly wrong and without evidence, apart from a discussion with his wife apparently.

Is it time to put Gavin out to pasture?

I’d be pleased to get your response.

Debating liars on the media – proposed rules of engagement

liar liar pants on fire

Let’s face it. The media rarely does a good job in mediating political debates. Many mediators can’t even stop the participants talking over the top of each other.

What annoys me are the obvious lies some politicians think they can foist on us.

The media rarely pulls them up on their lies. They think their job is to provide entertainment as this extraordinary revelation by Patrick Gower shows. He says he hasn’t time to find truth and his job is to be hard on both sides to show the drama.

So here’s a proposal.

Set the debate rules from the start and make sure you spend some time doing so. Tell your opponent and the mediator you will follow the three strikes rule. The first time you hear a lie you say “Strike one” and ask for time to show why it’s a lie. After three strikes, if no opportunity is given to correct the lie properly, you walk out, smiling very sweetly, saying:

Sorry, that’s three strikes. Gerry clearly shows no respect for the facts and you as a journalist haven’t allowed the facts to be properly discussed. I won’t be back on your show until you as a journalist check the facts on each strike and report your findings to your audience. Good bye.

Physios and physios – 5 point guide


There are physios and physios.

In my experience only one out of four has the slightest clue. Here is my 5 point guide.

1. Get a solid diagnosis from a competent DOCTOR first.

2. Look for a physio who knows ANATOMY incredibly well. A physio, rather than a physio, will know anatomy better than most GPs. How to check a physio’s anatomical knowledge: 1. ask about the names of the muscles he/she is focusing on and why. 2. ask them the name of the bone or where on the bone a muscle attaches. 3. ask what bursas you should be concerned about. 4. a physio will know the importance of human variation in anatomy, which is much more common than you think. Search your own issue and add “human variation” (glenoid “human variation”). It doesn’t take long to find out if your physio is a “little rusty” on anatomy and if they are, find a physio.

3. Look for a physio who says it’s up to YOU to retrain your posture and/or remould your muscles via a long term exercise program.  Plenty say this, but if they lack basic anatomical knowledge OR want to proceed without a solid diagnosis, make sure you exclude them straight away. And make sure you stick to the set of exercises they will give you.

4. BEWARE physios who want to massage you and “fix” you that way. Temporary relief is not what you need and inappropriate massage can be incredibly damaging. I know because one arsehole money grubbing physio failed to send me for proper diagnosis of what turned out to be a very badly ripped shoulder. It took me ten years, lots of pain and lots of recurrent injury on the badly healed and weakened rip to get proper treatment.

5. Avoid anyone whose methods aren’t evidence-based. ie avoid acupuncture, osteopathy, chiropractors. The PLACEBO is an incredibly powerful and poorly understood thing and you may think the treatment works and your practitioner may believe it too, BUT what is probably happening is that your body is naturally healing itself despite your wasted money on anti-science quackery.

I’ve had more than the shoulder injury and can speak from lots of experience as runner and athlete.

Three things to say to Conservatives in local politics

animals person table meeting

Recently when speaking at local meetings (community forums, speaking to submissions, Residents Associations etc) I have begun to say that local politics is not democratic because it uses the First Past the Post system to count our votes. If we want democracy, I think we have to hammer this point again and again and again. I have also made the point that local politics is indeed political.

So now the conservatives have started to begin their speeches by saying local politics is not political and that they are here to consult and do as you ask. AND they say they are not tied to the platform of any political party. Cameron Brewer in particular launches full scale political attacks on anyone he doesn’t like and uses a whole barrage of pre-packaged lies, all the time expecting no one will demur.

So here’s how I’m planning to begin from now on:

1. “Kia ora everyone, you’ve just heard a conservative local politician, [name politician], say three things. 1. He/she is not tied to a political party 2. local politics is not political and 3. local politics shouldn’t be influenced by national parties. I suspect that you like me have some doubts about such claims. Especially after the whaleoil emails, we all know that the Citizens and Ratepayers Association has very intimate links with conservative parties in New Zealand.

2. I am proud to say honestly that of course local politics is political. And, I’m proud to say that the integrity and ideals of the Green Party do not change from one meeting to another. The Green Party will always work for the good of our communities whether it be at local or national levels.

3. And one more quick point before I speak to the issues. If you don’t want our rates to help poorer people in our area, please stop saying you want to live in a community which respects Christian values. The ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ mantra is simply untrue. We spend our rates on supporting local business. So it’s totally unfair so say we can’t support other community programs for people who need them. We all want the best for everyone in our communinity and I’m convinced we can work together to achieve it.