There are many political debates ongoing in America of various intensity and value. However, the most one sided and clear cut is that regarding the electoral college. This archaic and bizarre system is undemocratic and serves no useful purpose. I considered writing an article on the topic years ago, but I figured the reasons for its abolition were so obvious that there was no need.
So, imagine my surprise reading the various attempts to defend the electoral college and claims it actually serves a useful purpose. The most striking thing about these arguments is how awful and illogical they are. I know it’s not polite to insult people who disagree with you, but some arguments are so awful that there’s no point treating them seriously. Some of the defences are so bad they make it clear the speaker has no idea how politics work. Continue reading “There isn’t a single good argument for keeping the electoral college”
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A criticism I’ve heard a few times about Esperanto is that it can’t become a universal language, because it would diverge into separate dialects. The argument goes like this: even if everyone in the world could speak Esperanto, the language wouldn’t succeed because it would inevitably split into several mutually incomprehensible languages and we would be back where we started. Some people seem to believe that all languages inevitably evolve and diverge until they become unrecognisable and the divergence of Latin into the Romance languages is usually the example given. Continue reading “Why Esperanto won’t diverge into dialects”
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein is a classic of science fiction and has been deeply influential for generations. Many of its ideas and concepts were revolutionary for its time, such as intelligent AI and it is one of the first space colonisation novels on the Moon. It was even cited to me as a plausible example of libertarian political ideas put into practice. It starts well, introducing many intriguing ideas such as alternative forms of marriage, a society without laws, how to run a revolution and life on the moon. Unfortunately, Heinlein ruins this potential by cheating to make everything as easy as possible for the heroes. Also with sexism. Continue reading “Heinlein Ruins ‘The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress’ By Cheating”
Brandon Sanderson is a titan of the fantasy genre, one of the most innovative and popular writers and one of my favourite authors. I was thinking about his books lately and for fun I started comparing them and trying to rank them. On the one hand, this was easy because most of his books take place in different worlds with settings and plots that you are unlikely to confuse (unlike some authors who write books in one long series and all the books get muddled together in my head). On the other hand, Sanderson doesn’t write bad books, only books that are not as fantastic as his best. Sanderson at his worst is still one of the best fantasy writers. That’s why this list will start with the best, because there isn’t any bad. I gave the top 9 books 5/5 and the last 3 still got 4/5, so it’s all quality.
It should go without saying that this is merely my personal opinion and everyone probably has their own rankings. This is not an objective ranking of quality and there’s going to people who feel the books at the bottom should be at the top and vice versa. There was tough competition, especially at the top of the list and there is very little between some of the books. Continue reading “Ranking Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere Books”
An unusual feature of the The Return of the King, the last book in the Lord of the Rings series, is the amount of time spent on the ending. The ring itself is destroyed around two thirds of the way through the narrative (or halfway if you count the appendices), leaving a huge amount of space for resolutions for characters and wrapping up loose ends. While some people enjoy the closure, others feel it unnecessarily drags on. This is how I felt the first time I read the “Scouring of the Shire”, the penultimate chapter, where the hobbits return to the Shire only to find Saruman and his minions taken it over but they are ejected after a brief battle. It seemed very anti-climactic and petty in comparison to the epic battle for the fate of the world that had just been fought.
However, I did some reading and found that many people enjoy this scene, in fact they argue it is one of the most important of the entire series and were disappointed it didn’t appear in the movies. Pretty much every article and discussion I could find on the chapter tells the same story, that the Scouring of the Shire is based on Tolkien’s experience from World War 1. The chapter is actually about the difficulties soldiers faced when they returned from war and found society had drastically changed while they were gone. It’s a bittersweet ending showing how despite the fact the hobbits fought so hard to protect their homes and preserve the Shire, they return only to find it has irreversibly changed. Some argue Tolkien is actually saying that Frodo failed.
So with this in mind, I realised that I must have missed the nuance during my original reading, so I decided to reread the chapter. Yet I was shocked by what I found, the chapter isn’t about the First World War or the changes society underwent, it is the complete opposite. Continue reading “The Scouring of the Shire is the opposite of what people think it is”
Every discussion of the Irish language follows the same weary, repetitive track. No matter how the conversation begins, sooner or later, the education system gets blamed. That is why we don’t speak Irish – because it wasn’t taught right to us. The teachers failed to show the beauty of Gaeilge and cultivate a love of the language in their students. If only we could find the right way of teaching Irish, then we’d all be fluent.
But I’ve always been sceptical of this excuse. Continue reading “Is the education system really to blame for our poor level of Irish?”
The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray is a strange, sensational and almost hysterical book. The very first line is “Europe is committing suicide” and the core premise of the book is that European culture and Western values are being killed by a combination of Islamic immigrants and guilt ridden liberals. Yet unfortunately this is a viewpoint that has been spreading lately with the rise of the alt-right and has some appeal to people fearful of Islam and angry at political correctness. So, I thought I try something a bit different and review a book that promotes an essentially alt-right view. Continue reading “Inside the Mind of the Alt-Right – Review of “The Strange Death of Europe””
Nation-state: A country which consists of one people/ethnic group
Empire: A country where one ethnic group dominates others
Multinational state: A country which consists of several ethnicities without any one dominating
In most discussions about a United Ireland, the focus is on Northern Ireland and how it would change society there. Southerners generally view the issue as something for Northerners to decide as it will primarily affect them. However, little thought is given to how a United Ireland would fundamentally change the Republic of Ireland and how we view ourselves as Irish people. We must consider this issue very carefully because if we make the wrong choice we could end up repeating the mistakes of the past, but this time with the roles reversed. Continue reading “A United Ireland Must Not Replace British Imperialism With Irish Imperialism”
It is hard to think of another term that is as hyped right now as “blockchain”. It is a new fad that has taken the financial world by storm. Everyone is talking about blockchain, firms are rushing out press releases announcing their interest and countless new proposals appear every day claiming they will revolutionise pretty much every industry. Even people uninterested in Bitcoin are taking a look at blockchain, in fact because so few people actually use the cryptocurrency to buy anything, the shift has focused instead to the technology aspect of Bitcoin. The situation resembles the Emperor’s New Clothes, with no one wishing to admit they don’t see any use to blockchain for fear of seeming behind with the times or not tech savy. Continue reading “The Blockchain Is A Solution In Search Of A Problem”
Why do we teach foreign languages in school? Is it because foreign languages are essential job skills students will need when they join the workforce? Is it a crucial life skill we need in society? Most of my former classmates never used the language after they graduated and soon forget most of what they learned. Few visit a country where the language is spoken and even then, they mainly use English. Students rarely read books in a foreign language or watch foreign language films without English subtitles, during or after school. Even after years of study, few can speak the language with much skill or talent.
So, is teaching foreign languages a waste of time? If most students don’t reach a comfortable level and rarely use it, what’s the point? I believe that even if students never use the language, it still is useful. Continue reading “Why We Should Teach Esperanto In School”