Posts by Lucy Stewart

  • Up Front: So Farewell Then, UCSA,

    Most of the time I spent in the UCSA was in the Ballroom, but never for a ball or even a gig; it's where the fencing club met, because it was free for us to use on Saturday mornings (except when they were having an event, which wasn't that often) and hiring a room at the gym would have cost money we didn't have. I spent a lot of Saturday mornings over five years going up and down the ballroom, hauling out equipment from the cupboard we kept it in, putting it away again. Occasionally the floor was a wee bit sticky, if it was the Saturday morning after a particularly good night before, but we tried not to think too hard about that. They meet in the College of Education gym now, I think. It's not quite the same.

    I spent a bit of time in the Foundry, too, although probably not nearly as much as some. It was okay if you just wanted a beer right after class, but not much more. There was that weird period around 2007 where they tried to change the name to "The Common Room", but it never took, except to confuse new students with the signage. I still have a few Polaroids from a thing they were running there the first couple of weeks I was at Canty, in 2005, where they breath-tested you and then gave you a Polaroid photo with the reading on the back, to try and stop drink-driving. My readings are all absurdly high because they always managed to find me right after I'd taken my first sip of beer.

    I didn't have any particular love for the building, architecturally, but knowing it's coming's another little bit of history wiped away.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Steven Joyce: Prick or Treat, in reply to,

    Yep, same here. No career path, not even a start on one should a youngster be mad enough to want to try.

    So, off they go overseas, taking their intellects with them.

    Scientific careers are difficult to come by everywhere; here in the US, for example, the odds of a biomedical PhD getting a long-term (i.e. tenure-track) job are somewhere between 10-20%. Maybe lower. NZ certainly isn't making itself a haven for scientists right now, though.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    I also studied overseas (that school in Canada) with people from all round the world. Some of them had minimal English when they arrived, and thus only started learning science in English then, at the age of 16-17. Again, many of them have gone on to successful careers in science.

    Conversely, I have a now-graduated labmate who grew up speaking English in Swaziland, went to a university in Taiwan that taught in Mandarin (which she didn't speak when she started), then got her doctorate in the US. Now THAT's some language flexibility in the sciences. OTOH, I know that at least some European universities teach the sciences in English at a postgraduate level, presumably on the grounds that it saves time if people will publish in English anyway.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    So it seems to me just about everybody learns how to write a decent essay the same way you did – right as they’re doing the work that requires those writing skills.

    Or they take a lot of essay-heavy arts courses; I can't speak about other subjects, but taking history at university taught me way more about references, constructing an argument based on evidence, and methodically reading pieces of text than any science paper I took. It was really helpful once I hit honours and most of the work turned into seminar-style classes and reading papers; the people who'd only taken science classes were clearly confused by the read-and-discuss format, which had been present from the first year in history. It wasn't a substitute for learning to write in the sciences, and I remain grateful my PhD coursework involved a class that addressed that specifically, but it was a huge help.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    No, but damn it… being able to manage the basics without committing linguistic GBH – is it really that hard to manage? I was faintly embarrassed traveling through Europe a couple of years back and finding most people just found it easier to conduct a fairly simple English conversation than try and make something out of my very basic German, and basically non-existent phrasebook Dutch, Danish and Swedish.

    My main problem in Germany last year was picking up phrases quickly enough to apparently *sound* like I spoke some German when I ordered things, and then have to explain that I didn't actually when I got a rapid-fire response. In some ways just asking if they spoke English upfront produced less confusion, but I felt like I should give it a go while I was there.

    I think the key thing about learning language early is actually the grammar. Vocab you can pick up as needed, but once you understand the structure of language - tenses, verbs, objects, subjects - you can parse sentences and figure out what the unfamiliar words in a sentence must mean. And so much of the meaning of a language is in how the words are strung together, rather than what the words are.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Te Reo Māori in schools:…,

    I didn't get much more than the basics of te reo in primary school in the 90s (colours, greetings, that sort of thing) but I took it for four years at secondary school and I've never been sorry I did; it made me feel so much more at home in my own country. Even when I don't understand something fully, and I was never fluent, I have the tools to work out what's being said with time and some prompting from a dictionary.

    It did bemuse me how kids dropped away as we went through school - there were a lot of people taking Maori in third form, but by sixth I was the only Pakeha kid still sticking it out (despite the curious fact that our teacher that year was an Englishman who'd married a Maori woman and dedicated himself to becoming fluent.) It clearly wasn't seen as a priority once you got into the NCEA years, even though that was the point where we were starting to write essays and read texts and actually learn to use the language beyond the bones of it - I wonder if there was more exposure to it in primary school whether that would change.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Up Front: Lighting the Dark, in reply to TracyMac,

    What about Wossname in Auckland who beat his ex-girlfriend to death a couple of years ago? Same entitlement syndrome, result was still a death.

    "Man kills ex (or on-off, or trying to be ex)-female partner" is such a common thing it's basically background noise in our society. I haven't really been engaging with this whole thing online because I don't know what to say, in the face of that - in the face of people then denying that this has anything to do with gender or a larger pattern. It's so damn tiring.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Muse: Guilt By Association Copy, in reply to steven crawford,

    But what I was trying to point out, is that some people are incapable of achieving compleat personhood. These humans are sometimes called psychopaths, and at least one of them was in the nazi party. And I have reviewed my internet diagnoses of Hitler and conclude that he was an absolute monster.

    I'm saying he was a human being - not a shining example of humanity, to put it mildly, but part of the human race, and any time you resort to "but he was just a psychopath" you lose the ability to understand how he built a widely-supported movement that allowed him to take control of a large and powerful country. Otherwise, the next one comes along, and we reassure ourselves that they aren't a total psychopath, they can't be that bad...

    (Of course, I'm sure plenty of genuine psychopaths were attracted to and part of the Nazi party, but they hardly made up the whole of it - and that's rather the point.)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Muse: Guilt By Association Copy, in reply to steven crawford,

    Do you disagree?

    I think that 1) diagnosing people with mental illness over the internet (especially the dead type) is always a losing game and 2) from what I know of Hitler, he was many things (charismatic, obsessed, not a very good artist), but I’ve never heard anyone seriously proposing he had a specific mental disorder. And even if he did, that disorder wouldn’t have caused what he did.

    Do you think every person in Rwanda who took part in the genocide there, as a perpetrator or abettor, was “not complete” as a human? They were actually hacking people to death with machetes, not just ordering deaths - and there were rather more than one of them. The nasty secret about humanity is that we don’t need mental illness to explain the awful things we do. In some circumstances, they come pretty naturally. That’s why it’s so important to remember how, and why – otherwise we stumble into it all over again. Genocide isn’t a twentieth-century invention. The twentieth century is just when we bothered to come up with a name for it.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

  • Muse: Guilt By Association Copy, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Portraying the Nazis as anything other than fully human seems to be an attempt to absolve ourselves of the possibility of such evil, and that, to me, is far more dangerous than any multimillionaire owning a book that creeps people out.

    The one WWII-related museum I visited in Germany - the exhibit associated with the rally grounds in Nuremberg - was designed to explain exactly how the Nazis had become popular and widely-supported in Germany over the course of the 1930s, and that had progressed into WWII and the Holocaust. It was thorough and interesting and pretty hard to deal with, but it never lost sight of the fact that ordinary people had enabled and accepted what the Nazis became.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2094 posts Report Reply

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