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The Japanese that even Japanese don’t know

Nihonjin no shiranai nihongo – the part of the Japanese language that even local Japanese do not know. This is a very interesting drama about a young, pretty Japanese teacher of a class of foreigners interacting with her students. Keiko is a modern young Japanese so untypical of a Japanese teacher. But out of a desperate need to complete an assignment from this private school, she is willing to put herself on the line and prove to the principal that she can make it and be an exceptional teacher of a relatively hard-to-teach foreign adult students.
Orignally, many years ago, I intended to watch this dorama to improve my Japanese, but due to good, accurate subtitles, I learned little and got stuck episodes after episodes of this captivating J-dorama on youtube.

nihonjin-no-shiranai-nihongo

Years later I caught my wife watching “KELAS INTERNATIONAL” on youtube about a class of foreign students learning Bahasa Indonesia in a very popular Indonesian comedy/drama show.  After only two episodes with her, I thought it was a copycat of the Nihonjin shiranai Nihongo show. But on closer look, I realized it is of a very different genre.

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Nihonjin-no-shiranai-Nihongo tends to focus on the interesting part of the language that was only peculiar in the Japanese language. One has to engage one’s brain and do learn some etymolgy of Japanese characters.,  while KELAS

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focus on the students and has more episodes on the slapstick jokes and odd behavior of various foreigners while in Indonesia.bringing their local habits into that of Jakarta.  Most actors are real foreigners, except for the “China” student played by a Chinese Indonesian whose exaggeration is probably why people love this show.  She does reminded me of a Chinese Indonesian from the island of Sulawesi, they don’t speak Mandarin well and mixed Hokien, Teochew, Cantonese and Mandarin and Bahasa when she spoke her version of Chinese.  Also unlike the Japanese (Nihonjin), one episode is less than 30 minutes. Even the pronunciation of each student’s name is inherently by another student.  For example “玲玲” -Ling Ling(China student’s name) is pronounced “Rin Rin” by the Japanese guy.  And the Japanese guy would not distinguish “h” and “f” crating lots of errors and laughter.

法師, 你们都好慈悲啊!

听闻说法,知道多接触一些善知识能添福. 。在网络上听闻说法(除了聖嚴法師大法鼓节目的)起初都是听英语的。其中有听Ven. Robina Courtin 的,  Ajahn Chah 的, Ajahn Brahmavamso Mahathera 的 和Ajahn Yuttadhammo 的。但有可能是跟粤语很有密切的因缘,偶而也听听用广东话的法师和居士们说法。说起来也奇怪,我的方言不是广东话,是新洲的闽南语福建话,但我却跟广东话结了一点点的佛缘。好多次,为了把心经记下来,用了普通话,又读诵又唱 ,但总是漏了一、两行。直到有一天,无意中在youtube找到梅艳芳的《心经 》。很快的就把它,滚瓜烂熟的唱熟了。不用说,中文的心经也自然而然的记了下来. 。之后也喜欢听在网络上用粤语的讲经说法。其中有三为用广东话的法师,反复听了好多,都觉得这些法师们都好慈悲耶!

法軒法師   ---法軒法師是从马来西亚来的,广东话发音不准,跟我一样。但香港却很欢迎法軒法師去那里说法。法師早期出家是在泰国小乘佛廟做比丘,吃了很多苦,现在已转成大乘的和尚。法師的语气和口音给我一种在家乡的口味,听起来很亲切。而且法师个人的故事特别多,可能是这一方面吸引了很多观众。

了一法師   ---了一法師的口气跟我研究生时认识的一位香港学生很相识。说话总是有一点讽刺性,可是却点到为止从不会伤害到别人。这样子好像是横刀直入之后却模不到伤口,反而会另一个人反省一下到底法师说的有没有道理。通常了一法師的 youtube video 只有一张图,上面可能就只有佛经的一两句,或只有佛珠,一个人只能听,没有动画可以看。

定弘法師   ---在出家之前,法师像是一位乖乖子,好像是那种很听话,读书成绩很好的Mama’s Boy.出生于广州,国语也讲得很靓。好像从小就跟净空法师很有缘。他妈妈带他大,他竟然读到博士学位(钟茂森博士),还在Kansas 和 Queensland University 就业。但后来他还是把一切都捨了,出家跟着净空老法师学净土。定弘法師因为用广东话说法,好多好多香港人也因此觉得非常有幸,感恩不已。在圆明寺讲了《无量寿经》,以下是一般人的看法:

定弘法師是廣東人,廣東話講經弘法,自然而親切,是上天賜予給香港人, 感覺有福了。

甘国卫居士 ---甘国卫是早期在歌影视唱戏的艺人。但因為爱好读古书,有缘也读了很多经书,现今与夫人朱璧汶录制佛教粤曲精选VCD,风行海内外,弘扬佛法,深受大众欢迎。我喜欢他讲经说法因為他能够深入浅出,把最深最难的轻松简单的说解。

meditate for a while before another talk.

冥坐几分钟也好

A chance to meet an Abbot

Going to Toronto is always my wife’s idea because she needs to fix her cravings for good Cantonese/Malaysian food.  And it is a way to keep her sanity and her homesickness in check.  It’s the usual trip from one Chinese grocer to another and one Indonesian restaurant to another Malaysian restaurant.

Having conquer my craving for food (and almost anything else) , I have nothing to look forward to except to be a good chauffeur around the Greater Toronto and a good translator if information of products only have Chinese.

But this trip, I have the rare opportunity to dine with an Abbot from Dharma Drum Meditation Center.

Near the end of the trip, I request my wife to meet some Singaporeans and have dinner with them before driving that 4 hours home.  And just so lucky, Mr. Tan, one of my Torontonian friends have to pick up an Abbot from the Dharma Drum Meditation Center to start a 3-day retreat to be held in Mississauga.  The other Singaporeans were waiting and speculation “Wah, don’t know got the 因缘 or not, the Abbot might join us for dinner le”.  Mr. Tan after picking up the Abbot had a separate reservation and was able to come to this Zen Garden.  Every Buddhist stood up, clasped their hands in respect when FaShi stepped in.  We requested that he sit with us for dinner.

During this hour, GuoXing Fashi, asked me whether “1+1=2” is some kind of truth or does it come with a model.  I gave my two cents of what this so called “math” is all about and that it is a tool/language used for mostly science to describe their work.  And that yes, it could also have 1 + 1 = \infty or one can also have 1+1=10 (binary addition) or 1+1=3 if there is simple 买二送一sales going on.

Then I have the opportunity to listen directly from the Master the concept of “無我 ” as to 离颠倒梦想 in everyday life to 解除烦恼.  Thanks to my friend Mr. Tan, I am really, really lucky, 如此受用不尽 ‘s dharma, I will contemplate on it and vow to understand it.

我今見聞得受持,願解如來真實義

Algebra Standard in US High School

To know what kind of culture America has in High School Math, teaching a typical class in first year university or Community College will give you a very good idea.  The image below is only funny here, never funny or brought up in Singapore.

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so what other kinds of funny errors do they have a lot (and laugh it off)?  Here is another off my colleague’s door.  There are so many of these, someone publish it into a book.

door Joke

Door Joke of a US college Mathematician

So when you teach the students, they really got all confused in their algebra.  Off the top of my head, here is a list of what’s considered common in the US:

  • 0!=0,\ln(1) = 1, \cos(0)=0, e^0= 0
  • (x+y)^2 = x^2+y^2, \sqrt{A+B} = \sqrt{A}+\sqrt{B}
  • (x+y)^2 = x^2+y^2, \sqrt{A+B} = \sqrt{A}+\sqrt{B}
  • \int \frac{1}{1+\cos^2 x} = \ln(1+\cos^2x), \int \tan x = \sec^2 x
  • \frac{d}{dx} a^x = x a ^{x-1}
  • \int \frac{1}{x^2+x} = ln|x^2+x|+C
  • \frac{\sin x}{n} = si x, \frac{\sin x}{x} = sin
  • 2^x = y \Rightarrow x = \frac{y}{2}

But like an Olympic swim clinic, my job here is to correct a future Olympian’s error or bad habit.  And different students have different bad habits.  So this is like a Dharma Master trying to help his student with his affliction.  With constant diligence, the student will hope to let go and reduce his kleshas.

Let me end with another so-called funny Math joke.  If you are a Singaporean who commit this error and your parents saw it, it will hardly be funny

 

Little Things Made My Day

This year, the Mathematical Association of America had its Allegheny Mountain Sectional Meeting (conference) downtown in my city that I lived.  So I decided to take the public bus down.  Nobody, I believe, in my department did it.  It is just a little thing, and if I were in New York City or Singapore or London, I’m sure, myself and many other professors will do the same thing.  But that’s not how most cities in America are built.  They are built with “everyone has a car” in mind.  So taking the public bus, is just so rare, it is a predicament.

I did my part reducing carbon footprint.  I have to wake up very early to take the first bus to school because that day, I have a Test for my students and I have to be in my office in case some students want to see me.  SO I walked out at 5:30AM in the cold ERIE April Fool’s Day, walked about three-quarter of a mil, then waited I think a further 10-15 mins before the bus arrived.  If I missed this bus, I’ll have to catch the next one an hour later.

So after class at 2:30PM, I brave the cold and walked to the bus stop in the school and waited for the 3:17PM bus to go downtown.

There I met one of my students.  He talked to me and said this driver is frequently late.  I laughed and told him how unreasonable this would be if it were in Singapore or London or NYC.

But despite catching a bus which was late, and despite getting off at a bus stop earlier then the correct one, I still managed to arrive at the meeting early enough for the first talk of the conference.

After the talk, I was in a dinner sitting with my colleague.  At the end of the dinner, we all flashed out our cell phones and the amazing thing was:  none of us (all five of us) was carrying a smart phone.  And that’s not because we were old or we don’t know how to use Technology, we are all mathematicians! But that’s another thing I would write about when I have time.

Sammy

He was known as Eilenberg, the Art collector or Art dealer because he deals with Art ‘aggressively’ when he found something he really wants. I already knew him but I was re-introduced to him again when my brother, an artist, gave me the book “The Lotus Transcendent, Indian and SE Asian Art”.

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Here is a passage from Peter Freyd about two people who heard about Eilenberg:

“I don’t know him,” he said. “I know of him, of course. How do you know him?”

“We work in the same area of mathematics.”

“You’re talking about a different Eilenberg.  I meant the dealer in Indian art.”

“Actually, it’s the same person. He’s both a mathematician and a collector of Indian art.”

“Don’t be silly, young man. The Eilenberg I mean is not a collector of Indian art, he’s the dealer in Indian art. I know him well. He established the historicity of one of the Persian kings. He certainly is not a mathematician.

The Eilenberg I knew can from the word of mouth of the professor, John Moore, who taught me “Spectral Sequences”.  It is a very specialized branch of mathematics in Homotopy Theory (which is a specialized topic in a broader area called ‘Algebraic Topology’).  Professor Moore would refer to him as “Sammy” but deep inside us, we would imagine this Mathematical Giant who not only worked and came out with the axiomatic approach to “homology theories”(with Steenrod) to unify many homologies but also gave rise to the topic called “Category Theory” in Mathematics better known to most Mathematician as ‘abstract nonsense’.  He also wrote this important book on homological algebra with Mac Lane.  Sammy is a member of Bourbaki with Cartan, and later wrote another very important book on automata.

During the time when I was a student, Moore would talked about how Sammy preferred to be in SouthEast Asia because of some tropical fish.  Okay, maybe he did say Indian art, but that same art I now have interest in because many of them depict Buddhist Arts and mysticism (e.g. Kinare, Gandha, Garuda, Buddhisattvas).

In Freyd, it was also mentioned:

Forty years ago Sammy hoped to turn the study of Indian bronzes into an equally well-behaved subject. He had already acquired a reputation for being the best detector of fakes in the business, and he believed he could axiomatize the process.

He even had a provisional list of axioms, and it was truly an elegant list.

Earlier, Sammy belonged to the Polish Math group who frequented café to write down theorems, those of the calibers of Banach.  By the time he reached the US from Poland, he was very well-known.

道庙

六姑嫁给一位新西兰的老外。又很不幸,六姑丈中风,进医院出来后,还需要一段日子修养身体。而且中风脑有被损,所能记的只有一半,神经跟一般人不一样,脾气有点儿不好。医生又说最好不要受到平时种种的压力,要不然中风的危机可能会在重演。

苦啊,真苦!

六姑为了精神上的需要,就到附近唯一的寺庙看能够能不能找到一些解脱。虽然新西兰到处都有教堂、辅导中心,但六姑从小在新加坡唐人街的寺庙长大,“耶稣”,“基督教”什么的对她来说都起不了什么作用。

诶,这老外小城市的小小寺庙里除了有“济公”和笑佛”(布袋和尚 也称弥勒佛)给人敬拜以外,还有讲经说法。六姑听了几次的讲经说法之后,竟然了解应该解脱,就先要把个人的“贪、嗔、痴”去掉。六姑虽然只是对道教学这么一点皮毛,竟然给她学到其中的重点,所以就很管用,精神和心理的压力,就这样,减轻了许多。古人说:「拜得神多, 自有神保佑」很有可能是六姑未嫁之前,有入庙拜拜,所以现在需要祂的时候,受到神的保佑和智慧。

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