Fool’s Flashcard Review

A long time ago, in the last millennium, I designed a flashcard application for Mac OS that implemented something I called interval study (known elsewhere as spaced repetition or the Leitner method). I sold and later gave away the software at a website I created for my software tinkering called the Fool’s Workshop. I used the software every day for my own Chinese language study and I acquired a few fans before I abandoned development of the software when OS X came out. I also listed some of the other applications for Macintosh that I found online and reviewed some of them on the website and was surprised to find that this page is still riding high in the Google rankings for a number of different search terms.

I currently use iFlash for my vocabulary review. I’m particularly partial to iFlash because its developer was one of two who implemented interval study in a way that is almost identical to my old Flashcard Wizard application. I am always interested in the development going on around the web of similar kinds of software, and like an old timer telling war stories on his porch when he wasn’t really ever much of a soldier to start with, I again feel like sharing my thoughts on some of these applications.

To this end, I have created a new weblog over at the old Fool’s Workshop website:

Fool’s Flashcard Review

Here I will occasionally post reviews of flashcard software, to begin with mostly for Mac OS X, and I will especially focus those applications which attempt to implement some kind of interval study. My goal is to give language learners a resource to compare what is out there but even more importantly, to hopefully reach some of the developers who are working on this kind of software and convince them that these applications need to have certain basic features to be useful to those of us using their software to learn and maintain the languages we have studied, especially when we are away from the native language environment.

Misc. News

I am back in the US for a few weeks. I’m writing this sitting in my favorite Butler library hangout in Columbia University, where I am visiting friends for a few days.

C. W. Hayford has posted a wonderful collection of links at Asian History Carnival #18.

One of the many things he noted is what looks like an interesting new journal with articles available free online: Taiwan in Comparative Perspective.

He also noted that the Gutenberg-e collection of online dissertations is now Open Access!! This is wonderful news as there are some very interesting dissertations hosted here. If the project was still ongoing I think I would have applied for my own as-yet-unwritten dissertation to be considered. Here is one of hte Gutenberg-e projects pointed to by Professor Hayford: How Taiwan Became Chinese.

The Prison Notebooks

Congraulations to Sayaka on finishing her comprehensive exams. Also, Sayaka has moved her weblog to a new location just as she is moving from her PhD program in Political Science at The George Washington University in Washington DC to her new History PhD program at New York’s Columbia University. The title of her new blog (with old entries imported) is chosen in honor of her favorite Italian revolutionary. – The College Entrance Exam

The new Korea podcast SeoulGlow looks very promising. View the Youtube video below for a fascinating set of interviews of high school students preparing to take the college entrance exam, and view the spectacle of police rushing late students to the exams:

The creator of this video podcast is Michael Hurt, who writes at one of the best Korea weblogs out there, the Scribblings of the Metropolitician. He is especially good discussing issues of race and identity in contemporary Korea.

Microsoft Book Search

Microsoft’s new book search site Live Search Books is, well, live. It doesn’t work in the Safari browser, but it works fine in Firefox. I have only played around with it a bit, but I can already say that for those interested in doing historical research, the new Microsoft book search offers two major advantages over Google book search, despite the fact that the former only provides search results for books out of copyright (mostly before 1923).

I have at once lauded but also complained about severe flaws in Google’s book search in an earlier posting here at Muninn and also at a Frog in a Well posting. My two biggest complaints at this time are:

1) Not all books which are clearly out of copyright are fully viewable at Google search. Sometimes only partial view, or “snippet view” is available.
2) Though there is the wonderful feature of PDF download on Google book search for books that they recognize as out of copyright, once you download the book, you cannot search the document within your PDF viewer because Google does not supply the text layer for these documents.

Microsoft’s book search has neither of these problems as far as I can tell:

1) All of the books I have clicked on can be downloaded as a full PDF
2) The PDFs I have downloaded are fully searchable on the text layer.

This is wonderful news and I hope Google Books will respond accordingly. Microsoft book search still seems a bit rough around the edges and doesn’t have the nice new smooth scroll view that Google Books recently added, but I am very happy to see that there are two competing services in this area. I hope the Microsoft search will continue to add books, and also, hopefully, consider adding materials out of copyright for later periods when this can be determined.

Timothy Burke on the Rentiers of Sovereignty

Timothy Burke is an excellent historian and writer whose postings always deserve a close reading. I recommend that everyone read some of his comments on sovereignty in his posting Rentiers of Sovereignty

Angola is the kind of situation that made me think very differently about sovereignty, and about the kinds of politics, both conservative and leftist, that mark the achievement of sovereignty as the initial and necessary condition of achieving prosperity and freedom. Sovereignty is the material resource that the Angolan elite controls and sells, not oil. They are rentiers who extract wealth from selling permission for extraction. But they are no different than a car thief who hotwires a car parked outside a suburban home, drives it fifty miles, and then sells the car on eBay. The difference is not in what they do, but in the legal and governmental mechanisms that permit what they do. The car thief is going to run into trouble establishing a title that can be transferred legitimately. The Angolan elite has no such difficulty.

All the international institutions which exist recognize them as possessing title to sovereignty. They are the ones who send representatives to the United Nations. The are the ones who fill embassies around the world. They are the ones that the World Bank or NGOs speak to and reach agreements with. That as not a conservative or liberal thing, not a failure of the United Nations or of the Bush Administration. It as an indictment of the entire interstate system built up over the course of the 20th Century, in all its parts and particulars. That system gives titles and ownership to thieves, and allows thieves to sell their goods to supposedly legitimate businesses.

I think Burke is very well aware of the fact that any careless attack on the concept of sovereignty (and my own broader attack on nation-states in general) without thinking about alternatives. However, I fully agree with him that we must all make a call to action. In his conclusion, Burke says:

I think that the beginning of a new era of action involves a steady contempt for sovereignty and the claims made in its name, and the construction of a new international system that reflects that contempt. Let as call Angola as elite what they are: thieves. Let as call the companies pumping oil out of Angola what they are: the purchasers of stolen property. Let as make it as difficult as we can for thieves to fence stolen sovereignties, and for purchasers to buy the same.

I agree, but with one qualification. In so far as I hope the challenge of the 21st century will be to create a less violent and divisive home for humanity, I would rather not see any kind of inter-national system at all. The serious exploration of alternatives to the nation-state must be done hand in hand with the exploration of alternatives to the modern conception of sovereignty.

Delicious Tagrolls

I just found out (Via Antti’s posting on it) that you can imbed your tags easily into a webpage. Mine are below (Because it is shown via javascript they will not show up in the RSS feed for this posting) but are completely disorganized thanks to the hodgepodge of often irrational (or misspelled) categories. I’ll fix it up someday.

May 5th – Asian History Carnival

Katrina Gulliver is going to be hosting the next Asian History carnival at her weblog Miscellany on May 5th, 2006. If you have read anything good related to Asian history since March 6th, please email her your nominations at hello [at] You can also submit nominations via this submission page.

Read more about the Asian history carnival and take a look at the three previous editions.