Random Cultural Notes

From Mongolia:

I may not have mentioned it before, but traffic in Ulaanbaatar is absurd. Taking a taxi, the fastest way to get anywhere in the city, is terrifying. Cars come in both left and right wheels, though the roads are all oriented like the US. Buses are a cheap and effective means of transportation, but are a little slow. There are regular traffic jams that make it much more effective to walk. There are lots of car accidents. When you cross the street, anywhere because no one cares about cross walks, you usually just sprint between the cars. Often cars will not slow down but speed up when they see pedestrians and swerve towards them. Presumably to scare them away. As a general rule, I cross with someone else, usually a Mongolian who looks like they know what they’re doing.

Garbage trucks play music like icecream trucks. I don’t know why.

Restaurants have menus. However, the menus does not list food that is available, but lists food that might be available. Depending on the quality of the menu, there might be only one or two things available. This can be really frustrating if you’re not aware of it, so be prepared to ask about a couple things.

From the internet:

After the death of Osama bin Laden, a quote falsely attributed to Martin Luther King Junior went viral: “I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.” It perfectly captured the sentiment of many and was nice and pithy, a perfect Facebook status or a tweet. While I strongly suspect that MLK would agree with the sentiment, we have to ask how this could happen? How many quotes are falsely attributed? The first was answered, within a short period after the quote went viral, because Megan McArdle figured it out and traced it to its source. It began, like most rumors and misquotations, with a simple mistake. Someone included the quote in their writing, someone cut and pasted it and left out the quotation marks. The current false quote was perfect for the moment, so all of MLK’s actual words, eloquent though they were, were cut.

There are several important elements to this. The mysterious person who cut and pasted from an English teacher’s facebook page, leaving out the quotation marks. Penn, of Penn and Teller, who saw the false quote and sent it viral with a single tweet. The general feeling of discomfort at celebrating someone’s death that so many people felt.

There are many false quotes circulating through the internet. The moral of this story is, if you quote someone, find it in a book that they wrote, not the internet.

Again from Mongolia:

The question of falsehood is relevant here too. There is a certain disregard for logic and explanation in Mongolia. When I asked why my host brother had his dogs ears and tail cut, I was told, “He is a guard dog, so he needs to hear everything and smell everything.” Implying strongly that the tail would somehow stop a dog from smelling. I suspect it is a practice that comes from dog fighting or wolf hunting. When dogs fight, they go for the ears and the tail. Possibly they cut them to give an advantage. A SIT person once told us not to have 7 people in a van because the 8-seat Soviet van couldn’t handle the weight. I’ve had language teachers simply lie to me about grammar when they didn’t remember the rule or just didn’t care enough to explain the real rule. When questioned about these things, even vaguer answers are given or belligerence. I have more examples of weird non-answers, but I think you get the idea.

I suspect that Americans, and possibly Westerners, are simply more obsessed with logic, reason, and truth. Myric once speculated that this might come from the Judeo-Christian Tradition and an obsession with The Word and the truth of the word. I suspect it is more related to a more modern obsession with science and reason, but its hard to prove either.

Edit: Myric says he read the thing about Judeo-Christian tradition and obsession with truth.

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