What’s the difference between “spin” and “turn”?

Answer by Joseph Michael Pallante:

Turn left! turn right!

You use "turn" mostly with directions or something that moves on a pivot point briefly.

Spin around, spin in a chair, my head is spinning. These are all fixed on one point and involve a rotation or series of rotations.

Think of turning as the process for spinning, but to spin you need to complete a circle. For example I can turn down streets going only left or right and complete one circle, yet I had to turn at 3 pivot points.

A turn has pivot points, a spin has 1 central pivot point and rotates in at least 1 circle.

What's the difference between "spin" and "turn"?

What are some tips to correctly use “the” and “a”?

Answer by Michael Chan:

"a" refers to anything of that type, nothing specific.

"the" refers to a specific something of that type, nothing else. It is usually used when referring to something that both parties already know of.

I am a vice-president in the company.

In this case, I am probably one of the two or more vice-presidents in that specific company that we have been talking about previously.

I am the vice-president of the bank.

In this case, there is no other vice-presidents, there is only one, which makes me a lot more "big-shot" in that particular bank we have been talking about, than any banks which have tons of vice-presidents all over the place.

What are some tips to correctly use "the" and "a"?

The Turnip in China

When I first arrived in China, we had to adjust to how some food have different Chinese names from the ones we are accustomed to, or even how we have become so used to the English names that we struggle for the Chinese terms for the food item.

We found out that potatoes in Shanghai is not 马铃薯 but 土豆 (although the Shanghainese understood the former). It was also really hilarious when we wanted yam 芋头 (and we were sure we got the pronunciation right) but our domestic helper got for us fish-head 鱼头 instead.

And since quite a few Singaporean dishes have turnips in them, it was an interesting occasion when we could not find them in Shanghai. We tried describing it to our chefs in school, tried giving searching for pictures, all to no avail. They had no idea what it was called in Chinese too, even with the pictures.

It took one of my northern Chinese student Haylin to let me know what they call those things 萝卜. I went “huh?” at that. I knew 萝卜 as radishes, not turnips. It was then that I understood that, to the Chinese, turnips are simply a different type of root vegetables – all root vegetables in Chinese are 萝卜, whether carrots 红萝卜 (“red luobo”), radishes 白萝卜 (“white luobo”) or just the plain turnip.

Learning languages is a matter of learning the respective cultures as well. It is great to be bilingual!

Meet Gulangyu Island – a Fantastic Adventure

An essay by my student Sarah Zhang, Grade 6

During the winter holiday, I went to Xiamen. It is a city in Fujian province at the south of China. Xiamen is near both the ocean and Gulangyu Island. When the airplane arrived at Xiamen, it was already 1am midnight. We went to the wharf and waited for the ship to the Gulangyu.

It was night, I just saw the dim lights around me, only the moon still in the sky. The sea breeze stroked my face, and brought the special smell from the sea.

When we arrived at Glangyu Island, the story started. It was a fantastic adventure. My mom and I must find the inn at a strange place. First we followed mom’s GPS and tried to find the place. But, it was not an easy thing, the result was that we got lost! We circled at the island, but because it was really dark, we could not clearly see the road sign.

When we walked to a church, it was really scary. The light was flickering, the cat went “meow”, it was so weird. Finally we turned back to the wharf, it was 2am. At last, I called the inn’s owner, he was waiting for us. He told us the landmark at each road over the phone. Nobody was there, my mom and I felt cold and scared.

It was a remote place, and when we found the inn, it was already 3am. We walked half of the island! We were all tired and fell asleep soon. This was an adventure I would never have done, it does not look like a nice beginning, but tomorrow everything will be fine, the trip would start then!

What is meant by the phrase “objectification of women”?

Objectification can be of anyone, not just women, but it appears to be worse off for women.

Answer by A Quora admin:

I think the most useful way to explain this is to highlight the difference between the object and the subject.

Is the woman the subject of the sentences narrating her life (or just this particular interaction), or is she an object in the sentences? Do they do, or are they done to?

This doesn’t always work (for example, “That person works for me.”), but it’s a good gut check.

Disney princess movies are simple and good for contrasting examples.

In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora was born, and a witch was jealous of her and cursed her. Her parents and fairy godmothers hid her. The witch still managed to trick her and put a sleeping spell on her. A prince found her, kissed her, and rescued her, so she married him.

Aurora never really did anything. She never drove the plot; the plot happened to her.

Anyone else could have been switched in for her character and not changed the outcome. What makes her an individual didn’t matter.

In Mulan, Mulan was prepared by her family to meet the matchmaker, but the matchmaker was not satisfied with her. Mulan snuck into the army in order to save her father. She struggled initially in training but ultimately succeeded in saving the emperor from the Mongols. When Shang came to her home, she invited him to dinner.

Something happened to her, and then she reacted and did impressive things.

Mulan does not objectify the main character because the movie is so focused on what she does. She takes an active role in everything past the matchmaker (and even the disaster of that interaction was driven by her unique characteristics). Some other character with different values and emotions would have dramatically changed the story.

Being the subject of sentences is important because it generally means that your thoughts, wants, needs, and actions are considered.

“I’d hit that” is objectifying because the hittee’s subjectivity is not considered, and the dehumanizing tone of “that” discourages thinking of the hittee as someone with actions, thoughts, emotions, and preferences.

The sexual interest is not the problem. The lack of assumed agency is.

Wanting to do something to someone is objectifying. Wanting someone to do your bidding is objectifying. But it’s not objectifying to want someone if you care about their individual subjective characteristics, their wants, needs, and emotions. It’s a confirmation of someone’s internal subjectivity to want to make them happy.

The question details ask about complimenting someone on their looks.

Complimenting a person’s looks doesn’t generally draw attention to what they do. It praises their function as someone who is looked at.

When someone has done very impressive things, like Kamala Harris becoming California’s attorney general, calling her “the best looking attorney general in the country” highlights her importance as an object of critical visual evaluation.

However, when someone is going out and has spent an hour on hair and makeup, complimenting their appearance is also a compliment on their preparations, so an appearance-related compliment is more appropriate in a club than in the office, where most people hope that competence is their defining characteristic.

The question details also ask about objectification of people like bank tellers, who are treated as important only for what they can do for you.

Classism and the commodification of human interaction are issues. Treating someone as a robotic fulfiller of your needs and wants is objectifying.

But if you’re polite and approach the interaction with some empathy, then you’re treating them as a person with an internal emotional world that could be affected by rudeness, not as a robot.

Now I’ll address sexual objectification, which the OP also asks about.

I think it’s discussed a lot because it’s so inescapable in advertising and other media. People are constantly exposed to shameless, unapologetic, undeniable sexual objectification and have a lot of opportunities to form strong opinions about it.

The Society Pages published an excellent article, Sexual Objectification (Part 1): What is It?, and I’m going to go through the test questions they came up with and expand upon the subject/object distinction I discussed earlier.

Does the image only show part of a sexualized person’s body?

Will this backside do things, or will things be done to it?

Does the image present a sexualized person as a stand-in for an object?

Does a thing (like a table) want, feel, or do?

Does the image show a sexualized person as interchangeable?

If people are interchangeable, their individual wants, needs, and emotions are erased. Fully realized people have so many variances in preferences and actions that they cannot be interchanged.

Does the image affirm the idea of violating the bodily integrity of a sexualized person who can’t consent?

Clearly, things are being done to a person in something like this situation; she is not doing things.

Does the image suggest that sexual availability is the defining characteristic of the person?

The presentation of indiscriminate sexual receptivity eliminates the concept of the person’s preferences. Such a person does not chose but is chosen.

Does the image show a sexualized person as a commodity (something that can be bought and sold)?

Again, such a person does not chose but is chosen and will, presumably, robotically fulfill the wishes of the purchaser.

Does the image treat a sexualized person’s body as a canvas?

Canvases are written on and then looked at. They don’t actively do anything.

The reason that people make a big deal about it is that normalization of sexual objectifiction of women leads to rape culture, which has been discussed a lot recently because of the Steubenville High School rape case and other high-profile cases.

If those boys had been conditioned to always think of women as people who do things (including actively enjoying sex) and not people whom things are done to, it’s less likely that they would have taken advantage of an unconscious female. They would have thought more about her subjective experiences rather than what they could do to her body.

I believe that people act out on bad ideas they were taught and are not inherently bad. Problematic media themes plant the seeds for social problems. What happened to Daisy Coleman is a worst-case scenario that plays out if boys are taught by a perponderance of media messages that women are doees, not doers.

What is meant by the phrase “objectification of women”?

How long is a company considered a startup? Is it the time, revenues or size?

A good read for anyone wanting to understand why startups behave the way they do.

Answer by A Quora admin:

There is no one definition of a startup. But, one of the gurus in this field, Steve Blank, offers this definition:

a startup is an organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.

Think of a startup as a lab. A lab to experiment a variety of business models until one of them sticks & scalable. A researcher at the lab might try out a variety of combinations until she finds out the winning drug formula. With each formula she performs a variety of tests – first in the lab and if that works in the broader world [field trials etc].

Once she discovers the right formula that passes all the tests and cures the disease, she will take that to the engineers who will then build a large manufacturing unit that will mass produce that drug. At that point, her job is over and she can go and start discovering another drug.

Discovering a drug

This is what happens in a startup world. You are discovering for that right "drug" [solution] for that right "disease" [problem]. Facebook helped fight the disease of not being able to stay in touch with your friends and family who have moved far. Google helped fight the disease of not being able to find the right info on the web.

In their initial stages, both companies were not sure of their market and not sure of how they would make money. It took a few years for their business model to fall in place. That period of time is known as the startup phase.

Once the drug is discovered and tested, it can be mass produced in millions and billions. That's how startups grow rapidly – with the right drug they can have explosive profits.

Properties startups

  1. Most startups fail: People outside the field tell this with a dramatic effect as though they have solved Fermat's last theorem. Of course, most experiments in the lab fail. Most pharmacologists never discover a blockbuster drug. Does that mean it is not worth pursuing that goal? Any path that is worthy in life will be riddled with failures.
  2. There is luck, but can be improved with agility: Some researchers hit upon the winning experiment by chance. While others slog for years patiently looking for their combination. In any discovery, there is a huge element of chance and luck. However, this factor can be a bit reduced by doing a lot of experiments and improving from each. That can substantially improve the probability of finding the winning drug. However, many startup founders are too stuck with their initial idea and never experiment.
  3. There is failure and there is pivot. What happens when a chemist tries out a combination and that doesn't work? He tries another. He might not bother about that "failure" too seriously. It will just go into the lab observation notebook. When you are in the experiment mode, you will not get your desired result in all but one experiments. However, after each trial, he can fine tune his next experiment based on previous experiments. If including sodium gave only partial results, maybe move down the table and try potassium? In the same way, startups keep pivoting after each trial. That's not failure. That is the nature of the system.

  4. Keep testing. Chemists might write their reactions in paper and plan. But, they don't stop at that. They will do the experiment to see how the reaction actually pans out. And if that works in the lab, they will do further tests in the real world. In the same way, startup founders needs to keep pushing new products & features and keep testing. You cannot just assume something would work based on theory.
  5. Startups do get acquired even when they don't make money. This is something that the outsiders get so confused about. Underpaid journalists in popular media will scowl at how these darn startups get bought out without generating profits. Let's say you have hit upon that winning drug and have not built a full factory yet. Is the drug valuable, still? Of course. Because, making the factory is quite straightforward for a company with that expertise. But, making the winning drug combination is not. That's why Facebook bought Whatsapp and Instagram before they made a lot of profits. Both companies already had a strong winning drug, while Facebook was good at building the factories. 
  6. In fact, you don't even need to produce the winning drug in some cases. If you are quite advanced in the process and have done multiple trials – you might still get acquired by a bigger company who would build on that process. While the common public would not know about the value of that midstage product, trained eyes can.

In summary, a startup is a lab that is attempting to produce a money-making enterprise. As long as it is on track to produce a rapidly scalable company, it can be called a startup [99% of small businesses are not startups – they are not built as labs nor can have explosive growth with a winning formula].

How long is a company considered a startup? Is it the time, revenues or size?

MacLeod’s Model of Organisational Sociology

I recently encountered the MacLeod’s Model of Organisational Sociology from Michael O Church’s excellent article. For someone who devoured plenty of literature of organisational behaviour during his MBA days, this was a new model that intrigued me, and made me think of how our organisation works.

MacLeod’s model classifies all people in big organisations into three types.

  • Losers, who recognize that low-level employment is a losing deal, and therefore commit the minimum effort not to get fired.
  • Clueless, who work as hard as they can but fail to understand the organization’s true nature and needs, and are destined for middle management.
  • Sociopaths, who capture the surplus value generated by the Losers and Clueless. Destined for upper management.

It is a pity that the terms used are so negative, perhaps because MacLeod believes that big organisations are themselves dysfunctional in certain ways.

Each of these three are who they are because of another trilema at work – how the Team, Dedication and Strategy interacts in such a way that only two can be found in a person, because the third is by nature impossible once the other two is in place.

  • Team refers to the importance the individual places on belonging to the group.
  • Dedication refers to the importance the individual places on his work.
  • Strategy refers to the importance the individual places on doing something “worthy” for himself.

The Loser values the Team and Strategy. He wants to be part of the group but at the same time wants to do something “worthy” for himself (and the company does not provide that). Hence they are normally the “foot-soldiers” of the company, creating enough value not to get fired, but yet resisting giving more of himself to the company so that he can enjoy what he values more (his family, his hobbies, etc). His values preclude his ability to dedicate to the company.

The Clueless values the Team and Dedication. He wants to be part of the group and he finds value in his work for the company. Unfortunately, because of his inability to see for himself, such a person quickly rises to middle management and ends up pawns of upper management who easily sacrifices him.

The Sociopath values Dedication and Strategy. To him, belonging to the group and being seen as accepted by the group is nonsense. Such a person, because of his ability to manipulate and use both the Clueless and the Loser to attain his personal goals, quickly rises up to Senior Management.

The MacLeod model explains very quickly how certain types tend towards middle management and get stuck, how others are perfectly content just being receptionists or a junior staff, and how those who “work the least” but are extremely good at playing the corporate game get promoted to senior management.

Hopefully, it can also serve as a model to frustrated managers wondering why they are not getting the break they want despite their hard work and dedication to the organisation. It is a game they cannot win, unless they start up their own small organisation.

A Fantastic Karst Cave

This essay was written by a Chinese student of mine, Sarah Zhang, currently in Grade 5.

On International Labour Day, my grandma, grandpa, mother and I went to a karst cave.

The karst cave was fantastic. It had seven layers, but only four layers were open. The first to fifth layer were dry, the sixth and seventh layer had water on it and we could go boating. The fourth layer was under the ground about 300 metres deep. It was very beautiful.

Inside the cave were some stalactites. Provided there were water, these stalactites could be longer, but they grew just one millimeter a year. In the karst cave, there were lots of beautiful artificial lights. And it had some stone waterfalls, which were unimaginable!

It had some transparent stalagmites, they looked like crystals. The curtain was called a schistose, the formations looked like harps.It was very beautiful! The best of them all was a kind of rock with some fragile things inside, like flowers, and easily broken. It was called a stone flower.

These many fantastic stalactites were all made of limestone. I thought that nature is wonderful. I learnt so many things today!