[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

I have a piece in the Los Angeles Times today about the difficulty of writing science fiction in today’s world, and no, it’s not just because one has to wonder if the world is going to be here tomorrow. Here’s the link. Enjoy!


rhialto: Me under a waterfall (Default)
[personal profile] rhialto
Finally I publicly moved to Berlin! With 164 km/h down the Autobahn. Yes, we were reasonably sticking to all speed limits, where they existed.
I have actually lived in Berlin since late last year (I moved in with my girlfriend), while most of my things were still staying in Nijmegen. I did it that way as a plan B in case things went horribly wrong and I wanted to return. In Germany the probation period in new jobs tends to be 6 months, and you can easily be fired in that period, for instance.
I didn't mention this before in public, because of the principle that you should not announce to the Internet that your belongings are unguarded and ripe for the picking.
ann_leckie: (AJ)
[personal profile] ann_leckie

So, Provenance will be out in a bit more than a month! I can’t wait for folks to read it, honestly.

Not long ago, you had a chance to read the opening, oh I’d say half first chapter, for free online. And maybe that just whetted your appetite and now you have to wait until nearly the end of September for the rest?

Well, if you sign up for my newsletter, you can get all of Chapter 1, plus chapters 2 and 3! You might see a black banner across the top of my website asking you to sign up for the newsletter, with a text box for entering your email. You can use that, or if you’ve dismissed that click this link to go to a form you can fill out–a text box for your email, and then under that are checkboxes for which newsletters you’re signing up for. You want to check the “Ann Leckie” one, and you might or might not want to check any of the others, depending, but it’s the Ann Leckie one that will get you the chapters.

Here’s the deal–I hardly ever use my newsletter so I guarantee you won’t be spammed. What it does get used for is things like this. And for announcements of upcoming publications and such. Folks who are already signed up probably already have the chapters in their inboxes. If you aren’t signed up yet, you’ll get the chapters when you do. So, if you want to read the first three chapters early, there you go!

Mirrored from Ann Leckie.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

I’ve eaten Stella Parks‘ desserts, and, oh, man, they are so good. So I’m delighted to give her space today to let her tell you about her debut cookbook BraveTart, which examines and celebrates a branch of America’s culinary tradition Parks thinks is overlooked and underappreciated. Is she right? Read on.

STELLA PARKS:

When people hear that I’m a classically trained pastry chef or that I work at a place called Serious Eats, most everyone will ask how I got my start. I can’t help but imagine they want to hear about a magical summer in France or else how I learned to bake at my mother’s side. Maybe they want me to say that I always loved Julia Child, or that I saved up my allowance to buy my first croissant. Trouble is, it didn’t happen that way at all.

I grew up in suburban Kentucky, my summers spent with Puddin’ Pops on the porch, my winters passed one mug of Swiss Miss at a time. I loved the tongue-scorching sweetness of a McDonald’s apple pie from the drive-thru window and the muffled scrape of a plastic spoon against the bottom of a chocolate pudding cup (the tinfoil lid curled back and licked clean, natch). At the supermarket, I learned the heft to a tube of cookie dough, the lightness in a bag of marshmallows, and the rattle of rainbow sprinkles in a plastic jar. That’s how I got my start—somewhere between the milk-logged squish of an Oreo and the snap of a Crunch bar.

Sure, it sounds a little trashy compared to that whole Proust thing with madeleines and tea, but I find those bites are just as transportive, little triggers that send me flying back through time. Chances are, if you grew up in America, you’ve got some memories like that as well. Maybe it’s the a dollop of Cool Whip on pumpkin pie, the sticky fingered bliss of an ice cream sandwich, or that familiar slab of birthday cake on the conference room table. Those shared experiences, however mundane, connect us across most every demographic.

It’s a common phenomenon, but a culinary tradition we pay little respect—we call it junk food. Truth is, mass produced snacks have a lineage as respectable as any other. Animal crackers, vanilla wafers, and Fig Newtons all date back to the 1800s, and even newcomers like Rice Krispies Treats, Reese’s Cups, and Milky Way bars are nearly a hundred years old. For anyone raised in America and alive today, these sweets have always been a familiar part of life. Yet they’re not really ours; industrial formulas are subject to change or even cancellation outright (RIP, Coke Zero; adios, Magic Middles).

So when I set out to write a cookbook about American desserts, I knew I couldn’t leave the “junk food” behind. It had damn well earned a place at the table—right alongside “proper” American desserts like devil’s food cake, chocolate chip cookies, and apple pie. With that mandate in mind, I spent nearly six years writing, researching, and developing recipes for everything from Snickers to snickerdoodles. In the end, I don’t think of it as a cookbook so much as a culinary time capsule, stuffed full of recipes, vintage images, history, and photography to tell the story of American desserts as a whole.

—-

BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author on Serious Eats, Twitter, and Instagram, or on tour.


Radio silence

2017-08-16 11:10
[syndicated profile] charlie_stross_diary_feed

Hi! Apologies for the long hiatus. I've been kind of preoccupied, with a funeral in the family and then a world science fiction convention in Helsinki, but I'm finally home and trying to get back to some semblance of normal.

In the meantime, some news:

If you're in the United States and read ebooks, The Rhesus Chart is currently discounted to $1.99. (The link goes to Amazon.com but it should be the same price on iBooks and the Google Play store and Kobo. It's probably also at this price in Canada, but not in the UK or Europe--different publishers in different territories.) If you haven't tried the Laundry Files, this book isan entrypoint: why not give it a try?

Tonight, August 16th, I'm appearing at the Edinburgh Book festival with Nnedi Okorafor, Jo Walton, and Ken Macleod. We'll be at the Studio Theatre from 7:15pm; it's a ticketed event from the main book festival box office.

And on Friday August 18th, I'll be back at the book festival for a discussion with Nalo Hopkinson, Ken MacLeod, and Ada Palmer: we'll e at Bosco Theatre (on George Street) from 6:30pm, and again, it's a ticketed event.

And finally, the big news: my space opera, Ghost Engine, is being rescheduled for 2019; instead, July 2018 should see publication of The Labyrinth Index, the ninth Laundry Files novel! Publishers will be Orbit in the UK and Tor in the USA (this being the New Normal for the Laundry Files). This change has been in the works for a few months, but I didn't want to pre-announce it until I had it nailed down. (In a nutshell: Ghost Engine was too ambitious to finish on my original schedule, and The Labyrinth Index was growing more and more timely, until they just crossed over.)

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

[This is a guest post by Richard Lynn.  It is all the more appreciated, since he had written it as a comment to "Chinese, Greek, and Latin" (8/8/17) a day or two ago, but when he pressed the "submit" button, his comment evaporated.  So he had to write the whole thing all over again.  I am grateful to Dick for his willingness to do so and think that the stimulating results are worth the effort he put into this post.]

James Zainaldin’s remarks concerning the Lunyu, Mencius, Mozi, Zhuangzi, and the Dao de jing, his frustration by the limits of grammatical or lexical analysis, that is, the relative lack of grammatical and lexical explicitness compared to Greek and Latin texts, is a reasonable conclusion — besides that, Greek and Latin, Sanskrit too, all are written with phonetic scripts — easy stuff! But such observations are a good place to start a discussion of the role of commentaries and philological approaches to reading and translating Literary/Classical Chinese texts, Literary Sinitic (LS). Nathan Vedal’s remarks are also spot on: “LS is really an umbrella term for a set of languages. The modes of expression in various genres and fields differ to such a high degree that I sometimes feel as though I'm learning a new language when I begin work on a new topic.”

This last jogged my memory, a conversation with Achilles Fang 方志彤 many years ago, when he made three remarks that seem pertinent to this discussion (I paraphrase):

(1) Studying premodern Chinese letters is equivalent to learning the entire corpus of ancient Greek and Latin literature, including medieval Latin texts, plus all the early European vernaculars, from the earliest written versions up through the modern languages.

(2) When dealing with any Chinese text, one should gather every known version of it so, by comparing differences in wording, one might more accurately punctuate the version used for study and translation, bridge ellipses, and better establish contexts.

(3) If commentaries for texts existed, it would be unwise not to take full advantage of them, whatever their biases and limitations, for, if nothing else, interlinear commentaries can help with delimiting syntactic units.

As I said, this was a long time ago, but I think I remember the essentials rightly.

Now, as for the value of commentaries in interpreting texts, this varies enormously, and when multiple commentaries exist, say, for the Zhouyi (Classic of Changes), one is faced with the problem of deciding which one to trust, which one is “right,” etc. One way is to cherry pick from several or more of them:  Richard Wilhelm’s Classic of Changes was done this way, whereas my The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi is restricted to one commentator; I attempted to integrate original text and commentary so that each defined and clarified the other. I did the same with my Wang Bi version of the Daode jing, and I am now (2/3 complete more or less) engaged in a similar project, the Guo Xiang version of the Zhuangzi. This is not to say that Guo Xiang is “right”—for with such early texts they are often so opaque in places that the meaning can be seen to differ with each different commentary.

Peipei Qiu (Vassar) is doing a Zhuangzi with the commenary of the Song era Neo-Confucian Lin Xiyi, so her translation will be very different from mine — as it should be. Text and commentary are inseparable, so it would be nonsense to tack on a new translation of a commentary to an earlier translation of the original text (benwen 本文), as one particularly inept reviewer of my Dao de jing book thought I should have done.

The Lunyu, Mencius, Mozi, Zhuangzi, and Dao de jing are all pre-Han and thus full of eccentric, irregular, erratic syntactic forms and peculiar terminology. With the Han era, syntax and vocabulary become far more regular, which, while helping considerably in some ways, presents problems in others, for the great majority of texts from the Han through the Qing, two millennia later, do not have attached commentaries, are not even punctuated, and when they do have commentaries these often are usually factual and not interpretive.  This is especially true for poetry, where, for example with Du Fu, commentaries identify people, places, and allusions, but provide no help in explaining what particular lines mean.

Of course, in most recent times many such texts now exist in modern annotated editions with full punctuation, the annotations including baihua (modern Chinese) paraphrase (dayi 大意) interpretations — but beware, a paraphrase is not a translation! And this brings us to another problem:  the continuity between LS and modern Chinese certainly seems much closer than, say, between Latin and Italian, ancient Greek and what one reads in an Athenian newspaper. I have always (as a non-native speaker of Chinese) found my ability in putonghua, such as it is, to be a great help in intuiting meaning in LS texts, for there often is much bai in old wen texts (and wen in modern bai texts, by the way). But as a non-native Chinese I have little trust in such intuitions, so tend to verify (or abandon) them after what a native speaker might regard as excessive philological investigation. I know I just need more help.

So then an enormous battery of Sinological sources is brought to play: dictionaries, leishu [VHM:  encyclopedias; premodern reference books with material taken from various sources and arranged according to subjects / categories], background searches through local histories (difang zhi), global searches for comparable contexts in such resources as the electronic / digital Siku quanshu [VHM:  Complete Library in Four Treasuries], Christian Wittern’s 漢リポ Kanseki Repository, http://hanji.sinica.edu.tw/, etc., etc. , as well as all the guidance provided by modern Chinese scholarship and pre-modern and modern Japanese Sinology (Kangaku 漢學) (I wish I knew Korean!).

I have been at this stuff for more than 50 years now, so experience and ever wider familiarity with texts seems finally to be paying off. Göran Malmqvist (b. 1924) once told me about a visit he made to his teacher Bernhard Karlgren (1889-1978) in hospital a few weeks before Karlgren passed away.  Karlgren was propped up in bed reading the Zuozhuan, surrounded by other books. He said to Malmquist, “You know, Göran, after some 70 years I am finally getting the hang of these things!” I can hardly wait.

(no subject)

2017-08-15 01:14
secretagentmoof: (Default)
[personal profile] secretagentmoof
Went in to my old community college to re-register so I could take a statistics class there. Found out that I was an exciting maze of exceptions in their old system, that I was nowhere near close to having some kind of AA degree finished, and that I was still on probation from when I left in Fall 1991. So that was a nice combination of anxiety, fear, and despair. The people there were nice enough, but all my academic fear chickens came back to roost in a big bad way, and I've felt vaguely nauseous since then.
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

One of the common ways to hack a computer is to mess with its input data. That is, if you can feed the computer data that it interprets -- or misinterprets -- in a particular way, you can trick the computer into doing things that it wasn't intended to do. This is basically what a buffer overflow attack is: the data input overflows a buffer and ends up being executed by the computer process.

Well, some researchers did this with a computer that processes DNA, and they encoded their malware in the DNA strands themselves:

To make the malware, the team translated a simple computer command into a short stretch of 176 DNA letters, denoted as A, G, C, and T. After ordering copies of the DNA from a vendor for $89, they fed the strands to a sequencing machine, which read off the gene letters, storing them as binary digits, 0s and 1s.

Erlich says the attack took advantage of a spill-over effect, when data that exceeds a storage buffer can be interpreted as a computer command. In this case, the command contacted a server controlled by Kohno's team, from which they took control of a computer in their lab they were using to analyze the DNA file.

News articles. Research paper.

The Big Idea: Beth Cato

2017-08-15 11:42
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

There’s the saying that “those who don’t learn history are doomed to repeat it,” but in order to learn your history, sometimes you have to dig deeper — much deeper — than what is commonly known. This is a fact that has relevance for author Beth Cato and her latest novel Call of Fire.

BETH CATO:

I love that historical fiction can be entertaining and educational at the same time. When I began to research prior to writing Breath of Earth, the first novel in this series, I was genuinely excited to delve deeper into turn-of-the-20th-century California history. My books feature a 1906 America that is allied with Japan to form the Unified Pacific, a world power in the midst of conquering China as part of its goal to dominate mainland Asian. I bought a number of books on Chinese immigration and experiences in America in that era.

As my research continued for my second book, the newly-released Call of Fire, I found that I dreaded reading more on the subject. I’ve been a history geek since I was a kid and I went into this with the knowledge that Chinese immigrants had been treated poorly, but I had no real comprehension of the horrific abuses they endured.

This wasn’t just about far-off California history anymore, either. This was about my hometown, the place I was born.

Like many other San Joaquin Valley cities, my hometown of Hanford was founded by the railroad in the late 19th century. Chinese men did much of the hard labor to lay the tracks and blast their way through mountains to connect the state with the larger continent. Centrally-located Hanford had one of the largest Chinese communities in the valley. These days, the city is proud of what remains of its China Alley. There’s a lovely tea room there, as well as a preserved Taoist Temple with a gift shop. The Moon Festival each October is a big draw.

When I was a kid, though, I was puzzled that Hanford still had its China Alley but other nearby cities–even larger ones like Visalia and Fresno–did not. My mom told me something like, “They were probably torn down over the years.” That made sense to me. Hanford’s China Alley has some decrepit buildings, too, and it’s only been in recent years that other parts have been lovingly restored to become a year-round attractions.

During my research, though, I finally found the real answer to my childhood question. The other Chinatowns weren’t simply torn down. In the 1880s and 1890s, they were firebombed and the surviving Chinese were run out of town. There were even race riots in vineyards near Fresno.

Hanford still managed to retain some of its Chinese population, but that didn’t mean all was well during that period. I found mention of an editorial from my hometown paper in 1893 that admonished young white women of the county to improve their kitchen skills so that they would not hire Chinese cooks.

I called up my mom. “Did you know about all of this?” She did not. I called up my grandma. Same answer.

That’s when I became angry.

What the Chinese had endured had been erased from local history. Men were murdered. Families terrorized. Livelihoods destroyed. Then the butchery and abuses they endured were forgotten.

When I write about these kinds of racist incidents in my books, I imagine many readers will think that the stuff is pure fiction, all part of the elevated drama of my alternate history. That’s exactly why I include an author’s note in each book along with an extensive bibliography (which I also have on my website at BethCato.com). I want readers to know about the ‘Dog Tag Law’ that required Chinese immigrants to carry an identity card, America’s first internal passport, starting in 1892. I want them to know what happened in Tacoma, Washington, and Honolulu, Hawaii.

I hope people enjoy my books Breath of Earth and Call of Fire, but I also want readers to learn, as I have, that our beloved hometowns may possess dark secrets that need to see the light. We can’t undo the crimes of the past, but we can learn. We can remember.

—-

Call of Fire: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.


Bad Chinese

2017-08-15 03:19
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Sign south of the demolished Pfeiffer Bridge on Highway 1 in Monterey County (photograph taken on August 12, 2017 by Richard Masoner while on a Big Sur bike trip, via Flickr):

Bad machine translation

This is not Chinglish.  It is the opposite of Chinglish:  English poorly translated into Chinese.

The sign says:

Zhǔdòng gōnglù bùyào zǒu zài zhōngjiān de lùxiàn bǎochí bái xiàn de quánlì
主动公路不要走在中间的路线保持白线的权利

It's difficult for me to make sense of this sign.  Chinese friends to whom I show this sign are also totally confused by it.

Forced translation into English:

"Active highway.  Don't walk / ride in the center line / lane.  Keep / maintain the rights of the white line."

Word for word translations:

zhǔdòng 主动 active; initiative; driving

gōnglù 公路 highwayroad

bùyào 不要 do not

zǒu 走 walk; ride

zài 在 in; at

zhōngjiān 中间 between; inside

de 的 of

lùxiàn 路线 route; lane

bǎochí 保持 keep; maintain

báixiàn 白线 white line (perhaps signifying "fog line" here)

de 的 of

quánlì 权利 right(s); legal right; droit

I think what they're trying to say is something like this:

Busy highway.  Don't walk / ride in the center lane.  Stay to the right of the white line.

Translated into Chinese, that would be something like this:

Fánmáng de gōnglù. Bùyào zài zhōngjiān chēdào shàng zǒulù/qíchē. Qǐng kào bái xiàn de yòubiān.
繁忙的公路。不要在中间车道上走路/骑车。请靠白线右边。

Of course, there are many other possibilities, depending upon exactly what the original English was.  For those who are interested, here I'll give half a dozen other versions suggested by respondents, but only in Chinese characters with Hanyu Pinyin:

Chēliú fánmáng. Jìnzhǐ zài zhōngjiān chēdào (or maybe jīdòng chēdào?) shàng zǒulù/qíchē. Bǎochí zài bái xiàn yòufāng xíngshǐ.
车流繁忙。禁止在中间车道(or maybe 机动车道?) 上走路/骑车。保持在白线右方行驶。

Fánmáng lùduàn, xíngrén hé fēi jīdòngchē yánjìn zhànyòng zhōngjiān chēdào, qǐng zài bái xiàn yòucè xíngzǒu huò qíxíng.
繁忙路段,行人和非机动车严禁占用中间车道,请在白线右侧行走或骑行。

Gōnglù fánmáng, qǐng wù yú zhōngjiān chēdào xíngzǒu/xíngshǐ. Xíngzǒu/xíngshǐ shí qǐng kào yòu, wù chāoyuè bái xiàn.
公路繁忙,请勿于中间车道行走/行驶。行走/行驶時請靠右,勿超越白綫。

Gōnglù fánmáng, qǐng wù zhànyòng zhōngjiān chēdào, qǐng kào bái xiàn yòucè xíngshǐ.
公路繁忙,请勿占用中间车道,请靠白线右侧行驶。

Gōnglù chēliú liàngdà, fēi jīdòngchē qǐng bǎochí zài bái xiàn yòucè, wù zhànyòng zhōngjiān chēdào.
公路车流量大,非机动车请保持在白线右侧,勿占用中间车道。

Gōnglù chēliàng duō. Qǐng wù zài zhōngyāng chēdào shàng xíngzǒu huò qíchē. Xíngrén qǐng zǒu bái xiàn yòubiān.
公路车辆多。请勿在中央车道上行走或骑车。行人请走白线右边

They all mean roughly the same thing as what I proposed above in English and Chinese (they were basically following my lead [mine was considered correct, but too colloquial for a sign]).

[h.t.:  Martin Delson; thanks to Maiheng Dietrich, Melvin Lee, Yixue Yang, Jinyi Cai, Fangyi Cheng, and Jing Wen]

A Poll About Beds

2017-08-14 13:46
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Because I thought about it this weekend while Krissy was away:

Take Our Poll

My answer: I stay on the same side of the bed. I’m not entirely sure why, except out of habit. I’ve never really thought about it until now.

You?


Bank Robbery Tactic

2017-08-14 11:03
[syndicated profile] bruce_schneier_feed

Posted by Bruce Schneier

This video purports to be a bank robbery in Kiev. He first threatens a teller, who basically ignores him because she's behind bullet-proof glass. But then the robber threatens one of her co-workers, who is on his side of the glass. Interesting example of a security system failing for an unexpected reason.

The video is weird, though. The robber seems very unsure of himself, and never really points the gun at anyone or even holds it properly.

Asses and asterisks

2017-08-14 09:35
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

When The Sun, a famously prurient UK tabloid newspaper, chose the headlines for its coverage of the Taylor Swift case in Denver, the editors made a curious choice. They used asterisk masking on the American English word ass ("buttocks area"), printing it as "a**" as if it would be unthinkably offensive for the readers to also see the "ss" (unless it were in a reference to a stupid person, or to the animal on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem, where the same letter sequence would be fine). But they did not do the same to the familiar British English 3-letter synonym bum (which has only the meaning "buttocks area" and never means "hobo" in British).

British English has a descendant of the same Old English root as ass, but it is spelled arse, and is pronounced [ɑːs] rather than [æːs]. British arse is considered just as coarse as American ass, but The Sun has printed it thousands of times (try the Google search: {arse site:www.thesun.co.uk}). Quoting ass couldn't possibly be judged gratuitous, as it was uttered in court many times during the legal proceedings being reported.

What this says to me is that the idea of asterisk masking for taboo words is an incoherent mess even in the practice of those who favor it.

In this, I agree with Geoff Nunberg's argument against asterisk masking in his Language Log post "Unmasking slurs." The points on which Nunberg and I have publicly disagreed relate to how much the sheer offensiveness of slur words leaks out of contexts like idiomatic phrases and sports teams names, and the political implications of the continued use of such expressions. Those disagreements are mild, at least at my end: I would be absolutely delighted if phrases like nigger in the woodpile died out, and if the Washington Redskins changed their stupid name. Roll on the day. Nunberg and I don't differ on matters like opposing racism, or on whether word taboo is a productive form of political action (the goal, surely, is to eliminate racism from modern society, not merely to bar certain lexemes from being pronounced or printed).

Allow me to append one short digression, inspired by my friend Ben Yagoda, who recently discussed Donald Trump's strangely colloquial threatening talk ("North Korea best not make any more threats" etc.) and then expressed a worry that "dissecting Trump's linguistic choices when he is lobbing nuclear threats can seem a little like positioning a Titanic deck chair so it gets more sun." In exactly the same way, I do worry that it seems trivial to note the dialect difference and masking policy asymmetry involving ass, bum, and arse when the nonlinguistic issues in the Taylor Swift case are so hugely important.

A famous, business-savvy multi-millionaire is subjected to an indecent assault by a drunken DJ in public — in front of cameras, so she has a photo of it happening. She reports the incident immediately, and the groper is ejected from the event and later fired from his job as a DJ at KYGO-FM. Some time later he sues her for $3 million on the grounds that she cost him his job, and she has to endure more than an hour in the witness box having her credibility impugned.

If even a woman with Taylor Swift's courage, wealth, support, and strength of case has to face such a prospect, just imagine how daunting it is for the average woman faced with the task of prosecuting the average groper.

The picture of the event, by the way, is so damning that the judge in Denver sealed it to prevent the US press publishing it, but The Sun got hold of it. Does it show the grinning David Mueller's hand down behind Taylor Swift's nether regions? Is she twisting awkwardly away, trapped between him and his girlfriend but trying to continue smiling for the photo op? You decide:

 

Small wonder if some women are driven to extralegal shortcuts. I'm irresistibly reminded of a story about my inimitable late wife Tricia. She was six foot tall, with the strong arms of a rock climber. She told me that one working day decades ago, when she was in her twenties, coming out of the railway station at Hull in England on her way to her work as a computer expert at an engineering firm, she was waiting for the light to change at a crowded pedestrian crossing when a man beside her reached down and gave her butt a furtive grope. Without an instant's hesitation she pulled away, screamed "Don't do that!", and swung her fist instinctively at his head.

She had not fully thought through the implications of the fact that in that fist she was holding the handle of one of those old-fashioned hard-sided lockable briefcases with the metal strip round the edge. It hit him full in the face. The other commuters waiting at the crossing stared in horror.

"This dirty bastard grabbed my arse!" Tricia told them indignantly. Then the lights changed and everyone started out across the road. The groper, with blood streaming down his face, made no attempt to contest the charge but simply ran away into the crowd until he was lost from sight.

Taylor Swift has very properly chosen the legal route rather than smashing her assailant in the face, and is asking $1 in damages for the assault against her. At the time of writing, the judge has thrown out Mueller's absurd $3m suit against her, but the jury has yet to rule on whether she gets her dollar for being assaulted. I'm on her side. I hope her story (and Tricia's too, frankly) will be an inspiration to the millions of women everywhere who suffer daily harassment and occasional physical assault.


Update, August 15: The jury deliberated four hours and then rejected Mueller's claims and awarded Taylor Swift damages in the amount she had requested, $1.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

These shots were taken roughly fifteen minutes apart from each other. 

We in Ohio certainly don’t lack for variety in our sunsets, do we.

Oh, and just for fun, here’s an old-timey, vaguely creepy sunset take:

Yup, that’ll do.


Colonialism or gas

2017-08-13 20:19
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

The last three panels of Dumbing of Age for 8/10/2017, featuring Danny and Sal:

Mouseover text: "They have a similar smell."

What I wrote about g-dropping a dozen years ago ("The internet pilgrim's guide to g-dropping", 5/10/2004):

In fact, there is no "g" involved at all, except in the spelling. Final -ng (in English spelling) stands for a velar nasal, which is written in the International Phonetic Alphabet as an "n" with a hook on its right leg: [ŋ], a symbol called "eng." The final -n' in spellings like openin' stands for a coronal nasal, which is written in IPA with an ordinary "n": [n]. In IPA, opening is written as [ˈopənɪŋ], while openin' is written as [ˈopənɪn]. The only difference in pronunciation is whether the final nasal consonant is velar (made with the body of the tongue pressed against the soft palate) or coronal (made with the blade of the tongue pressed against the ridge behind the front teeth).

Thus is "g-dropping" nothing is ever really dropped — it's just a question of where you put your tongue at the end of the word.

Not all words ending in [ŋ] are candidates for g-dropping. English doesn't have a general alternation between final velar and coronal nasals: boomerang does not become boomeran', and ring does not become rin'. We are only talking about unstressed final -ing at the ends of words. In some dialects, g-dropping applies only to the inflectional suffix -ing (as in present participles such as trying), and not in words such as wedding or morning.

Historically, g-dropping is actually a more conservative pattern. The English present participle suffix was originally pronounced with a coronal, not a velar nasal: in early middle English, this inflection was -inde or -ende. There was a derivational ending -ung for making nouns out of verbs, which produced words like present-day "building." These eventually merged into the modern -ing suffix. In 19th- and early 20th-century England, the g-dropping pattern (which really was the "not g-adding pattern") marked the rural aristocracy as well as the lower classes.

The [iŋ] pronunciation for -ing, established  as the (London?) middle-class standard only a couple of hundred years ago, has become a remarkably stable marker of standard speech across the English-speaking world. The [in] pronunciation has been retained by certain regional varieties, and by lower-SES styles elsewhere — but almost everyone exhibits variable usage depending on style and context. See e.g. "Empathetic -in'", 10/18/2008, or this plot from Labov 1969:

So Sal is being somewhat unfair to Danny, who might very well have grown up in a g-dropping milieu depending on his geographic and socio-economic origins, and in any case would naturally exhibit a higher rate of g-dropping in a more relaxed setting.

 

"Nephew-nazi"

2017-08-13 19:51
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Ben Zimmer

When the White House issued a statement that finally condemned white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville this weekend, the version that was originally released had an unusual typo: "nephew-nazi" for "neo-Nazi":

The president said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred and of course that includes white supremacists, KKK, nephew-nazi and all extremist groups. He called for national unity and bringing all Americans together.

Brian Stelter noted the typo on CNN.


"Nephew-nazi" has, in fact, appeared as a typo for "neo-Nazi" online in the past. (Thanks to Sally J. on Twitter for pointing this out.) A few examples:

If you can call me a neo-Marxist, then it only seems fair that I call you a nephew-Nazi. (Amber Lisa, Medium, Dec. 13, 2016)

If they're talking about Richard Spencer, he actually is a nephew-nazi. He still didn't deserve to be punched, but he IS an actual, self-identified Neo-Nazi. (Mark Jennings, comment on "Chicks on the Right" blog post, Jan. 25, 2017)

Unless it is intentional for this President and his chief strategist, nephew-Nazi Steve Bannon, to rewrite our history!! (Susan Ashe, Facebook comment on "Women on 20s" post, May 12, 2017)

The second commenter, Mark Jennings, realized his error and subsequently wrote, "For the record, I meant neo-nazi, not nephew-nazi. Damn autocorrect…" This does seem to be an autocorrect miscorrection of the type we have been calling "cupertinos" since my 2006 post on "the Cupertino effect." My best guess is that it's the result of a fat-finger error rendering neo-nazi as nep-nazi (since and p are close together on the keyboard), which then got changed to nephew by a spellchecker, since nephew is the most frequently occurring word beginning with nep-. I haven't been able to replicate this miscorrection on any program equipped with spellchecking/autocorrect, but perhaps Language Log readers can figure out exactly how this might have transpired.

Update: The nep theory seems the most likely, given autocomplete options like those below, though it's still a bit mind-boggling that the announcement could have been sent out to the news media with no one noticing this major error.

[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Denouncing Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists by those names should not be a difficult thing for a president to do, particularly when those groups are the instigators and proximate cause of violence in an American city, and one of their number has rammed his car through a group of counter-protestors, killing one and injuring dozens more. This is a moral gimme — something so obvious and clear and easy that a president should almost not get credit for it, any more than he should get credit for putting on pants before he goes to have a press conference.

And yet this president — our president, the current President of the United States — couldn’t manage it. The best he could manage was to fumble through a condemnation of “many sides,” as if those protesting the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists had equal culpability for the events of the day. He couldn’t manage this moral gimme, and when his apparatchiks were given an opportunity to take a mulligan on it, they doubled down instead.

This was a spectacular failure of leadership, the moral equivalent not only of missing a putt with the ball on the lip of the cup, but of taking out your favorite driver and whacking that ball far into the woods. Our president literally could not bring himself to say that Nazis and the KKK and violent white supremacists are bad. He sorely wants you to believe he implied it. But he couldn’t say it.

To be clear, when it was announced the president would address the press about Charlottesville, I wasn’t expecting much from him. He’s not a man to expect much from, in terms of presidential gravitas. But the moral bar here was so low it was on the ground, and he tripped over it anyway.

And because he did, no one — and certainly not the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists, who were hoping for the wink and nod that they got here — believes the president actually thinks there’s a problem with the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists. If he finally does get around to admitting that they are bad, he’ll do it in the same truculent, forced way that he used when he was forced to admit that yeah, sure, maybe Obama was born in the United States after all. An admission that makes it clear it’s being compelled rather than volunteered. The Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists will understand what that means, too.

Our president, simply put, is a profound moral shambles. He’s a racist and sexist himself, he’s populated his administration with Nazi sympathizers and white supremacists, and is pursuing policies, from immigration to voting rights, that make white nationalists really very happy. We shouldn’t be surprised someone like him can’t pass from his lips the names of the hate groups that visited Charlottesville, but we can still be disappointed, and very very angry about it. I hate that my baseline expectation for the moral behavior of the President of the United States is “failure,” but here we are, and yesterday, as with previous 200-some days of this administration, gives no indication that this baseline expectation is unfounded.

And more than that. White supremacy is evil. Nazism is evil. The racism and hate we saw in Charlottesville yesterday is evil. The domestic terrorism that happened there yesterday — a man, motivated by racial hate, mowing down innocents — is evil. And none of what happened yesterday just happened. It happened because the Nazis and the KKK and the violent white supremacists felt emboldened. They felt emboldened because they believe that one of their own is in the White House, or at least, feel like he’s surrounded himself with enough of their own (or enough fellow travelers) that it’s all the same from a practical point of view. They believe their time has come round at last, and they believe no one is going to stop them, because one of their own has his hand on the levers of power.

When evil believes you are one of their own, and you have the opportunity to denounce it, and call it out by name, what should you do? And what should we believe of you, if you do not? What should we believe of you, if you do not, and you are President of the United States?

My president won’t call out evil by its given name. He can. But he won’t. I know what I think that means for him. I also know what I think it means for the United States. And I know what it means for me. My president won’t call out evil for what it is, but I can do better. And so can you. And so can everybody else. Our country can be better than it is now, and better than the president it has.


[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

David Brooks recently argued that James Damore's anti-gender-diversity memo was right, and that Google was wrong to fire him ("Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O.", NYT 8/11/2017), giving us another example of Mr. Brooks' long-standing fascination with pseudo-scientific justifications of gender and ethnic stereotypes.

The best evaluation of Damore's memo that I've seen is Yonatan Zunger, "So, about this Googler's manifesto.", Medium 8/5/2017, which makes three key points:

(1) Despite speaking very authoritatively, the author does not appear to understand gender.
(2) Perhaps more interestingly, the author does not appear to understand engineering.
(3) And most seriously, the author does not appear to understand the consequences of what he wrote, either for others or himself.

Zunger focuses on points (2) and (3) — for a a deeper dive into point (1), see e.g. Rosalind Barnett and Caryl Rivers, "We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo.", recode 8/11/2017.

But what about David Brooks?

Brooks' support for Damore is not an isolated example of contrarianism. I've been posting for more than a decade about his confused but consistent interest in the science of prejudice. He explained the overall narrative in "Is Chemistry Destiny?", 9/17/2006:

Once radicals dreamed of new ways of living, but now happiness seems to consist of living in harmony with the patterns that nature and evolution laid down long, long ago.

In other words, racism and sexism are realistic and appropriate responses to the natural world, so just relax and stop trying to change things.

Here are a few long-form discussions of how Brooks explores "the patterns that nature and evolution laid down long, long ago":

"David Brooks, Cognitive Neuroscientist", 6/12/2006
"David Brooks, Neuroendocrinologist", 9/17/2006
"David Brooks, Social Psychologist", 8/13/2008

And some other vaguely related posts:

"An inquiry concerning the principles of morals", 4/7/2009
"The butterfly and the elephant", 11/28/2009
"'Your passport has just been stamped for entry into the Land of Bullshit'", 3/3/2013
"David 'Semi True' Brooks", 3/20/2013
"Ngram morality", 5/22/2013
"Reality v. Brooks", 6/15/2015

"Stereotypes and facts", 9/24/2006
"Language and identity", 7/29/2007
"Is autism the symptom of an 'extreme white brain'?", 3/26/2008
"Sexual pseudoscience from CNN", 6/19/2008
"Innate sex differences: science and public opinion", 6/20/2008
"Delusions of gender", 8/24/2010

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