honoured guests

Aug. 20th, 2017 04:43 pm
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[personal profile] lamentables
We were keeping an eye on the time while exploring the monastery, and made sure we headed back to the festival in time for the opening ceremony. We were seated in the third row of the honoured guest area, and waited for an awkwardly long time for things to kick off. We were all being terribly British, by which I mean feeling excruciatingly embarrassed.

view from the front row

The festival was being held to commemorate the anniversary of the current Dalai Lama being awarded the Nobel Prize. It was to Tawang that he fled from Tibet, and there is clearly still a very strong connection with the town/monastery/district.

Eventually drums and trumpets heralded the arrival of monks and a portrait of the Dalai Lama, the latter provided by Shan State in Myanmar, we were told. Then the monks, actual important people, and much of the crowd came up to present offerings to His Holiness. The monks and others took photos, but I felt far too awkward to do that.

smoke and flags (bw)

so many things to photograph while we waited )

After a while D signalled to us and we sneaked out of the back of the pavilion, but we were asked to stay longer and watch the performances. To tempt us, we were plied with milk tea and plates of rice containing raisins and nuts and butter that tasted (smelled?) rather sour. (I don't know, but did wonder if it might be yak butter.) We were all happy - no, eager - to hang around, once we'd escaped the posh seats and could move around mingling and photographing.
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Posted by Victor Mair

Jonathan Benda posted this on Facebook recently:

Reading [Jan Blommaert's] _Language and Superdiversity_ in preparation for my Writing in Global Contexts course in the fall. Does anyone else think the following conclusions about this sign are somewhat wrongheaded?

Written with a calligraphic flair, the notice says:

gōngyù chūzū
shèbèi yīliú
shuǐdiàn quán bāo
měi yuè sānbǎi wǔshí yuán


apartment for rent
first-class furnishings
water and electricity included
450 Euros per month

Michael (Taffy) Cannings' response:

Wow, that's very thin evidence for a conclusion like that. The simplified diàn 電/电 is common in handwriting in Taiwan, and presumably among the diaspora too. Yuán 元 as a unit of currency is not unique to the PRC either, and the simplified form used here is really common in traditional characters (i.e., instead of 圓). Both handwriting simplifications predate the PRC character changes and indeed were probably the basis for those changes. The author may be right that the intended audience is made up of younger PRChinese, but that's simply an extrapolation of demographics rather than something implicit in the sign.

Mark Swofford provides an older example of this sort of confusion in this post:

"Mystery of old simplified Chinese characters?" (10/7/05)

I haven't lived in Taiwan continuously for a long period of time since 1970-72, but I still go back occasionally.  I can attest that almost no one except an obsessive compulsive like myself writes 臺灣 for Taiwan.  Nearly everybody writes 台灣 or 台湾.  It really doesn't matter, because the name does not mean "Terrace Bay" as the characters seem to indicate.  They are simply being used to transcribe the sounds of a non-Sinitic term, as I explained here:

"How to Forget Your Mother Tongue and Remember Your National Language"

The very name "Taiwan" is perhaps the best example to begin with. Superficially (according to the surface signification of the two characters with which the name is customarily written), "Taiwan" means "Terrace Bay." That sounds nice, even poetic, but it is an inauthentic etymology and has nothing whatsoever to do with the actual origins of the name. (This is a typical instance of the common fallacy of wàngwénshēngyì 望文生義, whereby the semantic qualities of Chinese characters interfere with the real meanings of the terms that they are being used to transcribe phonetically.) The true derivation of the name "Taiwan" is actually from the ethnonym of a tribe in the southwest part of the island in the area around Ping'an.4 As early as 1636, a Dutch missionary referred to this group as Taiouwang. From the name of the tribe, the Portuguese called the area around Ping'an as Tayowan, Taiyowan, Tyovon, Teijoan, Toyouan, and so forth. Indeed, already in his ship's log of 1622, the Dutchman Comelis Reijersen referred to the area as Teijoan and Taiyowan. Ming and later visitors to the island employed a plethora of sinographic transcriptions to refer to the area (superficially meaning "Terrace Nest Bay" [Taiwowan 臺窝灣], "Big Bay" [Dawan 大灣], "Terrace Officer" [Taiyuan 臺員], "Big Officer" [Dayuan 大員], "Big Circle" [Dayuan 大圓], "Ladder Nest Bay" [Tiwowan 梯窝灣], and so forth). Some of these transcriptions are clever, others are fantastic, but none of them should be taken seriously for their meanings.

As my Mom used to say when she couldn't get things through our thick skulls, "I can tell you till I'm blue in the face, but you just won't listen":  the sounds of Chinese words are more important than the characters used to write them, since the latter are comparatively adventitious and secondary, whereas the former are absolutely essential.

Irish immigrants in the Civil War

Aug. 20th, 2017 01:39 pm
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Posted by Andrew

I was cc-ed on a series of emails on a topic I know nothing about, maybe because I’m on the political science faculty here, I don’t know. Anyway, there was some statistical content here so I thought I’d share with you.

The email is from James McManus:

Analysis of the Civil War Immigrant problem

McPherson’s Immigrant Hypotheses

“Immigrants were proportionally under-represented in the Union’s armed services…Despite the fighting reputation of the Irish Brigade, the Irish were the most under-represented group in proportion to population, followed by German Catholics.”
– James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p 606, 1988

“The under-representation of Catholic immigrants can be explained in part by Democratic allegiance of these groups and their opposition to Republican war aims, especially emancipation…Although this group furnished a large number of substitutes and bounty men during the final year of the war — thereby achieving an inglorious visibility — they also furnished a large number of deserters and bounty jumpers.”
– James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 607, 1988

“The biases in the sample toward native-born soldiers from the middle and upper classes who enlisted early in the war are unavoidable…I am less interested in the motives of skulkers who did their best to avoid combat. My samples are skewed toward those who did the real fighting.”
– James M. McPherson, For Cause & Comrades, p. ix, 1997

McPherson’s Missing Data Problem:

“The materials available for forming a trustworthy estimate of the nativities, and even the nationality of our soldiers have been very meager…It was not until the war had been waged for some time that the State or country of birth was systematically required upon the enlistment-rolls. “
– Investigations in the Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers(Sanitary Commission Report), p. 15, 1869.

The Union army didn’t record country of birth for about 42.9 percent of the soldiers, according to Professors McPherson’s primary source the Sanitary Commission Report of 1869, aka Investigations in the Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers. Perhaps, the good professor didn’t read the nativity chapter commentary and its strong admonition about the accuracy of the report’s nativity estimates. Moreover, as noted in the commentary, the report only estimates the number of soldiers in the Volunteer units and their nativities (144,221 Irish). It did not report data or estimates for the Regular army, the Navy and Marines, the militias, and any troops enrolled for service by some western states and territories (92,000). Religion wasn’t recorded for any of the soldiers or sailors.

Medal of Honor “Sample” and Nativity Data
The 1500+ Medals of Honor awarded during the Civil War provide a good picture of the soldiers’ and sailors’ nativities (country of birth). 32 states and 20 immigrant countries are represented, including India, Malta, Russia, Spain, and Italy and even an African-America, born in Mexico, serving in a “white” regiment.

The medals indicate a large immigrant presence in the Union army (and navy) throughout the war with the Irish at 9 percent. That gives an Irish presence in the Union army and navy at about 200,000 not including another 6 or 7 percent of soldiers with a likely Irish heritage who were credited to the US, Canada, England and Scotland. The relative proportions for the Native born and Irish before and after 1863 are the same.

The Regular army and Navy had higher immigrant participation than the states “Volunteer” army.

The biases in the Medal of Honor sample are:
– Officers are over-represented
– The Medal of Honor was awarded at a much higher rate by the Navy
– Medals of Honor were awarded at a lower rate to African Americans
– There is some clustering of Medals of Honor in a few “volunteer” units. In the 8 with 10 or more awards, the Irish were outnumbered 76 to 1.
– Columbia’s Anchor Baby. Alfred Thayer Mahan’s father, leader of the faculty at West Point, like Phil Sheridan, was probably born in Ireland. Some of our “native born” soldiers may have become birthright citizens by being baptized in a Catholic Church immediately after their family’s arrival in the US.

My analysis takes these factors into account, but makes no adjustment of the “volunteer” units or anchor babies, if anything that would slightly increase the proportion of Irish-born.

Corroborating Evidence
Medal of Honor awards highly correlate with KIA and enlistments by state.

The proportions for New York State (NYC vs not-NYC) are the same (57/43 percent) for Medals of Honor, enlistments, units and KIA.

The Medal of Honor proportions suggest that 60 percent of NYC enlisted soldiers were immigrants. Units organized at New York City and Brooklyn contributed about 150,000 soldiers and 50,000 sailors and militia to the Union war effort. There is significant anecdotal evidence to that effect.

Age Cohort Survival Model (ACS)
Since the 1860 census didn’t give a number for the Irish military age population, I developed an age-cohort-survival model to estimate it. That predicted a proportional military Irish contribution of about 140,000 with up to 170,000 allowing for post-1858 immigration.

My analysis deals only with the presence of immigrant soldiers in the Union army and navy throughout the war, I have no opinion as a data analyst on “heroes and cowards”. As a combat veteran, I haven’t observed that heroism, or lack thereof, has anything to do with ethnic background or race. The effectiveness of military units is primarily due to leadership, training, adequate supply and sleep. This analysis hasn’t changed that point of view.

Again, I don’t know anything about all this. All I can say is that’s it’s a good example of the challenges of statistical analysis with archival data.

The post Irish immigrants in the Civil War appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

spiralsheep: Martha laughing (Martha Laughing)
[personal profile] spiralsheep
- My local online news feed has had two big breaking stories this weekend so far: a van crashed into wall but nobody was injured, and a photo of a cuddly toy lost at a local event.

- Funko Four and his 2D Tardis.

The Fourth Doctor and the Tardis

- Reading, books 2017: 84.

79. Calling Major Tom, by David M Barnett, 2017, very soft science fiction novel, and I mean soft in every sense of the word. The point of view characters are Thomas Major the first astronaut travelling one-way to Mars, Gladys Ormerod a 70 year old grandmother with dementia, Ellie Ormerod a 15 year old granddaughter trying to keep her parentless poverty-line family together, and James Ormerod a 10 year old grandson who might want to be a scientist. Other characters abound and are decently fleshed out, including a Black teenager from Ellie's class at school who is called Delil (I don't think I've ever met a Delisle who spells his name Delil but anything's possible in Wigan, I suppose). The plot is ridiculous and sentimental, and pays tributes to It's A Wonderful Life as well as Space Oddity, although it also reminded me of an Ealing comedy by managing to be funny while telling uncomfortable truths about society but without being realism. Warning: contains a brief incident of mild racism from one of the pov characters, although not portrayed from her pov, but written skillfully, and frankly actually painfully amusing in the way that socially embarrassing older relatives sometimes are when they're -ist from decades old habit but with no current malice and one doesn't know whether to flinch or laugh at them. (4/5, goodreads = 140 ratings / 62 reviews 4/5)

• Unrepresentative quote: When BriSpA's Chief of Multi-Platform Safeguarding, Craig, was in the Royal Navy he was generally known as Hammerhead due to his habit of smashing his head against doors, walls and other heads after too much drink. Those days are in Craig's past, as is the nickname, though he sometimes uses a variation of it when he frequents certain online forums that require a certain level of anonymity. At least until an assignation is organised in a dark nightclub, or sometimes on a moonlit heath, where for the purposes of identification he carries a dog lead though, of course, he owns no dog. Craig does own two cats, named Ethel and Frank. He will know he has found true love when he meets someone who knows that those are the names of the parents of Judy Garland. He is still waiting.

• Another unrepresentative quote: And that but hangs there in the still air between them, buoyed on the heady scent of flowers in Laura's garden, threaded with the lazy flight path of droning bees, suspended from the brittle, drifting spiderwebs.
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Posted by Mark Liberman

From P.D.:

Long time reader, first time caller, etc. etc. As an armchair linguistics fan and someone who gets his news primarily online rather than from cable news, I've been wondering how one ought to go about pronouncing the word "antifa." I'd like to discuss current events with friends without putting my foot in it, like the friend I once had who pronounced "archive" as though it were something you might chop up and put on a bagel with some cream cheese.

My impression is that Norma Loquendi in America seems mostly to have decided on [ˌæn'ti.fə] — first syllable "Ann", second syllable "tea", third syllable rhymes with "uh", with the main word stress on "tea", as in this 8/19/2017 ABC 20/20 segment:

But there's an alternative — so in this 8/19/2017 CNN story, Jake Tapper has something like ['æn.ti.fɐ], with intitial-syllable stress and more of a full vowel on the final syllable:

It's easy to see why people come out different ways on this one. The source word anti-fascist has primary stress on the third syllable and secondary stress on the first syllable. One approach would is to trim the pronunciation of anti-fascist to the portion corresponding to the spelling "antifa" — but this runs into the problem that  [æ] doesn't normally occur in English final open syllables. So the solution is to remove the stress from the third syllable, which shifts the main stress to the first syllable, and then either reduce the final vowel entirely or leave it in some kind of quasi-reduced limbo, as Tapper does.

In the other direction, there's strong pressure to apply penultimate stress to vowel-final borrowed or constructed words in English, as in "Tiramisu" or "Samarra" or "NATO". So I'm predicting that  [æn'ti.fə]  is going to win in the end. But for now, at least, you can take your pick.

On a related note: is there a term of art for a mispronunciation borne of learning a word solely from written context, a sort of spoken eggcorn?

It's called a "spelling pronunciation".

Update — there's a third option, from later in the same ABC 20/20 segment, where Lacy Macauley, self-identified as an Antifa activist, uses the pronunciation [ˌɑn'ti.fə], with penultimate stress but a low back vowel in the first syllable — perhaps taken from a European version of the movement?:


well that was a day

Aug. 20th, 2017 09:17 am
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[personal profile] lamentables
Yesterday morning was going really well: being organised, packing, having short breaks so that it didn't feel like a rush, making salad...and then I mandolined a massive slice off the tip of my finger. abrinsky was his usual calm and effective self, dressing my finger, stopping me from fainting (I don't do well with the sight of blood, especially my own), being my personal packer, and even removing the extra protein from the salad.

I wasn't able to carry any heavy stuff to the car, and I really wasn't in a fit state to drive, so he packed the car and then spent four and half hours driving to Wales. He took the scenic route and it really was full of beautiful scenes.

drive by green

view from a traffic light

We arrived safely, by the sea, and found our holiday rental to be MASSIVE and very well furnished. The entire teeny cottage we rented in Northumberland in June would fit in our bedroom here.

My brother on the other hand, spent the day waiting for his kids to arrive back in the East Midlands from a holiday in Northumberland with their mother, before he could start his four hour drive (with bad back) to Wales. They didn't reach here until almost 10pm, by which time abrinsky and I were up well past our bedtime. But we bravely coped with exhausted kids, and exhausted brother, and eventually got to sleep around eleven.

Our plan for today is something rather more restful, involving no driving and no sharp implements.

On the plus side, I spent four and a half hours sitting in a physio-approved posture in abrinsky's comfortable car, and protecting my damaged finger in my sleep prevented flexing my wrist, so my usual neck/shoulder/hand issues have abated. Drastic measures...

The Imperious Criterion of Meaning

Aug. 19th, 2017 11:33 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Patrick Radden Keefe, "Carl Icahn's Failed Raid on Washingon", The New Yorker 8/28/2017, mentions the title of Icahn's Princeton senior thesis:

In 1960, after studying philosophy at Princeton (where he wrote a thesis titled “The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning”) and a stint in medical school (he was a hypochondriac, which did not help his bedside manner), Icahn shifted to Wall Street.

But Keefe doesn't mention what is now my favorite correction of all time — 2/12/2006 in the New York Times:

An interview on June 5, 2005, with Carl Icahn misstated a word of the title of a thesis he wrote while he was an undergraduate at Princeton. As a reader informed The Times two weeks ago, it is "The Problem of Formulating an Adequate Explication of the Empiricist Criterion of Meaning," not "Imperious Criterion."

In fact "the imperious criterion of meaning" fits much better with Mr. Icahn's subsequent career, as well as evoking Humpty Dumpty's philosophy of language:

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything; so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them — particularly verbs: they're the proudest — adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs — however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me please,' said Alice, 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side, 'for to get their wages, you know.'

neonvincent: For general posts about politics not covered by other icons (Uncle V wants you)
[personal profile] neonvincent

I posted Part 1 of January's saved comments yesterday.  Today, it's time for Part 2.

Comments from Greer's, Kunstler's, and Infidel 753's blogs behind the cut. )

diaspora* version released!

Aug. 19th, 2017 03:37 pm
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Posted by Diaspora* Foundation

August 27th marks five years since diaspora*, the open, privacy-oriented social network, was placed into the hands of its community by its founders. One year ago the community released diaspora* version 0.6, the result of a huge effort of refactoring the old code to make it perform better, as well as redesigning diaspora*'s interface and introducing new features. One year later, we are proud to announce the release of diaspora* version 0.7. Since the last major release, 28 contributors have added 28675 lines of code and removed 20019 lines, which marks the release of diaspora* version 0.7 as one of the biggest versions diaspora*’s community has ever released.

diaspora* version released

Our latest release contains some important changes, particularly ‘under the hood’.

  • It is now possible to mention people in comments as well as in posts – a long-awaited feature.
  • The markdown editor, with previews, is available on comments and conversations, bringing them into line with the publisher and making it a lot easier to add formatting, links and images to comments and conversations.
  • This markdown editor is now also available on the mobile version of diaspora*, for posts, comments and conversations!
  • It includes Federation v0.2.0, which is amazing enough that it got its own blog post.
  • And, last but certainly not least, this new release will include the first of the two steps towards a full account migration feature!

Version 0.2.0 of our federation protocol, created by Benjamin Neff (SuperTux88) with help from Senya (cmrd-senya), has started the process of including new functionality. It also provides underlying support for secure and reliable account migration.

Important reminder to podmins: This new federation protocol is incompatible with versions of diaspora* older than If you are still running an earlier version, your server will no longer be able to fully communicate with servers running the latest software.

Senya has also been hard at work creating the first stages of the much-needed account migration feature! With the release of this version, it will be possible to fully export your account data which will become importable in a future diaspora* release. We also started working on implementing federation methods to enable pods to correctly handle account migrations. The next step will be to create this secure account importing, which can be introduced once the majority of pods in our network have updated to version 0.7. These steps cannot be introduced in the same release as the network first needs to upgrade so when the first users start to import their archives, a maximum of pods will be able to understand the migration message.

Since last year's launch of version, we achieved a pretty impressive list of changes!

Additions and enhancements since version

  • Automatically pull new notifications every 5 minutes
  • Add a user setting for default post visibility
  • Use guid instead of id in permalinks and in single-post view
  • Links to streams of posts I have liked or commented on
  • Access to “My aspects” and “Followed tags” pages on mobile
  • Improve color themes and add a “Dark” color theme
  • Enable collapsing of notification threads in your mail client
  • OpenGraph video support
  • Improve error handling on mobile
  • Admin pages for mobile users
  • NodeInfo 2.0
  • Stop communication with pods that have been offline for an extended period of time
  • Support for an optional Content-Security-Policy header
  • Support for Liberapay donations

  • Community guidelines

  • Links to our Discourse forum

Here’s a quick round-up of the major changes coming your way in version 0.7:


  • Mentions in comments
  • Improve Mentions: display @ before mentions; simplify mentions in the publisher
  • Internationalization for color themes
  • Refactoring single-post view interactions
  • Update help pages
  • Simplified publisher preview
  • Add markdown editor for comments and conversations
  • Support cmd+enter to submit posts, comments and conversations

Account migration

  • Update the user data export archive format
  • Reset stuck exports and handle errors
  • Add support for receiving account migrations


  • Switch to new federation protocol
  • Fix order of comments across pods


  • Always link comment count text on mobile
  • Include count in mobile post action links
  • Support direct links to comments on mobile
  • Improve responsive header in desktop version
  • Add markdown editor for posts, comments and conversations on mobile
  • Mark as "Mobile Web App Capable" on Android


  • Upgrade to jQuery 3 and Rails 5.1
  • Send public profiles publicly
  • Change sender for mails
  • Add some missing indexes and clean up the data base if needed
  • Improve stream when ignoring a person who posts a lot of tagged posts


Update instructions are available as usual in the wiki. For those of you who have been testing the release candidate, run git checkout master before the update to get back to the stable release branch.

Pomyalovsky‘s Molotov.

Aug. 19th, 2017 07:25 pm
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Posted by languagehat

A couple of months ago I reported on Nikolai Pomyalovsky’s Мещанское счастье [Bourgeois happiness]; now I’m on the sequel, Молотов [Molotov]. Forewarned by my earlier experience, I decided to post about this one before it went off the rails; now, halfway through, the plot is about to kick in (a father is going to force his daughter to marry a man she doesn’t love and doesn’t want to marry), so I figure it’s time. Pomyalovsky is excellent in his unique way, but plot is not his forte.

What he’s very good at is observing Russians and their society from an unusual angle and writing about it and them convincingly and entertainingly (in this he resembles Pisemsky). The book begins with a description of a large Petersburg apartment building and its inhabitants: the most important and richest people on the middle floors facing the street, the somewhat less important ones on the middle floors facing the courtyard, the poor but honest on the top floor, and the poor and dishonest (with their connections to nearby Haymarket Square) below street level. In one of the better apartments lives the Dorogov family that is the focus of the novel (along with Molotov, of course). There is a long passage explaining in detail how this comfortable bourgeois family took a century to arrive at its current status, having started with a man making bad shoes and a woman making bad pies; his description of the constant striving to squirrel away every spare kopeck and keep the children profitably occupied until they can be married off reminded me strongly of the recent TV series “Victorian Slum House” (which I highly recommend). What is particularly remarkable here is that he neither condemns nor idealizes any of this; he presents this middle stratum of society (minor bureaucrats, lesser administrators, doctors, the occasional artist or writer) as being just as important and interesting as any other, if mostly limited in their views and ambitions. It’s very refreshing after reading so many stories about aristocrats and serfs; Russian culture in general has been hostile to the petty bourgeoisie.

After that, Pomyalovsky focuses in on Nadya, one of the Dorogov daughters (she was mentioned in the earlier novel as a childhood friend of Molotov’s). She spent years at a boarding school for young ladies that is portrayed with a horrified intimacy that suggests the author had a sister or good friend who had done time in such an institution. The hypocrisy and brutality make the reader ache in sympathy (wealthy girls are treated with kid gloves, of course, while the poor are punished by being put in straitjackets and having to spend prolonged periods of time on beds in the “infirmary”); Nadya rejects it all spiritually but has no desire to be treated like the openly rebellious girls, so she keeps her head down, does her tedious classwork, and waits. Here is a passage from this section (the Russian, available at the link above, begins “Не диво, что Надя встала в стороне от этой жизни”):

No wonder Nadya stood aside from this life and waited impatiently for the time when she could return to her family. When she complained to her parents, they told her “There’s nothing to be done, you have to be patient”; needless to say, such admonitions did nothing to reconcile her with the people around her. She endured, kept to herself, behaved circumspectly, watched her every step so that she would not (god forbid) somehow wind up in a straitjacket, and she never did, but malicious people sensed that she was afraid of them and did not like them. “Well,” you ask, “why didn’t she make friends?” But think about it: how could she make them? The closed-in life, removed from society, the lack of those interests common to all mankind — these things created artificial, false, institutional characters.

For instance, in this environment there flourished what is called adoration. This is not friendship, not caprice, not children’s games or imitation of older people — it is a false development of the growing need to love, a development inevitable in a closed institution, and from this misfortune there is no salvation even by henlike decorum and manuscripts softened by a woman’s hand. They adored teachers and visitors. It might happen that a girl would be attracted to a father, brother, or other relative who visited her friend, and she would lavish all her caresses and love on her friend if she resembled her guest even a little. And they adored girls with a manly face, tall girls with loud voices and courageous characters. The adoring girl would keep on her breast a ribbon belonging to the one she adored, would kiss books and notebooks she had touched, would take delight in kissing her, would drink the water remaining in a glass she had drunk from, would write love letters and arrange to meet her in corridor or bedroom. If the adored girl did not return her love, she would weep, pine, suffer visibly and grow thin. Sometimes a girl would have twenty such followers.

The strangest thing of all was that the schoolmistresses themselves, while maintaining a henlike morality, made it possible for their favorites, most of whom had lent them money or had influential relatives, to see and talk with their adored teachers. And in this period of adoration many of the girls, wanting to seem interesting — and some of them from some diseased organic disposition — would eat chalk and coal, drink vinegar and ink, suck on plaster, bricks, and slate pencils… In all this there was very little that was divine or unearthly and a great deal that was purely institutional, created by a life set almost completely apart from society.

All this has been familiar stuff since, say, the 1920s, but it must have been fairly shocking in 1861.

Probably the most original and interesting character is Molotov’s artist friend Cherevanin, who is dissatisfied with himself and life and whom Molotov tries to talk into getting away from his worthless, drunken companions and leading a more orderly existence. At one point Molotov says “In our day it’s shameful to drink,” which leads to a discussion I found striking enough to translate at length (the Russian starts with “Покажи-ко ты мне хоть одного отсталого человека”; the passage after the break “О ком же заботиться, для кого хлопотать?”); it begins with Cherevanin speaking:

“Show me even one backward person.”

“All the devotees of olden times are backward people,” answered the surprised Molotov.

“He’s poking into olden times! Listen, it’s our own age that created them — those olden times never existed, they’re new olden times… If our grandfathers came and looked at these olden times, they wouldn’t recognize them, they’d start to spit at them and wouldn’t have anything to do with them. It’s only in this age that you’ll find these olden times… What kind of olden times are they, anyway? They’re a novelty, a product of contemporary life, the latest hour, the present moment… And it turns out to be another empty word, of which there are so many in the world, a dialectical trick! Who has been left behind by the age?

“But aren’t there new people and a new life?”

“You think so?! Who on earth doesn’t know that? Everybody now alive was born in our age; they didn’t crawl out of graves or return from the other world, and they’re all living a new life. For example, up to this point nobody has lived as I’m living, and nobody had the outlook on life that I have. If you’re talking about drunkenness, well? That’s not something out of olden times, it’s new, progressive…”


“Who should we worry about and take trouble for? Aren’t we toiling on behalf of the future generation? That’s another dialectical trick, a point of lunacy, high-minded nonsense! We often hear the best people say they’re working for the future — isn’t that strange? I mean, we’re not going to be around then, are we? Is the future generation going to be grateful? But we won’t hear their gratitude, because our ears will be stopped by earth… But no, the future generation won’t even be grateful; it will call us names, because it will have gone beyond us, it will be squeezed in its strivings by people of the former age — that is, by people our age, who think like us. And everything we call backward was advanced in its day, fresh, bold, and it fought in its turn with long past routine of which not even the rumor has come down to us. Even those old men of bygone days were called by the flattering name of Voltaireans, even though they too just idled their lives away. And our time will pass! For all you know, the very youngest generation, the one that’s sitting on school benches now, might already be feeling some awkwardness in relation to us, and is cultivating a protest against you. Are they going to live just like you and me, nurse the same ideas? Is it going to move forward or not? And mark my words, when people your age are pushing sixty and you, with God’s help, have risen to a high rank, you’ll squeeze the younger generation, you will, really… It’s customary in this world that as soon as a son gets old enough to have a son himself, he starts to curse his father. Eternal moving forward makes old people feel full; we get so used to the good things we’ve already gotten that we lose our taste for them. We make use of all the goods that have been prepared for us, but we’re still unhappy; it’s just like our bellies — we fed them yesterday, but they don’t remember that, today they’re asking for bread again. People get what they’re after and they’re satisfied, but then, just look, new questions, new desires, new forces rise up, and the old life squeezes the younger generation, because a person can’t live two lives. And the new generation will get old in its turn, and will start constricting the strivings of our grandchildren. Our grandchildren will make our great-grandchildren cry, and so on to infinity. What absurdity! Let’s drink, shall we?”

“To the future generation?”

“To all generations, because they’re all the same. Is the younger one better than the older, or the older better than the younger? Is either of them happier, more moral, more reasonable? They’re all the same!”

It’s often the talkative cynics, like Prince Valkovsky in The Insulted and Injured and Baron Charlus in Proust, who are the most memorable characters.

Incidentally, I’ve picked up some random bits of Russian culture, like the wedding song “Исаие, ликуй” [Isaiah, rejoice] and Daziaro’s establishment publishing and selling art graphics; you can see a bunch of examples of the latter here, and they give a good idea of midcentury Petersburg.

The power and the lactulose

Aug. 19th, 2017 03:58 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

The so-called Free Speech Rally that's about to start in Boston will probably be better attended, both by supporters and opponents, than the one that was organized by same group back in May. But some of the featured speakers at the May rally, including "Augustus Invictus", have decided not to attend today's rerun. So I listened to the YouTube copy of the May rally speech by Austin Gillespie (Augustus's real or at least original name). And since this is Language Log and not Political Rhetoric Log (though surely political rhetoric is part of language), I'm going to focus on YouTube's efforts to provide "automatic captions".

Overall, automatic captioning does both amazingly well and hilariously badly. The audio quality is poor, with a lot of background noise and also distortion caused by an overloaded low-quality sound system, so it's a tribute to advances in ASR technology that the automatic captioning gets quite a few words right. But still, it starts out by allowing the speaker to self-identify as "my name is Olga sticks invictus on for sweater" rather than "my name is Augustus Invictus I'm from Florida":

0:04 my name is Olga sticks
0:12 invictus on for sweater

A little later, Gillespie blames his commitment to armed revolution, curiously, on the fact that the police saved him from an attack by "kids in black" (line divisions from the automatic captioning):

Automatic Captions My Transcription
but it is a year ago these kids in black
upon the hill they surrounded the border
who are doing a meet indeed and they
build my supporters with a two-by-four
bash in their colleges and then they try
to take me out when I floated the power
and the lactulose where the cops showed
up before they could get from me but
from that point
in business is usually more
but then about a year ago these kids in black
up on the hill they surrounded a bar
where we were doing a meet-and-greet and they
beat up my supporters with a two-by-four
bashed in their car windows uh and then they tried
to take me out when they flooded the bar
and miraculously the cops showed
up before they could get to me ((but))
from that point
we didn't do business as usual any more.

So, like I said, amazingly good and hilariously bad.

In particular, I wonder what the system's language model was thinking of. "Olga sticks"? "The power and the lactulose?" Maybe there's some connection with those "local milk people".

There's more fun where that came from, for example:

Automatic Captions My Transcription
every generation
matru Gooding must be refreshed with the
Board of patriot and timing
With every generation
the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the
blood of patriots and tyrants.


[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

As I make my final preparations for my eclipse travels (rural western Wyoming, if you’re curious) I’m hearing stories that are making me very unhappy: Some school districts across the country are telling children to stay inside during the eclipse, out of fear they’ll damage their eyes.

Let me be clear: Schools, administrators, teachers, parents: Don’t do this. YOU CAN LET THE KIDS SEE THE ECLIPSE. You just have to be safe about it.

I understand the reasoning behind this fear. Looking at the Sun without protecting your eyes can in fact damage them (more on that in a sec), and there are some companies selling fake eclipse glasses, ones that say they are rated for safety but aren’t*.

Given that, worrying over the safety of the vision of schoolchildren is natural. However, forbidding them from seeing the eclipse is overkill, and completely unnecessary.

First, a great number of eclipse glasses are fine. The American Astronomical Society has a list of vendors known to be safe. If the ones you have are on that list you should be okay. If not, you can perform some easy tests to see if they work or not, and again the AAS has you covered (Update: I had originally written that you can ONLY see the Sun through real glasses, but it turns out very bright LEDs can be seen (somewhat faintly) through them. Don't throw out good glasses because of this! Still, check the list to make sure they're OK. Thank to Christopher Becke for the note.).

My friend Stephen Ramsden, who runs the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project (he travels all over the American southeast showing people the Sun through his incredible suite of telescopic equipment), has a page up on Facebook with descriptions and pictures of some glasses that aren’t up to snuff. I suggest following him there for updates. He has also personally given away thousands of glasses from Rainbow Symphony; I have some of these and I like them. If you got your glasses from Stephen, you’re good to go.

Second, and this is very important too, you only need to protect your eyes during the partial phase of the eclipse. That’s from when the Moon first starts to edge into the Sun’s face until it completely blocks the solar surface. Totality, when the Sun is completely blocked, is perfectly safe to look at, even with binoculars or other equipment. That lasts about two minutes; check your local listings.

When totality ends — the Moon slips off the face of the Sun — you need to have protection on again (it’s even more important at this point, because when the eclipse is total your pupils will open up to let in more light, so when totality ends that flash of light can do even more damage). To be safe, give yourself plenty of padding in time near the end of totality. Give it a good 20 seconds or so before the end to stop looking.

pinhole projection of an eclipse

My friend Anne Wheaton literally punched a pen nib through a paperboard ticket to project an eclipse from 2012 onto a friend's jacket. Credit: Anne Wheaton

Third, you don’t even have to look at the eclipse directly to enjoy it! You can very easily make a pinhole projector, which will magnify the image of the Sun and project it onto a piece of paper. This costs almost literally nothing (two sheets of paper and a thumbtack), protects your eyes, lets you enjoy the eclipse when it’s partial, and is also educational! It’s also fun: The kids can punch a bunch of holes to make patterns, spell their name, create a cartoon character, whatever. My friend Emily Lakdawalla has a fantastic worksheet online on how to do this (it’s even been translated into multiple languages).

So I implore you, please, please, please don’t prevent your kids from seeing this eclipse! It’s a wonder of nature, a chance to learn science, a chance for them to have fun, and a chance for them to stretch their imaginations. These are all things we must encourage in them, and the Universe is giving us a gorgeous chance to do all of that at the same time.

* Let me be clear about that: Any person who knowingly sells fake eclipse glasses is a piece of human filth. They could be hurting tens or hundreds of thousands of people, including kids. There is no circle of Hell painful enough for these monsters.


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[syndicated profile] smciss_feed

Posted by Andrew

Fernando Martel Garcia writes:

Here’s an early reference from the Victorian Age. Enjoy!

It’s a news article by Rebekah Higgitt called “Fraud and the decline of science,” subtitled, “Charles Babbage’s accusations of fraudulent science underlined his attack on scientific governance, but were also bitterly personal.”

My reply: Wow! I think I’m on Babbage’s side on this one—I say without knowing any of the background.


Ditto. I particularly liked his taxonomy, which foreshadows P-Hacking, Harking etc of today:

He devotes a whole section to ‘the frauds of observers’, writing that “Scientific inquiries are more exposed than most others to the inroads of pretenders”, because only the “initiated’ are in a position to spot them. The first listed is HOAXING, which is only excusable inasmuch as it reveals the gullibility of those who should know better. The next is FORGING, which fortunately is rare. Then come TRIMMING and COOKING, which Babbage intimates were Sabine’s sins.

The Trimmer “[clips] off little bits here and there”, while adding on elsewhere, to make his results more agreeable. “His object is to gain a reputation for extreme accuracy” and it can be difficult to detect. The Cook’s art is, likewise, “to give to ordinary observations the appearance and character of those of the highest degree of accuracy”. But instead of keeping close to the actual average reached, it can involve radical selectivity in results or the use of different formulae to create a false agreement.

At this point I’d like to say something about scientific organizations where a small group was controlling access to the purse strings and the same individuals were being selected over and again for the few scientific honours or paid positions that existed . . . but I’m afraid the civility police out there on twitter will jump all over me on this one. So I’ll let you draw your own analogies.

The post “Babbage was out to show that not only was the system closed, with a small group controlling access to the purse strings and the same individuals being selected over and again for the few scientific honours or paid positions that existed, but also that one of the chief beneficiaries . . . was undeserving.” appeared first on Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science.

differences in process

Aug. 19th, 2017 10:46 am
lamentables: (Default)
[personal profile] lamentables
The prayer hall was fairly large but the striking thing was its height. We've visited quite a number of monasteries, and few of the prayer halls have been high spaces. D pointed out the overlap with Hinduism, suggesting that the differences lie in process, not in the essentials. He also drew our attention to the Garuda above the statue of the Buddha in the prayer hall.
There were light bulbs, like candles, all the way round the hall. Drums and horns. Light and shadows.


a balcony for me

many of my favourite pictures )
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

If you use the right tools, that is, as explained in this Twitter thread from Taylor ("Language") Jones.

Rule number 1:  Use all the electronic tools at your disposal.

Rule number 2:  Do not use paper dictionaries.

Jones' Tweetstorm started when he was trying to figure out the meaning of shāngchǎng 商场 in Chinese.  He remembered from his early learning that it was something like "mall; store; market; bazaar".  That led him to gòuwù zhòngxīn 购物中心 ("shopping center").  With his electronic resources, he could hear these terms pronounced, could find them used in example sentences, and could locate actual places on the map designated with these terms.

I agree wholeheartedly with Jones.  Even though I began the learning of Mandarin half a century ago when Chinese language pedagogy was in a primitive state, I resisted it to the best of my ability and instinctively came up with means for learning Chinese that approximated the best practices employed today, but without all the wonderful electronic devices available now.  See the following posts for descriptions of the make-do methods I used to learn Chinese from the very beginning.

"How to learn to read Chinese" (5/25/08)

"How to learn Chinese and Japanese" (2/17/14)

"The future of Chinese language learning is now" (4/5/14)

"Chineasy? Not" (3/19/14)

"Chineasy2" (8/14/14)

"Chinese without a teacher" (2/6/16)

"Backward Thinking about Orientalism and Chinese Characters" (5/16/16)

"Firestorm over Chinese characters" (5/23/16)

"Learning to read and write Chinese" (7/11/16)

"How not to learn Chinese" (4/16/17)

Do not use flashcards!  Do not emphasize memorization of the characters (bùyào sǐbèi dānzì 不要死背单字). Learn words in their proper grammatical and syntactic context.  Learn grammatical patterns and practice them in substitution drills (that was one of the best ways Chang Li-ching used to train her students, and she was extremely successful in getting them up to an impressive level of fluency in a short period of time).

Above all, do not tolerate any teacher who says that they suffered to learn Chinese so that you should suffer too or that suffering while learning a language is good for you.

fèihuà 废话 ("balderdash / blather / bullshit / rubbish / garbage / nonsense / malarkey / hooey / trash / tripe / guff / stuff / bunk[um] / blah / bald-faced lies") húshuō bādào 胡说八道 /
Pernicious Garbage

[h.t. Ben Zimmer]

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[personal profile] edenfalling
Iiiiiiii.... kind of totally forgot to make "stuff done" posts for the past week and a half? Hmm. I am still keeping up my to-do lists (though obviously not getting everything on them done every day), but I think perhaps if I keep stalling out on posting them, that part of the project is now doing more harm than good, so.

To summarize, over the past week and a half, I did some intake/sorting/setup for my church's annual garage sale (which runs this weekend, Saturday-Monday). I also acquired a set of four white wine glasses (which are actually pink -- "white" in this case refers to the shape/style rather than the actual glass color) for my parents and put an IOU into the box since I made off with them before the actual sale. The glasses, btw, are now safely in NJ at my parents' house.

I acquired a temporary dog. :D

I bought a replacement pair of slippers and a new pair of black not-quite-dress shoes for work. (I have had the damndest time finding black shoes that both look good and have enough support that they don't murder my feet if I walk a mile. Apparently nobody in the shoe manufacturing industry thinks women are going to regularly walk a mile in office work shoes? This is very short-sighted, in my opinion.)

I think my squash are dying. I am not sure if it's just the powdery mildew, or that plus some other thing, but they are all in extremely bad shape. I may just cut my losses, uproot them all, and start over with eight new seeds. I mean, I still have a solid two months of reasonable weather. It's worth a shot.

...I'll decide on Monday, I guess.

All nineteen of the peppers are fine, incidentally! Whatever attacked the squash has completely passed them over.

I posted my WIP Big Bang fic, but because of reasons, it is still not as edited as I wanted it to be, so I think I'll hold off on actually doing a link/advertising post here until I get it fixed up a little more. *sigh*

I am starting to think it really might be a good idea to look into getting back on antidepressants, because this general malaise, while not what I think of as "real" depression, has lasted for far too long and has been seriously affecting my quality of life for going on two years now. I find it hard to work up enthusiasm/energy for things I KNOW I like, and I have been letting far too many brickspace life tasks slide because I just can't pull myself together to deal with them.

Of course, figuring out how to get an antidepressant prescription is exactly the kind of brickspace task that currently feels impossible, because depression is evil like that. *deeper sigh*


On the brighter side, I have a pretty solid idea for my remix, and some halfway-solid ideas for my NFE fic, so hopefully I will be able to get enough sleep to sort of bootstrap myself into functionality for the next couple weeks and get them written by their respective deadlines. *crosses fingers and lights a candle for good measure*
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