vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
Dropping universal grammar in favour of the general human learning heuristic is a wonderful thing.

I had long used the uniqueness of this human faculty for language as a sharp line between us and all non-human animals. Such a line - or at least an undisputable distinction - is important to the faith. But to relegate our capacity for language to a combination of things that can each be found in lesser or varying amounts in other species demolishes that wall.

And yet... we're still the only species that has language.

The UG is not the Logos. If it does not exist, it cannot even be a pale shadow of it. But the foregoing has suggested otherwise. I feel like a good friend has just thrown out an idol in my home that I wasn't even conscious was there.

The mystery remains, and the gatekeepers of heresy will not prevail against it.

A generalized learning process seems to imply that, literally, we just learn rules. Surely the effect of this, especially given some of the examples provided, is to blur the line between descriptive and prescriptive? And yet this does not give the no-split-infinitives pedants free rein: there are rules, after all, and then there are *rules*. There are the customs of one particular tribe, or of one particular subculture, within which *and only within which* "everyone" "typically" does (or says) something a certain way, and to blame someone for not talking proper in a situation where it would be actually improper to do so is unmitigated knavery.

I don't know where to go from here on this. It feels like there's something bigger, at least for myself, but I can't quite seem to recall or articulate what it is.
vaecrius: Duke2 Rigelatin overlord: "We'd kill you, you see, but our religion prevents the interruption of suffering." (rigelatin)
Someone posts a picture of a seal of a demon on Tumblr. I'm curious what the various bits mean. I pull up DuckDuckGo and pray for protection from heresy and delusion, a standard procedure of mine when I am about to look something up respecting occult symbols or demonology.

I fail to find anything explaining the meaning and I give up in a mix of mild awkward discomfort and despair that I would find anything worthwhile (morally edifying, finding the Holy Spirit at work in all things, casting some light on some scientific, mathematical or historical curiosity or other) respecting this sort of thing.

My prayer is answered when about a page or two later in my Tumblr feed I read a science article in which there is an insistence that the only thing distinct about humanity, language, is "a quirk of evolution", when it occurs to me to stop the beginnings of an attempt to formulate an objection to the implied "merely" and recite the Nicene Creed to see just what part of the faith the thing I was reading actually contradicted (spoiler: nothing).
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
Of course the project described here is doomed. Any language you could devise, each and every not-immediately-interested-in-this-exact-language member of the public is going to take one look at it and go, "Why? What makes this any bit better than English/Chinese/Arabic/French/whatever language I personally consider to be the unmarked ordinary mode of communication?" and stop caring. Similar goes for writing systems - the Roman alphabet is reasonably consistent for most European languages, but with so many people speaking the major outliers English and Chinese (no one who hasn't specifically studied it gets Pinyin right, ever, even though after studying it I found it perfectly straightforward) and I'm sure plenty of others who would much rather write in Cyrillic or Arabic or Hebrew or Chinese (in before traditional versus simplified). Trying to assert a Roman alphabet as unmarkedly universal would (rightly) be seen as a colonialist affront.

Also, IPA. (notwithstanding my last point)

This does bring up, and it's the only reason I'm even posting this, some speculation as to just what the ideal common language ought to look like. Obviously this is going to be strongly coloured with my own personal political and epistemological biases, and would be "universal" given only a tiny universe that, if expanded, would only expand through decades of conflict and long-term viral meme attacks.

Except with respect to gender, I've tried to avoid the usual pitfalls of starting with forms first, "they have no word for x hence they don't and can't think of x", and any notion that universally adopting this thing would have any relation to peace other than the startling and unprecedented fact that all the nations of the world went and did something together. My aim is my own biased idea of what features combined together may be more efficient than any current world language alone.

blah blah blah )

And now linkdumpery that's been sitting in notes.txt far too long.

http://www.theprovince.com/opinion/Ferry+Pink+Shirt+doing+more+harm+than+good+battling/8020667/story.html
And the reason the anti-bullying movement isn’t effective is that it’s engaged in a futile attempt to get rid of human nature — while acting like a bully itself.

“Some of the nastiest people are anti-bully activists ... and they feel completely justified being nasty,” Kalman said in an interview from Staten Island in New York.
I'll offer another reason: The vast majority of us haven't the slightest clue what standing up to bullying even looks like.

We have never experienced the imminent risk of being identified with the victim and being subject to the same treatment.

We have never experienced that moment when you're caught up in whatever our friends are doing and have bought into it as the perpetrator before we've had the chance to think about what's going on.

We have never experienced the extreme social awkwardness of backing out, being that one asshole who ruins it for everyone else.

Or we have, and literally have no concept of what to do except succumb to it every time.


I really like this redesign of Supergirl. Most likely because of the callback to this...


A study of what the "average" porn star is really like.


Related. Really, it doesn't matter what I could have posted with this, it's related.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
The Up-Goer 5 Text Editor

Attempting to rewrite this was an unmitigated failure, but I did manage to get most of my will (the only omission is that my boss gets my law books) and the Standard CBA Real Estate Undertakings letter.

And, of course, my job description, which in retrospect I've got a much easier job of writing in this thing than a lot of people.

(h/t: [personal profile] steorra who got into the hall of fame EDIT: and featured on io9 with her much superior work than mine)


EDIT: it occurs to me that, in glossing over just what papers need to be signed (3 out of 4 of them dealing with tax issues and the 4th being an instrument to effect a change in a government registry) and in focussing on the "bank" sense of "institutional chargeholder", I've conveniently avoided the entire issue of referring to government institutions or taxation. I'm actually kinda scared of what stark, awful admissions must be made about our society if I did have to make explicit references in compliance with UG5TE standards.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
A thing about the rage Obama inspires in "conservatives" and how it fits into American history. I'll leave this quote, which compared to the rest is rather generic and flaccid, but the real stories in this are best left in context.
In a democracy, so the saying goes, the people get the government they deserve. Part of Obama’s genius is a remarkable ability to soothe race consciousness among whites. Any black person who’s worked in the professional world is well acquainted with this trick. But never has it been practiced at such a high level, and never have its limits been so obviously exposed. This need to talk in dulcet tones, to never be angry regardless of the offense, bespeaks a strange and compromised integration indeed, revealing a country so infantile that it can countenance white acceptance of blacks only when they meet an Al Roker standard.


On to lighter matters.

Frites de la liberté, égalité, fraternité et all that. (warning: some comments worth reading)

For some reason this reminds me of various LJ/DW exchanges between me and [personal profile] helarxe. If we were women. Talking about being fucked in the ass. Literally.

Shadows in the Woods. I've got to try this sometime.

And a thing about octopuses and other things.
What was keeping scientists from accepting the existence of consciousness outside of our own family tree? Simple brain anatomy. Older models of brain activity lodged complex, conscious experiences—like musing about a piece of music or reminiscing about a piece of cake—in our highly evolved cortex. But, as the authors of the new declaration noted, many nerve networks involved in “attentiveness, sleep and decision making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as invertebrate radiation, being evident in insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g. octopus).”

Even emotions (or, according to the declaration, their “neural substrates”) are not dependent on an animal having particular brain structures, such as our cortex, after all. In fact, many other neural regions are activated when we emote and “are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals,” the scientists noted.
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
"No ebonics" is an even more controversial statement for what is presumably an ethnically diverse cohort. Ever since Brown v Board of Education declared separate public schools for black and white children unconstitutional in 1954, educators have been divided over the use of African American Vernacular English. Some see it as socially limiting and to be eliminated, whilst others recognise it as a language in its own right, to be incorporated into the teaching of black children. Poe, Melville and Twain have all used AAVE - handled correctly it could be a very interesting and inclusive project to study its use. ...

6/10 - more detail needed.


And the second.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard, of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Be a tree. Be a happy tree.

On the evolution of signifiers. (The signified being assumed to have already been there)

This has just beat out Strife! as my favourte Homestuck album ever.

Heard this on the drive home. Lightning struck just as 4:27 came on. While driving home from dropping off the girl I'm seeing... after I told her about this. (The lightning literally began right after I dropped her off...)

EDIT: For want of a better place to put this. Or this.


Locked because things involving relationships should always be locked for at least a year. [2015-06-22: I don't and then I'm interrupted by a reminder of who this was. Welp. No need to worry.]
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
[EDIT: Overmind actually gave a cite:
About the quote itself – I remember reading it in Hayek’s “Fatal Conceit”.

He started one of the chapters in his book with this quote (but with "liberty" instead of "freedom") and later wrote:

The somewhat simplified quotation by Confucius that stands at the head of this chapter is probably the earliest expression of this concern that has been preserved. An abbreviated form in which I first encountered it apparently stems from there being in Chinese no single word (or set of characters) for liberty. It would also appear, however, that the passage legitimately renders Confucius’s account of the desirable condition of any ordered group of men, as expressed in his Analects (tr. A. Waley, 1938:XIII, 3, 171-2): `If the language is incorrect … the people will have nowhere to put hand and foot’. I am obliged to David Hawkes, of Oxford, for having traced a truer rendering of a passage I had often quoted in an incorrect form.
It is the same passage (and I think the same translation) that I found below, and my take on Hayek's take is similar (with a caution that I have not read the context of the passage and am not commenting at all on the "no word in Chinese for liberty" bit - for all I know Confucius might have avoided any such word because he thought it ambiguous).]

original discussion follows. )
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
Somewhere, an ex-priest is reading this. Quietly nodding to himself. [EDIT2: After starting to read her followup I'm starting to think I should've just posted this as my thing for day six.]

Every day for eight days, post something that made you happy, and then tag someone.

Dunno what to post, really. Today had nothing particularly bad, but everything is coloured by fatigue and vague guilt over not getting anything done because of said fatigue, so while I wouldn't call it a horrible day or anything nothing stands out that was "happy"-like.

Except for that bag of hickory sticks, which is also coloured by guilt and triggered less nostalgia than I'd hoped and may yet ruin my dinner. [EDIT: Dinner was awesome, so really that's it.]

So I think I'll just settle for even if it fucks up horribly it doesn't even really matter.


Tagging [personal profile] vorzac because this post otherwise has nothing to do with him whatsoever. :D


EDIT3: Also linking this to add a shitload of tags that I should use more often:

Which, of course, Andrew Sullivan posted as part of this discussion.


EDIT4: Another thing that could've counted.



EDIT5: It's like it was just all waiting for me to get back onto the Internet.
The DREAM Act sends the message that although American immigration law in effect tries to make water run uphill, we are not monsters. It says that we will not hobble the prospects of young people raised and schooled in America just because we were so perverse to demand that their parents wait in a line before a door that never opens. It signals that we were once a nation of immigrants, and even if we have become too fearful and small to properly honour that noble legacy, America in some small way remains a land of opportunity.

Yes, the DREAM Act also incentivises illegal activity. But if the activity is not one that ought to be illegal, perhaps we should consider changing the law? Something to consider, anyway. In the meantime, this small reform will make America a somewhat more decent place.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
"We invest enormous resources in teaching children written language and very few in even discussing spoken language. It's hardly surprising that some people get the idea that written language is "correct" while spoken language is some kind of debased variant.

Two tools.

More are needed.

Every snowflake in the avalanche is unique and insignificant.

"He has these huge shoulders and a tiny little head, it's a running joke around here." I think I'm too easily amused.

[personal profile] conuly links to something about a mortgage broker who's using obscure squatters' rights laws to grab foreclosed properties in Flordia. Possibly better than that sounds.
(Well I think it's pretty obscure anyway, having always worked in a jurisdiction where this sort of thing has been specifically statute-barred for as long as anyone could remember...)

'In his November 2009 ruling, Judge Spinner of Suffolk County blasted OneWest for negotiating with an "opprobrious demeanor and condescending attitude." He also cited the bank's "duplicity" in offering a forbearance agreement with a deadline that had already passed and for presenting contradictory paperwork claiming different amounts for what the family owed.'

The federal US government subsidizes more local artistic talent than previously believed.
vaecrius: A round squishy plush lobster bursts out of the blue. (cock lobster)
- Get me the staple eater.

- No, wait, don't staple eat that just yet.
vaecrius: A stylized navy blue anarchy sign juxtaposed with a pixellated chaos symbol made to resemble a snowflake. (anarchy and chaos)
So I attended the CBA Drafting for Business Lawyers webcast earlier this week. Good stuff, helped me with a few things I needed to write up that day, but one minor thing hit one of my grammar peeve buttons.

Regarding structure, one of the presenters said roughly this: ~Use simple sentences, subject verb object.* Don't use passive. Use the right verb to carry the main semantic weight of the action rather than using a simple not-very-descriptive verb pointing to a -ment, -ity, -ion noun which then carries that semantic weight.~

My first gut reaction was to resist the bolded advice. It took me a few seconds to think of a few reasons why to overcome that resistance (though really in practice I don't draft contracts with lots of passive main (grammatical) clause verbs anyway). But without overt justification and context, it felt like a bit of unquestioned, unjustified stylistic dogma in what was otherwise sound advice.

So I had a few thoughts about the actual reasons, both of which only matter to contract drafting:
  • Most of a contract is obliging or allowing specific persons to do specific things. By sticking with the active voice, you can make sure every "shall" and every "may" that a person needs to attend to has their label right next to the number and whitespace at the start of a clause, making skimming much less error-prone.

  • This myth that passive voice de-emphasizes agency needs to be burned, stomped, and buried miles beneath the surface, with the ground above salted and stuck with scary concrete spikes to scare away our long-term successors who might not even speak a language that has passive voice. In fact, it's exactly how it emphasizes the agent that limits the usefulness of passive in clause drafting - it assumes an old-to-new structure where the agent is the new information. This may be true for the parties ("Widget X shall be built by Bob" where either party can build Widget X and people in the industry take for granted that Widget X is necessary to fulfil the contract), but to any outside person reading it (a new lawyer, the judge, other parties affected by the agreement) it's all new information and there's no reason to take either agent or act for granted.


*actually subject, verb, object, all adjuncts necessary to cover who what where when why how to whom how much, but given the frequency of adjunct adjunct first half of subject adjunct list of adjuncts second half of subject adjunct first half of verb adjunct first half of object adjunct second half of verb list of possible second halves of object main clause, the intent is obvious to the listener.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
The many names of He Who Must Not Be Named

You don't come up with euphemisms for something that isn't special. My first and continuing impression when I heard that China was auto-blocking phone messages with the imprisoned Nobel Peace prize winner's name in it is the parallel with how people used to treat heroes and gods, with long lists of epithets for them that force the audience to spend more mental resources thinking about the referent.

But I mostly link for Mark Liberman's response to a Republican Communist politispambot.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
(but I seemed to lose it for other reasons so causation is not proven. :V)

It took his office mate several days to convince him that voice recognition was something that actually existed — that other people could usually tell who was calling by their voice.

First comment says it all.

One argument against spelling reform: Some consistency reforms can force you to use a spelling with some very loaded meaning.

A followup post to the one thing I read, after Blink, that really got me thinking about the sorts of racist habits of thought many including myself really have. Money quote:
Racism is alive and well despite many believing we are now living in a post-racial society. It’s simply better hidden but not really buried too deeply at all.

For real advocacy to happen–
  1. We have to tell our stories in ways that transcend race while also acknowledging it is there.
  2. We have to raise the flag (in a carefully crafted manner) to alert jurors to avoid stereotypes and bias and make their decisions based on justice and fairness. (Register at our website to see our article on Juries and Race.)
  3. We have to trust jurors while also arming them with forewarning so they can avoid bias in their deliberations.
  4. We have to make our clients, parties, witnesses, and their family members ‘like’ our jurors so that bias is minimized as “these people are like me”.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
Xu: "Baidu, rendered in Chinese, is rich with linguistic, aesthetic and historical meaning. But written phonetically in Latin letters (as I must do here because of the constraints of the newspaper medium and so that more American readers can understand), it is barely anchored to the two original characters; along the way, it has lost its precision and its poetry."

Swofford: Uh, no.

I can totally see the appeal, though. It's a script that is very elaborate, very hard to learn if you didn't grow up with it,* and represents a very old literary culture that has produced many technological innovations, built many big things, and survived Western imperialism without being crushed into a shadow of its former self that only now is beginning to recover. (Heck, it survived Communism.)

I'm also inclined to agree with the comments on Victor Mair's LL post linking to the takedown post, but it seems to be a last-straw effect.


*Mind, I know at least two people who are fully literate in Chinese but deliberately memorize the spellings of basic English words by rote, so it could be more a matter of what you're used to. Or it could just be that English doesn't exactly use the best phonetic alphabetical script for someone relatively new to the concept.
vaecrius: a crude scrawl of a grinning, blazing yellow sun. (hier kommt die sonne)
Merger letter from the merged company's CEO.

水滸傳 translated into Scots.

Not news to anyone who's listened to Dr. Dines's speech, paused the video, looked up Miley Cyrus's pictures on Elle, got aroused, then got sidetracked with fapping to a whole lot of other stuff in their bookmarks. She's got a very solid theory that unfortunately loses a lot of cred when it doesn't leave room for all the facts.

Now of course the misogyny in porn is a problem and she's entirely right in pointing it out, and I don't think in terms of degree her stance is at all extreme. But... )

As for the letter itself, as far as the last para goes (and on the point totally unrelated to Dines's ideas) I'm not too inclined to think that the situation is irreparable:
Stick figures showing TOP and BOTTOM positions and how they are independent of who is penetrating.
vaecrius: A little yellow ant in the grass on a sunny day. (yellow ant)
So I got schmuck baited into TVTropes and ended up reading this again.

I can't help but think they're missing five important points they must communicate to keep people out:
  1. It is waste, garbage, filth.
  2. It is dirty and will make you sick if you come near it.
  3. The dirtiness will pass through most materials, so your only protection is the hundreds of man-heights of dirt burying it.
  4. It is dirty not because of demons that can be exorcised but dirty the way shit is dirty - physically.
  5. It is an inanimate substance that does not move or live, and therefore the danger it poses cannot be subdued by force of arms.
Without these points, I can only imagine someone trying to break into the place long after we're all dead, thinking it is some weapon to be wielded against others or a monster that can be defeated for glory and renown. Whatever triggers the eww-dirty-don't-touch part of the brain is good, whatever triggers the hey-enemy-fight-kill part of the brain is bad.

Some technical information following the main message as an addendum would help, in case the future finders really are at our or a higher tech level. If they can read the message at all, then surely they could figure out if something's meant to represent an atomic number and a star alignment (paired with a CE year which I'm sure anyone who can read the modern language being used would have encountered already).

All keeping in mind that being at our or a higher tech level does not imply that the "dirty garbage, not a demon or a monster" clarification would not be necessary.

There's still a taboo appeal, but I can't for the life of me think of how to word advice on how to handle the waste safely that won't be misinterpreted as a holy recitation or a Zen-like koan, or in a way that could lead to cargo cult safety equipment being used.

All the while I would avoid any non-linguistic cue that the stuff being described is underground. If people don't get the sign and are enticed to the area, but assume it's got something to do with the area itself and don't bother digging down, that's imperfect but non-horrible.

That all said, maybe Cass's comment about an "isolated dump site in a relatively unpleasant area" seems to be the best. Though perhaps the work in trying to build the perfect keep-out sign is worthwhile on its own.
vaecrius: A round squishy plush lobster bursts out of the blue. (cock lobster)
Friday afternoon: At the last reasonable moment I head over to Scrape Records and ask for a ticket to [slu: fɛg]. I get one without comment.

Saturday: Get up at noon, feel like shit, have coffee and frozen pizza (note: not frozen while I eat it) with some sort of single sliced cheese-like substance added to it for lunch, feel even shittier, spend the day banging my head against the keyboard, feel even shittier, try to stave it off with more coffee, instant, with extra sugar, feel even shittier still.

I am not in a good mood.

I got better. )

In other news, this song always gives me fond memories of law school, though I'd only heard it long after graduating.
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2185

This reminds me of how our family can instantly distinguish Cantonese-language shows produced in China but ostensibly set in Hong Kong, from Cantonese-language shows set and produced in Hong Kong: the HK material is constantly peppered with English phrases, seemingly independent of whether there is already a Chinese word for the thing discussed.

To an HK speaker the Chinese stuff sounds jarringly stilted, like an equivalent of somewhere between coming up with an English word for schadenfreude and saying cow and pig for beef and pork.

In other news, a neat review of one of the defining movies of my formative years and its sequels.
It is mentioned in the first film that it took the Judas Breed three years of living in the sewers (and occasionally wandering around dark subway stations, buildings, and city streets) to grow into camouflage-able, man-sized monsters without the outside world’s awareness. The suggestion here is that a population of giant carnivorous insects could grow under the very nose of America’s largest city but as long as the critters stay in the shadows and relegate their carnivorous diet to society’s outcasts (the homeless, stray animals, and larger vermin such as rats), no one would really notice. There’s an ample opportunity here for commentary on the public’s ignorance and apathy over scientific research and environmental issues, but neither del Toro nor the sequels provide that.
I would suspect that Del Toro didn't notice this - or, to sheathe Occam's Razor once more, deliberately communicated it through its absence.

"'But we need a reminder!' Well, leave a piece of fruit out for a couple days and nature will come visit you, lifestyle guru not necessary. You can’t get away from 'nature' as you breathe it in and shit it out."
vaecrius: The blocky spiral motif based on the golden ratio that I use for various ID icons, ending with a red centre. (Default)
- [boss's very obviously male name]'s law office.
- Hi, can I talk to [bossman] please?
- He's just stepped out to meet a client, can I ask who's calling?
- Yeah, can you tell her to call me ASAP? ((I have been told explicitly early on not to bother trying to get a detailed message.))
- Uh, sorry who are you looking for again? ^^; ((Two female support staff, neither of whom happens to be in))
- [bossman], can you get her to call as soon as she could?
- ...
((awkward pause as I ask the caller to repeat whatever my 3-second attention span missed and get down their #))
- And get her... him to call back as soon as he could!

I didn't become conscious of the accent until around that point.

I know this

if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content.

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