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Tag Archives: English


Links of Possible Relevance, Part 27

What Are Heuristics?
A very brief but good overview: the “world violence” ratio the video mentions is a good example of the spotlight fallacy. But the unspoken conclusion is that heuristics are bad at knowing large scale phenomena because human beings qua human beings are bad at knowing large scale phenomena.

When to Trust the Experts (Climate and Otherwise)
Another unspoken (unwritten) conclusion: trust the experts when they agree with you, because paying attention to contrary data causes cognitive dissonance and, outwardly, causes social instability inside a person’s circle.

Star Trek: Discovery – Main Title Sequence
Wonderfully stylized sequence and a break from Star Trek tradition.

“Whip” Cream
How can a famous food blogger screw up so badly, so many times? It’s not as though she doesn’t know the right way. Beware going to that site: it has more ads than a Super Bowl on repeat, and it takes just as long to load.

The Internet Is Not Impressed With the All-Girl ‘Lord of the Flies’ Remake
I wouldn’t mind an all-broad Flies version; it makes much more sense than a diverse one, since the original text involved boys from an all-boy military school. And, according to some commentaries, Flies is about government (men) and the predilection towards physical violence that men, not women, have. Airdropping girls (heh) into that role is nonsensical. To wit…:

“It’s really encouraging that The Lego Movie Sequel will focus on gender issues.”
Boring.

Why Computer Programmers Should Stop Calling Themselves Engineers
I get the sentiment, the same argument can be used for electrical engineers vs civic engineers. English vulgate speakers—i.e., everyone who speaks English—knows a software engineer isn’t a materials engineer. That’s why languages use modifiers to eliminate ambiguity. “Engineer,” by itself, anyways, means almost nothing.

Everyone is on steroids
Especially if they claim “natty” (natural), are on YouTube or Instagram, and trying to sell you something. Doubly so they are on steroids if they are vegan; vegan bodybuilders have 0.0% chance of maintaining that kind of muscle mass and leanness without getting pinned in the butt on the regular.

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Pale Blue Scratch Now Available in Oakmont, PA

If you’re ever in the Pittsburgh area, you can now buy a real, genuine, dead tree version of Pale Blue Scratch at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in scenic, famous golf-coursey, Oakmont, PA.

* Unnecessary side bar: is there a name for this linguistic phenomenon, where two causally unrelated things are grammatically linked together? The fact that a book is available in a bookstore isn’t ontologically dependent on the royal “you” being present in the area. It’s implied that “hey, this information may be relevant to you,” but a non-native English speaker might receive the thrust of the sentence too literally.

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When an English-Speaking German Band Does a Song in Japanese

I’ve been listening to Deadlock a lot lately, since they had released a double-CD album of re-recorded or unreleased, etc., songs—an album that passed my attention on its release date. One of the songs, “Earthlings,” is from a past Japanese market release of Bizarro World. If the Japanese isn’t apparent to you during the verses (it wasn’t to me), it will be during the actual singing.

Some comment gold:

ai no kotoba mou oboete(愛の言葉もう覚えて)
jigou jitoku(自業自得)
mi kara deta sabi(身から出た錆)
ningen no neru dokuji no toki(人間の寝る、独自の時)
sakushi shita kaibutu(錯視した怪物)
watashi wa anata ga ashita wo iki nokoranai(私は貴方が明日を生き残らない)

This japanese lyrics. . .Sentence is make zero sense.

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About Sleep and Light – Pale Blue Scratch Email Newsletter #7

“At any rate, that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep.”
-Willa Cather

Have you ever gone camping overnight? There’s an astounding lack of electricity in the wild, unless you bring batteries with you. But that’s where this illustration point ends since I wanted to talk about how people slept before electricity…and those convenient batteries.

The world of Pale Blue Scratch is at a pre-electric level; or rather, electricity is really at the intermediate experimental stage. Light comes from candles, lanterns, and the sun. The artificial providers of light could be costly, so people tended to go to sleep not long after sundown, and didn’t start their day until dawn.

That leaves a rather long stretch of time for sleeping—a few hours more than the eight or so most people need or can tolerate. How did people “get through the night?” They may have slept twice:

[Historian Roger Ekirch’s] arguments are based on 16 years of research during which he studied hundreds of historical documents from ancient to modern times, including diaries, court records, medical books and literature. He identified countless references to ‘first’ and ‘second’ sleeps in English. Other languages also describe this pattern, for example, premier sommeil in French, primo sonno in Italian and primo somno in Latin. It was the ordinariness of the allusions to segmented sleeping that led Ekirch to conclude this pattern was once common, an everyday cycle of sleeping and waking.

….

For those who indulged [in segmented sleep], however, night-waking was used for activities such as reading, praying and writing, untangling dreams, talking to sleeping partners or making love. As Ekirch points out, after a hard day of labouring, people were often too tired for amorous activities at ‘first’ bedtime (which might strike a chord with many busy people today) but, when they woke in the night, our ancestors were refreshed and ready for action. After various nocturnal activities, people became drowsy again and slipped into their second sleep cycle (also for three or four hours) before rising to a new day. We too can imagine, for example, going to bed at 9pm on a winter night, waking at midnight, reading and chatting until around 2am, then sleeping again until 6am.

For those of us who are creative types, like some quiet time, or just have trouble sleeping in general, segmented sleep not only sounds like a good idea, but may be completely natural.

Further reading/watching:
The myth of the eight-hour sleep
Sleep Patterns Before Electricity were Very different
Busting the 8-Hour Sleep Myth: Why You Should Wake Up in the Night

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Can You Understand Jesus’ Divinity Via Enlightenment Reasoning?

Short answer: no.

Longer answer: watch video. Guest speaker’s at my church last Sunday, Austin Hohn.

Jesus is God from Discovery Christian Church on Vimeo.

To be clear, I think you can get some vague idea of what Jesus’ divinity was because, as the famous phrase goes, “words mean things.” I think Chalcedon is about as clear and succinct as we’re going to get to explaining it on a human level, especially to those of us in the modern day, English-speaking Occident. Every sort of culture will have some starting point as such, but to go further in that direction is to court disaster.

Language is a product of the human mind, and it’s rather useful when we’re talking of in-universe phenomenon. Language can provide a little outline of the “idea” of Jesus’ divinity; just the barest of directions, but that’s about it. Understanding Jesus’ divinity is apprehended by the spirit, not the mind. Maybe during Eden there was some better congruence between mind and spirit, but the repairing of that relationship in the world’s current state can only go so far. Things need a complete overhaul if that were to happen again.

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Italicizing Foreign Words in Fiction

The dialogue in my current work in progress uses three languages: English (most of it), German (here and there), and Franco-Arabic (it is what you probably think it is). I was under the impression from previous reading that some or many foreign words that were actual foreign language words and not common loanwords (i.e., “taco”) should be italicized. But doing some Google poking there’s some different opinions and no hard and fast rules.

My particular problem is that, as I said, the foreign words are dialogic, not narrative. I’m not a fan of inserting foreign phrases during narration when it’s not basic and descriptive (“Her hijab wafted up in the wake of his forceful gas-passing.”), both in my writing and with others. It comes off as a cheap shortcut to variate writing flow but I’m sure there are some cases when it’s warranted.

I started out with one rule: definitely italicize are words/phrases that are homographic to an English word, like sine, as in sine wave, and sine of the Latin usage. Context can help clarify—i.e., “sine wave” and “sine qua non”—but not always.

Here’s probably the best set of guidelines I came across:

1. If only one unfamiliar foreign word or brief phrase is being used, italicize it.
2. If an entire sentence or passage of two or more sentences appear in a foreign language, type the passage in plain type and put the passage in quotation marks.
3. If the foreign word is a proper noun, do not italicize it.
4. If you are using two foreign words or phrases, one familiar and one unfamiliar, italicize both of them for consistency and appearance.
5. Common Latin words and abbreviations like etc., et al., and ibid. need not be italicized. An exception is sic, which should be italicized and placed in square brackets.

So, taking this advice, in one certain case in my book:

We have a saying back home: Was du allein wissen willst, das sage niemand. If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it to anyone.”

Would be, using rule 2 above:

We have a saying back home: ‘Was du allein wissen willst, das sage niemand.’ If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it to anyone.”

THe problem with these rules is that, while reading from now on, I’m going to be unduly noting all the italicized/non-italicized foreign words. Language be trippin’.

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Only Neil Knows How Women Are

I was listening to one of my favorite Rush albums, Counterparts, the other day, and a line jumped out at me. From “Cold Fire”:

She said, “Just don’t disappoint me
You know how complex women are”

It seemed like the second line could be taken two different ways, and it’s best to describe the difference by rewriting the line. The first way is like this:

You know how women that are complex are.

This implies that some women have the quality of being complex and that they act a certain way because of it. The second, like this:

You know how much women are complex.

This one implies that all women are complex, usually to a noticeably high degree.

Both versions don’t have a huge difference in meaning. I just enjoyed the ambiguity of it.

For the grander context, here are the entire lyrics. I particularly like the parallel construction using “cold fire” in the penultimate section. Lyrics are by Neil Peart and I completely did not get any permission from anyone to reproduce them. Cheers!

It was long after midnight
When we got to unconditional love
She said, “Sure, my heart is boundless
But don’t push my limits too far”
I said, “If love was so transcendent
I don’t understand these boundaries”
She said, “Just don’t disappoint me
You know how complex women are”

I’ll be around
If you don’t let me down too far
I’ll be around
If you don’t let me down

It was just before sunrise
When we started on traditional roles
She said, “Sure, I’ll be your partner
But don’t make too many demands”
I said, “If love has these conditions
I don’t understand those songs you love”
She said, “This is not a love song
This isn’t fantasyland”

Don’t go too far
A phosphorescent wave on a tropical sea is a cold fire
Don’t cross the line
The pattern of moonlight on the bedroom floor is a cold fire
Don’t let me down
The flame at the heart of a pawnbroker’s diamond is a cold fire
Don’t break the spell
The look in your eyes as you head for the door is a cold fire

Love is blind if you are gentle
Love can turn to a long, cold burn…

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