[psych] Define Empathy?

May. 25th, 2017 04:31 pm
siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
I am thinking about writing a thing, or several things, about empathy. I come from a perspective of generally being appalled about how the concept is bandied about, not just in the popular press, but pretty much everywhere, including among the pros.

Part of my appall is how there seem to be a vast profusion of definitions, many mutually exclusive, loose out there. Like, I'm pretty sure two of my grad school classes promulgated precisely opposite empathy vs sympathy distinctions.

So, for kicks and giggles, what's your personal definition of empathy? Assuming, of course, you have one. (If you don't, you can say that too.)

All comments will be screened, and I may or may not be unscreening some or all of them at my personal discretion. If you don't want your definition of empathy being tied to you, comment anonymously.

Resisting reunification

May. 25th, 2017 12:03 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Quick!

How do you parse this headline?

Resisting reunification by force to get Taiwan nowhere: mainland spokesperson” (Xinhua, 5/25/17)

Now read the first sentence of the article:

A Chinese mainland spokesperson warned Thursday that the Taiwan administration’s attempt to resist reunification by the use of force will get the island nowhere.

Is that what you thought it meant?

But wait!  Even after reading the first sentence, is the intent of the title unambiguously clear?

And is the intent of the first sentence itself unmistakable?

Even after reading through the article to the last sentence, one may still be left wondering whence comes the application of force with regard to reunification:

The spokesperson made the remarks when asked to comment on an ongoing military drill in Taiwan, which has simulated a mainland attack.

This kind of hyperwaffling rhetoric is mind-numbing.

miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Last night we went to Manderley again the theatre in Leeds to see The Play That Goes Wrong. It was funny to the extent that my stomach hurts from laughing so hard this morning. I very much recommend it if you are in need of an evening of jollity - and who isn't, these days?

I think my favourite character was the corpse (no, really), but it was a close run thing between him and the stage-hand-who-ends-up-getting-roped-into-the-play, or the corpse's brother, whose layers of performance were very impressive - acting a bad actor who plays up to a large audience excellently.

The recalcitrant set, of course, is a character in it's own right. Whoever designed it is a genius. Bits alternately fall off or unexpectedly don't fall off; doors swing open or fail to open, depending on what they are not supposed to do, etc. The timing of all these things is vital, and it was absolutely spot on every time, right down to the small spoiler ) at the end.

The po-faced actor/director-playing-the-inspector's small spoiler ) He reminded me of nothing so much as my English teacher at school, who used to sweat blood pushing recalcitrant children into the school play, and inevitably things went wrong as they do in these situations.

The one note of caution I would sound is that it doesn't pass Bechdel. There are two female characters, but they don't talk to each other at all (although at one point they talk over each other and small spoiler )). There's no real reason why the Butler, or the Sound Engineer, or even the Inspector couldn't be women, they just... aren't. This is a bit of a contrast from the Agatha Christie plays which this is clearly riffing off, which are always scrupulously gender balanced...

That was the only thing that really bothered me, though. Otherwise I had an excellent time, the performances were good, the stage set was excellent, and the comic timing was first rate. If you get the chance, go see this, particularly if you've already seen and are familiar with The Mousetrap, to which there are many many refernces. Also, you need to get in there ten minutes or so early. No spoilers, but it's worth it.
highlyeccentric: Manuscript illumination - courtiers throwing snowballs (medieval - everybody snowball)
[personal profile] highlyeccentric
Currently Reading: Too many things for work. A selected-poems book of Carol Ann Duffy's work. The Rose & The Dagger, which is the sequel to the YA Sheherazade one called The Wrath and the Dawn.

Recently Finished:

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet #1)A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This is a reasonably good book. On the other hand, I really didn't need another christian-allegory spec fic in my life. At least Susan Cooper has a good world-built reason for DARKNESS SWALLOWING EVERYTHING MUST BE RESISTED CAN NEVER BE DEFEATED, and also she has Merlin.

Protagonist: a+ grumpy girl child
11-y old heterosexual romance plot: unnecessary and annoying.
Protagonist magical-genius younger brother: great character, but gave me a weird 'oh hai autistic stereotype' feeling.

I appreciate the effort to make the mother an Interesting Career Scientist, too, but ffs, you can't have a physics research lab in your basement.

I feel like this Toast piece on AWIT reflects probably a better reading of the book than I have: http://the-toast.net/2014/11/12/a-wri...



Meanjin Autumn 2017 (Vol. 76, Issue 1)Meanjin Autumn 2017 by Jonathan Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This wasn't a great issue, IMHO. I was displeased with it from the outset, where in the opening pages the results of the Dorothy Porter Poetry Prize were announced. The announcement noted the huge disparity between #s of men and women (candidates? Shortlist? Unclear), and then offered absolutely nothing further. They had thoughts on why there were more poems about animals than politics, but not about why more men than women, and gave no indication of any desire to do anything ABOUT that.

I really enjoyed Matthew Fishburn's essay on the collecting of indigenous skulls (by white people) in early NSW.

Andrea Baldwin's memoir-essay Occasionally, A Stranger to Watch the Stars With is worth a read.

John Clarke's Commonplace has some interesting gobbets in it.

Otherwise, I was not hugely impressed by any of this issue - particularly not the poetry.



The Dishonesty of DreamsThe Dishonesty of Dreams by A.J. Odasso

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I loved this. Not, perhaps, as much as I loved Devil's Road Down -I may never love any poetry collection like I love that chapbook - but this is a more mature style of poetry, and contains a number of my favourites, like Carnal Knowledge, and Five Times I Lived By Water.



Up Next: I've got a short-story collection by Ivan E Coyote near to hand...




Music notes: New Paramore album is excellent (I missed them the first time around but I am enjoying this revival). Under the influence of a fandom chain of suggestion I bought two Adam Lambert albums and am enjoying 'For Your Entertainment' extensively.

(no subject)

May. 25th, 2017 08:06 am
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait
the list )

A song you never get tired of. I was looking for something with a lot of range, to keep my interest up. Something a bit meaty, by a band I love. So I give you Astronomy by the Brain Surgeons. It was actually written for Blue Öyster Cult but is one of the BÖC songs that the Brain Surgeons, formed by Al Bouchard after leaving BÖC, kept playing. Al is now in a Blue Öyster Cult/Alice Cooper covers bande, Blue Coupe, with Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper.

siderea: (Default)
[personal profile] siderea
Starts good, gets great: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's magnificent address of May 19 on the removal of the Confederate monuments from New Orleans. It's 22 minutes long, and, Americans, it's absolutely worth making the time. Beautiful, firey, and uplifting, it's worth hearing it delivered rather than reading a transcript.



Many thanks to [personal profile] heron61 for bringing it to my attention.

Reading Wednesday 24/05

May. 24th, 2017 12:37 pm
liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Recently read: The hundred trillion stories in your head, a bio of Ramón y Cajal by Benjamin Ehrlich. (Contains some detail of Ramón y Cajal's rather grim childhood.)

Currently reading: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. Partly because it's Hugo nominated, and partly because [personal profile] jack was excited to talk about it so I've borrowed his copy. I'm halfway through and enjoying it a lot; it's a bit like a somewhat grimmer version of Leckie's Ancillary books. It has too much gory detail of war and torture for my preferences but it's also a really engaging story.

Up next: Quite possibly Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer, since I'd like to read at least the Hugo novels in time for Worldcon.

I <3 brainy punks

May. 24th, 2017 11:16 am
ceb: (absinthe)
[personal profile] ceb
My favourite Basque horrorpunk band, Los Carniceros del Norte, have made a covers album where all the songs are translated into Spanish. Exhibit A: _Cuchillos de Fuego_ by Johnny Cash: https://loscarniceros.bandcamp.com/track/cuchillos-de-fuego-johnny-cash-cover

Hoping this makes someone else's day as much as it made mine.

(entire album here: https://loscarniceros.bandcamp.com/album/kaskeria )

If you need your day made in Québécois French instead, here's a different brainy punk/psychobilly band (The Brains, appropriately enough, and they can make your day in English and North American Spanish too): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLwin5O6nxc

NB do not try to make your day with French-French punk, it works very poorly.

The Blood is the Life for 24-05-2017

May. 24th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b

Synecdoche vs Metonymy

May. 24th, 2017 10:23 am
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
In a manful effort to remember which is which, I looked these words up *again*.

It looks like, "synecdoche" means using a part to represent the whole, eg. "how many heads" in a herd of cattle, or "how many bums" in a theatre, or "nice wheels" referring to a whole car. But is also used for the reverse, using a whole to represent a part, eg. "what does Brussels think" referring to the European parliament.

I couldn't tell why the second meaning was included, but secondarily, if the first meaning came first, and then people started using it both ways round, or something else. Nor if only the first meaning is "correct" and the second is a mistake, or if both are equally accepted.

Apparently "metonymy" means "using a closely related concept to represent a thing". Eg. using "suits" for "lawyers" or "businesspeople", or "the pen is mightier than the sword" to mean "the written word is mightier than force of arms".

So the real difference between "synecdoche" and "metonymy" is different history and connotations, which I don't really understand. But in terms of literal meaning, the only difference is "using a part to represent the whole" vs "using one concept to represent another".

But, obviously, human pattern matching means if you mostly use synecdoche in the "part for a whole" sense, then the most common use of metonymy is "whole for a part", even if it could be used for other things.

Can anyone fill in the gaps here?
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait
the list )

10: a song that makes you sad.

My uncle had this song at his funeral. I gather Lemmy maybe did too? but my uncle died first, and besides, he was a good uncle. To give some idea of his personality, he demanded Fire by Arthur Brown for the end, when the curtains close. He fixed things, and he took life lightly, and the world is a better place for having had him in it.

I give you Jollity Farm by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Sharon Begley, “Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change?“, STAT 5/23/2017:

STAT reviewed decades of Trump’s on-air interviews and compared them to Q&A sessions since his inauguration. The differences are striking and unmistakable.  

Research has shown that changes in speaking style can result from cognitive decline. STAT therefore asked experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists, to compare Trump’s speech from decades ago to that in 2017; they all agreed there had been a deterioration, and some said it could reflect changes in the health of Trump’s brain.

STAT may have reviewed decades of Donald Trump’s on-air interviews, but what’s presented in the article is a scant handful of anecdotes. There’s one example of a verbal flub from an (unidentified) interview in May of 2017; 41 seconds of a Larry King interview from 1987; 13 seconds from another unidentified NBC News interview “earlier this month”; a hundred words of transcript from an unidentified “interview with the Associated Press last month”; and one or two other fragments. Begley asserts that

[L]inguistic decline is also obvious in two interviews with David Letterman, in 1988 and 2013, presumably with much the same kind of audience. In the first, Trump threw around words such as “aesthetically” and “precarious,” and used long, complex sentences. In the second, he used simpler speech patterns, few polysyllabic words, and noticeably more fillers such as “uh” and “I mean.”

Again, she doesn’t give us clear citations for the interviews, much less links; and again, the description is entirely anecdotal.

I was particularly surprised by her assertion of  “noticeably more fillers such as ‘uh’ and ‘I mean.'” That assertion might be true of those two interviews — though it would be nice to have some numbers — but as I’ve observed several times, one of the striking characteristics of Donald Trump’s (recent) spontaneous political rhetoric is that he uses filled pauses much less frequently than most other politicians (and most other people in general).

For example in “The narrow end of the funnel” (8/18/2016), I noted that filled pauses were 8.2% of Steve Bannon’s words (in a sample passage from a panel discussion on The Future of Conservatism), and 4.0% of Hilary Clinton’s words in a Vox interview, while three of Trump’s rally speeches had between 0% and 0.05% filled pauses, and in a CNBC interview, Trump used 74 filled pauses in 5329 words, for a rate of 1.4%.

[I’ll see if I can track down those two Letterman interviews and check them out.]

So Begley and her mostly-unnamed “experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists” might be right to wave their hands at “a neurodegenerative disease or the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging”. But the evidence that they offer is anecdotal at best, without even citations or links to let readers check out the context of the anecdotes. (And perhaps because of heavy reader load, my attempts to view the article’s chosen video-clip anecdotes froze four browsers on two operating systems, making them even less impressive to me than they otherwise would have been.)

This strikes me as a reverse-image version of the right-wing fixation about neurological interpretations of Hilary Clinton stumbling. Pending some real evidence, I’m going to diagnose this as a case of TDS: Trump Derangement Syndrome.

 

 

Costs of rail privatisation

May. 23rd, 2017 06:21 pm
damerell: (trains)
[personal profile] damerell
I've been meaning to write this for a while, but I just got blocked on Twitter by the editor of Rail magazine for pointing it out (!), so now seems like a good time. If there is some reason I am laughably wrong, now's the time to point it out.

Fairly often, when renationalisation of the railways is discussed, a neat little pie chart turns up showing some small percentage of income goes on TOC profits (here is an example: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/images/structure/css/fact-about-fare-2014.jpg - this one discusses fare income, but as far as I can make out from http://www.orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/24149/uk-rail-industry-financial-information-2015-16.pdf today's figure of 1.9% does reflect the distribution of all income. I don't know why Network Rail can't replace their pie chart with one based on more recent figures...)

As far as I know this is true, but what pops up next is the assertion that only that small percentage is to be saved by renationalising the railways. That seems to be totally untrue, as a bit of a peek at the other slices of the pie chart will reveal.

First of all, there's a much bigger chunk (11% in 2014, 7% now) marked "leasing trains". Do the rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), which were of course created out of British Rail, make a profit? You bet they do. Their surplus is about 20%, so there's another 1.4% right there.

Secondly, there's "interest payments and other costs". There was a bit here about how the TOCs are probably hiding some profits via (say) borrowing money from associated companies in countries with less corporation tax, but as far as I can make out all the interest payments are made by Network Rail. There is a pretence that Network Rail is not just a bit of the government, and that compels it to borrow money at a higher interest rate than the government would.

(However, the ROSCOs may well be posting an artificially low surplus, either through such tax avoidance or via the private equity practice of buying an asset with a loan secured on that asset. That would represent yet more profit that doesn't show up on the pie chart.)

Then we have staffing costs (25% of the pie chart). Fragmenting the railway has added untold layers of bureaucracy; the ROSCOs have staff to deal with leasing the trains to the TOCs and the TOCs have staff to deal with leasing the trains from the ROSCOs. The TOCs have staff to deal with Network Rail and Network Rail has staff to deal with the TOCs - a lot, because a train cannot simply be delayed now without a careful apportioning of the costs arising from that delay. A vast management tree is essentially duplicated across 20-odd TOCs (yes, it would be a bit bigger in a company the size of BR, but there wouldn't be 20 of it). It's hard to obtain any decent estimate of this (I would be intrigued to see figures on the relative number of officebound staff employed by BR and the current system, but I suspect they are well hidden) but it's hard to suppose it's too small a proportion of that 25% to show up.

So I think two things are true; the proportion of the railways' income that is lost to the structures of privatisation certainly is not 1.9% - it must be at least as high as 3.3% if we add the ROSCOs' profits in - and there is every reason to suppose it is considerably higher, even if it is hard to know exactly how much.

Chinese emoji, with a twist

May. 23rd, 2017 04:32 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Victor Mair

Adrienne LaFrance has an eye-opening article about “The Westernization of Emoji” in The Atlantic (5/22/17).  Here’s the summary statement at the beginning:

The takeout box and the fortune cookie are perceived as emblems of Chinese culture, when they’re actually central to the American experience of it.

The Unicode Consortium will be issuing dozens of new emoji as part of its June update.  Among them will be a fortune cookie, a takeout box, chopsticks, and a dumpling, all designed by Yiying Lu, an artist based in San Francisco.

The irony, she says, is that two of the four new Chinese-themed emoji—the fortune cookie and the takeout box—are not Chinese Chinese, but instead reflect Westernized elements of Chinese culture. “It’s kind of like Häagen-Dazs,” Lu told me. “People think its Scandinavian just because of the two dots in the name, but it’s American. It’s the same thing with the takeout box. The Chinese takeout box is completely invented in the West. And the fortune cookie was invented by a Japanese person, but it was popularized in America.”

Emoji, too, were invented by a Japanese person before becoming hugely popular in the United States. For people outside of Japan, emoji were a charming and mysterious window into Japanese culture. The fact that they weren’t globally representative was part of what made emoji fascinating to people in the Western world.

Shigetaka Kurita, who designed the first emoji in 1999, never expected them to spread beyond Japan. But they did. And now they’re everywhere, thanks to the widespread adoption of the smartphone.

“The whole reason emoji are taking off the way they are is largely because of Apple, which is an American company,” said Christina Xu, an ethnographer who focuses on the social implications of technology. And although the Unicode Consortium—which standardizes how computers communicate text and agrees upon new emoji—it [sic; –> is] an international group, most of its voting members are affiliated with American companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle, and IBM. “So even when it is about other cultures, it’s still about America,” Xu said.

We have previously highlighted Christina Xu’s perceptive, entertaining observations on “‘Facial expressions’ in text-dominant online conversation” (8/2/16).

Also referenced in LaFrance’s article is Jennifer (now Jenny) 8. Lee of “Character Amnesia” (7/22/10) fame.  It’s interesting how often these conversations on the cutting edge of cultural evolution are interconnected and overlap. Jenny remarks:

“Most linguists say emoji are not currently a language—they’re paralinguistic, the equivalent of hand gestures or voice tone. But for people who use them, it’s almost like fighting for a word that [shows] you exist. When you come up with a word to describe your population, it’s a very powerful thing.”

For those who may have been wondering, “emoji” comes from Japanese e 絵 (“picture”) + moji 文字 (“letter [of alphabet]; character; writing; script”).  Any resemblance to the English words “emotion” and “emoticon” (“emot[ion]” + “icon”) is purely coincidental.

[Thanks to Christina Hilburger]

A thing I had not previously realised

May. 23rd, 2017 04:13 pm
kaberett: Lin Beifong crying (lin-tear)
[personal profile] kaberett
You know the way tear are an excretionary mechanism for Nope Too Much Of That Emotion Let's Have Less Of It? No, they really are, maybe: emotional tears contain more misc hormonal wossnames. Have an art project!

Hamilton-adjacent shows

May. 23rd, 2017 02:11 pm
rmc28: Rachel standing in front of the entrance to the London Eye pier (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
There are two things coming up I want to see, and would like to encourage friends to come see with me. I'm not quite at "buy a ticket to something fun" today, but I'd like to get there.  Please comment / message / email me if you're interested in coming too, ideally by this weekend.

Show one:
The Southwark Playhouse is putting on Working, a musical with songs by "Craig Carnelia, Micki Grant, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mary Rodgers & Susan Birkenhead, Stephen Schwartz and James Taylor". So obviously Lin-Manuel's contribution is among lots of other people's, but the musical blurb itself sounds interesting: based on a book of "interviews with the American workforce" and "a strikingly dynamic and contemporary look at what it is to work and what it is to be a musical".  Also I like the theatre's access information page which seems a better effort than most and would therefore like to Turn Up And Support This Kind Of Thing.

I'm looking at going to the 3pm show on Saturday 10th June.  This is both my least-busy Saturday during the run, and immediately after my exams.  Tickets £25 / £20.


Show two:
There is a touring professional production of Bring It On, the cheerleader musical, which I saw a local amateur production of recently. I am considering either:
  • 2:30pm show on Saturday 23rd September, at the Milton Keynes Theatre
  • 2:30pm show on Saturday 14th October, at the New Wimbledon Theatre
Both of them are do-able as a day trip from Cambridge by public transport.  I lean slightly toward the Wimbledon one because that's by train not coach, but I could be persuadable to either.  (Both is probably overambitious).  Tickets are between £43 and £57.50, plus a transaction fee (because of course there is).


Also, I'm looking longingly at an amateur production of In The Heights in Birmingham 14-15 July, but as I'm running a child's birthday party on 16th July I don't think it's going to happen.

(yes, I am mildly obsessive about Seeing All The Things related to Lin-Manuel Miranda, but I also kind of like the idea of aspiring to a lifestyle of travelling the country seeing musicals ...)

Jew-ish

May. 23rd, 2017 01:45 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
This weekend I went to another Jewish-Muslim interfaith event. I was not exactly the main target audience, which was mainly people whose actual job is religious education. I did get to meet some Somali Bravanese Muslims, an ethnic minority from Somalia via Kenya whom I hadn't encountered before.

Anyway we had some very interesting discussions, including around the use of language. Some of the Muslim participants said they didn't like what I had thought of as an otherwise neutral older spelling, Moslem. They said they associate that spelling and pronunciation with people like Donald Trump, and I can see that people who haven't bothered to update their language might well be assumed to be hostile. I don't particularly need to change my own language choices since I have been using the modern spelling anyway, but it's useful to note.

Then of course the conversation turned to the Jewish side, and the somewhat fraught issue of what we should be called. is 'Jew' a slur? )

Homonyms

May. 23rd, 2017 11:13 am
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Yesterday’s Dumbing of Age:


In fact Walky is right about homonym. The OED’s overall gloss is “The same name or word used to denote different things”, with the more specific sense “Philol. Applied to words having the same sound, but differing in meaning”.

Billie is right about the etymology — for the verb funk “To blow smoke upon (a person); to annoy with smoke” the OED says

Etymology: perhaps < French dialect funkier = Old French funkier , fungier < Latin *fūmicare (Italian fumicare ), fūmigāre , < fūmus smoke.

and adds that the noun, though apparently from this verb, is recorded earlier.

The Wikipedia article for funk music explains that

The word funk initially referred (and still refers) to a strong odor. It is originally derived from Latin “fumigare” (which means “to smoke”) via Old French “fungiere” and, in this sense, it was first documented in English in 1620. In 1784 “funky” meaning “musty” was first documented, which, in turn, led to a sense of “earthy” that was taken up around 1900 in early jazz slang for something “deeply or strongly felt”.

In early jam sessions, musicians would encourage one another to “get down” by telling one another, “Now, put some stank on it!”. At least as early as 1907, jazz songs carried titles such as Funky. The first example is an unrecorded number by Buddy Bolden, remembered as either “Funky Butt” or “Buddy Bolden’s Blues” with improvised lyrics that were, according to Donald M. Marquis either “comical and light” or “crude and downright obscene” but, in one way or another, referring to the sweaty atmosphere at dances where Bolden’s band played. As late as the 1950s and early 1960s, when “funk” and “funky” were used increasingly in the context of jazz music, the terms still were considered indelicate and inappropriate for use in polite company. According to one source, New Orleans-born drummer Earl Palmer “was the first to use the word ‘funky’ to explain to other musicians that their music should be made more syncopated and danceable.” The style later evolved into a rather hard-driving, insistent rhythm, implying a more carnal quality. This early form of the music set the pattern for later musicians. The music was identified as slow, “sexy”, loose, riff-oriented and danceable.

Of course the exchange is not really about word senses and etymologies.

 

The Blood is the Life for 23-05-2017

May. 23rd, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b

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