Linguistic tools for the supervillain

Oct. 18th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

In celebration of Geoff Pullum's 700th LLOG post, "World domination and threats to the public", we'll be meeting for a quiet (virtual) drink this evening. But meanwhile I'll quietly suggest that Geoff has been too hasty in joining Randall Munroe at xkcd in assigning to the field of Linguistics a "low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population".

In fact LLOG posts have described at least two fictional counter-examples  over the years, and I expect that commenters will be able to suggest some others.

There's "La septième fonction du langage" (8/24/2017), describing Laurent Binet's novel of the same name, which imagines that Roman Jakobson extended his six functions of language with a secret seventh function, designated as the “magic or incantatory function,” whose mechanism is described as “the conversion of a third person, absent or inanimate, to whom a conative message is addressed". Instructions for using this seventh function were powerful enough to ensure the election of François Mitterand, and motivated an international police operation to prevent them from falling into more dangerous hands.

And there's also "Digitoneurolinguistic hacking" (2/4/2011) in which I quoted the Wikipedia entry for Neil Stephenson's 2003 novel Snow Crash:

The book explores the controversial concept of neuro-linguistic programming and presents the Sumerian language as the firmware programming language for the brainstem, which is supposedly functioning as the BIOS for the human brain. According to characters in the book, the goddess Asherah is the personification of a linguistic virus, similar to a computer virus. The god Enki created a counter-program which he called a nam-shub that caused all of humanity to speak different languages as a protection against Asherah, supposedly giving rise to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel. […]

As Stephenson describes it, one goddess/semi-historical figure, Asherah, took it upon herself to create a dangerous biolinguistic virus and infect all peoples with it; this virus was stopped by Enki, who used his skills as a "neurolinguistic hacker" to create an inoculating "nam-shub" that would protect humanity by destroying its ability to use and respond to the Sumerian tongue. This forced the creation of "acquired languages" and gave rise to the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. Unfortunately, Asherah's meta-virus did not disappear entirely, as the "Cult of Asherah" continued to spread it by means of cult prostitutes and infected women breast feeding orphaned infants …

Since these examples belong more to the realm of fantasy than hard science fiction, I have to admit that Geoff is probably right about our field being "a safe thing to work on" — at least if you have a positive opinion of the  various modern commercial and governmental applications of computational linguistics.

 

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Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

Linguistics is in the most desirable quadrant according to today's xkcd: low likelihood of being a crucial tool for a supervillain, and low probability of anything breaking out of the research environment and threatening the general population.

But I'm not at all sure that everything is positioned correctly. Molasses storage should be further to the right (never forget the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919); dentistry should be moved up (remember Marathon Man); robotics in its current state is too highly ranked on both axes; and entomology, right now (October 18, 2017), in addition to being slightly too low, is spelled wrong. Lots to quibble about, I'd say. But not the standing of linguistics as a safe thing to work on.

Randall Munroe did not pick molasses as a random threat, of course; his mouseover alt text reads: "The 1919 Great Boston Molasses Flood remained the deadliest confectionery containment accident until the Canadian Space Agency's 2031 orbital maple syrup delivery disaster."

And I think the misspelling of entomology must be another case of him toying with us; he knows people confuse etymology with the study of insects: see https://xkcd.com/1012/. I think he's just messing with our heads. As usual.

Thanks to Joan Maling and Meredith Warshaw.

Wrinkle in Time

Oct. 18th, 2017 01:34 pm
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[personal profile] jack
OK, so I actually read "Wrinkle in Time" (and book #2 but not any more). I think I'd had the impression that I'd read it at some point and forgotten, but now I think I never read it at all, it's really really different to anything I remember reading.

It's very good at what it does.

It's very shivery when they realise how far the horrible grey mist on the universe has spread.

It sets up a very convincing backdrop of angels and other beings fighting against badness with human help, in ways where this is how the universe works, and what people stumble upon is the same stuff that scientists like the childrens' parents are just starting to discover.

The characters of the children (well, mostly Meg and precious Charles Wallace at this point) are very good.

I stumbled on the narrative convention of mentor figures swooping in and saying "hey children, only you can do this, you need to go through this set of trials, when this happens, do this, you don't need to know about X, good luck". Like, that's a common narrative convention that works very well: you just don't question too hard the mentor figures have some special insight into how quests turn out. It's especially useful in childrens books because you can explain what needs to happen directly to the main character and reader. (Think of all the stories of stumbling onto the first person you meet in a secondary world who says, you need to do X, Y and Z.) But eventually you read too many books where it doesn't work like that that you start to question. Even if you don't ask if they might be lying, you wonder, could they really not spare twenty minutes to summarise the biggest risks and how to avoid them? How do they know what's going to happen? If this is all preordained, they why are they providing even this much help, and if not, and the fate of the world hangs on it, can they really not provide any more help?

This is partly me having been spoiled for some simple narrative conventions by being exposed to too many variants, and possibly (?) me not understanding theology well enough (I'm not sure how much this is something that is supposed to actually happen for real, and how mcuh it's just a book thing?) It doesn't always fail me, this is basically how Gandalf acts all the way through LOTR "OK, now we're going to do this because, um, fate" and I'm happy to accept it all at face value, even when other people quibble, but in some books it bothers me.

The Blood is the Life for 18-10-2017

Oct. 18th, 2017 11:00 am
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[personal profile] miss_s_b

[hist] Oh, hey

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:57 pm
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[personal profile] siderea
It was just brought to my attention that per the date traditionally held to be the one on which Luther nailed the 95 Theses to a church door, this Hallowe'en is the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

"Artist=President Barack Obama"

Oct. 17th, 2017 04:00 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Alex Jones, contact LLOG immediately! Never mind Pizzagate, never mind Sandy Hook, never mind the FEMA concentration camps, never mind the fake moon landings. This morning I stumbled on evidence, lying around in plain sight, for a systematic program of deception so huge — and yet so improbable — that even InfoWars listeners will find it hard to believe: Donald Trump is actually Barack Obama in disguise.

For years, I've been collecting and analyzing the weekly addresses of various American presidents — see e.g. "Political sound and silence", 2/8/2016; "Some speech style dimensions", 6/27/2016; "Trends in presidential pitch", 5/19/2017; "Trends in presidential pitch II", 6/21/2017.

Today I was catching up with Donald Trump's weekly addresses, downloading the .mp3 files from whitehouse.gov. The most recent weekly address is available at

https://www.whitehouse.gov/featured-videos/video/2017/10/13/101317-weekly-address

with the mp3 download link

https://www.whitehouse.gov/videos/2017/October/20171013_Weekly_Address.mp3

After downloading the mp3 file, in order to check its characteristics, I ran soxi. I've done this before, but in the past I just looked at the things I cared about, namely the sampling frequency and number of channels. But this time, I happened to look at the ID3 metadata fields as well:

Input File : '20171013_Weekly_Address.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:03:26.17 = 3298752 samples ~ 15462.9 CDDA sectors
File Size : 3.45M
Bit Rate : 134k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=Weekly Address
Artist=President Barack Obama
Album=The White House
Tracknumber=1
Year=2016
Genre=12

I wondered whether this was a one-time glitch, so I checked the history. The first of President "Trump"'s weekly addresses is available at

https://www.whitehouse.gov/featured-videos/video/2017/02/03/weekly-address

with the mp3 download link

https://www.whitehouse.gov/videos/2017/February/20170203_Weekly_Address.mp3

And the metadata is the same:

Input File : '20170203_Weekly_Address.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:04:20.24 = 4163904 samples ~ 19518.3 CDDA sectors
File Size : 4.27M
Bit Rate : 131k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=Weekly Address
Artist=President Barack Obama
Album=The White House
Tracknumber=1
Year=2016
Genre=12

In fact this is consistent in all of the Weekly Addresses from Donald Trump's White House.

It's not an issue in all mp3 encodings from the White House — thus Melania Trump's 10/17/2017 "Hurricane Relief PSA" is attributed to "Artist=The White House", even if the year is still given as 2016:

Input File : '20171011_FLOTUS_DTC.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:00:31.50 = 504000 samples ~ 2362.5 CDDA sectors
File Size : 696k
Bit Rate : 177k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=FLOTUS DTC – T6
Artist=The White House
Album=The White House
Tracknumber=1
Year=2016
Genre=12

And the same is true for the president's joint news conference with PM Theresa May back in January:

Input File : '20170127_POTUS_and_PM_May_JPA.mp3'
Channels : 2
Sample Rate : 16000
Precision : 16-bit
Duration : 00:18:19.20 = 17587168 samples ~ 82439.9 CDDA sectors
File Size : 17.8M
Bit Rate : 130k
Sample Encoding: MPEG audio (layer I, II or III)
Comments :
Title=POTUS and PM May JPA
Artist=The White House
Album=The White House
Tracknumber=1
Year=2016
Genre=12

It's just the weekly addresses that are attributed to "President Barack Obama"

By the way, you may be as disappointed as I was to learn that the "Genre=12" just means "Other" — I was hoping for maybe "[23] => Pranks" or "[58] => Cult" or "[136] => Christian Gangsta".

Jokes aside, what this means is presumably that the Trump White House inherited a recording and web-distribution set-up from the Obama White House, and neglected to change the ID3 metadata information for various categories of material.

 

Invitational spam from a junk journal

Oct. 17th, 2017 03:04 pm
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Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum

I continue to be astonished by the sheer volume of the junk email I get from spam journals and organizers of spamferences, and by the utter linguistic ineptitude of the unprincipled hucksters responsible for the spam. Every month I get dozens of new-journal announcements, calls for papers, requests for conference attendance, subscription offers, and so on. Today I got a prestige invitation based flatteringly on my published work. It began thus:

After careful evaluation and reading your article published in Journal of Logic, Language and Information entitled "On the Mathematical Foundations of", we decided to send you this invitation.

Clearly the careful evaluation and reading did not enable them to get to the end of my title (it does not end in of). And what was the invitation?

In light of your remarkable achievements in Critical Care, we would like to invite you to join the Editorial Board of Journal of Nursing.

Nursing. I'm an expert in critical care nursing, apparently. If the email were not so clearly machine-generated, I could almost have seen it as a cruel allusion to my year of looking after my wife Tricia before she died last year. But no, it's not that. They claim to have ascertained my distinction in critical care from their careful reading of a paper of which the full title is "On the mathematical foundations of Syntactic Structures." It's a technical examination of the formalism of Noam Chomsky's first book on syntactic theory (Journal of Logic, Language and Information 20: 277-296, 2011).

Almost all of the hundreds and hundreds of new rip-off journals who send me this sort of spam are based in China. This one "is supported and partially financed by the hosting organization, Beijing Spring City Educational Publications Research Center."

The support of this research center has allowed the publishers "to reduce the OA article publishing charges from $800 to $150 (additional $50 applied if print version is required)." So if you want to see your article about nursing in print, you send them $200. And I suspect that when choosing whether to publish your paper they will exercise all the care they showed in reading my syntax paper and confirming my credentials in critical care.

There are many things to worry about in connection with the birth of flocks of spam journals, scores at a time: confusion for students, pollution of the scientific literature, degrading of the concept of a refereed journal, publication of ill-reviewed junk science, and (if even a few libraries occasionally take out misguided subscriptions to these crap journals) waste of library budgets.

Gross syntactic errors in promotional material provide an almost infallible indicator of spamhood in a journal. Not many journals send unsolicited email to advertise themselves, but the few promotional emails I occasionally get from proper journals are always at least literate. Whereas this one says:

Our journal, Journal of Nursing, is a new journal which urgently needs professional like you to join our editorial board and help and support the journal to a healthy grow.

I hope none of you professional will support it to a healthy grow. You don't need to be much of a sleu to know they are not telling the tru; their journal is not wor one twelf of the paper that it costs an extra $50 to be printed on.

Kindle Update Update

Oct. 17th, 2017 04:11 pm
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Books)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I totally can see the light when it's turned to "off", i.e. when the light meter is set to 0, but only really notice it a lot at night. You guys who claim you can't see it are either lying, or my eyes are freakish. Frankly, I think it's probably the latter, given how often one of my boys complains they can't see the dogs when we are walking them after dark and I can see them perfectly fine.

Happily, Andrew's explanation of how the light works was spot on, and it doesn't bother me like a glowy phone or computer or TV screen. To give you some idea of how Lorca-ish my eyes are, though, I have it set to 2 when I'm in bed, and 5 in daylight. It goes up to about 30, by the looks of it (haven't actually counted).

I'm really REALLY happy with the cover I got for it, which is incredibly thin and light, but still feels sturdy. It also has the autowake function, which is handy. I would genuinely rec it to anyone who has a papperwit of the requisite size (that's pretty much all of them less than 5 years old).

I think I am also going to quickly get used to having Goodreads integration, which my old Kindle was too ancient to support.

All in all, I think I made the right decision. Thanks to those of you who helped by voting and commenting and things.
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
... it's because the boundary commission have released their finalised report into the boundary review, and hardly anybody is happy about it. The vast majority of politicians, you see, wanted the boundary review to advantage their party and shaft their rivals. The boundary commission, meanwhile, have been scrupulously fair, and tried quite hard to advantage nobody and shaft nobody.

Now, there is a school of thought that this doesn't matter a jot because it'll never get past parliament, requiring as it does far too many turkeys to vote for Christmas. I, for one, think that would be a shame, if only for my little home patch.

The proposals for Calderdale are basically what I would have done, were I the boundary commission. A lot of my fellow Calderdale politicians will doubtless be pissing and moaning about various bits1, although having read the report, the Tories will probably be the least annoyed of us. Here are the things I am pleased about:
  1. The two constituencies make geographical sense, for the first time in my lifetime.

  2. The town I live in can no longer be almost completely ignored by three of the five active political parties in the area.

  3. We have not created a complete dead zone for the Lib Dems in the constituency I live in, which is what would have happened had the commission accepted the Lib Dem proposals2.

  4. The constituency names, while not the ones I suggested, follow the same logic3
All in all, I'm quite happy. So here's hoping the turkeys do, for once, vote for Christmas.



1I know a bunch of my fellow Lib Dems are annoyed we haven't got a winnable seat out of it, by putting all the wards with Lib Dem councillors into the same constituency. To which I would say: did you see our vote share at the last general election? And also combining wards where we have councillors is not the only way to get a winnable seat. Look at the demographics...
2Calderdale Lib Dem membership is divided pretty much half and half, which it would not have been under the proposals the party submitted. While it will annoy EVERYBODY who wanted to be in the mythical winnable seat, gives us two live constituencies to fight for, instead of one with pretty much every Calderdale activist except my household in it.
3I wanted Calderdale East and Calderdale West and they've gone for Upper Calder and Lower Calder. I can live with that. It's miles better than their initial suggestion of calling my seat Halifax, when it only had half of Halifax and two towns that are not Halifax in.

The Blood is the Life for 17-10-2017

Oct. 17th, 2017 11:00 am
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[personal profile] miss_s_b

Our survey says…

Oct. 16th, 2017 09:32 pm
miss_s_b: (Pratchett: Nanny Ogg)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Obviously for data protection reasons I can't go into much detail about the responses FCC got to the end of conference survey, but I do want to highlight one small area:

The impressive number of you who said Glee was the best fringe event, and the smaller but still impressive number who said we were the best thing about conference full stop, and the hardy few who said the best way to improve conference would be to have more Glee, and the one dear sweet soul who said Glee was their main reason for coming to conference?

I am genuinely touched and I love you all. Thank you. It makes it absolutely worth trying to chair a debate with a hangover and a sore throat first thing in the morning after. You guys rule.

♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡♡

The problem

Oct. 16th, 2017 08:16 pm
liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
Sexual violence against women and girls is endemic. There's an absolute mountain of evidence that this is the case, from the experiences of my friends to any number of posts on social media to rigorous studies. A big part of the reason I decided to identify as a feminist is because women are routinely denied bodily autonomy and feminism seems to be the only political movement that cares about this.

links and personal observations about sexual violence against women )

I absolutely believe everybody else's experiences, people I know and strangers writing brave, brave columns and blog posts. I am just a total outlier, and I really shouldn't be. So I'm signal boosting others' accounts, because I know that I needed to be made aware of the scale of the problem, and perhaps some other people reading this could also use the information.
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Posted by Victor Mair

Bilibili (bīlībīlī 哔哩哔哩; B zhàn B站 ("B site / station") "is a video sharing website themed around anime, manga, and game fandom based in China, where users can submit, view, and add commentary subtitles on videos" (Wikpedia).  When you register for this site, you're supposed to declare whether you're M(ale) or F(emale), in which case your posts will be referred to respectively as "tā de 他的" ("his") and "tā de 她的" ("hers").  If you do not specify your gender, your posts will be referred to as "ta的" or "TA的", i.e., neither M(ale) (tā de 他的) nor F(emale) (tā de 她的).

Here's a screenshot of a friend's bilibili page showing this usage:

Cf. also:

What seems to have happened over the long haul during the last century has been first a gendering of the third person pronoun, then a degendering, then a regendering accompanied by another degendering….  It's enough to make your head spin.  But all of that is in the written language: 他她它 ("he, she, it"), etc.  In the spoken language, they remain constant: tā.

[Thanks to Alex Wang]

Paramilitary

Oct. 16th, 2017 12:51 pm
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Posted by Mark Liberman

Does Spanish paramilitar have a different meaning than English paramilitary, or at least stronger negative connotations? This question has recently become the focus of reaction to a New Yorker article by Jon Lee Anderson, "The increasingly tense standoff over Catalonia's independence referendum", 10/4/2017.

The first paragraph of Anderson's article (emphasis added):

Voting rights have been under siege in the U.S. in recent years, with charges of attempted electoral interference, legislation that seeks to make access to the polls more difficult, and gerrymandering, in a case that reached the Supreme Court this week. But no citizens here or in any democracy expect that they may be attacked by the police if they try to vote. Yet that is what happened on Sunday in the Spanish region of Catalonia, where thousands of members of the Guardia Civil paramilitary force, and riot police, were deployed by the central government in Madrid to prevent the Catalans from holding an “illegal” referendum on independence from Spain.

In El País, Antonio Muñoz Molina accused Anderson of lying ("En Francoland: En Europa o América, les gusta tanto el pintoresquismo de nuestro atraso que se ofenden si les explicamos todo lo que hemos cambiado"):

Pocas cosas pueden dar más felicidad a un corresponsal extranjero en España que la oportunidad de confirmar con casi cualquier pretexto nuestro exotismo y nuestra barbarie. Hasta el reputado Jon Lee Anderson, que vive o ha vivido entre nosotros, miente a conciencia, sin ningún escrúpulo, sabiendo que miente, con perfecta deliberación, sabiendo cuál será el efecto de su mentira, cuando escribe en The New Yorker que la Guardia Civil es un cuerpo “paramilitar”.

("In Francoland: Both Europe and the US love what they see as Spain’s quaint backwardness so much that they feel insulted when we explain to them how much we have changed"):

Few things make a foreign correspondent in Spain happier than the opportunity to corroborate our exoticism and our brutality. Even the renowned Jon Lee Anderson, who lives or has lived among us, is deliberately lying, with no qualms he is aware that he is lying and aware of the effect his lies will have, when he writes in The New Yorker that the Civil Guard is a “paramilitary” force. [translation from the El País web site]

This has resulted in an energetic discussion on Twitter (Twitzkrieg?), in which Anderson's position is that many English-language sources call the Guardia Civil "a paramilitary police force" or something similar, e.g.

and that Antonio Muñoz Molina is using a meaning difference between English and Spanish in a disingenuous way, e.g.

Before looking into it, my understanding of the English word paramilitary aligned with Anderson's, namely that it means "organized along military lines", whether in reference to governmental organizations that are not part of the military, or to civilian militia-like entities. It's easy to find examples in English where paramilitary is applied to non-military governmental organizations, e.g. these examples from Google Books:

Correctional officers (C.O.s) were organized in accordance with a rigid paramilitary chain of command.

There is an obvious need to change the bureaucratic paramilitary structure of police organizations, so prevalent in the majority of police organizations around the world.

But on looking into it, I found that things are more complex. I was surprised to find that the OED's only relevant gloss would specifically NOT apply to a police organization like Spain's Guardia Civil:

Designating, of, or relating to a force or unit whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which is not regarded as having professional or legitimate status.

The OED's earliest citation is from 1935, but seems to originate in the 1934 "Reply of the United Kingdom Government" at a League of Nations "Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments". The OED citation is the first sentence of the following:

A difficult problem has been raised in regard to the so-called " paramilitary training" — i.e., the military training outside the army of men of military age. His Majesty's Government suggested that such training outside the army should be prohibited, this prohibition being checked by a system of permanent and automatic supervision, in which the supervising organisation should be guided less by a strict definition of the term " military training" than by the military knowledge and experience of its experts. They are particularly glad to be informed that the German Government have freely promised to provide proof, through the medium of control, that the S.A. and the S.S. are not of a military character, and have added that similar proof will be furnished in respect of the Labour Corps. It is essential to a settlement that any doubts and suspicions in regard to these matters should be set and kept
at rest.

The earliest use of the term in the New York Times is in a report about the same discussions —

"Simon to the Commons", 4/9/1935: (Following is the text of the account given to the House of Commons today by Foreign Secretary Sir John Simon of conversations recently held by him and Anthony Eden, Lord Privy Seal, with leading officials in Berlin, Moscow, Prague and Warsaw)

Regarding land armaments, Herr Hitler stated that Germany required thirty-six divisions, representing a maximum of 550,000 soldiers of all arms, including a division of Schutzstaffel and militarized police troops. He asserted that there were no paramilitary formations in Germany.

The next example has the same negative connotations and the same association with fascist groups — "France suspects Klan counterpart", NYT 11/17/1937:

The question or whether a French counterpart to the Ku Klux Klan really exists was again raised today through the arrest of a wealthy Lille contractor, Rene Anceaux, M. Vosselm, one of his employes, and Gerard de ia Motte-Saint Pierre on charges which remain unspecified, but are in the case of M. Anceaux plotting against the security of the State and for the others possessing weapons of war and "association with wrongdoers." […]

M. Anceaux served as an officer during the World War and was wounded. He was the president of the Lille branch of the dissolved Rightist "Paramilitary League."

The 1939 New Jersey statutes contain a law using the term in a similar way:

Any 2 or more persons who assemble as a paramilitary organization for the purpose of practicing with weapons are disorderly persons.

where

As used in this act, “paramilitary organization” means an organization which is not an agency of the United States Government or of the State of New Jersey, or which is not a private school […]

So in English as well as in Spanish (and French and presumably other languages), the term paramilitary and its cognates seem to have originated in the 1930s in reference to fascist groups "whose function and organization are analogous or ancillary to those of a professional military force, but which [are] not regarded as having professional or legitimate status", as the OED put it.

At some point, the "not regarded as having professional or legitimate status" clause seems to have faded away — though perhaps without being totally lost, since the term continues to be used to refer to non-governmental as well as governmental but non-military organizations. Thus "Charlottesville Joins Suit Against Paramilitary Groups Connected to August 12", NBC News 10/12/2017:

Charlottesville is joining a suit to prevent what it calls unauthorized paramilitary groups from returning to the city.

Georgetown Law Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection filed a complain Thursday, October 12, asking Charlottesville Circuit Court to, "prohibit key Unite the Right organizers and an array of participating private paramilitary groups and their commanders from coming back to Virginia to conduct illegal paramilitary activity."

And my impression is that when someone uses the word "paramilitary" in connection with police forces, their attitude is often a critical one. Thus "Paramilitary police: Cops or soldiers?", The Economist 3/20/2014, begins with the subhed "America's police have become too militarised", and notes that

Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams (ie, paramilitary police units) were first formed to deal with violent civil unrest and life-threatening situations: shoot-outs, rescuing hostages, serving high-risk warrants and entering barricaded buildings, for instance. Their mission has crept. […]

Kara Dansky of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is overseeing a study into police militarisation, notices a more martial tone in recent years in the materials used to recruit and train new police officers. A recruiting video in Newport Beach, California, for instance, shows officers loading assault rifles, firing weapons, chasing suspects, putting people in headlocks and releasing snarling dogs.

This is no doubt sexier than showing them poring over paperwork or attending a neighbourhood-watch meeting. But does it attract the right sort of recruit, or foster the right attitude among serving officers? Mr Balko cites the T-shirts that some off-duty cops wear as evidence of a culture that celebrates violence (“We get up early to beat the crowds”; “You huff and you puff and we’ll blow your door down”).

Anyhow, there can be little question that Spain's Guardia Civil is a "paramilitary police force" in the current English-language sense of the word.

And it's not clear to me that the current Spanish usage is actually different. Thus the Real Academia's Diccionario de la lengua española defines paramilitar as

1. adj. Dicho de una organización civil: Dotada de estructura o disciplina de tipo militar.

without any stipulation of illegitimacy. And since the same dictionary defines civil in the relevant sense as "Que no es militar ni eclesiástico o religioso", and since the Guardia Civil is self-defined as "civil", it seems that paramilitar ought to apply to that organization without any untruthful intent or effect.

[h/t David Lobina]

 

 

Things I have done today

Oct. 16th, 2017 01:39 pm
ghoti_mhic_uait: (Default)
[personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait
Finished a languishing application for an audio transcription job. Not sure whether I'll get it or not, but at least it's done now. Applied (successfully) for a website testing job. Both of these are self-employed, no guarantees that I'd get actual work from them but worth a try. Boggled at the adverts for 'work from home' jobs many of which are prison officers.
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
You know that weird feeling where your tests sometimes pass and sometimes don't, and you eventually realise they're not deterministic? But it took a while to notice because you kept changing things to debug the failing tests and only slowly realised that every "whether it succeeded or not" change didn't follow changing the code?

In this case, there were some failing tests and I was trying to debug some of them, and the result was the same every time, but only when I ran a failing test by itself and it passed did I realise that the tests weren't actually independent. They weren't actually non-deterministic in that the same combination of tests always had the same result, but I hadn't realised what was going on.

And in fact, I'd not validated the initial state of some tests enough, or I would have noticed that what was going wrong was not what the test *did* but what it started with.

I was doing something like, there was some code that loaded a module which contained data for the game -- initial room layout, rules for how-objects-interact, etc. And I didn't *intend* to change that module. Because I'm used to C or C++ header files, I'd forgotten that could be possible. But when I created a room based on the initial data, I copied it without remembering to make sure I was actually *copying* all the relevant sub-objects. And then when you move stuff around the room, that (apparently) moved stuff around in the original copy in the initialisation data module.

And then some other test fails because everything has moved around.

Once I realised, I tested a workaround using deepcopy, but I need to check the one or two places where I need a real copy and implement one there instead.

Writing a game makes me think about copying objects a lot more than any other sort of programming I've done.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Brain Hurts)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
I just got around to filing all my paperwork from Bournemouth conference, and I realised that I'm not going to be able to fit any more into that lever arch file:



This means that paperwork from the three meetings I have remaining to attend this year will need to go in a new file. This displeases me; I wanted to be all neat and do a file per year.

* grumpy face *

The Blood is the Life for 16-10-2017

Oct. 16th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b

Short Film News

Oct. 16th, 2017 10:36 am
bugshaw: (Default)
[personal profile] bugshaw
The Treehouse film I made last summer is premiering at St Neots Film Festival on Wed 8 Nov!
http://stneotsfilmfestival.co.uk/
I'll be going along with my big Film Premiere coat :-)
It will be made public on vimeo the next day and I can post it here if anyone's interested.

Dish Life (short with children being stem cells in petri dish) has made New York Times' Ten Things To Do In NYC This Week list (For Children section) - the director and scientist are over there now and having a great time.

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