Today's ambiguity

Oct. 19th, 2017 10:47 pm
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
"Resent" is both how one might feel about being told an email never arrived and also what one might do in response.


Oct. 19th, 2017 10:47 pm
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[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
The month was only half over last weekend. How can it be almost three quarters over only a week later?
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Posted by Joe Mullin

Enlarge / Amazon's campus in South Lake Union, Seattle. (credit: Joel Rogers / Getty Images)

Cities around the country are pulling out all the stops to entice Amazon to set up its second headquarters in their area.

The online retail giant is taking proposals from around North America, and today's the deadline. Some of the proposals include massive tax breaks, while other cities are trying out humorous gimmicks to get the company's attention.

New Jersey has offered the biggest tax incentives, consisting of up to $7 billion in state and local tax rebates if Amazon locates in Newark and hires the 50,000 workers it has said it would. The company has also promised $5 billion in spending on construction of the headquarters. The New Jersey offer, announced Monday, is $2 billion more than what Republican Governor Chris Christie and the Democratic-led New Jersey legislature agreed to last month.

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Here's the final version...

Oct. 19th, 2017 09:48 pm
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[personal profile] seawasp

... of my Arenaverse Trailer!

Major difference between this one and earlier versions is that I've replaced all the text scrolls with narration. It's much smoother to watch it now. 
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Posted by Victor Mair

In the comments to "Easy versus exact" (10/14/17), a discussion of the term "Hànzi 汉子" emerged as a subtheme.  Since it quickly grew too large and complex to fit comfortably within the framework of the o.p., I decided to write this new post focusing on "Hàn 汉 / 漢" and some of the many collocations into which it enters.

To situate Language Log readers with some basic terms they likely already know, we may begin with Hànyǔ 汉语 ("Sinitic", lit., "Han language"), Hànyǔ Pīnyīn 汉语拼音 ("Sinitic spelling"), and Hànzì 汉字 ("Sinograph, Sinogram", i.e., "Chinese character").  All of these terms incorporate, as their initial element, the morpheme "Hàn 汉 / 漢".  Where does it come from, and what does it mean?

"Hàn 汉 / 漢" is the name of a river that has its source in the mountains of the southwest part of the province of Shaanxi.  It is the longest tributary of the Yangtze River, which it joins at the great city of Wuhan.  The fact that Han is a river name is reflected in the water semantophore on the left side of the character that is used to write it.

The name of the river was adopted by Liu Bang (256-195 BC), the founding emperor, as the designation for his dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) — more specifically, the dynasty was named after Liu Bang's fiefdom Hànzhōng 汉中 / 漢中 (lit. "middle of the Han River").  After the Qin (221-206 BC), from which the name "China" most likely derives, the Han was the second imperial dynasty in Chinese history.  Because the fame of the Han Dynasty resounded far and near, it came to be applied to the main ethnic group of China, as well as the language they spoke and the characters used to write it.  Note that there could have been no Han ethnicity or nation before the Han Dynasty.

After the Han Dynasty fell, many of the dynasties that ruled in the northern part of the former empire during the following centuries were non-Sinitic peoples (proto-Mongols, proto-Turks, etc.) who actually looked down upon their Han subjects.  During that period, in their mouths, "Hàn 汉 / 漢" became a derogatory term, especially in collocations such as Hàn'er 汉儿 and Hànzi 汉子, which we might think of as meaning something like "Han boy / fellow / guy".  Such terms derived from "Hànrén 汉人 (漢人)" ("Han people"), which generally became a respectable designation again after the collapse of the northern dynasties.  It is remarkable, however, that during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), when the Mongols ruled over China, non-Sinitic peoples such as the Khitans, Koreans, and Jurchens were referred to as "Hànrén 汉人 (漢人)" ("Han people").

Here are some terms in Mandarin that are based on the Han ethnonym but refer to different types of people in various ways:

hànzi 汉子    39,300,000 ghits

1. man; fellow

2. husband

3. Historically, as mentioned above, during the Northern Dynasties (386-577), hànzi 汉子 was a derogatory reference for Sinitic persons used by non-Sinitic peoples (who were rulers in the north at that time).

nánzǐhàn 男子汉 ("a real man")    11,600,000 ghits

nǚ hànzi 女汉子 ("tough girl")    7,180,000 ghits

dà nánzǐhàn 大男子汉 ("a big guy; macho man")    53,100 ghits

Comments by native speaker informants:

In terms of nǚ hànzi 女汉子, I think your translation "tough girl" sounds good! But sometimes it conveys a slight derogation to women with traits which are conventionally attributed to men, such as strong physical strength, independent mode of life, and tough personality, etc. In this sense, I would like to say "nǚ hànzi 女汉子" might also be "a masculine woman / female".

I know all these terms and I agree with all your translations. However, I also think that nǚ hànzi 女汉子could mean "tomboy" (girls who can do things that men can do). I once saw a translation of nǚ hànzi 女汉子as wo-man. I think that’s interesting too.

I think the term nǚ hànzi 女汉子 emerged only in the last few years in the Chinese-speaking world. So it is a bit difficult for someone like me who has been living outside for the last forty years to accurately tell its exact meaning. If it applies to young women only, then "tomboy" may not be too far off.

See also:

"What does the Chinese word '女漢子' mean?" (Quara)

"Renewal of the race / nation" (6/24/17)

Joshua A. Fogel, "New Thoughts on an Old Controversy: Shina as a Toponym for China", Sino-Platonic Papers, 229 (August, 2012), 1-25 (free pdf)

Victor H. Mair, "The Classification of Sinitic Languages: What Is 'Chinese'?, in Breaking Down the Barriers:  interdisciplinary studies in Chinese linguistics and beyond (Festschrift for Alain Peyraube), pp. 735-754 (free pdf), esp. pp. 739-741.

[Thanks to Yixue Yang, Jinyi Cai, Sanping Chen, and Jing Wen]

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Posted by Dan Goodin

Enlarge / Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos. (credit: Dave Maass)

Facebook is Struggling to live up to the responsibility it faces for adequately securing the vast amount of personal information it amasses, the social network's top security executive said in a leaked phone call with company employees.

"The threats that we are facing have increased significantly and the quality of the adversaries that we are facing," Facebook Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos said during a taped call, which was reported Thursday by ZDNet. "Both technically and from a cultural perspective, I don't feel like we have caught up with our responsibility."

He continued:

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Posted by Annalee Newitz

Enlarge / A New Caledonian crow uses a serrated leaf edge to pull grubs out of a hole in a log. (credit: Mark Sibley)

Crows share an interesting set of behaviors with humans: they like to play, and they often use tools. We know that humans play to learn. When toddlers knock over a pile of blocks, they're developing the ability to build and measure objects in the real world. The question is, do crows play for the same reason? An international team of cognitive scientists played with some crows to find out. What they discovered gives us a new understanding of crow consciousness, but it still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

Lund University cognitive science researcher Megan Lambert and her colleagues designed three experiments to figure out whether there's a relationship between crow play and their ability to use tools to solve puzzles. It's well-documented that wild New Caledonian crows make a variety of tools, from hooked sticks to specially-prepared leaf edges, to pull insects out of hard-to-reach spots in trees. But crows have also been observed doing all kinds of weird things with tools, often for what seems like the pursuit of fun.

A crow sleds down a roof using a plastic lid.

In the YouTube video above, you can see a crow in Russia using a plastic lid to sled down a snowy roof. Researchers call these shenanigans "unrewarded object exploration." The crow doesn't get a "reward" because nothing about this activity aids its survival. Its only reward is the fun of sliding down a roof. But maybe, Lambert and her colleagues speculated, this type of seemingly goofy activity might actually lead to better tool use later on. The bird is learning about slipperiness, after all, and we even see it figuring out that it can't slide on the roof unless there's enough snow underneath the lid.

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Plugin Problems

Oct. 19th, 2017 07:06 pm
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[personal profile] jimhines
My Journalpress plugin is no longer posting things to Dreamwidth. I've seen reports that this is due to a change Dreamwidth made in their site security or configuration, but I'm not sure.

I'll be looking for solutions, but in the meantime, you can always find everything on the website at
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Posted by Cyrus Farivar

Enlarge / An officer demonstrates Axon Citizen, a new Web portal to submit data to police. (credit: Axon)

Axon, the company formerly known as Taser, either wants to encourage helpful citizens or snitches—depending on how you feel about talking to police—to come forward.

On Thursday, the company announced "Axon Citizen," a new "public safety portal" that lets civilians submit text, video, and audio files directly to participating law enforcement agencies that use its cloud storage service,

The company, which already is the largest provider of body-worn cameras and associated storage to American law enforcement agencies, said in a press release that submitted data "goes straight into, so community members do not need to hand their phones over to police. The direct upload to eliminates any need for officers to download, print, and transfer data to a USB drive and physically place it inside an evidence locker at the agency."

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Posted by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Enlarge / A Lyft-branded car picks up a passenger in San Francisco on June 20, 2015. (credit: Ramin Talaie | Getty Images)

In September, we found out that Alphabet was possibly about to invest in the ride-hailing company Lyft. On Wednesday, Recode reported that the speculation was correct, and Google's parent company is leading a $1 billion round of investment that raises Lyft's valuation to $11 billion. Another Alphabet company, Waymo, is developing self-driving cars and partnered with Lyft earlier this year, presumably for the infrastructure that will allow it to find customers for the service that looks set to launch in Phoenix, Arizona.

As we explained recently, Lyft has been putting together a host of partnerships of late, an Android-like strategy that is positioning the company well for the coming years. Lyft has become a recognized and trusted brand, which is critically important when trying to get customers to choose you over a rival like Uber. Lyft has also inked deals with Jaguar Land Rover and Ford, and General Motors invested $500 million in the company last year.

GM and Lyft were believed to be planning on filling the streets of San Francisco with driverless Bolt electric vehicles in 2018. But according to The Information, that may not be the case. The outlet reported that Cruise—which GM bought for $1 billion in 2016 to develop autonomous vehicles—may work with beleaguered Uber instead as its ride-hailing partner. However, according to Forbes, the automaker says that "nothing has changed in the relationship between GM and Lyft."

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Ottawa Transit Maps, 1929-2015

Oct. 19th, 2017 08:58 pm
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Posted by Jonathan Crowe

Carelton University’s library has an online collection of Ottawa transit maps from OC Transpo and its predecessor agencies, dating as far back as 1929 (above). The originals scanned as PDFs, with SHP and KML files if the vectorized transit routes are what you’re really after. [Transit Maps]

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Posted by John Lorinc

In the days and weeks following the Grenfell high rise fire disaster in London, U.K. last June, thousands of Toronto apartment dwellers placed anxious calls to landlords and City officials, demanding to know if their buildings were safe.

While the combustible cladding suspected to be the cause of that tragedy isn’t approved in Ontario for use as an exterior material, other revelations have emerged in the subsequent months. Key among them: the growing awareness that tenants face daunting hurdles in obtaining fire inspection reports on their buildings.

As the Toronto Star reported, Toronto Fire Service (TFS) officials this week announced that they’d begin using the City’s open data portal to routinely post inspection reports, as well as remediation orders once the work has been complete. “I find it abhorrent that tenants would have to go through a freedom of information process to find out if their building is safe,” says midtown councillor Josh Matlow, who chairs council’s tenant issues committee. “It’s an absurd situation.”

Stung by several recent fire tragedies in its buildings, Toronto Community Housing (TCHC), the city’s largest landlord, has also taken some steps to address its approach to fire safety. As I reported in the summer in Spacing’s series on fire safety, TCHC and TFS statistics show that tenants in Toronto’s public housing company are four-and-a-half times as likely to die in a fire compared to residents of the city generally.

Earlier in the year, TCHC retained retired Ontario fire marshal Ted Wieclawek to advise on updating its fire safety protocols. This week, the agency released an implementation plan [PDF] for an “enhanced” fire safety program, based on Wieclawek’s recommendations.

The 17-point action plan, which will be deployed over the next year, is meant to lead towards the January, 2019, release of the “inaugural annual fire safety program report to [TCHC] Board of Directors according to performance measures and benchmarks, and results of audit program.”

The plan lays out a range of fixes, including improved communications to tenants of the evolving fire safety plan, training for on-site TCHC personnel, an internal audit program, a portfolio-wide “review of building stock and risk assessment” and, following that, bi-annual “risk-based” inspections.

All this is on top of the existing mandatory practice of inspecting each of TCHC’s 58,000 units annually. In the cases where a tenant has hoarding issues, which represent a pressing fire hazard, TCHC and TFS apply a severity score on a 1-10 scale, and will clear the apartment if the rating is 9 or higher. TCHC has also stepped up its building visit-information sessions, with 72 so far this year, up from 60 in 2016, according to spokesperson Anne Rappé.

In an interview this week, chief operating officer Wayne Tuck told Spacing that TCHC will allocate $19.5 million for fire safety measures in its capital budget for the next two years, and $1.6 million from its operating budget, much of which go towards improved fire safety training for staff. He said his goal is to reduce the incidence of fire deaths in TCHC buildings to zero as quickly as possible.

Measuring safety progress and access to information still murky

While the fire risk program, which will be presented to the TCHC board at its meeting on October 26, is certainly detailed, some questions remain, especially with respect to the current baseline safety conditions in TCHC’s portfolio, and whether the sums allocated to remedy these risks is sufficient. Absent disclosure about the current condition of TCHC buildings, it’s hard to see how the board, tenants or members of council will be able to assess if progress has been made when the agency’s staff release that inaugural fire safety report in January, 2019.

Spacing submitted an access to information request to TCHC in the summer, asking for the presentation Wieclawek made to the board on July 27 and any data or background reports he used to generate his findings. In a decision notice issued October 4, TCHC rejected our application, citing the provision in the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that provides for confidentiality regarding “advice or recommendations to an office or employee.” Some of the information in the report are also subject to ongoing litigation, TCHC officials added, declining to offer further detail.

The agency also refused Spacing‘s request to do an interview with Wieclawek, noting that as a consultant, he can’t speak for the organization.

On the subject of how much access individual tenants should have to the fire inspection reports of their buildings, Matlow stresses that both TCHC and private landlords need to be proactive about making this information available to residents, especially vulnerable tenants, such as seniors or those with disabilities. As he says, “We can’t just assume people will find the information” on City websites, including the new Rent Safe portal which will become home to landlord licensing information.

Asked if TCHC plans to make its high rise fire safety inspection reports available by year end, Rappe replied: “Toronto Community Housing is working with TFS on a program to promote tenant awareness and education about fire safety. Much of this information will be made available [on] our website; however, our discussions with TFS have not worked to that level of detail at this point.”

photo by Danielle Scott (cc)

The post LORINC: Does the new TCHC fire safety plan go far enough? appeared first on Spacing Toronto.

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Posted by John Timmer

Enlarge / Droplets of a gallium/indium alloy. (credit: Collin Ladd, NC State University)

The discovery of graphene—a one-atom-thick sheet of covalently bonded carbon atoms—inspired the research community to generate a variety of 2D materials. Graphene, MoS2, the silicon equivalent of graphene, and more all have distinct properties based on the chemical bonding among their component atoms. And it's possible to leverage these properties to create commonplace devices on an unprecedentedly small scale, like a three-atom-thick LED.

Obviously, the more materials we have to work with, the better we can fine-tune one of these devices to our needs. But producing 2D materials is a challenge, as there are a limited number of substances that lend themselves to the chemically bonded layers we know how to work with. Now, an Australian-US team (writing in Science) has devised a way to make a broad class of atomically thin metal oxides, including 2D versions of materials already in use by the electronics industry. Their secret? A room temperature liquid metal.


This is one of those cases where a series of simple observations led to a major development. In many cases, pure metals will react with oxygen in the air to form a thin oxide layer on their surface. This, it turns out, is true for one of the metals that is liquid near room temperature: gallium, which melts at 30 degrees Celsius. Leave some liquid gallium exposed to the air, and it'll form a thin film of gallium oxide on its surface.

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Importing Older Map Entries

Oct. 19th, 2017 08:33 pm
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Posted by Jonathan Crowe

During The Map Room’s hiatus (June 2011 to January 2016), any map blogging I did went on my personal blog. I wrote a total of 201 map-related blog posts during that period. At the moment I’m starting to remove older material on my personal website, so those posts have now gone dark over there. I’d like to keep them around, so I’ve started the process of importing those map posts over here. I did 2011 earlier today, and I learned that each post is going to need a lot of cleaning up, so it’ll be a slow process.

The Fantasy Maps section that once resided on my personal site is now more or less over here, too—though it’s as bare-bones and incomplete here as it was over there.

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Posted by Samuel Axon

The 2014 Mac Mini. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

More than 1,000 days have passed since Apple updated its Mac mini hardware. Since then, Apple has launched the Apple Watch, AirPods, the retina MacBook, and the Touch Bar MacBook Pro. Meanwhile, the Mac mini has existed in a state of arrested development. You'd be forgiven for considering the possibility that the product has been living its last days. But in an e-mail to an Apple customer today, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the Mac mini isn't going anywhere.

The customer, who goes by the name Krar, e-mailed Cook to note that the Mac mini hasn't seen an update in three years. Krar wanted to know, "Are we are going to see anything in the pipeline any time soon?" Cook's response, which was shared on MacRumors, said:

I'm glad you love the Mac mini. We love it too. Our customers have found so many creative and interesting uses for the Mac mini. While it is not time to share any details, we do plan for Mac mini to be an important part of our product line going forward.

He's not saying much, but even confirmation that this product has a future is in some ways surprising. The entry-level Mac mini still runs on Haswell processors and Intel HD 5000 integrated graphics. It comes with only 4GB of RAM. It starts at $499, but other compact desktops offer much more current specs at that price point. The mini is clearly long overdue for an update, but because it's unclear which direction Apple might take the device with future iterations, it seemed like a safe bet that its time on the market was drawing to a close.

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Posted by Megan Geuss

Enlarge / SANTA ROSA, CA -OCTOBER 14: The ruins of houses destroyed by the Tubbs Fire are seen near Fountaingrove Parkway on October 14, 2017 in Santa Rosa, California. At least 40 people are confirmed dead with hundreds still missing. Officials expect the death toll to rise and now estimate that 5,700 structures have been destroyed. (credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

A couple who lost its Santa Rosa home in the devastating October Tubbs Fire has sued the local utility for negligence, saying that untrimmed tree branches caught fire when they came into contact with power lines and other equipment.

The California Department of Forestry hasn’t officially ruled on what caused the October fires that consumed hundreds of thousands of acres in northern California and killed dozens of people, but officials have asked Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to preserve records for subsequent investigations into the causes of the fires.

Last week, the Bay Area paper Mercury News reported that the night the fires started, “emergency dispatchers in Sonoma County received multiple calls of power lines falling down and electrical transformers exploding.” The night had been a particularly windy one, and PG&E spokesperson Matt Nauman told the paper that “The historic wind event that swept across PG&E service area late Sunday and early Monday packed hurricane-strength winds in excess of 75mph in some cases.”

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