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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Lost in Translation

Next week I'll be at a conference in Lisbon. Today I got an email from the organizers with this statement:
"Please do not miss the banquet, to be followed by a concert of sacred and profane Renaissance vocal music."
This was certainly good for a laugh, as I contemplated satanists in the show. Clearly the word he was looking for was "secular" rather than "profane."

Translating from Portugese (or perhaps Spanish) the author fell victim to what the French call faux amis, literally "false friends." In English they're called "false cognates," words in the foreign language that look and/or sound like a word you know, but have a completely different meaning.

Part of the "fun" of learning and speaking a foreign language is the opportunity to have to be an unintentional source of amusement to native speakers. I remember once attempting to tell Mrs. Abe's French cousins about one of the products of my former employer: absorbable synthetic polymer sutures. I intended to say "little plastic threads." However, through a slight mispronunciation, I actually said, "little plastic girls," which is an entirely different sort of product.

More About Looting

Yesterday we wrote a bit about "looters" in the flood-ravaged Gulf Coast, in an attempt to draw a moral distinction between those attempting to scrounge up basic necessities of life in order to survive and those in it for whatever they can get. We have no sympathy for the latter, but we do for the former. In a disaster situation we would take essential survial goods, although we would consider it an "installment sale" and pay back the rightful owner later.

PTG at Plains Feeder has a provocative post on the topic with some more links and good reader comments, as well.

Today Peggy Noonan in OpinionJournal put our feelings on the topic into far better words than we had:
"As for the tragic piggism that is taking place on the streets of New Orleans, it is not unbelievable but it is unforgivable, and I hope the looters are shot. A hurricane cannot rob a great city of its spirit, but a vicious citizenry can. A bad time with Mother Nature can leave you digging out for a long time, but a bad turn in human behavior frays and tears all the ties that truly bind human being--trust, confidence, mutual regard, belief in the essential goodness of one's fellow citizens.

There seems to be some confusion in terms of terminology on TV. People with no food and water who are walking into supermarkets and taking food and water off the shelves are not criminal, they are sane. They are not looters, they are people who are attempting to survive; they are taking the basics of survival off shelves in stores where there isn't even anyone at the cash register.

Looters are not looking to survive; they're looking to take advantage of the weakness of others. They are predators. They're taking not what they need but what they want. They are breaking into stores in New Orleans and elsewhere and stealing flat screen TVs and jewelry, guns and CD players. They are breaking into homes and taking what those who have fled trustingly left behind. In Biloxi, Miss., looters went from shop to shop. 'People are just casually walking in and filling up garbage bags and walking off like they're Santa Claus,' the owner of a Super 8 Motel told the London Times. On CNN, producer Kim Siegel reported in the middle of the afternoon from Canal Street in New Orleans that looters were taking 'everything they can.'"
The definition of "looters" in the second and third paragraphs is a key piece of context for Noonan's first sentence above. There is a lot more to this excellent article, and you are encouraged to read the rest.

Katrina and Global Warming

We hope those who doubt the impact of global warming in feeding Hurricane Katrina will be convinced by these data. Looking at hurricane frequency by decade for the last 150 years, we see that since the 1960s the numbers of hurricanes have been, errr... below average.

This is perfectly consistent with the predictions of highly sophisticated global warming models, namely that the weather will be hotter, colder, or about the same in most areas.


Data from the National Weather Service web site U.S. Hurricane Strikes by Decade.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Want to Donate?

If you are looking to make a donation to help those suffering due to Hurrican Katrina, we recommend AmeriCares. They're a first rate organization with incredibly low overhead, so your contribution has maximum impact for those who need the help.

Update: I just discovered there is a blog-related effort to raise money for relief, so I'm making this my official post for it.

If you make a contribution to AmeriCares, please record it at the TTLB contribution logging page.

More info at:
Instapundit roundup post
The TTLB Katrina Relief page

Technorati: flood aid, hurricane katrina


Lincoln blogger, Steve (aka swoof), at Half-Cocked links to these pictures at Daily Kos of "looters" in action. Except the young, white couple's "foraging" is described as "finding bread and soda at a grocery store," while the young, black man was "looting a grocery store." These two photos and captions are from different news organizations, so there are other differences besides race.

In a situation like this, where survival is at stake, we wouldn't call scavenging for food and water "looting," although "finding" is a bit of a verbal stretch. As for the "looting" of the drugstore and convenience store in the other pictures, we'll reserve judgment, since we don't know what the people were taking. However, a disaster is no excuse to help yourself to other people's property at will.

Ryne expresses similar sentiments about the TV news coverage of "looting." We see endless loops of the same scenes, like Groundhog Day in the Gulf.

Meanwhile, Seawitch, whose home is Biloxi, MS, made her way inland before the storm hit, but the last update on her blog was Sunday night. We hope that "20 miles north of Gulfport" was far enough.

When Moonbats Attack

One might hope that the disaster on the Gulf Coast might encourage people to put aside petty bickering for a short time. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case. Having failed to lay the blame on GWB for the hurricane, the Moonbat Left is still convinced all the bad things that Nature has caused are really the fault of "the establishment."

James Taranto at OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today: shines a light into the darkness that is Daily Kos and the DemocraticUnderground:
"Over at DemocraticUnderground, they're holding a debate over whether it is acceptable for a looter to shoot a policeman in the head. You'll be relieved to learn that even the DU denizens mostly think it isn't, but there are some notable exceptions.

'I think before we start judging the shooter, we need to consider that he/she could very well be in shock,' writes 'huskerlaw.' 'None of us know what the circumstances were.' And 'MrsGrumpy' doesn't believe looting is going on: 'I just find it funny all of a sudden how we all believe the mainstream media and these 'looting' stories when people are missing or lost. And, I've been feeling. Go ahead and slam me. We are all in this together, with the exception of the ass in the oval office.'"
Yikes! "Huskerlaw" hits awfully close to home. Hope that's not anyone we know. And, no, despite the scenes you've seen on TV, there is no looting. It's a pageant. In fact the city of New Orleans is virtually untouched, and the whole fake disaster thing has just been cooked up by Karl Rove to push Cindy Sheehan out of the headlines.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What Energy Crisis?

Positives of Hurricane Katrina

Look on the bright side. There's hardly a word on the TV news tonight about Cindy Sheehan or Natalie Holloway. It's not much, but at least it's something.

Update: Oops. Looks like I spoke too soon. When Greta was on the hurricane story, I assumed the Holloway story would take a break. However, CNN Headline News is running a story now on the re-arrest of the three supects. They're playing "Reunited" as the background music, which is good for a snarky chuckle.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Unnoticed Triumph in GWoT

SobekPundit notes a positive development in the GWoT in Mauritania.
Another Unnoticed Triumph: "I wrote a couple of posts on the recent peaceful coup in Mauritania, which even the Bush administration now apparently tentatively supports. I was stunned how little reaction to the story I saw in the blogosphere. When we think War on Terror, we generally think of Iraq, Afghanistan, and their immediate neighbors (e.g. Syria and Iran). But as Richard Miniter convincingly argued in his book Shadow War, North Africa has a tremendously important role to play in how that war turns out, at the very least because the sub-Saharan region is a great place for Islamic militants to hide out."
We also read Shadow War (after waiting for several months for the library copies to arrive). It's chock full of interesting little nuggets of information about the unseen parts of the War on Terror. Well worth a visit to the library.

Objectionable Flag

If you are a keen observer of the environment you may have noticed the recent addtion to the strip across the top of this blog (and others). It now shows the word "Flag?" and a little picture of a flag. This new feature allows readers (or passersby) to mark a particular blog (or post) as "objectionable" to them.

Google reassures us that there is nothing to worry about:
Blogger Help : What is the "Flag" button?: "What is the 'Flag' button?
The Flag button is not censorship and it cannot be manipulated by angry mobs. Political dissent? Incendiary opinions? Just plain crazy? Bring it on."
However, in the same article they also say:
"Special Case for Hate Speech

When the community has voted and hate speech is identified on Blog*Spot, Google may exercise its right to place a Content Warning page in front of the blog and set it to 'unlisted.'"
We'd be interested in seeing a clear, objective definition of "hate speech," if one exists. Absent that, it seems there is some potential for manipulation by "angry mobs." Mainly, this just seems unnecessary, a waste of bandwidth, and something to make the pages load a little slower.

Our main beef with this new "feature" though is that it has introduced invalid html code that is beyond the control of the user into every page of every blog on the system. We have gone to quite a bit of trouble to validate DLMSY to the "XHTML 1.0 Transitional" standard and to keep it validated. Admittedly, the actual impact on the viewing experience of readers is probably nil.

We reported the bug to Customer Service, but since it is "minor" there is no guarantee they will fix it anytime soon. The problem (which you can see by clicking on the W3C icon at the bottom of this page) is an improper "br" tag. All that is necessary to fix the error is to add a space and "/" between the "br" and the ">" of the tag.

Technically, the W3C icon is only supposed to be displayed on validated pages, but we're leaving it for now, hoping Google will fix this.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Edgar Escultura Rides Again

We've probably already spent too much time and effort on the story of Prof. Escultura, but somehow we just can't stop ourselves. Longtime readers will remember Escultura's claim to have refuted the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem advanced by Andrew Wiles of Princeton. Our most recent post on the Escultura Affair ended with him claiming a nomination for the Nobel Prize based entirely on an anonymous entry in his "guess book."

Roy Choco at Random Thoughts has an update. Briefly, Escultura has now decided that the previous messages that convinced him the Nobel nomination was a hoax are a hoax.

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