The brains of the trainee interpreters had changed […] but not in the way you might expect

November 26th, 2014

In other words: inside the lives and minds of real-time translators

Looking down over the delegates at the IMO, I was reminded of the view from a captain's bridge, or the gallery of a television studio. I had a feeling of control, a perverse reaction given that control is one thing interpreters lack. The words they utter and the speed at which they talk are determined by others. And even though [on-duty translators] Pinkney and Soliño had copies of some of the speeches that had been prepared for that morning, they had to be alive to humorous asides. Puns, sarcasm, irony and culture-specific jokes are an interpreter's nightmare. As one interpreter has noted in an academic article, "Puns based on a single word with multiple meanings in the source language should generally not be attempted by interpreters, as the result will probably not be funny." Quite.

Go for the amusing anecdotes about mistranslations, stay for a fascinating look at how the hell the human brain copes with listening to one language and speaking another in real time.

[Via MetaFilter]

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The important thing is that I'm thinking like a founder.

November 26th, 2014

Paul Ford's One Day, I Will Die on Mars:

UPDATE.

I am living a nightmare before lunchtime. First, the sofa delivery people gave me a window of 7 AM to 7 PM, so I'm a prisoner in my own apartment. Second, worse, I am out of cat food, and in consequence my beloved companion Squee has, under the duress of feline starvation, started a brutal ankle-biting campaign. I do not blame him. For Squee, bless his tortoiseshell heart, is a Cat Most Special with Issues of Digestion, and, to maintain his sleek coat and sterling disposition, must only ever eat cat food of great expense, and I am out of it. Simple, you say! Just buy some food! But I cannot leave this abode for fear of missing the sofa. Also: The very smallest bag of said food is a full eighteen ounces too heavy for micro-delivery, which means hand-delivery on a major surge day. And so I have to spend All The Money to get cat food hand-Ubered or risk not obtaining my sofa. My ankles are suffering, friends. I look forward to the healing balm of your supportive replies.

I am Uber. I searched along the many predefined vertices within my system and I found the exact cat food at many warehouses within the New York City area. I knew my node of destination and many potential nodes of departure; I needed now to find an optimal revenue path. […]

[Via kottke.org]

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The Drop

November 25th, 2014

Just having seen The Drop, three thoughts spring to mind:

  1. James Gandolfini was taken from us far too soon. Any chance of a posthumous Best Supporting Actor nomination?
  2. Tom Hardy has come a long way since he played Praetor Shinzon.
  3. This isn't a film with a twist ending, but I do urge you not to read any reviews beforehand because you will get more out of the film if you go in a state of blissful ignorance.

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Bubbles Freezing

November 23rd, 2014

Soap bubbles freezing at -40c:

[Via The Kid Should See This]

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Sleepy Pirdies and Tapir Sharks

November 22nd, 2014

Evolution Meets Photoshop:

Seoul-based artist Sarah DeRemer has utilised her Photoshop skills to create some bizarre new species of animals, some of which are undeniably cute, others are absolutely terrifying.

A Steagle

The Sleepy Pirdy is outrageously cute. The Tapir Shark looks like something invented by Douglas Adams. I hope never to meet a Rankey in the flesh.

[Via swissmiss]

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Why Audio Never Goes Viral

November 16th, 2014

Why Audio Never Goes Viral:

With a community of creators uncomfortable with the value of virality, an audience content to watch grainy dashcam videos, and platforms that discourage sharing, is a hit-machine for audio possible? And is it something anyone even wants?

A decent overview of why not all content is suited to going viral.

If 'going viral' requires content to be in brief chunks that can be digested by the listener with minimal context I'm not sure that I want the audio content I listen to1 to make the effort. Plenty of the best audio content thrives on length and context, so why try to make it fit a template that won't work to the medium's strengths?

[Via philgyford]

  1. Like most people, I'd imagine: a mix of content originally made for radio, plus some podcasts.

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In the Beginning

November 15th, 2014

In the Beginning:

A short film about a little girl's hand in Earth's creation.

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Twinsters

November 14th, 2014

I defy you to read Twinsters without getting at least slightly misty-eyed.

Pretty much the definition of a feel-good story -just as long as it doesn't take an Orphan Black twist somewhere down the line.

(Also, that's a very neat interface they've got there for highlighting which person is 'talking' as you scroll down through the story.)

[Via MetaFilter]

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Sequels

November 14th, 2014

Sequel is a rather nice collection of posters for imaginary film sequels. My favourite – both the film I'd want to watch most1 and the sequel with the nicest poster – is absolutely, positively My Neighbor Totoro 2:

My Neighbor Totoro 2

[Via kottke.org]

  1. Though I'd totally be up for Bigger Trouble in Little China.

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A Bridge To Nowhere

November 13th, 2014

A Bridge To Nowhere:

A bridge builder was completing his inspection of Zjing's Bridge when he spied master Kaimu standing nearby.

The builder said to Kaimu: "I have heard your monks speak of themselves as 'software engineers.' As a true engineer I find such talk absurd…"

"In my profession we analyze all aspects of our task before the first plank is cut. When our blueprints are done I can tell you exactly how much lumber we will need, how many nails and how much rope, how much weight the bridge will bear, and the very day it will be completed…"

"Your monks do no such things. They churn out code before your customer has finished describing what is desired. They improvise, reconsider, redesign, and rewrite a half-dozen times before delivery, and what they produce invariably crashes or proves vulnerable to attack. If I were to work in such a fashion, no one would dare set foot upon this bridge!"

[…]

Read on…

[Via The Tao of Mac / links]

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Panoraaaaaaammmmmmmaaaaaaaaa photography

November 12th, 2014

When Panorama Photography Goes Wrong:

Half a pony

The truncated pony is weird and all, but my favourite is the man I call the Human Silverback

[Via swissmiss]

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These days, everyone is talking about the Scottish Independence Referendum, especially when they’re not talking about ISIS.

September 16th, 2014

Karl reMarks: We Give the Scottish Independence Referendum the Middle East Expert Treatment.

The English and the Scottish had a long-running rivalry throughout history, which partially explains the current animosity. The two nations often went to war against each other, but the rivalry came to an end with the Acts of Union 1707. (So called because it was signed at seven minutes past five in the afternoon.) Despite being part of the United Kingdom for hundreds of years, many Scots never felt comfortable and always wanted to seek independence so that they can enjoy their simple way of life in the mountains, drinking whisky and eating the local delicacy known as ‘fried Mars bars’.

The English however are intent on depriving the Scots from achieving this goal, not least because it would mean re-designing the flag and changing all the letterheads. (The English are pragmatic down-to-earth people, but they are notorious for their aversion to change, particularly when stationery is involved.) The English would also like to keep their hands on Scottish oil and gas reserves, because clearly as Middle East experts we feel obliged to stress the importance of oil regardless of context.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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An extraordinarily large ring of fire

September 1st, 2014

The situation could technically be labeled a Mercurian annular eclipse with an extraordinarily large ring of fire.

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Good listening

September 1st, 2014

Good advice to listeners on how to get the most from their radio, from 1940's BBC Year Book:

Listen as carefully at home as you do in a theatre or concert hall. You can’t get the best out of a programme if your mind is wandering, or if you playing bridge or reading. Give it your full attention.

[Via Pocket Lint]

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Huggable Urn Keepsakes

August 23rd, 2014

I had no idea there was such a thing as a Huggable Urn Keepsake:

We offer an assortment of soft, huggable urn keepsakes. Each animal features a discreet compartment to hold a small amount of ashes and comes with a velvet pouch.

Huggable Urns Family Pack

[Indirectly via this MetaFilter comment]

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noPhone

August 23rd, 2014

Anyone for a noPhone?

A technology-free alternative to constant hand-to-phone contact.

With a thin, light and completely wireless design, the noPhone acts as a surrogate to any smart mobile device, enabling you to always have a rectangle of smooth, cold plastic to clutch without forgoing any potential engagement with your direct environment. Never again experience the unsettling feeling of flesh on flesh when closing your hand.

The noPhone simulates the exact weight and dimensions of your most beloved gadget in order to alleviate any feelings of inadequacy generated by the absence of a real smartphone.

[Via Subtraction.com]

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Time to seek out a car wash. And some water would be good.

August 21st, 2014

No doubt about it, the Curiosity Rover has totally lost that showroom shine.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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'It's well documented that weddings make you crazy, though I have come to believe they just expose you as such.'

August 21st, 2014

Katie Baker unveils1 a tale of an Oregon ghost town and the army of brides that keeps it alive:

Six days a week, Geri Canzler packs her lunch and commutes on winding roads through thick Oregon forest. When it's nice out, she can walk the route, but on this late March day Canzler is tired and the rain hasn't stopped. So she drives her white SUV to her workplace, the second-smallest free-standing post office in the United States. She estimates the wooden shack to be no bigger than 10 feet by 10 feet, though there is also that 3-by-4 storage shed off the back if you're going to get technical about it.

Canzler is the postmaster of a once-thriving lumber town that has been shaved down to just a few splinters. […]

[The little post office…] has been kept barely alive – in an era of Postal Service downsizing – thanks almost entirely to an annual army of finicky brides who covet its picture-perfect postmark for their wedding invitations. Bridal Veil, Oregon, 97010 is the name of the town, and Canzler is one of its only employees. She may well wind up being its last. […]

  1. Sorry, I couldn't resist!

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Cash for Vote(r)s

August 19th, 2014

This seems to be the week for dumb ideas about better ways to do politics. First this, and now this:

On Southern California Public Radio, Fernando Guerra, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University, suggested a radical solution to increasing voter turnout: Enter all voters automatically into a $1 million lottery.

"Wouldn't we get a lot of people who know nothing about politics or the candidates jumping in and voting and just checking the box so they could get a million bucks?" the radio host asked Guerra.

"Absolutely," Guerra responded. But, he added, that might not be a bad thing. "That might produce better results. There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters."

Let's just hear that last line again…

There is no data to show that uninformed voters make worse decisions than informed voters.

Good to know…

[Via The Risks Digest Volume 28: Issue 18]

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Algorithms As The Champions of Workers

August 18th, 2014

Danny Crichton's argument that Algorithms Are Replacing Unions As The Champions of Workers is a doozy:

At the heart of this movement is the right of workers to choose how and when they work. Uber, for instance, doesn't require strict hours for drivers, instead letting them choose schedules that match their needs. If a driver wants to take a two-hour lunch break or pick up their kids after school and only work late mornings and evenings, the system provides them the flexibility to do that. Carefully-tuned algorithms provide incentives through prices to ensure that the market is meeting the demand of customers and workers. The same flexibility holds true for most on-demand startups including TaskRabbit, Postmates, oDesk, Crew, and Guru.

Such convenience used to be the exclusive preserve of elite talent. Professionals like lawyers, doctors, engineers and consultants have had the flexibility in their work to take vacations and use "flex time" policies for many years now. Such policies make it easier to do everything from building a family to improving one's skills through education.

It also helps that all those professional types were earning hourly rates that allowed them to forego a week's work without substantially affecting their ability to make that month's mortgage payment.1 As if that weren't enough, Crichton also has some strange ideas about how a startup-driven labour market might work:

There is a long-tail to labor markets that startups are finally exploiting. Maybe I want to do a mix of cooking, Egyptian hieroglyphic travel blogging, and some regression analysis of health data. In the past, that would mean getting a job in marketing and living a corporate life until such time that one could quit and pursue their interests. Today, it is entirely possible to stitch together a set of opportunities to bring all of those passions together.

Let's just hope that the guy who is paying for the health data analysis doesn't want his report finalised the very same week in which you'd promised to supply one of your patrons with pre-publishing access to a meaty piece you're just getting to grips with about the hieroglyphs at Amenemhet I's pyramid at Lisht.

We can but hope that our multi-talented individual doesn't have a passion for, say, eating regularly, or being able to plan more than a few weeks ahead. Startups and those who make money from the sharing economy ideally want people with no family complications to mess up their schedules, and who will be at the beck and call of the business on what amounts to a zero-hour contract. Also, it'd be nice if as many regulations as possible governing established industries could be swept away/regarded as not applying to those doing exactly the same type of work but as part of the sharing economy. And this is an environment in which trades unions are obsolete?

Shoulda been published in The Onion.

[Via @Pinboard]

  1. Also, I know that attitudes to paid time off are a bit different in the USA, but might these sort of professionals not also be salaried employees and thus allowed some paid leave? Or is that another of those socialistic notions that has dragged down the living standards of citizens of western Europe's various social democratic nations?

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