Archive for October, 2015

Replicability vs. reproducibility — or is it the other way around?

The term reproducible research, in its current sensewas coined about 1990 by the geophysicist Jon Claerbout.  Thus Jon Claerbout & Martin Karrenbach, "Electronic Documents Give Reproducible Research a New Meaning", Society of Exploration Geophysics 1992 [emphasis added, here and throughout]:

A revolution in education and technology transfer follows from the marriage of word processing and software command scripts. In this marriage an author attaches to every figure caption a pushbutton or a name tag usable to recalculate the figure from all its data, parameters, and programs. This provides a concrete definition of reproducibility in computationally oriented research. Experience at the Stanford Exploration Project shows that preparing such electronic documents is little effort beyond our customary report writing; mainly, we need to file everything in a systematic way. […]

The principal goal of scientific publications is to teach new concepts, show the resulting implications of those concepts in an illustration, and provide enough detail to make the work reproducible. In real life, reproducibility is haphazard and variable. Because of this, we rarely see a seismology PhD thesis being redone at a later date by another person. In an electronic document, readers, students, and customers can readily verify results and adapt them to new circumstances without laboriously recreating the author's environment.

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Here's another eye-opening article from Quartz:

"Stop texting right now and learn from the Chinese: there’s a better way to message" (7/02/15) by Josh Horwitz.

I missed the article when it came out back in July, and even now wouldn't have known about this new fad that is sweeping China if Kyle Wilcox hadn't called it to my attention.

What the article describes is the craze for sending short audio clips instead of text messages.

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"…not simply Mandarin Chinese pronounced in a different way"

Chuin-Wei Yap has an interesting article about the southern conurbation known as Chaoshan in China Real Time:  "Underground Banks Trace Roots to the Sicily of China" (WSJ, 10/27/15).

Chaoshan is a portmanteau name composed of the first syllables of the two main cities that it encompasses:  Chaozhou (Teochew) and Shantou (Swatow).

I have long been intrigued by Chaoshan because of its rich history and the abundance of outstanding people who came from this area, including Li Ka-shing (the richest man in Asia; b. July 29, 1928) and my old friend, Jao Tsung-I 饒宗頤 (b. August 9, 1917), whom I consider to be the greatest living Chinese scholar, with a phenomenal breadth of learning and talent, despite the fact that he is basically an autodidact.  I am also partial to Chaozhou because it is the home of one of China's most distinguished operatic traditions and gongfu tea, about which I wrote this very long blog post.

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Stop and go

Andrew Herron sent in this photograph taken on Hospital Road, Hong Kong Island:

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My usual blogging hour has been overwhelmed recently by a minor operation, course prep, research obligations, Ware College House events, and even a little sleep from time to time. So here are a few items from my to-blog list that I don't have time today to do justice to.

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The mysteries of 13.5

China is in the throes of hammering out its next five-year plan, on the model of the USSR.  For China, the current one they're working on is the thirteenth, so they refer to it as 13.5.  In Mandarin, that would be shísānwǔ 十三五.  Although the Communist bureaucrats think these five-year plans are hugely important, for the common citizen they are dreadfully boring.  For non-Chinese looking on, they are worse than boring, so — in an effort to explain and hype 13.5 to English speakers around the world, the Chinese Communist Party has sponsored the making of a glitzy-cutesy video that enjoins viewers to "pay attention to the shisanwu!"

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"Are you Henry David Thoreau?"

A few minutes ago, an earnest-looking stranger came up to me on the sidewalk and asked "Are you Henry David Thoreau?" I shook my head and kept walking. And I'm pretty sure that was the right choice. But to satisfy my idle curiosity, can anyone tell me what he was selling?

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The first couple of panels of today's SMBC:

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Zuckerberg's Mandarin, ch. 2

Just a little over a year ago, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled to China and the world that he was willing to speak publicly in Mandarin: "Zuckerberg's Mandarin" (10/23/14).

That post includes a video which allows us to watch and listen to his every gesture and word.  Now he's back at it again at the exact same location, Tsinghua University, China's premier engineering and science school:

(Or see: "Mark Zuckerberg’s 20-minute speech in clumsy Mandarin is his latest attempt to woo China," 10/26/15.)

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The misery of existence

Sign on the front of an audiovisual equipment supplier in Pudong, Shanghai:

(Source of photograph)

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English in Chinese: over了, out了, 太low了, 太out了

Note from Gábor Ugray:

I just came across a hugely exciting conversation on Twitter, about English words mixed in with Chinese / adopted into Chinese speech – as seen in the subject line. There’s no easy way to extract conversations from Twitter, but it’s all in Liz Carter's feed today:

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"Hastily diagrams sentence"

Thoreau, "I don’t cry for yesterday; there’s an ordinary world", Unqualified Offerings 10/22/2015:

Ah!  Clinton vs. Bush with an insane billionaire in the mix and the latest Whitewater/Vince Foster sequels already brewing!  It’s 1992 all over again.  Except this time I’m not single and trying to work up the courage to ask a girl out.  Things are much better for me.

Comment by mds:

Except this time I’m not single and trying to work up the courage to ask a girl out


… I say go for it.

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"Often more [difficulty] than in this chosen pair"

We've often complained about the ignorant aftermath of E.B. White's ignorant 1959 incitement to which-hunting, which launched the idea that restrictive (or integrated, or defining) relative clauses in English should always and only be introduced by that, while non-restrictive (or supplementary, or non-defining) relative clauses should be introduced by which. (See "Reddit blewit" 12/24/2012 for details and additional links. Note that for simplicity, I'm considering only relative clauses with inanimate/nonhuman heads, though the fundamental point remains the same when we add who to the mix.)

My point today is that the whole distinction is a false one.

More exactly: The traditional restrictive/non-restrictive dichotomy merges distinct morphological, syntactic, semantic, prosodic, rhetorical, and psychological questions; the correlation among these different dimensions is loose at best; several of the relevant distinctions are gradient rather than categorical; and some of the distinctions are sometimes a matter of pragmatic vagueness rather than grammatical ambiguity.

If I'm right, then modern linguists have been committing White's sin in a less extreme form, trying to impose an over-simplified rationalist taxonomy on a more complex linguistic reality.

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