Cryptic, allusive messages from Hong Kong's wealthiest tycoon

People have been wondering when Hong Kong's magnates would speak out on the prolonged protests in their city.  Finally one has.  That's Li Ka-shing, the richest of them all:  "HK Billionaire Li Ka-Shing Breaks Silence Over Protests" (8/15/19 newscast on YouTube).  He took out full page advertisements (both seem to be on the front page) in two of Hong Kong's most influential financial newspapers:  Hong Kong Economic Times and Hong Kong Economic Journal.  Here's the first:

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Murgers and biangbiang in London

Restaurant sign in Mayfair:

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Breath Ass Method

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Women's Romanization for Hong Kong

The Hong Kong extradition bill protests, with hundreds of thousands of people, sometimes even a million or two million people (out of a total population of 7.392 million) on the streets, have been going on for more than 11 weeks, with no end in sight, even though the PRC keeps threatening to invade.  One of the main problems the protesters face is how to deal with infiltrators from the north who pretend to be protesters, but promote violence and beat up the Hong Kong people.  Here's one way the Hongkongers are using to expose the intruders:

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The Voder — and "emotion"

There was an interesting story yesterday on NPR's All Things Considered, "How We Hear Our Own Voice Shapes How We See Ourselves And How Others See Us". Shankar Vedantam starts with the case of a woman whose voice was altered because her larynx was accidentally damaged during an operation, leading to a change in her personality. And then it segues into an 80-year-old crowd pleaser, the Voder:

All the way back in 1939, Homer Dudley unveiled an organ-like machine he called the "Voder". It worked using special keys and a foot pedal, and it fascinated people at the World's Fair in New York.

Helen, will you have the Voder say 'She saw me'.

She … saw … me

"That sounded awfully flat. How about a little expression? Say the sentence in answer to these questions.

Q: Who saw you?
A: SHE saw me.
Q: Whom did she see?
A: She saw ME.
Q: Well did she see you or hear you?
A: She SAW me.

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"Douchey uses of AI"

The book for this year's Penn Reading Project is Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction. From the PRP's description:

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated.

But as Cathy O'Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true.

I've been seeing lots of resonances of this concern elsewhere in popular culture, for example this recent SMBC, which focuses on the deflection of responsibility:

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Reductio ad THE absurdum

Cindy Boren, "The Ohio State University wants to trademark its favorite word: 'The'", WaPo 8/14/2019:

Ohio State is serious about calling itself "The" Ohio State University. The grammatical article is right there on many of the school's seal, logos and signs. Now the university has gotten so serious about that three-letter word that it has sought to trademark it. […]

"Like other institutions, Ohio State works to vigorously protect the university's brand and trademarks," Chris Davey, a spokesman for the university, said in a statement to the Columbus Dispatch. "These assets hold significant value, which benefits our students and faculty and the broader community by supporting our core academic mission of teaching and research."

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Sign-off alignments


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Diglossia in action

Neil Kubler spotted this restaurant sign last week in Xi'an in northwest China:

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Between pee and bad

Two delightful Chinglish specimens submitted by Karen Yang:

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Simplified characters in Hong Kong police newsletter

It's strange that there are some simplified characters in the Hong Kong police newsletter, but stranger still that they are only sporadic:

Simplified Chinese characters (in red circles) are found in the online
edition of OffBeat. Police Commissioner Andy Tsang (inset) holds a copy of
the newsletter at a press conference last month. Photos: Stand News, HKEJ

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A surprising mistake

The "Federal Demonstration Partnership" is "is association of federal agencies, academic research institutions with administrative, faculty and technical representation, and research policy organizations that work to streamline the administration of federally sponsored research." There are 155 participating universities, and a larger number of "participating organizations" since e.g. the University of California is counted as one "university" but 8 "institutions".

So this is a seriously heavyweight organization, with massive bureaucratic inertia behind its policy decisions. And it's therefore really unfortunate that the contracts it mandates for scientific, technological and scholarly data sharing are deeply problematic.

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Oral Language Technology

From Steven Bird:

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