Smollett Says No Truth He Played Role in Attack

Sunday, February 17th, 2019 05:33 am
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Posted by Associated Press

Attorneys for Jussie Smollett say there is no truth to reports that the "Empire" actor played a role in an assault on him by what he described as two men shouting homophobic and racial slurs.
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Posted by Associated Press

Chicago police say “the trajectory of the investigation” into the reported attack on Jussie Smollett has shifted and they want to conduct another interview with the “Empire” actor.

Japanese varia

Sunday, February 17th, 2019 03:04 am
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Posted by Victor Mair

First, as a slightly belated Valentine's present, onomatopoetic / mimetic chocolates:

"Chocolates That Represent Japanese Onomatopoeic Words To Describe Texture", by Johnny, Spoon & Tamago (1/16/15)

Here are the names of eight of the nine chocolates designed by Oki Sato of the Tokyo and Milan-based design studio Nendo:

ツブツブ (tsubu tsubu): a word for small bits or drops
スベスベ (sube sube): smooth edges and corners
トゲトゲ (toge toge): sharp pointed tips
ザラザラ (zara zara): granular like a file
ゴロゴロ (goro goro): cubic, with many edges
フワフワ (fuwa fuwa): soft and airy with many tiny holes
ポキポキ (poki poki): a delicate frame or structure
ザクザク (zaku zaku): makes a crunching sounds, like when you step on ice

You can see exceptionally clear photographs of the ingeniously designed 26x26x26mm chocolates in the article linked above.

[h.t. Becki Kanou]

From Nathan Hopson:

Second, funerary capitalism meets tongue-in-cheek wordplay with my new favorite Japanese word/service: スマ墓 ("smart grave"). Read sumabo, this new-ish service uses what appears to be roughly the same augmented reality technologies as, say, Pokémon Go so that your phone will show prerecorded images and video of deceased loved ones when the application is activated at the correct GPS coordinates. For just ¥500/month, the service provider not only creates and maintains this virtual ("smart") grave, but will also keep for a period of 15 years the cremated ashes that would have gone into a real grave.

What got me about this is not just that it's a clever entry into the ever-expanding perimortuary business here in Japan, the most aged country in world history, but that the service is almost perfectly homophonous with the Japanese contraction of "smart phone." Japanese mobiles are still called by that name as well (携帯電話 keitai denwa), but with the market turnover from the old flip phones — cleverly, if self-deprecatingly, referred to as ガラパゴス系・ガラパゴス携 or ガラ系・ガラ携・ガラケー (Garapagosu-kei / Gara-kei) for short because they have followed a unique evolutionary process on "remote" islands… — almost complete in the past several years, these days one hears sumaho more often. Who knows how often we will hear sumabo in the future?

Articles with good pictures here and here (Japanese only).

Japanese, like Korean, is exceptionally rich in and fond of onomatopoeia.


"Korean refrigerator onomatopoeia" (11/10/18)

"Japanese (and Chinese) Onomatopoeia" (7/21/08)

"Duang" (3/1/15)

Opioid Maker Used Rap Video to Push Powerful Painkiller

Sunday, February 17th, 2019 01:18 am
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

Employees at a drug company accused of bribing doctors rapped and danced around a person dressed as a bottle of the highly addictive fentanyl spray in a video meant to motivate sales reps to push the drug.
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Posted by Associated Press

Like in many of the country's mass shootings, the Aurora attack was carried out by a man with a violent criminal history who was armed with a gun he wasn't supposed to have.


Saturday, February 16th, 2019 11:12 pm
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Posted by languagehat

I always thought a narwhal was, etymologically, a “corpse whale”; if you’re not familiar with that etymology, Stan at Sentence first provides links to several essentially identical derivations from Old Norse náhvalr. But he complicates the picture by mentioning other “speculative origin stories,” and quotes the OED’s comprehensive etymology:

Probably < Danish narhval, cognate with Norwegian narkval, Swedish narval (1754), and further cognate with Old Icelandic náhvalr < a first element of uncertain origin (perhaps < nár corpse: see need n., with reference to the colour of the animal’s skin; or perhaps shortened < nál needle n., with reference to the straight tusk) + hvalr whale n.; the epenthetic –r– in the Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish forms has not been satisfactorily explained (see note below). Compare Middle French nahual (1598; French †narhual (1647), †narwal (1676), narval (1723)), Spanish narval (1706), Italian narvalo (1745), Dutch narwal (1769), German Narwal (18th cent.), all ultimately borrowings from Scandinavian.

Alternative etymologies connect the first element with the Germanic base of either nase n. or narrow adj.; both of these suggestions assume that forms with –r– are primary, and that forms without –r– (the earliest attested forms) are alterations by folk etymology, after Old Icelandic nár corpse.

The Russian word is, unsurprisingly, нарвал [narval].

Chicago Police Release 2 Men Questioned in Smollett Case

Saturday, February 16th, 2019 05:22 pm
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

Chicago police released without charges two Nigerian brothers arrested on suspicion of assaulting "Empire" actor Jussie Smollett and said they have new evidence to investigate as a result of questioning them.
[syndicated profile] thesimpledollar_feed

Posted by Trent Hamm

This is the second entry in an eight part series exploring the connections between your finances and other areas of your life.

Last week, I started a series exploring the connections between personal finance and the other “spheres” of my life. The first entry covered the connections between one’s physical life and financial life, and today we’re looking at one’s mental and spiritual life and financial life.

As noted in the first entry, I tend to view life as a bunch of “spheres,” or areas of focus. I really like Michael Hyatt’s list of nine such “spheres”: physical, mental/spiritual, intellectual, social, marital, parental, avocational (hobbies), vocational, and financial – they cover much of what life is all about. I’ve come to view these spheres as deeply interconnected, in that success in one sphere is usually linked in some significant ways to success in other spheres (and failures are similarly connected) and that knowing the connections can help people figure out how to succeed in both areas at once.

Today, we’re going to look at a “combined” sphere, the mental and spiritual. I combine them because I find it’s often hard to tease apart the two.

What Is the “Mental and Spiritual Life”?

When I refer to one’s “mental and spiritual life,” I mean the state of one’s mind and emotional well being. Do I realize my own potential? Can I cope with the stress of life and work? Can I work productively and make forward progress on things? Can I make positive contributions to the lives of others? Do I have a sense of purpose in life?

The core matter, for me, is do I feel well in a non-physical sense and have a positive sense of purpose and place in the world for yourself and for others?

Answering that question well offers a bunch of financial benefits.

First, you’re able to handle stress and challenges without “throwing money at the problem.” If you’re able to handle the stresses of everyday life and of professional life without regular interruption to your ability to handle the tasks demanded of you, you’re going to be much better equipped to not only earn a good income, but to be able to manage your own life well without paying others to provide services for you.

Second, you feel a sense of internal purpose rather than external purpose, which often guides people toward self-directed action rather than directed action. Simply knowing what you should do next and having the internal motivation to do so again makes it easier to earn an income and take care of your life responsibilities without excessive cost.

Third, that same sense of purpose guides you toward meaningful goals, which makes it much easier to direct your finances toward long-term purposes. Having some sense of internal purpose and an understanding that your actions today translate toward fulfilling that purpose opens the door to long term goals like building a career and saving for retirement, which are necessary foundations for financial success in the modern world.

Finally, taking basic steps to maintain my own mental and spiritual health each day drastically reduces the chance of a downward spiral in those areas, which can result in mental health costs and money spent seeking spiritual answers. In both areas, addressing those concerns regularly can keep molehills (which you can handle yourself or which can be resolved inexpensively) from developing into mountains (which require extensive help to overcome and can be disruptive to personal and professional life). Mental and spiritual crises can still occur, but they’re much less likely to occur.

Here are five low cost strategies I use for maintaining my own mental and spiritual health.

Strategy #1 – Make Meditation and/or Prayer a Regular Part of Your Day

I really don’t distinguish between meditation and prayer because the practices are very similar. A prayer is effectively the same thing as a meditation using a mantra (a word or phrase or series of phrases used as a focal point for meditation) in terms of practical action, with the biggest difference coming as a result of one’s theology and religious beliefs.

Regardless of what form your religious beliefs take, a meditative or prayer practice is incredibly powerful at quieting the voices in your mind, that internal monologue that often never shuts up. You’re much more able to ignore it, which can have incredible benefits in terms of your sense of well being. I’m not going to address whether it’s a psychological trick or a gift from a higher power, but I will say that it really works well, especially when you make it a daily routine. If you do it every day, it turns the volume down on that internal monologue that often leads to a lot of mental and spiritual discomfort.

My routine is a really simple one. I simply set a timer on my phone, sit down in a comfortable position (in a chair or on the floor), and close my eyes. Then, I focus on something – I often use my breath, but you can use a particular part of your body or a word or a phrase or a short prayer. Just focus on whatever that target is. If you feel your mind drifting away from it, bring it back to focus without feeling judgmental about it – everyone does this, it’s part of the practice. If you’re focusing on breathing, notice the air going in and out of you. If you’re focused on a word or a phrase or a short prayer, repeat it slowly in your mind. That’s it – just do it every day and you’ll start to notice benefits. They’re not life-transformative, but they’re real and quite worthwhile, especially if it’s a daily practice.

I personally find great value in doing this as a daily practice. Even if I didn’t get any long term benefits at all from doing this, it still serves as a period of time each day for me to just be calm clear my head and collect my thoughts and keep my mind from rambling on and on. It’s incredibly valuable as a time to connect with your preferred spiritual or religious tradition as well.

Strategy #2 – Start a Journaling Practice

A journaling practice goes hand in hand with meditation. It’s simply an opportunity to collect your thoughts and get them out of your head in a private way that’s intended just for you. It can help you figure out a problem, organize a plan, dump out a bunch of stuff you’re trying to remember or make sense of, and you can do it all at once. You can unleash feelings and thoughts without reservation and chip through walls you’ve built up around yourself, all without worrying about what anyone else might think of them.

My personal practice is “three morning pages,” which I learned from Julia Cameron’s wonderful book The Artist’s Way. I simply fill up three pages in a journal each morning with stream of consciousness thought – I just write whatever’s on my mind. I find that doing this often causes me to start going through a process where I write down one thought and in the process of doing so a good follow-up thought pops into my head, and I write that down and the process repeats itself until I start reaching some good conclusions. (Given that journals are often very different in size, I actually use a timer for this rather than aiming to fill three pages; the timer is how long it takes me to fill three pages in my normal-sized journals, but sometimes I use bigger or smaller notebooks for this.)

There are lots of other ways to journal; the key is to just find a format where you feel okay dumping out your own unguarded and unvarnished thoughts on paper. The key is to just make that dumping out of your thoughts into a regular routine.

The goal of all of this is to simply clear away a lot of mental junk in your head. I tend to think of my brain as being like a bedroom, where I might toss dirty clothes or leave unread books lying around, and journaling is what I do to clean up that room. If I don’t do it, eventually the whole floor is covered in crap and it’s hard to move around without stumbling over stuff. Journaling is like cleaning the room.

Strategy #3 – Use Positive Affirmations

By “positive affirmation,” I don’t actually mean things like “I’m good enough! I’m smart enough!” What I’m actually talking about is simply reviewing the things you’re good at and regularly reminding yourself of them. The truth is that everyone brings at least some gifts to life’s table, but it’s easy to lose track of what those things are and that sense of not having value can lead to a serious downward turn in a person’s mental and spiritual state.

This all starts by simply asking yourself what good traits and skills you possess. It’s often easiest to do this when you’re in a positive mood already, but if you find it difficult to do this, turn to someone in your life who is a positive influence and ask them for help with this. The goal is to identify positive traits you have, positive skills you have, and things you have achieved. Almost everyone can create a short list of such things.

Then, use those items regularly as positive affirmations. For example, I might say, “I am a good writer. I can write material that helps the lives of others and do it at a reasonably fast pace,” or I might say, “I am a good husband. I have maintained a successful marriage for more than fifteen years,” or I might say, “I am a good parent. I have a strong relationship with each of my three children.”

Just make a short list of these positive affirmations and say them to yourself each day. Remind yourself of each of those things, so you never lose track of the positive things about you and the positive things you bring into the world.

Such affirmations are an extremely powerful counterbalance to the negative thoughts we often have about ourselves. Those negative thoughts are often the result of an internal monologue run amok, so such positive affirmations often work hand in hand with the first strategy, meditation, which seeks to quiet down that internal monologue.

Strategy #4 – Express Meaningful Gratitude

Consider for a moment the people in your life that have helped you and have improved your life in some real way. Consider the other things in your life that bring a positive influence to you. Those are all good things in your life. Take the time to appreciate them.

One easy way to do this is to simply list a few of them each day as part of a journaling practice. Just include a list of a few things you’re grateful for, whether it’s people or things or ideas or events or whatever it is that has brought something positive into your life.

It’s also a good idea to sometimes take it even further. If someone has had a positive impact on your life, send that person a handwritten note. Write down what they’ve done for you and say directly how much you appreciate it. Not only is this an incredibly powerful thing to receive, it’s also an incredibly powerful thing to send.

This type of gratitude feels good because it’s a direct demonstration to you that you have good things in your life. Even in moments where you feel some level of despair, gratitude is there to remind you that there are good things that persist, that everything is not gray.

Strategy #5 – Give Extra Attention to Your Physical and Social Health

Your physical and social health are strongly connected to your mental and spiritual health. A healthy body is a powerful support for healthy brain chemistry, and a strong social network is also an incredibly powerful support for a healthy mind and spirit.

I covered positive steps for physical health just last week. Exercise outside of the gym by finding physical activities you enjoy doing and making them a part of your life. Get a grip on your calorie intake and eat a higher proportion of fruits and vegetables. Cut back (or, ideally, eliminate) vices: drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, soda, and sugar-laden snacks. Go to bed earlier so you can rise naturally without an alarm most days. Practice good hygiene: wash your hands often, brush your teeth daily, and bathe regularly. Those are great steps for your physical health, which can really support your mental health.

As for positive steps for a good social life, it comes down to spending time with people on a regular basis. Yes, some people are introverts and value their “me” time greatly, but some sense of community and social contact is valuable for everyone. Keep in touch with good friends and family members. Attend social events and don’t just sit or stand in the corner. Invite other people to do things, and when invited, accept as often as possible or decline in a polite way that opens the door for follow-up. Try a variety of religious experiences to find one that works for you.

Those steps are all powerful supports for one’s mental and spiritual health.

Final Thoughts

Your mental and spiritual health is an invaluable and central part of your life. If you feel positive about yourself and positive about your place in the world and universe, you’re much better equipped to handle the stresses and challenges of daily life. If you’re struggling with those things, even the normal routines of life can be a real chore.

Investing some of your time to strengthen the foundations of your mental and spiritual life can bring about powerful financial results. You’ll spend less on services, on stress reduction, on short-term sources of fleeting joy, and on mental health support. Over the long term, that money can make a profound difference in your financial life.

The steps really are easy. Take time to meditate or pray daily. Write down your unguarded thoughts regularly. Reflect on the positive aspects of yourself. Express gratitude for the good people and good things in your life. Keep an eye on your physical health and build a good social life.

Those steps aren’t a perfect answer for everyone. If you still find mental or spiritual issues to be a struggle, don’t be afraid to seek help to get those matters straight. These tactics are mostly useful for helping you keep things on a good path rather than resolving a truly difficult situation. The focus here is on overcoming molehills; look for much further help if you are dealing with mountains.

Good luck!

The post Exploring the Connections Between Your Mental and Spiritual Life and Your Financial Life appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

"Speech synthesis"

Saturday, February 16th, 2019 02:33 pm
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Ordinary language and technical terminology often diverge. We've covered the "passive voice" case at length. I don't think we've discussed  the fact that for botanists, cucumbers and tomatoes are berries but strawberries and raspberries aren't — but there are many examples of such terminological divergence in fields outside of linguistics. However, the technical terminology is itself sometimes vague or ambiguous in ways that lead to confusion among outsiders, and today I want to explore one case of this kind: "speech synthesis".

Andrew Liszewski, "My Favorite Childhood Gadget of the '80s, the Speak & Spell, Is Back", Gizmodo 2/18/2019:

By today’s standards, the Speak & Spell is beyond primitive, but when introduced by Texas Instruments at CES in 1978, it was one of the first handheld devices to incorporate an electronic display, expansion cartridges, and a speech synthesis engine that could say and spell over 200 words. It even ran on one of the first microprocessors, the TMS1000, which was a power hog that would quickly drain the toy’s four C-sized batteries.

The Speak & Spell’s computerized voice was its most impressive feature, and it was so fascinating to me as a kid that I can still clearly hear its raspy, slightly incomprehensible pronunciations in my head; when I’d be hard-pressed to remember the voices of any of my childhood friends. […]

Where the new Speak & Spell differs from the original—and this could be a deal-breaker for some nostalgia-seekers—is its voice. Instead of using a synthesizer that generates spoken words from a bunch of coded instructions, Basic Fun!’s Speak & Spell uses voice recordings that have been processed to sound like they’re being generated by a computer. The monotonous, stilted delivery sounds very close to the original version, but it’s definitely different.

The highlighted region is somewhere between confused and false. The original 1978 TI Speak & Spell used naturally-spoken speech that was compressed via LPC ("linear predictive coding") so as to fit on the then-available device memory, and then uncompressed for playback using TI's then-new LPC chip. So it's true that it "generat(ed) spoken words from a bunch of coded instructions". But so (I assume) does the modern imitation. And so does your cell phone, and your .mp3 or .aac-encoded podcasts, and your Audible audiobooks, etc.

It's true that this process of reconstituting compressed or "encoded" speech is commonly called "(re-)synthesis". But the reason that the original Speak & Spell produced "raspy, slightly incomprehensible pronunciations" is partly that it used extreme compression — about 1200 bits per second, as opposed to 64000 or 128000 bps for typical .mp3 audio, or 4750 to 12200 bps for GSM cellular voice transmission — and partly that it used an early-generation encoding algorithm.

The Wikipedia entry gives more details but is also misleading:

The Speak & Spell used the first single-chip voice synthesizer, the TMC0280, later called the TI TMS5100, which utilized a 10th-order linear predictive coding (LPC) model by using pipelined electronic DSP logic. A variant of this chip with a very similar voice would eventually be utilized in certain Chrysler vehicles in the 1980s as the Electronic Voice Alert.

Speech synthesis data (phoneme data) for the spoken words were stored on a pair of 128 Kbit metal gate PMOS ROMs.

As the Wikipedia article itself goes on to explain, it's not "phoneme data" that was stored — which would generally have been the case if the system had used a text-to-speech algorithm — but rather the time functions of linear prediction parameters, f0, amplitude, and so on, derived from human recordings of the specific words to be spoken:

The technique used to create the words was to have a professional speaker speak the words. The utterances were captured and processed. Originally all of the recording and processing was completed in Dallas. By 1982 when the British, French, Italian and German versions were being developed, the original voices were recorded in the TI facility near Nice in France and these full bit rate digital recordings were sent to Dallas for processing using a minicomputer.[35] Some weeks later the processed data was returned and required significant hand editing to fix the voicing errors which had occurred during the process. The data rate was so radically cut that all of the words needed some editing. In some cases this was fairly simple, but some words were unintelligible and required days of work and others had to be completely scrapped. The stored data were for the specific words and phrases used in the Speak & Spell. The data rate was about 1,000 bits per second.

For some background on LPC, see  Bishnu Atal, "The History of Linear Prediction", IEEE Signal Processing Magazine 3/2006.  Bishnu uses the older and less confusion term "vocoder" (= Voice Coder) to refer to the process of compressing and reconstituting speech — but he also writes about "LPC analysis and resynthesis":

LPC rapidly became a very popular topic in speech research. A large number of people contributed valuable ideas for the application of the basic theory of linear prediction to speech analysis and synthesis. The excitement was evident at practically every technical meeting. Research on LPC vocoders gained momentum partly due to increased funding from the U.S. government and its selection for the 2.4 kb/s secure-voice standard LPC10. LPC required a lot of computations when it started being applied to speech. Fortunately, computer technology was rapidly evolving. By 1973, the first compact real-time LPC vocoder had been implemented at Philco-Ford. In 1978, Texas Instruments introduced a popular LPC-based toy that was called “Speak and Spell.”

And Bishnu's seminal 1971 paper had the title "Speech analysis and synthesis by linear prediction of the speech wave" — and uses the word "synthesizer" to describe the subsystem for reconstituting the speech signal:

Abstract: We describe a procedure for efficient encoding of the speech wave by representing it in terms of time‐varying parameters related to the transfer function of the vocal tract and the characteristics of the excitation. The speech wave, sampled at 10 kHz, is analyzed by predicting the present speech sample as a linear combination of the 12 previous samples. The 12 predictor coefficients are determined by minimizing the mean‐squared error between the actual and the predicted values of the speech samples. Fifteen parameters—namely, the 12 predictor coefficients, the pitch period, a binary parameter indicating whether the speech is voiced or unvoiced, and the rms value of the speech samples—are derived by analysis of the speech wave, encoded and transmitted to the synthesizer. The speech wave is synthesized as the output of a linear recursive filter excited by either a sequence of quasiperiodic pulses or a white‐noise source. Application of this method for efficient transmission and storage of speech signals as well as procedures for determining other speech characteristics, such as formant frequencies and bandwidths, the spectral envelope, and the autocorrelation function, are discussed.

In talking about food or fibers or drugs, we generally don't use the words synthetic, synthesis etc. to describe things created by processing natural substances. Synthetic fabrics are derived from petroleum or whatever, not by processing plant materials. But in the case of speech, synthesis is used to describe reconstituting a stream of natural speech (or other audio) that has been processed for more efficient transmission, as well as to describe the creation of entirely-synthetic audio as in text-to-speech applications. (Though in fairness, TTS these days mostly works by combination and modification of fragments of human speech from a large collection of naturally-spoken audio, or by a fuzzier "deep learning" creation of audio time-functions by analogy to a large body of natural training speech — this is something like fibers created by extraction and polymerization of molecular fragments from an organic source.)


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Posted by Dan MacGuill

Social media users responded in outrage to the penalties handed down to a Baylor University fraternity president accused of rape.

#1177: “How to be fine with not getting married?”

Friday, February 15th, 2019 11:25 pm
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Dear Captain:

I (she/her) have been with my partner (he/him) for a few years now, we live together, everything is fine and dandy, except for one thing. We’re both in our 30s, and recently the topic of engagement and marriage has come up. I’d really like to eventually, and he really doesn’t. Our relationship is good, and I know nothing would really change in the practical sense if marriage was a thing that would happen, but even so I can’t help feeling sad about marriage being off the table.

When there is marriage-related things on tv or I walk past a jewelry store I get weepy and sad now and feel like I’m not good enough for my partner, even though logically I know that’s not actually true. Sometimes friends or family ask when/if we’re getting married, and I don’t know how to respond since I don’t want to sound like I’m just throwing my partner under the bus by saying “I want to but he doesn’t so ask him about it”. My parents are getting on a bit in years so even if my partner would change his mind some years down the road, them not being there for it is a real possibility.

Obviously some of it is cultural/gender specific (old unmarried spinster=bad, etc), but on the other hand, being “chosen” by somebody, having that promise to stick with each other and having a ring to symbolize that is important to me, as well as doing the ceremony part (even if it is small) in front of other people to make it “official”, and I don’t know how to let go of that. We’ve talked about why it’s important to me and my partner knows that I’m not happy about it, but that’s all. If they ever did propose, I’d want it to be because they truly want to, not because I somehow sadded them into doing it out of guilt or pity, so I’ve been trying to keep my feelings to myself as much as possible. At this point he might think that wedding-related stuff gives me the runs since I always have to go to the bathroom if anything related to it comes up on tv or whatever (but surprise, I’m not actually doing a poop, I’m doing a cry).

I’m a bit stuck on how to deal with my own feelings about the whole thing without feelings-dumping on my partner, I guess? I’m on the autism spectrum, so I try to be as conscious as I can about not saying something out of line, but I really don’t want to mess a good thing up by making a hen out of a feather. Any advice about how to manage my feelings/clueless askers in a mature way would be great, but if not, permission to be sad about something that feels like a silly issue is fine too.

Regards, Hapless and Ringless

Dear Hapless & Ringless

These “I want to be married and my partner doesn’t…is this just me being silly?” questions are accumulating of late.

I have an hour of free time and possibly a few more things to say about this, so, hi.

I have a lot of beefs with cultural narratives around marriage. Like, which is it, the pinnacle of achievement in a person’s life (especially if you are a straight woman), the sole legitimate goal of romantic attachment (especially for straight women), or a ridiculous, time-wasting, trivial obsession (that straight women focus on instead of more important matters)?

Let’s forget proposals, rings, parties, “being chosen”, fairy tales that end with a wedding for a moment. Let’s put aside religious traditions, also. Let’s even put feelings aside for right now.

You are in your thirties, living in a household with a fellow adult. That’s great. You’re viewing that arrangement as long-term and possibly permanent. Also great. You are making joint decisions about your future with this person – where you will live, where your money goes, where your time goes, where your attention goes. I don’t think it’s trivial to want to put some formal protections and expectations in place around making those decisions.

Marriage, as a legal institution, doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always get along, be happy together, or maintain positive feelings about each other. Marriage is a way of formalizing and legalizing family ties. It cements certain obligations and offers certain protections that – depending on where you live, and depending on who you love – cannot be easily acquired any other way.

Marriage, however it is practiced and administered where you are, legally clarifies pretty big questions that have far-reaching consequences, such as:

  • Who counts as family, legally speaking?
  • If you have children, who can make decisions about their custody and their welfare?
  • What happens if one of you dies? To your children, if any? To your property? To your creative work/copyrights (if any)?
  • What happens if one of you becomes ill or incapacitated? Who can make decisions about your care?
  • Would you even be allowed to have medical information or be allowed to visit each other if something happened to one of you?
  • How will retirement benefits, pensions, medical benefits, insurance benefits be distributed?

Do my fellow straight people understand what can happen when these protections are not available? Do you understand how quickly you could be erased from someone’s life by these “mere” formalities, if your partner’s feelings about you change someday, or if they get sick or die and the whims/prejudices/greed of their family of origin or the state decide that you don’t matter, that your relationship isn’t “real” enough?

If your partner says he doesn’t want to get married, okay, nobody can make him do that, let’s assume he has his reasons, people shouldn’t get married unless they really want to. If your partner says he plans to be with you long-term, and you believe him, is he willing to hire lawyers and work out the alternative legal paperwork that would spell out and protect both of you in case something awful happened in the future? Or does he expect you both to trust feelings with your money, your time, your potential kids, your future, your health, your end-of-life decisions, with everything you will ever own or do or make?

I think it’s absolutely normal, reasonable, and okay to want to marry someone as a condition of deciding to build your life with them. I think that if you want marriage badly and your partner does not, this is an area of deep incompatibility between you, and until this question is resolved to not only your not-secretly-crying-in-the-bathroom-anymore or even to your satisfaction but to your happiness, my honest suggestion would be to take your partner at his word. If you believe him when he says he doesn’t want to ever get married (and especially if he is not open to formalizing your relationship in other ways), how would it change what you’re willing to invest in the idea of a shared future with him? Would you want to stay? If you do decide to respect his reluctance and his reasons, and knowingly choose to invest under those conditions, I hope you will be happy and at peace with that someday. Time will tell. Your happiness will tell.

In the present, your UNhappiness will tell. Because, speaking of deep incompatibility, you’re crying in the bathroom because you don’t feel like you can allow yourself to feel your feelings about what you want from your life in front of the person you want to share that life with. That’s a problem.

I don’t have pointers for learning to be okay with less than what you really need and want from life, from your relationships. You want to be married. You want to be married to this specific person. You don’t have to apologize for, minimize, or hide that from me or him or your family or anyone. If your partner knew how very upset this makes you, would it change his mind? If your truthful, vulnerable feelings can “mess a good thing up” then was it that good?

P.S. For the “marriage isn’t a big deal, it’s just a piece of paper” crowd, my usual question is: If it’s not a big deal to you, and it is a big deal to your partner, why not go through with this “trivial,” “silly,” “meaningless” “piece of paper” to make the person you love happy? Why is the person who thinks it’s important the one who has to compromise?

In the sputtering that follows, usually what we discover is that it IS a pretty fucking big deal (and that’s why they don’t want to do it).

P.P.S. I said this on Twitter, it’s probably worth sharing here: On most days, the difference between being married to Mr. Awkward and living with Mr. Awkward is unnoticeable, in a good way. Our conversations are the same. Our domestic arrangements are the same. On a few days, the question “Are you a family member?” and the answer “Yes, I’m his wife” has really, REALLY, reallyreallyreallyreallyreally mattered. It has made doors that are locked against other people open for me. It has allowed me to advocate for him, to know immediately what is happening with him, to take care of him, to deal with paperwork and money and bureaucracy on his behalf. (All is well now, thanks to all who sent encouragement last fall). I’m about to have some pretty minor surgery (BEGONE, GIANT UTERINE FIBROID!!!!!) and it will be his turn to take care of me. I wish marriage were available for all people who want it, I wish there were more accepted/less expensive and complicated ways to codify this stuff, but this is why I feel so strongly about your situation, Letter Writer. ❤








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Posted by Dan MacGuill

The Washington Post reported that President Trump took his golf game indoors during the federal government shutdown in early 2019.

Chicago Police Arrest 2 Suspects in Attack on Smollett

Friday, February 15th, 2019 08:31 pm
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Posted by Associated Press

The investigation into black actor Jussie Smollett's account of being beaten in a racist, anti-gay attack took another turn when Chicago police said two men arrested in the case are also black.
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Posted by Associated Press

A gay French writer has lifted the lid on what he calls one of the world's largest gay communities, the Vatican, estimating that most of its prelates are homosexually inclined.

The Spleendrake.

Friday, February 15th, 2019 06:36 pm
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Posted by languagehat

I’m getting to the end of Bunin’s Деревня [The Village], which made him famous in Russia when it was published in 1910; I almost gave up on it because the first part, about the greedy, brutal Tikhon Krasov, was so depressing (it reminded me of Grigorovich’s 1847 Антон Горемыка [Unlucky Anton], another life-sucks-and-everybody-suffers story), but the second part, about his poetry-loving brother Kuzma, was a little less gloomy, so I kept going. It’s not easy reading, being full of specialized and dialectal words and expressions, so I have to keep checking Dahl and other references, and occasionally I’ll consult the 1923 translation by Hapgood. She can be helpful, but there’s a reason I called her “the hapless Isabel F. Hapgood” back in 2017, and I’ve come to a passage (beginning in the Russian text “Чтобы согреться, он выпил водки и посидел перед жарко пылающей печкой” [Hapgood: “With a view to warming himself up, Kuzma drank some vodka and seated himself in front of the hotly flaming oven”]) that contains two howlers in succession. The first amused me but didn’t drive me to post: the hut contains an image of продажа братьями Иосифа [the sale of Joseph by his brothers], which is translated “manufactured by the Josif Brothers.” But then a couple of sentences later Kuzma decides to go see Tikhon, and Bunin says his gelding ran quickly, екая селезенкой, which Hapgood renders “emitting roaring and quacking sounds, like a drake”! Now, the funny-sounding verb ёкать [yokat’] can mean several things, mainly ‘to emit abrupt hiccup-like sounds’ or (of a heart) ‘to skip a beat,’ but never “roaring and quacking,” and селезёнка [selezyonka], though it looks very similar to селезень [selezen’] ‘drake,’ is an entirely different word meaning ‘spleen’ (and is in fact probably a cognate of Greek σπλήν, from which we get spleen). Had she bothered to consult Dahl, Hapgood would have learned that у лошади селезенка бьется [the horse’s spleen is beating], of which this is clearly a variant, means “на бегу жидкость пахтается вслух в желудке” [while running, liquid is audibly churning in its stomach]. Translation is hard, and I don’t want to be too hard on Isabel, but you should realize that something has gone wrong when you find yourself writing about a horse emitting roaring and quacking sounds, like a drake.

sovay: (Psholtii: in a bad mood)
[personal profile] sovay
Despite the usual lack of sleep occasioned by early-morning doctors' appointments, I had a nice time meeting [personal profile] a_reasonable_man at Widener Library and then it turned out the item for which I had requested reading room privileges was actually a mirage in the catalogue and the afternoon promptly deteriorated: it took me two hours to get home thanks to the MBTA being both snafu and fubar; my stamina comprehensively fucked off long before then; and I got back to the internet to discover the liar in the White House has declared a national emergency for purposes of immigrant crackdown, which is the kind of thing I have been worried about since he took office. Protests appear to be planned for noon on Monday. [personal profile] spatch and I are supposed to attend our traditional twenty-four-hour science fiction film marathon ending at noon on Monday. I guess sleep-deprived protest it's going to be. This can't be the worst timeline, but could it stop doing its best to compete?
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Posted by Alex Kasprak

Anthony Hobson, who killed his girlfriend and her unborn child, was originally going to be charged with both unlawful abortion and second degree murder.
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Posted by Trent Hamm

The winter blues strike me hard each year. When the Iowa winter reaches a point where it’s fairly miserable to go outside and the days are short to boot, I wind up spending far too much time inside. This causes me to not get enough sunshine, and even though I have a couple of good tricks for keeping the winter blues specifically at bay (vitamin D and a full spectrum light box), my mood can still be pretty low at times during the winter.

Over the years, I’ve developed a lot of simple little inexpensive tricks that help me lift my mood and I never rely on them more than I do this time of the year. They’re just little things I do that are designed with just two principles in mind. One, they need to be able to quickly improve my mood. Two, they need to cost next to nothing.

Here are sixteen of these tricks; they’re the ones that I think actually have the most universal appeal. Many of these seem to have a “winter” angle, but they work pretty well throughout the year. If you’re finding yourself down in the dumps, try a few of these things and see if they help.

Drink lots of water. This is probably my number one strategy for keeping my mood up. I find that there’s a pretty strong connection between drinking plenty of water and being in a good mood. The more water I drink, the better I feel about my life and the world around me. If I don’t drink much water, my mood slips.

Do some high-intensity exercise for a short time. Do something with enough intensity so that you find yourself panting for breath. Wait until you’re close to breathing normally, then do it again. Repeat a few times. Your blood will be pumping and full of endorphins that make you feel a lot better.

Maintain a playlist of uptempo songs that you like and play it when you need a boost. I maintain a playlist of Youtube videos consisting of uptempo songs that make me want to jump around, and when I’m feeling the winter blues, I’ll turn it on. I’ll often start doing household chores while the music is blaring and I find that my chore tempo gets faster and faster while my mood lifts. (The playlist has a lot of Queen in it.)

Eat a lot of eggs, milk, yogurt, and fish. These foods are strong sources of natural vitamin D, which is something your body is missing out on in the winter months. Sunlight’s interaction with your skin is a powerful source of vitamin D, but if the weather often drives you indoors, make sure that eggs, dairy, and fish are a part of your diet.

Stretch. One of the best things I do throughout a given day to simply feel better is to spend several minutes stretching. I stretch out my arms, my legs, my shoulders, my sides… basically every muscle group in my body. Stretching simultaneously dumps a bunch of endorphins into your bloodstream while also improving blood flow to the muscles in your body, which leaves you feeling great.

Read books you’ve missed out on, preferably in a spot with lots of natural lighting. I’m an avid reader and there are definitely times when I slow down with my reading during the summer months, leaving me a backlog of titles I want to read. During the winter, I get caught up (to a degree). Since we’ve done some minor home renovations, there’s a wonderful sunny spot to read during the day in our home and I’ve been taking advantage of it to catch up on some books I’m excited about.

Do social things. Find as many opportunities as possible in your life to spend time with other people, particularly people who make you feel good about yourself and the world. Go to community events. Spend time with friends who bring some positivity to the table. You’ll feel better simply being around other people.

Have a big “winter project.” Each winter, I try to select a “major project” of some kind that I want to complete by the end of the winter, and I make it my goal to spend at least some time each day moving forward on that project. This winter, for example, my goal is to set up a new office for myself in a different room in our home, move into that new office, and transform my old office into a bedroom. Many winters, my goal has centered around reading a particular book series. Just choose a project that you’ll have to knock off in little bits over the course of months.

Keep warm. One of the best ways to feel the winter blues is to feel cold at home, so I try to avoid that as much as I can. I dress warmly and comfortably at home all throughout the winter – layered clothing, hoodies, wool socks, and so on. Even when I want to go outside, it’s just a matter of putting on shoes and a coat most of the time. Feeling cold tends to equate to feeling down to me, so I try to keep it at bay.

Install and use some full spectrum lighting. In several rooms in our house, particularly ones that I spend significant time in, I have light bulbs installed that provide full spectrum lighting. These lights subtly fool your brain into thinking that you’re in a sunny area, even when you’re stuck inside working on a project.

Eat a lot of fruit when snacking. Rather than snacking on candy or unhealthy savory snacks, just keep a lot of fruit around for snacking. When you have the munchies, grab an apple or a banana or some berries from the fridge instead of some candy bits. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel over time.

Plan out and schedule your summer vacation. Whenever I’m feeling trapped inside by winter weather and a bit down about the seemingly endless winter, I spend some time plotting out my summer vacation. Envisioning fun in the summer sun in great detail is a pretty solid mood lifter, especially when that translates into taking action and setting plans in motion to make that fun a reality.

Turn on the fireplace if you have one. This ties into the “keep warm” strategy, but there’s something primal and valuable about looking into a fire. Get cozy near the flames and let yourself get warm and you’ll find your mood lift (even if you get a little sleepy, because fires usually make me think of nighttime and getting ready for bed).

Do some volunteer work, even if it’s super small scale. Just do something for someone else without any compensation or reward for yourself. It can be a big effort if you want, but it doesn’t have to be. You can spend a day working at a food pantry, or you can simply help someone load their groceries so they can get out of the cold a little faster. Just do something for someone and it will lift your mood.

Get close with other people. I mean this both in the physical sense and the emotional sense. In the physical sense, I mean cuddle up with a loved one. Touch each other. Hold each other close. In the emotional sense, I mean have a meaningful conversation with someone. Listen to what they’re saying. Get on their wavelength and try to help them with what they’re feeling. Both of those things are powerful mood lifters.

Start your meal off with a salad. Whenever you’re about to eat lunch or dinner, start off with a small salad of some kind, ideally centered on a mix of different vegetables. This puts something quite healthy in your belly right at the start of a meal. I find that eating healthy is a great way to lift one’s mood and a salad at the start of a meal lets you still enjoy whatever you want but makes sure that you don’t eat excessive amounts of unhealthy stuff later in the meal.

All of these tips have very little cost associated with them and are quite effective at elevating one’s mood. I use these methods to get through cold winters where I have to spend a lot of time indoors and other periods of my life where I feel a little melancholy. That being said, these are not a good substitute for treatment of mental health conditions; if you find yourself feeling blue for an extended period or find yourself feeling so down that it’s difficult to get through the day or get out of bed, contact a mental health professional.

The post 16 Little Perks I Use To Boost My Mood When I’m Down Without Spending Money appeared first on The Simple Dollar.


Friday, February 15th, 2019 10:49 am
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[personal profile] cos
[personal profile] aroraborealis' annual anonymous confessions post is on dreamwidth this year (as it was last year). Add something interesting or fun, without telling us who you are!
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Posted by Associated Press

President Trump is expected to announce that he will be spending roughly $8 billion on border barriers — combining the money approved by Congress with funding he plans to repurpose through executive actions.

Sinitic for "iron" in Balto-Slavic

Friday, February 15th, 2019 12:57 pm
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Posted by Victor Mair

[This is a guest post by Chris Button]

There are a couple of brief suggestions in Mallory & Adams' Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture (1997:314;379) that the Lithuanian word geležis and Old Church Slavonic word želežo for "iron", which following Derksen (2008:555) may be derived from Balto-Slavic *geleź-/*gelēź- (ź being the IPA palatal sibilant ʑ), could possibly have a Proto-Sino-Tibetan association.

The Old Chinese word for 鐵 "iron" may be reconstructed as *ɬə́c which certainly looks promising in that regard. Since the Balto-Slavic form appears to be an isolate in Indo-European, whereas 鐵 *ɬə́c belongs to an extensive word family connected to shininess, most directly in this case with 錫 *sɬác "tin" following a proposal by Schuessler (note the ə/a ablaut), the direction of the putative loan must be into Balto-Slavic rather than into Chinese.


Living in the Higher Consciousness

Friday, February 15th, 2019 01:57 am
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Posted by Rabbi Yoel Glick


On this physical plane of existence, we are bombarded daily by a constant stream of sensory stimuli. These stimuli push and pull us in every direction as they compete for our undivided attention.

First, this input is taken in through our senses: we see, hear, touch, feel and taste everything around us. These contacts create impressions upon our sensory organs, which are then fed into our brain, where they are catalogued, processed and prioritized into meaningful bits of information. Finally, all this information is formed into a picture of the world that we call “reality.”

This direct sensory perception is augmented by past experience stored in our brain in the form of memory. These memories tell us how to react to the people and objects around us: which are useful, which are unnecessary; which are pleasant and which are painful; which are friendly and which are hostile.

These two sources of impression together form the rudimentary material that makes up our consciousness. It is this sensory consciousness that the average man or woman uses to navigate their way through life. It is the yardstick whereby they measure all of their actions and deeds.

The spiritual life, on the other hand, provides us with a different model for perception. Spiritual training is about breaking down this physical way of seeing, so that we can recognize the spiritual essence that lies behind the external form. This different way of looking at the world was called by the Baal Shem Tov “seeing the Divine Presence in everything”, while Sri Ramana Maharshi spoke of it as “the Self seeing the Self.” In fact, when a devotee asked him about the importance of the practice of brahmacharya (celibacy) in Hinduism, Ramana Maharshi replied:

“To live and move in Brahman (the Absolute Reality) is real brahmacharya… so long as you identify yourself with the body, you can never escape sex-thoughts and distractions. It is only when you realize that you are formless pure awareness that sex-distinction disappears for good.”[1]

This higher way of living is achieved through a radical transformation of our consciousness. First, emotion needs to be transformed into spiritual intuition. Our emotions are like radar; they “sense” the world around us and then return to tell us what feels good and what feels unpleasant. Or like ultra sound, they move inside us and produce an “impression” of what is going on in our heart: are we happy or are we sad, are we angry or at peace. Our emotions are our tool for assessing the state of our physical reality.

Like feelings, the higher intuition is also a tool that stretches out and touches the world around us. The intuition, however, uses the “sensory apparatus” of our soul to gather its information. It takes in the spiritual impressions that are emitted on higher levels and then creates a picture of the reality that the soul has revealed. It is this “soul reality” that we want to learn to feel and perceive.

The second transformation that needs to take place is merging the lower mind with the higher mind: The lower mind is concrete. It takes a person, object or idea and builds it into a form in mental matter. Using this thoughtform, it then examines, analyses and defines this object or idea and arrives at an intellectual understanding of its properties and characteristics.

The higher mind, on the other hand, works through direct knowledge. The Kabbalists like to quote verse 4:1 in Genesis, “And Adam knew his wife Eve”, to symbolize this type of knowledge. This kind of knowledge only comes through intimate contact. It leads to an understanding of the essence of a thing and not just an intellectual comprehension. It is the path that unites us with the Divine Mind.

These two shifts of heart and of mind are the key to higher awareness. Building a spiritual life that will develop this higher perception is the challenge that every one of us confronts. One of the most potent tools in accomplishing this work is the practice of meditation. Meditation awakens us to the world of energies; it makes the spiritual realm come alive.

We can see how this process functions by looking at different types of meditation techniques. Meditation that focuses on our breathing sensitizes us to the flow of energy through our spiritual centers. Visualization meditation develops our awareness of our inner spiritual space. And concentration meditation forges a link in mental matter between our higher and lower mind.

Creating a path that leads to higher awareness is a challenge that confronts not only individuals, but all of the world’s religions as well. When the teachings and practices of a religion reflect this higher vision, the religion flourishes and grows. But when the outer form obstructs the inner truth; then the religion becomes lifeless and begins to wither. Today, every religion is in crisis; all are in need of new insight and inspiration. We, as individuals, can contribute to the growth and vitality of our own religion, by striving to realize this higher consciousness in our own lives.

Copyright © 2012, by Yoel Glick


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)
  1. The Power of the Presence, Vol.2, David Godman

April 2018


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