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In honor of the SuperBowl, which I as a Brit know nothing about

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — the curious language and precise scientific timing of tomorrow’s game ]
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The curious language of the Superbowl:

Memorable Trick Plays of Super Bowls Past

Sometimes trick plays are all about players’ resourcefulness—what they’re willing to do with what they’ve got. Last year, at Super Bowl LII, Nick Foles, the Eagles’ backup quarterback, who has become known for his fighting spirit and mystifyingly magic touch, called and executed perhaps the most famous trick play in recent history, “The Philly Special,” which is actually a combination of three lesser trick plays: a snap to the running back, a pitch to the tight end, and a pass to the quarterback. In 2006, at Super Bowl XL, the Steelers pulled off a similarly discombobulating series of tricks-within-a-trick, a fake double-reverse pass that ended with a forty-three-yard touchdown pass by Antwaan Randle El, the receiver with the golden arm.

Other trick plays come from coaches with no-guts-no-glory attitudes, who approach games as if they are leading the Spartans into battle. In 2010, at Super Bowl XLIV, the Saints’ coach, Sean Payton, successfully called the first ever onside kick to be attempted before the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl game (a play he nicknamed The Ambush).

There’s a video on the New Yorker page those paras are taken from, but I’m not going to steal it — if you’re into [American] football, you should go watch it there, and read the whole piece while you’re at it!

Eh?

Somewhere else, I saw a reference to “throwing the hook and ladder” — would anyone care to translate? That’s the most troublesome of the phrases I’ve seen, but “snap to the running back, a pitch to the tight end, and a pass to the quarterback” (above) comes close — what’s the difference between a “snap”, a “pitch”, and a “pass”? — and a “double-reverse pass” (above, likewise) — what’s that? Do two reverses make a straightforward? If not, why not?

Oh, and then a friend mentioned “flea flickers” and “quarterback sneaks”. Language is a terrific sport!

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The precise scientific timing of the Superbowl:

For nerds who may wonder, turning aside from the upcoming game to my twitter feed, there’s this:

What Time Is the Super Bowl?

6:30 p.m. is the time the Super Bowl will start in Atlanta. Most of us are not in Atlanta. So for us, the game will start later than that. You need the time for the images to be captured by the cameras, be broadcasted to air or cable, be captured by my TV screen, leave my TV screen, get to my eyes (not to mention the time my brain needs to process and decode the images). You may say this is fast — of course this is fast. But it takes some time nevertheless, and I am a physicist, I need precision. For most of us, the game will actually start some time later than the kickoff in Atlanta.

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Popcorn?

Two from my FB feed this morning

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — well, three — what I read on FB, and what Chinese AI can now deduce about me ]
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First:

Carla Cahill‘s catch, I think, speaks for itself — the super blood wolf moon caught at exactly the right moment:

Carla writes:

Okay, I saw this jet coming, so I acted fast and got it along with the Blood, Wolf, Blue, Eclipse Moon!

The photographer’s gift is eternal alertness.

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Second:

This DoubleQuote response to the #tenyearchallrnge showing a dying coral reef, via John Kellden and March for Science:

Friend Marshall Massey contributed this example:

I somehow suspect the photographer of the coral reef — the Great Barrier Reef? — didn’t mark the exact few “leaves” of coral he photographed ten years earlier, and then returned to those exact few leaves ten years later — I imagine he may have returned to the same rough spot where he — or she, why do I suppose a he? — had taken her first shot, and found a similar spot to take the second.

Or were there in fact two photographers? The similarity of the two photos almost convinces me of a single photographer with his eye on the same exact sport for years — his or her wife, lover or friends bringing sandwiches every day for ten years, sleepless nights under a cold moon..

Except both photos were presumably taken by a diver or divers, underwater..

Ah, the human mind!

And the forest / mine pair — were they taken at the same spot, roughly the same spot — or close enough to make a point, maybe a few miles apart, with the second shot positioned to include the truck..?

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Third:

This was too rich to omit. Ali Minai wrote:

I don’t read or speak Urdu, so knowing Ali is an AI expert, I asked for translations from two AIs. FB’s in-house translator gave me:

It’s very short of the dead country.
The ironic is the same, yooo change.

Google Translate gave me:

History is very short of my country
Satyam is the same, the stars keep changing

Okay, those two give me state of the art, readily available AI capabilities. I then asked Ali how he would translate the couplet into English.. and gave my own best guess, sticking my neck out and working from similarities between the two AI versions:

History short-changes my native land —
ah, but truth’s the same, as changeable as the stars.

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Here’s Ali’s very gracious response:

Aha! Sense at last — English sense, that is.

I think this entire episode is a living, breathing testament to the state of the art in intelligence — artificial and embodied. Way to go, Ali Minai

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Chinese AI looking for vulnerabilities to exploit will now think I’m an Urdu speaker, because I commented on Ali Minai‘s Urdu post. And ZP’s version of WordPress couldn’t even render Ali’s couplet except as:

??? ??? ?? ??? ????? ?? ?? ?????
??? ??? ??? ????? ????? ???? ???

— which captures my own sentiment when I first saw Ali‘s post exactly..

All in all, a rich morning’s education!

Whiplash [NKorea Yes No] and Double Vision [Jerusalem Gaza]

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

{ by Charles Cameron — sudden reversal in Korea, synchronicity in Israel ]
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Whiplash alert

Whiplash alert is a sharp, neat way to announce a sudden and powerful instance of boustrophedon — taking hairpin bends at racing speeds. Anna Fyfield nails it.,

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The swuitchback whiplash is between a Triumphalist Trump suggesting that North Korea is both willing and implicitly eager to come to the table to discuss the total abandonment of its entire nuclear program, and an adamant, almost adamantine N Korean regime response that such total abandonment is not even on the table.

In terms of goal posts:

Various Trump aides, including Bolton and Pompeo, have repeatedly said that that what they want from the summit is “complete verifiable irreversible denuclearization of North Korea.” Of course, Pyongyang would love it if they could move the goal posts before the meeting, making the U.S. back off on this demand.

then this:

North Korea is rapidly moving the goal posts for next month’s summit between leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump, saying the United States must stop insisting that the North “unilaterally” abandon its nuclear weapons program and stop talking about a Libya-style solution to the standoff.

The problem is:

Denuclearization’ may be the goal of U.S.-North Korean summit, but each side defines it differently

But the diplomatic buzzword can mean different things to different players on the world stage. The success of Trump’s gambit probably hangs on whether he and Kim can agree on what it means for them and whether it’s worthwhile to keep fudging the details of a term that U.S. and Asian diplomats have been fudging for years.

Different interpretations of a word, differing perceptions — what seems at one moment to be a problem in foreign affairs seems on another to be a linguistic or even a perceptual— at the very least, an internal, not an external, issue.

Internal maybe, but external in it’s implications:

If the U.S. is trying to drive us into a corner to force our unilateral nuclear abandonment, we will no longer be interested in such dialogue and cannot but reconsider our proceeding to the DPRK-U.S. summit,” said Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan in a statement published by the North’s state-run media.

Subtlety:

King Jung-Un may be under the imprression that “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” involves, gasp, the withdrawal of the American nuclear air umbrella protecting the SOuth..

So: a sudden 180° change, the opposites here being presented as sequential.

And the Nobel Peace Prize which Republican governors had wishes for President Trumo, sadly recedes..

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From my POV, the interesting difference here between the Korean situation and that in Israel is that the former is inherently sequential, while the latter is synchronic — the furious and grief-stricken rioting in Gaza happens as official Israel, with Trumpian support, joyously celebrates the opening of the American Embassy in Jerusalem; the Isreli Independence Day is naturally considered the Nakba or catastrophe by Palestinians — and hey, to add to the tensions, Ramadan is about to begin, with its intensification of fasting and spiritual intensity.

Synchrony, verbally presented:

The fact that riots in Gaza and rejoicing in Israel happen simultaneously is so stark that while Israel — and Trump — might prefer triumphalist headlines, news souces have played up the double-edged nature of the situiation:

and visually:

This title is accompaniedd by a verbal explanation:

The scenes were barely 40 miles apart: in Gaza, a chaotic panorama of smoke, fleeing figures and tear gas on the deadliest day since mass protests at the border fence with Israel began; in Jerusalem, Ivanka Trump and other American officials celebrating President Trump’s formal relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv.

and a visual double graphic (to see the images fully, click through to the original page):

Various TV stations offered similar double images — the effect is to undercut the apparent joyfulness of the Jerusalem celebrations with simultaneous disturbing images of the Gaza rioting.

If Trump, or Jared perhaps, or Ivanka, had made any slightest acknowledgement that the Palestinians, too, had hopes of an eventual capital of their own in the existing Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, the celebrations might have been more widely shared and less easiky discounted.

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If you come to your front door to conduct a press conference, it’s always wise to know what’s happening at the same time at the back door.

Oh, oh, but I have to leave for a medical proceduerre, and there is so much more to be said..

Heart Line — a response to Bill Benzon

Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — design fascination — including a Mimbres rabbit with a supernova at its feet ]
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Bill Benzon has been blogging a remarkable series of posts on Jamie Bérubé‘s drawings as recorded in the online illustrations to Michael Bérubé‘s book, Life As Jamie Knows It: An Exceptional Child Grows Up.

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I wanted to respond to Bill’s latest, Jamie’s Investigations, Part 5: Biomorphs, Geometry and Topology, which included this illustration:

berube-benzon-5-biomorphs

and these comments, which I’ve edited lightly for clarity and simplicity:

I emailed Mark Changizi, a theoretical neuroscientist who has done work on letterforms. He has been making a general argument that culture re-purposes, harnesses (his term), perceptual capacities our ancestors developed for living in the natural world. One of his arguments is that the forms used in writing systems, whether Latinate or Chinese (for example), are those that happened to be useful in perceiving creatures in the natural world, such as plant and animal forms. I told him that Jamie’s forms looked like “tree branches and such.” He replied that they looked like people. His wife, an artist, thought so as well, and also: “This is like early human art.”

You’ll see why that-all interests me — letters and life forms — below.

And then:

Yes, each is a convex polygon; each has several ‘limbs’. And each has a single interior line that goes from one side, through the interior space, to another side. The line never goes outside the polygon .. Why those lines? I don’t know what’s on Jamie’s mind as he draws those lines, but I’m guessing that he’s interested in the fact that, given the relative complexity of these figures and the variety among them, in every case he can draw such a line.

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Two thoughts cross my mind.

The first is that one of these forms, Benzon’s Biomorphic Objects 6a, bears a striking resemblance to the letter aleph, with which the Hebrew alphabet — or better, alephbeth — begins:

berube-benzon-5-biomorph-6a-aleph

There may be some connection there, I’m not sure — though Jamie also has a keen interest in alphabetic forms, as illustrated here:

berube-benzon-5-letterforms

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But it’s my second point that interests me more.

These “biomorphic objects” with “single interior line that goes from one side, through the interior space, to another side” remind me of nothing so much as the Native American style of representing animals with a “heart line” — best illustrated, perhaps, by this Acoma Pueblo Polychrome Olla with Heartline Deer:

The image comment notes:

One generally associates the use of heartline deer with pottery from Zuni Pueblo and that is most likely the origin. The fact that it appears on Acoma Pueblo pottery has been explained in a number of fashions by a number of contemporary Acoma potters. Deer designs have been documented on Acoma pottery as early as 1880, but those deer do not feature heartline elements. Some potters at Acoma have indicated that Lucy Lewis was the first Acoma potter to produce heartline deer on Acoma pottery. She did this around 1950 at the encouragement of Gallup, New Mexico Indian art dealer Katie Noe. Lewis did not use it until gaining permission from Zuni to do so. Other potters at Acoma have stated that the heartline deer is a traditional Acoma design; however, there is no documented example to prove this. Even if the heartline deer motif is not of Acoma origin, potters at Acoma have expressed that it does have meaning for them. It is said to represent life and it has a spiritual connection to deer and going hunting for deer.

Here’s a “heartline bear” from David and Jean Villasenor‘s book, Indian Designs:

bear-heartline

And here’s an equivalent Mimbres design for a rabbit with heartline, in which the line passes completely through the body from one side to the other, as in Jamie’s biomorphs:

mimbres-rabbit

Again, the comment is interesting — it cites a 1990 New York Times article, Star Explosion of 1054 Is Seen in Indian Bowl:

When the prehistoric Mimbres Indians of New Mexico looked at the moon, they saw in its surface shading not the “man in the moon” but a “rabbit in the moon.” For them, as for other early Meso-American people, the rabbit came to symbolize the moon in their religion and art.

On the morning of July 5, 1054, the Mimbres Indians arose to find a bright new object shining in the Eastern sky, close to the crescent moon. The object remained visible in daylight for many days. One observer recorded the strange apparition with a black and white painting of a rabbit curled into a crescent shape with a small sunburst at the tip of one foot.

And so the Indians of the Southwestern United States left what archeologists and astronomers call the most unambiguous evidence ever found that people in the Western Hemisphere observed with awe and some sophistication the exploding star, or supernova, that created the Crab nebula.

That would be the sunburst right at the rabbit’s feet!

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Posts in Bill’s series thus far:

  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 1: Emergence
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 2: On Discovering Jamie’s Principle
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 3: Towers of Color
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 4: Concentrics, Letters, and the Problem of Composition
  • Jamie’s Investigations, Part 5: Biomorphs, Geometry and Topology
  • My previous comment on #1 in the series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: nine
  • On going shopping

    Sunday, September 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — this one’s for the Thomas Hegghammer’s “Bored Jihadi” archives ]
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    For that special occasion when formal “penguin” attire is required, all black and white — yet with a casual artistic / rebellious flair:

    isis-fashion-poster2239940377

    A good place to shop for such things if you happen to be in Istanbul — Islami Giyim, or Islamic Clothing:

    jihadi-gift-shop

    Of course, you may not feel like dressing in support of terror — but you can still have swag:

    tote

    This tote-bag carries an Arabic inscription that reads:

    The only goal of this text is to spread panic among those who fear the Arabic language.

    And there are in fact people for whom a small amount of Arabic script is enough to call in the bomb squad, as occurred a few days back in Marshall’s Creek, Pennsylvania:

    cookies

    Mmm, date-filled cookies!

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    Sources:

  • Vocativ, The Perfect Gift for the Jihadi on Your Shopping List
  • Roads & Kingdoms, The Jihadi Gift Shop in Istanbul
  • Special Broadcasting Service, The Arabic on this tote bag is hilariously edgy
  • WNEP The News Station, Bomb Unit Investigates Box Left at Gas Station

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