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Trey Harris
Yet Another Geek
Yet Another Geek


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United Airlines made me abandon my mobility device at the gate. Before my honeymoon.

I've been waiting to post this until I heard a response from United. But with the recent uproar over their handling of passengers, I figured it was time.
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Nice try, Microsoft Translate...

But you seem to have a teensy problem with adjectives used as interjections....

Update: actually, I missed another one. That's "diplomats! — to Putin?", not "diplomats! Putin?"

(From my self-translation of the original tweet in English.)

For comparison, here's Google Translate's rendition:
startling. Sarah Huckabi Sanders, in today's briefing, DOES NOT rule out the possibility that Trump will consider extradition of Ambassador Mike McFaul to Russia. Trump can transfer dissidents and their "collaborators" - even American citizens and diplomats! "To Putin?" Disgusting!

Pretty good, aside from "Huckabi" and the odd quotation marks around "To Putin?" — more understandable, since Russian uses em dashes both like we use parentheses or dashes, and to introduce direct quotations. If the "to Putin?" bit was longer, like "to Putin where he'll be treated most respectfully?", it might even be the right reading, but subtleties like these are difficult to tease out.
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Meet the Trumpverstehers

This evening I caught Danielle Pletka of the right-wing thinktank the American Enterprise Institute on Meet the Press Daily, and she pretty much personified the type Eliot A. Cohen describes in this piece.

She made apologies for Trump's abominable behavior in Brussels with the excuse that "it" (meaning asking NATO allies for more defense contributions and less buying of Russian oil) is something "all presidents" have been doing for decades—the only difference is that Trump did it out in the open instead of behind closed doors.

But she then lied (saying that the NATO allies haven't been increasing their defense spending overall but reducing it, which is simply false¹) and threw out a smokescreen (criticizing Germany for not planning to make the 2% commitment until 2024 — when 2024 is the deadline).

Then she made the requisite regretful noises about Trump's unfortunate demeanor which is all that's required for Trumpverstehers to be accepted into polite company.

I'm left with the same question about Pletka with which Cohen finished his article:

There is, however, one thing I do not comprehend about the Trumpverstehers. I do not understand how the cries of an infant torn from its immigrant mother’s arms now fail to rend the hearts of people who, in other settings, I once knew to be upright, generous, and kind.

¹ In a few cases, false in terms of the commitment—percentage of gross national product—while true in a sense that isn't relevant to the NATO goals, because GNP in some countries has declined since the financial crisis enough to push down nominal spending. But even that's true in just a handful of cases.
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The strangest earworm....

I've had «Госуда́рственный гимн Росси́йской Федера́ции» playing in an endless loop in my head all day. I can't imagine why....

My brain has mixed up the current Russian lyrics a bit with the old Soviet ones from the time I was first learning Russian, so I keep coming up with odd stuff like

Партия Ленина - мудрость народная!
Нас к торжеству - Мы гордимся тобой!

("The Party of Lenin is the wisdom of the people!/To the triumph - we are proud of you!")

I wonder if I'll start hearing The NATO Hymn this weekend?
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There's a lovely little detail hidden in the Russian version of a Steven Universe song

I just stumbled upon a playlist of all the foreign-language versions of songs from the wonderful Cartoon Network show Steven Universe. And in listening, I found a really interesting tidbit in «Полюбить Как Ты», (Polyubit' Kak Ty, lit. "To Love Like You"), the Russian version of "Love Like You", the lovely closing-credits song of Steven Universe, that gives an extra layer of depth to the lyrics.

Given what Rebecca Sugar said about her process in writing the song¹ —that she wrote the first stanza when she was struggling with feelings of intimacy and self-worth, then more than a year later, completed the song when she was in a different mindset — I found it quite interesting when I just listened to it that the refrain after the first verse in «Полюбить Как Ты» is как вы (kak vy), while at the end of the song it becomes как ты (kak ty).

Even more than French tu/vous or Spanish tu/usted, in Russian the second-person plural вы (y'all) is used instead of the singular ты (you) unless speaking to intimates and close family.

So, in the Russian version of the song, the very title is indicative of the personal journey of the song's narrator (and Rebecca Sugar herself). I found this fascinating and rather poignant.

I wonder if Rebecca Sugar was aware of this facet of this translation. (If I'm not mistaken, she has Russian-speaking Jewish ancestry, but I don't think she speaks the language herself.)

¹ She told me about this once when I asked her about it. I'm not sure if she's mentioned it in a panel or interview before. If you have a reference, I'd be grateful for a pointer.
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"Ocasio-Cortez": Is this Americanization right, or is it wrong?

When I see the name "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez", I naturally read it as a Hispanic name and want to call her "Ocasio". Her campaign materials certainly seem to suggest this is her preference as well, reading (emphasis and punctuation as the original) Alexandria ¡Ocasio! Cortez, a website at, and so on.

But even now she's exploded on to the scene beyond local politics here, English-language articles across the board seem to be setting a precedent of calling her "Ocasio-Cortez".

I mean, this could be the same Americanization when we do weird things like refer to Chile's leader, Michelle Bachelet, as "President Bachelet Jeria". Or she could be adopting American surname customs where double-barreled surnames are not uncommon—at least in reference if not in appellation.

But short of personally asking... Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez which she prefers, the evidence seems to go to "Ocasio" and the English-language press just getting it wrong.

Except... I just checked some American Spanish-language sites, and they're going with "Ocasio-Cortez" as well.

Of course, the style in Mexico that's emerged over the past two or three decades is generally to use both names (e.g., "Peña Nieto will likely be replaced by Lopez Obrador today"), as it was in Spain a bit before that. So perhaps using both names is more progressive in American melting-pot Spanish? But... the Bronx candidate is of puertorriqueña extraction, and the articles in PR I found, like the below, go with "Ocasio", like most of South America practices (and the articles I've sampled from papers there seem to go with just "Ocasio", too).

She isn't trans, but having more and more transpeople in my life have made me very cognizant of not misnaming people. But when you can't just ask someone, it's not always clear. (Unfortunately, the text on the website itself, even press releases, refers to her as "Alexandria", so no illumination there.)
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A Vox exclusive on the Trump regime's immigration plans: this is pure evil.

Dara Lind from Vox has exclusive reporting that is simultaneously bone-chilling in its cruelty yet totally unsurprising, because it follows a pattern the Trump regime—from this point forward, I'm no longer calling it the "government" or even the "Trump administration"—has now repeatedly shown us: float a move entirely unrecognizable as "American" under a fog of bureaucratic misdirection, double-speak, and lies, and then—once it has a toehold enabled by the sycophants in Congress and on Trump TV willing to accept and extoll the lies—reverse course and go full-bore on the unadulterated cruelty as if it were a virtue.

(Go, read this article, then come back.)

Okay, here goes:

First, this flouts international and domestic law. At this point, this is almost a yawner for actions taken by this regime, particularly in immigration policy, but it must always be mentioned—especially when That One deigns to ratchet up his calls—feh!—for "law and order".

This continues the regime's ongoing and brazen violations of international conventions and standards for human rights. And:

This plan hides its cruelty by pretending complementary Catch-22 policies aren't in place. Consider: in recent months, the Customs and Border Protection agents who ordinarily would receive a "foot on soil" asylum request have moved their port-of-entry checkpoints onto Mexican soil, so that would-be asylum-seekers can be told the POE isn't accepting asylum-seekers that day due to "backup", and to come back another day.

Make no mistake: it is patently against international law and against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to deny the right to asylum for someone who has set foot on US soil. The regime seeks to tweak this policy under domestic law to add a word: "...who has set foot on US soil legally." A change that will seem like an improvement to some, and basically meaningless to most.

But, then combine this with the new CBP policy of turning away asylum-seekers at legal ports of entry. We know that, counter to their claims of "temporary" backups and delays, that some asylum-seekers have camped out in the hot sun on bridges and roads leading into the United States for weeks and have seen no one allowed entry to request asylum. The message is clear: "The US is full, there's no room at the inn; go back from whence you came."

Naturally, desperate people will be moved to try entering elsewhere, and this and other immigration policies (some of which, I must note, pre-date the Trump regime) effectively herd them into illegal and dangerous entry. (See Dara Lind's previous article on this vile practice.)

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is clear that such a practice is absolutely disallowed. But conveniently, the United States and the other Five Eyes countries haven't ratified it, partly because it would disallow our "black sites" we used during the Bush administration. Convenient, because the baby, child and family camps erected by the current regime are absolutely "black sites."

Finally, I want to point out another of those truths that is glaringly obvious but is not only unremarked upon, but flat-out denied by the regime: they want to hamper, restrict, and eventually eliminate the legal immigration of brown and black people. The hampering they're already doing: see, among other examples, the policy we learned about last week where asylum-seekers with valid claims who were separated from their children are being offered reunion in exchange for dropping their asylum application, pleading guilty to illegal entry and agreeing to deportation. In other words, the regime is systematically using people's children as hostages in kangaroo courts to extract false confessions.

There are multiple substantiated reports of ICE or CBP seizing asylum-seekers' original documents proving their asylum claims and lawful parentage of their forcibly separated children, and then, when the asylum-seeker would need those documents to advance their asylum application or retrieve their children, the agencies' claiming they do not have the documents, or again using hostage tactics to offer the parentage documents only in exchange for a guilty plea and agreeing to deportation.

We have all heard the stories of people (almost exclusively, people of color) protected under DACA, asylum, permanent residency, work permit, guardianship of a minor US citizen, or other prior legal status, being nonetheless arrested while going about their normal business, detained without access to legal representation and sometimes communication of any sort with the outside world, and in some cases summarily deported. These tactics are intended to make the United States less attractive to those who qualify for — or may even already have — legal immigration status.

DHS has begun "auditing" naturalization applications for "errors and omissions". The claim, of course, is that they want to ensure we haven't inadvertently naturalized a terrorist who lied in their application for citizenship. But can anyone believe anything this regime says anymore? In fact, at least when discussing their immigration policies and enforcement, isn't it more reasonable to start from the assumption that the regime is lying? It seems safe to assume it won't be long before we hear about US citizens being stripped of their naturalization and deported for trivial clerical errors. In many cases, they'll then be deported while stateless, in violation of the 1967 Geneva Protocol that—surprise!—we did ratify.

This is not America. The regime, emboldened by a series of wins granted by those who would turn a blind eye to the regime's intentions and call that blind eye "the benefit of the doubt", now regrets its (practically) almost meaningless retreat of last week. That One now has openly expressed regret and anger about, and a desire to take back, even that tiniest of retreats.

Systematic cruelty to legal immigrants under cover of making them "illegal" in Orwellian fashion—just like justifying what was done to children by making them "unaccompanied" minors by forcible separation—doesn't deserve the dignity of being called "policy". Recognizing its true goal, let's call it what it is: the minority regime's racist clampdown.

Yes, Germany of the 20's and 30's remains a useful historical example. But more and more, I find myself looking to South Africa's apartheid for analogs to what Trump's racist regime is doing.
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Why do so many gaming reporters write like they don't even want to be considered real journalists?

I had this thought several times in reading E3 coverage this month, but I mostly held my tongue: a big developer convention with hundreds of games being previewed and journalists pulling 16+ hour days isn't conducive to best practice.

But this article is a pristine example of what, as a one-time journalist, makes me cringe. It manages to commit almost all of the non-ethics-related or anti-diversity sins of the worst game journalism at once:

1. It's an article written timed to something that may be newsworthy, but uses that timing, not as the subject of the article, but as justification for the writer's personal axe-grinding unrelated to the news.
In this case, the day's launch of a point release of a game, Elite: Dangerous 3.1, is the news, but the subject of the article is the lack of a feature. From reading the article, one might be forgiven for thinking the developers had missed delivering a promised feature for 3.1, but in fact the developers delivered exactly what had been promised on their roadmap given last year for this release, and the feature the article focuses on isn't on the developers' 2018 roadmap at all.

2. The writer clearly has expected for a long time—perhaps from the game's first release—a style of gameplay that the writer prefers, but rather than covering the game as it is, covers the game's failure to be what it isn't.
In this case, the writer's apparently long been excited about the idea of a space-adventure game set in Elite: Dangerous's 1:1 scale model of the actual Milky Way galaxy, and is disappointed that the game continues to be what it has always been: a spaceship flying sim with combat, trading and exploration elements.
(To be fair, Elite: Dangerous developers have never definitively ruled out one day branching into this style of gameplay—and the article reaches deep to find quotes to establish this—but it unfairly spins this openness into future expansion into, instead, being a repeatedly broken promise.)

3. The writer doesn't intuitively understand or appreciate the technology, and rather than researching it, has chosen to make gross and totally unwarranted assumptions—usually to suggest developers are withholding the thing the writer desires (their axe to grind) due to incompetence, a failure to understand their audience (who, the writer believes, holds the same disappointment they do) or to concentrate on more lucrative, flashy, or otherwise illegitimate priorities.
In this article, the writer seems to believe a spaceflight-sim game—whose entire technology stack is optimized for that use, with the player's vehicle being the sole way to interact with the game world—could be easily retooled to add "space legs"; that is, the ability for the player's avatar and its first-person view to leave the flight couch and perambulate about the spaceships, space stations, and planet surfaces. Since one can already move the game's viewpoint camera around, this couldn't be that difficult, could it? Surely the developers aren't being truthful when they say it's a feature that would amount to grafting a second game onto the first!
Of course, this is far from being a simple tweak; just scratching the surface, it would require new controls, locomotion and physics models, and new rendering and textures to accommodate human-scale inspection. Not to mention a new UI (when you're notionally in a ship, your "instruments" perform the functions of an adventure game's HUD—when walking around, how would information be communicated to the player?). And, oh right—gameplay. Without things to do with "space legs", they're nothing but a fancy (yet very constrictive) way to move the camera around.

4. The writer uses a whiny tone about a game suggesting its failure is imminent for not addressing their pet issue—without data to support such claim of impending failure. And even as they've probably written about its imminent failure in the past for not addressing the same pet issue.
Here, the writer harps on the lack of these "space legs", when they were first raised as the game's fatal flaw in 2013. Five years later, the "flaw" remains, but its fatality seems questionable at best.

I know this sounds like a rant on an individual writer dissing a game I happen to like for not including a feature I happen not to see as particularly important. But this pattern of writing is so common in game writing (outside of reviews, where you might expect it—I'm not talking about game critics here!) and so un-journalistic that it really drives me up the wall, whatever game it's about. (See my post about early reaction to the E3 demo of The Last of Us, Part II for another example.)

And it does seem specific to game writing. One hardly expects to read many travel and leisure articles ranting about how a particular resort region still is lacking in interesting dining options, or how some outdoors activity is still too difficult to book, or how airliners still have too many noisy babies. (Airline service, food, luggage space, pricing opacity and ever-shrinking seats? Sure. But these are rather more consequential issues.)

We're living in a time where, if you like to write about seemingly implacable yet petty grievances, you can actually do it in a socially constructive way: try writing about politics for a change.

Otherwise, why not try to stick to writing news and analysis about games?

Games are one of the things making life tolerable for a lot of us right now—as readers, we don't expect rosy gushing about games that are problematic or just not fun, but we don't need your random rants. You can rant on Twitter.
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Is it okay to ask a potential court nominee you're interviewing, "if I pardon myself and my family, you'll uphold that, right?" Just asking for a friend.
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The tyranny of the asymmetry, in a nutshell

Republicans believe the ends justify any means whatsoever. They will reward politicians who succeed using shady tactics. They will reward politicians who fail using shady tactics, because at least they pissed off the liberals. They punish their politicians who fail by not being ruthless or heartless enough.

When Democrats defeat Republicans, in Republican eyes, it's the Democrats' fault.

Democrats believe the ends do not justify the means. They will punish politicians who use shady tactics, even when they succeed. They will punish politicians who fail for any reason. They do not reward their politicians at all; at best, they grudgingly go along, with their prerogative to change their minds at any time implicit. They're like the date who sits facing the door of the bar, in case someone better comes along.

When Republicans defeat Democrats, in Democratic eyes, it's the Democrats' fault.
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