Archive for May 12, 2011

Domestic Drones

May 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve been a little quiet on the political front lately. I apologize. It’s so hard to keep up with all the developments. The killing of Osama. Obama’s subsequent announcements that he is ending US military engagement in Afghanistan, closing Guantánamo, and initiating a truth-finding inquiry into Bush administration torture enhanced interrogation. Where to begin?

What? I was dreaming? All of it? Not quite? Oh. So we killed Osama, then days later shot missiles from a drone over Yemen in an assassination attempt on Anwar al-Awlaki, the US citizen yet to be tried or convicted of any crime? Got it.

Gotta love those drones. Are they cool or what? On Monday, emptywheel reported on the provision in the House Armed Services Committee Mark-Up for next year’s Defense Authorization including “funds to build drone hangars at four bases in the Continental US.”

This follows the news she reported last month that

a bunch of people claiming to be interested in jobs inserted an amendment into the FAA bill requiring the FAA to allow for drones in US airspace. … Aside from jobs, what’s remarkable about the push for drones is how amorphous the purpose of the drones are. Here’s Candice Miller, one of the sponsors of the amendment, describing the need:

My amendment is designed to help expedite and to improve the process by which FAA works with government agencies to incorporate unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs as they’re commonly called, into the National Airspace System. Currently, Mr. Chairman, law enforcement agencies across the country, from Customs and Border Protection to local police departments, et cetera, are ready to embrace the new technology and to start utilizing UAVs in the pursuit of enforcing the law and protecting our border as well.

However, the FAA has been very hesitant to give authorization to these UAVs due to limited air space and restrictions that they have. I certainly can appreciate those concerns; but when we’re talking about Customs and Border Protection or the FBI, what have you, we are talking about missions of national security. And certainly there’s nothing more important than that. It was a very, very lengthy exercise to get the FAA to authorize the use of UAVs on the southern border. While they’re finally being utilized down there, we are certainly a long way from fully utilizing these technologies.

That is, we’re talking about CPB (which has used the drones for some years), but also the FBI, local police departments, and “et cetera” using the drones.

You know me. I’m no conspiracy theorist. But I’m no fool either. If they’re not watching us yet, they will be soon. Count on it.

Categories: Politics, War

Pull = Latin America

May 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, is also a regular contributor to the Language Log blog. A recurring theme in his posts is his unraveling of the possible sequence of events leading to a particularly bizarre occurrence of Chinglish, especially as found in printed English translations of Chinese on signs.

Today’s example, the first in a Mair post in some time, is as good as they come. Look closely at the sign above and you’ll see the English words Latin America on the hotel shower door.

What in the world is going on here? One big Chinese character and all those Roman letters beneath it:


All right, let’s go through this methodically. La 拉 simply means “pull,” and that is what the sign is telling the person who is about to enter the shower. If you want to get into the shower, PULL the door. Simple enough.

So how did the injunction to “Latin America” come into the picture? Some oaf who was charged with making the sign managed to find lā 拉 in their dictionary and must have been overwhelmed by the plethora of English glosses: pull, drag, draw, haul, help out, implicate, play (a stringed instrument), chat, a verbal suffix, and so forth. Bewildered, they would have spotted near the end of the entry for lā 拉 that it is also an abbreviation for Lāměi 拉美, which is in turn a short form of Lādīng měizhōu 拉丁美洲, which means “Latin America”.

Why didn’t the oaf choose the first and simplest definition, “pull”? I suppose that they thought that the English (Roman letter) part of the sign is for foreigners, so it might be smart (!!) to use the only obviously foreign definition in the dictionary: Latin America. That’s the best defense I can give on behalf of the individual who made this sign. Actually, it’s not really a defense, merely one possible explanation for this mind-boggling choice. I suppose it’s also possible that they didn’t understand any of the English glosses, and simply felt that the longest one must be the most informative.

Be sure to look at past Mair posts on Chinglish. They are always fascinating. For instance, here’s another one.

Categories: Language, Translation

Pipes and Drums

May 12, 2011 Leave a comment

I mentioned in my last post the painfully premature death last Friday of our cousin Jeffrey Birt. His funeral was yesterday. I don’t intend to recount it here. I’ll just say that I now know who I would like to make an appearance at my funeral. The Seattle Firefighters Pipes and Drums. Yesterday’s service was moving enough as it was, but the effect of their rendition of Going Home as they marched in to open the service and Amazing Grace to conclude it was beyond words.

Categories: Music, Obituary