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Mark Atwood
As we were riding from Versailles back to Paris, there was sitting a few seats back from us a young attractive vivacious couple being young and attractive and vivacious with some other young attractive vivacious travellers, switching freely between Spanish and French.

And then the ticket inspectors entered our car. After the inspectors checked our tickets, they moved down to the next bench, and the saga began.

Suddenly, the couple only spoke English, and did not understand French. And... they didn't have tickets.

And they could not consistently explain how they had passed through the gates at the station they had boarded at. And could not describe what class of tickets they had had, how they had paid for them, who they bought them from, where a receipt for them may exist. For a while there was evolving story about how some tickets they had bought from some "agency" had not "registered" and so a station staffer had let them though the gates. The inspectors were not buying any of this.

I mean, jeeze, if you are going to lie about it, be consistent with your lie, and have your story straight ahead of time! Something simple like "we bought them for cash, and didn't realize we had to keep them with us while on the train", instead of a complex and evolving confabulation.

The other young attractive and formerly vivacious people sitting on that bench with them were looking agonizing embarrassed, eyes down, skin flushing, they wanted to be anywhere else, sitting near anybody else.

Then the couple offered to buy necessary tickets then and there. The inspectors agreed that yes, they were going to buy the tickets, AND they were going to pay a €100 fine. Each.

Oh, but they didn't have that much cash!

During these events, the young woman's sleeveless blouse was getting adjusted lower and lower, to reveal more and more light coffee colored décolletage. The inspectors were not buying that, either.

Oh, you don't have a credit card, bank card, or bank account? Anywhere? That's okay, the inspectors can just impound your passports as collateral. And then there will be an additional €120 charge for recovering your passports. Each. And if you don't have passports to use as collateral, then the police will get on at the next station to take you off to hold in jail as collateral for the fines.

Suddenly, they had money. A payment card was produced, inserted into the one of the inspector's handheld terminal, which then printed a receipt and two train tickets. Then the inspectors moved on to the next car. The couple was a lot less vivacious for the rest of the ride into Paris.

I hope that €200 fine was worth jumping the gate to avoid buying a pair of €1.20 tickets.

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It is easier to puzzle out a sign that is written in both Catalan and in Castilian, then it is to puzzle out Spanish on it's own. And it's a lot easier to figure out the Spanish to English mapping when the sign is written in Catalan, in Castilian, in French, and then again in English.

It was also interesting to notice just how much more common spoken Catalan is than Castilian in the streets, shops, and tapas places in Barcelona. And how much more prevalent the Catalonian flag is than the in-theory legally mandated flag of Spain. And the yellow ribbons everywhere, attached to every building, painted on every street, and wore by many many many people. And outside of Barcelona, in the countryside, it got even more common and even more blatant.

It was also interesting to notice that most of the text inscribed on the doors and walls of the Basílica is in Catalan, not Castilian.

We asked one of our guides how Catalan had so robustly survived. His answer: all the hundreds and hundreds of villages that were a hard walk from the main roads. The kings and then later the junta could pass all the decrees they wanted to, but they couldn't control the language spoken in the villages.

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While all the memes and comments about Mr. Musk's girlfriend are moderately funny, I can't help but notice that all the ones I've seen have a strong erasure of the fact that Ms. Boucher has agency.

She's not dating him against her will. He did not purchase her out of a catalog. He did not order his EA to obtain her. He did not hire Cyrano to ghostwrite poetry to woo her. She is not a 22yo intern being molested with a cigar over the Resolute Desk. Her friends did not strap her down to a table and get out a branding iron.

Why is everyone so twisted up about this? I don't get it. Is it that only guys who look like Eric Draven are supposed to date girls who look like Ms. Boucher?

He told a obscure joke that only a very narrow sub-population of very well read students of 21st century philosophy of science would get, and she got it. That's a better "first flirt" than most.
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There is no standard central registry of names in the US. Your "legal name" is whatever you say it is, with the restriction that you may not change your name to commit fraud or try to avoid a debt. The flip side of that is you have very few avenues to force anyone else to encode or display your name in the manner you prefer. If you change your name or have a name that is awkward to deal with, the obligation is generally on you to work out a working relationship with everyone else who needs to know your name.

A "legal name change" is just a helpful service provided by your local government court that lets you publicly declare and record a new name, bound to your previous name, on standard papers that other government agencies and various private organizations MAY (but not MUST) pay attention to.

There are multiple issuing authorities for IDs. Public, private, commercial, corporate, educational, military, government, ... An authority to issue IDs reaches only as far as their legal mandate, and no farther, except by rough consensus and a need to make stuff work.

Each issuing authority gets to have their own regularization rules and database schema. They will pick what works for them, and have very little interest or budget in completely reworking their databases and processes to accommodate someone who is being a pain in their ass.

Whenever you intersect with government, just expect ascii7 smashing.

US banking know-your-customer rules require ascii7 smashed names for account holders, both individuals and companies, to interface to government banking regulators and auditors.

The US interstate Driver License Compact imposes ascii7 smashing and length limits, for database and lookup compatibility reasons. When a cop looks at your DL (which you do have to give him if he's detained you while you are driving a car), it had better match what pops up on his terminal when he enters the the license# and/or the plate#, or you may be are about to have a bad day.

Things don't get a lot better when dealing with passports, from any country.

Passports impose ascii7 (with various accent composition hacks) and length limits, by treaty.

Different countries impose additional different rules and length limits, for reasons various and mostly stupid. Some countries try to appear to still permit accent marks, by trying to encode accents using various slightly different composition encodings layered on top of ascii7, and hoping that everyone uses the same encoding. This kind of sort of mostly works, except when it doesn't.

Passports from countries with widespread non-latin charsets will require an ascii7 smashed name, and often require a specific approved romanization algorithm, or an approved thesaurus, or both. Such a passport MAY have an additional field for the name in a local charset, but that is entirely at the option of the issuing authority.

What is printed on the passport photo page should match whats printed in the "machine readable zone", which should match whats on the rfid chip. "Should".

Most countries require air, sea, and rail carriers to pre-transmit passenger manifest before arrival. The names on those manifests also get ascii7-smashed, and any accent composition stripped, and had better match what's printed in your passport, or you are going to have a rough time boarding at departure, or clearing passport control at arrival.

Internal and external passports in China used to also require a field encoding the name in the form of Chinese telegraphy numbers, to sidestep transliteration issues between the various Chinese languages. I don't know if it still does.
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When I first was taught how to write, the ampersand glyph was not in the lesson plan. And every time I tried to "draw the character", it came out looking horribly wrong. I gave up, and for my own personal notes, I would use an idiosyncratic glyph that looked like a joined plus sign instead. Until finally, I decided I was going to fix that, and found a youtube video of someone writing the glyph. Aha, I had been doing it backwards! Now I do it correctly, and it looks correct

This little story unfolds a bit larger. Looking at a letter on a page no more teaches how to scribe it than looking at a photograph of a drawing teaches how to draw.

I love the concept of writing glyphs that are beyond the standard "latin letters and arabic numerals, with accents". I love "lost letters" and various conscripts. But without stroke order information, and preferably videos, I can learn to read them, but not learn to write them.

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In the original Ender's Game novel and original trilogy, the Formics' entire moral justification was: "We were only intending to commit a home invasion and armed robbery of someone else's home, steal all their stuff, throw them out of their home, and beat them up while we do it."

The whole "we didn't mean to actually kill anyone" on their part has a lot less foundation to it, once you realize that.

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What books have you read in a language other than one you know?

When I was studying French in public school, I read three books in that language: "Le Petit Prince", "La Belle et la Bête" (very abridged short version), and the first volume of "Valérian et Laureline". I read them by making enlarged photocopies, and then grinding over them by hand with a pencil and a dictionary. (There was, of course, no Google Translate back in those days.)

Have you ever done anything similar?
What language and what book?
How did you do it?

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Current Location: Seattle
Current Music: YellowBrickCinema’s Study Music & Concentration Music

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I'm about 20% of the way through reading Moira Greyland Peat's horrifying childhood autobiography "The Last Closet: The Dark Side of Avalon", and I'm having to keep a firm grip on a pressurizing bubble of rage, disgust, and horror.

I knew it was bad, but I hadn't realized how bad it was. And what's worse, is the reality was again even worse than what she has put in the book, since she said she's left many things out of the book that she was not able to separately corroborate.

People knew. Lots of people knew. Lots of people still knew, who now surely are hoping they die of comfortable old age before Moira's book prompt more people to remember, and speak what they remember, and name the people they remember...

(I just wrote, erased, rewrote, and erased again a number of paragraphs here. I may let it keep getting reworked in my head, and I may write it out again later.)

Burn it all, with white hot fire.

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I'm normally known to be pretty chill about "newcomers" to Seattle, as they keep coming and coming and coming... I've only lived here 18 years myself. I moved here myself.


There is a class of newcomer that I too am losing my patience with.

They are recognizable by their shiny new luxury car, almost always a BMW, and their leathery tan skin and expensive non-northwest-style clothes, and they are DEFINED by their very aggressive speedy driving style, lots of zooming squealing, and their willingness to blare their horn whenever they see someone in front of them who is not as as aggressive or as speedy as them.

Every week more and more of them infest South Lake Union, and infest the rest of Seattle, and infest the surrounding exurbs. Zoom zoom screech screech honk honk.

Some of them have been overheard to complain about the overly yielding overly polite style of Seattle drivers. Something about 'if only everyone drove more aggressively, we could all get everywhere faster", and what I hear is "if we were all assholes, we could all be assholes together".

No, they are just assholes, and I'm getting tired of it, and tired of them. This is not SF, this is not LA, this is not NYC, this is not DC, and this is especially not Masshole Boston. People who want to bring their type-A personality "get the hell out of my way, I'm an important person on my way to important meetings" asshole driving culture with them, are not welcome here.

Unfortunately, I don't know what to do about them

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Current Location: South Lake Union, Seattle, Washington

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When I was taking an Uber to the SEA airport last week, there was streaming music running on the stereo in the car. Not too loud, just low background music.

Toward the end of the ride, as the car turned off the exit to the airport, "Sabotage" came on.

I waited a bit, for the extended guitar riff in the middle, and then asked from the back seat, "Isn't that Classical Music?"

The driver waited a measure, and then right on cue, said "Yes, Doctor, it would seem to be."

He got 5 stars, AND a tip.

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