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Comment Re:Fake it. (Score 1) 366

This probably should have been modded higher; it's an astute observation. You can, indeed, say "a water", but pretty much only in the context you've highlighted here, you're actually using some kind of elliptical form to say "a [vessel filled with] water", i.e. you're effectively saying something other than what we're discussing above.

Comment Re:Fake it. (Score 4, Interesting) 366

+5, Informative?...REALLY?!?...

OK, let's start with a handily recent post on the Language Log about Latin plurals (the post is about "syllabus", but "virus/viruses/*viri/**virii" show up in the comments).

Now, onward...

Well, if you want to get all prissy about the Latin, then it's incorrect to use the word to describe a single unit of the substance, in the way it's not correct to call a single water molecule "a water".

Actually (and ignoring the somewhat startling categorisation of computer virus as "substance"), not in the same way at all. You can't call a single molecule of water "a water" because "water" is a mass noun in English, and those don't (i) take indefinite articles, and (ii) don't pluralize nicely (inter alia). It's possible that this portion of your argument comes from here, which points out that in Latin, "virus" ("poison") was a mass noun. Of course, in English, "virus" is very clearly a count noun in English, since it can be (and overwhelmingly is) used with an indefinite article.

Id est, since a viral program is itself a cell in the viral infection of many computers, there's no term for it other than "viral program" and no term for several of them other than "viral programs".

You appear in the preceding to be claiming that the word "virus" doesn't exist in English (or perhaps simply that is has no referent) a claim some information security researchers (and doctors!) might take issue with (cue lambasting for the stranded preposition in 3...2..1).

That being said, this raises an interesting point about...something. Maybe the type/token distinction? When someone says "I wrote a virus", we take him (or her, I suppose) to be making a claim about an implementation of some specific algorithm in some specific language, but not to any particular token of it.

The "virus" would be some arbitrarily bounded subset of the population of said viral programs infecting machines, [...]

I don't understand the grounds on which you're making this claim.

[...] which could devolve to a single program infecting a single machine, but would still not be the correct term for that program or, indeed, for the viral infection being suffered by that machine. It could correctly refer to the running program and its data (which in most computers includes its instructions) and the progress of its states,

OK, so the "running program, and its data" counts pretty much as a "single token of the substance" at hand, in my book. So now it sounds like you're contradicting your opening claim.

but I'm pretty sure nobody much thinks of it that clearly when using the word "virus".

As I just mentioned, you seem to be contradicting yourself (although I may just be misreading you), so you'll forgive if I take claims of clear thinking only quasi-seriously.

Nor is it correct to use "a virus" to refer to a type of virus (exempli gratia Stuxnet, Sasser, Hopper, et cetera) [...]

Why is this 'incorrect'? "I wrote a virus. I'm calling it Johnny5." Seems like a perfectly good use of "a virus" to me.

[...] but only to an instance of that type of virus as it is spreading, [...]

Again, isn't this in contradiction to how you started this comment?

or, again, some arbitrary subset thereof, wherein it has its physical expression and aggregate, fluid form.

Aside from the impossibility of "some arbitrary subset" of an instance (I'll assume that was just a typo/thinko), now you're just engaged in verbal wankery. I mean, I suppose you might choose to model the spread of contagion in a network of computers as the flow of a kind of fluid, but it's not clear if that's what you mean. And a population of tokens of a virus has no relevant physical expression (pace Wheeler & friends)...it's just a bunch of electrons.

As for whether it annoys you for people to use a latinate word that is both convenient and apt despite its not being precisely Latin, well, tough titty, [...]

Here, remarkably, I agree with you. "Viri" is a perfectly legitimate neologised plural, especially in the sociolinguistic context of places like Slashdot (although I confess that "virii", by some awful analogy with "radius~radii" hurts my eyes a wee bit). People can say whatever they want (but not without expecting to sometimes ruffle feathers), and use whatever linguistic constructs suit them best.

[...] because apparently the Latin version of it is a mispronunciation of the Proto-Indo-European word for the same gooey mess, [...]

I don't know what you mean by "the same gooey mess". The reconstructed PIE root "*weis-" (attn: the *-operator is being overloaded here) apparently means "to melt away" or "to flow". Also, to characterise it as a "mispronunciation" reflects a lack of understanding of how sound change works, and ignores the fact that Vulgar Latin was spoken millennia after PIE. Simply put there was no PIE to be "mispronounced" when there were Latin speakers.

[...] so insisting on going only as far back as Latin for the value of correctness of form is false cognitive closure, and that gives everyone else cause to be annoyed at you.

I get the point you're making, but I'm not sure it holds. The English word "virus" does come to us ultimately from PIE, but it does so via Latin where it was also "virus", and so it's not entirely arbitrary to stop there in search of a "correct" pluralisation (although the answer we get from Latin is ultimately unhelpful with respect to modern English). In particular, it's unclear whether earlier written forms exist, and earlier forms were in all likelihood different from the Latin (and, probably from the PIE, as well).

Anyway...that was a massive waste of time, during which I should have been coding. Damn you.

Comment Re:Again paranoia rules the roost (Score 1) 324

You've got a fair point that underage sexual activity is largely irrelevant to the topic of pedophilia.

Or, y'know, completely irrelevant, since pedophilia is adult attraction to children.

But [bluefoxlucid's] point, as I understood it, is that there's a distinction between underage sex and sexual abuse - and that it's not the act of underage sex that's harmful, but the scenario of being raped.

Rape is perhaps a more direct, physical form of harm, that evokes a visceral reaction because of its associated violence, but the basic premise w.r.t. underage sex (and I believe it's largely correct), is that children/tweens are incapable of giving informed consent. Even ignoring the complicated power dynamics that come with large age differences and focusing on two underage (but beyond the age of "playing doctor") kids having sex, the chains of reasoning and long-term thinking that are a prerequisite of informed consent simply elude most kids.

[...] when I use the word "rape" I refer specifically and exclusively to cases where the sexual activity is non-consensual.

See above. Children's "consent" is not the same as your consent.

Let me ask you this very simple question: Would you want somebody who can say these things teaching *your* 12 year old daughter about sex?

This seems like a ridiculous and somewhat vague question.

No, it seems pretty clear what the question means, but I can concretize it a bit more for you: would you want bluelucidfox teaching your 12-year-old daughter about sex?

No, I wouldn't want my daughter to have sex when she's 12, at all. I expect I'd do my best to prevent that. But if she chose to do so, I don't think it would then be right to say the other party had committed "rape".

I said this in reply to one of bluelucidfox's points; your (hypothetical?) 12-year-old's choice isn't free and informed the same way yours or mine is. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that you were convinced that you had successfully explained to her why you didn't want her to have sex. Then she comes home one day and the following (exaggerated-to-make-a-point) dialogue takes place:

Her: "I had sex with that 18-year-old, Tommy, who lives next door."
You: "Dang, I asked you not to do that, and explained what the long-term consequences are. Why'd you do it?"
Her: "Well, it felt pretty good. Plus he gave me an iPod."

Would you not feel like Tommy had somehow "taken advantage of" your daughter? Well, "taking advantage of" is tantamount to coercion, which is tantamount to rape. Coerced (whether by carrot or stick) consent, is not consent.

Whatever the law says, I think 12 is old enough that a child should be able to take a certain level of personal responsibility for their decisions.

Sure, if you're talking about "too many snacks before dinner", or "shoplift", or "skip class". Not, crucially, in the cases under discussion.

If my daughter makes a decision and then finds she regrets it, is it right then to use the law to ruin someone else's life for it? I don't think that's something to be taken lightly.

No, not lightly, but the issues warrant deeper thinking, and a willingness to "ruin someone else's life" if we feel it's warranted.

But there's how I view the issue in principle, and how I'd actually react when this is no longer an abstract question, and there's decisions I might be obligated to make based on other facets of the law. I honestly don't know what I would do in that situation. I hope I'll never have to find out. :)

Amen to that.

Comment Re:Again paranoia rules the roost (Score 1) 324

Yeah, so clearly I didn't make the point I meant to (or else you're being willfully obtuse). I was not agreeing with your assessment of child/teen/adult sexual dynamics...

So we're down to misbehaving kids; force (rape); power dynamics from adult-predating-child (coercion) [...]

Coercion is coercion; rape is coerced sex. The latter two are basically the same w.r.t. the level of moral repugnance they typically engender. In fact, the last seems to be worst, if the treatment of child molesters as compared to "garden variety" rapists in jail is any indicator.

[...] power dynamics from child-predating-adult (seduction).

Someone else already called you on it, but this really doesn't happen anywhere near as often as you think it does, and perhaps more to the point, hypersexualised behaviour in kids is often a symptom of prior abuse. Also, something I was clearly too implicit about is that this kind of behaviour is licensed and even somewhat encouraged by many current sociocultural portrayals/expectations of tween/teen girls. It doesn't help that onset of puberty is going down, and so the "odd hormones [...] showing up and messing with shit" is happening at an age when girls are even less equipped (cognitively) to reason their way through.

People want to conveniently ignore the first one [...]

Huh? People talk about kids playing doctor all the time. Typically it's relatively innocent exploration, and there are usually clearly identifiable signs when it's symptomatic of something more nefarious.

[...]and treat the last two as the second one;

Newsflash: they are effectively the same. The reason we have age of consent laws is that we recognise that people under a certain age are typically (obviously absolutes are impossible in a situation like this) incapable of the kind of long-term thinking necessary to actually reason through the consequences and implications of making this kind of decision. Evidently, there's a lot of responsibility on parents' shoulders here to have frank discussions with their children exactly about this, and as a society we are collectively failing our parental duties on this score. The best thing we can do is to help our children through the reasoning.

unfortunately that means they treat all such situations identically, and really the damage (or non-damage) done in any of these situations is related to the exact situation here (for example, a victim of coercion won't be as traumatized as a victim of rape;

You're thinking short-term here. Victims of rape don't typically go on to become rapists, but victims of abuse/coercion often go on to become abusers/coercers. It's exactly these long-term implications that I'm saying are at issue.

while a misbehaved 12 year old seductress probably ...

Again with this. These lolitas that you seem to think are ubiquitous are in the overwhelming (underwhelming?) minority; I can assure you that you are not surrounded by them. Tweens who act this way are often in thrall to peer pressure or other forms of social coercion. They are, in some sense, not even fully consenting to their own behaviour.

Comment Re:Again paranoia rules the roost (Score 1) 324

Argh, no mod points. Why was this modded Troll?

Parent (and to a lesser extent Parallel Parent) makes valid points. The difference between

  1. the consenting behaviour of children playing doctor (to the extent that children can give consent),
  2. the non-consensual nature of molestation (whether by a stranger or not) as it's standardly understood, and
  3. the power dynamic that can result in coerced "consent" in e.g. relationships between 14 and 22 year-olds

are hugely different.

Comment Comp Ling (Score 1) 150

For my money this is one of the most exciting "terminal Masters" degrees out there right now (of course, I'm a linguist, so probably biased).

It will serve you in bioinformatics should you choose to continue in that field subsequently, will definitely tax/challenge your coding chops, and will teach you some cool stuff about language. Also, some of the people who run this program are affiliated with MS Research (you know, the cool arm of MS), and doing this degree is plausibly some kind of foot in the door there.

Comment Re:it's like micro-blogs (Score 1) 460

Or, in short, nobody(*) fucking cares. Not what the name of your dog is and not what you think about soccer.
Twitter is Geocities, only shorter, and with even less content.
(*) where "nobody" is equal, but not identical, to zero, for all practical purposes.

I think what you're shooting for is a set of measure zero, although IANAM.

Comment Politial martyrdom (Score 1) 211

I'm interested in the possibility of getting myself arrested and posssibly sent to jail for violating the proposed laws in the most asinine way possible and then drumming up some kind of media coverage in order to help the public understand just how backwards this legislation is/would be.

So: what's the most vanilla-white-bread-everybody-does-it-I-can't-believe-he-got-sent-to-jail-for-that public outrage inducing way in which I could violate these laws badly enough to get sent to the klink?

Comment Re:Oh god.. (Score 1) 659

That's wrong. We only laugh when we know that the person/animated character is not seriously hurt [...] The same is true of real life. If someone falls, our first reaction is the need to know whether they are OK or not. If they are uninjured, then we may find it funny. If they are injured, then we do not find it funny.

I dunno, man. Some friends and I were taking some sweet jumps on our BMXs as a kid, and this one dude beefed pretty hard and took out a tooth on his handlebars. Blood everywhere. Tears. We definitely all laughed before going to check if he was alright. We may all be sociopaths, but I'm betting no...we're just down with the schadenfreude, like lots of others.

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