Trash words and garbage grammar

How uncritical language adoption eliminates nuance and weakens expression

Neologisms and other changes are part of the way language evolves. But when such changes reduce your power of expression, your ability to communicate nuance, they should not be considered inevitable but should instead be resisted as linguistic rubbish.

There are three types of such waste that I’ve identified: trash words, garbage grammar, and hijacked slang.

To BBQ or not to BBQ

To BBQ or not to BBQ, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler on the grill to spice up
The slices and rashers of outrageous porkers,
Or to take the tongs against the meat and cobs
And by opposing brown them? Some pie to eat,
No more; and by a sheep to say we end
The heartburn and the thousand natural chops,
The flesh is hereon a consommé
Devoured in the dish. To die, to eat:
Some sheep, perchance sea bream—ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sheep that’s dead what meat is bunned

When old punks go racist

Most of the old punk rockers I love still play for freedom, fearlessness, inclusion, and anti-authorianism. These are the things I love them for. These are the things that give me hope. These are the things I can dance to! But some have become just about as sad as fuck. 

Punks and musicians are people, so they get old, their opinions get dumber and more calcified, and they mistake change for disintegration, at the same rate as the societies in which they operate. But it’s still sadder than when it happens to your dad. 

Drinking in San Francisco

It took us until our second tenure in San Francisco to figure out how to eat in the city. Here you flee from fancy food like from a tropical outhouse. Fancy food in San Francisco is overhyped, overpriced, and overcooked. Like Jonathan Gold advised Angelenos, it’s best to eat at restaurants serving ethnic foods that are owned by a single person or family.

Do that and you’re unlikely to go wrong. Patronize restaurants run by “teams,” on the other hand, whose guiding principle is the “concept” and you’re on your own.

The Dot Product Engine


One of the most common computational actions today is matrix multiplication, mathematical functions across columns of figures. One of the most popular expressions of this is object recognition and another is large-scale optimization and the location of global minima. But this action is very compute-intensive. Add to this the data flood from edge devices ranging from smart phones to sensors – which has made data analysis the key to finding signals in that noise, and artificial intelligence the key to data analysis – and you have a perfect storm. Too much data, too little information.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s Dot Product Engine (DPE) is a multiple-use accelerator architecture the company has produced to breast that storm. Most accelerators are designed to help solve specific problems. They’re one-offs, their creation is expensive, and they are irreplicable. With the DPE, you can spin up new accelerators with much less effort. And now, in the next step, an HPE team has created a full-stack DPE demo.

Read the full story here. 

The Dog Watches and Other Poems


I’ve written poems seriously for a very long time, occasionally publishing them. In the last few years, I noticed that almost every piddling literary journal was doing something that used to be considered sleazy, charging for reading. That was it for me.

But my friend Scott Taylor, a designer and poet himself, was interested in creating and publishing a book of my poems. So I brought together a long poem, The Dog Watches, about the city, and put it together with other city poems. It is now available on Amazon.


Impossible Problems

NN Impossible Problems hero

For the last half-century or more, our computers have had pretty much the same classical computing process of zeroes and ones and pretty much the same structure, the von Neumann architecture. For most of this time, that has not just worked well, it has worked better and better. But that era is coming to an end, along with the observation underlying much of that improvement, Moore’s Law.

Practically since the first transistor-based computer, the number of transistors on a chip has doubled every couple of years. That meant the speed and capacity of the computers we use have doubled along with it. But the price of that doubling has grown increasingly dear. It takes more energy and produces more heat to increase computing speed. So alternatives have proliferated as well. 

Read the full story here

AI: promises and perils


A Q&A with HPE’s Dr. Eng Lim Goh on AI, ethics, and the future

Dr. Eng Lim Goh, vice president and chief technology officer for high-performance computing and artificial intelligence at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, has spent his career considering what machines can do, what they might do, and what they shouldn’t do. As AI has become more prominent, he has been asked to play the role of futurist by the customers and partners he deals with daily.

Goh, like most scientists, is unwilling to roll out any sort of crystal ball. But given his long familiarity with computer graphics, machine learning, analytics, and data, he is in a good position to talk about the different viewpoints on the subject. In this Q&A, he outlines the promises and concerns introduced by the ongoing uptick in AI adoption.

Read the full article. 

Unpublished “Julian” Poems


I originally translated these poems about Julian the Apostate by Constantine Cavafy for an essay I wrote called Denying Julian, for the Cavafy Forum, University of Michigan’s Modern Greek and Classics publication. I received access to them via literal English versions from the Cavafy Archive in Athens and turned them into English poems.

I had to wait to publish them on their own until another poet, who had previously been given access, published his book. I published them in a French journal called Nth Position, which, alas, has gone seins en l’air.