(no subject)

After losing the fight yesterday at UFC 85, Matt Hughes said "I still have one fight left in me". I thought, what a great metaphor: a fighter as a container of fights. This expression doesn't exist in Russian (but see below)

Here are some more "person as a container of X" metaphors:

There is nothing left in him
Do you have what it takes? (this one beautifully describes the underlying metaphor -- "it takes", and you have to have it "in you")
Do you have it in you?
Kick the shit out of someone
That person is full of ideas, full of hot air, full of hope, full of shit (full of it), full of vigour, full of insight, full of life, full of grace, full of sorrow, full of jokes, full of anger, etc.
Out of breath, out of ideas, out of money.

Russian partCollapse )

Thus we have a hypothesis: the english language has extended the idea of "being full of something" so material substances, such as hot air, money, shit, and fights. In Russian, we only find energy content in a person.

Any new "person as a container" metaphors are welcome (esp. from my bilingual readers). I'd like to test this hypothesis further.

British-American dictionary

British: to take the piss out of someone
means: to make fun of someone
(heard today)

American: how much does this run for?
means: how much does it cost?
(used today unsuccessfully in a conversation with a local sysadmin)

(no subject)

People sometimes say "probability" when they mean "probability estimate". The difference is subtle, but important. It's a single uncertainty versus a double uncertainty.

Probability is an external phenomenon. It is related to frequency. Probability only exists in the world, not in the model. In the model, there is a probability estimate. What's the probability of you being born? Most people would say "vanishingly small". But since probability is frequency, the answer is simply 1. The event happened once, and the outcome was positive.

The problem I have with the word probability is that it describes a static state -- something that holds both for future and past events and is not just a measurement. If the probability of an event is 0.5, you should expect the event to occur half the time out of all the outcomes in the future. You also expect that the event has occured 50% of times in the past sample. If the event has occured 50% of times, but in the future will occur in 25% of cases, what's the probability of it now? See, the word doesn't make sense, in the same way as "frequency of the event NOW" doesn't make sense.

Frequently (no pun intended), somebody has taken the number of "good" outcomes and divided it by the total number of occurences (note, all in the past), and calls the resulting value "probability". But it's not. Stop calling it that. It's the past frequency. The future frequency may be different.

Yet another problem has to do with the fact that knowing a probability value exactly isn't as useful as you might assume. Let's say you've computed that the probability of something is 30% and you're actually correct about it. That still means that your prediction rate is 70%. This is kind of obvious, but people often assume that if there is some kind of "error" out there, and you "know" this error, you can make it go away. You can't. Even with this "exact" answer, you're still going to be wrong in 30% of the cases.

(no subject)

Retail currency exchange is basically legalized fraud.
Yes, you do expect an exchange place in some city like Prague to have a spread of 25% (not a typo).
The way they hide the spread, by the way, is by prominently displaying two columns that appear to be buy and sell prices, but in fact are "buy a little" and "buy a lot" prices. Then they advertise being commission-free in large letters.

But I'm talking about currency exchange in JFK and Heathrow. On the US side, a woman in front of me was buying €100. At the moment, €1 was worth $1.5551. But €100 would cost you $188 -- a good 20% over fair value. The sign over the kiosk read "avoid the risks of foreign exchange abroad". I sabotaged the transaction by showing her a real quote (google "1 euro in dollars").
On the other side of the Atlantic at Heathrow, an American Express exchange place quote was £1 for $2.14, whereas the rate was $1.9821. That's only a 8% rip-off. I'm not sure they were commission-free, however.

So watch out. Here's an article on ATM and credit card-related currency conversion fees: http://www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20050624b1.asp
Generally, if your bank is not greedy, you'll pay 1% for withdrawal.

(no subject)

The transparent cells in your cornea contain copies of your DNA, so your "source code" is literally in front of your eyes. You're looking at the world through it.