2003-07-04 13:42 (UTC+1)
This time for sure:
Norska kronprinsessan Mette-Marit är gravid.
Beskedet kom på
fredagen från maken själv, en strålande lycklig kronprins Haakon.
[The Norwegian kronprinsess Mette-Marit is pregnant.
The information came on Friday from the husband himself, a
beamingly happy kronprins Haakon.]
Mette-Marit has been the patron (matron?) prinsess of Desbladet since
its inauguration, and this is the job she was hired to do, so hoorah
hoorah hoorah! Norway, which has barely recovered from the thrill of
li'l Unprinsess Maud Angelica's baptism will surely be plunged into an even
more fervent royal baby fever and quite right too.
The timing couldn't be better either - this way we can compare and
contrast the gravidities of the belovely Mette-Marit and the
charmante Maxima of the Netherlands as they progress in
all-but-synch, and Point de Vue had become so boring that I
actually read the article on heraldry (La semaine prochaine: Monaco
et Leichtenstein, I ask you).
There is also, of course, extensive
coverage over at the Norwegian Aftonposten. Separate articles
cover: The kronprinsly announcement; the congratulations of
parliament, to which the announcement was made; the reaction of
Mette-Marit's mother (pleased); that of her (estranged) father (also
pleased) and the Fremskrittparti (whatever this is, it is rather
presumptuously pleased on behalf of everyone), and this doesn't strike
me as in the least bit excessive.
I am also pleased, and I am available for being pleased on the behalf
of others at very competitive rates.
2003-07-04 10:20 (UTC+1)
In 1904, Poincaré was lead to speculate that:
Toute variété de dimension n, fermée et simplement connexe, est
homéomorphe à la sphère de dimension n.
[Every closed, simply-connected variety of dimension n is
homeomorphic to the sphere of dimension n.]
I'm not going to explain what that means, but the Clay Mathematics
It has been a famous open problem in mathematics (for the 3-d case,
which is the Poincaré conjecture proper, but beware: the 3-sphere is
an object in 4-space. The 1-sphere is the circle, and the 2-sphere is
the surface of a ball - the 3-sphere is the next one up) ever since it
was stated, probably the biggest one in topology and has become more
widely known since the Clay Mathematics Institute offered a million
dollars for the successful solution of each of a number of problems,
of which this is one.
It seems likely that Grigori "Grisha" Perelman is
going to collect the cash. (That article is pretty readable to
the laity, which pretty much includes me at this level, and
also links to the actual preprints that are currently under
scrutiny. There is also an article in the current Science &
Vie, which is why I bought it, but I'll give you instead the
gossip version, via my boss.
Apparently Perelman was a post-doc at somewhere prestigious in the
States. While he was there he lived in a shoebox and ate nothing but
ramen noodles. His work was good, though, and he had job offers from
plenty other prestigious universities. He declined them all and went
back to Russia to a job that payed essentially nothing, supporting
himself with his savings, and dropped off the face of the mathematical
earth for a while.
And then he resurfaced a few years later and put some preprints out
that suggested he'd proved Poincaré's conjecture (by fleshing out
Hamilton's road map for the proof of Thurston's conjecture on the
geometrisation of 3-manifolds via Ricci flood techniques, obviously)
and he's since given lectures to foremost experts in the field, and
the consensus is positive so far. (There's a 2-year delay built in to
the Clay Institute prize-giving for security).
The most important open problem in mathematics has long been the
hypothesis - Fermat's Last Theorem was open for a lot longer, and
is easier to sex up for the general public, but this is the one that matters.
If I were a brilliant young analyst, though, I'd be aiming for the
Equations problem, which is essentially the question of whether
water is well-posed, and thus completely useless - it's just
embarassing that we can't prove that it is, especially if you work in
fluid dynamics, which I sort of do, and sort of have for approaching a
decade although I do not interact with the sort of analysts whose day
jobs include existence proofs for solutions of partial differential
equations, and I don't even actually know precisely what a Sobolev
2003-07-03 18:34 (UTC+1)
It arrived today and I haven't really had a chance to bunk off and
read it till now, but I am already tempted to get myself a
subscription (138 Euros in the EU frais de porte inclus, but
excluding Hors-Séries unfortunately).
It's a tabloid size magazine on newsprint, almost entirely composed of
articles (or excerpts of articles) from the world's press, translated
(where necessary) into French. Ironically, for those of us living
outside of l'hexagone itself, the presse de france themselves are not
included. There is a section dedicated to France in the
continent-by-continent round-up, but it has to rely on Belgian, Swiss
and English commentary (and let's face it, I wasn't going to see a
Daily Telegraph article on Zhonny 'Alliday any other way). Other
sections treat l'Europe, les Amériques, l'Asie, le Moyien-Orient and
l'Afrique, and then there are some feature sections. It's
genetically-modified foods, yum yum, on the cover this week
(Articles: Guardian; Financial Times; Monbiot in the Guardian; Sacramento Bee;
Science; in-house atlas of GM foods in the world; Opendemocracy;
Guardian; Indian Express; web-sites for further reading.)
It's going to take a while to acclimatise to the ideological
inflections of their sources, for sure, but it's the best global
round-up I've seen - by a country mile - since the Economist. If it
was retailed in Blighty I'd certainly be picking it up most weeks, but
I don't think I have ever in my life subscribed to an actual paper
periodical, and that would be a Major Life Event.
There will of course be updates on this thrilling psychodrama as
2003-07-03 10:49 (UTC+1)
I just found my first timezone bug (in my own code). Your
"calendars", Earth Persons, are becoming a major irritation - have you
considered rationalising them? You could dispense with the silly
pretence that noon isn't noon in the summer, also.
2003-07-02 17:33 (UTC+1)
He's got people talking
about the European Council for the first time that I can remember.
politiken today they had an article rounding up the European
press's articles condemning him, and they couldn't even find space for
the Nouvel Obs vituperative cover article this week.
(For those of you who haven't been keeping up, this is a man who as
prime minister of Italy forced through a law giving the prime
minister, viz. himself, immunity to prosecution, said law being used
to bring to a halt to a prosecution of said prime minister, also
himself, for corruption, and who uses his extensive ownership of
Italian media companies as his own private propaganda outlets.
With Italy now taking over the presidency of the EU he has used the
opportunity of his first parliamentary session in the spotlight to not
quite call a German MEP a Nazi. Now would be a really good time for
someone to check he doesn't actually have any, like, power or
anything. Tell me he doesn't have any power, somebody? Please?)
2003-07-02 09:55 (UTC+1)
So, I did finally get a copy of the no-longer-current Courrier
International Hors-série culture issue «A la découverte des 6700
langues de la planète», and very interesting it is too.
But tell me, Varied Reader, do they have journalism where you come
from? And if they do, do the journalists write about language? And
if they do, do they often make a pig's ear of the job? If Courrier
International is to be believed, this phenomenon is not rare. Worse
even than journalistes, though, in most cases are Serious Writers who
have succumbed to the urge to Hold Opinions about languages. I will
be producing some specimens for your amusement in the plenitudes of
temporality, but today instead we are doing Germanology.
First up is CI's version of an article from the Frankfurter
Aujourd'hui, tous les petits Suèdois apprenent l'anglais, mais bien
plus rares sont ceux qui s'essaient à l'allemand. Dans ce pays, la
part de cette langue est tombée de 50% à 35% au lycée, le nombre
d'étudiants en université a chuté de 21,7% et, entre 1991 et 2000, il a
dégringolé de 75% dans l'enseignement dispensé aux adultes.
[Today all the ickle Swedish persons learn the Engleesh, but far fewer
attempt German. In this country, the share of this language has
fallen from 50% to 35% in secondary school, the number of students in
universities has fallen by 21.7% and, between 1991 and 2000 the amount
of adult education in the language has tumbled by 75%.]
Did anyone else remark, though, that the Polish Eurovision entry was
in German? Raised eyebrows at the Chateau von Bladet, that did, and
also earned them a bunch of points from Deutschophone countries.
Still, German isn't looking very likely to regain its position as the
Mitteleuropäische lingua franca, and if you find this at all
surprising I've got some discount 20th century history you might be
While you're having a browse of that, let's wheel on our first
Prominent Intellectual to have a miss of the point. Mihály Komis,
mates with the recent Nobel Literature Laureate Imré Kertész, had this
to say in Budapest's Elet és irodalom:
Le fait que nous parlions pas l'allemand, mais seulement l'anglais (et
encore!) est une erreur fatale. Non pas que l'allemand soit la langue
étrangère la plus importante au monde, mais parce que nôtre culture
hongroise - si tant est que nous puissons encore l'appeler nôtre -
fait partie intégrante de la vieille culture européenne. Or, dans
cette dernière, la langue et la tradition allemandes predominent. Et
elles régneront tant que l'Europe existe.
[The fact that we don't speak German, but only English (if you can call it that!) is
a fatal error. It's not that German is the world's most important
language, but because our Hungarian culture - in so far as we can
still call it ours - is integrally connected with the old European
culture. Now, in that last, the German language and tradition
predominate. And they will for as long as Europe exists.]
Imré Kertész had as much reason to turn against the German language
and culture as anyone, of course, but he didn't, and the moral dignity
of his position should not be underestimated, for sure. However,
Mihály Komis appears to be committing the typical, if understandable,
writerly mistake known as being completely wrong. German is
the vehicular language of a major cultural tradition, also for sure, but
this is also the case of Latin and classical Greek and look what
happened to them. You can surely find Jeremiads about how
Civilisation Will Crumble if the kids are permitted to neglect the
classical tongues, from not all that long ago, and I dare say you can
find people who would say it has. This is pretty much what is also in
store for German, and I can't help but admire an intellect so refined
that it can miss something so blatantly obvious.
(Disclosurewisely: I am currently sort-of learning German, but my
interest is largely philological. Those scandalous Trashbladets are just
educational tools, and isn't it simply shocking what they're saying
about Mette-Marit, tut tut.)
2003-07-01 18:14 (UTC+1)
A while back we (the research group which I am in) spent far longer
than we should have done putting together a paper which took a result
which seemed to be well-known in the folk-lore of the discipline and
actually provided some decent evidence for it. I was expecting at any
moment that somebody was going to let us in on the joke, and tell us
it was all done in the '70s by someone at NASA, but they haven't done
Anyway, it looks like we're going to have to do it again, and I am
deeply unamused. There are even papers which say "Well, X and Y do
this, but they don't actually provide any details of their scheme," or
"We know this is a really crappy scheme, but W and Z got away with it,
and we can't be bothered to improve on it."
If I ever get to be super-rich, I'm going to found an Institute of
Really Boring and Unglamourous Problems (That Somebody Has To Address
Anyway) and offer stratospheric salaries to good people willing to
take sabbaticals to work on such problems and write up definitive
answers in the house journal.
Until that happy day, I shall whine about having to do it myself, at
2003-07-01 11:00 (UTC+1)
That celebrated reactionary zombie, the Pope, has been
having opinions again:
Pope John Paul II has urged the European Union to include a
recognition of Europe's Christian heritage in its first constitution,
which is due to be signed next year.
The Pope said EU policy-makers should rediscover their Christian
Words do not fail me, but they are mostly the kind of words I have a
policy of not using on this site. Bad Pope!
2003-06-30 17:11 (UTC+1)
Lately the von Bladet Imperial Stormtroopers have been getty a little
bit shirty about swooping down from their hideout in the Swiss alps to
pick up a copy of the Point de Vue Summer Puzzle Special. You
just can't get the minions, can you?
So I performed a really quite elaborate Happy Dance on discovering
online newsagent for all your Frenching requirements, y compris de
magazines de charme (which bit is most decidedly not work safe,
beware). They have a wide range of current magazines and hors-séries
and they are blissfully willing to take money in exchange for sending
them even to persons domiciled in Abroadia. (This is very much not
something one can take for granted in Yoorp, as readers familiar with
my tirades about Swedish online book shops will know.)
Their confirmation of the dispatch of my order just arrived, in both
French and another language of which I quote in the verbatest of tims:
We remind you that your credit card payement wich was until now on
standby of treatment, will be output soon.
We remain fully at your disposal for any complementary question.
I love them even more now. Other Yoorpean countries, you have
two (2) of your Earth "weeks" to implement equivalent systems for the
procurement of your national glossy press, or you risk the wrath of
the aforementioned Stormtroopers and I wouldn't mess with them in
this mood, that's for sure.
2003-06-30 11:42 (UTC+1)
Both kinds of translation
It may go quiet for a bit, although not for shortage of things to say,
as such. Here's some more of Mr Hugo's stuff to ponder, just in
case. (Mr Hugo is decidedly Pre-Mouse so there isn't a lawyer in the
world that can stop me from doing this, so there.)
Demain, dès l'aube, à l'heure où blanchit la campagne,
Je partirai. Vois-tu, je sais que tu m'attends.
J'irai par la forêt, j'irai par la montagne.
Je ne puis demeurer loin de toi plus longtemps.
Clearly we are in the territory, here, of the banality sublime,
which in Engleesh is largely inhabited by country music. Thus:
Tomorrow, when the land's still pale in dawn's first light,
I'll be leaving. You're expecting me, I know.
I'll be coming through the forest, I'll scale the mountain height
After this much time away from you, I know it's time to go.
Everything I know about country music I learned from Bob Dylan's
magnificent Nashville Skyline, of course, but then again
everything I know about literary translation I learned from Ezra
Bonus link: Mandarin Chinese speakers use different parts
of the brain to process language. Very cool!