2004-02-06 kaffe (utc)
Malta, the tiddliest EU-newbie elect, is taking time out from
the intensive training it hopes will allow it to arm-wrestle
Luxembourg into demonstrable tiddliestestness to ponder
conundrum - in the unlikely event of anyone wanting to learn
Maltese (a particularly delinquent form of Arabic written with the
Roman alphabet, and don't tell them I said that, please, I'll never
hear the end of it), who exactly is going to teach them?
The Professional Training Services of the European institutions in
Brussels is jointly organising intensive summer courses for interested
EU employees. Maltese is the only language being advertised, subject
to the availability of a Maltese teacher.
Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika candidate for the European
Parliament and secretary general of the European Greens said: "We
simply cannot go on like this. We risk entering the EU without any
Maltese interpreters in the European Parliament. Now we risk not even
being able to provide one Maltese teacher to teach the language to
I'm very much up for learning Maltese, incidentally, if the EU trumps
Denmark's so far non-existent offers to put me on the gravy train.
I may even have been to Malta, although if so it was before I could
usefully be described as sentient so I don't usually count it as
I dag fylder Mary 32 år, men hun er ikke bare blevet et år ældre,
siden sin sidste fødselsdag. I løbet af det sidste år er hun blevet
danskernes midtpunkt nummer ét.
Today Knudella ("Mary") turned 32, but she's not only become a year
older since her last birthday. In the course of the last year she's
also become the centre of Danish attention.
That was yesterday, oops. Sorry, Knudella, and happy birthday!
»Monarkiet er ikke et autonomt fællesskab,« sagde statsminister Anders
Fogh Rasmussen, da regeringens forslag om at forhøje Kronprins
Frederiks årpenge med 10 millioner kroner i går var til behandling i
"The monarchy is not an autonomous something," said prime minister
Anders Fogh Rasmussen when the government proposal to raise
Kronprinsfred's yearly allowance by 10 million kroner [900 000 GBP]
was discussed in parliament yesterday.
I'm not an autonomous something, either, Mr Rasmussen, and there's
still no sign of my handout. Perhaps it is in the post...
[Linkage via Birgitte, tak!]
2004-02-06 samwidge (utc)
The derussification of the Baltics is a political minefield,
The Latvian parliament has passed a law reducing the use of Russian in
education amid angry protests by thousands of ethnic Russian students.
It has outraged Latvia's large Russian minority - nearly a third of
the population - and opinion in Russia. [...]
The law demands that at least 60% of public school classes - even
those which cater for ethnic Russians - must be taught in Latvian from
I'm not going to exhibit an opinion about this, but I reserve the
right to make sarcastic remarks about yours if you are less
restrained, because that is after all what the InterWebNet is mostly for.
2004-02-06 morning (utc)
This is completely outrageous:
Italy is facing massive daily fines by the European court for failing
to end discrimination against foreign language lecturers in its
The European commission said yesterday it was seeking an unprecedented
fine of 310,000 euros (£210,000) a day until the matter was resolved.
The demand from Brussels is the latest move in an 18-year campaign to
force Italian universities to give foreign language teachers the same
rights as Italian lecturers.
In 1995 the government attempted to solve the problem by issuing new
contracts that gave foreigners the same status as laboratory
assistants. Those who refused to sign, including 90 British lecturers,
were sacked or suspended.
How stupid can you get? Does the Italian government really think
foreign language teaching at the tertiary level is something they can
easily afford to skip, because everyone speaks Italian anyway?
If you look at a map of Yoorp with North pointing, as it usually does,
up, then Portugal is way over on the left. The Straight of Gibraltar,
which separates the Mediterranean sea from the Atlantic ocean, lies
between Spain and Africa. Spain is to the right of Portugal, and
Portugal lies outside the Straight, so that the sea its seasides are
beside is in all cases the Atlantic ocean. (You can tell easily
enough, incidentally - the water is noticeably colder than it would be
in a Mediterranean resort.)
Anyway, we all know all that, since we are Rootlessly Cosmopolitan and
acquainted with the concept of "map" and so forth, but Kronprins
Haakon of Norway doesn't get out much and really can't be expected to
Norway's royal palace has apologised after Crown Prince Haakon made a
geographical blunder by telling Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio his
country was on the Mediterranean Sea. [...] Haakon, acting as regent
because his father King Harald is recovering from an operation, told
Sampaio at a banquet in Oslo: "Norway and Portugal both lie on the
outskirts of Europe. You are placed by the Mediterranean`s warm
beaches. We are as far north as it is possible to be."
VG also covers
this, rather more indulgently:
Da han i talen tok han opp det gode forholdet mellom Portugal og
Norge, og nevnte landenes felles trekk, blant annet kystkulturen og
maritime interesser kom han med uttalelsen som muligens avslørte
When he took up the theme of the good relations between Portugal and
Norway, and mentioned the countries common traits, amongst other
things the coastal culture and maritime interests, he revealed a
somewhat shaky knowledge of geography.
This was his first formal speech as regent (while his daddy, who is
the king, is unwell) during a state visit. Any Norwegish speakers
looking for a job might do well to offer their fact-checking
services (own atlas required).
[link via David, takk]
2004-02-05 rainy and grey (utc)
to last year's New Yorker coverage of the ideologically driven
dismantling of scrutiny of intelligence sources in favour of
cherry-picking by persons within the administration.
The former intelligence official went on, "One of the reasons I left
was my sense that they were using the intelligence from the C.I.A. and
other agencies only when it fit their agenda. They didn't like the
intelligence they were getting, and so they brought in people to write
the stuff. They were so crazed and so far out and so difficult to
reason with - to the point of being bizarre. Dogmatic, as if they were
on a mission from God." He added, "If it doesn't fit their theory,
they don't want to accept it."
All the persons who are currently getting ready to pretend to be
surprised that this will turn to have happened, what is up with that?
Everyone knew the intelligence was cooked. Everyone knew WMD was a
flimsy but marketable pretext. I knew that, Varied Reader, and so, I
am sure, did you. Everyone! Knew!
§1. What's that, Tezza?
Homo sum; nihil humanum a me alienum puto.
I am human, and I for one welcome our new alien overlords.
First whales, now this:
A so-called 'superloo' exploded in a town centre when an electrical
fault caused water to surge back into the toilet, blowing off its roof
and lifting the pavement.
An electrical fault indeed! When will the so-called government admit
the extent of the threat posed to democracy by fundamentaliste suicide
bombing toilets and whales?
The sooner we ban toilets and whales from wearing headscarfs the
better, I say, and to hell with "civil rights"!
[link via Anna K, tack]
§1. Finnish Men's Choir Shouters, on ice
Mieskuoro Huutajat (Men's Choir Shouters) was formed in 1987 in Oulu,
by a group of young men who confess they had nothing better to do.
The idea was to dress about 20 men in distinctive black attire, white
shirts and black rubber ties, and train them to shout some of the most
beloved songs in Finland.
§2. "Flood" chaos:
Three rescued in flood chaos
Now the snö is gone, the BBC remembers the word "chaos"? Hutton's too
good for 'em.
§3. Major life decisions
As of now, by which apparently I mean sometime in the middle of
February, I am a subscriber to Courrier
International, the globalest hebdo the Frenchy-French (or anyone
else AFAIK) have to offer.
A while back I was summarising some of the hilarities of the UK's various interrelations, and their effect
on national sports teams and what have you, but Mr O'Toole
tells me a thing I did not know:
NORTHERN Irish Olympic athletes are able to choose to represent
Ireland or Great Britain.
Which is a deal with a 50-year history, it turns out. Do Greenlandic athletes cheerfully turn out for the Denmark, Kingdom of?
2004-02-04 mornin' (utc)
Enlightenment (Studies in European History), Roy Porter.
First, 11.99 UKP for a book of 70 pages of text is not my idea of a
bargain and then some, and the pages are super-king-size deluxe, which
is a thing I dislike. Bad publishers!
Second, this is a critical overview of the current questions in
Enlightenment (Upplysningtid) scholarship, many of which
involve a healthy dose of historiography. "Historiography" is what
historians call going meta and questions like "What kind of thing
is history, and how do its methodologies relate to the
society in which they're practiced?" are fair game in it. Which is
all very well I don't doubt, but not very helpful for newbies, for
whom this book isn't: Scanning the historical horizons as
the decks of HMS Historiography pitch and roll beneath your
feet can be an unnerving experience, and I'm not ashamed to admit that
I spent more than a little of my watch more than a little green about
One welcome trend is that away from the Great Men's Great Books focus,
Instead, recent social historians have invited us to regard the
movement as a wider ferment inaugurated, sustained and spread by a
vastly larger number of relatively obscure thinkers, writers, readers
and support loops. Nor could it have flourished without extensive
support-networks of friends, sympathizers and fellow-travellers -
comrades who gave refuge to exiles or passed on letters to those
living underground, in hiding.
The Enlightenment (Upplysningtid), then, is the new punk,
Anyway, if you've read a couple of surveys of the period, then you'll
be ready for this, and if you haven't then you probably won't,
although it will tell you the strengths and weaknesses of the various
surveys: There's a ten-page annotated bibliography, which is very
As the Enlightenment gained ground, it spelt the end of public wars of
faith, put a stop to witch-persecutions and heretic-burnings and
signalled the demise of magic and astrology, the erosion of the
occult, the waning of the belief in the literal, physical existence of
Heaven and Hell, in the Devil and all his disciples. The supernatural
disappeared from public life.
Hey, America! Yoorp here. You know that Enlightenment
(Upplysningtid) thingy you borrowed? If you're not using it,
could we have it back, please? Thanks!
2004-02-03 aternoon (utc)
We used to have our own email server in the department, and our email
used to work.
Then we replaced that machine with a better one, and so we handed off
email to the central IT people.
Now email doesn't work; I haven't been able to send email at all today.
2004-02-03 samwidge (utc)
A sedate fortnight after this bladet's
coverage the Beeb covers
the worrying German beercomsumptiondecline:
The Federal Statistics Office said that inside German last year's
sales were 9.32 billion litres (2.42 billion gallons) of beer - down
from 9.65 billion litres (2.51 billion gallons) on the previous year.
Germans remain among the heaviest beer-drinkers in Europe - with only
the Czechs and Irish downing more.
§2. EU election enthusiasm underflow
Set a low target:
At the last European elections in 1999 turnout in the UK was 24%, the
lowest in the European Union.
and watch us beat it next time! It would save a lot of
valuable time and resources if they let me pick all of the MEPs for
Britain, since I seem to be the only person who cares. Tough on the
Tories, perhaps, but no more than they deserve.
One in five people questioned think the European Parliament has power
over the amount of income tax they pay.
Apathetic and ignorant, how delightful!
§3. Language Futures
With Mr Bush boldly steering
the SS FDRUSA onto the iceberg of fiscal imprudence*, anyone who
knows which side their future's buttered will be presumably thinking
about learning Chinese.
the BBC, hoorah! The lessons are in Flash, and come with sound,
and the phonemicness of tones is already doing my head in, frankly.
* Does it really cost that much to impose something not very like
democracy on an unarmed but oil-rich patch of desert? So much for
future military hegemony, then, isn't it?
2004-02-03 mornin' (utc)
§1. Q: What's that camel doing on the road? A: Nothing much.
Expressen, via Swedishnewswireagency TT had it on
Saturday, and WFTV,
Florida picked it up on Monday. Who translates these things,
anyway, and why isn't it me?
[Tipoff via Yami, hoorah!]
Norwegian babyprinsess meets the ladies and gentlemen of
the press. ("Rome, by all means Rome," she gooed. Except I made
that up, except of course I didn't.)
[via royalbabyenthusiast Citoyenne K]
But if you believe lah-di-dah DN - and who wouldn't? -
can talk even before they start talking:
Barn får högre IQ och större ordförråd om de lär sig teckenspråk innan
de börjar prata, enligt psykologer i USA. Upptäckten har lett till att
kurser i teckenspråk för hörande spädbarn har blivit en internationell
Childrens have higher IQ and bigger vocabularies if they learn sign
language before they begin to talk, according to psychologists in the
USA. The discovery has lead to courses in sign language for hearing
infants becoming a major international industry.
The "psychologists" who "discovered" this wouldn't happen to have a
lucrative sideline in instructional materials and courses, would they?
Nobody ever went broke playing on parents' anxiety to provide the very
bestest for their ickle preciouses, for sure.
Sadly I am prevented from attempting to cash in myself by my many
ethical scruples and a complete lack of enthusiasm for the company of
bebis, not necessarily in that order.
[via Birgitte, tack]
Sylvia was indeed a queen - or "queen mother" as the local title
translates - and considered a royal through matrilineal descent in
parts of one of central Ghana's regions. After a debate on whether
Sylvia could retain her title even if they opted to live in Norway,
the couple were given the go-ahead, and the wedding took place a few
weeks later. Queen mother Sylvia is now awaiting permission to live
with her new husband in Norway.
[via MM, tack]
Knudella! Not regal!
Having decided to whip off his wet boardshorts, Frederik momentarily
exposed the royal rump when a playful Mary [sic] tugged off his towel.
[via David, tack]
2004-02-02 teatime (utc)
n. The philosophy of Plato, especially insofar as it asserts ideal
forms as an absolute and eternal reality of which the phenomena of the
world are an imperfect and transitory reflection.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
The crucial thing about Platonism, for my purposes, is that it
postulates a separate reality in which to keep the philosophically
important things. (This may seem completely mad, but there are
reasons for it. Completely mad ones, admittedly, but reasons
Now, Mr Gradgrind:
Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but
Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root
out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals
upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is
the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the
principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!
- Thomas Gradgrind, in Hard Times, Charles Dickens.
As a theory of knowledge, Gradgrindianism is very preoccupied with
facts, as I hope you will not disagree.
Put the two together and you get
Platonic Gradgrindianism, Butterflies and Wheels style:
There would be facts about the world if humans had never evolved at
all; there are facts about the world that we don't know and never
will; they're none the less facts for that.
If you were a logical positivist, which I do not for a moment claim
that you are, you would be squeamish about the idea of facts which are
unverifiable even in principle, and probably reject this theory as
But after reflection I have decided that I actually quite like the
theory, since decoupling verifiability from factuality has the rather
attractive property that there is no longer any particular reason to
rule out facts that make what, in saner theories, would be elementary
category errors, and we can cheerfully assume that there are facts
(albeit unknowable ones) about, say, the boiling point of purple and
the specific heat capacity of Thursday afternoons and probably a whole
slim volume's worth of facts about the mating habits of rainbows.
I approve of this, because any philosopher who can't meet the standard
smug objection that "there are more things in heaven and Earth, than
are dreamt of in your philosophy" with a cheerful "And vice-versa!" is
apt to look very foolish, for sure.
2004-02-02 postsamwidge (utc)
Ever since Kronprinsess Vickan of Sweden sued
some German trashbladets for printing lies about her I have - and
you probably have too, isn't it? - been wondering if Vickan's mummy
and daddy (who are the king and queen!) were going to cause their
lawyers also to have a little word or two with these publications,
which print just as many and just as nasty lies about them.
Reading between the lines of
this Aftonbladet story, I'd say they probably have:
Tysk tidning ber svenska kungaparet om ursäkt - 12 gånger
Drottning Silvia har satt tyskt rekord i antal dementier.
På miljontidningen Das Neue Blatts förstasida ber redaktionen om ursäkt för tolv falska uppslag om det svenska kungahuset.
The German magazine [Das Neue Blatt] asks the Swedish royal couple for
forgiveness - 12 times.
Queen Sylvia has sett a German record for the number of retractions.
On the front page of million-selling magazine Das Neue Blatt the
edtitor asks for forgiveness for twelve false stories about the
Swedish royal family.
I have, you should not be surprised to learn, a copy of the
trashbladet in question, and very retractitive it is too. The front
page is disfiguringly festooned with details of the various unsayings,
and there is more inside, even if they seem to be overestimating the
honesty of their mistakes with:
Diese Berichte haben sich jetzt als falsch herausgestellt.
These stories have now turned out to be untrue.
If I were Mette-Marit (who has also felt the rough end of the
trashbladet's pressage) and feeling in need of a little post-partum
pick-me-up, I'd be asking Vickan if she knows a good lawyer, for sure.
2004-02-02 kaffe (utc)
A treat for you and for me, Varied Reader: the Frenchy-French
leftbladet Libération has
set up blogs for two journalistes in which to cover the FDRUSA's
free and fair presidential elections:
«Ce qu'ils font déjà dans Libération», leur écrirez-vous? Pas tout à
fait! A la différence des articles qu'ils publient dans le quotidien,
leurs blogs seront des espaces plus personnels. Leur contenu seront
régulièrement mis à jour sous forme de courts messages dont le fond et
la forme, très libres, restent à la discrétion des auteurs. Une
première dans la presse en ligne française.
"Which they're already doing in Libération," you write? Not quite!
Their blogs will be more personal spaces than the articles that they
publish in the paper. Their content will be regularly updated in the
form of short messages of which the content and the form will be
within wide limits at the discretion of the authors. A first in the
French online press.
The New York
correspondent seems to be currently on the road for the Democrat
primary whatsits, and it really does have comments.
It's more colour journalisme than editorialising, at least so far, so
it matters little that Libé is probably somewhat to the right of me on
Merkin politics. This is pretty neat, isn't it though?
2004-02-02 morning (utc)
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, does not go
- Philip K Dick
Reality, kid, is what if you start describin' it, they don't go and
change your meds.
- "Crazy" Joe Urquhart
"A philosopher," the muskrat explained, "is a kind of advocate whose
cases are heard by a jury of his -"
"Or her," said the shrew.
"Or her," agreed the muskrat, "convictions. So they almost always win
"'Almost'?" asked the squirrel.
"Yes," said the muskrat gravely, "even then justice sometimes prevails."