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2006-06-01 18:05

One way or the unway!

Did you know that the cheapest single from Bristle to London is exactly a squid ("GBP 1.00") cheaper than the return?

Meanwhile, our immune system has shown its typical enthusiasm for hard work and we have slept all day today.

And London's alleged Underground is doing its level best to thwart our journey to Heathrow on Saturday. The journey here was only somewhat disrupted, but if you've ever navigated King's Cross with a(n unwheeled) suitcase containing (among other things) GBP 40 of coppers then you are likely to know about it.

Still, our (not very) many cubic metres have been lovingly wrapped and dispatched to Birmingham, and our flat is very vacated, and on Saturday we fly to East Belgium with ten-years' worth of brand new passport and another one-way ticket. Weehah!

2006-05-29 11:14

Size of Wales

Size of Wales, Wales, Wales
Size of Wales, Wales, Wales
Size of Wales, Wales, Wales
Size of Wales, Wales, Wales

(To teh tune of "Duke of Earl")

Plucky Montenegro has broken away from Big Bad Serbia, but we have yet to see its size quoted in the international standard unit that is the size of Wales.

Turns out it is two-thirds the size of Wales (or 665 milliwales, if you insist).

Also, our phrase for the week is "kleptocratic microstate", which may or may not be a coincidence.

2006-05-25 14:40

Monday review of Stuff

We went to the Café Rouge and had snails and Toulouse sossages with a Hoegaarden.

You could do a lot worse, for sure.

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2006-05-25 11:31

Kristi Shmisti, it is Unemployment Day

When we came in this morning, we were employed. When we leave this afternoon we will be unemployed. Sadly, we are not this time in the happy position of having nothing to do but watch cricket on the telly; we have some emigrations to sort out instead.

On the plus side, our zweetie is coming to town!

Blogging is going to be sparse and erratic for a while, we would imagine.

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2006-05-24 16:41

Oh Lordi, trouble so hard

It is boisterous Bildbladet, which is more than somewhat taken with Finnish monsterockers Lordi:

Die finnische Staatspräsidentin Tarja Halonen (62) höchstselbst möchte die fünf Schock-Rocker zur offiziellen Feier des Unabhängigkeitstags am 6. Dezember ins Präsidentenpalais einladen. [...]

Doch für die Party hat die gestrenge Präsidentin einen strikten "Dress-Code" aufgestellt: Die Truppe dürfe nur kommen, wenn sie bereit ist, ohne ihre Horror-Latex-Masken aufzutreten.

There's a party at the presidentialpalace, and Lordi are invited!

But the dress-code says "No masks"!

This mildly boggles us, but we are not configured to doubt the mighty Bildbladet!

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2006-05-24 13:35

When Internations Collide!

Did you know, Varied Reader, that the imminently defunct federation of Serbia and Montenegro nonetheless has a foopball team in the imminent shenanigans in Chermany?

They are our second favourite team, for sure!

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2006-05-24 10:28

On Doetsj spelling

It is a Engleesh computer scientiste with things to say about Dutch spellings!

You see, the thing is, English spelling nowhere claims to be consistent. I've looked everywhere, in dictionaries, encyclopaedias, English language teaching books, all over the place, and I've never found even the suspicion of a reference to a claim that English spelling is in any way consistent. The Dutch, on the other hand regularly have a spring-cleaning session in their spelling to further confuse foreigners in their attempts to learn Dutch, failing in the process to make the spelling consistent, and having the effect of losing continuity. At least the English can claim to still be able to read Shakespeare.

So obviously what Dutch needs is a root and branch reform that would break historical continuity in a way not attempted since Atatürk took exception to Arabic script! Then we can throw out every book ever written and start again! For example:

Proposal. Scrap the open-syllable rule. It is complicated, introduces all sorts of special cases, and is difficult to learn. There are no indications of any advantages. Advantages of the change are that the spelling rules are much simpler; the spelling of vowel sounds is always context-free; there is no need for double consonants any more.

(It isn't very complicated or difficult to learn, and the exceptions are neither numerous nor hard to learn, in our experience.)

And he is very cross indeed about the admittedly anomalous "-isch" (pronounced [i:s]), because of course if you're going to burden the memory with a single quirky suffix you might as well demand they learn Chinese writing and have done with it.

(There are few proposals we are less inclined to endorse than sweeping spelling reforms. Just call us Metternich, for sure.)

[Thanks once more to our zweetie for the linkage!]

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2006-05-23 17:48

Go Zweden!

We have formally had enough of teh pre-Cup of Foopballing Internations build up, and especially the St George flag it comes with. Since Belgium has been excluded - an insolence the organisers will have occasion to regret, mark our words - we are instead supporting Zweden.

Gold and bleu is after all partly bleu, so come on you partly bleus!

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2006-05-23 14:13

900?

It is Chinese writings!

The Chinese media is using fewer characters and to understand 90 percent of the content in publications you need only to know about 900 of the thousands of pictographs that make up the script, state media said on Tuesday.

They said "pictographs"?! We doubt, but we are impressed by the methodology:

The findings of a survey conducted by the education ministry and language commission were based on 900 million characters used in more than 8.9 million files chosen from newspapers, magazines, the Internet and television, the Xinhua news agency said.

(After that it gets painfully journalised and we recommend sparing your varied self. They seem to think that the "simplified" characters of mainland China and the shrinking set apparently needed for functional literacy amount to much the same thing in some sense that we, for one, would enjoy watching them pretend to make precise.)

[Thanks to our zweetie for the link!]

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2006-05-23 10:05

Lawks a Lordi!

It is too much fun!

They are known as Amen the unstoppable mummy, Enary the manipulative valkyrie, Kalma the biker-zombie and Kita the alien manbeast.

(Have there been previous Enary's, we wish to ask or enquire? Zeven, ideally:

I'm 'Enery the Eighth, I am.
'Enery the Eighth I am, I am.
I got married to the widder next door;
She'd been married seven times before.
Every one was an 'Enery;
She wouldn't 'ave a Willy or a Sam.
I'm 'er eighth old man called 'Enery.
'Enery the Eighth I am.)

Kita has the "combined strengths of all the beasts known to man", while he and the others are led by Lordi (The Lord).

New York's Grayladybladet has a surprisingly different take on the lineup:

As he stuck out his tongue menacingly, his red demon eyes glaring, Lordi was surrounded by Kita, an alien-man-beast predator who plays flame-spitting drums inside a cage; Awa, a blood-splattered ghost who howls backup vocals; Ox, a zombie bull who plays bass; and Amen, a mummy in a rubber loincloth who plays guitar.

And some impressively inane cod-psychology:

The Finns' fascination for Lordi may reflect their eternal hope after coming in last at Eurovision eight times. Some Finns rank that humiliation with their nation's appeasement of the Soviet Union or losing in hockey to Sweden.

While outside the Land of Reagan, Finland's Cold War position was largely seen as sane, it is a fact that Zweden just added the World Icehockey championship gold (Finland took bronze) to their Olympic haul from earlier this year, so the Finnish psyche must look like Lordi on a bad hair day, presumably.

Finns blame their losing streak on the fact that contestants have typically sung in their mother tongue, a famously difficult Uralic language where words with three umlauts are not uncommon.

Uralic? Umlauts? You lack all known forms of clue, journaliste! But let's leave the last word to Archbishop Christodoulos of the Greek Orthodox Church:

Their win "shows that people are seeking something to prop themselves on and fill their empty souls," said Archbishop Christodoulos of the Greek Orthodox Church in a sermon on Sunday.

Do you get out much, Archishop? No, we thought not.

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2006-05-22 17:03

The man who would not be king... of Serbia

Thanks, but no thanks.

Serbia må gå i tenkeboksen etter at Montenegro nå bryter ut og blir et selvstendig land. Det mest radikale forslaget kommer fra utenriksminister Vuk Draskovic, som mener at landet nå kan få en ny start ved å gjeninnføre monarkiet.

Tiddly-dum tiddly-dee... in the imminent absence of a Montenegro, Serbia's foreign minister Vuk "Toots" Draskovic reckons it might be a good idea to have a monarchy instead.

We'd love to do it, but we're staying home to spend more time with our blender. Sorrie hoor!

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2006-05-22 13:19

Of Foreign and Fulfilment

It is a job advert! We're not applying; we merely wish to remark:

Our department is international and often we communicate in English with each other. Nevertheless it is also important to be able to relate to our local situation and to be able to communicate with students in Dutch. We therefore expect foreign candidates to learn Dutch within one year. Several courses to facilitate this are available. Experience has shown that this condition can easily be fulfilled.

If Dutch can be "easily" learned in a year, then given we have a headstart and previous form in learning langwidges, then we figure we should be able to do somewhat better. Since we're emigrating on 3 June ("June 3"), we'll give ourself six (6) months plus change and target Sinterklaas as the official target date for Operative Taalbevoegdheid. (Which by a happy coincidence it already was.)

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2006-05-22 11:01

Smörgåspost!

§1. Don't tell the Frisians!

It is Montenegro, microstate in waiting:

Montenegro has narrowly voted for independence from its union with Serbia, near-complete results say.

The head of the country's electoral commission said that 55.4% of voters had voted to secede from Serbia, just above the 55% required for victory.

Squeaky!

§2. Monstervizhn!

It is the mighty might of Lordi! It reminds us of EnglandandWales's Ashes triumph, if this coverage is anything to go by:

President Tarja Halonen congratulated the band in a telegram after their song Hard Rock Hallelujah won in Athens. [...]

Helsingin Sanomat wrote: "Years of humiliation, frustration, and 'zero points' were wiped away as the Finnish entry blew everyone off the stage in Athens. When the United Kingdom voters gave Finland 12 points, one knew somehow that nothing would ever be quite the same again."

§3. Monstervizhn, slightly Zwedish!

It is Hufvudstadsbladet, Finland's foremost and only national Zwedish-langwidge daily paper!

Plötsligt utbrister Mr Lordi i en spontan tolkning av Litauens sång We Are The Winners och trummisen Kita viftar med Finlands och Greklands flaggor.

Suddenly Mr Lordi broke out in a spontaneous interpretation of Lithuania's song "We are the winners" and the drummer Kita waved Finnish and Greek flags.

(Both of which are of course blue on white.)

That's almost better than our plan of finding the Lithuanian candidates and chanting "You are the losers! Of Yurovizhn!" at them over and over and over again.

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2006-05-19 15:32

"What?"

"What?"

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2006-05-19 13:51

Radio silence, its brokenness

The problem with disliking (now ex-)Dutch MP Hirsi Ali used to be the company you would find yourself keeping. And while that may well still be an issue, it was brought to our attention rather later that we'd've preferred that the "thinktank" she's leaving for the FDR to join the American Enterprise Institute, home to only the most shameless shills and flagrant frauds. Her new colleagues are global warming denialistes and tobacco company plants and other such lossage, and we will permit ourself the observation that we are confident she will fit in just fine.

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2006-05-19 13:18

Babies born when Boro beat Basle: bilingualisme boom?

It is Georges Lüdi, professeur de linguistique française et directeur du Département des sciences du langage à l'Université de Bâle.

To our consternation, they do not especially ask him to relive the memorable night when Middlesborough knocked Basle out of the UEFA cup in a shock second-leg comeback, but have him instead witter on about childrens and spicy brains and langwidges. In Foreign to boot.

- L'enfant qui a acquis simultanément deux langues dans la toute petite enfance est ensuite avantagé lorsqu'il acquiert de nouvelles langues. Par rapport à un enfant qui a grandi dans un univers monolingue, il a un avantage biologique. On observe le même phénomène avec les adultes qui ont grandi dans des environnements monolingues et ont peu été en contact avec d'autres langues, les Français, les Américains ou les Russes, par exemple. Lorsqu'ils s'installent à l'étranger, ils ont plus de mal que d'autres migrants à apprendre la langue du pays d'accueil.

Childrens who acquire two (2) langwidges in ze infancy, zey keep an advantage in to also additional further languages in the future to be able to learn as well. Which show it self the same phenomenon when the having in a largely monolingual environment up-grown adults - from France or the USA - install themselves in an abroad, they are considerably more difficulty than other immigrants to learn the langwidge having.

But at the end of the day, I'm gutted. Funny old game, eh?

(Le Temps has many articles on langwidge-learning, but this one actually has content and everything!)

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2006-05-19 10:19

Gor blimey!

It is Darlington, wherever that is!

A sex slavery cult based on a series of 1960s science fiction novels has been uncovered by police in Darlington.

The group, called Kaotians, follow the Chronicles of Gor novels which depict a society where women are dominated. Kaotians are a splinter group of the Goreans, which base their beliefs on novels written by American university professor John Norman.

The books are set on the quasi-medieval planet of Gor, which has a caste system and uses women as slaves. There are an estimated 25,000 Goreans worldwide.

(I've abridged the beeboiding ruthlessly.)

Everything in this boggles our tiny mind (which was exposed to Gor books in its sweaty-palmed youth) but nothing more than that J Norman is/was a perfessor. What on Gor did/does he perfess?

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2006-05-18 18:14

Why I am so unenlightening

Everyone agrees that liberal, democratic and nationalist movements had an influence on nineteenth-century politics. (Even me!)

Some persons argue that (some of) these ideas arose with the Enlightenment and then spread, and that this undermined Society As It Was Known. (These can be divided into pro- and anti- camps, and yes there really are the latter.)

But we suspect that this has the canonical bug of intellectual theories of history, namely that intellectuals are a Very Important Part of how history comes about.

We suspect further that the rootless(ish) cosmopolitans of the Englightenment were simply at the vanguard of noticing that industrialisation and urbanisation were going to disrupt traditional life whether they came up with a rationalisation of the process or not.

In other words, if your traditional social framework takes it as granted that bondsmen owe allegiance to their feudal lord then it is pretty much up the creek by the time that peasants move into the city and work in factories. And if the prevailing legitimisation of the social order is precisely that it is traditional then that's knackered too, and without anyone ever having had to read Rousseau.

More interestingly, it occurs to us that the Glorious Ancestor stuff involved in nationalisme is an attempt to recover a legitimisation of a political system via an appeal to tradition, in such a way that it still works after the social upheavals of industrialisation.

We are very interested, we admit, in the role of "tradition" (conceived of as an appeal to timescales far beyond those experientially accessible, which is to say that involve the magic words "once upon a time") in legitimations of social institutions. (And, we also admit, really not very interested at all in reading Rousseau.)

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2006-05-18 15:51

Vizhner than us?!

It is the eccentrically-spelled "eurovision blog"!

We were actually looking for a petition against Terry Wogan's perpetual UK anchorhood at the time, but there doesn't seem to be one. Silly Engleeshes!

Bonus Abuse: It is The Editors Weblog, a collation of press-related stories from press-releases and various news-wires, routinely mangled by semi-competent cut-and-pastage and not less entertaining for that.

The world's third largest newspaper by distribution, the freesheet Metro, has worked its way into Mexico, launching its familiar green masthead in the world's second largest city.

That'll be a press-release, then: only Metro could possibly find it in its heart to describe the polyglot polycelaphic bladetswarm that shares a name, a logo and a business model as a single newspaper for the purpose of claiming to be third-biggest.

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2006-05-18 10:57

"British values", an object lesson

Barcelona won the foopball, so Englishes are indulging the full strength of their celebrated espirit of Fair Play and blaming the referee.

Simmering resentment boiled over last night as Thierry Henry departed Paris with an uncharacteristically vehement attack on the performance of the Norwegian referee Terje Hauge and his assistants who he deemed had unfairly favoured Barcelona to contribute to Arsenal's Champions League defeat.

Henri, before you start, is not remotely Engleesh, but we assure you that his sentiments are not unshared by our alleged countrypersons.

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2006-05-17 18:01

Toughy McTough

It is the Foopballing Finale of the League of Champions tonight, but we also have some Cherman homeworks to do (writing, to be specific, a pretend newspaper article on, to be other than culpably specific, a topic we dare not discuss).

But while teh Gunners and Barça have played some of the best foopball in Yoorpean competition this season, it is still only foopball and we are fond of neither team. (The Arse are derbically related to Chelsea, and thus very yuck, and Barça are a locus of Catalan nationalisme, and thus more than somewhat ewww.) So Cherman it is.

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2006-05-17 14:14

Prinsess in a curtain I know, I know it's serious

[Disclaimer: The Smith's, like Carry On films and Keeping Up Appearances and distressingly many other "quintessentially English" comedy acts, do approximately nothing for us. We don't like Mr Bean or Fawlty Towers either, so just strip us of our nationality and make us stateless right now, why don't you?]

Anyway, it is 17 May!

Idag exploderar hela Norge i en enda gigantisk folkfest.

Today a dead Norway washed up lifeless on the Zwedish coast. Munitions experts were called in to detonate the carcass; a gang of whales is being sought for questioning in what is thought to have been a revenge attack.

Also, Mette-Marit has been spotted wearing some excellent upholstery so it's all good.

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2006-05-17 11:01

The Yurovizhn, it approaches!

The goggles, they do nothing!

It is a Beeboidal uproundning of the inflictions to be inflicted:

[Cherman reps] Texas Lightning are a country and western fivesome, and the first such act to try their luck at the song contest.

Their song No No Never was written and will be sung by Australian Jane Comerford - who is also a ukulele player.

And a big hello to Armenia!

The former Soviet republic, which has land borders with Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and lies close to southern Russia, is taking its first Eurovision campaign very seriously.

Since none of Iran, Azerbaijan or Georgia has a vote, we don't especially fancy their chances but you never know.

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2006-05-16 16:49

On being less equal than others

It is Lithuania's thwarted Euroquest!

[T]he small Baltic of state of Lithuania feels aggrieved it is being refused entry on the grounds that its inflation rate is marginally above the 2.6 per cent benchmark used by the European Commission and European Central Bank.

[...]

Lithuania, whose March inflation rate was just below 2.63 per cent, can scarcely believe its bad luck, and will look on as Slovenia - the only other new EU member to apply to join the euro - adopts the single currency next January.

It is conspicuous that the extent to which rules apply to countries is very much a function of whether said countries are France or Chermany, and of course whether rules apply to Italy and Greece depends on whether you really believe the EU really believed their bookkeeping back in the day was on the up-and-up. (Astonishingly, it wasn't.)

So why be so tough with Lithuania, and why now? Mr Almunia argues that although the Baltic state misses the inflation target only narrowly now, inflation could rise to 3.5 per cent later this year - and that Vilnius ignored his warnings the problem was looming.

Yeah right. Lithuania is a small Baltic country with not much political clout, and it has been selected for Making An Example Of duty, and that's that.

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2006-05-16 14:53

Irrationalise me harder

It irritates us, it more than slightly does, that in a world where Tony "Baloney" Blair's relentless crusade against human rights in favour of "public safety" (which he does more than most to threaten - at what point is he going to spot that his arguments work just as well in support of regicide? Oh, none, yes) the approximately sane (i.e., oppositional) public discourse can't manage more than "We had to burn the village in order to save it" black humour and the usual (and completely irrelevant) 57 flavours of post-Kantianismz.

Reading, as we lately have been, Max "Chuckles" Weber has been a revelation, for sure, but has anyone (aside from Zizek and sundry Anglo-Continental comedy turns) attempted some kind of synthesis of Weber with Freud or Lacan? You just can't get anywhere with the current political inflammations without tools to handle absurdity and obscenity, and it is certainly our understanding that that's not really Kant's strong point.

The relative merits of describing and changing the world are certainly discutable, but the uselessness of standing unobserved offstage giving it a stern telling off should be obvious even to deontologistes in their more lucid moments.

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2006-05-16 10:29

Monday Review of Smörgåsstuff!

§1. Bladets

It is the Neue Zürche Zeitung and it is magnificently dated in its layout and appearence. It makes the Frankfurter Municipal Sossagebladet look like De Telegraaf or Aftonbladet for sobriety. It appears to be written in Foreign, however, so we don't know much about what it says.

§2. Book the First

It is C++: A Somethingy Something by Koenig and Moo and it is the best of a very bad lot. It seems OK, under the constraint that the authors think that C++ is a Good Thing and therefore can hardly be trusted.

§3. Book the Second

It is Peter L Berger's Invitation to Sociology : A Humanistic Perspective and very good it is too, if not quite either as purple or as magnificent as his Social Construction of Belgium and Other Realities with Mr Luckmann.

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2006-05-15 18:09

The things they say!

It is Jackie Ashley in the Graun's ContentIsFree! And some sub-editor has (possibly with deliberate mischievous intent) glossed her thusly:

Ming Campbell has a chance to put the Liberal Democrats centre stage by raising the flag of common sense on the Middle East.

Ming "Minger" Campbell has as much chance of putting the perpetually feckless LibDems centre stage as we do of annexing the Sudetenland, or perhaps less.

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2006-05-15 14:58

Expat shmexpat

It is however expatica, and it probably can't be helped in the short-term.

Learning the Dutch language will make life a lot easier for expats, but choosing the right course is crucial. Parul Merchant-Das gives a run down of the options open to would-be learners.

We differ on the closing point, though but:

As for me, I'm still trying to get the Dutch person on the street to speak to me in Dutch. Most Dutch speak English and when they notice a bit of faltering in Dutch on my part, they quickly switch to English. They want to practice their languages too!

The Dutch almost never English us. We suspect it's an Amsterdam thing, if at all.

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2006-05-15 11:21

Londontown!

Is were we were at the weekend, and it was on its bestest behaviour: it was sunny but not too sunny at the zoological gartens, Mr Foyle's book establishment had a copy of the only known good book on the increasingly (and justly) unfashionable langwidge C++, which we are nonetheless going to have occasion to use, and the Greek food and drink was most eccelent.

If it hadn't been for the folk-memory of the repealed 1914 munitions-inspired law on drinkning times and the espectacular escronking of the Tube, it would've been perfect.

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