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2004-08-20 email! (utc+1)

Why I am so very guestbladet

More on cows and inconveniences!

A certain citizen of a small town of east Mymensingh, a contractor and thus a helper of the Allied cause during the war, had the misfortune of having his cow strangled by means of the rope by which she was tied. The incident took place towards the end of 1944, and the expiation the contractor had to make was severe.

To begin with, he had to go into sackcloth, drink half a glass of bovine urine, and fast for one day. For the next three days he had to live and sleep in the open on the spot where the cow had died, and also to abstain from eating anything but plain rice, unseasoned even with salt. This rice, too, he had to beg from his neighbors, and while begging he had to ask for his alms bellowing like an ox, for during these days he was not permitted to speak like a man.

Furthermore, all the time he had to wear a rope round his neck. At the end of three days a most elaborate atonement ceremony was performed. He was sprinkled all over with cow's urine, all the Brahmins of the locality were fed, and the priests amply rewarded.

He could no no more, in fact, he would not have been asked by society and the sacerdotal order to do more, if instead of his cow his mother had been strangled, or for that matter he had strangled her with his own hands.

But as chance would have it, for the contractor, this was not the end of the matter. It was the cold season, and as the result of the exposure undergone, he got fever and became delirious. In his delirium he called aloud for his cow, and for a day or two it seemed that he would join her. But the malady took a sudden, unexpected turn for the better, and the supreme atonement that squares up all accounts was almost miraculously averted.

[Nirad C. Chaudhury, The Autobiography of the Unknown Indian, pp. 463-463. New York Review Books, New York, 2001.]

(via Tatyana, to whom much thanks, in the guestbladet.)


2004-08-20 tea (utc+1)

"7.612.7 cm size suit pocket"

So says my ASDA Memo Pad and it is quite right, although not especially grammatical. Then I moved on to 0.18 Ls worth of vair vair tiddly Latvian notebook, and now - hlas - I am at an impasse.

Varied Reader, I appeal to your expertise in matters of stationery - where can I get a spiral bound (at the top) notepad which will sit unnoticed in the back pocket of my jeans? There isn't an ASDA to hand, although I dare say there's one closer than Latvia, and the two (2) stationers near the university and the Paperchase concession in Borders have all let me down.

I got a "Pocket Jotter" at the local convenience store but it won't do at all - it's too bulky to have in a real pocket. (This is what "pocket" means in marketing speak. Even Collins-Gem-size dictionaries are too big for pocketses, and the ones actually called pocket are a size up from that. Bad marketroids! No biscuotroniques!)


2004-08-20 gah! (utc+1)

Why I am so very underwhelmed

The "IS" persons are now using the words "disaster recovery procedures" in relation to the email service. I hope an abundance P45s is involved.

For what it's worth, when I worked in the private sector the IT support sucked too. The company paid badly and was located in the arse-end of nowhere, but offered a Certified M$-Monkey Stifficate training scheme. Guess how many persons wished to continue to be employed there once they had acquired the sacred piece of paper. (Plus everything ran on 'Doze kit, for the values of "run" that prevail under those conditions. I wouldn't be surprised if the persons here were doing likewise; the email system sucks pretty hard even when it's up.)


2004-08-20 samwidge (utc+1)

Why I am so very unreformed

The huffenpuff over the German spelling reforms (blogosphere, passim) reminds Torsten Klvemark - for it is he! - of something:

r 1909 skrev 40 000 upprrda medborgare under en petition mot den stavningsreform som Sveriges regering beslutat om ngra r tidigare. Det talades upprrt om nystafningsbarbari och kulturskymning. Hafva skulle enligt 1906 rs rttstavningscirkulr frlora sitt f och godt frvandlades till gott. Fosterlandsvnnerna var skakade.

In 1909 40,000 disturbed citizens signed a petition against the spelling reform that the Swedish government had decided on some years earlier. It spoke with concern about newspellingbarbarisme and the twilight of culture. According to the 1906 orthography circular "hafva" should lose its "f" and "godt" was transformed into "gott". The friends of the fatherland were shaken.

(Ask me about Norwegish spelling reforms some dull and rainy decade, just ask.)

Ironically, he goes on to back the germanspellingreformoppositionmovement, on the obvious grounds that he has a stake in the old system, intherewhich having been instructed back in the day.


2004-08-20 morning (utc+1)

Why I am so very smrgspost

1. The world is so full, after all, of a number of things.

2. Yngling

The Grauniad, being an achingly hip leftbladet, would never stoop to anything as gauche as simple-minded jingoistique tub-thumping. So instead we get elaborately nuanced jingoistique tub-thumping with 50% of your recommended daily intake of irony:

A subeditor's nightmare, Yngling (pronounced ing-ling) is the Olympic event in which Team GB has claimed its first gold medal. Sarah Webb, Sarah Ayton and Shirley Robertson crewed the Yngling boat that sailed to glory in Greece today.
Yngling was invented in 1967 by Norwegian Jan Lingel, who wanted to build a boat for his son, Oyvin, who was 14 days old at the time. The word means youngster, with the boat named in honour of the teensy Oyvin, whose reaction to it is, alas, not recorded.

I had been wondering about the 'Wegian angle, of course.

3. It isn't easy being a cow

"Cow parade" is an art project in which large quantities of brightly coloured life-size cow statues are placed variously around and also about. It has been perpetrated in a number of Yoorpean cities over the last five years or so and was in Stockholm when I was there. (If you are my mother you will wish to reproach me for the many fotos I neglected to take of this. But after all, I took no fotos of other things either.)

Some persons are unamused, and you will enjoy the picture of silhouetted guerillas with their hostage cow, for sure:

"Vi krver att korna frklaras icke-konst. Annars kommer gisslan att offras", skriver de.

We demand that the cows be declared non-art. Otherwise the hostage will be sacrificed.

3. Is it easy being a cow? It is not!

'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form.
"Come in," she said,
"I'll give you shelter from the storm."


Unless you're a cow:

A Danish dairy farmer is mourning the loss of 31 of his cows, killed in a lightning strike in Jutland.
The Danish insurers' association said it was the largest number of reported deaths of farm animals from a single bolt of lightning.

Sadly, however, this is not yet an Olympic sport.


2004-08-19 tea (utc+1)

More smrgspost!

1. Harry Potteur


JKR speaks (at the Edinburgh festival). [via]


An update on last year's riddle translation story - the full version [.pdf] is now online.

2. A source of "soccer" stuff

I had assumed that would be rubbish, since only Murkans and a very few of the huffier sort of rugger fans think foopball is called "soccer". But I was wrong - the name is a quirk of Usenet history, and it seems to be a better source for international club foopball in particular than anything else around. Which is to no small extent a damning inditement of everything else, but what can you do? The Olympics coverage I've been exposed to takes it for granted that I will care about any old rubbish (oh archery and dinghy sailing, how thrilling!) as long as Team GB is in with a shot at medalling. Sport seems, in fact, to be one of the most vigorous parts of the ideological apparatus of nationalisme. (Remember where you read it here first! I know I do; it was Hobsbawm.)

3. Centralise me harder!

The university now has a centralised email service, which has borged the various department systems of the past. (At least, we used to have our own.)

This has the immense benefit that I can be quite sure that nobody else in the whole university can check their email either.

(Passing libertoonians are cordially invited to refrain from arguing that this proves the necessity of overthrowing the Venezuelan government if at all possible, thanks.)


2004-08-19 samwidge (utc+1)


1. Why I hate neural networks

Daniel "Plus-sign" Davies is talking about markets as black-box decision support tools, but the point generalises:

[D]ecision support tools shouldn't be black boxes. I've spent quite a percentage of my professional life over the last ten years arguing this point and by now I think it's won. Any improvement in decision quality that you get from a black box is more than outweighed by the fact that you can't explain the output of the tool. You can ask questions of a committee, but you can't ask a market why it thinks what it thinks. For most practical purposes, this is likely to mean that there would have to be an absolutely huge gain in information for it to be a good idea to move to aggregated preferences as a decision support tool.

2. Why I do like W G Sebald

Grauniad obit

He was reluctant to call his books "novels", because he had little interest in the way contemporary writers seemed to find all meaning in personal relationships, and out of a comic but heartfelt disdain for the "grinding noises" which heavily plotted novels demanded. "As he rose from the table, frowning ..." was precisely the type of clumsy machinery, moving a character from here to there, which Sebald mocked.


3. Silly season, slightly saintly

There is strong resistance in the Vatican to the drive for beatification of the founder of the EU, Robert Schuman, the Daily Telegraph reports.
However, to date, the [diocese of] Metz investigators have found no evidence of miracles - a prerequisite for beatification.

Words! Fail! Me!

4. "Madde" dansade, klappade och sjng

[Permatanned reformed-party-prinsess Madeleine of Sweden danced, klapped and sang.]

We've been a bit starved for happy fun Madde stories since the previously obsequious rightiste-bladet Expressen turned on the prinsessor, so this is especially welcome. Key points:

  • It was the last night of Gyllene Tyder's tour!
  • She went backstage to meet the band!
  • She sang, klapped and sang!
  • Her boyfriend was there too!

Splendid stuff.

Bonus link: Kronprinsessmary ("Knudella") and Kronprinsfred of Danmark go Olympic Village!


2004-08-19 morning (utc+1)

A Llament

With our bisynchrollamathonage dreams in tatters, Llinda has taken the disappointment hard:

En lama s onsdag morgen sitt snitt til stikke av fra eieren sin og ta seg en tur i Bymarka i Trondheim.

A llama saw a chance on Wodin's day to sneak away from its owner and take a tour in Bymarka in Trondheim.

Come back, Llinda!


2004-08-18 tea (utc+1)

Singing, Mousey, Mousey it's quite wrong

I'm not allowed to sing a song
Unless its author passed away
A million years before today.

Oh, Mousey, Mousey have a heart,
Without a commons, what price art?
To you it's just a case of money,
To us it's Glorious Patrimony

"Mousey, Mousey", (Sung by Miss Florrie Furthington)

Anyway, I've been looking for some repertoire ("stuff") for playing and singing on my little ukulele, and today I picked up a few slim volumes to that effect from Mr Oxfam's shop, from which all the profits go to the disadvantaged in the Empire and Commonwealth, so I don't begrudge them a penny.

The next step is for our team of legal researchers to establish which ones are public domain, and the one after that is to figure out how to make recordings so that we can all have nice sing-a-longs. The musique for "Where did you get that hat?" is included. I do hope that's pre-Mouse. Althoug "Greenland Fisheries" is promising:

O, Greenland is an awful place,
It's a place that's never green,
Where the cold winds blow and the whale fishes go,
And the daylight's seldom seen, brave boys,
And the daylight's seldom seen.

Simply ghastly!


2004-08-18 morning (utc+1)


1. Our Glorious Serbian Patrimony, Fresh From the Oven

OK, so the last we heard Serbia and Montenegro needed a new anthem for the Olympics, but the emergency parliamentary vote (which I didn't blog) failed (which is why).

And now the BBC is reporting that Serbia has fixed itself up with a new bunch of Glorious National Symbols (dating back to the Middle Ages, natrlich) in a move in no way connected with a similar move by Montenegro in July which was widely considered to be kitting itself in preparation for independence from the S&M mothership, good Heavens no.

Serbia's new anthem, Boze Pravde or God of Justice, was sung by pro-democracy protesters who helped oust former President Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

2. Wimmins' Beach volleyball is sexiste entertainment, and that's bad

You may wish to consider that an assertion in two parts, but watch out for Swedish feministes if you do:

Det internationella volleybollfrbundet har strikta regler fr hur de kvinnliga beachvolleybollspelarnas klder ska se ut. Alla ska bra bikini och trosornas sidsm fr inte vara lngre n sju centimeter. Fr herrlagen dremot gller helt andra bestmmelser.

The international beach-volleyball association has strict rules on how wimmin beach-volleyball players should dress. They all must wear bikinis and the side seam of the briefs must not be longer than 7 centimetres. A completely different set of rules applies to men.

(Actually, before you start, the full piece concedes that one-piece wimmins outfits are allowed, but there are comparable restrictions on the leg cut there, also.)

Margareta Winberg - for it is she! - is furious. We merely note that Norwegish bladet VG has a beach-volleyball photo special to facilitate the detailed research that this bladet, for one, considers necessary.

3. Skl!

Sin tax tarriffs, thwarty-thwarty
Distort my markets, 'storty-torty

(von Bladet, with apologies to birds of pointiness)

Distort me harder

The average price of the locally most consumed bottle of spirits (0.7 litres) vary from 5.57 euros in Estonia to 20.09 euros in neighbouring Finland, according to the alcohol control database of the World Health Organisation, (WHO).

In Germany, the price is just 5 euros on average, while the Danes on the other side of the border have to pay 10.75 euros.

Topping the expense league is Norway where liquor is priced at 39.01 euros on average per bottle, followed by Iceland 28.37 euros and Sweden 21.54 euros.

(I've amended plural "euro" to "euros" throughout. Sigh. Is there anything more tiresome than the Besserwisser who does not, in fact, know better? And I don't care if it is established Irish usage, we hatesss it. Horrible dry pluralsss with no essssesss, we hatesss them!)

Spirits in Germany at 5 euros a bottle? I'd guesstimate 15 for the UK. Of course, now that intra-EU travelleurs (and presumably EEA if Norway's throwing a strop) can load up unrestrictedly abroad, they are doing just that, and the tax is neither lucrative nor preventative. With hilarious consequences!


2004-08-17 15:56

The only thing worse than finding a bug in your code

Is not finding a bug in your code.

(Sigh. I'll get my silk dressing gown...)


2004-08-17 11:17


1. Let's put on an avant-garde show:

Des [von Bladet] asks: "Could you remind us when the synchronised llama dressage biathalon is on, please? My cousin's next door neighbour is one of the pleatistes for Team UK, and I've heard we've got a good shot at medalling this time round, after the debacle in Sydney." Oh no, not another sport I know nothing about. Do they wear top hats?

The Grauniad is doing live coverage (top of the left hand bar; URLs vary). Since coverage is split country by country (except in the FDRUSA which has apparently substituted random flatulent talking heads for actual coverage to prevent the bloated nincompoops they anticipate by way of audience from finding out that the rest of the world exists and is even allowed to join in - even Foreigners, quel horreur!) they would have, it seems to me, no way of knowing that this 'bladet's readers were making it all up, if they happened to email requesting a summary of the synchronised llama dressage biathalon, that they just saw a glimpse of on local teevee before it cut away to the kayak slalom or some such.

2. Nameslation

Now, I'm reading a book on the history of ideas by Sten Hgns, and I wish, of course, to translate his name as "Stone Highnose", because that's what it says, after all.

But "Stone" is a problem, because the Engleesh word "Peter" is derived from a word in Foreign meaning basically "Stone" itself (cf. Frenchy-French "Pierre") as in this famously inscrutable pun:

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

[Matthew 16:18]

Good one, Lord. Very droll. So the question is, should one really go with "Peter Highnose" instead? Answers on the back of a hermeneutic, please, to the usual address.

3. On the manifest superiority of the Enlightenment to Romanticisme

Upplysnings centrum var storstaden Paris. Romantikens centra finner vi i sm tyska universitetsstder som Jena och Heidelberg.

The Enlightenment was centred on the metropolis of Paris. By contrast, Romanticisme was based in small German university towns such as Jena and Heidelberg.

Idernas historia, Sten Hgns ("Stone Highnose, AKA Peter")

It is not, in my view, at all to the credit of the nineteenth century that this seemed like a good idea at the time.


2004-08-17 09:29

[Monday review of stuff] A Guide to Eastern Germany, James Bentley

In spite of industrialisation and its two satellite towns of Weststadt and Lankow, old Schwerin is delicious. Founded by Henry the Lion in 1160 and the oldest city in the land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schwerin has trams, beaches, French-style houses, a sports and congress hall, and a symphony orchestra whose origins as the Mecklenburg Staatskapelle go back four centuries. Lake Schwerin itself (the Schweiner See) has a surface area of 65.5 km and reaches a depth of 52m. Schwerin's Altstadt lies between two other lakes, the Burgsee and the Pfaffenteich. The citizens have taken these lakes to their hearts, endowing the Pfaffenteich with a fountain. It is also flanked by a huge, white, comically pseudo-Gothic arsenal, built in 1844 by G A Demmler (whose capacious architectural tastes here encompassed a Germanic mock-Tudor style).

A Guide to Eastern Germany, James Bentley

65.5 km, you say? Gosh!

I like old travel guides, but I can't stand this one. It's like Bassett's Central Yoorp (reviewed earlier) - not surprising since it seems to be in the same Viking Penguin series - but with all the humanity squeezed out of it. It's just endless litanies of architectural details. Basset occasionally stopped for a word about cake-shops or an observation about persons, but Bentley just keeps on grinding on and on and on.

Admittedly, I only made it through the first chapter. And now I've moved on to Gordon Cooper's vastly more entertaining Your Holiday in Germany which will feature in a future Monday Review of Stuff, for sure.


2004-08-16 15:40

wai ai æm sɘʊ vɛɹi IPA

My ASCII-IPA to IPA convertor seems to be working fairly well, but in terms of its distributability it is strictly pre-alpha. (I.e., you can't have it yet. I'm thinking that I'll probably put up a web interface rather than package up the source, but not, likesay, yet.)

ɪksˈpɛkt mɒː wɛː ðɪs kaɪm fɹɔm

(Note: I really do seem to have some kind of monophthongisation of vowels in place of [ɘ] off-glides - never mind syllabic [ɘ] - in places where there were once syllable final /r/s. I'm not just non-rhotic - I'm post-rhotic.)


2004-08-16 digestif (utc+1)

Country and Western!

Attributions vary wildly, but I find it ideologically expeditious to attribute the quote "there are only two kinds of music - good music and bad music" to Kurt Weill, who certainly wrote more than one kind.

1 gauche is having a nice rant:

Anglo-American philosophy as widely practiced is a dead thing. Sometimes it is animated (but only in the zombie sense, since if God is, God is not an object for thought) by theology, and you get airy moral philosophy or even naked metaphysics - postulation without shame. Absent that, there is the mummified husk of thought, around which so many agents wrap perfumed cloths made of epistemic justifications and wholly impotent theories of justice.

2. Mr Of the Machine likewise:

One loose index of the value of a discipline is whether it helped humanity out of the cave. Mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and even a few economists have all made their contributions. As for philosophy - we programmers have a term to characterize a programmer without whom, even if he were paid nothing, the project would be better off. The term is "net negative."

(Actually, this rant comprehensively lacks niceness, as those of you previously acquainted with Mr otM will have anticipated.)

[Latter link via Harvestbird, who'd be better off with the former, if you ask me.]


2004-08-16 mornin (utc+1)


1. Oh dear.

Sadly, I will not after all be competing in the synchronised llama dressage biathalon at this Olympics. The panel accepted that I had been prescribed olive oil for a legitimate medical condition, but with aural lubrication such a crucial part of the top-level synchrollamathon (as we call it), my pleas fell on deaf ears. Still, my hearing is fixed, and that's the main thing. I'll be back for Beijing, for sure!

2. Oh, we hate Man U and we hate Man U!

We hate Man U and we hate Man U!
We hate Man U and we hate Man U!
We are the Man U ... haters!

Челсий 1-0 Man U

BBC, Aftonbladet, VG all cover it, of course, but connoisseurs will of course prefer the homebladet of Viking striker Eiur Smri Gujohnsen on the occasion of his decisive goal. (For future reference, rttir is Viking for sport, which I should have spotted since idrott is Swedish for athletics. )

3. USA 73-92 Puerto Rico

That's a stupid score for a foopball match, but this is basketfoopball, and while it's a pretty stupid flavour ("flavor") of foopball, it's also one that the Murkans have the habit or custom of caring about, ho ho. Just wait till they come up against the mighty Lithuanians, then there'll be fireworks, for sure.


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