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2005-08-26 16:18


1. Parochialisme in the 'bladets, again

It is Shanghai Jaio Tong university's idiotic ("respected") ranking of world universities:

Cambridge has climbed one place and is now ranked as the world's second-best university, according to an international league table of higher education institutions.

The respected Shanghai Jiao Tong lists 11 UK universities in the top 100, including Imperial College London, University College London, and Edinburgh University. Oxford has slipped two places in the past 12 months and is ranked 10th.

That was the UK's Grauniad, which somehow managed not to notice that there are countries in the world other than Blighty and the FDRUSA.

Le Monde, whose coverage we saw offline, was no less blinkered, but those who, like us, are vaguely aware that they have universities also in Abroad, will be glad to have the full list (which the 'bladets neglect to point to, of course) and those who, even liker us, are parochially Yoorpean can get the local highlights here.

2. Dooyeweerd?

No we don't weerd, but we could...

3. Monday Review of Stuff

Pie! Australian pie! Australian lunch pie with mash and mushy peas and gravy ("sju").

Not Pie Minister, for sure, but not at all bad, and - crucially - within convenient lunching distance.


2005-08-26 14:42

Alternative medicine and very alternative criteria

So homeopathy doesn't work in the sense that it doesn't outperform placebos in large clinical trials. But the homeopaths aren't taking that lying down; the Beeb finds a spokesperson from the Society of Homeopaths to claim or allege that:

"It has been established beyond doubt and accepted by many researchers, that the placebo-controlled randomised controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy."

Yes indeedy. Shutting your eyes and saying "I believe in fairies" is a much better research tool with which to test homeopathy, especially if you want it to pass.

Apparently there's something we hate more than dirty smelly hippies: it's dirty smelly hippies in white coats claiming simultaneously that they are very scientifically rigorous and that your conception of science is too narrow for their dirty smelly alternative truths.


2005-08-26 12:18

Why I am so very lite

This time it's GCSEs (the UK's worthless 16+ exams) in which pupils are neglecting their nice langwidges:

Modern foreign languages are in danger of becoming an "elite" subject, head-teachers have warned, after the latest GCSE figures showed another sharp decline in the numbers taking French and German.

Only 272,140 candidates sat French this year, down 14.4 per cent, and only 105,288 took GCSE German, a decline of 13.7 per cent, making the core European languages taught in schools the two subjects decreasing most rapidly in popularity.

The FT has another article they allege to contain evidence that this is economically counter-productive, but they want money for it and we are not in the habit of paying for our news. (We're considering changing that, though.)


2005-08-26 09:57

On homeopathy

"I said it in Hebrew - I said it in Dutch -
I said it in German and Greek;
But I wholly forgot (and it vexes me much)
That English is what you speak!"

Let's try again!

Homeopathie werkt niet. Er is geen enkel bewijs dat het gebruik van sterk verdunde middelen enig effect heeft. Als het magische water klachten al verlicht, dan is er sprake van een placebo-effect.

Gah! Dutch again! Sorrie, hoor!


2005-08-25 14:49

Why I am so very cartographic

It is Gerardus Mercator, flemish geographeur extraordinaire, and his celebrated projection:

Another way of formulating these conditions is by saying that the Mercator projection is the unique conformal chart where parallels and meridions are represented by orthoganal line and distances are respected along the equator.

Geometry, M. Berger, p.265 (English trans.)

We always wondered what it was that it was for.


2005-08-25 13:25

Satisfy our whims, capitalistes!

We have demands and we have money!

We demand, in particular, a shiny magazine featuring all the contestants for this year's League of Champions, with preferred formations, historical sketches, fascinating tidbits of trivia and estimations of their chances. And, especially, pictures of their strips, since we are pledged by a solemn pledge or vow to support only teams in bleu. We will - and we do not say so lightly - even buy the Sunday Times, should it bundle with its extensive and extensively wretched self such a something.

Also, we have now booked a nice holiday in Mnchen ("Munich") for Oktober, when the floods will have subsided and the Oktoberfest will be just a distant memory. We will have sossage and we will have bier, and we will also see Kultural and Other Stuff in abundance. We will be flying with Lufthansa from Birmingham, and we will of course keep you up to date on their gin and tonic policy as events transpire.


2005-08-25 10:45

Inherited geography, slightly Warholvian

It is Michal Bycko, 52, founder of the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Slovakia, where the artiste's parents emigrated from (no, not the museum, sillyhead!):

While Warhol himself never visited, Bycko insists that the region's peasant mentality and religious iconography were a profound influence on his art.

Gosh, what a coincidence! We've never been there either, and it certainly made a big impression on us!


2005-08-24 16:09


1. More sporting tact

It is the Barmy Army!

England opener Marcus Trescothick, for one, is delighted with the response of the fans.

"We get it in the neck every time we go and play over in Australia so it is great to see it over here too," he said. "The crowds have made the Australians feel very unwelcome and that is great for us."

2. Discrete Morse theory!

We never actually learned the continuous kind, but never mind; if we survive this we'll have earned Proper Mathematician status for sure.

3. Bretons and Rusyns and Sorbs, oh my!

Anyone in the habit of studying micronationalismes is just going to have to grit their teeth and inflict this week's Timemagazine on themselves.

Sorrie, hoor, and don't shoot the messenger, for it is we!


2005-08-24 12:54

A game of two (2) halves

And especially two (2) 'bladets! When Malm FC of Sweden and FC Thoune ("Tun") clashed, Le Temps rejoiced:

Thoune jouera contre les grands d'Europe!


Au coup de sifflet final, les protgs de Schnenberger, ivres de joie, s'attardaient sur la pelouse, baigns dans une ambiance indescriptible.

Thoune will play agains the greats of Europe!

[...] After the final whistle blew, Schnenberger's proteges, lingered on the pitch drunk with joy, soaking in the indescribable atmosphere.

They've qualified for the groop fase, you see.

Le tirage au sort des huit groupes de quatre quipes se droulera jeudi Monaco. Il est dj permis de rver.

The draw to decide the eight (8) groups of four teams will take place in Monaco on Tuesday, but it's not to soon to dream.

Meanwhile, Aftonbladet has an Extra under the heading:

Men fr Fan!

For F***'s Sake!

and a collection of articles, such as 'Ni skmde ut Sverige ("You're an embarrassment to Sweden"'):

Det mest skmmiga r kanske att den samling ljusbl marionetter som visade upp s katastrofala brister i teknik, snabbhet och instllning faktiskt fortfarande kan vinna ven rets allsvenska.

The most embarrassing thing is maybe that the collection of light-bleu puppets who showed such catastophic technical weaknesses, speed and instllning still in fact have a chance to win this year's Swedish championship.

Our thesis, which is ours and which we exhibit other than for the first time, is that even reputable and internationally oriented newsbladets (and other meeja) are utterly and militantly parochial when it comes to sport.


2005-08-24 10:02

Ev'ry which way but sn

Fire & water must've made you their daughter
You got what it takes to make a poor man's heart break

"Fire and Water" by Free, dammit. Who are Great White anyway?

Si au sud-ouest de l'Europe, le Portugal et l'Espagne sont en proie la scheresse et aux incendies, l'est du continent le bilan s'est alourdi avec 26 morts en Bulgarie et l'annonce de nouvelles pluies torrentielles dans le nord-ouest, o Suisse, Autriche et Allemagne sont en tat d'alerte.

If in the south-west of Europe, Portugal and Spain are victims of drought and fires, to the east of the continent the something is somethinged with 26 deaths in Bulgaria and the announce of further torrential rain in the north-west, where the Switzyland, Austria and Germany are in a state of alert.

Never mind that, though: what's the forecast for Trent Bridge tomorrow? And where's the snkaos, eh?


2005-08-24 21:30

Take me to your native langwidge!

In order to investigate the nature of these very different sorts of knowledge we need to look at the relationship between the producers of knowledge and the source of knowledge, that is, what it is about, and to see them as inextricably interconnected in the social construction of knowledge.

Kath Woodward (inevitably), David Golblatt and Liz McFall, "Changing Times, Changing Knowledge" in Knowledge and the Social Sciences: Theory, Method, Practice, D Goldblatt (Ed.) [Our emphasis]

Everything with Kath Woodward as co-author is as much fun to read as this, and not just occasionally but all the bloody way through. She's co-course chair and much of the course is good, so she must presumably be good at something, but her writing continues to give us the impression she swallowed a whole bag of Jargony Treats shortly before the aeroplane of her prose entered a zone of severe turbulence, with nauseating consequences.

2005-08-23 16:15

Why we are so very undisgraceful

Just for once:

A-level results out on Thursday will show a further decline in the number of pupils taking foreign languages, particularly in German, The Independent has learnt.

The trend emerged as business leaders said the drop-off in the number of students taking science and languages was a national disgrace. Many candidates are opting for what have been termed "softer" subjects, such as such as media studies and psychology.

The UK secondary education system is a complete joke, is what we think, and A-levels have long since ceased to be the solution to a problem anyone could reasonably claim to have.

But we'd really like to see some hard evidence that studying langwidges and science would enhance able students's negociating position in a marketplace based on money rather than the usual pieties, not least because we have studied both in our time.


2005-08-23 13:39

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Danmark vs Canananada escalation!

Canada is sending its navy back to the far northern Arctic port of Churchill after a 30-year absence.

The visit by two warships to the area is the latest move to challenge rival claims in the Arctic triggered by the threat of melting ice.

The move follows a spat between Canada and Denmark, over an uninhabited rock called Hans Island in the eastern Arctic region.

We can't improve on the Wikipedia coverage, for sure (otherwise we could, whereupon we promptly would couldn't again):

On July 27th, the Swedish radio show Morgonpasset of Sveriges Radio's channel P3 made a series of prank calls to the Danish and Canadian foreign ministries regarding the dispute. The Danish foreign minister was reached by Mns Nilsson, one of the radio show hosts, who announced that Sweden was also making a claim to the island and that a bottle of banana liqueur had been buried on the island and that a statue of famous Swedish TV-personality Lennart Hyland was to be erected over the spot. A call was also made to the Canadian Foreign Ministry, where Nilsson with a fake Danish accent claimed to be "the Danish foreign minister" and a request was made to pass on a message to the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs to cease the conflict and share the island equally with Denmark.

We'd bet cold hard cash Encarta didn't know that.


2005-08-23 10:40

Monday Review of Stuff

1. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

It mostly made us laugh, which is all we asked of it. The HHGttG has appeared in many forms, although most of them have had the wit to realise that Trillian and Arthur are a romantic non-starter. (Hollywood, isn't it?) And while this Arthur is a rubbish actor, the vogons are good.

2. The Taming of the Shrew

We saw this outside, in the garden of a stately home in Derbyshire. It was as much like wandering into a passage from Bourdieu's Distinction (which we haven't actually read) as watching Shakespeare: the gardens were open an hour ahead of the start for the exhibition of picnic-mediated bourgeois one-up-manship. There were some extraordinary entries, for sure, but we stuck to sossage samwidges and bottles of bier, which is a dinner fit, after all, for an Emperor, especially if said Emperor is us.

This is the second time we've seen this play, and the second time we've seen it played in the open air. We have read it, however none times, which we need to fix. There are probably some good jokes (althoug it's hard to tell: as a rule of thumb, if the lumpen bourgeoisie is tittering, it wasn't a joke) and definitely some antiquated sexual politics.

3. Aldi

We went to Aldi with the Dowager Countess, to buy yummy bier and sossages and other stuff. We were slightly disappointed, compared to Lidl; Aldi has a great many excellent things, but the packaging tends to be in the silly Engleesh, which takes a lot of the fun out of it.


2005-08-22 15:23

Calcio, eh, isn't it?

So our beloved Cricket and Foopball Club is very definitely down in the depths of Serie C1/A, where the searchlights of the UK meeja seldom penetrate. We're reduced, in fact, to scouring for our many data. Which directs us in turn to here for more:

Giovanni Vavassori chiede determinazione ed entusiasmo per misurarsi in un campionato difficile come quello di C1. Non ha esitato un attimo prima di decidere di allenare il Genoa, consapevole di ricostruire una squadra dalle ceneri.

Johnny Vavassori may or may not have urged his squad to keep their chins up and play the game in these difficult times. Or something.

Sigh. We were planning to learn some nice Italian by cross-referencing with Engleesh coverages, but now it looks like we'll have to upgrade our skills just to have a clue what's going on.

Maybe we'll follow the mighty PSV of Eindhoven this season instead, since the Dutchy-Double-Dutch is currently a more pressing lacuna in our langwidge portfolio.


2005-08-22 13:02

We could get to like this Pope

He's abrasive and trenchant:

The Pope told the crowds there were dangers in people finding their own religious routes.

"If it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product," he said.

"People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a 'do-it-yourself' basis cannot ultimately help us," he said.

Have a biscuit, for once, Pope!

We are currently gearing up to argue that the diversities of modern "knowledge" (in the sociological sense) are symptoms of the triumph of liberal ideologi, for sure. Although we have no concrete plans to adopt the religious attitudes the Pope would prefer it their place, we would never pass up a chance to abuse dirty, smelly "New-Age" hippies.


2005-08-22 10:12

Don't anthropomorphise the nice pingvins!

They hate that!

So do the birds experience emotions at all? "Zoologists would say, Probably not," said [Marine biologist Gerald] Kooyman, who works for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "A lot of what looks to us like love or grief is probably hormonally driven more than some kind of attachment" to the egg, chick, or partner, he said.


Instinct, hormones, and the drive to reproduce influence a lot of the penguin behavior, Kooyman said.

Do you get the feeling or impression, Varied Reader, that Meester Kooyman doesn't read a great deal of Stephen "Ping-Pong" Pinker and his Evo-Psycho chums? Admirable though that is, we, for one, are inclined to suspect that "instinct, hormones and the drive to reproduce" influence quite a lot of people behaviour also, as well.

Either that or we are in fact a pingouin ourself, maybe.


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