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2003-03-14 18:37 (UTC)

A public losing of the plot

From the Guardian's coverage of the cricket (NZ vs. India) this morning:

21st over: New Zealand 75-5

Two no-balls and three singles. New Zealand are ticking over quietly but nicely at five an over. Bob O'Hara is backing up the point made earlier by Peter Liljenberg. "The Finnish spring started this week. The temperature has finally risen above zero and the snow has started to melt (and then re-freeze overnight). This morning I was sat at home working on my computer with the sun streaming in through the windows. The only reason I came into my office was to read your commentary." There's a tear in my eye here, Bob, a tear in my eye. And it's because I want to live in Scandinavia.

Go read. It doesn't matter that you don't like cricket, cricket barely comes in to it.

28th over: New Zealand 96-6

Just one off the over from Harbhajan, who bowled that one so very quickly I only saw Harris's sweep down the leg side for one run. "Two weeks ago I was having breakfast in Gothenburg, without a care in the world," recalls Richard Burgess. "Then I went into an Irish pub to watch some cricket and found it was full of Aussies. The grass is always greener, Scott."

Man oh man, is that some crazy stuff to be seeing on a national paper's sports commentary, and there's a lot more like that.

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2003-03-14 14:01 (UTC)

Like a poppy field to a smack-head.

The new Borders opened for its first full day of business at 9 o'clock this morning, which is also where I was at 9 o'clock this morning. It's certainly has the best selection of any bookshop in town for any field I'm interested in, by a lot. It's just as well it also plays the worst music otherwise I would be tempted to move in to live there.

I bought the Routledge Swedish: An Essential Grammar partly because of the groovy new cover colour scheme it's acquired since I last saw one, partly because we've started doing Heavy Grammar in class, but largely because it was just there.

Meatspace bookshops are just a local cache for Amazon, of course, but there is something to be said for having a preliminary heft of the merchandise.

(I did feel a bit like a Latvian peasant on his first trip to McDonald's, yes, but I think I covered it.)

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2003-03-13 13:50 (UTC)

Rootless Cosmopolitanism Without Tears.

Ever wanted to pass yourself off as a vrldsmedborgare (citizen of the world) without the inconveniences of actually going anywhere?

Fret not, Varied Reader, for help is at hand from Aftonbladet's timely guide:

14 "Harry"s bar i Venedig r faktiskt bara en kopia av Harry"s i Paris. (Hemingway, alla barfyllons kung, frknippas ofta med Harry"s i Venedig. Men baren i Paris startade redan under frsta vrldskriget fr amerikanska soldater. Den i Venedig ppnades frst p 1930-talet. Drfr r det vldigt vrldsvant att kunna slnga ur sig att Harry"s i Paris r originalet.)"

[Harry's bar in Venice is actually just a copy of Harry's in Paris. (Hemingway, the king of all barflies, is often associated with Harry's in Venice. But the bar in Paris opened during the first world war for American soldiers. The one in Venice was originally opened in the 1930's. So it's hugely urbane to be able to throw in the fact that Harry's in Paris is the original.)]

On the other hand, their handy guide to not making a fool of yourself contains

Den som knystar om "half pint" fr inte stta sin fot p en engelsk pub. Det heter "a glass".

Anyone who says "half pint" hasn't set foot in an English pub. It's called "a glass".

and either I'm screwing up the Swedish something chronic (always a possibility) or they've dropped the ball themselves. "A half of X, please," is the idiomatic expression (assuming there's some legitimate medical reason why you can't manage a pint) and specifying "X" is important. "Lager" will do if you're stuck, but "beer" won't, and those of us who drink beer typically check the pumps to see what's on offer. (For the record, it was mostly Fuller's London Pride at the weekend.)

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2003-03-13 10:54 (UTC)

Hagar the Horrible

is called Hret (which would mean "the hair" in Swedish, so let's go with that) Hrek (thanks, Maus!) in Norwegian, and is scripted in the lesser-spotted Scandewegian flavour of Nynorsk. This is funny in its own right, as well as being the best reason anyone has ever offered me for learning Nynorsk.

Norwegian cartoons in general here, and a collection of Flash-driven sales pitches by the holders of the net license for Hret (amongst other things) here.

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2003-03-12 16:23 (UTC)

A princess named "Today!"

It is Kronprinsess Vickan's nameday today. Hoorah for Wednesday the Vickanth of March!

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2003-03-12 11:19 (UTC)

Googlebot,googlebot, oh golly, golly, golly

[To the tune of "My girl lollipop", of course]

Since Google bought Blogger (and thus Blogspot), there have been more accurately targeted ads chez Languagehat, and now Torill observes that the Norwegian blog gummihjertet (hosted at blogspot) has banner ads in Norwegian.

I vaguely remember, although I am too idle to check, that there was some kerfufflage about the Googlicious ones' intentions with said heretoforeabove-mentioned deal, not excluding even Dark Mutterings about conflicts of interest. Now, though, everything is clear. Google is a private company, so it doesn't pubish accounts, but they say they're profitable (and I choose to believe them) by virtue of licensing their engine, and more interestingly, by selling adverts.

Adverts are sold on a key-word basis and appear, discretely segregated, on search results pages, on both the web search pages and the Deja-Google archive of Usenet. (We may note in passing, that after teething troubles they've restored Deja-Google back to a state that's faster and at least as functional as it ever achieved in it's previous life and that the adverts don't get in the way there, either.)

The search engine lives and dies by associating content with key words. Their advertising model does, too - I understand that they're good enough at this to charge more than the going rate in the industry and I dare you to claim to be surprised.

So, the Blogspot deal is a perfect fit for their core strategy - let other people provide the content that brings the eyeballs in, and sell accurately targeted advertising to the people who want their products in front of those eyeballs. They're on course to make content profitable on the web, finally, by inventing the role of content broker, and realising that the future's bright - the future's us.

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2003-03-11 17:04 (UTC)

Meeja meeja meeja

This is Desbladet, reporting on a BBC report on American newspapers' responses to the threatened French UN veto.

(Sigh.)

That trick never works, does it? I have no feel for the implications of being condemned by the Chicago Sun-Times, because I didn't even know there was such a thing. (I'd like to try, though, so if the rabid rabble-rousers of the Chicago Sun-Times are reading, I dare you to condemn me! I can take it, you obese, opinionated American buffoons!)

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2003-03-11 13:36 (UTC)

Mette-Marit's May Madness

The 17th of May is the date when Norway celebrates being handed over as part of the spoils of war from smelly old Denmark to Sweden Glorious Sweden. (Funny chaps, the Norwegish; probably best to humour them, I should think.)

To celebrate this glorious day, a whole bunch of stuff happens (none of which I can remember off the top of my head, sadly) and this year Kronprinsess Mette-Marit will be back back BACK! for the festivities. (Aftenposten.) Unless you consider the Bergen Festspillene an essential part of the festivities, that is, because her packed study programme means she won't be able to make it for that. (Festspillene? I have no idea, sorry.) She'll be in Oslo to wave at schoolchildren, though, so just cut her some slack, OK?

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2003-03-11 09:32 (UTC)

Incurably Romantic

Ideally, one should know one Romance language really well, have a reading knowledge of the others, and be willing to acquire a conversational knowledge of any one of those at, say, six week's notice.
"Language made plain", Anthony Burgess

And over at Rene's they're discussing how (not in the context of Romance, particularly). I do like the idea, discussed in the comments there, of a brisk grammatical overview followed by a more communicative approach.

I'm officially declaring this weekend to be Drunken Italian Grammar weekend (sponsored by Desbladet!). Anyone else want to play?

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2003-03-10 16:42

Learning Italian in a month

I'm going to Italy in just over a month. Only for a couple of days, but still; it's Abroad, and they speak Foreign there. Thus the question naturally arises: how much Italian can I learn in a month?

I suspect I could learn quite a lot, given suitable materials, but those seem to be hard to come by. Modern textbooks are big on colour and happy friendly fun fun fun, but refuse to admit that phonology exists and dollop out grammar in homeopathic doses.

I want "Italian in a month for people who've done Latin and French and let's face it, it's just another flavour of Comedy Romance so let's just get on with it" and nobody seems to be selling it. I'm tempted to try and track down an old yellow-and-blue Teach Yourself in protest.

(Background: I've long claimed that I could acquire a working knowledge of Spanish in under a month, in the unlikely event that the mood happened to take me. Italian isn't Spanish, so I don't have to do this, but it could be a useful proving ground for techniques.)

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2003-03-10 10:45 (UTC)

London

London is good. Being challanged to infer the theory of Gray codes from a series of hints over a lunch at a good Japanese restaurant is fun; I may write that up for you if you're good.

The Aztec exhibition at the Royal Academy rocks, despite the queue to get in and the crowds inside, and a principled abstention from the audio guides in favour of a more sociable experience (the correct choice, even if we missed out on some information). The textual commentaries had a heavy pro-Aztec spin; it was at pains to point out that they weren't a bunch of blood-thirsty and brutal savages, but overall it couldn't do better than to repackage them as a bunch of blood-thirsty and brutal sophisticates. Most of the archeological stuff they had accumulated was associated with human sacrifice, and one forlorn caption asserting that it wasn't an everyday occurrence read in context seemed to have the emphasis on every, suggesting that they might conceivably have taken a ritual day off once every other leap year.

Amusingly, despite the many captions concerning the consumption of cactus-derived narcotics (enhanced with other psychotropic plants), the practice isn't mentioned in the cheapest museum leaflet (the one that I got) which turns out to be for secondary school pupils. Also, they didn't serve samples at the end, although there was a themed hot chocolate experience available.

It was a little embarrassing to realise I couldn't place the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas in space or time before the exhibition, and since it only dealt with the former, I still don't know anything about the other two which I need to fix. Because I am desperately short of things to think about, of course.

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