September 25, 2009
More Googleless phrases
Well, I broached a whole new steel preservative vessel of vermiform invertebrates here.
August 04, 2009
I've just been reading the Wikipedia article on 'existential migration' which is, apparently:
a concept derived from phenomenological research (Madison, 2006) into the lived experience of voluntary migrants who have chosen to leave their country of origin in order to live as foreigners in a new land.
Existential migration differs from wanderlust, exile, economic migration or other types of involuntary expatriation:
'Existential migration' is conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.
As I say, I've been reading the article and I'm a bit baffled. Academic researchers do like categories, don't they? Especially in the social sciences - I guess you have to draw lines around things somehow or other so as to not be overwhelmed, but I think they've missed the mark a bit here.
My reasons for coming to Paris from Copenhagen were complicated. Love was one reason. Getting away from the issues in Copenhagen, some extrinsic, like the weather, and some intrinsic, like my increasingly odd social circle, was another. And, economically, I did get a job here - but I only looked after I knew I was moving anyway.
So am I an existential migrant? In one way, I don't think so. It's intensely irritating to not be conversant, let alone fluent, in the host language of your chosen country of residence. I'm not at all that fond of being a 'foreigner' in a country, especially when natives of the country in question treat you like one.
On the other hand, the experiences you go through when living in another country tell you things about yourself and your cultural biases that you would never have gone through if you'd stayed in the country of your birth. I'd never considered what a creature of my time and culture I was until I heard a bunch of drunken Copenhageners start singing "Fy Fy Skamme Skamme" at a party. Small things, and stuff that can be learned, but the sadness is in realising that you will always be an outsider to those people, and that cultural gaps can be small, but then so are the gaps in drain covers, and you can still lose your keys down them.
On the third hand, apart from the learning experience, there is something oddly liberating about arriving in a country and not knowing anything about it. I remember first coming to Copenhagen and spending many happy times on the bus being pleasantly baffled by shop window contents, because I couldn't read the shop signs, and the science of window dressing has taken off in interesting directions Denmark. It's not unusual to see a bowler hat in a butcher's shop, or cabbages, or bicycles, in a clothes shop window. Also, not knowing what the irritating thirteen year old girls sitting behind you on the bus are talking about doesn't make them less irritating, but it does make it easier to maintain the illusion of listening to birdsong or a babbling stream rather than language. It's only when you begin to understand the language that the illusion is shattered and you realize the true horror of accidentally eavesdropping on Danish teenage love crush gossip. As Douglas Adams wrote, birdsong sounds very nice, but if you actually understood it, it would be nothing more than tedious debates about weight/speed/wingspan ratios and territory.
February 02, 2009
A list of words I like, for no apparent reason:
August 01, 2006
So, have you heard the one about the speeding, drunk-driving, anti-Semitic Australian? What peeves me more than his boorishness is the fawning servility he follows it up with, proposing dialogue with Jewish community leaders. Who, I imagine, would (quite rightly) be aghast at the thought of sitting for any length of time in a room with an unreconstructed drunken redneck like Gibson. Nice one, Mel.
June 27, 2006
ZyXEL B1000 ZyAIR problem
Interesting problem with my ZyXEL B1000 ZyAIR wireless access point last night. I'd updated the permitted MAC address list to add J's new iBook airpoint wireless NIC when the wireless connection went dead. Completely. First I thought it was my laptop playing up (it has done before), but the desktop PC, which is also connected wirelessly, had lost the connection too. I could see the SSID, but any attempt to connect to it failed. Resetting the ZyAIR didn't help at all. I finally gave up with the wireless connection, plugged in a network cable and opened the ZyAIR admin screen. Everything looked fine at first ... then I looked a bit more closely at the "Wireless" tab. There's a field marked "Maximum number of wireless stations", with a comment next to it that permitted values are 1-32. It was set to 0. I found this out because I made another change on that tab and tried to save it, and of course it complained because the maximum wireless stations field was 0! Setting it to 32 and re-saving fixed the problem completely. What baffles me is how this happened - the thing has been working for nearly 3 years without this ever causing a problem, so presumably some glitch when I updated the MAC filter list last night caused this to happen! Weird. Maybe it just interpreted "MAC filter" to mean that it should filter out Macs and other Apples?
May 20, 2006
Odd little mathematical dreams
A few weeks ago, I had a dream in which the following equation featured:
I don't normally dream about mathematics. Scrub that. I've never dreamt about mathematics. But I remember this equation very clearly. The next day, I asked J (who is appropriately mathematically educated) if it's a well known equation. No, she said. The 'H' normally represents a Hamiltonian. She rewrote the equation in a more normal quadratic form, thus:
H2 - 2H + 2 = 0
and fairly quickly showed me that there are no real roots to this equation, the two imaginary roots being:
1+i and 1-i
This is fairly bizarre. It's probably the second simplest quadratic equation you could write with imaginary roots, after:
H2 + 1 = 0
(which has roots of i and -i).
Later on, after doing some googling, I found this post at the math forum at Drexel University. The author, Howard Engel, makes note of these two equations - and furthermore notes Hamilton's use of "ordered number pairs" to represent complex numbers.
I don't set much store by this, but obviously some part of my brain is more receptive than I thought when I encounter mathematics.
Thanks, by the way, to the very useful Stef's HTML equation generator for the math rendering!
April 07, 2006
"Keyboard salad" is one of those phrases you think you've heard a lot, but which is actually not that common. I understand it to mean the random/accidental/spurious characters that, for example, a clog-wearing rat dancing on your keyboard might produce (unless it's Ratbert - cf rat dance). An example of Danish keyboard salad might be:
March 29, 2006
Partial eclipse starts at 11:56
The Danish Met Institute's (DMI) webpage on tomorrow's (actually, today's) eclipse has a great animated GIF of the path of totality across central Africa, the Middle East and Southern Europe, and central Asia. It starts at 11:56 in Denmark, reaches maximum solar coverage of 27% at 12:51 and will be over by 13:45. The webpage is in Danish, but the GIF is universally understandable.
Update at 18:11 - There was cloud in Denmark. Thick, thick cloud. So much for THAT astronomical experience ... The next eclipse visible from Denmark is on 1st August 2008 and it's another partial one.
Posted by daen at 01:57 AM
March 27, 2006
Andrew Orlowski, Nature, Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica
Journalist Andrew Orlowski writes articles for The Register. Orlowski, for reasons which are obscure, is not a big fan of Wikipedia. My view is that it's a useful tool, used in moderation (or rather, it requires moderation to be useful).
In December 2005, Nature published the results of a study comparing, via a blind trial, 50 selected subjects from the Encyclopaedia Britannica and Wikipedia. Reviewers were not told which source the subjects had come from. Wikipedia ended up with 162 errors, Encyclopaedia Britannica 123, a 31% higher error rate for Wikipedia over Encyclopaedia Britannica.
You should obviously approach Wikipedia with caution, that much is evident. It's still a useful reference tool, though. The take in Orlowski's parallel universe was that:
"The McDonalds-ization of street food means you can go anywhere on the planet on get a terrible, bland meal of unhealthy junk food. Is the same thing happening to knowledge?"
No, Andrew, but it may have already happened to IT journalism ...
That was back in December. Britannica made some complaints shortly after the Nature article came out, and Nature released supplementary material addressing some of these complaints (see the original Nature link for that).
Then, on March 22, Encyclopaedia Britannica published an open letter complaining about the methodology of the Nature study and calling on the journal to retract the article. Nature responded with a note on their home page rejecting the complaints, and refusing to retract the article.
Orlowski gives considerable space in both articles to the Britannica complaints and snippets of letters from readers supporting his point of view, and makes the pount that Nature has made "grave errors" and "risk[s] its reputation" over the study. The second article is mainly made up of excerpts from readers letters.
I get puzzled by articles like this. First of all, this is not quality journalism. It's a blog, for which Orlowski gets paid (I wish I got paid for mine). Secondly, like a blog, it's nothing more than the author's opinion and a bunch of links. Researching his articles must have taken Orlowski about as long as it did for me to write this post (20 minutes).
Fortunately, people don't take Orlowski very seriously. He writes with such hyperbole and so little actual factual content that he's almost beyond parody (read the actual articles and wonder how you could parody them). There's no writing of his on the web that I can track down that has any actual original thoughts in it, so it's ironic that he has chosen to write about technology, an area for which you would imagine having an open mind and a flair for creativity would come in handy. My guess is that he didn't have the intelligence to make a career in technology itself, so he had to plump for commenting (badly) from the sidelines. Compare and contrast Orlowski's poor efforts with Guy Kewney.
Orlowski rounds off the first article with a snide and unfair comment directed at Nature about "junk science". I'll be content with labelling his brand of writing as "gutter press" journalism - there's a lot more truth in that than in his snipings at Nature.
I'll round off this nasty little post of mine with a quote from technology commentator Bill Thompson, writing about Wikipedia on the BBC website:
"We should not dismiss Wikipedia, but we should not venerate it either."
I agree with that. Orlowski probably would too, but then there wouldn't be much money in a gutter press journalist making an uncontroversial statement, would there?
Posted by daen at 12:11 AM
March 24, 2006
Martin Newell writes about men and women buying soap:
Now, if I were buying a bar of soap, I would be searching for a buxom-looking object, of a certain size, wrapped in waxy paper, proclaiming the word: SOAP. I would consider about eighty to ninety pence to be a fair price to pay for it. I would bring it home, stick it in a light-green, corrugated plastic soap-dish on the bathroom basin and I would give it no more thought than that..
A woman, on the other hand. A perfectly good Englishwoman-- typically, a mixture of practicality and sea-eyed dreamer, would buy several types of soap. These, so far as a man was concerned, may as well have been brought to earth by a spectral goods-train, drawn by Saturnian sea-horses, its precious cargo hacked from mines found deep on Asteroid XGB123VX . Having purchased the objects, she would then send one pile to her mother, another to her recently-divorced friend and place a further one still, on my bathroom shelf, where it would remain unused for months and months, whilst I idly tried to ascertain what it was. In this country's kitchens and bedrooms, even odder things are appearing and only women know what they are.
Posted by daen at 02:24 PM
March 02, 2006
Happy World Book Day!
Yes! It's World Book Day 2006 today. Make friends with a book. Get to know it. Take it on the bus, show it the sights and have a great day out. Take it out to dinner, then take it to bed and snuggle up together ...
Posted by daen at 03:52 AM
February 22, 2006
Dodge Horn Round Tunnel
From Contortion Rapidly on the Allowing Dastardly Hick to Or Palp, then change to the Lent Car line to Drafts Rot. Then we can go straight to Bawdier Analogy.
Another possibility is to change at Want Conning for the new Leu Jibe line to Anger Perk, then take the Idyllic Cap line to Halogen Suit.
At home, Hence Goeth Porn Meat is smaller, but it is growing.
Update 24 February: Mark informs me it would be better to get off at Filth Drones - of course!
Posted by daen at 10:46 PM
February 18, 2006
Things to do in London in early March
Friday 3rd March
TV hacking workshop
11am – 5pm @ Borough Hall, Greenwich, SE10 8RE
Evolving Sonic Environments
12pm till 6pm 9th March @ E:vent, E2 6PU
Saturday 4th March
TV Hacking Workshop 2
11am – 5pm @ Borough Hall, Greenwich, SE10 8RE
Idea Store Screenings 1
12pm till 4pm 5th March (TBC) @ Idea Store, Chrisp Street, E14 6BT
Pixel Popping Workshops
12:30pm – 5pm @ bfi National Film Theatre, SE1 8XT
NODE.L at The Nunnery Gallery (part 1)
1pm – 5pm @ The Nunnery Gallery, E3 2SJ
2pm – 5pm (TBC) @ Clapham Common, SW4
Sunday 5th March
12pm – 8pm @ Starbucks, Clink Street, SE1 9DG
Monday 6th March
bodydataspace Open in Process 1
6:30pm – 9pm @ bodydataspace, SE1 1YT
Tuesday 7th March
onedotzero Graphic Cities 05
12pm till 5pm 9th March @ The Science Museum's Dana Centre, SW7 5HE
Early British Computer-Generated Art Film
6pm – 9pm @ bfi National Film Theatre, SE1 8XT
Digital reality fly-through
6:30pm – 8:30pm (TBC) @ The Science Museum's Dana Centre, SW7 5HE
Posted by daen at 04:29 AM
Six "Dead" In Cartoon Violence
The Rockall Times tackles cartoon violence using the mainstay of that upright organ : satire.
In Cairo today, four Muslim protestors were squashed when a huge lump of iron in the form of a trapezoidal solid, bearing the legend "50 Tons", inexplicably fell out of the sky. A crane was employed in order to free the pair, who — although apparently otherwise unhurt — ended up as one-eighth of their original thickness but thirteen times their original width and height. Relatives later restored them to their natural shapes by inflating them with bicycle pumps.
Posted by daen at 03:55 AM
February 17, 2006
Two Roses of The Prophet Muhammad and a cheese sandwich to go, please
According to the BBC, bakeries in Tehran are renaming Danish pastries to "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad".
I'm always confused by this approach. So, you conflate something which is "bad" (in this case, the "Danish" part of Danish pastries) with something that is "good" (in this case, the Prophet Muhammad). The net effect is that "Danish" and the Prophet Muhammad are linked.
Likewise, with the renaming of French fries to freedom fries. That's making "French" equivalent to "freedom" in my mind. Fair enough, but not the intent, I suspect.
I have to say, I find "Roses of the Prophet Muhammad" to be more poetic than "freedom fries", even if it is a bit camp.
Posted by daen at 11:57 PM
February 09, 2006
Martin Newell on growing old
Martin Newell has this to say about the lost art of grow old in the traditional English manner:
I saw another authentic-looking old man, last weekend. He must have been the second I'd sighted in as many months. He had a big brushy-looking silver moustache, a tweed jacket, a cloth cap, some baggy cavalry twill-style trousers, some brown clumpy shoes and just to really make it perfect, he had a walking stick and was hobbling along in a highly endearing way. When he saw passing children, his eyes twinkled benevolently. He was like a cross between Gaffer Jarge in the Rupert books and the Werthers Original man ( only without the vaguely implied nonce-iness). I was so heartened by the sight of this properly 'old' man, I damn nearly went up and pressed a fifty pence in his hand and thanked him for doing a great job. Only the thought that I might ruin the moment or draw attention to him so that he became self-conscious, prevented me from doing this.
When I consider the wonderful old men and women who used to surround me when I was a child , filling my little soul with wonder and fear as I regarded them, it perturbs me rather, to think what has become of us. Especially, as I muse upon today's 65-year old fellow, with his 40 year-old third wife looking furtively on, while he fits his I-pod onto a utility belt, prior to going out jogging. And as soon as he has gone,this third wife will rush with indecent haste to the overly-new Ikea bureau in the study, in order to look at her spouse's Alliance &Leicester Building Society pass-book. She herself may be a hard-faced post-rave era woman from a chubby Midland cheese-town. But she dreads his return home, followed, as it will be by a Viagra-bolstered, stand-up rogering-from-behind in the utility room, whilst the Whirlpool washing machine hums mockingly and the newly-bought Labradoodle yaps in frustration at them through the frosted glass of the garden door. "This is no way to grow old." the dog seems to whine, when our modern pensioner finally staggers into a hastily-placed ironing board, breathless and mired in his own post-coital introspection.
Yes indeed.--.where are those old men who whittled wood, sat incoherent on rough settles in country pubs and lay abed listening to radios too loudly prior to treating their own chillblains by immersing their afflicted feet in a 3-day old urine marinade, ulling high in the chamber pots beneath their sagging beds?.Where are those headscarfed old ladies, grimbling in steamy launderettes, the lust engrained in their wartime eyes, imagining filthy fumbles with the coalman on some fuzzy flashbacked, dolly-mixtures-down-the-back, Novembral sofa of their shrivelled wombs?
Ah but what have we got now? A rip-tide of vinegary 'new pensioners' convinced they're still teenagers. They can jog aerobic, sour in as many hopeful mornings as they wish but it will avail them naught.They have forgotten this: Some trees are more graceful in autumn for a thickened trunk and fewer leaves. Surrender your sad souls, I say. Go gladly and arthritic to your ovens and your sheds, you vain truants of Time itself. I am overcome. I must don the tweed. It is overdue. I will write to my tailor tomorrow. Perhaps I can apply for an Arts Council Heritage Grant?
Posted by daen at 05:07 PM
February 06, 2006
Think about how stupid the average person is and realize half of them are stupider than that.
-- George Carlin (1937-)
Posted by daen at 05:12 PM
Is he? Isn't he?
Talk about answering your own question:
"They want to test our feelings," protester Mawli Abdul Qahar Abu Israra told the BBC.
"They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and to their newspapers," he said.
Nice to hear the voice of moderation speaking out.
Posted by daen at 12:13 PM
By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
Posted by daen at 09:58 AM
February 04, 2006
A new word learned. "Tumblehome" is a marine term for the inward slant of a ship's above-water hull.
Posted by daen at 02:32 AM
January 30, 2006
Falco and Wolfgang
Falco is best remembered for that great kitsch hit from 1986, "Rock Me Amadeus". Detailed Wikipedia info here.
Posted by daen at 12:26 AM
January 28, 2006
Warren Ellis : picanthropoid genius
Warren Ellis crafts graphic novels. Last week, his mum passed away. He writes on his blog about receiving a flower delivery from DC and Marvel comics:
Bone tired after being woken up by a flower delivery. I imagine the delivery girl was expecting a mourning family, rather than a naked 37-year-old man with most of his hair missing and a beard pointing in three different directions at once showing no more command of language than a mongoloid Neanderthal with an itchy arse and unexplained liver pains. You could see in her eyes the sudden stark fear of being clubbed, dragged in by her hair and impregnated with my gene-deficient and leg-waving primitive seed before being dismembered with a flint tool of some kind and lightly cooked over a makeshift campfire out back.
Why don't I own anything written by this man?
BTW, you could also do worse than listen to his Apparat Programmes for a cross section of indie artists.
Posted by daen at 11:43 PM
January 09, 2006
Samorost 2 is a strange game. Aliens have stolen your dog and your task is to recover Rover from the aliens' asteroid. There are a bunch of strange puzzles to solve, which together with the visuals and music make the game feel a bit like a cartoon version of Myst ...
There's a free version by way of a teaser, or for $9.90 you can buy another 5 levels.
You can also try out the original Samorost (where you have to divert a rogue asteroid from hitting your own home asteroid by solving another bunch of odd puzzles).
Incidentally, the publisher of Samorost and Samorost 2, Amanita Design, have also made an animation for the song "Plantage" by Danish sensation "Under Byen". Small world, isn't it? (Just like Samorost's).
Posted by daen at 03:53 AM
January 06, 2006
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.
Philip K. Dick
Posted by daen at 12:11 PM
August 10, 2005
Good band names ...
The Ought To Be Band
Posted by daen at 06:37 PM