Philip Newton's Journal|
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|Sunday, December 9th, 2012|
|Polish people are all virgins?
I was looking for information on how to inflect nouns after numerals in Polish - specifically, whether numbers such as 31, 32, 33, 34, 35 cause numbers to inflect like after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or not.
So I googled for people announcing their age ("mam [number] [years]") to see what form the word for "years" took.
And when I type in "mam [number]", Google autocomplete (or whatever it's called) helpfully suggests, for example, "mam 21 lat" but "mam 22/23/24 lata" and then again "mam 25 lat". So -1 doesn't make it use the nominative singular as with just "1", but -2/-3/-4 does use the nominative plural as with the paucal 2/3/4. And then -5 uses the genitive plural as with 5, as does -1.
But that's not the whole story: after typing (say) "mam 23 " (with the space at the end), Google usually suggested not merely "mam 23 lata" but the top suggestions usually were "mam ... lat(a) i jestem prawiczkiem/dziewicą" (I'm ... years old and I'm a virgin) - sometimes even the #1 suggestion! (Well, and also "... i jestem sama".)
I wonder whether that's an artifact of the type of situations where people typically use the wording "I'm ... years old", or whether it says something about Polish society....
|Thursday, November 22nd, 2012|
|Tuesday, November 20th, 2012|
|Back from the qepHom
So, I’m back from the qepHom in Saarbrücken and coping with my PqS (Post-qepHom Syndrome)—I probably won’t get to see those friends of mine again for a year, nor have that atmosphere and the opportunities to practice. (And unlike Esperanto, I can’t just join the local group to get speaking practice; the closest speaker to me that I know of is probably Sabrina in Dortmund, and it was her first qepHom at that so her vocabulary is tiny. For some reasons, even the “cultural” Klingons—who do the whole ship thing but don’t necessarily care about the language—are thinly spread in the north of Germany.)
At work, I was asked to “Say something in Klingon!” Normally, I would struggle to think of something appropriate to say, but not this time: after all, we had all been asked to memorise the six sentences of the nentay!
So I tried to recall them from memory and recited them (with the translation into German afterwards, upon request). I got five (not necessarily in the correct order) and knew one was missing but didn’t remember which one. I remembered on the way back to my desk; amusingly, it was the same one that Shani had forgotten when she had to recite them for the jury.
|Friday, November 16th, 2012|
|Happy birthday to me
When I went to Google to look up something, I saw birthday presents and wondered for whom the Google Doodle was.
When I moused over it, I saw that it was for me: "Happy birthday Philip!"
In other news, I'm at the qepHom in Saarbrücken with lots of other people who speak (or want to learn to speak) Klingon. And this morning at breakfast, there was a little muffin with a candle in it for me!
And happy birthday also lnbw :)
|Saturday, November 10th, 2012|
Ah, I missed it! Ah well, the magic of backdating :)
Fun date and time, if you use a two-digit year: 10.11.12 13:14:15
Next up: 11.12.13 14:15:16, and that’ll be the end of that for another 90 years, unless someone invents another month ;-)
|Monday, November 5th, 2012|
A while ago, I saw an English insurance policy (I think it was) and was struck by how clear the language seemed to me, compared to what I’m used to in German.
I don’t remember the details, but the language style was along the lines of (if it had been for a mortgage), “If you do not pay your instalments on time, you are at risk of losing your house.” (Which in German could be, “Wenn Sie Ihre Raten nicht rechtzeitig bezahlen, könnte es sein, dass Sie Ihr Haus verlieren / …, laufen Sie Gefahr, Ihr Haus zu verlieren.”)
Whereas I think a German policy would tend to use language along the lines of “Verspätete Rückzahlung Ihres Darlehens kann den Verlust Ihrer Immobilie zur Folge haben” (“Tardy loan repayment can have as a consequence the loss of your real estate”), heavy on noun phrases and legal language.
The English seemed quite a bit clearer, and I wonder whether the slight loss of precision by use of normal language rather than legal terms was such a price to pay for making things more understandable to the layman who is asked to sign.
|Tuesday, October 30th, 2012|
|Argh, new Fastmail interface!
So this night they had some (announced) downtime over at Fastmail.FM, which I thought nothing of as I wouldn’t be awake at 4 o’clock my time.
But this morning I was greeted to an announcement telling me the URL I was using for my Inbox was old and to please go through the Login screen again. OK, fine, whatever.
But aaah! Everything looks so different!
My two biggest gripes are that unread and read messages are not clearly distinguished and that the keyboard shortcuts no longer seem to work.
Previously, unread messages had a short preview and read ones had a darker background and no preview. Now, all messages have a preview and the background on read ones is so light as to be nearly the same as the white behind the unread ones. Sure, unread messages have the subject in bold, but the difference is not as noticeable as it used to be.
(And they seem to have instituted infinite scrolling with delayed loading-on-demand. So you can’t page back to somewhere. Yech.)
And I was a little miffed when Fastmail last changed their keyboard navigation, but I adjusted; but now things don’t work and I don’t see any obvious way to bring up the old action menu which used to pop up when you hit ".". (".dp" was built into muscle memory for "delete message and go to previous".)
And their announcement says for those two points: "Unfortunately you can’t show a preview for only unread emails, it’s either all or none with the new interface." and "We have not yet updated our help documentation; we are currently working on that and hope to have it done soon. We do not believe this is a major impediment to users using the new interface as most of the features are highly discoverable as needed."
(Also, what's with the preview being all-or-nothing? Is this something that's so difficult to program? Or is this one of the dumbing-down things: "mustn't confuse the poor widdle users' heads with an additional option"?)
Methinks I'll be taking advantage of my paid status and sending off a support request about the keyboard navigation thing. Current Mood: annoyed
|Thursday, October 18th, 2012|
|If people built roads today…
I was looking at a map of England just now and saw quite a few places where otherwise-straight roads had little “bumps” around them, to bypass a town.
And that made me wonder.
Way back when, roads went from town to town (or, sometimes, roads—especially Roman Roads—went from A to B and then towns formed around them, especially around crossings). But nowadays, people don’t want through traffic (especially heavy goods vehicles) to thunder through their town streets.
So I wonder what things would be like if people built roads today? Do people plan on fairly straight roads that deliberately bypass human settlements, but go close enough to them that towns are easily reached by a spur road?
I suppose the answer lies in looking at the alignments of motorways, which tend to pass by towns without going through them. But they tend to snake their way through the place rather than being nice and aesthetically straight. I suppose they tend follow contours of the land (and historically-grown built-up areas which they try to avoid).
You’d probably have to start completely from scratch, building both towns and roads in an empty expanse, in order to have “pretty” long-distance roads that are also functional by the way we tend to use roads now.
|Tuesday, October 9th, 2012|
I had ordered two custom maps from Ordnance Survey, where you got to pick your own coverage area and they print-on-demand the map just for you. (You even get to pick the image and words on the front!)
One of them turned out fairly nicely, but with the other one, I had done too good a job of keeping it roughly centred on the main place I wanted to visit: the village was right on the fold in the middle! I wish I had moved it up or down just a bit so that the village would be entirely on one side of the fold or the other. Ah well; it’ll do.
|Friday, October 5th, 2012|
|Thursday, October 4th, 2012|
|Monopoly: Klingon Edition
I played Monopoly: Klingon Edition with Gerulats this evening: Peter and Luca played, Bettina baked snacks and watched occasionally.
Luca ended up running out of money first, and then it looked at as if Peter was going to drop out, too… but then I ended up on Qo'noS twice in fairly quick succession and the tide turned quickly, and then I was bankrupt just a few rounds later.
Such is life in the Klingon Empire: don’t watch out for a moment and you’re on your way to Sto'vo'kor to join the Black Fleet with your glorious ancestors!
|Monday, October 1st, 2012|
|I has a chop!
A while ago, I found a Postcrossing user who lives on the Pescadores (Penghu Islands) near Taiwan Island, and asked them whether they would swap postcards with me.
She agreed, and so I sent her a postcard (with Krtek the Czech mole, I think).
A couple of days ago, I got a notification in my letterbox that there was a registered letter waiting for me at the post office (since the postman hadn’t encountered anyone at home when he tried to deliver it). Strange, I thought: who could have sent it?
I went to pick it up today and it was from Kate! Inside were not only a viewcard of Tongpan Island (with a distinctive look due to the basalt columns on it) and some bookmarks from Tungpan Artist Village, but also a chop with my Chinese name on it! What a surprise!
Now I need to find some red stamp ink, I suppose.
The chop is made of 文石, Kate said; Perapera-kun says that’s aragonite, though a quick google gave me the impression that on Penghu (or possibly in Taiwan in general), that term may refer to something else.
So! I has a chop.
|Random memory: MIT’s web site
I remember that when I first got onto the Internet, MIT’s official web site was at web.mit.edu, while www.mit.edu was the students’ association or something like that: certainly associated with MIT but the site wasn’t the main MIT web site.
Now, though, both URLs show the same web page. I suspect that nowadays, when people guess at URLs and type them in directly, rather than following links (as was envisioned in the early days of the Web), having a main site that is not at www. is simply not viable. Current Mood: nerdy
|Visit from Daša
Daša, a friend of mine from Slovakia whom I met through Postcrossing, visited Hamburg last weekend and I had the chance to meet her again. Yay!
|The wardrobe in the bedroom
The wardrobe in the bedroom: an interesting article in John Wells’s phonetic blog, about juncture or syllabification and how it influences the difference between pairs such as nitrate and night rate or great ape and grey tape.
With a side discussion on how some (including Prof. Wells and I) pronounce words such as bedroom, beetroot, and wardrobe as if be-droom, bee-troot, and war-drobe (or bedr-oom, beetr-oot, and wardr-obe, if you prefer) rather than bed-room, beet-root and war-drobe, while other, similar words such as headroom often do not receive such treatment (and again, I happen to follow Prof. Wells in this).
This is possibly connected to the age of acquisition of such words (bedrooms are a much more common topic of conversation for children than headroom) and/or the degree to which such words are felt as being a single word rather than a compound. Current Mood: geeky
|Sunday, September 30th, 2012|
|In which knowing Romansh helps with Romanian.
I came across this Romanian Wikipedia article on Cetatea Albă street in Chișinău (while looking for the diacriticful spelling of a Postcrosser’s address), and what struck my eye was this bit:
Strada Cetatea Albă (până în 1991 str. Krasnodonskaia) se află în sectorul Botanica, cartierul Muncești. (emphasis mine)
That reminded me of Sursilvan Romansh sesanfla for “to be located (somewhere)”, literally “to find oneself”, which I believe comes from a Latin root along the lines of anflare. (Rumantsch Grischun uses sa chattar for this instead, and I think Vallader also has as chattar.)
Hm, checking MeinPledari.ch, it seems that Vallader is as rechattar; ah well. And Sursilvan also has secattar, though it seems to me that sesanflar is more common. (The non-reflexive forms are cattar, anflar.)
So! I guess this Romanian sentence means that C.A. street “is located” (se trouve) in B sector, etc.—and I imagine that the verb is cognate to the Sursilvan one, which I hadn’t otherwise come across in Romance before.
Whee! Current Mood: geeky
|Friday, September 28th, 2012|
|You know you have foreign languages on your brain when…
…you see someone on Facebook using the pseudonymous family name Chaoszicke and your first impulse is not to read it [ˈkaːɔsˌt͡sɪkə] but rather as [xaoˈʂit͡ske], as if it were Polish.
(I blame the ch and sz in close proximity. And having met someone from Poland called Choroszucha which also has ch-sz-.)
|To be, or not to be, a Catholic in Germany
Something that’s been going through the news recently is the status of members of the Catholic church who do not pay church tax.
For historical reasons, certain religious communities in Germany (including the Roman Catholic Church) can have contributions collected from workers’ salaries automatically, at a fixed percentage of their income tax (IIRC); these monies are collected by the government and passed on to the religious community that the person is affiliated with. (Which is why your religion is part of the tax forms, though they only care whether it’s one of the dozen-odd religions that church tax is collected for, or “other or none”.)
A fair number of people are unhappy with paying church tax and have left their church in order not to be obligated to pay it. (Sometimes waiting until they have got married in a church ceremony.)
Now the news is that the Catholic Church in Germany is considering barring non-church-tax-paying people from receiving the benefits of church membership, such as a religious burial.
Now while I think that wanting to enjoy the benefits of association with a group without paying the associated dues (if the group regularly charges such does from its members) to be hypocritical, I’m a bit confused by the theological background of the new turn of events.
From what I had understood, the Catholic Church position was that once you are baptised, you’re a member, and it’s nearly impossible to leave the church voluntarily. For example, if you went off and converted to Islam, you’d still be a Catholic in their eyes (though probably a heretical one).
By those lines, what people are doing is not leaving the church (which is nearly impossible) but changing their declared religious affiliation with the government. So it’s between them and the government and doesn’t negate their baptism.
So I’m curious where they got the understanding from that suddenly it’s possible to say that somebody now isn’t a Catholic.
Or maybe I’m misunderstanding and the official line is that they are still, indeed, Catholics, but that not all Catholics enjoy the same rights (for example, to a religious burial), so that these non-church-tax-paying people fall into a second-class group that already existed previously.
|Thursday, September 27th, 2012|
|Pet peeve: people mixing up “in dem” and “indem”
At least twice in recent days, I’ve seen people using “in dem” and “indem” incorrectly (I think one each of the two possible directions of mix-up).
It should be simple, really: the two-word one is the more literal “in which”; the one-word one is the fossilised “by” indicating the means:
“Er öffnete den Kofferraum, in dem er das Schloss transportiert hatte.”
“Er öffnete den Kofferraum, indem er das Schloss knackte.”
Annoying, especially because I hadn’t seen this particularly misuse before, and since the two are used rather differently syntactically, my mind was completely garden-pathed.
(By comparison, I think I’m less confused by people using the wrong spelling from the set “they’re, their, there”, because I’ve seen those errors too often.)
|Tuesday, September 25th, 2012|
|Things I’d like to do one day: drive down the Fosse Way
One day, I’d like to drive down the Fosse Way from beginning to end: either in one go (at 370 km according to Wikipedia, that shouldn’t take more than a day even if parts of it are byways and the Way is no longer contiguous, requiring detours to rejoin the Way after existing roads leave the original alignment) or in a couple of stages with B&B stays in between.