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Below are 20 journal entries, after skipping by the 20 most recent ones recorded in Philip Newton's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, January 31st, 2013
9:50 am
Food prices in Nunavut

Food prices in Nunavut (in Arctic Canada) are legendarily high, because pretty much everything that’s not “country food” (traditional local food such as seal, berries, etc.) is imported by air from the south.

Here’s a blog post that includes a flyer from a local supermarket, showing what sale prices are like in Baker Lake (Qamani'tuaq, ᖃᒪᓂᑦᑐᐊᖅ).

Those of you from other parts of Canada may wish to compare the prices (especially for the small variety of fresh produce) with what you pay at your local supermarket; those of you from other places will have to do currency conversion (and possibly purchasing-power-parity adjustments).

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013
11:01 pm
You know that you’re old when…

…you realise that Windows 95 came out 18 years ago.

Friday, January 4th, 2013
10:27 am

I seem to have discovered swap-bot, a site which organises swaps between people.

I found it while idly googling for “we swap snacks”, while waiting for assignments on the recent we_swap_snacks swap. (Signups are probably still open due to the low number of participants by the original date! Join now so that we have a goodly number of participants!)

The main focus on swap-bot seems to be on swapping arts and crafts (I got bombarded with a whole host of terms I had never come across before, such as “ATCs”, “twinchies”, and “SMASH books”) but also has frequent swaps for postcards (which is right up my alley given my long involvement in Postcrossing) as well as other things—including the occasional snack swap and a number of electronic-only swaps such as blog followers, profile comments, or uplifting emails.

I’ve already taken part in a couple of swaps so far and have received my first rating—whee! Seems fun, and a bit addictive :)

Current Mood: giddy
Tuesday, December 25th, 2012
8:46 pm
Merry Christmas!

Have a very Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year—Philip

We spent this Christmas in Borstel again at my sister’s: a family get-together, as usual. My second sister couldn’t be there in person with her family, at least partly due to the recent birth of her youngest son, but she was there virtually for part of it by Skype.

We exchanged presents in the morning, ate dinner (and later cake) together, and just talked. The children played with one another a fair bit.

It was interesting to see who spoke which language with whom :) All the children are growing up with at least English (for my youngest sister’s children, the father speaks to them in English, too; for the others, the spouse speaks German to them), yet some of them spoke German to each other. But not necessarily to everyone!

For example, Amy speaks German with her cousins Emily and Frederick but English with their little sister Lucy—and Lucy speaks English with Amy but German with cousin Tamino.

I think part of it is what “category” their cousins fit into in their minds; most know that most children only speak German and so when they meet a new cousin, they assume that German is the appropriate language to speak to them. But I presume that Amy speaks English to Lucianne because when Lucy was small, she spoke only English, and so I guess she got put into the category “people to speak English to”: even now that Lucy speaks quite reasonable German.

I got a number of books: a couple of Calvin and Hobbes ones, some language-related ones and a maths-related one.

Monday, December 24th, 2012
3:18 pm
Of ships and trains

If an opportunity has passed, you might say in English, “That ship has sailed.”

In German, it’s “Der Zug ist abgefahren” (That train has left).

Interesting that the metaphor is quite similar, except for the choice of vehicle.

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012
7:16 pm
I has English food!

My parcel with English food has arrived! Yay!

All wrapped very carefully.

So now I have some English cereal and some English Christmas goodies, as well as miscellaneous other stuff that’s difficult to get in Germany.

Current Mood: giddy
Friday, December 21st, 2012
12:11 pm
11:11 UTC: December solstice

Happy Solstice!

I’m glad that the days will be getting longer again now.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
8:12 pm
20.12.2012 20:12:20.12

Another interesting date and time :)

Current Mood: geeky
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
4:52 pm
The things you learn: buying your HTTP farts

I just read that in French, HTTP sounds like acheter tes pets.

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
12:12 pm
12.12.12 12:12:12

A date like this won’t occur again for nearly a century!

9:31 am

(Via [personal profile] pseudomonas.)

perl -le 'print "$_ + 1 = ", $_ + 1 for qw/milli micro nano pico/'

Current Mood: geeky
Sunday, December 9th, 2012
2:29 pm
Using exiftool to modify PDF file timestamps

I generally like to have my file timestamps represent the real date of last modification, rather than the time at which I acquired the file.

To that end, for example, I generally try to download files using a method that preserves the file’s timestamp (such as using GetRight or curl rather than my browser).

However, sometimes I do use the browser, or I get the file from a source which had not preserved the file’s timestamp itself.

With PDF files, though, I find that most of them have a modification timestamp in the file’s metadata itself (and those that don’t often have at least a creation timestamp). So I occasionally update file timestamps based on that timestamp saved inside the file.

I used to do that manually, by looking at the “PDF” tab of the file’s properties and then modifying the file’s timestamp in my file manager.

But then I found that I could use Phil Harvey’s exiftool to do so.

Exiftool was designed to work with EXIF metadata in images, as the name suggests, but it can read (and sometimes write) metadata from other file formats as well, such as PDF, MP3, and others.

So I found I could use it to copy the metadata modification time to the filesystem modification time, with an invocation something like this:

perl -S exiftool "-FileModifyDate<ModifyDate" *.pdf

(Depending on how you installed it, the perl -S exiftool bit might be merely exiftool.)

The operative bit is the "-FileModifyDate<ModifyDate" bit (in double quotes due to the presence of <, which would otherwise have a special meaning): it copies the “modify date” metadata field to the file’s modification date. (If the PDF file has no modification date but does have a creation date, then use CreateDate instead of ModifyDate.)

And presto! All PDF files in the directory have “proper” modification dates.

12:16 pm
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
8:44 am
Happy US Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to my US friends!

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012
9:43 am
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
10:36 am
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
1:14 pm
10.11.12 13:14:15!

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
6:17 am
Plain English

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
6:28 am
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."

Thanks, guys.

(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
5:35 pm
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.

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