September 2005 Archives

Tasting tips

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No blog yesterday because I went to an aperitif tasting at the Almeida in Islington. Yes, very swanky and chattering classes. Still, just to show I'm not betraying my Eltham heritage, I'd point out there's not many places you can get five glasses of swish wine (Lillet, Nouilley Prat, a Muscat, a Kir and do you seriously think I'd remember the fifth one?) and five tapas for £15 a head?

Not sure how I got on their mailing list except I booked a table there once via Toptable.

Anyway, had a great time: met some nice people and had some good food and drink. In a weird “small world” sort of way, the couple we sat with were a former PR for GMTV whom I used to speak with when I was back on Televisual and the son-in-law of one of the main influential speech and language therapists ever, who pioneered work in dysfluency (my wife, Sarah, is a speech and language therapist, specialising in dysfluency).

So if you can get on their mailing list, do! They also offer French cooking classes: £75 a person and you get a four-course meal included. Bargain.

iPods and recording phone interviews

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I've completed my migration to using my iPod for recording phone interviews. What a lot of people don't know is that the iPod has a built-in microphone and recording facility that third-party manufacturers can use. It records 8-bit, mono WAV files and when you plug it into your Mac or PC, iTunes automatically syncs it back into its library, where you can then convert them to AAC files to cut their size by half.

This makes it very useful for journalists: my iPod has a 60GB capacity and a 12-hour rechargeable battery, which means


  1. it'll outlast any tape recorder
  2. I can store all my interviews digitally, making it easier to keep them for years if I want without having to resort to renting a lock-up
  3. it will almost never run out of power and is automatically recharged when it's plugged into my iMac.

The two main microphones (ie the ones I know about) for recording phone conversations are the Griffin iTalk and the Belkin Universal Microphone Adaptor.

The UK loves languages

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Apparently, despite perceptions to the contrary, we in the UK love languages. Topping the list of language lovers are Londoners, with 78% having studied another language.

I'm not convinced by this survey. I think there's a world of difference between having studied a language and being able to speak it or be fluent in it. The news item also doesn't say if there was any differentiation between people raised in the UK and people who had immigrated; I suspect an influx of people from sensible countries may have skewed the London figures.

Still, it shows that at least we want to speak other languages, even if it doesn't necessarily prove that we can. I'm also intrigued by the nearly badly-named Cilt and the OCR's “Asset Languages” scheme, which I might investigate further.

More flash cards

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Week two of the Instant Spanish flashcards are now available for download from my iFlash page. You can tell how quickly I'm getting through the lessons, can't you?

Who's the most important? We are

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I was at a wedding at the weekend. This is not too unusual for me: I've reached that time of life and I'm averaging three or four a year now.

But something's been bothering me and perhaps someone could help me out here.

A wedding is the most important day in just about anyone's life. Not only is it one of the few days dedicated purely to the happy couple, but it marks the beginning of a whole new life for them both. Then there's the enormous expense of it all, with thousands of pounds being spent to make the day as enjoyable and as memorable as possible.

So answer me this: why is it that there is a peculiar class of person who attends weddings and thinks, “No, of all the people here, I am actually the most important of you all.”

I am, of course, talking about parents who bring their infants to weddings.

A day of success

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Feeling quite chuffed with myself today. Helped someone fix a networked LocalTalk printer even though the LocalTalk connection was broken. Saved a magazine from putting a piece of software that wouldn't work onto their cover CD (and worked out what the problem was for the developer!). And I got two potential new clients.

Right, off I'm off to learn some Spanish now.

Handbags at dawn

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The world needs more investigative journalists. Greg Palast is an excellent investigative journalist - he's no John Pilger, but he does valuable and important work.

But seriously, what was the point of this low grade exchange of sarcasm with Christopher Hitchens? Even worse than the pointless schoolground name calling on both sides are the ridiculous falsehoods and internal contradictions in the arguments. Greg, Chris: you can do better than this.

Bad Science (journalism)

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Ben Goldacre had another typically excellent piece in The Guardian yesterday, looking at why science journalism in the mainstream press is so rubbish.

SCHWIF2004 update

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I've released an update to my completely free script SCHWIF2004, which lets Entourage users create complex HTML messages with inline files. Lots of bug fixes: hopefully even the jackals at Versiontracker should be pleased with it; I expect it'll still be too much to ask them to tell me if they spot any bugs…

Flash cards

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One of my big complaints about Instant Spanish is the lack of flash cards. Well, there's a few but so few, it's hardly worth mentioning them.

I've just come across a nice little Mac program called iFlash that seems perfect for my needs: it has iPod integration; there's a library of existing flash cards that other users have created; and it has all sorts of ways for you to test yourself.

I've started a new page on the site which will contain all the flash card decks I create. Only one deck so far, which is for the New Words section in week one of Instant Spanish, but there'll be more to come.

Watching the English

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If you haven't already, pick up a copy of Watching the English from your nearest bookshop. It's an attempt by a professional (English) anthropologist, Kate Fox, to analyse the English and English behaviour.

While it's a bit repetitive, she does manage to make explicit most of the implicit rules of social behaviour in English society. This is sometimes amusing, mostly enlightening and occasionally irritating, mainly when she highlights things you've already noticed. It is well worth a read, particularly if you're English and think that some of your behaviour is “natural” and the “way everyone is”. Is should also help foreigners avoid making various faux pas and help English readers be more tolerant of those that do.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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