October 2005 Archives

Another new sign language is born

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Deaf people, left to their own devices, invent languages all by themselves it seems. You only have to look at the history of BSL and some of the Central American sign languages to see that. Nice article in the New Scientist on one of the latest sign languages created by the deaf, this one in the Middle East.

Hot on the heels of his last film, which owed its immense popularity to Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic dialogue (or something), Mel Gibson's is set to direct a film with dialogue that's entirely Mayan.

Sir, I salute you. We need more people like you. One request, though: can the film after that be shot in Esperanto? Oh wait: someone's done that already… 14 times?

Bloody Goldfrapp

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Today's “tune I really wish I could get out of my head, even though I really rather like it” is Goldfrapp's Number One, available in the iTunes Music Store and on Amazon. It's really rather good and it makes you wonder why she's been unknown for so long when she's been putting stuff like this out for ages. Still, not as long as Pulp, hey?

Silicon.com has launched a newsblog. Can you hear a spring in its step as it jumps a bandwagon, everyone?

Anyway, sarcasm aside for once, the plan is to have it updated several times a day - a kind of window onto the thoughts of the editorial team is the plan.

Again, good luck with that, guys. Wonder how long it will be before they're just putting anything that enters their brain straight into it. Oh wait. They're already doing that after only a few days:

31.10.2005 16:35:03 More boozy Brits are using the net for impulse buys. According to a news report on Netimperative.com, a growing number of British are shopping online for 'tat' after a night down the pub.
31.10.2005 15:25:02 silicon.com has been taking a look around Microsoft's Life² business and consumer technology showcase. We'll be brigning (sic) you photos from inside the event shortly.

Inspired. I'll be reading that every day. Oh yes.

For those of you who don't know, the US is one of about three countries in the world that (officially) treat journalists differently to other visitors. If you're in the UK, you can normally get into the US with a visa waiver form (that's the green one). But a close study of the visa waiver form reveals that that you can't use it if you're representing “a foreign media service”.

That means one of two things:

  1. Entering the US under false pretences - i.e. using the visa waiver form and claiming you're on holiday

  2. Paying £50, making a trip to the US embassy for an interview, getting a letter from a magazine saying they'll be responsible for you financially and a week or more without your passport

Japanese typos worse than English

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If you thought English was a tricky language to spell, spare a thought for the poor Japanese. You try to write “I started living overseas this year” but end up saying “Shellfish started inhabiting my stomach this year” because all those kanji look so similar...

There's an easy way to avoid irritating phone conversations with overseas call centres. Asking them to stop doesn't work. Even if you tell them that the person they're after won't be in until after 6pm, they'll just call again and again at 1pm the next day and the next day and the next. Ask them never to call again and they'll happily promise to make that entry in your file. Then someone else will call.

But there is a way out, if you have Caller ID.

For me, it was Mapping Awareness. For this guy, it was Sanitary Maintenance.

Come fly with me

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I'm on a bit of a high after my mate Steve took Sarah and me up in his microlite. There's nothing quite like being 2,000 feet up, in high crosswinds, with only a seatbelt to keep you from plummeting to your doom to really get the adrenaline flowing. Well, apart from the pilot letting you take the controls. That can scare you even more than the knowledge that the microlite is carrying more than its weight allowance. Or that you took it within five knots of the stall speed.

It was fantastic fun and I hope to do it again soon, though. Also, I hope to have calmed down by bedtime...

Tell Me No Lies

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If you've not picked it up yet, rush off to Amazon to buy the paperback version of John Pilger's Tell Me No Lies, a collection of the best of investigative journalism from the last century. Pilger has rooted around to find articles that exposed terrible injustices and secrets that are now common knowledge, thanks to the efforts of hard-working journalists. Equally importantly, they are pieces that have stood up to the unforgiving power of hindsight, which can so often reveal something that once had power as being naïve and shallow in the context of history.

It's hard to single out any one piece as being the highlight, when there's Martha Gellhorn's eye-witness accounts of Dachau, Edward R Murrow's indictment of McCarthyism (re-enacted in the forthcoming George Clooney movie Good Night and Good Luck), and Seymour Hersh's famous exposé of the massacre at My Lai. But it's at least a fitting tribute to Paul Foot that his investigation into the Lockerbie cover-up should be included in the volume.

Strangely, Woodward and Bernstein's Watergate coverage, the most famous piece of investigative journalism ever, doesn't make it into the volume because it was “detective work” and didn't “bear witness and investigate ideas”. This seems a poor excuse, although the piecemeal nature of the Watergate investigation meant that it wasn't prone to long analysis or good writing – it was just solid, outstanding news reporting.

If you don't like Pilger, this is still worth a read, since there's only one article of his in the book: Year Zero, one of his many exposures of the iniquities of Cambodian life during the 1970s. And even his greatest detractors wouldn't object to that particular piece of altruism.

Read it: it'll remind you why journalism is still important. If it stops, as Pilger's prologue hopes, anyone becoming a journalist so they can be the next 3am girl and instead points them on the same career path as Robert Fisk, et al, then all the better.

I've added the complete set of flash cards for Instant Greek to the flash cards page – I figured I was going to need to revise my Greek, since it's all fading into the mists of time at the moment.

I've also added flash cards for week three of Instant Spanish.

Work cut out for them

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Some interesting language facts in LinuxUser & Developer this month:

India has 18 officially-recognised languages, and is believed to have 1652 mother tongues, of which 33 are spoken by over a hundred thousand people. Hindi has around 340 million speakers. Other languages like Bengali (70 million speakers), Assamese (13 million), Urdu (43 million), Punjabi (23 million), Telugu (66 million), Tamil (53 million), Marathi (62 million), Gujarati (40 million), Kannada (32 million), Malayalam (30 million) and Oriya (28 million) are also hugely important. Each of these languages has groups of speakers larger than the population of many a European country.

Press centres

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What is it about technology companies and press centres? Wherever I go to, whatever conference it is, the facilities for journalists are always so sub-standard compared to the other conference attendees'.

Here's some of the main problems: network connectivity is always bad; the computers are always sub-standard and never work; wireless access never works; and the food is always rubbish. You end up scavenging the same food as everyone else to avoid starvation (or, of course, paying for your own food).

I've ended up forking out $11.99 to use Mandalay Bay's in-room wireless access. That's actually good enough that I can use Skype to avoid having to pay for extortionate phone call prices from my mobile and - heaven forbid - the room's phone.

Anyway, it doesn't actually send a good message to tech journalists that your tech is so bad, guys, particularly if you've decided to equip the press room with thin clients from Wyse: you can shout till you're blue in the mouth that network connectivity is never really an issue for thin clients, but when everyone's sitting there, waiting for minutes at a time for Internet Explorer to launch, we're really not very inclined to believe you.

SOA backlash

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Well, gosh. Someone's a little full of himself.

From time to time, I find myself lassoing a sacred cow in this Editorial space, dragging it over to the slaughterhouse of rhetoric, and ultimately barbecuing its falsehood over the stainless-steel, six-burner, propane-powered grill of real-world experience.

That's nice, dear. Far be it from me to put a mute in the end of your massively overblown trumpet, but you're about a year and a half too late with your biting editorial.

Just read a handy article over at MacWorld on iFlash. It made me realise that I could have made my – and everyone else's – lives easier by using categories in my iFlash decks.

So I've merged all the separate week one and week two cards together into two big decks and posted them over on the iFlash page.

“Good News Grammar”, covering “ser” and “estar”, and “Learn by heart” over at the iFlash flashcards page.

Well done John McCain

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Congratulations to John McCain and the US Senate on finally bringing some sense back to the US legal system.

New program for your delight

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I've added a new AppleScript to my programs page. Bulk Reply is a handy little script for sending a single reply to a set of emails you received. Select them in Entourage, activate the script and it'll create an email addressed to the senders of the group you've selected. You get to choose whether they'll be “To”, “cc” or “bcc” recipients.
It's free, so if you have Entourage, there's no reason not to use it - particularly if you get lots of emails from PRs...

About this Archive

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

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