Friday 28 April 2006

Grammar can be fun.

This reduced me to tears (of laughter, that is):

An apparently new speech disorder a linguistics department our correspondent visited was affected by has appeared. Those affected our correspondent a local grad student called could hardly understand apparently still speak fluently. The cause experts the LSA sent investigate remains elusive. Frighteningly, linguists linguists linguists sent examined are highly contagious. Physicians neurologists psychologists other linguists called for help called for help called for help didn’t help either. The disorder experts reporters SpecGram sent consulted investigated apparently is a case of pathological center embedding.

I strongly suspect that finding that so funny makes me part of yet another tiny minority. Ach, well.

In case you're wondering, yes, it is perfectly grammatically correct. Here's the explanation.

Ah, English, eh? Got to love it.

Thursday 27 April 2006

A gap in the market.

Here's what I'd say if I were the leader of a political party of any stripe.

"I will not accept any of the type of abuse of power and trust that became so prevalent towards the end of Major's and Blair's time in power. Any member of my government found to be accepting any sort of bribe will be out immediately. Any member of my government found to have misled Parliament — for instance, by failing to declare an interest — will be out immediately. Any member of my government found to be having an extra-marital affair will be out immediately. Marriage is both a position of trust and a contract; anyone willing to break either for personal pleasure has no place in government.

"I will not go through the dance of asking for resignations; I will sack ministers. MPs are answerable to the electorate, so the electorate have a right to know the details of why an MP is suddenly out of a job and, more to the point, have a right to know the difference between trustworthy politicians and untrustworthy ones. To accept the resignation of a minister who has accepted bribes allows them to pretend to be behaving honourably, and is thus demeaning to those ministers who genuinely resign because they really do want to spend more time with their family.

"Ministers who have been sacked will never be eligible to return to government. Ever.

"It is only in the Prime Minister's power to sack ministers from the Government, not MPs from Parliament. However, I am proposing new rules within my party that will mean any of our MPs found to have accepted a bribe, misled Parliament, or cheated on their spouse will be expelled permanently from the party and therefore ineligible for re-election. If possible, we will force a bye-election in the offending MP's constituency in order to remove them from Parliament as quickly as possible.

"If an MP from another party is found to have accepted a bribe or misled Parliament, we will prosecute them. And we shall be proposing a change in the law so that either offense will be punishable by a minimum of five years in jail, including parole."

Surely that's a vote-winner.

Compare and contrast with David Cameron's whizzo scheme: "Your MPs are corrupt; our MPs are corrupt. What we really need to do to solve this endemic corruption is to take more money from the public by force and use it to advance our own careers."

Why put your money where your mouth is when you have access to someone else's money?

Tuesday 25 April 2006

Beware the night.

Gary has blogged about his rather alarming nocturnal activities:

My wife was rudely awoken at 4am this morning as, stark bollock naked, I wrenched a very large and very heavy mirror from the wall. She asked what I was doing and I apparently answered, in a very pissed-off manner, "I'm taking this off the wall". Mirror removed and two large holes in the plasterwork later, I announced with some satisfaction, "I've taken it off the wall". At which point I went back to bed.

I've no recollection of this, because I was fast asleep at the time.

Which has prompted this story from a Mr SolidPig about an acquaintance of his:

His wife awoke one night to find him pissing in the corner of their bedroom on the new carpet. When she screamed at him to clean his mess up he dissapeared to the cupboard, returning with a stanley knife in hand. He then proceeded to cut out the wet section of carpet and thoughtfully took it into the bathroom to run it under the shower.

I sleep like a log, myself. Getting me to move a muscle when I'm asleep, let alone wake up, is so difficult it should be some sort of proverb. However, Monty barks in his sleep, and, since he sleeps next to our bed, that tends to do the trick.

Sunday 16 April 2006

Watching the dogs.

A thought occurs to me. We will never know how it feels, when running, for our ears to bounce up and down. A great shame.

I was thirty-two years old yesterday. And I'm thirty-two years old today, too, but the novelty's wearing off now. You know you're getting old when you get a frying pan and a garden hose for your birthday and it's not a disappointment. Quite the opposite: I got a Scanpan frying pan, which is a seriously Good Thing. And it's a retractable, wall-mounted hose. Cool.

The garden is beginning to bloom. I love Spring.

Sorry, no geopolitical controversies today.

Friday 14 April 2006

The tricky art of estimation.

I get into the occasional argument with people who think that the President of the USA should always treat the CIA's estimates about their enemies' activities as highly accurate. People who still use the CIA's hilariously respectful early-Eighties estimates of the USSR's GDP as evidence that the Russian economy wasn't damaged by the arms race, for instance. Or people who think that Joseph Wilson's testimony is in any way damning to George Bush.

Well, here's a chance to make this argument a bit less hypothetical:

Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb
U.S. Intelligence Review Contrasts With Administration Statements

A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis.

The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House. Administration officials have asserted, but have not offered proof, that Tehran is moving determinedly toward a nuclear arsenal.

So let's wait and see just how good the CIA's guesses are this time. I think they're laughably unlikey. (Remember, this is sixty-year-old technology we're talking about here. A mobile phone is more high-tech than an atom bomb. Anyone think that the Iranian Government would take ten years to build a mobile phone if they wanted to?) But we'll know soon enough.

The bad news is that, if you want to enjoy telling me I'm wrong, you're going to have to wait ten years. The good news is that you won't really have to wait that long, because I'll be proven right long before that. Oh, hang on, no; that's the bad news. Fuck.

Asking for trouble.

Orange have big posters all over the place at the moment advertising their new call-plans, one of which they've called Panther. Panther is also the name of version 3 of Apple's OSX operating system. Lawsuit, anyone?

A beautiful thing.

The other day, I happened to be glancing at the sky and noticed a faint silvery line. Over the course of a few seconds, it got brighter and wider and picked up some colour and turned into a rainbow. I've seen hundreds of rainbows, of course, but never actually seen one form before. Quite amazing.

Wednesday 12 April 2006

Another comparison.

Squander Pilots, you may recall, went on tour last Autumn. And I've just found this review of our gig in Dunfermline:

We heard beforehand that this, despite appearances, won't be Squander Pilots' final gig — geographical differences rather than musical ones will limit their activities but they are up for gigging in future, which is good for anyone with an ear for a tune, as they are make effortless, punter-friendly electronic pop. Jo's massive 'box of tricks' drives the proceedings, a beat-driven eminently danceable mess of tunes which traditionally crosses triphop and electro. On CD they've been described as a bit 'coffee table' but live Donna's vocals are closer to Bjork than Dido, and when did you last hear flugelhorn on a chart single? There's a hint of Massive Attack and Portishead of course, but since the chap standing beside me remarks that they're a cross between Arab Strap and the Stranglers, maybe it's all in the ear of the beholder. What we do agree on is the quality of the tunes on offer. Haste ye back.

Arab Strap and the Stranglers? For a band that usually get compared to Massive Attack and Morcheeba and are regularly accused of trip-hop, this is strange new ground.

Friday 7 April 2006

Suffragettes' grave-spinning cranked up a notch.

The moral degradation of modern Socialism continues apace in the Netherlands:

Sharon Dijksma, a leading parliamentarian of the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) wants to penalise educated stay-at-home women. "A highly-educated woman who chooses to stay at home and not to work — that is destruction of capital," she said in an interview last week. "If you receive the benefit of an expensive education at society's expense, you should not be allowed to throw away that knowledge unpunished."

Hence her proposal to recover part of the cost of their education from highly-educated women who decide not to seek paid work. ... Dijksma says she wants to stimulate more women to join the work force.

She may well say that she wants to stimulate more women to join the work force, but that's not all she wants: note her use of that word "unpunished".

And, apparently, she's not the lunatic fringe. Her party, the Netherlands' largest, has backed her up:

The PvdA website has come to the rescue of the beleaguered politician, repeating the stance that those who study at the taxpayers' expense and do not join the workforce are guilty of "destruction of capital."

What an insidious, nasty little phrase that is.

This is what mainstream Socialism has come to. Receiving a state education and then squandering your life on the mere raising of children constitutes theft from the state. If only Ms Dijksma's parents had felt the same way.