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Stuttgart … You suck, man 28th of June, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 08:23

Am in Stuttgart, that famous stud farm of German Emperors, and am paying 4,50 € a half-hour for the privilege of writing this. The cool thing about this hotel (apart from the ghosts of thousand-year-dead mares to be seen on the streets) is that I’m five minutes’ walk away from the Porsche factory, so there are car parks full of excellent cars that empty after working hours, and there are details of the „Mitarbeiter des Monats“ to be seen though the windows of the factory.

Anyway, will be here until the end of the week, at which point I will fly back to Berlin to show Sheila around, so expect anything coherent early next week at best.

One thing that is vaguely coherent; last week it was made clear to me that I’m a bit of a ѕhіt, in a way that I’m not going to go into right now because that won’t help anyone. And then this week it becomes clear to me that in a certain context I’m great; I have a fantastic understanding of what is being taught at this training session, I can trivially ask questions that our trainers can’t answer or have trouble answering, and this without trying. How to reconcile the one with the other!?!

Last comment from Sheila on the 29th of June at 2:21
somehow your question reminds me of the movie version of The Princess Bride where Peter Falk’s character tells the grandkid, "yes, you’re very smart" now shaddup. :)

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„Stinklangweilig“ … Ron Mueck … Narodnik 22nd of June, 2006 ANTE·MERIDIEM 10:33

Ich höre endlich auf, „Wenn ein Reisender in einer Winternacht“ zu lesen. Das Buch ist so strukturiert, dass jedes zweite Kapitel von einer neuen Geschichte ist, und die andere Kapitel sind von der primären. Und diese primäre Geschichte ist mir stinklangweilig; mir ist völlig egal, was mit den Charaktern passieren wird. Es gab ein Kapitel aus sieben von den anderen das ich spannend fand, worin es etwas außergewöhnliches geschieht; in dem nächsten Kapitel nannte man es, pejorativ, einen bloßen „thriller“. So, nur zum Lesen wenn du die Sprache absolut beherrschst und so etwas langweiliges ganz schnell lesen kannst; wenn es nötig ist, Interesse daran zu haben, um das Buch kontinuierlich zu lesen, geht es nicht.

Something I came across a few months ago and was transfixed by; Ron Mueck is an Australian artist working in London, with a background in movie special effects. He produces sculptures of human beings, out of scale, but almost frighteningly realistic, and lifelike—all the more so because they’re not of people who model for a living, or are especially attractive. Pictures of the sculptures here: http://​ziza.​ru/​2006/​04/​14/​raboty-Ron-Mueck.​html and here: http://​www.​flickr.​com/​photos/​tags/​ron-mueck/​ , warning, not safe for work unless your work is okay with occasional naked ugly people.

Word of the day: Народник, written in English as “Narodnik,” is the term for a movement of pre-Bolshevik revolutionaries in Russia. It struck me because the Czech, Slovak and Croatian words for “national” are so similar.

Last comment from Aidan Kehoe on the 4th of July at 16:19
Tom, I have the feeling that it’s an attractive book to people working in publishing and in that general area; idle daydreams of what-would-happen-if-this thing-went-wrong-in-our-print-strategy seem to permeate it.

And then the more respected critics and writers work in that area—Umberto Eco springs to my mind first, but I’m sure I can think of others—so they disproportionately like it and recommend it.

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Shaving for the marketing sceptic … Drop me a line … El Calote 19th of June, 2006 ANTE·MERIDIEM 11:52

As I wrote a couple of entries ago, I left my razor in Australia last week, and as a result have been shaving with unfamiliar disposable razors and injuring myself left, right and centre. Oops. My razor, which happily has been found and should wend its way to Europe in the next few months, all going well, is the old-school King Gillette safety style, that you never  see advertised, because the margin on fuсk-everything-we’re-doing-five-blades is so much bigger. Anyway, to tide me over, I went to the flea market at Tiergarten to see if I could find one of them, since it had been very rare in my experience that they are to be had for sale new. Two German-language copies of Mad Magazine and the entire flea-market later, nothing. But then on the way home I looked in to my local Apotheke, and lo! they were selling one of them with five Wilkinson Sword blades for 3,50 €, new. So, yeah, am not covered in cuts any more. Nor bearded.

From B3ta.com, this is great: “As he approaches his 64th birthday, Paul McCartney wishes he’d made her sign that pre-nup …”

Word of the day: « arnaque » is one French word for a swindle; „der Schwindel“ is it in German, but that also means “dizziness,” and the semantic development is pretty clear.

Last comment from Aidan Kehoe on the 19th of June at 17:53
Yeah, have been occasionally tempted to go that route, but not so far. I suspect you really need a tutor for learning the technique, which is something I don’t have.

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Kirshenbaum, X-SAMPA IPA with Quail … Marrakesh from the BBC … die Kasse 17th of June, 2006 ANTE·MERIDIEM 10:38

For the throngs of you who prefer to do your editing in an emacs and find Kirshenbaum IPA and X-SAMPA more comfortable and more complete than the ad-hoc mapping supported by the editor’s IPA input method, here’s a development of that file to support typing Kirshenbaum or X-SAMPA and generating the corresponding Emacs characters for the real IPA.

To use it, you would download the file, type M-x load-file RET ~/ipa.el RET (in your editor, assuming you’ve saved it to your home directory), C-u C- kirshenbaum-ipa RET. Now you can type / k ; o : / comfortably and have /kʲoː/ appear on screen, from where you can copy it to browsers and other applications that don’t support M-x tetris RET (or indeed M-: (dolist (entry '("fee" "fie" "fo" "fum")) (message "%s" entry)) RET ).

Here’s a great photo; it’s an aerial shot of central Marrakesh, and at first sight it’s hard to believe that this warren of courtyards and casbahs is a city.

Word of the day: касса is Tajik for till, or counter in a shop, roughly what the German word means.

Last comment from Aidan Kehoe on the 19th of June at 11:55
That sounds excellent, Ste–Mackers was not exactly enchanted with the country, of course. My former co-worker told us horrendous stories about what happened to Europeans in the city (more especially in the Medina), and I suspect he wasn’t totally bullshitting, so I would be nervous in that context too, I think.

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Die Welt zu Gast bei Freunden … Diely bread … Wagon spoor, or not 13th of June, 2006 POST·MERIDIEM 07:59

Back in Berlin after around forty hours of travelling, which involved mild food poisoning, an Australian train that didn’t show up, my shoes falling apart, and my wash-bag with my great-uncle’s razor remaining on the farm somewhere. But I’m alive, and coherent, have a mild tan from sitting round the barbie, and am not remotely jet-lagged. I’m also showered, foddered, sitting at my machine, am about to ring my cousin Martin who’s here in Berlin for the match, as are thousands of Brazilians and Croatians. And the weather here is fantastic, and the wedding was very enjoyable for everyone there, I think—‘swimmingly’ is the mot juste if ever there was one.

Linguistics field reportage; those vowels in English that are rendered [eɪ] in the south of England can be rendered [aɪ] in rural Australia. So, for the line of the prayer ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ the officiating minister at the wedding said something like [gɪvˈʌzˌðɪsˈdaɪˌaʊəˈdaɪˌlɪˈbɹɛd], and this was consistent—it wasn’t as consistent from the flight attendants on the Quantas flight home, who presumably have more to do with people who don’t have Australian English as their first language. Now, if you apply this transformation to the names of the letters of the alphabet, you get a problem. To our friends in the south of England, the name of the first letter of the alphabet is just [eɪ] and the name of the third vowel is [aɪ].

Applying sound transformations to the names of the letters of the alphabet is the most natural thing in the world, by the way—they are among the clearest examples of the respective diachronic changes in French and English, since in their current form in English they date from the Normans, and they were not that influenced by spelling pronunciations, their sound not being written down as such. The Normans said [ˈatʃ] for H, the French say [ˈaʃ], and the English say [ˈeɪtʃ]. So the French consonant mutated, and the English vowel did, and that’s repeated throughout the alphabet.

I found this curious, so I asked a random child (thank you Jarred!) what the letter at the start of Italy was. He said [aɪ]; I asked him what the letter at the start of Australia was, and he said, after a half-second of hesitation, [eɪ]. I’m pretty sure that’s the only time I heard him say that vowel, but it’s nice to see this random kid doesn’t have the issue of a one-time colleague of mine here, who had a tendency to say [ɑːɐ] for the name of the letter R, which is a problem when contrasting with [ɑː] for A.

More news tomorrow, hopefully. Word of the day is „das Gleis, Gleise“ which is German for ‘track’ or more often ‘platform’ at train stations. I had thought it masculine, but one of the DB folks at Frankfurt HBF corrected me; it turns out that g at the start is the prefix ‘ge-’, which normally triggers the neuter. „Leis“ itself is from a Slavic root.

Last comment from Dave on the 26th of June at 23:34
It’s true: broad, "Ocker" Australian ("Strayan") is looked down upon by some while others deliberately cultivate the accent. My wife sometimes gets asked if she’s South African, so un-Ocker is she, whereas my mother-in-law really lets those /ai/ dipthongs swing around ("araahnd") when she’s in relaxed company.

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