Monday, March 30, 2009

True talent

ABC News' copywriters just couldn't miss the chance to introduce some wordplay into the headline of a news item on a massacre in a nursing home in Carthage, N.C.: "Carnage in Carthage: Gunman Kills 8 in Nursing Home". 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Announcement: Earth Hour Liveblogging

Hello everybody: please don't miss my special live-blogging coverage of the Earth Hour, from 8:30 pm EST to 9:30 pm EST today. Specifically for this event, I've invested into a diesel power generator and couple of boxes of wax candles to do my share in keeping our planet clean. The diesel generator is a home-built one, based on a engine from a 1969 Volkswagen Camper, both for romantic reasons and to demonstrate the horrors of using inefficient diesel power generators.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cute lisp sayings

Fun facts: this page pops up 4th in google search "cute lisp sayings". And maybe even higher now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I was completely baffled today to discover that the standard french reaction to someone sneezing is a phrase "A vos souhaits" (lit. "to your wishes"), which necessitated an immediate impromptu google search for the etymology and context of this custom.

Turns out that the French have a few options for what to say when one sneezes:
  • a vos souhaits
  • a vos amours (to your loves) -- generally, after second consecutive sneeze
  • a vos aïeux (to your ancestors) -- used more rarely
  • creve! (die!) -- addressing the illness itself, very informal
  • que le Seigneur vous benisse (may Lord bless you) -- in very religious circles
  • Dieu vous benisse (God bless you) -- obsolete, supposedly an older expression similar to the english one
The swiss francophones, turns out, would say "santé" ("[I wish you] health") which is likely due to their close contact with the Germans, who in similar situations say "Gesundheit" ("Good health"), or Italians, who also say "Salute" ("[to your] health"). Yiddish speakers also use "Gesundheit" verbatim, and Russians also say "Bud'te zdorovy" which has the same meaning.

A comparative analysis of the sneeze-phrases used in different languages (listed on Wikipedia's Sneeze page) allows us to group sneeze-expressions into following categories:
  • wishes of health
  • wish of God's blessing for the sneezer
  • praise of God (stemming from an interpretation of a sneeze as a divine sign)
  • wishes of long life
  • wish of purity (Persians -- can it have something to do with Zoroastrianism, which is obsessed with purity?)
  • and finally, for very few cultures, notably Chinese and Japanese, the sneezing person is expected to apologize ("excuse me", etc). Of course, it seems like recently this is becoming the more accepted behavior for English and French-speakers, etc, but certainly that's not the traditional behavior. 
  • a really out-of-line one is the Korean reaction, where sneezing is only considered a sign that someone might be talking about the sneezer, and therefore the sneezer might remark "did someone talk about me?"
All that considered, the French "a vos souhaits" is a bit out of line. I have a few versions for this -- first, in line with the "divine sign" interpretation, where sneezing is a positive sign, the person saying "a vos souhaits" could be "redirecting" the divine blessing over to the sneezing person's wishes. Second option is that this is meant to somehow compensate for the sneeze, in the sense of "you may have sneezed, but here's to your wishes". 

Any authorities on french sneeze-talk among the many readers of this blog?

A three-page discussion on WordReference forums
Wikipedia: Gesundheit
Wikipedia: Sneeze 

Monday, March 23, 2009

Meet Johannes

You've probably seen before head renderings or clay busts reconstructed from the actual skulls -- a marvellous technique used in forensics and for historical projects. Well, turns out, about a year ago, Dr. Caroline Wilkinson's group at University of Dundee has published their finished reconstructed portrait of Johannes Sebastian Bach (press-release here, additional info here)

Now you can put a face to the name, and make your admiration of Johannes Sebastian Bach's genius a bit more visual.

Paul on Joel on Software

Joel Spolsky is doing some bashing of SOLID Principles here :
 ....just to give you one example, a part of the SOLID principles was that if you write a class, that class has contracts with all the other classes that it interacts with, and those contracts should be expressed in interfaces [PDF]. So you shouldn't just interact with the class, because that class may change. If you have a particular class that you need to use, you should make a custom interface just for what you're going to use in that class. That interface, then, never has to change. And the interface is the only thing that you have to #include.
People that say things like this have just never written a heck of a lot of code. Because what they're doing is spending an enormous amount of time writing a lot of extra code, a lot of verbiage, a lot of files, and a million little classes that don't do anything and thousands of little interface classes and a lot ofrobustness to make each of these classes individually armed to go out into the world alone and do things, and you're not going to need it. You're spending a lot of time in advance writing code that is just not going to be relevant, it's not going to be important. It could, theoretically, protect you against things, but, how about waiting until those things happen before you protect yourself against them?
Hear, hear!

Re: Is Google's Culture Grab Unstoppable?

Re: Is Google's Culture Grab Unstoppable? 

In Russian, there's a proverb: "He who pays gets to request the music". Guess what, Google has the resources and the desire to tackle the complicated subject of book search, while providing authors with reasonable means of control over their content. Unquestionable fairness, on the other hand, is the lot of fairy-tale-tellers and governments (hypothetically), and results in 30-year-long projects to construct obsolete things poorly. If Microsoft or someone capable of launching a legal challenge is willing to do so with respect to above, let them, and I'm sure we all will benefit from discussion. Failing that (and I'm sure we'll see such challenges in the future anyway), let Google do its thing and for you (article author) it's time to go toss your Che t-shirt into laundry. And don't forget to opt-out of Google Content Registry.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Urban decay

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Ruins of Detroit

Photos of urban decay and abandoned cities never cease to fascinate me. They have a lot in similar with photographs of catastrophes and human suffering -- they may be disturbing, but your mesmerized gaze just can't let go of them.

It seems like Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre share the sentiment, as demonstrated by their photoessays on ruins of Detroit, decaying industrial buildings of east Germany and forgotten American theatres. (thanks to lj:vladimirpotapov)

For bonus points, google Pripyat.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Monday, March 2, 2009

Silent Star Wars