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2002
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August 31st; Still sickened by Thursday night's vicious rudeness. Fresh-looking Portuguese-language web diarist aeroplanoeditora who comments on Martin Amis, Sylvia Plath, and seems to read lots of London papers - noted by fellow Brasilian Cora. Wish I could read the Rio press.
Meanwhile, here are some new suitably low-key sound links, also under 'sounds' on the menu bar.

August 30th; Very weary today. Several people are testing my patience and reasonableness. Here, via the ever-alert Sargasso, is a handy page summing up lots of info on the forthcoming {?} attack on Iraq.
August 29th; The mermaid sweetly recommends some books about learning Portuguese. The richly-stocked compendium hairy eyeball points out an Arabic-alphabet keyboard online at a Farsi dictionary. Isam, does it work on your screen?

August 28th; Quiet, enigmatic day. A minor epiphany, with gratitude.
August 27th; Does anyone know if an already dead body really doesn't bleed when stabbed? It would be amusing if Robert Altman's beautifully acidic country-house murder comedy Gosford Park had fallen down on such a basic piece of detective-story research. When I slice into pieces of chicken or turkey, even after a couple of days in my fridge, they bleed. Perhaps something has changed since 1932.

August 26th; Rob brings encouragement as ever, plus a couple of wonderfully handy suggestions. Terri tells me bizarre stories of (believe it or not) a couple of bogus interpreters who once worked at the EU - literally people who claim money for translating out of languages they can't speak by taking everything on relay off one language they can speak. Tales of astonishing nerve, in both senses...
August 25th; Woke at 9am on Sunday morning out of an oddly vivid dream in which a talented young surgeon is slowly being transformed into a giant newt. I was none of the characters. One evening, the surgeon and his wife invite home the lab assistant or male nurse who is covertly trying to promote the newtification of our hero, and in a tense, nauseating, yet also moving scene of my dream, the surgeon asked the junior orderly at the dinner table to strip to the waist, which he reluctantly did, revealing that his own glutinous white body has already been hideously smoothed and distorted by the sinister process which is much more developed, with him already half-salamanderised.

August 24th; Streets fill with thousands of gyrating, scantily-clad pretty girls thronging over slow-moving flatbed trucks throbbing with techno music and various inflatable objects. Fairly good day.
August 23rd; Perhaps the high point of yesterday with Jacob was when, waving a vegetable at me in his kitchen, he told me in one breath that the NSA were "knuckleheads" and that "they've developed a faster-than-light spacecraft". So the NSA can travel backwards in time? I asked (a tad sceptically, I must confess), cautiously citing Go:del's formal proof that Einstein's general relativity allows backwards time travel if you can go sufficiently close to, never mind faster than, the speed of light. Jake brushed Go:del aside with magnificent lack of embarrassment. This is the kind of thing that I'm now realising friends find both irritating and enjoyable about conversations with me too. At least one superb idea emerged from the day which I am going to cling to and make sure we follow through.

August 22nd; An afternoon of tenacious tinkering by Jake lets him capture still pictures of Briefcase Boy as .jpgs for me off the security video (using Powerpoint in the end) on his laptop on the patio, capped by him cooking a wonderful vegetarian dinner for Lucia and me.
August 21st; This vocab page looks very handy indeed, especially if I put it together with this translation page over here.

August 20th; Saw 'Wasabi', a French-cop-in-Tokyo film not actually directed, but written or somethinged, by Luc Besson. Not very good. Veers between slack self-parody and slavish imitation of the silliest Hollywood cop movies, but without the sincere sheen of self-delusion that protects American movies from harmful thought. Punches and bullets pack enough kinetic energy to project people backwards through the air, and playing it as ironic comedy just looks weak. Everyone in Tokyo speaks French (they wish), all clearly because "if the Americans can get away with it....". And goodness me, don't youngsters have amazing gadgets these days? Yawn.
August 19th; Spent the afternoon with Tanya and her hospitable Ukrainian/Russian friends on grassy slopes dotted with sunbathers around the edge of a large-pond-stroke-gravel-pit in northern Buda that Hungarians call 'Omsk Lake', amusingly for her, because she comes from Omsk. As we all know, Omsk is a tyre-manufacturing hub in Western Siberia.
In the morning, Steve had kindly offered to extract the young rascal's photograph from the security video. Only with phone numbers he gave me was I able to start reconstructing my contacts list - tracing my way back to Russian-teacher Tanya's number for example by the afternoon.

August 18th; Strolled with Steve through hot, sunny streets down to the bridge to see how the swollen Danube has flooded the tracks of the no. 2 tramline. The overhead cables were about two feet above the water.
The handsomely orange fabulousness looks like an excellent language-resources round-up list, as well as making me feel I've been refreshingly tangoed.
August 17th; The crisply-written languagehat oddly has more items on its menu bar when I view it on an Apple Mac, than it does when I view languagehat's thought-provoking page on an IBM machine. On the Apple my own site sprouts a separate column (not row?) for each link just to the right of this weblog. Something basic I don't get about html?
~?
The police were quite friendly the first time I went to see them, but got rather alarmed when I returned tonight with the security video. Worried that Akos and the Hungarian constitution would spank my bottom unless I obediently took the video straight to the forces of law and order, I did just that. Fear of work lit up their eyes as they saw I hadn't given up, the way the police in every country wish we tedious victims would just go away and leave them in peace. They said there's a special office I must visit to hand over the open-and-shut arrest evidence. Mind you, so far the Hungarian police are proving much politer about doing nothing than the British police. Police in Britain can get very angry if you tentatively ask them more than once how the investigation is progressing, and may visit you in your bedroom to tell you to stop harrassing them about the property stolen from you. At least, I doubt if British police attitudes to victims who irritate them have changed too much since Cambridge in 1986.

August 16th; I now have a copy of the security video showing my briefcase being nicked. Customer service is not really Hungary's forte, at least not at the Oktogon Internet cafe. Akos was a bit cheeky, but at least did something. Marton's self-pitying apathy was less forgiveable. "Why me? Why does someone get robbed while I'm on duty? Why is my life so unfair?" was his only visible emotion. Life is hard, Marton. These things happen. People deliberately get robbed so that they can selfishly create extra work for Marton.
I'm actually quite curious how the friendly Korean 24-hour Internet cafe went out of business thirty yards away when they charged exactly the same price, with better machines, far more space, and ten times better customer attitude. Businesses don't always compete the way economics textbooks say they should. I reckon the nice Koreans were pushed out somehow.
August 15th; Since my brown leather briefcase was stolen from an Internet cafe early this morning, I'm very upset. I've lost all my phone numbers and addresses, so please, anyone who knows me and reads this, e-mail me at contact@otherlanguages.org.
Obviously I would like my briefcase back with all its contents - two green files with photocopies of Russian and Arabic text, a green address book, a blue address book, two spiral-bound blue notebooks, and six 3.5" floppy discs - none of which are of any use to anyone but me. I would also, having watched a security video at the cafe, very much like to talk to a 17 or 18-year-old slightly-built young male of about 5'10" [177cm] height with close-cropped black hair, alert, slim, rodent-like face, slightly pointed ears, baggy bomber jacket and a silver-coloured mobile phone hanging from a long leather neckcord almost down to his waist.
Please pass this link on to any European webcam or crimewatch websites you know of, or to any friends who might know where to send this link. Thanks very much to anyone who can help.

August 14th; Went with Terri to watch the tango couples. Not sure what to make of the confident young Babett.
Here's an article from the Spectator a couple of weeks back, describing the tiresome time a beautiful young Canadian says she had dating English men. She writes: "Two months after Nigel’s chilly dinner party, I was out with a banker, another Etonian, on what was probably our fourth date. During the taxi-ride home, we were both quite drunk and I turned and asked him point-blank if he was ever going to kiss me. ‘I thought you were seeing Nigel,’ he said. ‘I didn’t think it appropriate.’ " Just a quick question to male readers. Wouldn't you appreciate that banker as a friend? I immediately thought more of him. But it gets better. Poor 'Nigel' [aka Charles Gowlland, 8th letter down, 2nd under 'woolly pears'] who Leah jeered at first before getting cross about his friend's ungallant lack of disloyalty, now has his say. If she could learn some of his light touch {" ....In the first, I was merely attempting to comfort a new arrival to London, homesick for the social wastes of Toronto, by taking her to see a four-hour Inuit art-house film. It did at least have subtitles.... "} it might improve her writing a bit.
August 13th; This has puzzled me ever since I first saw a bilingual dictionary. Why are the words all the same size? There are all these people sitting round publishing language-learners' dictionaries, and I've never seen one for any language where the commonest words are in a larger typeface, the rarest printed small, and the others in a middle-size print. In fact, a step down, I've never even seen a language textbook with a couple of pages given to lists of words by frequency - the commonest 500 Arabic words, the commonest 200 Arabic verbs and so on. There must be some books like this now, but why not in the 1970s, 1960s, 1950s? I know frequency lists are disputed, but a list of 600-commonest whatever would include all the differing lists of 400-commonest. And that's not why it took so long to happen, is it? It's because no idea is too obvious to never occur to most people, certainly most publishers. I'm wondering right now about stripping the prepositions out of the English commonest words list and putting the rest through an online translation interface. Sounds like a gruelling 45 minutes' work. Obviously beyond anyone in publishing. Perhaps these people will help: {1 2 3 4 5}

August 12th; Today someone came to this site after putting russian+girls+in+swimsuits into Google. I do hope they weren't too disappointed.
August 11th; Where is the translation I did for Gyorgyi on Saturday? So I have do it again. Lovely. At Rob's suggestion, he and Ryan & I saw the film 'Storytelling' by Todd Solondz; see how not to run a creative-writing class. Some of the prettiest opening movie credits I've seen for years.

August 10th; Very nice lunch with Richard and Melinda. When did I suggest an article to The Register about machine-searchable legal-advice databases to help bring the price of lawyers down towards the price of hand-loom weavers? Only last night? Seems a long time ago.
August 9th; Amazing. For a good six or seven days it's been cloudy, even raining for a couple of hours each day: almost like Manchester all year round, but quite a blip for a dry, hot Budapest summer. The girls with the long tanned legs and the body jewellery are looking pretty cross.

August 8th; Rob sent me this: 2 new book reviews about disappearing languages. No-one yet seems to expect, like me, the privacy industry to catch on to the value of languages down to their last hundred or so speakers. For an extra layer of encryption, of course, the fewer speakers the better: a corporation hiring five people from a language down to its last fifty speakers would know from gossip as soon as an outsider tried to learn the language. Big firms, suspicious of numerical encryption keys national security agencies demand extra copies of, don't yet realise an extra bit of linguistic encryption is just what they need. What will be nice is, when it does happen, it'll save exactly the languages most in danger first - the ones with just a handful of speakers left alive.
August 7th; Right, that's it. Nothing else for it - I'm going to have to use my occult powers again. Of course, only with the greatest reluctance, you understand. Bearing a heavy heart I turn one more time etc etc.

August 6th; Two interesting pages - the first Finnish web diary I've come across (I don't read a word of F, sorry), also archived here for those lucky Swedish readers who are bilingual, and a very thoughtful diary crammed with family snaps and wide-ranging American politics links. While the blog that keeps changing its name, naughty thing, lists a story by Bruce Sterling where he artfully punctuates the 300 commonest words in English left (I assume) in their order of frequency, to try to make it into a story. Almost manages it.
August 5th; Rather a pity I couldn't convince my investor friend to buy those Dow Jones and FTSE put options I was talking to him about last summer. I've been telling everyone for ages it's easier to make money on the way down than on the way up, and now the big drop went and happened. We both could have made a lot of money. Oh, never mind....

August 4th; The colour-shifting Sargasso points to a handy [and rather handsome] Dutch page - nerdcult - where you can find links to the dancing Steve Ballmer video, the fat man smashing his office computer, those pictures of Bert being evil, and so on, all part of Ervin van der Zande's site. A page in Kazakh for my site may be on its way, thanks to more generous help from Miklos and Ancsa. Yes!
August 3rd; Kindly Miklos allows me to use his computer this afternoon, and we discover that Axelero 'provides' a very poor service. What a surprise, Matav owns Axelero. Notice the picture of the phone receiver off the hook on Matav's website? Obviously someone else just died waiting for them to reduce their prices below thieving level. Miklos is not amused when I try to cheer him up by renaming his ISP 'Decelero'. Ho ho, eh?
And I ate some of that Mediterranean powdery stuff.... oh yes, halva.

August 2nd; Some days the African trip to Ghana when I was 9 comes back vividly. That copy of Milly-Molly-Mandy translated into Fante (Akan) swims back into view when I feel this warmth. Right now warm enough to make my forearms shine with moisture after some unexpected exertion such as, oh you know, opening a door and going through it. The wry Swedish in 1000 difficult lessons lists the cheery greengabbro, who then shows the way to the remarkable Which Religion is Right for My Complexion? test. It suggested I choose to be a Shaker or a Quaker, and I was brought up, however unsuccessfully, as a Quaker. How did it know?
August 1st; I couldn't resist this site's graphical charm and poise: the writer is a political commentator and film reviewer. Look out for the website's interleaved wallpaper/endpaper/waistcoat-lining image to keep you all cosy and snug while another page loads. Sent me by David.

July 31st; A no-nonsense, tropically-hued site about the languages of East Timor, which include Tetum and Portuguese, both preferred, as usual, to the language of the most recent imperial rulers, Indonesian - which usually means Javanese, right?

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Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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