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2002
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September 30th; Finished the translation, plus the piece for An Nahar, both by lunchtime. Sharp sunlight outdoors. Smelled the first hot-chestnut-sellers today.
September 29th; Apart from soft-boiled eggs with bread & butter in the rather intense company of Jessica from California yesterday, an uneventful weekend. Work, work, work.

September 28th; So I have to try to write 1200 words for An Nahar this weekend, as well as cope with 2 Hungarian-speaking teenage Australians experiencing young love on an 18th-century desert island. I do hope the Lebanese take the article. Isam was very encouraging (and understandably relieved they'll look at it in English, not Arabic). I'd better write it, hadn't I?
September 27th; In which I get down to chapter 8 of the South Sea Adventure translation. Our two young heroes have washed up on the coast of Tonga after storm. Dull weekend ahead then.
Does anyone know if that cash competition to design a fully-working Flatland-style 2-dimensional lock and key is still open? Probably not, assuming I wasn't imagining the whole thing anyway. No-one recalls a 1980s Flatland reworking - about a sideways-slice 2D world simulated on a PC whose cartoon-like beings start to become aware they have a creator? No, I thought not.

September 26th; Gorgeous, fresh autumn day. A sharp, cold wind, and thin, silver-golden sunshine filling the streets, making long, crisp, late-in-the-year shadows. A kind of sweet-sad northern light that puts you in mind of chilled white wine. Over at artsandlettersdaily an eerie New-Yorker piece claims the art of judging facial expressions is slowly becoming a systematic field of knowledge.
September 25th; Mermaid and languagehat and making light are all rather startled that the East Timorese are making their children study the Finnish language for political-neutrality reasons. I agree it's adventurous and more than a bit odd, but when a new country opts to teach all its children, hearing and deaf alike, to use a sign language as their lingua franca.... then I'll be impressed. Deaf people have created exquisite cultures, and we hearers should study them.

September 24th; I think I'm getting the hang of 'No Logo'. Naomi's arithmetic works on something a bit like the gold standard, only more rigid: for her 1 US dollar is worth the same at all points of the earth's surface and all points in time. Yes, that would make fair trade difficult.
September 23rd; The aardig jongers at Sargasso excel again, linking to one a 'fetish road-map', two 2 (real) interactive map-projection websites, three a supposed Al Qaeda terrorism manual found in (of course) Manchester (Whalley Range would be my bet), four some painful-looking testicle-pummelling, and five an earnest, cheery set of updating pie charts about how euro coins are moving round euro-land {or at least Benelux} in Dutch, English and other languages.

September 22nd; Three finds:
(a) The knowledgeable Prentiss shows me a gorgeous shorthand-based alphabet for the Inuit language (plus some background), all now safely archived here - plus scroll down for Prentiss's excellent links to Zadie Smith on writers' hair, and Interpol on how hawala money-transfer works;
(b) Have fun being a node in a typeface-designing neural net found via k10k;
(c) A slightly worrying piece of research saying that suicides go up under right-wing governments which may give people as depressive and right wing as me some pause for thought, and also on New Scientist, a rather good interview with Alexandra Morton who has seriously studied killer-whale communication - is it a language? See what she thinks.
September 21st; Shaking off the cold I didn't quite get. Over to Steve for an impromptu dinner and more inspiration. He lends me the 'No Logo' book, which I am going to read in order to find out how to make lots of money by adopting an enthusiastic Yes Logo approach.

September 20th; So the wire agency takes another article.
September 19th; What day did I drop Heather's Apple iMac on the cafe floor face-down? It still works fine. I really hope I can forget that horrific moment. She was wonderfully sweet about it.

September 18th; Reviews section open, discreetly tucked further down the column to the right.
September 17th; I take Rob's old mobile he is kindly letting me use to a showroom where the girls with long fingernails show me how to switch it on. As they gather round its little screen and put in the code number, Rob's greeting comes up in firm, friendly capital letters. FUCK OFF. The girls giggle with approval.

September 16th; Here again is the young male I would like to talk to with his mobile phone round his neck, pictured about ten minutes before he reallocated my briefcase in August. All I need is his address. Since the Internet isn't about physical distance or proximity but about networks of friends and acquaintances, it would help me if you forwarded this page to anyone you know. Thanks again!
September 15th; Yesterday Rob and Ryan took me to see the Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin film, 'Birthday Girl' about an English bank clerk who orders a mail-order/webpage-click Russian bride. She never stops smoking of course, and turns out to be serious trouble. Anyone remember an early 90s BBC version of the same creepy story, where 2 Scots soldiers get out of their depth with a pair of Hungarian girls? The West is starting to get the measure of East Europeans, I would say.

September 14th; Rob took me to the supermarket and rustled up a wonderful dinner, totally turning my mood around. The Economist is gloomy about the dwindling of the Scots Gaelic language, but I was at least amused to find that this page where I choose ten records of exotic music is still alive.
September 13th; Apparently this week's Big Brother 'reality show' on Hungarian television had a 17-minute sex scene. Gosh. Oh and some quite Flash-heavy but fun Lithuanian web designers, in Lithuanian, or, if you insist, in English.

September 12th; So, have now finished Woodruff's 'Money Unmade' - his account of two resurgences of barter among Russian firms in the 1990s. He tracks how discounted 'wechsels' [a Russianised German word for scrip, or paper IOUs] kept on circulating between Russian factories even in 1998 [so surely now in 2002 still] because they had trouble selling their products and thus paying their bills. Why? Non-market interdependencies were built into the economy by Soviet development {every planned town having a giant factory built right next to the power plant, neither of which can be allowed to go bankrupt}. As I already grumbled, Woodruff overdepends a bit on 2 Hungarians, Polanyi [Karl, not Michael] and Kornai, for theoretical buttressing, leading to a rather simplified view that state-sanctioned money is always progress.
From his account seems that Russian managers [and the US academics writing about them] all view wechsels as a way to avoid paying 'real' money [rubles? dollars?] and not as an opportunity to make something newer and better. If Woodruff could move a little beyond the view of the 2 German-speakers, Menger and Simmel, that barter is always worse than money, then a way forward for Russia might be clearer.
(1) Date the scrip, making it lose value over time. {So that it moves fast, retires predictably, and hoarding and late payment are taxed.} (2) Base it on a natural resource {such as deliveries of fixed volumes and grades of gas.}, not on rubles. (3) Match up the time-decay and the excess issue so that the issuer makes reasonable, not excessive, seigniorage, or profit, on creating and maintaining the cash instrument. Using time instead of closed giro networks to limit hoarding and money-replacement is crucial. Whether or not Moscow can stomach it, Gazprom is probably the best-placed wechsel-central-banker-to-be.
Oh, and (4) replace Gresham's Law {Bad money drives out good} with a more general and useful law {Quick money drives out slow}. Money can be quick because it is bad, but not necessarily - such as if you designed it that way. In Russia's case, I can't think of anything it needs right now more than quick money redeemable in something practical, like natural gas.
September 11th; Here is a funny clock - metronome meets LED. I wonder if it cuts curious children's fingers off? They probably thought of that. Meanwhile, here is some more about Captain Euro. I e-mailed the fearless crusader for European Unity asking how I could license his comic strip, and he e-mailed back asking for my phone number so we could talk, you know ...not by e-mail. Looks like the Captain is owned by a branding agency who created him for the European Parliament so as "to present a friendly and non-political image of Europe to the world". That gives away quite a lot about European politics, doesn't it? Pretty sad.

September 10th; I would like to belatedly say hello to the surfer who reached this page looking for fucking+urdu+story+sites, as well as the visitor who was more primly seeking only ukrainian+sunbathers. A cordial welcome to you both.
Bursting with ideas? Then drop in on this list of sites, hosted by the half-bakery.
September 9th; David's book about the News on Sunday (appropriately called 'Disaster!'), a British newspaper that died within months of launch in 1987, is unwittingly very revealing about what really went wrong. The authors worked on the paper, and sneer at articles published by other ex-News-on-Sunday staffers justifying how it wasn't their fault, though their book is different, of course.
I read the NoS when it came out, and the book felt a lot like it. Both snide and rambling, Chippindale and Horrie never get to the point. They can't quite admit that the hacks who produce The Sun are superb writers with real craft (let alone work out why), and they never really examine their own attitude. They blame mismanagement, funding, feuds - anything rather than admit that the NoS was badly written. People didn't buy it for the same reason they didn't buy Chippindale and Horrie's book: readers could taste the bitterness on every page.

September 8th; Reading the book David lent me about how Britain's stillborn 1987 newspaper The News on Sunday asked Nick Horsley of Northern Foods and Owen Oyston, now a director of Blackpool Football Club (nice to see businesspeople with hometown loyalties), for injections of money. Apparently both men were interested in helping halt the decline of the North of England, and this partly motivated them to support the short-lived Manchester-based weekly.
Did anyone ever advise Nick Horsley or Owen Oyston to read any of Jane Jacobs' books? Come to think of it, did anyone ever suggest David Woodruff of MIT (I'm still ploughing through Ryan's copy of 'Money Unmade') check her work on regional economic autonomy? With cases of missing advice like these, how can technical traders possibly believe that all the information is already in the market? Baffling.
September 7th; so a whole day on that William-and-Susanna-brave-the-South-Seas translation, now back on the ocean blue, and unless I am drunk, I just translated two seafights both settled by gale-force weather in the space of one chapter.
Shiver me timbers, hearties.
It has dawned on me that the two-month gaps mean I am translating as the book is being written. A bit slow of me not to work that out sooner, I suppose - though there are other things on my mind. Being written in Hungarian by a Hungarian, I'd guess, who's been away from home so long his/her spelling's gone a bit peculiar. Or it might be a dialect I've never seen, of course.

September 6th; Ryan helped me lug Istvan's computer back over to Gogol Street two mornings ago, so one more thing is restored to harmony.
Trust sargasso to continue to find new things - this time it's Crash Bonsai. And fabulousness some time ago mentioned these gorgeously swirly {scroll down} text diagrams. Books as digital carpets. Talking of carpets .... here is a discussion thread {as it were} about a Kurdish/Persian/Turkish {delete where applicable} carpet/rug involving Bob. I'm intrigued.
September 5th; Ah, goody. so the answer to all my problems has been dangled in front of me and then snatched away at the last minute after all. Thank goodness for that. We wouldn't want to have any good luck now, would we?
Saintly Stephen saves my bacon over a meaty dinner.
Serious question everyone. What is
this? Captain Euro, superhero of Europe?? Is this satire? Could the EU really give itself away so candidly?
Strength through EUh?
In an exciting separate development, I learn that Hungary's Post Office has shut my long-term mailbox and sent all my mail back because I was two months late paying. I ask why I received no warnings. They scornfully show me the 2 unopened warning letters they put in my post-office box and then took out of my post-office box again after 10 days - before I could see them. Rules are rules, eh?

September 4th; New source of occasional work. Cheer up, Mark.
Marion sends me this picture of a Hungarian chess set, appropriately archived here. Extra points for readers who guess the correct piece names using only the alcohol measures and no naughtiness with dictionaries.
September 3rd; Ryan lends me a promising-looking study of barter in 1990s Russia by an MIT political sociologist: 'Money Unmade' by David Woodruff. Dodgy opening, but let's give the book a chance.
Considering I was stone broke and hungry, had a wonderful, squiffy evening with Gordon from England, Jenny from Finland, and other unnamed agents of merriment, thanks to the generous kindness of all.

September 2nd; I think it was 7am Monday morning I woke out of a dream in which I was hearing a remixed, chopped-up version of 'horse with no name' by America. Must have been the translating mermaid mentioning last week that it was the first song she understood all the words of in English. Come to think of it, I suspect it was the first song I understood all the words of in English. At the time I assumed it was about cleansing lost love and humiliation through isolation in the wilderness - well, you remember what it was like being 7.
September 1st; Exactly a week since going on that Buda limestone cave tour with Tanya, last Sunday afternoon. As we stood in various damp brown caverns noticing a few very small stalagtites, the unusually flat-voiced guide used his torch to point out patterns in the wiggly wet stone walls: the 'crocodile', the 'snake', the 'estate agent' and so forth, all of which of course looked exactly like bits of wiggly wet stone walls. I was suddenly taken back to my mother's vinyl LPs of Hancock's Half Hour, in particular the episode of the radio series (late 1950s?) called 'Sunday afternoon' in which, driven desperate by sheer boredom, Tony Hancock and Sid James start to argue about whether they can see images in the pattern of their swirly sitting-room wallpaper.

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Mark Griffith, site administrator / contact@otherlanguages.org

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