otherlanguages.org
. . . Main links

Basque / Dutch / English / Hungarian / Japanese / Swedish

link to i-mode page

#

#

non-alphabetic scripts

#

other links

#

endangered languages

#

sign languages

#

maps

#

songs and music

#

dead languages


*1

#

linguistic philosophy

#

artificial languages

#

AI, speech recognition

#

encryption, steganography

#

language history

#

calligraphy

#

cognitive psychology

#

mathematical linguistics

#

animal communication

#

language list

#

non-language links

2011
...............................................................................................................................................................


February 28th; Watch a documentary film from the French Institute called 'Le Monde selon Monsanto' {The World According to Monsanto} in which Monsanto, an agricultural chemical company with lots of investment in biotechnology and gene manipulation emerge as being rather like cigarette makers. They seem to have an impressive pedigree of dodgy substances, so says documentary maker Marie-Monique Robin. The American firm come over in the film as having a rather mad-scientist Bond-villain desire to control the world's food supplies. Some American farmers are interviewed who were sued for apparently keeping back some seed to resow the following year - in violation of Monsanto's intellectual property rights, of course.
February 27th; Don't go down to evangelical meeting at Kobanya Kispest after all. Feel a bit odd today. Perhaps from the wine and coffee yesterday and my general feebleness.

February 26th; Delicious lunch at Henri and Camilia's house here in Budapest with Robin, Georgina, and Bela. We talk about lots of things, including Camilia's interesting idea that England and the Habsburgs have been locked in struggle for the last 500 years, culminating in World War One - yet that Habsburg aristocrats have not yet given up.
February 25th; I drop into the small pastry shop and the evangelical blonde, Dori, is looking extraordinary. Her hair is down for a change, tumbling off her shoulders in huge golden waves. She modestly murmurs that she just washed it. She suggests I come to her service down in Kobanya on Sunday morning. I find myself slightly dazed, agreeing. That evening, dinner with Terri & Alexa. I enthuse about this film and this book. Terri shares a very odd anecdote about a girocopter being abandoned in a German meadow after an Irish neighbour quarrels over the phone with Alvi, and tells me that St. Hugh is the patron saint of swans.

February 24th; I return a book to the French Institute Library, and go to the cafe to finish the last thirty pages. Henri drops in, and we have lunch together. 'Le Dico Des Sciences' is an ambitious and readable dictionary defining lots of terms in "the sciences", by Norbert Verdier. This seems to mean mainly mathematics, some physics, bits of chemistry, and the occasional odd entry from other fields {like for Lucy the fossil skeleton of an early human or an entry for Keynes, but no other economics}. Clearly meant for students, it's about my level. Lots of short entries with that strangely French didactic mixture of strictness & precision with a kind of raised-eyebrows, finger-wagging humour. An entry on 'hypercube' excitedly says that the big 1980s arch at La Defence in Paris is a model of a hypercube, which I suppose is almost true if you fill in the bottom edge. Getting to increasingly like how French books do punctuation, with gaps before the : the ; and the !
February 23rd; Chilly day. A sort of dry acid cold attacks all exposed areas of skin. Buy a small plastic tube of homeopathic sulphur and again the dispenser nozzle does not work. I break two pens trying to bend the tough acrylic nodule that is supposed to allow one small spherical pill out at a time, but in fact allows zero small spherical pills out at a time. As with two previous tubes, the only recourse is to rip the top of the fitting out of the tube with a sharp tool. Perhaps it was cunningly designed to ensure that by getting no pills at all, the ultimate dilution, the patient receives infinite potency. Later, after the gym, I have a good but extremely spicy minty Thai curry alone with a book while the radio station the restaurant's aloof serving girls tune into plays this track. As I leave back into the cold night, though not as cold as this morning, I notice something odd. The traffic and street lights have a slight halo around them. Look around and wonder if a very thin mist is descending on the street. Then notice that I feel somehow light-headed and curiously distant from everything. Perhaps a mild side-effect from spice poisoning. My vision has changed in some way. Not unpleasant.

February 22nd; Late afternoon philosophy talk is by Wayne from Sacramento - very interesting stuff about how the depiction of melancholy or depression crucially changed in 17th-century art. Slightly merry on two glasses of good Philosophy Department wine afterwards I pass Henry on the street who says Ronald Dworkin came to talk a few weeks ago.
February 21st; Monday. Start marking up and sawing slimmer wood rod for chair project. From the culture that brought you Big Dog, now this: a camera-carrying spy plane the size and appearance of a small bird.

February 20th; Sunday. Some chilly sunshine. Scan drawing of table to send to joiner in Yorkshire. The months-old shopping plaza/mall/consumopolis that now gives me an indoor walk almost to the metro station suprised me last night. Dotting the mirrored surface of the slippery fake-marble flooring I suddenly noticed familiar dull grey two-foot-diameter metal discs at odd positions. I realised that the municipal manholes giving access to sewers and under-street utilities have not moved - the mall developers were forced to build the entire glitzy palace of glass and shiny stone cladding around the cast-iron manhole covers, which have the same 19th-century rosette patterning as outside in the streets. Looking down the main hall of the brightly-lit shopping centre feels like being inside one large building, but as far as the manhole covers are concerned, they are still out on the streets in the rain, puncturing the surface of the city in exactly the same positions they were in a year ago.
February 19th; Finally push myself to glue photocopied tape measure strips of paper to sticks of wood to start making chairs.

February 18th; Aching all over, return to sleeping on floor. Much better. Extraordinary French video has silver-stubbled codger in tee-shirt {Henri} giving the women & men of France flirtation advice without the slightest hint of self-doubt. Note the smoker's cough. The camera team appear to have found him in someone's back garden. "Elle caresse un objet cylindrique," he explains cheerfully at one point. Occasional still shots of a jolly French lady in various poses throughout. Unmissable gem.
February 17th; Thursday, lunch with Ilan at a Chinese restaurant where - in honour of the new year - I find myself sitting under a psychedelic print which is a sort of Lucy In The Sky With Rabbits study. Rest of day devoted to Ilan's brochure.

February 16th; Apply for song-writing job. Must do homework.
February 15th; Visit French Institute library. Borrow two intriguing-looking videos.

February 14th; French lesson cancelled. Go with Dorina to a set of futurology talks with slides at one of Budapest's single-subject universities. Five presentations where 'video games & society', 'the decline of the West', 'the sci-fi view of the future', 'Wikileaks & Bentham's Panopticon' sit slightly oddly with a talk about problems in Hungary's economy & balance of payments. Serious strain on my by now very dormant Hungarian skills, but after two hours of that and tiring further chats in the restaurant and a bar with Dorina's friends later, can feel a crude sense for sustained use of the language returning. If I did this all day every day for a fortnight...
February 13th; Strange, dark Sunday floats by. Chilliness has returned.

February 12th; Finish another reassuringly slim French book from the library about genetics. 'Les harmonies de la Nature a l'epreuve de la biologie' (Nature's Harmonies Tested by Biology) is an essay by Pierre-Henri Gouyon tracing the long decline in human ideas of nature existing in harmony or balance. He carefully explains how first evolutionary theory in the 19th century and then Mendelian genetics in the prewar 20th century and then genetic neutralism, selfish genes, and selfish DNA in the 20th century since the Second World War progressively undermined the static, peaceful view of nature as a fixed creation. In the closing discussion, Gouyon stresses he sees nature as not offering any moral lessons, either in terms of co-operation or competition, and repeats that there are not genes specifically "for" certain bodily features or types of behaviour so much as genes that have certain effects which only in certain circumstances promote those features and behaviours.
February 11th; Arabic lesson. Evening with Ilan.

February 10th; Haircut and visit to Kalman's office. Just a week ago, my last full day in Yorkshire, I thought I had finished everything after the dumping of the wounded radiator. Then a second lightbulb blew, I found myself locked out in a rainstorm (the front door finally yielded after teasing me for two minutes), and I got upstairs to find I had left the skylight open in my bedroom resulting in a large wet patch of carpet due to rain. Sometimes mother's house seems to be trying to obstruct me, with a personality not unlike a difficult old woman.
February 9th; Wednesday. Lunch with Marguerite.

February 8th; Tuesday. Up late finishing short story for Inky's competition.
February 7th; Monday. Afternoon with Ilan. Tea later with Arabic Eva.

February 6th; Quiet Sunday. Sleep a lot more. Some early-70s jewel-robbery film-score mood from Jon Lucien. Finish one of two airport impulse buys: 'The Decision Book' by Mikael Krogerus & Roman Tschappeler. This is a rather good breeze through fifty models taught in business schools and used by consultants. The Boston Matrix, Eisenhower's time-management boxes, all the old favourites. Essentially, these are all ways to turn one-dimensional lists into two-dimensional lists, but fun and sometimes useful nonetheless. Have interesting insight on unrelated topic.
February 5th; Sleep a lot. Out to Rudas Baths night-time session with Marguerite. As we lounge around in the hot water under the 17th-century dome, she good-naturedly hears me out comparing the US to the Athenians the other Greek city states united against and suggesting a lot of trouble might have been avoided if Britain & France & Israel had kept the Suez Canal in 1956 and toppled Nasser. Marguerite was in Cairo a few days ago watching from her hotel bedroom as yet US proxy-ruler sonofabitch fell from power.

February 4th; Train to Manchester Airport where, Lord help us, they now have holographic staff members endlessly repeating the liquids-on-board nonsense as you queue. Fly to Budapest next to a Glaswegian girl studying politics there, and the row of seats behind the or a British girls waterpolo team again. Out for curry with Rob immediately after landing, and he reminds me of his musical fellow lodgers from his past, when he shared a house with a double-bassist & keen chef who felt that dogs were natural depressives, Pete the dedicated functionalist architecture student "who had this thing about salt" and was driven close to despair by being given a project to design a folly, and a girl who was "pretty in a sort of English ....plain way". This was the house they all rented in Manchester from a very good-natured & polite Bangladeshi landlord called Mr Quizelbash with differently sized eyes and a club foot. Rob also relates how he and his wife Etty went for a weekend to the rather attractive town of Pecs in southern Hungary in December, its last month of being Europe's cultural capital. They found the modern art gallery closed and the show postponed five months, the Egon Schiele show across town cancelled, the concert hall elsewhere in Pecs not yet built, the permanent Csontvary exhibition at another gallery lent to somewhere in Germany for the whole year, the tourist office closed more than an hour before its closing time, and the automated interactive tourist-information screen in the public square out of order. Not just me who has these days, readers.
February 3rd; Meter reader pops by unexpectedly in the late morning. Then the radiator man returns. The wet patch of newspaper seems to have dried, but the wet patch of carpet is now four feet wide. Radiator man says the pressure has fallen in the system, and turns it up higher so we can see if the radiator is leaking. A few minutes later, sure enough, a new pool of water has formed. So yes, there is a pinhole leak. He shuts off the radiator, drains it, disconnects it from the wall, and he & I carry it outside and drop it in the skip. Finally buy a ticket for Budapest online. Another knock on my door, and some men with a lorry politely ask if they can take some metal out of the skip. I say of course: the first thing they haul out is the damaged radiator.

February 2nd; Joiner returns and fits a threshold of hard wood, attaches a weather board to the bottom of the door, and coats the door in sealant. Radiator man arrives and starts trying to get the four dormant radiators back into operation. Joiner leaves, and radiator man comes over to inspect the door and approvingly remarks that the joiner seemed "old school". Then he leaves too, and I have a preservative and sealent-coated door fitting snugly into its frame and all six radiators silently giving off heat. I have a feeling of enormous relief and accomplishment. Again I go back to buying an air ticket online, and again something unspoken bothers me. A second or third tap from the kitchen makes me go in there. A curious wet patch has spread two feet away from the kitchen radiator. I lay down some pages of the weekend FT {with its article about the Oxford ethics don who, under the influence of Peter Singer, has decided to live on ten thousand pounds a year for the rest of his life, and give all the rest of his 45,000-a-year income to charity} on the carpet to see where the water is coming from. Going back online I look at tickets, but am not sure the house is safe to leave yet. An hour later I go into the kitchen again, and a pool of water is sitting under the radiator, a foot across. The carpet wet patch, meanwhile, is now three feet wide. I leave a phone message with the radiator people, and again put off buying a ticket. Knocking on the door, some cheerful people with a black and white dog ask if they can take some wood out of the skip. I say yes, definitely, and they haul out two chairs and a sofa base happily.
February 1st; Joiner arrives in the morning. Seems radiator man can only come tomorrow. Joiner {also a poet and printer, I learn} drives me out to a timber merchant and I choose and buy a door and a lock. We get back and step by step he cuts a clean rectangular slot out of the edge of the door to slide the lock into. Then he starts to plane down the edges of the door to fit the frame.


Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com