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2018
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August 31st; Friday. In more racist news, turns out haggises are English.

August 30th; Thursday. At 8 in the morning, Zeno the Alchemist insists I must replace the door even though the paint is still soft, so we mount it on the hinges back inside the house, smearing and scraping the once mirror finish. Then I return to Budapest with morning train, teach twice, and find I cannot get into Michael's flat. The increasingly awkward upper lock finally (after some weeks of getting stiffer and stiffer) refuses to co-operate. I spend an hour and a half trying to get in, then walk over to welcoming Robin a mile off, happy to see me even in extremis.
August 29th; Wednesday. Interior wooden door at Robin's farm still not drying as it should, balanced on two stools outside the studio. Zeno shows me that fresh figs are ripening right now on a bush seven or eight feet to the right of the studio door, there years without me noticing.

August 28th; Tuesday. Paint both sides of door. Visit seamstress in next village with shirts to be mended. By a ridiculous piece of bad luck, miss meeting Edina in Kunszentmarton. My pocket watch is one hour behind, and Robin's kitchen clock oddly also one hour behind: I go to meet her exactly 1 hour too late.
August 27th; Monday. Buy paint and brush in Kunszentmarton with Zeno.

August 26th; Sunday. Travel down to countryside to paint door.
August 25th; Saturday. Italian Interior Minister describes EU as "filth".

August 24th; Friday. Chinese banking crisis still threatens.
August 23rd; Thursday. 10 female dancers from an old TV show. Check Pat Davis.

August 22nd; Wednesday. Quasi-Dennettish article about consciousness.
August 21st; Tuesday. Farsighted RAF man warned of EEC/EC/EU danger.
+ good summary of just how odd the investigation of President Honey Monster is.

August 20th; Monday. AI calls for a religion, as if it wasn't one already.
For the first time in a flat where (by leaning out of a window a bit) I could see some of the city-centre evening fireworks that traditionally celebrate today's holiday of Hungary's first Christian king. He's the one whose embalmed right hand in a glass box at the cathedral is the obvious inspiration for The Hand in the old Addams Family TV series, as Nina tartly pointed out when she described Hungary to a friend as "a cross between the Addams Family and 'Twin Peaks'". She's right.
August 19th; Sunday. It seems contraceptive pills masculinise women.
More stuff about time travel. And they don't mean reversing ageing.

August 18th; Saturday. Wonderful image for that horrid thing: the headache.
August 17th; Friday. China embraces robot policing.
Poignant piece about coders who regret helping to build Uber and similar firms. Touching, but you'd think they'd have thought of this some decades ago?

August 16th; Thursday. More magical thinking about strong AI.
Take stopping train out to the Balaton to meet Peter D. in his rural summer retreat, a lakeside resort filled with sporty things, and a gorgeous view out across the water. A prow of big hills juts out into the lake, coloured dusty blue by distance, headed by Badacsony the wine hill. The outline of the four hills is very like a tinted wash from the Turner sketchbook. We play three-a-side volleyball in late-afternoon sun (at one point the six people on our court include three different girls all called Panni), then swim in the lake as the sun begins to go down. An extremely generous apricot schnapps pressed on us by the beachside barman before my train back to town leaves the journey back around the big lake vaguely blurred. But I glance up from my train carriage table halfway along the south coast of the lake as darkness falls and almost gasp aloud. Across the carriage is an extraordinary filmic vision of lilac hills against an ink-blue late-evening sky, for perhaps a minute looking like nowhere I'd ever imagined on earth.
August 15th; Wednesday. Or would that count as time travel?
Heat still intense and thick. Wherever the sun is shining, it's like when your mother opens the oven door to get the cakes out. I don't know if the desert with the Nazca lines is a hot place or not, but apparently they're exactly opposite to Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

August 14th; Tuesday. Perhaps reversing ageing will help the Pussy Church?
A curious memory from the other week down in the countryside at Robin's where I was outside the house near the entrance. Am suddenly hit by a rich pulse of mint aroma. Half a second later, a red, orange, brown and black cockerel charges angrily into a thick patch of mint plants. When some white hens burst clumsily out of the same thickets of herb one second later it's clear the cockerel is chasing them. Amusing for me, but looked pretty serious for them.
Turns out that the actress who started the media feeding frenzy against that fat film producer with stubble actually paid off a sex-offence alleger of her own.
August 13th; Monday. 'Pussy church' of witches against transsexuals forms in US. Meanwhile, a researcher suggests we all have a psychopath default setting deep in our lizard brains (nice editorial art).

August 12th; Sunday. Physically weak men more often left wing.
August 11th; Saturday. Orban's government has decided to shut down 'Gender Studies' at all Hungarian universities. Another cunning ruse to distress some and cause others merry mirth.

August 10th; Friday. Summer heat still quite formidable, after dark too. Air thick like suet. Go to supermarket about 9pm. Three girls making flutey noises in French come in after me dressed in black shorts and black tops, the un peu sportif, un peu sexy look. I glance them over in what's probably a very ungallant stare, turn round and try again to understand the corner cabinet's strange array of lactose-free cheeses. Suddenly there's a slight extra warmth all down one side. I become aware that the prettiest of the three is precisely next to me, as in less than half an inch from touching, glancing over the same shelves in a vaguely aloof, scientific way. To do this she's somehow crossed about twenty feet of empty shopfloor in a second - it's almost occult, as if I suffered a time slip or black out. I spend the standard two-second window of opportunity pushing lactose and cheese out of my thoughts and pulling up my in-head French-language-remark menu display, by which time she glides off past the cucumbers, radiating cool, disinterested curiosity about other food items. Shaking this odd moment out of my heat-addled mind, I choose some purchases, passing a different lass, boyfriend in tow, leggy with lustrous mid-brown hair cascading down her back like a waterfall. I get into the massive double queue this shop has stretching down two aisles every night from about 7pm to closing at 10pm, a double tube of customers feeding six tills, three along each side wall, resembling a great intestine. After only a few minutes, get to a till, and as I pay for my items literally feel the leggy lass, nowhere to be seen seconds ago, manifesting next to me. The small golden hairs of her bare arm are brushing my bare arm. She's chosen the next till in such a way to squeeze her whole length into a desk gap just a millimetre away from my body, and her boyfriend is the far side of her talking to the cashier. Pesky aftershave.
August 9th; Thursday. Years since I thought of this book cover.

August 8th; Wednesday. A chance to hear some ancient Greek music.
August 7th; Tuesday. Interesting bar chart of how religious denominations voted on Brexit. Muslims & atheists like the EU, Anglicans & Jews not so much: article.

August 6th; Monday. For the first time since the last century I buy and drink a can of Vimto. Remember the pop group I saw performing at college and one of their songs went "He's the man turning water into Vimto", thought they were good, went up to the bass guitarist afterwards to tell him, and he said that just that afternoon before their gig they'd decided to split up. Is that Vimto for me? Surprisingly pleasant taste.
August 5th; Sunday. China's creepy future police state project continues.

August 4th; Saturday. Man in Texas steals baby shark in pram.
August 3rd; Friday. At a Las Vegas hackers' conference, participants break into supposedly-secure voting machines in two hours.

August 2nd; Thursday. Apparently earth's longest maintained set of temperature records, the 'Central England Temperature' dataset goes back to the late 1650s.
August 1st; Wednesday. Early in morning finished one of those short introductory paperbacks rendered in mashed-up historical illustrations with speech balloons. 'Mathematics' The aims are ambitious, to amiably introduce a whole range of topics in the subject (probability, differentiation, logarithms, trigonometry) both in cultural context and without boring readers who are almost certainly not keen on maths (yet). A variety of small scenes cut out of 19th-century novels and prewar schoolboy cartoons are pasted together in a zany manner. In some cases this genuinely makes a concept clearer, but mostly the effect is a manic determination not to be boring. Alongside this, the concern to dethrone European claims to mathematical supremacy and emphasise the algebraic contributions of 10th, 11th, and 12th century Muslims, + some Indian and Chinese thinkers, is probably the strongest undercurrent in the book. Of course to mention that Galois was a republican "in a reactionary era" or that Turing was a gay man who suffered from old-fashioned moral prejudices are good ways to involve readers not immediately interested in the maths. At the same time, hard not to feel the cultural politics are priority 1; enthusing people about the subject and explaining parts of it taking a fairly distant second place.
Meet Jessica off train in Budapest. She pulls a very interesting spread of cards in the cheerfully unspooky environs of the shopping-centre food court.




Mark Griffith, site administrator / markgriffith at yahoo.com