The first rule of proper English? There is no proper English

Wednesday, 25 March, 2015

I am, sometimes, and who knows why, asked to offer my advice (I almost said advise), as to what constitutes correct, or proper, English, in certain circumstances. Not an easy question really to answer, given 1200 million people, all across the globe, speak the language.

The user base is simply too diverse, too spread out, too alive and in the moment, to make the imposing of lasting rules possible. Of course, that’s not to say you shouldn’t learn the rules, or conventions first, before you go – as it were – breaking them.

The grammatical rules invoked by pedants aren’t real rules of grammar at all. They are, at best, just stylistic conventions: An example would be the use of a double negative (I can’t get no satisfaction). It makes complete grammatical sense, as an intensifier. It’s just a convention that we don’t use double negatives of that form in Standard English.

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Studying for a degree by degrees that doesn’t result in a degree

Wednesday, 25 March, 2015

It’s one way to gain a tertiary education, drift from one university to another, and attend whatever lectures you can gain access to. It’s something Canadian Guillaume Dumas did for four years, and while he obviously didn’t end up with a degree, he probably came away far more educated than some graduates…

For four years, the 28-year-old from Quebec lived the life of a wandering scholar, moving from one university town to the next, attending lectures and seminars, getting into heated debates with professors. Sometimes he was open about his unregistered status, but most of the time, fearing reprisal, he kept it quiet. To pay for his everyday expenses, he worked at cafes and occasionally earned money by writing papers for other students.

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This is what happens when Daleks attempt to relax

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015

I guess if you’re a Dalek up against a foe like Doctor Who, you’d need a technique, or five, for relaxing after a hard day’s battle. And in what is surely a rare goodwill gesture, our favourite extraterrestrial mutant cyborgs have adapted these methods especially for humans.

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What will happen in Britain when Queen Elizabeth II dies

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015

I’m not much of a monarchist. While I think the British monarchy is fine for Britain, if that’s what the British people want, I think Australia should have its own, Australian, head of state, and by that, I don’t mean a person who represents the British monarch, even if she is referred to as the Queen of Australia here.

But enough politics. Queen Elizabeth II, the current British monarch, has reigned since 1952, but at age 88, will not be with us forever. While I don’t know what the protocol in Australia will be upon her eventual passing, it’s certainly not going to be an event you’ll miss if you reside in the United Kingdom, monarchist or otherwise.

Britain, it seems, will come to a virtual stand still for twelve days, during which time the sharemarket will remain closed, and the BBC will forgo screening comedy shows, among many other things:

For at least 12 days – between her passing, the funeral and beyond – Britain will grind to a halt. It will cost the British economy billions in lost earnings. The stock markets and banks will close for an indefinite period. And both the funeral and the subsequent coronation will become formal national holidays, each with an estimated economic hit to GDP of between £1.2 and £6 billion, to say nothing of organisational costs.

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I’ve been back in time with you and didn’t it change my life or what

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015

Back in Time is a documentary that takes stock of the not insignificant cultural impact of the Back to the Future films. This I am waiting for. In the meantime, here’s the trailer.

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The Irish banking crisis, and Eurozone bailout, explained. Sort of…

Tuesday, 24 March, 2015

By way of an Irish Independent article from 2011, one way of making sense, if that’s the right word, of the recent Irish banking crisis:

By providing her customers freedom from immediate payment demands Mary gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Mary’s gross sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognises that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Mary’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral.

It brings to mind this Zero Hedge piece, also from 2011, explaining how the European debt crisis bailout package could be seen to be working. Read right on through the article for Zero Hedge’s, the glass is always empty, interpretation of the bailout:

It is a slow day in a little Greek village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.

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The whole universe could just dissolve into a glass of water…

Monday, 23 March, 2015

Image by Navid Baraty

What have we here? The first photo of what looks to be a habitable planet in a solar system other than ours? It may well look that way, but the above image was created by US based photographer Navid Baraty, with basic cooking ingredients, such as food colouring and salt, among other items.

Using olive oil, flour, garlic powder, sesame oil, cumin, baking soda, together with the likes of chalk, baby powder, cat fur, and makeup, Baraty has produced an impressive collection of images that look more like they were photos taken by, say, the Hubble Space Telescope.

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Gone as far as SimCity will let you? How about… SimGalaxy next?

Monday, 23 March, 2015

If you’ve enjoyed building city after city while playing SimCity, but are now looking to expand the scale a little, Stellar just might be for you. Rather than constructing cities, you are tasked with assembling galaxies, one star at a time:

Harvest hydrogen and helium from the galactic dust between stars, and forge basic elements into more precious materials deep in the fiery heart of a star. Create safe and hospitable planets for life to grow, or blow up supernovae to spread new matter into the galaxy.

How’s that for an astronomical engineering challenge then?

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See Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings now, before they all turn white

Monday, 23 March, 2015

If you’re yet to view the actual paintings of Vincent Van Gogh, as opposed to photos or footage of the works, now might be a good time… it seems a synthetically-made paint that the Dutch Post-Impressionist artist made use of, is now resulting in a discolouration of the same artworks, causing some hues to turn white.

Also known as red lead, plumbonacrite is suspected to be one of the first synthetically-made paints known to man, and van Gogh was a particular fan of the stuff. In many of his paintings he used bold colors – including the red hue – which apparently degrades like a Gobstopper candy when exposed to light.

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Heard, but unheard of, that’s film sound effect the Wilhelm Scream

Monday, 23 March, 2015

This is what I love about the interwebs, you learn at least one new something every day… for instance, a sound effect called the Wilhelm Scream, a kind of comedic shriek, is practically a stock standard sound effect, that has been used in numerous movies and TV shows, including the “Star Wars” films:

The Wilhelm Scream has made an appearance in more than 300 films, television shows, and video games, and has cemented itself as the inside joke of the industry’s best sound editors. Most frequently used when someone falls to his death, is shot, or is thrown aside by an explosion, the Wilhelm is often cited as cinema’s most-used sound clip.

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