Archive for September, 2007

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September 27, 2007

Time to link to another post in Language Log: “The “happiness gap” and the rhetoric of statistics”. It’s more to do with general scientific method than with linguistics, but it expresses really well something that always annoys me no end. Mark Liberman writes: “Most people think in essentialist and non-statistical terms, as if all the members of a category were uniform copies of an invariant prototype.” Yes! That is exactly it. Of course it can be questioned whether actually most people do it – it is certainly the case that it seems that most people do, and that enough people do it for it to be what the doctors call Very Annoying Indeed.

Which is not to say that I would like everybody to walk around thinking in statistical terms. I don’t. I don’t want to think in statistical terms myself, it hurts my brain when I have to. But the point remains: “More women than men like to do X, so she’ll like to do X cos she’s a woman” (or teenager, or any other more-or-less random grouping of people.) It doesn’t actually take any knowledge of statistics or scientific methods to see the basic flaw in that type of reasoning – and yet we see examples of it every day.

So read that post, even though it’s longish and contains statistical diagrams. It’s worth it.

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September 27, 2007

There is a Facebook application called “Compare” where you get to compare your contacts (all right, your friends) within a number of different categories – you get the names of two random people in your friends list, and choose which one of them is the more famous, more talented, cuter, a better singer, a harder worker, or whatever. This can get rather amusing, such as when I was asked to choose which one of two bald friends has the better hair, or whether person A (male) or person B (female) would be a better father (though I think the latter was actually a bug.) In any case, it makes me wonder if my friends know me at all. At the moment, I’m ranked as the most organised person in my network – eleven people think I’m more organised than some other friend of theirs. Well, maybe they just have very disorganised friends, what do I know.

Looking at the bottom of the table, I find that nobody thinks I’m more outgoing or more talkative than anybody else. (Well, nor do I!) And almost nobody thinks my smile or my taste in music are better than their random friend’s. Hmph! I’ll just stick to the top of the table, where people would rather have dinner with me. Not to mention that 11 out of 18 people would rather get stuck in handcuffs with me than with their other friend – which probably means they think I know how to pick locks.

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September 24, 2007

The children came back later: I was outside trying to get Bonadea to agree to come in, and they were sitting on our fence so I went out there to chat with them. The girls are 5 and 7, and the boy is 7, and they are not siblings but live in the houses next to each other (and next to our house). They told me this and many other things, and I got Cassandra and held her for them so they could stroke her until she tired of it – then I took her inside and gave her some cat milk to appease her. The younger of the girls wanted to hold Cass, but I didn’t let her for there could have been some blood-shed, and I’d certainly have had to go Cassandra-hunting for quite some time. Bonadea, clever cat that she is, stayed away until they had left.

It felt very… familiar but opposite, to be the neighbour lady you come over to chat with. I mean, when I was a kid, the grownups in my street were kind people who did their incomprehensible grownup things, but were generally happy to see you and usually up for a few minutes’ chat.

So we’ll see if these become general hangers-around and fans of our cats, or if this was a passing interest of theirs and they will keep doing their incomprehensible kid things further down the street. It’s good to have some social contact with the neighbours in any case.

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September 24, 2007

Three kids just rang my doorbell. I heard them talking all the way up the driveway (all of seven metres or so) and was prepared to say “No thanks, I don’t want to buy jultidningar” as I opened the door. But no, they were not selling anything (they must have been too young for that, actually) – they wanted to give me a glass marble. They had a basket full of them, and asked with toothless grins if I wanted one. How could I have refused? So I got a marble, and gave them each an apple from our tree, and we were all quite pleased. As they left, they gave me another marble. “My cats will like these!” I said. “I have SEEN your cats! They are really cute!” said one of the girls. Excellent kids, those three. They will go far.

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September 20, 2007

I have grumbled about Blogger, repeatedly, in the five years and a bit that Néablog has (intermittently) existed, but I believe I am approaching the point where I’ll do something about moving to another platform. I’m tired of having all non-English characters in my older postings mangled, I’m tired of the archiving system only sort of working, and above all I’m tired of the time it takes to do the simplest update. One of the defining characteristics of a weblog is that it’s a rapid medium; slower than chat but much faster than offline writing. And ever since Google bought Blogger, posting to the blog, updating the template, adding tags to postings and everything else that involves writing to the blog takes at least several minutes every time. One of my recent posts took over a quarter of an hour to publish. In the olden days before Google, it was possible to publish just the index page of the blog; now, however, the entire blog is re-published, all 630-something posts each time I do an update, however small. Which means, of course, that the non-English chars in my older posts stay mangled, for I don’t have the hours it would take to update the posts (and in any case there is no guarantee they won’t be mangled again, even though I use ASCII codes these days.) Of course one is not supposed to publish to another domain than blogspot, and we who do so are punished for it. It just isn’t funny any longer.

Besides, I am tired of the washed-out look of this thing, but there is no way I’d start playing around with templates given how long an update takes.

So. WordPress, I think. It is possible to install it on the server – I’d have to check with Walter if it’s possible – or I could just import this whole blog to wordpress.com. I have already registered an account there.

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September 19, 2007

The wedding was really fun. The weather was perfect, the bride and groom were lovely and radiant, and we suffered not at all from our halting German – though as always, I decided that I will try and improve it, I really will…

German weddings are not that different from Swedish ones, except that the church wedding is not sufficient on its own – the legally binding ceremony is civil, and can take place before or after the church wedding (which is not obligatory). In Sweden, couples can choose a civil or a religious wedding, but if they go for the religious version they don’t need a civil one as well. Anyway, in this case the happy couple had been legally wed for a month already, not that that detracted any from the ceremony in the church! I admit that I did not quite understand all of the priest’s speech, but to sing hymns in German felt quite natural.

The wedding cake was magnificent and very yummy – and quite rich. Fortunately, we got a few hours to get hungry again, before the dinner which was excellent. I don’t think I’d had Sauerkraut before, it’s definitely a taste I would have remembered. I wonder where I can get it in Sweden.

According to a couple of the other guests, and the bride, many German weddings include a lot of games for the guests. (Well, so do Swedish weddings, come to think of it.) This one didn’t, which gave us lots of time to talk to the other people, those we knew and those we didn’t. The entertainment was splendid, too.

Our pictures are here. (There will be more of them soon, I believe – I managed to hide some of the best photos so Johan couldn’t upload them to flickr.)

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September 14, 2007

Tomorrow morning we’re off to Germany to attend a wedding: that makes three weddings this year, in three different countries. (The first one was in Finland in February, the second in Old Uppsala in August.) It should be fun; I leave too many unfinished things behind but hopefully I’ll be able to relax anyway. I’m not bringing the computer which may or may not help with relaxation. I very much look forward to meeting some friends I’ve never before seen in real life (you know, Internet friends as oppsed to real friends) as well as the happy couple and a few other people I’ve met before – it will be a lot of fun, I’m sure of that.

I just hope I won’t have to speak too much German, or that if I do, I won’t make a total fool of myself. I understand the language pretty well, but when speaking I tend to get lost. Perhaps I’d better practice a bit. An auf hinter in neben über unter vor zwischen. Aus außer bei gegenüber mit nach seit von zu. Think the other guests will think I’m odd if I respond to them with a string of prepositions?