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Archive for November, 2012

iTunes 11: Up Next

Friday, 30 November, 2012 0 Comments

Show me the money! So said Jerry Maguire in 1996. And show me the music, I say. It’s nice to know what’s upcoming and if I don’t like what the latest iTunes update has in mind, I can now move something more suitable to the head of the queue thanks to the Up Next feature via the “hamburger” icon. Like.

The Fairytale Of New York nightmare

Thursday, 29 November, 2012 1 Comment

Oh, no! The Fairytale Of New York, the Christmas song by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl, is back in the charts 25 years after its release. According to the NME: The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale Of New York’ bookies favourite for Christmas Number One. The terrifying thing about this song is that unimaginative radio DJs have been playing it ad nauseam for a quarter of a century and any emotional value that it had has been erased through overexposure. For those who hate the tacky side of Christmas, life has become even more horrid.

The nightmarish lachrymosity of Fairytale is discussed with passion at Mumsnet. “Hate it. Crappy cliches about drunken Irish people in prison singing songs from the auld country and gambling. Crappy video, crappy singing, crappy message,” writes SuePurblybiltbyElves. “And the boys of the NYPD choir still singing Galway Bay…”

Sexy dictator satire produces red faces at the People’s Daily

Wednesday, 28 November, 2012 0 Comments

“No doubt, few would seriously describe Kim Jong-Un as sexy, much less as the world’s sexiest man. Nor would many people equate People’s Daily with sexiness. But if there’s one place in the world willing — or, at least, desiring — to believe that a foreign publication would praise him in such a way, it’s […]

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Ham Sandwich time travel

Tuesday, 27 November, 2012 0 Comments

The first written usage in English of “sandwich” appeared in the diary of Edward Gibbon referring to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich”. It was named after John Montagu, an 18th-century English aristocrat of whom it is said that he ordered his valet to bring him meat tucked between two pieces of bread, and […]

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Keep the UN and its agencies away from the internet

Monday, 26 November, 2012 0 Comments

On Monday, 3 December, representatives of the world’s governments will meet in Dubai to update a key agreement with a UN agency called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Press reports suggest that the Russian Federation, Iran, China, Zimbabwe and other notorious champions of totalitarianism want control of key internet systems passed the ITU. “Member states […]

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Carved ducks

Sunday, 25 November, 2012 0 Comments

In Cockney rhyming slang, the expression “to duck and dive” means “to skive”. Example: “Not going into work today, mate. I’m duckin’ and divin’”. Which brings us nicely to Old English, where dūce, meaning “diver”, is a derivative of the verb dūcan, to bend down low as if to get under something, because of the […]

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Gary Clark, Jr. ain’t buyin’ you a diamond ring thang

Saturday, 24 November, 2012 0 Comments

Meant to post this last Saturday seeing that Gary Clark Jr. is from Austin, Texas, which was the setting for the penultimate Formula 1 race of the season. Clark is the real neo-blues deal and his buzzing-bee guitar sound combined with a suave vocal style suggest great things to come. “Well I ain’t got no […]

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Macmillan Dictionary: “exiting print is a moment of liberation”

Friday, 23 November, 2012 0 Comments

Back at the beginning of this month, the Macmillan publishing company announced that it would no longer make paper dictionaries. In a blog post titled Stop the presses — the end of the printed dictionary, Michael Rundell, the editor-in-chief of the famed Macmillan Dictionary, made the case thus: “Thirty years ago, the arrival of corpus […]

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Punishing the adulterer Petraeus

Thursday, 22 November, 2012 0 Comments

This is a tricky one for Western jurists (and journalists) because they are divided as to whether adultery is a crime or a sin or a lifestyle choice. From a Shariah point of view, it’s simple: He should be stoned to death. Well, that’s what the Taliban say, and they have form in these matters […]

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Black humour and deep insight from the Black Swan

Wednesday, 21 November, 2012 0 Comments

“No, I don’t use Facebook. I absolutely don’t want to stay in touch with everybody in my past. I really believe in falling out of touch with people.” So says Tina Brown in a wide-ranging talk with New York Magazine. While Facebook can be a huge waste of time and a narcissistic indulgence, it can also be a platform for intellectual debate as Nassim Nicholas Taleb proved with his 16 October post, “The Stickiness of Languages“.

The comments add depth to the post and all of them are excellent:

Matthew Vallarino “In Genoese there are many nouns (goods, navigation etc.) that have Arabic origins which would have simplified trade, knowledge and communication.”

Jean-Benoit Nadeau “This reminds a point I learned but am looking for comfirmation: apparently, the Latin term Hispania was a deformation of the Phoenician I-shepan-ha (meaning Land of Hyraxes).”

Patrick Vlaskovits “Why did Magyar language displace local Slavs and Avars (Turkic language group I think) when the Hungarians occupied the Carpathian basin?”

Taleb makes no bones about his refined intelligence but once you get used to his style his humour is addictive. Here, he talks about the “Iatrogenics of wealth”. Snippet:

The master of the Black Swan“As a child I was certain that poor people were happier because they had less complicated but more social lives, huddled together in small quarters, and having no soccer mom (or the then-equivalent), they could just play in the streets etc. In addition, rich people use harmful technologies, go to the gym instead of playing in the streets, meet economists and other frauds, etc… So there were things money could not buy, in effect, money caused you to lose… Later on when I got a windfall check, in my twenties (before it became more common for people in finance to get big bucks), I discovered another harmful side of wealth: unless one hid the cash, it was hard to know who one’s friends were…”

It was The Black Swan that brought Nassim Nicholas Taleb global recognition, and now he’s back with a new book, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder, which is being described as “a blueprint for living in a Black Swan world.” Here’s the core message:

“We all know that the stressors of exercise are necessary for good health, but people don’t translate this insight into other domains of physical and mental well-being. We also benefit, it turns out, from occasional and intermittent hunger, short-term protein deprivation, physical discomfort and exposure to extreme cold or heat. Newspapers discuss post-traumatic stress disorder, but nobody seems to account for post-traumatic growth. Walking on smooth surfaces with ‘comfortable’ shoes injures our feet and back musculature: We need variations in terrain.”

Modernity, says Taleb, is obsessed with comfort and cosmetic stability, but by making ourselves too comfortable and by eliminating all volatility from our lives, we make our bodies and souls fragile. The antidote is understanding disorder.

How to parse a tweet

Tuesday, 20 November, 2012 0 Comments

“A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,” said Gertrude Stein, but a tweet is much more than a text-based message of up to 140 characters. This is what a lot of Brits are about to learn now that Lord McAlpine’s team of technical and legal experts has set to work. Background: […]

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