Wednesday, 10 December 2008


Just found out that I passed my MA! I'm not sure how I did it, but I did.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

On Writing Well

Willian Zinsser:
Nobody told all the new computer writers that the essence of writing is rewriting. Just because they’re writing fluently doesn’t mean they’re writing well. 
That condition was first revealed with the arrival of the word processor. Two opposite things happened: good writers got better and bad writers got worse. Good writers welcomed the gift of being able to fuss endlessly with their sentences—pruning and revising and reshaping—without the drudgery of retyping. Bad writers became even more verbose because writing was suddenly so easy and their sentences looked so pretty on the screen. How could such beautiful sentences not be perfect?
Guilty as charged, I think.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

American Civil Test

Via Yahoo! News I just read about this online test of American history, economics and civics. Apparently, out of some 2,500 people who answered the quiz, ‘ordinary’ Americans scored an average of 49%; while elected officials scored only 44%. That’s pretty embarrassing, and the additional findings raise some interesting issues.

Out of curiosity—or arrogance—I decided to have a go at the test myself. And I go stuck on a few things, such as the main issue in the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas in 1858. Had to guess a couple. But there are only 33 questions, and not all of them are quite so esoteric.

I scored 67%.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Vobis Magdeburg: Avoid

Last month, Apple introduced the new aluminium MacBooks, which feature vastly improved graphics cards and significantly higher performance. The relation between the new MacBooks and the old white plastic MacBooks is more or less the same as between the old 12” iBooks and PowerBooks of a few years ago: same size, different cases, and very different innards. Although the white MacBook line wasn’t discontinued completely, it did receive a large price drop—from €1,099 to €940.

Just to summarise—in case you’re confused—there are two important facts here: the new aluminium MacBooks are considerably better than the old white MacBooks; and the old white MacBooks were made considerably cheaper.

However, according to the salesperson in the Vobis store in Magdeburg, the only difference between the two models is the case: one is plastic, the other metal. Oh, and the white MacBooks still cost €1,099, and here’s the invoice to prove it.

Or, in other words: we’re money-grubbing parasites who will lie to you and then charge you too much money.

Screw you, as they say in France.

Monday, 17 November 2008

In Aller Stille, by Die Toten Hosen

Not bad at all. In Aller Stille opens with a 'We're still here!’ song which sets the tone for the rest of the album. There's less musical experimentation (or, depending on your perspective, boredom) here than the Hosen's had a decade ago, so there's no horn sections or supermarket trolleys or funk rhythms. Nevertheless, a cello creeps into a couple of pieces, as well as a duet on a ballad. And a decent ballad at that. There is a fair amount of shouting—which should please my brother—although at times it sounds a little cheesy, as do the Madonna-esque keyboards on 'Disco' (but you can't really hold that against them as that's their point). All in all it's a short, punchy album which doesn't really do anything new but does show that the Hosen's can still muster up enough passion, anger, and musicality to remain relevant. Whether it's still punk is another question.

Verdict: Good; worth hearing. RYM review.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A drunken name

So there I am with my girlfriend on the station at Naumburg, and I am accosted by an amiable drunk who seems fascinated by the fact I’m English. Fine, whatever, discreetly move to a carriage further up the train when it arrives. But my friend is now moving along the train, and eventually settles not far away, talking to the Russian woman opposite him. I should note at this point that he seems perfectly capable of speaking several languages, and well. Noticing me again, he takes a renewed interest, and proceeds to offer me wisdom relating to a number of issues. First of all, German is a very important language, as so many other European languages are derived from it, and German women are tall.

Next, he tells me that German women are dangerous because they just want a man with a well-paid and steady job. Finally, just before he leaves the train, he tells me that he has just decided on the name of the first son that my girlfriend and I will have together.

Winston Aurelius Maximilian.