Monday, June 25, 2012

Things Other People Don’t Notice

South American prostitutes spend an enormous amount of time talking on the phone, with great animation.. My experience of South American prostitutes is rather limited, but they are frequently gathered outside 'bars', imnvariably gesticulating pointless at the person on the other end of the phone they have stuck to their ear. I did know a Venezuelan girl socially at one point, and she was exactly the same when she was with a customer. When she was just at a party with her boyfriend she didn't behave that way.

The first team to miss a penalty in the shoot-out goes on to win. This is unlikely to be a universal law, and it was easy to prove false, but as a tendency I believe it is real. Italy showed how it works last night. When Montolivo put it high, I knew we were in trouble. And so it turned out.

A bull that stops suddenly and quivers in the first stage of a bullfight will be brave and give good ‘juego’. It's a kind of convulsion that some bulls give when first confronted with a cape. It's not regarded as a good sign, but by the end it's been forgotten and no one bothers to correlate. Well I have done, over the years, and it is clearly a good sign. I can't recall a bull turning out bad when it's made that gesture.

The children of child psychologists/child psychiatrists/experts in children are invariably weird. For professional reasons I have known quite a lot of such people, and when I say they invariably have weird children, I meam I haven't come across an exception. I suspect that parenting is, in general, something best done naturally, by instinct. When you try to do it by the application of theories, based on unconfirmed and perhaps unconfirmable hypotheses, that were developed to deal with children with mental problems and in difficult circumstances, you create a problem that shouldn't have existed.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Future of Network Design is not (Quite) Dog's Vomit

When you come across an article about slime mould designing rail networks your attention is grabbed. Especially if you are, very tangentially, involved with designing railway networks. I work with a team that creates computational algorithms for routing rail and road systems. I’m just the translator, but the insight it gives me into the process is very interesting. The idea is striking and absurd, and whatever slime mould is (it’s this, apparently) it has the sort of name that fits well in absurd situations.

You might think that all the slime mould has done is, once it’s worked out the quickest way to get between the places where the food is, and how far apart they are and how much food is in each place, it’s quite easy just to go back over the short paths and everything just becomes a network of straight lines. But in fact it doesn’t. You can clearly see that the lines are more or less straight and regular, but it isn’t a question of joining every node to every other. That would be highly inefficient. The network created uses some existing nodes as waypoints to get to others, and creates new nodes when it is efficient to do so. This is what network designers do also.

If a collection of unicellular organisms with no nervous system, let alone sense organs or a brain, can do this, then, you might say, it can’t be too difficult, can it? Isambard Kingdom Brunel did it for most of the country with just a pencil and paper, and he seems to have done a pretty good job, but then he had a fully functioning brain and a team of similar organisms to work with, which always puts you ahead of the game.

The team I work with, and other teams that they work with, are busy creating new algorithms to make network design better. The problems are of unimaginable complexity, enormously greater than is generally realized. Huge quantities of data to do with terrain characteristics, land value, current demand, future demand (itself a function of the final design), and economic impact, have to be obtained to an acceptable degree of accuracy, and then analysed to find the most efficient solution. The really hard work, the clever bit where the computer engineers earn their money, is in designing algorithms that will enable you to find a good solution before the sun becomes a supernova and renders the whole exercise academic. The computational cost of these algorithms is truly astronomical, and getting it right, as opposed to nearly right, can cut millions off the cost of a project, and add many more millions to the economy of the area whose transportation it facilitates. This last factor is probably impossible to quantify, but it is undoubtedly true. Brunel had to play it by ear, and with hindsight, it could certainly have been done better.

I don’t see our road and rail networks being designed by slime mould in the future, but many heuristic algorithms are modelled on analogies with, or even direct observation of, natural processes. Experiments could easily incorporate topographical and geological features, as I imagine slime mould avoid steep hills and unsatisfactory environments the way most of us do, and a lot could be learned from observing them. Even if it only leads to the refinement of existing algorithms they will have done us a great service.

Next week: I am beaten at chess by a team of flagellate protozoa. Artificial intelligence may not be what we think it will be.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

On Molybdomancy

Molybdomancy is something mediaeval Norwegians did when they weren’t looking for islets to bean each other with axes on (see Holmganga). It consists, as the name will suggest to classically educated readers, of divining the future through lead*. Molten lead, in this case, poured into water, and the shadow of the resulting solid shape observed by candlelight. These can then be interpreted according to the standard symbolisms, the inspiration of the diviner and, no doubt, the influence of strong liquor.

I don’t know what they call it in Scandinavia, as the Wiki article doesn’t say, and Mrs Hickory hasn’t achieved that level of competence in Old Norse yet, but I assume they have their own, Germanic, word for it.

There is almost no limit to the means by which man, in his desperation, has sort to peer into the future. From the flight of birds to the entrails of sacrificial victims, from the cryptic responses of aging women in temples to random selections of words from leather bound books, from teabags to playing cards to apple peelings, from the patterns of moss on tree trunks to the tracks of ants across the fields and of clouds across the sky, there are probably no patterns that have not been used at one time. The need to believe that we can control aspects of the world that are manifestly beyond our control is part of our humanity. The failure of all these methods to predict anything successfully doesn’t stop whole cultures believing in them.

I assume that when modern Norsemen sit around the fire at Christmas and cast lead in water they are having a bit of fun, but you wonder how many bad decisions their ancestors took because of the way the light fell on a lump of lead. On the other hand it’s probably as good a way of taking them as any other.

*The word μόλυβδος has an interesting history, made even more interesting by its obscurity. I leave this little taster for those who enjoy these things.

 Greek mólybdos as a Loanword from Lydian
H. Craig Melchert
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Beekes (1999: 7-8) has established that the oldest form of the Greek word for ‘lead’ is Mycenaean mo-ri-wo-do (for attestations of the word see Aura Jorro 1985: 1:457-458). Beekes reads the Mycenaean as /moliwdos/, but one must also consider /molivdos/, as suggested by Chantraine (1968: 710 and 1972: 205-206).1 As per Beekes (1999: 10), all later variants of the word in Greek can be derived from the shape attested in Mycenaean.
The earliest Greek form /moliw/vdos/ precludes any connections of the word with Latin plumbum or Basque berun ‘lead’ (thus with Beekes 1999: 10-11). Beekes, who argues for Asia Minor as the source of the Greek word, cites in passing Lydian mariwda- after Furnée, but merely as an example of the sequence -wd- in a language of Asia Minor. He can do nothing further with the Lydian word attested as a divine name.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I have just discovered another (apparent) myth, and a a very curious animal, unrelated except that it’s also about evolution, and it allows me to show some good photos. It's about the heikegani crab, which has lumps on its shell which allegedly look like Samurai. The idea is that the ones that look like Samurai are thrown back into the sea by the fishermen, and so they had a reproductive advantage and now they all look like Samurai. There are a number of problems with this.

The first is that they don’t look like Samurai. If you squint a bit they look like fat Orientals, and I suppose you can see a helmet, which might qualify them as warriors, but from there to Heike, who were a specific clan of Samurai, is quite a leap. It’s not so strange that they would have been associated with a particular group in society, but the idea that those that looked a bit more like Heike than the others would not have been eaten is very strange.

Then there is the fact that, according to Wikipedia (this is all from WP in fact, as until yesterday I’d never heard of Heike or heikegani) they aren’t used as food at all, so they would only be fished by accident. But the evolutionary pressure argument is surely invalid. At any time there must be many millions of these things in the waters around Japan. Only the tiniest fraction of them would ever be caught, and so theoretically subjected to the artificial evolutionary pressure of respectful fishermen. Even over the dozens or perhaps hundreds of generations for which they have been caught (or not, see above), this would have a negligible effect on the shape of their shells.

But it’s a good story, and a curious animal.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Misunderstanding Evolution

From this curious unsatisfying essay by Philip Kitcher (and I wish I could remember who sent me there, but it was some time ago), which I shall respond to in detail at some point in the future (by which time he'll probably have forgotten he ever wrote it):

“A tale from the history of human biology brings out the point. John Arbuthnot, an eighteenth-century British physician, noted a fact that greatly surprised him. Studying the registry of births in London between 1629 and 1710, he found that all of the years he reviewed showed a preponderance of male births: in his terms, each year was a “male year.” If you were a mad devotee of mechanistic analysis, you might think of explaining this—“in principle”—by tracing the motions of individual cells, first sperm and eggs, then parts of growing embryos, and showing how the maleness of each year was produced. But there is a better explanation, one that shows the record to be no accident. Evolutionary theory predicts that for many, but not all, species, the equilibrium sex-ratio will be 1:1 at sexual maturity. If it deviates, natural selection will favor the underrepresented sex: if boys are less common, invest in sons and you are likely to have more grandchildren. This means that if one sex is more likely to die before reaching reproductive age, more of that sex will have to be produced to start with. Since human males are the weaker sex—that is, they are more likely to die between birth and puberty—reproduction is biased in their favor.”

This is the standard misunderstanding of how evolution works. It is very hard to avoid the language of teleology when talking of evolution. Even experts do it, and, although they at least only use the language, not the theoretical framework, it is very confusing to those who are trying to grasp the idea. The idea that ‘evolution’ holds a meeting with itself and says hold on chaps we need more boys in Bognor Regis this weekend, is nonsense, but it seems to be what people believe. In the ongoing debates between creationists and evolutionists that do so much to enliven the drudgery of existence in the southern USA, the evolutionist side is handicapped by the fact that most of its proponents are motivated by pure faith just as much as the creationists are. They ‘believe’ in evolution, but they don’t understand it.

Zebras did not evolve stripes to confuse lions. There are zebras because they evolved stripes which confuse lions. In the great game of life and evolution, being favoured means not dying young, and so getting the chance to reproduce. Less successful evolutionary pathways are truncated, not by some sentient ‘evolution’, but by the teeth of lions.

In most countries more boys are born than girls, but there is no obvious reason for this. The usual explanation is that, where there happen to be fewer males (for example) they will have a wider choice of females and so will produce more offspring (the males will have more offspring on average than the females). Thus those people who are genetically predisposed to have produce boys will have more grandchildren and the balance will be restored.

You may have noticed the hand-waving slipped in there. It assumes that there is such as thing as being ‘genetically predisposed to produce males’. This is not known to be true. It is known to be true that we are genetically predisposed to produce roughly the same number of boys as girls.

The real reason the balance is approximately maintained is that anything else, in a given population, would be unstable and would cause such a population to die out (or to seek to redress the imbalance socially, by mixing with neighbouring populations). This is observably true, because only approximately balanced populations exist, but we don’t know why it’s true. All we can do is wave out hands about and talk about restoring equilibrium. But a given population doesn’t restore its equilibrium. The unbalanced populations disappear. We only see the survivors.

We are, biologically, monogamous, and it is that that probably leads to there being an approximately equal number of males and females.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What Bloody Beast is That?

My prickly co-blogger had a very curious experience last night, which we still haven’t been able to clarify, and probably never will.

I awoke to find a pool of blood next to the bed. It would have been of a disturbing size if it were human blood, but Mrs Hickory and I were free from injury, so we thought of our little zoo. The only one who was free that night was the hedgehog, so we went to his sleeping place to check. He was stained with blood on the left side of the neck, and on the leg. He didn’t look happy (hedgehogs nearly always look neurotic, but there is good neurotic and bad neurotic). On the other hand, he was sleeping and he didn’t try to scratch the wounded area.

It’s very difficult to inspect the flesh of a frightened hedgehog, as they refuse to unwind, so we went to the vet for a second opinion. She stuck a needle in him and when he was no longer in a position to argue, had a good look. She determined, she was pretty certain, that the blood was not his. He had no wounds in that area, and it hadn’t come from the mouth or the anus (I already knew that, as he could not have survived vomiting or excreting that quantity of blood. I wouldn’t have expected him to survive even if had come from a wound, and, although he wasn’t quite normal, he didn’t look as though he were about to join the five elements).

So it turned out that the worst thing that had happened to him that day was to be hauled from his bed and have a needle stuck in him. I paid the vet a handsome sum for this information and was delighted to do so. Hickory awoke, looked askance with a mixture of pain and forgiveness, and went back to sleep in his bed, as soon as we gave him his socks back.

This leaves a number of options, none of them very likely. Did he find a small mammal, a mouse or shrew, perhaps, and attack it? A European hedgehog would, but the African hedgehogs are too small. And where is the deceased, anyway? Under the furniture, possibly, but we have found nothing, and he hasn’t returned to it. Not very likely.

So, did a bird or a bat fly through the window, was it followed by a hawk, did they fight, did the hawk leave with its bloody prey, and did Hickory run into the pool of blood on his nightly rounds? And did we sleep through all this, although it happened mere feet from us in the same room? Strange as it sounds, it is most likely what happened. At least, I can think of nothing better. Unless it wasn’t blood at all. But it looked like it, it smelt like it and the vet thought it was. She didn’t do the CSI test, but she knows blood when she sees it.

My prickly friend is now fine, hungry and full of energy. He has even forgiven us for what we did to him. He has probably forgotten what happened, and we shall never know.

Friday, June 8, 2012


From the Language Log again
(apw palin oikwi glossees)

·  Dan Lufkin said,
April 22, 2012 @ 11:46 am
I was flummoxed when I read on my Kindle William Miller's excellent book Losing It, a meditation on getting old and the Icelandic sagas (the concept works out better than you would think), to see that Brennu-Njál was rendered as "Njdl" and Hávamál as "Hdvamdl". Not only that, every ð became a "5″.
I reported this outrage to the author, who checked and told me that (as I'd expected) the fault lay with Amazon's OCR processing. I suggested challenging the editor to a hólmganga. Alas, we have no word in English for an axe fight with both contestants standing on a islet in a stream. I haven't heard yet how that came out.

You could question the need, in modern English, for a single word to refer to this concept. Nevertheless, it tells us a great deal about Old Norse culture that they had such a specific name for the standard way of resolving dispute. I suppose you could translate it roughly as ‘binding arbitration’, but the cultural baggage would have to be explained as well, or important nuances would be lost.
Mrs Hickory is studying Old Norse, in order to read the Sagas, and although she didn't remember this word, she confirms that they are largely concerned with plotting how to smite those who get in your way and display the pile of bones where interested parties can best see them and learn from them.
Politics at its most dramatic and poetic.

Update: I cut and pasted the comment from Dan Lufkin, and then wrote the atribution to Language Log above it. For some reason it came out in Greek letters, so in brackets below it I wrote the same attribution in Greek but with Roman letters. When I posted, however, the first line came out in the Roman alphabet, making the phrase in brackets pointless. Oh well, I thought; stet). Then I happened to look at the blog in Chrome, and the first line was suddenly in Greel characters. In short, if you read this in Chrome, Safari or IE you'll see Greek, if you use Firfox you'll see Roman. Why, I have no idea. That's t'internet for you.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Translator Complains about other Translators

I have a little list, with the excuse that it's useful in teaching and translation, of words and phrases that are often poorly translated in US or UK films shown on Spanish television.
It is common to be shaken out of the little world that the action has created for you by an expression that is quite obviously not the one the character would have used at that moment. As a native English speaker I find it fairly easy to work out what the original line was and what the character should have said, but by then any narrative magic has gone.
This is especially striking because there are many good voice actors in Spain (often much better than the faces) and the distributors take pride in recording the dubbed soundtracks very well. Forget any experience you might have seen with dubbed films in English, as it is rarely done and usually very poor. In Spain the Spanish version is often better than the original, especially if the original was from the US. (The inability of American actors to speak properly will doubtless be the subject of another rant at some point.)
But the budget for translation must be tiny, and the work is rushed through; easy, standardized solutions are used, rather than trying to be creative and seek something smooth and natural. The result is that bad lines are put in the mouths of good actors, which is artistically strange, and if artistic considerations are not particularly relevant here, commercial considerations certainly are, and don’t appear to be well served.
On the other hand, these expressions become so common in the experience of people who watch a lot of American TV series, that some of them have become normal in the Spanish language, and are close to becoming standard. Life imitating art, bad art in this case.
So here is a list of the commonest problems, which won’t be of any interest to most people, but it will serve as a reference for me, at least:

‘Oh, yes’- is usually translated as ‘Ohh, sí’, which may seem obvious, but when it is used to confirm something the other speaker has expressed doubt or surprise about, what people actually say is ‘sií, si’, which has completely different phonology and euphony.

‘Ignore’- the verb ‘ignorar’ in Spanish means ‘to not know, to be ignorant of sth’. But the English meaning has become standard as well, despite the protests of many (I don’t like it much, either). And this particular Anglicism can be traced to the television.

‘You’d better (do sth)’- this is a common, natural and unobtrusive way of giving advice, or sometimes stern orders, in English. When translated as ‘será mejor que hagas…’ it is neither natural nor unobtrusive, as it virtually parks a large lorry across the entire dialogue. Exactly how you would translate it depends on the context, but a direct imperative could work, or ‘por qué no..’, or ‘deberías…’. ‘Ser(i)á mejor que hagas…’ would only work as a translation of ‘you’d be better off doing…it’d be better if you did…’

‘Drawing room’- this is a strange one, because you would have thought someone would have noticed that nobody ever draws in the drawing room, but I have often heard it translated as ‘sala de dibujo’, which is literally a room for drawing in. Very lazy.

‘We’ll/let’s meet/meet (me) in your office at 6’- Again this natural and unobtrusive expression is often rendered by the clanking, unnatural phrase ‘nos reuniremos/reúnete conmigo en tu despacho a las 6’. Why? I scream at the screen. Why? Do these translators ever listen to the way real people speak? Do the actors themselves not complain that their jaws rebel against the attempt to articulate this nonsense? Does anybody care? Normal people say ‘nos vemos en tu despacho a las seis/pásate/acércate al despacho…’ and so on. It really isn’t hard.

‘How annoyed were you when the police car ran over your cat?’- Spanish has no structure equivalent to this (extremely annoying) journalistic formulation, for which we should be grateful. The great minds taxed with rendering it into Spanish are, it appears, unequal to the job of cutting out a word or two and treating it as ‘were you annoyed…’ which usually works fine. ‘Hasta qué punto se sentía molesto…?’ can work once, possibly, but only once. ‘Cuán molesto estabas…’ didn’t even work in Mexico in 1960. No real person has ever uttered that line.

Arrest’- the word for what the police do to suspects is ‘detener.’ ‘Arrestar’ has no legal meaning and is not normally used in Spanish, but when it is it just means ‘to stop’. See ‘ignore’.

Report’- the verbs meaning ‘to present information in a formal way to an interested party’ or ‘to tell the authorities about some naughtiness’ are ‘informar’ and ‘denunciar’ respectively. The nouns are ‘informe’ and ‘denuncia’. ‘Reportar’ is more or less a neologism in these senses, but is now entering normal use, because of the television. See ‘ignore’.

Pity she won’t live, but who does?’- elliptical verb clauses of this kind are a serious problem because they don’t exist in Spanish. Basically the auxiliary verb cannot have an emphatic function. There is no general solution to this problem, and no easy one even in specific sentences. To get the right balance of meaning, emphasis and rhythm requires careful thought and often a complete recasting of the sentence. The example sentence (a lifetime subscription to this blog to the first reader who knows where it comes from) was translated, ‘Una pena que no vivirá ¿pero quién vive?’ I think this was probably the right choice here. Other solutions involve the use of particles or changing the order of the statements, or simply stopping after a sí or no, if there is one, and if the sense allows it. It takes work to get this right.

do what’s right’- in Hollywood characters always seem to have the luxury of knowing what is right, and constantly exhort other characters to do it. ‘Ya godda do what’s right, ya know,’ ‘Yeah, I only want to do what’s right,’ with tortured brow muscles indicative of great sincerity. This will inevitably be translated as ‘Sólo quiero hacer lo correcto.’ ‘Hacer lo correcto’ has both a neuter pronoun and a trilled liquid, both of which reek of insinsecrity (look, they just do, OK), and more importantly, that is not what real Spanish speakers, the ones who’ve been doing it all their lives, say in that situation. You may be noticing a theme here. Your ears are regularly assaulted by the sound of people saying things which human beings do not in fact say.

We finish with some paternal advice to fresh-faced translators eager to do justice to their script: if the likely reaction of the character the line is addressed to is, ‘eh, why’d he say that?’, rather than what the director intended, then you need to try again.
And some advice to commissioning editors: sack that fresh-faced crew and hire someone who knows what they’re doing (I’m in the phonebook).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Pinched from the unimaginatively but informatively named Language Log (see blogroll)

'Decades ago Robert Warshow wrote an essay on "The New Yorker" that explains what Pinker is grappling with in trying to understand their need to create a false dichotomy in which they are the side of the Prescriptivists/Angels and Civilization itself, as well as their inability to understand that you can describe reality, recognize operative rules, and still acknowledge there are standards of usage that are useful and socially significant although entirely arbitrary from an linguistic point of view.

"The New Yorker has always dealt with experience not by trying to understand it but by prescribing the attitude to be adopted toward it. This makes it possible to feel intelligent without thinking, and it is a way of making everything tolerable, for the assumption of a suitable attitude toward experience can give one the illusion of having dealt with it adequately."

[(myl) Thanks for pointing to this essay, which I had not read. The citation is Robert Warshow, "E.B. White and the New Yorker", originally published in 1947 in Partisan Review under the title "Melancholy to the End", and reprinted in a 1962 collection Immediate Experience. It's a review of White's collection of essays on world government, The Wild Flag. I discussed my own encounter with The Wild Flag here.]'

This is very well put. It articulates the sense of hopelessness, of swimming through treacle, that I experience whenever I try to discuss anything remotely controversial,  or anything at all connected with economics, politics or what we might call general morality with almost anyone at all. I only tend to do it with the sort of people who throw in their own opinions on such subjects, uninvited and often unwanted, with the obvious assumption that a) whatever they just heard on the TV news is a complete and accurate analysis of the subject, and b) no reasonable person could possibly disagree with them.

The reasons for this are probably not hard to find. There are many subjects on which people feel they should have an opinion, indeed they may well feel that they are defined by their opinion on certain matters, and the more such subjects there are, and the more rapidly they appear and disappear as fashionable topics of conversation, the more difficult it is to do any real thinking or research. People take their opinions, their identity, off the peg from the sources they find at hand.

It doesn’t mean they are always wrong, just that they are not capable of having any real discussion, or of going deeper into the subject. They think they are arguing, but in fact their responses tend to be random dogmatic assertions, which they make no attempt to defend, other than by shouting, and most of the time seem to not even understand.

As you’ve probably guessed, I got drawn into an argument about the Spanish economy a couple of nights ago. And the quote I came across sums up the reason I should not have bothered: the media, or others with the help of the media, give people little bags of opinion, decorated with sequins of apparent explanation. People grab them gratefully and believe they have understood a difficult subject, when all they have done is adopt a second-hand attitude towards it, because it happens to fit their prejudices. The range of subjects to which this applies is enormous.

The response of most people to anything new- be it an idea, a person, a culture, an object, a practice, a place…- is defensive; they want to know if it will hurt them. Then they want to know how they can make it old as painlessly as possible, they want to know how it fits into the stuff they already know. It’s much easier to dismiss it as bad than to try to understand it, and if they feel that they must understand it, they have the New Yorker and a thousand other publications to tell them that they have understood it, without going to all the trouble of thinking about it. Once they are persuaded they have the orthodox attitude to it then they can relax and life for them can go on as before. The New Yorker and its brethren provide an invaluable service.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thinking Out Loud

I do not object in principle to the death penalty for murder.
(Perhaps also for cowardice in the face of the enemy, or otherwise deserting people you have promised to protect. Raping children, that sort of thing).
I should like to believe that a free society should be able to deal in this way with its murderers, and I still believe that to forbid a society from doing so, as the EU has done, is an act of tyranny, but it is clear that the decision to eliminate those who represent too great a danger is never truly in the hands of 'society'. It will always be controlled by those who rule, and the rulers are never part of the societies they rule. They consider themselves above the rest, a breed apart. They care little for the ordinary people, and, in any case, they will certainly make mistakes, mistakes which can never be rectified.
In practice, therefore, theory doesn't matter here.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Medals for 15M

The young are revolting. Nothing new there. They want us to know that the electoral process does not deserve the name of democracy and that the economy is in big trouble(and that they don’t much like other people having money and also that they will not eat their greens, so there!)

We know this already. Why do they expect to be treated like heroes simply for telling us something we already know and for living off other people’s money when those of us who are working hard (very hard) to try to actually solve those problems are somehow considered as the enemy?

I respect and defend their right to think for themselves and express their ideas and beliefs freely (this time there has been almost no violence) but until they respect my rights and freedoms, which they don’t, and until they realize that strutting up and down constantly restating the problem in a number of linguistically innovative ways is quite different from providing some kind of solution, I shan’t be respecting them personally.

If it weren't for capitalism and the hard work of others half of them would be dead and most of the others would be literally on the streets, instead of just playing at tramps and hippes. And it's capitalism, or rather, investment and incentives for success, which is what they think capitalism is, which will eventually get us out of the crisis. Nothing else can.

I am getting tired of people telling me things I already know and demanding my money as the answer to all problems. The people who are shouting loudest are, whether they like it or not, through their own fault or not, part of the problem, not the solution.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On Being a Hedgehog

My bipedal co-blogger- and co-personality- has the idea that a hedgehog is little more than an an interesting and attractive thing to have around. You can almost hear his brain creaking as he tries to work out why I do what I do. Humans assume that if you can't see it it doesn't exist, so here in the country he says things like 'look at that nice juicy beetle over there, why don't you eat it?'. If I could speak homsap I'd say, 'Cos it's poisonous, you idiot, and I've known that since it was fifty yards away.' But it's a tricky idea to express when your common communicative vocabulary consists of sticking your nose in the air and scratching your ear with your hind leg. Oh, and playing with socks, of course. He's never, ever going to get the sock thing, y'know. I could just stop doing it, but it becomes a habit after a while. Maybe I should carry a white stick, see if he gets the point. So anyway he keeps shoving this beetle in front of me and expecting me to eat the thing. It's just like the one I gave you earlier, he'll say. He gave me? Who was it had to fight with the thing, wrestle it onto its back and bite it in half while avoiding its claws? It wasn't him, he just stood there watching the entertainment. And no this one isn't the same, and if you can't tell the difference you're lucky you eat herbivores.
When he stands up in the garden, breathes deeply and sighs dramatically, I know he's contemplating the beauty of the landscape. But I could draw a map of every bug and stone for fifty feet around just by listening to my feet, and I can tell him everything that going on just by
sniffing the air. His eyes can't do that, they miss most if the things that matter.
But you get used to them, you know, these humans. I like having him around, and he's amusing to watch.