22 March 2011

Infinite Ascent

I've just finished reading Infinite Ascent: a Short History of Mathematics by David Berlinski, which was a present from my stepson. I've always been a bit of a maths geek (no kidding), but maths history was something I knew little about until I read this book, and even now I've finished it I can't really remember - all the names and theorems have turned into a big mush in my head - but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Berlinski's dazzling metaphors and colourful turns of phrase made what could have been a dry subject thoroughly enthralling, and I learned some new words: recuse, probative and (my favourite) rebarbative ("objectionable or unpleasant"). Recommended.

12 March 2011

Today is Marchday, March the Marchth

Here's something I found highly diverting this week. The dashboard of my car (an Alfa Romeo in early middle age, about which more anon) features a small matrix display that shows the current date and outside temperature, along with occasional warnings such as there being a risk of ice on the road, or that the passenger door is open, or that the electrical system has self-immolated. It is possible to change the language in which these messages are displayed, and me being me I rarely leave it on English: from the limited options of major Western-European languages (no Norwegian – grrr; no Breton – sadly; no Jameld – unsurprisingly) I tend to vacillate between Italiano and Nederlands. During this cold winter, my long-suffering wife has got used to the tell-tale warning bong as the temperature dips below 4 °C, followed by the message "Possibile ghiaccio su strada".

On Monday, with the system operating in Dutch, the display showed "MAA 7 MAA" (MAAndag 7 MAArt), which I thought was amusing. And then, having switched into Italian, the following day it read "MAR 8 MAR" (MARtedì 8 MARzo). It would have said the same in French or Spanish, of course (although not in Portuguese).

(The fun is endless, although I'm going to have to wait a few years before I get to see "WOE 15 MEI" in Dutch. No? Please yourself...)

Of course, the Italian/French/Spanish repetition of "MAR" is because (I think) Mars is the only god, planet or Caesar who managed to get both a day and a month named after him. (In Germanic languages, his Norse equivalent Týr or Tiw is honoured in the name of the day.) The Dutch "MAA ... MAA" is a coincidence, of course.

This all got me thinking about how the dates would be displayed in this format in various other languages, which was a great way of wasting several hours.

10 March 2011

Hint fiction 1

Gerald awoke, eased himself out of the dishwasher, and inspected his kimono for seagull-poo stains. Perhaps, he thought, it would be best to postpone the coronation.

03 March 2011

Oh my

iPad 2. Now that's clever design. Apple's just leapfrogged all the wannabes again. Love the Smart Covers idea.

02 March 2011

Paprikan oddity

Just been munching on these Tyrrell's Smoked Paprika crisps. (No idea why there's a cross-country skiing chef on the bag.) They're slightly odd, and nothing like the Paprika crisps you might have had in continental Europe (a popular flavour in Norway, I know from personal experience). It's a puzzling flavour. I think I need to eat more to decide whether I like them. I may be a while...

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Additional: I've just volunteered to be an official crisp taster for Tyrrell's. The job is unpaid, so you can be reassured that your favourite crisp-related blog will remain editorially unbiased. There'll be no product placement here.

I've decided I'm not in favour of their Smoked Paprika variety. Not very hot at all, and with a curious cakey flavour note. Their Garden Herbs variant, OTOH, is utterly addictive and delicious, albeit slightly onion/garlic-halitosis-inducing.