occasional poetry

There are lots of comments around the web referring to Elizabeth Alexander’s poem composed for Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration.

This article, written by Jim Fisher before the ceremony, makes interesting reading, as it includes information about previous inaugural poems and US background that helps put things a little more in perspective.
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blue monday; hopeful tuesday

So yesterday was “Blue Monday“. And I missed it.

Well, I didn’t exactly miss it. I was certainly here, and feeling fairly blue, too, but I didn’t realise till I read the news this morning that it was officially the most depressing day of the year.

We had the weather for it here, all right, with the cold accompanied by the kind of fine rain that gets into everything. Continue reading “blue monday; hopeful tuesday”

is anybody listening?

Way back, in my incarnation as an EFL teacher, we talked a lot about the four language skills – reading, writing, speaking and listening.

The skills were usually grouped in pairs. Either written versus oral (reading and writing versus speaking and listening) or active (speaking and writing) versus passive (reading and listening).

He that hath ears to hear, let him listen!
He that hath ears to hear, let him listen!
In fact, particularly when we’re talking about English, using the word “passive” to describe listening is inaccurate. English is a stress-timed language where the most important words – those that contain new or important information – are emphasised. The other words often disappear into a blur of unstressed sounds, including the schwa, which means the listener is presented with a kind of fill-in-the-blanks puzzle to deduce the speaker’s meaning.

This last week I’ve been busy with cvs – a translation for a client, assisting a friend with an on-line application, and general advice and encouragement for another friend who just got “let go” from his job. All of them need to include information about their language skills. And none of them mention one of the basics: there is no mention anywhere of listening.
Continue reading “is anybody listening?”

pedigree moon?

No, not pedigree, but perigee, apparently.

Last night’s full moon was the biggest of 2009 – or, to put it another way, the moon passed closest to the earth yesterday on its eliptical orbit, making the full moon appear bigger than it will again during the year ahead.

Nasa have waxed poetic on the subject –
Continue reading “pedigree moon?”

cold snap

Featherfall
simplifies the city.
Cameras click; mobiles sing.

El Prado, Madrid
El Prado, Madrid

don’t make me raise my voice!

For years there have been jokes about whether computers are male or female. (There are many variations on the theme, this link shows just one.) But has anyone ever actually tested a computer’s response to the different kinds of violencia de género (gender violence) as the Spanish insist on calling domestic violence?

Yes, computers are delicate mechanisms, and, if you physically mistreat one, it will no doubt break down eventually. But what about verbal abuse?

At last we have a – partial – answer:

You have been warned: don’t shout at your computer (or at least, don’t shout at your disk drive).

Fortunately, I think it’s still all right to make snide remarks.

24 hours and a second

It’s sad, isn’t it? that I should be writing a blog entry at 11:30pm on New Year’s Eve. Actually, it’s only indicative of the fact that the dinner isn’t cooked yet and I meant to do this hours ago and didn’t get a-round-tuit.

Maybe it’s just as well the day is going to be slightly longer than other days as there is so much to do. 24 hours is simply not enough, though that’s what the clock in the photo (at Greenwich) offers:

accurate to the second?
accurate to the second?