10 things

According to Ruth Margolis,

American people are some of the loveliest you’ll ever meet and make us expats feel all warm, cuddly and very welcome. But just occasionally they do or say something that we Brits find a tad… eccentric.

I agree with that and with most of her list of 10 things that americans do that drive brits mad but the only one from her list that infuriates me entirely is this:

9. Pretentious pronunciation.
Americans, please note: saying “erb” instead of “herb” and pronouncing “fillet” without the “t” is not clever or sophisticated. You are not French. Make an actual socialist your president and then we’ll talk.

Number 10 just makes me snigger.

10. Saying “panties,” “fanny” and “bangs” 
We’re all aware from watching Americans onscreen that these are the words for knickers, a bottom and a fringe. But when you live here, occasionally you’re forced to deploy these abominations in real life sentences. Only the other day, I said, “Can you trim my bangs, please?” I felt dirty afterwards. But “panties” is much worse, somehow infantilizing and over-sexualizing ladies’ unmentionables. No word should do both these things.

I avoid those words too. Doesn’t everyone?

Why I Don’t Write Much

Ladies and Gentlemen. The magnificent Verity Stob…

The reality is even better: an extended example of that kind of feminism that implies the intrinsic superiority of women in nearly all things while simultaneously demanding privileges to compensate for claimed weaknesses, without noticing any implicit contradiction. I particularly enjoyed suggestion #4 that female-friendly projects should use attractive-to-women programming languages such as Python and Ruby (and Perl too, it says. Is Terry sure about this? I would say that Perl was notoriously one of the most engine oil-besmirched languages around, full of syntactical structures that are hard to shift if one only has small hands, and shot through with rusted-solid regular expressions that only reluctantly yield to the full weight of a big fat bloke).

I now see the programming world in a new light, and have hit upon a wonderful idea. I intend to devise an index that ranks all the major programming languages according to their pulling power. It will range from old favourites like Fortran, which is hopelessly male but in a pleasant pipe-smoking, GWR steam engine, leather elbow patches sort of way that reminds me of Dad; through to an obviously female-attracting language like Delphi: elegant and friendly, using proper words instead of resorting to pointless grunty man-squiggles, yet instinctively practical and not at all like frilly, ditzy, slow-to-react Ruby – the only language actually to be coloured pink.


So Far

Paul Krugman on Obama So Far.

It is too early. If we held this conversation at the end of the year and health care reform has passed and the economy is recovering, then Obama is the new FDR. If health care hasn’t passed or is something so emasculated that it’s not close to what people imagined, and an attempt to pass a stimulus has been rejected, then he’s another Jimmy Carter. It’s that simple.

Tom Tomorrow on the democrats so far..

Smart Comics

There is not much I miss about England any more, mostly because my memories are fading and I’ve forgotten what I am supposed to be missing but it’s partly because a lot of the things I used to miss are now available over here. I can get twiglets and marmite and bounty and decent beer and I can watch ManU any time I like.

But every now and again, I find myself missing English-style comedy – by which I mean the cuttingly observant, slightly absurd but extremely smart comedy in the style of Monty Python, Pete and Dud and Not the Nine O’ Clock News and Spitting Image.

There is a little bit of it over here with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert but, especially when I left England in the early 90s there was a huge resurgence in brilliantly smart comics like Fry and Laurie and Jack Dee and Newman and Baddiel and Paul Merton and Frank Skinner – they were everywhere.

It’s a little bit weird that when English comedy does cross the Atlantic, it’s the crap mainstream obvious stuff like Are You Being Served or Benny Hill and hardly ever the good stuff. And when a good one makes it, it’s usually the weaker half of a duo – Dudley Moore came, Peter Cook stayed; Tracey Ullman came (OK third of a trio), Lenny Henry stayed – or he does something crap like Mr Bean. Did you know that most Americans think that Rowan Atkinson is Mr Bean!

A few years ago, I got my fix with Eddie Izzard and have since watched all of his shows. Up next is Bill Bailey.

Why wasn’t I informed before?

How to get something named after you

HINT: You have to do it yourself

OK, so you want an eponymous idea. Presumably you are currently below the Arbesman Limit, so that won’t be a factor. First, take your surname and append one of the following suggested terms (see Table A).

Now you have your own idea, or at least a name for it. The next step is to give meat to your concept. Allow me to demonstrate the procedure by way of example. Suppose your name is Jenkins. You have settled on the term “Jenkins Measure” due to its delightfully lilting cadence, but are at a loss as to its meaning. Simply allow your mind to wander. What are you interested in? What is strange about the world? What can be measured?

This NY Times article is full of useful tips for leaving your name to posterity. It ends with a note of caution:

Of course, before you go out and begin to grace the world with your newly minted eponymous idea, don’t forget Stigler’s Law of Eponymy: “No scientific law is named after its original discoverer.” (Stephen Stigler attributes this to Robert Merton.)