British plug design

Saturday, April 2nd, 2016 11:26 pm
lethargic_man: (Default)
German plugs have 180° rotational symmetry; it does not matter which way up you insert them into their sockets. British plugs do: you can only put them in one way around, and there's separate names for the live and neutral pins, and different colours for the wires going to them: brown and blue. It wasn't until recently that it occurred to me to wonder: why? These things run alternating current: the electricity runs one way through the wires, then the other way, fifty times a second. There's really no difference between live and neutral. So why do we distinguish between them, and make plugs that have to be put in the right way up (which is not always possible with the design of some plugs or the sockets' location)?
lethargic_man: The awful German language (Mark Twain's words, not mine) (Die schreckliche deutsche Sprache)

The German people, I read online, have traditionally prided themselves on the fact they have always spoken German, as opposed to their neighbours the French, who abandoned their original language (Gaulish) and took up Latin.

Well, let's have a look at the opening paragraphs of today's headline article in Der Spiegel and see how German it is:

"Islamischer Staat": Amerikas Schattenkrieger jagen IS-Anführer

Hubschrauber, Elite-Soldaten, Spionageflugzeuge: US-Präsident Barack Obama will die Terrorfürsten des IS von einer Spezialeinheit ausschalten lassen. Doch die Strategie gerät in die Kritik.

Die amerikanische Hauptstadt Washington wird am Donnerstag praktisch abgeriegelt. US-Präsident Barack Obama versammelt Staats- und Regierungschefs aus 51 Ländern zum "Nuclear Security Summit".

Offiziell geht es um die Frage, wie die Verbreitung von Atomwaffen in der Welt verhindert werden kann. Doch bei der Konferenz dürfte gleichzeitig vor allem über ein Thema geredet werden: den Kampf gegen den "Islamischen Staat" (IS).

Red denotes words borrowed from Latin; blue from French (possibly via English, and of Latin or Greek ultimate origin), green from Italian, magenta from Greek and cyan from Arabic. Plus of course, the very name Der Spiegel comes of course from Latin speculum, "mirror".

Unfair of me? Possibly, but I was having fun.

418

Monday, March 14th, 2016 09:14 pm
lethargic_man: (beardy)
Some of you will have come across me writing online, in place of a boring "Ok", "200 Ok, as the webmistress said to the bishop."

Today I wrote that to a cow-orker, who wrote back "418, as the schizophrenic coffee machine said to the server."

Hmm, I thought, I don't know that HTTP response code, and headed off to Wikipedia to look it up.

415 Unsupported Media Type... 416 Range Not Satisfiable... 417 Expectation Failed... ah, here we go: 418 I'm a teapot (RFC 2324).

What!?!?
This code was defined in 1998 as one of the traditional IETF April Fools' jokes, in RFC 2324, Hyper Text Coffee Pot Control Protocol, and is not expected to be implemented by actual HTTP servers. The RFC specifies this code should be returned by tea pots requested to brew coffee.[53] This HTTP status is used as an easter egg in some websites, including Google.com.[54]"
I kid you not.
lethargic_man: (linguistics geekery)
A year ago, I posted:
[S]omething I'd love to hear is a text read which starts in Old English, and as the reading progresses, the pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary gradually shift into Modern English, via all the intermediate stages. A quick google does not show me any such thing, though there are things like this, which have discrete texts jumping forward several hundred years between each.
Originally I left it at that, because I do not have the skills to write English as it was written across the whole time period, but then it occurred to me that there is a text which was repeatedly rendered into the English of each period during the language's history: the Bible. It still took me months and months to get around to doing this, because it was a big project that required tens of hours of work, but I made a start on it during the second half of my recent period of unemployment (in between getting a job lined up and actually starting it), and here finally is the result:
If anyone has any questions about how or why I made this, or how or why English changed the way it did, or what decisions I made or why, I'll be happy to answer them in the comments. And do feel free to share this further onwards.
lethargic_man: (Berlin)
Yesterday I was in a meeting in which one of the speakers, a Frenchman (by way of most of the rest of the world), kept referring to business that the company was doing in the Dark region. I thought this sounds very sinister; is it something like the dark net?

Eventually he put up a slide of it, and I realised it was actually the DACH region, an acronym of the German-speaking countries' top level domains, .de (Germany), .a[t] (Austria) and .ch (Switzerland).
lethargic_man: (Berlin)
It's hard, as a kosher-keeping British ex-pat, continuing to eat the things I like here. I used to have fruit cake as part of my tea most weekdays. Here none of the kosher shops have fruit cake (I mean proper fruit cake; cake with fruit in it doesn't count!). So I decided to make my own (something I've already done with fruit flapjack). But fruit cake isn't worth making if you don't have glacé cherries; they're the best part! And in all the supermarkets here,* the glacé cherries are coloured with carmine, which, being made from crushed beetles,† is as non-kosher as you get. And the biggest kosher shop here, Daily Markt, didn't have any. Which means I'm going to have to make my own... only none of the supermarkets are stocking cherries at this time of year. So no fruitcake for me. *sniff* (But I'll hold onto the ingredients I've already got just in case...)

* REWE, Edeka and Kaufland; Netto didn't have. I've yet to try Kaisers.

† It's labelled "Echte Carmin", thus ruling out any possibility it might be synthetic.

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