I’m home for the weekend after spending last week with an IBM customer in Zürich - I return on Monday. It’s my first time to the city, and my impressions are certainly mixed. Swiss efficiency is present throughout (with the exception of the so-far variable Swiss airline), with trains exhibiting to-the-second precision and an airport devoid of queues (Heathrow, you have a lot to learn). But my supposed 4-star hotel is a little lacklustre, and the city itself rather concreted and dull. Nevertheless, I had the best falafels I’ve ever eaten the other night, and next weekend I stay in Zürich, so maybe I’ll find something to change my opinion.

Use a Thinkpad Instead of a Hammer

David Hill wrote recently on a Lenovo Blog about the design qualities that make Thinkpads great. Whilst some of these are shared by other laptop manufacturers, I have to say I largely agree - even if mine is supplied ‘free’ for use on company business. After dropping it again the other day (yes, I’m clumsy, sorry boss), it took a huge chunk out of my wooden floor. But after the battery had been popped back in, it spun back up and back to life. Truly amazing.

I would buy one myself.

R.I.P. Colin McRae

Spam Comments

I’ve been getting a lot of spam comments on my blog recently, which even Akismet isn’t catching.

So I was amused to get this comment today:

hello , my name is Richard and I know you get a lot of spammy comments , I can help you with this problem . I know a lot of spammers and I will ask them not to post on your site. It will reduce the volume of spam by 30-50% .In return Id like to ask you to put a link to my site on the index page of your site....

I think you can see where it’s going. One can’t help but feel that just maybe he knows a lot of spammers and knows I get a lot of spammy comments because he is a [fill in the obvious blank]. How frustrating.

Oh yes: is this legally blackmail?

How to Spell

I’ve been interested in languages for a few years (despite only being able to speak one with any fluency) and consider myself a bit of an amateur linguist. It’s long been a standing question as to how to determine ‘correct’ English. Linguists divide grammar into two competing factions: descriptive (30% people speak like this, 70% people speak like that) and prescriptive (thou shalt speak in this way, as others have since time immemorial). It’s not hard to see that this concept could be - and probably has been - extended to spelling.

I’ve found it hard to have sympathy with the prescriptive camp. Of course there is a place for clear writing, and I strongly believe that well-studied punctuation, spelling, and grammar makes communication clearer at best, and even a good impression at worst. Nevertheless, prescriptive diktat is everywhere, and often with little justification. As an example, despite being British, I’m a big fan of American English - which is often ridiculed and misunderstood by many British people.

As such, I’m going to propose Ferrier’s Rule of Common Language Usage, #1:

Any describable linguistic construction used by a majority of the population should be prescribed where relevant.

(by ‘where relevant’, I’m talking about language education in schools, etc.)

I think this would greatly help language develop - it ain’t static; get over it - and make language richer and more interesting. What do you think?

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