Thursday Feb 08, 2007

Me Learn Speak Good One Day

Speaking of "me". Today, after over 20 years of learning English, I learned that "me" is not the same as "I". You know, sentences like "Only me and X are here", or "X and me, we have the same result in the Myers-Biggs test", sentences like that, they are all wrong. It should be "X and myself" etc... Great. Thanks for telling me now. ;o) I'm just glad we don't use the first person in tutorials, that would have been so embarrassing.

Well, less embarrassing than, say, accidentally saying pršim ("I am raining") in Czech conversation class. Or saying "vypalit nekomu prehradu" instead of "rybnik": You don't expect us stupid foreigners to know that it's "to steal somebody's show" and not "to steal somebody's whole theatre", do you? In the interest of international relationships it is also not recommened to mix "vychodni Nemecko" and "zapadni Nemecko" (East and West Germany) to say "zachodni Nemecko"... ... I swear, one day we'll be the death of our Czech teacher. I think Joe and me -- and I? Joe and I myself have a new goal: To make the teacher desperately call out "Jezis...!" at least once per lesson. That's our new goal. It comes right after learning numerals.

Did I tell you the story about the Czech numerals? No?

  • Here goes:
    1. Things involving number 1 are of course counted in the singular. "1 beer" is "jedno pivo", "1 book" is "jedna kniha", and so on, for 7 cases and 3.5 genders. (The first three genders in Czech grammar are "male, female, and neutral". The gender I counted as 0.5 is "male inanimate". Don't ask.)
    2. For things coming in sets of 2, 3 or 4, you use the plural form.
    3. For things coming in sets of 5 or more, or unspecified amounts such as "few, some, many", you use second case Plural.
  • Now the fun part. As I said, Czech has cases. E.g. if you want to say "I sit here with five beers", you gotta use seventh case for the beers, because you want to say "with." But! Rule three says, it's gotta be second case, because it's a number bigger than five. See where this is heading? More rules!
    • Rule a: You only use second case, if the noun phrase was in first or fourth case if there was no number involved.
    • Rule b: In all other situations, you use the case that you would use if there was no number involved. Obvious, eh?
  • Additional general rules for dealing with numbers in noun phrases:
    • If there is an adjective between the numeral and the beer, uh noun, then the adjective must reflect the case too.
    • And of course the numeral itself must reflect the case too, like an adjective.
    • My favorite rule: If the number is made up of several digits, each digit must reflect the case. I am not kidding.

So that means.... "with 273 (dve ste sedmdesat tri) Czech (cesky) beers (pivo)" = "s dvema sty sedmdesati tremi ceskymi pivy" or what?? What if the last digit happens to be 3, is it treated like a one-digit 3, or as a number bigger as 5? Oh boy. Of course each student of Czech comes up with the standard workaround sooner or later. Me: "I'd like to order some beers!" -- Them: "Well how many?" -- Me: (Holds up 273 fingers)!

Even if it may appear otherwise, you get pretty far with Czech after a year, especially in (vocabulary-wise) closed domains like restaurants. For example, have you ever been to a Chinese restaurant and thought, what am I supposed to do to communicate anything that is more sophisticated than ordering something from the menu? Speak Chinese? No! Speak Czech!

For instance today: I suddenly was missing a mitten. So I retraced my steps and also went into our Chinese lunch restaurant. It was evening. What is this lunch-customer doing here? The Chinese stare at me. I point at my hand and babble something about cervena rukavice? -- The Chinese girl suddenly smiles, nods, disappears through a side door and returns with my mitten. :-) See? Learning Czinese, uh, Czech rules!

This means I still keep my record: I don't recall having lost anything during the last 10 years! (Note my choice of words. The emphasis is on "recall".)

Well, except for the Babylon 5 CDs.

Oh and the Sparks CDs.

And where is this green shawl with the pattern? :(

Saturday Jan 27, 2007

Steven Seagull's Hamster Dentist!

English music is popular all over the world, right? Catchy tunes! Innovative video clips! Carefully crafted lyrics! A scientific study reveals: This is what an average English song sounds like to 80% of its listeners. Seriously. Hold your breath, click here, and be prepared to ROFL.

Monday Jan 22, 2007

Do you have to write ten things if you get tagged twice?

Didn't post anything for a week, I was involved in a couple of projects...

For one the NASA Space Colab on Secondlife: I donated some 3D models of furniture, a small version of the Mars rover, and... a couple of airstrip Alligators. A NASA guy promptly put up a sign next to the Alligators highlighting Florida wildlife! Hehe, nice gambit.

Then I am still fiddling with my jMonkeyEngine 3D game project: It runs in NetBeans and I am making progress slowly in learning the API; but the executable in the dist directory doesn't run since /dist/lib/ was either missing or incomplete. The readme.txt hinted this happens because I added classes and other resources instead of JARs. So...? I am still about to find out whether this is a bug or a feature. It must be possible to write an Ant task that just dumps everything into one big distributable JAR, including images and other binary data.

Well and yes I know, I got 'tagged' twice, by Tom Ball and by James. Which is pretty tough, because I could not even come up with five things, let alone ten. I've led a pretty boring and average live and I neither was in the military nor in a band, nor did I have a surprisingly untypical job in the past...

The only famous people I ever met were James Gosling and Emil Steinberger. \*shrug\* But hey, like James, I also got the Arctic Circle certificate when I spent three days in a tent in the Abisko national park (in late summer, not in the snow). Hm, what else is there to tell? Hypertalk was not only the first programming language I taught myself, but it probably also was what my early English vocabulary was based on. Also, I went to a Christian High School. With Latin and Greek and all that. But it was not as bad as this may sound to some of you -- it was actually quite relaxed, we touched Creation in religious education and learned Evolution in the biology class, worship was done after Taize fashion, and they didn't ask questions whether someone was gay or a single mother. Anything else? As a child, I drew so many cartoons and doodles that my parents stuck them into do-it-yourself calendars and gave them away as Christmas presents to relatives, or submitted them to kids contests to get rid of them. ;-) But hey, I won stuff like games, and a BMX bicycle, and once a huge plush crocodile, so why stop? I even sold two pictures to a hair-dresser's. But they say, that when you sell a painting as a child, you will never become a successful painter as an adult... Bummer. Well, back to programming, then. :-)

I don't care whether those where five things or not. (Make the fifth one "Don't bother me with numbers, I have a computer to do the counting for me") And I won't 'tag' others either because I have a long standing tradition of breaking every chain I encountered up to now, and see where it got me, I can't stop now!

PS: I heard rumors that winter will start tomorrow... Means I gotta complete my fantastic insulated-hood-with-shawl-construction. So if you need a winter hood, write me, and I'll send you the instructions. ;-) Oh, that would be item five! I've got a pen and paper next to my bed and every night I invent something fantastic that will save the world and I write it down. Then the next morning, the world-saving ideas are unreadable, and the readable ones don't make any sense. \*sigh\* Except for the hood.

Wednesday Dec 06, 2006

Busy Week at NASA

This time it's water on Mars. I'm just watching a stream of NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter press conference that is associated with the article NASA Images Suggest Water Still Flows in Brief Spurts on Mars. Before-after pictures show a trickle of something liquid, they assume water mixed with sediments, that flew down a hill and froze. The question is, how did it turn liquid inside the planet long enough to flow before it froze again? (e.g. is the water acidic?) The NASA guys are excited, the journalists ask "So... is this the holy grail now or what?" and "So... did we get Mars geophysics all wrong?" Hehe. Poor NASA guys. Did somebody threaten to cancel their funding if they don't bring results this week?

Tuesday Dec 05, 2006


Haha! I was right! NASA did announce a moonbase Monday night! :-D I knew it first, I knew it first, haha! \*stops jumping up and down, whistles innoncently, and gets back to work...\*

Monday Dec 04, 2006

I Want A Moonbase (And Aliens)

Some years ago, I said "I want a space station", and NASA announced the ISS. I am confident it works with moon bases too. =)

What got me started thinking about moon bases was this: In secondlife, there's a Space Museum and a planetarium. On Sunday I decided it couldn't hurt to... indulge in some educational content, especially since they had announced some new Planetarium shows (written by astronomy students). When I arrived, one thing was already over while the next had not started yet, but at least one Avatar who seemed to be running this thing had time to give me a tour of the Planetarium: A short little show about the tale behind Andromeda and its neighboring constellations, well done, considering the limited means of this platform.

Later that day I checked back, and walked right into a meeting: A dozen avatars sitting around a planning table with a model in the middle, discussing, as I understood, how they wanted to terra-form the island to showcase Astronomy and space exploration. They even got some buy-in from NASA they said. Since they were looking for volunteer builders, I spontaneously joined them.

Among the proposals for what should be build on the island was also the item "lunar base". When I asked whether we should just improvise or whether we were building according to somebody's blueprints, one of the guys replied, the lunar base was of course to be built according to the plans that NASA would release "tomorrow at the Houston conference". The crowd answered "Oh cool" and the subject changed to something else. Houston conference? Tomorrow? Moon base?? Hmmm. I couldn't find anything online about NASA announcing plans for a moon base.

The only things about moon bases I found online were: One page about the Orion project that mentions a crew landing on the moon again before 2020; an edu page where NASA makes poor students solve their space habitat problems by disguising them as homework; then a Youtube or Google video about how NASA uses Photoshop's blur tool to erase all those alien moon bases from photographs before they are published; oh and a movie that says that the governments develop alien-based technology together which will make fuel redundant, but they cannot tell us because then oil stocks would drop, and people would panic because Aliens in UFOs watch us as cheap reality entertainment. Hmmm... Maybe chatting in second life or watching Youtube is not the most reliable source of real life information, when you think of it.

But in any case, At least the NASA rumor is easy to disprove or confirm: If NASA announces a lunar base today, I will post the link here. If you see no link here tomorrow, the Avatars were just kidding, and the moon base will exist only in secondlife. Easy solution. :-)

PS: the result!!

Saturday Nov 11, 2006

Don't Mean To Say, Told You So, But...

Leah Lowe Says: This is ridiculous! My couch, with my boyfriend sitting on it, has disappeared!!!

... Told you so. =-|

Yes I admit: Since Sun's last press conference, I am another one of those cheap newbies in the Second Life with a free demo account. My Avatar literally still wears the default clothes with the logo on them. So today I read the Second Life Blog, and, uh-oh, better not log on: Seems they have a garbage collector running amok on their servers... (Since the servers also lag, I picture it running amok in slow-motion. \*evil giggle\* \*harumph\*)

And, well, seems that the garbage collector's definition of garbage... let's say, deviates from the residents' definition of garbage. Or in other words: Some (paying) members have logged on yesterday to find their pants were gone. If they were lucky. In worse cases, whole bodyparts went missing, inventory items and pets had disappeared, trading goods and a house plus content vanished into thin air -- this includes items which were "expensive" (= payed for in real dollars) or even unique (since users cannot make any backups or store unique items in an "insured" folder or so). Oh, and a couple men possibly woke up as bearded women, since female is the default gender, if the Skin object with your body settings got lost...

Of course Linden is working on restoring these things, but even if they only have to dig up the 5000 items that each (!) of the dozen commenters in the blog reported missing, it will take a while -- since those guys can't even remember all the thousands of items they owned (and spent real money on). It's not the end of the world, but it will make users be less inclined to spend money in this virtual "economy". On the other hand, did users really expect to own anything in Second Life? Paying customers only pay the monthly fee for the extended entertainment they get, don't they? The 3D-models all stay on Linden's servers, if Linden pulls the plug, the stuff is all gone, isn't it?

Man, I tell you, I'm glad I was role-playing a mendicant monk, and my Avatar didn't "own" anything worth losing. But being a mendicant monk is obviuosly not a solution for everyone, it kind of defeats the purpose of the "game", which is as much about buying and selling status symbols ("bling", anyone?) as about chatting about what you own.

But seriously, this whole thing is surreal, even (or especially?) after the textures have finished loading. A random selection of things I saw when teleporting to random sims: A Snow Crash advertisment on the Street in midnight city (haha...). A giant burning Laptop with MS Outlook on the screen and an alien standing in the heart of the flames. A water-filled plastic bag on a shelf with a rectangle swimming in circles inside (After the texture loaded, the rectangle turn into a common fish. Oh.) Sandboxes filled with junk, such as giant flying aircraft carriers with giant robots on them, seemingly frozen in mid-fight. A village called Washtown, dedicated to Wash. Transparent flying guinea-pigs bursting like soap bubbles. An invasion of aliens with signs saying "Take me to your Linden". River Tam's triggering video in brainwash rotation on a screen. I got stuck in invisible walls and fell through the ground. Oh and I glued together some 3D-"prims" on my second day and somebody payed me L$500 for it. (WTF? I'm not complaining, but seriously, people, get a grip on your wallets!) And I haven't even visited Atlantis or the space station yet!

Saturday Oct 28, 2006

Strange Companies

Just a short posting that was gathering dust in my draft folder for over a week now... As you can see, we are working full power on the new release and (for my part) on the homepage that goes with it, I didn't even find time to post to the blog... So here some random items from last week...

  • On my way back from the NetBeans User group in Munich, I saw a truck on the highway, that was labled Frising Helli. I don't think it's a joke, it could be a real name...
  • Then while browsing the internet, I came across one of these award buttons. Seems in Asia, there's a business award called Red Herring. From Monkey Island I learned, that a red herring refers to an action that draws off attention from the main issues... So Yours Truely would claim that this is not an optimal name for a serious business award (not even in countries where they eat fish for breakfast)... It seems that red herring can also refer to a red section in a legal document, but still, would you decorate you company's web portal with a big "Red Herring award", what's the message? "We are best at missleading our customers in our legal contracts"?
  • And now this interesting company, Fix A Vote, gives you a money-back guarantee that your voters vote for the right thing in an election. Only compatible with Diebold voting machines (and some others)... We all hope this business idea will remain an obvious joke for a long time. :-| The page is already enough over-designed to be a satire just because of its businesslike multi-media look... :-) But the content is scary, in a sarcastic way. (The music can be switched off bottom left.)

PS: Thanks to my brother for pointing out the Limbo Game trailer to me! Awesome, I never liked Jump&Runs, but this one is very original: Great artwork, no annoying muzak, incredible atmosphere. Where is up, where is down? Is that a tree or...? There is no information out yet, but I hope the 2D interface allows it to be ported to Mac easily, I never was a big gamer, but I'd totally buy that one. What's more, I'd even like to write something like this. (Which doesn't mean that I will actually do it, it's just meant as a compliment.) ;-)

Thursday Sep 28, 2006

Semicanadian Robot Monks

You like RPGs? Then get Progress Quest! This game is worth booting Windows.


Trust me. :-D

Tuesday Aug 01, 2006

Poor Man's Space Exploration

Lastest news from Berkely: (The page just started working one minute ago) :-D

We announce the launch of the Stardust@home project.  
Data will be available starting at 
11 am Pacific Daylight Time (1800 GMT),
Tuesday, August 1, 2006.
To participate, please point your browser at:

I wonder whether non-US beings are allowed to participate, too?

PS: Theoretically yes -- and the software is even platform-independed (in the browser.) Now if I could only reach it. :( Lots of pageload errors if I go beyond the homepage... \*sigh\* But I was first! :-p

PPS: Stardust@home is temporarily unavailable because of a hardware malfunction. Please bear with us as we work on fixing the problem. :-( Conspiracy, conspiracy! The dust particles did it. They will take over the world! or maybe I#m just tierd and should wait till tomorrow.

Tuesday Jun 27, 2006

Delete This, Windows!

\*giggle\* How to delete an unused shortcut from the Windows Vista Desktop. In seven steps. Yup. ONLY seven. It's that easy: Hasta La Vista, shortcut! :-p

Sunday May 28, 2006

The DaVinci Quote - now in a blog near you

Dude. Why are these DaVinci Code guys puzzling over paintings when they could solve much more interesting mysteries right there in the movie database! :-) You know how even eye-witness testimonials often remarkably contradict each other in some points? Well, you don't need a crime scene for that to happen, just look at these two 'DaVinci Code' quotes from the IMDB quote collection that (I assume) were contributed to the database from memory:

Sir Leigh Teabing: Shall I serve tea or coffee?
Robert Langdon: Tea.
Sir Leigh Teabing: Precisely. Now... what shall I put in the tea... milk or lemon?
Sophie Neveu: [whispered to Langdon] Milk.
Robert Langdon: That would depend on the tea.
Sir Leigh Teabing: Very good. Now, the last... in what year did a cocky Harvard 
                   professor outwit a great Englishman?
Robert Langdon: Surely such a travesty has never occurred.
Sir Leigh Teabing: Well done. You have proved your loyalty

Sir Leigh Teabing: First, shall I serve coffee, or tea?
Sophie Neveu: I would think in England it's customary to serve tea.
Robert Langdon: Tea!
Sir Leigh Teabing: Correct. Next question, shall it be served with Lemon or Milk.
Robert Langdon: It would depend on the drink now, wouldn't it?
Sir Leigh Teabing: Correct! Now finally, the last question. Now tell me in which 
            year did a Harvard honor student defeat an Oxford student at history?
Sophie Neveu: [after a long pause] I don't think ever Mr. Langdon.
Robert Langdon: [Reluctantly] Never, Leigh.
Sir Leigh Teabing: [Laughs] Correct. Now, come along inside.

Hmmm... So, in the first version of the dialogue, useless Sophie remains mostly silent and Langdon 'passes the test' by ignoring the one wrong answer she whispers to him ("milk"). In the second version, Sophie saves the day by prompting two of Langdon's correct answers and never even suggests the third (wrong) one... Well? Which of the two versions is closer to the actual scene shown in the movie (that I haven't seen)? Or was it maybe teamwork, neither knew all the answers, but together they got it right?

Moreover, in the quote collection, there's a third (different) version of the Oxford/Harvard question: "In what year did a Harvard man out row an Oxford man?" WTF? Allright, the witnesses (movie audience) agree Leigh was questioning the victory of a Harvard person versus possibly an Oxford person. We don't know whether it was about students or professors, or whether the disciplin was history, wits or rowing. Isn't it scary to see how human memory and perception doesn't get obvious things right, not even replayable movies that everybody supposedly sees and hears from the same perspective?

Tuesday Mar 28, 2006

Lost Prague Tourist Sees Airport Double

Sorry there was no cartoon this week, I was away over the weekend -- met with good friends for a healthy raclette (barbecue) with hot chocolate and chocolate icecream for starters and chocolate cake and Czech mead (honeywine) for dessert. If you too should need to use the Prague airport in the near future to smuggle original Czech food stuffs abroad for a sugar rush of illegal proportions, watch out: Recently, the Prague Airport opened its second terminal!

Remember this big construction site around the airport? It's still there. But somewhere they additionally dug up a whole new terminal 2. On my way to the airport on Friday, something was different on the bus. Usually, getting to the Airport in Prague is pretty straightforward. You don't even have to memorize the Czech word Letiste to find it. You just get on Metro A to the final stop at Dejvice, then you (go out the right exit and) take the bus 119 to its final stop -- there you are. Can't miss it, even after a couple of last beer-shaped souvenirs. But this time, the display didn't just say Letiste. There suddenly was a distinction between Terminal Sever and Terminal Jih -- refering to a Northern and a Southern Terminal (and not to a misspelled terminal server as one might be tempted to think).

Well I thought, so what, they finally gave that other building a name and chose to rename both in the process, how does that affect me. I know what the airport looks like, no matter what it's called, I'll get out at the same stop as usual. It indeed turned out that the new stop (Terminal Sever) is now the last one, and the previously main airport stop (Terminal Jih) is the second-to-last stop of line 119. While I am steping out of the bus, I hear the announcement through the speaker blurting out the stop first in Czech, then repeating its little "Welcome to the airport" speech in English. It's cute by the way, how they now take care to announce last stops and touristically interesting information in English too, since last year a poor anonymous Sun employee (not me!) got stuck in the metro depot all night after failing to understand that "Konecna Zastavka, prosime vystupte" obviously meant "Get the hey out of here, unless you wanna be stuck in the depot all night".

Admittedly, I didn't understand this new Czech "Welcome to the airport" speech on the bus either, so, just when the bus doors start closing behind me, I pick up the last words of the English version "... non-schengen countries". \*siiigh\* Look, if you broadcast an announcement with important new information on the bus in two languages, what about playing it before the passengers have to make up their minds whether they want to leave the bus here at Terminal Jih!? With my luck, I of course was indeed on my way to a very Schengen country, and now I learn that those carriers had all silently moved to the new Terminal Sever.

(If you are from outside Europe and the concept of Schengen doesn't ring a bell -- Europeans can intuitively feel whether some place is Schengen or not, it's a magical cultural thing which is ritually passed on from one generation to the next, since there a many vital things in everyday live in Europe depending on your knowledge of Schengen, such as, among other things, whether you can carry a crate if beer from A to B without stopping every 100km to pull out a visa or not.)

So my point is, since Ruzyne Airport stepped up one notch in the hierarchy of airports, you now have to bother to check to which terminal you are heading before taking the bus in Prague, too. Luckily though -- if you get off at the wrong terminal you don't have to take a plane-- um, bus like you'd have to do in the USA to reach the other terminal in time. ;-) No, you can actually just turn around and walk over to the other terminal. That's what I like about Europe. :-)

Tuesday Feb 21, 2006

And you thought your life was strange

Yesterday I mentioned the movie that was being set up in a street near my place. They are shooting James Bond in Prague right now, so any film location could be "it"... Even if... this particular street was not exactly what I would expect from James Bond, considering for instance this big empty building right in the middle with the sign "pozor havarie kanalisace" — sewer system break-down.

Anyway, this morning when I went to work, I made sure to check whether any Bond girls happened to be hanging out in my favorite bakery opposite the supposed movie location... Well, they were definitely shooting some indoor scene in the restaurant at the corner — everything was violently lit up with giant spotlights. I took a quick picture while passing by, to magnify and look at later. Instead of James Bond however, the zoomed picture reveals the movie company's tagline on a van: "Film settings, studio rental, beer styling" Aha. What?

The agency's webpage tells me: Beerstyling means preparing beer for movie and photo sessions. Their team includes a highly trained beer specialist with long-time experience gathered here, and even abroad! \*gasp\* If you ever thought your job was too good to be true, look at the Czech Beer Stylist, and bow in awe.

By the way, even with James Bond and the Beer Stylist gone, the food in the restaurant in question is not too bad! Just one hint: If the menu says Baby Chobotnicky, it might sound cute, but don't order it! Unless you are a linguist of the "learning by eating" school. Which I am.

I had been there with some friends once, and we (that's me and some fellow computational linguists) proceeded as would be expected from our profession. We daringly chose the Czech menu over the English one, translated everything we were able to understand — and then ordered the 4 weirdest dishes from the unintellegible ones.

Among these were a jeleni something (I vaguely remembered that jelen was some kind of deer. Strike! It was venison) and halusky (nice harmless potatoe+bacon gnocchi). You should have seen our faces when Chobotnicky turned out to be salad and garlic bread decorated with — tiny octopusses. Tentacles, head and all. Fresh from the Czech ocean? Well, since being the only one having visited the local spider and scorpion exhibition obviously qualified me for this type of dinner, I was volunteered unamimously for the job of removing this ugly sight from the view of my friends. Poor Chobotnicky! Har har har.

PS: "Fish" is good for the brain they say, for as soon as they were gone I remembered a famous Czech children's show that I had seen on German television once, the octopusses on the second floor, or in Czech, chobotnice z druheho patra! Poor Chobotnicky... :-( Well, at least they made it into a movie and not only a beer ad...

Monday Feb 20, 2006

It's Not a James Bond Movie, It's Normal Prague Traffic

Uli pointed out to me that they were shooting James Bond right here in Prague. I'm not such a movie buff that I'd care to run after... I don't even know what his name is... well, that I'd run after the new James Bond guy for an autograph. But well, if I should run into them, why not take a picture?

The only problem is: They are not exactly advertising the next set in the morning news paper. They only report complaints concerning a strange sudden increase of traffic and noise in certain areas at certain days... For instance, judging from the current complaints, last week they must have been shooting in Strahovsky Klaster (a really nice place for a movie!).

So, there is no official way of finding the next set anyway. Other then... walking down a random road and incidentally seeing a "road blocked" sign. With an add-on note "21.2. filmovani"... Hmmmm... filmovani... It didn't say "James Bond filmovani", but stilll... I think I'm gonna take a longer lunch break tomorrow...


NetBeans IDE, Java SE and ME, 3D Games, Linux, Mac, Cocoa, Prague, Linguistics.


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