bookmark_borderBlog database problems

I seem to have lost all categories (tags) from the database, and my latest backup is at least a month old, so I might be somewhat quiet for the next couple of days while I sort out the WordPress database and figure out what caused the corruption.

Update (at 4pm): Somehow the problem has resolved itself. I just wish I knew what happened. Should I find myself a new ISP?

bookmark_borderAutomatic subtitles

During the election campaign, I wrote a blog posting about an uplifting video.

At some point, I discovered that YouTube are testing automatic subtitles, i.e., speech recognition, and that it was available for this video.

Here’s is my transcription of the video, together with YouTube/Google’s take on it:

Original Google/YouTube
Now, we want change We’re going to change
It’ll never happen Yeah
I no longer believe the future is in our hands I mean he thinks is enough
I know the media can control us I knew the meetings’s collapse
It’s just not the case that we have a real choice in this election It’s just not the case real choice incident
Instead we have to vote the way we’re told He said we have to think that way this time
No longer do I believe things can be different You know what it’s like to be seems to be different
Vote for change and you waste your vote They’ve changed at least, thanks
Vote for a party you don’t really believe in They affect us today
This is how things have to be The southeast
I don’t accept that a third party could win I think it sets a sense posturing
More and more people are realising that politicians are more powerful than the people More and more people in real life, Clinton since and powerful the people
But what if we could turn things upside down? But what if we could send things upside down?
The people are more powerful than politicians The people, almost half of those positions
More and more people are realising that a third party could win More and more people realizing that that cost thing
I don’t accept that this is how things have to be I can accept this is how things be
Vote for a party you don’t really believe in and you waste your vote The effect on Saturday the the make sure things
Vote for change Things have changed
I believe things can be different I don’t think so
No longer do we have to vote the way we’re told You don’t have to be that the women’s health
Instead we have a real choice in this election Instead of the UN to lift the sanctions
It’s just not the case that the media can control us It’s just not the case at least told us
I know the future is in our hands Pointed he can’t do not
I no longer believe it’ll never happen You know
We want change He hasn’t changed
Now Yeah

It’s quite shockingly bad, isn’t it?

I have a suspicion that it might have been designed primarily for American English, but I guess the background music didn’t make it easier for the program, either.

I’m very happy I don’t have to rely on those subtitles just yet!

bookmark_borderAmaia Montero

One of Phyllis’s old uni friends lives in Spain, and when he heard we had named our daughter Amaia, he said that of course Amaia was now a common name in Spain because of the singer, but he hadn’t realised she was now also famous in the UK.

The truth is, of course, that we had never heard about the singer before, but she’s readily available on YouTube and Amazon:

It’s funny – she seems to have studied chemistry at Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea, which is where I learnt Basque, and she’s from the town Irun, which was also where my teacher (Nekane) lived. It’s a small world.

bookmark_borderPippinen på tebunen

The Birds
Originally uploaded by TalayehS

Da vi var i Danmark i sidste måned, begyndte Anna at bruge efterhængt bestemt artikel.

I begyndelsen overdrev hun dog endelsen, og de fleste ord fik påhæftet suffikset -nen: pippinen ‘fuglen’, bobonen ‘bukserne’, tebunen ‘bordet’, Majanen ‘Amaia’.

På det seneste er hun dog begyndt at forkorte endelsen, men stort set alle ord er fortsat fælleskøn.

Hun er også begyndt at overføre danske idéer om, hvor pluralis bruges, til engelsk. For eksempel sagde hun forleden It is pinks ‘De er lyserøde’.

bookmark_borderPolitical honeymoon

Camden against the cuts, 1980
Originally uploaded by nicksarebi

YouGov have measured the popularity of the new government (PDF here).

The overall approval rating of 60% (vs. 33% disapproval) is perhaps not great.

However, what I find astonishing is that it seems to be popular in the entire country:

  • Both sexes (men 62%, women 57%)
  • All ages (18-34 61%, 35-54 56%, 55+ 61%)
  • Both social grade bands (ABC1 65%, C2DE 53%)
  • All countries/regions (Scotland 58%, London 55%, South of England 70%, Midlands/Wales 58%, North of England 49% [vs. 44% against])

In fact, the only group against the government is Labour voters, who naturally enough disapprove (25% for, 68% against).

Both Tories and LibDems approve (by 87% and 69%, respectively).

I dare say this is very positive.

I’m sure a Tory-only government wouldn’t have been that popular in Scotland, for instance.

Hopefully the new government will make good use of its honeymoon with the voters!

bookmark_borderInto the rose garden

The UK has finally become a normal European country.

That must be the unavoidable conclusion from the fact that we’re now ruled by a real coalition government, bringing together liberals and conservatives.

I welcome it.

It’s not that I’m fond of the Tories at all. However, it was clear that Labour were very, very tired and in need of some time in opposition to regain their strength.

I was also very worried about what a majority Tory government would do, in particular whether they would ruin our relationship with Europe beyond repair.

I would have loved to see a pure LibDem government, but it was never realistic for the party to jump from about 60 seats to more than 325.

So I think the Lib-Con coalition is the least bad option. As I wrote back in October:

Of course, it’s unlikely that the LibDems will get a majority, but it’s not at all impossible that the Tories will need their votes to gain power, which would be a great outcome: The LibDems could prevent the Tories from doing anything really stupid in Europe, and the two parties could probably agree on a feasible economic recovery plan.

I don’t agree with those LibDem supporters who think the party had to team up with Labour. If you can only work with one party, why don’t you join them instead? Also, I’m sure teaming up with a tired party would simply have lead to a Tory landslide shortly after the savage cuts (that unfortunately are necessary) had been implemented.

I also don’t agree with those who think the LibDems should have remained pure and refused to govern. If you get a chance to implement a large part of your manifesto, is that not better than seeing other parties’ manifestos implemented instead?

Politics is the art of the possible (to quote Bismarck), and if you just want to be idealistic and not see how sausages are made, you should probably put your efforts into charity, not politics.

The Times has found an appropriate poem, Burnt Norton by T. S. Eliot:

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose garden.

They then conclude that “David Cameron and Nick Clegg dared to open the door into the rose garden.”

I wouldn’t be quite so enthusiastic about it, but I think this government is a better outcome of this election than I had dared hope.

bookmark_borderA letter to my Tory friends about PR

Dear Tory friends,

you might not normally listen to what I’ve got to say, given that I’m a liberal and so on, but I have something to say to you about proportional representation.

You want to keep first-past-the-post, because you think it’s the best chance for you to form a government once in a while.

You might have heard about Blair’s idea that PR would lead to a “progressive century”. This is based on the idea that Labour and the LibDems normally get a majority of the votes together, so logically they should always get a majority together under PR.

It’s nonsense, though.

If that was the case, most European countries would have a permanent government, but that doesn’t happen anywhere. In all democratic countries, power sometimes changes hands.

Perhaps that will require another right-of-centre party to emerge that can attract voters from the left-of-centre parties. Perhaps the the left-of-centre government will just screw up so badly that a majority of the population will start supporting the Conservatives.

The main thing is that PR will not keep either side out of power permanently.

Of course the frequency of Tory governments might change, but which party is it that FPTP actually is favouring?


At the moment, Labour can get a majority in parliament with about 30% of the votes, while the Tories need close to 40%.

As an aside, let me point out that most observers would say that sociologically Britain is not less conservative than Denmark, which had right-of-centre governments from 1982 to 1993, and again from 2001. Surely that’s better than what the Tories achieved here under FPTP?

Also, remember that there are different versions of PR. Some of them would favour Labour slightly, others the LibDems, and still others the Tories. You are in a strong position to choose which one.

I hope this will make you reconsider your opposition to PR.

All the best,

your friend