Monthly Archives: February 2011

Secret Life in Lavender (Currently Uploaded Video)


This one shows, to the background of a couple of Thai songs which are highly unlikely to get me done for using music the way that western music is prone to do, some beautiful insects using the lavendar bush next to our holiday cottage. There were bees and hummingbird moths in this film, there were also cabbage white butterflies, hoverflies and other insects on that bush during our week, but nothing as impressive as the hummingbird moth Macroglossa.

Underneath it one evening I also found a toad, which I allowed to remain there undisturbed.

It’s amazing how much life can exist around one bush of lavender.

Airport shocker


Departure hall of Terminal 2 opened in 2006

If'I'd remembered it in this hall before handing in my case, all would have been well...

OK, this one’s hot off the press, as I am writing about something that happened about ten minutes ago, and I’m writing this from one of the machines in the lounge at Prague airport.

A few days ago I gave a lecture about cross-cultural management to students of Susquehanna University in Prague. At the end of the lecture I was given a bottle of fine Moravian wine.

I forgot that I had this bottle in my briefcase, but naturally the detectors as I passed from streetside to airside at Prague found it.

Now clearly they all recognise me as having been through there eighty or so times before, so there’s no terrorism alarm bells ringing, and you can see how they’re in two minds about whether or not just to let me get on with it. But in the end the three of them say no, they have to do things by the book, which mean that the wine is thrown away.

I’m there saying to them, just take it and drink it yourselves, it’s a sin to throw it away. And of course as they know that I’m a regular, they also know that there’s no risk I’m trying to poison them, give them an exploding oesophagus, or anything like that.

It’s not the loss I’m bothered about. I could make that up just by drinking the free wine that’s flowing like milk and honey (there’s milk and honey too, in the fridge) here in the Lounge. It’s a bit early in the day for me, though, and I’m actually not a big fan of alcohol despite what readers of my blogs and viewers of my vlogs may think.

It is a bit sad that it happened to a present. But most of all it’s  pity to see something like that just thrown into a bin and not enjoyed by anybody. When anyone can see there’s no real risk there. It’s just the over-zealous application of a rule book.

That’s the real shock. That’s what’s really saddened me and sent me running to the production corridors of WordPress to get it off my chest.

Top 30 Languages to learn for 2050


Map showing countries and autonomous subdivisi...

The Turkic linguation - to a greater or lesser extent mutually intelligible languages. However often not the preferred business languages of their regions, hence only 12th place in this economic utility-based prediction.

Here are my 2050 predictions, originally shared on http://www.how-to-learn-any-language.com :

1. Chinese (all types)
2. English (all types)
3. Arabic (all dialects)
4. Russian
5. Spanish (all types)
6. Japanese
7. German
8. French
9/10.Portuguese and Korean(if there is Korean unification, Korean takes the higher slot)
11. Italian
12. Turkish and mutually intellible forms of Turkic Read the rest of this entry

Atheist chats with theist. (Some Skype chat from this evening – experimental piece)


Blaise Pascal first explained his wager in Pennsylvania

In my search for new blogging and media techniques, tonight, while chatting to a radio friend Fat Steve and noticing that the chat had become a nice cameo piece, I got his permission as you will see to try the following:

[22:44:09] Fat Steve: Davey, I was reading a thread on Amazon and this guy on there reminded me of you

[22:44:54] David J. James: In what way? Read the rest of this entry

Would you like to get a new inexpensive email software plug-in that tells you who messages sent to you have been BCC’d to?


Screenshot of ALPINE 1.10, showing received ma...

Can this show you the BCC information hidden in the headers on incoming mails?

Call me paranoid if you like, but from time to time I wonder whether emails that have been sent to me might have also been sent to other people using the BCC or “blind carbon copy” function. Maybe it’s just a harmless informing of someone else as to what’s going on, or maybe someone has made a wisecrack that I didn’t notice about me in the text, some private joke about me which has gone whoosh over my head, and he and his mates are all creased up in paroxysms of LOLs and ROFLs and maybe even one or two ROTOFLMFAOs about it.  One can never be too sure.

There are various ways of determining whether an e-mail sent to you has also been surreptitiously sent to another person, but none of them until now involve smart software embedded as a plug in on your e-mail client which “decodes” the headers in a shadow copy of the sender’s .msg file which it calls down from the server.

Until now, one has had to resort to needing a court order and taking it to the sender’s administrator (best done with a lawyer) threatening the sender at gun or knifepoint to tell you or show you (best done without a lawyer) or just to check the sender’s screen when they forget to lock their machine while going to the toilet (best done with a lookout on the corridor). Until now, you haven’t been able to just install a plug-in to a normal e-mail client which enables this function at the click of a button marked “disclose BCC recipients”. Read the rest of this entry

Pool Concert (CUV)


World map that show the status of YouTube in c...

You Tube political acceptance/resistance map

We’re continuing the footage from our 2010 summer holiday, which is only now, six months later, appearing on YouTube – such being the effects of the new “hundred rule” I’ve implemented. At least we have a bit of summer in winter time.

In this video my aunty and uncle appeared from several hours drive further south in France where they live and stayed a few days. Sophie decided to give a bit of a concert in the pool and some feats of swimming.

And here’s the result.

OK, Poll time. You heard some Abba on this, and you could see how it bridges three generations. Now the question:

Question on lexical sufficiency


Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad Korzeniowski - the ultimate benchmark in mastery of an acquired language is surely that of having added to its artistic literature?

Reader (and poster) Bill_Sage667 from How-To-Learn-Any-Language.com’s forum wrote me the following question and agreed kindly to a public answer here:

Dunno whether u’ll be able to find the time to reply to this, 1 in a million chance lol……but I’ll write out my questions anyway lol

You said something about 15,000 words needed in order to achieve a good degree level in Russian. Are imperfective and perfective verbs considered separate words, as well as adjectives and verbs under the same lexemes (e.g. беремменость, беремменая, беремменеть, забеременнеть) when you were estimating the number of words?

And what if someday I want to attain the proficiency of an educated native speaker (might take me 20 yrs but oh well)? How many words am I supposed to know (for active and passive knowledge)? For Russian, that is. btw thanks for releasing the Gold List Method to the public for free!

Firstly, Bill, be careful about the number of ‘m’s and ‘n’s you have in those pregancy-related words. You have too many ‘m’s and not enough ‘n’s. I’ll leave you to review that one.

You’re very welcome about the Goldlist. As I say in the section I wrote in syzygycc’s The Polyglot Project, I’m just paying forward the favours I got from so many people when I was a young learner.

In my opinion 15,000 words, as long as they are properly selected, are perfectly adequate and in the headlist you would use all the forms initially as separate forms (but not the various conjugations and case endings, only the so-called ‘dictionary forms’) and you could soon condense them on distillation.

If you use the frequency distionary I am selling on www.oioioio.com you will be able to focus on commoner words first. Within the first 10,000 words you do get words that are already pretty specialised that you wouldn’t use maybe more than once a month or so even if you were a native, and so it continues over the next 5,000 as well. You’ll find 15,000 enough to read the great novels comfortably and to appreciate the poetry of Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva and even Strogonova (the last of which you will find uniquely published in this blog as a ‘page’. She is no poorer a poet than these well-known ones, only far less known.)

I would also like to draw people’s attention to something else I wrote about the 15,000 word ‘marathon’ in a thread over on the HTLAL forum:

What this Gladwell character [I'm referring to upstream discussion of someone who said you must have 10,000 hours of learning to become fully fluent, like a native - a claim almost unanimously rejected by every serious linguist and polyglot I know other than those who teach languages privately, as this idea is grist to their mill] needs to bear in mind is the Pareto rule. If it were true (which I dispute) that you need 10,000 hours to become as native (although how this deals with your accent is anyone’s guess) then you could get 80% of it in 20% of the time. That means you’d need to have 2,000 hours study to get to 80% of native fluency. Since that’s ludicrously overcautios, I’d suggest that the 10,000 hour target for full native fluency is overcautious.

The fact is, a person could be like Konrad Korzeniowski (Joseph Conrad) and already writing ground-breaking literature in the language he or she had learned and still have a strong enough accent to provoke politely meant but annoying compliments on the quality of his language by native speakers.

In the end you just have to accept what English speakers accepted for their own language in the main long ago – that as long as it doesn’t hinder comprehension, a foreigner’s accent in English is just as valid as a “native” accent. This is easily accepted by multi-national or mega-regional languages like Spanish, Russian, Chinese, etc, but in places like Poland as there is largely only one way of speaking, the bar is raised for their own language.

So in fact that means that the same n-thousand hours done by an Englishman in Russian could have the Russians noticing very little different about the foreigner, especially if he has a bad haircut. Whereas if he has a really bad haircut and the same n-thousand hours of Czech, the reaction will probably be “he looks like one of us, but our language is difficult and so we must forgive the way he sounds, although obviously we are frank and friendly people so we will tell him to his face at regular intervals that his Czech sucks bigtime.”

Given this subjectivity, I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s linguistic shadow, but simply to set amounts of words as targets. 15,000 words is in language learning, to my mind, what the marathon is in athletics. If you’re fit, you can do it with patience and training. And if you can do it, nobody can say you’re not fit.

There are longer races, there are tougher events. But the marathon is the ‘classic’ and the marathon runner knows that it’s really a competition against yourself and not really against the runners alongside. Even people coming in at six hours are clapped and get a medal. So should language learning be.

If this article is of interest you can look up the article as plenty of people have some interesting stuff to say, both about the 10,000 hours nonsense and the number of words needed. I get into a discussion with “Lingua Frankly” blogger Niall Beag (known as Cainntear) on when the Pareto rule isn’t just a number like 10,000 with no real basis for being a law. There are also those who are ready to stand up for the honour of the number 10,000 and tell the detractors of 10,000 hours to mind their jolly manners. Excellent thread.

I’m going to add more thoughts there today.

Kafkaesque! (CUV)


Kafka, Franz: Der Prozeß. Roman. Berlin: Die S...

He liked hard-back notebooks too, did our Franz.

Here we have, in nice HD coding, a walk around in Prague, showing some of the flavour of the experience of being in the Czech Republic – including this very strange thing that happened to me last Spring.

Here, in the city of Kafka, I was seriously summoned to court without being informed why. Just like Joseph K in ‘Der Prozess‘ or ‘The Trial’ by Kafka. You really couldn’t make it up.

I don’t want to talk about the facts of what the case turned out to be, (especially as one party of it graces some films of mine on YT, which will also be shown here) but to my relief I only actually needed to be a witness. I have no wrongdoing as such on my conscience, but I have been known to sack people, and they get given more rights than I do when it comes to court, even if there’s no earthly justice in it. But this wasn’t even someone I had sacked. Because I didn’t know that, I had to go to the expense of a decent lawyer who naturally deserved to be paid for his appearance despite not in the end having a decisive role. But in the end I didn’t get annoyed about it, as it was something truly Kafkaesque in the city of Kafka which I’ll be able to remember and joke about for the rest of my life.

I also talk a little bit about learning Japanese and the kitsch for sale to tourists in Prague.

I thought I’d spice things up with a poll! Remember this is not the number of cases you’ve seen – you may have been more than once. Count is as number of days you’ve ever had to turn up. Don’t count it if you went along just for entertainment.

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