Results for 2018-01

Value of the Lecture

19.1.2018 kl. 22:07 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Great article on the enduring value of the lecture.

But lecture attendees do lots of things: they take notes, they react, they scan the room for reactions, and most importantly, they listen. Listening to a sustained, hour-long argument requires initiative, will, and focus. In other words, it is an activity ... No matter how fast-paced the world becomes, listening will remain essential to public dialogue and debate.

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Double negatives in prose

19.1.2018 kl. 21:17 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Hilarious letter from a reader to The Economist (cited in the paper's style guide):

Sir
At times just one sentence in The Economist can give us hours of enjoyment, such as "Yet German diplomats in Belgrade failed to persuade their government that it was wrong to think that the threat of international recognition of Croatia and Slovenia would itself deter Serbia."

During my many years as a reader of your newspaper, I have distilled two lessons about the use of our language. Firstly, it is usually easier to write a double negative than it is to interpret it. Secondly, unless the description of an event which is considered to be not without consequence includes a double or higher-order negative, then it cannot be disproven that the writer has neglected to eliminate other interpretations of the event which are not satisfactory in light of other possibly not unrelated events which might not have occurred at all.

For these reasons, I have not neglected your timely reminder that I ought not to let my subscription lapse. It certainly cannot be said that I am an unhappy reader.

Willard Dunning

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Edward Gibbon on his time at Oxford

17.1.2018 kl. 18:51 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

To the university of Oxford I acknowledge no obligation; and she will as cheerfully renounce me for a son, as I am willing to disclaim her for a mother. I spent fourteen months at Magdalen College; they proved the fourteen months the most idle and unprofitable of my whole life...

In the university of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have for these many years given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.

As a gentleman commoner, I was admitted to the society of the fellows, and fondly expected that some questions of literature would be the amusing and instructive topics of their discourse. Their conversation stagnated in a round of college business, Tory politics, personal anecdotes, and private scandal...The names of Wenman and Dashwood were more frequently pronounced, than those of Cicero and Chrysostom.

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UI fail

15.1.2018 kl. 17:01 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert. […]

Around 8:07 a.m., an errant alert went out to scores of Hawaii residents and tourists on their cellphones: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” A more detailed message scrolled across television screens in Hawaii, suggesting, “If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor.”

As John Gruber of Daring Fireball puts it, "this is just terrible, terrible user interface design."

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Allt passíft í íslenskri fréttamennsku

12.1.2018 kl. 22:19 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Vel skrifaðar fréttar segja lesendum hver gerði hvað, hvernig, hvar og hvers vegna.

Þessi skynsömu prinsíp virðast því miður ekki vera í hávegum höfð hjá íslenskum fréttamönnum. Í íslenskum fréttum er t.d. oft ekki skýrt hver gerandinn er. Heilu fréttirnar eru jafnvel skrifaðar í passive mode. Tökum sem dæmi eftirfarandi setningu úr nýlegri frétt á RÚV:

Greint hefur verið frá því að til standi að endurskoða innheimtu veiðigjalda.

Hver greindi frá því? Hvenær stendur það til? Hvers eðlis er endurskoðunin? Af hverju er verið að gera þetta? Hver ber ábyrgð?

Það er allt saman óljóst. Það eina sem lesandinn lærir er að eitthvað standi til, og að einhver (hver?) hafi greint frá því. Skelfilega slappur fréttamannastíll.

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