A thing that annoys me in most dictionaries is that they give the pronounciation of people’s last names, but never of their first names, even if they may be a lot trickier. As for example Evelyn Waugh. The other day I suddenly realised that even though I’ve always pronounced the first name [ˈevlɪn], maybe that’s just my Finnish accent, and probably the real pronounciation is [ˈiːvlɪn]. Of course even Wikipedia only bothers to give the pronounciation of his last name ([ˈwɔː]), which wasn’t that hard to figure out anyway.

Googling about I found Forvo, which contains audio pronounciation samples of about a million words in a few hundred languages. Yay! So, what about Evelyn then? Well, four samples give four different pronounciations, including both above, so apparently native speakers don’t know either.

Another place to go

Here is another aviation-related museum I intend to visit as soon as I have figured out where it is located: The Sci-Fi Airshow.
You can board the Orion.

H/t Thnidu.


Word of the week: hippocracy

The country of the Houyhnhnms is ruled by horses, it is a hippocracy.


Construction proceeding

This is the current state of our future home:

Its twin is somewhat further along:

Seeing the place in reality made it seem so much smaller than on the blueprints. Will my bookshelves fit?


Getting the worm

I had the morning off, so decided I should do some long-needed purchases. This meant I found myself in the city shops on a weekday, just as they opened. This in turn meant they were all but empty, so I suddenly was in the care of relaxed shop assistants who were more than willing to spend their time finding me the perfect trekking shoes, kitchen fans and ill-defined packing paper needs. I shall have to remember this time slot.


Ordnung muss sein

I once was demonstrating some VR hardware to a class. They were too many to go all at once so I split them into three groups and decreed:
“You are group 1, you are group B, and you are group Red.”
When I had ran the demo for the first group I yelled:
“OK, time for group B!”
They stepped up and primly declared:
“We are group 2.”

Conventions are practical, but they’re not mandatory.



My Venus flytrap passed away over the winter, possibly because it dried out, so when we visited the Garden Fair, I bought a new carnivorous plant. I shall do my best to keep it moist.

The fair itself was enjoyable, but seemed to be much smaller than previous years, only one hall instead of two, and not very densely filled at that. We couldn’t quite pinpoint what had gone missing this year. Honeybuns picked up bulbs of various kinds and I stared in awe at some football-sized bulbs (jättelökar!) and tried to imagine the size of the flower that will sprout from those.

Then trudging home through the slush, waiting for spring proper to arrive.


Word of the week: rockcoaches

Even though Fame was placed in a music school in New York, I never noticed that they had any rockcoaches.


Situational illiteracy

I’ve often wondered over the phenomenon that error messages apparently instantly remove the ability to read from the person viewing them.
“Aaah, my program crashed! Now I'll have to randomly click icons until the problem goes away!”
“This popup says ‘Connection lost, please check your Ethernet cable’. Would it be this cable that’s fallen to the floor?”

sigh OK, that’s enough smug superiority for now. There are of course reasons for this behaviour. Too much software generates too many useless error messages:
  • A common method is by not catching the error at all and instead getting a stack dump from the underlying runtime system, which may be useful to a debugging programmer, but not to a working user.
  • Or, if the programmer has bothered to trap the error, the error message is still mostly intended for debugging (“Stack overflow in function getResCompFlow().”) and does not suggest to the user either how to avoid it or how to proceed from a bad state.
  • And then we have the opposites: the too brief message (“Syntax error”) vs dozens of long lines of information, with the possibly useful message hidden in the middle.
  • Many error messages do a very bad job of analysing the problem situation and either suggest something very vague (“Error, please retry”), or something completely incorrect. (“Couldn’t connect, please check your Ethernet cable.” Actually I mistyped my password.)
  • And so on…
So, the end result is that users are conditioned to believe that error messages will not contain any useful information–even when they actually do so. Now what still surprises me is that methodical checking of possible error sources apparently is not even the last resort for many people, who rather prefer wildly clicking at anything in sight in the hope that the error will go away. Is there anything in computer systems that conditions people to believe this will work?



Outside Gröna Lund there is apparently a place for those who want to jump the shark:


On a spring roll

We’ve had April weather since March. Yesterday it was snowing big wet flakes all day, but when we got up this morning the sun shone from a bright blue sky and we decided to make use of our Skansen cards.

It was still rather chilly outdoors, but as long as one kept to the sunny side of the street, it was OK. After all the fuss about getting the tram to Sergels torg last summer, Hamngatan was closed off for street works until May, so we had to go the old end stop at Norrmalmstorg.

At Skansen we got into the VIP lane ready to nonchalantly breeze in, waving our cards, but were pushed aside by a huge group of American tourists, and then a Spanish couple who inquired about lots of things at the till, but finally we could pass the gate. By now we were pretty hungry, so we started with lunch at Gubbhyllan. Even so, when we then got up to the town quarters, the smells of freshly-baked bread that wafted out of the bakery almost floored us. As we peeked into the yards we found the saddler’s workshop, where the friendly saddler showed us some original 16th Century saddles and cleverly-shaped replica leather snuffboxes he’d just finished. We continued round some other shops and then went up to the Easter market. Perhaps we should have skipped the indoors lunch in favour of outdoors eating in the sun, but that will have to be for some other time. We still bought some bread and jam to take home and then continued to the newly-renovated petting zoo. Like our bag, this was also jam-packed, but at least we managed to look at the pigs and goats for a while.

Eventually we continued to Aquaria to look at fish. The crawlspace through the big aquarium with the sharks and moray had been closed up for some reason, which also shut off much of the view of the tank, which was a pity. In one of the smaller aquaria I watched a little fish rest on a leaf that gently swayed in the current, I have to presume it found this enjoyable.

Finally we boarded the ferry to Slussen and then home.


Veckans ord: stötförening

Det får tillstås att Arlanda Flygsamlingars Vänner är en stötförening.


A controlled crowd

The new iPad had just been released and as I passed the computer shop just by the Tube exit I saw that they had prepared for the onslaught: A bolshy guard stood and glared at the queue of prospective buyers. All five of them.