Monthly Archives: April 2015

  • Research shows language you speak changes your view of the world

    In research that was published recently in Psychological Science, German-English bilinguals and German and English monoglots were studied to find out how different language patterns affected how they reacted in experiments.

    This research shows that bilinguals can also view the world in different ways depending on the specific language in which they are operating, according to Mashable.

    The past 15 years have seen extensive research on the bilingual mind, with most of the evidence pointing to the tangible advantages of being bilingual. Going back and forth between languages appears to be a kind of brain training, pushing your brain to be flexible.

    To quote the abstract for the research paper:

    People make sense of objects and events around them by classifying them into identifiable categories. The extent to which language affects this process has been the focus of a long-standing debate: Do different languages cause their speakers to behave differently? Here, we show that fluent German-English bilinguals categorize motion events according to the grammatical constraints of the language in which they operate. First, as predicted from cross-linguistic differences in motion encoding, bilingual participants functioning in a German testing context prefer to match events on the basis of motion completion to a greater extent than do bilingual participants in an English context. Second, when bilingual participants experience verbal interference in English, their categorization behavior is congruent with that predicted for German; when bilingual participants experience verbal interference in German, their categorization becomes congruent with that predicted for English. These findings show that language effects on cognition are context-bound and transient, revealing unprecedented levels of malleability in human cognition.

    Bilingual German and Frisian police station sign
    Bilingual German and Frisian police station sign. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    By way of illustrating these differences, Mashable’s piece gives a handy example of these different world views

    German-English bilinguals were shown video clips of events with a motion in them, such as a woman walking towards a car or a man cycling towards the supermarket. The participants were then asked to describe the scenes.

    When such a scene is presented to a monoglot German speaker they will tend to describe the action and the goal of the action. Thus they would tend to say “A woman walks towards her car” or “a man cycles towards the supermarket”. English monoglot speakers would simply describe those scenes as “A woman is walking” or “a man is cycling”, without mentioning the goal of the action.

    As regards the effect of the language being spoken on bilingual speakers’ perceptions of the world, they seemed to switch between these perspectives based on the language in which they were given the task. Germans fluent in English were just as goal-focused as any other native speaker when tested in German in their home country. However, a similar group of German-English bilinguals tested in English in the UK were just as action-focused as native English speakers.

    Hat tip: Katya Ford.

  • A chance meeting

    Walking down Stapleton Road this morning, I stopped to take the picture below in readiness for reporting the fly-tipping to Bristol City Council.

    fly-tipping outside 96 Stapleton Road

    The gentleman passing on the right of the picture and half caught by the camera saw what I was doing, thanked me effusively and shook my hand when I told him I was reporting it to the council.

    We then had a brief conversation about how such anti-social behaviour detracted from the pleasantness of Bristol, which he described as a “beautiful city”, the health implications of fly-tipping and the way they encouraged the spread of vermin such as rats (posts passim).

    As we parted with waves, he asked me whether I was a member of the Green Party. Unfortunately I have no affiliation, but that’s no barrier to being an active and caring citizen.

  • Sexism in café society

    An unnamed café in Bristol is apparently serving his and hers breakfasts.

    café menu board featuring his and hers breakfasts

    Yes, that’s right! Men get to scoff tortilla, bacon, sausages, 2 token items of fruit/vegetables (tomato and mushroom), Cheddar cheese, ham roll and butter, whilst women are supposed to pick their way daintily through muffin, poached egg, smoked salmon, salad leaves, cherry tomatoes, avocado, red onion, blueberries, yoghurt and pumpkin seeds.

    Men can obviously let their figures go to pot (and blood cholesterol levels too. Ed.), whilst women are automatically assumed to be on a diet; women have “gotta stay slim for our men obvz” in the scathing words of one on social media.

    This isn’t the first time that sexism has emerged at breakfast time (posts passim).

    Update 30/04/15: The his and hers labels are being removed from the menu according to the Western Daily Press, which also revealed the name of the establishment as Caffe Be On. In addition, this post was quoted in yesterday’s Daily Mirror.

    Hat tip: MarinaS.

  • Debian 8 released

    Debian logoYesterday Debian announced the release of Debian 8, codenamed ‘Jessie’ as the latest stable release of this popular GNU/Linux distribution.

    The release will receive support and updates for the next 5 years and has been in development for the last 24 months.

    “Jessie” ships with a new default init system, systemd. The systemd suite provides many exciting features such as faster boot times, cgroups for services, and the possibility of isolating part of the services. The sysvinit init system is still available in “Jessie”.

    The UEFI (“Unified Extensible Firmware Interface”) support introduced in the previous stable release (“Wheezy”) has also been greatly improved in Jessie. This includes workarounds for many known firmware bugs, support for UEFI on 32-bit systems, and support for 64-bit kernels with 32-bit UEFI firmware (with the latter being included only on Debian’s amd64/i386 “multi-arch” installation media).

    It’s not just the Debian project’s developers that have been working hard for the release of “Jessie”. Thanks to the huge efforts of translators working on localisation, Debian can now be installed in 75 languages.

    Trying Jessie

    If you want to try Debian 8 “Jessie” without having to install it, you can use a special image, known as a live image, available for CDs, USB sticks, and network booting set-ups. For the time being, these images are provided for the amd64 and i386 architectures only. It is also possible to use these live images to install Debian. More information is available on the Debian Live homepage.


    Those wishing to upgrade to Debian 8 from a previous version, such as Debian 7 “Wheezy”, are strongly advised to read the release notes as well as the installation guide for possible issues, plus detailed instructions on installing and upgrading.

    Your correspondent has been using “Jessie” on a 5 year-old laptop for the last year (posts passim), i.e from about halfway through its time as Debian’s testing stable version and has found it to be fast, stable and reliable.

    In other Debian news, the first release of the new version of Debian Edu, the special education-related distribution, based on Debian 8 “Jessie” is now in beta.

  • Post exclusive: Bristol Rovers change kit

    There’s a hidden exclusive in today’s online edition of the Bristol Post. Unknown to the fans and probably the club itself, the Post reveals that Bristol Rovers now play in “blue and white stripes“, as shown by the following screenshot.

    screenshot featuring text But it turned out to be Sabadell fans, who were decked out in their home kit, which looks similar to the Rovers's blue and white stripes

    For the benefit of passing Post journalists, here are the three strips currently used by Bristol Rovers. Please note the only stripes are on the alternative away colours and have one thin blue stripe. The pattern used on the regular strip is commonly known as “quarters“.

    image of three current Bristol Rovers strips
    Image courtesy of Wikipedia

    The Post also mentions in the article that Catalonia’s CE Sabadell FC (who are in the Spanish Segunda División. Ed.) play in a strip “similar” to that of Rovers. FC Sabadell’s current strips are shown below and yes, the home strips do look very similar, even if the teams’ respective league positions do not; Rovers are chasing promotion from the Conference, whilst Sabadell are fighting relegation.

    Sabadell strips from Spanish Wikipedia
    Image courtesy of Wikipedia

    Let’s hope the players of both teams are more on target than Bristol’s alleged newspaper of record. 🙂

  • Stretch: the next Debian testing stable version

    Debian logoWith Debian 8, codenamed ‘jessie’, currently frozen and due for release as the next stable release at the end of April (posts passim), many may have been wondering what the next Debian testing stable release will be.

    However, this particular question has now been answered. Writing on reddit, user dimitrifromparis has revealed the next character from the Toy Story series of films to be used as a Debian release codename.

    After the jessie release, there will be a new release codename, “stretch”, and testing will be an alias for that.

    See the Debian wiki for an overview of past Debian production release codenames.

    Besides testing stable, Debian also has a testing unstable version, named sid. Sid is never released as such and is named after Sidney, the boy next door in Toy Story who always broke his toys. Needless to say, Debian sid is definitely not recommended for production environments.

  • The pavement pizza of politics

    Banksy, probably Bristol’s most visible artist since the days when noted portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence (13th April 1769 – 7th January 1830) became President of the Royal Academy of Arts, has now given allegedly given his opinion on Mr Farage’s party of right-wing xenophobes; and I don’t think Nigel will be enamoured with it.

    stencil of UKIP being regurgitated by a vomiting woman

    This image will now be forever in my mind whenever the words ‘United Kingdom Independence Party‘ appear before me on a ballot paper.

  • The Wild Wild Bristol West Hustings

    ORG logoOn Friday 24th April 2015, the Open Rights Group is supporting the Wild Wild Bristol West Hustings, a chance for local voters to quiz the candidates for the Bristol West constituency – rated by commentators as either a 2-way or 3-way marginal constituency.

    The event will be from 7.00 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. and its venue is Bristol University’s Wills Memorial Building, Park Street, Bristol BS8 1RJ (map).

    In alphabetical order, the candidates attending as this post goes to press include:

    More information about the prospective Bristol West MPs is available at http//

    The event is free, but in order to allocate spaces fairly, you’ll have to register via EventBrite.

    The event is being supported by ORG Bristol as part of the organisers, the Greater Bristol Alliance, a coalition of local campaign groups.

    Reposted from Bristol Wireless.

  • Election special: Labour love hard work

    Ed Miliband
    Vote Labour, get a lifetime of hard labour?
    Political language relies to a great extent on clichés. Two of the most over-used terms of recent times is “hard work” and “hard working“, with the latter usually attached to the noun families and implying that the childless in society are incapable of arduous slogging.

    With some free time on my hands this morning, I spent a leisurely hour going through the main UK party manifestos (excluding regional parties such as Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Northern Ireland parties) for the forthcoming general election looking for instances of “hard work“. The results for each manifesto are shown below.

    1st: Labour 5
    2nd: Conservatives 3
    3rd: Liberal Democrats & UKIP 1 each
    5th Green Party 0

    Both my parents were unskilled manual workers who left school at the age of 14 and worked all their lives. Indeed my father once told me that on his last day of schooling, he went to school in the morning, left at midday and went straight to work for a local farmer as an agricultural labourer in the afternoon.

    I remember the physical effect that hard work had on their bodies. Both were prematurely aged long before the official retirement age. My father died at the relatively young age of 67, whilst my mother, who although she lived to be nearly 82, was disabled from her mid-50s onwards by a debilitating stroke. I therefore do not regard hard work as such as the same great virtue as the closeted and cosseted inhabitants of the Westminster Village, who’ve probably never done a hard day’s physical graft in their lives.

  • Hungarian universities adopt ODF

    Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news site, reports that Eötvös University and Szeged University in Hungary are increasing their use of Open Document Format (ODF).

    Between them the 2 universities have some 45,000 students.

    ODF logoIn addition, both universities have also signed licences with MultiRáció of Budapest for the deployment and support of 34,000 copies of EuroOffice, a free and open source office suite developed especially for the Hungarian market, but based on both major free and open source suites, LibreOffice and OpenOffice. EuroOffice is available in 2 versions – free and professional – for both Windows and Linux. It can also be installed in 7 languages – English (US variant), German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Hungarian – which MultiRáció claims are the native languages of 85% of the EU’s population.

    The Hungarian government decided to promote the use of both EuroOffice and ODF in schools and universities in 2014. MultiRáció’s senior software developer Kázmér Koleszár described these initiatives as “an important policy change”, given that the country’s public sector had been reliant on MS Office for the preceding 15 years.

    MultiRáció is actively involved in the ODF specification, being a member of OASIS, a non-profit consortium promoting the development, convergence and adoption of open standards for the global information society.

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