Olive oil – a definition

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If you have ever wondered about the derivation of olive oil, here is the ultimate definition courtesy of my Twitter feed.

Text reads Olive oil composed of refined olive oils and virgin olive oils. Oil comprising exclusively olive oils taht have undergone refining and oils obtained directly from olives.

No further comment is required.

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LibreOffice 7.0.6 released

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The Document Foundation (TDF), the German non-profit organisation behind the free and open source LibreOffice productivity suite, has today announced the release of LibreOffice 7.0.6, the slightly less bleeding edge version of the suite intended for enterprise deployments and more conservative users.

LibreOffice 7.0.6 is the sixth minor release of the LibreOffice 7.0 family and is available for immediate download.

According to the LibreOffice Twitter account, this new release contains over 50 bug fixes. TDF also states this will be the final release of the 7.0 branch, with development efforts being concentrated henceforth on maintaining the 7.1 branch and working towards readying LibreOffice 7.2 for release.

LibreOffice 7.0 bannerFor commerical deployments, TDF strongly recommends seeking support from its partners so as to obtain long-term supported releases, dedicated assistance, custom new features and other benefits such as SLAs.

Anyone who’s willing to contribute their time and professional skills to LibreOffice is advised to visit the dedicated supporters’ website.

Finally, all LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members are invited to make a donation to support The Document Foundation.

Le Petit Robert: covid is masculine

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Image of Petit RobertFrancoinfo reports that Le Petit Robert, a popular single-volume French dictionary, reckons that “usage is law” and considers that the word “covid” is used as a masculine noun in the majority of French-speaking countries.

In its 2022 edition, Le Petit Robert, one of the two major commercial dictionaries in France (the other being Larousse. Ed.), reckons the word “covid” is written with a lower case first letter and is also masculine.

To designate the viral disease which has spread throughout the world, Robert distinguishes the generic term “covid“, as in the example “suspected covid“, and the specific one of “Covid-19” with a capital letter. Robert’s definition of “covid” is: “Infectious and contagious disease caused by a coronavirus”.

Its competitor Larousse consistently uses a capital first letter, i.e. “COVID-19” or “Covid-19“.

Doubts about gender

Covid-19 is an acronym created in English by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) and adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February 2020. It means 2019 coronavirus disease.

Its gender has been the subject of doubts in French. For Le Petit Robert, it is “masculine or feminine“, but more often masculine, whereas for Larousse, it is “feminine or masculine“: more correct as feminine, but masculine for many speakers.

When introducing its 2022 edition of the dictionary, Le Petit Robert reckons that “it is usage that dictates the law. If the feminine is adopted in French-speaking Canada, the masculine is currently used by the majority in France where the opinion of the Académie Française (the principal French council for matters pertaining to the French language. Ed.) has been late in coming, whilst the masculine was already well established”.

Rush of words linked to the pandemic

Le Petit Robert has added several words linked to the pandemic, some of which are very current in today’s language, such as “déconfinement” (end(ing) or lifting of lockdown), and rarer ones such as “aérosolisation” (“airborne diffusion of fine particles by aerosol”).

French is not the only language to have experienced a surge of neologisms linked to the pandemic. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that 1,200 new German terms have been inspired by this global health crisis.

Germany – one place for public code

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German IT news website heise reports that software developed with taxpayers’ money should be made freely available by public sector organisations to enable its further development. Together with the states of North Rhine-Westhalia and Baden-Württemberg, the German Federal Interior Ministry wants to establish an open source platform for the public sector. It should make it easier for the Federal government, regional governments and local authorities to reuse open source software and jointly continue its development.

The overriding aim is digital sovereignty, i.e. minimising the current dependency on predominantly US hardware and software manufacturers. The repository should also be a documentation platform and include a user manual. Further important aspects in this case involve legal certainty, comprehensible rules for use, a general explanation of open source and bringing the community together.

Screenshot of Python code

Home for free code

A group of experts made up of members of the Open Source Business Alliance (OSBA), the Bundes-Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Kommunalen IT-Dienstleister e.V (VITAKO) and several collaborators carried out the preliminary work in September 2020 and produced an initial plan for an open source code repository. The initiative is working under the slogan “One place for public code”.

At the same time, the IT Planning Council’s “Cloud Computing and Digital Sovereignty” working group of the IT Planning Council decided to pilot an open source code repository. The BMI, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg are currently testing the platform’s initial stage. According to the BMI, a minimum viable product with the central platform’s core functions was achieved at at the end of March. On the basis of this, tests are currently being carried out, whilst the project continues to be developed.

Numerous supporters

“One place for public code” is also associated with the initiative. Its supporters include local authority associations, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE), The Document Foundation (TDF), Wikimedia Deutschland and many major city councils such as Munich and Frankfurt am Main.

The vision thing

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The vision thing” is a comment made by George H. W. Bush ahead of the 1988 United States presidential election when urged to spend some time thinking about his plans for his prospective presidency.

The embracing of vision – with or without the thing – is widespread in public life in Britain at both local and national levels. Every party leader is expected to have one; and any plans for the wholesale remodelling of large areas of our town and cities are expected incorporate vision too.

An investigation into the prevalence of vision in the organs of the British state reveals just how ingrained use of the term is. A quick Google search for items containing “vision” on websites within the .gov.uk domain is revealing.

Screenshot of Google search revealing 2.3m uses of vision on central and local government websites

No, your eyes do not deceive you – 2.3 million instances of use.

Looking more locally, a recent search (mid-April) of the Bristol City Council website for the term returns a total of over 4,200 hits. It has probably risen since last month (and with all that evident ocular deployment, one would have thought that the inhabitants of the Counts Louse – which some refer to as City Hall – would realise there’s a major cleanliness problem with the city’s streets. Ed.).

Screenshot of Google search of Bristol City Council website for use of vision

With all that vision in use in the country, opticians and their colleagues must be raking in the money. 😀

Helmut Schmidt

Sie hatten Recht, Herr Bundeskanzler!

Or is it necessarily opticians and associated practitioners that should be profiting from this phenomenon? There is some scepticism about the benefits of visions.

George H.W. Bush was mentioned at the start of this post. One of his contemporaries was the former West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

Schmidt was very dismissive of visions and is on record as stating the following:

Wer Visionen hat, soll zum Arzt gehen.

This translates into English as:

Anyone who has visions should go to the doctor.

Will those working for the British state be visiting their GPs en masse soon?

I doubt it.

Finally, when someone summoned up the courage to ask Schmidt what his big vision was, he is reputed to have referred them to Bush! 😀

Twitter: a correction

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The media and social media today are awash with the result of yesterday’s Hartlepool by-election which was surprisingly won from Labour by the Tories*.

However, some of the language being used to describe the victory is prone to error, such as the example below from Twitter’s trending topics.

Screenshot from Twitter trends showing the Conservative MP described as an MP instead of a candidate

As the winning Tory was not the sitting MP, the correct way to describe her is as a candidate, not an MP. She only becomes an MP upon winning a parliamentary (by-)election.

In times past such a basic error would have been picked by a sub-editor or similar, but they were all dispensed with some years ago. 🙁

*= Hartlepool hasn’t had A Tory Member of Parliament since it was represented in Westminster by Peter Mandelson. 😉

Muse Group acquires Audacity

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Audacity is a great free and open source audio editor, which is available for all major computing platforms – Linux, Mac and Windows. It’s one of the free and open source software packages I recommend in my list of free and open source software.

Audacity running on Linux, audio track and MIDI track playing

Audacity running on Linux, audio track and MIDI track playing

Today The Register reports that Audacity has been purchased by Muse Group, which has promised to keep the platform free and open source.

The deal was announced on 30th April by Martin Keary, who is Head Of Design at MuseScore, an open-source notation software package also owned by Muse Group, and who will now “manage Audacity in partnership with its open-source community”. The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed.

Audacity received a major update to version 3.0 in March, some 20 years since its first version 1.0 was released. Among the new release’s features were a new file format, analyser and a multitude of bug fixes.

In addition Keary announced that the project was seeking to recruit “a few key positions for senior developers or designers who have experience in audio or music tech.”

A video was also released to coincide with the announcement.

May blossom

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We’re now in May and one reliable natural occurrence of the time of year is the flowering of common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), which is also known as the oneseed hawthorn, or single-seeded hawthorn.

Other common names include may, mayblossom, maythorn, quickthorn, whitethorn, motherdie, and haw.

The Woodland Trust have produced a short video depicting one year in the life of the hawthorn.

The specimen below can be found in the Easton section of the Bristol & Railway Path near the Brixton Road access point.

Hawthorn tree on Railway Path in Easton

Hawthorn is amongst the first trees to start budding in the spring (the above specimen first put out leaves in late January. Ed.) and is also a fast-growing plant. This may explain the alternative name of quickthorn.

As it forms a dense, thorny mass of branches, it is often used for hedging, particularly where livestock has to be contained.

Besides its agricultural value as hedging, common hawthorn can support more than 300 insects. It is a food plant for caterpillars of numerous moths. Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects. The haws (berries) are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

Furthermore, the dense, thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many bird species of bird.

Green Man ceiling boss, Rochester Cathedral

Folklore and symbolism

Hawthorn is a pagan symbol of fertility and has associations with May Day stretching back beyond written history. It was the forerunner of the Maypole and its leaves and flowers provided the source of May Day garlands as well as appearing in the wreath of the Green Man.

In medieval times hawthorn was never brought indoors as it was generally believed that bringing its blossom indoors would result in illness and even death. In those times it was also commonly believed that hawthorn blossom smelled like the plague. In more recent times scientists have discovered the chemical trimethylamine (which smells like ammonia or rotting flesh. Ed.) in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in rotting animal fish, hence the tree’s traditional linking with illness and death.

In spite of the beliefs and symbolism outlined above, the young hawthorn leaves, flower buds and young flowers are all edible. The leaves are often described as having the flavour of bread and cheese. They can be added to green salads and grated root salads. The developing flower buds are particularly good. The haws can be eaten raw (beware a stomach upset. Ed.), but are most commonly used to make jellies and wines.

A final personal note

In my own life, the blossoming of the hawthorn always reminds me that spring is giving way to early summer.

In particular, it reminds of when I was 8 years old and my mother took my 2 younger siblings and me by train all the way from Stafford to Harling Road in Norfolk – the nearest station to my grandmother’s home. The journey took the best part of a day (showing how difficult it was to travel cross-country in England, even in pre-Beeching times. Ed.). The fields on either side of the railway lines on which we travelled were thick with hawthorn blossoming pink and white.

Whenever I see hawthorn in bloom these days, I’m immediately reminded of that one train journey, even though it’s now almost 6 decades in the past.

Update: After writing this post, I asked both my siblings if they remembered that journey and if so, what they recalled. My sister replied that she recollected the journey as being interminable and her chief memory was all the trackside telegraph poles, whilst my brother – the youngest of us – responded with a question as to whether that was the railway trip during which he was sick. He obviously had other matters than lineside shrubbery on his mind. 😀

Proofreading failure dumps elderly in river

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Courtesy of my old college friend Paddy, I’ve been sent the following clipping from the dead tree edition of the Evesham Journal via social media.

It relates to problems on the River Isbourne, a tributary of the Warwickshire Avon.

Text reads: Mrs Payne says. fellow landowners nearby have had similar problems with vandalism and having items being thrown in the river, including the elderly.

Even though the elderly have had a bath thanks to ambiguity and poor proofreading in the Evesham Journal’s dead tree version, this age discrimination has thankfully been eliminated from the paper’s online version of the report.

No pensioners were harmed – or dunked – in the drafting of this blog post.

Illiteracy or bloody-mindedness?

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It’s now 10 years since TidyBS5 was inaugurated by local residents with the support of local ward councillors to campaign for a more pleasant street scene in the Bristol council wards of Easton and Lawrence Hill.

During all that time, both residents and councillors has persistently call on Bristol City Council to increase both the presence and visibility of enforcement action, but our efforts have only been rewarded in the last couple of years with higher fixed penalty notices (FPNs) for environmental crimes in 2019 and the recent recruiting of more enforcement officers (posts passim).

Largely as a result of the actions of local residents raising awareness of environmental blight, the streets of Lawrence Hill and Easton are now marginally freer of fly-tipping than they were then, but problems still persist, not helped by the lower footfall due to lockdown and the amount of DIY and building works being undertaken.

This was spotted at the junction of Walton Street and Chaplin Road.

Photo shows fly-tipping beneath sign advising no fly-tipping, CCTV in operation

Is this an example of illiteracy or bloody-mindedness? Kindly give your answers in the comments.

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