Category Archives: Curiosities


Lost in translation

There are some words of a language which remain untranslatable. Here are some of my favourites:

Duende (Spanish)- On a Google Translate, it’ll show “elf”. It is actually the spark of divine inspiration, expressing itself out of one’s heart, or the involuntary feeling of awe, in reaction to an inspiring piece of art or music.

Tenalach (Gaeilge)- The relationship one has with the earth, the air, the water. A deep connection that makes you one with nature.

Gemütlich (German)- Translates as “comfortable”, but it is the sort of comfortable exhibited by a warm house full of people who love you; when you are happy and relaxed.

Ya’aburnee (Arabic)- Literally translates as “You bury me.” The declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

Koi No Yokan (Japanese)- The feeling you can get when meeting a person for the first time, that you will fall in love with them. Different from “love at first sight”, as it does not say that love already exists, only the knowledge that it WILL happen later.

– posted on The Listserve by Ishita, Kolkata, India

Visualising computer memory

Green letters flowing

Did you ever see the Matrix and wonder just how all of those green characters of weird computer code flowing across the screen corresponded to what was represented on the screen inside the matrix?

Well, today I came across a tool on the BERG blog, which shows this correlation very well with real computer code:

ICU64 is a real-time debugger for Commodore 64 emulators. On the right is an emulator program emulating a virtual C64 machine. This virtual machine is running an old C64 game. On the left is ICU64 displaying the memory registers of the virtual C64 machine.

Tom Armitage on the aforementioned BERG blog does well to describe what’s going on:

To begin with, you can see the registers being filled and decompressed to in real time; then, you can see the ripple as all the registers empty and are refilled. And then, as the game in question loads, you can see registers being read directly corresponding to sprite animation. What from a distance appears to be green and yellow dots can be zoomed right into ?? the individual values of each register being made clear. It??s a long video, but the first minute or two makes the part I liked clear: a useful (and surprisingly beautiful) visualisation of computer memory. It helps that the computer in question has a memory small enough that it can reasonably be displayed on a modern screen.

Seeing how the individual memory registers of the C64 as it runs the game, you can get an idea of how the individual bytes all play a part in presenting the game. And as the video progresses, you get an understanding of how you can change individual bytes and thus change the game – in realtime. This is pretty much what Neo does in the Matrix films: He hacks the code of the Matrix on the fly to give himself superhuman powers such as the ability to fly or fight, thereby breaking the programmed laws of the game.

It is a beautiful visualisation of the relationship between the physical computer (the registers on the disk) and the information we see displayed on our screen.

Jon alone

One of my all-time favourite comics is Calvin and Hobbes. It’s a comic strip about a six-year old boy and his friendship with his stuffed toy tiger. The strip is a celebration of the vivid imagination and playfulness of the child, to whom the tiger appears alive and talkative. While to everybody else, it’s just an inanimate stuffed toy tiger.

Now, consider Garfield. Probably the best-selling comic strip in the world. The basic premise is that you have a fat, ego-centric cat who enjoys annoying his lonely owner. The sarcastic drive of the cat dominates every other character in the strip. But what if Garfield was just a figment of poor Jon’s imagination?

Well, now, with Garfield minus Garfield, we can see what Jon’s life would be without Garfield. As the introduction reads:

Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let??s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness in a quiet American suburb.

You need to read a few pages to get the full desperation and crazed loneliness that the comic conveys. But then it’s downright startling.

Gary Gygax RIP

I know I’m late writing this, since Gary Gygax, the father of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise and the whole idea of pencil-and-paper role playing games died almost a week ago.

But having waited means that I can link to some of the clever tributes which have been posted around the Net.

Like many of these players, I have spent much time dreaming myself away to these wondrous worlds, and playing these games with friends. Though, really, I think I spent more time dreaming up the worlds with their civilizations and stories and heroes than I spent actually playing the game, which with its crude characters and obsessive rules mostly annoyed me. I enjoyed the promise of the story. Of making my own adventures without being bogged down by the game. Thinking about it now, I wonder whether I have ever been keen on letting dice rule my story.

On limbo

I found a brilliant expression in a newspaper review recently which I subsequently have adopted. It finds its best use whenever something seems to be almost ridiculously low-brow and attention-seeking. As in:

Did you see that TV-show yesterday? They were just dancing limbo beneath the lowest common denominator.


It works even better by sounding less mathematical in Danish, so your mileage may vary.

A Dane in Norway

I just came back from 4 days in Norway late last night, having only two days to prepare for my trip to California.

Going to Norway is like entering a big Danish thesaurus. All the words are recognizable and usable in Danish, they’re just not that common. Here’s a list of some of the Norwegian words I noted:

‘Vakker’ rather than ‘smuk’
‘Kjeltring’ rather than ‘forbryder’
‘løvskåret skinke’ rather than ‘fintskåret skinke’
‘Minnepinne’ rather than ‘memory stick’ (good Danish that)

Further, the Norwegian language is like Danish just littered with spelling mistakes – which makes it even more interesting and can create some curious misconceptions. For instance the way that Danish ‘kneb’ (Danish for ‘trick’) is subtly changed to ‘knep’ (Danish for ‘fuck’).

Or my personal favourite, one of the biggest Danish gossip magazines is called ‘Her og nu’ has a Norwegian pendant called ‘Her & Nå’

Which in Danish is like turning ‘here and now’ into ‘here and so’ – the question mark almost pronounced with it. I find this hilarious since it pretty much sums up my attitude to gossip magazines in that Danish word: “Nå?”

Men who look like Dieter Bohlen..

My friend and one time anthropology compadre, Tore, is finally getting his blogging act together, and have started a regular output of blogging. His definion of blog writing is “a narcissistic ride towards insanity where people who have nothing to say still torment their readers with their platitudes and empty banalities.” If I have translated it right.

Tore is known for emphatic sarcasm, especially with regards to pop culture. Not only has he featured a post on “Men who look like Dieter Bohlen” – he is also vice-president of the Chelsea Gloryhunter Club who only accept people as members if they haven’t supported Chelsea FC before 12:47 on the 25th of november 2005 (which was when the club founder and president decided to become a Chelsea fan, as he was sick and tired of watching his original true love, Hertha Berlin, getting trounced every weekend.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Tore will twist the everyday stories of blogging and the online experience to new levels of intrigue and danger.