Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Donkeys eat my compost heap

Photo taken a few days ago. The grass in the field had gone sour so the donkeys preferred to lean over the wall and munch the leaves and grass clippings on my compost heap.

I'm not entirely sure what is meant by sour. It seems to mean more than weedy (though weedy it certainly was). I think it means that the donkeys have fouled it, and being fatstidious animals (unlike cows) they then refuse to eat it.

The field has now been topped - mown with the mower at a high setting, with the cuttings left to melt back in. This will encourage tasty fresh growth, after which my compost heap will become less appealing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Epxoesd : Cmabrigde Uinervtisy rsereach fitciitous

The other day I cited
reesarch at Cmabrigde Unervtisy purporting to show that it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae.

However, the case is much as I ssupceted. The jumbled text was circulated on the internet in September 2003, but as of July 2008, no such research had been done at Cambrdge. Who says? Matt Davis who works, or worked, at the Cambridge cognition and brain sciences unit, where they investigate how the brain processes language. If there's a new piece of research on reading that's been conducted in Cambridge, he thought he should have heard of it ... and he hadn’t.

He concedes the text has elements of truth, but also some things which psycholinguists know to be incorrect. There is a cost to reading words with jumbled letters. (I suppose that’s obvious really). And the degree of jumbling in the circulated text was actually carefully limited, so it’s an exaggeration to say the only important thing is that the first and last letters be at the right place.

Matt Davis has written a page to try to explain the science behind this meme. (Or behind this idea. Meme is a word of whose utility I have yet to be convinced.)

Thanks to Ben in York for telling me about this (and the next one).

Move over Madrid, we’re in York

Just found out that
Library Square in York rivals Sol square in Madrid for the world's biggest democracy camp.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

We visit Madrid protests

Two protests that we visited in Madrid earlier this week. Sol Square where they were protesting for a new society. Or, according to an alternative account, to release some demonstrators arrested at an anti-cuts rally. (Left, a poster advertising this demo disparages politicians and bankers.)

And near our hotel, a housing protest. A developer had disappeared (gone bust I suppose, though this point wasn’t clear to me) with the deposits of hundreds of people who thought they had purchased apartments. They explained the thinness of their numbers by the rest being at a demo. “In Sol Square” I asked hopefully? “Oh no” she said “we don’t associate with them”.

The owner of our hotel thought the Sol protest had finished, and here's a Guardian article from 4 days previously which suggested that indeed it had. But the square still seemed to be pretty much occupied when we were there. Over half the square a labyrinth of improvised tents and makeshift structures. Maybe at its height the protest covered the entire square in this fashion.

We offered both sets of protesters money, but they refused to take it. We signed their petitions, which necessitated adding our passport numbers. Your signature isn't valid without it.

The housing protest. Not associated with Sol
Strictly speaking “we” didn’t offer money to both the protest groups. With the Sol protest Eileen was unimpressed. Couldn't quite go along with this new society malarkey.

A few more details about the Sol protest. Their leaflet (a poor affair not worthy to be scanned and displayed in this blog) answers the question “Who are we?” by explaining that they are volunteers who assembled in Sol square after a demonstration on 15th May “to establish ourselves in order to claim dignity and political/social conscience … We are here because we want a new society that gives more priority to life than to economic interest.” Non-violence is emphasised. The English isn't brilliantly clear. But at least an English version was offered, which is rare enough in Spain. Later I'll explain the difficulties I've been under due to Spanish museums displaying explanations in Spanish only. (I don’t complain about this, I merely comment that it is the case.)

I picked up a handy organisation chart, listing working groups and commissions that the protesters had set up. Working groups dealt with economy, politics, immigration, technology, feminism, and other things that I either can't read or can't translate. Commissions dealt with the organisation and administration of the protest camp - documentation, arts, participation, provisions, legal, health, communication, information.

They have a website in Spanish, which links to a page in English called Take the square.

Here's a flavour of it: "We are the outraged, the anonymous, the voiceless. We were there, silent but alert, watching. Not gazing upward at the powers that be, but looking from side to side for the right time to unite with each other. No political party, association or trade union represents us. Nor do we want them to, because each and every one of us speaks for her or himself. Together, we want to design and create a world where people and nature come first, before economic interests."

I can well imagine the arguments and debates that went into drafting that one! I'm afraid I might have had to dissent from the bit where it says “Nor do we want them to, because each and every one of us speaks for her or himself.”

Above : Eileen at Sol, unimpressed by the prospect of a new society
Below : The information stall at Sol

A council worker (orange jacket) cleans up filmed by a TV cameraman.  The banner draped on the equestrian statue (enlarged below) says "We know the way back". 

An abandoned placard hopes for a secular Europe for all. Not sure what they have in mind with this particular slogan.