Archive for March, 2012

Who can dance?

Thursday, 29 March, 2012

I did a one-day course at work yesterday on creative and innovative thinking. It was fun and interesting, and I think I picked up some good ideas. The guy giving the course told us a few stories.

One time he was talking to a group of a couple hundred or so kids, maybe around 8 or 9 years old. He yelled excitedly, “Who here can dance?!” And every single kid got up and started dancing around wildly.

Another time he was addressing a group of a couple of hundred business executives. He yelled excitedly, “Who here can dance?!” Not a single one of them moved.

His question: When did all those adults forget how to dance?

Mmm… spiced ham

Thursday, 29 March, 2012

For the record: If I can’t tell whether your comment is spam or not, I’m marking it as spam without a second thought.

TV aspect ratio

Tuesday, 27 March, 2012

I see that the TV stations here have all given up the ghost on 4:3 aspect ratio. They used to frame things like news and sports broadcasts so that there was no vital information outside the 4:3 framing, so it wouldn’t be cropped off on old TV sets. But now I’ve noticed all of that info has expanded, presumably to fill the full width of the 16:9 aspect ratio, meaning bits of it are now cropped on my TV. Also they’re now framing humans so they’re frequently chopped in half on my screen.

I guess it’s time to bite the bullet and buy a new TV soon.

Lunchtime video

Thursday, 22 March, 2012

Just spent a very fun lunchtime at work filming some video.

For a secret project.

Stay tuned.

Morning photos

Wednesday, 21 March, 2012

The Morning SwimGot up early this morning to take photos at Collaroy. Sunrise was pretty poor, but I got this shot, which I think turned out well.

Webcomics stolen for Android app

Tuesday, 13 March, 2012

An Android app developer is using Darths & Droids, plus the work of many other webcomic creators, without permission or even prior knowledge, and making money off it with advertising. I’ve contacted the developer and asked him to remove Darths & Droids from the app. You may want to spread the word to other webcomic communities.

Verb of the day 5

Saturday, 10 March, 2012

andare (to go)
I go – (io) vado, vo
you go (inf.) – (tu) vai
he/she/it goes, you go (pol.) – (lui/lei/Lei) va
we go – (noi) andiamo
you go (pl. inf.) – (voi) andate
they go, you make/do (pol.) – (loro/Loro) vanno

A very useful verb, though the conjugation is rather irregular. I’m most familiar with this one from my last trip to Italy, when I went on a guided tour up the volcano of Stromboli in the Aeolian Islands. After each rest break or other interruption to our progress up the mountain, our tour leader would yell, “Andiamo!” – literally “We go!” or idiomatically “Let’s go!”

My Italian dictionary lists both vado and vo for the first person singular present tense conjugation, but it’s not clear to me what the difference is, or when you might use one rather than the other. A couple of other books I have list only vado. Maybe it’s a dialect thing? Or maybe vo is slangy, the sort of talk hip young kids on the streets of Naples use?

Verb of the day 4

Thursday, 8 March, 2012

fare (to make, to do)
I make/do – (io) faccio, fo
you make/do (inf.) – (tu) fai
he/she/it makes/does, you make/do (pol.) – lui/lei/Lei fa
we make/do – (noi) facciamo
you make/do (pl. inf.) – (voi) fate
they make/do, you make/do (pol.) – (loro/Loro) fanno

This will take some learning. I was not familiar with this verb before now, but it’s another very common one. Looking at my Italian dictionary, this is a verb with a lot of complexity in Italian. Not only does it do double duty for the common meanings of “to make” and “to do”, it’s used in an awful lot of idiomatic expressions. I’ll just have to try and get the more basic usages down first.

One thing about Italian verbs that you might notice is that in the conjugation list I’m putting the Italian pronouns in parentheses. This is because, unlike in English, the conjugations are all different, so they indicate the subject of the verb without the explicit subject word actually needing to be there. So Italian speakers typically simply omit the pronouns:

Faccio pasta. – I make pasta.

You could say Io faccio pasta, but the Io isn’t necessary since the subject “I” is implied by the conjugation of the verb. This is in contrast to the closely related Romance language Spanish (a little bit of which I learnt last year for my trip to South America), where the pronoun is still needed, even though the verb conjugation has to match, and implies what the pronoun must be:

Spanish: Yo hago la pasta.

Here the hago means the subject must be Yo, but you still need to say the Yo. Knowing some Italian helped me with Spanish, because apart from this difference the sentence structures are almost identical, and many words are derived from the same roots, so look familiar. Disclaimer: I’m no expert on Spanish! This is my understanding – I may be wrong. (I’m no expert in Italian either, for that matter, but I’m a bit more comfortable with it.)

Verb of the day 3

Tuesday, 6 March, 2012

avere (to have)
I have – (io) ho
you have (inf.) – (tu) hai
he/she/it has, you have (pol.) – lui/lei/Lei ha
we have – (noi) abbiamo
you have (pl. inf.) – (voi) avete
they have, you have (pol.) – (loro/Loro) hanno

Probably the next most important verb after “to be” is “to have”. You can be lots of things, and you can have lots of things.
Ho una pizza. I have a pizza.
Abbiamo una prenotazione. We have a reservation. (Useful for hotels.)

In Italian, avere is also used for many things that take the verb “to be” in English, such as states of mind or age.
Ho caldo. I am hot. (literally “I have heat”)
Ho fame. I am hungry. (lit. “I have hunger”)
Ha ventuno anni. He/she is twenty one years old. (lit. “He/she has twenty one years.”)

Be especially careful if you want to say you are hot. If you use essereSto caldo. – you are not saying the temperature is uncomfortably high, you are saying that you are hot, sexy stuff.

Verbs of the day 1 & 2

Tuesday, 6 March, 2012

So I’m trying to teach myself more Italian than I learnt last time I went to Italy in 2001. I know enough rudiments that it’s time to start learning some verbs systematically. I originally posted these first two on Google+, but thought I’d transfer them here for longer term posterity. I’ll continue here rather than there. Without further ado:

Verb of the day 1: essere (to be).
The most common and important verb of all, both in English and Italian. Interestingly, I believe it’s the most irregular verb of all in English. Compare:
to walk – to be
I walk – I am
you walk – you are
he/she/it walks – he/she/it is
we walk – we are
you (plural) walk – you (plural) are
they walk – they are
I walked – I was
you walked – you were
he/she/it walked – he/she/it was
we walked – we were
you (pl.) walked – you (pl.) were
they walked – they were

In Italian, essere is also irregular, but does partly follow the basic pattern for verb conjugation endings:
to be – essere
I am – (io) sono
you are (informal) – (tu) sei
he/she/it is, you are (polite) – (lui,lui,Lei) è
we are – (noi) siamo
you are (pl. inf.) – (voi) siete
they are, you are (pl. pol.) – (loro,Loro) sono

I am human. Sono umano.

I pretty much know this verb already, but I thought I’d start at the beginning.

Verb of the day 2: stare (to be)
Yep, Italian has two verbs that mean (almost) the same thing! Or rather, it has two verbs that do different parts of the job that the multi-tasking “to be” does in English.
Essere (and its conjugations) is generally used for things with a degree of permanence, such as characteristics of people or objects:
Sono umano. – I am human.
Il libro è rosso. – The book is red.

Stare is used for temporary states, such as feelings or actions.
Sto bene. – I am well.
Sto cercando la stazione. – I am looking for the station.

to be – stare
I am – (io) sto
you are (inf.) – (tu) stai
he/she/it is, you are (pol.) – (lui/lei/Lei) sta
we are – (noi) stiamo
you are (pl. inf.) – (voi) state
they are, you are (pol.) – stanno

A common usage that many English speakers may have heard is in the question Come stai? – “How are you”? Though this is the informal form of the question, which should only be used with people you know well. The polite form, for strangers, is Come sta?