Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Sunday, October 27, 2019
The Deutsche Bahn website was used to calculate all the below journey options, with 28th Oct 2019 as the (fairly arbitrarily chosen) notional day of travel.
So, what are your options...?
1. Anywhere in GermanyOkay, this is a slight exaggeration. The shortest time I can see to get to Westerland, on the island of Sylt, is 12:25. And Ostseebad Binz, on the island of Rügen, takes at least 12:59, with the quickest route to Stralsund coming in at 12:06. Hopefully you won't begrudge me the extra few minutes, though, especially since none of these are particularly common destinations for academic business trips.
Hamburg, on the other hand, can be done in 8:13 with only one change. Berlin can be done in 8:36, and Köln in a mere 5:01. This may not be particularly surprising to anyone, though, so let's move on.
2. Anywhere in Austria, Belgium, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, or SwitzerlandAustria is not as long as it looks. Graz can be got to in just over 10 hours, Klagenfurt in just over 9, Vienna in less than 9. The longest trip I've been able to find is to Jennersdorf, on the border with Hungary, and apparently a fairly unremarkable place. Still doable in under 12 hours.
As for Belgium, a trip to De Panne, on the North Sea coast near the French border, will be over in the blink of an eye (9:59). The pretty little town of Couvin, at the end of a branch line in Wallonia near Namur, will take you 10:26. More usefully, you can reach Brussels within seven hours.
Liechtenstein is obvious, as is Luxembourg (just over 6 hours). Almost everywhere in Switzerland is accessible within 5 hours; if you want to train it to Brusio with its spiral viaduct, high in the Alps on the Bernina railway, you'd better leave 6:20.
|The Brusio spiral viaduct (CC-BY 3.0, by Kabelleger)|
3. Most places in Czechia or the NetherlandsOstrava, the Czech town that's the furthest from Konstanz (near the border with Poland), will push you over the limit at 12:20, as will Olomouc at 12:09 (just). But Prague can be reliably got to in a piffling 9:32, and Brno in 10:38. Meanwhile, Amsterdam is a comfortable 8:35, and Groningen or Rotterdam can be reached in under 10. If you want to go right to the North Sea coast on a branch line, brace yourself for a longer journey, though.
4. Denmark, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, SloveniaBratislava is only 10:13, and Ljubljana a mere 10:24! As for Denmark, Hungary and Poland, admittedly, you probably won't get to anywhere useful within these countries in 12 hours. But Budapest, for instance, is only 12:09, Poznan is only 12:16, and places like Aarhus, Copenhagen, Warsaw and Wroclaw are doable as part of a longer day. Zagreb, in Croatia, is only just out of reach at 12:44, and there's also a sleeper that goes there from Zurich.
5. Northern and Central Italy, and almost all of FranceAt 5:41, Milan is embarrassingly easy to reach. From there you can travel onwards to lots of other major cities within the 12-hour limit: Florence at 7:37, Rimini 8:29, Venice 8:31, Rome 9:14, Trieste 10:30, Naples 10:47. Only the far south and Sicily take longer.
France is astonishingly accessible. With Paris less than five and a half hours away, you can be there in time for a leisurely lunch. Connections via Paris, Dijon and Strasbourg will also get you to places like Lille (7:17), Marseille (7:42), Bordeaux (8:16), Nantes (9:07), Toulouse (11:05), Bayonne (11:07), and even Brest at the very tip of Brittany (an incredible 10:08, if you can leg it across Paris fast enough). You'll only struggle with getting somewhere in France within 12 hours if it's at the far end of a tiny branch line.
If you are a fan of micro-states, Vatican City (via Rome), San Marino (via Rimini) and Monaco (10:15) are all within your grasp. And Barcelona is SO DAMN CLOSE to being under the limit (12:21), putting you not that far from Andorra (okay that's a stretch but work with me here). Another Spanish destination that's easily doable within a day is Irun, in the Basque country, at a fairly comfortable 12:36. And if you stay on that last train you'll end up in Lisbon in the morning.
6. The UKLondon is reachable in 8:59 by Eurostar via Paris, if the patron saint of connections extends his blessing to you. More usually it'll be about 10 (you need to hang around a bit in Paris). The Eurostar will also allow you to travel on to Cambridge (10:23), Oxford (11:04), Birmingham (11:17), York (11:29), Sheffield (11:55), and even Manchester (11:56), just. Within a slightly longer day you can also get to the capitals of Wales (Cardiff, 12:36) and Scotland (Edinburgh, 14:22), as well as Leeds (12:07), Newcastle (12:44) or Lancaster (12:46).
So that's not a bad range of places for half the time it takes for the Earth to rotate on its axis. Here's a map giving an overview:
With options like this, why would you fly short-haul to any of these places?
Saturday, October 19, 2019
Dunkle Minz Crisp: 9/10
Mmm, a dark chocolate variety with just enough crunchy minty sugary bits to taste like a gigantic After Eight – but without the annoying squidginess. I would dearly like to see this one again in future.
Monday, August 05, 2019
1. Bus seating rituals
2. Opening times for the bottle bank
|Bitte beachten Sie die Einwurfzeiten!|
3. Oh deer
4. The vanishing bus
|Fährt vom Pfingstsonntag bis zum letzten Tag in den Sommerferien.|
5. The Gutenberg gap
|Your IP Address in Germany is Blocked|
6. Stop the Germany, I Want to Get Off
Then again, Konstanz bus drivers are psychopaths. They will quite happily lower the bus to ground level so that someone in a zimmer frame can trundle on comfortably, then close the door and stamp on the accelerator while that person is still looking for a seat.
Thursday, July 25, 2019
Of course it didn't get everything right:
And in some instances I would totally buy the book. Or maybe even write it.
A dill of linguistics
The east of linguistic sociolinguistics
Once again, hat tip to aiweirdness.com, whose idea I've basically stolen here.
Saturday, June 08, 2019
Raab, 45, admitted to taking the drug repeatedly when studying abroad at Winterhold College in the 90s. In his defence he claimed that his then-role as Dragonborn, destined to prevent the return of Alduin, was putting him under “immense pressure” leading him to make some “questionable decisions”, and that he had fallen into bad company.
“Some on the left will try to tell you that the skooma problem doesn't exist – that it's a fiction,” Raab added. “But I can assure you that the threat posed by skooma is very real.”
A former Brexit Secretary, Raab is known for his tough stance on Khajiit caravans and his unstinting support of leaving the EU, and has outlined plans for new trade deals with Elsweyr and Black Marsh in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Sunday, June 02, 2019
This summer we witness the return of Zitronen-Waffel, which previously received a respectable 7.5/10, and on justifiable grounds. The caveat that holds for regular Waffel also holds here: it tends to fall to bits.
The other two are new, as far as I can tell.
Himbeer Joghurt: 8/10. Deliciously tart, with crunchy bits. The only reason this one doesn’t get rated higher is because I miss Brombeer Joghurt (which I’ve rated twice before, once with 8 and once with 9), and this one is a smidgeon less good.
Erdbeer-Mousse: 5/10. I’m not a huge fan of the mousse varieties (with their 3x3 rather than 4x4 layout) in general, and this one isn’t great even by those standards. Strawberry really needs to be complemented with something very creamy, but this mousse is, I’m afraid, rather too dry and fluffy while at the same time sweet and sticky - almost candyfloss-like. Not my thing.
Thursday, May 23, 2019
It's a pretty small dataset, so the network struggles to learn what a German word is supposed to look like:
Frucken | Kaperniger Wurst | Bratkartoffeln | Bratensauce
Gorgarbonn | Kartoffeln | Bratensauce | Romanescogressing | Asia-Quard | Pomulasus | Spatzle
Blattsalat-Balsamicodressing | Kot | Kartoffeln | Salat-Cordmendrondrick
Rindfleischstreinten | Paprika | Petersilienestreifen in Banane
Spatzle Burger | Put-Honig-Senf-Honig-Secktafartoffeln
It also doesn't have much concept of what combinations of flavours work best:
Kartoffel-Gemusesauce | Pudding mit Hahnchenfleisch | Brot
Milchreis | Kartoffeln | Karotten | Bohnen
But there are also several dishes that are more than conceivable:
Sunday, May 12, 2019
- If you want to vote Lib Dem, do that.
- If you want to vote Green, do that.
- If you want to vote Change UK, don’t. Instead vote Green or (if you can’t stomach them) Lib Dem.
- If you are pro-Remain and want to vote Labour, consider voting Green or Lib Dem instead.
- If you are pro-Brexit, spoil your ballot. None of the parties can give you the hard Brexit you know we all need. F*ck the system!
Remain United is recommending that all Remainers in England vote Lib Dem. The idea behind this is that everyone should simply vote for the predicted largest pro-Remain party in each region. This, however, is a bad strategy because it doesn’t take into account the electoral system. In an ideal world where all Remainers voted tactically for the predicted largest pro-Remain party, it would work fine. But this won’t happen, and sub-optimal tactical voting could seriously screw things up. In districts with several seats, as Heinz Brandenburg explains:
If, for example, tactical voting pushes one pro-Remain party close to 15% but reduces the two others to 5 or 6%, the bigger party will not have enough to win multiple seats ... while the others could both fail to win a single seat. That could reduce the pro-Remain parties to a single seat where three could have been won.Indeed, Remain United’s own projections show that if 50% of all Remain voters in the North West vote in the way they suggest (Lib Dem), the distribution of seats would not change: 4 for Labour, 2 for the Brexit Party, 1 each for the Tories and Lib Dems.
It’s worse than that, in fact. In what follows I use the ComRes/Electoral Calculus estimates (also used by Remain United):
- Conservatives: 12%
- Labour: 36%
- Liberal Democrats: 10%
- Change UK: 8%
- Green Party: 7%
- Brexit Party: 24%
- Other: 3%
- 1. Lab
- 2. Brex
- 3. Lab
- 4=? Lab/Brex/Con (it's not possible to be more precise)
- 7. Lib Dem
- 8. Lab
There is another way, however. The question to ask is: Starting from the projections, what is the minimal change that would need to be made in order to get 2 pro-Remain seats? The obvious answer is that Change UK are sitting on 8%, just below the 9-10% threshold they’d need to nab a seat from Labour. If they could grab another 1-2% from the Greens’ share, they could get that seat.
As a tactical voting recommendation, that’s probably not going to fly, however. A recent YouGov poll suggested that, of the three pro-Remain parties, Green voters are by far the least likely to compromise by voting for one of the others (and congrats if you’re a principled Green voter and have read this far). Change UK voters, on the other hand, are much happier to vote tactically, at least insofar as tactical voting is comparable to an anti-Brexit electoral pact. And in this connection it’s worth mentioning that the Greens have an established supporter base in the North West, and came very close to getting a seat in 2014.
The estimate puts the Greens on 7%, so if they can get another 2-3% from Change UK voters - or from Labour Remainers, who ought also to be shiftable - they could get a seat. To me, that seems the most achievable goal of the three.
It’s worth emphasizing, though, that all these scenarios involve the second Remain seat being pinched from Labour, not the Tories or the Brexit Party, who are the real hard Brexit flag-flyers. So at the end of the day it might not be worth it, depending on how you rank your personal principles. It’s also important that Lib Dems do get the seat they’re estimated to get, and that in itself is close. You wouldn’t have to massage the figures much for the Lib Dems to end up with no seats and the Brexit Party to pick up a third one (-2% Lib Dem, +2% Brexit Party would do it). So it’d be irresponsible to advise anyone who’s planning to vote Lib Dem to change their vote.
Saturday, February 09, 2019
European Council president Donald Tusk has been getting a lot of stick from Brexiteers recently for this comment:
I've been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promoted #Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) February 6, 2019
Some on the Leave side have reacted angrily. Some on the Remain side have taken this reaction as a sign that they had no plan to begin with. For example:
He was only talking about the ones with no plan. Why are they all taking it so personally?— James O'Brien (@mrjamesob) February 6, 2019
James O'Brien is right about many things, but I don't think he's right about this. The crucial question is whether Tusk is describing all Brexit-promoters as having no plan (which is how I read it), or pointing only to those Brexit-promoters who had no plan (which is how James O'Brien read it). That's a linguistic question, and it has to do with how the prepositional phrase (PP) "without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely" is to be interpreted.
PPs within noun phrases can be interpreted in two different ways, just like relative clauses. They can be either restrictive or non-restrictive. Restrictive PPs pick out a particular subset of the people (or things) described by the unmodified noun phrase. Non-restrictive PPs add extra information about the people described by the unmodified noun phrase. Compare the following examples:
- The Brexiteers, who had no plan, are going to hell. (non-restrictive)
- The Brexiteers who had no plan are going to hell. (restrictive)
- The Brexiteers, with no plan, are going to hell. (non-restrictive)
- The Brexiteers with no plan are going to hell. (restrictive)
The first two examples involve relative clauses, and the last two involve PPs. In both cases it's the commas that make all the difference, at least if your intuitions are anything like mine. In the restrictive (2) and (4), only those Brexiteers who didn't have a plan are going to hell. In the non-restrictive (1) and (3), on the other hand, all the Brexiteers are going to hell, and in addition they're all described as not having a plan.
Looking again at Tusk's tweet, he used a comma, which suggests to me that the intended reading was the non-restrictive one. We can't be sure that was what he intended, of course: punctuation is one indicator, but it's not a particularly reliable guide to anything, especially on Twitter. But in the video version there's a pause, which also suggests a non-restrictive interpretation.
What's particularly interesting is that Tusk didn't actually assert that all Brexiteers had no plan, even under the non-restrictive reading. Non-restrictive modification is tricky like that: the information introduced by the non-restrictive phrase is backgrounded, which is one of the things that makes them particularly annoying to argue against.
Anyway, it's pretty clear that the point is mainly an academic one, since no one actually did have a plan for Brexit, either on the Leave or the Remain side (unless you count the weirdos and supervillains who were gunning for a no-deal Brexit all along; and even that arguably counts as not having a plan how to carry it out safely). But the broader point is that syntax and semantics are interesting! And hopefully I'll see you in that special place in hell that's reserved for people who turn serious political issues into fun linguistics problems. :)
Sunday, February 03, 2019
"Spring"? Well, these varieties were on the shelves on 1st February, so I guess so. The snow outside must just be an illusion.
We've had Johannisbeer-Streusel two years in a row, so no need to recapitulate its excellence (8.5/10). Buttermilch-Zitrone is also a well-known combo, though is more usually encountered during the summer months. Two new ones, though, one of which (Waffel) is not actually a spring variety, but a new addition to the regular line-up.
Haferkeks + Joghurt: 7/10
The crunch is very nice, but the yoghurt filling is not a favourite of mine, as it just tastes a bit too fake. So this one gets a compromise rating.
This one comes with a health warning: do not, under any circumstances, use the usual Knick-Pack technique to open this Ritter Sport. If you do, the whole package will explode, showering bits of waffle and chocolate everywhere. The structural unsoundness of this variety (plus the fact that I only ate about half of it, and the rest is still irretrievably lodged in dark corners of my sofa) contributes to my not-very-complimentary rating, which is probably unfair as far as taste and mouthfeel are concerned. Approach with caution.