Why write in English?

Posted by jerry on October 9th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology, Writing

That was the question posed by Slovenian virtual world expert Alja Sulčič. The dilemma is that most readers of commentary on virtual worlds are native English speakers, but with English as a second language, there is always the issue of whether something has been expressed poorly or simplistically due to limitations of vocabulary.

That’s certainly something Alja doesn’t have to worry about as her English is as good as most native speakers – but here she has an advantage insofar as she is able to think in more than one language – potentially increasing the available structural metaphors and moving beyond what ‘goes without saying’.

For that reason I try not to restrict myself purely to English language websites – I have a very little French language and try to extend myself there, but also I use machine language translation tools, like Alta Vista’s Babelfish – imperfect, but then I try to interpret beyond the words into what were the key concepts the writer was seeking to express. And that is an amazingly useful thing to do because the translations make me see my own language in new ways, such as where different root morphemes have led to different terms for things.

An example is the French word for computer – ‘ordinateur’ – think of roots of English words like ‘coordinate’ – and suddenly you have a picture, not of a calculator (from counting stones) but of a bringing together, or juxtaposing – which is a more accurate description from user’s perspective of, for example the results of internet searches.

In short, I recognise the dilemma but urge writers using English as their second language to keep writing in English, but also to write in their own language too – as that serves to extend the expressive power of the internet, cuts across the hegemony of English and demonstrates the remarkable gift that some people have of being able to think in two or more languages – thus extending the thinks you can think!

Table update – finished at last!

Posted by jerry on October 7th, 2007 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Woodwork

Okay it’s been a while – lots of sanding and two coats of Rustins Plastic Coating then a final sand at 1500 grit and then an organoil wax/oil finish with lots of buffing. But here is the finished table

dining table

And it’s a table with a story. Back on 18 January 2003, the Canberra Bushfire – the Great Fire of Canberra came through our suburb without warning. Within hours Canberra lost 563 houses – including five houses out of eighteen in my street, and four lives were lost. Next door neighbour’s house was badly burnt and we lost the garden and fences – and our front door mat – we were lucky.

Canberra bushfires

Our ribbon gum tree out the front was not so lucky, it caught fire about the time the wind changed and put us back in the business of saving the house. The gum tree dominated the yard, but was too far gone to save. So about a fortnight later we had the tree felled – but in the process I located a bloke at Hall with a portable Lucas saw mill. So I got the tree fellers to leave the trunk next to the road and in the afternoon a truck arrived and took the trunk away to to be milled. I spent that Friday at the saw mill learning how to mill my tree into boards.

When I saw the number of boards I thought then that I would make a new dining table from the timber. I stacked and stickered the timber in my shed to dry slowly up until a month ago when I figured that I had some holidays, I had the technology, and the time had come to make a fine dining table.

Hopefully I’ve done justice to the the tree and to what it represents – hope out of a devastating natural disaster.

dining table

The Legs are ribbon-gum (Eucalyptus viminaris), as is the main part of the top, and the aprons and breadboard ends are from jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) which provides a nice contrast.

It’s been a lot of work but well worth it to see the finished table 🙂


Leonardo’s helicopter – flying model

Posted by jerry on October 7th, 2007 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Woodwork

Some time ago I built a flying model of Leonardo’s helicopter – so many people said it would never fly, but I had read that the original was based on a flying toy, and proceeded on that basis to make a toy using technology available in teh Renaissance period to make a flying model of Leonardo’s helicopter. And it worked (ok not very well, but it did work). You can see the results here…

I have put full instructions on how to make it on my web site (just follow the link).

You can buy commercial models, such as from Gakken in Japan, but I think it’s more interesting and fun to build your own at a fraction of the price 🙂


Table update #5 – Spot the deliberate…

Posted by jerry on October 5th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Woodwork

I wasn’t happy with the breadboard ends – there was too large a gap between the breadboard ends and the rest of the table top, and I wasn’t happy with the amount of play in the end dowels. So, as the saying goes “if it offends thee, cut it off…” Out with the circular saw guided by a board carefully lined up square and clamped to the table.

I then chiseled off the stubs and re-dressed the jarrah on the jointer. Next, I re-drilled the outer dowel holes so there was only about 3mm play to allow for expansion and reassembled the ends. Much closer fit, and better support from the breadboard supports for the (now slightly shorter) table top.

Then it was a quick trip to the hardware store to get some fiberglass resin – polyester resin and hardener, and set about filling the sap cavities – using two steps for the deeper ones.

After allowing it to set, I began sanding the top. The excessive vibration on the triton orbital sander attachment gave brief warning before the yellow sponge pad parted company with the balance weight and flew across the table shedding a yellow powder. Well, the instructions did say it was not recommended for use on varnished surfaces! Friction from the resin overheated the attachment in exactly the way that oil finishes don’t – and I paid the price. AUS$39 for a new sponge pad. I’ll still use it for the final finish, but the initial sanding will be by belt sander.

triton orbital sander

triton orbital sander

I’m beginning to see why bespoke tables are so expensive! But we’re nearly there now (with luck). More after the finishing is complete and the top ready to mount onto the frame.


Table update 4 – Breadboard ends

Posted by jerry on October 2nd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Woodwork

In the morning I set out and managed to get a nice board of jarrah – a red mahogany-like Australian hardwood. It’s not cheap – as befits a high quality low volume timber.

And the contrast is excellent. I read a pile of articles on making breadboard ends, but I suspect that these are not WIDE breadboard ends because they talk of holding them in with a couple of dowels. Jarrah is dense and heavy, as is the rest of the table top. So I cast around my workshop for some ideas an decided that some 25mm square jarrah left over from the aprons were long enough to run as supports the length of the table.

I held the boards in with three dowels glued , and ran a bead of glue for about 200mm in the centre, figuring that any expansion would take place towards the outer edges. I then drilled dowel holes in the end-grain of the table top and glued the dowels in, but the outside ones in the breadboard ends I rendered as slots to allow for the movement.

table loose dowel

I’ve probably allowed too much here, and I’ll assess that tomorrow – I may recut these.

Anyhow the top is glued up and is starting to look like the finished table. Here is the current stage, just prior to the sanding and finishing – It’s starting to come together now as a visual statement