Archive for December, 2010

E-cards of Yore

While you’re sending electronic cards to hundreds of your barely-remembered ones with a single click this holiday season, spare a thought for your parents and grandparents, who had to walk a long way uphill (both ways) in the snow to post their e-cards. They were so lucky; I love walking in snow.

I recreated an e-card from the pre-internet age so that young whippersnappers of today could see what they’re missing out on:

A punched card with a stamp on it and a message punched in ASCII.

Old-fashioned e-card

It’s so hard to find a good card punch these days, but people back then were resourceful, so I had to be too.

The same punch card again, but with the Swiss Army knife used to punch the holes.

Swiss soldiers could even write e-cards to their loved ones from the front

I made this in 2007 from one of the punch cards I rescued when a man I shared my office with retired, but it only just occurred to me that it was sufficiently creative to put on my blog. I didn’t have a real blog in 2007, so it’s fair enough.

There were real Swiss stamps commemorating 50 years of CERN, but I didn’t happen to have any on the day that I decided to do this, so I printed a fake one. I wrote the card in ASCII according to this. If I did it wrong, it’s because I’m not old enough to remember those days. If you know better, please share your wisdom.

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Comic: How to get help with the command line

The other day, I made a comment on a Spiked Math comic. I thought about modifying said comic to make one which would match my comment, but before I even had a chance to, Mike from Spiked Math had made one. Excellent, less ‘work’ for me! Here it is:

Well, I still felt like making my own comic based on the comment, so I extended this storyline to its logical conclusion:

So there you go. Don’t mess with the man.

I’d feel horribly unfunny explaining the jokes, which might not be very funny in the first place, so I’m just going to leave a few links here for those of you who are not familiar with all the subjects:

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Qu’ainsi périssent les ennemis du Cenovis !

Fake Genevan karate-chopping two jars of different kinds of Marmite, while a Marmite de l'Escalade sits unharmed behind them.

Note: This is now available on video

This weekend is the Fête de l’Escalade, an annual commemoration of the night in 1602 when the Genevans defeated the invading Savoyards with the help of a diligent housewife and a pot of vegetable soup. I think this should be held up as an example in Good Housekeeping.

As part of this celebration, it’s traditional to smash a marmite while saying ‘Qu’ainsi périssent les ennemis de la République !’, which means ‘Thus perish the enemies of the republic!’ I happen to have several kinds of Marmite at home, mostly purchased for the tasty yeasty taste test at a Swiss party I held in New Zealand a few years ago.

The marmite at the back of this picture is a soup pot made of chocolate, usually filled with marzipan vegetables before being smashed by the youngest and oldest people present. The one at the top is British Marmite, a by-product of beer brewing rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3 and B12. It’s usually spread on toast but sometimes used to make a thin, yeast-flavoured soup. It’s probably the saltiest of all the yeast spreads I’ve tried. As far as I can tell, it is identical to the yeast spread sold as ‘Our Mate’ in New Zealand. The one at the bottom is New Zealand Marmite. It’s also a by-product of beer brewing used to spread on toast and make soup, but it tastes different, has iron in it, and is available in larger pots. It has to compete with the Australian yeast spread Vegemite, which has no iron or vitamin B12 in it and gives the illusion of being more vegetarian than Marmite.

In Geneva, however, the word ‘marmite’ is widely used to describe an even larger pot, often made of iron but rarely made of B vitamins, such as one might use to cook soup or foil invading Savoyards. In military slang, it means a shell, such as one might use to foil invading Savoyards. So when the Swiss finally discovered that they could spread the leftovers from beer brewing on their toast, they had to call it something else. To minimise the chances of having to compete with Vegemite, they chose Cenovis — a name which is known in New Zealand and Australia as a brand of multivitamin. Cenovis spread, which is rich in vitamin B1 but not B2, B3, B12 or iron, was added to Swiss military rations, so that the soldiers would be well-nourished and better able to fire marmites at invading Savoyards. It is also available as a liquid, for adding to the marmite if the vegetable soup doesn’t have enough flavour or killing power.

Cenovis multivitamin contains all the B vitamins and iron, along with plenty of other vitamins that you’d be better off getting from a pot of vegetable soup. It probably doesn’t taste very good on toast.

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Video hodge-podge: Open Mic Night, JoCo Day, and a few musical evenings

On Friday I went to an open mic poetry night run by the Leman Poetry Workshop. I had forgotten about it until my calendar reminded me the day before, so I didn’t have time to prepare anything to read. In the end, I read two poems I’ve already read at other gatherings, and also recorded for YouTube. They seemed to go down well. I told a few people there about my blog, so I’m reposting videos of the two poems here in case they want to see them again.
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