Wilkommen, Bienvenu, Welcome... Sziasztok!

Welcome to The Lotus Position, an intermittent collection of extempore navel gazings, ponderings, whinges, whines, pontifications and diatribes.

Everything is based on a Sample of One: these are my views, my experiences... caveat lector... read the Disclaimer

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter

The Budapest Office - Castro Bisztro, Madach ter
Ponder, Scribble, Ponder (Photo Erdotahi Aron)

Guest Nutter/Kindred Soul: Bill Bailey


Monday, 25 May 2009

Red Tape

'Er indoors is trying to get a new passport... I am annoyed as only an Englishman can be that they want my life history before she can get a passport. However, more to the point, the consular staff concerned specifically required my identity document - that piece of paper that says where I live - and no, my passport would not suffice.

I said the British have no such paper; when that was passed on there were (implicit) howls of derisive laughter. The British Embassy offered to speak to them, but they wouldn't call and get it from the horse's mouth. I rang the other country's consular department at the embassy in London and they, of course, agreed. However, Mr I-Am-The-Expert here insisted that there was nowhere in the world where one didn't have such a piece of paper. He did however agree to call his counterpart in London - if he could use my mobile phone! - and was eventually persuaded by someone he knew.

"Interesting" was the full extent of his acknowledgement. All I have to do now is produce letters with my address on e.g. bank statements (it's just like renting a video really it seems...)

As to why I don't want my life history stored left, right and centre you only have to read the latest story from the UK in which the RAF has admitted about 500 DV (Developed Vetting) reports (required for high security clearance) have been stolen. Bloody hell... if they can't keep that stuff secure!

Oh - and YOU - see the reply to your last comment on Piggies!

Sunday, 24 May 2009

This little piggy...

By implicit request ("popular" would be an overstatement)

Questo porcellino andata al mercato
Questo porcellino restata sui casa
Questo porcellino mangiata rosbif
Questo porcellino non e mangiata niente
Questo porcellino urlato... ui ui ui ui (ad libitum...) tutte le strada di casa

Corrections welcome...

And as a bonus...

"Si six scies scient six saucisses, six cent six scies scient six cent six saucisses"... which even the French have trouble saying/hearing

The arch-duchess's shoes are probably dry by now...

Tongue Tripping Stuff

PS "a Czech cricket critic"

Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Cliff Wherefrom I Hung

So, what did happen just as I was about to complete "IT".

Well, there I was, approaching the dénouement at last - I had perhaps an hour's more work to do - when it suddenly occurred to me that the screen on my laptop seemed a bit dim... this usually happens when it has switched to battery power and I thought that the power lead must have become unplugged.

But it hadn't! (can you feel the tension building)

I looked down at the power supply and saw - to my horror - that the little green light was no longer shining bright. This was my worst fear - death of the power supply!

Oh dear. Still under Rock's excellent 3 year warranty (thank you Rock for sending for the replacement hinge a while back) but it would take several days at least to get a replacement.

And then it dawned on me that the lights had gone out in Castro. Ah! A fuse has blown.

But, as it turned out, it must have been a very big fuse, because it wasn't just Castro that was affected... the rest of Madach ter seemed strangely dark... there was no sign of artificial lighting anywhere... it was quiet... too quiet.

It seemed that someone was trying to delay the completion... if necessary by darkening a substantial part of Budapest - though why I can't fathom. I struggled on on battery power (well, the laptop struggled on battery power, I struggled on on nervous excitement and tension... would the battery last?) hoping that the aged Lithium battery could hang on long enough that

a) I could finish
b) I could actually save the finished document before the laptop died.

I couldn't... I managed to shut the system down securely only seconds before it would have died, but IT was not yet finished. How long would it take for power to return? There was no way of knowing. I could only wait...

So I waited, the power came back on less than an hour later and I finished about five minutes after that (~14:22)... and then got very, very drunk and eventually (~21:00 and almost a whole bottle of cognac later) had to be helped home by Csaba. Don't really remember that.

As to why it was necessary to delay the completion for ~1 hr I guess I shall never know... maybe someone was just building the tension... by removing the tension (ha ha!).

Electrifying Stuff


Thanks (tak?) to anonymous for posing the perfectly cromulent question (in a comment to "IT'S DONE") "Can you recite Jabberwocky in German whilst standing on those stilts?" (what stilts? Perhaps these?)

The answer is, no. Because I don't recall Jabberwocky in German. (or French...)

MY question is: who is anonymous? There are very few people with whom I have discussed translations of Jabberwocky... one is Swedish, if I recall correctly (and if my senescent brain is taking up the mantle of perfect recall, was the conversation in Cambridge? Did I refer to Douglas Hofstadter's book Godel, Escher, Bach?)

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009


Castro Bisztro and the author are pleased to announce the completion of IT - the book - the book you never thought would be finished. Yes I still have to correct and proof it but the story is complete. All 306,000 words of it.

I am now going to enjoy several very large cognacs.

And then a few more.

And later I'll tell you what happened just as I was about to finish (we call that a cliffhanger in the trade).

Satisfying Stuff!

Monday, 11 May 2009

*Nearly" Done

Yes, "IT" is nearly done (watch this space, seriously) - but I mean the story, not the whole project (still have corrections and proofreading to do but it will be the first time there has been an end-end story). However this post is not so much about literary achievement as nerdulent smugness...

As part of the aforementioned forthcoming proofing process the book will be checked for various, grammatical, syntactic, rhythmic, stylistic and other infelicities - such as over use of certain phrases and words and the use of words just too obscure to be easily digested.

To this end I wrote some concordance code - i.e. a program that works through the whole text and accumulates lists of all single words, all double word pairs and all triple words combinations and links them to the source text, which lists are then sorted alphabetically and placed in a spreadsheet (which links back to the text so that I can inspect individual occurrences).

Now, when I wrote the code, the sort algorithm was very simple - and slow. So I improved it with some cool tricks that sorted all three groups at once and did a few other neat things, but since I didn't really investigate sort algorithms even the improved code was slow - just not quite as slow as it had been (it's running in VBA as well): there's a note in the code to the effect that "by the time the book reaches 100,000 words this will be soooooo slow."

Now the book is >300,000 words. I started a concrodance running Saturday morning on the old, old 1.4GHz Athlon powered desktop PC knowing it was going to take an age, but even I was shocked. Eventually I discovered the sort alone took over 29 hours to finish (and tabulating the results into Excel took a further 8 hours or so), but even while it was running it seemed desirable to rewrite the code.

I'd found and implemented a QuickSort a long time ago, and decided to rejig it for the present purpose. It took a couple of hours, but after some preliminary testing (and still the other PC was chugging away, indirectly consuming gigatonnes of CO2 even as it performed a glacial sort) I was ready to try it out on "IT".

Everything sorted in about three and half minutes! Direct comparison showed that the new sort was 500x faster, but after allowing for the fact that the new code was running on my Core 2 Duo laptop and that the laptop was about 5x faster than the desktop, that's still a 100x improvement!

Result: QuickSort really is quick, even with very large arrays.

However, interesting results from perusing the 80MB of concordances generated were that the vocabulary of the book seems quite limited and there weren't as many outrageous words as I had thought.

There are about 15,000 words unique words, which number comes down to about 9,000 once the roots of the words had been identified so that "decay", "decays", "decayed", "decaying" etc. are considered as one item of vocabulary (I used Porter Stemming code I found somewhere and ported to VBA). So, maybe it won't be quite as linguistically challenging as I had feared... at least vocabularistically.

That's all for now - have to Do if it will be Done.

Marathon Stuff.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009


Yes! You (will have) read it here first! (If you keep on reading)

During an interview with the BBC broadcast today on BBC World Service "radio" (re Seal culling), Stockwell Day, Canadian Minister of International Trade, accidentally revealed the TRUTH about sheep farming (at least in Canada).

"Sheep are killed for their wool."

(Honestly, that's what he said. I don't know whether the broadcast "The World Today" can be downloaded rather than streamed, but if it can and you don't believe me check for yourself.)

And there I was thinking wool was a renewable resource.