Liam's write-only LJ Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Liam Proven" journal:

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December 22nd, 2014
01:08 pm

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A small Czech oddity. #projectBrno
Czech seasonal greetings are quite a mixed bag, and some are... challenging.

But I have noticed a short phrase used widely, even as an abbreviation: PF, standing for "pour féliciter". It's a French phrase and it means, roughly, "for congratulating" -- it originally referred to greetings cards, as in, it's something you'd use to describe them, rather than something you'd put on them.

It's quite ubiquitous as an abbreviation, but I only found out what it stood for today.

It's... odd.

More conventionally, "Veselé Vánoce" is "happy Christmas". Vesela means happy (it's declined in this form, don't ask me how) and "Vanoce" is a corruption of the German "Weihnachten".

"Happy new year" is the significantly more challenging "Veselé Vánoce a šťastný Nový rok!" Even after 6 months of practice, the few unfortunate victims at whom I have essayed this phrase have given me a sort of pitying look and told me that I was almost right. I fear I suffer a sort of pile-up of diacritical marks on "šťastný" and my speech centres faceplant.

So, hey, given that, I might just stick with "pour féliciter"...

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October 24th, 2014
07:04 pm

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"You've gotta ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, pedestrian?" #projectBrno
Pedestrian crossings. You'd think you know where you were with a pedestrian crossing, wouldn't you? Green is good, you're safe to cross. Right of way and all that.

But not here. Oh no.
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Current Location: Holandská, Brno
Current Mood: tiredtired
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September 16th, 2014
09:59 pm

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Biking in Brno [a #projectBrno blog post, by me]
I swear, bicycles and wet tram tracks are my nemesis. Just came off for the first time over here. Nothing broken, but a bit bruised, so a medicinal beer seemed in order. And solitary beers are the fuel of your basic working Brno blogger, of course.

Summer is winding its way to a close in Central Europe. It's not heading straight that way -- some days are cool and grey, horribly reminiscent of the land I left behind, and others are warml, even sunny occasionally -- but prone to sudden torrential downpours, even more of them than in midsummer. I returned after Worldcon and Eurocon -- more on them anon -- and the next day it started to rain and didn't stop for three solid days. The Svltava was higher and faster than I've ever seen it, a real river, more than able to sweep the incautious away, when in the hot clear summer days it waned to a creek.
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Current Location: Hybešova, Brno
Current Mood: tired, sore
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August 7th, 2014
11:48 pm

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A quarter of a year in Central Europe [#projectBrno blog post]
Well, in some ways, things are turning out more or less as expected. For instance, three months here have absolutely flown by; I just had to count up how long I'd been here as I couldn't believe it. Other aspects have not -- for instance, the loss of my job. So much for my nascent career as a tech writer -- the next position I've found for myself will be in customer liaison instead, a different new direction. (It was that or go back into Java middleware, but this time, supporting it. Possibly in French.)

I'm adjusting to life here reasonably well. I know where enough local shops are to fend for myself, I'm finding where there are bargains to be had as well as what's expensive. I know that there are many more I've yet to discover, though -- I hear there's a Marks & Spencer somewhere, for instance. Thanks to the generosity of a new friend who was departing the city for pastures new, I now have a fully-equipped kitchen, so being mostly out of work in July has caused me to do more cooking at home and a bit less eating out, with positive impact on the waistline. A land where a beer is about €1 -- under a quid -- has not been kind. I've been swimming more than I have since the Caribbean, but I'd need to do miles every day to work it all off.

Perhaps oddly for a landlocked country, or then again perhaps logically, Brno abounds in good swimming pools. My personal favourite so far is the Aquapark in the green and very hilly suburb of Kohotouvice, which boasts a rooftop pool, a jacuzzi, a big oddly-shaped fun pool with sprays and fountains and a water-roundabout, plus a lane-swimming pool, and a long spiralling waterslide that made your 46-year-old correspondent whoop like a child.

Twice.
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July 16th, 2014
04:44 pm

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"The Snowball Effect" by Katherine MacLean -- a wonderful SF short story from 1952
Taken from this site: http://bookre.org/reader?file=256411 -- and the punctuation fixed.

I claim no copyright in this; I am merely reproducing it. It remains the property of Ms MacLean.


The Snowball Effect
KATHERINE MacLEAN

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“ALL RIGHT,” I said, “what is sociology good for?”

Wilton Caswell, Ph.D., was head of my Sociology Department, and right then he was mad enough to chew nails. On the office wall behind him were three or four framed documents in Latin that were supposed to be signs of great learning, but I didn’t care at that moment if he papered the walls with his degrees. I had been appointed dean and president to see to it that the university made money. I had a job to do, and I meant to do it.

He bit off each word with great restraint: “Sociology is the study of social institutions, Mr. Halloway.”
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12:39 pm

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Modern Talking, or, information-free non-communication [blog post, by me]
Jerry "Tycho" Holkins, the writer behind Penny Arcade, really nailed something in the comic's editorial this week:
I was reading an interview with one of the producers on the new Transformers movie, and the thing that really got to me is that both the person asking the question and the person answering it thought they were communicating information.

This has gotten more common, or I’ve gotten better at noticing it. Most public communication now sounds like the Teletubbies to me. It’s nontent from hell to breakfast: shibboleths sandwiched between gesticulations which are bookended by secret handshakes. It’s probably best to let them in; maintaining a stable self is strongly contraindicated at this point. What’s the win condition, your own tombstone? Jesus Fucking Christ.
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July 9th, 2014
11:48 pm

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And so to Slovakia. [Blog post, by me] #projectBrno
(Or, the Slovakian for "beer" is "Hodor!")

Letisko M. R. Štefánik -- the airport -- is big, bright and shiny and modern. Rather appealing. Bratislava is only about the same size as Brno -- under half a million inhabitants -- but it's a capital city and the difference shows in the airport. I took some Euros out from a handy ATM, cursing myself for failing to remember to bring my tiny hoard of them with me. A trip that covers three countries and three currencies needs more fiduciary planning than I gave it.

I connected my phone to the free Wifi and asked Google Maps for a route into the main station. Walk, it said unhelpfully. It'll only take an hour.

Little did I know that, as part of its master plan for incrementally crippling its most popular web properties, Google has revamped its Maps service with a new, shiny, simplified but far inferior user interface, just as it has done with Gmail. This includes removing its ability to route-plan via public transport in Brno -- and, I am guessing, Bratislava too. This is intensely aggravating, as that was something I used very heavily to navigate Brno's cheap, fast, frequent but confusingly intricate tram system.
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June 30th, 2014
12:15 am

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Clearing out & clearing off [#projectBrno blog post, by me]
The second weekend of June was one of a lot of firsts. I flew back to London for the last planned trip of clearing out my house, which I'm going to sell. I don't have the money to properly refurbish it to maximise its rental value -- and so far, I am enjoying my long-planned much-procrastinated move abroad. I don't plan to return any time soon.

I also flew with a new airline to me -- WizzAir, a Hungarian budget operator. Pleasant, cheerful and friendly; recommended. Flying without luggage, or even a jacket, was also a novelty -- it does make life much easier (and a bit cheaper, too, on the budget ones).

I returned for the funeral of my friend Ken Brown. I knew Ken for over 20 years via the medium of CIX, although we didn't meet face-to-face for over a decade. Until then, he was just a giant brain online, an immaculately-spoken quick wit with encyclopædic knowledge of biology, computers and seemingly almost everything.

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Current Location: Hybešova, Brno
Current Mood: memorious
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June 11th, 2014
06:57 pm

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Guest post: Vegetarian Restaurants in Brno - it's quite veggie-friendly here after all! #projectBrno
My colleague Jiři Herrmann went to an impressive amount of effort to write me this wonderful list of vegetarian- and vegan-friendly places in the town, which I thought I'd share in lieu of a new post. (I've been busy. Well, quite busy. All right, I've been in the pub, but without a laptop.) It just goes to show that actually, this city (and the Czech Republic) really is quite good for we decadent Western non-meat-eaters...

So if any veg*n friends have been considering coming to visit me -- and are OK to use the spare bed in my room and my sleeping bag -- then come on over!


Vegetarian Restaurants in Brno

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May 29th, 2014
11:09 pm

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A bit more Brno [#projectBrno blog post, by me]
Swallows.

Swallows everywhere. That's going to be one of my abiding impressions. I arrived at just the right point in late spring or early summer that every time I look up, the sky is full of swallows – or possibly swifts, if you'll pardon my ornithological inexactitude. Here and in Prague, both. It's a delight – they're a rare sight in British cities, although I've seen them in the countryside, of course – but here they swarm right in the city centre. To the point that their scratchy, squeaky calls are almost (but not quite) becoming annoying.

The sounds of Brno in summer: swallows and tram bells. (I really wanted to get a Ransome¹ reference in there but it just wouldn't work.) Apparently trams are my #1 category on Foursquare this month. Not surprised – apart from a couple of nightbuses, they're exclusively how I get around Brno. I'm getting lazy; there seems no point walking 5min around a block when the tram takes 2min and there's one every 2min.
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¹ You know, Swallows and Bells-on-trams² or something like that.
² Note for foreign readers, of which I gather I'm getting a few: it's a terrible pun on the title of a classic British children's book, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

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