australia is a continent not a country

I spotted this on buzzfeed and watched it make its way around social media. I posted it to r/facepalm and so far I’ve gotten more than 10k views and more than 1k points.

The gist of the facepalm-worthy story is that a student who is doing an online sociology degree at Southern New Hampshire University was doing an assignment comparing social norms of America vs another country. She picked Australia. This seems to be a good topic, and a simple google found me several interesting articles for later reading: quora answer on cultural and lifestyle differences; businessinsider’s 20 things about Australian culture that can surprise non-Aussies; long article comparing differences.

The student’s professor gave her a F for her paper. The reason? I’ll let the professor explain herself:


The student appealed, and sent a link to the Australian government website that describes Australia as both a continent and a country.

The professor dug her heels:

Thank you for this web-address

After I do some independent research on the continent/country issue I will review your paper.

Mysteriously the paper’s grade was adjusted to B+ but there was no apology or further communication. Subsequently, the college issued a sort-of apology via twitter:

Still, looking at both the reddit and twitter threads, there were people who defended the professor. A sociology professor doesn’t need to know geography. It’s just a mixup and the professor shouldn’t have lost her job for it. The correct name of the continent is Oceania (wrong, see below).



I can’t remember how old I was when I learned about continents and first heard of Australia. I’m very sure I was very young, primary school age. This is basic knowledge. Australia is a large enough country, with so many wonderful exports that I have a hard time reconciling the fact that a professor who teaches at a college has never heard of it.

There seems to be confusion between Australia the continent and Oceania the region. First of all, Australia is a country located on the continent of Australia. It’s the only country on earth to occupy an entire continent. A continent is a large land mass and again this is basic knowledge that there are 7 continents. Not all countries are located on continents, for example many of the Pacific islands are too small to be considered as being on a continent. Pacific islands, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia for the geographic region of Oceania. Clear?

water refill and water filters


Part of the reason we think I got so sick that day in bangkok is because of heatstroke and dehydration. We were cycling for hours in direct sunlight, and even though I had watermelon slushie at lunch it wasn’t enough. We didn’t utlise the roadside water stations either.

I’m still feeling the aftereffects of that bout of sickness. Waking up with a splitting headache that lasts the whole day, sometimes the room will be spinning around. Thankfully, no throwing up or urge to.

So, lesson learned. Keep hydrated.


Something new that’s gaining momentum in the UK is the Refill initiative. It started in Bristol and is now in Bath, Bicester, Durham, Dumfries, Norwich, Henley-on-Thames, Brighton, Bicester and all over Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. Here’s how it works:

Participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses simply put a sticker in their window – alerting passers-by to the fact they’re welcome to come on in and fill up their bottle – for free!

That’s it. Anyone with a refillable bottle can go into participating locations and fill it up with tap water. There’s an app (of course there’s an app) that shows where these refill points are, and individuals and businesses can even suggest additional refill points. One of the first companies to sign up is Whitbread so there will be 3,000 participating Costas and Premier Inns by March. There are currently 1,600 refill points across the country.

The traditional alternative to buying bottled water is water fountains. But they are the responsibility of local councils, are expensive to install and maintain, and prone to vandalism. This scheme seems much more likely to succeed. Honestly, I’d support it even if there’s a small charge like 5p. But I guess trading standards come into it.

I remember filling water bottles from fountains in Europe and of course now a lot of airports have water stations beyond security. This type of scheme may not work in all countries; I’m thinking countries where citizens are, well, less disciplined than the British. I can just see a post at r/britishproblems where the OP goes into Costa to ask for water refill and end up buying a muffin because they feel bad that they went inside and bought nothing.

Talking about water, here’s the latest from probably the charity I support most, Folia Water: they’ve been selected as a finalist in the Women Who Tech startup challenge. The 10 finalists will present their pitches on 8-March at google’s NYC office. Amongst the other finalists are IoT and AR systems; products to help infants and Alzheimer’s patients; sustainable processes that use bio and organic materials; and two water treatment products including Folia’s pAge paper. Go Dr Teri!!

star wars stamps


The Royal Mail has started taking pre-orders for its October set of commemorative Star Wars stamps. Commemorative stamps are released around once a month and I have two boxes of stamps and first day covers from my philately days.

These stamps are designed by UK digital artist Malcolm Tween; some of the stamps feature secret details revealed only under UV light. There are already previous Star Wars stamps featuring Luke, Leia, Han, Obi-Wan and many others. Out of the newest 8, my favourites are BB-8 and Maz Kanata. Of all stamps in the collection, it has to be Boba Fett. That guy’s just cool.

There are also framed stamps, medal covers and display units for sale. Some are limited edition. I’m considering the £19.99 medal cover that R2 on one side and Princess Leia on the other side of the medal. I dunno, I’m trying to figure out how to sell my stamp and FDC collection, not add to it.

more nyt feel-good stories

I needed this, NYT’s latest stories that have nothing to do with politics in which they discover and share stories from around the web that take us away from the current newscycle of politics, terrorism, pain and suffering.

world’s smallest violin


Atlas Obscura has a story about the world’s smallest violin, at 1/64th normal size measuring less than 12 inches in length. The fraction represents the volume inside the instrument compared with regular violins. Mostly they go to 1/16th so 1/64 is tiny and rare. These small ones are made for kids, with this 1/64 model for 2 year olds. Yep, two years old and learning the violin. I do know that with learning, especially languages and music, the best results are to start young. Most young violinists start off with an instrument constructed from a box–the idea is to get them used to the feel and bow movement before actually getting them to produce sound.

One of the manufacturers of small violins is Stentor Music from the UK (their image above), who started making them in the 1980s. They have a factory in Mainland China where small violins are handcrafted. There is a limited demand, because kids grow out of them, so they only make a few hundred a year. I don’t think they are concert quality, but definitely serve a purpose. I wonder how many young musical prodigies started with a 1/64.

happy ending maths problem


Quanta magazine tells the story of Hungarian mathematicians Esther Klein and George Szekeres, and their friend Paul Erdős. The problem is dubbed the happy ending problem because Klein and Szekeres fell in love and got married. Anyway, the original problem:

Given five points, and assuming no three fall exactly on a line, prove that it is always possible to form a convex quadrilateral — a four-sided shape that’s never indented (meaning that, as you travel around it, you make either all left turns or all right turns)

They proved it for 5 points to make a 4-sided polygon f(4); and 17 points to make a hexagon f(6). The general solution they proposed, the formula for the number of points it would take to guarantee a convex polygon:

f(n) = 1+ 2(n–2)

was only recently solved by Andrew Suk of the University of Illinois in Chicago. It gets a bit too technical for me, involving what’s known as the cups-caps theorem and an area of maths called Ramsey theory that says:

within large disorganized sets — like a set of points dispersed randomly on a plane — you will always be able to find well-organized subsets

And this is when I wish I were better at maths. I can understand the simple one page wikipedia entry but not the more complex explanation on quanta.

Luckily, numberphile has a video. It was made in 2014 which pre-dates Andrew Suk’s proof but is a good introduction. Talking about happy ending, Klein and Szekeres moved to Australia after WW2 and passed away within an hour of each other on 28 August 2005.

marriage made tidy

The NYT itself had an article about marraige turning a slob magically tidy. Before she got married, Helen Ellis was a slob-hoarder, who didn’t bat an eyelid when she had food crumbs on her sofa, or even bothered to close cabinet doors and drawers. Her husband still married her.

A year into our marriage, my husband said: “Would you mind keeping the dining room table clean? It’s the first thing I see when I come home.”

What I heard was, “I want a divorce.” What I said was, “Do you want a divorce?”

“No,” he said. “I just want a clean table.”

I called my mother.

She asked, “What’s on the table?”

“Oh, everything. Whatever comes off my body when I come home. Shopping bags, food, coffee cups, mail. My coat.”

Her mother called her husband a saint and told her to learn how to clean.

And she did.

She bought storage boxes and gave away stuff. She started dusting and treating making the bed as cardio exercise.

I guess there are two kinds of people, those who tidy up after themselves and those who don’t. I can’t even let a drawer be a centimeter not closed. Everything has to be put back. A slob, even a recovered slob like Ms Ellis has to remind herself to tidy up, it’s not second nature to her.

random reddit

I’m bored so I’m clicking the random button on reddit, which brings me to, well, random subreddits. Yes, reddit has a bad reputation and there are some cesspool subs that shouldn’t exist. But mostly, it’s people getting together because they have a common interest. I’ve come across subs on games, tv shows, anime, sports teams, cities/countries, tech etc. Sometimes the topic is a complete mystery to me.

No wonder certain newspapers steal–um, borrow–content from reddit. A celebrity does an AMA and an article is written as if they gave an interview. Sometimes there are nice human interest stories. There’s one recently, on r/talesfromtechsupport about a tech support person fixing a simple skype issue so an elderly hard-of-hearing person can video call his wife, who is deaf and abroad for a 2 year temporary work assignment:

I looked up and there was Pete, crying while waving to his wife through Skype. Pete called her and she picked up! He introduced me to her and told me that it’d been 3-weeks since they’d heard from each other.

Anyway here are the most recent 5 random subs and some random posts.


A place where people gather to talk about simplicity. I have now subscribed to it. Posts about people’s experiences like a post on decluttering using the one in, two out method. Most of us have heard of one in, one out but throwing or donating two out will definitely declutter. The OP says,

it makes me want to replace and upgrade the things I already have, rather than buying entirely new things

which sounds like a solid reason to try the program.


Many image posts of minimalist pictures. The was one with blue sky and a part of a slanted roof. I can do better, here’s one I took ages ago in Las Vegas.



I know very little about dragonball z, even though it’s been around for ages and ages and ages. The subreddit has discussion posts on all sorts of topics including specific episodes. What is dragonball z:

it follows a boy named Son Goku from childhood to adulthood, as he trains himself in martial arts with the goal of growing stronger. Throughout his adventures, he and his friends search for seven magical Dragon Balls that, when gathered together, can grant a single wish

There are posts with titles like What would happen if Dai Kaioshin was removed from Majin Buu? which are meaningless to me. Lots of fanart and I can see the effort that has gone into it. Not surprised that fans are gathered on this sub, this is exactly what the site is about.


Hahaha, a subreddit dedicated to cactus. Mostly pics of people’s plants, identification requests and posts with questions on caring for their cacti. Again, I love that there is a space online that people with similar interests can gather.


My contribution. We saw this whilst walking around one of the islands a few years ago. I’m loving the flickr search function.


Wow, I hadn’t realised there are whole subreddits on history whatif, future whatif, time travel whatif, even magic whatif. Very interesting, if one is interested in history. The top post is entitled Republican Spain wins the Spanish Civil War?

So lets assume that by means of less army defections or more international support or any combination of factors leads the Republicans to oust the fascists from Spain by April 1939(The end of the OTL civil war).

Not a historian, but food for thought. I started clicking on the other whatif subs and now I can see why whole hours, days, weeks, can be wasted.


Okay, I was like, huh? This sub, which has almost 40k subscribers, is all about:

the fear of partially or fully submerged man-made objects

Ah okay. The banner pic is a cruise ship half sunk in the water and most posts are pics of submerged objects like ships, WW2 fighters, cars, submarines. One thread is entitled I will never become a Navy SEAL.

The best thing, I learned a new word.

randomly curated links

I don’t maintain a sideblog, partly because I don’t have material all the time. That said, I have been saving a bunch of articles that would perfectly fit a sideblog. Random topics I’m interesting in like tech, travel, photography, entertainment.


In the far, far north of Canada, which spends the most of the year under snow and ice, tides are extreme. When it’s low-tide, caves form as the topmost layer of ice remains while the water underneath recede. The native Inuits take the window of opportunity to climb underneath the ice to hunt for mussels. The caves underneath look magical, but only for a short time.

Before long, the sound of ticks and pops signaled the returning tide as it lifted the ice on the bay. Soon, the water would fill the caverns.

Beautifully photographed. I’m a big fan of alaska, life in the cold stories and this article confirmed the region’s harsh climate and even harsher way of life.

amazon’s continued online shopping dominance

A couple of months old, but still interesting is jason kottke’s account of online christmas shopping. The drone that his son wanted was out of stock at amazon, so he shopped with the manufacturer direct. Multiple emails and phone calls to verify the order and suddenly the order was refunded even though he never requested the cancellation. He couldn’t complete his purchase at Walmart’s online shop. Target’s website was slow and the item arrived late. The point is, everyone hates amazon, but it’s the only one that consistently works.

The site is always fast, I have never seen a 404’d product page, the URLs for their products haven’t changed in almost 20 years.

Come to think of it, that’s true. Product urls at amazon never 404. My only complaint is that there are now way too many products and it’s becoming more difficult to search. I need replacement lightning cables and I remember reading about some sturdy kevlar ones. Search for “kevlar lighting cable” returned 130 results, some of which are variations of the same product.

Talking about search, here’s 10 ways of searching for information on google, some I know, like searching through a specific website or url; some didn’t know about.

For instance if I were looking for an onsen in either kyoto or osaka I can search: onsen kyoto or osaka. If I want to exclude certain results, like if I want to search for interesting books but I don’t want to buy any I can search: interesting books -buy.

Musical interlude. Here’s the latest from The xx called Say Something Loving. I don’t know The xx very well, this song has grown on me. Plus the video is all.about.London albeit a London from a young person’s point of view. Video arcades (Trocadero may be), the skate park under the National Theatre, the Coronet.

We wanted to celebrate our home town and revisit some of the places that reminds us of our friendship when we were growing up.

Via the always reliably interesting boing boing a video breakdown of the Battle of Helm’s Deep. They talk about use of colour, silence in the cinematography. I didn’t realise it was 40mins long, my attention never faltered from the first anticipatory shots of silent waiting to the arrival of Gandalf. Classic.

Even darker, a LA Times long read about revenge that I spotted, fittingly enough, on r/prorevenge. Very long read, very riveting and surreal.

tl;dr: Entitled rich lawyer mom somehow perceived her precious snowflake son was slighted by the PTA President. Hatched an elaborate scheme with her (also lawyer) husband to place drugs in the hapless lady’s car. Police officer didn’t take the allegations at face value and turned the investigation to the husband and wife instead. They were arrested and jailed. Both lawyers were disbarred. The civil suit for damages was in favour of the president for $5.7million.

Apparently, a film is in the works, with Julia Roberts attached as producer and star.

Here’s a cruise I’d never go on, travelling on container ships. It’s okay for a young, single guy. It’s not only the time needed–2 weeks to cross the Pacific, for instance, it’s just that they’re not geared towards passengers:

You are a liability to the ship, and there is no reason why they should bring you onboard. Most ports are secured to a level where you cannot access them. Life onboard the ships come down to a few things: work, eat, sleep, recreation. A passenger is an interference to the ships routine.

So why do it? Because it’s there. And because someone thought about it as an idea and did it. There are apparently good things too. The passenger can share in the facilities and one ship had a sauna. There’s a lot of downtime. The view is different. And once past the bureaucracy of getting onboard, it’s cheap.


A form of cheap transport that I do like is bike sharing schemes. I was surprised and quite proud of myself at how I took advantage of NYC citibikes last year. Manhattan was surprisingly easy and safe to navigate on a bike, unlike London where I tried cycling to Harrow Road post office once and gave up. I think it’s the attitude of London drivers towards cyclists as well as the hunking buses that make it dangerous. When it works, there’s very little to dislike about these schemes. They are eco-friendly, cheap, convenient and healthy.


Even in car-centric America, bike sharing schemes are growing. Granted, most of the growth is in cities–85% of all rides are in 5 cities: NYC, Washington DC, Chicago, Miami, Boston. It doesn’t fit everywhere. Seattle cancelled its scheme due to low usage (weather, hills and lack of commitment from local government). Schemes probably won’t work very well in rural areas.

One statistic that is impressive is how safe bike sharing is. The possible reasons make sense: the bikes are sturdy, making them heavier and also slower; they have working lights and brakes, users tend to only use them for short distances and are less experienced so they are more careful.

The world seriously can’t rely on petro-driven cars forever. Electric cars and self-driving cars may be the future but there’s also room for low tech transportation like bikes.

fearless girl

photo credit: Federica Valabrega

Advertising firm McCann New York placed a statue of a girl opposite the Wall Street charging bull on behalf of their client State Street Global Advisors. The statue, called Fearless Girl, was by sculptor Kristen Visbal and will be there for a week. The purpose is to bring attention, on International Women’s Day, to diversity and gender equality issues. She starts down the bull and plaque at her feet says

Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference.

State Street is refreshingly unusual in having 3 women on its 11-member board. Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Tisdalle:

She’s not angry at the bull — she’s confident, she knows what she’s capable of, and she’s wanting the bull to take note.

If only the rest of Wall Street is as enlightened as State Street. More than 80% of FAs are men and 25% of Russell 3000 index firms have no women on their board. I mean, has anyone been to the pit that is a trading desk? Sigh.

Come to think of it, I think my friend Larry went to State Street. I think he’s still there, global head of mobility.


And another thing, they must have roped off the statues for photographers or the photographers got there early. When I was there last year, there were so many people taking selfies with the bull I could not get a proper pic at all.

two inspiring running stories

Couple of inspiring running-related stories in the news, one in humid Miami and one in snowy Boston.

Miami: twin pushes disabled sister at half marathon


Spotted via runnersworld, the inspiring story of how a runner pushed her disabled sister to finish a half marathon together.

Twins Nichole and Jennifer Rider were both runners and athletes through school. In 1995, Nichole was in a car accident that paralysed her from the neck down. Eventually she regained enough mobility to kayak and handcycle. At last week’s Miami Half Marathon, Jennifer and a friend took turns pushing Nichole, the trio finishing the race in 2:06. They were racing to raise awareness for a new organisation Thumbs Up International that aims to match able-bodied runners, swimmers and cyclists with those who need help in participating in races.

I really like this idea, this is something I’d rather do than sign up for a charity place. I’m slow, so pushing or guiding someone will definitely slow me down even more, but I don’t mind. It’s also potentially challenging to match personalities too. Hmm, reminds me of a story idea I have on the backburner, of two people forced together to train and race in exactly the same scenario (able-bodied and less able-bodied).

Thumbs Up is Miami-based only right now, won’t be it great if the idea is picked up by one of the big races?

Boston: local bartender shovels Boston Marathon finish line


Boston and other parts of the northeast part of the US got hammered by snow this week. Someone took a pic of a good samaritan shoveling snow from the Boston Marathon finish line, which is permanently painted on a street. This led to a twitter search for #WhoShoveledTheFinishLine.


Boston Marathon has a very special place in the hearts of both the people of Boston and to runners, moreso after the bombing in 2013. The good samaritan was eventually identified as Chris Laudani, a local bartender, who said he cleared the finish line because it:

isn’t just a strip of paint in the road. It means so much more to us as a community of Boston and of runners

Ironically 4 out of 5 of his Boston Marathon finishes were as a bandit. There is a long tradition of banditing Boston, but that’s another discussion. He’s been offered an official place this year, so there’s a happy ending to the story.


the future includes robots

Published another article at medium.

The humans need not apply video has been doing the rounds lately. An apt summary:

“Technology gets better, cheaper, and faster at a rate biology can’t match” + “Economics always wins” = “Automation is inevitable.”

So the message is, humankind should look forward to being treated like horses in the early 20th century and become obsolete as robots take over jobs previously performed by humans. And it’s presented like it’s a bad thing.

Here’s what I think. I think that automating tasks currently performed by humans is awesome. The cost of “running” a human is so astronomical compared with running a robot, and it includes errors and inconsistencies made by humans. Am I the only person who has been following news about driverless cars with enthusiasm and happiness? Driverless cars (and buses and trains and other modes of transport) will probably be much safer because robots don’t get tired, fall asleep, text, or get distracted while they are driving. The current difficulty of integrating driverless cars isn’t just the technology, it’s that these cars need to negotiate roads occupied by unpredictable human drivers. There’s not been any difficulty in using driverless trains or trams that use fixed tracks. I’m sure that the map of roads in a few hundred years will be vastly different from our network of highways, but it’s progress.


There’s always been resistance to change over the course of history. People used to manually write out copies of books by hand, their jobs were eliminated when printing was invented. The Industrial Revolution replaced manual labour with machinery. The digital revolution had similar impact on jobs.

But every time there was a new invention or progress, as dust settled, people went on to do something else — trading, finance, services industry. Going back to the printing example, yes there was no longer any need for meticulous book calligraphers, so did humankind grind to a stop? History tells us otherwise. The widespread availability of books meant improved literacy and education. Humans who used to copy book contents went on to create content for more and more books. When robots assume the more mundane tier 0 or tier 1 tasks, a human brain is freed to take care of the more complex, emotionally driven, critical thinking tasks that robots can’t do yet. Robots can cook burgers, pizza, sushi, but they can’t create sublime dishes that are more art than mere food. I can live with robots at Mcdonald’s, but there will still be a place in the world for the Fat Duck or Noma.


Leisure, that’s our lot in future.

Our ability to consume leisure nowadays is astounding and something that our parents’ generation would never imagine. When I think of horses, who, as the video told us have been deemed unemployable, I see them grazing in meadows. The ones who are working are mainly “employed” in the services industry — touristy horse-drawn carriages, horse racing or in the services of police forces or farms. Just as horses’ lives have changed, it is up to us, humankind, to find a new place in the brave new world of robots. As wired said (emphasis mine),

We’d still have to find our place among the robots, except this time without work as a guidepost for defining a sense of purpose. By eliminating the need for people to work, robots would free us up to focus on what really makes us human.

I admit, I’ve presented an overly simple and westernised view. How the next generation will work is unclear. May be we will see the end of robot-like commuting and fixed hour (9-5) work as people gain more flexibility not only in hours they work but where and how. The world is going through a prolonged recession, if I knew how the next generation of jobs will evolve, I’d be a famous economist.

math(s) and meters


Saw this sign in the middle of Montana of all places. Had to smile when I saw it, and immediately snapped a pic.

A recent guardian article about the perils of air travel devolved in the comments into small amounts of mud-slinging because the columnist talked about the

9/11 tragedy

and in an earlier version of the article said

simple math

The article, in the comments (ie not news) section, was serious enough. There had been 3 fatal incidents involving airplanes in the past week which may make people regularly travelling, or just about to travel, by air nervous. Basically the message was, it’s still safer to fly than drive and passengers are more likely to choke on one of the peanuts served on planes.

The ruckus from guardian commenters weren’t about the content of the article, the protest was against the americanisation of a British paper. One comment, perhaps in bad taste, asked

what’s the significance of the 9th of November?

to which another commenter answered

Remember, remember the 9th of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot;
I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

No wait… that’s not right.

Another commenter put their point across simply


I’ve been in the US about 1 month now, and it did take me a few days to get used to the, um, uniqueness that is America. The illogical way dates are written, the use of non-metric measurements in daily life, use of other words to describe the same thing (cart vs trolley, cookie vs biscuit etc). I still have to think after someone speaks and before I speak, which sometimes makes me seem like I’m not listening or slow.

At least I’m less petrified of tipping now, because I’ve adopted the practice of stop overthinking tipping and just put down 20 percent.

Anyway, apropos of nothing, via kottke is actor Siobhan Thompson demonstrating 17 different British and Irish accents.

this is not a blog…

On my twitter feed and my facebook wall are occasional status updates to the tune of “check out my newest blog!” I do a double-take every time because that particular social media friend already has a website and did it mean that in addition to and the newest blog she announced last week, she now has

By saying “check out my newest blog!” she was actually trying to alert us that she has a new blog post up as opposed to a spanking new blog site. There is a subtle difference. And this casual interchangeability of two related but different terms kinda bothers me a wee bit.

I searched “new blog” on twitter, and it was about 80:20 split between new blog posts vs new blog when they mean new blog post. PwC Australia does it the correct way:


whereas the Arsenal fans’ tweet was misleading:


Of course there were people who genuinely did start a new blog:


or people who have new things happening at their blog (typos not withstanding):


Apparently it is a very common mistake. I thought it’s a rookie mistake, but according to Slate, people like the late great Roger Ebert, geek royalty Amanda Palmer and…gasp…Arianna Huffington also do it.


Let’s go back to the very beginning. The term blog is an abbreviation of web log, or in its early incarnation, a web diary. Blogs are made up of posts. You tend to only have a new diary every year, although you will have scores of entries inside. Another good analogy:

  • blog = newspaper
  • blog post = newspaper article

Try this: The journalist wrote a newspaper about last month’s unemployment figures. See what I mean?

So my social media friend who has just added content to her blog, would have been more correct in telling us to “check out the newest post on my blog!” I’m guessing the additional words make it more clunky and is potentially less impactful? IDK. People have the tendency to squish words together, so may be in the future it’ll be “check out my newest blost!” Snerk.

Why am I getting worked up about it? Aside from it sounds weird? I’ll categorise it as a pet peeve, like your vs you’re and their vs there. If someone is making a living writing for a blog, they should know the basic terminology of their job, right? Even if it’s just a personal blog, good spelling, grammar and proper word usage make a good impression. Slate was harsh, but take away the snarkiness and they have a point,

I’m not going to sugarcoat this—is that calling a post a blog makes you sound stupid. That may seem harsh, but I’m doing you a favor. Every time you make this mistake, it sounds like you don’t understand this newfangled thing, the World Wide Web.

I know I’m right about this. I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging blogs and posting posts for over 10 years.

which class


I shouldn’t have been surprised at the polarising reaction to Lady Thatcher’s passing. From sadness to street parties, from tributes to glee, and even lack of recognition from the younger generation. I didn’t expect such strong emotions, so openly expressed on social media. She was the first PM I remembered, and I was the right age to be considered one of Thatcher’s children. Miner’s strike, Falklands, Big Bang, yuppies, poll tax—I lived through them all. I thought she did what she believed was right for Britain at that time; some of it worked and some of it didn’t.

Personally, I benefited from that time so my regard for her is, accordingly, positive. None of my family worked in any of the industries that were union-driven or eventually privatised. I got my first mortgage, like many others under the “home ownership” spell. I still have those BT shares. She even made it okay to study chemistry at uni. I know, I know. There are areas in the country that still haven’t recovered, she never supported equality for anyone, and her ethos of extreme capitalism led to the unregulated greed that caused financial crisis after financial crisis. Like I said, some good, some bad.

Her story, as well as reactions to her policies and her death, is, in part, one of class. And so with impeccable timing, last week the BBC featured an article on the Great British class calculator. Apparently the tradition demarcation of upper, middle and lower class doesn’t work anymore, and there’s now people fit into 7 classes depending on economic, social and cultural capital. Taking the calculator revealed that I’m in the technical middle class:

a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy

Which accurately describes how I take the bus to Waitrose, buy expensive wine then go back home to drink it all by myself. There’s a big section on cultural that asks questions like if you visit museums or listen to hip-hop music. Didn’t do very well there. Seems to me that this calculator tries to define classes less by birth and education factors but by, dare I say, more superficial and “American” values like whether you own a house or have a large number of friends on facebook. Oh, I’m not trying to pick on Americans, but at times she seems to like America much more than Britain. Hmm.

in the news


On the way back from running I bought a newspaper. A physical paper. Can’t remember the last time I did that, I tend to read online. So, what was in the paper? Politics, protests, lament at falling language skills, American football shared space with test match cricket. The magazine had an article by a reporter who tried 7 different diets on each day of a week — he lost 3.5kg (almost 8 pounds) but had zero energy and didn’t seem to enjoy any of it. There was also the listing of the week’s TV, which at the end of the day, was the most useful for me.

tube 150


The first Tube journey took place150 years ago today. We complain about it, of course. Crowded, old carriages, constant delays, stifling hot in the summer. But its importance is illustrated by the facts: over 1.1million passengers made 1.1billion journeys per year. And the Jubilee Line held up during the Olympics, phew.


The iconic map was based on circuit diagrams, and designer Yuri Suzuki, as part of the Designers in Residence program at the Design Museum, made a working radio with circuits that look like the tube map. Very cool, very intricate.



One of the happy things about being here is that I get to watch TAR again. I missed a few seasons, and yes I could have caught up on youtube but it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. This week they are in Moscow and it’s a thrilling episode. The teams are surprisingly split into 2 bunches with a good 10+ hours between them. There’s a team who has lost their passport. Teams who aren’t realising it’s a RAAAACE.

And a timezone task. Russia has 9 timezones, and the map they were shown showed Moscow at UTC+4, then other regions and cities. I was surprised at how many teams didn’t know what UTC means. I always thought it was GMT+1 but actually it’s still GMT, but using an atomic clock to measure which means a leap second added once in a while.

more unfortunate words


So misuse, misintepretation and mistranslation between languages occur in all directions. I found this website with examples of poor usage of asian languages in western culture. People even send in pictures of their tattooes to ask whether they got what they asked for. A lot of surprises and disappointments when the explanation comes through in the comments — far too many of these Chinese / Japanese / Korean character tattooes are made up of complete gibberish. Or truncated words. Upside down. With missing parts. Just flinging together some random strokes, circles and dots doesn’t a word make. And it’s permanent.

One of the most unfortunate is this boy’s sweater, the character translates roughly to hemorrhoid. Oh dear.

abbey road webcam



Spotted via bb, the Abbey Road live webcam. I live down the road from there, and I try to avoid that area especially when driving. It’s a residential area with no facilities for tourists and yet they keep coming.

Looking at some of the static screen grabs, the top one shows the classic 4 people crossing mode, just like the Beatles. The second one shows what it feels like for us locals, of hoards of tourists around trying to cross and recross the zebra crossing. Basically the stupid tourists stop traffic from moving along or congregate on the pavement not allowing pedestrians to walk. So annoying.

walked home #tubefail

Hurry Home
pic courtesy flickr user LaN_Luis

Should have known. Took a train forever to arrive, we were told there was a signal failure at baker street. Then at farringdon it was “all change please” and no prospect of continuing the journey westbound. What I should have done: walked to chancery lane or holborn, caught the central line. What I ended up doing: walked all the way home. I don’t believe in recording anything but runs on the nike+ but I thought it’d be informative: 7km+ 1hr 20mins 11.27min/km.

Lots of tube delays lately. How will they cope next year?

turn those lights off


8.30pm local time today around the world is earth hour when we’re supposed to turn our lights off for 1 hour.

Honestly, I couldn’t see any visible participation. I think one window had their lights off at 8.30, then turned it back on at 9.30. Otherwise windows that were dark before were dark after. I had my fireplace on, a candle in the kitchen and used one of my hand-cranked torches to get around. The mbp was on throughout — they didn’t say turn off laptops! Many cities participated. It’s Las Vegas’ turn now, I’d be interested to see how the Strip looks, if they killed the neon.

2009 ridiculousness in auto tune

Who would have thought a year ago that a technology that corrects pitch which allows singers to perform perfectly tuned vocal tracks without the need of singing in tune would be the source of

Here, in no particular order are: balloon boy, Kanye vs Taylor, Obama vs fly, Jon vs Kate, octomom, Sully, amongst others — in autotune. I can’t get that stupid tune out of my head, that’s because it’s pitch perfect. snerk.

population density chart

population density

bb guest blogger Charles Platt has been making charts.


This one I love. A visual representation of relative population density.

To create this chart I turned to the CIA Factbook, where I looked up the populations of various nations and then divided this number into their land area (excluding lakes and rivers) to get the number of square feet available per person. I represented the results in squares that are all drawn to the same scale.

It’s an average, of course. Many countries have areas of low population density (like mountains etc) and the vast majority of the population live in urban cities. Still, a good chart.

And one that suggests I am soon to trade up by a huge factor when I move to Chicago. Huh. I doubt I’d be getting an apartment 20,000 times larger.

stand within the yellow line


Something I expect to be posted on future perfect. I spotted this sign on an escalator in Tokyo airport, I guess they want to avoid $7million lawsuits. I mean, it’s easy for shoes, heads, arms and fingers to be caught in escalators — those are dangerous mechanics that we take far too for granted. I dunno, it seems to me that people need to be more responsible for their own safety and action.

feed their style

Talking about nablopomo reminds me of the Wired article that good-naturedly teases the different blog styles of the “BIG” sites. I only have 36 feeds in my bloglines and I don’t read them all, but of those I do, I’d say the author hit it right on the head. Here are what a typical post may look like, and these are the ones I read with varied frequency..

Boing Boing: Crocheted replica of subway map cracks DRM on collection of old video games.

Slashdot: AMD, SCO patent MP3 over TCP/IP, sue ATI, EA. Microsoft probably responsible somehow.

Kottke: Elwin Festerator is the unsung inventor of the curly telephone cord. “I looked at a straight telephone cord, and I asked myself, Elwin, why can’t that be curly? So I went out and got my brand-new curling gun, and I curled the hell out of it.” Related link: New Yorker article on the Olympic curling team. (LOL!!!)

Engadget: Samsung releases new cell phone/mp3 player/camera/web browser/GPS/game player/wireless hub. Now in gray!

MacRumors: Apple is going to sue us for revealing that Apple is going to sue us.

Metafilter: Unhelpful link text. Extra links added for padding that have little to do with the main topic of the entry. Are extremely loaded rhetorical questions the only thing that can save us now?

Digg: Hey, cool, someone wrote an article about Digg!

Another telling feature of how typical that article was … scroll to the bottom of the page and see how it’s been hit with comment spam.

monks in the 21st century

I guess it’s mm’s influence, but articles about religion catch my eye more nowadays. Or perhaps not, because I would have zoomed in on any article that tells us about monks in Wisconsin with a laser cartridge filling business.


I mean, think about how monasteries, any religion, and how they cover their expenses. Most do not receive any financial help from the government or the church. Donations, fund-raising events, tourism (selling souvenirs), farming, wine- and cheese-making are the activities that come to mind.

Looks like the monks have finally entered the 21st century and the wonders of e-commerce. Behold Laser Monks of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Spring Bank in Wisconsin. Founded in the late 1920s, their fund-raising efforts have included selling cheese gift boxes, farming, real estate development, they had even considered building a four star golf course.

That was, until Fr. Bernard McCoy, O. Cist., Steward of Temporal Affairs at the abbey, also CEO of Laser Monks, decided to look for print cartridges for their laser printers.

In my search for a toner cartridge, I was suddenly struck with how incredibly expensive this black dust and a few squirts of ink were. “There must be a better way,” I said to myself.

What started as a small business grossing $2000 in 2002 has grown into sales of $2.5 million in 2005, with expected sales to exceed $5 million in 2006. That’s phenomenal in any accountant’s books. They do very little advertising, but they don’t seem to need it, with international coverage in the likes of cnn money.

After expenses are deducted, the rest of the profits go toward charity and various programs.

The retail and services industry is so cut-throat that consumers will latch onto any gimmick or novelty that catch their fancy. A Catholic abbey selling cheap print cartridges (they recently expanded to office supplies) where profits go to charity? It appeals to anyone looking for a bargain and to get a sense that they’re “doing good.”

A little research, for a HP Q7560A (HP 3000 series), Laser Monks sell for $128.95 while both staples and HP sell for $134.99. The cheapest at is at $115.30 but for some reason I’m hesitant to buy automatically from the cheapest place.

If I had a printer, I’d buy from the monks too.

Help needed: spies

From the guardian.

For an organisation that didn’t officially exist until 1994, it has come a long way. Last week, MI6 launched its own website. It even has a Careers section and says it’s looking to recruit staff at all grades. In today’s international arena, the website is also available in French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic and Chinese.

MI6, or the Secret Intelligent Service (SIS) as they prefer to be known, is the counterpart of MI5 (domestic security) and GCHQ (communications). It has been in existence since 1909 and its main tasks is to gather intelligence abroad to protect British interest. In other words, spying.

Glamorised by books and films (James Bond, anyone?), recruitment into MI6 has always been thought of as very cloak and dagger affairs, involving secret winks and taps on shoulders for the “right” recruit while up at Oxbridge. Now they’re telling wannabe spies “if you think you have the qualities described on the Web site please apply, don’t wait for us to get in touch.”

The application procedure itself is simple, just send in your CV. But there are nationality rules and candidates go through extensive security clearance during the interview stage. They’re also told that they can’t tell anyone other than a spouse or partner that they’re applying. They emphasize the family atmosphere at their HQ and the sense of adventure of working there.

Seems fun and worthwhile, and why not?

cuddle up

This from reuters.

Over 12 years old but still like to be held? Or hugged, touched, stroked, caressed, piled atop on, reclined across, nuzzled, and affectionately massaged? Try a cuddle party.

Cuddle Parties are “a place to begin exploring and reclaiming the sense of affectionate touch and play we naturally displayed and enjoyed as children, and that we need to be happy, healthy adults.”

Ever since they started in NY in February, hundreds of people since then have paid $30 to participate. According to the organizers, affectionate touch is necessary for healthy immune systems, good mental health, and the development of our brains and nervous systems. It can reduce stress levels and help sick or injured people to heal.

Before any cuddling occurs, participants gather in a circle to hear the rules and voice any questions or concerns. Rules are absolute and essential:

  1. Pajamas stay on the whole time.
  2. No SEX.
  3. Ask for permission to kiss or nuzzle anyone. Make sure you can handle getting a no before you invite or request anyone to cuddle or kiss.
  4. If you’re a yes, say yes. If you’re a no, say no.
  5. If you’re a maybe, say NO.
  6. You are encouraged to change your mind from a yes to a no, no to a yes anytime you want.
  8. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  9. If you’re in a relationship, communicate and set your boundaries and agreements BEFORE you go to the Cuddle Party. Don’t re-negotiate those agreements/boundaries during the Cuddle Party. (Trust us on this one.)
  10. Get your Cuddle Life Guard On Duty or Cuddle Caddy if there’s a concern, problem, or question or should you feel unsafe or need assistance with anything during the Cuddle Party.
  11. Crying and giggling are both welcomed and encouraged.
  12. Outside of your personal relationships, it’s nobody’s business who you cuddle, so please be respectful of other people’s privacy when sharing with the outside world about Cuddle Parties.
  13. Arrive on time.
  14. Be hygienically savvy.
  15. Clean up after yourself.
  16. Always say thank you and practice good Cuddle Manners.

There are “Cuddle Lifeguards” who are responsible for ensuring the integrity of the room, meaning that no sex happens, that everyone feels safe, and that the sexual energy, when it shows up, is dispersed safely.

The overwhelming message is, cuddle parties are not about sex. It’s expressing, and receiving, affection through touch that has no hidden agenda. That it’s okay to want to be touched and comforted without having to worry about what it can lead to. First base does not need to lead to second base.

If during the course of a cuddle party, some people connect, find out they have lots in common, go on a date and things develop, that’s fine. But it’s not the purpose of a cuddle party.

The cuddleparty website has “cuddlemonials” with glowing testimonials from people who have been to cuddle parties. About how they reduce stress, and help people express their feelings.

Hmmm. Hug please.