Racist emoji

Unicode 1F595, more commonly known as the middle finger emoji.

Have you ever heard someone says something that sounded completely outrageous, and you turned around to see a smile on their face and heaved a sigh of relief?

Humans rely on a wide range of signals to communicate with each other, and most of these are non-verbal: What we say is modified by pitch and loudness of voice, body language, hand gestures, and facial expression.

Written communication has none of those signals, so letter writing was very formal and structured to avoid miscommunication:

"Dear so and so...

Yes, but is it paedophilia?

Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet depicted in this oil on canvas by Ford Madox Brown circa 1869. Juliet is 13 years old in the play.

Even after his death, there continues to be outrage — deserved, in my opinion — around Jeffrey Epstein's 36 recorded counts of sexual abuse. Some of his victims were 14 years old.

But this is 2020, and even well-meaning people commenting on the matter get taken to task, for example, this:

Some thoughts on GDP


World economies by GDP (nominal) in USD / Ali Zifan / CC0

I was asked a question: "Would I be right in saying GDP is not always a good indicator of an economy?"

My response: "GDP is an important piece of a larger puzzle which should never be looked at in isolation."

Here's a brief explainer:

GDP (gross domestic product) is the value of services provided and goods produced in a year.

Toward an objective reality

Donald Trump and Xi Jinping
Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at 2018 G20 Summit | Dan Scavino / Public domain

Seth Goddin earlier this month wrote about the notion of "objective reality". I quote:

Objective reality is measured. It’s not based on talking points. It’s repeatable and verifiable. When humans share an understanding of how things are objectively, we’re able to make enormous progress, because this objective reality is consistent.

Remembering Fela Kuti because music

Beasts of No Nation album cover
Beasts of No Nation album cover 1989

Driving my 12 year old daughter to school this morning, and the iPhone god of randomness popped by Shakara by Fela Kuti.

And I told 12 that Fela had been beaten to death by Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, and she asked why, and I said that's what dictators do. But that I would check my recollection and get back to her.

Actually, I had misremembered. It was not Sani Abacha; it was Abacha's predecessor General Olusegun Obasanjo. Fela was not beaten to death; merely close to death.

The real value of Boomers

US Treasury 1907
US Treasury 1907

The United States is braced for the single biggest transfer of wealth in history.

"Boomers" make up about 45 million households, worth about US $68,4 trillion, according to Cerulli Associates. an asset management research group. As they die over the next 25 years, their heirs will receive most of this, and those heirs are mostly millennials.

The question is, what will those heirs do with the money?

Every so often, the Internet gives us something truly wonderful

The Internet Archive of Vinyl

Fancy listening to Folk Music of Afghanistan from 1971? Or Afro-Cuban Jazz from 1966?

The Internet Archive has begun digitizing long out-of-print vinyl and making it freely available.

As I write these words, I am listening to "Profiles" by Gary McFarland (1966). It was post bop contemporary jazz at the time. Now, it's a half century old.

A plague on both your houses!


"And I miss you... Like the deserts miss the rain..." went the 90s track from Everything But The Girl.

Desert rains also bring chaos. An abundance of rain leads to an abundance of foliage, which encourages breeding of locusts.

These have wreaked havoc around the Horn of Africa.

A "small" swarm contains about 40 million insects, and they can eat as much food in a day as 35 000 people.

Not that there's anything unusual about this. Plagues of locusts have been documented in the Bible and the Quran among other sources for centuries.

Looking for the elevator in the gym?

Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單) - Wikimedia Commons

Ever stop to observe the behaviour of vehicles entering a shopping center parking lot?

They will generally circle close to the entrance of the shop they want to go to. Frequently, they will stop in a row, hazards flashing, waiting for someone to leave their space.

Eventually, when someone does leave and another vehicle approaches from the other side, our driver waiting for the parking space will furiously flash lights or honk or wave or all of the above.

Here's my strategy for parking lots: I will generally grab the first unoccupied parking I find.