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15 Jan 17:20

Whenever I find an old legacy code bug

by sharhalakis

by goworkat

15 Jan 17:20

Our team... some times...

by sharhalakis

Image by codazzo

15 Jan 17:17

Shall we buy MacBooks to look cool but install Ubuntu on them?

by sharhalakis

by @juan_domenech

13 Nov 15:09

Comic for November 7, 2013

13 Nov 13:08

Comic for November 9, 2013

12 Nov 15:21

Blinded by the Light

by Chris Krupiarz

This article originally appeared in this week's issue of ​The Magazine​, an ad-free, subscriber-supported fortnightly periodical of medium-length feature reporting and essays.

The probe sails through space, traveling the distance of the LA-to-Chicago red-eye in a minute. My fellow engineers and scientists who built the spacecraft are now some 99 million miles distant on a blue-tinged point of light. We call the probe Messenger.

This name identifies its scientific mission — MESSENGER stands for MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging — and acknowledges its destination’s eponym, the Roman god of communication and much more. Operating beyond Earth’s atmosphere and without an engineering requirement for beauty, the spacecraft lacks the smooth lines of a Newey-designed F1 car slicing through the Mediterranean air of Monaco, or the splendor of Strauss’s Golden Gate Bridge against a gloomy June sky in San Francisco.

Messenger instead resembles a Lego model of non-descript blocks connected by a subway map of wires and cables. The spacecraft is designed for a singular purpose: to be the first probe to orbit Mercury.

We sent Messenger on its way August 3, 2004. Until Messenger completes its mission, the spacecraft is vulnerable to its surroundings. One bump along its journey remains a vivid reminder.

Deep space none

Traveling with Messenger to the planet closest to the Sun would have been a nightmare vacation. The trip takes years and then the weather on arrival is Phoenix-hot or McMurdo-cold, only far more severe.

For the craft, Mercury’s heat is a bigger problem than the cold. Messenger’s survival depends on an eight-foot by six-and-a-half-foot sunshade providing an SPF in the hundreds of thousands to protect against 700° F temperatures. The sun’s rays will eventually scorch the shade’s white ceramic-cloth surface to burnt-toast black, while behind the shield it stays room temperature.

The project scientists’ stand-ins hide within the shade: a suite of instruments ranging from the imager — the glamour photographer whose prints will grace the covers of Science and Discover — to the introvert of the group, the magnetometer. The magnetometer must stand apart from the crowd, attached to the end of a 12-foot boom, thus avoiding the chatter of the spacecraft’s own magnetic field. Twin solar panels bring electricity to the party; mirrors cover the panels to limit temperatures to a roast-ready 300° F.

During lulls in its internal chatter, Messenger sends instrument and spacecraft data to the three Deep Space Network stations on Earth: one over the hill from the Murrumbidgee River near Canberra, another just off of Calle Blas de Otero in the mountains west of Madrid, and the third in middle-of-nowhere California, northeast on the I-15 from LA.

When Messenger lifted off from Cape Canaveral in 2004, it was a rhino’s weight, with much of its heft from fuel. It has been on a diet since, losing mass each time a thruster burps puffs of skin-burning hydrazine or the main engine fires to change course. An on-board computer directs these actions and others via a shopping list of commands sent from Earth. The cost and the limits of physics in fighting the harsh environment of space has slowed space processor evolution — the latest iPhone runs nearly 100 times faster than the Messenger computer.

I know that computer well: I’m responsible for the flight software that’s controlling the spacecraft during this mission phase. And as I sit in my office at that moment, I hope that computer is still in one piece. I just received an email from Eric Finnegan, who, in his role as the Messenger mission systems engineer, is the leader of the spacecraft team. He has sent this message to all the team members:

Subject: MSGR: Spontaneous Loss of Signal today during DSS-63 All, Andy just informed me that we lost signal from Messenger today during the DSS-63 contact. They are tracing the ground system now. I am heading over to the MOC to get more situational awareness. Please join me as soon as possible. -ejf-

From the email, I know that Messenger had been talking with one of the Deep Space Network stations in Madrid, designated DSS-63. These periods of communication, called passes, are typically the length of a workday, about eight hours. Somewhere in the middle of that pass, Messenger had gone silent. Unless commanded to be quiet, spacecraft do not stop chatting: they constantly blabber like one of my sons after his first day of school. Eric calls us all to the mission operations center. Something is wrong.

I send my wife an email that begins, “It’s going to a long day…” and start to pack my computer bag for the walk to mission operations. Just before I shut down my laptop, I receive one last email, this one from those at the Deep Space Network:

FLASH 1: Messenger in Spacecraft Emergency Initial Incident Report: On DOY 244/1633z, the Messenger Project declared Spacecraft Emergency. They stated lost contact with the spacecraft at 142640z.

We need to find out what happened.


This isn’t my first rodeo. The first spacecraft I worked on failed upon launch; the second failed in orbit. I don’t need a third strike. But at my workplace, the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), I’m surrounded by scientists and engineers who devote themselves to figuring out hard problems. As I descend the stairs on my way out of my home base, Building 7, I pass a sign that reminds me of our wonkiness and precision: “Down to First Floor for Exit Discharge.”

Deep space missions are marathons. The mission team, led by the principal investigator from the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Sean Solomon, twice proposed the mission to NASA before it was accepted. Once approved, Messenger took four years to build, and at the time I take this walk, it has two years left on its trip to Mercury.

On arriving at Building 13, which houses the mission control center, I swipe my badge on the security reader and enter. Along the stem of the L-shaped room sit computer terminals for the instrument teams, as well as the propulsion, power, navigation, communication, and flight software subsystems. In the front of the room, what would be the base of the L, sit autonomy, guidance and control, the mission systems engineer, the mission operations manager, and the flight controllers. Off to the side is a room with glass walls, where, during significant events, upper management nervously waits to see whether the next day’s press release will be a positive one.

Standing near the flight controllers, staring at dual data screens on the wall, are Eric Finnegan and Andy Calloway. Eric is lean and energetic, with dark hair, dark eyes, and a perpetual five-o’clock shadow. He is wearing a white shirt and tie and has his ever-present Blackberry on his belt. Andy, the head of operations, is compact and tennis-player fit. An APL security badge hangs around his neck and he is wearing a polo shirt and jeans — the closest that Lab employees come to a uniform.

“What’s the status?” I ask.

“We lost contact about 45 minutes ago,” says Andy. “We were loading a series of macros to EEPROM when the signal just vanished.”

EEPROM is a predecessor to the flash storage used in SD camera cards. As with flash memory, EEPROM data remains permanent once written, even without power. Macros are a series of commands designed to be executed in sequence. There’s a clue in there, but I need more information.

“Were we doing compression? Downlinking files? Collecting images?”

“No,” replies Andy.

This is a good sign. Those three software functions have caused issues in the past. I thank Andy for the information and then sit down next to Adrian Hill, the autonomy lead for Messenger and a calming influence on the team. He is also an NFL on-field official. Perhaps having Bill Belichick yelling in his ear builds antibodies for stress.

I ask Adrian, “They weren’t doing much other than loading macros to memory. Could it be a multi-bit error?”

Adrian says he was thinking the same thing. Space is unkind to electronics. The sun, distant supernovae, and other sources launch particles that drill through these components. These subatomic bullets may damage computer memory by flipping a bit from a one to a zero or vice versa.1 Engineers have added a little math to computer memory that can automatically flip the bit back to the proper value.

However, if this happens more than once in a single computer word (the numbers of bits that a processor uses as its native basic unit), we call it a multi-bit error: the computer is not smart enough to determine which of the bits have flipped. To avoid reading corrupted data and making a bad decision, the computer reboots itself. This is an annoyance, but the computer would be doing what it is designed to do to fix the problem.

Seeking truth

We tell Eric and Andy our theory, although I am initially hesitant. Experience has shown that the more positive I am that I am right, the more likely it is I am wrong. I add the caveat that we will not know for sure until the spacecraft starts talking again.

I head across the room to my computer station. Already there at the adjoining terminal is the communication lead, Karl Fielhauer. A gray-haired, gregarious man, Karl is the type of guy that quickly lets you know where he stands. When I arrived in the mission operations center during a previous emergency, he summarized the situation with a succinct “we’re screwed.”

Today the conversation quickly diverts to our favorite subject: the Detroit Tigers. Despite the team being three and a half games up on the Twins and in first place in the American League Central, we still complain. We are both from Michigan and are lifelong Tiger fans; history dictates that a season implosion is likely just a few bizarre plays away.

Karl is relaxed because he has looked at his data and noticed that the signal from Messenger did not immediately drop away. Instead, it had slowly lost strength. Andy, Eric, and Karl conclude that Messenger is probably looking for us, like a child lost in the forest calling out for Mom and Dad.

Most spacecraft have multiple modes; we like to see Messenger in operational mode. That means the spacecraft is happily collecting data and all systems are working fine. Instead, Messenger may be in Earth-acquisition mode. The spacecraft would still be alive, slowly rotating to scan the sky while calling to its family on Earth. If that’s true, Messenger will take about three hours to rotate once and find us.

I log in to my terminal and send an email to Annette Mirantes, a colleague on the software team who recently moved overseas. For her, it is late afternoon in Gijón on the Bay of Biscay in northern Spain. Despite supposedly knowing much about computers, I find it magic that I can type on a laptop in Maryland and have that information almost immediately show up on the screen in Annette’s house in Europe. I summarize the situation and we determine what to examine once we get data back from Messenger. Annette replies:

If it's a multi bit error, we'll see it in 406: HSK_MULTIBIT_ERR_TT will be TRUE HSK_MEM_MULTI_BIT_ERR_CNT will be > 0 

Annette is referring to data packet 406 and two data points within. A packet is like an envelope. Inside the envelope is a list of data points and their current values. Data packets are grouped in a spacecraft version of the Dewey Decimal System. The 400 to 499 range is spacecraft data; the 406 packet contains diagnostic data. If the data point HSK_MULTIBIT_ERR_TT is true, it will confirm our theory of a multi-bit error. This will still require a spacecraft recovery, but I can head home and monitor the data from there. If the value is false, I will soon wish mission operations had extra cots.

Spinning round and round

As the three-hour mark approaches, the chatter in the operations center stops. We gather at the front of the room to watch a screen showing a graph that looks like an EKG. The display represents the signal strength from Messenger. The signal remains flatlined at zero until, slowly, the values begin to inch up. The spacecraft is alive, but we do not know how sick it is.

The next step is to tell the spacecraft to stop rotating. To do this, mission operations must command the spacecraft at the precise moment on a subsequent rotation that it again comes into view of the Deep Space Network antennas. Performing this operation is like timing the windmill shot at the Rocky Gorge mini-golf course, except at a distance of 99 million miles.

But, given the skill of the mission operations team, they make the putt and we eventually see a steady stream of communication from Messenger. The data values we need are screaming through space at the speed of light, but at this distance they take eight minutes to arrive.

Andy calls out, “DSN reports the first frame is in. You should be seeing data in about 12 minutes.”

The additional delay is due to the downlink rate. Because Messenger is in an emergency mode, the spacecraft is sending data at only 10 bits per second, a millionth the rate of home broadband.

“We have a 406 packet in the pipeline,” says Andy. That is the packet we need.

I wait. The spacecraft data points are displayed purple, indicating that the information is the same we saw many hours ago. Once they switch to green, I will know we have new data. I eye the screen. The key data point I am watching goes green.


It is a multi-bit error.

I email my wife: “I’ll be home for dinner.”

Messenger arrived safely in orbit on St. Patrick’s Day, 2011. Since then, the spacecraft has sent back the first complete map of Mercury, confirmed water ice in shadowed craters, and discovered an abundance of sulfur on the surface. Once Messenger’s fuel is depleted, Mercury’s gravity will slowly disrupt the probe’s orbit, lowering the spacecraft until it eventually hits the planet.

Photo credits: Messenger artist’s rendering, NASA/The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington Artist’s impression of Messenger in orbit at Mercury. Other photos from before launch via NASA. From top to bottom: Messenger's two solar arrays are inspected (photo KSC-04PD-1328); a worker checks wiring on the probe (photo KSC-04PD-1327); and the craft is prepared for launch (photo KSC-04PD-0443).

  1. A bit flip was in the news twice in recent years. First, when Voyager 2 in 2010 had its flight data system computer experience such a switch; engineers were able to fix that. In March 2013, Curiosity had a glitch that may have been caused by cosmic radiation. Redundancy in computers is a key to recovery. 

Chris Krupiarz works as a spacecraft flight software engineer for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Originally from Michigan, he now lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with his wife and two kids. In his spare time he enjoys reading and writing, walking in the woods with the family beagles, and creating fictional sporting events with his sons.

You can read more articles of this sort in ​The Magazine​, which has a seven-day free trial, and costs $1.99 a month for two issues (10 or more articles) and $19.99 a year for 26 issues (130+). Subscribe via the Web or its iOS app.


11 Nov 12:48

My Whole Life is a Lie!

My Whole Life is a Lie!

Submitted by: Unknown

26 Oct 12:58

25 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer

by Jon Negroni

It’s easy to forget that we have access to a virtually limitless resource of information, i.e. the Internet. For a lot of us, this is even true at our fingertips, thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones and an ever-increasing push for online greatness by tech engineers all over the world.

As a result, there are countless websites out there that are geared to make you smarter and more brilliant for either a low or no cost. Here are just 25 such sites that may just make you more clever than ever before.

1. Duolingo

This isn’t the first time I’ve recommended this language-teaching website (and app), and it certainly won’t be the last. Duolingo is a free version of Rosetta-Stone that delivers the same results: teaching you another language. Regular use of the site can have you speaking and writing Spanish, English, German, French, Portuguese and Italian in a matter of months depending on the diligence you put into it. Hopefully, even more languages will become available soon.


2. Khan Academy

Have you ever wanted to pick up a subject you’re not well-versed in, but you didn’t have the money to invest in a college course? Khan Academy aims to provide education at the collegiate level for anyone who wants it. They provide resources for learning pretty much every subject out there, including math, science, history and more. As you learn, the platform will even assess your progress and help you gauge what you’ve learned.


3. Justin Guitar

Guitar is one of the few instruments out there that’s actually pretty easy to learn if you’re a little older, making it one of the most accessible instruments. Still, learning how to play still takes some direction, at least for most people, so a guy named Justin decided he was going to help out. His website provides hundreds of free guitar lessons that range in different styles, depending on how you want to play. His schedule for learning is pretty easy to follow, and the site is a great stepping stone for people wanting to pick the instrument up.

Justin Guitar

4. Cooking for Engineers

Founded by Michael Chu, Cooking for Engineers goes further than just providing recipes. The site is a blog that is geared toward making your food taste good. Additionally, his analytical take on ingredients and cooking recipes is interesting and will likely change the way you approach cuisine.

Cooking for Engineers

5. The Dating Specialist

Or Nick the Dating Specialist is a website that wants to help guys be better dates. The site is full of advice on how to approach social situations and flirt successfully with different types of people. Nick even offers personal coaching at your request, so he can help your specific situation or hurdle to successful dating.

Dating Specialist

6. Nerd Fitness

When we think of exercising and gym techniques, we typically think of bodybuilders and jocks from high school. Nerd Fitness aims to provide resources for getting in shape from a nerd’s point of view. All of the guides, blogs and fitness tips on this site have a geek flavor that is intended to make anyone who feels uncomfortable at the gym feel right at home here.

Nerd Fitness

7. MIT Open Courseware

As much as I would love an education at MIT, that isn’t really in the cards. Thankfully, the educators at the Massachusetts Institue of Technology decided to give out information for tons of courses online through Open Courseware. Hundreds of millions of people have benefitted from the information that they can learn from these courses, starting a trend for other sites to offer free courses as well.

MIT Open

8. Investopedia

I don’t like to admit it, but my lack of a business degree tends to make me feel easily intimidated when a conversation starts taking a turn for the financial. To solve this, Investopedia was born to provide a news blog that makes it easy to digest and really understand the financial markets. There are tons of resources like tutorials and videos that will help you keep up with the ever-changing world of money, and the news stories will keep you coming back for more.


9. Quora

Have you ever wanted to ask someone famous a question, but you suffer from never having the chance? Thanks to Quora, you can read the opinions and answers of fascinating (and varied) questions from the leading experts in pretty much everything. You can answer questions too and get feedback from numerous others who share your love for a given topic.


10. Information is Beautiful

I love reading, but sometimes a visual demonstration just makes information come alive. Hence, Information is Beautiful is a platform that uses gorgeous visuals to impart data. For example, if you want to find out how much money individual organizations have lost from data breaches, you can view an action visual that shows bubbles that are labeled and sized accordingly, giving you an in-depth, but easy to digest overview of the data.

Information is beautiful

11. Spreeder

According to Spreeder, a lot of us have trouble reading quickly because we can only read as fast as our “inner voice” can. Spreeder’s solution is to teach you to read without an inner voice, boosting reading speed and comprehension immensely. The best part? It’s totally free.


12. Project Gutenberg

Imagine a library with tons of free books that you can keep for the rest of your life. Actually, you don’t have to imagine that because Project Gutenberg gives you the ability to download thousands of free e-books, and it’s completely legal.

Project Grutenberg

13. Codeacademy

If you haven’t noticed by now, the Internet has pretty much taken over everything, which means the skill of coding and developing websites is in higher demand than ever, and that’s not likely to change. With Codeacademy, you can use free tutorials that teach you the basics of coding with interactive and handy tools for helping you become an expert.


14. GeographyIQ

Imagine if Google Earth and Wikipedia decided to make it official and have a child. That would be GeographyIQ. Using the world map, you can select any country and access virtually every facet of useful information there is about that country, including history, currency, population and more.

Geography IQ

15. Anki

It’s no secret that the key to memorizing information is mastering recall. With flashcards, you can recall things faster, making Anki an ideal resource for using flashcards online. Unlike other sites that use flashcards, Anki allows you embed more than just text. You can use video, audio and images to help you start studying faster and smarter.


16. Lumosity

Using games to learn is something I’ve treasured since Kindergarten, making Lumosity a trusted resource for me and countless others. Using a daily schedule of games, Lumosity is literally designed to make you more clever. As you progress, the software figures out what your strengths and weaknesses (such as memory or math skills) and assigns you games accordingly. The best part is that the games are actually addicting and fun to look forward to!


17. CliffsNotes

Ideal for high school and college students, Cliffsnotes provides valuable resources like study guides and test prep for standard books and subjects you’ll have to read anyway. The site also provides resources for math and science, giving you the chance to finally master the dark arts of homework.


18. TED

For years, people have been benefitting from TED talks that provide free insights from the world’s smartest people. TED provides the value and learning growth of a seminar, but without the exorbitant costs and travel expenses, by providing visitors with tons of free video lectures. The app is also great for catching up on the latest talks, and you can even download some on iTunes.


19. Pinfruit

Need to memorize a lengthy number? Pinfruit analyzes the number and provides all of the options you could want as a mnemonic device. That’s all there is to it, since (unfortunately) they only provide this for numbers and not words.


20. Mindtools

There are countless blogs that you can enjoy for being interesting and mildly useful, but how many of them actually help you with your career? Mindtools is a blog that teaches you what they call “practical career skills” that you can apply at your job. This is a great daily read for entry-level workers who want to make a great impression, and the variety of topics and advice provided make this is a fantastic bookmark for anyone wanting to excel.


21. Learn Street

Want to take your coding skills to the next level? Learn Street helps teach you how to use advanced coding scripts such as JavaScript, Python and Ruby without making your head explode. It even provides a service for helping you teach advanced code to others.


22. HowStuffWorks

There are things we want to know about, and then there are things we didn’t know we wanted to know about. HowStuffWorks addresses the latter by providing information on a variety of topics and eye-opening facts that will broaden your horizons.


23. OneLook

Finding a great dictionary is not a difficult task in a world full of search engines, but it can be tricky to define more complicated words and phrases that most dictionaries (besides UrbanDictionary) don’t attempt to define. With OneLook, you can find multiple definitions from numerous dictionaries in one place, even if you’re looking up a phrase that is obscure or too specific for normal dictionaries to help you out with.


24. The World Factbook

Did you know that the CIA has information on pretty much everything in the world? Okay, but did you know that they make a ton of this information open to the public? The World Factbook is your godsend for research, allowing you to cite facts and details that pertain to a seemingly endless amount of information from reputable sources.


25. Couchsurfing

Don’t let the name fool you, as Couchsurfing is far from a website that will make you lazy. Couchsurfing lets you connect with travelers all over the world and is the ultimate resource for experiencing other cultures. Put simply, you can use the social network to meet locals in a new community you are visiting. You can also open up your home to fellow couchsurfers, giving you the chance to make new experiences and memories with fascinating people from all over the globe.


Sure you'll be interested in this too: 15 Websites That Make Your Time Spent On The Internet Productive

The post 25 Killer Websites that Make You Cleverer appeared first on Lifehack.

24 Oct 12:06


12 Sep 11:13

Meanwhile, at Radiant Inner Pain Yoga Center…

by Not That Mike The Other Mike

“I see you’re having trouble with the ‘Karma Pretzel’ pose — Here, let me show you how it’s done.”

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: GIF of the Week, Pups
12 Sep 11:13

Tell Us Wrestling is All Fake After Seeing a Dude Get Slammed into LEGO

Tell Us Wrestling is All Fake After Seeing a Dude Get Slammed into LEGO

Submitted by: Unknown

Tagged: ouch , gif , lego , fail nation , wrestling
12 Sep 10:52

This Old Pickup Line Might Work Someday

This Old Pickup Line Might Work Someday

Submitted by: Unknown (via Know Your Meme)

12 Sep 10:51

Meanwhile, in a hospital somewhere…

by Jonco

Meanwhile in a hospital ward


09 Sep 15:16

September 08, 2013

Only about a month till BAHFest returns! If you are in Boston or the Boston area, please check it out!
03 Sep 12:08

Typical bug fixing

by sharhalakis

by jpgneves, fubvr, dechimp, whiterv and others

03 Sep 08:42

The world reacts to the crisis in Syria

by Matthew Inman
The world reacts to the crisis in Syria

The world reacts to the crisis in Syria

27 Aug 21:23

A Softer World

27 Aug 21:05


by admin

Sempre há duas maneiras de avaliar a mesma situação. Só depende do ponto de vista…

26 Aug 13:12

Why Do Chinese Tourists Have Such A Bad Rep? Ctd

by Chris Bodenner
by Chris Bodenner

Readers can relate to a recent post:

One of my vivid memories of traveling in Tibet in 2006 is from visiting one of the monasteries in Lhasa to see the monks debate one another. Dozens of them gathered in a courtyard criss-crossed with stone paths to take part in these lively sessions. It was a unique and wonderful experience, but the Chinese tourists who attended were the one black mark. They treated the place like a zoo and the monks like animals. While almost everyone stayed on the stone paths and kept a respectful distance watching the monks debate and snapping the occasional photo, the Chinese tourists would walk straight up to the monks and stick a camera literally inches from their faces. It was jarring to watch them do it, and obviously the history and ongoing tension between China and Tibet colors the dynamic even more.


As you can tell from my VFYW and airplane window photos you’ve published, I get around. And little irritates me more while traveling than Chinese tourists.

I enjoy hiking, but don’t expect to see any wildlife when Chinese tourists are around. They block trails by not letting anyone pass, speak at their loudest, don’t respect personal space and just drive every living thing away from their vicinity. As you can imagine, bus loads are the worst, and the Chinese tour guides don’t do anything to take control of the chaos, as they’re often just as bad as their charges right to the point of using bullhorns.

The main reason I’m writing is to share an amusing experience with a Chinese couple while traveling in Australia. On a flight from Sydney to Adelaide a married couple, probably in their mid-fifties, obviously clueless about air travel, was driving the flight cabin crew crazy with their mild panic about every little thing, with the language barrier only making the situation worse (they didn’t speak one word of English and there was no one on the plane who could translate). We were relieved to be landing so we could be rid of them, but as we were descending, wheels down, runway dead ahead, everyone including the cabin crew strapped into their seats, suddenly the Chinese woman decided it was time to use the bathroom! A female cabin crew member unbuckled herself, bolted down the aisle, grabbed the woman from behind, threw her into her seat and buckled her in, then made it back to her own seat just in time for touchdown.

That was entertaining, but we weren’t through with them yet!

Adelaide has a small airport and an equally small luggage carousel. The Chinese couple pushed their way in front of the waiting passengers to the luggage exit and began pulling every black bag off the carousel in what appeared to be a panic as they looked for their own. Soon there was a small pile of black luggage as they were tripping over themselves trying to pull more off while throwing some of the bags back on after they confirmed, with much nervous discussion between themselves, that each rejected bag was not theirs. At one point the Chinese man even fell to one knee onto the carousel, so I was expecting a recreation of the Ab Fab episode where Patsy was riding it! The waiting passengers were dumbstruck. No one knew what to do or wanted to get too close, so I finally announced I’d go get a member of airport security to take charge.

That’s when I heard “They are my parents!” I turned and saw a young Chinese man in his early twenties, just standing there and watching the spectacle. I realized he had arrived at the airport to pick up the couple, so I blurted out “Help them!” He seemed offended and replied “They never travel before!” We had words about his responsibility to help his parents, so the older couple finally settled down and retrieved their bags with their son’s help. Knowing East Asian cultures, younger people are often hard-pressed to correct or give direction to members of their older generation, even when they’re making a scene.

It turns out Adelaide has several universities that attract large numbers of Chinese students, so we surmised this couple was making a visit to their son, possibly their first time outside of China. Hopefully he gave them some instructions for making it home without any calamities.


My husband and I were in Paris last February and did a tour of Versailles. We lucked out in that we were the only English speakers that morning and had an English-speaking tour guide to ourselves. Over the course of three hours, we were jostled from room to room and throughout the grounds, fighting for space among the bus-loads of Chinese tourists. Towards the end of the tour, our snobby French tour guide, who never seemed to thaw towards us, turned to us and said “I can’t believe I’m going to say this but Chinese tourists make me long for the days when Versailles was overrun by Americans.”

26 Aug 12:42

The Value of a CEO

by Alex Tabarrok

Steven Ballmer announced today that he would retire. Microsoft stock shot up immediately by ~$2.18 or 6-7%. Given 8.33 billion shares outstanding that’s an increase in value of about $18 billion dollars. Of course that’s embarrassing for Ballmer but the lesson cuts both ways. If Ballmer’s exit and replacement with an unknown is worth $18 billion then hiring the right CEO at $27 million annually, the average annual pay for the 100 highest paid CEOs in America, looks like a bargain. Small differences are a big deal for large corporations, you know like a marginal… something or other.

Ballmer Retirement

Hat tip: Justin Wolfers.

26 Aug 12:08

berdych: for some reason i ended up on urbandictionary and i...


for some reason i ended up on urbandictionary and i found the most accurate description of switzerland ever

(via TumbleOn)
26 Aug 12:07

Short film: I forgot my phone

by Xeni Jardin
Video Link. Written by and starring Charlene deGuzman. Directed by Miles Crawford

26 Aug 11:12

11 Untranslatable Words From Other Cultures

by Ella Sanders
The relationship between words and their meaning is a fascinating one, and linguists have spent countless years deconstructing it, taking it apart letter by letter, and trying to figure out why there are so many feelings and ideas that we cannot even put words to, and that our languages cannot identify. Visit Maptia for more interesting posts.

The idea that words cannot always say everything has been written about extensively – as Friedrich Nietzsche said:

Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon the absolute truth.

No doubt the best book we’ve read that covers the subject is ‘Through The Language Glass‘ by Guy Deutscher, which goes a long way to explaining and understanding these loopholes – the gaps which mean there are leftover words without translations, and concepts that cannot be properly explained across cultures.

Somehow narrowing it down to just a handful, we’ve illustrated 11 of these wonderful, untranslatable, if slightly elusive, words. We will definitely be trying to incorporate a few of them into our everyday conversations, and hope that you enjoy recognising a feeling or two of your own among them.

1. German: Waldeinsamkeit


A feeling of solitude, being alone in the woods and a connectedness to nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson even wrote a whole poem about it.

2. Italian: Culaccino


The mark left on a table by a cold glass. Who knew condensation could sound so poetic.

3. Inuit: Iktsuarpok


The feeling of anticipation that leads you to go outside and check if anyone is coming, and probably also indicates an element of impatience.

4. Japanese: Komorebi


This is the word the Japanese have for when sunlight filters through the trees – the interplay between the light and the leaves.

5. Russian: Pochemuchka


Someone who asks a lot of questions. In fact, probably too many questions. We all know a few of these.

6. Spanish: Sobremesa


Spaniards tend to be a sociable bunch, and this word describes the period of time after a meal when you have food-induced conversations with the people you have shared the meal with.

7. Indonesian: Jayus


Their slang for someone who tells a joke so badly, that is so unfunny you cannot help but laugh out loud.

8. Hawaiian: Pana Poʻo


You know when you forget where you’ve put the keys, and you scratch your head because it somehow seems to help your remember? This is the word for it.

9. French: Dépaysement


The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.

10. Urdu: Goya


Urdu is the national language of Pakistan, but is also an official language in 5 of the Indian states. This particular Urdu word conveys a contemplative ‘as-if’ that nonetheless feels like reality, and describes the suspension of disbelief that can occur, often through good storytelling.

11. Swedish: Mångata


The word for the glimmering, roadlike reflection that the moon creates on water. TC mark

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This post originally appeared at MAPTIA.

image – NAME


23 Aug 22:16


22 Aug 06:39

The Most Common Surnames in Europe by Country

The Most Common Surnames in Europe by Country

21 Aug 14:26

Researchers Release Tool That Can Scan the Entire Internet In Under an Hour

by samzenpus
dstates writes "A team of researchers at the University of Michigan has released Zmap, a tool that allows an ordinary server to scan every address on the Internet in just 45 minutes. This is a task that used to take months, but now is accessible to anyone with a fast internet connection. In their announcement Friday , at the Usenix security conference in Washington they provide interesting examples tracking HTTPS deployment over time, the effects of Hurricane Sandy on Internet infrastructure, but also rapid identification of vulnerable hosts for security exploits. A Washington Post Blog discussing the work shows examples of the rate with which of computers on the Internet have been patched to fix Universal Plug and Play, 'Debian weak key' and 'factorable RSA keys' vulnerabilities. Unfortunately, in each case it takes years to deploy patches and in the case of UPnP devices, they found 2.56 million (16.7 percent) devices on the Internet had not yet upgraded years after the vulnerability had been described."

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20 Aug 20:23

The Only 22 Countries in the World Britain Has Not Invaded Yet...

The Only 22 Countries in the World Britain Has Not Invaded Yet (not shown: Sao Tome and Principe)

19 Aug 16:29


19 Aug 13:06

If You Use a Drone to Film Your Wedding This Is What You Deserve

by Eric Limer

Honey, let's not waste money on a human photographer. I know this guy with a quadcopter and a GoPro. Baby, it'll be awesome. No no, I promise. I promise. I mean what could possibly go wrong? This is gonna be so epic.



19 Aug 12:51

When I'm left alone with someone I just met