Sunday 28 March 2010


Today's OED word of the day is 'cuckoo'. The etymology notes include this delightful moment: "...the annual lessons given by the bird have prevented the phonetic changes which the word would normally have undergone".

Thursday 25 March 2010

The accidental photo-journalist, part 2

One of my photos has been used to accompany an article in the University of Lincoln's student newspaper. Could a new career as the UK's leading snail-and-coin photographer be awaiting me?
Snail with 5p coin

Friday 12 March 2010

It's a dangerous game, giffgaff

You know me. I like a bit of enthusiasm. I like a start-up business. I like mobile phones. Therefore you'd think that I'd like giffgaff. And I do.

giffgaff on TwitterBut this week I've become a little concerned, in the quasi-parental way I'd usually reserve for Geri Halliwell and road-crossing hedgehogs. Dear little giffgaff has been Tweeting about problems at Verizon. Well, not problems. A problem. A customer service faux pas extraordinaire that involved a member of Verizon staff refusing to disconnect a dead customer's mobile phone because their daughter didn't have the account PIN. Death certificate, yes. PIN, no. Not good.

But is this really a wise move from an organisation that has even less control over its customer service operation than Verizon? Relying largely on your own users to deliver 'crowdsourced' customer service is innovative, it's true. And - so far - pretty effective, it seems.

But I can't help feeling that giffgaff is throwing its stones from inside a glass house. Watch your windows, giffgaffers. We all make mistakes.

Saturday 6 March 2010

How long is an ounce?

The answer in the fourteenth century would have been "around seven-and-a-half-seconds" or "three inches". And that's before we start talking about shekels and gneeves. Thanks, OED Word of the Day.

Friday 5 March 2010

Chilean earthquake has literally shaken the world

The recent earthquake in Chile may have moved the Earth's axis by about three inches, according to a NASA scientist. Richard Gross has also calculated that the quake is likely to have shortened the length of a day by about 1.26 microseconds (┬Ás). A microsecond is one millionth of a second.

The calculations take into account the position of the earthquake and the direction of the fault line, although the figures are too small to confirm and are likely to change when additional quake data is available.