Which Berners-Lee?

Tim Berners-Lee, carbon expert?

It’s not every day that you read a story about Tim Berners-Lee that doesn’t mention his primary claim to fame, that he invented the World Wide Web. It’s even less frequent that you see him referred to as a “climate-change expert” without mentioning his long history in computing. That would be because the author of How Bad are Bananas?, the book featured in this story in today’s Star, is not Tim Berners-Lee as identified in the third paragraph, but is in fact Mike Berners-Lee. The Star has already issued a correction and fixed the online version of the story, but I predict ongoing confusion for poor Mike: Amazon.ca currently catalogues the book under Lee M. Berners.

Also listed in the Star‘s correction today is a story about thorium, which originally stated that it has two fewer atoms than uranium. Let’s see, if uranium has one atom and thorium has two fewer, would that make thorium, with its -1 atom, antimatter? No wonder people are so excited about it.

Who's minnding the store?

The problem with hand-written signs is that there’s no spell-check to fall back on. This sign in a local Loblaws, which combined two errors in one word, was the very first thing customers would see upon entering the store a couple of weeks ago. Spelling flames aside, it created the impression that the people there just don’t care: whoever wrote the sign couldn’t be bothered to check the spelling of a common word and either no one else noticed or they didn’t say anything. It certainly makes me even warier than usual when it comes to trusting that the food isn’t mouldy or short-dated.


Overly specific.

Among the various disclaimers and warnings in the manual that accompanied a new Bluetooth headset was this oddity:

Do not place this unit in a place exposed to humidity, dust, soot or steam, subject to direct sunlight, or in a car waiting at a traffic signal. It may cause a malfunction.

Huh? I’ve seen my share of odd warnings, but warning against using something “in a car waiting at a traffic signal”? This is new to me. So assuming I have this thing in my car while I go from A to B, what am I supposed to do when I reach a red light? “Yes, I saw the red light officer, but do you know how dangerous it would have been for me to stop? I have a bluetooth headset in my bag!”

For the record, Sony informed me that this is an error in the manual and it’s meant to caution against using the headset while driving. I’m not at all sure how that would “cause a malfunction,” though. Either way, I’d say that this warning is a good argument against writing owner’s manuals while in a car, whether driving or stopped at a red light.

The warning clause

The introduction to the otherwise standard warning on this plastic bag would seem to illustrate the perils of sending an email to a translation service and blindly accepting the result. It reminds me of this prime example of a translation request gone awry, though on a much smaller scale, of course.

R.E. Dietz, famous American manufacturer of hurricane lanterns, is run out of China these days.

Which way to Mount Pleasant Sema…Seme…Cema…Ceme…burial ground?

A misspelled wayfinding sign in Toronto

This wayfinding sign recently appeared on the Belt Line, just outside the entrance to Mount Pleasant Cemetery. At least the arrow, complete with hand-lettered spelling correction, is pointing in the right direction, unlike some other signs I could mention. There’s an old saying in woodworking: measure twice, cut once. Surely there’s a similar axiom in the sign-making business.

A trying week on the road

Reason #1 not to stand on the pedals when riding: you never know when one will break clean off.

A three-finger tear in a tire can't be fixed with a piece of duct tape.

I’m not superstitious, but I had a seemingly endless run of bad luck on the road over the course of a week. Of the five days I rode, I had equipment or brain failure on four of them:

  • Thursday brought a flat tire at 9:30 p.m. Later investigation showed that the culprit was likely a couple of burrs on the edge of the rim. It was scheduled for replacement before the winter anyway, so I guess this was a good way of reminding me to make a trip to the bike shop.
  • On Sunday afternoon, I wiped out on a pile of wet leaves while going downhill with a firm grip on the brakes. Predictably, the front wheel locked and slipped out to the side, slamming me to the ground. It’s the second time I’ve crashed in less than a year, and by far the hardest I’ve gone down in a long time. Nothing broken beyond my pride, but my arm is still smarting from the bruise and road rash. I was also reminded why I wear a helmet: not because it’ll save me if I get hit by a car, but because I come perilously close to knocking my head on the ground without any help from right hooks or door prizes.
  • On Monday night, the tube that I’d replaced after Thursday’s flat tire blew out with a bang on the way home. The tire was destroyed, with a 3-inch gash torn in the sidewall just above the bead. In retrospect, the weakened tire had probably already contributed to Thursday’s flat before finally giving out entirely. These were virtually new tires, installed just this past spring and with only about 2500 km on them. A previous set of the same model lasted about 12,000 km before also succumbing to a blowout.
  • By Tuesday, I was paranoid enough to run an important errand by TTC instead of taking my bike. The errand was completed, and the bike survived its other rides that day without incident.
  • Starting my ride home on Wednesday night, I could tell that something was wrong with my right pedal. I thought that maybe one side of the platform was broken, but I couldn’t see anything in the dark and decided to finish my ride home and check it out in the garage. Unfortunately, I only made it about halfway before the pedal broke off, the spindle cleanly severed where it enters the body of the pedal. I tried to look at the bright side: I’ve destroyed four pedals in the last couple of years, but this is the first time I’ve broken a right pedal. I’ve always broken left pedals before now. Maybe this means that my right leg is getting as pedal-breakingly strong as my left.

This Thursday, I countered my run of bad luck by switching bikes and giving my usual commuter a rest. It’s due for a new drivetrain anyway, so here’s hoping that it’ll be happier next week with a whole bunch of new components.

What did you just call me?

One turkey of a quote

Ever get the feeling that one of your vendors is trying to tell you what they really think of you when they deliver a quote? Maybe it’s just me, but doing a turkey installation doesn’t seem like that professional a service.

(The quote is littered with other errors as well, including the name of the product itself. It sure inspires confidence.)