Read before publishing: newspaper’s silly mistakes

Every morning on my commute to work, I read Toronto’s edition of the Metro newspaper. Spoiler alert: I am in Toronto. And sometimes they confuse me…

Ok, nobody’s perfect and a mistake here or there is no big deal. But it also depends on the kind of mistake. I am not talking about grammar here. I am talking about those situations that could be solved with somebody reading the text twice. And they don’t always do at Metro Toronto. Here are two examples from last week.

The Queen 501 streetcar will be closed all summer and Metro shows the alternatives to the popular line. However, Metro guys can’t tell a bike, a bus and a helicopter apart. You’d think it’s easy; probably because it is. In the image below you can see that the text about buses (top right) is connected to the bicycle (green line), the joke about taking a helicopter (bottom right) is linked to the bus (yellow line) and a series of dots associate the bikes alternative with a helicopter (bottom centre).

Not the Oscar's mix-up, but still [source: Metro Toronto, 2nd Feb 2017]

Not the Oscar’s mix-up, but still [source: Metro Toronto, 2nd March 2017]

It could be worse, right? They could follow the current trend and offer alternative facts. Take this article about a dog that was attacked by a coyote [left image below]. The left column states that the dog ‘needed close to 60 staples to close his wounds’. Two centimetres from that, the caption of the image reads ‘More than 70 staples were needed’. Even if we accept that sixty-a-few is close to 60, despite knowing that ‘close to’ often equals ‘almost’, how close to 60 is more than 70?

Fortunately, articles don’t always disagree with themselves. Sometimes Metro journalists are so sure about what they write that they write it twice. See the following image on the right, where two paragrafs are repeated for absolutely no reason.

Do they even try? [source: Metro Toronto, (left) 3rd March 2017 and (right) 5th March 2017]

Be it as it may, a very kind Asian guy hands the paper to me for free at the underground station and it keeps me entertained and somewhat informed. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. On the other hand, if you’re going to give a present, you might as well make it nice.

This was 2016 in the blog

A new year has come along with new year’s resolutions such as reading blogs. Therefore, we start 2017 revisiting 2016. This way, if you’re new to the blog, you can learn what it is about. Conversely, if you’re a faithful reader, you can re-read the most popular posts.

The most popular posts of 2016 in pictures

The most popular posts of 2016 in pictures

These are the posts published in 2016 with more hits (posting month in brackets):

  1. Correct these mistakes for Christmas (December)
  2. 1st SETAC science slam across the pond (August)
  3. Chemists conspiracy: all drinks are the same alcohol (February)
  4. Science slam: Enjoy learning science (June)
  5. Posters at scientific congresses (May)

Interestingly enough, the last post published was the most successful. Either people care a lot about mistakes for Christmas or I’ve been writing rubbish for twelve months.

Additionally, the two most visited articles of all times were:

The most popular posts of the year and of all times were mainly about science and language, respectively. It seems that readers want what’s in the title of the blog. It’d be weird if you came here to read mostly about books and birthdays.

Let’s hope we keep on the right track this year.

Summer’s come! Let’s enjoy it

Yes, summer’s finally come and we have three full months to enjoy it before it’s gone.

Ok, if you leave far north, it might not feel as great as around the Mediterranean yet. It could be worse, though; you could live in the southern hemisphere and be welcoming—so to speak—winter.

Go cycling, go hiking, travel, read a book or two on the beach. Just don't stay at home reading blogs all summer [photo©:  Bad Kleinkirchheim]

Go cycling, go hiking, travel, read a book or two on the beach. Just don’t stay at home reading blogs all summer [photo©: Bad Kleinkirchheim]

Anyway, let’s go back to the Mare Nostrum. Hot weather came to stay already a month ago. Sure, we do get the typical 5-minute summer storm once a week, but the rest of the time it’s all about barbeques, festivals and concerts in the streets, swimming, sunbathing and lots of sweating. Because when I say ‘hot weather’ I mean ‘extremely boiling hot’.

So, yes. Last weeks I’ve been too busy idling away to publish quality posts. Or any post at all. And I know—or hope—people are just as busy, so they wouldn’t read them anyway. That’s why you should expect fluctuations in my posting frequency until mid-September, which just adds to the excitement of your summer holidays.

Go out, have fun and see you soon…ish!

Saint George hangover

Yesterday was Sant Jordi, the Catalan Saint Valentine, the book and the rose, the stands and the crowds in the streets.

As always, the amount of presents received is: 0. It’s got nothing to do with being single. My exes weren’t the paradigm of romanticism—just an observation, not a bitter complaint. [You don’t insist on the importance of Saint Valentine to ignore the day when it comes.]

A day when boys get a book and girls a rose is all about sexism. No, ladies, don’t get excited; I’m not heading there. The boss of my research group bought roses for all the girls. And for the boys? Nothing. Guess how many girls complained about this discrimination…? Exactly.

If you see this, walk the other way [photo©: Ajuntament de Vilanova]

If you see this, walk the other way [photo©: Ajuntament de Vilanova]

And when I mentioned it, they argued that boys get books, which is very unfair since roses are cheaper. I’m still waiting for my book from him though. There are great books for 2 or 3 euros and ugly roses for a higher price. Moreover, girls drill their boyfriends into being given both, but they never give roses.

Anyway, I strolled down the Rambles out of masochism, I guess. I actively dislike walking in the crowd, partly because my pace is fast and slow motion kills me. Whereas I enjoy events involving lots of people, when the masses prevent my advance, I feel lost.

But that’s not the worst. The worst is having students and desperate rose sellers pestering you. It’s like a man coming out of a shop and offering you a tie on Father’s Day. Should you need it, you would enter and ask. But they insist, no matter if you’re an orphan, you can surely give it to someone who’s a father.

That’s why health authorities recommend that Saint George be practised with moderation.

You’re not the WordPress I fell in love with

WordPress keeps annoyingly upgrading to impractical looks and as much as I like this platform—or maybe because I do—I need to draw attention to its absurd visualisation upgrades.

Don't focus on my tiny numbers; focus on them being there in the old stats page (above)

Figure 1. See it for yourselves

I started blogging with three blogs in different platforms. There was this WordPress blog and two other that in a few months merged into my other WordPress blog. I’ve always loved and recommended WordPress, however, I can’t help feeling uneasy every time they make changes on visualisation.

WordPress offers more options and information than other blogging platforms I know and it is [used to be?] a lot more user friendly. It seems, nevertheless, that it’s joining the trend of minimalist looks with more icons and space than actual information. Bear in mind that I’m administering a blog; hence I seek information, not blank space.

One of the first things you see when you access your dashboard and probably the most used feature of all is the stats page (Figure 1). In the old stats page you could see at a glance the views and visitors of several weeks, the views by country, the visited posts and pages and links followed to your blog and from it. The new stats page displays a single column with half screen blank. You need to scroll down to find beautifully but pointlessly spaced lines of data with informative paragraphs that will show again and again even if you hide them every single time.

Figure 2. Isn't it obvious?

Figure 2. Isn’t it obvious?

The makeover is even worse for the posts page as in the previous version up to nine posts were on screen with information about categories, tags, comments, links and publishing date available (Figure 2). And the whole dashboard menu still fitted in the left column! The new page can barely show two posts with no information (but with a—useless—picture) and half the dashboard menu. It’s like you’re reading someone else’s post, not managing your own, and that’s just wrong.

Now I dread the day when these changes are final and there’s no option of switching back to the old view. Please, WordPress, be the mature and practical platform I fell in love with; drop your high heels so that we can walk a long path together.

What is the birthday paradox and why does it make me special?

Despite being 365 possible birth dates, a group of 23 people is enough to have a 50 % chance that someone share their birthday. With 70 people it raises to 99.9 %. Why?

At least, I had a cake just for me at home [photo: A♥]

At least, I had a cake just for me at home [photo: A♥]

In a group of 23, there are actually 253 pairs to compare: the first person with all the rest (22 comparisons), the second with all the rest except the first—that has already been considered—(21 comparisons)… adding up to 253 comparisons (23 × 22 : 2). This approach alone makes that 50 % less paradoxical.

Ignoring the 29th of February, the other 365 days would be equally likely to be someone’s birth date. The probability of two people not sharing birthdays is 99.7 % (364 de days out of 365 don’t match, 364/365 = 0,997).

The chance that no comparison be positive comes from multiplying the probability of a negative by itself as many times as pairs exist: 0.997253 = 0.500. That is, there’s a 50 % probability that nobody share birthday, meaning the other 50 % corresponds to at least one pair sharing.

Note that this is the probability that any pair share. The probability for a specific person comes from 1 − (364/365)n, where n is the number of people. For 23 people, that’s 6.1 %.

Why am I rambling about this? Remaking the numbers for 28 people—the approximate amount of people in my school, high school and Translation and Interpreting university classes—, I’ve had a 7.4 % probability of sharing my birthday three times. And it happened every time.

Multiplying the three probabilities, we get that the probability of that happening to me three times was 0.04 % (0.0743)—which makes me quite special since it only happens to 1 in every 2493 people. Moreover, I’ve also shared my birthday out of class. But there’s no need for more calculations; my ego’s been feed enough.

By the way, today is our birthday.

AZAD, Kalid. Understanding the Birthday Paradox. Better Explained. [viewed June 2014]

Birthday problem. Wikipedia. [viewed June 2014]