I watched a documentary about the typeface Helvetica recently, thereby interrupting my nascent plan to get a life. One of the interviewees reminisced about an art piece she had created 40 years ago that linked Helvetica to the Vietnam war. The interviewer asked what the typeface for the Iraq war is, to which she responded ‘Helvetica’. I think she’s wrong, and that the closest approximation is Times New Roman. It’s the default choice for pretty much any document or memo, the path of least resistance or imagination, so convincingly the establishment, safe option that it is invisible.

This post brought to you by the typeface Helvetica

Tech Nursery Rhyme

A friend who has a young child in pre-school in Silicon Valley sent me this rhyme they learned recently:

99 little bugs in the code,
99 bugs in the code,
fix one bug, compile it again,
101 little bugs in the code.

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I’m so proud

A long time ago I started training to be a maths teacher. I didn’t make it, of course, so this isn’t my fault:

A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot – because players couldn’t understand it.

To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.

But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.

Tina Farrell, from Levenshulme, called Camelot after failing to win with several cards.

The 23-year-old, who said she had left school without a maths GCSE, said: “On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.”

It’s easy to laugh at Ms Farrell. Really easy. But while she must carry her share of the blame for her ignorance, so do we as a society when we laugh and move on rather than trying to change things, if not for Ms Farrell then at least for those coming after her.

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