“Real Artists Ship”

Colin Johnson’s blog


Archive for October, 2009

Fonts (1)

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

To the major retail company that wrote to me today asking for a reference for one of my students: if you want to come across looking like the professional multi-billion pound turnover company that you are, please don’t write your letters in Comic Sans.

Obverse/Reverse

Monday, October 5th, 2009

When I was a teenager my mother won a mint set of coins in a display case; a neat prize. Something that surprised me when I looked at it in detail was that the coins with the Queen’s head on were described as the obverse of the coin, and those with the distinctive design the reverse. This contradicted something that was part of my (mistaken) tacit knowledge about the world, i.e. that the distinctive side was the front, and the Queen’s head the back (probably being rooted in learning about coins by looking at the side on which the amount was displayed so as to learn the denomination).

Bizarrely, I’ve never been able to square this objective knowledge with my tacit feeling that the Queen’s head is on the back. I have known objectively that the Queen’s head is the front of the coin for around 25 years. However, I still basically grok that the Queen’s head is on the back. I wonder if this kind of conflict between tacit and explicit knowledge is a known and studied phenomenon?

Change Change

Monday, October 5th, 2009

One advantage of working in the university is seeing trends emerging out from the Young People. Something I’ve noticed a couple of times in the last few weeks is students in the campus shop ignoring the attempt by the cashier to give back the 1p change when they have e.g. paid for a 99p purchase using a pound coin. That is, to start walking once they have handed over the coin, and make no attempt to indicate to the cashier what to do with the change. The staff put it in the charity box.

A neat alternative to this is spreading in the US by I haven’t seen it here: a little tray of low-value coins kept on the shop counter, to which customers can add small change or remove a small number of coins to make up the fiddily last bit of a transaction.

I’m slightly surprised that when the major British coin redesign happened a year or two ago that an opportunity wasn’t taken to eliminate the 1p and 2p. It is 25 years since the decimal half-penny coin was removed from the currency system. That said, I can see that a government would be very wary of this; whilst it would probably be generally accepted, the risk of the public/media taking it as “the government doesn’t care about small amounts of money” (by contrast with “ordinary people” who do).

I have been trying to persuade myself for years that one pound is not a large amount of money; when I was a kid, not all that long ago in the greater scheme of things, it seemed like a large amount. I am determined not to gradually become paralysed into thinking that everything is overpriced, as has happened to an older generation. I think my epiphany on this occurred earlier today in the campus shop where I witnessed the aforementioned incident. I noticed that the price of an ordinary daily newspaper has reached a pound; the newspaper has always struck me as the canonical “throwaway purchase”. At last I feel a shift in intuition to match what I have felt rationally for a few years. Of course, another advantage of working in the university is getting the student discount is applied automatically, so the paper actually only cost 40p!

Puntastic (1)

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Excellent punny headline on the local paper this week. The story is about the local council clamping down on noise made by pets. The headline? “Cock a Doodle Don’t!” Puntastic!

Mixed Metaphors (1)

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

A while ago there was a BBC Radio 4 trailer (trail? What is the difference; it used to always be “trailer” but now it seems usually to be “trail”) which contained the wonderful mixed metaphor “we’re on the very precipice of an runaway train”. Therefore, it seems reasonable to award an “Runaway Train Precipice Award” to similar endeavours in mixed metaphor. Candidate One comes from a punter on Dragon’s Den a couple of weeks ago, who had the excellent metaphor “when you buy a pizza, you expect it to do what it says on the tin”. Tinned pizza, yum! That said, there were (and probably still are) Fray Bentos tinned steak and kidney pies, so I suppose tinned pizza isn’t entirely outwith the realms of possibility.