Transport and housing, Italian style

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What I like about this image is that, though it could come from various parts of the world, it very clearly is not in a British suburb.

The joy of gender

Quite often, when I have a meeting scheduled with a Chinese person, I don’t know their gender in advance, because I can’t guess it from their name.

This just adds to the fun, but I had assumed this was simply because I was an ignorant westerner. It appears, though, that it is in general more of a challenge in Chinese than it is in some other languages, and fortunately there are technical solutions to help you out if you need to know, based on the statistical usage of certain Chinese characters in male and female names.

A nice way to play with this, for any language, is to construct a URL of the form:

http://api.namsor.com/onomastics/api/json/gender/<firstname>/<lastname>/

and you’ll get back a JSON string telling you, for example, that Jean Renoir is probably male, while Jean Smith is probably female. There’s a -1..+1 scale showing the confidence.

If you know the country, you can add the ISO code on the end, so it will tell you, for example, that Jean Smith is rather likely to be male if he/she comes from France:

http://api.namsor.com/onomastics/api/json/gender/Jean/Smith/fr

Quite fun.

Act your age

Is growing up really necessary? If so, I hope one of my friends will tell me before it is too late.

Yesterday, I caught myself putting on my reading glasses to tie up the string on my yoyo…

David MacKay

Very sad to learn that we have lost Prof Sir David MacKay today.

David was a good friend, but I only realised quite recently that we were almost exactly the same age, a fact which I found exceedingly humbling.

If I should be granted twice as many days, and achieve half as much, I would be very happy. And very surprised.

The world is poorer for his passing. But much richer for his having lived.

Pronto?

20160412-08084241-900The bus services that connect the little hill towns around here with the larger settlements on the Amalfi coast are quite remarkable. The bus drivers not only manage to squeeze their special, shortened buses through the sometimes tiny gaps on these small mountain roads with less than an inch separating them from the nearest wing mirror, but also to negotiate the tight hairpin bends without making the passengers feel sick. All the normal jokes about Italian driving don’t apply here. I have nothing but admiration for them. The ticket pricing is also pretty good.

But there’s a problem.

They’re too punctual.

20160412-08051322-900We missed the bus back up the hill from Positano this evening: we arrived about 30 seconds late and so had to wait another hour. But we had also missed the one going down in the morning, when we arrived about two minutes early, to see the bus just departing about two-and-a-half minutes early. We didn’t want to wait for the next one, so we walked down by the steps. All 1700 of them.

What I want to know is, why can’t they be more like other southern-Europeans and take a more relaxed approach to timing? Me, I blame Mussolini…

Local residents

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I’ve seen dozens of these little chaps over the last few days, but few that have let me get as close as this.

In the words of Chris de Burgh…

“There’s nothing quite like an out-of-season holiday town in the rain”

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser