subway art

The New York City subway, in analogy to New York City itself, is an old rat-infested hole prone to breakdown and teetering on the edge of operability. Its layout and signage are illogical but somehow comprehensible, its margin for error is just not there … yet, somehow it manages to run. Dirty, smelly, hot in summers, and generally contemptible, it is oddly alive and orderly. People not only put up with it, they adapt to it.

This is one of the nicer stations. Still looks like a 19th century dungeon, though; which of course, it is.

(Read the article)

sending cd/dvd through mail

Postal Service to Netflix: redesign your mailers or face fees

The USPS is complaining that the Netflix mailer costs too much to process because it is, in practice, non-machinable, even though it qualifies for a machinable discount; and, its reply rate is too close to 100% for the discounted business reply mail to be profitable. Sounds to me like broken cost modeling by the USPS.
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homophonic characters

In the realm of restricted composition, there is Ernest V. Wright’s Gadsby, which avoids the most common letter ‘e’ in English.

In Chinese, there is this elementary passage which plays on the homophone issue of spoken Mandarin Chinese. Every character in the entire passage is pronounced “shi” (with varying tones), but nevertheless at this level the passage would make no sense if recited. But, written in the Classical Chinese idiom, the passage makes perfect sense when read visually (and isn’t particularly difficult to comprehend even for a modern reader).


This is one demonstration that written Chinese can hold significant semantic content beyond phonetic value, a mechanism that has been key for tying together diverging spoken dialects over a thousand years.

The tide turns (part 5)

This is part of the hard disk recovery documentation.

Part 5.

The tide turns (rather quickly)

After the exceedingly annoying but ultimately inconsequential ext2 interlude, I’m back on track with the original problem of recovering data from the broken Seagate drive.
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mail interception, postal abuse, stamp value

Boy, this one may need a table of contents…

Let’s see, it all started with somebody wondering if you can get a letter back from the postal service once it has been mailed, but before it has been delivered. Maybe you changed your mind about sending the letter, for example. I still don’t know the answer, but I’m guessing if there is no return address on it, forget it. If there is a return address, however, it ought to be possible, right? The sender will get the letter back normally in the case that it is undeliverable, so the sender is essentially a secondary recipient. What does the postal service do with undeliverable mail that has no return address anyway? Shred it? Anyway, this doens’t seem like a satisfactory conclusion in any case, that the return address should play an unrelated role in the mail interception problem.

Which brings me to the second topic. (Read the article)