topic: language

English spelling: unity over ease of learning

A while back I read a blog on cluborlov in which Dimitry Orlov railed against how English spelling often bears so little relation to the way its words sound that, as a consequence, it made learning to read and write the language far harder than it should be. At the time I would have liked to wade in with some opinions of my own, however, the comments on that post soon proliferated and, since I […]

allowing ideas time to form

shaping clay

I have come to understand that expressing an idea too early can limit what it can become: clay, once fired, loses its ability to take on any form. I was not a patient child. I recall trying to put together a model of a pirate ship when I was perhaps seven years old. It came as a kit of many plastic pieces. I followed the instructions, but could not bear to wait for the glue […]

on the Trans-Asia Express…

Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia interiors with exquisite Islamic calligraphy...

It was colder in Istanbul than in Scotland when I arrived, blustery and lashing rain. I spent the next day, my only day in the city, incredibly cold, but unable to return for an extra layer – I had not thought to bring warm clothes at all – because my rucksack was locked away in a cupboard in the hotel I had had to check out of. The Blue Mosque was closed for prayers – […]

verbal/visual, written, verbal/visual…

The graphic above (courtesy of my friend Keith Brunton) is considered by some to be possibly the best statistical graphic ever drawn. By Charles Joseph Minard (1781 – 1870), a French engineer, it shows the terrible fate of Napoleon’s army in Russia. Quoting from “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by Edward R. Tufte: “Described by E. J. Marey as seeming to defy the pen of the historian by its brutal eloquence, this combination of […]