Native Speakers Aren’t Better – So Don’t Believe It.

This is a reblog from ‘The Best Ticher’.

When I started this blog, I foolishly assumed that I was writing for an audience like my younger self: British (or perhaps American), relatively young (maybe one or two years out of university) who…

Source: Native Speakers Aren’t Better – So Don’t Believe It.


Exploring the East: Hiking in Zádielska

If you want to go hiking, Slovakia has a lot to offer. The valley of Zádielska (Zádielska dolina or Zádielska tiesňava) is certainly a great place to do so. The hike can be done as a loop, in which case I’d recommend walking it anti-clockwise. This way, you’ve got the steep ascent at the beginning, followed by a leisurely stroll when you can enjoy the views.


One from each country – January

This is a first update on my little reading project. I don’t have the energy to write a fully-fledged review for each book, but maybe a word or two. Just so I can keep track of what is happening in the book world.

Here are my read project books from January, countries/territories in alphabetical order.

  1. Canada: Atwood – Moral Disorder — like honey with chilli, delectable and disturbing
  2. England: Thubron – Shadow of the Silk Road — every turn of the road or page a new discovery
  3. Finnland: Rajaniemi – The Quantum Thief — incomprehensibly exciting
  4. Hungary: Kertész – Roman eines Schicksallosen — chillingly factual and deeply disturbing
  5. India: Ghosh – In an Antique Land — crisscrossing times, places, genres yet never losing its bearings
  6. Poland: Kapuściński – Another Day of Life — made me feel the heat and never wanting to go to Angola (something that needs to be rectified) (translation: I do want to go)
  7. USA: Greenberg – The 23 Greatest Solo Piano Works — great inspiration for my piano lessons
  8. Wales: Wynne Jones – Chrestomanci Series — magical and a gazillion times better than other young wizard books

There it is: I’ve read eight books and nothing to complain about. Instead, I thoroughly revelled in all of them. I’ve got to admit that this is a rather rare event. Usually, it’s even small inconsistencies within the story or fictional universe which I don’t like and which put me off a book. Less often, I’m not too happy about some author’s style or use of language. On top of that, regarding audiobooks the narrator can make or break the enjoyment of a story. In ‘Shadow of the Silk Road’, Jonathan Keeble created some new places and people in China, but on the whole his performance was still alright to my ears.

Well, so I can recommend all of the above mentioned books. Do you have any recommendations for me?

My trials as an Orange customer

This is the story of the difficulties I have had to deal with, as an Orange customer, since I upgraded to a smartphone in August 2015. The staff at the EE store arranged for me to continue with a pay plan I had been using since 2002 with a basic mobile. I didn’t pay close attention to the details of this plan, and what the staff didn’t tell me was that this plan charges an extremely high rate for Internet access. It wasn’t smart of me not to check, but I was assuming that my pretty modest Internet use would cost something like the reasonable charges my family and friends pay for their smartphones. The end to my innocence came after a month’s use of the phone in the UK, when Orange sent me a bill of more than £900. The greater part of this is a charge of £753 before VAT for 295 MB of data access – so a charge of about £2.50 per MB. European Union regulations say that a phone provider may not charge more than, in Sterling, about 16p per MB.
What followed was a waste of hours, indeed days, of my life, as I disputed this bill by phone and by letter. Letters were ignored; eventually an Orange agent said that they don’t deal in letters, only phone calls. This means you have no record of what was said. Phone calls tended to last almost an hour, while I spent time on hold, listening to loud music. An Orange manager tried to argue I was obliged to pay the £900+ bill, because I had had this payment plan since 2002, and so I must be familiar with its details. I reminded her that the UK did not have 3G in 2002. She ignored this point, and tried to get me to agree to pay the excessively large bill by instalments, although she should have been aware that the amount exceeds the EU limit by more than £800. In all my phone calls the Orange staff refused to engage with my arguments, and appeared to be simply repeating phrases from a prepared script.
Over the next two months the bills for my continuing use of the phone charged about £2 per MB. Orange refused to move me to a more appropriate pay plan until I paid the inflated bill. It took a letter to the CEO, indicating that I was going to take the matter to the Ombudsman Service, to make them finally agree that they were overcharging. Now I have paid a reasonable charge, and I want to leave Orange and move to another provider. But they are refusing to unlock my phone until after I have had it for six months, so for the last two months I have been without any mobile phone service.
I am a deeply dissatisfied customer!

Science Shutdown

Doing science a felony? I thought the Dark Ages were over …

Snapshot Serengeti

It’s Day 2 of the U.S. government shutdown. While the media blares about congressional politics and occasionally offers a run-down of what the shutdown may or may not mean for the average Joe, the impacts of the shutdown on science are not generally noted. Notice that I said ‘science’ and not ‘U.S. science’ because this shutdown affects scientists around the globe.

For starters, all the federal grant-making agencies are shut. This means no processing of grants, no review of proposals. Everything grinds to a halt. At best, it causes delays. But at worst, it means important science that depends on continuity gets interrupted, forcing some scientists to start their experiments over from scratch; for expensive experiments, it could mean a death knell. Other research that depends on getting funding before a field season may be delayed a year even if the government is shut down for only a few days.

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