Category Archives: Annoyances


Nikhil Sonnad, Everything bad about Facebook is bad for the same reason:

[Facebook] has its own grand project—to turn the human world into one big information system. This is, it goes without saying, nowhere near as terrible as the project of the thousand-year Reich. But the fundamental problem is the same: an inability to look at things from the other fellow’s point of view, a disconnect between the human reality and the grand project.

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No thanks

Elizabeth G. Knight, writing in the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 11:11/12 (November-December 1884), p. 134:

Salisburia adiantifolia Smith. [a synonym for Ginkgo biloba] — Although it has been known for several years that the ginkgo fruits abundantly each year in Central Park, yet, as a recent copy of Henderson’s “Handbook of Plants” states, that “there has been no fruit borne in this country,” and as Josiah Hoopes in “The Book of Evergreens” does not note the fruiting of any of the trees he knows, I venture to say to all who are interested in seeing the fruit and desire to obtain specimens that they will be supplied upon application to me at the Normal College, N. Y. City.

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The answer is “shoe”

Paula Poundstone nails it.

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Smart animals

Netting bats on the ashes of a Staten Island landfill, from Laura Bliss.

A lot of New Yorkers still think of Freshkills as a dump, [Danielle Fibikar] says, even though it’s coming back to life. The place is misunderstood, sort of like the bats.

“There’s a lot of stuff people don’t pay attention to in this city,” she says. “I think they’re scared of what they don’t know.”

Alas, the story is marred by a copy editing blunder:

In New York City, where nine species of bats are known to migrate during the summer, a single little brown bat is capable of devouring up to 100 percent of its body weight in insects, a diet that includes mosquitoes.

Devouring up to 100 per cent of its body weight… per day? per minute? per fortnight?

Posted in Annoyances, Gotham, Natural Sciences | Comments Off on Smart animals

Couldn’t hurt

culpritO Gray Catbird, who have been tapping at your reflection in my window glass, maybe if I post your picture on the internet you’ll be embarrassed and cut it out.

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Failed replication

Another TED Talk’s too-good-to-be-true research comes into question. What a surprise.

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Dogberry and Verges are in the wrong business

Geoffrey Pullum receives a solicitation of editing services.

The laugh point came when I reached this astonishingly unidiomatic statement:

On the receipt of a manuscript, we will make do to immediately send to you, the Manuscript Identification Number and the Manuscript Processing Fee, taking cognizance of the pages of the received manuscript, within one hour.

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The best part is when he stops for gas

This showed up on VH-1 this morning. It’s easily the dullest, lamest video that the 80s has to offer.

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Full of noises

Peter and Tuska are part of a colony on the planet Oasis. Far from being alien or exotic, living conditions on USIC’s base are designed to be stiflingly mundane, right down to the piped-in music:

They were sitting at a table in the USIC mess hall. Tuska was tucking into spaghetti Bolognese (whiteflower spaghetti, whiteflower “mince,” imported tomato sauce, imported herbs) and Peter was eating a pancake (100 percent local). The air was full of noises: the sound of rain pelting rhythmically against the windows, the mingled conversations of other employees, the clattering of metal trays, the scraping of chairs, the opening and shutting of doors, and Frank Sinatra crooning “My Funny Valentine.” It all seemed a grossly excessive amount of bustle and chatter to Peter, but he knew the problem was his perception, and he must try to get in the swing of it. The metaphorical swing, that is: no amount of effort could reconcile him to Frank Sinatra.

—Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things, chap. 17
Posted in Annoyances, Quotable | Comments Off on Full of noises

[Insert fishing metaphor]

Geoffrey K. Pullum copy-edits a phishing attempt.

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Work stoopage

It’s a good week for the clueless ones.

Here’s a snippet of an e-mail solicitation I received. At least I think I’m being solicited: it’s a little hard to tell.

Subject: Natural One Way Link Building Proposal

Hello Dear,

Hope you are doing well.

We would like to inform you that, We cant go ahead with you your email because of Google’s Penguin, Panda and Hummingbird updates. In Sept -2013 maximum websites was affected by Google’s updates and to reflect these loss we ware stooped the work. Now, we come out of these updates and now we have continued the work again. We want to aware that we build one link for each keyword in a day and we give you min 100 links/month for each website. if you have more keyword then we build more links. By Google’s parameters we can’t over optimized websites. more package : [REDACTED]

But we are come back to you with some special offer of this November regarding link building campaign, now purchase our link packages then you will get

If you want to purchase our Platinum Package online then please visit: [REDACTED] If you will see 200 links online then don’t worry about it we will provide you 10% extra links.

If you interested in our service then send me site details and we will start work for your project from next working day and you will get report accordingly.
URL: ?,


Des: ?

We will provide weekly update of the off page links. So that, you can check the progress of your project of weekly basis.

We wish you the best of luck for your business and looking forward to a long and healthy business relationship with you and your company.

Work with us and you would see the difference.

Best Regards,

-Kasib Khan

Head of Technical Department

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The E does stand for Entertainment

Allan Savory gives a rubbish science TED talk and gets 2M page views. George Manbiot looks at the peer-reviewed literature and finds no evidence to back up Savory’s claims.

When faced with the claims of a Savory, Leta and I like to quote Brick Pollitt, in the last line of the play as Williams originally wrote it: “Wouldn’t it be funny if that was true?”

Lili Taylor

Posted in Agriculture, Annoyances | Comments Off on The E does stand for Entertainment

That radar array is really a cooking grill

Leta responds to misdirected customer complaints and requests for service.

Dear Ms. Hall,

Is the meat in tsc’s tsatziki steak flatbread conventionally raised or organic?

Posted in Annoyances, Blogs and Internet | Comments Off on That radar array is really a cooking grill

Birds 1, drones 0

Nicholas Lund compiles videos of birds sticking it to UAVs.

So add “environmental mayhem” to the list of things the FAA needs to consider before developing rules for Amazon’s drone delivery, or else be prepared to receive books scarred by talon swipes and beak pecks.

Megan Garber

Posted in Annoyances, Birds and Birding | Comments Off on Birds 1, drones 0

Regarding a Missing Page On your Website

Recently in my e-mail I received a well-crafted if spammy solicitation to participate in a link farm. Not too many clues in the body of the message, most everything conventionally spelled, punctuated, and capitalized.

Good Morning

First I’d like to say you have a great page at My name is Christina and I am a science teacher in London. I also try and write helpful (hopefully!) articles and guides whenever I find a topic I think I can help with. I have bookmarked some of your links for future reference and projects – thanks.

I ran across a dead resource on your page. The Botanical Gardens of The Huntington link is broken , but I have a related article here [redacted URL]. Just thought it might be of interest to you and your viewers.

Thanks for the great page, keep exploring!


The referenced page was little more than a link to a rather fine Botany Photo of the Day; hardly a trove of “links for future reference and projects.” My link was indeed broken (and easily repaired). The suggested replacement link, although it had nothing to do with the Huntington, led to a page with a few generic paragraphs about organic gardening worthy of Demand Media (written in American, not British English), but the payload was in the domain of the link: the root page of that domain flogs garden sheds.

Try again, old chap.

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