Unnamed feature #2: “plus tax” vs. “tax included”

Let’s get another easy one out of the way as long as we haven’t even named this feature yet. In Australia, the price on a menu or price list is the actual price that something costs. In the United States, without even getting into tipping yet, the sales tax is added onto the listed price.

In the US, you end up reflexively adding X%–the amount varies from state-to-state–and still you stand at the register and think, “Gee, with tax that added up to more than I thought.” It’s so much more convenient to just have the price you see be the price you pay that it even takes some getting used to when buying more expensive items. That is, I realized it’s a regular part of my routine when buying something to think, “OK, but what does it cost really?” that it takes some doing to recognize that what you see is what it is.

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading

Unnamed feature #1: Greenbacks vs. monopoly money

Time to get real here on the blog. I’ve written a bunch of Vernacular Spectacular posts that have compared different ways that Australia and the US say things. But there’s also all the differences between life in Oz and America that aren’t just a matter of words. I don’t know what to call this feature yet. Probably some play on whether, compared to the US, the country Oz is more like the utopic Judy-Garland Oz or like the HBO-series prison Oz.

Let’s start with the money. Or at least the bills, coins maybe deserve their own posts. Australia is like Europe where every denomination is a different color. It’s also a different length, to help the blind, although I didn’t notice that until somebody pointed it out. American money is not as uniform as it used to be, as a result of various efforts to dissuade counterfeiters, but it’s still far from Rainbow In Your Wallet.

This one is pretty easy. If the US already had colored money, no way would they switch to a system where the bills looked so much alike. There would be news stories about how people accidentally thought gave somebody $50 thinking it was a $5, and on and on. I would predict that it’s only a matter of time before the US moves to colored money, but of course it’s really just a matter of time before everywhere goes cashless.

Jeremy’s winner: Continue reading

FTL standings, visualized



I wrote some Stata code to visualize the current standings of the Fantasy Tennis League.  Rob was so moved by it that I will include his response below.  Rob!  Had I known you’d be so touched, I would have tried to work up something in R or Python.  But I did re-do it so that instead of people having assigned colors, their place is used to put them on the appropriate point of a rainbow.  The Tour de France has its maillot jaune; Fantasy Tennis League can have its rayure rouge.

Rob’s reply: Continue reading

Imp of the Perverse

Sentence I liked from a book I’m currently reading, The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman:

Edgar Allan Poe, in his short story of the same name, calls it ‘the imp of the perverse’: that nameless but distinct urge one sometimes experiences, when walking along a precipitous cliff edge, or climbing to the observation deck of a tall building, to throw oneself off – not from any suicidal motivation, but precisely because it would be so calamitous to do so.

I hadn’t heard of the “imp of the perverse,” but I remember my relief when I learned it was normal to have this “nameless but distinct urge” and not a secret personal pathology.

Jeremy reads We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Why did you read this book? Beckie wanted to read it, so I bought it for her as a present. She read it and said she really liked it. We share Kindle/Nook accounts, so.

Has Beckie read it? Yes.

42 word review: I’d seen an online review that spoiled a key part of book for me. Ideally you’d start reading knowing nothing about what happens. Trust me. It’s about family, and has some funny bits, but stands out mostly for being insightful and sad.

Overall rating: 5 red poker chips (out of 5)

To adventure!


Perhaps a month or so after arriving in Australia, we went to a museum exhibit called “Science Fiction, Science Future.” One of the exhibits featured a station where people were supposed to draw their vision of what the future would be like. Above is what I drew and since then it’s been on our bedroom wall.

Not a bad vision for my sabbatical, and not a bad vision for 2014. This blog: our chronicle of adventures!

Favourite Books: 2013

  1. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (42-word book review)
  3. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
  4. Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
  5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  6. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  7. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  8. Touching Earth Lightly by Margo Flanagan
  9. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  10. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
How many books did you read this year? Only 84 88 91 (I finished 4 between queuing this post and December 31st, and then realised I hadn’t added another 3 on goodreads). Reading on an ipad has its downside… Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to get to ten favourite books. I did have to think for a while about the last two.