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March 29, 2013


another new use for travel irons!

welcome back LJ.

No ATMs in Myanmar?

If you saw a post appear briefly and then disappear, that was me trying to schedule something to be published later. Typepad apparently decided that it's 5 PM *somewhere*, so I must mean "publish NOW".


There are ATMs, but there are only 2 or 3 that accept foreign cards in all of Yangon. This thread has this:

For those of you who are coming in Burma, do not forget to bring brand new undamaged and unfold dollar notes. The slightest "damage" or marking will make your note unusable. This is absolutely crazy. They are also refusing notes from "old" series. Take this very seriously, otherwise you will get in trouble here without money and without possibility to have some "fresh" one.

Huh. I guess that shouldn't surprise me. There was a remarkable change going across the border from Vietnam to Cambodia in terms of economic activity (for lack of a better term) when I visited both places a half-decade ago, Myanmar must be more intensely different.

I read somewhere about "used-note wallahs" in India that will buy (or clean, repair and press) banknotes, because nobody wants to accept notes with the tiniest bit of damage.

Sounds like a service that is needed in Myanmar.

changing money in Peru was the same, especially at banks - notes had to be new, unfolded, no marks. I went a couple weeks ago and several people in the group had trouble. Fortunately the ATMs were friendly and numerous enough.

Nothing new there. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Theresa_thaler>This old coin was treated similar in large parts of Africa, where it was known as Abu Nokta (father of the dot). If a single dot (pearl in the diadem) was missing, the defective coin would be rejected by many.

Thanks Hartmut, that puts it in an interesting perspective, in that it is not that Myanmar is bizarre, just that they haven't moved to thinking of money as a token. Admittedly, there are probably lots of people in developed countries who don't think of money as a token, but it is surprising to come up against it suddenly.

You are back! Yea!

The comments about ATMs reminded me of the huge number of vending machines Japan has. Japan has about the most per capita of any country at about 23 per person. Does anyone have any thoughts as to why it does?

I got that backwards. It's about one vending machine per 23 people.

I, too, am glad you are back.

I was sad and scared.

One reason is that Japan has a severe labor shortage, so ways of retailing without staff are explored to the fullest. My local dvd rental store now has 4 automated kiosks to allow people to rent their videos without ever dealing with a person. While there are still areas where the number of workers seems to go against all notions of efficiency (like at the post office, though there is something special going on there because it is the target of privatization) getting something done with a machine rather than a person is often the preferred option.

Another reason is that vandalism is relatively low. There used to be beer vending machines (they've disappeared with concerns about young people _buying_ the beer) that had a timer switch so they would stop selling beer at a particular hour and newly arrived British acquaintances of mine would marvel at the fact that there would be these vending machines with beer in them that had not been pried open late at night.

I'm sure there are other reasons but those two come to mind.

I note that the original, and highly useful, definition of "factoid" was, "Something that looks like a fact, but isn't.."

Something that looks like a fact, and is, ought to be referred to as a "fact".

Just a pet peeve of mine, people taking perfectly good words, and warping them into meaning something some other word already covers. Leaves the language poorer.

Noted, Brett. My definition of a factoid is a fact that might be important in winning a game of Trivial Pursuit or something similar, but really isn't so important to the people you are talking to. Looking it up in Wikipedia, it notes

The word factoid is now sometimes also used to mean a small piece of true but valueless or insignificant information, in contrast to the original definition.

And Merriam-Webster has that listed as the second definition.

If it looks like a fact, but it isn't, I would tend to say that it is something like an untruth ('lie' implies some intent to deceive, I think) or misstatement. In fact, the original meaning, if you think about it a bit, would create a liar's paradox every time it is used. Since most people aren't in the habit of lying, the use of the word is necessarily going to move to the alternate definition.

As a result of confusion over the meaning of factoid, some English-language style and usage guides recommend against its use. Language expert William Safire in his On Language column advocated the use of the word factlet to express a "little bit of arcana".

Now, Safire can be entertaining, but I don't think of him as a 'language expert'. And there needs to be a word for 'something I want to tell you that probably won't mean a lot but is something interesting to talk about', especially when blogging. I don't like "factlet" because I can't hear it in my mind when I write, where as factoid is much more easily pronounceable. So caveat lector.

A "factlet" sounds like a little tidbit of possibility that would like to grow up to be an actual fact some day.

"Factoid" sounds nerdy, which is appropriate for a word that, at least on some people's minds, means an unnecesary and recondite piece of data.

And so we lose a short word to refer to 'facts' that aren't really, and gain two redundant words for "fact", which is the basis for my complaint: If you want to refer to something that's bandied about as a fact, but isn't really, there is, once again, no single word for it.

Yes, there are dictionaries which will back up the new usage; They are, in their descriptionist way, simply documenting the loss.

Falsehood and factoid have the same number of syllables. Two extra letters to type once in a while isn't a lot.

If it's really that important to you to have a word for things presented as facts, but that are false, and that that word never be used to describe anything else, even if the word is relatively new, and it turns out that the word sounds a lot better being used as something else, I have to think there's a word for the sort of thinking you're engaged in or the sort of person you're thinking like.

It's debatable whether or not using "factoid" for insignificant facts rather than false non-facts, or using it for both rather than strictly for either one, is a loss to the language. Lots of words do double-duty very effectively with a bit of help from context. And maybe "factoid" is just a way better word for insignificant facts than it is for false non-facts, for whatever subjective reasons that seem to matter to humans, despite its original usage.

(This is a really fun argumentoid to be having on a Monday morning, btw.)

well, the -oid suffix means 'resembling or appearing to be' (thus, giving you spheroid, alkaloid, planetoid). Whereas you seem to think that the important thing about a fact is whether it is true or not, I tend to think that the important thing about a fact is its importance. That's because there are an infinite number of facts in the world and I certainly don't have access to all of them. Thus, to me, it is a lot more important to designate the facts that are not so important, so I can indicate what I think is important or not, rather than designate what I think is true and what I think is false, cause I'm not so confident I know precisely which is which. Fuzzy liberal thinking, I suppose.

Heh, I did a similar thing with factoid here. I think at the time I meant something like important but neglected fact, which is probably a straight up misuse of the word. Funny how things cycle back. I still think it is an important but neglected fact, even after years of health care debates.

The definition of factoid including trivial facts seems entrenched.

"Whereas you seem to think that the important thing about a fact is whether it is true or not,"

That's not "the important thing", it's definitional: If it's not true, it's not a fact.

LJ, while spheroid may be read as "resembling a sphere," planetoid is routinely used of minor bodies which resemble planets (in general shape, composition, etc.) but are not big enough to be considered planets.

In short, in that usage, it resembles what I take to be the usual meaning of "factoid": a small (and not necessarily important the the grans scheme of things) fact.

well, the -oid suffix means 'resembling or appearing to be' (thus, giving you spheroid, alkaloid, planetoid)

so, 'void' means 'resembling a v'?

i kid.

"That's not "the important thing", it's definitional: If it's not true, it's not a fact."

Hence the suffix -oid. If it is definitional, why would you use the stem fact to represent something that isn't a fact, unless -oid was some sort of negative?

I am surprised no one has yet thrown 'truthiness' into the discussion ;-)
In the case of planetoid the -oid does not refer to the size, same way that an asteroid is not a 'little star'. Both resemble the oid-ized objects in certain ways but not others. That asteroids are far smaller than planetoids despite the relation of the oid-ized words being the opposite is just a historic coincidence.
In that understanding the use of factoid as factlet seems indeed wrong but imo is just one example of the fashionable oid-ization of common words without regard to scientific terminology.

Asteroids are like stars?

Asteroids are like asters? Well, I suppose so, since my asters shoot up, bloom and then, still blooming, fall over.

A hemorrhoid is like what, exactly?

Asteroids are like stars?

In ancient greek, asteroid means 'star-like', so yes.

A hemorrhoid is like what, exactly?

An assteroid (sorry, been up since 4am with my young kids).

In ancient greek, asteroid means 'star-like', so yes.

My attempt at incredulity has failed, apparently.

Either that, or the association of asteroids with stars was just a wild-but-lucky guess on my part.

Asteroids become shooting stars when they enter the atmosphere and turn into meteorites once they hit the ground ;-)

For the ancient Greeks anything below the celestial sphere of the moon was meteorology (above that it was astronomy). That included comets. One of the charges against Socrates was btw that he showed an unseemly interest in meteorology (which did not mean that he dabbled in weather forecasts) which was under suspicion of religious heresy (if not outright atheism).

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