You're writing dates wrong, probably

I've been having this argument with people recently. We write dates wrong.  Here's why:

Today is the 18th day of the second month of 2017 (unless of course, you are reading this in the future, in which case, how long did you have to wait for hover-skateboards and what do teleporters feel like, and does anybody in the future remember those couple of months when American had President Trump?).

Most people will say that today's date is "The 18th of February 2017" and will sign documents with digits 18/2/17, or 18/02/17 (or if in America, the even more horrible 02/18/17).  The problem is of course the confusion here as to what the digits mean. Is it the 18th day, or the 2nd day, or the 17th day of the 18th month of year 2....?

When you stop to think about it, writing dates in either British or American formats is deeply confusing and fundamentally illogical.

Much better to write the date as 2017-02-18.

That's YYYY-MM-DD.

There are a number of reasons for this.  Firstly, documents date stamped in this way will automatically be sorted into chronological order. Someone sent me a document today from a recent meeting. The filename was DD MM YY. I can only imagine what a mess their 'my documents' folder looks like. Perhaps they like having all files written on the first day of every month next to each other? Or maybe they are The Doctor, from Doctor Who? You see, time is not a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey 'stuff'. It is a strict line.

Fun, but wrong!
Secondly, we have always written time in the same way. Currently, looking at my clock, it is 11:47 in the morning. My accurate clock tells me that it is 12 seconds into the 47th minute.  That is 11:47:12, or HH:mm:ss.  That means that the current position in time could be written as:


2017-02-18 11:47:12

Notice that the largest unit of time is on the left. As you move through the digits, the units of time become progressively smaller, from years to months to days to hours to minutes.

Is there anywhere else that we also apply this logic?  Consider the number "three hundred and forty nine".

It would seem logical to write this as "349", with the largest unit on the left, getting progressively smaller.  It would be very silly to write it as "493", or even "49 and 300", or "four hundred minus fifty-one".

How about your postal address? You probably also write it in order of size:

Little person
Some house
A Street
In a little town
County
Country
Your massive planet

Of course, I am only talking about written dates here. I think it is perfectly acceptable to say "Saturday the eighteenth of February", or "it is nearly ten past two" in spoken English.

In fact, you shouldn't be surprised to discover that there is an international standard for date formats (and it makes incredible sense to adopt it all in written documents). It is basically what I have been banging on about in this rant.

No longer should you accept the problem of interpreting a date written as 04/05/11 as being the fifth of April in the late Roman period, or possibly the eleventh of May, or possibly April, in, um, in year 4, or maybe 5. Oh, my brain!

Right now! I mean, just then....no, it's gone.

If you enjoyed this rant, then you probably want to take a long hard look at yourself, however you might also like to read about why Americans drive on the wrong side of the road or perhaps you would like these articles about calendars.

See you for some more nerdy stuff in the future......

Life hack 002

I've just discovered this really effective  use for cardboard tubes.  No longer will your drawers be a tangle of loose wires. Simply post one or two loosely folded wires inside the tube and hey-presto! Tidy wires. You will also get a warm fuzzy feeling from recycling household waste (unless you recycle anyway, which, of course, you should, in which case you get a warm fuzzy feeling from knowing that your wires are safely stored tangle-free).


Should you like this post, then you might like all of our life hacks, or maybe you just want to play a 2D, text-based adventure game.

Quiz Magic

Quiz Magic is a program I wrote a few years ago for some teachers who wanted to be able to set custom-made starter and plenary activities in their lessons based on key-words. 

Quiz Magic simply takes a keyword, or sentence and allows you to perform up to four actions:


  1. Remove vowels, eg: "SUPERDECADE GAMES" to "SPRDCD GMS".
  2. Mixup, eg: "SUPERDECADE GAMES" to "SUACRPDDEEE GAEMS". This scrambles the middle letters of the words, but leaves the first and last the same. This sort of anagram is weirdly easy to read so long as the word in question is know to the reader.
  3. Anagram, eg: "SUPERDECADE GAMES" to "DEAUESRDCPE MEGSA". This turns all the words into anagrams and is much more difficult to work out.
  4. Substitution, eg: "SUPERDECADE GAMES" to "5UP3RD3C4D3 G4M35".


All of the functions can be chained one after the other, for example to create an anagram with the vowels removed.

If this is something that you need in your life then the executable and source code is available on my OneDrive by either clicking the image or following the link.

Should I ever decide to work on this app again then I shall either add functionality to allow bulk uploading of words from a spreadsheet, or indeed, make it available as a web app.

If you are still with us, then you might like to read about my Dementia Day Clock, or other vaguely education-related posts.






How many floppy disks would it take to store all of Google Maps?

So, in a moment of boredom today I decided to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation. I wanted to know what size of floppy disk mountain it would take to store all of Google Maps. And by 'back of the envelope', I mean that I fired up my trusty BBC microcomputer and booted into the ViewSheet spread sheet.

There is surprisingly little information on the size of Google Maps online, however I found a source that quoted 20 Petabytes from 2012. I estimate that this is about one million times the amount of 'data' sent by the US postal service each day, or about one thousands times the volume of data that Facebook deals with each day. Armed with this information, and the capacity of a floppy disk I went to work.

Now there is some confusion in the computing industry as to whether MB and KB are base 10 or base 2 prefixes. Sometimes they seem to be used interchangeably when they are clearly different number bases, however for arguments sake I have taken a 1.44MB disk capacity to be 1457664 bytes. For simplicity I have ignored any capacity used by the disk filing system allocation table.

There is little argument as to the height of a floppy disk: 3mm.

So if you stored all of Google Maps onto floppy disk, how high would your floppy disk mountain be?

Well, by my calculations you will create a stack that extents four-thousand, eight-hundred times higher than Mount Everest, or 11% of the distance to the moon.

My own floppy disk mountain. This doesn't even come close.
Do please take time to check my calculations and then come back to me if I have gone wrong somewhere.

Either way come back soon for some new nerdy stuff, or if you are still here, you might like to read about the Adventures of Sir Eric the Unready, or just hack some BASIC code together.

#Google
#floppy disks
#maps
#Mount Everest

This blog is also available on floppy disk. Please send a self-addressed envelope...

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