Archive for the ‘culture’ category


Testing the search engines: Bing likes antiquity; most favour HTML over PHP

21.09.2022

Bing is spidering new pages, as long as they’re very, very old.

Last week, we added a handful of Lucire pages from 1998 and 1999. An explanation is given here. And I’ve spotted at least two of those among Bing’s results when I do a site:lucire.com search.

As a couple of newer pages have also shown up, I doubt there’s any issue with the template; and the home page now also appears, too. But, by and large, Bing is Microsoft’s own Wayback Machine, and most of the Lucire results are from the 1990s and early 2000s.

It got me thinking: do the other search engines do this, too? For years, Google grandfathered older pages and they came up earlier. (Meanwhile, searches for my own name still have this site, and the company site, down, having lost first and second when we switched from HTTP to HTTPS in March. Contrary to expert opinion, you don’t recover, at least not quickly.)

As Lucire includes the date of the article in the URL, this should be an easy investigation. We’ll only do the first 50 results as that’s all Bing’s capable of. I’ll try not to include any repeat results out of fairness. ‘Contents’ pages’ include the home page, the Lucire TV and Lucire print shopping pages, and tag and category pages.
 
Bing
Contents’ pages ★★★
1997
1998
1999 ★★★★
2000 ★
2001 ★★★★★★★★
2002 ★★
2003 ★★★
2004 ★★★★
2005 ★★
2006
2007 ★★★
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018 ★
2019 ★
2020
2021
2022
 
Google
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002 ★★
2003
2004 ★★
2005
2006
2007 ★
2008
2009
2010 ★
2011 ★★★
2012 ★
2013 ★★
2014 ★★★
2015 ★
2016 ★★
2017 ★
2018 ★★★
2019 ★★★
2020 ★★★★★★★
2021 ★
2022 ★★★★
 
Mojeek
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004 ★
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009 ★
2010 ★★
2011 ★★
2012 ★★★
2013 ★★★★
2014 ★★★
2015 ★★★★★
2016 ★★★★★★★
2017 ★★★★★★
2018 ★★★
2019 ★★★★
2020 ★★★
2021
2022
 
Baidu
Contents’ pages ★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★
1997
1998
1999
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018 ★
2019 ★
2020
2021 ★★★
2022 ★
 
Yandex
Contents’ pages ★★★★★
1997
1998
1999 ★★★★★
2000 ★★★★★★
2001 ★★★
2002 ★★★
2003 ★★★
2004 ★
2005
2006
2007 ★★★★
2008 ★★
2009 ★★
2010 ★★★★
2011 ★★★
2012 ★★
2013 ★
2014 ★★
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
2020 ★★★
2021 ★
2022
 

To me, that was fascinating. My instincts weren’t wrong with Bing: it’s old and it favours the old (two of the restored articles were indexed). From the first 50 results, 18 results were repeats—that’s 36 per cent. I’m of the mind that Bing is so shot that it can only index old pages that don’t take up much space. New ones have a lot more data to them, generally.

Google does a good job with the top-level and second-level contents’ pages, though there were a few strange tag indices. But the distribution is what you’d expect: people would search for more recent stories. I know we had some popular stories from 2002 that still get hit a lot.

Mojeek has a similar distribution, though it should be noted that you can’t do a blanket site: search. There must be a keyword, and in this case it’s Lucire. The 2016 pages form the mode, which I don’t have a huge problem with; it’s better than the 2001 pages, which Bing has over everything else.

Baidu’s one is crazy as individual stories are seldom spat out in the first five pages, the search engine preferring tag indices, though half a dozen later story pages do make it into its top 50.

Finally, Yandex leans toward older pages, too, including our most popular 2002 piece. It’s the 2000 stories it has the most of among the top 50, and there’s a strange empty period between 2015 and 2019. But at least there is a fairer distribution than Bing can muster.

The other query that I had was whether these search engines were biasing their results toward HTML pages, rather than PHP ones. If that’s the case, then it could explain Bing’s preference for the old stuff (Lucire didn’t have PHP pages till 2008; prior to that it was all laboriously hand-coded, albeit within templates.)
 
Bing
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★ PHP
 
Google
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Mojeek
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Baidu
★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ PHP
 
Yandex
★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★★ HTML
★★★★★★ PHP
 

I think we can safely say there’s a preference for HTML over PHP. Mojeek brings up a lot of HTML pages after the top 50, even though this sample shows the split isn’t as severe.

Our PHP pages are less significant though: they contain news stories, and these are often ones other media covered, too. But I would have thought some of the more popular stories would have made the cut, and here it’s Mojeek’s distribution that looks superior to the others’. It seems like it’s actually analysing the page content’s text, which is what you want a search engine to do.

Baidu’s PHP-heaviness is down to all the tag indices—rendering it not particularly helpful as a search engine.

On these two tests, Mojeek and Google rank best, and Yandex comes in third. Baidu and Bing are a distant fourth and fifth.

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Far more important news

14.09.2022

Among all the royal hoop-la, it’s nice to come across this vital 2014 article while on Mastodon.
 

 
To the scientists who analysed 1,893 poos, and other waste, thank you for your mahi.
 
All right, a couple of remarks about the royal coverage. First, I’ve heard from a legitimate news source, words to the effect of ‘It took the Queen’s death to bring William and Harry together.’

No one remembers Prince Philip’s death or the unveiling of the Diana memorial? Things that happened very recently?

The media really do think we are morons without memory sometimes, don’t they?

The other one: ‘There have been 15 US presidents since the Queen has been on the throne.’ I haven’t counted the UK prime ministers (15 is given there, too), but I have counted the presidents. And I get 14.

My friend James heard 12 in another report.

The media really do think we are morons without numeracy skills sometimes, don’t they?

Not just media, but some political parties and governments actually attempt to thrive off these—and it makes you wonder if you are the only one who has faculties to remember and count.
 
It is up to Twitter to provide less frustrating coverage:

Dog poo, in amongst all this, has been far more interesting to read about.

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The Lucire tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

09.09.2022

I wrote the below in Lucire—even though plenty of publications have covered our monarch’s passing, it still felt right to acknowledge it. After all, she had appeared in Lucire a few times.
 
With the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday UK time, it would be remiss of this magazine to not mark this world event.

During the 25 years of Lucire, the Queen has featured several times, mostly from events that she attended. We weren’t around when she was newly crowned in her coronation gown by Norman Hartnell, and wearing the latest British fashions in her youth, a glamorous symbol of a new Elizabethan era that lifted the United Kingdom’s mood after World War II and continued rationing. But it is easy to imagine the coronation in 1953 being a dazzling, colourful event, and indeed it was covered in the likes of British Vogue at the time.

Her era has seen unprecedented change. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she presided over an era which saw television become mainstream (a technology that she embraced with her Christmas message), many former colonies gain their independence, the dawn of the World Wide Web, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and both her country’s entry into and exit from what is now the European Union.

Much has already been said about HM the Queen’s sense of duty, and how she still read her red box’s worth of papers as head of state right to the end. On Tuesday she asked Liz Truss as the new prime minister—the Queen’s 15th, having begun with Sir Winston Churchill when she ascended to the throne—to form a government.

Here in Lucire the late Queen has attended events we happened to cover, beginning in 2008, with her last appearance at the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2017.

I only caught a glimpse of her during a state visit to New Zealand in 2002 during her golden jubilee. It was her last visit to Aotearoa.

The visit was very subdued and HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were whisked from the airport round the back roads of Rongotai, past the main street by Lucire’s then-HQ. I managed to photograph them as they drove by.

A neighbourhood shop had a staff member who was a diehard monarchist. I mentioned I had a photo of the royal couple and later gifted her my print. I still have the negative somewhere.

At the time, my sense was that our Labour government had republican leanings and downplayed the royal visit, hence ferrying them in the viceregal Daimler past industrial areas; it was a far cry from an earlier visit I witnessed in 1981 when as a school pupil, my schoolmates and I lined the drive at Government House to welcome her.

As someone who chose to retain my British nationality (I dutifully renew my passport every 10 years), as well as adopting my New Zealand one in 1980, I admit to having a tremendous amount of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II and her unwavering sense of duty. Some of us born in Hong Kong in the 1970s, whose parents had memories of less pleasant times behind the Bamboo Curtain, appreciated the freedoms, although they stopped short of democracy, that we enjoyed in a Crown colony. Up to a point: my father said he could have worked harder to lose his Chinese accent after fleeing Taishan for Hong Kong after the communist revolution of 1949, but he chose not to as he didn’t want to be seen as sycophantic to the colonial power.

It was thanks to the Commonwealth that my Hong Kong-born, but China-raised, mother was able to obtain her nursing qualification from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. When we emigrated to New Zealand, that made her transition into her job that much easier, as it was considered a notch above the rest. (Having said that, the Hospital Board put her on a lower pay grade than what she deserved, leading my parents to fight for it, with the help of Sir Francis Kitts, a family friend and the former mayor of Wellington. We won.)

When we came here, one familiar thing was that the currency had the Queen on it, and it was her constant presence that told you that there were, in principle at least, shared values. While we can rightfully critique the Empire and what it was built on, at least for this chunk of history, it was a reassurance for us as émigrés that there would be the rule of law in our new country, something that, as my parents could attest, China lacked during the difficult years of the war and immediately after.

My father’s preferred form of governance was social democracy, but he appreciated a constitutional monarchy; and my own studies at law school concluded that while an imperfect system, it was one which I, too, valued. The prospect of one of our own being president, at least to the law student me in 1992, seemed unfathomable and potentially divisive.

The success of the system does depend on our faith and trust in the monarch. HM Queen Elizabeth II gave us that sense, as one who placed duty first. As this nation enters into a period of official mourning, we also wonder what her successor, HM King Charles III, will bring to the table, with his interests in the environment and a UK government that he might not see eye to eye with.

Whatever the future, we pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II and mark the close of this second Elizabethan age.

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September 2022 gallery

04.09.2022

Here are September 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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August 2022 gallery

01.08.2022

Here are August 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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A new video for the home page

23.07.2022

Earlier today, Amanda and I had a wonderful time at Te Papa to celebrate the Chinese Languages in Aotearoa programme. My contribution was appearing in a video, that was on this blog last October.

It dawned on me that despite being on YouTube, this really needs to be on the home page of this website, replacing the below.
 

 

It just never occurred to me any earlier how ideal the Te Papa video was, and how much it speaks to my whakapapa and my identity. But the penny has dropped now.

I know I still need to update the 2018 intro. It needs to be more profound than what appears in these blog posts.

It should also reduce confusion for visitors trying to find out more about my Toronto mayoral candidate namesake, who I note still does not have a declared website or email address on the that city’s official list.

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If corporate America says it, it’s probably untrue

16.07.2022


Le dernier.
 
I see the Le Snak range has now left us, after its US owner PepsiCo cited a lack of demand. I call bullshit, since during 2021 it was becoming increasingly difficult to find them on the shelves. Throttling distribution is not the same as a lack of demand, something you see time and time again with corporate claptrap.

It’s like the myth that New Zealanders all prefer automatic transmissions. No, not supplying manuals will inevitably force people to change. Has the industry done a survey as I have? Last time I conducted one, in the 2010s, we were still running 50–50, with a lot of people saying, ‘I prefer a manual, but I had no choice but to buy an automatic.’

Ford is a useful example of US companies citing reduced demand but doing things behind the scenes to ensure it. The line that no one was buying big cars saw to the end of the road for the Australian Falcon and the closure of its Broadmeadows plant. Did any of you see any advertising for the Falcon leading up to that? Or see many Falcons on dealer lots? It seems to me that a corporate decision had been made, and steps taken to guarantee an outcome. Throttle the distribution (‘We’re out of stock’) and of course demand falls.

Get your tape measures out, and you’ll find the Falcon was smaller than the Mondeo (which at that point was still selling) on key measures other than overall length and, presumably, boot volume. The two-litre Ecoboost Falcon with its rear-wheel drive was promoted with all the energy of a damp squid, but it had all the ingredients for success as a decent-handling sedan. But Broadmeadows was an inefficient plant, from what I understand (from hearsay), and bringing it up to speed would have cost more than a bunch of Pinto lawsuits. ‘But there’s no demand for what it builds anyway!’ they cry. Then they can justify the closure.

Go back to the 1990s and the same thing happened with Ford’s Contour and Mystique twins in the US. People were buying BMW 3-series in droves, cars the same size as the Contour. But Ford claimed there was no demand, leading to its US cancellation after the 2000 model year. Reality: I say the Dearborn fiefdom didn’t like the fact the Contour was part of a world-car project (which gave us the original Mondeo) led by Ford’s Köln fiefdom. Not-invented-here killed the Contour, and a relative lack of promotion also guaranteed its fate. (Ford would wind up contesting the segment again later in the 2000s with the Fusion and Milan, but put far more effort into promoting them since they were US-led programmes. I actually saw advertising for them in US magazines! I saw a Milan in Manhattan with Mercury encouraging us to try it out!)

If you take the line that anything a big US firm utters is an utter lie, it keeps you in good stead. Use that approach with Facebook, for instance, and you’ll find things make sense more often than not. And of course we all knew what Elon Musk meant when he said he wanted to buy Twitter.

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They’re brainwashed by the cult of Boris, so the next Tory leader will be an ideologue

10.07.2022

Sean O’Grady puts into his opinion piece what so many of us have said. He does it far better than I could.

They backed Johnson through the Dominic Cummings scandal, through the resignations of two ethics advisers, through the scandal of a party donor paying for the decoration of his flat, through the mishandling of the pandemic and the mismanaging of Brexit with a rotten deal, Partygate and law breaking, an unlawful prorogation of parliament and breaking treaties and international law, allegedly trying to get Carrie a £100,000 job and Wilfred a £150,000 treehouse, depriving kids of free school dinners … and much, much more …

So it’s not just Johnson who’s morally compromised, but the whole Tory party, with rare exceptions. They are all guilty men and women because they voted for him, campaigned for him, sustained him, lied for him and generally disgraced themselves and the country in the process. They were all members of the cult of Boris, and they knew exactly what he was.

They didn’t care because he was a winner. He hasn’t suddenly turned nasty – he was like this since about the age of eight. He’s outlived his usefulness to them, but if they thought the devil incarnate could win them the next election they’d be signing his nomination papers right now. Parties tend to get the leaders they deserve.

Sunak, Javid and others are in no position to be preaching about integrity. If seeing the monarch mourn her husband whilst sitting alone due to COVID-19 restrictions at the same time Johnson partied at his ‘work event’ didn’t concern them, are we to believe that they are one bit concerned about sexual assault? Pull the other one.

If the Tories are smart, they’ll go for someone well outside this band of muppets. But as O’Grady also states, ‘Your next PM, like Johnson, will be chosen by about 90,000 mostly elderly, reactionary and unrepresentative members of the Conservative Party.’ In such cases, name recognition and familiarity will decide the next leader. Sadly, that’s unlikely to be anyone from the moderate wing of the Conservative Party. That is now a minority.

Will they promote a better culture than Johnson did? Possibly. If they have some sense of organization and leadership. But that alone is not going to fix the UK’s problems. Ideologues should not come before pragmatists, but it’s hard to see any other outcome given what the Conservative Party has become.

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July 2022 gallery

02.07.2022

Here are July 2022’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 

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The very simple Maramataka and Chinese lunar calendar conversion table

26.06.2022

When I first started commemorating Matariki a few years ago, I had figured out, since both ancient Māori and Chinese worked out the lunar calendar, that it was roughly five lunar months after ours. I was also told that it marked the Māori New Year.

Maybe it’s due to local iwi, but my recollection was that Matariki was about three days before exactly five months had passed, which would make it today, June 26.

As it’s incredibly common among Chinese people to have calendars that show both the Gregorian dates and our dates side by side, I began looking for a Māori equivalent. In fact, here’s my Windows version:
 

 

I came across this page from Te Papa (our national museum, for those who mightn’t know), which at least gives the names of the months in te reo Māori. And this was a pleasant surprise:

In the traditional Māori Maramataka, or lunar calendar, the new year begins with the first new moon following the appearance of Matariki (Pleiades) on the eastern horizon. Usually this takes place in the period June-July.

In other words, Matariki might mark the start of the New Year for Māori but isn’t the exact date.

From what I can understand, and I am more than happy to be corrected by tangata whenua, the Matariki holiday can encompass the exact first day of Pipiri (the first month of the lunar year under the Maramataka), and this is among the celebratory period.

What’s exciting for me as a person of Chinese ethnicity is that there is an exact parallel between our cultures in how we mark new months with new moons, and that this extends to the year, too.

In the interests of cross-cultural sharing, I’ve taken the Māori months and placed them alongside ours, so we can figure out when each of our people celebrates the New Year.

It’s so delightfully simple and way easier to convert than, say, the Islamic or Jewish calendars to Gregorian.
 

Pipiri 六月
Hōngongoi 七月
Hereturikōkā 八月
Mahuru 九月
Whiringa-ā-nuku 十月
Whiringa-ā-rangi 十一月
Hakihea 十二月
Kohitātea 一月
Huitānguru 二月
Poutūterangi 三月
Paengawhāwhā 四月
Haratua 五月

 

I assume Māori, like us, figure out when repeat months happen in order for Pipiri to fall right after Matariki, which technically makes their calendar lunisolar, too.

It’s then very easy for someone with a Chinese calendar to figure out when the Māori New Year begins, namely 六月初一, and it’s very easy for someone with a Māori calendar to figure out when ours begins, namely Whiro, or the first day, of Kohitātea.

Celebrating Matariki has always come very naturally to me, and even how we observe it (family time, giving thanks to the year gone and for the one ahead) is similar. And no wonder.

I apologize if this is way too simple and already basic general knowledge but I only found out today!
 
PS.: It does mean, for instance, that this page (and presumably, many others) from the Parliament website is dead wrong. January 26, 2017 is not the same as 26 Kohitātea 2017:
 

 
So it seems it isn’t basic general knowledge.
 
P.PS.: There’s a lot more information confirming the above here, including the leap months. However:

The maramataka was revived in 1990 by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission). Instead of using transliterations of the English names, such as Hānuere for January and Mei for May, they promoted the traditional names cited by Tūtakangāhau. However, lunar months were dropped in favour of calendar months, so that, for example, Pipiri became June.

To me, that’s a shame; there’s a reason ancient Māori created their lunar calendar. I can understand why the Commission did it, in order to keep the names of the months alive, and of course these names are preferable to transliterations. (Something similar has happened with our culture, but we don’t have cool names for the months as Māori do.) It’s just that Pipiri isn’t June, and this year, it spans more of July. Therefore, the conversion table only works with the traditional Maramataka, not the one adapted to the colonists.

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