Top 5 posts on – 2014 edition

I am a poure dyuel, and my name ys Tytyvyllus … I muste eche day … brynge my master a thousande pokes full of faylynges, and of neglygences in syllables and wordes.

This poor devil is Titivillus, the patron demon of scribes. He works on behalf of Satan, introducing errors into scribes’ manuscripts.

This must have kept him busy, for scribal errors took many forms:

  • Errors of omission:
    • Homeoteleuton: the scribe paused, then resumed writing but skipped ahead because of the similarity of the endings of two lines, thereby leaving out a passage
    • Homeoarchy: skipping ahead because of the similarity of the beginnings of two lines
    • Haplography: copying once what appeared in the exemplar twice (e.g. “pewterer” reduced to “pewter,” or “that that” reduced to “that”)
  • Errors of addition:
    • Dittography: mechanical repetition, by trick of memory (“that that” when original had only “that”)
    • Contamination: extraneous element from elsewhere appears on the page
  • Errors of transposition:
    • Metathesis: reversing letters, words, or phrases
  • Errors of alteration:
    • Unwitting: accidental mistranscription; e.g. the First Folio Anthony and Cleopatra V.ii.87 gives “an Antonie twas” where Shakespeare had written “an autumn twas”
    • Deliberate: the scribe acts as editor to correct and improve the original (naughty scribe)

Manuscripts copied by scribes were the main form of transmission of ancient works of literature and science. Errors were therefore a serious matter – a tonsured teenager might mangle the words of Sophocles or Eusebius.

No doubt I have made all of these errors (and invented some new ones) since starting this blog in 2011. But at this time of year I like to offer you, dear reader, a short list of the most popular posts published in the past 12 months.

Here goes:

1. I tracked every penny I spent for one year. Here’s what I learnt. (720 views)

2. 10 surprising discoveries during my first marathon (148 views)

3. How to get a bargain on a new iPhone (and a free cost calculator) (139 views)

4. Leaving West Ealing (119 views)

5. What is the highest circulation magazine in the world? (114 views)

So, posts written on the basis of hard-won experience and research triumphed… I suppose I should ditch my clickbait-listicle content strategy for 2015.

This is post #27 for the year, so I averaged one post every two weeks. In 2014 this blog had 6,789 views, which is +10% up on 2013. Thank you for reading! Do sign up for posts by email, or follow me on Twitter for new & old posts, plus a bunch of other nonsense.

And adieu to you, Titivillus – we shall meet again in 2015!

~ Todd

Homescreen’s where the Art is

Yay, I finally found some data on what people have on their homescreens!

Here’s what I found on Homescreen, a site/app that helps you share a screenshot of your iPhone homescreen.

I like all this because, as co-founder Matt Hartman puts it:

The App Store is a black box.

The site shows the most popular apps, and gives the % of users’ homescreens on which each app appears. 500,000 different apps from 13,000 screens indexed so far.

The data comes from Homescreen users, so obviously there’s a heavy selection bias going on here. The Homescreen app itself appears on 9.82% of homescreens indexed this week… which I doubt is true of the full iPhone userbase.

So, what can we learn?

Turns out that even geeky homescreen curators will often keep the default Apple apps front and centre:

So what happens when we cut out the default Apple apps?

Things look a bit different. By this view, mobile is all about social. And as Quartz points out: no games, no newsreaders.

I’d love to see the data in more detail – for different devices, demographics, locations, etc. But the company just added profile pages as a feature (see e.g. Pocket), and on every profile page there’s cool stuff like which other apps it shares a folder with, and which other apps it most often appears alongside on the homescreen.

Here’s my current homescreen, with the %s of Homescreen users who have each app on their own homescreen. Man, they are missing out on Trello!



Want more posts like this? There are >120 more on this site, with one added on average every two weeks.

To get posts by email, sign up here. And you might like to follow @toddmgreen on Twitter – for new & old posts plus all sorts of other stuff.

Thanks for reading! ~ Todd

What is the highest circulation magazine in the world?

Yep, that’s right!

The Watchtower: Public Edition, which has been produced and distributed by Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1879, now has an average monthly print run of 53m copies. That’s about 1 for every 142 people on Earth.

The only verification I could find for the 53m number is from the publishers themselves. But I suspect that it really is the biggest because when I checked the monthly circulation figures for other big magazines, they’re much much smaller. Here’s the top five in the US:

Rank Name Circulation Founded Publisher
1 AARP The Magazine 22,274,096 1958 AARP
2 AARP Bulletin 22,244,820 1960 AARP
3 Costco Connection 8,654,464  ? Costco Wholesale
4 Game Informer 7,629,995 1991 GameStop
5 Better Homes And Gardens 7,615,581 1922 Meredith

The Watchtower: Public Edition also appears to be much larger than anything outside the US. The biggest magazine in India (Mathrubhoomi) records a circulation of 800k. I couldn’t find any data for China – perhaps there is a huge magazine there of which I’m not aware (please let me know if so).

But top magazine circulation does not correspond to population size. For example: the Netherlands’ top magazine is AutoPrimeurs with 6m among a population of 16.8, whereas Cosmopolitan in Russia circulates 980k copies among a population of 144m.

Curiously, different magazine topics top the list in different countries:

  • Cooking – Canada
  • TV – France
  • Cars – Germany, Netherlands, New Zealand
  • Celebrities – Russia, Spain

In other countries, there are either more general, or organisation-specific magazines topping the list:

  • Australian Women’s Weekly – well, Australia
  • The National Trust Magazine – UK
  • AARP The Magazine – US

So, how did The Watchtower’s circulation get so big?

For sure there is a sense of mission – the subtitle of the magazine is ‘Announcing God’s Kingdom’.

Second, it’s free. Until 1990, The Watchtower carried a fee of $0.25 in the US. After a question was raised over the whether religious literature should be subject to taxation, the decision was made to make the magazine free, and now it is funded by voluntary donations from Jehovah’s Witnesses and members of the public.

Third, it’s efficient. Production of so many copies must be very expensive. But distribution is relatively cheap, since at local level it is carried out by unpaid volunteers.

I’m no Jehovah’s Witness, but I was struck by the scale and the reach of the magazine and the operation behind it. So next time you see someone offering a copy of The Watchtower, give a nod to that at least.

A poppy

A German friend asked why I was wearing a poppy.

I explained: to remember British soldiers killed in the two world wars… which means, er, to remember how my forefathers were killed by your forefathers.

My friend was taken aback – you really do that in Britain?

I said: well, it depends, er… for me personally it’s all the people who died, never mind which side they were on.

I’m not sure if that was true then. But a few years later, a few years older, it is true now.

The poppies on display at the Tower of London (in November 2014) only commemorate British army casualties – about 8% of the total WWI dead. What about the other 8-9m soldiers who died? I wear my poppy for all of them, British and beyond.

But I think that’s because we’re now several generations removed from those terrible wars. Maybe we’d see things differently if we were closer to, or even part of, the fighting generations.

An Israeli colleague tells me that commemoration of soldiers is much more visceral there. Three of his classmates have been killed in action.

And the billboard at my local train station shows a terrifically sad picture of a modern-day widow and her child – the father killed in Afghanistan two years ago.

Memory is about perspective. I wear my poppy for all soldiers on all sides. But I know that might not be my view if I knew personally some of the soldiers in action today.

I’m sceptical of state-led memorials. But at the British Museum you can see the Ode of Remembrance inscribed on the south-west wall:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

It moves me because if I’d been born 100 years earlier, I would likely have been a soldier in WWI too. And perhaps today I would be a poppy at the Tower of London.


Photo credit: Sgt Steve Blake RLC. ‘A soldier of the Afghan National Army (ANA) wears a poppy out of respect for Remembrance Day and his own fallen comrades’ (from Wikimedia Commons).

Monster Month, c’est fini

All done! Results:

Ealing Half Marathon – 28 Sept 2014 – 01:41:56 (feeling sick)

Blenheim Palace Half Marathon – 5 Oct 2014 – 01:37:19

Royal Parks Half Marathon – 12 Oct 2014 – 01:33:44 (PB!)

Putney & Fulham Riverside Half Marathon – 19 Oct 2014 – 01:36:58

Tough Mudder London South 2014 – c.02:30

Thanks for all the donations – you raised almost £900 for the mental health charity Mind, for which I am very grateful.

Next? Pipe, slippers, and knee rest.

Cheers all ~ Todd

Not good odds

Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defence, talking about early US bombing missions in WWII:

The U.S. was just beginning to bomb. We were bombing by daylight. The loss rate was very, very high… The loss rate was 4% per sortie, the combat tour was 25 sorties — it didn’t mean that 100% of them were going to be killed but a hell of a lot of them were going to be killed.

4% loss rate per sortie, 25 sorties per tour… so the theoretical chance of dying for those guys was actually 100%.

Not good odds.


What were the actual odds of a given serviceman dying on over the course of 25 such sorties?

Thankfully my smart friend Nick Fyson knows the answer: 64%.

1 – chance_of_surviving_every_sortie   =   1  –  ( 1 – 0.04 )^25   =   0.639603283

Still not good odds. Thanks Nick!


From the Errol Morris documentary The Fog Of War: 11 Lessons From The Life Of Robert McNamara. You can find the full transcript of the film on Errol Morris’s website.

Mad Mentors

Richard Condon wrote the novel The Manchurian Candidate in 1959. It was his second book, and it’s still famous today because it was turned into a couple of big movies.

Condon wasn’t always a novelist.

He served in the US Merchant Marines during the war, then went to Hollywood as a publicist, copywriter and agent. He started writing books in 1957 while working at United Artists. He complained to his boss, Max E. Youngstein, that he would much rather do that keep working in Hollywood.

Youngstein was a mentor. He took it upon himself to help. Without Condon’s knowledge, Youngstein deducted money from his salary and then fired him after a year – giving him the amount of money he had deducted in a Mexican bank account and the key to a house overlooking the Mexican ocean.

Youngstein told him to take the money, take the keys, and go write his book.

The Manchurian Candidate featured a dedication to Youngstein. A truly mad mentor.

I’m meeting one of my mentors tonight. Mexican Ocean sounds good, so long suckers!


This post originally appeared in a slightly different form on The Media Student Handbook. If you’re a student, and if you’re a Media student in particular, you should check out that site.

Oasis – Cigarettes & Alcohol – 20 years old today

Cigarettes & Alcohol was released on 10 October 1994 – so the best song ever turns 20 years old today.

I’ve tried a few approaches in drafting this post but I can’t take myself seriously as a music critic, so here goes:


I used to actually stop myself from listening to Oasis on the morning of exams when I was at school, because I lost motivation if I had lines like: “Is it worth the aggravation / To find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for” going round my head.

Twenty years later it has a different meaning for me. Now I hear “You gotta make it happen” on repeat after listening to it, and this weekend when it came on my headphones as I got close to a half marathon finish, I got a proper rush and burned up the hill to the line.

To celebrate the song’s birthday in my own little way, I wanted to share a side project with you.

I’ve been working on a directory site for all the Oasis B-sides, because I really believe that some of the stuff that didn’t make the early albums is 10x better than most of the top-charting singles from the same era.

I’ve only added the Definitely Maybe B-sides so far, but here are three absolute tunes to start off with:

Cloudburst – moody rocker, builds like a thunderstorm

D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman? – acoustic sing-song with a wistful message

I Will Believe (Live) – simple simple simple demo-style tune, great riff, very early recording

And finally – here’s the link to the prototype site: (URL headshot baby!)

It’s still in alpha, so please do send me your thoughts. And more importantly: discover and enjoy!

~ Todd

How to get a bargain on a new iPhone (and a free cost calculator)

Which of these costs more?

  1. iPhone 5C, 8GB
  2. iPhone 6, 16GB

Trick question: they cost the same amount (£1107 over 2 years) if you choose the right purchase option.

That’s one of the surprises I discovered when I compared the costs of all models, storage sizes, and purchase types (direct / 12m contract / 24m contract).

No shady stuff, no gimmicks or trade-ins – below I set out what I found just by building a little tool to compare all the usual options.

My trusty 4S borked last night after 2.5 years’ service, so I’m wondering (1) whether to stick with an iPhone and (2) if so, which to buy.

Assuming that I want to get another iPhone, there are three main variables:

  1. Model (5C, 5S, 6, 6+)
  2. Storage (8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB)
  3. Purchase option (direct purchase, 12-month contract, 24-month contract)

I built a basic cost calculator to help me decide which to buy. You can use it too – link below.

Remarkably, there are some relative bargains available.

Example bargains:

  • iPhone 6, 16GB for the same price as 5C, 8GB (the example given at the top)
  • iPhone 5S, 16GB cheaper than 5C, 8GB
  • iPhone 6, 64GB cheaper than iPhone 5S with 16/32GB
  • iPhone 6 Plus, 128GB cheaper than iPhone 5S, 64GB

Also – in all cases, buying direct from Apple is cheaper than spreading the cost across a contract – so if you have the cash, buy direct.

Here’s the key part of the spreadsheet, and here’s the link to download the calculator (.xlsx file): iPhone comparison calculator – 04-10-14

I haven’t made my mind up yet – but this will stop me overpaying if I do decide on an iPhone.


~ Todd

Monster Month

Starts on Sunday. Not quite perfect preparation: been off work sick the last two days…

Please donate to Mind, the mental health charity, if you can:

Thanks! ~ Todd