While I'm sorting through the receipts from this year's travels, one thing really annoys me: the terrible formatting of receipts.

A receipt essentially has only three interesting pieces of information:
  • What
  • When
  • How much
If I can't find the "when" and "how much" in under a second, the person doing the receipt layout has failed.

Usually, the hardest piece of information to locate is the when. Our inability to express times and dates has always amazed me.  I can't think of any single piece of common data that incurs more processing cost and errors than dates and times.

Why does anything related to accounting have to be so badly designed?  Is this stupidity or laziness?


Democracy and the press.

According to the "Democracy Index 2010" from The Economist, democracy is steadily retreating.  The world is gradually becoming less democratic.

A few days ago I heard that CNN is letting something like 50 of their reporters go.  The reasoning was that CNN would rather not have that many editors, reporters and photographers on staff, but want to source the material from "citizen reporting".

Whatever that means.

The biggest problem with this is that when a private person starts taking pictures of something that isn't quite right, there is a risk that law-enforcement will intervene and harass the individual attempting to record events in any way.  People have ended up getting harsh sentences for recording the actions of law enforcement in public spaces.  Pointing a camera at a police officer is extremely high risk.  Even in many western countries.

The threshold for throwing an accredited journalist in jail is considerably higher.  First off, law-enforcement usually think twice about molesting journalists in nominally democratic countries.  Second, journalists are usually more aware of their rights and more prepared to challenge law enforcement.  Third, if they do end up in jail, they have the backing of organizations that know a thing or two about making life miserable for corrupt officials.

We need proper journalists to poke their lenses in the faces of those tasked with upholding the law.  "Citizen reporting" is all well and good, but it is inadequate to prevent our democracies from crumbling.