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A Bite of Parasite

With the incredible success of South Korean movie Parasite at multiple film industry award shows, including the Oscars, the producers are raking in the monetary rewards, but so is a tiny pizzeria in Seoul which featured in the ground-breaking film. Following the film’s deserved global acclaim, movie fans have been flocking to Sky Pizza, a local family-run pizza store that existed in virtual anonymity for 17 years.

The movie-related popularity has been so sudden and overwhelming that the pizzeria has been running out of dough and having to turn away curious customers. The restaurant owner, Eom Hangil, however, is quick to thank director Bong Joon Hong, but adds that while sales have gone through the roof, she has also lost her voice after speaking to reporters from all over the world.

Hangil admits that her pizzeria had not been so popular because it is in a neighbourhood that is a redevelopment zone. Which is why the director selected it—his film is about two families—one very rich, the other very poor—whose worlds converge when the poor family manoeuvres its way into the life of the wealthier one. The poorer family folds pizza boxes for Sky Pizza, and the movie shows the mother and children eating pizza here while literally cooking up their schemes.  The result: sales are.., well.., sky high.

The Code Breaker

We think nothing of it now, as we breeze through payment counters at supermarkets and retailers across the world. Yet, it is precisely because the invention that makes it happen—the ubiquitous barcode—has become so universal that we forget someone had to invent it.

The man who did, American engineer and IBM employee George Laurer, passed away recently at 94 but here’s the catch: IBM never patented his invention and he did not receive a single penny for his amazing effort. His invention, based on the Morse code which presented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines, was named the “Universal Product Code”. It was first used at a supermarket in Ohio in 1974, but only because retailers resisted its introduction, opposing the extra cost of the scanner.

That only changed when research showed that barcodes made checkout lines 40 percent quicker while eliminating the need to put individual price tags on each item or having to change them when prices went up or down.

In its simplest form his barcode is a one-dimensional set of 30 black vertical lines and 29 white spaces of varying thickness—in all 59 black and white bars. The lines represent numbers, which were printed underneath. Each pattern contains 95 bits of binary code and are matched to information in a database.

The newest barcode incarnations are used for boarding passes, online banking and e-commerce payment gateways via mobile phones. The barcode is the world’s most familiar business standard, but no one, sadly, remembers the man who made our lives so much easier.

The Seafarers’ Post Office

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean lie the Azores Islands, increasingly popular with tourists despite their remote location. Horta, a port on one of the islands, Faial, offers a unique service—it houses what is perhaps the most famous post office in the world. Called Peter Café Sport, it is a sports bar which doubles as a post office for passing seafarers. It is a mandatory stop for sailors stopping at the Azores from the Americas on their way to Europe to collect mail which comes in from all over the world.

In 2004, Peter Café Sport was given a Golden Post Office award by the Portuguese postal service along with a special stamp to honour its 100th anniversary in 2018. It was opened by Henrique Azevedo, a sports fan—hence the name—and the family built a reputation of hospitality among sailors by rowing out to the yachts to check if the seamen needed anything. The sailors started asking if they could have their mail forwarded to Peter Café Sport so it could be retrieved when they docked there. Over the last few decades, the strategic location of the port, its infrastructure geared for international seafarers, and the popularity of the bar, made it a meeting point for the global sailing crowd. Despite the advance of technology, to this day, sailors still have their mail sent to Café Sport.

Royal Salute

After weeks of controversy, speculation and tabloid fodder, it is now official. Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, will officially step down as senior members of the royal family. The couple, who have been spending time in Canada, where they will now make their home, will slowly sever their royal ties, starting with officially shutting down their office at Buckingham Palace, while working to establish their non-profit organisation.

The couple returned to the UK to attend a series of events that were part of Harry’s official charities and fund-raisers, including, next month, the Invictus Games, the international adaptive multi-sport event created by Prince Harry in which wounded or impaired armed services personnel and veterans from 19 nations take part in nine sporting disciplines. This year, it will be held in the Hague, Netherlands. It will be a poignant event—it was at the Invictus Games in Toronto in 2017 that Harry and Meghan made their first official public appearance together.

Lead picture: Facebook.com

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