Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Day One

Right, I've done my first full-ish day at the Lab.


What happened...?

  • I met lots of seriously cool people.  I missed most of their names, but that's me - I'll probably get everybody straight by the time I leave.
  • I got my "base" - I'm between the Editorial Team and the Big Silver Table of Working, Meeting and Eating, Often Simultaneously.
  • We had a mass meal of "Super Duper" burgers, salad, fruit, and chocolate cheesecake to say goodbye to Matt D, who's going back to "school".
  • I spent a chunk of time reading and judging the finalists in a contest.
  • I found out something of how the site works behind the scenes - I didn't really grok how much work goes on in this happy family to make the site trundle on.  Certain folk complain that the staff don't listen to feedback, but I can tell you from the HQ side side of the monitor that most of what gets talked about is what the members are doing and saying.
  • Matt gave me a tour of the office, Jessy gave me a tour of the other sites and workshops linked to Instructables (ohhh, toys!), and we spent some time drooling over the very high-end 3D products on display at the AutoDesk building (they're open to public view on Wednesday afternoons - I recommend it).
  • I did two other useful things (apart from the judging).  One, I robotified my new mobile cell phone (Kitewife bought two identical cheap handsets so we can stay in touch, just in case), the other is remaining secret - I want to see if the rest of the guys notice that it happened...
  • With the family, I went to look at the Bay, saw a flock of parakeets overhead (unfortunately in silhouette, so I don't know what kind they were), didn't see the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog.
There was some paperwork stuff as well, but that was boring...

Oh, I also decided what to do as my first proper project tomorrow...

Monday, 30 July 2012

First Impressons of San Francisco

Well, we're here, and we're moved in to our apartment.

In no particular order, these are some of our first impressions of San Francisco:


I love the voices here - everything has a robot voice asking you to hold tight or remind you hold on to your bags, and the BART sounds like you're inside a giant Speak-and-Spell. 


I'm pretty sure that everywhere is uphill.  I was born in a mountainous area, but this city beats that into a cocked hat - a paved residential road round the corner from our apartment is over 1:1, I'm sure.


It was odd, as we slogged up the afore-mentioned hills to our apartment, sweat streaming down our sun-heated bodies, to look around over the bay and see the Golden Gate Bridge standing in a thick bank of fog.


Every city has its dispossessed, but either SF has more, or it wears them on its civic sleeve.  Either way, they were a lot more visible than in any UK city I've visited. 


Where are they?  British cities are stuffed with pigeons and sparrows at least, flocks all over most high-pedestrian-traffic streets.  Here, hardly any.  I've seen a few pigeons and crows, and added to my list (Chipping Sparrow and Northern Mockingbird, plus a small finchy thing with a red bib that was singing in the rafters of the BART station), but I've not seen the quantity of birds I see in other cities.


You may know I'm a beer fan, bordering on the snob.  We found a rather nice grocery store, and it stocks beer.  Now, the rest of the shop was quite posh (several kinds of root ginger, heritage tomatoes, that kind of thing), but they can't look after beer - ales, IPAs and bitters kept in the fridge!  That is bad - they even had imported British beers [including St Peter's (one of my local brews)], known for being "warm" by Americans, stored at close to freezing - that's borderline blasphemy!


We switched the TV on in the apartment, and the first programme that came on was Doctor Who, and the first advert break included an advert for Newcastle Brown Ale.  0_o

Anyhoo, I'll keep things updated on an as-and-when kind of way, but that's it for now.


Friday, 20 July 2012

Creationists and the, er, "truth"

Oh, dear, it seems that Creationists don't like it when their bluff is called...

David Klinghoffer, a creationist blogger complained about being "hounded" by scientist Carl Zimmer on FaceBook.  This "hounding" amounted to a repeated request for evidence to support a claim made in a book.

Instead of providing the references requested, Klinghoffer offered a "debate" with Zimmer, but, bizzarely, limiting the debate to two, one-thousand word posts, and ensuring that the creationist side got the last word.

Who ever heard of a debate being limited to two short statements??

Klinghoffer is also complaining that "almost everyone on the evolutionary apologetics side has refused to read [the book]", and yet are still attacking it.  Klinghoffer claims to have been a book reviewer, so he must realise that even the most dedicated reviewer does not buy the books they review.  The publisher sends them a copy, secure in the knowledge that the book will receive a fair coverage.

I made a personal offer to Mr Klinghoffer;

I am a Science teacher, rationalist and atheist, and I would be more than happy to take up your challenge, but I am afraid I do not have a copy of the book to be able to properly address any of the points therein.

If you would be so kind as to send me a copy of the book, I will gladly read it and then enjoin in debate.

Unfortunately, I am leaving the country in a few days, and will be out of the country until the end of August.  If you would like to enter into the debate more quickly, you may prefer to send me an Amazon voucher by return of email, so that I can download the book onto my Kindle, and work on it as I travel (I will be online every day).
I look forward to the opportunity of establishing some truths with you.
I am quite happy for you to publish the content of this email on your website, on the clear condition that you keep my email address and postal address strictly confidential.
Klinghoffer has not had the manners to reply to me personally, but has instead blogged about my offer:
I've just received an email ... offering to stand up as champion for the Darwin side in a debate if we'll provide him an Amazon voucher so he can download the book onto his Kindle.

I was hoping for a substantive exchange with one of our familiar antagonists who have ample time to monitor a Facebook thread but no time or inclination to read the book under discussion and tell us what they think of it. Like PZ Myers, it seems I'm bound to be forever disappointed.
I offered him exactly what he wanted, and he responded with scorn and lies.

I do not monitor FaceBook, and I have a strong inclination to read the book, and to tell anybody who will listen what I think of it.

I believe, though, that Mr Klinghoffer is, at heart, scared of what people will say about the book.  Why else does he go out of his way to obstruct the normal book review process (never mind the peer review process!), and expect reviewers to buy the book before he reveals even one reference contained therein?  Why else does he not reply to emails?  Why else are replies disabled on his blog, forcing me to post here in the vague hope that he will see it?

Why else, when he receives an offer of exactly what he asked for, does he attempt to spin it into some sort of con?

Mr Klinghoffer, I call you coward, but it is very easy for you to prove me wrong: just send out review copies of the book, and accept what comments you get, just like any honest publisher does..

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Olympic SCUM

Hey, LOCOG! I think you're a bunch of greedy, immoral corporatist swine who've sold out London to a bunch of multinationals and betrayed the spirit of athleticism and international cooperation. You're a disgrace. And I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.

What are you going to do about it? 

 I agree with every word of this BoingBoing blog post.

The way the London 2012 Committee have run the commercial side of the Olympics is a national shame and disgrace.  Promoting junk food, sugary, additive-loaded drinks, attempting to censor video- and photo-hosting websites, banning all branded foods and drinks except for those that have paid a fortune to be linked to the games, and having tighter "security" restrictions than an international flight - they even put limits on the size of picnic lunch you can take into the arenas, specifically to force ticket-holders to pay out even more on the over-priced sponsor foods.

And you come up with schemes like this:

There some countries where presenting the nation in such a bad light would be a crime.  Today, I think it's a shame that Britain isn't one of them.

LOGOC, you are SCUM.

Like the man said;

I'm linking to you. In a most derogatory manner.  

What are you going to do about it? 
Hey, look, I'm using the Olympic rings without asking first - according to LOGOC, that makes me a criminal.

(Olympic lanes image tweeted by Jeremy Vine)

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Throwing away a fortune...

You know, one day, one of these emails might be real, and I'll miss out on a fortune...



My Dearest One,
   Good day to you, I have decided to contact you after much thought considering the fact that we have not meet before, but because of the circumstance oblige me, I decided to contact you due to the urgency of my present situation here in the refugee camp, I am Miss Beautrice Kipkalya Kones, 25yrs old female and I from Kenya here in Africa; my father was the former Kenyan road Minister. He and Assistant Minister of Home Affairs Lorna Laboso had been on board the Cessna 210, which was headed to Kericho and crashed in a remote area called Kajong'a, in western Kenya. The plane crashed on Tuesday 10th, June, 2008.

 After the death of my beloved father my wicked step mother along with my uncles team together and sold everything that my late father had and share the money within themselves. Unfortunately to me I fined my father's briefcase and when I opened it I found a document, which my late father use to deposit the sum of Eight Million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars ($8.500.000.00) in the Bank, here in Burkina Faso West Africa with my name as next of kin, right now I am in Ouagadougou Capital of Burkina Faso to withdraw the money so that i can start a better life and also further my education.
On my arrival to the Bank, the Bank foreign remittance Department Director whom I meet in person told me that my father instruction to their bank is that the fund would only be release to me when I am married or present a trustee/partner who will help me and invest the fund overseas after the transfer, and the bank ask me to go and look for a foreign partner, that was why  I decided to contact you, which I believe that you are going to be honest and reliable person that will help me and stand as my trustee/partner, so that I can present you to the Bank for the release and transfer of the inheritance fund into your bank account in your country, and It is my intention to compensate you with 40% of the total fund for your services and help, 5% for any expenses that may arise on the process if any and the balance shall be my capital in your establishment.

 As soon as I receive your positive response showing your interest i will put things into action, in the light of the above, I shall appreciate an urgent message indicating your ability and willingness to handle this transaction, awaiting your urgent and positive response, Please do keep this only to your self, i beg you not to disclose it to any body till i come over because am afraid of my wicked stepmother, i will send you my picture in my next email, with due respect, i am pleading that you help me, i am giving all this detailed information with every transparency believing that you will have a clear picture of the base of help i need from you.
I hope to hear from you soon, May truth and love be the guiding word in my refuge,
Best regard,
Yours Sincerely
Beautrice Kipkalya Kones.