Meet you back here in half an hour.
What are you going to do?
What I always do - stay out of trouble... Badly.

Sunday, March 30


Irony Alert

Terra-Medica, a company I'd not heard of before that apparently sells overpriced placebos, has been instructed by the US FDA to recall several batches of their pills because they may actually work - due to accidental contamination with penicillin.

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Saturday, March 29


Pixy's Houshold Hints

Don't leave an Australian two dollar coin in your pocket when washing your clothes in...  Whichever model fancy Samsung combination washer/dryer it is that I have.

Because it's exactly the right size to lodge in the drain and block it completely.

And if the thing can't drain, it won't do anything at all.*  Which means no washer.  And also no dryer.  Combination washer-dryers are wonderful things until they break, and then you lose two critical appliances at once.**

So now I have a working washer, a working dryer, and two dollars.***  A good day all round.

Update: Well, I have a washing machine and $20 anyway.  Found some $5 notes in a pocket when I was carefully checking my first load in my restored washing machine, which was good.  Then it singularly failed to dry the load of washing, which was not so good.  Still an improvement.

* Because (a) the first thing it does on any wash cycle is drain any leftover water, and (b) the dryer has a condenser unit, and won't start unless it can run cold water through the condenser.
** It's been raining here in Sydney for about a month.  I can hand-wash my clothes when I have to, since it's just me, but hand-drying is not so easy.
*** Actually, $5.  There was another $2 and a $1 in the emergency water release thingy.

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Why PC Sales Are Declining

You can get a decent Windows laptop for $500.

You can get a horrible piece of crap for $500.

And there is no way to know which you are getting unless you verify the specifications of every single component and memorise Intel, AMD, and Nvidia's entire product ranges.

How is the average customer supposed to know that a 1.5GHz Celeron 1007U is nearly twice as fast as a 2GHz Celeron N2810?

Can you imagine if the 2015 Ford F-250 came with a 4-cylinder engine, when the cheaper F-150 came standard with a V8, and the manufacturer only listed max RPM on the brochure?  Because that's what laptop makers do every single day.

And don't get me started on the continued existence of 1366x768 displays. Quad-core CPU, 1TB disk, 16GB RAM, 4GB dedicated graphics, wireless-ac, USB 3.0...  And a screen from the flipping dark ages.

There's one major PC laptop maker who still provides build-to-order options in Australia, and that's Lenovo.  Most of their low-end models have crappy screens, but you can upgrade them.  The price to go from an outdated 1366x768 to a more reasonable 1920x1080?  $55.  Their W540 laptop comes with 1920x1080 as standard, but can be upgraded to 2880x1620.  Price?  $132.

If  the price differential is so small, why does every laptop between $500 and $1500 have the same crappy screen?

Answer: Because the manufacturers are dickheads.

The weird thing is that this is the exact inverse of the mobile phone market.  Recent mobile phones are mostly 1920x1080 - twice as many pixels on a 5" screen as an average laptop has on a 15" screen.  But most phones ship with a pathetic 16GB of flash, half of which is already used by the operating system.  Doubling that would add about $10 to the price of a device costing several hundred dollars, but noooo....

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Wednesday, March 26


Littlewood's Law

Littlewood's Law states, effectively, that every human being will experience a miracle about once a month.

Where "miracle" is defined not as something necessarily supernatural, but an event with odds of a million-to-one.  So it could just as well be bad, or simply weird, as wonderful.

For example, being late to work on two successive Mondays because the train you missed (because you were already late) hit someone and the railway line was closed.

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Monday, March 24


The Difference Between Science And Engineering

In both science and engineering, it is not uncommon to spend considerable time and resources calibrating equipment to make and verify a single measurement, only to find oneself saying, what the hell, that can't be right.

In both science and engineering, this event can lead to an unexpected change in the trajectory of one's career.

In science, however, it's a good thing.

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If The Universe Is Trying To Tell Me Something, I Wish It Would Stop

Last Monday I was running late for work, and missed my train.

I was made significantly later than I already was because the train I missed hit someone and all services on that line were cancelled for the next couple of hours.  Fortunately, since I was stuck at a station which is the junction of three different lines, I was able to take a longer route and eventually reach the office.

Today I was running late for work again* and missed my train.  I caught the next one...  And the train I missed hit someone and the train I was on had to wait while emergency services were called in.

Also, it rained.

And the building site next door keeps catching fire.

I think I should stop going to the office on Mondays.

 * I do work flexible hours, but I was kind of outside the flex.

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Friday, March 21


Just Nginxing

Set up a new proxy server for today.  Had some problems with Pound - still don't know why - and decided it was past time to upgrade to Nginx.

Did so.

Seems to work so far...

Reading.... Check.
Posting.... Check.
Uploading kittens....
Editing.... Check.
Zipfile server....

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Tuesday, March 18


Twenty-Two Stupid People

These people have questions.  They are addressed to Bill Nye.

I'll answer them anyway.
  1. Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?

    Yes.  Yes he is.

  2. Are you scared of a Divine Creator?

    No.  I don't believe such a being exists.

  3. Is it completely illogical to believe that the earth was created mature, i.e. trees created with rings...  Adam created as an adult...

    An interesting question.  If we take it that you mean the Universe and not just our planet, and that the false history is consistent (that is, we don't find ancient buried cities and then carbon-date them to last week), the answer is yes, it is completely illogical.  It is known as the Omphalos hypothesis, or colloquially, Last Thursdayism, the idea there being that the Universe was created last Thursday, but it was created old.  The reason that it is illogical is twofold; first, if every conceivable test indicates that the Universe is 13.8 billion years old, it doesn't mean anything to say that it's not, and second it rests on an assumption that time is other than a property of the Universe.  Last Thursday, or 4004 BC, or any other date, is something that happened in the Universe.  Saying that the Universe was created last Thursday is the same as saying that the Universe was created in Poughkeepsie.

    The Big Bang is a little different here: It is the zero co-ordinate of all dimensions of our Universe.  To put it another way, the Big Bang didn't happen in any location, it happened everywhere at once.  That's why we can still see it in the sky no matter where we look.  (It's just that the expansion of the Universe has cooled the image down from gamma rays to microwaves.)

  4. Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the bedrock of physics.  It says that the entropy of a closed system always increases.  Every observation we have ever made has borne this out.  For entropy to decrease locally, there must be an external source of energy, such as a BALL OF FLAMING GAS A MILLION MILES WIDE SITTING IN THE FUCKING SKY.

  5. How do you explain a sunset if their [sic] is no God?

    The Earth rotates.

  6. If the Big Bang theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk such theories?

    They don't.  We've already dealt with this misconception with respect to evolution.  With respect to the Big Bang theory, there is, again, no conflict.  The Universe is expanding.  That means that it used to be smaller.  At one time it was very small.  It went bang. The Second Law is not violated by this in any way; the Second Law is in effect in every part of the Universe we are able to observe.

    We can see this bang and study its properties in the Cosmic Microwave Background, radiation that comes to us from everywhere in the Universe because it was originally emitted during that event.

  7. What about Noetics?

    People have been experimenting with Noetics (under various names, and with varying degrees of experimental quality) for all of human history.  The sum total of positive evidence for Noetics is zero.

  8. Where do you derive objective meaning in life?

    There is no such thing.  Meaning is the mapping of a internal (mental) representation to external reality.  It is, by definition, subjective.

  9. If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate?  By Chance?

    The first single-celled organism most likely evolved from something simpler that was not a cell.  We know that it is relatively easy to create the building blocks of life under chemical conditions that would have held on the early Earth.  We know that there are self-replicating molecules that are simpler than any living organism existing today.  These molecules do not exist in any quantity today, because life exists now, and they would be immediately eaten.  We do not know the precise path by which abiogenesis occurred, only that no great leap from inorganic matter to complete modern cells is likely, or needed.

  10. I believe in the Big Bang theory.  God said it and BANG, it happened.

    That is not a question.

  11. Why do evolutionists/secularists/huminists [sic]/non-God believing people reject the idea of their [sic] being a creator God but embrace the concept of intelligent design from aliens or other extra-terrestrial sources?

    That depends on what you mean.  Raëlism, for example, is an atheistic religion that believes that life on Earth was initiated by aliens.  There is a concept of panspermia, under which life on Earth initiated from elsewhere in the Universe, by, for example, bacterial spores carried by meteorites.  This is not scientifically implausible, but nor on the other hand is there is any evidence that it happened.  The Raëlians, however, believe in most of what is told in the Old Testament of the Bible - the Garden of Eden, for example, and the Great Flood - just that it was caused by aliens rather than a supernatural deity.  We know that these events did not happen - there was no Garden, there was most certainly no Flood.  Among atheists, these beliefs are held by only a tiny percentage of crazy people.

  12. There is no inbetween...  the only one found has been Lucy and there are only a few pieces of the hundreds necessary for an "official proof".

    Due to prehistoric interracial monkey business, your DNA is around 1% Neanderthal.  Good hominid fossils are scarce, but not so scarce as you claim, nor are they our only line of evidence.  

    Lucy was a striking find, for both her age and the completeness of her remains, but Turkana Boy while only half as old (1.6My vs. 3.2My) is considerably more complete.  Selam is a fossil of an Australopithecus afarensis child, the same species as Lucy, a less complete skeleton but with a remarkably preserved skull.  Kadanuumuu is another significant a. afarensis find, again only a partial skeleton, but of a full-grown adult.  There are many other partial finds of a. afarensis, and many more of other hominid species.

    On the question of "inbetween", I assume that by this you mean a transitional fossil, between, in this case, apes and hominids.  Firstly, this betrays a misunderstanding, in that all species are transitional, because evolution doesn't stop.  Second, Lucy is not "inbetween" apes and hominids - Lucy was a hominid.

  13. Does metamorphosis help support evolution?

    I'm not sure what you are asking.  Metamorphosis happens; it is neither required nor precluded by evolutionary theory.  The best answer is that it is neutral.

    Update: Geneticist Adam Rutherford says thisThe post-birth transformation of a tadpole into a frog is a means of eliminating competition between young and mature as they’re in completely different ecological niches.

    So the answer is yes.

  14. If Evolution is a theory (like creationism or the Bible) why then is Evolution taught as fact?

    There are several misconceptions in this question.  First, creationism is not a theory in the scientific sense (and the Bible is not a theory in any sense).  Second, a theory, in science, is the highest level of understanding we can have, an explanation that has been rigorously tested and found to work.  Gravity, for example, is a theory (the theory is called General Relativity).  Saying that evolution is a theory is like saying that Einstein was a Nobel-prize-winning physicist.  It is not a slight, it's an honour.

    Third, evolution is both a theory and a fact.  Again, this is like gravity: Gravity is a fact; you drop something, and it falls.  The theory is the explanation of how this happens.  Evolution is a fact: We have seen new species evolve, both in nature and in the laboratory.  The theory explains how this happens.

  15. Because science by definition is a "theory" - not testable, observable, or repeatable, why do you object to creationism or intelligent design being taught in school?

    Your confusion is understandable, because you are operating under a definition of science that is the diametric opposite of the truth.  A theory is, by definition, testable, observable, and repeatable.  Karl Popper defined proper scientific theories as falsifiable - that is, we can never prove them to be true beyond all possible doubt, but we can prove them to be false.  The purpose of science is to find the false theories (or more generally, false hypotheses) and throw them out.

    This is precisely why we object to creationism and intelligent design: Because they are deliberately constructed so as to be unfalsifiable; they are the opposite of science.

  16. What mechanism has science discovered that evidences an increase of genetic information seen in any genetic mutation or evolutionary process?

    Mutations can occur in several ways.  Genes can be modified in place or moved (which are information-neutral), the can be deleted (which leads to a decrease in information), or they can be inserted or duplicated (which lead to an increase in information).  All of these types of mutation have been observed on innumerable occasions; mutations are not at all rare.  Despite ongoing protests by the mathematically illiterate, there is no question whatsoever about the possibility of the natural increase of genetic information.  It is possible, it happens, we have seen it happen.

  17. What purpose do you think you are here for if you do not believe in salvation?

    Purpose and meaning are something intelligent entities construct for themselves; they cannot be granted externally.

  18. Why have we found only 1 "Lucy", when we have found more than 1 of everything else?

    In fact, we have found zero of many fossils.  The fossil record of bats, for example, is poor, because they simply don't fossilise well. If you want to leave a lot of fossils, you either need to be a vast group of animals existing for tens of millions of years like the dinosaurs, or be a hard-shelled marine invertebrate.  Also, there is only one Lucy for the same reason that there is only one Christina Hendricks - Lucy is defined by what she is, and you can't have two.  Turkana Boy is a far more complete skeleton of an early hominid, but is younger than Lucy.  Lucy is (or was, depending on your criteria) the oldest find of a significantly complete hominid; more often, we only find the skull, or teeth.  Teeth are harder and fossilise better than any other part of our body.  We do have a number of other early hominid skeletons, though not as many or as complete as we'd like.

  19. Can you believe in "the big bang" without "faith"?

    Certainly, in much the same way that you can believe in the Colosseum in Rome when viewing its ruins.  We can see the Big Bang today in the Cosmic Microwave Background.  We know that it happened because it's still there.

  20. How can you look at the world and not believe someone created/thought of it?  It's Amazing!!!

    Cymothoa exigua is a species of marine louse that enters a fish's mouth via the gills, destroys the fish's tongue, and then attaches itself to the stub, taking over the tongue's function.  If you search for it, you will find pictures.  It has a face.

  21. Relating to the big bang theory...  Where did the exploding star come from?

    First, addressing your misconception: It was not a star. Stars did not begin to form until around 100 million years after the Big Bang. 

    But the broader question: We don't know.  It is very likely impossible to know.  In fact, it is reasonable to argue that the question is not meaningful - "where" is a question relating to space, and space originated with the Big Bang.  But we know that the Big Bang happened, because we can see it.

  22. If we came from monkeys then why are there still monkeys?

    Because one isolated population of proto-simians evolved into apes and hominids, while other populations evolved into modern-day monkeys.  Speciation - the evolution of a new species - and extinction - the death of an existing species - are distinct events, and you can have one without the other.  When dodos were wiped out, no earlier species was automatically restored to existence; your proposition makes no more sense.

Why do I say these people are stupid?  With the exception of question 16, which involves information theory, none of this touches on my formal education post high-school.  Nor did I have to look up any of the basic facts, though I did check the specifics.  All of this knowledge is readily available; you have to actively resist learning it.

And if you actively resist learning, you are stupid.

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Tuesday, March 11



Someone has too much time on their hands.

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Saturday, March 08


Licensed To UI

For about a year, I've been looking for themes to license for  I need a blog theme and a control panel theme*, and I need them to be clean, easily integrated, and based on a robust framework Bootstrap rather than some random assemblage of PSDs.

Themes like this are readily available and typically cost $10-$20...  Per web site.  Extended licenses for developers run into hundreds or thousands of dollars.  About this time last year, I found a blog theme that I was pretty happy with, and then, before I could actually buy the extended license needed, the store selling it change their license terms so that I couldn't use it anyway.**

Anyway, last year was kind of a mess and little progress was made.  Last week I was poking around the theme stores again, and I found this little puppy:


Nice, clean, simple design.  It had only been out a couple of weeks and had already had an update adding new features.  It had the double menubar I need (so that I can have a menu and a site menu), and a good selection of page templates.

And it cost $100.  For the extended license.  The one I'd been looking at last year was $850; others have been well over $1000.

So I bought it.  It's called The Mosaic.

It will take a while to transmogrify it into the new theme, but right now my version looks something like this:


I still needed a control panel theme.  Again, there's no shortage of these, but they cost $500 and up.  Sometimes very up.  Except on the same day I found one called Lanceng. which wasn't quite what I was after and would take some work to tidy up (it's a bit noisy, visually), but was $50 for the extended license:


So I was set.  And then, last night, I found SpaceLab, visually clean and $100 for the extended license:


Now I'm set.  I just need to smoosh them all together somehow...

* And maybe some others, but that's the basics.
** They originally had a clause specifically allowing online services like  They replaced it with a clause specifically disallowing online services like  There's a loophole in the new terms that I could wriggle through, but I'm not interested in going there.

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