Fourth Floor Studio

September 29, 2007

Extra special

Filed under: stupidity — chris @ 11:33 pm

I have just noticed that the fish sauce in my kitchen cabinet is “first press” and “extra virgin”. wtF?


June 27, 2007

A just review.

Filed under: science, skepticism, stupidity — chris @ 3:43 pm

Ken Miller’s review of Behe’s new book: “It would be difficult to imagine a more breathtaking abuse of statistical genetics.” (Sub required)

June 14, 2007

Nature wades into the religious debate

Filed under: news, science, skepticism, stupidity — chris @ 8:50 am

Comments by US Senator (and presidential candidate) Sam Brownback prompt an editorial in this week’s Nature:

… the suggestion that any entity capable of creating the Universe has a mind encumbered with the same emotional structures and perceptual framework as that of an upright ape adapted to living in small, intensely social peer-groups on the African savannah seems a priori unlikely.


¬†Brownback’s NYT opinion piece is littered with the usual flotsam of non-overlapping magisteria, micro- vs macro-evolution, a priori belief in a creator, and of course the requisite “many biologists believe in God” argument. He concludes with this gem:

 Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Enlightenment, what enlightenment?

March 12, 2007

Was this on the job description?

Filed under: news, stupidity — chris @ 11:08 am

He was inebriated, his hands were tied and he was gagged with a rubber ball in his mouth. In spite of his drunken state, the naked figure was reportedly able to identify himself by his full name and job title.

February 22, 2007

Paranoia + memory loss = bad week

Filed under: geekery, personal, stupidity — chris @ 12:45 am

I have data. Lots of data. Lots of unpublished, unanalysed data. Other people’s data. It cost money and blood and sweat. And politics. So one of my worst nightmares is where my laptop gets stolen, and some dumb schmuck decides to mirror my harddrive on the web.

Unlikely, isn’t it? They are much likelier to simply wipe the drive and go on their merry, thieving way. Data loss isn’t the problem – everything is backed up on my server at work. At most, I’ll lose a day’s work. And yet, I worry. So, like all paranoid freaks, in addition to the BIOS, I password the hard drive. The really uncrackable, serious-hardware-cracking-required password level, which won’t let you access the drive’s electronics without the key. The one without which you are, to a first approximation, up shit creek without a paddle. Guess what happens next…

Now, I’ve been around long enough to make most mistakes: sudo rm -rf * , losing passwords, etc. So I keep everything backed up, and I keep a file of passwords. Naturally, being rather paranoid, that file is PGP encrypted. So, I think, no problem! I’ll just open the copy of the password file on my server, look up the HD password, and presto! problem solved. Except…

There is no HDD password in the file.

I must have decided, at some point in the rapidly darkening past, not to store critical passwords! The strong ones, with mnemonic phrases, the ones I remembered by the key sequence rather than the key, the ones that I never wanted broken and would never forget.

At this point, damage limitation kicks in: is the whole laptop dead, or just the drive. Data recovery isn’t a problem, so the drive is expendable. Google informs me that the password is, indeed, uncrackable. It also informs me that a company in Canada provides a basic cracking service for a reasonable fee (data recovery costs much more), but I have to ship them the whole laptop. It’s cheaper to buy a new drive, but there’s a chance the BIOS chip will still insist on a password.

Fortunately, that turns out not to be the case, so I don’t have a very expensive doorstop. After a week of serious connectivity withdrawal, I now have a fresh drive, a fresh Dapper install, and a fresh appreciation for the importance of record keeping. The old drive? Well, an attempt to wipe it with a magnet crashed the heads into the disc, so it’s on the way to an electronics graveyard somewhere…

November 12, 2006

Kiwis go digital?

Filed under: news, stupidity — chris @ 4:20 pm

It appears that the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which sets standards and curricula for high school exams there, is to allow credit to be given for IM-style text speak in exams, provided there is adequate demonstration of understanding.

I can’t begin to list the reasons why this is a bad idea – so I’ll just give one: perhaps the only redeeming feature of the time-limited exam we all know and hate is getting students to develop basic writing skills. That is, outlining a set of arguments concisely but clearly, by mastering the difference between written and oral communication. Written language is directional: information flows from author to audience, unlike speech which usually has multiple active participants. Try reading a play sometime: it’s rather jarring, but feels much more natural when acted out. Unlike other niche vocabularies students routinely use (eg algebraic notation or chemical symbols), textspeak is inherently a conversational medium. I suspect this would tend to steer students away from even the rudiments of composition they know – frightening given the average science major’s writing abilities, or even many professional scientists’, for that matter.

Let’s face it, if you’re going to do anything more high-powered than bag burgers and fries, you need to be able to write. Well.

September 18, 2006

Fresher, longer

Filed under: skepticism, stupidity — chris @ 1:35 am

An ad on TV has been advertising a revolutionary new food storage system of containers. Apparently, they use a proprietary plastic containing silver which reduces “harmful” bacteria by 98%. Fantastic – apart from the fact that it’s fungi, not bacteria, that are usually behind food spoilage. That’s why bad food is usually called “mouldy”.

The nice people at Chowhound have done a test too.

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