< More Coffee Please >
Crocus



Crocus – March 27

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I have a nasty migraine, but when I saw crocuses blooming as the mailman dropped off a package I was compelled to head out into the sunshine to take pictures. Two minutes of bright light would be worth it, I thought.

There I was outside in my oh-so-attractive John Deere flannel pants commandeered from D, a very unsupportive tank top and bright pink Crocs. Just for a minute! Who would see? Of course M’s daycare chose that exact moment to walk by on their way to the park, and I had to be sociable despite the absurd outfit and splitting headache.

At least the pictures turned out well!

Scientific illiteracy, pt. 4003

There’s been a lot of coverage of the Bristol University study on rating various drugs’ potential for harm (BugMeNot will get you in). The intent of the piece was to develop a more objective rating scale — NOT to compare various drugs directly. A comparison of fourteen drugs was done by two different groups as part of the study, however, in order to see if the scale was sufficiently objective. Since both groups came back with similar ratings for the drugs, the conclusion was that yes, the scale was probably pretty good.

They included tobacco and alcohol to provide a sort of baseline, because the various dimensions of the harms they cause have been well-studied.

The authors took care to point out the obvious:

However, direct comparison of the scores for tobacco and alcohol with those of the other drugs is not possible since the fact that they are legal could affect their harms in various ways, especially through easier availability.

This is key. You can’t go comparing the harms of illegal things with legal things. How much of the harm from illegal drugs stems from their illegality? How would that change if they were made legal? On the other hand, how would the level of societal harm caused by tobacco and alcohol change if they were made illegal? We don’t know. Which means direct comparison of illegal and legal drugs is entirely meaningless both scientifically and practically.

And how have the media covered this study? By drawing little bar graphs directly comparing the scores, of course (view the attached PDF). Or by hopping on the little “alcohol and tobacco are dangerous” soundbite without putting it in context, and by doing pretty much anything but including that critical caveat in their coverage. For shame.

Yes, the line between legal and illegal drugs is drawn arbitrarily. But drawing scientifically meaningless bar graphs is not going to help solve that problem.

  • Comments Closed
The adorableness

My birthday is coming up soonish, so M has been making me n-billion little cards with cheering birthday messages to distract me from my impending dotage. I am compelled to provide n-billion small envelopes for these missives; the envelopes come from a stock I inherited from my grandfather. I’m sure it would please him to know to what use they’re being put.

The adorable part is that I’m not allowed to look at the cards as they’re being made. M makes them at the kitchen table, though, and is not yet good at writing things without sounding the words out verbally. So while I’m not allowed to actually LOOK, as she writes I get to hear “Huh … Ah .. Puh … Eee.. Buh… R.. th… Duh… ay… Muh….mm….eeee”.

DON’T LOOK. IT’S A SECRET MESSAGE.

Make a List
  1. It’s raining
  2. Really hard
  3. Yay!
    • Perhaps it’ll remove some of the disgusting scum left behind by the melting snow
  4. Temperature is well above zero.
    • Rainboots instead of snowboots this morning.
    • Also, splash pants instead of snowpants
    • It’s definitely good for the poor crocuses, who stuck their heads above ground last week and were instantly hit with a 20C temp drop
  5. Thunder!
  6. A perfect day to:
    • Be working at home
    • Contemplate making some soup stock
    • Enjoy the feeling that it might actually be spring soonish
Musical Crush of the Moment

It seems that Young Galaxy is streaming their entire album (which will be released next month) on their website. It’s pretty stuff, if a little bleak in spots.

If they don’t happen to please you, go ahead and pick another Arts & Crafts band. What an excellent label.

  • Comments Closed
Attn: NASA

M: Who was the first person on the moon?

Me: A guy called Neil Armstrong. And he said something like, “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

M: Well that doesn’t make sense. (brief discussion ensues, in which it becomes clear that the “mankind” part is the source of the confusion) What if he was a girl? Then what would he say?

Me: I don’t know. What do you think a girl would say?

M: “One small step for a girl, one big hop for girlkind!” That’s what I’ll say when I go to the moon.

Me: Sounds pretty good to me!

  • Comments Closed
Fie on large, brainless corporations

From User Friendly:

User Friendly

Reminds me of this:

Pirated DVD spoof ad

which is spoofing this ad:

Pirated DVD ad

Why should we pay to watch ads in already-expensive products? Or be forced to sit through nasty warnings about piracy on DVDs that, since we’re seeing the warning, clearly aren’t pirated? Unskippable ads in children’s DVDs drive me crazy too. Why go to such trouble to make your customers hate you? Phhtthththththhtbt.

  • Comments Closed
Aha!



Aha!

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Now that the great piles of snow have pretty much melted off our lawn, I spotted the beginnings of a crocus.

Meetings

QOTD for March 12:

“When he was younger Mr Phillips had hated meetings. Or at least he had once he had got over the grown-up feeling, the warm glow of inclusion, of being invited to his first meeting with his first employers, Grimshaw’s. Children and students didn’t have meetings; only adults, serious employed people had them. So at the start there was the sense of being a big boy now. But Mr Phillips soon came to dread the whole business of sitting around a table with colleagues pretending to decide things. He hated the rooms in which meetings took place, with their horrible large tables and nasty chairs, with arms for the important people at the ends of the room, and the dank smell of the company coffee on the hotplate, and people’s briefcases, calculators, pencils, notebooks, agendas, personal organizers, beepers, copies of last meeting’s minutes, all of it. Most of all he hated the feeling that they were all impostors or impersonators, and with it the feeling that they were conspiring together to kill time, so that every second in the meeting was being wilfully murdered, bludgeoned to death.”

John Lanchester, from his novel Mr Phillips.

(I don’t hate meetings all that much, so long as I can scribble. Love the notion of meetings murdering time, though.)

Ballet recital



Ballet recital

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Another hilarious ballet recital. They all had a great time and actually did some dancing, in between tugging on their clothes, picking their noses, playing with their faces, chewing on stuff, staring out the window and running to Mom & Dad for smooches.

Next session M is trying soccer, just for fun. She wonders if there are soccer recitals. We think not, and wonder if now is a good time to break the news that one typically dispenses with the tutu while playing soccer.

Death to spammers

Lately I’ve noticed a bunch of spam has come in with delete-receipt requests attached. Since most people’s email programs auto-process such requests, it’s an efficient and invisible way of marking live addresses for further spamming and/or sale. Sneaky!

An old friend’s “death by spoon” concept could be applied to spammers with great public support, I think.

  • Comments Closed
White white dead stick white wet cold dead stick white



Smile

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’m trying to do the 26 Things list for March (a sort of photographic scavenger hunt), and wow, it’s hard to take interesting photos right now that aren’t all white snow and dead sticks.

I think I’d be doing better with a less perky list. It’s oddly upbeat this time.

2 down, 24 to go…

  • Comments Closed
Geotagged photosharing on Flickr

Flickr geotagged map screenshotThis is a really cool bit of technology.

Flickr recently added — or perhaps it’s always been there and I haven’t noticed — the ability to geotag photos. Being Flickr, they’re friendy and non-jargony about it. When you’re looking at one of your own photos, “place this photo on a map” appears on the right, along with the camera type and the date the picture was taken and all the other metadata. Click it, then up pops a map and you drag a little thumbnail of your photo to the right spot. That’s all.

Once you’ve mapped your photo, “place this photo on a map” becomes “taken in Toronto, Ontario (map)”. Click the link, and you can see all your geotagged photos on the map(1).

But that’s not the cool bit.

Looking at that same map, you can choose to see everyone’s(2) geotagged photos from that area. Click my screenshot at the top of this post for a (nonfunctional, since it’s just a screenshot) example. It provides a whole new approach and an element of serendipity to exploring an area via images (from a passive perspective), somewhat like the [murmur] project does via cellphone messages. More interesting, however, is that it adds the ability to collaboratively — even with total strangers(3) — visualize and document an area (from a more active perspective).

Very interesting possibilities there.


(1) The one thing that seems to be missing is the ability to correct or delete geotags. I hope that’s in the works.

(2) There are other options, such as viewing based on date or group filters, which are pretty neat too. The group filter would enable this to be used for things like class projects or other deliberate collaborative efforts.

(3) You can see whose photos you’re looking at, of course, and can click through to the rest of the author’s photostream… which brings us back to issues of identity and privacy. You can edit the privacy settings to control who can view a photo’s location on the same page that you use to decide who can see the photo itself. So, good: you can set a photo to be viewable by all, but its location might only be viewable by friends and family.

  • Comments Closed
Doodles!

Yesterday I bought myself this book, which is 400 pages of doodly goodness:

Doodles!The concept is that there’s a little something on each page and an idea (“draw the people stuck at the bottom of this pit”) to get you started. Brilliant! My sister bought this and its companion volume, Scribbles, for M for Christmas and I’ve been totally coveting it ever since. My Visa points gave me a Chapters gift card, so I indulged. It’s by the guy who authored the toddler classic Everyone Poops, so how can you lose?

It’s in my office now at work, for use during meetings and conference calls. I listen about ten times better and participate much more effectively when my eyes and hands are busy, I’ve found. I can’t just sit there. Using conference calls to embroider quilt squares for my niece’s baby quilt made me realize that. Lately I’ve been using ordinary scrap paper and flipchart markers in meetings, and my little scribbles — they do actually reflect the meeting content, although they’re not proper graphic recording (I can’t draw for shit) — have several times been taken away from me at the end of the meeting to serve as notes of a sort.

I have such an insanely tolerant workplace.

Still, I should probably save the “bottom of the pit” doodle for a special occasion, or maybe year-end.

Snowpeople!



Snowpeople!

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

Finally a day with suitable snowman snow!

  • Comments Closed
I am large, I contain multitudes

(Update: Ivor Tossell responded to my rather ill-mannered rant with a very gracious note, thus disproving the hypothesis that the Internet exists solely so we can all call each other asshats, and adding strength to the hypothesis that at this point Google runs the world. The conversation will continue.)

This article in the Globe: Who do you want to be? irritates me, not least because the author (Ivor Tossell) seems spectacularly shallow-thinking and whiny for a technology writer.

One of the Internet’s basic weaknesses is that there’s no central way of keeping track of who you are.

Well, no. That’s a strength, if it’s anything. It means I control my own information, which is enormously important. Would we really want to put the locus of identity control elsewhere? Who would you trust in that central role — the machines?

But what if you actually want to identify yourself as the same person from one website to the next? Then you’re in trouble, because none of these websites talks to one another. For instance, there’s no easy way of seeing the Wikipedia entries made by a person who uploaded a given YouTube video, or vice versa.

If that bugs you, buy a domain and fill it with RSS feeds from all your various online exploits, or use Pipes to work out a clever mashup, or pull a Steve Mann and record your whole life, or deploy any number of other solutions — and refer to that whenever you post something somewhere. As a technical problem under one’s individual control, it’s not hard.

…every time you sign up for a new website, you’re not just creating an account, you’re starting a new identity.

This is the crux of the problem, I think.

You are not creating a new identity in such cases, you are merely expressing facets of your identity. We express certain facets of ourselves at work, other facets at home, and yet others when we’re down the pub — this isn’t considered a problem, but merely normal compartmentalization and appropriate socialization. That distinction should not vanish, and should not be turned into a problem, simply because the venues in which the behaviour is taking place move online.

That kind of thinking also seems to presume that everyone’s online just for fun. What about those of us who work online AND play online? Would conflating the personal and professional facets of my life accomplish anything, other than boring my friends and irritating my clients? No. The compartmentalization serves a purpose — it helps my clients get at my work and my friends get at my not-work, thus keeping the signal-to-noise ratio high and keeping everyone happy.

Do you really want to push all your online actions into one box where your boss, your mom, and your dog can have at it?

I thought not.

A soup for winter

This is a soup similar to one I had once in a teashop in Wales, or possibly Ireland — my sister may remember. It was a cold day in February (well, not Canadian cold, but zero-ish). I was starving for no particularly good reason and half-frozen so I gave the soup a try even though I don’t have much time for parsnips, and it was excellent. It seemed like a good soup for a blizzardy evening like tonight.

Parsnip/Apple/Sage Soup

Takes about 40 minutes start to finish, what with all the stock-defrosting and peeling

4 c chicken or vegetable stock
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped finely (i.e., chuck them through the food processor, if you have one)
3 smallish apples, peeled, cored and chopped finely. (Maybe use only 2 if you really dislike sweetness)
about 2 tsp powdered sage
about 2/3 c grated sharp white Cheddar
about 1/3 c milk or (preferably) cream, if you have it

Bring the stock to a boil. Add parsnips and sage and cook for a few minutes until the parsnips are soft. Add the apples and cook for a few more minutes. When everything is soft, turn off the heat and puree (an immersion blender is just the thing). Add the cheese and stir until it’s melted and mixed in. Add the milk or cream. Taste and add a little salt if necessary. I might put a little more grated cheese on top as a garnish, if I had any, or a little swirl of cream. Serves 4.

Marriage

It’s Freedom to Marry week in the US, so I offer the following conversation:

M: I’m going to marry Daddy when I grow up!
Me: You can’t, honey. Daddy’s already married.
M: Oh. I’ll marry you, then, mama. Because girls can marry girls too.
Me. That’s right. You can’t marry me, though, ’cause I’m already married to Daddy, and anyway you can’t marry your family.
M: I forgot. I’ll marry Sam, then. Or Paige.
Me: Good idea.

White, like the snow in my brain

M: I have to wear my plain nightie to school today so the light can shine all the way through. Mr B said so.
D and I: Hunh?? (Mentally slow since it’s morning, but pretty sure Mr B is not some strange pedophile)
M: Because my nightie is all white and we’re all supposed to wear white. For the lights!
Me: Oh! (the mental light goes on) Is your dance party today? White does look neat under blacklights!

  • Comments Closed
FIRWRCSE! HIP HIP HRA!



Dogs and Fireworks

Originally uploaded by morecoffeeplease.

I’m enjoying all the editorial comments on M’s art these days. Lots of labels and arrows and fanciness in this one, which is a picture of some dogs and some fireworks — “Is nos, is tos, is bac, is taul” (his nose, toes, back, tail) plus “firwrcse” (fireworks), “hip hip hra” and a skill-testing question “wich wun has wings?”

The big dog has gold fur and is wearing a pink sweater and silver pants, apparently. The fireworks are “because the big dog had lots of money and paid for fireworks for everyone.” There’s a tiny dog (the one with wings) behind the big one and the rear end of another small one in front. Mysterious!