Sunday, 1 March 2015

Always check seat guru, even for small planes

Our recent holiday in Tasmania was fantastic but did not start entirely well.

I checked us in online, not long after check-in opened. I thought that our allocated seats might have been over the wing, spoiling the view, so I decided to check whether anything better was on offer. There were not many available seats left but there were a couple of window/middle pairs nearer the front of the plane, in row 9 on the left and somewhere nearby on the right. I figured that during the afternoon flight time the sun would be in the west and we would mostly be heading south, so the left side was probably better. This also had a better chance of coastal views, I thought. Seats 9A & 9B selected. Checked in. Job done.

Later, we became interested in what type of plane it was. (I can’t really remember why: it might have been curiosity as to the number of rows and which ones might therefore be over the wing.) Googling the route, I came across the Seat Guru entry for the likely plane (the one flying the route that day) and I took a quick look. And horror!

Seat 9A is an Economy Class seat that is missing a window.

For reasons that still mystify me, the one window seat on the whole fecking plane without a window was the one that I had so carefully selected for my wife. WTF, Virgin‽ (Actually, that should be "WTF, Boeing‽" - Qantas planes are the same.)

I always check seat guru for long haul flights and big planes but it never even occurred to me that there could be such a crappy seat on small plane like a Boeing 737-800. (Fortunately, my wife was very gracious and laughed about, so my grumpiness on discovery did not last too long!) Lesson learnt.

Always check Seat Guru before choosing your seat. (It probably gives a better indication of the wing rows too!)

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Shoes should not have toes

One odd thing on our recent holiday was seeing people out in the mountains wearing toes shoes (the oddly-named “FiveFingers” shoes). As the author of a late 2013 article, “Toe Shoes - Beneficial or a Pathetic Fad?”*, put it:

“I’d like to think that one of the benefits of shoes, is to cover up your ugly toes.”

Or, as XKCD put it:

*The conclusion of the article was fad… and “blatant fashion crime”! Sadly, a fad that hasn't yet died.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The power of iPhone HDR mode

HDR mode was added to the iPhone camera back with iOS 4.1 but being less tech-savvy than I would like these days, I somehow managed to overlook it until quite recently. Last week, we took a holiday in Tasmania, providing some good opportunities to put it through its paces and I must say that I am impressed!

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and takes three photos at different exposures before intelligently combining them. Sometimes it makes no difference. (Probably often but I only use it when I think it might help.) Sometimes, though the difference is quite dramatic as the following examples show. (Left, normal; Right, HDR.)

An already impressive camera, made even better.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Where I'm from

Although I was not born there, I grew up in a small seaside town called Bognor Regis. Not surprisingly, the further from Bognor I go - and I can’t get much further! - the fewer people have heard of it, despite it’s infamy.

A friend post this video on Facebook the other day. For those curious, this is what Bognor looks like from the air. Or, more precisely, what Bognor beach looks like from a drone.

Bognor Regis Feb 2015 from Sussex By Air on Vimeo.

It’s no Sydney, but it’s not a bad beach. There’s even some sand when the tide goes out! :op If you get bored (it’s a bit repetitive), skip to 2:10 or 2:50 and you can see my favourite bit: crazy golf by the pier. (There's a good kebab shop, The Sussex Frier, in the background too! If it's not closed down.)

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A lego HMS Beagle for Darwin Day

It’s Darwin Day again, and what better way to celebrate than to support the awesome work of LuisPG by voting for his outstanding rendering of “HMS Beagle: A Voyage of Researches”:

The eight minifigures include some all-time favourites for fans of The Voyage of the Beagle, or anyone following Darwin’s tweets/blog of his travels. (He’s around Cape Horn at the moment.)

The Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary blog features extracts from the diaries of Darwin, Fitzroy and Syms Covington, as well as artwork from Conrad Martens, so it’s good to see them all feature!

There’s more pictures and info at the “Lego ideas - HMS Beagle” page, and in the designer’s flickr album. So go, register (if you need to) and give the Beagle a vote: it’s what a 206 year old Darwin would have wanted.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My first wild wallaby

Over the weekend, I was at Lorne for the 20th APS Lorne Proteomics Symposium. It’s a lovely spot for a conference, and the schedule always includes some free time in the afternoon. On the friday, I took advantage of this and went for a walk on the nearby Tramway track.

I was attracted by the (somewhat optimistic) hope of seeing an Echidna, possibly my favourite animal of all, but instead got my first wild wallaby on the trail:

And some kangaroos:

Indeed, it was a good day for nature, with a seal having fun by the pier and some cockatoos strutting their stuff. (Galahs too, for all those Alf Stewart fans.)

No echidna, sadly. Maybe next time. (More pics here.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

200,000 pageviews... and some dodgy Blogger stats

I noticed that my blog hit another landmark recently, exceeding 200,000 pageviews. I was therefore curious to see once again what were the most popular posts. At 100,000 pageviews, the top three were:

  1. Expanding Macbook Air disk space with SD cards (4002 VIEWS)
  2. OMICS Group Conferences - Sham or Scam? (Either way, don’t go to one!) (4000 VIEWS)
  3. How to root a phylogenetic tree (2662 VIEWS)

The updated top ten, according to the “Stats » Posts” page on Blogger look like this:

So, no change in the top three other than a reversal of #1 and #2. Except… looking at the “Posts” page revealed that a number of more recent posts exceeded some of the listed posts. Last year’s Paddy’s Day post, for example, has 707 views, not the 524 listed. Not a big problem in the grand scheme of things but a little annoying. (What’s the point of providing stats if they don’t agree?!)

Out of curiosity, I decided to go through the individual post counts. The top six are the same order, at least, just with higher page counts:

  1. OMICS Group Conferences - Sham or Scam? (Either way, don’t go to one!) (11503 pageviews)

  2. Expanding Macbook Air disk space with SD cards (9054 pageviews)

  3. How to root a phylogenetic tree (7913 pageviews)

  4. Are “Happy Eggs” really happy? (And are Viva really pro-welfare?) (6047 pageviews)

  5. How to stop Outlook on Mac OSX replacing quotes & apostrophes with superscript numbers (5883 pageviews)

  6. Avenged Sevenfold - my kind of Nightmare for Halloween (1803 pageviews)

However, then it deviates in both order and number, with the rest of the top 20 posts beating the 1000 views and thus the listed ranks 7-10, which are either missing or muddled:

  1. Putting photos on Picasa with an iPad = 1684

  2. Artificial Selection versus Natural Selection = 1641

  3. (≠10) Kumala Zenith Merlot/Cab Sav/Shiraz - another bargain red = 1604

  4. (≠8) Who does Microsoft Academic Research think you are? = 1301

  5. (≠7) When snowmen go bad (Christmas graffiti) = 1286

  6. Making e-Books with Wikipedia = 1263

  7. Differential survival, (inclusive) fitness, selection and evolution = 1207

  8. Blogging in Markdown with Blogger and Markable (on a Mac) = 1124

  9. When is a Moro not a Boost? When it’s an Aussie Cadbury’s Mars Bar! = 1107

  10. iPlan with Onzo revisited (and not recommended) = 1100

  11. A review of the “Instant Markdown” eBook from Packt Publishing = 1064

  12. Finding Nemo’s sex-changing father = 1063

  13. Marvellous Markdown = 1031

  14. How to read a phylogenetic tree = 1014

The Paddy’s Day post was way down with 707 pageviews. Indeed, three posts that I feel are much more worthy weighed in higher (along with some others):

I guess the take-home message is: don’t count pageviews!