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!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Aussie vs British/Irish Fish ’n’ Chips

We celebrated the start of the Australia Day long weekend by driving out to Brighton le Sands on Botany Bay for some fish and chips on the beach after work on Friday. I grew up in a seaside holiday town, so I am no stranger to fish and chips. Here, then, are my reflections after a year and a bit in Oz. It boils down to this:

In the UK and Ireland, it’s all about the chips. In Australia, it’s all about the fish.

Chips. Aussies can’t do chips. Well, OK, that’s a little unfair - and they often produce something considerably superior to “fries” - but they cannot do chips as well as the Brits and Irish. There is a reason that “chippy” or “chipper” are common affectionate slang for fish and chip shops - you cannot beat chips from a good chippy. Big, fat, slightly greasy chips with salt and vinegar. Yum. It may not be the most healthy thing but it’s one of the few food items that I really miss.

Indeed, the rest of the fayre on offer is somewhat secondary and fish are only one of a number of different accompaniments for your chips. Pies, kebabs, scampi, burgers and all sorts of unhealthy items like battered sausage (or nowadays, a battered anything) are on offer.

The best chips ever? Well, Leo Burdock in Dublin stakes a good claim on that one.

That's not a chip...
That's a chip!

Fish. As indicated, the average British or Irish fish and chip shop does not focus so much on the fish, and there are usually only 3 or 4 different types of fish available (cod, haddock and some kind of flat fish such as plaice or sole being most common, I think) in addition to scampi. In Australia, the choice of fish can be quite overwhelming, and will include several other kinds of seafood (calamari, prawns, oysters etc.).

On Friday, for example, we went to Ocean Heart Seafood who offered five kinds of fish plus other seafood, grilled (barbecued) or battered and fried.

Conclusion. The overal verdict, therefore, is a draw. If you fancy chips, then Australia’s not the place. (Although the wdespread availability of chicken salt does go some way in terms of compensation.) However, if you want a good selection of really fresh, tasty fish, I think Australia is the winner. (Unless, I suspect, you are away from the coast - but more that 85% of Aussies live within 50km of the coast.)