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  08:31:00 pm, by Nimble   , 57 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science

DNA Through Coder's Eyes

The site DNA seen through the eyes of a coder is a pretty decent introduction to how DNA and some of the surrounding processes work.

Some things are a little hard to make analogies for - it doesn't go much into good analogies for proteins and protein transcription itself, for example, but I can't fault it too much :)


  01:23:40 am, by Nimble   , 353 words  
Categories: Reviews, Toys


Dena bought this little unit before our son was born. It didn't seem all that useful to start with, but this says more about what parenting in the first few weeks consists of than it says about the usefulness of the Itzbeen. You don't need timers to tell you about feedings and diaper changes when they are both happening so incredibly often.

Once the time between successive feedings and diaper changes started getting longer, the Itzbeen turned into one of the handiest items we own.

Itzbeen is a cute name for it, since you look at the timers and announce "it's been" so many hours since the last feed or what have you.

It has four timer buttons, a clock button, a button for a little white LED that functions as an impromptu flashlight, and a little manual switch at the bottom, just for remembering which breast the last feed was from. There's an audio/no audio switch on the right side, and a lock/unlock switch on the left side, handy if you're putting the Itzbeen in a spot where the buttons could get accidentally clicked.

The timer buttons have icons for diaper, feed, sleep and an asterisk (for representing whatever you want it to - we often use it to mark off time spent in a Jolly Jumper). They can count up, if you just want to know how long it's been since the last feeding, etc., or down, if you want to do some things by schedule, and the button will flash red when the timer counts down to zero. You can only set the down timer in 1/2 hour increments, but that's not a terrible impediment.

I think the bellwether of how useful we find it is that we feel best when it's nearby and ready to be checked or clicked... so much so that we often go a little out of our way to grab it.

A highly recommended tool for parents, though it will likely not see much use in the formative weeks.

Ahh, baby's been sleeping for a little over two hours now. *warm glow of feeling informed* :)

  12:56:53 am, by Nimble   , 451 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Religion

Devil Delusion

I can only be civil for so long.

*sigh* Pope Ratzi is getting the troops back in the ready for the War On Satan.

UPDATE: The director of the Vatican Press Office is denying Father Gabriele Amorth's report:

"Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession.”

Full story »


  05:23:51 am, by Nimble   , 938 words  
Categories: Distractions, Internet, Programming

Javascript Swirlies

I wish I had an original cite for this bit of Javascript that my wife found posted in a Fark forum, but it's fantastic fun, so I'm posting about it regardless.

To operate it, you copy the entire paragraph below, navigate to a web page (Fark works pretty well), paste it into the address bar in your web browser, and hit [ENTER]:

javascript:R=0; x1=.1; y1=.05; x2=.25; y2=.24; x3=1.6; y3=.24; x4=300; y4=200; x5=300; y5=200; DI=document.getElementsByTagName('img'); DIL=DI.length; function A(){for(i=0; i-DIL; i++){DIS=DI[ i ].style; DIS.position='absolute'; DIS.left=(Math.sin(R*x1+i*x2+x3)*x4+x5)+'px';*y1+i*y2+y3)*y4+y5)+'px'}R++}setInterval('A()',50); void(0);

If all goes well, all the images will swirl around.

There are a few more things you can do with this code, too...

Full story »

  03:52:59 am, by Nimble   , 236 words  
Categories: Announcements [A], Common Sense

McKnight Station: A Rough Start

I had a bit of a rude awakening coming back home on Monday. My wife had dropped me off at work, or else I would had my shock in the morning, and perhaps waited for a bus that would never come.

Calgary Transit opened their McKnight station for public use on Monday.

I suppose they were trying to rely on radio and local news channels to divulge the news, though, since there was not even the amount of paper signage present at Whitehorn station that they use for warnings of schedule alterations due to weekend construction.

I thought I might have missed something obvious, but when I alighted at Whitehorn station on the way north, a good few dozen people got on the C-train.

Not only had they opened the new station, they had also eviscerated bus service from Whitehorn station, the previous end of the line.

By way of personal gripe, I used to have four bus routes in and out of my neighbourhood available to me. Now I have two, and one of them goes by far the long way around. It does not seem that the buses come more often by way of compensation, either. *sigh*

Pretty poorly handled, really. In passing Whitehorn this morning, I saw yet more confused patrons waiting for buses that would never arrive. I guess everyone will adjust, eventually, but not without a modicum of somewhat sour head-scratching.


  08:13:49 pm, by Nimble   , 213 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Internet, Spamming

RBC Impersonation Scammers Making The Rounds

Here's the text of the scam:

Royal Bank of Canada

Dear customer,

Due to the recent upgrade of our servers,
we have issued this warning message.

It has come to our attention that
some of our customers no longer
have access to their banking online.

So, we have urged that all our customers
should provide some information which would be sufficient
to proof their online banking accesses.

We urge you to click on the reference
below to verify your active online banking access: 7501

Thank You.

Accounts Management As outlined in our User Agreement, Royal Bank of Canada will
periodically send you information about site changes and enhancements.

Visit our Privacy Policy and User Agreement if you have any questions.

Thunderbird flags this as an e-mail scam. Firefox flags the target as a scam, and Internet Explorer 7 reports it as a known phishing site.

It took a while for the built-in scam-detection tools to arrive, but I am pleased that it has to help our large population that is not as tech-savvy.

Now, if only we had a way to attack phishers with mountains of bogus information...


  07:56:08 pm, by Nimble   , 392 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Science

"Theory" Lost in the Crowd

We've been drilling it into people over and over again: "it's just a theory" is wrong when we say Theory of Evolution because Theory in scientific terms means well-proven hypothesis, not just some random guess, and that's true for things like evolution and Atomic Theory and the like.

However, "Theory" is used time and again for things that are not well-proven hypotheses...

Full story »


  11:45:54 pm, by Nimble   , 277 words  
Categories: Reviews, Books, Languages

I Like Hugo's "In Three Months" Series

When I was at my sister's wedding in the UK, my relatives offered to look after our baby for a few minutes while we rampaged through one of Rochester's used bookshops, "Baggins".

It was far too big for a decent perusal of any sort, but before I left the store, I tracked down its language learning shelves, and I found two book's in Hugo's older language series: Arabic in Three Months and Russian in Three Months. I already had Dutch in Three Months - the only other one I had ever seen in the series - and had thoroughly enjoyed it. In my mind, a good language-learning book - and I grant that this is my style and perhaps nobody else's - should do the following:

  • Give you a good, decent pronunciation guide with as much description as you need to replicate the sounds without CDs or cassettes
  • Keep the pronunciation training wheels on for the first many chapters
  • Give you really good rules of thumb for grammar in the language instead of explaining every exception to death before you need it or insisting that you just have to learn everything as a special case
  • Give you a usable vocabulary
  • Have some good quality assurance so that you don't encounter that often-correct feeling of "hey, they never even gave me this word, and it's not in the mini-dictionary at the end, either

The quality part seems oft overlooked. I'm pleased to say that the Russian one, at the very least in its older incarnation (I've not seen the newer remakes), fulfills this checklist admirably. Now I can truly pester my Russian coworkers in grand style. Well, in a few months, anyhow :)

  11:17:21 pm, by Nimble   , 1280 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Ethics, Politics, Religion

More On Craig Chandler

It has been a little bit tough to find detailed information on what exactly Craig Chandler, the controversial candidate whose comments have landed him in hot water - with Premier Ed Stelmach initiating a formal review - said to get himself in such hot water.

Full story »


  02:39:43 am, by Nimble   , 138 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Internet

Hurl.exe, Amazon and Firefox

Okay, maybe you have encountered this, maybe you haven't, but if you try going off and listening to a RealPlayer sound clip on a web site in Firefox... say, for example, of Mitch Hedberg, you might often get it coming up with a dialog asking you to open Hurl.exe...

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  01:36:47 am, by Nimble   , 328 words  
Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Science

The Three Kidneys

Every now and again, you run into a really odd fact in biology. An interesting but tame one is the fact that we also run through multiple different kinds of globin in our hemoglobin (we're done with Hba-x, or "zeta globin", for example, by the end of the first trimester), from different genes, growing from embryo to infant.

An odder interesting fact is that humans, and indeed all vertebrates, have three successive sets of kidneys.

Full story »


  02:46:33 am, by Nimble   , 106 words  
Categories: Distractions

Crayon Physics Deluxe

Hat tip to Biocurious...

For those who have pen computing at their disposal, this video of a game called "Crayon Physics Deluxe".

It's a little bit like The Incredible Machine, but with an entirely different sort of twist. You can draw objects into existence. From the video, it appears you can make stairs, ramps, cars (!), plenty of things to drop, and even make yourself a giant golf club of a sort.

Who knows when it will be out and about, though, since Kloonigames is usually a "let's see how much of a game I can code together in fractions of a month", but I'm cautiously optimistic :)


  10:26:33 pm, by Nimble   , 381 words  
Categories: Distractions, Common Sense, People

Russian Wussburgers

I got to learn a few interesting bits of trivia from a Russian coworker or two today.

It all started out with one of them looking at the consent/health forms for the flu shots that were being offered...

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  10:11:51 pm, by Nimble   , 175 words  
Categories: Distractions, Science

Fecal Transplants

It sounds like something right out of an old Saturday Night Live skit, but fecal transplants are real honest-to-goodness medical techniques for use, for example, when antibiotics have knocked out everything except the really nasty bacteria.

CBC covered it not too long ago. It was purportedly on television as well, but I didn't go out of my way to catch that special :)

Yes, it essentially involves taking a healthy person's poo, screening it, making an enema out of it and putting it up the patient's pipes.

Disgusting, perhaps, but with the good results reported in trials and application of the procedure in Scandinavia and the U.S., we might take a page from Buckley's mixture: it [seems] awful, and it works.

Thomas Louie at the Foothills hospital is one of the few practitioners Canada-side who performs the procedure. He has done his research on nasty bugs like Clostridium difficile.

He's also working on other less-disgusting techniques for lesser sufferers, including treatment with Tolemaver, a polymer which can bind to the toxins that C. difficile produces.


  02:51:55 pm, by Nimble   , 246 words  
Categories: Science


Now that is a heck of a mouthful of a word. It's the field of application of the theory of evolution to drug discovery.

Now it's not a matter of making things evolve, but rather taking advantage of the effects of common ancestry and the gene and protein data that comes from that analysis to help with drug discovery, disease modeling, and in some cases to find out the limits of working with other animals.

This article by David Searls is a fantastic, albeit necessarily jargon-filled, summary of the field.

The drug companies are most interested in orthologs, which are gene sequences that are essentially the same gene in two different species. They do not always retain the same functionality, but often they do, and this helps much in analysis.

Since testing in humans is the often the last step, it can be frustrating to bring a drug so far and have the different metabolism of the test animals be the real reason that the drug was failing in testing. From the article:

A strong motivation for the further study of orthology of drug targets is the fact that species differences of various kinds — for instance, in pathophysiology or drug metabolism — frequently hamper the progression of targets and compounds, often after quite significant investment. This indicates that even a marginally improved understanding of species differences could have a major impact on the cost of developing medicines.

This is the practical side of the theory of evolution.

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