The Internet

Have conferences become a giant racket?

What has happened to a bunch of nerds getting together in a big room, eating some sandwiches and talking about ideas?

Why are people so willing to pay big money to meet other people in their respective fields at conferences, when they just could have done what I have referred to in the paragraph above?

We now have a conference ‘industry’.  Take Ted talks for example.  Come to our conference!  Our speakers have all the big ideas!  These people will save the world!  The conference industry is booming!

Seems to me there is a lot of talk-ie and not enough do-ie.

Take this conference for example, which is only 5 years young:

International Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference

Fancy website!  There is money for that and the nice conference, yet, there is little to no money for research in this field.

If you happen to be one of the lucky folks to have a steady job in industry, government or academia, someone may foot the bill for you to go – $470 for members and $550 for non-members, but only if you register early.  Of course that doesn’t include travel and hotel costs.

But wait!  If you can’t get your costs covered, for the low low cost of $150, you can still pay the organizers AND work for nothing at the conference.  This is referred to as ‘volunteering’ on the conference website.  So there is always that.

Sorry to pick on you, International Fire Behavior and Fuel Conference, but you are following the modern conference ‘industry’ trend.  You folks could instead spend your time figuring out how the dollars would be better spent actually funding climate research, or figuring out a way to actually use the internet to communicate at your conference (the internet — what’s that?) so as to minimize the carbon footprint of the large number of people travelling to your conference.

I’ll leave it to my readers to answer the rhetorical question that serves as the title of this article.


The $550 conference meal — if you register early (Sandwich by whologwhy)


Evolution of Popular Music

I gotta get back to slogging through contract law, but I came across this really interesting paper, which has been covered in the media. Some scientists have determined that there have been three major branches of popular American music involving early 60s rock, early 80s new wave and early 90s rap.  According to the paper also, the British Invasion was not necessarily responsible for the 60s evolution of rock because it had already started, but the Invasion possibly helped to increase this genre’s popularity.

Having been a biologist before and more than a bit of a music fan – this paper is pretty cool, and it’s an open source paper, which I like.

Here is the link: The evolution of popular music: USA 1960–2010.  Have fun.

Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies

I’ve been doing some studying, and through exploring some links, I came across a website: Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies. Just in case you weren’t sure, logical fallacies are flaws in reasoning.

The folks over at the website have organized some common logical fallacies in a fun way — they have symbols dedicated to each fallacy.  It seems as if the site organizers are trying to start a movement, as they invite people to send applicable links to those who commit logical fallacies.  For those who commit too many logical fallacies to count (come on, you know a few I’m sure, and if not, think:  local politician, corporation or annoying family member), you are welcome to download the Logical Fallacies Poster or purchase it from the website to give as a ‘gift’.

I think it would be fun if each fallacy came with a recording of a booming, god-like voice shouting:  “THE LOGICAL FALLACY YOU HAVE COMMITTED IS….” or tightwad Tuvoc’s voice from Star Trek:  “You are not logical”.

None of us are perfect, but rational thinking is cool.  Let’s all jump on the rational bandwagon together.  Everyone is doing it. Pourquoi?  Parce que.

Quitting with Creativity (and Impunity)

“I quit”:

The above memo reminds me of one Monday morning when my boss proudly announced to me that  he “worked all weekend”.  I replied, “Good for you.  I made cheese soufflé“.  I don’t think he understood what I meant; although, I think work-life balance was more acceptable where I was in comparison to this woman’s former workplace.  It can’t be easy paying back those United States law school loans, though…

Is that Monkey Poo, Google?

I downloaded and started to use the new Google Hangouts app to chat on my Android tablet.  The video chat function works, but the quality is not as good as it is on Skype, but I digress.

I was perusing the different emoticons, which are kind of fun, though they look very tiny on my screen since my tablet is only 7″.  I noticed the one emoticon that was odd – and have decided it couldn’t be anything except poo, and I suspect it might actually be monkey poo based on its similar color scheme as the monkeys to the left.  I mean, it’s brown, and there is yellow steam surrounding it.  I thought, am I just some sort of demented person for thinking this?  So I kept looking at it.  What else could it possibly be?  It’s not cupcake icing because that makes no sense.


If that ain’t monkey poo, then I don’t know monkey poo from Shinola.

So I guess Google thought there would be plenty of ways to work “monkey poo” into a chat; enough to warrant its very own visual representation!

A conversation could go like this:

Friend:  “Hey, did you hear about that politician who defrauded taxpayers of millions?”

Me: “What a bunch of monkey poo”.

Maybe I’ll win $1,000,000 from Google for being the first person to discuss the monkey poo emoticon online!  Then I’ll have nothing better to do with my time, but write exciting blog posts all day, such as this fine piece of prose that you’re reading.  If I had used my new found hieroglyphic in my very unpopular previous post on bullshit, it could have saved me a lot of time.

“Five…or ten things I should know…”

At the risk of resembling a bad Seinfeld joke set up: what is up with the latest online news media trend that includes writing headlines such as “Five things you should know about _____”? For example, the latest one from ABC: “Five stories you’ll care about in politics next week“.

I know the media has been deciding what news I can access since its inception, but the latest trend of actually telling me, in a headline, what I should know and then going ahead and listing those things, is desperate, shameless, superficial and condescending.

I submit that the reason for this type of headline is a result of there being so much easily accessible news online.  Media outlets have to find a way to have us click on their stories.  But come on! I am capable of reading articles and distilling what I think is important; I don’t need someone else to do it for me, and then make the sweeping proclamation that I should know it.  By extension “should” I also accept how the “things I should know” are spun too?  Thanks news media, for thinking that I am stupid enough to not be able to come up with topics for water cooler conversations on my own; now, I at least have five things you deem important enough for me to talk about.  Phew!  I’ll make sure to stick to only those topics and only discuss them at the superficial depth of detail as provided by you.

One thing the news media should stop doing, now! <<CLICK>>

1.  Shoving what it thinks I should know, down my throat.

Talk about that at the water cooler, journalists.