Dodgy election graphs

Apr. 28th, 2017 11:35 am
[personal profile] swaldman
It's a general election, so as usual we have a deluge of dodgy and misleading bar charts designed to persuade us to vote tactically in a direction that we might not otherwise. Buzzfeed has a nice roundup of some of this year's offenders, of which this one is sort of local (another part of Edinburgh):

Graph from the Scottish Conservatives, annotated to show how wrong it is

What I find interesting about this is that they go to lengths to demonstrate that the numbers themselves are correct (if not always relevant), citing sources for them and so forth. I assume this is because demonstrably false numbers would leave them open to charges of electoral fraud (am I right? Is this the reason?). So why doesn't the same apply to the graphs? Is there a technical reason, or is it more of a cultural feeling that pictures are less definite than numbers, or something? Anybody know?

Code push scheduled for Sunday night

Apr. 27th, 2017 03:03 pm
karzilla: a green fist above the word SMASH! (Default)
[staff profile] karzilla in [site community profile] dw_maintenance
We are planning to do a code push late this weekend, at approximately 8pm PDT / 11pm EDT / 3am UTC on Sunday, Apr 30 (or May 1 for you transatlantic types.).

I don't have a list of changes for you yet, but most will fall into the following categories: things users have complained about to support volunteers, things support volunteers have complained about to developers, things [staff profile] denise has complained about not working the way she expects them to (and as we all know, The Boss is Always Right), and things that were printing warnings over and over in the production server logs, making it hard to spot when less frequent, more urgent errors were being printed. Oh, and also all the unused code I ripped out at the roots, which if you notice that, I did it wrong.

To sum up: we are rolling out a bunch of requested changes, so thank you all for your feedback!

If you're new to Dreamwidth and interested in tracking our development process, our commit logs are published to [site community profile] changelog and [community profile] changelog_digest, and every month or so, one of our volunteers will translate those often-cryptic entries into witty, informative code tours! The most recent one was published on April 1, so we're about due for a new one. Hint, hint.

We'll update here again to let you know when the code push is imminent!

March for science

Apr. 23rd, 2017 07:48 am
swaldman: "Stand back - I'm going to try Science!" from the PHD Comic strip. (going to try science)
[personal profile] swaldman
Yesterday, lots and lots of people around the world had pro-science demonstrations. The biggest ones were in the US, for obvious reasons. The one in Edinburgh attracted around 2500 people (I was near the back and asked a steward with a clicker), which was less than I'd hoped but still respectable. It was possibly the most polite, middle-class, non-controversial demo I've ever been on. A significant number of people had never been involved in public protest before (was this even protest?); the police were treating it as a nice paid stroll in the sunshine, and were laughing at the poor organiser with a megaphone who was trying to get a load of cautious and introverted academics to chant!

Favourite slogans on signs, out of many contenders:
  • "I came to do science and kick ass... And you just cut my funding "
  • "When life gives you lemons.... make a crude electrochemical battery"
  • "Witty science related slogan under peer review"
and the winner, for actually making a point humourly rather than just having fun,
  • "Got smallpox? Me neither."
For me the main purpose of this event was showing solidarity with the folk in the US for whom supporting science funding and wanting evidence-based policy is a controversial stance. As others pointed out, it's also relevant in the UK as a reminder to government that a lot of people feel this way, and that in an age of "the public is tired of experts" they are still needed..... but I'm not sure how helpful that is. As I see it, the trouble with the perception of science in government is that it's seen as just another pressure group. "The science lobby", which cares about things like research funding and climate change. I'm not convinced that the way to shift that perception is to do things like marches that a political pressure group would do. Eh. I hope I'm wrong.

I was rather disappointed that out of the ~150 people in my research institute, only a very few attended. When I mentioned it the day before on the relevant Facebook group there was deafening silence. I'm not sure if engineers considered it too political, or what...

[personal profile] swaldman
You know how senior people receive far too much email? (Academics think this is unique to them, but of course it isn't)

Some companies have responded to this by rationalising how much email they send.

One person at this university, who sends out information about events, seems to have responded by sending emails about the event every two days for about a month leading up to it. I'm not sure whether it's a concious strategy to try to keep a message about it near the top of everybody's inbox, or whether she just thinks that email works like Twitter, but it certainly helps to make the problem worse......

I wonder if I can come up with an Outlook rule to let the first one of each through, but block subsequent emails from this person with the same subject line, and perhaps the same length?

The importer has (mostly) caught up!

Apr. 19th, 2017 11:02 pm
denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
[staff profile] denise in [site community profile] dw_maintenance
Our content importer has mostly caught up with its backlog; almost everything that's still listed as being "in the queue" are jobs that were tried, failed once or more with a temporary failure, and are waiting to try again. (The importer tries a few times, at successively longer intervals, when it gets a failure it thinks might be temporary/might correct itself later on.) This means that new imports scheduled now should complete in hours (or even minutes), not the "several days" it's been taking.

If you tried to schedule a second import while the first one was still running, at any time in the past 10 days or so, you may have confused the poor thing. If you think your import should be finished by now and it isn't, and you're seeing "Aborted" on the Importer Status part of the Importer page, feel free to open a support request in the Importer category and we'll look into it for you. (It may take a little bit before you get a response; those of us who have the access to look into importer problems have been really busy for the past two weeks or so, and I at least need a few days to catch my breath a bit before diving back into the fray! But we'll do what we can.)

I hope all y'all are continuing to settle in well to your new home!

Ooch. My vote might count this time.

Apr. 19th, 2017 06:41 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
Just looked up my constituency, and it looks like my vote might require some careful thought this time around. The incumbent is the last Labour MP in Scotland[1], with a majority of about 2600. Not close enough to call "marginal", but certainly not safe.

Since 2001 Labour held it, with the Lib Dems nipping at their heels. With the LD collapse and the SNP rise in 2015 yellow took the place of orange, with blue a safely distant third unless one goes back to the 90s.

So on the one hand I have a man who seems to be a decent local MP, who is personally anti-Brexit and unionist but who is a member of a party that is pro-Brexit (arguably a soft one, depending which day of the week one asks) and unionist... and on the other an unknown quantity who is pro-#indyref2 and... actually, I don't know what the SNP's policy on Brexit is now.

The important thing is that the Tories don't get a seat here, and I'm not worried about that, but the potential for a Lab->SNP change is there, and I'm honestly not sure what I feel about that. The choice would be made somewhat easier if Labour would stop treating the SNP as toxic and actually cooperate in Parliament...

[1] Though we may see some more in June; the SNP swept them away in the aftermath of #indyref1, but that feeling may not continue a few years on.

Back from a trip

Apr. 18th, 2017 10:42 pm
[personal profile] swaldman
Hello Dreamwidth. It's been a little while. I've been on a trip, in which I've driven about 1100 miles in about ten days. That's far from the longest I've done, but it's significant.

I went to Cambridge to attend the wedding of one of my oldest friends. It was lovely, not least because the wedding ceremony was how they wanted it to be, not how tradition said it should be. They entered together down the aisle - no giving away of anybody - and at the end, they processed out to the Imperial March. This gave a distinct vibe of "leaving together to begin plotting world domination" :-)

I spent a few days visiting friends and family in the south of England, and then went to Bath for a conference. I usually go to energy or engineering events, so it was interesting to go to something that was more broadly coastal coastal (though I'd hoped for more oceanography and less coastal engineering). Some good conversations were had, and some friends hopefully made (although short-of-sleep Simon has even worse social skills than normal-Simon, so who knows). I even met somebody relevant to my work.

Lastly, I attended Eastercon in Birmingham - a general SF&F convention held over the Easter weekend. I did some tech, and went to some stuff, and chatted to some people... I still feel a bit of an outsider at cons like this, but in general I had fun. I left before the closing ceremony in order to drive home, and arrived yesterday evening.

Today was meant to be unpacking, doing some urgent work, and some social stuff. In fact a morning shopping expedition demonstrated that I was in no fit state to interact with humans, so I went back to bed and spent most of the day pottering. I did get the most urgent bit of the work done at about 9pm, which was important because I needed to get simulations running again overnight. I have a really horrible deadline next week, you see....

I discovered, on arriving home, that my home internet connection had broken while I was away. I have line sync, but authentication at the PPP level is failing. Most oddly of all, my phone number appears to have changed. The current working theory on my ISP's customer IRC channel is that somebody in the exchange has mistakenly or accidentally swapped my line with somebody else's. I'm waiting for my ISP to figure out what's going on, but in the mean time am using an awful lot of my phone's data allowance.

And there you go - What I Did On My Holidays by Simon, aged thirty-something and a quarter.


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"O seguro morreu de velho, mas o desconfiado ainda está vivo." -- "The safe one died of old age, but the suspicious one is still living."