30 October 2013

I am the Cheese

This has nothing to do with the webcomics of David Willis.

As we have finally announced, ICON Science Fiction is launching a new convention, called "LI-CON" and chaired by, well, your host here.

It'll be a blast. We already have Jody Lynn Nye (MythAdventures), Bill Fawcett (Mayfair Games), Paul Barnett (2xHugo winner, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction) and John Rennie (host of Hacking the Planet). And we're not even really up to full speed recruiting.

Of course, we still plan to hold the big brother convention, I-CON, a bit later in the year.

Please help out by funding us via Indiegogo. It will be a beautiful thing.

08 July 2013

Choose One from Column A and one from Column B, then I'll complain because you chose one from B ....

My credit union issues a credit card, which earns me CU Rewards points. I thought I'd use some of those points to rent a car for an upcoming trip.

I just sent the following rant via their contact form:

Your page to redeem points for car rentals has a serious design flaw: it has separate blanks for locations to pick up and drop off car, but if you actually put different values in them, the page resets itself and an error message declares, "Pickup and drop off locations must be the same." If so, WHY DO YOU HAVE TWO BLANKS THAT ALLOW TWO DIFFERENT SELECTIONS?

And why does EVERY field reset itself, forcing me to laboriously re-enter the DATES of the rental? How does that help anyone?
I'm no genius, but I'm a way, way better designer than that. Twits.

Their password reset form does not work. It has not worked for at least three years and they have done nothing to fix it. If you call their help line they tell you to use the "forgot login" form instead, since it also lets you reset your password.

Their web people get paid, quite possibly more than I make.


14 April 2012

Getting Math Right: A Journalist Does Not Disappoint

So fairly often here I mock journalists for stupid, credulous, and lazy science reporting. I thought I'd give credit where it's due. Neil Steinberg of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote two columns in a row that got math correct. Maybe we can get him made science editor?

Why coincidences are surprisingly common, and
Why the lottery is a mug's game

21 March 2012

When programmers try too hard

I use Adobe Acrobat X a lot at work. Recently I wanted to search through a long document for a page that says "Day 2" (which divides the book into materials for Day 1 ... and materials for Day 2 of a training session).

I used the built-in search for the string "day 2" and it matched today.

This is the difference between Google and Adobe. Google's semantic interpretation of search strings more often than not finds useful matches. Adobe, with the best of intentions, confused and irritated me. This match is obviously stupid, but I doubt Adobe will fix their engine.

25 January 2012

Cancer Institute Brags About Therapy That Doesn't Actually Exist Yet

The Roswell Park Cancer Institute recently issued this.

Wow, that press release overpromises. They claim "The new ... vaccine is expected to show great promise in patients with bladder, brain, breast, esophageal, gastrointestinal, hepatocellular, kidney, lung, melanoma, ovarian, prostate, sarcoma and uterine tumors."

Notice that they're claiming its effectiveness against many utterly dissimilar tumor types ... and note the key phrase "is expected to show great promise ..." It doesn't even show promise yet, it's just expected to eventually be promising. Did they just press-release the start of a research program, before a single experiment is even conducted?

I'm especially interested in the use of a one person anecdote, the story of Christine Sable. Ms. Sable didn't even receive the vaccine this release is touting, but the "story" implies that her not experiencing recurrence of her cancer demonstrates its effectiveness. The unstated premise is that all cancer vaccines are the same, but if I state it baldly like that, it's obviously stupid. In any case, by the release's own testimony she had about a 25% chance of no recurrence. With a sample size of one (given) the result is literally of no value in determining the effectiveness of the treatment.

They call it a "story" on their web page, either meaning to imply that it's coverage by an outside news source, or offering it as a "drop-in" story for cheap newspapers/magazines/web sites to use without making it clear it's a press release.

In the opinion of the author, the whole exercise is misleading and unethical and RPCI should be embarrassed.

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