Don’t buy from Dirty Microbe

Sadly it looks like I’ve been scammed. Back in May, I ordered a couple of t-shirts from an online T-shirt company called Dirty Microbe, but they were never shipped. At the time, I had seen their ads for a few weeks, I did some web searches to research them, and found nothing negative. In short, they seemed reputable. And when I didn’t receive anything, I told myself there must be a temporary problem. A three month temporary problem. Hmmm.

So, now I’m seeing complaints pop up around the web from others having the same problem. Looks like I’ve been had. With any luck, others will find these posts before losing their money to a t-shirt company that seems to have gone bad.

Goodbye Bunnings, Hello Kennards!

This weekend we were stricken with a special type of illness – the one that makes you want to pull up concrete in your front yard. Now that we’ve had it, it’s quite unlikely that we’ll catch it again. I hope for your sake, gentle reader, that it is not at all contagious.

Initially it was quite enjoyable. Going to Kennards to hire the electric jackhammer was eye-opening. While Bunnings is full of things that allow you to explore your creative instincts, Kennards is full of things that allow the more destructive side of your nature to flourish. For example, there were some machines that looked like ride-on-lawnmowers with giant chainsaws attached to the front. Outside of a nightmare or a Simpsons episode, I have no idea what they could be for. Kate wouldn’t let me hire one.

But the jackhammer provided fun enough. At least for the first hour, where we ripped up huge chunks of the front yard’s wall-to-wall concrete. That was as long as it took to get to the reinforced concrete. And huge chunks were quickly replaced with tiny shards. What sort of person maliciously reinforces the concrete in their front yard? A malicious one, apparently.

Despite losing the good will of those of our neighbours with working eardrums, we succeeded in clearing our front yard of the two concrete slabs. That’s 6 square metres of decorative concrete gone from the world. And the world is all the better for it.

Filter or Faker?

I’ve been reading the P J O’Rourke book All the Trouble in the World in which he satirizes the various moral panics that were big in the 1990s, and is at times pretty amusing and pretty intelligent. I have some respect for O’Rourke, which is why I had my own moral panic in reading his opinions on scientists communicating theirs.

Dr. Schneider … is a self-admitted liar and knave: “[W]e have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

The trouble is that Dr Schneider could also be easily describing my own job. In communicating complex matters up the management chain so that timely decisions can be made, I have a responsibility to synthesize the data I receive and pass on enough to justify my recommendations but limit it such that people’s valuable time isn’t wasted in duplicating my analysis. However, I’d never considered myself a liar or a knave before.

Giving Dr Schneider’s words the most charitable interpretation, I can understand the trade-off between disclosure of every fact (“being honest”) and communicating in the most appropriate words and style for an audience (“being effective”). The latter may involve filtering the relevant information out of volumes of data (“simplification”), choosing memorable and impactful examples (“scary scenarios”), and recommendations that are easy to understand when you’re a busy exec being inundated with demands for your attention (“dramatic statements”). This isn’t being a faker or a fraud. In fact, someone who did not do these things could be considered ineffective.

So why would someone like O’Rourke assert the contrary? I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s something to do with his journalism background. The Code of Ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists clearly distinguishes “advocacy” from “news reporting”. It’s hardly unique in this matter, and I suspect journalists typically learn a distrust of those who communicate their personal (even if expert) views and opinions to the public and don’t clearly label it as advocacy.

But maybe I’m too sensitive, and O’Rourke was making a specific point not a general point. Or perhaps he was a little guilty of simplification and dramatic statements himself.