Disappointing experience with retrofit soft closers

I was quite excited when I found this inexpensive approach to creating soft close drawers and cupboard doors. They're a pretty simple concept: a little damper piston that you stick wherever possible to brake the closing of your drawers and cupboards. It'll never be quite as Star Trek as the really expensive mechanisms you get in proper kitchen stores, but it was still a neat solution and much cheaper at around $2 per piston, making it about $4 per drawer and cupboard.

Initially they worked great and I took huge pleasure opening and closing the drawers to see the nice, soft close. Pretty soon after installing them, I found some problems. They're not a complete killer on the idea, just quality and execution problems from the manufacturer really.

First a few of the pistons became stuck closed. I could jiggle them to get them out again, but that's hardly good enough. Then they gradually all started falling off. The adhesive they've used just doesn't seem to work. I would probably have persevered and re-applied the devices with a stronger glue if it weren't for the stuck pistons.

I've now sent the lot back for a refund, and the seller seems willing to refund so far.

I'm pretty disappointed. I really wanted this to work, and I'd still be interested in the product if they ever come up with a Version 2 that fixes these problems.

Chicken dance with Grandma and DadDad

My parents are travelling around the country in their caravan so I got them set up with wireless broadband (Telstra, since then it'll actually work, even outside the cities) so they can stay in touch with their grandson. Last night we got to test it out using Skype. Grandma has been teaching him the Chicken Dance.

It really does feel like we're finally living in the future when you can do stuff like this. It took so long to get here! Probably more due to greedy telcos than anything else.

Web analytics blog

I decided to create a separate blog specifically dealing with web analytics. I often come up with cool little hacks, or interesting approaches, during the course of my work and they're likely to be of interest to other practitioners.

Most examples of web analytics implementations presented by vendors portray a perfect world where you have everything under your control, changes happen without problems, developers can actually read whole sentences. Here in the real world, things are more complicated...

Recent reading: gambling politics, nose to tail, non-rail public transport and the Chernobyl death toll

I've been using Instapaper to push longer articles to my Kindle for later reading. The tool isn't without some significant limitations but it works well enough for me.  It's great to no longer skip reading longer pieces of text, but instead read them at leisure.

Here's some of the stuff I've been reading recently.

Grog's Gamut digs through his own experience in the gambling industry and the Productivity Commission's report to demonstrate how evil poker machines really are. Key points are that clubs make 40% of their gambling earnings from problem gamblers, not the people having a fun flutter, and the supposed benefits bestowed by clubs don't really exist.

This event in Germany sounds awesome, though I definitely draw the line at raw pork. Have these guys not heard of trichinosis?

The basic idea here is nothing new. Rail is really expensive, slow to build and inflexible. Other methods like buses can be great. The biggest problem with on-road public transport in Australia is that our politicians are loathe to give up road space and dedicate it to public transport, rather than storage of private vehicles. Just try catching a bus down King Street, Newtown on a weekend when cars are allowed park.

George Monbiot idiotically claims only a few dozen people died from Chernobyl, Helen Caldicot claims a million. The truth is somewhere in between, and can't be boiled down into a simple soundbite.

On quacks and bogus "food intolerance" tests

Our doctor's surgery has been good to us, with a thorough GP who seems competent. I'd always been wary of the practice owner though, as she prescribes so-called Traditional Chinese Medicine (which is neither traditional, nor Chinese, nor medicine). The doctor we used to see has left the practice so we've been stuck seeing her.

On my most recent visit, she suggested I get a food intolerance test to see if it might be involved in my high blood pressure. Not knowing much about the subject, I agreed to it. The blood test was on Monday, cost $330 and the results came today. Quick service and not my usual experience with pathology.

One thing made me suspicious: while talking to me about the test, the woman who drew the blood mentioned that all wheat in Australia is genetically modified. This is plain untrue, and makes me think of the usual nutty conspiracy theorists. While wheat, and particularly the way it's turned into bread in modern food processing, is potentially a problem for digestion, there's very little GM wheat floating around.

So having received the results from this test and finding it claims I've shown a "Marked" reaction to Cow's milk and a "Moderate" reaction to some of my favourite and core foods, I decided to look around and find more about this test, and the recommended treatment of avoiding those foods.  Turns out this "Cytotoxic Food Sensitivity" test is pretty bogus.  Essentially they smear your white blood cells on slides coated with dried target foods and see what happens to the cells.

The Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy calls it "inappropriate testing" and that results with identical samples can't be reliably reproduced. Choice seems to agree.

This morning I took Louis to the same doctor with a nasty, persistent cold. She prescribed a Chinese thing with homeopathic snake bile and menthol in it.  Oh dear.

So, I'm off to another doctor. One who recommends evidence-based diagnostics and therapies. I need to be more hardcore about this in future. Mention chiropractic, homeopathy, naturopathy or any other snake oil, and I'm outta there.

Taronga Zoo

We took Louis to the zoo for his first visit on the weekend with his grandparents and cousin Abigail. We all had a fantastic time, and Louis now has a few more animals he can recognise and whose noises he can mimic. Awesome!

Sydney is very lucky to have such an amazing zoo in such a perfect location on the harbour.  Being able to travel by ferry to this kind of attraction really is awesome.  Loads of fun.