Archive for 2015



Annoyingly Incomplete Research Breeds Annoyingly Alarmist Message

Annoyingly Incomplete Research Breeds Annoyingly Alarmist Message

I saw this article at

“Why You Should Take Your Shoes Off Before Entering Your Home, Backed By Science”

It opens with:

While it may be commonplace in most Asian countries, the cultural norm of taking your shoes off before entering your home has yet to catch on in Europe and America. In Asian cultures it’s easily understandable as to why people remove their shoes before coming into a home as their meals are typically eaten on mats on the floor, and they sleep on rolled out futons at night.

A new study has researchers suggesting that maybe we might want to be more aware of what exactly we’re bringing into our homes via our shoes.

Bacteria in the home — Research conducted at the University of Houston found that 40% of shoes were carrying around the Clostridium difficile, or “C.diff”, bacterium. Infections caused by C.diff are highly resistant to antibiotics, which can lead to difficult and lengthy recovery times for anyone who becomes infected. C.diff is also able to survive in most areas of the household, including toilets, tops and surfaces, and wherever floor dust is found. Ready to take off your shoes yet?

Kinda scary, right? I’m always going to take my shoes off at home so me and my baby don’t get sick!
The trouble is, the article intentionally sensationalized and misrepresented the results of the research.

I read the research paper. The data and conclusions of the research did not match what the article implied. To paraphrase, the research said, “C.diff can get you sick. 1/3 of all our samples in homes had that bug on them. 40% of shoe bottoms had it, 30% of bathroom surfaces, 30% of floor dust.  Wow, that’s a lot… we think… maybe.” And that’s where they left it.

So my takeaway is: don’t lick the bottoms of my shoes, the floor, or my toilet. Thanks for the tip, guys.

If they had compared  rates of contamination in the different areas of the house, they might have come to some great conclusions.  For example, maybe people that have shoe bugs are more likely to have bugs elsewhere in the house (IE, maybe people track the bugs in on their shoes) . Or maybe not. They’ve got the raw data, why didn’t they crunch the numbers?

They didn’t have a control group. They said that floor dust was contaminated, was tabletop dust contaminated too? Maybe if they had tested silverware, frozen pizzas, and kitchen tables they would have had the same 30% contamination rates. But we’ll never know because they did bad science. I know all about bad science, I did some just last month.

Frickin’ grad students and their research projects.

Frickin’ sensationalist websites and their fear mongering.


You can find the abstract (a short summary) of the research here. You can find the full paper via a library that has access to scholarly journals. I used my San Jose State University library access.

Workshop Weekend in Oakland! December 12 & 13

I will try to attend this. See you there?

Workshop Weekend in Oakland! December 12 & 13

Join us on December 12 & 13 to make a robot, dissect a computer, make ice cream or a chocolate mold, learn HTML and plan your website, hack your tastebuds and more. At Workshop Weekend, a flat $40 admission gets you as many workshops as you can handle!

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

I’m writing to remind you that the deadline for early bird registration for Workshop Weekend istomorrow, November 29. Use code EARLYBIRD7715 at checkout to get a $10 discount! Don’t delay — some workshops have already sold out.

Register online by Sunday, November 29 and save $10 with code EARLYBIRD7715.Select your workshops at

For families coming to Workshop Weekend together, we’re keeping our $10 discount for all parent admissions with the purchase of two or more admissions for children (under 18). Sign up on the same account and the discount will be automatically applied.

We have more than 20 workshops to choose from at this Workshop Weekend — a few old favorites are coming back alongside a number of new printmaking, food, and holiday-themed workshops — and more! Join us for:

Register and select workshops online at

I hope we’ll see you in December!

J.D., Shuai, Leah, Kevin, and the team at Workshop Weekend

How Do I Scroll in Adobe Reader?

How Do I Scroll in Adobe Reader?

99% of what anyone wants to do with Adobe Reader is to read a document. 99% of reading a document is the act of scrolling. Is there a keyboard shortcut or mouse gesture that will reliably and smoothly scroll through a document?

Adobe Reader has existed for over 15 years, how can this be a thing?


Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat Advertising is Intentionally Deceptive

Advertising for the Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat is intentionally deceptive.

chiccoshopThe Chicco website says  that it holds a baby  “from 4-30 lbs” but they never mention that there is a very important height restriction. This is a dangerous and deceptive lie by omission. (See the Chicco website) (local archive).  But the manual  is very clear that it supports a baby “4-30 lbs, 30 inches or less.”
30 inches

You might be thinking, “Yeah, whatever, that is a small matter.” No, it isn’t.

The average baby outgrows the car seat by weight when they turn 30 months  (2 1/2 years) old.  But the average baby outgrows the car seat by height at 12 months old!  (see the  CDC height and weight tables) Our baby was 30″ tall at 9 1/2 months!

The manual dictates that the product lasts 60% less than its marketing claims. That is deceptive advertising.  Imagine buying a car that had a 10 year, 40,000 mile warranty! Would you feel cheated?

The Amazon ad doesn’t mention this height restriction either  (local archive).

We’ve had our  Chicco Keyfit 30 Car Seat for a few months now and it has performed well. But our daughter outgrew it more than a year and a half sooner than we were led to believe by Chicco.

It is a fine product, they don’t need to stoop to this deception. This deception is dangerous for children  because if you  were to only read the marketing information, you might  use this seat long after it was safe to do so.


Sunset on the Train

Sunset on the Train

Sunset on the train

“Discuss the contemporary meanings of this meticulously composed work of art”

I Was Sick, But Now I’m Well

I Was Sick, But Now I’m Well

In September and October, I had a string of medical issues. It magically resolved itself but it was pretty weird and scary.

Starting in early September, each morning and evening I had terrible joint pain and muscle weakness. For example, I was completely unable to hold my big 32 ounce mason jar glass of water with one hand like I normally do. A few times in the late evening when Megan asked me to take the baby I refused, doubting that I had the strength to hold her. Scary! I found myself walking a lot slower on my commute, swinging my legs like lamb-chops. Everything hurt!

Then in mid-September, my legs puffed up with edema and red spots. I gained 10 pounds in water weight. Below my calf, everything tingled all day and I had trouble feeling some of my toes. My ankles were so stiff each morning that I walked ridiculously. To not move my legs was uncomfortable so I had to walk around and wiggle my legs. I went to the doctor after this kept up for a few days and my balance was suffering. I remember the moment walking down stairs needing to hold the railing lest I fall.

My doctor ran two batteries of tests. She knew I had elevated liver enzymes and decreased hematocrit (how many red blood cells I had) and she ran more tests which only told her I didn’t have what she was hoping I didn’t have (hep c, an autoimmune disorder, some vitamin deficiencies…) The end result of all the tests and the doctor’s opinion was, “It’s probably viral. It should start getting better soon. Call me if it doesn’t.”

That’s it? Yipe. Well, happily, it was already starting to get better and over a few weeks I returned to full capacity. But it was full-on-scary to be told, “Dunno.”!

My theory: a rare tropical virus made the rounds in Kensington

July: my niece and her boyfriend went to Vietnam. When they came back, they both complained of backaches and headaches.

August: My wife started having bad headaches. We went to the hospital twice, once because the headache was just so bad, and a week later because it seemed like she was having a stroke (!!!). All the fancy tests showed nothing abnormal and she was ok in a few days and better in a few weeks. Doctors said, “It’s probably viral.”

September: my shenanigans. My doctor said, “It’s probably viral.” Review Review: Terrible.

My car got some scratches in September. I tried a scratch repair kit that I found online, Their website looks professional but don’t be fooled.

The instructions for how to apply the paint were mediocre, especially considering they spent the effort to make a pile of good looking 30-second-long “look how easy it is!” videos enshrined on their website that skip steps to entice suckers. Go ahead and take a look at their instructions. (local copy)At a glance they look alright enough but read them closely. Could you actually follow them? Compare the instructions to their jazzy promo video on the subject.

The color match was poor. See these before and after photos (click to enlarge)
IMG_20150913_171109884 auto touchup IMG_20151002_121652207_HDR auto touchup IMG_20150918_110956838 auto touchup
Their customer service was nonexistent. I sent them messages on their website on 10-13-15 and 10-24-15 asking for help and I got no response.

Today I googled “ review”. Ugh. They get embarrassingly bad  reviews from 33 reviews, 3.6 out of 10. Poor reviews for their product and customer service. I don’t have time to deal with this crap.

I know that scratch repair paints aren’t miracle cures. I was just astounded at how hard they are working at making a poor  consumer experience.

I Loved being an Airbnb Host

I Loved being an Airbnb Host. For a short time, I let people stay at my awesome pad in The Mission on the corner of 24th and Valencia. I met a lot of nice people, had fun, and made some money. At the time, Megan and I were getting closer so I was staying at home more infrequently. I started when Megan and I were going away  for “Island Time”. We had a friend tend to the place. It ended when, well, my landlord didn’t approve. But by that time I was spending much of my time in The East Bay with Megan anyway, so it was all good. Notably, the wild-west of short-term rentals in San Francisco has just ended with the passage of a few laws.

Fullscreen capture 1162015 115543 PM

(right-click, open this screenshot image for best results)


Bright Private Studio on Valencia

The Space

This cozy, private apartment is located in the heart of San Francisco’s historic Mission District literally at the intersection of the hip Valencia street corridor and the culturally rich 24th street corridor. This is the real San Francisco and you’ve got the apartment all to yourself! 2 blocks to BART, walking distance to the best culture, food, drink, and nightlife in the city.

FOR SILICON VALLEY BUS RIDERS: We’re at the closest bus stop to SV that is in a happening part of town.

Here’s a -partial- list of what you’ll find within 1 block of the apartment:
– Arizmendi Bakery – A true gem. This worker owned bakery opens at 7am with lines out the door. Eat their blueberry scones and die happy. Have their famous daily pizza and you will already be in heaven!
– Valencia Farmer’s Market – a fantastic small market with great organic and regular vegetables and all the staples
– Fiore Caffe – Italian espresso café by day in a super-hip environment, dinner plates like Pappardelle Al Salmone by night!
– La Traviatta (2 blocks away) is an island of calm and perfectly served Italian dishes on Mission Street. Famous for seating opera legends old and new
– Papalote Mexican Grill – I would tell you that it is the best local taqueria but rivalries run deep among the many local burrito houses
– Muddy’s Coffee House – A great local coffee dive: open early and open late!
– Gypsy Honeymoon – Find unique treasures and antiques
– Campfire Gallery – A super hip art gallery that just opened in 2013
– Yoga Tree – Bring your yoga mat to this serene temple of yoga. I recommend getting their intro pass for your stay: 3 classes for $20!

This is a busy neighborhood day and night, light sleepers might want to bring earplugs or take some from my stash.

The Valencia street corridor boasts some of the city’s best culinary delights. It honestly has too many places for me to list but some favorites include Boogaloo’s for breakfast, Range for lunch, and Garçon for dinner. It’s a very hip and comfortable place to stroll. And you -must- check out 826 Valencia, San Francisco’s best independently owned and operated pirate store!

The 24th Street corridor has terrific cultural diversity and food. Be sure to look for the famous Precita Eyes murals!

The BART subway is just 2 blocks away and several bus lines are nearby.

At the gas station just across the street you can rent cars by the hour with the three major carsharing companies: Zipcar, City CarShare and Getaround. Consider signing up for one of these services before your visit. Try using Uber or Lyft as an alternative to a taxi.

Parking a car in the area is very tight during the week, parking is easier on the weekends. A paid lot is 4 blocks away.

No smoking in the apartment or building
Maximum of 2 visitors at any time
Keep the noise down after 10 PM
Don’t hold the front door open for anyone, every resident has their own key
No parties
No pets

– The apartment building is quite secure with a locked gate
– You are fully welcome to use the full kitchen and have some of my coffee or soft drinks

My apartment home is the perfect starting point for your San Francisco adventure!

House Rules
No smoking in the apartment or building
Maximum of 2 visitors at any time
Keep the noise down after 10 PM
Don’t hold the front door open for anyone, every resident has their own key
No parties
No pets


Learn Arduino in One Weekend

Learn Arduino in one weekend.  My super-teacher-friends are running this class in Oakland this  weekend. They’ve got a few spots left. Look below for a discount code.


Bring your ideas to life at Workshop Weekend: Arduino!

Join us at Tech Liminal this weekend, November 78 to learn about electronics, programming, and prototyping. Get your project ideas on the right track, whether it’s citizen science, home automation, kinetic art, musical innovation, wearable tech, a product to sell, or something else entirely!

We’ll spend the first few hours showing you the electronic ropes: voltage, current, resistors, motors, LEDs and the basics of Arduino microcontroller programming. Then, for the next 10 hours over two days, we’ll help mentor you through our labs and your projects.

Don’t have your own project yet? Just want to learn? That’s great too! We have plenty of projects you can cut your teeth on, to prepare yourself for that brilliant idea still percolating through your subconscious.

Learn more and register online at

We’re looking for just a few more people to join us; sign up TODAY with special code ONEDAYONLY7887 to get $50 off registration and a special gift on site!

As always, discounted registration is available for those with financial need — please ask.

I hope we’ll see you this weekend!

J.D., Rolf, Anca, Smitha, Malcolm, Michael, Tenaya, Andrew and Gil


PS: Save the date! December 1213 will be our next general Workshop Weekend. We are currently taking applications for workshops; if you’re interested in running a session, let us know: — more on this event soon!