Soapbox 2

Hi, everybody; welcome to “The Soapbox”. Think of this posting as a permanent “letter to the editor” page, the watercooler we can all gather around from time to time and just chat. It’s recommended that you click on the “+Hotlist” tag in the upper right of this article, visible to members; this will create a Hotlist right-column box you can monitor for future newly-posted comments. This the place to come to get the latest updates, news and gossip about what rickyjames (that’s me) is up to now in making ongoing changes to the SciScoop site. This “Soapbox” posting is also to give you a place you can leave me or anybody else a piece of your mind on whatever subject you want. If I get enough pieces of everybody else’s mind, maybe I can put them all together into a whole one. E Pluribus Unum.

By the way, this was getting so big I’ll start a fresh one as needed, and leave links for the previous editions below….

The Soapbox: May 2003

The Soapbox: June – Dec 2003

The Soapbox: Jan – Apr 2004

The Soapbox: Apr – Jul 2004

The Soapbox: Jul – Oct 2004

49 thoughts on “Soapbox 2”

  1. It’s Tues 5/3; I’m looking at stats for Mon 5/2 and there’s some interesting points to be made. Here’s the raw data:

    1693 hits since 10:15 on Wormhole
    0584 hits since 06:00 on Stem Cell
    0448 hits since 09:00 on Mad Cow
    0123 hits since 21:30 on Marvin
    0068 hits since 17:30 on Dictionary

    Several points. These are more stories than I usually do in a day because I had a slow day. The first two (Stem Cell and Mad Cow) I was fishing for Google News pickup and darn, didn’t get it on either one. Then I ran across wormhole and did it because it was interesting. Later in the day after work I ran across and did the dictionary story because we had lots of comments on our last language story. Before I went to bed I ran across the Marvin story and of course it was so cool, I did it on the spot just by cut-and-paste on the press release and add in links.

    So…the biology stories and the physics story were up about the same time but the physics story pulled three times the readers that the biology stories did. Should we slant the site towards more physics, less biology? The dictionary story was up twice as long before the statistics run compared to Marvin, yet only got half the votes – more SF/offbeat humor instead of human science?

    Also weird – total microsoft counter hits for Mon 5/2 is listed as 2257. Sum of these hits just on these five stories is 2916. Weird weird weird.

    Also, the log file shows we’re on the radar of something called StumbleUpon, which is pretty neat. Check it out.

  2. Hey, Guys: Keep up the good work. Your site has become a regular in my small trove of well travelled sites.

    I came across an article on SpaceDaily that relates our current space policy to the Matrix story-line. Here:

    Yes, I am hoping you will give NASA a few lumps while its down, but only because it could be that much better.


  3. Additional activity on Tuesday for Monday stories:

    2639 hits on Wormhole
    0746 hits on Stem Cell
    0746 hits on Mad Cow
    0481 hits on Marvin
    0216 hits on Dictionary

    The wormhole story got linked on other websites which accounts for its boost. Still, a respectable showing for all, I think. Now to get to that not-too-distant day where ALL our stories have readerships in the thousands…

  4. I’ve never read an article that compared martial arts training with the space program before. Hey Keith, you should join & get a username and maybe you could write up a little article to go with that link and submit it! (Try it, it’s addictive! :-)

  5. It seems the Dynamic threaded view is not working so well in polls.  For example, go to:

    and try to view it in dynamic threaded mode.  My reply to Alan’s comment cannot be expanded.  It produces a JavaScript error under Mozilla:

    Error: ifrm has no properties
    Source File:
    Line: 42

    and also one under Internet Explorer:

    Line: 41
    Char: 3
    Error: ‘document.frames[…].document’ is null or not an object
    Code: 0

    Any ideas?

  6. Dynamic threading has always caused some problems on SFT, mainly, I think, because the last upgrade to the Scoop engine did not go well and I had to manually add a lot of variables, blocks and boxes that mysteriously did not appear with the upgrade. I got it working mostly, but apparently not for everything. In the future, I imagine Ricky will upgrade to the latest Scoop engine (which has not quite reached a mature 1.0 version). Such an upgrade may cause problems again, or it may fix existing problems. But a fresh install of the engine and insertion of a backed up database would eventually fix things, I’m sure.

  7. The server computer clock in Seattle isn’t set right and apparently loses time when it is. This is a notorious problem with all personal computers. The standard way of fixing it is to run a program which forces the computer to go out on the internet and synchronize its internal clock with one of the atomic clock standards, but the XLAN server we run on apparently isn’t doing that. My advice – don’t use the SciScoop timestamp as an alarm clock for an important meeting.

  8. Why is it that when i post a comment that the time I posted it at comes up as 2 hours earlier than when I actually thought I posted it at. Is that because the website is on Pacific time or on some other time zone? It says, from what I can tell, that the time is on EST which I thought was Eastern Standard Time in which case the time that is showing up is actually 3 hours earlier than when I actually posted my comment.

  9. I always thought that a science or sci-fi “quote of the day” or “on this day in history” would be pretty cool. A fair bit of work though, finding all that info, putting it into the database, and writing the script to display it… which is why I never did it. :)

  10. Great idea! I really like the “on this day in science history” one. Hey, RJ reads about 600 wpm anyway (and about that many daily newsletters)… what’s one more little item for him to research? Right, Rick?

  11. D’OH! I just wrote drog a behind the scenes letter and as soon as I clicked to send it, I realized I should be putting this out for public comment. How can I harp at others for not posting when I don’t? So without further ado…

    “You know what I’d really like? An armaggedon icon/section for all the WMD/asteroid impact/end-of-world stories. I want to discuss nukes and not put that cute little circuit board beside it. Maybe a collage of a mushroom cloud with the biohazard symbol and a flaming meteor coming across them both? If you can only do one, do the mushroom cloud…

    Just an idle thought…”

    Anybody else got any new icon / section ideas?

  12. I’ll whip that up. I’ve also thought of several other possible topics:

    • warfare (we’ve had lots of stories about new technologies for soldiers of tomorrow)
    • privacy/Big Brother/Orwellian trends/dystopia (lots of stories on this too)
  13. Better warn drog…. may as well begin a new web site just for this one topic. Awfully fascinating, and as scary as the nuke articles any day. You have an expert on this subject at your disposal, btw.

    Of course, privacy/Big Brother gets into politics– an eggshell walk– but information substantiated by links shouldn’t be a problem.
    Neither should be a statement of opinion. Any reader is free to agree or disagree with a writer’s take on a topic.

    Just remember that your administrator has billions and billions of terror tales on the fine art of snooping. :-)

  14. I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it, nobody can prove I did it. Or plan to do it yet. Pay no attention to that supercluster of old 486 motherboards out in my utility room. Shush yo pretty little mouth, girl! Shouldn’t you be off writing the definitive review of 1984 for submission here?

  15. OK, we’re gonna do routine quotes in the header. There’s a link in the user box now to a new page called SciQuotes. Enjoy.

  16. An icon for general aerospace (plane/blimp/rocket)… I’m just thinking back to when I posted The Horror of Blimps and struggled to find a suitable topic. Other than that there has always been just the right topic every time I’ve submitted something.

  17. My daily digests stopped coming last week but I chalked it up to the Big Transition. And guess what, they have resumed! Good Transition, rickyjames!

  18. I’ve been a tad poorly recently, and not done more than scan the front page occasionally for a while (sorry Gypsysoul, I’ll have to fill you in on feline anal-sacs some other time); I’m glad to see that SciScoop is maturing well. I like the new logo, and the motto beneath it, as well as the quotes. Looks like there are some nice new members as well, and lotsa stories to catch up fully on. Fun!

  19. My daughter currently has 6 furry felines– but we have homes awaiting all but the two she’s determined to keep. I only know that all their respective anal parts are working perfectly at the moment.

  20. Although the subject of the Digest email has correctly changed to “SciScoop Digest”, in the text of the Digest it still says “This is the Daily digest for Sci-Fi Today” so that ought to be fixed. (The first time I ever emailed Drog was way back when to complain that this same string read “This is the Daily digest for SITENAME.” <g>)

    Oh and the Sender is still, don’t know if you were ready to change that yet.

  21. A cats anal sacs are basically scent glands, hence much bottom sniffing when they get together. In the normal way of things any excess is discharged by the evacuation of the bowels. Problems can arise however if the cat suffers from prolonged squishy-stool syndrome, as this does not force the sacs to void.

    Abcesses in this area can also cause smelly interference to nature taking it’s course, with the sacs to becoming infected. Possible warning signs include repeated soft stools with ‘oily’ looking blood floating on them. This is not a foolproof indicator though, as cats apparently do this when they are out and about more often than their owners realise, without particularly suffering from anything too serious.
    When in doubt bring some joy into your vet’s life by asking them to have a look. If they recommend a course of treatment that includes draining them yourself be warned; this smells about as good as you would expect, so pass the buck if possible.

    Will that satisfy you curiosity GS?

  22. You are a veritable wellspring of feline anal sac info. I’m impressed. :-) I believe all 6 anal sacs are operating efficiently among our kitties, but thanks for the lesson and especially the warning.

  23. I’ll be fine as long as I don’t overdo it. Ahh! I’ve been waiting all my life to have that in writing; now I don’t need to keep on forging notes from my Mommy.

  24. My mama brought me up better than that. I hope you didn’t overdo with the feline anal report :-)
    I, too, have missed your kinder, gentler comments and hope your POOR condition is steadily upgrading.

    (I DID look at your “selfish gene” links… sounds reasonable in the case of the spiders… but the entire concept that the organism lives to perpetuate the gene rather than vice versa is something I’ll have to ponder. Thanks for offering some chalk for the tabla rasa. And I do hope you’re feeling better, also.)

  25. My mama (or was it john Wayne?) raised me not to make a fuss about such paltry things as mere infirmity.

    As to the selfish gene, I find the idea interesting, but it seems on a par with saying that everything exists so that electrons can get around. It’s a subject that I shall be keeping an eye on to see what develops.

    Oh, and more more thing about cats… if you ever do need to drain their anal sacs, it is a good idea to elicit the cooperation of the cat first. Failing that, do not do it wearing shorts and a T-shirt.

  26. I will never, ever drain any sac, anal or otherwise, on any cat. But thanks for the advice, Pilgrim :-)

  27. 7/7/03 Quote – beautiful! I have difficulty with the ugly toad of adversity — but what gifts lie all around him. Thanks for this one.

  28. My Daily Digests have stopped arriving again :-( It has been a week or so and I am now in complete withdrawal! (Administer chocolate immediately!)

  29. …has quit automatically cronning. I’ll take a look at it; Drog, it won’t hurt my feelings if you fix it first…

  30. Whenever cron jobs stop running, it’s usually a server problem that I asked the server admin to fix…

  31. Wow, every time I complain you guys somehow manage to fix it. :-) Received digest today.

  32. You said you did Wormhole because you found it interesting. As you created this site to cover a field which you find interesting, many readers are looking here for interesting things also. You should expect that many things which you find interesting will also be interesting to readers.

    Rather than trying to tune your selection of stories to what you think readers (or Google) will want, you should start with what you find interesting and pay attention to differences with readers. So learn where your interests seem different from what readers like. Keep in mind that sometimes there will be temporary events which shift your interest and that of the readers, but look for general patterns.

    Continue trying to place a variety of stories here, as some will be interesting. Just expect that those which you find interesting will also be ones which get the most readers or comments.

    And try to separate your editorial comments from the factual parts of the articles. There are reasons why newspapers have separate pages for editorials.

  33. Hi, I’m janra, one of the scoop developers. I just helped another scoop admin fix a problem with the exact same error message.

    Your header block should contain |dynamicmode_iframe| at the bottom of the block; this is the iframe the code is looking for. The header block should appear on every single page; if it doesn’t, then the iframe will be missing.

    Hope this fixes it for you :-)

  34. never goes away…

    can you please make it only mark actual new comments?

    If you don’t know how, ask me ;-)

  35. This is a great web site! I’m surprised it took me so long to find it. I have a similar site called MathForge where we blog particularly math news (honestly, though, there’s not a lot of news about math, so we don’t post as often as you guys do) Besides the front-page news, we’re slowly developing functionality for classroom and researcher collaboration. We currently have several math classes from a school in Iowa using the groups feature for supplemental classroom use.

    Anyway, I just wanted to mention my site and tell you how interested I am in yours. I will stop back often. Also, I added a link to SciScoop on our links list.

  36. Do my hazel eyes deceive me, or is the “New” comment tag now showing up only in the proper places?! hooray!! :-)

  37. Hey, getting to the real source of this one was worth wading through all the links :-)

    Kinda makes one wish it were true….

  38. Hey Drog, I was unable to respond to your nice email today (my server claims your server isn’t there) but I think a picture up in the upper left of the front page is a terrific idea! Go for it! And thanks! :-)

  39. I’m pretty sure I know what this conversation is about and just wanted to say, Drog, you’re still a superuser for a good reason. Whatever you want to put up in the way of new Scoop blocks on the front page (like the interview photo block you’ve run before) is OK by me, just do it…

  40. Hi everybody, this posting of out “letter to the editor” page known as the soapbox has gotten so big I’ve decided to close the page and start another one. Don’t worry, The Soapbox is still here – here’s what you need to do (read and understand thouroughly before doing it, tho!!!)

    1. Click on the -Hotlist link just above the megaphone picture; this will take this June – December page off of your Hotlist. If it currently says +Hotlink, skip this step.

    2. Go to the SciScoop main page and click on the SOAPBOX link at the top of the page.

    3. Click on the +Hotlink link just above the megaphone picture of the new Soapbox page; this will put it on your hotlist so you will get an “indicator” on your main page when somebody posts a new “letter to the editor”.

    Three easy steps; see you on the new Soapbox page! Drog, I’ve left a message for you there…

  41. Thanks! My email account settings were pointing to the wrong address. That may explain why I don’t get replies to a lot of my emails. :) Thanks for pointing it out. I’ve changed my settings to be now.

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