Tuesday 21 September 2021

Wexford Science Cafe

Founded in February 2015, the Wexford Science Café used to meet in The Sky and the Ground, South Main Street, Wexford, the third Tuesday of every month at 8pm. Since the pandemic we have been meeting on-line and [so?] shifting to earlier [7pm] in the evening. One of the silver-linings of Coronarama is that, while I've gotten my monthly WexSciCaf fix, I haven't had to drive 40km [and 40km dark km back] to get it. I've been the convener since inception. As with any organisation, there are more people who rock up on the regular for a warm bath of scienciness than people who will actually undertake to make a presentation or lead a discussion.  You'll notice that a disproportionate number of the topics we've discussed have simultaneously appeared on The Blob. As soon as possible [October?] we will return to in-person meetings, probably with a video option and likely in the Wexford Town Library, Mallin St, Wexford, Y35 AY20. Meeting in a pub is all very well and The Sky has been wonderfully hospitable but none of us drink any more because a) we are old b) all have to drive home afterwards.

Finally, after pissing and moaning to the inner circle for a couple of years, someone else has accepted the mantel of convener and will be trying to line up a schedule and send out invites each month. All I need do is appear [or not; if something more pressing demands my attention, or I forget]. That's a relief but also intrinsically A Good Thing because New Convener has other interests and a barely overlapping network to draw on. 

The other excellent bit of initiative is that one of our techy members has acquired a domain and set up a webserver powered by nginx at www.wexfordsciencecafe.ie. But our new webmaster was unsure about how to actually populate the site with WSC announcements, gossip, and propaganda. 

I replied thusly: In ~1995, I was one of the top web-designers [in a field of maybe 15] in Ireland, hand-cranking HTML for one of the first WWW servers in the country. The ratio info:<html> was about 5:1 because default HTML is miraculously efficient and elegant. Now the ratio is nearer 1:500 - contributing enormously to the internet's carbon footprint. You defo don't want me to lay hands upon the page: I doubt even if teen-nerds do this sort of thing anymore

But the new website needed something, even if it was a placeholder and I was probably the only one in the room who is still writing HTML, like, by hand. Almost every Blob needs a bit of HTML tweaking of the text in ways that Blogspot defaults don't offer. What you see at www.wexfordsciencecafe.ie is what I cobbled together with minimal HTML interventions. If you CTRL+U or right-click on the page and ask for "View Page source", you can see how it works. HTML syntax is simple: each <tag> requires a closing </tag> is all. Signal-to-noise about 3:1.

You can, and web-writers do, make it far more complicated than that making access detectably painful for folks in the Third World or with crappy internet connexions elsewhere. For white folks, who can afford €20/month for their connectivity, bandwidth is not a real problem and the invisible cost of serving pretty pages with enticing graphics is a plume of carbon emissions from the power-station adjacent to the server-farm which is hosting and delivering the data.

Stop Press: Tonight is 3rd Tuesday so we have a session.

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