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I've been trying to find a quotation I came across some time ago about ideas and creativity. It roughly says that ideas are flying about above us all the time, and when one hits you it's very important to grab it and do something with it, because otherwise that bastard Van Morrison will end up with them all.

Anyone know it? Obviously I'd like to know who said it, and who about.

A couple of others I have come across recently and liked:

Read more... )

I was listening to 6Music the other day - as you do - and a rather funny song came on. On Googling, I found it was by Lilly Allen, which was a bit disconcerting. I suppose she has talent after all. I don't think I'd knowingly heard anything by her before. The video's here, and is worth a look (although slightly sweary at a couple of points, in case any of you kids have impressionable parents around). At one point it reminded me of this frankly Busbytastic Dandy Warhols clip that I'm sure many of you remember.

I was reading the paper yesterday too. My life's so exciting. There was an article about women suffering worse from rising unemployment than men - which I have no reason to doubt - and it was illustrated by a couple of young women carrying their stuff out of their ex-employer's office in cardboard boxes. I was struck, though, that one of them had a name - at a guess her name - written on the box in felt tip. I'm not sure I would have printed that photo if it was my paper.

Also, last week, there was this article about the shortcomings of the departing President Gore.

I was round at Lara and Seth's (with Sandy and Martin) last night playing this game, Arkham Horror, which is quite complex but good fun. We lost - we all lost, collectively, because it's almost entirely a collaborative rather than competitive game - and Yig destroyed everything. Still, I have to like a game in which leaving Elder Signs everywhere is so clearly a winning tactic.

I mentioned this to Lara - someone's reading and summarising the Origin of Species a chapter at a time. Only up to chapter 3 last time I checked, but well worth a look.

I'm quite pleased to find a song about Polmont. I can't imagine there are that many. My dad used to work there. The album's quite impressed me, although I should say that I don't think I've heard so much reverb in my whole life. It makes Psychocandy sound a bit dry.

Finally . . . it's been snowing. I don't think it'll lie long.
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The BBC are reporting that a study involving allegedly haunted vaults under South Bridge (oh, and also some palace or other in London) has found evidence of clustering in reported experiences similar to hauntings. What they don't say is what people were apparently experiencing. Given that those vaults have been empty for most of their history, I do wonder what that happened there would be said to be affecting people - was it the ghosts of indie clubs past, perhaps, or ectoplasmic music characterised by a succession of regular beats?

In other news, I've been reading a couple of historical essays on the idea that Odin was a historical figure. I'm not convinced, but the ground they tangentially cover's very interesting.I got given some Ecoballs too. These, in case you're not familiar with them, are plastic balls (well, balls with a collar that make them look slightly Saturnine) containing small pellets, which are claimed to clean your clothes without normally needing any washing powder.

I'm not convinced. In fact, as far as I can tell they rely entirely on people not being familiar with how clean warm water and agitation can get their clothes. I will, though, just quote you some of the guff that comes along with them.

You're gonna like this.

Q. How do the Ecoballs™ work?

A. Ecoballs™ increase the degree of alkaline.

In the water Ecoballs™ will react with stain/dirt under saponification [ . . . ] the Activated water molecule filters easily into the inside of clothing fibre and and makes combination between filth and fibre[1] loose [ . . . ] I.e. the Ecoballs™ makes the molecule of the water smaller which returns the water to having its brilliant hydrating properties, high solubility and good permeability.

So there you go. We've been using soap all these years when all we needed to do was shrink the water. How foolish we've all been.

Went for a walk around town yesterday in opposition to current events. Bumped into Nuala and Alex (and little Aisling, who mostly slept). Ken was apparently there too, but I didn't see him.

[1]: "Filth and fibre". I think I've got an EP by them.
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The BBC covers this story here, quoting the chief scientist of the Food Standards Agency, Dr Andrew Wadge, as saying ""There's a lot of nonsense talked about 'detoxing' and most people seem to forget that we are born with a built-in detox mechanism. It's called the liver. So my advice would be to ditch the detox diets and supplements and buy yourself something nice with the money you've saved."

The Guardian, however, continues the quotation, revealing that he continued "Personally, I would recommend the new Neil Young and Steve Earle albums."

There's also a bizarre and less pleasant article about people being burned by an exploding fondue.

More misc.

Dec. 1st, 2007 09:07 am
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I was highly amused by the comments of Donald Trump's point man in Aberdeenshire, George Sorial, on hearing that the council had inexplicably decided to throw out the overblown and environmentally damaging plan to build yet another sprawling golf course in the area.

Sorial defended accusations the Trump team had been "arrogant and patronising" in its approach. "There's a view we are arrogant. We are not arrogant. We set certain standards. It may be incomprehensible to smaller minds, but we have always set high standards."


Also, Hedy Lamarr has been accorded posthumous honorary membership of the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists, which is obviously excellent news for fans of spread-spectrum communication the world over.
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A couple of weeks ago I went to see Steve Jones speak in New College. Read more... )

Slightly more recently I was back at the Cab again. Read more... )

Dan Dennett was speaking on Wednesday last week, and the hall was actually fuller than for Steve Jones. Read more... )

On Saturday I was back at the Cab for the last of the three-concerts-for-twenty-quid. Read more... ) The headliner was Isa & the Filthy Tongues. Read more... )


Jun. 7th, 2007 05:11 pm
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Gosh. One of my favourite record shops is in Dr Who on Saturday. I may even watch it.

I've been neglecting them recently, actually. Must try harder.

This Wellcome Trust project is very impressive. There's some Sanger involvement - Panos is mentioned, and I'm sure I saw Chris Clee on the news last night. Or, rather, I'm sure I saw Chris Clee's hair, beard and white coat on the news last night.


Jun. 6th, 2007 01:46 pm
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Hmm. An X-Ray free electron laser. That sounds like a fun toy.

The new Ansible features the following, concerning a recent gathering some of you may be aware of:

"Greg Bear and other sf authors -- Arlan Andrews, Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Sage Walker -- were asked to a US Homeland Security conference to provide anti-terrorism advice as `deviant thinkers'. According to Andrews, they `need people to think of crazy ideas.' (USA Today, May) Once again sf proves eerily prophetic: wasn't there just such an ego-boosting think tank in the Niven/Pournelle Footfall?"

I notice that later on someone steals my punchline. Never mind, somebody else probably used it before me. Ansible in general can of course be read here.

On my way home last night I passed over a bridge by my old school. There was a small crowd of schoolkids there with things attached to the railings - flags, notices, an Ayr United top - and sure enough a pupil drowned there on Monday. I used to hang around by those stepping stones. It didn't strike me as a dangerous place at the time. Maybe he hit his head falling.

Another interesting piece I read recently was this paper (no, not that sort of paper) analysing toilet-seat policy in economic and game-theory terms. Very enlightening.

For the benefit of anyone who went to see Neubauten recently and doesn't have the song, here's the video for Sabrina. Worth watching even if you don't care for the music, in my view, but I'm sure you'll judge that for yourselves.

There are, of course, many Irn Bru adverts on YouTube, but for the sake of nostalgia I'm going to link to this one. It probably won't be funny unless you remember what the other fizzy pop adverts of the period were like. This one isn't bad either.


May. 17th, 2007 12:47 pm
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New Scientist has a handy breakdown of climate-related misconceptions which could usefully be pointed to any contrarians you might happen to see in pubs on . . . . oh, Saturday nights in the Dagda or wherever.

This is good news. In my view, anyway. I can't find the actual draft bill, though. {Ah - it's here]

I'm quite disappointed we're not going to have a leadership election. I was definitely going to vote for McDonnell if we had (he's funnier, as well as proposing stuff I gree with more) and while Gordon was pretty much certain to win I think it would have been a very worthwhile process to actually argue the tossdiscuss policy. Perhaps someone would even have persuaded Gordon to leave some useful hostages . . .

In more frivolous news, El Reg reports that novelty act Rednexx are up for sale. Apparently they have a world record for longest song name, for a little ditty called The Sad But True Story Of Ray Mingus, The Lumberjack Of Bulk Rock City, And His Never Slacking Stribe In Exploiting The So Far Undiscovered Areas Of The Intention To Bodily Intercourse From The Opposite Species Of His Kind, During Intake Of All The Mental Condition That Could Be Derived From Fermentation - 52 words, 306 characters.

This, of course, is a challenge. Can any of you think of a longer one? I'll open with Test Dept's magisterial Long Live British Democracy Which Flourishes And Is Constantly Perfected Under The Immaculate Guidance Of The Great, Honourable, Generous And Correct Margaret Hilda Thatcher. She Is The Blue Sky In The Hearts Of All Nations, Our People Pay Homage And Bow In Deep Respect And Gratitude To Her, The Milk Of Human Kindness.

53 words, 320 characters. Beat that.

Finally, I'll mention that there's a Writers' Bloc reading tonight at the Tron Tavern, and Gav's having a solo reading, and launch of a new edition of Crap Ghosts, on Saturday at the same place. Details can be found here.
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It's always nice to read a news story which finishes with such helpful information as "Scientologists believe humans are tainted by the remnants of aliens' souls who were dumped on Earth and blown up with nuclear bombs".

Also being reported, Killing badgers doesn't seem to work. Not when you're trying to stop the spread of Bovine TB, anyway. It seems they've had a big badger cull in Ireland and it hasn't helped at all. This fits nicely with earlier work suggesting that the spread of bovine TB correlates much better with movements of cattle (D'oh!) than with the presence or absence of badgers, so on the whole we can file this in the "No shit, Sherlock?" cabinet.

And in addition to yesterday's video-related japeries, you may wish to have a look or listen to Dan le Sac's "Thou shalt always kill".

And before anyone asks, no I didn't watch the Urovision song contest. I knew it was going to be dreadful. What were you all thinking? I had dinner with Lara and Seth and then we went to the pub with Dr Mr Paul Blair. Much more fun.
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Firefox is annoying me severely. Ff2 is probably not going to be any better.

Anyway - happy new year, everyone. Several of you have commented on last year having been a bit of a trial. I hope this year's much better - including the ones who had a good year, of course.

The Guardian today has an interesting interview with James Flynn, of the interesting "Flynn effect" - the observation that raw IQ scores have been rising by about three points per decade across the industrialised world for more than the last century. This, of course, is now a well-established result, regardless of what pessimists, eugenicists and Daily Mail leader writers will tell you.

I also came across this page again - pictures of the world's largest diesel engines. Work safe, of course, although if you're prone as me to bursts of impressed profanity when you're surprised, then be warned.
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Pissing down out.

In other news, the KBO previously known as Xena has now been officially named Eris, so if you go to the pub this evening you'll find the discordians celebrating and the slash fans weeping into their Bacardi Breezers. And tomorrow the Grauniad's wallchart is of British invertebrates, so buy a copy for an arachnophobe near you. Buy one for every room in the house if you wish.

There are articles floating around about Neanderthal remains from Gibraltar, and the pic in the paper shows something I'd been thinking about recently - black Neanderthals. I don't think I've seen them shown as black before, presumably because they were a European species. I don't suppose any of you have heard of anything being known about their skin tones? The Neanderthal genome sequence may well hold the key to knowing that, of course.
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We've all read John Wyndham (Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris)'s novel "Web", haven't we? No? Well, it's about the discovery of a species of social spider, and the consequences, which aren't too pleasant.

Nervous yet?

Naa, me neither. Honest.
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The world continues to go to hell in a handbasket, but on the upside there's a new way to annoy people in pubs, and it's even got a cool name.

I've also been meaning to mention this BBC story. Hear that noise? That's the sound of the international biomedical community taking the antivaccine scare and sodomising its corpse like a Dutch mallard. This interesting page cites papers showing that the intestinal oddities that Andrew Wakefield thought were new and linked to MMR had in fact been seen and commented on well before that vaccine was developed - and seem to be harmless.

MMR should of course not be confused with MRR.
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Artificial gravity. Popular in SF, but not practically possible, right? Well, according to this paper (found via a /. link) ESA scientists believe they have created a force of one ten-thousandth of 1G using a spinning superconducting ring.

It'll be interesting to see if this is confirmed. Obviously it's odd to find that something I'd believed impossible, or implausible for my lifetime, has happened. I should try to get used to it, though. It seems to be happening more frequently.

And there's a Gigantor tomorrow, too, but that needn't suprise you as much.
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Today's paper had a few articles about Modernism.Read more... )

There's also a reprint of Jimmy Carter's recent article about Israel and the peace process. As always, he's worth listening to.

In other news, I spent about three days waiting for Ed's new phone to arrive, and finally it turned out it wasn't coming. I also seem to be doing very well for spoons, but actually want a knife.

The Ig Nobel roadshow last week was very good. A couple of eccentric Dutchmen were over discussing their papers on erotic conjugation, repectively within NMR scanners and between male mallards with contrasting levels of biological viability, along with various other items including a short opera.

Someone pointed me at this animated graphic, which is worksafe, probably, as long as frivolous nonsense is permitted. I also read the obituary of Anna Marly, who wrote/cowrote/whatever the song that Leonard Cohen made famous in English as "The Partisan". I remember hearing a woman (maybe Joan Baez?) singing it on the radio in a car in Jamaica in the mid-seventies. ON the sleevenotes to Greatest Hits, Cohen remarked that when he was very young, he had the odd feeling that the fascists were defeated by song.

One of the more frustrating parts of the last week was spent trying to change the bolts holding my wheels on.Read more... )

Errr . . . I went to see a band called Voices of Masada, as well.Read more... )

This is apparently coming to London soon. Look at the pictures, if you're near there and allowed to look at pictures at all. It may be wise to have jaw support prepared. One not to miss.

I will leave you with this scientific finding, expressed so beautifully by a contributor to Mr Crowley's journal:
A recent scientific study found that the kind of male a woman finds attractive can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle. For instance, if she is ovulating she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features.

And if she is menstruating, she is likely to prefer a man doused in petrol and set on fire, with scissors shoved deep into his temple and a cricket stump jammed up his arse.
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So Livingstone brought the office of mayor into disrepute by hurling abuse at a tabloid reporter? Sounds like perfectly reasonable behaviour to me, I'm afraid.

The dentistry is over for another year. Read more... )

Which reminds me. I was looking at the Onion the other day, and they're featuring a fine story about using technology to increase the impact of science on policy-making. They aren't ignoring the major matters of topical interest, either. I was also (admittedly slightly cynically) amused by the headline Betty Friedan Honored With Second-Class Postage Stamp also.

Anyway, that cloning thing leads nicely onto this article, from Wednesday, about moves to oppose the ALF and their cronies, who are issuing scarcely-veiled threats of violence against researchers, students, builders, and anyone else who has the temerity not to agree with them. Read more... )

A lot of people argue that medical research on animals is misleading. The evidence that tends to be supplied for this is generally inaccurate or irrelevant. Nothing (and nobody) is perfect, but the tools we have are used because they've been proven by years of testing.

On a more pleasant topic, Patti Smith will apparently be reading her poetry in Glasgow.

I'm moderately impressed by the Whitby lineup, but as I remarked elsewhere there isn't anyone that I'd drop everything for and run to buy tickets, as I did for (frinstance) the Lorries or ITN. I was thinking, though - if they're after that sort of coup, someone's playing what seems to be her first gig in well over a decade in France soon, and her initials are D D. I wonder if she could be tempted? In fairness, she used to be very expensive to book. Ah well.

Finally, this, although it'll admittedly be of little interest to most of you :

Hamburg, 23.02.2006. Olympus has developed a new family of objectives specifically for Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence Microscopy (TIRFM) which selectively visualises processes and structures of the cell membrane. Researchers can now choose from four different specially designed TIRFM objectives with magnifications between 60x and 150x, and extremely high numerical apertures (NA) - including a world record NA of 1.65.

Yeech! That's outrageous - f/0.6 in photographic terms. TIRF is also known by the far more beautiful name Evanescent-wave microscopy, but for some reason the buggeringly ugly term caught on.


Oct. 17th, 2005 12:49 pm
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The weekend - two gigs and a relaxed Sunday )

Today I notice that there's an implausible way of collecting embryonic stem cells that won't convince any of the significant opponents - after all, if it could conceivably form a foetus then it's impermissible to intentionally harm it by that argument, so all you're doing is creating a doomed twin.

Also, a figure of 50,000 is being bandied about for pandemic flu, although the worst-case (and very-unlikely-case) figure given is actually 750,000 - 1918 was 150-200k with about two-thirds of the population Britain now has, and there's no reason to suppose that that was as bad as it could conceivably get. However, this was also before many medical advances, including much life-support, antibiotics to fight secondary infections, and so on, so it really does seem very unlikely to go that far.

I've been looking at Google Earth again too, and trying to find Bear Island. After a prolonged search, I found a patch of sea with lots of named features but no actual land at all (at 74deg25' North, 19deg5' East). Clearly it's the famous submersible-island supervillain base. Who says you can't find out anything useful on the Net?


Sep. 2nd, 2005 03:25 pm
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Well, mostly better. And back at work, because it seems that somebody has to be here who understands the monochromator's little idiosyncracies. It has, I should say at this point, been working very well for the last few months, and I think people are now very pleased with it. A while back I mailed Till to thank them for whatever they did the last time they had it back, because whatever it was it certainly did the trick. There's a (very) slight problem with the control software, but I suspect that that's the fault of the software company, who are unconnected. There's a very simple workround, anyway. That was what Kirsten's call on Wednesday was about. Tom called me at home yesterday about another issue - he just couldn't get any illumination from it. I couldn't think of anything that might cause that, and when I fired it up this morning it worked perfectly. So it goes.

It was pointed out to me (thank you to [livejournal.com profile] sneerpout) that the man convicted of killing Mia Zapata has had an appeal upheld, not against his conviction but against the severity of his sentence. But even if he gets a decade lopped off the previous 36-year stretch, he'll still likely die inside.

There have been some interesting studies out too. That one on male bisexuality has apparently been printed now, as has one allegedly claiming that men are clever than women (difficult to prove using a tool like an IQ test, for only very slightly technical reasons) and also one on the worthlessness of homeopathy. I should probably drone on about each of these . . . and I may if I get bored.

What I probably will do sooner or later is spell out at unforgiveable length when and how I think the animal rights movement lost the plot. I mention this now rather than at any other point because A Prominent Local Scientist (not me or anyone I know personally) has had his van vandalised and his house threatened recently, and someone else from the same institute had had their house vandalised shortly before. A few years ago, of course, the Roslin Institute was firebombed, as was a building at the Bush Estate (part of Edinburgh University). In the latter case, the wrong building was actually bombed (stupid fuckwits), as the lab that was burnt out (destroying many years of work by a good number of people) was actually a tropical botany lab. You can insert the usual "vegetable rights" jokes here if you like, of course. Still, at least nobody was hurt. Or, alternatively, at least nobody's been hurt yet. All fun and games.

I don't have anything exciting to report about my life and travels, as I've been mostly sitting in the house for the last couple of days, stroking the cat and bringing up phlegm. I'm not downcast, though. New Model Army have a new album out very very soon (and I'll get to go see them on my birthday), Leonard Cohen has one out RSN, there's what looks like a very promising club on tomorrow and a big firework display on Sunday.

Finally, I'd just like to pass on a quotation about the Old Man of Storr, lifted from the NVA book:
"Had this rock been on the plains of Hindostan instead of the mountains of Skye, it would have been an object of greater devotion than the Jaggernaut Pagoda." J Macculloch, Geologist, 1819.


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