Saturday, December 30

Don't say the g word

It's a favourite ploy of right wingers like the journalists writing for the Daily Mail to make up stories about liberals. The thing is, it's quite easy to write scare stories about conservatives when you have ones like a number of the Republicans in the US, particularly when it might just be true.

The latest is that political appointees are banning geology, as it disagrees with their fundamentalist point of view. You can't have Creationists going and being told geological facts about the Grand Canyon, such as how old it is can you?

Wednesday, December 27

4th Test

I would say something, but the depressing inevitability of the whole thing isn't something I feel like facing, so I'll do something more cheerful instead.

Sunday, December 24

Jabs for 12 yr olds

Another of those stories you can just hear the outraged Daily Mail headlines already.

The problem is the jab must be given before a girl becomes sexually active. So giving it at 12 is pretty safe to assume they haven't become sexually active. But the complaints are - "if you give them the jab, then they'll be more likely to have sex!"

Uh, right. So, are you saying the only reason some 13 year olds aren't letting their boyfriends into their knickers because they are afraid they'll get cervical cancer? Don't think so somehow.


Once again, the creationist lobby are trying to give the impression that science is divided, this time in the letters pages of the Grauniad.

The thing is, the ability of a couple of people to hold down jobs in mechanical engineering departments at British Universities while simultaneously being incapable of comprehending the concept of entropy doesn't mean science is divided. It means some people are capable of doing engineering while deluding themselves.

In truth, thanks to the continued output of energy from the sun, complex organisms have no harder a job of evolving in the face of entropy than a surfer has in riding his surfboard towards the shore, despite the surfboard having no engine or sail. But these creationists are like someone standing on a beach and insisting to a surfer that he couldn't *possibly* have pulled off any stunts at all, as his surfboard hasn't got an outboard motor on it, and so he *must* have been lying on it and paddling all along.

Saturday, December 23

Christmas songs

Ah, Christmas. Where all the old songs come out again. The problem is most of them should just have stayed buried - they were simple cash-in attempts at the time, and they still are now with little redeeming features (and too many jingling bells as backing support).

So what ones can I stand?
"Fairytale of New York", of course, a modern classic
"Christmas Sucks" by Peter Murphy and Tom Waits - a couple of misanthropes declare how the holiday season is all the more reason to die. Hilarious.
"Wassailing Song" by Blur. It's a traditional wassail (Gloucester Wassail, I believe) done traditionally. A very obscure track, they released it as a special at a charity event, so not a cash in.
Greg Lake's "I Believe in Father Christmas" - nicks the tune from Prokofiev, complains about what a fairy-tale Christmas is, with an accurate desription of the weather ("But instead it just kept on raining")
Jona Lewie's "Stop the Cavalry" - soldier sick of fighting just wants to go home to see his girlfriend

And one reversal of my early rant - I have to admit a liking for "Sleigh Ride" by The Ronettes - yes, it's a cash in with loads of jingling bells, but it's a well-made cash in with loads of jingling bells that never actually mentions Christmas.

Thursday, December 21

Dreaming of a white Christmas?

Seems there is not much chance of anything other than a grey/green/brown Christmas this year. It's not even going to be a White one in Oslo...

Read in, Jones left out

... of the ODI squad. Mind you, it probably does show what the third Test team will be like.

Panesar also picked (hooray- an attacking spin bowler in an England ODI squad), but Stuart Broad left out in favour of Chris Tremlett. Broad has experience down under, but is still only 20, so they may well be slightly cautious about rushing him. Hopefully the decision is also based on seeing promising things from Tremlett, who's only played three ODIs so far (two against Bangladesh, one against the Aussies).

2009 suddenly looks rosy

England's number one tormentor will only be there to destroy our batting lineup for two more Tests - Shane Warne is to finally retire. Which may also mean that come 2009, we may just have the rare experience of England having a better spin bowler than Australia (hey, a man can dream, can't he?)


I see the spammers have discovered the apostrophe (Lynne Truss will be pleased). No more "Its Leonora" emails, now my inbox is full of "It's Xerxes", "It's Valentin" and all those other people who have names completely unlike anyone I know.

Wednesday, December 20

Back to humbug

I really feel sorry for my family this Christmas. I'm in such a rotten mood this week. Horrible, dark weather, a twisted ankle, a flat tyre, and friends all heading off separately in different groups to pubs (I guess - not invited) means that I'm sat at home already, having had to get a taxi back. Yes, I'm a miserable sod (hence the lack of invite to the pub, probably), but this *really* isn't helping.

Hopefully, once the ankle gets a bit better I'll be able to get a good nights sleep, so being rested and getting some caffeine down me should make me more tolerable in the evenings.

Tuesday, December 19

I can be rude about these people, as they can't read this anyway.

Just read something on the BBC about some report (standard LOOK AT ME!!! report chucked out by a pressure group to get attention from the press and bloggers, which I'm now giving them, not that anyone reads this anyway) which claims that those tackling Robbie Williams "Angels" at karaoke need to have reading skills the equivalent of 5 GCSEs.

That's got to be the harshest criticism of GCSEs I've seen all year. Except they also claim 17.8 million adults in the UK are such poor readers they couldn't manage it.

I have to wonder, what are the words these people are struggling with? Are they all there, singing "I'm loving angles" at the top of their voices? Or is it the couple of three syllable words in there somewhere that so thoroughly discombobulates them? I'm sure Mr Williams would be anaspeptic, frasmotic, even compunctuous to have caused them such pericumbobulation. As am I if they are trying to read this.


Twisted my ankle yesterday while training yesterday (nothing like the competitive spirit to make some people push themselves so hard they keep injuring themselves). Coach did check up with me this morning to see how I was, which was nice (nobody else did, possibly because I'm such a nut I got on my bike and cycled home, so they probably thought I was fine already, rather than just stupid)

Oddly enough, now I've actually got something to be annoyed about, I've cheered up.

Anyway, only three working days before Christmas, I have one report and one paper to submit, and a large volume of concrete to check up on. Everyone else seems to have gone on holiday already (people seem to think University staff slack off over summer - it's December we seem to slack off in here).

On the plus side, being quiet means it isn't a problem if I start singing along to music. Have I said what a good music label Bella Union is? If not - they're great, check them out. Especially Midlake. Fionn Regan is touring in the UK at the moment as well, he's good live.

Monday, December 18

Humbug I say.

Today I'm in an incredibly foul mood. Not sure exactly though, and I don't really have an excuse for being so, it's just that sometimes I become very frustrated by everything, and I'm at my most selfish when I'm being miserable.

It's not the cricket - as an England fan I've had years to get used to them being crap, so I don't think they're being crap is the problem, even though they weren't last year.

It's not *really* work either, even though I'm currently re-writing a paper I should have submitted a year ago. At least. I did the work two years ago. I've got comments in the paper from one co-author that could have been added in a revision he saw at least a year ago. I'm utterly sick of the damn thing. So sick I'm faffing on here rather than actually doing it.

Maybe it's Christmas - yes, I hated the shopping, I hate the fact that I've still got to wrap the presents, that I haven't written any cards, that's it all feels like an obligation rather than something I'm doing because I want to, and the standard fall-out of emotions from Christmas parties (like many single blokes at this time of year, after parties I either find myself regretting something I did do or end up regretting something you didn't - being the more well-behaved/shy sort, it's normally the latter for me) it all adds up to a state of mind where my normal Eeyore-like mood now makes Scrooge look like Santa Claus.

Still, I've had worse. Maybe it's because the last two years have been clearly worse, I've been able to make myself make the effort to actually cheer up. Now it's not really that bad, I can't force myself to lift my spirits, because I don't really need to.

It's all over

England finally capitulate to the Aussie juggernaut on the 5th day. Two predictable things in the second innings - England lose a wicket just before tea, and Jones fails with the bat again. Read in for the next Test, perhaps?

Any maybe Chris Broad instead of Mahmood, since he's got experience of playing in Australia? Having said that, since he got to bowl a grand total of 17 overs, they don't appear to be picking Sajid for his bowling, so maybe they'll pick Ed Joyce instead...

Thursday, December 14

Chinese dolphins

Bad news and not particularly bad news for dolphins in China. Firstly it appears the poor old Baiji Yangtze Dolphin has finally had enough. Apparently, the Yangtze isn't quite as badly polluted as Westerners probably assume it is, but if you're a mostly-blind dolphin relying on sonar to work out where you are, being on the riverine equivalent of the M25 at rush hour isn't good for your long term survival.

On the other hand, the Chinese have developed a new treatment for dolphins that have had an encounter with plastic - get a tall Mongolian to shove his arm down their throat.

The Full Monty

Hurrahs ring out across the land, the Saviour of English Cricket has returned to the team - yes, the Monty panacea that the depressed English fans demanded has finally been granted them.

All right, I'll admit it, he's been completely overhyped. Panesar is good, but not *that* great. The way we've been talking about him you'd expect him to take five wickets in the first innings...

Monday, December 11

England batsmen remember what the bat is for

Admittedly it's on a batsman friendly pitch (although they said that about the last one, and Collingwood aside we know what happened there), but at least some of the England cricketers have remembered how to bat, including two who will actually get picked. Although I still hold out hopes that Read (worst Test innings in 2006 - 33) will get picked ahead of Jones (no. of test innings in 2006 higher than Read's worst this year - once in 16 innings), as he's still a better wicket keeper (Jones has improved that part of his game) and frankly doesn't appear to be batting any worse these days.

Beware of the squirrels

Think that squirrels are cute? Or rats with furry tails and better PR? Bet you didn't think they're dangerous flesh-eating monsters who hunt in packs like tree-dwelling piranhas.

Nobel Peace Prize goes to someone who deserves it

Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank received their Nobel Peace Prize yesterday. They've managed to go a few years without courting controversy with this prize, and I'd say Yunus' microcredit work has definitely earned recognition.

Oddly enough, Yunus had two reasons for visiting Norway at the weekend - firstly to pick up the prize, secondly to have meetings with Telenor about Grameen Mobile - now the larges mobile phone company in Bangladesh, Grameen Mobile was originally set up with Telenor owning 51% of the shares. Yunus' long term intention was that the mobile phone company would eventually be owned entirely by the poor of Bangladesh. The problem is that the company is rather lucrative, the original agreement was rather vague, and Telenor naturally bought up another 11% of the shares when Grameen Bank didn't buy them.

Friday, December 8

Dumb spam

One thing that puzzles me about the latest tide of spam is how stupid many of the spam email titles are - those that pretend to be from random names e.g. Barry, Lea, Nigel, etc. but title the emails as if they are emails *to* those people (Read this Barry, Greetings Barry). Even if I was dumb enough to open spam emails, I'd just think "I'm not Barry - delete".

When are they going to give up on the current model of email as broken and move to something where servers have to confirm they are the source of the email?

Thursday, December 7

Bad news for the Ashes (2009)

If England are going to have any hope of regaining the Ashes in 2009 (yes I've given up already. You need to bowl the Aussies out twice to win matches, and with Flintoff showing signs of injury, Harmison misfiring, Anderson no-good, and Giles merely a run-rate restrictor, and Panesar not being picked, that leaves Hoggy doing it on his own, and he's not *that* good), then we might need more promising new players coming through in the next couple of years - Adil Rashid could be one of them. Except he's crocked already from overuse.

Tuesday, December 5

Craven bureaucracy

Working at a University, I sometimes suspect that I see some of the most over the top bureaucracy. Stories like Craven council and the mince pies remind me that things could be worse.

As for the nuts problem - people with serious nut allergies must find it impossible to buy things in the supermarket these days, everything seems to say it "might have nuts" to cover their own backs.

Monday, November 27

Royalties for the dead

For once, someone in charge of copyright appears to be considering the public as well as the industry. The BPI's attempt to have copyright on recordings extended to 95 years (which if applied retrospectively would copyright music back to 1911 - is there *anyone* alive who was recording music in 1911?) has got short shrift from an independent review commissioned by the Treasury. Hurrah.

In celebration, here's the Open Music Archive. Don't worry about not paying the recording artistes, as a) you don't have to, and b) they're dead.

Saturday, November 25

Is it cowardly to pray for 41 days of rain?

Unless some unlikely accident with a forgotten cricket ball reoccurs, England are looking to be in a very bad state indeed after the first three days of the first Ashes Test, which is unfortunate given the prediliction a number of Aussies have for rubbing it in (well, at least we have something else to watch on TV). Fortunately, none of the Aussies I know are that sort (probably because they're either scientists or female or both).

Either way... oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I hope it's just rust and we'll be able to at least put up some resemblence of a fight later.

Friday, November 24

A rather original music video

He can't play the piano, and he can't play the drums. What he can do is edit:

Wednesday, November 15

Monckton vs Monbiot

In much the same was as a stopped clock can tell the right time twice a day, Monbiot does occasionally get it right.

But Monckton is defending himself "At least I got the science right". No you didn't, Monckton.

"In 1988, James Hansen, a climatologist, told the US Congress that ... sea level would rise several feet"

- he said no such thing. Although fiction writer Michael Crichton, basing his claims on dubious analysis of Hansen's work by Michaels (who deleted plots off of Hansen's graph) alleged he did.

"Scores of scientific papers show that the medieval warm period was real, global and up to 3C warmer than now. Then, there were no glaciers in the tropical Andes: today they're there. "

And they're getting ice cores from them. That go back earlier than the European medieval warm period. (doi 10.1002/1099-1417). Explain that one if they melted.

There was little ice at the North Pole: a Chinese naval squadron sailed right round the Arctic in 1421 and found none.

Complete fiction. It's mentioned in one book, and no historian has ever found any evidence whatsoever for this happening. You might as well base your theories on CS Lewis!

And so on, and so forth.

It would appear the Sunday Telegraph has declared war on science.

Saturday, November 11

Don't bother me with your fairy tales.

From the BBC:

Dr John Sentamu told lay readers illiberal atheists were undermining Britain's religious heritage.

Oh, I do hope so. Liberal atheists can't do it all on their own. Because, let's be blunt, he's complaining about a council not sending cards that greet his religious ceremony only - they're sending cards that will apply to everyone, Christians, Jews, Muslims, pagans, Jedis, Pastafarians and people who don't believe in some random spirit. So who's the illiberal one, then?

Wednesday, November 8

One down...

Hurrah. I am rather cheered that at least one major politician has now been forced to resign over the debacle that is Iraq. Another career deservedly ending in defeat.

Not quite the same level of importance, but I wonder if Blair will hang around and preside over another local elections stuffing in May 2007? Or will he go earlier to avoid the situation?

Friday, November 3

Silly placename of the month

I've decided to try and do something puerile regularly, so I've settled on the intrinsically silly placename (along with 10,000 other blogs, probably). Hey, this is just for my own entertainment, I don't really believe anyone else is reading it.

This month's settlement saddled with an unfortunate moniker is: Elephant Butte, New Mexico. Situated near the Elephant Butte Reservoir, it is named after a volcanic plug that looked a bit like an elephant.

Elephant Butte chamber of commerce

Tuesday, October 31

Where the problem with University access lies

The next demo should be about genuinely widening access. Access does not fail at 18 because of tuition fees. Access fails when someone leaves school at 16 for reasons that started much earlier. If the NUS organises a campaign to spend more on the under-fives, I'll be marching with them.

--Nicholas Barr writing in The Guardian

I'd agree with that. Not sure how we're meant to even up the male/female balance in our department if women are persuaded at primary school age they shouldn't aim to be engineers.

Taxing flights

Much as I enjoy being in foreign countries (anyone who says they enjoy long haul flights is either in first-class or a masochist) I have to admit that I also like things like English Oak forests, East Anglia, beaches etc. So... perhaps my days of flying to foreign conferences should soon be rather diminished. So I'm rather pleased that the Tory leader has said he'd be prepared to raise taxes on aviation. Ideally all the leaders of the main parties should announce *before* the next election that taxes on aviation will go up on day one. I won't vote for any party that doesn't promise this - I still think I might have children one day.

Thursday, October 26

Killer Fact!

There are 4 people in the U.S. named Freddie Kruger.

How many have your name?

Tuesday, October 24

A science video

As a scientist, but not a biologist, I'm not sure what is going on in this video from Harvard University, but it certainly looks fascinating.