Friday, June 29

Fopp's gone

Music store chain Fopp have folded - and I can't see many of them ever opening again as a music store, to he honest.

With Amazon and iTunes taking the mass market, and (I suspect) the brand being too mainstream for the really serious music buffs, I suspect there isn't a way to keep it going.

From my own personal point of view, I'm not really that upset as if I buy music in town, I go to Selectadisc

Thursday, June 28

Photosynth and Seadragon

Only just come across this video from the geek video blog.

This looks really cool...

Tuesday, June 26

When Giant Penguins roamed the Earth

BBC News reports on the discovery of fossilised remains of a tropical penguin (another case of getting the press release out to coincide with the paper being published).

Not sure if people would find a five foot tall penguin with a spear-like beak as cute as various people seem to find modern variants.

Sunday, June 24

Trolle Siebenhaar

One of my regular blog stops for new music, and one that has led me to some good music buys, is Aurgasm, and they've recommended another good one - Trolle//Siebenhaar's Sweet Dogs.

The video is also currently available on

Saturday, June 23

Steampunk Star Wars

I used to be a great Star Wars fan - until the Ewoks got on my nerves. The latest three I didn't even bother with.

If they'd made them a bit more Steampunk, though...

Steampunk Star Wars

Parental Guidance

Yet another of those things that websites make that are useful on blogs and thereby increase the number of links to their website. Not that most people do any more than put up the image thing.

Online Dating

Saw this on Pharyngula, who was outraged to discover he was rated G.

Not sure how he managed to get that - I'm rated PG because I've previously said the word "dead".

Oops, done it again. I'll be X-rated before you know it...

Gatecrasher crashed

Once upon a time, when I was younger and could go into nightclubs without promptly developing tinnitus, I used to go to nightclubs with fellow students at Sheffield. The Republic was one that we used to go to, so a bit of a shame to hear it burnt down last Monday.

Given that the pubs I used to go in most often have either changed, or been demolished entirely, the Sheffield of my student days is largely gone already.

Blimey, makes me feel old...

Thursday, June 21

The green face of greed

Well, the free market economy may not be quite the purely rapacious planet eating beast that many people would like to claim it is. Although news that China has become the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases (thanks in part to the West offshoring all its dirty industries) shows the downside of the free market, the rush of investments into renewable energy resources is a good sign.

The Guardian reports that the forward to the Global Trends in Sustainable Development annual review states:
bankers and other fund managers have ignored government dithering over climate change and started to shift the whole balance of the sector by pumping money into technologies that tackle global warming.

Greenpeace have, of course, pointed out that even these much increased numbers are peanuts compared to the annual investments in fossil fuel technology.

5 second video

When the Denialism blog declared they'd seen the funniest five second video ever, I suspected it might be some joke on religion. It isn't, but it is five seconds and it is funny.

UPDATE - cut the video as it won't work on my browser at home. Plus my sister said it tried to dump something nasty on her computer.

UPDATED UPDATE - Found it on YouTube.

Scarborough FC, 1879-2007

I'm not a particularly great football fan, but I am a fan of sporting history so it is always sad when you have one of the oldest football teams in the world dissolved.

Hopefully, they will return. My personal preference would be to see them run by the fans Seadog Trust.

Wednesday, June 20

Carnage at Riverside

Not sure what's wrong with the pitch they're using for todays game at Riverside, or if it's something in the air, but the batsmen aren't hanging around for any long than the West Indies tail - Essex skittled out for 71, including that rarest of things, an Alastair Cook duck, and then Durham collapse to 38 for 7 before Plunkett fights back, scoring more with the bat than he conceded with the ball (wonder if he wants his place back for the ODIs...)

UPDATE - Plunkett has seen them home.

WTC - the planes did it. Still.

Yet another careful, scientific study that many on the internet will not consider for one second because it doesn't advance their conspiracy theory - Purdue have just completed a computer simulation study that reveals yet again that the World Trade Center towers weren't capable of standing up to the impacts, and that improved building safety codes could prevent this from occurring again.

This would take a lot of carbon offsetting

Airbus have just sold one of their gigantic A380s.

Things haven't got quite so bad that that is news in itself - what makes this remarkable is that it has been bought as a private jet.

The BBC story quotes Airbus:
Airbus said the individual, "not from Europe or the US", would use the plane for "personal use for him and his entourage",

Which is a longwinded way of saying "we sold it to a Middle Eastern prince"

Prince Bandar's private plane will be ten years old next year. Coincidence?

Tuesday, June 19

England vs Chanderpaul + ten others

Well, the fat lady is limbering up her vocal chords, ready to give the funeral dirge to the Windies hopes in the 4th Test - although having endured supporting England through the 90s, a part of me still fears that if any team could manage to pluck a defeat from this position, it will be England.

One thing that can't possibly be beyond doubt is the Man of the Series award - Shivnarine Chanderpaul has prevented this series from being an utter procession, and fell just short of 18 hours at the crease without dismissal. .

Saturday, June 16

The President of the Czech Republic is an imbecile. He has drunk from the same well of insanity as Michael Crichton, and has declared environmentalism a threat to democracy.

What? Science isn't a democracy, you don't decide on what a theory should be on the grounds of which one the most people like the sound of. Reality has the only vote, and what is true is what will ultimately win. Scientists shouldn't have to keep their mouths shut to avoid making life difficult to politicians.

His statements against global warming are the same banal drivel that denialists come out with all the time. Global Warming can't be real because it doesn't *feel* real to him.

Yes, global warming is happening. It's not as bad as Al Gore says, true, and may even kill no more people than World War I and II combined, and merely spark a recession as bad as during the 1920s.

As for the idea that we should roll back the industrial revolution - no, we should go forward. Or does he believe that fossil fuels are of effectively infinite supply?

This is a case of market failure. The response of governments should be to promote energy efficiency wherever possible. Adam Smith himself said transport was the responsibility of the government, so the government really has the responsibility to make environmental transport policies - trains rather than lorries, say, and air freight including the environmental costs.

This isn't democracy. Far from it - it's taking the needs of the future population into account. You can't vote if you're not born yet, after all.

Thursday, June 14

Peer review pressure

I'm still reading the same issue of Nature (I do do more than read journals at work), and another editorial is on the topic of peer review.

Interesting points it raises, and I have to say I haven't had any formal training on the topic. I do get asked to review papers - I suspect the standard of training is that a new scientist gets picked to peer review papers by the editor of a lower impact journal who just wants someone to cast an eye over a badly written manuscript and declare it really needs major rewriting to become comprehensible.

This is largely what I get, to be honest - articles that can't claim the excuse that the author's first language isn't English (although that doesn't help some of the tortured grammar), as the article as a whole hasn't been thought out. Too often I get a generally vague list of results with a conclusion at the end of it that may only relate to some of them. It gives the distinct suspicion that there are a lot of labs out there where the PhD student is expected to publish, and the professor appears to be expecting that the peer reviewer will do his work for him and go through the paper to correct all the mistakes.

Nature versus Brownback

In my point of view, the US lost the right to complain when outsiders interfere with their Presidential elections when they started calling their President "The Leader of the Free World". If I'm free, I should certainly have the right to comment on someone who would claim to be my leader.

So, good to see the journal Nature slapping down Senator Brownback's recent anti-evolution statement in the NY-Times.

Brownback is basically saying that not only does he not believe in evolution, but that any scientific work that supports it is "atheistic theology posing as science"

I'm sure Brownback has been repeatedly compared to the Taliban already, but I'll do it again - this comment makes him appear to be a theological demagogue posing as a democratic politician.

He is entitled to his own position - freedom does include the freedom to be completely wrong about something - but when he starts trying to interfere with scientific theory in this manner because it disagrees with his beliefs on this level, then this should be clearly wrong.

I should stress the theory part - there have been aspects of scientific and engineering practice in the past that I disagree with (e.g. I personally wouldn't have dreamt of sending mammals up into space without making a damn good effort to get them back alive). Indeed, some scientific theories are dangerous if misinterpreted, but as long as the theory is backed up by clear scientific evidence, rather than wild speculation, then we cannot start denying the truth just because we don't like it.

Monday, June 11

Australia - heaven, or drought-ridden burning hell-hole?

I've never bought the myth that Australia is a wondrous bountiful haven, the best and most beautiful country on Earth. Apart from the animal situation - it has been pointed out that everything in Australia is either weird, poisonous, or sheep - the never ending sun they advertise would tend to just give me a headache.

Recently, they themselves have had the never-ending sun they advertise, and it has put them in a massive drought - you suddenly hear of English people planning to migrate back again as they actually miss having water to shower in.

Anyway, the drought is over in at least part of Australia. They're now underwater

If this is what I'd have to put up with to support a good cricket team, I'll just stick with reminiscing about 2005 thanks very much.

The random fork post

Most of blogger's random questions are, in my opinion, complete bobbins.

The one about fork/spoon evolution is quite good though.

Forks probably evolved from knives - mannered people prior to their introduction had been using two knives to eat, and the earliest forks had no curve to their tines, so were used for spearing the food in a similar manner to the second knife. The curved fork wasn't introduced until the 18th century.

Dry country

Reuters is reporting on how Dutch students have invented powdered alcohol which can be sold to minors.

Perhaps if they hadn't been drinking as much, they'd have noticed the stuff has been on sale in Germany for two years...

The Dutch innovation seems to merely be to keep the alcohol content below 3%.

Glum in Glamorgan? Maybe not for long

Glamorgan have so far had what must be largely considered a pretty dreadful start to the season. A team that won the County Championship ten years ago have gone through a major slump of late, and have only recently claimed their first win of the season

This isn't the reason they shouldn't be glum as such, but if you look closer at the win you see one reason for cheer - James Harris' performance in that win over Notts and Tom Maynard's 71 off 75 in Sunday's loss to Gloucestershire.

Harris is 17, Maynard 18.

Captcha is dead, long live the Asirra

Is it a cat, or is it a dog?

Not a stupid question, it appears, just one that computers have difficulty solving. In yet another example of why spammers do genuinely deserve huge jail sentences (a small inconvenience becomes a major crime when you do it to a billion people every day), the average captcha has now had to become so complicated that humans are starting to struggle, reports the NY Times.

One alternative is Asirra, which shows an array of photos from a lost pets website (and hence has a ready supply of new pictures). Just pick which are cats.

Not that the original creators of the captcha are giving up - Carnegie Mellon has now created the Recaptcha, which uses blurred script from old books - two recaptchas, one already cracked, the second unknown. More difficulty for the computer, and it helps turn old books into computer text when OCR can't handle it.

Herding Cats

One of the most rapidly rising sayings of this decade has been the comparison of just about anything to the difficulty of herding cats.

Although the saying had probably been around for some time before, quite possibly of Irish origin (Wikipedia claims a 1999 album of the name by Celtic band Gaelic Storm), it really rose to prominence with a quite entertaining US advert during the Super Bowl.

I say this because a meeting at work has just fallen through as two of the three people I'd meant to meet with aren't actually here today (the Prof is, the postdoc and the lecturer aren't). Organising physicists is like herding cats.

Hamilton wins

After his initial impressive start to his Formula One career, a number of the elder statesmen of the sport commented that while it was very promising, they didn't expect him to really challenge for the title this year, and they'd see how Hamilton copes when things go wrong.

One answer to what happens when things go wrong is "he wins" = things don't appear to go wrong for him, just other people. He coped admirably with the repeated safety car interferences. Alonso's bad luck, on the other hand, continues - the pit lane closed with him running out of fuel, it was a choice of run out or take the stop-go penalty. With Massa's disqualification, Hamilton is now 8 points clear of Alonso and 15 clear of Massa.

Friday, June 8

Third Test

So... It's not exactly a scintillating battle of premier teams, is it? The BBC commentator has described it as
more like watching a mid-level county match than a Test encounter.

Thursday, June 7

If you go down in the woods today

So, imagine the situation - Iraq, 2009. A US soldier is lying injured on the field, enemy snipers in the area. He looks up - and there's a six foot teddy bear come to rescue him.

No, not some immediate pain relief system with unfortunate hallucinogenic side effects, it's the robot system in a BBC report . In what is undoubtedly a backronym, it is called the Battlefield Extraction Assist Robot.

More details at Vecna Robotics webpage.

Fredalo fury, part 97

And on it rumbles.

The media, never happy with being proven wrong, or someone complaining about being misquoted, is now fighting back.

Define misquoted, exactly? Is being misquoted them saying you said specific words that you didn't, or is being misquoted taking your comments out of context and emphasising them to give them a meaning other than that you intended?

If it is the latter, then Vaughan was definitely, clearly and utterly misquoted, and it was the Guardian that started it - you only have to look at the sub-editor's summary compared to what Michael Vaughan said. But a captain admitting he didn't play too well at the World Cup is less of a story than a captain having a go at a star player (not the star player - KP is that at the mo, low score against the Windies today notwithstanding).

Wednesday, June 6

Rant #9

A random thing that winds me up - these signs that say "polite notice".

I'm not sure I'm willing to concede that a notice is polite just because it says it is. Surely the recipient of the notice should have some say in how courteous the communication is?

Fredalo fury, part 96

Ho hum, another media scrum. Michael Vaughan has dared dared criticise Andrew Flintoff! How dare he! The bloggers and commentators on sites such as the BBC are up in arms about this.

This is partly because they're idiots, of course (and yes, I know I'm also an idiot). Some of them are up in arms because they read the headlines, and believe that is what Vaughan said - but saying the Fredalo incident 'changed the whole atmosphere in the camp' is not the same as saying 'Flintoff lost us the World Cup'. Others are up in arms because he's dared say something remotely rude about their hero, while Vaughan didn't bat that well in the World Cup either (I don't know if they ignore the fact that Freddie scored fewer runs at a *slower* rate than Vaughan).

The press have also largely ignored the other person that Vaughan blames for the team being too tense - the captain himself. That's not as interesting, clearly.

As for Flintoff - his batting has really declined, he's only justifying his position in the team at the moment as a bowler - and it has been suggested his size will limit his bowling career. If he is to picked and not expected to bowl full time, he has to be able to bat better than he has been doing. He's not going to be picked to captain again any time soon, that's for sure.

Monday, June 4

Getting the blues

The Grauniad has an article about how Levis fell from grace. . It basically portrays Levi's as the rock-and-roll, cowboy history, baggy brand losing out to the hip-hop showing off their arse brands.

Which explains why I can't buy jeans to fit - they used to be designed to be comfortable to the hard working man. Now they're designed to be stylish on the fashion obsessed stick-insect, who spends all their time dieting because they don't do any exercise.

Since I'm not a non-eating stick insect, they don't fit me. I'm currently wearing a baggy-style of the supposedly baggy Levis (on the grounds that they're the only brand I've found in ages that actually fit me). Exactly the right waist size, but they're damn tight around the thighs if you have any leg muscles. Anyone know of any brands that actually sell to early 30s men? Or is there no choice between pretending you're a teenager and going to Marks and Spencers?

Friday, June 1

Is it still fashionable now I've been there?

I've been to a couple of Indian restaurants in the Nottingham area in the last couple of weeks, both of which were described as having "fashionable clientèle" - not sure that applies if the likes of me show up (OK, it's not as bad as having, say, Jeremy Clarkson walk through the door, but a balding 30-something engineer/scientist isn't going to set any fashionistas hearts aflutter).

Anyone, fashion sense of the customers isn't that much of an issue to me, as long as they're sufficiently clothed. More important (in order in which you notice it) is the appearance and comfort of seats, at which I'd give the recently refurbished Bombay Indian Brasserie in West Bridgford points over the downstairs area in 4550 Miles from Delhi, but more because the former is very good and the latter had left the toilet door to the men's open at the end of the corridor and I could smell it (fix the door, guys). Also Bombay wins out over Delhi in the comfort of the seats - definitely catering for the upmarket discerning rear here, and no cramming people in to get the money, plenty of elbow room to eat in a relaxed manner.

Food and service - no qualms for either. The following may be a little unfair on the Delhi, as the groups were of quite different sizes (five people at the Bombay, 20 at the Delhi), and catering for larger groups is always more difficult, but neither took any longer than reasonable to ask for orders and produce the food (neither were heavingly busy at the time or gapingly empty, which is my favourite level of occupancy). The food, when it arrived, was rather tasty to my not particularly discerning palate (and I'm always easily pleased by a Peshwari naan). Bombay wins on the dips again, we polished them off pretty sharpish.

Main curries, again not comparing like for like - ordered a meal I know I like from the Bombay (chicken Dupiaza), while we had the group selection from the Delhi, which naturally means more of the Anglo-pleasing creamy ones than I'd normally pick for myself. No complaints for the quality.

So, in general - I'd go to both quite happily, given sufficient time for my waistline to recover. But I'd prefer to sit upstairs in the Delhi next time.

But in short - I'd go to either again. Anyone fancy a curry?