Thursday, May 31

Bad news if your facing Baildon on Saturday

Hoggard aims to be fit and ready for the Third Test, and is playing a club match to prove it. As Yorkshire only have a one-dayer on Sunday this week, Hoggy is turning out for Baildon on Saturday to demonstrate that he is recovered from his injury and able to bowl on consecutive days.

I do like the idea of there being a firmer connection between counties and clubs, it's something I just get the gut feeling has been neglecting in favour of more and more county games and net sessions.

I suspect the bowling line-up will be Hoggy, Harmison, Sidebottom and Panesar for the next Test. Collingwood and Vaughan can turn their arms as needed, so we don't need a five man attack, and much of the Windies batsmen have shown themselves to be troubled by first Panesar and now Sidebottom. Having said that, the weather may effect things - dry conditions, unconducive to swing, may make picking two wayward quicks desirable.

Looks like I spoke too soon, Hoggard has put his comeback back.

Tuesday, May 29

Cyclist versus truck

Well, I always thought wearing a cycle helmet was a good idea, I didn't realise they were quite this tough.

Which leads to the unexpected quote
"It feels really strange to have a truck run over your head."

Monday, May 28

West Indies at a new low

It seems a lot longer ago than earlier this decade that England viewed a victory over the West Indies as a great achievement rather than something expected.

I remember the deadly efficiency of the old Windies bowlers, which, coupled with the experienced and aggressive batting, doomed England to defeat after defeat until recently. How things have changed - I find myself willing the West Indies to put up some form of fight.

Not that some of the winning England team can be confident of their place. Judging by Michael Vaughan's comments after the match, and echoed by a number of commentators such as the BBC's Jonathan Agnew, Sidebottom surely must be playing in the next match - and even if Hoggard is ready to return, then there is certainly no problem in having two reliable swing bowlers in the side in what are likely to be swinging conditions, unless you're an erratic quick. In this case, I suspect Liam Plunkett will be the one to lose his place, particularly with many commentators saying he should get more time on the county circuit.

Among the batsmen, Andrew Strauss looks under most pressure.

Along with the West Indies, the real big losers in this match were the armchair pundits criticising Michael Vaughan's recall. Form is temporary - class is permanent. Against the current West Indies team, Vaughan's class will carry him through.

Friday, May 25

100 and out

What is it with England's batsmen in the series against the Windies that they appear to feel the need to get out almost immediately after getting to a century? Now Vaughan's done it.

I'm being rude about the Scots.

I just feel the need to be rude about the standard Scots list of achievements

the nation that gave the world TV, the telephone, penicillin, the pneumatic tyre and golf among many others,

Hmm. So that's the wrong sort of TV that no-one uses anymore (anyone have an electromechanical TV at home? No), an invention that may quite possibly have been *ahem* inspired by the Italian Antonio Meucci, a famous discovery by accident (which a Germano-Briton and an Australian turned into something useful), the tyre, and a very boring game.

The tyre is true, although it was invented twice, both were by Scots.

The truth is, of course, that many inventions the Scots don't bother claiming required significant contributions by Scottish people, while many inventions the Scots do claim required significant contributions by non-Scots.

For example, the basic uselessness of the mechanical television was recognised in 1908 in a letter to Nature. The author recommended how an electrical television would work. The author was Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton, a Scot.

Second Test at Headingley

Sidebottom is in the team, and England have won the toss.

I've rather come down on the side of the selection of Ryan Sidebottom, as it shows a willingness to adapt. Plus Anderson is similar to Plunkett and Harmison - an attack, rather than a control, bowler.

Five balls into the match, I feel relatively cheerful about the prospects.

Thursday, May 24

Why we're not better at cricket

BBC article on England's real problem with cricket. This figure looks particularly key:
Sport England statistics reveal that ... roughly 380,000 people out of 39m, played cricket at least once a month in 2005-2006...

Cricket Australia claims 478,000 registered cricketers

Second Test at Headingley

The pub quiz question of "who are the only father and son to have played only one Test match each" looks even more in danger of becoming obsolete tomorrow, with the news that Andrew Flintoff has failed a fitness test. So it looks rather likely that Ryan Sidebottom and James Anderson will be named for the team tomorrow - given the performance by the batsmen and Matt Prior in the last Test, England look shorter on bowling power than batting, so although Shah was supposed to be taking Flintoff's place, it now looks like he was merely keeping Michael Vaughan's warm. Mind you, given that he was England's second most restrictive bowler in the World Cup, maybe Vaughan's the new all-rounder...

Wednesday, May 23

Cooking is not science (it pays better, for one thing)

A BBC News article about the smoking ban lists unintended winners and losers.

One effect is that the average pub chef will now apparently earn, before bonuses, more than I do as a scientific researcher with seven years postdoctoral experience.

I expect to see the first articles about university researchers quitting to become Heston Blumenthal "science of cooking" chefs anytime soon. I use liquid nitrogen all day already, so...

Tuesday, May 22


So.. Ryan Sidebottom may no longer be a one-test man.

The BBC description of it being a shock is probably overstated, it's more of a distinct suprise. I suppose a case of look around and find someone, anyone, who's reasonably used to Headingley and isn't doing too badly so far in the county games (although since Harmison is doing great in the county game, this is clearly no guarantee).

What are the odds on another draw?

Kroto accuses the government of wrecking science

Harry Kroto in the Guardian today - I like this quote

Many think of the sciences as merely a fund of knowledge. Journalists never ask scientists anything other than what the applications are of scientific breakthroughs. Interestingly, I doubt they ever ask a musician, writer or actor the same question. I wonder why.

Monday, May 21

Another "giant space rock" story

The BBC is reporting (in what appears to be another "announce to the press before you tell other scientists" incident) that one group claims to have evidence that would indicate the Younger Dryas period and the extinction of many North American mammals, may be due to a explosion due to a comet or meteor.

Cutty Sark fire

As an Englishman with a certain amount of interest in history, waking up this morning to hear the Cutty Sark was on fire was rather depressing. It's even more depressing to hear that it may have been started deliberately.

The Guardian reports that the chairman of Cutty Sark Enterprises has said the decks are "unsalvagable", but that 50% of the planking and all the historic artefacts were off-site, but most importantly that the ship will be restored. No word on the status of the iron frame yet.

Sunday, May 20

100 books meme

This is the latest meme I've seen (probably been around a while already, but there you go)
The rules are:
# Bold the ones you've read
# Italicize the ones you want to read
# Leave unaltered the ones that you aren't interested in

I'll add strike the ones you hate the sound of. Clearly I'm not as bookish as I think I am.

  1. The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
  2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
  4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
  5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (JRR Tolkien)
  6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (JRR Tolkien)
  7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (JRR Tolkien)
  8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
  9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
  10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (JK Rowling)
  12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
  13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (JK Rowling)
  14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
  16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (JK Rowling)
  17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  18. The Stand (Stephen King)
  19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling)
  20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
  21. The Hobbit (JRR Tolkien)
  22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) But I hate it. Really.
  23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
  25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) Didn't like the twist at the end at all.
  26. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
  27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
  28. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) A long time ago.
  29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom)
  31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
  32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
  33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
  34. 1984 (George Orwell)
  35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
  36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
  37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
  38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
  39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
  40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
  41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
  42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
  43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
  44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  45. The Bible. I would have called myself a Christian until I read it.
  46. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
  47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
  48. Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
  49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
  50. She's Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
  51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
  53. Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card)
  54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
  55. The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald)
  56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
  57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (JK Rowling)
  58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
  59. The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)
  60. The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
  61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
  62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
  63. War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy) Partly. It's a soap opera. I don't like soap operas.
  64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
  65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
  66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) First time I read it I was on a plane, and seriously sleep deprived at the end. The increasing surrealism really works in that state.
  67. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
  68. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
  69. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
  70. Bridget Jones' Diary (Fielding)
  71. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
  72. Shogun (James Clavell)
  73. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
  74. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
  75. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
  76. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  77. The World According to Garp (John Irving)
  78. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
  79. Charlotte's Web (E.B. White)
  80. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
  81. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
  82. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
  83. Wizard's First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
  84. Emma (Jane Austen)
  85. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
  86. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
  87. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
  88. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
  89. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
  90. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
  91. Lord of the Flies (Golding)
  92. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
  93. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
  94. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
  95. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) Did it at school, I think.
  96. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  97. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
  98. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
  99. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Thursday, May 17

Windies at Lords

At last, after all those interminable one dayers, the real cricket starts again (for England anyway) with the first Test against the West Indies at Lords. It's just after 11, and naturally it's raining.

The Windies have had a grand total of 48 overs on English conditions before the Test, so not sure how this match is going to pan out (personally, I'd prefer to use the ODIs as warm ups - or even better, the touring team plays Ireland first. Unless they're the Aussies, in which case I want the toss while they're still jetlagged...)

Wednesday, May 16

Fatal earthquakes in the UK

A fascinating page at the British Geological Survey lists every known fatality in British earthquakes.

Needless to say, it's not a very large page.

Hat-tip - Jonathan Calder at Liberal England

Tuesday, May 15

Smokin' Jazz

The BBC News has an article lamenting the end of smoky music joints. Or not:
It was horrible. What's really surprising was that no-one questioned it then.

-- Leo Green

Having to endure stinking toxic fumes and the band struggling for breath just because a third of the audience have an addiction seems pretty stupid now. It'll also be nice to only need a shower on leaving a gig because you've got sweaty dancing rather than being smoked out.

Others complain that music venues are

places to get away from work and not to be nagged like naughty children.

But they'll already consider throwing someone out if they are fighting, or shouting loudly - it affects others appreciation of the music (and the smokers are in the minority, so complaining being deprived of your fix isn't much cop). You shouldn't have to be lectured to to avoid being inconsiderate of others.

Monday, May 14

Herr Spammer, stoppen bitte Spamming ich auf Deutsch

For some reason I seem to be getting a particularly large amount of German spam at the moment (by which I mean spam aimed at people who speak German, not spam from Germany - it's probably from Russia or the US). Not sure the logic behind this - OK, the spam filter doesn't read German, but then neither do most English people (or me, as I'm sure my awful German in the title shows).

Sunday, May 13

NASA's moondirt challenge - no-one hits paydirt

NASA's regolith challenge - move 330 pounds of the stuff in half an hour - has had no winner after nobody managed even half that.

Hopefully we'll see better next year.

Hamilton is damn good

Lewis Hamilton on the podium yet again - four races in a row now, and leading the championship. Surely it can't be long until his first win?

Coulthard got a fifth in the Red Bull, which is rather well done. Sato getting a point in a Super Aguri though - I'd thought they were going to be the comedy car this year...

England test team

Aggers' comments on team selection for the 1st Test at Lord's are ones I in general echo.

The picking of Strauss is unsurprising, as Aggers says. Not personally sure about picking Prior, but if you're looking for a batting wicket-keeper, then I can see the logic behind the choice (unlike picking Geraint Jones, say). I don't view Read as having "failed" in his last go though, I still think he's the best wicket keeper. But it seems a batsman-keeper is required.

As for bowlers - my comments not that long ago about Plunkett was probably too self-evident to be called prescient, I'm glad to see him getting a go.

Overall - I like this line-up. Let's hope they perform.

Aussies won't tour Zimbabwe

The ICC has accepted the Australians refusal to tour Zimbabwe. This is because, unlike the cowardly position the UK government took in 2004, voicing oppostion but not banning them from going, this is viewed as a government policy and therefore not the problem of the cricketers.

My point of view - given that some of the best Zimbabwean cricketers of the last few years aren't able to play for the team, politics has already clearly interfered. The anti-democratic policies of Mugabe mean that it is acceptable to refuse to give the regime any credibility by visiting. But governments must say this, not the cricket authorities.

I am no fan whatsoever of Australia's John Howard, but at least he took the responsibility for making a political decision. Which, after all, is what politicians are there for.

The Cyberattack on Estonia

Edward Lucas has an article on the cyber attack on Estonia - quite scary stuff really. They've basically forced the Estonians to cut off access to their websites from overseas. Some of this is from angry Russians, but a lot is from botnets, the collections of easily-hacked computers from across the world run by shadowy figures.

This is like the cold war again, except in cyberspace - sending guerrilas to disrupt your enemy without actually sparking a war.

Hat-tip - Cicero's Songs

I didn't watch Eurovision.

I didn't bother watching the Eurovision contest this year (or last year, or pretty much any time in the last 15 years), but glancing through the news, I noticed that the big four western countries (the ones who can get away with entering duff songs as they automatically qualify by paying for the whole thing) did really badly, while the Eastern Europeans did rather well. If they're not going to bother picking decent acts, then the big four shouldn't get automatic qualification? OK, the UK's entry avoided nil points this year (unlike a few years ago when the entry was so bad that even Malta couldn't bring themselves to give points to the UK, which is saying something. Wonder why Malta always give points to the UK?)

Part of the reason I don't listen is that I got utterly fed up with the "Eurovision" style - entering songs that sound like something that won recently (or not that recently, given the UK's insistance on imitating Bucks Fizz every few years). On the other hand, the BBC article linked to above suggested that some of the songs sound like something that could get in the UK charts. I checked the Beeb's website to listen to a couple - Belarus do sound like a fairly bog standard boy band - not my thing, but not the old-style Eurovision crud either. Georgia's wasn't that bad either. For a Eurovision song.

Tuesday, May 8

Tresco - is he ready yet?

Possibly I was too hasty suggesting last week that Marcus Trescothick was not ready to return to the England team - he's scored a quite tasty looking 185 not out off 290 balls at close of play in the first day of the Northamptonshire v Somerset county match at Northampton.

Perhaps the only remaining requirement for Trescothick to be deemed ready to return to the England team is Trescothick saying so?

UPDATE: he says he's not.

The indestructible water bear

I had a slightly unusual email this morning, from someone at the University I work in asking whether it was possible to view living things in the electron microscope. As my background is in microscopy of semiconductors, my immediate response is "no", or at least anything that was alive when you started would be rather dead when you finished putting it into a vacuum chamber and firing a beam of .

Then a name popped into my head. Tardigrade. These tiny creatures were first discovered in the 18th century, and named "kleiner Wasserbär", meaning little water bear (not to be mistaken for the big Wasserbär, or Polar Bear). The modern name means "slow walker". At their largest they reach 1.5mm in size.

And these things are *tough*. They are found at the poles and at the equator, from the high Himalayas to the bottom of ocean trenches.

Did I say tough? I mean really, really tough. They can go into a suspended state in which they can survive short exposure to heat of 151 degrees, cold of liquid helium, they can take liquid nitrogen for days (well, admittedly I think it is different types of tardigrade that can take these extremes). They can take 6000 atmospheres pressure, and they may even be able to survive being in space.

Not that they'd be anything more interesting about viewing a live tardigrade than a dead one in the electron microscope, as their tactic for such harsh environments is to basically shut down and wait for things to get better. But still, it's a tough little beast.

Monday, May 7

Looking to the summer

I wonder if the Durham vs Lancashire Friends Providence Trophy match will have any impact on the England ODI lineup? If so, I can see one current ODI side player who'll be fairly cheered.

A comparison of the England (and recent England) ODI bowler's performances:

Plunkett 33 off 32 balls ; 10 overs, 2-27
Harmison 14 off 14 balls ; 10 overs, 2-31 (but he's retired from ODIs)
Anderson 2 off 11 balls ; 9 overs 2-36
Mahmood 24 off 32 balls ; 7 overs 2-38
Flintoff 11 off 21 balls ; 10 overs 2-48

Kerplunk will be pretty pleased with his days performance, the Lancashire boys won't be.

When do you call a halt to a challenge?

The US has a pretty much justly deserved reputation as a litigatious society. A country where a man tries to sue a dry cleaners for millions of dollars over one pair of trousers has something wrong somewhere.

But then you see stories which show *why* these litigations are possible. The Guardian reported on a case where a man died of dehydration while the guides stood by - the guides had water, but didn't give it to him as his days task was to hike all day and only drink water he found. The group didn't find any water until 7pm. David Buschow died 100 yards from water. The company say they're not liable as he signed a waiver.

Signed a waiver? You have water, a man is clearly in high distress having not drank all day, and you don't give him any because he signed a waiver?

I'm all for outdoors challenges. I'm all for people pushing themselves to see what they can do. And accidents will sometimes happen - but the occasional accident is worth risking for the feeling of being alive. People die running marathons in warm weather in the UK, despite all the drinks available - this is unfortunate and sad, but no reason to ban marathons.

This case, however, is in a different league (as presented in the Guardian, anyway). When the consequences of failure are death, sheer responsibility for your fellow man should mean you should have the decency to call a halt. If common decency or intelligence is lacking, then the threat of a lawsuit may be the only thinking preventing this from happening more often.

My view on why this case was justified:
1. The problem is predictable. You are taking people through a desert and they don't have water on them. Dehydration is a predictable problem
2. You are the guide. You are the one telling them not to bring water with them, and challenging them. You therefore have the responsibility to call an end to the challenge if need be.
3. Someone with dehydration will lose their ability to think clearly. If they're dehydrated because you've pressured them not to drink, you are taking responsibility
4. If you're coming up with the idea of challenging people to cross a desert without taking water with them, you should be making absolutely sure that the guides recognise the symptoms of dehydration, and that there are clear rules as to when to call a halt.
5. This was not a sudden situation, the Guardian article indicates that he had steadily been showing increasingly worsening symptoms.
6. You cannot hydrate yourself through sheer willpower. No matter how tough someone is, if they get dehydrated enough they will drop.

Thursday, May 3

Shame, I liked Maya Gold too...

Green and Black's Maya Gold is, in my past opinion, rather a tasty chocolate. However, the ease with which I take moral umbrage means I won't be eating much of it in the future, as it turns out that Green and Blacks founder Craig Sams has launched an attack on Ben Goldacre for his repeated complaints that Gilliam McKeith is obsessed with poo and pretending to be a scientist when she isn't. He didn't mention the twaddle about chlorophyll, which I imagine Goldacre will be complaining about until McKeith stops spouting twaddle.

Well, she *is* obsessed with poo and pretending to be a scientist when she isn't. That the sales of high grain and nuts have increased since she starting broadcasting her highly bizarre beliefs about high grain and nuts may mean she has had a slightly beneficial effect, but the general twaddleness of it and that her main aim is to make pots of money rather damage that. Sams aim, it should be noted, is also to make pots of money. Which he has.

Not from me, anymore though, as his chocolate would now leave a bitter taste in my mouth.

Tuesday, May 1

James Benning

The BBC have an article about Surrey's James Benning, wondering whether this 23 year old could be the answer to England's sluggish one day performance.

As they point out, he's already got a 152 from 134 balls to his name this season and a strike-rate of over 146 in Twenty20 cricket.

Surely he's got to be seriously considered for the Twenty20 team for the inagural world cup in South Africa in September. But in the mean time - Tresco is not ready to return, so why not Benning?