Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Things you've done, things you haven't

Via GrrlScientist comes this list of 100 things to experience. A Meme I Can Live With.

Things I've done are in green.
Things I'd like to do are in red.
Things in black - No or Meh!

  1. Started my own blog - Er, yeah.
  2. Slept under the stars - Often, but under canvas a lot more.
  3. Played in a band - Played bass guitar for many years and, with what I earned playing each week, could have been considered semi-pro at one time. I always kept the day job though and think of myself completely as an amateur musician. These days I just jam around with friends in ABandinurHead and make ghostly appearances on YouTube.
  4. Visited Hawaii - The volcanoes must be stunning, not to say the wildlife and culture.
  5. Watched a meteor shower - Often. The Perseids in particular. Mainly because of the warm August evenings but also because it's easy to remember when to look. The maximum is always on or about the Glorious 12th, the start of the grouse shooting season. Who could forget?
  6. Given more than I can afford to charity - No, but have been subtly conned into giving more than I intended, sometimes.
  7. Been to Disneyland/world - Been to Blackpool Pleasure Beach.
  8. Climbed a mountain - Helvellyn. That's about as high as I've ever been.
  9. Held a praying mantis - Held stick insects too, are they the atheists?
  10. Sung a solo - Honky Tonk Women, in a band many years ago.
  11. Bungee jumped - No, but swung on a rope hung from a tree branch above a stream.
  12. Visited Paris - I have stayed in a Hilton hotel though.
  13. Watched lightning at sea - Seen it from land out at sea, but never from a boat. However I'd want the lightning experience, not the storm.
  14. Taught myself an art from scratch - Playing bass guitar, computer programming. Not very good at either but I never had any formal teaching.
  15. Adopted a child - Currently adopting two stray cats and a mate who needed a place to stay after a fallout with his missis, 10 years ago. I should turn this one green.
  16. Had food poisoning - never seriously, but yes.
  17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - I'll bet it's quite a view from the top.
  18. Grown my own vegetables - Lots and lots, and some fruit too. And many flowers.
  19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France - I'm told it's overrated but I would like to see for myself.
  20. Slept on an overnight train - couldn't sleep.
  21. Had a pillow fight- You think you must have done but I can't remember.
  22. Hitchhiked - More than once, with just a backpack and a thumb.
  23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill - <cough>never</cough>
  24. Built a snow fort - When I was very young though. There seemed to be better snow in those days. Built a small igloo too, and many snowmen.
  25. Held a lamb - Briefly as a kid. Somewhere in the Yorkshire Dales. Years later I was in the pub when the landlord introduced the mixed grill he had won in a card game. "You can't bring that lamb in this pub" I quipped, "It's baa'd... been gamboling".
  26. Gone skinny dipping - Yes, but... we didn't quite make it to the water. A good thing really as I can't swim. I have however waded naked to considerable extent, up to the waist at least.
  27. Run a Marathon - Snickers.
  28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice - Romantic, but isn't it a bit unsanitary?.
  29. Seen a total eclipse - 1999, South West UK. My late father saw the 1927 eclipse in northern England where everyone gathered atop a local hill. His comment, when he once told me the tale, is timeless. "As it got dark" he said "all the birds stopped singing, and all the evangelists started". In 1999 I asked if he wanted to go see this eclipse, then a 20 mile car drive to where it would be total. "Nah!" he said "I've seen one". Wonderful; thanks dad.
  30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - Often, and sometimes seen both on the same day.
  31. Hit a home run - A six at cricket must count.
  32. Been on a cruise - Depends where, but maybe sometime.
  33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - Don't know the lady.
  34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - I live there, it's called The Earth. Oh what a dull name.
  35. Seen an Amish community - Saw a very devout community one time, on the west coast of Scotland near Oban. Seal Island? Very strange.
  36. Taught myself a new language - Pascal
  37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - Maybe not really, but close. I am reminded of the words of Mr Micawber "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery".
  38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - The place where Galileo's balls dropped, so 'tis said.
  39. Gone rock climbing - Too scared of rock falling.
  40. Seen Michelangelo's David - No, but I have seen an unfinished piece by Michelangelo in Milan, Italy. I saw the clear emergence of structure from the stone and such detail as there was, was unexpected. Fully formed legs, arms and hands; like the block itself was coming to life.
  41. Sung karaoke - But you don't want to hear it.
  42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - I'd love to go to Yellowstone. After all, I worked for years on an algae originally collected from the hot springs there.
  43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - If we ease the definition to 'paid for some guy's takeaway because he was struggling' then yes.
  44. Visited Africa - Almost did at one time, don't want to nowadays.
  45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - Slept on a beach by moonlight soon after.
  46. Been transported in an ambulance - Only to go with a family member, never as a patient.
  47. Had my portrait painted - Why? I'm hardly photogenic.
  48. Gone deep sea fishing - Just to see what's out there.
  49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - It must be spectacular after it's restoration.
  50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - Been up Blackpool Tower.
  51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - Can't swim. Long story involving a perforated ear drum.
  52. Kissed in the rain - Ever been to Glastonbury Festival? I have.
  53. Played in the mud - As above
  54. Gone to a drive-in theater - Erm, went to a walk-in one in 1993. Because of the damp weather we equipped ourselves with groundsheets and plastic and blankets and we sat in the rain in a field to watch Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country. That must have been love. See Glastonbury festival above.
  55. Been in a movie - Produced/directed a science video once.
  56. Visited the Great Wall of China - Seen it from space!
  57. Started a business - Only funny business.
  58. Taken a martial arts class - Karate in my late teens.
  59. Visited Russia - There's a lot of it to visit.
  60. Served at a soup kitchen - Done lots for charity but not this yet.
  61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies - ?
  62. Gone whale watching - I'd love to.
  63. Got flowers for no reason - Received, no. Bought or picked myself to give away on a whim, yes.
  64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - Can't because of a childhood ailment, my fear of needles.
  65. Gone sky diving - Too much like falling.
  66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - Been to Butlin's.
  67. Bounced a check - you bet.
  68. Flown in a helicopter - Could be a thrill.
  69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - A telescope my sister gave me when I was 8yo or so.
  70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - Been at Stonehenge for midsummer sunrise.
  71. Eaten caviar - And was underimpressed.
  72. Pieced a quilt - A bit crafty for me.
  73. Stood in Times Square - Stood in Trafalgar Square.
  74. Toured the Everglades - Great for wildlife but I guess many of them bite.
  75. Been fired from a job - Maybe not :)
  76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London - Too ceremonial for my taste.
  77. Broken a bone - Wrist and finger. Separate childhood accidents.
  78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - Pillion passenger yes. And once rode 'chair' on a grasstrack racing motorbike-and-sidecar, where you have to distribute your weight by leaning in and out or the whole lot tips over, great fun.
  79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person - With a good guide.
  80. Published a book - Written a thesis.
  81. Visited the Vatican - A historical tour without the mumbo jumbo could be interesting.
  82. Bought a brand new car - Never, and no longer drive.
  83. Walked in Jerusalem - I would like to see peace in those lands so it becomes realistic. I would just like to see the archaeology properly studied.
  84. Had my picture in the newspaper - Last time was in 2000 when I was involved in setting up a local website, sadly now defunct. May have been in a fuzzy pics with the band for charity concerts. Have been on TV too for various reasons.
  85. Read the entire Bible - Probably, but not all in one sequential way. A couple of chapters at a time, dipping here and there, so there could still be some dusty corners unexplored; unlikely though given over 40 years of opportunity. Among others, I have also read the Book of Mormon, the Koran, the Tibetan book of the Dead, the Tao Te Ching, parts of the Bhagavad Gita, the Book of Thoth and others by Aleister Crowley, the Teachings of Don Juan etc by Carlos Castaneda, All and Everything by G. I. Gurdjieff, and Sun Tzu's the Art of War. Only Sun Tzu makes sense, I recommend it as a riveting read for a 6th century BCE text.
  86. Visited the White House -Nor the Palace of Westminster.
  87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - Trout, many times.
  88. Had chickenpox - Itch.
  89. Saved someone's life - Who knows?
  90. Sat on a jury - Unlikely, with my record.
  91. Met someone famous - Do Fred Hoyle and Max Perutz count? No? Maybe not, but I have heard them both speak and I was in the same room! Ok then I admit it, I once shook hands with Terry Wogan. Also, once stood next to David Ike at a bar but simply could not think of a way to start a conversation without cracking up.
  92. Joined a book club - And it took a year to get out of the contract.
  93. Lost a loved one - 'Nuff said.
  94. Had a baby - Tried hard.
  95. Seen the Alamo in person - I've seen the Alhambra though.
  96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - Can't swim.
  97. Been involved in a law suit - Never had reason to be.
  98. Owned a cell phone - No thank you.
  99. Been stung by a bee - And a wasp and many other biting things. Once I found a sheep tick crawling up my leg!
  100. Ridden an elephant - You've met my ex-wife I see.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Internet censorship. Beware the bogeyman

Remember over a decade ago when some UK towns were discriminated against by America Online's email profanity filter? The Scunthorpe Problem, as it came to be known, also affected Penistone and Lightwater (I have never heard what they made of Cockermouth).

More recently, in 2008, Dr. Herman I. Libshitz, a retired radiologist in the US, had difficulty in registering his family name as an email address with Verizon. In his own words:
"Verizon could use my name in the phonebook. They could use my name to bill me. Lord knows they cash my checks with my name on it," Libshitz says. "But somehow, as an e-mail address, it wasn't good. That offended me. I told them it was fine when Uncle Sam wanted me to be in the military"
Eventually, with a newspaper reporter's help:
"They condescended to let me use my own name as an e-mail address. Wasn't that gracious?" Libshitz remarks.
Next into the fray next comes Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport who continues to try to impose such misguided censorship. The Telegraph reports:
He [Burnham] is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites.
Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”
Who will do the rating? Who will judge that my humble light-hearted blog is forever condemned because I use the word Scunthorpe or call someone a rassclat? The Telegraph continues:
However, Mr Burnham said: “If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now.
Oh Mr. Burnham, remember on the 12th November last when you addressed the Internet Advertising Bureau?
We’re a long way from the John Perry Barlow Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996, where he declares

‘the global space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear. Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us.’

Perhaps you should read all of what John Perry Barlow set down rather than cherry picking.

Its only a short read: A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, but I can cherry pick too.
You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.

In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

Your increasingly obsolete information industries would perpetuate themselves by proposing laws, in America and elsewhere, that claim to own speech itself throughout the world. These laws would declare ideas to be another industrial product, no more noble than pig iron. In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish.
In conclusion, I'm not sure whether to call Andy Burnham a Scunthorpe a Penistone or a Lightwater, but like too many politicians these days he sure is a Cockermouth. Grow into these trousers... >>

Religion suppresses intellectual development

And if proof were needed:

A pro-Palestinian demonstrator at a rally in Manhattan 28/12/08.

Do some people even understand what they are protesting about?

Below the belt The Cranberries juice it up for us.


Another head hangs lowly, child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence
Who are we mistaken

But you see it's not me, it's not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head they are cryin'
In your head, in your head, Zombie, Zombie
In your head, what's in your head Zombie

Another mother's breaking heart is taking over
When the violence causes silence
We must be mistaken
It's the same old theme since 1916
In your head, in your head they're still fightin'
With their tanks, and their bombs
And their bombs, and their guns
In your head, in your head they are dyin'

In your head, in your head, Zombie, Zombie
In your head, what's in your head Zombie
Via LGF.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 29 December 2008

Shoe throwing good for business

Given my new interest in shoe throwing I was pleased to read this post at Unscrewing the Inscrutable.
Shoe Hurled at Bush Flies Off Turkish Maker’s Shelves

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker as orders pour in from Iraq, the U.S. and Iran.

The brown, thick-soled “Model 271” may soon be renamed “The Bush Shoe” or “Bye-Bye Bush,” Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

“We’ve been selling these shoes for years but, thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy,” he said. “We’ve even hired an agency to look at television advertising.”

Baydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.
Best of luck to them and I love their TV ad.

Iraq Shoe Throwing Store
Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 28 December 2008

A thought for a Sunday

"There are some oddities in the perspective with which we see the world. The fact that we live at the bottom of a deep gravity well, on the surface of a gas covered planet going around a nuclear fireball 90 million miles away and think this to be normal is obviously some indication of how skewed our perspective tends to be, but we have done various things over intellectual history to slowly correct some of our misapprehensions."

Douglas Adams, speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge U.K., September 1998 Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Sodomy is not just for animals

It must be true. I heard it in a song by Mikelangelo and The Black Sea Gentlemen, and I have to say it makes a damn good lyric. So pay them a visit and listen to the track 'A Formidable Marinade' to understand what I'm waffling about.

There's a live version here but go to their MySpace first. Honest. Grow into these trousers... >>

Look Around You IV

Who says there are things science can't study? Here's an investigation of the afterlife.

Grow into these trousers... >>


Christmas didn't live up to your expectations?
Are there times when you just hate everything?
Now you can let it all out. Smash up the house.

Go Rotten. Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 26 December 2008

Tree Lobsters

Lo, this festive season has witnessed the birth of a new web comic:

Its deep origins and immaculate conception were recorded for all humanity.

UPDATE: The Pacific Northwest tree octopus was unavailable for comment. Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Yo Ho Ho!

Kevin 'bloody' Wilson - Santa Clause you c**t

Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Would anyone like to dance...

The TimeWarp?
Grow into these trousers... >>

Another Christmas song

I was just going to listen to BBC Radio 4's Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge, when this little ditty popped into my head.

Fuck Christmas - Eric Idle

Grow into these trousers... >>

The best Christmas song ever

Whatever your beliefs, have a wonderful time.

Fairytale of New York -
The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The easiest thing in the World

Done it a thousand times.

Dave Allen - Giving up smoking
Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 22 December 2008

The party dance of hate

From yesterday's Telegraph:
"...according to the Catholic Church and some Scottish politicians, singing the popular tune that begins with the words 'You put your right hand in, your right hand out,' may constitute an act of religious hatred."
What? The Hokey Cokey?
"According to the church, the song's title derives from the words 'hocus pocus'.
The phrase is said to be a Puritan parody of the Latin 'hoc est enim corpus meum' or 'this is my body' used by Catholic priests to accompany the transubstantiation during mass."
And so of course football fans must be banned from singing it:
"Michael Matheson, the SNP MSP, said it was important that the police and football clubs were aware of the sinister background of the song and took action against groups who used it in matches."
Remember this as you 'shake it all about' at this year's Christmas bash. You irreverent hate filled revelers. Yes, you...

Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Happy Solstice

I was reminded by the Astronomy Picture of the Day and Bad Astronomy that today is the Winter solstice, the day when the Sun reaches it's lowest point in the sky. Every day from now will see the Sun higher in the sky and gradually sunrise will come slightly earlier. Even though the worst of Winter may still be to come, here begins the countdown to Spring.

And if you do intend to party tonight, remember to wrap up warm before you go cavorting naked in the woods. It's cold at this time of year.

The Beatles - Here comes the sun
Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday

"What is tolerance? It is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly - that is the first law of nature."

François-Marie Arouet aka Voltaire (1694 – 1778) Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Think about these guys this winter

Cute Animal Christmas Song

Visit the website to find out more.
Via GrrlScientist Grow into these trousers... >>

Regarding Antimony

Name That Element
I was sat at the bar the other night when my offline commenter, who was playing the quiz machine, shouted "Antimony".

"Ess bee" I answered.

Strangely I'd been asked the same question quite recently, so do this quick quiz.

If you need your memory jogging, remember the Chemistry in its element podcast and the Periodic Table of Videos.

And just for a laugh take a look at these cartoons.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 19 December 2008

A musical mood strikes again

Paco de Lucia - Entre dos Aguas
Grow into these trousers... >>

YAY! I'm on holiday for 2 weeks

So here is a list of things to avoid on holiday.

The 6 Deadliest Creatures (That Can Fit In Your Shoe)

Thanks to Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Look Around You III

You should know this already from school...

Grow into these trousers... >>

Al Di Meola plays covers too!

After I posted the Mediterranean Sundance piece I got to wondering what these guys may have done recently...

Seemingly, this was recorded for a movie called Kill Bill. The old Animals song:

"Don't Let me be Misunderstood"

The Animals' original version is below the belt for comparison.

The Animals - Dont Let Me Be Misunderstood - live @ Wembley

Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Three wonderful guitarsmiths

Some of you may know Mediterranean Sundance from Al Di Meola's album Elegant Gypsy, but not like this. Apparently from a 'Pavarotti and Friends' concert this is rather good.

Paco De Lucia, Al Di Meola and John McLaughlin.

Mediterranean Sundance
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

What is it with the shoe throwing?

I know that in many Arab cultures throwing a shoe at someone is a gesture of great disrespect, indeed just showing someone the sole of your shoe is derogatory enough. I just don't get it; but I must say 'hats off' to this man...

Even better, you can now have a go yourself.
Kast en sko på Bush

(or should that be Kast sko mot Bush? Norwegian is a language where my skills sadly lack).
Via The Invisible Pink Unicorn and LGF (now there is an unlikely pairing!). Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 15 December 2008

Look Around You II

Part two of this facinating educational series (Part one was here if you missed it).

Grow into these trousers... >>

Another from The Last Waltz

I've already posted a couple of tracks from The Band's final concert, The Last Waltz. The whole concert is well worth seeing or hearing on CD. Here's another track, Neil Diamond...

Dry your eyes
Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 14 December 2008

A great demonstration of standing waves

The Rubens Tube.
Get some pipe, drill regularly spaced holes down the length and connect it to a gas supply. Mount a loudspeaker at one end and seal the both ends (Gas leaks are not normally a good idea but it may add to the pyrotechnic effect!). Turn on the gas and light it. Now you have a nice fire. OK, now play a clean musical note through the speaker and tune it in to set up a standing wave in the tube.

How does it work? There's my explanation tucked below the belt.

Think first of a guitar string. It's fixed at each end but free to vibrate everywhere else. The deepest note is produced when the whole string moves in a smooth curve once per cycle like the top string in the image. This note is the fundamental and because the string has to move down and back up to return to its starting point, the wavelength of the note produced is twice the length of the string. Now as any guitarist knows there are places on the string where you can dampen the vibration with a finger to tease out the harmonics. This is not fretting the string by pressing it to the fingerboard, just gently touching. These spots are called nodes where the wave energy passes without causing movement. The ends are forced to be nodes as they simply cannot move but act to reflect the sound waves. You can see by counting that all possible harmonics can be produced by a string. Salford University has a primer on string vibration with good video and animations. I should point out that the tension and weight of the string affect the speed of its vibration and hence the note, but that's not so important for this explanation.

So what happens with a tube? Obviously it's not the tube which is vibrating but the air (or propane) inside it. In addition the ends of the tube can be open to the surrounding air (see warning above) or closed. Look at an open tube.
Unlike a string the air at the open ends is unconstrained and so cannot form a node. They must be antinodes. The first node then comes in the middle. Similar to a string however, the wavelength of this fundamental is twice the length of the tube and all harmonics can be produced. This is the basis for many musical instruments from the humble recorder to the mighty open organ pipe. The equivalents of tension and weight for a string are air pressure and density in a tube. Simplistically we can assume these to be constant otherwise it would make playing in an orchestra rather difficult.

What happens if you close one end? Confusingly this is referred to as a closed cylinder even though one end is still open! Anyway, at the closed end nothing can move. It's like the fixed end of a string, it forces a node. The open end can only be an antinode and this makes for some interesting properties. Firstly, the wavelength of the fundamental becomes four times the length of the tube. More interestingly, only odd numbered harmonics can be formed. This is what gives the haunting sound to instruments like the closed organ pipe, where they put a bung in the top, and the clarinet, which by clever design of the mouthpiece almost achieves a closed end.

What does closing both ends do? Make a sealed cylinder I guess. Not much use as a musical instrument unless you are going to hit it, you can't blow in it. It will still have resonances though, and the same as a string both ends are nodes. But hang on, you are driving one end of the Rubens tube with a vibrating membrane, the loudspeaker. If the speaker is moving backwards (causing low compression) in sync with an incoming high compression cycle of the sound wave they can cancel out - this gives a node. If the speaker is moving forwards (high compression) and again meets up with a high they will reinforce each other, just like an antinode. You can see this in the Rubens tube video above when they a going through fixed notes. The speaker is on the left.
Here it's a node:

And here it's an antinode:

So there you go, I just wonder what you could do with 50m of gas mains and a few kilowatts of bass guitar! Anyone got a JCB?
Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday - Wise words

George Hrab:
"We've arrived at a time where humanity must mature and grow out of its awkward adolescence; but there is no need to ever lose that childlike sense of wonder and amazement. Knowing how a clock works doesn't make one appreciate the passing of time any less. Learning that the sun is composed of hydrogen and helium doesn't take away from the beauty and majesty of a sunrise. Knowing that a complex system of wires, computers, and micro processors is required to transport your voice over a satellite-based network could never diminish the impact of hearing that there will indeed be a new Ozzy Osbourne record."
The full text is here; audio is here (43:37 till 54:59 ish) But just listen to all George's podcasts. Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 13 December 2008

The Band - with Neil Young

After Joni Mitchell I have to play this:

Neil Young - Helpless (The Last Waltz)
Grow into these trousers... >>

Very dark game. Oo err


That's much too grim so dive below the belt to chill out.

Dr Joe

Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Look around You

My famous offline commenter lent me this book yesterday. It's in response to my Gilbert Murray post, and here I seem to have earned my T-shirt as a complete time waster. Oh and here as well, sorry Mark :)

When I saw the book cover something went ping that I had heard of this somewhere before, but that memory still eludes me. I did however immediately spot the mention of Look Around You, in the introduction. It's a series of spoof school educational TV broadcasts and it's great comedy!

Look Around You - Maths

PS I started Timewaster Letters today and I'm hooked. Nice one. Grow into these trousers... >>

Joni Mitchell and The Band

From The Last Waltz:

"Coyote" Joni Mitchell
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

What's your stance?

Which Enemy of the Christian Faith Are You?
Do the quiz and find out.
Via LOLgod. Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 8 December 2008

Gilbert Murray - what a man

I had almost forgotten about Gilbert Murray till a chance conversation in the bar jiggled my memory.

Internationally famous Inventor, Professor of Economics, Retired Wing Commander, Aristocrat, Member of Parliament, Circus Ringmaster, Adult Video Director, Miller, Baker, Rubber Duck Maker; Gilbert Murray must push his balls around in a cart.

Who is this guy? Well...
Many of us will have had emails like this:
"I am Dr Charles Ijeoma, the Manager, Bills and Exchange at the Foreign Remittance Department of the AUDB Bank of Nigeria PLC and work with African Union Development Bank Plc (one of the African leading banks in the west coast). Here in this bank existed dormant account for the past five years which belong to one of our customers (Mr Andreas Schranner) who died along with his entire family of a wife and two children in July 31st 2000 in a plane crash."
Then they need to transfer large amounts of money out of their country into your personal bank account, or something similar. As the arrangements go ahead it always seems they need some legal fees, or a payment to release documents, or to pay a bribe, or for hospital fees and so the scam escalates. It's advance-fee fraud or 419 by the Criminal Code of Nigeria

Gilbert Murray in his many personas responded to some of these scammers, often over a time course of weeks and months. It's all online and he dances them a merry dance to utterly waste their time. There's a lot of great comedy here for those who have time to read. I recommend the first bust - The Inventor - to meet Gilbert and his adversaries.
Gilbert, if ever you see this, thank you for making me laugh. I was a regular visitor while you were there. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Where did I leave my stash?

Testing 2,700-year-old pot for THC concentration. Credit: Fox News.

Archaeologists in China have unearthed the oldest ever stash of marijuana. 2,700 years old and weighing an impressive 789 grams it was described as still being green "though it had lost its distinctive odour". It was found at the burial site of a Caucasian male, along with other items indicating high social status, in the Turpan region of northwestern China.

Thought to be a shaman by the grave goods, he was likely to have been a member of the Gushi culture.

Sadly, after 10 months wrangling to import an 11g sample into the UK for analysis,
The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage.
It should read 'might have had a relatively high content' because the estimate of THC is based on measurements of remaining precursors and breakdown products. The recorded level of THC was 0.007% by weight.

So be careful where you stash your stash 'coz it will go off eventually.
Refs: Stonepages, check out their archaeology podcast with this news.
The Canadian Press.
Phytochemical and genetic analyses of ancient cannabis from Central Asia, Ethan B. Russo
et al, Journal of Experimental Botany 2008 59(15):4171-4182; doi:10.1093/jxb/ern260 Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
W.B. Yeats (1865 – 1939) Grow into these trousers... >>

A quick game before bedtime

Similar to Loops of Zen but not so complicated. Think of it as Loops for beginners.


From Games for the Brain. Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Dave Allen discusses Genesis

Dave Allen - Adam & Eve

Via The Mutt's Nuts. Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 5 December 2008

Freaking brilliant

The Pianist- freaking brothers

Via GrrlScientist. Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 4 December 2008

An insight into the religious mind

So this is what passes for learned discussion in the minds of Yemeni clerics.

Citing a 1995 Time magazine article (possibly this one) and waving a brain scan photo, Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani demonstrates the cutting edge of evidence for the claim in the Koran that it takes two women to equal one man as legal witnesses.
[2:282] "so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her"
KafirGirl of course has a view on this.

Muslim Cleric Presents "Scientific" Proof that Women Cannot Talk and Remember Simultaneously

What a cnut.
Via Atheist Media Blog. Grow into these trousers... >>

What a surprising creature

Watch this fearless little beastie. Why run away or fight when you can scare your enemies away?

The Indonesian Mimic Octopus

There's more footage below the belt.

Mimic Octopus

Via GrrlScientist.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

What Flower Are You?

I am a Canna

What Flower
Are You?

"You stand up for what you believe in, even if it gets in the way of what other people think. You are proud of yourself and your accomplishments and you enjoy letting people know that."

Thanks to Wonder What's Next for the link. Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Tiktaalik revisited

A while back I mentioned the fascinating find of an early tetrapod fossil by Neil Shubin and his team. Intermediate between the lobe finned fish (think coelacanths) and the first land living vertebrates, Tiktaalik displays the characteristics of common ancestry which all amphibians, reptiles, birds, monotremes, marsupials and mammals have inherited. Though we may be distant cousins rather than share direct lineage, Tiktaalik and ourselves are a part of the same family.

Shubin's previous talk, interesting though it was, was for his book promotion. Here's a talk which is much more polished. Sit back for an hour and watch good paleontology at work.

Year of Darwin - Neil Shubin, Ph.D.

PS - there is a long intro, so skip to ~0:03:45 for the real start.

Via PZ Myers. Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 1 December 2008


Not what it seems at the start. Persist with the (short) intro and it turns into a compulsive tetris-like, block shifting, shoveling, bomb setting tunneling game. Tinkerbell will give you the lowdown.

Note: you can't 'save' so plan for a long session or you'll have to start over. It's a demo of the full version. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 30 November 2008

A thought for a Sunday

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there is.”

Yogi Berra. Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Albion Dreaming

I have just finished reading Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain a book I mentioned before, written by my friend Agg (Andy Roberts).

And most enjoyable it was too. I set off to read it dispassionately, because I know the guy and we've kinda lived through much of these times, but I was soon hooked by the level of detail. Though the subject is contentious it is treated with accuracy, voluminous research often based on interviews or correspondence with those concerned, and somehow I detect a subtle underlying humour; or maybe that's just because I know the author and remember his dry wit.
This is not whiz-bang, far out man but a sober account of sub culture in recent history.

From Hoffman to Kemp and beyond this is a richly referenced, well indexed travelogue through the last 60 years or so. As the story develops we see that the effects of LSD on our culture go far beyond the experience of individual users, profound though that may be. The influence extends into music, art, fashion and politics. LSD has changed the lifestyle of many generations of non-users and I see this as a positive thing, but it's continued prohibition is a legal anomaly given the availability of ethyl alcohol.

In conclusion this is a book which could grace any coffee table with style and provoke a thousand conversations, just like it's subject matter.

There's a cosmic rush of music below the belt.
Agg, nice one, this is for you!

Curved Air - S t r e t c h

BLACK WIDOW - Come To The Sabbat (1970) LIVE video

Evening Over Rooftops - The Edgar Broughton Band

The Incredible String Band - 02 - The Juggler's Song

white rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)

And of course some Floyd.
Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 28 November 2008

Comical animations - Polar Bear

I've no idea where these originate but I love them:

Polar Bear - Holiday

Golf is below the belt.

Polar Bear - Golf
Grow into these trousers... >>

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Human Ancestry - cartoon style

Here's a gentle introduction to human origins from 23andMe on YouTube.

Ancestry 101: Prologue

I guess there's more to come.

Via Atheist Media Blog and Wired Science who rated it highly in their Top 10 Amazing Biology Videos. Grow into these trousers... >>

Where on Earth

"Do you know your Eiffel Tower from your Guggenheim? Where on Earth has you pinpointing the location of iconic buildings in the world."
It's similar to The Traveler IQ Challenge™ but with lots of landmark buildings.

Sorry 'bout the adverts. Grow into these trousers... >>

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Old style rock

Often covered - rarely done so well.

Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water (Live, 1973)
Grow into these trousers... >>

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

I couldn't put it better


Via Primordial Blog - via Friendly Atheist. Grow into these trousers... >>

Monday, 24 November 2008

Update - Female evolution

In my post on female evolution I thought that Afarensis would have more to say. So click through for an update. Grow into these trousers... >>

A puzzle game

Draw walls and ramps with your mouse to drive the red ball onto the red square. Simple.

Can't work out how to see my scores though, but still infuriating fun. Grow into these trousers... >>

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Sad, but somehow beautiful

Imagine 4600 years ago near Eulau, Germany. A tribe or a settlement was viciously attacked and many were killed. Men, women, children. The survivors returned to bury the dead, these were the people they had lived alongside and maybe grown up among. Thirteen individuals have been found buried so far, interred with social knowledge and respect. One woman has a flint arrow head embedded in her back. Another has two huge blows to the top of her head, either one would have been fatal. Many have arm wounds, an indication they were trying to defend themselves but were unarmed or surprised. We will never know what happened, but the researchers* themselves describe it as "a strong indicator of lethal aggression".

Photo credit: PNAS

The remains have been analysed for DNA and for levels of the element Strontium. Specifically reported are mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) and Y-chromosome DNA.

mtDNA is passed on from mother to child, both boys and girls, but only the girls can be mothers to pass it on again. The Y-chromosome is passed only from father to son.

In one grave are three children and one female adult. This was the lady who had her head smashed twice, but by mtDNA she is not the mother of two of the youngsters, the lineage of the third is currently unknown. What happened here and why bury them together? A paternal aunt maybe? A childminder with her charges?

The family unit is below the belt. It reminds me of this discovery.

Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences/PNAS

At the top is an impression of how the bodies were laid out. The square symbols denote males, the circle is a female. The colours show blue for the male (Y-DNA) and pink or orange for the female (mtDNA) lineages. So the father and mother were definitely unrelated. His mtDNA (oran
ge) comes from his mother's line, hers (pink) from her different maternal history.

The two male children are without question this couple's offspring, they carry their mother's mtDNA (pink) and their father's Y-DNA (blue), but the deliberate placing of the bodies says much. Daddy's favorite son, mom's little soldier, who knows? The people who buried them I suppose, but there would have been a reason.

Ah strontium and you thought I had forgotten. I always associate strontium with red fireworks and, in its radioactive form together with caesium, a nutritional hazard post Chernobyl but that's the point. From Wikipedia:
Since Strontium is so similar to calcium, it is incorporated in the bone. All four isotopes are incorporated, in roughly similar proportions as they are found in nature... However the actual distribution of the isotopes tends to vary greatly from one geographical location to another. Thus analyzing the bone of an individual can help determine the region it came from. This approach helps to identify the ancient migration patterns as well as the origin of commingled human remains in battlefield burial sites. Strontium thus helps forensic scientists too.
By measuring strontium isotope ratios, in this case from teeth which are laid down in childhood, the research shows that the men and women were raised in different places. This implies inter-tribal contact for the purpose of choosing a spouse, and further implies an understanding of the problems associated with inbreeding.

A fascinating study.

PNAS doi: 10.1073/pnas.0807592105
"Ancient DNA, Strontium isotopes, and osteological analyses shed light on social and kinship organization of the Later Stone Age", Haaka et al, PNAS, Nov 2008.

Supporting information.

Grow into these trousers... >>

A thought for a Sunday - Zen

A samurai once asked Zen Master Hakuin where he would go after he died. Hakuin answered “How am I supposed to know?”

“How do you not know? You’re a Zen master!” exclaimed the samurai.

“Yes, but not a dead one,” Hakuin answered.

Zen proverb

Via LGF. Image credit: Calisphere. Grow into these trousers... >>

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Sussed the bug

Some 'Internet Explorer' folks have told me of an error on the blog causing the main page to abort loading. Well I hope that's fixed now. It seemed to be because a closing </span> tag was missing on one post last week. This is annoying seeing as how a) the Blogger software generates these tags automatically, b) is supposed to check that they come in opening and closing pairs before you publish and c) it's hardly a big deal.

More annoying is that some versions of IE fail catastrophically whilest Firefox displays perfectly. Having been forced to use IE for an evening to sort this out I can only say I think it's crap. Get Firefox now! Grow into these trousers... >>

An incident close to home

My bus journey to work yesterday took me right past here. I saw the police tape and thought... nothing unusual, this is Windybank estate, a locally notorious region. Then the news items pop up.

It turns out that, following an internet leak of membership details of the right wing BNP, a so called political party in the UK, someone decides it is acceptable to fire bomb a car.

But the BNP guy wasn't in, so they trashed his neighbor’s car instead.

Wankers. Grow into these trousers... >>

β Pictoris b

They are coming thick and fast. Is this yet another exoplanet? Well it's a good candidate. It's is a difficult image to interpret but have a look at the star β Pictoris.

Credit: ESO

The light blue disc has been digitally enhanced, β Pic is at the centre and normally its glare would obscure everything, this glare has been removed. The multi-coloured flares are a ring (or rings) of dust circling the star similar to Fomalhaut but here we are looking exactly edge on. And there it is, just offset from the centre at 11 o-clock, a faint point of light. More work needs to be done to make certain that it's not a foreground or background object, but there is good evidence for a planet. Noticeably it is directly aligned to the rings. Had it been at 1 o-clock a non-planetary explanation would be more likely. Also estimates of its mass are about 8 times the mass of Jupiter, calculated from its brightness and its postulated effect on the ring system. Big, but planetary.

Just have to wait for more data.
Via the Bad Astronomer, Universe Today and ESO. Grow into these trousers... >>

Friday, 21 November 2008


Great music and now I want to watch Altered States again. Here's the film trailer.

But now the music!

Pink Floyd - ECHOES - 1 of 3

Parts 2 and 3 are below the belt

Pink Floyd - ECHOES - 2 of 3

Pink Floyd - ECHOES - 3 of 3

Grow into these trousers... >>