Not to worry, I have moved it to a new location as from today. This site will remain active, well, forever as far as I am concerned, but no new updates. The content has been transferred, although comments will stay here only. Hope to see you all at the new window.]]>
Really! Empty! I mean, like, with nothing in it, with nothing immediate, no heavy deadlines hanging over my head. Tomorrow I can do something fun, like some research or think of something new. Wey, Hey.
I'm going home to eat pancakes.]]>
On the flip side, I don't feel the enormous sense of disquiet that I did on hearing that George W. Bush had got elected for the first time. Nor the sense of resigned depression on the second election. We don't know how Obama is going to turn out, whether his fine words will turn into fine actions. But, at least, we are not where we were with Bush; where his stumbling words would only turn into fine actions if it happened by chance.
Did I just say "things can only get better"?]]>
1647 personal messages (not including mailing list) of these about, say, 1 in 10 were real the rest spam. Perhaps the most surprising, was an email from Barry Smith with subject "Be my partner". Me and Barry have been discussing for a while his flawed ideas about the building of ontologies; some of the emails got quite heating and the threads very long. I'd had no inkling that, during the course of these discussions, Barry had developed such feelings for me. Sadly, the email turned out to be asking for help transferring 6 million US into the country, which is perhaps less plausible.
We're now well past Durham and I'm almost at the end of the weeding out the spam. Reading begins soon.
Just finished reading my email. Just about to pull into Oxford. Not too bad all things considered.]]>
I've been staying in Gavardo; this is a small town which is about 200m above Lake Garda. It sitting on a glacial moraine, in a classic U shaped valley, with magnificent mountains in the background. It's got upper-course river and a canal which seems to have been constructed mostly for the purpose of energy and irrigation rather than transport. There's still hydroelectric power coming from it, and a old mill building which would have had five wheels originally.
Lake Garda itself is beautiful, with the mountains coming right to the Lake. There are a large number of villages and towns around the edge; the ones on the lake are shopping and accommodation orientated.
One tradition I didn't know about, was the presipio. The Italians seem made for these; essentially these are nativity displays, but they put the hut with three figures that Worcester has to shame. Gavardo had at least three, complete miniature towns, with lighting effects moving through the day, sound, snow, rain and smoke (well steam I think) coming out of the chimneys. Most of them are static, but some of them are mechanised, with hundreds of moving figures. Perhaps to my surprise, I've also discovered that I am appear to be a few centrimetres taller than the average Italian; the presipio's are tunnels you walk through and I kept on scraping my head; just a scrape rather than a full headbutt, Japan-style.
I also went to the bath in Morano which is in the South Tyrol; it's a German-speaking part of Italy (or bilingual anyway). The terme there are magnificient; lots of pools, and a closed, adult-only sauna area, where I got to sit outside, in the buff at -2C, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, cooling down from sauna. Clearly, the Germany language isn't all that has remained here; I got told off three times for not obeying rules (sauna "au naturale", keep your feet on the towel and don't talk too loud. Eech.
Moreno was a day trip from Trento; I know some people from the University quite well, but I've never been there. It's a magnificient city. The architecture is constrained, but beautiful, but dwarfed by the mountains surrounding it.
It's been a good trip, but I'm looking forward to flying home tomorrow. Being surrounded by a foreign language can be tiring at any time; in Italy it's made slightly worse because Italians tend to talk loud (i.e. shout). So I'm suffering from a sensory overload, and there is a bit of hyperreality about everything.
Back to a school away day to start the year on Monday. Perhaps hyper-reality doesn't seem so bad after all.]]>
Next day, I get a call from my own doctors — were they phoning up to send me a get-well soon. No, of course not, they were phoning up to sign me off; the receptionist seemed quite irritated that I had been to the drop-in place, and had great pleasure in telling me to seek a new doctor.
The problem was, of course, that I have moved, so I am "now no longer in their area". Yeah, but I only go to the doctors once every couple of years, on average, and I move on average about that often. So, theoretically, I would have to register with a new doctor about as often as I want to see one; hardly surprising, then, that I can't be assed to register at all.]]>
42 miles in total. Too far, I fear. A bit disappointing as it should have be fine; less than last week and with a lot of road involved. Went at about the same speed too. I have some way to go before I can get to the 100 it appears.]]>
This time, it was more of a problem. I got as far as Corbridge and then decided to come back; when I got home I found I was only 3, maybe 4, miles short of Hexham; if I'd had a map, I'd probably have known. Flip side is, I was pretty popped when I got back; the extra 9 miles might not have been a good idea. As it was, I managed to do 45 miles, which was not too bad.]]>
It's all pretty tiresome.]]>
Now it's late, so time to sleep.]]>
Anyway, coming back from the social melodrama, a few months ago, we moved house. It's quite a nice place; it's unfurnished so has required a lot of work buying furniture, screwing it to together and standing it upright (having, of course, carefully hoovered underneath first). Although it's left me tired and drained, I've enjoyed it. The flat, however, it turning out to be a bit of a disaster.
The letting agents, Countrywide Residential, have been fairly poor from the start. Obviously, this is all my misunderstanding, and is not what happened at all, but they appeared to phone me up the day before the lease at 4pm, say we were required to have contents insurance and then offer to sell us the same for 3 time the market average. My mistake, but it appeared to be a filibuster. Obviously, this is not what they did say, because the lease does not require insurance; probably, they were just trying to be kind and help us with some organising. No doubt, their deal was different from the ones we found on the internet and were no way comparable, hence the price.
We've now had the plumbers out three times to the heating system; once because the timer has broken, once because it was leaking and now, it's no longer leaking but it ain't working either. So, no hot water. Not too much of a disaster for me as I am going to Stockholm for a conference, but a pain for my other half (two mentions in one post!).
Still, this seems to be getting sorted now. But we got home last night to find that the Royal Bank of Scotland (my bank incidentally) is taking the landlord to court for repossession. For foreign readers of this blog of whom there are none, in most sane countries tenants have pretty strong rights; if you pay the rent, you stay in the property. In the UK, we have very few rights; you can get kicked out for little reason. One of the few rights we do have is an initial 6 month rental period; in that time, it's hard to get rid of a tenant. Unless the landlord doesn't pay his mortgage and gets repossessed. Under these circumstances, you are out. So, potentially in a months time, having not quite moved in yet, we'll be putting everything into boxes and moving again; in the middle of teaching term also.
As a society, I think that we have to learn that rising house prices does not constitute a boom and that falling house prices a recession. Both of them are a disaster. Steady, reasonably priced, affordable houses are the only way forward. It's about time that we grew up from our free market childishness and realised that a house is not an investment, it's something to live in.
For us, the worst case outcome is not a disaster; it's an inconvienience, a cost and a lot of hassle, so I'm not depressed, just irritated. I know for many others, the situation is much, much worse.]]>
Only managed 30 miles, but this was mostly because I had other things to do. I want to try and up this. If I can keep going over winter, with any luck, I should be able to do the 100 mile in next years cyclone.]]>
I've wrapped a piece of cloth under the leak, which has got soaked. This then directs the moisture away from the tank, where it can drip freely and be caught in a large container. The dripping was going to drive me mad, however, and also as the cloth got wet, it changed it's shape; so I added a funnel and pipe. The last essential ingredients were some cling-film around the cloth to stop drips from anywhere else, and vaseline on the water tank to re-direct the last few recalcitrant flows.
Full details available.]]>
I've enjoyed the US away from the main urban areas far more than the time in the cities; touring through Arizona and Utah has been a great experience. Perhaps the most unexpectedly educational experience, was listening to Rush Limbaugh and his equivalents on talk radio. Clever and consistent, it's easy to see how this trickling propaganda sinks in. Being able to switch your opponent off, makes it easy to win the argument.
For the leader of the free world, I find the US strange constrained; there are signs up everywhere telling you what you must or must not do, all backed with obscure references to ordinances. The exception to this, of course, is parking which you can do most places. Even the rich districts of SF have 2 hour parking on most streets. At the same time, basic consumer protection seems missing — the price you see is never the price you pay, even if it's just tax. Having said that, everybody is willing to do things for you, if you ask. You can get food as you want, variations are almost always possible, and if you are argue rules can be changed; in the end, we didn't pay the one way charge the San Diego branch of Dollar was trying to screw us for.
The low point of the holiday has to have been the MGM in Las Vegas; two lions in a small glass cage in a Casino is a disgraceful exhibition that degrades all those who see it. The highpoint was Betatakin floating in the distance. And the most pervasive memory, I steal — all the roads going, all the people dreaming in the immensity of it all.]]>
The whole place was wonderful, but it's got such heavy traffic through it and it's less well done than Bryce or Zion in terms of information. Ultimately, I think that the problem was ours; vast amounts of Yosemite are only accessible on foot; clearly the short time we had, is not the best way to see it.
San Francisco was great, however. All of a bit of a cliche I fear — the hilly streets, the crookedest road which we drove down by mistake, the cable cars and so on. I've now sailed under the Golden Gate bridge on a catermaran, been on a cheesy tour in a bus dressed up like a cable car. It's a vibrant city, relaxed and comformtable. The climate is nice, never hot, never cold; although, ironically, having been in the desert for 2 weeks, I burnt my head — it's cool, but the sun, when it's out, is as bright as anywhere else in California.]]>
After Bryce, the plan was to move to Las Vegas, but Zion stands more or less in the way and we got sidetracked; which was good as Zion is one of the most beautiful parks I've seen, with the most amazing variety of micro-climates. The main difference is that it has water; so while it's still desert, it is rich with plant and animal life. As you move upward, it gets wetter and cooler and the plants change accordingly. Perhaps the most extreme example is Weeping Rock; this is a enormous rock face which sits on the boundary of two layers of horizontal rock, the lower layer being impermeable; so water that fell as rain 1200 years weeps out onto the desert floor causing a small, local swamp area. In a 200m walk, the plants change completely.
Zion has also had a novel idea, which the rest of the National Parks should learn from: they have banned cars from the main road. We toured the valley in a propane-powered shuttle bus. The view was better as a result and the place more peaceful. Bryce and the Grand Canyon should follow. Arches and the Petrified forest might be a different thing; a 5 minute wait for a bus in Zion is nothing, but in the full desert heat, a car also becomes a portable air-con unit.
It took 4 hours to see Zion, so we stayed in Hurricane rather than Vegas as was the plan. A classic American town which I did not see much off.
Next stop was Las Vegas itself. For specifics, read a guide book; Las Vegas, at least this part, is surface thin. It's visually stunning, provides a sensory overload, but there is nothing to it, other than the things you can see. More over, even the shows seem to be largely a copy; the number of people who were appearing as some one else, from stars of Country and Western, to men dressed as Joan Rivers or Brittany Spears. The whole place was plastic, packaged and artificial, even down to the food; the closest we could get to real food was bottled orange juice and a prepared fruit salad.
From Vegas, we travelled through Death Valley which was 48C at the lowest point that we got to (190 feet short of sea-level). Stark and magnificient, dangerous and inhospitable, it was everything that I could have expected.
Out of Death Valley, we have passed the shadow of the High Sierra Nevada, including the highest mountain in the main body of the US. In the distance, I saw the smoke from a major fire in Yosemite; we've come to rest in a place near Crawley Lake which doesn't seem to have a name of it's own. The temperature has gone in a few hours from 48C to around 10C. Outside, I've saw in 5 minutes the milky way, three meteorites and the sky lit up with a distant lightening strike.]]>
The big surprise of the trip was the Navajo national monument — managed by the federal government, but named after the Navajo. It's not that big, but you can walk down short trail which overlooks Betatakin. This is Pueblo settlement, maybe 800 years old. It's hidden in a large cave, shetlered from the elements. I only saw it from a kilometre away, but it was a wonderful experience.
Next, came a brief stop in Moab; they have a small museum there, with most of the exhibits appearing to come from a few families whose descendents were or are compulsive collectors; one of the items was a trunk from a chap who came from "Trimely, Worcester". I suspect this was Grimley in reality, but it was strange to come around the world to find a peace of home.
The Arches National Park has lots of, well, arches. Truely amazing place, you can stand under fins of rock weighing millions of tons. Hot as hell, though. It must have cleared 39C.
Finally, today was Bryce. As far as I can tell, it's made of very similar stone to Arches, but it's higher up (about 3000m!) and wetter. It's been formed by freeze-fracture rather than gentle (and very rare) water. As a result, the rock formations are spikier, rougher and stunning. They have formed a wonderful canyon; in many ways this is more impressive than the Grand Canyon as you can easily walk into it, feel the sandstone and, most of all, look up.]]>
Now, I am in the lobby of the El Tovar Hotel; 20 seconds walk outside the door is the south rim of the Grand Canyon. I don't know what to say about this that is not obvious; it's really big, very colourful and awe inspiring. Walking around it for a day will stay with me for quite a while.
Without wishing to be a party-pooper, I think that Waimea Canyon on Kauai is actually better; it's 1/20th the size but it's also very wet, teeming with life.]]>
The Joshua Tree park was $15 to get in with a car; money well spent. It's full of Joshua Trees as you might guess, but also amazing rocks, cactus of all sorts, animals, a hidden valley (which really is hidden, I got quite nervous when the exit was not where I thought, but another 100m on). The sunset was wonderful.
Today, we drove across the Mohave desert, or at least the outskirts of it. The fuel gauge just went shooting down, as the air con fought against the desert heat. We skirted London Bridge (for this is where it ended up) and then caught Route 66 (which isn't called 66 anymore). Oatman clearly lives entirely on tourism; it's complete with Tavern, jail with gallows and, bizarrely, semi-wild ex-pit ponies. It was actually less tacky than you might think, and the journey there was fabulous.
After that, we headed to Flagstaff which is where I am now, in a motel. It's pleasant and cool, being at a little over 2000m in elevation. The motel is on Route 66 again. It's also next to the Himalaya Grill; no idea why they called it Grill; nor Himalaya as it's not basically curry, although with anise and a few other unusual spices. Well, suffice it to say, I am now very stuffed and rather happy.]]>
Most of the stuff that I saw in San Diego, I've been to before; the exceptions was Balboa Park — very nice indeed, lots of museums, including a botanics and a cactus gardens — and Coronado — chilled out, lovely and, no doubt, very expensive.
Also spent 3 hours in car hire places. A throughly irritating and unpleasant experience. I was taking back one car and taking out another. The first car had some bumper marks on the rear; apparently this required urgent buffing to return a hire car with 80,000 miles to full service and this would cost $75. Much arguing with the idiot cliche of a hire man ("is this how you do business?"). In the end, paper and water cleaned it up. I guess that I should not have been surprised by a car hire place called "A1 Budget Hire", but it was tiresome.
The second place, this time Dollar Car Hire, decided that we hadn't paid them enough and they should charge $200 extra, for a single way journey. This is after an 2 hour wait in the queue; this one, we are going have to take up with the credit card company.
Ah, well, onwards and upwards; we have moved to Indio which is inland and in the desert. No idea what it's like as it was dark when we arrived except that it's really hot; yeah, well, I guess it's a desert.]]>
I hit the sack just after 11 — I was really tired, and unable to count how many beers with the combination of pitchers and variable glass size.
Now in Portland airport, heading south to the hydrocarbon assault of San Diego.]]>
The Benson Hotel is nice, but somewhat tatty. They got all the frills — doormen outside, chandeliers, idiot guest at the front desk shouting out how badly he's been treated. The guest room, however, shows that while the attention to detail is there, they have forgotten the basics. The glass in the window has integrated The window frames are dirty and are single glassed sash windows, making the room cold; the heating (which you need as a result) has only a "hotter, colder" thermostat so it takes ages to get it right. The furnishings are all grand but have clearly seen their better days.
I think that I have finally understood the difference between US and European cities. In Europe, evolution and economics has given us strangely organised functional parts of town, with roads randomly and chaotically scattered throughout. The US cities have incredible organised roads with the functions scattered randomly; facely buildings, next a brightly lit shop, next to a bar and then a parking lot ($7 all day — land is not expensive here). I guess Americans get as confused by our winding roads as we do by their building chaos.
Maybe I am being a bit negative here; perhaps it's because I am being all sad and pathetic and not knowing anyone.]]>
I should mention that the two customs people in the backroom, though, were polite, patient and efficient.
On the plane, I had a moment of panic when the announced the destination as "Twinchitty", somewhere I did not want to be. Turns out Minneapolis is known as "the twin cities".
Stopped in the airport for some noodles and tofu. They were alright but the caramel in the soy fused with the addititives to leave a nasty aftertaste. So I went in search of some fruit; the cloest I could get is some banana cake and a small (read vast) expresso.
America, America, Land of the Free, tra, le da.]]>
I'm enjoying ISMB this year. Been flitting between SIGs and don't have to worry about bio-ontologies till tomorrow. Text has been quite fun. BOSC as often has some interesting subjects but with a big variation in the quality of the talks about these subjects. Biopathways had some nice stuff also, but the talks are a bit long and the program keeps going off time. Lucky that Mark Wilkinson's biomoby talk was early at BOSC, as I could pop out of pathways without missing two talks; glad I didn't miss that; exciting, energentic and with very funky slides, as always.]]>
Northern Rock Cyclone: So, after a reasonable amount of training, I managed to do the middle distance race which was 62 miles long. If you add in the distance from my house to the start and back, this was 68 miles in one go. Okay, at 12 mph, it's a bit of a trundle, but I felt good about doing it. If I can speed things up a bit, then I might try for the 100 next year.
Brewery Demolition: I saw explosive demolition of the old Brewery. Had a great view from from over the road at St James' Park. On film, buildings always fall down majestically; the brewery wasn't like that. We heard to countdown from the security guy's radio, then there was a flash of deep red light from the bowels of the building. Then it fell down. No majestic collapse, the building just fell to the ground. The dust rose up and swirled around in the brisk wind. Finally, it cleared and there was a pile of rubble. Deeply scary.
InstantSOAP: This was my first independent research project. It was only a year long, but because of a big gap in the middle, it finally finished in a short while ago. I ended up doing a reasonble amount of the documentation for it, and I've started to repurpose it for my neuroinformatics project, Carmen. It's basically an easy way of doing web services; I have it doing R now. It's being trialed out in a user tutorial in a few weeks.
Houses: I've moved houses, and am now living in St Peters Wharf. It's really nice. It nestles in between the river, an industrial estate, a waste recovery centre (that's a tip to you and me), and Walker.
Bio-Ontologies: I'm on my way to Toronto for ISMB and my SIG, bio-ontologies. We've gone against the main conference this year and, yet, registrations are up. I feel good about this.
Anyway, with that lot combined I've been far to busy to write blog posts. Hopefully, they'll get a bit more regularly again.]]>
I've been reading "Medicine balls" by Phil Hammond; fine stuff. He repeats the old ear, nose and throat gag: never put anything in your ear small than your elbow. This makes me wonder, how to explain the stethoscope?
I've also added a new Silly idea. Only 6 months since the last; what a flood of ideas I am having?]]>
It looked like the prize for prat of the day was going to go to room service. Leaving the floor mat over the edge of shower tray is not a great idea — most people turn the shower on before getting into it; how could this been beaten for being stupid?
Five minutes later, I took my spare pair of shoes out of my luggage in preparation for the new day. Both of them for my left foot. Hmmm.]]>
Really, it's true. I am not making this up.]]>
Trondheim was a lot of fun. I was there for a thesis defense. It's a lot more formal than in the UK; the candidate has to do two lectures (one on the thesis, one on a related topic that they find out two weeks before) and then they get a public examination. We were in a very impressive room, with two lecturns, like a court. The whole experience was a bit strange—there's a large degree of theatricality to it. On the whole, I think it's better than the UK one which consists of three people sitting in a room for 3 hours; it's rather anti-climatic, while the Norweigian version has a sense of occasion about it.
I have a theory, though, about feedback in science. It's well known that once you start to do well in science, then success breeds success; you get better known, more opportunities come your way and so on. I've been starting to wonder whether this is, in part, due to airports. The more successful scientists travel a lot (much more than I). The truth is, in this day and age, airports are great places to work. There is nothing else to do, laptop batteries last long enough. Travelling gives you intermittent access to the internet, so you can get what you need, but can't spend hours reading BBC News as a work-avoidance strategy. In the last few weeks, I've got lots of stuff done, as well as writing blog posts of course.
I am going to test this theory next week, by spending the entire time in the airport. Newcastle is only a 15 minutes from my house, so I plan to go up at 9 and sit on the concourse till 5. But will the magic still work if I don't have a valid ticket? I will report back.
I haven't been to Copenhagen since 2001, I think, when I was here for ISMB. The flight in was pretty bad: small plane, big bumps. My memories of the place are confirmed; it's a nice airport, airy and light. I have a veggie noodles which was actually pretty good. The nice balcony that I remember, on the first floor—low seats, lie down couches, free from children—now mostly houses the smoking and kiddies area (separate of course) and, so, has transformed from the most to least desirable part of the entire airport.
I would have loved to pop into Copenhagen itself—I seem to remember it's not far—but I have to re-read a thesis. What with the trip to Japan, I haven't had time to do it before, hence it's become an airport job.
I'm not doing my carbon quota any good here, about another 200kgs up in, well, whatever the combustion products of a plane are.
Now in Trondheim. I've never been so far North (well, not while on the ground). It disappointingly warm at -3C and there's not that much snow around either. Trondheim, from a drive through and brief wander, is cool (sorry). There's an amazing number of pubs (half of them are "British" — I've walked past "The three lions", "Little London" and "Macbeth" already; I'll leave you to work out which is the Scottish one. The street I am on, also has a curry house, a vietnamese and a chinese resturant. I could almost be at home, except for the unfeasibly steep angle on the roofs.
I'm also a new person from before. I've seen the Northern Lights. Not seen them well, I admit, through the window of the plane, with the reflection of a reading light in my eyes. But, I have always wanted to see them, I always knew that some day I would, and now I have.]]>
Yesterday, I got a proper chance to do the tourism thing; we ended up in the electric district, partly by chance — Paul had a guide book, but the hotel wouldn't let us back into our rooms to retrieve it, so we have no above ground map. The electric district is, like the rest of Tokyo, an information overload but more so. At any time, you can here four or five recorded voices, there are flashing lights and music, and signs in Japanese and English everywhere. After that we went down to the palace gardens but they were shut by the time we got there. Evening was food with our ever gracious hosts; lovely again.
Back on the plane now, we are suspended above a Siberian wasteland. Perhaps 2km below, highlighted against the curve of the world there's another plane running parallel to our course. Another ton of carbon released into the air.]]>
The hotel is basic but okay. The toilet has, disappointingly, only three controls: shower on, shower off and level. The latter controls the pressure of the cleaning jet which varies from gentle tinkle to colonic irrigation.
Evening was another meal. My eyes rolled when I saw another low table, but it was one which you could put your legs under. The meal was great and involved several varieties of sake.
Got back to the hotel at 9, and after many hours of being awake slept like a log.]]>
In the end, I turned out to write quite a lot about his death. As well as the blog piece, I wrote some short words—I think that the plan is to put these into a book of remembrance. Depressingly, I am not going to be able to get to the funeral, as I am in Japan (actually I am over China now, on the way). I would have enjoyed meeting my friends again; truth be told, the chances that I will see most of them again are now very small. Ade was my main point of contact.
I don't think my remembrance is particularly good. I think the blog is far better, but I stick it up here anyway. Perhaps, it will help with the google hits.]]>
The address book, however, seems designed for mockery. There's only space for 15 contacts. So this is what the designers think of me, that my social life is so miniscule that I only phone up 15 people? Worse, is the reality of the situation that I only have 11 numbers in it and, of these, one is phone banking (I'm scared of the internet) and the other is for recovering my mobile when I throw it in the laundry bin.
Now, though, it's got worse. The first entry is for Ade Wolfson, whose death I am still coming to terms with. I change the addressbook rarely enough (i.e. never), so that I've no idea how to remove the entry. It sits there, poking me everytime I make a call. This little thing seem cruel.
Perhaps, though, it cuts both ways. I remember my grandfather's funeral. It was summer, and a warm day. Inside the church was cool and pleasant. During the service, a butterfly fluttered around the pews, flying up to the ceiling. It was a beautiful moment. In an incredible act of irrationality, I couldn't help but think that this was my grandfather, flying away and it was comforting to me. Later, my brother talked about the butterfly; he'd been thinking the same thing.]]>
So, today, I went out again. Schuh had only one pair for boots (thick as a phone cable, long enough to garotte an elephant) and one pair for formal wear (2 individual strands of polyester, topped with a bit of plastic). Clarks had only brown laces. The guy in John Lewis' shoe department said "well, I'd expect them to be around here". An older and wiser member of staff directed me downstairs, where a third pointed out the laces — "on the right, in the last fixture, just after the ironing boards".
I am now a proud owner of two pairs of black shoe laces, cost £1.20. Apparently, the manufacturers have been "in shoe care since 1911". I will report back; if this pair fails, I have decided, despite being a veggie, to go onto the town moor, slaughter one of the cattle and tan it's hide, from which I will fashion leather laces. I've now spent five quid on shoes laces for one shoe which is pretty old anyway. I realise this is taking the disposable society a little far, but perhaps they sell shoes for less than this.]]>
I met Ade while at University (or just shortly after). We worked together for a small charity, looking after children, providing them with a holiday, when they were unlikely to get another. Neither of us did this work out a sense of do-gooderism. For myself, I never really liked children that much, but I enjoyed the domesticity of running a holiday, as well as the sense of commonality of a bunch of young adults, struggling well outside of their experience to provide these holidays. Ade was much the same, except for the bit about not liking the children. He was a natural: he could settle the homesick, enthuse the recalcitrant, calm a pyscho-nutter. His story-telling was legendary within a year. It was no surprise when he became a school-teacher; anything else would have been a crime against his talents.
As we moved further away from University, we kept in touch, initially through the charity, and later for ourselves. We spoke infrequently but regularly. We both started to display a touch of Homer Simpsonness in our appearance, but other than that we had little in common. Being a school-teacher provided Ade with a gold-lined rut; he loved what he was doing, but worried that it would speed him toward middle age in his twenties. For myself, the insecurity and lack of responsibility of a contract research scientist threatened to keep me as an eighteen year old in my thirties. We spoke about this at times; other favorite topics were the state of his plumbing and Harry Potter; Ade had introduced me to Harry around book 3, while I was living in London. Over the next few years, we completed a post-modern analysis of the plot ahead of publication — for the record, he guessed about Dumbledore, while I got Sirius.
We saw each other rarely. I think the last time was nearly 5 years ago. He lived in south London; I consider the capital to be less habitable than Mars. We tried to hook up a few other times, but it didn't happen. I am left with a memory of him, a kind, wonderful man, with a great laugh and an overgrown beard which he had, in reality, long shaved-off.
His death is a tragedy and distressing to many of us who knew him. That such a straight-forward man should die in such melodrama is unfitting to say the least. That he chose not to defend himself, as I am sure that he could, that he could not find the support from all those who loved him, is painful to us all. But since I heard of his death on Saturday, I have also thought much of the time in his presence, of the stories we were part of, and the friends that we were. I've enjoyed re-living these memories more than I can say.
Adrian Wolfson, RIP.]]>
I was rather surprised therefore to walk into one in Beeston, Nottigham at the weekend. It turns out that the both this branch and the one in Leeds were bought by their managers from the parent company.
Good stuff! Hope that they do well. With any luck, they might expand. Newcastke might be a good place to go, as they are in need of a new hippie-veggie shop I hear.]]>
Ultimately, the means of communication do affect how we behave; the blog feels more conversational, less formal. I tend to write this stuff out once, and rarely even proof-read it.
I shall think on this; my worry is that if I spend time improving the presentation, I might just not write anything at all. But then, if a jobs worth doing...]]>
It's been a lot of work. This has conspired with the early spring deadline for conference season; I am now in the review period for three conferences at once, including ISMB and haven't yet done a lot of work for Bio-Ontologies. Next week appears to be an "incredibly busy" week; I've just blocked out my entire diary with events.
Maybe there will be a miracle next week, and I shall be magically freed of work. Alternatively, maybe, google calendar will undergo a terrorist attack or, worse, a power cut which would have much the same impact.]]>
The funny thing is that I think I have had more birthday greetings than I have ever had in my entire life. Whether anyone will speak to me again, now that I have so cruely decieved them is open to question.]]>
Today, I went first to the kitchen section, forgetting that it now sells shoes, and that the toy department downstairs sells kitchenware. So, I popped downstairs to the toy department for the nutcrackers, came back upstairs to the kitchen department to get some shoe laces. Sadly, they didn't sell shoe laces — this would have been considered too logical and, therefore, against standard retail practice. Instead, they directed me to either the haberdashery department or the in-store Timpsons — people who cut keys and mend shoes. I decided against the haberdashers on the grounds that "haberdasher" is a stupid word. The Timpsons is to be found, straight-forwardly enough, in the food court, where I found the shoe laces (75cm, black, round). Sadly, Timpsons is not Fenwicks, even though the tills said "Fenwicks departments store", so while they could sell me the shoe laces, they couldn't sell me the nutcrackers. So, I walked through the sushi bar to the perfumeria which is convieniently located next to it (raw fish and perfume being natural bedfellows) and paid for the nutcrackers there.
The shoe laces are a bit short.]]>
In the end, I got up and watched my latest Amazon DVD; luckily it was light and breezy — An Inconvienient Truth. Actually, it was pretty good; wildly American-centric of course, although I guess the temperature graphs look more impressive in Farenheight as the numbers are so much larger.
This set me to thinking about my Christmas and New Year. Christmas was at Worcester, then I went to Tuscany for New Year. Most of the time, we stayed in an Agriturismo in Sinalunga. These agriturismo places don't have an equivalent in the UK; basically, you get a farm building, kitted out for living, on agricultural land. They get tax breaks so they can be pretty cheap. They are very popular because they help you get back to the rural idyll; at this time of year, this roughly translates as the freezing cold. So, we got through a ton of wood (literally) between 10 people for 5 days. Adding it all up in terms of fuel assuming the fuel is all carbon (wrong obviously).
Newcastle -> Worcester 15kg C (based on 20 litres consumption)
Birmingham -> Milan 55kg C (based on what it said on the plane door).
Milan -> Sinalunga 10kg C (shared with others, based on 30l).
Sinalunga -> Milan 10kg C
Milan -> Birmingham 55kg C
Worcester -> Newcstle 15kg C
Wood, 100kg (1 tonne by 10 people).
Makes a round 300kg of Carbon emited, or around 4 times my body weight (well, okay, 3.5 times then).
Which is about 1/30th of my Carbon footprint for this year, in two weeks, not including food and everything else.
What can I say? I was feeling much more relaxed about work stresses afterwards, so in a wierd way, I guess the film worked. I managed to get a whole 2 hours before I got up to give a lab meeting talk to four people.]]>
Still, I managed to add to my Silly Ideas wiki for the first time in ages, so all is not lost.]]>
The University is a building site; I did see a patch of grass on the way from the station, but a guy with a theodolite was eyeing it up. The hideous maths tower is now a distant memory to be replaced by the scan building. This has been lovingly architected to evoke images of a gasometer. It's hideous.
Manchester seems much the same as before with a few shops gone, a few more appeared. Next to the stationary shop in the precinct, they have a Brazillian eyebrow plucking emporium; I think I may pop in tomorrow.
For food, we went to "No 4 Dine and Wine" in Didsbury; despite the silly name, it's nice. Quite homey and comfortable, the food was well-prepared and straight-forward enough, except for a tendency to balance the meat on top of the vegetables. The veggie options were okay; the roast vegetable soup was particularly good, although too hot; I ended up flushing burnt bits of the roof of my mouth down the sink at half time.
Surely the roof of your mouth should really be called the ceiling of your mouth?
Travel there and back was a pain. On the way, we couldn't get a taxi for love nor money (actually, we only tried money). In the end, we took the bus. On the way back, the taxi arrived okay, but he bought us back via Liverpool. "This is Oxford Road" he announced just north of Rusholme. Yes, I know. That would be the road we started off on. Eventually we got back to the Business School which has a 101 integrated hotel and sauna rooms.
My laptop fan is starting to make pained noises as the machine overheats. Time to sleep.]]>
Got it in the end, by about 1 minute. The run almost killed me though.]]>
The Musee Lorraine is not huge, but well kept with a nice garden the middle. There were two tours on offer: the permanent collection and a temporary exhibition on glass. The tour guide was using English for the first time on a tour; she lost some words, accented others and was occasionally confusing, but was so enthusiastic, excited and expressive she more than made up for it. The exhibition was small, but good, showing the changes in glass from Roman times to the last century and, in parallel, some of the processes involved in glass manufacture.
Stopped off for (more) Italian food on the way home; the starter was good (tomato and aubergine bruschetta) and better than the main which was a little uninspired.
On the way home, workmen were putting up Christmas lights in Stanislas place, with a (slightly naff) igloo underneath.]]>
Afterwards, I went to the workshop on accessibility. It was interesting, although it reminded a little of the microarray section of ISMB a few years ago; everyone was comparing their system to the gold standard (a system someone else came up with a few years previously). Unfortunately, I was too tired to pay real attention, so I left after the coffee break, and walked a few kilometres back to the hotel, in need of fresh air.
Nancy turns out to be a pleasant place, unrelated to the rain-sodden, weeping moorland that it was last night. Most of the city is tenement blocks; it reminds me of Edinburgh although with surfaced walls, rather than the granite hardness of Edinburgh's stones. The city is currently dripping with lights — testimony to the festival of St. Nicholas that has just gone, rather than Christmas per se. Unlike Newcastle, these are not confined to a few streets in the centre but are everywhere; if someone pulled the plug on main street lights, the whole city would still glow. It's quiet here at night, although perhaps that is just monday.
We reached INRA and the University by tram (actually a trolley-bus, with a guide rail most of the way) reasonably efficiently although they had suffered a breakdown that morning. The campus is strange — the architect clearly has a pathological hatred of right angles, circular buildings surrounded by curving roads.
The food has been, how should I put it, equivocal so far. I knew I was in for a veggie disaster at the restaurant last night, as the waiter uncovered my dish, with a flourish and a "Voila!" to reveal a plate of boiled vegetables. Meat course, without the meat. Lunch today was similar (the lentil salad, sneakily, included beef). Despite this, it's clear that general standard of food has been good; lunch was three courses, with wine; coffee came with a small cake or croissant, was strong, pleasant and in small cups; enough to stimulate without concomitant bladder problems. I won't criticise the cooks for not catering for hippie veggies given that they cook well for others.
Tonight, though, I went for the inevitable Italian meal. "Vegetarian pizza" said the waitress (en Anglais) "with red wine", with just enough of a hint of derision to make me feel warm and in France.]]>
I'm travelling to Nancy the whole way to train, using Eurostar. I'd left it all rather late in booking travel, put managed to get tickets the whole way. It's very expensive; >£200, plus Newcastle to London at another $100. I think I could have got it for around 100, if I had booked earlier. As it happens, it was no more expensive than flying, though again that would have been cheaper earlier. Still, I'm quite looking forward to it. The tunnel is a new experience for me.
Out of the last four journeys I have made, I have lost my luggage in Paris, De Gaulle three times (the fourth time I lost my luggage elsewhere), so travelling by train seemed attractive. So far, it's working out well. The train is, well, more civilised than a plane. There's little in the way of through ticketting though; I'm conscious that a delay could mean the entire thing falling over. As we're currently crawling along to overtake a broken down train, this seems distinctly possible.
Well, the train was late, but I had enough time for the change over, and am now sitting in the Eurostar. Coming into King's Cross was a big advantage — Paddington or Euston would have been much less convienient. The St Pancras terminal is fine — security and passport control were quick and no hassle (wey, hey, you can take liquids). The waiting area is comfortable and heated. Boarding straightforward (although the coach numbers are hidden away on a LCD screen which really does not stand out). Looking around and judging by the large number of fat men in suits, it would appear that I am in business class, which is a bit of a surprise. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons it was so expensive.
The train's now moving. It's very smooth but looking outside, it's pretty clear that the train is tanking along. Definately in first class; just had a drink, and now they are bring around a menu.
I think that the power supply keeps getting cut though — my computer is switching on and off between low and high power mode. Either that or it's about to break.]]>
I've been a big fan of Out of this World since I got to Newcastle. The small, packed high organic shop that was here when I arrived re-opened last year as a bigger, more spacious place. Of course, it had plenty of terribly worthy food; food that you could eat with a clear conscience but without that much enjoyment. But it also had a lot of great stuff; the fruit and veg section was pretty good. The dried fruit and nut selection probably the best that I have seen. I was particularly fond of the dried mango slices.
Today, however, I've found that it is shutting down. I suspect that they over-expanded; as well as the new location here, they have opened a new store in York. Then, they've also been hit by the new Sainsburies which opened next door (ironically over the site of their old store). As well as having a bigger range, Sainsbury's is open for longer, including Sundays, and has free parking. It's an old story, and not a surprise; I was just waiting for the time. I can't help but be depressed, though, that the three rows of wierd things, of strange grains that you have never heard of, their bank of honeys from different parts of the UK, have been replaced by three rows of ready-meal uniformity.
Still, look on the bright side, combined with decline of Northern Rock (also based in Gosforth), perhaps it will mean a drop in local house prices.]]>
I've now fixed the "not" to "now". Oops.]]>
I asked my students about it. About half of them thought it was a good idea, half bad. The main concerns were whether it was going to be more work and more time sitting at a computer reading a website. Good points both. I think that the more work concern may be misguided, though, as it's based on the amount of stuff they learn in the practical classes; it's nowhere as much as they learn in a lecture although the knowledge is deeper. Others thought it was a good idea; most probably the ones bored of my rambling anecdotes.
I've decided that I am thinking too much though. This time of the year is stupidly busy; my mind tends to be constantly active. It's good in some ways, but bad in others. I'm not stressed about it, as I'm used to it, but my mind tends to flit backwards and forwards and I find it hard to relax; even when I am not thinking about work I think about other things.
I think this was responsible for the mini-nightmare I had last night; I'm not a heavy dreamer; I rarely remember them and when I do they are not the technicolour with stereo sound that other people report. Anyway, in this dream I had to travel to Edinburgh for some reason. So, I got the boat up (look, it's a dream, it's not meant to make sense). The trip up went fine, but on the way back it was a disaster and I lost my luggage; I woke up pretty suddenly and really stressed. Ah, the sad mundanity of my life.]]>
The actual flight was fine; had a interesting discussion with a woman from Puerto Rica. I confess not to know that much about it and about it's relationship with the US. It's clear that the country has some difficult decisions ahead.
Sadly, we got stuck in traffic at JFK and were over an hour taking off, so now I have missed my flight and am stuck in Paris for another 2 hours before I head for LHR. Three bad airports in a row. For those of you who are counting, this means 5 flights for one journey.
It's 1 in the afternoon and I feel bad.]]>
I guess it's odd to be talking about Northern Exposure when I am somewhere South of Paris, but this is where is was filmed and it's does get pretty cold up here in winter.
I've never been much in the way for tourism, so a trip up to Roslyn, the physical location for Cicely, Alaska seemed like a pretty daft idea, but sometimes you have to just go with these feelings. Cliff was kind enough to offer to drive me up there. The trip there was, well, flat then hilly. The dividing line between the desert and the trees is really quite sharp. It's maybe a mile from the first tree to the full out forest. Once you get to the forest, it really starts to look like Northern Exposure territory.
We got into Roslyn late; we'd stopped for a quick lunch which had taken ages, after they lost the ticket (the offered us a free starter, but Cliff just got his cash back instead). The sun was still up, but there wasn't much left. The town is tiny, but relatively compact — no urban sprawl here. There is a central road running through it, which is actually at right angles to what appears to be the main road on TV. In the fading sunlight, the place was beautiful; lots of wood construction everywhere, peaceful and with the intense smell of coniferous wood smoke everywhere.
The effects of Northern Exposure can be seen on the town, but only in a small way. Joel Fleischman's office is now the Cicely Alaska museum. Just over the road is the corner store and at the bottom, the Brick. The famous mural is, as it says, on the wall of Roslyn('s) Cafe, rather than the Brick which is the impression that you get. The Cafe, as far as I can tell, is not featured beyond the mural. KHBR radio is just over the other side of the main road; it's still there with Minnifield Communications network up on the door. We stopped for dinner (veggie burger and fries) in the Brick; inside it bears little resemblance to the TV version; it's much, much bigger than it appears, has a stage and long bar, and a big log stove in the corner. I guess that the interior shots are actually studio based, and not here at all.
The town itself is much as it appears to on TV. But there is more to it. It's mining heritage is lost on TV (which would have placed it in the wrong area). The museum they had there was wonderful. As well as the camel mural, there are several others, including celebrating Roslyn's past. And just outside KHBR radio is an "war" memorial to those who lost their lives in the mining industry. I like these small towns; I could have happily spent a couple of days there, hung over, drank beer, drove (or walked!) up some trails.
The experience of being a dumb fan-boy tourist was a little uncomfortable for me, and combined with the declining day light, I didn't quite get the pictures I wanted (forgot to take on of the doctors office), so I'll have to go back another time.
It was a strange way to spend a day, but it was a quintessential American experience. Spudnuts and coffee to start (you may view the spudnuts here, but please prepare yourself first — it's not pretty). At lunch, we got fast food, and I got to see Cliff complain (no one complains like an American), then we drove for hours for little readily apparent purpose, to a place where I took lots of photos of nothing apparent. Wonderful.]]>
PNNL is in Washington State, in Pasco. There are hills between here and the coast, so none of Seattle's rain gets here — basically, it's a desert. The cities have the classic urban sprawl; there is no city centre or down town area, just lots of roads with malls hanging off them. The roads are all about 16 lanes wide, with no cars on them. Space is cheap here; it took me 5 minutes to walk from the guest house, across the largely empty parking lot to the badging office. Unlike Livermore where I have been before, the security is relatively low key; no marine with a basooka strapped to his shoulder wishing you a nice day on the entrance here. They did give me a 30 page "visitor orientation" book. Page 1 says "look after the environment", page 2 says "don't drive too fast", page 3 says "no alcohol, cameras are restricted and wear your badge". From page 4 onwards, it's all about radiological safety including a section cryptically entitled "What about pregnant women".
I'm staying in the PNNL guesthouse, as they are not allowed to put you up anywhere else. They provide a complementary breakfast of microwavable muesli bars, and a 150ml can of apple juice (made from concentrate), which are replaced every monday. The sign telling me all this also says "enjoy your breakfast" which seems a tad optimistic.
The local delicacy here are "spudnuts" — I now said or written this word about 15 times and still find it funny. Basically these are doughnuts made of, well, potatoes. Despite being a desert, Washington state is also starting to make inroads into wines — you can see the vineyards from overhead as you come in.
Today, after a breakfast of spudnuts and coffee my host, the ever gracious Cliff Joslyn is taking me up at Roslyn — better known as Cicely, Alaska, home of Northern Exposure. I expect it's going to be pointless — there many be three buildings I recognise, or there may not. Hopefully, I'll get some reasonably views of the hills as well, rather than miles and miles of flat, brown and probably radioactive dirt.
Actually, it was pretty cool.
The curry was nice, if bland.
Today I've flown into Salt Lake city. From the air, it's astonishing, with the white plains contrasting with the deep blue of the water. Apart from that, it looks like an bit of an industrial dump to be honest.]]>
Walked around Mission Bay these morning. In the morning, there was a mist over the sky, the air was sweet with the smell of tropical trees and and heady with petrol fumes. It's a naturally beautiful area; I can't help thinking that it's natural beauty could have been enchanced if the city were not designed for the convienience of cars.
Wasn't sure what to eat; ended up getting Japanese — had edamame and veggie teriyaki; 10 dollars, large enough to feed a water buffalo who hadn't eaten for several days. Would have been nicer half the size and done better, but it was still good.]]>
Got loads of work done on the way, much of which has been hanging around for ages, including part 2 of a view of my Italy trip . I have to say that at least part of this is the lack of internet connection. Also, today I got up at 4am and the day is 32 hours long. Maybe that has something to do with it. I should travel more often.]]>
While I am thinking about it, I've decided to release chapter 1 of my treatise on Italy following my holiday there. I was going to release everything at once, but I haven't found time to write more; so here goes the first.]]>
A short while later, I walked out of my house, got onto my bike and rode off. Didn't even have to clean my glasses.]]>
Sadly this was just after I finished changing the tube which was, therefore, brand new. Pain.]]>
My question is, why stop with the car park?]]>
Just been to George Hotel: posh, but lots of twiddly bits never impressed me; food was plausible, wine was indifferent, coffee was awful. Staying in the SAS Radisson: good points, free internet; bad points, they have authentic wooden windows to look nice, and a inner draw window which acts as, well, a window. Sounds fine, but it's single, transparent sheet of glass, 10cm in front of the wooden frame and I nearly broke my nose on it trying to look out of the window.
p.s. there's a 2cm step between bedroom and bathroom with no function other than to provide a place to stub your toe.]]>
Vienna airport needs to get it's signs sorted out though. The restrictions all state that you can items bought on the transit can be taken on the planes, but then they put security other side. It's not a surprise really that people get annoyed with these restrictions when their signs are wrong. Now I have to fly without water. Hopefully, I won't get ill.]]>
Zoo: well, lots of sad animals in small cages. They should shut this, move it 20 miles outside town, run a shuttle bus and give the animals more space.
Palm and Cactus House: there were really good and fun to walk around. Smaller than either Edinburgh or Kew, but still good.
State Opera House: it's okay. It is basically a confusing mix of styles, with lots of twiddly bits on. In the end, we only went there because of the rain, so I can't really complain.]]>
The city itself is not, to my mind, beautiful everywhere as the taxi driver suggested, rather it is impressive. The buildings are large blocks, heavily ornamented and shine in the sun. The streets are wide and gentle, with a confusing combination of foot, bike, tram and car lanes. The street I am on — Lassallestraße — is not only named after Frederich Lassalle, but it has little, potted life histories on the road signs. At least, I presume thats what they are. It could say "Frederich had a big nose, bad temper and we are glad that he is gone".
Now that the temperature has reached over 20C, I am tempted to be British and lie in a air conned room, sweating and moaning. I think, however, I shall pop out and do the inner ring. I wish my sandles had arrived with me; I fear this evening I shall need surgical separation from my socks.]]>
So far, seems like a nice city to me, although around here at least it's clearly not a 24hr city as everything was switching off.
Anyway, I won't say more. I got here fine, but my luggage is in Paris as is my power adaptor. Better hit the electrical store tomorrow.]]>
I am to buy a new one, that is what I am to do.]]>
When I got home I decided to sharpen my knifes as they had all got blunt. I've been meaning to try this for years, but I pre-oiled them with olive oil — I never fancied having the synthetic lubricants that I use on my bike on my kitchen equipment. It worked rather well, and made the process rather pleasant smelling — it takes the metal shavings away from the stone afterwards. One thing I couldn't work out is that the oil soaked into the stone. I guess Silcon Carbide is permeable to oil in a way that it is not to water, but to see a heavy stone soaking up a liquid seemed impossible.
I looked up wikipedia for an explanation; one was forthcoming, but I did learn that pure SiC is transparent; it only looks black because of Iron impurities. Now how useless is it to know that?]]>
But all is not lost. I found the solution to a problem that has been
bugging me for ages. Once upon a time, I managed to type my email
firstname.lastname@example.org, by mistake, into
firefox. It's been offering me this as a completion for the last
year. I have finally found the solution on a blog — select the
option, press shift and delete, and it magically disappears.
As far as I can see, the conclusions that you can draw from this, is that for one child, with one set of learning difficulties, in one area, one private school appears to be better than state provided options. Interpretation made in the press is that this means that any child, in any area, with any learning difficulty would be better off in private education.
It would be a shock, indeed, if you could find no child, anywhere, who was not going to better off in a private school.]]>
When I was younger, I thought that the difference between an expensive hotel and a cheap one would be the basic quality of the experience; better beds, nicer food and so on. It's not really true though. Expensive hotels have exactly the same problems as cheap ones: soft beds, bad food, light pollution from the corridor, noisy mini-bar and air con and, worst, people having sex upstairs. The difference is that the add-ons, that you don't use anyway, are better. The free biscuits are nicer, the grounds are better (Slaley Halls are very nice, but water-logged at the moment) and the naff art-work on the wall is a cut above.
Okay, so I'm grumpy, but the air-con kept me awake all night. Air-con. In Northumbria. In winter.]]>
Actually, encouraging them! I mean, did she not know, that everyone else listening to an out of tune, kiddy-drivvel version of Jungle Bells just wanted both of the cute small kids to be quiet? Or die. Horribly.
Climbing the stairs to the way out, I was greeted with "Bing, Bing, Bong, The Metro would like to wish you all a Happy Christmas". What's the point of a recorded service announcement about this! Am I suposed to think that a piece of tape is showing sincerity? Canned, automated, templated Christmas greets are a scourge.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.]]>
Spent the rest of the time waffling on about the power of the internet. I heard Erin McKeown's "Fast as I can" the other day, randomly, and was struck by the beautiful use of inverted word order, leaving the whole thing with a real spacy feal. I heard it at work, then forgot who did it, but 20 minutes of determined work with the internet got me the artist, a short hop to the lyrics, a few more got me an MP3 (sample, obviously, not the whole lot), and another minute to find that she's supporting Thea Gilmore at the Sage in a March.
The course I want to on Information Literacy last week, would suggest that I got this all wrong. Apparently, free text searches are bad, and I should really be using structured searching with boolean queries in a database. True 10 years ago, but now? Boolean searching was a bad user interface because we didn't know how to do it better. But 20 minutes to so much information about a song that I half heard a week before? Now, we do know how to do it better.]]>
Still, the road afterwards was really clear for quite a few miles, so it's not all bad.]]>
Supermarket shopping on saturday is strangely relaxing — the environment and general experience is so horrible that they only way I can cope is to let my brain switch off as much as possible and wander around in a meditative daze.
I spent 15 minutes trying to find soap — I'd assumed it was with detergent, but actually it was next to the dental floss. I also noticed that the pasta isle has been renamed to "Italian Meal Solutions". Very strange.
This weekend, one of my oldest (or should I say longest) friends, Phil, came up. In the end, we watched some vids and drank some beer. Actually, I watched the vids and Phil dozed off. I wonder how a man who is clearly so desparately in need of sleep is going to cope; he's going to become a father in a few weeks time.]]>
The coverage of both has been rather irritating. The media has got increasingly solipsistic these days and likes talking about themselves. Personally, I didn't like either of them as programme makers, both pushing style over substance, both somewhat puerile.
Despite their similarities, however, there are differences. Steve Irwin made his programmes to highlight the animals he appeared to love in face of the risks to their existence, the loss of which would make the world immeasurably poorer. Richard Hammond appears on a programme about driving fast.]]>
The blog is slightly depressing as well, at least for me. I write for my job. Perhaps it's the formal nature of it that has robbed me of the ability to write quickly, lightly and with a human touch; more likely, I just never had the talent.]]>
It looks quite nice to me. It's a little bit out of town; the bike ride will be significant in the morning, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The houses are also a bit cheaper, so I can get something proportionality larger and with gardens. I like space, so this is not bad thing.
I need to find someone who lives there, though. The only person to offer advice so far said "oh my god, it's a tip". But she hasn't been there for 20 years.]]>
The IPR laws are getting increasingly insane. They continually block new ways of using technology. I am starting to think that IPR and communication are necessarily conflicted. I wonder which will break first.]]>
Was a good night, though. Mark seems to be doing well, has accidentally managed to become called Chris, and does something engineeringy.]]>
Food in Brazil is reputed to be poor for the veggie; actually, I didn't think that this was so. It was boring sometimes, but, in general, I eat okay. And even if the dinner was dull, it was often more than made up for by the fruit juices which were fabulous and in enourmous variety; only tempered by the odd Brazillian custom of watering them down (a little bit of water in some, like mango, makes sense, but just a little bit) and adding sugar. As well as all that, you can get "um coco por favour", for about 30p and sit in a barraca sipping coconut milk.
I really enjoyed it. I'd love to go back again, although the chances are that I never will.]]>
Thankfully, these days have gone now. The windows have all been blocked up and sealed, because now we have air conditioning. It's great. Even when the weather outside picks up to a scorching 24C, inside the train will remain a comfortable 32.]]>
This leaves the question, in what sense is it actually a unit?]]>
I was thinking about how we define racism; many people equate it with prejudice (based on race obviously), but I don't think that this is enough. There needs to be some political or power structure in the way, otherwise it's just prejudice and why have two words for the same thing.
It's often hard to describe the different between the two concepts, but I have a good analogy: is a heterosexual man being sexist when he chooses to only go out with women? Most people would say no, but he is clearly being prejudiced, just not in a way that most would find unacceptible.
Strange thing to be thinkin about on a beautiful, sunny afternoon, but there you have it. When I got home, I ended up listening to Peter Day on in business; I can't see it myself — I'm sure he's well respected but he always seems unincisive, lacking in depth and patronising. A very rare collection of attributes.]]>
One of this other major characteristics was his ability to talk the hind legs of a donkey; this is something that most of my father's family — including myself — share. An opportunity to see and talk with them is always good; the stand out moment was my aunt telling the most tasteless gag that I am ever likely to hear at a funeral. Excellent!]]>
Ah, well, there's nothing that I can do about it, so why worry?]]>
So, here is my solution: cut a piece of cotton thread about three times the length of the pipe; about half way down tie a small piece (about 2cm) of hemp string or something similar; feed the end of the thread into the pipe — getting a couple of cm's is easy, more is hard; now, dribble water through the pipe. The point is that the flowing water removes the friction between the thread and the edge of the pipe, and slowly pulls the thread through; you just have to feed the slack. When it's all the way through, you can pull the string into the pipe; again, keep the water flowing or at least full of water. You can use the string to scrub the insides.]]>
It was lovely to see everybody again. I even got to buy some cake as I had a paper accepted last Wednesday.]]>
Well, what can I say? Ever has the path of the true genius been strewn with the yapping and braying of those snapping at their heals. But I shall continue, I shall persevere and broadcast my words to the unfeeling ether of cyberspace that surrounds us!]]>
The image is included as my contribution to medical science. Ouch. Thanks is due to man I was overtaking, who helped me up; particularly nice, as I almost bought him off.]]>
It's, perhaps, a sobering reflection that at the current rate of usage, I will own two more cans before I leave this mortal coil, or have no further use for the stuff.
Still, bike's running better, so mustn't grumble, eh?]]>
"The public sector does not generate wealth for UK plc, only spends the wealth the the PRIVATE sector makes for the country. We the tax payer funds the public sector pensions and therefore I feel that the pensions playing field should be level for all."
Today, UNISON were on strike over changes to their pension rights. The comment above came from the BBC news website. It's an odd point of view; the private sector magically creates wealth, the public sector spends it. So, someone on tax exempt business lunches is creating wealth — at least if they are private sector. I, on the other hand, when researching new knowledge that enables biologists to do new things, am just a sponger, because I work in the public sector.
At least now I understand the PFI: while the NHS would previously have built hospitals using public sector workers, thereby consuming wealth, now they use private sector workers, thereby creating wealth; this is quite remarkable, given that they are doing the same work, paid from the same source, and achieving the same end. Whoever came up that idea must have been very clever indeed.]]>
However, today, this was defeated: the swordfish was robbed. During our strike action, we had the traditional rally, where people stand in front of a microphone and talk at other people who are feeling cold. For some strange, ill-conceived reason, someone came up with the idea of bring along entertainment in the form of a left-wing accordionist singing, among other things, a strange rendition of the "Teddy Bear's picnic". The middle part involved a Freudian analysis of his childhood, during which he swore and almost got arrested for a public order offence.
Strange. Very strange.]]>
In the last week or so, though, I've had a flurry of fixes for it, even added a new feature. More over, a new package called "predictive" which is similar but more powerful (good!), but more complex (bad!)o has been released. Added to the work done on muse mode which I use to publish this journal, I've been deeply embroiled in lisp.
I never understood this sort of synchronicity.]]>
The main reason thing that I noticed was the stickers on them saying that they used 80% less energy than normal dryers. Slightly ironic really that an airport, which has 100 ton hair dryer landing every five minutes, should worry about energy efficiency.]]>