Sunday, 30 December 2007

If I was going there I wouldn't start from here...

Here's an interesting experiment: is it possible to get all the way from Lands End to John O'Groats, starting with nothing at all (save a little preservation of dignity)? Here's what happened when a couple of guys tried to find out:

I must say, regardless of generosity, I might not be that keen to listen if randomly approached in the street by a guy wearing nothing but boxer shorts. Just as well somebody was though!


I rather like this:


Now add a dash of socialism...

I'm quite a keen baker, and I've had various positive comments in return for cakes, the highest of which being anything that suggests I'm nearly as good as my mother. But I heard the strangest ever baking-related comment today.

Recently I spent a weekend visiting a friend who'd moved away. On the Saturday she'd invited people round for dinner, so while she prepared that I volunteered to make a chocolate espresso cake for dessert. (Note: Cadbury's Dream is not a good substitute for white chocolate and does not melt well in a microwave. The burning smell did clear fairly quickly though...)

Anyway, to the point - there was plenty left over so on the Monday my friend took the remains in to her workplace to offer to her colleagues. Which prompted the following conversation:

Colleague: Is this one of those do-gooder cakes?
Friend: Eh?
Colleague: One of those do-gooder, fair trade, ethical thingies.
Friend: Well, the coffee is fair trade...

What on earth is a 'do-gooder' cake? How can you tell from the taste whether the ingredients are fair trade or not? And who in their right mind gets snooty about ingredients when someone is waving free chocolate cake under their nose?

I dunno - perhaps I stirred in a sprinkling of my leftie politics when I made it. Or maybe wrapping it in a copy of Populorum Progressio was a bit of a giveaway...

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Brother Anthony

Deary me, I've been a useless blogger of late.

Anyway - my initial knee-jerk thoughts on Tony Blair becoming a Catholic:

  • Weren't we good enough for him when he was PM?
  • Is he going to do a U-turn on various issues that rather set him against the RC church's teachings?
  • Why is he so special that he was received now? It's traditional for new members to be received, publicly, at Easter. Or...
  • this a ploy orchestrated by Alistair Campbell in an attempt to upstage Jesus? ;-)

Sorry, I'm not being very charitable am I? Will try harder.

Saturday, 17 November 2007


Someone described me today as the 'geekiest girl in the lab'.

I was strangely proud.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Quotation of the day

Thank you to a lighthearted driver on South Eastern Trains, who brightened a frustratingly slow journey with this gem:

"We will be arriving at Waterloo East very soon. Please mind the gap
between the timetable and reality."

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


I wouldn't normally waste blogspace on reality TV, but if I'm honest I have a very soft spot for Strictly Come Dancing. I am therefore one of the disgruntled masses who are incredulous about the premature eviction of Gabby and James. Not that Penny and Ian should have gone either, but it was ridiculous that this was the composition of the dreaded 'bottom two.'

I mean seriously, let's compare this (skip to 1:30):

with this horror (skip to 1:15 if you want to spare yourself extra pain):

In one word: hmph!

(It's ok, guys, normal service will resume shortly)

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Libraries Gave Us Power

library books Originally uploaded by timetrax23

I am a firm believer that local public libraries are Very Important. They enable anyone to access information for free, provide a focal point for the community, and promote literacy, which is a Good Thing. Libraries should be cherished and supported. So there.

As to the last time I actually used our local library? Well..ahem...erm... it was a while back. Sufficiently far that I can't remember. I can make excuses about local libraries not providing sufficiently specialist resources for a post-grad, but the reality is that I like buying books. I like buying them, I like owning them. I even enjoy reading them, although it would be a lie to say that I've read every one that I own.

I was in Waterstones the other day, casting around for something new to read, and was suddenly faced by the rather unappealing prospect of paying £8.99 for a 220 page Penguin Modern Classic. This seemed more than a bit excessive, and the local library, the source of so much enjoyment during my childhood and teens, suddenly came to mind.

So today I made my first trip there for ages, and came away with said 220 page classic, a contemporary novel and a modern history book. All free. No extra consumption, no worries about where I'm going to store them. Should have done it sooner. I hearby resolve to make better use of my local library.

When did you last visit yours?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Moral Relativity


Sunday, 21 October 2007

What would Noah do?

It seems that SPCK, a Christian publishing firm and chain of booksellers, has been having trouble lately. Following a takeover from a charitable trust, various changes have been made to the management that have unsettled things to the extent that vast numbers of shop staff are resigning, and the chain looks as though it might go under. I won't go into all the ins and outs (of which you can read more here and here), but I was rather struck by one of the quotes on the Cartoon Church blog:

“Every time someone buys from Amazon, rather than from a bookshop, that is
another nail in the coffin of a Christian retailer.” - Wesley Owen* Spokesperson

This made me feel a bit of a pang of guilt, given that I have used Amazon on more than one occasion to purchase 'Christian' books. So, I went to have a look at the SPCK online catalogue to see what they had in the way of youth ministry resources.

What I found was...nothing really. Which isn't to say that they don't sell anything I would want to buy, but that their website is rubbish. The only options are to look at 'New Releases', 'Bestsellers' or to do a search for titles, authors or publishers. There is a 'category' search, but you have to use one of their predefined terms which, although containing a wide range from 'Adventists' to 'Zoroastrianism', manages to completely omit 'youthwork' or 'youth ministry'. So how am I supposed to find anything, if I don't know that it exists in the first place? How are you supposed to browse? At least Wesley Owen's site allow you to do that.

It doesn't take a genius to make a business useful to its customers. And much as it would be sad to see the demise of a Christian bookshop chain, it doesn't seem that they want to actually help their customers. So what should I, as a Good ChristianTM, do to help keep them afloat? I guess the only option is to do my browsing on Amazon, and then search by title on the SPCK site, and buy the books at a higher price. I'm not really convinced, though, that a business should rely so heavily on Christian charity to keep its head above water.

*Another Christian bookshop chain.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Another humourous interlude

Haven't posted any cartoons for a while and this one made me smile:
Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

[PS. If anyone has any suggestions on how to edit the html to make it small enough to fit on my blog properly, please tell me!]

Friday, 19 October 2007

Coming of age

I'm not sure I like personalised marketing. Well, I'm not sure I like marketing in general, but the personalised sort can get just a little bit too...personal.

I turn 25 quite soon, and I haven't yet decided whether this calls for a quarter-life crisis. Someone, however, seems keen that I should have one. I possess a loyalty card for a well known high street purveyor of cosmetics, medicines and the like. Periodically they send me vouchers to get money off or acquire more points on products I frequently buy, or more expensive equivalents (what a surprise).

The most recent mailing I received from them, however, offered me discounts/extra points on the following items:

  • Own brand pain relief tablets
  • Glycolic Peel
  • Dermatological eye patches - 'a temporary eyelift effect without surgery'
  • Support tights.
What do you think they're trying to say?


Woo! According to sitemeter, my blog has now had over a thousand hits. Some of them were even from other people! Gosh.

Thank you to the individual who did a Google search for 'London Review of Breakfasts' and got this entry. It was your hit that pushed the counter over into four figures. I hope you found my post helpful!

Monday, 15 October 2007

Joni Mitchell may have lamented that they 'paved paradise and they put up a parking lot' but it turns out that New York's yellow taxis aren't all bad for the environment. According to an article in Resurgence magazine, over the next few years, the city's taxis are going to be replaced by hybrid vehicles

This is a really positive move for New Yorkers who will experience cleaner air as a result. But I think it's also a fantastic publicity opportunity for greener transport in the US. On the basis of what I've learnt from a book I've nearly finished reading, it seems that our transatlantic cousins have a bit of an addiction to the internal combustion engine, and the car industry has something of a reluctance to move on. If an increased domestic demand for hybrid vehicles develops, however, perhaps it'll act as the trigger for change.

(This post is in honour of Blog Action Day. Oh, and I was originally going to call it 'Big Green Taxi' until I looked again at the Resurgence piece and realised they'd got there first. Darn.)

Monday, 8 October 2007

Anatomy of a PhD

Most PhD vacancies in the UK come with 3-4 years funding attached; even if you haven't written up your thesis in that time, the research council will stop paying you.

Now the layman might reasonably assume that this structure suggests that the student spends 70-90% of the available time gathering data, and the remainder writing this* up in the form of papers and a thesis. Fourteen months into my lab-based PhD, I'd like to suggest an alternative structure:

Year 1
Month 1
- Learn where stuff in the lab is kept.
-Try to understand the title of your research project.
Month 2-12
- Learn the basic techniques for your research. This may involve having them demonstrated, trying them for yourself, then repeatedly needing reminders of the finer points of which you forget a different one each time you carry out the experiment.
Month 2-8
- Potter
Month 8-12
- Feel like you're starting to get some command of what you're doing. Then learn a whole new bunch of techniques and feel like a newbie again.
- Have an unsettling conversation where someone says to you 'Oh, did nobody tell you that X is done like this...?' Feel a bit peeved/confused/stupid.
- Be told that something is easy/straightforward and then come up with every mistake in the book.

Year 2 Getting down to some serious work. This may involve:
- Generating weird data that prompts every senior/more experienced person you consult to say, "Ooh, that doesn't look good. I don't know what's causing it though."
- Fail to find any helpful advice for your problem in the literature. Know deep down that your bizarre data is ten thousand times more likely a glitch in the experiment than a significant discovery.
- Develop a force field that causes every piece of equipment you want to use to break or malfunction.
- Write 15 drafts of your transfer report (to have your study upgraded from 'MPhil' to 'PhD' status)
- Have serious doubts about (i) your research methods (ii) the validity/importance of your overall study (iii) the purpose of your own existence.
- Discover that coming in on a Saturday is no longer a weird concept.

Year 3 (please, God)
- Finally get some of your experiments going.
- Bid farewell to any residual social life
- Generate that much longed-for data.
- Write up.

So I'd estimate around 6 months of useful data generation in the whole process, and a few marbles lost along the way. I hope the taxpayers are happy.

*Yes, I know 'data' is a plural, but talking about 'these data' sounds a bit unnatural and poncy outside of the context of a research article.

Sunday, 7 October 2007


Apparently, clergy who wear dog-collars out in public are at risk of being attacked, and should remove them when off-duty, according to a study by National Churchwatch.

Now, obviously I don't want clergy (or anyone, for that matter) to be subject to attack, publicly or privately. But I have a few issues with this advice. Firstly, it only serves to play into the hands of aggressors. If somebody is provoked to violence by something like that it says far more about the aggressor than it does the concept of wearing a dog collar. Secondly, it seems to be another example of Christians having to make concessions to secularism when other religious groups aren't; if you replace the words 'clergy' and 'dog-collar' (which in itself is not a very complimentary description of a 'clerical collar') with 'Rabbi' and 'Yarmulke', I would imagine a fair degree of outrage in certain quarters that people were having to take these steps to ensure their safety.

Finally, I would quibble the notion of 'off-duty' clergy. Certainly I think it would be unreasonable for parishioners to harangue their clergy with non-urgent matters in Tescos, but the idea that clergy are ever truly off-duty mistakens religious vocation for shift work. Religious dress can be a signal to other people of adherence to a particular belief system, but it can also be a reminder to oneself of one's commitments.

(And before you ask, I don't think that what I've written there is at odds with my earlier post about abstinence jewellery in schools. Different issue).

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Notes to newbie cyclists

Cycle on the pavement until you've got your confidence up, being courteous to other pavement users.

Cycle assertively in the road, not causing bother, but acknowledging you have as much right to be there as any other form of transport.

Do not be a wuss and cycle close to the kerb such that when the road bends slightly and you fail to notice, you find your wheels grinding on the kerbside, panic, slam on the brakes, and promptly come off the bike sideways.

Just a purely hypothetical scenario, you understand.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Nothing new under The Son

I've been thinking a lot about free and fair trade, social justice and commercial manipulation lately. So one of today's readings seemed timely:

Listen to this, you who trample on the needy
and try to suppress the poor people of the country,
you who say, 'When will the new moon be over
so that we can sell our corn,
and sabbath, so that we can market our wheat?
Then by lowering the bushel, raising the shekel,
by swindling and tampering with the scales,
we can buy up the poor for money,
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
and get a price even for the sweepings of the wheat.'
The Lord swears it by the pride of Jacob,
'Never will I forget a single thing you have done.'
-Amos 8:4-7
So, some things haven't changed much then. When will we learn?

Thursday, 20 September 2007

UK standards fall to a new low

As if everything else the BBC has got up to lately wasn't bad enough, it now seems that they've sunk to to new depths. Not content with depriving various competition entrants of their chance of winning a prize, the latest installment of Blue Petergate reveals that the editorial team fixed a vote for the name of the new cat.

A cat. Who the hell really cares if it's called 'Socks' or Cookie', apart from the young viewers? Why interfere? I can't see how either name could be deemed inappropriate. Unless there's something afoot along the lines of the Papal Hovis contract. Anyone checked the price of shares in Sockshop lately?

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Too much information

I'm really not convinced by the notion that in a free society, everything that can be reported should be reported. I'm not suggesting press censorship. More like a little media responsibility. Three recent stories have made me come to this conclusion:

1. MMR

In the UK, the rate of uptake of the immunisation for measles, mumps and rubella has suffered a serious knock in the wake of media hysteria surrounding a small, highly contested study that suggested that the vaccine could trigger autism. Ignoring the fact that the study was questionable for so many reasons, the media managed to instill a sense of paranoia in the majority of parents whose children were approaching immunisation age. If I had been in the parent position at that time, I'd have been pretty worried on the basis of what was being said in the mainstream media.

Fortunately the scaremongering seems largely to have died down, but unfortunately the damage is still tangible. Uptake rates are still lower than they were prior to the scare, with a consequent rise in the number of cases of measles. Just a few days after reporting that, however, the BBC decided it was a good idea to run a story headed "MMR overdose given to 93 pupils". Oh heck, think I, imagining misplaced decimal points resulting in a bunch of 2-year-olds being given 10 times the recommended dose. But then I actually read the story. Turns out that the pupils in question were a pretty robust 14-15 years of age. And the 'overdose' they referred to is not too high a dose, but a third dose when the pupils had already had the requisite two, due to a mix up where parents signed their kids up for another dose by mistake. No harm done. I doubt the kids in question even experienced any side-effects. So why put a story like that under an alarmist headline and stick a link to it on the front page of BBC News? What were they trying to achieve?

2. Northern Rock

So, a UK bank borrows some money from the Bank of England, and all of a sudden there's mayhem with customers clearing out their accounts, making the bank far more likely to go bust than it ever was in the first place. I can't help but wonder whether the initial reporting could have done more to prevent the chaos, or whether the media secretly love a bit of panic from the general public. Admittedly, the message from early on was 'nothing to worry about', but when the story is simultaneously front page news, then it's hard to expect people not to react adversely.

3. Too much information in general

There was a case recently where a British actor was found guilty of downloading and viewing inappropriate material of children on his computer. His sentencing took place last week.

It is fine that this was reported. It was fine that they described the nature of the material as being 'class 5' i.e. the worst type of material in the classification system. What I consider to be of highly dubious merit was for the reporter to then describe the nature of material that falls into all the five classes. I cannot tell you how bad the material in this case was, because I had switched off the TV by the time they were halfway through class 3. Who gains from that kind of reporting?

Who gains from any of the above, in fact?

Sunday, 16 September 2007


I dunno, you wait ages for a record breakingly large meal, and then two come along at once.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Blood on our labcoats

It always sucks when you discover an organisation you're associated with is not quite what it seems. Particularly if the hidden side isn't one of which you approve.

I strongly feel that universities should be apolitical institutions with respect to their governance. Not that students and academics within them shouldn't argue for or against various political concepts and ideals - rather that the institutions themselves are free from the sway and trends of politics, as might be imposed on their operation.

Working from within that framework, I find it both disappointing and disturbing to discover just how many UK universities have shares in arms companies. What place does arms dealing have in what is supposed to be a climate of academic thought, learning and research? It's somewhat disconcerting to realise that the tuition I sought to try to make a positive contribution to society was indirectly supported by an industry whose products maim and kill. 'Disconcerting' is probably not the word to describe the sensation experienced by those on the receiving end of such 'products'.

It gets worse (and more bizarre). Reed Elsevier, a major force in scientific journal publishing, also run arms fairs such as DSEI, which attracted protest today. I cannot begin to fathom what kind of board meeting resulted in that decision:

"Right, ladies and gentlemen, we need to do something to increase our revenue. Any ideas?"
"How about we become pioneers in Open Access publishing, thus benefiting the academic community and perhaps society as a whole?"
"No, not profitable enough. Any other thoughts?
"Well, we could run arms fairs and invite military from around the world to come shopping?"
"Excellent idea!"
As it happens, Reed Elsevier have decided to sell off this enterprise at the end of the year due to criticism from a number of sources. I'm glad of this, as boycotting KitKats because Nestle are evil bastards is one thing, but trying to avoid Reed Elsevier's publications whilst simultaneously trying to make a reasonable stab at this 'cancer research thing' is rather more problematic. It's a strange old world where civilian war casualties are somehow linked to cancer patients in peaceful nation states, but such is the complex web that underpins commercial enterprise. Whatever my purist ideals about working in academia and not industry, I'm becoming increasingly aware of my need to get to grips with commerce and economics if I want to try to live an ethical life.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Ginger's Guide to London Streets #6: Silk Street (EC2)

London is so steeped in history from such a range of periods, that there are some wonderful street names out there. So when I recently found myself in the vicinity of Farringdon, in the City, I was looking forward to exploring Ropemaker Street, Silk Street, and other such delightfully named places that my map had to offer. I hoped to see traces of previous commercial enterprise, and maybe some of it persisting into the present.

The reality was a bit of a disappointment. The area, assuming it was once a hive of rope- and silk-trading activity, is now largely office based. It is consequently depressingly quiet and closed on a Saturday. So much so that during the ten minutes I was there, I only saw a handful of cars and was quite able to stand in the road to take some of my photos.

Anyway, in terms of what actually was there: well, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I was slightly surprised to see it there as it seems a fairly uninspiring area, and I tend to
envisage arty types as better suited to more boho areas (such as RADA in Bloomsbury). But each to their own I guess. I'm sure its students don't complain about being offered places.

Besides, I guess it makes sense to have a music and drama school situated so close to an arts centre. The Barbican Centre is located somewhere above this road, although there is an entrance on Silk Street. Which is nice given that it looks about as easy to navigate as the Hayward Gallery. Oh the joys of
Brutalist architecture. Ahem. At least the bollards are pretty.

Monday, 3 September 2007

(Not Quite) Any Question Answered

One of the things I love about the internet is the wealth of information so readily available. In fact, it's so easy to find answers to basic factual questions I find myself quite amazed by the questions I still get asked, presumably by those old fashioned types who fancy a conversation with a real person. Tuh!* Under such circumstances it can be very tempting to direct the enquirer to this site (don't click if you're easily offended by rude URLs). What, however, do you do when your answer isn't on Wiki or easily Googleable? Or when net access isn't close to hand? Fortunately there is still a chance for the information-hungry to sate their appetites.

AQA (Any Question Answered) claims to be able to supply an answer to any question you text them (within reasonable boundaries), for a fee of £1 per text. It's pricey enough to deter them from being plagued with stupid questions, but affordable enough if you have a burning desire to find something out that otherwise eludes you.

The first time I used the service was two and a half years ago when I was going into dissertation meltdown and wanted somebody, anybody to help me figure out what to do with my data (I had been abandoned by my supervisor and books didn't seem to be helping.) The reply I got was probably sensible, but I was too brain-addled to really apply it. I haven't been in a situation where I've so desperately needed otherwise unobtainable information since then. But I thought of them today for some reason and decided to give them another try.

What to ask, though? Had to be something worth asking. And then I remembered a question that occurred to me a few months ago, to which I have yet to find a satisfactory answer. Having read 'A Tale of Two Cities' and 'Mrs Dalloway' in quite close succession, I was left pondering, why do some books have the phrase 'The End' at the end of them?** Surely it's obvious that it's 'The End', and the intelligent reader doesn't need to be told? Some theories Mrs Mc and I have come up with include:

  • It's a leftover from when novels were serialised in periodicals, before being published as books. Many of Dickens's works appeared in this way. Thus 'The End' would denote that this was the final installment of the story.
  • Something to do with the way books were produced on a printing press, to signal where the last page occurred.
  • A way of signifying the end of a lengthy text split over several scrolls.
  • A reflection of some custom that may exist in oral traditions of story-telling.
All plausible, but no easy way to find out if any of them are correct. So I sent the following message to AQA in the hope my query would be resolved:

When/where/why did the practice of writing 'The End' at the finish of a book commence?
About half an hour later a reply came through. Wahey! Now more wondering. Oh, but:
Sorry, AQA can't find why and when writing "The End" in books became standard. The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1436

Gagh! Might be asking for a refund.

*I am, of course, joking. I can be sociable sometimes. And I do rather like playing information-detective for other people. I just don't like to be beaten by elusive facts!
**Spare me the smart alec remarks about putting 'The End' at the beginning being a stupid idea. ;-)

Sunday, 2 September 2007

It's not just cars that backfire...

...sometimes their advertising campaigns do too.

Last year, Chevrolet decided to engage its customer base by encouraging them to come up with TV advert for its Tahoe SUV. Video clips of the cars in action were available, along with assorted soundtracks, and the chance to add text. The winning ad would appear on TV.

But those pesky environmentalists managed to thwart their plans. Lots of adverts started appearing that highlighted the less-than positive aspects of SUVs. Needless to say, the results don't feature on the Chevy site anymore, but good ol' You Tube still has some available. My personal favourites are the one above, 'SUV God' and this one. It's quite hard to believe that Chevy didn't see this kind of response coming, although it is reminiscent of the corporate naivety I described here with respect to the rise and fall of the electric car.

I'm glad that there's a backlash against SUVs and their ilk. Don't get me wrong - I'm not anti-car. And I'm not anti-SUV if there actually is a good reason for using one. This is where I think the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s have got their campaign emphasis spot on. There really is no need for these vehicles in an urban environment - the parents of the kids at the primary school at the other end of my road are clearly confusing road humps for sand dunes, and zebra crossings for actual wildlife. It's not like the vehicles are even any safer for their users. But there seems to be something about these shiny beasts that makes some people lose all sense of reason. I'm glad that there have been opportunities for a wake-up call.

Media Misunderstandings

I don't think my brain is wired in quite the right way to deal with the printed media. When I saw this the other week:

my immediate thought was, "With who?"

Saturday, 1 September 2007

UK Students: In your interests to read this.

Just a heads up to UK graduates that the interest rate on student loans has increased today from 2.4% to 4.8%. This will remain the case until 31st August 2008.

I don't think there's really much of a case for complaint given that the terms and conditions have stated all along that the 'interest' on the loan is tied in to the Retail Price Index. But the point that the information is poorly communicated is a valid one.

The only reason I'm aware of the change is that I earn less than the threshold for repayment, but I've been wondering for a while whether I should start making voluntary repayments to get shot of some of my debt. For the last year the interest rate has been 2.4% so it made more sense to put an spare money into savings instead. I figured that there would be a bit of a hike this year, because of general increases in interest rates/inflation, so I've been keeping an eye out for news of a change. Finding out the information isn't very easy though. It takes quite a bit of digging around on the Student Finance Direct site to find the right page and even then the information isn't very well highlighted. But then I don't think they're very interested in helping you keep track of your debt. For example, here's one of the FAQ answers:

Finding out your balance
You can estimate your balance in between statements by looking at your most recent statement and taking off any deductions noted on your wage slips and P60.
Thanks for that. Couldn't have figured that out for myself, oh no. Why can't they enable online accounts that can be checked without too much hassle? It's not like the Student Loans Company have exactly inspired confidence over the years, with delays in loan payments, mislaid repayments, concerns (albeit mistaken) that students are being overcharged, and instances of people still being charged after their debts are cleared.

I guess the assumption is that students are too lazy/ignorant to check up on these things. I hope that's not actually true.

Leaving Footprints in Cyberspace

Our forefathers would probably be rather unsettled by the idea of leaving a record of their presence on every book they picked up in a public library. Even more so if the time, location and duration of their perusal was recorded. Yet in a country with in excess of 4 million CCTV cameras, their ancestors would probably consider this a fairly benign form of monitoring. Probably just as well, given that this is pretty much what happens when you browse the internet. The sites you visit can be detected, leaving a trail of footprints as you go on a cyber-spacewalk. Scary and impressive.

I have a 'Site Meter' tracker on this blog that not only acts as a hit counter, but also tells me when it is visited, for how long, and from what other sites people are referred in order to get here. Don't worry - I don't use it for nefarious means. I'm just a nosey soul. From looking at it I can tell you that I have a few 'regular' readers who I don't think I actually know in any way. This surprises me - I rather assumed that anyone who came here more than once would be someone I actually knew 'in real life' or at the very least had 'encountered' somewhere on the web. Let's face it - this is hardly the most cutting edge of blogs. But there are regulars from areas where I'm pretty sure I don't know anyone at all, which is a pleasant surprise. I hope you enjoy reading, whoever you are.

I can also tell you that my London street guide attracts a number of hits from people who have done searches looking for specific information about London and had the misfortune to come across my ramblings instead. Ah well. I accept no responsibility for any time wasted! I can additionally report that the single most frequent reason for referral to my blog is following a Google search like this, which sends you to this blog entry. Nice to know my carefully chosen words are what pulls the readers in then.

People may feel that this kind of monitoring is a form of spying, and no doubt there are certain organisations who take a very keen interest in the internet usage of some individuals. But sometimes the tables can be turned. This story was an interesting example of that: turns out the CIA have been fiddling around with Wikipedia entries, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. Nor has the Vatican's contributions. You would have thought that the former would know better than to think that their modifications wouldn't be detected. Are these people really key-players in global security?

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Misplaced priorities

Oh, excellent. We're getting ever closer to needing to move away from hydrocarbon-based transportation, and the Brits are addicted to cheap flights, and huge amounts of technological know-how has gone into developing hover cars.


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Ginger's Fringe

(Sorry for the title: had to be done)

This weekend I spent 36 hours in Edinburgh on what was my first trip north of the border (and, I'm afraid to say, north of a lot of places). It was therefore my first ever taste of the Edinburgh Festival, and an enjoyable one it was too.

I decided pretty quickly that Edinburgh is a great place. I'm such a city girl - I can't help but be lured in by nice architecture and the buzz of city life. It was such a contrasting cityscape to London. For one thing, although it's a large city, nowhere I've been to is as big as London, so you have all the proper city stuff close together without all the excess padding that London has. For another, there's a whacking great... ditch? valley? that separates the old and new towns. I was convinced that there'd be a river down there and was most disappointed to find it was just a railway line. Nonetheless, it's certainly got a very interesting topography which creates some very striking views. Alongside some amazing scenary on the route up to Scotland, it made me realise there aren't enough hills in my life. Real ones, that is. Goodness knows I've had enough of metaphorical ones for a while!

Had some good fun exploring bits of the Fringe Festival. The amount of stuff on is absolutely overwhelming - our first act after arriving somewhat worse for wear was to get hold of the guide of events for that day and sit down with some breakfast to make a plan. It took quite a while. Discovering that some of our choices were sold out added to the confusion, but we got there eventually. We ended up seeing some Taize singers (soothing), Flamenco (exhilarating), a rap interpretation of the Canterbury Tales (not really my cup of tea but well-executed), and 'Tony! The Blair Musical' (I like both musicals and satire, so this was probably my highlight). We also managed to fit in a visit to the Castle (well, we couldn't not go) and a very good free exhibition at the National Library of Scotland focussing on a number of authors who had had work published by John Murray.

So, despite my much-professed love of London, I will happily admit that other cities (especially capitals) have an awful lot to offer. I note that the university does a Masters course I'm very interested in (what, you though I was going to get a proper job after I finish my PhD?!) So don't be surprised if a few years down the line I become the author of 'Ginger's Guide to Edinburgh Streets'. ;-)

Monday, 27 August 2007

How not to run a coach company

Here are some suggestions for you, if you are considering setting up business as a coach company:

  • Don't sell more tickets than you have seats.
  • Don't bake your passengers with excessive heating (outward journey) or freeze them by leaving a sunroof open that is inoperable by the passengers on an overnight journey from Scotland (return journey).
  • Don't whinge about being overwhelmed with passengers when your main route is between Edinburgh and London and it's the English bank holiday and the Edinburgh Festival. It's not an inconvenience, it's a business opportunity.
  • Don't be rude to your passengers. They are paying for a service - you're not doing them a favour.
  • Don't spend the first hour of the outward journey leaving Victoria Coach Station, driving round the block, and then returning to where you started. Four times. If you really must, at least explain to the passengers what on earth is going on. And don't get narky with them when they become fractious due to lack of information. Particularly if you've been slow-roasting them during this period (see point 2).
  • If you arrive two hours late at your destination, it might be nice to offer passengers some kind of explanation/apology.
  • If your overbooking means you have to ask passengers to board an extra coach which will require them to change partway through the journey, perhaps a 'please' or a 'sorry' might be nice. If you then have to reverse the decision, try asking nicely. Declaring: "Right, we need six of you to go back on the other coach. You two, get your bags and get over there." doesn't really say Excellent Customer Service.
  • If your drivers look so harranged that they are actually grey (and I'm not just talking hair-wise), perhaps your management is so poor that it's having a negative impact on your staff.
Only suggestions, mind. And if you're Silver Choice Coaches, feel free to ignore the above advice.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007


Soundmap is a new site that offers downloadable audio guided tours of different areas of London. They've only got three so far, but it looks like they're working on expanding that. I haven't tried any of them myself, but perhaps I should give them a go, particularly if I want to be inspired to venture further afield for my own rather unstructured guide.

If you go to the Soundmap website and you have your speakers on, you'll hear a background burble of chat and street noise. The funny thing is, I found it as soothing to listen to as the sea! Several generations of London based ancestors have obviously passed something on to me!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Lies, Damned Lies, and Meteorology

No, you are wrong. Your algorithms are askew and you clearly haven't looked out the window today. Your forecast bears no relation to the fact that two of us are wearing boots, the windows are all closed, and everyone is feeling grumpy about the greyness outside.

Please: don't give us false hope.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Semantic Double Standards

Why is it that, if an Indian woman opts to abort a female foetus because of the social stigma and financial difficulties of not having male children, it is referred to as 'foeticide', but if a Western woman chooses to abort a foetus of either sex because she wants to get on with her career, or dissociate herself from the consequences of a casual sexual relationship, it is called a termination?

Both are decisions influenced by desire to conform to certain social constructs, both are decisions that may well be influenced by financial considerations. But one of them attracts greater linguistic condemnation than the other does. Why?

Looking after other peoples' children.

Took the youth group to Chessington yesterday. Contrary to the worst case scenarios on the umpteen-page risk assessment I had to fill in, nobody died. Which was nice.

It occurred to me that if you removed the people and the rides, all you would be left with would be sugar, plastic and various means of queuing. Odd.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Making Progress in a Stationery Fashion

I have a serious weakness for stationery. I don't know why, but I do get a kick out of buying new stationery. Perhaps it's the sense of promise and potential that I get from clean blank pages and nice new pens. Perhaps it's nostalgia for the optimism of a new academic year (yes, I did used to look forward to September - I make no pretence at being anything other than a geek).

Anyway, I've come to the reluctant conclusion that it's all very well doing literature searches and printing out loads of papers (double sided, I hasten to add). But unless I sit down and read them, and actually absorb some of their content, this thesis thing isn't going to happen.

So I figured that some new stationery might inspire me to get going. I am, however, feeling increasingly guilty about unnecessary consumption as I become more ecologically aware. I settled, therefore, for a happy medium. I bought an Eco notebook from Paperchase (recycled plastic cover and paper), a ruler from Remarkable Pencils Ltd., a pen from Pilot's Be Green range and, for good measure, a card for a friend from The Carte Postale's range of environmentally friendly cards.

So I get to be excited about stationery, whilst simultaneously having less of a negative impact than if I hadn't given it any thought. Hopefully soon products like these will be so widely available that people who don't give these things any thought can buy them too.

(Picture credit: 'I used to be a car tyre...' pencil case Originally uploaded by shampooplanet)

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Ginger's Guide to London Streets #5: Brushfield Street (E1)

Another report from my foray into E1, and this time it's quite a biggie, compared with the streets I've looked at so far.

Brushfield Street (left, with a view of Christ Church, Spitalfields, on the end of Fournier Street) runs along the south side of Spitalfields Market, a place that people keep telling me I'd love. Unfortunately I still have yet to investigate it fully as, by the time I found myself in the vicinity, it was pretty much closed up for the day.

I started off with a spot of people watching, sitting outside the lovely
Patisserie Valerie, whose work I was familiar from a cafe on Russell Street in Covent Garden, which doesn't, despite what t'internet would have you believe, actually go by the name 'Patisserie Valerie', but I'm darned if I can remember what it does call itself. They stock some of their cakes, anyway, and very nice they are too.

Whilst I'm often quite content playing the 'happy loner', eating alone at places where you're served is one of those things that does make me feel a bit uncomfortable. But I'd just been to a wedding, so was uncharacteristically smartly dressed, and it was a sunny day, so I pulled up a seat at a table outside, ordered something to eat, and pretended to be someone else. This unusual air of sophistication was somewhat shattered by my interspersing the people watching with re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince', but hey ho. I can't be looking too mature, can I?

Anyway, feeling nicely fueled I then took a stroll and discovered a wonderful array of shops. One
was bearing a "Save Our Small Shops" campaign sticker which is a nice sentiment, although net-wise it seems to have fizzled out, and even when it was launched there was skepticism as to whether it was too late. I am, however, pleased to report, that Brushfield Street is a place where the small indie shop seems to be thriving.

Brushfield Street seems pretty good for cafes. As well as Patisserie Valerie (yes, there are a few of them in London but they can hardly be described as a chain) there were a number of others:
The Daily Grind has been recommended to me; I was tempted to get a cup of tea in the Market Coffee House (to people watch from the other side of the road) but they were just closing; and there was also the disturbingly named 'S&M cafe' which, upon closer inspection, thankfully revealed itself to be specialists in sausage and mash. Add to that a chocolatier, and many a happy hour of munching could be had on this street alone.

The lovely thing about the East End is the combination of the old and new side by side. Thus, the contemporary shops could be found alongside indications of trade from a previous era: the
London Fruit Exchange and the London Wool Exchange once had premises here which were built in 1929, although that's pretty new by East End standards.

The one place that really had me fascinated, though, was "Verde & Company Ltd." (below), which didn't look as though it was in current use, but may have just been closed for the day. It appeared to have had various commercial manifestations over the years. The shop signage declares it to be a Fruit Importers, and a ghost sign suggests that it was
up for sale in 1931. The window proclaims it to be "Pierre Marcolini - Chocolatier". (And yes, that is my reflection in the window - I told you I was ginger). Other websites, meanwhile, classify it as a 'delicatessen', a 'take away food shop', and an Italian Grocer's. As for the Scottish flag and theatrical cardboard cutouts in the window, I have no idea what that was all about. I think I'm just going to have to go back sometime during trading hours and investigate for myself!

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Statues, Steps and Smiths (Part I)

the 39 steps

Originally uploaded by codepo8

I’ve been doing rather a lot of cultural stuff lately, which is nice, as I’m one of those people who always says ‘I’d love to go to X’ and then never gets around to it. First up was, unbelievably, my first ever use of the tkts booth in Leicester Square, where it’s possible to get cheap tickets for performances that day. Of course when I say ‘cheap’ I mean ‘just about affordable as opposed to the normal horrendous price’. I ended up seeing the 39 Steps, which was very good. Originally a book by John Buchan it was, apparently turned into quite a famous film, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Me being me, of course I’d never seen it. Which did put a slight question-mark over whether I would ‘get’ the stage version which was supposed to parody the film. But I love a good parody, and although I may have been deprived of the odd reference from time to time, there was plenty to find amusing in what was a very high-energy performance by a tiny cast. So definitely worth the (half price) tickets.

Partly to become more active in supporting my lovely city’s artistic endeavours, and partly to give myself a kick up the backside to ensure I actually go to some of the exhibitions I always intend to, I joined the National Portrait Gallery earlier this year. As well as getting free entry to all the exhibitions, there are sometimes members-only events, and I actually decided to go along to one the other day. Essentially it was just an opportunity to get to go around the gallery one weeknight with the benefits of late opening and without the disadvantages of be-rucsacked tourists. The two exhibitions that were the focus were the BP Portrait Award, an annual competition, and ‘Daily Encounters’, a collection of photos from Fleet Street.

The former was, as always, very interesting. I don’t pretend to have any coherent critical capacity of the arts – I gravitate towards things that I find aesthetically pleasing, or emotionally or intellectually stimulating, but I can’t always tell you why the particular work elicits this response. I don’t think there’s any harm in enjoying things without being able to ‘justify’ them, but then, I’ve never been particularly highbrow. Accordingly, I can tell you that I prefer realism to abstraction and, in portraiture, I prefer to see people in some kind of context, rather than just posed in a sterile environment. Thus, I far preferred the picture of the blacksmith in his smithy to the family group in a studio dressed in their best clothes but entirely removed from their normal context.

The latter (‘Daily Encounters’) was a little disappointing actually. It was presented as 'Exploring Britain and Britishness through newspaper photography', but it didn't really do either to that great a degree. I have a very limited knowledge of any kind of history, although I guess if I know a little about anything, it's post-war British social/political history (thank you Andrew Marr). But I didn't really learn anything much about that period, or before then, that I didn't know already. I don't know if perhaps the remit of 'portraiture' and 'Fleet Street' and 'British' was too narrow - certainly it was a shame that the exhibition stopped in the mid 80s, which reflected the journalistic shift away from Fleet Street, but meant that images of a lot of interesting events were omitted. Perhaps they were attempting too much, or I was expecting too much, but either way I felt this missed the mark a bit.

Oh heck, this was supposed to be a review of three things and I've written tonnes without even getting on to the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. I think that better become a separate post! To be continued...

Who are you?

I do find personality testing things quite fascinating in a 'but I don't put too much faith in them kind of way'. According to Personal DNA (how could I resist a title like that?!) I'm a considerate analyst. The different coloured blocks (see below) represent the degree to which certain traits apply. Thus, scrolling over them tells you I have, apparently, 'low spontaneity', 'slightly low femininity', 'average masculinity', and 'average confidence'. None of those surprise me particularly, but I don't know what people who know me would make of it.

I came across another test via a science site the other day that tries to assess the extent to which your character resembles that of someone with some degree of Asperger's syndrome. Starting from the premise that scientists/geeks seem to have an inclination towards that direction.

The results to this one don't come in a pretty chart but were quite interesting, yet unsurprising, nonetheless. I scored 22, which ranks me below 'Average Math contest winner'(24) but higher than Average male or female computer scientist (21), Average male scientist, and average male or female physicist (19) Average man (18) Average female scientist (17) Average woman, and average male or female biologist (15).

So essentially, neither of these results told me an awful lot about myself that I hadn't already surmised, although I do think of myself as being fairly self aware, which is a trait in itself. I guess these sort of things could be useful (other than in a procrastination capacity) if you felt you didn't know a lot about yourself, or had changed a lot (I know I would have answered some questions rather differently a few years ago), but these sort of things only take a snapshot of a person outside of the context of some of their environment. Essentially, I think if you like the results one can say, 'How true', and if not, then happily take them with a pinch of salt! Who a person is will never be completely uncovered by a quiz, and I think it's important to define oneself by a number of other things...

Other collections of everyday minutiae

One of my reasons for starting my street review guide was to celebrate the minutiae of life. To highlight the little things that people accidentally miss, deliberately ignore, take for granted or consider not worthy of comment. I've been on the lookout for others with a similar mindset. Here is some of what I've found (Health warning: some of the following may not be suitable for nerd-allergy sufferers)

10,000 Birds (yes, ornithology, in case you were worried)

A Nice Cup of Tea and a Sit Down (Reviews of all things biscuity)

Art of the State (I'm hoping they'll help me identify my mystery graffiti)

Bog Blog (yes, really)

Boring Postcards

Classic Cafes

Cupcakes Take the Cake (I know someone who'll like that one!). And also Blognut (all about doughnuts)

Ghost Signs

History of the Button ("Tracing the history of interaction design through the history of the button, from flashlights to websites and beyond.")

Literally, A Web Log

London Review of Breakfasts

Passive-Aggressive Notes

Smells of the Day

It takes a certain type of person to devote themselves to recording such things. I'm not sure what sort of person that is, but I had assumed that I was one of them. Having said that, it seems my focus is positively broad and unspecialised compared to some! Here's to all those who care!


PS. I should also namecheck Grow a Brain who/which(?) I found by Googling 'unusual blogs' and pinched a couple of these sites from their archives.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Necessity is the mother of invention.

But who can say that they've ever needed a device to turn their electric hand whisk into a power tool?

One of many wonderful offerings from a blog I discovered today that seems to chronicle a history of bizarre inventions. Have a look at Modern Mechanix, and have a chuckle.

Friday, 3 August 2007

Monday, 30 July 2007

Something to work on

As the first anniversary of starting my PhD draws very close (gagh!), I've realised that, whilst I am committed to what I'm doing, I still have a long way to go as far as being a good technician goes. There's certainly a bit of a discrepancy between what I write in my lab book and what it will need to look like in a paper one day. For example:

"Sample X – not entirely great

Slide messy – wash went a bit awry "

Precision. Yes, that's what's needed.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Ginger's Guide to London Streets: Photos

It occurs to me that if I carry on being as snap-happy as I have been for the last couple of installments of my guide, it won't be long before I reach the limits of how much I'm allowed to upload onto this blog. So I've decided to set up a Flickr photostream to accompany the series. It can be found here. Happy browsing.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Not so white coats

People go into scientific research for different reasons. Some people in response to an intellectual obsession. Some because they want to Make a DifferenceTM. Contrary to what old horror films would have you believe, few people go into it for nefarious purposes. So I did feel some degree of pity when I learnt about the unfortunate Thomas Midgely Jr., an American scientist who not only developed CFCs, but also put the lead in petrol!

It's quite something to make one discovery that has damaging consequences, but two is a little excessive. (For the uninitiated, CFCs are the refrigerants that have damaged the ozone layer, and leaded petrol contributed to air pollution). Mind you, whilst Alfred Nobel's regret that his invention of dynamite earnt him the moniker 'The merchant of death' prompted him to create the famous peace prize, Midgley didn't seem to do much to extricate himself from promotion of leaded petrol, even though he himself experienced the negative health effects. Ironically, it was one of his other creations that resulted in his death; having contracted polio, he created a pulley system to aid him in getting in and out of bed, which unfortunately resulted in his strangulation a few years later.

It can be difficult to predict the future implications of scientific endeavour which appears to be morally and technically sound at the time. I feel that scientists do, however, have a responsibility to try to act if it turns out that unexpected harm is a consequence of their work; to tame the monster they have created, as it were. Midgley didn't seem to try, and this is one of the reasons that, for all the technical validity of his major works, his is not the sort of career one should look to when wanting to find examples of good scientific practice.

Granny knows best - wrap up well.

BBC NEWS UK Call to stop patio heaters sale

And quite right too.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Morrrrny Stannit...

Ah, you've got to admire The Evening Standard's ongoing love of doom. You just know that one of their headline writers cannot wait for the day of the apocalypse, just so they can send out 'The End is Nigh'. In the meantime, however, they have to satisfy themselves with this.

Friday, 20 July 2007

The day the (independent) music (shop) died...

Gagh! Another loss to music retailing!

Following the recent closure of Fopp it seems that another of my favourite music shops is ceasing to be. Essential Music in Greenwich Market is set to close. It was time for its lease to be renewed, and the management were only offered the option of a 10-year lease, and decided that they couldn't commit themselves to such a long period in a changing marketplace.

Part of the blame has been directed towards internet music sales. The irony for me is that Fopp and Essential Music were pretty much the only places that weren't websites where I would still purchase CDs, having gone off a lot of the other music retailers. In fact a trip to Greenwich Market rarely lacked a visit to Essential Music, and coming away empty-handed was even rarer.

Sigh. Things change I guess. A sad day for independent record sales south of the river.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Ginger's Guide to London Streets #4: Fournier Street, E1 (or NW1?)

Over to another part of the E1 postcode and this time Fournier Street. Something that I've noticed, particularly in this area where there is a long history of a lot of these places, is the wide variation in the style of street signage, even on a single street. Parliament Court was a particularly striking example - the sign at the opposite end to the Jack the Ripper graffito was rather bizarre - presumably it was either put there by the council (in which case it's incredibly shoddy), of a member of the public (which would show a curious dedication to signage).

Anyhoo, back to Fournier Street, whether that be in English or an alternative language. I'm not quite sure what point someone was trying to prove with their scribbling (top left) over the 'E1' postcode and replacing it with 'NW1' - perhaps some disgruntled resident was pretending they actually lived in Camden?

Fournier Street appears fairly residential (left) but nonetheless has several points of interest. On the corner, where it meets Commercial Street, is large pub called The Ten Bells (right), which looks as though it has had the same knocked out of it. At the other end of the street is Brick Lane, so we're definitely getting into East London territory.

The street is also book-ended by two quite contrasting places of worship. At one end is the imposing Christ Church, Spitalfields. At the other is the (apparently closed for refurbishment) Brick Lane Jamme Masjid. The latter had an interesting looking sundial near the top of the frontage - I have no idea whether this is a common feature of Masjids, or whether it was perhaps an original feature of a listed building. In The City/East End you never can be sure - I gather there's a building somewhere that has been a Church and a Synagogue and a Mosque at different points in its history.

The housing threw up some interesting sights as well. On one side of the road the houses looked a lot grander than on the other, which seemed to consist more of converted shops, judging by some of the shuttered windows. Not entirely sure why one house had British and French flags dangling out the windows, but I suppose it was Bastille Day. I can't guarantee they would be there for future visits! The most charming residential feature I saw was a house that had obviously been divided in two at some point, but instead of going for the conventional '11a' and '11b', the two homes were labelled '11' and 'Eleven and a half'. (Click on the picture at the bottom for a decent view).

Finally, in one of the more curious pieces of local-authority labelling I've seen, some of the bollards had 'LBTH' on them. It took me a moment or two to confirm my instinctive assertion that 'This isn't Lambeth!?' and realise that it presumably stands for 'London Borough of Tower Hamlets'. A strange measure - perhaps they are worried that if they don't label them, some other council will pinch them. I guess this way they're safe from light-fingered councillors. Unless they are from Lambeth, of course...

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Ginger's Guide to London Streets #3: Parliament Court, E1

I don't often find myself in the City of London (as opposed to the City of Westminster) but I was over there yesterday with a couple of hours to kill and a camera in hand. So don't be surprised by the next few entries being clustered around that area.

Parliament Court is a real hidden gem. I've only been able to pin its exact location down on one map out of three since I got home. Even Google Maps doesn't show it properly - just points to an blank space in between other streets. A passing glance suggests nothing but a fairly empty alley, and I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all if a couple of people weren't stood there looking at a grafitto/mural at one end of it. They were saying something about Jack the Ripper. It may well have been in 'tribute' to his presence in the area, but I doubt the original ever carried a spray can. Like Londonist, I wasn't convinced that, although in a stencilled style, it was the work of Banksy, but it was certainly eye-catching.

I figured I might as well go down the alley, not expecting to find much else, except perhaps for an alternative view from which to take a photo. I was rather startled, therefore, when I came across an even more striking graffito, this time very like a Banksy piece: an armed man firing doves out of his weapon.

I've been trying to work out if I've now seen a Banksy in situ for the first time. On the one hand, the black and white colour scheme, and the stencilled look of the gunman were very reminiscent of his work. On the other, it seems less elaborate than a lot of his
other stuff. The doves looked like they had been block printed on, rather than stencilled, although I don't know if this is significant. Also, it didn't feature his tag, but rather a somewhat undecipherable signature (below). Googling got me nowhere (it just bought up the Londonist article), and looking at maps of the locations of his work doesn't tell me anything either.

So, I'm thinking it probably isn't. But it was a really great piece, and a wonderful surprise to see down a street that I could very easily have ignored. If anyone has any idea who created it, please leave a comment!

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Signs of Geekdom, Part 5

Following on from my earlier series, here are a few observations to add from today's 'achievements'. You know you're a geek when:

  1. You really don't have much to do in the lab that day, but because you've promised to go to a lecture in the evening you stick around instead of sneaking off. You kill some of the time by reading a comic strip about a bunch of PhD students who waste time in between research by surfing the internet, and chuckle quietly to yourself about the irony.
  2. You take a trip to the library and get a warm fuzzy feeling of nostalgia thinking of the days before the bulk of your academic reading involved piles of research papers.
  3. You borrow a few books and feel quite excited by the fact that, due to it being the summer holidays, the 'standard loan' books that you'd usually be able to keep for 8 weeks aren't due back until the 1st October! Woohoo!


Alternative Energy

I promise I'll get back to writing proper posts, but I thought this cartoon from was great. (Even though I'd like to point out that it's a herb, not a spice.)

Edited to add: the fact that I keep posting cartoons on my blog during the day is in no way linked to having a slow week in the lab and trying to avoid doing useful stuff like reading papers etc.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Personal Space Invader

Cyanide and Happiness, a daily webcomic
Cyanide & Happiness @

Monday, 9 July 2007

Semi Finals

Oceans FC continue to dominate, whilst Shrek United are knocked out in the semis of the three-way football World Cup.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

Let the Memory Live Again...

Ooh. The Museum of London (to which I pay unreasonably little attention considering I'm a Londonophile) has launched a new project: Map My London. The idea is to 'map' your emotional experiences of London, categorised into a number of themes: Love and Loss, Fate and Coincidence, Beauty and Horror, Joy and Struggle, Friendship and Solitude and What Else?

It's a fascinating idea, and it will be interesting to see how it develops. I don't know how long they're planning to keep it open. I'm not entirely convinced that the site is wonderfully designed. It's quite hard to get a nice neat summary of what it's all about from the home page with its random windows popping up. Londonist do a better summary (once you get past the fanciful intro!) and I found a text-only page on the Map My London site which is a little easier to read.

Right, off to check what other people's experiences of my favourite haunts are...

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