Saturday, December 30, 2006

Going for bronze

Drat and double (oh) drat! I'm not the first with ion curtain. Somebody's got a blog with that name. Still, I'm on the first page of Google with the phrase, so that makes me about third or fourth to come up with it.

Ways and memes

I've got two memes that I have thought up. It'll be interesting to see how far they travel. The first is how people are going to refer to next year. Instead of calling it "Oh Seven" like the rest of this decade, I'm sure people will give it a James Bond twist and call it "Double Oh Seven"
So far, I haven't seen this, so it is my own original thought, but I'm sure it will occur to other people. It's just that I'm blogging about it first.
My second meme is one that I've already used in a previous post talking about the barrier that Blogger had up temporarily, which prevented me from commenting on Beta blogs. I referred to it as the Ion Curtain. It can be extended to refer to any electronic barrier in cyberspace. Feel free to use both memes. Just remember where you heard it first.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Speaking of which

I've got an accent. It's one that's very, very uncommon, basically because it's a blend. Most people have the undiluted accent of where they grew up. I spent the first five years of my life in the town of my birth - Banbury in Oxfordshire - acquiring a midlands accent. Then we moved to Edinburgh.
I started off in the primary school there as the one English pupil in a class of Scots speakers. My younger sister adapted to the new speech patterns, but being older, my accent was just about fixed. I say just about, because there was obviously still some flexibility left in my neural structure. Slowly, my accent has evolved. Now, if you could hear it, you could tell I was Scottish, but you wouldn't be able to say from where in Scotland. No-one can. Patients are always asking me where I come from. My accent has been placed in the Highlands and Islands, Buckie, the Borders, even Ireland. They're always surprised when I tell them I'm local.
Of course, I can't hear my accent. To me I sound as if I'm speaking straightforward English. It's everyone else who has an accent.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Look Ma! No Pa!

What do the films Godzilla and Jurassic Park have in common? OK apart from the depiction of large bipedal reptilians. What I'm trying to get at is they both use parthenogenesis as a plot device. Godzilla lays all those eggs in Madison Square Gardens, and the dinosaurs have frog-filler DNA which enables them to start breeding and thus allowing in the element of chaos that Jeff Goldbloom's character witters on about.
So far so sci-fi. Reality however has a knack of catching up with our imagination. A Komodo dragon in Chester Zoo has just laid eight self-fertilised eggs! The biologists' conjecture is that this is an evolutionary strategy to enable a single female to colonise an island by producing a batch of male offspring who can mate with her, and kick start the population.
I'd always felt that this was one of the weaker plot devices of both films. Parthogenesis? In large lizards? Yeah right. And now it seems that biology has proved them right. I bet it's morphic resonance really.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas
You must not miss, this
Merry old Christmas
So come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
Sleigh bells chime
Our guests they are on time
To drink of this mulled wine
So come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
The clock in
The hall is tick-tocking
So hang up your stocking
And come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
Children banter
As bedwards they canter
They mustn't miss Santa
So come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.
Best wishes
And mistletoe kisses
To master and missus
And come one and all
We're having a ball
It's the very best Christmas of all.

Good Blogger

Blogger seem to have fixed the glitch they had with commenting on beta. I've had no difficulty in the last couple of days. Thank you Blogger.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Exodus decoded - aye right.

I watched James Cameron's documentary last night, Exodus Decoded, which figured out that the Exodus occurred in the aftermath of the Thera eruption. (Like, duh!) Only trouble is, they gave the date as 1500BC, when Thera has been dated by Greenland ice cores to 1628BC. As everyone knows, the chronology of the second millennium BC is a major headache. Exodus and the papyrus of Ipuwer are clearly describing a major volcanic eruption, but the historians continue to place the Exodus in the time of Ramesses II with minimal evidence.
But people trying to reconstruct history based on Exodus should also be wary. Although it may be based on ancient texts and oral tradition, Exodus probably wasn't written in its final form until the exile in Babylon, about a thousand years after the events. The description of the Thera event of 1628BC could have been incorporated into a later description of a mass migration following an earthquake round about 1500BC.
Here's another possibility, suppose the great famine that occurred under Joseph's governorship was the aftermath of Thera? Seven years of famine caused by a couple of degrees cooling of the Earth resulting from the release of tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere, sounds like a plausible scenario.
The chronology problem of biblical times is not going to be sorted until we have rock-solid date markers to hang the known history on. For me, the 1628BC date for the Thera eruption is about as solid as you can get, assuming the science behind the ice-core dating is sound, which I believe it is. The biblical account of Exodus is not solid. It should only be used to colour in the historical record, after the chronological structure is in place. For that, we need more markers, and a willingness to abandon any preconceptions.
It's the ultimate jigsaw. We're missing most of the pieces, and we've only got one of the corners.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quantum Santa Time

Ever wondered how Santa Claus manages to do the stocking run in a single night without moving so fast that his kinetic energy would ignite chimneys all over the world? Wonder no more. I've worked out that Santa operates in QST (Quantum Santa Time)
This is how it works. There are 365 days in a year - 364 working days and 1 Christmas day. In Quantum Santa Time, it's the other way round - 364 Christmas Days and 1 day off (probably his birthday). Being quantum time, these 364 days can all overlap, giving Santa 8736 hours to work with. There are 24 time zones, so Santa starts with a ration of 364 hours per time zone. But not all time zones are equally populated, so Santa can borrow hours from the time zones straddling the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, and add them to the time zones covering Europe and the Eastern and Western seaboards of America where the bulk of the Santa-believing children live.
So if you were to be at the North Pole on Sunday night, you would observe Santa and his reindeer-drawn sleigh fissioning into 364 quantum Santas, heading south in an ever widening ring until they disappeared over the horizon.
And that is how Santa is able to deliver all those presents in one night.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Over the wall

I am indebted to the Old Curmudgeon for this public service information. It's a way round the Ion curtain that Blogger have thrown up to separate the Betas from the rest of us.
Before you write your comment, click on other. A different comment box will appear with a space for your blog handle and your URL. Enter these, then type in your comment. Now you can post the comment, and it will appear in the list of comments on the beta blog. The only problem is that your name appears in black, indicating that readers of the blog will not be able to link to you by clicking on your name, so it ain't a perfect fix, but it'll do for the time being until Blogger see fit to undo all the chaos they have sown.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

War of the Worlds

I sometimes feel as if I'm living in two worlds. One is the real world of work, eating and sleeping; the other is the Blogosphere. Both worlds have major events happening, and are populated with a sprinkling of celebrities, but the lists of events and celebrities are completely different.
In the real world, there's Iraq, and the recent US elections. In the Blogosphere there's the Beta Blogger conflict, and the recent voting for the Weblog awards.
In the real world there's Bush, Blair and the Beckhams. In the Blogosphere there's Markos Zuniga and PZ Myers.
Whereas most people in the Blogosphere have heard of the real world, I find that most people I know in the real world are more or less unaware of the Blogosphere's existence. It's difficult to have a conversation about blogging, when you've first got to explain what a blog is. There's no mention of the Blogosphere on the media, no coverage of the exciting campaign waged by Pharyngula and the Bad Astronomer to win the Best Science Blog Award.
It's as if the Blogosphere were some kind of Phantom Zone, invisible and undetectable to the vast majority, constructed from massless blog-neutrinos.
And yet, it has an effect on the real world. The recent Democrat landslide in The USA would surely not have been so devastating were it not for the liberal blogs providing a communication outlet that counterbalanced the traditional media establishment.
If this is merely the beginning, what will happen later? Will the Blogosphere ever break through to the real world, and its events and personalities become familiar to the many?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Is Beta better?

I'm not convinced. So far I've resisted the hard sell to switch over to beta, until I get some feedback that it's a good thing to go for. I don't know about you, but I'm finding it very difficult to post comments on blogs that have gone beta, and I don't want to lose what few readers I have, if they can't comment on my posts. I'm just starting to see an increase in the number of new signatures in the comments, and like a delicate orchid, they need careful nurturing to keep them coming back.
One blog I'm particularly having difficulty with is Bentley's blog, now entitled Blogging with Gzus. (whatever a Gzu is?) If you're reading this Bentley, I haven't stopped visiting your blog, I just can't log in to comment. I keep typing in my password, both for Blogger, and for Google without success. I've even tried leaving an anonymous comment - but no joy there. I know he's recently converted, so I'm wondering if that's why I can't get in, or if it's some other reason? When I could get in, he told me he couldn't see that much difference between the two, so if anyone has any further experience with beta, this is the place to share.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I've recently discovered there's a name for it. Unfortunately, there's no cure. It's the Argumentum ad CAPSLOCK. You've all seen this, whenever a religious fundamentalist or conspiracy theorist or general crank appears on a forum or in a comments list, they tend to EMPHASISE certain IMPORTANT words and PHRASES, in order to get their POINT across. As soon as you see it in a person's post, it's a sure-fire indication that they're a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Heck, even the few examples above are making my blog look unstable!
If you want a slew of examples of these phenomena - though why you would want to? - you should check out this website: . Be warned, there are a lot of disturbed people out there, and they've got computers.

I was there

Do you know a teenager who's suffering at secondary school because they're unpopular? Get them to read this essay by Paul Graham called Why Nerds are Unpopular. It won't help them become the social centre of the school, but it will help them understand why they're being persecuted, and why, in the long run, popularity in school is meaningless. Although it's written from an American perspective, and looks at the American High School social hierarchy, believe me, a Scottish secondary school is no picnic for a bright kid with glasses, severe Tourettes, and all confidence and self esteem expunged by the system.
I wish I could have read this thirty years ago. It might have acted as a signpost to better things.
So read it. Then, if you do know someone struggling in that situation, e-mail them the link, or print it off and give it to them. Don't say "I know what you're going through." Just give them the essay. If they want to talk about it, they will. Then, if you've been through the same hell that is secondary school, tell them, "I've been there."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Time after Time

My body clock's all to pot at the moment. I've just done two night shifts, and I've got another one tomorrow. Fortunately, I don't have any trouble getting to sleep when I come home in the morning. Today I got up at 3pm, so I guess that for today at least, I'm synchronised with all my American readers.
Time gets really complicated on the Blogosphere. You find that the time that you post bears little resemblance to the actual time at the bottom left corner of your computer (except on this blog, where I've jiggled it round to Greenwich Mean Time.) It's probably because most of the blog hosts operate out of California, which is about nine hours behind. It's most inconvenient to have to go to bed, just when people are logging on after coming home from work.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

PURE oot continues

The row at Edinburgh University over the Pure course held by the Christian Union is deadlocked. The CU are threatening legal action, and have refused the University's compromise deal, which would allow them to use campus premises in return for the inclusion of material that shows other points of view.
The CU continue to deny that the course is homophobic:
"Homosexuality is a very small part of the course. It's mentioned in the same category as fornication and adultery, not the way God intended relationships to be. It does not single it out as worse than anything else." (emphasis mine)
So that's all right then. It's no worse than fornication or adultery. No homophobia here folks. Move along.
The trouble is, they don't consider themselves to be homophobic. They wouldn't dream of kicking a gay man in the face, or spitting at him, or swearing at him. Their religion is one of love. They love the person but hate the sin. They are sad that these people are engaging in activities that sets them apart from God. But they're not singling out gay people. They're no worse than adulterers or fornicators you understand.
In order to get people to admit they have a problem, you have to get them to admit they have a problem. The CU are feeling persecuted for their belief that gay people are sinners, and they can't see why the EUSA and LGBT have to be so mean about it.
Meanwhile the University faced with legal action, is desperately searching for an answer to this situation. But they've got rules for organisations who use their facilities, and one of those is a commitment to equality and diversity. Well at least gay people are equal to adulterers and fornicators.

Friday, December 08, 2006

I'm Deacon Barry - fly me!

I've just bought a flight simulator program for the computer. It's called Flight Unlimited II, and I got it for a couple of quid in a charity shop. It's quite a realistic experience, once I get the plane up in the air. My take-offs are a bit alarming, and my landings are a bit fatal. I have now managed to land the plane twice now, if you call landing, 'coming to a stop on the ground while still upright!'
The terrain underneath is a photorealistic depiction of the San Francisco Bay area. I've now flown over the Golden Gate Bridge, the Golden Gate Park, and Alcatraz. At some point, once I've learned how to handle the machine better, I'm going to attempt a flight under the Bridge. That's the beauty of virtual reality, you can do things you could never dream of doing in the real world.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Thar she blows!

NASA just announced the discovery of liquid water activity on Mars in the Centauri Montes region in the Southern Hemisphere. Comparison of photos of the area taken 6 years apart show fresh bright features indicating the presence of ice which has flowed down the slope between pictures.
It'll make colonisation of Mars that much easier, now we don't have to cart water and oxygen all the way there.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

We're going back

It's about bloody time! We're finally going to get a moonbase. It'll be at the south pole, so they can stick up solar panels and catch the almost constant sunlight. Building a lunar base is good science and engineering. The moon is only three days away. We can learn how to construct planetary bases, and learn what not to do. Designs can be field tested. Procedures can be developed. The Moon can be explored in detail. Photographs of the Apollo landing sites will settle once and for all the idiotic conspiracy about faked missions.
Polar ice would be a wonderful find, but recent experiments have put that possibility into doubt. It'll just make the project a bit harder, that's all.
Let's postpone a Mars mission until we've rehearsed it on the Moon. The improvements in technology will make Mars much more accessible

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'll give her my last Rollo

Here, as promised, is the information about the book nearest the computer that I picked for the meme I blogged about yesterday.
It's Love and Will by Dr Rollo May (Souvenir Press, London 1970). Janiebelle, who I got the meme from said last night that she'd found out which book it was, and that wasn't long after posting. I suspect she found out through the internet, but I can't rule out her having the book in her possession, and having read it. If, of course, she turns out to be a close relation of Dr May, then I'm giving up skepticism for good, the universe would then be too darned weird.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hand me down that can of memes

The daimonic can be either creative or destructive and is normally both.
It's a meme I found on U dream of Janie. I thought, what the hell, let's give it a shot. Here we go:
1.Grab the nearest book. No cheating! The nearest book.
2.Open the book at page 123.
3.Find the fifth sentence.
4.Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog, along with these instructions.
5.Don't you dare dig for a cool or intellectual book on your shelf. Pick out whatever is closest!

The sentence at the top of the post is number five. Here are the next four sentences of the book.
When this power goes awry and one element usurps control over the total personality, we have "daimon possession," the traditional name through history for psychosis. The daimonic is obviously not an entity but refers to a fundamental, archetypal function of human experience - an existential reality in modern man and, so far as we know, in all men.
The daimonic is the urge in every being to affirm itself, assert itself, perpetuate and increase itself. The daimonic becomes evil when it usurps the total self without regard to the integration of that self, or to the unique forms and desires of others and their need for integration.
Whew! I wish now I'd picked the book on the shelf above - a Dilbert book by Scott Adams, instead of this tome, one of my wife's psychology books.
I'm not supposed to tell you which one. You have to guess. So to keep up the suspense I'll wait until my next post to tell you. I promise.