Showing posts from February, 2009

Rarely does something in the news get under my skin…

… but in the past few days it has. The story in a nutshell ( here’s a link ) is that CBeebies – a TV channel for young children here in the UK – has hired a physically disabled presenter.  Of course, that’s not the bit which has got under my skin – the bit which has riled me is that there is a campaign amongst parents of some children to have her removed from the shows because apparently she’s “scaring the children”. The presenter herself has a four-year-old daughter who sees her Mum every day – and I’m sure she’s not “given nightmares” by the fact that her Mum only has one arm. Without sounding too self-righteous, surely if children see someone who’s physically disabled on the TV, the parents are capable of telling them that “the lady only has one arm” or whatever without the need to shield them from it.  And then maybe the children will grow up to have slightly more sensible views on such things than the parents. I don’t know why this story has riled me so much, but it really

Governed by the stars

I try to avoid controversial opinions when writing in here, so I hope I am on safe ground when I say that astrology in rubbish.  The stars, their relative positions in the sky, and which planets are crossing over them, do not predict the future for any one particular person.  Your star sign does not determine the minute details of your personality.  I hope that’s not controversial :-) But – I’ve made two assertions there, and I want to explore them a little more.  Stars can help us predict the future in some regards –and maybe your star sign does affect how you turn out in life to some degree.  Bear with me, I’ve not gone mad. Predicting where the stars are is quite hard.  The positions of the planets are slightly easier to work out, and it’s been done to a fair level of accuracy.  Now that we know the orbits of the planets, comets and the trajectories of asteroids and meteors we can start to predict the things we’ll see in the night sky for many years into the future.  Sure – it’s

Playing with words

I find language really interesting and yesterday something struck me which also appeals to the human desire to find patterns in things (see last entry for another mention of that). I realised a while ago that P_T was an interesting letter combination as pat, pet, pit, pot and put are all English words.  But I didn’t realise until last night that B_D also works along the same lines – and it got me thinking about how many such combinations of letters there are in English. The two I find the most interesting are P_T and B_G because they don’t involve any unusual words at all.  Ones such as H_T and D_N involve some slightly odd (but still valid) words. So, the outstanding questions in my mind are – how many three letter combinations are there which work? (We have eleven so far) and what is the longest combination (We have P_TTING which feels a bit like a cheat – other than that, we have L_ST and a few others which are only four letters) If you’re the kind of person who likes to thi

It got me thinking…

Last night on the tube home, I overheard someone say that they have five grandchildren but that because two of them share a birthday, it’s easier for them to remember the birthdays because there are fewer dates to remember.  Maybe it was because I had forgotten to take my book with me but this simple remark started me thinking about whether it was actually less information for him to remember, given that two of his grandchildren share a birthday.  Let’s assume that his grandchildren have names beginning with the letters A, B, C, D and E.  It’s just easier :-)  In its simplest form, we have the following table of birthdays… Grandchild Birthday Amy Date 1 Belinda Date 2 Colin Date 3 Donald Date 4 Englebert Date 5 Each one of the Date items is a number between one and 366.  Of course there’s a year associated with it too, but

Well that was rather dull…

I wrote a bit about my expectations for the Brit Awards earlier.  I didn’t expect Iron Maiden or Elbow to win, I must admit – but they were pleasant surprises. The Brits is such a safe event now.  Ever since the car crash which was Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwood, I think the organisers have taken the point of view that any controversy is bad controversy and so avoid putting anything into the show which may appear slightly unscripted. The performances were also rather lack-lustre this evening, when it could’ve promised so much.  U2 looked like they didn’t want to be there (and from something The Edge said on the pre-show interview, I think they were leaving straight after their performance) and Take That were miming, for some reason.  Well at least I think they were – the first part of the song sounded live, but suddenly the vocals sounded all “studio-y” and they were obviously miming along to a backing track.  It’s a shame that groups find a need to mime at all – but to do it at an award

Busy doing nothing…

Tonight it’s the annual wonder which is the Brit Awards. Hurrah! Actually, I shouldn’t be too sarcastic, as I actually quite like watching the Brits.  Of course, the performances are always over-hyped – what is billed as a once-in-a-lifetime performance actually turns out to be the same promotional-dance-routine for the latest single with a few extra dancers standing at the back. The only interesting performance is usually that from the artist being given the “Outstanding Contribution” award at the end.  I say “at the end” but that’s not always the case.  A few years ago, when The Darkness were riding high, Duran Duran won the “Outstanding Contribution” award but were made to perform in the middle of the show whilst The Darkness got to perform a three-song set at the end.  For me, a small like that ruined the show and actually brought home to me that it’s not actually about who wins the prizes on the night, but it’s a just a showcase for record companies to try to shift more record

You do have to wonder what the point is?

This evening, I turned up at my local sports centre to find that the badminton court had been double booked.  Both me and another guy had booked the same court for the same time, and the online booking system had let us do that.  Both of our user accounts on the system were showing that we had the booking – but the calendar view in the sports centre was showing only his booking and so he got the caught. Whilst I can’t fault the staff at the sports centre – they didn’t know it had happened until I turned up expecting the court – and they did try to find me another court and even found someone willing to share a court if we were happy to play doubles (which I wasn’t, as I’m strictly a singles player) but it is rather frustrating. It’s even more frustrating when you realise that exactly the same thing has happened with my booking tomorrow night – which is even more frustrating… The problem is, of course, that there is very little I can do to check whether this problem gets resolved

Testing 123 Testing

I don’t really have much to say this evening – other than it’s rather late and I really should be in bed as – for the first time in weeks – I actually have any early start tomorrow! Anyway, I’m just trying out a new bit of Software to allow me to compose blog entries more easily here on my PC at home without having to navigate the website to do the composing – let’s hope it works! Not really impressed with this weather in London tonight – it’s raining rather unpleasantly and some bits of snow/frost are glistening in the moonlight around the base of some of the plants in the garden.  Not nice…

Something to watch out for.

Of course, we do have Apophis to look forward to in 2029. Google it if you've not heard of it. It's more than a little scary - but the Universe is quite a scary place. It may well be true that this thing is going to miss the Earth completely - and if it does hit, we'll be looking at devastation of cities and states rather than the loss of life on Earth - but the fact remains that this large (by Earth standards) lump of rock from space is going to come closer to Earth than the satellites used every day for broadcasting TV signals around the planet. I really do love the Universe :-)

Is there anybody out there..?

I have recently turned my reading from the earth-bound subject of natural evolution to the rather wider topic of astrophysics. Of course, I'm still reading popular science books rather than weighty tomes on the subject but there's still something spine-tingling about the sheer size of the universe and the fact that we are so insignificant in that. It was presumed for a long time that the Earth was the centre of the solar system, and even once the Earth going around the Sun was understood, it was still supposed that the solar system was the centre of the Universe. The book I have recently read ("Death By Black Hole" - a great title, and only a mediocre book, mostly, unfortunately) talked about the argument for this being that there are the same number of visible stars in each direction and how this argument is akin to getting lost in a dense forest and proclaiming that you must be in the middle because you see the same number of trees all around you but I think he m

Whilst on the subject of trains...

... and economics, for that matter. Last week I was on a train coming back into London. Well I shouldn't say that, really, as I was only coming home from Zone 3 - but I still felt as though I was coming back into London :-) Anyway, two things struck me on the journey. The first came to me whilst I was listening to the announcements in the carriages. The announcement told me that next stop (useful) and then that I was in "coach 1 of 4" (not so useful). I tried for most of the journey to think of a reason why I'd want to know that I was in a particular coach, and failed to think of a valid reason. So, I can only surmise that a new announcement system was added to the train which allowed different annnouncements to play in each carriage - and so it was decided to announce the number of the coach to the passengers. However, it's not true that just because a system is capable of doing something, you should always make that feature available to the user of the


It's cold today. And it's very snowy here in London. That photos is of my foot in our garden. Of course, there's the usual "why does the UK grind to a halt when it snows?" waffle going on. Well, I had a think about this on the tube this morning, and I think the reason is fairly simple. And it has nothing to do with being unable to build things which work in the snow - I think it's a question of economics. When building something, or deciding how to invest in the maintenance of that something, you have to make decisions on where to spend the money. So if you are building a train system, you have a scale of importance of the features of the system. Safety is quite high on the scale, slightly above comfort in "normal" conditions. At the other end of the scale, you have the ability of the system to cope with unlikely events. It's undoubtedly true that that snow like this is pretty rare. As are temperatures in the high 30s. So, the ques