spudtater: (Default)
( Aug. 12th, 2010 08:36 pm)
Cassie went to the cattery today — she's staying for a week while I visit Spain. I got angry yowls all the way to Seafield, which made me feel like a Bad Hoomin. Just before I got there it started to drip down, then rain heavily, then pour buckets. I then spotted an actual fork of lightning, which isn't common in Edinburgh.

The rain was torrential by the time I got to the cattery, with no signs of letting up. I was forced to take Cassie from car to cattery through the downpour. I had no jacket, but there was an umbrella in the boot. Cassie got the umbrella, I got soaked.

Going back to the car for her food and blanket, there was an almighty flash and bang at the same time; I jumped out of my skin and got a case of temporary Tourette's. After retreating back into the cattery at doublequick speed, I was then informed that the lightning had just struck the dog kennels, only tens of metres from me.

Not pleasant.

Another one via [livejournal.com profile] calcinations:

Parents across the UK are understandably being made anxious by news reports today suggesting:

Rise in 11 year olds on the pill (Sunday Times)
One thousand girls on Pill at 11: Huge rise in contraceptive prescription for pre-teens without parents knowing (Daily Mail)
Huge rise in 11-year-olds on the pill (Telegraph)


Despite the media hype there are many medical reasons why young girls might be prescribed hormonal contraceptives [...] Unfortunately the data from the GPRD does not break down reasons for prescribing hormonal contraception to young women, so we cannot conclude precisely why they are using it. This hasn’t stopped media speculation it’s primarily for pregnancy prevention, wrongly suggesting all young girls on the pill are sexually active lolitas.

11 years old, on the pill and sexually active? The media loses the news again, Dr Petra Boynton, 2 Aug 2010, drpetra.co.uk

spudtater: (Default)
( Aug. 6th, 2010 01:40 pm)
Promotional video of a Fordson snowmobile from 1926; unlike today's caterpillar-tracked vehicles, the Fordson snowmobile was screw-propelled.

Awesome stuff! A bit mean to the horse around 3½ minutes in, though!   8^(
spudtater: (Default)
( Jul. 30th, 2010 07:39 pm)
Awesome MRI pictures of various fruits and vegetables. The watermelon is the best — more fractaltastic than I would have imagined! Broccoli's also good.

Am having way too much fun with this entry on Charlie's blog about the Fermi paradox, Simulation hypothesis, and Boltzmann brains. All excellent concepts, admirably explored in the article and comments.

Kittens are fuzzy, and have big eyes. Spiders are fuzzy, and have big eyes. So is it really so strange for me to find spiders cute? OMNOMNOMBUGZ!
spudtater: (Default)
( Jul. 23rd, 2010 01:24 pm)
So, I've only just managed to free myself from the sackload of incompetents that are [British/Scottish] Gas, and am now with EDF Energy. Only a week later, guess what comes through the door? "We're sorry to hear that you're leaving EDF Energy..."

What?! No, no I'm not!

I was all ready to get a major fury on about British Gas for attempting to sabotage the switchover. Turns out, however, it was Eon which was to blame. I remember an Eon salesperson coming round recently and trying to con their way into switching me over ("no, I'm not selling anything, I'm here to carry out a price comparison..."), who I ended up having to shut the door on because of their persistance.

The team at EDF Energy have been nothing but professional and helpful about the whole thing, though. They've given me employee names and direct lines to call, and are not only trying to sort things out their end, but are also corresponding directly with Eon about the issue. Best service I've ever had from a utility company.

As far as they can figure out, it is in fact somebody else in the same area who has signed up with Eon (guess the salesman got one scalp, then), and there's been some sort of address mix-up. I suspect the classic Edinburgh "x/y versus y/x" confusion. It does my head in.

The new captain jumped from the cockpit, fully dressed, and sprinted through the water. A former lifeguard, he kept his eyes on his victim as he headed straight for the owners who were swimming between their anchored sportfisher and the beach. 'I think he thinks you’re drowning,' the husband said to his wife. They had been splashing each other and she had screamed but now they were just standing, neck-deep on the sand bar. 'We’re fine, what is he doing?' she asked, a little annoyed. 'We’re fine!' the husband yelled, waving him off, but his captain kept swimming hard. 'Move!' he barked as he sprinted between the stunned owners. Directly behind them, not ten feet away, their nine-year-old daughter was drowning. Safely above the surface in the arms of the captain, she burst into tears, 'Daddy!'

How did this captain know, from fifty feet away, what the father couldn’t recognize from just ten? Drowning is not the violent, splashing, call for help that most people expect. The captain was trained to recognize drowning by experts and years of experience. The father, on the other hand, had learned what drowning looks like by watching television.

Drowning Doesn’t Look Like Drowning, Mario Vittone, 18 May 2010, mariovittone.com

A fascinating, and very important, article describing the "Instinctive Drowning Response" — something you definitely want to be looking out for wherever people are in the water, and especially when supervising children. I'm stunned by the number of comments to the article from trained lifeguards who didn't know this, let alone the general public.

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] calcinations for the link

Edit: and the day after, an oddly appropriate lolcat appears...

I seem to have missed any press coverage of it, but Nick Clegg's "YourFreedom" site was launched yesterday. It asks you to list and vote on laws that you would like altered or repealed, in order to better restore and/or preserve the freedoms of the UK people.


Okay, it's easy to mock the coalition government as having "so few ideas it has to ask us what to do", but I think this is a huge improvement on New Labour's attitude to governance, which was more "we'll tell you what to think — and you'd better like it". So let's get on this site and let Nick know what we want. If it all comes to naught, then at least we gave the coalition government the benefit of the doubt.
Just saw the "longer, uncut" version. Jeeeeeesus. "Uncle Ben's — if you thought our logo was racist, you ain't seen nothing yet".

Luckily, it's by far the worst-tasting of the supermarket brands, too. Far too sweet. Go with Blue Dragon, which has more of a kick to it. Sharwoods is okay, too.

After an episode of Jimmy's Food Factory:

[personal profile] spudtaterI live in fear of him joining up with Heston Blumenthal.
[personal profile] galaxy_girl...and making babies?
[personal profile] spudtaterI'm not sure they could do that...
[personal profile] galaxy_girlHeston can do anything.
spudtater: (Default)
( Jun. 7th, 2010 01:09 pm)

A little piece of cigarette history I've only just discovered:

By the early 1950s, the link between smoking and lung cancer–long discussed in medical journals–was getting increased attention in the popular press. As they do to this day, the tobacco companies denied smoking was dangerous, but behaved as if they knew better. Threatened with the loss of jittery customers, they launched new filter brands to convince smokers their habit could be safe. [...] Once an oddity, the filter tip soon dominated cigarette sales, as millions who might have quit were able to rationalize their habit, thanks to these "safer" smokes. Smokers bought L&M filters, said to be "just what the doctor ordered!" They bought Parliaments, which provided "maximum health protection." And they bought Kent, whose "Micronite" filter made the biggest splash of all.

Kent was launched in 1952 by P. Lorillard Co. and named for its president, Herbert A. Kent. Something of a maverick among the cigarette makers, Lorillard came closest to admitting that cigarettes were harmful. It promoted Kent as the brand for "the 1 out of every 3 smokers who is unusually sensitive to tobacco tars and nicotine." It said Kent offered them "the greatest health protection in cigarette history."

In double page magazine ads that played on the public’s gee-whiz faith in science and technology, Lorillard said its quest for the new filter "ended in an atomic energy plant, where the makers of KENT found a material being used to filter air of microscopic impurities."

"What is ‘Micronite’?" another ad asked. "It’s a pure, dust-free, completely harmless material that is so safe, so effective, it actually is used to help filter the air in hospital operating rooms."

In reality, the Micronite filter–whose actual composition the ads never revealed–contained a particularly dangerous form of asbestos. [...] There was asbestos in the filter from 1952 at least until 1957. During this time, according to sales figures, Americans puffed their way through over 13 billion Kents. It is unknown if Kent smokers inhaled asbestos from the filter, or if they have experienced a higher rate of cancer than smokers of other brands.

Lorillard would not respond to written questions on this subject, nor to separate requests to three vice presidents to tell the company’s side. The company offered a single piece of information: "We do not have asbestos in our products, nor have we had for many years," said Sara Ridgway, Lorillard vice president for public relations. "That is all I’m going to say."

— "The Greatest Health Protection In Cigarette History!", Myron Levin, 1987

The 25th of May, as the Whit Sunday term (old style), is a great day in Scotland, being that on which, for the most part, people change their residences. For some unexplained reason the Scotch 'remove' oftener than their southern neighbours. They very generally lease their houses by the year, and are thus at every twelve-month's end able to shift their place of abode. Whether the restless disposition has arisen from the short leases, or the short leases have been a result of the restless disposition, is immaterial. That the restlessness is a fact, is what we have mainly to deal with.

It happens accordingly, that at every Candlemas a Scotch family gets an opportunity of considering whether it will, in the language of the country, sit or flit. The landlord or his agent calls to learn the decision on this point; and if 'flit ' is the resolution, he takes measures by advertising to obtain a new tenant. The two or three days following upon the Purification, therefore, become distinguished by a feathering of the streets with boards projected from the windows, intimating 'A House to Let.' Then comes on a most lively excitement for individuals proposing to remove; you see them going about for weeks, inspecting the numerous houses offered to them. Considerations of position, accommodation, and rent, afford scope for endless speculation. The gentleman deliberates about the rent—whether it will suit his means. The lady has her own anxious thoughts about new furniture that may be required, and how far old carpets can be made to suit the new premises. Both have their reflections as to what the Thomsons and the Jacksons will say on hearing that they are going into a house so much handsomer, more ambitiously situated, and dearer than their last. At length the pleasing dream is over—they have taken the house, and the only thing that remains to be done is to 'flit.'

Intensely longed for, the 25th of May comes at last. The departing tenant knows he must vacate his house before twelve o'clock; consequently, he has to arrange for a quick transportation of his household goods that forenoon. What he is to the new tenant, the tenant of the house he is going to occupy is to him. He dreads—hates—to be pushed; but on the other hand he must push, lest his penates be left shelterless on the street. There is accordingly all that morning a packing up, a sending off, a pushing in—upholstery meeting upholstery in deadly contention; streets encumbered with card-tables and arm-chairs in the most awkward irrelation to their proper circumstances; articles even more sacredly domestic exposed to every idle passerby—a straw-and-ropiness everywhere. In the humbler class of streets, the show of poor old furniture is piteous to look upon, more especially if (as sometimes happens) Jove has chosen to make it a dropping morning. Each leaves his house dishevelled and dirty-marks of torn down brackets and departed pictures on the walls, floors loaded with unaccountable rubbish—all the beauties and attractions that were so witching at Candlemas now strangely obscured. But there is no time for cleaning, and in each must plunge, with all his goods and all his family, settle as they may.

There is only a rude bivouac for the first twenty-four hours, with meals more con-fused and savage than the roughest picnic. And yet, such is the charm of novelty, that a 'flitting' is seldom spoken of as a time or occasion of serious discomfort. Nor are the drawbacks of the new dwelling much insisted on, however obvious. On the contrary, the tendency is to apologize for every less agreeable feature-to view hopefully the effect of a little cleaning here, a coat of size there; to trust that something will make that thorough draft in the lobby tolerable, and compensate for the absence of a sink in the back-kitchen. Jack does not think much of the lowness of the ceiling of the bedroom assigned to him, and Charlotte Louisa has the best hopes of the suitableness of the drawing-room (when the back-bedroom is added to it) for a dancing-party.

A few months generally serve to dispel much of this illusion, and show all the disadvantages of the new mansion in a sufficiently strong light. So when Candlemas next comes round, our tenant has probably become dissatisfied, and anxious for another change. If considerations of prudence stand in the way, the family must be content to stay where they are for another year or two. If able to encounter another change, they will undertake it, only perhaps to find new, though different discomforts, and long for other changes.

– "May 25th", The Book of Days, Robert Chambers, 1869
spudtater: (Default)
( May. 19th, 2010 09:39 pm)
Wilfully misinterpreting Radiohead lyrics:

"When I am king, you will be first against the wall
With your opinionwiches of no consequence at all"

Mmmm, opinionwiches. As served by Fox News?

This article on Wikipedia isn't as exciting as it sounds:

Lesbian Sex Wars

Fairly interesting, though. WTF, people?

There are two (common) dash characters wider than a hyphen, commonly called an "em dash" and "en dash". (So called because they're approximately the width of a capital M and a lower-case N respectively). Some style guides don't approve of em dashes much at all, but in those that do use both there are clear rules on when to use an em and when an en. The Wikipedia "dash" article describes some such rules:

The em dash (—), or m dash, m-rule, etc., often demarcates a parenthetical thought or some similar interpolation, such as the following from Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine:

At that age I once stabbed my best friend, Fred, with a pair of pinking shears in the base of the neck, enraged because he had been given the comprehensive sixty-four-crayon Crayola box — including the gold and silver crayons — and would not let me look closely at the box to see how Crayola had stabilized the built-in crayon sharpener under the tiers of crayons.

The en dash is commonly used to indicate a closed range (a range with clearly defined and non-infinite upper and lower boundaries) of values, such as those between dates, times, or numbers.

Some examples of this usage:

  • June–July 1967
  • 1:00–2:00 p.m.
  • For ages 3–5
  • pp. 38–55
  • President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981)

But typing a sentence such as the following into a Microsoft office application: "The game -- suitable for ages 3--10 -- could hardly have been expected to hold our attention" autocorrects to "The game – suitable for ages 3—10 – could hardly have been expected to hold our attention". Exactly the opposite of what we would expect.

This does my head in.


While I was a medical student, I saw a young guy with a bad knee. After the patient left, the consultant explained that the surgeon who had carried out the operation had got it badly wrong, and this was the cause of the patient's disability. He would never walk properly again. I asked the consultant why no one had informed the patient. He answered that you don't blow the whistle on colleagues and they don't on you. [...]

I was part of a chain of errors that led to the death of a patient [...] and I confessed it to my consultant. I was overcome with remorse. I wanted to apologise to the relatives and stand up at the inquest and say it was all my fault and I deserved to be struck off. He counselled me to brazen it out. Another colleague helped me buff the notes (to "buff the notes" is to make entries in the patient's records which don't actually lie but contain only the helpful elements of the truth).

'We all kill a few patients as we learn', Jed Mercurio, The Guardian, 18 May 2004

Someone linked to this on the Bad Science blog. Quite terrifying, in a way. But it's hard to see what can be done; people simply refuse to accept that mistakes do happen in hospitals, and when they do, it's not always appropriate for heads to roll.

Subject:  Mrs. Sarah Welsh. (Benefactor)
From:"Mrs. Sarah Welsh" <welshfamily@huk.com>
Date:Fri, May 14, 2010 12:53 am

I am Mrs. Sarah Welsh, an English woman who is suffering from cancerous ailment. I am married to Sir Jim Welsh who also is an Englishman though dead now. My husband worked with the British Railways for over two decade before the cold hand of death took him away on the 23rd of July 2003 at about 2:00AM. Our marriage lasted for over a decade without any fruit of the womb. My husband died after a protracted illness. My husband and I made a vow to uplift the down-trodden and the less-privileged individuals within the United Kingdom, Europe, North and South America, Africa and the rest of the globe as he had passion for persons who cannot help themselves due to physical disability or financial predicament. I can adduce this to the fact that he needed a Child from this relationship, which never came.

When my late husband was alive he deposited the sum of 10 Million (Ten Million Great Britain Pounds Sterling with an offshore Bank in Nigeria...

spudtater: (Default)
( May. 12th, 2010 01:47 pm)
I just bought a one Terabyte network hard drive. I remember when I was aspiring to own a one Gigabyte hard drive. (Come to think of it, I remember when I owned a computer without any hard drive at all... tell that to kids these days, they won't believe you... mumble...).

To be set up tonight as a central file- and print-server. (Yes, it does print serving. I was a little surprised when I realised that, but hey, I'm not going to argue.) Woo shiny tech!

I seem to be more optimistic about the the coalition agreements than a number of my friends. That's almost certainly because I was out of the country during the Thatcher years. (Okay, 1981–~1983 excluded, but I wasn't really up to forming political opinions during that time). But am I naïve in not knowing what Tories Are Really Like, or are others still living in the 80s? We shall see.

All I know for now is that I much admire any politician who uses the phrase "constitutional geekery".   8^)
spudtater: (Default)
( May. 11th, 2010 09:48 pm)
It's the "end of an error", as the USians say, and the start of an entirely new one.

Here's hoping that Tory tempered with Lib Dem isn't, overall, too much worse than Labour.

I'm fairly happy about the prospect of a referendum on AV. (Yes, Labour were offering AV off the bat and a referendum on STV, but that was a desperate attempt at staying in power, and never really a realistic — or wise — proposition.)


spudtater: (Default)


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