BBSRC Grant Holders Workshop

So far, the BBSRC Grant Holders Workshop has been fascinating. Dennis Noble’s talk last night, including an entertaining slagging of the Gene Ontology; entertaining but as wrong as you can be when you confuse a gene name and a function. Nice to hear a new variation of the Syndney Brenner "but an ontology doesn’t allow you to understand all of biology" argument. I also learnt that a) without convection it would take 10,000 years to make a cup of tea (unless you invent a spoon) and b) there are, on average 8 sausages in a tin of sausage and beans and, further, that the distribution of sausage number is low enough that the machine that puts them in the tin must be counting. I also learnt that some people have too much time on their hands; that I am blogging about this…

Farewell, John Rebus

I finished Exit Music this morning. I’ve been reading Ian Rankin’s novels for nearly a decade now starting, perhaps ironically, just after leaving Edinburgh for London. I still think Black and Blue is the best, although Tooth and Nail is my favourite. I heard Ian Rankin say once that as he’d just moved to London and was feeling miserable, he’s inflict the same onto Rebus. As I was hating London also, I emphasised greatly with the book. Also, it’s got a keystone cops, comedy car chase at the end. Both author and detective moved back to Edinburgh fairly shortly afterwards. I never did, although I did leave London. The last book is good and a suitable ending. Like many of his more recent books, there is a random, unresolved element to the plot. But it’s …

Jolie Holland

Been looking forward to Jolie Holland for a while; I think her records are superb, from the Be Good Tanyas onward. Her strange, wierd vocals seem to work; Mexican Blue is stunning song, which leaves me lost everytime I hear it. I guess this is a lot to live up to. Last nights gig missed by a mile. The support, who’s name I forgot, was poor; nice voice, but the songs were crap, and the performance shambolic. This was replicated by the main act; she treated the audience like they were the wall-paper at her own private practice session. The band spent lots of time talking to each other; they had to tell poor jokes while she tuned up, which took ages. And she needed it; the first three songs were played with an out-of-tune guitar, that was mixed up loud enough that you couldn’t …

Get Well Soon

I had cause to go doctors recently; I thought, I’d try the new drop-in centre that they have opened in town. It was fine, for the record, although I can’t really see the difference between this and a normal doctors. Well, with the exception that they don’t have the appointments fiddle (we guarentee to give you an appointment with 48 hours, but not giving you an appointment which is further away). Next day, I get a call from my own doctors — were they phoning up to send me a get-well soon. No, of course not, they were phoning up to sign me off; the receptionist seemed quite irritated that I had been to the drop-in place, and had great pleasure in telling me to seek a new doctor. The problem was, of course, that I have moved, so I am "now no longer in their ar…

SWAT4LS

At the SWAT4LS meeting in Edinburgh. After the melee of teaching over the last two months, it’s a real delight to be back in a research environment, to have some real quality time writing emails, while someone is talking in the background. So far, it’s been pretty good. I’m surprised by the size (75+ delegates) and the large number of papers submitted (40ish). They seem to have really hit the time right. The talks so far have been interesting; lots of integration, lots of querying, and far more architecture diagrams than I want to look at in one day. Originally published on my old blog site.

John Martyn

John Martyn has been around for donkey’s years. Sometime, in the 80’s he decided that enunciation was for wimps, and he started to sing like a wookie. More recently, he’s lost a leg, put on enough weight that resembles Jabba the Hutt (two star wars, references in one review; hmmm). He must be passed it now. John Martyn started off as a folkie, more or less invented trip hop along the way; his music is mesmeric and beguiling. In his prime, he could take the stage on his own, with his Les Paul and fill the entire room, entrancing the audience. I think he was the second musician (not including the pub blues bands that were the stable of my youth) that I ever saw live. I’ve seen him from the North to the South of the country; Solid Air graces my mp3 player at great …

Music Madness: Stephen Stills and Erik Mongrain

It’s all gone a bit mad since October. I’ve been to so many gigs that, combined with the start of term, I haven’t really had time to write them all up. Stephen Stills was my first gig at the City Hall; cool venue inside, dramatic, good looking, comfy seats. The sound is pretty poor though. I was sitting a way back, but on the balcony and right at the front of it so the view was excellent. Being at the gig made me feel young; it’s rare that I am in the lower quartile of the age range these days. There was an element of homage about the whole thing; there were two old hippies in the front row who clearly got stoned to CSN (or maybe Buffalo Springfield) when they were young and were going to cheer regardless. But, it was a good gig. His voice is a bit wavery with ag…

Wow

In the basic biological sciences, statistical considerations are secondary or nonexistent, results entirely unpredicted by hypotheses are celebrated, and there are few formal rules for reproducibility doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050201 Now, that is what I call a real quote. Originally published on my old blog site.

Where has Pedro gone?

In the dim and distant past, Pedro’s list was this amazing resource for biologists. Speak to anyone of my age, and they will remember this list; in the early days of the web it was the best place to go, to find out where to find your bioinformatics tools. Pedro’s list hasn’t been updated since 1995. There are still copies of it around which google will find for you if you want. It turns out that Pedro was, in fact, Pedro Maldonado Coutinho who was a graduate student at the time. A little more poking uncovers his thesis from 1996; this explains why he stopped maintaining the list. A little more poking reveals very little. He worked in France for a while but then disappeared from the web record. A later google hit suggests he might not have left biology altogether &mdas…