French blogs

I was listening to a programme of blogging on Radio 4 a few days back. This weekend I had a look at one of the those featured, which was Petite Anglais. I wondered what it was that made it such a well-read blog. The answer is simple — the writing is excellent. It’s witty, discoursive and makes you rethink its relatively mundane content. It also moves between strange and the deeply personal, and is moving because of it. In the end, though, it was probably this aspect which lead to the author getting the sack. The content does not actually justify her getting the sack. I suspect her employers were more worried about what it might say in the future, than what it actually does. I don’t really understand this; I’m a fairly open person; I’ll tell anybody anything…

Heavy Traffic

Been having an interesting discussion on the relative merits of mailing lists as opposed to web forums. Personally, I hate having to read things in web forums, because I am always find the interface terrible, particularly for writing notes as you are largely limited to a rubbish text box. Part of the reason why I hate web forums so much, though, is because I am a Gnus user; it was originally a usenet, news group reader and it’s user interface it designed for reading high traffic, where most of what you want you get, you don’t want to read. When I was had to use Outlook earlier this academic year, I was in real troubles, because it’s user interface could just not cope with large amounts of traffic — click, click, point, read, click, click, right click, mark, read …

Unseasonal happenings

While looking for housing last weekend, I decided to take my bike. It’s slower, but you can see far more from a bike than you can see from in car. It also reminded me of how much I like to be on a bike: watching the tarmac move underneath your wheels; wind in your face. Strange time of the year to get the bug for cycling again, but I was blessed with beautiful weather. Originally published on my old blog site.

PhD programmes

I’ve been trying to appoint someone onto an EPSRC Case studentship. The eligability rules are a nightmare. Apart from the fact that no one knows exactly what they are (I phoned up EPSRC and no one there knew!), they appear to be largely UK only. Other EU citizens can apply, but they need a three year residency in the UK. Stupid! The PhD is an international qualification. PhD students add immeasurably to the research environment. We should be glad that talented people want to come to the UK from abroad. The core problem is, I think, that the PhD is considered to be an education, rather than a job. Thus, we have PhD students rather than researchers. This is only to the disadvantage of the students — they get treated poorly by the University system, it’s harder to get loa…

Tofu in stock

I tried a new tofu dish last night. Very simple. I boiled the tofu in a frying pan with a stock made from some tamarind stock cubes, oxo veggie cubes and some garlic flakes, flavoured with cumin and MSG. I also added some rice vinegar which turned out to be a mistake as it was far too sour — in the end, it needed sugar to perk it up. Anyway, after boiling the tofu and reducing the stock somewhat on the hob, I toasted the top under the grill. Then, finally, returned it to the hob, added a little water to dilute the stock again, and sprinkled on raw garlic and onion. Left this for a few minutes till the onion was soft, and eat with ramen noodles. Worked quite well, in general. As is my usual practice, I’ll probably do the same dish again tonight, while it’s still fresh i…


Went looking at areas where I might buy a house this weekend. I quite liked the look of Wide Open. The name sounds pretty odd, although my guess is that it dates back to the coal industry; presumably, there was an open cast pit there. It looks quite nice to me. It’s a little bit out of town; the bike ride will be significant in the morning, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The houses are also a bit cheaper, so I can get something proportionality larger and with gardens. I like space, so this is not bad thing. I need to find someone who lives there, though. The only person to offer advice so far said "oh my god, it’s a tip". But she hasn’t been there for 20 years. Originally published on my old blog site.

Episodic happenings

People tend to look down on TV serials as compared to films; I think it’s the notion that good art must be weighty and large. There are occasions, however, when you see a serial that really is astonishing. I’ve been lucky recently to see three of these. Some night, I shall watch all fo these in a row. To confirm the prevaling opinion that all scientists are trekies, the first one was "Sarek" from Star Trek—The Next Generation. The high point is that it allows Patrick Stewart to be terribly actorish on stage. It also features a bar fight and Wesley Crusher getting slapped my his mother; he could have done with more of this. The second was a Hamish Macbeth episode that mentioned earlier, called "Wee Jocks Lament". It has everything that makes the ser…

Tabs online

One of my favourite websites, the Online Guitar Tab Archive, has been taken down again by foolish action by some lawyers. This has happened befor — in fact, OLGA itself only came about as a result of legal action. It’s sad though, that some individuals are so threatened by others helping each other freely. I don’t necessarily blame the copyright holders, who are just trying to make a living. But you have to wonder about a system which requires people to fight in such a ludicrious manner. The IPR laws are getting increasingly insane. They continually block new ways of using technology. I am starting to think that IPR and communication are necessarily conflicted. I wonder which will break first. Originally published on my old blog site.

On the tiles

Went out with two old friends from back when I did my degree. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but I guess that it is. Mike Aird lives in Newcastle, so I’ve seen him a number of times since I got here, but I probably haven’t seen Mark Dixon for a decade or more. So, I was reasonably looking forward to an evening of slightly fatter, middle aged blokes reminiscing about old days; but both of them are thin as rakes. Never try and chase up your past, it might tell you rather more about your present than you want to know. Was a good night, though. Mark seems to be doing well, has accidentally managed to become called Chris, and does something engineeringy. Originally published on my old blog site.

ISMB 2006

Pretty much as expected, ISMB was small this year as it was sited in Brazil; while those of us who got there really enjoyed the place, I think it put many people off. The small size of the conference made it very friendly and easy to find people, which was good. The centre itself was excellent in most ways, with the only really problem being the air con, which was fairly noisy and somewhat overwhelmed the AV. BioOntologies took a particularly heavy hit in terms on submissions — most people needed a main conference publication to justify the travel. It was lucky that we had merged with BioLink for the year, or we would had to have cancelled the day. Hopefully next year will be better, as this is our 10th anniversary meeting — a long time for a SIG to be going. The main confer…