Teddy Bears and Swordfish

I thought, last night, that I had seen the clear winner for my weekly "Most Surreal Experience" competition. While sitting in the pub, looking out of the window, two blokes walked passed carrying between them a 6ft, blue, plastic swordfish. However, today, this was defeated: the swordfish was robbed. During our strike action, we had the traditional rally, where people stand in front of a microphone and talk at other people who are feeling cold. For some strange, ill-conceived reason, someone came up with the idea of bring along entertainment in the form of a left-wing accordionist singing, among other things, a strange rendition of the "Teddy Bear’s picnic". The middle part involved a Freudian analysis of his childhood, during which he swore and almost got arre…


"They get great working conditions, extended holidays and commission from all the books they write", a student fumed This quote was from the local student newspaper. It’s perhaps not surprising that students (like most of the population) are unaware of what academics actually do. Teaching, itself, takes a lot of effort, time and thought. Few students wonder where the knowledge that we try to teach actually comes from; it’s in the creation of this knowledge that we spend the rest of our time on. It’s the reason that we don’t go on holiday, when the students go home. There is a lot of cynicism among academics; when you feel part of the degree awarding, paper writing, grant applying treadmill, it’s not that surprising. But academics are ha…

It Never Rains

Been a bit strange, recently. I’m an occasionally emacs hacker. My last big package, pabbrev however was first released about three years ago, and hasn’t had a new version out for at least a year. In the last week or so, though, I’ve had a flurry of fixes for it, even added a new feature. More over, a new package called "predictive" which is similar but more powerful (good!), but more complex (bad!)o has been released. Added to the work done on muse mode which I use to publish this journal, I’ve been deeply embroiled in lisp. I never understood this sort of synchronicity. Originally published on my old blog site.

Linda Smith

Listening to a special edition of the News Quiz being played as a tribute to Linda Smith, who died earlier in the week. A sad loss — I loved her rambling style, her ear for the bizarre, her inventiveness, while she still managed to be incisive about the issues of the day. Originally published on my old blog site.

Polenta and Parsnips

Having dug out my old recipe for bulgar wheat, I’ve been going all cereal. So I bought some polenta. I’ve never tried this before. It’s like cous-cous, but a bit finer. You cook it for a while, then it goes solid. It’s relatively tasteless, but is spices up well. I did it with parsnips and potatoes that I’d lightly fried with lots of spices. It was alright, but I need quite a bit more work on the polenta. Less water, I think, more spices. Originally published on my old blog site.

Top Down vs Emergent Standards

There has been an interesting discussion on data standards for systems biology. This theme seems to repeat itself again and again. Despite the obvious difficulties in getting scientists to work together, slow, steady, building of standards with as broad a consensus as possible has to be the best way of doing things. Originally published on my old blog site.

Life Sciences Interface

Went to an interesting workshop on EPSRC’s LSI programme. One of the interesting things which came out of this, is that most people who actually have LSI funding are not aware of the fact. I was a bit surprised about this. So were the people in charge of the LSI. However, they later admitted that the main reason for this was probably that they had made a strategic decision not to tell people when they got funding. Originally published on my old blog site.

Biriyani Toast Topper

I bought some soya mince the other day, mostly for old time sake. Soya mince much like the larger equivalent, soya chunks, are fairly horrible. They tend to be overly chewy, with a slightly unappealing texture. But they are cheap, and about 50% protein. I used to eat lots of this stuff when I was a student and then stopped, because I could afford nicer food. But I saw some the other day, and remembered that I had one dish where it was quite nice. This is it. Ingredients 1 Red Onion Handful Soya Mince Handful Rice Tomato Puree 2 potatoes Toast Spices Garlic Puree Various Curry Spices Preparation Essentially, this is your basic curry — fry the onions, then add garlic puree. After it’s cooked for a while, add some lime juice, then cumin, coriander, tumeric and any other spi…

Religion and Cricket

Caught an announcement on the radio that the daily service was being moved to make way for the cricket. There is a certain irony that religion is being moved out of the way for sport; having lived just down the road from White Hart Lane, then Maine Road, and now overlooking St. James Park, this makes a certain amount of sense. Originally published on my old blog site.

Thoughts on a Thesis

The Semantic Enrichment workshop has left me thinking about the presentation of science. The thesis or long dissertation of post-graduate courses, is surely one of the oddities of the scientific education system. If you read "Origin of the Species", and other literature of the time, with its slow, gentlemanly meanderings, then then, perhaps, it makes sense. But, in this day and age, almost no scientific research is publishing in long-hand, book form. Everything happens in the papers. Even our books are normally a collection of papers. So, why do we force PhD students to write a thesis? It clearly is not the best training for what is to come after. Originally published on my old blog site.