26 November 2007

Monty Python

Skatje over at Lacrimae Rerum has today observed:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail is an educational commentary on nobility-peasant relationships.

Don't think I could have put it better myself. Says it all really.

24 November 2007

Wonderful Weekend English

I was watching the soccer results programme on TV this afternoon. Some player (I didn't hear who) had obviously had a bad day; this was described by one of the studio pundits as:
He's had a holocaust.

Endless Screw

Apparently the manual for servicing the keel-lifting mechanism of a Beneteau Oceanis 311 yacht advises:
Unscrew the bolt THM8 located at the end of the endless screw.
[New Scientist; 24/11/2007]

23 November 2007

Catching up on New Scientist the other evening I spotted an interesting piece attached to an article entitled "God's place in a rational world":

An Alternative reading of literature

Religion is not the only aspect of the human condition that could do with a little more rationality, said some delegates at Beyond Belief II [a symposium of scientists who don't buy into the god meme]. Jonathan Gotschall, who teaches English literature at Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania, proposed marrying literary studies with a scientific style of inquiry.

Gottschall has already made waves among his colleagues by conducting an experiment on how people respond to literature. From interviews with readers about their responses to books, he has shown that in general people have similar reactions to a given text. This runs counter to the conventional idea that the meaning readers take from literature is dependent more on their cultural background than what the author intended. It also appears not to make sense, as literature is grounded in subjective rather than objective experience.

Gotschall, however, argues that the same can be said for literary criticism: the field is awash with irrational thought, he says, largely because most literature scholars believe that the humanities and science are distinct. As a result, literary theorists rely on opinion and conjecture, rather than trying to find solid, empirical evidence for their claims, he says. By adding an element of scientific thought to literary criticism, Gottschall says, we could unearth hidden truths about human nature and behaviour.

Interesting idea. Needs thinking about. My literarist friends please note!

Arthur C Clarke - Threat to Humanity

There's an interview with SF author Arthur C Clarke in the current edition of BBC Focus magazine, which contains the following ...

What's the greatest threat humanity faces?
Organised religion polluting our minds as it pretends to deliver morality
and spiritual salvation. It's spreading the most malevolent mind virus of
all. I hope our race can one day outgrow this primitive notion.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

18 November 2007

Virtue and Art

The great artists of the world are never Puritans and seldom respectable. No virtuous man - that is, virtuous in the YMCA sense - has ever painted a picture worth looking at, or written a symphony worth hearing, or a book worth reading.

[HL Mencken]

09 November 2007

Friday Five: Attack of Randomosity

What is something you collect? Why?
I don't really collect anything these days. Although I suppose you could count books. But the book collecting is fairly random apart from a couple of areas of interest, but even these aren't collected fanatically.

If you could make one ice cream flavor, what would the ingredients be and what would be the name?
1. Avocado. If it could be made green enough then call it "Green Slime".
2. Grapefruit, Clementine and Lime. "Citrus Burst"

What can't you go a day without?
Sleep. Lots of sleep.

What position do you sleep in? [back, right side, left side, stomach ...]
Difficult one. I prefer to sleep on my stomach and I usually (until recently) used to go to sleep on the right side of my front. But I need to (re)train myself to sleep on my back or side -- I have Obstructive Sleep Apnoea which means I need a CPAP machine and mask at night, and sleeping on my front disturbs the seal between mask and face.

What is your typical morning routine before work?
Wake up. Try to ignore the day. Eventually get up. Shave (if going in the office), wash and dress. Breakfast (fresh fruit or muesli with fruit juice). Try to remember to take tablets. Work. All condensed into as little time as possible so I get the maximum time in bed. :-)

[Brought to you courtesy of Friday Five.]

President Army Bush Quotes

Two excellent quotes today from the Quotation of the Day; both perpetrated by President George W Bush:

You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time.
Phone conversation with Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf; 7 November 2007; reported by CBC

The power of the executive branch is vested in the President, who also serves as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
White House document explaining the role of the President of the United States

It does make one wonder how good these peoples' grip is on reality.

02 November 2007

Microbes for Christmas Without Being Ill

So here we are. Just what every Just William schoolboy always wanted. Giant Microbes for Christmas. And you don't get sick.

Thanks to a top off from Noreen it seems that quite a lot of gift outlets are selling soft toys this Christmas made by Giant Microbes. They have a wonderful array of bugs from Black Death to Syphilis by way of Typhoid and Ebola. They're a snip at around £6 or $8 each. Just the present for the young science geek.

But there is a serious point to this. The toys are actually made in the shape of the eponymous organism, only around a million times bigger. And they they come with information about the bug they depict. So they do have educational value. And some of them, like E. coli (pictured above), are actually quote cute.

Go have a look at Giant Microbes and give yourself the 'flu for Christmas! (Well actually maybe not, it's a nasty pastel apple green colour.)