Signals & Messages

What is this obsession that politicians and commentators have with “sending out messages” and “giving the wrong signals”? Do they not speak the same language? (Well, in a sense, no – but it is all broadly classed as english.) I mean, I’m sitting right here in the car listening to you on the radio – why not tell me instead of sending a signal?

The most common version of this is doing “one thing” whilst sending out the “wrong signal” indicating precisely the opposite. Who are these people sitting around receiving signals and wilfully misinterpreting them? What medium do they travel through? I never receive them, but maybe that’s because I am borderline autistic (apparently).

Best to give an example: “downgrading of cannabis from Class B to C could send the wrong signal” UN condemns UK cannabis laws in The Observer. Is cannabis legal now? No, that would be declassification. Is it less dangerous than heroin? Yes. See Class B and Class A drugs. Looks like another signal gone over my head.

Beautiful Experiments

A philosopher at New York University asked physicists to nominate the most beautiful experiment of all time, and the results were published in the New York Times.

My first blog post from Digg. I can’t resist playing with the new stuff.

read more | digg story

Just in case that link should disappear, here’s the list:
1. Double-slit electron diffraction
2. Galileo’s experiment on falling objects
3. Millikan’s oil-drop experiment
4. Newton’s decomposition of sunlight with a prism
5. Young’s light-interference experiment
6. Cavendish’s torsion-bar experiment
7. Eratosthenes’ measurement of the Earth’s circumference
8. Galileo’s experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes
9. Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus
10. Foucault’s pendulum

Cheese Juice

Cheese Juice
Originally uploaded by DerekL.

In Asda at Pilsworth, in the aisle next to the buttermilk, I noticed that they were selling cheese juice. Unusual, because they used to have an aisle labelled “foreign food” (including such exotic specialities as “spaghetti” that wasn’t in a tin with tomato sauce) and I would definitely class cheese juice as foreign. Probably needs refrigeration, though, and “foreign food” was dry or tinned.

Bloody Badminton

Who’d have thought it was such a dangerous game? Well it is, especially in the hands of a rank amateur.

The plaster came off the clinically fractured scaphoid, and although extremes of movement hurt that was to be expected after seven weeks immobilised. So a week later, I went back to badminton – determined to play carefully and not try too hard thus avoiding any falling over scenarios.

And I slipped. Just from a standing start, my foot slipped on the floor and I fell straight down and of course landed on my poorly hand. It hurt. I got up. I finished the game. I then realised that somehow I’d also twisted my ankle and that was starting to hurt too.

When it was time for another game I couldn’t really play with the twisted ankle, so I came home and sulked. Stupid game.

Starbucks Christmas Drinks

Donna has made a big fuss about the Red cups, so I had to try one. I wasn’t disappointed, except for the temperature, as usual. Starbucks coffee is always too cold – perhaps it is a deliberate ploy to get you to drink up quickly and leave, but if that was the case why provide comfy chairs and wi-fi links? (To encourage people with Mac portables and bandanas around their heads to sit posing in a prominent position, not realising that it just shows that they have no friends and nowhere to call home.)

The observant will have spotted that there is only one red cup (which has ice cubes in to cool down the Earl Grey Tea). Mine is the Chocolate Mint Bliss venti with cream. Posted by Picasa


Saw this on the pavement today. Not something I’ve ever seen lying around before, especially in a rural Cambridgeshire village. It was over a metre long, and obviously unused.

When I showed this picture to the chaps in the office they provided me with a perfect feed by asking me if I had left it there.

I replied that I’m not in the habit of picking up scrubbers in the street. Thank you, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal. Posted by Picasa

90% Fractured

So another x-ray later and it still isn’t definitely fractured. The doctor reckons probably 90% certain that it is. To find out for sure would need a bone scan, which involves a dose of radiation equivalent to 180 chest x-rays. The decision is mine, so I opt for the plaster (the several hours hanging around waiting for the radio-active dye to circulate and accumulate is almost as much of a deterrent as the potential cancer).

The difficulty of diagnosis is a good sign. The fracture hasn’t moved, so it should have no problem healing in five weeks. And I can drive with the plaster – which isn’t plaster these days but some magic lightweight setting bandage thing. Posted by Picasa

Clinically Fractured

On Tuesday I didn’t even know what a scaphoid was – on Wednesday I was nursing a clinically fractured one.

The problem with playing badminton in the village hall is that the walls are quite close to the edge of the court. Losing your balance whilst chasing for that elusive short shot over the net (and missing it), then stopping your fall with your outstretched-at-90-degree wrist is a textbook way of breaking your scaphoid. I know now that it is one of the carpal bones in your hand.

Hard to tell whether it is fractured initially (the x-rays showed that it was OK, but they often do), I have to wear a splint in case it is (hence the “clinical”) and go back in 10 days time to find out for sure. The suspense!

Beware The GPS My Son

We were travelling to a small village just south of Northampton. The GPS SatNav was in charge. We were half an hour away when Digital Dorothy, possibly confused by the double roundabaout at the motorway junction, told us to “Turn Left, then make a U turn.”

The driver, slightly distracted by this odd instruction, turned left and left again, and we were headed the wrong way down the M1. 12 miles to the next junction, but still plenty of time. Until we reached the enormous queue and sat stationary for three hours with the engine off (but the ignition on for the radio and demister). Further ahead, a coach and lorry had collided and several cars had become involved. The northbound carriageway was also closed temporarily so that the air ambulance could land.

When the traffic started moving again, we didn’t. Something in the electrics was unhappy, but the radio was still working. The fast lane of the M1, stuck. Fortunately, the cars behind were also stuck and their drivers were quick to offer to push. It is encouraging to know that even with engine management, fuel injection and electronic ignition, a push start will sometimes get you going again. Thanks, guys. We might still be there. Posted by Picasa