Friday, August 15, 2008

Pollen Friday

Other bloggers have a weekly pick of some beastie or whatever that they particularly like. For example, uber blogger and communion wafer desecrator PZ Myers has a cephlapod spot. I'm going to outdo the competition with something far more fascinating, far more mysterious and far more likely to cause you hayfever; pollen. Why? Well, I look at pollen for my PhD (I'm a palynologist) and was stuck for a theme. So, first up, is one of the most recognisable grains - Pinus (pine). I quite like this pic as it shows some of the other random bits of crud you get on a pollen slide, unlike many other photos of pollen grains:

The image is from:

Bellowhead - Sloe Gin

Bellowhead are undoubtedly the best live band in the world. This is a fact. Check out Sloe Gin from their recent Royal Albert Hall gig:

Evolution is good for society

Those of us who tend to spend our time on planet earth won't find much to disagree with in this article by Olivia Judson. Judson points out various excellent reasons why teaching evolution is such a valuable endeavour, one of the key ones (and perhaps slightly underappreciated) is:
The third reason to teach evolution is more philosophical. It concerns the development of an attitude toward evidence. In his book, “The Republican War on Science,” the journalist Chris Mooney argues persuasively that a contempt for scientific evidence — or indeed, evidence of any kind — has permeated the Bush administration’s policies, from climate change to sex education, from drilling for oil to the war in Iraq. A dismissal of evolution is an integral part of this general attitude.
This is a very important point. Some of the most important decisions facing society over the next century concern science; it is therefore vital (as well as blindingly obvious) that we have a scientifically literate society, equipped with critical thinking skills. Looking at the facile media coverage of, for example, GM crops ("we're all fucking dooooooomed"), suggests reason to worry in this regard. Still, it's not as though our next head of state is a clueless buffoon, besotted with his own ill informed opinions on a wide range of scientific subjects. Oh. Bugger.

I always find it illustrative that an ignorance of the arts is generally frowned upon in polite circles, whereas an ignorance of science is indulged or even encouraged ("yeah, I found physics sooooo hard, guffaw guffaw"). Given that science is, in practical terms, more important in everyday life than art and also equally stimulating and beautiful, this is a sorry state of affairs.

Grumble grumble etc etc.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Israeli and Palestinian trade unions show how it's done

Eeeeek, politics time!

Whilst some of our proud, upstanding unions are busy organising boycotts of Israel, over in the middle east Israeli and Palestinian trade unionists are actually doing something positive; co-operating:
Brussels, 6 August 2008 (ITUC OnLine): The Israeli national trade union centre Histadrut and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), both of which are affiliated to the ITUC, have reached a landmark agreement to protect the rights of Palestinian workers employed by Israeli employers, and to base future relations on negotiations, dialogue and joint initiatives to advance “fraternity and coexistence between the two peoples.” The current agreement draws on the terms of an initial 1995 agreement, which it had not been possible to fully implement in the intervening years.
Hmmmm, trade unionists on the ground vs middle-class Guardian readers with too much time on their hands......hmmmm.......who to support.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Classic songs - Just Like Honey

Nuff said:

Today at the test

As part of my neverending quest to not do as much work as I should be doing, I took today off to go and watch the final day of the final England vs South Africa test match. I headed down to the Oval with a couple of friends, paid a very respectable £15 for getting on for four hours of pretty decent cricket. Not at all bad. In fact it was very cheering to see the Oval getting on for being full today. Test Match cricket generally remains well supported in this country, despite the ECB/Sky TVs insistence on buggering around with the schedules (test matches do not start on Wednesday!).

England knocked off the runs fairly comfortably, although with an obligatory wobble. The first half an hour was fairly hard graft, but overall the South African bowlers didn't look especially threatening. Indeed, despite being informed before the series that the Saffer pace attack was the best evaaah, they haven't been all that impressive. Done a good job yes (and Steyn was only fit for two games), but not quite the epoch shaking line up we were led to believe.

It has been Englands' flaky batting that has been really significant and in direct contrast to South Africas extremely solid and admirable displays. I'm not convinced that SA batsmen are all that more talented, but they can certainly apply themselves. If we don't buck up our ideas on the batting front, we can kiss goodbye to any hopes of regaining the Ashes, let alone doing well in the subcontinent this winter. It is especially important that the batsmen find some consistency as a 5 man bowling attack is probably going to be necessary against the Aussies.

Once again, I played around with my new(ish) camera. I'm not entirely satisfied with the results; for one, he light wasn't great. Also, I'm really struggling to hold zoom lenses still in my old age and so the images aren't nearly as sharp as I would have liked. Still, they aren't a total disaster.