Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday random 10

Hold OnSarah McLachlanThe Freedom Sessions
One More DayStellar*Magic Line
Flesh For FantasyBilly IdolGreatest Hits
Nothing Wrong With YouFinn BrothersEveryone Is Here
For Crying Out LoudMeat LoafBat Out Of Hell
While FlagDidoLife For Rent
SixteenNo DoubtTragic Kingdom
No Crying No MoreBic RungaBirds
DaylightColdplayA Rush Of Blood To The Head

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Freshman

Well after some time I've finally manged to get my hands on a copy of one of my favourite songs.

The Freshman

When I was young I knew everything
And she a punk who rarely ever took advice
Now I'm guilt stricken, sobbing with my head on the floor
Stop a baby's breath and a shoe full of rice

I can't be held responsible
'Cause she was touching her face
I won't be held responsible
She fell in love in the first place

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

My best friend took a week's vacation to forget her
His girl took a week's worth of Valium and slept
Now he's guilt stricken sobbing with his head on the floor
Thinks about her now and how he never really wept he says

I can't be held responsible
'Cause she was touching her face
I won't be held responsible
She fell in love in the first place

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

We've tried to wash our hands of all of this
We never talk of our lacking relationships
And how we're guilt stricken sobbing with our heads on the floor
We fell through the ice when we tried not to slip, we'd say

I can't be held responsible
'Cause she was touching her face
I won't be held responsible
She fell in love in the first place

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen

For the life of me I cannot remember
What made us think that we were wise and we'd never compromise
For the life of me I cannot believe we'd ever die for these sins
We were merely freshmen
We were merely freshmen
We were merely freshmen

The verve Pipe

Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day

In addition to April 25 being ANZAC day in the Antipodes, I've recently discovered that it's Holocaust Heroes and Martyrs Remembrance Day as well. I did see a kid on campus reciting a list of names in front of the chappel on campus ealier today and was curious what that was about, so now I know.

Orac at Respectful Insolence has a list of his posts on this topic up on his site.

Personal thoughts on ANZAC day

Once upon a timewhen I was younger, I was a territrorial force soldier, not that this means anything important now (having quit in mid 1997), but with another ANZAC day been and gone, some of the memories have come to the surface once more. I haven't taken part in a dawn service since 1998, when I joined in with some friends to go to one. However, back in 1996, I was part of the firing for the cenotaph service in Ashurst. Later in the morning we were "borrowed" to take place at a grave side remberence ceremony for some of the soldiers. Up untill that day I hadn't really gotten ANZAC day. I was familiar the with history behind it, but it was all rather impersonal. Then standing as an honour guard at the graveside it began to sink in. Watching the faces of the returned soldiers during the ceremony it slowly dawned that these had been real people, whom had not existed within a vacuum, and that their deaths were still felt by the families and the loved ones of the fallen.

They went out as young men and women and served their country. ANZAC day commemorates those who did not return, so that our entire country can remember them and their sacrafice.

Bluey the body rights thingamabob

This is just brilliant.
Bluey the Body Rights Thingamabob teaches Dawn Eden about choice. A fairly well thought out pro-choice argument. Some of the comments are good as well. I'll have to keep this in mind should I find myself debating anti-women (pro-choice) types.

Stumbled upon via Pharyngula.

Let these not be filled

Each time I'm in Auckland, which does not happen often, maybe twice within the last few years or so, I've been to the War Memorial Museum there. It's a nice museum to wander around, there are good displays on natural history and NZ history. For me, one of the more touching parts is to wander around the World War I Sanctuary and the World War II Hall of Memories. Here and in a couple of other chambers are inscribed the names of New Zealands War dead. Wandering around the level where the names are inscribed, not jsut from WWI and WWII but from all the conflicts that NZ tropp shave faught in, there are some empty marble palques, expressing the simple statement "Let these not be filled". A simple sentiment, one that I would hope is not just wishfull thinking.

As an aside, the Cenotaph database, one of the museum projects, contains records for over 35,000 New Zealanders who gave their lives as a result of war, from South Africa in 1899, through the First and Second World Wars to Korea, Malaya and Vietnam in the 1950s to 1970s, and deaths from recent peacekeeping deployments.

Monday, April 24, 2006

For the fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon

I'd been curious about the origins of the lines that are the fourth stanza in this poem. Thanks to Google I've managed to track them down.

Lest we forget...

In light of a somewhat heated discussion with a friend of mine on Friday night this seems like an appropriate time to post this cartoon. I originally stumbled across it one of the NZ news papers, I forget which one, some time ago. Still given my current location (USA) and the talk about Iran, this seems as good a time as any. Not that I claim to know what the best response is, but I think there's still plenty of time to explore alternatives, given that most estimates still put Iran multiple years away from actual possessing nuclear weapons to deploy.

The Schlock Mercenary book

Schlock Mercenary is one of my favourite web comics.

Well the first Schlock book has been printed and the author Howard Taylor has been taking orders.

If you like the web comic then think about buying a copy of the book. It should be good value, the online sample looks great.

If you're not familiar with comic then check it out!

April 25 - ANZAC Day

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Significance of ANZAC Day.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Dover court case

I followed the Dover court case via The Panda's Thumb as the parents sued the District School board to have inteligent design removed from the sciences cases. Then recently I was able to see one of the lawyers involved in the case, Eric Rothschild talk at Duke as part of the Provsot's Lecture Series, footage of all of the speakers can be found here.

Eric Rothschilds talk was entertaining as he highlighed the antics of some of the participants, and this was brought to my mind recently by a post written by Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the culture wars talking about John Beullthe head of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics and publisher of the book Of Pandas and People. John Buell was one of the people disscussed in the talk mentioned above. If you have time I'd recomend listening and or viewing the talk(s).

As a little bit of background the Dover area school board brought passed a motion requiring the addtion of a sticker to biology books. The statment is repeated below
"The Pennsylvania Academic Standards require students to learn about Darwin's Theory of Evolution and eventually to take a standardized test of which evolution is a part. Because Darwin's Theory is a theory, it continues to be tested as new evidence is discovered. The Theory is not a fact. Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence. A theory is defined as a well-tested explanation that unifies a broad range of observations. Intelligent Design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Darwin's view. The reference book, Of Pandas and People, is available for students who might be interested in gaining an understanding of what Intelligent Design actually involves. With respect to any theory, students are encouraged to keep an open mind. The school leaves the discussion of the Origins of Life to individual students and their families. As a Standards-driven district, class instruction focuses upon preparing students to achieve proficiency on Standards-based assessments."

Fortuantely the Judge ruled in the plaintifs favour and the statement above was dropped.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another random web quiz

What Disease Are You?

You Are Rabies!

Also known as Hydrophobia, you tend to be exciting and spontaneous. Energetic and daring, your friends value your ability to eat things after the five second rule has expired. While you are greatly appreciated for your ability to take chances, you have been known to "bite the hand that feeds you." You have a great sense of humor when you can manage to wipe the foam off of your mouth.
Take this quiz!

Busy Busy Busy

WEll it's been a hectic couple of weeks for me lately. There was a manuscript I was revising relating to my current work, which I managed to send off to my collaborator last week. I was asked to review a manuscript for PLOS, and I have to admit that was fun. I actually enjoyed reading it! This was followed by our joint lab meeting with collaborators at Princeton on Saturday. It was useful to see what they are doing. Then to round out the weekend I was hosting a BBQ on Sunday (16th, very nice day for it). Oh and then there was the seminar that I gave yesteday, so all in all I've not had much time to spen on other past times.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What European city do I belong in?

You Belong in Dublin

Friendly and down to earth, you want to enjoy Europe without snobbery or pretensions.
You're the perfect person to go wild on a pub crawl... or enjoy a quiet bike ride through the old part of town.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday random 10

White wedding, Pt 1.Billy IdolGreatest Hits
On My MindHerbsListen: the Very Best Of
Can I Play With MadnessIron MaidenEdward The Great
A Rush Of Blood To The HeadColdplayA Rush Of Blood To the Head
All God's ChildrenFinn BrothersEveryone Is Here
PapercutLinkin ParkHybrid Theory
Heaven's DeadAudioslaveOut Of Exile
ElsewhereSarah McLachlanThe Freedom Sessions
Coming Back To LifePink FloydPulse

Thursday, April 06, 2006


A couple of weeks back now I was having a conversation with a friend and she said something that quite irked me. It was in relation to some research which was being carried out in Malaysia (?) I think. What the research was doing was cataloging species (invertebrates mostly, I think) in a particular location. She wandered about the morality of spending money cataloging invertebrates when there were homeless and hungry people in the country. Ok I admit that some needs are more important than others and that priorities need to be established. What really got me though was when she followed up by saying that we pretty knew what was happening anyway (climate change) and that yes we know we're loosing species, so do we really need to know which ones? Essentially she was saying that since we already have a good understanding of the processes, we didn't really need to worry about the simple stuff. Basic research is the foundation of the scientific process.

So what is the importance of working out what species are present in a patch of rain forest? It produces a series of data points or a snapshot in time if you will. Looked at in isolation it's not that important. It's when we use it to compare different points at either different places or different times that we can learn from it. Looking at presence or absence or abundance of species over time will reveal temporal trends, how the community has changed over time. Comparing different locations will tell us how communities vary over large areas.

Looking at different snapshots can be used to gauge the impact of particular events or activities as well. If we wanted to know how selective forestry affected a biological community then we'd use snapshots either taken from the location before-hand, during and afterwards, or from similar locales where the logging was and wasn't being carried out.

Unfortunately if we are lacking the basic research we can't answer the bigger questions. Science is like that in general. Carl Sagan in his book The demon Haunted World had a nice discussion of this particular point. His hypothetical situation was for Queen Victoria, Monarch of the British Empire to call for the invention of a device that would transmit her image and voice through the world in 1860. Could scientists of the period and unlimited sums of money produced television, or something similar? Those unfortunates given over to running this project would have been out of luck since in 1860, not only was there no technology that could produce this result, but there was no scientific theory sufficiently well understood that it could be used to produce the desired result.

At about the same time as this hypothetical situation was occurring, however an unassuming physicist named Maxwell had proposed equations linking of electrical and magnetic fields, and the observations of on the behaviour of light, into a hypothesis. This hypothesis tied together the work of many experiments of Faraday, Oersted, and others who had gone before him. An experimentally testable prediction of Maxwell's hypothesis was that a rapidly varying electric field should generate electromagnetic waves with properties analogous to those of visible light. This prediction was first confirmed experimentally by Heinrich Hertz in 1888, who found that he could generate a new kind of radiation, what we now know as radio waves. In fact, Maxwell's theory laid the foundation for all applications of light and other electromagnetic radiation that rely on their wave-like properties. Later in 1901 Guglielmo Marconi first transmitted radio signals across the Atlantic Ocean. From these beginnings followed everything we know today, radio, television, radar, etc.

Nevertheless could all this of been accomplished in 1860 had virtually unlimited funds been thrown at the project? Probably not. As Sagan points out, Maxwell was motivated only by his desire to understand a little of how the physical universe works. It is unlikely that he would have been asked to participate in such a project, and would probably not have been interested even if he had been asked. What was required was the gradual development of the theories that led to the understanding radio waves. While science occasionally process in great bursts, these are interspersed with periods of gradual accumulation of knowledge.

My PhD thesis opens with this wonderful quote (of an admittedly dubious source)
A man may die yet still endure if his work enters the greater work. Time is carried upon a current incepted by forgotten deeds. As all men must thank progenitors obscured by the past, so must we endure the present that those who come after may continue the greater work
Rick Priestly, Warhammer 40000: Rogue Trader

And this is what I'm trying to get at. I'm quite happy puttering along doing my research. I may make some major contribution or I may not. My contribution most likely will only be a small brick in the wall that is scientific progress. However, that wall is made up of lots of small bricks, building upon those that have gone before. If we stop contributing, then the wall will cease to grow, or (even worse) we start to take bricks away, then the whole edifice will start to crumble.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Quote origin

"A plague o' both your houses!"

This quote comes from the Play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (Act III, scene I). There has been a long standing feud between the Montague and the Capulet families. Mercutio is of neither family (actually a kinsman to the Ruler of Verona), but is a friend of Romeo's (a Montague). Shortly after the secret marriage of Romeo and Juliet, Tybalt (a Capulet) encounters Romeo and some of his friends including Mercutio. Romeo will not fight him since he is now related to Tybalt by marriage, however not all of his friends are aware of this and Mercutio engages Tybalt in a duel, during which he is mortally wounded and utters the above phrase.

It hould be reasonably obvious why I went with this line for my last post. An outsider gets caught up in a longstanding feud and is killed. Does Israel have the right to exist? Certainly. Just as much right as an independent Palestinian state does.