Monday, 29 July 2019

view from a hotel window

I have arrived in Newcastle, ready for the Artificial Life conference.  There are lots of brick buildings visible from my hotel window.

And on my way to my room, I was mildly amused to see this:

room found!

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

sequestering carbon, several books at a time XCVIII

The latest batch, which includes a couple of sub-batches of birthday presents.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

one small step

So, it’s 50 years since the first moon landing.

I have two very vivid memories of the Apollo programme.

First was watching the moonlanding on television.  Not live, but the next day at school.  Our headmistress invited the class to watch on her (gasp!) colour TV.  The rest of the class was excited by seeing a colur TV for the first time; I was excited by seeing the moon landing.

The second memory is during Apollo 13 – sitting around in the cloakroom at school with all the other kids, all being very worried.

I have lots of other memories of the whole programme, but I don’t know if they are memories from the time, memories of repeat showing on TV, or just memories of memories.

Thinking back, one thing that strikes me is how impoverished our information sources were then: TV (real time only), newspapers (whichever one was read in the house), and the odd special isue of a magazine.  No videoing late night programmes to watch later, no iPlayer catchup, no YouTube clips, no NASA website, no googling for more info.  How did we survive?

Since Apollo we’ve learned so much more about our solar system.  Other vivd memories are the pictures from the surface of Mars sent back by Viking (these images really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up: pictures from the surface of another planet that is just a mere dot in the night sky), and the pictures of all the moons of the outer planets sent back by Voyager.  And, of course, the recent Pluto pictures from New Horizons.

The solar system is a much richer, more detailed place than it was 50 years ago.

But 50 years on from Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, we still don’t have a moonbase.

I blame you for the moonlit sky
And the dream that died with the eagle’s flight
I blame you for the moonlit nights
When I wonder why are the seas still dry?

Don’t blame this sleeping satellite

Did we fly to the moon too soon?
Did we squander the chance in the rush of the race

Sleeping Satellite, Tasmin Archer, 1992

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

where the rubber meets the road

I did my bit for the environment today.

I have an old pair of Clark's sandals.  They are comfortable, and the uppers are fine, but the original tread on the soles had worn down to a high gloss.  The other day I slipped, and decided they were no longer safe to walk in.

Given the fine condition of the uppers, I took the pair along to out local Timpson's, to see if they could be re-soled.  The guy sucked his teeth and looked dubious.  They probably wouldn't take a re-soling.  We discussed it for a bit, and I explained I just needed the soles made less slippery.  He said he would try "roughening them up" on the machine.

Several minutes and a strong smell of buring rubber later, he returned them to me, with a lovely lattice of grooves carved into the previously smooth soles:

Perfect!  That will keep me going for another few years, until they wear down again, and it saves me having to bin otherwise perfectly good footwear.

Timpson's for the win, again.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

prices are weird

I had a trip up to Durham today, to visit a colleague.  I bought a coffee at York station to drink on the early train: £2.05.

On the way back, it was lunchtime, so I popped into a Sainsburys near Durham station, and bought a Ginsters Chicken and Mushroom slice, a banana, and a 500ml bottle of Highland Spring water: £1.80 in total.

Caffeine is really expensive, compared to food!