Sunday, January 31, 2010

Headline news

As America tunes to the State of the Union address (or American Idol, depending), Britain's most famous broadsheet, The Times, is sending its reporters out to shop in their pyjamas.

It started when a woman in Cardiff was thrown out of Tesco (a major supermarket chain in the UK) for shopping in the a fore mentioned nightwear. She told reporters:

"We was only popping in for a pack of fags. If we were doing a proper full shop, then obviously we would have went in clothes."

Well, obviously.

Tesco claimed that such attire might offend the other shoppers so, to test out this theory in the most scientific way possible, a Times reporter was dispatched to roam the streets of London in his PJs. In order to ensure a small exploration of the parameter space, he first donned a £750 velvet dressing gown and £125 pyjamas before moving on to a more normal £20 ensemble. Apparently, no one batted an eyelid.

Ultimately, the only question later raised was the one traditionally asked to kilted Scots; what are you wearing underneath? In response, the report notes:

"Suffice it to say The Times prefers not to take risks unnecessarily."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Substitute for snow cones

Yesterday, I went into the supermarket to buy the ingredients needed for a chili. Walking into the fresh vegetable stands in search of two large green bell peppers, I found it littered with signs warning that Florida had frozen and therefore there would soon be no vegetables or fruit in the whole of Canada. The suggestion seemed to be that such items could be substituted by snow cones.

Well, ok, what the sign actually said was that, in the case of no vegetables, customers should check out the frozen food aisle, but since this largely consisted of ice cream and snow cones I maintain that my paraphrasing is accurate.

I bought four bell peppers and left.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Under such a misfortune as this, one cannot see too little of one's neighbours

I first read Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice when I was thirteen. I now realise this was far too young to really appreciate the main point of the book: that being that Fitzwilliam Darcy is surely the hottest man in fiction. He is proud, mysterious, rude and angry at himself for being in love with a completely unsuitable girl with an utterly unfiltered mouth. In fact, if Austen wrote the novel now, Darcy would surely be a vampire.

This discovery came in the wake of finding free audio books for download (e.g. here). Admittedly, the readers vary in quality but I was suitably entertained while waiting for my code to crash. The latter, incidentally, is less likely to run smoothly than Lydia become a sensible girl.

If anyone reading this is bemoaning the fact they found this English classic too stilted to get through, I'm led to believe that adding zombies to it helps the situation.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You three at the front ... look like a galaxy

On Monday I am giving a colloquia at the Origins Institute at McMaster. This research seminar series is interesting since the audience are all scientists, but from a wide range of areas. So, for instance, I can happily assume I can talk in some depth about the hydrodynamics equations my code is using, but might have to remind them what a galaxy is.

There is one other small challenge I am dealing with; my laptop had hard-drive failure over Christmas and my new one ... is in Alaska. However, it was previously in China so we're making progress. Nevertheless, China, Alaska or even the sorting office in Toronto will be no use to me come Monday and I still have to write the talk, so borrowing someone elses is also problematic. I believe this gives me two choices:

1. A blackboard talk .... on computational astrophysics. I'll simply have to draw my simulation results. The key movie for my talk consists of a galaxy evolving for 300 million years with one image taken every million years. So I will sketch, tell my audience to hold that thought and then draw the image corresponding to a million years later. Or perhaps I could have a gigantic flip chart with a huge mechanical thumb to flick through the pages for the audience to see.

2. The option my supervisor suggested was that of interpretative dance. In fact, this colloquium is compulsory for students studying at the Origins Insitute, so I could enlist them in this endevour:

"You, over there, you are part of a spiral arm! Try and curve your spine a little more ..... right, now you've undergone gravitational fragmentation. Curl up. Oh please! GRAVITY IS ACTING BABY! Tighter. Try and become a point mass ..... Okay, now you've formed a star. At least try and glow...."

However you look at it, it is going to be awesome.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Night stalker

Silently the many legged stalker advances on the inert human form, buried deep beneath the bedclothes. The initial attack strategy of head-butts and a vibrating voice produce no motion. Phase two is engaged whereby a limb is inserted between neck and pillow to bop sleeping human on the nose. In horror, she discovers the invasive front foot is trapped! Caught in a devious counter attack that proves sleep was merely an optimistic faint. The only solution is to try and follow after the restrained appendage, burrowing face and shoulders into the widening gap between bed and body. In a sudden movement, the stalker is scooped into the air, only to be placed down on the bed and used as a furry purry pillow. What could have caused such extreme repercussions? Could it be her assault or the timing of 5 am in the morning? Ahh, it's good to be back.

I have returned to Canada, dug out car, collected cat and -- in some crazy sense of competition -- the UK has now filled up with more snow than we have here. What's with that?