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September 4th, 2015
11:13 am

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Gas monitoring
We use a lot of liquid nitrogen at work and the safety department were pointing out that gas monitors are not fitted in every location. management are resistant in the more open spaces as they cost £900 each but fortunately our Innovative Solutions Division (coffee club) have the answer - canaries. They are free once a breeding population is established and grain is no more expensive than the electricity to power the monitors. Of course like all safety equipment they will require calibration so once a year we will collect the canaries and subject them to gradually increasing concentrations of nitrogen. As soon as they pass out they will be rescued and woken up with oxygen. The more sensitive canaries will be assigned to critical areas. I think they will also cheer the place up a bit.

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February 13th, 2015
09:19 am

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The bumf through the door
Our local Lib Dems are saying a vote for Labour is a vote for the Tories. Actually no it is not and if we all vote tactically every constituency will be a frozen two horse race which is worse, even, than a few ineffectual UKIP MPs getting voted in. It suggests to me that not only do the local party have no principles but also that they have forgotten that we might have some. They also seem to have missed the point that I am not voting for the local party and I am not voting for Nick Clegg - I am voting for an MP and it is her that I need to know about. And while I am on the subject it is a minor point but quoting local opinion polls to 1 part in 10000 is spurious accuracy.

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August 7th, 2012
04:58 pm

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You may have wondered why Britain is doing so well in the cycling but we have noted that our commentators have been giving away the secrets so that others will be able to copy in future games. Here are some of the reasons:-
- Small butane motors in the hubs combined with gas tanks in the frames ("He is now hard on the gas")
- Rider substitution ("When he puts on the helmet he becomes a different person")
- Drugs ("I don't know what they put in his water but I'd like some")
- Illegal aerodynamic methods ("She is flying around the track")
- Aferburners/rockets ("She is literally on fire")
- My personal favourite - better sense of direction ("[The other rider] went backwards in the final lap")
Now you know.

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April 17th, 2012
03:19 pm

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Organic shapes


Not much of what I do could be regarded as organic but I thought this had a certain otherworldly characteristic.

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January 23rd, 2012
03:54 pm

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Beetles in hats
Culled from Nature today.
"Baird knows that dung beetles can see polarized light and that when she places tiny hats on the beetles to block their view of the sky, they become extremely disoriented."
The idea of a scientist making tiny hats for dung beetles amused me, though the headline "Evil scientist tortures small animals" could, as usual, apply.

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January 13th, 2012
09:29 am

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It has just been announced that Steve Rawlings who was until recently the head of my sub department at Oxford has died in suspicious circumstances http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jan/12/oxford-university-steven-rawlings-found-dead
He was one of the nicest, most straightfoward guys I have worked with. A couple of years ago at the successful end of a particularly difficult project he took me an a couple of others out to dinner as a thank you - something no one else has ever done. When he gave a presentation on the work of the department he spoke engagingly and well but without any sense of his own self importance. In situations like this it is conventional to talk highly of people but in this case he really was the guy I most respected here.

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May 5th, 2011
09:05 am

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AV
To me the AV question is no brainer.
Not because it is fairer that's a far too complex question. Not because it stops tactical voting (it won't) or because it leads to coalitions (who knows if it will or if they are good or bad). What it will do is lead each MP to consider, just a little bit more, every member of their constituency not just their core voters. Like everyone else they pay most attention to the people they meet on a regular basis which is members of their party and other MPs. This will give them a small reason to think of everyone, at least near elections, and as someone who does not think like an MP I feel this is a good thing.

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January 26th, 2011
09:39 am

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I did wonder why Keys and Gray were being sacked by Sky over off-air sexist comments since I assume they are all doing it but on TV this morning it was noted that Gray is suing another Murdoch organisation for phone tapping.

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January 21st, 2011
09:23 am

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Things fall apart....
The entropy field was bad yesterday. The 3D printer broke down, a window shattered on the bus on the way home and we had to wait for the next one and a car broke down directly outside the house. The owner knocked on the door to apologise and to say he was going to walk home to get his breakdown cover details which was nice if a little strange. There was also a starling in the house when I got home. As soon as you walk in the door you realise something isn't quite right and as you walk around you see odd things knocked off shelves but all the doors were locked, the windows were shut and the chimney (where they usually get in) was still blocked. When I finally found it it was not a happy bird but still required some persuading to fly out the window I opened.

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July 7th, 2010
04:39 pm

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Cruising
So we are back from our cruise to Greenland, Iceland and Norway. It confirmed most of my preconceptions. Cruising is mostly done by old people, I would say at least 80% were retired. People who cruise go on a lot of cruises. My favourite comment was from a woman at breakfast who in response to the all purpose opening conversation gambit of "This is our first cruise." replied "I've been on over 50 but my husband here has been cruising for 74 years, he started when he was 8." At this point the husband smiled and having clearly not got a word in edgeways since he married he didn't try to speak throughout the meal. Cruisers are also not very adventurous. In Qaqortoq (southern Greenland) there were no tours arranged and the town only had 3000 inhabitants so there wasn't a lot to do. The only obvious walk was around the lake a distance of 6km. It was a bit strenuous and took 4 hours but there were some fantastic views and the bird life let you get within a couple of metres clearly not worried by people. There were 1900 passengers on our boat and we were the only people to take that walk.
Having said that it was a fantastic holiday for the money. The food was excellent and free - very useful in Norway where someone carelessly ventured into an ordinary cafe for a coffee a sandwich and a slice of carrot cake and was charged £27. The entertainment was also very good with a cinema, a theatre with an excellent group of singers and dancers and some very good vocalists and musicians doing a classical concert series. All this is better than it sounds, honest. There were also quite a few miscellaneous performers - pianists, cabaret singers and the like. I was amused by a duo on percussion and synth doing cover versions of Alan Parsons Project and Steeley Dan numbers though didn't have the time to devote to them that perhaps I should. We played a lot of bridge. You get to stay right in the heart of some some major cities without having to unpack and repack in a moving hotel. Seeing the fjords by boat is fantastic and it is by far the easiest way to get to Greenland.

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