Online silence

I have been uncharacteristically silent online tonight.

Tomorrow is the day of the funeral, at the civilised time of 12:30, and I have assembled two desks tonight. One new and one second hand. The new one at least came with instructions. Sort of…

The second hand one, well I was there when my son took it apart so it wasn’t too hard. It’s a glass desk and it’s now in one of the upstairs rooms that previously had no furniture at all.

So is most of the still unpacked clutter from my office. I was expecting a sofa bed delivery next week. It’s coming tomorrow. The room was nowhere near ready to accept it – there is at least room to put it inside now.

The office/guest room will need rearranging to accommodate the guest bed but that will probably happen the day before the first guest arrives. Earlier if I stop procrastinating.

Today was a busy one, my plans were once again thwarted by a change of delivery. I’m really hoping for a very quiet weekend.

Well, at least I don’t have to spend the weekend rearranging the office. That was the original plan but it’s all done.

Silver lining, and all that…

Life? Don’t talk to me about life

It’s good to see the end of this week.

Monday was okay, apart from having to try to sleep early because I had to get up early. I’m not good at either of those things, which resulted in me getting about two hours of sleep on Monday night.

It’s a kind of paranoia – I know I’m really very good at sleeping through alarm clocks so I can’t get to sleep for wondering if I’ll wake up in time.

Anyway, early Tuesday I drove CStM to the airport so she could go back to Denmark to visit family.  We had to go earlier than really necessary because the easiest route was closed for road resurfacing. We had to go the long way round.

Seemed okay, everything went normally until about midday. The flight was cancelled. CStM has no UK phone so I didn’t know anything was amiss until I checked in on Twitter.

Oh they didn’t cancel right away, that would be too easy. They cancelled it when it was in the air. So off I went to the airport again to fetch CStM back. The next flight was of course the next day. So, another early start. Five hours sleep this time, a bit better.

Wednesday morning brought thick fog to add to the darkness. Just to make it more interesting. A rare stroke of luck meant the closed road was open but it was slow going anyway. We made it to the airport in time – before sunrise – and the plane was delayed by two hours. Sigh.

Eventually CStM made it to Denmark (after even more delay) and I spent the next two nights (and most of the next two days) catching up on sleep.

Then a good friend of mine died. He was a lot older than me, a brilliant scientist and  one blessed with that rare gift – diplomacy. He could put science into layman’s terms and he could talk to non-scientists in business meetings without accidentally saying ‘idiot’ aloud.

A great loss to science but as a mutual friend said, he would not have liked being an invalid. He’d had a major stoke before he succumbed.

Also, not having CStM here means nobody prods me and says ‘oi, go to bed’ when I crash out on the sofa.

A non productive week. Mostly catching up on sleep.

I’ve missed a lot of easy news targets…

The Pointless Thing

I recently bought a new car. Well, it’s new to me, even if it is nearly 12 years old. I got it in Wales, where car prices are much less ridiculous than in this part of Scotland. You can get a much better one for the same limited budget.

It’s the same age as my old Ford Fiesta (it hasn’t travelled anywhere near as far) and I only really changed because of where I live. I need higher ground clearance and occasionally four wheel drive if the steep dirt driveway is wet. Yet it has more buttons than a button-based thing made out of buttons and I’m still working out what they all do. There are some I might never press.

It also has all manner of strange indicators. One, at least, is so pointless as to be potentially dangerous.

Yesterday, while driving at my normal sedate and leisurely pace (CStM need not comment here) along a country road, the car started to slide. While I was engaged in not crashing, which the car managed really quite well despite a hairy few seconds of steering, the dashboard beeped and lit up a little light. So while dealing with a skid, part of me had to wonder what was wrong with the car. What was that warning light?

No time to look at it, no time to study the tiny image. When I had the car under control again the beeping stopped and the little light went out.

I had to drive home at a ridiculously low speed, almost within the speed limit, because I thought the warning light meant something had gone wrong. Was there a fault in the steering?

No, it turns out the car has a ‘slipping wheels’ indicator. If it skids, a little light comes on and a warning beep sounds. And I thought… well, I can’t tell you what I thought because that would get the blog rated ‘not suitable for children or the delicate or pretty much anyone’.

Really. It has a warning to tell you when the thing it’s warning you about is actually in the process of happening. What the Hell is the point of that? I knew the car was skidding. I was driving it at the time. I was in the process of dealing with it while the car whined at me ‘We’re skidding’. I KNOW!

That kind of indicator is beyond superfluous. It’s a distraction while you’re dealing with a problem. It could really prove to be dangerous. Still, at least I know to ignore it in future.

The trouble is, I see it as the ‘Tobacco Control effect’ in my car. If it keeps telling me about things I don’t need to be told about, or things that don’t matter, I will ignore it.

Then, one day, it’ll try to tell me about a real problem and I’ll ignore that too…

I have the Haynes manual for this car now though. Let the meddling commence  😀

Science and books

I am in some science books. They’ll never make the bestseller lists because they are horribly expensive books, but as a contributor I sometimes got a free one.

My favourite is a non-serious article called ‘Science and the Simulated Organism’ but that’s a story for another day.

It has long been an ambition of mine to produce science books in non-jargon language at an affordable price. Maybe Leg Iron Books will one day achieve that. Books students can read and not say ‘What the blistering fuck does that mean?’ on every second page. That could be fun and useful too.

It used to happen. I still have a copy of A.E. Lehninger’s ‘Biochemistry’ which is probably woefully out of date now but which was invaluable in getting me through the first year of university.

Ah, university, three years I’ll never recall in detail and some of the flashbacks still make me wince. And yet… I learned enough to pass with a good degree and impressed a few professors enough to get me invited on to a PhD course. Oh I didn’t apply for that. It only recently occurred to me that I have very limited experience in applying for any job. The ones I applied for, I mostly didn’t get. Most of them just happened. A phone call, ‘are you interested in this?’ sort of thing. I did begin to wonder if someone was trying to keep me out of the way.

I applied for the janitor job. Well, I called in about the job at 4 pm and was employed at 7 pm. Boss later told me she wasn’t sure I’d be up to it and gave me a chance. Today she sent more texts asking me to come back. I am tempted to put on the uniform for one day and go in, just to see the looks on the staff faces.

Universities are not what they were, some say. Yes, they are, although they are worse now. We had the dopey dicks in charge of the student’s union when I was there (1978-1981) and they insisted we buy life membership to the student union. I didn’t. The bars in there were cheap but so damn humourless we rarely used them. The Cardiff dockside bars were much more fun – back then, before they yuppiefied the whole derelict area.

Universities were always loaded with Leftie idealists and they’d get involved in committees and running the student’s union rather than doing proper student things like drinking and smoking and learning stuff with the remaining brain cells. They never grasped the simple equation that we ‘normal’ students managed to get real degrees in real subjects even though we had destroyed at least 50% of our thinking capacity with strong drink. They, on the other hand, managed to scrape a third in elementary witchcraft and daytime TV while abstaining from anything that could harm what little brain they possessed. Which, on the face of it, was probably a wise decision.

Basically, only idiots join committees and committees should be nothing more than a gateway drug into the secure psych ward or at least the remedial class or perhaps a bag and reservoir thing….

What Frank describes was starting to happen when I was in university. The useless and the downright dangerous-in-a-lab morons were pushed out of the way. Not fired, the union wouldn’t allow it, but shunted upward into admin and manager roles. The dopes were put in charge.

In those days it didn’t matter too much. Nobody took any notice of them anyway. Later though, they took control of the money and then things got very screwed up indeed. Research priorities changed. You couldn’t research for the sake of it any more, there had to be a profit motive.

Then the profit motive took over and it didn’t matter what the results really were, the conclusions had to fit the funder’s declared interests. That’s where we are now. The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Get the right result or next year, you’re teaching HND tractor control.

The Leftie Loonies leave university with a determination to make the world a dark, sad and miserable place. I left university with a 2:1 Hons in microbiology and John Otway’s autograph on a copy of DK50/80. And a hangover. And a job as a research assistant working on oil spill degrading bacteria, that later morphed into a PhD on something entirely different.

You know what? In nearly 57 years, I have never been on any kind of march or picket line for anything.

I don’t believe the world owes me anything.

Neither does the world.

Home again


There has been some mouse activity in the two weeks of emptiness in the house. Out here in the country that’s no surprise and the level of activity suggests it’s probably one field mouse who had 14 days to make holes in things. It shouldn’t be hard to eradicate it.

Could have been worse. I half expected to find a rusting Transit outside and fifteen Romanian gypsies in residence. I had brought home two epees to add to my collection although those are only really effective against French invaders so really I would have had to get indoors and reach my double bladed or the slide blade sword, or perhaps the sledgehammer, to deal with the Transit invaders.

In the end it was just a mouse. The sledgehammer has not been ruled out but using a long blade seems like overkill.

There was a discussion on the epees, which I’ve had since I was about 14 but which were still in my father’s workshop…

CStM: “Do you really need more swords?”

Me: “Different ones are for different things. These, for example, are mainly for killing French people.”

CStM: *rolls eyes and mutters*

Anyway, the poor little Fiesta is still in the garage enjoying a well earned off the road rest. I’ll tart it up, add some optional extras (brakes, wheel bearing, suspension) and see if I can sell it later. Or maybe thrash it to death across harvested fields because it’s worth bugger all really…

I have a mini monster truck now, the same age as the Fiesta but with half the mileage and a lot less shabby… for now. It has an automatic gearbox which is a bit freaky at first. Gears change but I’m not doing it. Still, it’s progress, it’s not like the old fashioned ones where you have to change gear yourself.

Now I have access to all my emails and have cleared out most of the two weeks of spam. Holiday is over, publishing resumes with a vengeance.

Busy busy busy busy…


Nose mucus and overseas books

CStM and I are the slime twins today and we both feel like crap. Nothing at all has been achieved today. Concentration is impossible, our heads are filled with wet sand and we are going through a small forest worth of tissue paper.

Fortunately nothing is open today anyway so we didn’t have to go anywhere. Our combined mucus production has kept visitors at bay too so it’s been partly restful, partly worried that we might both morph into Jabba the Snot.

Anyway, I have less than 48 hours before I have to drive an unfamiliar vehicle along roads I don’t know to get it here so we can go home.

It’s not too bad, I have some practice doing this with hire cars but this one is actually mine so it matters if I break it.

Still, recovery before collection is imperative. It’ll be even harder to drive if I blast a nose jellyfish onto the windscreen!

So, in lieu of anything sensible, here’s what happened when RooBeeDoo sent a copy of The Underdog Anthology to her friends in America…