Monthly Archives: May 2006

Alnwick, castles and books

So I spent the last few days in Alnwick, north of Newcastle – with the family to celebrate Mum’s 65th and Helen’s 30th. Alnwick is great for a few days, a good base to strike out for Lindisfarne (Holy Island), Alnwick Castle & gardens, Hadrians Wall etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed Holy Island – especially the Priory – former home of the Lindisfarne Gospels, and Alnwick Castle. The Castle is everything a castle should be – gothic splendour, great works of art ( I was delighted to count 4 Canaletto’s amongst them, although another 4 were missing for restoratioun), superb views and built originally as a fortification not a folly.

However I also got a great deal of pleasure from a bookshop. Barter Books has to be one of the largest second hand bookstores I’ve ever seen – with a wonderful collection of everything. I spent maybe 40 minutes browsing, but could probably have spent half a day there. I wish I had more money – there was a reprint of The Variation of Animals and Plants Under Domestication Vol 1 and Vol 2 (1868) going for £32 each that I would love to have bought. I settled in the end for a selection of classics I have not read – HG Wells “The Time Machine”, Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”, “Ringworld” by Larry Niven and “After Many a Summer” by Aldous Huxley.

I couldn’t keep myself away from the non-fiction though, and managed to pick up a copy of “Breeding and the Mendelian Discovery” a 1912 2nd edition of the original 1911 book by A D Darbishire, which is certainly now my oldest ‘genetics textbook’. Written whilst he was still Lecturer on Genetics at Edinburgh University, it’s a great example of a textbook arriving close after the rediscovery of Mendel’s work in the early 1900’s, complete with experiments and conjecture by Darbishire himself. Wonderful book, and a bargain at £8.60!

The Shins

Ahh. This news is a bit late but Harriet and I went to see The Shins, in Nottingham last week. They had a very limited set of UK dates, and I think we probably got the best one.

Describing them is kind of hard – they’re rather quiet, whimsical, indie and from Alberquerque, New Mexico – and were propelled to their current level of ‘fame’ (although no-one I know has heard of them) from being on the soundtrack of Scrubs and Garden State – a movie I recommend most heartily.

What was amazing is that their live show sounded, well almost nothing like their wonderful 2 albums (Chutes too Narrow and Oh Inverted World), which can definitely verge on the introspective. Instead they played a full out rock set – which really sounded like new arrangements of their tunes. The crowd, well, they were the best crowd of any gig I have been too – lapping it up, and the look on the faces of the band were priceless. Never before have I seen a band actually look shocked at the reception they’re getting. They genuinely seemed moved by the intensity of the crowd. We were lucky to get some tracks from the forthcoming 3rd album which only confirms they’re here to stay.

Oh and if you ever need somwhere to stay in Nottingham I thoroughly recommend The Welbeck Hotel

Some blurry mobile phone photo’s included below (Taken on Harriets Sony Ericsson W800i, resized from 1632×1224. Right click and ‘view image’ for embigification)

Bic Runga on Monday at the Carling Academy Newcastle – Excellent!

Avoiding RSI & DVT

Many of you will have read yesterday about the programmer who developed DVT after an 8 hour coding session (BBC story).

Frank sent round this excellent little utility to force you to take microbreaks and restbreaks at regular intervals.

Windows and *nix versions available! Check out Workrave here.

Best Internet disclaimer.. evar?

This is a modern classic from the Nelson Rocks Preserve

Edited lowlights below:

Nature is unpredictable and unsafe. Mountains are dangerous. Many books have been written about these dangers, and there’s no way we can list them all here. Read the books.

Nelson Rocks Preserve is covered in steep terrain with loose, slippery and unstable footing. The weather can make matters worse. Sheer drops are everywhere. You may fall, be injured or die. There are hidden holes. You could break your leg. There are wild animals, which may be vicious, poisonous or carriers of dread diseases. These include poisonous snakes and insects. Plants can be poisonous as well. We don’t do anything to protect you from any of this. We do not inspect, supervise or maintain the grounds, rocks, cliffs or other features, natural or otherwise.

By entering the Preserve, you are agreeing that we owe you no duty of care or any other duty. We promise you nothing. We do not and will not even try to keep the premises safe for any purpose. The premises are not safe for any purpose. This is no joke. We won’t even try to warn you about any dangerous or hazardous condition, whether we know about it or not. If we do decide to warn you about something, that doesn’t mean we will try to warn you about anything else. If we do make an effort to fix an unsafe condition, we may not try to correct any others, and we may make matters worse! We and our employees or agents may do things that are unwise and dangerous. Sorry, we’re not responsible. We may give you bad advice. Don’t listen to us. In short, ENTER AND USE THE PRESERVE AT YOUR OWN RISK. And have fun!

NRP Management

You have to love the bit about ‘And have fun!’ at the end. The full version is an amazing read…

A gentlemanly approach to circumventing the smoking ban

As I have mentioned before, I welcome the smoking ban, as do many people (smokers included) that I know.

The BBC points out that snuff is a potential way around the smoking ban. Can’t light up in the pub? Merely take a pinch of the fine, brown powder – and no-one, but no-one is going to object.. There’s no such thing as ‘passive snuff’.

Apparently snuff sales are on the increase, and the average age of a snuff user in Switzerland is a mere 24 (striplings!).

However it was one of the comments that caught my eye:

“Interesting article. I have this thought. If snuff catches on, how would this affect the smoking at work issues? There is no smoke, so technically you could to it in the office. Have any questions been asked as yet as to how this would be affected by HR policies?”

All I can attest is that no HR issues arose when we extensively tested the workplace reaction to use of snuff whilst at CEH Oxford ;) Milo & co. were there – blazing a trail where, only now, others start to tread ;)