Monthly Archives: November 2006

Things you might not know

There is a global helium shortage.

Apparently demand has increased massively due to “the rapid growth of helium based technology in China and other Asian territories” as well as new sources of helium failing to reach full production yet and a massive failure in USA production resources over the summer.

Lots of stuff in Universities requires liquid helium, generally shipped in by BOC who currently are having to change their distribution model to minimise waste, but this means shipments are going to come in on time, but short of people’s requirements. And they won’t let you order up extra to compensate.

I realise this may seem boring or inconsequential, but BOC’s Helium Product Manager is called Catherine Dewar. And that made me laugh. YMMV ;)


Dear Dr Swan,

Thank you for your e-mail regarding delivery order number XXXXXXXXXX. I can confirm the delivery will go ahead on the launch day of 8th December.

Should you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact us at or call us on 0870 600 8784.


Maureen Wheeler
Argos Direct E-Commerce Customer Service Team.

PubMed as a Search Engine

Neat new PubMed feature!

“PubMed is now available as a search engine add-on on the search bar in the upper-right corner of Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7.0. From a PubMed Web page, click the search box drop down arrow next to the default search engine Google, and then select Add PubMed search.”

Works nicely too..

Sun, Java and GPL

So Sun have finally gone and opened up Java, amazingly (to me) under GPL. I had completely expected them to write their own licence for this. I find it quite bizarre that we’ll soon be able to (as a wag on Slashdot put it) “apt-get install java java-doc java-common java-dev java-examples java-gnome libjava libjava-doc libjava-dev” to get Java.

I don’t write Java, I can’t even claim to write any code these days to be honest, but it’s what we teach the MRes students, and whilst I have always been happy with the concept that you can GPL all your Java code, the nuts and bolts of Java weren’t Open Source, and that makes me worry for the longevity of something – especially coming out of a commercial organisation.

I don’t actually know how much practical difference it is going to make, although I imagine Matt will have the entire thing checked out and be hacking away at it before you can say ‘svn checkout’.

Although this has been expected for a while, I do wonder if this is partly prompted by the looming presence of Microsoft, and particularly .NET (or its Open Source implementation Mono). It’s easy to see with Novell cosying up to Redmond, that Microsoft sees the 5 year relationship or whatever they have worked out as a way to push .NET via involvement in Mono development. GPL’ing Java, which has to have a penetration magnitudes greater than .NET (certainly in the spheres I work in), would appear to be a good move to outmanoeuvre Bill’s hegemonical desires.

RIP Muffin

My little Yorkie is no more. I just wanted to see her this Christmas, one last time, as it has been obvious she wasn’t long for this world. Just when you convince yourself that you really wont be too upset when pets die, they prove you wrong.

She passed away in her sleep last night and she was the sweetest little dog in the world. I’m so upset, but it can’t compare to how upset Mum and Helen must be right now.

Credit where credit is due

Congratulations once again to Gateshead Council for a fantastic fireworks display tonight in Saltwell Park. One of the best things about living in this slightly less than salubrious part of Gateshead is that the park is amazing, and the Council are right to make full use of it, especially on nights like this.

I got there at 7.10 – the bonfire burning as bright as I have ever seen one burn (I wonder exactly what they were burning on it!). Fireworks kicked off at 7.30 and armed with a previously unused hip flask (a present from my sister from Finland I think – it’s wooden and etched with reindeers rather than the traditional metallic ones that most Chaps have) full of Aberlour a’bunadh I rather enjoyed the experience of going to the display on my own.

I don’t tend to like doing things solo – I don’t go see films on my own (ok I did for Revenge of the Sith just before it exited the cinemas), I don’t drink on my own (well not in pubs anyway ;)) but the atmosphere of the crowd is infectious, the bangs were loud and the scene actually looked like something out of Star Wars with a sizeable number of people brandishing what I can only describe as electric glowing light sabres.

Avoided the inevitable struggle to exit the park by walking to the exit 5 minutes before the end and watching the finale from the gate, so I was back home by 8.10. Felt even rather overdressed out there, it’s not a cold night (for once!) and the long sleeved top, fleece and woolly hat were more than enough.

Good end to a good weekend really. Watched 3 films (Shiri (Korean), Man Bites Dog (Belgian) and Azumi (Japanese). Don’t bother with the former (at all, it really isn’t up to much), the second should be viewed if you like your humour as dark as it gets, the latter is super if you want to watch pretty Japanese girls wielding samauri swords a lot (and who doesn’t!).

I even soloed a few level 3 missions in EVE, which is about time too really as everyone else has been doing them for weeks ;)

Now all that is left is to wait for Torchwood and return to work tomorrow well rested, relaxed and ready for another computer to blow itself up :p