Monthly Archives: December 2007

mmm Christmas goodies

Well I’m sat around now on the bed surrounded by my Christmas presents.  For my cycling life I now have a cycling computer (yes!) and a set of tools (sorely needed) and now all I need is some clothes to go with it.  I finally have the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD which I’m really looking forward to watching again.  Most of the presents fell into the book category – 2 new Murakami’s (Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World & South of the Border, West of the Sun), Thomas Fink’s “The Man’s Book” which is a chappish, blokey look (with a side of geek) at facts for the modern gentleman.  The Ultimate History of Video Games looks like it’s going to provide plenty of nostalgia.  Some more non-fiction comes in the form of “The Edible Container Garden” by  Michael Guerra, which hopefully will give me the impetus to clear my kitchen windowsill of pointless plants and turn it into a herb garden and empty out my ‘experimental pond bucket’ which generally doesn’t serve much more purpose than a breeding ground for mosquitoes and grow some salad stuff in it.  Work has not been neglected, I’ve been leafing through “Data Analysis Tools for DNA Microarrays’ today which seems to be a step up from the basic guides I bought 3 years ago.  The DS too has been shown some love in the form of Metroid Prime Hunters, a game I have coveted since buying my DS – and to be honest that has taken up most of the days fiddling time.  I have a Moleskin notebook (yay!) to um replace my PDA ;) and a new whizzy electric toothbrush too.  So 2008 then – cleaner teeth, better stylus/hand coordination and a garden full of edible shrubberies.  Can’t wait!

Christmas lunch was just great, but I’ve been functionally unable to eat anything since the last spoonful of pudding crossed my lips!  Beer on the other hand is going down just fine ;)

On lack of updates/ATP

I know updates are a bit thin on the ground these days – work is pretty hectic in the run up to Christmas (rather than slowing down like it used to be when I was a proper scientist!) and it hasn’t been helped by my laptop blowing up, our Condor central manager blowing up, our RAID array on the HP cluster blowing up (followed by the head node on the cluster blowing up, followed by another node on the cluster blowing up). Oh yes another machine blew up as well and took out a KVM and shut one of our racks down when the UPS failed to kick in. I just hope that given this particularly woeful state of hardware failure, for once everything might run smoothly whilst I am away for Christmas (which I realise is laughably wishful thinking).

It also wasn’t helped that I escaped the hardware hara-kiri in order to transport myself to All Tomorrow’s Parties: Nightmare Before Christmas, a 3 day music festival curated (in this instance) by Portishead. However it was definitely one of the best decisions I’ve ever made to go. 6 days away from work, no pressures, excellent music and good company. I went with Chris Gibbons, one of my extended ‘Edinburgh family’ even though I never met him when I lived there – but we have a suite of mutual friends. Honestly, I spent 18 months in Edinburgh and wherever I go the network of friends that I made there haunts me still :)

ATP was weird – we’d both been to the Autechre ATP in 2003 which was a full on technodancathon at Camber Sands. The Minehead venue seemed bigger in comparison – 2 enclosed stages, and one Pavillion stage (mind you this tent had buildings inside it) and the music varied from experimental knob twiddling electronica, to hip hop to trip hop to doom metal. Avoiding most of the latter the real highlights were Portishead (first gig in 10 years, quite possibly the best gig I have ever been to), Aphex Twin (so good we saw him twice!) and GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan who gave a full performance of Liquid Swords. Other acts of note were Boris – an amusingly heavy rocking Japanese group (and believe me that’s saying something given my generalised loathing of J-pop and J-rock), Francoiz Breut (amazing voice, great set, looked like she was off her face), Oneida with their ‘wall of sound’ apocalyptic metal/techno and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth fame.

We didn’t get to see Ladytron (removed from the bill at some point in the run up but I never noticed, which was a real shame), Seasick Steve (clashed with Portishead), Polar Bear (queue apathy kicked in in favour of either pizza or wine, I can’t remember).

Disappointments – well the Madlib Medicine Show could have been better. The DJ was fantastic, but Madlib was peddling hip-hop that could best be described as ‘weak’. The Horrors were awful, just rubbish. I don’t understand why they were ever music press darlings. If you’re going to play 80’s metal and your only USP is that you dress like Robert Smith (and yet in the programme blurb bang on about how edgy you are and how many riots your gigs cause) you’d better be really good. Dear Horrors, you are not.  Team Brick appeared to be a man howling into a microphone and sampling/distorting the results.  To call this music really would be stretching the point, in fact it was the musical equivalent of going to an avant garde poetry recital and quite frankly just about as much fun.

Anyway we sat around drinking a number of fine bottles of red wine, eating at Pizza Hut and Burger King, going bowling, playing pool, running through the ‘The House of the Dead” series of zombie splattering light gun arcade games and embarassing ourselves on the DDR machines in between gigs. It felt like a proper weekend away and I cannot recommend ATP festivals highly enough. Next up is BLOC 2008, which I suspect will be a little bit less sedate…

Marketing madness

I’m continually amazed that biotech companies still send me stuff, generally badly addressed and wildly inappropriate given that I work at a computer, not the lab bench.   Normally these are summarily dispatched to either the bin, or the recycling bin depending on the amount of plastic in them.

What do I do with Invitrogens latest mailing though?  It is, I kid you not, a pine cone, in a plastic bag.  The pine cone has a little tag on it with a URL that redirects to a page saying that for each purchase I make, they will donate some money to the Woodland Trust.

Quite why I needed a postcard, plastic bag, pine cone, elastic band and printed card to tell me this rather than for instance AN EMAIL, I don’t know.  It just doesn’t seem very green, even if the plastic is photodegradable and the inner card ‘recyclable’ rather than ‘recycled’.

I am quite tempted to plant the pine cone though…