Thursday, October 27, 2005

Betting madness (or is it?)

So, I've finally decided on my picks for this week's college games.
  • Ohio State (-3.5) @ Minnesota
  • Ohio (-5) @ Buffalo
  • Washington State (+29.5) @ USC
  • TCU (-6.5) @ San Diego State
  • Idaho @ New Mexico State (-5)
  • Michigan @ Northwestern (+3)
I'm not too confident about New Mexico State, being as they haven't won all year, but maybe this is their week to get off the mark. It could well be my first 6-0 of the season, I'm feeling good about this week. (Of course it could also be my first 0-6, but we try not to think about that.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Ethical reasoning

There is something about this story that is somewhat disturbing. (For those who don't follow links the story is about a test carried out in Johannesburg that finds circumcised men are 61% less likely to contract HIV.) Actually I tell a lie, there are several disturbing things about this story.

Firstly, who the hell dreamt up this study and what were they trying to prove. I mean what good can come from this research. We already knew that both those and without foreskins can develop HIV, so it's not going to be a cure. If, as they did, you find out that circumcised men are less likely to contract HIV then you're going to be putting out a mixed message to people about what's safe and what's not — after all most of us only read the headline. Somewhere like South Africa mixed messages about HIV, contraception, etc. are probably not good. And yes I'm looking at you Mr. Pope and your crazy bloody religion when I say that.

The second disturbing thing is what exactly did they tell the 3,274 uncircumcised volunteers, half of whom they circumcised. If somebody tells you that you are participating in a study to monitor HIV infection, surely you take extra care about where you putting your fella and what he's wearing at the time. Don't you? Were they told they were in this study? For that matter how the hell do you find 3,274 men aged 18-24 who are considering having their foreskins whipped off? I don't know anybody who'd consider it (and yes that is exactly the kind of conversation that I end up having — all the time).

Thirdly, what did they do when they stopped the study on ethical grounds? Did they circumcise the rest of the men? And did they stop the study too soon? Would the infection rate in the two groups eventually be the same (once the x percent who were regularly having unprotected sex with the skankiest women were all infected)?

Fourthly, circumcision: uggh! (I have trouble just looking at Rabbi knowing what crazy shit they practise.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

On Alpha, addictions (featuring Frankie and Brit), celebrations (featuring me) and then some more on addictions

My second favourite story of the weekend was that of Tropical Storm Alpha, which, I'm sad to report, has now been downgraded to Tropical Depression Alpha and looks like it will eventually lose in a fight with Wilma. For the first time ever we've used up all 21 names and we've had to move onto Greek letters. Although it looks like we might get away with it this year; I think it's a tad unwise to set about calling a possible hurricane Alpha. Hurricane Alpha might try and earn the name, so to speak, as we all know God and Mother Nature have a darkly comic streak in them.

My favourite story of the weekend was that of Frankie Coleman. Apparently Mrs. Coleman, the Mayor's wife, was arrested around 9pm on Thursday for operating a vehicle under the influence, OVI. There are a number of things I love about this story. Firstly, it was 9 o'clock in the evening — you really have to be putting in a concerted effort if you want to get your blood alcohol up to 0.27 by 9 o'clock on a Thursday evening. Secondly, she hit a parked truck and then got confused and claimed the truck had hit her. Mainly though I love this story for the comparison between Frankie and Brit. Brit is the friend I wrote about being pulled over for riding his bicycle home drunk from the bar. I think it's really, umm, impressive that Brit and Frankie now face identical charges and identical penalties. Because they both had high alcohol OVI's they both now face a mandatory 3 days in jail and 3 days in alcohol class, not to mention fines and license suspension. That's right folks choosing to not drive your car home and being pulled over for wobbling on your bicycle is apparently worthy of the same punishment as driving your car in to a parked truck and then claiming the truck hit you. You've got to love a justice system like that. In fact I love it so much that on the 2nd of November I will go down to the court house to offer moral support and try not to burst out laughing as the state of Ohio tries to send Brit to jail. Maybe I'll even wear one of my new t-shirts...

It was my birthday yesterday, "Happy Birthday to me!", and all that. I only mention it because you didn't write, call, send me a present, or anything. Unless of course you did, in which case it was great to hear from you, I love the gift, the card was wonderful and no I didn't know that about Timmy. I celebrated my birthday by going out on Saturday night to a place which had all the beer you can drink for seven dollars. The beer is fairly crap, but seven dollars is only seven dollars. On the way to the bar we were in a car that ran out of petrol. I've never been in a car that ran out of petrol before, it was enormously entertaining. Not quite sure how you manage to not put any fuel in your car and expect it to keep on running forever, but for sheer entertainment value I may have to start adopting the policy. On the way home from the bar, I was somewhat less than sober and decided it would be a good idea to kick a plastic lawn chair. I now have a very sore left foot (why I kicked it with my left foot is lost in the annals of history... or at least it's lost in the murky fog at the back of mind).

I have two new addictions: betting and eBay. Now I realise betting isn't really a new addiction for me, but my betting on college football is a fairly recent thing. The last three weeks I've bet on several games each Saturday, coming out with 2-4 (for a big loss), 4-1 (for a okay win) and 5-1 (for a good win) win-loss records for the three weeks. It's lots of fun. And this week it actually made be give a damn about Fresno State, I don't even know which state Fresno State is in. I do know that they beat the spread against Idaho and made me very happy (well moderately happy, I think the aforementioned beer pushed me up to very).

My other (new, best not to mention all the old ones) addiction is trying to buy vintage Waterman's fountain pens from eBay. I'm not sure why I want one — I think I can probably blame most of it on Neil Gaiman. But, for whatever reason, searching and bidding for old pens on eBay has been eating up a disproportionate amount of my time recently. I'll keep you posted on how this new addiction develops.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

News from the 17th least corrupt country (possibly)

It's official (well it's on the BBC News website) I now reside (well actually I think I only start residing here next month, but that's a whole 'nother kettle) in the 17th least corrupt country. Doesn't it just give you a warm, gooey feeling inside? A bit like a toasted marshmallow. Although it has be said that the UK is one whole point less corrupt than America, so those of you over there can definitely look down your noses at the damned, corrupt colonialists over here. It's also kind of amusing that Australia, the nation we sent our criminals to, is less corrupt than both the UK and the USA, the nation we sent our crazy religious people to (well sent may not be fully accurate, but hey give a guy a little artistic license).

I love tables like the CPI table, they are all so brilliantly arbitrary and use scary Orwellian names like, "Corruption Perceptions Index". Not to mention great press release quotes like, Corruption isn’t a natural disaster... (okay I'm being a little unfair as the full quote is, Corruption isn’t a natural disaster: it is the cold, calculated theft of opportunity from the men, women and children who are least able to protect themselves. Plus they're full of interesting information like there is a United Nations Convention against Corruption, I feel the problem will disappear entirely once it comes into force (Why isn't it already? It didn't tell me that.)

At least Zimbabwe managed to climb up to the heady position of being the (joint) 107th least corrupt coutnry. Go Zimbabwe. They've increased from 2.3 to 2.6. Although I have to say I think the index is backwards as bigger numbers in a corruption perception index should really be more corrupt than smaller numbers. That way you could give the unit a name, like a Mugabe or better yet an Aitken (although, like the unit of beauty, the SI unit might have to be a milli-Aitken).

The perfect job?

I stumbled across this job advert today. I think that I could probably blag the whole Ofcom regulation issue, but I'm not sure it's worth it for only a month long job.

A missed opportunity possibly.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Getting shirty

Now, most people probably heard the story from a couple of weeks ago about a woman who got thrown off (well asked to wear her t-short inside out or leave) a plane for wearing a t-shirt. Now, I'm not quite sure how anyone thinks a t-shirt featuring Bush and Cheney and the phrase, "Meet the Fuckers" is either hilarious (as Lorrie Heasley, the woman in question, did) or offensive (as some narrow-minded passengers getting on the plane did) but that's besides the point. The point is that something is clearly all messed up if people get so irate over a t-shirt that somebody is asked to leave a plane.

Needless to say the discussion made me think of my favourite t-shirt:

Which I think it's fair to say some people would find offensive enough to have me thrown off a plane for. But apparently fear not, because, in a wonderful piece of marketing, those nice folks at T-Shirt Hell have our backs. If you get thrown off a plane for wearing one of their offensive t-shirts then they will make sure you get to your destination, possibly using their corporate jet. I think it's fantastic.

In fact I think it's such a fantastic offer that not only am I writing this about it, but I'm also getting the frankly brilliant:

Who'd have thought five words could mean so much, and be so clever? (I also bought this t-shirt, but it's not as exciting — for those times when one needs to be a somewhat reserved). I didn't have the courage to buy the I plane NY shirt yet though, well I'd have the courage to buy it but I'm not sure I'd have the courage to wear it.)

Friday, October 14, 2005

"A woman can’t breastfeed a child who’s been aborted."

I saw a poster advertising the links between abortion and breast cancer on one of the noticeboards in the Architecture building (where I go for coffee), it directed me to this site. Curious, well part curious and part infuriated, I perused the site for a little bit. To me at least it is largely unreadable, as illustrated by this opening paragraph:
Women have the right to know that 28 out of 37 worldwide studies have independently linked induced abortion with breast cancer. Thirteen out of fifteen studies conducted on American women report increased risk. Seventeen studies are statistically significant, sixteen of which found increased risk. Most of the studies have been conducted by abortion supporters. The first study was published in an English publication in 1957 and focused on Japanese women. It showed a 2.6 relative risk or 160% increased risk of breast cancer among women who'd had an induced abortion.

13 of 28, 37 of 16, statistically significant, Japanese women, 2.6 relative risk... stop! Too much information. It seems rather like when you're a child and you make up a long convoluted story about how this was the pen you got from Brighton on a trip you went with your grandparents last summer in the rain and the train was blue, when really you found the pen on the floor and don't want to admit you left your pen at home. Lies, damn lies and all that.

Now it may well be true that you have an increased risk of breast cancer if you have an abortion. But seeing as each year you wait to have a kiddie your risk increases, and each kiddie you have your risk decrease, I'd have thought that number one on the list of "What You Can Do" would be obvious. Get yourself knocked up, do it early and do it often. We can go back to the good old days of 12 kid families where 2 or 3 of them died, after all breast cancer wasn't such a worry in Victorian times. And to think there's all that kerfuffle over teenager pregnancies. They should all just say, look I'm doing this to reduce my risk of breast cancer.

In almost entirely unrelated news, I wonder if this rather excellent new Guinness ad will air here in the heart of intelligent design country. I rather hope it does.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Quickie before leaving the office

Not that kind of quickie. Please get your mind out of the gutter, it is quite crowded enough down here without anyone else getting in the act.

I had quite forgotten how, um, interesting PostSecret is. I particularly like the one about the Da Vinci code, and it's not very often that I like the idea of naked old men. In fact I might start doing it myself, well okay probably not, but I can dream.

I feel safer already. Just what the doctor ordered wouldn't you say? Why not create another 'intelligence' agency that can be held accountable if the shit ever hits the fan. Although I do like the fact that the head of the NCS is known only as "Jose", I wonder if he's hispanic or if he's even a he?

All of which makes we wonder if I should finally apply for a job with these guys?. All I have to do is send my CV and a covering letter to some random PO Box in London, and I too could be helping to save the world... or something.

Enough random, disconnected musings for now.

Monday, October 10, 2005

How not to make a pot roast and other tales

This weekend was not, in all honesty, my finest weekend on the planet. It started off well enough with a visit to the Franklin Park conservatory, home of many pretty plants and such. I think the desert region was probably my favourite as the cactuses (cacti just seems too tarty) were very pretty. The fish and chips at The Old Bag of Nails pub were almost up to the standards I was used to from the Gloucester Road chippy, the name of which I have mislaid in my mind, which came as a bit of a surprise. Well to be honest the fish was very nice, but the chips fell a little short in comparison.

Saturday, however, was pretty much a disaster. With the exception of doing my laundry I would have been far better off if I'd just lain in bed all day. You see I, ahem cough cough, gambled, cough cough, a little bit of money on this weekend's college football. By a little bit I mean more than the price of a few beers and less than the price of a car, okay less than the price of a really cheap car. Sadly my record on the weekend was 2 right in 6 attempts, which equated to me losing all but 73 pence of my stake. Not entirely successful, I think you'll agree. To compound matters I watched the principal game on which I gambled, the Ohio State - Penn State game, with some of my work colleagues who were supporters of the opposing team. I was not an entirely happy bunny. Things actually managed to get worse after I'd lost all my money, and do to a combination of stupidity (mine), negligence (mine, COTA's and the taxi company's) and stubbornness (mine again) I ended up walking home the seven or eight miles from where I was watching the game to home. My shins still kind of hurt.

Sunday things went little better. The highlight, well low-light technically, was when I managed to make a casserole dish explode. At the time the dish contained the pot roast that I was cooking to eat on Sunday night. Apparently some casserole dishes don't like being placed on the hob. Mine has never minded in the past. Of course, I wasn't using mine when the explosion took place. I did successfully manage to pick out most, if not all, the pieces of glass and transfer things to one of my casserole dishes for the roasting part of the cooking. You'd be amazed, or not probably, how much mess a full casserole dish disintegrating on the stove top can create. Ho hum, back to the drawing board on that one.

I seem to recall I messed something else up this weekend. But I can't recall what, now that I think about it. Maybe it will come back to me. Probably not.

I did manage to finish Anansi Boys last week, and it was very, very good. I spent a lot of time smiling while I read it. Very clever and very cute, and now I really do want to hear Lenny Henry's reading of it — although possibly not enough to actually buy a copy. Right now, well not right now, I am spending a lot of time smiling while I read Terry Pratchett's Thud!. I do love Vimes. It's a manly kind of a love though, not the other kind.

For those of you on tenterhooks (fabulous word) regarding George and the carpet (I actually mistyped that crapet, which is kind of appropriate) she's still being decidedly anti-social in her choice of toilet location. The thing that I find confusing is that she has a litter box, and seems perfectly content to piss in it and will occasionally use it for a crap, but still in the middle of the night there has a strange desire to shit by the front door. We might have to adopt a multiple litter box approach to the problem.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Featuring clawless cats, caustic-free chilli and other crazy c-words (but possibly not that c-word)

New place. Same shit. Apparently, we've got a mouse. Well we've got at least one mouse and possibly more (I'm afraid they really all do look the same to me... sorry all you mouse equality people). We also have, and I don't know if I mentioned this before or not, a cat. She's called George. All you need to know about George is that she's very fluffy (and you didn't really need to know that), she shits on the floor next to the front door each night (and you probably didn't need to know that, but I was just curious if anyone had any grand plans on how to convince a cat not to shit on the floor in the same spot every bloody night) and she's been declawed (which strikes me as a little cruel). Yesterday George caught the mouse — who for now I'm going to call Maurice — it was rather amusing, for all involved I think. George would bat Maurice around a couple of times, forgetting she doesn't come equipped with claws to hurt him, then pick him up in her mouth. She didn't seem to want to actually bite him, just to hold him in her mouth for a while. Then George would let Maurice go and start batting him around again. There were several iterations of this process. The highlight of the encounter had to be the time that Maurice and George sat six inches apart and just stared at each other for a minute (right before Maurice hid behind the bookcase). I'm not sure what the eventual outcome was, last I saw George was staring intensely at the stereo cabinet and Maurice was, presumably, hiding under it. I think they've become friends. Isn't it sweet.

This weekend was a very good weekend for me on the book front. Not only did I pick up a copy, a signed copy even, of Neil Gaiman's new book, Anansi Boys, but I also bought a copy, also signed, of Terry Pratchett's new Discworld novel, Thud!. It's very exciting. I've only had a chance to read the first chapter of Anansi Boys, but I already feel a certain warmth towards Fat Charlie (not that kind of warmth). It should be a good week reading-wise.

Not only was this the week that Messrs Gaiman and Prattchet released their new works, but it was also featured, the long awaited, release of Serenity. I have to say Mr Whedon made a really rather good little movie, sorry... film. It started off a little slowly — trying to catch up those people who hadn't seen the, sadly, short-lived TV show Firefly — but after a few minutes was up and racing and I was loving it. I'd recommend it to anyone, although I'd be curious to find out what non-Firefly watchers think of Serenity.

(The following paragraph only features in this post because chili begins with the letter 'c'.)

Yesterday's chili was very disappointing; not nearly the kind of kick that most people who've had the pleasure — or otherwise — of sampling a Ryan chili have come to expect. I hope to purchase some painful powder of one kind or another on the way home, to spice up the leftovers.

On the subject of disappointments I saw Christopher Hitchens and George Galloway on Real Time with Bill Maher over the weekend and, sadly, Mr Hitchens is no longer my new hero. I still rather enjoyed him when he was having a go at devil-boy, but it's a little much to stomach his unwavering support for Bush. Now, I'm not saying that Laura Bush isn't a lovely lady but I don't really need to hear, repeatedly, about how great she is.

Oh, I almost forgot, I found out what the blue flag with the two yellow dashes (like an equals sign) on it stands for. I've been seeing these flags all around the Victorian Village and the Short North for the last year or so, and never knew what they meant. I think I was a little confused by the fact the colour scheme looked to be the same as the (hated in these parts) Michigan Wolverines. But it turns out it's all about equal rights. The symbol is that of the, rather misleadingly named, Human Rights Campaign. Now I'm not saying that lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenderers (or whatever the political correct term should be) don't deserve equal rights, it's just when I think Human Rights Campaign I think more about slavery, institutionalised violence, etc. and less about marriage (and yes I know there are other issues, but that's the chief tub-thumping one at the moment). I found out because a pretty girl in the park wanted me to donate, as little as $10 a month, to HRC. I felt a little sorry to disappoint her.

In other news, I got offered a job at UCL. It wasn't actually the job I applied for, that went to a theorist from Cambridge who is the 'T' in MRST, and I'm not the 'N' in anything. I haven't said one way or another whether I'll take the job. There's also the slight matter of a PPARC fellowship application that needs to get submitted in the next couple of weeks. But hey, it was still nice to get a job offer even if it does mean I now have to make a decision.

Oh and I should just mention that Leo submitted his thesis. Which will either mean something (probably close to surprise) or nothing (probably close to,... err nothing) depending on if you know Leo.