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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Maths, Monkeys, Species and Science.

Some time ago, I was thinking about little Change The World type things I could do, without too much energy or effort expenditure. I had heard about SETI@home and really liked the idea that my computer could be doing Important Things while I wasn't using it.

The only thing was, I wasn't especially interested in a Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

I tried to find similar things, but as I didn't know the name for this whole genre of programme, I was entirely unsuccessful. All I knew was that you downloaded a screensaver which, when active, performed calculations on your computer, and then sent them back to a base, maybe a research centre, who could use them. The idea being that thousands of computer around the world doing the calculations would get loads more done than just the computers at an individual centre.

So, being intrigued by the idea, and with the lack of any others, I ended up downloading SETI@home.

It was quite intriguing, and at first I frequently left my computer inactive deliberately, so I could see it at work. I knew the funky graphics were almost certainly for my benefit, rather than integral to the work it was doing, but I appreciated them anyway.

Look, my computer's doing science!

But I still couldn't get past the feeling that if my computer was going to be doing Important Science Things, it should really be doing Important Science Things that I cared about. Or was at least interested in.

I spoke to my brother, who informed me that the phenomenon is called distributed computing, and that he was involved with a protein folding project. He said he'd send me a link to a site which had a fairly comprehensive list of different distributed computing projects, so I could choose one from there.

So, when he sent it me, I spent some time browsing the distributed computing active projects information, trying to decide which was the best use of my computer's lazy time. How on earth do you choose between fighting AIDS, and predicting climage change, or between the search for multifactorial primes and the Prime Sierpinski Project?

In the end, I decided to go with Lifemapper.
Participants "compute, map and provide knowledge of" where Earth's species of plants and animals live currently, where they could potentially live, and where and how they could spread across different regions of the world.

I had really liked the sound of the project, and got fairly involved with it, in terms of googling the various animal or plant species which my machine was calculating, and creating a record of names and pictures of each species on a webpage.

I was, thus, gutted when I was informed that the LifeMapper project was ending in January 2005. I had really enjoyed participating in the thing, and would miss learning about new animals!

So, back to the DC Active Projects list.

I eventually decided on find-a-drug. I thought that my screensaver trying to cure cancer, AIDS and malaria had to be a good thing. I downloaded it from the Find-A-Drug site, and it is currently calculating something totally incomprehensible to me, to do with cancer.

Find-A-Drug, like LifeMapper and SETI@home, humours me by doing graphics, described as
Each ball corresponds to an atom and each stick to a chemical bond between two atoms and these are coloured in accordance with the elements. The common colours are: blue for nitrogen, red for oxygen, yellow for sulphur and cyan for carbon.


It also only does the calculations when my computer is idle, and so doesn't slow the machine down when I'm using it.

And I have also set my home page to the Monkey Shakespeare Simulator, the theory behind it being the famous quotation,
"If you have enough monkeys banging randomly on typewriters, they will eventually type the works of William Shakespeare."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Joining and Journeying.

Hello! And happy belated Christmas to anyone who does that stuff.

I have actually had a nice Christmas, mainly because it was ultra chilled. I read the Join Me book, which I loved. It was funny, and really quite compulsive. And it has led me to using the word lebstromonous on at least an hourly basis.

And I can see myself joining fairly soon. Just need to get a passport photo sorted.

My diary that will change my life has finally arrived from amazon. I ordered it ages ago but my card kept being refused (oops). I had one last year, when it was fabulous. This year it's maybe slightly less fab because they are everywhere, rather than something quite rare and unique. But it's still fab. Mmm.

The weather is entirely miserable. Grey, cold and wet.

My train journey back home yesterday was hellish. I was going from Telford to Sheffield, which should involve a change at Birmingham New Street and a total journey time of up to 2.5 hours.

It actually took me over four and a half hours, and 1.5 hours of that was trying to get from Wolverhampton to Brum, which should normally take between 15 and 17 minutes, according to National Rail Enquiries.

I think it's time to re-nationalise the railways, ladies and gentlemen.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Used Stamps *Still* Save Lives!

I have bought the domain used-stamps.co.uk to replace the rather clunky www.geocities.com/purplestar1uk/usedstamps.html. The former should be pointing to the latter, and after a few teething problems it seems to be working well now.

In an entry in June, in Used Stamps Save Lives, I explained the page as follows,
Used Stamps Save Lives!! You know when you collect piles of used stamps to send to charity but then never get round to it, cos finding info about which charities and organisations want them is just not straight forward enough?

Well now it is. I have created a webpage with information on charities and organisations worldwide which accept used stamps as a form of fundraising.

There was also an article on Indymedia.
In looking for a good organisation or charity to send my ever-growing pile of used stamps to, I couldn't find any kind of central source of information.

So, after much searching I have compiled a list and made it into a web page.

Saving used stamps and sending them on is one of the easiest ways to help different groups to raise money, and now it's even easier with one list of organisations in different countries who would benefit from them.

Also, if you want your charity or organisation to be added to the list you can do so from that page.

With the Christmas cards I have received, I have 2 envelopes full of stamps ready to be sent off. It's nice to have such an easy way of helping with fundraising, especially at a time of year when money and time are short.

So, welcome to the world, used-stamps.co.uk.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Popping My Head Round the Door

Today is horrible, and I suspect tomorrow will be more horrible. So apologies if this entry is odd.

hippie has somehow jumped from position 191 to position 81 in the Diarist.Net Top 250. No idea why, but it's quite cool.

hippie is also the 3rd msn search result of 879 for the 12 STIs of Christmas.

The whole of this Benefits and Work Newsletter is worth a read.

That's it for now.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Obsessive, Moi?

I see this poster on a bus I get sometimes. It has bewildered me for years.

Actually, it has irritated me for years, but I have found myself looking at it quite fondly lately. I don't know why.

It's the brackets, you see. Or parentheses, if you're that way inclined.

(including)

(Thorpe Hesley).


It is a poster for a all-day ticket you can buy, and it is telling you that the ticket extends as far as a place called Thorpe Hesley, which google tells me is in Rotherham, in South Yorkshire.

But why is it (including) (Thorpe Hesley) and not (including Thorpe Hesley)? Who knows?

But lately I have been quite taken by the symmetry of the brackets as they are.

Lynne Truss would be ashamed. Quite rightly.

I guess there's not enough to do on bus journeys than to consider and reconsider the same old posters with the same old grammatical errors. And if it is true that familiarity breeds contempt, then maybe in this case, familiarity has bred contempt in me for my previous contempt at the excess bracket situation.

Or something.

(including) (Thorpe Hesley) Posted by Hello

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Funny Flaps and Willy Wonky.

Ok, it seems that huge British institutions creating flash animations about our rude bits is the vogue of the moment. Yesterday I brought you the NHS's 12 STIs of Christmas, and today, the esteemed British Broadcasting Corporation brings us Funny Flaps for the girls, and Willy Wonky for the boys.

And they are actually great! Thanks to faintpraise for telling me about them!

However, doing the total opposite and counteracting much of everyone else's efforts to help women and girls accept their bodies, is the Vagina Institute.

Prepare to shout...
The inner vaginal lips should not protrude past the outer lips, they should be symmetrical and even. The vagina should be small and tight with a pink hue or pink interior walls to it and lastly the female body should be shapely with beautiful facial features.
.
And so it goes on. Mostly it seems that it is important to have a beautiful (according to their weird standards) vagina, in order to please our men.
Men are not interested in female genitalia, which present deformities, although most men will have intercourse with a woman who presents some degree of labial deformations. They will not seek a long-term relation ship with her because of her abnormal vagina.

I'm actually loathe to use those quotations. On the one hand, they are illustrating the awfulness of the Vagina Institute. On the other, I don't especially want to propagate their cruel and misogynist messages.

Interestingly, it seems a Mexican Salamander can be cute. Who knew?

And gun crime may be on the rise...

Saturday, December 11, 2004

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree...

There's no avoiding the impending hell that is Christmas, and thoughts wander to the Christmas Carols which will soon be being played in town centres the country over, by the always surprisingly good Salvation Army brass bands.

One of the most fun of these - though only when being sung along to - is the one which causes people to joyously pop their head round doors, and interrupt their deep conversations to join in with Fiiiiiiiive go-ooold riiiiiiings. And don't pretend that isn't you.

The National Health Service has now contributed to Christmas jollity and wellbeing with The Twelve STIs of Christmas. STIs being, of course, what we used to call STDs. I'm not sure that Go-ono-reeeeeah will have the same appeal...

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I Hate Listening to Gardeners' Question Time.

Starting with Billy's post, then meandering a little, I found Hello Kitty Robot, created to celebrate her 30th anniversary.
The toy is unfortunately unable to walk, but is expected to make up for this with its supposed communication abilities. With an impressive stock of 20,000 memorized conversation patterns to choose from, you can expect the robotic cat to blurt out random words and phrases at the most inappropriate times imaginable. And to aid this communication ability further, the device is able to gesture by moving its head and arms.

So, you know you want to spend 2 grand on a Hello Kitty Robot new home hippie present, yeah?

Dooey reports a great newspaper story about a couple arrested after they reported to police that their marijuana was stolen, and they needed it back because they were going to sell it... :-/ And I can't help but notice that Dooey herself seems to have had a birthday, as she's now 19 and not apologetic at all :)

PawSense, mad as it seems, is probably a must for cat owners whose cats ambush their computer keyboard. A whole series of features designed by a truly cat-centred person I feel!

Astrid brings us some nice photos of the Eid and Christmas lights in Sheffield city centre this year.

Baghdad Burning blog brought me back into a sharp, devastated focus. Glad once more I don't have a television, and didn't see the images myself - though inside my head they are there anyway. It needs to end. All of it.

Catching up in blogland anyway.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Oh My Goodness Gracious Me...

I'm back!!

I have been offline for only about 3 weeks but I have missed it terribly! I feel kinda lost now - no idea where to start as there is so much to catch up on. Courier is downloading a ridiculous number of emails, I'm listening again to last night's hilarity that was I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, and I've discovered that despite moving to the other end of town, my least favourite person is still my MP.

My new house is lovely and I am full of all those great determinations which come with a new start - I'm going to keep it really tidy, I'm going to cook home cooked meals, lead an organised life, all that stuff. We'll see ;)