Lazy day today...
having lost my mobile phone, I am off to the provider shop to get at least a sim card replacement. may be buy the same model of phone too (SAGEM), if nothing else better has come up. I doubt it. This way, I'll also have duplicate of all the accessories, which can't hurt when living in two distant places as I do. Even when I move with my GF, I'll keep one at work. or in the car, just in case.
the other option would be to grab a mor eknown brand, like NOKIA, so that i can grab third party accessories more easily.
Before,though, I want to explore around by bike using the GPS as tracking device... If I can get it to work that way.
And then once I get to BXL, I'll buy a traction kite (the one shaped like parachutes)
since I left my delta kite in the mountain's house of my GF's mother.
In the evening, I'll meet up with freidns and possibly my lady to go and see an italian representation at the theatre, "I promessi sposi" by A. Manzoni in the parodical version made by the Trio "marchesini-Lopez-Solenghi", a two-man+one-woman comic actors group from Italy.
That's it for me. Have a nice weekend.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
Lazy day today...
Friday, May 04, 2007
here's a screenshot showing where the visitors of this blog come from. Curtesy of google Analytics. Apparently, american and british love me, italians and belgian tolerate me, the rest of the world is mostly indifferent. Well, it could be worst.
Hi, Just a quick post on a new (actually, vintage) TV series I discovered recently.
In the word of the BBC comedy guide,
'Allo 'Allo! was a direct-hit domestic sitcom and huge international success that made a star out of its lead, the funny and talented actor Gorden Kaye. At first sight, frolics in Nazi-occupied France may have seemed a dubious subject for humour, but the show's premise was not to make fun of the war but to spoof war-based film and TV dramas.
In my words, it's an incredibly funny and well built sitcom, with plenty of crazy characters. It manages to give the nazis a human face, I absolutely love it! All characters are involved in a network of (half-assed) intrigues, who binds them one another. Every single one of them is sucked into this maelstrom as soon as it enters the little cafe`/restaurant that Rene`, the main character, runs.
I am currently viewing the second half of the first series, and enjoying every single moment of it! 9/10!!!
here's the first part of the pilot episode, from youtube
Thursday, May 03, 2007
I read a post about Prototherian mammals, today. Prototherian, the only clade within Monotremes, are mammals ('cause they make milk) but do still lay eggs, like reptiles. The post is up here at fish feet. There it is!!! There's a nice piccie of a Playtipus, one of the two protherians still living today.
And hungry for new things to read/post, I went to see today's featured picture on Wikipedia, and surprise, it's the other prototherian!!!
Synchronicity, as Carl Jung would have called it: ...the experience of two or more events which occur in a meaningful manner, but which are causally inexplicable to the person or persons experiencing them. The events would also have to suggest some underlying pattern in order to satisfy the definition of synchronicity...
a paper came out some time ago revealing that plants do seemingly emit large quantities of CH4, a powerful greenhouse gas. Conservative people and newspaper in the whole world (weel, ok, just in the US) souped it up concluding not only that human weren't causing global warming and plants were, but even that to save the planet, we had to burn down as many plants as they could, and deforestation and such were morally justified. I don't know how this would justify driving a big ass SUV though, or squandering water and other limited resources. pah.
Anyway, a new paper refutes the first one, showing no significant emission from living plants. Carl Zimmer has more details about all this. With a vengeance. Go and check it out. I'm going home now, and will try to cycle without farting. You never know.
I've been too busy in these days to keep up with the bio-blogging scene.
Only the usual suspects made it to my attention:
Darren Naishm, over at Tet Zoo, talks about tortoises' penises, but also present his (yet) unpublished field guide to British Ostrich Dinosaurs (first part here).
Carl Zimmer, as usual, plugs his own pieces on the NY Times, about duck penises. I spot a pattern here. Oh an important thing I had missed at first: he is pointing us to significative articles he wrote, one per year, stored in his own repository. (I still have to finish Parasite Rex, damn. Too many good book I am juggling right now)
Laelaps it's always nice to read, but haven't checked him out properly yet. this afternoon.
Last, but not least, Sarda at Fish Feet explores the real estate market of stone age britain. Apparently, the Lake district were a favorite at those times too. Oh, she also writes about the deatmatch to end them all: Shark vs Dinosaur!!!
Did I leave anyone out? Oh yes, the newly discovered Secret Sex Lives of Animals, a blog whose name says it all, written by a beautiful evolutionary biologist. I mean it. Actually, now that I've seen some pictures of Olivia Judson on the net, I wonder whether this isn't her blog? Judson, Hudson...
that's it for the day, I hope you'll enjoy!
thanks to the BBC for this (pdf) map of the last 180 Million years of animal evolution:
I didn't know we were so close to rabbits (lagomorpha)
below a piccie of the complete version. Hopefully, I'll manage to dump it as hi-res jpeg and post it (update: I can not. even if I could, the font size the species names are written with is tiny tiny tiny).
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
I am a PostDoc. No, wait, haven't defended the thesis yet, but am on my second year of PostDoc. One of my bosses (I happen to have many of them at every single stage of my carrer) defines me a PreDoc. I initially had a thesis writing block, then my (ex?) PhD supervisor caught the terrible thesis-correcting intestinal block.
Awful disease which causes him to pass me only one chapter of thesis per month, duly commented.
Gawk. To add on this, I felt it was rather pointless to start writing up the paper summarising my whole work, while corrections were not yet crystallised. A general statement about not wanting to re-write the same things twice, coupled with my indolence to actually sit up and write after work, when the bad belgian weather pushes me to eat lots of high-calories food and watch desperate Housewives and other corner stones of human knowledge. So, to make it short (ah!) I still haven't published my work. And some months ago have come to know that someone else has published a similar one, although I am still ahead of them. What's worst, these people don't care to reference the previous PhD work that mine stemmed from. This pissed the hell out of one of my industrial supervisors, who's a hell's hound under the travesty of a nice guy - kind of cool, indeed. I wish I was cool and clever half of what he is. May be I'll get there. Anyway, let's not get out of track: they freaking scooped me. Actually, it did happen once already, during my first year, but back then I didn't complain too much, the group who did it was much more powerful than me on my own, so quite frankly theiy did a much better job than I could have done myself, inexperienced as I was. But not this time. I usually think of me as a mediocre scientist, but people keep telling me that I sell myself too short. Mah... I just don't feel like I'm getting close to the Nobel anytime soon, and certainly I lack the drive and the focus. Unlike many other colleagues, may be less smart, but certainly more devoted to their work. I am still the curious ten year old, tinkering and playing with cool things. And getting off track. Again.
I have been scooped. Not really, but some other people are using techniques very similar to what I have been developing. I better get my act together and write down that damn paper (or two) - And bang on my boss' door to have back my final chapter. I'm pissed too. Thouroughly so. Royally so. Do not get close to me, oh sinner, for thou shall repente thy choices.
It's been two, no three weeks without rain, a very unusual thing for spring, here in belgium. It's so dry, that I need to water my rucola, and it's so sunny that it's growing large, and bitter like hell. So, I have been sitting in my GF's garden, basking in the sun and eating a nice mediterranean salad.
Yet, something feel wrong, with this weather. A friend told me that the Azorres' anticyclon, tha high pressure area which usually hovers over the mediterranean, has moved up north, while the souht of europe is blessed by sub-tropical rains. I don't know if this is true, but it certainly is worrying, and I believe I am not the only one worried. not that I see many people tearing apart their clothes and stopping using their cars, yet. Well, tearing apart their clothes yes, but only to sun-bake themselves to death. The average belgian has now a color which makes them look a bit more of an arab, and a bit more of melanoma too, in the near future.
And there you are, the NY TImes as usual reports that the artic sea ice cap is melting faster than previously thought. Woah! Here's the link. And here's some text:
Climate scientists may have significantly underestimated the power of global warming from human-generated heat-trapping gases to shrink the cap of sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean, according to a new study of polar trends.
The intergovernmental panel concluded that if emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide were not significantly reduced, the region could end up bereft of floating ice in summers sometime between 2050 and the early decades of the next century.
For the new study, Dr. Stroeve and others at the ice center reviewed nearly six decades of measurements by ships, airplanes and satellites estimating the maximum and minimum area of Arctic sea ice, which typically expands most in March and shrinks most in September.
Dr. Stroeve’s team found that since 1953 the area of sea ice in September has declined at an average rate of 7.8 percent per decade. Computer climate simulations of the same period had an average rate of ice loss of 2.5 percent per decade.
Yes, its just computer simulations, some may say. No! the opposite! computer suimulations were optimistic, and showed less ice loss than observed. I wish I had used my bike this morning to come here (although it would have taken the best part of the day to cycle a hundred km)
The NY Times reports on the malsane (for me) habit of big and small pharma to give away free samples to doctors. These samples are then passed to patients, often against suggested first line treatments. now, that's bad. It's also bad that pharma reps invite out for expensive dinner/lunches
doctors, with the pretext of talking them about the latest drug from their companies. I don't say this because my lady is a doctor and I am jaealous of the pharma shills knocking at her door. Well, that doesn't make them wellcome to me, for sure. I am an italian boy, after all. What really pisses me off is seeing all that money being spent in marketing ploys of doubtful effect on doctors. Money which the patients end up paying, at the end, with higher medicines costs, and therefore higher taxes. It's a lose-lose situation, excluded may be for pharma shills which, after all, have to eke out a living (and were more interested in driving a powerful free car than in doing actual science - stab!).
In the great scheme of things, probably, free samples do the least arm, I would say. As a child of a poor family, I have often been treated with free sample coming from my family doctor's cabinet. And, I am also OK with big pharma paying out conferences to doctors (and scientist, although the numbers involved aren't nearly the same - even as orders of magnitude) - but is it really necessary to run every single shitty medical conference at the Sheraton or Plaza? Isn't it enough to talk in the auditorium of some University, equally well equipped and certainly less expensive? I can't tell for sure, but hey, here's my two cents. If that is, doctors really are interested in hearing about the latest treatment, and not merely in getting a free paid holiday in a luxury hotel, all in.
It has been a nice weekend. And, surprise, people have kept coming along to read this blog, apparently, even if I didn't post anything at all in the last four days. Too busy having fun, eh eh... It seems like there's a critical mass for blogging, once a certain number of bloggers link to you people will keep coming. I wonder if anybody has done any serious study on this?
Anyway, I was planning to go to Liege on friday, but I did not. too much hassle and my GF wasn't free. So, I held off and went looking for my lost mobile. Which I did not find. pants! just what I needed, another 200 euros down the drain... Pah!
However, the rest of the weekend worked out as well as planned, or even better. Enjoyed a half day shopping on saturday, then on sunday, while Marie was on call at the hospital, I went away with some friends, cycling 40-odd km from BXL to Tervuren, running round there and then back. Pictures below:
As you will be able to see, I did enjoy having some duck families close-by. Yes, I said duck, not dutch. Duck! As in Donald Duck. Although the exact species was unknown to me, and most likely different from our cartoon hero.
Here shown in his typical emotion, rage.
And moving on, the following day was BBQ day in Liege, finally, with some italian friends and their arab boyfriends. It looks like all italians abroad are going for mixed couples. Good. We definitely more italian attitude in the world.
The following morning, once the fumes of portuguese and french wine (and the sardinian traditional fruit-spirit, Mirto Rosso) cleared away, Marie and me jumped on our bike for a short up-and-down hilly road, whose surrounding grassy slopes were dotted with herds of cows. Again, pictures follow, no comments on these ones:
After that, a quick lunch and back to Bruxelles, with stopover in the characteristic university city of Leuven, aka Louvain in this crazy, two-and-a-half-lingual country.
Here you can see his gothic-delyrium city-council palace (Hotel de Ville).
That was it. Now, I am back to work, with tons of mails to wade through, my soon-to-happen move to Mechelen to organise, a series of dutch lessons to plan, a post-doc lunch to take part and a Physiologically-based PharmacoKinetics seminar to follow immediately after. not a lot uh? I better check Gastroplus manual.At least I'll know what Stefan is talking about...
Oh, and I also have to set straight my pKa assessment, and find out exactly where half of my acidic pKas went down the drain of forgotten compounds instead of being carried on properly. And will have to subdivide the sets in mono-acidic, mono-basic and so on. Sounds like a plan.
God helps me. Or, the FSM helps me. I haven't done much progress in readuing his bible, my attention was stolen by the latest book I bought "The Wisdom of the Crowds", a fascinating and assertive book on the virtues of letting people (as in plural) make up their mind, aiming to show how this kind of unsupervised free market of ideas, and any other thing usually comes up with the right solution over time, whereas the experts in ay given field do get it wrong more often than not. I blogged about it in my previous post. Interesting, I've always been opposed to popular referendum and this kind of direct democracy, based on the assumption that people mostly don't know what they're doing themselves, let alone are able to decide on complicated matters such as "is nuclear power an economically sound way of generating electricity for our industrial base?". But if, as it seems,. the author backs up his assertions with solid data and numbers, not only with andoctal evidence, we may be onto something. Also, it comes to my mind a paper in the field of my PhD, Docking and scoring function, where it is shown that consensus scoring (that is, merging the suggestions given by different programs on deciding whether a molecule is going to stick or not to a protein) works better when it is applied 'by-number', and not 'by-vote'. It would make sense, in the view of this crowd wisedom thingy. If I get the time, I'll try to explain it later. Now, let's work. See you soon.