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What if your washing machine instruction manual was like the Bible?

Some people say that the Bible is a manual for life. I'm not so sure it's that clear cut. Suppose the manual for your washing machine was like the Bible. What would it be like?

Genesis The birth and early life of the founder of the company. His/her first job. How they founded this small company manufacturing domestic appliances.

Exodus How the company survived a recession and grew from strength to strength. How early washing machines were to be treated, the type of detergent that was suitable in those days. (However many of the rules for these early washing machines still apply to day.)

Judges and Kings etc. After the founder dies (this is not an analogy, this is a washing machine manual), there are a number of takeovers by other companies. At the end of the process the company is experiencing steady growth.

Songs about washing machines Lots of them, mostly written by one person.

The modern age The first electronic washing machines with fancy electronic displays (really, this …

What would you call the fans of historical scientists?

New words have been invented for the fans of people/films/TV programmes - so we have Twihards for Twilight, Gleeks for Glee and Beliebers for Justin Bieber.

If scientists and engineers from the past were still around today what would we call their fans? We could have the Newtonians (not very clever), Coperniclan, Lacelovers (sounds a bit dodgy), Curios, Pasteurites, Brunelles. Any more?

Motor bike and pedal bike

Since our office move I've been cycling to work from time to time instead of going on my motorbike. The new office is only slightly closer to home than the old one, but there was a hill at both ends of the journey, so I never fancied it. Now I only have a hill as I go home in the evening (which I'm walking up apart from the first bit). I only cycle when it's not raining, and it's not icy, and I don't have to be home promptly, and I'm not too tired. I'm the cycling equivalent of those people who only ride motorbikes in the summer so they keep their bikes nice and shiny. (I ride my motorbike all year round, apart from when it's snowy or icy on the main roads.)

There are number of differences that have struck me between the two different modes of transport.

Sound On my motorbike all I pretty much hear is the noise of the engine, and on roads when I can do 50mph (it's not a very powerful bike) the wind noise. I'm wearing ear plugs so the roar is dul…

Going to church and a quote from Hitchiker's

Uncommon is an interesting community. As well as the website that they're working on for paying members, there's a weekly newsletter. It asks a question each week and reports back some of the answers the following week. The question last week was "where are you a regular", so I wrote this:
I'm a regular at church on Sunday mornings and fortnightly in the evenings. There's a bit in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that goes like this:

"There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.

[...]

"If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinty, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species o…

Doctor Who 50th anniversary

So, Doctor Who. The BBC had related programmes last night on Radio 1 and Radio 2, but maybe the hype will die down now.

I enjoyed The Show, mostly. I did wonder in the middle though, why aliens keep on choosing this country to invade, but maybe that's not the point. I was pleased to spot Christopher Ecclestone in the last few frames of John Hurt's regeneration. It may be because he doesn't want to take part in all the shows about the show, but I feel he gets overlooked.

Although on the whole I enjoy Doctor Who, I'm disappointed that although we're in a Golden Age for TV drama generally, that's pretty much all we have for SF drama. Terry Pratchett made a comment in an interview how he wouldn't write for Doctor Who like it's done currently, with (and I can't quite remember the quote) leaving the clues as to the solution to the problem obviously at the start of the show. Maybe it's the all the story over in under an hour format that means you can&#…

Nearly 9 years with Flickr

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This is a sort of "draft public" post. Also, it's about Flickr, so maybe it should be on my techie blog. Oh well.

Fact - Dan Catt is giving up on FlickrFact - I will have been on flickr for nine years in NovemberFact - If I type fl in my browser bar then Chrome thinks I want to go to a parking companyFact - I uploaded a load of pictures to my photostream at the weekendFact - I have 1000 public photosFact - I just looked at my stats page (which I haven't for months) and the daily views are around 60-100 which is more than they have ever been.Fact - two people I know have added me as contacts on the last week which hasn't happened for months or years.  I'm not giving up on flickr, but it is just somewhere I don't go to very often.

Lads days out

I've done a rare entry on our family blog about the lads days out that took place over the summer.

The future is here

One of the boys says "I wonder which actor has been in the most films?". I pull a rectangle of glass and plastic out of my plastic and say to it, "which actor has been in the most films?". It tells me Mel Blanc. I say to it, "how far is it to London?" and it speaks back to me "the drive from your location to the city of London, UK is 33.7 miles". The future is here, it's just not evenly distributed yet.

The Quarry by Iain Banks

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Iain M Banks was pretty much my favourite SF author these days. So I was sad to hear of his illness a few months ago. I read one of his non-SF books (written under the name Iain Banks in case you're not up on that detail), The Bridge. I really didn't like it, but persevered to the end in case it got better. It didn't. I started another one, I forget which, and abandoned it.

I bought The Quarry, a non-SF book, as a tribute to him, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed it. The main character's father is dying of cancer and so I couldn't help but read it with the assumption that he knew he was dying as he wrote it. Indeed when I researched it I found out that this appeared to be true (via Wikipedia).

I'm not really good at book reviews, so go follow the links above to get an idea what it's about. There's strong language and philosophising but I think you'll find it will make you think.

How to pace your holiday well

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When I was around ten years old I went on a holiday that was so great that I was really sad when I got home. After that I was determined never to be so sad again. As time goes by previous holidays are beginning to fade into a kind of blur. What is getting better though is that I am getting better at pacing my expectations of the way the holiday goes.

There are three phases to the holiday.

1. Wind-down This is where you gradually wind-down from the normal pace of life. This really can’t happen until you’ve had at least 24 hours somewhere, so you can get used to the rhythms and routines of your holiday destination. If you’re like me you may find yourself worrying and checking to see how wound down you are. Of course, getting wound up about winding down is self-defeating.

As well as getting used to your location there may also be getting used to the people you are spending holiday with. They may be your nuclear family who you see at evenings and weekends, or it may be extended family or…

Kate Bush | Aerial

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I was tagged by Simon Robinson to write about an album. I chose the one that is probably alphabetically first in my collection, and fortunately it was Aerial by Kate Bush.

So first of all, the provenance. (I think that's a great word. It's a bit like terroir - it's hard to define, but encompasses so many things.) During my teenage and twenties decades the bands I was interested in were mostly all-male: Genesis, Pink Floyd, Peter Gabriel, ELO, Queen etc. I don't really know why, maybe it was because I could relate to male singers more. Kate Bush was the exception to this pattern.

So in 2005 this album came along, the first in 12 years, and so it was a case the situation where you get interested in an artist and buy a few albums from their back catalogue, and then after a bit they release a new album. (You probably can't imagine, really can't imagine, how exciting it was when the new ELO album, Time, was released in 1981.)

On the Guardian Music Weekly podcast ba…

Mugs

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We have too many mugs. We have two mug trees with six mugs on each. Then we have an overflow cupboard of them. I decided to go through them and get rid of any mugs that didn't have any emotional attachment. The trouble was that all of them did. They've been given as birthday or Christmas present, Mother's Day or Father's Day presents. They've been hand painted or given to mark some event.
So what can I do? Already, I'm worried that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Mugs will come round and inspect the conditions which I'm keeping our mugs in, and we'll get in trouble for keeping them in overcrowded conditions. I could give them away to charity, but each one has a story.
Any suggestions?

Sunday meanderings

On Sunday afternoons these days I settle down with a tablet rather than a newspaper. I start with my Google reader items and sometimes I find that I've gone quite a long way from the original article. Today I started here and I'm still following the paths on Nick Ryan’s site.

Sledging videos

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I put these on Facebook, but so they can also live outside the walled garden, here are two videos of me sledging.
Headfirst down the hill in the park

Sledging in the woods
The thing that surprised me playing them back was just how quick the journey was. It felt a lot longer when I was doing it.

Looking through my twitter archives

I've downloaded my twitter archives. If you want to do it yourself go to your profile page and see if it mentions how to do that. They are gradually rolling out, so if you can't at the moment, try in a few days.

I started using twitter in July 2006 when it was called twttr. My first tweet was one of the first ten thousand. It wasn't very profound.

Test
— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) July 14, 2006  My next tweet was in October 2007. Twitter asked me a question, I can't remember what and I responded:

working, what else?
— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) October 30, 2007 Then in November I tweeted daily for a while. Here are some highlights:
shining my shoes
— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) November 1, 2007batting emails back and forth about Catalyst and XSLT.— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) November 5, 2007 I tried haiku: Watching kids football/our team losing by several/nice to be out though— Paul Morriss (@paulmorriss) November 10, 2007Walking to the bus, not our usual transpor…