sawyl: (A self portrait)
Via the Guardian the charming story of Angus the springer, who has been hired by Vancouver General Hospital to sniff out sources of c. difficile. He's a very photogenic chap — the article mentions that they picked a floppy-eared breed because they didn't want people to feel intimidated. He even seems to have his own ID card, prompting my sister to ask whether the piece mentions if he is eligible for free parking...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Feeling rather pleased with myself for finishing this morning's quick crossword despite almost all the across clues being out of sequence...

Completed crossword spoilers... )

After I took the snapshot, I revealed the final missing letter — the difficult one alluded to by WightOut — and discovered that it was "+" which clearly isn't right, but since the original clue is missing, it's impossible to know which of the possible options is correct.

To be honest, I rather enjoyed the additional challenge of working out what was going on before solving the clues...

ETA: now fixed by the efficient Guardian crossword team. The missing across clue was Shoot-out (at the OK Corral?)...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
On the back of her recent successes in the bouldering world cup, the Observer has a piece on Shauna Coxey.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Discussing the dangers of overthinking a project before starting it, Oliver Burkeman rather nicely encapsulates the hazard of conflating thinking about something with actually doing it:

An especially sneaky form of thinking as a substitute for doing is "deciding", since it seems so bold and courageous. ("I’m the decider!" George Bush famously declared - making the point, however clumsily, that deciding means running the show.) Yet a decision alone changes nothing. As Gregg Krech writes in his book The Art Of Taking Action, external reality remains exactly the same after your decision to ask someone out, to write a book, or leave your job. What matters is "creating ripples", as he puts it - actions, however tiny, that alter things in the world outside your head.

sawyl: (A self portrait)
Eva Wiseman in the Observer on the comforting power of a nice cup of tea:

I prefer tea to drink. Not the taste, of course. Because what does tea taste of, really? It tastes of what I imagine eBay tastes like. Like an old book, fallen in the bath. And not the burning sip, of course, because it is never the right temperature, first being scalding and then almost immediately being tepid and a huge disappointment. And not the “Britishness”, of course, because that whole myth is Ukip- ish and twee. No. I like tea for the ritual and for the settling down. Also, it is home. It is like building a fire when lost in the woods – you put the kettle on, and there you are.

sawyl: (A self portrait)
Amusing short on bouldering by Stuart Heritage in yesterday's Guardian. While I'm not sure all boulderers are lean — they either seem to be extremely willowy or extremely beefy — the comment about how the shoes should feel made me laugh: it's a standard topic of conversation, especially with people who are just starting out who can't quite believe that, yes, the shoes really are supposed to be so tight that you can't wear them for more than 15 minutes at a stretch...
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Finally having a bit of spare, I tried out one of Ruby Tandoh's pie recipes from last weekend's Guardian.

I'm pleased to be able to report the results were extremely successful and was surprised and pleased by how easy the pastry crust was to make and how well it it came it out. The filling, too, worked very well: the carrot, garlic and spices combined to produce a very nice veg puree with the leaves — I used spinach in place of chard — providing a nice contrast, and the aubergine adding heft to bottom and top.

Although it was a bit of a hassle to prepare, I'm definitely going to make it again — preferable on a day when there's a good, long drama on the radio to keep my brain occupied...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Following up on my dad's letter to the Guardian, the BBC's Chris Buckler has a short report on the appalling situation in Agathonisi.

According to my parents, the situation is pretty terrible across the islands of the Dodecanese. MSF have supplied some tents in places but no sanitation and while some UNHCR people have arrived in the last couple of days, but it is not clear what they are likely to be able to do. Worse still, there are cases of people who've arrived exhausted after their crossing only to have all their few remaining possessions — phones, documents, and hard currency — stolen while they slept, leaving them with nothing at all.

Obviously everyone there is pitching in to help as they can, but there's only so much that an place with 180 inhabitants can do for more than that number of refugees...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Reading a cogent and impassioned letter in today's Guardian on the impact of people smuggling on the smaller islands of the Dodecanese, I was pleased and surprised to find a very familiar name in the signature at the bottom...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
In today's Guardian, Michael Symmons Roberts writes about the process of creating a set of poems to sit alongside Olivier Messiaen's vast Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant Jésus.



ETA: coincidentally Sunday's Observer features Steven Osborne, the performer here, in its list of top artists who have suffered from stage fright...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
It turns out I'm finally on-trend: thanks to Rebecca Nicholson's piece in the Guardian, I've discovered my New Boring lifestyle is very now. The only trouble is, I've been living this way since way back when it was just plain old boring...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
For a newspaper that takes itself seriously, the Guardian has a long track record of publishing hopelessly muddled opinion pieces on science and technology. Thus today's piece by Nicholas Carr decrying the dangers of computers and automation follows in a solid tradition. The whole thing is such a mess of strawmen, unfair comparisons, nirvana fallacies, cherry picking, and equivocation, it's almost impressive given its brevity...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
An unfortunate coincidence in today's Guardian crosswords. Here's 19a from the quick:

Edible mollusc — on a bale (anag) (7)

And here's 7d from Logodaedalus' cryptic:

Single sailor gets seafood (7)

I'm not very knowledgeable about seafood for obvious reasons, so I can't swear I'd have got the second without the first...

sawyl: (A self portrait)
What I admire most about Simon Jenkins' columns for the Guardian is their admirable commitment to satire. Today's impressive display of cluelessness, ostensibly on the subject of education, is so full of cluelessness, non sequiturs, and conflations, it's either a masterpiece of irony or a very fine demonstration of Poe's Law in action:

Graduates in computer science are so inarticulate as to be unemployable. So says a consortium of prospective employers. The Higher Education Statistics Agency agrees. This week it put computing top for unemployability, along with maths, engineering and media studies. Students should switch from geek to chic.

But maybe that because, as the article later claims, 'Two-thirds of new jobs are in services, notably the much-derided "hospitality sector"' rather than being in science, technology, engineering, and maths. (The author deserves bonus irony points for sneeringly dismissing service sector jobs a mere handful of paragraphs after sneeringly dismissing the STEM sector)

The concept of "subjects", like the methods of teaching and testing them, are little changed from a century ago. So, too, is the claim that those of strictly specialist use – maths or, previously, Latin – are to “train the mind”.

One suspects that maths is only specialist in the sense that it underpins every aspect of modern life, where modern life is defined as the start of the 17th century...

In the 50s and 60s the best and most widespread science education was in Soviet Russia. It got Russia first into space, but led on to social and political collapse.

Correlation (and not even that really, given that the 1950s and 60s are not the 1990s) equals causation — drink!

We learned today from Ofcom that six-year-olds are more computer literate than grown-ups. They may need topping up with coding and security, but essentially they teach themselves. So why not spend school time helping them with what appears to be holding them back in the jobs market – and in life in general?

Yes, because a six year-old able to use a browser and send a text message is precisely equivalent to a computer scientist trying to determine why they are seeing increased levels of communication in an advection routine of fluid dynamics simulation when the problem is decomposed over thousands of tasks rather than hundreds...

ETA: I'm not alone in my views. The Good Doctor was so appalled that he lamented his lack of a physical edition of the Graun — he's switched to the digital version — to fling across the room in disgust...

sawyl: (A self portrait)
You've got to appreciate the irony: in today's Guardian Ian Jack's rather good piece on the media's reaction Mandela's death and problem of being told what to think & feel & for how long was placed immediately above a special offer advert for the Graun's three DVD set entitled Nelson Mandela: From Freedom to History.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
The Guardian announced the sad, if not unexpected, news of John Graham's death earlier this week while I was away. So it's fitting that today they're carrying a puzzle in which the three remaining members of Biggles — Johns Halpern, Henderson, and Young — pay tribute to their old friend.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
I just love this Guardian gallery of reader's photos of wet pets. Most of them are of happy, muddy dogs, with a handful of very grumpy-looking cats — pure comedy gold...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Apparently signing off your emails with "thanks", as I'm prone to do at work when dealing with someone I don't know, isn't exactly approved of by everyone:

You can sign off with “thanks”, but that is more often than not just confusing if your email contains no hint of gratitude at all. An email which ends with thanks that isn’t thanking anyone for anything is just kind of weird — it’s the email sign-off equivalent of someone staring at you for slightly too long.

Most of the time, when I'm dealing with someone I know or posting something to a wider audience, I don't bother signing off: I just say what I'm going to say and, at work, tag on my sig, and thus mark myself as a product of the low bandwidth era. It's a bit blunt but I think we've established by this point that rather a lot of bark was left on during the polishing process...

sawyl: (A self portrait)
I took Dean Burnett's test and came out with equal A's and B's with an E to split the difference. Which, according to my interpretation, pegs me a physical chemist. Talk about spookily accurate...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
The Guardian is terribly prone to attacks of woo, as yesterday's piece on electro-hypersensitivity syndrome proves. I kept on expecting it to mention some of the scientific evidence — the settled concensus is that lab tests have failed to show that it exists — but instead it ended after a series of first person accounts. I don't think this approach does anyone any favours: it doesn't do much to help the interviewees; nor does it do much for the Guardian's pretensions to serious journalism.

Better by far to adopt Ben Goldacre's line from 2007, back when we — or at least the Graun — were more committed to rationalism:

People who believe their symptoms are related to exposure to electromagnetic fields are almost certainly mistaken - I would now say misled - about the cause, but they are very right about their symptoms.

Symptoms are real, they are subjective, some people experience them very severely, and this is real distress that deserves our compassion. Alternatively, you could cynically exploit them - and mislead them, and frighten them - to sell your quack products, your newspaper, your TV show, and your freelance articles.

Amen.

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