March 29th, 2009

barcelona 1908

7 mesmerizing minutes of video footage from 1908 via neatorama

Posted in Past, Video | No Comments »
March 27th, 2009

cool it (or die!)

Drinking hot tea has been linked with increased risk of oesophageal cancer. Scientists recommend letting your tea cool from “scalding” to “tolerable” before slurping. The speed at which you drink also affects your risk, they say!

Compared with drinking warm or lukewarm tea (65C or less), drinking hot tea (65-69C) was associated with twice the risk of oesophageal cancer, and drinking very hot tea (70C or more) was associated with an eight-fold increased risk.

Who would have thought drinking a cup of tea were such a dangerous pursuit! I should say in tea’s defence that when drunk at a reasonable temperature, tea has anti-carcinogenic effects.

Read more at BBC Health

March 27th, 2009

Dining-Room Tea

This poem by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) arrests one moment so successfully and so beautifully that I was lost in reading it and neither anticipated nor desired its end.

When you were there, and you, and you,
Happiness crowned the night; I too,
Laughing and looking, one of all,
I watched the quivering lamplight fall
On plate and flowers and pouring tea
And cup and cloth; and they and we
Flung all the dancing moments by
With jest and glitter. Lip and eye
Flashed on the glory, shone and cried,
Improvident, unmemoried;
And fitfully and like a flame
The light of laughter went and came.
Proud in their careless transience moved
The changing faces that I loved.

Till suddenly, and otherwhence,
I looked upon your innocence.
For lifted clear and still and strange
From the dark woven flow of change
Under a vast and starless sky
I saw the immortal moment lie.
One instant I, an instant, knew
As God knows all. And it and you
I, above Time, oh, blind! could see
In witless immortality.

I saw the marble cup; the tea,
Hung on the air, an amber stream;
I saw the fire’s unglittering gleam,
The painted flame, the frozen smoke.
No more the flooding lamplight broke
On flying eyes and lips and hair;
But lay, but slept unbroken there,
On stiller flesh, and body breathless,
And lips and laughter stayed and deathless,
And words on which no silence grew.
Light was more alive than you.

For suddenly, and otherwhence,
I looked on your magnificence.
I saw the stillness and the light,
And you, august, immortal, white,
Holy and strange; and every glint
Posture and jest and thought and tint
Freed from the mask of transiency,
Triumphant in eternity,
Immote, immortal.

Dazed at length
Human eyes grew, mortal strength
Wearied; and Time began to creep.
Change closed about me like a sleep.
Light glinted on the eyes I loved.
The cup was filled. The bodies moved.
The drifting petal came to ground.
The laughter chimed its perfect round.
The broken syllable was ended.
And I, so certain and so friended,
How could I cloud, or how distress,
The heaven of your unconsciousness?
Or shake at Time’s sufficient spell,
Stammering of lights unutterable?
The eternal holiness of you,
The timeless end, you never knew,
The peace that lay, the light that shone.
You never knew that I had gone
A million miles away, and stayed
A million years. The laughter played
Unbroken round me; and the jest
Flashed on. And we that knew the best
Down wonderful hours grew happier yet.
I sang at heart, and talked, and eat,
And lived from laugh to laugh, I too,
When you were there, and you, and you.

Surely the last word of the third-last line is meant to be “ate” though (pronounced “ett”) and not eat. Must be an old spelling…

More Rupert Brooke.

Update: “Dust” is another favourite. I have to stop reading these now and work on my dissertation :(

March 27th, 2009

stuck in the past

Jill Price has a horrible affliction… She can’t forget. I always complain about how shoddy my memory is, long- and short-term, but after having watched this video I feel very grateful that I am able to forget the negative things of my past to a large degree.

via neatorama

March 23rd, 2009

blood donation to become archaic…

That’s what scientists in the UK are striving for anyway — they are researching the possibility of synthesizing human blood using stem cells, the result being in theory an unlimited supply of o-negative blood for transfusions.

The blood should be free of infections like the human form of mad cow disease.

Teams will test human embryos left over from IVF treatment to find those destined to develop into the universal “O-negative” blood donor group.

O-negative blood can be transfused into anyone without fear of tissue rejection and is the only safe option when a patient’s blood group is unknown or not immediately available.

This precious blood is in limited supply because only 7% of the population belongs to this blood group.

Go science. From BBC.

Posted in Biology | No Comments »
March 21st, 2009

the sheeted dead / Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets

In Shakespeare’s Hamlet Horatio evokes so powerfully the scene of Julius Caesar’s fall:

A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
As stars with trains of fire, and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.


March 20th, 2009

herman de coninck

Two lovely poems by Herman de Coninck sent to me on my birthday by a friend.

Rond koffietijd – een liefdesverhaal

Toen de bus plots stopte om een moeder
met kind op de weg niet al te erg toe te takelen, werd
de jongedame met groene hoed tegenover mij
tegen me aangeworpen, en aangezien ik niet gauw
een kans laat voorbijgaan begon ik liefde te bedrijven
met heel mijn lichaam.

Aanvankelijk bood ze weerstand, ze zei dat het te vroeg
in de morgen was en te dadelijk
na haar ontbijt en dat ze me hoe dan ook
weerzinwekkend vond. Maar toen ik uitlegde dat, aangezien
deze eeuw de atoomeeuw was, de wereld zou ontploffen
rond koffietijd, nam ze haar groene hoed af,
stak haar buskaartje op zak
en speelde het bedrijf mee.

De busmensen, en er waren er veel,
waren geschokt en verrast en geamuseerd en
beschaamd, maar toen het gerucht de ronde deed
dat de wereld zou ontploffen rond
koffietijd, staken ze hun trots op zak
met hun buskaartjes en bedreven de liefde
met elkaar. En zelfs de kaartjesknipper, die zijn werk
gedaan had, klom in de stuurcabine en begon
en soort relatie met de chauffeur.

Die avond, toen we met de bus naar huis reden,
waren we allemaal een beetje gegeneerd, vooral ik
en de jongedame met de groene hoed, en we
begonnen allemaal op verschillende manieren te zeggen
hoe overhaast en dwaas we waren geweest. Maar toen
stond ik op – ik ben altijd een doordrijver
geweest – en zei dat het jammer was dat de wereld niet
ongeveer rond elke koffietijd ontplofte en dat we altijd
konden doen alsof. En toen gebeurde het …

Snel als een botsing veranderden we allemaal van partner
en spoedig trilde de bus van witte
mottebollenlichamen die onfatsoenlijke dingen deden.
En de volgende dag
En elke dag
In elke bus
In elke straat
In elke stad
In elk land
beweerden de mensen dat de wereld zou ontploffen
rond koffietijd. Het is nog steeds niet gebeurd.
Maar in zekere zin toch wel.

The second:

Je bent wel mooi, maar ik kan uren naar je kijken.
Je bent niet mooier dan, pakweg, een Titiaan.
En soms wil ik onder je blik wel eens bezwijken.
Maar dat gebeurt me ook na te lang staren naar de maan.

Ik kan je schoonheid aan. Goed ja, soms bééf
ik onder jou, en als ik zei dat ik zou weggaan bleef
ik vaak. Zodat haast iedereen, en ik, en zeker jij
zal denken dat ik van je hou – wat ik ook om je geef.

Maar het is als met vergif: wie dagelijks secuur
de dosis opvoert, is vaak op de duur
bestand tegen het driedubbele rantsoen.

Zo heb ik ook van schoonheid alsmaar meer vandoen,
zodat ik momenteel zonder verpinken
wat anderen de dood indrijven zou, kan drinken.

HdC (in: Ter ere van de goedertieren maan)

I might have a go at translating them to English when I get the time.

March 20th, 2009

translating the last words of the buddha

Bringing all of this information together we can now attempt a translation of the phrase, the Buddha’s sacred last words:

vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādetha

“All compounded things, all experiences (mental and physical), all phenomena by their very nature decay and die, and are disappointing: it is through being not-blind-drunk on, obsessed by, or infatuated with, the objects of the senses that you succeed in awakening, or obtain liberation.”

Or more succinctly:

“All things are disappointing, [it is] through vigilance [that] you succeed.”

From The Last words of the Buddha

March 19th, 2009

Waking up in the universe

Michael Faraday started the Royal Institution Christmas lectures in 1825 and said the following:

“Let us consider, for a little while, how wonderfully we stand upon the world. Here it is that we are born and bred and live. And yet we view these things with an entire absence of wonder to ourselves respecting the way in which all this happens.”

Richard Dawkins gave the 5 hour-long Christmas lectures in 1991, on “Waking up in the universe” — the origin of life. All five lectures are in a torrent which I’ve hosted here.

March 19th, 2009

green cities please


Above, a proposed village for Sweden.

Will we one day have green cities? I hope so… Because these grassy roof designs are beautiful. via neatorama

March 18th, 2009

the pilcrow and double dagger

† ¶ § ‡

The section sign (§; Unicode U+00A7, HTML entity §) is a typographical character used mainly to refer to a particular section of a document, such as a legal code. It is frequently used along with the pilcrow (¶), or paragraph sign. When duplicated, as §§, it is read as the plural “sections” (§§ 13–21), unlike “$” (dollars) and much as “pp.” (pages) is the plural of “p.” (page) or “SS” for “saints”. For an effect comparable to the contemporary use of bold type, early scribes would double stroke letters, hence the sign was developed from a double stroked letter S.

Like the dagger (†) and double dagger (‡), it is also sometimes used to link to a footnote where the asterisk (*) is already in use on a given page; however, these usages are declining in favor of numbered footnotes, usually linked by a superscripted (or, decreasingly, square bracketed) number.

Perhaps everyone else in the world already knew what these symbols were called and what exactly they meant, but this came as somewhat of an epiphany to me.

I love that word, pilcrow. via wikipedia

March 18th, 2009

Hibernian Haiku

Sauce on the burger
Give me two cans of coke there
And garlic cheese chips

Brian Kearney, apparently a friend of a friend of a friend, wrote a short but sharp haiku sequence, observing aspects of life in Galway. Above is the first in the sequence. Read more at King Lud’s Revenge.

March 16th, 2009

fear my… onion of war?

“Onion of war” is one of many kennings, which are a phenomenon of poetic diction in old Germanic languages such as Old Norse and Old English. They are metaphorical expressions used in poems… And an onion of war is apparently a sword.

Wikipedia has a page listing established kennings. “Onion of war” doesn’t seem, to my ear at least, to have stood the test of time very well. But some of them are terrific, for example:

Blood is Battle-sweat.

Death is the sleep of the sword.

A war is a weather of weapons.

The sun is the glory of the elves.

And the sea is the whale-road.

Read more at wikipedia.

March 16th, 2009

the fat controller


A new discovery is leading geneticists to think that the reason some people never get fat despite a high fat diet is because they have a gene which facilitates the conversion of dietary fat into energy instead of the body habitually storing it under the skin.

The enzyme, MGAT2, determines whether dietary fat is used to generate energy or stored under the skin around the waist. The discovery of its role could be the key to preventing obesity, diabetes and heart disease

Scientists found that mice missing the gene for MGAT2 were able to feast on a high fat diet without becoming flabby or overweight.

Mice lacking MGAT2 were also protected against glucose intolerance – a precursor to diabetes – high cholesterol and a build up of fat in liver cells.

from the telegraph, via neatorama

I ate 2 chocolate bars today (in my defense there was an offer of “5 for €2” — I HAD to buy 5, and so eating only two of them shows great restraint) and I feel fatter already. I’ve never been so envious of other people’s genes.

March 15th, 2009

back to meds

Pal Rob Lovelett made a new track that I enjoy: Back to Meds (download).

I posted about another of his tracks before. More tracks here. Also a talented drawer and animator, check out his website.

March 15th, 2009

long distance

Since I never posted it, here’s one of the first bits of sound I made. It’s about the humbling experience of travelling through airports.

As I recall, I made it after discovering that one of the samples on my keyboard sounded like the tones of an airport announcement bell.

March 14th, 2009

the largest flying land mammal is the absent mind

Those words are Captain Beefheart’s.

This post however is about focusing the absent mind.

FreshCreation has brought my attention to this nice documentary on meditation by the BBC, which tries to take a scientific approach to exploring meditation’s effects.

For a more biased but, I think, much more engaging exploration of meditation (“transcendental” in particular — which I cannot endorse or dismiss, given my lack of knowledge about it), here’s a 1 hour fifty minute Q&A at UC Berkely, with director David Lynch — an advocate of Transcendental Meditation, who talks about creativity and meditation — and two scientists, John Hagelin, Ph.D., Quantum physicist featured in “What the bleep do we know?;” and Fred Travis, Ph.D.: Consciousness, Creativity & The Brain.

Hint: Skip the first five or so minutes worth of rambling introduction.

March 13th, 2009

loving you is easy because you’re me (but better)

To be loved for what one is, is the greatest exception. The great majority love in another only what they lend him, their own selves, their version of him.


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