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Day 23 - A YouTube Video

Egosofts X-Series games are probably my favourite games out there right now. They're the closest anyone's come to Elite with modern graphics. And best of all, while it isn't open source by any means there is a very active mod community- fan-made scripts are regularly incorporated into offical bonus packs, and after one game got a particularly detailed and expansive mod they hired some of the people who produced one mod to work on the next game they made. A little while ago there was a competition to make videos using the game.





Yep. Space trading games that cost £20 can now be used to make films that look better (and are often better plotted, written and acted) than things in Doctor Who, Babylon 5, and plenty of other SciFi. My god this truly is The Future.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Day 22 A Website

I've already mentioned Mike Everhart's Oceans Of Kansas website elsewhere, so I'll point you somewhere else instead.

Palaeos is one of the greatest websites I have ever found. It discusses pretty much the whole of palaeontology, covering thousands of taxa, providing primers on cladistics, morphology, biogeography, etc, etc. And its just been wikified, so if you think you can help then jump aboard.

I think probably my favourite essay on there, and its hard to choose there are so many, is the essay "What Is A Tetrapod?"
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Day 21 - A Recipe

Poultry Risotto. Ideal for Christmas.

(Vary the quantities of the ingredients as required by the amount of chicken you have- and the numbers you're trying to feed)

Take one or two large onions, chop finely and fry in a wok on a low heat until lightly browned, add as much chopped leftover meat as you can get hold of, and a roughly equal quantity of rice. Add a couple of handfuls of chopped broccoli, and about a pint of boiling water and a stock cube or two. Season with pepper, sage, whatever herbs and spices you have frankly. Simmer until the rice is fluffy, and the most of the liquid is gone.

Serve in a big bowl. Feeds not nearly as many people as you'd hoped.

No, I'll never win Masterchef.
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A Hobby of Yours

Well, I think I've spammed you all with enough photos, so I'll have to pick something else I do. (No, not drawing and painting, though I've been known to do a fair bit of that).

Recently I've got into this thing called fishkeeping. Well, I say recently, I've thought about it off and on for a long time, usually distracting myself with things like plants- a bedroom full of plants at 16- most of which are still alive, even if the cycad has been looking a little peaky for a couple of years now. At some point I'd like to live in a house with space for at least a few of them- although quite where I'd put three 6' citrus trees I'm not entirely sure.

Someone once said that fishkeeping was basically lots of chemistry with some fish involved, and I've certainly come to appreciate that. To start up an aquarium you need to have a colony of bacteria, which turn the toxic ammonia waste into something less lethal, and then there's the problem of dealing with other aspects of water chemistry. Anyone living in London knows that their water is very hard, which plenty of species aren't too fond of. And then there's temperature- I don't think I can keep many native species in the tank I have- it won't get cool enough in winter, and gets too hot in summer- Which is a shame s the native plants I've got in there right now are going great guns.

So I'm having to re-evaluate what I can keep. It looks like there'll be a few things I can happily accommodate- there are several Asian Bitterlings that are relatively readily available (the European one is banned as its considered an invasive species), and don't mind the relatively alkaline hard water I have, a swan mussel or two might encourage them to breed, though they're a git to keep alive. And I think I'll be ok with the pond loaches. So the plants will be wrong, but there'll be a nice little community set-up in that.

The only problem is that both species are social, and with the 1" to 1 gallon rule for stocking, the 240 litre (55 gallon) aquarium I have is starting to feel a little small, and that's before I've even put the fish in there...

Oh, and the other problem with fishes? MTS Multiple Tank Syndrome. I've no space for it yet, but I'm already planning the next three, a 30 gallon for Blind Cave Tetras, a 20 gallon for shell-dwelling cichlids, and perhaps a tiny little 10 gallon for shrimp.

Tomorrow I think I'll pootle off to find some more rocks and bogwood. I'd still like to get the pH down a little if I can...
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An Art Piece (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.)

The Group of Seven was a group of artists who painted scenes of the Canadian landscape around Lake Superior, and Algonquin Park in the 1920s. They were very much influenced by the impressionists, and probably my favourite painting is Pic Island by Lawren Harris.
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You can see the original at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.Its about five feet across, and suitably impressive in the flesh.
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A song that makes you cry (or nearly).

Yeah, well I wasn't going to touch the fanfic thing. I don't read it, I don't write it, it just ain't my bag baby. (If you do, then more power to your elbow, but I wouldn't know where to start). OK, I could write a post about Brian Lumley books I haven't read, but I don't think that's on really. So other than to say "New Charles Stross Laundry Novel Out This Week!!!!- And He's Writing Another One!" we'll move on.

Novembre are basically an Italian version of Opeth. But I think they're better.



This is Valentine from the Novembrine Waltz album.
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davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
A Non-Fictional Book

Just the one? But there are so many more books that are real than ones that aren't. Um. I'm going to take this to mean "Non-Fiction book", I'm going to recommend Mike Everhart's Oceans of Kansas, a book that owes much to his website of the same name. There are lots of lovely photos of specimens, the spectacularly weird pterosaur Nyctosaurus, which has no fingers- and just look at that crest, mosasaurs that were clearly eaten by sharks, Sabre toothed "herring",
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"birds with teeth", and one of the largest turtles ever.

Each chapter begins with a little fictional vignette of life in the Kansas Seaway, describing moments in the life (and death) of its inhabitants, and several are backed up with fossil evidence (the famous fish-within-a-fish fossil for instance) Its wonderfully illustrated by Dan Varner, and I recommend it to everyone with an interest in fossils. More importantly its not a technical book, so everyone can enjoy it.
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Day 13 A Fictional Book.

There are lots of fictional books I'd love to have been able to read. The Encyclopedia Galactica, from the Foundation Novels would be handy to have around for reference, although I'm sure I'd actually use The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy rather more on a day-to-day basis. To sate my interest in the history of palaeontology I'd love a copy of Challenger's Outlines of Vertebrate Evolution, I'd settle for a PDF to go along with the Richard Owen ones I've got from Project Gutenberg.

And of course there are all the books by Princess Irulan about Muad'dib. The Orange Catholic Bible, the Missionaria Protectiva Handbook, etc, etc. However I'll have to stick with one that many of you have heard of, The King In Yellow.

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.
 
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.
 
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.
 
Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.


Hang on, do you think they meant work of fiction? Oh.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Whatever Tickles Your Fancy.

There's a football tournament on. Now normally I'm not a fan of this, but the Guardian's coverage has been rather good- the minute-by-minute coverage is regularly distracted by linguistic debates, criticisms of the bizarre statements people come out with. Take this, from the Slovenia/Algeria match...

 
""It will be interesting to see how the African teams fare in their own backyard," Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said in advance of this game. Algiers is 4,650 miles from Johannesburg, according to a website I just looked at. From which we can deduce that Africans have absolutely enormous backyards. Immense. Nobody asked Kek if he was disappointed with Slovenia's single gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which at just 4,799 miles from Ljubljana must qualify as being within their own backyard, unless Slovenian backyards are smaller than African ones, which is possible given the absolute vastness of African backyards."

And then there's discussion of tactics in old Amiga games, and all sorts...

To cap it all, I've just discovered "You're the ref", where one must make complex decisions based on the rules of football. Who knew there were so many opportunities to punch Gary Neville (whoever he is) in the face enshrined in the rules of the Beautiful Game.

I think my favourite response is that given by a Mr Sweeting, when a player (entirely behind the goal line) punches a ball away, peventing it crossing the line.
 
 
"Give a wry smile, pat the defender on the head, and send the keeper to the stands, 'since your friend seems to like being in goal so much'.."
Last year they ran a "You are the Umpire" during the cricket. I do hope they bring it back. I like cricket considerably more than this "Association Football" thing.
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A Photo of You Taken Recently...




Hello there...
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
A photo of you taken over 10 years ago.



The small thing in the middle looking at Richard Owen is me. I was about 3ish at the time.
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A Photo You Took Yourself

As I've been a little lax in posting you can have two...


Leaf Reflections by ~davegodfrey on deviantART

Barnes Water Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. Shot at dusk on Provia 400


Victoria underside by ~davegodfrey on deviantART

The underside of the leaf of a Giant Amazon Waterlily at Kew.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
A photo that makes you angry/sad.

There are very few photos that do this.

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This is Benjamin, the last Thylacine known, photographed in Hobart Zoo in 1933. It (according to wikipedia the sex was never confirmed- why didn't they do an autopsy if they weren't sure?) died on 7th September 1936. This shot shows the 120 degree gape that Thylacine jaws were capable of.

Why does it make me sad? Because three years after this photo was taken Benjamin died, and with it, the last verified individual of one of the most remarkable examples of convergent evolution. And as usual, the cause was humanity's ignorance, fear and apathy.
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davegodfrey: Hello Cthulhu! (Cthulhu!)
A Photo That Makes You Happy-


Mark Cavendish going very fast in the Prologue of the 2008 Tour de France through London.
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Whatever Tickles Your Fancy...

Thank Cthulhu I don't have to think too hard about that one. I've just done a 15 hour shift at work (full day plus the evening shift of the NHM's Sleepover. Its masses of fun, but I'm about to have a massive sugar/caffeine crash and go to bed. At which point I won't be able to sleep...

So I'll just put up a video from PotHoler54, which debunks a classic Kent Hovind "argument" against evolution.


And you can also have one of Thunderf00ts' "Why do people laugh at creationists" video. (All 30-odd are well worth watching, as is his interview with Mr Crocoduck himself, Ray Comfort.)



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Your Favourite Quote...

...Why does this always have to be my favourite? And especially with quotes, there are quotes about everything, for every occasion. Some are wonderfully sweary things that sum up how you feel about banks/plumbers/polticians/etc.

"They couldn't find their arse with both hands and a map".

(I speak from bitter personal experience this week with this one. - a rant will follow...) Or they could be attempts to sum up a small fraction of the human condition in a few words. And some of the best are just damn good jokes, such as The Museum of Everythings's wonderfully surreal announcements:

"Children are welcome, but please put them in the bags provided"

Others are misquotations or misattributed- for instance while it was said about him, centuries later, Voltaire himself never said or wrote:

"I deplore what you say, but I shall defend to the death your right to say it." 

So there are lots of good quotes that I like. The astronomer Fred Hoyle once said "Space is really quite close. Its only 100 miles away if your car could go straight up." which is both fun and informative.

Darwin's closing words from On The Origin of Species, always strike me as somewhat uplifting and epitomise the simplicity, and (given the timescales involved) great power of evolution.

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

I shall leave the last word to Hugh Miller, a Scottish geologist, religious thinker, science communicator, and newspaper publisher who lived and worked in the years before Darwin published "On the Origin of Species" has a wonderful quote that sums up the magic of fossil hunting for people before and since.

In the course of the first day's employment I picked up a nodular mass of blue limestone, and laid it open by the stroke of a hammer. Wonderful to relate, it contained inside a beautifully finished piece of sculpture;- one of the volutes apparently, of an Ionic capital; and not the far-famed walnut of the fairy tale, had I broken the shell and found the little dog lying within, could have surprised me more.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Your Favourite Book.

Fiction or non-fiction? Pictures with little or no text, or dense reference-laden treatises? I love them all, in different ways for different things. I read text-books for pleasure, I'll turn the pages of a gallery portfolio and marvel at the images, and I'll sit happily living in an authors world for a few days while their story unfolds around me. The hundred and fifty plus books I have immediately to hand range from Museum Ethics, through Henry Rousseau, Sponges of the Burgess Shale, Richard Dawkins' The Extended Phenotype, a well-thumbed copy of At the Mountains of Madness, and Iain M. Banks' The Alegbraist. That's just what I brought (and since acquired) when I moved back to London. There's another couple of hundred back there, (most of the Pratchetts, University-level biology, some wonderful old 1920s & 30s science books, etc, etc.)

I'm expected to choose one? I can't. I'll give you a recommendation though. It doesn't contain awesome quotes about the power and impressiveness of evolution, or geology. There are no laugh-out-loud moments like Pratchett, nor does it make me grin like an idiot while reading it as Charles Stross does in The Atrocity Archives, and The Jennifer Morgue (Mi5 vs. Lovecraftian horrors, as written by Len Deighton & Ian Fleming- my gods its wonderful stuff).

I'm going to talk about Adrian Desmond's 1976 book The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs. Sadly it seems to be out of print.

Written just before cladistics took over as the dominant paradigm for evolutionary biology, and as Robert Bakker, Greg Paul and co. were just beginning their careers. At this point dinosaurs were still often considered to be sluggish cold-blooded animals, the dinosaurs to birds theory, was only just getting off the ground. The book documents the beginnings of the "dinosaur renaissance" which continues to this day. What it also does is provide a historical study of Mesozoic Vertebrate palaeontology, looking at the 19th century work Owen did on mammals, Baron Cuvier's work on pterosaurs, and of course Gideon Mantell, the "Bone Wars" of Marsh and Cope, and the early 20th century work of Nopsca, Barnum Brown, and Hatcher and Tournier's arguments about the stance of Diplodocus, are all covered.

I'm less interested in the arguments presented here in favour of warm-blooded dinosaurs- they are in many cases of their time- there was no evidence of feathers in any theropod known at this time, and the work on growth-rates, predator-prey ratios, and other things that have made homeothermy the generally favoured view (at least for most dinosaurs, if not necessarily all of them), were either equivocal, or unpublished at the time. And in fact this is something I like about the book. It has become a historical document, a snapshot of a moment in the history of science in the years around the time I was born.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Your Favourite TV Programme

This is nearly as hard as the "favourite song" one. There have been so many. However I have a problem with a lot of fiction. Especially stuff like Lost, The X-Files, etc, etc, many of the best ones (or at least the ones with some of the best ideas- Dark Skies for instance) get cancelled way too soon. And the ones that don't? They drip on with massive, dull, largely incomprehensible story arcs that (as with the 2001 sequels I mentioned yesterday) seriously lose something in the development- they try and become comprehensible, and then my willing suspension of disbelief gives up and goes home. I can't help but feel that X-Files would have been better if the conspiracy had been left unexplained, like the contents of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction.

My fondest TV drama memories are getting home from school, and watching  Knightmare, and then a variety of Gerry Andersons (Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds) The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Pertwee era Doctor Who, that sort of thing in the early 1990s. That and waking up at 5:30 in the morning, aged about 7, and watching old OU programmes about insect biology and Once Upon A Time... Life, which hasn't aged as well as I remember, but has at least made it onto youtube.




So my favourite TV programmes are probably going to be documentaries. I loved Horizon, anything involving Davids Attenborough and Bellamy, Wildlife on One, The Natural World, and, going back a bit further Path of the Rain God about rivers in Belize, (I'd have loved to show you the clip of cave fish, but all I can find is a reference in the BFI catalogue) and, of course The Really Wild Show. (Is that still going?). I didn't see Cosmos until only a few years back, and can instantly see how that influenced a whole generation of scientists. (Sadly I never really had the mathematics skills, and animals always seemed to get more screentime than astronomy- I can only remember a couple of Channel 4 series with Heather Couper).

As everything is far too hard for me to decide I'll show you one of the most recent things David Attenborough did. The Blue Planet, and a series of sequences about deep-sea fishes.
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I've got to write about books tomorrow. Christ that'll be hard.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Your Favourite Film.

As I mentioned I don't have a favourite song. However there is one film I can point to as "Best Film Ever". I feel guilty that I've not seen it in ages, but it is over two hours long, doesn't have any exciting battles in it, and some of the best bits are memorable because they have no dialogue at all.

You just need to hear five notes from Strauss to know which film I mean. Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arthur C. Clarke originally conceived of the two works (the book and the film) as two versions of the same story. In The Lost Worlds of 2001, he -only half jokingly- talks about the book as being by Clarke and Kubrick, and reverses the names for the film credits. However as is so often the case films get delayed and the book came out several years before the film did.

I first saw it when I was about 7. And I've loved it ever since.

As always lots of people have come up with all sorts of ideas about what its about, reading meaning into every frame. Frankly I can't be arsed with that. Its a cracking story about a computer that becomes unhinged. And I think I prefer not knowing what the monolith means. As with the other Arthur C. Clarke book about big mysterious objects Rendezvous with Rama the sequels, where you find out much more about what the object does, somehow take away from the original mystery. Its a sort of a reverse of Richard Feynman's quote (which I heartily agree with) about how understanding more about a flower only adds to its beauty.

But anyway, enough waffling, you want to see why. Well, frankly there are too many awesome scenes. The interviews, the "stargate" scene, the men in suits that inexplicably lost the Oscar to Planet of the Apes, etc. But for me there's one stand out scene. If you don't know which one it is then watch this...



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