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Marriage (Same Sex) Act Debate [Feb. 5th, 2013|07:13 pm]
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Its been a slow day at work, so I've been watching the Grauniad's feed of the debate in the House of Commons. Mainly because I heard Charles Moore on the Today programme being mind-bogglingly stupid, and I had to check that he wasn't just a complete idiot they'd dragged off the street, and those opposing the bill actually had some sensible reasons for opposing the bill.

Apparently for Charles marriage is all about shagging and having kids. So anyone who can't have kids, or doesn't want them shouldn't be married. Nor should people who don't like sex be allowed to get married. Except they should because it would be "open to the possibility", but same-sex marriage isn't. Unless of course the woman has had a hysterectomy, so that argument doesn't work either. I do see his point that marriage these days may be more about the wedding than the actual relationship. But that says far more about the willingness of individuals to enter into agreements without due consideration than it does about what shape genitals they have. In which case Las Vegas has probably done more to harm the institution of marriage than the homosexuals will.

So far I've been disappointed.

"Sir Tony Gale: There is a way forward. It has been suggested but it has been ignored. I do not subscribe to it myself but I recognise the merit in the argument, and that is this; if the government is serious about this, take it away, abolish the civil partnerships bill, abolish civil marriage, and create a civil union bill that applies to all people, irrespective of their sexuality or their relationships, and that means brother and brothers, sisters and sisters and brothers and sisters as well. That would be a way forward. This is not."

I've thought for a long time that it would be a good idea for some sort of civil union that allows two people in a mutually caring relationship to form some sort of legal partnership, so that, for instance, they can defer paying inheritance tax, so one doesn't lose the house they were living in when the other dies, such as in the recent case of the two unmarried sisters who lost their appeal to the European Court. Should they be exempt from inheritance tax? Perhaps not, but I see no reason why, as long-term mutual dependents, they shouldn't be able to defer payment."The absence of ... a legally binding agreement between the applicants renders their relationship of cohabitation, despite its long duration, fundamentally different to that of a married or civil partnership couple," I am not aware of any legally binding agreement the two women could have entered into.

Sadly I suspect this is not what Sir Tony had in mind.

"Craig Whittaker, a Conservative, said it would be better for the government to create a new category of marriage called state marriage. That could replace civil partnerships, and it would allow gay people to be married without undermining religious marriage"

Given that the CofE and the Anglican Church in Wales are expressly forbidden from marrying same sex couples and no religious institution or minister has to marry a same-sex couple if they don't want to, then I'd say that's not far off what we've got. We just haven't given them the same names. Alternatively, perhaps we should have state and religious marriages, and only state ones confer the legal benefits. Allegedly this is the situation in France. Again, I don't quite think that's what he was getting at.

Nadine Dorries continues to be an utterly vile and completely clueless individual.

"This bill in no way makes a requirement of faithfulness from same-sex couples. In fact, it does the opposite. In a heterosexual marriage a couple can divorce for adultery, and adultery is if you have sex with a member of the opposite sex. In a heterosexual marriage a couple vow to forsake all others ... A gay couple have no obligation to make that vow because they do not have to forsake all others because they cannot divorce for adultery. There is no requirement of faithfulness. And if there is no requirement of faithfulness, what is a marriage? "

I'm pretty sure a heterosexual couple don't have to vow to forsake all others if they don't want to. Plenty of people are in open marriages, and of course because adultery is defined as having sex with a member of the opposite sex that you aren't married to you can't sue for divorce on the grounds of adultery if your husband leaves you for another man. So its a pretty restrictive requirement of faithfulness, even if only the straights can get married isn't it? Of course most sensible people would be suing on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. But then Mad Nad hasn't made a career out of being sensible. I was hoping that someone would have tabled an amendment to redefine adultery so that it does apply to people sleeping with members of the same sex, which would handily shut these people up, but that doesn't seem to have happened.

"Stewart Jackson, the Conservative MP for Peterborough, said he was opposed to the bill. And he said he objected to David Lammy implying that those opposed to gay marriage were similar to those who opposed civil rights for blacks in America in the 1950s."

Poor little mite. Did the nasty opposition MP hurt your feelings? Tough. Because the people who are opposing this bill are similar to those who opposed the Civil Rights movement. Specifically the ones who wanted to keep the miscegenation laws.

"David Burrowes, the Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate, said the bill was about redefining marriage. It was a redefinition that downgraded marriage, he said.
He said he had been subject to death threats because of his stance on this. MPs who oppose the bill have been called homophobes, Nazis or bigots, he said."

I deplore the death threats, but the description of MPs opposing the bill as homophobes and bigots is perfectly accurate. Also, I'm pretty sure we started downgrading marriage when we allowed people to get divorced, stopped putting people to death for adultery, stopped thinking of women as property, that sort of thing.

"Matthew Offord, the Conservative MP for Hendon, said all previous attempts to allow gay marriage have led to marriage being defined. He suggested that this could lead to marriage being redefined to include polygamy. In the Netherlands three-way relationships were now acknowledged under cohabitation agreements, he said."
And what's so bad about that pray Matthew?
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Ada Lovelace Day 2012 [Oct. 16th, 2012|08:30 pm]
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Other than the first one, (in March 2009) where I discussed the deeply awesome Dorothy Hodgkin, I've utterly failed to do anything about Ada Lovelace Day. Mostly because at least initially it tended towards the technology, engineering, and computing side, and I'm a blue-skies scientist type.

When I was growing up there were two people presenting programmes about astronomy on the TV (somehow I managed to miss out on Carl Sagan)- Patrick Moore, and Heather Couper.

So I'd like to raise a glass to Carolin Crawford. Gresham Professor of Astronomy, (a post Heather Couper once held) and a regular on the BBC's In Our Time, which you can download for free. (Such as this episode on asteroids, with Monica Grady).

Being the Gresham Professor of Astronomy, she presents public lectures, such as this one about Saturn-

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Dreading Dredd [Sep. 13th, 2012|09:17 pm]
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So, Dredd. Was not dreadful. Which, given its much (and by and large justifiably) maligned predecessor was all I was hoping for when I heard about it. If its basically the same film and Karl Urban is humble enough, and familiar enough with the source material not to show his face, then that would have been good enough for me.

However, having read feedback by 2000AD fans I was expecting something very good. It did not disappoint. Is it better than The Avengers? Its a lot less fun, certainly. But then living in MegaCity One is not supposed to be fun. Being Iron Man is clearly supposed to be fun, hell even being the Hulk isn't too bad. However no-one really wants to be Judge Dredd, and anyone who does, probably shouldn't be allowed anything sharper than a spoon. It's a pretty humourless film (there aren't even any District 9-esque death-by-cow moments to lighten the mood), but its not po-faced. It isn't funny, because life in a city of 800 million people in an area about the size of Scotland on the edge of complete anarchy isn't going to be "funny".

Its a much smaller film than its predecessor. We don't see the Cursed Earth other than in brief shots topping and tailing the film. As I haven't seen The Raid don't want to draw too many comparisons, but the plot is largely the same- I'd also compare it to Die Hard for obvious reasons. I definitely missed the sale that the Stallone version went for- but as with so many comic book adaptations that haven't worked it tried to cram too much in. In Judge Dredd, the Angel Gang, ABC warriors, and Dredd's origins, are all picked up, toyed with, and dispensed with after five minutes or so. It gives you the feeling of a large world, but everything's disjointed and spread thinly. Dredd doesn't even try this. We get the feeling of a wider world, but its very self-contained- almost too self contained. I'm sure there are a fair few shout-outs that the 2000AD readers will pick up on, but are lost on me. And I don't honestly mind. It feels like a short, one-shot story, rather than a story arc. And I have no problem with that, whatsoever. Its certainly preferable to watching it done badly. If this is the start of a franchise, or given what HBO has shown you can do with TV series, essentially a pilot with a cinema release, then I'll be more than happy.

The acting is definitely better- when Karl Urban says that he is the law he's asserting control. Stallone was whining like a petulant child. He's also got a much more expressive chin than Sly, which helps, because he doesn't take his helmet off. Those of us who have seen Game of Thrones know that Lena Headley can do scheming very well, and in a contest between Cersei Lannister and Madeline "Ma-Ma" Madrigal, I honestly don't know who would win. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson gets lots to do, at no point does she seem like a damsel in distress, which more than most women in action films get.

I want to describe it as beautiful but I can't. Because its ugly, dirty and noisy. Just like MegaCity One is supposed to be. MegaCity One in the Stallone version wasn't spotless, but it didn't look much worse than many cities today. This MegaCity? It really is a dystopian hell-hole.

The SloMo scenes are very well shot, and work well in 3D, with one or two exceptions, where it really looks like the front of the scene is a 2D shot pasted in front of a backdrop, like those paper model theatres. However this is the first film I've seen in 3D (there's only two places in London that are showing it in Glorious Two Dimensions) so I honestly don't know if that's a criticism of the 3D-ing in this particular film, or a problem with 3D in general.

There's a completely callous disregard for human life, and a civilian bodycount probably in the hundreds- something, again, completely absent in Stallone's version. I hope it does well, because not only does it mean we'll get sequels (and they've hinted they'd like to do the Dark Judges, or Judge Tyrannosaurus, which could be really good), but it shows there's a market for properly dystopian sci-fi, which I've always had a soft spot for, ever since Robocop.

Thinking about how well the team handled this very massive, deep, and rather British dystopian future, I'd like to see what they can do with that other vast and complex crapsack world, we created- Warhammer 40K.

So yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven't seen it, do so.
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Let the Horror Begin [Jul. 16th, 2012|12:03 am]
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I've been meaning to post this since I saw the first images of the two rugose and blasphemous idols referred to as "mascots", but I have only recently recovered sufficiently from the searing terror of having glimpsed that solitary loathsome eye staring, unblinking at me through the dread portal opened by my foolish reading of certain portions of the Necronomicon...

Seriously, if they're not eldritch horrors then what are they?
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(no subject) [Jun. 22nd, 2012|11:41 pm]
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As usual the world has shown its knack for horrific timing. A day after the death of Caroline John who played one of the few Doctor Who companions who could match him in a battle of wits, and who I'm sure did much to inspire many women scientists (and indeed women generally) who saw that yes, you can be whatever you put your mind to even if you're "just a woman" we have this from the EU.

Here's the teaser trailer.

Are you done with the vomit bucket yet?

To be fair, the profile videos are pretty good- here's Joanna Zmurko, a Polish student working for a PhD in Virology in Belgium:-

She makes a pretty good case for why science is so cool. "On Friday I didn't know what the function of a certain gene was, but on Monday I did". That one sentence will do more to inspire young women to go into science as a career, than any number of flashy ads with pouts, lipstick, high heels and short skirts.

Naturally enough twitter has completely exploded against this #sciencegirlsthing, and the alternative #realwomenscientists is doing very nicely. Rarely has the "can we make maths pink?" joke felt more like reality.

If you want to inspire women to be scientists tell them the story of Vera Rubin, who had to meet her prospective PhD supervisors in the departmental lobby because women weren't allowed inside the offices, and provided the evidence what convinced people that Dark Matter exists.

How about Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who showed that the sun was made of hydrogen, and said:

"The reward of the young scientist is the emotional thrill of being the first person in the history of the world to see something or to understand something. ... The reward of the old scientist is the sense of having seen a vague sketch grow into a masterly landscape."

You want inspirational women scientists- Caroline Herschel, sister of the more famous William (who discovered Uranus), was a first-rate astronomer, and was the first woman awarded the Royal Astronomical Society's Gold Medal (the second? Vera Rubin). Or Margaret Burbidge, coauthor of the B2FH theory, that still explains how the elements up to iron are made, and is an ardent feminist who turned down the Annie Jump Cannon (another female astronomer) Prize because it was only given to women.

And that's just four of the astronomers I could name off the top of my head. You want biologists? Barbara Hastings, Dorothea Bate, Miriam Rothschild, Mary Lyon. We have Florence Nightingale to thank for the pie chart- I'd argue that was a far more important contribution to medicine than being "the lady with the lamp".

But no. We have high heels, lipstick, and pouting. Its enough to make you give up and become a hairdresser...
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(no subject) [May. 10th, 2012|12:06 am]
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I've written about Brewdog before- they make rather nice beers, many of which are ridiculously strong, and don't particularly appeal to me for that reason- but they're a good example of the kind of craft brewery that's been thriving, and have very definitely got their marketing strategy right. Grab headlines with limited edition runs of "the world's strongest beer" (well, its really a freeze-distilled spirit, but who's counting), and back this up with a range of rather more sensible quality beers. Good for them. They've recently opened a bar down in Camden, and very nice it is too- it sells pretty much the whole of their range, and I ought to visit again.

As a relatively small concern with a handful of pubs you wouldn't think that the big pubco's would be that scared of them would you? After all, Diageo make Guinness which sells something like 1.5 billion pints a year worldwide. Brewdog's total output is about six hundred times less. They own seven pubs. Diageo own, well probably none actually, I don't think they have a subsidiary pubco, although I'm sure they used to- but then again they don't need to- their products are available in almost every bar in the UK. Talisker, Gordon's, Pimm's, Jose Cuervo, they have their fingers in a lot of pies.

So do they really have anything to fear from Brewdog? Really?

Seems like they do. At the British Institute of Innkeeping Scotland Awards, Brewdog had heard through the grapevine, that they might do rather well in a particular category.- Bar Operator of the Year- voted for by an independent panel. Sadly they didn't win. Oh well, these things happen, better luck next time and all that..

However, the winners refused to accept the award. Because someone had already engraved "Brewdog" on it.


Turns out that some Diageo reps strongarmed the BII into changing the winner at the last minute, stating that they'd refuse to sponsor the awards ever again if Brewdog won.

You may as well go here and read Brewdog's account of the evening, and the aftermath. I don't have much more to add other than "Jesus Christ!"

I'm not sure what explanation there is for Diageo's admitted "serious misjudgement". I don't know what was being served at the dinner, but not even Brewdog advise drinking a bottle of Tactical Nuclear Penguin in one go.

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A post! [Jan. 6th, 2012|07:43 pm]
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Sorry guys its just a meme.
Bold if I've eaten 'em. Italics if I'd like to.
Filleted behind hereCollapse )

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(no subject) [Nov. 17th, 2011|09:36 pm]
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Happy Birthday jim_24601!
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RIP Mr Grumpy. [Nov. 8th, 2011|08:00 pm]
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I keep fish. Until today I had three weather loaches, Sixteen White Cloud Mountain Minnows, and a male and two female American-Flag Fish. So called because the males look like the American Flag. They're mostly vegetarian, and the males especially, are renowned for being belligerent arseholes. Compatible tankmates should be "robust enough to survive or fast enough to escape" They get to two-and-a-half inches long (the females are a little smaller). And they look like this:

I say, until today, because today I found "Mr Grumpy" tangled up in some thread I'd used to attach moss to a piece of wood. The thread had been wrapped around the wood, and a piece of rootlet, and he'd got in between it, probably to munch on a bit of algae (Like most fish they're perpetually hungry, but apparently are a little calmer if they've got something to snack on throughout the day. The stereotypes just keep building up don't they? Its most unfair) he'd got trapped, and suffocated.


Mr Grumpy. c2010- 7th November 2011. Leaves behind two female companions, but no children.
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The Vega Science Trust [Aug. 23rd, 2011|10:54 pm]
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Readers may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing for science communication. When its done well its beautiful to watch. Some scientists have a real flair for presentation (admittedly some don't- being an educator is hard.) But I haven't met a scientist yet who hasn't enjoyed talking to people about the research they do and why they do it.

Its one of the reasons I love UCL's "Lunch Hour Lectures" series (available on YouTube), the NHM's "Nature Live" programme of short talks,(which sadly aren't made available on the web these days), and the RI Christmas Lectures for the younger viewers.

The Vega Science Trust has put a whole load of science videos up on the web. There's lectures from the RI by Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, about how weird pulsars are (complete with the sort of demonstrations I recall from the RI Christmas Lectures of my youth), Richard Feynmann giving the Douglas Robb Lectures at the University of Auckland, and interviews with all sorts of Nobel Laureates and other scientists.

TV? Who needs one.
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