Two astronomers. Separated by only 22 degrees, 58 minutes of latitude, 33 degrees, 29 minutes of longitude, yet seemingly worlds apart. Their common goal: figure out the very nature of the Universe and its womenfolk.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Jim2's BBQ

Thanks to Jim2 and Nat for an enjoyable barbie yesterday - Kat and I had a great time and I'm pretty sure everyone else did. The Gilbert seems like a lovely little village; I enjoyed the lounge atmosphere in the pub. Must check out Jim2's butcher - the meat was awesome, I'll certainly be checking out some more venison sausages.

Here's some amusing snaps from the evening. First up, Jim2's attempts at meat curing, which received some undeserved mocking (mainly from yours truly):

We also have a very happy looking Stotty:

My fave though is this one - I'm thinking we should have a caption competition for this one, as anything could have been going on in this shot:

Sadly I didn't get any good shots of Nic's tasteful turquoise matching polo shirt / socks combo. If anyone else did, I'd love copies.

Nature - update

Great news - Mrs. Bird returned yesterday afternoon (see evidence below), and Kat says she's seen both birds, plus a blue tit, hanging around this morning. Yesterday's toast has been wolfed down and there's more bread out on the wall now. It seems we have some zero maintenace pets!

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Sheesh, I'm on a roll here this morning, but I have t share this. Jim1 covinced me to install StatCounter on here - it's insanely powerful. Since I installed it about a week ago, we've been visited by, in addition to just about every workstation in Xgal and AIG, the following:

- An unknown visitor from Tucson, Arizona
- Someone in Brooklyn (Noam's family, presumbly)
- An unknown visitor from Paris
- An unknown visitor from MIT, interestingly clicked through from Noam's profile
- Someone in UCL, I think it must be Jim1's brother.

Fascinating stuff.

Noam vs. Elvis

There have now been more reported sightings of Elvis:

than my cosmologist-in-arms, office buddy and fellow ICC-mofo, Mr. Noam I. Libeskind:

on this blog. I fear the dreaded thesis is starting to take his time. I can't do this alone Noam, I don't know enough about controversial matters.


It seems we've all gone a bit mad for the natural world, what with Jim2's bee keepings hopes, Stotty's fixation with SpiderWasps, and Nic's infamous "red arsed bee" that frequents his office. I've joined the bangwagon, in a slightly more mundane but no less enjoyable way.

Whilst washing up this morning, a huge female blackbird came and sat on the wall right outside my window. She then flew off, but was replaced by, I presume, her avian husband. This cheered me no end (especially after yesterday's episodes), but I was further cheered by Mr Bird's desire to remain on the wall - so long in fact that I was able to photograph him! Here's the view I got from the sink:

and here's a close up of the little fella:

I think he grew wary of the camera eventually and zipped off, but his missus returned. Her visit was fleeting, so this picture is more of an action shot:

In all of the excitement, I forgot about the toast I was making for Kat and it burnt. So I put it outside on the wall in bits - hopefully Mr. and Mrs. Bird will find it and begin to frequent the wall, thus making the washing up more fun in the future. I also hope that caring for the birds will balance the bad karma I have from allowing my bamboo plant (see first picture) to die.

Friday, April 28, 2006


My chuffing word has this week stressed me out. The commissioning of the new computers has been a mixed blessing. Ever one to embrace new technology, I've leapt onto the machine, requiring swift development of generalised byte-swapping / hdf5-to-binary type software. Trouble is, the new machine's HDF5 libraries are somehow corrupt, meaning that GADGET won't restart from HDF5 files, which is a problem when your simulations crash. As they often do.

No worry you say? Just restart from the....*restart* files! Yeah, I would if I hadn't deleted them (for no god reason other than directory tidiness) this morning. Rob, you've just written hdf5-to-binary software; convert a snapshot into binary and go from there! OK, so I did that (feeling duly smug), and off it went, happily.

Except get this: the lack of an hdf5 extention on my initial conditions lead GADGET to think it should start them snapshot numbering again from 000. Thus massacring the existing snapshots - it got as for as z=26 before I realised and killed it. Not to worry too much - these should be identical to the non-photoheated run until z=11 when I turn on the UV, so I can copy those over and rename them. Just have to rename a trillion files when (if) this current run completes.

In other issues, while waiting for the simulations today, I revisited my GADGET "observation maker" software, as the Caltech boys reckoned they'd found strong radial motions. Confused by this, I took a look at realised I'd forgotten to incline the velocities as well as the particle positions. OOPS. Just made myself look an utter dick in front of my collaborators....nice move. Another 3 hours wasted in fixing the problem, testing the solution to death, and writing grovelling emails to my betters across the pond.

I really need a pint now, except I've found I suddenly can't get into my jeans anymore. I've going home now, to put on some shorts and give myself a coronary somewhere along the river bank. That's if the chav kids along there don't stone me to death first. Happy weekend everybody.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Basking in [someone else's] glory

Some multimedia! I recently got sent this photo of me, looking disturbingly like a second division footballer, from the House of Commons science reception. As it's the one time I'll probably ever win something I'll milk it for all it's worth. Before anyone asks, yes, I am wearing a pink shirt and a pink tie. I'm such a double hard bloke that I can get away with that sort of thing.

Light relief

I've become disillusioned. Why? For once, it's not my PhD. Nor my shoddy physique, or dress sense, or haircut. No dear readers, I've realised that iccmofos is lacking the certain spark that appears to implicit with the other astro blogs. The room311 boys have their obsessions with Alan Sugar, Cillit Bang, stronomy-related songs and Google-baiting. Jim2 outlines with some regularity the progress he's making in his "The Good Life" inspired dreams. Craig's astroshack blog offers the reader a hitherto unavailable deep insight into his warped fractal-loving, clown-curious psyche. Both astroshack and room311 make great use of multimedia (the whisky map being a shining example).

I think the best we've offered up to now are Noam's tea-bar related rants. I've offered little to the blogging community (although perhaps I should see this as a mark of being less of a time-waster), and hope to change things. I've just installed StatCounter and hope to find some tasty blog morsels for this place that'll have people hitting this joint from all over the world. Google won't know what's hit it.

Watch this space.

Monday, April 10, 2006

What's the story with that chocalate egg laying easter bunny?

I've always asked myself, how does a rabbit laying choclate eggs fit into the whole Jesus (as Christ) resurection story that we are told by St. Paul. Lets not forget that St. Paul, a man of great correspondance whose letters to the first century christian churches of Rome, Byzantium, and Corinth shaped chirstianity permenantly, never actually met Jesus. In fact the only evidende of him meeting any of the original apostles (i.e. the students of Jesus) is in the Book of Galatians where he meets Peter and James. So how did this guy, who never actually met Jesus, not only write the first records of early christainity - his Letters (c.a. 30 CE) were written before the gospels (the earliest of which is believed to be Matthew written in c.a. 70 CE) - but also change the purpose of Jesus from "Jesus king of the Jews" to a much more (gentile encompassing) "Jesus Christ, Messiah and redeemer of mankind"? Not only that but where does the egg laying rabbit fit in?

As Jesus lay on the cross, his human body in agony, his life was being taken from him. However he did not become Christ until he was resurected days later: while on earth he was human. In the mean time between his crucifixtion and his resurection, where was his soul? Had it ascended to heaven to be with god? Or, was it - as the gospel according to St. Cadburious would have us believe - instead burried in the earth much closer to the humanity he was to redeem. We have evidence that although cocoa was not discovered until CHRISTopher columbus (coincidence in the name?) found the New World in 1492, it may have been one of the three gifts given to Mary at his birth (what is myrrh anyways? some scholars believe this is a mis-translation from the greek "marsios barsios" meaning "mars bars"). Thus after jesus' crucifixtion, his soul is burried in the ground as chocolate. After his death, his early chirstian followers went searching for jesus: for since they believed him to be the messiah (and thus immortal), the fact that he was crucified ran contrary to his purpose, namely he who would usher in the final judgment. Similar to their modern day counterparts, these early catholics did not believe in contraception: hence the association with bunny rabbits. Once they found and unearthed the chocolate egg of jesus soul, one of these early christians suggested making an omlete with the egg. As St. Cadburious himself cracked the egg, jesus was born again - ressurected if you will - and his spirit ascended to heaven to assume its rightful position next to God, Mary, and Naomi Campbell (also made out of chocolate). The modern day fairy tale that the early catholics are "laying" (rather than "searching for") the chocolate egg of Jesus' soul, is simply an anti-christian invention made up to discredit the true story of the resurection of Jesus' soul.

DISCLAIMER: The "chocolate egg jesus" interpretation as related to me by the apocryphal Gospel according to St Cadburious, is not meant to insult, offend, slur, upset, or do ill will to anyone. This satirical interpretation intends no harm to christians or rabbits.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Diggin' on James Brown!

Just warming up for a long day's coding with a blast of Tower of Power before Noam gets here. Am now hacking GADGET, somethign I feel I should have got onto months ago. But stuff gets in the way, you know. Anyway, one day I might write something good for it.

Tonight...whisky club part deux. Have we -nailed- this one or what? Picked up 4 bottles of exceptional distillate last night, and rightly so for we have a whopping 15 people lined up for tonight. Personlly, I'm very excited about he 18yo Caol Ila, and curious about the Bruichladdich. The Ardbeg is a solid choice and my word, what an experience the 18yo Talisker should be. CANNOT WAIT.

Right...back to GADGETeering.