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.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Rainbow room dissertation

I just woke up in the city that never sleeps. A 30 minute jog through central park and a bagel and coffee later, Im ready to hit the city. Despite my vacation status I am obliged to spend most of the day behind the closed doors of my parents library working on my thesis. Ouch. Being in New York and having to work is like watching germany v argentina and supporting the english ref. Frustrating but necesarry.

My dads party was awesome. He was suprised. many people were there. An M16 shooting brit. Canadian journalsists (one of whom filed a story for the toronto star FROM the party which is online already). Native american reservation living german wsingle mother. Extended family. There was wine. Beer, whiskey (I had a fine Macallan) .I got trollied. Maybe cause I couldnt eat due to the immense number of people i had to speak to. Looking out of the 65th floor window made me queasy. There was a lawyer there who made a funny speech and ended it with "I love dis guy, coz heez got da biggest bawls in New Yeork sitti". Rachel, Lev and I made a toast. it was funny. for us. no one else laughed.

Fame! I'm gonna live forever....

....or least until the University newpages are updated and I'm consigned to the archives. Thanks to Jim1 for pointing this one out: University newspages.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Durham, we have a problem

All of my pictures have gone. Why? Because it seems, the week Lydia goes on holiday, there's a serious problem with the astro network. Log-ins to duss0 fail, and I'm guessing the /gal disks are down because that's where my pictures are served from. I really wanted to finish my paper this weekend and have been cruelly denied.

Begs the question whether it's worth going into work tomorrow morning - something tells me that Alan won't have this baby tied up by morning coffee....

Othello: Act I (Venice)

Othello - a Moorish general in the Venetian army. Secretly marries Desdemona, a cute while girl, daughter of a Venetian gentleman.

Iago - Othello's subordinate, is miffed that Othello has promoted Cassio (a better educated but less experienced soldier) rather than he. Also thinks Othello might have slept with his wife, Emilia. Plots revenge on both, starts by telling Desdemona's father, Brabantio, of the marriage (without identifying himself).

Brabantio hits the roof and trots off to see the Duke, with whom he is friendly, to have Othello charged. He refuses to believe Desdemona would marry a Moor of her own free will, and accuses Othello of everything from witch-craft to date-rape.

The Duke has already called Othello to his palace, as the Turks are invading Cyprus. Othello is required to sail there to defend the island. Brabantio confronts Othello, who calls upon to Desdemona to spill the beans, which she does. The Duke is satisfied and allows her to follow Othello to Cyprus, leaving Brabantio enraged. Othello has to scoot, so he ironically entrusts Desdemona's safety to Iago.

Roderigo - a rich but foolish young fellow is keen on Desdemona. Iago pledges to help him charm her from Othello, and takes payment. However, the young sap is to be used as a pawn in Iago's plan....


And there you have it - it's pretty dark stuff. Iago is a right sod, that much you can tell already. I'm already into Act II, so hopefully another update should come soon.

Varied keelhaulings

So - I've sailed through Act 1 (you'll notice, following the synopsis, how I've already learned from my Shakespeare studies to create a theme in my linguistic imagery that is appropriate to the story....hence my nautical reference there), and am ready to give you an exciting overview. In fact, this has been forced upon me, since:

1. I've bought Patrick O'Brien's "Master & Commander", the book that inspired the excellent Russell Crowe film of the same name. I really want to read it and won't let myself until I've finished Othello.

2. I can't finish my paper today because the computers at the ICC appear to have blown up, denying my SSH access.

3. The alternative, writing my talk for the VIRGO meeting, is way too boring to tackle on a Sunday.

So, that's the situation. I'll now go and prepare an exciting synopsis.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

*Hive* of activity

Busy days have come to OC320. Carlos has returned my paper, enjoyably with few corrections and improvements to make, although those he did provide should make the paper much better. Desperately want to finish this before the end of the week.

On other news, Richard's here for this viva (in there as I type) which has made OC320 a magnet for well wishers (and probably the morbid too), and there's talk of exciting projects with Ian and Craig. If only I had a time machine.

Shakespeare: I'm two and a half scenes into Othello, and I'm loving it! It's really not that tough to get your teeth into. I'll give an overview of Act I when I'm done.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

BBC screws-up royally

I just found this gem on the internet, and am amazed it hasn't yet achieved universal notoriety. (Allen has just informed me this is on the BBC's website now). Basically, Auntie was waiting for an IT expert to come onto BBC News and discuss some court case involving iTunes. Instead of getting their man, they grabbed an unsuspecting cabbie from the lobby of Television Centre, stuck him on TV, and interviewed him!!!

I love this guy! The sheer horror on his face as he realises the shit he's fallen into so quickly fades as he realises his 15 minutes of fame are upon him. His attempt to wing it is so laughbly poor, not least because you can't understand him, makes it all the more sweet given that the interviewer gives him no easy way out. I want to see more of this guy on TV.

Have a look!

Monday, May 15, 2006


I made a mistake at school. I fell into a trap I'm only just starting to climb out of - thinking that science is the only true path to enlightenment. As a result I took from my literature lessons exactly what I needed to nail the GCSE paper. And *nothing* more. Whilst there was a scientific beauty to this perfectly executed plan that still warms the cockles of my heart, I am left knowing bugger all of the world beyond SI units and makefiles.

So here's my plan: I am going to read some Shakespeare. This is going to be hard for me, I know. I usually only read factual books, and then they usually have some scientific or engineering bent. So I'll need your help, by way of enthusiastic support, and in return I'll document my toils and take you with me on the journey.

I'm going to read Othello. Why? Because we have a copy in the house, and in particular it's Kat's A-Level text, so it's full of her notes explaining the complex stuff. In the first page Kat's written the following:

L6 - Mrs. Dishman
Deceit, jealousy, sex, tragedy, prejudice + insecurity.

Sounds like Othello would fit in well at the ICC. Except the sex bit. If it all gets too much I might see if Mrs. Dishman can help. Right, here goes.....


I'm utterly uncreative at the moment. I'm not feeling too great, and have lost all motivation - with astronomy and by extension, the blog. I'm hoping its a 24 hour thing. I'm relying on Noam to save the blog...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Variation on a disturbing theme

Shortly after developing concerns regarding my namesakes, I have discovered that Crains in general might be a disturbed bunch - check this dude out!

Mike here, perhaps a long lost relative, seems to harness divine power in order to smash concrete blocks. And then write songs about it. Suddenly astronomy seems to be getting more normal by the day...

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Peter Kay will surely use this....

Remember "garlic...BREAD!" and "cheese....CAKE!"? Try this: "squeezy...MARMITE!". Yes, that's right, Marmite are going to start shipping their black cocaine in squeezy bottles, since they think it'll help people spread it without destroying their bread.

I'm sceptical about this development. As a Marmite fan, I'm worried about the fact that they'll be using thinner Marmite in the squeezy bottles, which surely means less pleasure per pound. One possible benefit though might be price - Marmite is chuffing expensive (£3.95 for 500g at Tesco), which might be down to the black glass they use in the jars, which must be costly for them.

I'm interested to hear what everyone else thinks about this.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Doppelgangers and Namesakes

I greatly enjoyed Jim1 and John's feature on their Room311 counterparts in Cologne, and it led me down the path of curiosity - what other Rob Crain's are out there, and do they have careers as outlandish as my own? I know it's a bit Dave Gorman, but I don't care. Well - they say curiosity killed the cat, but in this case it was more a case of curiosity worries the shit out of you. I put my name into Google - I make only the seventh entry, via Vince's theory computing page. See who Google thinks are the more important Rob Crains:

Rob Crain 1:

RC1 appears to be a hot shot Texan lawyer! I like RC1 - his catchphase is awesome, and is similar to my own, except I make do without the integrity. Something like "questionable results" would be better for me. I think RC1 could kill you with his bare hands. And then get himself acquitted. His Google #1 spot is probably deserved. For now.

Rob Crain 2:

I'll use a Craigism here: "Seriously dude, what the fuck?" RC2 is a "VFX artist", and comes up as Google's 3rd option (RC1 being such a dude he gets the first two, and the fourth, fifth and sixth!). I don't want to dwell on RC2, because I think he gives us all a bad name. What is with that helmet...?

Rob Crain 3:
RC3 appears on page 2 of Google's entries, because RC1 is greedy. No pics of RC3 sadly, but it appears he's a triathlete, so I like him. I only know one other triathlete (Greg), and he's ok in my book. Since Greg and I went running last night, I think RC3 and I have something in common, besides our name!

I got bored of sifting through RC1's entries eventually, and switched to Google image search, boy did it deliver! Check out RC4!!!

Rob Crain 4:

RC4 is a more salt-of-the-Earth type, reflecting my own workng class origins. He's a sales manager for a food company in New Jersey, and has some crazy computer graphics going on behind him. I'm suspicious that he might just be another incarnation of RC2.

Rob Crain 5:

RC5 is a warning from my future not to eat too many pies. He's the mayor of the city of Blythe in California, and clearly power has gone to his head...and guts. If I ever go out to Caltech, I'll be sure to nip by and see myself, delivering a warning about heart disease. Maybe I should hook RC5 up with RC3.

Right - better do some work! I enjoyed all of that!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bouncing Bombs

I heard on the radio this morning that Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) is planning a remake of "The Dambusters". As a Lincolnshire lad, the whole story is somewhat close to my heart (for a long time 617 squadron were based in the county), so the news is most exciting - although I can find no corroboration on the internet.

If true, I'm hopeful that Jackson would do a spectacular, and more importantly *accurate* job. Apparently Mel "screw the English" Gibson wanted to remake the film a while back but was told to whistle by the MoD and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight - presumably because he'd have used American actors and generally re-written history. If Jackson gets the go-ahead then maybe us Brits will have some say in how it's made.

A key point of historial accuracy might prove to be a stumbling job for the new film. Those who've seen the original will remember the integral part that Guy Gibson's dog plays in the film. Whilst calling a jet black labrador "Nigger" may have seemed hilarious in the 1940s, I'm not sure it'll go down too well with the modern day film buff.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Zeus and Hitzefrei

When I went to school in germany, the skies were often dark, overcast, and the weather cold. After all I was living on the same latitude as London but so far east that we poland was only a short ride away. In this ubiquitous cold the german school authority passed a great law called "Hitzefrei" literally "heat free". If the mercury rose to above 22 C by 11, school was dismissed at noon. The idea was that such beautiful days are so rare, that its more educational for the children to be outside and actually experience the heat - something we were rarely able to do.

What with global warming, the green house effect, and people tampering with the schools thermometer, the Berlin municipality raised the threshold to 25 deg C. But the principle is the same.

Why am I mentioning this obscure German law? because the weather today is as beautiful as it is fleeting. Springtime sunshine, scantily clad undergrads withOUT frost bitten pasty skin, blue bells: these are all rarities in the northeast, and as such I believe - just as the berlin municipality did - that I cane learn from these things.

Hence I bid you all a shabbat-shalom! enjoy the day of rest and give thanks to Zeus the god who controlls the weather.

Friday feeling

As Jim1 has pointed out, the weather today is outstanding. Durham looked beautiful on the way in to work this morning. I might be stuck in OC320, but the view is good, the paper is coming along, and the weekend is nearly here.

In other news, Josh Simon has come back with the tilted ring modelling of the simulation. Seems to have found exactly what I did with my crappy (or maybe not so crappy!) mock-spectroscopy code. The simulated data might prove to be the limiting factor for this project - this weekend I'll give it some thought, because I still think we could bust some heads (in a spiritual sense) with this project.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


So, we barrel at full speed towards the conclusion of yet another week of astronomy. I've been pretty focussed of late, hence the lack of blog activity! Am hoping that the current revision of the preheating paper will be the final one before it gets the official overhaul from Carlos, and maybe Julio and Frazer too. Will certainly feel a lot more confident to have a publication under the belt, even if it sinks without a trace on the citations front.

Been an interesting week - Jim2's play on Tueday was an enjoyable deviation. His Kansas accent will remain with me to the grave (think "ain't geddin on no plane, foo"). Last night saw the third installment of whisky club, which was greatly enjoyable to host. There were mixed feelings this morning over the issue of the third bottle. Noam in particular seemed to suffer - still we got to nail a load of Bowmore again which can't be bad.

Today's highlight was the opening of the eScience Research Institute (is every new university building an institute these days?) by Sir David King, the government's chief scientific advisor. Adrian, Phil, Carlton and I went over with some posters and were flatly ignored, but he gave an interesting address. Clearly a sharp bod. Carlton and I made short work of the food they'd laid on.

Right - tonight and Friday need serious nose-to-grindstone efforts to get the paper finished. I'm feeling motivated but tired. I think I'll put some Bachmann Turner Overdrive on my iPod....