Saturday, 20 February 2010

multiple updates

Beard: the verdict is that it suits me. I find it difficult to resist the urge to constantly touch it. No one else seems to share this urge, however. Probably just as well (though I admit to being a tad disappointed...)

iPad: except for the name, the lack of multi-user accounts, multi-tasking, and a front-facing camera for video chat, it is another item that I would find difficult to resist. Multi-tasking could be a deal-breaker, because when traveling, I need to be able to access web-based databases *and* word documents simultaneously (Apple - if you’re reading this: at NIH committee we need to access the online database and simultaneously our notes on the grants we’re commenting on). Apple do many things very well, but they are in danger of forgetting that people multitask, and they need equipment that can multitask with them.

Gaggia: My Gaggia bean-to-cup espresso machine, unlike the iPad, does multitask. It can simultaneously make coffee and leak. Probably, this is an example of multitasking that I could do without. A dose of descaler and a quick prod around the seals with a couple of cotton buds did the trick. But only for an all-too-brief 24 hours. Will need to take a screwdriver to it. Delonghi have offered to step in and help out with a heavily discounted replacement. With luck, and although negotiations are ongoing, they will become official lab sponsors. If only Apple were as approachable as Delonghi...

iPond: Having managed to kill the larger fish in my pond by not clearing the ice off quickly enough (turns out it doesn’t take long), I’ve now installed a pond heater. It’s nothing fancy - just an electric kettle that I dropped into the pond with a longer-than-usual cable feeding into a power-supply. Ok, maybe not an electric kettle... but it does stop the ice covering the entire pond, and so allows the gases that would otherwise accumulate to escape the pond. So when the temperature looks like it’s going to drop, I have to throw the thing in (it’s attached to a polystyrene float), and hope that the fish prefer being lightly broiled than slowly gassed. Needless to say, the running costs of a 600 watt heater are not insignificant, and the lights in the houses all around do noticeably dim as soon as I switch the thing on.

The Olympics: I returned from my US trip in buoyant spirits, brought about not simply by the terrific time I had in San Diego, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, but by the fact that, unlike previous trips, I had returned with my health intact. I got back last Friday. I lasted 6 days. And then the cold hit me. And whereas the iPad believes that streaming is something to do with video, my nose believes it is something else, and is on a mission to use up the world’s entire resource of disposable tissues in as short a time as possible. If streaming were an Olympic sport, my nose would be up there on the winner’s podium.

Research: A rash of new data has hit the lab. Unlike other rashes, this is a good one.

The Journal: A rash of new submissions has hit the journal. Like other rashes, this may require medication. Or plenty of alcohol.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

snow and coffee sometimes mix...

I’m currently in Philadelphia, having arrived two days later than planned because of a snow storm that deposited an officially measured 28 inches of snow on Philadelphia, prompting the closure of its airport, train station, and pretty much all other forms of access. Washington DC had it worse - they had 32 inches, and great swathes of the metropolis and its environs (whatever those are) went without electricity for a day or two. The last time I recall a city being brought to a standstill by snow, it was London. Everything came to a grinding halt. Buses, trains, planes, even the underground. I think the official figure for the snowfall was a half-inch.

So.. Philadelphia... home to the Declaration of Independence, the Liberty Bell, the finest coffee shop in the world, and, matching the quality of the coffee, the finest brain imaging I’ve ever become involved with (oh wait, it’s the only brain imaging I’ve ever been involved with. Well... it’s damned fine all the same! [you have to imagine that last sentence uttered in a very aristocratic British accent. Otherwise it simply doesn’t work]).

Am due to fly back on Wednesday night. Back to a pond that is bereft of the larger of its fish, as well as its pump (it broke, again... but Oase who make it have amazingly good customer service). A new pump awaits me, and will go in at the weekend. In the meantime, I hear that more snow is expected. But so long as I can get to La Colombe (coffee-heaven), I shall not care.