June 30, 2005
Google Sightseeing (motto: Why bother seeing the world for real?) points out some of the amazing things that can be seen in Google's sat photos. Aircraft, architecture and war are all clearly visible here.
Posted by daen at 03:32 PM
June 29, 2005
You. Are. Joking.
Reagan voted 'greatest American'. I mean, what?
That list in full.
I mean, Lincoln, yes ; Martin Luther King, yes ; Washington, of course ; Ben Franklin, certainly ; Roosevelt, Presley, yeah, OK. But Oprah? GWB? Clinton? REAGAN?!?!
OK, let's see some other candidates, folks ...
The Wright Brothers
J P Morgan
Ulysses S Grant
George Washington Carver
Booker T. Washington
Alexander Graham Bell
Dwight D. Eisenhower
William Randolph Hearst
Frank Lloyd Wright
Any of the people above, some controversial, some not, have just as great a claim to greatness than Oprah, bless her, don't they?
2.4 million people (Discovery Channel viewers and AOL users ... hmm) voted on this, and most of them should be ashamed. This is a daft populist quiz, no more nor less, and reflects on the US's fascination with the glib and superficial.
Posted by daen at 12:57 AM
June 24, 2005
Sankt Hans Aften 2005
Beautiful evening last night, perfect for watching the sun go down on Tisvilde Strand.
Posted by daen at 10:44 AM
June 23, 2005
Rockall : pwned
They did it. Rockall, long the last outpost of barbarism, has been conquered by tobacco-bearing, radio equipment-wielding lunatics all in the name of charity. Well done to All Baker, Moff Betts, Angus Budge, James Cameron (no, not that one), John Cunningham, Lester Haines, Trevor Lockie, Wolfgang Schaub, Ian Trumpness and Dave Wood.
We're now off to the pub to take onboard huge amounts of yeast logic fuel. Here are some pictures of Rockall Ho! 2005. Look on in awe and wonder as the words of our prize-winning Rockall haiku pay homage to the sacred islet:
mighty she stands, dripping spume
Update: I shall be wearing a Rockall T-shirt at the company fencing outing on Friday 24th. Expect photos of the slashed, blood-flecked garment here later.
Posted by daen at 10:59 AM
June 22, 2005
The hat-trick ...
OK, we got the Schering AG deal yesterday (pdf).
And still they keep coming ...
Big Pharma companies are more than ever anxious to find viable lead compounds and consequently are keen to make use of technologies which will give them any kind of an edge, against the targets themselves and the competition. Which is where companies like Nuevolution come into the picture. We claim to be able to find high-affinity binders for pretty much any target you can give us in a timespan measured in months rather than years. I don't know much biology (or chemistry) but from what I can glean from some of the smart cookies at Nuevo, we have developed original - and functional - technology over the last four years in order to do this (including some stunningly impressive software ...)
For me, the really interesting part right now is managing all the data which will inevitably spin off from these collaborations, and keeping it in its rightful place. Fortunately, with enough planning and some careful design and development, delivering this kind of partitioning and security isn't as much of a headache as it was 10 years ago.
Posted by daen at 12:52 AM
Summer on Fyn
Just back from a short break on Fyn (Denmark's middle island). Beautiful weather and wonderful landscape.
Posted by daen at 12:48 AM
June 21, 2005
Australians in freak wombat crash
The Beeb sometimes likes to indulge its tabloid side a little. Consider Australians in freak wombat crash. Really.
Two men in south-eastern Australia have survived unharmed after their truck hit a wombat before crashing off the side of a bridge.My friend Simon, who is an Ozzie, once told me that wombats were a serious road hazard. Simon, I'm sorry I didn't believe you. It took the BBC to make me a believer.
Posted by daen at 12:08 PM
June 18, 2005
Delphi, Web Services and statefulness ...
Posted by daen at 11:38 AM
June 17, 2005
Working with JOELib and OpenBabel was rewarding, in the sense of being part of a community, but also somewhat frustrating, in part because the on-going development of those packages is, well, on-going.
I have a problem with Java : not the language itself, but rather the need to maintain different oh so many JRE installations depending on the software developers or vendors involved. And maybe I'm just not paying attention enough or I'm looking in the wrong places, but I can't get decent performance out of Java on my Windows XP box, or find IDE tools that I can get along with. If anybody has any ideas why my experience has been so negative, please let me know. Maybe I'm just too lazy or dumb.
We finally went for MDL's software. I like it.
The new V3000 molfiles that MDL/Draw produces contain enhanced stereochemistry information, allowing you to handle unknown, known relative and known absolute stereocentres.
The Direct Oracle cartridges (molecule and reaction) allow you to do substructure searches and so-called flexmatch (similarity) searches directly through SQL. You can get molecules highlighted back from the query. These are the newer parts, actually core elements of Isentris, the replacement for ISIS. The older ISIS components (ISIS/Host, ISIS/Base) look a little tired compared to this whizzy stuff.
The real crown jewels for us are Cheshire and the Cheshire Business Rules Manager (CBRM). Cheshire is a set of tools for handling molecules and reactions in silico, comprising an IDE and an engine driven by a rich and powerful Java-like interpreted language. Cheshire acts on collections, primarily, and uses iterators to traverse them. This is all very sensible and grown up. You can join molecules, delete atoms or bonds, alter stereochemistry information, perform transforms or reactions on molecules or groups of molecules according to templates. In short, everything we needed to do can be done with Cheshire.
The CBRM is a repository for Cheshire scripts, and allows multiple "activation tags" to be associated with each script. So every script in the repository might be associated with the "test" tag, but only those to do with enumerating peptide bonds would be associated with the "enum_peptides" tag. An ActiveX control is provided which lets you programmatically load scripts for a particular activation tag, check and correct molecules, and determine the applied rules.
The CBRM ActiveX control has an annoying bug, which is that it will only work properly under the "US English" (or generally English) regional settings. This is because of the "," and "." being swapped around for decimal places in Denmark, France etc. Very annoying, actually.
My impression after one month of working with the MDL tools is that the software is of high quality, regionalization bugs aside, and the documentation of a very high standard. If you buy ISIS/Host, MDL/Draw, Cheshire, CBRM and the Direct cartridges, you are looking at getting through a good three reams of double sided print if you hard copy all the documentation - which I like to do.
There's one niggle with the 840 page Cheshire manual - there are no contents pages! This might seem like a small detail, but it really isn't. I have had to attach small PostIt notes to mark the chapter divisions. The index is comprehensive, but of course doesn't tell you where the section on atom constants starts, for example.
Other niggles. MDL/Draw doesn't include the sequence editor that ISIS/Draw has. You have to edit the XML config file to get some of the more useful out-of-the-box MDL/Draw functionality working (Sgroup data attachments, for example, and the extended stereochemistry handling). CBRM Administrator context help (actually, any help) is non-existent. Cheshire strips atom aliases (A type fields) from molfiles. Boo.
But these relatively minor things aside, the MDL software will allow us to seriously punch above our weight when it comes to handling our cheminformatics data.
Was it cheap? No. Don't ask. But I believe we would have been hard pressed to get to the same place any other way in the timescale we have to work in (three months) and with the resources we have to work with (two developers).
Posted by daen at 12:42 AM
June 16, 2005
Happy 101st Bloomsday
June 16th is Bloomsday. Which is today.
Posted by daen at 01:25 AM
June 15, 2005
They shoot ... they score!
Now, how about a hat trick for July ...?
Posted by daen at 09:30 PM
Open letter to Googlers
"wot is the river running through paris called"?
What are you looking for in my blog that might act as a balm to your obviously fevered brows(-e)?
Posted by daen at 02:23 PM
June 14, 2005
So, farewell to Fleet Street
The Beeb reports that tomorrow Reuters moves from its 85 Fleet Street address, which has been its home for 66 years, to 30 South Colonnade, Canary Wharf.
The Old Cheshire Cheese is worth a visit, if you do get to Fleet Street, but mind your head if you go down to the cellar, and don't drink so much that you become befuddled and get lost. Rumour has it that a tour party from Atlantic City partook of too much Directors ale one lunchtime in 1988, became hopelessly confused, took a wrong turn and are still trying to get back to the tour bus. At every new moon, regulars report hearing "Gosh darn, Edie, if I told ya once, I told ya a thousand times, this ain't the way out" and catching a spectral glimpse of a large florid-complectioned retired man wearing shorts, a tee-shirt and clutching a handful of maps and a Nikon camera, his small henna-haired sunglasses-wearing wife meekly in tow.
Posted by daen at 10:09 PM
First records ...
I'm re-reading Giles Smith's excellent book Lost In Music. Giles talks about the first record he ever bought (which he variously recalls as Let It Be or I Saw a Mouse, among others).
The first record I ever bought for money was Black Man Ray by China Crisis. The first record I had given to me by someone who was not family was Closest Thing To Heaven by the Kane Gang. Good solid 80s fare.
According to Martin Newton's excellent UK chart hits website for July 1984, Closest Thing To Heaven was in the UK charts along with Neil's Hole In My Shoe, Shakatak's Down On The Street and Blancmange's The Day Before You Came. Jesus.
The China Crisis single entered the charts in March 1985, the same time as Madonna's Material Girl, Alison Moyet's That Ole Devil Called Love and the Rah Band's Clouds Across The Moon (great song).
Martin Newton has more UK chart info here going back to November 1952!
Posted by daen at 01:57 PM
Posted by daen at 12:39 PM
June 09, 2005
reboot7, an annual gathering of the digicultural clan chieftains, if you like, starts tomorrow here in Copenhagen. I'm not going myself, but I will be keeping a lookout for Cory Doctorow and others around town. If I bump into them, I will offer to stand them a round at Charlie's Bar. Generous or wot?
Posted by daen at 01:21 PM
The Downing Street Memo
"Bush wanted," according to the British intelligence chief -- fresh back from a trip to the White House -- "to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and [weapons of mass destruction]. But the intelligence and facts," the memo continued, "were being fixed around the policy."
Posted by daen at 01:10 PM
June 08, 2005
Martin Newell's Blog
I caught up with Martin Newell (poet, author, musician, all round Renaissance Man and gardener) in Wivenhoe a couple of weekends ago. The conversation was scintillating:
Me: Hiya Martin! Martin: Hiya .. eh .. Thingy! I've got a blog now!
He does indeed have a blog and I have just started to read it. It is very funny. Do yourself a favour, stop worrying about the Euro, or the World Cup Qualifiers, or taking Fido to the vet, or whatever, and read it yourself.
On the French "Non"/Dutch "Nee" to the European Constitution:
When we've smashed Europe to bits and all started to live a bit more patriotically in the American way, I'd like you all to think about this. Especially money. I don't think we should say goodbye to our dear money. I would certainly cry myself to sleep if I thought that our Queeeeen wasn't going to be on the grubby notes I useevery Friday night to pay for lager, turnips and french-ticklers. It would be the end of an era. I'm not sure which one though. I'll have to look it up in the Guinness Book Of Ended Eras.
Posted by daen at 11:20 PM
Arson attack on immigration minister's home
There's some strange goings-on in Denmark right now.
In April, a young man was gunned down with a machine gun in Christianshavn, in front of a number of horrified bystanders, apparently over a drug deal that went wrong.
Last week a doorman at Club Rust, a nightclub in Nørrebro, shot and killed a young man and seriously injured his older brother. The brothers have been implicated in various drugs-related criminal activity in Copenhagen, possibly the killing in Christianshavn. Threats have been made against the family of the doorman, an Imam has suggested that blood money be paid to the family of the dead young man, and much confusion still surrounds exactly what happened outside Rust.
Now, a particularly nasty attack on the home of the immigration minister Rikke Hvilshøj has left her car burnt out and her family no doubt shocked and scared. A group calling itself "Beate Without Limits" has claimed responsibility, citing Denmark's overly-restrictive immigration laws as motivation for the attack, and police are scratching their heads over who these people are.
Posted by daen at 09:56 PM
In their own words Uncyclopedia is
the content-free encyclopedia that anyone can edit
Entries are whimsical and some are more true than they would like us to believe. For example, consider the entry on hand waving.
Hand waving is the most important part of calculus. The idea is to pretend that arguments with holes are valid and rigorous.
There are many techniques for hand waving calculus. The first is loud speech. Loud speech allows you to say things without anybody talking back, for fear they will get yelled at. The second is triviality arguments. In this, you say, "Proof is trivial". Usually people will accept you without looking at this themselves. A closely related method is obviousity arguments. In support of some step, you say it is "obvious" or "clear", etc. An expanded version of this method is "The proof is left to the reader (or student.)" As the reader or student has more important priorities, no one will care to check things out. Another method is to make references to obscure, not necessarily related theorems, and connect the start and end of your argument to these references. This will give the illusion of causal contiguity.
As you know, mathematics cannot proceed without rigor. This makes things slow. With hand waving calculus, we can proceed much faster and in fact can prove many things that it was impossible to prove before. The key concept is that there is an illusion of rigor while it is not really present, so people accept it.
Posted by daen at 09:30 PM
June 06, 2005
Wivenhodyssey part 2
Note : you might want to read part 1 first.
Sunday 22 May 2005
08:30 (BST) Extraordinarily, wake up feeling quite chipper and not at all like a bear has pooed in my mouth. I shower, dress and head down for breakfast.
09:00 Breakfast. In the dining room. Which, for reasons only known to the owners of this fine 14th century ex-coaching inn with oak-beamed walls has a carpet with a black background and ranks of vividly coloured playing cards on it. One wall is a smoky, dented mirror. The overall impression is of a very unsuccessful nightclub, or a dining room in a hotel which hasn't been redecorated since 1983. The food is OK-to-bland - sausage, egg, bacon, baked beans, mushrooms, toast. The sausage is standard issue cheap, which is a great shame because Procter's in Red Lion Yard sell top notch sausages : take a hint, Rose and Crown, and push the boat out a little.
10:00 Am feeling a little worse for wear (probably the fault of the sausage, don't you know). I go back to the room to sleep for a while longer. I do remember to hang the "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. I sleep, albeit fitfully.
13:00 Awake again, feeling slightly drowsy. I freshen up and head out for a drive this time.
13:15 Lunch at Tescos. Yippee. A cheese sandwich, a chicken salad, and water. I sit and munch in the car park, watching shoppers come and go. SMSs are arriving from Wivenhoe people wondering when I will put in another appearance. I feel I need a quiet drive to steady the nerves, so I set off.
13:30 I head up Boundary Road, intending to go to Lodge Farm. However, it is a no through road, and I have forgotten that the "no through" part is before Lodge Farm. I turn in the University car park and rejoin the depressingly busy Sunday traffic jam.
13:45 I drive along the A133 and take the Wivenhoe turnoff, then turn right at the other end of Boundary Road. I park the car opposite the sports centre and get out.
13:55 Lodge Farm is in parts over 150 years old. When my ex-wife and I kept donkeys in the paddock here, we used parts of the deserted farm buildings for storing feed, donkey toys, tack etc. It pleases me enormously to see that there is little change in its appearance and no sign of the school development which had been in the works some five years previous.
My second favourite tree in the world (next to the cypress tree at Westwood park) looks healthy too. An oak, it rarely produces any acorns.
Two beautiful horses are grazing in the paddock.
I sneak inside for a peek into the old farmyard.
I venture upon some chickens feeding in the farmyard. I don't know who is more surprised, me or them.
I decide to leave : it's one thing to snoop around a deserted farmyard, but quite another to disturb someone's poultry, especially when trespassing. I guess the people living in the house might not be too pleased if I let the chickens out, so I carefully close all the doors on the way out.
I walk around the edge of the field to my oak tree to take one last picture of the wonderful old building.
14:36 I take to the car again and drive to where my parents used to live, now undergoing a rather striking renovation.
15:00 More driving around, and then back to the hotel for a freshen up, and a quick nap.
15:45 A walk into Colchester this time. However, I have forgotten the sparse Sunday timetable as furnished by the Colchester bus companies ... next bus: 1 hour and 15 minutes away!
16:25 So a no-so-short walk to nearby Colchester Town (formerly St Botolph's) railway station, and, no trains on Sunday, either. I offer silent thanks that I live in a civilized city where people start tutting if buses are more than 2 minutes late, and where the average price of a daily ticket is about 80p.
16:35 I take a photo of Dr Chippy's chipshop. Well, I like it.
16:36 Just across the street is the site of St Bololph's priory, named in memory of the trains that used to run at the station of the same name. In fact, St Botolph's was founded around 1100 as the priory of St Julian and St Botolph. St Julian was dropped for having a far too sensible name, and in revenge he directed Henry VIII to destroy many of the communal buildings of the priory in the 1530s. To St Julian's delight, the job was virtually concluded in 1648 during the Siege of Colchester.
My photo campaign of St Julian's revenge complete I catch a bus to Wivenhoe.
17:20 The Park, Wivenhoe (not to be confised with Wivenhoe Park). I walk down to meet Julie and Isabella, then we head for the Black Buoy to meet Colin, Ildiko and assorted others.
The Black Buoy has a better vibe this afternoon, aided by good Chardonnay and no cup final. Much reminiscing again, followed by a tour of Cook's shipyard.
19:58 Cook's shipyard closed in 1986, and has lain dormant ever since. Plans for development, akin to the port site, remain in the pipeline. In fact, the port closed and was redeveloped within 10 years.
The Wivenhoe Encyclopedia contains much of interest about Cook's and other historical Wivenhoe sites.
Beyond Cook's lies the Wivenhoe tidal barrier and the Wivenhoe Yacht Club.
This is the tidal barrier control centre.
The tidal barrier.
Cycnics claim that the building of the tidal barrier raised house prices and lowered the risk of flood damage. In fact, flooding still occurs, such as in the autumn/winter of 2000, so what purpose does the multi-million pound barrier actually server?
20:01 I snap this striking rainbow and its pot of gold apparently marked out by the gravel excavation pit in Fingringhoe ...
The wet dock may become a casualty when the Cook's development finally takes place, although there is strong opposition to its loss, not least of all by the trawlermen.
20:12 I get another snap of a rainbow, this time with St George's banner in full glory - I take nine shots before I get a recognisable St George ...
20:20 A quick curry at the Bengal Spice (good, but not as good as it used to be ...)
21:00 Across to the Greyhound for a final convivial evening. Drinks with Peter, Julie, Hunter, Nick and Rick again, then (saved by the 22:30 bell) out into the night again.
22:35 Feels very strange not to say to everyone "OK, back to my place for a nightcap". I am now a stranger in Wivenhoe, with no home and no claim there save for happy memories. Four of us leave and walk up Park Road. By the time I get to Bellevue Road, I am alone apart from the beer, the curry, happy memories and a taxi to the Rose and Crown.
22:55 Back at the Rose and Crown, I venture into the bar for a swift nightcap. I get talking to the only other inhabitants of the bar, four guys who are there for a clay pigeon shoot the next day. They are quite a bunch of characters : all businessmen from various walks of life ; a renter of chemical toilets ; a builder ; a pie manufacturer ; and a guy who does something in the city. I'm sure there is a link there somewhere. They are very friendly, and stand me a couple of drinks.
00:30 I finally part company with them and head for bed. The bed is comfortable again, although the 04:30 start rather spoils the comfort factor.
13:00 (CET) I am back at work. Did that weekend really happen? Well, it's in my blog, so it must be true.
Posted by daen at 09:19 PM
A Dark Note
The upper limit of the Iraq Body Count has now gone above 25,000.
Posted by daen at 09:05 PM
Thomas Kennedy and Walter Cummins' new book : The Literary Traveller
Thomas Kennedy and Walter Cummins are launching The Literary Traveller on Wednesday June 8th 7pm at Chester's Book Café, Strandade 26, Copenhagen and on Thursday June 9th 5pm at Paludan's Book Café, Fiolstræde 10, Copenhagen.
The book is published by Del Sol Press and is 256 pages in length, price DKK 150.
... set off for an afternoon with J. P. Donleavy in his Irish mansion, to visit the Paris of Hemingway, the Lisbon of Bernardo Soares, Joyce's Dublin and his gravesite in Zurich, the Ionian home of Lefcadio Hearne where Sappho plunged to her death (or did she?), the Victorian pubs of London where Phileas Fogg made his famous wager, Synge's Aran Islands, Voltaire's Ferney, the luxurious abode of Baroness Varvara in Copenhagen, the "secret" erotic shrine of Emanuel Vigeland in Oslo, Robert Graves's Mallorca and the digs and haunts of scores of New York writers. Visit Helsinki, Chicago, Florence, Venice, Slovenia, the Rhine of Goethe and Byron, the Alps, Stonehenge, Oxfordshire, the mysteries of the Yorkshire Dales, and the poets and pubs of Edinburgh's Auld Reekie. Journey with them, off the beaten path, down the narrow alleys, up the mountains, and into the pubs in search of literary history.
Posted by daen at 09:01 PM
June 02, 2005
Bush Scandal Names
Perrspectives recently held a "Name That Bush Scandal Contest". For example, for the Iraq WMD scandal, people suggested Weapon of Mental Deficiency, Wild Nukes Chase and (the winner) Iraq-style Dysfunction.
Posted by daen at 12:02 AM
June 01, 2005
Poem for the aged
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens...
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
-- Jenny Joseph
Posted by daen at 11:21 AM