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I'm in Leuven, Belgium at the moment for a massive stars conference (that's a conference about massive stars, not a massive conference...). It seems remarkably civilised - it's cheaper to get to Leuven from Northampton by train than to Edinburgh, everyone cycles everywhere (but not on the pavement, which is nice for an obligate pedestrian like me), solar panels on roofs are as common as satellite dishes in England, and there are three vegan restaurants, one of which made me the best salad I've even eaten in my life this evening.

Moving

Apr. 8th, 2017 12:44 pm
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This is where my lj as vyvyan has moved to (as someone else has the username vyvyan here, annoyingly). I'll delete the lj once everything has finished being imported over, which will probably be in a couple of weeks by the look of it now! Weirdly, Dreamwidth had imported the bulk of my old entries earlier today, but seemed to be getting stuck on a subset of them from mid-2002, and eventually gave up. Seems to be something to do with old encodings before Unicode (but I don't know why it happily imported entries from late 2001 to early 2002 in that case), so I've changed a setting in lj and restarted the import...
vyvyanx: (moonlight)
vyvyanx.dreamwidth.org (because vyvyan is taken)

Green

Oct. 31st, 2013 11:08 pm
vyvyanx: (moonlight)
Is it just me, or has LJ just become unpleasantly green for everyone?
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I note with interest and amusement that the 4 areas outside London that voted yes to AV were Cambridge, Oxford, Edinburgh (Central) and Glasgow (Kelvin). (The 6 London areas were Camden, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark, but I don't know enough about London to venture any suggestion about what might link them. Brighton and Hove came within a whisker of it as well, with 49.9% voting yes. There are 440 areas.)
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So, who's going to Eastercon next week?
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Just seen 127 Hours - it was really good, but probably the only film I've ever seen which brought me close both to tears and throwing up! Possibly [livejournal.com profile] auntysarah would like it (it's about a canyon-climbing accident).

Plug

Dec. 6th, 2010 01:36 pm
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If you've got a couple of spare minutes to listen to some strange music O's recently been working on, visit http://www.reverbnation.com/hjdoom - I particularly like "HumansAreADisease".

(Be warned - he's wearing a horrifying mask in the photo...)
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Today my long-delayed birthday present to O arrived at last: an electric ukulele! He's been gleefully playing George Formby numbers with high distortion...
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Our cat Tarmac is dead.
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In a tutorial tonight, I was particularly amused by the phrase, uttered by our tutor: our old friend the infinitely long cylindrical solenoid.
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I like this interactive policy display site: http://voteforpolicies.org.uk/survey/select
It gives short, almost unedited policy selections from the six largest parties (in England) on between four and nine topics of your choice, but without revealing which party is responsible for each. At the end it tells you the party breakdown of your preferred policy bundles. It also provides some interesting results on the "winning" policies across all people who have taken the survey.
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"It's much easier to get a plane to fly itself than it is to get a robot to fold a towel."

In other news, back from Eastercon, which was particularly awesome this year. Iain Banks, Ben Goldacre, Mitch Benn, explosions, Old Rosie, film previews from the SF London film festival, talks on fusion power, Herschel, non-Euclidean geometry, allergies, climate change scepticism and the ethics of Dollhouse. Among many other things.
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If anyone wants to join me, I'll be going to see a screening of Age of Stupid at Cambridge Arts Picturehouse at 6pm this evening, followed by Q&A with Tony Juniper, Green Party candidate at the forthcoming general election, and Lizzie Gillett, producer of the film.

Elluminate

Feb. 24th, 2010 08:42 pm
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In spite of the lack of flying cars etc., right now I feel like I'm really living in the future. I just participated in an interactive online OU tutorial (on the Riemann tensor), with students from Cornwall to Edinburgh, in which we were able to listen to our tutor, answer and ask questions in a text window, read and write on a shared whiteboard, respond to instant polls, and communicate our happiness/confusion/whatever via temporary emoticons. The whole thing required no more specialised equipment than a computer and headphones, and could be saved for later viewing. I liked the experience very much, and expect this sort of thing to only improve as time goes on. Already though, it reminds me of old SF descriptions of futuristic education.
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Since Thursday I've been away at the Green Party conference in Finchley. I also took the opportunity to visit [livejournal.com profile] palmer1984 and go to her Crisis of Capitalism party on Saturday night, at [livejournal.com profile] farnam's house. Although the party was excellent, a drunken error in the setting of an alarm meant that I failed to wake up in time on Sunday to get to the last plenary session at conference, but a members' conference report indicates that all went well anyway.

The main result is that the Green Party have reformed much of their science and health related policy, particularly in areas that people I know have been concerned about. So, the pledge for scientists has been removed. A full review of the science chapter of our main policy document (previously called Manifesto for a Sustainable Society, newly renamed as Policies for a Sustainable Society to reduce confusion with specific election manifestos) has been agreed, and will take place over the next year or two, eventually coming to conference as a voting paper. The policy on animal research no longer makes such controversial claims about the scientific value of specific types of research, focusing instead on ethical arguments. In the health chapter, all specific references to approval for "alternative medicine" and "alternative therapies" have been removed, and such things are now required to meet the same standards of safety and effectiveness as conventional medicine and therapies.

Most excitingly for me, the ban on embryonic stem cell research has been removed, and that part of the policy document has been replaced with a section which I wrote! While I was involved in earlier discussion on policy mailing lists of several of the other measures mentioned here, and added my name in support of the motions so that they were able to be brought to conference, it is very likely that they would have gone through anyway, since there were many others acting on those issues. However, on the stem cell issue, if I had not joined the party last year, joined the relevant policy lists, and pushed to get this part of the health chapter changed, I think the party would still have a ban on embryonic stem cell research. I ended up (on the Health list last year) discussing the circumstances under which the ban was set in place (in 2001 or so) with the person who drafted it, researching the current state of regulation etc., and persuading that person (and others on the list) that it needed revisiting. I suggested an alternative wording of the section which acknowledged the previous concerns of some members, and it ended up being put forward as an amendment to the Health chapter (alongside 28 others!) at conference. At the relevant workshop to discuss policy in a small group prior to plenary voting, I was delighted by strong support for the amendment from other members, most of whom seemed angry that the ban was part of Green policy in the first place. Unfortunately, conference ran out of time to debate all the amendments to the Health policy on Saturday, when it was scheduled to take place, and the last few were carried over to be debated in remaining business on Sunday morning. Since the stem cell amendment was number 28 of 29, I was unable to be present when it was debated and voted upon. But it went through anyway!

Here's a few recent mentions of these issues elsewhere:
Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/search?q=%23gpconf (scroll down a couple of pages to see people rejoicing over the stem cell bit in particular)
Alasdair Thompson's blog: http://brightgreenscotland.org/index.php/2010/02/green-party-conference-days-34-a-sensible-health-policy/ (he was present at the relevant plenary session on Sunday)
Jim Jepps' blog: http://jimjay.blogspot.com/2010/02/green-party-conference-animals-science.html (he was also present when the various policies were voted on)

I'm so pleased. A large part of my reason for joining the Green Party (rather than just continuing to be a more passive supporter) was to try to get these sorts of policies improved, and now they have been.
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Well, I had my exams yesterday, after some pretty intense weeks of revision. Maths in the morning, quantum physics in the afternoon. An hour's walk to the exam centre (Wolfson College), six hours of exams, hour's walk back. I was tired enough after that! Still, I think they went quite well. Electromagnetism, relativity and astrophysics next year.

O still has his exam to look forward to next week, heh.
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O and I have just (yesterday evening) got back from the University of Sussex campus at Falmer near Brighton, where we spent a week doing Open University residential schools (me on quantum physics, him on psychology). I had a pretty good time. The campus is really pleasant, with an abundance of unafraid wildlife: huge gulls and crows, squirrels, rabbits hopping beside the paths, and even a pair of foxes chasing each other around near the East Side bar one night. The place was very keen on its green credentials: loads of recycling facilities, energy-efficient buildings and appliances etc., and the food was delicious, with a range of nutritious things available even for O (who is both vegetarian and coeliac).

I got to carry out a number of interesting experiments involving electron and X-ray diffraction, spectroscopy, radioactive decay, optical pumping, and simulations of quantum measurements, among other things (about 30 hours in the lab over the week). There were also a number of lectures and small-group problem sessions. Downsides: unfortunately I caught a rather bad cold, which manifested itself on Sunday night, reached its peak on Tuesday morning (when a sadistic tutor divided us into threes and got us to compete to answer QM exam questions as quickly as possible) and is only really gone today. Also, my lab partner pretty much all week was a very elderly chap (well over 70, I'd guess) who wasn't senile but was very slow in catching on to what we had to do, and kept copying my lab book because he couldn't understand the experiments. He was also quite deaf and had poorer eyesight than me, so I often had to repeat explanations several times, or make observations without a secondary check (e.g. the spectroscopy) because he simply couldn't see the relevant thing. This sort of thing was quite frustrating, and I'd rather the tutors had made us change partners each day (as happened at my residential in Durham last year).

Back home, I've checked on our plants: the tomato plants are thriving, and bending under the weight of fruit (we'll need to fasten them to canes shortly, I think). The chili plant is growing numerous green chilies; the aubergine plant has grown one medium sized aubergine and has several more flowers; the courgette plant seems to have suffered a bit from lack of water over the week (it only got watered once, apparently) but should pull through. Next year we'll grow courgettes from seed in the greenhouse and then plant them outside, so they get enough water. The end of the garden is also filled with ripening apples and blackcurrants.
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