Posts from 17th September 2004

17
Sep 04

Bush vs Kerry : THE SCIENCE CHRONICLES

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Bush vs Kerry : THE SCIENCE CHRONICLES

The cover story in this week’s Nature is a political one: Mr. Bush, Mr. Kerry, what is your stance on science? Fifteen questions were posed to each candidate, and their responses (or at least the responses from their respective camps) were printed. Some highlights:

— In addressing the potential dangers of allowing foreign scientist to visit and travel in the USA, both candidates played the national security card. Yes, in principle, they should be able to expedite the visa applications for legitimate scientists while still filtering out those who might pose a reasonable security risk. In practice, this is failing miserably. It is becoming well known in the scientific community that the US border is becoming increasingly impenetrable for many non-Europeans, particularly Asians, as their visa applications get caught up in endless quantities of red tape.

— Q: Do you support research into new nuclear weapons designs in the US? (excerpted answers follow)
Kerry: I would end the pursuit of a new generation of nuclear weapons.
Bush: The Nuclear Posture Review released by my administration in January 2002 noted that the nation’s nuclear infrastructure had atrophied since the end of the cold war and that the evolving security environment requires a flexible and responsive weapons-complex infrastructure. To that end, my fiscal-year 2005 reflects an increase over 2004 in weapons activities.

In other words, it appears that Bush wants to step up nuclear weapons development and readiness to Cold War levels. This is scary.

— On a personal interest note, both candidates pledged not to sacrifice funding for the environmental and physical sciences in favour of medical research. Big bonus points to Kerry for also pledging to double the number of NSF graduate scholarships in maths and sciences.

— Kerry supports the Endangered Species Act. Bush thinks “we need to modernize the act”. It’s like Kyoto all over again.

— Kerry thinks the scientific evidence clearly states that global warming is happening. Bush thinks the evidence is still uncertain. This is a case of their “judgements” of the scientific evidence merely falling in line with their politics. The truth is, atmospheric scientists are still very divided on the issue. Politicians will obviously stand behind the data which best suits their agenda.

— Stem Cell Research. OK, most people already know their stances here. Their statements are a bit bizarre. Kerry wants to “lift the ideological restrictions on stem cell research” but wants to do so “while ensuring rigourous ethical oversight”. Um, which is it? Once you’ve told the pro-lifers to shove it, what other ethical overseeing needs to be done?

Part of Bush’s statement takes a grounded tone that was missing in Kerry’s rather exuberant statement : “However, stem cell research is in a very early stage and while it may hold great promise we should not overstate the state of the science, or politicize these issues, because it gives false hope to individuals and families suffering through terrible illnesses”.

It is true enough that anyone who thinks that doctors will be able to grow them a new heart — perhaps in any of our lifetimes — is only kidding themselves. Therefore, from an investment standpoint, boosting stem cell research funds may not be the best practically-minded expenditure at this time. Of course, one could say that about ALL basic research.

Of course “we should not … politicize these issues” = “we don’t want to politicize it if it means misleading families that are suffering from illnesses, but we have no problem politicizing it to get the pro-lifers to vote for us”.

FT Top 100 Films 28: LEON

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FT Top 100 Films
28: LEON

Known in the US as The Professional, a title passed over in the UK due to the long running British thriller series called The Professionals. Whilst Luc Besson’s gun happy bang bang flick had little to do with said C1-5 show, it seemed possible that the audience may have mistake hard faced moppet Natalie Portman for Martin Shaw. A mistake I think you will agree no-one wants to make.

Also not to be confused with Leon The Pig Farmer, an hilarious British comedy whereing the yucks come from a London Jew discovering he is actually the off-spring of a pig farmer. KOSHER KALAMITY! Actually seen to be a viable and hopeful British film, Leon The Pig Farmer was like Woody Allen done by Arthur Mullard, the central conceit being as far as the humour went.

But to the actual Leon, a collision between the zip-gun directing style that Besson had essayed in Nikita finding a perfect muse in both Portman and – as the French would have it – supercool Jean Reno. Yet another film trying to convince us that deep down all assassins are just cuddle widdly guys who wants a big huggy-wuggy, it is a stupidly violent film about redemption. Or at least the idea of redemption. It is much happier to play with the toys of the action film (including the remarkably over-the-top baddie) than think of anything original to say.

A mention of that baddie is important I think. This is Gary Oldman’s final bad guy, the one that proved that he had nowhere to go in the evil stakes except pantomime (which is why his role in Harry Potter is so well cast to those who do not know the book). He is a bent cop, so bent infact that straightening would be out of the question. In a film with only three characters, he is the one who is allowed to go all the way and go nuts. It is worth watching for this flappy stomp alone. And it is better than The Professionals AND Leon the Pig Farmer, which might get you out of a video shop bind.

Thankyou Mr Stein

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Thankyou Mr Stein

Halibut is a bugger to cook, I’ve often found, too dry for grilling or baking, to prone to leaking fat for steaming, I’ve often despaired of cooking the bloody stuff successfully, which is a shame, as I’m very fond of it.

However, thanks to the ubiquitous Mr Stein I succeeded last night in leaving it’s flavour intact, whilst also retaining some moisture AND not having great unseemly gobs of fat all over it. The method he suggested, and which I recommend trying is to cover the steaks in olive oil, until they’re completely immersed, then heat the oil very gently until it’s unpleasantly hot to the touch, no more. Then take it off the heat for fifteen minutes and let it cook through in the residual heat (you may, as I did, have to return it briefly to the stove top). When you lift the steaks out and pat them dry, pour the oil carefully from the pan and all sorts of lovely fishy juices will have sunk to the bottom. I had it with cucumber fried with dill and a little wine vinegar. It was jolly nice.

The Emo adventures of Charlie from Busted

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(As drawn when drunk at the Pop Justice 20 Quid Music Prize, and later lettered and cleaned by me – cleaned both physically and one offensive joke about the fella from McFly removed. Though Busted were robbed.)

(With thanks to Steve Mannion for Charlie Busted’s Emo eyebrows.)

Why I Am A Sucker

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Why I Am A Sucker

Our canteen has started stocking Hershey bars. This is presumably because lots of Americans work here. Also lots of dupes like me. Hershey bars are twice as expensive as the good honest Cadbury’s chocolate bars beloved of the tireless English yeoman. They also use worse chocolate and are unsatisfyingly thin. And yet I’m drawn to them. I tell myself it’s the cookie bits (very few non-American products make good use of cookies and/or their dough) but deep down I know better. It’s that old wartime mentality: American brands are oversexed, overpriced and over here, and I can’t help falling for them.

There are posters all over London for an upcoming double bill of White Collar Boxing.

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There are posters all over London for an upcoming double bill of White Collar Boxing. It has nicely been posited as an East End vs West End rumble. The West End event takes place in Mayfair and is billed as “The Black Tie Brawl”, whilst the East End bout is just said to be in Bethnal Green. But hold up, this is white collar boxing. Whilther these faux pretensions at class warfare that seem to have been fed into the mix.

I have a feeling that there will not be much white collar action going down. Rather it is an opportunity for amateur boxers who were a bit tasty in their day to get together after their day job. And dressed up as some form of territorial battle. The East End and the West End, for which read Mayfair, have never been traditional rivals. No-one who lived “up west” existed in the same social world as those who lived in the East End, there was literally no crossover.

This is not the case now. Bethnal Green is full of people who work in the City. Mayfair still has many of the moneyed class that was there beforehand. Perhaps there might be more in common between both areas, perhaps not white collar but doing all right. Those living in Bethnal Green might aspire to have Mayfair lifestyles, suddenly the crossover becomes one of social aspiration vs family money. So maybe the sites make sense after all. Much like settling some strange micro-class warfare with a few rounds of Queensbury Rules. No Boxing But Class Boxing.

MAUL MY MEMORIES II

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MAUL MY MEMORIES II

If I was the sort of person who posted to ILM here is a thread I would post: “Things you knew would be ‘cult bands/albums/records’ the moment you heard them”. The clumsy phrasing of that suggests that I have ‘lost it’ when it comes to creating threads, but still it’s a curious sensation, that simultaneous knowledge that i) this is going to flop badly, ii) but some people will really like it and iii) those people are likely to have the verbals necessary to turn it into some kind of legend, whenever down the line.

One such record is Waiting Rooms by Simon Warner. The first time I heard it I hated it, the second time I decided it was touched with some sort of crazed brilliance. It is very hard to think of a record as downright fruity as this one – a suite of songs about the everyday pleasures of the manic upswing, lavishly (and I mean lavishly) arranged, sung in a throaty roar that makes you think Cope, Walker, Newley. Yes, it’s all *terribly* English. I’m also reminded occasionally of how Eno would write lyrics because they were fun to sing and had the right kind of noises in, when I hear Warner singing lines like “the old girl’s choosy vowels / made me whoop and howl”

(I love that “choosy vowels”, by the way. Keep an eye out, I’ll nick it for Popular sometime.)

There’s a dogged undertow of Britpop which might put you off but I think grounds Warner’s fantasias nicely – gives the cake a base, even if it’s 90% icing. The record was too ridiculous to sell well, and the one single from it – “Wake Up The Streets” – absolutely vanished. Here is it in its radio edit form. It will keep you going until someone more articulate and influential than I forces a reissue in fifteen years’ time.

There is something really satisfying about synchronicity when cooking.

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 237 views

There is something really satisfying about synchronicity when cooking. It was the one thing that my Mum could usually pull off, the roast beef cooked, carved and served with veg and roast potatoes all at the same time (I know know the veg was on far too long and the meat was often bolstered heatwise by the gravy – but secrets don’t diminish it). Last night we had a leaving party for one of our flatmates, and whilst the girls sat in the living room watching the fireworks laid on ot near Thamesmead, us men were busy in the kitchen making a selection of Tapas.

Nothing made was hard to do. Possibly the most technically difficult thing was the Tortilla, but I’ve made that so many times its down to an art. On went the potatoes and in a seperate poan the tomatoes (oil, vinegar, sugar and chilli) for Patas Bravas. Asparagus what drizzled and whapped under the grill. Garlic and butter went in the pan for some fat lovin’ mushroom and the mixed chorizo was sliced and lovingly prepared on a plate. Everything depended on the tortilla. Just when the egg started firming, I tossed the bugger, reserved the bravas sauce andput on another pan to fry the chorizo with red wine. Sauteed the potatoes, fired the grill, finished off the mushrooms. Then came the steady stream of plates from the kitchen:
Garlic Mushrooms
Asparagus
Mixed ham and chorizo
Chargrilled asparagus
Patas Bravas
Queso (I had some Manchego left over)
Corizo in red wine
and the wonderfully bloomy tortilla.

There is something of the “too many presents at Christmas” syndrome to watch peoples eyes in this scenario. Along with the hunks of bread, it all went down a treat. I even got the first inch out in over a year and taught a Belle and Sebastian dyed int he wool indieist to love Busted! Hmm, synchronicity.

A guy spends months on ILX being forced to talk about boring stuff like music and sex…

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A guy spends months on ILX being forced to talk about boring stuff like music and sex without any respite*. Then, out of all that gloom*, emerges not one, but TWO science threads in the same day**.
Qaballah — Classic or Dud

Parallels Between Music and Science

* just kidding
** joke’s over

On a completely unrelated note, there was an article in last week’s Nature dealing with the potentialities of widespread access to scientific journals after a certain number of months following their initial publication. In other words : FREE access to scientific literature for one and all. I plan to write something about it, but I’m still unsure about what exactly my position is.