Don’t knock the flu jab, says @jennyrohn, it’s a freakin’* modern miracle

(*She didn’t actually say “freakin’”)


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Plan B: Inbox Zero

This is something that I have considered from time to time but never quite got around to it: getting control of email. My inbox has bloated to 27,589 messages (even after deleting pretty much everything before 2008) so I am thinking once again of getting a grip.

The present move was triggered by a tweet last week from Kate Clancy:

who seems to have wrestled her email to the ground and kindly revealed her secret: Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero web-site. I’ve watched the video and read the accompanying articles listed there and am gearing up to act. I swear I am. I’m posting this here so that I remember what I committed to and will know where to go should my resolve falter.

Wish me luck.

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Graphic Novel Recommendations for a 10 year old

My 10 year old nephew’s birthday has come and gone and I still owe him a birthday present. Rather than add further to his collection of video games, I thought about a buying him a graphic novel but didn’t know where to start.

So I took to twitter. I got lots of good suggestions and was going to Storify them but I couldn’t work out an easy way to transfer the twitter conversation into Storify. Then, having transferred most of the tweets manually, I somehow lost the edit and didn’t have the will to start over. So here, with minimal attribution alas, are the titles that people suggested. 


Asterix (topical, since there is a brand new book out this week)

Maus (by Art Spiegelman)

Margaret Hung pointed me to a long list.

Calvin & Hobbes

Luke Pearson’s Hilda books


Axe Cop


Watchmen (I had my doubts about that one — a bit unrelentingly grim)

Ultimate Spider-man,  Ultimate X-men & Ultimate Marvel generally

The Rainbow Orchid series

Wimpy Kid

My thanks to all who responded. You may be able to see the conversation on twitter by following this link



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The Moon landing in real time

For as long as the human species persists, it will remember the events of July 20th, 1969. On that day humankind reached a milestone in its evolution by landing two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of another world — the Moon.

The event is beyond famous, even for those who were not alive at the time. I would have been five years old but have no recollection of that first landing, though do vaguely remember the reporting of later missions, since NASA’s Apollo program continued until the end of 1972.


Screenshot from

We have all heard Armstrong’s immortal words and seen the grainy footage but a website put together by Thamtech LLC now allows you to follow the drama of the final 20 minutes of the descent to the lunar surface, watching out of the window of the lunar module and listening in to the radio chatter between the control room in Houston, Armstrong and Aldrin in the Eagle and Mike Collins in the command module orbiting the Earth.

The voices are remarkably calm given the momentousness of the occasion, the tripping of alarms in the Eagle and the fact that the astronauts touched down with less than 30 seconds of fuel remaining. Some listeners might be put off by the impenetrable jargon in the exchanges between the astronauts and ground control but I was captivated: this was history in the making.

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Top five regrets of the dying

It is a few weeks old but this piece in the Guardian — Top five regrets of the dying — is one of those articles that are always worth returning to.

The article, based on a book of the same name by an Australian palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, simply summarises the insights that have struck closest to home among people who know they are facing their last days.

As we rush through the hurly-burly of life, we lose sight too easily of the big picture amid the distracting demands of the daily round. It is important to pause from time to time. This simple article helps us to do that.

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A commonplace blog

This is an old idea in a modern form. Since the 15th Century the commonplace book has acted a scrapbook of ideas — a place where the noteworthy can be noted.

These notes were mostly, I suppose, for personal consumption but such selfishness is out of tune with the 21st Century mania for sharing, which is itself a source of much that is noteworthy. My only problem is that the accelerating stream of blogs and tweets is too fast for my mind and memory to keep up. So I hope to capture and remember the brighter points of interest here — in very brief posts for the most part. The motivation may be primarily self-serving but, since it is easy to make my notes in a public way, I am happy to share.

This blog actually started out on Posterous a couple of years ago as a place to do quick posts about photos or items that would not fit on my science blogs at Occam’s Typewriter or Occam’s Corner. But the imminent closure of Posterous has precipitated a mutation — this is evolution in action. I hope it might be interesting.

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Lens Test – can you help?

I recently bought a Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC HSM Optical Stabilised Lens for my Canon 600D Digital SLR Camera. Some of the reviews on Amazon made it clear that, with such a long zoom range, there would be some compromise on image quality; but overall the lens got a good rating. 

I’ve had the lens for a few months now. While I like the flexibility of the zoom range (I’m not serious enough to want to carry around additional lenses), I’m not so happy with the image quality. But I can’t tell if this is due to the fact that the lens is a compromise or that I’ve been been sent a faulty model.

Below are three photos that show the nature of the problem — generally a halo or soft-focus effect around sharp edges. Admittedly it’s mostly apparent when displaying the images at their maximum size in flickr, but I’d like to know if this is typical. If you have any idea, I’d appreciate a comment. 


London Eye 4

London Eye – vislible ‘glow’ around the struts.(Large size)


Seagull – chromatic aberration around the top of the bird’s head? (Large size)


Roof Repairs

Roof repairs – again, an unintended soft-focus effect? (Large size)


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