But we already have that: Nature’s link sharing

There has been much written recently about Nature’s new link-sharing initiative. I am not going to go in depth into how it works, but essentially this allows for the sharing for links by people who already have access to them to those without access. A good summary, with links to numerous other posts (none of which are overly positive) has been written by Jon Tennant. As a friend[1] put it when I described it: “But we already have that”. And that is one of the problems that I have with this. It is not a major step forward. You still need to get a link from someone with access. The only difference is that this is officially sanctioned by the publisher, and can be tracked by them, unlike emailing the author or getting it from a friend. (Cue sarcastic “thank you for letting us share our own research, paid for with government money, for people not lucky enough to have a subscription”?) The addition of some news outlets in the list of people who can generate links is a good move, in my opinion, which I will talk about later. However, why should people need to ask for a link? […]

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Open Access South Africa: Starting a Student Network

Uvania Naidoo (from UCT) and I (from NMMU) attended OpenCon 2014 in Washington DC this November. The conference brought 175 students and early-stage researchers involved in Open Access, Open Data and Open Education together. The Open Movement is driven by the belief that access to scholarly research, educational and medical resources should be freely accessible, reusable and easily distributed. A number of student-led open access projects from Nigeria, Kenya and Nepal were highlighted during the conference. There is currently no South African network, meaning that student advocates like myself and Uvania have felt isolated and have had no real means of connecting with other students with similar interests. Accordingly, we propose to set up a nation-wide co-ordination network in South Africa: Open Access South Africa. Any students, at any institution in the country, interested in promoting or finding out more about Open Access, Open Data and Open Educational Resources are more than welcome to get in touch, which will enable us as students to co-ordinate action and support each other across campuses and institutions throughout South Africa. Once we have established said network, we hope to approach the Department of Education to discuss nationwide OA policy. Contact details: Twitter: @OASouthAfrica […]

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OpenCon 2014

So, I got to go to my first international conference. And what a conference. I suspect it may have spoiled me for future ones…. Apart from the fact that I could say that I literally flew to Washington DC for the weekend (OK, and the Friday and Monday) which was such a short time, it was fantastic. There are already a couple of good review posts out there (cf: Karin Purshouse, Ross Mounce, Hilda Bastien at Scientific American, Emilie Champagne) so I am not going to try and replicate them, but talk more about my own experience. First off, Washington is a pretty cool place, especially the bits we were in. Lots of lovely old buildings, stone-clad buildings, parks, statues and memorials and so on. The Metro is also pretty cool, and driving my car to campus today was a bit weird after how easy it would be not to have one there. Also, I got to go to MUSEUMS. I managed to find the time to visit the National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Library of Congress. All totally awesome, and who can argue with an entry price of “free”. I will probably put […]

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Another way of thinking about the geological timescale

A few years ago I came across the suggestion of using an analogy of a movie to visualise geological time-scales. That is, each frame would be one year and you would view 24 frames per second. I incorporated this into a talk that I did, and then forgot about it. I was reminded of this the other day, and redid the number crunching. The results, assuming that my maths is correct, can be seen below. I have worked out the number of seconds from this year to each event. I then worked out a more human-readable time (minutes, days, weeks and so on). I am sure that I am missing some events, so if you have anything in mind, feel free to let me know. I hope that this is interesting to some people who talk about geological times to non-geologists. Timescale 1994 (first democratic elections in .za): 0.83s 1987 (ME!): 1.125s 1961 (first man in space): 2.2s 100 ya (WWI): 4.17s 111 ya (first powered flight): 4.625s 1820 (British settlers arrive in the Eastern Cape, +-Shaka Zulu’s mfecane): 8.1s 1652 (Jan van Riebeek arrives at the Cape): 15.1s 2000 ya (Time of Jesus): 83.3s 1 minute 23.3 seconds 2560BC […]

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New Adventures

And breaking the silence. So, most people who know me as someone not on the other side of a computer screen (and even many of those) know that I recently relocated to Port Elizabeth. Why? Well, I am starting my MSc. The project is an interesting mix of computer science and geology, in which I will be processing a variety of geophysical datasets to provide baseline geological information on basin architecture. Settling in has gone well, and I am currently eyeing the rapidly growing pile of readings I have accumulated and need to sift through. The variety of subfields that I need to assimilate and synthesise is rather daunting, but, we shall overcome. I hope to keep this blog at least vaguely up-to-date on my progress, but it will take a bit of time until I have anything concrete to show.

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A small confession…

… I love pulp fiction. No, not the movie, which I have not seen for some reason, but the genre. Today I picked up a large stack of issues of pulp comics, mostly from the War Picture Library. These are set in World War 2, with accurate equipment and real battles. The stories are fictional though, and usually at least slightly fantastic. As a whole, the stack of cheaply made comics on the floor next to me has little to recommend it: the stories are trite, predictable, characters are one-dimensional, there is often minimal moral ambiguity, in many cases they are thinly-veiled propaganda, and filled with casual racism, outdated stereotypes, and sexism (if in fact any women appear). And at the same time, enormously entertaining. But pulp in general appeals to me. I enjoy listening to old radio shows, which are often pretty pulpy, filled with lantern-jawed detectives, distressed damsels, bizarre aliens, and vile villains. I have a bunch of out-of-print ebooks of things printed in the 1930s and 1940s. The Indiana Jones movies (which I love, even the Crystal Skull) are firmly rooted in pulp fiction. Pulp fiction is just fun. It will not make you think, it will […]

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Open South African Geological Data

In the last couple of years, I have had a growing interest in the open data and open access movement. I have not really done too much yet, being located on the periphery of what might be done, and with a lack of a specific project/problem to tackle. That said, I think that I have found one: Open geological data in South Africa. I have a vested interest in being able to use geological data freely, most regularly useful for me would be a digital map of the boundaries between different rock units as found on geological maps. Since a large portion of South Africa’s economy is reliant directly on mineral resources, it makes sense to have information pertaining to it to be available. While lithological data is available, much of it is at too high a scale to be very useful for looking at specific sites. 1:1 000 000 scale data is available, provided that you have a log-in at ESRI and can run ArcReader. That information can be found from this page. The link to the more detailed 1:250 000 scale maps is broken. The people responsible for collecting this data in South Africa are the Council for […]

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Worthwhile Causes

Over the last few months I have come across two causes that I think are worth supporting. Map Action The first is Map Action ( http://www.mapaction.org/ ). This organisation is based in the UK, and provides first response mapping in disaster situations. This may sound a trifle odd, but think about it: if the midden hits the windmill in a big way, you need to know where the most manure is, in order to start organise sorting it out. You also need to know what is needed to clean up the manure. So the maps that get made are relevant to the situation, answering questions like “Is there a first aid post in this area?”, “Which areas have clean water?”, and “Where are communication lines cut?” which are of immense importance when organising a relief effort. The people on the ground are all volunteers, and drop everything at short notice to go and provide vital initial mapping services. Once other relief services, such as the Red Cross or MSF, become more established, Map Action hand over to them. Now, partly because I love maps, I think that this is fantastic. It utilises modern software, a diverse group of people and […]

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Dasher – Non-traditional Input Methods

Just a short note to prevent this being submerged in a tidal wave of baking and food. Today a friend of mine pointed me at Dasher ( http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/TryJavaDasherNow.html ), which is a dynamic input program. Basically, it allows you to do away with a traditional keyboard, and have your input be based on a lexicon. What this means is that it take predictive text, but you only need one finger (or IR pointer on your head or a mouse or whatever) to actually type. One thing that I have already noticed is that you need to have a pretty good idea of what you want to type before starting, or you end up getting lost. I have installed it on my handbrain (which is what the characters in Howard Tayler’s webcomic call PDAs and mobile phones), as an experiment, and I pity the poor sap who tries it next. I have found it fairly intuitive, except for punctuation, on first use. The software is also available for normal desktops. My technology is slowly becoming unusable for anyone else though, given that I am running Linux with a tiling window manager (Arch Linux with SpectrWM if anyone cares) on my laptop. […]

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Soy chai tea!

Now I know I haven’t posted in a while, mainly because I’ve been really trying to work on my thesis/been at a conference. I do have a whole bunch of things I have baked just waiting to get shared but in the mean time for all you chai loving lactose intolerant people out in the world (like myself) I give you chai tea you can make at home! This recipe is really simple and only takes 15 mins to make. I based my recipe off of the one I got from Around my family Table, mainly I upped the spices as I’m not one for subtle flavours (burnt my tongue one too many times on hot choc and tea..). Another great thing is this can be served either hot or cold.. Soy chai tea: 1L of soy milk (sweetened or unsweetened doesn’t matter. Just up the sugar if unsweetened) 1/8 c sugar (1/4c if unsweetened soy) 3 cinnamon sticks 1/8 tsp ginger 1/2 tsp ground cardamom 1/2 tsp ground cloves 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 6 black tea bags Bring the soy, sugar, and the spices to a simmer for about 10 minutes, making sure the spices are incorporated into the […]

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