Tags: musing

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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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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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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Why Dinosaurs?

This may be a bit of a whiny post, but I am wondering about the prevalence of dinosaurs as the archtypical fossils. I mean, many small boys who have no inclination to learning anything can still rattle off a string of dinosaur names. Or at least they could when I was one. But why dinosaurs? They are not the only interesting fossilised things. Trilobites seem to be common, especially as tattoos, but beyond that there seems to be little variety. Why does no one talk about therapsids in the press? Why are pterosaurs and pre-dinosaurs like dimetrodon considered dinosaurs by many? Why are the many different non-dinosaur marine reptiles considered dinosaurs (mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, icthyosaurs &c)? I suspect part of it is due to the majority of US fossils (that I have heard of at least, feel free to correct me) being dinosaurs. This, combined with movies such as the Jurassic Park franchise, have brought them to the fore when considering fossils, in the same way as the dodo is the archtypical extinct animal due to direct human causes. In addition, there are some amazing fossils coming out of the fine-grained Jurassic- and Cretaceous-aged limestones that other fossils just can not hold […]

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Daves

This is a rather odd post, but bear with me. There are three Daves whom I have a great deal of respect for. I interact with one Dave fairly regularly, one had immense influence on me during my formative years and one I know only through the internet and do not interact with much, beyond an occasional e-mail. Looking at various similarities between them highlights some interesting things that I feel are worth talking more about. The most obvious one is that they are all creative, in different ways. Rather than merely consuming content, they create it. At least two make (some) money off this, the third does it simply for the love of it. Creating things, music, writing, whatever it is, is something that more people should try to do. Personally, I do some juggling and the occasional bit of writing (see exhibit A: this blog), but the creative approach to the Daves is something that they could probably not turn off if they tried. Secondly, they are all tolerant. Well, tolerant of most things. A big exception is intolerance. You are able to hold dissenting views to them, but back up why you think a certain way and […]

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Unicycle Choices

Since my primary unicycle broke last weekend (see my race report), I am looking at options for a replacement. This seems a good opportunity to provide a brief write-up on the pros and cons of various wheel sizes, as they pertain to unicycling at least. In general, larger wheels are more difficult to start riding, since they roll further and are more sensitive to pedal input. On the other hand, they move faster (due to afore-mentioned larger roll-out), so are more suitable for longer trips. 20″ 20″ (and 19″) unicycles are often the first that people try. The smaller wheel size makes them more suitable for learning on (I learned on a 20″ borrowed from a friend). They are also the ride of choice for trials and flatland, where the generally higher control (due to low roll-out) that can be attained is desirable. They are also popular for hockey or polo. 24″ 24″ unicycles were for a long time the standard. They are still popular for freestyle riding and hockey/polo. They are also often used for very technical downhill MUni. 26″ Relatively recent, but becoming very popular due to a couple reasons: a) there are a huge number of tyre […]

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Geology on the Interwebses

I have been upping the number of people I am following on Twitter recently. This has a bit of a snowball effect, in that following more people brings the people that they follow into your view and you start following them. The vast majority of people I have followed in the last few weeks have been scientists, specifically geologists/palæontologists/earth scientists or societies for them. While this is good, in that I genuinely find this stuff interesting, it also brings home how little I am keeping up with the field. What I do find worthwhile is that I am able to hear about interesting stuff, like Where on (Google) Earth. WoGE is a bit of a puzzle/treasure hunt, wherein an image (or images) of a geologically interesting place are posted and the first person to respond with the coördinates of the place shown (and something about the geology) posts the next image. Another, vaguely related, event is the Accretionary Wedge, whereby a number of bloggers within the earth sciences write on a particular theme each month. The range of views is an interesting overview on just how broad the earth sciences are: you get geophysicists, geologists, climatologists, palæontologists, planetary ecologists…. In […]

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