Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Terri Irwin on Steve Irwin

Asked in Metro "What was Steve's appeal?":

"His passion was so genuine. There was no pretence, it was his life. His academic research didn't make it on to TV, but he was very enthusiastic about the science as well. The joy he got out of it was so contagious. There's a little bit of all of us that would like that enthusiasm in our lives."

A Crazy Friend

One of these people is one of friends going for a (rather cold?) swim in Norway.


Photos from

Top 10 Ways To Deal With The Dead

10: Towers of Silence
Zoroastrians believe the body is impure and shouldn't pollute the earth after death through burial or cremation. Instead, the deceased are brought to a ceremonial "tower of silence", usually located on an elevated mountain plateau, and left exposed to the animals and elements. When the bones have been dried and bleached by the sun, they are gathered and dissolved in lime.

9: Tree Burials
Indigenous tribes in many parts of the world discovered that the best way of disposing the dead was to put them up high, rather than down below. Groups in Australia, British Columbia, the American southwest and Siberia were known to practice tree burial, which involved wrapping the body in a shroud or cloth and placing it in a crook to decompose.

8: Viking Ship Burials
Middle Age Vikings lived and literally died by the sea. After death, wealthier Vikings were placed in ships filled with food, jewels, weapons, food and even sometimes servants or animals for their comfort in the afterlife. The boats were interred in the ground, set alight or sent out to sea. The ultimate postmortem destination for Viking warriors was Valhalla, or "Odin's Hall", made famous in the Old Norse sagas.

7: Tibetan Sky Burial
Ever wanted to fly? In Tibet, you get to do just that, only after you're already dead. Instead of trying to bury bodies in the hard, rocky ground, some Tibetans send their loved ones to the top of a mountain and leave them to be eaten by the vultures. The disassembled corpses are even mixed with flour and milk for a tastier treat, to make sure every bit leaves the Earth for good.

6: Bog Bodies
Plenty of travelers perished accidentally crossing the murky bogs of northern Europe, but at least some individuals, especially in the Middle Ages, were buried there carefully and on purpose. Lucky for archaeologists, the chemical make-up of a bog preserves human flesh very well, allowing them to study the unlucky bog bodies closely.

5: Neanderthal Cave Burials
Before they began interring their dead in the ground proper around 100,000 years ago, Neanderthals routinely left the deceased deep inside the caves of Europe and the Middle East. To Neanderthals, the dark, mysterious recesses of a cave may have seemed like a good place to transfer over to the otherworld, some archaeologists have argued.

4: Plastination
Send your corpse on a tour of museums 'round the world with plastination, developed by German scientist Gunther von Hagens. His popular "Body Worlds" exhibits showcase the controversial preservation technique, which involves dissecting the body into bits, embalming it with a hardening fluid and reposing the body into various 'educational' positions.

3: Balinese Cremation
Contrary to the more somber western funerals, cremation ceremonies among the Hindus of Bali have an almost carnival-like atmosphere. Festive floats parade down local streets accompanying the body to a burning ground, where it is transferred into a ceremonial bull receptacle and set alight.

2: Cryonics
Who's never heard of Walt Disney's quest for immortality by having his body frozen? While that was an urban legend, cryonic science is a reality, currently only legal to perform on those who've been pronounced dead. Soon after dying, participants are stored in a liquid nitrogen solution to prevent decay until that time when death becomes a reversible phenomenon. Until then, the bodies remain on ice.

1: Mummification
The mummies of ancient Egypt are probably the world's most famous dead bodies. Reserved for members of the upper classes, mummification involved the removal of all organs including the brain, which was pulled through the nose by a hook. The body was then stuffed with dry materials like sawdust and wrapped in linens. The Egyptians believed that mummification preserved the soul for its journey into the afterlife.

From LiveScience.

An amusing e-mail

From Imperial College Physics Society:

"The Large Hadron Collider at CERN aims to smash protons together at unprecedented energies in order to complete our picture of the fundamental particles and forces. But to do so, it requires the budget of a small country, quite a lot of Switzerland's electricity and a bureaucratic structure Swindon Borough Council could only dream of – and will for years to come..."

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


I guess I have probably learnt something new every day for as long as I remember. But today I went for a walk with an old friend, who has been rather ill recently and is now getting back to an approximation of full health.

It soon turned out that he had an aim: looking for some specific kinds of fungi. Now I know people who do this for food, to add to their own collection, or even to collect the beetles that live in and on them. Never before had I heard that a certain kind of bracket-like fungus is used to give a good ‘finish’ when sharpening knives.

Will it ever be useful? The amount of knife work I do in the field is very small, but I am a big believer in keeping knives sharp: it makes them so much easier to use. Having said that I have always got a friend to sharpen my knives, as he has a set of sharpening stones, and I don’t. But next time I may do the final finishing work myself, using a glorified mushroom.

Monday, 12 November 2007

A Weekend Away

There are some places that I have, over the years, developed an affinity for. In the same years I have developed an affinity with a number of people. Looking on Facebook and seeing the people who I would consider friends (the majority), I realise that I do know, in some way, a large number of people. Now I have never been one to have a best friend, but I do have a group of friends who are closer than the rest. This is mainly due to spending many months camping with them (spread over weeks and weekends). Living in the same vicinity with the same people for such a long period creates a friendship like nothing else. Whether it was waiting out a snowstorm on the side of a mountain, walking over ‘just one more ridge’, or just an evening spent having a few drinks around a fire looking at the stars we have formed some kind of bond. When not struggling against or otherwise enjoying the great outdoors these are the people that I spend most time with.

Now there is a unique sense of humour to this group of friends that is only safely used within this group of friends. Introducing other people into the group goes one of two ways: they are welcomed and feel welcome, or they become fed up with it very quickly and leave, never to return.

Last weekend I went camping (albeit in a hut) with some of these people I share an affinity with, in a place that I have an affinity for. Watching the sunset over the hills, listening to the stags roaring, and oddly listening to some naturalised parakeets, I realised that this place and these people have been responsible for many of the things that I now enjoy.

I have always had a love for the ‘Great Outdoors’ but it was at this place that I first began to master some of the techniques that are now second nature. Confidence with a map and a compass, the ability to track wild animals, but most importantly how to survive in, and if necessary survive on, the ‘wilderness’. These are all skills that are now second nature, almost as much as walking or talking, and they were taught to me by these people that are my close friends.

Perhaps it’s inappropriate that we spent the night playing poker, and having a few drinks: but I don’t think so. We had a glowing fire, and we talked until the early hours about the past, and more importantly, about what we might do in the future.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Happy Birthday

When you organise a surprise party for somebody you don't expect them to go into hospital shortly beforehand, so in the end we arranged two surprise parties for Adrian, only one of which went ahead.

Adrian is well known, at least locally, for the 25 years he has given to the 5th Windsor (Dedworth) Scout Group. He was once my Scout Leader, and is still a very good friend.

Happy (belated) 50th Birthday!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Tagging Podcasts

Having recently injured myself to the point of having nothing to do for a day I set about organising my collection of Podcasts. Now I'm not one to delete these as soon as I've listened to them, I keep them on my hard disk in case I ever want to go back to see what was said in them. It's like having a library of a particular persons thoughts, opinions and quotes. Incidentally I am the same when it comes to books, and I have a reasonably large collection of newspaper clippings too.

The main issue was when these Podcasts were loaded into a Media Player: the mp3 tags for the files were generally very poorly thought about. So I had to edit them into a more logical format. Which really was not that hard to do! So why didn't they do it sensibly in the first place?

So just in case any of the readers want to create a Podcast here is how to set the major mp3 tags:

The 'Artist' field should be the name of the person/organisation producing the podcast. It should be the same every single time!

The 'Album' field should be the name of the podcast itself. This allows for a person/organisation to have various podcasts associated with them very easily.

The 'Track Number' should be a sequential number given to each of your podcasts.

The 'Title' Should give details about what happens in this podcast (briefly).

Isn't that simple????

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Premature Report

Over the last year or so I have been trying to acquire a number of back issues of entomological and natural history journals, magazines and newsletters. This is primarily because I find these topics fascinating, and I like reading about them. Every now and then there is something amusing amongst all of the interesting (but more sober) material. The following is taken from Antenna 23(3):

"I read with interest in the January Antenna that I was dead. It was gratifying to see the Society regretted this state of affairs as, indeed, I would have myself. Some of my students from time to time have thought me dead and not been told. However, I'm happy to say that your report is premature."

At least Bob James saw the funny side!

Monday, 25 June 2007

Free Papers

Everyday in London at the moment when I make my twice daily walk from Battersea to the Natural History Museum (or vice versa) I am offered a vast number of bits of paper. Of these the free newspapers are of more interest than the get rich quick schemes, dodgy phone cards or astrological forecasts.

Alongside all of the junk about fashion and complete nonsense there is often some stuff worth reading, or at least discussing. Recently one of the papers asked its readers what they thought about public breast feeding. Most people seemed to think this is acceptable, which is probably a good thing. It's probably better for everyone concerned than doing it in the toilet.

Alongside this is "To City Boy: I would have thought you would feel like a w****r - cream jacket and purple cords. Not even a self respecting homosexual would wear such things. Get a grip. Jenny". Clearly Jenny is an intellectual might to be reckoned with? I think not. Also on the same page is Henry Carroll who seems to be addicted to the social networking site facebook. Perhaps we should spend money sending him to rehab? Or perhaps he is the one who should get a grip?

Edward Baker's Facebook profile

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Roadkill Art

Adam Morrigan seems to have made a bit of a name for himself in the media recently, by making artwork out of roadkill.

While I'm against things going to waste, I don't think I'd particularly want one on my wall! But by having a 'roadkill hotline' at least he's doing is part to 'Keep Britain Tidy!'

Fresh meat doesn't go to waste either, as Adam sometimes has it for dinner. Needless to say his three children are vegetarian.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Where I've Been

First of all - I have not disappeared off of the face of the Earth! Since coming back from Costa Rica I have been finishing my degree, writing a few articles for various publications about my trip, and editing the Phasmid Study Group newsletter - to name but a few.

In the last few weeks I have also been kidnapped by the Entomology Department at the Natural History Museum (not literally kidnapped of course - I don't want any vigilantes coming to save me). Consequently I have had very little time to write on here, but I should be back now for a while, so I guess normal service has resumed!

Here are a few photos from my trip, as they don't really fit into any of the other blogs.

There are some photographs of vrious invertebrates seen in Costa Rica here.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Holiday Announcement

I am going to be in Costa Rica for the next week or so, so this blog won't be updated until I return. Apologies!

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Costa Rica

Well, on Tuesday I'm off to Costa Rica, to hopefully visit a friend and explore a few areas of jungle. On the way we have a forty mile trek across New York from JFK to Newark airports. This may sound like being quite a pain, but after arriving in San Jose we have one night to recover before an eight hour bus journey to Golfito.

Golfito is an old fruit plantation, that is being reclaimed by the rainforest and is also on the pacific coast. The contrast should make for some interesting animal and plant finds. I imagine we'll stay there for a day before moving on to Pavones, and finally Punta Blanco (if the road is open).

And then it's a few more hundred miles back to San Jose, hopefully with some time to spare to see a few sights before flying back, going across New York, and arriving back in London.

Sounds rather hectic to me!

Thursday, 5 April 2007

UK, Great Britain, Holland and The Netherlands

I guess this is something that 'grinds my gears'. Most of this comes from my experience editing a few (relatively minor) publications.

The United Kingdom is comprised of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain is comprised of England, Wales and Scotland. This is an important difference for a number of reasons.

Similarly we should not, I am reliably told, consider Holland to be a country. It is part of The Netherlands, which is a country.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Blog Browsing Habits

Well I've just checked the statistics of my blogs for the last week or so (using Google Analytics) and noticed some quite interesting, if expected, things.

First of all on days where I posted something the views for that blog went up quite a huge amount, and if I didn't post for a few days it was effectively zero.

I guess this means that I should post more often!

My Favourite April Fools Day Joke

Not only are Google great for searching, e-mail and whatever else, but now they prove they have also have a great sense of humour.

Sending paper copies of your entire e-mail history for free? Gmail Paper is pure genius!

Link to Gmail Paper



I guess if you're reading this you've either come from one of my other blogs, or by some random process.

This blog is quite different to my blogs on keeping/studying invertebrates (link) and science/religion/atheism/conspiracy theories (link), in that it is just some random thought processes that I have nowhere else to put.

Hopefully you'll find it interesting enough to check back every now and then!