It's never nice when people close to you aren't well. I always find it worse than being ill myself, because there's not an awful lot you can do about it. So - Rebecca, I hope you're feeling better soon, mate.
Good to see that the Beagle 2 Lander has detached successfully from Mars Express. Given that the separation depended on that good old-fashioned technology solution, a pyrotechnic charge and a spring, perhaps we shouldn't have been that worried. The company I work for has been involved quite heavily with the mission, although the work has understandably been based at our offices in Darmstadt rather than down here in Bristol. One of my colleagues summed it up - the Zebedee phase is over, now for Mars!
Particularly in this case; scientists have just announced they've discovered whole new regions of the Milky Way galaxy (where we all live) that they didn't know were there. Mind you, the current Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe vs. ESA discussion only goes to show that we're still not entirely certain even how much matter there is in the universe. Is the figure as low as 4% (as WMAP suggests) or is it much higher? If there is a lot more... well, stuff out there, where is it?
I went and saw the final part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy on Wednesday night, so that's another reason why there hasn't been that much blogging going on recently. It's amazing. My review is up elsewhere on this site. Slight downside is that I didn't get to bed until 1:45 on Thursday morning. I feel pretty rough today, as I think I've acquired the cold my brother's family had last week and I've been running on Lemsip since Monday. I will probably just collapse in a heap this evening, probably with a bottle of wine close to hand.
I felt sorry for the Wright Flyer folks this week. Given the amount of effort that has gone into creating the replica, testing it and generally promoting the Wright Brothers' achievement, to have ended up with an ignominious collapse into a puddle like that was heartbreaking. But still, here we are, into the second century of powered flight. I wonder what sort of things will be taking to the skies when the bicentenary celebrations come round?
Christmas is often associated with ghost stories; the BBC always used to run a TV adaptation of one during the holiday period, and I remember one or two that were extremely good and genuinely scary. The subtlety and terror of stories from writers like Montague Rhodes James and the like are long gone. These days, they've been replaced by stories like this one that's been doing the rounds: supposedly a ghost at Hampton Court was recorded on CCTV leaving via the fire door.
Yeah, right... Did you get your Mum to make that costume out of a set of old curtains, guys? And is that a Scream mask you're wearing? Ticket sales not doing too well, then?
Having followed the progress of the new M6 toll road quite closely as I drove through the roadworks over the past few years, it was amusing to see that one of the secrets of the new road's construction finally leaked this week: its durable surface and hard-wearing qualities are attributed to the fact that it contains vast numbers of pulped Mills & Boon paperbacks. There's got to be a moral in there somewhere...
It looks like Schumi finally met his match at the weekend - with the thing that has taken up most of my working life over the last six months. Yes, Ferrari's current F1 racing car was beaten over a 900 metre dash by a handy little runabout that gets even less gas mileage than Herr Schumacher manages. I was amazed that the EFA was only 0.2 of a second faster, though...
Crazy weekend. I was up in Solihull visiting Rebecca and the troops. Unfortunately she's not very well, and the blog has kind of taken a back seat to everything else at the moment - so please accept my apologies. We picked up the main event of the day pretty much as it happened, thanks to the Internet. An astonishing story, and astonishing pictures, yes, but it became evident quite quickly that the news channels were trying to spin out about ten minute's worth of real information into an entire afternoon's coverage.
Saddam excepted, here's the ideal Christmas present for the person who has everything: your very own death ray. It's amazing what you can knock up out of a few LEDs and an old vacuum cleaner, but I have to say (in my capacity as 50's B-movie aficionado) that it looks sweeeet!
I think it's the "Electrolux" logo that really sets the whole thing off...
It's been a while since we had a decent scrap over technology standards; remember Betamax? Video 2000, perchance? Or how about BSB squarials versus Sky dishes? The closest we've had recently was recording media for PCs. The whole thing about those competing DVD-R standards really hasn't amounted to much, partly because the drives you can get these days can handle whatever format you want, but mostly because -over here at least - they're a pretty marginal consumer item. So it was with mounting anticipation that I read about the new standards for the next generation of DVDs, which can handle far more data on the same CD-sized disc. I still have a Betamax VCR in the loft and a box full of old tapes; in years to come, will it be HD-DVD or Blu-Ray that gets consigned to the attic? Time, as they say, will tell...
One thing is for certain - either DVDs in the future will have much higher definition video and audio, or there will be bucketloads of rubbish on most releases to fill the damn things up.
The dubious success rate of missions to Mars looks like it's about to take another knock, as there are a number of reports on the web today to the effect that Japan's Nozomi probe is unlikely to meet its mission objectives. It's a shame, naturally, and even more so given the wonderfully polite and optimistic news bulletin that the project have got up on their website at the moment (it may have changed by the time you read this.) I really hope they manage to pull something spectacular out of the hat. Let's wish them luck.
It was the office party yesterday - held at Jury's hotel in Bristol, and we had a good time. It's been a while since I had more than a pint of beer in an evening, but it went down very well. In fact, I think it was one of the better parties the company's held. No sign of a hangover in the morning, either, which was a relief! After a breakfast at the hotel, we spent some time wandering around Bristol and doing a bit more Christmas shopping, but by lunchtime we'd had enough and headed back to the village. Needless to say, the afternoon featured more than one game of Burnout on the Gamecube, before heading up to the takeaway for a chicken vindaloo for tea - yummy.
...and if they are, life is going to be interesting. Wandering around the net this week I found this web page about some of the more off-the-wall projects built by that strange breed, the home inventor. This has to be the most over the top method of cooking hot dogs I have ever seen - if the Krell from Forbidden Planet had barbecues, I'm sure this would have been what they used.
As my Dad's a big fan, I thought the Peter Sellers reference above was quite appropriate. After spending some time in hospital last month, Dad has been diagnosed as having something called a Myocardial Bridge. It's a condition in which one of the heart's arteries actually passes through the muscles of the heart. I'd never heard of it, but a brief search on the web seems to indicate that up to 5% of the population have it. Best web page I found that explained it was this one, complete with X-ray footage of a myocardial bridge in a beating heart - and I'll be the first one to put my hand up and say I'd never heard of the science of hemodynamics...
With being away from home, I wasn't able to update the blog much - so I very nearly missed yesterday's Astronomy Picture of the Day, and that wouldn't have done at all. There are occasional exclamations of "coooool!" when someone in the office finds a really impressive page on the web, and this picture of Moonrise from the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea certainly counts.
Props to my colleague Ricky Troughton, who found this really cool site during his excursions through cyberspace. Yes, it's the official home page of the Traffic Cone Preservation Society. Thanks all the same, but I've seen enough cones over the last couple of days to last me quite a while. Two days in Welwyn Garden City, then back via my old haunt of Milton Keynes.
I got home at about 11:30 last night, and it's very nice to be back home.
Good grief, it's December. Where has the year gone? As I get older the time just seems to go by faster and faster. Where do our memories go? Where do all those old web pages go? Yes, I know you can read my blog archive by following the links at the top of the page, but what about the rest of the Internet? Well, large amounts of it are held for posterity at the Web Archive. Scary thought, isn't it?
It's worth having a look at the early efforts of some of the World's biggest companies. It rather brings home how crap it all used to be!
For some inexplicable reason, the media around the Bristol area tend to get sent up on a fairly regular basis. If you've ever seen any of the Wallace and Gromit films you'll be familiar with the evening paper and mind-numbingly ordinary headlines that some would say bears more than a passing resemblance to Bristol's Evening Post. These days, there's even an alternative local news website, which is occasionally worth a visit.