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Special Kitty just *loves* her new bed.

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Scott's diary

The missus has blogged about last weekend already, but I thought I’d add a few bits myself (and I’ve just done some upgrading on the software that runs this blog, so I want to test it).

It was a fairly fab weekend all round, seeing friends, doing a few touristy bits, etc. but one or two things were especially good.

Saturday morning we went to the British Library to meet friends and visit the Maps exhibition. There were lots of interesting maps there, although unfortunately they only had a reproduction of the famous Hereford Mappa Mundi, not the original.
Just upstairs from that, though, was something even better – the permanent Treasures of the British Library exhibition. This is an amazing display of lots of famous books and documents. Amongst them were a surviving copy of the Magna Carta, drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, original manuscripts of Lewis Carroll, and rough handwritten Beatles lyrics, including those to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ scribbled on the back of a birthday card sent to John Lennon’s son. The highlight for me was one of the diaries of Scott of the Antarctic, open at the page where he recorded the last words of Captain Oates. Seeing it actually written in Scott’s own hand was immensely powerful and moving.

Both these exhibitions were free, but most people probably don’t realise they’re there. The Treasures exhibition in particular is one that everybody should go and see, highly recommended.

In the afternoon we went to be tourists at HMS Belfast. I went there years ago with my family, but it was interesting to go again and look round it all.

The main point of going to London was to see Penn & Teller, doing their first show in the UK for 16 years. I’ve wanted to see them for a while, so when I heard they were coming over I had to get tickets. It was a brilliant evening, well worth the trip down there. I enjoyed pretty much all of it, but some of my favourite bits just had Teller on his own, such as the Shadows Illusion, or the one with the goldfish. There’s something beautiful about those that sets them apart from the more ‘showbiz’ parts where Penn is doing the talking.

The one thing we didn’t get to see that I would have liked to was the Ray Harryhausen Exhibition at the London Film Museum. That’s on until next June though, so we should have time to go back for it.

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Snowy Britain

Snowy Britain

From: Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy Blog

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While a lot of stuff on Twitter is the usual inconsequential noise you get on the internet, I’ve loved reading the updates Mike Massimino has been sending from orbit this week. He’s on the STS-125 shuttle flight to repair the Hubble telescope, and he’s been writing a bit about the experience of working in space, and the views they get from up there. Here’s some of his messages from the last few days:

From orbit: Launch was awesome!! I am feeling great, working hard, & enjoying the magnificent views, the adventure of a lifetime has begun!

From orbit: My spacewalk was amazing, we had some tough problems, but through them all, the view of our precious planet was beautiful

From orbit: This is an awesome experience, the privilege to fly in space and work on the Hubble is beyond my dreams

From orbit: At the end of my spacewalk, I had time to just look at the Earth, the most awesome sight my eyes have seen, undescribable

From orbit: Just flew over the US, Baja to Miami in about 10 minutes! Beautiful Day!!

From orbit: Getting ready for bed, sleeping in space is cool, tie down your sleeping bag and float inside of it, very relaxing

From orbit: We see 16 sunrises and sunsets in 24 hrs, each one spectacular as the sun lights up the atmosphere in a spectrum of colors

From orbit: Viewing the Earth is a study of contrasts, beautiful colors of the planet, thin blue line of atmosphere, pure blackness of space

From orbit: The stars at night in space do not twinkle, they look like perfect points of light and I can clearly see the milky way galaxy

From orbit: Flying over the Pacific Ocean at night there were some thunder storms, it is so cool to see lightning go off below the clouds

From orbit: It is so beautiful up here, I wish everyone could see it

You can follow his updates on twitter.com/Astro_Mike

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I don’t know if it’s the smile, or the arms, or both, but I’m still crying with laughter every time I watch it.

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Five years ago today, I posted the following list entitled “Ten things I want to do in the next five years”. They were all perfectly achievable things, and I’ve had more than enough time to do them, but I haven’t been all that successful. I’ve noted how far I got with each one.

1 Run the London Marathon - No. Done a couple of half marathons, but not a full one, in London or anywhere else
2 Make some money from writing - No. Not done anything much towards this.
3 Take up martial arts - Yes. I did this for a couple of years, although I’ve let it slide again now.
4 Learn at least the basics of another language - Yes (kinda). I tried to learn Spanish again for my Peru trip, not greatly successfully. Am now doing an evening class in Russian, which might have more success.
5 Make some money from drawing/painting - No. Done very little in the way of drawing and painting.
6 Brew my own beer - No. This should have been an easy one too. Just never got round to it.
7 Visit at least three other countries - Yes. Bearing in mind that I’d never been on an aeroplane when I originally posted this list, I’ve been to six different countries on four continents since then.
8 Pass a piano grade or two - No. Not played the piano all that much.
9 Do some sort of Theological study - No.
10 Win a prize in the Chester Zoo photography competition - Yes. This was the one I thought would be most difficult, but it was the first I achieved. Second prize in the digital category a few years back.

So that’s four out of ten. Which is pretty pathetic really. The ones I haven’t done are mostly due to laziness. I tend to be like this a lot, having loads of big ideas about what I want to do, but never actually getting around to doing anything about it. That was partly why I posted the list in the first place, to make myself do new and interesting things. Didn’t really work though.

Moving on from this, I’ve made more lists for myself.
One is things I want to achieve this year.
Another is things I want to do by 2011 (when I’ll be 30).
And the last is things I want to do by 2021 (when I’ll be 40).

Maybe after that I’ll write a mid-life crisis list for myself.

Anyway, I’m not posting these lists up (because some of the things on them are rather silly and not necessarily possible) but I’ll note on here if I manage to achieve any of them. Some items have been carried over from the list above, while others are new. I’ve tried to get themes running through, so if I want to do something by the time I’m 40, I’ve put an interim target in for when I’m 30, and an initial one for this year, to get me moving. And I’m checking in on the lists every so often and noting what I need to do next. I’m hoping that working to a number of deadlines like that will make it easier and more achievable.

We’ll see how I get on.

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This post is essentially meant to annoy my brother.

I went to see Jonathan Coulton play in Manchester on Weds (supported by Paul + Storm, who I’d not seen before). It was a pretty good gig. I didn’t think it was quite as good as the one in London at Easter that I went to, because that was just JoCo playing so he did more songs, to a bigger audience. But the Manchester gig had a special guest appearance for the encore.
They played the first verse and chorus of “Creepy Doll”, then stopped and Jonathan said it just wasn’t creepy enough and it needed something else. “Wouldn’t it be great,” he said, “if there was someone in the audience who was perhaps an internationally famous author of creepy stories, who could come up on stage to help us?” This is what happened next:

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I went down to London on Sunday to watch the British leg of the Red Bull Air Race. Was well worth it, fantastic flying displays from some of the top aerobatics pilots in the world. I only had a little compact camera with me, but managed to get a few photos:

Knife-edge through the gate. Those inflatable pylons are about 20 metres high, and the pilot’s head has to pass below the top of it to count.
Red Bull Air Race London

Through the last of the chicane
Red Bull Air Race London

Kirby Chambliss, the eventual winner, turning round at the far end of the track, with a lot of G-force!
Red Bull Air Race London

I only realised the other day that the next leg is in Budapest on the 19th and 20th August. Annoyingly, I’m going to be in Budapest from the 13th to the 18th, and if I’d known sooner I could have stayed an extra couple of days. Will hopefully spot them practicing though.

Also in London, I went to the Spar shop just off Oxford Street, where they sell Tim Hortons coffee and doughnuts, the first I’ve had in over a year. I became a big fan when I lived in Canada, and usually went a few times a week. It’s pretty much a part of Canadian culture, but there’s hardly anywhere you can get it outside of North America, and that’s one of the few places in the UK. Standing there with coffee in one hand and a Boston Cream doughnut in the other actually made me feel quite emotional. Sad, I know…

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Back in June I went to Peru for three weeks on a group tour with Exodus. I’ve finally got around to putting a selection of my photos on Flickr: Peru Photos

Particular highlights for me were:

The Nazca Lines
Nazca Lines - Hummingbird

Andean Condors
Condor

Eating Guinea Pig!
Guinea pig

The Inca Trail
Dead Woman's Pass

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu from above

And of course, the wonderful group of people I went with, none of whom I knew beforehand
Machu Picchu

It’s a great country, friendly people, amazing scenery. I’d definitely recommend a visit.

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My brother has just been kind enough to point out a cartoon currently broadcast on the Disney Channel, of which I was blissfully unaware. Famous 5: On the Case is a modern updated version of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, which I loved when I was growing up. In the new cartoon, the characters are the children of the original Famous Five, who use modern technology like laptops and mobile phones.
My reaction when I saw the Wikipedia article? “No no no no no no no no no! No!” But the trailer on Youtube confirms it:
Famous 5: On the Case trailer.

That’s just horrible and wrong and shouldn’t be allowed. It was bad enough when they remade Thunderbirds as a bunch of kids, and I wasn’t too impressed when they did a modern version of Doctor Dolittle, but this is clearly going too far. Are none of my favourite childhood stories safe?

If they make a crappy Don Camillo film, people will die…

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