Monday, 18 July 2011


I know I should have posted this a few weeks ago when it was topical, but I was busy and just overlooked it.  Here it is anyway.

I have a difficulty with the slutwalks, because I think they're conflating two separate issues, and that is unhelpful.  They're mixing up the crime of sexual assault with  the likelihood that the way you dress might provoke such an assault.    These are not the same thing and should not be treated as a single entity.

First, sexual assault is intolerable and inexcusable, and it's a disgrace that so few cases are successfully prosecuted in the UK.  I know there are grey areas and all is not always as unambiguous as we'd like, but just a glance at the statistics should have our alarm bells ringing. 

Second, in my view the cop who sparked the whole thing off to start with was actually right.  If you dress provocatively, you might provoke.  That doesn't excuse that reaction, but it certainly makes it more likely.  And if you do something that makes an assault more likely, there's a case to be made that you contributed to the situation you find yourself in.

Let me offer a less controversial example.  If I crash my motorbike while driving at 80 mph, I can hardly complain if I hurt myself more than if I'd crashed at a rather more legal 60 mph.  I have contributed toward the severity of my injuries, although the actual cause of the crash might have been a careless car driver pulling out of a side turning.   The fact that I was speeding doesn't excuse him for not looking properly, but it does make the consequences worse than they might otherwise have been.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

(Belated) Happy Birthday, Neptune!

Damn!  I missed a really significant birthday the other day!

Neptune was discovered by two astronomers in Berlin in 1846 and with an orbit around the sun taking almost 165 years, 12th July was it's first birthday since being discovered.  How about that!

Happy First Birthday, Neptune!!!

These pictures are courtesy of the very splendid Hubble Space Telescope, and I stole them from the Starts with a Bang blog posting, where you can read the whole story and see more excellent pics.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Outreach in Berwick upon Tweed

A year ago, Jenny and I discovered some really interesting fossils in the borders region of Scotland, and in March returned to look for more.  Rather to our surprise, we were accosted by a couple of beligerant Scots, who accused us of plundering their heritage.  They took us for commercial collectors, and they didn't like it one bit.

After a rather awkward conversation, they departed, taking details of Jenny's email address and website, and we curtailed our trip with a distinctly nasty taste in our mouths.

However, over subsequent months, the senior Scot established our bona fides and he and Jenny exchanged a series of emails, which culminated in our returning north at the start of last week, for Jenny to give a talk to the local villagers about the major project for which she's shortly to apply for funding, its scientific significance and the importance of the fossils from the area in terms of our understanding of evolution of land vertebrates at that time.

We were a bit apprehensive, and no-one had any idea how many people she might have in her audience, not even the senior Scot who had done all the organising.  He'd advertised the talk quite widely, but until the day, you can't tell.

To our amazement and delight, the village hall was packed with over 70 locals, and they had to ship in extra chairs to accommodate everyone.   One local said he'd never seen the hall so full in all the time he'd been living there.  Jenny's talk was very well received and not only do we know now that we're welcome up there, but we've had offers of help should we need it.  The audience included a local girl who is about to start an MSc at Glasgow University, and who'd made the trip home especially to come to the talk.

This is all particularly good, as the funding body to whom Jenny is applying, is strong on outreach, so we've already got a good example in the bag.  There are several other sites in the area where good fossils have been retrieved, so we're anticipating repeating the talk to other communities once things get going.

Another thing we needed to address was making contact with the owners of the cliff we've been collecting from.  We had been under the mistaken impression that the cliffs were Crown property, but in fact, that is just everything below the high water level.  The cliffs belong to the farm above.

Jenny had exchanged letters with the farmer's secretary, but wanted to meet up so as to know who she was talking to when she phoned to say we'd be on-site.  She had had an email from a Scottish Heritage person who'd made the initial contact, apparently with one Pete Davidson, so we turned up and asked to speak to him.

A confused look crossed the secretary's face.  No Pete Davidson here.  After much backwards and forwards, and to great hilarity, it turned out that the farm owners are David and Peter Allen.  Peter is David's son.  So the man we wanted was Pete, David's son, not Pete Davidson.  Ho ho ho!  Anyhow, even though we didn't get to meet Pete, his father was there, but in reality, it was the secretary we needed to meet, as she's the one who will answer the phone.

So that was all very satisfactory, too.

And to round off the trip, I was playing 'how many miles can I get out of a gallon of diesel?' all the way there and back.  I drove slightly slower than usual, 80 instead of 90, very easy on the acceleration, try to reduce braking as much as possible, coast down hills and if you need to accelerate, try to do so when going downhill.  Avoid accelerating while going uphill.  Of course, you can't do too much of that without being antisocial, but I just did my best.

And the result?  Normally, the car does about 45mpg.  On this trip, 56mpg.  I was quite astonished.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Moore at Hatfield House

On Sunday we went to Hatfield House to see the exhibition of large Henry Moore sculptures they've got on at the moment, and this is my favourite of all, called Hill Arches.

I really like Moore, but was surprised to find there's quite a bit of his stuff I don't much care for.  I've never really come across much that wasn't to my taste before.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Shiny! Shiny!

This is me posing with my new bike, a BMW F800ST, and I'm very pleased with it, even though it was an impulse buy. 

I'd been looking at a small variety of bikes, based on the criteria that they must not have a chain final drive, they must have some sort of weather protection, they must be rather lighter and more agile than the Pan and they must have ABS.

I'd not really considered a BMW until strongly recommended by a friend and BMW nut who lives on Shetland, but when I saw this one on a dealer's website, I realised it ticked all the necessary boxes, so went and had a test ride. 

Rather to my surprise, I found myself agreeing to buy it on the spot, especially when the man threw in a secondhand pair of panniers for nothing.

It's smaller and lighter than the Pan, has ABS, some rather rudimentary weather protection, and a toothed belt final drive.  The panniers are rather smaller than on the old bike, but at least I can get a helmet in one of them.   The screen is rather abbreviated, and I might have to buy a taller one, but I'll stick with the original for a while and see how I get on.

Jenny was less than impressed by the amount of research I did before buying it, but as I was still pleased when I got it home on Saturday, has somewhat relented in her criticism!