Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No2ID cards.

ID cards are wrong. I am a sovereign citizen and I do not live by permission of the government. The government should be the servant of the people and I should not be its servant. I have the right to my privacy and my freedom and the government has no right to take them away from me. It is not the role of the government to engage in the surveillance of all of its citizens. Maybe the few citizens that have broken the law or are likely to break the law but NOT every single citizen. The National Identity Registry is the main problem with the governments proposal: I will become a number and more and more personal information such as spending habits, ethnicity, religion, sex preference, health records, criminal records, driving records will be linked to it.
These cards seriously threaten my freedom! Join me and say no to ID cards.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Blondes had a selective advantage 10,000 years ago?

I read a recent article in the Times suggesting the diversity of hair colour arose some 10,000 years ago and that blonde hair was a selective advantage for women. I have gone to the original scientific publication (Evolution and Human Behavior, Volume 27, Issue 2, Pages 85-168, March 2006) because I was intrigued at how they measured that this trait arose prior to 10,000 years ago. Essentially, it seems that sexual selection must have played a role in Europe as humans moved further north 35,000 years ago. The women became more reliant on the men for food and men having to hunt further away from home were more likely to die probably resulting in a higher proportion of females competing for the males attention, thus colourful hair being an advantageous attention-seeking trait.

It turns out that the molecular data gives a rather different date for the origin of the hair colour: "Harding et al. (2000) have investigated this evolutionary scenario and found that the time to the most recent common ancestral hair color would be about a million years, with the redhead alleles alone being approximately 80,000 years old. Templeton (2002) has come to a similar conclusion: If the cause were relaxation of selection, the current level of hair-color diversity would have taken 850,000 years to develop."

The more rapid evolution suggested by the anthropologist Frost is a result of positive selection (rather than relaxation of selection being the cause for polymorphism in hair colour).

Performincing from Firefox to Blogger

I have been trying to figure out how blog to blogger using Performancing extension in Firefox. Solutions Watch give a good explanation of how to set it all up: Blog from Firefox with Performancing for Firefox
Performancing have also added functionality for Technorati Tags making it really easy to add tags to your blog.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Blog posting from Gmail

I think I have figured out how to post a blog with hyperlinks and pictures that are on a server. I found this site useful. Essentially you need to write an html file in a text editor and save it as a .html file. You need to set up you blog to automatically publish the emails that are sent to it. Then you attach the .html file an send it without any body text or subject to your blogspot. I use Flickr to post pictures by pasting the html into the website. redbug1.gif I would be grateful to anybody out there who has figured out an easier way to post emails containing pictures and hyperlinks on their blog.

I am also trying to figure out a way that I can send the emails or post the blogs at a specific time. At the moment I am usiing iCal on my iMAc to send an email automatically to my blog, but this does not allow me to attach hyperlinks or pictures. Any advice or help is very welcome

Thursday, February 16, 2006


The way we do taxonomy (and to a certain extent systmatics) hasn't changed for over 200 years and yet other sciences (Is taxonomy a science?) have changed tremendously in several decades, think of the field of genetics for example. I believe this is because genetics has embraced a range of new technologies whereas taxonomists are set in their ways and any changes to the way they do things are fought against even if the chanes could make their work more efficient. One particular example, is the way they have fought against which in my view could provide a very valuable technology for sorting of large numbers of unknown specimens prior to more traditional morphological species identification and naming (see the barcoding of life initiative).
Other technologies that they have been slow to embrace, are the web and oline publishing. The web provides an ideal working platform for a field like taxonmy as it enables the dessimination of work across the world instantaneously. Rather than needed to travel across the world to search through publications and specimens draws, the web and online publishing could facilitate the sharing of information.
I think this is a topic that will be blogged sporadically as it is dear to my heart.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Problems with postdoc supervisors

Have a read of this article, it will give you an idea of how to choose
supervisor who will be essential for your future in academia.

The life of a postdoc.

Being a can be bloody hard. Not knwoing what will be next and
whether there will even be a next job is probably the most depressing
thing. Funding is never easily obtained even though postdocs are the
backbone of research these days. It seems that the number of PhDs
continues to increase, whereas the faculty positions for us to go into
have not. link

I think that a revolution in the way academia is run is desperatly needed.
First, I would suggest that some security is provided to postdocs, by
that I mean a salary provided by the government so that postdocs can
continue working until they are awarded a grant or fellowship. This
would save us from claiming unemployment and at the same time give us
the financial support we need to continue our work.

Secondly, the countries like France that force postdocs to go abroad
should provide garanties for reentries to their homeland link

Thirdly, most importantly we need to be listened to. For that I
suggest that we form a so that we can collectively
bargain for issues specific to postdocs. The postdocs at the
University of Connecticut Health Center have already gained status as
both employees and trainees as well as improved pay and benefits link

If a union of european postdocs (Europan Postdoctoral Association)
could be built, we might improve our plight.

I am really interested in knowing of anybody you feels the same way
and anybody you knows about setting up such a union.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Religious cartoons.

I have been debating this with a pakistani friend, french friend and scottish friend. All had very different points of view. The whole issue really made me think about the chapter on comedy in Status anxiety a book by Alain de Botton. Essentially, he explains that the cartoons that were drawn of kings, queens and Napoleon have the aim of bringing about change. In hist words: " The underlying, unconscious aim of comics may be to bring about - through the adroit use of humour -  a world in which there will be a few less things to laugh about." 
I think the cartoons that have been recently published of the prophet Mohammed are just trying to improve the way we understand one anothers culture and I hope that the people that have seen these cartoons as disrespectfull can attempt to see the funny side of some of the cartoons.

Chat within Gmail:

I love it. It is just so easy to use. Google is really in a league of its own. Still it is a bit scary how much information they are gathering on us.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What is karma!

Well this is a good definition:

but I prefer the following poem that explains it well:
"Each thought, each word and each deed
has to be accounted and compensated for in Nature.
Every cause has an effect and every action brings about a reaction.
Uproot the cause and the effect disappears.
This has been done by the Masters
who have transcended these laws..."
- Sant Kirpal Singh

I think the idea of having a balance in Nature and everything we do,
is central to much of the research life scientist do. They try to
understand why species are kept in check and how ecosystems stay
stable. Critically, in this time of change where humans have had and
are still having a huge impact on the environment, life scientist are
trying to understand how the balance in Nature could return and
stabilise before we go extinct. "Every action brings about a
reaction". We know that we are the cause of climate change but for its
effect to disappear we really need to start changing our behaviour.

And there was life!

But it didn't happen all at once and took far more that seven days.

What a cool thing!

Its cool once you figure out all the ins and outs!

"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Quote from Casablanca (1942).

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