Monday, July 30, 2007

Also reading

The God Delusion and God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. Both of which, as an athiest, I find thought provoking and thoroughly articulate my belief, or lack there of.


Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe
In the middle of the sixth century, the world's smallest organism collided with the world's mightiest empire. Twenty-five million corpses later, the Roman Empire, under her last great emperor, Justinian, was decimated. Before Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that carries bubonic plague, was through, both the Rome and Persian empires were easy pickings for the armies of Muhammad on their conquering march out of Arabia. In its wake, the plague - history's first pandemic - marked the transition from the age of Mediterranean empires to the age of European nation-states - from antiquity to the medieval world. "Justinian's Flea" is the story of that collision, a narrative history that weaves together evolutionary microbiology, architecture, military history, geography, rat and flea ecology, jurisprudence, theology, epidemiology, and the economics of the silk trade.

The climax of "Justinian's Flea" - the summer of 542, when Constantinople witnessed the death of 5,000 of its citizens every day - is revealed through the experiences of the remarkable individuals whose lives are a window onto a remarkable age: Justinian himself, of course, but also his doppelganger, the Persian Shah Khusro Anushirvan, whose empire would be so weakened by plague that it essentially vanished; his general Belisarius, the greatest soldier between Caesar and Saladin, whose conquests marked the end of imperial rule in Italy and Africa; his architect, Anthemius, the mathematician-engineer who built Constantinople's Hagia Sophia (and whose brother, Alexander, was the great physician of the plague years); Tribonian, the jurist who created the Justinianic Code, the source of Europe's tradition of Civil Law; and, finally, his empress Theodora, the one-time prostitute who became co-ruler of the empire, the most politically powerful woman in European history until Elizabeth I. Melding contemporary accounts with modern disciplines, "Justinian's Flea" is a unique account of one of history's great hinge moments.

I'm looking forward to reading this one.


I have one question however. If Griphook the goblin took Godric Gryffindor's sword in Gringott's, then how did Neville Longbottom get it from the sorting hat at the end??

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fizzy Cysts and other lancible carbuncles

I have recently learnt that my favourite physicists Dr Steven Boyd is coming home to Australia for a quick visit. You may know him from such papers as "Measurement of neutrino oscillation by the K2K experiment". Now you may think your smart because you can count your change in your head and know if the shopkeeper is ripping you off but no matter how smart you think you are this guy is smarter. For his day job, when not lecturing, Steve is firing beams of particles through mountains in an attempt to determine whether neutrinos oscillate in the same way as antineutrinos which may illuminate one of the most perplexing questions in physics : why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe? He has worked at the University of Washington in Seattle, on the K2K neutrino oscillation experiment in Japan, at the KEK laboratory and with the Super Kamiokande detector (also in Japan) and at Fermilab and is now trying to topple the Standard Model at the University of Warwick.
He also loves a good strong ale and I look forward to chatting with him over one soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Surveyors of destruction

The white destroyers have been making regular visits in the morning. They used to graze out the back of the house on the grass that, due to the plumbing work, no longer exists. They seem so smug - something about the tilt of their head or the jaunt of a wing that seems to say - look at this wreck, arrrrhhhhhhhhh - sucker -

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My hands are a bit sore

It probably has something to do with going indoor climbing last night. about 20 years ago I used to climb a few times a week and trained seriously in the gym. I'd head up to the blue mountains with friends most weekends and spent most of my holidays looking for exciting vertical challenges. My life revolved around climbing, uni and dance clubs, but mostly climbing.
Over the years my strength to weight ratio has lost ground to my girth to weight ratio. My flexibility has been eroded by arthritis and probably most damaging - I no longer care how I look in my climbing tights.
Needless to say my lifestyle has changed over the years, I no longer keep in contact with my climbing buddies and no longer self identify as 'a climber'.
Last night for the first time in too many years I went climbing. I sucked. Sean and Andrew were very nice about it, but I sucked.
We are hoping to make this a regular occurrence, so the only way is up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You know its a European car when ...

you see a light on the dash you've never seen before warning you that there may be frost on the road. In one of the coldest Sydney days in July in 20 years (its much colder where we are up on the ridges in the north west) our little Ford Focus attentively alerted Alex to the bleeding obvious. Bless those busy little German engineers

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Woman plummeted 1,200 metres into a lake of molten lava.

I'm not sure if this would be a good or a bad way to die, but it sure is unusual.

Favourite quotes

My Favourite quote today was

Daddy - this toast is not fantastic.

Seems that there is no pleasing some people.