That quote, immortalised

Those of you who follow me on twitter or have befriended me on facebook may have heard mention of this yesterday evening, but those media are transient and temporary, whereas this blog has delusions of permanence about itself.
And that’s why I’m putting this up here; so that in years to come, I can return to this place, see it again and have a(nother) little giggle.

It happened while I was bathing the kids last night. We’d just watched the International Space Station pass over Cape Town (something that the kids love) and we were talking about why the space shuttle was up there, attached to the ISS, and what it was doing.

It was then that Alex came out with that quote:

Dad, how come you know everything and Mum doesn’t?

It took a couple of seconds to register and then I had to walk to the bathroom door to quietly guffaw until I cried. I was met there by my wife, who had also heard what her son had to say as she was coming up the stairs, and had that “Don’t you dare say anything” look on her face. Not that I could have talked anyway – I was creased from laughing.

The kids spent this morning watching some spectacular images on the NASA streaming video feed as the shuttle undocked from the ISS for the last time. I spent the morning getting emails about how much bandwidth I was using.

And knowing everything, obviously.

The Curse of 6000

On Friday last, over chocolate chip muffins and a decent cup of coffee at work, we reviewed the newspapers and jokingly made predictions for the rugby and various other sporting events over the weekend.

One of those “various other sporting events” was the Vodacom Durban July, which (for those not in the know) is a horse race, sponsored by Vodacom and run in Durban during July.
Now, I’m no expert on horseracing. Greyhound racing, on the other hand, I used to be quite good at. (Not literally the racing, you understand, but the prediction of winners therein). On our fairly regular visits down to the Oxford Dog Track in Blackbird Leys, I invariably came out with more money that I went in with. While others were basing their predictions on how good looking the girl leading the dog was or whether the canine defaecated on the parade lap (“It’ll be lighter now, see?”), I would study the form carefully, taking into account the weight, the trap, the opposition and the conditions.

It didn’t work every time, but it did work a lot of the time.

When it comes to horseracing though, I’m not so hot. And so, when picking a likely horse for the big race over the weekend, I went not on form, weight or whatever else: I went on the name. And I went for Big City Life, because in the words of the Mattafix song, I hoped that his attitude would allow him to “try for get by”, despite fact that in all likelihood, the “pressure nah ease up no matter how hard he try”.

In the immortal words of Captain Alberto Bertorelli:

What-a mistake-a to make-a!

Because Big City Life didn’t just not win. He died.
I’ve never managed that with a greyhound before, although I did accurately predict that the Stormers were going to be put out of their misery.

With this new found talent, I feel that I should let people know that – for the right price – I am available to predict victories for anything or anyone you want made into to dog food and glue.

When is the next Parlotones race, I wonder?
Or am I flogging a dead horse here?

UPDATE: Bah. Typically, the SPCA come out with a ill-thought through statement that “all horseracing should be banned“.
(Note – not even the RSPCA in the “Nanny State” UK thinks that’s a good idea.)
Well, sure SPCA – just as soon as you also come up with a plan to employ the 100,000+ individuals who are employed thanks to horseracing in South Africa. Oh, and when you stump up the R1,750,000,000 that it contributes to the economy each year.

Blog Stuff

“Blog Stuff”

That was the subject of the email awaiting when I returned from a weekend “getting away from it all” – including cellphone signal – in the Southern Cape. After the trials and tribulations of the last week – only 1% of which concerned the blog crashing and burning and the other 99% of which was carefully tucked away, hidden from the prying eyes of the readers of this esteemed site – it was manna from heaven.

The email was from the character who I have, in the past, labelled The Guru. As most of you who can read will already know, that man is Jacques Rousseau. While I was still blogging at by writing html by hand in notepad, he introduced me to the joys of WordPress. I can still remember what he said:

…you should give it a try, I think you’ll like it.

But that was then and this is now. While I have been throwing words at your screens, Guru Jacques has been honing the interface for your viewing pleasure. And once I had torn out the spine of 6000 miles… and begun crying on Friday, he set to work rehoning what was left. Basically from scratch.

Thanks be to Jacques, because what he has created is the “Slimmer6000” theme:

  • The functions.php file is 14.4% smaller
  • The style.css file is 59.3% smaller – decreasing load time
  • The menu spacing is “improved”
  • The coding is more efficient and smells better
  • There is an extra 10px width for posts – useful for quota photos
  • Robots are unblocked, boosting my ranking potential

Basically, it’s all good. Aside, it seems, from my sidebar text:

I reckon your sidebar text is too small (always has been) – if you want to play with that, go to lines 82 and 83 of style.css

Later, in another email, Jacques described himself as “a genius”, which I was about to agree with until I realised that he had given me free rein to play around with his work.


He obviously enjoys repairing things.

Quota Photo Test

I thought that once I* had repaired the file that I had damaged (which just so happens to be the file that underpins the entire blog on, that things would be ok. Not so.

It seems that the file in question went out of its way to take other files down with it. Or… something. I’m really not sure how, but it seems that is what has happened. Stuff that once existed, no longer exists and cannot be found. Stuff that was working fine is no longer working fine. Plugins are gone.

I’m not even sure if I can post this. That’s actually why I’m writing it.

Let’s try a quota photo from my dad’s flickr stream, shall we?

Here’s the Sidecar 2 race from this year’s Isle of Man TT races. And that’ll be a sidecar going around Ballacraine.
Probably rather quickly.
As you can see, the traffic lights are out. If he was in South Africa, he’d have to treat the junction as a four-way stop, which would almost certainly damage his lap time.

I digress. Watch twitter or our facebook page for further updates as to the recovery from the #6kCrash.

And once we are back up and running, I’ve still got to do the thing I was trying to do when I caused all this trouble in the first place.
Please have extra Milk Stout on standby. This could get messy again.

* I say “I”, but I was assisted in no small part by The (presumably jetlagged) Guru.
It seems likely that I will require much further assistance from him in the coming days.
This will inevitably cost me some (or more) bottle of red wine, but it’s more than worth it.

Microbiology Monday on twitter

Yes. I know it’s Friday. Thank you.

Microbiology, The Best Science Out Of All The Sciences™ (and coincidentally also the one that I do) has been featuring plenty on the twitter this morning. Why is this? It’s because even non-Microbiologists find Microbiology fascinating. It is, after all, The Best Science Out Of All The Sciences™.

Here are the best of those links to exciting stories, in reverse order of excitement.

At number 4, from @Jane_Anne62:
E. coli’s sticky secret revealed in medical journal

In which we discover that the recent European E.coli 0104:H4 outbreak strain was first detected back in 2001 [supporting my answer to this theory] and was particularly nasty due to a combination of evil toxins and an ability to hang around on the inside of your intestinal walls.

At number 3, via  @kelltrill:
Yeast can evolve into multicellular organisms in a few short months

No big news here for bacteriologists, to be fair: we’ve known about Quorum Sensing for a long time now, wherein many single-celled organisms act together as a “multicellular” unit. The apoptosis (“programmed cell death”) angle is more interesting, bacteria generally use that to knock out immune system cells rather than each other.

Runner up, via @PaulScott56:
Homemade “Mars in a Bottle” Torture Bacteria

Documenting  the heinous methods of heinous microbiologists in Italy as they put several species of bacteria through extreme conditions to see if they could survive on Mars. The reasoning behind this is two-fold: could bacterial life survive on Mars, and moreover, could the early Viking missions to that planet have contaminated the environment with hardy bacteria from Earth?
We didn’t know about the existence of extremophiles back in 1975 when the Viking probes were launched, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t tough little microbes hanging onto the side of the vehicles, hitching a lift to the red planet.
Could they survive the Martian conditions? Well, the Italian results seem to suggest that yes they could.
Another planet ruined. We might as well frack it now.

And today’s winner, again thanks to @Jane_Anne62:
No-fun fungus: Nasty yeast grows in dishwashers

Talking of yeast and extremophiles – how much more yeasty and extreme can things get than finding Exophiala dermatitidis and Exophiala phaeomuriformis in 56% of dishwashers tested across 6 continents?
These things are everywhere (apart from in the 44% of dishwashers that they weren’t).

Having abandoned previous missions to colonise fridges (too cold) and ovens (too hot), [you’re making this up, aren’t you? – Ed.] the black yeasts – determined to find a suitable household appliance – have taken to living in the rubber seals of dishwashers worldwide.
And while they are nowhere near as “nasty” as the E.coli mentioned above, they’re still not great to have around if you are immunosuppressed or have respiratory illness. Let this be a warning to you: go rinse your seals.

I love the way that people are taken by microbiology in the mainstream media. Either because it sounds like something from Star Trek, it’s been in the news or – in this last case – that it could (and 54% of the time, does) affect them.

So Much More Exciting Than Biochemistry™.