Saturday, February 28, 2009


I present to you the following paper:

Focht DR III, et al. The efficacy of duct tape vs cryotherapy in the treatment of verruca vulgaris (the common wart). Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med October 2002;156:971-4.

Summary Here

I'm a little torn as to what to think of this research -- on the one hand it presents an effective and cheap treatment for a common problem, as well as another use for the mighty gaffa tape -- on the other hand though, it could deprive honest men and women of science of an excuse to get out the liquid nitrogen. This is troubling because liquid nitrogen has an extremely high awesome-per-millilitre (A/ml), depriving doctors of such important resources now could leave the developed world with a serious dearth of mad scientists ten years down the line. In times of recession we should be striving to support our nation's mad scientists, for without them the Van de Graaff generator and lightning rod industry could collapse.

It could be as bad as when they stopped alchemists from boiling mercury in small rooms.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Misinformed Ramblings

I'm writing this in the Ubuntu text editor, having (mostly) gone all open source. It's not been the most smooth process, as I rather lack the technical chops to get it to go perfectly, but now that it works it's mostly good. I've not been very bloggy recently, for no decent reason. I'll try and rectify this.

Today i've been doing a fair amount of research into research -- more specifically into sex research, which is the most fun kind of research. You can't go wandering around in that subject area without at least hearing the name Alfred Kinsey, the first person to do a large scale survey of people who professed to be 'normal' in their social and sexual leanings. For good measure I feel like I should say the word research a few more times, as it just hasn't come up quite often enough in this paragraph.

Any google search into Mr Kinsey will return much the same sort of results as a search for a certain Mr Darwin. The Jeebus does not like him, no no no, does not like him at all.

I should write a little context I feel, at this point, seeing as I can pull all the facts off the top of my head (strange job, I learn too many things). His first major publication Sexual behavior in the Human Male came out in 1948, and caused a bit of a shock-horror reaction. He asked a wide range of men, from convicted felons to graduate students, how, essentially, they liked to get their naughty on -- their favored steps in the horizontal monster mash, if you will. This survey is best known now for its very high estimate of the proportion of men who were primarily homosexual (about one in ten) which does somewhat exceed the ratios that more recent surveys have returned (this is most likely due to A: the fact that there were quite a few giggolos and prisoners in his survey, and B: because it was performed just after the second world war, where, amongst other things, a lot of guys had to get pretty damn friendly with no women about). What is more interesting to me is the sheer amount of things that he concluded that were considered shocking, like the statistic that 92 percent of men masturbate (which I still find shocking, but for the opposite reason) or that 40 percent of men liked to have sex with the lights on. He caused even more shock and horror a few years later when he wrote a companion book, Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, which reported that women rather liked sex, 62 percent of them said they masturbated, and 55 percent of them had responded erotically to being bitten. It made monocles drop into cups of tea across the land.

He died in 1956, but the Kinsey institute carry on his work to this day, and have a very good website, if you're ever bored and not at work (or at work, if your job is like mine).

The thing I find interesting is the way that, like Darwin, his publications and personal life are scrutinized by Christians to this day. When you look at this, it seems a little illogical. both the study of human sexuality and evolutionary biology have progressed a long way since the work that kick-started the respective fields. Yet the attacks are made on Kinsey, and not on those doing similar research today.

I was pondering this on the way home from work this evening, and it seems to me that this is emblematic of a complete incompatibility of thought between religious types and science-y peoples. Scientific scholarship is about gathering evidence from the world around you. Religious scholarship is about divining meaning through exegesis, by pulling new ideas from ancient texts. It seems to me that this different perspective is what causes the strange attacks on figures like Darwin and Kinsey. When someone used to religious scholarship looks at the field of evolutionary biology, or sex research, they see the misguided followers of a false prophet's blasphemous revelation. To them, the most logical way of making this field go away is to discredit the founding text. What they fail to grasp is that science isn't exegesis, discrediting Kinsey isn't going to make sex researchers stop, because what they're doing is the study of people, not the study of kinsey's findings about people.

The thing I find most odd about the religious reaction to Kinsey is the underlying suggestion that none of this sort of thing went on before he wrote about it.


Do I hear music?

It sounds like a bit of John Martyn to me, and perhaps a Stealer's Wheel song that isn't Stuck in the Middle with You. Mmhm.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

bass babble

Neither interesting nor coherent, I'll probably delete it tomorrow.

This evening I was performing a nerdy experiment. It wasn’t particularly rigorous -- no blinding, no control – but the results were interesting to me. There are currently two amplifiers in my room. One is my line6 bass amp, the other is a little Roland Cube-15 guitar amp that belongs to my little sister. I dragged the guitar amp up here because no-one else was using it, and I do sometimes play the guitar. I started using it to amplify my basses a few weeks ago. I first did it because there was a huge heap of stuff on top of my bass amp, and I couldn’t be arsed to move it in order to play. I was very surprised by how good it sounded, in theory at least it should be like trying to use a tweeter as a woofer. As the weeks passed I realised that I was switching on my bass amp less and less.

Tonight I sat down and played the same phrase on my bass through one amp, then the other. I put all the controls on both amps to their neutral positions and tried that. The guitar amp sounded clear and nice, the bass amp sounded like a clock radio that has been shoved under a pillow. I then spent about an hour tweaking every control on the bass amp in every direction to try and make it sound good, with no success. I found that if I carefully adjusted all the controls and turned the volume almost all the way up, I could get a passable impersonation of the sound I was getting from the guitar amp from the bass amp. If I turned up the Roland past its lowest volume setting, however, it not only sounded much, much better than the Line6, it was louder. Like, ear-hurtingly loud. I was a little nonplussed. In theory the line6 is an 80watt amplifier; the Roland, 15. I picked them up, poked them, even changed basses a few times to see what would happen. The result remained the same. I spent about £200 on an amp that can be outclassed by the sort of stuff people buy for schoolchildren.

Looking back, I bought that amp out of a funny sort of desperation. I’d tried it in a store, and really not liked it much. Instead I ordered a Fender Bassman, I’d tried one in a store that someone else had reserved and I’d liked it. It was going to be my first good-quality piece of gear, bought with my paycheck from temp work. The Fender, however, never turned up. There were never ending distributor problems, stock shortages, and, when a store finally got one and sent it off to me, some wanker working for Citilink Couriers snatched the damn thing out of the back of a van in a depot somewhere in Kent.

A few days after I was refunded, I found out I’d got a proper job, doing something I find interesting. About a week after that I went up to Denmark street, played around with some amps, and came back with the line6 amp that is sitting next to me right now. I’ve not ever said this out loud, but I bought it because I’d sort of decided that my days of taking music seriously were over. It was small, light, and sounded better than the giant piece of crap I was playing through at the time. I didn’t hugely care for the sound even then, but it disguised the flat sound of the instruments I was playing then fairly well. I figured that seeing as I was the only one who’d be hearing me play from now on, the sound didn’t really matter.

Now, of course, I’m pissed off. I have an amp that sounds rubbish and is so pathetically underpowered that even if I were to get a call to a band, I wouldn’t be able to project over even the gentlest of drummers (and we all know that there’s no such thing). I can’t get enthused about the idea of replacing it though, as my in-head justifications for spending money on this sort of thing seemed to wear away each year I move away from the fat 17-year-old playing his dad’s bass.