This weekend I…

  • consumed my after-dinner snack of ribs and wings at Frankie & Benny’s
  • woke up to a gloriously warm and sunny Saturday
  • tried my hand at Singaporean-style half-boiled egg (failed, but it still tasted good)
  • went for a jog, but the traffic fumes gave me minor asthma problems
  • sat out in the back garden and crocheted while Neil mowed the lawn
  • had lunch and watched loads of Grand Designs (one of my new favourite programmes) while computering
  • had a supermarket-bought pizza for dinner (and profiteroles for dessert)
  • went to Brian and Carene’s for a drink
  • took a day trip with Brian and Carene to Blackness Castle (disappointed), checked out House of the Binns (the house was closed but the grounds were open), and hung out in South Queensferry for a bit (middle-aged Hog heaven) — photos will be uploaded when my Flickr uploader stops acting up (Update: pictures!)
  • watched Grey’s Anatomy

Sorry, my sperm have a boner

Researchers have discovered a way of turning bone marrow tissue into sperm cells. The title of the article is Bone stem cells turned into primitive sperm cells.

If these precursor cells can be coaxed into becoming fully functioning sperm cells, the technique could allow infertile men to father their own children, and even allow women to produce their own sperm.

We’re going to evolve into really big worms.

Nayernia hopes that one day it might be possible to inject the sperm stem cells directly into the testes of human patients, so that these men can conceive naturally as opposed to using IVF.

Needles near your bollocks! Bet that makes the boys cringe.

Defending freedom — looks great at home

Oh, give me a break. Gagged Euro MPs slam ‘authoritarian’ Singapore. The Singapore government has denied entry to foreign politicians who had been invited to speak at a Singapore Democratic Party, saying

“Singapore’s politics are reserved for Singaporeans. As visitors to our country, foreigners should not abuse their privilege by interfering in our domestic politics.”

The PAP government doesn’t like opposition debate on its policies, especially if there is going to be added ‘authority’ from foreign politicians.

WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT IN A MILLION YEARS THAT SINGAPORE WOULD RESTRICT FREE SPEECH? I am shocked, shocked I tell you.

Watson said Singapore’s decision “will not help with the difficult task” of finalising a partnership and cooperation agreement which both sides began discussing about two years ago.

Such agreements provide rules that govern trade, exchange of criminal suspects, return of refugees and other issues while including clauses about respect for human rights, he said.

“The refusal to allow a basic political dialogue on issues of common concern clearly makes it more difficult to negotiate any such agreement,” he said.

When Singapore dangles the prospect of economic and commercial benefits, watch the rhetoric change. Countries work with Singapore because Singapore works. We don’t have problems with labour and social unrest and an unstable economy — industrialists like that.

It makes for a good soundbite and gets pollies’ names in the news. How disingenuous.

Cynical, me?

(This is not to say I think ministers should be getting paid millions of dollars. There is, rightly so, outrage when departing and not-very-successful CEOs get golden handshakes because their performance can be measured. With ministers being moved around every few years, how can we properly measure their performance? What standards and benchmarks have we got?)

Elsewhere: Singapore bans EU lawmakers from debate on ministers’ hefty pay hike, Forum to go on with local speakers

Too few hours — or, I wish I only needed 1/2 the sleep

I’m not sure if it was this morning, last night, or the morning before (or even two nights ago), but I asked Neil if he felt like he was just existing. Because I do.

Back in the day, I was extremely insecure and Neil and I would get into… situations where we’d have an argument / issues and I’d end up all weepy.

(Not that I’d ever want to go back to that time of my life.)

The thing is, my life is really boring now, because of the amount of time I spend getting to / staying at / getting home from work. This is perhaps the psychological cost of living and working where the public transport network is shite and the country is big. I spend approximately 11 hours a day, five days a week, following the above routine. Add an hour for dinner and another one for exercise and then a shower, and suddenly it’s time to get ready for bed.

(My attempt to exercise frequently and regularly suffers.)

I’m a list maker. I scribble to-do lists on scrap pieces of paper, my notebook, or in e-mails to myself. I e-mail myself links to scripts and fonts and files I should download. Once in a while, I actually get to turn on my laptop at home and download my e-mail. Even more rarely, I get to download the things I’ve linked to.

(The size of my Thunderbird inbox breaches my comfort level due to several unacted-upon e-mails from me to me.)

(My backpack is full of pieces of recycled paper with notes to self.)

I just wonder what happened — when did I lose the ability to do stuff? I’ve been thinking of launching a new project for months. I’ve looked for a domain name, I’ve collected all the technical information I need (I hope) to get it running; all I need to do is the setup and code.

It was cheap to live in China and push a project along because Neil’s savings in £s went a long way. Doing the same here carries a much higher risk.

(To be completely honest with myself — and the Ingterbloogenvirons — I think I’m afraid I’ll be wasting my money and time.)

There is a dilemma. When I do have time, like this Easter weekend just gone, I could put my head down and code like mad, craft like mad. Stay indoors and work on tackling that to-do list. Or I could go on day trips to the Scottish borders and take advantage of the infrequently glorious weather. Or go out for long walks and talk with Neil about everything.

(The to-do list gets longer.)

(Sometimes it’s just more important to feel you’re alive than to get things done. Even if you feel guilty about it.)

Let the horse-trading begin

Pah! Hah! Salmond paves way for Lib Dem deal with dramatic shift on referendum:

Asked whether he would contemplate including a question on more powers for the Scottish Parliament alongside independence in a referendum, Mr Salmond said: “It is not something I favour because we have a very clear proposition.

“I favour going down that road and that seems to me a clear, decisive way to do things.

“Our proposition is clear, outlining and explaining the circumstances of independence and what it means in the modern world.”

But he added: “Our absolute preference – if we get support for that proposition – will be one we will take forward and succeed, I believe, in negotiations.”

All that obfuscation to hide the, “None of our policies are closed to compromise, so what you vote for may not be what you get,” fudge. And most people aren’t going to bother to deconstruct the crap to realise what Alex Salmond’s really saying — he’s just like any politician, his morals and ethics and policies are ALWAYS negotiable (with the right incentive).

The only real hurdle – and it is a very big one – is the SNP’s insistence on an independence referendum within the parliament’s four-year term.

Now, however, there does seem to be movement on that and the Liberal Democrat leadership will come under intense pressure from party activists not to block an SNP-Lib Dem coalition deal if a compromise is available on a referendum.

Mr Salmond’s move is also a shrewd one politically.

He knows that independence does not command the support of a clear majority of Scots and, as a result, he is unlikely to win an independence referendum at the first attempt.

This is exactly what I thought would happen, and the elections haven’t even been held yet. Commenters on The Scotsman website howl that the paper is making all this up (I can’t imagine an established newspaper would dare to quote someone from fantasy), but The Guardian corroborates.

The human-hamster divide has been breached

Is it bad to find the possible implications of treating critically ill humans with hamster cells comedic?

Oliver Moody was lacking an enzyme that breaks down harmful chemicals in his organs. A £300,000 a year treatment developed by US scientists using genetically-modified Chinese hamster cells [insert joke about medical science cutting costs by using Chinese hamsters here] was finally brought to the UK, and ten months on, the boy can play sports with his friends.

I suppose it’s when he starts storing boiled white rice in his cheek pouches that we should start worrying (actually, when he starts developing cheek pouches is probably a good a time as any).

(This is not to say I think little of the boy and his parents — no one can blame parents for trying everything to help their children — although I do wonder who’s footing the bill.)

Crunchy on the outside

A couple of food (and eating) -related links, sure to get the mouth watering:

  • Got a taste for testicle? Oakdale fete for you — via Terry. The fact that one has to mask the flavour of calf testicle with ‘heavy seasoning’ and breadcrumbs kinda tells me that calf testicle doesn’t taste too good.
  • If you’ve enjoyed your calf testicles as much as your neighbour but you put on more pounds, It’s in the genes: breakthrough confirms DNA link with obesity — so the chubsters who want their cake (and pizza and ice cream and burgers and chips and chocolate) and eat it will blame their genetics, not the fact that they’ve never done more exercise that reaching for the phone to call their local delivery service. Putting them on a diet of calf testicles might actually get them moving.

Lunchtime can’t come soon enough!

Dangerous People with Severe Personality Disorder

The UK government is trying a research and treatment programme to see if the worst violent psychopaths can be ‘reformed’:

Psychopaths at a specialist unit within Frankland prison in Durham, UK, are being subjected to the most intensive treatment plan yet devised. Known as Chromis, it employs individual and group therapy to try to shift ingrained patterns of thought and behaviour. Rather than just relying on short sessions of therapy, it recruits the entire staff of the unit to turn prisoners’ lives into a continuous exercise in cognitive-behavioural therapy.

I think it’s important to note these psychopaths cannot be rehabilitated, since they have always been psychopaths (i.e. they’ve never been ‘habilitated’ in the first place — read Stanton Samenow’s book Inside the Criminal Mind).

Chromis pays particular attention to engaging psychopaths by identifying things they want from life that might be obtained by taking part. This focus on “what’s in it for me” may be vital, because psychopaths typically see no problem with their behaviour.

It will be very interesting to see if this enjoys a measure of success. Would you, however, want to be living near someone who underwent Chromis and may or may not have been affected positively? Psychopaths are very good at manipulating people, so the Chromis programme should have very powerful safeguards against patients gaming the system. (The article does note that this programme is for violent psychopaths who do not respond to conventional treatment.)

We’re paranoid FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

Wow, they’re trying to make paranoia sound like a GOOD thing.

This was a Government, he said, that “worries all the time”, and with good reason.

Singapore was not born as a First-World nation 42 years ago. Said Mr Lee: “It did not happen automatically. It happens through a systematic and deliberate process. There is career development, both in service and from the outside. We search nation-wide for Members of Parliament, have exhaustive tea sessions. Ministers — there is a systematic headhunting of talent.”

The Singapore model is a paranoid one because it prides itself on being “totally committed” to improving the lives of Singaporeans, said Mr Lee, who explained that the decision to increase the salaries of ministers and civil servants now was to “produce the best Government” for all.

Note the employment of the usual tactic — none of the country’s achievements would have happened without _____ (translation: be grateful and stop asking questions). Not sure about the tea sessions, though. I’ve heard they’re euphemisms for nefarious activities at karaoke lounges. Perhaps they should try some other caffeinated beverage when searching for ministers. Coke sessions? Heh.

I have a feeling their definition of ‘paranoid’ and application to the Singapore model is markedly different from those who live in the real world.

My body is my temple

I’m a real cheapskate. There was a yoga class on at the gym and I was going to go, but wanted to use the treadmill first, so I called to find out the cost.

£3.90 for yoga and £2.30 for the gym. EGADS. £6.20?! That’s over S$18!!! For less than two hours* at the leisure centre? That’s daylight robbery, that is. So I decided to walk the 20 minutes to the gym and think about running another day (and I’m on the brink of yet another cold).

My impression of my first yoga classI got to the leisure centre a little early, and the taekwondo class was still using the squash court where the yoga class would be held, so I waited outside the main hall for Carene, who was taking the Salsacise class before yoga. Now, I didn’t see any Salsa happening in the dying moments of the class, and techno is NOT salsa. Other people may enjoy these led aerobics classes, but I am not co-ordinated. There are years of incontrovertible empirical evidence to support this theory. The other really negative thing about this class was the instructor was waaaaaay too perky — after an hour of bopping around I don’t need perky to remind me how unfit I am.

So. Yoga. Things started out great when the instructor said she’d been listening to Marilyn Manson. Not one of those Zen fakers. I like. She took us through a ‘relaxing’ session, which, at one point, involved headstands while balancing our knees on our elbows (I managed a one-second headstand — wahey!). There were lots of poses (not that I could ever catch the names of any of them) that I think were complicated by my gangly arms and legs**.

My favourite part (well, the bit that made me giggle — not focused!) was when we were sitting cross-legged with our hands on our knees, palms up, and the instructor said, “Say to yourself, My body is my temple.”

Neil usually says that when he buys sugary baked goods. Or chocolate.

So I think I’ll go back to the yoga class, as it’s on twice a week (I’ll go on one of the two days). Hopefully I’ll get better at it, and it’ll help me with my flexibility and stretch me out after running.

About the running. Neil identified an open, well-lit route along the main streets of our neighbourhood well before I arrived in Scotland. I’ve jogged it a couple of times, and while the distance is ideal (just under two km per lap), something’s not quite right about it. I think I need to be able to KNOW exactly how long I have run, and to be able to do my version of speed training according to specific distances. There is a running track on the other end of town (it’s actually too far to walk there and back by any practical means), so I’m going to try and visit this evening to see what time the gates get locked. If I can get in an hour’s go at the track, three times a week, I will be a happy girl.

Update: I just called the club that owns the track. Access to the track is only available during the day. This entire country is set up to be a disincentive to work, I swear.

* That’s really all the time I can manage.
** I’m gangly for a short person.