Sunday, 25 December 2011

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The Xenopus Portolan

Another poem-y, story sort of thing...

Massive, ancient, fastened with a
metal clasp and vellum bound,
the Xenopus Portolan is the
record of a lost civilization.
Seafarers from the earliest times,
explorers of the five seas,
inch by treacherous inch they
traversed the blank map, filling
in the spaces systematically. Discovery
was their only motivation, and
they wrote it all down
in this mighty book - islands,
whirlpools, sea monsters to beware,
the depth of channels and
the hidden rocks; the new
people, animals, fruits and flowers
found. And on every page
the name, age and birthplace
of every sailor, cook and
cabin-boy lost in the endeavour.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Just Listen to That Glorious Carolling...

A bit of high-brow Christmas humour courtesy of the New Yorker- enjoy!

How Evolution Works

A very elegant introduction to how evolution works...

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Yoga And Cats DO Mix

I'm not mad keen on cats (dogs rule!) and I couldn't even begin to do yoga as well as this woman but this is a fab (and funny) video...

Pinched from Astropixie.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Inspired by reaching the end of a writing notebook, I had a go at a poem on endings:

The day ends with the sunset.
Heat ends with the rain.
Love affairs end in failure.
Marriage ends in pain.
The seed ends in the rosehip,
conker, and the nut.
The corm ends in the harvest.
Drought ends in the glut.
Days out end in arguments.
Christmas ends in tears.
Will Hay films end in laughter.
Rallies end in cheers.
Every life must end in death.
All flesh turns to dust.
Pack every day with living
and dazzle fit to bust.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

A Year of the Moon

This is beautiful as well as informative: my favourite kind of science:

This, incredibly, is a computer simulation, created by the Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio. Find out more about how they did it here.

Monday, 5 December 2011


My brother, who died in the mountains just after his 21st birthday, would have been 49 years old today. Incredible to think of him being a middle-aged man on the verge of 50. Instead he will always be young.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Cappuccino Test

It's about time for another bit of quiz fun:

You Are Idealistic

A total idealist, you envision great things for your life. You believe your dreams will come true.

You are willing to speak out. You are a big believer in standing up for what's right.

You are pioneering and an outside the box thinker. You believe in possibilities.

You are ready to fight for your interests. In the end, you need to take care of yourself first.

What does your coffee say about you?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Creature of the Week

A new feature here in the Pond and, appropriately, it's an underwater creature we'll start with: the impossibly delicate-looking Weedy seadragon:

Find out more at Wikipedia.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Thought For the Day

I'm not sure if this is by way of being an arm round the shoulder for the middle-aged, or more of a communal sob but, in any case, Thoreau has it right (again):

"The youth gets together the materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace or temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them."

I find this curiously comforting...

Monday, 28 November 2011

Blog of the Week

This week's highlighted blog is Archie's Archive. Archie is a magnificently bearded Australian, whose blog is guaranteed to raise a smile. His photographs of Perth are interesting, and his terrible puns are headache-worthy. Highlight for me every week is the BBC quiz, in which he awards a dunce's hat to the reader with the worst score and a crown if you manage to get all the answers right (I never have...)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Benton Fenton Spreads

Viral vid of the week has been Fenton the dog chasing deer in Richmond Park...

...and then clever people all over the world began using the audio footage...



...and, of course...

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Blog Of The Week

A new feature here in the Pond - I thought I'd draw attention to some of my favourite blogs out there. There are some really talented people keeping blogs and they deserve the widest possible readership. One such person is Helen over at toomanytribbles. She is a photographer by profession, and a supporter of free speech, intelligence and Star Trek. Check out her stunning photographs - buy her book too, if you like - it's highly recommended.

Apart from showcasing her photography, her blog consists mainly of videos, always worth watching, on space, atheism and, well, anything that might appeal to the intelligent reader. You will always find something thought-provoking or beautiful, or both, over at toomanytribbles!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

She's gone...

My gorgeous old dog died today, aged 17 years and 8 months. Mind you, she wasn't always a gentle old lady - she was a right thug in her youth, picking fights with other dogs and defending her lord and master (my husband) to the death. Her favourite things were digging and chewing roots.

Yesterday, it was obvious that she was nearing the end. She has had dementia for four years, which she has borne with great courage and patience. In the last few days she had lost the capacity to eat, though she could still lap liquids. She was completely peaceful so it had been tempting to keep her with me just one more day, one more week, but I knew that she was ready to go. In the afternoon, I took her up to our favourite forest path, aiming to carry her along. We did mainly go along in that fashion but at one point she asked to get down and wandered off up the path for a short while. I took a picture of her and I am glad I did because it seemed to capture the mood of today - my little dog setting off on some unknown journey along a long woodland path.

She has been the best companion I could have wished for these last 6 years and I am going to miss her dreadfully. Sweet dreams Gem.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sock Nonsense

It's a chill, foggy Tuesday in November, with only months of it getting darker and colder to look forward to. Time for some cheering up. I think...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Blue Marble bathed in Green

Changed my mind - I do want to be an astronaut...

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael K├Ânig on Vimeo.

Filched from the fab toomanytribbles.
These stunning time-lapse photographs are taken from the International Space Station. Look at the aurorae! The music is Jan Jelinek's Do Dekor.

Sunday, 13 November 2011


Stress(Photo credit David Friel)
This is quite good fun, and useful too. The BBC Lab UK use their huge audience pool to enable big experiments to be undertaken, providing psychologists with useful and real data. I was feeling a bit stressed yesterday, so thought I'd have a go at this test: The Stress Test. It takes twenty minutes or so but you get good, personalised feedback at the end and I can honestly say that I found one or two of the answers helped me. Go on - have a go and do your bit for science!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Where are my dancing shoes?

Rather pleased with this result - how do YOU travel through life?

You Dance Through Life

Your journey through life is inspired, creative, and optimistic.

You are an engaging, positive person - and you're always looking for the possibilities in life.

You hope to motivate and uplift other people. You want to change the world in your own little way.

You are confident and expressive. You're happy with who you are, as unique and different as you might be.

Monday, 19 September 2011

The Earth from Space

Pinched from toomanytribbles:

I would hate to be an astronaut but it must be pretty awe-inspiring to wake up to this view every morning...

By the way - hello again, everyone. I had no idea it was two months since I had last posted. Just been (happily) busy with other things!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

It's Going To Be An Interesting Day...

I hear, and not before time, the feathery flap of chickens coming home to roost...

Thanks to Archie for the find.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


I'm still not sure how I feel about Julian Assange, Wikileaks et al BUT I hate it when big powerful governments stomp on the little guy, so...

Archie brought this to my attention and he writes that Visa and Mastercard allow payments to be made to the Ku Klux Klan but they have blocked payments to Wikileaks. It's a topsy-turvy world.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Which Craft Hobby Should You Take Up?

And now you're in the mood, here's another quiz - it must be Friday...

You Should Take Up Journaling

You are very private, but you aren't aloof. You just have a well developed inner world.

You spend a lot of time thinking by yourself. It helps to get your thoughts down on paper.

You are an idealistic soul. You have noble ideas about the world.

You are a natural writer of all sorts. You are equally suited writing essays, journals, and fiction.

What's Colourful About You?

Your Spirit is Colorful

You are easygoing and leisurely. You prefer to keep things low-pressure in your life.

You are approachable and genuinely nice. You are the friendly face in the room.

You are a true optimist. You give anyone or anything a chance, even if others tell you not to.

You are open-minded and flexible. You don't see things as set in stone, and you like to leave yourself open.

Monday, 6 June 2011

We All Feel Like This Sometimes...

Dedicated to the middle-aged, the slightly-older-than-middle-aged, and the otherwise downright miserable, this video WILL make you laugh AND make you feel better about your rotten life - I promise...

Pinched from the marvellous Helen over at too many tribbles.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Sadness (and Hope) in the Jungle

Picture credit: Cecilia Pakravan

This is Miko. He is one of many orphaned orangutans being looked after at the Nyaru Menteng sanctuary, in Borneo. It's an old and sad story, I'm afraid - habitat destruction by humanity, in this case, rainforest cleared to provide land mainly for palm oil plantations, for both the food industry and also for biofuels. These gentle giants are rendered homeless in the process. A remarkable woman, Lone Droscher Nielsen, set up the sanctuary in 1999 and has, with the help of local babysitters, spent the last 12 years rearing these orphans and teaching them how to be orangutans before releasing them to safe, wild spaces to live in peace. Watch this and I dare you not to cry:

Orangs are, I think, the forgotten great ape. David Attenborough is almost speechless, watching the intelligence of this mother using tools:

It makes me very angry and ashamed to think that I might have the smallest part in killing even one of these animals. I look now at food labels in the supermarket and try not to buy anything that has palm oil in it. It's not much but I don't know what else I can do.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

The Night Sky in June

Here's another excellent guide to the night sky from the guys at Hubble. I think I'm going to have a go at trying to resolve the two stars in Izar. What about you?

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Pinched from the house of az ...

You Are a Butterscotch Scone

The early part of your day is filled with unpredictability and fun.

You are never sure when you are going to wake up. Your schedule varies as much as your life does.

You may have a hard time getting up in the morning, but you usually make it out of bed on the first try. You often have something new and exciting to look forward to.

You're the type most likely to make your scones from a mix and add in all sorts of funky stuff. Butterscotch chips are just one example of how inspired you can be.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Creme Egg Survivability

I LOVE scientists - proper, white-coated, geeky scientists. No more need be said.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Thought For the Day

"Men rarely (if ever) managed to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child"

Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, 16 May 2011


Cuteness overload for a dull Monday morning. Mind you, Mum does look a bit bamboozled by it all, doesn't she?

cute baby animals - A Sundog Surprise
see more Daily Squee

Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Cartoon Universe

In a kill-or-cure kind of way, this will either make your brain expand or explode - enjoy!

Dark Matters from PHD Comics on Vimeo.

Filched from Archie.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Happy Birthday Hubble!

The Hubble Space Telescope has been on its extended sightseeing tour now for 21 years. It has, in the words of Nasa Administrator Charles Bolden, "profoundly changed our view of the universe, allowing us to see deep into the past while opening our eyes to the majesty and wonders around us". To celbrate its 21st birthday, Nasa turned Hubble to view this stunning pair of galaxies, 300 million light years away. The large spiral galaxy above is being distorted by the tidal pull of the galaxy below. But never mind the science - Nasa thought it made a beautiful rose shape, suitable for a birthday gift. Happy birthday Hubble!

Sunday, 10 April 2011


From xkcd, as usual...if you don't geddit, have a think about what the cross might be called............................hell if I know.................

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Night Sky in April

Feeling starry? This excellent video from the Hubble site tells you what to look for in the April sky.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Can't Win With Some People...

Nails, heads, and the hitting thereof come to mind...yep, it's xkcd again...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

It's Talk Like WIlliam Shatner Day!

Hey! William Shatner (Captain Kirk to you non-Trekkies) is 80 today. Let's all celebrate a cultural icon by talking like him, just for stun...

Monday, 21 March 2011

Happy Birthday Gem!

Today, my Jack Russell terrier is 17 years old. Seventeen is a good age for a dog, though terriers have been known to live to 20.

Gem had always been an incredibly healthy dog, only ever visiting the vet for her annual booster shot. But three years ago, she developed doggy dementia (yes, dogs can get it too) and so, since then, I have effectively been her carer. Many times over these years I have thought I was losing her. She would have a bad day or a bad few days, and seem to be at death's door, but always she sprang back to (relative) sprightliness.

Then she developed cataracts and is now effectively blind. And still she soldiers on, She is amazing (and fearless). On encountering a new place, she will quarter the room, banging into chair legs and bouncing off walls, until she understands the layout. Then, sometimes after an hour of this, she will settle down and sleep. I am sure her doggy brain is then processing all the information she has painfully absorbed. I have moved house twice in the last three years and, each time, she has been able to find her bowls and her bed within a day.

(or the Aga!)

She has given me far more over the last three years than I have given her.Yes, she is now somewhat incontinent and, every day, I have puddles and steaming piles to clean up. We can't go for long walks any more; and she can't interact with me the way she used to - she's not such a strong presence in the house. And yet, I am so glad she has survived all this time. I wouldn't have changed a day of her company. Well-meaning friends tell me it would be "kinder" to have her put to sleep. Kinder to whom? Not to the dog, surely. She's had three years of cuddles and sleeps by the fire and gentle walks among the trees. Who is to say that her life is less worth living than that of a puppy?

I have come to believe that the way we treat our pets is a microcosm of the way we treat the weak amongst our own species. If you think it's okay to put a dog to sleep just because she's old and not as much fun as a puppy, then what would you do if you had that power over the life of you old auntie? I think I know the answer to that one.

We have settled down into a calm and pleasant routine. She eats well enough, we try to take a small walk every day, and we have a wonderful cuddle every evening, watching the telly. When she tires on her walk and I pick her up to carry her, I get a lick on the nose as a thank you. She knows enough about what's going on to be grateful to me for helping her out - how amazing is that?

So, happy birthday Gem! Now that you've made it this far, who knows how long you will carry on. I think we should aim for the big two-oh. You've amazed everyone with your determination and strength. To celebrate, here is a picture - my favourite, I think - of Gem in her prime. I was taking a picture of a sunflower in my garden, a lifetime ago when my husband was still alive and the world was normal, and didn't spot that Gem was careering across the grass in the background.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Friday Giggle

If this doesn't make you smile, I'll eat my hat...

Monday, 14 March 2011

Seventy Years Ago

'Terraces', one of a series of Clydebank Blitz paintings by Tom McKendrick.

On the 13th and 14th March 1941, the German Luftwaffe bombed the town of Clydebank, near Glasgow. It was targetted because of the important work being done there - munitions and shipbuilding, mainly. 260 bombers came, in three waves, aided by a full moon and pretty much destroyed the town. In a town housing 50,000 people, only 7 properties survived undamaged.

The news of the blitz was largely kept from the wider public so that one young soldier, returning home on leave to surprise his family, knew nothing of the raid and arrived home to see his home destroyed and all of his family dead, except his father. How do you ever recover from a thing like that? The true death toll will probably never be known. The official figure is 529 but the actual figure is certain to have been higher than this.

As a Scot, I take the Clydebank Blitz personally but I have an even closer link, as my grandfather worked with the Auxiliary Fire Service and was involved in the efforts to battle the raging fires those two nights. He died before I was born and so I was never able to ask him about his experiences.

There was an excellent documentary on the BBC last night - I'll put the link here, though it will only be available for a week:

Clydebank Blitz

It was impossible not to be moved and angered by the personal stories of those two nights but mainly I was left with the realisation that this must be what it is like to be an innocent Iraqi during the "shock and awe" bombings, or to be a resident of Dresden during the huge bombing raid of '45. It never stops. The Germans may not be bombing us now, nor we them, but there are plenty of ordinary people enduring bombing campaigns of the magnitude, or worse, of the Clydebank Blitz. Why do we allow it?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kitchen Hints #176

You KNOW you are going to try this...

Friday, 11 March 2011

Deathbed Conversions...or Not

Christopher Hitchens, the journalist and prominent atheist, has been seriously ill with cancer recently. In this wonderfully clear-minded vid, he rebuts, in a nice clear voice, once and for all, the old chestnut that atheists will always recant on their deathbeds. He also conjures up a teasingly gleeful alternative scenario...

Nice to see him looking a bit better and thanks to Archie for finding the link in his vast archive.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Artificial Intelligence

xkcd does it again...

Hope your Spring is going well (if you're in the Northern hemisphere - otherwise - happy autumn!) ... we have snow...

Monday, 28 February 2011

Every Librarian's Fantasy...

Ah - those boring Sundays with nothing better to do than play with your books...

Pinched from the mightily bearded Archie...

Friday, 18 February 2011

You're Sitting by the Ocean...Now, Who Are You Again?

Some of these quizzes work, some don't - this one has got me bang on the nail or, at least, bang on the nail of how I would like to think I am...

You Take Yourself Seriously

You see yourself as a thoughtful and introspective person. You are very intelligent.

You think other people see you as friendly, happy, and charming. You tend to get along well with everyone.

You want to see yourself as independent and free wheeling. You'd like to do your own thing more often.

You identify as a compassionate and accepting person. You pride yourself on being forgiving.

Pinched from the inspirational azahar

Friday, 11 February 2011

Thought For the Day

It strikes me that we spend the first half of our lives learning to live with other people and the second half learning to die alone...

or is that just me?

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Current Thinking

It occurs to me that, for a blog that claims to be both atheist and a little bit philosophical, I haven't posted much in that way in quite a while. So here is a fairly gentle, and very funny, poke at Christian certainty from the splendid Edward Current...

Friday, 4 February 2011

I'm a Tinkerer - What Are You?

This is fun - and that comment is thereby proof of my inquisitiveness and curiosity, thereby proving what a perceptive quiz it is. Boy, I love it when these quizzes make me feel good about myself!

Your Dominant Personality Trait is Inquisitiveness

You are an imaginative and curious person. You are excited to learn about the world.

You are interested in all sorts of topics. You like to understand history and how things work.

You are both a tinkerer and an intellectual. You probably enjoy working with your hands and more passive activities like reading.

You have many interests and hobbies... and you're always looking to take on a new one.

The Flow Chart of the Kitchen

After a lifetime of cooking proper meals for other people (and myself), and now that I am an Open University student, I am aspiring to this....well, the pizza every night bit, anyway...

Oh, and a curtsey to the mighty xkcd, as usual

Monday, 24 January 2011

Which Star Sign Are You, And Does It Make Any Difference...

From the very clever Information is Beautiful, via the almost as clever Bad Astronomy is this rather devastating (to popular astrology)bit of work. The brain boxes at Information is Beautiful did a meta-analysis of thousands of daily horoscopes and below is the resulting word cloud, arranged by star sign.

Could you pick out the Leo from the Pisces here?