Archive for December, 2013

Sloppy Seconds – Watsky (song)

This song, “Sloppy Seconds”, was brought to my attention by Tania, a former student of mine. As anyone who reads (listens?) to my blog knows, I am pretty stuck in the 1960s/70s/80s when it comes to my musical tastes. I stopped listening to Radio 1 in 1992. For me, “rap” is something I eat, and begins with a “w” ๐Ÿ˜›

But, every so often I do bring myself into the present, and hear a song from post 1990 that I like. For the past several years, through a combination of my children and students, I am partially aware of some current music. It is easy for an old codger like me to not listen to any new music, after all my head and shelves are full of music that I have listened to over the years so is there any room for any new music?


Yes there is. And, I am glad I listened to this song that Tania sent me, as I thought it was great. And I’m not just saying that to try and be young and down with the kids, because I’m too old to even try that. What I liked first and foremost about the song is its central message – that everyone has a history, we’ve all made mistakes and nobody’s perfect. It also has a great sound, which is a bonus for a song with a strong message to convey.

Here are the lyrics to the song.

Fuck you if you love a car for its paint job
Love you if you love a car for the road trips
Show me the miles and your arms and the pink scar
Where the doctor had to pull out all the bone chips
Cuz you were pressing on the gas just a bit hard
Right in the moment where the road curved a bit sharp
And when you woke up, somebody was unclipping your seat belt
and pulling you from the open window of your flipped car

Cold pizza
Tie-dye shirts
Broken hearts
Give’m here, give’m here
Hand me downs
Give me give me leftovers
Give me give me sloppy seconds
Give em here, give em here

I don’t care where you’ve been
How many miles, I still love you [x2]

Show me someone who says they got no baggage
I’ll show you somebody whose got no story
Nothing gory means no glory, but baby please don’t bore me
We won’t know until we get there
The who, or the what, or the when where
My favorite sweater was a present that I got a couple presidents ago
And I promised that I would rock it till it’s thread bare
Bet on it
Every single person got a couple skeletons
So pretty soon, in this room
It’ll just be me and you when we clear out all the elephants
Me and you and the elements

We all have our pitfalls
Beer’s flat, the cabs have been called
And everybody and their momma can hear the drama
that’s happening behind these thin walls

Cold pizza
Tie-dye shirts (tie-dye shirts)
Broken hearts
Give’m here, give’m here
Hand me downs (hand me downs)
Leftovers (leftovers)
Sloppy seconds
Give’m here, give’m here

I don’t care where you’ve been
How many miles, I still love you (2x)

I don’t care (cold pizza)
Where you’ve been (tie-dye shirts)
How many (broken hearts) miles, I still love you
I don’t care (hand me downs)
Where you’ve been (left overs)
How many (sloppy seconds) miles, I still love you

My pattern with women isn’t a flattering image
But I don’t want to run away because I said so
I don’t want to be the guy to hide all of my flaws
And I’ll be giving you the side of me that I don’t let show
Everything in fashion
That has ever happened
Always coming crashing down
Better let go
But in a couple years it will be retro
You rock Marc Ecko
My shirts have the gecko
Cuz in the past man, I was hopeless
But now’s when my little cousins look the dopest
(whoop whoop)
Fuck the fashion po-po
Have a stale doughnut, I don’t need no tips
Fuck a five second rule
That’s a plan I never understood
It’s September in my kitchen in a Christmas sweater
Sipping cold coffee on the phone with damaged goods

And there is not a single place that I would rather be
I’m fucked up just like you are, and you’re fucked up just like me

Cold pizza (cold pizza)
Tie-dye shirts (tie-dye shirts)
Broken hearts
Give’m here, Give’m here
Hand me downs (oh hand me downs)
Give me give me leftovers (leftovers)
Give me give me sloppy seconds
Give’m here give’m here

I don’t care where you’ve been
How many miles, I still love you [x2]

I don’t care (cold pizza)
Where you’ve been (tie-dye shirts)
How many (broken hearts) miles, I still love you
I don’t care (hand me downs)
Where you’ve been (left overs)
How many (sloppy seconds) miles, I still love you

Here is the song itself. Enjoy!

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I was on the S4C programme “Heno” talking about Comet ISON on the 26th of November, just two days before its perihelion (closest approach to the Sun). I was the studio guest, so I appeared on the programme right at the beginning, then at about 8 minutes into the programme, and finally at the end. Here is the entire programme with subtitles (if you can bear it).

Here is an edited version, with just the parts of the programme where I appear :

It would seem comet ISON did not survive its passage around the Sun. All the evidence suggests that ISON broke up as it came within about 1.5 million km of the Sun, probably due to the nucleus of the comet being broken up by a combination of the heat of the Sun and the extreme tidal forces due to the Sun’s gravity. Here is a link to images of ISON at the time of its perihelion taken by the NASA Stereo Probes’ (which are in space observing the Sun)

The latest efforts now concentrate on trying to find ISON’s remnants and to understand in more detail what happened to the comet. You can read more about this in this story.


So, sadly, we did not get the spectacular cometary display in early December that many had been hoping for. But, that is the nature of comets, and part of their fascination. One never knows how they are going to turn out, they are very unpredictable and often surprise us. ISON proved ultimately to be a disappointment, but already there are other comets that astronomers have their sights on which may come and light up our skies over the next few months, such as Comet Lovejoy.

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At number 466 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “A Rush of Blood to the Head” by Coldplay. The list from 470 to 461 is as follows:

  • 470 – “Radio” by LL Cool J (1985)
  • 469 – “The Score” by Fugees (1996)
  • 468 – “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band” by The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)
  • 467 – “Tunnel of Love” by Bruce Springsteen (1987)
  • 466 – “A Rush of Blood to the Head” by Coldplay (2002)
  • 465 – “69 Love Songs” by The Magnetic Fields (1999)
  • 464 – “Hysteria” by Def Leppard (1987)
  • 463 – “Heaven Up Here” by Echo and the Bunnymen (1981)
  • 462 – “Document” by R.E.M. (1987)
  • 461 – “Metal Box” by Public Image Ltd. (1979)

I own three of these albums, “Tunnel of Love” by Bruce Springsteen, “A Rush of Blood to the Head” by Coldplay and “Document” by R.E.M. In addition, I have actually heard of LL Cool J, Fugees, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Def Leppard, Echo and the Bunnymen and Public Image Ltd. Things seem to be improving in my level of ignorance compared to the 480 to 471, 490 to 481 and 500 to 491 lists. The only artist I haven’t heard of in this list is The Magnetic Fields, although I don’t actually own anything by LL Cool J or Def Leppard either.

Of the three albums I own in this list, I’ve decided to blog about “A Rush of Blood to the Head”, although I may well come back and blog about some of the songs I like on the other albums listed here. Why have I chosen the Coldplay album? It was actually the first Coldplay album I heard. Their first album, “Parachutes” was released in 2000, and its release passed me by without my noticing it, probably because I was living in the USA at the time. But by the time “A Rush of Blood to the Head” was released I was paying attention, and I liked it the first time I heard it.

At number 466 in Rolling Stone Magazine's 500 greatest albums is "A Rush of Blood to the Head" by Coldplay

At number 466 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest albums is “A Rush of Blood to the Head” by Coldplay

There are many songs on this album that I like, but possibly my favourite is the one I have included here, “The Scientist”. The song has a haunting quality to it, and to me speaks of a desire to turn back time in a relationship, to a time before things started going wrong.

Come up to meet you,
Tell you I’m sorry,
You don’t know how lovely you are.

I had to find you,
Tell you I need you,
Tell you I set you apart.

Tell me your secrets,
And ask me your questions,
Oh let’s go back to the start.

Runnin’ in circles,
Comin’ up tails,
Heads on a science apart.

Nobody said it was easy,
It’s such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be this hard.
Oh take me back to the start.

I was just guessin’,
At numbers and figures,
Pullin’ the puzzles apart.

Questions of science,
Science and progress,
Do not speak as loud as my heart.

Tell me you love me,
Come back and haunt me,
Oh, what a rush to the start.

Runnin’ in circles,
Chasin’ our tails,
Comin’ back as we are.

Nobody said it was easy,
Oh it’s such a shame for us to part.
Nobody said it was easy,
No one ever said it would be so hard.
I’m goin’ back to the start.

Oh ooh ooh ooh ooh ohh,
Ah ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh,
Oh ooh ooh ooh ooh ohh,
Oh ooh ooh ooh ooh ohh.


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Last week I was interviewed on the BBC TV News talking about the possibility of a space port being located in Wales. The story actually broke in mid-November, with the Science Minister David Willets giving the idea enthusiastic support, although no Government money would be involved in building the facility. The item I recorded should be going out on the news this evening.

Not surprisingly, The Western Mail, Wales’ national newspaper, picked up on the possibility of having our very own “Cape Canaveral” in Wales. Here is a link to how they covered the story.

The article in The Western Mail about the proposal to build a space port, possibly in Wales.

The article in The Western Mail about the proposal to build a space port, possibly in Wales.

Meanwhile the London press also seemed to put Wales at the forefront of possible locations, with The Mail (that dreadful right wing rag) covering the story here.

The article in The Mail about Wales having its own "Cape Canaveral".

The article in The Mail about Wales having its own “Cape Canaveral”.

With many areas with a low population density, as well as a coastline covering thousands of miles, Wales would indeed be an ideal site to locate a space probe. With Virgin Galactic about to go into operation “in the next few months” (according to Richard Branson), and presumably along with it an increase in “Space Tourism”, this may well be a good investment for the future. Having grown up in Pembrokeshire, my own preference would be for it to built at the site of the now-defunct RAF Brawdy, which is located just a few miles from the lovely Newgale beach on the West Wales coast.

Such a space port would bring much needed jobs to rural Wales, and I know the Pembrokeshire economy has suffered since RAF Brawdy closed in 1992. Admittedly the noise the low flying fighter planes used to make during their practice runs was annoying to live with in Pembrokeshire, but one could argue that it was a price worth paying for the employment and money that RAF Brawdy brought. The same site also housed a “top secret” US submarine tracking facility. Top secret, except that all the locals knew about it!

I would imagine that a space port would be quieter than the disturbing noise created by the low flying RAF fighters. Or at least, although I am sure the noise created by a launch would be pretty loud, it would be a one-off event which presumably would not occur more than a few times a week. This is definitely preferable to the several hours a day noise Pembrokeshire used to endure from the low flying RAF fighters flying their practice missions.

I shall be keeping my fingers crossed that these plans go ahead, and that West Wales will be able to provide the Western European base for a space port!

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A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the OBAFGKM stellar classification system. In that blog I mentioned that the system was devised at the Harvard College Observatory in the 1890s and first few years of the 20th Century. The work was done under the Directorship of Edward C. Pickering, and came from attempts to classify the thousands of stellar spectra which were published in the Draper Catalog of Stellar Spectra in 1890.

Today I thought I would share this fascinating BBC Radio 4 documentary about the women who were responsible for most of this work. They were known as “The Harvard Computers”, but one shouldn’t confuse the term “computer” with its modern day usage. In those days the term was used for human beings who would make routine calculations which were (and still are) such a necessary part of scientific research.

Edward C. Pickering with the "Harvard Computers", also often known was Pickering's Harem".

Edward C. Pickering with the “Harvard Computers”, also often known was “Pickering’s Harem”.

As the documentary below points out, it was nearly always women who were employed in these repetitive jobs as they could be paid less than men. But Pickering found that many of the women he employed at Harvard College Observatory did a lot more than the routine calculations they were brought in to do. Many were highly educated, and most were very intelligent. It wasn’t long before they were making important astrophysical contributions of their own.

The two stand-out examples for me (but not the only ones) are Annie Jump Cannon who gave us the OBAFGKM stellar classification system that we use today. I blogged about that in more detail in this blog. The other for me is Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered a relationship between the period of Cepheid variables and their intrinsic brightness. In a future blog I will talk about this discovery in more detail, but it was crucial in Hubble discovering that the “Andromeda Nebula” was, in fact, a galaxy outside of our own Milky Way galaxy. I blogged about Hubble discovering this in this blog.

So, here is the BBC Radio 4 documentary about these remarkable women. My apologies to the BBC for posting the programme on YouTube, but I could not find a link to their original broadcast anywhere (even though many of their wonderful documentaries are archived on their website here). Also, be patient in listening to the documentary. There are a few places where it pauses for a few seconds. I recorded the documentary off of the internet some 9-10 years ago, and every so often it would stop to buffer the streaming audio. Hopefully these brief pauses won’t affect your enjoyment of the programme too much.

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On this day in 1980 John Lennon was gunned down in front of his apartment in New York City.

John Lennon in 1965, the year "In My Life" was recorded.

John Lennon in 1965, the year “In My Life” was recorded.

Here is one of his more beautiful songs, “In My Life” from the 1965 album Rubber Soul.

(Words & music by Lennon & McCartney)

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

John – you’re missed ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

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I don’t have the eloquence to do justice to the life of a person as great as Nelson Mandela (Madiba). So I thought I’d select just a few quotes, as well as some pictures to give an essence of a person whom I know will go down in history as one of the truly great human beings. South Africa and the World are better for his life, and we are the poorer now he’s gone.
At his treason trial in 1964:

During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.

It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, My Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.


At his inauguration as President in 1994:

We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity – a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.


December 1995:

Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.


From “Long Walk to Freedom” (1995)

Manโ€™s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.


Again from “Long Walk to Freedom” (1995)

No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart that its opposite.

The papers of the Disunited Kingdom on the morning after Nelson Mandela’s death.


Nelson Mandela’s life in pictures (from The Guardian newspaper)





Here is the video of Mandela’s release after 27 years in prison.

RIP Madiba. And thank you.

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