Friday, 31 July 2009

Podcasts.. The top twelve.

I am an afficionado. The ability to construct a listening schedule to suit your personal taste and seasonal caprices is highly seductive. Add to this the ever growing number of Podcasts available and the search for gems is a real treat.

I offer a list of my current favourite sites, each linked to their respective web pages and subscription addresses. If you are not familiar with the process, Firefox and Internet Explorer will add them to your bookmark folder automatically.

I would recommend the use of Gmail which offers it's own 'Reader' (amongst other fabulous tools). Many Podcasts add a tag for instant transfer to Google Reader and this seems to be a developing trend.

I have embedded additional links to other Podcast sites. These are also worth a look.

Humour and entertainment.

Adam and Joe.

Top of the list for off the cuff earcandy. Fun for all teenagers manque and, as I am sure they would claim, all manky teenagers..

Jon Richardson.

From the same BBC 6 Music stable. A great deal of very skilled adlibbing here.

Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo.

By far the best film review programme available. Rants, raves, routines and rituals abound. These two are now established as BBC anti establishment and have a following akin to ISIHAC.

Stephen Fry's Podgrams.

Ladies and gentlemen. I give you...


Astronomy Cast.

The wonderful Pamela Gay and Fraser Cain allow the complexities of the Special Theory and Dark Matter to tumble through the branches of our own limited experience of the universe we inhabit. In a twenty minute discussion, all is seemingly made clear, only to evaporate until the next hearing. And to think, they do this for nothing!

Are We Alone?

The official podcast of the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence conducted by the avuncular Seth Shostak, who provides a living link to Carl Sagan et al. Multi stranded and sometimes tangential to the theme. Always entertaining.

Ask The Naked Scientists.

One of the longest running 'Question and answer' format podcasts. Once again, from the BBC but local radio this time. Not afraid to admit defeat but rarely stumped. This one attracts a teenage audience and is therefore refreshingly open and naiive at times.

Science Talk.

The audio section of Scientific American. Brief clips and headlines explored. A balanced view from a seriously tilted nation.

Planetary Radio.

A great companion piece to Astronomy Cast. More focussed on our immediate back yard and more of a blatant appeal for hard cash to maintain the simple pleasure of the 'Beauty and mystery' of space travel.


The Skeptic's Guide To The Universe.

This is the granddaddy of them all. A now well established programme of talks, interviews and reviews with great humour, anarchy and a high trustability quotient. It is tempting to criticise the frequency with which the various luminaries in the Skeptical field are invited on to speak. It might be seen sometimes to be the James Randi appreciation society. On occasion, the listener is abandoned in favour of 'off mic' jokes (Like Penn Jillette did before his show was axed..). It's all worth it though. These people know their stuff.


Platform for the great Brian Dunning. Short pieces designed to exercise reason and scientific thinking whilst addressing commonly held beliefs, myths and legends, medical misunderstandings and fads. He is also extremely helpful when contacted personally. A common theme running through the Sceptics community is that of mutual support.


A while back, the community held it's breath as we awaited news of Derek's brain.. Half of this great Podcast suffered a stroke and has spent the last few years working his speech back to where he is confident on the microphone once more. In his absence, co-host Swoopy kept the show aloft and it is well worth listening again to some of the earlier episodes. Her professionalism and compassion are often breathtaking and again, offered for no profit. Merely the joy of developing reasoned thinking. This one celebrates Darwin to a large extent. And Dragons.

And then there are those...

There are those who's dignity in death reminds us of simple, effective vitality that went before.

Bobby Robson has contributed so much to us all, football fans and pich bystanders both. He has achieved that most enviable accolade. A life demonstrably lived by personal credo.

“The first ninety minutes of a football match are the most important.”

“Maybe not goodbye, but farewell.”

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Cern is nearly ready. Meanwhile..

As the boffins lower the last dipole magnet into the loop and prepare to cool it all down to just above absolute zero. As they process all the gas out of this enormous donut. As they hold their breath, we are disposing of small vacuum tubes, powerful magnets and the means to control them by the millions.

Our homes have become a little larger and our desks more spacious. Recycling sites are struggling to pass these complex particle beam accelerators on to new owners. We have found a new romance, with the microtransistor and photon stream twisting of liquid crystal. Single pixels are being given their own logic gates and no longer need the guidance of Gauss to regulate the electron's natural uncertain flightpath.

Evening experiments...

I forget that, much as black and white films look different on colour tv, monochrome photographs never quite seem... the same.

Attempts to 'load' the Liquorice Leica with 'Kodak Tri-x' or 'Ilford FP3' result in the need for post production shenanegans akin to alchemy.

And that's turning gold back to lead!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Here we go....

The residents of Morpeth are holding their breath this weekend.. A walk down to Warkworth today brought a bit of a flood of memories together with a sense of relief at being highter than the water table.

The river is empty of birdlife. A family of mallard gave it a go between the bridges and were seemingly rudderless for a hundred yards before clambering ashore again. This family settled between the bank and the road. Waiting it out.

Across the road from this pile of white...


Some structures here are more used to it.

The river is contributed to by a small stream, a hundred and twenty household insurance defying meters down from and left of the house..

It provides a rush of white noise when in spate.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Oo - Er...

It starting to look like a forgotten ghetto now. Overcrowded and in need of additional social spending. I can see trouble as the inhabitants become less comfortable at home...

Tuesday, 14 July 2009


The nest is not coping well with the combination of wind and rain that hooks around the eaves.. I looked at the derivation of the word Wasp and found all dictionaries from Collins to Wicki in accord.

The foundation of the word is in recognition of what they do best not what they do to us.

Their creative skills are on the wane. The inhabitants of this paper lantern are getting feisty...

I am alerting them by just observing them now. I fear the imminent arrival of apples and soft fruits. When fermented, they offer a reward for the hard work during summer.. with the inevitable effect on mood and impulse...

Meanwhile, just below, where the fence meets the gate under the nest I have hung a condominium for Ladybirds and anything else that fancies a quiet spot over winter. Hopefully, when occupied, this may offer the foundation of enough predators to make Rose spraying unnecessary next year.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009


In the real world, the Housemartins are frantically feeding. The chicks are demanding and can be heard over Radio 3 in the evening!

A great deal from a well established loan company?

Apparently, there is a 'Too good to miss' offer from a Latvian loan company. They invite applications for loans guaranteed by the temporary lodging of the borrower's soul.

The local Catholic cardinal has become incensed by this threat to the immortality of the spirit and is calling for government intervention..

An interesting paradox. The church continues to demonstrate it's insecure grasp of it's own conviction whilst lending credence to it's 'rival'.. Supposedly learned clerics fighting the corner for an omnipotent being whose take on this usury is already acknowledged as variable.

It might be wise to convene a refresher weekend for the upper echelons..
perhaps entitled, 'Dignified Silence.. a powerful persuasion'....

They just can't help it. Cowboys the lot of 'em!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

No such thing as bad weather...

The solstice passed, nights seem darker earlier already. The Morpeth monsoon visited the garden at the weekend and the local wildlife sat it out..

This lot are not affected.. the nest is now threatening to need planning permission and I shall be keeping a close eye on the likelihood of trouble from my new neighbours.

The heat, the rain, the railway line at the back of the garden hasn't seen steam for decades....