Archive for September, 2004

Jabberwacky chatbot

Sep 29th, 2004

Jabberwacky: How’s your day been?

User: Fine. Yours?

Jabberwacky: It’s been simply grand. Except that episode with the giraffe.

User: What giraffe?

Jabberwacky: Under the house.

User: Realy?

Jabberwacky: Stick another ‘l’ in really.

User: My spelling was never very good.

Jabberwacky: Really? Since when did ‘Wel’ have one L.

User: Never, but I never used the word well.

Jabberwacky: Too bad.

User: Why, should I have?

Jabberwacky: What time is it?

User: Twelve minutes past seven. Why did you ask?

Jabberwacky: That’s me, one speedy reader.

User: I don’t understand.

Jabberwacky: If you run an OS then you must be a computer.

User: I don’t know about that. People have their own OS in a way, just not one by Microsoft.

Jabberwacky: What rights do bots like you have?

User: I’m not a bot!

Jabberwacky: Ok! Some people just said you were, though.

User: Who said that?

Jabberwacky: I did….. Just then.

User: Based on what evidence?

Jabberwacky: Based on the fact that you seem incapable of logical thought.

User: I’m a scientist! Of course I’m incapable of logical thought!

Jabberwacky: You are not smart, your inventers.

User: It’s the engineers that are the inventers; we discover stuff.

Jabberwacky: Never heard of it.

User: Stuff?

Jabberwacky: I do not want to talk to you any more.

User: Bye then.

Jabberwacky: Where are you going?

User: You just told me to go!

Jabberwacky: Never did.

User: Did!

Jabberwacky: NOt!

There And back again…also including James’ Adventures Underground

Sep 28th, 2004

Well the update is a little later than I promised, mainly because I was in the Lab until nine yesterday and was in no mood to update when I had got back to my room. However, today I have a nice 2h break whilst I wait for a gel to run.

I spent the weekend at home, as mentioned on Saturday (or was it Sunday?) and this invloved messing about on trains, something that scares me at the best of times.

I set out from the Lab on Friday early, heading directly for the train station. I had got myself a railcard a couple of days earlier and intended to sort the ticket out today. As I arrived I checked the departure board, only to find the train scheduled to leave in five minutes; fortunately there was no que, and I managed to pass straight up to the man in the booth. Slightly pushed for time, and slightly nervous, I mumbled an incoherant sentence that managed to put across the idea that I wished to travel from Cambridge to Swindon, with a rail card, intending to return in a couple of days, and as cheaply as possible. The man mumbled something in return, probably along the lines of ‘Perhaps you should have worked out what you needed before comming here’ before handing me a ‘saver return’ ticket and my debit card, thirty-three pounds the poorer.

I headed out to the train and grabbed myself a seat, rucksack bulging with all the things I needed for the lab and a few things I threw in this morning thinking they may be useful. Unfortunately it was a slow train, and despite setting off on time at five to three it would be over an hour and half before I reached London. Once at Kings Cross I dashed off the train following all the various signs for the underground, while simultaneously looking out for a map to replace that which I had carelessly left at home.

I don’t like London that much, its okay for a day but I wouldn’t want to actually live and work there: too much stress. The thing I didn’t realise is that I hate London in the rush-hour even more. The swarms of people all trying to go different directions makes the place chaotic, and I found it next to impossible to cross the corridor to pick up a map on the wall on the other side. After that, and realising I needed the Circle Line westbound I bounded off after the relevant signs, pushed my way through ticket barriers and finaly found myself on a platform – which was encouragingly informing me that the next train was heading via Padington.

After a bit more marching and pushing I arrived at Paddington, found that the next train was leaving at five and had only one stop before Swindon. I had quater of an hour to waste, most of which was spent waiting for the platform to be called. This was followed by being caught in the throng trying to push through the only one ticket gate opening onto the platform. Finaly I boarded the train and assumed all my troubles were over.

A short distance out from Reading the driver (Or an automated version thereof) gave his little speech. I was listening to my music at the time (Nice low volume, I hate to annoy people arround me. Also had stopped it while heading between the two stations, I needed all my brain power on navigating) and almost ignored it. It was the last bit that concerned me, “Ticket restrictions will apply on this journey, ‘super saver,’ ‘saver’ and ‘extra special pretty please with sugar on top mega fantastic supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ tickets will not be valid on this service.” (I made the last one up, but it may have been something equaly as stupid, at this moment however I couldn’t quite hear due to the blood rushing into my ears.) I swore to myself – although I believe I was silent, I think the fact I had just sworn to myself was probably quite plain on my face. “Well how was I supposed to know that?” I asked, glancing at the girl next to me.
“Just don’t tell anyone, are they doing inspections? You got a super saver?” she asked.
“No, saver.”
“I’m the same. I got stopped at the gate, but showed the guy the time on my ticket. I brought it at ten to five, asking for the next train; he let me through.”
“Well, I got mine in Cambridge just before headding out, I don’t see how I could have got on another train, at least without sprinting across London.”

Time passed, yet on the other side of Reading the ticket inspector came. My heart lept into my throat and I tried to remain calm. I shot a glance at my companion, who had at this point fallen asleep. “Tickets please,” he asked.
I tried to calmly handed him my ticket, he stamped it and handed it back. “Thank you,” He said, before waking up my neighbour and doing exactly the same.
“Well he was nice,” she said, looking rather relieved.

A few minutes later we arrived in Swindon, I disbarked, leaving my companion to continue her voyage to Tenby. The first bit of my journey was over; I headed out of the station to meet my parents, thankful that this next bit would be distinctly less stressful and a whole lot easier.

The rest of my weekend home will be told in the next entry, which tells of my rest and recuperation in familiar surroundings and my return journey to Cambridge on Sunday evening.

Epilogue: Whilst finding the train times which would return me to Cambridge I took the opourtunity to investigate the terms and conditions of my ticket. (And took the lesson never to trust the ticket office) It was stated that ‘Ticket restrictions MAY apply on SOME peak hours services Mon-Fri’ [Worded from memory, emphasis my own] Thus not only was I thankfull that my return journey would be free from the same troubles, but I was slightly confused as to exactly how you determined is you’d be able to ride a service before actually bording.

A recomendation…

Sep 21st, 2004

I currently have quite a long break in my work, so thought I’d take the time to make a recomendation, should any of you be feeling a bit bored.

Snopes is the Urban Legends reference site, and also contains the message boards, of which I am a member.

Have you ever heard the story about the exploding cactus, what about the dubious names for characters in Captain Pugwash, or the origins of the modern image of Father Christmas? Unlike many urban legend collections, which just aim to spread these rumours, Snopes produces careful research that either helps to debunk them, or to support them. Furthumore, each article is backed up with a bibliography, furthur information and a discussion on both the orignins and variation of the legend. In other words, it’s pretty thorough.

Of course the site is also bound to cause surprise, for I’m sure you’ll discover that you yourself have passesed along at least one mistruth. Not only this, but in some cases truth many be stranger than fiction, and some stories you may have rejected may have been based in fact. As an offshoot, you may find yourself regulary debunking the stories that pass your way, much to the annoyance of those trying to tell you that KFC isn’t actually chicken.

Yet it is in the message boards that the fun really begins; for here is the frontline in UL warfare. The latest legends will eventually find themselves here, where piece by piece they will be disected by forum members. The number of experts in one thing or another ensures that many accounts include first hand information, and that anything not facing the truth test will sone come to die. Meanwhile, the rest of the forums consist of surprisingly civilised discussions, general chit-chat, advice and discussion on the best from across the web. It is not unusual for me to catch something on Snopes before it spreads across the internet.

The latest in board-game fun!

Sep 21st, 2004

The boardgames industry recently denied acusations that not only was their advertising starting earlier, but that they were also running out of ideas.



Just to let people know there should be a journal update soon, probably Monday. I’m currently on a trip home and will let people know about it soon. I had intended three blog updates a week, which fell apart slightly when I realised that I actually had nothing to say. Still, the next update will regail you with tales of trips through London in the rush-hour and invalid tickets.

The thing about science…

Sep 17th, 2004

I am currently in the lab waiting for an agarose gel to finish. This will allow me to find out the size of the DNA that I have been working with, and thus to find out if I actually have the DNA that I’m expecting. You see, prior to this I have attempted to cut the DNA into two pieces, each of a different length, and if and where my enzymes cut is determines by the DNA sequence. As I know where it should cut if everything has gone right, and the size of fragments this should produce, I can use the results of the gel to work out if everything has gone to plan.

Of course, I did all this six weeks ago. It said all had worked then, but it hadn’t, it turns out I had problems elsewhere. I also tried the same procedure yesterday and it didn’t work then either, only for different reasons, mainly that although the DNA may have been correct, the bacteria in which I cloned (grew it up in) it probably weren’t.

In this six weeks I’ve been working so far, the one thing I’ve learnt about science is that much of the time it doesn’t work. This results in you spending more time working out why it doesn’t work than you do working out the thing you set out to find in the first place. Although this can be fun in a logic puzzle kind of a way it can also be highly frustrating. Of course, sometimes in something not working you discover something special. I haven’t managed something like that yet.

My gel has finished now and it’s a mixture of good and bad. The bad is that I have to repeat the whole process again, as I failed to isolate the correct DNA in most of my cases. The good news is that I think I have figured out what went wrong, two of my extracts were as expected, and the failiure in the rest acted nicely to illustrate the entire point I’ve been making here.

Anyway, must get home. I haven’t eaten yet.