The rarely seen.

After a long relaxing weekend in Germany, it’s best to ease yourself back into work gently. What better way to do this than to take advantage of contacts and go on a guided tour of the Royal London Hospital museum and medical school samples collection?

The tour had been arranged just over two months ago,  and I had some idea of what to expect from DG’s visit to the museum earlier this month. A half dozen or so of us turned up at 10 AM for the tour led by the archivist of the hospital  – a chap who quite obviously loves his job and could have kept us entertained for far longer than we’d allowed for.

The museum is open to the public Monday to Friday, 10 – 4:30; however, the medical school collection isn’t open to the public, and this is what we’d really come to see.  Leading us up a back staircase of the hospital proper and through a nondescript door, the archivist introduced us to the remains of Joseph Merrick (better known as the elephant man) and a small display for medical students with information on the latest ideas of what exactly had been his disease.

It seems the jury is still out on what had caused Joseph’s condition. Attempts at DNA analysis from the skeleton and teeth have so far proved fruitless due to the bleaching and boiling of the bones prior to display.

Around another corner is kept the temporarily relocated core samples collection – the anatomical samples that medical students should see. These form a small part of the total collection, currently in storage until funds allow their rehousing.

There being nothing like seeing half a human head in an oversized jam-jam to give you an appetite,  we decided to decamp for an early lunch before back to work.

Rationality 1 : Superstition 0

On 3 March 2008, in a popular TV show, Sanal Edamaruku, the president of Rationalist International, challenged India’s most “powerful” tantrik (black magician) to demonstrate his powers on him.

Minutes turned to hours as the tantrik tried spell after spell against Sanal Edamaruku, attempting to kill or harm him. Live on TV (attempted murder in front of hundreds of thousands if not millions of witnesses?).

Of course, the tantrik failed. More here.

Nutters on the tube

The paragon of comfort and convenience that is the London Underground plays host to a fair number of oddballs, weirdoes and downright nut-cases. These mainly inhabit the central portions of the network. Unfortunately, living as I do, out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable eastern end of the District Line, I don’t often come across top quality hatstand-ness.

This morning, dressed head to toe in black, big headphones on, and an ‘I’ve not had anywhere enough Tea this morning’ expression on my face, I get on the train and park myself opposite a rather inoffensive looking little old man. Had I had enough Tea, I might have spotted the warning signs before I sat down – the fact there was an empty seat anyway and they way everyone was avoiding any eye contact with the chap.

Just as I made to sit, the old fellow jumps up as if to make room for me, then sits back down saying “alright mate?” “oh, you can’t hear me can you mate?” “I support West Ham”. I say “oh, right – nice one” – I actually dislike football then pull my book out of my bag ‘Confessions of an English Opium Eater’ and start reading.

In the meantime the old boy has gone off about how everyone is listening to music, and turning away from god. I’m just thinking we have a ripe one here, when he spots the book title and starts up about drugs and the ills of the world, how god died on the cross for us (umm, wasn’t it his son? Or at most a third of god?), then really hits his stride mangling some quotations from the book revelation. Of course “no one reads it these days, but it’s all coming true y’know.”

Were I more awake and up for some fun I may have joined in haranguing the passengers with the old fellow, quoting from the Life of Brian, “For the demon shall bear a nine-bladed sword. Nine-bladed! Not two or five or seven, but nine, which he will wield on all wretched sinners, sinners just like you, sir, there, and the horns shall be on the head, with which he will…”

He got off after two stops, the rest of the journey in was pretty tame.

Tech support to random neighbours…

The door bell rang earlier – I answered it to one of the lesser seen neighbours carrying a laptop.

“Hello, I’m Brian from number 18, I wondered if you could do me a favour, Tony says you are good with computers.”

“Hello, Er, Ok. What’s the problem?”

Brian had been using someone else’s WiFi connection and now he couldn’t connect. He’d been told by someone else that the WiFi owner had probably changed the key and he needed to use WEPcrack to get the new key. He didn’t have a clue how to use it, could I help?

I suggested that maybe the key had been changed to keep him out?

“Nah, nah mate, he said I can use it.”

I take a look at the laptop screen and see that the SSID of the access point he is trying to crack is 8bob. This being my WiFi connection. I asked him how long it had been since he was unable to use the WiFi?

“About 3 weeks now”

“Yeah, that’s about right – that’s when I fixed it to stop others using it. Don’t think I can help you really. See you later.”

I upgraded from WEP to WPA about three weeks ago when I noticed the odd connection I couldn’t account for.

“Oh, um, right. oh. er. fookin’ hell. So you can’t help then?”

“No, not really. Can’t help you.”

I think he missed the bit where I said I’d changed it to stop it being used…

He left.

Part of the conspiracy

One disadvantage of having a working email address listed on a university physics website is that you tend to get copied into all the 11-9 and 7-7 conspiracy theory messages. People expect you to be able to explain what ‘really’ happened (i.e, agree with everything they say).