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* Posts by Michael H.F. Wilkinson

2514 posts • joined 24 Apr 2007

Himalayan glaciers actually GAINING ice, space scans show

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Good news for snow leopards.

The real beasts that is, not the OS (which by all accounts was and is doing well).

Also good news for the scientific debate. Basing theories on shaky data is like building on quicksand. Better data are always a boon.

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So what's the worst movie NEVER made?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: retelling of Heart of Darkness

"This too was one of the dark places of the world"

That start of storytelling by Marlow is just great. It is very hard to top. Then there is the crazy case of the lone French cruiser shelling the amorphous jungle while its crew members are dying at a rate of fifteen a day from disease. They still keep to their task of shelling the "enemy" who is totally invisible.

So my question has to be: Does Heart of Darkness need retelling? I am not against retelling and reshaping stories (that has been going on through history). Even great stories can grow in retelling, and retelling can get people to read the original. The original in this case is very powerful indeed. Much as I liked Apocalypse Now, I still prefer reading Heart of Darkness. Does it need retelling in SF?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Valiant effort for a really poor film script!!

However, you risk going over the top and becoming hilariously funny. The simpler method would probably be simply giving Michael Bay a very big budget and whatever you do do not interfere with his decisions. The man has an unerring instinct in getting it wrong. He could be considered the Bergholt Stuttley Johnson of cinema.

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Euro climate probe Envisat silenced, boffins baffled

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

This is your satellite help line

For communication problems, press 1

For launch failures, press 2

For attitude problems, press 3

For software failure, press 4,

To speak directly with some guy who knows nothing about the problem either, press 0

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Is your satellite dish pointing the right way?

Have you tried rebooting the satellite?

Did you try switching it on and off?

Have you tried reinstalling Windows?

How old is your software? I am sorry, we do not support that version anymore

<CLICK>

Seriously though, excellent engineering to keep something working for 10 years, we are so used to things failing just outside of warranty.

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Life on Mars found – in 1976

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Isn't life a physical process?

The presence of pink noise is not a proof of life. Many physical processes (including life, in my book at least) produce forms of pink noise. If a white noise random source is effectively filtered by some damping process you will typically get similar effects.

If they were really sure of their results, would they not submit this to Nature or Science? I will read the article more carefully, but I have my doubts.

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Judge: Checking Facebook at work is not a crime

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Childcatcher

Re: WHT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO

WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!

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Death Star dinosaur aliens could rule galaxy

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Question:

What were these guys smoking?

I want some

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Re: FTL Velociraptors

And a packet of peanuts I trust

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German scientists link two labs with ‘universal quantum network’

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Maybe because

people who do not believe in carbon dating are outdated?

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Japanese bank palms off customers with biometric ATMs

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Looks like you need their whole hand

Ever been to Japan?

It is just about the safest country on this planet. Tourists getting mugged in Japan is unheard of. In Tokyo half the bikes I saw parked there were unlocked (no kidding). If this scheme is going to work anywhere, it is in Japan.

Incidentally, it is possible to use Doppler laser scanners to check blood is flowing in veins of the hand, to check it is a real hand (I do not know if these scanners support this).

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Employers' group: New comp sci GCSE driven by vendor agenda

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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We have similar problems in the Netherlands

Initially, ICT courses at schools were really a mess, consisting of rote learning which shortcut key did what in MS Word or even WordPerfect (shudder). Now things are improving slightly, and some programming is entering. The results are very mixed however, and many think VB is all there is. As an experiment, I allowed one student (of Technology Management specializing in IT) to hand in one assignment in VB rather than Java. It was a total pile of crud, without any structure, sensible object hierarchy (or proper comments). In fact he had simply searched the API for soe suitable library calls, and lashed these together in one monolithic lump. He had managed to create an app that sort of worked with minimal effort, but I would not call that programming.

I am not saying that VB is bad per se. After all, I have seen many horrible examples of code in any language you care to name, and well-structured pieces of x86 assembly in my time. My point is that this boy had not learned any programming discipline. What is needed is a programme which gets the enthusiasm of kids fired, and teaches them rigour in analysis and implementation (and pick one (or two) of many suitable toolboxes out there). Not an easy task, perhaps, but we are trying as a university to reach out to teachers to show them what is possible, and have some of our students develop stuff for use in the classroom. There is a small, but steadily growing band of teachers who are really developing good materials out there.

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Ten... Kitchen Gadget Treats

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Love the Imperia pasta machine

My kids love to crank the handle, so no need for a motorized version. Makes great ravioli too.

I have one Japanese knife as well (not the one shown). It is a three layer sandwich of softer but tougher stainless steel on the outside, with harder, but more brittle carbon steel in the centre forming the cutting edge. My brother brought it from Japan. It stays sharp in part due to the fact that the missus does not dare use it.

I would also put the Porkert No 8 meat grinder (tin plated cast iron affair, mine is made in Czechoslovakia, it is that old) on the list. Brilliant piece of kit to make your own pate and terrine. Again, the kids crank the handle, so I can relax.

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Chinese coders beat all-comers

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Dueling Headlines

The question is whether people are duds because they are rotten coders, or because they lack other skills. I have had some very good students from China (really top of the class), but receive many applications for PhD positions written in such poor English I would not dream of accepting them, however good their coding skills. Being a good IT worker requires more than just coding skills. Besides, there is a huge pool of recruits in China, so even if the top ones beat our top ones, there is plenty of space for duds down below.

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Vintage alien tech crash-lands in field

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

So the aliens are:

Dick Dastardly and Muttley!

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Dark matter hits you once a minute

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Better WIMPs than MACHOs

MACHOs (MAssive Cold Halo Objects) are another proposed source of dark matter: orphan planets and other regular material that is simply too cold to see easily. Being hit by an orphan planet would be a once in a lifetime experience.

Therefore: as below, so above: Being hit by a macho is worse than being hit by a wimp.

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Mega-star HD 10180 could have more planets than the Sun

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Bode's law is really the result of gravity and time

Bode's law was quite mysterious, until people realised that the curious sequence of orbital radii of planets meant an equally curious sequence of orbital periods (see Kepler's second law). Effectively, a sequence of orbits obeying Bode's law have simple resonances between the orbits. This increases stability. Over time, we would expect planetary systems to stabilize into orbits which obey this law.

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Whisky IN SPAAAAACE: Zero-G Scotch is matured aboard the ISS

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

If the whisky does get back to earth

we must really salute the astronauts' and cosmonauts' restraint.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Headmaster

Re: Of course we must have Scotch Whiskey in space....

contradiction in terms:

Scotch Whiskey

Scotch whisky now, is another matter. It reminds of an man "kindly" asked to leave the premises of a Scottish "watering hole" after asking for a Bourbon.

He does still have his own teeth, as I recall

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CSIRO patent-trolls ALL OF AMERICA!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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"Doing the science, but leaving the commercialization to the private sector, is not patent trolling"

Sums it all up. I have been to the CSIRO in Sydney, great place to do research, when they patent something, take it seriously. "Ars Technica" suddenly reads "Arse Technica" as seen from down-under, I suppose.

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Nature ISN'T fragile nor a bossy mother-in-law - top eco boffin

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: But what is the "balanced view"?

I simply mean that if each side demonize the other, we do not get anywhere.

Making money is not evil in any way, nor is preserving nature. It is not wrong to hunt, or cut down trees, it is wrong to hunt creatures to extinction, and wantonly cutting down trees in such a way that whole forests disappear. A forest can be productive, and yet be a nature reserve (many are). If creating large nature reserves means chasing farmers off their land, you not going to make any friends. It causes resentment, and locals often start justifying poaching. If you make nature reserves that include sustainable farms, sustainable wood production, sustainable hunting and tourism, you get a win-win situation. Locals then tend to help track poachers, rather than be the poachers. You do not have to go to Africa for good examples. In the Netherlands many farmers contribute to care for the environment.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Interesting piece. It has strong echoes of how someone like Darwin saw nature. In excerpts of his journal published in "A Narrative of the Voyage of HMS Beagle" his descriptions of landscapes and natural scenes are surprisingly utilitarian, focusing very much of how the landscape could be used to man's benefit. Not at all what many modern environmentalists would expect.

I think Kareiva is dead right that a more balanced view is needed. I have seen several efforts to set up reservations and protect species at the expense of the local population in Africa fail. Likewise I have seen other efforts in which the local population benefits be highly successful. Not really surprising when you think of it.

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Arizona bill makes it illegal to 'annoy or offend' online

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Ted Nugent? Rush Limbaugh?

This bill (now amended and dying or dead) could have been used to sue Ted Nugent, who openly threatened the President and Hilary Clinton (and assorted others) with a gun in one of his rants. Rush Limbaugh (in the way he described a certain student who testified before congress) could be seen as insulting and harassing using obscene language (i.e. business as usual). He too could be sued. Did the Republicans involved realize this? If so, they might be commended for trying to deal with extremist views from people who claim to be on their side. If not, they might have made the amendments and killed it because they collectively went "oops."

As others have said, you cannot legislate for good manners. Besides, notions of what is acceptable change. We can now say "swut", "jujuflop" and turlingdrome" and know we are healthy, well-adjusted and completely un*****-up personalities. So long as we do not say "Belgium"

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Feathered Tyrannosaurus uncovered in China

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coat

Did it taste like chicken?

Sorry, I'll get me coat

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Help Astronomers in Britain

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Help Astronomers in Britain

Light pollution is a huge problem for (amateur) astronomers. Nobody is suggesting we switch of all the lights at night, but a lot of unnecessary lights could be turned off or dimmed.

There is an e-petition here on cutting back light pollution and energy waste at the same time. All British citizens and anyone living in the UK can sign.

Thanks

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Browsium rescues HMRC from IE6 – and multimillion-pound bill

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Is it just me,

or does Browsium sound like a Discworld element like Narrativium?

Mine is the one with "Thud" in the pocket

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iPhone fanbois enraged by Instagram's Android triumph

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: iPhone users <> Apple fanbois

or:

Pascal programmers .NE. Real programmers

Mine is the one with the Fortran 77 Manual

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Prehistoric monster snake crushed prey under 1.5 Brooklyn Bridges

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

"so could this thing lift the Brooklyn Bridge?"

Yes, and so can you. If I give you a long enough and strong enough lever and a place to stand you can lift the world, as Archimedes would say (but then in Greek)

;-)

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Blighty's new top supercomputer bagged by software boffins

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

Re: Yes

quite likely

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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But will it run Crysis?

Mine is the one with the MPI manual in the pocket

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Condom compartment hidden in iPhone case

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

According to "Good morning Vietnam!"

the sizes are:

Large

Medium

Caucasian

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Star's guts turned INSIDE OUT in supernova mega-blast

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Stellar dyspepsia?

A serious case, by the sound of it

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No-strings nookie radar tugged offline in stalking backlash

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Geo-social exploration

Now that is a euphemism to remember:

"I can assure you, I am not looking to get laid! I am conducting a geo-social exploration!"

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Terrafugia flies first prototype: Flying cars 'within a year'

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Ok, if the flying car has been sorted

When will we get jet-packs?

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Steve Jobs biopic

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Re: STEVE BALLMER

SHOULD THAT NOT BE JACK NICHOLSON AND GLENN CLOSE?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Balmer?

Option 1: Alexei Sayle

Accent may be a problem, but the thought of him chanting "developers, developers, developers!!" in a strong Liverpudlian accent has a strange appeal.

Option 2: Danny DeVito

might have to practice chair flinging, however.

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Coders' 'lives sucked out' by black-and-white Visual Studio 11

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

So will this new IDE work on my old Hercules card?

Just a thought

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What does the Titanic's sinking tell us about modern science?

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: peer reviewed

You are right that publicly funded work should be available publicly. However, note that in all cases any scientist without access to a journal simply contacts the corresponding author (I still have some of those quaint reprint request postcards in a drawer somewhere). The author emails you the PDF, end of problem. IEEE and some other publishers allow you to put your stuff on the web for research and education purposes, provided a suitable copyright statement is included.

The same holds for code we produce: ask and ye shall receive.

Press releases are NOT under embargo in all cases except one (where patent applications are involved, nothing to do with the publisher), in my experience. In those instances where we want to do a press release, the university takes care of it, and the publisher has no say. We do often let this coincide with the (on-line) publication of the paper, so journalists can check out the paper.

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Use the holy word of God to stay secure online, says bishop

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Isnane or Welsh!

So do you use Llanfairpwyllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch as pass phrase?

Cwmtwrch is a shorter favourite

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Devil

Re: so...

You could always go for:

"Let him who hath understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number. Its number is 666"

A bit long, but very memorable.

Would be a good BOFH password, once he has given up on "Grievous bodily harm"

Icon, because, well....

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Third European supply podule docks with space station

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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What is this figure in double-decker buses per fortnight?

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Happy

'Smooth, gentle' mating at 28,000 kph

I trust that is with respect to our earthbound frame of reference, not the speed of the podule with respect to ISS.

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100 EARTH-LIKE PLANETS orbit stars WITHIN 30 LIGHT-YEARS!

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Boffin

Re: The other thing about red dwarfs

They have far less UV radiation output than the sun. Because the temperature is lower. If we put the planet near enough to the red dwarf to be comfy temperature-wise, the amount of shorter wavelengths (including blue light) hitting the atmosphere is less. Charged particles release might be energetic, but with a strong enough magnetic field a planet could be OK. One worry is actually that there is not enough UV and other hard radiation to cause enough mutations to keep evolution ticking over, but that is a rather speculative argument. There are many sources of randomness which could supply enough mutations.

Incidentally, the colour of light emitted by your typical red dwarf equals that of an incandescent light bulb (3200 K colour temperature) to that of a halogen light (3600K). So they are really yellowish red, whereas our "yellow" sun emits white (5800K) light.

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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They avoid us because of cricket!

It's in very bad taste, you know.

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Republicans shoot down proposed ban on Facebook login boss-snoop

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Joke

Um, what's a Facebook?

Potential answer if you really do not want the job

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Actively cooled rocket primed for easy re-entry

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Alien

Should this craft not be manned by Kryten?

Looks like the perfect pilot for it

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AVG nukes stalking ads at press of BIG SHINY BUTTON

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Sounds interesting. Might give it a try on the windows machine at home.

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Sitting down all day is killing you

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Cycling

Yer doomed, doomed, DOOOMED!!!!!

Private Fraser

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Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Pint

Does going to the pub for a quick pint count?

Sounds plausible, especially if we include earlier reports that beer is good for you.

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Female Chinese astronauts must have no scars, straight teeth

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Coffee/keyboard

Re: At least...

genius in its simplicity

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TSA bars security guru from perv scanner testimony

Michael H.F. Wilkinson
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Re: Couldn't have that, now.

Exactly, we want fact-free politics!

Sounds like they like Gordon Way's inverse expert system: don't reason based on facts to get the best possible conclusion, but enter the desired conclusion beforehand (along with the known facts) and let the program come up with a plausible reasoning to support the conclusion.

Douglas Adams, you are sorely missed!

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