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Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

Imperial Guard WIP

We all have our hobbies, mine is assembling and painting plastic models such as these Imperial Guard, which are still a WIP as I’m not decided on if I like the colour scheme or not. It’s supposed to be a kind of urban camo, but I’m not sure how well it comes off. Click for the full sized image.

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The Imperial Guard have always appealed to me, partly because they are just regular people armed with a pretty average weapon who rely on sheer numbers and weight of firepower to overcome all sorts of horrible things.

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Random banned books

I disagree with the practice in some places of banning books, which I view as a generally stupid and anti-educational practice (there would be certain exceptions of course, borderline pornographic romance novels would be one example I could think of, but even then…). Thankfully, there are groups that seem to want to fight back against this sort of thing, which is something I highly approve of and should be clearly encouraged. Something that does peak my interest is some of the weird choices in books people have campaigned to ban are. Some of them have at least some reasonably logical basis, such as having considerably racist language as they were written during periods when social inequality was the norm such as Huckleberry Finn. This doesn’t mean I agree with doing so however, as these books in context can be perfectly useful in an educational context. Consider banning the study of the Holocaust in WW2 or the American Civil Rights movement because students might be exposed to anti-semitic or racist ideas during the course of studying the events.

Some of the choices include:

Handford, Martin, Where’s Waldo, 1988 for having a picture of a woman who is lying topless on the beach. Now, I’m probably going to guess that there isn’t actually any breast involved here and that’s she’s probably face down (I’m not certain) and if that’s the case, it’s truly a weird thing to ban the book for.

Lewis, C S, The lion, the witch and the wardrobe for being overly violent and filled with people getting killed. Now, I’ll grant you that in my old age I can’t stomach this book as it literally beats you over the head with poorly disguised Christian allegory and morality (and in my opinion, horrifically mangles the message as well with a terrible deus ex machina plot twist), but when I read it at the age of 9 or so, I thought it was great. Apparently the book got banned as it doesn’t ascribe to “Good Christian values”*, which could be argued as the books are fairly bloody but then again you’d have to wonder if they had read the bible while making this complaint? I think that’s fairly ridiculous and whatever I may think of the book now, it’s good reading for children and at least can encourage them to start reading, itself fairly difficult.

Paterson, Katherine, Bridge to Terabithia, 1977 gets banned for having concepts like secular humanism and similar values. I imagine, though TVNZs article doesn’t list them, that you’d also find the “His Dark Materials” trilogy of books (which include the Golden Compass, recently made into a movie) in there as well for similar reasons. Again though, there are some weird reasons for banning the book, like “death being a part of the plot”, which just makes me scratch my head as to why that is so objectionable considering many of the best stories, myths and such involve death in some way (Frankenstein, the Hunchback of Notre Dame and the Lord of the Rings to name a few of my favorites).

Seuss, Dr, The Lorax, 1971 generates a series WTF from me. The book was banned for being political commentary on the state of the logging industry?!? Shall we ban the Butter Battle Book as potential political commentary on the war in Iraq? The Cat in the Hat for encouraging socially unacceptable behavior with household pets? This is just stupidity.

Frank, Anne, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, is apparently banned because it’s depressing in one case and has sexually explicit passages in another. I recall, back in the days of 3rd form English being forced to read through this book and thinking that it should have been studied in a better context in history, because as a novel it’s really not that engaging (not regarding that the history and situation they found themselves in is incredibly tragic, of which the diary Anne kept provides important insight into what it was like to be hiding from the gestapo, but it’s not a good book on its own). But again, I can’t fathom why someone would ban a book simply because it lacks the standard Hollywood happy ending that people seem to love and the sexually explicit passages, from what I remember are particularly tame (but natural for someone in that situation with only one young fellow around her).

The list of banned books is larger than this, I just picked these out as they either seemed particularly silly or the reasons for their banning were just ridiculous. Ideally books wouldn’t be banned and instead, in the case of examples like Huckleberry Finn, their historical context and reasons for the language they use should be explained- not just banned.

*Whatever this is supposed to mean anyway

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Long time in coming

So after a rather interesting year filled with ups and downs, a zombie apocalypse and Elvis coming back from the aliens that abducted him, I’ve finally got around to starting the new blog I had been promising to do since forever. I am aware that I said in October 2006 that I would have a new website up soon and that it turns out it’s (checks computers date) the 10th of January 2008. I guess if we’re going to be generous we could describe that as being ‘soon’ if we measure time in terms of decades or centuries. Unfortunately, as with many things that occur, real life and the pressures of working in an actual research laboratory meant that I just didn’t find the time or inclination to do science all day, then come home and write about science even more. None the less, I love what I do and doing actual science in a lab is hard but ultimately rewarding work.

So what will this new blog be about then? Well, pretty much exactly the same thing as my old blog was about with more of a focus on developments in animal immunology, diseases and vaccinations. I’ve still kept a keen interest in the bovine tuberculosis epidemic in Britain involving badgers, been looking into Johne’s disease in several farmed animal species (this is what I do my work on) and have taken an interest in more general diseases of animals (including wild species). I’ll hopefully get around to posting some new material soon that I’ve been squirreling away, but for now here is a post on Mare Reproductive Loss syndrome and how caterpillars were linked to the disease:

This is a story of two organisms and the identification of a really unusual way for bacteria to end up in a place they really should be. One of the organisms involved in this story happens to be a horse:

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The other organism involved is the Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum):

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You might be thinking at the moment as to how that tiny caterpillar interferes with a horse. After all, the caterpillars in question are a communal bunch that spin little “tents” and horses shouldn’t really have any particular interest in caterpillars. Most remarkably however, these caterpillars are known to be associated with a disorder in pregnant horses called Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome (MRLS). Most interestingly in this story is the proposed mechanism by which, this tiny (6cm long) caterpillar is responsible for causing a bacteriological infection of the developing fetus and ultimately killing it. But first, it’s time for a bit of background.

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