Monday 15 December 2008

Room "Fluffy"

I recall that some time ago when the UK’s national treasure, or Stephen Fry, as I believe he is also sometimes called, appeared on Room 101, he suggested a less negative and cantankerous alternative to Room 101. He suggested that Room “Fluffy” would be a good location in which to store the better aspects of life. So having listed my Top 10 items for Room 101 in my previous blog, I now turn my attention to the nicer things in life that I shall place in Room Fluffy.

Apple Macintosh Computers
My first job, back in 1984, was as a computer programmer, programming an Apple IIe micro computer. The Apple IIe had a 6502 chip, the same one used by the BBC Model B microcomputer, making it very similar to program. But I got swept along with the new IBM PC’s that were becoming available at this time and regrettably abandoned Apple until 2007 when I finally convinced myself to replace my latest dead PC with a Mac. Now all the PC’s in the house have been replaced by Mac’s and I’ve turned into an evangelical Mac bore. I don’t miss Ctl-Alt-Del or mucking around in the registry trying to remove spyware or wondering my PC is full of crap and running like a dog. The Mac just works.

BBC Radio 4
Despite whinging about “Thought for the Day”, Radio 4 remains one of the last bastions against the deluge of mindless, dull, banal entertainment. It’s a place where great comedy is born, (The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, The League of Gentleman, Little Britain etc etc) and it’s probably the only remaining public broadcaster in the UK to continue to put out thought provoking broadcasts covering multiple topics including my personal favourites of science and philosophy. There comes a point when the tedious self opinionated disc jockeys, their appalling choice of music, and pointless topics of conversations and telephone call-ins become too much to bear. When you eventually despair of them, try Radio 4.

Podcasts allow me to combine my love of Radio 4 and of Apple Gadgets with a perfect means of accessing the programmes I am interested in at a time that is convenient for me. In addition to some great Radio 4 podcasts, it’s also proved to be a valuable medium for accessing the thoughts of people with whom I share some interests. From my particular perspective, podcasts have enabled me to become more involved and informed on items such as critical thinking science and reason via great podcasts like the SGU, Point of Enquiry, Little Atoms, Skeptoid and Skepticality.

Technology & Gadgets
Like almost everyone in the privileged developed world, I have a small device in my pocket that can convert sound into radio waves that can be beamed up to an artificial satellites orbiting the planet and allow me to speak to someone on the other side of the earth. So what, I’ve got a mobile phone. But if you pause and think about it for a while and its pretty amazing. The technology I carry with me (which are all the by products of good science) would make me seem like I have the powers only attributable to a major deity to my ancestors.

Most people grow out of having to have the hottest curry possible. I didn’t, I just developed a love of spicy food.

Gibson Les Paul & Fender Stratocaster
These two pieces of wood have been the key ingredient in producing the most moving and evocative art I have ever appreciated.
The Gibson Les Paul is of course the weapon of choice for: Martin Barre, Jeff Beck, Chuck Berry, Marc Bolan, Peter Green, Dave Grohl, Steve Hackett, George Harrison, , Steve Jones, Alex Lifeson, John Lennon, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Gary Moore, Mike Oldfield, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Slash, Eddie Van Halen, Snowy White and Neil Young.
While the Fender Stratocaster is the primary axe for: Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, The Edge, David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler and Hank Marvin
Imagine how dull your record collection would be if you omitted the above names.


Science is such a simple and brilliant idea. Instead of making stuff up or claiming to have had a divine inspiration, you use your brain to form an hypothesis, rigorously test your hypothesis using controlled repeatable tests, and get it peer reviewed by unbiased colleagues with no hidden agendas to form an accepted theory. Then, here’s the clever bit, rather than decreeing this theory as the gospel truth, you allow for modifications, tweaks and updates to advance our understanding as new data and evidence become available. Rather than treating Newton’s groundbreaking understanding of gravity as gospel, we allow a patent clerk to refine it a little further, eventually enabling us to accurately track and plot our positions on the earth via satellite navigation. Instead of assuming that we were sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure, thanks to a ships naturalist who took a nice trip around the Galapagos Islands, we can piece together the origins of our species. And with the help of other great minds we can also understand the origins and age of our planet, galaxy and indeed, Universe by building upon successive knowledge, learning, understanding and theories. Science has enlightened us with the understanding of our origins, taken us to the surface of the moon, and enabled us to live longer. Why are we not all getting excited at what we can achieve next? What breakthrough will we make when we finally get the LHC working? Can we solve world hunger through genetic modification of crops? Can stem cell research provide us with the knowledge to cure many diseases? Of course we need to be careful, but I’m excited to see what science can do for us next rather than be swept along by the tide of pseudoscience and fear of science promoted by ignorance and religions fearful of knowledge and understanding undermining their myths and loosening their grip on our minds.

Douglas Adams
Douglas Noel Adams (DNA) was always very proud of the fact that he was born in Cambridge in 1955, the same date and location Watson and Crick discovered an alternative DNA. Whilst being my favourite author, he is also a very good link to many of the other items I have placed in Room Fluffy. He beat Stephen Fry to be the first UK Apple Mac owner. He premiered his masterpiece (H2G2) on BBC Radio 4. He was a keen musician and fan of Procul Harlem and Pink Floyd, to which there are several references to in the Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, and whom he played with briefly on the 1994 tour, and I’m sure he must have had a Les Paul and/or Strat in his collection. He was also an avid technology, gadget and science enthusiast and friend of Richard Dawkins. In fact if it wasn’t for his premature and untimely death in 2001, he would have been first choice for my fantasy dinner party guest list (Hopefully he could have bought David Gilmour, Richard Dawkins and Stephen Fry along with him).

V6, V8 or V12 Engines
It may well be more environmentally friendly to drive around in a small car powered by a lawnmower engine, but bollocks to that. You can’t beat be a good sized engine 3.0 litre V6, minimum. Something that puts a smile on your face when you put your foot down. I’ll Hopefully move up to a V8 or V12 next, so long as we haven’t run out of oil or died of carbon monoxide poisoning. However, if someone can invent an affordable clean equivalent then I’ll give it a go, but the Toyota Prius or Gee Whiz aint it.

TMS (Test Match Special)
There’s nothing better than getting in the car on a glorious summers day and having the car radio tuned to Radio 4 Long Wave (198) to listen to days events unfold. Having the dulcet tones of CMJ, Aggers and Blowers eloquently painting the scene at Lords of the English batsmen deftly picking off a steady stream of runs from the unfortunate tourists.

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