Friday, December 22, 2006


Seasons greetings.

Last night I had a end-of-year dinner with some friends. In between the food, drink and speeches, there was time to open a few Christmas crackers and groan at the jokes. Here are some of the gems

Q: What is big, hairy and flies?
A: King Concorde

Q: How do you make an apple puff?
A: Chase it round the garden a few times

Q: Why did the apple turn over?
A: Because it saw the jam roll

Q: Which athlete is warmest in winter?
A: The long jumper

Q: What did the fish say when it ran into a wall?
A: Dam

and finally...
Q: Why won't we have calenders in the future?
A: Because their days are numbered

Monday, December 11, 2006

My wheels

My bike was in need of a bit of maintenance this morning, so getting up a bit early, I set about pumping up the tyres, checking the brakes and readjusting the seat. The whole process took only a few minutes, but reminded me of the first time I tried to do some upkeep on my wheels, when I did something quite spectacularly stupid. No laughing or rude comments, please (unless they are behind my back)...

I was ten years old and had recently got my first bike. I’d spent the whole summer riding falling on the mean streets of Kilburn, and the chain now needed to be cleaned and re-oiled before I could get back out there. Better get to work, I thought. Nobody else in the family used a bicycle, though, and being unprepared, I hadn’t thought of buying some bicycle chain oil before I started cleaning. Hmmm. After much (serious!) consideration, I decided against using cooking oil, and instead decided to have a rummage in my dad’s motorcycle kit; surely he’d have something appropriate. I couldn’t find anything for ages though, and was just beginning to give up hope when I spotted some Duckham’s heavy duty lubricating oil. Bingo! This should work I thought, and scooping some out, began generously applying it to the chain. Ten minutes later I was done, and had a quick cycle around the block to test the ‘improvement’ out. The ride felt okay, but now what to do about the ugly big grease patch along the inside right leg of my jeans? Never mind, I though. I’ll just wipe the excess off the chain, and let my mum worry about the stain.

It was only two days later and once I’d soiled four more pairs of trousers that I decided to ask for some advice, and realised the error of my ways. It took me two hours of fun with soap and water before I finally managed to remove all the grease on the chain, and I ended up spending the next six months walking around with conspicuous grease stains on all my jeans.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

(Biscuit) breaking news

Research from the University of Loughborough has suggested why so many cookies in packages are in bits before they are eaten. Using a technique called digital speckle pattern interferometry, the team found that as biscuits cool down once they are removed from the oven, they gain moisture around the rim, which causes them to expand. Simultaneously, water in the centre causes the biscuit to contract, leading to the development of 'fault lines'. These weaken cookies so that they easily break apart when they are handled or transported. Check this out for more details.

The researchers hope that their work will help biscuit manufacturers alter their cooling processes so that perfect biscuits are produced evey time.

So now you know!