O'Really?

January 26, 2021

No need to run and hide, it’s a wonderful, wonderful life

Five years ago today, Colin Vearncombe passed away. While his birth name might not be familiar to many people, his stage name Black and the song Wonderful Life he wrote and performed are much more widely known. Wonderful life achieved commercial success across Europe in 1987.

The music video for Wonderful Life was shot in black and white around the English seaside resort of Southport, Merseyside and Wallasey on the Wirral

This haunting tune caught my again ear recently. The lyrics are particularly appropriate given the pandemic because it’s a sad but strangely comforting song written in a minor key. The refrain “no need to run and hide, it’s a wonderful, wonderful life” is optimistic and contrasts with the otherwise melancholy mood of the song.

Like many other listeners, I took the lyrics at face value and thought they were optimistic until I read a little about the circumstances that inspired the song:

“By the end of 1985 I had been in a couple of car crashes, my mother had a serious illness, I had been dropped by a record company, my first marriage went belly-up and I was homeless. Then I sat down and wrote this song called Wonderful Life. I was being sarcastic.”

Colin Vearncombe quoted in The Irish Times:
Memorial service video celebrating the life of Colin Vearncombe, played at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, 19th February 2016

As described in the memorial service video above, Colin once dedicated this song to “anyone suffering needlessly in the world right now”.

No need to laugh and cry. It’s a wonderful, wonderful life. Rest in Peace Colin Vearncombe, born 26 May 1962, died 26 January 2016.

References

  1. Barry Roche (2016) Funeral of singer ‘Black’ to take place in County Cork: Liverpool-born ‘Wonderful Life’ singer died after car crash on way to Cork Airport, The Irish Times, irishtimes.com

September 8, 2020

What’s The Story, Coding Glory?

If the Gallagher brothers were software engineers:

“All your dreams are made, when you’re chained to the Jira and the software trade”

Noel Gallagher

Tomorrow never knows what it doesn’t know too soon.

References

  1. Noel Gallagher (1995) Morning Glory in (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Creation Records

June 19, 2011

Sunday at the Lab with Uri Alon

Ah Sunday, a day of rest, recuperation and roasted food

Unless you’re a scientist, that is, in which case you might be working. If that’s you, this one goes out to all you committed high-calibre, driven scientists [1,2,3] who are spending this Sunday working at the laboratory bench. The amusing little ditty below is written by biologists Michael Elowitz and Uri Alon, and performed here by Uri Alon.

I kissed my wife and kissed farewell
I must go down to run my gel
I’m going to spend another Sunday at the lab

My wife said “Uri, you’ve got to promise,
you love me more than doing Science”
I said “Honey, can we discuss this another day?”
I’m going to spend another Sunday at the lab

My mum said “Son, don’t waste your life,
go home and spend time with the wife
you must have heard this from your father
why can’t you be more like your brother?
No son of mine spends Sundays at the lab.”

My dad said “Son, you need a shrink”
The shrink said son “you need a drink”
Those Rorschach spots reminded me of blots
He said “Oh God, you obviously have an obsessive compulsion
to spend all your Sundays at the lab”

My wife she left me
My mum disowned me
The shrink pretends he doesn’t know me
Because I can’t be myself
Without some buffer on the shelf

So if you need me, you can phone me at the lab
I’m going to spend another Sunday
I’m going to spend another Sunday
I’m going to spend another Sunday at the lab

References

  1. Elowe J (2010). Workaholism: between illusion and addiction. L’Encephale, 36 (4), 285-93 [Boulomanie : entre illusion et addiction] PMID: 20850599 DOI: 10.1016/j.encep.2009.12.002
  2. Overbaugh, J. (2011). 24/7 isn’t the only way: A healthy work–life balance can enhance research Nature, 477 (7362), 27-28 DOI: 10.1038/477027a
  3. Anon (2011). The 24/7 lab: Nature’s readers comment online Nature, 477 (7364), 280-280 DOI: 10.1038/477280c

July 8, 2009

California Googlin’

The Googlin' Gate BridgeSo, I’m going to San Francisco and on to the Googleplex in the heart of Silly Valley, California for Science Foo Camp (scifoo) 2009. As I put the Flowers In My Hair (what’s left of it) and confirm my booking at the Hotel California I’m not just California Dreamin’ but California Googlin’. Just how many American and Californian musical clichés it is possible to cram into one blog post and accompanying iPod playlist? Now there’s no shortage of lyrics to choose from, which is handy because it is a long journey from the UK to California and I’m extremely bored waiting for a flight westwards. So with a little help from a well known search engine and just like in the novel High Fidelity by Nick Hornby here is a (personal) top twenty-ish all time greatest hits:

  • Let’s start with The Beatles since they played their last ever gig in San Francisco (at Candlestick Park), so it seems appropriate. On Get Back Paul McCartney sings

    Jojo was a man who thought he was a loner

    But he knew it couldn’t last

    Jojo left his home in Tucson, Arizona

    For some California grass

    Get back, get back, back to where you once belonged

  • And what better to follow with than some Beatles-inspired rivalry in the shape of The Beach Boys who when they’re not Surfin’ USA they are singing about California Girls

    I wish they all could be California

    Girls, girls, girls yeah I dig the…

    I wish they all could be California Girls

    Are The Beach Boys possibly the band with the most cliches-per-album in the history of mankind?

    (more…)

June 2, 2009

Who Are You? Digital Identity in Science

The Who by The WhoThe organisers of the Science Online London 2009 conference are asking people to propose their own session ideas (see some examples here), so here is a proposal:

Title: Who Are You? Digital Identity in Science

Many important decisions in Science are based on identifying scientists and their contributions. From selecting reviewers for grants and publications, to attributing published data and deciding who is funded, hired or promoted, digital identity is at the heart of Science on the Web.

Despite the importance of digital identity, identifying scientists online is an unsolved problem [1]. Consequently, a significant amount of scientific and scholarly work is not easily cited or credited, especially digital contributions: from blogs and wikis, to source code, databases and traditional peer-reviewed publications on the Web. This (proposed) session will look at current mechanisms for identifying scientists digitally including contributor-id (CrossRef), researcher-id (Thomson), Scopus Author ID (Elsevier), OpenID, Google Scholar [2], Single Sign On, PubMed, Google Scholar [2], FOAF+SSL, LinkedIn, Shared Identifiers (URIs) and the rest. We will introduce and discuss each via a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Is digital identity even possible and ethical? Beside the obvious benefits of persistent, reliable and unique identifiers, what are the privacy and security issues with personal digital identity?

If this is a successful proposal, I’ll need some help. Any offers? If you are interested in joining in the fun, more details are at scienceonlinelondon.org

References

  1. Bourne, P., & Fink, J. (2008). I Am Not a Scientist, I Am a Number PLoS Computational Biology, 4 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000247
  2. Various Publications about unique author identifiers bookmarked in citeulike
  3. Yours Truly (2009) Google thinks I’m Maurice Wilkins
  4. The Who (1978) Who Are You? Who, who, who, who? (Thanks to Jan Aerts for the reference!)

October 9, 2008

While My Keyboard Gently Weeps

Filed under: lyrical — Duncan Hull @ 9:13 pm
Tags: ,

While My Keyboard Gently WeepsI look at the world and I notice it’s turning
While my keyboard gently weeps
With every mistake we must surely be learning
Still my keyboard gently weeps

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
oh oh, oh oh, oh oh
Yeah yeah yeah yeah
yeah yeah yeah yeah.

May 9, 2008

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Googling For

Filed under: lyrical — Duncan Hull @ 8:03 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Irish GoogleTwenty one years ago this month, in May 1987, Irish rockers U2 released their classic Joshua Tree single, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Those twenty one years have seen incredible technological change: the adoption of desktop computers, mobile phones, the birth of the Web and the widespread use of search engines like Google. So with sincere apologies to Bono, The Edge, Adam and Larry, it’s time we updated the lyrics for the 21st century. So, I give you “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Googling For” (21st anniversary, 2008 webby edition)… (more…)

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