1. Doesn't look like we're going to have a missive from Finland tonight. Fingers crossed that one arrives in the morning because the World Puzzle Federation folk are too busy running their championship to update their web site while the event is on. Understandable, really.
2. Am getting increasingly hacked off with Project Dolphin. I am racking up 40,000 keystrokes, sending a pulse to register them, having my local count reset to zero (correctly), rebooting and then having my local count restarting from 40,000. This makes my supposed 750,000+ keystrokes figure pretty bogus. I would estimate that the real total is between half and three-quarters of that. I am experiencing both the "May 18" and "May 19" bugs listed in the bugs and issues section, so it's not as if this is particularly rare. I am minded to discontinue use of Pulse until they release a new version with these problems solved - possibly to quit for good.
3. A geeky little cause for celebration is coming up soon - could be in about 20 hours, could be in about 36. Prepare to roll your eyes when I decide to share.
4. zorac links to an impressive optical illlusion, with a link to an American Scientist article. Very cool indeed!
5. brakusjs points out Live 365's campaign against Internet radio station royalties, which needs very fast action. Unfortunately, as I am not in the US, I cannot call my representative on this issue. However, perhaps you might be in the US and so you can.
6. Am happy with my letter of complaint and have sent it to the ITC through their web site. I want to send only a printed version of the letter to the duty office of the channel responsible, but this is proving harder than it should. My laser printer is quite badly broken and currently incapable of printing out letters which are neatly presented enough that you would want to read them - the ink darkness is very variable and there are semi-regular splotches resulting from an ill-fated attempt at cleaning the head. Accordingly I stuck the .doc on a disk and took it to town, eventually sourcing a library which would print it. Unfortunately the file hadn't saved to disc, had only partially saved to disc or had saved to disc in the wrong format - so no printout for me today. Will try again tomorrow, using both .doc and .rtf for safety. Stupid MS Word.
7. On the way back from town, I passed under an overhanging hedge under which a leaf was apparently floating in mid-air. The only logical explanation for this was that there was actually some spider thread hanging down from the hedge on which the leaf had been caught, but this thread was too fine to see. It was really quite impressive - I wish I had had a camera on me. Naturally, I then sought to discover whether my "spider thread" hypothesis was correct, by moving my hand between hedge and leaf. I evidently broke the thread, still too fine to see or even to feel, and the leaf floated to the ground. Now tell me you'd have been able to resist conducting the same test in order to know for sure! Tell me that Heisenberg would have been able to!
8. While in town, I gave blood for the third time. About six or twelve months ago, the UK's Blood Transfusion Service ran a dramatic campaign calling for extra donors because their stocks were so low. (Apparently only 6% of the population give blood - to me, 6% seems like a pretty good proportion.)
They've also made some administrative changes since then, most notably that the habitual time between donation sessions is no longer six months but four, that you no longer have to wait on the bed for a few minutes between finishing giving blood and going for your drink and that you can fill out much of the paperwork in advance of the attendance. I'm a little surprised by these changes coming in at once. If the blood donation system has lasted for a long time without change (which it might not have done - experts?) then these changes seem rather dramatic and surely worthy of greater discussion. At the same time they seem to have become a bit more specific on their categories of people at risk; specifically, they now explicitly state that a single incidence of oral or anal sex between men, even using condoms, is enough to disqualify a potential donor for life. (You might care to consider the techniques that are not banned.) This doesn't strike me as the most enlightened policy in terms of accurately assessing HIV transmission risks, for they are considerably more lenient to those who are heterosexually promiscuous. (Remember, "bleeder" is just one letter away from "breeder".)
I guess that fewer readers will have given blood than not and that overseas readers might wish to compare blood donation techniques in different countries, so it may be useful to descirbe the afternoon's session in more detail. The whole process takes about half an hour and happens at this particular hall in town once a month. (By coincidence, it's the same place where I attend meetings of the Middlesbrough Gamers Club on Tuesdays.) However, there are many other places around town where sessions are held, albeit less frequently. The room in which everything happens is two-thirds of perhaps a twelve-yard square; at one end, eight or ten "beds" (elevated canvas mattresses) are laid out, at the other end there are a number of desks, mostly shielded by curtains, where the administration takes place.
Upon arrival, the first task of the session is to check that you know what's going to happen to you, that you're in reasonable physical condition and that you're not at risk of donating infected blood. Then a tiny needle is fired into the tip of one of your fingers to take a very small blood sample, which is dropped into some indicator solution. (I believe this is a test for aenemia.) They describe the sensation as being "a sharp scratch", which is a slight exaggeration, and "the worst part of the whole operation", which is about right. Really, it's not painful, but it does tend to leave the jabbed finger a bit tickly and itchy for a while. (It still is twelve hours after donation, for instance.) You are fairly frequently asked for your date of birth or your address, partly to ensure you're in a composed frame of mind and partly to ensure that you are who you say you are.
You are then directed to lie on one of the beds, which has an armrest to provide elevation and support the arm from which the blood will be taken. A strap is (weakly) tightened about the arm and you get a little handle of soft plastic to squeeze and play with in order to keep the blood circulating around your arm. Some local anaesthetic is applied to the arm, around the pit of the elbow, and a little tube is fed in through your skin to your vein. It's painless, but you definitely feel it. (I look away during this part - most people probably do.) Blood flows out through your veins and out the tube at a controlled rate. You then wait and bleed down the tube for a while. Two small samples of blood are stored in vials, but the majority of it gets stored in a bag. I believe the bag holds about a pint, but that's only because of the famous commentary from Lord Tony of Hancock. "Nearly an armful", indeed. For me, the bleeding took about nine minutes today. (I wonder if your blood pressure affects the length of time it takes?)
After the bag is full, the tube is removed and you are bandaged up. Previously you would have been made to continue to lie there for another five minutes, but this rest is now optional. (Indeed, I stayed there for a while and was politely shooed away after about three or four minutes.) You are then offered a drink - tea, coffee or watery squash - and a selection of biscuits. You can sit round and take your time with them or disappear straight away as you prefer. That's it. To be fair, you do feel at about 95% for another 48 hours afterwards and sometimes I've felt momentary pulsing, twitching sensations in my arm the day after the donation. (Expect me not to be typing so much tomorrow.) If I become ill in the next week or two, I need to notify the authorities that it might not have been the healthiest blood in the world after all, but there's no other rigmarole involved.
If you've ever considered the idea but felt it to be somehow scary or something that you're happy to let other people do, please think again about it. I suspect there are very few countries in the world who are not actively seeking blood donations. It isn't painful, the people who collect the blood are very nice (at least in Middlesbrough!) and it's objectively selfless and heroic to some extent. I'm not sure all the "Do something amazing, save a life" rhetoric that we get in this country is quite appropriate, but I think that a blood donation should be worth a self-administered reward of 1 Smug on the metric scale. (That's about 1.7 Happies.) I don't think that giving blood would prove to be a great place to find a mate, but some of the administrators in Middlesbrough are actually rather fit...
In case you're wondering, I am blood group A (rhesus positive) which is apparently as common and boring as hell. There is probably some established mapping between blood groups and Japanese beat-'em-up special moves, but I'm afraid I can't do anything more impressive than a Spinning Bird Kick (er, sort of - ask chrisvenus) and even that required the assistance of a considerable technical cast.
The original plan was also to talk about religion tonight, but it has got too late for that. "TOW blood and religion" has become just "TOW blood" - religion will follow some other day. Night night.