Monday, July 31, 2006


Phil Willis' Science Select Committee has come up with some fresh thinking on drug classifications.
This can only be a good thing by considering levels of harm, rather than the outdated and anomalous list classification we currently have.
In putting this list together it is good to also measure the harm of other, legal, drugs such as alcohol and tobacco. It is important to differentiate between the levels of penalties for offences for controlled drugs, and the harm that legal and illegal drugs do.

Drugs and Sport

Its not been a good few days with Gatlin openly acknowledging that his B sample has also failed and waiting upon Floyd Landis' B sample results.
I've not liked the approach taken by US Athletics in the past in not being more open about athletes who have failed tests. In Gatlin's case he has been the one talking to the media, and all relates to a test taken in April. Of course since then he's gone on to equal the world record for 100m.
Meanwhile Professional Cycling continues to be dragged down by doping scandals. In cycling, failed tests are published earlier, and teams now withdraw riders under suspicion straight away.
Will cycling ever be clean again?

Friday, July 28, 2006

I've taken the Straw pledge, have you...?

James Graham has set up a pledge to write to Jack Straw to tell him to not be such an idiot in attaching
Straw's premise is that recording the number of MPs Written Questions to ministers is encouraging MPs to submit more questions to appear higher in the stats recorded by TheyWorkForYou.
The website has already bowed to some of this pressure unfortunately: they no longer give an absolute ranking of the MPs quantity. But they have maintained the record of the number of 3 word alliterative phrases used.
Straw's outburst prompts one to wonder why government and other agencies publish "performance" data. Has newLabour decided that it doesn't like performance measures when these measures aren't in their control?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Weekend in Cambridge

On Saturday I popped down to Cambridge to catch up with an old work colleague, Simon, who has been down there for 4 or so years. I managed to avoid the biblical like downpour that was sweeping across the country west to east, although those waiting at Ely station caught the brunt of it as we went through.
The weekend was spent talking about a whole range of things, including how various re-organisations were taking place in our respective institutions, and mostly down while sitting outside various public houses near the Cam.
On Sunday as we walked into the centre, there were hundreds of cyclists arriving at a finish line on one of the park areas. It turned out there was a 50 mile sponsered London to Cambridge ride, which seemed a very nice way to spend a Sunday morning. I was quite jealous.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Le Tour

This years Tour de France has been one of the most exciting for many years. The TV highlights have been compelling viewing, and it is clear that despite professional cycling having its reputation dragged through the mud, spectators and viewers are tuning in and watching this most physically demanding sporting events. For those who want to follow the tour without Eurosport, I use the CSC tracker.
While Armstrong dominated the race in the last few years, we spent our time wondering when he was going to take the yellow jersey, and then keep hold of it until the finish in Paris. This year, with many of the favourites fighting to clear their names from drugs charges, there has been no dominant rider or team. In fact I can't remember when the maillot jaune changed hands so many times.
Now that the peloton is out of the final set of mountains, my money is on Landis to finally come through on Saturday's timetrial to take the overall lead into the streets of Paris on Sunday. But if its still close to call it could come down to someone winning the time bonus on the finish line to take the race!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Eid Mela

Wow, how hot was it this weekend? And the forecasters say its going to get hotter! (One of my childhood dream jobs was to be a weather forecaster, but I can imagine its a bit boring ATM for them...)
Sunday was spent at Birmingham's Eid Mela. This year it was being held at Millenium Point, rather than Cannon Hill Park. So a bit further to go, but well worth it. As usual a slow start with people drifting along throughout the afternoon. I thought it looked more multi-cultural this year, maybe because it was in the city-centre, rather than in the park.
As usual there was lots to do, see and listen to, and as last year the Mela organising chairman, Tariq Khan, gave a "rock star" like welcome to the crowd. I'm sure Bob Geldof will be in touch to compere any follow up to the Live8 concert!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Degree Congregations

Wednesday's Birmingham Post has a selection of photos from the University of Birmingham's degree congregations.
Amongst them is one of me leaning on the Mace prior to leading the Chancellor into the Great Hall (pic 5). The mace was used in the first congregation in 1901, and little has changed in terms of the ceremony, except maybe the number and size of them.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Prescott stays?

An interesting, and long interview of Prescott on Today this morning.
I assume he's spent the last 2 days avoiding all broadcast interviews so that he could prepare for this one. And it sounded like it: none of the usual Prescottese that you get when he speaks off the cuff in parliament. But there were whole sentences, with beginnings, middles and ends. That also made some sense!
But why, at the end, did he just not come out and say "no, I have not had any other affairs". Instead he went round the houses, and most of the way to Hull and back, to avoid answering that direct question.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

PR in the House of Lords

The new speaker of the HoL has been announced this afternoon: Congratulations to Baroness Hayman.
The interesting thing about this election is that the Lords used the Alternative Voting system (AV). OK, its not a proper proportional system because no system can be proportional when one candidate is being elected. But its good to see different voting systems in the heart of our democracy.