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Posts from March 2008

It’s Gonna Be The Future Soon

Wednesday 26th March 2008

So yeh, saw Jonathan Coulton in London last week (thanks again to Andy for the use of his sofa, and more importantly for the use of his spare Xbox controller…) and it was pretty awesome. I’ve basically had his music stuck in my head ever since the gig (not a bad thing), and its basically all I’ve been listening to. I burned up some Explosions in the Sky earlier so I can listen to it in bed when I eventually try to go to sleep (sidebar: thing I hate the most about coming home is that I have to leave my CD collection in Cardiff. Grr) just for variety’s sake, but I bet I’ll still wake up with Skullcrusher Mountain in my head.

Anyway, I’m straying from the point before I’ve even started… Theres a bunch of things I’ve wanted to write about on here lately, but frankly I’ve been far too lazy to write them out. So I haven’t. Of course, by the time I can be bothered to write some of them out I will have forgotten what I wanted to say, but meh.

I’ve probably written before on here about time, how it goes quickly, blah blah blah. I know it’s not an entirely original idea, so I’m not going to elaborate too much on it now. Anyway, it’s almost the end of the University year (I think I’ve got just over 2 months yet) and it leaves me thinking “crap, where has that gone?”. I’m almost at the end of the second year, and when I think back to when I was still a in school (or even in 6th form, looking round places) and how uni students looked to me back then, that’s not how I feel about myself now.

Lately I’ve been thinking back though over the last year and a half-ish I’ve been at uni, and thinking about how I’ve changed. Outwardly, I’m not sure if I have massively (other people can judge that better), but inwardly I think I have quite a bit. Not just as a result of going to university, but as a result of certain things that have happened and the way I’ve coped with them (I’m mostly thinking of a specific thing, but I’m not elaborating on a public website. If you wanna know what thing, ask me elsewhere :-p).

Argh, I have this idea floating around in my head, but I’m not sure how to transfer it to words. Annoying to the extreme…

Basically, I realised the other day that I’ve turned into an adult. I’m not sure when it happened, or how it happened, but it has. And in some ways it’s scary, but in others less so.

We’re grown-ups now, and it’s our turn to decide what that means…

==

As an aside, I was pressing the “I” key often enough whilst writing this that it reminded me of this… Thanks Hannah, made me all self-conscious :-P

Anyway, I’ll try to write something more good soon.

Posted In: MusicStuff Tagged: | 14 Comments

Open the Pod Bay Doors…

Wednesday 19th March 2008

:-(

Fantastic author, I can’t begin to list how many good books he’s written. The Rama and 2001-3001 series stand out though, and are well worth reading. As are his short stories.

Actually, all his stories are well worth reading…

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”
Clarke’s Third Law

R.I.P. Arthur.

Posted In: RandomTechnology Tagged: | 1 Comment

Braaaaiiinns!

Tuesday 18th March 2008

First, a continuation of the last entry: Holy Crap that was a good race. I got up at 4am (after an hour’s sleep. Ahem) to watch it (thus missing all the nauseating pre-race buildup, yesss!) and the didn’t feel at all tired watching it, cos of all the excitement. If the rest of the season is half as good as that race, I’ll be happy.

Anyway… I should’ve written this entry a while ago, but I had a bunch of other stuff to do at the time and by the time I didn’t have to do that stuff any more, I forgot I was going to write this. Oops.

So a while back, a Derren Brown show called The System was broadcast on C4. The premise of the show was that he’d worked out a 100% foolproof way for someone to win on the horses. The first part of the programme is concerned with how he gave tips anonymously to this (extremely irritating) woman, and how they were right each time. She gets confidence in The System, to the point where he persuades her to place one final bet for as much money as she can get together, on whichever horse he predicts will win the race. Theres some experiment/tricky bits he does as well, outside of the horse thing, to convey ideas about probability, for instance tossing a fair coin 10 times in a row and getting heads each time. He says that “the key to understanding this [trick], is the key to understanding the system”. Which really is a big hint…

After the woman places the last bet, Brown tells us how the system works. Basically, it’s a pyramid scheme; you start with a big group of people, split them into n groups (where there are n horses running in the same race), and assign each group a horse. You then tell each group that you “predict” that horse will win the race. After that, take the winning group and do it again, and again, and again. Until you end up with one person who happened to be in all the winning groups and has therefore seen a string of correct “predictions”. The person who you tell to get as much money together to place it on (effectively) a random horse…

I’ve probably summed the programme up badly, but the idea of it wasn’t to prove that there is or is not a system for winning at the horses. The idea was to basically show up faith.

The woman in the film (and by extension, the viewer, since we only see her perspective of events) assumes that there really is a system; that Derren Brown really can predict which horse will win a given race. But that’s because we can only see part of the story – we only see the one in 8000 who happens to get lucky at each level of the pyramid. The point is that to have faith in something, whether it be homeopathic remedies, religion, or in this case a system for winning at the horses, requires a certain amount of ignoring the bigger picture. The point Derren Brown is trying to get across is that just because we perceive something to be so, that doesn’t necessarily mean that our perception is correct.

The example given in the show is that of homeopathic medicine (the sort of thing where the medicines basically consist of water), but it applies to any sort of religious faith. One of the (many) things that annoys me about religion (or faith, or whatever you want to call it) is exactly this point. To believe in a religion – doesnt matter which one – requires you to blindly accept certain things. Whether that be a story of creation, a certain moral code, or simply the notion of a God, its the same thing. And that sort of blind acceptance is at best foolish, at worst downright dangerous.

As so deftly explained by xkcd (and thats quite coincidental, cos I started this post before that cartoon was published), the core of science is the notion that ideas – any ideas – are tested by experiment. You shouldn’t accept facts just because someone says they are true, or because they were written down in a book thousands of years ago. It’s so irritating when you have an argument about religion with, say, a Christian, and every response they come up with is prefaced with the phrase “well, the Bible says…”. I don’t want to know what the Bible says, I want to know what you say!

OK, excluding extremists (who are just nuts), it all seems slightly innocent for some people to be religious, doesn’t it? If it brings comfort to them, if it gets them through the day, surely thats fine? Well no, it isnt. The very core of a religious viewpoint is this ability to accept without question; to do without thinking. It leads to flawed logic, to arbitrary judgements, to conflict. If more people accepted a more “scientific” frame of mind, the world would be a better place.

Basically, religion = bad. When I’m in charge, it’ll be classified as a mental illness…

Posted In: MotorsportProcrastinationRandom Tagged: | 3 Comments

Wildly Inaccurate Predictions

Saturday 15th March 2008

So here goes an entry no-ones gonna comment on, except maybe Andy to say “Seriously, boring”. But meh :-P

First F1 race of the year in less than 12 hours, and it’s prediction time. I was gonna write this last night after watching qualifying but it was 4am and I wanted to sleep…

From pre-season testing, Ferrari looked unstoppable. Seriously, they were massively quick. But either they’ve taken a step back, or everyone else has found bucketfuls of time in the last test, cos they looked all lost at sea earlier. OK, there could be an explanation (Raikkonen’s mechanical failure put him out of qualifying, and Massa looked a little ragged all through the session. I’m not convinced his lap is representative of what the car couldve done, but without Raikkonen there to compare, I guess we can’t tell), but still…

What was really good to see was BMW being as quick as McLaren. If he hadnt run wide on one of the corners, Kubica would’ve been on pole (i.e. start at the front of the grid). Which wouldve been great, just for the headline (Kubica is Polish, work it out).

So, I reckon we’re gonna have wins this year from McLaren (both drivers, but mainly Hamilton – the way he manages the rear of the car is absolutely mesmerising), Ferrari (both drivers) and BMW, and I reckon it could be either of those drivers. Kubica looks faster, but I think Heidfeld has the experience which could put him in the right place in a weird race like Canada or Europe last year. I also find it hard to see Alonso not winning a race, especially towards the end of the year, so I’ll put him in that list too.

Elsewhere, Honda. Considering how bad last year was, and how bad pre-season looked, 11th and 13th on the grid is pretty good. OK this year isnt going to be spectacular, but if they build up the momentum (and get rid of Barrichello), 2009 could be special. Williams, also, could be special this year. OK they were outqualified by Toyota for this Grand Prix, but I can’t seriously see that continuing. Thinking about it, I wonder if Rosberg could win a race this year…

What else? Ah, yes, Toyota. I’ll be interested to see who does better between Glock and Trulli, but let’s face it, the team’s just going to hover somewhere in the middle and continue to be perfectly mediocre. Toro Rosso, however, look good. I’m staggered by how slow Bourdais was, because I rate him pretty highly. But then Vettel is doing pretty damn well as well – getting the car into the top 10 is pretty good, and I hope the STR3 when it’s introduced at Turkey is a good step forward, because they could seriously upset someone’s party.

As for the rest… Fisichella will beat Sutil (probably), Sato and Davidson will be as close as last year, Alonso will throw his toys out of the pram at least once this year, and Mosley will implode under the weight of his own self-importance.

So, overall winners? Driver’s championship will go to Hamilton or Raikkonen, and constructors to Ferrari or McLaren. Probably Ferrari, cos of the FIA…

By the way, I don’t like the new format for the third phase of qualifying. They should declare race fuel loads before the session, then qualify empty. Then the loads should be declared after the session. Makes it easier to see what people are doing then, and a lot less dangerous.

Finally, why is the ITV-F1 coverage so dire? Honestly, this morning they couldve talked about all sorts from the Winter. So why did they waste time with a crappy clip of Tamara Ecclestone Skiing with Ferrari? Why?! Also, Mark Blundell was orange. He looked like an oompa-loompa. This made me laugh… I’m just not gonna watch it tomorrow, it’s really not worth missing sleep for. The only good bits are when Brundle does his F1-insight bits, and they wont do that at half 3 in the morning…

Posted In: Motorsport | 9 Comments

Cooped Up

Tuesday 11th March 2008

After I went home last time, I said I liked getting away from the University bubble. By that, I didn’t just mean getting away from uni work and whatnot. I also meant that it was nice to have a change from being in the same old place all the time.

One of the things I miss most about being at Sixth Form is, weirdly, getting there and back. The drive first thing in the morning was a really good way of waking myself up gently, of getting myself ready for the day. The route I used to use took me from home, along a dual carriageway (nice little blast of speed first thing in the morning, always good for the soul), and then I used to turn off that and take a twisty little back route over Clent, which was really enjoyable. The change of scenery along that route (from relatively busy town roads to quiet country ones) was really nice, especially at this time of year. Coming back was even better. Because I could take as long as I wanted to get back (within reason), I used to vary the route sometimes. Half days were great, because I took the opportunity to take the longer way home – a game I used to play was when following another car and approaching a junction, go the opposite way to the car in front. Even if it’s the wrong way. They say a change is as good as a rest, and it really is true.

I don’t think it’s just that aspect of the commute that I miss though. When I was working last summer, it involved an hour-long journey to get there. Most times I got a lift in, but I had to get the train in a decent amount of the time too. And, to be honest, I got sort of the same kind of enjoyment from that. I enjoyed watching the world go by outside the window, watching the other people on the train (oh come on, who doesnt?), and just having the time to chill out and relax. I’m not sure why it’s any different to chilling out and relaxing at home, but it is.

I think I just enjoy movement. It’s the reason I hate air travel, I think. I’m not afraid of crashing or anything like that – I know I have more chance of being killed by a pair of trousers than by a plane crash – and I like the height. But air travel is just so dull. You sit there a few miles above the ground and hurtling along at a few hundred miles an hour, but you feel as if you’re still on the ground. Except you’re in an unacceptably uncomfortable chair, and your ears are gonna hurt for a few hours after you get out.

But then, I’m probably the only person who likes being on a boat in heavy seas…

Anyway, I’ve strayed from the point. It’s not just the physical sensation of movement that I liked about the commute to school. At Uni, everything I do is centred within a relatively small area. Uni itself is 10 minutes walk away, friends houses are max 20 minutes away, town is 15 minutes away. And that’s good, I suppose, but I get a bit claustrophobic about it all. Especially given that so much of the city, apart from the centre, looks so similar (and, it has to be said, a little dreary). Sometimes I just want to see something new.

Posted In: Random | 7 Comments

Waxing Lyrical, Reprised

Thursday 6th March 2008

In that post, I talked about Heima.

Well, Sigur Ros are taking over YouTube tomorrow, and as part of it, guess what’s being shown in full… Or don’t guess, click the link and find out.

Dunno how good the quality will be (it’s YouTube…), but well worth watching at least some of whats up there, if you have the time.

(I think this post could be tagged stmtm. Am I correct?)

Posted In: MusicRandom Tagged: | No Comments

Hopping on the Bandwagon

Saturday 1st March 2008

Well going green seems to be all the craze at the moment…

Anyway, this is something I’ve been working on for a few days now. I bought the hosting before Christmas and didnt do anything with it, and I had some time last weekend so thought I’d finally get around to moving things over here. There’s nothing new here as such, it’s just a new (hopefully nicer) way of presenting it all.

I’ve spent so long looking at the damn thing as I’ve been writing it that I’ve sort of lost all ability to judge how good it looks. To be frank, I’m already sick of the greenness, but familiarity breeds contempt and all that… The only thing I’m really unsure about though is the “listening to” section on the right. I’m not really sure what the point is (other than demonstrate that I spend far too much time in front of a computer as it updates all the bloody time), but I can’t be bothered to get rid of it at the moment, so I’ll do it some other time if I still feel the same.

Anyway seeing as I’ve written pretty much nothing for a week, I may as well do so now. Beats sleeping, eh?

I went home for the first half of the week, and I have to say it was pretty refreshing. I hadn’t really noticed it beforehand but being stuck in the Uni “bubble” does kinda suck, and it was nice to go back to the real world for a few days and get away from everything.

Considering I am one, students do tend to intensely annoy me. Most of ’em seem to think that the world owes them something because they’re a student. Like with student loans. I’ve written here before about the fuss people made when the interest rate jumped to 4.8% (or whatever it is) a few months ago. It annoyed me that people fussed so much; 4.8% is a very good loan rate, you pay it back when you earn over a certain amount, and if you don’t like the fact that it can jump by so much, dont take the loan… Either way, just because we’re students it doesnt mean we’re entitled to anything, and it annoys me when people forget that.

The student lifestyle irritates me too. A generic night out is to some crappy club, with shitty music played far too loud, where you drink far too many awful, overpriced drinks and end up posing for a photograph with a kebab in one hand and a traffic cone in the other. It’s shit! I still don’t know why people want to do that sort of thing; if you want to go out with some friends, it’s much better to go to a pub, have a couple of pints and talk for a while. Surely you get to know people better that way than you do by sleeping your way round the student body (although perhaps I’m just saying that cos I’m not getting any…). And this idea that getting drunk = good night out is just stupid.

So does it make me a hypocrite that I got drunk on the day I came back to Cardiff? (the answer is no, by the way. Being drunk was just a side-effect of the drinking… By the way, I tried a green beer that night. It wasnt as good as it looked, sadly).

Anyway, sleepy time.

Oh, and Happy St. David’s day to my Welsh reader(s?).

Posted In: RantSiteSleep | 14 Comments