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Posts in Category: Procrastination

Wedding, Water, Waffle

Tuesday 9th November 2010

I think I mentioned in the last post that I went to a friend’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. In some ways, I find it quite odd seeing people my age married/buying property/with kids (delete as appropriate). Obviously I don’t knock anyone who wants to do that, but for myself it all seems so young to be doing those things. In some ways I’m not even sure if I want to get married, in some ways it seems pretty old fashioned, rooted in religious tradition.

Hmm. I guess it makes sense in a symbolic way, committing to someone and whatnot. Although one thing I don’t get is having a big ceremony for it. To me, it seems like quite an intimate and personal thing. So it seems odd to do that in front of assembled family and friends. Oh, sure, the reception is a nice idea (any excuse for a pissup), but a big ceremony? Perhaps not.

Except earlier I did think of one possible reason for it. Because I’ve only just got round to changing my friend’s name on my phone (my friend was the bride), and as I did that I thought “yeah, this is going to confuse me every time I want to text her”… But then, will it? Because there was a big ceremony. So perhaps the ceremony is just a really elaborate way of reminding people that they’re married, so if you want to contact the bride you’ll have to look under a different letter in your contacts.

But then, why not just not get married, thereby avoiding the issue? Actually, I think it’s pretty anachronistic that the woman takes her husband’s surname. The whole thing is, really, unless you change the ceremony (see the previous post).

All this being said, I am (perpetually) single. Which perhaps makes it easier to be cynical about these things. Who knows?

I realise that I’ve not really done a general update on here for a while. Most of my posts have been about Things Which Annoy Me (read: politics/news) or F1. Generally because those are the things I’ve wanted to write about. I’ve also got a bunch of things in my drafts folder which I got half way through and then never finished. One in particular was a lengthy essay about sustainable construction, which I may polish off at some point because it’s actually pretty interesting. But then I would say that…

So yeah, update. I’ve graduated from Cardiff, and I’m now studying a postgraduate course at Birmingham. I’ve decided that I wanted to specialise in one particular part of Civil Engineering, and so the course is all about water. When I say that to most people they sort of look at me blankly, but it covers a hell of a lot. From flow in open channels (i.e. rivers), flooding, to water supply. Which is all quite interesting. At the moment I’m working on a coursework about the sustainability of the water supply in the UK, which is a fascinating topic. Most people seem to assume that because it rains all the time, we have plenty of water to drink. That’s not quite true, and water stress is a real problem. For a summary, see this diagram. Note that the areas with the lowest availability are also the areas with the highest demand (i.e. the South East). Apparently they’ve started to use desalination plants to supply water in some of those areas, which is just phenomenal. As well as expensive and energy-intensive; which in itself is in short supply…

As an aside, it’s interesting to note that since privatisation in the early 90s, the water industry has actually gotten much better. Better quality of water (admittedly, partly driven by EU directive), and crucially more efficiently extracted, treated and delivered (the improvement in leakage is particularly impressive). The regulation that exists to drive all this, though, is pretty mind-boggling. There’s apparently a push to introduce real competition between providers (currently water companies have a monopoly on certain areas; Dŵr Cymru supplies Wales, Severn Trent the Midlands, Thames Water in/around London, etc), and to introduce more of a market. Which is pretty interesting. Turns out that this privatisation/market lark isn’t in conflict with environmentalism. People being greedy (i.e. water companies wanting to make money) doesn’t necessarily equate with wrecking the environment…

Anyway, I digress. This post is probably a bit meandering, but I just felt like writing something really. I was going to say something about the upcoming F1 finale as well, but I think I’ll save that for another post. I’m massively looking forward to it, even though I have the horrible feeling that Red Bull will somehow manage to pass the drivers’ title to the Alonso. Which is really phenomenal given the car advantage they’ve enjoyed this year; they should’ve at least managed to exclude everyone else a while ago. Just goes to show that even if you have the best car, you’ve still got to drive it. Sort of puts Button’s performance in the Brawn last year – which only had an advantage for about 4 or 5 races – into context for those who say his championship is devalued because of the car advantage. Bullshit.

Posted In: EngineeringMotorsportProcrastinationStuff Tagged: | 2 Comments

Leaving the Microphone On

Thursday 29th April 2010

I intend to write a fuller post about politics tomorrow. Actually I’ve already started it, but I can’t be bothered to finish it right now so I’ll attack it as and when and post it tomorrow at some time.

In the mean time though I can’t help but comment on bigotgate. I hate the -gate suffix. It’s used all the bloody time in F1 (spygate, liegate, crashgate, Buttongate, diffusergate) and it sounds ridiculous.

Anyway. I am far from being Gordon Brown’s biggest fan. I think he was a poor chancellor, a disastrous PM, and a liability for the Labour party. I honestly don’t know why they didn’t boot him a few months ago, put Harman or Miliband in charge and then shamelessly promote themselves as a changed party. I still wouldn’t have voted for them, but I think they would’ve at least looked respectable then…

I’m not a fan of Brown, but I can’t help but feel sorry for him in this case. I think it was clearly wrong to call her a bigot, because from what I’ve seen she isn’t one, and it’s only right that he’s apologised. But it’s an election campaign. The leaders are all working ridiculously hard to campaign, and I imagine the stress (especially for Brown, who is losing) must be fairly high. Brown doesn’t exactly have a reputation for being a people-person (as this delightful clip illustrates), so I’m not surprised if he’s more irritable during the campaign.

That’s not an excuse, of course, but I think it’s unfair to slate him so much for such a stupid mistake. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a hilarious mistake. But I would put money on Brown not being the only politician to privately say unflattering things about people he’s just met.

Additionally, it annoys me that it’s been built up as much as it has been. The focus of politics should be on the issues. If we’re going to criticise Brown (or Clegg, or Cameron, or any politician for that matter) then it should be based on the things they say they will do if they are elected (or indeed the things they’ve already done, in Brown’s case). We may learn a bit about Brown’s personality from things like this, but should this really sway anyone’s vote?

Posted In: PoliticsProcrastination Tagged: | 1 Comment

Reminiscing

Saturday 24th April 2010

This time last year, I was still working at Brize (which is in David Cameron’s constituency, in fact) . I spent the weekdays doing Stuff which was usually entertaining, working on a project that was fairly interesting.

In the evenings, I spent my time in a pub. Where I had my bar tab paid for. My evenings were spent relaxing in my room watching DVDs or surfing the net for an hour or so, before going down to the bar for tasty food and refreshing beer. Which was paid for. Occasionally my colleague and I would stroll over to the pub over the road for a few more pints (which sadly weren’t bought for us), to sample the delights of whatever guest ales they had in and to generally put the world to rights, in the way that only seems to happen after generous amounts of beer has been consumed.

At the start of the week, I had an enjoyable drive to work. I left at 6am, but I quite enjoyed driving along and watching the sun rising ever higher above the horizon as I got nearer to work,  noticing the mist which always hung above the river at a certain point, seeing people as they started their daily routine. And of course the sequence of hairpins going up Fish Hill. At the end of the week, the drive back was less entertaining because of traffic, but it didn’t matter because work was done. It was the start of the weekend, and after an early Friday finish that’s all that really mattered.

I don’t particularly miss the work so much. But as I look towards the next few weeks of coursework and viva and revision and exams, it’s hard not to reminisce.

Posted In: ProcrastinationSleep Tagged: | 4 Comments

HTPC – Plan of Attack (projectlog Part 1)

Sunday 6th September 2009

We have a lot of spare computers lying around at home. Nothing special, just old computers that we don’t need any more because we’ve upgraded. I’ve always thought that it’s a slight waste for them to just be lying around unused because really there’s nothing wrong with them, as long as you don’t need to run cutting-edge software or stuff that needs a quick pc. For example, when I got a new PC (3 years ago!), carried on using it because it was fine for him at the time. Recently though he needed something newer so he upgraded, so my old pc was just sat around, basically doing nothing. It’s not slow – it runs Half-Life 2 pretty damn well, for instance. So I thought I’d put it to use.

I’ve toyed with the idea of building a htpc for a while. Initially I thought of using something based around a dual-core Atom processor, because that would be quiet (silent iirc) and still more than quick enough for what I need it for. Sadly the parts for that is more than I’d be willing to spend, which is why I came around to using my old pc. I decided that all I need to do on the hardware side is make it quieter, because at the moment it’s got lots of fans and is too loud to use as a htpc. Obviously for something that’s gonna be on pretty much all the time and is going to sit next to the tv, you want it to be as quiet as possible.

So, I started thinking about what I wanted it to do and what I’d need to buy to do it.

Whiteboard

The basic requirements I drafted up were:

  • Ability to record one programme whilst watching another.
  • Easily able to see shares from my desktop pc, so I can play music or videos I’ve got stored on that over the TV.
  • Some sort of online interface, so I can login over the internet and set programmes to record whilst I’m away. Preferably, I’d like this interface to work well on my iPhone as well :)
  • Able to play DivX etc
  • Work well enough on the hardware I wanted to use. It’s no use having it if it takes half an hour to open the TV listings…
  • Pretty frontend
  • Good bittorrent software with a web interface.
  • Would be good if iPlayer etc could be integrated into the interface, so we don’t have to leave the media software to use it.
  • Also want to install some emulators on the pc (MAME etc), and it’d be good if that could be integrated into the media software as well.

I had a look at TV cards and really couldn’t differentiate between the different types, so plumped for the cheapest dual-tuner card I could find. I also got a wireless keyboard, which has a touchpad built in, which I thought was pretty cool and ideal for this sort of system. Also I jumped on eBay and got a quiet CPU cooler for a fiver and 1GB of RAM.

All that remained then was to wait for the parts to arrive, so I could put my new toy very useful system together :)

Posted In: GeekProcrastinationTechnologyTV Tagged: | 8 Comments

Avoiding Work

Friday 9th May 2008

I went down to the library today to get some stuff done. Today’s topic was Structural Analysis and Solid Mechanics in general, and energy methods and matrix stiffness analysis in particular.

Matrix stiffness analysis is a way for working out the forces and displacement of an element using its stiffness, and it’s pretty much a bitch to do. You have a bunch of stuff and this big scary matrix, and it’s just annoying. When we were being taught the module, the lecturer barely had a clue how to do it himself. In fact, when he did example questions up on the board I seem to remember him getting it spectacularly wrong several times. I’m pretty sure there was the odd question he just couldn’t do, as well.

Apparently someone went to see him the other day with a question from a past exam, and he couldn’t do it. Basically, we’re screwed. I’m just hoping a question on fatigue comes up, because it’s a lot easier (20 marks for manipulating some logs? Yes please!)

Whilst I was in the library, I was sat across from a couple of third-year girls and once they saw what I was doing they started to remember the nightmare… Apparently the second year is actually harder than the third in some respects, which is weird. Didn’t really get much work done for a while once we started chatting (until someone asked us to be quiet. In the library? Crazy talk!), but did get some handy hints for the third year, with regards picking projects and modules and stuff like that.

Working in the library; all well and good, until you reach a critical mass of procrastination. Once you start talking to people, it’s hard to go back to work…

Not that I’ll remember the handy hints, anyway, cos I’ve just been offered a job. As of September I’m gonna be doing proper engineeringy stuff, in the real world, for money. Just need to pass the exams first, and preferably well enough to let me continue with the MEng course.

Ah crap.

Posted In: ProcrastinationRandom | 8 Comments

Avoiding Boredom

Wednesday 7th May 2008

So I’m trying to revise something, and need to go through some powerpoint slides, from some lectures. I don’t have the printed notes, so I got the file from Blackboard. It has animations and stuff, so I googled a way to strip them all out in one.

I came across this instead, and it amused me. I’m half tempted to send it to a handful of lecturers because they could really benefit from it. Especially the one who takes this module.

Last year, we had to give a presentation as part of one of our modules, and it was this lecturer who marked mine. This lecturer just dumps everything he says on the slides, and reads from that. Making him largely irrelevant. He criticised my presentation because there wasnt much written on some of the slides…

Death by Powerpoint. I really wish more people knew how to present properly. They just use it because it’s there, it doesnt actually add anything to their talk. If anything it detracts, because you just read the screen instead. Another bugbear: handouts that are just slide printouts. That’s just laziness.

I’m meant to be revising accountancy (well, more vision than revision). I’d rather be outside in the sun. Sigh.

Posted In: ProcrastinationRandom | 9 Comments

A Revelation: Smarter than a Caveman!

Friday 2nd May 2008

So I’ve spent the last few hours working on, alternately, design and maths coursework.

Design coursework doesn’t confuse me at all. I’ve got little bits here and there to tidy up, a report to write, and a drawing to print, and then it’s Done.

Maths does. I’ve just got back from the IT room after spending since about half 9 trying to get a bit of Matlab code to work, which is meant to solve the Heat Equation using an implicit finite difference method. I’ve got it working with an explicit method, and that’s all hunky dory, but adapting that code for the implicit method is just confusing. It’s only giving a solution on one row of the matrix; that row being the inital value being fed into the script! The rest of the matrix is just zero, which is less than useful.

At one point I commented out about half of the code, to work out what those lines were meant to be doing. No change, whatsoever. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Pretty much all of us in the IT room were trying to crack that thing (well, actually most had given up by the time I left), and all of us had the same problem. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.

Basically, this is a lesson to not dick about with code if you only have a vague idea what it’s meant to do, and have what can be generously described as a “limited” knowledge of the language…

I guess its the same sort of result you’d get if you gave a car to a caveman and told him to make it go. He wouldn’t even know what the damn thing is meant to do, let alone how to make it do it. I imagine he’d just look at it, and maybe bash it with a stick, and then eventually get bored and walk off.

That said, I’ve worked out what my code is meant to do, and I kind of know how to do it, but just not enough to actually make Matlab do it. So I’m officially smarter than a Caveman!

Not saying much though, is it?

Anyway, I should go finish stuff! I’m probably not gonna sleep tonight. It’s gonna take me a couple of hours to finish design, then ages to finish maths, and then tomorrow morning I’ve got to meet the other members of my group for design to finish some stuff off and hand it in, so there’s probably no point sleeping, even if I get chance.

Actually, I’m looking forward to that meeting. One of them left me alone, logged on to his uni user account earlier (cos i needed to do battle with the Demon Plotter of Death, and AutoCAD doesnt seem to like to work on my user account. Bizarre, I know). Changed his desktop to say “NASCAR is for gays” (yeah, a form of motorsport I don’t like!), put a nice pink colour scheme on all the windows, and so on. Amused me highly. It’s not big, it’s not clever, and it’s probably highly immature (oh god, that word again…), but who cares?

Posted In: ProcrastinationRandomSleepStuff | 9 Comments

Playtime!

Tuesday 22nd April 2008

So I have a new toy.

Micro Helicopter

The helicopter, that is. The phone’s just there for scale (although that’s new too).

It’s pretty damn hard to control at first, but I’m getting better. My housemates must wonder what the hell I’m up to though when I’m playing with it. What with the whirring of the motors (think dentist’s drill and you’re not far off), and the noise of me jumping around the room to avoid the damn thing and then to collect it after the inevitable crash.

Good for smiles, bad for productivity.

Posted In: ProcrastinationRandomSleep | 5 Comments

The Pixies In My Computer Like Free

Thursday 17th April 2008

I’ve had Winamp on shuffle for the last few days, because I couldn’t be bothered picking an album to listen to the other day and I just haven’t changed it since then. It’s a good way of getting myself to listen to something different – I download acquire music quite a bit and just never listen to it, or listen to it once then forget about it. I’ve heard quite a few things that I’ve thought “ooh, this is really good”, which is nice. Anyway something I’ve noticed is that Free is coming up a lot. I’m not sure if this is just perceived or whatever, and it’s not as if I have significantly more Free than anything else. So I’ve decided the the Pixies in my Computer like Free.

The Pixies in my Computer clearly have taste.

On a similarly musical note, I’m looking for some new headphones at the moment because mine are pretty broken (the cans have kinda fallen off the headband, and I’m fed up of reattaching them). Thing is though that it’s really hard to decide which ones are any good just from the internet; you really need to hear them. But if I go down the road to Maplin and ask to listen to them, that’s no use either because they won’t have been broken in yet.

I’ve been poking around on the net and I think I might go for a set of Beyerdynamic DT231s. But then, I could go for another set of Sennheisers… I think not actually – my current ones (different type, admittedly) have only lasted about 14 months, which is fairly poor. But then I don’t know they Beyers will fare any better… Ah, the choices!

Anyway, got back to Cardiff the other day. Mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s nice to be back because I do appreciate the independance thing. But then on the other hand, I’m not exactly reined in at home. I stay up as late as I want (and get up as late as I want), I go out when I want, I do what I want. Much the same as here then, but with the advantage of having food made and washing done for me.

And, if I get bored here, I tend to sit in my room and think “hmm, I’m bored”. At home, theres usually someone about (even if its just the dog) to entertain me. Hmm.

Also, being back at Uni reminds me that I have a bunch of coursework due in the next few weeks, as well as a load of exams. And I still don’t have a job for next year, so I need to be doing that and chasing people. I think I’m gonna try to head down to the library tomorrow to finish an application and to revise without distraction. I’ve tried to work in my room, but it’s so much easier to do something else, anything else. Like watch all of the first series of Monkey Dust on DVD…

I’m loving the weather at the moment though. I hate in winter when it’s only light for about 15 minutes each day. It’s just so much nicer when you leave the house in the morning (I’m awake in the morning sometimes) and it’s nice and bright, instead of it being dark and dreary. Feels so much more pleasant.

Anyway, back to exams… Considering their proximity I think I should probably be starting to get a bit more concerned/stressed/whatever. That said, I never get stressed by the damn things. I’d do so much better if I did…

This post is probably already sub-par, and I can’t really think of anything else to write. Except that I should probably go to sleep soon, or something. I’ve heard that’s what people do at night, but to be honest I think it’s just an elaborate hoax. You can’t believe everything you read on the net, after all…

Posted In: MusicProcrastinationSleepStuff Tagged: | 3 Comments

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