Posts from April 2008

A Conundrum

Monday 28th April 2008

If I try to do any work at my desk in my room, it doesn’t happen. I either gaze into space and listen to music, or watch a dvd, or play a game, or aimlessly browse the net, or something. But if I go down to the library, I manage to get loads done.

I have most of the same distractions, cos I take my Eee and my MP3 player with me. So I can still end up wasting time listening to music and browsing the net aimlessly, but I just don’t. I even sit next to the window, looking out over the green grass (and the train line. Ahem), and theres plenty of distraction there as people walk past on their way to/from lectures, or looking at the pretty shapes in the clouds. But instead I ended up writing a load of notes on English law and the court systems (for my Civil Engineering degree. Crazy talk! Incidentally, this amused me somewhat. The idea of trial by combat being an acceptable way to decide the outcome of a trial is delightfully mad. Shame they repealed the law, would’ve made Paul McCarthy vs Heather Mills somewhat entertaining. She could’ve knocked him out with her peg leg. Anyway, I digress).

Actually it’s not too much of a conundrum at all. My room-desk is just tiny. What with the monitors and speakers and keyboard and mouse and assorted desk-clutter, there’s really no room to work. Annoying.

I mentioned the Eee there, and it’s a really brilliant little tool for revision. Cos of its size, it’s really easy to carry in to uni in the first place, and then when you’re there it takes up a tiny proportion of the space of the desk, so it’s not in the way at all. A proper-sized laptop would be too heavy/bulky to carry in (along with all my other revision materials), and would take up a huge amount of the desk. As it is, the Eee is just the right size for looking up notes or past papers from the intranet, or for looking stuff up on t’net when your notes make no bloody sense (Wikipedia ftw!).

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: Best Gadget Evar!

In other news, design coursework is proceeding nicely, and will be done in the next couple of days hopefully. Maths coursework is EVIL, and is probably going to take me as long as I’ve got (and probably a bit longer). Yesterday I did my first bit of ironing… well for years, really. My phone has just run out of credit, I need to go get food (yeh its late cos I got in from the library and started eating biscuits. Fail), and I didn’t get to sleep till 4am last night. Oops.

I don’t know why anyone would care about most of that last paragraph (I don’t), but meh. Meh, I say!

I’m already bored of the way this site looks. Theres a few things I like, a few things I don’t like, and a few things that are unforgivable. Theres also a few things I want to add to it anyway. I’ll probably change it when I have time/can be bothered (not soon then).

22 days till the end! (Excluding the field trip)

Posted In: GeekRandomSiteTechnology | 6 Comments

Acting Aged

Sunday 27th April 2008

This is a continuation of a comment I wrote on one of Flix’s posts. I started to write another comment, but it kinda turned into an essay and got ever so slightly away from the main thrust of the post, so I moved it over here. It’s something that I’ve been sorta thinking about lately anyway, but Flix’s post was sort of a catalyst to this getting written. Hope you don’t mind, Flix :-)

So I basically started off on a rant on maturity, and whatnot. The thrust of my initial comments on the post referred to this remark:

“Another problem lies in the fact that girls are generally way beyond guys in the maturity stakes”

That’s fairly true up to a point, but we catch up. Over a certain age (late teens? 20?), I don’t think “maturity” is anything to do with gender, and more to do with a bunch of other factors. Some people just are immature. As I said over there, I’ve met as many (and maybe more) immature gals as I have immature guys. And certainly looking at my circle of friends and most people I know that are of a similar age, no gender is any more or less mature, on the whole.

Another thing is that different aspects of people mature at different rates anyway. For instance, looking back at how I was when I started Uni all that time ago, I realise now that although in some ways I was pretty mature, in some other ways I was still relatively naive. And I’m sure that’s still the case (and probably always will be. No-one can ever be completely mature) but I think I’m generally more mature than I am immature. All that said, I’m fairly sure that in a few years I’ll look back at myself now and marvel at my immaturity.

I’ve seen the same sort of thing in other people too – just because on the whole someone is mature, doesnt stop them from having immature moments or immature aspects of their personality. And vice-versa, of course.

All that said, it’s a weird concept, maturity. I mean, what is “mature”, other than a societal construct defining how we should act? Wikipedia says: “Maturity is a psychological term used to indicate that a person responds to the circumstances or environment in an appropriate manner”, and certainly from that definition it’s a hell of a subjective thing. Define “an appropriate manner”? Everyone’s gonna come up with something different, so how can we definitively say what is or isn’t mature?

It’s all about society, innit? That, and our endless need to categorise…

And now for something completely different! For anyone who likes free stuff (and thats everyone, surely?), look at this. It’s a seriously good event (I went last year and it was marvellous) and well worth going to. Hell, it’s free, what have you got to lose? Could even camp nearby, and join in with all the beer, burgers, barbeques and beer!

Heh, as if :-p

Posted In: MotorsportRantSleepStuff | 8 Comments

Workload (or: The Obligatory Revision Rant)

Saturday 26th April 2008

So it’s just over two weeks before my exams start. I have four spread over a fortnight, before I shuffle off to Devon for a field course for a week (sidebar: who the hell thought it’d be a good idea to go on the same day as the Monaco GP? One of my favourite races on the calendar, and I have to miss it. Or, more to the point, get Mum to record it and then devoutly avoid any news sources for a week. Which shouldn’t be hard – apparently the place we’re going doesnt even have cashpoints…).

Anyway, just over two weeks before exams, and we’re still being taught new material, meaning it’s still worth going to some lectures. Oh, and we have a bunch of coursework due in the next two weeks. One is a design module, which we’re yet to start the drawings for. Which means dealing with possibly THE least intuitive piece of software ever.

Obviously, one of the things we have to do (by “we”, I mean “me”. Being the resident geek means that getting things out of AutoCAD is my job…) is the FUN task of getting drawings out of AutoCAD. YAY! It’s just like printing a word document, only on A2 paper and so loading the plotter is massively awkward. Oh, and obviously as it’s an engineering drawing it’s pretty much useless if it’s not to scale. But getting things to scale in AutoCAD is a black art; you play around with various options and hope one of them gets the damn thing to the right scale. Otherwise, there’s the risk that it’ll come out at 1:1, which… Well we’re designing a 3-storey office block at the moment, you do the maths…

Changing linetype is even more fun. We managed to get dashed lines on the last drawing we did, but I don’t think any of us knows how the hell we did it.

Can you tell I hate that software?

Also, theres maths to be done. Loads of our calcs (i.e. designing the RC beams and slab so that the thing would stand up, if it were ever built) have gaps, where we’ve started and got bored… Good idea at the time, but bad when it comes to write them up and we find out that we’ve left bits out. And ESPECIALLY bad when you do part of those calcs and find out that your floor slab fails servicability checks… (You basically design for two cases. The ultimate case is the absolute maximum loading that something will take before it fails; in other words “if you exceed this, the thing will fall down”. The other one is the servicability state. If it fails this, then the structure won’t fall down, but it will do something that it shouldnt. So it might crack or bend too much in certain places, or something like that. It’s safe, but isn’t doing its job properly, which means that as a design it’s failed. A perfect example is the Millennium Bridge in London; that wobbled because of the loadings placed upon it and was uncomfortable but not unsafe. But, a bridge that people don’t want to use is pretty useless, so the structure is said to have failed*. In the case of our friend the floor slab, it fails a deflection check, although thinking about it it’s only just over the limit, so we’ll probably be ok. Huzzah for factors of safety!)

So yeah, beyond the design module, I’ve also got maths coursework due in next friday. Which I haven’t started yet. That’s on Matlab, and I’m not actually sure what we’ve got to do for it. In fact, all I know is that “it’s solid!”, which doesn’t help…

Aaaand on top of that, we have to update our Professional Development folder (think NRA, except that this counts towards a module) for… Well I think that’s in for the week before exams, but to be honest I’m not entirely sure. Hmm. And I found out the other day that because of something I’ve gotta do on Wednesday, I’m going to be missing a guest lecture which we’re expected to write a report on. So I’m gonna have to half-inch someone else’s notes to write some sort of waffle for that.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is: my timetable sucks. I’m trying to revise, but between lectures and coursework and other stuff, it doesn’t always happen. That said, I went down to the library a few times this week and got a decent stack of revision notes done, which doesn’t suck. Ideally I want to have all my notes done by a week on Sunday, but after printing out circa 40 pages of notes on Law that I need to learn, I think that target is slightly optimistic…

Now I’m sure I’m not the worst affected. I’m sure someone will leave a comment like “well you think that’s bad? I’ve got 100 STRAIGHT hours of exams, a 20,000 word essay due in the week before, and my lectures finish AFTER my exams!”, but damn it, it’s my blog and I’ll moan if I want to :-p. It just seems so silly to still be teaching us stuff and expecting work off us right up to the start of the exam period. This is why I wasn’t looking forward to coming back to Uni after Easter.

I still feel far too unstressed though. They haven’t shifted from “too far away to worry about” to “Imminent! You’re bloody screwed!” yet…


*Writing that makes me happy, because it means that I’ve learned something during the last couple of years…

Posted In: RantSleepStuff Tagged: | 6 Comments


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

Wot’s… uh the Deal?

Wednesday 9th April 2008

Okay, first things first (because I forgot on Monday and feel ever so slightly guilty), a motorsport thing… :-(

I’ve been reading a lot about motorsport in the 50s-70s lately, and of course been watching the F1 retro thing that I mentioned in the last post, and there are several things apparent. The sport now is much more professional, more corporate (James Hunt, 1976 F1 Champ, had a badge on his overalls that said “Sex: Breakfast of Champions”. You can’t imagine anyone getting away with that these days…), and much more expensive. F1 specifically is touted as one of most technically advanced sports in the world (with good reason), yet theres much less room for truly inventive and radical thinking. If someone came to the game with a revolutionary part nowadays, other teams would probably try to get it banned. In the past, they’d just try to make something better…

But for all that motorsport fans witter on about “the good old days”, we forget the bad things. Reading about the era, or watching that programme, it’s really scary how many drivers died because of the sport. I literally can’t imagine that, and I have no idea how people drove the cars in those days knowing that they were likely to die in them.

Whilst I’m on the subject of motorsport, a word about Max Mosley: lolz. About bloody time the arrogant tosser goes (assuming he does, of course).

Anyway, now time for rant the second. I talked last time about the net, and the whole “brave new world” thing. Well, now the flip side. On the one hand, I can’t believe that ISPs think the BBC should pay for them to upgrade their bandwidth. The BBC is just a content provider, and I fail to see how that means they should pay for the bloody network as well. It’s purely the ISPs responsibility, and frankly it serves them right. Broadband in this country is shockingly bad when you compare it to other places, and it’s about time it was sorted out.

On the other hand, I’m really not surprised. All infrastructure in this country (roads, trains, post, communications, etc) is overpriced and shit. We seem to have this aversion to investment, the philosophy of “oh well it works ok at the moment, we’ll just patch it up”. Okay, but that means that infrastructure doesnt grow with demand, meaning that service gets worse. I don’t know if that’s a result of privatisation, poor regulation, or just The Way We Are, but it’s really inexcusable. Again, if you compare something like our trains to pretty much any European ones, then you notice how woefully bad ours are.

Actually, making the point about privatisation, it amuses me how most large companies seem to massively miss the big picture. Taking the example of the trains, if they continually invested in stations/trains/tracks (and I mean basic maintenance as well as updates for faster service or whatever), surely over the long term that will save or make them more money? Provide a better service, then more people will use it… I see the same kinda thing when I work in the Bank (but with different things. There it’s the way they treat staff), and I just find it amazing. Ho hum.

Posted In: GeekMotorsportRantTechnology | 4 Comments

I Blog, You Blog, Weblog

Thursday 3rd April 2008

So yeah, I’ve been pretty lax with the whole blogging thing lately. Not just with my own blog (although I did finally get around to upgrading WordPress the other day. Unfortunately, it was a couple of days before 2.5 was released, so I’ve ended up doing it twice in the space of about a week…), but generally. There have been quite a few posts that I’ve read and wanted to comment on, but I generally thought “meh, do it later”, then forgot. Sorry.

I’d love to say I’ve been too busy doing work, but that’d be a blatent lie. I wrote up a list of things I need to cover on my whiteboard when I got home, and even drew up a revision timetable. It hasn’t happened though; the days have generally been a mix of sleep all morning, get up and watch TV (ESPN classic is running a series of programmes covering each F1 season from 1970…), then browse the net/play games for the rest of the afternoon. And then of course it’s too late to work…

I was talking to my Mum the other day about the internet, as you do, and I let slip that I have this site (she didnt know beforehand). She was pretty surprised, and kept asking what sort of stuff I write about.

It’s something I have trouble with, to be honest. I don’t like recording minutae on here (“today i went to a lecture and it was really boring so we just ended up playing hangman and so-and-so didnt know the alphabet LOL!”), because unless you know me in real life (and are part of a specific friendship group, in that example), I’d imagine too much of that thing would get pretty dull.

I don’t like writing things which are too personal (i.e. if I’m feeling crap, a ranty woe-is-me post about whatever), because I’m well aware that the internet is open to all… I write those sorts of things elsewhere, and when I look back at them, oh they make me squirm. Also, I generally think that no-one would be interested, which probably isn’t true, cos humans are inherently nosy beings…

So when I write a post, I generally have something I want to “say”, and know what I want the thing to be about; whether it’s a rant about religion, my musings about music, or just some random thought I’ve had.

I guess there’s a happy medium to be had; if it was entirely entries of “saying” stuff, addressing issues, then it makes for a pretty dull blog. If it’s entirely “woe is me!” stuff, I guess it’s pretty inaccessible to anyone who doesnt know you, besides the fact that it makes you look like an emo…

The great thing about blogs though is that they’re pretty personal (compared to, say, the print media); by reading my blog, you could probably make a few fair inferences about what I’m like, and about what I’m interested in. And you can immediately respond to posts. I love the communicative aspect of it all; not just in comments, but the spillover between blogs. The fact that theres a number of people who all read each others stuff probably spurs us on to write more frequently (certainly in my case…), and maybe also spurs us on to write better things. I think theres probably a crossover of ideas too, which is rather cool.

The Internet generally at the moment seems to be at an interesting point. I’m fairly sure we’ll see a proper revolution of the music industry in the next few years (especially given the way people like Jonathan Coulton are getting a decent amount of success purely by running things themselves over the net, and embracing the downloads rather than fighting them). Projects such as Wikipedia (flawed as it may be) make it easier than ever to find information, things such as Facebook are making it easier to keep touch with old friends, and things like blogs or YouTube or whatever mean that it’s easier than ever to share ideas.

I think that’s the difference. Traditionally, the Internet has been almost an extension of the real world. Okay BBS and IRC is an exception, but for the mainstream, what has the internet meant? Initially, it was a way of getting cheap CDs from Amazon and to send letters instantaneously to Auntie Bertha in Timbuktu. That stuff still happens, yes, but the whole Web 2.0 (hate that term…) shebang means that theres so much more to it. It’s about ideas, about people. It’s pretty cool.

So there you go. I can’t really be bothered re-reading this, so it’s probably rambly and incoherent (more rambly and incoherent than usual, I’ll say it before anyone else does…), but hey, there was dissent in the ranks on the comment page for the last post, so I thought I should write something… :-P

Closing thought: is it me, or are pretty much all the contestants on the Apprentice this year almost completely useless?

Posted In: GeekTechnology Tagged: | 4 Comments


Tuesday 1st April 2008

Morning all!

This is a link.

That is all.

Posted In: Uncategorized | 7 Comments