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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Road House Re-revisited

Went out for a meal with a visitor from Japan last night - introduced him to the joy of a British pub meal. Very nice it was too though he decided that the 4.5% bitter was too strong for him and he only managed a half.

Got in at just past 9 and was about to settle in to watch the rest of Dog Soldiers when what did I see but BBC3 was showing the work of artistic genius that was Road House. Fantastic I thought, and settled in to watch Dalton hand out some serious arse kickings.

But you know what? It wasn't as good as I remembered it from the many years ago when I first watched it. More importantly it just wasn't as funny as it should be!!!!

But Dog Soldiers was really cool.

Zany Tom! - or not.

Prompted by this from Ntodd
Tom Cruise is really starting to annoy me now. As I said, I started off with some grudging respect for the man but that is quickly eroding. I have some sympathy as he has had a bit of a hard time from the press over his relationship with Katie Holmes and there does sometimes seem to be a sniggering attitude from some quarters of the press over anything such as aliens. However to come back acting as arrogant and patronising as he has been coming across lately does not help him in any way.

For the record, I agree with him that extra terrestrial aliens are likely to exist somewhere in the universe. Exactly what stage of development they are at I don't know, depends what part(s) of what galaxy they are in I doubt that we have ever been visited by aliens and I certainly don't hold with the idea of thetans and the ghosts of long murdered aliens. If the press is going to grill Cruise, I wish they would focus on that. Don't do a half-cocked, sneering attempt to make him look a bit silly with a subject that a lot of people do believe in - the idea of extra-terrestrial life. Rather go straight to the tenets of his religion and find out of he believes in those specifics.


Tom, some advice from me to you, my strange little friend. Get off this junket, the film is going to do great anyway. Spend some down-time with your new hottie fiance and also think some about your religion and the 'facts' behind it. Lay off on the aggressive counter-interviewing tactics; they make you look like a git.

Photograph pimping


David from Fuddland is a keen photographer, also he's not actually that bad at it either. He recently decided to put some of his prints up for sale on-line. The photos can be viewed here.

I admit that as of yet I have not bought any. In fact I probably won't, I shall simply gather up the original prints that he has decorating the house next time I am round there :-)

Anyway, I strongly encourage you to have a look at his work and to consider buying some prints. They would make a lovely decoration for your home (or trailer) and make marvelous presents. Personally, I like the green and blue one with the trees in this collection, but only because I pointed it out to him :-p
Oh and I like the artist's model as well, but mostly because that is my model.

Right, that's enough promotion, so what about that zany Tom Cruise, eh?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Shuttling along on Cruise control

It's just one of those days today. Lots to do but with little patience for doing it.

Ever have days like that?

I can't even generate enough interest to have an opinion about anything that is worth posting.
I liked and agreed with Ade's post about the imminent launch of the space shuttle. The situation seems to be incredibly stupid and I worry that they are launching for political reasons rather than considering safety at all.

I also liked Tom Cruise's discussion about the myths of gynecology. Just like with psychiatry he's definitely onto something there. Oh sorry, my mistake, I meant to say that he is definitely on something.

Actually it is all a bit sad. I have enjoyed a fair few of Tom Cruise's movies though I would not describe myself as a fan. I am a fan of the lovely Nicole [drool] and thought he was a complete arse for leaving her. Then this happened and his handling of the situation gained him several notches in the respect stakes in my eyes (for the video see here). But then he goes and starts spouting bullshit with immense authority. I am all in favour of people having their own beliefs but I have little time for scientologists who push their crap.

Ha, there you go. A post about nothing that turned into something, now I just need to think of a catchy title. Ah, there you go. :-)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

quadruple figures

Wow,

At time of writing I have had 1002 hits on my weblog. That has taken just under 3 months and personally I was expecting about 100 by this stage. It just goes to show that people will read any old crap :-)

by the way, there is a flurry of activity over at Hrun's weblog. Go and have a look

UPDATE: By my estimation hrun was the 1000th visitor and David was the 1001st. I could be wrong if I have misidentified who's IP address belongs to whom. Ask Hubris what the prize is.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Deport Clarke and Blair!

During the recent UK election the conservative party appeared to run on a single issue: immigration. It was brought up an awful lot by the party leader Michael Howard as well as by Labour as a big stick to pound him with. Personally I have strong and conflicting views on immigration in the UK, we are a small island with finite space. Having lived in Colorado for two years I am still not over how crowded I feel when walking around town these days. Buti also believe in a world where honest people should move freely and people should be allowed to eke out an existance where they choose. hence, conflict.

Anyway, Howard wanted to instigate a quota and a points system for immigrants, to limit access to the UK and cut back on the numbers that we are currently struggling under. He was accused of playing the race card, and of playing on people's fears. He was mocked since he is the son of east European immigrants. Often he was asked whether he would have let his own family in.

Now after all the attacks on Howard's stance on immigration there is this. I understand that these people have failed their asylum application but with what is happening in Zimbabwe at the moment perhaps now is a time to halt and wait the deportation. It is hardly clear cut who will suffer the mad 'cleansing' of Mugabe next.

I really dislike Clarke and Blair. Arrogance and ignorance united in certitude.

Morons.

Terrible punning? Not eye!


The eyes have it!
[groan]

Well, what a gorgeous weekend in the sun. Even on Friday it was shorts weather here in the north of England. Of course it wasn't so pleasant
elsewhere.

There are two truths about the British weather: we could be in the middle of a heatwave that reduces the country to a desert killing millions in its wake and come Glastonbury weekend the festival will still be covered in mud. The other truth is that if we have the wettest winter in history followed by a spring deluge that would make Noah start thinking about where he left his hammer and the really big shovel, then you can guarantee that in the summer if we have a day of sunshine it will be announced that there will be a hosepipe ban. This is even more 'funny' for me having come back from Boulder where they know the meaning of the word water-shortage.


Anyway, had my eyes checked on Friday. I need new glasses again. That is 15 months since my last pair. Are my eyes deteriorating that rapidly? Not at all, in fact my eyes looked quite healthy and contrary to the last test it seems that my pressures are not as high as was first feared - worries of glaucoma can be somewhat postponed. Actually what happened was that whilst in America I failed to stand up for myself properly and came over all British

Let me explain. I had an eyetest and was informed that my prescription had changed enough to warrant a new set of spectacles. I therefore bought a new pair and the problems began. It always takes a little while to adjust to a new pair of glasses, especially after a dramatic prescription change, you kind of get used to seeing in soft focus and so the sharpness and clarity comes as a bit of a shock. When I walked out of the shop with my new glasses I noticed that things were different, but not in a clear way. Things were fuzzy and it was hard to focus. I went back in and explained this but was told that I was just adjusting to the new thin lenses.
"Okay, but surely it shouldn't be so fuzzy", said I.
"It will be for a while", said she.
"Are you sure?", said I.
"Come back in a week if you aren't happy", said she.
"I'll do that", said I.

I wasn't happy. Things did improve as my eyes adjusted to their new lenses but overall I still felt that I was not seeing as clearly as I had been. But of course the mind sometimes plays tricks and when I compared my old glasses with new it was very hard to tell. I noticed for definite that there was a problem last July whilst the wife and I were enjoying a 2-year delayed honeymoon in Hawaii. I was driving back in twilight from the east to the west coast of the big island and I had a really hard time reading signs that I knew damn well I should have been able to read.
So of course I stormed into the opticians and made a massive stink. Actually, of course I didn't do that at all. I lived with it. I lived with it for a further 11 months when finally I went for another checkup mostly because of the worry about high eyeball pressures.


And what did I find out? Well, as I have already indicated, I found out that my pressure is not all that high (though on the higher end of the safe scale). More importantly I found that my prescription is much closer to my last glasses rather than my current ones with are [drumroll] too weak. Fan-bloody-tastic.

Hurrah, I cheered, i was right. The glasses they sold me were not good enough, as I suspected.
Arse, I moaned, why didn't I sort it out with them when I had the chance. Pooh!

Now, come Friday, we shall see how the new spectacles measure up...

UPDATE: Name of post changed due to distinct lack of originality

Friday, June 24, 2005

Welcome and goodbye

Hello to everyone who has wandered over here due to nekkid blogging day. Enjoy the visit and see if any of my ramblings from the past few months entertain you.

In the meantime, I have an eye test to go for and with no broadband or dial-up there will be no posts until Monday at the earliest. Have a great weekend everyone.

Evolution and Creationism

The theory of evolution is just what it says it is: a theory.

It is not hard fact and it has not been proven to be the true explanation for the development and propagation of life on this planet we call Earth. However, it is more than a simple hypothesis; much evidence has been gathered which supports evolution; much, much evidence in fact. That is what elevates it to the position of theory; it is more than speculation and guesswork but at the same time it is not irrefutable fact.

To suggest that it is fact is to fall into the same trap that I have heard creationists and Intelligent Design proponents fall into. The trap is to stop thinking of the theory of evolution as a part of an ongoing scientific investigation and instead think about it as some sort of religious dogma. Darwin didn't like his own theory since he was a devout man himself, but he recognised the scientific method behind its deduction and respected that.

If one considers any scientific theory, one has to realise that scientists do not deal in laying out absolute truths, rather it is the job of a scientist to use the available facts and data and construct a theory that best fits their observations. A different scientist might then come along and develop an alternate theory that also fits the data. This has happened, many times. Einstein and Newton spring to mind. That is how scientific discovery works. Contrary to what some people think we aren't just spending our time dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's.

Creationism as a scientific answer to the question of how we got here just does not work. That is not to say that it might not be true; perhaps God does like playing jokes on us and planting deliberate errors within the fossil record. Perhaps our methodologies for dating our finds are all wrong and we have committed the biggest blunder in history (all 6000 years of it). However, I don't think so, I don't think that God is a practical joker and I don't think that we are wrong. Evolution has been seen in the laboratory. It fits. Until a new theory emerges it will do me as an explanation.


What???

This from Kevin Drum.
The freak show carnival that was the US Formula 1 grand Prix creaked on today with another fantastic display of insensitivity.

Clearly Bernie has decided that Formula 1 isn't quite dead enough in the US. The most powerful man in Formula 1 decided to drag the corpse up and slap it around a bit before planting it back into the ground. How did he do this? Why, by insulting a rising star in the US motor racing industry, that's how.

As this excerpt shows, Bernie is an enlightened man of the 21st century who clearly relishes the fact that women have finally managed to break into the sport and compete well. In fact I get the impression that he is delighted that they even have the vote:

He congratulated the Indy Racing League rookie for her performance at the Indianapolis 500, but also reiterated remarks he had made during an interview at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the U.S. Grand Prix was being held.

Among the comments Ecclestone made in the interview and to the Roscoe, Ill., native was that "Women should be all dressed in white like all other domestic appliances."


Sheesh! Bernie is a shrewd mover but I have no idea what he thought he was doing there. A joke that Danica Patrick just didn't get? Maybe, but I bet that Mrs. Ecclestone might have a few words to say to him about it, especially as she actually owns most of his stock...

This driver has taken a lot of heat already with moronic drivers complaining about her weight advantage in the Indy 500. Yeah guys, because your upper body strength counts for nothing in those races.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The ever growing blogroll

I have now added Lone Tree on the Prairie to my blogroll. Not that he needs my pitiful traffic. Especially since he probably gets most of it anyway!

going for beer...



A colleague is moving out of his current, local accommodation shortly and will pack and move to a permanent address about an hours commute away. To celebrate we are off for a beer (I know, I know).


FORMULA 1 NEWS

Anyone who was interested in the current F1 problems might like to have a look at Paul Stoddart's diary, it makes interesting reading. And for the sake of balance I recommend looking at the official release from the FIA.

I think it is time that Max went. I also think that it is time that Ferrari's influence was limited to that of the other teams: it is killing the sport in other ways than this current circus.


BREAKING TENNIS NEWS:

Henman is out of Wimbledon. I am sad of course, but at least I don't have the see-saw of emotions and stomach-butterflies watching him play for the next two weeks.




And so you're back...

from cake! The upgrade appears to have worked. No problems whatsoever and all my files appear to be safe and sound. Hurrah!

Okay, so I ate cake. Clearly the diet is not going so well today.

On a completely unrelated note have you all heard of this? It is a real shame if the probe is actually lost, especially since this was a private endeavour who may not be able to absorb a loss as much as a space agency such as NASA or ESA. Anything to do with putting something into space is hazardous and losses will happen. A 100% success rate is something to dream of but could never be a reality with so many variables to try and control. However, this does't mean that we shouldn't try; where would we be if no one bothered trying anything? None of us would leave the house because there is a good chance that we will end up dead just through crossing the street.

Also we are in the middle of a minor geomagnetic storm which means that there is a chance of aurora for those at high latitudes. Some people have been lucky enough to catch daylit aurora such as here. Looking at the data* from the ACE spacecraft at the 1st Lagrangian point (also called the libration point) shows some interesting features:
The interplanetary magnetic field has been southward (negative) which indictaes good coupling conditions between the solar wind and the magnetosphere, but the solar wind speed, although rising is still not so high. What is notable is the proton density; shortly after 2pm it shot up to very high and sustained values, compressing the Earth's magnetic field for over 5 hours. This could be a very interesting event and I am surprised the aurora has not been visible from lower latitudes.

*this link is to an ever changing display and so will not show the details that I describe for longer than a week.

Cake and upgrade

We are about to celebrate the first publication from one of our PhD students. This is done through the medium of cake :-)

Actually the paper came out in January but her supervisor was stateside and so didn't know that we already celebrated. Consequently now we have extra cake!

Also, it would appear that our computer support people have said that it is perfectly okay for us to upgrade to service pack 2. I am about to attempt this shortly (works fine on my laptop) but now we shall see what effect it has on my desktop here at work. If I don't post again today assume complete computing failure.

failing the youff


Kevin Drum takes exception to the idea that it is only teenagers who have a lack of knowledge of their history, or even maths. I agree with him that the problem is not limited to our children; a significant part of the adult population probably does not know half the things they perhaps should. Though I would extend a little latitude and suggest that this may have something to do with forgetting a lot of what was taught in many cases.

However, it got me thinking, are we really failing our children?

In the UK the government is very keen on interfering with the school curricula and introducing testing at whatever levels they can. They view this as the best way to teach children. At the risk of being flippant I would suggest that teaching is the best way to teach children and that constant messing with a curriculum helps no one, least of all the children. I have some knowledge in this: my mother was a primary scholl teacher and for years and years her job was made progressively harder and more stressful until eventually she had a heart attack and ended up retiring on medical grounds.

It seems to me that schools today suffer attacks from all sides. The government wants to keep interfering, the kids are more and more unresponsive (mass generalisation, I know) and the parents are all too happy to blame the teachers when their children don't do well at school when in fact I would argue that the parents have bred a culture in which their child feels no personal responsibility. When I was in school there was a phrase that was starting to sound around the classrooms whenever teachers attempted any form of discipline:
'I know my rights'
This was invariably followed with statements such as: 'my dad says you can't do anything to me...'. The parents seem quick enough to defend their children's rights to say or do what they want in school but are seemingly reluctant to support the effort to educate their children. It is very depressing. So perhaps the system is not at fault in as much as the lack of support for said system from one of the groups of people who really count - the parents.

Now I am more familiar with higher education. It is 10 years since I first went to University as an undergraduate. In that time changes have occurred: it is no longer free to go to university, top up fees are now a major issue, even though I know of no one outside of the universities themselves who support them (except for this wonderful equality-loving Labour government). Top-up fees mean that some students from poorer backgrounds have to take out student loans to pay for their fees and their living expenses. But its okay, Tony thinks that starting a career with a big pile of debt is a good thing; it's probably character building.

Also Tony wants 50% of school leavers to go to university: this is a target. How utterly ridiculous. What are these 50% going to do with their degrees? Are there that many graduate jobs out there? Surely something like this should never be about the numbers, rather it should be about the ability: everyone should have the opportunity to go to university depending on their ability.

But, it gets worse. Universities are now businesses. They need to generate more money themselves and to do that they need to attract students to fund their departments.

How do you do that? By offering entry onto courses that require much lower grades.
How do you keep the students in? By dumbing down the courses.

That means that degrees offered now in some places are not worth as much as degrees from a few years ago. Its very depressing.

Additionally it gets harder and harder to simply fail someone from a course, since to do that removes a source of funding. Plus some of those fee paying students come with the attitude that since they are paying the fees we have to ensure they get a degree at the end of it. Again, lacking in personal responsibility.

There is also the burden on unpopular subjects. Physics departments and chemistry likewise, are closing around the UK. Why? Students don't like what they perceive as the harder subjects and there is now more choice of degrees in other subjects. It is crazy, it really is. The system is destroying itself so much so that in a few years we will have lost our future science base and a few years after that our engineering base will disappear as well.

So are we failing are children? Damn right we are; but I just don't know what to do about it.

strike a pose

The Most Important Part of the Workout

Pumping Iron, eating right, supplementation, these are all very important aspects of an exercise routine, but the most important part has to do with the mental. After each iron-pumping session, while the muscles are still swollen, I take some time in the locker room to pose down, get narcissistic, appreciate the progress I've made.

Some mornings I get up and don't know what to do with myself, I'm so damn pretty. : )



This passage is from Ideonexus where ryan is part way through discussing his exercise routine from a scientific viewpoint.


The last line just cracks me up.

Recently, I have determined that it is time I lost some weight. I have always been pretty large, though I am tall and broad and so the weight never looked quite as bad on me as it might on others. However, after two years in the states I got bigger! Not massively bigger, but big enough that I notice it in photographs and in the mirror (though I am still real pretty :-)).

The problem is that I work a lot. And when I am not working I am tired and the last thing I want to do is exercise. It is very easy to say that you must make time to do exercise but it is easier said than done. I used to be able to head off at lunchtimes to hit the pool and I am getting to a point where I could start doing that again which is pretty cool. A colleague of mine goes running, but I am reluctant to join him: I don't like running and would not make a particularly good partner to a chap who runs marathons. Who knows, if I get to a decent level of fitness perhaps my attitude will change and then I could start running. Plus time in the gym would be good as well and with the new job I have the chance to spend that time increases a little.

So exercise will start being more of a focus again soon, especially if my wife and I manage to get a house within walking or biking distance from university. In the meantime I am starting to concentrate on my diet. I always prided myself, when younger, that I could do anything I set my mind on that was simply an effort of will.

Now: hell no! I can't even stop biting my nails! That said I have cut down on food intake and am cutting down on sugar intake in tea and coffee. The next step is to cut down on tea and coffee! I am eating more vegatables and generally trying to balance my diet but more importantly I am attempting to limit the portions. Of course this means that I tend to feel hungry sooner after I eat but this does go away. Maybe soon I will be able to admire the progress I have made.

Of course my eating a chocolate pudding at lunch didn't help...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

profanity!

I have noticed that I have now used the f-word in two of my last 3 posts. Now I do use the f-word in my daily life, not that much and only amongst selected individuals (including my father- bizarrely), but is it appropriate for a weblog?

Should I watch my language in case impressionable or easily offended people visit? Of course, I am free to say whatever I like but perhaps I should show consideration and not use profanity on such an open resources as the internet. Do I really need to use profanity or could I get my point across without it. Does it show an inherent weakness in my writing style?

Your views please, anyone?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Formula 1 debacle

Don't you just love the word debacle? I do, and now I have managed to use the word twice :-)

However, what I don't like is the complete debacle that was the US Formula 1 Grand Prix yesterday. For years F1 has been trying to break properly into the US market, and they have been succeeding with limited success. In recent years the dominance of Ferrari has been a huge turn off for racing fans in the States and coupled to the perceived lack of overtaking compared with IRL and Champ Cars you can understand why the American market is a tough nut to crack.

Now the dolorous blow may have been struck. The complete shambles that was yesterdays race must have been highly embarrasing for everyone and I am sure that American investors and hosts will think many times before renewing the contract.

Basically for those not in the know, two cars on Michelin tyre had accidents in the practice. Michelin were unable to reproduce the fault leaving no real clue as to the problem except that it was caused by turn 13 - the banked turn. Due to this, Michelin requested that they be allowed to fly in alternate tyres for the race, there was not enough time to get the tyre in for qualifying and these were also deemed unsafe anyway.

The Michelin teams asked for a chicane to be put in since this would forcibly slow the cars down. The FIA refused as this would have hampered The Bridgestone teams unfairly, and as much as I hate Ferrari, I must agree. the FIA suggested three alternatives: race with different tyres and risk being penalized because of the one-tyre rule (no tyres anyway); change tyres after 10 laps since Michelin thought that the fault was occuring after 10 laps of wear (fine but were there enough tyres for 7 changes? Plus, could still have contravened the rule about replacing tyres with ones that have gone similar distance and that the tyres must be demonstrably unsafe at that time); drive more slowly through the corner (okay, but had to be enforced carefully). None of these suggestions were sensible from a safety perspective.

All in all it was a mammoth cock-up on Michelin's part and the teams had little choice but not race or else risk a terrible accident. But the FIA hardly handled it well and after recent collusions with Ferrari it does not look good, though as I see it Ferrari are blameless in this. Trust has gone in this sport and the American market may now be closed to them for good.

As a sidebar, I hope they find the wankers who were throwing bottles of beer onto the track whilst the cars were circulating. Whilst i can sympathise with their anger and disappointment, for deliberately endangering drivers like that cannot be tolerated. Fuckwits!

hollow feeling

It's that time of year when the marks are calculated and handed out to the students. Of course we also hand out preliminary degree classifications.

One of our 2nd year students plagiarised a piece of coursework this year; he was caught. Not only was he caught but he also submitted it over a week left which is an automatic zero as well. I was the plagiarism officer and had to deal with the problem. He put his hands up and admitted it and my impression was that he realised his coursework assignment was overdue and panicked: he cribbed great tracts from the web and submitted it in the hope that no one would notice.

Overall he is a nice guy and has worked hard on the courses I taught; but if you cheat and you get caught you have to deal with the consequences. One unforeseen consequence is that he has now failed that course. It appears that 80% of the course was based upon that piece of coursework - to me that is ridiculous but if that is that way it is, so be it. Normally we would offer a resit and he could then go through with at least a pass mark on his transcript, but because he plagiarised, no resit can be offered. Therefore he has failed that course - comprehensively. He can still go through, but he will always have that fail marked down on his transcript. The stupid thing is that if he had just failed to hand in his coursework he would have been offered a resit to get him up to a pass mark. His plagiarism has cost him a unit and will always be in plain sight of any employer who asks to see his transcript. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth though I console myself that it is all his own fault, though its hard to be the one who doles out the punishment...

In addition one of our students dropped from a 1st class degree to a 2:1 today. We had calculated his mark incorrectly - the degree course he was on did not have the allowances that the 'normal' course does. As a consequence he got bumped down even though many of his marks were first class. Why the bump in that case? On one morning a couple of months ago his mind closed up in an exam; he got 12% instead of his usual 60-80%. That was enough to pull his mark down to a 2:1. I'm gutted for him (though not much because its still a very good degree classification).

Friday, June 17, 2005

It's all gone quiet

Sorry folks, been a bit busy.

Had a proposal to work on that could net our group about £200,000. Not to be sniffed at and it had already passed the first hurdle so it was worth pursuing. I am back to being a small fish again now, but the pond in which I swim is also pretty small compared with other groups in our field. Consequently even us minnows get called on to contribute to the admin. and money hunting.

I am attempting to correct the abysmal grammar of one of our PhD students; to be fair it is not that bad since English is not his first language by a very long shot, but it is very time concsuming, especially since we have also argued over the scientific content. He is almost as stubborn as I am.

Plus I am trying to get a paper written. It won't be done for some time as I am also trying to rewrite bits of another paper that I had reviewed (hey, can't get it right first time all of the time!). That has been sat on the backburner for way too long since I had no time to do anything whilst teaching.

Speaking of teaching more shit is hitting the rotating-air-mover. I have finished all marking that can get dumped on me for the moment but there are problems looming with the MSc projects. One girl is doing great: she is racing ahead, but she is Chinese and has problems with her english (much better than my chinese - whichever dialect or sub-language you choose). As a consequence I am having to rewrite portions of her work to make it suitable for her project. The other guy -the pushy one- has hit a brick wall. The company that he is working with don't like what he has produced so far and have asked him to start over - I am not too surprised. Of course now he is very worried and I imagine that I will have to try to help him sort it out, probably by saying the same things I said to him the first time when he ignored me...

Add to this the fact that we have 6 2nd year students who have been offered resits. Two of them have been offered resits for every course - not retaking the year, just resitting the exam. the reason behind this baffles me as I know the two gents in question. My view is that they have failed the year and so they should be hoisted out; the university's view is that now they have to ensure their own funding and work like any other business they have to ensure that they keep students for as long as possible. So we have to organsie resits for these guys. That means I have to write two new exams for them to complete - different from the past exams. This is not as easy as it sounds. Plus I then have to mark them. Not my idea of fun, especially since I am no-longer employed as a teaching member of staff. What would they have done if I had left the university and gone elsewhere? but of course I didn't and since I am here I have to do as I am told since I am caught by that catch-all phrase at the bottom of my contract:
"...and any other duties as directed by the head of department."
Fuck!

Monday, June 13, 2005

Obligatory Star Wars post

Well, I finally saw Revenge of the Sith last night. I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot. There were moments in it when I thought things could have been done better, but I think that about a lot of films. It was no worse than A New Hope and certainly no worse than Return of the Jedi. OK, so if we are talking in terms of pure cinematic skill and impressiveness it was no Empire Strikes Back but I still think that it hit all the right notes.

I thought Christensen was a little wooden, but his performance was much improved over the second film and I didn't find Yoda as annoying as I was led to believe that I would. I even thought that the film struck a nice balance; the first half was somewhat light hearted in scene and dialogue, then it decended nicely to the much darker second half.

Just as Ade, I too read the book first and so there were certainly bits from that which would have worked well in the movie and perhaps filled gaps in my understanding. However, my wife had not read the book and she really enjoyed the film.

On the point of cheesiness I did not actually find the dialogue overly cheddery. Again it wasn't the best at times, but that has always been the case in the Star Wars films. Perhaps it was a case of being influenced by the book again, but I thought that sometimes the point was nicely made without dialogue through simple expression - hardly indicating that the acting was as abysmal as some critcs would have it.

On the whole I thought it was a rollicking good film and I look forward to it coming out on DVD so that I can watch it over and over for all the visual details that I missed the first time (though I spotted the Millenium Falcon :-)). I also want to see the old trilogy again very soon - must hurry up and buy the DVD boxed set!

Noooooo!!!!!!!!

Friday afternoon; 3:3opm; I return to my office and face the ultimate horror:

Four large envelopes of marking are now sat on my comfy chair.

The day before I had successfully finished off marking the two 3rd year theses and thought that I was home free. Instead, here I am facing a shit load of extra marking. Seems that it is the first year exams, for which I set a couple of questions. It hurts even more since I am now a simple researcher with no teaching duties whatsoever (except for the MSc bastards).

Sob!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Scary!



My God! I have never noticed before but Michael Jackson leads a double life: he is secretly Cherie Blair, the wife of UK prime minister Tony 'I-believe-everything-I-say-even-though-it's-mostly-bollocks' Blair.


At least
this picture seems to suggest so. Compare the Cox and Forkum picture with this one of the 'lovely' (and I use the word advisedly) picture of Mrs. Blair.


Scary or what?

Impeachment Update!

Hah, someone else has spotted the 'impeachment' lie over John Kerry's comments about the Downing Street memo.

Keith Olbermann over at Bloggerman neatly punctures the balloon full of rubbish that hjas been floating around about Kerry calling for President Bush's impeachment*: quite simply he didn't say it. Aljazeera (.com not .net - different beasties) said it and NewsMax said it as well. They put 2 and 2 together and came up with 5; morons... or lieing spinners - take your pick.

The Aljazeera story was linked to by Shinobi in her original article.

Perhaps now all those blathering on about Kerry calling for impeachment will shut up. Don't believe everything you read, even when it's on the internet and not in the mainstream media!

*this is not to say that Kerry might not in the future call for impeachment; lets remember rules of causality, people:if he does the wingnuts cannot claim vindication.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Impeachment???


I have heard a rumour that John kerry is going to present the 'Downing Street Memo' before congress. Several websites have linked this with a push for impeachment (e.g. here and here), though I am yet to see one that quotes John Kerry using the word (Nader has).

Additionally I have seen little mention of this in the press. If there is this huge liberal bias that I am told about so often, why are the press not all over this already? The memo did get press over here, but not so much as an expose of the Bush administration as in Blair's potential lieing about the timing of war decisions. Neither goverment has denied the validity of the memo (yet), so there is a story there, since it contradicts official timelines of events and decisions. So what is the deal here?

Hat tip to Shinobi for drawing my attention to this.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

To Burn or not to Burn...


The secretary of the later Pope John Paul II has decided not to burn the personal papers of the former pontiff. John Paul II had asked
Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz to oversee the burning of all of his personal papers and documents.

Read the story here.

Now I am in two minds about this: on the one hand these document may have great significance in undertanding the mind of the man who led the church for so many years. A man who witnessed amazing developments in the modern world.

On the other hand he asked that they be burnt, and they were his property. Shouldn't that count for something?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Hubris has tagged and so I respond...


Courtesy of prairie biker, via Hubris...

1) What is the nastiest thing you've ever eaten?

Hmm, tricky to avoid an answer involving scathing remarks about my ex-girlfriend. Ah, I know brown cheese from Norway. Seriously, it looks like shrink wrapped shit!


2) What is one food that you ate when a kid that you absolutely refuse to now, since you're on your own and don't have to?

I too was a picky eater as a child, but will now eat lots of things that I would never have touched then. I even like semolina and porridge (not together). Ah, I've thought of one! Fig biscuits. And prunes! But that would be two so we'll stick with fig biscuits.

3. Have you ever eaten an endangered critter? If not, what was the best thing you've ever eaten (and I sure hope nobody answers 'April Guthrie' here)?
Sadly no. I have a friend who tried whale in Norway (step forward Ade); however I have a rule about eating things that are likely to be more intelligent than half of the people I went to school with. Best thing is a tricky one and is likely to change depending on when you asked me, but since I have mentioned Norway, the best thing has to be the first time I had reindeer. Fantastic. Yes children, Uncle Kav has eaten Rudolph. :-)

4. What food can you never get enough of?
Curry. Whether a bhuna, rogan josh, jalfrezi or a korma, just keep loading my plate with curry. Ooh baby, keep it coming and put the toilet paper in the freezer. Yeah! :-)
Oh and also crispy aromatic duck. Two years in Colorado and we couldn't find a restaurant who could do it properly. Bizarre. There is clearly a difference between American Chinese and British Chinese cuisine.

5. Have you ever eaten any critter's testicles? Why?
Not on purpose. I've just never been in the mood.
"Horse balls, dear?"
"Not now, love, I've got a headache"

6. Who is the better cook, your significant other or your mom?
No hesitation, my wife is the better cook; she is a fantastic cook (not bad myself). My mum was not as bad a cook as she thought she was, her roast potatoes were to die for (and some did considering the amount of lard that was used). Sadly, she had been persuaded at an early age by her mother that she could not cook and it stuck. My view is that I would never have turned into such a food loving lardy bastard if the stuff I got as a child wasn't half decent. :-)
And on that bombshell I shall now tag
Shinobi and Ade.
I was going to tag David, but he doesn't do memes; and we could have waited an eternity for a response from Hrun.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Updated Blogroll


It occurs to me that I have been remiss in adding Ade to my blogroll. Therefore I have now added the wonderful almost-picture blog:

Please tootle on over there and lay down some comments for my boy and show him some love. If you do then he might just post something interesting ;-)

Additionally I have also updated my deep throat entry in an effort to remain honest and true :-)

Please wait whilst I bend over and apply the lubrication...

It would seem that I was somewhat premature in my celebrations yesterday. I thought that I had finished marking all of the relevant undergraduate work but today I had an unpleasant surprise. The undergraduate secretary dropped two big dissertations on me today.

Our students carry out a project throughout the final year. I have had little contact with either of the two that I am supposedly second supervisor for but suddenly I have to mark two mini-theses. Not best pleased as you can probably imagine.


Oh well, back to the marking grind stone...

Where are you...

... in the lifecycle of a blogger?

Thanks to David of Fuddland for sending the link to me. He thinks I am somewhere between 3 and 4. So David, where are you?

In fact, where is everybody else upto? I know that Hubris has at least passed #5.

As David said, it's funny because it is true.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

600th

Congratulations to Hubris on being my 'official' 600th visitor. No prize, I'm afraid, not even grudging respect and the faint smell of honour.

I say 'official' because it took me a couple of days to get Sitemeter running and so I missed a few, plus for a week or so it was artificially inflated due to my not blocking myself from appearing in the statistics.

Also a much belated happy 3 year anniversary to Fuddland. I meant to mark it at the time but I didn't.

By the way I notice that someone arrived at my site whilst using google to search for

I guess that it led to my post about Ryan's sex essay froma few days ago. Still the mind boggles slightly.

Crazy Frog*


I hate the crazy frog ringtone. In fact I hate most ringtones and since I don't own a mobile phone so I can say that without hypocrisy. Ringtones annoy me. It's a gimmick, designed to draw cash out of moronic people. The new radio series of the HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy has the correct idea in mocking them (in place of digital watches).

But now it has all gone worse. It is now number 1 in the UK singles chart. A new 'mix' of Axel F polluted by a stupid ringtone of an animated frog making motercycle noises. For all that is holy in the world!

"Crazy Frog Axel F" is the first cell phone ring tone to cross into mainstream music charts, said Gennaro Castaldo, a spokesman for HMV, the British music retailing chain.


You know, what scares me most about the preceding sentence? The use of the word 'first'; it scares 7 types of the brown stuff out of me - there might be more. In fact the implication is that Castaldo is expecting more! I feel a rampage with a terribly dangerous weapon might soon be in order.

The only glimmers of hope in this whole sordid affair is that it kept Coldplay from being top of the charts (apologies to my wife, who is a fan). It always sounds to me as if Chris Martin has a half a mouth full of spittle when he sings.
More importantly than that is that the Frog knocked Oasis (seriously overrated) from the #1 spot. That must have felt good for their over inflated egos. Bunch of one-tune, limited talent, self-loving wankers.

Still, bad day for UK music - plus a sure sign that the morons are not only coming, they are already in the hall and are taking off their coats. Beware!

*inspired by this post over at ASV


Non-moronic student

Saw some work from one of my MSc students today. Very impressive though flawed enough for me to put on my lecturers voice and point out where it could be improved.

If only the others did as well as this one. She has managed to perform without my constant attention and has even showed impressive initiative. I am very happy.

On the flip side, I have a feeling that I am about to run into a whole heap of trouble with one of the students who is on an industrial placement. I think he has been a bit overeager in showing some of his preliminary work to the supporting business before it was properly prepared. I tried to suggest alternative ideas but he is desperate to get ahead. I just hope this doesn't come and bite me in the arse and that our contact person is kindly, patient and understanding

The joys of teaching subjects that are not within your sphere of expertise!

Ho-hum

I'm having a really hard time finding the will to blog at the moment.

I have plenty of ideas, though some of them (particularly my lambast at Blair) suffer from missing their allotted time and so will probably never happen.

Anyway, my day is taken up with work, but it all seems so unproductive at the moment. I have a 100 different things to do and cannot decide where to begin. Consequently I am not doing anywhere near as much as I ought to do.

I did manage to finish off the last of my undergraduate marking today, which is a good thing. Now I have to rewrite course reviews for all the courses I taught this year. I say rewrite as I had written some of them already and I cannot find where the hell I saved them.

This is very frustrating.

On the plus side I have managed to get a PhD student up and running on a study that I suggested by helping with her computing account - very satisfying moment. Plus I have found a really cool dataset that needs exploiting. I am too busy but the student is going to take a crack at it :-)


Still haven't seen Revenge of the Sith yet. The wife is away and would probably not forgive me if I went without her.

Hmm, not much else to tell really.

Oh yes, I was at a Stag weekend recently. A loud and brash affair, which had a day at the races - thoroughly enjoyable. Made even more enjoyable when the syndicate, of which I was a member, had two of our horses come in at 50-1 and 33-1. A cool £390 went into my back pocket. Not bad for a £30 expenditure. God bless my mate Jim who picked each of the horses (just from their names). There were 7 races in total and the only race I didn't back a horse in and the horse was a non-runner.

Fantastic!

I regret not buying a lottery ticket that night...

Deep Throat

So Deep Throat is revealed and Pat Buchanan has called him a traitor. You have to have the feeling that the guy must have done something right if Pat thinks he is a traitor.

But now the conspiracy theorists can have more fun...


UPDATE:

It appear that Pat did not call Deep Throat a traitor. In fact in that Hardblogger post he goes out of his way to not call him traitor. I am very confused because I definitely heard Pat Buchanon calling Deep Throat a traitor on the radio, was it perhaps from an interview long ago when we did not know who it was?

Anyway, on the face of it, I apologise to Mr. Buchanon for misrepresenting his views in this post.