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June 16, 2006

My first mini–cross–country

Well it's been a good 3 weeks since my last exam and I'm now completely back into relaxed student mode. After working almost solidly from 10 to 10 every day for three weeks it was a little bit of shock to suddenly have nothing to do.

The solution to my bordem has mostly been to go flying every single Wednesday and Sunday, especially now that the weather is so nice. I had a few good flights and some bad ones by myself but last sunday the weather was a little worse so I couldn't fly on my own without being checked by an instructor first. Since I'd then have to waste £8 on a check flight first and as I wasn't actually feeling too great I decided not to bother. However, at the end of the day I did take a flight and managed to grab a chance at flying the £80k 'Duo Discus', the club's most fancy glider they use as a two–seater cross country trainer.

We had a really crap launch (trainee winch driver I think) so almost immeadiately got into circuit ready to land again. At about 600' the instructor turned off circuit into a thermal and managed to climb up to about 1700'. It was actually quite nice to be able to just sit there and look out the window for a little while but then I took control and continued the climb up to about 2500'.

With plenty of height, plenty of time and a very shiny glider I decided to see how far I could get. We wandered out a few miles to the motorway and came back, did some more thermalling and headed down a nice street of clouds the sky had provided for us. Somehow, even at 17:00 there was enough lift under it for us to get all the way down to Daventry (about 10 miles away) and back and only lose a few hundred feet.

Back at the airfield again we were still quite high so I took the opportunity to see how it handles and throw it around at 100knts (about 110 mph). It's nice to just mess around and have some fun with the planes sometimes, especially when they cost £80k! Then the instructor took over again, did a 130mph pass on the clubhouse (though at about 400', since it's been banned todo it any lower and he didn't want to get in trouble) and landed. So we got back an hour and 11 minutes after we left, by which time everyone had packed up and gone home or into the clubhouse, including the bloke who we had asked to go and wait for us in the retrieve buggy a few minutes after we left, oops.

The whole flight was only about 35miles which isn't a lot by gliding standards but it was my first taste of a cross–country flight since it was the first time I've ever flown out of visual range of the airfield. Also, there's something really nice about flying in the late evening as it's cooling off. It's so calm and peacefull up there. After a few weeks of just doing very intense short flights by myself, trying deperately to stay up it was nice to remember how soaring is supposed to be.

Unfortunately, I don't have a fancy GPS recorder but the rough route is here: http://files.oliford.co.uk/duo-flight-11-06-06.jpg

April 30, 2006

What is the union doing about Resnet?

Yet again our on–campus residential Internet connection, Resnet, is in an abysmal state. This is nothing particularly new though, as it has had bad periods all year. What is annoying me at present is that there doesn't seem to be any official pressure on the University to sort it out.

The infrastructure was set up a few years ago by an external company contracted by the University to provide network access to the residences. While it worked reasonably well for the first few years it apparently began to suffer significant problems last year and finally the university terminated the contract at the beginning of this academic year. ITS immediately had to take over running the network which by this time was in a pretty sorry state.

Another factor comes in to play here. In past years file sharing had been going on inside the campus network by means of an internal only system (I'll leave out the details but I think everyone knows them). A few people downloaded the large files from outside the campus network and then propagated them internally putting little strain on the link to the outside world. At some point before or at the beginning of this academic year the University (not ITS) took the decision to outlaw the use of this particular system and ITS accordingly set about brining down any of these 'hubs' that appeared. The result, rather predictably, is that everyone now uses systems to download from off–campus such as BitTorrent, which puts an absolutely huge strain on the external link and cannot so easily been shut down. The original contractors had set up a network that simply is not capable of withstanding this sort of load but, up until the University's P2P ban, this had not been a problem. Whatever your opinion on the University’s decision politically, they did rather shoot themselves in the foot.

This is what ITS have to deal with and I really don't blame them for failing to begin with because they simply weren't prepared for it. However, it is now 6 months down the line and the situation is no better. ITS clearly don’t have the resources to cope with running both Resnet and the main campus network, including all its associated problems like security incidents and the E–mail system and so the university should have done something to sort it out by now. Simply putting pressure on ITS to deal with it isn't going to help so really they ought to be providing the resources to help them do their job or maybe even recontracting Resnet out to a more competent, established company and not just the cheapest deal this time!

The students union, while happy to campaign on various things that have little or no bearing on students here at Warwick, seem to be completely absent from this issue which definitely is affecting real students right here and now. There was a brief intervention by the Students Union in the form of a motion demanding compensation from Warwick Accommodation for a group of students who were without a connection for some time but I don't feel this was particularly useful for anyone except those directly involved. What I'd like to see is the students union demanding that the university get the situation sorted out as soon as possible. While Resnet is not officially part of our contract with Warwick Accommodation, the university continue to publicise our 'always on high speed internet connection' to prospective students and this is now just an out right lie. I'd like to see the union threaten the university with making it clear to these prospective students that this simply isn't true. Hopefully it won't come to that but something has to be done to make the university take this problem seriously.

Thinking about it, the union should demand that the provision of internet become part of the contracts with Warwick Accomodation so that any signifcant failures next year can be dealt with properly.

April 21, 2006

Soggy Exam and Campus Landscaping

We had the first of our 4th year exams today: "Relativity and Electrodynamics".

The exam itself was ok, not particularly easy but it had the scope for being spectacularly difficult and wasn't so not too bad in that respect. The conditions were not so great though. It was raining when we left Redfern and the exam was in the Westwood games hall. By the time we got half way it was a torrential down pour. My trousers were thin and take up water very easily and my shoes are like sponges. I managed to keep them at least from filling with water by jumping puddles until we got to the entrance to the hall to find a 3m long 3" deep lake with a sheer wall and fence either side… damn. So most of us sat there for 3 hours completely and totally drenched and the games hall is not the warmest palce in the world. Still, sht happens…

Also, I noticed on the way that the only part of campus suffering from flash floods was the brand new shiny landscaped bit on the way up to university house. The ornamental 'rivers' (of mud) were over their banks, the grass area had turned back into the paddy-fields it seemed to be during construction, and the road where the large speed bump thing is had filled to a good 5" deep. Excellent design effort there, really a job well done!

April 19, 2006

Onwards and… Which way?

I was reading on Wikipedia the other day about someone called Peter Singer. Among various other things was his belief about the poorest people in the world. His argument goes along the lines of: It's immoral for us to go out and buy expensive unnecessary things and generally live life like we do when we know of the suffering due to poverty that is going on and could give some of that money to them.

In general, I completely agree with this principal. I hate the way half our world is in such a bad state when we quite evidently have the technology and ability to deal with it. It's pretty despicable the way we look on 'ourselves' as just those in our country or culture and consider people suffering around the world to be alien to that and not our responsibility.

Of course, it's a nice idea, but am I going to suddenly abandon my life and dissappear off around the world to help them? No, probably not. I can't pretend to be able to justify this but I can say I believe I can make a bigger difference in the long run doing research, especially in fusion. Now that brings me around to another point: if the most advanced countries stopping advancing and spent their time bringing the rest of the world up to our level we wouldn't be moving the human race on as a whole, in understanding and in technology etc. I was talking about this with someone the other day and their response to this was to question whether advancing in technology and knowledge is neccessarily 'forwards' for the human race. With all the stresses and troubles of our modern and supposedly more comfortable lives, are we really better off than those who spend their lives with nothing to worry about but finding dinner?

Personally I've always believed it's important to improve our understanding of the world around us and this is probably what's taking me into physics. This also isn't likely to change but I've never given it a second thought before and now find myself wondering exactly why I believe this. I guess its natural to want your life to be about something, to have some point and maybe this is just the best way I have of getting there given that I have no religious beliefs and don't believe in any form of afterlife. However, I did spend a brief period in the middle of the Exmoor forest when I was little just fishing and helping my dad recover firewood to heat his little cottage and I can see the appeal of that kind of lifestyle. Also I think part of why I enjoy gliding is that it gets me away from computers and all the associated hassle. On the other hand I wouldn't have the experience of and ability to fly if it weren't for the (1920s) technology of the gliding itself.

Are we better off with advancing technology and so called 'quality of life' or would we be better off if everyone was happy just living?

April 10, 2006

Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plans

Writing about Why H5N1 isn't to be taken so lightly from From tractors to reactors

This has been covered elsewhere on the blogs, so I won't repeat it all here but this comment was getting too long, so it's now a trackback.

I've just scanned through the Health Department's Flu Pandemic Contingency Plan . While it does seem they are aware of the issue there are some worrying things in there. Firstly, there doesn't seem to be any description of what will actually be done. There is a whole page of actual plan which is entirely devoted to convening comitees, reviewing proceedures, forming sub-groups and sending information around. This is all for after the WHO announces a 'Phase 5' pandemic alert, which basically translates to 'Holy shit, here it comes, we're all gonna die' and doesn't stike me as the time to be turning into Vogons.

Also, they say this:

In the event of a novel influenza virus causing significant outbreaks of
human illness elsewhere in the world, it is unlikely that the UK could
prevent importation (except by closing all borders); even a 99.9%
restriction of travel into the country would only be expected to delay
importation of the virus by up to two months.

They've written the "except by closing all borders" in brackets as if it's an absolutely proposterous idea. Is it? Am I the only one who thinks that an international pandemic with a possible fatality rate of as much as 50% is not a good enough reason to shut down all travel in and out of the country? Even if it only holds it off for a few months, as they point out futher up in the report this is about the time it takes to start producing a vaccine which otherwise wouldn't be ready until well after the first wave has been and gone. Civil liberties are a great thing, but you can't use them if you're dead.

Also as far as I can tell, thought I haven't read it properly, they are working on a 0.37% predicted fatality rate, with the maximum they even considered being about 2.5%. The New Scientist articles seem think that it could be anywhere between 0 and 50%.

April 06, 2006


Well that was annoying.

I have been tryng to sort out this PhD at JET recently. Yesterday morning I had an email basically saying I was being offered the place I want as it had been agreed by the university and just needed the paperwork going through. I also got an E-mail from Warwick asking if I could come to an interview today.

Obviously I didn't really want to get grilled in an interview if I was being offered the JET PhD which I really wanted so I asked if it was being offered for certain. Imperial said they wouldn't say for definate until some time this afternoon, so I went to the warwick interview anyway. It wasn't too bad. The first question was to write down Maxwell's equations which is really easy. They then asked me to derive the wave equations from them, which was tricker but I remebered it more or less.

As I left I wandered into the computer room, checked my e-mail and found the message from Imperial with the official JET offer. Later this afternoon I got an offer from Warwick. So I now have a choice of PhDs – nice, but rather pointless.

The Sky is Falling

A week of sitting indoors revising while the skys out my window have been glorious bright blue with just the right amount and type of little fluffy clouds has driven me nuts, but yesterday I gave in and went gliding again.

A few weeks ago we had our weeklong Easter Course, during which I was cleared for 'Check 1', which means that on nice days (like this week) I can fly without having to find an instructor to come with me on a check flight first. At about 14:00 I grabbed a free single-seat glider and pulled it onto the winch queue. It's quite daunting flying up the winch on your own without any practice for a few weeks. You have all of about 3.5 seconds to reaquaint yourself with this whole flying thing, the winch process and the particular aircraft you're flying before you're doing 70mph pointing 45' at the sky. So after a quick mental run through I had the cable attached and disappeared skyward.

I was hoping there would be lots of lift around (air going upwards) since everyone else was dissappearing for ages but all I could find for the first two flights was endless sink (air going down). This, in gliding, is what we call… crap, basically.

For the third go I decided to pull back on the winch a bit more, it makes it a little more difficult to deal with if something goes wrong but does help get a higher launch and sure enough I got up to about 1200'. I thought I'd wander off in the opposite direction and this time found a nice strong thermal. Circling in this for a while, occasionally losing it and finding it again got me up to 2300', a significant climb off the winch for a pilot like me.

After about 20 minutes I was getting rather thristy and hot and wandering down wind from the airfield a bit. I hadn't really prepared myself to stay up for an hour or so and figured it'd take me 10 mins to get down from this height so that'd make my 30 mins flight which I've been trying to get from the winch for a while. Unfortunately, wanding back got me into the hurrendous sink again and after a circuit a little on the low side, I was on the ground in about 3 minutes. So only 23 minutes, which is good for a winch, but not so good when you consider I'd got to 2300'.

Nevermind, there's always next time…

March 04, 2006

Serenity, the film, and not so much in my life.

Just finished watching Serenity. Damn good film. Watch it, that's all I'm going to say on the matter.

This week is not going to be nice. Final year full project report is due in on Thursday so I'm bascially going to be sitting here writing until then. I guess I should be working now rather than watching films, but I've written enough today and can't log into anything in the CSC building so there is no hope of any work for a few days at least.

Last week on the other hand was brilliant. Wednesday I went down to London for a PhD interview at Imperial. It turned out to be not much of an interview and I just ended up wandering around the group talking to the various academics but that's fine with me since they're paying the train fair. Afterwards I had an hour or so to kill before meeting up with a friend so I took the underground to Westminster and looked at the Houses of Parliment, Big Ben and the London Eye like a proper lost tourist. After that we came back up here, met up with someone else and went to the Real Ale festival.

Thursday I did a little work, dropped the first friend off at the station and met up with a few more to go back to Real Ale on that night. This was great fun, slightly less cider to work my way through but singing along to the great over-patriotic songs played by the Brass Band was excellent. We all had plenty to drink though and there was a little rolling around in the snow afterwards.

Friday morning had a lecture but then returned and cooked a huge fry-up for everyone that was still here. Unfortunately this means I have no decent food as I used all the nice bacon and sausages and the last of the spuds. I do have the really really nice Stilton left though….mmmm…cheese.

Generally, a very hectic week but that's quite good occasionally. After having all these people staying on my floor and around all day and a lot going on, its a bit too quiet in the flat now but that's probably best since I've got so much work todo. Yea… work…

Also, I have no money. I really really have no money now. £100 over my overdraft limit. oops.

February 17, 2006


Why is it so impossible to just buy a simple cup of nice coffee. You bascially have a choice between stock Nescafe instant stuff out of a machine which takes absolutely awful, or a rather confusing choice of 15 fancy things with all sort of muck in them.

I have eventually ascertained that a 'latte' is about the nearest thing and so I have bought these from both 'Roccoco' and 'Cafe Library' or whatever they are called now. Don't get me wrong, in both cases the coffee itself was very nice but you have to fight your way through the froffy milk on top before you can get to it. This also means that for £1.15 or whatever, the coffee reaches only just past the half way mark, the rest is milk and air.

I just want a cup of coffee with a splash of milk in it, does everything have to be so damn trendy???

February 01, 2006

The Boar: ITS, ID and Investment banking.

For some reason I decided against going to my lecture this morning despite getting up in order to do so. Instead I have been reading this week's Boar. I have to say I disagreed with most of what I read. A short run down:

  • ITS - 3 articles on how incompetent they think ITS are, including one double page spread. While the occasional point is valid they again seem to merge a veriety of different problems all into one. See my IT Services and Resnet entry for my views on ITS bashing.
  • "Darwin versus God": While the article manages to keep fairly neutral, I do dislike anything which tries to give credibility to the idea of Intelligent Design being, in any way, a scientific theory. It may well be right and evolution wrong for all we know but evolution is a debated and tested theory now fairly well supported with evidence. I.D. is not testable and has no evidence (And no, you can't count not being able to explain things in any other way as evidence. Should we count the unknown acceleration of the Pioneer space probe as some divine creator blowing on them for amusement?). Evolution is a scientific theory, I.D is not, end of story.
  • "Invested Interest" – An article about the Careers Service being almost entirely devoted to financial companies. Mostly I agree with this one, the careers service seem to basically only give us the things that turn up on their doorstep – i.e the financial companies that directly push for warwick graduates. Surely the job of the Careers Service is to get out there, find other companies and encourage them to come here so we get a wide choice of graduate employeers?

Morning winge over. I shall try to make my next lecture and will have to be late for the Resnet focus group meeting. Incidently, this week's focus group meeting is at 12.30pm in Room H355, Humanities Building. If you have anything useful to say about resnet please turn up, they need as much feedback as possible at the moment, apart from being made aware that the Boar don't like them. Does the Boar like anyone these day?

January 29, 2006

Quadbikes, Curry, Stratford and lots of flying.

Well that was an interesting weekend…

Saturday was a big gliding club day, we had arranged for a few graduated exec members to back for a day at the airfield and then we'd all go out for a curry in Leamington. We tied this in with the club by making an official trip aswell and then making the curry an official social. In the last couple of days a few of the graduates pulled out, only two people signed up for the day trip and no one expressed any interest in the social. So I went along saturday morning not feeling particularly hopeful for the day. One of the two members didn't turn up before we left so it turned out to just be the graduates, me and one extra.

By about lunchtime I was severly annoyed, the organisation at the airfield was for some reason particularly lacking. It took until about 5 hours after we arrived before the one new person got any flights and even then it was only two not very great winch flights. We had also booked the quad-biking centre, which runs from the bottom of the airfield but I was flying by the time the booked time came so didn't go and those who did go didn't get to fly because we'd packed up the flying by the time they finished. In the whole day the site managed 25 flights on a reasonble day (it wasn't great weather, but flyable) when we normally get through about 60.

Needless to say this left me a bit annoyed with The Soaring Centre. The thing is when I get annoyed I tend not to shout at people or anything, I just grumble and then inadvertently sort of make things happen. I was grumbling something about looking at other airfields, to see if they do any better and because there was a bloke there we were talking to who normally flies at Stratford upon Avon GC we decided we would take a look down there one day.

Saturday night we went to the social. Due to the people who pulled out Chris (one of the graduates) had brought along some of his mates to fill the quad-biking places and so we invited them to the social as well to make up the numbers as I wasn't expecting any of the members to turn up. As it happened we had 3 UWGC members turn up so we actually had 12 people at the curry place in the end. Us actual gliding people moved onto weatherspoons afterwards and had a few drinks and loads of random conversations. About 1:30 we left the pub and before we all disbanded we decided that since we were all around we could check out Stratford in the morning (sunday).

I woke up about 11:00 this morning and had in my own mind decided that visiting Stratford wouldn't be all that great an idea at midday. The others turned up at noon and everyone seemed to think that just popping down to see what facilities they had wouldn't be such a bad idea. So at about 13:00 we turned up at Stratford GC, explained who we were, that we normally fly at HusBos and just wanted to see how they did things. As it happens they were all very enthusiastic and three of the four of us all got to fly. Because it's a smaller club with only a winch engine and no planes for towing they run a much more efficient operation. I really liked the friendly small-club atmosphere there and their system and general organistion skills put the relative big buisness operation of The Soaring Centre to shame.

It was really interesting to fly at a different airfield and in a totally different type of glider and it was a really nice and interesting day. We could never totally switch the warwick club to use Stratford as they just don't have the avaliable facilities of Hus Bos and probably would struggle to cope with us in the first term when we take about 10 new people each week. It does however seem sensible to somehow have it as an option for small trips when the weather doesn't look so good, since it is practically right next door.

All in all a good weekend and a good bit of flying.

January 27, 2006

Symantec Antivirus (and Jetico personal firewall)

Symantec antivirus… Don't install this. Ever. Even at gun point.
(and yes, this is the AV software recommended to you by ITS)

I have tried to avoid heavily computing based blog entries so far but this has annoyed me enough to write something public on it. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a reviews section for software.

I have just installed it, and very rapidly decided to uninstall it. My reasons for hating it were:

  1. It doesnt ask you where to install it, it just puts in in 'Program Files' which is on the wrong drive on my system.
  2. It installs 7 services, all for virus protection, 2 is excessive for any one piece of software.
  3. It makes the system horrifically slow. This is usual for Anti-virus programs with resident protection mechanisms but in this case it was unusable even with everything disabled.
  4. It crashes if the firewall denies it internet access after saying 'your network is not correctly configured'.
  5. 5 of the 7 processes remained running after disabling everything, and were in the top 7 in the list processes sorted by CPU usage.
  6. It keeps givnig those stupid baloon pop-ups which irritate me. Especially when it is just to say "you have just disabled resident protection" YES I KNOW, I JUST CLICKED IT.
  7. Having decided within a few minutes to uninstall it, it took me a good ten minutes to regain enough control of my system (which has been stable for 2 years now) to remove it.
  8. When you uninstall it, it doesnt actually uninstall everything, you have to go and clean up after it (Find LiveUpdate and remove)

ITS used to use and give a license for Kaspersky AV, which is must better though still not perfect. I wish they still did.

Rant ends.

To balance this out, if you know what you're doing and you want a firewall program get Jetico Personal Firewall . This is the most rigidly and sensibly built piece of software I've seen in ages. It has every feature you could possibly want in a firewall and is infinitely configurable, it is just out right brilliance, a credit to Jetico and to the computing industry as a whole.

January 26, 2006

Nuclear fusion and the energy debate

I was reading through bits of the BBC News site this morning as I do these days and found a short (video) report in the Sci-Tech section about the government launching a 3-month public debate about our future energy supplies. The general impression I get is that the government wants to re-invest in the nuclear power program (nuclear fission). I was slightly disconcerted that the BBC News' coverage and also the DTIs report on the subject contains no information about nuclear fusion. I've noticed in general that the vast majority of people have no idea what nuclear fusion is, which is slightly worrying considering the fact that the energy supplies and CO2 emissions debates have become important matters in the past few years.

The DTIs energy review does make one single reference to it:

The following pages provide an overview of those technologies that have a proven capability to generate significant amounts of electricity. It does not include technologies that are still in the early stages of Research and Development, such as nuclear fusion.

While it is a valid point that commerical production of electricity by nuclear fusion is a long way off, I wouldn't say it's "in the early stages of R&D". It's been in R&D since before 1950 and construction is about to begin on the latest large-scale experimental reactor . While I understand that it isn't going to be a direct factor anytime soon and cannot be entirely relied upon to save us from our energy problems, it will almost certainly have a huge impact on descisions made about the long term of energy production for the entire planet so people should at least be aware of it.

The currently known uranium fuel supplies for nuclear fission will only last about 50 years (DTI report) which leads to the reasonable argument that we perhaps shouldn't be building a host of new fission power plants when in half a centuary we will have the same problem all over again and have to start looking to more sustainable sources. Why not just build hundreds of wind turbines and such right now? Well, if fusion will be viable in 50 years time (ok, that's a bit of a stretch, 80 is more likely), in order to take over from fission, using all of our uranium supplies doesn't seem such bad idea. In fact, using all the uranium is surely a good idea since it will become increasing more sensible and economically preferable to use uranium for power rather than for nuclear weapons. In fact the DTI report does suggest that the fuels in old plants and bombs could increase the fission fuel supplies by up to 30 years.

So why does no one know anything about fusion? It's possible that I'm just mistaken and that they really do but just arn't interested. It's a shame really because energy and emmissions are likely to be two of our generation's greatest problems and nuclear fusion, given enough funding and help will be an almost certain and complete end to both for the imaginable future.

January 25, 2006

IT Services and Resnet

There seems to be a great deal of moaning and winges about IT services recently, both on here and in general around campus, especially with regard to ResNet.

I have just come from the Resnet focus group meeting, to which all students who wish to express problems with resnet are invited. This week there were two of us students there, and four people from ITS. If you really have something to say, come to the meetings.

For example, they've made some changes to the traffic shaping systems recently, and need some feedback about how the network was performing last weekend. Fortunately for me, I was away from the curse of technology on the weekend and so couldn't help. The other student reported that it wasn't any worse than before the changes and so we've all assumed that it's at least bearable at the moment. If you don't agree or you'd actually like to talk to ITS about their level of service rather than sitting around winging or throwing abuse at them, then come and actually do something useful about it.

Before anyone moans about the 'incident' on the weekend, I'd like to point out that I believe they did the right thing – initially at least. They very quickly dealt with a situation where everyones accounts were at risk. You may moan about having to change your passwords but how would you like to have all of your work deleted by someone whos broken into your account? Also, it should be pointed out that the usual method of dealing with an incident of that sort, in the short term, is to take the entire system offline, how would you have liked that?

I can't pretend that I don't think they made any mistakes though, particularly with regard to the handling of communication of the login grace period. I think they now realise that communication of the 2 login grace period to people using the web-based single sign-on system or the accursed Groupwise webmail system would have saved them the few thousand helpdesk calls and massive queues outside the computing centre on Monday. The two of us that did turn up to the resnet meeting have suggested some ways we think they can improve this and deal with it in a much better way if it ever happens again, but this is just our opinion, how are they supposed to ever improve anything is all they get is abuse and winging from people that don't even have anything constructive to say??

With regard to Novell Groupwise, everyone is fully aware of its complete inability to cope with the university's email and ITS are working to migrate everyone over to the new system. Please abuse Groupwise itself as much as you like, hopefully anything written on here about it will eventually come up in search engine queries for 'Groupwise', as it is one of the most useless and unstable systems I've ever had the displeasure to use.

January 15, 2006


Well, christmas was reasonably entertaining. I managed to entirely finish my interim report before I went down to Devon, so I didn't have to worry about it while down there. It's hard to get any work done when you don't have a bedroom or anything to work with.

Not much to say really because I basically did very little. Went up to see my nan in Southampton and helped cook a big family christmas dinner.

Much fun was had on new years eve as I went to the local surfy village Croyde with a few old friends. Managed to have just the right amount of alcohol and even find a taxi back. It was beggining to look like we'd have to walk the 3 miles back in the freezing cold at 2am.

I also spent a lot of the interviening time playing The Dyson Telescope Game . It really is quite addictive, and doing the levels to par is incredibly difficult. Don't look at it if you have work to do though, as you'll never finish it.

December 15, 2005

London, Imperial and a nice day out.

Well, yesterday I went to Imperial college's postgraduate open day.

Got up at 8, drove to coventry station. That's lazy I know, I should've cycled but I thought I'd probably be too tired when I got back to coventry to cycle back to campus. Once I discovered the parking fee for £6 for the day I decided to definately cycle in future.

I acually got there early. My train was at 10:20 but I managed to catch the late 9:50 one at 9:58. Arrived in London Euston at about 11:30. Wandered off the platform and wandered around for a few minutes trying to work out where the entrance to the underground bit of euston was. I found it, worked out how the underground system worked and jumped on to a tube train to Green Park. Changed there and got on another for South Kensington. Got off, wandered around outside the station looking for street signs, failed to find any. I had a map but couldn't work out the orientation so gave up in the end, found the sun, noted it was almost excatly mid-day and walked in the opposite direction – North. This lead me to the university, very quickly. It's quite worrying that I still use this method of naviagtion, it does work though.

The uni is ok, much like warwick would be if its campus was merged with a city. There are some building sites, some old buildings (not the really old fancy kind, but the old decripid metal kind) and some shiny new buildings. The actual open day wasn't all that much help. The main part was well organised but just the same as you'd expect to be said at any open day. The physics part was fairly unorganised, the same as here. It was just a small room with some posters with a few people from each group standing around talking to people. This is what I wanted but there was only one bloke from the plasma group there, who was helpful, but a theorist and not really who I needed to see. It turns out they have a group open day in feburary so I shall goto that aswell. In fact, when I first got there, there was only one person at the table. She turned out to be waiting for the quantum optics group so we talked until the proper people turned up and turfed her off the plasma table.

At 14:20 I decided I ought to start heading back. The ticket I had wasn't valid between 15:00 and 18:00 so I had a choice between hurrying back or waiting around until 18:00. Next time I probably will wait and have a look around London, since I havn't been in a good many years.

Entered South Kensington station at ~ 14:35 and arrived at coventry at about 16:25.

So really the day was fairly unsuccessful in terms of PhD aquiring, but was a nice day out.

My thoughts on train and tube journeys later…

Excellent random blog entry of the week award

If you are reading this and haven't read that, then read it! It's superb!

December 13, 2005


It's a week and a bit into the holiday's and I've done more work in that time than in whole term beforehand. The Interim report is coming on well, despite hitting the word limit after only writing 1/3 of what needs to be put into it.

It is rather annoying though, learning all this stuff about particle physics when I intend todo a PhD in plasma physics. On that note, I have been sort of offered something from JET, where I worked over the summer holidays. It's a computational project, which isn't quite perfect since I really wanted todo something experimental. However, I am generally better at the computational stuff and it does sound quite interesting. Also, its rather difficult to say no to a PhD at a place I really liked working.

I am also applying to Imperial College, as a backup plan and I'm going to their open day tomorow. This will involve my first train journey in a few years, so should be interesting.

December 05, 2005

Procrastination, Cider and Self–raising Ballistics.

It's now the christmas 'holidays' and I have my final year project Interim Report to write and so I thought I'd update my blog instead. I'll get around to starting eventually… probabaly.

Since I last posted, a lot's happened. A few weeks ago a lot of people I knew who grauated last year and the year before came up for a big reunion sort of thing. I met them at 14:00 with the intention of moving into the Graduate for the night at 17:00. As it turned out the graduate didn't open until 19:00, apparently they were understaffed or something. Then we discover that the School Days event that night is including the graduate, which was annoying since I thought the whole point is to keep the Graduate seperate for people who don't want to go to the big events. As it happened we found a way to stay there after it got included and so unintentionally I was in school days. I had no interest in going to it what so ever and it amused me that while I don't go to the union at all really this year I was in the only event that half my other friends, who do go a lot wanted to go to but couldn't get it. Hah!

Anyway, a few pints of Strongbow and quite a few pints of Old Rosie (the scrumpy cider they serve up there) later and I have to say I was really quite pissed. It is 7.4% or something stupid and I hadn't really drunk much since the end of september. Well, it was a good night had by all of us, also helped by the fact that the single graduate bar man was my housemate from last year and owes me some money, always good when you don't want to queue up for a drink!

Two weeks later we held the Gliding Club's first ever inter-university competition. It basically involved dropping packs of flour out of a open cockpit glider onto a target on the airfield. Sounds easy enough until you consider the glider is 300' in the air doing 101mph. It was supposed to be us against Loughborough and Coventry but Cov didn't turn up so was just us and Loughborough. It was a a really fun day and certinaly somethig a little different.

One of our members has been nice enough to write out a proper report for our website: Bombing Report and also a short video I put together of all the footage can be seen here: Bombing Video

He has also written up the september course, where we made the big gliding video this year and was generally hilarious throughout: September Course

Right… work.

November 08, 2005

Rainstorms, virtual crashes and a great concert.

Well last weekend's gliding trip wasn't such a great success. I decided to take a trip on saturday rather than my usual sunday as the forecast didn't look very good for the latter. A whole two people signed up for the saturday trip and by friday the forecast for that looked awful aswell so I e-mailed the two members and asked if they really wanted to bother. Niether did and so the trip was cancelled. Of course, saturday's weather was actually quite good so I became annoyed and decided to ask Chris (another gliding club trip leader) if he wanted to make an unofficial trip on the sunday. So he stayed here on saturday night with the intention of us both actually getting to fly on sunday. We woke up at 07:40 in the middle of a storm so went back to sleep… and woke up at 12:00. Ooops. Even so, nothing much missed as the weather was still awful and so we didn't bother.

Instead we played around on a gliding simulator I've found. After he left I tried out some of those things I'd never dare todo in real life. There are some bizarre screenshots of my virtual antics here: http://gliding.oliford.co.uk/simulator.

The rest of the week has been much the same as usual except that, on monday night I went to see the Brass Band and Wind Orchestra's concert in the Arts Centre. Now, you must understand I have absolutely no musical ability myself and don't usually listen to such music but I was convinced (extremely easily mind you, I quite fancied something different) by Andy Ingles and Chris Jackson. I have to say it was excellent and well worth the minescule £3 to get in. I especially liked, I think it was: 'The Gael' by the brass band and the last pieces: 'Windows of the World' by the wind orchestra. It was also great to see Andy conducting. Since I know him mostly from lab last year which is never a place to bring out one's enthusiasm it was different to see him up there obviously enjoying himself (and without any tea!).

Also Gareth and Steph should be mentioned aswell, since I've know them from physics for a few years and didn't even realise they were in the orchestra.