All entries for April 2005

April 28, 2005

Listless Labs

…well, another long day.

Since Tuesday's head-bashing lab session, we really had to get down to it and write up our lab report properly, duff results or no. So this took out all of Wednesday – and I'm not kidding. The day went something like:

9 – drop into MC
10 – 1 Doing lab work
1 – 1:30 Lunch
1:30 – 4:30 Doing lab work
5: 7:30 Brass Band
8–9:30 doing lab work
10pm – Home

Ah well, at least lunch was good (except at South Central I somehow managed to receive a bagette with prawn filling instead of lemon chicken. It's a tough life having an accent like mine.)

Today was a bit better, since I actually got some revision done – complete with the comedy moment in the library when someone answered their phone in the silent study area and proceeded to hold a conversation at normal speaking volume.
Ok that doesn't sound exciting, but with the exams coming round I get very stressed if I don't manage to revise, such as happened on Wednesday. More lab work ensued as well, but we've been rescued this evening by an epiphany on Oli's part – he has fixed a bug in our calculations that were throwing our simulated results off! Now they more or less agree with our experiment. Hurrah! Just as well, since it's due in tomorrow…

As an experiment (and no, this isn't interesting either – I can't seem to think of anything interesting to say in my blog at the moment) I bought some decaf tea today for the first time. This is part of my drive to consume less caffeine on the basis that it's probably not doing me any good at all. My fondness for hot drinks though is likely to be permanent hence the decaf experiment. Lets see how it goes…

April 27, 2005

Tenacious Tuesday

Well, today hasn't exactly gone as planned.

It was all going so well this morning, too. I was on campus for 9am, into the library (after a brief detour via the MC), and armed with a flask of tea to boot. Although, this flask was empty by 11 – I guess I always need a bit of a boost in the mornings. What's more, I was actually understanding the subject I was revising, a rare event indeed these days.

It all went wrong of course, when I bumped into Jizz, who happens to be one of my 3rd year lab partners. As it happened, he was off to meet my other partner, Oli, where we were all supposed to be trying to finish our report. So off we went.

Unfortunately, this session consisted of bashing our heads off a brick wall. Lets explain: We've done the experiment, but our results are just wrong. But that's not the problem, results are wrong all the time in experiments. The problem is we literally can't find a reason why. We've checked all the sources of error, tried to think of anything that can account for the discrepancies. No joy. It makes no sense. To give you an idea of the sort of thing we're talking about, one of our measurements was of slit spacings in a collimator. Experimentally we get 3.7, when we should get 3 (that's in mm). We could account for this if say…the tube was 0.5 meters longer than we measured it! For a 2m tube you can consider this unlikely…

…and most of the errors are like that. Oh dear. And our handy computer simulation not only disagrees with our experimental results, but with the theoretical ones too! And it's all due on on Friday. So the point where Lesley walked into the lab to borrow the lecture notes from one of my courses didn't really catch me in the best of moods (sorry Les!).

Following that was the termly MAP meeting at 5, time for a Costcutter dinner (following on from a Costcutter lunch, no less) and back to the library to make up for all the time I wasted in the afternoon in the lab. By this point I think I had rather overdosed on caffeine, but still, I got some work done.

So it's now just gone midnight and I really should have been in bed a while ago – but that would require a bit more common sense.

Before I go then, here are the answers to the trivia questions I posed a few days ago:

1) The largest constituency in the UK is Ross, Skye and Lochaber, in Scotland. It's current incumbent is the liberal democrat leader Charles Kennedy (well done Dave!). It's perhaps worth noting that this is technically a new constituency because all the boundaries in Scotland have been changed – there are now fewer total scottish seats).

2) The answer is indeed Ant Edwards (sorry Ant). If you listen very closely to the Highlights CD when it's made, you may be able to hear it :-)

3) The conservative party in fact won one seat in Scotland in the 2001 general election, an improvement of one over the 1997 result. The seat was Galloway, and it was won by 74 votes.

4) Suite No. 2 in F was composed in 1911, but not publicly performed until about 10 years later. Or so says he programme note anyway.

5) Well done again, Dave, Mark Oaten did indeed win his seat originally by a whole 2 votes. His opponent refused to accept the result, so the election had to be re-run. This time Oaten won by about 20,000 votes.

6) And finally, I currently own 4 music society Tshirts. 2 wind orchestra, and 2 brass band. Though I look forward to swelling my collection to 5 with the tour tshirt.

Right, now it's time for bed :-)

April 24, 2005

Arts Centre Tea

A short entry this evening. I just wanted to belabour an old point. The tea they serve in the arts centre is absolutely awful. It's a public arts centre, "The largest of it's kind in the UK outside London", and they can't even make a decent cup of tea. Furthermore, all the metal teapots have an astonishing tendency to leak when you attempt to pour them, quite impressive for a device specifically designed to CONTAIN liquid.
Just to top it all off, the metal teapots come equipped with a metal handle, perfect for conducting heat and allowing you to accidentally burn yourself. Fantastic. And how much for all this? £1.00. Bargain.

I really don't know how they make tea that tastes as poor as that. I swear I couldn't do it if I tried. my mum would be appalled. And she knows a thing or two about tea, I can tell you.

April 22, 2005

The End of a Week

Well, Week 1 has finally come to an end – and thank goodness for that! I haven't managed a blog entry for a while, largely due to the exams I had this week. They were starting to loom rather menacingly.


So, Thursday's joint paper was the excitingly titled Quantum Physics I/Solid State Physics I which a great many people were worried about. Fortunately it was fine overall – though I did put in a hefty amount of revision on this one. I have also discovered the following:

– I can consume an entire packet of extra extra strong mints in one exam.
– I can still use the magic pencil in exams
– Drinking a whole bottle of water in a 3 hour exam is unwise.
– Exams are still rubbish

For those of you who aren't sure what the magic pencil is, let me explain. You're confronted with a physics question. Say, for example it involves a lot of rearranging, perhaps some integrating or differentiating. It's quite complicated, but fortunately your examiner has been considerate and given you the final answer you're supposed to get to. (ie. "Show that the minimum energy of the system is given by…........."). You work through the problem. Then you look at the answer given and find that you're answer doesn't match. You then take out the magic pencil and alter your working until it does! Or if you're really desperate, you decide that your answer must be equivalent to the one written down on the exam paper and so write down the correct answer on your sheet.

So, on to Friday's exam which was the slightly different Physics in Medicine/Weather and the Environment combined paper. Despite sounding much easier this didn't go so well. Medicine turned out all right in the end, but Weather was moderately disastrous. It seemed all the stuff I knew how to answer didn't come up – grr. I probably passed, but I wrote so much rubbish on my answer book it's not true. I also made use of the old trick that works as follows:

– Question reads "show that some quantity is equal to some number given these other numbers"
– Look at the numbers given and find that you can combine them in some simple way to get the answer
– Decide this must be the way you're meant to do the question!

…welcome to physics. Understanding? Ha!

In a fit of silliness, I also decided to incorporate the word "Badger" into the titles of all my remaining exams. So to look forward to I now have:

Badgers and Laser Physics
Statistical Badgers
Nuclear Magnetic Badgers
Electromagnetic Badgers
Stellar Badgers
Introduction to Badgers and Elementary Particles
Badger Physics (my personal favourite)
Introduction to Badgers (not to be confused with Badgers and Elementary Particles)

…ok, how silly is that. Very. Well, it's been a long week.

Wind Orchestra

In the meantime, the new exec has been getting busy settling into their new jobs. It's going well so far, and I'm enjoying it myself, but of course there's a long way to go. The only trouble I'm having is that it's sometimes difficult to clear your mind of all the WO related things that are going on. This can be really annoying when you're in the library trying to revise and you realise you've been musing about something to do with WO. Still, that's the nature of the job!


So to finish off this alarmingly lengthy entry it's time for some random and fairly brief trivia questions. I'm sure I had more but I can't remember them all. So here's a couple:

– Which is the constituency with the largest land area in the UK and who is it's current incumbent?
– Which WO member's mobile phone went off during the performance of Pirates of the Carribean in term 1?
– How many seats did the Conservative party win in Scotland in the 2001 election?
– In what year was Suite No. 2 in F composed?
– How many votes did Mark Oaten MP originally win his seat by?
– How many music society T-shirts do I currently own?

…so a mixture of electoral and musical trivia for you. The answers will appear in a little while :-)

Time for a cuppa,

April 15, 2005

Feet of Flames

Writing about web page

5 out of 5 stars

Ok, well, I'm seriously bored and being rather unproductive, so here I am, writing a DVD review. I've not been able to concentrate on work today (no idea why, just one of those days I guess), so here goes:

Feet of Flames, starring Michael Flatley was recorded live in Hyde Park London, July 1998. What is it? Well, it's a dance spectacular, expanded version of "Lord of the Dance". So you might not be surprised to hear I think it's pretty excellent.

It's much longer than the Lord of the Dance though – nearly two hours total timing. It has 30 seperate dances, from the opening "Cry of the Celts" (familiar, perhaps?), to "Breakout", and "Victory", interspersed with some instrumental numbers like "Strings of Fire" and "Whistling Wind", where Michael Flatley demonstrates his abilities as a flautist. A dancer, and a flautist? Controversial.

Having once seen the video of Riverdance (the Dublin original), I saw this on amazon and, at a mere £7, I decided to buy it. I wasn't disappointed. From start to finish it's truly excellent. The dances look original and lively, yet are extremely well polished. Camera work, lighting, and editing are all really good. Not bad considering it's filmed at dusk going on into the night! It also doesn't feel like it's 2 hours long. At the end you wonder where all the time has gone.

The only thing that might be said against it is that the start is a little slow. After the opening "Cry of the Celts" the second act is a rather unremarkable song by the character "Erin the Goddess", who comes back two more times. Following that is the "Celtic Dream" a rather lengthy, slow dance that seems to last slightly too long. But after that it's "Warriors", where the tapping really starts to show it's class. It's all fab from then on.

Michael Flatley and his co-leads (Gillian Norris and Bernadette Flynn) all perform excellently, along with the dancer playing the "Dark Lord" that unfortunately I can't remember the name of. Some people really dislike Flatley because he's so flamboyant. I can understand that – he is a bit over the top, but for me if you're going to be the lead dancer in a show like Riverdance or Feet of Flames I think you have to be a bit like that! Despite that, Flatley himself does take it very easy in the first part of the show, appearing in the first act and then making himself scarce until about the 9th act. I suspect this is because he's saving himself for some gruelling solo routines later on. Although he can still tap mightilly impressively, you suspect watching him that he's finding it more difficult than he used to. In fact, my mum relates a story she heard that in between dances he had to sit with his feet in buckets of ice! Whether that relates to this show or not, I have no idea… The Dark Lord for example, seems to find his tapping easier. Whether that's because his routines are easier, I don't know. But still, anyone who can do 35 taps in a single second deserves much respect!

So, if Michael Flatley doesn't put you off, you'll enjoy this. My two favourite routines in the show are the two "Siamsa's". The first one is the best – it has great music, great choreography and is full of energy throughout. Bernadette Flynn also does some excellent solo performances as the Irish Coleen (or something), my favourite one being round about act 14 where she does a solo dance full of taps. It's the quality of the tapping all round in this show that makes it something else.
The other co-lead, Gillian Norris also does well playing the seductive "Gypsy". She doesn't smile very often, it seems, but that could be an intentional part of her on-stage character.

As night falls properly, the momentum of the show keeps going, until after another confrontation between the Dark Lord's Warriors, and the Lord of the Dance's Warlords in "Hell's Kitchen" and "Dangerous Games" (featuring a heroic intervention from Flatley), eventually we end up at the familiar conclusion of Lord of the Dance, with "Nightmare" and after an amusing "Duel" between Flatley and the Dark Lord, "Victory". But the show doesn't end there. There follows a seriously impressive solo routine from Flatley (though it looks painful to be honest!), followed by the finale "Planet Ireland" by way of an encore. The ending is a slight anticlimax to be honest, but that's a small complaint on my part.

So overall, it gets 5 stars from me. I've watched it several times already, and will probably do so again to avoid revision. Well, actually, I've lent it to Lu, so I'll have to get it back from her first :-)

It retails on Amazon for £5.97. Buy it!

April 11, 2005

Monday Mutterings

Hm, haven't blogged for a little while. I suppose I haven't had much inspiration for the last week or so – largely due to not doing anything interesting! I'll shortly be heading onto campus and to either the Learning Grid or the Library. Am I motivated? No, but it has to be done.

I never was one of those who could pass exams with a minimum of revision. Some people ask me how long it takes me to revise a subject. Well…from the day I start it til the day of the exam, usually. I can't revise a course for 3 days and then say "right, done that one. Next!" Doesn't really work. Nor am I disciplined enough to stick to a revision timetable, so I don't bother making one up. Ah well :)

Went to see Grimethorpe yesterday at Symphony Hall, as part of the Brass on Sundays thing. They weren't bad, I guess :-). Ok they were amazing, and we had pretty good seats – in the centre, at the back on the ground floor. The best thing was the relaxed attitude of the band…due partly to their conductor's light-hearted public speaking. Damn, I wish I could do that. But with an accent like mine there's only so much you can do…

I've missed the Edinburgh Chess Congress this year. I must have played in it for the last three years. But not this time. I haven't been playing regular chess in the last year, and I don't have the spare time (or money) to trot up to Edinburgh for a weekend. I've managed a few games roped in for the University A Team (possibly the worst A team in the club history – jeez, I was on it!), usually ending in spectacular blunders and defeat. It's funny, in chess a bad mistake is called a "blunder". Embarrasing, huh?

In my defence I must say I won at least 2 games. Against children. One of them quite a small child actually. Um. Oh dear… :-)

It's a pity though because, unlike in the local area down here, there's quite a friendly atmosphere in the chess scene in Edinburgh. The Scottish Championships this year are going to be held in Oban. It's a tempting prospect, but it's the week after the tour to Germany! Plus paying for a week's accomodation in Oban? Ouch, maybe not. (And don't tell me you don't know where Oban is. Grr :P)

Alas for being a student eh? Empty pockets all the time, and an alarming, ever-growing overdraft. Tsk.

Still, a week more of vacation and then I'll be quite busy enough, I should think. The exams are starting to make me nervous. They always do. Grr…exams.

April 01, 2005

April Arrives

April already? Gosh, where does the time go? Ah yes, I remember, it goes into revision avoidance! Why do I suspect the house may be getting another spring clean this weekend? :-)


I was doing a little music practice yesterday (shock horror!), and after digging around through the pile of music in my euphonium case I found a few very old things from school. It made me do a little reminiscing…

The first one was a concert programme from October 2001, at Balerno High School. In the credits it read:

"Brass Ensemble: Alison Hawke, Charles Dalziel, Andrew Inglis"

I remember that concert (my bass part was rubbish and continuous but never mind). Alison went on to sing in the National Youth Choir of Scotland for a while, though I've lost track of what she's doing now. She might be at the RSAMD in Glasgow. Her brother used to play tennis with mine. Small world huh?
Charles (or Chaz as he was generally known), well, I have no idea to be honest. He's not at Warwick, that's for sure. Me and Chaz were two of the guys who sang the solo verses of "The Boar's Head" for Senior singers in our christmas concert in my final year. It's still the only thing I can sing :-)

Which reminds me…Gareth and I made a deal to join Chorus next year. That could be…interesting…

The second piece of paper that caught my eye was a christmas letter from my philosophy teacher, "Mr. R" as he signed it. (Yes I did philosophy at school – very good course). It starts with "Dear Fellow-Philosophers" :-)

I won't quote the whole thing – it's quite long! But it reminded me of our philosophy class. It was probably one of the most interesting courses I've ever done (I shouldn't say, but the school awarded me the first excellence award for philosophy. It's at mum's house somewhere, on a mantlepiece somewhere I guess). Among other things Mr R took a few of us on a trip to London for a philosophy conference. It's not every teacher who'd do that. Flew there and back via easyjet, as i recall – though he had to pick us up at about 04:30 in the morning!

I was also reminded of my old euphonium teacher. He was my only teacher, and taught me for 9 years. I think I might send him a copy of this year's Wind Orchestra CD when it's made…

Anyway, I must go. There's talk of going to Baby B tonight. To B or not to B? That is the question.

Ok, that's not very philosophical.

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