All entries for May 2005

May 31, 2005

On the last lap; don't do a Kimi!

Last exam will be over at or around 4:00 today, and the world will be a slightly happier place! Plans for the immediate aftermath include having a pint or three then working this evening and tomorrow on a big submission for the Formula Student entry – academia may be over, but there's still an international engineering/racing competition to go and win!

On another motorsport note:

F1 testing is being held at Silverstone, just 45 minutes down the road, tomorrow (Wednesday) until Friday. About 7 or 8 of the ten F1 teams will be testing, and entry is FREE to everyone!

Warwick Motorsport is running a trip down there, and if you've never seen or heard a Formula One car in real life, it's an incomparable experience I'd really recommend! Leave me a comment if you've got any interest in coming down for a day in the Northamptonshire sun.


May 23, 2005

Woot, 'n'stuff

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Well that actually went really well in the end! A very maths-based module, but a slightly changed exam format saw lots more descriptive questions, which was excellent for me – a chance to show I understood the course (eventually, after 3 hours' sleep last night and reading 260 pages of maths textbook!) rather than p!ssing about with maths for two hours, without much of a clue what to do with it all. This after being so hopelessly behind at 7:00 last night that I was almost tempted to consider not even showing up to the exam! Together with a decent exam last Saturday – nothing special but it went OK - and a four-day gap to the next one, I'm becoming a fair bit more optimistic. Must keep the momentum up.

Tempting to celebrate scraping through that ordeal by heading out to Top B tonight - but will anybody I know be there? (Yes I'm asking you, my readership!)


May 18, 2005

Tragedy

Writing about web page http://fsae.com/eve/ubb.x/a/tpc/f/125607348/m/16910602521

As some of you know, my fourth year engineering group project was desigining and building a "Formula Student" racing car, which I'll be driving in an international competition in Leicestershire in 7 weeks' time. This competition is an offshoot of the original American competition, where it's known as "Formula SAE" – the 2005 competition starts tomorrow and runs until Sunday.

The link above to an article on the unofficial FSAE web forum is a really horrible story, concerning a minibus of university students from Minnesota State University travelling to the competition in Detroit yesterday afternoon. It was towing a trailer with the students' Formula SAE car in it, the culmination of a year of working a massive number of completely voluntary hours on design, building, analysis, testing, and the team was looking forward to competing against the best in the world. The trailer was apparently caught by a gust of wind, started fishtailing and the vehicle was taken across the central reservation into oncoming traffic. Three students were killed and 5 injured, some seriously. A second minibus from the same University, following behind them, saw the whole thing happen. My heart goes out to these people and their families. RIP.


May 15, 2005

Musical meme

Writing about web page http://www.bentbacktulips.co.uk/archive/2005/05/13/memeified.html

Courtesy of my sister, a meme of musical flavour.

Total volume of music files on my computer
Musicmatch - which is ace - says 2666 tracks, 11.4 GB, 178 hours. Not bad, not bad - but then I have my housemate's standards to compare myself to.

The last CD I bought was
Errr, can't remember what it was because I'm not sure when I bought what. It was either The Futureheads – awesome – The Smiths ("Singles") – classic – or the latest Stereophonics – which is OK but not great.

Song playing right now
Long Distance – Turin Brakes

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me
I could have put anything here really! Here are five happy ones that tell you a bit more about me, and bring back some memories.

  1. Ctrl Alt Del - Silverman We discovered Silverman when they played the Union three times, in my first and second years of uni. Awesome band, and none of their songs are better than this. Lyrics, tune, everything: I won't describe it, just listen - it's availble free on the internet in a few places - like here
  2. Don't Look Back Into The Sun - The Libertines Best song by a really, really good band. Reminds me of last summer in a good way, even though it was mostly spent commuting to work in Croydon!
  3. Is This It? - The Strokes Fantastic memories of a six-day engineering field-trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales – an interesting venue, but it was the first really hot week of spring 2003, and it was spent making great friends with wonderful people.
  4. Morning Afterglow - Electrasy Spread addictively through our halls for a couple of weeks in first year – brings back lots of happy halls memories.
  5. The Chain - Fleetwood Mac Not that I own the song, or even an extract from it, but F1 fans will recognise the guitar break in the middle (from the old BBC theme tune)

The five people I'm passing the baton onto
My five most recent commenters: you've won this special prize! That'll learn you.


May 14, 2005

Photos released!

Social last night was cool, hi to everyone who I saw there!

Photos of the band are in the May gallery; photos of most of Warwick's chief bloggers now exist in the ominously named Bloggers Unveiled section, complete with extremely witty captions of course.

The most notable exceptions are Mike and Luke, who evaded me all night, but there were others too, including Chris, Hywel, Rebecca and non-bloggers Steve, Adam and Adele. Hello to you all!


May 13, 2005

Blog social time

This means it must be Crash tonight, too! Woohoo!


May 09, 2005

Election Reflection

Writing about web page /charlesbourne/entry/the_election_results/

Time to share my thoughts on the election results. I think Charles has already said everything I want to say about the terrible turnout and awful representation generated by the current system (I may divorce myself from the final sentence, which strays a little away from my point here).

Surely some sort of improved representation system is in order. The major benefit of the current system, of course, is that each small constituency is nominally represented by an MP reflecting their majority view. But when politicians are expected to tow the party line on so many occasions on national policy issues, the ability to have some sort of influence on the national makeup of the decision-making executive is surely vital for engagement and true democracy.

Many suggestions have merit; my own (impractical) preference would be to completely transform the House of Lords into a fully elected House, whose makeup is determined by the general election results (or perhaps in a seperate poll).

Incidentally, I am somewhat of a traditionalist and used to staunchly oppose reform of the Upper House. However, given that Tony woke up one morning a couple of years ago and decided to change the constitution without thinking about it (cf. the announcement that Lord Irvine had been the last ever Lord Chancellor, only to find he'd actually promoted his old university flatmate Charlie Falconer to that position), we're a long way to change already. The current system is to have a small number of hereditaries, and the rest (effectively) picked by the PM. I saw a piece of pro-PR propaganda which made me think a bit: the only two countries guaranteeing "tribal leaders" (as it termed them) a seat in the national legislature are the UK and Lesotho. So let's complete the reform, rather than leaving the House as a Tony's-mate-ocracy, and get people more able to have a say in who runs the country.

My previous article about www.makemyvotecount.co.uk.

Other than that, I thought the actual result was possibly as good as it could have been for democracy as a whole.

Labour – if public services really are mid-reform, they require stability. Labour has a big enough majority that the general thrust of its policies will be continued – in many ways this is good for industry, as it at least means some continuity. With a smaller majority, the party won't be able to force through poorly thought-out (or unpopular) legislation so easily.

The size of the reduction in majority surprised Labour slightly, which is good. A majority of 80 (which would still be a loss of 80 seats!) was expected and would have been met wih a shrug of the shoulders and the same old arrogance. The extra reduction may shock the party into listening to the electorate for the first couple of weeks of the new parliamentary term.

On the other hand, the majority is still large enough for the Government to carry out some meaningful work. It may well mean a drift to the left – concessions required to Labour backbenchers – which will serve to highlight the differences between Labour and the Tories (there are some really!) and, in other debates, between Labour and the LibDems.

LibDems - benefitted a lot from protest votes against Blair and/or Labour. More than any politician I've heard willing to claim anyway. This brings two conflicting possibilities for the next election, depending on the make-up of each particular constituency:

  • More people will see the party as a realistic choice and will be more likely to vote for them, instead of going for Labour as an anti-Tory vote
  • People will actually investigate LibDem policies and politicians instead of voting for them as a generic easy-option third party.

Conservatives – arguably had the best possible result, long-term. They had as good an election as anybody could have predicted, got rid of Michael Howard and won nearly as many votes as Labour nationally. They've now got a chance to reform the voting rules that led to Howard being chosen over Clarke or even Portillo, to unite as a party the way they started to in the last 12 months and to rejuvenate their public image.

Meanwhile, with the Conservatives in opposition, Labour's spending problems will come home to roost. £100bn of public spending (as opposed to the predicted £12bn), a pensions crisis (that really isn't too much of an exaggeration) and massively uneconomic public spending (a 40% increase in tax take since '97, for single-digit output improvements) will continue the growing dissatisfaction with Labour among economically savvy voters. Taxes will have to go up, and up. Bills like ID cards and the Terrorism Act will be either watered down or forced through against great unpopularity if they are not to fail. Depending who the Party chooses as leader, the Conservatives could well be in the fight at the next election.

Economically, as you can tell, I'm to the right of Labour, but left of the Conservatives. Socially I'm probably left of Labour, judging by some of the policies I named in the last paragraph. Either way, and whatever your policies, you have to concede that the current make-up of parliament isn't too bad for the prospects of democracy and progress over the next four years.


May 07, 2005

Formula One ban – BAR's side of the story

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

One for the F1 fans, the procrastinators and/or the technically minded.

FIA's 'Statement of Case'

BAR's Submissions in evidence to the FIA Court of Appeal

Anybody judging BAR on what seems like a clear-cut, almost ludicrous case should first have a look at their technical submission, linked above. Do read at least some of it – it's 103 pages long, but the first 11 or 12 summarise their case in full.

BAR's system was neither secret nor illegal (this is not disputed by the FIA). The team's main contention is that it was impossible for the car to run with less than 5 kg of fuel in the accumulator, which is separate to the main tank and an integral part of a primed fuel system. The accumulator normally runs completely full, pressurised at 0.5 bar gauge, before being boosted to around 50 bar in the fuel feed line to the engine.

The technical submission includes telemetry data from the end of the first stint of the race, where Button's accumulator suffered a pressure drop-out twice as they pushed the car to run one extra lap before pitting: this was with over 5.3 kg of fuel still in the car.

The weight of fluids such as oil, water, fuel contained within the fuel lines, etc. is included in a car's minimum weight – no team asked to drain fuel from the tank for weighing purposes has ever been required to also drain the fuel lines or indeed accumulators, even when they have been found to be close to the 600 kg limit. (The FIA, incidentally, was believed to have been acting on a tip-off from two ex-employees of BAR).

This would be an extremely crude way of cheating were it genuinely the case. ATL, which makes fuel cells for most of the F1 grid, confirmed via email (in the appendix) that there was nothing unusual about the BAR system. I've heard from a friend with links to BAR that ATL has been extremely busy in the last 10 days, manufacturing new fuel cells for three other teams ahead of this weekend's race! BAR prepared formal protests against 6 other cars after the race at San Marino, but did not submit them because the stewards decided to take no further action against BAR on the day.

Incidentally, FIA technical delegates saw the fuel tank internally and externally at each of the two previous Grands Prix. In Bahrain, Button's pressure regulator was changed under parc ferme conditions (i.e. with an FIA delegate watching the procedure) and in Malaysia, FIA delegates asked to inspect BAR's spare fuel tank. In neither case was any objection raised.


May 06, 2005

Election results

Let's see how awake I remain tonight – not sure whether I'll be bothered to keep up with this, but here's a quick attempt at a 'live' blog of the results. Feel free to comment with your own opinions as we go along!

Perhaps I'd better start by saying that, although I don't disagree with some of Labour's broad sentiments, I think British democracy desperately needs a greatly reduced majority.

22:40 – Labour, supposedly, is a little nervous and concerned about exit polls and the like.

22:44 – Sunderland South becomes the first to declare. It goes to Labour, as it was always going to. Before the result, a BBC pundit claimed that the exit polls (not looking great for Labour) would be confirmed if the Labour candidate received 19,500 votes – as it turns out, he only got 17,900: a 4% swing to the Conservatives. Maybe a bad night for Labour?
Congratulations to the Monster Raving Loonies for getting 149 votes, although this was about 12% of the BNP's toll in that constituency.

23:02 – Wish I was taking screenshots: gotta love the BBC's graphics – battlegrounds, swingometers and even an army of spray-painters on the banks of the Tyne!

23:08 – Talking to the Lord Chancellor, a.k.a. Tony's old flatmate (to whom the PM actually meant to give a different job before realising he couldn't instantly change the constitution on a morning's whim). His only contribution was to point out that "Tony Blair" was in fact John Culshaw. Yes Charlie, that's what the caption said, well done chap. Other panelists: Anne Widdecombe, some LibDem woman (I suppose) and…. Ian Hislop! Woohoo!

23:12 – Higher turnouts widely predicted – good.

23:15 - Scotland: New boundaries mean that 72 seats have become 59 in Westminster - excellent. The West Lothian question is something that's annoyed me for a long time, and is in fact the only reason Tony's foundation hospitals were voted through. The new boundaries mean that nobody's quite sure which way some of the constituencies will go. Tories looking to win back some seats up in Scotland.

23:25 – Labours take Sunderland North. Labour loses some share again (9% fewer votes – a 5% swing to the Conservatives, exceeding that shown by the exit polls) – probably with Labour voters switching to LibDem or other.
Shout out to the BNP's female, Asian candidate in Sunderland North…

23:36 – Jeremy Paxman to Boris Johnson: "This is the most pathetic argument I've ever heard!" Boris Johnson, we love you! (He was claiming the fact that this result may not be "a complete landslide" represents a victorious election for the Conservatives).

23:39 - Everybody agrees with one another that Charlie Falconer is a tw*t. Oh, and that postal voting has been horribly mismanaged and some serious issues ignored. The Lord Chancellor on the defensive was massively out-argued.

23:45 - DECAPITATION In which LibDem strategies against Conservative frontbenchers was discussed

23:50 – Talk of the first black Conservative MP, due to win Windsor by a landslide (as it's such a safe seat).

23:54 – All this talk of protest votes and tactical voting (I'm thinking particularly of those against the Conservatives) – and yet tonight, or tomorrow, Labour is going to win a large majority and claim to have been given an overwhelming mandate for every policy that has been mentioned at any point during the campaign or indeed the last four years.

23:58 – The fourth result in the night, and the fourth showing a significant swing towards the LibDems.

00:02 – Ken Clarke to Paxman: "I find your exit polls very boring". Yes. Blunkett: "Tonight is all about how many [middle-England seats] we can hold on to". Then John Culshaw, again, this time as Bush. How dull.

00:18 – Barnsley Central – Another 9% loss for Labour (which still comfortably won), another significant gain for the LibDems, another non-move for Conservatives.

00:28 – Charles Falconer talking about the current electoral system. "The way the seats will fall is actually more representative of national opinion than the number of votes cast". What an out-of-touch fool.

00:31 – Dennis MacShane (housemate's constituency of Rotherham) returned with +7% of the vote to LibDems, +7% to BNP, -4% to Conservatives and -11% to Labour. Similar story in Vauxhall and the other seat they just announced.

00:38 – Putney: Conservatives overturn a 2,000+ majority to re-take a Labour seat (won in 1997) – a young, female candidate. New majority of 1,700. The first non-Labour seat of the night. Another 9% vote-share loss for Labour, and a 6% swing towards the Conservatives.

00:50 – First LibDem seat (Sir Menzies Campbell). Meanwhile, in Southport, UKIP gained twice the number of votes (400ish) of Veritas (200ish)!

00:56 – Bob Marshall Andrews, Labour for Gillingham, predicts he will be voted out. Speaks of "a haemmorage of Labour votes" but says Tony might be pleased to see him go – obviously a famous rebel! Also in the news, John Prescott (whose middle name is Leslie – who knew?) stiill can't speak English.

01:02 – Sheffield Brightside: Blunkett back in, with a majority reduced by 3,000. Heckled in his speech.

01:10 – Torbay is still LibDem, despite a greatly reduced majority (over the Conservatives). Jack Straw holds Blackburn (of course) with 17,000 votes, but BNP got 2,200. They only came in 4th but still worrying.

01:36 – Conservatives doing well, LibDems doing well where they're against Labour and not well where they're against the Conservatives. A few recounts going on – quite a few places where it'll be close!

01:47 – Varied results all over the place, which keeps life very interesting. Important question though: is anybody still reading this?

01:59 – Teresa May holds Maidenhead, doubling her majority over LibDems to 6,000. So much for decapitation.

02:03 – Nick Griffin, leader of BNP, got 4,200 votes in Keighley (9% of total in the constiuency). Meanwhile, in Bleinau Gwent, Labour's selected candidate was massively defeated by a Labourite in a row over all-women selection lists. This in the massive Labour stronghold fomerly held by Nye Bevan and Michael Foot. Conservatives take Ilford North from Labour.

02:17 – Congrats to the 3 chaps in Sedgefield (Tony B's constituency) who each got less than 100 votes, one of them managing 17. Seventeen? My family's bigger than that! Interestingly than one of the other independents, Reg Keys, the man whose son was killed in Iraq, won over 4,000 votes. A very strong indicator of strength of feeling over the war, which will be glossed over by pointing to an overall election victory. I'm not a fan of Tony/Labour's new line "the voters have spoken: they want a Labour government, just with a smaller majority".

02:33 – Two Labour MPs, Steven Twigg (who beat Portillo in '97) and Oona King (who is up against George Galloway) both looking very likely to have lost. (Yes, Twigg did lose). Also it was good to see Ian Duncan Smith effectively saying "let's be a less narrow, less right-wing party".

02:49 – Footage of a great speech by Reg Keys (see 02:17), who finished high enough to be able to make a speech after the returning officer's, after Tony's, but before the candidates were allowed to leave the stage. Many cameras trained on Tony's very uncomfortable face.

02:55 – Coventry South, including our university and most of its Coventry student areas, held by Labour. Not a surprise, but worthy of note, just for the record.

03:18 – Seat changes to date: Labour -23; Conservative +15; Lib Dem +6; other +2. 413 seats declared so far. Considering getting some sleep!

03:49 – OK, I'm not in bed yet. Kilroy did disastrously with 6% of the vote in Erewash. Thought I'd hang around a few more minutes to see Labour win its 324th seat and hence, mathematically, Number 10. However, results have slowed down a lot since then, so I may have to give up.

04:00 - Final thought. Labour - 35% of the vote, but will win 55% of the seats. The previous record low vote for a government taking a majority of seats was 40.2%. It's additionally likely that turnout today will have been very low, possibly higher only than 2001 (which was the lowest since 1918). Thus the new Government will have been voted for by only 25% of the electorate. www.makemyvotecount.co.uk.

I think that's all from me. Goodnight, feel free to bombard the comments box and keep the post going.


May 02, 2005

May already

Warwick Motorsport took part in the Oxford-Cambridge Varsity kart race at Daytona Milton Keynes today. Awesome circuit, good result (we got 2nd, and I set 2nd fastest lap of the day) and brief carefree happiness.

Now I'm sat here having slept for 30 minutes at 6 a.m. today, and 20 minutes and 4 p.m. I'm about to go to bed, but got my final group project presentation tomorrow: 30 minutes' presentation (6 of us speaking, so that's fine) followed by 20 minutes' Q&A. Wish me luck.
Sleep time.

After that I can think about worrying about exams – how is it May already, my last month, probably ever, of academic worry? – argh.


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