All entries for January 2006

January 30, 2006

Geeky Post

I've tried to keep geeky posts on this blog to a minimum and portray myself as a normal well adjusted person but hey i'm ill at the moment so I can do what I want.

My first observation is that if you look at an entry that hasn't been commented on Warwick Blogs writes 'There are 0 comments by 0 or more users'. This is a fine demonstration of the fact that properties we give to elements of the empty set are arbitrary, we could just have easily declared that all the posts on the blog have been made by 15 users, since there aren't any posts there is no contradiction.

Secondly my friends Kady and Bridget sent me my Christmas present the other day which was a calendar. I had struggling with the idea of what kind of calendar to buy, I wasn't particularly keen on pictures of nature and an over the top assertion of my heterosexulity in a calendar of naked ladies might give the impression that i'm a chauvanist who values women only for sex to any visiting pretty ladies (notice the empty set is a recurring theme in this post). What I really wanted was a calendar 'Legends of the Maths Department'. Jeremy Gray would be sure to make an entry because he was a great story teller in History of Maths and because he looks like a pirate, Colin Rourke's sheer enthusiasm and shorts earn him a place, and who can argue against Roger Tribe's insistence on wearing black and getting himself covered in chalk. I think they'd make a tidy profit if they produced a hundred calendars.

Thirdly, is maths becoming cool? Recent films Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind have portrayed mathematicians in a positive light, there are no end of novels in Waterstones about number theorists, and on the TV there's a series Numb3rs and the first episode of Lewis was all about Goldbach's conjecture.

Anyway thats enough geekiness for one day


January 20, 2006

Always Carry Your Harmonica

Picture the situation, you're strolling across a Louisiana plain when by chance you bump into an intelligent and beautiful woman. You strike up conversation and things are going well when suddenly a violent thunderstorm begins. Running for shelter you find yourselves in an abandoned barn, and after you dry yourself you get out your harmonica and begin a rendition of Danny Boy. "Baby" cries the intelligent and beautiful woman, "I never realised you were so sensitive". She then sleeps with you, marries you, and for the next forty years you share a mutually loving relationship in your Barbados mansion with your four fantastic kids. But let’s rewind a little, what if you didn't have your harmonica?

You're wandering through Delaware (tickets to Louisiana all sold out) when by chance you bump into an intelligent and beautiful woman. You attempt to strike up conversation but she is clearly unimpressed by the sweat patches surrounding your armpits. A thunderstorm begins and she reluctantly follows you into a barn, which you share with an old scraggy and extremely flatulent donkey. You try one of your lines, "you know I like to play a bit of blues", before reaching for your trusty harmonica. But wait, you left it at home. "Sure, that's what every loser who wants to sleep with me says", replies the intelligent and beautiful woman. And suddenly you recognise her, she's the granddaughter of blues legend Howling Wolf, clearly you've tried the worst of your collection of piss-poor chat up lines. Embarrassed you make your excuses and wander outside. You are hit by lightning seven times and die an excruciating death.

And so the lesson of this story ladies and gentleman is that you should always carry your harmonica with you.


January 16, 2006

Union Crises, What Would You Have Done Better?

Sorry guys this one is a bit of a beast, I always get carried away when I'm drinking stella.

Our sabbs have come in for a huge amount of criticism over the last couple of months. There have been two big issues which I think it’s fair to say have provoked students into an unusually high level of anger and cynicism about our union.

The first and biggest is the issue of the smoking ban, and the story as I see it goes like this. At the start of the referendum period the sabbs find out that there is going to be a referendum on banning smoking in the union. While some of the sabbs are sympathetic to the idea of a smoke free union they are concerned by the potential loss of revenue. Leeds and Bournemouth have both attempted to implement smoking bans and suffered huge losses in revenue, while neither of these are exact models of our situation they surely cannot be completely ignored. Consequently at the general meeting the sabbs push through a lot of amendments to the motion to make everyone aware that services will probably have to be cut should the vote be successful. The sabbs also commission a full feasibility study at this point. A week or so later students vote in a referendum with unusually high turnout and pass the smoking ban. Another week passes and the feasibility study comes back and suggests that if the ban is to be implemented the union will face crippling losses that will bankrupt it and cannot be compensated with cuts in the budget. Here the sabbs are in a pickle, they are trustees of the union and legally are not allowed to let it go bankrupt. Constitutionally they could not have delayed the referendum until after a feasibility study because they can only stop a referendum if they know it to be illegal. But the students have clearly voiced the opinion that the smoking ban should go ahead. So what would any of you have done in the situation faced by the union officers?

The second is the issue of Boar ‘censorship’. The situation as I remember Mike Britland (the returning officer for the referenda) describing it is that there has always been a rule that referenda and elections must be held fairly, and that since the Boar has a unique situation on campus in that apart from RAW and WTV, who do a brilliant job but don’t reach the same kind of audience, the Boar is the only real source of news, and consequently must be fair in its coverage of the elections. While generally the Boar was trusted to be impartial, it was thought sensible that 24 hours before going to print the editor of the Boar would run any articles relating to referenda or elections past the elections committee to check they were impartial. The Boar did that for an article in the first week of the referenda period, and the article was approved, but in the next two weeks the Boar published articles that were deemed by elections committee to be biased, and the elections group were not consulted. Consequently in elections periods the elections group want to see the whole Boar 24 hours before hand. This clearly inconveniences the Boar, but is it sensible to trust the paper when it has broken the rules in two consecutive weeks and was warned after the first time not to do it again.

Now I’ll accept that I’ve heard these two versions of events from the people that are involved with running the union, and would genuinely like to hear different versions if this isn’t the truth, but if this is how events took place what could the people involved have done differently? My one criticism of the union is that on the smoking referenda very little information has come out about how they reached their conclusions that a ban would bankrupt the union, apart from that I can’t fault them.


January 12, 2006

All the fun of the fair

He entered the internships fair, and he knew this place was his. Thirty seconds down, a smile, a handshake, and he had his first free pen. Another stall, more pleasantries, and this time a pack of mints. Surely with freshened breath nothing could stop him. The room was buzzing and he was working the stalls methodically. “Would you like a brochure sir?” Of course he takes it, but he won’t read it. He’s here for the bounty. More pens, a mug, an alarm clock. In a few days they’ll lie broken and forgotten at the bottom of his wardrobe, but right now they feed him like a drug. Who is he? He’s king of the world, number one, an unstoppable machine. He takes some Pringles but he won’t eat them until later, this is strictly business.

And then he looks up, and the smoke clears. It is as if a dampener has been put over the rest of the room, he hears nobody, he sees nobody, and in a moment of perfect clarity he regards the miniature rugby ball. He knows right at that moment that this is his Everest, his promised land, it must be his. He runs through his action plan, arranging his thoughts as meticulously as a snooker player preparing his shot. But then he locks eyes with her and he knows she is his nemesis. She’s seen a thousand cowboys like him, freebie junkies desperate to feed their habit. Her lips part revealing a row of perfect teeth as she smiles, but make no mistake, she’s not on his side. There’s a voice in the back of his head, “pull back mate, you can take a pen and save face, we’ve got enough toys man.” But he needs the rugby ball. He feels clammy, and he can definitely feel the effects of last nights’ Jack Daniels. “Are all you’re internships in London?” he asks, he’s sticking to his plan, it’s never failed. “Actually they’re in Paris” she replies, “Do you speak French?” She can see on his face that she has him, with a sentence she’s crumpled his dreams, he panics and backs off, knowing that the rugby ball will never be his. Who is he? He’s nobody, nothing, just another guy without the coolest toy at the fair.


January 08, 2006

Houses

Last week Dave and I decided that we'd like to keep our house on Charter Avenue after all and since I was busy doing history i sent Dave to charm the people at Warwick Accomodation. He failed (last time i trust that boy to do anything) because someone had already booked to look round our house, so we set about trying to make our house as unatractive as possible to the people coming to look round hoping they would reject it and we could have it. Ollie vetoed the plan to leave a bucket of urine in the living room to make it smell, so all we could do was open the windows to make the house really cold and rearrange the furniture in the rooms to make them look as small as possible. We also overplayed the smell of burning people at the cremotoriam (we've only smelled it a couple of times).

Unfortunately the people who came to look round accepted the house, so we had to go to plan B and find another house. We then found a house that was nicer than our house and closer to the university. So to summarise we tried being negative and lying and cheating our way into a good house and failed, and then we did something positive and looked for one and we got a beauty. I'm sure there's a moral in there somewhere but it eludes me.


January 07, 2006

Anti–Americanism = Racism

Well having made a controversial statement and put a mathematical symbol in the title to attract those reading the maths blogs I suppose I ought to clarify just exactly what I mean. A few days ago a friend of mine who had just read To Kill a Mockingbird said to me “it amazes me how many great moral books come from such a morally bankrupt society”. I’m not sure if I responded at the time but it niggled at me. To suggest that the US is significantly more morally bankrupt than Britain is quite a bold assertion anyway, but to express surprise that there are moral people in America is just ridiculous.

But this is just one example of how acceptable anti-americanism has become. Britain doesn’t score at all well on the obesity rankings but we Brits take great pleasure in observing how obesity is even more of a problem in America. I have friends on the hard left who, rather than fighting for workers rights everywhere, gleefully welcome news that the poverty gap in America is widening as ammunition they can use against her.

I observed anti-semitism for the first time when on Jailbreak, a couple of people in the queue for tickets turned to a Jew and said to him “it’s a fuckin’ disgrace what you’re doing the Palestinians” before pushing in front of him.

However annoyed we get at Bush’s policies, if we direct our anger indiscriminately towards the American people we will be no better than those racists in the queue at the airport. I think Bush’s election victory was partly because Americans think the world hates them and feel they need a strong leader, if we continue to make them believe this then we will have to settle with presidents like Bush forever.


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