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December 06, 2006

My first publication

Right. So it’s got nothing to do with maths. And it’s not under my real name. But something I wrote got published in yesterday’s Guardian. Hurrah!

A few weeks ago, the Guardian invited readers to join in on its new Arts blog to discuss the world’s must see works of art. In between all the pretentious comments on the elitist/racist (read Western art biased) nature of the original list, there was room for constructive discussion.

So I thought of which works of art have made an impact on me, and then I remembered the piece that makes discussions about composition fun: Rubens’ Descent from the Cross. I wrote about the original (see below [1]):

Possibly not his best, but still magnificent and in its original setting. The weight of the task at hand fills the entire picture.

Rubens Real

This actually made Jason laugh, as I made it sound the painting was a bit rubbish. What I didn’t write was the fun you can have playing with this picture. If you can find diagonals in a composition, they’re probably there for a good reason! See what happens when you flip the image:

Rubens Mirror

You’ve just created Ascent of the Cross!

1 Original picture taken from exittoart

July 13, 2006

A super good day

Today was a super good day. Although I did not see five red cars in a row, I have been very lucky in not being run over by buses whilst trying to stop them to let me on. In relation to that, my average bus waiting time this week might even be less than a minute. But about the super good day.

I was on time for my lecture (1). "Lecture?" you say. Aye. Whilst everyone is happily enjoying graduation and the complementary fancy lunches and or dinners with parents, I'm stuck in the zero degree maths lecture theatre, enjoying a Graduate Summer School.

Now, don't get me wrong, for this is fun. We got a notepad at the start of the week and every morning we fill it with notes on turbulence and stochastics and dynamical systems and then add some more notes in the afternoon that will help us understand what we learned earlier. Despite more than half of the information being way over my head (at this moment), it is possibly the best learning experience I've had. Ever.

It doesn't end after the example classes (the ones in the afternoon), as we have actually got reading time scheduled in as well. Great idea for hardly any of the attending postgrads and professors seem to be able to absorb that much information in a day. Unfortunately, my reading time has consumed my spare time in the evening, which brings me to the next happy moment.

I finished my poster (2). My very first postgrad presentation of the project I'm working on. It's not very impressive but it's a start. And I already discussed my work with someone before I even put it up! The ruddy thing was nearly going to be the last nail, as indeed I spent all the time I'd left this week on rewriting our article to fit the information to a poster, just like some of the others that were already there. Then yesterday it turns out nearly all posters presentations I've seen have too much text and I had to cut mine even shorter. Thankfully I was raised not too far from the Neanderthal so I managed, though it did take me an extra day refining the edges.

All the time I spent working so hard in the department this week must have changed my aura, for behold, someone actually asked me for advice (3). And I think I actually did help. Like I helped Ali when some website broke and she had to fix it so I told her to just // the line that was dodgy (but don't tell anyone!). And I was actually interested in his project – not that I'm usually not interested in other people's work, but usually those other people are pure maths postgrads and even with all the good will in the world I can't find a way to understand their work. This guy was working on an applied maths problem. Hurrah!

And then there was new Scrubs (4). And it was good. There was also strudel which was good. I really enjoyed The Curious Incident by the way, though it's not as challenging as I hoped it would be.

May 12, 2006


To give myself an idea that I'm actually making progress, I updated my ePortfolio today. Come to think of it, it sounds like I'm regressing rather than progressing, but I guess the point is to narrow down your research.

In other news, I bought a little expensive notebook (I'm impulsive when it comes to shopping) and thought it was time to start noting things. Mainly because today being a TA was easy as the students got to work with soap and water.

So yes, coleslaw.

Is there anyone on this planet who gets excited by coleslaw?

I found a leaflet for a take–away advertising their latest meal deals. Now, to entice everyone, they have coleslaw as a specially included side dish. Just. For. You.

Now, I have nothing against coleslaw. Apart from the fact that there are a million side dishes around that are easier to make and that taste lots and lots better. And apart from the fact that it's so blatantly a word stolen from the beautiful Dutch language. But I do wonder.

Do you eat coleslaw? And if so, why? Do you have coleslaw cravings? If you can choose between side dishes at KFC, do you actually pick coleslaw? Are you more likely to go for my take–away's meal deals because they included coleslaw? Please enlighten me!

April 03, 2006

Another Horsedreamer's Blues

4 out of 5 stars

Last week I was the proud owner of some sort of time turner. You know, the kind that Hermione uses at Hogwarts? It wasn't as if I could go back in time to set things straight, but I did get to do work at over 200% efficiency! While my laptop was flying around trying to calculate whatever 100,000 bubbles are up to, I couldn't use it [even using Notepad caused such havoc that the poor thing nearly crashed head first on our IKEA table] so had to find out what life would be like without a computer and all its goodness.

Also, not being as involved in Rev anymore leaves me to find a new hobby. The answer lie in the magazine rack of Costcutters, in the geeky section. Computer Arts is a wonderfully cheerful magazine that treats its subject in a professional manner, without losing accessibility to poor noobs to computer graphics. But it had to wait to be read, because at home I found Graphic Design School, which promised to teach me principles and practices of graphic design.

And so it did.

In principle, design is very subjective, and as such the author encourages us to experiment a lot ourselves, and don't take his words as a law. There are however quite a few tricks to learn and a few pit holes to avoid. Some of these come down to common sense – but it is useful to read the reasoning or history behind this "sense" – others are words of caution: design often isn't what you want.

Graphic Design School is a great start if you'd like to get into design. It obviously isn't an art course, but it's a good guide and it encourages the reader to get involved. It convinced me to spend the next sum of money I save on Adobe stuff (Creative Suite 2 for "only" £ 346.63 for students – ok, it is quite a save from a near £ 1000!) instead of another bunch of CDs I'll never play.

March 23, 2006

He's Misstra Know–It–All

Someone got a bit annoyed by the stupid Tubthumping entry being at the top of my blog for the past 2 weeks. Hence this.

Saturday 4 March

We had a concert with Revelation. It was beyond amazing! We had some great new talent singing solos, and none of the conductors ever stopped smiling. I even managed to keep the speeding up potential at bay in Khumbaya! I actually only sang for half the concert, as a poor diet didn't give me enough energy to blast throughout the performance. As a result, the encore turned into a comedy act, where I was supposed to get the audience to make some noise, with hardly any more than radio scatter of a voice myself. Ah well – that's what makes it all the more fun! Hopefully the CD will come out soon…

Sunday 5 March

My culinary skills have extended and now cover french toast. No single bit of egg shell in the mixture! I yet haven't managed to expand on the meal like I've done with pancakes [cheese and sugar and syrup. Try it!] but I think Nikki, Jenni, Hayley, and Mike enjoyed their breakfast regardless.

Monday 6 March

Honestly, I've no clue what I did this day. It's too long ago to care. I must have done some bit of supervision, and I probably watched Smallville. It might have been this day that I finally got my first remotely useful results out of the C++ model I've been working on this term.

Tuesday 7 March

Revelation cabaret. After 2 years of preparation [I'm sure we discussed it in our first year here] Marta and I finally performed our Dutch-Italian combo of Vivere/Zonder Jou. I almost lost track as people started laughing, convinced they laughed coz I had to sing so low [hadn't really prepared and didn't feel like singing a few As and Bs that night] and forgetting that maybe people here aren't used to hearing me speak Dutch.

Wednesday 8 - Friday 10 March

Again temporary memory loss. Though I know most of this time was dedicated to supervision marking. The powers that be had decided to give the first year one massive assignment to hand in on Thursday. They forgot that I actually have a life and don't like being forced to mark work within 24 hours. Yet, I prevailed, and even took time to meet up with the supervisees to hand back their work and have them hear the verdict through me, rather than some website or their tutor.

I just realize I also discussed the mild successes of the model with my own supervisor, which left me with quite some work to do for the next week. See further on.

Friday 10 March - Sunday 12 March

Pre-WiM. That means before WiM - or before Week in March which is actually a week in April. Plus a day. Yes TP, I almost literally stole your joke.
Anyway – WiM is a Revelation event in the Easter hols where the choirs in the UK come together to rehearse songs from scratch to perform in a concert at the end of the week. It's always great fun, and I've met some great friends in previous years! This year, I'm Arts Director, which sounds really posh, but in Rev leadership means making sure people are happy, so I ended up bringing my team members cups of tea and bags of crisps.

Monday 13 - Friday 17 March

Warwick Turbulence Symposium
_Environmental Turbulence: from Clouds through the Ocean_
Spent the Monday attending 2 out of 4 talks. I was still exhausted from the weekend, and so many thoughts and ideas were running through my head, that all I could focus on was the bright window above the poorly lit presentation screen. I did eventually get my C++ program to work on the maths computers as well [Borland apparently has an immune system that lets poor code stay where it is - after changing it for g++ the code is much faster already!].

Trouble on Tuesday, however. Missed the bus, with the next one not arriving for a lovely 50 minutes – as a result, I missed two extremely relevant talks. Thanks TWM. You have actually inspired me to buy a bike. Better not try and run me over next term! That afternoon, I found out that to get the right distribution over time, I'm going to need to track 1,000,000 bubbles. To track 10,000 bubbles for a second currently already takes quite a few minutes. Lovely – TBC.

Wednesday and Thursday I made some important baby's first steps in my degree. First, I went up to a speaker after his talk to ask him about one of his experiments. He seemed to be in a hurry though, so couldn't get a lot out of him. Next, I went up to someone I'd met in the December conference, and ended up chatting to him for the whole next hour. We discussed: air bubbles, rain drops, collision efficiency, granular motion, sand dunes, PSV Eindhoven, Zenit St Petersburg, Abramovich, Hiddink, Israel and Palestine. In that order. Then Peter came in and we discussed bubbles some more. We're afraid that merging bubbles is not the kind of phenomenon that is useful for further research, but we'll have to see.

We also discussed the C++ model some more, and Peter tried to convince me to learn yet another language, but I'm quite happy being a sheep and use a language everyone uses. Like English. Then he tried to convince me to change one of my algorithm into a big tree and spent an hour explaining it to me. Then we realized it wouldn't be useful since the bubbles rise at different speeds and the tree would have to be cut down and grown each time which probably wouldn't give us any advantage when trying to track 1,000,000 bubbles.

The final step was that I actually asked a question in a seminar! Big deal, you might say. Pot you! Ali would say. It was a talk by someone from Southampton whose articles I'd been reading last year – mainly concerning phytoplankton and turbulence, something I hope to be researching at some point in life – and he obviously didn't have time to discuss every little bit, but I thought he left out something really important. And I even linked my question to another question! If only I'd have worn my name tag.

The Friday was a bit of a let down. I think I went to the most interesting talk of the day [at least most relevant to me] and I spent some more time talking to Peter about bubbles. We decided we could study bubbles merging in sparkling water or whatever soft drink you like, but we'd need all of you to start pouring your drinks into the ocean now if this were ever to be important in air-sea gas exchange.

Friday 17 March - Tuesday 21 March

After two exhausting weeks [yes, I've got bad stamina. And no, this is all relative, of course I know 99% of the world population has got far bigger problems than I do, and don't get a lie in] I thought it to be time for a holiday, and arranged a weekend of fun in London.

Actually, it was Pat's birthday [St Patrick's Day] party on Saturday and he suggested a long time ago I should stay till Monday for London Revelation's rehearsal. I thought I'd add Friday in to work on a song for Rev with Dan, and meet up with Frank as well while there. And so we proceed.

Euston -> Euston [it was too busy Friday 7pm] -> Euston Square -> Moorgate -> Tooting Bec: Dan's house -> Camden Town: Underground. Good night out. Though all 5 layers I decided to wear smelled of smoke afterwards. Night bus back was ok until some guy thought I was someone else, namely someone that gets all the girls he wants [spot the sad false assumption] and gets his beep beeped [or smurf smurfed] whenever, wherever. But no. Then he sat down. And 5 minutes later started muttering obscenities in my general direction. So Dan suggested we sit downstairs.

Didn't get anywhere arranging the song on Saturday. Spent two hours deciding what key to put it in, then thought it best to keep it as it was. It needs some serious work to make it vaguely interesting for the choir though… Went to some burger place with the best burgers within some radius which couldn't have been too far, because despite the obvious quality ingredients, I usually enjoy a Big Mac more than the overdone piece of carbon I got on my plate. Ah well. No tube stations this day. Pat's party was amazing – possibly the best party I've been to. Lots of drunkenness with lots of things that could have ended badly, but in the end were just really funny. Despite earlier statements that no one would sleep in the dance floor room, 7 of us did, and we thought we were ok the next morning, until we found out in the hall way that an alcohol percentage below 70% in the air was possible.

Sunday got more tube action again: Clapham South -> Tooting Bec: Dan's house to do nothing, really -> Bank -> Aldgate East where I met Frank despite his phone being stolen and mine out of battery. Had a lovely alternative roast and listened to Charlotte Church and saw his fun loving housemates again. Chats involved lots of Dutch speaking and future foreseeing. No night time bus this time, just the tube back to Pat's.

Monday involved me and Pat going to Brixton, testing if it really is as exciting and interesting as the buzz makes us think. But no. It's just Coventry's Indoor Market. But then outdoors. And with lots of Afro-Caribean music and rhythm. And more smell of wee. But we did walk down Electric Avenue. And I did buy a gospel CD. And a kitchen sink drain thing that stops the rice from going down. I also got shouted at by some Jamaican "asking" me if I was with de Bri'ish or de Irish man – at this point I realized that maybe I should leave my bright green coat at home next time, as it seems to be giving me the wrong kind of attention. No one got hurt, however, so we went -> Green Park -> Leicester Square to see the Photographer's Gallery which was a tad bit dull but had good lemon cake and then we went to try and find Fopp in Covent Garden but it wasn't there. Instead, we got lost in the Seven Dials and found Fopp. Then we had to help Pete and his brother [or Richard and his brother] but they didn't understand my directions:

Cross the road at the station, then take a left into Short Street [actually called Short Gardens or something] then there's a map, or you end up at a roundabout thing where you'll take the road at 1 o'clock, at the end of which you'll find Fopp.

Apparently analogue clocks don't help in directions. Bought Innervisions [it's good!] and went to a restaurant where they served rijsttafel and I got excited. It's Dutch. No more boring stuff happened and then there was Rev!

Silly enough, there's no official Revelation rock-gospel choir in London [bar Royal Holloway - which is a lifelong journey away from the city], and they're trying to change it. The choir needs to be affiliated to a university to be an official part of Rev, but in London, it needs at least 20 students from 4 different colleges to sign a form if it is to be a student society. Sigh. But the workshop was good. Learned a new song and some interesting approaches to old Rev songs. Plus, it was good to sing with Dan, Pat, Pete, Kate, and Jenni again.

So we went back on the tube, making the Northern line my most visited tube line. Must have spent 0,0001% of my life on that line now! Tuesday, it was time to say goodbye with one more trip on the Northern line to Moorgate to have lunch with Dan, Pat and Kate where Kate demonstrated the goodness of work for a charity organisation: casual dress.

And then I went back to Cov and then I suddenly had lots of emails that were of no interest to me and then I went to the pub and then I slept and then I downloaded lots of research articles and then I arranged more of the song and now I finally finished this entry.

He's a man

With a plan

Got a counterfeit dollar in his hand

He's Misstra Know-It-All

January 30, 2006

Question time

Last time I used C++ was quite a while ago, and I need help. Serious help. I built a simple but wonderful program in MATLAB, but I'll need better performance soon, especially as I can't wait for more than 2 years to have it perform operations on arrays with more than 10,000 entries.

So I'm trying to rewrite it in C++, assuming that this more advanced language is more powerful. And forgetting that those lovely simple algorithms in MATLAB such as sortrows, and randn, and variable array sizes are more involved to implement in C++.

So here I am calling the Warwick blogosphere for help. I've got a 10,000×3 array [for instance] and want to sort the first column in ascending order. I'd also like to delete rows without having to rearrange the matrix each time [rows are deleted quite often] and add rows similarly. I'm tired of using Google and and what not, and the book I have is only introductory. If you can help me understand what to do, I… don't know what I'll do, but I'd extremely grateful to say the least!

January 25, 2006

Is there really any need?

I need help with something techie, so I contact techie people. Next day techie people respond, suggesting I should give them a ring to discuss further details, or to go to other techies who can help me out in different way. I don't like calling about techie stuff, so decide to drop by instead with said techie object.

Is there really any need for non techie enquiry person to give me bad attitude for dropping by instead of calling? Really? Didn't think so. You dis-made my day. Thanks.

January 24, 2006

While I was lost

I would have told you about the Wild Party, and how amazing it was.
I would have told you about the meeting with my supervisor I ended up not having.
I would have told you about the trip to Edinburgh.
I would have told you about the ceilidh I danced there, and about how I taught someone else how to dance it, even though I didn't really understand myself.
I would have told you about how I nearly cried in Fopp because of the incredibly low priced CDs, and how I managed to restrain myself and only buy 3.
I would have told you about the amazing pants I got that have bajan green monkeys on them.
I would have told you about the back to back lectures I've just attended. A new Warwick personal record.
I would have told you about my supervisees not turning up because they forgot to tell me they had a deadline.
I would have told you about the book [Bubbles, drops, and particles (Clift, 1978 (2005))] that finally arrived and that will boost my chances upon completing my PhD.
I would have told you about the DAT tape with hours of bubble viewing that arrived as well.

But I couldn't. I was lost. The power of resetting one password. The power of the internet and the time not being able to use it seems to be correlated with the number of meaningful events in your life.

Now I could tell you that I've just attended a lecture that started at 10am. Ten A M. And it's not even for credit.
Now I could tell you that I'm going to read my book on bubbles and learn a lot and enjoy it.
Now I could tell you that later today, I'll visit the Learning Grid and watch hours of bubble footage and enjoy it.

But I've got work to do.

January 14, 2006

The entry I actually wanted to write

I've lived in the UK for more than three years now and have confessed elsewhere already that I yet have to ride a bike on this island. More surprisingly, the apart from London, the places I can be found most of the time seem to be Coventry and, oh yes, the shiny seaside resort listening to the beautiful name of… Hull. No bold typeface. Let alone italics. Just Hull. Two visits [probably more coming] involved Rev. Two visits [probably more coming] involved my PhD.

I've got my second year report to hand in yesterday Monday and I can actually talk about some progress, most excitingly, I can explain what happened in Hull! [Which is why the extension so I could write about the experiment]

I believe as part of the Millennium projects, the city of Hull was enriched with a submarium, the Deep and Hull University managed to make a deal with them and now rent a large room with an impressive basin for experiments. So far, the basin has mainly been used by geologists for sediment experiments [they put lots of sand in it and let the water circulate through the basin and see what effect it has on the sediment, tracking the particles with a clever laser spectrometry system I can't explain - sorry, I'm hardly a mathematician, let alone a physicist], but now the professor and research fellow of the Hull fluids lab have managed to get into the basin's busy schedule and have invited us [well, mainly my supervisor, and I was sent ahead to help out setting things up and just experience what's going on. See live fluid dynamics basically!] to get data for surface waves and hopefully to see some bubbles! [The bubble thing will be explained in a bit]

The Basin

Okay, so I might have called it the fishtank in prior conversations, but it is an impressive construction [no leaks!] about 12 by 6 meters, about 2 meters high. On one side, it has six panels that can move independently and create the waves [the system turned out to have a built in maximum frequency of 1.2Hz - 6 waves in 5 seconds - which seemed justified by the enormous effort put in by the panels to push the water forward] and there is the possibility to divide the basin in 2 for instance to simulate river flow [having the water rotating around the barrier]. Some of it might sound a bit lame, and seeing the surface waves we're looking for are meant to be simulations of open sea, you wonder how much is possible. Well, with 1.2Hz with the basin only filled 70cm a wild turbulent pool was created that I'd rather not swim in [well, if it were a bit deeper] - I've got a nice movie [filmed from below the water surface - which looked really cool actually!] if you're interested. We even saw proper breaking waves! [a wave rolling over as opposed to two waves crashing into each other]

Surface Waves

If anything, it's not in my wallet of knowledge, but at least I can try and explain how they're measured. The idea is that for instance you force the waves at a certain frequency [in this case, 1 or 1.2Hz] and have some sort of sensor measure the surface elevation, which will give you a noisy wave signal. Then let a computer program analyze the signal and average over lots of signals and you'll end up with a frequency spectrum. The program will have measured the contribution of each frequency to the wave signal. In this case, you're looking to find the large contribution in the forcing region, and a noisy contribution at higher frequencies that can't be picked up by your sensor.

The sensor will be partly submerged in the water [see photos in experiment gallery. The sensor consists of two sets of wires, one set transmitting a high frequency signal and the other receiving it. The receiving wires will be a certain distance apart, which defines the highest frequency that can be picked up by the sensor, in our case 5mm implied about 12Hz]. The idea is that water has a far higher [insert electricity term here, my guess is conductance] than air, thus when the waves are higher, the signal will be stronger.

Eventually, we measured the wave spectrum a couple of times, and I believe in most cases our measurements agreed with the literature. Hurray! Only when the water was too wild [good for my research, bad for surface wave research] it seemed to deviate.


This is where it gets tricky. This week's experiment was mainly set up to study the surface water [and get used to the basin and it's configuration] and the only further experiment done involved releasing tiny glass bubbles in the water that will float and then lighting them with a laser sheet and hence showing more clearly the surface structure. I think. All on camera, I hope.

Now, all I have on camera is aforementioned film, and with a far more professional camera they took some better lit images of an area where bubbles were frequently created [nearer to the pads and the walls of the basin - mostly see through by the way]. But I also have my memory filled with lovely images of waves crashing into each other and lifting up but then crashing into the water releasing a column of bubbles that would rise but didn't bother too much about the turbulent surface of the water.

Something similar could be seen with dust particles left in the water: they would kind of go up and down in circles, but they wouldn't change their average position significantly. This is all nicely explained by exponential decay of the surface waves [obviously, a flat basin floor creates a boundary condition of zero amplitude for waves there, requiring some kind of decay from waves at the surface] but it helps to see for real. The bubbles showed this same kind of motion in addition to their buoyancy. Also, they turned out to be very small, and they stuck to the surface longer than I expected.


No. It's too late. I'd just like to comment that this is how I store science stuff in my head [or in this case, on my blog]. Don't worry about my report, it will contain far more detailed information and less yatter ["ali" -ism] - mainly coz it has to be 10 pages long, but still. More will follow some point though, as I'm bound to go back to Hull and look at more bubbles for hours in a row on days in a row and not get bored [I kid you not!]

December 05, 2005

Early in the morning

My personal best this year. The first one to blog in the morning! Sitting in the maths common room waiting for an order to help out more. Slowly the visiting professors – workshop participants – come in. It's quite exciting really thinking that I've contacted most of them over the past few months, even though it was mainly giving them travelling info. First talk in an hour or so!

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