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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.

December 12, 2005

2006 is going to be a good an expensive year for movie fans

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

In line with all the boredom entries, I found another activity to keep myself busy for a while: watching trailers. Actually, I'm not that bored anymore. I spent the day arranging parts for a Rev song and just got back from Morrison's with Jamie Oliver recommended fancy foods [who says that you have to buy this stuff at Sainsbury's?] and will probably spend a fair amount of time preparing a pasta dish whereas I could easily prepare something equally healthy and tasty, but that's not the point.


Since I started my PhD, I've been missing out on all the sophisticated movies that have come out. Don't think it has anything to do with me doing a PhD, it's just an observation. Would have loved to see Sin City, Crash, or Cinderella Man [?], but ended up seeing Charlie..., Harry Potter..., ...Narnia..., and Batman Begins. Supposedly the last one is amazing, but I didn't see it do anything else but follow the general trend of gloominess and realism in fantasy films. It's all good fun though.

This year is going to be different. I hope. Having watched the trailer for nearly every film coming out the next 4 months, I'll set out what I'm going to spend my 4,90 plus 0,25 reservation fee on every week [if not more than once a week].


Brokeback Mountain (with Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger and a girl from Dawson's Creek)
Why? A love story in the Rockies. Somehow I think it will be similar to Boys don't cry, but then less horrible [imagery-wise] and with more mood-catching scenery shots.

Jarhead (again Jake Gyllenhaal, now with Jamie Foxx)
From love we hop to war. Adaptation of a Desert Storm novel written by a former soldier. I find modern day war films more intriguing, if only because knowing that it was/is going on while I'm still alive makes me more part of the story. With Sam Mendes – director of American Beauty – we can expect more than just a barrage of gunfire and explosions.

Breakfast on Pluto (Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson [Aslan], and Brendan Gleeson [Moody])
Actually, I just saw the trailer and am not too sure about this one anymore. It sounded like a lovely gentle film, but looks more like a British [i.e. colder] version of Moulin Rouge. Probably won't be devastated if I have to watch this one at home.

The Matador (Pierce Brosnan and Greg Kinnear)
Great actors, and the film sounds alright, but think I'd rather spend my money on the next one.

Shopgirl (Steve Martin, Claire Danes, Jason Schwartzman)
Okay, I know we can fill up the maths pond with DVDs of horrible Steve Martin movies, but this one sounds as exciting as Holland winning the World Cup. Personally, I think Claire Danes is great, and should be fine in this role as a shop assistant selling gloves, and getting herself into a pickle going out with 2 men, one of them considerably older.

Fun with Dick and Jane (Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni)
You never know with Jim Carrey, and the film doesn't sound too original [partly because it's a remake], but you never know. Won't say no to this one.


Walk the line (Joaquin Phoenix, poster on tracked back blog)
It worked for Ray Charles, and presumably Jonny Cash is just as interesting a musician – definitely more succesful an artist. Phoenix is reliable, so try it if you can get over your hate/fear of country music.

North Country (Charlize Theron)
The premise sounds like Erin Brokovich - a woman in a lawsuit [harassment] that will change some sort of business [mines, this time] and affect all of America. But then there is no Julia Roberts, so probably less forced drama and more story. Oh and any movie with Frances McDormand is worth watching!

Proof (Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, and, oh yes, Jake Gyllenhaal)
Being in a movie with the rising star that's Gyllenhaal is bound to get Gwyneth back in business. Again, insanity is linked to maths, but this time without Ron Howard there is a chance we can stay this side of the fantasy fence. [Honestly, A Beautiful Mind for me is on the pile of, glad I've seen it, now let's move on. For your reference, Memento is on that pile too]

Good Night and Good Luck (George Clooney, David Strathairn)
If not the year of Donnie Darko, this could be the year of Doctor Ross. Every year needs a conspiracy thriller, and ones about journalists against the American government are usually interesting and thrilling enough. To seam with real footage of McCarthy [_the bad guy, read here ;_] the film is shot on a grayscale set. Right, that might not make it sound more appealing, but at least I didn't say it's a historic political drama…

Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman)
Hurray! Another biography historic drama film! Truman Capote and this story of his investigations for In Cold Blood could definitely work, especially in combination with always sublime supporting actor PSH.


Syriana (George Clooney, Matt Damon)
The other Clooney vehicle, probably more successful, as it is extremely up-to-date suggesting what could be wrong with the oil industry. Only my hunger now blocks my excitement about this film.

The Weather Man (Nicholas Cage)
Honestly, I'm not sure about Cage in comedy roles either, but the trailer for this one is beyond hilarious. Also, he seems a natural as weather man.

Transamerica (Felicity Huffman)
Gosh, it seems this year will be the official launch of the 'gay' genre. A new take however, as this time it's a woman playing a transsexual man [that is, a man only one step away of becoming a woman] - one that is told he/she has a son. Anyone who has seen Desperate Housewives will know how talented Huffman is, and with her dry humour, I'm confident this will be a great laugh yet a powerful drama.

Freedomland (Samuel L Jackson, Julianne Moore, Edie Falco)
Three great actors in the final genre not yet discussed. Julianne Moore's being robbed of her car and her son who's left behind in the backseat. Not to sure what the story is about [seems to be an initial accusation of a black kid, creating racial tensions, but then a shift to the only place left to search, Freedomland, an old child leper colony].


Only gonna mention 2 for this month and then I'll stop. First, Rent follows Chicago and The Phantom... with the exception that it's mainly starring the [original?] Broadway cast. It's the year's obligatory musical, and I'm excited that I don't have to wait five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes to see it! The other is Ice Age II: The Meltdown – these seem to become pulp classics, and the squirrel trailers seem to be more exciting than the main features at the moment!

Right then I'll leave you alone. I just thought looking ahead would be better than looking back. Gotta cook my Jamie approved dinner now. Will hopefully trackback as soon as I've seen one of these films!

November 17, 2005

Progress report

It's not going to be as serious as the title suggests though. I've been telling myself and folks at home that I've been working hard lately, so I thought it would be a good idea to track back what I've been up to. Things that relate studying that is.

The first week of November saw the second workshop of the Warwick Turbulence Symposium. After my poor efforts to join in last September, I actually made it to 75% of the presentations. Highlights:

  1. A presentation by Dominic Vella from Cambridge called the Cheerios effect which coincidentally is related to what I may be researching as well. All about how and why particles tend to cluster [I'll let the website explain].
  2. Another chance to see spectacular movies of vortex rings. Very colourful presentation and very clearly explained by Mark Brend. Current research in Warwick's own Engineering Department by Peter Thomas and Mark Brend.
  3. Eberhard Bodenschatz's presentation on Results from Lagrangian particle tracking in turbulence. For Lagrangian particle, read weightless fluid element - basically, you can track 'particles' which just go with the flow, i.e. they're part of the fluid, and find their mean separation. All really interesting indeed, and very important for my research. More info here!

After these meetings I got a lot more excited about my PhD and research, but also realized that just "plankton" might be a bit too wide a subject to study. My supervisor – alarmed by the little progress and the lack of small projects I can actually work on, but also triggered by my interest in some of the problems discussed in the workshop – came to the same conclusion and jumped in to point out 3 problems I could focus on. One involves the coagulation [sticking together] of particles [or algae/plankton] and the resulting sinking; another concerns the movement of bubbles [buoyancy] and the merging and dissolution of them; the last is an analytical problem which for now will be our backup.

On the other hand, my plankton interests were stirred again the weekend after the workshop [4-6 November] as Ali dragged me along to a skills session [pleasantly presented by Casey .] which was filled with biology students. One had to present his press release supposing his research had been successful, and started talking about micro-organisms in water that use photosynthesis. I learned that I should do more with my (Saturday) mornings as you might actually find someone interested in your research! Which reminds me, I've still got to email these people…

The next week was all about Hull. And tracking a book on Brownian Motion [random motion of particles]. Found the book by fortune when the maths library worker made me return 3 books that were 1200 years late [never knew there was a 2 week limit!] and someone else had just returned the much needed book. Hull was found more easily with great directions to the Deep where we met a research student working with a huge basin monitoring sediment movements due to flow. Unfortunately, the basin did not seem to be ideal for our more interesting problem [tracking bubbles] but it was quite exciting to see such a huge installation in action.

Later that day we visited the fluid dynamics lab where my supervisor's colleague and his research assistant had a whole set of small experiments set up. Got to wear goggles and look at water and dye mixing lit by lasers. There's no way I can express my excitement through this blog so I won't try. Let me just emphasize it involved lasers and colours and lots of useful results for my research. Even more useful was their excitement in our plans – especially the bubble problem. They were even so excited that they will build a small scale experiment to check our numerical and analytical results! [Indeed, that means people will depend on me and I should be modelling as I type.]

Unfortunately, I got to a complete standstill after Hull, and needed detox from too much excitement about this PhD project. If you read this blog regularly, you might understand that working every day for 2 weeks in a row is highly unusual [to be honest, I doubt I've ever properly worked more than 4 hours each day for more than two weeks in my entire academic career. Not sure if I should write that on my blog. Though the good thing you should note is that now I am reaching this state! Progress people! That's what counts!] Also, there was a Rev weekend in Bristol to attend. I did bring the book on Brownian Motion in an attempt to keep the work going - and actually read and enjoyed... and understood some of it – but my supervisor didn't buy the excuse on Monday and metaphorically kicked me butt hoping I'd start modelling.

It's Wednesday night now, and where am I? I've felt even more useful this week getting to know the other Fluid Dynamics students better and offering them help [no, I'm not really sure how I can help someone who has studied maths here for 4 years, but I thought the gesture could mean something]. Turns out my UC knowledge might be of some use, as everyone is suddenly talking about Hamiltonians and classical mechanics, for which I have a wonderful book sitting on my shelf. Which reminds me I should bring it to campus and offer it to those in need. Also had another great day in the library finding 3 useful books, one of which must be the biggest book in the world [Computational Fluid Dynamics]. Thank you to all the people supporting me in the effort to attack this literary fitness machine.

I used my Tuesday to find those books and to finish off the last major task for the December workshop (again Warwick Turbulence Symposium). I'm getting quite excited about this conference now, and hopefully I'll be ready for the next improvement: actually talking to the participants and see if I can say something useful.

Then tonight I found new appreciation for the people from MATLAB, who provide us with so many useful and varied resources on the internet, for F R E E ! I found a lovely .m-file modelling Brownian motion of 100 particles scattered around the origin and have already added a force (e.g. buoyancy) making it look like two fruitflies racing to reach the top of the domain. You should have seen my face – happiness all around! Now I've got to make them disappear when they reach the "water surface" and add a few more thousand bubbles. And make them merge when they come to close to one another. And have them in different sizes. And make them dissolve with some (low) rate. And write it all out in C++ [I assume I can make a program function better and run faster in this language than in MATLAB, especially if I have to track 10,000 particles...]. And then I've got my first project finished! Hurray!

So that's what I've been up to this side of November, apart from the Rev stuff and the supervision of freshers. In other news, I've finally tidied my room.

August 18, 2005

Change of Wind

Odd how song titles change when you rearrange the words. On another note, I decided to change the appearance of my blog. Feeling more leafy than blue nowadays.

Does this mean you're gonna write more about your PhD?
Maybe. But then I wouldn't use this blog very often which is a shame coz it's a great thing (not necessarily this blog, but blogs in general, and Warwick blogs in particular).

So then what?
I actually found another way to procrastinate, which will soon enough be combined with this blog. It will give the blog some kind of purpose, and hopefully, if I dedicate a specific amount of time to blog, there will be less scatter of thoughts and more time blocks to work on my PhD.

What on earth are you talking about?!
Current activities between lunch and dinner (tea?) (quite similar to this one actually) follow a pattern like this:

Game of sudoku – moving a piece of paper in an effort to make a room look tidy – check email – move Fluid Dynamics notes closer to laptop in effort to do some work at some point – game of sudoku – check headlines – check email and blogs – walk to Morrison's and buy something we already have – organize emails – glance at notes to see if there's anything I can quickly do before dinner in an effort to have done anything useful – game of sudoku while the TV is on

Invariably my housemates encounter me in the living room watching TV as they come home, thinking I haven't done anything with my day. Given the above schedule (which they know by heart) I can't blame them, but I actually did do some work this week! As I already mentioned in another entry. I'm quite frustrated if you haven't noticed. I also don't like the way this entry is going. Stop it! Anyway…

Proposed activity pattern (between lunch and dinner – this is supposed to be my activity peak of the day):

Collect notes and books to start working – play a game of sudoku (or do something else I'm addicted to which will take 10 minutes) – work (no, really!) – do something nerdy so that I can blog about it later – work (sic) – blog about the nerdy thing I did earlier (maybe while the TV is on)

With 10 minutes on sudoku, and an estimated 40 minutes on blog and similar web activities, that leaves me about 4 hours to work! Not just in a week, but every day! All the great research I could do…

EDIT: In the preview I noticed that the proposed plan doesn't include a trip to Morrison's. Do not worry, I will still eat. It's just that my housemates kindly suggested I suspend my daily excursions because of the products I bring back. Specifically the Kia Ora mixed fruit squash won't make it through their throats. I might still go to buy bread though. Which will cost me another 30 minutes. But I can alternate it with blog entry writing. Oh the possibilities. Somebody save me!

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