Archive for March, 2007

School of Computing 50 Year Jubilee

March 31st, 2007 1 comment

I spent most of yesterday helping the School of Computing at the University of Leeds celebrate its 50th anniversary. There was a whole programme of events, starting with a formal lunch and the unveiling of a statue to Geoff Cook. This was followed by a lecture, given by Andrew Herbert – a Leeds SoC alumnus and currently director of Microsoft research at Cambridge – and then a reception in the School of Computing’s “Long Room”.

I attended the lecture, which was surprisingly good fun and very informative, even for a relative layman like myself. I didn’t think that a Microsoft employee would be quite so self deprecating and ‘tongue-in-cheek’ about the failings and quirks of Microsoft products and services. Andrew was a good speaker and his enthusiasm for the subject was obvious. His talk was entitled “Why everything I learned at Leeds is now useless.” It focussed on how the subject has changed over the thrity years since he graduated with a degree in computational science. The punchline to the piece was that although the technology has improved byseveral orders of magnitude, the underlying principles and purpose of academic computing are still relavant today.

The reception afterwards was amazing. Free food and a free bar which sported four rebranded ales from the Elland Brewery. In the four hours it was available, the bar was drunk dry – all four firkins were emptied! I have to admit some responsibility for that.

Maths Chris and I left the “Long Room” at about 8.20 and headed to B’s for some dinner (and more drinking seeing as we had managed to acquire 4 bottles of wine…). I was most disappointed to note that most of the circle had bailed the reception – some people didn’t even go to the lecture first!! After some korma at B’s, her friend Ian appeared and we set about the task of getting drunk!

**Blur – twister, cards, trip to Co-op, pizza and red wine. face painting and general tom-foolery.**

I woke up this morning next to Michelle with a raging headache and the phrase, “porn babies” stuck in my head. Fun.


March 30th, 2007 9 comments

While at Sarann’s this week, I got involved in a long conversation about religion and rationalism with Kat, Sarann and Joanna.

I am a Rationalist, I belive in what I can prove. I do not believe in a god because I can define no experiment that can prove their existence independently. This means that I cannot consider myself Christian and live according to the Bible. At this stage Sarann pipes up with “Am I a girl?”, an interesting question as how can I belive Sarann is a girl without any evidence? After some debate on definition, I decided the only way to prove Sarann was a girl was by testing her chromosones. However, I act as if she were a girl without this evidence, so – as Joanna asked – why can I not believe in God existing and live my life according to the Bible without the proof? An interesting point.

I decided that, ultimately, the answer lies in the methodology of the proof process. I can define an experiment that can prove that Sarann is a female, this experiment would have repeatable outcomes that could be verified by any number of witnesses. I cannot say the same for proving the existence of a god. I think, in the end that rationalism is determined by the definitions one applies to a situation. I am rationalist and define my rationalism by saying I choose to belive that a god does not exist because there is no evidence to the contrary and that Sarann is a girl becasue there is no evidence to the contrary. Would it be wrong for the opposite to be true? I.e. could it be rational to believe that a god exists until their is proof to the contrary and that Sarann is a boy until there is proof to the contrary? I think not.

This conclusion has led me to the belief that you can be rational and religious.

Sun, Sea and Sarann’s

March 30th, 2007 1 comment

As some of you will know and the rest of you are about to find out, I have spent the last few days visiting Sarann at her home in Wigton, Cumbria. I had a really great time and enjoyed the fact that I didn’t go near a computer and barely touched my mobile apart from the odd occasion.

I received a text from Sarann at the weekend just gone asking if I wanted to pop over to Wigton for a few days to visit and then drive her back to Leeds afterwards. After some shuffling and a few telephone calls me and Kat decided we would go up on Tuesday and stay over until Thursday so that we could get some stuff in and be back in time for me to get to Barenaked Ladies .

After picking Kat up on Tuesday lunchtime, we headed over the moors to Cumbria to see Sarann. The thought of free homecooked food keeping us from getting too bored on the three hour trip! Wigton is a fairly small town in Cumbria, about 20 miles from Penrith and the same from the coast. There didn’t seem much there to be honest and the off licence even ID’d Kat for wine! Bear in mind that Kat is 22 going on 23 and doesn’t look like a 15 year old!

We spent the afternoon at the beach, playing in the sand, skimming stones and generally larking about. We also had homemade ice cream from a little local shop, it was delcious! We then stopped by Sarann’s dad’s house to feed the cat and get some ideas for stuff to do on the Wednesday. For dinner that night we had the most amazing Cumberland sausage casserole, one of my all time favourite dishes. A few glasses of wine and a few rounds of Marry, Date or Dump and a failed attempt to watch Moulin Rouge rounded off a very enjoyable day.

Wednesday was spent being touristy in The Lake District. We drove down to Thirlmere, parked up and wandered the 4 or so miles to Grasmere. It was a lovely little walk, if a little tricky in places and the weather managed to stay nice for us until we got to a pub for some lunch. After a ridiculously expensive round of drinks we completed our walk into Grasmere, had a look round some great little shops – including Croft’s Bakery, which sells the finest flapjack I have ever tasted. We then caught the bus back up the car then drove home via Dove Cottage, the home of William Wordsworth.

After a dinner of pizza and pasta and a long philosophical debate we finally got drunk! Which took some doing – eight bottle of wine to be honest. The night (or rather morning) ended with us heading to bed following some more in depth conversations on topics as diverse as abortion, rape, sperm banks and contraception!

Thursday was a lie in, we headed back to Leeds about 3pm and I dropped the girls off and headed home to get ready for my gig.

Thanks to Sarann and her Mum for looking after us and making us feel so welcome!

Barenaked Ladies

March 30th, 2007 1 comment

I finally got round to going to see the Barenaked Ladies live tonight. They are a band I have admired for a long time, both for their imaginative lyrics and their uncanny ad libbing skills.

They played a good set including most of their well known songs – One Week, Old Apartment, Brian Wilson, Easy etc and finished off the encore with a tremendous version of If I Had $1,000,000.

Defining the music they play is tough, they manage to combine the originality and musical talent of a singer-songwriter, with a splash of pop and a dash of rock and roll. They are also excellent MCs with the microphones. The band consists of two front men, one singer and one guitarist (although both sing and play the guitar…) and then a backing band of pianist/keyboardist/guitarist/accordianist, a percussionist and a bassist. They seem to have found that sparkle you get when you play with people you love. All in all it was an amazing gig. Chilled out yet rocking at the same time. Funky enough to dance to yet with the rhythm and melody you would expect from an indie style band.

The wonderful B accompanied me and considering she knew of one BNL song, she had a great time singing and dancing.

The evening finished with a few of us in the Packhorse and then takeaway and back to Chris’s place.

VW Polo, a veritable Tardis

March 27th, 2007 No comments

I just fit an A0 (thats 32 times the size of A4!!) drawing board into the back of the Izzy’s VW Polo. This is impressive a) due to the sheer size of the drawing board, complete with fully adjustable stand and legs, b) because I currently have no access to my tools, so I did the whole job with my car ratchet set and a cheap Wooly’s adjustable spanner and c) a VW Polo is a small car, it is the second smallest class of car!

If you are looking for a small, cheap city hatch and you value reliability, value for money and the ability to carry both passengers – the Polo fits 4 passengers + driver in quite nicely for small to medium journeys – and cargo then I would say look no further than that Mk4 Polo, the one with the square headlights (approx M reg – T reg).

Those of you that know me will be aware I am slightly biased as I do in fact drive a car that fits the description above, but I can truthfully say that I don’t think I would change it. It does the best part of 50mpg, top speed of about 100mph, fast enough for what I will use it for and fits into most parking spaces. I could be tempted to get the 5 door version in the future, but i would lose out on re-sale value and door size – I am a big fella I like big front doors!

All in all, it was a very rewarding experience. I am quite looking forward to the three hour journey to The Lakes this afternoon.

Another night of shenanigans

March 27th, 2007 1 comment

Today has been fun, I say fun, I mean wierd.

Started off with a telephone call from my Mum, who has agreed to finance me until my next student loan comes in, which is always a good thing. Then had the thrill of a meeting with someone from the NHS who decided that I was relatively fit to look after myself, which is also always good!

Ended up in the Terrace with George, Kara, B, Maths Chris, Kat, Matt, Si, Izzy, Chris and Michelle over the evening – there was much coming and going! I hadn’t been out drinking in ages, so decided to quaff a few pints of Guinness as it is still £2 a pint after St. Paddy’s day. As I got tipsier and tipsier I started to chill out quite a lot, which I have really needed after all the stress of the last few weeks and months. Michelle, Chris and I ended up back at Chris’s as usual, with guest appearances from a drunken B and a seriously pissed off Maths Chris.

The topic got onto freewill, something I feel very strongly about, especially as I do not believe that it is possible to have an omnipotent “creator” and free will. Hence my atheism! After a long debate and various metaphors ranging from breakfast cereals to video players we eventually agreed to disagree. Me and Chris still maintain that free will cannot exist within a theistic belief system and Michelle still thinks it is compatable – although I think we raised some very interesting points for her to think about.

As it got to 3am (having been in the Terrace since 5pm) I called it a night. Just got to grab some sleep ready for my adventures tomorrow – me and Kat are off to Sarann’s for a bit of a holiday.

Night all.

“Ain’t milk brilliant..”

March 26th, 2007 No comments

A post for all you milk lovers out there….unfortunately not. Although milk is a highly nutritious, versatile and immensely delicious soft drink, I do rather like the quote.

This blog post is about my Mum, who although I rarely agree with and barely get on with some times, has once again proved that she is an amazing person. I have been feeling really down recently, I have had a lot on my plate with one thing and another and have felt more and more isolated from my friends – not because I don’t think they can help or that they care but because I didn’t want to burden them with a lot of my crap – and so have become more and more insular and isolated. My mum phoned me this morning just to say hi and that she had sent some post over to Leeds for me. This doesn’t sound like much but as I was feeling really low when I woke up this morning after about three hours sleep and this little phone call really made my day!

It is the little things that make your life worth living. The phone calls just to say “hi”, the pat on the back when a person deserves it, and sometimes even if they don’t! My thought for the day then….ring someone you care about and just say “hi”. It will make their day.

Sigur Ros

March 26th, 2007 No comments

I have recently been introduced to a boyband from Iceland called Sigur Ros. I have to admit that I am not normally a fan of Scandinavian pop music, even Abba never really did anything for me! This band, however, are different.

Many of you will be aware of one of their tracks, even though you may not know it.  Hoppipolla, from the album Takk, is the theme tune to the critically acclaimed, massively popular BBC documentary, Planet Earth. It is indicative of the album in general, a mix of haunting melody and youthful vocal style. I don’t speak Icelandic, so I do not understand the lyrics, but the mood of the music is one of hope. A masked joy. I definitely recommend this band if you like Bjork, or modern popular classical music at all.

Thanks to Kat for the introduction, I will have to go and buy the CD for myself now as I think this is definitely car music, especially useful for those rush hour moments when you need to relax and calm down. This music would also make excellent dinner music.

All in all, I would give Takk a good 4/5.

Late night radio

March 26th, 2007 4 comments

I am currently sat at my computer at 4am listening to music. This is likely to be a recurring theme in my blog posts. I am an insomniac. I just don’t seem to sleep. Sometimes I can go for days with only an hour or two of sleep each night. My average bedtime for the last seven or eight days has been about 6am, with me getting up by 8 or 9am.

What is bizarre, though, is that I was exhausted at about 10pm this evening. I was sat at Kat’s with tea and chocolate hobnobs waiting for George to come round so we could watch a film and I could barely keep my eyes open. By the end of Terminator, I was wide awake again. I don’t think the twenty minute walk home through the cold air of Leeds helped with either.

I have been spending increasing amounts of time with Kat recently, I must have been seen her about five times in the last week alone. This does not sound a lot, but I have never really been that close to her, we just have never really gotten to know each other. I am really glad that we have started to remedy that though, she is a really cool person. Very opinionated, but then I like someone who has their own thoughts. More importantly, she is prepared to fight for those ideas! Kat also makes one of the meanest cups of tea around. In fact, it is now almost impossible to decide on who makes the best tea – Kat or Sarann! I will have to put them to the test this week when Kat and I head over to The Lakes to visit Sarann.

The first week of the Easter break is now over and as George mentioned to me earlier it has both flown by and dragged. It seems over so quickly because I have not really achieved anything, but it has also dragged as it feels a life time ago that we were all in the pub celebrating St Patrick’s Day and Wendy House!

Here is to a more productive three weeks coming up. I am not holding my breath though as I am off to Cumbria on Tuesday, going to see Barenaked Ladies on Thursday and then Jon gets back from the Falklands in 10 days! So much to do, no time or money to do it!

And they were off…

March 26th, 2007 1 comment

Well here we are, the inaugural post on my new blog site. It will be a while before I get the hang of the features available to me, so apologies if I make any n00b errors. I am hopeful that I will be posting regularly and that my posts will interest some people, some of the time. My vision for this blog is to provide me with a virtual ‘soapbox’ from which I can shout my thoughts, feelings, views and my opinions – of which I have many! 

I am going to start with a very brief run down of who I am, just to set the scene for those of you who do not know me.

I am currently a student at the University of Leeds, reading a degree in Materials Science and Engineering. I live in Leeds pretty much full time, although my family live near Preston in Lancashire. I am twenty-two years old and have an opinion on just about everything I come across. I have seen a lot of the world yet I realise I have not seen enough. I have the normal hopes and dreams of a kid but the cynicism of an adult.

My friends are important to me and you will hear a lot about them in the future. In many ways my friends are more important than my family, although I do love my family in a manner of speaking. Something I am sure will get blogged about.

I hope that this blog gives pleasure to its readers in the same way that it give me pleasure to write it.