Friday, December 17, 2010


Being a bit of a geek meant that I was rather excited about the new Tron movie. I was extra excited when I learned that it's release day (today) coincided with the day of my only exam this semester. I expressed a desire to go see it after my exam, at the Imax, by way of celebrating post-exam freedom.

Harry and Gav agreed to come along. We decided booking would be a good idea if we intended to go on the release day, and went directly to the Imax website. So, when it turned out that they had an early viewing of the film, starting at 00:01 on Friday 17th December - I could not resist.

"This is going to be perfect!"

Ten minutes after booking I realised that 00:01 was before 13:00, which is my exam time today. This meant that rather than getting an early night and plenty of rest, I was going to watch a sci-fi film at midnight.

I could have cancelled and booked later tickets. I admit that this was always an option. An option I ignored.

We got back at 3am. I'm sure my exam will go just fine, it is only general physics. Pass the coffee.

[Edit: 16:35: The film was awesome by the way. Oh, and yeah, the exam was fine.]

Monday, December 13, 2010


The sun is warm, but the ice is slippery.

I've always wanted to say that in context and today I could. Although most of the snow has melted, or been pushed into lumpy, icy piles at street corners, the pavements are now coated in a fine film of frost.

It's truly beautiful, of course. Sparkling and delicate and dangerous. It's amazing that this much water was there to freeze - I didn't think we had had much precipitation in the past week. The last we had was real snow.

It would be sensible to avoid leaving the flat until the frost melts. I do not have the necessary footwear, which I admit is a bit of a shock. You see, I no longer have a pair of walking boots, and I rather object to the idea of wearing walking boots in the middle of a city anyway.

Sadly it seems that my trainers do not have enough grip to deal with the frost. This is deduced from how often today I slipped on the ice. What if I had fallen? The risk isn't worth it. Perhaps I would have broken a bone. Perhaps my laptop. If I had fallen when crossing the street I could have been hit by a bus!

Worse! What if someone saw me? The indignity! I shall remain indoors.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

General Physics Exam

If the law were changed so that traffic in Great Britain travelled on the right-hand side of the road instead of on the left, would the length of the day increase, decrease or be unaltered? Explain the reasoning behind your answer.

It would be unaltered.

Driving in the opposite direction to the Earth's rotation may have some effect due to the conservation of angular momentum, but roads in Britain go in many directions, so the effect would cancel out.

When the driving in the opposite direction to the Earth's rotation, angular momentum is required, so when the car starts a small fraction is "robbed" from the planet. However, this will be returned as soon as the car stops - in fact, it is necessary if the car is to stop thanks to the conservation of angular momentum. Friction takes care of the stopping (and hence the return of momentum) for you.

Even if we assume that people drive in the opposite direction, and do not stop, sooner or later they are going to give in and come home. Probably they will do this before completing half a circuit of the Earth's circumference (after all, we're only looking at Britain), so it will make the most sense to come back the way they came. Travelling in the opposite direction will also return the momentum to the Earth.

If we ignore all this, and pretend that either stopping, returning, or other cars moving in other directions does not lead to a cancelling out of the removal of angular momentum, we still encounter a problem. The Earth is huge, your car is not. The effect of a car's momentum being gained from the Earth would be so minor that it would likely not be measurable, since the mass of the Earth is so much greater. So, since the difference between the mass of the car and the mass of the Earth is so great, the change in the length of the day would be negligible.

That is, unless your mum is driving the car. Fortunately, she's too stupid to drive.

I thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I accidentally bought a new hoodie last week. It was too expensive, but then, suddenly it was in the sale. Still too expensive, but I'd wanted it for ages, and my will was broken. I caved in and bought it. Incidentally it is now my favourite hoodie. In general I don't really like or wear the things, but this is 100% merino wool, which makes it ethical and super warm. It's also beautiful.

So, the only thing I feel guilty about is the price (which I shan't share with you). Now, I know that guilt is bad for you and that it can give you heart problems. I wouldn't want to die and make everyone sad, so I'm doing what I can to alleviate my guilt. I have (very responsibly) formulated a cunning plan. I think you'll like it, because you can probably implement it yourself and use it to justify all kinds of purchases.

Every time I wear the hoodie I shall make a note of the fact, until I have worn it as many times as it cost in pounds. That way, it only cost me £1 per wear, which sounds pretty cheap when you think of it that way. See? The perfection of the plan is in its simplicity.

Of course, I wouldn't want to stop there - I know when I'm onto a good idea after all. Also, I might not want to stop wearing it after... um... that many times. So, once I've got to that point I will start putting £1 in a jar (or rather, my savings account) for every further time I wear it. Later, when it's starting to look a bit sad, I can use the money to buy a new one!

Admit it. I'm a genius.

When can I be rich?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Last January my flatmates got me a beautiful calligraphy set for my birthday, along with a book for practising in and an instruction book. It's probably my mother's fault that I like calligraphy, but it's my flatmates' fault that I'm now a little more skilled at it.

Writing lecture notes in a range of hands with different nibs and inks is always fun. It also means you end up producing a set of notes that you don't hate looking at. Oh, and because it takes so freakin' long you've basically learned everything you've written down by the time you're done. I'm at a speed now where I can write notes in calligraphy during the lecture - provided it's not a lecture where the whole time is spent writing.

I've learned a range of hands - from the relatively basic and pretty such as French Ronde to the complex and and elegant (if somewhat illegible) Black Letter. I've wasted many a happy hour carefully pencilling out guide-lines until I get the hang of sizing letters with a new pen and carefully removing them afterwards so no one can tell. Adding squiggly, curly, dotty designs and colouring things in is also entertaining.

I am a kind and giving person, so I'd love it if my skills could help others. Up until now though, I haven't had the confidence in myself to share them. What if I offered and then it all went wrong? I should be mortified.

Imagine then my glee when Harry volunteered me for making posters for the uni's Red Cross group. Not just any posters either - these are for the world AIDs day call to action event. It's a band night. They just want fairly basic things, some slogans written on card. I've been practising, and I don't actually think it should give me any trouble. (Plus I get to use my poster pen, which is very exciting).

I'm just slightly unsure. Do I really want this to be the first public display of my work, as it were? After all, the slogans are... well, see for yourself.

  • "Wrap it before you tap it."
  • "No balloon? No party!"
  • "Listen to your granny, protect your fanny."
  • "Condomise then womanise... or sodomise."
  • "Protect your winkle before you sprinkle."
Somehow I don't think that a hand that is based upon the lettering commissioned by Emperor Trajan in Rome in around A.D.114 is quite appropriate. Maybe bubble letters? Perhaps graffiti-style text? No? Well, they're having none of it either.

I don't think I'll be signing them...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Get innocuous

Innocuous, adj, not harmful or offensive.

I'm not an enormous fan of LCD soundsystem; I consider most of their music to be a unique blend of whiny and dull. I do like the odd song, maybe two or three per album, and I seem to remember not hating get innocuous. However, I couldn't tell you how the song goes, I don't know what any of the other lyrics are, I can't hum the tune.

Maybe if I heard it I'd be able to say "oh yeah, I remember now." Maybe not, I wouldn't like to put money on it. I think perhaps Soulwax did a good remix of it.

Anyway. The phrase, not the song, not the idea, but the phrase itself has been stuck in my head for a good two weeks now. Every now and again the impulse the say it allowed occurs. Thus far I have resisted (in public). I'm told that getting words and phrases stuck in you head is not normal, but I'm disinclined to believe this. I feel fine.

Perhaps it's a sign. Not sure what for. Maybe I should obey it - I'm not sure I could currently claim to be either harmless or inoffensive, perhaps I ought to change my ways. On the other hand, if I do I'll be obeying the voices in my head. That probably is a problem.

Upside? I now have a good reason to avoid being harmless and inoffensive. Not that I needed an excuse, but I'm damned if I'm not going to use it now it's here.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Identity Crisis

Over the weekend I have been:

  • A pirate
  • A drunk
  • A cowboy
  • A fund-raiser
  • A willing volunteer
  • A cook
  • A zombie
  • Asleep.
I haven't been the vampire I planned to be on Saturday night, but these things happen. I also haven't been much like a dedicated physics student - but these things happen too. Besides, I get to be a student all the time.

Life would be much more interesting if dressing up were more acceptable on a more regular basis. There's a good chance you had a dressing-up box (or at least a dressing-kit) as a child. You were happier back then, weren't you? Let's go back to that.

Happy Hallowe'en.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


My Amazon recommended list under "Books":

-Concepts in Thermal Physics - Stephen J. Blundell

-A First Course in General Relativity - Bernard Schutz

-Introduction to Elementary Particles - David Griffiths

-An Introduction to Modern Cosmology, 2nd Edition - Andrew Liddle

-Schaum's Outline of Optics - Eugene Hecht

-Lectures on Quantum Mechanics - Paul A. M. Dirac

-'What Do You Care What Other People Think?': Further Adventures of a Curious Character - Richard P. Feynman

-The Pleasure of Finding Things Out - Richard P. Feynman

-The Character of Physical Law - Richard P. Feynman

-Atomic Physics - D. C. G. Jones

-The Meaning of it All - Richard P. Feynman

-Mathematical Techniques: An Introduction for the Engineering, Physical, and Mathematical Sciences - Dominic Jordan

-Introduction to Fourier Optics - Joseph W. Goodman

-Particle Physics - Brian Martin

-An Introduction to the Physics of Nuclei and Particles - Richard Dunlap

That isn't edited, that's just the first 15 books (i.e. the first page of recommendations) that comes up. I'm willing to accept that I may have a problem - but I dispute any suggestion that I have some kind of Feynman addiction. I only own the 2nd volume of his lectures and his Easy and Not so Easy Pieces (not including the rest of the lectures on audio-book, or the copy of Surely You Must be Joking Mr Feynman that I picked up for the physics society library)

I just ordered a physics text book from amazon - hence noticing my recommendations. Principles of Optics by Born and Wolf if you must know. I ordered it because it was recommended as being useful for my project (which is on solid state physics, not optics, but nevermind). I don't have a copy, the society's library doesn't have a copy, the main library has three - but the only one available for long-term loan won't be back 'til November and I've never been cruel enough to request books back. Ordering it was my only option.

That's how it happens.That's how you wind up in a situation where you have more books for your course than you have books of any other kind - including fiction. It starts by getting the main recommended text for each course. Next you pick up any other text mentioned more than once because "it might be useful to have alternative explanation." After that you'll buy anything recommended at all, provided you can find a copy for under £10. Before you know it you're acquiring books by accident and you're running out of shelf-space.

Add this to the fact that I'm acting as the society's librarian this term - giving me full and constant access to the library - and I'm still buying books, and you'll understand the gravity of the situation.

I am an addict. I am ready to admit that. At least it's not crack.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Influence Map

This looked like fun, so I put one together. The idea is you find pictures representing things that influence you and then use it when you need inspiration later. Of course, realistically an unfathomable number of things influence us, so a "map" like this can never be complete. Still, they're quite entertaining to make.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Summer Scorcher

I have enjoyed summer. I have completed a Summer project. I have holiday-ed in London and Cornwall. I have chilled with family and friends in a number of locations. I have returned to Glasgow and I have found employment within nine days (no doubt I'll talk more about that in future posts).

This blog isn't really about nice things though. This blog is more often about dreadful (if amusing) things that happen to me. Presumably I deserve them for being such a shocker of an individual, but I'd rather not dwell on superstitions.

Cornwall then. Fantastic house, and let me begin by telling you a nice fact - even if that's not what this space is for. Sitting in a hot tub, with a glass of rum on the rocks, is quite simply the very best way to start your day.

Anyway. To balance things out. I took my much-beloved, limited edition, purple, ghd hair straighteners with me to Cornwall. I do tend to straighten my hair more often when I'm on holiday; I suppose it's because I have so much more time on my hands. All is vanity.

On the very last day (not the day that we thought was the last but turned out not to be) I decided to straighten my hair. Because the device is utterly adorable it emits two beeps when working; one when you turn it on and one when it's hot enough to use - which should be about 200°C. I heard the second beep, picked the straighteners up and clamped them down upon a section of my hair at the back.

This section instantly melted. Hissssssssssssssssss. Arghhhhhhhhhhhh! A quick google search tells me that the melting point of human hair varies with it's hydration, and that around 270°C is the maximum it can stand (who did that study? I should probably have saved the paper). Mine was potentially very slightly damp, although I had already blow-dried it. However, I dispute any possibility that the fault was mine.

Not only was the temperature hot enough to laminate my hair to the ceramic plates, it was hot enough to melt the glue which held the plates into the plastic. Not knowing what kind of glue they used (even though I'm an expert on the subject) I'm unable to find a realistic answer for the temperature using google. As a result I'm going to go for "it was as hot as the Sun" and let you do the googling.

In conclusion; my Ghd's ruined my hair, my day, and themselves. In approximately 5 seconds, which might be a record. If only my blog was influential enough to make them worry about their sales.

They won't though, and I know why. Even though I experienced a massive and traumatising malfunction with my set, they're still the best pair of straighteners I've ever had. I've got quite thick hair, and I've noticed it has a tendency to grow back, even if cut (or frazzled). So even though this whole ordeal was truly horrific, I'll probably get a new pair when I can afford one.

It wouldn't be unfair to accuse me of being shallow regarding this. However, after having time to calm down, I honestly feel that the most disappointing result is that I probably won't be able to find another pair in purple.

Friday, June 04, 2010


It had come to my attention that I no longer used my once much-loved Nintendo DSi. A sad thing to notice indeed. Nevertheless, I am a practical person, and if I have no use for a thing I once admired I know that I ought to give it up. I decided to trade it at Game, for credit, so that I might later purchase something I would rather have.

I took the console and my games (not trifling number I may add) to the store and gave them away. In return I received their value on a gift card. I left the establishment and threw away the bag I had been using to carry them. I wandered the town centre, picking up the odd item until I eventually found myself standing outside a different branch of Game.

I had previously decided against spending my credit that day, but I changed my mind, and entered. Soon a pleasant young man with a strong accent and a bad hair-cut was telling me things I didn't need to know about products I didn't want to buy. It was cool in the shop, though, and he wasn't being impolite, so I pretended to care about his opinions. I chose a few items (carefully disregarding his advice) and took them the the counter. A different young man was about to give me advice I didn't need on what had already chosen when I realised the gift card was gone. I rifled through my handbag and pockets: Nothing. I stammered excuses and left.

I searched my bag twice more to no avail. Then it struck me; the card must have been in the bag I had thrown away. Hellfire! I returned to the shopping centre and found a cleaner. I explained to her my predicament. She told me the bins had been emptied and it was likely that the rubbish inside them had been crushed, but radioed her comrade anyway. He arrived shortly thereafter and said he had been on his break - crushing had not yet occurred! Delight.

He vanished to the basement to search for my bag, warning me that he may be gone some time. I waited. He returned, bag in hand. I rejoiced until I opened it and discovered it empty. I may as well have simply thrown my unwanted gadgetry away. I explained what had been in the bag, and, noting my distress, he agreed to go have another look.

The minutes dragged by. I began to wonder if the card had ever existed at all. Perhaps my receipt would suffice? Doubtful. Eventually he returned, a small slip of held between fingers like pincers. "Is this it?" He queried.
"Yes! I can't believe you actually found it!"
"It's a bit messy I'm afraid, but you must be the luckiest person in the world."

The delightful little chap may have something there. The card was coated in grime, but it didn't bother me - I removed it with some ultra-cute tissues I had acquired during my earlier wanderings. I returned to the store and bought the items I had left behind earlier. The boy who's advice I had ignored had by now realised that I'd been ignoring him, he glared at me, I didn't care.

I may in the past have asserted that luck does not exist. I still consider this to be true. In spite of this fact, I do seem to have an awful lot of it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


A junkie.
A Nazi.
A fully grown adult wearing a nappy.
A pimp.
The crossbow cannibal killer.
A person with bipolar disorder.
A domestic abuse victim.
A dead hooker.
Robert Mugabe.

Where are you if you find yourself drinking with the people listed above? Nope, not Hell, but close! You're at Archie's 21st Birthday Party: Guaranteed to ruin the prospects of anyone intending to go into politics.

Thanks Archie, I'd hate too see any of those people gain any real power. 'Cept myself of course, but it isn't as if I was going to gain power by pretending to be a good person anyway.

Certain party-goers are probably experiencing something approaching Hell by now either way. After all, we discovered this morning that we managed to work our way through all the tequila. Yes, all of it. No, I didn't pour any away - the bottle is empty. We drank it, it's gone.

The result of the party is this: Next time you're worried about looking silly at a fancy-dress party, or next time you're worried that your outfit is a bit too far, I will show you the photos from last night, and I will tell you to man up.

I can't wait for Hallowe'en.

Saturday, May 29, 2010


Disclaimer: Before you all run a mile, the "i" prefix on the title has nothing to do with Apple nor indeed Macintosh. In fact, this entry has remarkably little to do with technology of any kind.

Mostly, it has to do with caffeine, and the acquisition of it. I mentioned some time ago that I wasn't very good at drinking coffee. I run on enough nervous energy anyway, the addition of caffeine can occasionally produce destructive (if amusing) results. As I said before, if I have a cup of coffee I will shortly require a glass of red wine simply to even things out.

Since saying these things I have made two discoveries.
1. I can drink latte (and to a lesser extent cappuccino) without such an effect.
2. It may be the case that I was simply looking for an excuse to drink red wine, but apparently I don't actually need one.

So, during the exam period I needed places to study. I'm quite good at studying in my flat. I can study at the uni, provided that very few other people are doing so (which more or less ruled it out for the last month). I can't study in my flat all day every day without going completely mental - especially if earlier in the day I have had an exam.

In cases where I required a change of scene I tended to find myself, often with a flat mate, studying in one of the iCafes down the road (I told you it had nothing to do with Apple). This is not problematic until you begin to understand the sheer quantity of time I spent in these establishments. Arriving at noon and not leaving until 7pm was not rare. Clearly spending this kind of time in a cafe also meant that I was spending money in a manner that I'd rather not think about.

Naturally, then, I thought about it. After a fair bit of thought I decided it was not, in fact, all that bad. I made myself feel better about my situation - one which was beginning to look a little like an addiction.

Put it this way; I don't go out drinking very much. Maybe for the odd half here and there, but for the most part it isn't often that I find myself in a bar. I don't actively avoid them, I just don't really have the time. I tend to catch up a little outside term-time, but I'm certainly not making any effort to do so.

At the flat we have a tendency to provide for ourselves anything we are likely to want to drink - often in better style than we might find in a bar. I'm not suggesting that I don't drink, but a good 85% of my drinking is done in the flat - with friends and flat mates.

As for socialising; I can do that in a coffee shop. It's cheaper, lighter, the music is never so loud that you can't hear each other speak, the crowds are never rowdy, the toilets are always clean, and if anyone accidentally has a "drop too much" coffee, the worst side-effect I have found is jitters. No one ever got in a fight for that reason. No one sends confusing, coffee-infused text messages to friends at 3am because they've over-indulged. Do they?

You can sit in a coffee shop alone without looking like you have a problem. You can read a book in one without looking weird. You can study in one and no one bats an eyelid. Importantly, provided you keep buying drinks and the odd muffin - you can stay there all day, and no one will mind a bit. (Unless you're hogging the sofa, but tough, you got there first.)

If a caffeine addiction prevents an alcohol addiction so be it. My need is basically gone now the exams are over. However, come the next time I need to study hard, I suspect I'll find myself there once again. If you need me, look in the iCafe, just don't try to get me to leave.

Monday, May 24, 2010


The exams are over and I am free. My experiences have left me with a piece of advice to share with you.

When sitting a maths exam do not wear a t-shirt covered in equations. It may seem like the appropriate choice for the day, but if you are not paying attention and have forgotten what is actually on it, you may look like a cheat.

Also, try to avoid accidentally affixing your question paper to your desk. This shouldn't be difficult, but believe me, the risk is very real.

Oh and, never claim that any question was "easy." In fact, don't even go so far as to say it "wasn't so bad." Either you will have got it wrong, and will look foolish, or someone else will have found it difficult and you will look insensitive. The two are not by any means mutually exclusive.

That is all. I'm going to go enjoy my Summer.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fashion Advice

Ladies, may I have your attention, please? Thank you.

Many of you have been doing something rather vulgar lately. I am sure it is not your fault, perhaps you have been drawn into the wrong crowd, maybe you have fallen victim to fashion, or, it is even possible, that you don't know that what you're doing is wrong. So, I forgive you, and I will do what I can to help you correct your behaviour. I will not be so forgiving if I am ignored.

It is not my intention to offend, only to educate. However, if you are inadvertently offended, I am sure that I will get over it. You might, I guess it depends on your self-esteem. So, here goes.

Stop wearing tights or leggings* with t-shirts.

If the t-shirt is long enough to cover your ass even when you have to reach up on your tippy-toes to retrieve something from a high shelf, and when you bend down to pick something up off the floor, it is fine. However, only then is it long enough for me to consider your outfit decent without the addition of a skirt.

Dresses are fine, but need to be of at least the length described above. Shorts are also fine, but you must ask yourself if a hooker might wear them before you do so. It would be embarrassing to be mistaken for a hooker (unless, I suppose, you are one). Without these items though, you are simply not dressed properly.

Here's what you ought to do if you're not sure:

1. Get dressed.
2. Look in the mirror.
3. Consider whether or not you would be mortified if, once outside, I came up to you and said "Um... I think you've forgotten your skirt..." In the same manner that one would inform a stranger that their shoe-lace is untied.
4. If you can't see that happening, go about your business. If, on the other hand, it could happen, and it would ruin your day, put a damned skirt on.

The problem is, sometimes it's done on the catwalk. Sometimes it's done in magazines. The fact is, in real life, no one wants to see that. You're too fat. That's why you're not doing the modelling. I can see your cellulite through your tights. It's only 10am, and I feel nauseous.

Even if you're super-skinny it does you no favours. If I can see a panty-line I'm horrified, if I can't I'm still horrified. So is everyone else.

So, consider yourself warned. If I see anyone else guilty of this, I will tell them that they've forgotten their skirt. I will probably suggest they go home and put one on before anyone else notices. I'll give them a concerned look, as if I'm wondering where their carer is. I will ruin their day.

I won't tell you again.

Actually, while we're on the subject...

Gentlemen, may I have your attention, please? Thank you.

Pull your jeans up. Buy a belt. I don't want to see your ass either. It wasn't cute, endearing or cool in the 90s and it sure as hell isn't now.

Your ass is ugly, your boxers are ugly, I'm already assuming your face is ugly, and you haven't even turned around yet.

For goodness sake! Could everybody please just learn to dress themselves?

*Jeggings are also dreadful, but for different reasons. I might write about them too at some point, though only if the fad doesn't pass as quickly as I currently hope.