Saturday, October 21

As promised, the Thundercats out-takes website. Just as a measure of exactly how funny they are, when I visited a couple of friends in another college I found them completely incoherent with laughter, even after the fiftieth time they'd listened to them. Admittedly, this probably had something to do with the empty bottle of vodka on the table, but I ended up refusing to leave the room to go to the bar until I'd listened to them twice over.

2:31 PM | permalink | discuss

Cambridge University's West Cambridge Site is being modelled in Quake II to provide a low-cost solution to the problem of people not knowing what it'll look like when it's finished.

The point of Quake, though, is to go around blasting things with a collection of fearsome weaponry.

"They were doing that originally but we had to take the guns out - the head of the department didn't like that at all," Mr Richens said.

One of my more studious friends at university (who, conversely, has more free time than me) managed to find a website with Thundercats out-takes [URL to follow]. It's almost disturbing to hear the sort of hijinks the voice actors get up to...

"I should have know the Terator didn't mean us any harm when the Sword of Omens didn't obey me, and anyway, it was just plain stupid to assume it might be bad just... what the fuck am I talking about?"

10:45 AM | permalink | discuss

Thursday, October 19

Ever since I've been at Cambridge, my fitness has been in a strange state of flux. On one hand, I'm walking more than I ever have before, all over the town to get to various lectures, to do shopping, and so on. On the other hand, I haven't been to the gym for three weeks and I haven't done any exercise. Also, I've visited McDonalds three more times than I would strictly like to (zero).

Luckily, something has come to my salvation: frisbee, or I should say, Ultimate Frisbee.

Back in the days of yore, to me, frisbee used to mean throwing about a bit of plastic to each other on the beach. This eventually evolved into some game where you'd try and throw the frisbee to some guy standing behind a worryingly arbitrary line on grass that would, like as not, get into horrible disputes about its exact location and whether said guy was in fact in front of, or behind, the line.

In retrospect, it wasn't that much of a surprise to me to find out that I'd been playing completely the wrong rules for Ultimate Frisbee and there was a huge, hidden professional aspect to it all, with barked commands such as 'Dump behind!' or 'Quick stack!' and maybe 'Cut left!' In my second Ultimate Frisbee practice, things got even deeper when the coach spent ten minutes illustrating advanced strategy and tactics using coloured bits of plastic (not frisbees) that he slid around the floor with his foot.

Mind you, I wouldn't do it if it wasn't:

a) Very fun
b) Good exercise

About the exercise. The Ultimate Frisbee (capital U, capital F) practices last for about an hour. Only half of that is spent playing the game, and for about a third of that, you're on the sidelines. So you're only on for about twenty minutes. 'Twenty minutes!' I hear your cry. 'What sort of exercise can that be?'

It can be pretty damned good exercise, especially when for most of that twenty minutes you're sprinting about at full pelt, watching your opposite marker frantically and executing desperate slides and dives for errant frisbee. Every time (okay, I've only been twice, but there've only been two practices anyway), people mutter to themselves breathlessly that they should take more water next time. On my last mini-game on, my mouth was completely dry; my tongue felt like rubber. True, I recovered afterwards, but I more dessicated than I would be if you'd poured sulphuric acid over me (and as you know, that has a high affinity for water).

So. It's good fun and good exercise. Am I going to the practice on Sunday? Hell no. Does it look like I'm a man without two essays to complete, one talk and a two sets of quantitative biology questions? I thought not.

But I will go to the practice next week.

11:53 PM | permalink | discuss

Yes, that's right, that is a webcam link you can see you your right. And yes, it does take you to a real (as opposed to: unreal, surreal or faked) picture of me (as opposed to: someone else) every two minutes. It could take pictures more often than that, but frankly if you've got nothing to do except to look at me for every two minutes, I suggest you get professional help. The page updates itself every 30 seconds, so that you can get the new pictures as soon as they're online.

Speaking objectively, I don't think the webcam will last. I suspect that sooner or later I will tire of having to make sure my hair looks okay when I'm inside as well as outside, 'okay' being a relative term in my case.

8:10 PM | permalink | discuss

Wednesday, October 18

As most of the UK knows by know, HMV is having a sale. And among that sale are huge numbers of discounted DVDs, so with a song in my heart, vouchers in my wallet and DVDs on my mind, I waltzed off to the local HMV to see what bargains I could get. And what wondrous bargains there were...

Not only were there three excellent DVDs for only 12.99 each (Grosse Pointe Blank, The Iron Giant and Ten Things I Hate About You), but there was also a 'Buy Three, Get Four,' offer. Having chosen my cheap three, I immediately proceeded to locate the most hideously expensive single DVD I could find to try and fleece HMV. Proudly bearing the 20 Aliens Special Edition, I marched up to the front desk and was promptly told that I could (essentially) only pick a cheap DVD to be my 'free fourth'.

And so what originally started as a 'find the best' turned into 'find the least crap of the cheapest'. And my, there was some sheer dross there, I can tell you now. I had to settle for The Rock, which is a fairly good action movie per se, but I can think of better movies.

That was my day. I hope yours was just as exciting and fulfilling as mine.

(NB: If I made a point of including smileys in my weblog, then I would have put an ironic-looking one at the end of that last sentence. However, I don't, so you'll just have to imagine it.)

(NB^2: I acknowledge that this entry, and the last one, have hardly been literary or scientific masterpieces. I can assure you that this state of affairs will be resolved in the near future. Thank you for your patience and co-operation.)

12:21 AM | permalink | discuss

Tuesday, October 17

Just watched Grosse Pointe Blank tonight. Excellent movie. John Cusack is The Man. Going to buy it on DVD. Going to bed now.

12:08 AM | permalink | discuss

Sunday, October 15

A whole lot o' tissues

While I have fully recovered from the flu, it's left behind a rather typical cold. In my old school, I was moderately famous for being known to have a 'year-long' cold; most people get colds in winter, I would get them constantly. Luckily, this doesn't happen any more and for the last 3 years up until now I'd contracted so many colds my immune system had a veritable Swiss Army Knife of antibodies and memory lymphocytes.

This 'Maginot Line' defence of mine against cold was almost, but not quite, impenetrable. When I arrived at university, the sheer number and diversity of the new cold virii simply overwhelmed my combined defences and stormed across them in a manner not completely unlike the way the German Panzer divisions zipped through Belgium (actually, quite what Belgium has to do in relation to my immune system, I don't know...) to invade France.

Why do we get colds in winter? It's not because it's cold, per se, but because the cold pushes people indoors so they are in greater proximity with other people than when it's warm and people stay outside. This greater proximity results in faster spreading of epidemics.

Don't believe me? OK (well, it's not okay). Imagine this scenario. Let's say that if a person has a cold, then he has a 4% chance of infecting anyone else he bumps into.

So, in summer in London, 500 people suddenly get this cold - maybe they arrived from Africa or something, where they're having a cold epidemic. Anyway. They bump into 25 people each during the course of every day. That's 12500 people bumped into. 4% of 12500 is 500. In effect, these 500 people are infecting another 500 people. The next day, the newly infected 500 infect another 500, just as the African tourists are recovering. And so on. In other words, people will continue to get infected but the number of infected will stay at relatively low numbers.

Imagine the same scenario in winter, exactly the same situation but each person bumps into 30 people instead of 25, because it's damn cold and they prefer to stay indoors in shops, offices, restaurants and bars longer than they normally do. Our 500 tourists, during the course of the day, bump into 15000. 4% of 15000 is 600. The next day, these 600 manage to infect 720. And then those guys infect 864. Then 1036. Then 1244.

Within a month, hundreds of thousands have a cold. Such is the power of exponential growth.

(NB: This is of course not a very rigorous model but it explains the point perfectly. This is a slightly modified version of what Michael Gladwell said in his book, The Tipping Point)

6:14 PM | permalink | discuss