Saturday, May 5
What with the T-shirts [small | blown up] I'm getting printed for the clever marketing campaign that Spielberg is doing for his AI movie, I've just realised that it provides a solution to the age-old problem of where to get alternative clothing. Readers of Douglas Coupland's wonderfully funny Microserfs novel will remember a long thread in the book where they talk about how all the clothing they wear is made by Gap, or Dockers, or Levis, or CK and so on. The problem is, though, that if you actually want to get decent affordable clothing, there isn't much other choice than to go with these homogenised, 'soulless capitalistic' brands. Unless you made your own clothes, that is, and that's not really an option.
Or is it? With the rise of places such as Cafepress in America and doubtless soon to be similar services in the UK, it's incredibly easy to make customised clothing, as you as you have some knowledge of graphics manipulation. And the thing is that it still ends up cheaper than buying an equivalent T-shirt or sweater from your local, e.g. Gap. I'm getting the AI T-shirts printed at a nearby shop in Cambridge for a fairly reasonable price (£9 each), and I'm perfectly convinced that they're more original and cheaper than a lot of other stuff.
Maybe it's just me, but when I see around a dozen people every day wearing the same damned 'GAP' hooded sweaters around the university, I just despair. Then I handily pretend to myself that I'm not wearing a Gap coat (well, at least I'm not doing their advertising for them!)
Random thought - my Evolution and Behaviour lecturer, Professor McKintosh, at times can have an uncanny resemblance to Gary Cole, star in American Gothic. Eerie.
Thursday, May 3
I've been asked by a few people now, 'Exactly what were you doing up so late at night then?' in reference to a post I made the other day. Well, I'd just received an instant message from a friend who told me that a girl he knew in Canada urgently needed a bit of tuition on World War 2 for a test she was taking the next day. Being an agreeable sort of guy, I joined an IRC chat room with a couple of other people and proceeded to help outline the events of World War 2 and provide some of the reasoning for what happened during that time.
It was actually quite an interesting experience and I learned a bit myself; after all, the last time I'd done any proper history was for GCSE history (but I did get an A*). It's still quite surprising though, how much the brain remembers after so long.
Anyway - there you go, that's why I was up so late.
So it's a usual day in the Biology of Cells lecture, and I've put my brain on autopilot while these words are drifting through my auditory centres:
"External cellular signalling is usually mediated by surface receptors and a phosphorylation cascade..."
I think to myself, 'Uh huh,' as I gaze blankly at a ridiculously complex molecular pathway diagram in the lecture notes, as if trying to coax the meaning out of it in the same kind of 3D 'snap' you get when you 'see' a stereogram - but instead of simply a visual understanding, a deeper fundamental understanding...
"...then MAP kinase kinase kinase phosphorylates MAP kinase kinase..."
'Interesting name for an enzyme,' I muse, as I mentally term it MAP kinase cubed.
"...which then in turn phosphorylates MAP kinase..."
I can see where this is going, at this point...
"...which then in turn phosphorylates MAP, which then interacts with urk."
What? Through an abnormally stretched-out millisecond of time, a dozen things flit through my mind - perhaps the lecturer has given out his last gasp of life, having just collapsed on the podium with an 'urk'. Or maybe he saw an old friend waving from the back of the lecture theatre, and was so surprised he said 'urk'. Or...
I look down at my lecture notes. According to the molecular pathway, MAP interacts with ERK. I settle back into my chair, satisfied that the mystery has now been solved.
Tuesday, May 1
Last night, due to unforeseen circumstances, I got to bed very late. This is unusual this term considering that I've been doing very well with regards to getting a proper amount of sleep, but still, emergencies do crop up. Anyway, as I was going about my lectures today, I started thinking - surely there must be some kind of equation or general rule governing the relationship between how much extra work you get done by staying up, and how much your work performance is degraded the next day due to your tiredness.
This obviously varies from person to person, and there must be some kind of optimal period when you get extra work done at night, but are still feeling good the next day. Definitely bears thinking about.
Speaking of mammals, we watched a 80-90 year old video in Evolution and Behaviour showing a monkey trying to stack boxes up so that it could get a banana hanging from the ceiling. Not particularly informative or educational, but hugely entertaining. The poor monkey didn't have any grasp of balance or centre of gravities (not that most people do) and kept on gamely trying to balance the boxes on top of each other.
What got the most laughs though was that occasionally another monkey would amble into view, sometimes dragging a box of its own, or it would sit and watch the box-stacking money in bemusement, as if to say, 'What the hell are you trying to do with those boxes?'
Monday, April 30
Sorry for the appalling lack of updates - put it down to revision combined with procrastination (a strange combination of words, I know). Also put it down to my watching the movies on the Sci-Fi Exposure Indie channel. For those of you lucky enough to have broadband connections, there's some excellent independently-produced sci-fi (and non-sci-fi) short films you can watch there. My personal favourites are 9mm of Love and Antebios.
Share and enjoy. It's great to see independent work of this quality, available for free on the web at such high quality. And don't worry about the On2 broadcasting software - it doesn't mess up your computer, as far as I can tell, and in fact it works very well.
Sunday, April 29
As it turned out, the two other lectures I had were pretty good. The Evolution and Behaviour lecture was extremely interesting, talking about the encephalisation quotient (nice word, I'll have to use it again sometime) in primates, how the extra energy demands are sustained (by eating high-energy fruits instead of foliage) and its effects on social behaviour, cognition and so on. It's a shame the lecturer had to fit it all in 50 minutes.
Perhaps an even more impressive endorsement of the lecture was that I only went to sleep twice during it, and then only for a total of ten seconds - a personal record for me during E&B lectures, I might add. It's not that I find E&B lectures boring, far from it. It's something about the layout of the room, the staggered chairs and low lighting.
Anyhow, hopefully I'll learn more about this stuff in neurobiology next year.
My Physiology lecture was also very interesting - in fact, there was enough interesting stuff in it for me to write up segments of it properly in tomorrow's post.