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...the terminally uninteresting update! )I had plans to buy a new microscope but that has become a pipe dream as what I really need is a new laptop. My poor old man that is my iBook G4 has started blacking out again. Obviously the Power Manager needs to be reset, but it isn't falling for the usual tricks anymore. Ah well. It's certainly lasted.

*This is one of those never to be solved mysteries of science. Despite being constantly reminded that science is all about practice, we of studentkind always find there are remarkably few problems given for us to solve and even fewer with any sort of answer to check whether we are right. I suppose it's training like that which separates the weedy and wannabe from the Nobel Prize Winners. Sometimes, I've often wondered if it isn't some kind of cruel torture passed down by generations of scientists - "so you want to be a real scientist, huh?" they seem to be saying, "want to feel the pain of never knowing if what you've spent your life (ok, half an hour) working on will even turn out to be right? Well suck it up, ducks - if we had to suffer, you must too! This is what real science feeeeels like!"

The funny thing is, those of us who want to be lecturers/researchers have already admitted that we will likely be just as bad, if not worse, to our poor descendants in the path of science.
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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 11:32pm on 16/11/2010 under , ,
I have an awful lot of work to do that I know I need to do and would very much like to do but simply don't want to do.

There are several ways I could go about this:

a) remind myself of the sheer amazingness that is Theoretical Physics and how much I would like to be a part of it.
b) remind myself of all the people who are better than me on my course, all thanks to hard work (and mostly genius, but it's too late to be worrying about that...) and concentrated effort.
c) remind myself of how awful it would be to go back home with a 2:2.

Even as I write this, I realise it should be (a) that's making me reach out for the textbook, but in reality, it's (c) all the way.
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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 11:20am on 12/10/2010 under , ,
So, at the moment we're doing some experiments to find the dissociation energy of Iodine based on readings of the spectrum. As ever, it took us a while to get going (picked out the computer with a software problem; broke the equipment; listened to the demonstrator, the usual...) but I think now we're pretty much on track and should have a nice set of data by the end of the day.

The only annoying thing is trying to convince the demonstrator that we do know what we're doing. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't help that we made a couple of bad mistakes and had some bad luck with equipment, so I do get why he might think we're a pair of dunderheads who need all th ehelp we can get. Still, it's annoying when he come sin every half hour or so to comment on a rather bizarre set up that took us bloody ages to get that makes just as little sense to us too but seems to work anyway. Even worse when he changes said set up meaning that nothing works when he happens to be observing and results in yet more time wastage as we have to recalibrate the euipment the way we had it to begin with.


And need I add that calibrating involves some very fiddly processes. Slits have to be so wide, lenses have to be rotated just so. The slightest change in any parameter seems to result in chaos. Our experiment sits on a knife's edge and we can only watch in horror when it tips oh-so-terrifyingly-slightly over the edge.

Though that probably means we've done something else wrong, to have an experiment that's apparently so sensitive. Oh bother.

Give me programming/computer modelling any day. You don't have to deal with this crap with virtual experiments.
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... )

Meh. No one said it was easy. Let's hope I actually do well academically.
Mood:: 'and annoyed' and annoyed
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The past week and a half have been full of exciting things. Of Exciting Times and Silly Scams )

But yes, exciting times of the impoverished student. And to think I've got two more years of this to go through. Good thing I've got a blog.
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A nice new review blog for the list:

The placement is great but very tiring. I seem to spend all day making mistakes and working up a sweat merely by staring at a computer screen for hours on end, only to write a line of code that might be around 45% successful *laughs*. Me and the MATLAB compiler, great friends we are not. I thought I found a nifty way of finding motor protein stepping patterns but then the next day I ran the same code and I had an error in the third line.

Interesting times to be sure.

Speaking of review blogs, Newsnight Review is back! Of course they're covering the Edinburgh Festival, which I'm definitely going to go to next year. I found the brief interview between Khorsandi and Tsiolkas (author of 'The Slap') really weird though. There was a bit where they discussed how ethnic minorities reclaim offensive terms (for him as an Australian writer, words such as 'wog') and said how that isn't/doesn't seem to be particularly common in the UK, which just made me wonder which immigrant community they'd been hanging out with, because it certainly didn't sound like any I'd had anything to do with, and that's me the distinctly middle-class second generation Nigerian from South London. Weird.
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I am currently stuck in a computer lab again trying to figure out some new piece of code (not actually that difficult, but filling the right variables into the function is taking a very long time. Basically, the code calls for a set of data with a .tr_raw extension whereas the only data that we've got has a .tr or a .tr_lst. We've tried cheating (ie just labelling the dratted thing with the extension, which at least the compiler appreciated s it stopped giving us error warnings) and now we're just banging our heads against something/looking at our successful graphs with love and affection/checking new student laptop deals/facebooking.

It'll come eventually. I am definitely getting the hang of MATLAB, though! It's like reading Castillian Spanish as opposed to the Attic Greek that is C++. Really lovely.

Anyway, with about two hours to go until I leave, here are updates on the cockroach situation.

Students 5, Cockroach 1 )
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This morning I killed the largest cockroach I have seen in this hemisphere and probably half-poisoned myself in the process. From the looks of it, it was an adult (and probably female so I had to disinfect the entire room in case the eggs had got spread around) which meant that the roach spray didn't have as much of an effect on it as just whapping it repeatedly with an Italian shoe. Nice.

I do feel a bit guilty, considering they don't actually do any harm and they can't help triggering some deep seated subconscious hatred by their sheer disgustingness. But it's the way they just come out of wherever it is they're hiding, like stealthy assassins with too many legs and weird kidneys (one of my more disgusting encounters where I squished one and got all it's kidneys writhing away at me like a demon out of Mononoke-Hime. Although considering I thought it was something else at the time...).

In spite of said guilt, I spent most of today trying to find some replacement spray and ended up with this weird powder based concoction that apparently works very well, the only drawback being the almost fluorescent trail that I've now left around the house. It'll be worth it though, when we get to sweep up the legions of cockroach dead tomorrow.

Though that's something that really irritates me about this whole infestation (aside from having to deal with it in the first place which was entirely due to a stunning combination of landlord incompetence and the rather filthy habits of a few of my housemates. Yes, I know I now sound like Miss Prism, but the only other word to use would be slutty, but that has other unfortunate implications.) is just how difficult these cockroaches have decided to be. We tried so many great traps that I know if I had been a cockroach, I would have fallen for, hook, line and sinker like delicious treats that'd lead them into starbucks' paper cups which they can never get out of, shallow bowls full of fermented juice and cheap coke from Lidl* and stuff lined with vaseline. In fact, not just the cockroach-me, but scores of cockroaches around the world have apprently met their doom in similarly horrible but tasty ways. But not these cockroaches, oh no. It's search and destroy alone.

Maybe it's just something about Manchester.

*Actually, I'm beginning to see why that didn't work.

EDIT: Have been glutting on Avatar: The Legend of Aang of late which has been marvellous. Am halfway through the last series now. Absolutely fantastic and I finally get what people were going on about when they were comparing the drawing styles of the cartoon and 'The Meek' webcomic (similarly fantastic). Also really impressed on me how important visuals can be when it comes to keeping the impressions of a fictional character going, even when writing their adventures is taking much much longer than you thought it would *grumbles at self*.
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So... the first week of my research placement is over!

So far I've had to do thankfully very little programming by myself and have just had get used to MATLAB syntax (so much nicer for the inexperienced than C++) though the most difficult part of it was trying to find the right piece of code amongst all the junk of various Mphys/Masters and PhD projects of the past (and there was so much of it. Running the amount of data we got from the experiment through them all was a nightmare!). In spite of various complaints concerning memory and the lack thereof (which resulted in one of the worst timed crashes I've ever had to put up with), I think I've ended this week at a good place: I have plenty of graphs and just need to do some tutorials with Origin (yet another program to get to grips with. I reckon I should look over Mathematica too just in case) over the weekend so I can get a good fit to the results come Monday.

Last night went was great as well. I was more concerned that the writers we had speaking wouldn't have found it worth their while but they definitely seemed to having a lot of fun talking with each other, meeting their fans and I hope they enjoyed the panel/audience discussion. I know I certainly did. I learned a whole range of things (most fascinatingly about the Ancient Romans. Apparently there's a new idea out there that the villas were agricultural workers housing rather than the senatorial palaces we've usually thought of them as which made the cogs in my inner Steampunker's mind turn rapidly), got to talk about fanfiction (mostly how nice it is to hear a pofessional writer being pro rather than seeing it as some work of the Devil working maliciously to sap the writers' powers) and a bunch of other stuff that will probably get filtered down into a megalong pretentious waffle of an essay.

Did I say I had fun?

EDIT: I've also found my dream laptop which is hella expensive, but, with the project award money I might just be able to get this september instead of next. It's one of those things - life in general is being pretty decent, but it's rather unpleasant how there's always something that's going woeful and it's always the something you care about most. Meh. Could be worse.
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posted by [personal profile] mmoa_writes at 12:01am on 14/06/2010 under , , , , ,
I've missed so many of these. There's been so much I wanted to rant about: Melanie Philips and her standard 'we need the best sort of people, regardless of whether they be male or female' as if that's an answer to the problem of the tiny female representation in the House of Commons (oh how that line irritates me whenever the issue arises. It doesn't mean anything, it doesn't address anything. It just shuts down the conversation which is equally irritating because it shouldn't. It isn't even relevant to the conversation *rambles away*), the latest version of the expenses scandal, Matthew Paris' take on this seasons phase of the Israel-Palestinian conflict... so much juicy stuff. But I must be strong.

Thatcher, BP&Obama, University fees, stuff )

Tomorrow my teaching placement starts. At the moment I'm suffering from a stale-lemonade induced headache but I am definitely looking forward to it. Should certainly be interesting!


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