Thursday, December 28, 2006


Rock on! After what is possibly the shoddiest endgame ever, I have managed to beat the Sigma Chess program with the following game:
1. e4 Nc6
2. d3 Nf6
3. Nc3 d5
4. d4 Bg4
5. f3 Nxe4
6. Nxe4 Bf5
7. Nc3 e5
8. dxe5 Qh4+
9. g3 Qh5
10. g4 Qh4+
11. Ke2 Bb4
12. gxf5 Qc4+
13. Qd3 Nd4+
14. Kd1 Nxf5
15. Qxc4 dxc4
16. Bxc4 Rd8+
17. Ke2 Nd4+
18. Kf2 Bxc3
19. bxc3 Nxc2
20.Rb1 Rd1
21. Kg2 Ne1+
22. Kf2 Nc2
23. Ke2 Re1+
24. Kd2 a5
25. Kxc2 O-O
26. e6 h6
27. exf7+ Rxf7
28. Rxb7 a4
29. Bxf7+ Kxf7
30. Rxc7+ Kf6
31. Bd2 Rf1
32. Rc6+ Kf5
33. Rc5+ Kf6
34. Rc6+ Kf5
35. c4 g5
36. c5 a3
37. Rd6 Ra1
38. Bc3 Rxa2+
39. Kd3 g4
40. fxg4+ Kxg4
41. Rg6+ Kh5
42. Rf6 Rg2
43. Rf5+ Kg6
44. Rf6+ Kh5
45. Nh3 a2
46. Bd4 Rd2+
47. Ke4 Re2+
48. Kd5 Re5+
49. Bxe5 Kg4
50. Ra1 Kxh3
51. Rxa2 Kg4
52. Ra3 Kg5
53. c6 Kh5
54. c7 Kg5
55. c8=Q Kh4
56. Qc4+ Kg5
57. Qf4+ Kh5
58. Rh3# 1-0

That probably could have ended 10 moves earlier...
Anyway, this may not seem like much, but given it's got the best of me for the past 80 tries (and I'm not that bad), this is a bit of a personal victory.

Next up: Deep Blue!

*cutscene: Ed getting his ass whipped in 10 moves* How'd that happen?

I should probably get back to working on my dissertation...

1. e3 Nf6
2. d4 b6
3. b3 Bb7
4. Ba3 e6
5. b4 Be7
6. b5 Bxg2
7. Bxg2 Nc6
8. bxc6 Bxa3
9. Nxa3 d5
10. e4 dxe4
11. Nb5 O-O
12. f3 a6
13. Nc3 Qd6
14. Rb1 e3
15. Ne4 Nxe4
16. fxe4 Qxc6
17. d5 exd5
18. exd5 Qg6
19. Qf3 Qxc2
20. Rd1 Qxa2
21. Qe2 Qa5+
22. Kf1 Rfe8
23. Nf3 Qc3
24. Qd3 e2+
25. Kf2 Qc5+
26. Qd4 Qxd5
27. Qxd5 c6
28. Qxc6 Rac8
29. Qxb6 Rc1
30. Rxc1 h6
31. Qc6 Kh7
32. Qxe8 Kg6
33. Qe4+ f5
34. Qe6+ Kh5
35. Qxf5+ g5
36. Qf7+ Kg4
37. Qg6 e1=Q+
38. Nxe1 Kh4
39. Nf3+ Kg4
40. Qxh6 Kf5
41. Qxg5+ Ke4
42. Rcd1 a5
43. Qe5# 1-0

In just over 6 minutes this time, and using a transpositional opening (variant on Kasparov's 1994 opening move). Worked out okay, although once again, a bit of sloppiness here and there.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A man's home is his castle, but it shouldn't have to be a fortress...

Christ, man... is no home safe? Sorry if, with this post, my blog falls into the "daily rant about my daily day" style, but this is a bit out of the ordinary.

I was sitting in my room, looking at the wikipedia article for mereology (go figure) when I hear footsteps coming up the stairs, and the door handle rattle. Assuming it was one of my housemates, I turned around to find myself face to face with a short northern man in his mid-30s, seemingly the same scum you'd expect to see in Coronation Street or rubbish like that, with short dark hair looking at me. He quickly exclaimed "Just lookin' 'round", closed the door, and promptly legged it. It took me a few seconds to come to my senses and realise what was happening, so I took a pair scissors (which was pretty stupid given there's a freaking battle-axe in the room across the landing), checked each room as I headed down, and checked the ground floor. Naturally, by the time I got down there, the bugger was long gone, along with Jez, Mike and Liam's laptops. Fortunately, he didn't take anything else, but it must really suck for them, seeing how their work wasn't backed up.

I shudder to think it could have been mine, along with all the conference organisation documents, that had been stolen. Time to back up everything (twice)...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A word of warning

A word of warning to you all. This is a neighbourhood watch announcement.

A group of suspicious looking people are walking around town, asking people if they had found Jesus. I've experienced this myself, and it prompted me to write this warning.

They can be dressed just like you and me, and appear to be innocent bystanders, but their motives are all too clear: they are looking for Jesus. What had Jesus done? Why is he hiding? To these questions, the offer only vague answers. No doubt to mask their true intentions, and throw the authorities off the trail.

So be vigilant, and beware. If you know where Jesus is, do not - I repeat - do NOT disclose his location to anyone asking for him. Also, please notify him that people are looking for him, they are wearing crosses around their necks (perhaps a cult sign, and a morbid indication of their intentions once they have "found" Jesus), and that they may be up to no good.

This was your friendly neighbourhood watch announcement. Stick together, people.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A matter of qualification

I believe a defining characteristic one must possess to enter the academic world is a certain type of organisational insanity. It's not the sort that's necessarily socially noticeable (although in some cases, like maths professors walking around with a trout tied to their hats, it definitely is hard to miss), but rather of the sort that pops up in conversation. To word it more precisely, I believe it is the ability to be lost in a tangent, be it conversational or conceptual (as applied to vestimentary taste, in the case of the fish-donning mathematician), and to actually forget how one got there in the first place.

I'd like to clarify that I am not just positing this for kicks: it is a thesis derived from empirical observation (try it yourself: you just need to have a 40+ minute conversation with a professor). Furthermore, it seems to increase with age (I assume this is because it is a decay which begins the day one gets one's PhD/DPhil, and things go downhill from there).

Perhaps there is some evolutionary justification for the maintenance society provides for this ever-continuing loop of folly, from thesis to teaching to training the tangential tricksters of tomorrow (couldn't resist)... Perhaps there is something you can only find, you can only discover while on a tangent...

This may seem a spurious claim to you, but if so: you obviously haven't had the (dis)pleasure of going through Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations. A word of warning if you do decide to walk down this path, though: Remember to change the trout ever so often.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Heisenberg Insanity Principle

I sometimes wake up in the morning, and wonder whether or not I've lost my mind. This may sound bizarre, but it's ironically reasonable a stance. Can I really certify my own sanity? Surely I'd need to be certifiably sane to do so, and thus am relying on the conclusion as a premise for the determination of that very conclusion. So what if it was the case that I had lost my mind? Would I hypothetically just be maintaining the illusion of sanity to the outside world an to myself? Well, this naturally raises the question: doesn't the same circularity apply to this case? It's very catch-22-type, as you'd assume you'd need to be sane to know sanity from insanity, and thus evaluating my own sanity (or insanity) would require sanity on my part in the first place! But I think this counter-argument is also circular, as my evaluation of my insanity is made by the me who purports to be sane, because I am in fact insane and cannot sanely understand my own claim of being sane (which is, of course, just a masquerade for insanity). Something to think about...

Amusingly enough, if you haven't been driven insane after reading this, you must be insane!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Greek Chorus

I was walking home from my Wittgenstein Reading Group, a few hours ago, enjoying Vivaldi's "Der Herbst" as I headed back up Conduit Road (that's one hell of a climb), and I began noticing how well music works as a soundtrack in conditions of low visibility. It seems to dramatise everything, and give a particular edge to people emerging from the darkness, and heading back into it in silence. That got me thinking about how wonderful it was to have the small flat device the size of a business card (aka my iPod nano) that could allow me to carry my favourite music around with me. Actually, it is the very storage of music which is marvelous here - the very idea that any person with the equipment could hear Vivaldi's Four Seasons in the comfort of his living room, alone. We can afford to hear things again and again, and to let it play in the background, almost outside of our consciousness, knowing that should we want to hear it again, it will be there.

How different it must have been just 150 years ago, before the phonograph, when the only way to hear a particular piece was to go to a concert, or if you were rich, to have someone come play it at your house. How different must musical intentionality have been, knowing that that particular hearing of a certain tune could well be, for purely logistical/material reasons, your last. Auditors must have focused intently on the music, savouring each moment (for cases where the song was worth it), trying to remember and record the experience. Never would they have imagined that the masses a near century-and-a-half later would view music in a completely different way...

This raises the question: is music the area where social practices and norms define intentionality? Why would the other methods of human interaction be any different. Language and communication, the notion of self, the self in the world, and what things are and aren't... why would these be conserved and unchanged? We generally assume that people of the past are essentially just like us, with a different basic body of knowledge, and weird clothes. But what's to say that the mental difference isn't drastically different the further you go back...

Side note: I wish I could get credit for idle musings like this, and not have to do this goddamn physics project. Oh well, back to work...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Leaving Tokyo's never easy

I looked out the window early this morning, like any morning, and there was grey mist lightly covering the hill-bordered 'valley' that Sheffield lies in. The dark of night had not quite lifted, and the day was just piercing through the mist enough to see the shaded outlines of buildings and houses in the distance, like something out of Delacroix's Mephistopheles (without the flying bloke above the city). Some might consider such a sight to be depressing, but it just makes me feel slightly nostalgic about winter. You can feel it coming along, approaching this general direction, but it hasn't quite arrived. In fact, it feels like there's a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether or not is will arrive. Perhaps it will miss, perhaps it will only come in half-servings, taunting the ground with snow that won't remain, granting us a few crisp evenings, but denying us snow-covered hills and rooftops and streets that will give the world an air of purity and peace for a few moments.

These thoughts of "exotic" weather started me thinking... I haven't been to that many "new" places in a while. I mean, I've had a great time over the past year and a bit, but when it comes down to where I've been, it's not that new. The US over the summer was good fun, Boston was great, but it's all so familiar as well. France was quiet, and Sheffield was nice to come back to. But I feel I haven't really done much travelling, insofar as by "travelling" I mean the act of going someplace relatively new and different from what I'm used to (David Brent's comment on Hull comes to mind...). I haven't gone to Japan this summer, or even as far as Germany or the Netherlands, which I'd really like to visit... a coincidental reminder of which was the fortuitous running into of a former co-worker from Eiken's Summer School (side note: I'm still on the front page of that site, all the way to the right of the picture. Weird), while at some crazy cheap restaurant in Boston (I know, what are the odds).

Thus from the sighting of a misty, slightly foggy morning did I get to a feeling of nostalgia for travelling to Japan. It's bizarre how weather can make you reminisce like that. But more than just going back to Tokyo, I'd like to have the opportunity to visit around a bit. I haven't been to the south of Japan in a while, and have some friends living down there. Perhaps I should pay them a visit. But I'd also like to check out the more rural areas to the north, where it snows generously in the winter. I think that would provide me with some temporary satiation for my occasional wanderlust. Now to think about when and how I could get there... It's both exciting and depressing to think that I've arrived at a point in my life where my imperatives dictate when and where I can travel, and what I can do with my time. But hey, it's quite clear to my at this point that I'd much rather be too busy, than not busy enough.

On that note, and perhaps ironically (in light of my last statement), I should really consider changing out of my bathrobe, getting my ass out of my chair, and going to buy some food. Unfortunately, our kitchen is beyond salvation at this point, and the men behind the mess have buggered off for the weekend. Conundrum...
I suppose I'll just make them suffer when they come back...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Christmas (philosophical) jam in St Catz!

If you read this blog, are into philosophy and have some free time on the weekend of friday 15th to sunday 17th december, and of course live (or can travel to) the UK, I strongly recommend that you come down to the British Undergraduate Philosophy Society's 2006 Winter Conference, which will be held at the gorgeous St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and the the keynote speaker will be Cambridge's own Professor Simon Blackburn.

The amazing part is that this conference will cost the delegate approximately the same price the BUPC registration costs, despite the fact that most Oxbridge colleges were asking for at least the double. This is thanks to the generosity of St Catz (and the fantastic cooperation of its Junior Bursar, Stuart McLellan). So hopefully we'll manage to find enough delegates and authors across the UK to make this conference worth the place it's being held in (although I have little doubt it will be).

Anywhooo, if you're interested, check out the Call for papers. Don't hesitate to pass it along to your friends/colleagues/faculty. Hopefully, you'll consider registering for the event, and perhaps even submit a paper yourself. In any case, get in touch if you have any questions. Hope to see some of you there!

Foggy Weather

I'm not that passionate about weather, really. I'm not too keen for really sunny afternoons, although it is nice to sit in the park with a hat on your head, some corona, and a book. I'm not a huge fan of rain, especially when I'm under it without cover, but I have to admit it'd not unpleasant, being inside on a rainy day, with the light on, my bathrobe donned, and something good to read in the warmth of my room. Not much love for snow either: fresh, it's cold as hell and ends up getting you wet, and after two days of urban existence, it turns into the most vile, dark slush possible. But I must say few things match the experience of drying out in a chalet with cinnamon Glühwein, and seeing a dark cloud pouring snow down, or standing under a lamppost on a dark snowy night, and seeing how the light plays with the flakes as they come down (pro-tip: wear a hat, or the experience suddenly goes downhill). But it must be said: there is one type of of weather I'm an absolute sucker for, and that's fog. Fog is just amazing. Not the heavy kind that drenches you in 5 minutes, or the wimpy light kind that's accompanied by drizzle, but nice, thick fog. The kind that wraps around you so that you can barely see ten paces down the road, and all the streetlights become nothing more than diffused orbs, and people come and go into the thick mass like shadows, as if there were nothing more to the world but what you can see.

I love how the imagination works in the fog. In hiding all that is unsightly, and blurring all that might be, it leaves the formation of the external world to the mind. Walking down a stone-wall-lined back alley near Endcliffe Crescent, you could almost expect a victorian gentleman in a top hat and black cloak to just walk by, or be in Elizabethan England, and be walking along perimeter of some estate, or just pretty much be anywhere you want to be. The fog makes the world like a book, makes the world anything you want to see, and I think that's pretty damn good stuff, for something which is basically just water.

Anyway, enough crazy ranting about fog. Back to some fun reading about Nuclear Physics while listening to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "The Lost Christmas Eve", as the rain batters my skylight, and rattles on the roof.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hunter would be proud

Jesus Christ, what a night. Hunter S. Thompson would be proud. Well... or at least he'd dig it. While we didn't exactly engage a multi-drug orgy (well) or wake up in a flooded room with a Godzilla tail attached (thank f*ck for that), it was pretty epic in terms of smashed decadence, and general student excess. I believe over the course of the night, probably over 60 or 70 people came through the house, we most certainly had at least 40 people in the house at once (based on my estimate early-ish in the evening, while I was still capable of counting to 10 or more). Highlights of the evening involved being tackled by physical-chemists and duct-taped to the guard rail of our staircase and having to escape at the cost of great epilation-style pain, being shot at with Liam's BB shotgun, shooting Mike with it (and missing), drinking champagne at midnight with Paul (whose birthday it was, as well... he came over with all his friends) in Jez's room, seeing how many people would fit into mine, climbing up into those crazy little alcoves above our stairs and being too drunk to get down (but managing somehow), hugging loads of people, vowing to walk to the park an watch the sunrise with a J and some beer, then deciding to go to bed early for the good of humanity, and finally, sleeping until 2 o'clock and waking up feeling fine (funny how that happens when you commit the most unhealthy excesses, eh?).

It's been a good party. Quite a good party indeed (to mimic Inspector Fowler)! Alas I must return to my academic (and other) duties. Quite a harsh week ahead, probably going to be very stressful, as my curricular and extra-curricular workload are particularly heavy these next 10 days. And on that note, I think I'll make the wide decision of hitting the hay, so as to get my usual 6½ hours of sleep per day. Toodles!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Woah... um... yeah....

I don't see why people in the UK make such a big deal about turning 21... I mean, 18's a big step since you're legally an adult, and I'd see 20 as somewhat symbolic since you're no longer a teen. But 21...? Maybe it has something to do with how they're currently slowly turning into the 51st state. Anywhooo, come to think of it, the weird part of it all isn't necessarily the "turning 21" part, but more remembering the time where I was 4, or 5, in the states, and thought that I'd never turn 21, let alone make it to 12th grade (merely because it was "so far away"). In fact once I remember getting pissed off because some friend got transfered from class 2 to class 12, and I thought they were letting her skip all the grades (and thus, naturally, she wouldn't have to go to school. A child's mind is always so pragmatic). But yeah, 21 seemed miles away.

So what's it going to change? Well, I'm sure it means I can run for some crazy office in some countries, and of course, I can drink in the US (errrr... yay?), but other than that it's just one more birthday.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Goodnight, sweet phone

Ladies and gentlemen, my cell phone is dying. It has reached the winter of its existence, and the faint flow of its battered screen is the last remaining witness, the last remnant indicator of the telecommunicative glory that this device once was. As days go by, it becomes harder and hard to read, like an aching beast battling to retain the last few gasps of fresh air it can get before it finally expires. Wounded by god knows what, beyond healing, it fearfully awaits its dusk, its night eternal, the day where I will pick its replacement and move on beyond morning, facing fresh life with new mobile partner. Dear phone, I raise my glass to thee.

RIP Sony-Ericsson K750i 2005-2006...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Back on the internets!

Man oh man, it's good to be back on the 'net at home. Lemme just get this out of the way then: if you're in the UK, don't go with BT. Broadband being set up should not involve 10+ phone calls and a two-week delay...

Anyway, moving on. So much has been done in the past few weeks, so I'll stick to the really recent stuff. It's term time again! After the summer I've had (especially the last two/three weeks), it's a welcome change. Of course, it means I have added constraints on my timetable and have to get up early (occasionally), but I can live with that. My new courses are quite groovy as well, and a rather heteroclite bunch that range from the really easy, such as programming (managed to finish the first 5/6 weeks of lab work the day before the first lab, which frees up my thursday afternoons for a while), to the really hard, such as nuclear physics (which is expectable, I suppose), to the really interesting, such as philosophy of maths (Bob Hale has a hypnotic voice, too). Plus, if I play my cards right (and am prepared to write a dissertation of Xmas), I can get away with having only two 10-credit exams this semester, which would be quite a treat. In other (academic) news, I've just been assigned my physics project today, which will be to design a 10 lecture course for 3rd years on a general physics topic. Whoop-dee-doo... At least it's theoretical (in that it will involve no labs... will it?).

In terms of extracurricular work, I'll probably have enough to keep busy as well. As victim chair of the British Undergraduate Philosophy Society (Facebook link), I'll be spending the next few weeks trying to set a date and venue for our next conference, and get the ball rolling... As well as checking in on some other projects (all currently in the expert hands of people who know what they're doing).
I've also founded a local Wittgenstein Reading Group (Facebook link), to read through the Philosophical Investigations (which we could have done as a module, but the professor teaching it retired), based on recommendations by my pal Robbie (props).
Finally, I can imagine the usual SSC stuff will take a bit of my time. Aaaah it's nice to feel active again.

On the personal front, all is well (I believe). I've actually gotten off m'lazy arse and joined the gym (hell, might even go today). The house is nice, too. I have the smallest room, but it has the biggest storage space (which in the end works out for the best) as well as the most pimpin' skylight (I can't say that with a straight face), and unlike last year, a really great wireless signal (which, knowing me, is a necessity). Now the internet is working reasonably well, let's hope it stays like this.

Righto, enough dilly-dallying about. It's nearly 10:30 am, and that means it's time for sweet sweet espresso (of which I need to order more) + breakfast.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Damn Straight, Steve!

Work work work. Still need to finish writing this presentation for the BUPC. Loads of stuff on the side. No rest for the wicked.

I was watching the WWDC keynote the other day, and have nothing more to say than the obvious "wow". Amazing stuff.

Speaking of which, I've just come across this video, after a few days of reading comparisons between Vista and Leopard (no contest, if you ask me), and what Steve is saying in this video still strikes me as amazingly true.

Click here to expand movie player.

There. I hadn't posted anything on this blog that clearly identified me as a machead. Mission complete.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Poor Chrysler: We hardly knew ye...

Man. Who knew putting together a conference could be so tiring? (answer: a lot of people, it's fairly obvious, and I'm probably stupid for asking myself the question). Have just (3 days) been asked to give a 5000 word~ talk on the first night of the conference (friday 8th) on a work/research in progress, and had to give the title off the top of my head. So it looks like I'll be giving a talk on whether or not language is contingent or or conventional (a cheeky jab at Chomsky, through the exclusion of "necessary", I suppose... although something could well be conventional and necessarily so, although that doesn't really fit the bill for universal grammar). Gotta re-read my notes on the matter, and try and fit that particular debate into a presentation on my research interests, and make it seem plausible, and make it seem non-boring... sheesh. I've got work to do (and was not expecting a deadline before the start of term.

In other news, I've finally got the respondents, and the final version of the programme sorted out (lightweight version available here). It's nice to see so many budging academics being so ready to help, and to be able to rely on them for some good quality philosophy I certainly cannot always produce (at least not for such a variety and depth of topics).

Moving on. Got the vacation pictures sorted out.
Click here to see them...

No, I had no idea the arrow was pointing to me at the time. I'm not that narcissistic.

'Tis only a flesh... errrrr oil wound.

The other car (aka "Chickenfuckermobile").

From Newton's First Law: "[...] objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless an outside force acts upon them".
I'm not lazy, I'm a physicist.

My new cousin Liuba and I, demonstrating our obvious resemblance. I've got a PhD in Pout-ology. She's still going for the BSc in Pout Studies.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A series of (really rather) unfortunate events

Ever get that feeling that everything is going wrong, whatever you do? Well, that sort of feeling is always an exaggeration to a certain degree, except this time that degree is a little smaller than usual.

The setting: Atlantic Coast of France, somewhere between Talmont and Thaims (are these places even on the map?).
When: Errrr, last thursday.

We were driving back from a series of Roman ruins ("Le site du Fâ") in our trust Chrysler voyager (my father at the wheel, me in what the french call "the seat of death", and loads of kids in the back), and we come down at a regular speed towards an intersection where we have right of way, but those having to yield (coming from the left) have little visibility of the oncoming road to the right (and must stop accordingly). Some jerk decided the law didn't concern him, cut us off at a what I'd call a "beyond cruising speed", and the inevitable crash happened, sending us ploughing into our airbags and him, his fat wife and fat kid (seriously) flying into the ditch (180 degree turn and all). Fortunately no one was seriously hurt (a bit of a stiff neck for the next few hours, and some bruises) but our good ol' Chrysler is no more.

Three days later, we're at the beach. My brother had bought one of these cool new skim boards and was playing with it on the sand. My mother wanted to try, my brother gives her the talk about it being more dangerous than it seems and requiring proper stretching, she insists and next thing you know, she's being whisked off the hospital with a severely broken right-wrist (being right-handed), where she still is at this time (having been operated upon sunday night).

Same day, my sister goes out with her bike (the non-motorised kind) to pick some blackberries, only to return with loads of (thankfully non-serious cuts) all across her, having fallen into the blackberry bramble with her bike.

To add some spice to things, there are a few (possibly viral) strains going around the house, with two boys who were visiting the other day displaying symptoms of gastroenteritis (and having seemingly passed them on to at least one or two people), and my sister's friend Margaux having had weird flu-like symptoms for the last week (touch wood that we won't get some o' that).

And to put the cherry on top, I had to whisk off to Paris this (monday) morning to take care of some BUPC-related work (of which there is a lot), and am now going to take the earliest train back down to Saintes, with my laptop and workload, to continue in our summer house (with a crappy 56k connection) and tend to my aching family members.

Other than that (which is a lot) we still manage to have a rather smashing time, with some occasional warm sunny days at the beach, and good food, and good company.

Life could be better, but it's still pretty damn good (which is easier to say when you're not the one with a broken wrist or car to replace).

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Be kind to your web-footed friend

Not that there's any particular need to apologize, but sorry for the stint of absence on my part. I've spent the last few days oscillating between the couch and the router (with occasional jogs in Versailles). Nothing too exciting.

The couch serves the purpose of providing a reading and writing space for my BUPC-related correspondence. Had one hell of a day processing all the submissions (an activity rendered much less painful by my helpful assistant for this task), reviewers, and getting it all to work (hopefully). One of my pet-peeves when I used to live back here (or anywhere, but the french administration and its love of red tape seems to best express this feature) was being impeded in my enjoyment of everyday life by base incompetence. Well, it is now I am on the other side of the fence, in being surrounded by people who not only do their job(s) well, but are keen to do so, that I realize that the opposite also holds to be quite true: it's very soothing to see things go smoothly.

So all's good in that hood. The router thing, however, is another matter. We've gone through quite a few netgears, and I've become well acquainted with the (thriving and friendly) netgear-gone-wrong support community, but to no avail. Fact of the matter is, our phone lines are archaic, and our router is fitted with a crappy over-sensitive Texas Instruments (who make damn good programmable calcs, go Ti89+!) chipset which reboots the damn thing every twenty minutes or so. We ordered one of those nifty Linksys WRT54Gs (that you can tinker with the firmware of) to replace it. Hopefully that'll be less stressful to deal with. Fixing the damn thing just sucks my energy away, meaning I haven't been so good with my reading as of late.

In other news, I had to go to the doctor a few days ago, on my mother's orders, because I've had a tickly cough since June. He put me on 8 different meds (mostly anti-allergic stuff) and wants me to have a blood test... ugh. Hate the damn things. The meds taste like crap too (and I'm not a huge fan of putting all that crap in my body).

But no worries, I can get faulty routers and vampiric needles out of my head for a few days, 'cause I'm a-headin' down south(-west) to our summer home in Cozes, to catch some rays on the beach with my buddies Swann and Eduardo, and his mother Helene (also a good friend). So life's good in the end... I just flippin' hate this 19th-century grade house.

Ooh, and one more thing: I got published again, but this time it's a paper, not a book review (Free e-copy of this edition here. *PDF warning*). Yay.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Paris vaut bien une messe...

I thought Easton, Pittsburgh and DC were bad enough, but it's actually just as hot here in Paris. You'd think that thick stone walls and leafy shade would prevent that, but in fact... not really.

My parents and sister are down in the south of France, or were, as they are now on the atlantic coast for my grandmothers' errrr... 72nd birthday? Anywhooo, I would have sort of liked to go down to our summer house in Cozes as well, but I didn't want to spend three hours in the train for just a weekend. Plus, my friend Liam from Sheffield is in town, so I might hang out with him a bit (as my friend Eduardo is at his girlfriend's all weekend), but so far no luck: he's not answering his cell phone, and I'm rather bad at answering my landline. It's sort of sad when a man becomes more reliably reachable by IM or email than by phone.

But back to the heat. It really takes the energy straight out of you. I have loads I want to do, including getting a hair cut, but the prospect of sitting 45 minutes in a non-air conditioned commuter train to go to Paris and get a haircut in a decent place is a bit daunting. It's a bit funny that, being rather fond of having my hair long and slightly ruffled (blatant understatement), I'm still so picky when it comes to haircuts. The reason, I guess, is that when your hair is long there's a rather large gray area when it comes to how it looks. I mean, either you don't look good at all with long hair, or you look okay-ish to good. Whereas for short hair a bad haircut is instantly noticeable. Less artistic license, har har. Nonetheless, I'll try to brave the heat and go into town one of these days, if anything, to have lunch/dinner with my grandmother (when she comes back up) or with Jim & Millie (my godfather and his spouse). Or maybe with my grandfather. We'll see.

Other than that, I have loads to do here. The first step towards actually doing some of that load is bit difficult though, and involves resisting the temptation to play DoD all afternoon. My friend Eduardo brough his (quite powerful) PC up to Paris with him, and it now resides in my room. After two years of having a Mac (G*d bless it) which not only helps me work efficiently, but also prevents me from feeding my gaming addiction, I now realize that playing a few rounds is probably equivalent to sticking a needle back into your arm after two years off smack (previous statement not from personal experience).

I had to get off m'arse on thursday to revise/edit a paper I wrote on qualia and epiphenomenalism, which I have been informed would be published in the next edition of the British Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy (finally... got something published other than a philosophical book review). Aside from that, I've got loads of papers (quite a few courtesy of Yorick Wilks) to read and/or re-read, as well as some books on Linguistics, and K&R's White Book on C, all of which I hope to get through before the summers' over. Over a month left. I think it'll be fine.

That's about all there is to say for now. Time for a cold bath, a book, and a beer. Even with work to do and humid heatwaves, life is pretty damn good.


Where geeks congregate

Whew. Got some catching up to do on this whole blogging thing. Quick summary of the past two weeks:

On the weekend on the 8th (of July) I went up to Boston to visit MIT, where I'd like to do some [post]grad research. I was shown around by a friendly local postdoc, Hugo Liu, who was kind enough spare some time and give me an eccentric tour of campus (Hugo: "So... this is the green building. A few people kill themselves here every year". Me: "That's... nice"), including the media labs, and answer my boring ol' questions. We had lunch and a chat. He's a truly fascinating guy. Consider yourselves lucky if you know him. Peace out, Hugo.

But let's get back to the Media Lab part. As a potential philosophy postgrad, I'd have nothing to do there (or would I... I mean if I could justify my presence there, well... score.) but as a self-confessed geek, it's probably the closest thing to heaven you can get (in life or death). Being quite a tech-blog aficionado (or at least very keen for them), it was a treat to be able to see all the crazy-cool inventions you'd read about just lying around, semi-finished, on tables with notes and leaflets and whatnot. It was quite the experience...

Following a brief return to DC, I went up to Pittsburgh for a week, spending time with my Grandparents, my Aunt Mary Jane, and my cousin Conor. It was nice to see Pittsburgh again (after what... two years almost?). I even got to visit my former neighbour (and babysitter) Erica, and dine at Ol' Max & Erma's, for old times' sake. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I would have gotten no work done there... not that I'm doing that much now, either. But more about that in my next post...

Word up.

Friday, July 07, 2006

DC: Behind the Scenes

I'm currently spending a few days in DC with my cousins and aunt and uncle (and father and sister). My cousin Bridget is an intern at the White House, so we made plans to have lunch and visit some of the buildings not accessible to the public. Lunch was great, but what was even better was that her boss got me access to the Old Executive Office Building (not open to the public), where most of the senior staffers work. That was pretty impressive, and the architecture (both inside and out) was beautiful (and very french, hon hon). After that, I visited the Decatur House, which was fairly cool.

Next, my cousin's boss got me access to the White House for a departure. We got to stand next to the White House door as Marine One landed.

Click here to expand the landing pictures.

Then Bush came out, just a few steps away from me. It's no secret I'm not a huge fan of the guy, but it was pretty damn weird seeing a scene you'd usually see on your TV screen happen at a distance where the only thing preventing your from leaning out and pun...err touching the guy is the sniper bullet you'd get for doing something so intensly stupid. (Disclaimer: This is but jest. Political debate is done with words, not fists. Plus... I dislike cheap jabs. Please don't kill me, Secret Service people...).

Pictures of The Man himself:

Click here to expand the Bush pictures.

A caption which comes to mind is Ace Ventura's "A**holes in the mirror [lens] may be closer than they appear..." I kid, I kid. Again, SS peeps, please don't hunt me down.

We also had some time to take a few pictures of us in front of the White House. Pretty good day all around. Quite an experience, I must say...

Click here to see the rest of the pictures.Here are some more pictures:

Bush's dogs: Barney and Mrs. Ihaveknowfrigginclue.

My cousin Bridget and I in front of the south lawn.

Me, in front of the White House.

Bridget, ditto.

Bridget and I, ditto.

That's all for now folks.

News from the Bay

Got back from Easton (Chesapeake Bay) yesterday.

I had a really great week of just lazing about across a house roughly five or six times the size of mine, with pool, hotub, and people cooking for us and bringing us drink. You'd think this extremely opulent lifestyle might be morally objectionable, but it turns out the considering the good company and the good wine, it's suprisingly not.

Anywhooo, not much exciting happened (no explosions, man eating sharks, magical racoons), and what did happen isn't of much concern or interest for people outside the family (then again, does anyone outside the family actually read this thing?).

Amusing anecdote though...
One morning, I woke up and went down to breakfast. One of the caterers greeted me with "There's a Scottish Man outside serving ice cream". I must admit my first thought was that either I was not completely awake, or that he was on crack, but as it turns out...

Click here to see more selected pictures.And now, for more pictures from the Bay:
The house, as seen from the bay.

Who's that sexy beast?

Conor catches up on some World Cup action.

The "adults" take the pool...

... and the "kids" claim it back.

Ben: about to discover that you can't really see anything underwater in the hot tub.

Ellie: The best fishergirlie ever. Beginner's luck, or natural talent?

Who on earth needs two boats?

Carol attempting to get everyone's attention.

Everyone, not paying attention.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What the hell, Sofia?

Yessiree, life is good in Grenoble. But no time to write about that... Let me just say this: I unfortunately suffered my biggest cinematographic disappointment today. I went to see Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette with very high expectations. After all, Sofia Coppola is an absolutely fantastic director whose past work I've greatly enjoyed, and Kirsten Dunst is a good actress (and incidentally features as #3 on my list of supremely beautiful women I will probably never sleep with).

However I found the film to be, despite good acting, well thought-out casting, and some great photography, extremely boring. This comes as a complete surprise, as Lost in Translation doesn't have much action either, but I believe it to be quite the masterpiece. However this film was just slow moving and boring, to the point where I walked out 3/4 of the way out, not wanting to waste much more time (plus, y'sorta know what's going to happen at the end). Quite a shocker, given the wealth of content to write about. Marie-Antoinette being quite an interesting historical character, I regret that Sofia Coppola was unable to display her usual talent in painting a moving picture of her.

Actually, that's a bit unfair. I think everything was excellent except for the absence of a hook to keep the movie interesting (and I dont' really require that much). Cinematographic Parnassianism just doesn't work when it's pushed to the extreme.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Hey hey... I'm currently in the airport terminal, waiting for my plane back to Paris. Somehow I stumbled onto a wifi network offering free internet. Funny thing is, I really did just stumble upon it... honest. I can't send email from but everything else works. Anyway, never look a gift horse in the mouth, life is good (and I can feed my addiction to checking my mail/stocks/forums/weird hat fetish site/etc...)

I moved out today. It'd been a good year in Brandreth Close. It's also been a painfully annoying one in some ways which I won't go into here. So no regrets, but I think I have pretty good reasons to look forward to next term, for house-related reasons, and others as well. Should be good.

But first, summer time! Gonna go down to Grenoble visit some good friends this weekend, then back up to Paris for a few days, then over to Easton for a few days, then up to Boston for a few days (to visit the city, and check out MIT), then back to France again for a month and a half of reading, writing, and preparing a conference. T'will be smashing.

Woops, time to go. Boarding call. See you all later!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Last items on the checklist

Phew! Finally got everything packed up and up in the new house, with the help of my housemate Lex. We also had those bastards from the Broomhill Property Shop come by for a visit today. Put in plain words, they are are quite a bunch of dishonest rectal orifices (in polite terms), with the possible exception the their secretaries. If you're in Sheffield and are looking for a house, I strongly recommend that you steer clear of them, as they're money-grabbing conmen (well... perhaps that's a bit harsh, but really only by a few notches).

So I cleaned my room out today, and am getting ready to leave. I'm really looking forward to moving into a house which doesn't look like a converted youth hostel, with a working wireless connection, and without the bloody soulless lying idiot of a landlord. In a few days, I'll be kicking back and relaxing in Grenoble and in Paris. Good times...

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Socks on the Windowsill

Not wanting to break the established paradigm set by weeks of whining about exams, I feel it is my duty to do likewise about the current task at hand. If there's one thing I hate more than administrative work, and bit less than exams, it's moving/packing. I've had to do it quite a few times, but the last few times were particularly annoying/stressful (mainly because I had to actually do some work, instead of watching my parents pack up the house while I put a few belongings and my teddy bear into my little backpack).

I always feel it is more difficult for me than it is for my housemates and friends. Their parents come along with their big cars, and they literally stuff their things straight from their room into the boot and drive off to their homes where they can stockpile it for the summer until they move back. I, on the other hand, have to play an intricate game of three dimensional tetris, in that I must tightly pack all my belongings into a few boxes and suitcases. Furthermore, I also have to find a place to stash all this rubbish. Last year I somehow managed to bring part of my belongings home, and put the rest into boxes in the cellar of my former hall of residence. Alas that is no longer an option, and I have had to come up with an alternate solution, which was to stash all my belonging in the cellar of next year's house (with the permission of the current outgoing tenants and that of the landlord). However, next year's house is about a mile away, up very very steep hills all the way (think San Francisco). Considering that, and the fact I have more stuff this year than the last, and that I can't actually carry some of the boxes I packed, a car is very much needed. To not help things, I can't rent one here, and none of my friends have one available. I reckon it would require about 4 taxi rides, so forth and back, that would add up to a cost of about £40 ($80... ouch). I'll work something out, I think. But this is by all means not a very pleasant time.

And as the little added extra, I have to clean my room and part of the house, and it's bloody hot and humid.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Football and more Colleges

I watched the England match in a proper pub today, and got a first-hand taste of the traditionally english yobbery. People got seriously worked up when England wasn't scoring, and when England snatched a last-minute 2-0, many nearly burst into tears of joy, then prompty either vomited or broke out into fights due to the considerably amount of alcohol ingested. The match itself was not exceptional, nor was my enthusiasm for it in the first place, but despite being glad to leave, I considered it all to be a rather spiffing experience... one that I shan't commit to again, I think.

After the match, I was supposed to go have dinner with Yorick at the Fellows' Dinner at Balliol College. Unfortunately, he was feeling ill this morning, and we had to cancel. Not that I really mind... I mean, this was really la cerise sur le gateau for this visit (plus, I didn't expect it either), and he's already treated me to two college lunches, and I managed to accomplish what I came to Oxford for (visiting colleges), so no worries. Maybe next time...

Speaking of colleges, I visited a few more colleges today, including Christ Church (for the third time, now). Christ Church is truly lovely, and leaves me hesitating which ones to ask for in my application. Naturally my first concern should be actually getting into Oxford, but as far as that goes, it's all pretty much alea jacta est for me. I might re-write and expand some past papers to submit as writing samples, and I'll have some time to beef up my CV a bit, but as far as exams go, all I can do is pray that the most recent ones went well 'cause I'll have had all my marks (seeing as I won't have received next term's exam marks by the time my application is processed). After that, should I be accepted, all further marks will only go towards getting a scholarship and/or AHRB funding.

But back to colleges. So few choices, so many to choose. I think I'll apply for University College as first choice, followed by Christ Church as second, although I might go for Balliol as second. They're all really nice, and offer interesting scholarships. University College, though, offers more for my profile, and usually offers two years of in college accomodation, at least. Tempting, tempting... I bet there's a hell of a lot of competition for it, though. Although at least one of the college fellows specialises in my area of interest, so maybe that will help. Wait and see, I guess. I'll be well chuffed if I get accepted by the university at all, so I can't really be picky (although I would "loathe", well not really, but "like a bit less" to be stuck in a modern graduate only college... a bit less fun, isn't it).

Oh well, back to Sheffield tomorrow. Gotta pack up over the weekend, and get my boxes to my new house. Ugh, I really hate moving and packing up. Gotta be done. And then, it's off to Paris, then off to Grenoble, then off to Paris, then off to the US, and then off to Paris again for a summer of cramming, working, writing, applying, reading, and lazing about...

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Freedom and Colleges

Finally free from the culling crush of exams, I've been spending the last few days sleeping in and being fairly useless. I somehow managed to forgo the completion of any non-BUPC-related to-dos (namely preparing to move), and am probably going to be looking forward to a pretty stressful week starting friday. Yay.

But until then, it's relaxation time. I took a train to Oxford yesterday (monday), where I will be spending a few days relaxing and enjoying the company of people smarter than I. So far it's been a nice change of pace from exams: last night, I went out for drinks with a few students from Magdalen College School, and greatly enjoyed the impressive knowledge of all subjects (including my own) they had to display. Then today I took a stroll around Jericho (not the one on the West Bank), had lunch with Yorick at Balliol College, where I am considering applying for postgraduate studies (well technically one really only applies to the department, and college applications are a pastoral matter). It was a bit more "modern" than I expected, having been considerably rebuilt at the end of the 19th, and during the 20th centuries (think Princeton-type architecture... it's not bad), but still quite pleasing (although not as quaint as some other genuinely older buildings, like those of Christ Church or Magdalen, which are absolutely gorgeous). I also got a quick-ish visit of the Oxford Internet Institute, which served as a convenient backdoor into Balliol.

On top of that, there was must discussion on Language and potential PhD (or hopefully DPhil) topics going around. I got to read through a rather quirky yet not uninteresting draft of a paper discussing (or perhaps just postulating) philosophical musings on matters of computational linguistics. Just two days ago, I doubt I would have ever predicted I would be keen on doing so so soon after the exams, but I admit it was quite an enjoyable experience.

Oxford is indeed a beautiful place, perhaps the most beautiful city I've visited anywhere. This statement could, of course, be linked to the good company and glorious weather (perhaps a bit hot on monday, but brief rainshowers today really brought it back down to a tolerable level). But then again, old buildings, canals, people in weird robes, loads of pedestrian streets, good schools, good colleges, bizarre shops, loads of public lectures and concerts, and all this only 45 minutes away from London... I think such statements are not entirely unfounded. I truly hope I get a place here for postgraduate studies. Time to start bribi...errr preparing applications.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Call of the Sirens

First of all, if you have a minute, check out the galleries on Garret Izumi's Website. A rather a brilliant photographer, he did a wondeful series of black and white stills of air raid sirens in LA. I appreciate the sense of silence and static I get from his shots, which contrasts quite well with the blaring tone the sirens must once have produced. Good stuff, give it a look.

Other noteworthy snapshot worth a looksie are those of Olly Dack, from the UK. I've included, with his permission, a few pictures of his I think are particularily noteworthy (don't forget to click on them to see them in full size).

I really liked this one, not only because I'm a sucker for old stone, but because it provides an interesting sense of depth. Have you ever been in a cathedral and had a slight spell of vertigo when looking straight up? The slight fuzziness of the flag in the foreground, and receding darkness of the ceiling create a satisfactorily realistic sense of immersion, something I find frequenly lacking in amateur photography.

It's fair to say, I think, that close-ups are one of Olly's fortés. The tone of this picture draw the eye to the sharply defined centre of the flower, while the periphery of the petals (and, more understandably, the background) shift out of focus, replicating a certain sense of natural vision.

It wouldn't be a complete blog post without my friend Jez's hideous face. On a more serious note, I once more appreciate the focus brought by the colouration of the pupils, which give an impression of intentionality you don't always get from your average portrait. Although the natural focal point is the eyes, the actual object of the picture seems to lie outside the boundaries of the frame. The eye tends to follow the subjects gaze, giving the whole picture a sense of motion, of dynamism which is enhanced by the contrast in luminosity, and the forward-leaning of the head. A brilliant picture, although the man could use a shave (although who am I to talk of facial hair)...

I haven't included them here since I wanted to focus mostly on the black and white shots, but do checkout his wildlife series, which display a certain knack for capturing things in motion well. Some very impressive and promising work there...

NB: Pictures in this post are © Olly Dack.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M...

... except it's thursday, and thank god it's not 3AM yet, and I'm already ready to hit the hay...

If in 10+ years someone stupid enough to ask me for advice asks me when I first started feeling like a student/academic, I'd probably answer "When I found myself underslept, half-conscious, covered in pages of scrawled notes, lying on my book-strewn unsheeted bed with the desklight on, and with a strong desire to die (... to sleep, perchance to dream) while nursing a half empty glass of liquor" and it would be half true.

Productive day, actually. Got my exam essay plans done, and I'm pretty happy with them. Now I need to start researching my philosophy of mind papers. Looks like I might actually be able to fit everything into my schedule nicely.

On a side note: I'm very sad to announce that my iPod nano did not survive its brave encounter with the washing machine.
A silent tribute...

Edit: I know, I know, I got the date wrong. The first date should be "25/12/05". Can't edit it now, because I saved without layers, and I'm shite with this sort of thing. My bad.

On a more serious note, gotta wait till I get back to France to get it fixed. Damn specific warranty papers... Oh well. It's my fault, really...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Beautiful day + Stuck Inside = Daily Deal during exam week

I'm quite certain the weather's taunting me. I woke up at 6am, because of the sunlight. When I was awoken again (by my alarm) it was beautiful outside, nice and warm with a sky that you'd see on a daily basis in Provence. Not a cloud in the sky. I wouldn't have been half surprised to see birds merrily flutter together and form the words "Ha ha you have an exam"...

The exam went okay-ish, but definitely could have gone a lot better (I know I say that a lot, but here it's really true... I think). Ironically I did quite well on the part I thought was really hard (atomic spectra) and found the part which I usually aced on past exam papers near impossible. Weird.

Oh well, wait and see. Now I have to start revising for the Solid State Physics exam, start researching my papers for Mind, and write my papers for Reference and truth. Ugh... not gonna be a fun week.

PS: I added a link to this blog's RSS feed, so if you're into that whole "keeping track" thing, you can just add this link to your feed aggregator and enjoy my whining as it comes (ie fairly frequently).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Late nights and clean iPods

I thought it'd be fun to go out to the library at midnight last night, and see how long I could work, and how productive I'd be. I stayed there a little over two hours, and managed to read through most of what I needed for my first philosophy exam (all the remains is a paper by S. Laurence and I should have enough to write up a draft plan). It felt like a very productive two hours, perhaps because I stumbled across R Keefe's book on Vagueness while looking for another one in the to-be-reshelved bookshelves, and it pretty much had everything I wanted in terms of objections to the theory of vagueness I'm... well, objecting to.

Sleep felt pretty nice after that.

Moving on though... You know how you always seem to leave cash in your pocket, and it comes out looking extremely clean? You know how they (namely your mother) warn you (hypothetically, if you don't own one of these) that iPod nanos are so small they'd probably be easy to use, and you protest by saying "don't worry, I'll make sure I always know where it is"? Connect the two stories, and you'll probably see where this is going. Yesterday, I was listening to my nano to and from the library. It's slim, so it conveniently fits in my shirt pocket, and is almost unnoticeable. This morning, while still groggy from a short night's sleep, I threw my shirt into my washbag, and the contents of the washbag into the washing machine. Result: one very, very clean iPod nano. It doesn't look damaged, but won't turn on. Then again the battery was very low last night, so I reckon there's just need for a little jumpstart with a power cable. Pretty stupid of me, though...

Friday, May 26, 2006

Keeping Balance

I talk about it a lot, but I'm not really one to believe in karma. However I do think there's a certain balance to things, namely opposing actions. For example, friction relates to air velocity, momentum relates to mass, and the chance of me getting fat(ter) relate to how much nutella I eat (I have non-too-subtle feeling I'm going to be put on a fruit-and-veg' diet and dragged out jogging every morning, this summer, to get rid of "exam gut").

There are more subtle balances observable too. How much I tidy my room is inversely proportional to my productivity, which is (no joke) inversely proportional to my workload and the immediacy of the deadline (which is why my room is generally spick-spack around exam time). Fortunately my academic glands kick in at some point and break the chain of despair. This sort of reflex is known in the medical world as "last-minute-panic-itis". (NB: If you're from an admissions board and God hates me enough to have let you read this, I am of course joking).

Other examples would also include the quantity of nutella consumed increasing exponentially as exam time approaches, or how the amount of practical jokes* played seems proportional to the amount of stress experienced by the house.

So yes, it seems like there is fairly clear evidence that there is some sort of balance in nature. If this is true, though, then why the hell can't our examination board act 'naturally' and balance out the exams across the exam period, instead of bunching them up for me across a few days like little temporal nuggets of hatred. Thanks guys.

It's over in 10 days. It's over in 10 days. It's over in 10 days. It's over in 10 d....

* Click here to for the full story...* Addendum: As an act of revenge for my aforementioned predicament, it was decided that a little joke would be played on our housemate Jez. Surprisingly enough, I had no involvement in this dastardly plot whatsoever. While he was out shopping for food, a bucket of water was brought up to his room (conveniently placed above the entrance to our house), filled with lukewarm water, and placed near the window. I'm sure you can guess what happened when Jez arrived at the doorway, fumbling to get his key in the lock. Needless to say, he didn't need a shower that day (but took one anyway). Good times.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

It could be worse...

It's one of those typical british summer days. Beautiful sunny blue sky, with high-up fluffy clouds, birds shrilly chirping, and general warmth and temperate weather. It's the sort of day that makes you wish you were outside in a park, drinking corona with lime, or Pimm's, and relaxing on the lawn. Unfortunately, with the damn exams around the corner, it's not exactly a luxury one can afford, unless he/she is abnormally nonchalant/confident about the whole thing. So, faute de grives, on mange du merle, I'll have to settle for the sight of sunlight against a dirty brick wall, which is the view I get from my window. Not the best, but there could be worse conditions in which to revise. It's quite relaxing and, dare I say, good enough for me...

After all, it's just a taste of what's to come in two weeks, when I'm done.
Peace out.

Addendum: Click here to view the result of the above approach to beautiful weather...Edit: So I took a folding chair and stepped outside to read a few chapters of Williamson's Vagueness (which some likeminded student has requested, so I have to bring it back tomorrow -_-). I was sitting there relaxing in the sun, when the classic prank came along: my friend Liam walked home. As soon as he entered the house, he put the security bolt on. I briefly protested, then realised that being temporarily locked out on a sunny day wasn't such a bad predicament. Unfortunately, my friend Jez was also aware of this predicament, and down from his window came a stinkbomb.

You think you're used to the damn things after all the ones you threw around when you were 10. Let me tell you, there is no way any human being can become 'used' to that horrible smell. After a few minutes of olfactive agony, the door was unlocked, and the plotting of my revenge began...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

They should have flippin' won

Unfortunately, by having a great time at the ball, I missed out on the best comedy night of the year: Eurovision.

So I played catch-up thanks to youtube, and picked out some of the best bits and pieces. The israeli version of R Kelly was pretty bad, as we were the french and british entries (I don't know what annoyed me the most with the latter: the lyrics, the singing, or the choreography). The finnish band weren't too bad, despite ripping some lyrics straight out of a KISS song. But I think the best performance by far was the one the Lithuanians gave:

I normally wouldn't repost a popular video, but given the impact this has had in terms of "good mood-ness", it would be a crime not to share.

Click here to expand movie player.

Those guys are completely insane, but by Jove that band shoulda won.

Having a Ball

Yesterday, I went to the Philosophy, Psychology, Politics & Sociology ball. I was a bit reluctant to go at first as I didn't know that many people who were going, and those who I knew, I didn't know that well. Plus, as much as I enjoy semi-formal attire for my daily dress-up, I'm not that fond of wearing a (fairly tight) tux, and I'm certainly not that keen on dancing disco-style (mainly because I suck at it).

Turns out, it was a lovely evening and I would have been quite foolish to miss it (retrospectively, I would have missed out on some pretty important things as well). The food was above average (and probably constituted the most complex and balanced meal I've had in months, barring my father's 50th and the Buddha Bar the night after), the company was entertaining and sophisticated (we had some lovely ladies at our table, sporting very elegant gowns, and some nice lads with interesting degrees and plans for the future), and the dancing wasn't half bad. All in all, I had a fantastic time, and met some really great people (including a really great girl who, I hope, wasn't just talking to me because she was a bit drunk). So by all means, a most successful evening.

Now back to the harsh realities of revision (goddamn... so much to do!).

In other news, I've just joined the Skeptic Society and their Forum, and am thus far impressed with the quality of discussion (I have yet to read the magazine, but I'm told it would most likely suit my tastes). So check it out, if you have a minute. Michael Shermer's a pretty admirable guy.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

One little sign error

It's funny how one little sign error can make the difference between a satellite fall into orbit or back onto the earth, between a finely balanced solution and an explosive mess, or in this case, between a brilliant formal answer to a troublesome paradox, and a stupidly evident and useless answer.

The liar paradox is simply "This sentence is false" so that if it is true, it is false and thus not true, and if it is false, then it is not the case that it is false so it is true and not false. Either way, it's a paradox.

I came across this earlier today, and wondered if it was solvable in predicate logic. Using a rather idiosyncratic (but efficient) method which is (I think) used by the PROLOG interpreter, internally, I got the following proof:

Click here to expand formula.

Tx: x is true
Fx: x is false
{x} is a class comprising one individual proposition a: This sentence is false.
Logic states P1 ≡ ∀x [ Fx → ~Tx ]
So x entails P2 ≡ ∀x [ Tx → Fx ]
C is the conclusion of the sentence "This sentence is false" in conjunction with the entailed complex propositions P1 and P2. I'm going to cut short and use the resolution method I learnt with Prof Denis Vernant because I'm more comfortable with it, so the following may seem a little idiosyncratic, but hopefully not too unclear.

∀x [ (Fx & (Fx → ~Tx) & (Tx → Fx)) → C ]
x is a one member class, so because of the ∀ quantifier I can substitute x for a (see above).

(Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa)) → C (1)

Let's make the following assumption. The conclusion C is that the truth status of the proposition a is defined. In other words, Ta v Fa.

Now I apply resolution method to this statement. Basically I negate the whole statement, reduce it to conjunctions and disjunctions, and resolve along the following lines: p & (q v ~p) gives us p & q.
So ~{ (Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa)) → (Ta v Fa) }
Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa) & ~(Ta v Fa)
Fa & (~Fa v ~Ta) & (~Ta v Fa) & ~Ta & ~Fa

We cancel the disjunctions out and obtain Fa & ~Ta & ~Fa which is a contradiction, which means with C ≡ (Ta v Fa) we obtain a logically non-valid expression.

Can we thus conclude C ≡ ~(Ta v Fa)? We can put this to the test:
The negation of (1) with this new C gives
~{ (Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa)) → ~(Ta v Fa) }
which is
Fa & (Fa → ~Ta) & (Ta → Fa) & (Ta v Fa)
which is
Fa & (~Fa v ~Ta) & (~Ta v Fa) & (Ta v Fa)
Which simplifies to
Fa & ~Ta which is not a contradiction (and is not a conclusion either, just to dispel possible confusion) so that (1) with C ≡ ~(Ta v Fa) is a logically valid statement.

Thus, if I haven't made a mistake, and am not making any unreasonable assumption, the sentence "This sentence is false" is compatible with the conclusion "It is not the case that this sentence is true or false", or basically "It is nor true, nor false".

Now as you can imagine, I was fairly excited. If you don't understand the above, I basically proved it logically (or did I...). So thus, very pleased with my discovery, I sent a copy of this proof to my lecturer.

Twenty minutes later, I re-read it, and the reality check came in the mail (after all, a bit silly to assume that such a straightforward proof had been missed by generations and generations of talented logicians). I had in fact gotten the signs wrong -not in the application- but in the derivation of the conclusion, so that in fact the first case being a contradiction actually confirms the logical validity of the statement (since its negation is a contradiction), while the second is inconsistent. Thus rather than solving the problem, I've just made a pretty evident confirmation of its existence. Do note however that the second case raises an interesting point: does this logical state of non-validity support the definiteness of a truth value for the proposition being studied? I doubt it, but it's something to think about, if that tickles your fancy.

Moral of the story: live cocky, breathe confident, but by all means... check your signs.

Empty Concrete Hive

If you have a minute, I encourage you to take a look at Yuji Saiga's photographic work on Gunkanjima, a mining island in the japanese archipelago, which was heavily built upon between 1890 and 1974 to serve as a oceanic coal mine under the direction of the Mistubishi corporation. Harbouring a concrete hive with a population density of nearly 3500 people per square kilometer, this island-city was the perfect example of the urban jungle at its prime. And eventually, in 1974, the mine was closed and the whole island was evacuated and deserted over the course of a few weeks.

Decades later, Saiga returns to the island, to provide us with what I think anyone would call a chilling photographic reminder of the devastating effect of soulless urban sprawl.

Check out Saiga's pictures here.
Well worth three clicks of a mouse.

Speaking of photography, if you're into the whole flash-click-bzzt shazzam (aka photography), take a minute to check out Lens Culture. You might find something you really, really like.

NB: Pictures in this post are © Saiga Yuji.

Calm before the storm

Currently doing a little research on the topics I have to cover for my philosophy finals. I've spent the better part of the morning tidying up my notes and going through a few papers on our database to scout out some interesting stuff. So far, only a few potential hits.

I always think the research segment of writing a paper is always both the most enjoyable part, and the most frustrating one. It's a pleasant activity because you know you're getting valuable exposure to the (maybe) cutting-edge of the debate on whatever you're working on, and it's intellectually stimulating. On the other hand, it also requires focus, concentration, and having to put up with a load of bullsh*t (sometimes).

Oh well... Last lecture for philosophy of language today, and very last lecture of the term for any module. All I have between me and exams is a seminar on Haack, whose paper I am looking forward to re-reading (having mistakenly done so for last week's seminar). Then it's a long week till exams start.

I really detest this quiet lull between lectures and exams, where the panic of not having done enough work (or thinking you haven't) progressively sinks in, and nights grow longer and days seem too short to fit your reading schedule in. This, said after I've spend so little time sleeping over the past month because of deadline over deadline over deadline. I can't wait till it's all over and I can get onto my summer reading.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It's that special time of year again

The place: a typical suburban house in Sheffield.
Time: 10:42 AM.
Weather: Rainy.

Woke up late for the last lecture of term. No biggie, as they just viewed the Milgram experiments and discussed them a bit (and I had had the displeasure of viewing them).
Spent the morning reading about flippin' Atomic Spectra and electron spin (physicists will catch the freakishly bad pun in this sentence).
Had to run and wait in line at module registration, because of the risk of having my philosophy modules already capped by the time I register (fortunately there was room left, most likely because Philosophy of Mathematics, Language, and Advanced Logic don't attract hoards of students anyway).
Came back home and read about Special Relativity, prepared a class for my french group, then got a call indicating that there wouldn't be a meeting tonight, and then spent the evening reading more physics.

Crap weather, crap obligations; there's no doubt about it, everything seems to indicate it's that wonderful time of year again: Exam time! Yay!

More whining about this in the next few days.

Gotta start somewhere...

Hey all. I've decided to open a blog here for a change, since this is a bit more neutral (or should I say varied), in terms of userbase, than livejournals (and owned by google).

Don't expect that many regular updates, as I'm fairly lazy about this sort of thing, and especially don't expect anything else than whining about deadlines, bragging about good marks, complaints about some academic or other's cryptic papers, and general mish-mash no one would really care about.

Point is, this thing is cheaper than any psychoanalyst, and most probably just as effective.

Rock on...