Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Herbie Goes Bananas

Found the Bank of Scotland in Leicester today. I only nearly caused a car crash, avoided 2 more and scared a few pedestrians and myself. My flat is now paid up, I need to collect the keys tomorrow.

Yay - I'm not homeless come Friday!

Note to self: Walk to the bank! It's only a mile!

Dr Stu on Dr Who

I don't like Doctor Who.


Ok, I did when I was 5 and it came on TV. Mainly the bit where the smiling face appeared on the screen and the pretty colours came on. I remember a really scary episode involving vampires called the Curse of Fenrus and some weird one where King Arthur came back only to be destroyed in 5 minutes of an episode (or maybe that was another show). But then I realised it was yet another BBC cheap-skate sci-fi series and lost interest. Having said that I watched some Blake's 7 recently and thought it was ok.

I liked the McGann pilot that never got a series, the Gothic Tardis was pretty cool, though the show was American, showing the BBC's inadequacies that it can't make sci-fi without supplementing our license fees with American money and in doing so selling out to the vacuous style of American TV.

Er... rant over... anyway so I decided given the fuss the Beeb was making to watch this as well.

I liked it.

Damn it!

Eccleston is pretty damn cool as the Doctor. He's smug, weird, and generally a good actor anyway. Billy Piper I wasn't so sure of.

In true cheapskate Dr Who tradition rather than choose one of the other infinite possibilities of time and space the Doctor wound up at the centre of the universe, London, England, Earth convienently in the early 21st century. That must have lowered the budget for the first episode, and allowed him to pick up Billy Piper, who it turns out can act.

The episode was really quick - 45 minutes that seemed to involve running everywhere with latex dummies chasing the goodies. The dummies were ok and I understand there is meant to be some big overarcing reason for all this if you've been watching for the past 25 years or so, but there was also some dodgy CGI including a wheely bin. I thought the effects looked like the kind out of Red Dwarf VII, like someone'd been playing with their old Amiga for a couple of months. Additionally there was a totally unconvincing "dummy" replica for Billy's boyfriend which she was completely fooled by despite the fact it looked mega-odd.

Overall good. Not stellar. Not set the world on fire. It's no Babylon 5 or Battlestar Galactica v2.0 but it's watchable. I'll be watching next week I suppose.

Return of the Dude

Yet another witty post title...

Good times in Dundee just hanging out and seeing everyone. I actually felt a bit of a mook being up after only 10 days away, but hopefully I should be back up in April to submit the "one true thesis".

Saw lots of some folk and curiously little of others and discovered hell's waiting room while catching a taxi at 3am in Dundee. Just when you think you're almost there it turns out the guy in front has 20 mates that seem to be push in front. But that is the price of a good calzone isn't it.

For those of you not educated in the ways of fine cuisine like myself a calzone is in fact a folded pizza with the delicious pepperoni (or whatever's your poison) topping kept fresh in a layer of hot tomatoy goodness. Who says this blog isn't educational?

It was also good having a TV to watch. Caught the new Doctor Who and a detailed and intelligent commentary will follow since everyone seems to be reviewing it.

Loaded the car up with essentials such as my DVD player, a spare TV and so forth in preparation for the coming move this week. It took me 10 hours to get home but about 1 hour of this was spent frantically trying to find Oadby or the City Centre, neither of which are particularly well sign-posted. Finally unpacked collapsed around 9ish to order some fish and chips.

A little survival tip in England - never ask for a large portion of chips. What I got was HUGE. A meal for 2-3 in itself.

Today's ordeal involves getting to the bank (I don't know where it is so I guess it will take roughly 2-3 hours to find) and paying my deposit on the flat. Try not to mug me today, I'll only be carrying a small fortune in cash.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

By Their Command!

They've release brief summaries of the second season of Battlestar Galactica. Episode 2.2 sounds frackin' ace!

The Scourging of Dundee

A gruelling 9+ hour drive later, with seemingly every truck/car transport/tractor on the single carrigeway of the A1 delaying me, and a stop at Mussleborough service station, the most inhospitable service station at 9pm, saw me return to Dundee.

It seems someone has hidden Tayport and Fife behind a shroud of mist, dug up the Nethergate roundabouts and more annoyingly dumped another set of traffic cones where I usually park in the Blackness estate.

I've come into my office at Dundee. Someone's deactivated my admin access to my PC, locked me out, disabled my storage space and not allowed me access to burn a backup DVD of all my stuff. Bummer! It's going to take me another 30 mins to burn my DVD. At least they found my acetabular cup...

All I need now is for Christopher Lee and Brad Dourif to be behind it all...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

So Long Suckas!

Well, in about 25 minutes I will be beginning the long drive to Dundee and the search for a petrol station (not in that order or I won't get there) and my internet access might be a bit patchy unless I bother to dig out the old laptop. Expect excitement, adventure and so forth to resume at some point in the future.

Thanks to the chaps from work for letting me leave early. Wait a minute - they've all buggered off!

High Scorer

What, are you a first generation gamer? Did you own the brown box?! Whatever you do in your spare time, gaming seems to be your job. Either you looked up the answers or you're the best of the best, the type that makes other gamers strive to know more. Just don't let the knowledge overwhelm the newbies, it tends to push them from the hobby. We all bow before you. You are the living nat 20, congradulations. I'm going to flee the scene now ;)

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender: You scored higher than 93% on dice

From the The Real Gamers use Dice Test written by luminasita on Ok Cupid

Courtesy of Mr. Kydd

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Paying Yer Dues

Well that felt odd. Despite leaving at 5:10pm I barely caught the Lettings Company before they closed. In fact I reckon I would've been easier walking than driving there, after 2 circuits of Queen's Road I was getting a little worried when the clock said 5:45pm.

Anyway they're always happy to get dosh I suppose so I handed them a suspiciously thick wad of cash, got a classy A4 receipt for my records, went over my form with the chap. What was a little weird was the way he and his assistant both counted the £100 or so in a rather comic-book fashion. At least we know they won't be saying I diddled them any time soon.

So, there goes another chunk of my slush fund. Roll on pay-day...


Just finished polishing the first entries in the photo blog which is available here and will be put in my links section as soon as I figure that out.

Call of Stuthulu

I went to the student's union again, with some trepadation after the Baywatch incident. As it's holiday time the gangsta rap dude has decided to give his, and my, eardrums a rest and go back to the ghetto that spawned him. In its place is a relatively chilled jazz spilling from the speakers. They've a CD and DVD sale on, being the kind of "5 Films for £9.99" junk that beer and bad movie nights come from, but amongst such great movies I found a copy of Dagon for £4. As I am apparently loaded with cash I've bought this to watch either tonight or when back in Dundee.

A little disturbingly he's wrapped it in a brown paper bag so it does look like I've bought a porn DVD and sat it on my desk. Oh well...

Anyroads I thoroughly expect this to be a bad movie. This adaption of Call of Cthulu looks to be a lot more promising however, and the trailer is well worth a look.

One For Egor

God knows someone in the elevator after lunch could've used one of these.

Could You Turn Right at the Next Junction

I've just filled in a form to be made an invigilator at ECDL (European Computer Driving License) tests. I suspect none of the other demonstrators wanted the job, but if I get my foot in with ECDL it might prove interesting. Failing that teaching word processing and spreadsheets might be a good start to the job rather than teaching, oh, say, advanced C++ data structures with one day's notice.

Given ECDL is going to be lurking around for at least 10 years as it rolls through the NHS with the speed we know and expect this might be interesting.

How Much Cash?

Went to see about getting the flat. Apparently the need a £117.50 referencing fee, £300 deposit and £300 rent. And if I want to move in by April then I need to pay it in cash as cheque won't cash in time. Still it's better than Leicester Halls of Residence who don't take cash, debit card or credit card, only cheque.

Did I mention I left my cheque book at home?

Monday, March 21, 2005

And more fruit of my labours...




I bet you're impressed I'm this good after 7 years of training...

A Hard Day's Work

The sum total of my morning's work, my first PHP script.

A Fine Upstanding Citizen

Saw this guy while out walking through Leicester's City Centre at the weekend.

Good Use of Legislation

There's nothing craftier than a desperate woman.

Dumbest Question I've Been Asked All Week

"So had you ever visited England before you came to Leicester?"

'Nuff said really.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Comments Enabled

I have enabled comments to this blog, in the past it required that you have your own account to leave comments. Comment away...

The Long Drive

Being rather bored after being stuck in the flat watching Buck Rogers and Angel I decided around 10:30 to take a drive down to the cheap flat I looked at on Friday to see if the area was in fact a complete dive or filled with junkies on a Saturday night. And to see if I could actually park the car.

Well in one close there was about a half-dozen students all going out for the night, and two wheeler-dealer types having a conversation across the street, but after 5 minutes it quietened down. I didn't park in the street but on the waterfront near the flat. I also noticed all the surrounding flats are not unsurprisingly student flats offering rooms at roughly £45-£60 a week. Quite a few properties were even for sale in the street, which did make wonder slightly, but I got the impression it was ok. I also got the impression people thought I was a policeman or something given I walked up and down the street a couple of times.

What was more disturbing was that thanks to a huge amount of wrong turns and wrong lanes I wound up in Oadby's warehouse district, the centre of Leicester, DeMontfort University campus and didn't arrive back home until midnight. Today I am going to walk down to the waterfront from uni. If nothing else at least its killing time because this weekend has been incredibly boring.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Not Seen the Trailer Yet?

Roll on May the 9th. The Revenge of the Sith trailer is available here.

Sharptooth Defeated

I have it! In my hands I hold a library card! I am triumphant! No longer can Sharptooth delay the inevitable. No longer will I be forced to ask politely to enter the library, nor stand at the registration desk waiting for Sharptooth to ask me to come back another day when I have some forms/the correct forms/the correct forms processed properly. Now untold volumes of knowledge are at my fingertips.

Do I want to take out any books? Nah - I think I'll go for lunch.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Leicester vs Dundee

They say it's the little things when you move that strike you. Well in Leicester University it is certainly not the case - it's the big things.

Leicester Uni on a whole seems to be a lot more strict.

- The CFS (Central Filing System, the campus wide network) all have strict quotas. Apparently students are allowed 20 megs of storage space. If they log off over this quota their account is suspended until, guess what, yours truly or whoever arranges to have this fixed. My account seems to have a similar quota on it, making it impossible to send me large attachments or for me to send out large attachments. Fortunately gmail has been on hand to deal with this problem but its a pretty serious one IMHO. Poor Mare failed abysmally to send me some photos tonight because I clean forgot about's lameness. I will make enquiries as to how to get a proper mail account...

- The CFS do not allow P2P file sharing. Fair enough in this one, but apparently Skipe, MSN, ICQ, AIM etc. also count as P2P and are similarly nixed, though it may only be if you try to send files via these packages. Skipe by default sends audio files so it's totally nixed. For the moment I am continuing to use Trillian while I work in Windows.

- Students at Leicester are not allowed to connect network devices to the MCS (Maths and Computer Science network). In Dundee people connected a variety of laptops, in fact it was encouraged as it helped deal with any shortage of desktop PCs.

- Mobile phones in the lab are banned. Anyone caught using a mobile phone is to be logged by yours truly and reprimanded. First time is a warning, second time is an account suspended for 24 hours and third time is a week or something. A sign on the lab door reads that mobile phones corrupt data over a network. Of course I'm dreading the inevitable day I take my own phone into the lab and it rings.

- Eating and drinking is banned in the labs. While this was officially the case in Dundee no-one enforced it and I used to eat my lunch while coding. I've to treat this similarly to mobile phones.

- Most rooms in the university are swipe card access only. This is fair enough for student labs but our room is permanently locked, accessible only by swipe card or by an electronic switch on the inside. This is to keep students out, we don't seem to run an open door policy given that all marking etc. is to be hidden from the students.

Similarly however the character of the students is very different. Plagiarism and cheating run rife. I'm fairly certain students in past years are mailing their friends and family members code and allowing them to reuse it. There is even tales of students renting programmers online to do their coursework for them, and being dumb enough to post .html files instead of code files, allowing us to trace webpages they've "borrowed" the code from.


I just had the most surreal experience when going for my afternoon can of Cherry Coke (yes, they sell that in this city). I've long suspected Leicester's Student Union has a weird taste in music. I mean they have some guy who's job it is to sit between two speakers and play gangsta rap at enormous volumes.

So I walked into the shop to hear, blaring over the speakers,

Some people stand in the darkness
Afraid to step into the light
Some people need to help somebody
When the edge of surrender’s in sight..

In case you're not aware that's the apparently popular Baywatch Theme.

I was beginning to feel that in order to buy my cherry coke and twix I should really start running down the aisle of the student's union shop in slow motion, pearly white teeth and six pack gleeming, dragging a life preserver behind me.


Stuart's Friday Link

Every arch-nemesis deserves one of these pages.

A Roof, My Kingdom for a Roof

Apparently the university, in addition to giving me 38 days off (week days, so that's over 7 weeks of holiday) insists I take religious holidays (if they can be called that given it's Easter and Xmas I'm talking about). No-one mentioned this to me previously but I apparently get Thursday-Monday off next week. This is great I suppose in that I can go home, see everyone etc. but it's also a little annoying as the halls I am paying silly amounts of money to stay in will be empty over Easter. It also means I overlooked the fact that every letting agency in Leicester will be shut from Thursday-Monday next week.

With this in mind I trudged up Queen's Road today to try to rent a property. The first, and only, place I visited today had a 4 bedroom flat for £300 a month on offer. Apparently it was meant as a 4 person flat for students but is lying empty so my £300 a month will cover the mortgage. I've also looked into another property but am waiting to hear back from the letting agency. After a drive down to the flat I found I'd spent 1 hour just visiting that letting agency. I sauntered back to work.

So my goal is to find a place before Wednesday next week, go home, take lots of all that dirty laundry my mother is doubtless missing (joke), take some stuff back down (DVD player maybe?) and all will be well...

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Doing it yourself...

Starting to get into a routine with regards to getting the bus in the morning. There's no parking on campus y'see. It seems, barring one chap, most of the other guys stagger in around 10am and leave around 5ish, which is swell as that's been vaguely my routine as a student. For the first couple of days I've been a little lonesome, although the chaps have done everything to put me under their wing. I'm looking into joining some roleplaying up here before I go cuckoo. I also got a list of flats in the area - I am tempted by a £470 a month flat, with a view to getting someone else in the flat and sharing. £235 a month is pretty cheap near the uni!

I even managed to get a copy of my acceptance letter from HR and mollify Sharptooth.

Oh - and I broke the freezer compartment trying to get my ice-cream out of it. Er... d'oh? Well - it's structurally intact apart from the outer part of the freezer box is split in 2. Wasnae me guv!

Monday, March 14, 2005

The First Day

First day at work - well, what can I say. Catching the 8:30 bus for the 3 mile journey to work I was a bit surprised to be hot-footing it to the CS Building at 8:55 for my 9:00 start. I was also a little bit surprised to find my boss saying he'd wished I'd turned up at 9:30 as he was having a manic Monday. Nonetheless after a trip to HR to confirm via birth certificate and NI card I am who I say I am puts me firmly in the "being paid" category at the university. The rest of the morning was spent filling out the oodles of paperwork you need for a staff card, swipe card, campus account, computer science account and library card.

Library card deserves special mention thanks to Sharptooth the Librarian, as I have nicknamed her for her fangs. She was more than a little unwilling to allow me to join the library. She wanted a letter of acceptance as proof. Only problem is said letter is sitting in my room in Dundee, and I'm oddly enough unprepared to go to Dundee just for a letter. Not even a letter from my boss could assuade her otherwise. So two trips to the library and no card to pick up.

By afternoon, just by quitting time in fact, I got my username and password to login. Yay!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Morning After

Woke up surprisingly rested this morning and spent the morning pottering around the flat, doing odd jobs before finally deciding to go out into the big bad world I'd lost myself in. I drove into Leicester City Centre, thanking the heavens I had a car. Driving by day is surprisingly relaxing given that Leicester centre is full of speed cameras in 30 MPH zones. Apparently this nets the city father's a hefty £750k according to the paper in front of me. In addition there are signs that light up saying Slow Down if you exceed 30 MPH. I triggered one last night - I hope I didn't get caught speeding by the cameras. Mind you I'm convinced I triggered dozens of these things on the journey yesterday!

After visiting the Shires shopping centre, Leicester's answer to the Overgate I bought myself a ton of bachelor-chow (tm) and scuppered back up to the flat. It's so quiet here I am going mad. I even spent my Sunday writing my latest MIUA paper from my thesis, dodging doing any work on the real thing you'll notice.

Bachelor-chow in the form of roast beef tastes very good apparently but I am very bored and sorely lacking any form of company. On the other hand this has left me free to watch Buck Rogers on DVD and contemplate the eternal question - why does Buck feel, whenever he is in casual clothing, the need to show his chest hair. Does Gil Gerard think we are impressed by this? Is the ruined and desolate Earth of the 25th Century so warm that prolonged concealment of the chest could be detrimental to Buck's health?

Thank goodness I'm not going peculiar. ;)

Into Exile I Go

I awoke at 8 am, or at least I got up then, feeling utterly exhausted and with a really sore stomach. For obvious reasons I had not slept much, going over routes and so forth in my mind. Dad had decided to write out a third route to Leicester on a bit of paper, and then we loaded the car. Unfortunately I'd decided to take my PC which took up a ton of space in the car, so the back seats had to be popped down to allow more trunk space. Finally with that done and a plate of cereal scarfed down I began my long journey to Leicester in a car which was filled with cardboard boxes and junk. A photo of this will be forthcoming...

The route I eventually elected to take was to take the A1 from the outskirts of Edinburgh and follow it past Berwick and Newcastle until it eventually became the M1. This was quite nice as it allowed me to pass by the Borders, where I was born, though I didn't have enough time to drive to Jedburgh. I stopped at Berwick for a desperately needed break and then about an hour later stopped again. This being my first journey longer than 2 hours, and given my tiredness, by the time I passed Newcastle I was utterly nackered. That and for some insane reason the A1 become a single lane country road for about 80 miles, with signs telling you of the 169 casualties the road has suffered in 3 years. Hard to wonder why?

The problem was that inevitably I ended up stuck behind an ice cream van and a horse van for these single lanes, which I think helped delay me. Eventually I made it to the M1 and after a third break and a caffeine laced Pepsi Max I was able to finally make it to Leicester. Unfortunately my maps of Leicester were woefully inaccurate and I was convinced somehow if I approached from the north I could find Oadby and the halls of residence easily. Unfortunately it was now 6pm and dark, so the intricacies of Liecester's roundabouts and lanes were completely lost on me. However by trial and error I eventually managed to drive past Manor Road and turn up to the halls.

However I'd said by email I would've been up by 4pm, and it was now approaching 7pm. The halls lady had gone home and left a note with her mobile number. The helpful student-assistant at the halls called her up and after a protracted conversation, lengthened by my inability to understand what was going on at this point. About 7:30 she came back and after some profuse apologising on my part took me to the flat.

The flat...

Well, it is smaller than I thought but it is quite cozy. The previous occupant had left the heating on and the place was scorching. Additionally, being a student hall there is always someone who feels they should listen to music at top volume. And tonight was the Hall Ball night 'til about 1am. Add to that excessive heat much carrying of boxes and unpacking and come 9pm I collapsed on my bed only to have mother phone me, wondering if I was wrapped round a tree near Leeds.

And at about 9:30, after hooking up my PC, my stomach reminded me it likes being fed.

Leicester's student digs possess the most dubious honour of being in a residential neighbourhood that seems devoid of any take-aways, supermarkets etc. Given harrowing experiences when I was up for my interview I decided I might just take the car and hunt down some food. Ironically, after asking at the nearby petrol station, where I am beginning to think ignorance of any local geography is a prerequisite (I asked for directions there before and the guy didn't even know where the university was) I decided to get some English cash in my wallet at one of the all too common pay-as-you-use ATMs. About five minutes later with the usual Kerrigan-luck I stumbled upon an Asda and about a million Link cash machines. After buying some breakfast cereal and taking a further 15 mins to find the milk while exhausted I even managed to find an honest to God pizza place in Oadby. So by 10pm I was fed, and even had cereal for the morning. And settled down to watch Buck Rogers on DVD - except my PC DVDR didn't like that disk. So I watched Angel on DVD. Except my DVDR didn't like that disk. So I concluded I need a new DVD drive today... and some food.

So I went to sleep to the sound of the disco going on down the road.