Thursday, August 24, 2006

Where are all the Watford blogs?

I just cast a google net out for people who are blogging about Watford FC and found just the one site - good on this guy for trying though (he also is into trees). I know we're not that big a club, but I'd thought more people might want to write about us. I'll try and keep up some comments on them here, but I don't want to turn into an exclusively football fan based blog. I'm hoping the other guy will have some good posts now we're into the new season, which I can just link to.

I should say something about the other nights game (Watford 1 - West Ham 1) that I gleaned from the brief highlights on Match of the Day last night - we again played some good football and showed a lot of commitment, we had a lot of chances and a fair few goal scoring opportunities which could have clinched a win for us if only we'd had some better finishing. We're showing promise for the rest of the season and don't think we'll be heading back down again without putting up a good fight. These comments have been put together from the Big Book of Generic Footballing Phrases by Mr A. Pundit.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Point on the board

Yesterday the mighty Hornets (aka Watford FC) got their first point on the board in the new Premiership season - we drew 1-1 with West Ham at home. Let's hope there are many more of these precious points to come. Not sure how the game went, but hopefully they'll be some hightlights on Match of the Day in a few minutes time. I assume we played excellently of course, and where somehow robbed by an injustice of epic proportions ;)

Today I (and my three co-authors) had an abstract accepted for a poster at the Royal Society GRB discussion meeting in London next month. I'm hoping that there's a conference proceedings for this just because we'd get published in the Philisophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, which sounds cool!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Beg your pudding

Why oh why have Richard Ayoade and Matthew Holness forsaken us!? The DVD of Darkplace has been delayed yet again until January next year, arrghh! And we'd planned some sort of Darkplace viewing evening and everything.

On actual astrophysics news more compelling evidence (or even dare I say proof) for the existence of dark matter has been found (see the BBC article here, the actual paper here, or Sean Carroll's - he held the press conference for the news release - very good cosmicvariance post here). Also an interesting paper I read this morning is this, in which John Middleditch tries to overturn pretty much all of current supernova theory! He seems to be on a bit of a mission and have some bones with either certain people or just the general atitude of recent cosmological thinking. His paper is a bit of a rant, but raises some interesting, although maybe wildly inaccurate, questions - many of which could probably be answered sensibly by people more in the know than me (I'm glad I'm not going to have to be peer reviewing it for whichever journal it's been submitted to). However his ideas are intriguing if not only for that fact that from what I can make out they might provide a bounty of sources for gravitational wave types like me!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Britain, Britain, Britain...

I'm back in good ol' Blighty. It's so nice when you look out the plane window and see the green fields of the UK. They say the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence (or ocean), but I say that we have the best green grass around.

The were no hold ups or delays on our flights back and we were allowed hand baggage on board which relieved some of the boredom. The security checks (or lack of) were still rather farsical though. I mean the ban on liquids (new film - Lakes on a plane - terrorists hijack a plane using a terrifying combination of water from Windemere, Superior and Titikaka, anyone!), gels and lotions amounted to people being told not to bring them on board. Actual checks that this was being followed were rather random and pretty incomplete that they may as well have not bothered. I mean there were people carrying large suitcases on board, which surely would have contained toothpaste at least, an probably some hair product, or make-up, and security didn't seem to mind one bit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Red stick

A brief description of where I've been in Baton Rouge (i.e. the place I've been at a meeting for the last week):-
It's rather hot and humid during August - luckily most places inside are air conditioned. It's a proper college town, in that everything relates to LSU (Louisiana State University). Their mascot is a Tiger, so there are many tigers in all the merchandise! We're staying near the main campus so are surrounded by frat and sorority houses - some of them look pretty damn nice, but by virtue of them being frat/sorority houses are most likely filled with twats (it being out of term time most of them are empty - hurray!). We've been staying in a hotel which is named after a guy called Lod (yes that's right Lod, short for Lodwrick) Cook, who was an LSU alumni and rich oil magnate - he's met pretty much every recent US president, many movie stars, has an honourary knighthood, and is basically properly in the know - he may however be dead, we're not sure! There are many turtles and herons on the lake near our conference hall. Nowhere has the Fox Soccer Network (even the supposedly "English" pub and grill called the Fox and Hound), so we couldn't watch the Englang versus Greece game - which we won 4-0 by the way. The pub/restaurant called The Chimes has a very good selection of beers on draught, and some nice Cajun style food. The bar called Slinky's has a very well decorated mens toilet! and is very nice for the general dive that it is. There are other things to, but I wont mention them now.

I've been to Baton Rouge a couple of times before and this description is based on my current trip only - plus I'm rather tired at the moment. My next post will probably come from back in the UK.


I sent the comic link from my last post to some of my friends and got the general response that a lot of the cartoons were a load of emo wank. It's true, a lot of them are emo wank (love hearts and all!), but their are a few cartoons which are hilarious (which was also acknowledged).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monkey see, monkey put on blog

So blatantly taking stuff from another blog here (found on the very good cosmicvariance which I keep plugging - read it for it is good), but I enjoyed it so I though I'd spread the joy. From this post there are some great cartoons/comic strips taken from this website - take a look at it and laugh. Here's a couple that were posted on cosmicvariance:

And here's a few I saw just looking at xkcd that I liked - there are some far more funny ones on the website though - I'm sitting at the back of my conference pissing myself whilst looking at them:

And for the truely geeky:

Definitely have a look.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

New York Cares we were in Newark airport with our vocuhers for free things. We take the free shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport. The driver of the bus decides that we don't really want to be staying at the hotel that the airline had planned for us, but instead we want to stay at a different hotel. He tells us that his hotel has alcohol (nod, wink) whereas the one we'd supposed to be going to didn't. We liked his thinking and went along with it. At the hotel we made use of the free dinner vouchers to get some ice cold bottles of Corona sent up to our room - they we're concerned that we didn't want any actual food, but we reassured them that that was just fine. It was now time to fight off the tiredness we were feeling and explore the Big Apple.

We got the shuttle bus back to the hotel, then the airport airtrain to the station. It was then a 25 minutes train ride into Penn Station in New York. Out of Chris, James and I, Chris was the only one who'd been to NY before, so he becames official guide. Apparentlty street numbers get larger from south to north, and avenue numbers get larger from west to east - all laid out in a big grid. We set out to go to 42nd Street - we went the wrong way, luckily we caught this error very quickly and turned around. It's a fairly busy city, well at least it is at about 6.30pm on a Friday. For a while we just wander about a bit along a couple of streets staring up at buildings and dodging all the people. All the buildings are rather high and you're constantly staring up at them. After a while we thought we should actually decide on a destination, so started to head towards Central Park. We walked up a road containing many exclusive looking shops like Luis Vuitton, De Beers and Tiffany's and also the most 80's sky scraper ever, Trump Tower, until we got to Central Park. Central Park contained many people roller blading and jogging as you might expect. It also had lots of horse and carriages, but we weren't tempted to take a ride.

Hunger started to strike, so food was in order. We happened across a restaurant called something like the Brooklyn Diner - we were sold. It definitely looked the part. On their menu they had (ringed by a large red box) the famous cheese burger - recommended by the New York Times (or some such newspaper) as being the best burger in New York. We saw some other people with it and it was large. Again, we were sold. The waitress almost didn't have to ask what we wanted, I said "Three..." and she finished with "...cheese burgers." The burgers were very good, although I can't vouch for them being the best in New York, as I only have the one sample. It seems that we weren't the only people who enjoyed this diner as the walls were covered in small plaques containing the names of famous people who'd eaten there (this is what we assumed anyway). We were in a booth containing Kevin Spacey and Vanessa Redgrave, to name but two - well the two names we actually recognised as being famous people!

Next we decided to go to the Empire State Building - well you've got to really haven't you. This required us to go on the Subway, or at least the fact that we were knackered and our feet hurt required us to be able to not have to walk. We made it to the Empire States Building after eventually finding the right Subway stop and passing the many examples of the classic image of steam coming out of drain covers. We looked up at it and it was tall. By this time it was gone 10pm and we were all feeling very tired. Did we want to go up the Empire State or just go back to the hotel. We were at a large risk of actually falling asleep there and then so we went for the return to the hotel option - sounds boring I know, but we really were incredibly knackered. I go up it next time I'm in New York and I think I'll definitely make an effort to go back. It's seems like it could be a really good city to get to know.

We got back to the hotel about 2 hours later after a series of delays, but finally got to bed for about 5 hours sleep before our journey recommenced. I may right about this later.

P.S. Anyone who gets the reference for this posts title gets bonus point.

Ping-pong with a difference

Chris and I have just invented a great new game. In the Louisiana State University Physics and Astronomy Department they have a common room containing a table tennis table. The room is also furnished with ping-pong balls - two orange and two classic ping-pong ball white. This is almost all you need to play table tennis, but unfortunately not quite enough. Yep, we were missing not just one bat, but two, thus making the game impossible, Well that's what you might think, but we are wiley, ingenious physics types. Improvising with our most bat-like appendage, our hands, we were able to play a reasonable game. This did have the problem of slightly hurting our knuckles, when playing a particularly vigorous shot. Casting our eyes around the room we hit upon some other bat-like implements - a fish slice and a tray. These served well and enabled and enjoyable game. We did get some strange looks from people walking passed the room though. Send me your ideas for other racket substitutes.

Coming to America

On Friday I had the lucky opportunity to try out the new heightened red-alert-critical-awwooooga-awooooga-level security at UK airports. People may have noticed that on Thursday our plucky security services, with the help of those good men (and women) in the Scotland Yard anti-terror unit, thwarted an evil attempt to blow up US bound planes from Britain. And how were these evil doers going to achieve this - well they were going to use that most innocent of phases of matter, something we all know and love in it's many incarnations - liquid (and/or its slightly more sinister cousins, the lotion or gel). This frightful plot led to clamp downs on pretty much any kind of hand baggage on flights out of the UK, especially those heading to the US.

So I (and some colleagues) was going to be heading out to my scientific collaboration meeting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the day after all this happened. After an hour and a half sleep on Thursday night (I was packing and trying to write the talk I was going to be giving at the meeting until late into the night) I got prepared to head to the airport early. Upon arriving at Glasgow airport we were given a leaflet showing the allowed items we could take on the plane, and were issued with our approved clear plastic bag (this weekends must have item!) into which we could place our allowed items. We complied and put our travel documents, wallets and keys into said bags and proceeded to check in our laptops, ipods, phones, books i.e. anything that might provide us with the slightest bit or entertainment on the flight. I didn't have to check any liquids as the only liquid I had were my own vital bodily fluids and I assumed there weren't going to require me to dessicate myself before boarding. Other than these extra restrictions on hand baggage the other security measures didn't seem any different from normal flights to the US - no extra questions, no extra-extra-friendly body searches. So fair enough we had to check all this stuff we'd normally take on the plane, but it's for our own safety and the rules apply to everyone right, we're all going to be equally bored on the plane. We'll actually this didn't quite seem to be the case. People still managed to get books (restricted), magazines (restricted), pens (restricted), packs of cards (restricted) onto the plane. At the extra security check we had before boarding they didn't seem at all bothered! So those of us who stuck by the rules weren't too happy.

The plane trip was as boring as you'd expect, with three rather shit films being shown. I can never sleep on a plane and this flight was no different. I ended up playing songs in my head, but there are only a few that I know all the lyrics to, so my playlist was quite restricted. Due to having had a band practice the night before we left, and one of the songs we're trying being White Wedding, I had the bass line to this on continuous loop in my brain.

By the time we landed (in Newark airport) it was quite obvious that we'd missed our connecting flight. As ever I breezed through immigration and customs - I never really had any problems getting into the US despite many peoples horror stories - the guy who cleared me through even seemed quite friendly and didn't have the usual angry, suspicious look on his face that I've come to expect. We then had to stand around for longer than usual waiting for our baggage as it was receiving some extra checks. We spent some of this time scowling at people who had restricted items blatantly showing in their clear plastic bags - the sheer cheek of it. When the luggage finally showed up on the conveyor belt there was a smattering of applause - well we were in America and they get quite excitable over there (some must have been itching to whoop or call out on some way). Surprisingly my laptop, phone and ipod were in their one respective pieces, without any dents or scratches, and having not actually been stolen by baggage handlers - hurrah! We proceeded to the flight connections desk to sort out some new flights onto our final destination. It was only 3pm in the afternoon, so we thought the possibility of getting connecting flights would be quite high, but apparently not. We were told that the next morning would be the only possibility. However, our airline (Continental) were going to put us up in a hotel for free. They also gave us vouchers to pay for dinner and breakfast. We resigned ourselves to having to spend an evening in Newark - it's just luck that Newark is only a short train ride from New York City! To be continued...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Apocalypse now (well in a couple of weeks!)

We are going to soon be ringing in the apocalypse, so some end of the worldish songs are needed. Here's my start (following on from Bob's):

  • S.A.L.T. - The Orb - Orblivion
  • Paranoid Android - Radiohead - OK Computer
  • East Hastings - God Speed You Black Emperor - F#A# (Infinity)
  • Eclipse - Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
  • Higher than the Sun - Primal Scream - Screamadelica
  • Jericho - The Prodigy - Experience
  • Tears in the Rain - Vangelis - Blade Runner Soundtrack
  • Satan - Orbital - Electronica
  • Take California - Properllerheads - Electronica
  • No God only religion - Spiritulized - Spiritulzied (live at the Royal Albert Hall)
  • I am the Resurrection - The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
  • The Man Who Told Everything - Doves - Lost Souls
  • Killing in the Name - Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine
  • Champagne Supernova - Oasis - (What's the Story) Morning Glory
  • Salva Mea - Faithless - Reverence
  • The End is the Beginning is the End - Smashing Pumpkins
  • The Show must go on - Queen - Queen's Greatest Hits II
  • Building Steam With a Grain of Salt - DJ Shadow - Entroducing...
  • How Soon is Now - The Smiths
  • Invasion - U.N.K.L.E. - Never Neverland
  • Darkness - Saian Supa Crew - Saian Supa Crew
  • Ready or Not - The Fugees - The Score
  • Melt - Leftfield - Leftism
  • Phat Planet - Leftfield - Rhythm and Stealth

Expect more to be added soon.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mad fer it

This weekend I broke out of my normal standard practices (i.e. going to the research club on Friday night followed by sleeping on Bob and Fiona's living room floor, followed by breakie at the Tea Garden) and went down to Manchester to meet up with some old friends from home. Manchester is kind of equidistant between me in Glasgow and the Londony area, where most of my mates are based. It also happens that my friend Justin and his girlfriend Kirsty have a house right near Manchester, which meant we had somewhere to stay for free.

I'd never visited Manchester before, so I didn't really know what to expect. As cities go it seems rather nice, with a centre not too disimilar from many other largish British cities. It's modern and clean, but still with a lot of nice old buildings and classic architecture. The general cross section of people seemed to come in your normal ratios of chavy/townie/neddy, trendy young professional, overweight, greasy looking middle aged couples, football shirt wearing types that you see across the nation. So it was fairly familiar territory as far as generalities go, but I didn't have my bearings at all - except for the up/down directions. I like having at least some idea of the layout of a place, to find my way around, but this normally only comes by doing a bit of vague wandering around, picking out landmarks and familiar sites. I've now got some idea of the set up of the city, so next time I'm down there I'll be able to stride about the place with an air of confidence - I'll probably still get horrendously lost though.

In our short time their, from my view at least, we managed to cover a fairly large chunk of the major night spots, and saw our prerequisite number of hen nights - bunny ears (or some other deely bopper type head gear) seemed to be the winning mode of dress. We went to a fair few bars and managed to consume a large variety of beers, shooters and other drinks and danced away like idiots to a selection of Madchester favourites (I couldn't help but sing along and wave my arms around in an Ian Brown style) and classic dance anthems. A great time was had by all and I definitely think I'll be heading back to Manchester at some point.