The following posts have no fixed theme or style, but I hope you enjoy reading them!

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Football's ups and downs

Starting with the downs, I have been following the England team's progress in trying to qualify for the European Championships next year. They have no reason to be worried playing against any team in the group, and yet they remain in 4th place out of 7 in the qualifying table. I do not expect to win the World Cup or anything, but the players are good enough to be a good challenge for any in the world, so qualifying for big events should be no problem, especially against teams like those in our group (Estonia, Israel, Macedonia, Andorra, Croatia and Russia).

I am also not a person who criticizes everyone on principle. I think we were unlucky in the World Cup last year, not to get further than we did, given our good side and a good coach (barring his choice to take Theo Walcott who he had never seen play).
Now we have a coach who messes with the formation every game and who is always happy and confident no matter how well the team plays. Sometimes players need criticism. Another of his faults is his insistence in putting Gerard and Lampard together. I don't know why they can't play well together, but they have had enough chances, and they can't, so one of them needs to be left out of the first team. In their place, how about David Beckham? He really cares about playing for his country. He has always given his best, and is one of the best passers in the world. He also scores goals, which seems to have been a problem, particularly against Israel last week.

During the game on Wednesday, the fans were booing and shouting a lot, which will never help anything (and you have to remember that these players and manager etc are all people with feelings. However, I feel their frustration too, because Steve McClaren does not seem to have the ability to get everything out of his players. How about a change?

The good news about football is that my team Shrewsbury Town have just made it into the playoffs, since they have not lost a game since 2006. Let's hope it continues today!

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Silly Putty

I bought silly putty today from a shop that was about to close down, so I thought I would tell you about it. It's pretty cool stuff

Like other polymers, it's made of long chains of atoms. These chains are linked together a little bit, but the main force holding it together is that the chains are all tangled up. So if you stick some sticky putty covering a hole, it will gradually drip through, as the chains untangle themselves (in GCSE science you learn that atoms are always vibrating - the chains actually shake themselves free of their neighbours)
But if you pull them really quickly apart with your hands, they can't untangle that quickly, so the only way they can react is to snap. Anytime you do things quickly, it will react like a solid, but if you do it slowly it is like a liquid. So it bounces and it flows, if you pull it slowly it stretches, or quickly it snaps. Yay so much fun

Advice #3

If you can't be good, be careful

Sunday, 25 March 2007

My weekend

At 2am last night (or probably 3, since the clocks went forward) I was climbing a tree. It's much harder when it's pitch black with no stars. But it was fun. You should try it. It was all part of a lovely 24hrs with Sonia, who is an old friend from school. I speak to her very often on the phone so we keep in contact and exchange all our gossip, but I hadn't visited her at her house since Summer 2003, so it brought back lots of memories from last time

Friday, 23 March 2007

Shopping story

I went into the supermarket today just like normal. But when I got inside the doorway, it didn't feel like normal. I looked around, puzzled. Everything looked normal, it just didn't feel the same. There were some people at the checkout, others gathered round the latest bargains, deciding whether two for £5 for better quality cheese than usual is really worth having, others collecting a basket. Nothing was out of order... but I still didn't feel right.

On an impulse, I left. I put back the trolley back in the park and headed down the road. But where I should have gone straight, I took the road on the left, where the delivery lorries went, squeezing through the entrance like a fat man holding in his stomach as he pushes towards the only empty seat in the cinema. The road sloped down, leading to a secret world underground. Suddenly, the road opened out into a bay, filled with bins, some for card, some for glass, rows and rows of them. There was a smell of oil over everything, that blended with the acrid smell of the food bins to attack the back of your throat like it was being rubbed with the blade of a blunt, rusty knife. The bay was murky like the windows of a London bus. Looking back on it now, I must have been in a trance or something, because I don't know what made me go further.

I got to the far end, where there were big metal doors going from floor to the roof ten, twelve, fifteen feet up. I turned to see where I had come, and could dimly see the light at the entrance. Suddenly, a bang made me jump out of my skin. I spun round, expecting the doors to fly open and a lorry to come out. Or something worse. Instead, the echoes just died to nothingness, and then it was silent again. Then again: this time a rumble, like a train going past your ear. I looked around nervously, trying to locate where it had come from, but it was so loud that the echoes were disorientating. There were some chutes at the side, but nothing came in or out of them. There was something around me, in the gloom, a monster of JCB proportions, possibly alive, possibly another machine. Behind the doors? Behind one of the rows of bins? Maybe it was at the entrance, trapping me inside? Or even in the chutes. The next sound was a squeak, or it could have been a scream. It was certainly closer. It was accompanied by the loudest bang yet. Finally then I saw it...

That evening I found myself on my bed, still shaking, shuddering as the memory replayed again and again. I had a cup of tea, then a whole pot, and finally I could sleep. It was three forty-five in the morning. Maybe tomorrow will be better, and I can get my shopping.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

The Cardigans

The title of this blog is not a very good one, so I have left it off the top at the moment.

I thought I should just explain that when I say I love cardigans, I don't mean that I have a lot of jumpers with gaps down the front. I love music by the band called the Cardigans. Let me tell you a bit about them.

The Cardigans are Nina (the singer, who writes the lyrics), Peter (guitarist, who writes most of the music, although it is adapted by everyone as it is practiced), Magnus (bassist), Bengt (drummer, composed "Nil" on "Gran Turismo") and Lasse (plays second guitar or keyboard). They have been releasing records for 14 years now, so they are pretty well established. In fact, in terms of their popularity, they are probably past their peak.
When they started out, they moved from their tiny little town to Malmo (which should have some exciting symbol over the o, but I can't be bothered to find out how to do that). After two years together, they released their first album Life, closely followed by Emmerdale. The names Cardigans and Emmerdale were mainly a slightly childish way of trying to break into the British market, particularly because their favourite music was Black Sabbath, along with other bands like the Smiths.
They don't sound like that though, and they never have. Their first music is carefree pop music. Even when the songs are sad, the tune and the tone of Nina's vocals are cheerful and uplifting.
The next album, First Band on the Moon, became slightly darker, although the effect was similar. The song that most people have heard of from this, was Lovefool, which became famous by being on the soundtrack to Romeo and Juliet. The album was released in 1996.
Gran Turismo was released in 1998, and this is when I started buying their albums. It is the most spooky album they have ever made, and when you first listen to it, it puts you on edge slightly, but it is well balanced with songs Erase/Rewind, Nil and My Favourite Game and it is a beautiful album. The tension in the album was also in the band at the time, and they argued for much of the tour. Once the tour was finished, they took a long break, and pursued solo careers and had families. Most or all of the members are now in long-term relationships and several have children.
Eventually, after around four years gap, they produced Long Gone Before Daylight. This time they were not living the rock-and-roll lifestyle, instead they were just making beautiful music, fitting it around family commitments. This is the most peaceful and beautiful of their albums, and it is their favourite, in part because they got rid of their producer and made it themselves. Without a producer to publicise it, it was not as successful as their other albums, but it is at least as good.
In 2006 they made another album, Super Extra Gravity. They decided to return to their producer, who made the album more edgy, but the sound was did not change beyond all recognition. These are probably my most-played songs at the moment, and it is another fantastic album. I saw them play last summer and they were amazing. They sound as tuneful live as on the albums, just with all the magic of hearing everything live instead of crammed into a circular piece of metal. Nina's voice is the best voice I know, but it is only special because of the other members who make up the sound they produce.
Have a listen!

Monday, 19 March 2007

Advice #2

Know your onions


I had been reminiscing about the "good-old days" and being friendless and name-called at the age of 12. It seems like everyone else around had been bullied more recently than that, so I don't know whether it says more about me or them. Anyway, people are so bloody friendly round here that you can be a prick and nobody will even tell you to shut up... in short, I like to have a bit of nastiness just as an incentive for everyone to become a better person. Not too much nastiness though, that would be depressing, but just a bit.
We had a pirate party on Saturday. Don't ask why, it will be hard to explain and you wouldn't like it even if I did tell you. But while I was getting drunk I met someone who was really good at being nasty. I was (i hope) equally nasty back, and it was banter the way it should be, the kind where it's all very funny, but neither is sure whether the other is actually nice at all. And I feel a lot better for it. Admittedly I didn't feel better recovering from the hangover on Sunday, but that was the fault of the rum, not the rudeness. All in all, the party was very fun, with straw on the floor to make it more like a tavern and lots of pirates going "yarrrrgh" all night, so don that stripy shirt, britches, boots, and a silly hat and become a pirate!

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Advice #1

Watch where you're going!

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Diary Entry

To stop myself getting all philosophical every time I write a post, I am putting a general diary entry in:
When I was on my own on Sunday, I got all grumpy and could not shake it off. I hope I didn't annoy anyone with all of my moaning about work and other things, but everything was going wrong. I was stressing about work, future plans, girl stuff and other friend stuff, and it all added up to something horrible. At midday today I was ready to cry (and carefully selecting a shoulder to cry on should the need arise).
Then I got some work right and gave blood and suddenly life was dandy again. And to make it even better, I had tea with materials-duncan at the most amazing tea shop which has opened between the Arts' Theatre and the Market in the town centre. It has over 100 types of tea, and so far I have had 8, and tried others when I go with friends. They are all amazing, and they come in a pot that needs "plunging" to keep it from brewing too much and it is all very civilised. I feel a little less civilised after asking to bring in hot food the other day (apparently the smell is very annoying to other people and it stops them enjoying their tea, so it's a no) but it is an amazing shop and it even has nice cakes too.
This evening I saw clare (my ex) and it was all very pleasant. She came to work on my computer and we were very sociable, I am so glad we still get on, even though we didn't for several months after splitting up last year. And I am learning all about fusion reactors, which is fascinating!
So the week can continue, happy again, as it should be!

Sunday, 11 March 2007

The Real World

Without wanting to imply that I do not always live in the real world, some people I know from outside university came yesterday, and I remembered that there is a "real world" out there. Such a relief! Living in a university is a little bubble and when you try to get out, it just get reflected back in by sharing the experience with friends. Boy george (an old schoolfriend, who is a pretty funky fellow) came over on Friday and we sat and chatted about the old days and the new days and even the days to come, while burning marshmallows in candle, being careful not to set the fire alarm off. Then my family came down and took me out for a nice meal and things. Talking about things at home, like people in the village, is not so exciting when you live there. But to escape my little bubble and think about my home-bubble was great. Does everyone live in a bubble (or maybe two bubbles) or is there actually a real world out there? And do I want to find it, or shall I just swap bubbles just to keep it interesting? Maybe the "real world" only exists for people who are continuously swapping bubbles, so don't notice they are in a bubble at all.

mmm soapy

Thursday, 8 March 2007

A warning

Tea does bad things. For example, I was replying to an innocent email wbout watching a film, when I accidentally wrote:

> here there and everywhere, i hope i can make it :-) go john john john
> john john john john jhon john jhon jhon jhon john john john john john
> john john jhonjohn johnjohn johnjohn johnjohn john johnjohn it's really
> fun to try to type your name very fast, have a go: john john john john
> john john john john john jhnoh jonh jonh jonh jhon john john john john
> jhon jhon johnjoh john john jhonj ohj noh john john jho johjn joh njoh
> njoh joh jhon jho john joh njoh oj jhon
> Some of those are just silly! Can you tell I've just had a really STRONG
> cup of tea? Buzzzzzing John (spelt it right this time)

So be careful, kids!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Popular Science

I love science, and I think that it is interesting to anyone if it is explained well. I also think it is very important. Expanding our scientific knowledge and applying it to predicting the future, developing new technology and using our resources wisely really changes the world and improves all of our lives. Without science we would be in a very different world today.

Popular science, on the other hand, puts emphasis on all the wrong parts of science. There is a huge emphasis on difficult physics concepts like quantum mechanics and particle physics. As a student who studied one year of physics at university, I don't think it is helpful to try to explain this, because of its difficulty. Take two objects colliding. One is spinning and they are both strange shapes. Predicting what will happen after they collide is a very difficult problem to solve and it depends on other factors like the density of the material and their surfaces. If I can't solve this problem, what hope is there for people who have no scientific background to understand this or something much more complicated like quantum mechanics? Richard Feynman (one of the most important people in the development of the theory) said "I think I can safely say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics" and he included himself in that.

Maybe I should be more positive about people attempting to make it more accessible though. It is certainly an admirable thing to attempt. But there is very little focus on anything other than very difficult theories. I often tell people about materials science because that is my subject, and they are almost always very interested to find out about it. I often tell people about cork, for instance: Most materials bulge outwards when you squash it from one direction, but because of the cell structure, cork actually shrinks in both directions. This is why we can use it for wine bottles. If it bulged out when it was pushed, how could anyone ever get a cork into a bottle? There are lots of good scientific pieces like that, which people can understand (even better with a diagram!) and yet they are blocked out by the amount of popular science focussing on other things.

We should all learn from Bill Bryson, who covers large chunks of science in a way that most people can understand and shows what a wide range of ideas that science contains. His book is called "A Short History Of Nearly Everything" and it is interesting to scientists and non-scientists alike.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

it IS march

oops the timings on this thing are really messed up! I promise it is march!