Monday, May 24, 2010

How to study in college

I have finished reading "How to study in College" by Walter Pauk. The book contained a lot of useful information about how to study at University. The chapter on taking notes in lectures was interesting, particularly when I failed to understand my notes from last Friday's German class. Perhaps I will start using the Cornell system for notes.

Certainly there is more to college than beer and cheerleaders.

comic timing

I was given the "Mock the week: this years book" as a present
at Christmas. I enjoyed reading some of the jokes, although
they were a bit cruel at times. It reminded me of the
"famous" discussion about a joke on "Mock the week" that was
on Newsnight. The video shows the importance of comic

BBC trust

Below is my written submission to the BBC trust to try to stop them closing my favorite radio station down.

I am against the closure of radio6! At the moment I almost exclusively listen to radio 6 to learn about new music.

The majority of the output from Radio 1 could be covered on a commercial radio station. Apart from John Peel and a few other shows, radio 1 has a poor record of producing cutting edge music shows. Although I understand why Chris Moyles is on radio1, I don't see how his show is consistent with the BBC's new strategic principles. It is difficult to believe that the specialist shows on radio6 could transfer to radio1 and not be diluted and changed.

Many of the shows on radio6 could not survive in the commercial sector, however they do enhance the culture of the UK. New music is also important to the economy, for example by people downloading music and going to gigs, so it useful if there is national station that informs people of new sounds.

Please don't close radio6.

I think you will be doing more than "Reducing the BBC offer in pop music radio by closing 6 Music" Radio 6 puts out mostly specialsed innovative music, rather than just "pop music". The station is not a clone of radio 1. It provides musc that is not available in the commercial sector.

Although I occasionally use lastfm, there is no substitute for a knowlegable expert presenting a show.

Please don't shut 6music down.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Blue Bamboo

It has been a beautiful day in Wuppertal. The sun was bright, but there was a cool breeze to keep everyone cool. I sat on my balcony and watched the wind play with the leaves of the trees in the forrest.

I wanted to go to the park, but I get too depressed. It would have been full of people playing games and eating picnics. But I would have felt like an outsider, if I had walked amongst them.

I finished off "Blue Bamboo" by the Japenese writer Osamu Dazai. This was a collection of fantasy tales. The book started and ended with a stories about a family of five children who amuse themselves by writing a story. The story was a chain, with each part being written by one of the children. Each part of the story reflected the personality of the author. The stories were very warm, even when the subject matter was a bit bleak. The stories were so well written, that they filled me with me joy (a rare event).

When I looked up Osamu Dazai I see a life of pain and suicide. Today's joy died on a wikepedia page, Perhaps I will order another book by Osamu Daza, such as no longer human. That will cheer me up.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The 4-day work week.

I have just finished reading "the 4-hour work week" by Timothy Ferriss. The book was about how the author automated his business so he only needed to spend 4 hours a week working. The rest of his time he lived abroad and leaned new skills such as dancing or languages.

I liked some parts of the book. I liked the idea of mixing leisure and work, rather than putting off life until retirement. The idea that a business doens't have to keep growing. At some stage once the business is providing an adequate income, then a decision can be made to make it easy to run, rather than getting a lot more difficult customers, to get a bit more money.

However, there were a number of things I didn't like about the book. Ferriss's business was some kind of supplement for either althletic performance or better study skils. In fact he switched between them with out change, as far as I can tell. So my best guess is that his product is a placebo. When he was at University, if he got bad grades, he would go to the TA and ask them about his grades for a couple of hours, until he wore them down. Then the TA would be too scared to give bad grades again. So he is a wheeler and dealer type of guy.

Also he recommends not reading much. Look Tim dude, what did they fu*cking teach you at Havard. I like reading.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I didn't drink any alcohol on Sunday, so I had some strange dreams. I started off by taking opium in an opium den. It didn't effect me until I went to sleep, and the the drug and smoke hit me. Then I woke up. Later that night, I had a dream that I was traveling in time. I would travel to the present to do chi**2 minimization fits. Then I woke up. At the very least, I will cut down on the number of times I listen to Sherlock Holmes on the BBC iPlayer.

Last night I was sleeping well, until I had a dream about getting a message on facebook that one of the people I grew up with was dead. I woke up in despair. As my thoughts cleared, I realised since I had not had a couple of shots before I slept, so it must have been a dream.

These bad dreams mean I am not sleeping well. I feel terrible all day. What would Freud say about my dreams? Who can tell, he would probably be too annoyed with me for telling him "he was wrong, wrong, so wrong."


If you saw me today, you would have seen me stop at every possible place at work and admire myself. Perhaps I was being vain, but I was just happy I had done something I had been putting off for a couple of months. My hair was getting wilder and wilder, and I was worried that I was beginning to look like being a mad scientist. Madness I can deal with, but I don't want to look mad.

There are many challenges in living in a foreign country. Getting a hair cut is definitely one of the biggest challenges. What if I had gone into the barbers and I had came out with a perm, because of my poor German!

Today I decided I was going to get a haircut. I had seen a barbers (Frisseur) close to the main supermarket. It looked a bit posh to me, but when I looked in the shop, the man cutting the hair had the physique of a man who likes beer, sausage and schnapps. After waiting outside I picked up courage and went into the shop. The barber said "Was?", I replied "Haar schneiden bitte", and he pointed me to the chair, while he finished off cutting the hair of his current customer.

When it was my turn to have my hair cut. I started with "Tut mir leid, mein Deutsch ist sehr schlect" and then started to point to my hair. He said "Ja". How rude I thought. Anyway he cut my hair and talked to his friend. I payed and left.

I don't have high standards on these things, but I don't like the hair cut too much. My hair is a bit thick. However, since he used a cut throat razor on me, I was happy. I had to make sure I didn't start drooling when I saw the razor in his hand. One day I will my own.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

On love

Some random thoughts on love.

At the moment Friday is my busiest day at work. Last week I was rushing to get some breakfast at the cafe close to my office. Two people who were clearly in love got in my way. It was all secret smiles and shared happiness. OK, fine, if you are in love, I am happy for you, but don't do it in front of the food, because some of us have 15 minutes to get a sandwich. Perhaps, I should have said "fucking schnell", rather than let it irate it me all week.

On the TV there are many adverts for online dating. (they get more pornographic later at night). There is one with a woman who is telling the TV how happy she is with her new partner. As part of the advert it shows her jumping up and down on a trampoline and staring at her new partner. Ok, the Internet tells me that jumping up and down on a trampoline is good for fitness. However, I would be scared if I went round to a woman's house and she starts jumping up and down on a trampoline and staring at me. I would say a quick "bye bye freak", before I run to the garden gate before she jumps on me.

I am not a great fan of Salmon Rushdie. I don't rate his book "Midnight's Children", so I will be pretty pissed if he gets the nobel prize for literature. The attached picture might me laugth though. She's going to dump him (or perhaps already has). I know I am being mean, but there it is.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A visitation of the plague

I got up this morning and saw the day was sunny. I thought perhaps a stroll through the park might be in my future, rather than turning on my computer and trying to work.

Instead I decided it was the perfect day to read "A visitation of the plague" by Daniel Defoe. I didn't read the back of the book correctly, because it described the book as an imaginary reconstruction of the great plague of London. I thought it was a real account, but according to wikipedia it was made up, because he was a child when the plague hit London.

I particularly liked a scene when he comes up to crowd around a woman, who saw an angel in the clouds. Defoe just sees a cloud with the sun on it. With so many people dying of the plague I don't begrudge a bit of hysteria.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Intellectual mastery of nature

A colleague helped me move flats in Liverpool. As he was helping me carry bags of books out to his car he asked the very strange question: "if you buy books, shouldn't you actually read them." He was in particular referring to the two volume set: Intellectual mastery of nature by Jungnickel and McCormmach. These two books are about the history of physics in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in the nineteenth century.

Now that I am living in Germany (until August at least), I felt that it was time to read the books. Last weekend I finished volunme I "The Torch of mathematics 1800-1870).

Although the two books are a scholarly study, the first volume was full of stories about how physics developed in Germany. At first there was very little research, but by persistence of the Profs managed to increase the funding of labs and get more students. The job market was even harder than today. The astronomers were always well funded because of their miltary applications, rather than for producing pretty pictures for the masses, as they do today (bastards).

another old post

So how did i spend my holiday in Portugal? I mostly wandered around the beach area and read books. There would be breaks for food and coffee of course. (Beer in the late evening of course).

The first book I read was "The Ultimate Good luck", by Richard Ford. This has been on my bookshelves for many years. It was a story about a man and his wife trying to get the wife's brother out of a Mexican jail. There was quite a big body count. Smoking a lot of dope clouded and distorted their minds

Next I moved onto reading the hanging garden by by Ian Rankin. I must have read most of the Rebus novels, but I had been saving this story for a special occasion. There was a gang land war and Rebus's daughter was run over.

I picked up a collection of three early Philip K Dick novels, that I not read before. The books were: the man who japed, Dr. Futurity, and Vulcan's hammer. The stories were not as confusing and paranoid as much of Dick's later work. The Dr Futurity novel reminded me a of stories by A E Van Got, because there was a lot of time travel. The book called Vulcan's hammer was the most paranoid of the books, with conspiracies inside conspiracies.

Last week I listened to a radio program about Thomas Paine. This motivated me to actually read my copy of "Rights of Man". This was Paine's book defense of the french revolution (with a bit about the American revolution as well). It was a vigorous argument, and gave the best argument for abolishment of the House of Lords.

Trouble is, with all that reading I didn't fully relax, even after a full week away.

sony book reader

Another old post just uploaded.

Every time I go on holiday I worry about the amount of books I have. What if I have nothing to read? As a result I always end up with a heavy bag. I then panic on day three of the holiday, that I am going to run out, so I try to buy yet more books. I now own a Sony E-reader. I had only read one book with it before, but I really fell in love with it on this holiday.

The books I read were: Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday, A princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

It the size of a thin paperback book. It is much easier to read than a laptop screen. I had no problem reading it in sunlight.

It can be used to read PDF and word documents. I read about 20% of a PDF bokk on data intensive computing (4th paradim) that was a tribute to james Grey (the famous SQL guy, who was lost at sea recently). It is not very good at graphs. The paper I downloaded from thbe physics archive was a bit mangled, because most of the figures were trashed.

The e-reader stores the last page that was read. It makes reading a book cool, because it does looks as though you are playing a video game.

My main problem with it is the price of the e-books. There are special on-line stores, but the books always seem expensive. I get most of my books from amazon second hand market sellers. I am sure the price will come down. At the moment I pay a lot more in postage.

On the books I read, I have seen many versions of Dracula, so it was interesting to read the original. I liked the way it was made up of journal entries of the different characters.

The book by Faraday on the candle was a transcription of some lectures he had given. He used an explanation of a candle burnt to introduce some ideas about chemistry and the scientific method. he made it exciting, especially when you think that what he talking about was new knowledge, rather than textbook stuff.

old Portugal post

I found some old blog postings from holiday around March 18th of this year. Enjoy....

Last week I was feeling tired and burnt out. I had not had a proper holiday for over a year, so I decided that it was time for some R and R. After some investigation on the Ryanair web site, I decided to fly to Faro in Portugal from the Dusseldorf-Weeze airport.

I am still slightly confused as to whether the Dusseldorf-Weeze airport is even in Germany. It is not that close to Dusseldorf. It takes over an hour to get from Dusseldorf to Weeze. Still a holiday is about the process of changing routines and not working. My flight was at 7:00 in the morning I so spent the night in a small hotel next to Weeze railway station (this losing any savings from booking via Ryanair)

Weeze is a small town. Somehow it seemed cuter than most German cities i have been to. The use of concrete was more elegant. I arrived in Weeze after 8:00, so most shops were closed. I decided that I should do a quick tour of Weeze, partly for my own education and to provide new fresh information for this blog, and definitely not as a quest to find beer. Eventually I found an open supermarket. As I looked at the alcohol section I though "this is what hell must be like". There were many bottles of beer, but no can or bottle openers. This is very green, but kind of annoying when you don't have a bottle opener back in the hotel. The clerks in the store were surprised to see me shaking my fist in the air and shouting "why me God", after I found plastic bottles of alcohol free beer on the shelves. After further inspection I found real beer in plastic bottles close by, so my holiday could start.

Sunday, May 09, 2010


I wanted to spend the weekend learning hypnosis, but instead I spent a lot of time reading Birthstone by DM Thomas. This is a book I have carried around with me for many a long year. First off it was a very well written by someone who knows how to how to float sentences onto the page. It was a strange mix of realism and magic. The book was written from the perspective of a woman, but since the author was a man, the female perspective involved liking a lot of kiny sex.

Friday, May 07, 2010

CKM dreams

I had a dream about the CKM matrix last night. And not in a good way! A good dream about the CKM matrix would be me at some kind or orgy. As I watched the flowing of the flesh, suddenly I would see a pattern emerge and I would understand why the matrix has the form it has.

I am thinking about the guy who discovered the structure of the benzene molecule. He had a dream about a snake. The snake tried to bites its tale, so when he woke up he came up with the idea that the benzene molecule was a ring.

The dream I had was me sitting in meeting, trying to explain my interest in a CKM matrix so that I would get my name on a paper. The other authors on the paper were skeptical, and I was humiliated. That is why it was not a good creative dream. I was just being a careerist. (And no orgy either).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Philip K Dick

I am a big fan of the author of Philip K Dick, so I picked up a copy of "Selected literary and philosophical writings" in a UK bookshop sometime ago. The book was a collections of essays, book reviews, and other nonfiction writings. Dick was a novelist, so his most important work is contained in his stories. It was, however, interesting to read his essays. He was always very interested in philosophy as well as all forms od science fiction.

He had a plot idea for the TV series of "mission impossible", that made me think he would have been a great script writer for the prisoner TV series. He didn't make much money until near the end of his life -- which was a shame.

In 1974 Dick had some kind of religous vision. After that his writing got even weirder and many people thought that he had gone insane. Reading his later essays, I did think that I wanted to see the work of the old Dick. Of course in 1971, when he got burgled, he made up a list of suspects that included the FBI and himself, so sanity was never one of his strong points.

I see that his later journal of crazy writings (The Exegesis) is going to be published next year. But will it help me tame this reality.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

letters to a young contrarian

I seem to be going through a phase of reading a lot of Christopher Hitchen books. I have just read his book "letters to a young contrarian". I will show my lack of understanding of his book by saying it is about how to live a radical life. I now understand Hitchens support for the second war in Iraq. He is not one to flinch from unpopular decisions. His prose style is very classical.

I really enjoyed the book. His main flaw is on the cover of the book a cigarette burnt down and his second rate writing buddies: Martin Amis and Salmon Rushdie.

On death

There is double glazing in my front windows. Yesterday a bee got stuck in between the two panes of the double glazing. I don't know how it got there. I was disturbed because the bee was trapped and I would have to watch it try to survive. I watched it search in vain for an exit. I didn't have the tools to open the windows to let it out. What could I do. Was this some kind of sign from God?

Anyway I went back to thinking about glueballs and completely forgot about the bee, until I started writing this post.


When I told people I was going to live in Germany for a bit they were worried that I would indulge in too much Bier and sausages. I hardly eat Wurst, so one out of two is not bad. What I do eat a lot of is peanuts. I am almost at the addict stage. Well I actually only eat 3 or 4 tins per week. My favourite brand is "Ja", because it is cheap and salty. "Ja" is some supercheap brand in Germany. I also drink a brand of "Ja" tea that is 2 Euro cheaper than other types of tea.

Anyway I will be OK as long as salt is not bad for me.