Archive for life

Oh Dear

Posted in Fanfiction, Personal with tags on December 28, 2013 by davidnm2009

Well, that’s an awkward discovery.

It would appear that my main email provider has been eating FF.net emails. I’m not sure precisely when this started, but it seems to have been since at least July. It may have been earlier. The funny thing is, I did think my inbox had been a bit quiet recently. Unfortunately this year has been rather chaotic – to put it mildly – and it simply hadn’t occurred to me to investigate any further.

When I finally discovered what was going on, I recovered about 40 lost emails. Those are just the ones that I’ve been able to recover; as it’s a webmail service, I believe they get auto-deleted after 90 days or so.

So, if you see this and you believe that you should have had a reply from me, you’re probably right. My apologies!

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After The End

Posted in Personal with tags , on November 25, 2013 by davidnm2009

Last week, a long saga reached its ultimate terminus: I formally-graduated from the PhD.

The ceremony was at St Albans Abbey, a beautiful ancient building right at the heart of St Albans. The ceremony itself lasted a couple of hours; to my surprise, the doctoral thesis titles were read out, and the Vice Chancellor actually talked to us. I felt nervous as I had no robes – there were problems with my booking for the event (of course), so I wasn’t able to get registered in time to order a set. Luckily no-one commented on it, although I’m sure it was noticed.

Myself and the other astronomy doctors were sat behind a massive stone column; we could only see the proceedings via way of a 1984-style telescreen! Ironic given that it was happening only yards from where I was sat, but it might as well have been on the Moon for all that we could see.

Anyway, it’s all completed now. I have the fancy-posh certificate, the Very Final Ever copy of the thesis has been deposited with the Research Archive and there is nothing more that should happen or indeed can happen. Since the whole thing has been such a protracted struggle, this feels rather strange. It’s a bit like that feeling when you leave the house and realise you’ve forgotten something, but you can’t quite remember what. There’s that odd, nagging sensation of something that’s not quite right.

The PhD course has been an interesting few years, certainly. I’ve certainly learned a lot, some of it even about science. Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is when not to tolerate a bad situation – I can think of at least a couple of things I should have done that would have led to a much better experience. I suspect these sorts of regrets might be universal to all courses of postgraduate study, though. A research degree is an enormous undertaking, and not really something that you can ever be fully-prepared for.

I’ve discovered several things about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. To my enormous surprise, it emerges that I’m a competent public speaker. More strangely than that, it emerges I actually enjoy it, too. I’ve gained an insight into the real inner workings of scientific research. (People talk more about jobs [those that there are] and budgets [especially when such things are unavailable, which is frequently the case], and rather less about the ‘gosh and wow’ stuff that you see on TV documentaries.) I’ve also made friends and been to new places.

There’s not really much else to say, I suppose, except ‘Goodbye to the past’!

Not Living In The Fridge

Posted in Personal with tags on June 8, 2013 by davidnm2009

Canidae 1.0 isn’t the only electrical device in my vicinity that has broken recently. In fact I seem to chalking up quite the body-count of dead appliances recently.

I’ve been in my current apartment since August 2008; nearly five years now. It’s surprising how the time has passed – it doesn’t seem like that long!

Anyway, the white goods have been here longer than I have, with the exception of the washing machine. (The original one blew up in 2010; I’ve never known a washing machine to endure more than three years of regular use.) It’s fair to say that the surviving devices are showing their age.

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Misadventures in (Re-)Building Computers

Posted in computers with tags , , on June 8, 2013 by davidnm2009

I’ve had an interesting few weeks.

On the 23rd of May, my venerable old desktop PC (Canidae) died a final death. When the end came it was abrupt; I was right in the middle of a Mass Effect multiplayer match when Canidae departed from this world! The screen went dark, the power light vanished and silence descended inside the room. My first thought was that I’d been kicked off again by EA’s notoriously-wobbly servers – but no, no such luck!

As these things tend to, Canidae had picked the worst possible time to expire. I’m currently job-hunting (that being the polite way of admitting to unemployment!) and also trying to get on with the corrections to my PhD thesis. Having my home computer expire on me at this juncture … yes. Not an ideal event, needless to say!

Further investigation eventually revealed that the culprit was a fried motherboard.

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Meta – Vague Direction

Posted in Personal with tags , , , on May 29, 2012 by davidnm2009

I have to admit, I don’t use this place as effectively as I used to

It was originally an at least semi-serious blog, with a vague emphasis on entertaining, odd and weird things from the world of astronomy. (And, to a lesser extent, that of physics.) And I still occasionally do science posts, of course, and have no intention of completely stopping. However, these days I seem to be using this place more as a repository for various personal projects, essentially as a way of buying off that weird urge to make everything public. (It is strange – objectively, I’m well aware that the world does not and has no reason to care about my various artistic attempts, but there’s still this strange urge to push stuff out there. I’m not by nature an attention-seeker of any sort, so it really is out of character for me. I wish I understood it, but I really don’t!)

I also tried using this place as somewhere to discuss serious issues like current affairs and politics. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to feel annoyed about at the moment, and consequently most of those posts tended to decay into rants. Then I found I ran out of emotional energy to engage properly with these things – the last few years haven’t been good for my sense of optimism, unfortunately. I still have opinions, of course, but these days I’m wondering if I’m better off keeping them for the pub, not the internet. Then there’s the depressing fact that I’m increasingly doubtful as to whether my analysis is actually worth anything (I’m still cringing from my big mistake of 2010). Certainly I doubt there’s anything I’m saying that lots of other people haven’t already, so it’s not like I’m adding to the debate in any way. On that basis I don’t see this place going down a more overtly political route.

So, I suppose what I’m saying is that I no longer have a really clear sense of purpose for this project anymore. Probably I’ll carry on posting the occasional painting and the occasional bit of fiction. I’ll probably even write the occasional science post, now and again. But other than that, who knows?

Oh dear, I’ve perpetrated more fic…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on May 2, 2012 by davidnm2009

So, I may have perpetrated a new fanfic.

This wasn’t really ‘planned’, as such. Rather at about 11.30 last night, I just suddenly found myself in a mood to write. So I did.

Anyway, the story is over here [FF.net], and it’s called ‘Convolution Kernel’. It’s (a small part of) my take on how I would have ended the Mass Effect series, had it been me doing the writing. Obviously it wasn’t me doing any of the writing, so all of this belongs firmly in the Your-Mileage-May-Vary head-cannon box. However, I do like the idea of setting Reaper!Shep on Harbinger 🙂 Now that would be worth watching!

The other reason I wrote this was that I was interested in having a poke at what exactly the Reapers are and how they work (as machines, I mean). This isn’t really something that’s developed much in the series itself, oddly enough.

Believe it or not, this was partly inspired by something from a data reduction pipeline (don’t ask…).

Clearly, I’ll Be Going To Nerd Hell, Then!

Posted in Amusing, Personal with tags , , , , on March 9, 2012 by davidnm2009

So, I’ve recently discovered the ‘Mass Effect’ series of games; I’ve been playing a lot of them recently. I’ve been trying to avoid spoiling myself for the later games, and haven’t really succeeded. At all. Anyway I saw one of the trailers for ME3, and was surprised by how much of late-22nd Century London is apparently still recognisable. Then it got me to thinking, if great British institutions like Big Ben and the London Eye are still there … what about newspapers?

And what about the Daily Mail? What would the dear old Daily Mail have to say about a Reaper invasion?

Well, fear no more, because I know what the Daily Mail would have to say … egregious Photoshop’ing below the cut!

(Just so we’re clear; I like the Mass Effect series. I don’t much like the Daily Mail!)

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