Happiness is...

Happiness is sitting in your university lab at 3:30am on Saturday morning, with a cup of lukewarm tea made with two-day old milk that's been sitting on a ledge outside the window because the fridge isn't working, eating nothing but Mars bars for the past four hours because nothing is open in the city, with half the lights turned off because they flicker unbearably, finally alone after all the labmates had left, and having implemented the Friedman test in python to check your experimental data.

Actually, I'm not totally alone. There's still the Chinese postgrad in the next lab. But that's far enough away that I consider myself alone.

I'm happy.


The experimental data is looking quite good -- the planned "best case" resulted in a p value of 0.00025. For those of you who remember as much about statistics as I did three hours ago, this means "it's really really really unlikely that the difference is due to random chance". Which translates into "you're doing the right thing".

Another set of exercises resulted in a low p value but unexpected results, which is exciting. The last two sets of exercises produced unclear results... but that's the whole point of a preliminary survey. As far as preliminary surveys go, I couldn't ask for anything better!


Residence heat: since the last report, we've lost heat twice and had it repaired twice. We've had heat for the last 8 days, which is the longest we've ever had it. Hopefully it'll last this time!

Speaking of heat, it's been disappointly warm outside. Ok, by "warm", I mean "5-10C", which doesn't strike most people as warm... but I was hoping for snow. Talking to my labmates, it doesn't sound like Glasgow gets much snow. :(

Glasgow seems to have the same Fall weather as Vancouver, which makes me quite at ease. Overcast, mixed rain and drizzle... that's the right kind of weather! I think it's a bit windier here than in Vancouver, although I might be mistaken since my bike path in Victoria didn't expose me to much wind. The rain here is no problem at all, but the drainage is quite poor: the sidewalk gains a few huge puddles -- at times, I walk along the road to avoid the sidewalk-puddles! At other times, I scrunch up against the fence away from the road, since the road has huge puddles which turn into fountains when cars drive through them.


On one such stormy and dark night, filled with chest-high puddle-car-splooshes, I trotted off to the university chapel to turn pages for a clarinet trio. For the non-classical musicians out there, this means "clarinet, cello, and piano". I did a good job on my first page-turning experience... I had to hold the page a few times as the fans threatened to turn the page at the wrong time, and the pianist thanked me for that extra duty.


I've finished demonstrating for the first-year analog+digital electronics class; the last two weeks were making a radio and making some "christmas lights" (just a series of LEDs flashing in a particular order). Next term, I'm teaching the first-year "introduction to C programming" course with my supervisor. I'm really looking forward to this -- especially since everybody (labmates, other postgrads, even faculty!) warns me about how terrible it will be. Bah! I'm not afraid of pointers, and I'm definitely not afraid of explaining them.

Next week, half the lab is going off to New Zealand (and maybe Australia?) for 2 or 3 conferences. With that, as well as the undergraduate teaching being over, I expect things to get much quieter. I should really be able to catch up on my research! Oh, by the way, I went off to a two-day workshop at the Open University at Milton Keynes a few weeks ago. Not really much to say about that trip, other than I met three people (one student, two professors) who were interested in my work and who were doing related stuff.


So, in the near future, I'll have much more time (and energy) for work. I'm getting involved in the 19-tone equal temperament pitch tracker for Rosegarden (we'll do the normal 12-tone as well, since most people would much rather have that). As previously mentioned, my preliminary survey of grading rhythmic exercises is done, so in the very near future I can launch the real survey. And I've already started thinking about the sheet music analysis + rhythm extraction + automatic exercise generation project.

My sleep schedule has been quite poor, so I've decided to go back to my 26-hour cycle. That's a major contribution towards my happiness... not having to worry about going to bed or waking up is a huge relief. I need to do some teaching on Monday and Tuesday next week (filling in for one of the people going to New Zealand), but after that my schedule will be blissfully free for self-scheduled work.

Posted at 2009-11-28 03:25 | Permanent link | Comments

Am I hot or not? ... not.

You may recall me being very happy that our heater was fixed on 14 Oct. Well, less than a week later, it broke again. You may recall me being very happy that our heater was fixed on 2 Nov. Well, less than a week later, it broke again.

I'll give them 2 days to fix it, and then I'm writing a formal letter to the head of accommodation to remind them that their legal "residence contract" specifies that it is the university's obligation as a landlord to "ensure that there is kept in good repair and proper working order any installations provided by the University for space heating" and "provide gas and electricity". I haven't had any problems with electricity, but the latter is just there in case they try to argue that the heater is just fine; the problem was in the gas intake to the heater.


Other than that, things are fine. I was at the lab on Sat until 11pm, and on Sunday until 9pm. It's really feeling like home! I'm doing a pilot survey of rhythm grading, and it's really exciting watching the answers trickle in. I had 5 responses within an hour of the initial request, and 9 at the end of the first 20 hours.

Once the pilot survey is done, I'll make a better one (more specific questions, informed by the results of the pilot survey) and ask for help here. I think it might be bad experimental practice to re-use pilot survey people in the real survey (I'll check with our psych person), so I'm not looking for more people to do the first survey.

For teaching, we're doing ripple counters this week. Should be fun! It took me an hour to get through the lab... I misread the lab sheet's "connect the output of each flip-flop to the clock of the next flip-flop" as "connection the output... to the input of the next flip-flop", and ended up adding a bunch of needless logic gates to make it count properly. When I finally checked the lab sheet again, because I couldn't believe it was this complicated without more explanation, I noticed my mistake and easily finished it off.


We're going to London next week. Ok, not actually London; I think it's Milton Keynes. If that's pronounced "milton keens". Apparently we fly down to London, then take a coach for an hour to this place. In my Canadian mind, anywhere reachable within an hour's drive of a place is that place. So we're going to London.

(hmm, I guess that means that Glasgow is Edinburgh. Umm. I think most people in both cities wouldn't like that!)

Yes, there were dark mutterings in the lab about the travel arrangements... apparently they were brough about because it needed to be booked during the summer, and one can't book train tickets more than 3 months in advance.

Anyway, it should be a fun little jaunt. Or a little jaunt, at least. Apparently the place we're going to has "concrete cows", which sound like they're either highly awesome or highly non-awesome.

Kind-of like being hot or not!

Posted at 2009-11-09 22:55 | Permanent link | Comments

We have heat again!

You may recall me being very happy that our heater was fixed on 14 Oct. Well, less than a week later, it broke again. Today it was fixed again. Hope this lasts!

Having no heat really saps one's energy. I spent a few minutes trying to figure out why it's so bad here -- I'm used to living in basements, and I rarely turn on electric heaters, so I'm used to being in 16-18 C rooms. But in those places, I could easily sit up in bed. There was something behind me, with extra open space for my head. Over here, the bed is right next to the wall, so when I try to sit up, I have to be 90 degrees up, rather than leaning back.

Yes Mom, I'm going to look for those pillow/cushions that are designed for sitting up in bed. Not that I need one now, but I used to do a lot of programming in bed. So I guess I could consider it a "business expense". :)


I get a lot of questions about playing music. No, I don't have an instrument yet. Once my first rhythm evaluation web survey is up (hopefully within days), I'll ask my supervisor about that cello of his, and/or take home one of the £50 violins in the lab, and/or figure out if my residence has any policy on practicing instruments in the rooms.


In other news, I'm almost finished the £500 I brought with me... it should last until the end of the week. Since that includes various one-time expenses of setting up my life here, I'm not freaking out about spending £250 a month for living expenses.

Still, CDN$500 / month sounds like a lot. I'm trying not to think about it.


Other than that... we had a bit of rain over the weekend. There seems to be more Halloween parties here, although that's almost certainly just because I'm living in a student residence instead of a nice quiet house. I didn't see many trick-or-treaters, but then again, I spent Sat night in the lab (it has a heater!), and I didn't expect to see many in the locked building. :)

I continue to eat at Subway almost once a day -- I think I ate there for 19 of the past 21 days. On one hand, I feel as though I should consider this lame... but on the other hand, their "sub of the day" is only £1.99, and they're quite healthy. Definitely healthy when compared to the other stuff I eat! I'm really not seeing any downside to this.

Posted at 2009-11-02 23:00 | Permanent link | Comments

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