Skip to main content

Slippery city

We still have ice here from the snow a few weeks -- and not just a thin layer of black ice; this is ice compacted from a few centimeters of snow. Even worse, the temperature has been slightly above freezing during the day. A little bit of ice melts, turns into water and levels out the surface, then freezes overnight. Very slippery conditions.

I always used to complain that shovelling snow -- if it was a little bit, like 5cm -- was counter-productive. I mean, most snow is just fine for walking on. Even if it partially melts + freezes again, you just have a crunchy layer at the top of the snow, but the rest is pretty un-slippery. The really dangerous part was the ice that you get on the almost-bare surfaces.

Now that I've experienced truly well-trodden snow, I have to admit that my parents were right to make me shovel the sidewalk. In some parts of my daily commute, there's two centimeters of ice on the sidewalk. Apparently it's not a legal requirement here to clear the sidewalks... or maybe that law just isn't enforced. There's one short stretch of sidewalk which the city put sand on, but the rest is all bare ice. In any case, I've never seen walking conditions this bad for this long.

I don't think my lack of proper winter boots is a problem, though. If this ice was more jagged, having proper treads would help, but I haven't found many pieces of jagged ice due to all the thawing-freezing cycles. Oh well; I'm getting good practice for my balance and reflexes.

I admit that I fell once, but that was due to the law of universal comedy. I was leaving the flat of one of the professors after a Christmas dinner. His wife called out "be careful, it's slippery!". I half turned to wave and said "oh, I'll be fine" -- with the last word being affected by a Doppler shift as the sound source suddenly dropped a meter. Fortunately, the angle of my half-turn protected the chocolates I was given, and I got my other hand beneath me to cushion the fall.

In related news, it's "that time of the year" again, when I need to take special measures to control the bleeding. As usual, I left it a bit too late, but I'm ok now.

... I'm referring to my hands. When it's cold, my skin gets very dry, cracks, and blood oozes out. Particularly from the knuckles. A few days ago, I had to be careful when folding my laundry to avoid getting blood on my clothes.

After a few days of gingerly washing my fingertips (to avoid getting the back of my hands wet, since that makes the dryness worse when it evaporates), I finally went of to Boots to get some cream. It worked amazingly well; I've only put it on twice, and my hands are almost back to normal. My bedroom now smells like skiing, but oh well. It fits the season, I guess!

(cream -> smells a bit like sunscreen -> I only use sunscreen when skiing -> room smells like skiing)

In yet more mundane news, I'm really making myself comfortable in the lab. I have a desk drawer with a dozen cans of diet coke (it's much cheaper than buying from the vending machine!), about twenty of those delicious chocolate-mint-wafer no-name biscuits from Sainsbury's, some Christmas chocolates, and two pairs of socks (in case my feet get wet on the way to university). I also brought my dressing gown (it's made from thick fluff material, like a towel -- this isn't a flimsy girly negligee!), which I leave on my chair when I'm not wearing it.

I swapped violin cases with the other violin (it only has three strings, and the bow has a ton of electronics taped onto it; nobody's going to miss that case!), so now my shoulder rest fits in the violin case. I found some music stands in a corner of the lab, and took one back to my desk, where it holds the Bach violin partita no. 2. I'm even working on the Chaconne!

New Year's Eve was a non-event for me; I woke up at 8pm, and went about my normal business. While I was writing a reply email to my mother about the 19 equal-temperament clarinet, I heard some firecrackers outside, and muttered to myself about young hooligans. When I reached the end of the reply, I saw that she'd wished me happy new year, and I realized that the firecrackers had been set off at midnight.

I'm now seriously working on setting up my software on windows. As I've said a few times in the past, I used cross-platform libraries, so in theory it should be easy to get it working on windows... but it's proving extremely difficult to install software on windows.

I've installed cygwin, but that doesn't have all the libraries I need. I installed python, but that requires manually adding /cygdrive/c/Python/include to CFLAGS and ../lib to LDFLAGS. I have windows git installed, but the command-line that this gives me is different from the command-line that cygwin gives me, which is also different from the command-line that windows comes with. Copying to and from the cygwin windows is a completely byzantine process. Libraries like libsndfile get installed to Program Files/Mega-Nerd/libsndfile, which requires yet more manual CFLAGS and LDFLAGS.

Ye flipping mao, hasn't anybody heard of a shared location for include files and libraries?! How on earth do people get anything done on windows?! I've spent ten hours, and will probably spend at least another ten, trying to replicate what, on my linux machine, would be a one-line command:

aptitude install libsndfile-dev libsamplerate-dev libaubio-dev libfftw3-dev qt4-dev-tools python-dev

And if you think the above command is confusing, that's just because I'm posting it as text -- I use a graphical tool to look at all the available programs, click on the ones I want, and then click an "install" button. The operating system then downloads the programs, installs them, configures them, and I'm good to go. It takes approximately 10 mouse clicks and maybe 15 minutes (mainly spent downloading). I can write emails or have tea while it's taking the 15 minutes, though.