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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.

They're so cute!

I finally taught (demonstrated) a lab for the first time. Yay! These first-year students are soooo cute! We were doing basic logic gates, working up to a full adder. Their confusion over DeMorgan's law was priceless!

For those who haven't done boolean algebra (which means that you haven't done engineering, philosophy, computer science, math, or statistics), this law states that:

not( X and Y ) = (not(X)) or (not(Y)) not( X or Y ) = (not(X)) and ((not(y))

They're occasionally useful in proofs (although the proofs that you get in second-year philosophy courses tend to be fairly contrived examples), but absolutely vital in electrical engineering. You see, if you have a chip with 3 OR gates and 3 AND gates, and you need 4 OR gates... deMorgan's to the rescue!

I especially loved one kid's reaction to me showing him how to double-negate a term to make it more obviously succeptible to deMorgan's. "You can do that?!" heh, yep.

(the term in question: (not(A) and (B)). Make that not(not(not(A) and (B), and it's easier to see that you can use the first of those laws. Oh, and if you write not(A) as "A with a bar on top" on paper, it's also easier to see)

In the students' defense, deMorgan's is the kind of thing that only my brother would understand in a lecture. I mean, until you do a few examples by yourself... ideally under pressure of "I don't have enough logic gates!"... these laws seem stupid and pointless.

I was chatting with the instructor after the lab, and he said that the double-negation (i.e. X = not not X; feel free to add not-nots whenever you want) is one of those mathematical tricks that are really annoying the first time you see them. Judging from the pleasure I received from pointing out this trick during the lab... and from my own twisted personality... I definitely agree with this!

On a more serious note, I was struck by how much (most of) the students enjoyed the lab. They were really proud about building a half-adder (that's something which adds two single-bit binary inputs, without even a "carry" input). Many groups were anxious about moving on to the next question (building a full adder), because they didn't want to dismantle their half-adder. (even though it stated on the lab sheet that they should use their half-adder in the full-adder!)

I even wondered how my life would have gone differently if I had signed up for the first-year computer architecture lab at SFU... I avoided doing any labs, because they seemed like a lot of work and I was insanely lazy in those days (hey, I was doing Philosophy!). But if I'd taken a lab or two, would I have gotten "bitten" by the "building things" bug? Would I have switched over to doing electrical engineering as my first degree?

This isn't really a regret -- my life progressed the way it did. If I were into regrets over my academic career, I'd be bitterly cursing the SFU computer science regulations at the time and the dot-com boom. Due to the dot-com boom, there were tons of CS students, so upper-level courses were restricted to declared majors. But to do the department regulations, you could only become a declared major if you took PHIL 001 "critical thinking". Since I was doing a philosophy honors degree and that course was so easy it didn't count towards a major (let alone an honors!), I refused to take the course, and as a result I ended up doing discrete mathematics.

Now, I don't dislike discrete mathematics. But I feel much more at home approaching it from a CS perspective. I like to be motivated by the thought of writing a program to create sudoku squares or discover music phrases; studying combinatorics or cliques in graph theory just for the sake of aesthetics doesn't get me particularly enthused.

I guess I have been bitten by the "build things" bug.

I'm hot!

I'm hot -- I'm not referring to my physical appearance (although my hair is undeniably fantastic), but rather the temperature. My room finally has heat!

It's a good thing, too. Quite apart from my general health and well-being, I happened to come across the residential accommodation contract while I was cleaning my room last night. That clearly stated that the landlord was responsible for providing heat.

This evening has been great; I could actually work comfortably at home, rather than lounging around in bed because that was warmer. I'm eagerly anticipating the night: I might actually sleep well! If I don't, then I'll look into getting a camping mattress or new sheets or something like that.

In other news, I've been eating raspberries from Herefordshire. I found this name so amusing that I had to post it here. According to a random webpage, Herefordshire is 84 miles (135 km) from Reading. (that's a CBC listener joke)

Last Sat, I went to St. Enoch square, a "mall" in Glasgow. It was quite small... two stories, 30-40 stores. The individual store sizes were on par with Canadian malls, but the number of stores was quite low. Maybe half the size of Brentwood mall? (that's the local mall near my parent's house)

I bought running shoes for £29.99, which was the most that I've ever paid for footwear. I haven't gone running yet, but I'll go soon. On the way to the square, I walked next to the river; there's a very nice paved walkway there. I definitely approve of the pedestrian / cycling paths around here... this was actually part of a "75" trail (or something like that), linking Glasgow, Edinburgh, and various other nearby cities. Maybe next summer, I'll actually bike that! It's about 50 miles.

On the bike front, it appears that the police auctions are held in Dalry, Ayrshire, which is about 30 miles to the south-east. :( I'll have to look elsewhere for second-hand bikes, or just splurge and get a new one.