Snowies! It finally snowed here! Snow makes everything so pretty... and
also reverts me to a mental age of 9 or so, when everybody would rush to
the windows whenever somebody said the magic word and watch the swirling
flakes with awe. I was actually jumping up and down in the lab this
afternoon. Fortunately, the lab was empty, so nobody knows my deeply
Sadly, the snowfall only lasted about 20 minutes, and began to melt
immediately. I went food shopping 3 hours later, and the snow was almost
all gone -- replaced with ice. It melted, but then froze. There was a
fairly substantial amount of black ice around... not the most I've ever
seen, but definitely noticeable. Especially in my running shoes, which
turned out to be quite flat. I hadn't noticed it before, but they're
really not intended for slippery conditions.
On the heat front, it's still working. But the (deliberate) heating
times are inconvenient to say the least -- the residence only turns on
the heat for one hour in the morning, and from 18:30 to 23:30 at night.
If you come home at 17:00, you'd better be prepared to leave your jacket
At first I thought the "heating times" were a quaint British custom
(like high prices and football violence), but when I mentioned it to a
labmate he was shocked. Apparently it's just one more instance of the
university accommodation sucking.
Real work was delayed for another week: I've gotten involved in the
programming for the bow sensor project. This is real EE&E programming --
it's on a PIC microcontroller (smaller than any of my fingernails). We
need to pore over the datasheet, figure out that if we put 0x50 into
register TXRDYSND.H and 0x01 into TXRDYSND.L, then we can put the value
we want to send into the TXTRMT.H / TXTRMT.L register pair. Different
registers have different functions depending on what you've put into
other registers previously. Fun!
I'm really enjoy this stuff. This microcontroller in particular is
collecting data from 4 or 5 different sensors, then sending it all over
a bluetooth chip. We have another bluetooth chip on the other end,
hooked up to a RS-232 port. The undergraduate is quite good at hardware,
and it's all his own design. So we do a combination of programming,
looking at the output on a scope, and sometimes even sticking a
multimeter on the wires or copper to check if any of the etched tracings
are accidentally touching. We think that happened once; after he
carefully scraped away a few places that were suspicious, the output
looked much better.
In case you're wondering, the bow sensor is a long-term project in the
lab (somebody's going to have to work on it in the future, and having
somebody with a passing knowledge of the system is will definitely make
that easier), and I checked with my supervisor before getting involved.
The guy's project is almost entirely the hardware, and in industry
they'd have a hardware+software guy working on it, so my involvement
isn't going to be a problem for his grade.
Apparently it's Christmas soon. Feels like early Nov to me, but oh
well... I bought a pair of slippers for the lab. No, they're not the
wonderfully girly fuzzy slippers I got for home; there are "manly
house-wear", as the undergraduate put it. Dark blue, not fuzzy, etc. I
change into them as soon as I get to university.
I also finally bought a violin shoulder rest, and started practicing
Bach. No, I'm not going to say something horrible like "it eases my
loneliless". Nor am I going to say something even more horrible like
"playing Bach makes me realize that we're all together in a cosmic
sense". No, I'm practicing Bach (the second solo violin sonata or
partita, whichever was easier. It's the one that's all fairly easy,
until the last movement which is impossible) because it's an appropriate
level for me, and I need to get better before I can start playing in
public with other people. If I'd started earlier, then I'd be seriously
looking at joining an orchestra in the new year, but I doubt that I'll
be good enough. Also, having a £50 violin doesn't precisely help. Not
that I'm complaining -- a poor craftsman blames his tools. A good
musician should sound decent on any instrument; a poor tone quality
doesn't exist bad intonation or lack of bow control!
Buying that shoulder rest has caused me to re-evaluate my research
direction. The current plan was to a year really nailing the rhythms --
how do musicians perceive them, how can a computer grade like that,
analyzing music to automatically create meaningful rhythmic patterns,
etc. I still think that's not a bad idea.
However, there's nothing for me personally in it. Oh, I'm really looking
forward to doing the rhythmic analysis and whatnot... but I don't need
to practice rhythms. Violin intonation, on the other hand, I really do
need to practice. But in my original plan, I wouldn't even start that
for another year.
Now, I'm not thinking about abandoning rhythms -- I'm just musing with
the idea of banging out a quickie. Slap together a python application
for testing violin scales. Nothing fancy... no finger patterns, no
arpegios (although those wouldn't be hard to add), no grading mechanism
supported by extensive surveys of muscians, and no fancy graphics or
animations. Just an objective listener that gives me a score. Something
that stops me from blasting through stuff and saying "meh, close
It should only take a day or two... hey, that would make a nice
Christmas present for myself. "Merry Christmas, now start practicing
your scales seriously".
Last night (Saturday), I tried to do laundry three times, but there were
no free washers at 21:30, 22:30, and 23:45. This morning (Sunday), I
went there at 11:00 -- completely empty. I'm sure there's a joke in