I've been fiddling with Magic cards in the last couple of days, building an army deck (basically a soldier deck with a flagbearer etc.). One card that I've included is Improvised Armor, which I really like because of the flavour text: "I trust what I make for myself. Do you trust more what is made for you by another?" The reason I mention this is that it reminds me of when I went parachuting in Durham. Basically, after the initial training (about 100 quid, as I recall), it cost 14 quid for each subsequent static line jump that you did. However, you could save 2 quid if you packed your own parachute. There are basically two sides to this. On the one hand, you are trusting your life to this thing (although you do carry a reserve chute in case something goes wrong), so it's not worth taking a risk just to save yourself such a small amount of money. However, I think it's important to bear in mind that the people who work there are just human - not magical or divine. That's not intended as a criticism - I'm sure they've very competent. What I'm getting at is that they're trained professionals, and so other people can be trained to have the same skill. And if you're relying on your parachute to such an extent, wouldn't you rather pack it yourself, when you know for a fact that it's been done right, rather than relying on someone else to do it for you? In my case, I watched other people do it, and I would have packed my own chute once I was confident about it, but I only did 2 jumps in the end, so the situation didn't arise. So that's why I included this card in my deck :)
On a related note, I'd like to go parachuting again, but unfortunately there's a slight lack of airfields in central London. I do know of a couple outside, so I guess I could take the motorbike for a spin up the M25 sometime. I was also looking at hang gliding websites last week - I've never done that, but it looks like fun, and is flying as opposed to falling. According to the site, if you're good enough then you can often stay in the air for a few hours at a time, which compares favourably to the couple of minutes that you get from parachuting. On the downside, they say that the training costs 500-700 quid, and then buying kit is another 2000 or so. After that, I assume it's pretty much free, but I think that will have to wait until I have an income again - must resist the temptation to abuse my credit card :)
On the PhD front, I didn't get much of a useful response to my email from Imperial (basically, "look on our website"), although it turns out that I emailed the wrong person (pgadmissions vs phdadmissions). Anyway, I was digging round the DOC website today, and I've found some useful leads, so I'll pursue them. Meanwhile, I need to get my BCS membership sorted out properly (my application for professional membership has been on hold for a while, pending references), so that I can use it in my PhD application.
My cryptography course is starting tomorrow, so it's going to be a fairly busy day - lectures from 10-12 and 1-5, then dance class 6-7, and theatre at 8. Hopefully should all be interesting/entertaining. And I've now booked a ticket for the "Classical Spectacular" at the Royal Albert Hall for Sat 22nd, so I'm looking forward to that.