Got a new sound card for my PC yesterday (Soundblaster Audigy 2 Platinum Ex). For some reason, it came in a huge box. The "real" soundcard box is 12x25x35cm. The brown outer box is 29x40x59cm. That's 6.5 times the volume! Ah well... One upshot of this is that my old soundcard is now free to a good home - a Soundblaster AWE64 Gold (NB this is ISA, not PCI). Anyway, I have high hopes that I'll be able to do more piano playing with the new card (using MIDI keyboard). The problem I've had before is that all the software I've found is far too complicated for my needs - I just want to hit middle C on the (piano) keyboard, and hear the equivalent sound coming through my speakers. Hopefully the new SoundFonts business will do the trick.
Had a couple of AGMs recently - dance club yesterday, and ICSF today. This has reminded me of an incident in Durham (in my 2nd year), when we only had one candidate for JCR treasurer. Normally, if there's only one candidate then he/she is basically guaranteed the post. However, in this case his hustings didn't go well. The existing treasurer started out by asking whether Jason (candidate) had spoken to the person currently holding the post (which he hadn't). This was then followed by various technical questions regarding tax rates etc., which Jason couldn't answer. The upshot was that he got RONned. So, a month or so later we had a new election, and Jason stood again, and he was the only candidate again. This time, he'd done his homework, so he sailed through the hustings, and was elected to the post. He did a decent job as treasurer the following year, and I think that he did better for being challenged. So, without wanting to point fingers at any recent candidates, this may be something for people to bear in mind at future AGMs.
Lectures are going ok, although I'm now coming round to the view that writing with chalk on a blackboard is an acquired skill. In our tutorial this morning, 4 of us were chosen to write our answers to problems on the board at the front, and it was surprisingly difficult to avoid screeching noises. I got round it by pressing softly, but when I got back to my seat I noticed that my answer was a bit fainter than the others (i.e. harder to read), so that's not the best strategy. Then cryptography this afternoon - this has been a lot more mathematical than I'd expected - loads of number theory, particularly modular arithmetic. Mind you, it can get a bit confusing sometimes when different equations have very similar notation:
15 mod 3 = 2
15 = 2 (mod 3)
Not a huge problem, unless the lecturer gets careless and leaves out the brackets for the second equation.
Dance class went well this evening, despite fairly low attendance. We actually got an even gender ratio for a change (3:3, which became 4:4), which was good. One interesting thing is that Dorothy (the teacher) finally learnt my name! She was rather surprised to find out that it was "John" - she said that she'd expected me to be called "Stephanovitch" or something, since she didn't think I was English. Apparently she couldn't understand a word I was saying when I first started the class - I said that I was a bit shy at first, and the girl I was dancing with said "I think the word you're looking for is scared" :) Anyway, that's a good thing, although Dorothy did relish using my name once she knew it, i.e. being able to shout at me across the dance floor - "Legs, John! Bum, John!" It's a hard life :) No more lessons for the next month, but there's the ball tomorrow. And the bronze medal exam is set for June, although I don't know if I'll be good enough to take it.
Finally, the war issue. My own views haven't changed, i.e. I'm inclined to trust Tony Blair's judgement on this. Meanwhile, the anti-war protestors continue to alienate me from their cause. In a previous entry, I mentioned all the litter that was left after the protest march near Oxford Street. According to the BBC, that protest caused £150,000 of damage to Hyde Park. Then I heard that today people were urged to walk out of jobs/schools to demonstrate against the war. The same thing troubles me in both cases - the people who suffer from this aren't the people who are making the decision to attack Iraq. This applies whether it's a local employer (e.g. a newsagent), or a foreign client (e.g. a firm in Singapore). A similar issue applies when I look at stickers that have been put on posters, e.g. when someone has a speech bubble saying "I'd rather be boycotting E$$o". Now, I recognise that the people responsible have a grudge against Esso, whether it's legitimate or not. However, do they also have a grudge against the company that paid to put up their poster? The recurring theme seems to be "We have our goals, we want to make life difficult for our enemies, and we don't care if innocent people suffer in the process". Which is ironically the same thing that the anti-war protestors are criticising the government for doing. As I mentioned before, I recognise that there are some people who are opposed to the war, but are voicing their objections in a much better way - my quarrel here is with the vocal idiots. Regarding media coverage of the war, one interesting thing is that The Sun has an article about Iraqi soldiers surrendering en masse, but I can't find a corresponding article on the BBC site. I don't know whether that means that The Sun's information is inaccurate (given that all their editorials are pro-war), or whether it's selective reporting by the BBC.