Misc - John C. Kirk
Dec. 7th, 2003
12:59 pm - Misc
Various random thoughts...
I had a couple of letters from Kings this week. The first one was inviting me to take part in the graduation ceremony in January. They seem to have overlooked the minor technical issue that I failed! There is a comment on one of the enclosed pieces of paper that says "Should you not be ready to graduate [...] please fill in the form below, informing us of when you think you will be finishing your course, and we will send you the correct information nearer the time of your ceremony." This seems rather backward - surely the university should know more about this than me! I'm not annoyed about them bringing up a sore point for me - it's not as if I'm jealous of people who passed. But the underlying attitude irritates me - it seems like their main priority is to offer me various high-priced items (e.g. a video of the event, a wooden frame for my degree certificate), rather than in paying attention to my education. So, this isn't exactly endearing them to me. By contrast, I had a call from a Durham student a few days ago, who was working on the alumni fundraising campaign. That's one of the (many) jobs that I did in Durham, so I was happy to speak to him. I didn't give any money, since I want to get my MSc finished first, but I do feel a lot more loyalty to Durham than I do to Kings, so if I was going to fund anyone, it would be them. Actually, the more I think about this, the more I think that I should write back to Kings to tell them what they're doing wrong. (I would of course be formal rather than abusive.)
The second letter from Kings was also annoying from an admin point of view, but this one wasn't their fault. I received it on Thursday 4th December (and I didn't get it until the evening). The letter was dated 11th September, and had a bill for my tuition fees, which was payable by 26th September. On the plus side, the amount is only £588, rather than the £2930 that I paid last year, so that's reasonable (since I'm not doing any lectures/exams). The problem here is the postal strike - it's been over for a few weeks, but they're still clearing the backlog. Last week I received two computer catalogues from the same company on the same day (one for November, one for December).
As I've mentioned before, I don't like strikes. However, if they are going to strike, I think that they should honour their commitments. For instance, when the tubes go on strike, they don't just stop trains in the middle of tunnels and say "Sorry, you're stuck here until next Monday" - instead, they won't let people on to the trains in the first place during the strike day(s). I think that the Post Office should do something similar. E.g. "On Monday, we'll collect the post, but we'll seal up all the post boxes behind us, so that nobody can post any new letters. We'll then spend Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday delivering the letters we've got, but not collecting any new ones. Then from Thursday onwards we won't do anything at all."
One more thing about Kings - the latest word is that the list of projects will be posted by this coming Friday (12th), so things will start moving there soon. I'm now leaning towards the view that I'm better off choosing an existing project title, rather than suggesting my own - that way, I can ease into this gradually, by getting experience of what makes a good project.
On a related note, I've done some interesting stuff at work recently. Basically, I've been setting up some data structures for web programmers to use, which provide an abstraction layer to another application. I normally find that I'm bashing out hundreds of lines of code a day (particularly in VB), whereas this was more like functional programming in Haskell - the situation where it takes a long time to produce something so simple, generally involving recursion. The key word here is "elegant". Anyway, something like this plays to my strengths. There's a general theme of imposing order on chaos (possibly related to the Asperger's whatsit), which I think would tie in well with the formality of the semantic web.
I've also been following the news reports about the Huntley trial (for the Soham murders). One thing that came out of that was the prosecution lawyer's comment that "You're a liar, aren't you" (which Huntley had to admit to). That's really not something I'd like to hear somebody say to me (especially if it was true!), so I think I made the right decision (or lack of decision) regarding my MSc. One other issue was when Huntley lost his temper. This reminded me of the time I went to court a few years ago. I remember hearing (from an interview with Ian Hislop) that it was a bad idea to lose your temper, and I didn't. However, looking at the Huntley trial, I can now understand why - it looks like I avoided the defence lawyer's trap without actually knowing what it was. On the plus side, it looks like lawyers have a standard "bag of tricks", since I can see a lot of similarities between these two trials. So, I think that if I do ever wind up in court again, I'll be more relaxed/confident, since I'll have a better idea of what to expect.
On a vaguely related issue, I've been thinking about honour recently. I remember an advert for one of the Godfather films, that said "Power can't be given, it can only be taken". It seems to me that honour is the opposite of that - it can't be taken away from you, it can only be willingly surrendered.
I went off to see "Timeline" at the cinema last night, which I thought was a bit disappointing. It had the potential to be a decent film, but they wasted it. I'll be charitable and assume that some of the things made sense in the original novel, but they just didn't have time to include everything in the film. However, this hasn't left me with a burning desire to read the book either.
I also went into Oxford Street yesterday - I think I'll now wait until after Christmas before I go again. Or maybe until after the January sales... Anyway, I picked up "Fray" (comic written by Joss Whedon about a vampire slayer 200 years in the future) which is well worth reading. I also got a "real" bow-tie (i.e. the type you have to tie yourself), since I think it's about time I stopped relying on a clip-on one. Now I just need to learn how to actually tie the thing! Anyway, I'm sure this will be useful the next time I attend a film premiere. Also, I can now fit into my DJ again (which I couldn't earlier this year), so the diet plan is going well.
Actually, the tie was mainly motivated by watching "Highlander" episodes (I'm currently working my way through season 2 on DVD). One thing I like about the series is that Duncan MacLeod starts out as brash and illiterate (before his first death), but gradually becomes much more mature and sophisticated as the years (and centuries) go by. Anyway, one of the flashbacks showed him using a real bow-tie, and it seemed like a useful skill to learn. Yes, I'm shameless about where I get my role models from :) This reminds me of something I read a while back - I think it was an interview with someone in "The 1800 house". They were saying that fashions had changed a lot, since back then the monarchy were effectively celebrities, so people would copy dress-sense from people in their 50s.