Finished exams at 4:30pm today; fate willing, I won’t have any more exams in my life. Didn’t manage to beat my personal record in making it to the pub by 4:33pm since we decided to go one closer to the Backs. Computer died a couple of days ago, which was a bit of hassle – but all is fine now that I’ve replaced the PSU. Think I might sleep for the next few days.

Exam Update 1

One down, two to go. My brain is fried, as are my eyes and my writing hand. Should be better by tomorrow though. It turns out that I know more than I thought I did, and that it takes a surprisingly long time to write an essay.


Here’s a question: how does EasyCinema handle micropayments? I had a brief look at their website and I can’t seen any minimum charge for booking online via credit or debit card. I suppose it could be hidden away at the checkout stage, but if it isn’t, then it’s impressive – and baffling – how they managed to implement micropayments succesfully for amounts as small as 20p.

Near Future

My final exams are beginning in a little over twelve hours from now. There are three 3-hour exams over three consecutive days, from Tuesday to Thursday, each counting for 12.5% of my total mark. The remaining 62.5% is made up from my dissertation (50%) and two extended essays (12.5%), all of which I plan to post here after I finish the course.

Normally I would say that it’s a bit strange, having your university grade depend on a few hours worth of exams, but in this case that isn’t true, since my disseration and essays count for much more. Despite this, I’m still feeling the familiar sensation of adrenaline and excitement.

So I have a busy time up ahead; my exams finish on the 29th, after which I’ll be embarking on a bender of epic proportions with my coursemates (I still hope to beat my record of having a pint in hand within three minutes of the exam ending from the first year). No doubt the next few days will also be occupied with celebrations as other people finish their exams. On the 6th I have an exam viva, but it’s more of a formality than anything else – the viva can only make our marks go up, not down; it’s more of a modifier for borderline cases.

A scant few days later, I’ll be flying off to Philadelphia for the TEDMED3 conference on the 10th. Returning on the 16th, I’ll be back just in time for the Emmanuel College May Ball, and with it, the rest of May Week in Cambridge. Graduation Day is on the 26th, and then I’ll be zipping off to Oxford for the Wadham College May Ball on the 27th.

I should be returning home from Cambridge – for the last time ever – shortly after that. During July I will hopefully be travelling around Australia and maybe America (incidentally, are there any readers I can visit in the US around that time?) and will return to the UK at the end of the month, not that I have actually planned it, booked flights, etc. That gives me August and September free before I go to Oxford, and readers of this weblog will probably not be surprised to hear that I have a few schemes and plans to keep me occupied during that time.

Phew. Like I said, a busy time.

A Passage To Boredom

Here’s a comment I posted in a Metafilter on bad books today:

Schools should never assign books for class reading. It’s a sweeping statement, but the agony treated upon students must be stopped. I remember reading ‘A Passage To India’ at school; it was the dullest thing I’d ever laid eyes upon. Maybe it’s a good book – I don’t know. But after having been forced to read it over a period of two months (as opposed to the usual two days in which I read books) and write essays on symbolism and significance of characters in the book, I was fully prepared to travel back in time and chop off EM Forster’s hands. Having to read books in school sucks all the fun out of it.

I find it absolutely absurd that we were supposed to read books according to a timetable. Like many other readers, it’s just not physically possible for me to read a book that slowly, so I ended up reading assigned books in a day or so. It’s not as if I disliked all the books we had to read; I quite enjoyed ‘The Crucible’. I didn’t, however, enjoy having to write essays on it and (essentially) being forced to fill the entire book’s margins with notes about the significance and imagery of particular sections for use in the exam.

However… but…

Someone needs to tell the BBC News Online team how to write:

“However, just a small proportion of educated people have access to IT – but the vast majority of Indians, about 70% of the population, still live in villages and the challenge is to make sure they don’t get left behind.”

‘However… but…’ – what’s going on here? Someone’s trying way too hard to sound fancy.

The Dream

E-Ink announced their prototype electronic book display last week. Finally, the dream of a portable, long-lasting electronic book reader may finally be upon us. The contrast and resolution of the display (160dpi) look quite acceptable and I’m not really bothered about the fact that it has no colour; neither do any of my paperbacks.

As long as they don’t do something as monumentally stupid as prohibiting people to put their own data on the reader (meaning that I wouldn’t, e.g., be able to transfer the contents of Project Gutenberg over) then it’d be difficult to see how I couldn’t buy one of these things.

Adrian’s minimum specs:

– One month battery life, with up to four hours use per day
– Easy synchronisation via USB or Bluetooth
– No draconian DRM limitations
– Less than $300
– Durable; able to withstand being carried in a backpack indefinitely with no case
– Removable storage format is not necessary providing that internal memory is above 32MB (enough for at least 100 books), but if there is removable storage, it must be either Compactflash or SD; nothing else will do.
– Good contrast and resolution; no squinting required

I wonder if Apple are planning to use E-Ink’s technology – how about the iBook? Oh, wait…

Balance of Bloggers

I was interested to have happened upon the Professors Who Blog list today and browsed around them a bit. One observation that I made was that a startling number of them seemed to be in the field of arts (a somewhat nebulous grouping which, for me, includes economics, political science, linguistics, etc etc.) Now, maybe this is to be expected when the list is hosted on a site about rhetoric, but, dammit, it does say ‘Professors Who Blog’, not ‘Professors Who Blog About Rhetoric.’

Anyway, I thought the list would be a nice way to make a few sweeping statements about arts professors, so I took a sample of ten blogs on the list and tried to figure out what field each professor was in. The results are:

1. Religion
2. PolSci/eco
3. Can’t tell
4. Can’t tell. Probably PolSci
5. Philosophy of Education
6. PolSci
7. Techie/Linguistics
8. Cultural studies
9. Law
10. History

As you can see, there’s an overwhelming majority of arts professors, and not a single science professor to be found. Assuming that my sample is representative of the population of blogging professors*, what does this imply? Either the science professors are blogging undercover, or arts professors simply have way too much free time. I find the latter explanation far more compelling.

*which it probably isn’t

Tough love for PhDs

Tough Love for PhDs – Brad talks about the mismatch between tenure-track positions and PhDs granted as US universities (I don’t know what the situation is in the UK). Good job I have four years to figure out what I want to do.