28 Feb 2009

In the land of GMT+10, Skippy & Steve Irwin...

I'd been meaning to post this one for a good long time, but never really had any dedication to finish it off, so here goes. Here's the belated posting of BTUC From Downunda, as composed during my 'recent' winter holiday to the homeland of Qantas, Hugh Jackman, and that Prime Minister who looks surprisingly similar to our Fluid Dynamics lecturer.


Blog Title Under Construction is coming to you today from Sydney Harbour, in a nameless internet cafe and/or hacked resident’s unsecured wireless network, gazing out at the Tyne Bridge Harbour Bridge and Sage Gateshead Opera House. Yes indeed folks, this nerd is spending his winter break in Australia.
As a matter of fact, it turned out to be Starbucks Coffee. Sadly the wi-fi was overpriced with a download cap as opposed to the (apparently) free counterpoint in the UK.

Two weeks of questionable bliss in...

A nation that celebrates Christmas with fir trees, turkey, fake snow, Santa hats, reindeer antlers, carols, Cliff Richard... in the middle of summer with 20-30oC temperatures.

A country that sits 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Meridian Time, 11 if you’re in Sydney where they apply Daylights Saving Time.

A land that is just about to introduce Freeview digital television – OMG!

A state with somewhat limited internet access in urban regions.

The itinerary involved a helluvalot of travel.
One flight over to Dubai avec Emirates, departing UK early afternoon, arriving in the Land of the Married Cousins and Teatowel Brigade around 2am local time. A short power-nap in the airline’s owned luxurious hotel followed, before a 5am wake-up call, a short continental breakfast, and dash back to the airport for an earlyish flight. This long slog across to Brisbane featured a quick refuelling stop at Singapore, home of the “You chew gum, you chew bullet” federal policy, offering a nice little break to stretch the legs between two eight-hour flights. Final arrival into Brisbane airport was at 6, a.m., local time, on a Saturday. Initial departure was a Thursday afternoon.

Initial week was spent up the coast in a semi-suburb of Brisbane, Queensland. For the lavish price of ~AU$55 (about £25), I took out a week’s access to the ‘high-speed broadband’ internet access on offer. Or rather, 250 kilobit per second download rates. For comparison, the term ‘56k’ refers to 56 kilobits and was fairly traditional dial-up speed in its heyday. For further comparison, it’s 10Mbps with Virgin-and-Tonic Media back home, a factor of 40 faster. Sadly I’m a greater fan of the silicon in this Dell XPS M1530 laptop, than I am the silica residing on the beach, but it’s always great fun to stand and watch your sibling try and fail at surfboarding!

After one week up there, it’s one week a little bit further down under here in Sydney. It’s a mixed blessing that we’re doing Xmas in Oz, but a Christmas Cruise ‘round the Harbour is never quite the same as doing the traditional routine back home. *sigh* We depart on the 28th, so we’ll be missing out on the New Years’ Fireworks.
Reading various adverts at bars along the harbourside, ticket prices for their individual events on NYE were either in the region of AU$300, or not listed.

Impressions of Australia...
Terrestrial television is rather slanted, with 5 Murdochian stations – Fox Sports 1 through 3, Fox US News and Sky News AU/NZ; three or four national networks, featuring mostly late arrivals of US/UK series and programming overloaded with commercial breaks.
Whilst watching Ocean’s Twelve last night, they made 3 hours out of a probably 90-120 minute film. I probably watched the same advert for Christmas discounts at Generic Store Alpha about 10 times... America may have a similar overload of commercial breaks, but at least they had 5619 pharmaceutical ads to cycle through.

Sydney feels rather overpriced, especially the “£5 for a 200ml bottle of Coke” minibar and then the ‘AU$0.55/min in-room, probably dial-up masquerading as broadband’ internet connection.

Australia’s economy is looking a little screwed currently, with them being pretty reliant on China for export revenue on alumina, and apparently that market is drying up also. Coal industry specifically is being hit hard by economic progression it seems.

Events of the fortnight included a trip to the wonderfully-managed "Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary", offering photo sessions with its perfectly docile and marginally overweight inhabitants - got mine in '09 calendar format too. I have to commend their quick-thinking to get the domain http://www.koala.net registered.

Having watched Indiana Jones IV on the flight over there, I had a sudden desire to acquire some form of leather fedora/bush-hat, essentially to pull off the pose on the return flight, whereby I dozed with the brim fully closing over my head in shade. AU$75 from a gift-shop in Sydney, kangaroo leather (ethically-sourced in the government-authorised and managed annual cull) with a nice durable feel to it.
Can be seen here [I randomly decided to wear it for some engineering structural design testing here in Cambridge, which was promptly Facebook'ed]

25 Feb 2009

How to screw over some mathmo's

Picture the scene, of sitting bored in your university/college common room, or "JCR" as they are known in these parts, in the void period between two supervisions, or tutorials as they would be known over at That Other Place. Your preparation work for the second is complete, and the JCR/location of second supervision is too far from halls of residence to feasibly head back and doss for a brief period in between. Luckily, you spy an untarnished back page of The Times 2, and hit the Sudoku puzzles...

Now, bring in the other consideration: your first supervision/tutorial of the two had been on the Eigenvalues & Eigenvectors elements of Matrices Mathematics, so certain items are whizzing around your head...

What is the resultant of the Venn diagram-like intersection of these two conditions? Why, the answer is simple of course! You've only just thought of one of the most sick and twisted-minded method to set some advanced mathematics exam questions...


1) Attached to your question paper is the back page of tomorrow's Times2. Choosing any two of the Sudoku grids given on this page, produce the completed grid for both of your choices, ensuring you follow the common rules: integers 1 to 9 in all nine rows, columns and boxes, once and only once, ensuring there are no clashes.

More maximum marks are available to those opting to solve the Killer Sudoku puzzle as one of their two choices, and less marks are attainable if you go for the noddy-maths "Easy" difficulty grid.

We give you tomorrow's copy to ensure those of you who do these Sudoku pages daily would have no advantage by knowing the answers. It's not fair to just memorise the 9x9 grid now is it?

Please ensure that you indicate on your answers paper which two Sudoku grids were attempted.

2) The perceptive among you will note that your two solved Sudoku grids form a pair of 9x9 matrices. Denoting one of your grids as Matrix A and the other as Matrix B, solve:

a) 9x9 matrix multiplication of A B

b) Calculate the eigenvalues and eigenvectors for both matrices A & B


I wouldn't say this question would be insolvable at all, but, I dunno, the perfect collision of heavy-duty mathematics with a modern-day pastime of logic and deduction would make for a rather hilariously synoptic final exam question. I'm also sure 2(c) could be developed, as could q3 etc... The exam paper suggested above is hardly exhaustive.

So yes, go find a mathmo' and tell him (or her) to have fun with this geezer! I suppose it's not simply the mathematicians who would embrace this jocularity, NatSci's, Engineers, CompSci's too I suppose. It would be a bitch of a paper for whoever's marking them though, haha.

22 Feb 2009

We got tagged!

Like most committed hunter players out there in WoW, I'm a regular reader of our great prophet, BigRedKitty [commonly found venting his spleen at http://www.bigredkitty.net]. I'm not specifically certain which articles I have offered my thoughts on, but he offers a service whereby "you post comment with link to your blog, and BRK will hopefully reference you later."

So, on this averagely grey Cambridge Sunday afternoon, as I trawl through electromagnetics while listening to the Newcastle-Everton game on BBC [I follow the former], I hit my Firefox RSS feeds...

BRK: "Massive Linkage Time" (http://www.bigredkitty.net/2009/02/22/massive-linkage-time)
So towards the end, I see this line...
http://murlocking.blogspot.com - English Enginerd
I suppose that sums me up quite nicely. While I don't quite think I have explicitly stated English, I do use Enginerd. English-speaking Briton residing in England, yes; English, not necessarily. Although, I am, so yeah.
Enginerd itself I didn't come up with, rather I saw it as a user title of some randomer on the xkcd forums, and figured that summed me up rather nicely as well.

14 Feb 2009


I've been following with eager anticipation the forthcoming release of the film adaptation of the graphic novel "Watchmen". Written by the same bloke who gave the world "V for Vendetta", it essentially chronicles the lives of a series of masked vigilante superhero adventurers in America during a fictitious 1980's world, where Nixon is still President, the Vietnam War was won by the US, and nuclear war between The Yanks and The Kommies was almost a reality.
I'd recommend you read it, and I have a copy if people wish to borrow it for a while in Cambridge.

Main article of graphic novel
Main article for upcoming film

Writer - Alan Moore - Moore objected to the Wachowski Brothers' imagining of his other work V For Vendetta, a classic piece in both formats from my point of view, and has since then vowed essentially to let producers attempt to make films of his work, but not really with his blessing and he is fully disconnected from the Watchmen film project.

Graphic Artist - Dave Gibbons - he's OK with it, as was David Lloyd in V4V

Director Zack Snyder - You might remember him from 300, which I also have the graphic novel of, by a certain Frank Miller

To cut to the chase, there's a certain plot element of Watchmen known as "Tales of the Black Freighter", a comic read by a bit-player within the comic itself, and is generally viewed as a microcosm for the human philosophy of the main characters itself, or something like that. Hardcore fans were livid when told that TotBF was not going to be added directly into the film, as in the novel the story weaves between the two rather elegantly. Instead it's going as a separate full-length (not movie full-length though) item, either on new DVD release itself or as a bonus DVD element.

Now, you probably don't think that's all that interesting, even if you are vaguely interested in Watchmen. However, what if I told you Gerard Butler was doing it?

Gerard "THIS IS SPARTAAAAAAAAAA!" /kick Butler

It is, quite simply, [EPIC].
And yet it makes perfect sense. Here we have Snyder doing what should be an amazing film adaptation with a garnishing of awesomesauce, bringing back his leading actor from a similar project of astronomical success, to do a side-project to appease the purists in the fanbase. Watch the trailer below, and you will not be dissappointed, unless you're not a graphics novel person at all, in which case, why the flux are you still reading?

I'd also recommend you hop around that blog posting [http://timesonline.typepad.com/blockbuster_buzz] in general, it covers a good deal of movie trailers and news, Watchmen, Dark Knight & Batman, Terminator, Star Trek(king), Transformers (no, not the ones with Dr. Holburn and Dr. Durkan dancing the cha-cha on; the ones who are more than meets the eye and quite potentially in disguise)...

So that ends my musings on Blog Title Under Construction for the time being. At some point I might upload my tales of fun and adventure on my winter holiday to summer Australia, and possibly some form of review rankings of Engineering lecturers down here at Cambridge. Oh and then there'll be Eurovision 2009 to cover...
To peace!

Appendix A:
Yes I do like Wikipedia. Wi'pedia is win.