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The magical world of Davide Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "lordbubonicus" journal:

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February 4th, 2009
10:11 am
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Looking for computer advice
So, as you may or may not know my laptop has decided that it's time to go to the big computer shop in the sky. Basically, it's not drawing power from any source any more, and for the price that it would take to get fixed I might as well look at upgrading. I was planning to purchase a new laptop over the summer, so this just shifts my plans forward to a much less convenient time.

I was hoping that some of you might be able to give me some buying advice. I'm after makes that you would recommend (and why), possibly even models, stores/sites that you would suggest buying from, and places/makes to stay away from.

I'm looking to spend about £400-£500 maximum. Windows only please, simply for reasons of compatibility with my current files and work, although I am looking to get linux at some point so a system that has the potential for dual booting/OS replacement wins bonus points. Ideally, something with Office included in the price, though that's obviously a bonus and I admit very unlikely.

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October 12th, 2008
01:57 pm
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Funny
I found this site today. It's realy quite funny, although it does make you wonder about some people in this world. And whether you've ever done anything so stupid.

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September 9th, 2008
05:14 pm
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A big day for science
Tomorrow is September the 10th. Not a very interesting date at first sight, but this year it marks (as you are probably aware) the day that the new particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is 'turned on' at CERN.

This is very exciting. The LHC is the largest experiment in the world (in terms of spatial volume occupied anyway), and has the potential to completely change particle physics. It will either find the Higgs boson, as predicted, in which there will be some very happy theorists, or it will find it but not as predicted, in which case there will be some happy theorists, or it will find something different and completely unexpected that means our current models are wrong, in which case there will be some happy theorists. I personally don't care what they find, I'm just excited to see what it is. A lot of particle physics is very complex and hard to understand, but the media attention given to the LHC, not to mention the blog posts, has given me a better understanding of what is going on.

I put 'turned on' in inverted commas up there for a reason. Because in many ways it's not really true. Parts of the LHC have been in use already, testing the magnets and cooling system. Furthermore, tomorrow they're only going to be using a lower energy particle beam. Finally, they're only using one beam so no colliding just yet. I wouldn't consider it fully 'turned on' until they begin experiments sometime next year at the earliest.

As I mentioned, there's been a lot of media coverage of the LHC. Unfortunately, to my mind at least, a lot of it has, until recently, focused on the claims that when it is 'turned on' tomorrow it will destroy the world. Various possible mechanisms for this have been suggested, but the favourite appears to be the creation of miniature black holes that could destroy the Earth. However, as I pointed out above they are NOT going to be carrying out any experiments tomorrow, merely sending a single beam around to check that everything works properly as a whole, having tested parts separately already. There is therefore no chance that it could create a black hole tomorrow. Zero. As for the possibility of black hole creation once experiments start, unlikely. Cosmic rays strike the Earth with more energy than the LHC can muster all the time, and much more frequently than the LHC will produce collisions. No miniature Earth-eating black holes have been created by this so far, making the odds of the LHC creating one fairly small.

I have seen comments about scientists not having considered every possibility, and that this means they are being irresponsible and rushing to turn it on without fully considering the risks. To which I say, no they haven't considered every possibility. Because they're only human. It is impossible for anyone to consider every possibility, no matter what the situation. However this argument seems to assume that scientists all act as one body, with no individual mind. This is blatantly untrue. Yes, a lot of people want the LHC to start experiments. But that doesn't mean that they haven't looked at it in as much detail as possible. All of the calculations will have been done countless times, by tens of different people. Any flaws will have been spotted, checked, and changed, or it wouldn't be going ahead. That is how the scientific method works. On a related note, another common theme is the call for more safety checks and tests. But I'm sure that all the conceivable checks that could have been done on the individual parts have been done. To run further tests, they need to start the whole machine running together. Which is what they are doing tomorrow. If it's not working how it should do, they won't carry on. Furthermore, most people with sufficient expertise to be able to judge the LHC safe have likely already been contacted. Government officials simply won't have a clue, because even to most physicists particle physics is complicated and not understandable.

Admittedly, my only human argument works against me here, because someone might have missed something. But the number of people working on the project gives a large amount of redundancy in checking, so I think it unlikely that everyone has missed the same thing.

This idea that scientists are somehow more concerned with their experiments than with the lives of millions of people is also ridiculous. It builds on this image that people seem to have, begun by stem cell research and GM food, of scientists as amoral monsters concerned only with experiments and not everyday life. But scientists are human. They have families, they have friends, they have people they care about. So why would they do something that jeopardised that if they weren't as sure as they could be that it was safe.

Current Location: University
Current Mood: excitedexcited
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August 25th, 2008
10:08 pm
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On the subject of crockery
I've just got back from being home for the weekend (very enjoyable and relaxing it was too), and my laid back mood has been disturbed by the contents of my kitchen cupboard here in Cryfield. It should contain two large plates, two small plates, two bowls, two mugs, two glasses, a large wok, afrying pan and a couple of pans. However at 9:30 tonight the following were missing:

Both bowls
One large plate
One small plate
Both mugs
One pan

Admittedly I had discovered one of the mugs to be missing on Friday before I left, but I had hoped it would be returned.

This is incredibly annoying. I wasn't asked whether anyone could use it, which I wouldn't mind. It' sonly polite after all. I wouldn't even mind so much if all of the items were still in the kitchen, but dirty and needing washed up, beacause at least then I'd know where they were. But apart from the pan there is absolutely no sign of them in either kitchen on the floor, and I don't feel as though I should have to go around all the rooms on the floor saying "Excuse me, do you have my crockery? Last time I saw it it was in my cupboard." Seriously, at least leave it in the kitchen!

I never once had this problem in first year; if people needed to borrow something they asked. But this has really, really annoyed me. It's just fortunate that I've still got a couple of spares of everything in my room, otherwise I'd have nothing to eat breakfast out of in the morning.

Current Location: Cryfield
Current Mood: pissed offpissed off
Current Music: Random youtube tracks

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May 27th, 2008
11:14 pm
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Rant
I was reading the paper today and noticed a story that really annoyed me.

It seems that the National Council for Educational Excellence wants to add statistics to the Higher Education Statistics Agency database on what school all university students came from. Two things about this proposal spring immediately to mind. Firstly, I wasn't aware that there was such a database; I wonder how much information is on it anyway. Secondly, this seems to add yet another statistic to league tables for schools, namely how many students go into higher education.

This leads to a difficult situation for schools, and hits one of the issues that really irritates me. I foresee this leading to schools 'competing' by trying to get as many of their students into universities as possible. But, and I feel that this is something the government has not grasped with its 50% higher education rate, university is not the right course for everyone. Many young people are probably better suited to beginning work, or to pursuing alternatives such as as vocational qualifications. Many others may simply not want to go to university (a shocking thought I know). This could lead to these individuals feeling forced into attending university merely to improve their schools ranking, which I think is wrong.

I can see a reason, sort of, for calculating such data, but publishing it would be a mistake. It might help to change the bias in the higher education system towards high performing schools. In some ways I already think that there is a certain amount of positive discrimination there already. But that's another rant.

Current Location: Coventry
Current Mood: annoyedannoyed

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May 26th, 2008
01:00 pm
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The good Doctor part 2
Ok, I have a bit more time now so I'll get down some thoughts on the various incarnations of the doctor. I reckon the easiest way to do that is to go through them in order, so here goes.

William Hartnell:
I've seen a couple of Hartnell stories, and they just annoy me. The whole thing seems so amateur dramatic that it's cringeworthy, and I get the feeling that a lot of it is ad-libbed. Which doesn't make it sound more natural, just stilted and as though they can't remember their lines. I do like the way that there is a much greater focus on the companions though, and less on the doctor. Hartnell himself is either quite good or completely rubbish. Generally tending towards the latter.

Patrick Troughton:
Much better. This to me is the classic Doctor Who style. The balance between the Doctor and his companions is spot on, it seems much more professionally produced, and the stories are better. Troughton has a marvellous mix of playfulness and seriousness, and it's always appropriate to the situation at hand (unlike David Tennant at times). Excellent.

Jon Pertwee:
Much like Troughton, this is quintessential Who. Pertwee can be irritatingly sincere and stereotypically British at times, but in general he's very good. He does seem to lay the groundwork for the 'action hero' Doctor that we have now, and the show is more focused on him, both of which are annoying. But set against that are the points when he plays the Doctor as the academic. An interesting juxtaposition that. The fact that he's stuck on Earth generally allows more focus on the actual stories, and provides an excellent foil in the form of the Brigadier.

Tom Baker:
A much more playful Doctor, who prefers to laugh and joke, but becomes deadly serious when it's needed (much like Tennant, although Tom Baker doesn't take it to such an extreme). The stories again seem to be generally top quality, and Tome Baker gets the best out of everything.

Peter Davison:
Until I watched the Silurian/Sea Devil story, I was impressed with Davison in his first couple of stories. He takes the doctor in a completely different direction to the earlier actors, with a much more innocent and idealistic take on the character. I really like this, it makes a refreshing change. But that story was just appalling, and tarnished him a bit in my eyes.

Colin Baker:
No comment, as I haven't seen any of his stories.

Slyvester McCoy:
The grumpy old man Doctor returns! Ok, but not brilliant. Just sort of seems to go with the flow, and never likes anyone. Is quite condescending, which grates a bit since it seems so deliberate.

That's just a few quick thoughts. Bear in mind that I haven't seen many episodes for each of them, so these are subject to change. I also realise that it depends a lot on the quality of the stories that I've seen, which have generally been good.

Current Location: Coventry
Current Mood: geeky
Current Music: Fell Calls episode 8

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May 25th, 2008
05:02 pm
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The good Doctor
We've now reached the half way stage (roughly) in the latest series of Doctor Who, and I thought I'd post some thoughts on it. Some of you have heard bits of this before, but bear with me.

Catherine Tate is a lot better than I thought she would be after seeing "The Runaway Bride". I think that this is partly due to the fact that in the Christmas Special Donna was, in my opinion, a very one-dimensional character; basically a big mouth on legs. For the series she has been fleshed out very well, and Tate has the acting skills to do that justice. David Tennant is as good as ever, but he is still quite over the top at times which still doesn't sit quite right. I can't put my finger on it, but the constant over excitement doesn't help. Some of the best episodes of his run have been those where the doctor was much more understated, and I think it speaks volumes that the two best episodes in my opinion were the double bill when he wasn't being the doctor. that's not to say that I don't like him, I do. But it still irks at times.

The latest series has been good fun, and I have enjoyed it immensely so far (I haven't seen this weeks yet), but I don't think that it's as good as the last series yet. The Sontaran double bill was very good, up to the last five minutes. UNIT commanders shouldn't behave like that dammit! I'm sure that Steven Moffat's latest episodes will improve the average quality though.

Speaking of Steven Moffat, I was pleased to see that he's going to be taking over as executive producer and lead writer. this can only be a good thing, as although Russell Davies should be praised for getting the ball rolling, his writing has been a bit hit or miss. Moffat's by contrast has always been sublime. I suspect that he won't be able to maintain that record in his new role, but we can only hope. There's also the fact that new blood at the helm leads to a subtle change in direction for the show, preventing it from getting stale. Which is just what we want.

I've also been watching several old episodes that James has been lending to me. The quality has been very variable, but on the whole they've been enjoyable. The tone is just so different, as a whole, to the current run of Doctor Who. It's like it's a different show! Obviously there a differences in tone between different doctors, but nothing like the difference between old and new. I'll post up some thoughts about different Doctors when I have more time.

Current Location: Coventry
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Radio 2

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May 23rd, 2008
11:46 pm
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Sad times at university
If any of you have been keeping an eye on the "Student News" section of the Warwick Intranet homepage, then you may have noticed a couple of distressing stories in the last week. A week past on Tuesday, a first year Psychology student was found dead in his university accommodation. Then on tuesday, a second year Morse student died in Leamington. Understandably the University is making no comment about the incidents, apart from the usual bland statements from the vice-chancellor. But I have to ask why the link to the counseling service was not present in the first news item.

The death of any member of the student is a sad affair, to the loss of two members of the Warwick community in the space of a week is tragic. Without knowing either of the students personally I feel detached from the situation, but it made me stop and think. Without any facts it is all too easy to speculate, which is unjust to the memory of the two young men. My heart goes out to their friends and family.

At this time of year the stresses and strains of university life are stronger than ever. There are many vulnerable people out there, and I sometimes wonder that more people do not crack. How many people have that darkest of thoughts late at night when everything seems to be going against them? So I am thankful for the counseling service at the university, and pray that I continue never to have to use it. But I am glad to know that it is there if and when I do.

Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

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March 19th, 2008
11:21 pm
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Musings
It's been a while since I posted anything, but there hasn't been much to report. Term just carried on as normal, we got our butts kicked at the Lifesaving Nationals, the end of term concerts came and went without too much stress, I enjoyed the Real Ale Festival (My first time in attendance), and saw my term as Wind Orchestra president draw (pretty much) to a close. Same old same old really.

Except for one thing. I haven't posted about it, because I had to get used to the idea. About three weeks ago my brother James was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Fortunately for him, he was savvy enough to realise that something wasn't quite right, talk to Mum, and go to hospital before it became serious enough to hospitalise him - apparently at the hospital they couldn't believe how well he was!

In case you don't know, type 1 is the form that means that your pancreas is basically shot - it can't produce it's own Insulin, so can't regulate the bodies blood sugar level. So therefore you have to watch your sugar intake, and in James' case he has to inject himself with Insulin twice a day before breakfast and dinner. Seeing him do this for the first time was weird, particularly since it seemed so normal to him. I'm used to it now, but still. His diagnosis has had the side effect of improving the family diet, as apparently fat intake is another big problem that he has to watch for. He can still eat pretty much everything he could before, but in moderation. And snack before he does things like play squash, and always make sure he's got something sugary on him just in case.

Our doctor's surgery haven't been too helpful; we've had a nightmare trying to get his prescription, even when we told them how urgent it was (he was running out). Which just made us all stress out a bit.

Even though this hasn't really done anything to change my life, it's still shocked me. Until a short while before he was diagnosed there was nothing to signal that James was ill. He was perfectly healthy. Scratch that, he is perfectly healthy; for the most part you wouldn't even realise it. But he's my brother, so I'm still worried in case something goes wrong. And to have something change so drastically, basically overnight, shook me more than I was expecting.

Current Location: Bedford
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
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February 2nd, 2008
04:14 pm
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Bow down to J J Abrams!
My housemates and I went to see a late showing of Cloverfield last night, and my word was it good. There's been a lot of talk about the handcam perspective, but in my opinion it really worked, and helped to bring across the desperate nature of the events in the film and the main characters journey. I'll keep it spoiler free, but will say that this is the first film that I've seen in a long time that made me jump. The monster is inventive and completely different to anything seen before - I'm so glad that I managed to resist the urge to look for images of it before going to see the film.

Like his TV shows, it's the little touches that make this so believable, helped of course by the handcam. It really does feel as though it could happen/is happening. the film is short at about an hour and a quarter, but this is definitely quality of quantity. One of the best films I've seen for a while. Now i'm intrigued to see what he does with Star Trek. Oh, and stay through the credits. There isn't anything at the end, but the overture is brilliant.


I also went to see Enchanted the other week with Ellen, which was much more enjoyable than I was expecting. The plot was very enjoyable without ever becoming too syrupy, and I loved the little digs at Disney's own back catalogue.

Current Location: Home in cov
Current Mood: impressedimpressed
Current Music: cloverfield overture

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