September 2005 Archives

29 September 2005


Cover of Excession
  • Iain M. Banks
  • 464 pages
  • ISBN: 185723457X
Yes, I know this is the second Iain M. Banks book I've read in the last few months, but I seriously believe this is one of the best sci-fi books I've read. This time was a reread, but when I read it first, it was my first experience of his work, and I have subsequently read virtually all his work (he takes up nearly as much space on my book shelf as Terry Pratchett!!)

The plot is gripping, the characters varied, and the "universe" Iain creates is fascinating, convincing and detailed. If you like sci-fi, then you'll love this.

Rating: 4.5/5

p.s. Good though this is, I've decided that I've got a bit ingrained with my reading habits. Too many of the books I read in the last year have been by Terry Pratchett or Iain (M.) Banks. If anybody has some suggestions of things I books that might expand my horizons a bit I'd be interested (particularly if you can do it without spoiling the plot and message of whatever book it is). I've just started Brave New World by Aldus Huxley, which is a bit more of a classic and has a much more serious message, but it's still definitely sci-fi.

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link | Categories: Books

29 September 2005

40 year old virgin

  • Nobody in particular
  • 15 - Showcase
Not much to say really. Just one of those occasions where you turn up to the cinema and watch whatever is next to start that you haven't already seen. It has some funny moments, and we seemed to be in the mood for laughing out loud.

Rating: 2/5

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link | Categories: Films

21 September 2005

Lost in Translation

This website lets you translate poetry (using google) from English to German to French and then back to English.

These are my favourites so far:

The cross of arm Insey Winsey is assembled the casing;  
* to come to the bottom the rain and to wash bad Insey outside.  
The sun came and dried the whole rain;  
The cross of arm Insey Winsey is assembled the casing again.
dickory the dock of Hickorys, 
ran the mouse the donor of synchronization.  
The donor of synchronization struck, 
the mouse fell to the bottom, 
dickory the dock of Hickorys

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link

21 September 2005

Pride and Prejudice

  • Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Judi Dench and others...
  • 127 minutes - U - UGC Cinema
I guess the question everybody wants to know is how the film compares to the BBC TV series. Personally, I reckon the two complement each other quite well. The TV series has the advantage of 5 hours to play with, allowing much more of the original plot to be captured, particularly the slowly evolving relationships. The film version has the advantage of getting the plot across to you in one go, so it in someways makes more sense (I didn't religiously follow the TV series, so I may have missed important bits along the way). Equally the acting is, arguably better, particularly with some of the more minor roles: Each of the Bennett sisters has a distinct personality; Mr Collins is fabulous; etc.

The buildings, scenery, costumes and choreography all play their own part in the atmosphere and magic of the film.

In summary: A must see for any P&P fan, and anybody who doesn't actively hate happy endings.

Rating: 4/5

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link | Categories: Films

21 September 2005

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof poster On Saturday, we went to see Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Nottingham Playhouse. This was my second trip to the theatre this year (last time we went to the Theatre Royal)

The play seems to be relatively famous (i.e. I've actually heard of it ;-)) but I couldn't say I knew anything about it. We even had an argument before hand about whether Tennessee Williams is a man or a woman. I have to say that I was pretty disappointed by it. The plot is dull, the characters are unlikeable, the acting was bad, and the script is far too dialogue heavy.

Rating: 1.5/5

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link

12 September 2005

Marathon finish times

Martin, I think the peaks you see in your graph are real.

Personally, I kept no particular track of the race time, or my own pace on a mile by mile basis during the race. However once I passed the last corner, I could see the clock above the finish time, which was just reaching the 2:08 mark. At this point I figured if I pushed it, I could make it inside 2:10, and sprinted the finish. I'm also pretty sure if the time said 2:11 I wouldn't have bothered.

I would therefore hypothesise that the number of people finishing in a time ending in a nine will be greater than any other digit. Similarly I thing the quarter hour marks would be attractive for similar reasons, therefore 4s are to be expected too.

In the histogram below, the last digit of the finishing time in minutes has been calculated. This clearly fits the hypothesis.

Histogram of finishing minute

My A-level statistics somewhere in the back of my head tells me that:

Actual Hypothesis: Finishing time is influenced by human desire to beat certain time barriers.
Null Hypothesis: Finish time is random, therefore probability of a runner finishing in a time ending in a "9" is 0.1
  1. Assume the Null hypothesis is true.
  2. Using binomial theory calculate probability of 779 or more runners out of 7086 finishing in a time ending in 9.
  3. If probabilty is less than 5%, Null Hypothesis is rejected and Actual Hypothesis is accepted.
According to gnumeric, the chances of 779 or more successes out of 7086 trials with a success rate of 0.1 is a mere 0.28%. The AH is accepted.
The 95% confidence interval is between 666 and 750 successes.


Bit of a thinko there. 666—750 is the 90% confidence limit for the mean (assuming binomially distributed, p=0.1, n=7086). The 95% confidence limit is more like 659—757. Can't be bothered to update the graph.

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link

12 September 2005

Marathon time distribution

This is a graph of the cumulative distribution of times in the Robin Hood half marathon.
Distribution of marathon times
  • The median time is 2:02:02
  • The mean time is 2:05:45
The skew is probably due to the tails of the distribution. The fastest runners cannot realistically do much faster than about 60 minutes, whereas the slowest runners could conceivably take any length of time.

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link

12 September 2005

Robin Hood Half Marathon

Yesterday I completed the Robin Hood half marathon. Officially my time was 2:09:14, (my "chip time" was 2:05:46) and I came 4381st.

Although the position itself isn't that stunning (61% of people beat me), I was only six minutes behind the median time.

The main achievement for me though was not only finishing the race (which I was never 100% sure I could manage), but actually running the whole way.

I also took part in the Cooper Parry Corporate Relay Challenge on behalf of Freeth Cartwright, because somebody dropped out. The teams consist of 5 runners each completing around 2.5 miles each. Somewhat bizarrely I manage to beat my own team.

I although I didn't set out with the intention of raising money for charity, and haven't collected any sponsorship, it would be great if somebody benefitted from my efforts yesterday and my inability to walk today. Therefore if anybody feels inclined to donate, I will be donating money to the State School for the Deaf in Ghana, where my sister worked on her year out.


That should have said "median time" and not "mean time". oops. Thanks Martin.

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link

07 September 2005

Image reconstruction

Reconstituted poster

This is my attempt to solve the LGP competition where an extra pixel is revealed in this image every second.

I'm not sure what it is. It appears to be a 4x4 grid of sub-images that I haven't worked out exactly how to rearrange, but there are various things that looks sort of "space flight-ish" could be my imagination tho.

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link | Categories: Computers

07 September 2005

200 page landmark

My PhD thesis has finally hit the 200 page mark! The graph below shows the progress since the start of the year, when it was just above the 100 page mark. (The word count is a little bit approximate because it's just a wc -w on the tex source.)

There's now very little left unwritten (just things like the conclusions that you're meant to leave til the end) but lots of little bits that could do with some polish and plenty of proofreading.

Anyone care to guess the final page count? Sweapstake?

Line graph showing rise to 200 pages over time

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link | Categories: PhD

01 September 2005

The Island

The Island poster
  • Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson
  • UGC (now Cineworld), 136 minutes, 12A, 2005
I think this is one of those films that the same person could rate very differently depending on their mood when they first saw it. It's certainly easy to come up with reasons to rave about it — Scarlett Johansson, interesting plot concept, Scarlett Johansson, rich visuals and unique camera work, oh, and did I mention Scarlett Johansson. On the other hand, it easy to come up with criticisms — Ewan McGregor whilst a reasonable choice for the role(s) he plays, is just too well known now - I kept finding myself adding in bits of Obiwan Kenobi to his character and even heard myself saying "I hate it when he does that!" to some of the aerial combat scenes. The product placement is almost obscene (think Austin Powers' spoof product placement scene): Puma, Cisco, XBox, MSN Search, Tag Heuer, Calvin Klein, and Ben & Jerry's being the ones that have stuck in my mind four days later. A number of the action scenes are (in my opinion) unnecessarily implausible, and there are various holes in the plot if you really start picking at it.

All in all, the negatives don't really detract too much from the enjoyment value of the film, and in some ways are even quite amusing. To sum it up in one word - Fun. Rating: 3.5/5

Posted by Robert Hart | Permanent Link | Categories: Films