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If you have internet access and you're into music then download Spotify.
I cannot stress how glad I am that I was introduced to this application. Numerous large record labels have provided Spotify with thousands and thousands of tracks. Spotify is a music library that is free to access and enjoy at any time. Currently I am using Spotify in its "Free" manifestation - the only drawback of which is that every 3 or 4 songs a short advert is played. As a music lover, I can honestly that I am not bothered by the 20 second intrusions every so often - I'm just grateful that the record labels are allowing access to their Artists. The occasional advert now and again is a tiny price to pay. Indeed, if you were listening to the radio you'd hear 10 times as many adverts and not be able to....
TOTALLY CUSTOMISE YOUR PLAYLIST AND RADIO STATIONS! Woo!
So at the moment I just typed in "IQ" (as in the neo-prog rock band). It's just playing everything it's got under "IQ" (including some pretty embarrassing rap music and a punk band I've never heard of). But its so easy to stop it doing that. I can select albums, queue up tracks, create playlists, browse through "Similar Artists" (including "Yes", "Marillion" and "Kayak"... just in case you wanted to know!) and even buy the track online.
I haven't yet explored the Radio Station options in any depth. It appears that Artists are "linked" together and so if you're a fan of Damien Rice (which I am) you can listen to the Damien Rice "Station" - which just plays that "kind" of music. Good stuff.
I also understand that I can pay 99p for a Spotify "Day Pass" which allows me to listen to 24 hours of uninterrupted music... perfect for a party. I cannot agree more. I can easily imagine compiling a playlist long before the event, then paying my 99p on the day and allow Spotify to do the rest. Up till now we've been using my wife's iTunes to do the same thing... but our combined music collection feels tiny compared the wealth of stuff on Spotify.
Complaints I've heard are that the library isn't big enough. Sure, it doesn't have EVERY song - far from it. But it does offer a fair cross section. If only more record labels would sign up!
Download it today. It will not disappoint you.
To me, it feels like this game could have been made just a little better. I love the idea of stacking tiles on top of one another - it brings a new dimension to the classic Scrabble format. But this game differs from Scrabble in so many ways it can be frustrating. I should also say that the game never claims to BE Scrabble in 3D, I'm just drawing the comparison because I'm a huge Scrabble fan!
The aim of the game is to create words using lettered tiles. Players place their tiles on the game board and score points for each letter in their word and bonus points for stacking their tiles on top of other players. For example, if the word "DOG" was already in place on the board, the next player could place the letter "I" on top of the "O" and gain bonus points for creating this mini tower. There is a stacking limit of 5 tiles.
The thing that troubles me about the game is that the tiles do not have their individual worth marked on them. In Scrabble, for instance, the letter "A" is worth 1 point - this fact is clearly marked on the tile. In Upwords, you have to refer to the rule book to see what each tile is worth. Also, scoring has to be written on a piece of paper - which is how many Scrabble players do it of course - unless you've got one of those little tile racks with pegs to keep score... man, I love those pegs.
I don't think there's much more I can add. It's a fun game - the 3rd dimension adds lots of fun possibilites. It's easier than Scrabble in that respect - players can just win off the back of their opponents success. For example, the word "QUACK" could craftily be changed to "QUICK" for some easy points. There are no special scoring zones as such (like there are in Scrabble). I think the game would've benefited from more helpful tile design and some special scoring spots - in the corners for instance.
For our first wedding anniversary, I tried my hand at movie making as a surprise for my wife. I had only briefly dabbled in Windows Movie Maker before starting this project so I gave myself 5 days to complete it. I spent over 10 hours making the video and learnt a lot from the experience.
Windows Movie Maker is, in my opinion, the perfect tool for creating a basic slideshow of photographs and perhaps the odd movie clip. Users can add titles, captions and credits with relative ease. There is also room for 1 audio track (be it narration, music or audio from your video clips). Videos can be relatively crudely clipped and roughly 25 effects can be applied to each clip.
After just a few hours I was disappointed with how very limited the program is. It was extremely difficult to reposition text on the screen and the video clipping feature was unnecessarily unfunctional - to explain - the program informs you of the duration of each clip to the nearest 10th of a millisecond yet you cannot fine tune the duration without dragging the mouse about - which is inaccurate. There are basic ways around this, but if you want spot on timing you just have mess around until you're happy.
The Audio track was also frustratingly limited. I had to do all my editing (voice overs, transitions between songs etc.) in Audacity (an excellent and free Audio editing program available online).
In it's favour, WMM does have a decent array of transitions - such as the classic fade to black, the exciting "Shatter" and the hopelessly romantic "Heart Silouette" fade. Again, all the fine tuning of transition duration has to be done with the mouse - there's no way to just type in "Transition Length: 0.30 seconds".
I was pleased with what I was able to do with the program, but as a complete newbie to film-making, I realised quickly just how limited it is. It takes just a little too long to do fairly simple tasks but the end results are reliable.
Annoyingly, WMM crashed about 10 times whilst I was working on my project. Fortunately I was schooled well in computing and saved my work regularly.
It was definitely worth the work. My wife was delighted with the finished product, which I posted on Facebook for her and friends and family to watch. We're now working on a project together for our nephew's first birthday - let's hope my experience and my wife's patience will see this one through without too many hitches!
This film feels fantastically real. For me, this really makes it work. Yes, it's science fiction, but it's dealt with in a very detailed and believable manner. There's no extended exposition - which I'm always grateful for in sci-fi because it credits the audience with enough intelligence to piece the story together for themselves.
Suffice to say, it's the year 2027 and women are no longer fertile. They have not been fertile since 2008 and, since then, society has degenerated. The film follows the journey of a group of freedom fighters, on the run from the authority and even from their allies. For maximum enjoyment, I would suggest emersing yourself in this film with as few preconceptions as possible. The picture is built in a lot of detail and the plot unfolds cleverly. I didn't find myself getting too confused and I always felt the urgency of the group's mission.
There is one scene in this film which I found particularly effective. I've already alluded to the realism within the movie. One scene consists of about 4 minutes of entirely unbroken footage in a car. It really is tremendously impressive - so much so that I had to research how it was put together. As far as I can remember, the film does not rely heavily on incidental music to create tension. Car chases and fight sequences are gritty and plausible. The characters are complex but not alienating.
I was drawn to the film "Urban Legend" by recently hearing an Urban Legend from a friend mine (which I have included at the end of this review!) When I started to watch the film, I was struck by how very 1950s like the incidental music was. Big orchestra, classic "creepy" melodies in a minor key and it being altogether too loud. The film starts fairly promisingly but the first "big scare" really isn't that big.
In my opinion, the film heads steadily downhill. The last half hour or so are an all-too-familiar screaming contest, with crowds of unknowing college students standing by as the horrors unfold behind them. The basic plot of the film (and it is basic) is that a killer on a college camps has taken to killing innocent students in the style of various Urban Legends. So there's no real motive here.
The characters are entirely flat and I found I was not attached to any of them. I feel this is a critical flaw in any horror film - if the audience doesn't care when characters die (which happens a lot) then what is there left to enjoy? Well, I'll answer my own question. Even if you don't really feel for any of the totally 2-D college kids in the film you can possibly enjoy the bizarre ways they are dispatched. But with little suspense, gore or depth "Urban Legend" ultimately disappoints.
I was hoping that the following legend would be included in the film:
A woman decides to purchase a pet snake. After several days of owning the animal, she notices that it hasn't eaten anything. She takes it to the vet to ask what is wrong with it. The vet told her not to worry, as snakes can go for long periods without eating anything at all. Reassured, the woman takes the snake home again. Weeks go by and the snake still leaves no evidence of having eaten anything. She returns to the vet. This time, the vet is quite disturbed. He asks if the snake has exhibited any other unusual behaviour. The woman can't think of anything at first, except that, at night, the snake likes to lie next to her in bed. The vet turns pale and advises the woman to have the animal put down immediately.
The vet explains that the snake has chosen it's next meal and has been measuring itself up against its owner in preparation...
I watched this film a few days ago whilst working through a list of recommended Sci-Fi movies. The setting is one that is all too familiar to sci-fi fans - a dystopic future, where Earth's population has been ravaged by a deadly virus. As Bruce Willis, the hero of the story, keeps repeating "5 billion people are going to die".
Bruce Willis is sent back in time, not to avert the catastrophe (the future is like a jigsaw and always fits together no matter what you do), but to gather information about the release of the virus. He is then returned to his present time to share this information which will help control and ultimately defeat the infection, saving the human race. The trouble is our hero is somewhat mentally deranged by the process.
For me, this is where things got interesting. In time travel films, there's always the difficulty for the time traveller of explaining their situation without being locked up. A good example of this is the Terminator series of films. Twelve Monkeys deals with this issue at a much deeper level, as the hero of the film becomes convinced that his *is* psychotic. Matters are complicated when a female psychologist (and ultimate love interest) starts to follow his trail. She too is baffled by his story but is compelled to believe him. Throughout the film I was intrigued to see how the "jigsaw" of events would fit together and, I must say, I was not disappointed with the ending. I must confess though I was a little confused and had to check over the plot on a few movie websites afterwards!
Strong (if not weaving and deranged) plot with a harrowing portrayal of a mental institution. Madeliene Stowe stars as Bruce Willis's psychiatrist / accomplice who helps unravel the mystery of the Twelve Monkeys. Brad Pitt plays Bruce's hyperactive "cell mate" in the mental institution - a role which I think he plays rather well, perhaps demonstrating a few too many ticks and oddities but being rather creepy nonetheless.
The disc sports a plethora of visual and audio options (features which I, as an amateur movie watcher, don't honestly understand!) and a not-overly-exciting "making of" documentary about the film.
I have split my review into two sections. Enjoy!
Phil Conners (Bill Murray) experiences the same day over and over again. He is essentially stuck in eternity and no-one realises except him. The world "resets" every morning at 6:00am. The plot develops logically - with Phil naturally thinking he's gone crazy to begin with, then enjoying the experience of having "no tomorrow, no consequences" then finally decides to set his sights on his co-worker, Rita (Andie MacDowell).
The film is extremely memorable and well crafted. You might expect that a film concerning only one day, repeating over and over could get tedious. But it's cleverly cut so we don't see the same material each time and, if we do, there's a new comic twist to enjoy. Phil explores the various possibilities that this bizarre time warp can offer, meeting every person in town, learning piano and even driving a car along the railway line. Sometimes these things are advantageous (no prison sentence, no hangover!) and sometimes it is very frustrating (as no-one remembers him on the following "day").
The humour is my very favourite kind - witty, well observed and not slapped across your face like some Rom Coms can do.
As one expects from DVDs these days, the disc features original theatrical trailers, deleted scenes and various documentaries. Interestingly, the director reveals in the audio commentary that Phil Conners was invisaged as repeated Groundhog Day for approximately 10 years - an interesting piece of trivia that is fun to think about when watching the movie. Considering that Phil has learned piano, ice sculpting and met almost every person in town this would make sense!
Liquid Tension Experiment (or LTE for short) are an instrumental progressive rock super group consisting of guitarist John Petrucci, drummer Mike Portnoy, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and bassist Tony Levin. Fans of progressive metal band Dream Theater will no doubt recognise those first three names. All four of these virtuoso musicians know exactly what they're doing on their own instrument of choice - but can they hold a tune together?
One of the most frequent complaints I hear about Dream Theater are James LaBrie's vocals. Many listeners say that they cannot abide his unique vocal style and much prefer listening to the purely instrumental sections of Dream Theater's work. You would think then that LTE is the answer - no vocals, just pure "riffage" from start to finish. The style of LTE is (unsurprisingly) very similar to that of Dream THeater - we're talking complex time signatures, wailing guitar melodies, breath-taking shredding and a distinctly 80s feeling melodic cheesiness in some tracks! Jordan Rudess (keyboardist) incorporates all the functionality of his Korg keyboards into the songs - changing patches every few moments from full-on orchestral arrangements to ripping lead saw waves to gentle grand piano sounds. John Petrucci (guitar) is equally matched for diversity of style and precision of execution. In fact, the whole band is a well oiled machine that plays together like a dream. But we return to the all important question - can they write a good tune?
Listening to some of their work, if I am being frank, it can sound a little bit like a joke. For instance, they finish one of their tracks with a excerpt from "Entrance of the Gladiators". Other tracks feature whistling and some seriously whacky percussion sounds, which I can't identify. If you can bear the moments of insanity then there are some very rewarding riffs and melodies to look out for. Notably, "Universal Mind" blends sweeping grand piano classical music with heavy rock riffing and super-solid drumming. "Kindred Spirits" sports an excellently smooth keyboard solo towards the end with a melody that reminds me uncannily of the Gardener's World theme tune - you'll have to hear it to believe it! Other highlight include the quirky funk rock track "Chris and Kevin's Excellent Adventure" and the blissful "State of Grace" which has an almost hymn-like quality to it. Certainly one for the lighters to come out at concerts.
What I feel the album lacks is, quite simply, breathing space. Even though the "racey" tracks are interspersed with quieter interludes it seems the four musicians can't help but show-off at every opportunity. At least they acknowledge this themselves with a footnote on the album art noting that the last track is "not for the musically faint hearted". It's just a non-stop onslaught of notes. But then, this is three quarters of Dream THeater we're talking about here - it wasn't exactly going to be a relaxing experience! Liquid Tension Experiment holds together, but only just.
My wife and I have been using the grocery shopping aspect of Tesco.com on a weekly basis for over six months now. We have only one complaint - which is almost insignificant. My review will take the following format:
- Online Shopping (the process of ordering)
- Complaints and Returns
- General Remarks
I used to find the Tesco grocery shopping page disproportionately stressful. I think the main reason was because the search feature is so annoyingly stupid. Allow me to explain. Once you've signed in to Tesco.com you can start selecting products to buy. They are added to your basket and a running total is kept for you on screen. To find a product you have, essentially, only one option. To use the "search" function. Type in what you want and it will list all the relevant items. The most frustrating thing is (and you need to learn your way around this) if you type in something like "onion" it will give you EVERYTHING except "loose onions" on the first page. It will give you "onion crisps" or "onion and pasta bake" or "onion mayonasie" but never just a straight-forward onion. I genuintely found this quite distressing and it took me a food few weeks to work out the kind of terminology you need to use. And I still make mistakes. Typing "rice" is more likely to bring up "Muller Rice dessert" than, long grain rice, for instance.
Once you've added items to your basket you can head to the checkout and pay via credit or debit card. You can chose a "dlievery slot" (a date, and two hour period when the stuff will be dlievered to your door) either before you start shopping or after you've finished. We always select our slot before shopping. Generally the choice is good. The typically delivery fee is £5, plus or minus £1 depending on... well, random factors it seems. Certainly the sooner you want your shopping the more expensive it CAN be... though this is not a hard and fast rule.
We've met a host of delivery men and women so far - always helpful, not always chatty - but then maybe that's the way you want it. Smetimes they offer to bring it in, sometimes we have to ask. They have never offered to take away our bags - something which they are supposed to do, if I am to believe the Tesco website. But nevermind.
I should also mention, from an environmental standpoint, that you can request your shopping to be delivered without plastic carrier bags - which is exactly what my wife and I do. Frozen items or "substitutes" will always come in bags - presumably for hygene and convenience respectively. The food turns up in large green crates - fantastic.
If Tescos don't have a product (which, on average, is about once every £60 shop or so) they will offer you something else in stead. Eseentially, they'll buy you the alternative, bring it with the rest of the shopping and ask you on the spot if you want to keep it or not. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don't - it's nice to have the option. If it's something really basic (e.g. salt) it really doesn't matter that much. As I say, the substitution rate is very, very low so doesn't cause any major bother.
Complaints and Returns
As mentioned above, you can choose on the spot whether you want to accept a substitution. If you don't want it, it will be reutnred to the shop free of charge and the cost will be deducted from your bill. If you do keep it, you do have to pay the price for that item, not the one you originally ordered. So if they substitute you "Tesco Finest Chopped Carrots" when all you wanted was some value ones, you could "lose out" in a sense.
My wife and I have only ever had one minor complaint - that was about a bag on rice which was already open when it arrived. It appeared as though they knew it was open as it had been placed in a carrier bag of it's own (unusual for non-frozen itme when you're on the "no bags" option). Only a bit of the rice had dribbled out, but still, I called the helpline, spoke to the manager (coincidentally) and had the cost instantly refunded. So excellent service.
The delivery staff are always friendly as I said before. In theory, they're supposed to offer to bring the shopping to wherever you want it (the kitchen floor in our case). They have never been late for us (you book a 2 hour delivery window) but, on occasion have been early. I'm not sure what would've happened if we hadn't been in... they most likely would've called us on our mobile to let us know. We've always been in when they've arrived though.
The customer service is excellent - that refund I mentioned was great - no questions were asked, other than "hwat's the problem sir?"
The delivery fee is very reasonable. It would probably cost a lot more for us to drive to our nearest Tescos and back. At £5 a time, it's worth doing "big shops" though. No point in ordering just a pint of milk clearly.
Final Festive Note
In the weeks before Christmas they offer free delivery. Woo!
I was a student resident in Highfield Halls for one year as an undergraduate, and also visited friends in Highfield Halls in subsequent years. Highfield Halls, catered accommodation at the University of Southampton, were perhaps the least well known of all the University Residences as they are much smaller than the others with only 180 residents. The accommodation was split into two blocks: Aubrey House and Wolfe House, both located around a central, grassy quad. My review will take the following format:
- My Room
- Other Rooms (including Common Room, bar, courtyard)
- The Food
- Location (the main selling point!)
It may sound a little silly to write a review of my room but, naturally, the room I stayed in will be representative of many of the other rooms like it. I was lucky enough to have en-suite shower and toilet. They were tucked away in the corner - the door looked almost like the entrance to a cupboard. It was extremely convenient to have them there, but they did come at an extra cost of approximately £20 a week. I was also responsible for cleaning them, whereas the communal shower and toilet facilities were cleaned by the staff. This didn't bother me at all though - I'd much rather have a shower within 2 seconds walk than have to go up the corridor every morning.
The room was furnished with a large desk (looking out a window into the courtyward), a set of drawers, a very large wardrobe (enough space for four people inside... don't ask!), a bed and two sets of shelves. One of these shelves was where I kept all my music, the other (smaller one) was for my textbooks! The quality of the furniture was very good and I never had a single breakage. The bed was remarkably comfortable too.
My room was an exception as there were only 6 of them in Aubrey House. However, every room in Wolfe House was ensuite. The layout was significantly different though. Instead of a long room, the Wolfe House rooms were more box like in shape. As well as the "en suite" option on the application form, you could also choose to have a sink in your room. None of my friends were without a sink... so I don't actually know if "sink" was an option at all! There was probably one room out of 180 that didn't have a sink!
JCR (Junior Common Room) - a very large space on the first floor with a high ceiling, good lighting, great widescreen digital television, pool table and a mass of comfy chairs and coffee tables. Greaet for holding events in (e.g. open mic nights) or watching sporting events.
The Bar - the world's smallest bar in 1994 (I think it was '94). The party usually spilled out in to the reception and corridors though. Having a tiny bar was something of a talking point and no-one seriously minded that you could only fit about 20 people in there.
The Quad - I've interchangeably called this the Quad and the Courtyard - as did the residents of Highfield Halls. It didn't really have a name. It was sometimes just "The Grass". We used to have barbecues out on it in the summer, or play games. There were some rather worrying "plate throwing" incidents that took place in the quad as well as a bouncy castle day... students, what are they like?
Dining Room - catered halls with a dining room to seat about 140. There were never any problems for seating.
Here's a big selling point for the Halls... and perhaps, sadly, a point to put some people off. Generally, let's be fair, the food was fine. Better than the stuff some of us used to cook up on Saturdays. I should explain.
When I was a student, food was served twice a day on week-days. Breakfast (variety of cereals, toast, cooked foods, coffee, tea and juice) and dinner. At weekends, a "Big Breakfast" was serving on Saturday morning and Sunday lunch on Sunday. We had to cater for ourselves on weekday lunch times and weekend night dinners... hope that makes sense!
The breakfasts could never be complained about. It's hard to go wrong with toast and cereal. Some students liked to moan about the variable quality of the toast - in my experience it was always hot and bread-based. Haha. No complaints there.
Dinners were more debatable. The pasties were disgusting. Really horrible, brought in, heated up on site greasy-yuck. Other dishes to avoid were the vegetarian curry and the pizza. A menu, offering 3 main dish options (always one vegetarian) was posted up at around 5pm every day. Dinner was served from 5.45pm. This meant that, if you were quick enough, you could get in from lectures, check the menu and line up in time to get the "best" dishes. There was always something nice on offer, it was just a questin of "would they have run out by the time you got there?"
Let me finish by talking about Highfield Halls location. It is fantastic. Any resident is within 10 minutes walk of both Hghfield Campus (home to sciences, law, geography and the students union) and 5 minutes walk from Avenue Campus (home of humanities). I feel I should write more to emphasise this point - you will not find any University accommodation that is closer to the two major campuses of the University. All other Halls of residence are at least 20 minutes walk away or require a bus journey. The advantages of being so close are (let's be honest)
- getting up late and still being on time
- getting ghome safely after a night of clubbing at the students union (no need for cabs or waiting around for buses)
- being very close to a major bus route. 2 minutes walk and you're at the U2 stop, which takes you directly into the city centre.
- being 10 minutes walk from Portswood highstreet - which sports a Waitrose and Somerfield for handy (if not expensive) shopping!
- being in a good neighbourhood. Highfield is one of the more "up market" neighbourhoods in Soutahmpton. As a result, I never experienced any problems on the surroudning streets
- being 4 minutes walk from TWO pubs (The Crown is much better in my opinion than The Highfield Pub - but they're both there for you to sample!)
- being very close to the Common
Ah yes - I didn't mention that vefore. Southampton Common is literally on your doorstep if you're in Wlfe House. Lovely for the summer months - you can just step outside and enjoy the acres of parkland.
I had better begin with some information about me - this will help you to judge what I write in my review! I have broken my review into the following sub-headings - so do skip to the part you're most interested in.
- My Degree
- Course Structure
- First and Second Year Units
- Third and Fourth Year
- The Department (facilities, staff and support)
- Highlights of the Degree
- Lowlights of the Degree
- Schrodinger's Dolphin
I studied "straight" Physics at Southampton for 4 years (one of which was my Masters year). When I was a student, we were given the option of specialising in one of two areas - either Photonics (i.e. lasers) or Astronomy. I chose the middle road - which allowed me to chose whichever units I wished to, so long as I had completed the course pre-requisites. As it transpired, I ended up doing a lot of Astronomy units, without ever having to commit to this particular degree course. The advantage of doing this being that my options were as open as possible at all stages. The disadvantages? Well, my degree is in "Physics" rather than "Physics with Astronomy". The break down of my results clearly shows the astronomy content I have covered, so I'm happy with this.
As with all courses at the University, each year is divided into two semesters. In each semester Physics students complete 4 units, each worth 15 points as a general rule. Some units were prescribed but many units were to be chosen by the student the semester before. In 3rd year, a 10,000 word dissertation counts as 1 unit - something of a shock perhaps to some students. I shall focus on some of the individual units later. In 4th year, the Master project is spread across both semesters and counts for 60 points. Fourth year students complete 3 units per semester in addition to the fourth year project.
First and Second Year
The first semester, to me, was a "getting up to speed" time for all of us. Most of my classmates had come straight from sixth form but, even then, we were all a bit rusty. The first 4 weeks was dedicated to maths workshops and problem solving classes - as well as 3 sets of 3 hours of lectures per week. Each lecture was 45 minutes long. I would strongly recommend brushing up on your mathematics before embarking on any Physics course - not necessarily JUST for Southampton. Physics is built on the foundation of maths - there is no escaping it. If you are scared by the prospect of calculus, or aren't comfortable with algebra then you will need to brush up. The workshops (led by 2 lectuers and a host of teaching assistants) will help you to do this. The other compulsory first year units include Mechanics and Wave Physics - both covering essential A Level material in a more rigorous and mathematical manner. The electricity and magnetism course in the second semester acts as a foundation for latter year courses. This is, sadly, where my first complaint comes in. When I was a first year, the lecturer was less than impressive. Send me a personal message if you are concerned about this - as I don't wish to name and shame them in public. It may be the case that the timetable has changed and a new lecturer has been found.
Every unit had a set of problem sheets to complete. Students were given a week to complete these and they typically took 2 or 3 hours each. We also had weekly tutorial groups (with 2 or 3 of our classmates) to discuss the problems with a lecturer, as well as the afromentioned problem classes. A good, solid workload that was not unreasonable, in my opinion.
Second year was remarkably similar to first year - with more complex Mechanics and Wave physics and, of course, the introduction to Quantum Mechanics - a nightmare of a subject, but a fine lecturer and good levels of support. I also took the somewhat quirky "Life in the Cosmos" unit that was led very respectably by a senior lecturer. I'd strongly recommend this particular course - everything, from aliens to SETI, is dealt with in such a "serious" manner - it's good to have intelligent discussions about these things, whereas most people either think you're a nut or get overly excited and pin you in a corner to explain their theory of parallel worlds...
Third and Fourth Year
I think this is the time when things really start to matter. This is also the year when things get interesting. Compulsory units include Quantum Physics, Atomic Physics and Nuclear Physics. The niave student may think that all these things are roughly the same. It is true there is some overlap in the disciplines but the truth is that these subjects are worlds apart. They're all also notoriously difficult and this is when I really started to struggle. Gone are the problem classes and also the compulsory problem sheets. In the earlier years, problem sheets are marked and the grades are counted towards the end of unit exam. In third and fourth year, the units are graded almost exclusively on your end of semester exam - so the pressure really is on. To relieve the pressure, the 3rd year offers labs and presentation classes. Most of my classmates disliked the presentation side of things - but it was an essential part of the course that had to be completed. It's also a useful skill. Communicating Physics is hard and, for better public understanding, the next generatin of Physicists have to feel comfortale talking infornt of an audience.
4th year also offered seminar classes. There wasn't nearly enough debating in these classes in my opinion. A speaker would present, a few questions would be asked... and that was it. We did cover some fascinating topics though - really up-to-date stuff. Perhaps, in years time, readers will read this and say "what? That's not up to date". To quote some exaples, we were doing things like: the Large Hadron Collider, The Higgs Boson, Gravitational Wave Detection and Relativisitc Astronomy.
In my experience, the department were very supportive. Even in third year when I handed my dissertation in late (for no good reason other than me being stupid) they were generous and gave me an extension, free of penalty. My tutor (PM me for info) was exceptionally supportive and (when he was in his office) ready to help. My friends seemed generally happy with the staff too and any issues were dealt with professionally.
The facilites in the Physics building are very adequate. Computer labs, library area, seating area etc. all included. Lecturers always told us when they would be in, responded to emails promptly and gave us advice... well, to varying degrees! Our second year Mechanics lecturer was great, our third year Photons in Astrophysics lectuer... not so much! The head of department, Malcom Coe (available from the website, so I'm not infringing privacy!) was one of the most approachable and fun lecturers I ever had. He taught us for two courses and, both times, he liked to inject a lot of audience participation. This is very rare in a University context. All other lecturers I had used to talk for 45 minutes then take questions at the end... fair enough... but a bit dull at times!
Highlights of the Degree
For me, the Seminars unit was really worthwhile and engaging. It opened our eyes to the current Physics arena. Let's face it, most of the degree was Newtonian physics or early 20th century stuff. I suppose the 4th year Quantum Computing course was fairly up to date, but it was a little too repetitive for my liking.
Lowlights of the Degree
The aforementioned Electricy and Magnetism lecturer was not great. I suppose the lecturer stood out - as all of the other staff we encountered were just fine.
The problem sheets were a necessary evil. I remember many late nights sitting and not having a clue how to proceed. But that's what University is for in my mind. Pushing learners to the limit and forcing them to find out for themselves. In theory, we should all have been "let go" in sixth form and given the chance to learn independently. Physics at Southampton certainly encourages one to do that, but will hold your hand for those first few all important weeks.
Finally, I should explain why I chose that title. Well, to show my age, when I was a student the University logo was a Dolphin in a box. They've since changed that - a multi-million pound project if I understand it correctly. Schrodinger, of course, was the physicist who developed a mathematical description for the wave nature of particles - a concept which you'll revisit over and over again if you take up the challenge of degree level physics!
A month ago, I sat down and started to research "The Most Well Known Unknown Songs". I say "research" - all I did was to trawl through my memory for some ridiculously catchy tunes and try and work out what they actually are. Once you start to read you'll understand. It's a bit of fun for music lovers and casual listeners alike. I hope you enjoy the challenge!
Take a look at the following list of composers and songs - do you recognise any of the names? I am confident that, whilst you may be unfamiliar with their titles, you will have heard every song on this list.
As a challenge, see if you can hum the songs before following the YouTube link and having a listen. You may be in for a few surprises (especially with Gran Vals)
Carl Orff: Carmina Burana (1937) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3kvtl59jY4
Julius Fucik: Entrance of the Gladiators (1897) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-YUANOIL7A
Euphemia Allen: The Celebrated Chop Waltz (1877) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd_ei7Oaq2c
Wayne Hill: Left Bank Two (1963) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcCHRW8G9yY
Julius Wechter: The Spanish Flea (1960s) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-_2QpbXMbw
Boots Randolph: Yakety Sax (1963) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVS3QqrXhD8&feature=related
Hoagy Carmichael: Heart and Soul (1938) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9_vXOzFT50
Charles Hale: At a Darktown Cakewalk* (1899) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgPiIpboxt0
Francisco Tárrega: Gran Vals (1902) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hsp6dR-fL4A
Also, if anyone knows the name of the organ music they play at baseball games in the U.S., I'd be most grateful! I can't track down the name of the piece - you'd know it if you heard it.
* first known occurence
As a music fan, I'm always on the look out for a good deal. HMV.co.uk offers extremely competitive prices on chart CDs along with free delivery. For this reason, it's probably easiest to compare the site with Play.com - whose prices are comparable and also offer no charges for standard postage.
HMV.co.uk typically sells chart CDs for £2 - 3 less than the "physical store" (is "physical store" a real phrase? I hope you know what I'm referring too!) So if you don't mind online shopping - and I find no reason to distrust a reputable retailer like HMV - then shopping on the website will work out cheaper than real life shopping. But, as any shopper knows, the price is not the only factor we have to consider.
HMV.co.uk categorises music by genre - the list is quite extensive. You can narrow your selection down through a number of routes, sorting by price, release date, artist, album or sub-genre. The search feature is good - better than Amazon's in my opinion - though Amazon does have a much wider product range, so pheraps it's no wonder it's quicker to find things at HMV.co.uk. If you're looking for obscure CDs, HMV may not always be the place. For instance, I was trying to track down an album by Arena a while back and had to turn to Amazon. HMV.co.uk does offer the facility to order CDs from elsewhere... but I always think "well, why not just order them directly..."
So the search mechanism is good. There's clearly no "walking up and down the aisles" but there is a handy scroll button to take you through the lists of CDs, organised plainly and simply onto pages, which in turn you have to click through. Just like Play or Amazon really. The payment process is, unsurprisingly, similar - allowing customers to pay with the commonly accepted methods (VISA, Maestro etc.) and select an invoice and delivery address. I'm gradually moving on to my one major problem with the site. As we've established, the online prices are very competitive but it is the delivery time that seriously let's this site down.
The first time I ordered from HMV.co.uk I thought I'd found myself a bargain. I must say I was most disappointed when my CD still hadn't arrived 3 WEEKS later. I was eginning to doubt whether I'd actually completed the order process - do you ever get that? I was wondering if there was some other button I should've clicked. But I had the confirmation email in my inbox. So it was just a case of waiting. After about 20 days I was considering emailing HMV, then, the next morning the CD eventually arrived - in perfect condition I must add, no quarrels there. A few weeks later I thought I'd give them another try. I experienced the same delay once again. It wasn't quite clear to me from their website whether these delivery periods were to be expected. No matter, I decided that from then on I'd stick to Play or Amazon.
I still receive emails from HMV from time to time - giving details of their sales and so on. It's fun to have a look at all the yester-year chart hits selling at £4.99, but the memory of those long waiting times just puts me right off. Perhaps I am the epitomy of the modern consumer - when I want something, I want it NOW. But then, maybe I'm spoilt by Amazon and Play who, as yet, have always delivered within a week of ordering. Try HMV and let me know if you do any better!
As a school girl, Imogen Heap was disliked by her music teacher. As punishment, Imogen was banished to the music room to work alone. Without that fearsome music teacher, we may not have the artist we see (and hear) today.
Imogen Heap writes, produces and performs a style of music which can best be described as vocally-led electronica. It's generally light, but not necessarily "easy listening" in the convential sense. Heap incorporates complex drum loops, unusual instruments (including vocoders and thumb pianos) and her unique vocal style to create highly melodic, slightly schizophrenic pop music. Many tracks on "Speak for Yourself" flow beautifully - notably "Say Goodnight and Go" and the you-have-to-hear-it-to-believe-it "Hide and Seek" yet have a strange tonal quality. Unusual percussive sounds, deep vocal layers and some seriously unconvential harmonies... it's music for musicians perhaps!
Highlights on the album include the strong opener "Head Lock", with it's seamless blend of gritty hard synths and gentle, sweeping vocals. "Hide and Seek" is fantastic - I could probably write a review on that one song. Imogen performs this multi-vocal piece live with the aid of a vocoder - an electronic keyboard instrument that samples then reproduces sound at different pitches. The upshot of this is that Imogen can sing a note into the vocoder and the machine will produce a whole spectrum of notes based on the keys Imogen plays. The effect is quite astonishing and, without any other instrumental accompaniment, the piece is genuinely unique. My other favourite from the album is "Just For Now" which, again, can be performed solo with the aid of some heavy duty looping equipment and some artful timing. On the album, Imogen accompanies "Just For Now" with sweeping synths and gentle electronic beats. Live, Imogen can pull of the song with just her voice and her hands.
We turn now to Imgoen's voice. When I first heard it, I felt a distant "tribal" feeling to her delivery. She seems to have a whole range of "voices" inside her - from impressively high and perfectly pitched, to surprisingly low and powerful - she's got the lot. Her voice is very clear and clean. When listening to her live, I'm always amazed at the control she has over it - especially as she flings it around in the complicated melodies she writes. She adds a lot of charm to many of her songs by providing vocal percussion or vocal "bass lines" if you like. Her whole performance style is very endearing - she is very much a woman of style, but with some lovely down-to-earth quirkiness. Haha - I speak like I know her - obviously I don't! But from watching her interviews, I get the impression she's a lot of fun.
The down ponts of the album for me are few and far between. I regularly listen to this all the way through and it always gets my foot tapping. It works equally well as chill-out music... quite an achievement for a single CD! The lyrics can be, at times, a little "girlie" - but that's not a complaint I feel I can legimately hold against her. "Say Goodnight and Go" is so sweet and musically excellent that the slightly-creepy stalker-lady lyrics don't bother me too much. Anyway, I can't see that being followed around by Imogen Heap would be such a bad thing.
Allow me to summarise the advantages quickly, then discuss the disadvantages and possible solutions in depth. Soreen Malt Loaf is a delicious, rich, fruit based cake product, that satisfies and reminds me of eating delicious glue.
The disadvantages of this, and indeed any Malt Loaf, are clearly the gluey consistency. This is probably a result of the high sugar content. The gluey consistency may be satisfying in the mouth but it really isn't that easy to cut the stuff. I strongly recommend using a serrated knife to slice off chunks from the Malt Loaf. The loaf compresses so easily - it requires some level of skill to make a "slice". Be gentle with it and don't get annoyed when it sticks to the blade.
Another disappointing thing about Soreen's Malt Loaf is the price. A tiny loaf costs an extortinate 70p or so. You can also buy a pre-sliced product which costs a riduclous 20p more. Ok - it's hard to cut, but invest in a decent knife rather than paying for Soreen to cut it for you! Cheaper alternative can be found, but I always feel they lack the fruity richness of Soreen's product... they end up tasting of saw dust basically. Much in the same way that value Jaffa Cakes are slightly dry and dusty in consistency, a value Malt Loaf just won't deliver.