Wednesday, 27 December 2006

random stats

Two loose facts about me.

  1. I am endless fascinated with calculating useless statistics.

  2. I am working my way through the IMDB's list of top 250 films.

With that in mind, its probably interesting only to me to note that:

  • I'm 68% (169/250) of my way through the list.

  • I'm at 82% (113/137) for films made since 1970, but just a shade under 50% (56/113) for films made before then. Of the films I still have to see, more than 70% were made before 1970.

  • I'm at a woeful 24% (5/21) for film made before 1940, including 0% (out of 6) for films from the 1920s. These are Keaton (2), Chaplin, and some early German films (3).

  • Just under 1 in 5 of the films are non-English language. I've seen only 30% (14/47) of these, whereas I've seen 76% (155/203) of the English-language films. The non-English language films I haven't seen include german(9), french (7), japanese (6), italian (4), swedish and spanish (2 each), korean, russian and danish.

  • My viewing percentage descends linearly with quintile. I'm at 98% (49/50) for the films from 1-50, 80% (40/50) for films from 51-100, 66% for films from 101-150, 56% (28/50) for films from 151-200, and 38% (19/50) for films from 201-250.

  • Subjectively speaking, although I enjoy the majority of the films I see, I do find some disappointing. Yesterday, I watched A Christmas Story, which was rubbish. Last night I watched Citizen Kane, which was good but not as good as advertised, and Roman Holiday, which was nice. This evening I finished watching The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which was a little underwhelming (not up to the standard of the other Bogart entries: Casablanca, The African Queen, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon.

cut up

Monday, after submitting my paper, I checked myself into hospital. I had the afternoon to myself, since my operation wasn't until Tuesday, and amused myself watching the fourth day of the third test (after consideration I will, for Mr Tratt's benefit, write up my thoughts on the ret-urn in another post).

On Tuesday, a nurse came by around 11-ish to shave my knee. After that, I took a betadine scrub shower, and jumped on a trolley to be wheeled downstairs. They punched me full of holes for a little while: for a drip, a hip-catheter (for pain blocking), and one in the back to knock me out from the waist down, in what they called rachianaesthesie (something like, but not the same as, an epidural).

Then, after a small wait, they wheeled me into theatre 13 (unlucky for some) and hooked me up to some machines that went beep. People buzzed around me and occupied themselves with my right leg. It was a very strange experience to see them moving it around in preparation and not feeling anything. Before the surgeon started, they strung up a sheet between me and the battlefield, so during the exciting part I really couldn't see much. To be honest, it was a little lonely there, while everyone else was busy behind the sheet, with only the anaesthetist to keep me company from time to time up in the DMZ. I was very coherent, too, which surprised me. Others had suggested they'd drug me a little to calm me down, but I really felt more tuned than normal rather than less.

Getting back up to my room I was plugged in to 3 tubes: my drip with what I assume was glucose or saline or something, my catheter with marcaine, and another draining blood out of my knee. These were disconnected gradually over the next 48 hours, and by Thursday afternoon I was able to go for little tours up and down the corridors on my crutches and in my Big Lebowski dressing gown.

In between times, I managed to watch a half dozen or so films, read a couple of hundred pages of my book, and make yeoman progress on my thesis, mainly cutting and pasting in the recent paper, and blocking out structure for a couple of sections. On Thursday and Friday I also chatted with the third of my room-mates, a young bloke getting his patellar tendon seen to who had spent the previous summer in Australia, of all places. Also on Friday I had a visit from Liz and Sophie, whose brother had coincidentally had the same operation with the same surgeon a week earlier, and who was in for physio.

On Saturday morning it was all over, and Seb came in to give me a lift back to my apartment, via the pharmacy for my prescriptions.

In all, I was very impressed by the efficiency (from a user perspective) of the whole process. The hospital was clean, staff was helpful and generally communicative and neither before nor after was I burdened by administration at all. Even the food wasn't too disagreeable (although they did struggle with the concepts of cereal and tea for breakfast), which for a hospital is about as much as you can expect.

paper cut

Well, its been a while. Not much has happened. OK, I'm lying. Everything has happened.

First of all, I got a paper written, the first new paper I'd submitted as first author since March last year (although, in reality, the revisions to that one for republication in a journal were significant enough to count). After switching onto it after my MRI back in mid-November and an initial burst of activity, 3 weeks of slow progress had ensued. Then, with a week and a half to go, I perhaps predictably extracted my digit and got it done. In the end, the last 5 days or so were pretty comfortable, and I had the chance to give it a solid proof-read.

Nonetheless, the program committee for the conference has some significant names in it, including some I've cited extensively in the paper, and I probably expect them to reject it. That said, I'm still reasonably proud of it for the moment, and it has made its way into my thesis as a chapter, which is the bigger goal in any case.

If it does get rejected, it may well be the first paper I have rejected as first author (correct my memory in the comments). This is in part because with Pegamento we wrote as a team, and in alphabetical order I was typically one of the last names listed. I don't recall a lot of rejections there, either, though.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

in my hot little hand

What may very well be the final chapter in my carte de séjour battles held court today. I rode out to the prefecture bright and early (well, 9am or so). Proudly striding through the queue (which, to be honest, was by far the shortest I've seen), probably much to the displeasure of the poor souls waiting with a number, I plonked down my invitation and other papers.

"Do you have your work permit", she asked.

"No, I don't need one", I replied.

"You're a student, you need a work permit," she insisted.

I waved my hand. "You don't need to see my work permit. That isn't the paper you're looking for. You will just go and get my carte de séjour."

She seemed confused, but repeated, "I don't need to see your work permit. Let me just go and find your carte de séjour." She shuffled off, and returned with the above laminated marvel.

That's how I roll. Move along.

Wednesday, 13 December 2006

a tale of two bureaucracities

Two bureaucracies, unalike in virtue...

Bureaucracy the first.

My unending battles with residency continue. Having won the bout a few weeks ago, I had almost forgotten that the war raged on. During the summer, some people at the lab here had claimed the priviledge of "regularising" (regulating? making regular, anyway) the acquisition by PhD students of work permits from the Direction de Travail (Ministry of Employment?). Foolishly, I thought this would be a good thing. In any case, having obtained my recepissé, I gave them photocopies of that and every other paper in the hopes that my work permit would magically appear before my invitation to pick up my carte de séjour (residency permit), envisioned for 6 weeks after the acquisition of my recepissé.

I went down to their office yesterday and asked how it was coming along. Well, it wasn't. They were waiting on my carte de séjour. I assured them that at the same time, my carte de séjour was waiting on my work permit, which they didn't believe. So, this morning, I showed them the little letter I'd received saying that I could come pick up my carte de séjour any time I liked, so long as I brought my work permit. Well, the lady was very confused, and called the prefecture up to talk it over, and afterwards encouraged me to go see them with my scholarship contract and use a jedi mind trick to convince them that they don't need to see my work permit.

We shall see.

Bureaucracy the second.

After my operation moved up to next week, so did some other things. To that end, I went for a tour of the hospital yesterday. First I dropped by to see my surgeon's secretary, apparently to get a tiny little slip of green paper saying that he would cut me open on Tuesday. The surgeon didn't seem to be in, so I didn't have to queue to see her, which was nice. From there I went down to pre-admissions to tell them about my insurance situation and what kind of room I wanted. Again, no queue. After that, I had about 45 minutes to kill, so I found a lounge and did a little work on my ECOOP paper. Around 4, I went up to anaesthesia for my appointment. I had to wait 25-30 minutes, then saw the anaesthetist, who got a quick history, informed me of my options for the operation, and told me what would happen afterwards to manage the pain. She then sent me away armed with a letter for the lab to take some blood, which I did directly, and again with neither queue nor delay.

All in all, I saw 6 people (all women, curiously) in 4 departments within a period of about 2 and a half hours, including about a half hour on my paper. Impressive.


Lee's (and Em's, apparently) former flatmate and friend, Kate, was in Rennes last week. She and her boyfriend Ben have been moving their way through Europe working and holidaying on their way to a more permanent installation in London, and they made a stop for 3 days or so in Rennes. Kate studied here 5 years or so ago, so she knew her way around and spoke french, but they had the misfortune to arrive at the same time as Transmusicales, a big music festival, which made accomodation difficult. I was able to offer them a bed Thursday night, which was nice. We also went out for beer and pizza on Wednesday night, and mulled wine and gallettes on Thursday night, which was also nice.

Monday, 11 December 2006

change of plans

I got a call from the hospital the other day. Apparently they had a cancellation, and the asked me if I'd like to move my surgery up a couple of weeks to the 19th (instead of January 2). My initial thoughts were (a) do I really have to make this decision within the close confines of a single phone call?, then (b) better sooner than later.

So, I'm off to the anaesthetist on Tuesday to talk, I expect, about drugs, gas and needles, and which of them will or won't either kill or paralyse me. Then I get a week to finish off my ECOOP paper before I check myself in Monday week.

With a little luck, I should be able to check out by the Saturday afterwards. That's the last Avenir game of the year, and Sandy is back for a visit. It would be nice to see everyone before what could be a fairly lonely Christmas not going outside too much.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Things that go bump in the night

(Apologies to Laurie, if he reads this before his time-shifting reveals the capitulative horror of it all)

With my incessant talking about it, people at the lab here have started to ask me about the Ashes each day when I arrive. They didn't today, though, because yesterday I declared in no uncertain terms that the match would wind towards a draw on what had been a pretty uninspiring pitch.

How wrong I was. I woke up late this morning - there was no reason to get up early - to the cricinfo headline that England had collapsed and that Australia were pretty much cruising towards an unlikely victory chasing 168. Even the pirate radio I had been tapping seemed to have abandoned the match for dead, as they weren't passing on the coverage for the final 10 runs, which I watched float by as text commentary on cricinfo.

It's a remarkable victory, as surprising a result as I can remember perhaps since Langer and Gilchrist sank Pakistan in Hobart. I watched highlights this morning and the Australians seem to have bowled really well. Warne was more hostile even than his figures suggest - the ball that got Pietersen was a jaffa, which beat him in the air and then ripped outrageously off the pitch - and Lee swung it both ways at pace. A few of the decisions were shaky - Strauss, and McGrath's LBWs - but that's going to be the rub of the green when you're playing attacking cricket. What's more, said green is always going to rub hard against a side that scores only 70 runs in 54 overs of batting.

Once the batting collapse was over with, the English were basically playing a one-day game against the world's best one day side.

For the record, Australia made their 168 in just under 33 overs. Imagine the figures reversed: England make 168 in 33 overs and force Australia to chase 265 off 54. This probably should have been their plan, but it certainly didn't look that way the way they were batting.

Monday, 4 December 2006

My thesis has a number

My thesis has a number, its 3523... doo do doo ...

I had this bright idea about a post sung to the tune of "My baloney has a first name", but the bastards gave me 4 numbers instead of 5!


Pretty shitty weekend, by dent primarly of being boring. I went along to the basketball Saturday night, both guys and gals. The guys played pretty well and got home by 18, and the girls lit the others up to the tune of 114-43, courtesy of some really good ball movement and pressure defense. The fête afterwards was a little disappointing, though. It was catered by the boys, who seem collectively to have a much lesser tendency to folie. (See how I'm working in french words, there? I'm in France you see...)

I did manage to have some chat with family, though, as I begin to drag them into the VoIP revolution with Skype. Em called me on Saturday over her modem, which was touch and go bandwidth-wise, but otherwise pleasant, and I conferenced with Lee and Dad on Sunday, Lee borrowing some bandwidth from an unknowingly neighbourly neighbour.

In between times, the grand plan was to write an outrageous proportion of my paper, to compensate for a pretty unproductive previous week. But, well, the best laid plans of mice and girly-men aren't worth shit if there are cricket and basketball games on.

and then there was one

Congratulations today to Jacques, who successfully defended his thesis today, and is now, I guess, Dr Jacques. He was either unlucky or lucky that his most critical (perhaps in both senses of the word) examiner was not able to attend due to an unlikely confluence of personal commitments. That said, he gave a good presentation, which elicited interesting questions from each member of the jury. To be honest, I didn't think he was at his best in answering him, but that takes nothing away from the mention très honorable awarded him.

With Franck having gone through a couple of months ago now, that leaves me. At least 3 people have approached me today to say "well, you're next". And they're right. Who knows? Perhaps that fact will help me to pull my finger out and make more progress this week than I did last. Shouldn't be hard.