Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sewing by hacking

I have realised that sewing is much easier with a pattern, without one I sort of hack away until it fits. Not ideal but it does the job well enough. I have been learning to sew and bought myself a gathering foot. The foot removes the PT of gathering by hand though it does decrease the possibility of changing the concentration of gathers post sewing. Overall though the outfit fitted. One down, many to go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ballroom AGM

The UCT Ballroom AGM this year started with a recap of the events from the last year and the successes and failures and avenues to improve. The biggest area of improvement seems to be retaining beginners by exam time. Intervarsity will be hosted by Rhodes next year, "Roadtrip to Rhodes". The date has been pushed back later in the year, til the end of August, which will change the timetable for ballroom events in general. There will be an overall change in calendar next year as a result of the Soccer World Cup. Let us hope the disruption does not negatively impact on ballroom and university in general.

The 2010 committee is:
CHAIR: Hayley McIntosh
VICE CHAIR: Lara Milne
TREASURER: Gershwin Scheepers
SOCIALS: Clair van Eyssen
MEDALS: Adrienne Daniels
FORMAL: Claire Hanley
IT: Richard Parry
O-WEEK & IV: Rudi Botha

Friday, September 11, 2009

SASAS Conference

South African Society for Atmospheric Scientists (SASAS) host an annual conference to bring together the Atmospheric Scientists and interested parties (agriculture, atmospheric chemists, hydrologists, oceanographers) a chance to meet and present their current research.

This year Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) were tasked with running the conference. SASAS was held at Waterval in Tulbagh, a team building and conference venue just outside the picturesque wine producing town. There was snow on the mountains and fog in the mornings..nice and chilly.

The theme this year was BEYOND THE BOX. Trying to slowly shuffle atmospheric scientists from the traditional methods to the innovative. The conference structure changed to include 2 new sections; Grill the Climatologist and Beyond the Box.

Grill the Climatologist consisted of thought provoking questions put before a panel of three scientists. The questions were anonymously submitted to the chairman of the session. They included geoengineering, why we bother running more simulations when we can't cope with what we have already and carbon trading.

Beyond the Box was split into 2 sections, a short introduction by four scientists on what they think is the future of atmospheric science. These presentations highlighted the current failures and their visions of hope. The second section expanded on these ideas and included a few extra presentations on innovative approaches to climate science.

A few take home messages from this conference are that carbon trading is a disastrous idea, geoengineering is not a solution and that we need to stop looking to new and better models and tell a story with the data we already have.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

UCT Ballroom Formal

The UCT Ballroom Formal this year was held at Kelvin Grove. The Emperor's Palace was formal with a touch of Asian. Kelvin has redone their floor since I was last there and it is superb to dance on.

I was adventurous and made my first ever ballgown for the event. I never realised what a mission it is to adjust/fit a dress that is actually on you. You are looking down and from an angle and so the seams that you think are straight, turn out to be rather skew. In the end it turned out vaguely correct.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cossack's in CT

The Cossack dancers were in Cape Town and delivered a lively performance that required both stamina and strength. The guys were phenomenal with their spinning and the height to which they jumped. Definitely worth going to see.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Intervarsity Feedback

Intervarsity is a crazy chaotic event that UCT hosted this year. With 300 dancers it is a logistical nightmare.

The numbers or couples per section are as follows:
Open Sokkie (62 couples)
Open Boogie (94 couples)
Open Viennese Waltz (41 couples)
Open Mambo (96 couples)
Open Paso Doble (29 couples)
Beginner Ballroom (54 couples)
Intermediate Ballroom (32 couples)
Advanced Ballroom (19 couples)
Pre Bronze Ballroom (6 couples)
Bronze Trophy Ballroom (5 couples)
Gold Trophy Ballroom (3 couples)
Novice Ballroom (4 couples)
Beginner Latin (49 couples)
Intermediate Latin (34 couples)
Advanced Latin (18 couples)
Pre Bronze Latin (5 couples)
Bronze Trophy (5 couples)
Gold Trophy (5 couples)
Novice Latin(5 couples)

Overall points standing:

UCT 198
Rhodes 2

Team Dance results:
2. UCT
4. Rhodes

Formation results:
2. UCT
5. Rhodes

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The countdown begins

With 10 days to go until Ballroom Intervarsity, things are starting to heat up. The medals have arrived, the entries are steadily coming in and formation practice has kicked into high gear. For those in Cape Town, Intervarsity is in Jameson Hall, 8.3am on Sunday 9 August. Come support UCT!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

SHAWCO Centre Visit

SHAWCO is a student run organisation at UCT that does outstanding work in underprivileged communities throughout Cape Town. Today the SSA students were given the opportunity to visit one of their centres in Kensington, the place SHAWCO started 66 years ago. The visit reminded students that being at UCT is really like being in a bubble, it really is not indicative of the greater Cape Town society and poverty. I think this visit convinced a few more international students to volunteer for a program during their semester stay and to appreciate their opportunities in life.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ocean View Comunity

I have never visited Ocean View prior to this weekend. Ocean View has a very sad history stemming from the Apartheid era. Blacks and coloureds were removed from Simonstown, Kommetjie and Noordhoek and placed in the area called Ocean View. This segregation led to a lot of anger that is still felt today from the marginalised community. The lunch in Ocean View provided an opportunity for International students to be introduced to marginalised communities in a formal setting and open their eyes to the stories behind each community. The performance by the members of the community were through their arts project that encourages dancing and singing as a means of expression and a way to channel energy positively.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

IAPO experience

I am currently working as an Orientation Leader for the second semester study abroad program (SSA) for IAPO. The last week has been a whirlwind of activity, notably fetching students and answering all their random questions.

Orientation started last wednesday with a planning meeting for the Orientation Leaders to meet and set up a timetable amongst ourselves. 30 seconds proved to be a successful icebreaker and proved that girls rule!

Thursday started a lot earlier than most of us ever wished. 8 am pick ups of our first international students from the airport. IAPO tried a new system this year of moving students into Tugwell Hall as they arrived and then into their houses on the same day to minimise the moving chaos. The students arrived in drips and drabs all day with various horror stories of missed planes, missing visas, missing luggage and long flights.

Matt and James played tour guides around Rondebosch and campus and Claremont. It is safe to say none of us will ever be actual tour guides. For our sins we volunteered to take students to Tiger Tiger on Thursday night. Now normally this isn't so bad, but you need to take into account the crowd. American exchange students are not allowed to drink at home before 21, but are allowed from 18 in SA. And the alcohol is cheaper, much cheaper. Let the good times roll.

I was on early airport pickup the next day and the remainder of our 150 students arrived. Saturday was true chaos as buses did not arrive on time to collect the students to go to their houses. We eventually all arrived safely for "House Meetings" and signing of leases etc. I have 4 Germans and an American in one house and 3 Norweigens, 1 Dutch and 1 American in the other.

Sunday was the first day of the official orientation plan. By this stage all 400 SSA students have arrived through their various programs and were picked up for the Peninsula tour. The tour went around the City Bowl, through the V&A Waterfront, along the Seapoint promenade (Beach Road) and into Camps Bay. The tour continued to Hout Bay and then through Constantia. We finally arrived at Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach is now a conservation project that is closed off and you have to buy a ticket to view. R30 for adults, R10 for children. A rip off as far as I'm concerned. Definitely not on my list of things to do again. Next we took a trip to Ocean View Community and had lunch and an informal show by members of the community. The tour concluded with a walk at Cape Point (R60 for adults).

All the OLs are exhausted and need a mini-holiday but alas we have another week to go.

Imperial Russian Ballet

The Imperial Russian Ballet visited Cape Town last week after much hype of their new piece Carmina Burana. I honestly did not like the piece, the ballet dancers are too classically trained to truly move freely as the choreography required. The piece was too contemporary I think. When they move back to the classical pas de deux and solos you could clearly see their strengths and confidence. I actually quite disappointed with the overall performance.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tango Nights

I have been a ballet lover for years and have now seen Tango Nights twice. I am not sure I could see it a third time though. The dance music has an interesting mix of Tango and Argentine Tango but the music isn't blended together nicely, the changes sometimes come as a big surprise. The choreography is very modern and athletic but the females look unsure when doing various lifts, you can see the split second hesitation going into each lift. This makes me slightly nervous while watching the show. That said, if you enjoy modern ballet that isn't all tutus and tights, Tango Nights is well worth the time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Star Trek 11

I loved Star Trek 11. After the bad reviews from some friends I had very low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by the movie. The movie stays true to the original series and I laughed from beginning to end. I am sure you are not supposed to laugh but I did. The special effects are wonderful but the music score was awful.

Live long and prosper!

Monday, June 1, 2009

How to Think Like a Computer Scientist

I have been looking through the various online resources available for Python and found Green Tea Press which includes How to Think Like a Computer Scientist: Learning with Python and Python for Software Design. I find the book informative for people who can already program but need to understand the idiosyncrasies of a new language.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Danscape 2009

Jazzart produce some exceptional dancers every year and this year is no different. I attended Danscape 2009, a student exhibition from the first year trainees and school outreach programs. The program was varied and displayed some interesting blends of African, Spanish and Asian influences. It is well worth the effort to see this performance every year and at R20 (for a block booking of 20 or more ticket are reduced from R50) its cheaper than a movie!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

UCT Symphony Concert

The UCT Symphony Orchestra performed tonight in the Baxter Concert Hall. I love the Baxter with its bizarre ceilings and the acoustics in the Concert Hall are phenomenal. The pieces performed included:
L van Beethoven : Fidelio Overture Op. 72
Hendrik Hofmeyr Concerto for Flute
A Dvorák : Symphony No. 9 in E Minor Op. 95 "From the New World"

Attending tonight's concert with an out-of-towner reminded me just how lucky we are to live in Cape Town and are able to attend so many cultural activities. I wish more people supported arts and music events.

Monday, May 25, 2009

IPL ends with a bang

I have had a fantastic 6 weeks while the IPL has played out in South Africa. I loved the final and the nail biting ending that could have gone either way to the last ball. The Deccan Chargers won and it is very interesting to note that they were at the bottom of the log in 2008. Hats off to Adam Gilchrist (even if he is Australian) for captaining the winning side.

The closing ceremony was an amazing fireworks display and getting Eddie Grant and Akon to perform topped the night off nicely. This tournament shows the rest of the world that South Africa can pull off a major sports tournament with little notice and without any apparent hitches (forget the guy driving into the spotlights). I look forward to the Soccer World Cup and Confederation Cup now. And the Franch Open which started yesterday.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I find it fascinating the number of cases of plagiarism the university sees very semester in computer science. JPlag is a tool to compare students code for similarity and reported 45 cases for the first tutorial alone. Its rather worrying that these are meant to be the "creme" of society that make it into university.

This brings me to my next point, practical tests. I despair at the new students and their attempt to make their lives more difficult. When you have a limited amount of time to complete a test and have access to your notes and past assignments, surely one would think of reusing old code or copying the basics straight the notes instead of trying to remember the basic syntax and wading through compile errors. Surely it is a logical option?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Medal Test woes

As many have discovered in the past, UCT Venue bookings are very disorganised, so much so that they triple booked halls on campus today. We worked so hard to clean the floor last night and prepare for the medal tests this morning only to arrive to another group in the hall and a completed ruined floor. So much for preparation. It seems the various administrations do not communicate, surprise, surprise!

My medal test went well, though I forgot how much energy it takes to be "on" all the time on the floor. Its frankly exhausting. Everyone seemed to have a good time overall and I hope they transfer that enthusiasm to Intervarsity.

Monday, May 11, 2009

IT Challenge Final

This last week has been rather stressful. The IT challenge at the head offices of Standard Bank in Johannesburg on Thursday was a six hour adrenaline rush as each team of 4 had 7 problems to complete and a curve ball to deal with.

Last year the curve ball was an extra problem with increased time penalties, this year was a half an hour computer shutdown for "emergency maintenance". When you only have one computer, this eats into your time and productivity quite substantially.

UCT came second overall and as prizes we received Dell 22inch flatscreens. Nice consoaltion prize :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Ballroom is hotting up

For those who watch the UCT Ballroom calendar Medal Tests are just around the corner. Extra lessons start on Sunday and we are set to have a truly awesome time this year. We're going Greek! The committee are also gearing up for Intervarsity and all it entails (the bane of my existence at the moment).

My thesis is slowly progressing with a multitude of stops and starts as problems arise. I am currently investigating the SMILE library for Bayesian Inference. I am not completely sold on the library and the API yet and am wondering if I should have stuck it out with PNL. I seem to have more problems than solutions currently. The nightmare continues.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Python for Nonprogrammers

The EGS Honours class at UCT has requested a course on programming and the research they are attached to (CSAG) has decided Python is the best introductory language for them. I have never taught Python to people who have never programmed before and especially ones who have already done an entire degree. How quickly can you move through the basic programming concepts? Do you assign it as homework before your first lecture? Any suggestions?

I have read through a Byte of Python but I am not convinced it covers the topics in enough depth. I as a programmer can breeze through the whole book without a qualm but I do not remember a time when I didn't know what a variable is or what an IO stream is.

We will see how well things go next week. I might be designing the lecture material yet again. Sigh. If nothing else, it is a challenge to see how well I can still teach the basics.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

IPL is here

I am super excited to attend the Indian Pro20 League games happening at Newlands next week. Due to election violence in India the entire tournament has been moved to South Africa. Something South Africans are ecstatic about. The games are sold out, space is going to be at a premium. Bring on the boundaries!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chocolate trails in Montague

The Easter weekend was chocolate filled and not in the normal way. Ever been rock climbing for your Easter eggs? No? I can officially cross that off my I Never list. It is the most bizarre experience. The first climber leads the climb with Easter eggs and hides them on the way down. The next finds his/her eggs on the way up and eats them and hides new eggs on the way down.

This weekend was the first time I have ever climbed, be it on a climbing wall or crag. I came away with more bruises that I would have liked and a healthier knowledge of the sport in general. I'm not sure it is quite my thing, I think it might be one of those things that could grow on me.

While away I bumped into a fair number of my research group, which begs the question, are most environmental scientists outdoor freaks or just this lot? Another weird fact, ask a climber if they dance, you will be surprised at the number that say yes. It seems there is a correlation between social ballroom/salsa and climbing. Both are social, both have a grading system of sorts. Ballroom however has smaller startup costs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In a Goldfish bowl

I had the privilege of attending the last Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert of the season. Goldfish played to a sell-out crowd while the sun set over the mountains. I managed to miss all previous concerts in CT due to other commitments or still being in Michigan. While I enjoy their albums, I loved their live performance. They manage to get the crowd going and keep up the energy for the entire performance. I will definitely go to another of their concerts on their return to CT later in the year (They are playing in Ibiza for a month). This experience taught me not to write off a band just because their album sounds offay.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

You're only as old as you feel

Table Mountain is a truly beautiful venue to hold a champagne breakfast. I love going up the cable car every year on my birthday (for free) for either breakfast or sundowners. This year friends hiked up India Venster to meet me at the top. The view from above never gets hold, no matter how many years I have lived in Cape Town. I think we managed to freak out the tourists up there though. If you ever find yourself on top of Table Mountain near the compass, look for the manhole covers and jump on them. The compass is directly above the water drum. The hollow sound it makes when you jump on them is awesome.

My day continued with lunch with my grandparents and then drinks at Fat Cactus with friends. Frozen Margaritas are wonderful, as are cheesy nachos to soak up the alcohol afterwards. We finished the night with a UCT Ballroom social themed Grease. Big skirts with poodles, bows and slicked back hair was the order of the evening.

Celebrations continued the next day when I hosted my first ever dinner party. I think it was a great success (No one is allowed to comment otherwise). The menu included:
  • Butternut Soup with french bread
  • Deboned stuffed chicken with mixed vegetables and potato bake
  • Dark Orange Chocolate Mousse or Meringues with Ice Cream
  • Coffee and Biscotti
There weren't many leftovers...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sushi anyone?

Any sushi lover in Cape Town has to try Minato's off Long Street. This sushi restaurant tantalises the tastebuds and offers some of the most reasonably priced sushi around. The portion sizes are huge (I'm being serious when I say a dragon roll and a California roll will fill an adult male). The service however is quirky. You cannot arrive without a booking (Well you could try, you might be lucky), you may only order once at the beginning of the meal (One chef who closes the kitchen when he feels like it) and do not even suggest paying on separate cards. Once you have navigated the trials and tribulations of the ordering rules on the menu, page to the special rolls, they are out of this world (I have a friend who refers to them as sushigasms).

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UCT RAG Floats 09

UCT RAG Floats Parade 2009 was themed "Where in the world". The general idea behind the floats parade is to collect change for SHAWCO but also allows residences to work in teams to create the floats with varying degrees of success. Some floats were slightly unstable but the EBESC float had a alien spacecraft with flashing lights which was quite impressive.

UCT Ballroom participates annually by dancing in the procession between the floats doing Samba line dance, a travelling version of Samba that is done individually. We ended up dancing behind the EBESC float this year as the float we were meant to dance for had generator issues.

The stop start nature of the parade made for some interesting reworks of the line dance but overall I think it was rather fun. My legs and feet were killing me later though. An hour of Samba on tar in takkies is not the best way to treat your feet. The impact alone is killer on the knees.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day 09

Ada Lovelace Day is an opportunity to write about women in technology. I decided I would write about one of my old lecturers who is using her computer background to help advance the field of visualisation of molecules.

Michelle Kuttel obtained her degreee in Computer Science and went on to study computational chemistry for her PhD. Her PhD thesis focused on Simulations of Carbohydrate Conformational Dynamics and Thermodynamics. While working towards her doctorate Michelle was the sysadmin for the chemistry group at UCT.

Following her doctorate Michelle has been lecturing students in Computer Science at UCT while working on visualising algorithms for carbohydrates and the simulation of carbohydrates. She also supervises students who are testing new docking techniques for molecules, visualisation of carbohydrates and high performance algorithms for computational chemistry.

Michelle is well-known in South African circles for high performance computing and was one of the original team to push for the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) that is now operational in Cape Town.

For me, Michelle and other female researchers at UCT were proof that females could survive the world of computing and still do the work they love.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Dash of culture

Mixit was an interesting experience. Put together to literally show a mix of dances, the pieces didn't gel or flow into a seamless show. I was intrigued by the music choices and how the dancers expressed what was essentially electronic music with a slight melody. Definitely not my favourite show.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Standard Bank IT Challenge

The Standard Bank IT Challenge is a four hour programming competition where each university enters four teams to compete for one place per university for the final. The teams are supplied with 1 PC and allowed to program in C++, Java and Pascal. In past years there has been support for Python but not this year. The problems this year varied from a string manipulation to a brute force solution for tiling a grid. The final ranking put Stellenbosch in first place solving all five problems with [censored] from UCT, in second place solving four of the five problems. The finals will take place in May in Johannesburg. I have never competed in the final before and it will be an interesting experience. Finals report to come in May :)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Probabilistic Network Library

The Intel Probabilistic Network Library was a project originally developed by Kevin Murphy and then translated from Matlab into C++ by the Information Technologies Laboratory. This library has not really been supported since 2004 but has an interesting high level wrapper library to its underlying functionality. For those looking to use a Bayesian network library, maybe look at SMILE.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dark Orange Choc Mousse

This recipe originally states it serves 4, I happen to disagree, after splitting it into 4 you would go into a sugar coma. A better estimate would be 8-10 servings (I'm assuming its being served after a meal).

300g dark chocolate
30g butter
2 eggs, separated
30ml sugar
45ml orange liqueur (or Van der Hum or Grand Marnier)
250ml cream

  • Break up the slab of chocolate and melt it in the liqueur in a bowl over hot water
  • Add butter in small blocks, stirring until it has melted
  • Beat the sugar and egg yolks until pale and light. Reserve egg whites
  • Beat in the melted chocolate and butter, then leave to cool
  • Whip the egg whites to stiff peak stage. Be careful not to overbeat
  • Whip the cream until stiff
  • Fold the egg whites and cream into the chocolate mixture
  • Pour into an attractive bowl and chill for several hours before serving
Garnish with crystalised orange / candied orange peel / orange segments. For the super indulgent, drizzle with orange liqueur (or ginger/orange liqueur mix)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert: Jonny Cooper Orchestra

The Jonny Cooper Orchestra entertained audiences at Kirstenbosch with a mixture of the old favourites from Glen Miller and Frank Sinatra and added a few Proudly South African compositions to the list. I looove big band music and was pleasantly surprised to see so many other people under the age of 40. I even spotted a couple jiving to one song.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Salsa @ Deluxe

For those who love to salsa or are keen to learn, beginner and improver classes at Deluxe on Long Street is ideal. Its a mixture of ages and levels of competency and has a wonderful vibe. Classes are R40, 8-9.30pm on Thursdays and you can stay for social dancing afterwards to put into practice what you just learnt.

Sadly from next week I cannot make it to classes due to UCT Ballroom lessons, but I will hopefully pop in occasionally to social dance (if silver lessons don't kill me). See everyone on the dancefloor!

In other news, if anyone is keen to start ballroom and latin, UCT Ballroom has free beginner lessons for the next two weeks for everyone to come try, 5-6pm Tuesday and Thursday.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Elephants Eye

Early mornings on campus are beautiful in summer. I don't normally get to see the sun rises through the trees at my office but today my friends dragged me on a hike to Elephants Eye, leaving UCT at 6.30am.

The hike leaves from Silvermine Reserve (entrance R15 per adult) and took us roughly 40 minutes to cover the walk through spiderwebs, fynbos and rockery. The view on the hike was stunning, especially the orange glow off the sea from the sunlight and veld fires. The view from Elephants Eye encompasses Muizenburg and towards Somerset West, well worth the short trek.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Plaza 09

Plaza week so far has been frantic and hot. The weather has gone through its typical CT pms and had rain on monday morning, howling gale today, boiling sun and overcast. Welcome to UCT Upper Campus microclimate :)

Signups are steadily increasing though convincing students how have never danced before that R320 for a year is cheap is quite a mission. For the foreigners, that is roughly $35 a year for which you can get a minimum of 4 hours a week of classes.

We did a demo yesterday on plaza in a mixture of shiny dresses and tshirts and jeans, to show the variety of levels and dances we do. Dancing on cement is never pleasant, turns are an absolute killer and if you are bare foot as some tried, you can shred the skin very easily. But overall it was fun.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Fire bad, tree pretty

As most people know, I have been pushing myself (with the help of a supervisor) to meet some pretty hard deadlines. By yesterday afternoon my brain took a holiday and went back to low-level thinking 'Fire bad, tree pretty'.

I also realised that saying 'fire bad, tree pretty' at the moment is rather bad given the number of fires within the Western Cape. They even closed the N1 last night because of a veld fire causing zero visibility.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Battle of the Supervisors

To all those with two supervisors, I am beginning to understand the potential headaches. I have been adopted by the new lecturer in CSAG, Babatunde Abiodun, a veritable workhorse who really really works his students. This contrasts with my actual supervisor Bruce Hewitson, who lets students design their own work program. While I like deadlines, it is going to interesting to balance the two.

My first conflict of interest is my chapter 1 structure. I have been diligently working away at a outline designed last week only to have it changed this morning into a more philosophical introduction into the topic.

If I can balance the two styles I think I will end up with a very comprehensive thesis. Here is to hoping.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Adventures in LaTeX

I have spent the last couple weeks starting to write my thesis. This is normally fairly easy in Word, just start typing and format later. In LaTeX its the other way around. Format first and then write, you'll save yourself loads of time and headaches at the end. I last used LaTeX for my honours thesis and have mostly forgotten the commands.

Andrew nobly pointed out a thesis template from UCLA that is very handy but not terribly well documented. I have eventually got set up and realised that the reference formatting in the text is somewhat bizarre. I have now switched back to abbrv until I find out what the UCT standard is. You will also need to add the amsmath and graphicx packages

A really helpful resource is Andy Robert's LaTeX Starter Guide which contains nearly everything you'll need to do maths, tables, figures and formatting. It even includes a comprehensive list of symbols so people like Raoul don't have to search all day for the infinity symbol :P

Editor-wise I am writing in TexShop, a Mac program and using BibDesk to store my Bibtex references. If you're in Windows I'm told that MiKTeX is very nice including a file structure sidebar and JabRef for reference editing. For those of you who break out in hives at the thought of learning a new markup language, try LyX, I've heard wonderful feedback about it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pro20 Cricket

I haven't attended a domestic cricket match in years which I rectified this weekend. Watching the Cape Cobras beat the Titans was a fun-filled afternoon and relatively cheap at R30 for a grass seat. I don't normally enjoy watching 5 day tests live as the TV provides a much better perspective but with Pro20 the constant action means you never miss out or have time to get bored.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thesis advice

I had a meeting the other night with one of the new lecturers in EGS. He comes to UCT from the USA and seems to work days, nights and weekends. Our meeting started at 9pm (night owl that I am). I went over my last couple of months and where I see myself heading this year. I was offered some interesting advice.

Plan your thesis so that it fits into two or three papers plan what you want to present in the papers and then your research has a focus, a streamlined idea. Plan the figures you would want in a paper, no more than ten that summarise of highlight something you wish to discuss. Anything more you probably would just add to your thesis and never explain properly in the flow of text.

Think about the type of journal you are aiming for, is it a review of the literature available? Most journals want to print new work so if you want to discuss old work you have to include suggestions of new areas open to this type of technology or how the literature has lead to the experiments you're working on.

Do not go into a doctorate working for three papers and not a thesis. A thesis is a valuable tool to present a body of work as it developed. UCT has a newish option open for doctorate students, doctorate by papers. Your thesis is them a collection of three papers published and an introduction and conclusion to link them all together. The nice option is that if the papers are already published, the examiners cannot fail you, your work is already peer reviewed for every paper and they are more making constructive comments.

Plan your timetable to produce at least two papers by the middle of your second year, and a third by the end of the second year. This way you have time to write up your thesis and get published before you head off to post-doc and don't have time anymore.

Just some food for thought, use, don't use.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I have not been to Clifton for years due to a combination of overcrowding, cold water and friends choices but was pleasantly surprised on Sunday that Clifton 1st Beach is quieter and therefore quite nice to visit. The water was still cold though.

The reason for my trip to the beach, an engagement party. I think there is something in the air, I have 3 sets of friends who have gotten engaged in the last month. I offer congratulations to all.

The day ended with a glorious, if short-lived, sunset behind some clouds

From undergrads to oldies

UCT Summer School offers a wide variety of courses for all student ages, even the old people. Campus this week is bursting with older students (mostly retired) who are here for one day or two day workshops from literature to history to computers. Its seems a quick way for UCT to make money and provides an excellent social scene. I find it fascinating that the demographics of UCT can change so drastically overnight.

In other news, I have finally finished my PhD proposal and can hand it over for approval. I wait with bated breath for the comments.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Countdown to O-week: 18 days

There is a limited amount of time before campus is swamped with newbies, otherwise known as undergrads. PHD Comics have a wonderful account of this.
As part of the Ballroom committee I will be on Jammie plaza for the week handing out flyers, dancing and probably getting sunburnt. I will also take a few snaps of the chaos. Maybe we can convince the Ikeys Tiger to dance again, that made for a laugh last year.

If anyone is interested in trying ballroom and latin or salsa at UCT, visit for class times and fees. We start lessons on 17 Feb 09 at 5pm.

Girly Girls in Science

I recently discovered a posting by scientific researcher that starts "My name is Irene and I am a Girly Girl in Science", maybe I should start a bio like that, its a very accurate description. She suggest we start a Girly Girl in Science (GGS) Anonymous Association, I would join.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Book: Critical Mass by Philip Ball

For those of you who love the science of society, this book really is for you. I'm on my second read, the first time round I didn't finish it because of time constraints, but I recommend it to anyone no matter their field. Critical Mass delves into the question of how society emerges from individual actions and how one thing leads to another.


I went to see Twilight over the weekend. I had not realised that during my stay overseas the movie prices had escalated to R45 a ticket. Besides the obvious changes from the book, I didn't quite realise that the movie was aimed at a younger market, namely the type that require less wit and flowing dialogue. I was sadly disappointed. I can only hope that the sequel will include better dialogue and maybe a more rounded explanation of each characters unique skill, something they just left out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Venue Booking in CT

For those of you who have ever tried to organise a large event in CT will understand the frustration of people not getting back to you with quotes, saying yes and then saying no cause there are bigger corporate people the venue MIGHT be needed by. If anyone has any suggestions for a venue that you can lay down a dance floor on and seat roughly 500 people, I would really appreciate it.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert: Watershed

I have been meaning to go to a Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concert for the last few years. I finally managed to see Watershed last night. We packed a picnic and arrived when the gates opened at 3.30pm. There were queues like you would not believe. We spent the next two hours eating and chatting and I realise I should have taken a book or magazine.

I was worried that their music would be too chilled for the event but Watershed have a very good dynamic on stage. They were on time and did an encore of three songs which I am sure was all preplanned. Their new album has some fantastic tracks, I say some because I have yet to hear the whole thing. Did you realise that every album they have produced has a song about a train on it? Typical men...

The organisers said the band had 20 mins to sign CDs at the end and I hope they starting signing faster because we passed the queue on the way out and it was long. I highly recommend going to a concert, Parlotones is still coming and Arno Carstens. Check them out at: Old Mutual Kirtenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts or the Facebook group

Magpie tendencies

I fully admit to magpie tendencies. I cannot walk past a jewellery store without looking at the earrings on display and I won't even discuss beaded earrings in accessory stores. Over the years I have received and made many pairs of earrings and have finally done a count. Total: 73. Not bad considering my compulsive buying in every country I visit.

How to store this many? My mom came up with the idea from a jewellery store, she took Hessian and edged a piece wrapping the top over a wooden stick, then attach a hanger to it to hang in your cupboard. This way none of them get tangled or disappear.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Hout Bay Hike

Hiking is not my favourite activity but I felt compelled to try again. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I am not as unfit as I assumed and managed the Hout Bay Radar Station. We ascended into the clouds in the morning and camped out for lunch in the burnt out buildings at the top. As we feasted the clouds blew away to reveal the coastline form Melkbos to Kommetjie.

The clouds gave way to sunshine and with it heat. If anyone is looking for a nice hike that takes an hour each way I highly recommend the Radar Station, especially on a clear day.

Tigger Tigger

I ventured into Tiger Tiger for the first time on tuesday night. I somehow doubt I will ever make it into Tiger again on student night. It was packed, the people there were decked in their best and young, very young in comparison. It make you feel very old when music from the 90s plays and the majority of the crowd don't know it.

Before my foray into Tiger we stopped off at Beluga to catch the tail end of the half price sushi half price cocktail special they run everyday. I love their sushi but the service left a fair amount to be desired, especially when the food took over an hour to arrive.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Constantia Uitsig

Constantia Uitsig is a winefarm nestled between the mountains of the Cape Peninsula. Well-known for its white wines, it also has a restaurant and a River Cafe. My family ventured to the River Cafe for lunch yesterday and were pleasantly surprised at the vast array of choices avaiable on the menu. The popular order of the day was the Karoo Lamb Burger followed by River Cafe Chocolate Brownies. I must say though that the Strawberry Pavlova was demolited at great speed.

Time Out

For those that live in Cape Town and wonder when everything happens and where the new in things to do are Time Out Cape Town 2009 is for you. Its R40 for a magazine from CNA and is packed with touristy ideas. It also has the website addresses or contact details for everything they suggest. Your social directory has arrived.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Naughty-cal New Year

The last sunset of 2008 over Hout Bay. I love watching the sunset over the mountains and the moon rising especially on a warm evening. 2008 ended on a good note and gives me hope that 2009 will be an even better year. I wish everyone a happy New Year.

I spent the night partying away in Naughty-cal style with friends and I loved some of the costume ideas from the night. 276 knots and octopi and the ancient mariner made debut appearances. I chaos was minimal and the entertainment surperb.