Graphics card help

It's Easter, so it must be time to fix the parental computer...

It's a Dell running Win XP (SP3), and has an Nvidia GeForce 8300 GS graphics card.  I *think* the card is broken.  For the last few weeks, every time it runs, either lots of green/magenta dots appear on the screen, or it blue screens.  When it blue screens, the error refers to nvidia driver files.  I've installed the most recent driver, and even uninstalled all the graphics drivers, to no effect.  Hence my theory that this is a hardware problem.  The question is, is it the graphics card?
It's not the monitor - that works fine on other machines.  But could it be something else, such as the motherboard?  I don't know.   I've reached the end of my experience.

Any ideas?

Making the Difference

A more cheerful post after the ones of late.
I'm a member of St John Ambulance in Oxford - it's my main "hobby", and I thoroughly enjoy it.  At the moment, they're running a big drive called "The Difference" - it's part fundraising, part awareness-raising, and part encouraging people to learn first aid, so that they could be "the difference" between life and death for someone.
As part of this, St John Oxfordshire has been chosen as BBC Oxford's charity during their 40th birthday celebrations.  They're hoping to raise at least £60,000 to pay for a new 4x4 ambulance.  As part of this, we are going to attempt to break the world record for the largest first aid training session.  If you're near Oxford on 4th December, and fancy joining in please sign up - you only have to raise a tenner, and you'll be taught basic first aid and get a certificate and a first aid booklet to take home.

As my divisional officer is also one of the county officers for training, she had the joy of teaching BBC Radio Oxford's breakfast show presenter CPR this morning, live on air.  It's up on the iplayer for the next 7 days, so have a listen - the sound effects are great, particularly him singing "Nellie the Elephant":
iPlayer - 1 hour and 6 minutes in

Update on the Plea

Thanks to all of you who responded to my plea for help.  If you haven't yet, there is still time.

A number of questions have been asked in the House about this, but only a few have been answered.  The response is pasted below:
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There has also been a speech in the Lords:
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There is support out there, but the government is still not listening.

ETA: by the way, the minister is just plain wrong.  There is no "overlap of public funds" that I've ever seen.  If my brother's funding really is meant to cover his mobility needs, then it has either been mis-assessed (e.g. by saying "well, you have a vehicle/higher rate mobility, so you don't need that money"), or it is so woefully inadequate in other areas that his mobility funding is being used for something frivolous, like nurses, or keeping his house clean enough that he won't get some horrible (and potentially fatal) infection.  Certainly there is no magic pot of money that isn't being used.
I have emailed the Baroness to tell her what a wonderful speech she made.  I have also emailed the minister to point out the inaccuracies in her response.  I would be surprised if she even reads my email, and I doubt she will pay any attention, but at least I have tried.

Plea for help

I don’t often do this, but right now I think something Very Wrong is about to happen, and that there is still a chance to stop it, so I have to try.

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tl;dr The government are about to arbitrarily remove an entire benefit that will significantly worsen the quality of life of some of the most vulnerable in society, including my brother. Please go here and email your MP about it. But it would be even better if you would write a personalised email.

ETA: please feel free to share / link to / repost this. The more people know about it, the better.

I must be getting there...

I had a very long meeting today with my supervisor and a rather eminent paediatric ICU specialist.
I presented some work which I hope will be published in a good journal (the Lancet is our first choice) soon.
We had a very interesting conversation. 

At the end, she asked me what my specialism was.  Was I a paediatrician?  An ED doctor?
Um, no, I'm an engineer.  A very very flattered engineer.


Not impressed

 I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the last week on the phone to the council.  Why?  Because I would rather like to exercise my democratic right to make an informed choice when I vote in the upcoming General Election.  And I didn't have a polling card when they had clearly been delivered elsewhere.  And last time I lived in this building and there was an election, guess what?  I didn't get a polling card.

"So what?" I hear the more informed among you cry.  "You don't need a polling card to vote."  
You are of course perfectly correct.  However, it is somewhat tricky to vote if a) you don't know what constituency you are in (and hence who the candidates are), and b) you don't know where the polling booth is.  
"Ah, but surely these things can be ascertained via careful questioning of neighbours, or some cunning internet searching?"
Again, theoretically, you are correct.  However, my cunning internet searching merely revealed that my building is very close to the constituency boundary, and that that boundary has/is being/will be changed.  Take your pick.  I'm fairly sure that the boundary for this election is not the same as the one for the last election, and it may be lined up for another change before the next one.  Anyhoo, depending on where I searched, and which boundary I looked at, I could be in Oxford East (Labour extremely marginal, 4th Lib Dem target seat), or Oxford West and Abingdon (Lib Dem pretty darn safe).  Hence the phone calls to the council.
I chose to phone Oxford City Council, as they are *my* council, even though they are only responsible for the Oxford East election (Oxford West and Abingdon comes under Vale of the White Horse, which is a much more excitingly named council, but might get confused if a person living in what is fundamentally central Oxford phoned them up).

Phone call number 1 (late last week or possibly early this week):
Me: "I don't have a polling card, and I didn't get one last election."
Lady: "Oh, well, they will be sent out in the next couple of weeks.  Anyway, you can vote without a polling card, so don't worry"
Me: (thinks, aren't you even worried about the loss of polling cards?)  "Um, yes I know that, but I'd like to know what constituency I'm in"
Lady: "It'll be on your polling card"
Me: "Yes, but I didn't get one last time.  So I probably won't get one this time.  I live is student halls and we don't have the ability to receive post.  So could you maybe look it up for me?"
Lady: "Oh.  OK."  <looks me up on the electoral roll>  "I wonder what that means?"  <lady goes to check strange code with cow-orker> "Oxford West and Abingdon"
Me: "Thanks.  It would be nice if you could fix the polling card thing though."
Lady: "I'll talk to the people in charge and make sure something is sorted out."

No progress occurs.  No polling card arrives.  I realise that I will also need to know where the polling station is.  I ring back (yesterday).
Me: "Hi, I don't have a polling card, and I'd like to know where my polling station will be"
Lady (maybe the same one, not sure): "You don't need a polling card to vote, you know"
Me: "Yes, I know.  But I do need to know where the polling station is."
<we go through the same rigmarole of me explaining about no polling cards and her promising to "do something", and also to ring me back with information about what they will do.  In the meantime...>
Lady: "You're in Oxford West and Abingdon constituency and your polling station is the Wesley Memorial Church"

Now, I should have queried that.  You see, I knew (from sneaking a peek at a polling card in the pigeon holes in college) that Wes Mem is the polling station for Oxford East.  So either it was the wrong polling station, or the wrong constituency.
She didn't ring back, but today I spotted that there were polling cards in the open post boxes in the stairwell.  I suspect they will stay there - basically nothing gets posted into them except flyers, so I may do a public service and distribute them if they're still there the weekend before the election.  Still, it's progress, and I have a polling card.
Which confirms that my constituency is actually Oxford East, and not the constituency I was told on two separate occasions.

She did get the polling station right at least...

postit note planning

You know how sometimes you want to write down a plan, but don't know where to start? 
Way back when, I went on a project management course, and one of the best things I learned was using postit notes to plan something.
You can start anywhere you like, write a task, or a sub-project or a section of the paper, or whatever it is that you are breaking your project up into, and put it on a postit note.  And stick it somewhere.  Then write another, and stick it somewhere sensible in relation to the first. 
When you suddenly realise you want to reorganise it, you can - it's only postit notes.  You can even tear them in half if necessary (and stick blutac on the back of the half without any sticky if you need to).
I really love this method.  Somehow, having the freedom of knowing that I *can* rearrange the notes means that I get it 90% right first time.  If I tried to write it on a sheet of paper though, I'd end up starting at a blank space for ages, worried that I'd start in the wrong place.

Of course, recording it is another issue...

Michael's Kitchen

Oh.  My.  Word.  I think I may have just died and gone to heaven.

I have just been to dinner at Michael's Kitchen, as an old friend from high school was visiting, and it came highly recommended from people in my lab.  Now, I knew that the chef is meant to have a Michelin star, and that the food was meant to be good, but I wasn't expecting anything like what we got.

For a start, it was deserted.  I really mean deserted.  We were the only diners there for the first half hour, and even by the time we left, there were only two other tables of diners.  I know that it's not been open long, but this surprised me.  Somehow, I don't think it'll last.  

The cuisine is "International and royal Thai", and there was certainly a thai element to most of the dishes we had.  We ordered mains and starters, but were presented with what I believe is called an "amuse bouche" while we were waiting for the starter.  If I remember correctly, this was described as a "Carrot and Ginger Cappucino", and was a tiny shot of hot frothy liquid somewhere between a drink and a soup.  It was absolutely heavenly, with just the right balance of ginger.  It was at this point that we realised that this was to be no ordinary meal.

The starters arrived a little later - I had ordered rice paper rolls with soft shell crab and sweet chilli dipping sauce.  From the description, I was vaguely expecting spring rolls.  Oh no.  What I got was four beautifully presented rolls looking more like super-sized sushi maki rolls, except with rice noodles rather than rice, and rice paper rather than seaweed on the inside.  I didn't identify all of the ingredients, but apart from the crab, there was definitely carrot (in tiny perfect juliennes), slices of mango, pickled ginger, lettuce, and what I think may have been radish.  And it all went perfectly together.  My companions had a beautifully deep, rich chestnut and truffle soup, and a "seafood udon cocktail", served in a tall glass so that the udon noodles could be seen floating through the clear broth.

The main courses were no less impressive.  Both Hannah and I ordered the roast duck and lychee curry with lotus leaf rice.  This turned out to be a very well flavoured thai red curry (made to order I assume as we were asked how spicy we would prefer it, much in the way that you are usually asked how well done you like your steak).  The rice was the real star of the show though - it had been wrapped around some... stuff (we weren't quite sure what - Hannah thought meat, I thought maybe lotus bits, both of us identified mushroom), then wrapped in a lotus leaf and baked, making it sticky and incredibly tasty.  I forget the exact title of Mo's dish - it had boar and sausage in and an orange sauce and was very meaty and gamey when I tasted it - very solid earthy food.

Under ordinary circumstances, we would have stopped here.  We were really quite full.  However, the quality of the food, and the imagination and presentation meant that we couldn't bear not to have dessert.  Two baked cheesecakes and a warm chocolate cake were duly ordered.  We were not disappointed.  The cheesecakes were soft, moist and delicately ffavoured, with a tart berry sauce.  The chocolate cake was hot, rich, and wallowing in quarter of an inch of thick gooey chocolate sauce.  Both were topped with a small amount of homemade ice cream.

The price tag for a three course meal of this quality? £23 (not including drinks).  As Hannah pointed out, you'd pay more than that for a three-course meal at Nando's.  I can only assume that this state of affairs is temporary.  With this quality of food, it is surely only a matter of time before this restaurant becomes the kind of place where you have to book at least a week in advance, if not more.  Until then, I'll be taking every opportunity I can to sample the delights on offer.

Life is good

(deep breath)
I have been wanting to post this for a while but haven't dared.  Many of you know this already.  But I have signed stuff now, so it's (mostly) official.

I'm a post-doc!  Yay! 

(By the way, that's good) (Also, by the way, no it doesn't mean I've submitted my thesis - that's a whole different matter that we won't touch on here).  It does mean that my funding woes are over for the next 18 months, that I have an NHS ID card, a new project in addition to my thesis, a new desk in the Post-Doc office, a Salary(!), a Pension(!!!), and other such exciting things.

New project is very similar to thesis project, but monitoring adults in the Emergency Department (ED), which is what the cool kids call Casualty these days, and trying to spot which ones are really unwell and are deteriorating.  I get to wander round the ED once a week collecting the data from the monitors (hence the ID card), and there's lots of interesting little research avenues to explore.

Other good things to have happened this week include the arrival of my free iPod nano (in orange), from Swansea, which I won at the Science Festival for filling in a questionnaire, which was a pretty good return on about 5 minutes of my time.  Especially as I filled it in because I wanted to actually give them feedback rather than because I wanted to win an iPod.  Because, let's face it, no-one ever wins those things.  Oh, right... 

Did I mention that I have a salary now?  Yay salary!