Progress

My agenda for today was dominated by three events, each involving a different form of progression. The timing was a coincidence, I think.

First, this morning, a bunch of interviews with our first-year postgraduate research students. Like most universities, the first year of a PhD at Cardiff University is a probationary period so we get the students to write a report on what they’ve been doing and also get input from their supervisor. This is then followed up by a panel interview, with 3-4 members of staff, at which a judgement is made as to whether to allow them continue. This used to be a relatively informal thing involving supervisor and one other member of staff, but I’ve recently taken over as Director of Postgraduate Studies in the School of Physics & Astronomy and made the process a bit more rigorous, having the same panel talk to all the students. It all passed off pretty well apart from the fact that a couple of students are away and I’ll have to put them through the process later on in the summer when they get back from their observing trips and whatnot.

After a spot of form-filling and a quick lunch we went straight into another examiners’ meeting, this time for undergraduate students. We already went through the marks for graduating students a couple of weeks ago, but today we had to look at the results for our Prelim candidates, and Years 1 and 2. Here the focus for most staff is on their personal tutees, usually 4 in each year, checking they all progress as intended to the following year and presenting any special circumstances.  This meeting can be quite fraught, but this year went smoothly.

Which brought us to the last issue of progression, and the one I was less optimistic about  prior to the event. However, England did manage to win their game against Slovenia in the FIFA World Cup by the not entirely convincing scoreline of 1-0. That means they too progress to the next round, although how much further than that they can go is not very clear. Well done to the USA too, who beat Algeria to win the group and take their place in the last 16.

All in all, a busy but productive and satisfying day. Now I’m going to watch one more game of football and have a glass or two of wine before having an early night.

18 Responses to “Progress”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    I’ll start taking 90 minutes out only if England reach the World Cup semis, but I try to keep informed and it seems to me that the problem is specifically up front. England’s defence has not let in a single goal in three games in which the opponents were given a more free hand than usual. The own goal by the keeper aside (and he has been replaced), that is very good defending. Moreover it was done without our best defender and pre-tournament captain, who is injured.

    I hope Capello can sort out the goal drought. I tend to agree with the sports writers who say that if he can’t, nobody can. His track record is brilliant, he turned the team round in the last few years, and nobody complained about his methods until the last few days. The players must take responsibility for themselves. It is not something that their lifestyle encourages.

    Anton

  2. telescoper Says:

    To be fair to the England team, they played much better today. However, Germany have won 1-0 against Ghana so England meet them on Sunday. I think Germany look far more fluent than England so that will be a tough one. We need Rooney to start firing on all cylinders, and look for a more positive approach from the midfield.

  3. telescoper Says:

    One progression issue not to be settled today is the remarkable first-round tennis match at Wimbledon between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut, which has been halted tonight at an incredible 59-59 in the final set, making it officially the longest tennis match in history.

    Perhaps they should do a resit in the autumn?

  4. Anton Garrett Says:

    It’s not as if they didn’t break each other’s serve in earlier sets. Think how long it might have gone on if tiebreaks had not been invented. They must have been living on glucose drinks by close of play.

    I would nevertheless like to revise the tiebreak rule so that nobody can lose a match on a tiebreak – a set has to be won or lost by two clear games if the match is at stake.

  5. S Jones Says:

    Surely more tiebreaks not fewer. It seems to me perhaps a tiebreak in a deciding set once it gets to 10 -10 would be more than sensible and a godsend for the poor match referee juggling failing light and a crowd expecting a result.

    It is interesting having the football and the tennis on at the same time though. It has often been discussed possible alternative ways of deciding a football match other than penalties but none of them are very satisfactory (most corners etc), but we think nothing of deciding groups by goal diffence or goals for. But there never seems to have been too much discussion in tennis. How about when a set gets to 6 – 6 the winner is the player who has taken the most points off the other persons serve over the whole set. That is after all what a tie break would try to measure but with a smaller sample size. It would also have the benefit of points being better contested because you sometimes suspect that at 40 – 0 down the receiver doesn’t try quite so hard as he/she might.

    Also, I have remembered watching old footage of tennis pre war and I think it might have been quite common for a receiver not to even bother to attempt to return serve for all 4 points in order to conserve energy for their serve – really, he would just let it go past him! You never see that nowadays but it would surely make more sense now than it used to with the big servers and fewer breaks of serve. Maybe it is written into their contracts because it doesn’t make for a particularly entertaining spectacle.

    Finally, (and I think it might be in a book by John Allen Paulos but I can’t find it) surely football and tennis are at polar extremes of the likelyhood of an upset. Perhaps I could take a point off Federer (if he did a double fault!) but it would be for absolutely nothing because unless I could win 4 the game would go to him, perhaps an underdog could fluke a game but again it would all be for nothing because unless he could fluke 6 he would never win a set. Football on the other hand the whole match can turn on one incident (see Robert Green).

    Would there be a way mathematically to rank all sports like this. Cricket would be closer to football I think because it only takes 10 lucky balls to get a team out. Snooker would be closer to tennis.

  6. Anton Garrett Says:

    @S Jones: This doesn’t happen often – let’s enjoy the exceptional rather than legislate it away.

    I like your alternative to a tiebreak, although I’d enact it at 8-8 or 7-7 rather than 6-6.

    How could you tell whether those pre-war players were leaving it alone or being aced?

    I think the issue that you are considering can be made quantitative, so that sports results data can be brought to bear on it, as follows: How often does the player or team ranked n-th defeat the player or team ranked m-th (normalised to the frequency at which they play each other)?

    To me the most depressing thing about the 1-1 draw with USA was England’s inability to get another goal throughout the entire second half. That standard won’t do against Germany. However, since 2001 we’ve played them in two friendlies, both in the last three years, and won one, lost one, each by a one-goal margin.

    Anton

  7. Steve Jones Says:

    This doesn’t happen often – let’s enjoy the exceptional rather than legislate it away

    Sure that’s fair enough, but the men’s final in 2008 was 9 – 7 in final set and in 2009 was 16 – 14. I think we are only going to get more of these finishes because of the importance of serve these days.

  8. telescoper Says:

    Before the days of tiebreaks, there was the great match at Wimbledon in 1969 between Pancho Gonzalez (then 41 years of age) and Charlie Pasarell. Gonzalez won in five sets after saving 7 match points, and twice recovering from 40-0 down: 22-24, 1–6, 16-14, 6–3, 11-9. But that was a mere 5 and a quarter hours.

    After watching Germany play last night I think England have a chance. A little more composure in front of goal and Ghana could have won. I have a feeling that if Rooney can get a goal he’ll burst into life; when he’s on form he’s as good a player as there is. We need much more movement off the ball, however, especially from the midfield.

  9. Anton Garrett Says:

    “the men’s final in 2008 was 9 – 7 in final set and in 2009 was 16 – 14. I think we are only going to get more of these finishes because of the importance of serve these days.”

    I do hope so, they were both absoutely rivetting sets.

  10. Steve Jones Says:

    Looking at my world cup wall chart I would like us to meet and beat

    2nd round Germany (1990)
    1/4 final Argentina (1986, 1998)
    1/2 final Portugal (2006)
    final Brazil (2002)

    and exact revenge for a lifetime of world cup misery in the space of a fortnight!

  11. Steve Jones Says:

    oh, and I’d like england to win all 4 of those games on penalties.

  12. Anton Garrett Says:

    Steve: Not an entire lifetime, in my case – I remember 1966. It’s one of just two football matches in the sports section of my DVD collection (together with the 1968 European Cup Final).

  13. telescoper Says:

    I don’t remember the 1966 final from the time – I was only 3 – but watched the whole match on TV, as it has been replayed from time to time. The thing that really struck me about the England performance was what a fantastic player Alan Ball was.

  14. telescoper Says:

    So finally Isner goes through 70-68 in the final set…

    …but the World Cup holders Italy, lose 2-3 to Slovakia and are out!

    Remarkable.

  15. I’ll tell you what progress is – A woman from Barry is now running my country – the first welsh Prime Minister since Lloyd George.

  16. Nope – Barry as in Barry Island:)

    Julia Gillard (new Australian Prime Minister) is Welsh born, moving here at the age of 5.

  17. telescoper Says:

    Never mess with a Barry girl.

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