Archive for March 26, 2011

A Tale of Two Balls

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , , , on March 26, 2011 by telescoper

This morning was definitely the one after the night before, as Friday was the occasion of the Annual Chaos Society Physics Ball. The Chaos Society organises a number of social events for both staff and students from the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University. This year’s ball was nearly a whole month earlier than last year’s, because we’re not having a term break before Easter this year as Easter is so late. There’s still another three weeks of teaching, in fact, whereas in most years we would stop now and resume after Easter.

Anyway, the do last night started off with a champagne reception at the Parc Thistle Hotel in central Cardiff, followed by dinner and dancing in the function room there. There was a fine band playing a sort of funky soul jazz mix at the start and end of dinner. There were a bit loud to make conversation possible at the beginning, but once the food arrived they took a break and resumed when coffee was served. Instead of attempting to make ourselves heard over the music, I decided to try to set the ball rolling by getting up and dancing with a lady called Tanys, who was a guest of the Head of School Walter Gear. Nobody else joined us, but it was fun anyway.

We then went “informal” so to speak. The DJ got going, but I didn’t reckon much to the music so went and mixed in the bar. Some final-year students celebrating having secured PhD places here and there, so congratulations to them, and there was a beautiful moment when Michael proposed to Matthew. They’re not allowed to be properly married here in the UK, and a proposal of “civil partnership” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but it was one of the highlights of the evening. Matthew accepted, of course.

After that we adjourned to a boutique nightclub called Crystal, an exotic place with peculiar soft furnishings and a bevy of bare chested muscle men in attendance. Around 3am I was poured into a taxi and got home quarter of an hour or so later, reasonably intact. Bad hangover this morning, though.

I’d like to add my personal thanks to the organisers of what was a hugely enjoyable evening, the Chaos Society generally and especially Natasha who did sterling work persuading so many people to come along. This was the third of these bashes I’ve been to, and it was definitely the best.

I’ve worked in a number of universities so far in my career as a jobbing astrophysicist, but the students at Cardiff are by far the friendliest and the most fun of all the groups I’ve had the pleasure to teach. And, yes, it does mean an awful lot to me when people tell me to my face that they enjoy my lectures. Even if they are drunk when they do so!

Anyway, some pictures are floating around on facebook. Here’s a couple, and I may add some more as they emerge from various cameras and phones. Of course it must be some kind of optical defect that makes me look so old in these, or perhaps it’s just because I’m surrounded by people less than half my age?

You’ll notice that I got the old white DJ out. Strictly speaking, UK tradition dictates that these should only be worn when abroad but I like wearing one when the weather is nice as it was yesterday whether it’s consistent with etiquette or not. There were plenty more serious breaches going on last night anyway, chiefly involving gentlemen removing their jackets at the dining table which is extremely poor manners.

You’re probably wondering what the second ball  refers to in the title of this post. Well, it’s just to remark that today in Cardiff  Wales played England at Football  (the “Association” variety, with a round ball, which I believe in some backward countries is called “soccer”). It was good to have an excuse for avoiding the city centre, and I was in a sufficiently vegetative state not to venture out of the house at all until the match was over. England beat Wales comfortably, 2-0.

UPDATE: Here’s a few more pictures, starting with one of me and the lovely Matthew. Well, at least one of us is photogenic…

These two were snapped at the club later on…

Here’s a couple more, one of me and the gorgeous Flo…

..and one last one, which I suspect was taken very late in the proceedings