Archive for July 25, 2012

Thanks, and Sorry

Posted in Biographical on July 25, 2012 by telescoper

I know from the emails and other messages that I’ve received over the past few weeks that friends and readers of this blog have been a bit concerned about me. I owe you all an explanation and an apology. I have actually written a very long post detailing everything that has happened, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to post it at this time. Or perhaps ever. Maybe I’ll keep it for when I write my memoirs. Or not.

The short version, which will have to do for now, is that not long ago something happened that caused something I’ve lived with for a very long time to flare up worse than I’ve ever experienced before. Certain other factors, which I won’t go into either, exacerbated the situation still further. Anyway, all this hit me so hard I had to seek medical help and have been declared “unfit for work” for the last three weeks. Most of this time has been spent trying – and, until recently, failing – to find appropriate treatment to allow me to get back to “normal”.

I know that in this period I have let down a number of colleagues and students who had every right to expect better of me. I know also that I’ve ignored many offers of help from friends who have expressed concern about my well-being. I haven’t done this out of rudeness, but because I knew I that I had to solve these problems on my own. I was greatly moved by the kindness shown by so many people, but at the end of the day a problem shared is a problem doubled.

I know that at times, during especially low periods, usually in the early hours, I’ve abused the social media by posting horribly self-indulgent and self-pitying items, usually poems. I can only apologise, but it’s been an indescribably lonely journey and I’ve only had social media for company. Insomnia is a bastard.

Fortunately, I think I’ve now turned the corner. I will be off work until the end of the month, but at least I’m no longer dreading going back. My GP and the University Counselling Service have done a brilliant job in working so hard to sort out a programme to help me recover. I now think I know what to do to get myself out of the hole I’ve been in. It won’t be easy actually doing it, but at now have something to aim at I am much more confident.

I am so very sorry to those people who I’ve upset or alarmed with the way I’ve behaved over the last few weeks. I wish I could explain more, but it’s such a long and convoluted story that (a) you’ll all find it extremely boring and (b) I don’t think you’ll understand anyway. All I can do is apologise if I’ve upset anyone. That wasn’t the plan at all. It’s my problem, not yours. I just haven’t been strong enough to keep it entirely to myself, as I should have done.

Now all I have to do is to think of a way of persuading the University and, more importantly to me, my students that they should give me the chance to prove I can be what I am supposed to be.

More Maths, or Better Maths?

Posted in Education with tags , , on July 25, 2012 by telescoper

Interesting view from a Biosciences perspective about the recent recommendations to increase the number of students taking Mathematics at A-level.

I’ve always had a problem with the way Statistics is taught at A-level, which is largely as a collection of recipes without much understanding of the underlying principles; would more emphasis on probability theory be a better way to go?

Biomaths Education Network

The introduction of post-16 maths is in the news again with a report from the House of Lords committee on Higher Education in STEM and many of the headlines from the Guardian, Independent and Times Higher  have picked up on the recommendations regarding maths study post-16.

I have written a few thoughts here on my first impressions but would very much welcome comments.

Though I was pleased to see that some of my work showing that only GCSE maths is required for undergraduate biosciences was cited, the conclusion from this was that more students should take maths A level and this is a little worrying.

The lack, or low level, of maths requirements for admission to HEIs, particularly for programmes in STEM subjects, acts as a disincentive for students to take maths and high level maths at A level. We urge HEIs to introduce more demanding maths  requirements…

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In darkness let me dwell

Posted in Music, Poetry with tags , , on July 25, 2012 by telescoper

In darkness let me dwell; the ground shall sorrow be,
The roof despair, to bar all cheerful light from me;
The walls of marble black, that moist’ned still shall weep;
My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.
Thus, wedded to my woes, and bedded in my tomb,
O let me dying live, till death doth come, till death doth come.

My dainties grief shall be, and tears my poison’d wine,
My sighs the air, through which my panting heart shall pine:
My robes my mind shall suit exceeding blackest night,
My study shall be tragic thoughts, sad fancy to delight.
Pale ghosts and frightful shades shall my acquaintance be:
O thus, my hapless joy, I haste to thee, I haste to thee.

by John Dowland (1563-1620). Here sung by the wonderful counter-tenor Andreas Scholl…