Archive for January, 2019

Abstract Whiteboard No. 2

Posted in Art, Biographical on January 18, 2019 by telescoper

Before going home for the weekend I thought I’d share this work (300cm × 120cm, marker on whiteboard) by a relatively unknown Anglo-Irish artist currently based in the Maynooth area who wishes to remain anonymous.

Despite the somewhat stochastic form of the composition and the unusual choice of medium I think this work speaks for itself, but I’d just like to comment* that, with regard to the issue of content, the disjunctive perturbation of the spatial relationships resonates within the distinctive formal juxtapositions. Moreover, the aura of the figurative-narrative line-space matrix threatens to penetrate a participation in the critical dialogue of the 90s. Note also that the iconicity of the purity of line brings within the realm of discourse the remarkable and unconventional handling of light. As a final remark I’ll point out that the presence of a bottle of whiteboard cleaner to the bottom right of the work symbolizes the ephemeral nature of art and in so doing causes the viewer to reflect on the transience of human existence.

*These notes may or may not have been generated with the help of an online Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator.

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Maynooth Library Cat Update

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags on January 18, 2019 by telescoper

As I went for a quick coffee break this morning, I passed the local feline celebrity known as Maynooth Library Cat. That reminded me that quite a few people have asked me how said moggy is getting on. Well, here’s a picture I took this morning:

Since we’re in the middle of the examination period, the library is very busy with students using the space in there to prepare. I think the cat is doing a sterling job as a stress release mechanism as he is very friendly and quite vocal. He likes to be stroked and petted, but isn’t keen on being picked up. In return for affection he is regularly plied with food, as this morning. I actually carry some Dreamies in my bag in case he fancies a snack when I go past, but he was busy scoffing a whole portion of food when I took the picture above so I didn’t give him anything this morning. All in all, I think he’s got a very cushy number going.

Some kind soul supplied him with a box, which is placed near his favourite lookout position.

It’s pretty cold these days so I’m sure he appreciates having somewhere warm to take his naps, but he also finds other cosy places around the campus.

There’s a rumour going around that Maynooth Library Cat’s real name is Trevor. I’m not sure that is really the case, and it is possible I was told it as a joke. These days the Irish tend (not unreasonably) to assume that English people are gullible fools who will believe anything…

Self Assessments

Posted in Biographical, Education, Finance, Maynooth with tags , , on January 17, 2019 by telescoper

My first batch of examination marking having been completed satisfactorily and my next paper not taking place until the weekend (Saturday morning, to be precise), I naively hoped that I could devote myself to research for a few days this week as I am behind schedule in completing a couple of papers. Unfortunately this has not been as straightforward as I’d hoped. I’ve spent all of today doing various administrative things (expenses claims, examination reports, and a part of the Department’s Quality Review Self-Assessment document which is due in near the end of the month.

In case you are unfamiliar with such things, a Quality Review is an exercise that takes place from time to time for every Department or Administrative Unit in the University (and indeed for every university in Ireland). For the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, the last one took place in 2009). The process begins with the aforementioned Self-Assessment document which basically lays out what the Department is trying to do, the processes by which it uses to do it, reflects on the effectiveness of those processes, and outlines ideas for how they can be improved. All the staff in the Department have been engaged in writing bits of this document, which is now gradually coming into shape.I’ve had a relatively light involvement in this because I haven’t been here for very long, but it has consumed quite a lot of staff effort.

When complete, the Self Assessment report is sent to a range of people both inside and outside the University and there is then a visitation during which the panel talks to staff and students and has a look around the Department. We’re expecting our `inspection’ to take place in March. After that the panel gives feedback to the Department in a report. The panel’s comments are made publicly available, as is appropriate for a publicly-funded body. The report emerging from the last Quality Review of the Department of Mathematical Physics (as it was then called ) can be found here (pdf). It’s all quite a lot of work – the latest Departmental meeting devoted to this yesterday lasted three and a half hours, and we’ve had several meetings like that! fortunately, it  will all be finished by next week. Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.

 

Talking of Self Assessment, I realized last night with a panic that I hadn’t yet done my UK income tax return for 2017/18, also due in by the end of January. I spent this lunchtime getting all the bits of paper in order, and completed the task online fairly quickly as I’ve done it many times before. It turns out that yet again HMRC owes me a substantial refund. They haven’t handled my income tax properly since I left Sussex in 2016 as a matter of fact. Despite repeated attempts to get them to apply the rules correctly they have basically taxed all my income at source at the higher rate (40%) only to pay it back when I submitted my return. Fortunately, I am now domiciled in Ireland so won’t have to deal with HMRC much again.

Anyway, I should complete most of the outstanding administrative stuff this evening and if I do that I can clear a day for research, or at least writing up papers…

 

 

 

LGBT STEMinar Gallery

Posted in Biographical, LGBT, The Universe and Stuff on January 17, 2019 by telescoper

The official photographer at last week’s LGBT STEMinar took these pictures of me while I was delivering my keynote talk, and I thought you might find it amusing to see them. Actually quite a few of them could serve as subjects for a caption competition!

The Best Men Can Be Unshaven

Posted in Beards, Biographical, Television with tags , , on January 16, 2019 by telescoper

This advertisement by the Gillette company (purveyors of razors and other shaving products) has been causing a social media meltdown among the male snowflake fraternity:

It seems that the message conveyed in this short film – that men could do more to tackle bullying and harassment – is proving unpopular with certain men. I think it’s a reasonable inference that those men who feel the need to rant about this commercial actually think that they should be entitled by virtue of their gonads to engage in the kind of behaviour challenged therein and indeed threatened by any suggestion that they should not behave like prats. in my opinion the fact that there has been such a reaction demonstrates beyond any doubt how important the message is that toxic masculinity is a problem.

As a recent winner of Beard of the Year I feel it is important to point out that because I have a full beard, I never use Gillette (or any other shaving) products. My continuing not to use Gillette products should therefore not be interpreted as opposition to the message contained in this particular advertisement nor should my refusal to be upset by a commercial be interpreted as an endorsement of Gillette products. If, on the other hand, the Gillette company were to find it within their capacity to introduce a range of beard care products then, in return for receipt of an appropriately generous free supply of said products, I would be willing to advertise them on this site. Indeed, given the ever-increasing numbers of men preferring to be unshaven, it would seem to be a good idea from purely business grounds to diversify its range in order to cater for the hirsute market. I hope this clarifies the situation.

P.S. Another idea would be for Gillette to develop a range of toxic shaving products, specifically for those men who think toxic masculinity is just fine….

What are we going to do now?

Posted in Politics, Television with tags , on January 16, 2019 by telescoper

After another tumultuous day in British politics, this blog is once again proud to be able to show exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of the Cabinet discussions at Number 10 Downing Street:

Meaningful Betting

Posted in Biographical, mathematics, Politics with tags , , , , on January 15, 2019 by telescoper

I’ve now finished my first batch of marking (Astrophysics & Cosmology) and I now have a few days to do other things until the next (larger) set of scripts arrives from Vector Calculus and Fourier Series which takes place on Saturday.

Before going home I turned my attention to the news of tonight’s “Meaningful Vote” in the House of Common’s about whether or not to accept the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between PM Theresa May and the European Union. The Government is widely expected to lose the vote but it’s not clear by what margin. Interested to see what the betting markets think I had a look just now at the Betfair exchange and found this, on the basic question of whether the vote will pass or not:

(You might want to click on the image to make it clearer.) You can find the live odds here.

You will see that this is quite an active market – with over €700K being wagered. Odds of greater than 40 to 1 against a `yes’ vote but most of the action is on `no’. Note that quite a few punters are laying on this outcome, with odds of about 25-1 on. (The way odds are shown in the second row is that 1.04 means you with 4p for every £1 staked).

Clearly, therefore, the markets think the vote will fail. What is less clear is how many MPs will vote in favour of the Government. Here is the corresponding Betfair market:

The shortest odds are for the first option, i.e. for 199 or fewer voting with the Government, but there is activity across the whole range of possibilities. The press are talking about a defeat by 225 votes, but for what it’s worth I don’t think it will be such a large margin. I’m not going to bet on it, but I expect it to be defeated by less than 150 votes.

UPDATE: Not for the first time I was wrong. The vote was Ayes 202 Noes 432, a majority of 230 against. That means there were no abstentions.