Archive for the Cardiff Category

Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!

Posted in Cardiff, Rugby on March 17, 2018 by telescoper

Rather than wait around in the cold for today’s St Patrick’s Day parade in Maynooth I hopped onto the Hopper bus and took the morning flight back to Cardiff.

The bus from from the airport to Cardiff city centre was mainly occupied by French rugby fans on their way to this evening’s match against Wales. That turned out to be a tense, bruising affair, with Wales clinging on at the end to win 14-13.

Dublin airport was busy with Irish rugby fans travelling to London to see their team’s last game of the Six Nations, and hoping for a victory against England at Twickenham that would give them the Grand Slam. And so it came to pass, in a surprisingly one-sided game in which Ireland were clearly the better team.

So congratulations to Ireland, worthy winners of the Six Nations 2018, and a Grand Slam to boot!

I think there’ll be some pretty lively celebrations of this St Patrick’s Day tonight!

So that’s the Six Nations over for another year. I usually think of the end of this competition as the beginning of spring, but the weather today is distinctly wintry. In fact it’s just started to snow in Cardiff. Time, I think to get my dinner together: beef stewed in red wine, accompanied by a nice Amarone..


Back to Maynooth

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , , on March 7, 2018 by telescoper

So here I am back in Maynooth. The University re-opened on Monday after being closed from Wednesday last week owing to the extremely bad weather. I’m told the snow was several feet deep and the town was virtually cut off until the weekend. There is still some snow lying here and there, but the thaw has begun and you can see the effect of the meltwater on the river (the Lyreen) that flows through town, which is usually no more than a little stream:

Picture Credit: Coyne’s Family Butcher, Maynooth

It’s not quite a raging torrent, but getting there!

At the moment there’s no sign of a resolution to the industrial action that’s affecting Cardiff University (as well as others in the UK) so I decided to travel to Ireland yesterday rather than my usual Wednesday. The flight over was virtually empty and so was Dublin Airport, so I got on the bus well ahead of schedule and made it back to my flat (which was cold, but otherwise all in order) in time to buy some groceries and make dinner. The panic-buying of bread had caused a shortage, but all seems to be back to normal again.

I had arranged for someone else to do last week’s Thursday lecture and Lab session so I could attend the event the IOP event I posted about, but as the campus was closed they were cancelled anyway and I now have to find a way to catch up. Do not worry, though, I have a cunning plan.

Unless there’s an announcement in the next couple of days that next week’s strike is off I plan to stay in Ireland over the weekend, which will give me the chance to explore Dublin a bit, something that my schedule has not so far allowed. Next week will be the fourth week of industrial action and the last of the current batch of strike days, this time a full week (having escalated from two, three and four days in the preceding weeks). If there is no resolution by then I don’t know what will happen, possibly an all-out indefinite strike. Nobody wants that, but there’s no doubt in my mind who is to blame for this dispute and it’s not the Universities and Colleges Union. However, there are some signs of movement, so let’s hope for a negotiated settlement. If not, I’m seriously thinking of trying to bring forward my full-time move to Maynooth. There’s little point continuing in my post in Cardiff if I’m going to be permanently on strike.

Anyway, I have a 9am lecture to give tomorrow so I think I’ll toddle off, get some tea and have an early night.

Back to Snowy Cardiff

Posted in Biographical, Bute Park, Cardiff on March 3, 2018 by telescoper

I made it back to Cardiff yesterday. The train I was on was about half an hour late, but that was understandable. The strange bit was that most of the delay resulted from us running very slowly through the Severn Tunnel. There certainly wasn’t any snow down there!

Cardiff city centre was virtually deserted and none of the roads had been cleared of snow. I’m guessing no buses were running, as I didn’t see any on the way, and there were few cars. Many shops were closed. The M&S in the station was open but had received no deliveries that day, and was just selling what it had from the day before. I bought some groceries, mostly at a reduced price.

It was snowing quite heavily and was very cold when I walked back to my house from the station, so I didn’t take many pictures, but I couldn’t resist this one of the River Taff, frozen over by the Principality Stadium:

This was the view towards Pontcanna Fields from near the cricket ground.

Fortunately I was wearing heavy walking boots, but I’d forgotten what hard work it is to walk through snow!

This morning there’s still a lot of snow around and no sign of any attempt to clear the roads.

I wonder if there’ll be anywhere open to buy a paper?


Void Fill

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Politics with tags , , on February 26, 2018 by telescoper

It’s quite hard being on strike when you find your job interesting and rewarding so I’ve been looking for things not related to my employment at Cardiff University with which to plug the gap in my working schedule.

I’ve found the ideal thing:


Learning Technology

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Education, Maynooth with tags , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2018 by telescoper

I’m just taking a tea break in the Data Innovation Research Institute. Today has been a very day as I have to finish off a lot of things by tomorrow, for reasons that I’ll make clear in my next post…

It struck me when I was putting on the brew how much more technology we use for teaching now than when I was a student. I think many of my colleagues make far more effective use of the available technology than I do, but I do my best to overcome my Luddite tendencies. Reflecting on today’s teaching makes me feel just a little less like a dinosaur.

This morning I gave a two-hour lecture on my Cardiff module Physics of the Early Universe which, as usual, I recorded using our Panopto system. Although there was a problem with some of the University’s central file storage this morning, which made me a bit nervous about whether the lecture recording would work, it did. Predictably I couldn’t access the network drives from the PC in the lecture theatre, but I had anticipated that and took everything I needed on a memory stick.

After a short break for lunch I checked the lecture recording and made it available for registered students via the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), known to its friends as Learning Central. I use this as a sort of repository of stuff connected with the module: notes, list of textbooks, problem sets, model answers, instructions and, of course, recorded lectures. The students also submit their coursework assignment (an essay) through this system, through the plagiarism detection software Turnitin.

This afternoon the students on my Computational Physics course in Maynooth University had a lab test, the first of four such tests, this one consisting of a short coding exercise. There are two lab sessions per week for this class, one on Thursdays (when I am normally in Maynooth to help supervise) and another on Tuesdays (when I am normally in Cardiff). I have a number of exercises, which are similar in scope but different in detail (to prevent copying) and the Tuesday lab has a completely different set of exercises from the Thursday one. In each exercise the students have to write a simple Python script to plot graphs of a function and its derivative (computed numerically) using matplotlib. The students upload their script and pictures of the plot to the VLE used in Maynooth, which is called Moodle.

In the manner of a TV chef announcing `here’s one I did earlier’, this a sample output produced by my `model’ code:

I wonder if you can guess of what function this is the derivative? By the way in this context `model’ does not mean `a standard of excellence’ but `an imitation of something’ (me being an imitation of a computational physicist). Anyway, students will get marks for producing plots that look right, but also for presenting a nice (commented!) bit of code

This afternoon I’m on Cardiff time but I was able to keep an eye on the submissions coming in to Moodle in case something went wrong. It seemed to work out OK, but the main problem now is that I’ve got 20-odd bits of code to mark! That will have to wait until I’m properly on Maynooth time!

Now, back to the grind…


The Future is Unpredictable

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , , on January 31, 2018 by telescoper

I decided to take the early morning flight from Cardiff to Dublin today as I have quite a few things to prepare before my first lecture at Maynooth, which is at 9am. I actually got up at 4am and took the 5.10am bus to the airport so that I would arrive in time to have a coffee and a bacon sandwich before the 6.55am flight. Everything went to plan apart from the inclement weather, which resulted in me getting soaked on the way to the bus stop. The plane struggled against a strong headwind, taking 70 minutes to get to Dublin instead of the usual 40, and there was quite a lot of turbulence en route but we arrived on time in Dublin in time for my bus to Maynooth. It was freezing cold this morning, and as I arrived in Maynooth it started snowing but has now stopped.

While waiting in the airport I checked Facebook, which reminded me that it was exactly five years ago today that I left Cardiff to take up the job of Head of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex. One of my last acts was to sign the work of art I left on the whiteboard in my old office.

The initial term of my appointment at the University of Sussex was 5 years, which would have been finishing today had I stayed there. If somebody had told me then that within five years I would have left Sussex, returned to Cardiff temporarily, and be about to move permanently to Ireland it would have seemed most implausible. More importantly, way back then I had no plans to grow a beard!

It just goes to show that Niels Bohr was right when he stated that `Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’….

..on the other hand, when I got back to Maynooth I found that my new Public Services Card had arrived, which seems to make a definite prediction of the date of my ultimate demise:


Dictionary Distribution Day

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Crosswords, Uncategorized on January 30, 2018 by telescoper

This set of dictionaries arrived last week while I was in Maynooth.

These – along with £15 in book tokens which arrived a while ago – form the prize for the Everyman Crossword competition in the Observer I won earlier this month.

Fortunately, my friendly neighbours accepted delivery of the books while I was out and I collected the parcel from them last night after work. I took them into work today and distributed them gratis to deserving members of the School of Physics & Astronomy before my first Physics of the Early Universe lecture this morning. I’ve got plenty of dictionaries already, you see.

I wonder if I’ll win any more before I move to Ireland?