Archive for the Cardiff Category

Glamorgan versus Somerset: Vitality Blast Twenty20

Posted in Cardiff, Cricket, Uncategorized on July 20, 2018 by telescoper

After a very nice little drinks reception in the School of Physics and Astronomy (at which I was given a very nice gift of wine) I joined the staff outing to Sophia Gardens to watch this evening’s Twenty20 cruise cricket between Glamorgan and Somerset.

The start was delayed by rain so we lingered in a pub on the way only to be caught on the hop when play actually started and missing the first few overs. Somerset batted well to reach 190 off their 20 overs, with Anderson hitting four big sixes in his 59.

Without Shaun Marsh, who will miss the rest of the season, the Glamorgan batting lineup seemed to have a very long tail and a lot rested on Khawaja and Ingram. Both scored runs quickly while they were in but neither could build a big score. Once those two were out, the Glamorgan innings faltered and they never looked like reaching Somerset’s total. The finished on 160 for 9, losing by 30 runs.

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Glamorgan v Northants: Day 3

Posted in Cardiff, Cricket with tags , , , on June 27, 2018 by telescoper

For the record, I thought I’d post a short update on today’s play at Sophia Gardens.

I only attended the morning session today. I forgot to take my phone so there’s no picture. It was a good morning’s play actually, with Glamorgan’s bowlers doing better. The huge opening partnership of 208 was eventually broken when Procter fell, soon followed by Duckett. How often it happens that both batsmen involved in a big stand get out in quick succession. Another three wickets fell for the addition of 90 runs. However at 259 for 5, with the Northants lead at 289, at lunch I reckoned the game was already beyond Glamorgan, and instead of returning to the ground after lunch I took a stroll around sunny Bute Park and went into the Data Innovation Research Institute office to attend to a few things.

Northamptonshire progressed to a total of 406 and declared when their 9th wicket fell. Tea was taken at that point. In the last session, Glamorgan slumped to 121 for 4, the first innings hero Khawaja among the fallen.

Glamorgan need to score 313 tomorrow to win. More relevantly, Northants need to take 6 wickets. I wouldn’t bet against the game finishing before lunch, actually.

International LGBT+ in STEM Day

Posted in Cardiff, LGBT with tags , , on June 27, 2018 by telescoper

Tired by the heat and by watching Glamorgan losing at cricket, and despite being on annual leave, I popped in to the relative cool of the office of the Data Innovation Research Institute at Cardiff University to tidy up a few things. I noticed the above poster on the main entrance to the School of Physics & Astronomy, which reminded me to post a quick plug for the first ever LGBTSTEM Day, which takes place next Thursday (5th July). I agreed some time ago to give a short talk at the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University about this and am looking forward to returning from Maynooth next week to do so.

Many universities and other organizations (including the Royal Astronomical Society) are involved in supporting events on 5th July. If you want to keep up with what’s happening try having a look a the twitter hashtag #LGBTSTEMDay.

It’s not too late to put your own event together either! You can find a handy toolkit to help you do it here.

Glamorgan v Northants: Day 1

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Cricket, Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 25, 2018 by telescoper

Here I am, back in Cardiff and officially still employed at Cardiff University, but now taking up the annual leave I am owed before I depart.

The plan for this week’s leave, or at least four days of it, is to watch Glamorgan play Northamptonshire in Division Two of the County Championship at Sophia Gardens.

I arrived at the ground just before the start of play, with hardly a cloud in the sky. It was already hot at 11am so I covered myself liberally in sun lotion, which I clearly managed to get on the camera lens:

Here’s another one I took in the afternoon after I realised what had happened:

It proved to be an absorbing day’s cricket. Northants won the toss and, unsurprisingly, decided to bat first.

Glamorgan had an early breakthrough from Hogan and Smith but Northamptonshire reached lunch at 87 for 2, with Wakely and Vasconcelos looking settled. The latter fell soon after lunch, but Wakely and Levi then took Northants to tea without further loss.

The pair went on to share a stand of 118 until Smith (who was expensive but troubled all the batsmen) got Wakely caught in the slips by Khawaja for a fine 82.

Soon Northants were five down for 231 after Rossington departed for 7, but Crook and the combative but slightly portly figure of Levi took the score on to 275 for 5. At that point a decent score for Northants still looked likely.

Then Glamorgan took the new ball and Tim van der Gugten steamed in. Levi had an awful waft at the first ball and was caught: 275 for 6.

At that point all the wickets to fall had been caught behind the wicket, either by the wicket-keeper or in the slip cordon. What had troubled the batsmen had been bounce rather than lateral movement, which is a fairly typical Sophia Gardens wicket.

Anyway, two balls after Levi departed new batsman Prasanna tried to play some kind of shot (I know not what shot) and succeeded only in spooning up a dolly catch to mid on: 275 for 7.

Next over Hogan brought one back into Crook who was adjudged lbw (though if truth be told it looked a little high to me): 279 for 8.

Then it was van der Gugten’s turn again, getting one to lift at Hutton (no, not Len). The ball flashed into the slips and looked to have gone past Khawaja but somehow he plucked it out of the air for one of the best catches I have ever seen: 281 for 9.

Last man for Northants, Sanderson, walked to the wicket in the manner of a condemned man approaching the scaffold and when he got there he was clean bowled first ball by van der Gugten. Northants all out for 281, their last five wickets falling in the space of three overs. Quite a turnaround in the final session: Northants were 199 for 3 at tea.

Northamptonshire’s rapid demise left Glamorgan seven overs to bat before the close; openers Selman and Murphy negotiated them safely to end the day on 21 without loss.

It was a very absorbing day’s cricket on a very warm day indeed. I’m glad I had plenty of suncream on, as there were many in the crowd looking distinctly frazzled.

I don’t normally criticise umpires because they do a very hard job, but I feel I should mention one major lapse. Fortunately I don’t which it was so I can’t mention him by name. During the Northants innings, a batsman (Kevin, I think) played a shot to the mid-off area and set off for a quick single. The fielder threw and hit the stumps at the non-striker’s end with the batsman apparently short of his ground. Unfortunately the umpire, who was moving to get out of the way, had turned his back to the action and couldn’t give the decision. There being no third umpire in County Cricket, that meant it was ‘not out’. I thought that was poor: umpires should keep their eyes on the play all the time. I would have thought a first class umpire would have done so.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the second day to see if Glamorgan can capitalise on Northamptonshire’s collapse. I’ve followed Glamorgan long enough to know not to take anything for granted!

Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra: Mahler Symphony No. 3

Posted in Biographical, Cardiff, Music with tags , , , , on June 18, 2018 by telescoper

Well, I’m back in Maynooth after a weekend in Cardiff, on the Sunday of which I went to St David’s Hall to see the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra playing Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony. Actually this concert was originally scheduled to take place on the evening of Friday 15th June, which is why I booked a ticket to return from Bonn in time to see it instead of waiting for the formal close of the meeting. As it turns out, my flight was so late I would have missed it but fortunately the Rolling Stones intervened. Because Jagger et al were performing at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on Friday (with all the consequent congestion and traffic disruption that implies) it was decided to shift the concert to Sunday 18th, but I couldn’t be bothered to change my flight.

Anyway, it proved an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Gustav Mahler spoke of his Third Symphony as being “of such magnitude that it mirrors the whole world” and you can see what he was getting at by just looking at the scale of the forces arrayed on stage when it’s about to be performed live. For yesterday’s concert at St David’s Hall, the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra was augmented by the WNO Community Chorus and the Choristers of St David’s Metropolitan Cathedral Choir, as well as soloist mezzo soprano Kate Woolveridge.

The orchestra needed to perform this extravagant work is much larger than for a normal symphony, and it involves some unusual instrumentation: e.g. two harps, a contrabassoon, heaps of percussion (including tuned bells and double tympanists), etc. The string section was boosted by double-basses galore, and there’s also a part (for what I think was a flugelhorn) to be played offstage. The work is also extremely long, being spread over six movements of which the first is the longest (over 30 minutes). Yesterday the performance stretched to about 1 hour and 40 minutes overall, with no interval. I don’t know of any symphonic works longer than this, actually.

It’s worth pointing out that the orchestra and choir(s) tackling this immense work were non-professional. It’s also worth pointing out that the principal French Horn – who is given a lot to do in this piece – was none other than Dr Bernard Richardson, recently retired from the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University.

I have to admit I have always had lot of trouble getting to grips with the first movement, in which various themes are repeatedly played off against each other, punctuated by a series of extravagant crescendo passages in which the orchestra threatened to blow the roof off. It is, at times, thrilling but also manic and, to me, rather indecipherable. The second movement, in the form of a minuet, is elegant enough, and was beautifully played (especially by the strings), but in comparison with the wayward exuberance of the first movement it sounds rather conventional.

The third movement, however, is totally gorgeous, especially in the passages featuring the offstage flugelhorn (?) and the string section of the orchestra on stage. From this point this piece started to bring me under its spell. The solo vocalist and choir(s) were marvellous in the fourth and fifth movements, the former a setting of a poem by Nietzsche and the latter a mixture of traditional verse and Mahler’s own words, but it was in the majestic sixth and final movement that the orchestra really reached its peak. This is one of the most romantic movements to be found in all of Mahler, passionate, lyrical and supremely uplifting. At times before the sixth movement the orchestra (especially the brass) had struggled a bit with the demands of the score, but the finale was as good a performance as you’ll hear anywhere.

Mahler’s 3rd Symphony is an epic journey through a landscape filled with dramatic contrasts. At times you wonder where you are going, and sometimes feel in danger of getting completely lost, but by the time you arrive triumphantly at the final destination all those doubts had melted away. Congratulations to the Cardiff Philharmonic on a very fine performance, warmly received by the audience.

After the concert there was a collection on behalf of the Forget-Me-Not Chorus, which supports people with dementia and their families through weekly singing sessions. I think this is a great initiative and made a donation on the way out – if you feel like doing likewise you can do so here.

Well, that’s my concert-going at St David’s Hall over for another season. Indeed, it’s probably the last concert I’ll be attending there for the foreseeable future, as I’ll be relocating fully to Ireland this summer. I’ll have many fine memories of listening to music there.

Back to Cardiff again..

Posted in Cardiff, Maynooth with tags , on June 6, 2018 by telescoper

So here I am again, back in sunny Cardiff (if a bit later than planned). My flight from Dublin was supposed to depart at 8.35, but didn’t go until over an hour later. The delay was allegedly caused by a lightning strike last night that required the plane to be checked before take-off. Although they must have known about this mishap for some time, FlyBe didn’t bother to tell us anything about the reason for the delay or how long it would be. This was the scene at the (unstaffed) departure gate at about 9.15am. The lack of communication or any form of customer service compounds the irritation caused by such delays.

Anyway, once airborne, it was a pleasant flight. Here are two pictures just after taking off from Dublin Airport, with a view up to Malahide in the North.

And here are a few more flying over Wales about 10 minutes before landing.

We landed about 85 minutes late in Cardiff, but it’s lovely weather here so I’m not as grumpy as I might have been. Now, to work.

Student access to marked examination scripts

Posted in Cardiff, Education, Maynooth with tags , , , on May 25, 2018 by telescoper

I’m currently waiting for the last couple of scripts from my Physics of the Early Universe examination to arrive so I can begin the task of marking them. The examination was yesterday morning, and it’s now Friday afternoon, so I don’t know why it takes so long for the scripts to find their way to the examiner, especially when marking is on such a tight schedule. I’m away next week (in Ireland) so if I don’t get papers by this afternoon they won’t be marked until I return. The missing two are from students sitting in alternative venues, but I don’t see why that means they take over 24 hours  to get to the marker.

(By the way,  `script’ refers to what the student writes (usually in a special answer book), as opposed to the `paper’ which is the list of questions to be answered or problems to be solved in the script.)

Anyway, while I’m waiting for the missing scripts to arrive I thought I’d mention that here in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University we have a system whereby students can get access to their marked examination scripts.  This access is limited, and for the purpose of getting feedback on where they went wrong, not for trying to argue for extra marks. The students can’t take the scripts away, nor can they make a copy, but the can take notes which will hopefully help them in future assessments. There’s a similar provision in place in the Department of Theoretical Physics at Maynooth University, where I will be relocating full-time in July, based around a so-called `Consultation Day’.

When I was Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at Sussex University I tried to introduce such a system there, but it was met with some resistance from staff who thought this would not only cause a big increase in workload and but also lead to  difficulties with students demanding their marks be increased. That has never been the experience here at Cardiff: only a handful take up the opportunity and those that do are told quite clearly that the mark cannot be changed.  Last year I had only one student who asked to go through their script. I was happy to oblige and we had a friendly and (I think) productive meeting.

If I had my way we would actually give all students their marked examination scripts back as a matter of routine. The fact that we don’t is no doubt one reason for relatively poor performance in student satisfaction surveys about assessment and feedback. Obviously examination scripts have to go through a pretty strict quality assurance process involving the whole paraphernalia of examination boards (including external examiners), so the scripts can’t be given back immediately but once that process is complete there doesn’t seem to me any reason why we shouldn’t give their work, together with any feedback written on it,  back to the students in its entirety.

I have heard some people argue that under the provisions of the Data Protection Act students have a legal right to see what’s written on the scripts – as that constitutes part of their student record – but that’s not my point here. My point is purely educational, based on the benefit to the student’s learning experience.

Anyway, I don’t know how widespread the practice is of giving examination scripts back to students so let me conduct a totally unscientific poll. Obviously most of my readers are in physics and astronomy, but I invite anyone in any academic discipline to vote:

And, of course, if you have any further comments to make please feel free to make them through the box below!