Archive for the Uncategorized Category

A Second in Azed!

Posted in Biographical, Crosswords, Uncategorized with tags , on June 26, 2022 by telescoper

I was more than a little surprised this morning to find that I had won Second Prize in the latest Azed Crossword Competition in the Observer newspaper. This only the third time I’ve been among the medals (so to speak); I got a First Prize last year and a Third Prize exactly 11 years ago today.

As I’ve mentioned before, the monthly Azed Competition puzzle involves not only solving the Azed crossword but also supplying a cryptic clue for a word or phrase given only as a definition in the crossword. This competition is tough, partly because Azed is a stickler for syntactical soundness in submitted clues, and partly because many of the competitors are professional crossword setters. I’ve struggled recently to find the time and the energy to make a decent attempt at the Azed competition, but this competition puzzle was published on the last Bank Holiday Weekend so I had more time than usual to think about it. The target word was PEANUTS and my clue was

Source of allergic upset gripping one’s interior? Possibly!

Usually in a cryptic crossword clue one part of the clue provides a definition of the answer and the other a cryptic allusion to it; the solver has to identify each part. This clue is of a slightly different type called “&lit” which means that two different readings of the clue give you the definition and the cryptic allusion. The cryptic reading gives A (source of Allergic) in an anagram of UPSET containing N (oNe’s interior) indicated by the word “possibly”. UPSET is often used as a anagram indicator but not in this case. The surface reading of the clue also suggests PEANUTS.

P.S. I think the First Prize clue was very good indeed so congratulations to K. Bolton!


Royal Society SFI University Research Fellowships

Posted in Uncategorized on June 23, 2022 by telescoper

It is now time for a quick public information broadcast, to give advanced notice of an important scheme run jointly between the  Royal Society and Science Foundation Ireland that gives early career researchers in Ireland access to University Research Fellowships. I thought I’d mention it now before the summer vacations (which apparently some people have):

This scheme provides eight years of research funding (with the possibility of renewal) and has proved to be a stepping stone to their first permanent academic position for a great many scientists. Here are a couple of items about the eligibility and duration.

Eligibility:  The scheme is open to early career Post Doctoral Researchers with between 3-8 years of actual research experience since their PhD (date on which the degree was approved by board of graduate studies) by the closing date.  You cannot apply if you hold a permanent post in the university or have held (or currently hold) an equivalent fellowship that provides the opportunity to establish independence.

Funding and Duration:  In previous years this scheme provided funding of the research fellow’s salary and research expenses for an initial period of 5 years with the possibility to apply for a further 3 years.  This time, though, applicants are asked to provide a proposal for a project lasting eight years which is subject to a mid-term review.

Key Dates: The scheme opens on 12th July 2022 and applications need to be in by 6th September 2022 at 3pm UK time. Last year the application deadline for Irish institutions was a bit later than for the UK but I don’t know if that will be the case this year as the call has not yet opened.

For further details and further developments see here.

The scheme covers a wide range of disciplines. including physics and astronomy. Of course if you want to do cosmology, the best place  to do it in Ireland is here in Maynooth but we also do, e.g. condensed matter theory and particle physics.

The deadline is not far off,  so please get cracking!

P.S. Five years residency in Ireland qualifies you for Irish citizenship. Just saying…

Picture Joke

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2022 by telescoper

I put this picture up on Twitter last week with the caption Geddit? and it got as close to going viral as anything I’ve ever tweeted. Since I’m too lazy to post anything substantial today I thought I’d put it up here.

In the words of Roy Walker: “Say what you see..” though you will probably have to be a physicist who’s studied general relativity.

Some of those who did get the joke asked me where they could buy such an item. In fact I just wrote the Greek letters on with a whiteboard marker…

A Chara

Posted in Irish Language, Uncategorized on May 11, 2022 by telescoper

Having spent a great deal of time recently writing reference letters I thought about how at least to start a letter in the Irish language (though I’m nowhere near fluent enough to continue).

It turns out the correct formal way to begin a letter in Irish to someone you don’t know is “A chara” which means literally “O friend” to be compared with the opening you might write in English “Dear Sir/Madam”. The plural version is A chairde.

The Irish form is interesting for a number of reasons. For one thing it is ungendered so there’s no need for the clumsy “Sir/Madam”. For another it presupposes that the person you are writing to is a friend, which is far less frosty than the English alternative.

The Irish word cara is related to many similar words in other European languages, especially the Italian caro and the French cher and like them can be used as an adjective meaning “dear”. If you want to address a letter to someone you know you can write, for example, A Phádraig, a chara which would mean “Dear Patrick”.

A chara is also interesting from a grammatical point of view because the nominative case of the word for friend is cara but in the vocative case (introduced by the particle “a”) it is modified in a manner called a séimhiú which involves lenition of the initial consonant, hence a chara. The plural form of cara is cairde, which also attracts a séimhiú in the same way as the singular form, becoming chairde. In older forms of written Irish this would have been denoted by a dot over the consonant, but in modern script the modification is indicated by inserting an h.

One of the pronunciational things I struggled with when I was attempting to learn Irish last year was the difference between the c in cara and the ch in chara. The c in Irish is usually pronounced like a k in English but in its weakened form ch it only changes slightly: it’s not like the c in census nor the ch in cheese.

If you try saying the letter k out loud as a child would – “kuh” – you will find it involves contact between your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Move the point of contact back to the rear of your mouth and it becomes deeper and thicker; move it towards your front teeth and it becomes narrower and slightly higher in pitch. That’s the difference between the broad and narrow “c”. It’s very hard to spot in spoken Irish, particularly for a beginner!

There is a vocative case in other European languages ancient and modern, e.g. Latin, but that involves changes at the end of a noun rather than the beginning. The particle “a” which introduces it in Irish plays the same role as “o” in archaic and/or poetic English usage but is part of everyday usage in Irish. It is not a preposition because it doesn’t have any particular meaning other than to introduce the vocative case.

Beard of Ireland 2022. ‘Beard Off’ Final

Posted in Uncategorized on March 14, 2022 by telescoper

Against my expectations I’ve made it into the final round of voting for Beard of Ireland 2022! The competition is stiff and I’m currently in fourth place (out of four). Please consider giving me a vote! You can do so via the post below!

Kmflett's Blog

Beard Liberation Front

Press release 13th March

Contact Keith Flett 07803 167266


The Beard Liberation Front, the informal network of beard wearers, has said that competition for the final of the Irish Beard of the Year 2022 is officially open

Academic Peter Coles and rugby player Jamison Gibson-Park won the first Trim Off round with Businessman Adohan Connolly and Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann winning the second and completing the line-up for the Beard Off final

The 2017 winner was politician Colum Eastwood who bearded broadcaster William Crawley for the annual Award.

In 2018 the DUP’s Lee Reynolds shaved writer Dominic O’Reilly for the honour with Colum Eastwood in a steady third place.

In 2019 Lee Reynolds retained the title

The 2020 winner was Maynooth academic Peter Coles

In 2021 Aodhan Connolly shaved opponents to win the coveted title

View original post 208 more words

After Pestilence

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2022 by telescoper

From last week’s Private Eye.

A Christmas Scene

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2021 by telescoper

There were disturbing scenes in Maynooth today as concerned passers-by and farm animals gathered around a small child mysteriously injured by being hit on the head by a gold Frisbee.

Bird Life

Posted in Biographical, Uncategorized on December 23, 2021 by telescoper

This morning, while I was waiting for my extra special Christmas veggie box to arrive, I was watching the birds in the garden through my kitchen window. For the last several days I’ve been putting out several full feeders only to see them emptied within minutes by a sundry collection of starlings, sparrows, tits, finches, wood pigeons, a dove, and a couple of jackdaws. A rook which on several occasions tried to demolish one of the feeders (ti being too clumsy to get any food by conventional methods) seems now to have given up and merely watches angrily from a tree.

The dove (a collared dove to be precise) is a new arrival in my garden (though not at all a rare bird). It seems rather shy and quiet in behaviour, usually to be found sitting in a tree while all the smaller birds flutter and chatter around. It does seem to like the seed, but also eats the berries on the hedges. It’s a very interesting bird to look at, its grey feathers making it look rather ghostly. The wood pigeons (which are much bigger) are quite noisy but I haven’t heard the dove make any sound yet.

A number of robins also visit the garden. They’re not agile enough to use the feeders but instead patrol around at ground level collecting bits and pieces that have fallen down. One of them however has realized that my stash of food is in the shed and that my entering the shed is a prelude to good being available. The other day as soon as I went in, one particular robin followed me right inside and jumped onto the bench where I was spooning out the seed. I had spilled some, which he/she tucked into, and I gave him/her a bit more. Now the little critter is there every day waiting in the VIP lane. Whenever I open the back door to go into the garden all the other birds scatter in all directions, except the robin who doesn’t seem to be at all intimidated.

With the eventual arrival of my veggie box I have got just about everything I need for a self-indulgent holiday. The amount of food and wine I’ve laid up for myself is probably enough for a month and I thought that this afternoon’s trip to the fishmonger to collect six oysters for Christmas Eve would be my last trip to the shops before Christmas Day, but I think I’ll make one more trip to buy bird food. At the rate they’re scoffing it I’ll be out of supplies by Boxing* Day!

*”Boxing Day” isn’t really used in Ireland; the usual term is “St Stephen’s Day”


Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8, arranged for Wind Quintet

Posted in Biographical, Music, Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 7, 2021 by telescoper

One of the treasured items in my CD collection recently moved from Cardiff is a boxed set of the Shostakovich String Quartets by the Fitzwilliam String Quartet:

When I took it out of the packing case last night it suddenly reminded of the following video I saw a few weeks ago. I think the String Quartets contain some of Shostakovich’s finest music, and the 8th (Opus 110, in C Minor) – written in just three days after the composer saw the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden – is especially intense. I don’t usually like rearrangements of string quartets for other instruments – there’s something very special about the texture produced by string instruments which is difficult to improve upon – but this is really interesting. It’s arranged by David Walter for five wind instruments (clarinet, French horn, cor anglais, flute and bassoon) and played by the Aquillos Wind Quintet, an unusual combination that provides a very fresh take on this piece while maintaining its dark expressiveness and brooding atmosphere.

P.S. Regular readers of this blog might recognize the clarinet player…


Posted in Uncategorized on July 13, 2021 by telescoper

I’m now taking a short break so I can travel to a strange and distant land for a week or so.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, but in the meantime there will be a short intermission.