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Last Rites

Posted in Biographical, Columbo with tags , , , on October 22, 2011 by telescoper

According to the WordPress stats, the old blog seems to have been unusually popular this week. I don’t really know why, as I don’t think I’ve posted anything of any great consequence. Perhaps it’s just a random fluctuation. Or maybe they’re calculating things differently. I don’t know. I always find it strange that so many people read my ramblings because I’ve no idea who most of them are, as only a small fraction leave a trace in the form of a comment. Anyway, it’s very flattering. Vanity is, of course, the only reason for writing a blog.

I’m not really in the mood to post very much today, but there have been a couple of things that I thought I’d mention, just for the record. At least occasionally, this blog serves as a sort of diary which might be useful in the future when I need to remember when certain things happened.

Yesterday I noticed that a new comment appeared on a post about my old cat Columbo who died nearly three months ago. That comment got me thinking about the old moggy and I finally plucked up courage to do something I’ve been putting off since he passed away. The vet had given me a yellow plastic “sharps” bucket to dispose of the hypodermic syringes that I used to inject him with insulin. These buckets have to be disposed of carefully, by the vet, as the used needles are contaminated with insulin and so can’t be just thrown out with the rubbish. However, the last time I went to the vet was sufficiently traumatic that I’ve not been able to take this article back there, until today.

It was a lovely morning, actually, as I re-traced Columbo’s last journey. The streets were full of saturday morning shoppers enjoying the fine weather. I walked to the vet in quite high spirits and handed over the container, thanking the staff once again for all they did for Columbo and apologizing for taking so long to return it. It was only when I was coming back home that I felt a bit emotional, remembering what it felt like  the last time I made the return journey, without Columbo.

So that’s one thing.  The other was a more upbeat event, but also a farewell of some sort. Yesterday I chaired a PhD examination in the School of Physics & Astronomy. We’re quite unusual in Cardiff in that a thesis examination here involves a Chair in addition to the Internal and External Examiners (and the candidate, of course). The Chair is there as a sort of referee, ensuring all proper procedures are followed and that the questioning of the candidate is done fairly. The Chair doesn’t usually get involved in the actual examination, but sometimes intervenes if things are getting bogged down. The candidate yesterday was Lorenzo Moncelsi and it all went off without a hitch.  The best bit about chairing  a viva voce examination is that you get to tell the candidate the result: “The Examiners have agreed to recommend that you be awarded the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy”. The formal decision to award the degree comes later, via some Registry Committee or other, but it’s a nice feeling to pass on good news like that. In fact, it’s the best part of being an academic, getting to congratulate people on their success whether undergraduate or postgraduate.

Lorenzo is off to Caltech next week to continue his research career with a postdoctoral position and will no doubt in the meantime be continuing the celebration he started last night. Congratulations to Lorenzo, and bon voyage buon viaggio!

 

UPDATE: Here is a picture taken just after the end of the viva, featuring Supervisor (Enzo Pascale), student, Examiners (Bruce Swinyard and Matt Griffin) and Chair!

 

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