16 Oct

Corrections to be done

I had my viva on the 12th. It was draining but it turns out I held my own well. The examiners want corrections to my thesis, and since I am part time have given me a large slot to do it in.

I watched the Forbidden Kingdom and Dusk til Dawn at the weekend and did a long overdue IKEA shop for drawer units and a new study chair. Invested in some new IKEA smart lighting.

09 Oct

PhD Final Approach, no longer a Virgin and Romeo and Juliet.

This is the final approach, the countdown to the PhD viva. Ann is away on holiday in Tenerife with Tree, and I didn’t go to Furnace XIII so as to be able to focus. I handed in my thesis on my birthday in May, and it seemed like a reasonable amount of time until my viva on Oct 12th. Boy! Was I wrong? It’s like reading someone else’s words. However, they seem quite good words, and although I have found some errors, that’s one of the advantages of perspective.

Timeless - Season 2

Credit: NBC

In other news, I watched all of season 2 of Timeless, which I really enjoyed as a progressive review of US history with lots of SF and drama thrown into a time travelling mix. For a show that’s been cancelled twice, and now will  be finished in a 2 hour movie finale, it deserved a bit more love from NBC, but hey.. that’s what US networks do.

The reason? We decided to drop all TV and phone rental from Virgin media. It really was getting excessively expensive to hire two Tivo V6 boxes, the full range of HD channels, and a phone line. We watch the shows on the traditional channels, we have quite a good proportion of our viewing coming from Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. I like Blu-Ray, and have got my UHD 4k setup working well now. As for a landline, well when we realised that neither of our sons had a landline we realised it was time to enter the 21st century. I may miss Syfy now and then, and oddly Watch since it hosted the Strain, but with the money saved I could just buy them on Amazon.

We went with twin Humax FVP-5000t  boxes, one 1TB and one 2TB, and so far things seem to going well as we empty the Tivo boxes and setup series link in the Humaxes. The boxes are certainly a little more ‘leisurely’ in their response time compared to the V6, but I am willing to embrace that since we save a shedload of money this way. We stayed with Virgin for broadband once they price matched Vodafone, and I’ll keep an eye on that, not least since I have to ring them every 6 months to reinstate the discount.

I also popped into the People’s Theatre to see their production of Romeo and Juliet in the style of Peaky Blinders. I really enjoyed it. The last time I saw R&J was in Brussels in a large arena as a ballet by the Moscow State Ballet, and this was the exact opposite. It really worked for me, especially the teenage ‘laddish’ nature of Romeo, Tybalt, Mercutio and others, the gang boss nature of Capulet and Montague, and the patriarchal violence of old man Capulet in particular. This blogger also agreed.

Ah well, displacement activity over, back to the thesis..


29 Sep

Porto 2018

I was lucky enough to be asked to meet up with INEGI, a joint venture between Portugese industry and the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Porto (FEUP). The visit was productive and also allowed a good bit of tourism before and after meetings to explore Porto, a city I have never been to before.

Of note: great river, the Douro. Great bridgescape. Deep sharp river valley leading to a wide river mouth onto the Atlantic. More than a few Harry Potter inspirations from when JK Rowling lived there, some really funky food, and really great port!


23 Sep

The Grove

We had previously won a hotel spa stay from Huawei/Vodafone, and took the opportunity to stay at the Grove en route to elsewhere. It were quite nice, pretty good spa, excellent carvery/buffet. The stand out excellence was the interior design and decoration and Ann took many an excellent picture.

21 Sep

Back Molars out

The two back molars that have been such a problem this year, for which I have had diagnoses from ‘grinding’, to ‘gum disease’ via ‘that impacted wisdom tooth looks suspicious’, are gone! After a summer of emergency visits to dentists, usually ending with ‘here’s some penicillin, when you get home, get them teeth out’.. they’re out.

I went with sedation, my needlephobia really doesn’t sit well with lots of needles and dentistry, so when a very kind dentist at Higgins & Winter agreed to come in on his morning off and extract them under sedation I dropped all other options and in I went with Ann as chaperone.

Went well, feeling so much better after all that.. now to decide if these are my new dentists, or should I find a practice closer than Ponteland.


17 Sep

USS, what happened with the pensions after the strike? #USS #UUK

There was a strike, the employers backed down, a lot of the VCs were sympathetic, a Joint Evaluation Panel was setup, they just reported**:

There is a lot of pre-amble.. but the TL;DR that the JEP panel has adjudged the required contribution to be 29.2% to fund current benefits (minus the 1% match).  Thus 3.2% extra compared to now, but 7.4% less than the USS proposal for 2020*.

However this is not binding, and UUK are still trying to push through the very large increases to pensions, hence the site consultations and online consultation.

If you are going to one of the site consultations, you may want to read the report and ask some questions:

This is a very clearly written overview and a good place to start: https://twitter.com/cupofassam/status/1040555604442591232

It would be good to respond to the online USS consultation, and say what you think.. I shall say I like the JEP recommendations, since they’ll cost me no more than 1%..


[* This compares to the current rate of 26% (18% of salary paid by employers, 8% by employees) and the rate of 36.6% from April 2020 which is proposed by USS, based on the valuation as it stands.]

[** Here is the link to the report: http://www.ussjep.org.uk/files/2018/09/report-of-the-joint-expert-panel.pdf It is over 100 pages, but the summary at the beginning is very helpful.]