04 May

21 Again! My Lovely Birthday Weekend

I had a lovely birthday weekend.

My birthday fell on the Friday, and so I rose early and went into the University, picked up my thesis from the printers, and handed in my PhD! Hooray!! This is the first submission, so it now goes to 2 external examiners for them to read, and then I have to defend it at a viva.

Tom going to hand in his thesis

Tom going to hand in his thesis

Tom submitting thesis

Tom submitting thesis

I have to say, I had no idea how much pressure would come off me when I submitted. It reminded me of the last day of finals for my first degree. I actually felt 10kg lighter! I went and was quite dizzy with some colleagues and distributed jam donuts, and then find a new generation MoBike and rode home. These newer bikes have 3 gears, bigger frames and wheels and are definitely my kind of stationless hire bike.

A bicycle

Next gen MoBike

Matt was up from down South, and so he and Ann took me for brunch at Stark’s Kitchen and surprised me with a stack of 2000AD comics, a new shiny USB lighter for my candles, and a Fitbit, very happy about the latter.. Ann had me well foxed on that.. especially since she had also got me a new amplifier..

Man holding comics.

Matt got me some 2000AD comix!

Man holding present

FitBit4Tom

Back home Alex and Matt joined me playing Five Tribes which Alex bought me about 2-3 years ago and we have never managed to play yet. It’s really tactical, easy to understand, probably hard to fully master, and full of a lot of replay depth. The takeaway was Lebanese and great..

A boardgame

Five Tribes

2 men eating Lebanese food

Lebanese Takeaway

All in all a cracking birthday..

Roll on 54.. er, I mean 22..

On Saturday we decided to continue to play Five Tribes since we had enjoyed it so much. Duncan Rowlands joined us, and then we ate the 2 curries I had made. I was very pleased with the chana dal since I had never made it before, and the cauliflower and sweet potato curry was also good scran. I was not so happy about burning my hand.

Anyway, after 28 winks, we all went to see Ann’s thespian debut in When We Are Married by J.B.Priestley at the People’s Theatre. Ann played Mrs. Northrop, the insolent charwoman. We all thought she was brillig and all her hard work paid off as she nailed this comic West Yorkshire part.

Mrs Northtop getting fired

Ann Zunder as Mrs Northtop

On Sunday.. we hosted the ‘wrap’ party for the WWAM cast and crew. Our house makes for a great party house, and I had cooked 2 enormous pans of chilli. People brought cakes and veggie lasagne, and garlic bread, and booze and hats and we had a lovely day in the gorgeous hot sun of the Bank Holiday Weekend. I crashed and burned at about 8pm with a poorly stomach, but a core group soldiered on and kept the flame alive until midnight-ish. I met some lovely new people from the cast and crew, and many of which I would love to spend some more time with.

Cast and Crew from WWAM (not all of them obvs)

So, all in all a great weekend and then we wrapped it up on the Monday by cleaning up the house, having a fry up at Cafe 120, and later on celebrating Guernsey Liberation Day at Helen and Duncan’s, with lots of bean jar and gâche.

TTFN

29 Apr

North Star Con 2018

I went to the North Star rpg con at the Garrison in Sheffield: 26th to 29th April 2018.

Here is my con report.

Friday. Got into Sheffield on my Megabus and Supertrammed to Hillsborough.
Met up with Amanda and Massie. Andy Lily of BITS joined us. Then more and more people arrived. I drank quite a lot of cloudy IPA. Hey, what could it hurt? Sent to bed very happy.

Saturday. OUCH! Oh that’s what it could hurt! Still rehydration powders, paracetamol and a Garrison full English with poached eggs and I was fine.. honest.
First game: Dom’s game, Fall of House Atreides, Conspiracy of Shadows. Oops. I read the first book at Uni so there was a lot of rapid assimilation as I tried to absorb the setting and also the fact that I was the traitor and yet the game seemed to be predicated that we were all meta gaming to trigger our room: the fall of the aforementioned house. I think I did it right, and the House *was* pretty effed after all my machinations. Everyone seemed happy but it made me think “this just be like playing one of these pointy elf games for a Muggle”.
Second game. Darran ran a truly great Firefly Cortex+ game. Not only does Darren have all the props, he uses them so very well. I loved the game. It confirmed my growing love of Cortex+. It made me love Darran even more!

Darran Sims as Badger

Darran Sims as Badger

Third game. Stuart ran “Testing Times in Tarsus”, a classic GDW boxed set. Tarsus is in District 268, major export Nobble meat, and is one jump to Collace.

Sunday. Graham ran Infinity 2d20. Gosh this was great. Crunchy but rewarding, with a driving back beat, and a melody of momentum and heat. Matrix style action in a near future setting with echoes of Eclipse Phase, Altered Carbon and Cyberpunk2020. If this is the crunchiest 2d20, bring it on! 

Graham, Remi, Pedr

Graham, Remi, Pete

Graham then ran 66Suns with Genesis. 66 Suns is a system agnostic setting. Genesis is the FFG funky dice system. I *loved* 66 Suns. I grokked Genesis. Fun fun.

Summary. I am on my Megabus home. I loved the con. I love there being another great SF con, the other being Travcon. I loved the 30-40 people format. I loved seeing new faces for the Garri-cons. My growing love for Cortex+ was confirmed. I have been shown that 2d20 plays great at the table. I shall print and peruse my copy of 66 Suns. Ill be back next year.

Read more here: http://northstarcon.org.uk

2019 Con announced as 11-12 May.. Read more

28 Mar

‘Evolution, not revolution’ will guide next EU research funding programme – Jean-Eric Paquet

‘Evolution, not revolution’ will guide next EU research funding programme – Jean-Eric Paquet“‘On open innovation (there are) ongoing discussions on the European Innovation Council (EIC) (and) on disruptive innovation. There is a lot which was done under Horizon 2020<ec.europa.eu/programmes/horizon2020/what-horizon-2020>, but the Commission is certainly very ambitious to do more. And this is, for me, a particularly interesting part of the mandate … because it really leads into a key discussion of how research results are then used.”‘We have now the guidelines of the European Council which were agreed by leaders, which I think are quite explicit. We clearly envisage, in terms of socio-economic cooperation, to continue to have a solid relationship with the UK – also in research and science.’‘We now have two more months to fine tune and fine-tuning is going to be an important part of the process. A key element is going to be the overall amount of the budget. The three scenarios (we are working with) are 80 (billion euros), 120 (billion euros) or 160 (billion euros).’Read more: goo.gl/5ARadp

13 Mar

DHL and Accenture Unlock the Power of Blockchain in Logistics

MARCH 12, 2018
DHL and Accenture Unlock the Power of Blockchain in Logistics

Trend report explores the technology’s potential for improving transparency and traceability
in supply chains and automating commercial processes

Blockchain technology spending expected to increase more than tenfold globally
between 2017 to 2021, according to IDC

Proof of concept successfully demonstrated track and trace of pharmaceutical products from manufacturing to patients, showing potential to eliminate counterfeiting of drugs.

19 Feb

The Gaming Tavern Welcomes You

We are proud to announce the return of the Gaming Tavern.

The Gaming Tavern Welcomes You [Again]

Since the late days of the happy times of somewhere before 2004 the Gaming Tavern has been home to roleplayers, wargamers, readers of esoteric fiction, writers of esoteric rulebooks, mildly bedraggled wizards, the grumpy dwarf (and the other 6), half awake halflings and, of course, the troll Guvnor.

Guests are able to dry off next to a blazing fireplace full of elfs, listen to a disturningly wide range of music from the gnomic dukebox and sup a yellow wine or crunch through a bag of kobold bollock scratchings.

You are very welcome to enter the recently refurbished Tavern and join in the polite muttering and chatter about elfgames and polyhedral dice.

Login or Register at http://gamingtavern.eu/tavern/

I’m off to get some more firkins of
Black IPA up from the cellar and feed the dragon..

Tom, the Guvnor


02 Feb

USS pension deficit assumptions

Context: The University Employers wish to remove the defined benefit element of the University pension scheme USS, claiming it is running an unsustainable deficit and they are not willing to shoulder the burden with staff to fix it.
If you are a UK academic in a USS pension University, you need to read this:
Unless we challenge the basis for the deficit calculation, we lose people. It becomes an argument about who bears the pain. Of course staff don’t want to pay an additional 2.5% for a pension that will be worse than before.
Our argument has to be that this pain is a fiction, if an artfully constructed mathematical fiction. The “problem” is a mathematical projection of a worst-case scenario constructed on dubious assumptions.
Key facts:
. the pension scheme’s assets grew in real terms by an average 12% pa for the last 5 years
. the scheme is growing as more people are enrolling
. the scheme could continue on a money-in-money-out basis without action for 40 years
On the deficit calculations
. actuaries from the Cass Business School have challenged assumptions of 4% pa salary income over the next twenty years and increases in projected lifespan that are not supported by current empirical data
. the best estimate (median, mode and mean for an approx Normal distribution) projected outcome is +£8bn surplus
. the chance of it being in deficit by 7bn or more is the same chance of it being in surplus of £23bn or more.
Tom
#ucu #uss
19 Dec

7th Aeon

Now I am not saying I agree with this message. Bits of it do seem somewhat accurate, albeit hardly novel. I am sure we can find Ancient Chinese, Greeks, Romans or Mayans who said the same. However, it’s nicely done in a lovely anime style and would make a great intro video to a dystopian tale or RPG.

7TH AEON // ANIMATED SHORT FILM from Mads Broni on Vimeo.

17 Dec

Lovely weekend

Had a lovely weekend.

We went to Duncan and Helen R’s annual ‘Cheese and Port’ party and ate a lot of cheese. We caught up with Neil and Crikey and Colleen and Nige.

On Sunday Ann took me to SIX, the restaurant on the 6th floor of the BALTIC art museum and we had Xmas afternoon tea which was scrummy.

Scrummy Xmas Afternoon Tea

Then in the evening Helen Rowlands took myself and Duncan to a BBC pre-screening of the Dr. Who Xmas Special at St.Nicholas’ Cathedral in the centre of Newcastle upon Tyne. It were brillig.

Tom at TARDIS

22nd November 1963, man in hat with scarf seen at police box

Then home, and hopefully some work to do this week.

11 Dec

London air pollution cancels positive health effects of exercise in over 60s

This is sinister.. but remember it is London, and London is not everywhere.. mind you I bet a lot of big cities are the same, eh?
6 Dec 2017 Exposure to air pollution on city streets is enough to counter the beneficial health effects of exercise in older adults, according to new research. The study is one of two new studies led by scientists from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London and King’s College London. In the first study, published in The Lancet, researchers recruited 119 volunteers over the age of 60 through the Royal Brompton Hospital, who were either healthy, had stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or stable heart disease. The volunteers walked for two hours in two London settings at midday: in a relatively quiet part of leafy Hyde Park and along a busy section of Oxford Street, which has regularly breached air quality limits set by the World Health Organization. Physical measurements were taken before and after the walks to show the effects of the exercise on cardiovascular health, including measurements of lung volume exhaled, blood pressure, and the degree to which their blood vessels could expand. Analysis revealed that all participants benefitted from a stroll in the park, with lung capacity improving within the first hour and a significant lasting increase for more than 24 hours in many cases. By comparison, a walk along Oxford Street led to only a small increase in lung capacity in participants, far lower than recorded in the park. Blood flow also increased after exercise, with decreases in blood pressure and an increase in heart rate. Arteries became less stiff in those walking in Hyde Park with a maximum change from baseline of more than 24% in healthy and COPD volunteers, and more than 19% in heart disease patients. This effect was drastically reduced when walking along Oxford Street, however, with a maximum change in arterial stiffness of just 4.6% for healthy volunteers, 16% for those with COPD and 8.6% for heart disease. Professor Fan Chung, senior author from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health, and the National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: “These findings are important as for many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, very often the only exercise they can do is to walk. Our study suggests that we might advise older adults to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic. “It is possible that studies such as this could support new air quality limits, it shows that we can’t really tolerate the levels of air pollution that we currently find on our busy streets. For people living in the inner city, it may be difficult to find areas where they can go and walk away from pollution, there may be a cost associated as they have to travel further away from where they live or work. These are issues that mean we really need to reduce pollution by controlling traffic. That should allow everyone to be able to enjoy the health benefits of physical activity in any urban environment.” The authors add that it is possible that stress could account for some of the physiological differences seen between the two settings, with the increased noise and activity of Oxford Street having an effect. They also emphasise that while the study only involved two relatively short walks, the findings suggest that repeated exposures to air pollution would not be beneficial to our respiratory and cardiovascular systems. The study was funded by the British Heart Foundation. Air pollution linked to birth weight A second study, led by another team of researchers from the MRC-PHE Centre for Environment and Health at Imperial College London, found that increases in traffic related air pollutants were associated with 2% to 6% increased odds of low birth weight, even after taking account of road traffic noise. The study, published in the BMJ, used national birth registers to identify over 540,000 live, single, full-term births occurring in the Greater London area between 2006 and 2010. The mother’s home address at time of birth was recorded and average monthly concentrations of traffic related pollutants – nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from traffic exhaust and non-exhaust sources, such as brakes or tyre wear – as well as larger particulate matter (PM10) were estimated. Average day and night-time road traffic noise levels were also estimated. Using statistical models to analyse the data, the researchers found that increases in traffic related air pollutants – especially PM2.5 – were associated with 2% to 6% increased odds of low birth weight and 1% to 3% increased odds of being small for gestational age, even after taking account of road traffic noise. “With the annual number of births projected to continue increasing in London, the absolute health burden will increase at the population level, unless air quality in London improves,” the study authors conclude. The findings held true after other potentially influential factors were taken into account, such as mother’s age, ethnicity and deprivation. However, an observational study cannot show a causal link between air pollution and birth weight and the authors also point to limitations, such as whether they have fully adjusted for deprivation. The study was funded by the cross-research council Environmental Exposures & Health Initiative, led by the Natural Environment Research Council, in conjunction with the MRC, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Department of Health. Categories
* Categories: Research * Health categories: Respiratory * Strategic objectives: Aim: Picking research that delivers * Locations: London * Type: News article Sources: The Lancet: is.gd/XmxQYJ BMJ: is.gd/ucPimG Prof. Fan Chung: is.gd/4wBWm5 MRC-PHE: is.gd/J7v0xm Environmental Exposures & Health Initiative: www.nerc.ac.uk/research/funded/programmes/eehi/