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.]

17 Aug

Holiday Time

I have at last finished my to-do list.

  1. Papers submitted.
  2. Meetings passed to others.
  3. PDR sent to boss.
  4. MSc programme development advanced
  5. Other stuff I can’t be arsed to mention


Roll on Canada holiday

05 Jul

ERTICO H2020 Workshop

The UK is still in the Horizon 2020 programme until Brexit happens. So we have a short window of opportunity when we can still participate in Research and Innovation projects.

The university is a member of ERTICO which is the ITS Europe organisation. I and my colleagues Paul and Simon attended the workshop brainstorming potential proposals and I think we both found it very productive.

The dinner for the event was very early so I was able to return to my hotel and play in Paul Mitchener’s Liminal game online. we are using the tavern discord server and I have to say I’m slightly disappointed in the audio quality of discord.

29 Jun

Final NOVELOG project review

I have been attending the final review of the Novelog project by the new project officer. I think it went well but of course you never know until the final ink is dry and the cheque has cleared the bank account.

I ate in the hotel bar and enjoyed the World Cup football in the background.

30 May


I have been ill most of May. Just as I was celebrating my birthday and Ann’s new amateur career as a thespian, I got a virus that was to my mind a proper ‘flu and that took 2 weeks out, as well as stopping me going to chair a big conference I had helped organise in Brussels 🙁

Then I got myself together well enough to go and do my duty at a project event in Cyprus and just as I was about to go back I got a cold that has progressively attacked my chest until now I have a chest infection and am on antibiotics.

It’s true to say that I have also tried to keep up with family commitments and visits, and that probably hasn’t helped my immune system in fighting the bugs buy hey ho, you can’t just give in, can you?

So what did I manage to do? Well I had 3 lovely days in Cyprus before the 2nd bug got me. I got to run a starter game of D&D for a family friend, their son and my grandson, at the end which the virus decided to take away my voice for 4-5 days.. Olly, Amy and Mike came and stayed. We played Obama Llama and Machi Koro. Steve and Tree came and we drank beer.

Ann as Mrs Northrop in "When We Are Married"

Ann as Mrs Northrop in “When We Are Married”

We saw Matt in his home in Cambridge and caught up with him and Alaa and met his chums at his place of work, a lovely Italian café.

But now, all I want to do is take my antibiotics, ease back into mainstream work, and REST..


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


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.


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.

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.
#ucu #uss
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/