My brother’s dog died yesterday. It was very sudden and completely unexpected, but at least it was peaceful. We’re obviously all very sad, especially the kids who were really looking forward to seeing the dogs and rest of the family in a couple of months time.

Kaiser was a lot of dog: 55kg of prime Rottweiler – potentially terrifying. But once you got to know him, it was clear that he was just a gentle giant: loving, patient, kind, good-natured.

However, for me, Kaiser wasn’t just a big softie. He was the dog that changed my view on the whole species.
I had several bad experiences with dogs when I was younger: indeed, I can still show you the scars. And when I see people backing away from the beagle when we’re out walking, I completely understand where they are coming from, even though I know that she wouldn’t harm a fly.

I used to feel that way too.

Kaiser’s gentle nature made the difference for me. It’s almost like he was a willing, knowing ambassador for dogkind. He had such obvious power, but with it, such restraint and understanding. A great example of how it’s the training, care and management of potentially dangerous breeds that makes all the difference, rather than the breed itself.

Kaiser was much-loved and doted-upon, not just by my brother and his wife, but also my Mum. Having the dogs visit was the highlight of her day when she had cancer. And Kaiser doted on her as well.

Looking back through photos on Facebook and on the family Whatsapp group, it’s clear that my brother and his wife gave Kaiser a great life. Just in the last couple of months, he was running free on beaches, through the snow, in the woodlands. Not bad. Not bad at all. If you were a dog, you’d want to be a Kaiser.

He will be sorely missed over here in Cape Town, as well as back home in Sheffield.

Noa Bakehouse Fire

I spotted news that that there was a fire at the Noa Bakehouse in Douglas, Isle of Man. Fortunately, it was a small fire and there wasn’t much damage.

However, emergency services are still on the scene.

Still. Two days later.

Just in case.

(Time) party time

As Stephen Hawking shuffles off this particular timeline and (possibly) onto one or many others, I was reminded of one of his more simple experiments: the party for time travellers.

Thing is, I’m not convinced that it even happened – or is going to happen.

Nowhere can I find any proof that this actually took place. I mean, it looks good and all, but (for example) why would the date be in that horrid month/day/year format? And why is only mentioned on clickbaity websites? (Although the Mail and the Express have also reported it, but they’re hardly known as paragons of veracity, now are they?) (And they likely got the scoop from… er… clickbaity websites.)

So, while the GPS checks out:

…and while I love the story, I won’t be convinced until I actually go to the party, knock back a glass or two of decent champagne and talk to the good Professor – all of which I have planned for next month, once my knee is better and I’ve completed the repairs on the DeLorean.

New Job

Back in the day, I almost went to Birmingham University.
But then I didn’t.

I might go now though, because there’s this job I want:

I’ll be absolutely honest: I have limited experience in this field. But can you imagine going to a party, chatting with some people, and when they’ve told you that they’re an accountant or work in advertising, you get to mention that you’re a Galactic Archaeology Research Fellow?

As you might expect:

In addition to planning and developing research contributions to the subject area using methodologies, critical evaluations, interpretations, analyses and other appropriate techniques, the successful applicant will work on developing, validating, and applying methods to dissect the Milky Way discs at various epochs.

I dissected an apple in the kitchen just this morning, so I’m sure that just a bit of scaling up [note to self: really  big knife] the Milky Way discs will be fairly straightforward as well. And I’ll have to dissect them at all of the epochs, because I mean, how else are you going to:

…quantify the role of secular processes that have shaped the present-day thin and thick discs

if not by:

…combining constraints based on spectroscopic, astrometric and asteroseismic observations, determining the vertical and radial properties of the Milky Way’s discs and reconstructing their star-formation history with unprecedented temporal resolution.

possibly (if I’ve managed to gauge the day with unprecedented temporal resolution), all before lunchtime. Because your afternoon will be spent working on the old Asterochronometry project to:

 …determine accurate, precise ages for tens of thousands of stars in the Galaxy by developing novel star-dating methods that fully utilise the potential of individual pulsation modes, coupled with a careful appraisal of systematic uncertainties on age deriving from our limited understanding of stellar physics.

before you head down to the pub for drinks with the nerds.

In short, this job sounds exactly what I’ve been  after for a while now. A new challenge in an exciting field, before heading down to the pub for drinks with the nerds.

And I’m only short of two of the two entry requirements:

– A PhD in Physics/Astronomy and
– Experience and expertise in Galactic structure, chemical evolution and dynamics, stellar populations studies from large-scale surveys

But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I’m sending them my CV, because the chance to:

capitalise on opportunities provided by the timely availability of astrometric, spectroscopic, and asteroseismic data to build and data-mine chrono-chemo-dynamical maps of regions of the Milky Way probed by the space missions CoRoT, Kepler, K2, and TESS and reconstruct the early star formation history of the Milky Way’s main constituents

just sounds too good an opportunity to risk missing.

I will arrive at the interview in a dressing gown, and will be carrying a towel.

Great mysteries


“I guess we’ll never know what causes spontaneous combustion. It’s one of the great mysteries, like the moon landings.”

Ed Howzer-Black

I’ve been re-watching series 1 of Matt Berry’s Toast of London and I’m now firmly of the opinion that it’s these sort of throwaway, cameo lines that make it so very perfect.