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July 04, 2011

I've Moved

Soon I’ll no longer be able to edit this blog and nobody will be able to comment on it, it’ll just sit here doing nothing. Very sad, I had a lot of fun blogging but I didn’t really dedicate the time to it recently (getting a PhD and all that) so I guess it really died a while back. Anyway, in what will hopefully be a spur to lots of new blogging activity, I’ve set up a new blog at http://tomkempton.blogspot.com/.

Byebye Warwick Blog!

Kempez


April 01, 2011

Solitude

Stumbled across this at the start of a movie the other day, it’s a poem by lord Byron.

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.


August 11, 2010

A New Project

UNESCO World Heritage Sites! There’s a list here of world heritage sites in Europe, they change the list from time to time so I’m fixing my target as this list. There are 413 across 45 countries – you get one point for each that you visit properly. I’m not counting seeing things from the outside if it’s possible to see them from the inside, and I’m not counting things I saw before I was eighteen because there are lots of these that I don’t remember properly. If sites are grouped but I’ve visited one of them properly than I’m being generous and letting that count – this is mainly because I don’t always know if I’ve visited the obscure thing that’s coupled with the famous one.

Currently I’ve got:
La Grand-Place, Brussels (1998)
Historic Centre of Brugge (2000)
Rila Monastery (1983)
Old City of Dubrovnik (1979, 1994)
Historic Centre of Prague (1992)
Paris, Banks of the Seine (1991)
Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin (1990, 1992, 1999)
Museumsinsel (Museum Island), Berlin (1999)
Upper Middle Rhine Valley (2002)
Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue (1987, 2002)
Masada (2001)
White City of Tel-Aviv—the Modern Movement (2003)
Historic Centre of Florence (1998)
Piazza del Duomo, Pisa (1987)
Historic Centre of Sighisoara (1999)
Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor (1979)
Durmitor National Park (1980)
Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (1986)
Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church (1987)
Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey, and St Martin’s Church (1988)
Derwent Valley Mills (2001)
Liverpool – Maritime Mercantile City (2004)

The dates are the dates that they were designated world heritage sites.

Thats 22- hoping to pick up two in Albania plus Corfu town next week. This could take some time…


February 23, 2010

Market Forces

A thought: If they actually made the big issue interesting then you wouldn’t feel quite so good about yourself when buying it, and so would buy the big issue less often on average. This removes the incentive for the big issue to create quality material, and also explains why the big issue is so poor when there are so many talented English students graduating who would quite happily volunteer for six months in order to get some journalism experience. Hmmm…


February 01, 2010

Italian

I’m great at Italian. Every morning I come down from my room and offer my best buongiorno to the old man who runs the hotel. Should his dog have returned from her mornings wanderings of the streets of Pisa I offer the same to her too. The hotelier’s face lights up and he strikes a dramatic pose, feet slightly apart, before returning a buongiorno which puts mine to shame both in terms of enthusiasm and hand gestures. I’m not quite sure if he’s being serious or mocking me.

Then I stroll towards the maths building and call in at my favourite baker, who now recognises me, buy a chocolate croissant and sit down in the piazza for my breakfast in the sunshine. Life is beautiful here.


Crosswords

Crosswords are excellent things to do when you’re at the dreamy stage of doing maths. I’ve been working late some evenings while waiting for the research centre to clear of people so that Aspa can call, and this seemed an appropriate time to try the crossword from the paper I’ve been carrying around all week. I only have two clues which seems a fairly poor return for the half hour I’ve spent on it, but I was very proud. The clues are:

American cop gives sustenance (3)
Top receptionist keeps order (7)

I’m currently working on
Retro Jazz piece by the French composer (5)
but I’m all out of ideas. What does it mean when they put a question mark on the end? Like
Money essential if finishing early and retiring? (3)

hmm, many things to learn…


January 24, 2010

Twitter

Today would be a perfect day for twitter, I arrived in Pisa last night and my conference doesn’t start until tomorrow so I have to keep all my inane thoughts to myself. Then I remembered my much neglected blog and thought I should write what I would have ‘tweeted’ were I technologically aware.

10.15: Just woke up, the light is so bright here even in January! Opened my curtains with excitement but all I can see is a few bins in a really tiny courtyard, inspecting the fire escape plan I see that all the other rooms are bigger than mine with a window that looks to the outside, hrmmp.

10.45 My shower has a fold down seat in it! I don’t take advantage of it this time as it’s my first morning and I don’t want all of my excitement on the first day.

11.00 Does having pizza for breakfast make you a bad person?

12.00 Why does everybody talk so negatively about Pisa? Sure it’s a little run down in places but there are some truly magnificent parts too. And lots of signs telling me that it’s illegal to buy fake merchandise.

12.15 I ring Aspa from a payphone hoping that she’ll be able to see my number and call me for free from Skype. Alas not, my euro disappears far too quickly.

13.00 So I knew it was called the leaning tower of Pisa and guessed it had a bit of a tilt but this thing really looks like it’s about to fall over. Mad. Lovely hills in the background, I might try and rent a bike.

15.00 Afternoon nap

16.00 BBC World is great! For a start they decide to spread their weather reports out over the hour, I know it’ll be foggy in Beijing on Tuesday but I’ll have to wait some unknown length of time to find out about Pisa. The Italian channels have beautiful people fighting with swords, I guess I don’t really need to understand what they’re saying.

17.00 “Just because somebody believes they’re the reincarnation of Jesus Christ it doesn’t make their opinions on other things invalid”. Genius line from a documentary about conspiracy theorists.

18.00 Is graffitti an italian word? There’s loads of it here which is a shame, surely there are better ways of fighting facism than painting ‘no facism’ on the wall of some historic building. And also better ways of desecrating historic buildings. I’m off to find some food, hopefully with wine.

Conference starts tomorrow – should be good. Also I’m generally not keeping my phone on so if you want to contact me then email is a good way.


November 24, 2009

Richard II

Hmm, it seems people have been commenting on my blog, wonderful. Unfortunately I’ve been neglectful and didn’t notice. Still, to flog a dead horse (is that a real expression, I’m somewhat dubious seeing it written down..), yes Richard most definitely does look like Art Garfunkel. I realise that most people reading this will be somewhat more familiar with Art Garfunkel than with Bridget’s dad, but here are Simon and Garfunkel at the concert in central park.

You have to click to about two minutes to avoid the irritating rubbish at the start

If I can write another two entries about him then I can call them Richard III and Henry IV part I, this will be hilarious. Still, if he ever stumbled across this he might find it a bit odd. Maybe better not.


September 16, 2009

Richard

Now the last thing I’d want is google searches for my name bringing up the blog of some muppet friend of my daughter, so I’m not going to right Richard’s full name, but does anybody think that Art Garfunkel looks a bit like Bridget’s dad from some angles? And since most people reading this won’t have any clue who I’m talking about, isn’t this song immense.

Simon & Garfunkel sing, “The Sound of Silence” in Central Park

Hmm, didn’t embed quite as I’d hoped but you can click the link


August 15, 2009

The Arts Student

Old adversaries you and I. And it was always you, with that steady self assurance and easy charm, it was always you the victor. I guess you pitied me somehow, with my awkward ways and usefulness to the world. I remember that look in your eyes when you told me that ‘dynamical’ really isn’t a word. But I’ve got something on you now, something big. Bigger than that time they caught the pope shoplifting. I mean when I was in Gauss’ graveyard and I really had to go you didn’t catch me relieving myself near his grave, I have more respect than that. You guys piss on your gods.

Maybe I’m being cryptic, perhaps you’re thinking of worse things and wondering how I found out. So I’ll get straight to the point. You write in library books. At first as I was flicking through a copy of Wide Sargasso Sea I thought it was just a fluke. But no, your inane and ridiculous comments fill every page of each of the five copies in the library. And then it’s not just that book, but all of them. I find the speech ‘to be or not to be’ annotated ‘Hamlet is in a funny mood’. Real deep.

So next time you smile condescendingly and place your arm on mine I’ll return the smile and let my eyes too fill with pity. Perhaps you won’t understand at first but eventually you’ll realise the mask has slipped. You guys write in library books.


July 21, 2009

Hospitality

You’ve got to admire the hospitality you get when on the continent, the lengths the good people of Goettingen are going to to make me feel at home are simply extraordinary.

The Blue Note

I look forward to a night of sticky floors and underage drinkers

[EDIT] The picture was the right way around on my computer…


July 12, 2009

Chiropractor

So I’ve got a Chiropractor. This is exciting. I don’t know why I wrote Chiropractor with a capital letter, perhaps it underlines both my fear and reverence for them. I was going to get a lawyer but then I thought maybe the excitement of suing somebody would be mitigated if I didn’t get back treatment and ended up crippled.

I wondered what she’d be like, the chiropractor, as I cycled from maths towards the practice. Perhaps a beautiful, talented and insightful Donna Moss to my handsome if a little awkward genius Josh Lyman, always on hand to organise my life and social relationships while I sit around being brilliant. This is going to be wonderful. I’ll have a little office in the West Wing and be serving at the pleasure of the president and whenever I need something I can shout Donna in a loud voice and she’ll come over and lovingly disarm me with her gentle mocking while sorting everything out. Tum te tum te tum… Do I daydream to much? I’ve only watched the first four series of The West Wing so if it turns out later that Josh goes mad and kills Donna and then eats her brain with a teaspoon please forgive me, that honestly wasn’t part of my plan….

Anyway, all of my best daydreams are foiled by minor technical details and it seems this time that the good people of Sheila’s wheels, tireless in their effort to rid womankind of the yolk of male oppression, deemed it inappropriate to get me a beautiful young chiropractor. Apparently not content with hitting me with a car they had to go piss on my dreams too, thanks a lot guys. ‘Jim’ my decidedly male and un-Donna like chiropractor makes me fill out lots of boring forms before asking me to colour in where it hurts on a picture of a man. I resist the temptation to draw comedy breasts. Whenever I’ve been for any treatment before I’ve been made to take off my shirt and trousers and lie on the funny bed, it’s kind of what happens when you go for any kind of physio, but here they provide you with a blue gown which goes down to the knee and has velcro running all down the back. On balance I think this is more freaky, and possibly reminiscent of a psychiatric ward, this visit definitely isn’t going to plan. It doesn’t get any better when I go in and Jim is playing with a hammer, “just sit down and relax” he says.

But,as it turns out, Jim is not a psychopath but an extremely good chiropractor. He measures my neck movement with a protractor. So when I get back from Germany I am going to get cured and everything will be excellent again. Alas there’ll still be no Donna Moss for me but that’s life eh..


July 10, 2009

And Now For A Little Russian Folk Music…

Also famous for being the tetris theme.

Which I know doesn’t really count as a blog entry, but I need to pack for Germany.


June 27, 2009

Work Avoidance

Today’s chief method of work avoidance has been reminiscence. Daydreams led me slowly towards a dinner I shared with Caroline at what was at the time Dubrovnik’s only vegetarian restaurant, not particularly fine food it has to be said, during which we only managed to name 49 American states. Times and technology have changed and now sporcle provides a much more efficient way of wasting time on such problems, my knowledge of US states hasn’t improved but somewhat more worryingly I was only able to name seventeen of Time Magazine’s top 100 books given the authors. And no matter how many times I entered ‘The End of The Affair’ it just wasn’t there. Then I went to Waterstone’s with three of the top one hundred on my list and they didn’t have any of them. Troubling.

Anyway, cleaning to do…..


Notes on a Car Crash (2)

Follow-up to Notes on a Car Crash from Kempez's blog

I don’t see her until too late. And I guess she doesn’t see me either. I always like to catch the eyes of the car drivers who are joining the roundabout to check that they know I’m there, so as I’m cycling across I swing my arm out in a huge exaggerated movement to indicate that I’m turning left. The woman in the third lane smiles at me. And then her smile is replaced by a look of absolute horror and I have only a fraction of a second to wonder why before I can see something out of the corner of my eye coming towards me at speed. There’s a huge noise as I’m rolling across her bonnet and then I’m lying face down on the road and for a full five seconds nobody moves. The road is hot. And then I get up, very calmly, drag my bike to the side of the roundabout and sit down on the pavement.

Everybody is asking me lots of questions, and my head is buzzing with thoughts but I can’t think of anything to say. So I just stare at them. I find it funny that the whole roundabout has stopped for me. They all seem quite anxious and my silence doesn’t seem to be helping things, so I say that I didn’t hit my head and I don’t want to go to hospital. I don’t know where the words came from but they’re something I can hold on to and I repeat them five or six times because they seem to calm things a bit. Someone protests that I did hit my head but I don’t want a return to the squabbling so I Ignore him and say that I’d like to go home. My bike is already in the back of a car so I guess that’s where I’m meant to go. The woman who hit me is crying so I smile at her and say that everything is okay really. She gives me her business card and tells me I have to ring her. Apparently she’s in PR. And then somebody drives me home and I’m sitting on the bed in my house and it’s cool and quiet and I’m completely alone. My legs are starting to shake so I lie down and put on Eddie Mair. And finally I sleep.


June 19, 2009

The Banned List

I like banning things. It makes me feel important. The following people are banned from my house.

  • George Galloway
  • Robert Kilroy-Silk
  • Richard Dawkins
  • Ken Livingstone
  • Anne Robinson
  • Julia Hartley-Brewer

Chief crimes are arrogance and general offensiveness. Catherine thinks we should ban Fern Cotton. I don’t think she understands how important my list is. Any other suggestions?


June 16, 2009

Notes on a Car Crash

This entry has appeared in various forms in my head over the past couple of weeks. There’s the dreamy confused sitting at the side of the road and wondering what happened version, the far too graphic to publish in a place my mother might stumble across it version, the euphoria of being alive and the misery of being in pain. Somehow none of these quite captured what I felt, so we’ll have to settle for the matter of fact what can I learn from all this version; I’m sure it’s rather dull but I wanted to write it.

Two weeks ago I was hit by a car. I was riding home from the maths block at about four thirty and crossing over the roundabout by Canley fire station when a car who was joining the roundabout failed to see me. A last minute squeal of brakes was not enough to prevent her hitting me pretty square on and I rolled somewhat ungracefully over her bonnet before landing back on the road. As collisions between cars and bikes go this was not serious, spectacular maybe, but I walked away apparently undamaged with my bike needing only minor servicing.

What I did for the next thirty six hours wasn’t especially sensible. I felt no pain, I’d walked away from what could have been an extremely serious accident, I had adrenaline coursing through my veins and I felt on top of the world. I refused people’s offers to take me to hospital and got people’s details only as an afterthought. When the extremely upset driver rang me to check that I was still alive I assured her that everything was fine and that there was really nothing to worry about. Had my opinion been sought, I would probably have told her not to bother with her insurance company as it would just end up more expensive for her. So when I woke up two days later unable to sit up in bed I realised how fortunate I was that she had done everything through the book and her insurance company were accepting responsibility.

My mum reacted furiously, as is a mother’s prerogative, insisting that this stupid woman should be banned from driving. But I don’t think that covers it, this was bad driving but not the kind of bad driving that I don’t see regularly on the road, and to dismiss it as a chance encounter with an atrocious driver would be to close my eyes to the real danger of being a cyclist.

I have lived with the notion that one can ride defensively, setting yourself a metre out from the pavement so that cars will have to think about overtaking, that if you always have lights and don’t behave in a way that drivers won’t expect then you’re perfectly safe. This is a myth. Of Warwick’s fifty or so maths PhD students, at least four have been knocked off a bike at the Canley roundabout, a staggering statistic given that not all of them ride a bike or commute from Earlsdon.

Bike riders are vulnerable and hard to see, and while we may fume at the actions of bad car drivers we must also accept their existence as a reality that isn’t going to go away any time soon. So from now on I won’t be doing big roundabouts on my bike, and while I’m hesitant to start lecturing people on here I’d really encourage people reading this to think twice before tackling the fire station roundabout again, as far as I’m concerned it’s just not safe.


June 03, 2009

Swine Flu on Campus

Message

help, swine flu is on campus, we’re all going to die. Run my friends, run for the hills, take your girlfriends wives and mistresses and escape. Write a poem, sing a song, live each day as if it were your last. We’re all going to die, argh help help…..

End of message


May 14, 2009

Paris – The Scoresheet So Far

Half way through my first ever conference overseas, I thought I should give an update as to how things are going.

  • Saturday 2pm, Paris 1 – 0 Tom.
    So the channel tunnel wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d expected, really it was just a long tunnel, but I arrive in Paris full of optimism about traveling again. Feeding my one Euro sixty into the machine I pick up a receipt that somebody left in the machine rather than my ticket. Several attempts to cross the ticket barrier later and I realise my mistake but my ticket is gone. First blood to Paris.
  • Saturday 11pm, Paris 1 – 1 Tom.
    It’s Saturday night in Paris and the whole place is alive. I’m wandering with two Canadians and five utterly insane South Americans known collectively as ‘The Peru Team’ towards the Eiffel Tower as we’ve heard it goes crazy at midnight. Wandering is quite the wrong word, we are sprinting through the streets shouting ‘Vamos Vamos’ whenever a decision is made about which direction we should travel in. I take the opportunity to relieve myself behind a bush in one of the extremely posh parks, sure it’s a low goal to claim but it brings me back on parity.
  • Saturday 11:45 pm, Paris 2-1 Tom.
    Among the mass of people under the Eiffel Tower we are separated, suddenly we are in two groups and unable to find each other. Federico, a sole Argentine in our reduced party from the northern hemisphere is distraught, “Oh where is my Peru Team” he can be heard to mutter disconsolately form time to time.
  • Sunday 11 am, Paris 2-1 Tom.
    As a citizen of the European Union (a phrase you wouldn’t see in England!) who is less than 25 years old I get free entry to the Louvre. I alternate between reading Daphne Du Maurier and looking at paintings for about three hours, the sitting and reading makes the experience so much better, I usually appreciate art for a strict maximum of forty five minutes but today I’m having loads of fun. I guess since the Paris authorities sanctioned it this doesn’t really count as a point to me but hey, free culture.
  • Sunday 8 pm, Paris 2-2 Tom.
    Dinner for twenty euros? No thanks, instead I’m invited to the house of Wolfgang, a friend of a friend, where I enjoy four courses at a dinner party of random conference attendees and Wolfgang’s relations. I taste my new favourite cheese, it’s called Epoisses with an acute accent on the e.
  • Monday 9pm, Paris 3-2 Tom.
    It’s opening coffee and I can’t work the machine – things do not look good for my chances of understanding the mathematics.

February 20, 2009

Addressing the Questions Which Matter

A: When washing your hair do you shampoo your sideburns?

B: What about your eyebrows?

My answers are no and no but it’s always interesting to see what people do in the absence of precedent (I’m assuming this isn’t the kind of question which is commonly discussed).


June 09, 2008

Game on!

Writing about web page http://www.telesport.nl/voetbal/ek_2008/4194109/_Van_Nistelrooy_niet_buitenspel__.html?p=3,1

Hurrah!

I don’t care if we peaked too soon, this was a great match to remember – first win over Italy since before I was born!

And: the first goal wasn’t off-side! Apparently, the defender had enough time to join the game again, and cannot put a striker in an off-side position by staying off the field. Double hurrah!

And: none of the Dutch players seemed too bored or incompetent to join in the game. Triple hurrah!


March 03, 2008

No limits

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7274259.stm

Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing. I can say almost anything I want on this blog, although with the slight restriction of a personal responsibility to censor myself:

The test here is not whether you, or your peers, find content offensive; it is whether such content could be deemed offensive to others.

Should public figures, government officials in particular, be held to such censorship as well? A country has a certain image to uphold, and the more prominent a representative becomes, the more synonymous he or she will be for the country’s image in the rest of the world.

At the moment, it seems the Netherlands has turned from the country of clogs, tulips, prostitution, and legalised drugs into the country of Wilders: a country where a limited number of muslims are welcome, as long as they agree to be ridiculed.

You would think that an MP or similar official would operate in the country’s best interest, whilst not ignoring his or her own beliefs and ideals. But where is the line?

Is there a line?


February 20, 2008

Sponsored events

Something I’ve been thinking about for a while, which is by no means meant to make people feel bad…maybe to think.

I don’t know how this kind of fundraising has evolved into what it is today…but what it is today, to me, seems rather odd.

For example, person X has chosen to raise money for charity Y by doing something which itself is very expensive. Is the only way to make someone part with their money for one of their friends/colleagues to, say, cycle across Europe? The focus of the fundraising can, in some cases, be to talk more about ‘the event’ than the actual charity/cause.

Surely a better situation would be for person X to say,

‘Hey, charity Y is a cause I feel strongly about, they do this and that but really need greater financial support, can you please help?’

The response would be,

‘Hmmm…thank you for making me aware of this very needy cause, I will certainly part with some money to help them’

Surely not spending a few thousand pounds of sponsorship money on ‘the event’ and rather giving ALL the money to the charity is much better?

Why does someone have to ‘do something’ usually completely unrelated in order for their friend to give them money?

Maybe people are just mean. They don’t want to just give money away, they want something back…an experience. Maybe people don’t actually care about the causes? Maybe people are too busy to actually care about the good causes and their friend doing something is more interesting than an unknown person far away recieving medical treatment.

Sorry if this seems so cynical – maybe someone can prove me wrong. As I said at the start, I’m not having a go at anyone…just questioning something i find odd. Nor am I looking down on those who do these things – I think its great that money does get raised rather than not getting raised, and I myself have done similar things, but surely we as society can do something for others without doing something for ourselves first?


February 02, 2008

Voor mama

And this is why you should always read the label for washing instructions!

Dieforit

January 29, 2008

I was in Boston

... a few weeks ago. Hence the new banner.

For more photos, go here
or here.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to join facebook to see them!

Edit: P.S. I should probably mention somewhere I created the banner using Autostitch on nine separate photos…