Archive for the ‘Retirement’ Category

Retirement: a new experience.

September 30, 2018

After 34 years and 1 month at Stirling University, I am finally retiring. Officially, from 3 October (my 66th birthday) I will be retired, but my Department held a party for me (and my wife) on Friday, and I’ve decided that I will not work this week, if only to ensure that i actually feel as though I have retired.

Last week was eventful: on Monday we bought a new car (a Jaguar – the first properly good car I’ve had in my life), on Tuesday our beloved, but very old dog, Lara was put down, on Thursday I gave my last lecture, and on Friday, there was the party for my retirement. Perhaps it’s not surprising that I feel just a little unsettled this Sunday evening, looking forward to next week, (and beyond) not quite knowing what to expect.

I had hoped to transition from being a Professor (paid) to being an Emeritus Professor (unpaid) smoothly, and therefore applied to be an Emeritus in April. But it was not to be: an email got lost somewhere, and the application will go forward to the University Court in December (where, hopefully, it will be approved). I’ve got the University to agree not to take me off their email list, and to let me keep my office for now, but my official status is unclear. I do have projects I’m working on (and indeed, I’m writing this on a laptop that belongs to the University), and these will keep me in contact with current University staff.

For now, though, I need to think a bit about ways forward. Or do I? Shall I simply go for a drive in the nice shiny new Jaguar, or for a ride on my e-bicycle?

I feel the need for something  longer-term than these evanescent though enjoyable activities. The projects I have continue the research I’ve been doing (on early auditory processing, and working with the context project at Stirling). And then there’s music: something I’ve been doing even longer than Computing (from which I’ve been earning a living since 1974). Jazz piano, and (very) basic clarinet. But how to take these disparate element forward, and make something of them, I can’t really see just now. I do, however, have the time to think about ways forward, which itself is something rather new.

Advertisements

Fixing my electric piano

February 9, 2018

IMG_1846I have a Roland FP-4F electric piano which I really like. It gets carried around quite a lot, mostly to The Dunblane for sessions (and the occasional gig!), but also to other sessions & gigs. Last week it started to have a problem with the control that mixes the rhythm and the piano sound (actually, I never use the rhythm, but well, the control’s still there), and I thought I’d better do something about it before it failed completely.

So I emailed Roland, ask asked them if they supplied spares for it. No response. Not surprising, really, because they want repairs to be carried out by their own technicians, or approved centres, but that’s at least an hour away, and I’d not have the piano for weeks. So I took matters into my own hands.

Fortunately, I have access to a reasonably well-equipped lab, with a decent sized bench on which I could take the machine apart. It (only!) has about 40 screws on the base, which I undid, and then it comes to pieces, as can be seen above. It took a couple of hours to take the appropriate circuit board out, de-solder the control and remove it, and attempt to measure exactly what sort of potentiometer it was. I eventually concluded it was a 20 KΩ linear potentiometer, and I even found the right one as manufactured by Panasonic. But instead of sending away for one (the website seemed to want one to order rather a lot of them) I bought a old fashioned one from Maplin in Stirling, and installed it, wiring it to the printed circuit board. (There was enough space!)

Re-assembling it was actually harder than disassembly – I had to take it even further apart. But it works, and I’m ready to play in a session on Sunday.

Cost of repair: £1.80 (for two potentiometers, only one of which I used), plus a total of about 7 hours work, including bussing it into Stirling, coming home for a saw to cut the potentiometer spindle down to a reasonable size, and travelling back to the Uni to finish the job. If I costed my own time, it wouldn’t be a bargain, but well….I’m partially retired, and I’ve always like mending things.

 

Last day full-time…

October 27, 2017

So that’s it then. After 33 years at Stirling University, or 37 years as an academic, or having worked or been a student since I was 17 (with time off for the occasional holiday), I’m down to 20% as from 1 November. And since I’m going on holiday to Iceland next week, today was my last day full-time at the University. I’ll be semi-retired: I can be told what to do at work one day a week, and I can do what I want (whether at work or not) the rest of the time. I’m still quite involved in things academic, between the SICSA AI theme, the University of Stirling Context project, and working with the INI DAS1 silicon cochlea.

Today was a bit of an anti-climax, however. I’ve had little teaching this semester (because of this change half-way through), and ever since I demitted as Head of Department, I’ve felt as though I had retired! Yes, we had some cake and biscuits, yes a few of us went for a drink, but it didn’t feel very celebratory. Perhaps it was the faculty meeting this morning (the usual: bring in more money, write more 4* papers for the REF, keep the lovely students happy by giving them feedback quickly, and don’t confuse them by presenting them with a web presence that doesn’t conform to University norms, be ambitious but realistic on our achieving success forms, …), perhaps it was just me, world-weary after so long in post (have I really seen it all before? Or is it really a bright and shiny new world out there?). Whatever, as the young say: it felt like a bit of a let-down.

And now? Nearly midnight, with a small nightcap of Lagavullin, and some dark chocolate (thanks, Noel, for suggesting this a a conference in Skövde quite a long time ago: dark chocolate and malt whisky are a lovely mix), I have time to reflect. I’m still interested in research, and perhaps more interested in explaining to a lay audience. Artificial Intelligence, bio-mimetic computing, early auditory processing, still needing developed. Of course I know that others can and will take this work forward. And I should be able to send more time playing music as well, and maybe playing with one electronics too.

Or maybe I’ll just drink more whisky. And eat more dark chocolate.

A little light jazz

July 20, 2017

As I get towards retirement from academia, I’m trying to get more music going on. I’ve now decided to go down to 20% come the end of October 2017, and that’s getting to be soon…

So I’ve taken a little of a recording session Angus Scott (Saxophone) and I (Electronic Piano) did (here, in the garage, single take, no editing!) and put it up on Soundcloud. Have a listen to Rosetta and How High the Moon. The picture on Soundcloud is from a visit to a jazz club in the Cascadas bar in Hamburg a few years ago.

And meanwhile, I’m learning the clarinet – maybe one day I’ll try performing on it as well, but it’s hard!

Towards retirement (1)

February 4, 2017

Last week, week 3 of the Spring semester here, I finally made up my mind to go to half-time in my post, as from October, when I turn 65. I found it hard to decide: to keep working till I drop (what else is there to do?), to retire entirely (and be an emeritus Prof, and do just those things I want to do), but finally I decided to compromise, and to work half-time. Of course, the  danger is that I’ll actually work full-time for half the salary. What I need to do is to negotiate what half-time actually means for me. My Head of Department reckons a half teaching load, but I’m more interested in continuing to co-chair  SICSA Artificial Intelligence theme, and to keep my work on Neuroinformatics (including the British Neuroscience Association’s first SIG) going as well. So I’d like to be more involved with these than with teaching,  and so do rather less than half a teaching load. In one of this week’s lectures, I was trying to think of an area of mainstream Computing I’d never taught, and I found it hard to find one! So perhaps it’s time to move on.

Interestingly, as part of teaching a slightly more advanced Java course than usual to the 2nd year, I decided to write  a piece of software in Java, rather than my usual MATLAB. This was an interesting adventure, because I hadn’t really written anything serious in Java before (though I had written a substantial program in Objective C). So now I have bits of a spike-based echo state machine , though not yet the readout part. It certainly was useful, both because it helped me teach the class (nothing quite like recent experience!), and because writing the software in an object-oriented language, rather than simply coding a few matrix operations in MATLAB showed me some of the subtleties of ESM’s.

Of course, impending (even if partial) retirement make me ask myself some difficult questions: am I past my best? should I simply stand down? I know I have a bit less energy – I’m quite tired if I have to give two lectures in  a row, like I did last Wednesday and will of again this Wednesday. But for  now, I’m not quite surplus to requirements yet! And perhaps I can gradually take up some of my other interests more, like playing piano, and perhaps even learning a new instrument.