22 October 2017

Me too

Sometimes, a social media hype touches you. Sometimes, they make a difference. The ice bucket challenge, which I didn't join, actually did raise so much money it made a significant contribution to research on the disease. When I started to see people post 'me too' on Facebook, I felt I should join. Started by actress Alyssa Milano (for the rare people who didn't know that already) it was clearly meant to give sexual violence/intimidation/harassment a face. Statistics are one thing, and probably wildly unreliable anyway in this context as people are notoriously reluctant to talk about this, but if you hear it from people you know, very many people you know, the message might hit home. I think women in general know how widespread this sort of thing is, but do all the men know? I think not. I posted as well.

So what was I posting about? Do I want to talk about it? Well, not all of it. But I can mention the men hitting on me in public transport, and who wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. And when I was relieved to reach my stop I found they get out too and followed me. I'm not defenseless, but that's just scary! There is no guarantee at all I could keep a man like that off me.

I can mention the bunch of young men on a deserted railway station, one of which pissing on the rails. When he saw me he addressed me without putting his cock back first, and that seemed quite on purpose. I don't remember what he said but I do remember I was trying to look cool and un-intimidated while quickly assessing which direction I could run in.

Or shall I mention the man masturbating in the park?

Or the men who wrapped an 'amicable' arm around my shoulders, to try to feel my breast from the side? Or those that slapped me on the bum?

Or the men that sat next to me, unnecessarily close, in (again) public transport, especially when you consider the carriage was otherwise empty? Or those that moved their hand over mine when I was holding on to the vertical bar so as not to fall over when the carriage decelerates?

What about the man at the bus stop (public transport again!) who said he would come with me, and yelled all kinds of rather unfriendly things at me when I said he certainly was not, and stuck to my opinion? And who passed me several times more in the months to follow, clearly recognised me, and grinned menacingly?

Or maybe the man who suddenly lowered his head to kiss me straight on (or probably, rather in) the mouth at a party, and who I only managed to stop before it was too late because I didn't trust him at all? And why did I not trust him? Gut feeling. Never ignore your gut feeling!

Or that bloke who said I wanted to have sex with him, and that if I erroneously thought I did not, that  that was irrelevant; he knew best. He had made sure to point out his muscular physique first.

A man who grabbed my head and pulled it towards his crotch. Just banter, of course.

So many of the male cleaners at university who immediately got too keen if you greeted them. It was so common I turned rude and ignored them altogether. I hate the snootiness of pretending cleaners aren't people! But I'd had enough. Luckily there were some female cleaners too; I could greet them all I wanted without any of them then getting unpleasant.

A man who threatened to pull my breast out of my clothes in public as revenge for me having slightly mocked him.

A creepy GP that was a bit too keen pointing out that some of his patients fall in love with him. Luckily there were more GPs available in the area.

Need more? I hope not. There's more of course. Among other things, I've left out all the men shouting things on the street, but in more fleeting circumstances. Men you can get away from quite easily. Things like that blend into one amorphous blob over time.

What strikes me in that list is that most of this was in my time in the Netherlands. I don't know if it just happens less when you're older, or because I now live in countries with scarce public transport, or because I have got better at avoiding it. Maybe all of it. I'm glad with the change but I also know that it also means most happened when I was more vulnerable.

So now what? I think there are quite some men who indeed had underestimated the magnitude of the issue. Maybe they might think about it a bit more. Maybe even speak out. Maybe think twice before they made a questionable remark. I sincerely hope so!

On the radio, a woman called the whole episode mass hysteria, and women wallowing in victimship. I don't see that. Does worrying about this make anyone some trembling damsel in distress? Heck no. Anyone faced with a potentially outnumbering enemy is right to worry. (One person can already outnumber you if they are particularly big and/or competent in fighting.) And what I see is women making this personal for men. Do I normally tell the men around me about this? Well, not regularly, one prefers to talk about happier things. But maybe I should. I've started now. If I don't say anything, how can I expect wider society to know?

And what more do I want people to know? Parents, tell your children to trust their gut feeling. They'll need it! And every single time I was young and inexperienced and thought to myself 'why shouldn't I trust this person, I am just being silly' I regretted it. Tell your children to trust their gut feeling! (A lady in the Guardian said pretty much the same thing!) And speak out if you see or hear something like the above happening. If people feel like they won't get away with such behaviour, they might think twice! People used to smoke indoors everywhere all the time, and that's become unacceptable; change can and does happen.

I would also recommend everyone to watch the 'kjaere pappa' video... (linked here in the English translation). I think it says well why I think it is important to address the smaller things: the jokes, the casual remarks; I don't think they are separate from the bigger things...

20 October 2017

Sent home by a storm

The morning was quiet. Quiet and clear! But there was a weather warning. One had to place one's faith in the MET office that this pleasant day would end stormy! Storm Ophelia was on its way. I did trust the MET office and drove in as I was a bit under the weather and didn't want to bike around in a storm. I had a tutorial on the mainland so it was more travel than when I'm just in the office. I was hoping travel wouldn't be too disrupted. It's not far, but the bridge is a bit of a bottleneck!

The first thing that was odd was the sun going funny. It was widely documented; there was forest fire smoke and Saharan dust in the atmosphere, and therefore the sun turned red. It was quite beautiful! I didn't manage to take a decent picture, but well, I pointed it out to David and he did. I'm glad he did!

 David's pic of the red sun

Later the wind picked up. An email had already gone out that all field trips would be cancelled. Seemed fair; my colleague Dei would be taking students to Rhoscolyn, and that's not a place you want to be in heavy wind. But while it still didn't look menacing outside another email came in; the university expected trees falling over and power cuts and mayhem and would entirely close at 2PM. Eh, OK! Not ideal; I had a lot to do, but hey ho.

I dutifully logged out at 2PM. Then I went to the door. It was 2:03. The door wouldn't open. Oh dear. While I tried in vain to phone security (they can remotely open it from the mainland) one of the technicians appeared. And then Jaco. The technician did the reasonable thing: she phoned the head technician. In the meantime Jaco tried to get out through his lab, but he couldn't even get into it. The place had properly gone into lockdown! I'd never seen anything like that.

Then the head technician appeared. He managed to get out, via the wheelchair route, and tried to then open the 'normal door' from the outside. He couldn't! And seemed to not be able to get back in either. But he told the other technician to go out via their storage room. That worked! The door into it had a digital lock, but it was a stand-alone; the outside door had an old-fashioned mechanical lock. We were free!

I went home and continued working there. It worked alright! There were no power cuts.

At some point I heard quite a racket. I had a look; outside, my top recycling bin was somersaulting through the back garden, independent of its lid. Oh dear. I could see my neighbour's bin felt like joining. I took both sets (we have snazzy stacks of three boxes for different recyclables on a trolley) into my garage, and threw a note through the neighbour's door that I had nicked his bins but would put them back after the storm would recede.

Nothing else really happened! Ophelia blew over some trees in town but that was all. Fine with me; Doris wreaked a lot more havoc and, well, we can do without! 

David went to the beach (the same as this one) to photograph waves when he was booted out of the office!

19 October 2017

Pushed it a bit hard

Tuesday was a long day; first the field trip with the students, then briefly to the office, only to then bike to Welsh class in the evening. During the class I started coughing a bit, but thought no more of it.

Wednesday was a long day too, with a long day at work, then meeting Jenny, and then seeing Phill Jupitus with Marjan. And Thursdays are always long days. I knew I had to be careful but I still misjudged. It was Friday next, and I finally had nothing other than work, but there was a lot of it. I got home a bit late.

There was still a lot to do I went into the office on Saturday. The students had done the online test, and I wanted to collate all results so I could evaluate the results with the students the next time I saw them. And you can download exactly who get which question right, but not who gavce what answer! And I wanted to know what traps the students had fallen into. If you know what false answers they are tempted by, you can tell them why these were wrong.

I also wanted to collate the data collected during the field trip; I wanted to see what strange things the students may have done, so I could discuss what to do with that. But it's a lot of work! So I went into the office and worked until 18:30. During the course of the day, I started feeling that my throat was getting sore. Oh dear! That's always the canary in the coal mine. If the throat goes I go. I was glad to have finished my stuff.

On Sunday I stayed home. I did have my glaciology book so I could do some leasurely lecture prep while at home. I also had to design a route for the upcoming Swamphike! Still no rest for the wicked. I turned to Lemsip (other medicinal beverages are available) and Beechams (other lozenges are avialable) to get me through the day. I hoped that would be enough!

I would go to work on Monday but I decided to drive in. There was a severe weather warning on, and I didn't fancy biking across the bridge (for a tutorial) in severe weather with such a cold! And I decided to drive on Tuesday too. I had Welsh class again, but I felt so awful I went home in the coffee break. I would drive Wednesday still... I hope I will get better soon! And I know some of you will suggest not working so hard, but eh, the work has to be done! I'm sure my body can rest while my mind works. Can't it...?

17 October 2017

Wet mine

It's nice to make progress in the dig, but it's also nice to just go on a scamper with the Thursdaynighters. I hadn't in a while, but Miles would be away for a bit, so I would show my face again. They had picked a mine I had only been in in 2014, so I was glad to get to see it again!

Beforehand there was a bit of a tense discussion with David; would we go in one or two cars? For both of us, it was a demanding week; for me, that is a cue to make sure I get my sleep. For him, it is a cue to hang out with the Thursdaynighters as much as he can. He wanted to go for a pizza afterwards, but he knew I wouldn't appreciate that. So what to do? I decided to jump into his car anyway. A bit silly to want to reconnect with the TN and then cutting out two hours of socialising. But it would get difficult. If you want to piss me off, quite easy options are coming between me and my sleep, or me and my drinking water. So we'd see what would happen...

We set off, with Paul in the back. We got to the meeting point where we met only Mick and Jason; nobody else could make it. We changed and walked up. It's not far!

We walked in. I didn't quite remember it all. There was a side passage I had forgot about, but once we got into it it started dawning on me I had been there before. Oh well! We continued making our way in. It was wetter than the previous time! It came up to my breastbone. Cold! But we got there. We had to help Mick over the dam, and soon we were in the chamber with the drum I remembered.

Jason in the somewhat iffy side passage

From there we went on to explore a bit more. At the junction we had only found after a while the previous time, we now walked straight into the passage that held a lot more stuff. We even found a passage we had not noticed the previous time. It went! And went. And went. We saw lots of passages and chambers, and clambered up countless scree slopes, and found many chamberes that went further than our lights reached, and which felt close to the surface. At one point I had seen a stacked wall with David; from it, you could see another passage. Paul and I climbed up yet another waste tip to see if we could find it. We did! It lead to yet another scree slope you could climb onto. And walk out into fresh air! Interesting.

A big broken jar

The stacked wall I saw with David

A passage through a waste tip; notice the sturdy ceiling

At some point we came to a collapse beyond which I had been the previous time. Jason was keen to explore beyond, but Mick was seizing up so he didn't want to. Paul and I volunteered to stay with him. I figured I should eat and drink some; if I would get that over with now I wouldn't have to spend time on it at home, and could be in bed quicker. But one of the reasons why Mick was seizing up was that he was cold; David and Jason did not reappear and Mick wanted to go out. Paul went with him. I stayed to let the others know. I figured they'd be back soon. They weren't.

I waited for a bit, and then decided to go and find them. I clambered over two collapses, and checked a side passage they surely weren't in. Then I went on. No sign of them! Then I came to a junction. Oh dear. It went both ways. If I would explore one direction, they would sure appear out of the other, and we would miss each other. What could I do? I toook two pictures and then decided to go back to where I had been waiting initially, but to have a leak along the way. I didn't want to be in full view, but neither did I want to be so hidden they would pass me unnoticed. I found a sticky-uppy stone and decided that would do as a shelter.

The ominous junction

Of course I heard voices as soon as I sat there in pretty much nothing. Oh well! These men have seen worse. At least they now were back. We made our way back! David suggested we go out the dry way; up a scree slope and out. That would be a lot dryer than the adit. We went for it.

We got out and David mentioned he was just guessing where we had to go next. That worried me! I did not want to get lost now. But we found the way down, and back to the cars. Good! We changed and went to Mick's. Mick had taken Paul home.

We brought Paul his dry clothes (which had been in David's car) and sat down for a tea. I had a quick shower; yet something else I then didn't have to do at home! This way David could eat cake with the others while I kept the damage limited.

By the time we went home it wasn't even that late. Success! We forgot to pick my car up on the way back but that didn't matter very much.

It had been a bit of a tense evening; I had been a bit miffed when David and Jason stayed away so long when they knew they left a cold Mick behind, and I didn't like the thought of not knowing the way back to the cars from our alternative way out. But in the end it all worked out well. I don't think I've ever been in bed so quickly after coming home from an underground trip! And the next day I could work at full speed. Which was needed!

16 October 2017

Phill Jupitus

When our local theatre/cinema opened, I was quite enthusiastic. But then I ended up not actually going there very much. Hardly at all. Except for work, that is; I regularly give lectures there. But that's different.

I had been to see a few films. That's nice! But it's a theatre too. I go see theatre even less than films. I had intended to see a Welsh language play but couldn't, as I was too busy visiting the BGS at the time. But once my friend Marjan had lugged me to a performance by Nina Conti. That had been in Llandudno, but still. She tends to ask me if her husband Jaco can't join her. And he would be travelling again when Phill Jupitus would perform. I was happy to go with her! She saves me from complete culture fasting.

The Pontio building at night, seen from its top entrance

I had had a hectic day at work, and then my usual meet with my Welsh tutor, and then I had biked up. Marjan also had to celebrate a 50th birthday that day so we didn't travel up, or eat, together. We met in the foyer and went in. Phill Jupitus was already sitting on stage, with his back turned to the audience. He was just playing some records.

When it was eight o'clock he turned around, and announced the warm-up act: Porky the Poet. That's just Phill Jupitus wearing a hat. That's fine! He was quite good. He had a long and amusing poem about being the warm-up act for Madness. And some more nice observations. And some poems I didn't quite get.

 This white figure is Phill Jupitus, honest

After a while he said it was the interval. He didn't go away, though; he just started to throw Tunnock's tea cakes (negerzoenen!) and biscuits into the audience. And handed out buttons. And posed for millions of selfies.

After a while he went on as himself. That involved a guitar and some songs. And more personal experiences. He spoke of fatherhood, both of infants and of adults; he spoke of his dislike of the likes of Trump, Farage and Hopkins. He took the piss of the North Welsh audience. He related how he and Mark Steel once were given a honorary doctorship at the university of Kent, and had a bit of an irreverent approach to that. He took the piss out of Coldplay and Eddie Izzard. And owls (?). He spoke of moving to Scotland and enjoying the heart attack-inducing food there. Some of it was easy; who in their right mind likes Trump, Farage or Hopkins? But it was rather entertaining altogether.

When he was done he played another record and did a little dance. I sort of felt like joining, but it already was bedtime and I still had to bike home. So Marjan and I just scooted. Who knows when I'll be in there again!

15 October 2017

Into the field with the students again

One of the highlights of the Ice and Oceans module is the annual field trip. We take the students to the beach to go and see glacial sediments, and to the mountains to see glacial erosion. We make them take measurements and then go home and interpret the results.

One of the most important things for this trip is the weather. It can be quite unpleasant in the mountains, if the weather is grim! But the forecast was good.

On the day I drove the minibus drivers to the minibus pick-up place, and drove to Main Arts where we picked up the students, and Lynda, who would join us. Then we were off to Aberogwen! We met some self-driving students, and Tasha with her dogs, there. We had to do the beach first, as it was high tide in the afternoon. It was nice!

Lynda mentioned she had been phoned by some colleague as one student had shown up at the wrong place, so had missed our minibuses. I emailed him how to get to where we were, while Lynda already started the spiel on what we were doing and seeing there. That was great! It's good to have a glaciologist with you.

We set the students to work. They seemed to be in a good mood! They were measuring away. Soon the first group was done. They were all quite executive! When all were done I pointed out some especially interesting sediments that fell outside the scope of the trip. Then we were back at the minibuses. Time to drive to Llanberis for lunch.

Students measuring clasts. Pic by David.

In Llanberis there was a bit of panic; we seemed to have one student fewer than before. Oh dear! But we couldn't do much about that with all of them scattered around the town for lunch. We went to Pete's Eats to have some food ourselves. When we got back to the minibuses we did an inventory, and found out one student had signed in with two of the minibuses. He was only one person! So that solved it. We then decided we didn't need to bring all minibuses to Pen-y-Pass, which is notoriously busy. We would all fit inside the minibuses! And Llanberis itself is busy too, so we all drove to a nearby lay-by, left two vehicles, and drove on. Pen-y-Pass was busy indeed, so the minibus drivers decided to unload the students and drive back to aforementioned lay-by. There they could park all three bulky vehicles and come back with only one smaller car. Smart! I rounded up the students and started walking.

When we got to the lake there was good news and bad. The good news was that we had to wait for the slower students to arrive, so I had time for a hot beverage, but the bad news was that the water level was really high. A lot of the glacial striations we would be looking for were under water! Oh dear. But what can you do.

When everybody was up I did my spiel, in which I explain why we are there and what they are expected to do. And then they were off! Lynda and I scampered around to check all students found striations, that they didn't accidentally measure lineations in the lithology, that they wouldn't take their measurements over too large an area, and suchlike. This year it was indeed difficult to find enough for all, but we got there.

Students looking for striations. Pic by David

The water level was so high as to almost overtop the causeway! Pic by David

Students with impressive backdrop

David canoodling with the dogs

When they were all done I did another spiel, and gathered all the data. A few people preferred to hand it in later, in excel, but I went home with quite a lot. And with that we started back. Now we only had to drop the students at the main building, bring the minibuses back, and then bring all drivers back to Ocean Sciences. There we unloaded the helmets and other materials and the day was done. Now the slightly duller task of data entry awaited!

14 October 2017

Chinese shear

I tend to have lunch with a bunch of nice PhD students. One of them is a Chinese woman called Jingnan. She had been working really hard in the recent months (years) and had finished the write-up. She did her viva when I had Monique visiting so I wasn't there to congratulate her when she came out. But I got a chance to redeem myself!

When I was back in the office she came knocking. She  said she had been given revisions to do, and she had to do them fast. She had to go back to China soon, and start her post-PhD job! But she had been told her English wasn't good enough. Would I be willing to proof-read and correct a chapter? And I was! It's not easy though; I'm not at all an expert in the subject material so sometimes I'm just not sure what she's saying. She's a physical oceanographer who calculates all sorts of processes in Matlab. I only get one chapter so I don't know what the entire thesis is about, but this chapter is basically about how wind and tide act on a water body in various states of stratification. Shear is part of that.

I wrestled through it on Saturday, and spontaneously left it at home on Monday. Tuesday I was in the field, but Wednesday I finally went through it with her. That went well! And there were some sentences I just didn't understand due to a combination of Chinese sentence stucture and my lack of understanding of physical oceanography. But she explained all! And we were both happy with the result. I hope it'll be a thesis she is proud of!

File:Example blt 31Jan2002 Argo2.png

Graph of a stratified water mass - by Ehackert