30 May 2012

The Dutch navy in a quarry

Nobody expects the Dutch Navy! That sure is true on a sunny day, which is utilised for a walk on Dartmoor. I thought I'd show Hugh Foggintor Quarry. We took our time getting there; no reason why one should not seek the shelter of an old railway bridge for some reading and basking in the sun. But we reached the quarry anyway; soon we heard that we were not its only visitors. And turning a corner we saw a young man suspended above the quarry floor. He was travelling along a rope that stretched across the quarry. We hadn't seen that one coming! And upon closer approach we found out this was a training exercise by the Dutch Navy. The youngsters were not just crossing the quarry in the air; they were also rock climbing, abseiling into water, swimming, and abseiling face first. And who knows what else. It looked like a lot of fun!

It was very windy that day; we chose this bridge as a calm place for applying sun cream. And while we were at it anyway we also read a bit, sunbathed, and had a sandwich. Very nice!

The path that went underneath the bridge had sustained some damage...

The suspended marine

 The lake in the quarry

28 May 2012

Standing up for Science

“We try to get it right, and we are generally nice people!” If people feel the need to confirm this something is probably wrong. So who was saying this to whom? It was a science journalist in front of a room full of scientists. They should be the best of friends; science journalists wouldn’t have a job without scientists, and scientists would struggle to get their work noticed by society without the science journalists. But a lot of mistrust hangs over this collaboration.

Where did this attempt to bridge the abyss take place? At the afore-mentioned course on science communication “Standing up for Science”, organised by “Sense About Science”. The latter is a charity aimed at helping scientists to get their message across, and helping the community to find the scientific support it needs. They were approached, for example, by an organisation of fire fighters, who were worried about clambering around on roofs just next to phone antennas. Would the radiation pose a threat? If one asks internet one can get all sorts of loudly proclaimed opinions, but who to trust? Sense About Science will show you the way!

The glamorous venue at Belgrave Square, kindly provided by the Society of Chemical Industry

Another of their actions has been to write a flyer on the peer review process. For those unfamiliar with it; it is the selection process scientific manuscripts go through. If you send one to a journal, the editor will ask a few fellow experts in the field to review your manuscript. They can recommend publication as is, revision, or rejection. The editor has the final say. As scientists have something to lose by letting standards slip, this process tends to be very thorough. Sense About Science has explained it a bit better than I just have. They point out the merits, but also the weaknesses of this process. And explain the relative merit of peer-reviewed sources compared to other sources. And they have sent 1/2 million copies out in all directions, making it a part of civil service training and a school resource. One could assume many lay people would not be aware of this phenomenon, and might make the mistake of equating proper scientific literature with, say, any polemic in a blog. They also sent a flyer about statistics and how to make sense of them to it to all MP's and lords in the houses of parliament! And I don't know how many of these flyers have gone linea recta into the waste paper bins, but every single one that is read and taken heed of is a major triumph.

At this occasion they had organised a workshop for early career scientists to give them some advice of getting their message across. In order to do that they had invited three panels of experts: one with researchers who had lots of experience with the media, one with science journalists, and one with people such as media officers.

One of the researchers, Steve Keevil of (among others) King’s College in London, had a fascinating story to tell. He was involved in MRI science; something evidently very societally relevant. His field was shaken up when an EU directive would become effective which would seriously limit the use of MRI. All with the best intentions, but in effect severely limiting the diagnostic methods available to the medical profession. He had alerted some powers that be, but these had just said he had to live with it. EU directives are irreversible!

The panel of researchers. With Steve Keevil talking

He had then contacted Sense About Science. They had advised him to send out a press release and hold a press conference. He thought they had gone mad! But he did it. And it caught the attention of the public. And through that, it caught the attention of politicians. Before he knew it he was on a panel that advised parliament. That EU directive has been postponed more than once. And is likely not to be passed at all. Victory!

The journalists, after reassuring us they’re not trying to stitch us up, also had interesting stories. One lady working for science programmes on the radio (Michelle Martin) said she often phones scientists to see if they are willing and able to collaborate on a programme. And that phone conversation is the dress rehearsal. So scientists; don’t save your brilliance for the actual interview; if you do that it may not come!

The last panel included a lady from SAS itself. She encouraged us to become a member of their network “Voice of Young Science” (VoYS); the people they call on if they get a request from the public. They always have use for more people! And it is a great chance to now and then really make a difference. I was glad to hear that you don’t actually have to be below any specific age to join...

The charming courtyard of the venue, which accommodated the tea break

With all these panels the room had lots of discussions, and between these sessions there were group discussions of only the scientists. It was great to hear all these things, get all sorts of new ideas (I’ll start tweeting! And join VoYS! *) and make contacts with all these other people out there who are interested in science communication.

My last question was if someone had a tip on how to deal with aggressive comments. One quite regularly bumps into climate sceptics who think all scientists are part of some nasty conspiracy, and they are not particularly keen on listening to a balanced scientific argument. It’s all part of the conspiracy, right? A Danish girl stepped in there, and said she had witnessed an astronomer being interrupted by someone saying “but the moon landing, that was all fake, wasn’t it?” The astronomer then didn’t open a register of scientific publications based on the moon landing; he just said “if it was fake, don’t you think the Soviets would have found out, and loudly exposed this scam?” I should keep that answer in mind...

On the way back I walked through a summery Hyde Park

*And I have! Partially documented already...

26 May 2012


Times are changing! I started a science blog, I registered for two courses in science communication, and now I joined Twitter! Thanks to my rare name I can just use it as my Twitter ID; I'm MargotSaher. From now on I will cast broader. And hopefully catch endlessly many more seeds from others!

Running against cancer

A lot of people get to suffer from cancer at some point in their life, and I don't like suffering. So in an idealistic mood I clicked "yes" when, registering for the Plymouth Half Marathon, I was asked if I would run for charity. And then I was the usual self-absorbed oaf for months, who thought I would start fundraising tomorrow. Well, tomorrow has come! I have set up a fundraising page. I don't expect much as I didn't make much of an effort myself, but who knows, every penny that comes in might do some good!


Covering new (under)ground

Science! My favourite thing!

Caving! My favourite thing!

Both! My favourite thing!

I already once bumped into a guy who had written his PhD thesis on a mine I had visited. Nice when your job meets your hobbies! And I was aware that about an hour’s drive east, at Berry Head, there was a quarry with loads of caves in them, of which some were of scientific interest. At least one was tidal, and had foraminifera in it! Well that grabs my attention. So when a trip came up to these caves I made sure I was on the list.

Five of us (the maximum number for this cave) drove into the quarry and changed. Two guys had come in a car identical to mine! I was most charmed. And that was only the beginning. Walking into the quarry proper was almost worth the long drive; multicoloured lime stone, quarried out very deep, with a tidal puddle in the middle, and lots of holes in the sides. And all of that festooned with inquisitive bats.

Small cars in big quarry

Rupert, keeper of the gate

Confused cavers at tidal pool

We now had to find the entrance of our cave of preference: Corbridge Cave. Which was harder than you would guess! After Rupert did not find it very soon we all swarmed out. We found many holes, but not the right one. What Rupert did find was that his lamp was malfunctioning. On his way back to the car to pick up my spare lamp he found the entrance of the cave...

When he was back we went in. As there are scientifically interesting things in it, and those tend to lose their merit when disturbed, a path was immaculately demarcated by police tape. I had never been there before, but because of the tape I could easily lead the way. I happily scurried through the red mud until, after only a few tens of metres, the tape seemed to indicate we couldn’t go any further. Rupert came up to investigate, and brought out the map. Only then did we notice its scale. It really was the end! Another few tens of metres on the other side, and that was it.

Corbridge cave is very close to the surface, so roots were invading everywhere. With this rare result of root-garlanded speleothem...

As it was so small we took our time looking at all of it. You could, at one point, see the tide going out, and the line in the water between fresh and saline water. The sediment there had nice current ripples. And on the rock a few alien-looking things were growing. Nice!

A local alien life form

Rupert closing the gate of the cave: the most sporting part of that trip!

When we came out, past a “cute slug” (as identified by the other girl), we were faced with the question: pub, or other cave? We decided on the latter. And on the very tip of the headland (we were on a peninsula) we clambered onto the cliff face and crawled into a little gem: Hogbury Corridor. It was quite small and very tight, but very beautiful. It was worth it! But when we came out it was really time to meet up with the others; there had been three trips in the neighbourhood, and they all ended in the Brixham Yacht Club. There we also met the guy who had done all the research on the cave we had visited. I was so tired I fell asleep in the car on the way back, but I didn’t regret going!

Some creatures seem to die in this cave. Or get dragged there after death...


And a beautiful evening sky as bonus.

25 May 2012

Grown out of a children's bed

When I was living in Amsterdam I was living such a wild life it merited a bed that fits two. I had a 1.5 persons bed; a "doubter" as the Dutch call it. It did its job well but I decided not to bring it to Norway: ot had served its time. And I was leaving my bloke behind.

In Norway I stumbled across a single bed some colleague wanted to get rid off; that came in handy. I didn't have that much space, and well, Floor only visited once every so many months, and for these occasions the sofa bed sufficed. When I became and stayed single I had even less reason to wish to trade my modest bed in. Technically speaking it was a chilren's bed; it was adjustable in size, but I just used it at full length. After the better part of a year I added a proper mattress to it, and then it was really fine.

As it did its job swimmingly I brought the bed with me to England, where it served for a few years more. In the beginning I was single anyway, and when I had Neil he was quite happy to have all the nocturnal time spent together take place at his house. But now I have Hugh. And growing skills in clutter management. When I managed to empty an entire cupboard in my bedroom suddenly there was space for a double bed. So on a convenient Sunday we took the cupboard down and I went to the nearest charity shop that dealt in furniture. I found a spiffing new double bed for a resonable price! So that was a no-brainer. And two days later it was delivered. I almost feel like a grown-up now. And now let's hope this wasn't challenging the gods, and that for the foreseeable future I will have an Australian to fill all that space!

PS The single bed has already found another home!

24 May 2012

Picture gallery

I am complete now. I am surrounded by those I was surrounded by in  my youth. One day I decided that not only do I not see my close relatives very often; they also will not be around forever. So I decided to have my picture taken with all of them. Separately, of course; you can't combine these people without major problems. It took a while to get my complete set, but I now managed! My eldest sister closed the lines; it all took a while as the first attempt resulted in blurry photos, and the next time I saw her was a year later. But better late than never!

22 May 2012

Summer on campus

Britons are good weather bikers! In winter I have all the space in the world in the little bicycle shed. But today was an unusually sunny day, and apparantly all potential cyclists had scurried out from underneath the rock they must have been hiding under, sitting out the bleaker weather; the bicycle parking was packed! One more cyclist and we have to get creative...

Run like a healthy person

Everybody who doesn't run can tell you how bad running is for you. Their opinions might be biased, but so may these of runners. I do run but I am sometimes worried about possible damage I am doing to my knees. What was the last time this blog mentioned running on soft surfaces? Quite a while ago. Does that mean I haven't been running since? No. I haven't perhaps done as much running as I should have, but I have been doing regular lunch runs. On asphalt. So how bad is that? Can something be done about it? Who to ask? Peer-reviewed literature, of course!

I stumbled upon an article on barefoot running in Nature. The authors had measured the magnitude of the impact of landing on your foot while running, and with that they had compared runners that normally wear shoes, and those who don't. And it turns out that many of the former rely on the cushioning of their shoes, and just drop on their heel. I am one of those. It also turns out that impact is much lower if you land on your forefoot. The article came with a video, which shows people running in slow-motion, and you can just see the shock the system gets with heel running.

Later I was running myself. When I was going down a slope I suddenly became aware of how hard every impact is. So I thought back on that paper. And decided to give it a try on my forefoot.

It's hard! Your calf has to then absorb the shock. So if you're not used to it it wears you out, and slows you down, but man does that feel nice to your knees! It also made me think of my sister. If I remember correctly she used to run like that. Maybe still does. I hope so! But yet another instance of her being right. Tsk!
I think I will be a stubborn, irresponsible, competitive runner during the Plymouth Half (which is coming up), as otherwise I will wear my untrained calves out and also run a terrible time, but I intend to do my routine running on my forefoot from now on... the second time I already was much less stiff in the calves the day after than after the first time. Maybe by next year I am so used to it I can do the entire half marathon that way, without being slower than I was before! And who knows; maybe I won't need knee replacement surgery anytime soon!

21 May 2012

Camera crew down the cliff

I can tell you it’s worth getting up at 5AM in order to throw a TV presenter off a cliff. At least sometimes. I tried! I recently got a message from the Cornish caving club that they’d been asked to help a camera crew record a part of a TV programme dangling off the cliffs near St Agnes. And that sounded fun to me. A drawback was that they wanted to start filming early as they had another location to do later that day, and for us Devonians it’s quite a drive. But if that’s what it takes…

I got up at 5, got ready, drove off in the wrong direction, turned around, drove almost in the right direction, managed to find Lionel, and had him drive the rest of the way. We arrived at an old WWII airfield, now in use by a local skydiving club. No-one else to be seen. Soon some chap I hadn’t met before arrived; he seemed to have coordinated much of this. Only a while later the first Cornish Caver appeared; it turned out that Mark claimed he had said 7.30 to Lionel, who claimed it had been 7.00, and who hadn’t even bothered to figure out how long it would take to drive there. Sigh.

Lionel and me happy and all kitted up; pic by Daz

Not much later, though, everybody was there, and after quite some faffing we could get kitted up and start hauling all the ropes and rigging and cameras and tripods and whatnot down. The idea was that the presenter of the programme would abseil down the cliff to a mine entrance while talking into the camera. Abseiling wasn’t at all necessary, as there is a path, but abseiling looks cooler. The mine wasn’t related to the programme either, but who would know? And we were there to make sure that presenter and camera man would come down safely. And when we were there anyway we would afterwards have a nice scurry around in the mine. Having come all this way we didn’t want to miss that!

The top of the cliff; from here the camera man would abseil to do long distance shots of the presenter

That same location seen from below

Rigging always takes a while, but nobody was bored, as one of the Cornish had brought his very charming dog along, that wanted to fetch things; preferably rocks. Cliff faces no objection. If you didn’t notice, or ignored, him he would often drop a rock heavily onto your shoe by means of subtle hint. Soon everybody was in love with the little bugger.

Lionel and his new friend

The little doggy intently following whatever happens below

When the rigging was done it was my task to test it. An honour, of course. It was fine! So then Lionel and I would wait below for Dan, the presenter, and Matt, the camera man, to come down. That took forever, of course! Dangling uncomfortably from a cliff poor Dan had to do a short spiel about Britain, the Bronze Age, and Cornish mining. And not a word, look or gesture can go wrong, of course. But it does. So he had to do his “the Bronze Age helped make Britain great” speech, that mentioned the very relevant Cornish mineral riches, time after time after time again. So many times he faltered or got a phrase wrong, added an expletive, and started again. I started to get huge respect for presenters. The 15th time it still has to sound spontaneous!

The presenter and the camera man starting to come down, under the watchful eye of Lionel

The uncomfortable way of dangling from a rope: with a camera in your face

Fortunately, both guys were doing quite well on the abseiling front, so we didn’t have a hard time getting them down. Only later I would realise they would have to go down several times more… It has to be filmed from above. And from below. And from the side… poor guys.

We also helped them take all that expensive kit further down the path; they filmed further down, and on the beach. I even confessed to the camera man what my reputation with cameras is. He wasn’t taken aback! And I loved witnessing the process of recording a TV programme. It was a day of much hanging around, but in a good way! The TV crew had even brought home-baked lemon muffins, and the weather was good! Not even mentioning the amazing view. Not bad at all. The hanging around also allowed for some more information gathering; the programme was one in a series on spectaculair British museum pieces, and their background. This one dealt with a Bronze Age hoard that had been found, and this part of the programme would elaborate on the central place Cornish mining played in this era. And this mine was probably medieval at the oldest, but who cares. The presenter was asked as he was of Cornish background. He mentioned too he normally did live TV; he preferred that, as then you don't get to have to repeat yourself all the time...

Dan with a piece of tin ore in his hand; the producer (or what are these people called that call the shots) is looking on with a critical eye. Notice the resigned cavers in the background.

Long distance shot with sound technician hiding behind a rock

Then it was a wrap. The TV crew thanked us for our help and left for the next location. We then got ready for going underground. Some of us would stay at the surface and take all the ropes down again.

We did a fairly quick-and-dirty scurry through the very pretty mine. It had cathedral-height stopes; I always love these! And there was a lot of kit still in there; pulleys, carts, rails, and ore chutes. Lovely! But my early rising was taking its toll; sooner than normal I had seen enough and wanted to get back to the cars. That did involve dragging all the ropes back up. Quite an intense day, altogether! A lot of running up and down the cliff to assist the TV crew, lugging lots of heavy kit, and then the underground trip. Time to go home!

When I got home, more than 13 hours after I’d left it, I was shattered. But glad! And I recommend to everybody to watch “Britain’s hidden treasures” (or something like that), with guest presenter Dan Lobb, on July the 20th, on ITV. I sure will be glued to the screen!

20 May 2012

When charities are not at their most charitable


Size does matter. 7cm is too much. 6cm is much better. A small difference, but how relevant!

I wrote of my exploits on heels! I did manage to not make a fool of myself, nor did I break an ankle. But it wasn't easy! I decided that what I needed was a pair of slightly lower heels, to get some less daunting heel practice. And one fine day I found just that. Not easy in England; most shoes with heels you see in the shops here have heels of more than 7cm. How DO people walk on these! But I found myself a feasible, 6cm heeled, black pair.

This is what Brits seem to think is normal; from the Javari website (javari.co.uk). Amazon sent me the link; I seem to be considered interested in such things...

Only days later, when tidying up, I came across my silvery shoes, that I had been wearing to occasions such as my sister's wedding, and dinner with Neil. These were elegant yet modestly (4cm) heeled. They were broken! So it was only just in time I bought a new pair. Sometimes, just sometimes, things work out quite well...


18 May 2012

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

There seems to be a film out about Snow White! But that's not what I mean. I was walking through some woodland with some of my caving mates; we were on our way to a dig, so many had spades or mattocks over their shoulders. We were in good spirits, and striding along the path with bouncing steps. The landowner saw all this, and remarked "it's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves!" So I looked around, and counted; indeed, I had seven male companions... and I can hardly be accused of being tan. I liked the simile!

So what were we, fairy-tale characters, up to? We knew of a mine which was accessible through a vertical shaft, but recently Lionel had found a silted-up side entrance. We wanted to see if we could dig that out. It would give us, and the landowner (who was quite interested in his own mine, albeit interest mixed with a slight anxiety) an easy, walk-in entrance to the quite pretty mine. So we started digging! We had two wheelbarrows, more spades than you can shake a stick at, two poles and a mattock.

There are many things you have to be aware of when engaging in such activities: the sediments might be loose and water-logged, and slump onto you; you may find a lot of water on the other side of the sediments, which will burst out if you're not careful; and you may release lots of sediment into the nearest waterway. All of that is better avoided. And, of course, there is the general issues of several people digging around in mud: the stuff flies everywhere, all get filthy, and every surface gets slippery. In other words: a great night out! We already had two of these; we'll need many more, in all probability. Well, history has shown Snow White and the Seven Dwarves have longevity...

The adit we tried to dig out

Never take pictures of people in hi-viz outfits when the light is so low you need to flash

Glorious mud!

17 May 2012

Nerds: help!

Who has read the previous post understands my mind is on back-ups these days. My computer runs some back-up program of which I hope it backs up new files onto my external hard drive. And my newest drive should do that too, using its own software. Time to have a look if they really do.

And now I'm confused. The new disk doesn't back up at all; I think I'll re-install the software. Hopefully that helps. Having a look at the older drive got me really puzzled: it seems to back everything up. Every day. Sounds a bit superfluous. And maybe not true! I had a look at how big the "autobackup" folder is; it's bigger than the whole drive, which isn't anywhere near full! I don't understand. Can anyone explain? And can anyone recommend any package that backs stuff up reliably and understandably? It would be greatly appreciated...

A terabyte in back-up files! That's a lot...

But hang on; where is that terabyte? Not here, apparently...

Save money and pay with time

Money often costs time. And vice versa. I got confronted by the apparent attempt of Plymouth University to save money by not having a proper file server with allocated file space for their employees, and the concomitant back-up routine.

One bad day my external hard drive went ‘pop’. Always unfortunate! And the university does have a support desk, and so far they’ve always been most willing and able to help me out of calamities like this, so I had somewhere to turn to with my worries. But what followed made me contemplate the wisdom of the decisions my employer makes.

The support guys found out it wasn’t the external hard drive that was the problem; it was my old and long-suffering PC that had temporarily lost the ability to connect with it. I was a bit scared anyway; that old computer is useless for keeping data on, and I keep as much as I can on the external drive. We are not supposed to keep files on the network. I periodically back up that drive with another external hard drive. But if the original one goes, a sizeable amount of work can be lost. Not good. So I immediately ordered another hard drive I could use for backing the original one up continuously. I thought that would save me.

Then reality kicked in. My computer already doesn’t allow for all the devises I want to plug in; I of course need a mouse, key board and monitor; I also use a web cam, digital tablet, and a set of boxes. I had to buy a (standard) USB hub to fit it all in. Unfortunately, I now properly learned what I had been suspecting for a while: the only good USB ports in a computer are in the back. These were already full. I already kept my tablet and webcam in the front (which requires the hub). The keyboard might not need a fast USB port, but due to the configuration of the cables you can’t reasonably put it anywhere other than in the back. And I can’t run back-up software through a second-rate USB port. So now I need to buy a powered hub in order to be able to plug in enough external drives to not lose my data when one of them has a problem.

So not only have I lost substantial amounts of time this week trying to save my external drive, have the support guys check my computer to see if they could make it have a hissy fit less often, buy another drive, and then go and find out what sort of hub I need to do the job, and buy that one as well. I also had to spend quite some money on it all that hardware. And had I not spent that time and money I would probably have lost much more time through loss of data. And I can’t imagine it’s just me. Can’t they just have centralised data storage with proper back-up facilities? That saves every single employer having to go through all this hassle every now and then. One would almost assume university management has shares in manufacturers of external hard drives…

The three external drives that should keep me safe from data loss

16 May 2012

Nature, nurture and hoarding

"Do you perhaps take after me?" "Not enough yet!" I was on the phone with my mother when that exchange too place.

My father can't throw anything away. Not even old newspapers. My mother throws practically anything away.

My eldest sister takes after my father. She has quite some stuff, but she has a large house to accommodate that. My middle sister takes after my mother; her house is immeculate. And I? I am a bit of a blend. It could go either way.

When it comes to stuff I actually do take after my father. If something might come in handy, ever, I struggle to throw it away. As a result I have become quite good at fitting lots of items in a small space. And that worked reasonably well as long as I lived in one place. But as soon as you move house the full disadvantages become clear.

I have not even moved house that often, but often enough to be quite displeased with my hoarding habits. I tried to better my life. I tried for years. I didn't really have a steep learning curve in the beginning, but now, after all that time, I'm getting the hang of it. Better late than never!

For the last months I've been actively throwing and giving things away, sending things off, and bringing stuff to charity shops. And I've been digitising photo albums. All of this prompted my mother to inquire after possible family resemblances. And altogether it has started to show now! I still have a way to go, but with my new chucking skills I should find it relatively easy to reach an appropriate level of material possession. And I think as well I will be able to keep future gathering under control. Next time I move house will be a piece of cake! And I apologise to those who helped me move from Amsterdam to Tromsø; I know that if I would just have gotten to this point 5 years earlier it would have been much easier for you lot!

I'm so prolific I can almost get rid of an entire cupboard!

15 May 2012


I think weekends are for eliminating to do lists, and perhaps for going underground. But I'm under alien influences these days; Hugh thinks weekends with good weather are for sunny enjoyment. And he's not even Catholic!

This weekend the weather was forecast to be sunny. I claimed the Saturday for the to do lists, but that left the Sunday. Some time ago, Hugh had bought a wetsuit, that he hadn't gotten wet yet. So the plan was easily made: we would go for a swim. And so we did! We found ourselves a beach that wasn't too crowded, and that had lots of rocky bits to clamber over, and some nice rock pools with tentacled creatures. We splattered around a bit and even hung around in the sun for a bit. Quite nice!

I admit the surface has something to offer

We picked this beach

The wetsuit gets baptised

It works!

Nice tentacly thing in a rock pool

Is the other beach better?

14 May 2012

New life

In March I planted two cuts of one of my plants. It's May now; I can hereby report the experiment is a success! They have both started to grow new leaves... I'm proud!

11 May 2012

Unhindered by any knowledge

For five years my readers have had to suffer my entirely uneducated attempts at communication! I have been educated on many things; foraminifera taxonomy, climate modelling, critical taper theory, biblical geology, and many things more. But not communication; scientific or otherwise. I am trying to change that. This week I have registered for a course in media training by the Natural Environment Reseach Council (NERC); they are the British NWO, and they fund the research I do here in Plymouth. And they offer courses for people to communicate such research to a wider audience. The next course with spaces available was deep in 2013, but better late than never! And I applied for another one; a course later this month, organised by a different bunch. One way to find out if I will get a place. I sure hope so! And I think my readers may well hope so too...