31 October 2017

Sent home to hike

On Wednesday my Dutch hiking friends would travel to Wales. They would get here around noon! So I had taken half the day off. And the two consecutive ones.

On the preceding Sunday I had done most of the preparations. And on Wednesday I went to work to get done what I could get done before I would head off! And it was around a quarter to eleven when suddenly my computer went 'poeink' and died. A power cut! That happens more often, but generally it doesn't last very long. I decided it was coffee time anyway so I went to the other building.

On the way there I found out what the problem was; a lorry had tried to make the rather tight bend just below my building, but hadn't managed. It had rammed an electricity pole and damaged the cables. It was rumoured the entire lorry had become live! But nobody had been injured. Good!

It looked like this would take a while. I decided to go home! I could do some last preparations before the hikers would appear. And then we would be off!

The culprit

29 October 2017

Roelof and Micha in Wales

Roelof was a faithful participant in our yearly autumnal hikes. But this year, he decided to do things differently! He wanted to show the area to his fiance Micha. And so he did!

They would arrive the Friday before the swamp hike. I suggested we meet on Saturday, and we did. It turned out that would be a day dominated by storm Brian. Strong winds and heavy rain all day! Oh dear. I imagined a lot of huddling by the fire and drinking coffee.

I put on my hiking trousers and drove down. I had briefly wondered if I should bring a change of clothes but somehow lacked the motivation. Stupid! I had my head all filled with the much bigger hike to follow and didn't take this very seriously.

I found their stunning little converted barn in a beautiful landscape. This was Wales as it should be! Roelof had heard me coming. It was good to see him! Minutes later, Micha appeared too. We very snugly had coffee and pancakes. Then Roelof made a plan. He wanted to walk through woods today; a bit less exposed than open terrain! So we headed for the Capel Curig / Betws-y-Coed area. We plonked the car in Cae yn y Coed and started walking. The paths there are a bit confusing, especially in combination with the map, but the surroundings were lovely. It was nice! And wet.

Soon I regretted a bit I wasn't wearing waterproof trousers. But what can one do! I embraced the wetness. And the autumn colours were lovely.

 A very autumnal walk

After a while we got to Pentre Du. We crossed the road, crossed the Miners' bridge of which I was slightly embarrassed I had never visited it before. It was beautiful! And we then followed the swollen river upstream. We passed Swallow Falls; normally you see separate streams coming down the rocks. Now it was one big white churning mass. Then we went on.

 The Miners' bridge! Notice Roelof staring into the water.

When the path left the woods it also left dry land. Oh dear! It normally runs close to the river, but now it was in it. Roelof suggested we just walk through the fields; farmers would understand. I was skeptical. And indeed, within seconds an angry woman came out of a farmhouse and yelled at us. We found a compromise; we walked over the wall between river and field.

Roelof finds the path funny

We then had to do some wading and then we reached our intermediate destination; Ty Hyll. We had visited it before, two years ago! We revived ourselves with hot chocolate, coffee, and baked goods. Nice! Then we went back to the car.

On the way back we popped by a shop. Then we went back to the cottage to try to dry up a bit. We tried the wood burner but it was a bit temperamental. Roelof and Micha put on dry clothes and I just set out to hover above, and hug, as many heat-generating units I could find. It did get better!

We went out for dinner. We chose the Heights. I had only been there for my ill-fated fell race! Time to give it another chance. It was a bit busy as it was Saturday night but we found a table. It was a rather local place! When I went to get drinks I chose to order in Welsh as people looked at me funnily. I think I had 'foreigner' written on my forehead. Yes, but a local one!

After food (of varying quality; mine was fine!) it was time to call it a day. I had a hike to sort out! We said goodbye. They had a much drier day (I know, not hard) to look forward to!

It was really nice to see them! Although we will miss Roelof during the swamp hike. I hope they have a lovely week in Wales!

25 October 2017

The university makes a plan

It's almost been two years! That the university has a financial problem, and is trying to sort things out. Is it doing that wisely? Well, one could discuss that. But it seems it now has made a plan of how to re-arrange things so as to save enough money to be sustainable in the future. The plans are now published and open for consultation.

When I had a look at what's most interesting for me: the academic staff in Ocean Sciences, I noticed there were more Teaching and Scholarship lecturers on the list than we currently have. That is very interesting! One of them is even a 'lecturer in Earth Science'. That sounds extra interesting. I had a small chat with our Head of School; he confirmed that indeed he was trying to make that happen. There were devils in the details, of course; this specific lecturer was only listed as lasting, well, for the duration of my current contract. But this is a long term plan! No use putting almost-gone people like me on it. Hopefully that caveat will be lifted. We will have to wait for the consultation period to be over, and the university then publishing a final plan. And then we'll see! Maybe I have a chance on a future here after all!

Wouldn't really mind staying in this area for a bit longer!

24 October 2017

New assignment: how it went

My students did the new assessment! And how did they do? They did well! All who did it on time (several couldn't be asked and therefore will get a 40% for being late, or a 0% if they are more than a week late) passed. And most with an A!

It was easy to get the data on who got which got what question right, but with the MCQ questions, it wasn't easy to make an overview of who had answered what. And I found it important to see what people had answered! Only then you can evaluate how they did, and give appropriate feedback.

With all these A's, were my questions so easy? No, those of my colleague Tom were! His were done almost flawlessly. Mine were not done anywhere as well. But that was on purpose; Tom just wanted the students to engage and already think about glaciology-related stuff even before we mentioned it in the lectures. I wanted them to be very specific about finding data in literature. That's harder!

So what did I try to make them contemplate? I sometimes took a statement from literature, and then changed it a bit; could the students find the unaltered statement? I sometimes gave two values for a certain parameter from two different sources, and then asked if they disagreed, and if not, then why? They could then choose between: the measuring period was different, the measuring area was different, the method was different, that sort of stuff. They have to manage that!

One of the ones they found the hardest was when I explored a certain parameter and just dug out all kinds of data about them and then let them pick out which ones were correct. But it's a bit tricky to keep track!

One they really shouldn't have had trouble with was one where I asked about temperature over a certain depth interval in a certain ocean basin over a certain period of time. I gave several options. Two answers gave the value for a different depth and a different time period; one answer, of course, was correct, and one answer said 'we don't know, the sources don't agree'. And the last answer was the one the most given! And that's something I see more often; students seeing several different values for a parameter, and then deciding science clearly doesn't know what the actual value is, and that more research is needed. But if you do more research, you will probably find yet another value! If only because published data inevitably documents the past, and you can measure the present. So in a way, the students would say that the more research you do, the less you know. So I want to get them to evaluate the data that is out there, and realise that for instance, it's not that they don't know the temperature over a certain depth interval in a certain ocean basin over a certain period of time; they DO know that, and in addition, they also know about other time periods and other depths in the water column!

I hope this exercise will pay off, and get them to do better in the assignments to follow!

File:Adelie Penguins on iceberg.jpg
Penguins contemplating sea water temperature. Picture by Jason Auch.

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

13 October 2017

Old-fashioned Sunday in the office

When my job started, its started with little preparation time. I spent a lot of weekends in the office! But once the first module was out of the way things got better. I wasn't in the office during the weekend very often anymore after that. But then the new academic year started, and I took two days off, but one needs one's days in time like these, so I had to compensate for that by working weekends. So it was back to the old days again! Luckily it isn't very cold yet, and I'm not at my old cold desk anymore, so it wasn't bad. And I will need a weekend off for the Dutch hikers so I suppose all weekends directly before and after that will be in the office!

12 October 2017

Bangor 10k revisited

It was time for a race again! I hadn't done one since that very wet half marathon in March. And the Bangor 10K was coming up! That's a nice race: close to home (not AS close as the Anglesey half, but not bad) and a nice route. I had hoped to run it with Megan, one of our PhD students, but she had been too late registering. It had sold out!

I hadn't run an awful lot recently so I didn't expect a good result, but I did expect to enjoy myself. And the forecast was dry!

I rode up and parked my bike near the start. I went to get my race number, and then went to the loos. Then I figured I could just read the newspaper until closer to the time of the start, but I bumped into one of the Head Peer Guides. That was nice! We chatted a bit until it was time to take everything off except my running kit (biking requires more clothes). I went to the start!

We started and I was feeling fine. Not fast, but fine. Within meters I was greeted by a bloke from Welsh class! That was nice. Soon we got to the pier. That's always a nice part of the route. And the kilometers ticked by.

At the start

On the pier

We ran to the old tramway which is now a bike path. I sped up a bit! And then the halfway point came. I sped up a bit more. I wasn't sure what sort of time I would get, but I wanted to stay below 50 minutes.

When the 2km sign appeared I went into hard work mode. I was breathing like a hippo! And more so with only one kilometer to go. But the race ends uphill and I was tired. I lumbered up high street and was relieved to cross the finish. I was too tired to think about what time I had run!

I picked up my bag and biked home. After a while the results came in; 49:26! So indeed under 50 minutes. And far from last year's 46:35 but well, I was in better shape then. Not bad altogether! Not sure what's next. The Conwy Half maybe?

 My finish pics. You can tell I'm tired! I'm barely smiling, and you can tell by me turning from some 20-year-old to some elderly bodybuilder upon impact with the ground, that I lost most of the spring in my step...

11 October 2017

With or without guests in the dig

It would be an unusual night in the dig! And that came true, although not in the way we had expected. The people from the south Monique and I had met on Monday had indicated they wanted to go and see the state of the dig. They had agreed with Miles to meet up at the Manager's office at 18:30. They are rather keen so I expected them a bit earlier. I made sure I was too! But there was no sign of them.

When it got to 18:45 Miles and I decided to sit down at the log fire of the office with coffee and tea. Not uncomfortable at all, but not quite how we had intended things! By 19:00 they still weren't there. We figured something must have come in between, and we just went in without them.

We had lots to do in the dig! There still was a lot of rubble from earlier detonations we had to clear up. We set to work! I went up while Miles sorted out some stuff down below. The little pillar of rock I photographed last time had come down, and some more with it. Support was needed!

When that was sorted Miles stuck his head into the ceiling-parallel bit. Together we threw some rocks from last time's blast down. That made some space! Unfortunately it had also allowed one of the rocks to now move; Miles was pondering supporting that one as well. We also made plans for making the passage wider. But that would have to largely wait until next time! Miles did start, while I managed to pull three more big rocks out of the far end. This time, I didn't drop any of them on my fingers! That's good. I was running out of space to put them though, especially with Miles now not too far away; throwing things down risked throwing them on his head. I stacked them on the side as best as I could!

I came back to see how he was getting on. With some of the rubble gone, Miles figured he could come up. Good! I've explored that bit already in August; it now being October it was time he got to see it as well. He didn't think it looked any more promising than the rest of the dig, but fortunately also not less promising.

With his visit at the top time was running out. We had started late today! We went back down, and started towards the pitch. Where we saw lights! The people who go by the monikers of Dwarrowdelf and Hamster had turned up! And were now making their way up. They clearly didn't like Miles' rigging, as they had brought their own rope, and were ascending it as if this was the top of Everest. We could do nothing but wait, until they had scaled the perilous heights. We scampered up and de-rigged for them (we didn't want to wait for them to do it at their speed) and then tried to figure out what had happened.

The confirmed they had been late; they blamed a very slow logging lorry on the road. They had just come down without us, and headed to the general dig area. They had probably got to our part of the dig when Miles was inspecting progress; we were high up and didn't make much sound, so they hadn't heard us and we hadn't heard them. They had also gone to the other dig, but hadn't gone in as they weren't sure about safety. Oh well! I'm sure they'll be back...

We all went out into the moonlight. With the extra time on the pitch and on the collapse (Miles wanted to wait for them) it had got a bit late. I quickly changed and scooted! And now I'm not sure when we'll be back. Other stuff will be happening!

09 October 2017

The observations don't stop with a PGCertHE

Only last month I got my teaching qualification. Part of the portfolio is observations; you have to have colleagues watch and criticize your teaching. You also sometimes do it to others. But now that I am qualified doesn't mean that's over! All teaching staff have to observe and be observed once a year. I was assigned men called Tom for both events. I now have done the observation; I was watching the Tom with whom I teach Ice and Oceans. It was his first lecture in that module.

It was a good lecture! A pleasure to watch. I should see them all, but I'm not sure I can. I might be lecturing at the same time. And maybe I'm too busy. But it was good! I don't have much to moan about. But that's OK. The biggest take-away is that I still tend to go a bit fast, and Tom doesn't. His pace is very pleasant. I should emulate that! And the other Tom won't observe me until late November I have a lot of time to activate my inner slow talker before then...

08 October 2017

Impractical practical

I am glad to be teaching Palaeoceanography this year! The module is done entirely by me. I had not taught it before. I had been involved in the student presentations, but that was all. In the summer I had prepared the lectures. I had decided to change the presentations, and prepared for that in the busy weeks before the start of the new year. And then there was the practical.

I assumed I could just do it as it had been done before by James, but then he emailed me and it turned out he had taken all the material for it to Cornwall. Oh dear. I would have to rethink this a bit! He had taken core sections and sieved samples. The core sections were things I was OK with to lose; I mean, they only look at them for a bit. They can look at the core log instead; is a lot less logistically complicated. I know it's less evocative, but I am likely to only do this practical once. I am not going through an enormous amount of trouble to get others just to give one cohort of students a slightly better experience. But the sieved samples are crucial. James said they had gone awol during his move, and he would have to make new ones! He promised me a split of every one.

I have already received news of the samples being ready; James has to be in Wales soon anyway, so he'll personally bring them. I hope he is not too busy to hand them over in person! In the meantime I have to rewrite the practical so it still makes sense with fewer materials...

Unrelated forams

06 October 2017

Another visit by Monique

In May, my friend Monique came to visit me. That was lovely! We have been friends since before I was allowed to vote. And I dare say we will be for a long time to come! And by coincidence, she sometimes has things to do in Manchester. That's not far away! So she figured she would pop by again. Great!

Her business in Manchester covered the weekend, so she would only appear late in the afternoon on Sunday, and leave on Wednesday morning. That meant I had to have my stuff for the rest of the week ready beforehand! But that's a small sacrifice.

I picked her up from the railway station. That day we didn't do much more than drink tea, drink beer, cook and eat dinner, and catch up. Nothing wrong with! And talking revealed our activity for the day after: Monique was keen to see a mine. Well, that can be arranged!

The next day we did a trying-kit-on-session; she had only brought smart clothes so she needed to borrow stuff from me, and we're not the same size. We sorted a furry suit, boots and neoprene socks. The rest would be fine! We thought.

We took it easy in the morning, and then drove down. We first had a coffee in the Lakeside cafe. There we met a substantial Go Below crew. Nice! At the parking lot we bumped into some southerners who had come up before for some Thursdaynighting and such things. When we got to the Manager's office we saw the door was open so we had a peek inside, upon which we met Pred; he's the one doing most of the work of doing up the MO, and quite a legend. Nice to meet him!

Then we finally went in. I was thinking of doing the round trip, so I walked us to where you go down a bit beyond the Old Vein Incline. But Monique only just fit into my caving suit, and couldn't bend normally! We had forgot to try that out. It had still been a bit damp from the Parys trip so I had been reluctant to put it on her. Now we paid the price for that! She decided she didn't want to go down. That restricted us a bit. And neither of us thought of her just taking it off and proceeding in the furry suit alone.

We scampered around a bit on Lake Level, until we got to the passage I had helped enlarge in spring. That worked for her, tight suit or not! That was good. The steps that followed were OK too. That got us to the bridge! She was alright to cross that. That was a nice photo opportunity too! And the next step there is either a traverse or a zip line; she wasn't feeling that. But I was feeling peckish, so I suggested we'd have lunch there. We did!

 On the bridge

After that we did a bit of walking around on that level, but Monique was getting tired so we soon started our way out. At the entrance we did the obligatory entrance pic, and then we went on. Passing the manager's office again we saw Miles come out; we had a small chat with him too. And we waved at Pred. Then we were off, back to the cafe for more hot beverages! A good day.

Entrance pic

The next day we would go for a walk with Pi. Guy had heard I would have a guest and suggested we join him together. Excellent idea! But we would only go at lunchtime, and I wanted to get more out of Monique's visit, so we went for a stroll on Penmon first. Nice! The weather was good and the views lovely.

We then went on to meet Guy. And Pi! Monique was impressed. Of course she was! He's a lovely dog and Guy is a lovely man. The two of them discussed dog training in detail. I am just a frisbee-throwing stooge! And content with it.

 Handsome threesome

When the walk was done Monique figured we had done enough walking. We spent the rest of the afternoon drinkin gtea and beer! And finished off with dinner in the reltively new tapas restaurant in town. We both liked it!

That sort of was the end of it! The next morning I brought her to the railway station. It had been good! She said she thought she'd come back again, this time husband and all. Would be nice!

05 October 2017

Mona-Parys with the PCG

It was that time of the year again! The PCG was in town. It's always nice to reconnect with my first caving club. There still are quite some members that were there when I joined in 2009! And some that had joined by the time I left in 2013.

They drove up on Thursday. I had to work on Friday, and would be visited by Monique on Sunday, so that left Saturday for the PCG. And they would visit the Parys mine! I had only been there once, even though it's a fine mine.

We would meet at ten at the mine. I started changing. I know they have a hut for changing in, but I didn't feel like lugging all my kit to it first. My boots are already a kilo each! And Dave had said there would be SRT involved.

Then a car with familiar faces in it arrived. It was Dave and Rich! And behind I saw another car, in which I discerned Alex, and then Tara. Hugs were exchanged! And I was introduced to a second Alex I hadn't met yet. The men mentioned Dave and Keith wouldn't be coming. The day before they had gone to Cwm, and Keith had sprained his ankle, and Dave had forgot to give back the key. So Keith couldn't walk, and Dave would first drive to Conwy Falls and would be too late to join us. Oh dear. The silly man should just have given the key to me! But too late now. Other Dave would not join us either; he's not been healthy enough for such exploits for years.

The men of the Parys Underground Group who would show us around, Olly and Brian, suggested we do the standard through trip. But first take us to the viewpoint from which you can see the surface workings. Sounded good!

We admired the pit and got ready to go back to the cars. Suddenly Rich shouted out to Dave. He was having spasms and was holding on to the wall in order not to fall over. Oh dear! Then he fell over anyway. That's one of the reasons he doesn't go underground anymore! But now we had to sit him down. The good thing was that Rich, who is fully trained as a nurse, looks after Dave very often and knows what to do. We sat him down and gave him some water. Then we brought him to the car. He'd wait for us there while we would be underground.

We all changed and went in. It's a nice mine! With a lot of small ladders and handlines and drippies and crawly bits and funny-coloured puddles and whatnot. It was a bit Wheal Jane-like with its funny chemistry! Olly and Brian were very knowledgeable about it all. They were still learning new things, though! There was a pipe somewhere of which Olly had thought it was for pressurized air, but Brian managed to convince him it was for water. I also wondered about some twist of reed of which they had always assumed it was a rope, but which on closer inspection was probably a kneeling mat.

Nice flying saucer-like stalagmite

Strangely shaped stalactites

Richard with a barrel

Very yellow level

Snottite 'flowstone'

Partly flooded level

We went through the wet bit that's unavoidable if you want to go into Mona mine and come out from Parys mine, and then went back skipping one of the sights as we knew Dave and Dave would be waiting for us. We came out at about half past three. It had been a nice trip! And outside we found one Dave. The other had brought Keith, ankle and all, to hospital in Bangor.

When we were all changed we decided to all drive to Bangor and meet up there for a pint. We did. I didn't find the other Parysians but I did flag down Dave and Keith, who was in a brace and on crutches. Then we got a message from the others; they were in a pub. We joined them. In there we decided we would go for dinner in Llanberis.

I went home for a shower, and later drove to Llanberis, to the Royal Victoria. I was the first! Dave wouldn't join;  he wasn't feeling well. The others were there, with the addition of Lionel, who had spent the day in the mountains. It was nice to see him! And the dinner was a bit weird; they have really strange portion sizes in there. My side dish was larger than the main. And the waiter threw two pints of beer over himself. But it was nice! I'm sure next year they'll be back; I hope I'm still there to greet them!

04 October 2017

Teaching has started again

When the first week of term was over, I had done two lectures of each of my big modules, prepared the lectures for the week after, and I had come up with a plan of what to do with my first year tutees. Not bad!

The first lecture didn't go so well. I find it's a bit like baking pancakes: the first one comes out all lumpy. After that the pan is hot and the rest goes well, without much effort! And I quite enjoy it. And I like the two cohorts of students too (second year students for the one module and third year ones for the other).

I'll be continuing like this for a while, but soon there will be the day in the field too, and then a practical, and lectures in other modules, and all sorts of that stuff. And the first deadline that will appear is the one for my new assignment. I am curious to see how it went!

In short, it has all started and it's going well, as far as I am concerned! My last term in Bangor? We'll see...

03 October 2017

Unfinished business in the dig

The last time we had been in the Dig we had left it with a rather urgent task still to be undertaken. At the entrance, there was a big slab dangling precariously from the ceiling. That had to come down! In a controlled way. We didn't want it falling on our heads. Miles had ordered a pneumatic jack to push the thing down, but it had arrived on Thursday, not long after he had left the office to go digging. Bummer!

As he had been away and we hadn't dug for a while, we could only have a second try now. We divided the constituent parts of the jack into our bags and went down. I was down first; I was curious to see if we actually still needed the thing! I walked straight to the entrance of the dig and immediately saw that the dangerous-looking slabs were not there anymore. Well, that saves us bringing them down! And a bit of a pity I didn't get to see the new toy at work but maybe there'll be another time.

I had been worried the slabs coming down would also bring down a vertical rock that somehow managed to lean against them. It was still standing! And the whole ceiling was gone except one tiny pillar of rock, probably kept in place by the pressure. Very decorative! And dainty.

The specific pillar. back-lit by Miles

This didn't mean work was done. We still had two left-over charges in the passage along the ceiling! We might as well set these off. I went up the passage. I was a bit nervous about one rock in it, so when I went up I made sure not to touch it. When I was above it I had to bring some rubble from an explosion down. A smallish rock fell on the rock in question, and it crashed down. I think it was a good idea I had avoided it on the way up!

There was more to do. Both firing cables had been damaged and we only had one knife to sort them out. I left it for Miles (who was dealing with the thicker wire) so I was doing my normal wire-stripping-with-slate-trick. But then Miles mentioned the slabs that had come down were still moving; he wanted to sort that out, with me on the other side of them. I came back.

While Miles was manipulating the big rocks down I went for a leak. I could hear the ominous sounds of the rock-moving from quite a distance! But he sorted it. And we could proceed. I went back up, connected the first charge, and we blasted it. Success! Then it was time for coffee. We also did the other one but time was running out so I didn't even go to see if it had been a success. The first one clearly had!

We still have a lot of tidying to do in there. Maybe next time we can actually push a bit further ahead again!

01 October 2017

Learn SRT

I've been using the Single Rope Technique since 2009. I've always managed whatever rope work that was expected of me. Sometimes with some effort, but I always got there. I started out on a set-up that I had used on a Norwegian Glacier, which wasn't a particularly good idea, but with which I managed in the southwest. Then I moved to Yorkshire, and that meant stepping up my game. I bought me a proper caving harness with all accoutrements! And got on with it.

Sometimes you see people prussick up a rope effortlessly. It never is for me! I have had the sense my set-up wasn't very good for many years. I always get there but I think I use my arms too much. I was hoping for an opportunity to have someone look at that and suggest improvements. At Cave Rescue exercises that never happened. Sometimes an SRT course was advertised, but the last time someone told me I should step back and let people who needed it more have the place. Fair enough.

Then, suddenly, someone mentioned he was registered for a course this autumn but had had to pull out. I mailed the instructor: could I have his place? I could! I made sure I had finished all I needed to have finished and went.

I got to Plas-y-Brenin at the same time as some bloke who turned out to be coming for the same thing. We told the receptionist we were here for the SRT course and she advised us to go to the bar and have a coffee, and wait for the instructor. We did. Nobody appeared.

After a while I started rummaging through my emails; had the bloke left his phone number? The other participant, Paul, went back to the reception. And found Rich, the instructor! He had been in the climbing hall all this time, wondering where we were. Oh dear! He introduced us to his trainee-cum-colleague Lisa. Then we could start! It was only Paul and me... Rich first set up Paul and I changed my set-up a bit to match that. There is a logic behind having your kit in a certain order!

I went up one of the ropes. At the top I had to get onto a traverse line onto a platform. That showed me whether my cowstails and my other dangly bits were the right length. Some were a bit too long! But I first went down again. Rich told me to do that it a slightly tidier way than I usually do. Then I went up and down again. And adjusted my stuff. Lisa looked after Paul.

Rich, Paul and Lisa in the small climbing hall

Then Rich added a deviation. And then an awkward deviation. Then an adjustable deviation. And then a re-belay. Then he lent me a foot ascender to see if I liked that. I had once had one but quite soon lost it. This time I quite liked it! Maybe I should buy one again. Then he suggested I lose a karabiner from my kit. And then he rigged me a continuous rope so I could feel the difference.

After all that scampering up and down it was time for lunch. I had forgot my sandwiches so I bought soup in the bar. Nice!

After lunch we went back. Rich rigged me a purposefully awkward route with ups, downs, traverses, re-belays and deviations. I did it clockwise! And then came back counterclockwise! And then he suggested I de-rig it. That was hard! If you have to get a traverse line off a bolt you can only be fixed to the next bolt along, so it can be hard to reach. Some of that required him shouting advice! And a rest. But I got there.

The last exercise was passing damage on a rope, both up and down. That was cool! But then time ran out and we had to evacuate the space for the next group.

I had learned a lot! And maybe I lost some of my bad habits. And it had been fun! We said goodbye to each other. It had been a good day!

I spite of it being a bit of a damp day I decided to go for a small walk as I hadn't been out in nature much recently. Luckily, Plas-y-Brenin is at a lovely location. I scampered up Creigiau'r Gelli a bit, and sat down, in the rain, to eat an apple and drink some water. Then I went back. A good day! And I have the bruises to remind me...

View into the Ogwen Valley

 Walking back to Plas-y-Brenin