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The Silence

December 31, 2011 at 6:20 PM

I do apologise for my very lengthy silence – it has been deliberate but it would have been courteous of me to have told you *before* I fell silent. I’ve not written anything recently because I’m in the midst of writing my thesis, so the last thing I want to do when I get back home from work is sit down and do more writing. I’ve done 3/4 of a first draft, and it’s progressing (if somewhat slowly).

So, hello, I’m still here. I’ve had a fun little Christmas with family, which I’ve immensely enjoyed. Aside from one picture that makes me look like a lecherous speed dater, I think I’ve come out of it quite well! I’m going to head off now and have a board game evening to whisk us towards 2012.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Bussed Up

September 23, 2011 at 9:53 PM

Yesterday was a fun little day – the first day all to myself in Malta. I decided to visit the capital Valletta on the other side of the island (it’s about as far away on the island as I can get).

As it was cheap, I decided to get the bus, just €2.60. The bus brochure said the journey would take 80 minutes. However, Arriva have just taken over the management of the buses and their interpretation of the brochure is… creative. Both the bus journeys there and back were surreal – if the passengers flagging down the bus looked even slightly hesitant or unsure, he didn’t stop for them. This happened at about 1/3 of all the ‘stops’ that he should have serviced. I found out the reason for this later – at about 1/3 of the other stops, the prospective passengers would ask “Does this bus go to x”, he would say yes/no (usually no), and the bus would continue on its way, delayed by that extra bit. The routes are all new, so no-one yet knows where they go. This pushed the travelling time each way (25km) to 2 hours. Ouch. And, given the rather efficient air conditioning on the bus, bloody cold. So, four hours on a bus…. made my day a bit stressful.

Still, the time I had in Valletta was superb. It was city with a large amount of history and character. No two houses are the same, they’re all built higgledy piggledy and their styling was just fantastic. The main street of Valletta leads to the Cathedral of St. John, a small building as cathedrals go, but decorated with a staggering array of gold, marble, silver… you name it, it’s there. Well worth a visit if you’re in Valletta. I walked around pretty much all of Valletta, from the commercial centre, to a church with a huge dome (bigger than St. Pauls in London I think), to all the residential streets. It felt very safe, and oozed individuality and personality which I’ve not really experienced in a city before. I recommend Valletta. I do not recommend trying to put on your sunglasses, somehow find your head was too big for them despite having worn them for several years, and have one of the arms ping off in the middle of the street. Very strange! I went looking for new cheap sunglasses at a few places in Valletta, but most of the styles were quite feminine, so I didn’t buy them. What do you mean “it would have suited me”? Out! Now! Shoo!

Gozo with the flow

September 22, 2011 at 9:26 PM

And, in the blink of an eye, my conference is over. Three intensive days which have been surprisingly interesting. Yes, I found some of the talks difficult to stay awake in, but by and large the presentations were interesting and engaging. I didn’t really think I’d say that at the beginning of the week!

To round the conference off, a dinner was held on the nearby island of Gozo (yes, an even smaller island off a small island off of Europe). To get there, we took a roller-coaster of a ferry ride that lasted about 30 minutes, with winds so strong it was difficult to maintain your balance. The wind certainly made some people look a bit more dishevelled than they’d hoped… it probably improved my appearance and elevated it above “street urchin” to “homeless beggar with a sign”.

Before the meal itself, we were given a guided tour of the Citadel in the centre of the island – a hugely important part of Gozo’s history. (More info at: http://www.gozo.gov.mt/pages.aspx?page=155). Being the highest point on the island, the views were spectacular in all directions, particularly at dusk. Whilst not looking where I was going, I of course walked into a metal railing and also stepped in some chewing gum. In some way, by taking the chewing gum with me, I can say that I helped clean a world heritage site. Ahem.

The conference dinner contained three courses, plus bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and each course was large. A large amount of a pasta starter, followed by a very very VERY delicious rack of pork ribs, and finally a dessert of gooey chocolate pudding and ice cream. There was so much, that I could only manage a small portion of the cake – very disappointing.

But having said that, it might have been a good idea I didn’t stuff myself completely full as the ferry ride back, while calmer than the ride out, still had a bit of swell and I could still feel the boat moving even after I’d gone to bed back in the hotel a few hours later… I had the bin next to the side of the bed, just in case, but thankfully it wasn’t needed.

Join me soon for another punnily titled post about what I did today, which was go to the Maltese capital, Valletta.

Flood alert!

September 20, 2011 at 9:05 PM

Here’s a few titbits from Day 3 of my Malta trip:

There’s a flood along my corridor from an unknown source. It rained inside and formed a puddle, and now it’s smelling quite mouldy.
I broke one of my flip-flops today. I guess you could say I broke my flip. Or I broke my flop. I don’t know precisely which one broke.
I ate so much watermelon today, I wouldn’t be surprised if I gave birth to a watermelon in a few months time.
Red jelly is not just for kids.
One of my dinner courses today consisted of watermelon and red jelly.

And in other news, I randomly met the grandparents of someone studying meteorology at Reading, that I probably taught as a masters student year before last.

The weather has also been rubbish today – 30mph winds and not particularly warm, I had to put a top on when outside! Shocker! It turns out it is difficult to swim into the wind when waves and spray are being blown into your face by the wind. Especially when it turns out you’re in a pool and the spray is coming from waves crashing 6ft high over a wall!

Tomorrow things should calm down a bit, I hope so as I’m heading to Gozo (small island north of Malta) on a ferry and I hope the ride isn’t too rough. If my writing is sideways in tomorrow’s post, then you know I’m a bit seasick.

Conference? What conference?

September 19, 2011 at 7:46 PM

Oh, THAT conference. The one I presented at today. The talk I gave seemed to go well – I’ll get proper feedback on it tomorrow, so let’s hope people were/are interested in my work. It took me a while to find the conference room – turns out I was on the wrong floor.

Here’s my thoughts at the end of today:
Chicken Nuggets aren’t just for kids
A cold front and wind made things less warm and – dare I say it – slightly nippy. It was uncomfortable without a top on! Shocking!
There’s a large spider behind my curtain. Me no likey.
I saw the most tortured acronym ever today.
The Daily Mail costs 4 times as much here in Malta than in the UK.
Dendrogram is a nice word. Dendrogram. Say it out loud. Dendrogram.
There is such a thing as too much chocolate cake, it turns out.

All in all, things are going well on the first day of the air pollution conference. My talk is out of the way, so I can relax and enjoy the next two days’ worth of conference. It’s a hard life when an hour after you give your presentation you’re swimming in the hotel pool. So far 15 talks presented, 28 to go. Then I’ll have to find something to do here in Malta! That’ll be a novelty. I’m currently thinking I might take a day trip into Valetta (the capital), I reckon I’ll make up my plans as I go along. Coming to think about it, that sounds like how I’ve done my PhD these past three years…

How do you make a Maltese cross?

September 18, 2011 at 8:10 PM

Poke him in the eye.

I am now in Malta for a week to present at a conference on Air Pollution (Monday), attend the rest of the conference (until Wednesday), then relax (until Saturday). I’m starting to get a bit nervous – and it must be telling due to my latest jokes on twitter:
What did the thunderstorms say to each other before they had a fight? LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE! (To which @foggybrume responded “Nothing, they just clapped” – nicely played sir)
I wanted to start a bandage removal company, but people kept telling me it was a rip off.

So, after a smooth journey to Gatwick, a smooth flight across France, Italy, the Tyrrhenian Sea and Sicily, a less-smooth taxi ride to my hotel, I’m now at the Ramla Bay Resort – www.ramlabayresort.com . My first impressions are as follows:
MY ROOM IS HUGE
There are plenty of cats trying to get food from you at dinner time
The ironing board I’ve been loaned by the hotel isn’t much better than the one we have at home that makes it look like you’ve ironed on a barbeque
The cheese board can be detected from Belgium
I’m getting confused by not changing the time on my laptop or phone
It’s lovely and warm
Closing the pool at 6pm seems at tad early
MY ROOM IS HUGE

So, it’s all going swimmingly. Pictures will be making their way onto facebook shortly, a link will follow. I hope to have a good nights sleep before the start of the conference tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
Edit: And here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150799184265517.722201.677225516&l=d435528c70&type=1

Things on my bed…

September 6, 2011 at 8:29 PM

As I type this post, the following things are on my bed:

Sheet and duvet (with duvet cover)
4 Pillows
A T-Shirt
3 Jumpers
1 sock
A pair of jeans
Another duvet
A pyjama top
A phone charger
A fleece throw
A dressing gown
A 4-gang extention lead
An HMV receipt
Yesterday’s Guardian crossword
A list of 3-dart checkouts
3 spoons and a knife
…and a microwave oven manual

This may need to change before bedtime.

Could do with a little bit of a clean

Who Needs Context 2

August 26, 2011 at 8:31 PM

I’ve just been to a pub in my pyjamas.

I can hear the Reading Festival.

It rained on my diary for 40 minutes.

I spent most of today refreshing satellite images.

Who needs context? Well, here it is anyway.
I’ve just been to a pub in my pyjamas, as I live next door to one and they needed to know when the builder could come round and repoint their wall, but needed access to our property to do it. I couldn’t be bothered to change.

I can hear the Reading Festival – as can pretty much everyone else in Reading. I live nearer the festival than last year, and unsurprisingly it’s louder. Physics, there.

It rained on my diary for 40 minutes… because I left my backpack wide open on the walk into work today, which takes about 40 minutes. And it was absolutely widdling it down during the entire walk. The pages have dried out now, but they still have that crinkled form that damp books do.

I spend most of today refreshing satellite images…. because I’m following Hurricane Irene (from afar!), and hoping it doesn’t impact the US too badly. It could be interesting if it’s still strong when it hits New York…. disaster movie storyline paradise!

Also, I’m hungry. But you don’t need context for that.

cryTunes

July 5, 2011 at 8:21 PM

Something bothers me about my music collection in iTunes – and not just the large quantities of 80s poptastic cheese – all the files are in their folders on my computer as normal (maybe 100 or 150 folders), but they appear as thousands of albums. This really really irritates me, and so I decided to empty the database and import the music back into iTunes once again. THIS HAS TAKEN OVER AN HOUR SO FAR, and my computer is by no means shabby. It’s driving me mad, and it really is enough to drive me away from my iPhone, the iTunes management side is terrible. I really don’t like it.

There is a phone at the moment that I really really want, it’s the HP Pre3 and the associated TouchPad. I do love the WebOS operating system – i had the original Palm Pre a couple of years ago. The reason I got rid of it was the lack of apps that WebOS has. I’m hoping this is starting to change, but it’s a change that’s so slow you can witness continents moving in the meantime. I’m hopeful that the WebOS platform will start to take off under HP’s guidance, but they’ve had it for months now and no real change has happened yet… I’m still hopeful though! I do love the look and performance of the Pre (aside from pitiful battery life), and I really really REALLY want a Pre3 and a TouchPad tablet that all talk to each other. I don’t have the necessary £400 to buy the tablet and (expected) £350 to buy the phone though. So, if anyone is feeling generous…. you known what I really want. Thanks in advance.

Speaking of which, it’s the £150m Euromillions Draw tonight. I’d really quite like to win the jackpot all to myself, because I can’t quite think for the life of me what I would actually do with the money. It’s just way too much. I’d like to have fun finding out though…

Does Not Compute

June 14, 2011 at 8:47 PM

You know you’ve been working hard all day when you start thinking: “wow, those data files are small, they’re only 2010 bytes”, only to realise later that 2010 was the date.

It doesn’t happen often, but today has been one of those working hard days! Shock, horror, amazement! I’m sure normal service will be resumed shortly though, I’m not sure I could cope with two whole days of work…. could I?!

In other news, I’ve not yet won any lottery jackpot. 🙁