Tag Archives: bikes

I’ll be better next time, I promise!

So, how much time has passed since my last update? Basically half a year, I think!… This is definitely not going according to plan πŸ™‚ .

Anyway, my last update was immediately after I handed in my thesis (end of April). I started my new job as a post-doc researcher the week after. The new job is still at the same place, with the same people — but with additional responsibilities (and without the pressure of a thesis to write…)!

I had a slight break in between, though – my dad came to visit and we did some sightseeing (Dover Castle in extremely foggy conditions, but we powered it through anyway – I’m becoming too English πŸ™‚ ) and at the end of his stay I had my first coastal regatta (@ Worthing) of the season (well, there had been one in Deal in early April but that didn’t count). Funnily enough, we ended up winning our Nov 4+ category that day (unfortunately that was the _only_ win I had during the whole season – we did get quite a few third places, though!).

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Some of the HBARC squad after prize-giving in Worthing regatta! (photo by M. Marques)

So yes, most of my summer weekends were spent on several different beaches around the Kent and East Sussex coast – with all culminating on the South Coast Championships which took place precisely at Herne Bay! It has definitely been fun, if tiresome at times.

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We like the rough water! πŸ™‚ (although in my opinion rough water is fine for sweep rowing, not so much for going out on a single scull! But I guess I just need to get some proper sea legs…) (photo by J Dining)

One other ‘big thing’ that happened over the summer was our house move. We finally moved out of the student digs in Canterbury we were in to a nicer place in Herne Bay. Not only am I now only 10 minutes away from the clubhouse by bike but we now have a proper garage and workshop where I can work on my bikes and other assorted projects! (it also has a nice kitchen, with a 5-burner gas hob and everything! Luxury…)

Oh, and there is also the viva. Yes, that should actually have been the first thing on the list, but I am trying to do it in a chronological fashion (it does make more sense in my head than in the actual text…). So yes, according to my supervisor, when confronted with the size of my thesis (obviously… πŸ˜‰ ) my external examiner required the whole 3 months to read it. (he did also say that my thesis was probably the heaviest item in his luggage – but I blame the university policies for that, which prevented me from printing on both sides of the paper, making a 250-page book as thick as the Bible!).

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Everything ready for the viva! In the UK the PhD viva is only attended by the two examiners (one internal, and one external) and obviously the candidate. Makes it for a more one-to-one conversation; and even though I had prepared a 30-minute presentation, that ended up being an informal conversation about my work. And no, I did not bribe my examiners with Lidl biscuits, although they were quite welcome πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’m digressing… so, my viva. It took place on the 2nd of August, and everything went according to plan – I had booked a nicer room (our group’s meeting room, which has a proper meeting table, AV facilities and also the kettle & coffee maker: these two are very important!), refreshed my memory by reading the thesis and checking relevant papers (and spotted quite a few mistakes in the process – outch!), so everything was properly prepared. The questioning wasn’t that bad, really – I was just surprised to be asked to compute matrix multiplications and simple signal theory concepts – and in the end I got out with minor corrections (could have been just typographical but since I wanted to change some diagrams, they allowed for that a bit more time). I felt quite honored to be told by my external examiner (who is a very big name in the field, and the editor of one of the biggest journals in the field as well!) that he had actually learned something from my thesis. Amazing stuff, especially considering he started his academic career more or less when I was born!

After properly celebrating with my workmates, my supervisor, and Sally of course, August went on, with a couple more regattas, followed by a lot of water sessions in preparation for the South Coast Champs. By then our crew was coming together – there were sessions when the boat felt really, really good, timing- and balance-wise. It was a long time coming but we felt really happy when it finally happened!

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At the end of a training session with my mate Carlos on the coxless pair. There are few better ways of finishing the day… πŸ™‚ (photo by N Tricks)

Naturally, during all this time my research activities were carried on – we finalised a paper which is now going to be re-submitted soon (issues with reviewers being silly, nothing new there), and I’ve developed new systems, new software, and obtained lots of pretty pictures in the process. Hopefully if I become a bit more committed to updating this thing more images will eventually surface here…

I also bought a new road bike that month. It was a bit of an impulse buy – we had gone to Halfords to buy L-plates for Sally’s car so she could practice and naturally my gaze was diverted to the bike section, where I spotted a big discount on old stock. Ended up getting a low-end Carrera (but with carbon forks and half-decent wheels) for Β£199 – quite happy with it so far, although I haven’t done any very long rides with it yet (mostly 20 miles-ish each so far). The N+1 rule does not apply here, at least not until we have our own place and not have to worry about moving everything, so I had to get rid of one of my bikes πŸ™ . But I wasn’t really riding the hybrid Raleigh that much, especially considering that the bike itself was a bit too small for me! Ended up selling it to one of my co-workers, which was probably the best thing I could have done – it went to a loving home and I still see it from time to time. πŸ˜‰

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My two roadies enjoying the sun. I took this picture after finishing fitting a new fork on the Granada, since the original one had been damaged during a head-on collision with another cyclist earlier in the summer.

In late August I flew to Porto for a mini-holiday with my family, followed by the customary week-long Physics summer school at my old university, where once again I mentored the LEGO robots project (this was probably the last time I’ll be involved in this, though – I think it is time to move on and let new faces take over and create a whole new project!). Away from my crewmates and the training sessions, and with the Championship looming, I ran and I cycled as much as possible, and I was treated to some nice rides with nice people, as the picture below shows!… πŸ™‚

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Great time!

Me and my mate Cris after a long-ish bike ride along the seafront and riverside. Brilliant time!

September came and went, with a very welcome mini-break with Sally to Portugal – it was her first time there, and we had a very tightly-packed schedule, so things were a bit hectic. Still, we enjoyed the countryside, Porto, the river, and the nice food (not to mention having my family around). And on Easter next year we will return for more!

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In the Douro valley with Mum, Dad and Sally!

After returning to the UK, winter slowly started to set in. We fought for a bit, still had our Indian summer for a while, not really wanting to swap the summer with the winter clothes or turn the central heating on but we ended up capitulating on early November (although theΒ  icy weather only really started around here last week!). And with November a few more things appeared in the horizon – I became qualified as a session rowing coach (I have completed a British Rowing course – the first one on the coaching ladder – alongside a few people from HBARC and Spitfire), and I had my graduation ceremony where I finally became a doctor of philosophy in Physics (woo, fancy title! πŸ™‚ ).

Naturally, for this momentous occasion I had to have my family over, so my parents came to visit, and after graduation day we took a couple of days off to show them around. Despite the torrential rain in one of the days (there you go, England!) we still enjoyed ourselves.

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Me and my parents at the Cathedral on graduation day. (photo by S Makin)

And now it is finally December, and Christmas decorations are sprouting here and there, there’s Christmas music on the radio, and today I bought my very first Christmas jumper! πŸ™‚ This year I’m actually spending Christmas and New Year in England, for the first time in my life. My brother and sister are actually spending Christmas with us (which is also going to be a first for them), so I’m quite looking forward to the festive season. But there’s so much to finish before that happens… better get on with it, and hope I still have some time to keep this updated. At least let’s hope it won’t be another 6-7 months until the next update… πŸ˜‰

Holidaying… sort of!

Well, today is absolutely pouring down outside so I have some time to update this thing, at last! (and I can scrape “Update blog” off my to-do list, too πŸ™‚ )

So, what has been happening since my “blacksmith” post? (which wasn’t…) August was spent working in the lab, with the occasional leisure moment – including some coastal rowing in Herne Bay and a lab BBQ at mine which even included a game of football in the recently cleared-up garden!

Some of the work we’ve been doing finally paid off, too – two research letters have been recently published in Optics Letters, including one covering the two-port, two-gratings spectrometer (using Talbot bands) and another describing a polarisation-sensitive OCT system that is immune to fibre-based disturbances. (in case anybody wants to have a look round but doesn’t have an OSA subscription, the preprint versions are available in Kent’s academic repository, here and here.)

And I’m now trying to piece together all the research I’ve been doing over these last three years and make it thesis-friendly – ie, I need to make all the little projects and set-ups I’ve worked with blend together in a coherent manner. No easy task… but it is true that the hardest part of the work has been done already, which is to research and retrieve the information. Still… this is going to take a while πŸ™‚

The robot that was built by the students. This year they were a bit more ambitious and they placed an ultrasound sensor for the robot to stop once it found an obstacle in its path!

The robot that was built by the students. This year they were a bit more ambitious and they placed an ultrasound sensor for the robot to stop once it found an obstacle in its path!

Late August I returned to Portugal, and over the first week of September I have been again involved with the Physics Summer School (for high school students, 16- to 17-year olds) in my old Department, tutoring them in the Lego robotics project (and teaching them some LabVIEW). This time there were no dramas (apart from my Monday morning tour of Porto & Gaia to try to find a printing place where I could print the course for the robot, only to discover the old course later the same day stashed away in the back of a cupboard! Argh!) and the students seemed to grasp it properly (although the hardest part is to explain to their peers what on earth they have been doing throughout that week…).

My new beautiful road bike after a first trip down to Espinho (thank you Augusto Caetano for the photo!).

My new beautiful road bike after a first trip down to Espinho (thank you Augusto Caetano for the photo!).

This year I’m not doing the Porto half-marathon so I took it lightly in my trainings (plus I spent most of August not running, trying to recover from that injury I got during the Les Golding 10k…). And because I felt I needed a decent bike around here to do some trainings & nice tours, I finally took the plunge and went to Decathlon to get the lovely Triban 520 road bike I had been dreaming about for the past few months. I’ve clocked in a bit over 100 km already, it runs beautifully! (although I had to get used to the shifters being on the brake levers and not mounted on the frame, as is the case with my Raleigh…) It is also very light (around 10-11 kg) – I suspect I’m going to feel the extra weight when I get back to England and to my other road bike…

The Mac wall. There is one G4 missing (on loan) and a IIsi which is currently under my desk in the UK, apart from that they're all there! :)

The Mac wall. There is one G4 missing (on loan) and a IIsi which is currently under my desk in the UK, apart from that they’re all there! πŸ™‚

Anyway, so after the Summer School I’ve been basically spending my time running and cycling, being with friends and family, and working a bit – I have a presentation during a workshop which will be taking place next week in Denmark, plus there are a few deadlines for grant applications that need to be submitted before the end of this month… I’ve also finally got round to get some shelving units to store my vintage Apple computer collection – I have to say that they look good once they’re all together in some nice, purpose-built shelving, don’t you think? Now I have to get round to update the sub-website I have here, as there are some models which have not found their way into the website yet…

I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning that I’ve received some very sad news once I got back to Portugal: Mike Kennedy, one of the coaches I knew from both UKent Rowing Club and Spitfire, passed away after a battle with cancer. I had been with him a few weeks before, talking about rowing and bikes and everything in between, actually I had spent a few nice afternoons having chats with him over this last two years. He even managed to do some remote coaching, correcting my sculling technique after I sent him some videos – those were quite helpful indeed. Thank you Mike, for everything.

And on this slightly more sombre mood I will finish this post. Next Saturday I’m already flying back to the UK and back to some proper work, I could say also back to the slightly more rubbish climate but it doesn’t seem that way when I look outside the window right now! (although I’ve seen the weather forecast for Porto during the coming week and it seems really nice… of course it does, I’m no longer here!! πŸ˜› )