Tag Archives: status

Spring is getting here!…

Indeed it is, even though in a windy and overcast day like today it seems hard to visualise that. And with Spring we have the unavoidable Spring cleans, it is also a good time to perform a situation check on how things are going and try to improve them if necessary.

Last time I’ve written a “proper” (ie, long) post was basically at the end of my Christmas holidays (that was back in January…). Since then the days have been getting progressively longer and milder (I cannot use the word “warm”, that one is reserved to Portuguese weather!) and the term is basically finishing! I’ve finished my lab classes, even though I still have a sizeable pile of lab reports to mark 🙁 .

My lab work has been progressing well, I now have good results to communicate, with a couple of publications being prepared at the moment. Thesis-wise things have been stationary as I’ve been finding it difficult to juggle lab work+classes+marking+a bit of personal time, adding anything else to that mix would blow things up, I guess.

And with regards to that “bit of personal time”, I’ve been trying to make the most of the outdoor conditions, because even if it is not “warm” (but mild) one can still enjoy oneself and do some nice things. I’ve been doing a lot of sculling lately (as it was probably evident from some pictures I’ve posted here not too long ago…), having finally sorted out the lightweight sculling single which was being refurbished before I left for my Christmas break (and what a great boat it is!…).

I also managed to convince some of my lab colleagues to join me in a 10k race which will be taking place in Whitstable over the May bank holiday. Given that two of them were not regularly doing sports we had to take it really easy in the beginning, but we’ve already managed to do 10k in ~1h with no stops, hence it is starting to look good!

IMGP1292

In February we also had a nice day trip to Belgium. While the weather wasn’t as spectacular as the same time in the previous year when we went down to Boulogne-sur-Mer it was still decent enough to allow us to visit Brugges and buy a lot of fantastic Belgium beer!

And now I’m looking forward to a couple of days at home. The weather forecast looks very promising – but to be honest anything usual for Porto at this time of the year would be better than what I’m currently looking at outside my window – the sky is absolutely white, the trees are moving like crazy and one just does not want to leave the house at all (I don’t intend to do it… and I have plenty of things to keep me busy here anyway!)

OK, break’s over. Let’s get back to work!…

Wrapping up the year!…

So, here we are, 2014 almost over (indeed it is 2015 already in some parts of the globe!) and I have yet to write my year wrapping-up post in here. Since I have better things to do than to be here on the computer let’s get started! 🙂

2014 was good to me, broadly speaking – looking back, I had some fun, visited a few places, ran a few races, and progressed in my work. Definitely not a bad year, and I dare say it might have been one of the quietest and most relaxed I’ve had so far (and yes, I am a PhD student, I should be stressed!). I reckon this is the calm before the storm… as 2015 creeps in, I can already see this is going to be a year of decisions – I have to start looking beyond my thesis and my PhD as I’m due to submit my thesis at the end of this coming year, and I have to write the aforementioned thesis, too.

Where am I going to go? What am I going to be working on, 1 1/2 years from now? Those are very legitimate and interesting questions, to which I have no answer at the moment, unfortunately. I’m hoping that by this coming Summer I already have some of the answers.

So yes, 2014 was a piece of cake compared to what is coming!… 🙂 To sum it up, a terrific 2015 to all of my readers, may this coming year bring you plenty of great accomplishments!

Here we go again…

Here we go again...

So yeah, after that amazing week in Arizona I’m back in cold, damp England. Well, I can’t really complain – much to my amazement it was quite warm on my arrival, so warm that I was actually roasting inside my car while stuck on yet another M25 traffic jam while returning from the airport!

But the weather here is like a Heaviside step function – Friday evening was still amazing (17 degrees C at 8 PM!!), and by end of Saturday the cold, the wind, and the rain muscled themselves in. As I’m writing this I have outside a balmy 6 degrees C and 95% RH. Anyway, this is not the Met Office so I should probably stop talking about the weather! 🙂

Going back to my trip, I have yet to organise my 1000+ photos I (with some help from the front seat passenger) took whilst on the trip to the Grand Canyon and the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. It is going to take a while but it is going to be worthy, there are some spectacular and exquisite images in there.

Right now I’ve been busying myself with teaching, preparing student chapter activities, researching and thinking about more potential research. Obviously still trying to cram a few runs and sculls in the meantime, especially with S Silvestre so close by (and I have to say that I’m being rubbish at preparing myself for it – I miss the training sessions I was having with my rowing mates back in Porto, here I feel I don’t push the same!!).

Finally got some time to sort out the website and make it look the way I wanted – I feel it is better this way, first time visitors will not go straight into my blog content, which might be a good idea, especially if people from a more “serious kind” end up in these pages!

OK, I think it is time for bed now – tomorrow is going to be a big day, especially since we’ll be hosting a joint colloquium with a few other research groups from different schools within the university. It has all the potential to be quite interesting and to foster potential collaborations between people with a broad range of interests and skills, which is something we definitely lack and that I did see in abundant quantities in the States (more on that in a later post…).

It has really been a while!…

Indeed it has!… A lot has gone by since I last wrote something longer than a couple of lines in here – my last “big” post dates back to December 2013! (coincidentally, the title of that post sounds quite similar to the one in here!)

Christmas came and went, 2014 is now in full swing with the days getting longer and longer and considerably warmer as well (no need to wear pogies anymore when having an early morning practice on the river, yay!).

Things have been pretty quiet, I must say – between my research, my teaching and a paper which finally got through after tens of revisions I haven’t got opportunity to do much more. Oh well, I still managed to cram a wonderful day out in France back in February, and I’m currently finishing my week-long holiday in Porto (it was quite a blur!), heading back tonight to England, where a lot of work awaits.

Fortunately, the weather has been quite mild! Unlike everyone living in the south-west of England (and even on the south), in east Kent things were nowhere near as bad, and actually it wasn’t that cold – from mid-February onwards I was already able to run outside wearing barely anything more than a T-shirt and a pair of shorts! (quite a stark contrast from what we had last year, as we had snow all the way until the end of March!)

This means I’ve been able to either run or scull almost every single day, which has been great for my psyche (and the physique as well, although I’m not probably putting half as much effort as I should… 🙂 ).

And these upcoming months are going to be interesting – between work, conferences and a few visits, with the weather getting increasingly better, I’ll never have a dull moment! 🙂

Hopefully I’ll be able to update this a bit more frequently – but then again, I keep saying that and a few weeks (sometimes even days!) later breaking the promise. Will see!

Until then, ta-da!

Holiday mode: on!

For the past week that’s what I’ve been doing! 🙂 (well, sort of…)

After “getting rid” of my students – I had one more year mentoring the Robotics project on the “Escola de Verão de Física 2013” Summer School – I entered vacation mode for a little while.

With regards to the School, everything went well! Once again I had good, motivated students, and at the end of it I was feeling great, that I had made a difference and taught something useful to young(er) minds. (I was feeling quite tired as well…)

On the meantime, I still found time to cram a few training sessions for the Porto half-marathon (which will take place tomorrow, hoping to finish it under 1h50!) and work on the several-times-mentioned-but-still-not-finished paper of mine (getting there!…).

Just to let you know that I’m still here, anyway!… 😀 (and having a good time…)

Aaand… it is over!

This has been one hectic week, I can tell you! 🙂 Glad it is over!…

It was a very interesting experience, though – I got to experience the nitty-gritty issues of organising a conference, how to perform under pressure (still have a lot to improve in there!), and how important team work is (not that I wasn’t aware of that already! 😉 ).

A shame that I couldn’t make the best usage of the scientific program in there, though – with too many things to sort out, I barely saw any posters, and I had to miss some of the sessions to help out elsewhere. But I can’t really complain, as I attended the conference for free… 🙂

And now, it is time to get back to the UK… and work like crazy in the lab, as I need “publishable” results before I can actually go on holidays! And also make up for the time lost in terms of trainings, as I have an half-marathon to run and this past week was a big step backwards in my progress (no time for anything!), I ended up bringing my gear home just to fill my suitcase… 😛

Easter extended weekend!

It is always nice to have a bit of a break from work, and have a nice time with good friends and great food! Around here we have Bank Holidays on both Good Friday and Easter Monday – even though I actually spent part of the break coding and fixing my ragged piece of software, I had plenty of stuff to keep me amused!

Starting with Saturday – we had the Spring ICC! I remember fondly the last year’s ICC – it was great fun, the weather was lovely and sunny and we had a really good time (also, it was my very first race! Well… not a “real” race, but still counts as one for me!). Err.. not this year!

Boathouse, 7:30 AM

Boathouse, 7:30 AM on Spring ICC day. Can you spot the snow flakes falling? (I should have used the flash!)

 

This year’s weather has been very, very disappointing (in fact, it actually snowed today, April 3rd! 😛 ), and the Spring ICC was no exception. We got out of the minibus in Plucks just to get greeted by a blizzard of snow gushing through the bus’ side door!

Gladly, it wasn’t like that all morning – there were periods of sunshine! – but I still raced under a bit of a blizzard on my first race (I raced twice, first on a single – ooh! – and then filling in a W4+ with another guy – there weren’t enough girls in the boathouse to have all-female crews, so we had to fill in for them! 😉 ). My time on the 1x was quite miserable – 4:06 for a <1k race!! – and, predictably, I came up last 🙂 . But then again, I don’t know how to go fast on a single, as I normally use them for leisurely “strolls” of 10k+! 😛

Having fun!! And at least I managed to keep the boat relatively balanced for the photo… (photo credit Ben Zeng)

 

Sadly, there was no barbecue this year, and we managed to finish the whole event quite early (probably the nasty weather contributed a bit to that!) – I was back at my place around 1 PM!

2013-03-31%2014.30.15

Easter lunch: Great company, good food and wine – what else can I ask? 😉

On Easter Sunday I also had a great time – a lovely lunch-which-was-then-extended-to-dinner with my Portuguese friends living here in Canterbury, with a gap in between to get to the pub to watch the Boat Race on telly with the guys from the club (Oxford won quite cleanly – quite a change from last year, rowing-wise, and I also enjoyed being in the pub with a pint in hand watching the whole race, instead of freezing to death on the banks of the Thames! :P).

A great time, indeed – I now fully recharged my “batteries” for some weeks’ worth of hard work!

Tiresome Thursday!

Aha, I knew Thursday was going to be a busy day even before it started…

To start, nothing better than cycling down to Lidl at 8 AM to do some shopping. And before you start, let me tell you that there is a perfectly good reason for me to have done so! 🙂 Mondays and Thursdays are the days when Lidl refreshes those “one-off” promotions, and this week they had loads of bicycle accessories. You’re starting to get the picture? And even though I don’t think they would have everything sold out by the end of the day, I really had to go in the morning before work as I had plenty of stuff to do in the evening.

(and good thing that I decided so, as apparently Canterbury was completely overwhelmed during the day to the enthronement of the new Archbishop – lots of guests, including VIPs such as the PM and Prince Charles, apparently…)

I had gone to Lidl with my mind set on a new light kit, as my “old” (3 months-old) front light is behaving erratically, switching between modes as I’m cycling along – still works well as a torch, though! I also wanted a little £4.99 accessory kit which came with a nice little pouch (good for those long bicycle rides, in case something comes loose or I have a flat and I’m too far away from home to consider walking back! 😛 ) and a comfortable saddle – I had said before I wasn’t liking the factory-fitted saddle which came with my Raleigh…

Well, I got that and still more! 😛 I found a triple pannier bag set just sitting there all by itself, apparently it was the only one left and thus was slightly reduced in price (£14.99). As my bags were already a bit shabby (probably due to the fact that I repeatedly overload them with groceries every time I go shopping!) I decided to stretch the budget a bit and bought it as well. Boy oh boy, isn’t that thing great! All the other stuff I got is really nice and all, but the bag set is absolutely great, a very good buy indeed (review to follow!).

OK, and I now realise I have written 4 paragraphs on what I did for half an hour on a Thursday morning. No wonder I hate writing 250-word abstracts for conference submissions! 🙂

Moving on… cycled back home (which was quite a journey in itself, since I had to hold the extra bags with one hand while keeping the other on the handlebar, and indicating/braking/changing gear became so much more interesting!), and from there to the lab.

And in the afternoon I had the club’s Ergathon. As I am a bit out of shape (this nasty winter hasn’t helped, and I’m only training on weekends due to transport issues!) I decided to take it easy and did only 5k at a relatively leisure pace (after all, I am a leisure rower! 😀 ). Still, it was just what I needed to warm myself up, as the sun remained stubbornly behind the clouds and a bitterly cold wind was blowing (the fact that the University campus is on the top of a hill also doesn’t help!).

After stepping out of the erg I returned to the lab, only for leaving almost immediately afterwards – cycled furiously home (can you do that on a commuter bike like mine? Apparently you can, especially when going downhill!) , got home, showered and dressed a bit less shabbily (after all, I’m not going dining out every day!), and I was out of the door again in 20 minutes, climbing up the hill towards the campus all over again, as the shuttle bus that links the two campuses leaves from the bus stop in front of Darwin College.

We took the shuttle amid lots of cheerful talk. Even though I skype to my family quite frequently, it feels really good to be able to speak Portuguese with real people on the street, if even for one night.

One hour later, there we were in Medway, and our “host” André guided us to the Portuguese restaurant/café. I had brought some cash on me, since I thought the café would be something very local and, in a way, a bit shabby (perhaps I was thinking of the typical village café you find in the Portuguese countryside!) and therefore had no electronic payment method.

Well, I was quite wrong – just off the High St, quite cheerfully decorated and all! Best of all (obviously) it had all the food I miss around here – francesinha, bitoque, salted codfish (bacalhau!!), roasted suckling pig (leitão no forno), the lot! And, to top it up, at that hour of the night (people here seem to think it is a good idea to dine at 18h..) all of the people in the restaurant were Portuguese, so for a while you could think you were back home, at least if you didn’t look outside the window! 🙂

The group on another adventure!

Outside Café Jaer, a Portuguese restaurant/coffee shop in Gillingham high street (just a 40 minute drive from Canterbury!). Wonderful food and excellent company – what else can I ask?
(I had to crank up the ISO setting on my camera to take proper evening shots – sorry about the noisiness!)

The francesinha!

Never thought I’d see one around these shores so soon… but apparently I was wrong.
This thing was gigantic – normally I don’t struggle with a francesinha, but this time I found it a bit complicated to finish it (and I had done 5k on the erg just before dinner, I was really starving! 🙂 )

And suddenly...

And suddenly … I teleported myself back to Porto and I was just having an expresso with friends. As long as I didn’t look outside the window, it felt quite accurate!

Really fantastic – good food, great company, I can’t really ask for more. And the owner lured us back with the promise of leitão in a few weeks, along with more cod! (he only gets his shipments quite infrequently, as we are a bit away from the bigger markets. Still, it is way better than to go to London just for dining out!)

The shuttle service between the two campuses is an excellent idea, and to top it up it runs all the way until midnight, and it is FREE for all Kent students and staff! 😀 Sadly, it will only be running until the end of this term (April 5th). Oh well, anyway it is not too long for me to get my car…

As you can see from the length of this post (I really need to stop writing this much, I have the impression no-one actually reads this – I’m just scaring people away with the amount of text I put here! 😛 ), Thursday was quite a big day. But I like big days once in a while, otherwise I just get bored!… 🙂

Some more updates…

Taking into consideration the fact that I’m being held prisoner in my own house due to the horrible weather outside (stupid wind will not die down for anything, and I was really fancying a run today!), I will then use this imposed spare time to do some postponed activities, such as properly updating this blog.

Apart from a few photos and rants about the famous English weather this blog hasn’t seen a “proper” update in more than one month, so let us remedy the situation, shall we? 🙂

The term is almost finished: in fact, I’ll have my last lab session next Monday! Then I’ll have another pile of reports to mark, but that’s about it — then I can devote my full attention to my research (and my PhD) until October! I’ve been having some crazy Mondays, they are very tiresome but also very rewarding, and I’m starting to realise the big “people skills” boost these sessions have been giving me! And I really enjoy guiding the students towards the understanding of a specific phenomena: the icing on top is when they finally understand it and I can leave their bench with the feeling of accomplished duty. 🙂 I don’t know how the world will turn and where I’ll be in 3 years’ time (that’s when I hope to get my PhD finished!…), but a career in academia, or, at least, with some teaching involved, yes, I think I’d like that. 😉

Well, enough of thinking about the far future, when there are so many things to consider at present… apart from the teaching, my research is progressing, and hopefully we will have publishable results soon (if I’m not mistaken, I think I wrote the exact same thing in another post not too long ago… but now I think we are definitely there, and then there’s the extra encouragement of another project to be carried out, hence the current one needs to be completed ASAP!…). So far I’ve been having fun imaging several samples (including my thumb, which might one day become one of the most imaged thumbs in the world!) whilst testing and improving the sensitivity of the two channels of my system. But I won’t bore you with details, let’s move on, shall we?

Here is an early image taken with my system. Yes, this is an optical fibre over a blob of blue-tac, although that's not very evident...

Here is an early image taken with my system. Yes, this is an optical fibre over a blob of blue-tac, although that’s not very evident…

OK, moving on: my lovely bike turned 300 miles on its odometer, at last! I think I’m doing a lower mileage versus time on this bike when comparing with my “old” Dunlop (well, it is only one year old now – but it is older than the Raleigh, isn’t it?). In truth, I already know most of the neighbouring region around Canterbury, so I feel no need to actually cycle to new places during the weekends (anyway, my weekends have also been quite filled with rowing practices, report marking, house chores, and shopping…). Apart from one weekend when I actually had to cycle to the boathouse (partially: I took the train to Minster and then cycled 4 miles to the boathouse!), the furthest this bike has gone was to Sturry (2 miles away from Canterbury), just after I got it (and that was last year!).

Hopefully when the days get warmer and nicer I might consider some longer trips. But it is also a bit dull to go all by myself, and unfortunately I still haven’t found people willing to go with me explore some new regions!… 🙁

bike odometer

There you,go, 300.3 miles on the clock! (the mileage on this one is building up at a considerably lower rate than with my older Dunlop, a combination of bad weather and a lot of weekends having to work and train…)

The bike itself, so far it hasn’t disappointed that much. Apart from some brake tuning I had to do (pretty easy, these are V-brakes!) to make it stop properly and an annoying tendency for the chain to jump out of the front dérailleur gearset when I ask for the highest gears (which already happened twice –  I suspect it is just a case of tuning the tension of the cable, but it is so rare for me to use the highest gears that I couldn’t be bothered doing that…), it hasn’t let me down, and if there is no wind slowing me down it can go quite fast as well. And I was a bit worried about its skinny tyres when the first snow came – bah! She handled the snow quite remarkably, I have been cycling to the lab every day, under rain or snow, no issues whatsoever!… 🙂

And Lidl will have a nice promotion on bike accessories this week, so I suspect I’m going to break the bank a bit and get some new stuff for the bike – the front light I bought for it is not working very well anymore, and I could use a more comfortable saddle (after all, this is a touring bike, not a racing one, so one should be *comfortable* while riding it!).

Pedometer

£15 in Lidl, quite a good deal! Will post a detailed review soon…

Speaking of Lidl, I’ve been there last week getting my groceries (lately I’ve been ditching Sainsbury’s for Lidl!… 🙂 ) and out of an impulse I got myself a pedometer/wristwatch/heart rate monitor gizmo. A detailed review will follow, but so far I’m pretty pleased with it, even though I still need to calibrate the pedometer function properly…

And yesterday the club kit I had ordered a few weeks ago finally arrived! After more than 3 years rowing, I finally got myself my very first onesie (that’s what they call them around here, in Portuguese we use the French term maillot). You’ll eventually see me in it soon, as there will be a series of events involving rowing (both in water and out of it) in the near future :). As I refuse to take a photo of myself wearing it just for the sake of having an image here, you’ll have to trust me on this one, it looks really great! (and I love the burgundy… would that have something to do with the fact that I drive a burgundy car? :))

OK, I think that’s more than enough (confession: I’ve started writing it yesterday, Mar 16th, but only finished the following day, so it is quite a sizeable endeavour!) for a single post, and if you managed to get to this point without falling asleep or closing the browser window I have to congratulate you! 🙂 Soon I’ll be posting a detailed review of the pedometer and some other tidbits (let’s see if I can start updating this more frequently, as that will reduce the amount of text in each individual post!…).