And here we are, with less than 1 hour left of 2015! I should have updated this sooner, but I have been busy enjoying my holidays 🙂
So yes, my last update was on the beginning of November! Since then, well, I’ve been busying myself with my routine of work+rowing+sleep+repeat, with the occasional odd event.
I’ve also changed up some gears with regards to the always-present thesis: the deadline is looming ahead, I’ve already submitted the relevant bureaucracy and everything, so the thing needs to be ready for submission before the end of April! But, until then, I still have a paper to submit, a conference to attend (with a presentation to prepare… 😛 ) and hopefully some last results which may still find their way into one of the experimental chapters 🙂 .
With regards to Photonics West, I had some fantastic news back in November! As I was getting ready to head to the boathouse for a nice early sculling session I checked my e-mail and found that SPIE has awarded me a travel scholarship to attend Photonics West! (and the sculling session that followed was also brilliant, great conditions!) Pretty chuffed with all of this, it is, after all, the “holy grail” of Optics conferences! 😀
Just before I headed back to Portugal I participated on a running race at the University, which followed part of the Canterbury parkrun course, the particularity of which was that the runners were encouraged to dress as Santa. They had prizes for the first male and female finishers but also to the best dressed Santa – and, guess what? I won the “best Santa” category! 🙂 (apparently I was considered a “sporty Santa” with my red running shorts… 😛 )
Right, so I returned to Porto thinking I was heading to my second Summer, and I wasn’t too mistaken – some of the days here have been quite similar, weather-wise, to those I had in Kent throughout August! If it wasn’t for the shorter days one could even be mistaken…
And my time in Porto has been spent between catching-up dinners with my mates, training for the 10k Sao Silvestre (the performance in it wasn’t that stellar, well away from my PB, but this year I decided to take it easy and enjoy myself…) and working a bit on my thesis (almost finished a chapter already! 🙂 ) .
Right, and because this is the last post of the year and I want to use all the clichés available, I will look back a bit on what 2015 brought to me: I met some fantastic people in many different places, heard some very inspiring stories, had fun, worked, sculled, rowed, ran, pedalled, photographed, read, etc, etc! (these items are not listed in any particular order!) I have to thank everyone that made this year special, and I look forward to having more memorable moments in the years to come. (I am already practising the “Acknowledgments” section in my thesis – good thing that does not count towards my thesis page limit, otherwise I’d be in trouble! 🙂 )
Let’s say that I was involved a little “incident” with a loose step in my shed whilst carrying my very heavy (>20-25 kg) commuter bike into the said shed. My knee didn’t like it very much…
But not all was lost. True, I didn’t manage to run the parkrun in the following morning but I still went down there (my driving abilities were unimpaired, much to my surprise) and helped out marshalling the course and taking some photos.
Sadly, I had a bit of another incident (this is getting repetitive!) , this time involving my DSLR lens – as I was taking it off a chair the strap got caught and it fell, lens-first onto carpeted floor from about 10-15 cm. The body is fine (after all, Tamia Nelson uses a similar camera in her backcountry expeditions with no issues whatsoever!) but the poor old Tamron 28-200mm got its internal mechanism dislodged and I couldn’t adjust the focal length properly after that. Still, I did manage to take those photos (yes!, this happened before the actual race!), but not without another silly thing happening in the process – given that I had been photographing in a dark environment the day before (see the previous post) I had set the ISO to quite an high value (1600). Obviously then all the photos I took that morning were grainy and very noisy, I only realised what had happened the moment I transferred the photos to the PC. Idiot.
Well, at least it is getting better quickly – hopefully I should be back on the water/saddle/running track over the next few days. But I have to take it easy… 🙂
Already integrated in my Saturday morning routine, that’s for sure! Having a bit of fun and trying hard to get to that sub-20′ time (this week I’ve beat my previous best time, with 20:17. Still 17 seconds to shave out, but I’m hoping by the end of the Summer I’ve managed to do it!). Those last two hills are terrible… looking at my laps one can definitely see a big decrease in the split times for km 3 and 4!
Many thanks to all the volunteers who painstakingly show up every Saturday morning to help out in this event, marshalling the course and taking lots of lovely pictures with which I can fill up my Facebook albums! (I think people by now are quite tired of seeing photos of me running with varying degrees of brightly coloured running gear). I really need to give back, but at the same time I don’t want to give up a potentially great training session, it is a bit of a dilemma! 🙂
And in this event I’ve met a few more familiar faces – one of my co-workers came to run the full course with his two under-10-year-old children. Slowly but steadily the “running-mania” is arriving in Canterbury and, more particularly, at our own Applied Optics Group. Beware… 😀
Race day! Yesterday it was finally the day both myself and my fellow colleagues whom I have been coaching were waiting for – the Whitstable 10k run! We did ok, the main goals were accomplished and we had a lot of fun with everybody cheering us on the way!
And to top things the race was followed by a nice BBQ party at my place – summer is coming, definitely!
Again, this photo of the day was actually not taken by me (because I feature in it), my thanks to the guys from the Romanian Social Club (in Canterbury) for taking it!
Today the “photo of the day” is not actually mine because I’m featuring in it! 🙂 I’ve been doing these parkruns in Canterbury on and off since January (and when I say on and off I really mean it, as we are already in May and this is only my 5th parkrun!), they are a wonderful opportunity to do a high intensity training (timed 5k run at maximum speed, with 4 hills to conquer!) and meet interesting people too. In this particular occasion I managed to beat my PB and lowered it to 20:27. One of my goals for the year is to go under 20′ – but that is going to be painful as I have to sustain an average of 04:00/km throughout the 4 hills in the course! 😀
I really like this photo because not only I’m having a half-decent expression and my running form is actually not that bad, but you can see the sense of fun and quirkiness that goes in these events – indeed that is someone pushing a buggy down there! (we actually have two regulars doing that every Saturday!) We congratulate ourselves at the end, smile a little bit for the cameras and get cheered by the fantastic volunteers along the course (I will volunteer soon too, I really need to give back to the community!).
And it is done, yet another S Silvestre! This year I was quite fortunate to have been able to train with the guys from my home club for a week and a half before the actual race, which was good fun (and we have a lot of big climbs on the banks of the river to practise our hill running!).
I ended up with pretty much the same time as last year (around 43:30 for 10k) which wasn’t stellar, and to be absolutely honest I think I was overly conservative with my effort – the first climb went on OK, but after it I let myself fall behind a bit. Furthermore, running downhill is not one of my best skills, hence I kept being overtaken there 🙂
Still, it was a nice race to finish the year properly, with the bonus of a post-race meal at our local Pizza Hut – featuring an obscene amount of pizza which made the race feel like piece of cake compared to finishing that very last slice!
So yes, last week after a short love affair that started with a Lidl catalogue I went and got myself an action camera from Silvercrest, aggressively priced at £79.99, but with similar features to those of a far more expensive GoPro.
It came with a whole array of accessories, including two sets of cases (one water-proof, one splash-proof which features some holes to enable the camera to record audio through its built-in microphone), loads of different mounts and straps including a bike handlebar mount (which should also be compatible with a rowing shell’s outrigger).
The camera itself can record Full HD video @ 30 fps, or 720p @ 60 fps. It has a few nifty features which I have yet to explore, including time lapse and wi-fi remote control & viewing (I had to install an app from Google Play for that; there’s also a version available for iOS).
Can’t comment on the battery life as I haven’t done a full cycle yet – got it with about 1/4-1/2 of the charge and took it for a 40′ run on Sunday, didn’t manage to deplete it completely! I will write a follow-up post once I get to use a bit more (and perhaps under some nicer weather).
As for the video footage, here it is in its 720p-glory (after a bit of encoding). For some weird reason when I post-processed the video (with kdenlive) it rendered it with a lot more time (1h36m!), filling the end of the clip with black frames. I still need to optimise that, work in progress! 🙂
The track itself, to be absolutely honest with you I think it was the first time I actually ran it (!) – I’ve obviously done parts of it, but this particular loop was a novel configuration, mostly chosen to avoid muddy bits (I am too lazy to scrub my trainers after a run and plus I was running with my newest set, which are still looking rather nice! 😛 🙂 ).
Starting from Tyler Hill, I headed to Blean via Tyler Hill Road (those two bends next to Hothe Court Farm are a bit dangerous, I wouldn’t dream of doing that bit wearing headphones as it is basically a blind bend on a road with no pedestrian paths!), then took the A290 (Blean Hill) towards Canterbury, passing through Rough Common and the junction with Giles Lane (towards the university campus).
Afterwards, I followed the National Cycle Route 1 down the hill, through Neals Place Road and ending up in that housing estate next to London Road. Ran Westgate Court Avenue all the way till its junction with Whitstable Road, and descended a bit more into town, turning left just a bit before the St Dunstans roundabout.
Followed Beaconsfield Road until the junction with St Michaels Road (a popular route for people cycling into the UKC campus given that it links directly with the Eliot foot/cycle path) , from there I followed the foot path up to campus. Crossed the campus until its eastern end (Darwin), and took the B2205 back into Tyler Hill.
But since I was still about 400m away from my 10k goal I decided to do a few silly loops around the village until the Garmin finally acknowledged it (the locals probably think I’m crazy, but then again there weren’t that many people outside with that fantastic weather! 🙂 )
Right, before this turns into a running-only post, just to sum up the camera: so far I liked it, the OLED display is very good, should be very readable under direct sunlight (can’t verify that for a while, though…), the recordings are made in MP4 in a fairly Linux-friendly codec (I have the bad and ugly gstreamer plugins, though…), not requiring any special software (some basic video editing software is included in the package, but it being Windows- and Mac-only meant that I couldn’t really do anything with it …). I still have a significant amount of testing to do, but for now I’m quite happy. I do intend to get the optional RF remote that can be ordered separately, which will allow me to start recording remotely without having to use my phone (useful if I’m on the boat, especially considering that the remote comes in the shape of a wrist-watch…). Keep tuned for more videos, hopefully I should make a few more soon!
So yeah, I’m back to Canterbury after a much-needed holiday. Too be absolutely honest, it wasn’t much of a relaxing holiday (with teaching, half-marathons and stuff), but then again it was enough for me to wind down a bit in terms of my lab work (in essence I had a holiday from the lab!).
And now I’m back to “normality” – after more than two years in Canterbury (and over a year and a bit in my current place) I feel I’m already getting slightly rooted to this place, and being in Porto feels foreign, almost as if I’m just visiting from a tourist point of view!
Even though I have just arrived a couple of weeks ago, soon I’ll be off again – I managed to be able to attend a big international conference which is not in Porto (because I’ve done two of those already…). This time I’m off to Tucson, Arizona for Frontiers in Optics/Laser Science 2014, where I’ll be presenting some of the work published earlier in the year (and depending on the outcome of the post-deadline abstract we submitted earlier this week, perhaps even a bit more! But I’m not holding my hopes too high…).
It feels really exciting, as I’ve never been in the States before (actually I’ve never travelled outside Europe!), and this conference in particular seems to have people from virtually all over the world (I’ve been in touch with a few other participating students in order to arrange cheaper accommodation and they do come from basically everywhere, ranging from the United States themselves to the Far East!). And, unlike the two other international conferences I’ve participated so far (EWOFS back in 2010 and RIAO/OPTILAS last year) this time I’m actually giving a talk! Even though I’m quite accustomed to public speaking this is quite a daunting task, especially since there might be some top “celebrities” in our area of research in the room.
So yeah, it will be fun. And after the conference I’ll head to the Grand Canyon for a couple of days – very looking forward for the drive, even though it will be quite a long one (380 miles just from Tucson to Page, by the Glen Canyon Dam). Better get some appropriate soundtrack for it!
And on the meantime I’ve just been busying myself with more lab work (some exciting things and collaborations seem to be happening, with a lot of potential research avenues to explore! Although I will need to start forging a concise path soon, as I only have 1 year of PhD left…), teaching (can you believe that the undergrads are back already?? Soon there will be tonnes of marking as well… 🙁 ) and lots of rowing and running (the weather has been relatively kind to me, even though it got significantly colder over the previous weekend!). And I have to prepare Sao Silvestre – it is already in December and my goal for this year (which seems a bit too overly-ambitious) is to go under 40 minutes… (at least I need have a better time than my 43 minutes and something from last year!)
Already completely recovered from this past Sunday, which is surprisingly good! (today I’m already going out for a “light” training session, just to get the blood flowing)
The race was great, weather-wise it was a bit dodgy at first with some thunderstorms and the skies blackening up but when the time came the weather actually cooperated! Only a little breeze and relatively cool temperatures (esp. when compared to last year, although it did not prevent me from having some fantastic tanlines – see below!). This year I did most of the 21.1k accompanied by one of my rowing buddies (he did push a bit further at the end) which helped keeping the pace constant. We were averaging about 4:27/km during the first half of the course, dropping slightly to 4:28/km in the end which enabled an overall time of 1h35m01s (656th out of about 4400: not bad!) – more than 12′ less than last year!
I’m very happy with this, although this now means that the stakes are now much higher for next year – I need to go under 1h30m! 🙂
Later on I’ll be having a very well-deserved francesinha with all the people that have trained with me. And this coming weekend we have our annual river descent, so I’m very looking forward to that too. And then… I say goodbye to Portugal, as I’m only back for Xmas (and S Silvestre… 🙂 ). Definitely a good send-off, and I am now fully energised for another term of research and teaching!