European rail trip, part 1: introduction and Paris

Once I knew that I had been accepted to present my poster at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna, I started to think about how to travel there. I’ve never been a big fan of airports, and the associated security palaver. So my first stop was of course the excellent Seat61.com, which shows that overland travel by rail was possible and not a ridiculous idea. I began to plan the trip.

Right from the start, I knew I wanted to travel through the Alps. This meant a stop over in Zürich, plus changing trains in Paris. I thought it would be nice to spend a couple of nights in each, to give me at least a full day to explore. I decided to return by one of the alternatives suggested on Seat61, the overnight sleeper train to Köln. Originally, my plan was to return via Brussels and back through the Channel Tunnel, but then realised that the Amsterdam–Newcastle ferry was not that expensive, and gave me the opportunity to visit that city so famous for its cycling.

My eventual route involved 8 trains, 1 ferry, and 2 connecting buses, covering 4430km over 51hours. OK, so it may not be as fast as flying, but part of the joy of travel is the journey. And it meant I got to visit 5 European cities instead of just one.

Vienna Trip Map
… [Continue Reading ‘European rail trip, part 1: introduction and Paris’]


First research outputs

I have been working towards the first outputs from my research, which will be at a couple of academic conferences this year.

Firstly, I will be presenting a poster at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2015 in Vienna, on the work we have been doing on “Wave-current interactions at the FloWave Ocean Energy Research Facility”. This will be in Session NP7.3 on Wednesday 15th April, just in case you happen to be there, do drop by and say hello. I feel slightly intimidated to be presenting as part of a session on non-linear physics of wave-current interactions, as this is not my speciality by any means. But hopefully people will be interested by the potential for interesting research at FloWave, as this is more what I have concentrated on.

The other main piece of work I have been busy with is a paper for the European Wave and Tidal Energy Conference (EWTEC), in Nantes this September. This is on the initial characterisation and spatial variability of the currents generated at FloWave. Again, I think the interesting and novel aspect of this topic is more focussed on the facility, rather than my analysis, but I have got a good chunk of data to present and discuss.

More details to follow once I have finished this work, and actually get to publicly present it. So far I’ve only had to present the outline of my work at an internal event, which hardly counts as a proper academic grilling!


2014 in numbers

Over the past year I have walked approximately 4.15 million steps, covering 2 600 km, and I cycled a further 2 750 km. In between, I have taken over 6 000 photos and I’m not sure how many hours of video. It is quite interesting to look back on the year past with some data, although I don’t have much from previous years to compare it to.
… [Continue Reading ‘2014 in numbers’]


Mapping the developing world

As part of the OpenStreetMap project, there is a humanitarian aspect, producing maps of the less developed parts of the world. These can be used for both disaster recovery, as was demonstrated after the Haiti earthquake, but also for preparedness in areas of flood or disease risk.

Maps are knowledge. They are required to coordinate (often scarce) resources in the event of a disaster or epidemic. And OSM is making these freely available to everyone everywhere, in the same way that Wikipedia is democratising knowledge.

Over the past few years, I have contributed to a number of the tasks organised by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), mapping various areas of Africa and Indonesia.
… [Continue Reading ‘Mapping the developing world’]


2014 in photos

Rather than put together another list of top photos from the year, I though I’d do something a bit different, and remember some of the interesting trips and events by the photos I took.

I saw in the New Year in Edinburgh, although avoiding the street party. I went up to Calton Hill with my flatmate Ali and some friends, before returning to a rather good night at the Tollbooth Tavern.

2014 Fireworks

… [Continue Reading ‘2014 in photos’]


Favourite photos of 2013

I recently realised when thinking about my favourite photos from the past year that I had not even put together a selection from the previous year. So to remedy that, below is my top three, with the rest of them on Flickr. Partly I suspect this was because photography was somewhat overshadowed by my return to academia, but hopefully now that I have a little more time I will get back into taking and sharing photos.

Brig o'Doon

… [Continue Reading ‘Favourite photos of 2013’]


20mph limits in towns

As someone who walks and cycles a lot, I support plans for more widespread implementation of 20mph zones in our towns and cities. These should primarily be a place for people, and not dominated by motor vehicles. Illustration of reduction in survival rate for pedestrians/cyclists hit by motor vehicles at increasing speed

Pedal on Parliament recently put together a piece to mark World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, which I volunteered a graphic to illustrate. I am delighted to say this was widely re-shared on social media, but that is not the point of this post.

These depressing statistics illustrate that there is an increasing likelihood of serious injury or death for pedestrians and cyclists who are unfortunate enough to be hit by fast moving vehicles. In addition to (hopefully rare) crashes, it is also rather unpleasant to have vehicles constantly speeding past you when on a bike, on foot, and presumably when in a wheelchair.

Do we really need so many cars, vans, and lorries thundering through town centres? Especially when these are then parked (either legally or illegally) on narrow roads blocking access for bikes, pedestrians, wheelchairs, pushchairs, etc.

… [Continue Reading ‘20mph limits in towns’]


Research tools

Whilst I have not been at this research malarkey very long, several people have made suggestions for useful software, in addition to my own past experience. I have put some notes/links below on various tools that should help towards the process of research. Hopefully this might be of interest to others, and feel free to add your suggestions below.

… [Continue Reading ‘Research tools’]


Long nights and bright days

One thing about the long dark winter nights that we get in higher latitudes, is that they rally make you appreciate the bright sunny days. Most of the past few weekends have had periods of brilliant sunshine (even if it was cold) in which I have been out on my bike.

Panorama looking south over the Gore Water, towards Borthwick and Middleton

Panorama looking south over the Gore Water, towards Borthwick and Middleton

There is something almost magical when you are speeding along on your bicycle without too much effort, especially on a bright sunny day. And that enjoyment is definitely increased when you don’t have to worry about motor vehicles speeding past or crashing into you. We are lucky to have quite a few great off-road cycle tracks around Edinburgh, mainly along old railway lines. The problem is, to connect them up, you often end up on pretty horrible fast roads, which are unpleasant to cycle on at the best of times, and downright scary at the worst.

Best not to dwell on that for now, and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.