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Second batch of prompts, one more to follow...
Slight scripting in places

Read more... )
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I may have mentioned a while back that I was applying for a teaching qualification which largely consisted of writing some appalling bureaucratic jargon to match a set of largely meaningless statements. Today I got the response "Congratulations! The CADENZA Panel members thought this was a strong application which deserved to be commended. It was also suggested that with your agreement, the anonymised application would make an ideal exemplar of a D2 application."

I feel rather soiled.
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We've been doing a lot of travel on the SE-NW axis recently. Easter weekend was spent with family in Runcorn via Leicestershire. We then drove all the way back to Stansted to fly out to Spain for an excellent climbing trip, staying a villa with 9 others from the Merseyside M<ountaineering Club. After arriving back into Stansted at lunchtime last Wednesday, on the Thursday I caught the train to Liverpool for several meetings, then Dad's birthday at the zoo at the weekend. Back home last night with some relief. We are staying close to home for a few days then back North for Rich & Nev's nuptials!
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Well that was certainly an experience..

We spent the weekend in Cambridge, mostly visiting one of Chris' friends (Anson) from uni who had stayed around and is now a Fellow of Trinity College. As guests, we got to stay at the college and take part in some of its odd rituals.

Right away, as soon as we were with Anson, we gained the privilege to walk on the lawns, something very much denied to students or tourists. He also was able to borrow a set of keys that opened a lot of doors into normally off limits places. After a stroll past the oldest part of the buildings (throwaway comment, oh yes, that was Newton's room...), we ascended via narrow passages, a ladder, a hanging door and a rickety staircase onto the roof of the library. No actually walkways or anything but from the maintainance door you can edge round to get some great views.

After a wander round the rest of the city (and Selwyn College, where Chris studied), we met in the Parlour at 7.15pm. This room has big comfy chairs, newspapers and a relaxed atomsphere. Normally full of fellows, on a weekend out of term time it was pretty quiet. However, there was free wine or sherry available. At 7.30pm, dressed up rather smartly (although not in academic gowns like the locals), we were introduced to Neil, a 15 years-retired prof. who was the dinner's senior fellow. Right on time, the little procession moved into the great hall and on to the high table. I was about to pull a chair and sit down, but of course it was not so simple so had to wait.

After the sounding of a large gong, grace was said rather lengthily in Latin.Dinner itself was actually fairly normal, just like going to a posh restaurant with very attentive waiters. Had a good chat with a medieval historian who sat next to me. Another gong and some more Latin brought us to what I assumed was the end of the meal.

Oh no...

In fact we headed upstairs to the 'Combination Room' where everyone is supposed to shuffle and 'recombine' to talk to other people. Now this was when the ritual really kicked in . Prof. Neil (by all appearances from Unseen University, and famous for having never used a computer or calculator in his life) explained some, with other bits written on a little guide card.

There can be 3 rounds of drinks, always begun by the head of the table and passed left. This will be port, unless at least 3 people request Claret. The majority vote is binding on the first round only. If the claret runs out, a new bottle will be opened if at least 3 people have not had at least 2 rounds....etc etc. Remembering all this while eating Stilton, fruit and chocolate was quite difficult. On checking the wine card I discovered that the port was from 1985 and the claret from 1986. Naturally I made the most of it...

The fellows who live in the college can do this every night if they like, so not becoming an alcoholic must be quite a challenge! So yeah, an experience of a rather alien culture...
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I seem to have mislaid some pieces of LRP kit. Because they go together, I reckon I either lent them to someone then forgot or I left a bag at a site somewhere....

Specifically, these are:

(1) Red wool tunic
(2) Brown wool trousers with draw string
(3) This brown leather belt.

Don't suppose anyone has come across these at any point?
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So - 2011 was a fantastic, if rather busy year. We got married, both got new jobs, moved house twice, bought a house and became landlords.

We also spent 3 weeks in South America, climbing a mountain, doing the Inca Trail and exploring the jungle.

Here's hoping 2012 is just as much fun while being a tiny bit more laid back :)
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Very quick update...


We finally moved house last weekend, into a nice 3 bed semi in St John's, Colchester. So far its working out really well although a lot of stuff is still in boxes. We are enjoying eating all meals in the conservatory and finally having a kitchen big enough to fit a dishwasher :)

This weekend we disappear off to South America for honeymoon.Flying to Miami tomorrow morning then on to Lima. We then travel to Cusco, trek the Inca trail, cross to Lake Titicata before heading to Bolivia. From La Paz we go for a mountain climb before a brief visit to the Jungle. Expected temperature range on the trip -5 to +35!

When I get back, its straight into the start of term and teaching...
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This weekend saw another attempt at my personal nemesis, the climb 'Crack and Corner' at the Roaches. Its an odd route, as by far the hardest move is getting off the ground, so a combination of only being a few feet up and also being able to place a cam above your head from the ground, to effectively have a top rope for the first bit, makes it quite safe to fall off.

This is fortunate, since I fell off on all 15 attempts, leaving behind a reasonable amount of skin and incurring quite a few amusing bruises. A brutal layback seemed to work better than jamming. I may even have been getting close to working out how to do it, but by that time my arms were no longer working!

Christine of course managed it no bother...Next year I'll beat it.
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Quite a busy weekend outdoors and remarkably successful given the frequent showers that we managed to miss.

Saturday was new-activity day, courtesy of loads of Groupon vouchers. First up was a 2hr kayaking trial on the tranquil River Stour just down the road from here. An excellent intro and guide to the boats from the Saffer instructor 'Kurt'was followed by a nice trip up and down the river. I'm very tempted to try and get into sea kayaking, heading out along the coast and exploring islands, with a spot of wild camping in spots not accessible by land.

After a brief lunch stop, it was off to Mersea Island to try a spot of dry land kite flying as an intro to kite surfing. Interesting weather conditions, being very squally and with the previous group to us having to haul down the kites PDQ when lightening started to strike!

The kite flying with the 1.4 sq metre practice kites was quite fun, without too much 'pull'. A complete contrast was getting harnessed up and flying the 4.5 sq metre surf kites. We could only do this with an instructor holding on to minimise take off. Only one person left the ground and got dragged along on their face. Despite being lighter than the first victim, Chris managed to avoid a similar fate. Us blokes were pretty much ok.....

So yeah, potentially another sport to get into - just need to try it on the water.

Today less exciting, only left the house for a 1h30 bike ride, otherwise have been sitting round in my pants and doing some work.
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Last weekend we went climbing in the peak district. Normally this wouldn't be particularly notable, but I realised on the way back that it was my first time on outdoor rock since 31st October 2009. Gosh.

Adjustments

Apr. 8th, 2011 10:41 am
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This job is proving quite difficult to get used to. Essentially I'm running my own little operation, and have only the vaguest management structure above me. If I decide to go to visit another lab or go to a meeting off site all I have to do is enter in the joint calendar that I'll be away. Similarly, if I fancy working at home, or leaving work at 3pm or something, I don't need to tell anyone unless I have commitments in the department that day. Coming from a previous employer with quite a culture of 'presenteeism', this is rather odd.

Manningtree and surrounds are really nice now that the spring is here. The last 2 weekends were parental visits and we visited Dedham Vale (where Constable painted the Haywain) for a walk, Colchester Castle (more Roman stuff than you could shake a stick at), Aldeburgh and the coast (pebble beach, fish & chips, the sunken town of Dunwich) and finally punting down the river Cam in Cambridge (Chris knows how to do this from her time there, I nearly fell in the river...).

The downside is that it takes forever to get anywhere. On Wednesday I made a quick visit to Liverpool for some meetings - 4h 30 each way in the car. On the way back, the killer is the extra hour and a bit further easy I had to drive after passing Cambridge. May limit our northern activities a bit.
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So..

I'm not on strike today, as I really didn't see the point of the dispute and also it seemed a bit dodgy to go on strike before my new employers have actually paid me for my first month's work..

On the other hand, when I got to work I decided not cross the picket line that had several colleagues on it, so am working from home today. One of the senior profs from the department was lurking around taking photos of the cars queuing up, so hopefully I don't end up on a list...

Tech win

Mar. 15th, 2011 09:51 am
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I'm pretty sold on the Kindle after a couple of weeks of using it. I really like the free downloads of classic and some modern books, plus the lack of clutter. I may go for a policy of not buying any more fiction as physical books, and just use the Kindle and the local library wherever possible.

We are nearly in the future - electronic music, video and books. Won't be long until the days of filling one's house with physical media are gone.

First day

Mar. 1st, 2011 09:49 pm
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The house unpacking proceeds well. Hopefully we will finish it all tomorrow night.

It was my first day of the new job today and things went pretty smoothly. All the admin was sorted out in only an hour as the departmental administrator took me on a tour of all the relevant offices to get my staff card, parking permit, payroll, pension etc. After that, I got on with getting quotes, ordering equipment and accessing my budget. We've spent almost £140k on the new lab so it should look nice once all the equipment is in place.

Tomorrow is a group meeting in the morning, then a meeting with the graduate officer so I can find out the protocols of interviewing prospective PhD students - not worried about getting a good one as the two people who have got in touch so far both have predicted firsts. Clearly the advert I wrote was appealing..after that its a departmental meeting. I spent a while reading the huge briefing document, so I'm not expecting it to be massively exciting!

Manningtree seems pleasant enough. Not done a great deal here so far but will try out the leisure centre tomorrow maybe.

Ah, good!

Feb. 9th, 2011 01:54 pm
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The physio verdict is that my knee is probably OK. The ligaments on the left knee felt a bit loose compared to the original one but that could be down to hamstring weakness and swelling. The ACL should be OK as there is a definite end point to the joint rotation which wasn't the case pre-surgery. I need to do wait for it to settle down then do lots more strengthening exercises...

Psychology

Feb. 8th, 2011 04:14 pm
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I've decided to worry only about things I can actually do something about...

Specifically, off to see the physio tomorrow to see what damage, if any, I have done to my knee repair by slipping on the scree descent from Glyder Fach. Can't do anything bout it, so will not give it further thought until then...

Challenges

Feb. 5th, 2011 05:56 pm
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OK, so far, thanks to some good suggestions I have in mind:

Coast to Coast bike ride - May or June
Great East Swim - 11th June
A 10K race
The Inca Trail (ok, we were planning to do this and a sub-6000m trekking peak on honeymoon anyway...)

Other suggestions welcome!

Fitness

Feb. 4th, 2011 11:29 am
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I feel the need for a physical challenge. I'm tempted to sign up for a 10k run sometime in the spring, or more generally, some kind of circuit training where I get yelled at to work harder.
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Things continue to progress..

The new house is nice, and I got to spend a night there this week due to a short notice visit to Colchester.

Also had an excellent weekend walk up over the Glyders. I managed to twist my knee a bit on the descent so am consumed by hypochondria in thinking I've knackered it again...

I'm attempting to cut down on books before moving house

Scotland

Jan. 17th, 2011 08:55 am
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On Friday I drove up to Crianlarich on the edge of the highlands, stopping off at Glasgow Airport to collect Chris who had flown up to Stansted. We were attending a climbing club meet and the original plan had been for a combination of skiing (not for me though!) and winter climbing/mountain walking. Unfortunately the forecast heading up to the weekend wasn't promising but we packed all the gear in any case. The journey was uneventful right up to the point when Chris ran over a surprised looking deer on the Loch Lomond road. In her defence, she skilfully swerved to miss the first one, but then a second jumped out of the forest and into the path of the car. The damage seems to be limited to a small hole in the front bumper, nicely lined in bits of fur...

On arrival, the weather was, to use the scots expression 'pish'. Horizontal rain, high winds and quite warm. The only ice around was on the car park. In the morning there was much of the same leading to a lot of drinking tea and muttering out of the windows. We went for a walk down the banks of the river Orchy, a famous kayaking spot and went "ooh" at the crazy white water. For the afternoon we abandoned the inside and decamped to the Ice Factor, the country's best indoor ice wall. This place has a huge freezer with maybe 10 different ice routes to climb. The advantage is that since its a climbing wall, you can try vertical/overhanging routes that you wouldn't dream of attempting outside.

This knee-test (kicking crampons into ice) went pretty well and I seemed to get back into it quite well after nearly 2 years off. Interesting contrast between using my old, heavy axes (these suit my style of brute force and were dubbed 'The Hammer of Thor' by people watching :)) and borrowing Chris' much lighter, sharper ones which I didn't want to damage, so leading me to use actual technique..

In the evening we caught up with the rest of the club who had attempted to walk up Ben More, only to be turned back by gales threatening to blow them off their feet. A whisky filled evening followed, in which we were entertained by a singer/guitarist with a good line in banter and a passing resemblance to Billy Connolly. Amateur bodhran playing and singing provided a bit of comedy.

Sunday's forecast was for even more wind and horizontal rain so we called off any attempt to go climbing and did a 5 mile stroll along the West Highland Way, though nice sheltered forests before heading home.

Good times and good to know that good company and camaraderie can make up for pish weather.

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