27 September 2013

So long and thanks for all the fish...

I always think it’s sad when blogs that I have been following just fade away. New posts become less and less frequent, there are longer and longer hiatia between posts until we are left hanging from a second rate entry that was posted as the blog owner declared that they knew the blog had been neglected but they had lots of good intentions of breathing life back into it.  Being guilty of exactly that, I thought I had a duty to lay this one to rest properly.

I started this blog in 2008 when I was living in Norway. Over the next 5 years I posted 657 posts on all sorts of topics, from being an expat in Norway, to outdoor adventures, holidays, the birth of our first daughter and a variety of jokes, rants and other assorted nonsense.  There are another two hundred posts that never made the light of day because, they were not good enough.  The blog has been read over 100,000 times and despite the fact I havn’t posted anything for almost 6 months still continues to get 20-50 hits per day.

But life moves on and the blog has become sadly neglected. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, I no longer live in Norway and the blog was largely about my experiences in that beautiful country. Even the name is a play on the small island which was my happy home for 10 years. Secondly, life gets busier, two small children, new house, new job, new life back in the UK means I don’t seem to have much time to sit down and write. Over the last couple of years I focused my minimal writing time on my other blog which documented the building of our house.  Thirdly, I am running out of stupid stories about my antics. There are only so many dumb things a person can do in their life that warrant passing sharing with the World.

Finally, I would be lying to deny that I have been affected by the NSA/Prism/ GCHQ revelations of the past six months. I am truly shocked and dismayed to see how little people seem to care about this. To me it's abhorrent that the government are storing all the online posts, status updates, tweets etc of people who have done nothing wrong. I am familiar enough with the processes behind "data mining" to know that it can produce all sorts of unexpected results and when (not if) the government decides to sell this information to help subsidise the coffers of the country (recession, austerity, we are all in this together etc etc) you may suddenly find yourself refused life insurance or turned down for a job because “you liked techno when you were 20 and people who like dance music are statistically more likely to have taken drugs. We are not saying you did lots of drugs but you are in a higher risk group and therefore we can’t help you…” That is a real possibility. 

Furthermore there is already enough material on here in the form of crap jokes, rants and anecdotes to label me a racist (I am not),  a misogynist (nor am I) , a lefty liberal (more possible), a radical vegetarian, a speed freak, or any number of unpleasant or subversive titles if the material was sampled and quoted out of context. That could impact life in the future and it is too late to recall because it’s already stored somewhere in a foreign governments server silos waiting to be mined, sold or hacked.

If you believe that online privacy is not important because you have nothing to hide then you are dangerously naive.   If you think it's ok for anyone to peer into your online life without your permission then leave the curtains in your house open for the next month because you should feel equally as uncomfortable about the government or private contractors watching you online as you clearly would about passers-by peering into your bedroom.

But Karmasotra is a blog and it was meant to be public (although you will never find my full name on here, my friends obviously know who I am). I was happy to share the material and while I feel uncomfortable about it being indiscriminately mined I doubt whether it will affect my life in the future. Still I feel suitably uncomfortable enough to stop feeding the monster.  

So to close on a more positive note. Thank you to everyone who has read and commented (online and off). Thank you for listening, thanks for allowing me the outlet and thanks for your friendship online and in the real world.


(in a motel somewhere in the western USA, waiting for it to stop raining so he can go and look at rocks)  

26 March 2013

One Hundred Thousand!

At some point while I was being slack and not blogging very much Karmasotra hit 100,000 views, in fact that was a while ago because its now on over 107k. Hardly Inspector Gadget or the Huffington Post but not bad, for a little blog with no real theme or purpose. 

The most popular posts to date are:
A fashion article about stupid facial hair c. 3000 hits!!!
How to pay a Catalonian speeding ticket - lots of people speeding in NW Spain c. 1100 hits
Midland Campers - glad to see the word is out on to them c. 1000 hits
Speed Cameras in the Lærdal Tunnel - less people getting caught speeding in Norway c. 900
Various stupid jokes (average about 600 hits)

So after 5 years of blogging, my most popular post by far is one about people with moustaches! I must be doing something wrong here...

Still 100,000 has a nice ring to it!

24 December 2012

Christmas 2012

At Cowieswells, December 2012. Note the house is not quite as finished as it should be!

After reading this I was almost tempted not to write anything this year but then I decided not to be bullied by cynics but I promise  I will keep it short and sweet.

It has been another busy year for us, Sophie is growing-up fast, the house is getting built (although not finished as we had hoped) and time is flying by. Katharine has been working full time, designing large chunks of the house and bringing up a small hyper-active child who doesn’t sleep very much. She is also pregnant and growing another baby that, all things being well, will be born in April  2013. Not surprisingly she is sleeping a lot! Who would have believed that bed at 9pm would have become a norm?

Sophie is almost 2 and growing fast. She is now fully mobile, running, shouting, laughing and generally keeping us busy. She is a bossy little madam who knows her mind (can’t imagine where she gets that from!). She can string a few sentences together and will very earnestly tell us all about her day and what she wants to do next. Collecting stones from the beach is very popular at the moment (guess where that comes from?). We are steadily priming her for having a sibling  and have high hopes that she will make a great big sister. All in all, being a parent is hard work and fantastic!

I have been overseeing the house building and working in between. Lots of travelling to Utah, Spain and the Middle East. Even managed to full fill a life time ambition and do field work in Greenland this summer. An amazing place and playing with guns, helicopters and technowank, while dodging polar bears was a perfect way to spend two weeks in the summer. Apart from that I have spent about ¼ of my time in Norway where I moved into the Fosswinklegates ghetto. Living in town has been nice and gives me a chance to catch up with people when I am in town. Still can’t wait to be living out at Cowieswells and spend as much time as possible there, in between everything else.

Building our new house at Cowieswells  has been a long process and it is now about 3 months behind schedule. We had hoped to be in for Christmas but the weather and Nordan* conspired against us. Its good to look back at the pictures on the blog and see how far we have come in 6 months and when we get in it will be an amazing place to live. Latest guess is now Febuary 2013!

Lots of good stuff to look forward to next year. New child, new house, a bit less travelling (hopefully), fieldwork in great places, buying a tractor and maybe even getting those Alpacas!

In the meantime we wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and hope to see you all in the New Year 

(*Nordan – Norwegian company who make great windows but have an interesting perspective on time keeping and deadlines)

17 December 2012

The Power of the Sea

As a geologist I spend quite a bit of time looking at rocks that were deposited as sediments in shallow marine settings (beaches etc) and we expend a lot of effort trying to understand the dynamics of the sediment transport processes. So it's always good to have a bit of a reality check by studying modern systems.

Last weekend a moderate storm, coupled with high tides created a fair bit of havoc along the NE coast of Scotland especially in Stonehaven. .
Large wave's breaking over the harbour wall on saturday (STV)
We went down there on Sunday to visit Cowieswells to check on everything. All was fine there so we went to the UK's best fish and chip shop (The Bay)  for a spot of Sunday lunch and the damage was pretty impressive.

This is a road - well it was 2 days ago

We are 4 metres above the sea, but check out the size of these rocks. Its amazing to think that waves, breaking against a sea wall would still have the energy to move something so big. Note also the fence in the background has taken a bit of a pounding 
Hmm glad thats not my caravan 

Sophie, with her new friends owl and duck, checking out the distribution of stones in the park 

05 December 2012

ComCab, Aberdeen Taxi

Last week my wife's mother almost missed her flight because the pre-booked taxi didn't show up, despite repeated calls. After 45 mins of waiting our poor 2 year old daughter had to be bundled in her pyjamas into the back of the car and Katharine drove her Mum to the airport. If she had continued to wait she would definitely have missed the flight. They were apologetic but apologies don't get you to the airport.

Then this morning I booked a cab to take me to the train station, again no show. I called them and the drone that answered the phone could only tell me that no cab had yet been dispatched and she had no idea when one would be. I had to take our car which meant Katharine had to walk to work and I incurred parking fees etc.

Once is forgiveable, twice is not.These people are not reliable and, if you need to get anywhere at a set time I would suggest that you and the hundreds of people per day who read this blog avoid them at all costs.

ComCab, Aberdeen Taxi, 01224 353535

09 November 2012

Publishing Milestones

Being an academic, one of the key things is to disseminate your work, after all, there is not a lot of point solving a problem if you don't tell anyone about it.
So we publish papers, in journals, in books and in conference proceedings. I try and keep a a track of how many I have published and today, whilst updating my CV I realised that I had reached 100 published articles. That 100 only includes things that are in some form of peer reviewed scientific publication (so not magazine articles, blogs, jokes or other stuff like that).
Now I do not claim that all of these are marvellous pieces of work, in fact some of them are plain wrong, some are just crap and a few are ok. I am not going to contemplate their various merits here I am just going going to celebrate the big round number.
So here is a bit more of a breakdown
100 Articles
50 in main-stream Journals
31 in Books and Special Publications
19 in Conference Proceedings

I am first author in 21 of those, which might mean I am a free loader, but I prefer to think it means I don't hog the glory. There are approximately 140 co-authors at least 20 of whom I have never met.

I have been publishing since 1993 which is almost 20 years, so that's an average of 5 articles per year. It's nowhere near linear though so when I have some more spare time or when I am very bored I will plot it up in excel. It will be interesting to see because for the last 6 years I have only been an academic 50% of the time (worked in industry the rest).

For anyone who knows about metrics such as the H-factor, mine is 17 or 18. This is ok for my career stage and better than Brian Cox,  but the sad reality is that it means 4/5 of my research output has been cited less than 20 times by others.

Then we get into the money bit! During my research careerer I have raised approximately £3.6 million which means that on average, each paper cost £36k. Each H-point cost £211k . I am not sure if that is good value or not, but I had lot of fun along the way.

Anyway I think I'll go out tonight and celebrate the double milestone of  100 articles and 50 journal articles with a cold beer. Which makes me wonder how many beers each paper has cost...

23 October 2012

Random Jokes from Gareth

Thought I'd share these with the world - not very politically correct but amusing

Maths in Britain

1. Teaching Maths In 1970
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100..
His cost of production is 4/5 of the price.
What is his profit?

2. Teaching Maths In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is 80% of the price.
What is his profit?

3. Teaching Maths In 1990
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80.
How much was his profit?

4. Teaching Maths In 2000
A logger sells a truckload of timber for £100.
His cost of production is £80 and his profit is £20.
Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Maths In 2005
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands.
Your assignment: Discuss how the birds and squirrels might feel as the logger cut down their homes just for a measly profit of £20.

6. Teaching Maths In 2009
A logger is arrested for trying to cut down a tree in case it may be offensive to Muslims or other religious groups not consulted in the application for the felling licence. He is also fined a £100 as his chainsaw is in breach of Health and Safety legislation as it deemed too dangerous and could cut something. He has used the chainsaw for over 20 years without incident however he does not have the correct certificate of competence and is therefore considered to be a recidivist and habitual criminal. His DNA is sampled and his details circulated throughout all government agencies. He protests and is taken to court and fined another £100 because he is such an easy target.

When he is released he returns to find Gypsies have cut down half his wood to build a camp on his land. He tries to throw them off but is arrested, prosecuted for harassing an ethnic minority, imprisoned and fined a further £100. While he is in jail again the Gypsies cut down the rest of his wood and sell it on the black market for £100 cash. They also have a departure BBQ of squirrel and pheasant and leave behind several tonnes of rubbish and asbestos sheeting.

The forester on release is warned that failure to clear the fly tipped rubbish immediately at his own cost is an offence. He complains and is arrested for environmental pollution, breach of the peace and invoiced £12,000 plus VAT for safe disposal costs by a regulated government contractor.

Your assignment: How many times is the logger going to have to be arrested and fined before he realizes that he is never going to make £20 profit by hard work, give up, sign onto the dole and live off the state for the rest of his life?

7. Teaching Maths In 2010
A logger doesn’t sell a lorry load of timber because he can’t get a loan to buy a new lorry because his bank has spent all his and their money on a derivative of securitized debt related to sub-prime mortgages in Surrey and lost the lot, with only some government money left to pay a few million-pound bonuses to their senior directors and the traders who made the biggest losses.

The logger struggles to pay the £1,200 road tax on his old lorry. However, as it was built in the 1970s it no longer meets the emissions regulations and he is forced to scrap it.

Some Bulgarian loggers buy the lorry from the scrap merchant and put it back on the road. They undercut everyone on price for haulage and send their cash back home, while claiming unemployment for themselves and their relatives. If questioned they speak no English and it is easier to deport them at the governments expense. Following their holiday back home they return to the UK with different names and fresh girls and start again. The logger protests, is accused of being a bigoted racist and as his name is on the side of his old lorry he is forced to pay £1,500 registration fees as a gang master.

The Government borrows more money to pay more to the bankers as bonuses are not cheap. The parliamentarians feel they are missing out and claim the difference on expenses and allowances.
You do the maths.

8. Teaching Maths 2017