Current travelog: doing the flat bits!

When Mood Music
2015-08-03 08:52:00

We’re in Amsterdam, just now. News as it happens (+ some delay for finding wifi) at



When Mood Music
2015-07-12 12:55:00 bemused giggling and indignation

Just look what you get when searching for Manner wafers on

Not safe for work

It gets better

It all fscks!

When Mood Music
2015-07-11 03:23:00 pissed off and tired MIA’s overworked fan

I’m well aware that the following pales into insignificance compared to many peoples’ woes. Just now, a dear friend has just been bereaved, and someone else close (in family terms, but not geographically) to Servants’ Quarters cousins is desperately ill, perhaps terminally so. So the following are really just impedimenta. Despite that, I’ve been close to snapping at people, and nearly in tears a couple of times today, so I’m blogging to get these out of my head.

Do not pass go

I admit this is partly my fault for leaving my UK passport in a seat pocket on the way back from Cardiff. I didn’t discover this until late June, so on 23rd June I applied online for a replacement. My principal investigator (PI) countersigned the photos and application that week, and I sent the completed application to the Passport Office on Saturday 27 June.

On 2nd July, my application arrived back at Servants’ Quarters because it was ‘unsuitable for scanning because the signature is outwith the box’. I can’t be sure this is rubbish because, unusually for me, I didn’t keep a scan of the application. My PI was on holiday that week but he was due to come into Napier briefly the following Monday to go to graduation. He was happy to countersign another attempt, so I posted that by Special Delivery around 1pm on Monday 6 July.

I checked Royal Mail’s website on Tuesday evening, to learn that my application was ‘posted at XXX post office on 06/07/15 and is being progressed through our network for delivery.’ The same applied on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and Friday morning, so I phoned Royal mail to try to find out what was going wrong. They told me that they couldn’t do anything because the application hadn’t been handed over to them by the post office, i.e. that it was the post office’s fault and I should check with them. Also, it wouldn’t count as a missing item for 10 working days, i.e. until 22nd July.

Now what the hairy fsck is that about? I paid Royal Mail to deliver my item by a guaranteed next-day, tracked service. Fair enough, sometimes things go wrong, so I’d have accepted it not arriving until the second day after posting, or a genuine reason for non-delivery such as a rabid dog rogering the postie and destroying his consignment. I’d also have accepted Royal Mail saying ‘your item is clearly missing. We take responsibility, and right now here is our compensation offer.’ But no, their attitude appears to be ‘it’s not our fault, it’s the fault of the post office and we can’t be bothered to do anything until later than a fortnight after my letter should have arrived.’ And not even shred of sympathy or an apology from the operative, as far as I can remember.

Going to the post office itself this morning was a much better experience but didn’t help in any practical way. The assistant offered a genuine apology, phoned Royal Mail to check what he should do, gave me the form to claim compensation and told me I could send it in straight away.



Before going to the post office, I phoned the Passport Office to see if they would accept an emailed scan of the second application, or speed up the application in any way. Er, no! I can see why a photocopy might be no use – the signature is used to make the passport, and a scan of a poor photocopy would produce unacceptable results. Even bringing the scan, or a high-resolution print of it, won’t help. I was also told that I can only apply for a fast-track service after they have a complete application. Their website says ‘You must book an appointment at a Passport Customer Service Centre if you need a passport urgently. After the appointment, you can get your passport the same day or within a week.’ but ‘Your appointment may be up to 3 weeks from the day you book it.’

I was told to make a fresh application, but include a covering letter mentioning the previous one so I wouldn’t be charged again. My PI is still on holiday, and so can’t countersign the new application. But I mentioned needing a passport countersignatory in my daily report to ‘the prof’, and she’s offered to countersign it on Monday morning. So a huge public thank-you to Hazel Hall.

My partner and I have booked a cycling holiday starting in Amsterdam on 1st August. Because it’s now 10 July, I despair of getting a UK passport before then. I’m fortunate enough to have dual nationality – my mother is a UK citizen and my father is Australian – and so I have an Australian passport. That should be good for travelling in EU countries which have implemented the Schengen agreement. (Yes, I know Schengen is about free movement of European residents within Europe.) But this xenophobic blasted rock doesn’t do Schengen and I have had difficulties getting back into the UK using an Australian passport.

In that shaggy-Bruce story I was asked how long I was coming into the UK and replied ‘permanently – I live and work here.’ I was told that this wasn’t allowed. Even though I was clearly a UK resident (I had my UK birth certificate with me), ‘visitors’ like me could only stay for 6 months. I was given another chance to answer the question (I said ‘5 months’), and told to get in an get a UK passport. I’ve had one ever since. That was in 1991, if I recall correctly. I don’t believe that the UK entry rules have improved, so I’m slightly nervous about re-entering the UK without a multiple-entry, right to reside visa in my Australina passport.

Again, what the hairy fsck is this about? We’re all humans – we all have equal rights to be where we want to be on this ball of rock, as far as I’m concerned.


Do not collect $200

About a week ago, some kit I’d ordered from the USA arrived. Yesterday, a bill for import duty arrived. The kit cost £352, plus about £10 charged by my bank for this US$ transaction. The import duty was £94. I understand that some import duties are necessary* but adding an extra 27%? What? How can that be justified?

*Actually, I don’t understand this. It flies in the face of the free trade that our right-wing masters tell us is so necessary that job-security and physical protection for employees are luxuries we can no longer afford. The practical effect is that I have much less money than I’d assumed I would, and so will not be spending it in local businesses such treating my partner to yummy Caffeine Drip lunches. So much for policies that support domestic economic activity.


Adore a MIA-aura

I’m very font of my laptop, a late 2010 MacBook Air called MIA. She does just about everything I ask of her, despite having only a 1·86 GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 4GB of RAM. She runs all the software her desktop sibling (a 2·66 quad-core Xeon Mac Pro with 13GB of RAM, called IGGY) does, albeit slower. The main limitation I’ve felt is her storage – a single 128GB SSD compared to IGGY’s 1TB boot SSD and 4 other devices for other data storage and multiple CarbonCopyClones. I like to have all of my data with me, and not run multiple cubbies to synchronise selected bits of data between IGGY and MIA. I’ve been caught out several times and have needed to remotely control IGGY to email stuff to myself. That’s the exact antithesis of fun, especially while using patchy train wifi or cellular connections via my iPad or jPhone.

So a couple of weeks agao, I spent this summers’ ‘toys’ budget on a 1TB replacement SSD. (Hence the import duty mentioned above.) It arrived within 3 days of ordering – thank you OWC and FedEx! Fitting it was even easier than advertised, cloning MIA’s orginal SSD to the new one took the expected 3 hours, and copying across data was only slightly more painful than I’d expected. For no discernable reason, MIA’s third-party USB-to-gigabit ethernet adaptor stopped working on MIA, even though it continued to work fine for IGGY. I bought an Apple USB-to-ethernet adaptor but that over-priced lump of plastic only does 10 and 100 bits per second. Also, copying across the network tended to drop out, so I had to resort to copying 50GB at a time from IGGY to an external hard disk, then copying that tranche to MIA. It took about 2 evenings to completely copy all my data from MIA but now she is running happily. Data is syncronised between IGGY and MIA via just three cubbies: Bruce’s stuff, Others’ stuff and Pix. (My GoPro videos are on a 2TB lump of spinning rust in IGGY’s second optical drive bay.)

However, while I was copying data, I noticed our domestic internet connection seemed to be patchier than normal, and our TimeCapsule back-up devices were disappearing and reappearing as if they’d been buggered by a rabid cheshire cat. And so we come on to…



I found that the TimeCapsule that also created our wireless network was running far too hot. I thought that this might be because it was underneath a light, even though that was a low-energy fluorescent bulb. However, shutting off the wifi and moving it well away from the the light didn’t cure the network woes. To move the TC, I needed to rejig the wireless network slightly. (It’s based around an eight-port gigabit switch.) I got rid of the cables that had connected a now defunct XServe G5 and my late lamented Pismo, so that the switch just connected

  1. my partner’s iMac
  2. MIA
  3. an AirportExpress (this connects to our TV, sound system and a second generation AppleTV in our lounge, and extended our wifi to the back of the flat)
  4. a cable leading to our kitchen, for when I get around to installing a TV there
  5. the ADSL modem
  6. the older TC
  7. the printer
  8. IGGY

Still no joy – devices disappeared and reappeared faster than than before, and our internet connection appeared to fail more rapidly and for longer each time. The TCs in particular messed with my head: backups would start and then hang, neither would make a reliable wifi signal. Thee seemed to be no pattern to the failures – Airport Utility would tell me that our internet connection was down, even if I could google and stream video at the time, or it would tell me that the connection was up when I couldn’t even get to the modem’s own website.

I unplugged everything from the switch apart from the modem (it provides DHCP so that devices can see each other), IGGY and MIA. At last, I had a stable network: the two Macs could see each other via screensharing and our internet connection was back to normal. (Please understand that normal isn’t actually good – it falls over about once an hour but comes back in about 2 minutes.)

Reconnecting the AirportExpress made me want to throw things – the network and internet connection fell over again. I reset the AE to factory conditions and reconnected it – this seemed to improve things but they didn’t get back to normal. I realised that I hadn’t tested whether the switch was the culprit. To eliminate this, I tried connecting MIA to port 1, then IGGY to port 2, then port 3 and so on; then MIA to port 2, IGGY to ports 1, 3,4, …. After about an hour of climbing on and off my desk (the switch is mounted on the wall about 2 meteres above ground level, the switch got a clean bill of health.

I then reconnected the iMac – the network and internet connection remained normal. This held as I reconnected the re-reset AirportExpress and the printer. The TCs didn’t play nice until after I’d given up using them as wifi devices, done several factory resets and reformatted one of them. It’s hard to explain how painful that is to a back-up queen like me. I resorted to repurposing one of IGGY’s lumps of spinning rust as a CarbonCopyClone for the iMac because the hard disk I had used previously had disappeared. Without the TCs and a CarbonCopyClone, only CrashPlan stood between the iMac and disk failure. (Have you ever tried to reclaim 350GB via patchy ADSL? No? Neither have I, but I have waited to retrieve 60GB via BT Infinity when my father’s PC. That took a very painful 8 hours.)

Eventually, and without me really having done anything apart from factory-reset the AE and TCs, everything (apart from MIA’s gigabit ethernet adaptor) seemed to be working. But this had taken three very late evenings (I think I averaged 4 hours sleep those nights) monkeying with cables, glumly staring at Airport Utility, checking internet connections and pulling even more hair out.

As of just now, IGGY and MIA are properly backing up hourly to the TCs; the iMac is backing up to one of them because its OS is too old to automatically alternate between backup devices; all three Macs are doing nightly CarbonCopyClones (I’ve bought a portable external hard disk for CCCing the iMac because even if I found the one that’s missing, it’s a naked HD and so needs an ugly adaptor and separate power supply. I’ve also bought a portable HD for CCCing MIA’s massively increased payload.) The AirportExpress is now speaking to the TV, hifi and Apple TV.

The only flies in the network and backup ointment are that MIA’s gigabit ethernet adaptor still doesn’t work, and it will take about 2 months to complete MIA’s CrashPlan backup. I can’t rest completely easy without an offsite backup of everything, even though MIA contains the same data as IGGY, and IGGY’s CrashPlan backup is complete.


Windows – it’s a pain in the glass

I said above that MIA does just about everything that IGGY does. The exception is that running VirtualBox virtual machines is excruciatingly slow. Seriously – 3 minutes to boot, typing lags that bring my fingers into rictus, just nasty. I can’t blame MIA for this – it’s just not fair to ask a slow two-core processor and 4GB of RAM to run two OSes at once. However, when MIA first arrived, she ran Windows 7 via BootCamp pretty well. However, partitioning MIA’s new SSD for BootCamp has failed several times, so I’ve given up.

I also can’t quite fathom why I want Windows in MIA. After all, I loathe Windows with a passion that almost exceeds my thirst for cold diet IrnBru, I have a fast Windows 7 PC at work and I have fast enough Windows 7 and Linux virtual machines on Iggy. I have only two pieces of software that need Windows: Serif PagePlus, which I needed to convert an author’s work to InDesign; and MS Abcess, which I used for during my Information Systems Engineering module and for tracking my freelancing payments. The conversion work was over a year ago, and I stopped freelance publishing work two years ago.

It’s just annoying that MIA can’t do everything she used to, even though some of that is completely un-necessary. Perhaps a complete erase and reinstall will re-enable MIA’s darkside and the gigabit adaptor.


AppleMusic – it’s the final countdown

So yesterday I upgraded my jPhone 5S to iOS 8·4, which brought me the delightless AppleMusic. AppleMusic, let me bullet-point the ways I loathe thee:

  • The name feels to me as if Apple thinks it’s Apple’s music. It’s not. If it belongs to anyone (shouldn’t music be free, man?), it belongs to me. I bought it, with money I earned.
  • My Music only lists music by artist. You can tap on an artist to get a list of albums, with sublists of each album’s songs. What the hell has become of listing songs by title or by album name?
  • You can follow artists – and each artist is followed by default. It took me 15 minutes to unfollow each of them. I ask you
    • do all of them want to be followed by a lycra-clad, opiniated, vegan cyclopath?
    • What on earth is the point of following Bill Hicks? He’s dead – and the world is a much poorer place for this. Ditto Janis Joplin, Bob Marley, Brad Delp, Joe Strummer, Lux Interior, Peter Cook, Ray Manzarek,… need I go on? (No, and even if I did, I can’t be bothered.)
  • The buttons to skip to the next and previous songs have been relegated several taps deep into the app.
  • There’s some nonsense called Connect, in which I can apparently ‘heart’ artists or semi-automatically email ‘I like I’m a Barbie girl‘ or whatever to my friend? Do I need this? No. Do you need it? No. If I was interested in your musical taste, I would ask you. I trust you would ask me if you wanted to know my tastes. No wonder the Registers commentards refer to Apple users as sheeple.
  • In general, the whole interface fscks – it makes finding the music I want to play harder!

To be honest I’m getting a bit tired of the iOS take-all-or-none approach. On my macs, and just about any desktop system, app updates aren’t necessarily tied to OS point updates. So updating from 10·X·Y to 10·X·Y+1 doesn’t automatically update Safari, Mail etc. (Updating from 10·X to 10·X+1 does bring updates to apps, but that’s because a whole new version of the OS is being installed.) Also, updating the OS may mean that third-party apps no longer work, and new third-party apps may call for an updated OS, but it’s not so closely tied. And it’s easy to undo changes:

  1. Before updating, make a CarbonCopyClone of your boot device. This will take seconds because it will be an incremental backup built on your nightly CCC backup, of course.
  2. Install the update.
  3. If you like the update, great – life cracks on
  4. If you don’t like the update, boot from the CCClone.
  5. CCC the clone back to your normal boot device. This won’t take long because it will just wipe away the changes you made when updating.
  6. Reboot from your de-updated boot device, shake an angry fist at the update developer and then get on with your life.

Removing iOS updates is much harder on your fingernails.

Please understand I’m still happy with the ‘walled garden’ approach – I trust Apple to investigate candidates for the AppStore, and I know I can’t do this. But there are apps I don’t need (Newsstand, Health, Tips and Stocks spring to mind) but which I can’t delete. In short, I want to stay in a walled garden, but I want to chose which way up my rocks are, and to get rid of excretia such as AppleMusic without risking bricking my device!

Popping up for air!

When Mood Music
2015-06-21 17:32:00 contemplative East of the sun – Roy Harper

So I’ve been silent here for far too long again.

Part of my excuse is I’m now working full-time on a social informatics/Library and Information Science project. More details when the prof releases them.

And some of my scribblings have been published in the obscure but cool Manifesto for digital messiness

I’ve also been doing things, then posting them to my new photoblog:

And managing my professional social media presence:

Today’s photo-blogging was inspired, ironically enough, by Flashes from the archives of oblivion

Escape from Dundee!


When Mood Music
2015-05-03 17:35:00 sugar-rush! The The – uncertain smile

I’m still trying to build fitness my and stamina in preparation for sportives, more cycling holidays in Europe and eventually cycling to India. So each week I’m trying to increase my range by about 10 miles and more hills. Last Friday I did 60 miles from Berwick-upon Tweed to Edinburgh, so I wanted a 70-mile route starting around an hour’s train journey from Edinburgh. The plan is to maroon myself somewhere new one day each week so I must cycle back home.

The pong and tedious road

So I hit on cycling from Dundee via Perth to Edinburgh.

As long-term readers and friends will know, I don’t like Dundee. It’s the one place I’ve had actual rocks hurled at me. There are are at least two good things to come out of it – a former flat mate who was (and presumably still is) brilliant and the DC Thomson stable of comics. When I lived in St Andrews, I used to visit the Hilltown area to buy 20kg sacks of basmati rice so I could live far cheaper than if buying at normal supermarket prices. So I suppose it isn’t fair to use terms like the Kingsway Colditz, Stalag Luft Menzieshill or Gulag Blackness.

The Edinburgh-Dundee train didn’t require hanging Lev Davidovitch Bikestein by his wheels, but was too short to fit a full-size bike without turning the front wheel and thus preventing more than one bike fitting into the dedicated bike-space. I’m still mystified why UK trains just aren’t bike-friendly in so many ways. However, this train did offer something special – it got me to Dundee just in time to encounter an old friend who I’ve not seen for far, far too long. (Pause to remember lots of good times and look forward to many more!) He’s a DJ and record-producer – some music is here. So we chatted for a while – good-natured banter about my healthy lifestyle, his travels to play clubs aroudn the world, respective families and so on. I’m really looking forward to meeting up again with him, his wife (who partially inspired my aim of cycling to India).

Lev and I then set off – we had to walk a while to find a way onto Riverside Drive. There’s a cyclepath along the waterfront, past Dundee airport and on to Invergowrie. After that, path or cycle-lane runs along the side of the A90 to Longforgan. Thereafter, we got a bit lost (we’d missed the official cycle-route turnoff at Invergowrie) and hugged the side of the A90 to Inchture, cursing lorries that passed too close. At Inchture, the cycle-lane disappeared so after a long wait for a gap in traffic, we crossed at a plebestrian crossing only to find that the route led back onto the A90 – but by now there was a road-side path. We imagined the shared-use signs were visible and set off again, taking advantage of lorry-slipstream and consequent brown-underpant feelings.

As far as I can tell from cyclemeter, Lev and I did the 23 miles to Perth in about 90 minutes. That’s over 15mph, which is probably due to hail and wind pushing us on:

There was a pause in Perth’s South Inch park to refuel and use the municipal toilets.

All Leved up and miles to roll!

Then Lev and I turned south towards Edinburgh. I could see a range of hills between us and home. (Lev can’t see, despite sometimes having a mind of his own.) The gradient turned nasty just south of Bridge of Earn. I could hardly trun Lev’s pedals, even though I suspect the gradient was little more than 10%. Unlike spinning or turbo training (not that I do that – yet!), you can’t stop turning at the bottom of each pedal-stroke because you’ll fall over if you do. So we ground our way up to Glenfarg, me cursing my lack of strength and decision to do this bloody cycling thing most of the way.

At Glenfarg, an NCN sign indicated that the route went to the right (south-east), presumably via more hills. So we ignored that and carried on along the main road (B996) until it met the A91, the main road from St Andrews to the M90. There was a sign indicating a cycle-route around the east side of Loch Lomond, so we took that. There was lots more grunting and peching as we went through villages on the lower slopes of the Lomond hills until we reached Ballingry. I think it was about here that my bluetooth headphones ran out of juice – the rest of the journey was not powered by music.

We stopped there to buy water – I’d drained half of my camel – and a bread roll, and confim to Elly that I was still alive, then set off southwards again. The route took us through Lochgelly (memorable for road surfaces almost as bad as Leith Walk), Cowdenbeath and onto Crossgates. From there, I could see hills the other side of the Forth – we were so near I could taste the diet Irn Bru! However, another set of undulations (they’re not big enough to call them hills) lay between my legs and home. So we tottered through south Fife into Inverkeithing.

There’s a cyclepath though Inverkeithing to the Forth Road Bridge, mostly downhill. Lev and I passed someone being treated by the emergency services, blood all over his face and screaming in pain near the way onto the bridge – we don’t recommend taking the final turn at any speed. The bridge implores cyclists not to do more than 15mph. It’s hard not to obey this on the way up its curve, but very easy to disobey when going down. Afterwards, there’s cyclepath all the way to Edinburgh’s city centre. Most of the stretch along this part of the A90 has been relatively recently rennovated – smooth tarmac apart from the annnoying occassional rumble strip.

The path goes through the back streets of Cramond and Barnton – Lev and I were held up by a taxi blocking the route, so got back onto Queensferry road for the final couple of miles. It’s fun to try to sprint using the impetus of drops and rises from Quality Street junction to the Dean Bridge. Unladen, we have hit 30mph on level roads. This time, I guess we probably didn’t reach 20mph, but Lev was laden and I was tired.

Overall we did 65 miles in 5 hours 12 minutes of pedalling time, so that’s 12·56 mph on average – better than last week’s 11·07 mph average. There was hardly any backside-pain and no chafing of the unmentionables, and I was able to spin the next day with little ill effect, just a little ache in my right hip. So I’m getting more confident about stringing together several long-distance days. Next week’s challenge might be cycling to Glasgow and back: no train journey, over 80 miles, almost guaranteed head-wind on the outward journey and a long slow uphill drag through West Lothian. And Lev’s about to get new two-sided SPD pedals because I’m bored with looking down to get his left combination (one side flat, other side SPD clip) pedal into the correct orientation every time we start off – it’s boring and it takes my eyes off the road.

Here’s the cyclemeter details.

Ride Time Stopped Time Average Speed
Fastest Speed
5.00 22:42 7:15 13.21 22.28 1103 229 76
10.00 19:55 7:32 15.06 25.39 895 177 272
15.00 16:55 0:22 17.73 21.75 1122 34 0
20.00 18:20 2:23 16.36 23.45 1010 34 108
25.00 25:05 20:27 11.96 20.62 1043 267 143
30.00 29:20 6:49 10.23 19.83 1027 467 81
35.00 23:27 6:54 12.79 29.40 876 240 302
40.00 25:51 2:09 11.60 20.69 939 138 196
45.00 29:24 33:58 10.20 19.95 1047 356 227
50.00 21:37 1:16 13.88 22.32 937 79 229
55.00 21:42 3:14 13.82 27.50 830 224 364
60.00 28:08 0:56 10.66 24.37 1086 344 382
65.00 27:38 3:42 10.86 23.41 982 200 238
65.35 2:03 1:12 10.34 11.56 80 82 23
Ride Time Distance
Stopped Time Average Speed
Fastest Speed
Energy Burn
0.00 – 6.21 34:31 11% 4.51 1:29:44 4.84 6.20 821 1070 239
6.21 – 12.43 2:11:34 42% 21.17 8:19 9.45 12.43 4948 1537 270
12.43 – 18.64 2:00:20 39% 30.77 0:08 15.34 18.63 6006 266 1127
18.64 – 24.85 23:38 8% 7.98 0:00 20.27 24.61 1158 0 772
24.85 – 31.07 2:05 1% 0.92 0:00 26.50 29.40 44 0 234


Fit (to drop)? I should cocoa!

When Mood Music
2015-04-25 18:56:00 meh David Bowie – Boys keep swinging

Until yesterday (Friday 24 April), I’d done no distance-cycling at all this year. That’s zero, nil, nada, zip, SFA. And yet this year I’ll be doing 75 miles of hills in Tour o’ the Borders, then Elly and I hope to have a holiday cycle-touring somewhere in Scotland. Next year we hope to spend several months touring Europe on our iron steeds: maybe the North Sea Cycle Route, maybe the Iron Curtain Trail, maybe a return to the Czech Republic and catching up with the ‘mad Moravians’. Also, for the past month I’ve been feeling weak and lethargic, and unable to keep up with the fast cadences during spinning sessions. So I really need to get my act together.

The long and busy road
Fortunately, over the next two months, I’m helping teach cycling skills at a primary school in Portobello. This has given me an impetus to spend the next few Fridays away from my desk and on the road. So yesterday Lev Davidovitch Bikestein and I took a train to Berwick-on-Tweed, intending to find a cycle-route back to Edinburgh. The train, a CrossCountry service to Penzance, had 3 spaces in which bikes are to be hung by their front wheels. This was hard – Lev is heavy, the wheel-hooks are high and my arms are still weak from past frozen shoulder episodes. There’s hardly room for two bikes with wide handlebars such as Lev and Fidel (Elly’s bike).

Anyway, we arrived safely at Berwick-on-Tweed. We didn’t find National Cycle Network route (NCN) 76 (not that we looked very hard) but we did find the A1 advertising 56 miles to Edinburgh and no signs banning bikes. So that’s what we did. I enjoyed the dual carriageway sections – most infernal combustion engines gave us wide berths, and there were what acted as cycle-lanes along most of these sections. There was also an actual cycle-path for a couple of miles passing Torness power station. That’s excellently ironic – you can get irradiated healthily! It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes to get to Dunbar, so an average speed of 13·6 mph over 29·5 miles. There was quite a lot of headwind but I’m still less than happy with averaging less than 15mph. Here’s the cyclemeter map.

I was vaguely aware that the A1 bans bikes between Dunbar and Edinburgh – it’s effectively a motorway. But I did know there’s a road that runs parallel with it, and that when I’ve travelled on the A1 this road has seemed almost deserted. Lev and I found this road quite easily – it turns out to be the A199, and part of NCN76 – and set off into the headwind. The road surface is decent, although not smooth. Instead it’s the kind of tarmac that saps energy from continous bumps and rumbles, which also attack human posterior ‘suspension’. There is a shared-use footpath/cycle-lane on the eastbound side of the road but I tend to dislike bumping up and down kerbs as such paths cross side-roads. Also, I believe that footpaths are for plebestrians – the clue is in the name – and that cyclists should not be ghettoised. We should be able to go where any other road users can, so that we can reach any destination simply and quickly.

jPhone didn’t record this section, from Dunbar to Haddington. But estimating that we stopped at Dunbar for about 10 minutes and at Haddington for about 20 minutes suggests that we took an hour to do 11 miles. I know there was a lot of headwind and that towards Haddington my knees had run out of push. No pain, just no inclination to do anything more than potter along. My nether regions told a different story – some friction of the unmentionables, grumbling from the groinal side of my left hip and quite loud complaints from my starfish. So next time I’ll need chamois cream with novocaine.

Lev and I stopped at Haddington to get our directions and check for urgent emails – after all Friday is a working day for most of my colleagues. We then pushed on to Edinburgh, taking a 1 hour 39 minutes to do 18·4 miles, so an average speed of 11 mph. Some of the slowness can be blamed on long waits at traffic lights along Milton Road and Princess Street but I recall limping up hills on Willowbrae Road and past St Andrews House where the only impediment was me. Here’s the cyclemeter map.


So Lev and I reached Servants’ Quarters just after 6pm. We’d taken around 6 hours to do around 60 miles, but that included 90 minutes of stopped time, so had there been no stops we’d have averaged 13 mph. Because cycle-touring involves carrying luggage and Lev is definitely not a carbon-fibre speed-beast, I’m not aiming for roadie speeds, but I would like to average 15 mph even when laden, facing headwinds and doing hills. I am pleased that I didn’t have to give up, that my knees are not painful the day after and that overall I believe I could do this sort of trip several days in a row. The challenge is to get faster, and do more hills!

By the way, the luggage was 2 panniers containing a track-pump, a couple of books, spare gloves and other clothing to lend to the cycle-skills pupils, overtrousers, emergency jPhone and iPad, USB charger and a few cables and the other gubbins I usually carry. I like to think that this simulates the weight I’d be carrying when cycle-camping.

Put yourself on the map: complete the Workforce Mapping Project survey

When Mood Music
2015-03-19 14:15:00 hungry, for no good reason Motorcycle Emptiness (Manic Street Preachers)

(With thanks to Hazel Hall for almost all of the words below.)


The Workforce Mapping Project survey is live at

This is a call to workers in the library, archives, records, information, and knowledge management sector to contribute to a research project by completing a short survey. If you work in this sector, please read on to learn more about the project and how you can contribute to it.

In 2014 the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and the Archives and Records Association commissioned research to better understand, and monitor trends in, the UK library, archives, records, information, and knowledge management workforce. The findings of this work will help the two bodies to plan and develop their activities as related to a wide range of activities including membership advocacy with government and employers, policy development, and the provision of services.

Over the past few months I have been working on the Workforce Mapping Project at Edinburgh Napier University with colleagues from the Centre for Social Informatics and the Employment Research Institute. (For me, it’s been great to work with new colleagues and learn a little about their specialisms.)

Our analysis of Labour Force Survey data completed in Phase 1 of the project indicates that there could be as many as 270,000 in the UK library, archives, records, information, and knowledge management workforce. In Phase 2 we are collecting data directly from the workforce with this invitation to complete the Workforce Mapping Project survey at

The success of this project depends on a high survey return rate from members of the workforce. If you are based in the UK and work in library, archives, records, information, and/or knowledge management (whether in a paid or volunteer role), please could you complete the survey? The survey takes no more than 15 minutes to complete, and gives respondents the opportunity to enter a prize draw for £200 worth of vouchers.

We’d also be grateful if you could extend the reach of this invitation by passing the survey link ( on to your colleagues and other contacts who work in the library, archives, records, information, and knowledge management sector – through social media (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+), by email, or in person. Many thanks!

When Mood Music
2015-03-12 18:51:00 happy this hiss of cars on a wet road
I’m very tired but I’m happy because good things have happened today.

The contract research survey is out and running. If you work in libraries, archives, records, or information- or knowledge management, please answer it. it won’t take long, and it will help CILIP and ARA work better for you.

Even though I spent only 30 minutes this morning on the second half of a piece of homework (the first half took over 2 hours), I received very complimentary feedback. (And thanks indeed to the teachers for providing feedback so quickly.)

Peter Cruickshank and I are now on the brink of being able to submit a paper to a conference – the submission deadline is Sunday. Even a week ago we didn’t think we had enough time to turn our draft into a finished article. I’m pretty sure that 90% of the work is Peter’s, as is all of the idea behind it.

We have also responded to an invitation to do more work around CC digital engagement. That we were invited makes us pretty confident that we will be commissioned to do this work.

Best of all, today an LA official told us that our work has had some genuine impact:

The move … was partly inspired by your … report

I’ve cut this right down to keep the official anonymous.

My actual and potential research areas

When Mood Music
2015-03-07 21:22:00 thoughtful none

Professor Hazel Hall, Peter Cruickshank and I yesterday had a productive meeting about our research plans, focussing on recent funding applications. Peter and I have the following actual and potential work-streams. I also have other work activities, as shown below. Peter also has teaching and other duties which aren’t shown. Continue reading