www.OllyAndBecca.uk
Southern Sri Lanka

My friend – you left us too soon :(

I don’t usually talk about emotional stuff on our blog but needed to vent somewhere.  Our friend, Echo, who had been fighting leukaemia sadly passed away on 19th May, she was just 29 years old. We found out whilst on holiday for my birthday which kind of put a damper on things 🙁

Olly and I only knew Echo for ~ 2 years, since we moved to Leicester and I started in the chemistry department. Echo was a PhD student in Chemistry but in a different research group to myself. A testament to her strength of character is that she left her home country (China) to come to the UK to pursue her PhD, and was writing up her thesis when she found out she was ill.

Echo was a positive, quirky person, always making everyone laugh and smile.   She would come out with some of the funniest things….. such as asking whether Olly’s pot-belly was real or whether it was a fake belly!!!!!!! Even the last time we spoke we were laughing about how she had taken up knitting as a hobby in the hospital.

Below are some of my favourite pictures of that I have of Echo that capture her cheeky fun loving ways.  Rest in peace. xxx

Gorgeous chemistry girls all dressed up for my 28th bday

Alan disrupts things and makes everyone laugh!

We eventually managed to convince Echo that apple bobbing was a great British tradition.... she had a go at it!

My favourtite photo of Echo!

Echo as Chun-Li from streetfighter!

From her 29th birthday....Echo fell asleep in the pub after drinking too much!

Echo's alcohol tolerance was never much!

don't tell our boss we bought a dog in to the office and it peed on the carpet!

Echo and Archie in the office

New look web pages

As you may or may not notice I have rewritten my entire website. Given that the old version was written when I was just learning HTML4 about six years ago I figured it was time for a bit of an update. It’s also given me a chance to have a play with some of the new HTML5 and CSS3 features as well as move a few things around. Notibly I moved the holidays pages to a blog category – there was starting to be too many.

In terms of the HTML5 stuff, I have employed the new structural tags <header>, <nav>, <footer> for now, with the likes of <section> to follow soon. One of the more noticable things is the use of the new <video> tag, in using this I am slowly converting all my video to Ogg Theora. This does mean that I am not supporting IE in the first instance, I may or may not get around to fixing it someone asks me nicely.

There’s a few other HTML5 bits and pieces around, my favourite may be the new <form> behaviour. They have rewritten it so you can upload many files at once and a lot of the validation of user input is done on-the-fly. I have a nice CMS that I use to manage my photos now with all these implemented 🙂

Obviously there is a nice sprinkling of CSS3 styles around which will work in modern browsers – even IE (if you are using IE9 and have compatibility mode turned off that is).

Let me know if you have any problems with the new style (things not displaying properly etc).

HALOGEN/RCS – my new job

It just occurred to me that I have been in my new job for almost a month and not really told anyone what it is about, so here goes.

I am still at Leicester – I got ‘redeployed’ at the last minute as I am awesome and they couldn’t bear the thought of me leaving. I now work in the research computing support team in IT services. Like all my jobs it is split into a couple of different roles, although this time it is more of an equal split. First of all I am working in the HALOGEN project. This aims to bring together a collection of different spatial data-sets and allow correlations to be found between them, hopefully in the guise of a web front end that can do all sorts of pretty plotting etc. In that sense it is very similar to the work I have done in the past with the astronomy data sets.

The second aspect of the job is to help the RCS guys deploy their new LAMP stack to users. This means that I am going to have to deal with people, shudder.

It’s a fairly short term position, but at least it will keep me off the streets for a while.

Highlight of the week

So my WASP public archive paper has been accepted and is the highlight of this weeks issue of A&A 🙂 You can see it on the A&A website.

Dr and Dr us.

So Becca and I have finally finished our Ph.D.s. We have the certificates, the photos and the scars. All that is left to do now is bask in our own smugness and get some leather bound copies of our thesis made up. If you are really bored you can read my thesis. One day I will upload Becca’s thesis too 🙂

Olly looking smug with his phd certificate

National Astronomy Meeting 2010

And so another N.A.M. has ended – I am writing this on the long train journey home. Luckily I booked my seat long before Eyjafjallajokull started to stir, and ground all the planes (unlike many that could not make it, or get back). The N.A.M. was at Glasgow University, close to the centre of the city, the university is an ancient one with many pretty old buildings that look like they belong in a work of fiction.

My main reason for coming to the N.A.M. was the launch of the SuperWASP public archive. I have been working on this for around a year now, and on Monday it was officially let loose on the public. This first data release has 14 billion data points and over 3.5 million images now available to be queried and downloaded. The general consensus among the people I spoke to about it was that it will be a very useful resource. The trouble I am having is that it is rather difficult to get people excited about an astronomical data base, and then getting them to tell their friends!

As ever with N.A.M.s there was a wide range of sessions to go to, one that I particularly enjoyed was the software astronomy session. In it the chair introduced the term astroinformaticsto me as a way of describing what it is that I do – a much sexier title than archive scientist me thinks 🙂

As you would expect there were a few people rather irate at the open forum which had representatives from the funding councils. One poor guy told us how he had his three year post-doc ended one year in, with one months notice, due to the current funding issues. Needless to say, this is precisely why more and more of my friends are moving abroad.

Besides the conference I did get to do some other stuff – mainly revolving around drinking of some description. The conference dinner was in the Kelvingrive museum, which was pretty cool. And so it is that I am heading back to Leicester with a bottle of double matured lagavulin in my case, and a head full of new ideas…

Boulder, CO – A Working Holiday Day 6!

After another big home cooked breaky at Allenspark Lodge we went in search for the Allenspark Trailhead. Its quite remote and starts fairly high up. Infact the car park to this trailhead is just a dirt track. On the drive up to the trailhead we passed some very posh looking log cabins with glass fronts! They were nestled in between all the pine trees and looked very pretty.

The trail we took towards Calypso Cascades was a forest trail, which was quite rocky and a little snowy/icy in places. We only saw one other person on our way out there to the waterfall. The trail itself was built after a lightening storm caused forest fires in 1978. So a lot of the trees have been cleared leaving great views of Longs Peak. You can also see places where landslips have occurred.

We ate lunch sitting on a boulder at Calypso Cascades and were pestered by a rather persistent Blue Jay! On the way back to Allenspark Trailhead we saw some the interesting site of a tree growing within a tree (presumably after the forest fire!).

Allenshead Trail Stats:

6.2 mile there and back.
Allenspark trailhead elevation: 8520 ft / 2597 m
Calypso cascade elevation: 9200 ft / 2804 m

After our hike we went back into Estes Park for some souvenir shopping and even found time to sample some ice cream and local beer : )
We are currently staying in the Colorado Cottages and even have a log fire in our room. We had a soak in the hot tub before heading out to dinner (I sooooooo want a hot tub!!!! we should definately have more in the UK!). And finally we have internet and phone reception again so can upload lots of posts and pictures!

Boulder, CO – A working Holiday Day 5!

After a hearty home cooked breakfast supplied by the Allenspark Lodge, Zoe and I ventured out on our first trip to RMNP. We went in through the Beaver Meadows entrance. We started out at Bear Lake ranger station and took the Bear Lake Trailhead. It started out really easy – a concrete path up to Nymph Lake. We stopped here to have lunch amongst the wildlife including a boisterous chipmunk that was trying to get in to Zoe’s backpack, a blue jay and another grey fluffy bird that tried to beg for food. The lake itself was partly frozen over still.

We ventured on and got to Dream Lake which was completely picturesque! Again the lake was partly frozen, and the mountains were in the background. Here we deviated from the path the majority of people were taking. We decided to tackle the snowy and seriously icy trail up to Lake Haiyaha – native American for “Big Rocks”. En route we got some scenic views of Glacier Gorge and Longs Peak. The “Big Rocks” refer to a massive boulder field you have to scrabble over to get to views of the lake.

After a short stop at Haiyaha Lake we began the descent back to Bear Lake – there were some moments where I was ice skating down the trail!!!!

Hiking stats:
Lake Haiyaha Trail – 4.2 miles there and back.
Bear Lake elevation: 9,475 ft / 2888 m
Lake Haiyaha elevation: 10,220 ft / 3115 m
High point of hike: 10,240 ft / 3121 m

After the hike we head into downtown Estes Park to have a look at tourist tat! We found a nice mexican restaurant to eat in – although portion sizes were ridiculous! My fajitas could have fed three people!!!!! We headed back to Allenspark Lodge for a dip in the hot tub after dinner and I was out like a light! I didn’t even hear Zoe get up the next morning to go for her run!

Boulder, CO – A working holiday Day 4!

Today was the last day of the conference, after which we headed to the west of Boulder and up to NCAR (National Centre for Atmospheric Research) which is the sister organisation of NCAS (National Centre of Atmospheric Science – to which Zoe belongs). NCAR is situated perched up on top of a large hill overlooking the entirety of Boulder. In fact from the viewpoint at NCAR we could even see Denver cos of the clear sky.

NCAR has a visitor centre with lots of interactive outreach toys in it [i will upload some pictures soon either here on on the photos page!]. After learning all about properties of the atmosphere we walked the NCAR weather trail which was a gentle stroll with information points telling us about weather and atmospheric conditions of the region.

After our walk we headed north towards Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped off at Allenspark Lodge, Allenspark. It is a breathtakingly beautiful cozy log lodge. Apparnetly it was built approx 75 years ago from reclaimed wood after a nearby forest fire (by American standards it is probably classed as a historical building!!!). The owners are extremely welcoming and make you feel quite at home. The lodge is fairly large, there are three floors, a hot tub, dining room/kitchen with complimentary tea/coffee/hot chocolate, a cozy living room with a fire and a stove and a tv/games room. I have never stayed anywhere so homely before and would highly recommend it to anyone!

We headed out to the Baldpate Inn for dinner. The Baldpate Inn is named after the book ” 7 keys to Baldpate” written by Earl Derr Biggers. It is about some people that each think they hold the key to the mythical Baldpate Inn. The original owners built the building in 1917 and named it after the book, the film was just out too. They planned to give each guest a key as a souvenir of their stay at the Inn. This proved too costly for them, in the end guests started leaving their own keys as a memento! There are tens of thousands of keys in the collection now, including things like the key to Hitler’s writing desk, the key to the gate of Sherwood forest etc. Each key has been donated with a message or letter from the sender.

Boulder, CO – A working holiday Day 2 and 3!

o Zoe and I were up at the crack of dawn (well I woke up at about 6am cos I couldn’t sleep!). We had to head down to NOAA to be “vetted and approved” entry into this government facility. NOAA stands for National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (It’s basically the NASA of the atmospheric/oceanographic worlds!!!!). It is set in the foothills of the Rockies and the view from NOAA is beautiful. They even have an observatory up there!

I was really ill today – Zoe infected me with her lurgi! I was truly suffering by the afternoon and felt quite conscious about coughing through everyone’s talks! As far as the meeting went – I learned lots about what some of the dominant research groups in the field are doing.Zoe and I both gave our talks and got some feedback and ideas on what to do next. The conference dinner was held at Dushanbe Teahouse which was beautiful! they serve about 40 odd teas there including one from Newara Eliya!

Thursday was pretty heavy going at the conference, not entirely convinced i understood all of it. I did learn some new stats methods though, that i shall try out. On Thursday I finally managed to find a swimming outfit and went for 1/2 hour swim in the pool at the hotel. The pool was a bit weird though – it was really warm, like the temperature of a hot tub [I actually started to sweat whilst i was swimming some lengths!]

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