Time off

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"So, you're a lecturer — you must get nice long holidays!" If you're a lecturer or school teacher, you're probably wearily familiar with that kind of comment. While it's true that the students have very long holidays over the summer, so we're not doing any teaching, the departure of the students is the cue for most of us to roll our sleeves up and actually get our own research done. We do have quite generous leave allocations, but the truth is that most academics never manage to take off all the time that they are entitled to.

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Going towards Mevagissey

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[The Great Escape, day one: written 11th August, 2005] I love the sea. Some of my happiest moments have been spent beside it, on it, or in it. For me, there's a special quality of relaxation that comes from sitting or walking by a shore, looking at the waves and breathing in that lovely seaweed smell. So today, as the train rounded a corner at Dawlish to hug the narrow strip of land between the ox blood red cliffs and the petrol blue sea, it was all I could do not to yell out "

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Lettuce graze

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We've just eaten our entire season's crop of lettuce in two very small side salads. I think that we need to rethink our horticultural practices. Lots of stones and soil that looks like dust does not make for happy, abundant lettuces. Furthermore, we're suffering from lettuce-envy, because friends of ours produced a bed full of hedge-sized lettuces in a couple of weeks. Our scrawny little saplings have struggled for months to reach a size that makes it worthwhile washing them and putting them on a plate.

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FeedDigest

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I found some time to sign up for the new service today, and I'm really blown away by it. For a start, it's much quicker than it used to be (not that the speed ever bothered me much), and there are loads of new features like combining feeds, slick templating features, and a host of different output formats. The free account gives you up to 5 digests from up to 3 sources, so you can try it out and see if you like it.

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Back home

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I'm finally back home again after a very intense week at the conference. It was a fantastic and academically inspiring time in many ways, but now I'm completely exhausted. I've just finished sorting through a load of emails that needed responses and a few other outstanding work matters, and I think that's probably about it for me this weekend as far as intelligent activity goes. It's pretty interesting going to a conference that's outside your area of expertise, as much for the fun of experiencing a different scientific culture as anything else.

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Sucker

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There's a noise in the background of 'Rental Car' by Beck (on the album 'Guero') that sounds really like our doorbell. The sad part about this is that I've now been fooled by it twice within a matter of minutes; both times I actually got up to answer the the door. I blame having my head filled to bursting point with unfamiliar, technical, complex and difficult stuff over the past week.

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Greetings from Edinburgh

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I had my first morning off since I've been in Edinburgh, so I decided to go for a bit of a wander. Two solid days of sitting down, listening and hard thinking had given me itchy feet. I had a bit of a wild goose chase to a cycle shop that Mr. Bsag was thinking of buying a bike from. I suggested that I could go and check out the bike he was interested in, but it was just my luck that the shop was closed today for stock-taking.

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Freak weather

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I don't know why, but the Birmingham area seems to have become the Freak Weather Capital of the UK. First, there was the Dudley earthquake in 2002, and now we've had the Moseley tornado. What's next — typhoons on the lake in the local park?

Going north of the border

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I'm off to not-so-sunny (current temperature 13°C) Edinburgh for a week-long conference, so updates may be sparse unless I manage to blag some free WiFi1. Does anyone know of any good, free WiFi hotspots in the city centre? I'm giving two talks, and it's a conference outside my discipline, so it should be... interesting. 1 Mr. Bsag calls me 'WiFi' every now and again. I hope he means 802.11g, not 802.

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Automated voices

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I've said it many times before, but Radio 4 is really a national treasure. The dramas and comedies are great, but I also love the little factual programmes about obscure but interesting things. Just last week I was sitting on the train at New Street station, listening to the automated announcements and wondering about the poor soul who had to say "I'm sorry for the delay to your journey" a million times until he got the required firm but sympathetic tone.

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