My Blog

Bella Italia, Viva INORE

I have been studying marine renewable energy since September 2002 so, at the time of writing, nearly 13 years. Sadly, to my discredit, I have not always taken all of the opportunities that studying in this unique field have offered me. One such opportunity was to become actively involved in a young researchers network called INORE during my PhD. This was a time of my life where I was bitter, big headed and small minded (gotta love PhDs), and so, rather than try it out, I simply heaped scorn on my friends that were involved.

I like to think that I’ve changed since then, and I am becoming more like the person I want to be. Yet still, when another opportunity to attend INORE came along, familiar sentiments returned: “I’m too old”, “I’m not that kind of person”, “Why would I waste my time?”. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My closest colleague could have gone instead of me but, fortunately for me, he seemed less enthusiastic to go than I did. Indeed, I know now that he was saying this for my benefit as he is one of the world’s super nice people. It also made sense from a technical perspective as we needed to present a piece software that he can’t use, as yet. That piece of software is DTOcean - my current charge and will be for the next 15 months. I have a lot to thank DTOcean for as, along with the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, it has brought me to Bilbao and an exciting (and challenging) new life.

I will say more about DTOcean at a later date, as we have just begun to publicise its existence and there is lots of interesting stuff to tell (maybe even a slot at Europython (woo!). The presentation at INORE, in Vico Equense in southern Italy, was the 3rd of a group of four presentations of our “Alpha version” over 2 months, a period throughout which the software has been getting more alpha all the time. Sadly, including some intense preparation time, this has stolen a good 3 months of my social life (and Spanish learning), so I hope Derwyn (my pet name for DTOcean) appreciates my sacrifice. The last presentation is next week.

I did not have my travelling hat on when I arrived in Italy, and was feeling a bit out of sorts. These feelings quickly faded, however. Firstly, I had a calzone. Secondly, Vico Equense is incredibly stunning.

Mount Vesuvius

Piano di Sorrento

Peppe's hand

The hand you see in the last picture is that of my bed and breakfast host, Peppe. The pictures above were taken because of his generosity in offering me a hair raising ride on the back of his moped for an hour long tour of the locality about Vico Equense. This was truly one of the best experiences of my life, so if you ever happen to stay at the Bed & Breakfast Maria Grazia and Peppe offers you a ride, take it. The B&B is also a lovely building and he has some of the largest lemons I’ve ever seen… Just remember to take a car, as it’s a bit isolated.

Huge lemons

So it was a good start to my journey, and the next stage was to meet the INORE gang at the hostel up the road. Now, I wouldn’t say that I didn’t know anybody, in fact a colleague from my current work was attending along with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh. The joy was that I hardly spoke to them throughout much of my time there as I met with such a nice welcome from the group as a whole. OK, everyone was looking a little tired (the days and nights are long at INORE), but this had not dampened the open and inclusive spirit of the group. Indeed, this will be my enduring memory of the trip, feeling at home among like-minded people and having fun with old friends and, I hope, new ones as well. I will remember that feeling, and also seeing one of the most beautiful sunsets of my life from the roof of the hostel; one of those perfect little moments of life.

Sunset

Beyond a great social experience, the trip also proved very useful from a work perspective. The feedback we received from the group of young researchers after my presentation of DTOcean was very detailed and thought through, and really highlighted the embarrassment of young intellect in the room. From both an intellectual and social perspective I left INORE totally satisfied.

In fact, I was extremely sad to leave when I did (two and a half days before the end), and upset with myself for never taking the risk to try it when I could justify spending the entire week there. If I could, I would have gone back instantly and implored everyone else to stay in that beautiful place for ever more. Still, life goes on but if you are a young researcher in offshore energy and have ever thought of trying INORE or even if you think its not for you, I would urge you to give it a try and not make the same mistake as me. I feel extremely lucky and privileged to get a second chance, but I wish I had taken my first.

Time Management

So I did a time management course on Wednesday of last week and it was very very embarrassing. I couldn’t help but cringe when the nice lady giving the course put on the slide “Time Wasters”. I was like, “Yes, that’s me, I’m a timewaster.” The main gist of the whole thing was to re-prioritise our time by setting “priorities” to them. The scheme goes something like this:

A: Work Related to my job and of high importance.
B: Work related to my job which is urgent but not important
C: Work related to my job that is neither important or urgent
D: Work unrelated to my job.

The thing is I really need another category, something like this:

F: The work of complete slackers, ie Facebook, F1technical.net and Gameknot.com.

Much of my working day seems to consist of F priority tasks, when they should be AAAA+++ This blog post might in fact be an F priority task. Maybe I’ll give it an E. There was some talk of motivation and a meeting of goals and values and I suspect mine must be pretty messed up because I really can’t see any value in my goals. Eeek: New job anyone?

Formula One 2010

Wow, Sebastian Vettel is the F1 World Champion for 2010. It always looked like a possibility, but going into the last race in Abu Dhabi, it was looking highly unlikely that Ferrari and Fernando Alonso would not finish with enough points to retain their lead and, thus, Alonso’s would win his third championship.

I chose to watch the race around a friends house, with a bigger TV than ours, and demonstrate my uber geek to all his guests by staring at the timing screens more than the cars. With cheese on the menu for lunch, it was a fun afternoon for me at least. Also the amazing BBC F1 Forum aftershow, put on great entertainment by following the Reb Bull celebrations after the race. Although these were raucous, they somehow lacked the excitement of the Brawn win last year, and the team seems to have lost, rather than made friends this year. Obvious in his absence was Mark Webber, long time championship leader, who, although praising Sebastian’s world title win, did not wish to celebrate with a team that marginalised him this year in favour of his younger rival. In contrast, he McLaren drivers were gracious in defeat, and Ferarri ashamed of their costly error. Next year will be just as exciting as this, I hope.

I am actually glad the championship has finished, I must add. Although my fanantical support of this years races (and practise and pre-season) has given me something to look forward to during the hard slog to finish my PhD, now that it is finished I am glad to be able to use all my weekend to rebuild my tattered life. Yes, my six year old PhD is now submitted, and I can finally get on with whatever else I want to do! Unfortunately, I haven’t quite worked that out yet. At least I now have time to do it and I can choose. I just have to get back into the habit of choosing, which is easier said than done.

Anyway, congratulations to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. I hope you lose next year!