04 December 2012


You'd be forgiven for thinking that Edinburgh doesn't grit or clear cyclepaths, Even the best used ones have been covered in thick layers of leaves of late. But in fact, quite a number of paths are considered 'priority 1' routes for gritting. Now, I must admit, I'm not quite sure what that means. I do know that 'non priority 1' routes aren't gritted on weekends, or before 7.30am. But I'm not quite sure what a priority 1 is supposed to merit - presumably the general idea is that if there is an ice or snow warning, then they are supposed to be gritted. And given that many of them are key commuting routes, you might expect them to be cleared by 9am on a work day, or to have been gritted the night before preventatively.

But no. Over the weekend, the North EdinburghPath network ground to a halt. So, going to see my daughter in a panto, which would take about 30 min max by an off-road route, became an hour-long slog by bus, involving both kids getting travel-sick. We really didn't need that. Not a nice start to Advent.

And on Monday, and then Tuesday, I discovered that Leamington Walk was decidedly untreated. It wasn't shiny ice-rink territory, but there was at least one off. And I went very, very carefully despite having my studded tyre on.

The thing is, these *are* priority 1 routes, and used by hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians everyday (we'd have better figures if the long promised cyclecounter had ever gone in...).

So, I've been tweeting and emailing and generally causing a commotion. To some effect. Apparently some of the 'logistics' relating to the implementation of gritting hadn't quite been worked out. Lots of lovely twittering folk at council have promised to 'look into it'. The final straw for me was yesterday, when they re-gritted the already clear north-most 200 metres of Middle Meadow Walk (coincidentally the one off-road path with commercial premises on it?), but did not continue on to the rest of MMW,or any of the adjacent and joined up priority 1 routes.

However, this morning, they did grit Leamington walk, as you can see below. Victory? I'm really not sure.

10 November 2012

Spot the bodge job

Spot the bodge job.  All four of 'em.  Are you wondering what on earth I'm on about? OR, what planet  childseat manufacturers are on when they doesn't design in bikelights or bike light fittings?

I just don't get it. Do they really think that we don't need lights on childseats? Or, more likely, that the only time we cycle with kids is on a Saturday afternoon ride to the park?

Here in Scotland, we need lights from October to April, just for 'normal' school/nursery/work runs.  Tonight, I've been  laid low with a virus, but the rest of the family is contemplating a dinner invite from dear friends (and a ogood cook).  But it's a dark and rainy night and the route entails cycling through some of the dodgier bits of road in Edinburgh (Holyrood Park and the Cowgate, plus the Pubic Triangle Lothian Road).  So, we are left with the following options:  £9 for bus tickets, £8x2 for taxis, or bodge extra lights on.  As you can see, we've opted for the latter.

But I still don't get what's going on in the manufacturer's heads.  It's not just childseats. It's also tag-alongs and trailers, which are near impossible to light up.   To their credit, Hamax made a light that went on the back of their seats, but when I tried to order one, I was told they'd been discontinued.  Too little demand?  I guess so.  The other day, I was amused to find myself ranting to the most experienced bike campaigner I know, who seemed thoroughly surprised to hear that this was an issue. I guess it really is a minority concern.

09 November 2012

We need to be clear about what we want.

With the 6 cyclist deaths on our roads this week, and Wiggin's and Sutton's crashes, a lot of unlikely allies seem to have joined the campaigns for safer infrastructure.  Case in point is the Transport editor of the Telegraph: pictured here looking slightly uncomfortable on his bike.  In what I found to be a very frustrating read, he starts by attributing the rise of cycle safety up the political agenda to the increase in accidents, not the increase and diversity in people cycling, government's own policies, or effective campaigns. 
Then, he claims that 'until now its been reasonable' to advocate more training. for cyclists as a solution.  Well, actually, I disagree with that - there's a wealth of evidence that that is not enough, and its been available to planners, politicians and transport editors for a long time.  He then turns (implicitly) to a focus on drivers as the problem, and says that the 'think bike' campaign was a failure (wasn't that about motorcyclists?).   Then he briefly mentions trixi mirrors and is critical of govt policy. Good!
But the real problem comes when he says (I'm paraphrasing here) 'since we can't share road space, we need segregation'.
Which I think sends all the wrong messages about segregation. We will never have 100% segregation - no one does. What we need is to have cycling integrated into road planning - in the form of segregated cyclepaths, safer junctions etc. It is not an option of whether or not to share roadspace, but HOW we share it.  As another quick-off-the-mark comment in the Independent makes clear, we need respect between drivers and cyclists.
Dutch infrastructure is not just about corralling the cyclists off into their own space, and absolving drivers of responsibility for them.  Yes, segregated cycle lanes are a joy to cycle and we should have more of them everywhere, and especially on heavy traffic roads, and where we want to encourage cyclists and pedestrians to shop and eat locally.  But not every road can be segregated. So we need safer junctions, slower roads, and a range of infrastructure that allows cyclists and cars to use the roads safely together - whether in segregated lanes or not.  And where we do have segregated paths they need to be joined up, and connected to each other, as well as to the road networks. We need a redesign of how we use roadspace, and that requires integrating cycles into road planning, not segregating them. 

04 November 2012

In praise of tandems...

Every busy mom needs a tandem. I'd say that it was the SUV of bikes but that wouldn't convey the freedom that a tandem gives. An SUV, or people carrier, as it is called in North America, implies that you spend all your time ferrying kids around.  But the tandem not only gets them used to contributing to that effort, but also encourages them to be more independent.

When we got our tandem, K. (now age 5) started off mostly wanting to ride with me on it.  And while I was thrilled that she wanted to, we were a little worried that she was 'deskilling' on her own bike. But, she has now started to want to ride her own bike more and more.  So, if we go off on a Sunday afternoon cycle, it can be a case of trying to convince her to ride the tandem with me!  And she chooses to ride to school on her own often as well.   I'm sure that it is her experience of being on the tandem that has given her the confidence to do this.

Our tandem  has the added benefit that both the adults in our family can ride it, despite a height differential of more than a foot between us, and we can take the baby along too.  And, as you can see in the header photo,  we sometimes add on a trailer - mainly for cargo, although in theory we could take kids in it. So, if I'm on my own I can take the kids with me on the Saturday morning  farmer's market   run (as we did last week before soccer/football) or do a 'big shop' by bike.

All of which means that I can do the school run in the morning, and still get to work at a decent hour.  And contribute to the weekend activities.  All without a car, or spending hours on a stuffy bus.  And get some exercise - which really helped me get back into shape after baby #2.  The only problem I've got now is that I invested in a nippy folder over the summer, so that I had an alternative bike for when K. wanted to ride her own bike, or when the rest of the family needed the tandem.  I love the feeling of freedom: a bike with no kids attached -- whee! And I love zooming up hills on it. But I'm definitely not burning as many calories....

28 October 2012

My toddlebike!

Small Mr B acquired a toddlebike late this summer.  As you can see opposite, a toddlebike is a small plastic ride-on toy.  He is very fond of it and scoots around inside the flat with great enthusiasm.  I responded to an offer on twitter of a loan and/or reduced price toddlebike, if I agreed to tweet/blog about it.  I was kind of intrigued, and pleased to be able to report positively.

One nice thing about the toddlebike is that, while it is fine for playing indoors,  it can also be taken outside.  It is very nice and light, which makes it easy to strap on to a grownup bike or backpack when cycling to a playpark. It is also light enough for him to carry along by himself. And so far it has proven very durable.

If you read other reviews on-line you'll note that parents say that it speeds up their kids so that they can toddlebike rather than be pushed in a buggy.  This didn't really work for us. Small Mr B is already so fast on his feet that he found toddlebiking any distance a bit frustrating, because he can (and will) run along faster.  But in the flat and/or the playpark he has a ball.  As did the other kids at the park who all had a go - from age 12 months and up including big sister (nearly 6).

From a bike-riding perspective, the cool thing about it is that unlike other 'scoot' bikes/bugs that we have tried, he automatically alternated his legs while pushing, rather than pushing with both legs together.  No idea what it is about the design that encourages it, but interesting.

There is now a 'Scottish regional partner'  for anyone who wants to make contact.   I can definitely see these being popular in playgroups and nurseries, as well as at home.  I won't be sending it back - although having now seen a little girl just his age (23 months) performing amazing acts on a scooter, we're already scheming to get him on a balance bike...

24 October 2012

The Academic Maelstrom

Some very patient admin people at uni are chasing me for 'course monitoring forms'. These are reports where we sum up our teaching from last year in 1 page - student feedback, our reflections, and plans for change.  A great idea, right?  Well, yes. If you actually find time to collect the data (note to self: look for forms in pile on desk), reflect on it, and remember which course is which.

But instead, I'm standing at the sink, washing dishes, with a feverish toddler running about at my feet, trying to decide what other overdue item to drop down the priority list, so that I can get these admin folk off my back.  

I ought to be replying to panicked student emails about dissertations, or sending (late) requests to the library to scan chapters for next semester's courses, or chasing things for students for whom I am a 'personal tutor', or planning the dissertation workshops for tomorrow, or reading PhD student chapters (5 waiting at last count), or writing letters of reference for former students, or reading UG dissertation proposals, or writing book reviews (CJAS and African Affairs - I've not forgotten, honest), or trying to get lecture notes up on Learn, or that article I promised a journal on OA, or the two book chapters I rashly agreed to write, or revising the consultancy report..... 

And that's just my 'must do' list of things that are already overdue, and doesn't even begin to get near the stack of books I want to read, the funding calls to peruse and pursue, the academic blogs to read (where *do* people find time to write them?), planning teaching for next year.....

18 September 2012

At the risk of boring everyone to death...

I've got to write about the school run again. All easy-peasy today. Nice tandem run, not too late. Dropped girl off, toodled down to the end of the road, where there is a cycle exit, but a dead end for cars, only to encounter stupid posh car reversing at me again.  (I'm pretty sure this is the same guy who has twice reversed in the street before noticing us behind him on a bike).

I don't know who has priority in this instance. He is doing a U-turn, I am aiming for the red bit that gives me access to Viewforth. Maybe I should have stopped.  In the event, I did stop, but also went and asked the driver if he'd noticed me. He claimed he did.  I asked why he kept reversing if he'd seen me. Clearly we were not seeing eye to eye.

As I cycled off, muttering angrily to myself, I realised that what I really wanted to ask was why did he drive down there at all?  There is no need for him to make a U-turn there unless he is a resident or visiting someone there. Students should be being dropped back here somewhere, where there is a nice easy right turn out to the main road. The only reason he is driving down there at all is because he feels the need to drop his child exactly at the gate, so the primary aged child doesn't need to walk 10 extra steps.

How do I point this out?  Is there some way of engaging with this politely?  I've probably already blown my chances of this.  So, how do I raise this in a way that actually gets something done about it?

13 September 2012

Hit and run

Friend/neighbour got hit and run by a Tesco's van today. By some amazing luck he is okay (and so was his bike). He found the van and called the cops. 'nothing they could do'.  and all this on streets i cycle every day with the kids (as does he). Do we all need to get helmet cameras? or just hide indoors?

Glad he's okay.  


I was given the CFA note above by Nathaneal and his comrades, who I met on my flight to Nairobi. They  had left Cote d'Ivoire the day before, to study for degrees at Africa University in Mutare.  All four young men described themselves as pastor's sons, and said that their church was sponsoring their studies.  

But they were being deported from Zimbabwe, because they had not understood the letter sent from the University which advised them to get visas before travelling to the University (but did not specify that it should be obtained before they entered the country).  

As you can imagine, they were devastated. In Nairobi airport they were able to phone their sponsors and the University, and had some hopes that they could return to Zimbabwe, but the last I heard from them, they were back in Abidjan.  Without some sort of support to buy new tickets, they were not going to be able to return to Zimbabwe and begin their studies.  

I hope that all the students starting their studies again this week appreciate how fortunate they are.  I can't count the many sources of funding that made it possible for me to get my education, but they include my parents, the Canadian government, the Newfoundland government, Cecil Rhodes (!), many small scholarship funds, and the neighbours who paid me to shovel snow, mow their lawns and babysit their kids. I appreciate them all (although that's not really the right word for how I feel about the source of the Rhodes funding...). 


27 August 2012

In praise of ASLs

I've been meaning to write about ASLs for a while. Now, there's a wee debate about them on-line and it seems a a good time to weigh in.

I know some people, like my good friend Magnatom,  are, shall we say, wary of the supposed virtues of ASLs.   His advice is certainly worth following.  On the whole, I'm more agnostic, and find the near total lack of enforcement frustrating.   But, if I can't easily get into an ASL, I will happily hang back in the queue of traffic. If I'm near the front andd going straight, I'll be centre in the ASL, avoiding those unsignalled left turns.

However, over the summer, while school was out, my routine varied a little, and I found myself riding different routes.  In doing so, I realised that I kept feeling uneasy in one particular intersection.  I was surprised at various actions by cars.  Not aggressive,but strange.  Like the smiley woman who came right up beside me and grinned at the kids through her window, when I was turning right and she was going straight on.  And then I twigged - this is the ONLY ntersection near me or on oany of my 'usual routes' with traffic lights and no ASLs.  There is an almost identical intersection one block along, but with ASLs.  And the riding experience is totally different there.  Not great - the light sequence is too short, making a right turn is tricky, but the ASLs make it that bit more comfortable, and just as well because that intersection's on the way home from nursery.

So, while they may not make all drivers into angels, and they certainly don't make cyclists invulnerable, I miss them when they're not there, which must mean they make a little difference at least.

23 August 2012

The last 10 yards....

School restarted last week, and my 5 year old decided she wanted to ride her own bike, and not the tandem.  This was fine with me, as it gave me a chance to ride my 'mid-life crisis bike' (more about that soon).

But reflecting upon it (via twitter, as one does...), it occurred to me that although none of the ride is particularly enjoyable, the most dangerous section by far is the last 10 yards or so, in front of the school gates.    We ride down a busy bus route, with too many HGVs and commuters, we go through a potentially dodgy roundabout, and have to make a right-hand turn across traffic, uphill.  Not nice, considering the entire ride is only 0.4 of a mile.

But all of that is fairly easy.  The problem is when we turn in front of the school, and she has to pass behind the cars that are dropping kids.  That's when the fun starts - doors opening, cars reversing, total madness.  There's one particular driver who has twice now reversed at us without looking in his mirror (he's trying to make room for oncoming traffic, which is supposed to have priority, but that's no excuse for not looking).  And then, why do cars drive down a cul-de-sac in front of a school?  It sure doesn't save you any time!Why not drop the kids somewhere safe that doesn't require narrow turns?  Do they really need to be driven that last 10 yards too?

What's even more depressing is that I know the parents that drive and who I see dropping their kids every day, are the hardcore.  The vast majority of the kids walk, and quite a lot of the parents cycle.  The cycle racks are full of scooters.  There were maybe 10 bikes there today.  (I'm sure most parents prefer scooters because it keeps the kids on the pavement.)  But the point is, they use 'active travel' as a default option, with cars used to drop off once in a while.

But how do we get the hard core, set in their cars, group out?  Even if they just walked or cycled once in a while, it would surely improve their driving and awareness of the children and other pedestrians?  I'm thinking here of a particular van which last year reversed backwards over the crossing in front of the school gate, while kids were still running across....

Sometimes that 10 yards seems a long way to go....

26 July 2012

No bikes?

Sometime this afternoon a painted 'nobike' sign appeared on the pavement outside the Chrystal Macmillan bldg on George Square.  (actually on the only dropped kerb along the north of george square.)

Yes people - including me - do cycle (gently) along there to access bike racks and covered storage from MMW.  Doubtless we shouldn't, but is that really the most important thing that needs fixing on George Square?

I would not mind so much if there were equivalent 'no pedestrian' signs on Meadow lane.  But you can't even cycle on the road (much less the cycle contra-flow lane) because of people wandering across obliviously, usually texting or chatting.  Last week a coach was parked on Meadow Lane, going the wrong way, on the double yellows, blocking all access up and down the Lane.

I would also not mind it if there were also some 'no stopping' signs along the edges of the square where the Heriot's parents idle their engines while collecting their little darlings.

Or if the setts on George Square were kept in something resembling decent quality, but they are loose,  uneven, and full of holes.

All these factors combine to make George Square a nightmare for cyclists.  Why pick on them?

25 July 2012

What a great ride on Sunday!

Asleep...but not for long
What a great ride on Sunday.  No, not Wiggo and Cav but us - and half the rest of the population of Edinburgh who braved the wind and threatening clouds.   (actually, we had a lot of sun. To quote a small person 'it's like another world mummy!')

We finally made it out the Innocent past Duddingston, which we'd wanted to do for ages, and it was the perfect ride because it was so sheltered.  Thanks to our Spokes maps we were rightly guided all the way - with only a few minutes confusion nr Brunstane Station before a kind passing cyclist came over to advise us (thanks!).  After exploring the waterfront at Musselburgh and then meandering up the Esk, we followed NCN1 signs all the way back to Newcraighall, completing our loop and getting back on the Innocent for the ride home (stopping off at the cool climbing thing which according to the map may be called Jewel Park).  We'd never ridden much of the NCN before, and it was a good experience.  Between that and the Spokes maps, we really felt in good hands. I'd based the loop back from the Esk based on the Spokes map and didn't realise it would be as well signposted as it was.  Really nice not to have to stop at every corner and consult the map. 

We did discover one big gap in the Spokes maps -- they don't show playparks! Would be good to get these included in the next editions. Helpful to know when they're coming up - either so that a stop can be planned, or avoided.

En route we saw a 'weehoo' trailer which was the rider clearly really liked, although I'm glad I didn't go down this route.  We also 'spotted' another Helios tandem on Clerk St, in convoy with what looked like a family bike and trailer. And just lots of cyclists. Friendly cyclists (except the roadies who clearly thought I was obstructing their access to the narrow bridge over the Esk). And friendly walkers too.  

Best thing of all, not only did we all gets lots of exercise, and explore a huge area, but we got home in lots of time for lunch and that other cycle ride in France. Yay! 

(Only slight downside - we all thought of lots of bits of 'technical' clothing and kit that we really need if we're going to do this again!)

24 July 2012

In praise of on-line communities...

I've been reflecting on why I didn't blog for many years.  One of the big reasons is that others put things so much better than I can.  Sure, I can pontificate about the evils of the current government, or political shenanigans in Zimbabwe, or the upcoming Scottish referendum, but, on the whole I'm not sure I have much to add that's not out there already.  Secondly, if I blogged as a 'vent' a lot of my writing would have been about the toils and travails of editordom.  Which would have been hard to keep anonymous (and professional).  Which is why I had such fun blogging about Open Access last week - I had something to say that no one else was saying, and I felt free (free!) to say it.

But, the plan is for the resurrected blog to be mainly about cycling.  And the reason I've not blogged about cycling is that a few years ago I discovered the wonderful CityCyclingEdinburgh Forum. And not only have they let me vent many insecurities and frustrations, but they have provided advice, a secondhand trailer, good deals on bikes, the occasional free accessory (schrader valve pump anyone?) and a lifetime's suuply of empty jam jars.   But beyond the excellent advice and esoteric knowledge, they've created a generous and warmhearted community right here on the internet, welcoming even the middle aged, technically incompetent mum that I have become.

We meet up occasionally for coffee or beer, some crazy folk do time trials on Arthur's seat, others go to races together, or just for a ride.  But most of the interaction is on-line, and it is great feeling to know that if I've had a bad experience with a driver, or my bike's making a funny noise that there's a place where I know I'll get support and encouragement.

We wouldn't have done half the things we've done as a family without the gentle prodding from CCE-ers, who don't think going on holiday by bike with kids is crazy.  We also wouldn't have our much-loved tandem, and I don't know how we would have managed to get around the past year - certainly my schedule would have been nearly impossible.  We also probably wouldn't have found out about balancebikes and islabikes, which have so helped K. 'find her wheels'.   Yes, there are useful books, and you can go on training courses, but honestly, I don't know how people sustain life as cyclists without the sort of support we've gotten from CCE.  

It's given me lots of material for the blog too....

Open access links

I need somewhere to post links to OA stuff, and until I get better organised, that's going to be here:

Recent articles: (24 July 2012)

UK government will enforce open access to development research


Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?  US News

Research paywalls tumble down  Telegraph

Brought to book Academic journals face a radical shake-up Economist

Why panning for gold may be detrimental to open access research The Guardian

Recent (thoughtful) blogs:

From the publisher's perspective:

Critical perspectives from OA supporters: http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2012/jul/17/uk-to-support-open-access

Here's The Guardian article that started all the hoo-ha: 

And the THES's first coverage - they have also published some shorter interesting interventions:

18 July 2012

Open access: impoverishing academia?

We all love to hate the big publishers that are bankrupting our libraries (is it true that UK universities only spent 2.7% of their budgets on libraries? something's wrong there).  But not all publishers are exploitative - many University publishers run as not-for-profit corporations. And publishers don't retain all the profits of journals. Far from it. 

I've been associated with two journals which have completely different models:  the learned society model and the collective ownership model. In both these models, the publishers have a contract to publish the journal, which usually guarantees them a % of the profits, the rest is passed on to the learned society or collective group of academics.

Learned societies, which rely on these not-inconsiderable sums to run conferences and support their administrative overheads, would also suffer under the proposed Gold Open Access business model.  A journal which publishes 20-40 articles in a year would have a maximum income of £40 000 - £80 000, if authors paid £2000 to publish with them (some are arguing this amount would be much lower). That may be plenty for a publisher that owns and runs hundreds of journals.    But it will be a blow to the learned society, which relies on their income for many good purposes - usually using it to subsidize conferences, and sometimes to provide honoraria for editors and book review editors. 

In particular, collectively owned African studies journals such as those started in the 1970s have used the 'windfall' profits of publishing to sponsor travel of African academics to attend conferences and present papers, or send their members to attend conferences and workshops.  

These journals also tend to have extremely reasonable subscriptions, which are set at cost for members, or even subsidized.  If they lose subscription income from libraries  then small grants that have sustained annual conferences and one-off workshops may disappear, along with the ability of learned societies to administer their membership and represent their interests.  Academia will be poorer, because these journals will pay the price for the rapacious behaviour of Elsevier and a few other 'big' publishers. 

The Finch report, rather condescendingly, tells learned societies to 'diversity their income' as if they've not been doing this for years? Yet more additional burdens for the academic community to shoulder, as we struggle to in search of an elusive work-life balance. 

Gold open access: a pathway to two tier publishing?

Proposals to embrace open access and throw open the doors of academe have been met with great enthusiasm. 'Progressive' scholars (and everyone frustrated by paywalls and limited journal holdings) has jumped for joy.  But has too little thought has been given to some of the implications?

Given the past record of this (and previous) governments on Higher Education and Research kowtowing to big business, surely we should be a little more cautious, and not just think 'oooh, how nice, this time I agree with their policy'.  There's a catch in it.  Those of us in academic jobs in UK universities don't stand to lose much, but I don't think this is a win-win situation. There are likely to be losers as well - if we all just jump onto Gold Access without questioning its business model as closely as we question the Elsevier approach. 

In the recent Guardian piece, Universities and Science Minister David Willets, endorses the so-called ‘gold open access’ model, preferred by the large publishing conglomerates.  ‘Gold’ OA changes the business model from one where readers pay for access to the output of research, to one where scholars pay to publish work – anywhere from a few hundred pounds to £2000.  The ‘green open access model’ preferred by most of those who work in and advocate for open access, instead requires researchers to make their work available inrepositories – such as those most Universities are already establishing fordealing with the REF. 

Some large granting agencies, like the Wellcome Trust, already set aside funds for OA up front fees, being willing to pay to ensure that research they fund is as widely accessible as possible.  Other researchers may be able to include such amounts in research grants, or request support through their universities.  But for self-funded Phd students, independent scholars, and contract staff the implications are less clear – how will they find the money to publish in these ‘gold’ journals?  Will their fees be waived? If so, on what terms?  And who will decide? Will journals have annual quotas or budgets? 

But it is most telling that the Finch report and responses to it look only at the implications of OA for UK academia.  We assume that the rest of the world will be grateful to have access to all of our publications (and wish they’d reciprocate).  But what about scholars from developing countries who want to publish in OA journals?  Some area studies journals have already begun planning for this, with plans to waive fees, but will disciplinary journals follow suit?

Or do we risk establishing a two-tier publishing system?  Not the one we have at present where OA journals are too often seen as inferior new-comers, but one where some scholars can only afford to publish in ‘old-model’ journals, while the rest pay to publish in the ‘Gold’ band.

Given that UK university libraries struggle to pay journal subscriptions the widespread belief that scholars in developing countries can’t access journals published here is unsurprising. In reality, many publishers make their resources available free or heavily discounted although the range of options can be tricky to navigate – and it all depends on reliable electricity and internet access. But under the ‘Gold’ OA scheme, we could have the ultimate irony of African scholars able to read our research, but unable to publish their own alongside it. 

Open access is coming; the internet and our expectations of instant access to documents makes it inevitable, but in moving towards a global flow of research, we need to consider the losers, as well as the winners, and seek to avoid creating new divisions and hierarchies within academia. 

17 July 2012

Is Edinburgh's water hard or soft?

Those of you who live in Edinburgh will know that we have lovely tasty drinkable water; that your clothes wash in sudsy water, that your hair feels manageable.  And, perhaps, like me, you will have thought that this was because Edinburgh's water was soft. Wrong!  It took me 9 years and a brewing course to figure this out though.  Thanks to the patient Robert Knops of  http://www.knopsbeer.co.uk/  (and a Christmas present from my husband who cherishes the notion that I want to brew beer), I now know better.  And since this came up in the pub   I thought maybe I'd better share this little insight. Might make a good pub quiz question!

Anyway, according to Robert, there are two kinds of 'hardness' -- permanent hardness and temporary hardness.  Temporary hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium bicarbonate, and precipitates out when you boil your kettle.  Permanent hardness is caused by calcium and magnesium sulphate.  And it's the presence of the latter that explain why Edinburgh has traditionally been famous for strong Scottish ales.   Now - go try some. Great range to be had at Provenance wines in Tollcross @Provenance_Edin 
where we did the course.  

I learned a lot about hops too, but need to taste some more before writing about them ...

Loch Harrison

I know it's been a rainy summer. There are almost no pictures of the children, except in wellies and waterproofs.

Keeping to stereotypes....

After 8 years of silence, I've been 'prompted' into activity. Thanks Sally, Dave et al. Will have a go at a few short posts, then dig into some meatier topics (cycling, academia....). I gather that abandoned blogs litter the interscape, so won't apologize, but resolve to do better....