Newnham Riverbank Club

Went for a swim at Newnham Riverbank Club this afternoon. The place was empty and the grass was damp.

Newnham Riverbank Club The water was 62F (16.5°C) and I had a fantastic peaceful swim in the empty river. Made it up to the first willow past Dead Man’s Corner. The water was full of fish, feeding at the surface and breaking the water all around me. Very atmospheric. I tried to moblog from the river bank, but it didn’t work—so I’m posting now instead!

Newnham Riverbank Club” by GrahamMcCannCAM

Newnham Swim

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Weevil-hosting rice, not nice

Bought some new organic, healthy, brown rice from Arjuna today. So, I was finishing off some old rice when I realised that I wasn’t alone. The rice had turned into a weevil farm. Damn organic grains! Rice Weevils don’t seem to be the best things to have around

The rice weevil is one of the most serious stored grain pests worldwide. This pest of whole grain originated in India and has been spread worldwide by commerce. It now has a cosmopolitan distribution. It is a serious pest in the southern United States. Both the adults and larvae feed on whole grains. They attack wheat, corn, oats, rye, barley, sorghum, buckwheat, dried beans, cashew nuts, wild bird seed, and cereal products, especially macaroni. The adult rice weevil can fly and is attracted to lights. When disturbed, adults pull in their legs, fall to the ground, and feign death. The larval rice weevil must complete its development inside a seed kernel or a man-made equivalent, like macaroni products. Larval rice weevils have been known to develop in hard caked flour. The adult female eats a cavity into a seed and then deposits a single egg in the cavity, sealing in the egg with secretions from her ovipositor. The larva develops within the seed, hollowing it out while feeding. The larva then pupates within the hollow husk of the grain kernel. (from University of Florida)

Rice weevil

Weevil-hosting rice

Weevil holes in our rice

Sadly the rice was in a dry store cupboard. Who knows what state our Macaroni’s in?

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I’m going home

Checked out of Disney Contemporary Resort at 8 and had a take-away breakfast at on the stand, reading e-mail. The last day of the exhibition wasn’t too busy, but I met a few useful contacts. Lunch with Claire and Rob at the usual Concourse Steakhouse then Claire and I left the conference to go home: Robert stayed behind for an extra night and had managed to get a reservation for the busy California Grill for tonight (apparently it’s booked up 4 months in advance).

The Magical Express airport transfer was pretty dissapointing: it was a normal coach that took an hour to get to the airport, weaving around the various Disney resorts. I thought this was going to be my best chance for a ‘Disney Experience“. The airport was quiet and the staff on a hair-trigger with boredom: the service was pretty intense, I bought lots of Clinique (almost half the price than in the UK) and the iDogwoman in duty free went a bit wild with the excitement too. She had me testing this and that. I did learn (usefully) that the men’s range is identical to the women’s, but in a different packaging, It’s much cheaper to buy the stuff packaged for women. Bought Michael an iDog as a gift which is better than any Disney merchandise that I saw (although I was tempted by a plush Eyore).

Flight back was only half full again and I managed 5 hours sleep lying across three seats, which was very pleasing. Brian picked us up from the airport as soon as we appeared in arrivals. From landing at 6am, I was home at 9.15.

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Nine to Five

Woke up at 5.30 with a cracking headache, which I finally obliterated about 7 with ibuprofen. Put my head down for a ‘5 minute snooze’ and woke up at 8.30. Panick! Missed my breakfast rendezvous with Rob and  almost missed breakfast in the rush to get to the exhibition for 9. The exhibition runs from 9 to 5 today.

The morning session was okay. The posters have been moved into the exhibition hall so there has been a good mingling of people around the exhibit. I think this works really well and uses the exhibition space well too. Had lunch with Gary Heiftje, Claire and Rob, back in the Concourse Steakhouse which was good. The waitresses there are good fun. We had Orlando tapwater, which tastes of sulfur and other minerals. The waitress described it as alligator swampwater, and served it with lemon. I don’t mind the taste, others hated it.

After lunch ice creams were served in the exhibition: I had a Mickey Mouse shaped (but not flavoured) icecream lolly, covered in dark chocolate.  

Went to the Raman Reception at 6, for which we received a token each for one drink. There was a great fun show/quiz, which involved the Raman prize winner, Mike Morris, and two others playing Raman Wheel of Fortune. One of the PhD students was wonderful and Britney Spears, trying to buy a vowel (k) etc.

Detlef Günther in Kona Cafe

Met up with Graham Duncan, Roy, Detlef Günther and Volker Deckert for dinner in the evening. We took the monorail to Disney’s Polynesian Resort we had quite a few Mai Tai cocktails and ate in the Kona Cafe. Detleft brought us fake flower gaarlands and we celebrated Robert’s birthday one day early: the waitress brought out a single profiterole, with a plate iced up with “Happy Birthday” and a single candle: it was as a bit mean!

Headed back to my room to pack my bags and drop into bed while Robert, Roy and Duncan went to ‘Pleasure Island’ to go clubbing.

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Federation of Analytical Chemistry and Spectroscopy Societies Conference

First day of the FACSS meeting in Orlando. Slept till after 6am, which I was pleased with (equated to midday UK time). Luke warm water in the shower: either it’s a child-safe temperature or all the kids nabbed the hot water early before going out to see Mickey Mouse for the day. Did some e-mailing and blogging before breakfast arrived, then headed down at 9 to register for the meeting. I’ve got an exhibitors’ badge so I can’t go to any of the lectures: still amanged to sneak into a Young Investigators session in the morning for a bit. Set up the RSC stand up in the morning and then got changed before meeting Claire and Rob for lunch, this time in the Concourse Steakhouse in the resort. We had to wait 20 mins for a tabel which wasn’t too bad.

Spent the afternoon e-mailing, sorting out taxis for our evening trip and trying to get Claire and I booked on the Magical Express to the airport on Wednesday. The exhibition opened at 4.30, with food a drinks (on tokens). There was a good atmosphere and the exhibition hall was buzzing.

Claire, Rob and I met a group of young investigors (about eight of them) for dinner in the evening. We took a couple of taxis out to the Flying Fish Cafe on the Boardwalk. It was a lovely place in a smart hotel. Our best Disney expereince yet. Had a great waitress for our table and lovely food. I was impressed.

Arrived in Orlando

Picked up at 5am to go to Heathrow, with Claire Darby and Robert Eagling. As expected we got the airport about 7ish. Checked in super-fast and then through security in a total of 20 mins (my record for British Airways). Bought a new bluetooth keyboard for my phone at Dixons (Freedom Keyboard). It’s not as well made as Michael’s Stowaway, but it was £25 cheaper and it won’t get as a much use.

The flight was only half-full, so there was loads of space to spread around. Claire was in premium economy, while I was in economy: I don’t think it made much a difference on this leg of our journey because it was a daytime flight and there were only 3 people in the 9 seat block around me, so I had loads of free space and nobody behind me to knee me in the back. Watched an X-men film and the Da Vince Code, which were quite entertaining and also managed to do some work. The flight was a little over 9 hours.

Arrived in Orlando on time and after being led around the airport to pick up our bags (herded like sheep more like!) we grabbed a taxi to Disney Contemporary Report. The place is a deluxe ‘magical experience’-but not the check in which took a long time. When I’d been handed my Key to the World we went to our rooms in the North Garden. The rooms are good, and I have a lovely view over a lake. Claire waited an hour for her bag to be delivered and I spent this time unpacking and getting my laptop set up (I had t0 phone the Disney helpdesk which was embarrasing! They were excellent).

View from my room, Disney Contemporary ResortRom is Disney Contemporary Resort

Rob arrived about an hour after us from his Virgin flight and we all met for a swim in the pool at 6.30. The resort doesn’t look that busy but when it came to find somewhere for dinner we found that ever restuarant in the Contemprary Resort was fully booked. Eventually we took a free boat across the lake to go to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge which is a much more invitating, North American themed building, with a big naturalistic pool. We ate at the quaint-sounding Whispering Canyon which turned out to be a children’s restuarant dedicated to lots of shouting and banging! Children running everywhere and waitresses shrieking at them! It was hell on earth after 24 hours of travel on 4 hours sleep last night, but actually it was jolly good fun too. The waitress (called Head of Lettuce) threw us our napkins and straws. Rob had a yard of ale (and got to keep the glass) and we shared a big Canyon Skillet: ribs, corn, beans, sausage, pork, chicken etc. On the boat on the way back to the Contemporary Resort we saw a light show on the lake: Large animated grids/screens like Christmas street lights, on floating barges with music. It was good to see it from the water. By the time I got back I wasn’t hating the Contemporary Resort quite so much.

I’m not going to fit in in my smart suit: It’s very casual here! The final straw earlier today was discovering that we had to book a place for breakfast: I’m waiting for room service as a I type.

Cycling with Danny & Malcolm

Had a great day on Saturday with Danny and Malcolm. Michael and I cycled over to their house in Shelford for about 3, then we cycled 15 miles around the local villages: Duxford, Whittlesford etc… The weather was great and the villages very pretty. Both Malcolm and Danny have recently invested in some very smart, high tech (and expensive) road bikes (now a six-bike family) and looked very professional in their technical cloting. Michael and I did well to keep up really, on our Cambridge commuting bikes. The cycling was much harder work than my daily commute and I learned that I cycle with too low a cadence (in fact I normally cycle using the top 3 of my bikes 24 gears). I’ll need to try and drop the cadence.

Malcolm cooked a fabulous indian meal. Lentil soup and a great lamb and spinach stew, with rice, chappati, channa massala and a very fresh courgette salad. The desert was an apple crumble made from the apples from his back garden.

We cycled back home again, along Sustrans Route 11, past Addenbrookes. It was a great cycle back. No ill effects (aching bum) from all the cycling. Probably had more ill effects from the Solera, Maury which was very cloudy when we opened the bottle, which was dissapointing.

The Life and Death of St Kilda

Well, I might not have managed to sail to St Kilda, but now I’ve read all about it. It sounds like it is an amazing place, battered by sea and high winds (>100 mph in the winter). The people who lived there in the early to late 20th Century had a bizarre and fragile existence, eating seabirds and scraping a meagre existence from their crofts. St Kildan’s are puffins for a snack, and used them to flavour their porridge. They made a lot of money selling seabird feathers for mattresses, yet slept in straw byres. The didn’t fish and used their few boats to sail to the sea rocks to collect the birds. They were gripped by a very strict presbyterian religion.

This is a great book—now I’m more determined to make it to St Kilda by boat in the coming few years. You can only safely go there in a few summer months, the rest of the years the sea is to rough.

“The Life and Death of St. Kilda” (Tom Steel)

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Milton Brewery

Image003 Michael and I went to Milton Brewery for about our 6th visit with the RSC Sports and Social Club this evening. There were about 20 people there. This time we had Nero and Sparta beer. The Sparta was gorgeous, floral, hoppy ale: the Nero was dark, vanilla stout. Both were excellent.

At our request (well Michael’s really!) we had better food than previous years: more exotic foreign food to replace the cheap, cold pasties. This made a big difference. Had a great night and stayed till 9.30. Cycled back over the Milton cycle bridge, managing not to weave too much.

Graham at Milton Brewery

SCC at Milton Brewery

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