Tuesday, 29 May 2012

In memorium Mark Brummell (1959-2012) RIP

Sad news last night transformed a relaxing evening into an unexpected wake...


Mark Brummell - a rather special cyclist, died when his bike was hit by a car at Ipley Cross on the Beaulieu Road on the edge of the New Forest. Mark regularly went for afternoon bike rides in the forest, so its some consolation to think that he would have had an enjoyable afternoon outing before his untimely death.

Mark Brummell bicycle as rickshaw driver in 2004

The accident happened at about 18.15 on Monday 28th May 2012.   The accident has been widely reported in the local media. The piece in the Southampton Daily Echo from May 30th includes a tribute from local cyclists.  The photo above shows Mark in an uncharacteristically 'smart cyclist' mode was a rickshaw driver when he took us to our wedding in 2004.

Mark was well known and liked amongst the local cycling community, a  long standing member of the Southampton Cycling Campaign. He was previously a popular, conscientious and well respected academic in the Physics Department at the University of Southampton. About 10 years ago he took early retirement from the University because of ill health.  


After that time he dedicated himself to all things bikes which included maintaining, re-building and restoring old cycles working from his home in Shirley. This included some project work refurbishing bikes for people without other means of transport. If you were lucky enough to have your bike handled by Mark it meant that you had passed his (rather opaque) admission interview, and your steed(s) details would be added to his database for future reference.  


His work was always meticulous, and the itemised account which you received after a detailed explanation of how and where all the parts had been sourced would inevitably be written on the back of an envelope.  Mark's afternoon rides were a regular feature and essential part of his working life and would be followed by evening relaxation in the Wellington Arms, in Freemantle where he could replace some well used calories with appropriate quantities of real ale. 


I knew Mark as a friend and very reliable bike mechanic/engineer who was always ready to sort out a problem, and whose rigorous physics background was just the thing when setting up a chain set or building or truing a wheel. He advised me, and cared for many of my bikes over the years, and everyone who I introduced to him agreed with me that he was a lovely and rather special person. One thing is for certain, among his many friends he will be most sorely missed. 


 Mark Brummell, cyclist, physicist 1959-2012. His is survived by an elderly mother and a brother, 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Something for my masters students

Survey Form:  MSc pre-dissertation survey COMP6029
 when I first meet my Masters project students I like them to complete a short survey which helps me understand their background and expectations of the dissertation.
I am keen to ensure that the practice runs as smoothly as possible and believe that starting from a clear understanding of current experience and expectations can be helpful in this process.
You can complete the survey by following the link  here

Workplace tools

Workplace tools are important, here is a  post about the tools I use and a few new tools which I came across over the easter break when I managed to find some time  to do a bit more reading that usual...
Tools I could not exist without
  • I can get at all my files on any of my computers and any web based computers wherever I am.
  • I can use it to share docs which otherwise live on my personal computers
  • I want to have a seamless backup system
Thank you Janet Carter for introducing me to it :-)
  • there are lots of things going on, and I want to keep note of them.
  • bookmarks, tools etc are distributed and Evernote is in one place.
  • keeping a diary/journal should be as easy as possible.
  • keep pics of info taken on your phone for instant diary/journal notes
  • most importantly work on lots of different devices, be accessible from the web in a synched manner
I use this to keep running notes of my supervision meetings and as a one place for info being collated as I research info - particularly when writing.
  • lets me write my blogs offline
  • organises my tagging
Online/Cloud tools which I use
  • Online service set up a poll and get people to decide when they will come and meet you - no more hopeless negotiating over dates and times 
  • Online service manage admin for small meetings - free if meeting is free
  • Online service use the forms feature to run quick surveys, or collate info on who want's what from a menu when you are organising a social event
  • Use the docs for a quick turnaround on a collaboratively authored piece of writing, there is a great example of that in Mike Wesch's lovely (if a little old now… video 'The vision of students today' (2006))
  • Is the University of Southampton survey tool 
  • install a client on your  desktop
  • use as a reference manager
  • use to share references and establish public citation collections 
  • tool for crowd sourcing related publications
I use this with my project students so i an see how their background research is proceeding
Online service, sets up times on your machine
  •  good idea when you are trying to work on a deadline etc and need to prevent yourself getting distracted...
  • it also has special times - e.g. the 25 mins plus 5 is ideal for half hour meetings
  • An online training tool you can use to log your runs, play games, analyse training
  • Website tools which I don't use, but which I might tell you about
750 words
  • use this to help yourself get into the writing habit. 
Some that look like a good idea
http://www.proginosko.com/leechblock.html ' selectively block web site access
Tools which are not online
from the good folk at the fabulously named literature and latté (although I strictly take my coffee black) I am finding this tool a real winner...
  • the thing to use to help turn notes or blogs into coherent form
  • it lets me organise my writing collecting lots of bits from lots of places
  • it can output to electronic format as well as various others such as PDF and RTF
  • it handles word count, tracking 
  • it have a visual interface to the organiser 
This is a desktop app, there are others with similar functionality
  • everyone needs one secure place to keep lots of info
  • not least to share with their nearest and dearest to ensure that things can be sorted out on your behalf if you are incapacitated, or even after your death (ultimate incapacity)
  • because there is so much info in life 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Spot that Dick(head) - my dream app

Will Spotted Dick be the cyclist's answer to buzzword bingo?

As a regular and long-time  commuter and leisure cyclist, I have become a big fan of the CTC app fill that hole. 

and, as a regular and long time commuter and leisure cyclist I am regularly enraged by the inconsiderate behaviour of fellow road users - and very occasionally pleasantly surprised by acts of consideration and kindness (thank you to the driver who collected a dropped item and drove to return it to me just yesterday)

However… back to 'spot that dick'

"Spot that Dick' This is my dream app which will work in a manner very similar to fill that hole (with a nod of recognition to UK Snow).

When cyclists are subjected to inconsiderate (and very often potentially injurious) behaviour, what better way to deal with it than to record said activity, post an update on Facebook or twitter and log it on a web site with relevant data.

The complete specification is a work in progress, but I am more than happy to explain the rationale 

In the course of the average day, across the uk incidents occur which which will typically evoke the response - ' what a dick!' (well actually typically rather more offensive than that, but I had to be realistic when choosing a name for my dream app.

What sort of things am I talking about - I am talking about the behaviours of drivers as follows

  • drivers consistently stopping taxis and busses in cycle advance areas at junctions
  • drivers paring taxis and cars  in cycle lanes
  • drivers parking their vehicles so they obstruct access/transitions from roads to cycle lanes
  • drivers who steer their vehicles so close to cyclists that they clip them with their wing mirrors as they pass
  • drivers who make cyclists and their bikes unstable because they drive their vehicles within a couple of feet of the cyclist at speed 
  • drivers who decide to accelerate their vehicles past a cyclist and then immediately turn across their path
  • drivers who purposefully use their vehicles as weapons to 'bump' cycles at junctions whist waiting for lights to turn from red to green
  • drivers and occupants of vehicles who shout or scream on purpose to surprise and  'spook' cyclists at junctions
  • occupants of vehicles who throw eggs at cyclists
  • stop suddenly
  • open doors
Is this some wild flight of imagination where I am just fantasising about these behaviours? no - they are all behaviours to which I have been subjected over the past couple of years.
What sort of people think that this type of behaviour is acceptable? in a (mildly abusive) word 'Dickheads'
So I decided that what better repost than to play 'spot that dick' the joy being that when a 'repeat offender' is identified, the cyclist can shout the triumphal claim 'spotted dick'
I can see a whole industry emerging,
  • the app
  • the logo (a steaming spotted dick)
  • the cycling vest with slogan 'I am a dick spotter'
  • the sticker to place of vehicles - announcing publicly that their driver/owner has been 'spotted' as a 'dick'
Now perhaps you ar thinking, at this point that I am one of those out of touch, ageing hippy cyclists, who doesn't understand the real world, and who does not understand exactly what threat cyclists and their offensive cycling behaviour poses to upstanding members of the public.
The thing is, I think there are very good reasons for encouraging cycling, and raising the general awareness of the public of what constitutes acceptable behaviour between cyclists, drivers and the walking public 
  • encouraging and supporting cycling can form a key part of an integrated transport policy
  • supporting individuals to use a bike in preference to a car for short journeys can ease congestion and have a positive environmental impact
  • by reducing the total number of cars of the road around towns, increased cycling can make a city quieter, cleaner and more pleasant for the whole community
  • quieter roads are more welcoming and less intimidating to the novice cyclist
  • parents can realistically cycle their children to school (or encourage them to join a cycling 'school bus') when they are reassured of quiet roads and respectful considerate motorists
  • car free streets and public spaces generate relaxed city centres where pedestrians and cyclists can mix amicably, with mutual respect
  • regular cycling over short distances helps people become more active as an everyday part of life
Are there other reasons/arguments which can be put forward?
 CTC have their safety in numbers campaign http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=5225
I had originally planned to write this post today - when I dreamed up the idea of my app earlier in the week. This morning, in response to the labour win of Southampton City Council, I posted a tweet
I was disappointed to receive one of the all too predictable responses - explaining to me how many dangerous cyclists an individual had seen that week, fast cycling on pavements, ignoring lights, lack of awareness and signals …"accidents waiting to happen"
Lets look at the evidence