Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 at 2:05 pm - - Kayak Dive

Some old pictures of kayak diving in the Isle of Arran from 2016 that I had failed to blog about at the time are below.

The weekend before last I took a fellow DoESLiverpool-er diving in the Menai Strait, which was okay. The weather was gorgeous, but the viz was average and there were No Fish (except one butterfish I caught in my hand at the start of the dive).

Here’s us shinnying back up the sponge encrusted telephone cable back towards the Northwest shore after experiencing the current. We stayed underwater for another 20 minutes under the shelter of the main bridge pillar, but didn’t find the encrusted admiralty anchor that is reputed to be there.

I’m not sold on the idea of these side-mounted cylinders. Looked more like front mounted and dragging on the ground to me.

The weekend after that one (ie last weekend) I bagged an available place on his club trip to Eyemouth with some deep Nitrox type dives. I don’t like deep diving, but was persuaded to go anyway. It was awful. The algae had come out, the water visibility was about 2 metres, and at 40metres down it was as black as the night.

The first deep dive was to the U74. I reached it, then got freaked out by the strobe that had been tied to the shotline to “help” us find the way back, stirred up a cloud of the silt on the metal, and took the first available option to leave, passing all the other divers coming down the rope.

I have very little tolerance for danger when the fear-to-fun ratio is too high.

Second dive was just to 12m in Pettico Wick (normally a shore dive in bad weather), supposedly to the peanut wreck. I found some bits of metal, but mostly blank boulders. But then things really cheered up when I stumbled across the rock called Wick Gaunt and dropped into a slot behind it (I think on the West side) which turned into quite a nice cave.

The other divers were not amused and didn’t follow me in. I couldn’t find the other entrance when I swam around to the other side. This would be a great place with some more visibility — and done as a kayak dive.

I will be back, having obtained a copy of the 32 page A5 booklet detailing 18 dives in St Abbs and Eyemouth from the dive centre — a booklet which is not mentioned anywhere on the marine reserve website or available from Amazon. I intend to spend about a week there when I can, because it looks like the last time we gave it a go was eleven years ago in 2007.

I tried to persuade the other divers on the trip of the benefits of kayak diving, but they thought it was a bit dangerous. That’s because a 37m horrorshow dive in poor visibility with not enough lights to a section of shingly the seabed somewhere in the vicinity of the Glanmire wreck (the shot had been pulled off it) is considered A-okay.

No it wasn’t.

As we quit early, Al and I stopped off at the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre near Lockerbie for some quiet moments of meditation in the temple where we overlapped into a session that involved people coming in and doing a bit of chanting.

Noisy lever-latch door handles on sprung swing doors at the temple entrance. Really? This has got to be one place it’s worth investing in some subtle silent autosealing door technology. But instead they’ve blown their tech budget on motorizing all the prayer wheels around the stupa.

We took a herbal tea, and I noticed a poster about their new off-shore retreat on Holy Isle, also in Scotland.

It turned out this was where I had a nice weekend kayak diving around this particular island with Becka in August 2016 and never blogged about it.

I had liaised with some fellow from Arran COAST who had campaigned for the Lamlash Bay no take zone to get some dive site information. (They’ve not yet produced a book like the St Abbs people have.)

Unfortunately the viz wasn’t very good, and we had quite a lot of current on our attempt at a deeper dive in the south channel.

He was kind enough to take these pics of us struggling on the surface to get kitted up in the tidal stream going past our kayaks that was pulling the buoy underwater.

We did also land and climb the peak on the island and discovered a dead data logger in the heather.

Just checking on the tech, you know.

Thursday, April 12th, 2018 at 4:29 pm - - Flightlogger, Hang-glide

Okay, so that last flying day at Meduno wasn’t very adventurous on the scale of the top pilots, but I was extremely pleased with it; I did just as well as anyone else in our xtc-paragliding (hang-gliding week) group and felt perfectly up with it.

Often you come down disappointed, and can watch everyone else from the landing field going higher and further and having more fun, and you’re down wholly because of your lack the skill and competence. But this wasn’t one of those days.


Here is the page of everyone’s tracklogs.

I was particularly happy with the part of the flight where I maintained my altitude over the flat lands at about 700m for 11 minutes before finally the air currents strengthened enough to carry me up. I had a sense of calm and flow rather than panic and disappointment this time.


It doesn’t look particularly low in the picture, but it felt like it.

I thought it was rising air from a pig farm I could see below and towards the dry river bed (because it smelled as such) but it couldn’t be as this as it was about 700m cross wind. I had consistently the wrong idea of the wind direction. It shows that even with totally mistaken ideas, I was still able to stay with the weakly rising air.

At one point I was passed high over a rifle range. The pops of the guns were like tap-taps on my breastbone.

I overflew the takeoff at the end of the day and took a photo of this cute pink training glider on the ramp beside the wood pile in the car park.

Then I tried to narrate part of my glide down to landing to the camera, which doesn’t work at all with my full face helmet.

One of the folks on the hill was SashaZ whose long blogpost about surfskis is what caused me to book my Tarifa trip with Becka.

Here are some other pics from previous days.

We had some long drives there and back in someone else’s car. Becka spent the whole time at SpeleoCamp caving, and so this shouldn’t count as a hang-gliding holiday.

Oh, I might as well put down my notion of the physics of flight here, while I have it worked out. It goes like this:

A heavier than air object with a mass of 100kg wishes to avoid accelerating downwards to the ground under a gravitational force amounting to 10 metres per second per second.

As each second that passes there is 100×10 = 1000 kg m/s of momentum that must be accounted for by blowing a volume air downwards at a speed k m/s.

Suppose the craft encloses a horizontal area a square metres within which it blows the air downwards at k m/s. In one second this would be ak cubic metres, which, with a density of about 1 kg per cubic metres, is ak kilograms, sent downwards with a momentum of ak2 kg m/s.

If the area a was circular, then you could cover it with a circular propellor like a helicopter, and maintain your altitude by blowing the air at sqrt(1000/a) metres per second downwards to counteract the gravity.

But imagine the shape of a is rectangular, and instead of a rotating blade, the blade moves horizontally on rails of length v and has a width w. This is somewhat like a wing with a span w flying at a velocity v.

My glider has a wingspan of the order of 10m, and an airspeed of 16 m/s, so the air needs to be blown downwards at a speed of sqrt(1000/(10*16)) = 10/4 = 2.5 m/s.

The kinetic energy embodied in this is 1/2 * mv2 = 0.5*160*2.5*2.5*2.5 = 1250 Joules/second.

If I weigh 100kg I can generate 1250 Joules from potential energy if I sink at 1.2 m/s — which is about the rate that my glider sinks on a steady glide.

This is a story of what needs to happen to the air to keep you up, not how it is done with aerofoils, vortices, induced drag or any stuff like that. And it also suggests that our lovely gliders have already hit certain limits of what they could physically achieve for their size and speed.

One way to get them to go up will be to add an electric motor to give you that extra to get off the ground, or to find a thermal when you’re going down.

That ad says they have 24 Ah in their 57.8V battery, which equates to 24*57.8*60*60=5Megajoules. This can maintain a horizontal flight for 27 minutes, which means it’s at the rate of 3000 Watts. That’s about a 50% conversion rate from the battery to powered energy, which is plausible.

It also gives a “max summit height” of 750m, which is a budget of 6660 Joules per metre. I need to give it 1000 Joules per metre in potential energy, so suppose my climb rate is k m/s then it will take me 750/k seconds to get up there, consuming 3000*750/k + 750*1000 = 5Megajoules which computes to a climb rate of 0.53 m/s over 23 minutes.

I can’t afford this stuff. I should be happy with the massive amount that I’ve already got.

Thursday, April 5th, 2018 at 10:02 pm - - Flightlogger, Hang-glide

I’ve been deeply not keeping up with blogging on this Slovenia hang-gliding trip. Telegram and Twitter seem to take the wind out of such activities. So maybe this thing is for mainly technical reports. There are a lot of dead blogs out there that only have such things. This blog was started for technical content, and then I began putting all my own activities into it.

I’ve been working on this technical thing to do with gliding and tracklogs for so long without any breakthrough that I finally decided I had to start reporting negative results.

My latest failure was attempting to use a Hough transform to derive wind speed and direction from the 2second interval GPS sample point of a glider flying around in the air mass.

There are many made up algorithms for doing this, but I wanted something mathematical. This time I based it on the assumption that the glider is mostly flying at a constant speed, so that changes in its GPS/ground speed were entirely due to flying with or against the wind. In particular, given three consecutive positions p0, p1, p2 with td seconds between them, then the correct wind velocity w would satisfy the following equation:

|p1 - p0 - wtd| = |p2 - p1 - wtd|

There is no unique solution for w in this equation; the solutions all lie along a line. So if we add some spread and combine the probability fields of solutions for every sequence of three points in the track, then the peak probability will be the best guess at the wind direction.

It’s all explained here in this jupyter notebook.

After so many failures, I’m much pleased with this result. The actual wind was blowing towards the northeast, and the bad guesses are when the glider was on glide and not doing any circles.

That was from a four hour mega flight all round the three ridges near Gorzia where at one point I got lifted smoothly one thousand metres into the blue sky at the rate of 5m/s. I could see from the capital city inland to the container ships on the Adriatic.

Here’s a picture after landing from a lesser flight today where the clouds were pretty low on the ridge.

I need to grab some self-portraits from the other folks some point real soon of me taking off, and me landing quite properly on my feet. I’m starting to hanker after a new glider, one that’s sleeker and goes faster. This one’s beginning to feel sluggish all of a sudden. I can’t afford anything else now, and it would be quite naughty. And after my spectacular failure of an XC last week on Bradwell, I don’t deserve an upgrade.

Monday, March 12th, 2018 at 4:53 pm - - Kayak Dive, Weekends

Earlier I published the bus and train itinerary. Now for some pics.

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Friday, March 2nd, 2018 at 4:12 pm - - Kayak Dive, Weekends 1 Comment »

Just done 2 weeks (feels like 2 months) tour round southern Spain, culminating in 4 days of Surfski lessons in Tarifa. The conditions were gentle, which was perfect for people who don’t know how to paddle them properly.

We generally stayed cheaply in hostel dorm rooms (while going touristing) where all the jetsetting youth cluttering up the bunks didn’t seem to believe that there were actually train tracks all the way between where we were and England.

So to prove it, below is a table of our travel itinerary.

I’ll give a special shout-out to GoEuro.es which we only found out about on our first day in Madrid when we asked the guy behind the desk in the hostel where was the best place to buy our bus tickets. We very quickly got used to waving our phone with a downloaded PDF of a QR code at the train or bus conductor to be scanned, as well as the excellent wifi on the buses.

Type From To Euros Minutes km kph km/Euro Road-minutes Date Purchased Method
Train Liverpool London 26 139 350 151.08 13.46 280 2018-02-12 2018-01-12 Virgin
Train London Paris 78 144 457 190.42 5.86 366 2018-02-13 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train Paris Barcelona 49 390 1037 159.54 21.16 600 2018-02-13 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train Barcelona Madrid 49.55 165 650 236.36 13.12 360 2018-02-13 2017-11-09 Loco2
Bus Madrid Granada 18.59 300 420 84.00 22.59 260 2018-02-15 2018-02-14 GoEuro
Bus Granada Cordoba 17.29 144 201 83.75 11.63 135 2018-02-17 2018-02-16 GoEuro
Train Cordoba Seville 15.2 45 140 186.67 9.21 100 2018-02-17 2018-02-16 GoEuro
Train Seville Cadiz 16.05 100 122 73.20 7.60 85 2018-02-19 2018-02-18 GoEuro
Bus Cadiz Tarifa 10.2 105 105 60.00 10.29 75 2018-02-19 2018-02-18 GoEuro
Bus Tarifa Gibraltar 4.45 65 42 38.77 9.44 43 2018-02-25 2018-02-24 GoEuro
Bus Gibraltar Malaga 11.7 180 130 43.33 11.11 100 2018-02-25 2018-02-25 Station
Train Malaga Barcelona 59.05 350 996 170.74 16.87 550 2018-02-27 2018-02-18 GoEuro
Train Barcelona Lyon 39 300 639 127.80 16.38 367 2018-02-28 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train Lyon London 78 300 933 186.60 11.96 547 2018-02-28 2017-11-09 Loco2
Train London Liverpool 26 143 350 146.85 13.46 280 2018-03-01 2018-02-11 Virgin

Our losses amounted to several USB cables, one hat, one scarf, my logbook (only started this year), and one blocked ear for Becka from a freezing cold dive out of Tarifa on what is called the boiler wreck, where we were shown a brick from Scotland.

There was also the incident of the large monkey with teeth in Gibraltar that almost stole our passports out of the top of Becka’s backpack but couldn’t unzip the pocket in time before I scared it off. (Actually, it scared me away as I shouted for Becka to bat it off her back.)

We thought thought this had been an amazing no-flight adventure, but then it turned out we got home too late to see the ignite talk by Graham Hughes who claims to have visited every country in the world without flying.

So it’s really nothing to write home about. I hope to get some pictures in due course.

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 at 8:18 pm - - Whipping 1 Comment »

Don’t get me wrong; innovation is an important thing, and it should be undertaken by every person in every organization at every hour of the day. There are reasonable economic theories that say it is one of the important components of productivity. And productivity can be a good thing if it means we get to do more work in less time, and spend our remaining hours doing things that really matter to us. (On the other hand, it’s not such a great deal if we end up working the same amount for the same pay, and all that happens is the boss of the company makes more money.)

Being as Innovation can be important for the public good, the Government thinks there should be more of it, and have funded an organization called InnovateUK staffed by people who have no clue and exactly zero intellectual curiosity as to what innovation is and what are the causes of innovation.

They simply treat it as a word without meaning or measure, as though it were a prayer to a nonexistent God, or a claim of piety. Is person X more innovative in his job than person Y? Well, let’s see if he has appointed himself Head of the Innovation Department in his company.

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Wednesday, January 24th, 2018 at 3:05 pm - - University, Whipping

And so, I got an FOI response to my questions about the University Enterprize Zones.

The problem with all this sort of thing is they’ve not got a single case study of the kind of accelerated high-growth incubated start-up business around which to design their support infra-structure.

And, even if they did have a realistic example to work with, the genesis story behind every successful business is almost always entirely different.

Actually, that’s not true.

The one commonality is that successful business have customers who buy stuff for money. Investment, premises and business advice comes way down the line and is not normally relevant to an inquiry into the foundational existence of the business.

The fact that’s missing here is that the United States developed its wealth of home grown industry by spending its vast bloated military budget on the purchase of yet-to-be-developed high tech products. For example, the CNC machine tool was entirely uneconomical for the first 20 years after their development at MIT with the help of a five year US Air Force investment program. (see detailed blog article).

And these UK government clowns think it’s all about nine-month turn-around accelerators administered by money-focussed technical know-nothings with no vision and no buyers for on-the-edge feasible but not yet developed products.

So, here we go again with another vision-free and customer-free University Enterprise Zone boondoggle that aims to:

  • encourage universities to engage further with business and with LEPs in driving innovation and growth at a local level
  • encourage businesses with innovation potential to engage with universities
  • address the issue that there is little or no appetite in the private sector to invest in buildings on science parks providing office, workshop and laboratory space for small firms (incubator and grow-on space)

I’ve got the application forms for from seven of our leading universities here.

The most important question on the form is:

3.2 What demand is there for the services being proposed and what evidence is there that there is a market failure that needs to be addressed?

Now, let’s do something radical and begin with the definition:

In economics, market failure is a situation in which the allocation of goods and services is not efficient, often leading to a net social welfare loss. Market failures can be viewed as scenarios where individuals’ pursuit of pure self-interest leads to results that are not efficient – that can be improved upon from the societal point of view.

An example of a Market failure is the London Housing Market where private construction is almost all targeted to the top 10% where there is the greatest profit, and totally fails to supply anything for the rest of the people who have to live and work in the city on the wages they receive.

None of these responses contain what I think fits the description of a Market failure.

Birmingham proposed to add a new mezzanine floor in Faraday Wharf, and claimed that “the space for entrepreneurs currently on the Innovation Birmingham Campus is already full… An independent demand and need study [no reference provided] undertaken as part of the business case development for the iCentrum Building identified demand amongst West Midland businesses for science park premises that provide opportunities networking with like-minded businesses and bespoke business support provision.”

Bradford proposed two buildings in the city centre, and explained that “The Digital Exchange has a current occupancy rate of 40% and has struggled to compete in the general managed workspace market.”

Doesn’t sound like a market failure to me.

Manchester listed 16 health agencies associated with their university incubator facilities, and admitted that “although many of these bodies have explicit remits to support industry engagement and wealth creation, there is currently no infrastructure to effectively leverage assets to drive and capture local business creation.”

Their evidence of a “market failure that needs to be addressed” was as follows.

Newcastle was going to build an innovative lightweight fabric and timber structure on its Science Central campus and a two storey hatchery/incubator wing onto its Centre for Innovation and Growth Hub in Durham. They claimed that their unpublished report had found evidence of “new startup companies failing to secure suitable facilities in Newcastle because of a lack of incubator space” and of “new life science companies with established connections to the city being turned away.” Durham university claimed that they are “routinely approached by external businesses seeking space on campus to be close to facilities and research teams, [but] these requests generally have to be declined due to priority allocation of space to core research and the lack of dedicated incubation space.”

Are the rents for high tech firms too high in Newcastle due to property speculators? I’d like to know.

Liverpool included pictures of the sensorless building they were going to build, and gave four clear reasons for the so-called market failures:

  • A disconnect between industry, academic research into sensors and access to facilities for R&D
  • Difficulties in bridging the sensor innovation gap / “valley of death”
  • Skill shortages in the sensor market
  • High cost of prototyping and custom development

I have no idea what any of these have to do with building a brand new building.

Nottingham promised to build an incubator facility into a new 3-storey building situated alongside the iconic Sir Colin Campbell Building. Like a lazy student repeating the terms of reference of her set essay, they wrote: “As the Government’s own reports indicate, there is little or no appetite for the private sector to invest in incubation centres given that the returns do not justify the capital outlay. There is no prospect of a commercial investor taking the risk with out proposed centre, which our financial projections show will deliver an internal rate of return [redacted] [redacted] [redacted]. The proposal is therefore clearly addressing a market failure.

Bristol was going to build a robotics hatchery in the old Hewlett Packard R&D and fabrication site. (This is the same HP company that blew $9billion on an acquisition of a crap UK company with a rip-off salesforce and no technology to speak of. We can ask whether UK Gov views Autonomy as exemplary for conning so much money out of a stupid US Corporation, or as an embarrassment.)

In the “Demand for services” section, the applicants wrote: “Locally the take-up of incubator space has been rapid. Operators SETsquared and the Bath Innovation Centre report high occupancy rates and excess demand — both are actively considering second-phase development.”

Thus, they contradicted the stated claim made in the UEZ proposal, and won funding for their project, along with Liverpool, Nottingham and Bradford.

I’m still meaning to go try out coworking in each of these places if I can find the time.

Monday, January 22nd, 2018 at 6:59 pm - - Weekends

I know this is old tech, but we seem to be reaching peak mapping. Here’s my house from the Cathedral:

And then there’s the World bike hire schemes webpage which has everything.

I think I’m going to retire. It’s all getting so far beyond me.

Friday, January 5th, 2018 at 5:25 pm - - Machining, Whipping 5 Comments »

Most software related to engineering and construction is woefully out of date, time wasting, and under-deployed. New on my list of examples is the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP), the de facto standard for designing and retrofitting energy efficient houses.

It comes as a massive multi-tab 7.9Mb unfriendly Excel spreadsheet. An example (rendered into PDF) looks like this.

The purpose of this software to “build up a useful interactive understanding of the design” in terms of materials, wall insulation thicknesses, windows direction facing into the sun, etc. and so forth. The results have been validated to a statistical average (but with up to a factor of 2 error), there’s a huge industry of consultants and training materials around it, and it’s trusted by the experts who seem pretty happy with its format.

The problem is that building it in the Excel platform fundamentally cripples its capability. And by being a paid-for product, not an open source program, they prevent any software developer, who is up to date with the efficient and more modern methods of production, from making improvements. (Instead these software developers end up devoting their time to perfecting a remote control light bulb and writing more lines of code than would ever be found in a Javascript-based port of the PHPP.)

Some background.

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Monday, January 1st, 2018 at 3:39 pm - - Kayak Dive 1 Comment »

Grr, the youtube video editor got canned a few months ago. I didn’t notice because I haven’t done anything worthy of videoing and editing for months.

Fortunately, with the power of the record button in vlc and its capability of gluing clips together using these runes:

vlc 1.mp4 2.mp4 3.mp4 --sout "#gather:std{access=file,dst=join.mp4}" --sout-keep

I was able to get the clips trimmed down without wasting too much time.

There were wipe-outs.