Irish Citizenship based on ancestry - the easy way!

My grandmother was Irish and, as the Irish government allow individuals to apply for citizenship based upon ancestry back to their grandparents, I thought it would be good to go ahead and do it. So two years ago I started putting the paperwork together, this being well before Brexit, and certainly before anyone thought Brexit could actually happen!! If you Google Irish Citizenship you will probably end up at the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service which details the various ways to apply, including by descent. You can apply through them (as I did), but the process is long, slow and relatively expensive. SO DON’T DO IT!

The easiest (and cheapest) way to apply is through a Foreign Birth Registration (FBR) via the Passport Office which will then allow you to apply for a passport (and passcard). The workflow (and online application) are here.

HOWEVER, you will need ALL original paper evidence for the citizenship, which means the relevant grandparent’s birth/marriage/death certificate, relevant parent’s birth/marriage/death certificate and your birth certificate. If it’s the maternal line then EVERY change of name requires documentation (which means marriage) - I’m not sure why they required death, but they did.

Certificates can be original CERTIFIED copies from the General Register Office. You can order UK certificates here.

and if you don’t know the register reference you should be able to find it at FreeBMD.

The grandparent’s Irish birth certificate can be searched for at FamilySearch and ordered from the Irish Government.

Divorce certificates (in the UK, and if relevant) can be more problematic/expensive as they are recorded in the county court where the divorce was recorded (and you need to know it). You need the reference number otherwise there is a search fee.

The process was rapid, efficient and painless (as long as you have the certificates)… well well worthwhile!

Best discount code ever??

This might just rank as the best discount code Ive ever received, courtesy of Pixellu with their new SmartSlides beta… Judge for yourself!

Maths - the magic number (or magic bullet?)

A really interesting news story from October (I know - it’s sat in my bookmarks staring at me!) on the BBC titled Maths becomes biology’s magic number… it’s a good point that Tom Feilden makes about the nature of inter-disciplinarity and how different subject areas draw upon one another and interbreed to use existing methods/solutions to new problems.

As the introduction to this, he quotes Sir Rory Collins (Oxford University) as saying: “If you want a career in medicine these days you’re better off studying mathematics or computing than biology.” But actually, you could replace “medicine” and “biology” with a range of other subject areas, including geography. Maths (and related areas in computer science) is the language of nature, of science (something Galileo commented on). Maths provides a descriptive and analytical framework for understanding, analysing and communicating scientific ideas and a lack of mathematical ability is something that continues to vex educators around the world (see the ASE for a guide).

So it’s a timely reminder where our current capabilities lie and how we need to build communities that can identify and explore the pressing research requirements that society will have in the future.

Keep it simple…

Sage advice from John Lilly:

My big lesson was the importance of a simple message, and saying it the same way over and over. If you’re going to change it, change it in a big way, and make sure everyone knows it’s a change. Otherwise keep it static.



…and that goes for any type of communication. Keep the core message simple to understand because whilst the implications may be profound, your target audience needs to be able to take it in and interpret it unequivocally.

Lies, damned lies and Sainsbury double-speak

So a nice piece of environmental marketing below from Sainsburys, but it does frustrate me as a scientist when you see qualifying statements that introduce uncertainty. OK, so, the original statement:

We Harvest Rain
That’s a good statement - up front, some environmental credentials. A positive message

By saving water…
Saving? I assume they mean harvesting, but at least they are trying to use a different word. Collecting maybe??

…we halve the amount of mains water we use…
two qualifications here. Half the mains water. OK, so we dont know if they used anything other than mains water and of course we don’t know the base. What are they comparing this to? Last year? Ten years ago? And just for this store? All Sainsbury stores? All Sainsbury owned/operated buildings, including warehouses and offices?

… per sq ft…
COME ON PEOPLE!! Sainsburys, you moved to grams and litres, as much as some of your customers didn’t like it. WE ARE METRIC!!

…of sales area
Ermmm…. another qualification. I’m guessing, if this is across ALL Sainsbury facilities, then warehouses will make up the vast amount of the floor area. Taking into account what the base is actually measuring against, how does this change from half.

Sorry Sainsbury, BIG fail on the marketing front. Be honest - because every little helps.

Boaty Floats… err, sinks

Well, as I noted last week Boaty McBoatface lost out to David Attenborough…. so Boaty was sunk. But NERC have now floated his boat… or rather they have sunk it! Yes Boaty will be the name of an ROV. Perhaps the most famous ROV in the world!

Pie on Boaty McBoatface

The whole process for naming NERCs new polar research vessel twists and turns through the media. The fact that naming a polar vessel actually made the news is pretty good in and of itself - how much the general public is aware of polar science is somewhat of an unknown, but it was great to see some coverage of the vessel itself. That then hit a whole new level of media frenzy when Boaty McBoatface topped the poll of votes - and what better way to get (unexpected) media attention and so public interest. This then sunk into farce when the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee called NERCs CEO and Head of Communications to give evidence as to whether this was a good process. Committee chair, Nicola Blackwood (MP) commented:

“My committee wants to explore this as an example of science communication. Was it a triumph of public engagement or a PR disaster? We’ll also want to know how Nerc intends to build on the mass coverage they’ve attracted and engage people with the vital polar science that Boaty will be enabling.”

I can’t think of a more pointless exercise - surely there are plenty of examples of science communication that could be pulled together rather than hauling two people up to London. Of course, this was all deflated with the news that the ship will be called the RRS Sir David Attenborough, which is a bit of a let down. I wonder if the committee would review whether the MPs expenses scandal was a triumph of public engagement or a PR disaster. It certainly got people interested in politics again!

Monopoly Map

Vaguely following on with the underground map meme, I thought it would be good fun to locate all the Monopoly squares on a map of a London and visit them. A quick google shows that this is a popular pastime and, indeed, a popular pub crawl (perhaps one of the more energetic ones!). But it’s always more fun to piece together your own, so here’s My (well my son’s) stab at pinning the different locations. Of course you can argue over Water Works, Electric Company, Jail, Chance Community Chest, SUper Tax, Income Tax and Free Parking as much as you like. They aren’t specific locations in my book so I don’t care!! But damn the person who put Old Kent Road on the board - one out of the way journey!

What are the British Isles?

A seemingly simple question but one that causes no end of confusion because it is both geographic and political and using it the wrong context can cause no end of upset!!! Is Northern Ireland in Great Britain? Or the UK? Is Jersey? Where does Ireland fit in?

To bring some clarity the EUler diagram (below) from Wikimedia helps considerably and visit the Terminology of the British Isles page. In short its easiest to refer to the British Isles when thinking geographically of all the islands, whilst the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (or UK for short) when talking about the commonly designated political entity.

Too good to be forgotten

Too good to be forgotten (from Radio 4 Analysis) talks about “corporate memory loss”, that is the body of knowledge about how a company “does stuff” that is lost when people move companies or move jobs within a company. The brain drain. Now for everyday tasks, or tasks which are heavily prescribed (and often mandated), that is not a problem - have a manual, train people, do the job. But for those “professional” tasks where complex bespoke processing is required, that is usually not possible. And for those tasks that are unusual or “singular”, you learn when it happens the first time. As an individual you can then do it again in the future - but as a corporate?? As the programme notes, for things like recessions, market crashes, cold war…. these collective memories have or are being lost. The programme offers some pointers for how this knowledge might be preserved.

However this is not a new problem and has been around for millennia, although the rise of big business and, in particular, the fast turnover in jobs, makes this more acute. It reminded me of the work of Steve Denning who presented at a TedX event on the knowledge management he introduced at the World Bank called the springboard story. He presents in his book The Springboard. And specifically this was a short, focused, story designed to stimulate energy and enthusiasm, leading to change. This can be used as a leadership strategy or, in the manner originally used at the World Bank, making knowledge available, retaining, storing, managing that information. His strategy for developing the stories follow four steps:

1. True story: factually and authentically
2. Positive: inspire people with a positive story, happy ending
3. Minimalist Telling: not entertainment, stripped down, streamlined, core information
4. Contrasts Before and After: make it clear what the benefit is. This is the “take home”

Sage advice and worth thinking about within the context of your own business or industry.

[The Urban Age Project]

Wanted to point people in the direction of a friend of mine back from the dim distant days of my PhD in Sheffield - Paulo was on a funded PhD from Brazil and I distinctly remember working long hours in the remote sensing lab, with “After 8” breaks in the afternoon.

Anyway, enough nostalgia!! Paulo works as an engineering geologist in the government, but has reduced the number of hours to allow him to work more as a musician. The soundcloud embedded player below links to his latest EP, URBANA IDADE. If you like Satana, then this is very much in that style. I particularly like tracks 1 and 4, with some cracking guitar riffs. Great for an evening of mellow chill.

Cardiff, England

….can always count on a good geography blunder from local government!!

Lies, damned lies….

and marketing!!

I was asked to fill in a customer satisfaction survey today using a fairly normal 1-10 symmetrical likert scale. Except that below the scale values 1-6 were noted as “negative”, 7-8 as “neutral” and 9-10 as “positive”. This psychological bias means that if you are satisfied you should be scoring 9-10…. this will naturally inflate any averaged values which can then be validly used in any marketing.

Clearly even big companies like Aviva aren’t too worried about pushing the boundaries of acceptable.

Overcoming jet lag….

After my trip to Argentina over Easter I’d thought I’d briefly blog about jet lag, the bane of all travellers. Wikipedia has a useful succinct definition

“Jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body’s circadian rhythms resulting from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east-west or west-east) travel on high-speed aircraft.”

Or, more plainly, if you travel east or west rapidly your body clock becomes out-of-sync with local time. So what’s to be done about desynchronosis? My brother recommended Overcoming Jet Lag, a short book which is primarily filled with schedules to follow depending upon the number of time zones you are jumping. However the basis of it is relatively simple - your wakefulness and hunger become desynchronised to local time and the trick is to find rapid ways of resynchronising them. Here, for example, is the timetable for a 3-4 hour westward time zone change:

Travel Day - 3: STOP consuming caffeine (tea, coffee, choclate etc).
Travel Day - 1: FAST day (max 800 calories) with high-protein breakfast/lunch and high carb dinner.
Travel Day: drink 2-3 cups of strong coffee BEFORE 11am. Consume no more caffeine. Set watch to destination time and eat breakfast at destination time, making sure you are physically awake/active. Its a FEAST day so high-protein breakfast/lunch and high carb dinner. Sleep by around 8/9pm destination time.


The basis is to rapidly change the biological cues caused by wakefulness and eating, which can be assisted by taking caffeine. For my trip to Argentina (4 hours behind), my flight left at 7.30am - I stayed close to Heathrow and got a flight to Madrid. I woke at 5.30am and as I was still sleepy, went back to sleep on the plane, but managed to sneak two breakfasts just before arrival (high protein!). I switched on to the flight to Buenos Aires where they served coffee at 12 allowing me to (slightly late) take on board the caffeine. This was followed by “lunch” at around 3pm which was now closely synchronised to Argentinian time. The plane landed 7.30pm local time which allowed me to get to the hotel for 8.30pm, a rapid high carb dinner before crashing at 9.30pm (1.30am UK time). I slept through until 8am when I had a full breakfast.

What was amazing was that other than occasional hunger pangs over a few days I suffered no other jet lag symptoms and was virtually fully functional. Clearly the routine is highly dependent upon the timings of the flights. In this instance, travelling through the day and arriving in the evening was beneficial, far more so than travelling overnight. However it was notable that the airline (Iberia), after lunch, closed all the windows to get people to sleep. This is exactly what you DON’T want to do - it was imperative to stay awake so that you aligned to local time as soon as possible. Airlines are clearly interested in having sober, manageable, people rather than minimising jet lag. The timing and style of food is also critical, something you don’t have any control over in economy!!

Coming back was more complicated due to the timing of the flight and the (harder) eastward time zone shift. Here the recommendation is:

Travel Day - 3: STOP consuming caffeine (tea, coffee, choclate etc).
Travel Day - 1: FEAST day with high-protein breakfast/lunch and high carb dinner.
Travel Day: get out of bed earlier than usual. Its a FAST day so high-protein breakfast/lunch and high carb dinner (max 800 calories). Drink 2-3 cups of strong coffee BEFORE 6pm. Consume no more caffeine. Sleep by around 8pm local time (12pm destination time).
On Arrival: Its a FEAST day so high-protein breakfast/lunch and high carb dinner. No caffeine and stay awake!!


My problem was that this was an overnight flight that arrived at 5am local time! The fasting aspect, coffee and sleep worked very well. The book is quite clear that you should do everything you would normally do to go to sleep even if you feel you aren’t fully asleep. Your body will still rest and start the process of resetting itself. In order to maximise this (on a small uncomfortable seat!) I used a neck pillow and sleep mask (critical to supporting the head and reducing the stimulus of light), along with getting in a down sleeping bag I had brought. Yup - I got in a sleeping bag!! This all worked amazing well - however the poor seat, located opposite the toilet, made for a poor nights rest which was only 5 hours long! The rest of the day went fine, but by the end I was just sleep deprived and it took a few days to recover that. Lesson… choose your flights and seat location carefully!

The Ultimate keyring

Call me sad, but I’ve been on a minor mission searching for the “ultimate” keyring. The humble keyring has served its purpose but - sorry - it’s not longer fit for use. I can’t tell you how many finger nails I’ve broken trying to get keys off, using screwdrivers to prise them open and don’t get me started about “oversize” keys!! And the number of pockets that I’ve put holes in….

So the alternative?? Well I wondered if there was steel cable (2-3mm) with a lock that would allow you to easily slide keys on and off. I did manage to find some short 1mm cable with a screw lock, but the cable has a tendency to kink and the screw lock come undone. It is better than a keyring but I still wondered if someone had gone better…. and I’ve finally found the Flex-o-loc. Yes, 2.5mm aircraft-grade steel cable with an ingenious ball-and-socket locking mechanism. See this review at the gadgeteer. Buy your’s on Amazon for only 3 and, if you want a leather pouch to cover the keys then head on over to Campbell Cole for a luxurious fob.

!! 1000th Blog Post !!

This post marks the 1000th entry for the Spaced-OoooO-Out blog. My first post was on 12 September 2005 outlining a talk I gave at the Society of Cartographers annual meeting in Cambridge on the Journal of Maps. I then went on to outline the current debates between open data and the walled garden of the Ordnance Survey - speaking at the conference were (then CTO at OS) Ed Parsons and (then OpenGeodata) Jo Walsh. O have times have changed with Ed jumping to Google and OS opening up much of their data (and continuing to do so).

I never intended to spend 10 years blogging and much less write 1000 blog posts. That’s averaged out at 100 per year or about 2 a week. I’m not the most prolific poster but it has been consistent in terms of delivery, style and content…. very much focused on my teaching and research in GIS, remote sensing and geomorphology, with heavy smatterings of general IT around this.

Blogs have been around in various guises since people could leave public readable messages on the internet, however the evolution from regularly updated static web pages to bespoke server platforms designed for blogging didn’t really happen until the late 1990s when popularity started to spread. By 2004/5 blogging had hit the mainstream along with the rise in a web 2.0 technologies of which this was definitely a part.

So why blog? Well from a personal perspective I was a relatively new lecturer at Kingston University at the time, blogging was very much an area of “buzz” and I wanted to increase some profile. However there is more to it… I really like the comments Donald Clark made about the (lack of) use of blogging in education. Culled from both his list, as well as further thoughts of my own, these in particular struck a chord with me when I started:

(1) Get Better at Writing: to improve at writing you need to practise and what better way than to do something practical and useful. Blogging has helped me improve the quality of my writing which has fed directly back in to my academic work.

(2) Organising Thoughts: any kind of writing forces you to organise your thoughts in to meaningful content.

(3) Improve Understanding: writing strongly reinforces my understanding by forcing me to (re)think about topics.

(4) Sharing: opportunity to share useful (and not so useful!) information with readers.

(5) Debate: whilst I dont get too many comments, it allows at least a 1-way, and sometimes 2-way, conversation to develop.

(6) Notes to Self: my blog is an invaluable self-published repository of information. There are some things which small snippets, but just so darn useful. Where do I store such information? Well I could put it in to my GtD archive or blog it, share it and make it easy to find in the future!

(7) Indexed: what I write about is crawled and indexed by search engines and much of it can easily be found. For example, I find it amazing that my blog entry on the NERC FSF is on the first page of Google hits for it!

(8) READING blogs saves time: OK, this isn’t about writing, but reading, however I follow 57 blogs at the moment using the The Old Reader (and GReader on Android) as my feed aggregator of choice. It’s an invaluable time saver for keeping up with important snippets of information.

Whilst I am a BIG fan of blogging, micro-blogging (aka Twitter) is just not for me for two reasons:

(1) Vast amounts of drivel: I am NOT interested in the minutiae of a persons day. I want “signal” above “noise” in life and you drown in noise on Twitter, There is undoubtedly signal but finding it can be difficult.

(2) Time: it is considerably more time consuming to stay on top of the constant drip of information…. don’t get me started about Facebook!

As a footnote to that… Twitter has its place and I do use it occasionally. Very occasionally….

Finally a technical note - I have always used the uber-cool Blosxom blogging engine which runs as a CGI script from my own server with all posts stored as text files. Its ultra reliable and portable, which is often not the case for more complex database driven sites.

Health and Safety Horrors

I was recently doing a health and safety talk to our second year students prior to a geomorphology field trip - nothing overly risky as it was essentially walking footpaths on parts of the UK coastline, but all this trips need to undergo a risk assessment and trip briefing. It’s important to cover what can be quite dry material in terms of trip regulations so I was looking for some inspiration to drive home the point the seemingly mundane situations can lead to… dangerous activities!! Compliance training specialists Highfield have put together a great “House of Horrors” - my particular favourite was the window cleaner!

207mph bike

Totally crazy…. it beat the Ferrari!!

Ten truths for a PhD student…..

Fun article by Tara Brabazon - and if you haven’t seen her speak then she’s great value - well worth pondering upon for all potential and future PhD students, although don’t necessarily take everything to heart as people and subjects vary across the academic world. Good advice though!

Life isn’t fair….

These did the rounds quite a while back from the looks of things, but Bill Gates’ 11 rules of life are still pretty pertinent:

1.Life is not fair; get used to it.
2. The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
3. You will not make $40,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice president with a car phone, until you earn both
4. If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.
5. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping; they called it opportunity.
6. If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
7. Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you are. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parents’ generation, try “delousing” the closet in your own room.
8. Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life has not. In some schools they have abolished failing grades; they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
9. Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your own time.
10. Television is not real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
11. Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.