Category: Others

BRO11 – Burn Out and ride chronicles

After having promised it for a long time, I can finally tell a bunch of selected episodes of our BRO11.

The idea started long time ago (15 years, pretty much, when I’ve got my first two wheels machine), and it brew in my mind until the right conditions popped out.

So when Greg and Christine shown interested into the mad project to get some Harley and tour California, we actually got organized to do it. Organized it means we booked the bikes, and we got the flight from London to America! We finally set off for California, after I’ve managed to submit,  with the idea to start from San Francisco and hit the road for 9/10 days. We didn’t arrange anything before except the bike, but we had a map!

We ended up making more than 2000 miles..

It would take too long to tell you everything, so I’ll just tell you same selected stories…

Getting the bikes

We have booked our bikes in March, however when we arrived at the Eagle Rider shop in San Francisco, they actually told us they have got a trouble with the reservation, therefore they couldn’t give us the bikes we ordered. While there was no trouble for the Fat Boy (my ride), the two 883 which Christine and Greg chose were not available… but Free upgrade!

Greg got a Dyna Low Rider, which had the long range pedal (you were able to stretch your feet all the way, easy rider style), Christine got a Street Bob, a bad-ass ride, all black satin, a nice dark looking. The bikes were big, but not as big as the Fat boy, which was renamed Battleship Bob.

I’ve rode an Xt 600 for nearly 10 years right now, but I never jumped on a Harley. When the guy started the bike, the sound of the V-twin filled the air. It was a hell lot of noise. It sounded good, very good.

When all the bikes were out, we jumped on, put the first gear and started to ride. I was impressed. I always thought they were beautiful but bulky, but I have to say that I was wrong. The ability to turn and the smoothness of the ride was impressive. It was still considerable the amount of space needed to turn, but that’s America, and they are not short of space.

The first day we travelled around the North of San Francisco, to get known the bikes and get the feeling of the riding. It was very good.

The road which makes you

As I said, we didn’t have a plan. We did have a map. When the question come up: “Which way ?”  the answer was pretty easy: “South” – “Why?”‘ “‘Cause is down hill!”

So we started to go downhill, making the road as we went, following the advice of other bikers met on the road, or just coming up with a road instead of another just because it looked good on the map, and it was not a massive Freeway. We always find an accommodation for the night. A hostel in the vibrant town of Saint Luis Obispo, a super cheap motel with furniture from the 70s and which could be perfect for a Tarantino’s movie in Monterey, a travelodge in Eureka, Will’s base in San Francisco, and the duck-tape tent, which was hold together with duck tape everytime we were out in the wild, hitting a camping ground.

Racing the sun

When we left the Ocean and the Pacifica (the 1, this is a hell of a ride), we aim the mountains and the National Parks sitting over there. The plan was easy and not too complicated, however we didn’t think about one imortant detail…

A massive fields of farming area was placed in front of us, where the temperature was very high. To give you an idea, grab one massive hair-dryer and the point it on your face. Then select 60 miles per hour as speed. Hot air. Now, you can have an idea about the conditions of the riding.

At the end of this terrible stretch, we reached the National Park. The ranger at the entrance told us the first useful camping ground was at two hours riding, another one at 3 hours distance. The closest one was full, and the park operated a first come-first served policy, so there was no guarantee or way to actually know if there was a space, or if the space would be available when we reached the camping ground.

We decide to pursue it anyway. We stopped just after the entrance of the park, to get some water and grab some nuts as energy snacks. Then we jumped on the bikes, ready to ride.

The road turned to be super twisty as soon we set off, and our average decreased consistently to barely 20 miles. The condition of the road started also to deteriorate, due to same work in progress, with the result of loose gravel on the road.

You see, loose gravel is a dangerous thing with a motorbike, ’cause you’ve got to stay in the line cleaned by the cars’ tyres and not end up on the dirt, especially when you’re turning.

As soon we got accustomed with this driving, the sun started to settle down to get the another night rest. We were wearing the classic HD helmet, so no visor for us, except the sunglasses.

It was getting dark, and wearing sunglasses when is dark does not increase your vision. The race was set. Either the sun was going down, or we were going down. Bears are common neighbours in these areas, that’s way is warmly suggested to get a spot on a camping ground, instead to attempt some wild pitching in the park.

I was in front that time, and I decided it was time to hurry. The Fat Boy lamp was pretty big, although the darkness was advancing with fast pace, helped by the sunglasses. By the end, I was guessing where the was road, but slowing down was not an option, ’cause we needed to reach the camping ground, and fast. Christine was just beyond me and she was able to see my red light, assuming that the road should be at least close where I was with the bike. Greg was catching up from behind, seeing these two crazy red lights climbing the mountains like ants on crack, at full speed.

We outrun cars on a twisty mountain road wearing sunglasses. We hit the campsite, find a space, got some wood, open a bunch of beers, and light up a camp fire, enjoying the epic ride just happened.

It was epic. No bear visited us that night (although I’m not sure that there was none outside our tent).

Thank you

A big thanks to Will, which offer his house as base to start the trip. If you reading this, well, “there is a zombie on your lawn”, you know why.

Another big thanks to Steve and the guys at Lake Isabella, to offered us the space, the beer, the food and company for an amazing chat. We knew Californian people are cool, but you set the bar very high.

Last but not least, big thanks to all the bikers/people we met on the road who gave us hints and directions, tips and beers.

We come up with a video of the adventure, posted just down below with a bunch of picture, and even some road footage.

Keep riding!

How to get your thesis in

A friend of mine, Julia, has written a little guide to classic things required when writing the thesis and the setting up for the viva, which apply for EBI predocs enrolled with the University of Cambridge.

This was a piece on our internal wiki (which nobody ever reads because is a closed one and it’s rather impossible to find, but the problems with closed wikis is a topic for another post). So I asked her if it was ok to grab it and post it here, which, at least, is in the open of the internet sea, and people could maybe actually find it with google or any other way.

These information were correct up-to June 28, 2011. As the matter of fact, she is now a Doctor :). Bare in mind this applied for a PhD thesis in the Biological Science umbrella, and the last part is EBI specific. Therefore is not at all official, they are just tips and hooks to speed up the process. Check always the latest rules from the University.

With that said, here you have it.

P.S.: Template-wise check out the amazing classic thesis. You’ve got to tune it, just a bit.

Thesis submission and viva

Written by Julia Fischer on June 28, 2011

When the time has come and you would like to submit your thesis to the Board of Graduate Studies, there are one or two things you might want to know.

1. Find a template

Most people (at least in the natural sciences) will write their thesis in LaTeX. There are a various templates out there. Please add your template here if you have found a nice one.

2. Restrictions and rules for the thesis

If you are submitting to the department of Biology, you will have a word limit of 60,000 words, but you can always check the newest information here.

3. Abstract and examiners

It is a good idea to start thinking about your examiners a couple of months before you submit. You will have to email the degree committee (, saying that you will submit soon. They will then send you a form to fill. You have to submit this form with your thesis title and planned submission date back to them together with your thesis abstract (which shouldn’t change significantly from there on).

They will then contact your supervisor who has to suggest two examiners for your viva. You might want to mention this to your supervisor in a meeting before you have to submit the forms, so you can discuss possible choices. One examiner needs to be internal (i.e. University of Cambridge) and one external.

4. Initial submission

When you are ready to submit, you need two soft-bound copies of your thesis. If you are sure that there will be no corrections, you can submit a hard-bound copy directly, but if you need corrections, you will have to pay for the expensive hard-binding again. Here is a lot of information about all the forms and declarations you need on submission day.

5. Your viva

It is advisable to try and set your viva date for the end of the month if you are going for the bridging postdoc contract, because you will receive the postdoc stipend from the 1st of the month *after* your viva. That is, if your viva is on the 1st of the month you will lose the pay raise for a full month.

Poke your supervisor to email the graduate office in Heidelberg and HR at EBI directly after your viva to confirm that you have passed and theat he/she would like to employ you as a (bridging) postdoc, so they can prepare your postdoc contract.

Good luck!

6. Submission of corrections and hard-bound copies

You do need to submit a hard-bound copy to the Cambridge University Library, although you may have to hand the copy to the degree committee, if you are faster that Cambridge burocracy. EBI will usually pay for the hard-bound copy that they would like for their own library, but you will probably have to pay for the other copies yourself. All about submitting hard-bound copies can be found here.

7. Congratulations!

You’re done!

Backup made it easy



Having a Dell XPS M1330 is kind of a problem. This computer failed me 3 times in the last 3 years. The mother board managed to cook itself every time, and also the graphic card died. It seems the problem was due to a lazy fan, which was not spinning as it should have done.

In this situation, coming up with a backup schema is necessary. More over a hot-backup schema, which permits to swap computers, going from the dead laptop to another working machine on the fly would be very convenient.  The other machine would be either my desktop computer at work, or my old (2003) acer laptop.

Usually I work with three different type of formats: code, simulations result and written report (in the form of text documents or presentations).

My simulations’ results live on the server @EBI, so I don’t have to care about the backup and I can mount/access them using ssh.

This leaves out the code and the documents.


For the code my choice has been to use git and host the code somewhere. For example Neuronvisio lives on the github repo. For stuff that can’t go live (yet) I’ve set up my own private git repo on another server, and I wrote a quick how-to here.

Given the distributed nature of git, to keep all my machine in synch, I just need to clone the repo. Then I can develop on my working machine (no pun intended) and I can push the latest development back to the online repo. When I switch machine, I just need to pull the repo to go up to speed. Easy and slick.


I think one of the best way I found to keep my docs synced is with DropBox.

Dropbox syncs automatically your docs (or any stuff you’ve got in the folder) with an online server. So you have an easy way to do the backup. What is more interesting is Dropbox allow you to add another computer to the same account, and automatically syncs the documents between the online computers.

Basically it acts as a bridge between your two computers, without having the problem to think about the backup, but automatically doing that. It integrates in a really nice way with Linux as well.

So join it and give it a go!

P.S.: If you use this link to join DropBox, I’ll get some free space 🙂


Using git and dropbox I have a complete automated backup system, which lets me to:

  • backup my code and docs with no effort
  • switch between different machines in no time, without worrying of data loss due to hardisk failures.

Comments are open if you want to share some other solutions 🙂

Dear Europe

Please don’t do it.

Please, let’s not go back 30 years. The freedom to circulate in Europe as an European citizen is one of the most important freedom that has made our life easy.

Moving around, using the Identity Card, or the Passport, without having the necessity to apply for a visa or anything like that makes not only everything super easy and nice, but also gives a feel to be all the same, within the diversity. Together with the Euro and the flag these are the only tangible signs of an integration which has gone far, but has not yet complete..

We have to go to a more integrated system, where all Europe should be felt as our home. With the diversity of culture, language and maybe attitude, but still one big jam of people who leverage the strengths of each other and try to solve the weakness. The European Community, not only a political body, but a community of different people.

I understand this terrible wave of extreme right, with its xenophobic and racist ideas, is taking its toll on the possible decisions. But I think the other parties should make a stand. They should fight back this narrow-mind vision.

European Flag

Europe has been born by the vision of people who are now long-dead (Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Paul Henri Spaak, and Alcide De Gasperi), and who built this ensemble as a way to achieve peace and better conditions for everybody.

Europe should be at the forefront of integration, leading with a peaceful and calm approach, as an old continent should do. We’ve got tons of history and we did a disaster in the last century.

Let’s take another seat on this one.

Let’s make this one worth remembering as the century in which Europe took the lead in making the world a better place, starting within its own frontiers.

Let’s not think in three weeks span. Let’s think in 30-40 years time or even more. Let’s go ahead and make the European Community more connected and let it thrive.

In varietate concordia, United in diversity, Uniti nella diversitá, (Motto of the European Union), this is what Europe is.

This is why, this a great Community. And please, leave the door open, ’cause no Community is an Island. Let’s think BIG.

Endangered species Symposium

At the EBI there is an annual symposium which is organized by the Science and Society committee which I’ve been involved in the past years (some video are available on the youtube channel), but not this one. But no fear!

New people get on with the job and pull out a really nice symposium.

If you in Cambridge, you've got to come

This year the committee has chosen the topic of Biodiversity and Endangered Species, the 6th of May at Fitwilliam College Auditorium, Cambridge, Uk.

It’s free for all, so if you’re around don’t forget to come over 🙂

Yeah, there is even a Facebook event, if you are into that thing 🙂

Un classico pensiero

Sul blog di Francesco D’Isa sul post ho trovato questa frase qui:

Cioè che a Berlino il clima è una merda, la cucina incomparabile alla nostra, la lingua interessante ma complessa, la città bellissima ma neanche troppo paragonata ad alcune città italiane. Eppure si sta molto, molto meglio rispetto all’Italia. Pensare quanto si starebbe bene a casa se fosse amministrata in modo non dico buono, ma  vagamente decente, è immediato.

Io credo che questo pensiero l’abbiamo pensato in tanti di quelli che sono partiti. Potete cambiare Berlino con una citta qualsiasi del Nord Europa ed il risultato non cambia (almeno per il clima). In particolare io pensavo all’ambito accademico, dove la presenza di gente di tutte le nazionalità è data soltanto dall’approccio meritocratico e dalla bontà della scienza che viene fatta, ed alla ricaduta che questa ha sull’ambiente. Non esattamente dal luogo dove si trova il laboratorio (che comunque è importante dal punto di vista di opportunità, ma un polo di eccellenza viene creato prima dall’alta qualità della scienza, poi dalle possibilità a contorno.)

Bhè, non è un problema del posto dove lo metti è sempre soltanto un problema di gestione, poi le persone si spostano in base alla qualità dell’offerta.

Concludendo, gli amministratori di qualsiasi cosa contano ed anzi determinano la riuscita di un certo ambiente e progetto. Se gli amministratori vengono eletti (e si tratta di amministratori pubblici) è tempo di capire che non sono tutti uguali, ma che qualcuno potrebbe (e dovrebbe) fare la differenza.

Permaculture links

It’s been awhile that I’m looking at Permaculture design and all the things connected with it.

Quickly two very valuable links about Permaculture:

Especially the latest link has a clear scheme of the garden.

It’s awesome

scheme from deepgreen

Scheme for the backyard permaculture food forset from deepgreen

Rendering of the food forest

Rendering of the food forest garden from deepgreen

On the other side I’m getting my hands dirty building a system to make local food easier to find/trade/swap with a bunch of friends. We are using django as web development framework and have some serious intention about it.

If you are a django ninja and want to be involved (or just want to be involved) just send me an e-mail to mattions. Attach the after it. Please use a sensible subject, so I know why you are writing to me (or link to this post.)



What do you think an airbus belonging to the Canadian airforce in the sky between Sicily and Lybia, called petro01 is doing?

Note the trajectory.
Have a look in real time.

Update: @FMCNL on twitter is broadcasting all the info in clear he can pick with the radio.