Categories
I.T.

What Motivates Us?

For me, it’s about learning.  People never stop learning.  There’s even a phrase… “…learnt something new today!”

So when the presenter in the animation talks about Atlassian‘s “Free-for-All Thursdays”, I bet everyone who has watched this nodded their head in agreement at that point.  Being given the time and freedom to explore a topic of interest, at least for Atlassian it seems, is delivering tangible results.

In business, there has always been a background “pressure” to do more and more with the same resources or less.  That pressure is pushing its way to the front in the current climate and whatever (little) freedoms people have had in the past, I think, are being eroded.

My argument is for allowing some slack for research and (personal?) development in everyone’s work schedule.  As with Atlassian, that freedom also comes with the responsibility to feedback the benefit derived from it.  However, I think the results would be surprising in whatever scenario it was used.

Categories
Wedding

It’s ages away but it won’t be long in coming!

There are two phrases I keep hearing of late. The first is “oh it’s ages away yet!” and then in almost the same breath “It won’t be long in coming!”. How is it possible that both these statements are true at the same time? Still things are moving along quite nicely.

We’ve been to the local registrar’s office and given notice of marriage. The “individual interviews” were far from private. Anyone in the waiting room could hear the questions asked and the answers given. Including those put to the other couple who were there for the same reason. He was a fleet manager and she got his birthday wrong. Oopps!

We’re organising a buffet the night before the wedding for people who will have travelled a long way. It’ll be a very informal thing, just a “thanks for coming!” kinda thing. We’ve got an appointment at our local hotel to sort out that menu, etc.

Organising an appointment with the magician is proving a little difficult. The date & times we suggest don’t suit him and vice versa.

There’s still the music side of things to sort out and neither of us has done anything about wedding attire yet. Still lots to do!

Categories
Photography Walking

Scrambling on Striding Edge

Striding Edge, as a classic scrambling ascent of Helvellyn, can get very busy.

Striding Edge

The route has claimed a few lives and should not be taken lightly.

Categories
Photography Walking

Paraponting

Takeoff

Paraponting (also called parapenting) is essentially launching yourself off the summit of a mountain and gliding back to earth in the valley below.  Whereas parachutes are designed for controlled descent such as skydiving or dropping cargo, paragliders are designed for ascending with the aid of thermals.  The skill of the pilot is finding these thermals.

Without thermals or upwards airflow (hence launching from a mountain slope), the paraglider will glide towards earth.  The rate of descent or glide ratio is inherent in the design of the glider wing be can be raised in a number of ways.

Typically, beginners or learners are strapped to the front of instructors but positions can be switched.

Paraponting

Categories
Walking

Rescue Emergency Care

There’s no getting away from the fact that we take part in a dangerous hobby.  The participation statement on my BMC membership card reads…

“The BMC recognises that climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.”

I’ve been in a situation where someone took a nasty fall and we had to call out mountain rescue.  Now, when I see a collection box for any of the mountain rescue teams, I ALWAYS put a pound coin in it.  I think of it as an investment in the future; an insurance policy I hope I never have to claim on.

As an amateur (unpaid) mountain leader, I don’t have a legal duty of care.  Once briefed on the expected conditions, people should be able to look after themselves and speak up if they’re unhappy at any point.  However, I think I have a moral obligation to care for party members to the best of my abilities and that includes if someone takes ill or injures themselves.

Time and again, I’d put off enrolling in a Rescue Emergency Care course.  That was until a friend needed to renew his certificate in order to go for his Mountain Instructor assessment.  Essentially, it’s the equivalent of a First Aid at Work course but focuses on typical incidents that happen in the mountains.  The practicals are held outdoors to give an element of realism.  It was chucking it down on day 2 of our course so we did the role play in amongst the trees.  They offered some protection from the weather but it was still pretty miserable.  Outside of a real incident, I don’t think we could have had a more realistic scenario.

The end result is that I feel much more prepared should something unfortunate happen.  Fingers crossed I never have to put what I’ve learnt into practice.

Many thanks to Andy from Medicymru for making it so much less unpleasant than I thought it would be.  Some of the photos were fairly grusome.

Categories
Photography

Michael Davitt Bridge

Michael Davitt Bridge at Night

The Michael Davitt bridge is a swing bridge which connects Achill Island to the Irish mainland at Achill Sound. It is named after Michael Davitt. The first bridge was opened in 1887 by the National Land League which he founded.

In 1947, that bridge was replaced as it was too small to carry vehicular traffic safely. A new bridge was built along the south side of the original.  In September 2007, work began to replace the bridge for the second time and was completed in 2008.

Michael Davitt Bridge

Categories
Wedding

Fountains Abbey

Ruins

Some friends got married recently in Fountains Hall which is in the grounds of Fountains Abbey.  While they were having their wedding photos taken, I took these shots. Enjoy!

_MG_7600 Arches

Categories
Travel

A Day in Geneva

There are some areas of Geneva that feel a little claustrophobic with narrow side streets and small enclosed squares.  The old town is full of narrow cobbled streets.

1 BIG fountain! on Twitpic

On the flip side, there are plenty of wide open spaces. The promenade along the Lake Geneva shoreline is very relaxing and wide enough to feel that bit detached from the city itself.  All along, there is the ever-present spectacle of the Jet d’Eau.The water in the lake is surprisingly clean and clear. I was looking for fish and was pleasantly surprised when I saw some.

Lunch in Switzerland...  on Twitpic

Geneva gets my seal of approval for fantastic coffee and even better food. I have never ever spent so much on 1 meal in my life and it’s not something I intend to repeat in a hurry but I can say, hand on heart, that it was well worth it!

The city also has the honours of…

  1. being the city where the International committee of the Red Cross was founded by Henry Dunant in 1863; &
  2. giving its name to the Geneva Conventions.

Apologies for the poor picture quality. These are off my camera phone as my compact camera battery was flat by this stage of the trip.

Categories
Walking

Les Gets

Les Gets

Les Gets is a small town in the Portes du Soleil area of France. The transfer from Geneva airport only takes about 40 minutes. The town is situated at 1,200 metres above sea level and is a bustling ski resort in the winter. In conjunction with neighbouring Morzine, there are approximately 50 ski lifts dotted around. However, Les Gets in summer caters more for mountain biking.

Col du Ranfolly Panorama

We were in the area to do some walking. Using Les Gets as a base, there are loads of significant peaks within easy reach. From most if not all, there is a fine view of Mont Blanc with its permanent snow cap as it towers above everything else.  I’ve never seen so many grasshoppers and cicadas ever.  Good mountain weather is not guaranteed and it can get quite chilly if you’re not in direct sunshine but when it does settle down, it is really good.  We tackled the Adventure Park when it didn’t look too promising up high.  For those after something a little less energetic, there’s a golf course (which has fantastic views) and a swimming lake.

For getting around, make sure you look at acquiring a Multi-Pass.  It makes getting around so easy, you don’t really need a car.

Rally

While we were there, the 62nd Morzine – Avoriaz rally was on so we got some spot-on roadside seats to the action.  On our way there (you can either go over or around a mountain), we saw these guys paraponting.

Takeoff

We booked with Pure Mountain Holidays through the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), flying with Jet2 from Leeds Bradford Airport.

Categories
Wedding

Sorting out bits and bobs

There’s not really been much progress of late. Other things have distracted us both from doing very much. So the To-Do list looks something like this at the moment…

1) select music for during the ceremony – I know that Vicky’s given this some thought as there are some wedding music CDs knocking about;

2) find a (jazz?) band for night do – we have listened to some samples online and we’re waiting to hear back from 1 enquiring e-mail;

3) sort out some kind of entertainment (magician?) for wedding breakfast – there will be quite a few kids at the wedding breakfast and rather than them getting bored during the speeches, we’re going to distract them in some other way;

4) contact the florist and room dresser about the colour scheme – I’ve always said that I was getting married in a kilt and so this is waiting on me finding a tartan. I’ve got 1 in mind; I just need to make a final decision. I haven’t told the best man that 1 yet. I’m not sure how that’ll go down.

Categories
I.T.

Sustainability in the I.T. Project Lifecycle

This was the title of a recent BCS Event in Leeds.  I’ve included some few key phrases from the information presented ostensibly to see what reaction they will generate.

We now know that the IT industry represents 2% of Carbon Dioxide  emissions worldwide, which is roughly the same as air travel.  However,  there is a case to be made for increasing the emissions from IT as this  will replace the emissions from other less sustainable activities,  primarily travel.

Sustainability is defined as “…development which meets the needs of   the present without compromising the ability of future generations to   meet their own needs…“ and is not to be confused with longevity.

Sustainability should be embedded within everything we do.

The overriding theme I took away from it was displacement borne out by the examples of success given: 1) replacing aging printers with multi-function devices; and 2) rolling out collaboration tools such as Office 2010 and Google apps.  No consideration seemed to have been given to the costs of developing the technology in the first place and bringing the product to market; the starting point always seemed to be an upgrade or newly available technology.

While the principle is admirable, the reality seems a long way off.

Categories
Wedding

All the big stuff – engagement ring, venue, registrar, stationery, etc.

The biggest development this week is that Vicky choose an engagement ring. We had a browse in Leeds last week but nothing jumped out at us. Secretly, I think her heart had already made her mind up. That’s not a bad thing because I hate shopping and especially browsing. So we went back to Fattorini’s at the weekend to order it.

The bonus was they had the “precious” in the right size so Vicky was able to wear it out of the shop. I’ve seen her ogle her own left hand a few times with the first ring on and it’s happening just as much if not more now.

We’ve been through the contract with the Devonshire Arms with a fine tooth comb. There’s 1 or 2 things in there that raise an eyebrow but no earth shattering surprises. For example, accidental insurance is not included. They also reserve the right to increase the contract value by up to 10%.  So that’s been signed and sent off. There’s still a LOT of TBCs on it; it’s more of a framework agreement at this point but that’s what the next 11 months are about.

We’ve got an appointment in September with the local registrar’s office to go and give notice of marriage. Our local registrar’s office is in a different county from where we’re getting wed so it’ll be interesting to see how joined up they are.

We’ve started looking at wedding stationery. All I can say is that there are some very clever marketing people. I’d never even heard of “Save the Date” cards before last week let alone been sent one. Most of the rest of it seems straight forward. We’ve decided against going overboard on table decorations and concentrating instead on dressing the room as a whole to create just the right atmosphere.

We’ve been talking about who will play a part on our big day. Some people already know because we’ve already asked them. Others don’t yet for various reasons. The other dilemma is I could easily fill the guest list with just the family and friends I would like to invite. Vicky doesn’t have as big a family but I think both of us are going to disappoint a few people.

Although it’s far too soon to decide on a cake, we’ve been browsing. Well I say browsing; we’ve been to two, Bettys and Patisserie Viennoise in Otley. Bettys put us off straight away by limiting the possible choices. Off-the-shelf options were nice enough if a little uninspiring. We could have a custom cake but we would have to visit the bakery and talk to their master baker.

Patisserie Viennoise were the complete opposite. For starters when we walked into the shop, the smell of cocoa was fantastic! It was a really hot day outside but I still fancied a hot chocolate there and then. Nothing was too much trouble for them. They had 5 or 6 albums full of custom designs from novelty to traditional and loads in between. All we have to do is place an order in the spring telling them what we want and it’s sorted.

Categories
Wedding

We’re Getting Wed!

Wedding planning is going to be a big part of our lives for the next 11 months. It’s an exciting time for us with lots of ideas floating around and I’d like to share some of that with you if I may.

I’ll start of with a little background. I met Vicky at a black tie do for the local Ramblers organisation and we started seeing each other about a month later. That was 8 months ago. You may think that that’s quick but when it feels right, what’s the point in hanging around going “Will I? Won’t I? Should I? Shouldn’t I?” Life’s too short! Don’t get me wrong; we both have our moments but we’re adult enough to admit when we’re in the wrong and make amends.

We like the outdoors and so I had the bright idea of proposing on a mountain summit on a fantastic day with glorious views in all directions. How romantic is that!! Unfortunately, British Weather had other ideas. Every summit we were on was either blowing a whooley or a white out. Not what I’d envisaged at all so I kept putting it off until the next summit and then the next….

We went to Wales recently for the weekend and scared ourselves silly on Tryfan; another opportunity missed.

And so it was that on a cold and windy day, in a white out on the top of Snowdon, I finally popped the question. I didn’t get down on one knee simply because the ledge we were sheltering out of the wind on was far too narrow for that kind of thing. (It was quite funny at the time watching seagulls trying to regain some dignity after crash landing because of the swirling wind.)

So the idea behind this thread is to keep you up-to-date with how we’re getting on. Feel free to leave any suggestions, comments, etc. at any time. Friends got married recently so there’s an open invite to them to come around to ours, ostensibly for some food but we’re planning to bleed them dry of any useful info. or tips they may have for us.

So where are we today? Vicky (rather obviously) said “Yes!!”, the venue, wedding car, photographer and registrar are all booked. We’ve been ring shopping and it’s been short listed to 2 possibles. (I bought a token ring for the asking.) However, we’re going to browse for a little longer before deciding.

That’s about it at the moment. There are times when I feel we’re in good shape with preparations and others, when I look at the To-Do list, when I just think “Argh!!”

Categories
Walking

Mountain Rescue – the real 4th emergency service

RAF Rescue

We were scrambling on the north face of Tryfan when we heard what I thought was a motorbike with a blown exhaust on the road below but then this rescue helicopter from the RAF came around the corner and started circling off to our right and hovering above us out of sight. Thinking it was just an exercise, we carried on upwards. We didn’t realise we were heading for a full on rescue in progress. We found out later that a fellow scrambler had slipped and sustained a nasty head wound. It had been raining that morning and the rock was wet and more than a little greesy.

It seems that while the chopper was hovering, it was also winching the local mountain rescue team down to the scene. Unfortunately, we were following much the same route as the casualty and found ourselves unwilling onlookers. With the chopper returning to the scene, we feared the downdraft would blow us off our feet and so took the opportunity to rest and put away anything that could be blown away. It was at that point that I took the above photo and footage. As you can see, the chopper didn’t come as close as it could have so we were able to continue.

However, the incident did shake our confidence a little and the rest of the day was spent being a lot more careful than we would’ve perhaps been otherwise. It was definitely a good learning experience.

Please support your local mountain rescue team.

Categories
Walking

First Munros in Scotland

Although I’d been to Scotland many times before, I’d never been north of Edinburgh until recently.  We stayed in Loch Ossian hostel not far from Corrour Station; it’s about a mile down a well used farm track.

Arriving on Friday afternoon, we ate in Corrour Station House hostel; in fact we had all our meals there.  Loch Ossian hostel is entirely self catering where as Corrour Station House hostel does fantastic food, serves alcohol and is the most relaxing little coffee shop without all the pretentious crap of city coffee shops.  Think Central Perk in the middle of nowhere.  It also has very comfy leather sofa and chairs; that’s where we parked when it was wet and miserable outside.

On Saturday, we took on Carn Dearg (941m) and Sgor Gaibhre (955m).  It was quite calm in the lee of the slopes but very windy on the tops.  The top of Sgor Gaibhre was a white out with visibility down to less than 50 metres.   The paths are indistinct in places but going off-path to do some navigating was all good practice for us.

The weather lifted in the late afternoon and it was a fantastic evening as the sun was going down.  That seems to be the trend.

On Sunday, we walked through the forest on the slopes of Beinn na Lap.  This turned out to be the best bit of the weekend.   In the words of my companion “It’s great being on a walk where we’ve seen more deer than people.”

Categories
Consumerism

Aqua Sphereing

What do you buy someone who enjoys life to the max.?  The answer is an experience day.  Be it driving a super car, a helicopter flight or perhaps something more sedate like a day at a spa.  Long after the day is over, they will still be talking about it to their friends.

For her birthday, I bought my girlfriend an Aqua Sphereing experience.  Basically, you climb inside a large inflatable ball with about 60 litres of water, plug the hole and get pushed off down a hill.  The “ride” lasts about 30 seconds and is described as like being inside a washing machine.

It looks fantastic fun.  Kids as young as 7 can enjoy the thrill.  Unfortunately those with neck or back problems can’t but if you’re looking for “something different” to buy someone as a gift, I can thoroughly recommend it.

Categories
Travel

Glastonbury

40 Years of Glastonbury

I went to Glastonbury for the first time this year. I tried and failed to get a ticket last year and then spent the festival weekend kicking myself. Not so this time and what a fantastic festival it was.

I’ve never seen so many tents pitched so close together. There’s an instant market for the 2 story tent.

Rolf Harris opened with a very entertaining set. It’s hard to believe the guy was 80 years old this year. Others sets of note for me were the Bootleg Beatles, Paloma Faith, Faithless and of course Stevie Wonder. He closed the festival with a marvellous gig.

It was smack bang in the middle of a heat wave by UK standards. A huge amount of dust was being raised by people and traffic moving about the site. So much so that the tracks were watered to keep it down. Most years mud is an unwelcome facet of the festival. This year it was missed so they had to create some.

2 other things that I will always remember about this year’s festival (I’m definitely going again!):
1) the irony of an emergency ambulance with blue lights flashing in the healing field; &
2) the flags billowing in the breeze.

White Flags at Sunset

Categories
Photography

Don’t Pose For Photographs

This may sound strange coming from a photographer but there’s nothing worse in a photograph than an obviously put-on smile or a forced pose. We’ve all either done it or seen it.

And that is why good photos of animals (technically correct – in focus, well lit, etc.) stand out so much. They’re natural; What you’re capturing is their everyday behaviour at that moment in time.

Tail Wag Brown Lab Puppy Stretch

Now some (lucky) people are naturally photogenic but if that’s not you, next time someone’s got a camera, at least try to ignore it and trust the photographer to catch you looking your best.

Russ

Categories
Photography

Think More – Shoot Less

Everyone generally agrees that time is precious and we would all prefer to spend it doing the things we want to and not those we have to. In photography, at least in my mind, what that boils down to is “Less is more!” I read a few web postings recently that talk about this in more depth.

Scott Bourne isn’t exactly a hero of mine but he does talk a lot of sense. In an article from last year, Become a Better Photographer by Taking Fewer Shots, his general advice is to put more effort into thinking about the composition of a select few images rather than “spray and pray”.

Nicole Young echoes this sentiment…

Avoid “machine-gunning” your photos. Every time you press the shutter you are creating an image that you will import into your computer and do something with (even if it’s just deciding you don’t want to edit it), and shooting in continuous mode all the time (several frames per second with each press of the shutter) will exponentially increase your editing time. I have found that as I develop my skills as a photographer I am taking fewer and fewer photos, but I end up with just as many, or more, “keepers” than I did in the past. I am selective about my shots and know that want to think about everything I see in the frame and only press the shutter when I’m sure I have what I want. It doesn’t result in a great photo every time, but I know become a better photographer every time I press my shutter and don’t just hope I get a good shot due to “luck”. There are going to be moments when shooting several frames-per-second is appropriate, so the key is to know when to use that method.

So, how do you remove the temptation to “spray and pray”? Well, Chris Weston, a respected wildlife photographer, summed it up brilliantly in an interview with Digital Photography School. When asked “Do you have a tip for beginner to intermediate photographers that will help them improve their photography?”, his reply was a bit of a Eureka moment for me.

Something I still do to this day is, before I press the shutter I ask myself the question “How would I caption this image?” If the only answer I can conjure is the species name, then I wait for a better shot.

My Shutterstock Portfolio

Categories
Photography

Sunrise at Almscliff Crag

There was a full moon recently so I had the bright idea of getting up early and finding somewhere high to watch the sunrise. It was a fantastic plan when it was hatched but when the alarm went off at 2:40am and outside being a real pea souper, it didn’t seem like one of my better ideas.

Almscliff Crag was our chosen spot and when we arrived there at 4am, the sky was already starting to turn blue…
Almscliff Crag in Silhouette

It was really erie sitting up on the crag watching the fog retreating…
Receeding Mist

…but I think the end result was worth it…
Sunrise

While we were there, I’m sure we saw the crack in Amy’s bedroom wall
The Crack in the Wall?

As always, any feedback and comments welcome!

Cheers

Alex