Plans on the horizon

Nearterm 2017 plans!

My plans for the next month or so, are fairly focused:

  • Setup the #DigiClimbMCR meetup
  • Research how people climb, and use fitness apps, by spending almost as much time at MCC as possible.
  • Launch #TimOnLoan and loan myself for ~2+ weeks to small/exciting companies in Manchester

I’m looking forward to sharing how I get on with you all as I go along.

Thanks for all your support this year you all!

The van

When I first thought about this, I worried I might lose friends, then I realised it was the right thing.

 

“Imagine that money wasn’t something you had to worry about – what would you do?”

Once you figure out the answer, you’re meant to head down the most efficient path there. Working ‘to get rich’ when you’re seeking to ‘have a happy family life’ may not be the most efficient route for you. It’s not a new concept, and worth reflecting on.

Today, I want to share with you how I’m answering that question.

The Plan

Parking the van at work
Parking the van at work

The plan is to buy a van, convert it into a live-in stealth campervan, and live in it. By June ~30th 2015.

Current status: I have bought a Mercedes Sprinter 2008 long wheel base 311 CDI 2.1 with ~150,000 miles – should go to ~300,000. It’s in fairly good nick.

This is my first car, and first thing I’ve driven on my own, so driving around Manchester is fun at times.

Instant FAQs

Where will you park it?

On the street, in different places – wherever we want to be at that point in time.

Will it have internet?

It’ll have 12V onboard electrics powering a 3G/4G wifi router. 25GB of data on EE these days is £30/mo on a one month contract.

What will you do about a toilet?

There will be an onboard Thetford c200 cassette toilet with SOG (so we won’t have to use chemicals). We will be using grey water from the sink for flushing.

What will you do about showers?

Not having them onboard. Showers exist in modern office buildings, swimming baths, sports centres etc.

Who’s going to do the conversion?

Me (with help from my girlfriend Clara).

What van conversion skills do you have?

Ability to read instructions, a nice powerdrill, blind optimism. You only learn when you try.

Why not buy a readymade campervan?

  • Most campervans are built for weekend trips away to caravan sites – where you get an electric hookup, and are never designed for constant use.
  • Parking up in a city, we’d prefer to look “stealth” – just like one of the unmarked white vans you saw today – that you didn’t give a thought to.
  • We dislike the 80-90s retro interior design of the campervans we’ve seen. The white/grey plastic makes me want to vom.
  • When you build something yourself, you value it more highly, so we think building our home will make us better appreciate it for what it is.

Why not buy a house?

You can’t drive a house to another place.

Why not build a house?

You can’t drive a house to another place.

Why not live in a canal boat?

You’re limited to canals, and travelling at about 8mph. So spending a week in the Lake District is kind of hard work.

What will you be doing about washing clothes?

Somehow, laundrettes still exist. Also, lovely friend’s houses. :)

What will you do about an address?

My parents live relatively nearby. That’s a good place to direct snail-mail to.

How will you power your electrics?

Initially, from leisure batteries and a split charge relay from the alternator. I’d love to have solar panels for charging the batteries, and as soon as I have time/money/energy, they’re on the agenda for the roof.

Once I can afford a Tesla Powerwall, and it’s easily available in the UK, it’s of serious interest to me.

Will you be on your own? (How will you ever get a girlfriend?)

My girlfriend Clara has been helping me with the CAD plans and seems open to living there with me.

How does she feel about it?

Clara says:

“*shrug* – it sounds like an adventure. If it’s not a fun adventure I will move back to my place in Sheffield. I’m super happy for my lovely boyfriend to do what makes him happy.”

How much will this cost you?

Hopefully less than a house, and less than rent, and more flexibility. I bought the van for £5,500.

I know someone else who’s done this!

There’s an entire community about it at /r/vandwellers

How did you get this idea?

I took some inspiration from VanDogTraveller and my friend Dan Woods who lived in a van during his University years in Manchester. I also listened to (and sometimes ignored) suggestions from Matt Bibby, Dave Crossland and others. I’m really grateful for their inspiration and advice.

In the ’50s, when my mum was little, she and her family lived in a converted double decker bus.

In the past I had an idea to travel around the country, spending a month in different AirBnBs. When I had the van idea, it felt more efficient and became the plan.

Won’t you be very cold in the winter?

Hopefully not. It will be chilly, for sure, and we’ll have to look carefully at how things are going as the temperatures start dropping, but we’re fairly optimistic that we can make it work. Staying warm in bed should be fairly straightforward, and one of the nice things about a van is that it’s a much smaller space to heat than the average house. We’re going to insulate it well.

Won’t you be very hot in the summer?

This could be an issue. The van is white and we’re planning to insulate it fairly well. The UK is hardly Morocco though. We count our very hot summer days, when it reaches 20C+, on one hand. If the van is unbearably hot we will go and enjoy the sunshine outside!

Aren’t you just demonstrating how incredibly privileged you are?

Yep. I’m a white well-educated, cis male, from a well-off background, with a great job and supportive family, in a first world country, with a social welfare system and a nationalised health service. I have to acknowledge that in almost everything I do. I have a lot of people to be grateful for, and I must be mindful not to take anything for granted and to do what I can to help those who’ve been less fortunate in the privilege lottery.

Aren’t you worried about what people will think?

In short, “no”.

I gave this some thought, I was worried my friends might instantly unfriend me. I realised that my friends don’t judge people by their living arrangements, but by what they’re like as a human being. I plan on being the same person, and anyone who wishes to pigeon-hole because of my living arrangements probably doesn’t know me.

Is this forever? Will you never get a house?

I may get a house in future. Who knows? Let’s figure that out when the future arrives.

I wouldn’t do this.

That’s absolutely ok!

Background:

Since about 2008, I’ve noticed that the internet has helped me geographically distribute myself. I noticed I didn’t seem to get homesick because the things I cared most about tended to be accessible via the internet.

(NB. This doesn’t apply to pets. I wish I could have emailed hugs to my dog, and got licks and snuffles by SMS.)

I realise about myself:

  • I love travelling when it seems like the right thing – I love mountains, outdoors, sea sides, long beaches, camping and exploring.
  • I also love technology, though perhaps that’s less obvious – I post fewer photos of it, try to avoid being relentlessly gushing about it – and yet, me and it often work hand in hand every day.
  • I’m fairly independent – I’ve never been in debt and I’ve been financially independent since I got my first job when I was 18, but I’ve been supported and effectively self-directed for sometime before then. For better or for worse, I don’t seem really be afraid of blazing my own path on my own, even if it turns out in the end just to be an interesting footnote.

Realisations:

  • I’m 24. I can make mistakes. I should make mistakes. I should make mistakes NOW.(I don’t seek to make mistakes, just be aware that they provide the most powerful opportunities to learn from, and that it’s easier to make bold decisions when you support fewer people.)
  • If this turns out to be a terrible idea, the downside is not fatal. It allows for learning. In the context of my life, it’s a small bet.
  • I feel that most of my relationships with my friends and family are location agnostic. Sure, I need turn up at my friend’s party, just like I should be at a family wedding – but the rest of the time? I’m not convinced physical proximity is super important so long as you’re there at ‘the right’ moments.
  • Being in one fixed location is less relevant to day to day job than it ever was. Most of my work is conducted over email and phone calls, and last summer I spent three weeks, working remotely from Bulgaria – more recently, close online collaboration in a distributed team seems to be working well.
  • I don’t want to buy a house, until I know I want to live there for ~10+ years. I don’t know where I want to be living in ~10+ years time, so I don’t want to buy a house.
  • There are two unfulfilled ambitions I think I have: one is to travel more, the other is to build something big.

So what’re the next steps?

I’ll be blogging, tweeting, facebooking about it as much as I can as we build it. You can also follow the github repo which contains the the CAD plans (or the cartoon simplified version) and things we’re working on.

The next step is for me to stop writing this blog post and insulate it! :D

The Van
The Van

I’d love to hear from you! Any thoughts? Any unanswered questions? Well wishes? Stories? Things I might want to think about? Let me know in the comments!

I love you Bess.

My darling dog Bess came to the end of her well lived life yesterday.

My best Bess
My best Bess

I tried to tell her many times, and I hope she knew:

I love you Bess.

Bess and me (2009)
Bess and me (2009)

She’s buried where we often used to walk her, above Glossop, where the pine trees catch the wind that sweeps across the moor and a single tree stands alone amongst the reeds.

Bess's view
Bess’s view

I’d be happy to visit her with anyone who wanted to make the trip out to Glossop and up the hill, to spend a few minutes with her.

I love you Bess
I love you Bess
Plans for 2014

Q2 Review of my plans for 2014

In January, I put together a list of things I wanted to get done in 2014, this is my second review of how I’m doing.

As I mentioned in my Q1 review back in April, it’s one thing to write down plans for the year, and another thing to review them at the end. But if that’s all you do, it’s almost like gambling blind. There’s no real focus, just

“this is what I want to do”, “did it work? 20%? Jolly good!”.

So I’m trying to do Quarterly reviews. I suspect… that monthly reviews might be the way forward, but we’ll see.


Pass my driving test and take lots of post-test tuition.

  • I passed my driving test!
    • Woop woop woop. I’m really pleased about this. Not the passing the test per se, but the “nailing a good deal of this goal” bit.
    • To celebrate passing my test, I’ve bought myself a …. road atlas! You can tell I know how to party.
  • I’ve done a great deal of post-test tuition, and have committed to doing a lot more:
    • We’ve driven over the Snake Pass (which was less scary and more fun than I’d expected), and round Torkington Bends in Hazel Grove (‘exciting’ bends).
    • We’ve done some motorway driving
      • Basic motorway driving seems ok, but junctions etc need more work.
      • I’m pretty sure we’ll get this nailed in the lessons with practice.
    • Parking with precision and clue is getting better. I think there’s more distance
    • We’ve done a few bits of “creative” driving, when traffic lights have failed (including failing on red!), road flooding and other things – all this is great
    • We’ve done some bits on single track, national speed limit roads, I think there’s more room for practice there.

Learn a new sport (or several)

  • In the last quarter, I took a one-day snowboarding class, but didn’t really manage to follow up quickly enough to maintain my confidence. So…
  • I’ve booked another one-day snowboarding class, which hopefully will help me find my feet, balance, and confidence. Although it’ll just be repeating the same things, it’ll let me get twice the practice, and lets face it, practice makes a massive difference.
  • Clara & I had a go at Surfing in Devon. It was interesting.
    • We had two lessons, and I think more would have been ideal to a higher level.
    • I’d how much more enjoyable falling into fresh water is compared to salt water.
      • Learning to surf is a lot about falling into salt water
    • “Popups” – going from lying to standing as fast as possible is as much about push ups and leg-bendyness as it is about balance
      • I think being able to do more (any) pushups, and doing more yoga would make it easier
  • I think, if the opportunity presented itself, I’d like to focus on making an effort to have go at Windsurfing, probably off-season, towards the autumn.

Skills I’m trying to develop:

Photography

Heptonstall Climbing
Heptonstall Climbing on evening
Shooting at MCC
Shooting at MCC

I’m not sure that I’ve developed my style much but I did get outside (and inside) and take some photos:

  • I did a whole blog post of pictures about of the Aonach Eagach, and all the exciting Scottish ridge scrambling that entailed.
  • I went on a few hikes, and scrambles, walked through a few fields, got some nice shots of fields, beachs, sunsets etc
  • I shot some outdoor climbing one sunny evening, and got some really pleasing shots.
  • I shot some indoor climbing.
    • It’s really difficult – I either need a f2.8 300mm lens…
    • …or, some great, predictable, one-directional light sources.
    • It’s really tough indoors, and so I think the answer is probably not to shoot indoors, (and expect great photos).
      • The light in indoor climbing walls often fluctuates between bright and dark so much that it can be really hard to see the climber in the murk, whilst being blinded by the light above/beyond them.

Climbing

  • I’ve climbed a few 6a’s (on toprope), I’m getting to the point where I can consider them on routes that don’t require too much stamina, and are mainly technical
  • I’ve tried (maybe done?) some 6a+’s (on top rope).
  • I’ve continued teaching a few people about climbing – from newbies, to indoor middling-newbies trying outdoor.
  • Unfortunately, I’ve not focused on climbing as much this quarter, and as a result I’d say I’ve not developed my rope skills further, or my stamina – something to work on!

Mountaineering/Hiking/Walking

  • I’d say I’ve not done as much as I wanted
    • A weekend in Glen Coe (resulting only in completing Aonach Eagach – which I’ve wanted to do for ages!)
      • It was great fun (but not for inexperienced) – clean, exposed, sustained, demanding scrambling – and great weather for it!
    • A chilled bimble around Malham Cove, Janets Foss, Goredale Scar
    • A gentle day hike from Croyde to Woolacombe and back
    • A spur of the moment overnight bivvy over midsummer night in Edale
    • A fun weekend in Langdale, which involved:
      • An exceptionally warm (also rainy), The Band, Crinkle Crags, linking up to Pike o’Blisco and back to Dungeon Gyll
        • Helped a Dad and his son, who’d set off from Seathwhaite to climb Scafell Pike via Great End, got mis-directed in the mist, and walked up Bowfell, and then walked the wrong way off Bowfell. They walked down to Dungeon Gyll and took the bus home
        • Made good use of GPS/OpenStreetMap
      • An exceptionally hot, sunny and lazy hike up Jack’s Rake, Pavey’s Ark and Harrison Stickle, descending via a path I’ve not done before, below Harrison Stickle
  • I’ve ruled out any significant summer expeditions. If you’re Tim, it’s too hot to do any real exercise in the northern hemisphere at the moment. I’m looking forward to a cooler climate!
  • I now have a proper 4 seasons tent – a Terra Nova Quasar
    • I quite like the idea of an autumn trek, probably as late as I can.
    • I’m also planning to make the most of Winter when it comes.
  • It might be fun to do some short weekends hiking and camping.
    • Maybe as lightweight as possible, bivvying or at least taking as little as possible!

Public speaking

  • It’s not really public “speaking”, but I finally finished editing the video for this Hiking EPIC Rap, and pushed it out there (where it got some minor attention on UKC)
    • I’m pleased it’s out there, considering the amount of time that went into it, the number of trips it spanned, and the quality of the footage in the video.
  • I’ve not done much public speaking really. There’s not much more to say. I’d like to, but nothing has presented itself, and I guess I’ve not sort after the opportunities.
  • I’m not really sure how to break the impasse here and do something. Perhaps you can help?
    • I can talk about tech, hiking, adventuring, life?
    • How do I find a deadline or opportunity to work towards writing something for?
      • Perhaps I should prepare something for Oggcamp? What?

Systems Engineering

  • On the home network front:
    • I’ve started to architecture my network onto new hardware (gig-E everywhere!)
    • I’ve bought a Micro-Tik router to replace my WRT54G that tops out at ~40mbps from the internet
      • It has a configuration interface designed by… people who wanted different things from me
      • So I’ve not got it set up yet.
      • In fact, the only thing I’ve succeeded in doing is learning the factory reset sequence very well.
  • I’ve got some more backups set up even better
    • Yay. Backups are good.
    • I still need to work out how best to rate-limit backups done over NFS, over 802.11g
  • I need to re-architect this blogs backend to remove nginx… or at least reduce its presence.
  • I probably should consider having a look at Ansible

Marketing

  • I read Contagious by Jonah Berger which addresses what makes things go viral.
  • I went to one of @stef’s Play Learn Hack workshops
  • I’ve got some interesting books about design, and interaction and user interfaces which… (I guess?) counts as fits into marketing. I’m planning to read those soon.
  • I’ve got some fun projects to think about, but I should probably not talk about them here.

Programming

  • I’ve been intending to learn more Ruby, but I’ve not actually done any since last time I wrote.
  • What I have been doing is looking at Bootstrap and attempting to understand how websites are designed, in (in)sane ways.
  • I’ve done a few unexciting bash scripts including a fugly hack of a bash one liner:
    • for i in {1..100000}; do sudo mount -t auto -o ro,loop,offset=$i CIV3.000 /mnt/; done”
    • Which mounts the utterly stupid .vc4 file format in linux, since it’s just a ISO image, with a custom header

Lose weight

  • Last quarter, I thought I was making progress on the weight loss front. This quarter, I know I’ve lost ground. Ideally I’d like to be ~10&1/2, 11ish stone , and I think I weigh closer to 14 stone than 13 at the moment.
    • This is mainly diet related.
    • I need to get back on the salad, protein and soup diet, and just stick to it. I know I can make a real difference, but as a friend said, it requires enormous discipline.
  • I don’t believe it would assist with weight per se (compared to dietary choices), but I’ve not been jogging since Q1 and I should start back on C25K.
    • If anyone wants a jogging partner in Manchester – give me a shout!

Blog More

  • I’ve pushed out a series of blog posts I’ve been drafting/wanting to get out there for a long time (these: 1, 2, 3), some new things, some photos, some business ideas and some anecdotes.
    • Despite this, I haven’t published nearly enough blog posts!
  • I still have 100+ draft blog posts, and bunch of ideas for pushing lots of blog posts out
    • So I need to make some of these happen!
  • I’d like to publish more in my “notes on a book” series – I haven’t published nearly enough given the number of books I’ve read!

Read more.

  • I’ve been doing well here. I’ve read a number of books, and what’s more, I’ve even published a number of sets of notes of some of the books I’ve read.
  • I’ve got a massive stack of books to read, and a lot of enthusiasm to read them, so hopefully I’ll continue along these lines just the same as I started.
  • So far this year, I’ve read:
  • I’m almost finished:
    • Peak by Chip Conley
    • How to Win Friends and Influence people by Dale Carnegie
    • Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
  • My aim is to read “24 decent length” books this year, that’s 12 above.
    • I enjoy reading, though it requires focus and time, both things that you have to make an effort to provide. Both very good things though.
    • As I mentioned, I hope I can incorporate sets of notes of as many of these books as possible (all of them?) into blog posts for me (and others) to refer back to!

Socialise more.

  • I set myself aims to spend more time socialising this year. I’m sort of doing that, and I’m sort of changing it I think
  • I’d like to spend more time trying to socialise for leisure in real life.
    • Time spent with friends is always well spent if you’re enjoying it, or improving that connection.
  • I think I’d like to spend more time building professional connections remotely
    • and in real life one to one/small groups, improving those relationships
  • Over the past few months, I’ve done bits of this, but I need to get better it.

Travel as much as is appropriate

  • Clara and I went camping for a week to Croyde in Devon for a holiday.
  • I considered a summer trip to Sofia in Bulgaria (and Pirin Moutains, Burgas etc). I might still do this, but I’m less keen on it compared to when I originally thought of it if it means using valuable holiday which I could be using to visit a cooler climate

So there we go – That’s the last 3 months in summary!

See you in November for the next review!

Lol Relic

How not to cold call people! (Recording)

Earlier today, I took an interesting call to my 0800 number from an Irish number:

I should note, that I’ve never:

  • Used New Relic
  • Intentionally provided New Relic with my details
  • Conversed with any of their reps before
  • Hidden my 0800 number

Clearly, what’s gone on here is that:

  1. they’ve sifted through the internet
  2. they’ve found my blog/twitter
  3. added me to their CRM
  4. mis-labelled me, and called me chasing the deal, rather than introducing themselves.

I’m most annoyed about Point 3.

The public availability of my number does not indicate my availability to critique their sales operation (or apparently therelackof).

I can tell anyone now: I will never buy from someone who cold calls me. :)

Ah well, hopefully something they’ll learn from!


Data Protection Act note: If you call 0800 112 6000, before it rings my phone, it announces “all calls are recorded”. I’ve beeped out the poor guys name.

YCombinator

YCombinator? I’ll do it

Stanford University
Stanford University

One day last November, I was sitting in the student cafeteria, at Stanford University in California with Josh catching up with Paul, an old friend of mine who was studying there.

We’d had just ordered a coffee from Starbucks, naively answering telling the barista, “yes, we would like cream”, so now we were eyeing up these containers filled with half-coffee, half-squirty-cream monstrosities.

We complaining there was “too much cream in your coffee”, in Starbucks, at Stanford, must be the pinnacle of “first world problems“…


Then Josh checked his email, and we found that the past 3 weeks of blood sweat and tears had been for nothing.

We were wrong. This was the epitome of first world problems.


On April 1st, 2011, I posted on my facebook wall that I was imminently moving to California.

I didn’t actually think anyone would believe me, but somehow, a few people did:

April Fools!
April Fools!

In October 2013, I was having a beer with Josh whom I’d known from the YRS2010 days where he’d done cool stuff along with everyone else. :)

Over the course of the evening, he explained that he’d recently been working on a side project to help people to save money:

Lots of people (even in the UK & US) live paycheck to paycheck. When they want something expensive, they either buy it on finance/a long contract or they drop an entire paycheck on it, and struggle to eat for a month. It’s not ideal. Saving is one of those things that people know they should do (like getting more exercise, eating more healthily) but struggle to do. The application he was developing, Dripfeed, helped people visualise what they were saving for and develop a healthier financial approach to buying things.

Josh told me he’d been accepted to interview at YCombinator – the most prestigious Startup Accelerator in Silicon Valley. The interview was two weeks away.


(A startup accelerator is a programme or boot camp of sorts, often aimed at high tech, high growth new businesses. It’s a strange world.Wikipedia explains more.

YCombinator is *the* best of the best – if you’ve heard of Dropbox, AirBnB, Scribd, reddit, or Disqus – then you’ve heard of a successful company that’s come out of the other end.

If you apply successfully, you gain a (relatively small but not insignificant) amount of cash, you & your team moves to San Francisco for the 3 months, whilst you work on your thing are introduced to, and given advice by mentors, investors and listen to seminars from people who know what they’re talking about and a bunch of other stuff. In short, it’s a good place to be.)


Josh had a problem – YCombinator don’t like accepting companies with single person teams – and so he asked if I wanted to come to San Francisco with him to interview with him. If we were accepted, we’d go 50/50 on it, if not, we wouldn’t. The caveats: the interview was in less than 15 days, and I’d need to pay for my own flight.

 

So for the second time that autumn, I booked a holiday from work and some trans-continental flights at less than 2 weeks notice, and prepared to go to yet another place I’d not been before.

The San Francisco Bay Bridge... and me.
The Bay… and me.

YC’s interviews are are tough.

No matter how much cramming of interview techniques, no matter how much brainstorming of possible questions you could be asked, no much how much you read up about which federal US authority governs which the financial laws you care about, they’re still tough.

Inside the YCombinator's "secret layer"
Inside the YCombinator’s “secret layer”

Firstly, you’re being interviewed by about 5 or 6 people at the same time, all of whom likely know a great deal about building something new “things” with the internet. You’re trying to impress them by showing that you’ve with a slightly offbeat idea, you’ve thought about everything, and that you know how to execute it.

Secondly, the interviews are only 10 minutes long. This means every second counts for quite a lot, being eloquent, concise, knowledgeable counts. Qualifications are worthless. Knowing your area and know the idea kick ass idea, counts.

On top of that, you’re thinking – these next ten minutes influence the next three months of my life and the path I take from here. Will I have to spend three months (probably more), working my arse off, thousands of miles away from my friends and girlfriend? Will this be a big step into a stage of perpetual uncertainty in my life?

I don’t remember exactly who interviewed us, I know Paul Graham was not there though the new head of YC, Sam Altman was in our interview.

The good thing about the interviews, is that you find out if you got in, later on the day of the interview.


Stanford University Memorial Church
Stanford University Memorial Church

We didn’t get in.

As we said bye to my friend Paul in the Stanford University cafeteria, we knew we probably weren’t going to return anytime in the near future.

And then the self-evaluation kicked in.

“Which bit did they not like?”, “Could we have done better there?”, “What if things had been different?”.

Two questions stuck in my mind – probably the two we had the poorest answer to:

  • Q: What’s your plan to promote this thing?
    • A: Reddit Ads – Tim has experience with social media ads.
    • [Response from interviewers: no that’s not the answer]!
  • Q: You’re both experienced hackers – why this? Why not work on something more exciting?
    • A: “errr, it’s not easy – it’s a hard thing to do… etc.”

There are good answers you could give to both of those. We didn’t.


San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay
San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay

As I spent the rest of my time in San Francisco touristing, I reflected that actually, I wasn’t as sad or disappointed as I’d expected I might be.

I’d been hit by more culture shock than I’d imagined. I found that it was hard for me to accept parts of US culture as the status quo, despite finding similar differences straightforward in non-English speaking countries. Urban areas generally don’t excite me much, and I’m sad I didn’t get out to Yosemite. Despite Silicon Valley and San Francisco being nice places they didn’t really feel where I wanted to be right then.

I realised that whilst the experience had been good, and I’d learnt a lot from it (particularly, what I didn’t know!), perhaps not all the variables had lined up 100% that time, and that actually, I was probably happier as a result.

Returning to the UK was easy…. not that the weather helped! It was 24C and sunny in California and 5C and raining in the UK! But I knew what I was returning to and I could plan parts of my future again. I also knew where I could improve myself, what areas I was weak on, and more about what makes me tick.


And the April Fools day joke on Facebook?

My parents aren’t massive April Fools day fans. Fortunately, they’re not on Facebook so I’d made sure it was just a private prank on my close friends.

Unfortunately, my sister had phoned my mum that day, and just casually asked remarked she hadn’t heard about my emigration until that day…

Well neither had my mum!

In the end, it was all resolved with phone call, leaving just an amusing lesson about how hoaxes go viral.

Maybe that was the scale of first world problems, I enjoyed having… ;)

Happy Late April Fools day! :)


Also see: DripFeed.

Hiking Epic Rap : Hiker Tim

Join the hike-hop revolution!

Epic Hiking Rap : Hiker Tim

Lyrics / Q&A
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Inspired by Dan Bull’s Skyrim Rap

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Bidean Nam Bian's snowy top

Aonach Eagach in pictures

As I wrote I might, I traversed the Aonach Eagach ridge in Glen Coe on Saturday.

We were on the ridge it in ideal conditions and it was every bit as exposed, long and committing (there are no escape routes once you’re on it) as expected. I was glad to be travelling with a group of experienced friendly scramblers whom I know and trust a great deal, with great visibility.

Here are some photos:

The ridge ahead
The ridge ahead (path sticks to the ridge)
The Aonach Eagach requires a good head for heights
The Aonach Eagach requires a good head for heights
Giving advice...
Giving advice…
Up up up up!
Up up up up!
Looking back along the ridge - can you see the path?
Looking back along the ridge – can you see the path?
Pose for a photo here?
Pose for a photo here?
People taking the highly unpleasant and unwise 900m scree descent from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh to the road
People taking the highly unpleasant and unwise 900m scree descent from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh to the road
Looking down over Glencoe...
Looking down over Glencoe…

Long weekend in Glen Coe

It’s a bank holiday weekend. Rejoice!

Umm, yeah, I’m spending the weekend in Glen Coe at Red Squirrel Campsite! Yay.

I’ve been to Glen Coe a number of times, some more successfully than others, and blogged about how to get there (even hitchhiking).

Glen Coe isn’t too far away from Ben Nevis, and its 24 hour, painfully dull tourist path:

But Glen Coe has many more exciting (perhaps less easily accessible!) things to do – the Aonach Eagach – serious and committing ridge scramble, not for the faint hearted, Bidian Nam Bian, probably one my favourite mountains of the area thus far, Ben Nevis’s non-tourist route – ascent via the Càrn Mòr Dearg (CMD) arete.

Aonach Eagach, The Mamores and Ben Nevis, from Bidean Nam Bian (2012)
Aonach Eagach, The Mamores and Ben Nevis, from Bidean Nam Bian (2012)

Bidian is a jolly fun mountain, but having already done it, the Aonach Eagach is what draws my attention. When I first came to Glen Coe some three years ago, my dad warned me not to go anywhere near it, and not to let anyone drag me to along it. I think that was probably good advice at the time, but with much improved climbing skills, I think it’s probably accessible as a scramble on around a Mod/Grade 3. Good visibility and good conditions are obviously important (and add to the enjoyment!).

The weather is reputedly quite nice on Saturday, rainy with poor visibility on Sunday and Monday, but little chance of strong wind, yet a bit chilly. The last SAIS report (over two weeks ago) showed snow on the tops, and a glance at the Glen Coe Ski centre webcams shows this is still the case – they’re still operating 3/7 ski lifts!

Anyway, I’ll go well prepared with kit, be sensible, and take a few books to read if it looks too grim. ;)

Aonach Eagach (May 2011)
Aonach Eagach (May 2011)
Mountains near Nallo, Northern Sweden

If I were a religious man.

Occasionally forms have a field labelled:

Religion

followed by a bunch of tick boxes.

A tick in a box is rarely very descriptive and so I thought I’d try and explain where I stand on faith.


Background

I was raised as a non-religious person in a largely non-religious pseudo-christian culture. What do I mean by pseudo-christian? Well, our family and friends have always celebrated Christmas and Easter, but as secular holidays – some of my family have been to local CE Church for midnight mass on Christmas Eve, but that is about as far as it’s ever gone – I’ve certainly not noticed any stronger religious influences in my family.

As I’ve grown older, and grown outside the environment in which I grew up, I’ve interacted and known various people from various different religions and faiths – I feel that going to school holding a very diverse distribution of beliefs has helped shape my understanding of the world.

If you were religious, what would you be?

Whilst one can “pragmatically” choose a religion in the same way you might choose which used car to buy, I’m pretty sure you don’t. This is not really how [at least most mainstream religions] are designed to work – “shopping around” for the one that suits you best isn’t what happens – in the vast majority of cases, it’s something you’re born into, occasionally it’s something people marry into and even less frequently, it’s something people find their own path and convert to.

However, if I were to look rationally and exceptionally pragmatically at the religious communities I identify most strongly with, two I’d point to would be the Quaker Movement and Unitarian Universalism.

(This is not an exhaustive list by any means – these the movements I’ve had the most chance to research and feel somewhat able to comment clearly upon. I’m certain that if I had more familiarity with different branches of other major religions, I could probably identify others with favourable aspects which might also be preferable, however after lots of time-consuming research I figured this was enough.)


The Quakers

The Quakers believe in creating a community that is free to challenge, question and explore their own beliefs, values and ideas. They believe everyone is equal and with no sort of hierarchical clergy, all decisions are made by consensus.

This [relatively] sane mode of governance (in Britain, taking place at the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends), has allowed them to update their religious doctrines and approaches to fit the changing attitudes within their community.

Most topical, Quakers in the UK (in line with changing attitudes) welcomed Equal Marriage to the point that they campaigned for it, since 2009.

Quakers seek to live lives built on principles of “simplicity, equality, truth and peace”, which resonates well with me.

As they neatly put it:

It is a faith and a way of life that is both timeless and contemporary.

(I should add the disclaimer that whilst both my parents and grandparents weren’t Quaker,  about 60-70 years ago, various friends and family on my mums side were, and whilst I don’t feel this affects my judgement, I feel it’s worth mentioning.)

Unitarian Universalism

The Unitarian Universalists don’t really have a set of doctrines or beliefs but they “affirm and promote

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

One of the things that make Unitarian Universalism attractive is that it is often referred to by its members as a “living tradition” so the religion is well suited to adapt and change with a changing world.

This means that in that often Unitarian Universalist congregations are happy to welcome LGBTQ relationships into their communities.

Personally, I find the emphasis on a personal search, respect for others, and the ‘auto-updater’ ability that allows for their community to adapt their values as they see fit.

This reddit thread goes a long way to explaining many of the virtues and this BBC article is also worth a read.


Realistically though, I’m not one of the members of these religious groups.

In the same way that you’re not a member of a political party just because you agree some things that are said, I’m not part of a religion, simply because I can find agreement with some of the things they say.

Where I stand

Now if I was to take Pascal’s Wager – I’d probably join one of these organisations – but ultimately, I remain unconvinced it’s necessary to do so.

I try to live life as a “good person”, so whilst I respect, and indeed follow many of the above movements aims, I don’t feel the need to be part of one of those movements to do so.

This is because I don’t feel that the existence or non-existence of a greater being would care whether I’d been part of one of those movements as long as I’d tried my best to do good things.

Effectively, I’m an agnostic, with a strong system of values and a secular/cultural approach to Christmas.


In my next blog post, I’ll ask, “If I were an Atheist, man.“…. stay tuned!