Reflect in nature

Make Time to Reflect

This is a post from my My 20-day Zappos + Buffer Values Challenge

“Make Time to Reflect”

My favourite way to reflect is solo hiking. The fewer people the better.

Some people have told me that going deep inside their head, and being just with themselves is scary. I respect and understand that, but I find I’m the one person I can always trust, always have time for and is always happy to spend a long time on thinking.

That’s the foreveralone manifesto is right there. ;)

But as Paul Buchheit has said, “Walking in nature helps”, and it does.


When I spent 12 days, solo hiking round through Northern Sweden one year (and didn’t see another person for a 5 day stretch at one point), I didn’t take any books. Instead, mentally I contemplated a number of topics that I later wrote up into a series of blog posts.

Once on a solo cycle touring trip, I remember lying in the tent, designing video live-streaming systems.

I do enjoy great conversations whilst walking in nature, but one of the great things about the solitude is leaving your brain with the minimum to concentrate on. There are very few interrupting distractions, there’s very little to think about apart from where to put your feet, whether you’re walking in the right direction, and when you can have your next rest.

Solo hiking is fun.


But reflection isn’t just in the execution. Reflection is also in the theory. I’ve found that reflecting on my current goals on a regular basis, and tracking my progress helps me remain focused, and helps be check I’m on the right path. It might be that when I think about it, the end-goal which seemed sensible at the start, isn’t relevant anymore – but at least then I’d know not to worry about it anymore.

Often I find, at moments of conflict where it’s easy to respond instantly, it’s wiser to take some time to reflect, and think about the situation. lots of sleep often helps a great deal.


I remember a story I once heard about someone, let’s call him “Jim”, who went to his friend “Rob” and said “My business is failing. I’m trying to do all these things, but everyone wants me. I’m not sure what to do. Help?”
His friend Rob suggested that instead of focusing on one thing or the other, or replying to emails from only these peoples. he should go on holiday.
He went on holiday, and when he returned, he knew exactly what to do, how to deal with it all, and set about making it happen like a new man.


It’s always worth taking time to reflect. I like hiking, but meditation is also well recommended (and much easier to do frequently). You might err away from that level of hippiness, though people often find it helps them separate and steer their thoughts, so they can choose when and what to think about.

Reflect in nature
Reflect in nature
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!

Where will the future lead?

Q1 Review of my plans for 2014

It’s easy to write New Year’s Resolutions at the start of the year, then write about them at the end of the year, and wonder why you didn’t lose weight, save money, or do that thing you wanted to. Basically, taking one step after another into mediocrity and suppressed ambition.

It doesn’t have to be like that, and the first step was to write some things to do.

I published a extensive list of things I wanted to get done in 2014 towards the end of January this year, this is a review of how I’m doing.


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

  • I took a practical test. Failed it. (Justifiably – I don’t mind)
  • I’m comfortable driving and have another test booked in.
  • I’m still planning to continue lessons after I pass.

Learn a new sport (or several)

  •  I took one (day long) beginners, introduction to snowboarding class.
    • I need to book another one, and build my confidence and control.
  • I haven’t gone any further with any others, but windsurfing and kayaking currently appeal more than the others at the moment.

Skills I’m trying to develop:

Photography

  • I’m not sure I’ve made any super-progress yet in developing my style. I’ve taken photos, sure, but I don’t feel I’ve pushed myself and I don’t feel I’ve come up with anything “amazing” yet this year.
  • I need to get outside on grit and take more photos of climbing.

Climbing

  • I feel like I’m making progress here, slowly but surely. I recently set a personal best by seconding the main, overhanging, wall at MCC – a big personal milestone.
  • I’ve done some outside (in the dark!), but not enough – clearly the summer evenings will make that easier.
  • I’ve got my eye on a couple of books about climbing (which I’ll probably buy in the next few months when I feel I’ve time to read them) which should help me develop various bits of theory surrounding advanced ropework and multipitch climbing.

Mountaineering/Hiking/Walking

  • I’ve not done as much as this as I’d wanted to do, primarily because the weather has not been compliant.
    Chrome Hill (from Parkhouse Hill), Peak District
    Chrome Hill (from Parkhouse Hill), Peak District
    • A wet, windy and miserable weekend in Wales
    • A very windy, cold weekend in Patterdale
    • A gentle day hike near Ambleside in the Lake District.
    • A sunny day in the Peak District gave access to  Chrome & Parkhouse hill – the Peak’s best “mountains”.
    • A very wet and windy week in the Cuillns of Skye, I did get up some mountains in Skye, but not as many as I’d have liked.
  • I’d have liked to go winter camping in Jan or Feb, but the lack of snow kind of ruled it out.
  • I realise I really quite liked the idea of winter camping, and am considering the viability of snowshowing, igloo building, and reducing pack weight using a pulk to help carry supplies into a basecamp somewhere.
  • I have a new book on winter mountaineering that is thorough but not patronising which I’ve been absorbing piece by piece, but a lack of winter conditions has been slowing my reading of it.
  • I need to set some plans and challenges for the summer – maybe a set of backpacking weekends? For some reason, I don’t have maps of Snowdonia, so I should probably rectify that…

Public speaking

  • I did put myself forward for several public speaking opportunities, but I didn’t follow them through well, and I’ve not put my heart into it.
  • I really want to speak about my time in Kyrgyzstan, and I’m thinking of weaving a 15 minute narrative and then trying to put it into a Youtube video, but it’s tough.

Systems Engineering

  • Apart from some really boring system maintenance…
    • setting up better backups for this website,
    • setting up a FreeNAS box with ZFS so I can backup other stuff properly
    • upgrading my network, slowly, to gigabit, so it is not so slow
      • next step is a GPL-hating MicroTik modem-router thing.
  • …I’ve not done any(?) engineering that I’m particularly excited by.
  • Oh, I changed my WordPress theme too, but I’m still not really happy with it.
  • This is something I’m not going to push – when something I want to do arises, I’ll do it.
    • To start with, finding a WordPress theme that doesn’t suck would be good.

Marketing

  • I read some good books about advertising, and thought a great deal about advertising. I still can’t think creatively about concepts or come up with visual puns as easily as I’d like to be able to. I’ll come back to that soon.
  • 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 think I’m going to try and learn Ruby/Rails. I’d like to be able to build a very simple web app, and since I know (basic-level) HTML, I don’t think that’s unrealistic.
  • I pushed myself almost all the way through http://tryruby.org the other day – remembering lots from the last time I tried.
  • I’m going to try it again soon – and then see if I can push myself through the codecademy ruby courses whilst building something simple in Rails.

Lose weight

  • I’m doing… ok… on the weight loss front. I’m currently somewhere between 12 and 12 & 1/2 stone, probably a good stone heavier than I’d prefer to be.
  • It’s not directly related to weight loss, but I recently started following the NHS couch-to-5k jogging plan, partly to provide moral support for my jogging partner aka girlfriend, and partly to get fitter.
    • weirdly, I actually found myself slightly enjoying it.
    • that remind me, I need to go running!
  • I’m not doing so good at being super-sensible with my diet, if I’m to drop that extra stone, I’m going to need to step up there.

Blog More

  • This WordPress design doesn’t make it easy to see, but I’ve been doing pretty good at pushing out blog posts – things I’ve actually taken time to write about something interesting.
  • I’ve been trying to publish things I think could be interesting.

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.

Socialise more.

  • I did hold a social gathering, it didn’t really work as well as I’d hoped, but that’s fine.
  • Some of the reading I’ve been doing, is probably likely to influence precisely how I do this, but I’ve not thought it through properly yet.
  • I’d like to organise some more gatherings in the near future, so I guess I need to just go and do that.
  • I’ve not done so well about finding more new social groups to meet every week – more like once a month – I think I need to make sure I get out there and make contact with different various groups I have disparate contact with.

Travel as much as is appropriate

  • I spent Easter in Edale, but I feel it’d be a stretch to count that as travel, and then ignore the number of times I’ve travelled around the country for work.
  • I considered a last minute camping trip to Svalbard, but after considering the pros, and particularly the big white furry cons called “hungry polar bears”, I decided that perhaps Northern Scandanavia might appeal more later on in the year, or maybe Scotland.
  • I think I’m going to upgrade my ‘large’ tent to a Terra Nova Quasar – a four season tent that should be able to take strong winds and rain without making me nervous…

And there you have it – that’s where I’m up to..

See you in July for the next review!

A Blog Post A Day: Looking Back

31 days ago, I set out to write a blog post for every day in November.

The low points:

  • Posting various relatively poorly formatted, rushed or somewhat rambling posts that are probably below par.
  • Rushing to midnight deadlines
  • Desparately trying to push posts online at 11:50pm via GSM on a train!

The high points:

  • Completing various blog posts I’ve wanted to write for a long time. In particularly, I’m pleased to have posted:
  1. War. Peace. Who remembers them?
  2. How I sneaked into the tech industry without a degree and got my first job.
  3. Death: a free trial, but no one cancels.
  4. Why am I vegetarian? A two decade retrospective.

It’s interesting to note that mostly, those are quite personal articles – perhaps I’ve just not had the nerve to post them previously?

  • It was fun

It was actually a lot more fun than I feared it might be. Compared to February where I largely tried to post things, not necessarily write things, I feel that even the blog post with the least amount of writing is worthy. I was very tempted to do some posts with just photos, but I never could justify it given my stack of half-finished posts.

I actually surprised myself with how much fun I was having – I found it a lot more rewarding than I’d expected!

Moving on: November in Soho
Moving on: November in Soho

One of original missions was to reduce the number of part written blog posts in my drafts box. I binned a number, I completed a number, and as I wrote, I came up with more ideas, though I currently have a relatively modest 44 draft articles still to be completed and posted!

I’m hoping that I’ll continue to blog my way through much of December (as long as I have stuff I want to write!), but now my primary focus will be on another challenging project:

Can I make a short video clip every week for a month?

#timontour Kungsleden/Abisko – Video Blog

I recently got back from an epic backpacking adventure in Northern Sweden. It was essentially 12 days of walking through the Swedish mountains, in the Arctic Circle, on my own. Every day (ish) I made a video blog, and whilst I’ve not finished (not started actually!) processing the mass of photos and video I took, I’ve finally got this sorted and uploaded.

Take a look:

timontour : Kungsleden/Abisko 2012″>#timontour : Kungsleden/Abisko 2012

Update 1 – Day 1 – From Nissunjåkka campsite near Abisko
Update 2 – Day 2 – From wild camping just outside Abisko National park, ~2km from Abiskojaurestugorna
Update 3 – Day 3 – From wild camping 10km between Abiskojaurestugorna and Unnas Allakastugorna
Update 4 – Day 4 – From the woodshed – Unnas Allakastugorna
Update 5 – Day 5 – From the hut – Allejaurestugorna
Update 6 – Day 6 – From the hut – Tjäktja Stugorn
Update 7 – Day 7/8 – From the mountain and Nallostugan
Update 8 – Day 8/9 – From wild camping at top end of Vistas Vagge and Radugastugan Shelter
Update 9 – Day 9 – From outside the huts at Abiskojaure Stugan
Update 10 – Day 10/11 – From Nissunjåkka campsite near Abisko/Abisko

Reflection #1 on Byron Review

Parents are worried their children will not be able to tell the difference between Reality and Virtual Reality (in a game or online).

– Byron Review

In actual fact, the children grow up knowing the different expectation in social behaviour for the two different environments where as the parents never have.

Tim Dobsona few seconds ago….

So as you might have guessed, I am going to post a series of reflections on various child/youth + tech related reports…

This post references paragraph 1.19 of the Byron Review