Ben Nevis and the Carn Mor Dearg Arete

My thoughts on Scotland

  • I support self determination of the people of Scotland.
  • I think it’s great that we can have an open and democratic conversation about it, in a civilised and peaceful manner.
  • I’m delighted by the level of engagement and thoughts people have on it, north and south of the border
  • If Scotland does become independence, I’m fearful about relations between the UK and Scotland. I hope these fears are unfounded, and I hope that, were it to happen, it would not become a source of conflict. I’m fearful because:
    • It’s really hard to separate without bad feeling:
      • was this deal negotiated in favour of one side or the other? (both will likely say the other)
      • did someone not play fair? (both sides will likely say the other)
      • it’s a very easy political manoeuvre to blame tough times, on another country – both sides may face those in the future
    • Very few countries have separated without violence, especially with a smaller unit devolving from a larger entity. Arguable the best example in recent history would be the Velvet Divorce of Czechoslovakia. I hope in the event of independence we can outdo them in peacefulness
    • I’m only afraid of bad feeling, aggressive posturing and violence. I’m hopeful that we enough shared respect and understanding for each other that this is not such an issue.
  • I’m excited by the referendum, because no matter what the result, it will have shaken up politics and engaged people in issues they care about.
    • I hope the interest and political engagement can continue to shake things up
    • I hope that each political group focus on positive ways to engage the people who are apathetic to the political system
    • I hope the quality of life in the whole of the British Isles continues to improve as fast as it has since the mid 20th century.

Really the referendum isn’t about you or me, it’s about how our children play together. I hope they’re free to play and enjoy a better life than the one we have.

Plans for 2013

With reference to my round up of my 2012 resolutions and aims, here are some for 2013:

  • Develop my photography skills

I recently had various compliments on photos I’ve taken, which is always very gratefully appreciated. However, having a nice camera does not make someone a good photographer, and I need to reduce the ratio of dud-photos to good-shots and work out how I can improve my skills further.

Taking photos (Photo by Steve Kemp)
Taking photos (Photo by Steve Kemp)
  • Develop film-making skills

I need to do more film-making and editing. I’ve already a few ideas of how to improve, now I just need to put them into action!

  • Public speaking

I want to get better, more confident, and more natural when it comes to public speaking, in particular, I want to learn to modulate my voice – speaking clearly, forcefully, quietly, and clearly, forcefully and loudly are skills that I wish came naturally to me – unfortunately like most people, raising my voice means shouting, and lowering my voice means whispering. This doesn’t have to be.

  • Learn to cook

There’s a difference between feeding oneself effectively, and being able to serve a meal to friends. I’m quite good at the former, but I aspire to the latter.

  • Develop upper body strength

Hiking and cycling have helped my leg muscles become quite strong, but I still have the arms and hands of someone who works in front of a keyboard everyday.

  • Do more cool stuff.

2012 involved doing lots of fun, cool things. 2013 should be just as good, if not better. Find out what’s fun, what’s achievable, and give it try.

How did my plans for 2012 work out?

I made some plans at the start of 2012 for the year ahead and whilst I managed to somewhat take the edge of this post by posting a “final quarter review” 3/4’s of the way through the year, a few things have changed since then.

Since then, I’ve done more blogging than ever, I’ve wanted to do more public speaking but not done so, I’ve listened to more music and my room has often been the tidiest I’ve known it in years.

I’ve bought almost everything on the internet, except foodstuffs, making things I don’t enjoy (shopping) less stressful.

In terms of eating healthier, by following my diet, I dropped from about 13 stone to 11 and a 1/2 stone.

Co-incidentally, or not, my general fitness has also increased – a highlight for me being a rapid, 5 Munro, winter walk round the Ben Lawers Horseshoe in Scotland, and also the surprise that I can apparently do pull ups!

2013 will bring new things, but that’s fodder for a different blog post methinks!

Why do I bother writing this blog anyway? I mean who even reads it?

As Clifford Stoll says in his very clever TED talk:

“The first time you do something, it’s science.

The second time, it’s engineering.

The third time, it’s just being a technician.

I’m a scientist.

Once I do something, I want to do something else.”

As I’m not an academic, I’m not a “scientist” per se, but I do share his desire to constantly do new things – let me explain:

Not long ago, I was talking to someone and they mentioned they read my blog. Suddenly I was really nervous and wasn’t sure why, and it made me re-evaluate why I write this here.

As it turns out, I hate repeating myself – repeating stories, repeating thoughts, repeating anecdotes. No matter how exciting it was the first time, by the second or third time it’s lost it’s sheen to me and I’d prefer to do or talk about something different. Obviously though, I do some pretty exciting stuff, go to some unusual places, occasionally think up something vaguely interesting but if I simply told people about it, I’d get bored almost straight away.

And that’s why the blog’s here. If I write things down almost straight away, or somehow put them up as a permanent record, then I can repeat them to people, as if they were fresh in my mind, without having to actually go over it again.

So I shouldn’t be nervous you’re reading my blog – it’s not like there’s anything self-incriminating here (except this I guess), and by reading this blog post, I now never have to explain to you why I get bored of repeating things out loud! :)

Thanks for reading! :P

New Year plans: 2012 final quarter review.

At the end of 2011, I made some vague plans for 2012. Not resolutions. Nothing grandiose. But things that would probably be good ideas.

  • Do more offbeat, adventurous, unexpected, unusual things.
  • More travel. It largely doesn’t matter where, just more of it.
  • Find some new ways to take myself out of my depth

Ok. I’m doing that quite well. It can get difficult to find a way to escape the comfort zone, but I’m doing it.

  • Work out boring things in my life, and work out strange new ways to liven them up.
  • Example: work out a way to make shopping for boring things, fun

Yeah, I’m not sure there is a way to do this. Internet, can help. If only we had Zappos for clothes in the UK.

  • Do more pirate party politics
  • Stand in May council elections
  • Do more education-specific work
  • Develop public speaking skills

I’ve done the first few of those things, but I think I’ll be doing less of the politics. Right now it’s not what I want to do.

Education stuff. That’s a good question, but probably not going to be solved right now.

I do need to improve my public speaking skills, probably by finding something I want to talk about and talking about it, repeatedly. Practice practice practice!

  • Find some new things to parody and satirise.

I’ve not done any of this recently. Probably a good thing, I’d have probably got myself in trouble/created unwanted drama, if I’d properly done some ideas

  • Take small steps in lifestyle healthier directions
  • Perhaps start swimming again?
  • Learn to cook more adventurously

Boom. Doing this.

  • Blog more

Did this. I’ve blogged at least once a month, usually many times a month. In February I think I even tried to do a post a day. I actually have about 60 draft posts in various states of half-completion, blog posts are certainly a lot more frequent than they previously have been.

  • Maintain old friendships and keep in contact with old friends and family.

I think I’m doing ok at this, but if you think otherwise, give me a shout and let’s meet up. :)

  • Listen to some new styles of music

I’m getting into swinghouse, downtempo/chillout and smooth jazz as well as everything else I listen to.

  • Work out some more inspiring and interesting goals, because these ones are pretty much just “try to do more of the same”.

I thought up some. I need to think up or select some more at least.

Plans for 2012

At some point, I may get a chance to look back on 2011, weigh it up, work out whether it was largely good or bad. That sounds like a lot of hard work. It’s almost like a history essay.

Instead, I’m going to think about my plans for 2012; not “New Year’s Resolutions” just some vague goals on my own.

  • Do more offbeat, adventurous, unexpected, unusual things.
    • More travel. It largely doesn’t matter where, just more of it.
    • Find some new ways to take myself out of my depth
  • Work out boring things in my life, and work out strange new ways to liven them up.
    • Example: work out a way to make shopping for boring things, fun
  • Do more pirate party politics
      • Stand in May council elections
      • Do more education-specific work
      • Develop public speaking skills
  • Find some new things to parody and satirise.
  • Take small steps in lifestyle healthier directions
    • Perhaps start swimming again?
    • Learn to cook more adventurously
  • Blog more
  • Maintain old friendships and keep in contact with old friends and family.
  • Listen to some new styles of music
  • Work out some more inspiring and interesting goals, because these ones are pretty much just “try to do mo reof the same”.

What is the most useful thing you will do towards a future career when you’re young?

And the ten minutes striking up a conversation with that strange kid in homeroom sometimes matters more than every other part of high school combined.

This XKCD cartoon strangely captures essence of most of my complaints with the way ICT and technical subjects are taught in schools.

For me, it was a extensive number of weekends trying to make various different project work and multiple evenings getting to know the right people in the tech industry – thanks to the vibrant north west technical communities.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that school/college/university is completely useless if you want to go into tech – being able to articulate oneself in writing is a particularly crucial skill which is a lot tougher learning elsewhere but as far as I’m concerned any technical skills taught are unlikely to ultimately be be as useful as that one bit of hacking you did when you were bored a few years previously.