After getting back in the swing with a walk up Tinto Hill it was time to tackle another munro. We had planned to do Schiehallion back in July but illness, holidays and finding a suitable weekend meant it never happened. So last Saturday we got up early and headed up to Perthshire. It was a two and a bit hour drive but empty country roads were fantastic. We were also pretty lucky with the weather and the day was dry with some clear spells. One very lucky find was Loch Lubnaig just to the north of Callandar.

Loch Lubnaig

Mirror like surface and some great photo’s. I don’t often think about a DSLR but this was one of those times that I knew a better camera would have been very handy. Onwards to Schiehallion which is 3547ft/1083m high and thanks to a well maintained car park and excellent path is fairly popular. As we climbed up the sun started coming out and it was getting pretty warm. The climb up is fairly steep but as I mentioned previously it’s helped by a great path. However the path doesn’t take you to the summit. You think your at the top but you’ve got around another mile of rocks and boulders to navigate before you get to the cairn. This was the trickiest bit of the walk and I can only imagine it’s fairly treacherous on a wet day. However it only took a couple of hours to get to the summit from the car park.

Me at Schiehallion Summit

Not long after these photo’s were taken the cloud rolled in and it got very cold -fleece and gloves required while we ate lunch and got going again. We were now on the north side of the hill and it was very slippy – I managed to cut my shin in four places as it slipped down a rock and you had to tread carefully to avoid a sprained ankle. We could have taken the old path back down but it had badly eroded the hill hence the newly constructed oath so we were respectful and retraced our steps back to the car park.

Schiehallion Runkeeper

This was a great walk and one that anyone could do as long as you’ve got the right footwear for the rocks on top and also remember that at this time of year it can be very cold and windy at the top of a munro compared to conditions on the ground. A full set of photo’s can be found on Flickr.

4th Year

September 30th 2006. Just over three years ago. It cost more than other similar hardware but it looked oh so desirable. It was all new to me but yet quickly became familiar. It was the day I took delivery of an Apple iMac. Three years have actually flown by and a lot has happened in that time. Unusually for me though one thing that hasn’t changed is the hardware I use. I’m still using the 24″ iMac which is running really well with Snow Leopard. Three months after getting the desktop I picked up a Macbook Pro which I still use today. What’s interesting is that prior to switching I would buy a new PC every couple of years. Maybe that was to do with PC gaming that I used to do more off, maybe it was the slowdown over time that I noticed with Windows. All I know is that for an initially high outlay compared to a same spec PC I’ve gotten far more use out of both my Mac’s.

Another key point is that the three years have been relatively hassle free. My iMac failed to boot once but I restored from a backup disk and it’s been fine ever since losing only a couple of day’s worth of files which wasn’t much. Touch wood. During that time I’ve upgraded the O/S twice to Leopard and recently Snow Leopard. The upgrades have left me with a faster O/S each time which was impressive and surprising.

One change that I’ve worked on over the last three years is making sure the software I use on the Mac is either open source or I pay for it. It’s taken a while as I couldn’t afford to buy everything at the one time nor find good alternatives to some expensive software but I’m there now. Torrenting makes it easy to get any app you need to be honest but I felt more and more uncomfortable about stealing software especially as the Mac development community is smaller, tighter and does make some great software. Definitely the right thing to do.

So that leads me into year 4. No need to upgrade, everything working fine. Except my head. More specifically my gadget head. One thing I’ve toyed with buying for a couple of years was an Apple TV or a Mac Mini for the TV. I’ve an ever growing library of digital media and I want to rip my DVD collection. Out of the two products I’d prefer a Mac Mini – more flexibility when it comes to player choices with Plex being the favourite at the moment. But I don’t want a third computer!

So the plan I have formulating…

  • Sell iMac and replace with Mac Mini for under TV.
  • Sell Macbook Pro and replace with new Macbook Pro with larger local disk.
  • Pick up a good monitor (not Apple as prices are eye watering!) for use on desk.
  • Pick up a Drobo as I’m running out of disk space as my local media grows.

That would leave me a great setup that should do me for a few years except it will cost money that I don’t really need to spend but when has that stopped me before. Mmmmm. Also, new Mini’s and iMac’s are rumoured this month both at a cheaper price. Interesting.

I might not know what hardware I’ll end up using but I do know I’ll be sticking with Apple over the coming years. Hopefully year 4 will be as trouble free as the last three.

New Clothes

The change in season’s has prompted me to give the blog a fresh look. Nothing fancy and quite simple like most of the other blog templates I’ve picked up. I plumped for Modicus Remix which I’ve been tweaking today. Quite pleased with the look although I do want to edit the CSS slightly as some things look a bit iffy.

I also took the opportunity to remove Intense Debate and switch to Disqus. We use Disqus on DigitalOutbox and I’ve been impressed with the better options and faster performance than I saw here with Intense Debate. One big advantage of Intense Debate was the plugin support but they haven’t really taken off yet, certainly not to the level I expected.

I also tweaked the Google advert locations. I finally put on some ad’s back around April/May and they’ve earned enough to pay for the blog hosting so that’s not too shabby. The theme change also allows for a nice DigitalOutbox link in the sidebar. Nothing like a bit of self promotion from time to time. So that’s the theme change for another year although I do have some thoughts around adding a more colourful theme next time that I want to hand crank myself. Just need a bit more time and motivation.

Tinto Hill

It’s been three long months since my last hill walk. Work, a wee bit of illness and some bad timing meant a long delay between Ben Lomond and yesterday’s walk on Tinto Hill. It was good to be back. We decided on Tinto as it was a bit smaller and shorter than previous walks. We hoped for good weather but low cloud and a strong wind at the summit proved that no matter what time of year you really need to be prepared for all sorts in Scotland.

Ian on tonto Hill

RunKeeper was flawless again – can’t recommend the app highly enough if you’ve got an iPhone. I’ve thrown up a few photo’s but the weather got in the way of anything decent.

Tinto Hill Runkeeper

Plans for the rest of the year – a munro in early October and then a walk in November and December but that is far more dependant on the weather. Still, we have the gear for all weathers – time to wrap up methinks.

Two Years On

It’s been two years since I actively started losing weight. August 26th, 2007 was my first weight reading and since then through exercise mostly, and the cutting out of biscuits, I’ve been trying to get my weight down to a sensible level. Two years on, how am I doing?

Overall not too shabby. BMI has dropped from 38.3 to 28.2. Total weight loss is 32.6kg or 5st 2lb. Current weight is 91.5kg or 14st 6lb. I’m really pleased but the weight loss in year 2 is a lot less than year 1. I’ve lost around 7.5kg in year 2 against 25kg in year 1. Oops.

I’ve only myself to blame as I’ve been exercising less this year as work and other projects eat up some time but at least I’m not gaining. I wanted to lose another stone over this year which would take we well under 14st but I can’t see that happening at current pace and workload. Can’t complain though. Feel fitter and healthier and a lot better about myself. I also make sure the above graph is always updated and available online – nice way to keep a wee bit of pressure on me in case I start to stray. The year ahead – steady and downward progress would be nice with a step up in fitness. Longer bike rides (currently around 20 miles per hour long session) and longer/tougher hill walks. Won’t be easy but I’m enjoying the challenge.

Blogging Bollocks

Interesting week with the NHS. Firstly the Republicans in America start spinning stories that the Brits hate the NHS. British people are shown in an advert paid for by a right wing group slagging off the NHS. Later the people who took part claimed they were duped into taking part and they are very annoyed at how they were portrayed. Worse, relatively unknown Euro MP Daniel Hannan has been spreading nonsense on right wing American news programmes about how bad the NHS is. This video tell’s the story so far.

Of course some of Hannan’s quote’s in isolation sound far worse than his interview as a whole but the fact that he chooses to peddle his thoughts on Fox etc in America devalues him in many people’s eyes. His blog claims he has spoken about NHS misgivings for 10 months now in the UK and you should go and buy his book to read what he says. He handily gives you an Amazon link too. Nothing like a politician making a bit on the side.

Anyway, of more interest was the backlash that kicked off on Twitter. Thousands of people tweeted with the hashtag #welovethenhs and a real show of force from NHS loving twitter users forced the NHS into the headlines. Gordon and Sarah Brown tweeted, David Cameron panicked and distanced himself from Hannan and Labour made the most out of the situation. Obviously this couldn’t stand so in waded the right wing bloggers, particularly Guido Fawkes. He blogged that this wasn’t a viral storm and then quoted some figures comparing the hashtag usage against the numbers signing up to the e-petition calling for Brown to resign. His Tory loving commenters lapped this up, quoting it on other blogs and tweeting it to all who wanted to listen. What a load of bollocks.

The e-petition has been running for over 10 months. In April this year, over six months after launching, it had reached 30,000 signatures. In four days, the Twitter hashtag has been used by 16,000 users. So which is the most popular? The e-petition has had roughly 230 sign up’s per day. The hashtag – 4000 tweets per day.
*Update* – looks like Sky news is wrong and the e-petition started up in April 09, running for six months. Thanks to Kalvis Jansons who started the petition for clearing that up. I guess that makes around 500 sign up’s per day.

Hold on you may say, the Twitter hashtag system is abused by spammers and advertisers posting up rubbish but using the popular hashtags. True, so those numbers are inflated. The numbers on the e-petition though are greatly inflated too. Scrolling through the latest 500 sign-ups on the e-petition website shows lot’s of made up names and dubious celebrity sign up’s. Some may be true but I don’t really believe David Miliband MP has been one of those to sign up. If it really was him he would have signed up a long time ago, not just in the last 500.

I’m all for healthy debate but I really despair when people can’t see sites like Guido Fawkes as right wing attack sites. Off course, he peddles it as an honest and fair attempt to expose those in parliament but look through his posts and in particular the venom that can be found throughout the comments (he also has a nice habit of blocking anyone who is anti him or anti Conservative) and then make up your mind. And next time, before you start to tweet round comments and stat’s, have a little think first.

Not Quite To Plan

So my last post was just under two weeks ago from a hotel room in Bath. Talking up the course, plan’s for the weekend, more hill climbing. Blah, blah, blah. All that was thrown out the window though a couple of hours later. I woke up with really bad stomach cramps. A couple of minutes later I was sick. The rest of the night was spent in the toilet with the worst food poisoning I’ve ever had.

I blame the curry I had just a few short hours before. I’ve no proof and the meal at the time was good but such a violent reaction doesn’t scream viral to me. So I’ll be avoiding the Rajpoot in Bath in future – there service left a bit to be desired as well. This meant I couldn’t attend the second day of the course and I headed home earlier than expected. I still had a 5 hour wait at Bristol airport and i do apologize for anyone sitting close by that thought I had swine flu or some other nasty disease – I must have looked a mess. The five hours combined with ‘The Sickness’ did mean I got to see a variety of toilets at Bristol airport. Overall, not too bad and kept fairly clean although I found it odd that only one had an airblade – a trial perhaps?

That weekend went from bad to worse. No appetite, forcing myself to eat toast which didn’t stay down well and also a cough and cold. I felt pretty bad and seeing as I had the symptoms I got in touch with NHS24 to double check on swine flu. After a few hours I was told to self medicate as it wasn’t likely to be swine flu and sure enough, within a couple of days I was better again. Still, missed out on a great hill walk which we’ll need to reschedule but the food poisoning was great for the weight loss.

Roll on a week and I’m now on holiday. I’ve got lot’s to do and the weather hasn’t helped so far but there’s not much you can do about that, no matter what the MET office say. Got off to a good (but expensive) start as I’ve ordered a new pair of glasses. Hate choosing glasses but I needed a new pair – hopefully I don’t have issues with them when I get them next week. Last night though was a bit of a pain – one of the neighbours further down the street clipped my car as he was leaving. A scrape and a damaged wing mirror. Annoyingly he drove off without saying anything after he checked out his car but a neighbour across the road saw it, I heard it and saw him checking his car out and after speaking to his dad he admitted it and they’ll pay for repairs. It’s just the hassle now of getting it repaired. Seemingly he’ll be sent round to apologise later today which will be fun. Hey, maybe he reads the blog – own up to your fucking mistakes next time and it save’s a whole load of hassle.

Anyway, off to the bank and then it’s back to some books – Objective C is getting quite interesting.

New Skills

Long time no blog. Seems to be the way at the moment. Between DigitalOutbox and Twitter I’m kind off all blogged out. The podcast is going OK. It’s been good getting to grips with it and trying something new. We aren’t seeing massive downloads which is nothing we didn’t expect but we are seeing small increases each week which is nice. Where will it go – we still don’t know but hopefully we’ll still enjoy the journey.

I’m also on the first part of a training course at the moment – ASP .Net but more importantly, SharePoint. Interesting to learn and see things from the MS side of the fence. Visual Studio has come on a long way since I last used it (many years ago) so who knows how much we’ll be using it over the next few months – always good to learn something new though.

The course is down in Bath which looks to be very nice but the weather’s been a bit pooh. I’m back down in August so hopefully it’ll be a bit nicer as I’d like to have a stroll around. What isn’t nice is the flights at this time of year. Easyjet can’t keep their services on time which meant a really late night last night. I’m not looking forward to tomorrow night at Bristol as the queue’s at security have been shit all week. What’s really annoying is the queue is massive and at the same time they are announcing that you can pay to skip the queue. Dirty sneaky bastards. Really winds me up every time.

However once the flight is out of the way I’m out hill walking again, this time up in Perth – Schiehallion . Hopefully the weather will be good as by all accounts the views are stunning – looking showery and windy at the moment. Hey ho. I’ll be knackered though – late back Friday, up early for walk on Saturday. After that I’ve a week of work then I’m off for two weeks. Chance to relax a bit and catch up on a few jobs that need doing around the house. Might even unplug for a bit. Although one thing I really want to get my teeth into is some iPhone programming. Tried and failed so far this year. pathetic.

Anyway. That’s enough for now. Just watching some Big Brother (bored in hotel room). It’s unbelievably bad. Thank goodness I’ve not been watching much this year. One more thing – avoid Worms on the iPhone. Terrible controls. Touch doesn’t work for everything.

Ben Lomond

My latest walk was last weekend and was up probably the most popular Munro in Scotland – Ben Lomond. With it’s proximity to Glasgow and a path all the way to the top it’s easy to see why so many people climb it. Unfortunately the weather last Sunday meant that the view’s all the way up, including at the top, were very poor.

Jim and Danny

The photo above show’s what a grey driech day it was. Ugghhh. Worse the little blacks dot’s you can see in the photo’s. Midges. The little bastards loved me and I ended up with around 100 midge bites. I’ve spent the last week trying not to scratch them as they are itchy as hell. I’ve been told to eat plenty of garlic before my next walk as that seemingly act’s as a deterrent. Time will tell although I’d appreciate any advice if someone know’s better!

The other issue with Lomond was just how busy the route was. We took the tourist path to the top and there were just too many scallies for our liking. You never felt you were in the great outdoors. After escaping the summit and grabbing some lunch away from midge hell we took the trickier route back down and we were rewarded with a far more interesting, trickier route which was quieter too – woo hoo. Even better, the clouds lifted slightly meaning we did get a couple of nicer pic’s.

Danny and Loch Lomond

I loved the walk down and next time I do Lomond I’ll be taking this route up and down as it really made the day for me. One other lesson was I need to drink more – I ended up with a migraine after the walk and feeling pretty dehydrated – not smart at all and something I’ll need to be careful with next time. Lot’s more liquid before and during the walk are required especially in the hotter weather.

Ben Lomond Runkeeper

This was the first walk with the iPhone 3GS and Runkeeper. Never let me down once and the battery life, I think, is better or the 3GS than the 3G but not by much. The full Flickr set is available here. Looking forward to the next walk already – here’s hoping for better weather.