Farewell 2018

The end of another year spawns yet another wrap up post, so in no particular order.

Photography
I focussed a lot more on my photography this year. Always a keen snapper but was lazy when it came to actual editing and publishing online. It took me a while but towards the end of April I started a new Instagram account and in the middle of the year sorted out a website (still unfinished) and domain for my photography.

You’ll find my photographs at one of the following locations:

Instagram – iandick_photography
Website – https://www.iandickphotography.com
Flickr – ian_d

My biggest challenge is still getting out and about with the camera although I’ve done a better job of that since October. The shorter days certainly help with the sunrise/sunsets which seem to be popular for some reason 😉

My top nine liked images from 2018 on Instagram

Instagram has been interesting. I’ve been growing who I follow slowly and finding lots of inspiration from fellow photographers. However the constant nagging from Instagram/Facebook around boosting posts, the variation in engagement and the smell of shit in general from that company is making me question the investment in time. I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for years and amazingly, despite everyone saying it’s dead, I’ve found that to be the more rewarding place to visit. Images look so much better and you aren’t constantly being socially engineered when you use their platform. They also have an iPad app and I’ve a bit more confidence in their future since their tie up with SmugMug.

2019 will see me stretching my legs a bit more out and about around Scotland. Still focussing on landscape photography although I’d love to mix in a bit of street and astro.

Health
Health has been slowly getting better. Still have really bad days with the viral chest thing I’ve got and still couldn’t go for a run yet but it feels like the running could be back in 2019. Really miss those frosty winter runs.

I have kept the rings streak going though. Today I closed my Apple Watch rings so thats a calendar year crossed off and day 657 of the streak. It’s still too easy for me to sit on my arse and do nothing so I find the rings a helpful nudge to stay active.

Finally my weight has stayed pretty consistent…but the trend is a slow increase. 1kg heavier than this time last year so need to keep an eye on things over 2019.

Tech
A pretty quiet tech year for me…kind off. The photography kit saw some upgrades starting off with a new drone – the DJI Mavic Air. Loved the size and portability of it. Also invested in Lee filters to help with long exposures. This meant the camera bag I had was just too small so bought the Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW which has been fantastic in the last six months of usage. Everything fits well, it’s really comfy over long distances and I can carry just one bag and hold all my photography kit. Version 2 of the bag has now been released and it comes highly recommended.

The Lowepro even coped with another drone. DJI brought out the Mavic 2 Pro and although I called Shak mad for selling his Mavic Air and upgrading, I did the same a week later and have no regrets. Still portable it is faster, quieter and takes better images than the Air and my old Phantom. The extra battery life also allows you to do far more with one battery. The Mavic 2 Pro is my favourite purchase of 2018.

Dawn over Loch Ard from the Mavic 2 Pro

Two other upgrades were the Apple Watch and the iPad. The Apple Watch has been great. Much better battery life, bigger screen and general speed of operation are my favourite features. The iPad is also impressive. Went for the 12.9″ screen and I love it in every day use. Design is great, speed is fantastic but it is held back by iOS. Hopefully 2019 will see some much needed improvements to iOS and across the Apple software platform in general.

Final tech mention of 2018 is web hosts. Through the summer I moved over to Linode and it’s been a great move. Host all my sites with them and despite it being more work to setup this is outweighed by the power and flexibility they offer.

All good things…
One thing that is coming to an end is my “Weekly Digest” posts. I’ve been running a weekly “what I’ve read/watched” post since March 2015 but they’ve run their course and so last week’s was the final digest on the site. Although that was the final post here’s the final final what I’ve read/enjoyed this week:

If you want to keep up to date with things I read or store for future reference then Pinboard is the best bet or the associated RSS feed. Warning – there’s a lot of stuff I throw into Pinboard. I’ve also started to make more use of Letterboxd for my movie watching.

The End
2018 for me has been fine but in general has felt a pretty dark year. So much negativity with politics, brexit and around social networks and technology. 2019 promises more of the same…if anything worse. On that cheery note, all the best for 2019 and chin up – it is always darkest just before the day dawneth.

Activity Update

A couple of months back I posted about keeping active every day thanks to the Apple Watch. The tracking and alerts makes it easy to stay on top of what I’m doing and the activity seemed to be helping me health wise. Two months on, have I kept it going?

Apart from two days in March every day has been a circle filling day. Those two days were some of the most snot filled days I’ve had in a long time. Worked from home with a constant stream of snot from who knows where. Apart from that, every day I’ve been out and about keeping active. No running or cycling but walking to keep things ticking over.

I’m not too fussed about the missing days…I tell a lie. I’m more than slightly pissed off that my streak since Jan 16th has been broken by a fucking cold. Granted a stinker, but I’ve had days when I’ve felt worse and still went out and done things. As many others have said, it would be great to mark sick days in the Activity app and get a pass but then it would be easy to cheat. Cheaters always spoil the fun for the honest amongst us.

So will I keep this going? Probably but I’m not too fussed about keeping whole months. I certainly feel better physically and mentally for getting out and about more and intend to keep that up, even if it doesn’t help with any weight loss…but maintaining is good, right? I’ve also got my first audiobook to crack through over the coming weeks so that will help pass the hours. Onwards.

Staying Active

Apple ran a challenge this year – Ring in the New Year, which rewarded you if you kept active for a week. For me it was a nice goal to reach, keep active for a week and seeing as it was start of the year a chance to work on shedding some holiday weight. It also had a bit more meaning for me as I’ve still had a viral type thing hanging around so running or biking have been a no no. The week went well so why not carry on?

So during the month of February I kept a daily walk going. Most days it was easy to fit with a lunchtime stroll at work and some walks at the weekend. Some days it wasn’t so much especially after a 6 hour drive to and from Barrow…cue a 20 minute walk in the rain but I felt better for it.

I’ve enjoyed getting out and about again, even if it is just locally. The walks have been good at clearing my head especially during busy days at work. I’m also physically feeling a bit better so the plan is to keep up the schedule through March and all going well I’ll look at stepping up distance and then on to cycling and running again. I’m not going to be ruled by meeting the circles every day but I’m glad of the kick they have given me over the last few weeks. Onwards.

Health

Eight weeks ago I fainted at work. I’d felt some back pain an hour earlier but nothing else. As I sat at my desk I could feel a rush of blood and my senses starting to go haywire and I blurted out to my colleague…I’m going to be ill. 30 seconds later I came round and was a bit lost. A couple of minutes later I was sweating. A couple of minutes later I was shaking. I was also struggling to breathe properly. What’s going on?

A few minutes later our emergency response team at work turned up, sat with me for a while then took me to the medical room and gave me oxygen. Not long after they called for an ambulance and before long two paramedics were on site and conducting an ECG and checking blood pressure. Apart from the shaking everything was checking out normal and after 20 minutes the shaking had subsided. Talking it through with the paramedics the best course of action was to take the day off, rest and get to my GP to check out what had happened. I lucked out and got an appointment later that same day but as time passed I was getting chest pains, pains down my arm and back and well…I won’t deny I was starting to worry about just what had happened in the morning.

The doctor was really good, checked my blood pressure again and assured me that it probably wasn’t heart related but more likely a muscle spasm. Blood tests were ordered and I was back at work a couple of days later still with the chest pains. As the week wore on things got worse. Waves of feeling sick and sore heads, chest pain worsening, pain in the left arm pretty constant and feeling cold most of the time. By Friday I was knackered and struggling to stay awake and when I got home I slept for 16 hours. The rest of the weekend was spent resting and on Monday I booked another GP appointment for the following Wednesday. I’d also lost 2kg over the space of 5 days. As diets go this was the best yet!

By the day of the appointment I’d gotten good news in that almost all my blood results were good with one marginal. However the GP appointment didn’t go well and it felt I was wasting her time despite feeling awful and my condition changing since I visited her colleague last week. She referred me to a heart specialist and also gave me an angina spray…which shouldn’t be taken by migraine sufferers i.e. me.

A couple of weeks passed until I visited the heart clinic. During that time I’d have good and bad days but the weight came back on and I was feeling less tired but the chest and arm pains remained. More good news from the hospital checkup in that the specialist was 95% sure that whatever was happening to me wasn’t heart related but maybe a viral infection attacking the heart or a slightly enlarged heart. Unfortunately it may take another few weeks to pass and if it doesn’t get back to the GP.

A few weeks did pass and last week I was back at the GP’s to try and get some help as pains, heads and sickness were less severe but didn’t seem to be leaving me anytime soon. The doctor was excellent and this time has diagnosed a non heart related issue as the cause of my woes. I’m now on a course of tablets and had an x-ray last week to rule out anything else. The pains while still there seem to be dissipating and I’ve taken a week off work to rest up and relax to help speed the recovery.

What I’ve missed the most is running. As the season changes into Autumn/Winter I love going out for a run, seeing the autumn colours and enjoying the colder mornings. It’s almost nine weeks since my last run and the way things are going I’m looking at probably next year before I can get out there again. I’ll probably start slowly and follow a couch to 5k program to get me back up to speed. Also frustrating is how unpredictable this is. One hour I’m fine, a couple of hours later I have zero energy and think I’m about to puke. An hour later and it’s passed and I feel not too bad again. Other days and it can be all day that I feel lousy.

Despite this I’m feeling pretty lucky as I’ve been checked for all the serious stuff and it’s come back negative and visiting hospital brings into sharp focus those that are really ill against those that are complaining about a cough or cold. I’m also thankful for the NHS which in general has been really good while clearly struggling with funding. That we are renewing Trident while the NHS falls around us boggles my mind. The SNP also need to focus on governing rather than banging the independence drum as it’s on their watch that the NHS in Scotland has declined the most.

Here’s hoping my next health related post is from a running injury!

Comic Con

I do love me a comic or two but I’ve never seen the big draw of visiting a Comic Con. However with me and Shak picking up new camera’s (more on that soon) it seemed a good excuse to visit one and also try the new camera’s.

Steampunk

We went on Sunday and it was pretty busy, but not as busy as Saturday. By far the biggest thing there was cosplay.

Black Widow, Winter Soldier and Captain America

There was loads of folk dressed up, some with just minor costumes but most had make a tremendous effort for the show. Also common were ‘free hugs’ signs which the cynical in me was a bit suspicious of but the overwhelming mood looked to be positive and the event was notable for no aggro, no wee neds and just good natured fun.

For me it was a bit dull though and I didn’t see much to buy. Load’s for the cosplayers but not so much for comic fans…or maybe I just didn’t spot the right shops in amongst the mobs.

Harley Quinn

As for the camera, it worked really well although I need to get used to using a prime lens and get in a bit closer to subjects. A confidence thing as I could see others doing it but it all felt a bit weird to be doing. More photo’s from Comic Con are on Flickr. Comic Con was interesting more than enjoyable but at least I’ve been to one as I can’t see me rushing back.

Graduation

It’s graduation season and with one of my colleagues son’s graduating last week it made me realise that it’s 20 years since I graduated from Glasgow University. 20 years ago today to be precise.

Lewis, Richard, Me, Hamid and Andrew

Me graduating

MECI Group photo

We’re all a little older and greyer and a bit more soft around the edges but it still doesn’t feel like twenty years since I finished at Glasgow. Time flies.

Grumbles

A pretty glum weekend all round. No one reason but a culmination of issues and niggles all of which are in my own gift to fix. Mostly.

Knee
Not quite sure what I’ve done but my knee is giving me problems for the first time. Had it for a few weeks and it wasn’t really stopping me running although the last run was more difficult than normal. An hour after the run and it was pretty sore and in certain positions it is really sore, like something is ripping at the knee. I’ve given it almost total rest this weekend and I’ll go easy for the next couple of days but it shows no sign of improving. Next step is to visit a physio and try and get to the bottom of the problem. I really missed doing any running or exercise this week and I don’t want it to turn into anything serious. Running/walking is great for de-stressing and clearing my head so I don’t want to go without it for too long.

Work
IMG_3664I keep work talk to a minimum but two issues are getting to me – meetings and e-mail. The volume of meetings is getting a bit OTT, to the point that I struggle some days to get any work done due to back to back meetings. My Todoist stats show the impact – no work tasks done on Thursday just…meetings. I’ve also spent the weekend catching up and doing my favourite task – PowerPoint presentations. There’s a definite knack to doing these, one that I don’t have. Still, broke the back on them.

Next issue – email. There’s nothing better than getting energy sapping nit picky admin e-mails on a Friday and it’s becoming a trend. I’m going to make sure that I don’t become guilty of doing the same but there’s little I can do to stop anyone else doing it…and it also shows my general state of mind that I’m letting things like that get to me. But still…if you’re in a position that you need to send out admin mails from time to time have a think about how you word it. Makes all the difference.

Man Up
So no biggies but all the same, it’s meant for a pretty miserable weekend. Not only that the TV is constantly reminding me that it’s a bank holiday weekend but not for me as I’m at work tomorrow. I’ve also got a head cold. And I’ve burnt my hand in the oven. Grumble grumble grumble.

But it’s fine really. Even writing this has helped. Perspective. If this is all thats bothering me I need to man up.

2015

One year on and this still stands. The only person that can change things is me.

onwards

I made no resolutions last year so 2014 was a great success! This year I’ve set some goals and also thought about the longer term. In five years what do I want to have accomplished? Where do I want to be? To do that, what do I need to do now? I’ve no intention of sharing them apart from one – get less stressed! I’ve had three weeks off from work which has allowed me to look back on the last year, particularly the last three months. Back to back illnesses and a root cause for many of them could be stress. It might not have been, but I’ve been illness free over the break so I’m putting 2 + 2 together. I fell back into the habit of working most weekends as well as the usual through the working week leaving not much me time or chance to relax and prepare for the week ahead. That will change this year.

The festive break was great as it allowed me to fix a lot around the house. I say fix, it was really organise and clear out a lot of junk. Both physically and digitally. Office, attic and garage all cleaned out with lots of trips to the local dump. Feel so much better with that all organised. Digitally it was chance to catch up on Pocket and podcasts that I’d fell behind on. Hopefully in 2015 podcasters with nothing to say in December will take a break like we do! The podcast site also got a new lick of paint with a new logo in the works too.

I’ve maintained the running and the weight is static too (81-83kg throughout the year) so no major fitness changes this year apart from maintain. Sunny mornings in Glasgow really make up for the rain the rest of the time!

Happy New Year and all the best for 2015.

Still Running

Three years ago I bought some proper shoes so I could start running. I lasted 4 weeks. The year after, two weeks. Useless. July 14th 2013 I gave it one more go….and this time it stuck.

In the last year I’ve:

  • Ran 463 miles
  • Ran 110 times
  • Averaged 4.21 miles for each run, much higher than expected
  • Seen a lot of Glasgow
  • Realised that I love running in winter, summer…not so much
  • Tracked all my runs in RunKeeper

I mention RunKeeper for a good reason. Firstly it’s free and using it’s 5k training plan it got me running on a varied program which kept it interesting and challenging. Secondly I can download all the GPX files (XML file of GPS waypoints) and produce graphics like this.

Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.
Where I ran in 2014. Each run mapped onto a Google Maps export.

When I read the Flowing Data post called Where People Run in Major Cities and saw the visualisations they had produced I knew I wanted to do the same. I worried I wouldn’t have done enough runs with variety but I’m pleased with how it came out. I’m also surprised at some of the area’s I haven’t run in which means some good options going forward. Nothing better than running somewhere new to keep things interesting. RunKeeper also exports your data in csv so you can graph it with ease.

Distance per month in miles
Distance per month in miles
Number of runs per month
Number of runs per month
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!
Average speed in mph. Getting slower!

Lessons I’ve learned over the last 12 months are obvious really with hindsight but worth repeating. Firstly, always stretch, warm up and warm down properly before and after each run. I’ve got lazy with this sometimes and can feel little niggles creep in when I don’t do this properly. Secondly – listen to your body. If you are feeling a bit under the weather or are carrying an injury then tailor the run accordingly. Third – BFH – bus fare home. A couple of times on longer runs I’d be three miles from home, feeling a bit sore, tired or ill and no money to get a bus or taxi home. So I carry a small bit of money on those longer runs just in case. Fourth – hydrate. Don’t underestimate how much fluid you will lose on hot long runs. Plenty of water before and after should see you through a run up to 10km but anything more then I’d carry some water to keep me going. Finally, enjoy it and keep the routes varied. I struggled to get going at first as I stay on a hill and the climb back at the end always defeated me. Building up on a flat canal close to home got me running further and further until I’d got a large enough base to tackle hills. However it was getting boring running up and down the same stretch of water so it was great to branch out and vary my runs.

Looking forward I’ve some small goals to keep me going:

  • Run 500 miles in a year. Narrowly missed this year but if I keep consistent and injury free it should be achievable
  • Improve speed
  • Buy new shoes as the current ones are starting to get a bit done. A trip to Achilles Heel is in order.
  • I’m interested in measuring heart rate but hanging fire on getting anything until Apple announce…something?
  • Play some more with R. Some interesting data in those RunKeeper files.
  • One thing I won’t be doing is entering any races. I don’t know why but racing just doesn’t appeal to me.

So thats my running year. I still can’t believe I’ve been out over 100 times but looking forward to 100 more. At least.

Onwards

Another year passes and like 2013 I’m making no resolutions that I’ll beat myself up about in 12 months time. Lesson learned…or is it learnt? A picture says 1000 words (thanks Shak).

thisyear

2013 saw me turn 40 and unexpectedly get into running and lose some more weight. I finished the year under 13 stones after losing around a stone since the start of 2013. A little has crept on over the past month and no doubt some more will creep on over the coming weeks – it always does as I work through Christmas leftovers, but I’m really chuffed at taking weight off after stagnating for a year or two. The biggest surprise was running. I bought running shoes in 2011 but could never get into it. Couldn’t improve with the local hills killing me. In July I gave it one more go using the flatter canal paths and I slowly improved. From struggling to run a mile I can now go out for hour long six mile jogs around Glasgow. I never expected that and I really enjoy it too. Bonus. The rest of the year was a mixture of high’s and low’s but nothing too dramatic.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2014.