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If technology doesn't seem like magic, it's probably obsolete

I'm finding less time to update my blog these days, but my flickr photostream is often updated.

Playing in my house right now...

At 00:00 GMT on Thursday I was listening to:

More of what I've been listening to

Latest pictures from my phone

www.flickr.com
More pictures from my phone


Sunday July 30 2006 at 19:24 GMT [via mobile]

Soaking up the jazz, sunshine and a few ciders in Princes Street Gardens.  An excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Soaking up the jazz, sunshine and a few ciders in Princes Street Gardens. An excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Friday July 28 2006 at 13:54 GMT

As a reminder, Ewan has warmed up the transmitter of his Edinburgh Fringe Podcast for a test transmission.

The Edinburgh Jazz Festival begins tonight, too. Here we go!

Thursday July 27 2006 at 17:33 GMT [via mobile]

Time to get those ballot entries in.

Time to get those ballot entries in.

Thursday July 27 2006 at 12:37 GMT

This is incredible: Space Invaders using stop-motion photography in an auditorium. Very cool.

Thursday July 27 2006 at 00:29 GMT

Expansys just set their estimated delivery for the P990i to 2 days.

Here's the threads I'm watching on the Esato forum:

Keep an eye on Jim's wiki where lots of useful things will be gathered.

Wednesday July 26 2006 at 23:02 GMT

Glasgow's Miles Better
One of the biggest differences I notice between Glasgow/the village I'm from outside Paisley [west] and Edinburgh [east] is how much friendlier Glaswegians are. I use the various cycle- and canal-paths around Edinburgh that stretch for miles and miles, and from the numerous times I've used them, I can probably count on one hand the number of "hello"s or smiles I've got from strangers. When I ran at my parents house, which is admittedly way out of the nearest city (Paisley), every single person acknowledged me with a smile, wave or hello.

I'd come to the conclusion that it was due to me being a runner that Edinburghers didn't like to say hello, so two weeks ago when Hazel and I walked along a cycle path in the sunshine at 5pm, it was even stranger when no-one said hello or even looked at us directly!

Cut to one week later, when I met my parents for a Monday afternoon visit to Pollock Park, a country park just outside Glasgow city centre. Again, the sun was shining, people were out with their kids/dogs/friends/picnics, and every one of them at least smiled, with most remarking on the weather. When dad stopped a guy, who looked remarkably liked Bez from the Happy Mondays, to ask about the local area, he gave us the full rundown and more besides before wishing us a great afternoon.

Come on Edinburghers, find your voice and say hello ... or even smile. It won't kill you!

Wednesday July 26 2006 at 22:31 GMT [via mobile]

My nice new SIGG bottle.

My nice new SIGG bottle.

Tuesday July 25 2006 at 13:30 GMT

Thanks to Orange and their 'new and improved email service', I can't access my account, or even just use the SMTP server which is how I post pictures from my phone to my blog. Thanks also to my hosting company, any email I send using my real, paid-for SMTP server to the photoblogging address is being collected using the catch-all address and not passed on properly.

Before I lose it, does anyone have an account on an SMTP server that I could please use? The volume will be in the order of a few MB per month at the most. Gmail was looking like a saviour, but it uses different ports and the mail client on my P900 just won't work with it.

Tuesday July 25 2006 at 00:39 GMT

Those boys sure know how to get design beautiful things. Gadget lust set to 11.

Tuesday July 25 2006 at 00:20 GMT [via mobile]

This shows how many Polish (it is Polish language, right?)
live in Edinburgh!

This shows how many Polish (it is Polish language, right?) live in Edinburgh!

Tuesday July 25 2006 at 00:18 GMT [via mobile]

Arbroath Smokies being made at the Farmer\'s Market
on Saturday.  Question is, are they really Arbroath Smokies if they\'re
smoked in Edinburgh?  Very tasty, nonetheless.

Arbroath Smokies being made at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. Question is, are they really Arbroath Smokies if they're smoked in Edinburgh? Very tasty, nonetheless.

Tuesday July 25 2006 at 00:16 GMT [via mobile]

Hardcore new trail running shoes: Inov-8 Terroc.  Show me offroad.

Hardcore new trail running shoes: Inov-8 Terroc. Show me offroad.

Tuesday July 25 2006 at 00:02 GMT [via mobile]

Sigur Ros at T in the Park.  Truly immense.

Sigur Ros at T in the Park. Truly immense.

Monday July 24 2006 at 01:18 GMT

One of the things I wanted to sort out over the weekend was the various computers I have lying around my house, and getting them into shape to go to charity. Just in case you have a useful need for a Pentium/Pentium II, here's what I have:

  1. P133, 32MB RAM, 1.3GB disk
  2. PII 200MHz, 64MB RAM, 20GB disk
  3. PII 266MHz, 320MB RAM, 3GB disk
  4. PII 333MHz, 655MB RAM, 20GB disk
  5. PII 200MHz, 64MB RAM, 20GB disk
  6. PII 266MHz, 128MB RAM, 3.5GB disk
They're all running Debian 3.1 (AKA Sarge), although the Pentium box does not have any windowing software installed. The others would be fine for basic browsing & emailing for the price (free). I've also got a few monitors lying around, as well as a very old Apple desktop and laptop; neither of those are worth anything, before you ask me for them and eBay them. ;-) Give me a shout if there's anything of use to you in the list; they'll be going to charity at the weekend (29th).

Friday July 21 2006 at 11:03 GMT

When I started reading this ESPN article on selecting an EPL (English Premier League) team, I wasn't sure if it was a spoof or not, but no, it is real. (Link via Rod.)

The author is clearly doing his best to imbibe from the English pipe, but there are a few things he just misses. It would be excellent if there were comments enabled -- the discussion would be lively. Anyway, take a read.

Friday July 21 2006 at 10:32 GMT

Dave Robertson, of extremedv fame has some pictures on show in Ocean Terminal at the moment (first floor, by the escalators). Check out his site for what he does. To quote from Dave's mail: Food, wine, coffee and tea will be available (in Starbucks, Marks and Spencer etc.).

Friday July 21 2006 at 01:45 GMT

Saturday

Just after lunchtime I met up with the rest of my team: Chris, an architect and avid mountain biker & Robert, ex-army and with good climbing, kayaking and cycling skills. Once we'd been through registration, including a full kit inspection, medical review and SPORTident dibber armband attachment, we split and I went home to sort out my small Camelbak with minimal kit for the evening event.

The Saturday night event was something like a big treasure hunt, with the aim being to get as many points as possible within three hours; take any longer and you start losing points. Additionally, all members of a team had to stay in close proximity with every member dibbing at each point. At 6pm we were given a list of points in the city, some of which were simply locations with a control station that we'd stick our dibber into, registering we'd been there. Others would have an additional task, for example completing a maze or wheelchair basketball. These additional tasks took longer to complete, but provided more points. The clever bit was that we were only provided with the points allocation per activity at 7pm, when the race actually started. The different checkpoints could be visited in any order, depending on how far you wanted to travel and which activities you felt your team could do best.

Rat Race Edinburgh With our carefully marked map and a rough route planned out, we grabbed our points guide and sprinted off into the evening. It must have been quite a sight seeing 500+ people in identical t-shirts racing in all different directions from Princes Street Gardens! Our route took us to the Cowgate for a maze, through Bannermans Pub, on to the wheelchair basketball, the Innocent Railway and then in an anti-clockwise arch back around the city. After carrying sadbags up a hill, finding a slacker student, crossing the water of Leith using tethered inflatable boats, cycle speedway and picking up coffee beans using chopsticks, we arrived back at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens with just over one minute to spare. Perfectly done! Here's the 21km route we took.

Saturday night was always going to be the best part for me, given my running background and the need of local knowledge to maximise point scoring, and I absolutely loved every minute of it.

After some good pasta-based nourishment, those of us doing the Adventure class were given the route book for Sunday, and told not to lose it. Whilst I headed home to bed, my teammates carefully marked the new map we'd been given with each of the points necessary to complete the Sunday course. This turned out to be a crucial piece of work.

Sunday

We'd been warned that Sunday was going to be hot, and it was. All competitors have to be self-sufficient for the race, including finding sources of water if you use what you have. With that in mind, I filled my Camelbak and bike bottles to the brim before leaving the house at 6.45am.

When I met Chris, Robert and the other guys, the exciting talk was of our overnight position. We'd managed to collect 385 points, putting us 18th out of 150+ teams.

After Saturday's success and the fun of running about for three hours, I knew Sunday's mammoth biking, ropework and kayaking was going to seriously stretch me. The last time I cycled anything more than 10 minutes to/from work was 12 years previously and the last time I abseiled or kayaked was a good 15 years ago.

We gathered on the Castle Esplanade for a 'quiet start', before a runner led us down the Mound and around the Gardens, then up and down the castle hill before we got on to our bikes. The Sunday route was the same for everyone apart from a cutoff at 5pm, where those who hadn't completed the task were made to shortcut their way back. Again, all team members had to stick together, doing all tasks at the same time.

We made good progress on the run, managing to keep in the first half of the pack, so we got to our bikes and out of the paddock with much stress. Our first stop was a spot of bike-orienteering in Marchmont before heading to Blackford Quarry for some abseiling. As we stood at the top in our orderly queue, we could hear some music from below and naturally assumed it was something set up for the Rat Race. Luckily, the abseiling was taking too long to get everyone through, so only one person had to do it (Chris) and Robert and I slid our way down the path. Only when we got to the bottom did we realise there was a party going on, nothing to do with the Rat Race. As Greg commented, it was actually a two day illegal rave. The contrast was stark, but both groups seemed happy to see each other.

Rat Race abseiling Following the abseiling, we biked up to the Braid Hills Golf Centre where every team member had to drive a ball between two areas about 50m(?) away. Chris and Robert took a few attempts, then I stepped up and hit most probably the best golf shot of my life straight over the barrier. My dad would have been proud!

Now that the easy things were out the way, it was time for some serious altitude increase. We cycled over to the bottom of the Pentland Hills and started climbing. I think it was Allermuir Hill we tackled, and the ascent never seemed to end. Pushing bikes up a ridiculously loose and rocky track, in sweltering heat just wasn't fun. The descent felt relatively short although exciting enough for me. Most of it felt like riding through sand, with little control at times.

We were then back on to road and cycle track to our next point at Roslin Glen Country Park. The aim of this part was to complete an orienteering challenge. After racing around on bikes, the slow pace of walking along trails totally threw us and many other teams. Our map-reading was way, way off and we only got back on track thanks to a friendly farmer. After a bit of a time loss, we were moving on with good pace. At some point during that section, we managed to ... misplace ... our route book. This was not good. Having the points on the map was a start, but the book gave a lot more detail on what was involved at each point.

Bilston Glen ViaductUsing our memory and the map, we soldiered on, stumbling on a big activity point. Seeing as we had some time, Chris scribbled down some notes and I used my phone camera to take pictures of the lost pages from a book another team kindly leant us. It helped take my mind of the task of crossing the underside of Bilston Glen Viaduct (some more photos here). Heights are not my favourite thing, so the experience was quite something for me!

From there we walked/jogged back around to our bikes, heading (via the pub ... for water refills) towards Musselburgh after a swift dip in the River Esk. We had great fun sea kayaking in Musselburgh before speed-cycling to Craigmillar Community Arts Centre where we JUST made the time cutoff, ensuring we could complete the entire course. Chris's legendary map-reading skills can not be faulted!

Craigmillar CastleThe 'community challenge' was karaoke, which we completed with aplomb. Next stop was Craigmillar Castle and then it was on to Crewe Toll Shopping Centre before a ride into town for the final main activity of the day: a rope descent, climbing traverse and scramble net climb and drop. By this point my arms had very little left in them, so none of those activities were completed with too much grace and poise!

Rat Race EdinburghFinally we got on our bikes one last time and cycled along Princes Street to drop our bikes at the far end of the Gardens, before running into the finishing area. One last nasty task was making us climb a slippery wall covered in margarine and banana skins. We finally crossed the line having taken 11hours and 53minutes to complete the course. Here's our 90km Sunday route.

Review

Without doubt, the Rat Race was one of the coolest things I've ever done. It has left me on a high for the last few days. Running has always been about keeping fit, to a certain degree; this was really using my fitness as I'd like to do a lot more. The things for me that made it so cool were:
  • my teammates: Chris, Robert and I all worked off each other very well, pooling our skills and keeping each other going. I most definitely landed on my feet with those guys.
  • the cameraderie between teams: whilst it was a race, whenever we saw another team there was always a nod, a smile and some banter
  • the organisation: putting on an event like that must require levels of organisation I can only dream about, yet they were there. The administration was cleanly done and the course layout was immense.
  • the marshalls: the same marshalls worked tirelessly throughout the Sunday, manning different checkpoints and always there with a smile and some encouragement. A huge thank you to all the marshalls and also the medics, who were a good bunch too.

One of the big surprises for me was how well I got on with the cycling. Clearly all my running has given my legs stamina, and there was still some energy left in them for the final sprint down Princes Street. On Monday morning my legs and shoulders were a little stiff, but that has cleared now.

Quite a few people have asked how it compared to running a marathon. A marathon is pretty straightforward in comparison: you turn up with your shoes and number, then go for it. There is a huge mental challenge, but it's whether or not to keep going. The Rat Race (and other Adventure Races) require a different sort of mentality. You need to keep your wits about you more to ensure you're going in the right direction, on top of whether you have the strength to keep going. For me, the Rat Race was a good deal more fun ... but I'll still run marathons.

From end to end, the event was quite simply epic fun and with any luck the Rat Race will be back in Edinburgh in 2007 and I'll be there too.

If you're interested in taking part next year, my personal advice would be to do the Rookie event if you just want some fun for an evening. It is tremendously good. In terms of fitness level, we covered just over a half-marathon distance in the three hours, so you don't need to be superhuman to handle that. To complete the Adventure class, which is Saturday and Sunday, I'd definitely recommend that you have completed previous races in whatever discipline before you enter that one. Knowing how your body will work over an extended period of physical activity is important, as is the general race knowledge. Being in good shape is a definite plus if you intend to cover the whole course.

My weakness was my upper body strength which pales in significance compared to my legs. Next year I'll be sure to get some climbing and kayaking practice in, to build some more confidence there and to get my body used to the disciplines.

Supplementary

Some of the papers carried stories on the race. Here's a few:

Dave and Nobby from extremedv were on hand to film the lunacy. Hopefully they'll have scrapped all the bits of me looking absolutely knackered.

There are some photos on flickr, and probably more to come. Brooner has a comprehensive set here. Thanks, Brooner.

If you're interested in adventure racing, the best place to start is SleepMonsters.

Thursday July 20 2006 at 13:54 GMT

My cousin's-husband's-brother who played Desmond in series 2 of Lost has been nominated for an Emmy. He's in the 'Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series' category. Cool! He's also picked up a five year contract and is moving to Hawaii. Even cooler!

Monday July 17 2006 at 11:59 GMT

Overall we finished in 36th place, out of about 150 teams (although we had no female in our team -- not a sexist comment, just before someone points the entrance guildeline to me). WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Sunday July 16 2006 at 20:26 GMT

Today was hard, but brilliant fun. 90km of cycling, running, orienteering, abseiling, kayaking, crossing a girder bridge WAY off the group using ropes and general craziness. More to come later. For now, here's last night's Rat Race Prologue GPS map and today's hardcore map.

I'm off for a beer and a ceilidh now!

Saturday July 15 2006 at 23:54 GMT

The Prologue today was lots of fun. I clocked in at 21.29km in three hours, so we moved smoothly. We've closed the day with 385 points which we're also happy with. Thanks to Ewan for inviting me to talk about the race on his radio show. A very nice way to end the day.

Tomorrow is a 6am start to be at Princes Street for 7am. My new Camelbak Cloud Walker is packed and ready for the off. The hope is that the weather isn't TOO incredibly sunny, although it's looking like the volume has been set to 11 already. The team is set with huge quantities of water.

Friday July 14 2006 at 12:41 GMT

Rat Race Edinburgh One innocent post on the SleepMonsters forum, and next thing I'm signed up for a mental and physical adventure challenge that uses the cityscape as its playground over a whole weekend. Teams of three have to run, climb, mountain bike, abseil and kayak the streets, structures, waterways and urban jungles as they navigate their way around a course that's only revealed hours before they begin.

Yikes!

On Saturday and Sunday I've signed up to take part in the Edinburgh Rat Race in the big-boy Adventure class. It's going to involve three hours running around Edinburgh on Saturday night (7pm-10pm) and then an 8am start on Sunday for no less than six hours (and more likely nine+).

Without a doubt it is going to be quite a huge physical and mental effort. The Saturday course is about 15km which, distance-wise, is easy to run ... but all the other things in there will make it tough. Sunday will be about 50km+ on bikes, canoes and foot, which will certainly hurt on Monday. The last time I biked anything like that was quite some time ago. It should be great fun though.

The last few days has seen me getting my kit together and breaking in my Inov8 Terroc shoes (with hardcore lacing arangement). Now it's just mental preparation.

There should be plenty of activity at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, so come along and cheer the finishers on. More information here.

I'm totally not already thinking about signing up for the LAMM, the OMM (nee KIMM), Hellrunner despite having paid my money to run the Loch Ness Marathon (with ambitions for a Boston-qualifying time) and the Aviemore Half Marathon... Running is not addictive.

Friday July 14 2006 at 01:12 GMT

There's been plenty written about Zidan's headbutt, but these pictures help put the incident into perspective (thanks Colin):

Tom has links to some amusing YouTube mashups.

Friday July 14 2006 at 00:08 GMT

Back in June I ran the Black Rock 5 in Kinghorn in Fife. It was a good fun race: some tarmac, then beach, through the sea around a rock with a piper playing, then back along the beach and the tarmac ... to the pub. My GPS tracking makes amusing viewing.

After the run, we were all handed a beer along with the more traditional banana and water. The rest of the evening involved a great barbecue in the beer garden and sampling a few more beers from Atlas Brewery.

The 10pm train was cancelled which meant EVERYONE was on the last train, along with the remnants of the prizes, which had been ... cases of beer. Definitely a race for next year's calendar!

The race report is here and so are the results.

Wednesday July 12 2006 at 16:11 GMT

After a good sleep to recover from T in the Park, Hazel and I took a good long stroll around Edinburgh. Once we'd got some shopping for dinner, we both felt a definite drouth.

The Cask & Barrel was beckoned us in (Graham, where is your entry for the C&B?? Edinburgh Pub Guide: Cask & Barrel (thanks Graham)). If you ever need great beer, go here. First of all I tried a pint of Game, Set and Match from the Bank Top Brewery which was tasty, but nothing earth shattering, and then a superb pint of Pivo Estivo from the Kelburn Brewing Company, a brewery based not far from where I grew up. The Pivo Estivo was wonderfully tasty, and well worth a visit to the C & B whilst it's available on tap.

Tuesday July 11 2006 at 17:13 GMT

Since passing my First Aid qualification, I've had to actually use it in the real world. Last Thursday after running club, a cyclist was hit by a car. Luckily the driver had seen the cyclist and was almost stationary, so the cyclist was only knocked a bit sideways off his bike. A few of us went over and got the cylist sorted out, getting his legs raised and calming him down.

Thankfully the cyclist was more shocked than injured, so we let him walk off after checking he wasn't going to pass out. It did feel good to know exactly what to do though.

Like many people, I don't go anywhere without my phone. It has a big screen, ideal for reading text and viewing pictures, which got me to wondering if there was a First Aid manual for my phone. Some of my fellow countrymen and women have had the same thought and put together MobiMedic / Mobi-First-Aid. Handango have even given it some awards. Buy it from the Red Cross site, to support the charity.

Taking the whole thing one step further, there's even a First Aid podcast. Ah, technology.

Tuesday July 11 2006 at 14:37 GMT

My name has popped up on the magic list for jury duty at Edinburgh High Court starting tomorrow. Should be interesting!

[Update @ 16:63 GMT]: After calling the special number, I've discovered I'm not required. I'll be contacted again within 12 months. My book was ready in my bag and everything. Oh well.

Tuesday July 11 2006 at 10:33 GMT

I've had/am having a few technical problems since my hosting company made changes to their PHP setup. Hopefully everything is working OK now and I can post successfully, but let me know if you notice anything wrong.

Tuesday July 11 2006 at 10:18 GMT

Hazel and I have just got back to work from an extremely enjoyable T in the Park. The weather is always a key at these kinds of outdoor events in Scotland. On Saturday morning I got us some cool waterproofs, which were unfortunately needed several times later that day, although Sunday remained dry and sunny.

Highlights for me were Sigur Ros, Laurent Garnier and Felix da Housecat. Although we only saw several other bands from far away, Feeder were good, as were The Feeling, The Kooks and Coldcut.

A 'limited number' of tickets have gone on sale for 2007 and despite being online 10 minutes before they were actually available, I didn't manage to get any. Gahh.

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