Thursday, 31 July 2008

Continental Fair

On the westernmost edge of Scotland, a fair is advertised as 'Continental' and then 'European'. It is probably both, and to confuse matters, i buy some wasabe coated peanuts. Also some salami stuffed with olives. My Dad sticks with the tactic of hardly moving from the central spot as he chats to people he knows. On a hot, cloudy day, it is a sensible ploy. Off to one side of me, 2 ambulance crew load a slowmoving gent into the back of their vehicle.

Not quite another SPOT-killer

Webware is a useful service to subscribe to. Overnight there were about 6 items of news2.0 to look at. This one caught my eye:

Online travel communications retailer Telestial has just launched Travel Journal, an online service that automatically creates an online trip journal based on the location of the user's phone. Using a special SIM card that triangulates the user's location using cell phone towers, Travel Journal automatically updates in more than 100 countries.

Full article at: Webware

I hope we see more of these useful features being added to mobile phones. Obviously, the difficulty is receiving mobile phone connections in the wilds. Something that SPOT recognised, and so set up their own system to negate that issue.

You can, of course, send your own email link to your blog, and have it appear as a flag on Google Maps (see earlier post). With GPS hardware appearing in more and more mobile phones, the search for the killer geo-application goes on. But it will be difficult to sell an application to the outdoor community whilst signal coverage is so poor. But, who cares about it? It is good to get away from people texting about problems at their work and how rubbish tv is.

One solution that I heard of to taking the world with you in your mobile phone was that the wife gave him a pay-as-you-go SIM for his phone. Work didn't know his new number, but he could call out if he needed. He had a great time painting watercolours in France.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Coldplay Blocked in the UK

Here's another sign that Earth2.0 is screwed up. I go to look for an appropriate video clip for Darren and stumble across a Colplay video hosted by Capitol Music of YouTube. It tells me in a pink bar "this video is not available in your country". A band from London can't be played in the UK.

I investigate further, and find that I can see their main page, but clicking links merely returns me to their homepage. Capitol punishment indeed.

What a joke this Web2.0 is turning into. If some legal issue means I can't watch a video, don't waste my time by displaying the channel in the first place. I don't want to see their stinking badges or adverts. If you're a dinosaur, go and play in the nearest tar pit, and let the mammals get on with trying to use the tools that technology is providing us.

Oh, and here's the link to the Coldplay tune. Enjoy it if you can. Tough squidgies if you are in the UK.

Winner of the Comments Race

The recent comments race has been won by "version 8", the googleData feed. In 2nd place was the Atom feed, "version 2". The more observant will have noticed that I removed other versions a few days ago.

Although some were fast to collect the data from Blogger, the relay via RSS to the user was slow. E.G. when using Yahoo!'s "Pipes", I could refresh the program after writing a comment, and the code would show it on the screen (along with the previous comments), however the delivery from Pipes, via RSS, to the blog page was slow. Checking with other bloggers via text, and via other browsers, I got the same story.

As I mentioned here recently, there was no reply from Google/Blogger to the causes of these delays, and I can only surmise that it is volume of traffic causing it. Sometimes it took 3 hours for the sidebar element to pick up notification of an updated comment. Sometimes less time.

This all started when Blogger failed to notify me of new comments, and then I noticed how long it took for updates to appear in the sidebar element. In the end, to see who had left recent comments, I resorted to watching the number of comments change below the blog post. Hardly a 21st century solution. So the search started.

And now, to end with a quote from Mr Adams:

"we have normality........ anything you still can't cope with is therefore your own problem"

source info - what a shame that the Guide's warning is covered over by the BBC's guff. Says it all about the respect that megacorporations have for the customer. Go on, panic, the BBC wants you to! Now, where did I leave my towel?

Yup, back to normal. My faith in Web2.0 megacorps has been shattered by this, and another recent event. But life goes on. Who cares. Earth2.0? No thanks. It'll be filled with management consultants and telephone sanitisers...oops. Play the closing tune, Satchmo.

Another Tarp Convert

Covering an area of about 9 foot by 9 foot, the Mountain Laurel Design Spinntex Mid is a winner with my parents' cat. Dry inside, when i open the door, some water drips in. There were some big flies inside, lurking at the top, but no midges. I'd still not trust it without a net during the season . As for ticks, i'm not sure if they get under the integrated edging nets. I've taken the tarp in overnight, and want to see how it copes with strong winds.

Tipi Tarp - take 3

Not quite got the hang of it, but close enough for nephew and niece to start playing in it. I'm still left with about a foot of one corner out in the air and relying on the regular guyline, but it is calm inside the tarp. Except for two kids playing hide-and-seek with the mosquito netting.

Hot on the Croft

It's a bit warm out in the sun today. Always wear sunscreen.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The MetOffice WebCams are Dead

I lament here the passing of the Met Office's webcam scheme.

Started in an age before Web2.0, they provided a 360' view of the land around a few chosen weather stations. Over the years the numbers dwindled. And today, a prompt reply to my query told me that the scheme had become commercially unviable and had been withdrawn.

The few English and Welsh cameras had been withdrawn over the years, and we in Scotland had been the beneficiaries of the remainder. We could point people towards glorious sunsets, snow clad lands and the occasional Met Office subby coming to do some maintenance work. Viral advertising for my homeland.

What a shame that, unbidden, Visit Scotland did not step in and say "Lo, it shames me that we can not show off our land in this way", and pass on some coins for the upkeep. But that is not the way the world works, and we were lucky to have enjoyed such a service for so long.

From you, sweet Scotland, there comes forth
a cause to sing your praise across the earth.

In the meantime, TrafficScotland have some cameras watching the roads (and even some outside the Central Belt!). They aren't 360' views, and you can't just look up and stargaze. But it's better than nowt.

Sunny Stornoway

Flat crossing despite winds.

The Triumph Tree

As ever, i stopped off in the Ullapool Bookshop in Ullapool. For a book. Usually i in into a bookshop with a book in mind. This shop is different. It has an exceedingly good stock of books about Scotland. The people, the place, the history, the languages and every sort of facet imaginable. And because Scots ran the Empire, many regions of the world are covered too. So, i go in and buy a book that i didn't know about before entering the shop. Today it is "The Triumph Tree: Scotland's earliest poetry AD 550-1350" ed by Thomas Owen Clancy. The sources obviously cover Latin, Welsh, Gaelic, Old English and Norse. Even the glossaries are packed with information. Now, is Nudd Hael Welsh, in which case it's pronounced 'nith'. Here's me in the middle of the Minch trying to remember who the Jomsviking were. Were they the ones who settled around here? I think this is going to be fun.

Ullapool waiting area

Done bookshop n snackshop. Gearshop next.

Loch Glascarnoch

A quiet drive through last night finds me near a certain Met Office station. It took an hour of driving to clear the sea fog, and then dipped into it again along the Moray coast. A pack of midges is baying for blood at the car window. No sign of any deer, despite being warned that they might be down by the road. I did slow down for a lump in the road, which turned out to be a traumatised owl. Apart from some rabbits, the only other wildlife i encountered was the young chap outside Tescos 24hr Inverness, impressing his pals by shouting at shoppers and trolley-surfing.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Jumping the Shark

New edition of Trail was delivered today. For a reason that I won't go into, the phrase "jumping the shark" came to mind.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Hedgehog Lacing

At the weekend, I had a bit of a problem with the laces of the TNF Hedgehog trail shoes. They kept coming loose.

TNF Hedgehogs before

Looking online, someone suggested that it was the round-section laces.

TNF Hedgehogs after

I have now copied the lock-lace from my Inov-8's and this site. I'll buy some flat laces if this doesn't work. I picked up some blisters on the outer sides of my feet - I reckon from the shoes working loose. Great grip on the shoes.


I wasn't sure what this was an advert for. Perhaps Albarn's Chinese opera project?

Nope, it is the Olympics. There are more details on Monkey at the BBC site. I'm sure I read the tales at school, but all I can remember is the great Japanese tv series. A rebel who escorts a Buddhist monk on a mission, fighting demons and corrupt people on the way. Hmm, I wonder if the BBC will be told off by their political masters for upsetting the boat?

Jar Jar Binks of the TarpSide

Yesterday I failed miserably to get the hand of the Mountain Laurel Design Spinntex Mid tarp-tipi that Dawn has given me. Helped by the extendable pole that I got from Darren for winning the last caption competition, I needed to head back to the drawing board.

MLD_mid1 MLD_mid2 MLD_mid3

This is what it should look like. I'll need to sort the peg ties. It was a nice afternoon in Duthie Park anyway.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Something Different

Caught up with the recent Net@Night, where Amber pointed out this video. Heck, I thought it funny.

Alternatively, the news from the Outdoor Trade Fair in Friedrichshafen can be found at L4TO, where I'm failing to get enthused by a new Primus Eta stove (heck, if you remember the last time ... when I eventually had the chance to buy it, I took my money elsewhere, keeping my Primus stove and tiMug cookset). Roman found the Heatstick, and it looked good ... until I saw the size and price. But this is just the first incarnation.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Diabolical Agency meets on Dartmoor

Dartmoor OBF meet - or, reasons to stay off the Moor.

As well as reading other people's opinions, thoughts and takes, this is where I find out what happened to Mick on Sunday morning. By the time I rolled out of bed, their tent was gone and the others said that he had been ill in the night and Gayle had tabbed it off to get their car.

No diabolical hounds seen - though one was seen happily playing with a skull (book).


This Morning's Spew

4 days without checking the Net. My main email account downloaded 159 spam items straight to the bin, leaving some YahooGroups and private messages to read and follow up.

iTunes to refresh after listening to some podcasts on the journey.

No messages from eBay or the offending seller. Bidding ended, and my photo was still there, advertising the person's tent. Used without my permission, non-attributed, and used to make the person money. So, I posted on the eBay community (where I expect a reply of "tough luck"), and contacted the buyer (where it'll probably end up in their spam box):

In the sale that just ended, the seller used a photo of my Akto without my permission. I'd contacted both him and eBay about it, but nadda. I hope it all goes well for you, as the Akto's a great tent (google me at AktoMan), but I thought I'd set the record straight.

Washed out kit last night, and I've rest still to unpack and air. I've started to reply to some of the new comments and emails.

But, importantly, catching up with Friday's "The Now Show".

I've a pile of notes to work through, and the blog posts from the weekend to go back and update with photos. As well as Dawn's tarp-tent to play around with.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Eastern Border Marches

In the English side of the Border listening to AT Hiking podcast where Sarah "freezerbagcooking" Svein was interviewed. I didn't try it this weekend and just stuck with convenience food (and some pub cheesy chips). I'll need to give it a proper go. If i work out the portions properly and not use chunks of soya (the only dried main ingredient i could find), but dehydrate my own, the bulk will be reduced. Turmat's wolffish sets a high standard to reach.

Does leaving no trace restrict us

I've just listened to a podcast where the idea of "leave no trace" was seen as restrictive. The speaker sees humans as part of the environment as was happy to "leave positive trace". So, what's a positive trace, especially where you don't own the land and are sharing it with others. Are permanent firepits positive or negative? Each person has a different idea. This weekend 10 of us met on Dartmoor and had a good time, i certainly didn't feel restricted by making sure i left no trace. I could have left some land art or totem carved on a sheep's skull, but it would not have been to everyone's tastes. Even weaving a wicker man with Tall Martin's tent inside would not have been seen as positive by everyone. Especially Martin. No, we can each argue over what we think is positive improvements, but i don't own land and i pass through the environment like a shade, just like ancestors before me, at the whim of laird or chieftain. A mere footnote in the history books, the crofter, sailor, tiller of land, infantryman or driver. No pyramids or holidays to the likes of us. The least we can do is leave no trace on the environment as we pass its care on to the next generation.

In God's own county

Just left York. Scribbling notes as i listen to tech podcasts from earlier in year. Tech stuff to follow up later is getting mixed up with notes to follow up after weekend. Alan described it as "a spew of consciousness". Ideas come in from everywhere and can be applied to solve new problems. We live in interesting times, if people aren't interested in knowledge, are they living in the past? Or maybe i should not have had 2 cola's this morning.

London Time

Time for a bagel as i move between trains.

Homeward Bound

Tabbing it to Farnboro station with a pack Darren weighed at 20kg last night

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Left Turn, Martin

Off the Moor and into a Little Chef. More details and photos to follow. No trace left, but plenty of happy memories and thoughts to mull over and action. Job done.


The MiniBullDesign Blackfly3 meths stove works well. As ever, a high centre of gravity makes it very important that the base is stable or secured in place.

cookset blackfly3

Gayle was taken by the GSI cup and bowl that I got from Sarah. I like it too. It stores the makings for tea and coffee, and the shape allows it to be wedges into spaces in my pack. I heard from the others that Mick had taken ill in the night, and that Gayle gone to get the car to drive him out (link). John H had headed out for a family commitment, and BPC John headed away early too.

Geoff and Martin

Geoff soon packed up and headed out.

Martin Darren and Alan

Leaving Martin, Martin, Alan, Darren and myself.


We left no trace of our being there.

homeward bound

We walked along the side of Great Nodden, Coombe Down, Lake Down and past the Sourton Tors before arriving at the West Devon Way.

viaduct Dartmoor ridge pony on ridge west devon way we regret hunger pangs

But the cafe was closed, so we said farewell to Alan and Martin (who were staying out for another night), and we three headed back to Martin's car as he drove the long miles back east.

Wicker Man

With an extra 11.6km (7 miles) under our belts that day, and some strange things to see on the way.

Saturday, 19 July 2008


So many similarities, so many differences. Wild ponies. Rocky outcrops on top of hills. Weather as changeable as back home. More info later.


Camp at Vellake Corner

Up into a damp day. I was using the OMM mat to save space in my pack, but some dampness formed under it.

Bridge at Vellake Corner

Collected water from the river, and breakfasted as the early starts were heading out.

early starts Vellake Corner

Gayle and Mick headed up the hill, whilst Alan and Martin went along the valley.

up West Okement River

Later, we would head up the same valley. Some ponies would come into view just round the corner, and it was strange seeing them in places where I would expect to see sheep.

Dartmoor ponies on Dartmoor hill Geoff and John

We reached the base of Black Tor, and Geoff and John parted company with us, after John examined my new TNF Hedgehog trail shoes, and then promptly dirtied them. This gave Darren a snap for his new caption competition.

Approaching Black Tor

We followed clear animal tracks up to the Tor. Swinging around the grazing ponies, it seemed strange that they did not start moving away from us. I'm not familiar with the behaviour of these fine-looking animals, so wondered if they were merely tame and used to humans.

ponies on Black Tor

Maybe they were, but it might be down to these two young 'uns hiding in the bracken, a short distance from the ponies.

foals on Black Tor

After this, Martin blazed a trail up the shoulder of the Tor and we found shelter in the rocks to discuss the rest of the day's trek. I can't find some destinations on the map, and Martin points out that there is a different Black Tor near a different reservoir. With the right map section opened everything makes sense, and we head off towards Kitty Tor.

leaving Black Tor

Darren and Martin head off Black Tor

along down right

We're heading to the ford and near where the sun is shining on the right side of the valley.

bracken boulderfields

With the clouds coming in, we head off the hill and through a bracken-covered boulderfield. Trekking poles are useful to prod ahead and find out if there is any footing in front, or just a gap.

down in the valley

We get back down to the valley floor, and head to the Sandy Ford where we can cross the river. I use the lunchbreak in the rocks to dry my feet and socks after the river ran over the top of the shoes.

Kitty Tor OP Kitty Tor graffiti

After examining the hi-tech military installation and weather reports at Kitty Tor, it is tracks almost all the way.

off Kitty Tor weather improves west Devon

As we near the end of the day's walk, Darren goes crazy and takes an interest in the local produce.


Arriving at Nodden Gate, he goes off to find the pitch. As Martin and myself arrive, we see Mick, Gayle, Alan and Martin arriving from another direction. A comical race develops, refereed by Darren, who had started pitching his tarptent before coming back for us.

John and Geoff

BPC John arrives, and lastly John and Geoff join us. Afterwards, FB and DW from OutdoorsMagic pop by.

Nodden Gate ford

A pleasant relaxing evening is enjoyed in the Fox & Hounds, and back at the pitch.

Fox and Hounds

Taking the 'easy' route, we had only trekked 12km (7 1/2 miles).