Freesteel Blog » Weekends
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014 at 10:25 pm - Hang-glide
Today is Saturday and I’ve stayed home to work while Becka went off caving and having fun.
I’ve got absolutely no useful work done. I spent the morning fussing over my photos on various external drives and went to town to print a batch of them. Then I swapped them around with the photos in the frames on the walls, having decided that such changes would bring some variety over the years in addition to seeing the paint progressively peel from the plaster as the walls dampen. Then I swept out the garage after piling all the knackered gear onto the shelves. And finally I pondered over the fact that google appears to have just put my whole 3D scanning project completely out of business. Why bother trying to do anything?
I know what fun is. It involves being in Austria with a hang-glider. And, unlike work, if someone else has already done it, it does not imply that my time spent doing it is consequently wasted. Put into that perspective, I’m doing people a favour by not getting any work done. However, I now have a headache and I’m very annoyed.
Here are the webcam images for both places today:
Here’s the alptherm view:
Not very promising really. But I want to get into the habit of looking at it so I can think about picking my days for booking the ferry, driving straight out there, and getting it done when there is an adequate weather window.
Let’s check the record for when flights at these places early in the year:
I got some waiting to do. And I had better get some work done in the meantime. Not going to happen tonight, though.
Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 at 8:33 pm - Canyon
Spotted the new(ish) Liverpool Wakepark on the docks when I cycled passed it on the weekend while taking a break from endless, endless coding every day.
So we booked a ride on a fine grey February afternoon.
The place (called “Industry.1″) is dude central, and appropriately disorganized and friendly. Downstairs from the changing rooms numerous fire service bods were practicing how to rescue each other with tow lines from the static salt water. Looked a bit dull, but they can’t justify wakeboarding on working time. If this flooding goes on much longer, they’d do better to get their training at one of those artificial whitewater courses where they’d get washed off their feet and they added tree branches into the flow. See that river: that’s your high street.
I took my caving wetsuit, still muddy from the last time I used it in July. This finally got it clean.
And we’re off. It’s probably exactly the same as water-skiing, except without the power boat, the mess and the noise. I never had rich enough friends to do that.
Becka seemed to enjoy it a heck of lot more than snowboarding. Or canyoning.
We both got standing and going in a straight line before our time was up.
Not bad for something that’s literally a quarter of a mile away from home. How lucky is that?
Now, back to work. This ain’t the summer yet.
Friday, January 3rd, 2014 at 5:26 pm - Weekends
Well, it was a plan. Xmas is a drag, what with either having to go away on holiday or spend days overeating with the family feeling inadequate because you didn’t bring any presents. My thoughts of a flying holiday in Lanzarote had been deemed impractical, and Becka’s plans for a week XC skiing with friends in Norway looked equally difficult due to the lack of passenger ferries.
I’d had this walk in Wales on my mind for ages. Let’s do it, I said.
“But the weather will be crap.”
Exactly. It’s only a walk, and we wouldn’t be wasting good weather on something that doesn’t depend on good weather. In fact the worse it is, the more adventurous it will be. It’s only Wales. It’s not like the Pacific Crest Trail. How bad can it be?
Saturday, November 30th, 2013 at 2:56 pm - Cave
Short note on the previous weekend. There was a meeting at Andy Eavis’s house under the Humber Bridge following their great cave chamber laser scanning projects in China over the summer. Somehow I got invited, probably because I say I can able to do things with CADCAM software, and such forth.
We cycled from Brough behind the BAe factory where they make the Hawk “Trainer” jets. Funny how there’s so many “Trainer” jets being exported. What a laugh. Doesn’t do any harm. They’re not “weapons”. Like those “replica” hand-guns with a complete set of working parts. Or a presidential candidate who says that he smoked, but did not inhale. Far too few people laugh at these official lies to stop them sticking.
Andy is the current president of the International Union of Speleology, an off-shoot of the International Congress of Speology, the 16th of which I went to in Brno this summer in the Czech Republic. It’s a fantastic bureaucracy, worthy of Kafka, where Andy is named as the coordinator of the Long, Deep and Large Caves Commission, among about a hundred other commissions.
Of course, none of the commissions is in charge of new technology that would be game-changing for cave surveying. Nor do they have anyone who is particularly interested in cave survey software (at the Congress, we had to have our meeting in a cafe round the back). If I was in charge I’d establish a Commission on the Relevance of Commissions and do some long-overdue weeding.
Anyways, we got to see some of the point clouds being rendered by the experts using the open source Cloud Compare software. As standard practice, the point cloud was thinned to make it renderable.
Someone there need to produce a video of a flythrough and wanted to use all the points, and didn’t know how as the expensive software they used crashed when it received more than 10 million points. What crappy software engineering. I worked with him on a work-around.
I haven’t had time yet to download and install Autodesk ReCap to see if it is up to the job. Probably not. We’re getting hit with trillions of laser scanner points now, and no one with a budget is taking it seriously in the software world yet. (I do, but I don’t have a budget, do I?)
Quite coincidentally, someone sent this youtube video about a company called Euclideon claiming to be able render unlimited point clouds at a reasonable frame-rate using just the CPU. It’s a great little video. I’ve watched all of it twice.
There’s been a lot of controversy around the claim, which is not surprising for something that’s been worked on for seven years without releasing a product.
I think I may have worked out what’s going on here, after a long sleepless night. If I have it right, the technique does not allow you to zoom; you can only move nearer or further from the view.
I don’t need any more distractions. Maybe I’ll toy with an implementation once we do start getting our own cave scans to play with.
There was a brief window of weather this week which was enough for three divers to get out on Cosmo’s boat on Thursday: Becka, me and someone much more competent than us with a rebreather from Ormskirk.
Although the sea was very calm, the visibility didn’t look good at an inshore site, so we moved off to the Wreck of the Counsellor in deeper water, and dived that.
It was black as midnight down there with barely 0.75m working visibility, so we came up pretty swiftly. Don’t waste risk; only do something dangerous if you’re getting something out of it.
My second tank was only a 10Litre, because my 12Litre was completely empty when I fetched it from the garage. Maybe something leaked. Fortunately this was meant to be a shallower dive, on the Wreck of the Speke, which, I was told, is on its side half buried in the sediment so you can go into its hold along the sea bed.
The anchor must have landed square in front of this opening, because we blundered away from it for quite some distance before we hit the wreck — from the inside!
Not good. According to the video footage, we were lost for 3 minutes, which is a very long time. While we got away with it, our margin for error was down to the width of a prawn’s antenna, because all it would take is a regulator snagged from your mouth by a bit of twisted metal or a exploding o-ring, and then we’d be toast.
There was a dredger at work on the channel, which might have accounted for the visibility.
Back in the harbour all the little boats piled into the lock following the usual delay waiting for tide to rise high enough to be over the sill. Everyone else had been out in the estuary fishing for cod. Becka challenged me to a game of “spot the female”. Not a single one among them. What is it about fishing and women?
Anyhow, that was enough excitement for one week.
So that was the usual HSMWorks Denmark run over with. We’d stayed for a week from Thursday to Thursday, across the weekend when not much was going on as there used to be because people now have lives to go to. We got one meal out (manager not allowed to come because he can’t self-authorize), but otherwise had to fend for ourselves.
I played two games of Underwater Rugby with the Amager club which damn near killed me. The first session was on the Thursday we arrived and I almost threw-up during the pre-game training.
I can hold my breath, or I can swim around frantically, but I can’t do both. When it’s time to breath and you are at the bottom of a three metre pool it’s bad. You don’t get that problem with underwater hockey, where the game is more to do with being in the right position and flicking the puck from place to place. I gave up trying to keep up.
Went down to the Hidden Earth cavers conference in Monmouth last weekend. After causing much mayhem and ranting regarding lasers and scanning (and that was before I had even trawled through Companies House records) I bagged a Sunday flight on Pandy owing to a rare forecast of easterlies and sunshine. I went to bed early while Becka stayed up forcing everyone, including my designated retrieve driver, to finish the Hilde-schnapps in the car-park at 3am. The retrieve driver not surprisingly had a hang-over in the morning and needed some persuading to come along. (“The fresh air will clear your head; you won’t be able to concentrate sitting here through all these boring lectures.”)
The best use for a football field — mass camping at a caving conference.
We got away at 10:30am, drove to the landing field (full of sheep), looked at the smaller landing field to be used when the first was full of sheep (surrounded by tall trees), then drove up. The wind was blowing between 22 and 29mph on the edge of the hill at take-off. That at least kept all the paragliders away. But there weren’t any hang-gliders either. Felt a little concerned about this. It’s always best to have a local at a new site to point out what’s safe and where not to go, otherwise you’re just guessing and taking chances. But nothing can actually go wrong until you’ve taken off, so we walked down to fetch the glider.
Just then, like the cavalry arriving, a car carrying three gliders with their friendly pilots turned up, and everything was great. They showed me their preferred take-off and told me how high you need to get before crossing over to the main ridge. Asked about top landing near the take-off, they said everyone has done it once, and then vowed “never again”. And don’t worry about the sheep if you can’t make the smaller landing field.
I just spent a grey sky weekend down in Bristol investigating the cave surveying technology potential of this Hokuyo UTM-30LX-EW, that I bought with my much diminished pocket money.
I bought this one, as opposed to the slightly cheaper UTM-30LX that most robot research teams go for, because it is IP67 rated, as opposed to IP64. The IP Code says the first 6 means “Dust tight”, and second digit 7 means protected against “Immersion up to 1m” rather than 4, protected against “splashing of water”.
I know what caves are like.
This was the formerly unlisted video of my crash down on the Gyrn in Wales which made me feel quite sorry for myself with my total lack of competence and ability to have a good time with this sport (skip to 2min 30).
Then I went to Austria and life was great, particularly at Greifenburg.
Things weren’t so bad back at Loser either, with a series of take-offs and landings that I loved — all of them.
Back home in Liverpool I wanted to fly some more, but haven’t had the chance. Got offered a dive trip out to Liverpool Bay yesterday, and persuaded Becka to come.
Pretty murky all told, but did the job of dropping us into a thoroughly different universe where we happily swam with the fishes in the dark until the air ran out.
What more could you ask for out of an experience?
Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 at 8:02 pm - Hang-glide
We walked up the Trisselwand one the morning. Even at 8am there was wind blowing around the shoulder where the thermal updrafts can always be found. I walked back down while Becka bribed Tom and Matt with lunch at Appelhaus for going on a longer walk. They both ordered roast gemse, and then it rained properly for the rest of the day.
I was left alone at base camp for a couple of days to work while more caving and detackling was happening at top camp. Due to a meeting in the afternoon I didn’t get off for my cycle tour round Grimming till 4pm.
First I went to the secret lake which cut through between the mountain and the rest of the range that I had discovered from the air.
Then there was a long stretch on a major highway to get to the eastern end of Grimming and round.
I arrived at bast camp at 9pm as it was getting pitch black after five hours at full speed the whole way on just one apple and two pieces of flapjack.
Today I flew for an hour while the others did the Via Ferrata on the Loser.
The clouds were low and I got into their turbulent sunny edge. It felt like the most natural place to be. Then I headed over to the Tristlevan, and the thermal was missing from the usual spot, so off I bombed, passing over base camp on the way. They saw me from there this time.
We’re driving home tomorrow to face the real world. There is some kind of crazy autumn and winter I have in store coming up. I don’t know what it is but I’d so much rather be flying.