Freesteel Blog » 2013 » April

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013 at 10:51 pm - - Cave 1 Comment »

Here is a photo from out new local breadshop, the Baltic Bakehouse, which has opened about 2 blocks down the hill from us.

How things change from when we first got to Liverpool and there was nothing but Sayers the Bakers.

Blogging is limited due to effort being expended on an internal blog on the Qontext system in an attempt to annoy people who don’t know how to make a good interactive web system.

At night when I can’t sleep (most nights) I oscillate between reading the Dean Baker blog Beat the Press and the Paul Krugman blog Conscience of a Liberal. The repetitive hammering on at the same points over and over and over again until somebody gets it is comforting.

I particularly like the way Baker regularly appeals to “fans of arithmetic”. The Autodesk pension advisor recently got onto my case and I tried going over the arithmetic of his figures with him, only to find a 10% discrepancy. He says he’ll get back to me next week. Doing the figures raised more fundamental questions about the deal, such as why is it reasonable for their fee to be a percentage of the total saved rather than related to growth? Otherwise they get paid almost exactly the same if they happen to lose money.

So on Saturday we went digging in Rift/Large Pot as usual. Becka was there. I took my old Olympus Tough camera (because my new one has still not been fixed) and it ran out of batteries before I could take any photos of the progress in the dig. This was explained by a 20 minute long video of the inside of the tackle sack after it had been accidentally switched on. So here’s some photos of muddy people afterwards from the phone.

We won’t talk too much about the most effective stance for operating the kayak bilge pump used to drain the dig, except to say that you sit in the water, grip it between your thighs, and young men can go at it for quite some time. It’s surprising it still works after so much silt and mud has been sucked through it.

Later that evening, back at Bull Pot Farm, there was a cake competition.

This was more popular than the more normal photo competition, because it’s possible to bake an amazing cake in any oven, it doesn’t have to be a good one, and all cakes are good. Well, except for some of them. Sam’s Full English Breakfast cake with fried mushroom icing didn’t go down well, so it’s not a real cake. My contribution was a szechuan pepper treacle cake. I didn’t get a chance to taste much of it because after I had sampled everyone else’s cakes I was too caked out and wanted to eat a cabbage.

The next day, having consumed no more than 1.75 pints of weak ale the night before, I had a hangover that lasted till 9pm. I was quite grumpy as I tried to get some programming done in the cafe in Ingleton while Becka went down Rift Pot again to finish surveying the Chism Trail. Now the survey is complete, except a few metres of dig at the end, and the connection from Low Douk Pot that is being slowly blasted by dynamite. (You can smell the fumes in Rift.)

Today I had planned an attempt to go flying at Llangollen. But after a night of worrying and thinking about the stuff I needed to get done I bottled it. Some folks had a good day, according to the forums. Oh well. I got to get this work stuff out of my system and make time.

Friday, April 26th, 2013 at 12:35 pm - - Kayak Dive

An excellent 3 days across and then underwater care of Aquaholics. The ferry departed at 10:30pm from about 5 miles away from our house, and the drive from Belfast to Ballycastle the next morning took under an hour, and then we were on the water.

The weather was excellent (after a week of dire forcast warnings so bad that we expected to get seasick on the crossing), but the viz was awful, even on the North Wall of Rathlin Island with its dropoff of 200m and where normal viz is 20 metres (it was about 3m for us).

Maybe its all that crap from the oil platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico two years ago that’s finally worked its way up on the Gulf Stream. Not that there was much gulf stream in evidence as the water temperature was consistently 7 degrees C — a temperature not usually reached except on a few days in February. Something’s wrong.

But we had a great time. You can see me smiling underwater. I’ll be going again.

Sunday, April 14th, 2013 at 1:37 am - - Kayak Dive

Have just finished a quick edit of the fun and games underwater with other divers and SMBs (surface marker buoys) on the Cornwall trip. I’m keeping up with the rate of new footage.

Last week I went into town to buy myself a logbook. I have been very slack for many years by not keeping a diving logbook. And I haven’t required a hang gliding logbook obviously, though that went AWOL towards the tail end of my activities. And it’s eccentric to keep a personal caving logbook, though there are usually club and expedition ones.

I thought maybe I’d do it if I made a combined one of everything. For a period I wrongly believed that the blog was sufficient. But the logbook records the names of who you went with, something that does not belong on the internet. So hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up this time. And continue to do stuff that requires logging.

Saturday, April 13th, 2013 at 10:57 am - - Machining 2 Comments »

In two entirely different places this week I have seen the world change. With the invention of a new machine tool architecture not based on the floppy cubical structure of all current machine tools that therefore need to be over-engineered to keep them together; and with the witnessing of a hand-held 50kHz distance measuring laser scanning device that renders obsolete the last 25 years of cave surveying I have participated in.

And I got a nice flight on my glider last Sunday. To be honest, I’d like a few more of those, and a little less of this world-changing nonsense, but that’s how it goes. It’s one reason I have never been very career ambitious, to the extent of locking in my advancement with positions of power or appointment. At all times I literally know what I’d rather be doing with my time.

Speaking of which, I notice that the CEO, about whom [I should steer clear of any references to –ed], has been sent to Coventry.

He’s giving a keynote at the Develop3D Live conference next Tuesday that happens to be in Coventry.

I’m half wondering about hopping over there next week and heckling from the audience. There’s this phone app I want to pioneer known as The Question From Hell. Originally I had targeted this idea at politicians, but it is actually CEOs who would be more entertaining.

I don’t have a Question From Hell for Carl right now, and even if I did I would probably try not to disclose it here, because you got to make it feel like it’s coming from Hell, and not from some guy you can possibly do something about when things have quietened down. The promise of revenge is a consolation at the time, however no one feels they can make revenge against Hell.

The App works in the following way:

Suppose I happen to be in the audience of some keynote presentation or panel discussion, where questions are taken from the floor, and Mr Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault is speaking. So I text the name “Bernard Charles” to the Question From Hell phone number, and back it comes with the message:

Last May you told an audience that you were dropping Parasolid from SolidWorks. What’s the schedule for this development, and what are the technical issues that are stopping you from carrying this out?

My heart starts thundering like crazy for the next 20 minutes, which it does when I think I’ve got a good question for someone powerful and the opportunity to deliver it. If I haven’t passed out, or my feet haven’t gone cold, I stand up right away for the first question.

Mr Charles knows how to dodge the question, as one should expect, and the chairman knows how to move on and pick someone else in the audience for a second question to avoid the session being monopolized by this weirdo. Anyway, I can’t formulate a follow-up question, because I probably don’t even know what the hell Parasolid is, because I’m just someone reading the Question from Hell off their phone, so I can’t do a follow up question.

However, the text message goes out to anyone else in the audience who has done the same thing, advising them of the follow up questions, depending on the known dodges he’s going to do.

All of this has been crowd-sourced from insiders and experts close to the industry, even though today he thought he was simply giving a talk to a room full of school students.

When the Question From Hell system is going really well, there will be a whole industry of consultants able to take over the system and seed it with softballs, or those special non-melting snowballs that seem to last a long time in Hell.

Why don’t they just give us the list of questions worth asking on a sheet of paper at the door when we come in? The audience gets to pick the subject of the talk, so that’s fine. This would be in the spirit of total disclosure, like when you engage a legal representative and they explain to you in no uncertain terms that they expect you to tell them everything they should know about your involvement in the case, and that they will be extremely angry if they later find out something that you deliberately kept hidden from them.

This leads on to a slight improvement on the whole talk, presentation, speech, Q&A session tradition that we’ve got going here — which maybe I will try to put into action next time I am on the delivering end of one of these ceremonies. Take the last two minutes of your presentation to outline the range of interesting and difficult questions the audience could think about and ask you during the Q&A. Help them out a bit, and don’t leave them floundering.

It helps the poor chairman as well do their duty, because they are the ones left with thinking up a question to fill in the space in the event that everyone in the audience is sitting on their hands.

Monday, April 8th, 2013 at 6:54 am - - Hang-glide

I was going to do some work today, but instead I went flying, which was far more enlivening, though I would have liked to have got my work done as well.

This is the edited video of my 40 minute flight from today from Gyrn Moelfre with the North Wales Hang Gliding and (mostly) Paragliding Club.

The NWHGPC contains a very unlikely cluster of hang gliders in the Wirral Peninsula, many of whom work in the offshore gas industry. Turns out that ideas of doing offshore work tended to occur after joining the club; it wasn’t that the offshore workers in Liverpool Bay have been persuading one other to take up hang gliding over dinner in the canteen over the years — which would have at least explained the existence of this cluster.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m just embarrassed and confused by this luck. Now I am going to have a lot of temptation to bunk off work that I had absolutely not banked on.

Anyways, their arrangements are passed around with phone calls and text messages, rather than on the bulletin board which the paragliders usefully use, but my comments there yesterday were relayed to the appropriate phone numbers to make this happen.

So keen was I to fly that I got out of bed at 6am and was walking up the hill by 9 to find that there was no wind at all. I parked in a farmyard by a pile of swede-like roots for the sheep and dozed trying to read a magazine while car after car went past me into the field. Pretty soon there were paragliders all over the place, and I hadn’t noticed. Sometime after midday a car with 4 packed hang gliders on the roof arrived and I tried to follow it up the track to the top. My wheels spun part way up the slope, and even reversing didn’t do any better. The four wheel drive made it another couple hundred metres till it hit a snow drift. So I carried up a huge distance, and it wasn’t so bad as long as you take very small steps and stuff jackets into the glider bag for padding. Then I rigged kneeling on a gorse bush while following a summary set of instructions derived from the manual.

By this time it was gloomy and the wind had picked up, driving all but one of the paragliders from the sky.

Only three of us flew (the other two were too lazy to carry their gliders), so I got to borrow someone’s proper vario instead of my antique inaccurate one, and it really made a difference.

Everyone else has these fancy topless gliders, making me feel left out with my intermediate novice Sport 2. And here’s me ever so proud of its colours. It certainly did climb, in spite of my incompetence of ineffective weight shifting (twisting rather than shifting) and frequent turns in sink.

It was lucky I got up high as the designated hang glider landing field is an insane distance away. I could just about make out one orange pixel of the wind sock they’d planted in it. All the fields used by the paragliders close to the hill slope downwards towards tall trees, and many of the fields beyond that contain power lines.

Fortunately the sheep with their little lambs didn’t seem to mind us landing in their faraway field.

Update vid from paragliders on the same day, featuring a few seconds of me rigging.

Sunday, April 7th, 2013 at 8:58 pm - - Kayak Dive

With Becka away I could indulge myself by going on the annual Liverpool Uni Easter trip for lots of diving.

Unfortunately, the week was marred by Easterly gales which caused four of our eight days to end with no diving, and we only ever went out of Sennen Cove. This meant we got to find and explore the wreck of the SS Beaumaris — or at least a part of it that the older divers in the club hadn’t known about at a different location with a different shape. We found it here.

View Larger Map

And a quickly edited video of the experience.