Monday, 4 May 2020

Influential Albums

Only two of these remain in my floating favourite albums list but these are the albums that were the most influential and formative to me. Presented as a single image and list so this can slide seamlessly away into the depths of the algorithm (now there's a good prog album title....)

Chemical Brothers - Exit Planet Dust
A mate at school, Luke, was ridiculously into dance / rave / happy hardcore. He played me this whilst we were messing around programming BASIC games on his ZX84 at his house. Something stuck, I played it incessantly at Steve who was a massive Oasis head at the time. Sorry.

Nextmen - Amongst the Madness
First or second year at university, a house party with Big Kev's mate Simon somewhere in Milnsbridge/Golcar. I never realised rap music could be this consistently lyrically clever. Also memories of Brett and Rory playing some of these at one of Nabs' house parties (the best).

Dreadzone - Second Light
On balance, still my favourite album ever. Probably. Heard "Litle Britain" on some random chart hits mix tape of the time. Such a fantastic blend of reggae, dub and dance. Happy, optimistic and beautiful. Britain today is a power. Ideas, experiments, imagination. I wish. Brings back memories of driving back along the A55 from Wales climbing adventures with the sun setting over the sea.

Future Sound of London - Dead Cities
Fresh off playing Wipeout 2097 at Sher's house with the thumping techno soundtrack. Dark and interesting, showed me that music didn't have to follow convention. We. Have. Explosive.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Everyone's gotta have a Floyd album in there somewhere right? This was the first one I heard (from an old girlfriend's mate) and I had no idea music like this existed. Started me off down the road of prog.

Queen - Greatest Hits II
This one is the "my dad only had a few decent albums and this was one" choice. We had the VHS video of all the music videos too. Innuendo is still a cracker and I still know most of the words to the entire album. Guaranteed to wind up Haydn.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland
Who records an entire album in crazy time signatures, without it being jazz, but with it being amazing and tuneful with album artwork that evokes the best bits of mid 90s computer games and then gives the whole thing away for free? Gizz do, that's who.

Prodigy - Music for the Jilted Generation
Fuck's sake, I'm tryin' to write a fuckin' tune man...

Dave Brubeck - Greatest Hits
Memories of Unsquare Dance being on in Charlie's Jetta as we zoomed off on some random Venture Adventure, brake discs overheating coming down Hardknott Pass, the starriest sky I've ever seen. Thanks for getting me into jazz club.... nice.

Thanks for the nudge Bryan.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Hello, Drift Removal Services, how may I help?

A friend mentioned on Facebook about starting up his blog again after a brief hiatus. I opined that it was the natural life cycle of blogs, to be updated regularly only to fall by the wayside when Real Life gets under the feet.

Very much like this blog in fact.

When this blog was being updated the most regularly I had a steady if slightly boring job and not much of an outlet for my creative juices. I channelled these efforts into cycling, running and a bit of writing on here and all was well.

But Real Life gets under the feet.

Since I started my own business two years ago I have piled all of my physical and creative energies  into it. This left very little in the way of bandwidth (again, both physical and mental) for personal writing and exercise.

Not necessarily a bad thing?

So, Self employment has taken over more of my life than I expected. In an unhealthy way? I'm on the fence on that one. "Health" has many metrics, not just physical ones.

I've never enjoyed my job as much as this. In terms of the intellectual challenge, getting to meet and work with so many different companies and people, and in general job satisfaction it ticks all the boxes. 

In terms of the effort required and time spent making everything happen, including working most evenings and some weekends? Well, I'm not so hot on that one. The key is finding the balance. I'm working on it...

They say "if you enjoy your job you'll never work a day in your life." This is horse shit. More like "if you love your job you'll spend all waking hours doing it or thinking about it and worrying that you aren't doing it well enough." Cos I do.

On balance, I've enjoyed the journey so far with self employment but I do need to re-balance my activities slightly to have more time for family, friends and getting out on the hills.

A question of commitment

Running a business seems analogous to parenting. It is simultaneously one of the hardest yet most rewarding thing you can do. You are caring for something that needs a lot of looking after but that gives a lot in return (livelihood, intellectual stimulation, fun).

The same seems to be true for so many things in life; there are great rewards available when one is committed to a goal.

The more you put in, the more you get out.

You often see people, especially on their CVs or platforms like LinkedIn describe themselves as "goal oriented". Whilst this partly sounds like management speak it points towards something deeper. Perhaps a recognition that we are all seeking something in our lives. That we are all goal oriented to some extent?
Consider Maslow's heirarchy of needs for instance. This lays down so many of the goals we have, from pure survival and safety through to self esteem and self actualisation. These are both sub-conscious and conscious, animal and rational.
I am goal oriented. Perhaps more than I feel comfortable admitting. Unless I have something to aim for, a specific event or achievement, I can drift a little, coast a little. Some things suffer a little in this drift too.

Hello, Drift Removal Services, how may I help?

In this case, in the pursuit of a secure and successful livelihood and intellectual satisfaction that my work gives me, my fitness has suffered. But I like being fit and active (endorphins pls). In order to regain this, I need a goal to counteract the drift.

Last year I committed to cycle 1000 miles otherwise I'd have to give £100 to UKIP. I succeeded and promptly stopped cycling once the mileage had been reached! Bloody typical. Is this how my brain works? Fine, I'll play the game of Always Have A Goal...

Running again

Getting back into running is high on the list as, for me at least, is a challenging discipline. Certainly I get plenty of fitness bang for my buck even from a short run. I'm not fast by any stretch of the imagination but I can go far. Plus, running gets you to places cycling can't.

So I'm looking at marathon-plus distance races later this year to see what tickles my fancy. Currently the Hardmoors 60 is looking very tempting!

Watch this space for updates.

I've got new running shoes and everything.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

A New Venture...

After working for 14 years for the same employer and having had some fantastic experiences and opportunities it is all coming to an end. Our site is being closed down and everyone will be going their separate ways. It has been great to work with many talented and genuinely lovely people over this time and I have many fond and lasting memories. I shall especially miss working closely with my manager Stewart who has been a mentor and a friend for the last 16 years.

Framing what has happened in my personal life during my time at work makes me realise how much has happened in that time. I learned to drive, got married, had kids, got divorced, moved house four times and got married again, crashed a car, learned to climb, learned to love, learned more and more about me and my place in the world.

So what next? I'm starting my own business.

I don't think anyone enjoys working for the corporate machine. The inevitable bureaucracy and inflexibility that permeates some larger organisations places barriers in the way of enjoying the work that as engineers we trained for and work hard to achieve proficiency at - finding solutions to technical problems. Investigating, testing, trying, and eventually solving that problem that has had you stumped for the last week is one of the best feelings I know. That ideal has to be worth pursuing.

The goals are to do interesting work, to help companies get their products to market and achieve their goals, and to have fun in the process. As such I'm setting up Unit 3 Compliance, an EMC consultancy and test lab, in Bradford. This will help organisations that don't have Electro-Magnetic Compatibility experience or facilities get access to high quality pre-compliance testing and advice.

Electronics friends: If you know of anyone with an EMC test requirement or that is having EMC problems then send them my way - there's a beer in it for you next time I see you ;-)

I'm really excited and can't wait to get started on this massive new project!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Fitness Is Relative

Ironically this was mostly written when I was Reasonably Fit. Currently I'm Reasonably Fat but attempting to reverse the tide!


These are meant to be very un-specific questions

How do you consider yourself to be compared to your friends?
How fit do you consider yourself to be compared to the general population?

Self Deprecating Fitness

I'm not Very Fit. Reasonably Fit perhaps, but not Very Fit. Really Fit is another country and getting a passport involves a lot of hard work. Mr/Mrs Really Fit does an Ironman triathlon in under 12 hours.

Some of this is typical British self-deprecation where blowing ones own trumpet is considered crass and generally bad manners. Any American style self promotion is generally viewed to be in "poor taste" and may be subject to a raised eyebrow or eye roll.

Exhibit A: Excerpt from a chat with a colleague who is a Cat 2 cyclist and races cyclocross, regularly placing well in the Three Peaks CX race. He is Very Fit.
him: "You'll be getting good at the cycling then?"
me: "Well I'm getting better but I'm not as fit as you."
him: "Me? I'm not that fit."
me: "Yes you are."
him: "Yeah but there are lots of people fitter than me."
[This is all part of the deal. I know him to be fitter than me and through this exchange we establish this order informally, using the playing down of our own abilities as acknowledgement of each others skills as an exchange of friendship. Anthropologists and psychologists have probably written many papers on such things. I'm neither so we'll leave it there.]

The last line is key, "...there are lots of people fitter than me." Fitness is relative.

It's everyone else's fault I'm so unfit

At the risk of violating the above principle of self-deprecation, taking the population of the UK as a reference, I'm most likely of above average fitness. I average about 5 hours of exercise a week with the cycle commute, general bike riding and a spot of fell jogging (not really running - self deprecation again). I've completed the Fellsman, a couple of 45 mile walks, a 6h 30m on the Yorkshire 3 peaks, occasional adventure racing, a triathlon, mountain marathons, etc. But I still don't think of myself as being Very Fit.

A big part of this is the company we keep. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances through running and climbing and cycling. If I was to judge my own fitness against theirs, I'd have to say I was average. Maybe I should start hanging out down at the local McDonalds to feel fitter?

There's more to it than just running up hills

What about the mental side of fitness? The part that keeps us pushing on when we'd much rather call it a day and sit down next to the fire with a slice of cake and a pint of tea?

Endurance events seem to have more than their fair share of people in the V40 and above category. There could be a number of explanations to this, but it still remains that you can still cut it, indeed get better, as you get older. I'm certainly hoping that this is the case as it means I haven't hit my prime yet!

I've certainly found myself to be more determined of mindset as I've got older. Some things that used to be important aren't as much and I am much more confident in myself and self reliant. I have a better appreciation of the signals that my body sends me and what they mean, where my limits are and the experience to know that a short bad spell will be over in a bit and then it will be business as usual.

Life toughens you up?

As we get older we are more aware of the finite time we have and, hopefully, we are encouraged more to enjoy it to the full. Are our forties the magic decade? Our children are less reliant on us, our careers are generally more settled, do we have less pressure than before?

I'm not there yet but I'll let you know what it's like when I do. I'd be interested to hear from my friends who are there about what they think.

My physio has, stencilled on the wall in their reception area, the motto "Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever". Set against the scale of our lives, a little suffering during a fell race is a mere blip.

This is helped by the human brain's incapacity for remembering time. We can remember discrete events in a run for example, a rock, sweat, a view, out of breath, a good bit of trail but we can't relive the whole thing in real time when we remember it. It's a safety mechanism to enable us to actually function and not be stuck in loops of memories and remembering memories ad inifnitum in real time.

Similarly we can't remember pain. We can remember being in pain but we can't bring back that specific sensation. Bloody good job! Add some rose tinted spectacles and even the most horrific, Type 3 suffer fest has good memories associated with it. We can fool ourselves that it was actually fun!

Mapping and Navigation "Stuff Wot I Like"

I keep getting asked about mapping and navigation tools I use on both my phone and computer. None are a total substitute for a map and compass and knowing how to navigate but they certainly make life easier sometimes!


** Star Pick**: Maverick

OS mapping with offline cache, GPS, compass, route planning, GPX upload and download. If you have an Android phone and like being outdoors... GET IT.

Where's The Path

This is my go-to route planning tool. Side by side maps for which you can select different map bases like OS 50k, OSM, Google Earth etc. Route planning, elevation, GPX import and export. Really good.

Bing Maps

Freely available OS maps down to 25k. Limited exporting and no route planning but a good starting point for a browse.


Good for road cycle route planning.

Google Maps

Now that some of the 3D Google Earth functionality has been integrated into Google Maps it makes for a great experience. Look at any high rise city in 3D mode and it's like flying over it like a bird. Fantastic.

Grid Reference

For Android. Gives you a grid reference. and a compass reading. Simple and effective!

Make Panorama

Good for answering the question "what hills can you see from the top of Rum Doodle". See also this site.

Weather aside - global weather and forecasting, wind speed, temperature, cloud base, wave height, ocean currents with an intuitive interface. Fascinating and you can lose hours to watching typhoons rolling around the Pacific.

Review: Alpkit Tau Rear Bike Light

I got fed up of swapping my Cateye TL-LD1100 between bikes as I only had one bracket. For the price of a new seatpost bracket it wasn't much more to buy another new light. I'd seen the Alpkit Tau rear lights available so thought I'd give one a go.

Tau Rear Light (image from Alpkit website)

Construction and Mounting

The light unit seems very well put together. No creaking or flexing when pressure is applied. You certainly feel like it could be dropped from a great height and survive.

It's smaller width is good, as the large width is my only complaint about my Cateye light; sometimes my thigh nudges it or presses the button depending on where it's mounted on my seatpost. The Tau has no such problems, tucking in nicely underneath the saddle. It is very unobtrusive.

The soft rubber back is grippy, reducing the risk of the light bouncing around meaning a lighter elastic band weight can be used. The rubber bands go on easily enough with their big pull tags. The quality of the rubber will be the determining factor in how long this light lasts I think. I'm tempted to take a needle file to the points on the side clips that the rubber band engages with to prevent any sharp edges from fretting the rubber bands.

Charging is achieved via a Micro USB port hidden behind a rubber flap. This seems to engage OK and would be held in place and partly shielded by the bike frame or seatpost it is mounted to so I'm not too concerned about water ingress. I'd take it off the bike if I was washing it but I'd do that for any of my lights.

As the owner of a Koala seat pack, I would have preferred a method of mounting the Tau to a webbing strap, maybe a clip or some slots in the body of the light, to enable easy mounting to bike packing luggage. The small elastic band doesn't seem to hold the light steadily on a strap and I worry a bit about it falling a bit small for it. More thought required, perhaps there is a way and I just haven't come across it yet. In the meantime I'll keep the Tau mounted to my seat stay, even though the angle isn't perfect.


I think its a good job it is so light given that the length of the charging cable supplied means that it invariably dangles in mid air from whatever charging port you are using on your PC or adaptor. However, Micro USB adaptors are now the standard for charging phones so everyone is bound to have a lead already plugged into a charger lying spare.

Light Output and Modes

Performance of the Chip On Board (COB) LED module is good with very little observable change in brightness over a 90ยบ arc. One complaint I have with some rear lights is the focusing of the beam with a lens results in a high peak brightness but out of angle it isn't so good. The Tau overcomes this well. The spread of light is such that I can easily check that the light is still on just with a brief glance down at where it is mounted. No more holding my hand in front of the light to see the reflected glow! I think this would be an excellent light for urban commutes with traffic coming from all angles being able to see you.

Brightness is OK on low but on high it is really very bright. The stated 3 hour runtime in this mode would put me off using it unless conditions were bad or traffic particularly heavy. The "pulse flashing" mode is more of a steady throb and doesn't immediately catch the eye. Unlike the 6Hz flashing mode which is really eye catching and is my preference for the road. Especially good considering the quoted 18 hour runtime - that's enough for a couple of weeks of commuting and a long ride.


It has a micro USB, charges from my phone charger in hardly any time at all (note I haven't timed it). That's it!

Out and About

As mentioned above it is very bright and with a good arc of light and seems to last a long time which will be good as the Li-Ion battery capacity decays with time as they always do. I've recommended the Tau to a couple friends looking for bike lights.


Brightness, viewing angle and build quality are good.
At £12 including postage I think it represents a very good value rear bike light.


I bought a couple of the front lights which are excellent as "see me!" lights and have now fitted a front and a rear to all the bikes in the fleet.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

In with the old and out with the new... er... wait....


Lost fitness but got married and had a great honeymoon. Overall an excellent year.
New career challenges await!

2016 positives (vaguely chronological)

Lots of winter climbing, fantastic ice and good times
Good run out at the Marmot Dark Mountains with Emma
Fun mini bike packing trip with friends
Got married! Upgraded Louise to Mrs. Pawson, I now have a lovely wife :)
Mini-moon in the Lakes with some walking and biking
Had a great honeymoon in Japan (rest of trip report to follow)

2016 negatives

General global politics, stuff that I can't change or do owt about so I'm going to ignore it and live in my happy bubble
Fitness has suffered due to longer hours at t'werk

2016 Goals Check

From earlier this year

Get married
See friends more
Winter mountaineering
Dales MTB

Not done
General mileage targets
100 mile bike ride
Hardmoors 26.2
Unspecified long distance walk
OMM / Saunders / LAMM

Running and long distance stuff has suffered this year with a variety of time consuming factors. The challenge for 2017 is going to be finding time to get better on my feet and recover some fitness.

Goals for 2017

  • Marmot Dark Mountains again hopefully, I just want to finish not last!
  • Have fun in the Cairngorms this Feb
  • Running. I miss running. More running please. Aim for one off road marathon distance race this year.
  • Make the time for a longer cycle tour
  • Keep up with friends - seeing so many people at our wedding made us realise how many fabulous people we know and how little we see them!

Biggest of all for me, there is going to be a significant career change this year. I can't say too much about it at this stage as things are still gestalt but watch this space!