Stag, Conferences and other chaos

There’s been lots of things keeping me busy these past few weeks.

I just got back from a stag weekend in Edinburgh at which I discovered that I am surprisingly good at clay pigeon shooting, but losing my touch when it comes to taking alcohol ….or leading the way with the excessive stag party boozing, depending on how you look at it. Today was baking hot weather. Yes! in Scotland! I was surprised. I should’ve known that would happen though. I was hungover, and hadn’t packed my sunglasses.

Stag Party Author’s Seat
UPDATE: My photos on Flickr, Fudo’s photos on Flickr
On the train I finished reading The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it. Very interesting book. I’ll have to dedicate a full blog post to it.The openstreetmap conference was great. It was good to talk face-to-face with people behind the some of names I’ve been interacting with online. Lots of presentations and conversations which were thought provoking and educational. I also learned that if you drink too much guiness your poo goes very dark. Since the conference I’ve been meaning to get around to following up on various ideas I’d discussed with people. I don’t seem to be very good at finding the time for sitting down and coding, but I have found the time to be out and about doing more mapping, including bagging the Emirates Stadium. It’s always quite satisfying when you find a pocket of unmapped stuff, and you feel like you’re bringing the area up to a good level completion, but finding a missing sixty-thousand seater stadium was a bit of surprise! It’s because it is quite new, so people hadn’t spotted on Yahoo aerial imagery (because it isn’t on there)

What else? At work I’ve had a couple stressful days. I had to give a demonstration of new portal changes to some council big-wigs, and then at the end of last week I was deploying these changes on the live server. This didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped. I had to stay late fixing things.

My little sister’s just been moving her stuff out, and my Belle moved out already. Soon the redecorating chaos will commence.

Going to the OpenStreetMap conference

State Of The Map 2008 PosterToday I’m flying to Ireland to go to The State of the Map, a conference all about OpenStreetMap. I’ll be spending this weekend meeting other OSM people and seeing a whole variety of talks on different aspects/ideas around project. I’m excited. Does this represent a disturbing escalation in my irrational obsession with this thing? …Let me explain.

I find the project compelling in many different ways. Like wikipedia, we’re building something great and free for the benefit of everyone. Unlike wikipedia, it’s only the beginning. The fun stage. We’re still very much building the map to achieve basic coverage. It’s exciting to be involved at this early stage. We are pioneers. It hasn’t (yet) reached that turning point where the whole exercise becomes anal and pedantic (as wikipedia feels sometimes). Even the mapping software is still under development. Maybe it always will be, because there’s limitless potential for new gorgeously visual graphical map editors and renderers.

And what’s so great about maps? Maps are fascinating to look at, but they’re also deeply anchored to the real world. They represent the world I travel to work in, and the world I go on holiday to. But the thing about OpenStreetMap which is simultaneously frustrating, bizarre, and amazingly fun: map copyrights, when you follow through the reasoning, will point to one ridiculous/marvellous conclusion: We have to go out and explore! Now I’m in a world where every street is waiting to become a tagged data element. Every journey is a mapping opportunity.

….Nope. I’m still coming across as disturbingly irrationally obsessed aren’t I?

The bad thing is, I’m taking Francine along with me to the conference. She wanted to come along for a fun weekend of flights and hotels and visiting Ireland. I’m a bit worried she might be bored senseless.

Alps 2008

Alpine paddlingExcellent week of boating in the Alps!

I think there was quite a lot of snow on the mountains still, which made for unusually high water for this time of year (as the sun melts it all off). In fact we were arriving just a few days after a too-much-water kayaking ban had been lifted, and the rivers were indeed a little more bouncy and pushy than my memories of the same runs on previous trips.

This turned out to be a good thing. Plenty of challenges forcing rolls here and there, but I got into the zone pretty well. No swims, and I came away with a good feeling of paddling achievement. Our day on the Guile was perhaps the only exception. My nerves were on edge for some reason. Triple-step was looking too fearsome for me, although I would have loved to conquer this after fluffing it back in 2005. And when we got to the “slandslide” section (A.K.A. “staircase”) I bottled it and portaged. However there was some vindication when Ralph, despite being in the hugest creekboat known to man, got an absolute munching in the stopper at “letterbox”. He took a swim and was left looking a bit shaken. Apparently the hole almost stripped his shorts off him!

As I said before, we were staying in a posh chalet, but we’d met up with Ralph some of the other guys, who were slumming it on the campsite in the valley bottom, and we took pity on them on a couple of evenings when it was chucking down with rain. Everyone came round to the chalet, which along with James and his two mates, made for quite a gathering.

After the first three days of cloud/rain downpours, the sun came out. These are the conditions which make French Alps so enjoyable. Baking hot sunshine and blue/green glacier water to jump in and cool down. This picture is a nice tributary of the Ubaye which was particularly beautiful.

Babies and Eden Project

We went on a brothers and sisters and girlfriends trip to into the West last weekend, to visited my cousins and my cousin’s new babies. Babies are great fun… although we did have the thing of “how on earth do make it stop crying?” at one point when we were left to look after the younger one. Interestingly shoving a full size football in the face of a 6 month old baby is good way to stop it crying for a little while. Flicking through the photos really quickly on my digital camera also seemed to have a good hypnotic effect. But on this occasion the baby was not going to stop crying until its mum returned.

Eden Project Artichoke

We visited in the Eden Project on the Sunday, a big set of domed greenhouses with a whole rainforest inside. It was forecast to rain. Eden Project probably does very nicely out of rainy weekends in Devon. They were certainly packing in the paying visitors (£15 each) on this bank holiday. I suppose its one of the few big days out in the area, which is (mostly) indoors. It must be very profitable now I reckon. It would have been expensive to build of course, but with the ticket tills ringing like this, they must’ve reached their break even point a long time ago.

In the end sun came out, as you can see in this glorious picture of an artichoke.