Democratic Sector Day and other happy things

When Mood Music
2015-03-06 23:35:00 happy the hum of my NAS

Yesterday was great. During the day, I was at the Democratic Sector Day, a day ‘for participation practitioners to share ideas, projects and ambitions, and hopefully develop a better understanding of this ‘community of practice’ in Scotland. The objectives were:

  1. Improve our understanding of the Democratic Sector in Scotland: Who is doing what and how?
  2. Discover opportunities for collaboration regarding research and practice.

Both of these happened for me – I learnt of a lot of projects and products that hadn’t previously come anywhere near my consciousness. I made a couple of new connections and received some very welcome news about one of my practical ambitions. (More anon when I can talk about it.) I also had an idea for another research topic. I’ll blog a bit more about this tomorrow – I’ll be using that blogging session to sort out what I want to do and when I should do it.)

Back to the plot – in the afternoon, we were asked if we wanted to run any mini-workshops within the even. My main topic is how digital can be used to support democracy, so I volunteered to do that. The next volunteer was Christian Storstein, of the Scottish Government’s Digital Engagement team, who wanted to do the same. So we joined forces – here’s Christian’s blog about the day.

A huge thank you to Oliver Escobar and his colleagues for organising the day. I’m massively looking forward to the report from this event, and to taking more action to make participatory democracy big and real and happening!

Oh, the other good thing about yesterday was that I reached a square number of years – and was spoiled by my lovely partner.


When Mood Music
2015-02-23 00:29:00 the cloud – meh! the hum of my NAS

I’ve just tried two online/social concept-mapping apps.

  • is seriously limited – horrible, Flash-based UI. It tries to guess at box colours, but these always revert to pus-yellow if you break links – and you have to to replace the standard links with arrowed versions. Here’s my effort.
  • Gliffy is much better – decent control over a fair set of things. Here’s my effort.

I’d still much sooner draw in Adobe Illustrator and have full control over everything but the speed of creating connections, the availability of many pre-drawn shapes and themes and easy online sharing of drawings makes Gliffy a clear winner.

Update – while can print to PDF (at least on MacOS), Gliffy can’t. But it can export as SVG – and those are easily changed to PDFs and any other graphics format you like!

Back to LiveJournal…

When Mood Music
2015-02-21 14:15:00 sweaty Until we sleep – David Gilmour

… after long time with my head up my backsidetoo devoted to work. I cycled to spinning in the daylight for the first time in ages, with my GoPro on my handlebars. I hope I caught the potholes, double-parking in bus lanes and nonsense driving.

Anyway here’s two little beauties from today’s Saturday Shake-up:

  • mash-up of Wonderwall, Back In Black and Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites


  • mash-up ofRoadhouse Blues, Personal Jesus and Shout


Bordering on statistical insanity

When Mood Music
2014-08-11 15:01:00 curious none

So, according to the official results for the short course,

  • I was 159th to finish.
  • I was 108th male to finish.
  • I took 4 hours 23 minutes to finish, hence averaging 12·8mph.
  • The fastest finisher took 2 hours 56 minutes, hence averaging 19·1mph
  • The slowest finisher took 6 hours 33 minutes, hence averaging 8·5mph.
  • 253 entrants finished
  • 4 entrants did not finish.

For the long course (77 miles)

  • The fastest finisher took 3 hours 5 minutes, hence averaging 25mph.
  • The slowest finisher took 7 hours 3 minutes, hence averaging 10·9 mph.
  • 1254 entrants finished.
  • 11 entrants did not finish.

Bordering on insanity?

When Mood Music
2014-08-10 20:29:00 content Incidental music from ‘Dawson’s Creek’

Well, we’ve done it – 56 miles of hills through the Borders. This so makes up for last year, and I’m very relieved that we didn’t have another joint did-not-finish. And I only had four hour’s sleep! (Perhaps it was the spinach and lentil curry at the Prince of India – but I needed carbohydrates to keep me fueled and rocket-powered.)

I don’t recall much ascending about the first hill (‘Mountbenger’, aka ‘Paddy Slacks’), just the descent to the first feed station at the Gordon Arms (where the B709 crosses Yarrow Water). I was wearing a thin base layer and my Lifescycle jersey, so the relatively fast descent was a tad chilly.

The second hill, ‘Berry Bush’ (aka ‘Top Swire’) was a just a long upward slope – shallower than Lothian Road or Bruntsfield, I think but much, much longer – and far more exposed to the elements. The sign saying I’d reached the highest point of the course was very welcome. Then a cattle-grid and what should have been a very fast descent but Lev felt restrained. Still chilly, though. The 50 km to go sign was quite welcome.

The final hill, ‘Witchy Knowe’ (aka ‘Bottom Swire’) was a bugger. I could see the top, way above me, and many cyclists grinding their way up ahead of me. It was here that Caroline passed me, but with a friendly ‘keep pushing’. But she was on a road bike and using her gears – I have a point of pride about staying in the big ring, no matter how much it saps my speed and momentum. I was very close to dropping towards grannydom though. (Having said that if I had changed down when I wanted to, I’d probably have lost momentum doing so and fallen over. Moral: change just before you absolutely need to. Going down was scary – I had both brakes on all the time, while others passed me at quite a lick. I might have let myself go a little faster but I was behind a couple riding abreast – they were going just fast enough that overtaking safely (there were lots of bends) would have required an uncomfortable speed.

After that, the route basically undulated – what felt like only a few upward slopes but lots of fast descent. Despite having basically drained my legs on the ascents, I kept up a reasonable 15 mph. This was despite a few miles being on the sort of road surface that looks smooth but saps momentum and replaces it with arse-pain. Thank goodness for two layers of padding, relatively new shorts and any anaesthetic that was smuggled into my arse-cream.

As the route passed Selkirk, I began to realise I could complete 50 miles in under four hours. (I’d thought I’d take nearly 6 hours for the whole event.) In fact, the 50 miles came at 3:48:35. The actual end, however, took quite a while to arrive. But turning into the Traquair estate was indeed welcome. JPhone may not have recorded it properly – cyclemeter says I took 4 hours 19 minutes, while my official time was 4 hours 23 minutes. Here’s the map, and here’s a screenshot of it:


As we reached Peebles town centre, the rain and wind came on. We stashed the bikes on Bug (Elly’s car) and meandered back into the town centre in search of sustenance. Fortunately the County Inn provided both beer (which didn’t touch the sides) and – after a noticeable delay – large portions of smokey bean chilli, salad with roquito pepper drops and potato wedges. Thereafter, a soggy drive back to Edinburgh, to collapse in front of the TV.

This was an enjoyable and worthwhile ride – I want to do it again! I know I had more miles in me, and Elly’s just pointed out we did over a Munro‘s worth (3615 feet) of ascent. So next year – either I aim for under 4 hours on the same hefty touring bike or I do the 77-mile version. Yeehah!

Day of dialogue about the referendum

When Mood Music
2014-08-05 22:09:00 In need of raucous music Manic Street Preacher’s cover of ‘Theme from M*A*S*H’ reverberating around my head

If you’re sick of the schoolboys knocking verbal lumps out of each other and simplifying to the point of lies*, and of all the other adversarial shite around the independence referendum, then I can heartily recommend a day of independence dialogue centred on respect and reconciliation.

Run by Collaborative Scotland – a brainchild of John Sturrock QC, a tireless worker for mediation and a lawyer combining brains and compassion – this day brings conversations with

  • Douglas Alexander MP, shadow foreign secretary
  • Andrew Wilson, former SNP MSP and journalist
  • Peter Lederer CBE, Chairman of Gleneagles Hotel
  • David Melding AM, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly
  • Conor Murphy MP and former Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly
  • Dan McDonald, businessman and sponsor of N56
  • Alastair McIntosh, ecologist and writer
  • Rev Richard Frazer, minister of Greyfriars Kirk

More details here!

*I had to walk away from the TV this evening. Elly had to suffer through it because it’s ‘work’.

Another good day

When Mood Music
2014-08-05 12:43:00 Pleased Two Hearts Beat As One (Long Mix By Kevorkian) [Remastered]

I’d devised a few cycling ambitions for this year. Because Elly and I will be cycling in Bavaria at the time of Pedal for Scotland, it looks like I won’t achieve a 100-mile cycle (preferably a sportive) this year. Nor will I get to do a triathlon. But yesterday I achieved the third ambition – cycling to Glasgow and back.

There was a nasty headwind on the way to Glasgow – I think I turned it blue swearing at it as I struggled to maintain 10mph. As ever Uphall was nasty – why is the main street made of concrete slabs with huge expansion gaps? Despite wearing two layers of padding and copious arse-cream, I had severe arse-pain between there and the West Lothian/North Lanarkshire border. (I don’t know how entering NL cured it: maybe the nerves in my backside just gave up, maybe entering NL meant the end was in sight.) Whatever, I’m very grateful to West Lothian Council for the smooth cyclepath beside the A89 from Dechmont to Bathgate. Having cycled that stretch of road a few times, I know that that stretch of tarmac – which looks smooth – is a real bum-breaker.

My only stop on the way, except for traffic lights, was at the far side of Blackridge (so I was over halfway there) to water a farm gatepost and munch a couple of energy-chews. Here’s the cycle meter link, and here’s a screenshot of the cyclemeter map:


At Glasgow, I couldn’t cycle to Queen Street Station – there were some barriers and crowd. Has something unusual been happening there, apart from the usual partying?*


So I walked from Merchant City to Queen Street, bought some fried carbohydrate and a diet fizzy drink, had my photo taken by a random passer-by** and set off again.

This way I had a much-appreciated, which took almost an hour off the ride time (cycle meter link). Most of the way I was fearful that I’d need to drop out and take a train back to Edinburgh. Not because I couldn’t make the journey but because I had a meeting at 7:30. However, after an energy-chew stop at Bathgate, I realised that if I pushed hard enough, I would be home by 6:30. So pushing happened.


Given the cycle to and from the meeting, I did 90 miles. It might have been nice to cycle to Musselburgh and back to break 100 miles in a day. Next time – no stops! And I know this is nothing compared to racing 100 miles non-stop in the pouring rain but I’ve got 20 years on the winner and ride a hefty mid-price touring bike, not a carbon-fibre road-beast (yet!).

*yes, I know. But I’m a cyclopath – I generally plough my tarmac furrows alone.

** I was dressed something like this but with SPD shoes, swirly tights, a black long-sleeved base layer under the cycle jersey and a helmet with high-visibility cover.